Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Май 2019 г.
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2019 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)

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    PV Magazine / May 3, 2019
    Is Russia’s embrace of renewable energy a reality or a myth?
    The superpower has always been seen as a fortress for oil and gas but positive signs are emerging from its renewable energy sector.
    • Amjad Khashman
    Интервью с Алексеем Жихаревым, директором Ассоциации развития возобновляемой энергетики. Как обстоят дела на российском рынке возобновляемой энергии и солнечных фотоэлектрических систем, их влияние на использование традиционных источников энергии.

pv magazine caught up with Alexey Zhikharev, director of the Russia Renewable Energy Development Association and a consultant in the nation’s energy market, at an alumni meeting for former students of the master’s program in international energy economics and business administration offered by Leipzig University and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
pv magazine: How do you assess the renewable energy market in Russia? How do Russia and its utilities perceive these new technologies?
Alexey Zhikharev: From my perspective, this market can be assessed as a sustainable and developed market nowadays. The sector was initiated five years ago and what we have seen is only the start. The renewable energy-supporting mechanism adopted by the Russian government in 2013 targets the installation of 5.5 GW of solar, wind and small hydropower plants by 2024. This was driven by the state desire to stimulate the development of a local industrial base for renewable energy technologies and to promote the exports of local producers. This was the reason for the local content requirement implemented as one of the key criteria of the support scheme.
Unfortunately, renewable energy is not emphasized enough in the Russian energy policy. The target share of renewable energy in total electricity production is set as 4.5% by 2024. The actual Russian energy strategy to 2030 indicates implementation of 25 GW of RE [renewable energy] by 2030 as one of the scenarios. Unfortunately, all these figures are not supported by the real masterplans. The acting RE support mechanism will stipulate just 1% of the total electricity production [must come from renewables] by 2024. Prolongation of RE support after 2024 is not yet supported by the Russian government. Based on my insights, the new 2035 strategy which is under preparation and revision now, can bring a brighter future for renewable energy in Russia. Decarbonization, digitalization and decentralization are expected to have a great impact on the grid system and even change its whole structure, prioritizing new generation sources.
Nevertheless, we can say that the market in Russia has already developed high growth expectations
PV is becoming the dominant technology in the global renewable energy market. Is it the same in Russia? How successful is PV there and what are the best regions for this technology?
In terms of numbers, 1.8 GW of capacity was assigned to solar projects by 2024, placing [PV] second after wind. An advantage of solar PV over other technologies is its simplicity, namely, it requires small investment in the pre-development stage where solar data is easy to acquire through satellite atlases. That supported the acceleration of PV projects in Russia. Moreover, the current support mechanism, based on the capacity supply agreements, made large PV projects appealing to investors. Here the payment is related to the installed capacity per megawatt per month not to the electricity produced, while only a certain minimal level of capacity factor (14%) is set as a must. Most likely this approach will be modified for projects after 2024 to try to stimulate more efficient and productive PV plants. Still, I believe that it will be easy for developers to identify locations with good solar irradiation to meet the expected power factor values.
Although the climate is cold in Russia, some southern regions such as Astrakhan, Krasnodar, Stavropol, Altay and the southern Urals enjoy good solar conditions. Remarkably, Siberian Yakutsk, with its extreme winter temperatures below -50 degrees Celsius, has one of the best solar insolation values in the country.
How do you assess the legal framework and investment environment for renewable energy projects in Russia?
In this regard we should highlight the two different support mechanisms for wholesale and retail markets. On the federal wholesale market [for generation capacities of more than 5 MW] the support mechanism is based on guaranteed payments per installed capacity, as discussed earlier. Developers participate in annual auctions organized by the trading system administrator, competing to offer the lowest CAPEX [capital expenditure] per installed capacity. As soon as a project is secured, a capacity supply agreement, or secured payment, for 15 years will be agreed and enter force. The baseline value for return is 12%, typically, but developers may reach higher values thanks to lower capital and operational expenditures, cheap debt financing, higher capacity factor etc.
In the regional retail market [for generation capacities below 25 MW] as per federal law, local network companies are obliged to purchase electricity produced by renewable energy units but only to cover 5% of their network losses [power lost during distribution]. For example, if a grid operator supplies 100 GWh per year and has 10 GWh of network losses [10% curtailment], the 5% rule means 0.5 GWh has to be compensated for from renewable energy production. Unfortunately this mechanism is still unsuccessful. The auctions held by the regional administrations are not standardized and even more don’t provide tariff guarantees for developers. At the same time, network companies still prefer to buy cheaper electricity from the last-resort suppliers than relatively more expensive electricity from local renewable energy power plants. To sum up, the risk is higher in the retail market, and even if a couple of projects were integrated, it has not been in a systematic sort of way.
What about local content requirements? Is there already a well-established local industry? Are there any co-operation opportunities with international manufacturers?
A lot of success has been achieved with the capability to produce major equipment here in Russia. Besides major international manufacturers in wind technology such as Vestas, Enercon (Lagerwey) and SiemensGamesa, several companies are engaged in producing solar PV equipment locally. Remarkably, the local producer Hevel provides highly efficient PV panels relying on pure Russian technology which has been developed by Russian scientists, and is one of three leading PV panel producers reaching 23% conversion efficiency. Some other manufactures [Solar Systems and Helios Resource] take the approach to produce only the cells in Russia, export them to China for assembly and then re-import the final product to Russia. A new production facility in the area of Ulyanovsk is planned by Rizen Grinvelyu Enerdzhi. The current total production capacity of PV panels in Russia is estimated to be more than 500 MW per year. This figure is relatively small in comparison with global production capacity, but sufficient to fulfill the local content requirement in the auctions.
It is immediately obvious the vertically integrated companies, which are developers and manufacturers at the same time, are the main actors in the local RE market. Even independent developers are normally affiliated with manufacturers. That’s why, from my point of view, a purely competitive market for PV equipment has not been set up yet. In the wind sector, the situation is more or less the same, the project developers have either affiliation with the equipment producers or have anchoring contracts necessary for localization.
As for new co-operation opportunities, this will depend on the capacity assigned by the government for the next RE support mechanism. If our efforts succeed in convincing the government to raise the target share [of renewable] in the electricity mix to at least 3-5% by 2035, then there will be room for newcomers and higher competition. Recently, the consortia of developers and OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] who have secured their projects on the auctions are focused on the satisfaction of their own demand but later on, OEMs will compete directly in the market with other suppliers.
Russia is using auctions to implement large scale projects. What is your assessment of this procurement method? Do you expect any new rounds in the near future?
Tendering rounds are held each year with the chance to compete for project capacities for the next five years, with capacities already predefined until 2024. The last rounds have had such high competition that they swept up almost all the capacities until 2024. The next round is to be held at the end of this month and will offer only 5.6 MW of new PV solar capacity and just 78 MW of wind. At the same time, there is still a free capacity of 220 MW that was originally assigned to small hydro projects but was not taken up by investors. Investors are not eager to step into small hydro projects due to their complexity and high costs in the pre-development stage. We are trying to reopen the discussion with the authorities to modify the mechanism for those site-specific projects. We aim to convince the government to redistribute this spare capacity in favor of wind and solar projects while adopting a new mechanism for small hydro projects. If our efforts succeed, 200 MW and 100 MW more for solar and wind will be auctioned until 2024. So the total installed capacity of PV projects will reach 2 GW and the wind sector will have 3.5 GW.
Russia recently adopted a draft law for small solar systems and other renewable energy technologies. What do you think of this and can it boost the distributed generation market in Russia?
We had raised a lot of questions and concerns about the new federal law in this regard. The law as it is now doesn’t bring any incentives. It only gives the opportunity to install small solar systems and then sell electricity to last-resort suppliers under standard prices, which make these systems unfeasible. To be more specific, this law does not introduce a feed-in-tariff scheme or any other supporting measures. RREDA [the Russia Renewable Energy Development Association] is trying to suggest to the authorities other fruitful incentives for household and commercial consumers, such as tax credits and exemptions, compensatory interest rates and net metering. Normal net metering could work in some regions in Russia where electricity prices are high, for example in the Moscow region, while in other areas, such as Yaroslavl, the prices are really low and even net metering will not work there.
What role will renewable energy play in the off-grid market? What potential do you see?
The major opportunity here is to replace diesel generators and similar units, as the electricity produced by such equipment is very expensive. However, such projects are normally small -typically below 100 kW. The size of the biggest project implemented in an isolated area is 1 MW - a PV plant located in Yakutia inside the Arctic Circle.
The main challenge is that investors are not willing to take the trouble to try to identify these small projects and their regulatory conditions. That’s why we are actively trying to convince the government to introduce a special support scheme of centralized auctions for off-grid projects. The idea is to empower a special body that will gather all the information related to these projects, such as location, size and consumption rate. The next step would be to upload project profiles on an online platform so developers can access and assess the potential opportunities. Having at least one pilot project of such a nature will open the door for more engagement in a systematic approach. Additionally, introducing off-grid projects as clusters will make them more appealing to investors and at the same time reduce project costs. The main responsibility here lies with regional administrations and consumers to facilitate such projects and attract investors.
Talking geopolitically, many countries are considering renewable energy as a route to energy independence. What impact will this have on Russian exports and its usage of fossil fuels?
There is a global trend towards consuming more electricity from renewable sources and less from fossil fuels. On the other side, and if we consider the case of Europe, the decommissioning of coal power plants and nuclear facilities is giving a high chance for new gas combined cycle plants. This means that the demand for Russian gas will remain stable. Russia at the same time is accelerating its liquified natural gas facilities, targeting Asian and African markets. Therefore, I believe that for the next 15 years there will be no problems for Russian gas exports.
From another angle, the Paris agreement will put more pressure on conventional power sources in linkage with their high CO² emissions. It is true that Russia only signed the agreement [without ever ratifying it] but the indications show a decision in favor of ratification can be adopted by 2020. Globally, countries rich in oil and gas such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and even Uzbekistan are starting to invest heavily in renewable energy to keep up with the energy transition. In Russia, we have our own way of sort of saying to do this and I hope that the attitude of the government and traditional power companies sooner or later will change in this regard.

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    В Якутии глобальное потепление вызывает деформацию и смещение грунта, стремительную эрозию берегов Северного Ледовитого океана, разлив озер и заболачивание почв в результате наводнений. В городских районах ряд зданий находится под угрозой обрушения, есть также проблемы с линиями электропередач, водо- и газопроводами.

En Yakoutie, le réchauffement climatique provoque la fonte de sols jusqu'ici gelés toute l'année. Des milliers d’habitations menacent de chavirer dans la boue en été, tandis que les villages du nord sont submergés par des inondations noires.
On l’appelle en Russie le «gel éternel» et rien n’est plus fallacieux. Les Yakoutes sont en train de l'apprendre à leurs dépens. La totalité de cette république perdue au fin fond de la Sibérie orientale, grande comme 72 fois la Suisse, repose sur le pergélisol (ou permafrost), une couche de terre gelée d’une profondeur dépassant parfois 1000 mètres. Où que l’on creuse le sol - même au milieu du bref été continental, au cours duquel la température atteint les 40°C - on tombe rapidement sur une terre dure comme du béton. Enfin, c’était le cas avant le réchauffement global. Désormais, la couche dégelée (ou «couche active» en jargon scientifique) descend jusqu’à 3 mètres de profondeur.
«Tous les Yakoutes ont remarqué le phénomène», raconte Valentina Dmitrieva, présidente d’Eyge, une association locale de protection de la nature. «Nous enterrons traditionnellement nos défunts en été 2 mètres sous terre. Avant, il fallait verser de l’eau bouillante pour dégeler les 50 derniers centimètres. Aujourd’hui, la terre est déjà molle», poursuit Dmitrieva, qui est aussi directrice des programmes de recherche à l’Université fédérale du Nord-Est à Yakoutsk.
Des pilotis de béton
Les conséquences de ce dégel accéléré font penser aux sept maux de l’apocalypse: déformation du sol, érosion ultra-rapide des berges de l’océan Arctique, inondations d’eaux noires, marais et lacs engloutissant les pâturages, «forêts ivres» où les arbres s’inclinent de manière chaotique, réveil de microbes et bactéries centenaires capables de déclencher des épidémies…
Même en milieu urbain, le phénomène saute aux yeux. A Yakoutsk, la capitale de la région, le pergélisol offrait une fondation d’une dureté sans égale aux bâtiments. Mais les 400 000 habitants de la ville «la plus froide du monde» ont du souci à se faire. Tels des mille-pattes de béton, toutes les constructions sont perchées sur des pilotis plantés dans le pergélisol. Un espace de 1 à 2 mètres est laissé vide entre le rez-de-chaussée et le sol pour que la chaleur des habitations ne fasse pas fondre le sol les supportant, et afin que l’air glacial refroidisse la «couche active». Jusqu’en 2000, la norme obligeait les constructeurs à planter des pilotis de 8 mètres pour les immeubles. Ce qui signifie qu’aujourd’hui, pendant plusieurs mois, ces constructions de cinq étages ne sont plus maintenues que sur les 5 derniers mètres. Conséquence: des fissures lézardent des dizaines de bâtiments construits à l’époque soviétique. Elles sont vite colmatées par la mairie, mais pas assez pour empêcher de faire jaser. D’autant que certains bâtiments se sont déjà effondrés. Officiellement, 331 constructions ont été déclarées «inutilisables» par les autorités. Seules 165 seront effectivement détruites, faute de financement.
«Les autorités ont tendance à fermer les yeux et à autoriser la construction d’immeubles dépassant les 15 étages, alors que nous avons toujours recommandé de ne pas aller au-delà de cinq niveaux», prévient Semion Gotovtsev, directeur du laboratoire de géo-cryologie à l’Institut du pergélisol de Yakoutsk. Pour lui, de nombreuses maisons risquent de s’effondrer et «personne ne sait combien de temps elles vont tenir car on ignore à quelle vitesse la couche active va descendre». En outre, le scientifique note que Yakoutsk connaît aussi «de gros problèmes avec les lignes électriques, les canalisations d’eau et de gaz qui traversent des sols différents».
«Nous allons avoir de mauvaises surprises»
Pour pallier le plus urgent, des rangées de «thermosiphons» sont plantées le long des immeubles les plus menacés. En forme de «Y», ils ressemblent à des radiateurs inversés dont le pied est planté dans le sol. Ces appareils captent l’air glacial et, grâce à un liquide de refroidissement, injectent du froid dans la couche active pour qu’elle regèle plus rapidement. Très inquiet, Semion Gotovtsev pointe aussi un phénomène encore mal étudié, appelé «thermokarstique» (érosion du sous-sol). «On sait que des grottes se forment sous terre, mais nous ne disposons pas aujourd’hui des moyens techniques et financiers pour les détecter. Nous allons avoir de mauvaises surprises, y compris dans le centre de Yakoutsk, car ce phénomène va s’accélérer», redoute-t-il. La presse locale s’est déjà émue d’affaissements de terrain durant l’été dernier.
Il est déjà trop tard pour les centaines maisons en bois de deux étages appelées ici «baraques». Elles sont presque toutes complètement déformées et en piteux état, ce qui ne les empêche pas d’être toujours habitées. En devenant instable et mouvante, la couche active a aussi fait valser des infrastructures posées à la va-vite sur le sol à l’époque soviétique, comme des chemins de fer et des routes. Plus grave, la pollution provoquée par des milliers de fuites venant de gazoducs et d’oléoducs hâtivement construits alerte Greenpeace.
Succession d’inondations
Beaucoup plus marqué dans le Grand Nord, avec déjà 3°C de plus qu’il y a trente ans, le réchauffement climatique engendre des cercles vicieux dans un milieu très fragile. Auparavant, le climat continental hyper-sec ne donnait que 40 mm de précipitations par an. «Il arrive aujourd’hui qu’on ait 80 mm en une seule journée», note Valentina Dmitrieva. Résultat: l’intensité des inondations est décuplée. Celles, habituelles, qui accompagnent la fonte des neiges fin mai, accélèrent l’érosion des bords de rivière. Une seconde vague d’inondations survient fin juillet à cause des pluies anormales. Mais le plus terrible, c’est la troisième inondation, fin août. Elle est provoquée par les lacs qui débordent [la Yakoutie en compte plus d’un million] et les eaux noires résultant de la fonte du pergélisol, juste avant le retour de l’hiver. Les habitations n’ont pas le temps de sécher que le gel survient et tout doit être abandonné. Il n’y a pas de budget pour aider la population, le gouvernement de la république n’est pas préparé pour ce genre de catastrophe. Les villages du nord de la Yakoutie, où vit 10% de la population de la république, sont très isolés. Même les aéroports sont inondés.
Les pluies anormalement importantes viennent de la rétraction de la calotte glaciaire polaire, qui découvre depuis une décennie l’océan Arctique, note Semion Gotovtsev. Ces masses humides venues du nord dérèglent le climat et décuplent les précipitations. En hiver, elles créent un manteau neigeux épais, qui isole le sol de l’air glacial. Le froid de la surface ne peut plus pénétrer en profondeur. Le surplus neigeux contribue ainsi à l’apparition de «talik», c’est-à-dire de couches dégelées toute l’année. «Le cycle de l’eau est bouleversé, insiste Gotovtsev. Les lacs débordent, tout se transforme en marais, c’est un désastre et de nombreux villages doivent être reconstruits. De très nombreuses digues de pergélisol doivent être renforcées, parce qu’en fondant, elles vont s’effondrer. C’est un processus très rapide et on observe une nette accélération au cours de la dernière décennie.»
Quelques craintes exagérées
Le péril touche particulièrement la toundra couvrant le nord de la Yakoutie. Dans le sud, la forêt (taïga) résiste mieux aux changements climatiques, mais les processus thermokarstiques déforment à ce point le terrain que les arbres se mettent à pencher dans tous les sens, d’où l’expression locale de «forêt ivre». La taïga est toutefois menacée par les incendies (à 60% causés par l’activité humaine) et par la coupe de bois excessive à des fins commerciales, assure Trofim Maximov, directeur du centre de biochimie et de climatologie à l’Institut des sciences naturelles de Yakoutsk. «Si nous étendons la forêt, nous pouvons contrer le réchauffement climatique, et pas uniquement en Yakoutie. Mais il faut des financements et c’est pourquoi nous devons convaincre la population et les politiques.»
Dans la vague de fléaux s’abattant sur la Yakoutie, il semblerait que quelques exagérations aux contours eschatologiques se soient glissées. Par exemple l’annonce que de monstrueuses poches de méthane formées par la fonte du pergélisol pourraient monter à la surface et éclater (voire exploser). «C’est une erreur due à l’utilisation d’une modélisation erronée basée sur des mesures épisodiques lors de périodes trop courtes. Quinze ans, c’est trop peu pour étudier l’évolution du terrain», rassure Trofim Maximov. Le terrifiant dégel de microbes et bactéries centenaires, voire millénaires, connus ou inconnus, ne s’est pas non plus vérifié. La «peste sibérienne», appelée chez nous fièvre charbonneuse, a effectivement refait surface à cause du dégel de charniers, mais la maladie est aujourd’hui facilement traitée par des antibiotiques. La maladie rongeant le «gel éternel» semble en revanche plus incurable que jamais.

© Le Temps.
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    На базе МГУ открылась первая технологическая долина - инновационный научно-технологический центр «Воробьевы горы». В последующие три года планируется создать 15 таких центров в рамках национального проекта «Наука».

Russia’s first ‘Technological Valley’ will be established at Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) this year, according to a recent decree signed by Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Implementation of the project fulfils the announcement by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in his annual message to the Federal Assembly last year about the establishment of specialised scientific and educational valleys based around Russia’s leading universities. Putin said: "These centres should be established on a geographical basis, while their future specialisation will depend on the university where they are based." Under state plans, up to 15 such centres will be established in Russia over the next three years.
The newly established centres will participate in the implementation of some scientific and technical state programmes, which will be selected by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Presidential Council for Science and Education, as well as representatives of large Russian business. Funding of the new educational centres will be carried out by the state from the reserves of the Nauka project, along with funds provided by private investors and the state budget.
The Moscow valley centre will be known as the Vorobyevy Gory Innovative Science and Technology Center (INTTS) and will be granted special legal regimes and tax breaks that will be similar to those granted to Skolkovo, a high technology business area that is being built at Mozhaysky District in Moscow.
Oksana Tarasenko, the deputy head of the Ministry of Economic Development, who oversees the project, said: "The specialisation of the Moscow State University valley will be very diverse - from biomedicine, pharmaceuticals and biomedical research to nanotechnology for new materials, nanomachine-building, robotics and special-purpose technologies.
"The main objective of the project will be the development and implementation of technologies that are in high demand from business, as well as the attraction of highly qualified personnel to the universities and the newly established Technological Valleys, including some well-known university professors and teachers."
Supported by university leaders
The new state initiative has received support from representatives of Russia’s leading universities.
When the Technological Valley was first approved in 2016, with a focus on research activities and the commercialisation of scientific developments, the reported aim was to make it a hybrid of Harvard and Silicon Valley. Viktor Sadovnichy, the rector of MSU, who first put forward the idea, said: "The project is very important for MSU and the entire Russian system of higher education.
"So far, we have already started a search for investors for the Technological Valley. The Moscow city government has already promised to provide up to RUB10 billion (US$154 million) that will be invested in the building of new laboratories and other R&D infrastructure for the project."
In the meantime, other Technological Valleys are due to be established at other leading Russian universities.
According to recent statements of the governor of the Tambov region, Alexander Nikitin, one such centre could be established within the territory of the region on the basis of one of the local agrarian universities - taking into account the status of the Tambov region as one of the centres of agricultural and livestock production in Russia.
According to Tarasenko from the ministry, Technological Valleys may also be created in Sochi, as well as the Tatarstan, Kaliningrad, Tula and Ryazan regions.

Copyright 2019 University World News.
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    Международная группа лингвистов, генетиков и археологов (Эстония, Россия, Бельгия, Великобритания, Швеция) установила посредством анализа ДНК, что носители финского и эстонского языков пришли в Балтийский регион в 6 веке до н.э. из Сибири через юг Урала. То, что носители уральских языков имеют общие сибирские корни, было уже известно, но относительно времени их перемещения на восток единого мнения не было.

Most Europeans descend from a combination of European hunter-gatherers, Anatolian early farmers, and Steppe herders. But only European speakers of Uralic languages like Estonian and Finnish also have DNA from ancient Siberians. Now, with the help of ancient DNA samples, researchers reporting in Current Biology on May 9 suggest that these languages may have arrived from Siberia by the beginning of the Iron Age, about 2,500 years ago, rather than evolving in Northern Europe.
The findings highlight the way in which a combination of genetic, archaeological, and linguistic data can converge to tell the same story about what happened in particular areas in the distant past.
"Since the transition from Bronze to Iron Age coincides with the diversification and arrival time of Finnic languages in the Eastern Baltic proposed by linguists, it is plausible that the people who brought Siberian ancestry to the region also brought Uralic languages with them," says Lehti Saag of University of Tartu, Estonia.
Although researchers knew that the Uralic-speaking people share common Siberian ancestry, its arrival time in the Eastern Baltic had remained uncertain. To characterize the genetic ancestry of people from the as-yet-unstudied cultural layers, Saag along with Kristiina Tambets and colleagues extracted DNA from the tooth roots of 56 individuals, 33 of which yielded enough DNA to include in the analysis.
"Studying ancient DNA makes it possible to pinpoint the moment in time when the genetic components that we see in modern populations reached the area since, instead of predicting past events based on modern genomes, we are analyzing the DNA of individuals who actually lived in a particular time in the past," Saag explains.
Their data suggest that the Siberian ancestry reached the coasts of the Baltic Sea no later than the mid-first millennium BC - around the time of the diversification of west Uralic/Finnic languages. It also indicates an influx of people from regions with strong Western hunter-gatherer characteristics in the Bronze Age, including many traits we now associate with modern Northern Europeans, like pale skins, blue eyes, and lactose tolerance.
"The Bronze Age individuals from the Eastern Baltic show an increase in hunter-gatherer ancestry compared to Late Neolithic people and also in the frequency of light eyes, hair, and skin and lactose tolerance," Tambets says, noting that those characteristics continue amongst present-day Northern Europeans.
The researchers are now expanding their study to better understand the Iron Age migration processes in Europe. They say they will also "move forward in time and focus on the genetic structure of the medieval time period."
This work was supported by the Estonian Research Council, the EU European Regional Development Fund, a European Research Council Starting Investigator Grant, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship Grant, a Sapienza University of Rome fellowship, and Arheograator Ltd. (L.V. and A. Kriiska).

Copyright 2019 ScienceDaily.
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    Российские и немецкие физики предложили объяснение странному поведению марсианской воды, которая каким-то образом и строго в определенное время оказывается в верхних слоях атмосферы, где ее быть не должно. Причиной могут быть два явления - летнее солнцестояние и пылевые бури. Солнце оказывает на Марс такое же гравитационное воздействие, что и Луна на Землю, вызывая приливы и отливы и «вытягивая» воду вверх, а пылевые бури значительно усиливают этот процесс.

There's a hole in the Martian atmosphere that opens once every two years, venting the planet's limited water supply into space - and dumping the rest of the water at the planet's poles.
That's the explanation advanced by a team of Russian and German scientists who studied the odd behavior of water on the Red Planet. Earthbound scientists can see that there's water vapor high in the Martian atmosphere, and that water is migrating to the planet's poles. But until now, there was no good explanation for how the Martian water cycle works, or why the once-drenched planet is now a dry husk.
The presence of water vapor high above Mars is puzzling because the Red Planet has a middle layer of its atmosphere that seems like it should be shutting down the water cycle altogether.
"The Martian middle atmosphere is too cold to sustain water vapor," the researchers wrote in the study, which was published April 16 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
So how is water crossing that middle-layer barrier?
The answer, according to computer simulations in the current study, has to do with two atmospheric processes unique to the Red Planet.
On Earth, summer in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemispheres are pretty similar. But that's not the case on Mars: Because the planet’s orbit is much more eccentric than Earth’s, it’s significantly closer to the sun during its southern hemisphere summer (which happens once every two Earth years). So summers on that part of the planet are much warmer than summers in the Northern Hemisphere.
When that happens, according to the researchers' simulations, a window opens in Mars' middle atmosphere between 37 and 56 miles (60 and 90 kilometers) in altitude, allowing water vapor to pass through and escape into the upper atmosphere. At other times, the lack of sunlight shuts down Martian water cycles almost entirely.
Mars is also different from Earth in that the Red Planet gets frequently overtaken by giant dust storms. Those storms cool the planet's surface by blocking light. But the light that doesn't reach Mars' surface instead gets stuck in the atmosphere, warming it and creating conditions better suited to moving water around, the scientists' simulations showed. Under global dust-storm conditions, like the one that enveloped Mars in 2017, tiny particles of water ice form around the dust particles. Those lightweight ice particles float into the upper atmosphere more easily than other forms of water, so during those periods more water move into the upper atmosphere.
Dust storms can move even more water into the upper atmosphere than the southern summers, the researchers showed.
Once the water passes through the middle boundary, the researchers wrote, two things happen: Some of the water drifts north and south, toward the poles, where it's eventually deposited. But ultraviolet light in the upper atmosphere can also sever the bonds between the oxygen and hydrogen in the molecules, causing the hydrogen to escape into space, leaving the oxygen behind.
This process could be part of the story of how a once-drenched Mars has ended up so dry in its current epoch, the researchers wrote.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved.
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    Nature / 14 May 2019
    Russia joins in global gene-editing bonanza
    A US$1.7-billion programme aims to develop 30 gene-edited plant and animal varieties in the next decade.
    • Olga Dobrovidova
    В апреле этого года была представлена новая федеральная исследовательская программа по генетическому редактированию с бюджетом 111 мрд рублей. Цель - до 2027 года должно быть создано 30 новых видов генно-отредактированных растений и животных, причем 10 из них в ближайший год.
    На фоне хронического недофинансирования генетики в России запуск подобной программы - новость хорошая, хотя реалистичность поставленных целей вызывает сомнения у специалистов; также остаются законодательные неопределенности в том, что касается генетически модифицированных организмов, бюрократия и плохое снабжение материалами и оборудованием.

Russia is embracing gene-editing. A 111-billion-rouble (US$1.7-billion) federal programme aims to create 10 new varieties of gene-edited crops and animals by 2020 - and another 20 by 2027.
Alexey Kochetov, director of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, welcomed the research programme, noting that genetics in Russia has been "chronically underfinanced" for decades. Funding for science plummeted in the 1990s following the break-up of the Soviet Union, and Russia still lags behind other major powers: in 2017, it spent 1.11% of its gross domestic product on research, compared with 2.13% in China and 2.79% in the United States.
But some researchers doubt that the goals can be met on time, and worry that the initiative does not address the other issues they face, such as excessive bureaucracy. It is also not clear whether the 111 billion roubles is included in the existing federal civilian-science budget - which in 2018 was 364 billion roubles, with 22 billion roubles spent on genetics research - or whether it comes in addition to that budget.
The programme, which was announced in April, has also attracted interest because it suggests that some gene-edited products will now be exempt from a law passed in 2016 that prohibits the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) organisms in Russia, except for research purposes. Previously, it was not clear whether gene-edited organisms were included in the ban.
Transgenic distinction
The 2016 law describes GM organisms as those with gene modifications "that cannot result from natural processes". But the decree that established the new programme describes gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 - which do not necessarily insert foreign DNA - as equivalent to conventional breeding methods. That marks a welcome step for Russian researchers, many of whom were demotivated by the uncertainty of the 2016 ban, according to a scientist at a major institute of the RAS in Moscow who asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional repercussions.
The wording of the decree chimes with the stance of the US agriculture department, which last year said that it has no plans to regulate "plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques", including gene-edited species - although the situation is less clear with animals, which are overseen by the Food and Drug Administration. By contrast, a July 2018 ruling from the European Union’s highest court declared that gene-edited crops are subject to the same tough regulations as conventional GM organisms - something many scientists said would hamper research.
Konstantin Severinov, a molecular geneticist who helped to develop the government programme, told Nature that is important that Russia is not sidelined in the world’s "CRISPR bonanza", and that one goal of the programme is to make Russia less dependent on imported crops.
"Despite considering itself a bread basket, Russia is highly dependent on imports when it comes to elite crop varieties, so [the government decided] something needs to be done," says Severinov, who splits his time between Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology near Moscow. "Luckily, a few RAS members managed to make the case that CRISPR-Cas9 is a good thing."
Barley and beets
The decree lists four crops - barley, sugar beet, wheat and potatoes - as priorities. Russia is the world’s biggest producer of barley and a major producer of the other three, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
Projects to develop gene-edited versions of these crops are already under way. Scientists at RAS institutes in Moscow are developing pathogen-resistant varieties of potatoes and sugar beet. And gene-editing research aiming to make barley and wheat both easier to process and more nutritious is in progress at the Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry in St Petersburg, and at the RAS Institute of Cytology and Genetics.
But whether Russian scientists can meet the programme’s ambitious goals is unclear. Despite helping to develop the programme, Severinov - who once famously described working in Russia as like "swimming in a pool without water" - says that it does not address the "inhumanely bad" conditions for doing life-sciences research in Russia, including red tape and poor access to supplies.
The anonymous scientist who spoke to Nature also doubts the programme’s timeline: "I am sure [the government] will spend the money and call the programme a huge success. I am less confident there will actually be any new varieties by next year - perhaps later."
Kochetov says that the initiative’s goals are realistic. "The research programme will bring promising products - there’s no doubt about it." He says that private companies might accelerate funding for gene-editing research now that the law is clearer. But he thinks that some legal uncertainty remains, and predicts that further regulation will be required to bring to market any organisms developed under the programme.
Yi Li, a plant scientist at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, says that the programme’s launch is "a significant move" both for Russia and the world. He says that it could prompt China to invest more in gene-editing technologies, and help to fuel growing enthusiasm for such technologies in the United States. "For European countries, this can be a very interesting development in the light of the European court of justice ruling on genome editing," he adds.

© 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG.
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    The Atlantic / May 16, 2019
    Soviets Tried So, So Hard to Eliminate the Plague
    "Literally tens of thousands of people were employed to just spoon poison into the burrows."
    • Sarah Zhang
    О борьбе с чумой в СССР. Начатая в 1930-х годах тактика «выжженной земли» - попытка тотального уничтожения грызунов-переносчиков болезни устойчивого результата не дала. С начала 1960-х годов советская противочумная система перешла от полного истребления к контролю - эпиднадзору, систематической проверке, карантину.

The ancestral home of the plague, most infamous for causing Europe’s Black Death, has likely always been much farther east, in Central Asia. There, it lives in rodents, such as the marmots that make their burrows in the vast, open grasslands. For thousands of years, the fleas that bite those rodents have also been biting people. There are 5,000-year-old Bronze Age skeletons in the region that contain traces of the bacteria that cause the plague.
And yet, for a few brief decades in the 20th century, the Soviet Union thought it could eradicate the plague. In that era of Five-Year Plans, tens of thousands of people were mobilized to poison rodents, spray DDT, and burn any grass that surviving animals might try to eat. It was a literal scorched-earth campaign. Officially, it "worked."
The Soviet anti-plague system grew from a network of facilities that began in the czarist era, when the plague was causing many small but not catastrophic outbreaks. (Scientists are still figuring out why the Black Death bacteria were so exceptionally deadly). Later, the system took on other endemic diseases such as anthrax, and eventually started working on bioweapons. In 2002, biodefense researchers with CNS (the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies) started visiting several outposts still operating as research institutes in the former Soviet republics. That’s when they learned about a series of unofficial books titled Interesting Stories of the Activities and People of the AP System of Russia and the Soviet Union.
"AP" is shorthand for "anti-plague," and many of the photographs and details about these efforts are only preserved in these 12 volumes. They contain scientific manuscripts, as well as more unexpected historical material: biographies, poems, sketches, lists of scientists purged for political crimes, and a meditation on "Socialism or a Just Society." The editor, Moisey Iosifovich Levi, was a former anti-plague scientist who began compiling the series after the fall of the Soviet Union. "The idea is to shine light on the activity and people of the AP system," he wrote in the introduction to the fifth volume, "so that it does not suffer the same fate as legendary Atlantis, which is now known only from the tales of ancient Greek historians."
Levi died before the last volume was published in 2002, but indeed, these stories have been saved. CNS researchers also translated excerpts into English and donated an original copy in Russian to the Hoover Institute at Stanford. Altogether, the volumes tell a very different tale about the plague in the Soviet Union than what the country was telling the rest of the world.
Eradication began in earnest in the 1930s, as part of Soviet efforts to change the economies of the Northern Caucasus and Central Asia. To eliminate the plague, they decided to eliminate the rodents that act as a natural reservoir for the bacteria. The weapon of choice was grain mixed with poison - zinc phosphide, black cyanide, and barium fluoracetate. "Literally tens of thousands of people were employed to just spoon poison into the burrows," says Susan D. Jones, a historian of science at the University of Minnesota who recently published about the Soviet anti-plague system in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Many of these workers were locals: women, young boys, and the otherwise unemployed. Scientists in Interesting Stories occasionally groused about their unreliability.
In addition to eradicating rodents, the Soviets also tried to eradicate fleas that spread the plague. The workers mixed insecticide with the rodent poison they put in flea-infested burrows. In the years after World War II, says Jones, surplus military trucks and airplanes also sprayed DDT over vast tracts of land. Lastly, they would burn the vegetation (so that any surviving rodents would have no food) and plow the burrows (so they would have no shelter).
In 1960, Soviet scientists boasted in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization that the U.S.S.R. had not seen a case of human plague since 1928. But that was only true on paper. In reality, scientists were still responding to outbreaks. Because mandates were passed down centrally and because the fear of admitting failure was intense and legitimate, no one wanted to report one.
"Local authorities would say, ‘It’s eradicated’ or ‘We don’t have an outbreak.’ Because they ignored the outbreak, it would spread to other republics of the Soviet Union," says Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, a biodefense researcher now at George Mason University who also coauthored the CNS reports on the Soviet anti-plague system. When the plague broke out on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, for example, Kazakh scientists would try to contact their colleagues across the border, who were kept from telling the truth. But, says Ben Ouagrham-Gormley,"if they were told the colleague was on vacation, most of the time that meant he was out in the field responding to the outbreak."
In 1998, the Russian newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno (Top Secret) published a list of "just a few" of the plague outbreaks that had in fact happened: "Moscow, 1939; the Southern Volga-Ural Region 1945, Central Asia 1945; Caspian Sea Region-Turkmenia 1946; Astrakhan Oblast in Kazakhstan, 1947-48; Turkmenia, 1949; Central Asia, 1953, 1955, and 1958; Mount Elbrus region, 1970; Kalmykiya, 1972; Dagestan, 1975; Kalmykiya, 1979; Caspian Sea Region, 1980; Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, 1981." In Interesting Stories, scientists wrote about their experiences responding to several of these outbreaks. "We are only in the past 10 years recovering the data for how many human cases there really were," says Jones.
The eradication efforts didn’t work because the area was simply too big, too vast to cover with humans or airplanes. The Soviet anti-plague system had more than 100 institutes spread over 11 republics, but it still wasn’t extensive enough. Jones points out that successfully eliminating all the plague-carrying rodents in the Soviet Union would have meant wholesale ecological collapse, as many species rely on rodents for food and their burrows for shelter. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Rodents would be temporarily eliminated in an area and then come back, along with the plague.
Beginning in the 1960s, as reality intruded, the Soviet anti-plague system shifted from total eradication to control. The scientists knew that plague outbreaks among humans tended to follow rodent outbreaks in any local area. So they would conduct plague surveillance by systematically testing animals. If the results came back positive in an area, they would focus their efforts there. People were taught to avoid sick rodents. Patients were treated with antibiotics and quarantined. Vaccines eventually became available for people at high risk. People had to learn to live with the threat of the plague, as they had done for millennia in Central Asia.
There are still occasional cases of the plague in Central Asia today, in and around the former USSR. In Mongolia, recently, a young couple died of the plague. The culprit: an infected marmot that they had eaten raw.

TheAtlantic.com Copyright (c) 2019 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.
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    В Южно-Уральском государственном университете запатентовали автомобильный масляный фильтр с сигнальным устройством, сообщающим о необходимости замены масла. В отличие от уже существующей разработки, этот фильтр не требует изменения конструкции смазочной системы, его можно установить на этапе эксплуатации транспортного средства.

Scientists from South Ural State University have patented a know-how for drivers - an oil filter with a signaling device. This invention timely "alerts" drivers of the need to change the oil, which allows significantly prolonging the service life of automotive engines. A distinctive feature of this Russian invention compared to its foreign analogues is in the fact that it does not require changing the structure of the entire lubrication system for the filter to be installed. The filter can also be installed after the vehicle has already been used.
Every driver is interested in reliability of one’s car. For this reason, many people buy expensive models, thinking that the higher price is a guarantee of high quality. However, even the so-called budget car models can be reliable.
"The fact that engines of modern cars can’t work without oil is an axiom, so the resource of a car’s operation is largely determined by the reliable functioning of the lubrication system. The cleaner the oil in the system is, the more reliable the engine’s functioning. The issue is that abrasive particles get into the oil that we add to the system, and with time, the oil gets polluted. Oil filters perform the function of oil purification. But during operation, the filter gets clogged, which reduces the quality of its operation. While sitting behind the wheel, we don’t know anything about the current status of the filter and, as a result, the motor oil. So we have installed a signaling device onto the oil filter, which notifies the driver if the bypass valve has opened, and this means that it is not functioning properly," says the development lead, Head of the Department of Cars and Car-Caring Service of the SUSU Institute of Engineering and Technology, Aleksandr Rulevskiy.
It is necessary to clarify, that the bypass valve opens when the filtering element clogs and there is slow supply of the oil to the lubrication system. Thanks to an open bypass valve, the engine does not experience "oil starvation", but in this case, the oil bypasses the filtering element and enters the lubrication system directly. Untreated oil negatively effects the operation of the engine. As research carried out by the authors of this patent show, by the moment it is time to change the oil and filter, the bypass valve is usually open, and the filter has not been operating properly for some time, which means it has not been cleaning the oil. The new filter with a signaling device will make it possible to significantly improve the operation of the engine (20-30% improvement, depending on the vehicle’s operating conditions), as it will alert the driver that they need to replace both the filter and the oil.
Reliability of a car will not depend on its price
"The idea of a device which alerts the driver to the condition of the filter is not new. What’s more, it has already been implemented in a few models of foreign cars. But this required changes to the design of the whole lubrication system, and this is expensive, and can only be done during the production stage of new cars. We wanted to make a system which could be implemented into cars that are already in operation," notes one of the authors of the patent, Associate Professor of the Department of Cars and Car-Caring Service, Igor Levanov.
The benefits of the filter with a signaling device that has been invented by SUSU scientists include its simple structure and low cost. Although the authors believe that such filters will be installed by car maintenance services as an additional option, drivers will also be able to do this on their own. The important thing is that the vehicle itself does not undergo any changes, the only difference is the filter.
"Why would this be of interest for clients of car companies? When a person is buying a car at any price, they want to be sure in reliability of the engine. The advantage of our system is that it guarantees this reliability no matter the cost of the car," notes Aleksandr Rulevskiy.
Presently, the authors of this invention are cooperating with the Element Chelyabinsk Plant of Automotive Components, which produces oil and air filters for cars. Together with specialists of this company, bench tests are being performed on a prototype of the filter. In the near future, they plan on releasing a trial run of the filters with signaling devices to complete operational tests.

© QS Quacquarelli Symonds Limited.
* * *
    В некоторых подводных лодках в качестве источника энергии используются огромные щелочные аккумуляторы, содержащие 7 тонн серебра с небольшой добавкой свинца. Свинец не влияет на рабочие свойства и позволяет сэкономить, но препятствует восстановлению отработанных батарей. Национальный исследовательский технологический университет «МИСиС» и Щелковский завод вторичных драгоценных металлов разработали технологию удаления свинца, позволяющую получить практически стопроцентно чистое серебро.

In some versions of submarines and military fighters, huge alkaline batteries weighing about 14 tons, capable of operating up to 12 years uninterruptedly, are used as an electro-chemical energy source. Each of these devices uses 7 tons of pure silver plates, which, after being spent in terms of energy resource, goes to refineries (industrial processing of precious metals), where it is purified and prepared for reuse.
An innovative cascade method for purifying silver from spent batteries used in submarines and military aircraft that has been developed ensures secondary use of pure precious metal from one battery for creating a new one.
The technology which enables the recycling of previously non-recyclable waste was developed by scientists from the Russian technical university National University of Science and Technology (NUST) MISIS Department of Non-Ferrous Metals and Gold, together with JSC "Shchelkovo Plant of Secondary Precious Metals".
Usually, the recycling of such heavy-duty "strategic" batteries in 100% of cases falls into the sphere of state defense order, as the resulting silver is used for the manufacture of new batteries in the interests of the Russian Navy. However, in the last decade, local manufacturers of silver-zinc batteries add 10-15 % lead to the silver. This lowers the costs and does not affect the performance of the product, but almost completely blocks the process of subsequent recycling of the battery.
To solve the problem of extracting lead from the silver, the scientists developed a fundamentally new technological scheme for processing silver-zinc batteries containing lead.
In a two-stage process the silver is melted, and as a result - lead is removed and a commercial product of 99.99% purity is obtained from raw materials with 85% silver content. The pure product corresponds to all GOSTs (state standards) and is suitable for the manufacture of a new battery.
Currently, the technology has been successfully implemented at one of the refining domestic enterprises - JSC "Shchelkovo Plant of Secondary Precious Metals". For its implementation, no additional equipment was required, except for a low-cost installation of high-speed melt cooling unit, according to eurekalert.org.

Copyright © 2015 i-HLS. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
    Air & Space magazine / May 22, 2019
    Why the Soviets Lost the Moon Race
    Even with a late start, cosmonauts might still have made the first lunar landing. But by the end of 1968, it was game over.
    • By Asif Siddiqi
    Почему Советский Союз, совершивший ряд беспрецедентных первых шагов в космосе и получивший огромное преимущество перед США, проиграл «лунную гонку»? Автор статьи выделяет несколько основных факторов: поздний старт (разработка проекта началась лишь в 1964 г.), неслаженная система управления в советской оборонной промышленности (повлекшая за собой организационный хаос), нехватка денег (предпочтение отдавалось стратегическим и военным программам в ущерб космической).

About two weeks before the Apollo 11 mission was launched to the moon, Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman was in Moscow on a courtesy trip on behalf of NASA. The visit had been planned for months but the timing could not have been worse. American astronauts were getting ready to land on the moon while it appeared as if the Soviets had ceded the race.
On the evening of July 4, 1969, Borman was at the ornate U.S. Embassy compound in Moscow, surrounded by several veteran cosmonauts who seemed reticent if not outright glum. The following day, Borman visited the Cosmonaut Training Center at Star City, where he met with cosmonaut coordinator Nikolai Kamanin. One of the few Soviet space program managers with a public profile, Kamanin was also a national hero who had come to prominence back in the 1930s for leading a daring Arctic rescue. Now his mood seemed unusually subdued. When a journalist asked whether the Soviet Union was going to launch a mission to the moon to preempt Apollo 11, Kamanin and the cosmonauts would neither confirm nor deny it.
Yet Kamanin knew something neither Borman nor the journalists knew: The moon race was already lost. On July 3, the secret moon rocket known as the N-1 had exploded in a fireball at the remote launch site at Baikonur in Kazakhstan, destroying one of two launch pads. In his private diary that night, Kamanin wrote a lament: "We are desperate for a success, especially now when the American astronaut Frank Borman is our guest. But all such hopes were dispelled by the powerful explosion of the rocket five seconds after launch…the failure has put us back another one or one-and-a-half years...."
Back in the United States, the CIA had prepared a report as part of President Richard Nixon’s "Daily Brief " for July 5 that began: "A major Soviet unmanned space launch toward the moon on 3 July ended in failure as a result of an explosion." Hard evidence would come later. In August, an American CORONA spy satellite returned detailed images of the area. Jack Rooney, a photo interpreter at the top-secret National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) in Washington, D.C., was so shocked when he saw the pictures that his outburst ("Jesus Christ!") interrupted co-workers around him. The whole area around the pad appeared destroyed or damaged.
In the Soviet Union, nothing was spoken of the failure in public. In fact, the iron-fisted secrecy that had shrouded the early Soviet space program came in handy as those initial successes were now eclipsed by a series of disasters. As Yaroslav Golovanov, a sharp-tongued journalist for the Soviet newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda noted, "Secrecy was necessary so that no one would overtake us. But later, when they did overtake us, we had to maintain secrecy so that no one knew that we had been overtaken."
Why did the Soviets lose the moon race? Their lead over the Americans in the early days of the Space Age had seemed almost unassailable. Beginning with Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, in 1957, they racked up an unprecedented series of firsts: the first human in space, the first spacewalk, the first soft landing on the moon, and the first lunar rover. These accomplishments required smart people and good designs, as well as the ability to organize high-tech teams for singular tasks. If the Soviet Union could do all that, why did it not land a cosmonaut on the moon?
As with any major historical event, the reasons are complex and there is no single, easy explanation. Yet a few broad factors stand out. First, the Soviets entered the game late, more than three years after John F. Kennedy’s declaration for the moon in May 1961. In 1960, Soviet Chief Designer Sergei Korolev, who presided over the country’s largest missile and space firm, had managed to get approval for a series of heavy-lift rockets designated "N" (for nosityel or "carrier" in Russian), with the ability (by 1967) to lift about 80 tons of payload to Earth orbit. The rationale for these rockets was vague: a variety of military goals, a large Earth-orbiting space station, and perhaps human missions to Mars.
By September 1962, the plan to put 75 tons into Earth orbit was set in stone, with a rocket called the N-1. Hundreds of subcontracts were handed out, and work began in earnest. But unlike NASA’s Saturn V, there was no firm mission for the rocket for at least another year. In July 1963, for the first time, Korolev established a piloted lunar landing as a priority, and asked his engineers to work out a comprehensive plan.
But it was NASA’s firing of a Saturn I rocket in May 1964, with a boilerplate Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM), that alarmed Soviet managers the most. Before that, the U.S. schedule for reaching the moon could be discounted as tentative. But who could disregard an actual Apollo spacecraft in orbit? Two months later, Korolev arranged a meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev at the Kremlin and convinced him to commit to a project that could beat Apollo to the surface of the moon. Khrushchev signed off on the plan on August 3, 1964. At that point, Korolev and his engineers were just beginning to solidify the architecture of the moon project, which included a souped-up N-1 capable of delivering 95 tons to Earth orbit, a lunar-orbit-rendezvous strategy (similar to NASA’s), and a one-person lunar lander. By then, Apollo was already well on its way, and the U.S. lead would prove to be formidable.
The late start, however, was not the only - or even the most important - problem. The Soviet defense industry was beset with a chaotic management system completely at odds with what we might imagine for a socialist economy. While NASA was a centralized, top-down system run by the federal government, the Soviet space program acted more like a socialist version of a competitive market. But rules were followed only half the time, and the program was held hostage by bureaucratic gridlock and the whims of powerful individuals.
Managers like Korolev operated their own little fiefdoms. He had worked closely with the design firm of Valentin Glushko, which made high-performance, liquid-propellant rocket engines. Korolev and Glushko had known each other as young men in the early 1930s, and, although their friendship had been rocky (especially during the Stalinist purges, when they were forced to denounce each other), they managed to remain on cordial terms until the late 1950s. The battle over the N-1, though, completely destroyed any decorum, to the point where they refused to be in the same room together.
The feud was more than just personal. Glushko, in 1960 and 1961, had begun to move all his resources to developing rocket engines that used storable propellants, which were more suitable for ICBMs that had to be on permanent standby. This made pragmatic sense, since the Soviet Union was gearing up for a massive buildup of its ICBM force in the 1960s. Korolev, however, argued that cryogenic (supercold) fuel such as liquid hydrogen would generate much more lifting capacity for a moon rocket. In the summer of 1962, a commission evaluated Glushko’s designs for the N-1 and those of Nikolai Kuznetsov, a newcomer to the rocket engine business who was willing to use cryogenics as Korolev wanted. The commission ruled in favor of Kuznetsov.
In a market economy, the loser of a design competition is expected to move on. In the Soviet space program, that didn’t happen. Glushko had influential friends in the Communist Party and allies in the space program. He partnered with a fellow usurper, Vladimir Chelomei, who oversaw a giant conglomerate of firms that designed ICBMs and cruise missiles. In 1967, when Korolev’s N-1 program was moving full-steam ahead, Glushko and Chelomei managed to secure approval from the Politburo to mount a parallel project, known as the UR-700, to compete with Korolev’s moon rocket. It was as if a NASA contractor refused to accept that it lost out to another firm, and just kept going with its own version. Although the UR-700 was canceled soon after, such cases - and there were many in the Soviet space and missile programs - dissipated badly needed resources.
Organizational chaos also plagued the lunar plan itself. From the earliest days, Korolev and others considered a cosmonaut flight to orbit the moon as a separate mission from a lunar landing, even though logically they could have been integrated into a single program. The separation continued into the late 1960s, even as it made less and less sense. Eventually, Korolev and Chelomei agreed to cooperate on a program known as L-1, whose only goal was to send a crew of two cosmonauts around the moon and bring them back to Earth. That project, publicly known as Zond, failed to pay dividends after its launch rocket, Chelomei’s new Proton, failed three times to reach Earth orbit in 1967 and 1968. Zond-4 made it to deep space, but came down way off course in the Atlantic on its return, and had to be destroyed by remote control.
Even as late as mid-1968, there was a real chance the Soviets could have preempted NASA’s historic Apollo 8 mission to orbit the moon, which was only added to the schedule in August of that year. But even though the next two flights, Zond-5 in September and Zond-6 in November, circled the moon successfully, they suffered key failures on the return to Earth. As a result, the proposed mission to launch cosmonauts Alexei Leonov and Oleg Makarov in early December, just in time to beat Apollo 8, was canceled. When Apollo 8 flew around the moon over Christmas 1968, Kamanin wrote in his diary that "for us, the holiday is darkened with the realization of lost opportunities and with sadness that today the men flying to the moon are not named Valery Bykovsky, Pavel Popovich, or Alexei Leonov but rather Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders."
All along, the Soviet moon program had suffered from a third problem - lack of money. Massive investments required to develop new ICBMs and nuclear weapons so that the Soviet military could achieve strategic parity with the United States siphoned funds away from the space program. The organizations that designed strategic weapons, as well as the supporting electronics and ground infrastructure, were the exact same ones manufacturing hardware for the space program. While Korolev’s design bureau, OKB-1, was building the N-1 moon rocket, it was also producing the first-generation solid propellant ICBM. Resources were incredibly tight, and when the Strategic Rocket Forces, which essentially ran the Soviet space program, made decisions to allocate funding, it naturally favored strategic and military programs over what it considered useless space spectaculars.
The N-1, in particular, was considered by many senior military officers as a total waste, and they did not hide their disdain. Soviet Minister of Defense Marshal Rodion Malinovsky blurted out to fellow officers during a meeting in 1965, "We cannot afford to, and will not, build super powerful launch vehicles and carry out flights to the moon." His successor, Marshal Andrei Grechko, was even more blunt: "I am against moon missions."
Lack of money and time contributed directly to one of the most fateful decisions of the N-1 program, to forgo ground testing of the first stage before flight. This meant that each launch of the N-1 - there were four attempts, all failures, from February 1969 to November 1972 - was conducted without ever having tested the first stage on a test stand first, which even then some considered absolute insanity, considering the novelty of its design. Kuznetsov, the engine’s designer, had decided to adopt a very advanced and highly risky (at the time) process known as staged combustion. This meant that the thrust had to be relatively low - about 150 tons at sea level - compared to the F-1 engines in the Saturn V, which weighed in at about 690 tons. To generate the needed thrust, Korolev and Kuznetsov decided to put 30 engines at the base of the N-1’s first stage.
But that decision created more problems: How do you synchronize the thrust and vectors of so many engines firing at once? What if one or two fail? These potential anomalies required serious attention, and could have been solved by constructing an expensive new ground test facility. But such a site would have cost money and time to build. The rancor over this issue became so intense that Korolev and one of his long-time deputies, Leonid Voskresensky, got into a screaming match, with Korolev threatening to beat him with a stick. Although Korolev later apologized, Voskresensky resigned in 1964 rather than participate in what he correctly saw was a doomed project.
As it happened, all four N-1 launches failed before the first stage even reached burnout. The second attempt, on July 3, 1969 - with NASA’s Apollo 11 already sitting on the launch pad - was intended to send a Zond spacecraft into lunar orbit. No cosmonauts were on board, but it was meant to signal that the Soviets were close. Moments after the N-1 lifted off the pad, just after midnight at Baikonur, it fell back and exploded. The explosion was so intense, according to Valery Menshikov, a young rocket forces officer on duty, that "pieces of the rocket were thrown ten kilometers away, and large windows were shattered in structures 40 kilometers away. A 400-kilogram spherical tank landed on the roof of the installation and testing wing, seven kilometers from the launch pad." In one spectacular moment, the moon race came to an end.

The Smithsonian Institution.
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    Ученые из России, Германии, Нидерландов и США создали прототип энергоэффективного запоминающего устройства, способного передавать данные за триллионные доли секунды при практически нулевых затратах энергии.

Mining cryptocurrency is energy-intensive and there are many ways thought to deal with this problem, for instance using energy efficient miners, reverting to staking as an alternative to mining etc. High costs of electricity in some areas mean it is harder for cryptocurrency miners to earn passive income sustainably from cryptocurrency, especially when prices are down.
High energy costs also affect data centers in mining in regard to pool mining where miners combine their mining power to mine Bitcoins or other cryptocurrency. Energy is consumed both when miners are solving energy-intensive tasks, and in order to cool down the miners or data centers down following the heating up.
Nevertheless, that could change following the invention of a way to record computer data using magnets, at faster processing speeds, and at virtually zero energy costs. If the new approach is used in the creating of magnetic memories inside of hard drives, then computer processes could be very less energy intensive. The method is explained in the ScienceDaily and published on May 15 at the Nature.
In ordinary data encoding process, tiny magnets called spins are oriented inside magnetic hard-drives or magnetic readers in other drives in order to encode data. The head reader is then used to read the information which was previously recorded magnetically. During the latter process, huge amount of energy and thus electricity is consumed in the retrieving of information.
In the new method, short pulses of light (one trillionth of a second) concentrated by special antennas placed on top of a magnet, are employed as an alternative to electricity, in inducing spins or change of state of the small magnet required to record data magnetically. The method is superfast and the temperature of the magnet does not increase at all. The scientists from Lancaster University, Regensburg University, Radboud University and Russian Academy of Sciences demonstrated the new method by pulsing a magnet with ultrashort light bursts using terahertz infrared waves. Even the strongest terahertz infrared light cannot produce strong pulses that could alter the orientation of a magnet.
When spins and terahertz electric field are coupled, also a method discovered by the team, the orientation of a magnet is switched and very fast. The team then invested small antennae to be placed on top of a magnet in order to concentrate and enhance the electric field, and this field is able to navigate the magnetization to its new orientation in one trillionth of a second. Each spin in the new process requires only one quantum of the terahertz light - a photon.
Further research is to be carried out about use of new ultrafast laser together with accelerators in order to generate intense pulses of light to be used in the switching of magnets; and to determine the practical and fundamental speed and energy limits of magnetic recording.

Copyright © 2019 Cryptomorrow - Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, Ethereum. All rights reserved.
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    С космодрома Плесецк успешно стартовала ракета-носитель «Союз-2.1б» с навигационным спутником «Глонасс-М» - несмотря на ударивший в нее во время пуска разряд молнии. Попадание молнии во взлетающий объект явление хотя и не уникальное, но достаточное редкое.

Une fusée russe Soyouz tentait paisiblement de s’arracher à la gravité terrestre quand soudain, un éclair est venu frapper sa carcasse métallique. Le lanceur a décollé ce lundi 27 mai avec comme objectif la mise en orbite d’un satellite de navigation. Toutefois, la mission n’a aucunement été entravée par cet événement spectaculaire et rare.
À bord du lanceur russe, il y avait le satellite de navigation Glonass-M, envoyé en orbite avec succès depuis Plesetsk, en Russie, ce lundi 27 mai à 5h23 (heure française). Des responsables de l’agence spatiale russe Roscosmos ont annoncé, dans un communiqué, que la fusée avait bien atteint son orbite et libéré le satellite.
« La foudre n’est pas un obstacle pour vous ! » s’exclame sur Twitter le directeur général de Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, en félicitant l’équipe chargée du lancement de Glonass-M ainsi que les forces spatiales militaires. Il a profité de l’occasion pour partager lui-même la vidéo tant attendue, montrant la fusée frappée de plein fouet par la foudre.
Le booster utilisé sur la fusée était un Soyouz 2.1b, équipé d’un étage supérieur Fregat responsable de la mise en orbite finale du satellite Glonass-M, le dernier-né d’une série de satellites de navigation destinés à aider les clients militaires et civils russes.
« Une liaison télémétrique stable est établie et maintenue avec le vaisseau spatial », ont déclaré des responsables du ministère russe de la Défense dans le cadre d’une mise à jour. « Les systèmes embarqués du satellite Glonass-M fonctionnent normalement » ont-ils ajouté.
Il ne s’agit pas d’un cas unique, bien que les éclairs s’abattant sur des fusées lors des lancements soient des évènements plutôt rares. Pour en citer un bon exemple, en novembre 1969, la foudre a frappé une fusée Saturn V à deux reprises, lors du lancement de la NASA dans le cadre de la mission Apollo 12 à destination de la Lune !
La secousse avait perturbé certains équipements et affichages à bord, inquiétant ainsi temporairement les trois membres de l’équipage, mais la fusée Saturn V est parvenue à atteindre l’orbite sans soucis. Après un examen minutieux des systèmes, les contrôleurs de vol ont finalement constaté que les systèmes d’Apollo 12 étaient en bon état de marche et que la mission d’atterrissage sur la Lune se déroulait comme prévu.

© 2019 Trust My Science. All rights reserved.
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    Сотрудники Института археологии и этнографии СО РАН обнаружили в Усть-Тартасских курганах (Новосибирская область) два погребения, относящиеся примерно к середине III - началу II тысячелетия до н.э. В одном из них обнаружился необычный предмет одежды, сделанный из десятков птичьих клювов и черепов, в другом предмет, условно названный «очками» - бронзовые полусферы с отверстиями и дужкой. Ученые полагают, что оба захоронения принадлежат служителям культа.

The bizarre find of a skeleton with what seems to have been a collar or armor constructed from birds beaks has Russian archaeologists scratching their heads as to the function and meaning of the attire. The beaks found inside a 5,000 year old burial seem to resemble those of a monster in the 2004 psychological thriller movie The Village directed by filmmaker M Night Shyamalan. The find was part of two unique burials of the Odinov culture (early Bronze Age) that were unearthed last year at the Ust-Tartas site in Novosibirsk region. Inside one of them researchers found several dozen long beaks and skulls of large birds assembled into something looking like a collar, a headdress, or armor.
‘Nothing of this kind was ever found as part of Odinov culture in all of Western Siberia ,’ said researcher Lilia Kobeleva from Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography. ‘Why do we think this was a part of clothing? The beaks were assembled at the back of the skull, along the neck, as if it was a collar that protected the owner when he lived here.’ Another version is that the beaks, numbered between at least 30 and 50, were a part of a ritual costume. 25,000-Year-Old Buildings Found in Russia Russian Atlantis: Tomb Raider’s Invisible City of Kitezh was a REAL Place More than a dozen mysterious carved discs found near Volgograd, Russia.
The type of birds will be determined later by ornithologists, but it is thought likely that they were cranes or herons. It is not clear how the beaks were attached to each other, or to fabric, as the scientists haven’t found mounting holes. Months will be spent to separate and study the beaks. Like jewelers, Novosibirsk institute’s restorers will have to use the finest instruments and the smallest brushes in order to reveal the full wonder of this ancient creation. Who was this person that 5,000 years ago wore clothing, or armor, made of bird beaks? Close to the ‘Bird Man’ burial the team of archeologists found a double-layered grave with two children aged approximately 5 and 10 buried on top. Underneath them, separated with a wooden overlay, lay a skeleton of a grown man - and a treasure trove of artifacts. The most exciting item looked like a pair of spectacles, consisting of two bronze hemispheres and a bronze bridge. It lay right next to the man's skull. Traces of organic matter were found inside the hemispheres of the ‘spectacles’. Experts believe the item could have been part of either a burial mask, or a head gear.
Next to the man's left arm and around the waist lay five polished crescent-shaped stone pendants, used for rituals. ‘These are unique items, we are very excited indeed to have found them,’ said Lidia Kobeleva. ‘Both men must have carried special roles in the society. I say so because we have been working on this site for a while and unearthed more than 30 burials. They all had interesting finds, but nothing we found earlier was as impressive as discoveries in these two graves. We suppose both men were some kind of priests.’
The Odinov culture is the beginning of the Bronze Age archaeological culture of hunters named after the settlement Odino in the basin of lower Ishim river in Western Siberia. The culture is dated to the 18th to 16th centuries BC, but may be older. The Odinov culture seems to have been an isolated community surrounded by forest-steppe terrain. Its settlements are situated along the terraces of the rivers and creeks. Scare evidence of their dwellings indicate they built dug-outs.
It is thought that Odinov culture rose from Eneolithic forest- steppe cultures in the Ishim area.

Ancient Origins © 2013-2019.
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    Сотрудники Федерального научного центра биоразнообразия наземной биоты Восточной Азии ДВО РАН, Национального университета Тайваня и Тайнаньского национального университета разработали биоинженерные методы, позволяющие развить в растениях наследственную память о реакции на стресс. Это позволит повысить стрессоустойчивость растений и приспособляемость к экстремальным условиям - засухам, наводнениям, высоким температурам.

Russian and Taiwanese scientists have discovered a connection between the two signaling systems that help plants survive stress situations, demonstrating that they can remember dangerous conditions that they have experienced and adapt to them. This memory mechanism will help improve agricultural plants, making them more resistant to drought, flooding high humidity and extreme temperatures.
When a plant is exposed to extreme temperatures or a lack or overabundance of water, it experiences stress. This negatively affects the growth of the plant, which leads to losses of up to one half of the crop worldwide. As a means of self-protection, plants use the stress hormone abscisic acid (ABA) mediated signaling, which produces stress resistance to extreme situations. Signaling system plays an important role in organisms, acquiring information from the environment and adjusting internal processes to external conditions.
Scientists suggest that the ABA system is linked with the heat shock protein/chaperone system, and these two systems work together in different stressful situations.
Biologists still do not fully understand the coordination and sequence of events in these signaling systems. There have been no studies that would connect these two defense mechanisms, although it is clear that they must work in a coordinated manner in nature. It is believed that these discoveries will lead to breakthrough technologies in crop bioengineering. More specifically, they may help overcome the main problem of agriculture - growth retardation and development anomalies in stress-resistant crops.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Federal Scientific Center of the East Asia Terrestrial Biodiversity of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in collaboration with colleagues from Taiwan. The research team set out to identify the relationship between ABA and heat-shock protein signaling. The popular model plant Arabidopsis was used for the purpose, as it goes through the full development cycle in six weeks, which made it possible to speed up the experiments.
"In our earlier work, we obtained a map of protein-protein interactions in Arabidopsis. Now we have analyzed this map and discovered that the only factors linking the two systems are the SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling proteins, which are involved in the formation of the 'stress memory' effect," explained the project leader, Dr. Victor Bulgakov, a Head of Bioengineering Laboratory at the Federal Scientific Center of the East Asia Terrestrial Biodiversity of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and one of the authors of the article.
The "stress memory" effect is one of the main mechanisms of plant defense: it "remember" extreme conditions that plants have experienced. Stress signals sensed through the ABA and heat-shock protein signaling systems are perceived and then stored via the SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling proteins, changing the structure of the chromatin (the DNA-protein complex). As a result, plants acquire a stress resistance to conditions that they have already experienced. The mechanism studied has become a reference point for new bioengineering technologies that the researchers have termed "bioengineering memory'."
In the course of the study, the researchers also systemized a large array of information and found that when correcting the ABA and heat-shock protein/chaperone pathways, the state and changes of the plants' memory to the previous stress must be taken into account.
In the future, the researchers plan to move away from Arabidopsis to agricultural crops.
They note that the work on "improving" plants will be different for each country.
"The most popular crops in the Russian Far East are rice, soybeans and corn. It is important to increase their resistance to cold and water deficit. In Taiwan, work needs to be done to increase the resistance of plants to heat and drought. In fact, this is the most pressing issue in the world as a whole right now. New approaches in 'memory bioengineering' may help solve both problems," Dr. Bulgakov concluded.

© Copyright 2019 Science World Report. All Rights Reserved.
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