Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Февраль 2020 г.
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Февраль
2020 г.
Российская наука и мир
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январь февраль март апрель май июнь июль август сентябрь октябрь ноябрь декабрь

    Phys.Org / February 1, 2020
    Hot pots helped ancient Siberian hunters survive the Ice Age
    Древние жители Сибири научились делать жаропрочную посуду из глины около 16 тысяч лет назад, что помогло им расширить рацион и пережить ледниковый период. К такому выводу пришли ученые из Великобритании, России, Японии и Нидерландов, изучив найденные в районе реки Амур черепки.

A new study shows that ancient Siberian hunters created heat resistant pots so that they could cook hot meals - surviving the harshest seasons of the ice age by extracting nutritious bone grease and marrow from meat.
The research - which was undertaken at the University of York - also suggests there was no single point of origin for the world's oldest pottery.
Academics extracted and analysed ancient fats and lipids that had been preserved in pieces of ancient pottery - found at a number of sites on the Amur River in Russia - whose dates ranged between 16,000 and 12,000 years ago.
Professor Oliver Craig, Director of the BioArch Lab at the University of York, where the analysis was conducted, said: "This study illustrates the exciting potential of new methods in archaeological science: we can extract and interpret the remains of meals that were cooked in pots over 16,000 years ago.
"It is interesting that pottery emerges during these very cold periods, and not during the comparatively warmer interstadials when forest resources, such as game and nuts, were more available."
Why these pots were first invented in the final stages of the last Ice Age has long been a mystery, as well as the kinds of food that were being prepared in them.
Researchers also examined pottery found from the Osipovka culture also on the Amur River. Analysis proved that pottery from there had been used to process fish, most likely migratory salmon, which offered local hunters an alternative food source during periods of major climatic fluctuation. An identical scenario was identified by the same research group in neighbouring islands of Japan.
The new study demonstrates that the world's oldest clay cooking pots were being made in very different ways in different parts of Northeast Asia, indicating a "parallel" process of innovation, where separate groups that had no contact with each other started to move towards similar kinds of technological solutions in order to survive.
Lead author, Dr. Shinya Shoda, of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Nara, Japan said: "We are very pleased with these latest results because they close a major gap in our understanding of why the world's oldest pottery was invented in different parts of Northeast Asia in the Late Glacial Period, and also the contrasting ways in which it was being used by these ancient hunter-gatherers.
"There are some striking parallels with the way in which early pottery was used in Japan, but also some important differences that we had not expected. This leaves many new questions that we will follow up with future research."
Professor Peter Jordan, senior author of the study at the Arctic Centre and Groningen Institute of Archaeology, University of Groningen, the Netherlands said: "The insights are particularly interesting because they suggest that there was no single "origin point" for the world's oldest pottery. We are starting to understand that very different pottery traditions were emerging around the same time but in different places, and that the pots were being used to process very different sets of resources.
"This appears to be a process of "parallel innovation" during a period of major climatic uncertainty, with separate communities facing common threats and reaching similar technological solutions."
The last Ice Age reached its deepest point between 26,000 to 20,000 years ago, forcing humans to abandon northern regions, including large parts of Siberia. From around 19,000 years ago, temperatures slowly started to warm again, encouraging small bands of hunters to move back into these vast empty landscapes.
The paper is published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

© Phys.org 2003-2020 powered by Science X Network.
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    Popular Mechanics / Feb 3, 2020
    Everything You Need To Know About Russia’s (Possibly Fictional) Super Heavy Rocket
    While technically possible, Russia's super heavy rocket faces some serious challenges.
    • By Anatoly Zak
    Самый амбициозный космический проект со времен распада СССР - создание сверхтяжелой ракеты-носителя «Енисей», запуск которой планируется на 2028 год. Что представляет собой «Енисей», и есть ли у проблемной российской космической отрасли средства и возможности построить нечто подобное всего за восемь лет?

During the tail end of 2019, the outspoken head of the Roscosmos Space Corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, triumphantly announced to the press in Moscow that his organization had just approved the design of Russia’s first super-heavy rocket.
"Last week we accepted the preliminary design of the super-heavy launch vehicle," Rogozin told RIA Novosti news agency. "My deputy Aleksandr Lopatin was appointed to lead the work..."
This announcement arrived as the culmination of several years of work by Russian scientists trying to develop the most ambitious space project since the fall of the Soviet Union. But what exactly is this Russian super-heavy rocket and does the notoriously troubled space agency have the means to pull off something this huge?
The rebirth of the super heavy rocket
According to Roscosmos's definition, a super-heavy rocket is capable of delivering at least 35 tons of cargo into Earth’s orbit. But most other companies and agencies tend to describe a "super-heavy rocket" as a vessel capable of carrying at least 50 tons or more. Past similar rockets, like the Apollo-era Saturn 5, could carry 140 tons into low-Earth orbit, which helped NASA pull off its gutsy moonshots in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Five decades later, those super rockets are back in fashion as the only realistic means of launching ambitious human exploration projects (unless space elevators or photon engines make some huge engineering leaps).
In the U.S., NASA and private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, are already developing or launching progressively bigger rockets, crossing Russia's 35-ton, super-heavy threshold. China is also inching toward a vehicle, called the Long March 9, that will be able to transport closer to 100 tons.
With so many players aggressively pursuing their super-heavy rocket ambitions, Moscow’s grown increasingly concerned that its space program was lagging. After having ceded numerous space frontiers to the U.S., Europe, China, and India in the past two decades, the Kremlin needed something to show it was still a big dog in this new global space race.
Waking a sleeping colossus
Two years ago this week, on January 28, 2018, the Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the long-awaited Decree No. 32, approving the development of the super-heavy space rocket.
In the following two years, Russian engineers sifted through a multitude of rocket designs that could do the job. A popular proposal was reviving the Soviet-era Energia booster, originally designed for the abandoned Soviet shuttle, but it was nearly impossible to resurrect the old rocket as-is. They’d need to make major changes.
The Energia uses a zeppelin-shaped central body that is actually a tandem of two tanks containing cryogenically cooled liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellant. The tanks feed a quartet of super-powerful engines, providing most of the thrust during its nine-minute ride to orbit. On the sides of the core stage are four kerosene-burning strap-on boosters to help at liftoff but are then discarded around two minutes into the flight.
NASA actually chose a somewhat similar architecture for its SLS super heavy-lift rocket, except the kerosene boosters were replaced with a pair of solid rockets inherited from the Space Shuttle program. But the problem with the Energia three decades later is that its components were simply too big to transport in a country much smaller and much less affluent than the Soviet Union.
Unlike the U.S, Russia has no easy sea route to haul an oversized core stage from its rocket factories in the European part of Russia, such as the city of Samara where today’s Soyuz rockets are built, to the launch site in the Far East at Vostochny spaceport. The Soviet government resolved this problem by simply paying for a custom-built cargo plane, converted from the VM-T Atlant strategic bomber. But today, without that costly option, Roscosmos engineers need to fit all major components onto rail cars, which could then pass through the narrow tunnels and treacherous zigzags of the Trans-Siberian railroad.
By abandoning the use of risky hydrogen fuel on the core stage and opting for the less-efficient-but-more-condensed kerosene fuel instead, engineers could "slice" the rocket into a cluster of seven boosters, each of them small enough to fit onto a rail car. A smaller hydrogen-burning stage could still be mounted at the top of the rocket with the secondary task of pushing its cargo from the initial orbit around the Earth into deep space.
This seven-booster Energia successor was renamed the "Yenisei," after the great Siberian river.
Introducing the Yenisei
While downsizing rocket boosters seems counterintuitive when designing such a big rocket, the cluster approach does offer some distinct advantages. The big one being that each individual booster can also be used to build a medium-size space vehicle, launching much smaller but much more practical money-making missions like communications satellites. In fact, that’s exactly what Russian scientists did, naming the resulting rocket the "Irtysh," another river in Siberia.
This approach is much like SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which is comprised of three Falcon 9 first stages. The Yenisei ups that number with 7 Irtysh first stages.
With the Yenisei and the smaller Irtysh, the Russian rocket industry could use the same factories, machinery, and workers to pump out boosters for commercial, military, and scientific missions, spreading cost across the entire rocket family. Encouraged by the newly formed strategy, Rogozin boasted on Twitter this month that "our (super-heavy) Yenisei will cost far less than the American Space Launch System, SLS."
According to Roscosmos, the Irtysh booster should begin flying as early as 2023 from the existing launch pad in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, before the Yenisei eventually lifts off at Russia's new Vostochny spaceport in 2028.
"We started planning the expansion of the vehicle assembly building for the super-heavy rocket," Rogozin wrote during his visit to Vostochny this week.
Can Russia build it?
Russia's latest pathway to super-rocket looks sound on paper, but unfortunately, there are serious doubts that this technically feasible scenario can be implemented in real life, let alone in just eight years.
Russia’s history with delivering on big space promises is a troubled one as the country has been living in the shadow of a great Soviet legacy. Inherited from the USSR, Russia operated a diverse fleet of launchers of all sizes, funded in large part by extensive commercial and scientific cooperation with the West. Most of these joint projects were established under Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.
But with the ascent of Vladimir Putin in the 2000s, pragmatic technocrats at the helm of Roscosmos were replaced with military officers and political appointees who had no experience in the rocket industry. Ironically, as rising oil prices gave the Kremlin plenty of cash to subsidize its space ambitions, Roscosmos has had very little to show for it. Instead, the Russian space industry has become swamped with corruption, quality control problems, inefficiency, and brain drain. So much so that during the 2010s, Russia all but lost its positions on the commercial launch market.
In addition to endless launch failures, Putin's confrontation with the West (and especially his invasion of Crimea in 2014) prompted European and American partners to minimize their dealings with Roscosmos, depriving the industry of major revenue stream. Russian space companies would from then on be mostly dependent on the roller coaster ride that is the Russian economy.
As a result, in the past 15 years of relatively stable funding, Roscosmos never put a single new rocket in operation, including the costly Angara rocket that has only flown two times. Instead, the agency mostly built modest upgrades to Soviet-era relics like the Soyuz and Proton rockets.
And these development problems plagued rockets rated for only 24-ton payloads. Will Roscosmos really be able to field a rocket orders of magnitude larger while building new production factories, a monumental launch infrastructure, and a transport system spanning several time zones?
Re-entry to reality
While the possibility of building such a rocket remains uncertain at best, there’s also an even bigger and perhaps even more difficult question of what it will actually launch.
To avoid the same fate as the Soviet Energia, the new booster needs a fleet of very expensive and sophisticated spacecraft to carry, including a crewed lunar orbiter, lunar landers, and other components. Yet, right now, even incomparably smaller and simpler robotic lunar probes that Russian scientists conceived back in the 1990s are still gathering dust in assembly rooms.
In 2009, the Kremlin approved the development of a replacement to its Soyuz spacecraft, which was supposed to make its first test flight in 2015 and fly with a crew in 2018 - but neither milestone came anywhere close to implementation. Instead, this ghost spaceship changed its name two times and was shuffled from one non-existing rocket carrier to another.
Now Roscosmos makes equally daunting promises to launch the first prototype of the crew vehicle, called the Orel ("Eagle" in Russian), in 2023. Work on other pieces of the Russian lunar infrastructure hasn’t even gone beyond the drawing board.
In recent years, Russia has demonstrated its ability to pull together considerable resources for big national projects, like the $50 billion spent on the Sochi Olympics. But money can't buy everything. The space program requires not only stable funding but also highly qualified and motivated workers and engineers, a wide range of technologies, test facilities, and competent management.
Hopefully, Roscosmos is learning from its mistakes, but the Putin era suggests that Yenisei is just another astronomic boondoggle in the making.

© 2020 Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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    Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty / February 10, 2020
    Russian Ministry's Controversial Order Restricting Scholars' Contacts With Foreigners Rescinded
    Министр образования и науки России Валерий Фальков отменил прошлогодний приказ, вводивший ограничения на контакты российских учёных с иностранными коллегами.

A controversial order by Russia's Ministry of Education and Science that restricted interaction between Russian scholars and their foreign counterparts last year has been rescinded.
Education and Science Minister Valery Falkov told reporters in Moscow on February 10 that the ministry "is interested in cooperation [with foreign scientists] that will develop on the principles of open science," adding that the order in question is no longer valid.
He gave no further explanation as to why the order was annulled.
Media reports in August last year published excerpts of a document signed months earlier by then Science and Higher Education Minister Mikhail Kotyukov that ordered Russian scientists and scholars to give five days' advance notice to ministry officials anytime they planbed on meeting a foreign colleague.
After such encounters, scientists were ordered to submit a report and a list of participants in the meetings.
Other rules implemented included a stipulation that if a meeting took place at a Russian scientific organization, at least two Russian scientists should be present, while foreigners, when visiting Russian scientific organizations, could only copy or record information under rules of international treaties.
The order sparked protests from Russian scholars, who said the move would further isolate the country in a key area of study and development.
The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) called it "ridiculous," saying it ran contrary to the objectives of the national projects of science and education.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty © 2020 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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    Newsweek / 2/11/20
    Russia planning to build powerful new supercomputers after seeing its technology lag behind U.S. and China
    • By Jason Murdock
    Согласно мировому рейтингу, в России расположены 3 суперкомпьютерные системы из 500 (для сравнения: в Китае 228 суперкомпьютеров, в США 117, в Ирландии 14), причем все в Москве. В связи с этим на встрече президента РФ с представителями общественности по вопросам науки и образования, состоявшейся в Череповце, первый заместитель директора ИВТ СО РАН Андрей Юрченко предложил расширять суперкомпьютерную сеть, в первую очередь в регионах.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says multiple new supercomputers may soon be installed across the country, as development lags behind the U.S. and China.
Speaking during a visit to the Cherepovets College of Chemical Technology last Tuesday, Putin suggested that plans were already in motion to expand a high-tech network of supercomputer and data centers that would no longer be limited to the capital city of Moscow.
Russia has three of the top 500 supercomputer systems in the world, compared to China (228) and the United States (117), analysis suggests.
At last count, two of the country's top supercomputers - Lomonosov-2 and Lomonosov - were housed at Moscow State University. The third is linked to a computing center of the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, or Roshydromet, also located in the capital.
In early January last year, a new AI research supercomputer dubbed "Zhores" was unveiled at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, but that is also located in Moscow. In the overall top 500 list, Russia's top supercomputer is the Christofari, sitting at number 29.
The proposal to expand the infrastructure was made by Andrey Yurchenko, who is a director of the Institute of Computational Technologies of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in Novosibirsk. A transcript was published by the Kremlin.
Yurchenko suggested a "two-level" system, and noted Siberia provides 15 percent of high-quality scientific publications in Russia despite having less than two percent of overall resources.
He said: "[We should] develop a network of powerful supercomputing centers so that they are located not only in Moscow but also in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Kazan, Vladivostok.
"Of course, not only super-powerful centers are needed, but also the second level, as we call them. They should also be located in the regions Tomsk, Tyumen, Khabarovsk, Yekaterinburg. Such centers can become a base... for the creation of networks of 'data factories.'"
In response, Putin said that he agreed with a multi-tier system but said regulators still need to evaluate the plans. He said: "It is necessary to increase capacity and to create communication systems between these centers. And to evenly distribute these data factories.
"All this is in our plans. But it is necessary that the regulatory authorities monitor this very carefully and that appropriate monitoring of implementation be established. The whole system should be evenly distributed over territories...where there is intellectual potential." Shortly after, the president added: "We will definitely pay attention to this, we will strive for this."
The comments were translated into English using Google Translate. They were referred to in a media release from the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
As noted by DefenseOne in March last year, the Russian supercomputers, including Zhores, use technology that is imported from western companies, including Nvidia. Zhores was notable as it is an academic project not designed for military use, unlike the NDMC.
"Zhores is the first petascale energy-efficient supercomputer specially earmarked for solving machine learning problems and simulations based on data," said Skoltech professor Sergei Rykovanov in a media release last year celebrating the installation.
"This computing system will help Skoltech researchers and its academic individual partners to make breakthroughs in a whole range of fields: digital medicine, Internet of Things, precision farming, image processing, processing new medications, smart cities, predictive technical maintenance, photonics, and the search for sources of X-rays and Gamma rays."
Unlike a simple laptop or desktop PC, supercomputers are able to handle vast amounts of data, which is measured in floating-point operations per second (Flops).
Last November, Top500, which maintains a list of the world's most powerful commercially available computer systems, confirmed that China and the U.S. dominated the industry.
"Summit and Sierra remain in the top two spots. Both are IBM-built supercomputers employing Power9 CPUs and NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs," the most recent list said.
"Number three is the Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, with an HPL mark of 93.0 petaflops. TaihuLight was [made] by China's National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology and is installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi," it added.
For now, a Russian presence at the top end of the list is largely missing.

© 2020 NEWSWEEK.
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    PRNewswire / Feb 12, 2020
    Clones of trees will help restore forests - Russian scientists increase the survival rate of seedlings for after-fire reforestation
    Для восстановления лесов после пожаров выгоревшие участки засеваются саженцами, выращенными методом микроклонального размножения. Однако попав из лабораторных условий в нестерильную почву, многие деревца гибнут.
    Ученые НИТУ «МИСиС» и Тамбовского государственного университета нашли способ повысить приживаемость микроклонов на 10-28% с помощью нанопрепаратов, защищающих от инфекций.

Scientists from the National University of Science and Technology MISIS (NUST MISIS) and Tambov State University (TSU) presented a new technology to increase the survival rate of microclonal seedlings planted for reforestation after massive fires. The use of nanopreparations allowed obtaining seedlings of deciduous and coniferous trees with an increased survival rate (10-28% higher) in the open ground. They have already been used to create experimental forest plantations in the Central Black Earth Region of Russia.
According to the Federal Forestry Agency (FFA, Russia), in 2019 economic damage from forest fires in Russia is 14.4 billion rubles. During the fire season in a number of Russian regions, the fire covered more than 10 million hectares of forest. One of Australia's largest banks, Westpac, has estimated that direct losses to the Australian economy after the wildfires will be about $ 3.5 billion.
To restore forest resources, burned areas are sown with seedlings grown in special laboratory conditions using the method of microclonal reproduction. The method is based on the ability of a plant cell to give rise to an entire plant organism under favorable conditions. Tree microclones can be reproduced 3-4 times faster than conventional seedlings, while they are genetically homogeneous.
However, during adaptation to the soil, there is a high probability of their death, which reduces the effectiveness of the technology as a whole. To solve this problem, a team of scientists from NUST MISIS and TSU obtained experimental samples of unique nanopreparations for microclonal reproduction of trees based on colloidal solutions of nanoparticles.
"The obtained nanopreparations are the basis of the nutrient medium. They protect the microclonal seedlings of trees from infections. These are mostly microscopic phytopathogenic fungi, which at this stage kill about 30% of seedlings, - said the Project Manager, Director of the TSU Ecology and Biotechnology Research Institute Alexander Gusev. - Infections are especially dangerous when sprouts are transferred from laboratory test tubes to the non-sterile environment of the greenhouse, where they grow to become seedlings that can be planted in open ground."
The experiments in the framework of the project have shown that nanopreparations in a nutrient medium ensure the death of about 90-95% of pathogenic microorganisms.
"The active substance of the preparations is nanocomposites of the graphene oxide-silver and graphene oxide-copper oxide composition. In this case, silver or copper oxide nanoparticles are located on the surface of the graphene oxide sheets, - said the representative of the nanocomposite developers and the Head of the NUST MISIS Department of Functional Nanosystems and High-Temperature Materials Denis Kuznetsov. Graphene oxide serves as a bioactive nanoparticles carrier and a colloidal systems stabilizer, and silver and copper oxide act as non-toxic wide spectrum of action fungicides for plants." As a result of the project, stimulators of growth and phytoimmunity of tree crops, which have no analogs, were created. They are intended for use as components of cultivation media for microclonal sprouts and for treating plants in a greenhouse during growing in the closed ground.
The development of Russian scientists has export potential since it can be in demand in countries where the majority of planting material is produced by microclonal propagation laboratories - the USA, Canada, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Germany, Latvia, Belgium, and Holland.

Copyright © 2020 PR Newswire Association LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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    Sciences et Avenir / Le 19.02.2020
    Découverte en Russie d'un nouveau fossile de salamandre
    Cette salamandre a été identifiée grâce à l'analyse de quatre vertèbres.
    • Par Joël Ignasse
    По четырем позвонкам российские и немецкие палеонтологи описали одну из древнейших амфибий возрастом 160 млн лет. Найденная в Красноярском крае ископаемая саламандра получила название Egoria malashichevi, в честь биолога и нейробиолога Егора Малашичева (1973-2018).

Les salamandres apparaissent dans le registre fossile à partir du Jurassique moyen, il y a 160 millions d'années environ. Les plus anciens spécimens proviennent de Mongolie et c'est à quelques centaines de kilomètres de cette zone que des paléontologues russes et allemands ont découvert les restes d'une nouvelle espèce.
L'atlas, une vertèbre clé
Baptisé Egoria malashichevi, l'amphibien a une taille estimée à une vingtaine de centimètres et il provient de la carrière de Berezovsky, proche de la ville de Sharypovo, où ont déjà été découverts plusieurs autres fossiles de salamandres dont une très grosse d'une soixante de centimètres nommée Urupia monstrosa. La nouvelle venue est connue grâce à quatre vertèbres dont l'atlas, la première et, dans le cas de la salamandre, la seule vertèbre cervicale. Cette vertèbre hautement spécialisée est le point d'ancrage du crâne sur la colonne vertébrale et elle permet les mouvements de rotation de ce dernier. Sa structure livre donc de nombreuses informations pour identifier et décrire une nouvelle espèce.
L'atlas et les autres vertèbres ont été analysées par microtomographie par diffraction de rayons X au "Research Park" de l'Université de Saint-Pétersbourg. Sur la base des données obtenues, les paléontologues ont créé des reconstructions 3D des vertèbres et décrit leur structure interne. Elles permettent de situer Egoria malashichevi dans l'arbre évolutif des salamandres. Elle y est placée, révèlent les scientifiques dans un article publié dans la revue PLOS ONE, dans une position mixte : elle est morphologiquement proche des plus ancestrales mais présente aussi des caractéristiques anatomiques proches des salamandres modernes.
Les espèces modernes gravement menacées
La prochaine étape pour les paléontologues consistera à comparer les os des salamandres trouvées à Berezovsky avec ceux des salamandres de Kirtlington, une carrière de Grande-Bretagne qui a également fourni un grand nombre de fossiles. Ils cherchent à savoir si une ou plusieurs espèces proches de salamandres ont pu coloniser la presque totalité de l'Europe à cette époque. Bien qu’ayant survécu à des périodes d’extinction massive, les salamandres sont aujourd’hui menacées, comme les autres amphibiens. Pour différentes raisons - maladies, climat, pollution - les populations d’amphibiens sont en déclin sur l’ensemble de la planète. En Europe, c'est un champignon, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, importé d'Asie, qui menace grandement certaines espèces.

© Sciences et Avenir.
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    Washington Post / Feb. 22, 2020
    46,000-year-old bird found frozen in Siberia sheds light on the end of the ice age
    • By Marisa Iati
    Российские, шведские, американские и британские ученые опубликовали результаты исследования найденной в 2018 году в якутской мерзлоте птицы возрастом около 46 тысяч лет. Анализ выделенной ДНК показал, что это самка рогатого жаворонка Eremophila alpestris, общего предка двух современных подвидов этих птиц, обитающих в Сибири и Монголии.

The frozen carcass of a horned lark discovered in northeast Siberia by fossil ivory hunters could help scientists better understand how the ecosystem evolved at the end of the last ice age, new research suggests.
Scientists said they extracted DNA from the "exceptionally well-preserved" ancient bird carcass that they determined was roughly 46,000 years old, according to an article published Friday in the journal Communications Biology. Researchers at the Centre for Palaeogenetics at Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History studied the female bird after it was found in 2018 in a permafrost tunnel in Siberia’s Belaya Gora area.
The discovery offers new information about how the mammoth steppe, a cold and dry biome that covered northern Europe and Asia, divided into three types of biological environments when the ice age ended about 11,700 years ago. The steppe, which was home to now-extinct species including the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros, separated into tundra, taiga - coniferous forest - and steppe.
"Our results support this theory since the diversification of the horned lark into these sub species seems to have happened about at the same time as the mammoth steppe disappeared," Love Dalén, a professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History and a research leader at the Centre for Palaeogenetics, said in a statement.
Researchers said the bird carcass will also help them better understand how the horned lark evolved. They said they hope to map its genome and compare it with the genomes of all other subspecies of horned larks.
For now, genetic analysis suggests the bird was an ancestor of a subspecies of horned lark in Siberia and another subspecies in Mongolia, Nicolas Dussex, a zoologist at Stockholm University, said in the statement.
Siberia has been the site of several frozen findings, many of which were studied by some of the same scientists who researched the horned lark. Last year, the researchers published studies of a 30,000-year-old severed wolf head and a puppy named Dogor that was frozen for 18,000 years.
In the broader Arctic, people have uncovered frozen mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, horses, bison and wolverines, the researchers wrote in their new study. Paleontologists can use those remains to understand how climate change impacts those species and to study the evolution of a particular animal.
Although the scientists wrote that fossil ivory hunters’ methods of excavation can harm scientifically valuable animal remains, they said the preserved tissues and organs of frozen carcasses give them better information about gene expression than they can get from skeletal remains.

© 1996-2020 The Washington Post.
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    Universe Today / February 26, 2020
    Future Astronauts Could Enjoy Fresh Vegetables From an Autonomous Orbital Greenhouse
    • By Matt Williams
    Томские ученые и инженеры создали прототип орбитальной теплицы - автономного модуля для выращивания зелени и овощей в космосе. Эксперименты уже доказали возможность культивирования растений в условиях невесомости, но во всех случаях теплицы располагались в жилых отсеках космических станций, что предполагало пространственные и технические ограничения.

If humanity is going to become a space-faring and interplanetary species, one of the most important things will be the ability of astronauts to see to their needs independently. Relying on regular shipments of supplies from Earth is not only inelegant; it’s also impractical and very expensive. For this reason, scientists are working to create technologies that would allow astronauts to provide for their own food, water, and breathable air.
To this end, a team of researchers from Tomsk Polytechnic University - along with scientists from other universities and research institutes in the region - recently developed a prototype for an orbital greenhouse. Known as the Orbital Biological Automatic Module, this device allows plants to be grown and cultivated in space and could be heading to the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming years.
Since the beginning of the Space Age, numerous experiments have been conducted that demonstrated how plants can be cultivated under microgravity conditions. However, these studies were carried out using greenhouses located in the living compartments of orbital stations and involved significant limitations in terms of technology and space.
For this reason, a research team from TPU began working to scale and improve the technologies necessary for cultivating important agricultural crops. The project team includes additional researchers from Tomsk State University (TSU), Tomsk State University of Control Systems and Radioelectronics (TUSUR), the Institute of Petroleum Chemistry and the Siberian Research Institute of Agriculture and Peat.
As Aleksei Yakovlev, head of the TPU School of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, explained in a TPU News release: "Currently we are preparing an application for the experiment, and working through the preliminary design and technical solutions. In 2020, we should complete the application and submit it. Then, a coordination council will evaluate its relevance and importance. It tends to take a year and a half from the application to the start of the experiment, so we expect to join a long-term program and receive funding in 2021."
The smart greenhouse project will incorporate technologies developed at TPU, which includes smart lighting that will accelerate plant growth, specialized hydroponics, automated irrigation, and harvesting solutions. At present, TPU is constructing a new testing ground so they can expand production on the smart greenhouse.
"In Tomsk, we will conduct interdisciplinary studies and solve applied problems in the field of agrobiophotonics," said Yakovlev. "At the same time, the research team includes scientists from Tomsk, Moscow, Vladivostok, and international partners from the Netherlands specializing in climate complexes including one from Wageningen University."
In the end, Yakovlev and his colleagues envision an autonomous module that would be capable of supplying food for astronauts and potentially even docking with the ISS. They also indicated that the module would contain a cultivation area measuring 30 m² (~320 ft²) and that it would be cylindrical in shape. As Yakolev indicated, this would allow the module to be spun up to simulate different gravity conditions: "The gravity index will be set by the rotation speed of the module around its axis. We also expect that the module will be made of flexible material to compact assembly and automatic orbital unpacking."
These include the gravity conditions that are present on the Moon and Mars, which experience the equivalent of about 16.5% and 38% Earth gravity (0.1654 g and 0.3794 g), respectively. At present, it is unknown how well plants can grow on either body and research to that effect is still in its infancy. Hence, the information provided by this module could prove very useful if and when plans for a lunar and/or Martian colony are realized.
The design and engineering that goes into the module will also take into account the kinds of conditions that are present in space, such as solar and cosmic radiation and extremes in temperature. Beyond that, the module will investigate what kinds of crops grow well in orbit. Said Yakovlev: "Another important issue is the selection of necessary and most suitable agricultural crops and their protection against pathogens in microgravity. We offer various types of lettuce, leeks, basil, and other crops for cultivation in the module."
Three TPU experiments were recently approved for transport to the ISS and will be implemented later this year. They include a device capable of 3D printing composite materials, housings for a swarm of satellites, and a multilayer nanocomposite coating that will be applied to the ISS portholes to protect against micrometeoroid impacts (Peresvet). Their implementation will begin later this year and in 2021.

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    Mirage News / February 26, 2020
    Scientists have created a new drug for influenza
    Исследователи Томского государственного университета, Института проблем химико-энергетических технологий (ИПХЭТ) СО РАН и НИИ фармакологии и регенеративной медицины им. Е.Д.Гольдберга создали новый препарат для лечения гриппа с удвоенным противовирусным эффектом.

A group of researchers that included staff of TSU, the Institute for Problems of Chemical and Energetic Technologies of the Siberian Branch of the RAS (IPCET SB RAS, Biysk), and the Research Institute of Pharmacology and Regenerative Medicine E.D. Goldberg, has developed a new technology for synthesizing the pharmaceutical substance oseltamivir ethoxysuccinate and received a drug with a double antiviral effect.
"Most pharmaceutical substances are made in China. For Russia, it is important to change this proportion by creating domestic drugs that are not inferior in effectiveness to foreign ones," says Alexander Vorozhtsov, Vice-Rector of TSU for Science and Innovation, a senior researcher at the IPCET SB RAS. "One of these drugs is the result of the joint work of TSU, two academic institutions, and the research and production center Chemical Technologies. A new technical solution proposed by scientists of the IPCET SB RAS helps to obtain oseltamivir with a high yield of the finished product in relation to the raw materials. There is already a finished form, and the drug has received a patent."
"The results of preclinical studies have shown that the new drug has improved characteristics," notes Zhanna Spitsko, a staff member of Chemical Technologies and Siberian State Medical University. "For example, its antiviral activity was almost twice as high as that of the well-known Swiss drug Tamiflu, which is widely used to treat flu. Studies by Siberian pharmacologists have shown that the new drug has low general and chronic toxicity and does not have mutagenic, carcinogenic, or allergenic effects."
Biological studies have confirmed the potential of further clinical studies of the new drug for the treatment and prevention of influenza. Given that the synthesis scheme of oseltamivir ethoxysuccinate is simplified and based on the use of more affordable starting compounds, it is expected that the production of a medicinal product based on it and the final cost to the consumer will be significantly lower than the cost of a foreign version. According to the developers, the innovative oseltamivir may appear on the market by 2025.

© Mirage News.
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    Sciences et Avenir / Le 26.02.2020
    Dans l'Arctique russe, le cannibalisme en hausse chez les ours blancs
    Поедание особей собственного вида среди белых медведей явление не редкое, однако в последние годы количество таких случаев увеличилось. Ученые объясняют это растущей нехваткой привычного питания из-за изменений климата, кроме того, возможно, сообщения о медвежьем каннибализме стали поступать чаще из-за растущего присутствия людей в Арктике.

S'entre-dévorer pour survivre : les cas de cannibalisme recensés parmi les ours polaires de l'Arctique russe sont en hausse, selon des chercheurs expliquant partiellement le phénomène par le manque de nourriture dans une région bouleversée par l'activité humaine. "Des cas de cannibalisme parmi les ours blancs sont avérés depuis longtemps. Mais alors qu'ils étaient auparavant rarement constatés, ils le sont maintenant assez souvent, ce qui nous inquiète", a affirmé mercredi 26 février 2020 Ilia Mordvintsev, de l'Institut de l'écologie et de l'évolution Severtsov de Moscou.
L'impact de l'extraction de gaz dans la péninsule de Yamal
Cité par l'agence de presse Interfax, le chercheur, qui n'a pas donné de chiffres, a estimé que le manque de nourriture pourrait pousser les mâles à manger les oursons. L'habitat des ours et leur zone de chasse sont menacés à la fois par les effets du changement climatique et l'activité humaine accrue en Arctique, devenu une priorité économique et militaire stratégique de la Russie. L'expert a ainsi évoqué l'impact de l'extraction de gaz dans la péninsule de Yamal, un projet international qui a engrangé des milliards d'euros de bénéfices. L'augmentation du trafic maritime entre la mer des Barents et le golfe du fleuve Ob, liée au développement du projet, a réduit le territoire de chasse des animaux, selon lui. "Maintenant la glace dans le golfe de l'Ob, qui avait toujours été une terre de chasse pour les ours blancs, est brisée toute l'année", a-t-il noté.
Le chercheur note cependant que la hausse des cas observés de cannibalisme chez les ours blancs peut aussi s'expliquer, en partie, par la présence accrue d'humains observant le phénomène. "Nous avons maintenant des signalements non seulement de chercheurs, mais aussi du nombre croissant d'employés d'entreprises gazières et pétrolières et du ministère de la Défense" déployés dans l'Arctique, a précisé Ilia Mordvintsev.
Des ours blancs qui ne chassent plus sur la banquise ?
Selon un autre expert russe, Vladimir Sokolov, la taille des glaces arctiques en fin d'été a baissé de 40% lors des 25 dernières années. Il a évoqué la possibilité qu'à l'avenir les ours blancs ne chassent plus sur la banquise, mais uniquement sur les côtes ou les archipels de haute latitude. Les incursions d'ours polaires en quête de nourriture près de zones habitées sont de plus en plus fréquentes dans le Nord de la Russie.
En juin, une ourse polaire affamée a été aperçue aux abords d'une ville russe, à plus de 800 kilomètres de son habitat naturel, puis capturée et prise en charge par des vétérinaires. En février 2019, les autorités russes ont décrété l'état d'urgence en Nouvelle-Zemble à cause de l'afflux de dizaines d'ours polaires agressifs, à la recherche de nourriture.

© Sciences et Avenir.
* * *
    Newsweek / 2/28/20
    Light From Elon Musk's Starlink Satellites Ruins Space Photos, Says Russian Government Agency
    • By Brendan Cole
    Российская академия наук намерена направить в ООН письмо с жалобой на спутниковую систему Илона Маска Starlink. Сеть из 300 (на данный момент, в перспективе - из 12 тысяч) спутников должна обеспечить населению Земли широкополосный доступ к Интернету, однако отражаемый ими солнечный свет может испортить до 40% астрономических снимков, мешая работе ученых.

Russia's Academy of Sciences will complain to the United Nations about the light reflected from the Starlink satellite system, saying it interferes with the work of astronomers, it has been reported.
Batches of satellites continue to be sent up into orbit to work with ground transceivers with the aim of providing greater broadband internet access on Earth, especially in areas where connections are harder to get, or more expensive.
Lifted up on SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rocket, the first Starlink launch took place on May 23, 2019, and the project is a key part of billionaire Elon Musk's cosmic plans.
But Nikolai Samus, a researcher from the Russian Academy, said the network of hundreds of satellites reflects light from the sun and can corrupt between 30 to 40 percent of astronomical images.
According to state-run news agency RIA Novosti, the Russian Academy's concerns are shared by colleagues from the European Space Agency and it will take them to the U.N.
Samus told an audience at the Moscow planetarium, "We are currently drafting a letter (for the U.N) from the Russian Academy and tomorrow we will discuss this issue with our vice president Yuri Balega. Such a letter will come from us."
Last month, a batch of 60 Starlink satellites were launched, bringing its constellation to 300 satellites, according to Tech Crunch, which reported that they could be providing internet access to the U.S. and Canada by the middle of 2020.
But concerns have been raised before about the impact of Musk's Spacelink plans which would add potentially thousands of satellites into orbit, increasing the risk of creating space debris.
The head of the Russian defense company Vympel, Sergey Boev has expressed concerns that the Starlink system could be used for military purposes, Russian media reported.
He believed it was cause for alarm that the newly-appointed commander of the U.S. Space Force, John Raymond, had met with Musk to discuss how the the satellites could help the Pentagon, according to Russian outlet news.ru.
Last October, Reuters reported that the U.S. Air Force program Global Lightning is using the network to test encrypted internet services for military planes.
Russia has previously taken issue with Musk's plans, accusing SpaceX of pushing it out of the carrier rocket market. Moscow announced in September 2019 it would build its reusable Argo rocket to compete with Musk's Falcon 9 rockets.
Russia hopes it can supply the International Space Station [ISS] by 2024, with domestically produced rockets, according to the RBC news website.
Newsweek has contacted SpaceX for comment.

© 2020 NEWSWEEK.
* * *

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