Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Январь 2020 г.
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Январь
2020 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)

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    Haaretz / Jan 02, 2020
    Tomb With Three Generations of "Amazon" Warrior Women Found in Russia
    Female Scythian warriors have been found before, but this is the first time multiple generations were found buried together - with a golden headdress and other grave goods that thieves missed.
    • By Ruth Schuster
    При раскопках в Воронежской области летом 2019 г. сотрудники Института археологии РАН обнаружили курган IV в. до н. э., в котором были погребены четыре женщины возрастом от 12-13 до 45-50 лет. Помимо украшений и посуды, в захоронении находилось оружие и элементы упряжи, а также очень редкий золотой скифский головной убор калаф. Женщины-воительницы были распространенным явлением в скифскую эпоху, но впервые археологи столкнулись с погребением сразу четырех человек столь разного возраста, похороненных одновременно.

Four female warriors buried around 2,500 years ago with weapons and finery that grave robbers failed to filch have been discovered in western Russia.
Merely the latest in discoveries of armed women of antiquity, the find further supports the theory that ancient legends about Amazons had a grain of truth, and then some.
For the first time, archaeologists found a magnificent headdress in situ, still wrapped around the skull of its possessor, archaeologist Valerii Guliaev and colleagues explain this week in the journal of the Akson Russian Science Communication Association. Also a first, the researchers’ study suggests that although the "Amazons" were buried together, they belonged to three different generations.
The archaeologists also found dozens of iron arrowheads, as well as iron knives and animal bones.
Technically, the women were identified as Scythian nomads and were interred inside one of 19 barrows discovered during an archaeological survey by the village of Devitsa, in the Ostrogozhsky District of the Voronezh region a decade ago. During the last 10 years, their expedition has discovered about 11 burials of young armed women, Guliaev says.
But it was only in this particular mound that the women were of a wide range of ages - from early teens to old age, in the terms of the time.
The timing of their lives and the nature of their burial in Devitsa provide further testimony that the legends of the so-called Amazon warriors, which go back to the Bronze Age, had a basis in reality. Some basis, at least. There seems to be no basis to the fables of their penchant for misandry or lesbianism. This may have arisen from misinterpretation of a Homeric reference to them as antianeirai - and like some words we know of from ancient Hebrew, nobody is sure what it meant. There is no particular reason to think it means they despised men.
The legends about the Amazons’ origin and heroics are incoherent, with modern distortions adding onto myths going back millennia. Even the origin of their ancient Greek soubriquet "the Amazons" is steeped in fantasy, according to scholars. But after centuries of debate about the veracity of the Amazon legend, archaeologists finally began finding solid evidence beyond ancient Greek paintings and bas-reliefs that some women in eastern Asia really did fight.
Multiple burials of what look like fighting females, associated with the Scythian nomadic culture that dominated central Eurasia from about 2,700 to 1,700 years ago, have been found in the steppes, a vast region stretching from Spain to China.
Whether these "Amazons" formed armies independent of men, fought with the men, or ferociously guarded the homestead and livestock while the men sparred in far-off wars has yet to be ascertained to anybody’s satisfaction. The unarguable fact is that the remains of some women from antiquity, in magnificent physical shape with skeletal signals of musculature appropriate for serious horse-riding and war, have been found pretty much where ancient Greek legend put them.
Just this November, Armenian researchers reported in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology on the remains of a woman found in 2017, who died in her 20s about 2,500 years ago and who had been, according to analysis of her skeleton, as muscular in the torso and glutes as a man. She had an arrowhead buried in her leg and other scars indicative of battle, and was buried with jewelry - all indicative of a high-status, horse-riding combatant. She was the second female warrior burial discovered in Armenia. So, though there is absolutely no evidence that they were lopping off one of their breasts to improve their aim or for any other reason, women of the nomadic Scythian tribes really did fight in antiquity.
Historically, one reason science failed to realize that many Scythian warrior burials were female is that it’s hard to sex an ancient skeleton - partly because the human is one of few mammals with no penis bone. Also, researchers tended to assume that if a skeleton is found with war injuries and weapons, it’s a man. The advent of DNA testing outed the true gender of some ancient skeletons with injuries more typical of mortal combat rather than a life at the loom, not only among the Scythians but among the Vikings too.
Generations of warrior women
A unique aspect of the newly reported burial mount found in Devitsa is the range of the women’s ages.
One was about 12 to 13 years old: Though a minor by today’s standards, in terms of antiquity she would likely have been considered to have reached maturity and to have been capable of marriage and perhaps fighting too. Perhaps she was in training when she died.
Two of the women in their prime, the archaeologists say - one 20 to 29, the other 25 to 35.
The final body was of a woman aged 45 to 50, which the archaeologists called a "respectable age" as women at the time tended to die between ages 30 to 35.
It was this woman who still wore a beautifully engraved ceremonial golden headdress called a calathos that featured engraved spiral motifs and flowers: its rims bore pendants in the shape of vases. Probably attesting to her status, the metal comprising the headdress was unusually pure by ancient Scythian standards: about 65 to 70 percent pure gold, compared with the normal alloy of about 30 percent, the archaeologists say.
Though dozens of similar headdresses had been found previously in the steppes of Scythia, this is the first time a Scythian headdress has been found in this area of Russia, the archaeologists say - and found in situ on the skull itself, no less.
This is noteworthy, Guliaev explains, because usually the first finders of an antique burial aren’t scientists but just about anybody else - from local farmers to construction workers to authorities, who tend to move the objects, not realizing the importance of archaeological context.
This elderly Scythian woman was also buried with an iron knife wrapped in textile and an unusual arrowhead with a split end.
The four had been buried at the same time, the archaeologists postulate in their paper. The way the wooden tomb had been structured would have prevented its reuse later on.
It didn’t stop robbers, though: precious little does, or ever did. The archaeologists deduce that thieves broke into the tomb only a century or two after its burial in clay. But they missed two of the bodies, robbing only the remains of the teenager and one of the young women. They also left behind pottery, including a lecythus - a rather squat type of vase typically used for oils or potions in antiquity. The style of the pottery is typical of the fourth century B.C.E. The women had been laid to rest on wooden beds covered by grass bedding, the archaeologists reconstruct. More chillingly, one of the young women was buried with her legs akimbo, as though she were riding a horse. The tendons of her legs had to have been severed before her positioning, the team says. They report finding a mirror made of polished bronze beneath her left shoulder, as well as two spears and a bracelet of glass beads. Guliaev believes the women were buried with the full burial rites usually followed for men. The team further deduces that the women had been buried in November or thereabouts. And how did they deduce that? Mainly based on the bones of a 6- to 8-month-old lamb found among their remains. Lambs are typically born in the late winter and early spring, say March and April. The team further deduced by telltale green stains on the bones that the deceased juvenile ovine had been cooked in a bronze pot. But the pot was missing. It had been stolen.

© Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
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    SciTechDaily / January 5, 2020
    Graphene Surprises Researchers Again: Strange "Melting" Behavior
    Кривую плавления графита изучают уже более ста лет, но полученные результаты слишком расходятся. Ученые из Московского физико-технического института и Института физики высоких давлений им. Л.Ф.Верещагина РАН с помощью компьютерного моделирования уточнили кривые плавления графита и графена, а также установили, что графен на самом деле не плавится, а сразу переходит в газообразное состояние.

Physicists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Institute for High Pressure Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences have used computer modeling to refine the melting curve of graphite that has been studied for over 100 years, with inconsistent findings. They also found that graphene "melting" is in fact sublimation. The results of the study came out in the journal Carbon.
Graphite is a material widely used in various industries - for example in heat shields for spacecraft - so accurate data on its behavior at ultrahigh temperatures is of paramount importance. Graphite melting has been studied since the early 20th century. About 100 experiments have placed the graphite melting point at various temperatures between 3,000 and 7,000 kelvins. With a spread so large, it is unclear which number is true and can be considered the actual melting point of graphite. The values returned by different computer models are also at variance with each other.
A team of physicists from MIPT and HPPI RAS compared several computer models to try and find the matching predictions. Yuri Fomin and Vadim Brazhkin used two methods: classical molecular dynamics and ab initio molecular dynamics. The latter accounts for quantum mechanical effects, making it more accurate. The downside is that it only deals with interactions between a small number of atoms on short time scales. The researchers compared the obtained results with prior experimental and theoretical data.
Fomin and Brazhkin found the existing models to be highly inaccurate. But it turned out that comparing the results produced by different theoretical models and finding overlaps can provide an explanation for the experimental data.
As far back as 1960s, the graphite melting curve was predicted to have a maximum. Its existence points to complex liquid behavior, meaning that the structure of the liquid rapidly changes on heating or densification. The discovery of the maximum was heavily disputed, with a number of studies confirming and challenging it over and over. Fomin and Brazhkin’s results show that the liquid carbon structure undergoes changes above the melting curve of graphene. The maximum therefore has to exist.
The second part of the study is dedicated to studying the melting of graphene. No graphene melting experiments have been conducted. Previously, computer models predicted the melting point of graphene at 4,500 or 4,900 K. Two-dimensional carbon was therefore considered to have the highest melting point in the world.
"In our study, we observed a strange ‘melting’ behavior of graphene, which formed linear chains. We showed that what happens is it transitions from a solid directly into a gaseous state. This process is called sublimation," commented Associate Professor Yuri Fomin of the Department of General Physics, MIPT. The findings enable a better understanding of phase transitions in low-dimensional materials, which are considered an important component of many technologies currently in development, in fields from electronics to medicine.
The researchers produced a more precise and unified description of how the graphite melting curve behaves, confirming a gradual structural transition in liquid carbon. Their calculations show that the melting temperature of graphene in an argon atmosphere is close to the melting temperature of graphite.

Copyright © 1998-2020 Scitechdaily. All Rights Reserved.
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    Science / Jan. 8, 2020
    Russian journals retract more than 800 papers after "bombshell" investigation
    • By Dalmeet Singh Chawla
    В результате работы Комиссии РАН по противодействию фальсификации научных исследований за последние несколько месяцев из 263 журналов было отозвано 869 научных статей. Всего же Комиссия попросила 541 журнал отозвать в общей сложности 2528 статей. Пять журналов, категорически отказавшихся сотрудничать, рекомендовано исключить из РИНЦ.

Academic journals in Russia are retracting more than 800 papers following a probe into unethical publication practices by a commission appointed by the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). The moves come in the wake of several other queries suggesting the vast Russian scientific literature is riddled with plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and so-called gift authorship, in which academics become a co-author without having contributed any work.
The RAS commission’s preliminary report documenting the problems and journals’ responses to them is "a bombshell," says Gerson Sher, a former staffer at the U.S. National Science Foundation and the author of a recent book on U.S.-Russia science cooperation. The report, released yesterday, "will reinforce the suspicions and fears of many - that their country is not going down the right path in science and that it’s damaging its own reputation," says Sher, who applauds RAS for commissioning the investigation.
Russia’s roughly 6000 academic journals, the vast majority published in Russian, are popular among the country’s academics. A 2019 study found that Russian authors publish far more in domestic journals than, for instance, their counterparts in Poland, Germany, or Indonesia. But standards are often low. In March 2018, for instance, Dissernet, a network aimed at cleaning up the Russian literature, identified more than 4000 cases of plagiarism and questionable authorship among 150,000 papers in about 1500 journals.
And Russian authors frequently republish their own work, says Yury Chekhovich, CEO of Antiplagiat, a plagiarism detection company. In September 2019, after sifting through 4.3 million Russian-language studies, Antiplagiat found that more than 70,000 were published at least twice; a few were published as many as 17 times. Chekhovich believes most instances are due to self-plagiarism. Meanwhile, the website 123mi.u claims to have brokered authorships for more than 10,000 researchers by selling slots on manuscripts written by others that were already accepted by journals.
The RAS commission, formally known as the Commission for Counteracting the Falsification of Scientific Research, investigated the problem independently. It has experienced fraud busters on board. Dissernet co-founder Andrew Zayakin, a physicist at the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics, is the commission’s secretary; it also includes several other "academic activists," Zayakin says, including representatives of the Society for Evidence-Based Medicine, the Russian Association of Scientific Editors and Publishers (RASEP), and Russia’s Scientific Electronic Library (eLibrary). The commission used software to search hundreds of Russian-language journals - ranging from natural sciences, agronomy, psychology, and medicine to economics and law - for text overlap. Suspicious papers were checked manually to verify that they counted as plagiarism or self-plagiarism. By comparing the author lists of papers that had been published twice or more, the commission also identified apparent cases of "obscure authorship" - academics who were an author on one version of the paper but not the other.
Last summer, the commission asked 541 journals to retract a total of 2528 papers. In its interim report, the commission writes that 390 journals have so far responded to the inquiry, 263 of which have agreed to retract all suspicious papers; others agreed to retract some of the highlighted papers but not others, or gave legitimate reasons why the papers shouldn’t be pulled.
Eight journals explicitly refused to address the problems; the report urges that five of them be removed from the Russian Science Citation Index, a database run by eLibrary. (Because publication in indexed journals is often a prerequisite for promotions and funding in Russia, delisted journals are thought to be less attractive to authors.) Victor Glukhov, eLibrary’s deputy director, says the group’s own expert council will look into the matter, but is likely to agree. Zayakin emphasizes that the exercise is a work in progress; he hopes the threat of being delisted will persuade journals that haven’t yet responded - or have refused to pull papers on flimsy grounds - to take the commission’s findings seriously.
The same RAS commission caused a stir in September 2019, when it recommended not voting for 56 candidates - out of a total of more than 1800 - during the academy’s membership elections, because of their alleged involvement in plagiarism and other types of misbehavior. That "caused a lot of tension over how the commission is organized and who pulls the strings in it," says Dmitry Malkov, a science communication scholar at ITMO University in St. Petersburg. (The academy had about 200 new memberships available; only a few of the 56 were elected.)
The new investigation "caused tension and conflict" as well, says commission member Anna Kuleshova, chair of RASEP’s Council on the Ethics of Scientific Publications. Kuleshova says some Russian journals were unaware of internationally accepted standards around ethical publishing and retractions. "I hope that our work will not only reduce scientometric distortions, and help us to get rid of garbage publications," she says, "but will also draw attention to issues related to the management of science."

© 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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    Times Higher Education / January 8, 2020
    Russian "foreign agent" rules are chilling academic freedom
    • By Katarzyna Kaczmarska
    Закон об иностранных агентах, попытка контролировать контакты российских ученых с зарубежными коллегами… На первый взгляд, эти «необязательные» поправки и рекомендации не ущемляют академические права и свободы. Но только на первый.

As pressing political and social issues in contemporary Russia become harder and harder to discuss through online and artistic media, it may seem that academia is the only sphere left in which critical debate enjoys a relatively safe haven.
However, while freedom of thought and research are legally protected under articles 29 and 44 of Russia’s 1993 constitution, academic freedom is increasingly under threat. The Russian government has not made open and concerted attempts to suppress it, but direct political control over universities’ teaching provision has been increased, as has indirect influence of academic debate and research directions.
Several recent developments illustrate this. In early 2019, in a bid to protect industrial secrets, the government restricted Russian scientists’ contacts with foreigners by requiring them to notify the ministry about such meetings, ensure that at least two Russians are present and report on the conversations that take place.
Then, towards the end of last year, amendments to existing laws broadened the infamous "foreign agent" category, which can now be extended to individuals. Not-for-profit organisations have been deemed foreign agents since 2012 if they receive funding from abroad and engage in vaguely defined "political activity", which renders them liable to additional audits and requires them to specify in all their official statements that they are being made by a "foreign agent".
Following the December 2019 amendments, any Russian citizen can be recognised as a foreign agent if they have a foreign source of income and cooperate with "foreign agent" media, including social media platforms.
On the surface, these moves do not infringe academic freedom. The Ministry of Higher Education and Science emphasised that its recommendations on contacts with foreign researchers are not obligatory. The Kremlin distanced itself, too, with Dmitri Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, describing the measures as too far-reaching. Nor does the broadened definition of "foreign agent" directly target academics.
In practice, however, these moves harm academic freedom in several ways. First, overzealous bureaucrats can be expected to apply and abuse the "recommendations" on contact with foreign agents. One Russian university has already taken them very seriously. Kazan Federal University reportedly used them to construct its own regulations requiring scholars to elaborate "a unified position of the Russian side" on whatever issues are considered during meetings with foreign scholars (which should take place only in specially designated offices). The university’s governing body brazenly presented these measures as being aimed at increasing the institution’s effectiveness - whatever that may mean - rather than as a limitation.
Moreover, the policy moves open the way for state officials and university bureaucrats to selectively punish scholars who fall out with either local authorities or their superiors. And, most importantly, they deepen the climate of uncertainty in Russian academia. While some scholars may laugh them away, considering them absurd and impossible to implement, others will feel greater unease about developing foreign contacts.
The discretion of state bureaucrats to interpret what counts as "posting information online and receiving money from abroad" is limitless. Commenting on the broadened definition of a "foreign agent", Russian lawyers point to the lack of precision in new regulations and the possibility of applying them to almost anyone. Such imprecise legal regulation may dissuade scholars from participating in research projects with foreign funding.
These developments are not isolated. They follow the deprivation, in 2017, of the teaching licences and accreditation of the European University at St Petersburg and the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, which obliged the institutions to withhold teaching activities for extended periods of time. Within the Russian higher education system, which enrolled more than a million students in 2018, these two small, private universities are minuscule, but they are internationally recognised and their travails have not gone unnoticed in the rest of the sector. Their targeting by the authorities has been attributed to their international links and, in the European University’s case, its teaching of gender studies.
In its Free to Think report of 2018, Scholars at Risk, an international network of academic institutions committed to defending academic freedom and human rights, concluded that the universities’ targeting by the Russian state represents "serious threats to academic freedom and institutional autonomy", emphasising that when institutions face closure, the resulting harm extends to the entire higher education sector and to wider society.
The government has ambitious plans for Russian academia. It sees it as an important element of international status-building. It is also keen to attract foreign students in the face of demographic decline at home. These ambitions underlie efforts to improve the position of Russian universities in international rankings, with programmes such as the 5-100 excellence initiative and the £7.8 million national "Science" project. Internationalisation is among the stated aims of both programmes.
However, recent developments push in the opposite direction. They aim at curbing Russian scholars’ contacts with colleagues abroad by creating the impression that links with the outside world are somewhat suspicious and unwelcome. Foreign grants and scholarships may come to be regarded by Russian researchers as toxic for the simple reason that they entail receiving money from abroad, leaving the academics prone to being labelled foreign agents.
Meanwhile, decreasing budgetary resources and visa-related challenges have already made it more difficult for Russian scholars to attend international events and develop contacts abroad. Increasing isolation and stunted progress seem the inevitable consequence.

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    Cosmos / 10 January 2020
    Ice, permafrost and Siberian caves
    Cold scientists find clues to a puzzling relationship
    • By Ian Connellan
    Новое исследование британских, израильских и российских (Институт земной коры СО РАН) ученых проясняет вопрос о взаимосвязи летнего таяния арктического морского льда и устойчивости вечной мерзлоты.

Permafrost and stalagmites found in Siberian caves have answered a question that has long puzzled scientists: why don’t Arctic sea ice and permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere melt at the same time?
New research by British, Israeli and Russian scientists, led by the University of Oxford, reveals that Siberian permafrost (permanently frozen ground) is not affected by warming when Arctic sea ice is present - but is vulnerable when sea ice is absent.
Permafrost covers nearly a quarter of Northern Hemisphere land, and its longevity is important because its frozen state enables it to store large amounts of carbon.
"We were surprised to find that times when permafrost melted in the past did not simply match up with times when the Earth was at its warmest but were much more likely when the Arctic was free of ice in the summer," says Oxford’s Gideon Henderson.
"This discovery about the past behaviour of permafrost suggests that the expected loss of Arctic sea ice in the future will accelerate melting of the permafrost presently found across much of Siberia."
This is a hugely significant finding for carbon levels in the Earth’s atmosphere. If the Arctic has no summer sea ice in the coming decades, the thawing of permafrost will be accelerated. This has the potential to release enough carbon to triple the amount already present. The study’s results - published in the journal Nature - rely on caves that contain records of periods when permafrost was absent in the past because of its relationship to stalagmites.
Stalagmites, stalactites and flowstones - carbonate deposits known as speleothems - can only form when there is liquid water. During a permafrost there is no liquid water available. So, a cave with both stalagmites and a permafrost reveals that the permafrost is younger than the carbonate formations. Stalagmite dating now uses measurements of natural uranium and lead to record the last 1.5 million years.
The study found that the stalagmites commonly grew more when the Arctic Ocean was free of summer sea ice and when the permafrost was absent. The study team believes this is because the lack of sea ice leads to an increase in heat and moisture transfer from ocean to atmosphere, and therefore to warmer air transported far overland into Siberia and permafrost areas.
Moisture transport also increases snowfall over Siberia during autumn. This blanket of snow insulates the ground from the extreme cold of winters, leading to an increase in average annual ground temperatures, which warms permafrost.
Consequently, in regions with increased snow cover and insulation, permafrost will start to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide that trapped for millennia.

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    Discover Magazine / January 15, 2020
    In Russia's Far North, a Lone Group of Neanderthals May Have Been the Last of Their Kind
    Near the Arctic Circle, a group of Neanderthals may have persisted for thousands of years after the rest of their species disappeared.
    • By Bridget Alex
    Считается, что неандертальцы исчезли около 40 тысяч лет назад - по крайней мере, однозначных доказательств более позднего их существования не обнаружено. Однако в 2011 году на основании раскопок на стоянке Бызовая (Республика Коми) команда российских и французских археологов высказала предположение, что по крайней мере одна группа неандертальцев не только просуществовала на 9 тысяч лет дольше, но и обитала гораздо севернее, чем принято считать. Другие исследователи с этой точкой зрения не согласились, и сейчас, девять лет спустя, вопрос по-прежнему остается нерешенным.

For some 200,000 years, Homo sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted on Earth. But then, around 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals disappear from the fossil record, never to be seen again.
That’s when most archaeologists think our evolutionary cousins went extinct, based on exhaustive reviews of radiocarbon dates associated with Neanderthal fossils and artifacts. There’s no uncontested evidence for the species persisting past that time.
But what if some Neanderthal communities, in remote reaches of Eurasia, lasted longer?
One team of researchers says they’ve found such a case: the site of Byzovaya, in Russia’s Ural Mountains. According to their 2011 study, Neanderthals survived there until about 31,000 years ago - 9,000 years after the presumed extinction date. Not only would these hardy few constitute the longest-lasting Neanderthals, they’d also be the farthest north - nearly 700 miles beyond the species’ known northern limit. Seclusion could have shielded the group from extinction, at least for a few more millennia, and delayed their discovery by modern-day archaeologists.
But other researchers reject this notion and maintain that modern humans, not Neanderthals, inhabited the site. Today, nearly a decade after the debate unfolded in Science, the matter remains unsettled. Let’s review the case for Neanderthals’ last stand in the far north.
Proving Neanderthal Persistence
About 1,000 miles from Moscow, Byzovaya sits on a river bluff in the foothills of the Ural Mountains, which form the border between Europe and Asia. At 65 degrees latitude, the site is about 100 miles shy of the Arctic Circle.
Beginning in the 1960s, Byzovaya has been excavated several times by different research groups. Over the years, archaeologists have unearthed more than 300 stone artifacts and 4,000 animal bones, mostly from woolly mammoth. Handcrafted tools and butchered bones prove some kind of humans (a group that includes Neanderthals) were once there, but leave unanswered the mystery of who these people were.
The latest investigation, by a French-Russian team, produced 33 radiocarbon dates from animal bones found with the artifacts. The new data suggest the finds are 31,400 to 34,600 years old. On its own, that result is exciting, but also agrees with expectations: Other archaeological sites 30,000 to 43,000 years old dot the Urals. And a few sites this age or slightly older have been found even farther north, within the Arctic Circle. Most researchers assume H. sapiens alone occupied these locales - that only our species had the smarts and technology (like tailored clothing and boots) necessary to survive at such high latitudes.
But the Byzovaya study caused a stir because of its other, more provocative conclusion. The artifacts were made by Neanderthals - the last and northernmost of their kind.
Telltale Tools
The trouble with the claim: No Neanderthal - or any human - fossils have been found at Byzovaya. Just stone tools and animal bones. To definitively prove a Neanderthal presence, researchers would need bones bearing Neanderthal DNA.
Lacking this, the conclusion comes from analysis of the 313 stone artifacts recovered from Byzovaya. Based on comparisons with well-accepted Neanderthal sites in central and eastern Europe, the scientists contend the tool types and style of craftsmanship are distinctly Neanderthal. Contemporaneous H. sapiens in Eurasia didn’t make stuff like that, they argue.
The reasoning may sound flimsy, but archaeologists routinely use artifact style to infer the presence of ancient human species or cultures. Human fossils are really rare. Most sites only have artifacts. For better or worse, artifacts often provide our best guess of who was there at fossil-free sites. (Trust me, I wrote a dissertation on the matter.)
Which brings us back to the stalemate over Byzovaya. Different researchers, viewing the same material, came to differing conclusions. Another group of stone-tool experts thinks the finds more closely resemble artifacts from similarly aged sites in western Russia that have H. sapiens skeletons. In this view, Byzovaya was just another modern human spot.
DNA Update
To date, there are still no DNA-bearing human fossils from Byzovaya. But ancient genomes have been recovered from other sites, which figure into the debate. There’s now DNA data confirming, beyond doubt, the H. sapiens status of skeletons from two western Russian sites (Kostenki and Sungir) with artifacts similar to those from Byzovaya. This strengthens the case that H. sapiens occupied Byzovaya.
Except that the sites are not that close: From Byzovaya, it’s more than 700 and 1,000 miles to Sungir and Kostenki, respectively. They’re just the sites nearest in both time and space, with fossils as well as similar-looking artifacts.
And the nearest sites with DNA-confirmed Neanderthals are roughly double the distance, far to the south (Okladnikov, Denisova and Mezmaiskaya).
We still don’t know which humans left artifacts and butchered animals at Byzovaya. They may have been Earth’s last Neanderthals or modern humans venturing polar-ward. Alternatively, the group could have comprised a mix of Neanderthals and H. sapiens, or even another type of human, like Denisovans.
Given the vastness of the Eurasian landmass, it’s highly possible some groups of Neanderthals persisted in remote pockets - missing the memo their species was destined for extinction.

Copyright © 2020 Kalmbach Media Co.
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    Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty / January 19, 2020
    Russia Sees Some Of Itself In "Ring Of Fire" Volcanic Eruptions
    • By Andy Heil
    За последнее время произошло два крупных извержения вулканов, входящих в так называемое Тихоокеанское огненное кольцо - 9 декабря на новозеландском острове Уакаари (Уайт-Айленд) и 12 января - на Лусоне (Филиппины). Оба извержения напоминают о важности постоянного мониторинга активных вулканических регионов. Один из таких регионов - полуостров Камчатка, также входящий в Тихоокеанское кольцо, а наблюдение за его вулканами - один из основных проектов Института нефтегазовой геологии и геофизики СО РАН.

Two explosive eruptions in quick succession of volcanoes along the Pacific basin's "ring of fire" have captured global attention lately. They were powerful reminders of the awesomely destructive and generative processes that have been shaping the Earth's surface for billions of years.
But for Russian scientist Ivan Koulakov, such eruptions also drive home the importance of his and other scientists' work monitoring events in one of the world's most active volcanic regions: the Kamchatka Peninsula on Russia's Pacific coast. Squeezed between the Asian landmass and the Pacific basin, Kamchatka is home to bitter cold and ice as well as over 300 volcanoes, dozens of them still active.
Koulakov is a vice director of the Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics in the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as a geophysicist and seismic tomographer. He and his colleagues have been working for years to deploy monitoring stations in remote and perilous areas there, analyze data that might offer clues to future eruptions, and spread the word within the global community of volcanologists and officials responsible for public safety in volcano-prone places. Just last year, they announced the "reawakening" of a long dormant stratovolcano - the tall, steeply conical type with a crater on top - on Kamchatka known as Bolshaya Udina.
"We found an active magma chamber which may produce an eruption, and if there is an eruption it could be quite big, even catastrophic," Koukalov told RFE/RL on January 16. He stressed that the probability of such an eruption at Bolshaya Udina was very low. Such reawakenings can be particularly large, he said, and likened the potential fallout from a Bolshaya Udina eruption to Mount Vesuvius's destruction of Pompeii and other Roman cities in A.D. 79.
Bolshaya Udina is part of what's known as the Klyuchevskoy Volcano Group (KVG) comprising 13 volcanoes, a handful of them particularly active over the past decade or two. The volcanoes of Kamchatka were listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1996. A major seismological project involving Russian, French, and German researchers in 2015-16 gathered detailed readings from 83 seismographs scattered across some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet on Kamchatka.
Then, in 2018, Koukalov and researchers from Egypt and Saudi Arabia installed four seismic-monitoring stations to closely watch Bolshaya Udina. It took Herculean efforts to even get the monitoring stations into place, with the help of a rich Russian and his helicopter, after bad weather and a shortage of funds threatened the project. But the stations proved crucial to detecting increased seismic activity - faster longitudinal waves and slower transverse waves - that indicated a shared magma chamber with a volcano that had erupted decades earlier was feeding Udina.
"Not all seismic unrest causes eruptions, but all catastrophic eruptions were preceded by stronger seismic unrest or activity," Koukalov told RFE/RL. "Their probability of a catastrophic eruption is not very high, but we must be ready." Other "ring of fire" volcanoes have been busy more recently.
The two major eruptions much farther south in the past six weeks - in New Zealand and the Philippines - drove home the importance of preparedness. On December 9, a buildup of steam and volcanic gases burst through the rocky crust of Whakaari/White Island in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty, killing 20 people and spewing steam, ash, and cinder nearly four kilometers into the air. A month later, on January 12, the volcano that sits inside Taal Lake on the Philippine island of Luzon erupted violently, with volcanic lightning going kilometers into the sky and sending ash as far away as the capital region. Taal's last major eruption was on the same date in 1977, and fracturing, bulging, and other possible precursors to an eruption have sporadically raised alert levels at Taal since then.
Kamchatka similarly sits on a sort of "conveyor belt" of subduction that plays out over millions or hundreds of millions of years, Koulakov says. But he dismisses the notion that volcanic activity along the "ring of fire" in, say, New Zealand, hints in any immediate way at looming activity 10,000 kilometers away on Kamchatka. They are too far apart to affect each other mechanically, he says.
Precursors to eruptions can vary significantly from site to site, but also from one eruption to the next. They can include quakes and underground rumblings, fissuring and other visible deformations, rises in thermal activity through geysers or fumaroles, increased underground heat flows, and the release of sulfuric and other noxious fumes, to name a few.
At least five Russian volcanoes have erupted in the past decade or so. Klyuchevskoy, the highest peak on the Kamchatka Peninsula, has been active for over 300 years. It has erupted at least five times since 2007. Others include Tolbachik, Shiveluch, and Kizimen. Another Kamchatka stratovolcano, dubbed Bezymianny (Unnamed) in a nod to its obscurity over centuries of inactivity, was considered extinct until it awakened in 1955. It blew its peak in 1956, sending a 15-kilometer ash plume into the crisp, spring air and leaving a gaping caldera behind. Bezymianny has erupted nearly every year since.
Koukalov was part of a project to mount monitoring equipment around Bezymianny in 2018 just before another eruption. He said he hopes to publish some of the resulting data in the next few months. The information could provide valuable insight to help predict future eruptions in Russia and elsewhere.
Kamchatka is one of Russia's least-populous regions, with about one inhabitant for every 16 square kilometers. But people and volcanoes are a lot more crowded in some other hot spots, like Indonesia and the Philippines.
"If we confirm precursors of future eruptions [through monitoring in Kamchatka], that can help save lives if it is shared with our Indonesian and Filipino colleagues," Koukalov said. "It's not very often that we can record in such extreme detail the signatures and precursors of eruptions, so we should share this [information]."
The region farther south - in the disputed Kurile Islands - includes more volcanoes that have spewed their tops in recent years. Raikoke's basalt dome exploded in June, sending ash and fumes 13 kilometers into the stratosphere above the Pacific.
Scientists classify eruptions on an open-ended scale called the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). Invented by U.S. geologists in the 1980s based on more than 8,000 historic and prehistoric eruptions, the VEI assigns magnitudes from 0 (nonexplosive to gentle) through 8 (the most explosive or "mega-colossal") and beyond. Scientists say they believe the Tamu Massif shield volcano, discovered in 2013 under the Pacific, east of Japan, may be a single structure and one of the biggest volcanoes in our solar system at around 450 kilometers by 650 kilometers. It's submerged, with its dome resting about 2,000 meters below the surface of the Pacific.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty © 2020 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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    The MiceTimes of Asia / 19.01.2020
    Scientists have named the plant with high antiviral activity
    Томские (ТГУ) и новосибирские (ЦСБС СО РАН, ГНЦ «Вектор») ученые выявили ряд ценных свойств у кустарника рода Spiraea, используемого обычно для декоративного озеленения. Оказалось, что спирея обладает высокой антивирусной и антиоксидантной активностью, а потому перспективна для использования в медицине.

Senior researcher of the laboratory of "Herbarium" BI TSU Vera Kostikova together with Novosibirsk colleagues have identified valuable medicinal properties spirea - shrubs used in landscaping of cities and suburban areas.
Phytochemical study showed that the plant possesses antiviral and antioxidant activity, which makes it promising for use in medicine, reports the Chronicle.info with reference to naked-science.ru.
"The natural resources of many medicinal plants in the Pharmacopoeia are exhausted, - says senior researcher of the laboratory of "Herbarium" BI TSU Vera Kostikova. For example, Golden root, extracts of which have immunomodulatory effects, listed in the Red book of the Russian Federation, in many areas it is threatened with extinction. It is therefore important to study plants with abundant natural resources. These include many species of meadowsweet, which gardeners know as the English. This shrubs, often forming thickets. We found that extracts of the aerial parts of some species of this genus have a high antiviral and antioxidant activity."
Vera Kostikova conducts his research at the laboratory of Phytochemistry, Central Siberian Botanical garden SB RAS (Novosibirsk), and cooperates with specialists of the State scientific center of Virology and biotechnology "Vector" (Novosibirsk). She found that Severability Spiraea (Spiraea hypericifolia) and some other species contain a large number of biologically active substances such as flavonoids, saponins, coumarins and others. Probably the complexes of these substances provide a biological activity, according to the Novosibirsk researchers, exceeding the activity of the antiviral drug "Tamiflu".
The scientific groundwork was the basis for a new project - "Phytochemical study are promising for pharmacology of plants of the genus Spiraea, and a method of producing a dry extract with antiviral and antioxidant activity" (MK-1045.2020.4). Project, developed under the leadership of Vera Kostikova, was among the winners of the grant contest of the President of the Russian Federation.
"The questions that we must answer very much. Need to figure out how depends on the content of biologically active substances in the spirea from the habitat, stage of development and phenological phases, - says Vera Kostikova. A serious difficulty lies in the fact that many species of Spiraea are changing the phytochemical properties by the Indians and often lose their medicinal effect. For these types required the development of a regime of rational use taking into account the optimal locations, timing and periods of the workpiece. It is precisely to assess their natural resources. On the other hand, requires detailed study of the properties of the extracts in order to subsequently develop a drug and to issue him a patent".
Currently, the majority of antiviral drugs with proven effect is produced abroad. Therefore, pharmacological studies in this area aimed at import substitution in demand and have important strategic potential. In addition, together with employees of scientific research Institute of Oncology named after N. N. Petrova Ministry of health of Russia (Saint-Petersburg) Vera examines the anticancer activity of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria). Meadowsweet genus phylogenetically close to Spiro so that before the meadowsweet related to tavolga.
"Flowers of meadowsweet contain flavonoids and salicylates in high concentrations, making this plant a unique tool in the fight against tumors, - says Vera Kostikova. - An aqueous decoction of the flowers of meadowsweet reduces the frequency of both malignant and benign tumors. Especially anticarcinogenic activity was shown against breast cancer, colon and brain.
The results of our experiment have already been published in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology and the International Journal of Radiation Biology. We plan to continue to work together with St. Petersburg colleagues and study the anticancer activity of spirea with a high content of biologically active substances".

© MiceTimes 2014-CURRENT Singapore/Bangkok.
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    The Oakland Press / Jan 22, 2020
    Oakland University professor filling world’s largest gap in human genome map
    • By Natalie Broda
    Международная команда ученых (Россия, Нидерланды, США) опубликовала результаты работы по проекту «Российские геномы», целью которого является создание централизованной базы данных популяционных вариаций генома в России.

A visiting professor at Oakland University has spent the last six years mapping human genomes in Russia in an attempt to fill in the blanks for the world’s ninth most populous country.
Taras Oleksyk, assistant professor of biological sciences, and a team of international scientists launched the project with the goal of charting the genetic diversity of several populations in Russia. Their findings were recently published in the scientific journal Genomics.
"As people have spread across the world over centuries, they have gained different genetic characteristics, either at random or due to adaptation to their local environments. These differences are crucial for understanding who people are and where they came from," Oleksyk said. "Russia is a treasure trove of previously undescribed genetic variations. Mapping them will allow scientists to chart the vast genetic diversity of Russian populations and fill in the largest gap on the genetic map of humankind."
The DNA of 264 adults in six geographic areas has been so far mapped for the project, including Western Russia and the Yakutia region of Eastern Siberia.
"We established the borders to show areas where people are more genetically similar to each other - sort of like genetic countries," Oleksyk said. "This shows that history and geography shape our genomes. Where we are from largely defines the genetic characteristics we carry. And that has important implications, particularly for genes that influence our health."
The study found correlations of higher risk for certain diseases to geographic proximity with neighboring regions. In Yakutia, the researchers found the population was at a higher risk for lactose intolerance and a slower response to blood thinners, matching with genome mapping results from East Asia.
"The goal is to give doctors the ability to tailor medical treatments to their patients’ genetic profile," Oleksyk said. "For example, making sure that patients don’t have a genetic predisposition that prevents them from metabolizing certain drugs. We need genome maps in order to lay the groundwork for this type of personalized medicine."

© Copyright 2020 MediaNews Group, Inc.
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    Photonics Media / Jan. 23, 2020
    Color Superlensing Could Break Through Diffraction Barrier
    Физики Казанского федерального университета разработали металинзы, позволяющие получать оптические изображения со сверхразрешением, превосходящим дифракционный предел. Это позволит использовать оптические технологии в наноразмерных микросхемах и сенсорах.

Researcher Sergey Kharinstev and his team at Kazan Federal University recently published a paper in Optics Letters where they detail the design of a new type of metalens capable of imaging beyond the optical diffraction limit.
A metalens described in the article is a thin composite metal-dielectric film placed on a dielectric substrate; the width is several dozen nanometers.
"The light has a wave nature, so there is a diffraction limit which confines the resolution of traditional optical microscopy," said Kharintsev, who believes his team’s discovery might lead to the use of optical technologies in nanoscale integral circuits and sensors.
Kharintsev pointed out that the material part of the dielectric constant, or the electric potential, oscillates near zero. This property can be used to enhance stimulated Raman scattering of light in a spatially limited medium illuminated by low-intensity continuous laser light.
"We used a 50-nm thick titanium oxynitride (TiON) film as a disordered nonlinear medium," Kharintsev said. "The film was synthesized by magnetron sputtering and subsequent oxidation in air. As a result of a two-stage procedure, metal (TiN) and dielectric (TiO2) nanoparticles were formed in the film."
An increase in the amplitude of the Stokes wave in a TiN/TiO2 film occurs due to the enhancement of the cubic susceptibility because of localized plasmon resonance and a small refractive index of the effective medium. Kharintsev said metal-insulator nanocomposite films such as these with epsilon-near-zero frequencies in the visible and infrared ranges have found application in broadband metal technologies providing resolution beyond the limits of light diffraction.
Kazan University researchers have created 40-nm multiwall carbon nanotubes scattered along the surface of the metalens with the resolution measuring below 100 nm.
"Nanocomposite epsilon-near-zero film works as a surface-enhanced Raman scattering substrate," Kharintsev said. "It helps not only enhance the scattered signal, but also achieve beyond-diffraction resolutions. Metalenses and ENZ films can be used to create broadband absorbers for solar panels."
The research was supported by a Russian Science Foundation grant under the title "Synthesis and research of a new class of nanocomposite ceramics with degenerate dielectric permeability for opto-plasmonic applications."

© 2020 Photonics Media.
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    Science News / January 27, 2020
    A Siberian cave contains clues about two epic Neandertal treks
    Stone tools and DNA found in the cave reveal two eastward journeys across Asia.
    • By Bruce Bower
    Международная группа археологов под руководством Ксении Колобовой (ИАиЭт СО РАН) и Ричарда Робертса (Университет Вуллонгонга, Австралия) опубликовали результаты многолетних археологических работ в Чагырской пещере в Алтайском крае, где в 2008 г. была обнаружена стоянка неандертальцев. Оказалось, что обитатели пещеры пришли на Алтай из Восточной Европы около 60 тысяч лет назад. Это подтверждает гипотезу о двух волнах миграции неандертальцев в Южную Сибирь с разницей примерно в 50 тысяч лет.

Neandertals were epic wanderers.
These ancient hominids took a 3,000 - to 4,000-kilometer hike from Eastern Europe to the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia around 60,000 years ago, a new study concludes. The evidence is in their handiwork, scientists say, though it’s unclear how long the journey took or if it involved several geographically dispersed Neandertal groups passing technical knowledge along the route.
Neandertals at sites in what’s now Crimea and the northern Caucasus, just north of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe, and others who occupied Chagyrskaya Cave in southern Siberia crafted comparable stone tools between around 59,000 and 49,000 years ago, researchers report January 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Neandertals were intrepid explorers in their own right," says Richard Roberts, a geochronologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia.
Eastern European and southwestern Asian Neandertals probably hunted wild horses and bison across grasslands and foothills, Roberts, archaeologist Kseniya Kolobova of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk and their colleagues say. Cold, dry conditions pushed at least some of those Neandertals eastward along with migrating herds of prey roughly 60,000 years ago, they suggest.
That wasn’t the first such journey for our extinct evolutionary relatives. European Neandertals already had migrated into southern Siberia more than 100,000 years ago. But the Neandertals who reached Siberia’s Denisova Cave (SN: 1/30/19) - about 100 kilometers east of Chagyrskaya Cave - made a different type of stone tools, suggesting these Neandertals were part of a separate migration to the region, the researchers say.
Excavations at Chagyrskaya Cave since 2007 have unearthed 74 Neandertal fossils and around 90,000 stone artifacts. Kolobova’s group compared 4,132 stone tools found at the Siberian cave to stone artifacts from Denisova Cave and Neandertal sites in Europe and western Asia to reach their conclusions.
Ancient genes support the researchers’ argument. Another team reported in 2019 that DNA extracted from a Chagyrskaya cave Neandertal fossil more closely resembled DNA of several European Neandertals than DNA of an approximately 110,000-year-old Denisova Cave Neandertal. And the Neandertal mother of a Denisova Cave hybrid girl (SN: 8/22/18) who lived between 79,300 and 118,100 years ago also had DNA more like that of European Neandertals than of an older Neandertal from the same Siberian cave (SN: 1/30/19).
Combined with those genetic findings, the new paper "suggests there were two peopling events [by Neandertals] originating in western Eurasia and reaching the borders of the Denisovan domain in eastern Asia," says paleoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Denisovans, an Asian hominid population closely related to Neandertals, were first identified at Denisova Cave (SN: 8/30/12).
Periods of sharply warmer temperatures starting around 128,000 years ago turned western Asian landscapes grassier and shrank the size of the Caspian Sea, probably enabling several waves of Neandertals to reach southern Siberia, says Hublin, who did not participate in the new study.
Neandertals probably didn’t intend to travel as far as either Denisova Cave or Chagyrskaya Cave, Hublin contends. During warm periods, eastward expansions of only 100 kilometers per generation could have taken Neandertals from Eastern Europe to southern Siberia in 600 or 700 years.
The same Neandertal population need not have traveled all the way from Eastern Europe to southern Siberia, says archaeologist Steven Kuhn of the University of Arizona in Tucson. Various Neandertal groups could have passed toolmaking techniques eastward, from one population to the next, as their numbers gradually expanded and each group slowly spread over a larger area, suggests Kuhn, who also did not take part in the new study.

© Society for Science & the Public 2000-2020. All rights reserved.
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    News-Medical.net / Jan 28, 2020
    Scientists "knock out" gene in myeloid cells to create listeriosis-immune mice
    • By Kate Anderton
    Ученые из США, России (Университет ИТМО) и Китая выявили у мышей гены, влияющие на восприимчивость организма к инфекционному заболеванию листериозу, поражающему нервную систему вплоть до летального исхода. «Отключение» этих генов в иммунных клетках делает мышей практически невосприимчивыми к бактериям Listeria monocytogenes. Однако при этом иммунная система постоянно находится в состоянии «полной боевой готовности», что может вызвать побочные явления.

An international research team which includes specialists from ITMO University has conducted a series of experiments with the goal of studying the immune system and identifying the genes and proteins involved in the response to certain harmful bacteria. The scientists found that "turning off" a gene responsible for the production of the protein Beclin 1, or the gene that produces the FIP200 protein, resulted in the test animals becoming nearly completely immune to the infectious disease listeriosis. The results of this research have been published in Nature Microbiology.
The way the immune system functions is an extremely complex process and the mechanics of it have still not been fully understood by scientists. Which proteins are responsible for the immune response? Can an organism be made genetically impervious to all, or at least some malignant bacteria? Biologists and geneticists all over the world seek answers to these questions.
In order to understand how the immune system works, scientists conduct experiments and study mice populations in which the animals possess certain non-functioning genes as a result of prolonged targeted cross-breeding. When this approach, known to scientists as "gene knockout", results in changes to the way an animal's immune system operates, it means that the gene has a direct effect on the immune response.
An international research team has conducted a study of mice that have had two genes "knocked out", namely the ones responsible for the production of two proteins: Beclin 1 and FIP200. Notably, the knockout was made not to the entire organism, but to the myeloid cells (a sub-type of immune cells) of the mice. These proteins are involved in the process of autophagy, which is the degradation of molecules and organelles by the cells. It was found that this knockout made the animals almost completely impervious to the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria - the cause of the dangerous disease listeriosis. The disease affects the nervous system and, if left untreated, may be fatal.
Such a result has to do with the fact that the immune system of a mouse with knocked-out genes is activated permanently, as opposed to regular mice whose immune systems are only activated by external factors.
Macrophages, a type of white blood cells, are therefore constantly excited, which allows them to instantly take action when Listeria monocytogenes is introduced to the organism.
At first glance, gene editing doesn't seem to have any fatal effect on the test animals' lives: they grow, develop, feed, and procreate as normal. But that doesn't mean that turning off their genes leaves the mice unscathed. As the experiments showed, other infections, such as influenza, still affect the test mice at the same rate as regular mice. It should also be noted that, while the test animals developed nearly in the same manner as their regular counterparts, they were vulnerable to their own immune system: the scientists registered signs of chronic inflammation in some of the mice's organs.
"A permanently active immune system is a double-edged sword," explains Zaitsev. "There is a lot of background inflammation going on. It's no accident that the immune system is at rest most of the time. We don't want it reacting to the many processes that take place within the organism."
Nevertheless, the researchers' study provides a great deal of analytical material in regards to the effects of proteins Beclin 1 and FIP200 on the immune response to pathogenic microorganisms.

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    Ma Guinée Infos / 29 janvier 2020
    Valorisation des langues nationales : une chercheuse Russe a créé un dictionnaire de 3000 mots en Kpelè
    • Sâa Robert Koundouno
    Российский лингвист Мария Коношенко (Институт языкознания РАН) разработала словарь западноафриканского языка кпелле (герзе), распространенного в Либерии и Гвинее. Кпелле-французский словарь содержит 3000 слов гвинейского варианта языка, который довольно сильно отличается от либерийского и гораздо меньше изучен учеными.

Maria Konoshenko est son nom. Face à la presse ce mercredi 29 janvier 2020, cette chercheuse russe a exposé sur ce dictionnaire Kpelè-Francais de 200 pages pour 3000 mots. L’objectif, dit-elle, est de faire en sorte que la Guinée de façon générale, et particulièrement la régions forestière puisse consever cette richesse linguistique à l’image de certains pays notamment le Libéria qui, a déjà d’ailleurs son dictionnaire Kpelè (Guerzé).
« Cette recherche nous a permis de prendre connaissance de notre langue Kpelè, par l’entremise de la chercheuse Maria. C’est donc un plus à la culture guinéenne en générale et particulièrement à la langue Kpelè. Il faut le dire que ce dictionnaire vient aider et les Kpelès et non Kpele à maîtriser davantage, la prononciation des expressions de ladite langue », a tout d’abord reconnu M. Fasso Bienvenue Loua, fils du terroir et consultant de Maria Konoshenko.
Financée par la Fondation Scientifique de Recherche de la Russie, cette étude selon l’auteur du dictionnaire, est de non seulement permettre aux jeunes ressortissants de ces localités d’en savoir plus en cette langue, mais aussi et surtout de connaître davantage sur les différentes variantes de cette langue.
« Autre chose non moins importante à signaler par rapport à ma recherche, c’est surtout la conservation les mots Kpelè qui ont tendance à disparaître et qui sont méconnus par la génération montante de ces localités », a fait remarqué Maria Konoshenko.
Ce projet de recherche qui a commencé depuis 2008, a pour motivation sur le plan social de vulgariser la langue Guerzé (Kpelè). Scientifiquement, c’est de faire en sorte quelle soit modernisée.
La chercheuse russe compte également intéresser à la valorisation de certaines langue du pays telle que le Tomas qui est majoritairement aussi parler en région forestière. C’est pourquoi elle recommande au ministère de la Culture et du Patrimoine Historique de Guinée, de mettre l’accent sur ces langues nationales afin de permettre aux générations montante de pouvoir maîtriser l’écriture, la phonétique, l’orthographe. D’où sa sollicitation de penser à la création d’un centre culturel en Guinée forestière.

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    The Independent Barents Observer / January 30, 2020
    In swaggering move on remote Arctic tundra, Russia intends to show off a life without oil
    The Snowflake research station will be fully fueled by hydrogen and is built as Russia prepares to take over the chair of the Arctic Council.
    • By Atle Staalesen
    На Ямале планируется строительство автономной круглогодичной арктической эко-станции «Снежинка». Это должна быть станция замкнутого типа, не загрязняющая природу - вместо углеводородов предполагается использовать водород, а также энергию ветра и солнца.

The Yamal-Nenets region is Russia’s top producer of hydrocarbons and attention to alternative energy sources has been near non-existent.
"This is not for us", regional Governor Dmitry Artyukhov responded when asked about renewable energy in a conference last year.
"Our mission is to produce hydrocarbons and deliver it to the markeds", he underlined and shrugged off questions about the need for alternative energy sources and focus on climate change.
The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug today produces about 80 percent of Russia’s natural gas, as well as substantial volumes of oil. And more is to come. Over the next three years regional industrial production is expected to increase by more than 30 percent.
Still, this is where the Snowflake research station will be built. It will come on the tundra lands outside regional capital Salekhard, the project developers say.
With support from both regional and federal authorities, it will be a show-off of the country’s ability to look beyond oil and gas, but also an advanced research station for Arctic studies.
The 2,000 square meter facility will be able to house a significant number of researchers from all over the world. A total of nine cupola-shaped and inter-linked buildings will provide comfortable living, labs and research premises for scientists.
It will be operational all year round and be fully fueled by hydrogen, says Nikolay Kudryavtsev, Rector of the Moscow Physical-Technical Institute.
The project is supported by the Arctic Council and will be ready in year 2022, during Russia’s chairmanship in the Arctic club, Kudryavtsev makes clear. It is projected to cost up to €12 million.
"Researchers, engineers, as well as students and youth can come for work visits and round-the-year test and demonstrate technology that already tomorrow will become part of our lives", he says.
The station is projected by the Physical-Technical Institute with support from the Russian Ministry of Science, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Far East and Arctic, as well as by the Governor of the Yamal-Nenets region.
The Snowflake IAS will be a fully autonomous year-round diesel-free facility powered by renewable energy sources and hydrogen fuel, a project presentation says.
"It is envisioned as a unique new platform for international cooperation between engineers, researchers, scientists and students working on bold solutions that constitute a basis for life and work in the Arctic".
Climate research is at the forefront, the developers underline.
It will be "a vehicle for supporting joint research on climate change, ecology and environmental pollution, including that of the oceans".
Russia will take over the rotating chair of the Arctic Council from Iceland in 2021.

© 2002-2020.
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    Gizmodo / January 31, 2020
    Cool Discovery Could Finally Explain Gigantic Ice Rings Found on Siberian Lake
    • George Dvorsky
    Огромные кольца на льду озера Байкал были впервые замечены на спутниковых снимках в начале 2000-х годов. Почти двадцать лет спустя российские и французские ученые наконец сумели выяснить причину их появления - циркулирующие подо льдом теплые водовороты.

The appearance of large ice rings on Lake Baikal in southern Siberia has confounded scientists since they were first discovered in the early 2000s. Recent investigations into the ice rings have resulted in a plausible explanation, but there’s still much to learn about these unusual features.
Russia’s Lake Baikal is the world’s largest and deepest freshwater lake. It’s home to many varieties of fish not seen anywhere else in the world, and even an endemic freshwater seal population. And it also features strange ice rings, which were first spotted in the early 2000s through MODIS satellite imagery.
Research published late last year in Limnology and Oceanography posits a plausible explanation for strange ice rings that frequently appear on Lake Baikal during the winter months: the circular movement of warm water beneath the ice.
The overall shape of an ice ring isn’t really discernable to an observer on the ground. They’re sufficiently large enough that their ring-like shape can only be seen from planes and satellites. The interior portions of the circles are bright, while the outer perimeters are dark where the ice is thin. The rings tend to be around 5 to 7 kilometers (3 to 4 miles) in diameter, while the dark, outer perimeter itself is around 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) wide, according to the new research. The rings last anywhere from a few days to a few months during the Siberian winter.
Ice rings like this seem to be exclusive to Lake Baikal and neighboring Lake Hovsgol in Mongolia as well as Lake Teletskoye, another Russian lake about 830 miles west of Baikal. But it’s entirely possible that they exist on other lakes and just haven’t been observed yet. Their appearance tends to be unpredictable, both in terms of time and place.
The ice rings have been attributed to numerous causes, including atmospheric or biological effects, elaborate hoaxes, and even the activities of aliens. A popular theory suggests the ice rings form from leaking gas, namely methane, which bubbles up from the bottom of the lake. The rings, however, have been observed in shallow parts of the lake where gas leakages are unlikely.
To get to the bottom of this mystery, the authors of the new study - a collaborative team from France, Russia, and Mongolia - organized field expeditions to Lake Baikal during the winters of 2016 and 2017, and studied thermal infrared satellite imagery of the ice rings.
The team drilled holes near the ice rings, into which they dropped sensors that could measure water temperature at depths reaching 200 meters (660 feet). Measurements were taken twice each winter, once in February and then again in March.
This proved to be hazardous work. On March 16, 2016, the ice layer began to crumble beneath their van, requiring the driver and passengers to be rescued. It happened again just two days later.
In February 2016, the researchers, who refer to themselves as The Fellowship of the Ice Rings, detected an eddy - where water moves in a circular motion - at a depth of 45 meters (148 feet) beneath an ice ring. This discovery provided the team with a firsthand look at the ice conditions during the late stage of ice ring formation. The water in the eddy was found to be around 1 to 2 degrees Celsius (1.8 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the water around it, and it took about 3 days for the eddy to make a complete rotation.
A year later the team found another eddy, which migrated 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from its original position by the end of March. No ice ring was seen above the eddy, likely because not enough time had elapsed for a ring to form above it. A similar thing was spotted in 2019, when a ring moved 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) from its initial position. The findings have led the researchers to believe the warm eddies are the primary cause of the ice rings.
"Results of our field surveys show that before and during ice ring manifestation, there are warm eddies that circulate in a clockwise direction under the ice cover," Alexei Kouraev, a team member and hydrologist from the University of Toulouse, said in a recent NASA Earth Observatory post. "In the eddy center, the ice does not melt - even though the water is warm - because the currents are weak. But on the eddy boundary, the currents are stronger and warmer water leads to rapid melting."
Ice ring development, according to the new research, begins in autumn before the lake is frozen. The eddies are formed from wind-churned outflows of water from the Barguzin Bay to the lake’s middle region. The scientists suspect a similar process is happening in other lakes where ice rings form.
More research will be required to fully elucidate the cause of these ice rings, but this latest study offers an exciting explanation. That said, many mysteries remain, such as why the eddies have a convex shape - a feature that’s typically seen in ocean eddies but not in lakes. Future research will also have to take the shape of the coastline into consideration, as that seems to play an important role in affecting how the eddies move.
In terms of other findings, the scientists found satellite photos of the ice rings that dated back to the 1960s, so these structures aren’t a new phenomenon. Even if they been around for awhile, they still show that Lake Baikal continues to be one of the coolest places on the planet. Hopefully we’ll learn more about these enigmatic ice rings soon - and not just for the science. Local residents often drive on the lake during the winter months, and these ice rings pose a real risk to vehicles. Perhaps future traffic reports will highlight the presence of dangerous ice rings and their associated thin ice.

© 2020 G/O Media Inc.
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