Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Июль 2020 г.
Дайджест за другие годы
2020 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)

январь февраль март апрель май июнь июль август сентябрь октябрь ноябрь декабрь
    Ученые Южно-Уральского государственного университета в составе международной команды создали экологичный материал для датчиков давления, температуры, электрического и магнитного полей. Керамический материал на основе феррита висмута недорог, удобен в производстве и, в отличие от многих аналогов, не содержит свинец.

Researchers at South Ural State University, being part of an international team of scientists, have synthesized ceramic material that is suitable for creating pressure, temperature, electric and magnetic field sensors. The material is more environmentally friendly compared to its analogs and belongs to the class of multiferroics. The experiments made it possible to study the features of changes in the crystal structure and physical properties of such materials in phase transitions. An article on the development of ceramic materials with desired properties through chemical substitution of ions was published in one of the most prestigious journals of the first quartile Nanomaterials.
Eco-friendly sensor materials
Recent studies in the field of materials science are aimed at studying the properties and structure of multiferroics. These materials simultaneously have magnetic and electrical ordering, so that their electrical properties can be controlled by magnetic action and vice versa.
For mass production, the main goal for today is to find an inexpensive and convenient material that has magnetoelectric interaction, polarization, magnetization, and at the same time meets environmental standards. Many modern materials contain lead, but its extensive use causes environmental pollution and negative effects on human health.
Scientists involved in the development of modern materials at the South Ural State University believe that ceramic based on bismuth ferrite satisfies modern requirements. The preparation of materials in the form of ceramics makes it possible to relatively quickly synthesize compositions with various chemical substitutions of the starting ions and evaluate the effect of chemical substitution on the structure and on the properties of such materials.
The research team, which included representatives of SUSU Dmitry Karpinsky, Sergey Trukhanov, and Alexei Trukhanov, made this conclusion, working with materials based on bismuth ferrite (BiFeO3), one of the most promising multiferroics. Substituting iron and bismuth ions, scientists studied the structural phase transitions of BiFeO3-BaTiO3 ceramics and found how the properties of the material change depending on the type of structural distortion. The data obtained will allow the development of new functional materials based on complex oxide systems.
"We used innovative chemical substitution schemes for the synthesis of materials. The selection of the chemical composition made it possible to synthesize ceramic compositions with the so-called metastable structural state. These materials are highly sensitive to external factors, such as temperature, electric and magnetic fields, and pressure. That is, they can be used as sensors of external influences", a senior researcher at the Department of Materials Science, Physical and Chemical Properties of Materials (the Faculty of Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering, Institute of Engineering and Technology) Dmitry Karpinsky explained.
Together with scientists from SUSU, the study involved representatives of the Ural Federal University, Lodz University of Technology (Poland), and the University of Aveiro (Portugal). In foreign scientific centers, experiments such as studying the structure of material compositions by electron and atomic force microscopy and others were performed. SUSU conducted an analysis of the structure of the compositions by the method of X-ray diffraction.
From bulk ceramics to thin films
At the end of the study, scientists revealed a relationship between the type and magnitude of structural distortions depending on the concentration of substitution ions. It determined the piezoelectric properties (polarization of the material under the action of mechanical stresses). Data were obtained for a wide range of temperatures and concentrations of substitution ions. Based on the results obtained, a phase diagram was made.
"After choosing the optimal equivalent schemes and a thorough analysis of the structure and properties of the materials obtained, work will be carried out to obtain the already known chemical compositions in the form of thin films, since mostly this form of the material is in demand by the industry. Of course, it is too early to talk about mass production, but as part of the development of the technology, we plan to get trial batches of materials, which will allow us to assess the prospects of such materials on the market and the scalability of this synthesis technology," Dmitry Karpinsky added.
Materials synthesized by the scientists can be used to create sensors for external factors, as well as magnetostrictive and piezoelectric elements.
Research in the field of materials science is one of the three strategic directions for the development of scientific and educational activities of South Ural State University along with IT and ecology.
SUSU is a participant in the 5-100 Project, intended to increase the competitiveness of Russian universities among the world's leading research and academic centers.

© Science X 2004-2020.
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    SciTechDaily / July 5, 2020
    Breakthrough Towards Lasers Powerful Enough to Investigate a New Kind of Physics
    An international team of researchers has demonstrated an innovative technique for increasing the intensity of lasers.
    Исследователи из Института прикладной физики РАН, Национального научно-исследовательского института (Канада) и Политехнической школы (Франция) продемонстрировали инновационный способ увеличения мощности лазеров, основанный на укорочении световых импульсов с помощью эффектов нелинейной оптики. Это открывает новые перспективы в исследовании явлений квантовой электродинамики.

In a paper that made the cover of the journal Applied Physics Letters, an international team of researchers has demonstrated an innovative technique for increasing the intensity of lasers. This approach, based on the compression of light pulses, would make it possible to reach a threshold intensity for a new type of physics that has never been explored before: quantum electrodynamics phenomena.
Researchers Jean-Claude Kieffer of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), E. A. Khazanov of the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences and in France Gérard Mourou, Professor Emeritus of the Ecole Polytechnique, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, have chosen another direction to achieve a power of around 1023 Watts (W). Rather than increasing the energy of the laser, they decrease the pulse duration to only a few femtoseconds. This would keep the system within a reasonable size and keep operating costs down.
To generate the shortest possible pulse, the researchers are exploiting the effects of non-linear optics. "A laser beam is sent through an extremely thin and perfectly homogeneous glass plate. The particular behaviour of the wave inside this solid medium broadens the spectrum and allows for a shorter pulse when it is recompressed at the exit of the plate," explains Jean-Claude Kieffer, co-author of the study published online on June 15, 2020, in the journal Applied Physics Letters.
Installed in the Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) facility at INRS, the researchers limited themselves to an energy of 3 joules for a 10-femtosecond pulse, or 300 terawatts (1012W). They plan to repeat the experiment with energy of 13 joules over 5 femtoseconds, or an intensity of 3 petawatts (1015 W). "We would be among the first in the world to achieve this level of power with a laser that has such short pulses," says Professor Kieffer.
"If we achieve very short pulses, we enter relativistic problem classes. This is an extremely interesting direction that has the potential to take the scientific community to new horizons," says Professor Kieffer. "It was a very nice piece of work solidifying the paramount potential of this technique," concludes Gérard Mourou.
They have received financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation du Québec and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation.

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    Phys.Org / July 8, 2020
    Study determines fundamental parameters of the chemically peculiar star HD 108662
    • By Tomasz Nowakowski
    Сотрудники Института астрономии РАН провели детальный анализ атмосферы химически пекулярной звезды HD 108662. Такие звезды заметно отличаются от других звезд того же класса химическим составом, что затрудняет определение и изучение их свойств.

Astronomers have carried out a spectroscopic analysis of the atmosphere of a magnetic chemically peculiar star designated HD 108662. The study, described in a paper published June 29 on the arXiv preprint server, resulted in determining fundamental parameters of this star.
Chemically peculiar (CP) stars are those with unusual metal abundances, thus exhibiting strong or weak spectral lines for certain elements. Some CP stars are observed to have stronger magnetic fields than classical A- or B-type stars, varying from few tens of Gauss to tens of kiloGauss, and are hence known as magnetic chemically peculiar (mCP) stars (Ap and Bp stars). This class of objects is perceived by astronomers as a natural atomic and magnetic laboratory to study stellar formation and evolution.
However, the unusual chemical composition of atmospheres of CP stars makes the determination of their fundamental parameters difficult. Knowing the properties of these objects is important to unveil their evolutionary states, for instance, and could be essential for testing theoretical models of pulsations in magnetic stars.
HD 108662 (also known as 17 Com), is a magnetic chemically peculiar star of A0p spectral class. Recently, a team of astronomers led by Anna Romanovskaya of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in Moscow, Russia, has employed an iterative method to shed more light on the parameters of this star.
"It consists of subsequent refinement of model structure and spectroscopically derived abundances until the agreement between predicted and observed spectra is achieved. This approach was successfully used to study the atmospheres of many Ap stars," the researchers explained.
For their study, Romanovskaya's team used the data mainly from the Echelle SpectroPolarimetric Device for the Observation of Stars (ESPaDOnS) at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) in Hawaii. The method used by them required four iterations to obtain final best-fit parameters for HD 108662.
"We carried out a detailed analysis of the atmosphere of the chemically peculiar star HD 108662 using high-resolution spectroscopic and low-resolution spectroscopic observations calibrated to absolute units," the authors of the paper wrote.
The researchers found that the mean element abundances in the atmosphere of HD 108662 are typical for Ap stars. The studied object showcases excesses up to an order of magnitude of abundances of iron peak elements and very significant excesses of rare-earth elements, compared to the atmosphere of the sun. Moreover, the results show a significant helium deficiency and that chromium is distributed homogeneously in the star's atmosphere.
The study found that HD 108662 has a radius of about 2.09 solar radii and effective temperature of some 10,212 K. The rotational velocity of the star was estimated to be 20.4 km/s and the strength of its surface magnetic field was measured to be approximately 3,300 Gauss.

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    Research Matters / Jul 9, 2020
    Researchers discover a new species of ribbon worm from Chennai’s Kovalam beach
    • Spoorthy Raman
    Ученые ДВО РАН, Института науки и техники Сатьябама (Индия) и Национального музея естественной истории Смитсоновского института (США) обнаружили и описали новый вид морских лентовидных червей немертин. Особи вида, получившего название Tetrastemma freyae, были обнаружены на острове Оаху на Гавайях и в окрестностях Ченнаи в Индии.

The Kovalam beach on the outskirts of the Chennai is a quaint fishing village with historical significance. Once a port town, it was conquered by the British and the French when they set foot in India. The bustling fishing village now draws visitors who want to spend an evening watching the waves dance. Despite the many footfalls, it could also be thriving with biodiversity, as researchers have discovered a new species of ribbon worm in the rocky beach of Kovalam.
In a recent collaborative study, researchers at the Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology (SIST), Chennai, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, USA, have unearthed a new species of nemertean worm and have named it Tetrastemma freyae. The study was published in the journal Zootaxa.
Nemertean worms, also called ribbon worms, are marine animals that live in crevices, sediments or hold on to algae or other sedentary animals in the sea. They feed on annelids (ringed worms), clams and other crustaceans and serve as recyclers of nutrients in the ocean.
"Nemertean worms under the genus Tetrastemma comprises more than 110 species in the world. However, its diversity is poorly recorded in India," says Mr. Vignesh, an author of the study from SIST.
Interestingly, the new worm species was simultaneously discovered from the Oahu island of Hawaii, USA, and Chennai in India.
"It took almost two years of extensive fieldwork and microscopic examination of different species and specimens collected along the coast of Tamil Nadu," says Ms Ruchi P Jain. She is a research scholar from IIT Madras, who was also involved in the study.
Individuals of the new species Tetrastemma freyae are pale-yellow with black pigment on their head and a rounded tail. They are about 2-5 cm long with a diamond-shaped head. The researchers identified the new species based on its internal and external morphology and DNA analysis. The species has been named after Ms Freya Goetz of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution, USA, in honour of her field and laboratory work.
"The genus Tetrastemma is a complex species group. According to our data, tropical seas are inhabited by many nemertean species that remain to be discovered," says Dr Alexei Chernyshev. He is a Professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences and the lead author of the study."Intense fieldwork is needed to document the nemertean biodiversity in the Indian coastal waters," adds Dr Rajaian P. Rajesh from SIST.
With the advances in DNA-based taxonomy, the researchers hope to discover many more complex species of nemertean worms in the future .
"In our study, we have also standardized the identification characters and DNA markers for nemerteans for future studies," signs off Dr Sanjeevi Prakash from SIST.

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    Science X / July 10th, 2020
    Scientists create stealth technology that hides metal masts and antennas completely
    Ученые НИТУ «МИСиС» в сотрудничестве с коллегами из НТЦ УП РАН и Политехнического университета Турина (Италия) создали материал, позволяющий делать «невидимыми» вытянутые объекты - антенны, датчики, мачты кораблей, вышки аэропортов. Специальное покрытие на основе магнитного дипольного рассеивателя не только «прячет» объекты от радаров, но и не позволяет близкорасположенным антеннам и вышкам влиять друг на друга.

Physicists from NUST MISIS and institutional collaborators have developed a technology that conceals elongated objects such as antennas and sensors, aircraft landing gear, ship masts and airport towers. The invention is based on an innovative metamaterial that eliminates an object's electric type scattering. The result has been published in Scientific Reports.
Elongated metal objects like antennas or cell towers have an electric response - a signal that appears in response to an impact. To hide such an object from radar, the object must scatter light, like an object with a magnetic response, which is very weak. This was accomplished by scientists from the Russian-Italian scientific collaboration, in the framework of the "ANASTASIA" project (Advanced Non-radiating Architectures Scattering Tenuously And Sustaining Invisible Anapoles), named after the Grand Duchess of the Russian Empire Anastasia Romanova.
"We came up with a special coating based on an ideal magnetic dipole scatterer that turns an elongated metal object with an electric response into an object with a magnetic response," said one of the researchers, associate professor at the NUST MISIS Superconducting Metamaterials Laboratory, Alexey Basharin. "This has become possible due to the anapole state of the coating material, which lowers the electric type scattering to the level of the magnetic one and even lower. As a result, the object becomes invisible."
The first of the possible applications of the new coating will be Stealth technology for military and civilian purposes - to hide various elongated objects, such as aircraft landing gear, antennas and various sensors, ship masts and airport towers. The developers emphasize, that if the task of hiding these objects from enemy radars is trivial, the task of electromagnetic compatibility of antennas on satellites is vital: antennas must not affect each other. And this will be possible only if they are invisible.
The method will help hide the structures of airports and operator towers so that they do not interfere with radar and communications with pilots. The development will find application in so-called "magnetic light" tasks, where it is necessary to enhance various magnetic phenomena: in nano-antennas, nano-lasers, etc.
"Another idea discussed in this work is that we were able to develop a coating that makes the impedance of the cylinder equal to the impedance of the surrounding space due to the special form of the sinusoidal metamaterial. It gives the following effect: the incident electromagnetic wave completely does not notice the cylinder object and passes through it without hindrance. Important progress of our work is that we have applied a flat coating, and not bulk heavy structures," added Alexey Basharin.
The research of the team is a theoretical work and demonstrates new methods and open effects. The next stage of the project and the immediate goal, according to the researchers, is to learn how to reduce the magnetic response of elongated metal structures.
"We have already deduced the theory for super-toroidal configurations earlier. Now we want to show it experimentally. Thus, we will come closer to solving the problem of complete invisibility. Although according to the optical theorem, it is impossible to create perfect invisibility, we can take a big step towards this," concluded Basharin.

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    Ancient Origins / 12 July, 2020
    Stone Age Etchings of Camel Fight Found on Siberian Mammoth Tusk
    • Ed Whelan
    Едва заметные рисунки на бивне мамонта, найденном в низовьях Томи в 1988 году, оказались картиной боя верблюдов. Хранящийся в Томском государственном университете бивень исследовали специалисты Хакасского научно-исследовательского института языка, литературы и истории России, определив возраст и рисунков, и самого бивня в 13 тысяч лет. Это самые ранние известные изображения верблюдов в Азии.

Ancient engravings etched onto a 13,000-year-old mammoth tusk have been examined and are believed to include the oldest known images of camels in Asia. Several ancient camel etchings on the tusk, one of which depicts a violent camel fight, are offering experts an insight into the world of ancient Siberians. The images are opening windows on the culture and society of prehistoric nomads.
The discovery of mammoth tusks is quite common in Siberia. The tusk with the graven images was found in Western Siberia on the lower reaches of the Tom River. It was unearthed in 1988 during a construction project and it was stored at Tomsk State University. At the time, the tusk was not properly studied, or stored in the correct conditions, and the tusk itself began to crumble and deteriorate. Luckily some researchers took an interest in the 5-foot-long tusk. What they found was amazing.
Both Mammoth Tusk and the Artwork Date to 13,000 Years Ago
The study was conducted by experts from the Khakassian Research Institute for Language, Literature and History in Russia. Archaeology Research in Asia reports that "Radiocarbon dating by AMS reported the age of the tusk as 13,100-13,005 Сal BP (95% confidence level)." They found images of pairs of camels and an anthropomorphic image. By examining their style, the team established that they too were made around 13,000 years ago.
The camels are almost identical in their design to images of camels that have been discovered in the Kapova cave , in the Ural Mountains, in European Russia, that date back almost 19,000 years. The Daily Express quotes the Russian researchers as saying that "The comparative analysis of the stylistic features of the camel figures shows that they correspond to the age of the tusk itself."
Earliest Drawing of Camel to Have Been Discovered in Asia
The researcher claim that the engravings on the ancient Siberian ivory "are the earliest known drawings of the animal ever found in Asia" reports the Daily Mail. One of the images is that of a pair of camels who appear to be fighting. They are wrestling with their long necks. This typically occurs during the mating season when males battle it out to secure a female. The image may depict captured camels fighting and this may have been related to prehistoric beliefs about the life cycle and the seasons. Camel-wrestling is still a popular sport in Turkey and elsewhere.
There seem to be wounds and arrows on one of the pairs of camels. This would indicate that they were being hunted by ancient humans. The New Scientist reports that the researchers believe that the ivory’s anthropomorphic image "may portray a human wearing a camel disguise." This may have been an effort by the hunter to get closer to the camels or even capture them. A camel disguise could have helped them to sneak up unobserved on a herd of wild camels.
Camel Etchings Made by Nomadic Siberian Hunters
Based on the evidence, it seems that the society that produced the artworks was probably nomadic. According to Archaeological Research in Asia "the discovery of the engravings in this region is consistent with the theory of mobile population groups moving to western Siberia from the periglacial steppe to the south in the Late Upper Palaeolithic." Small groups of humans probably followed the herds of camels and other animals on their seasonal migrations and hunted them for food.
The engravings have proven challenging to study. Yury Esin, who took part in the study, told the Daily Mail that the images "have very thin and shallow lines, making them barely visible and tedious to trace and the engravings are on the surface of a round, long, curved and heavy object." The team have taken a series of photographs to understand how the artworks were created. It is theorized that they were created using a very sharp cutting tool, that had an exceptionally fine point and that the artist rotated the piece of ivory as he or she worked.
Using Prehistoric Art to Understand Our Ancestors
Esin is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that "all in all, the figures of the animals are quite realistic and demonstrate a good knowledge of the subject." The similarities with other examples of camel images in the Upper Paleolithic and later eras is striking. This would suggest that the engraver of the images was not only keenly observing the camels but that he or she was part of a culture that covered a large area of Eurasia.
This study demonstrates how the art of the past can help us to understand our distant ancestors. The images are still being studied and they may reveal more about Siberia in the Paleolithic period. Several questions remain related to the mammoth tusk, such as whether the images of camels were used in rituals and ceremonies.

Ancient Origins © 2013-2020.
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    EurekAlert / 13-Jul-2020
    Russian scientists have discovered a new physical paradox
    Scientists offered their explanation on how to eliminate the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam-Tsingou paradox.
    Ученые Санкт-Петербургского политехнического университета Петра Великого (СПбПУ) обнаружили и объяснили физический парадокс, опровергающий утверждение о невозможности роста амплитуды механических колебаний объекта без внешнего воздействия. При эффекте, получившем название баллистического резонанса, механические колебания могут возникать и возрастать исключительно за счет внутренних тепловых ресурсов системы.

Researchers from the Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) discovered and theoretically explained a new physical effect: amplitude of mechanical vibrations can grow without external influence. Besides, the scientific group offered their explanation on how to eliminate the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam-Tsingou paradox.
The scientists of SPbPU explained it using a simple example: to rock the swing, you have to keep pushing it. It is generally believed that it is impossible to achieve oscillatory resonance without constant external influence.
However, the scientific group of the Higher School of Theoretical Mechanics, Institute of Applied Mathematics and Mechanics SPbPU discovered a new physical phenomenon of "ballistic resonance", where mechanical oscillations can be excited only due to internal thermal resources of the system.
The experimental work of researchers from all around the world demonstrated, that the heat spreads at abnormally high speeds at nano and micro levels in ultrapure crystalline materials. This phenomenon was called ballistic heat conductivity.
The scientific group supervised the corresponding member of Russian Academy of Sciences Anton Krivtsov, derived the equations describing this phenomenon and made significant progress in the overall understanding of thermal processes at the micro-level. In the study published in Physical Review E researchers considered the system behavior at the initial periodic distribution of temperature in the crystal material.
The discovered phenomenon describes that the process of heat equilibration leads to mechanical vibrations with an amplitude that grows with time. The effect is called ballistic resonance.
"Over the past few years, our scientific group has been looking into the mechanisms of heat propagation at the micro and nano levels. We found out that at these levels, the heat doesn't spread in the way we expected it to: for example, the heat can flow from cold to hot. This behavior of nanosystems leads to new physical effects, such as ballistic resonance", said Associate Professor of the Higher School of Theoretical Mechanics SPbPU Vitaly Kuzkin.
According to him, in the future, the researhers plan to analyze how this can be used in such promising materials as, for example, graphene.
These discoveries also provide an opportunity to resolve the paradox of Fermi Pasta-Ulam-Tsingou. In 1953, a scientific group led by Enrico Fermi carried out a computer experiment that later became famous. Scientists considered the simplest model of oscillations of a chain of particles connected by springs. They assumed that the mechanical movement would gradually fade away, turning into chaotic thermal oscillations. Still, the result was unexpected: the oscillations in the chain first almost decayed, but then revived and reached nearly the initial level. The system came to its initial state, and the cycle repeated itself. The causes of mechanical oscillations from thermal vibrations in the considered system have been the subject of scientific research and disputes for decades.
The amplitude of mechanical vibrations caused by ballistic resonance doesn't increase infinitely, but reaches its maximum, after that it starts gradually decreasing to zero. Eventually, the mechanical oscillations fade completely, and the temperature equilibrates in the whole crystal. This process is called thermalization. For mechanicians and physicists, this experiment is vital because a chain of particles connected by springs is a good model of crystal material.
Researchers of the Higher School of Theoretical Mechanics showed that the transition of mechanical energy into heat is irreversible if we consider the process at the finite temperature.
"Usually, it is not taken into account that in the real materials, there is a thermal motion, along with the mechanical one, and the energy of thermal motion is several orders of magnitude higher. We recreated these conditions in a computer experiment and showed that it is the thermal motion that damps the mechanical wave and prevents the revival of oscillations," explained Anton Krivtsov, director of the Higher School of Theoretical Mechanics SPbPU, corresponding member of Russian Academy of Sciences.
According to experts, the theoretical approach proposed by scientists of SPbPU demonstrates a new approach to how we understand the heat and temperature. It may be fundamental in the development of nanoelectronic devices in the future.

Copyright © 2020 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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    Phys.Org / July 13, 2020
    The most ancient evidence of horsemanship in the bronze age
    Считается, что человек освоил верховую езду в первом тысячелетии до н. э. Изучив останки лошадей из кургана андроновской культуры (XVII-IX вв. до н. э.) международная команда археологов из России, Казахстана и США пришла к выводу, что эту дату можно отодвинуть как минимум на 700 лет назад.

Scientists from South Ural State University (SUSU) have discovered new facts about the use of horses in the Bronze Age, working with materials from the monuments of Andronovo culture. As part of an international team from Kazakhstan, Russia, and the U.S., the researchers studied the age of animals found in the ancient mound, as well as changes in the skull that indicate the use of horses by riders. An article on the result of a multidisciplinary study of horse burial is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
Horse breeding in the Andronovo culture
The international team of scientists, which included senior researcher Igor Chechushkov, proved that the Andronovites mastered horse riding several centuries earlier than is commonly believed. The researchers made this conclusion when working with the findings of the fifth barrow in the system of the Novoilinovsky-2 burial ground.
The burial ground is located near the city of Lisakovsk in the Kostanay region of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Archeologist Emma Usmanova from Karaganda State University has been working on it for several decades. About 3,500 years ago, people of the Andronovo culture lived on this territory. A distinctive feature of the culture of that period was the development of horse breeding. The animals were used not only for food but also for harnessing to chariots and riding.
This is confirmed by the remains of horses that were discovered in the burial ground Novoilinovsky-2. Scientists drew attention to the approximate age of the buried animals: The stallion was about 20 years old, and the mare was about 18. For the beef cattle, their lifespan was too long. There were details of ancient bridles near the horses. Thus, scientists established a new hypothesis: animals were sacrificially buried with the person whom they accompanied during their lifetime.
The new start date for horsemanship
A scientist from SUSU Igor Chechushkov took part in the laboratory and analytical part of the study. He analyzed the burials, radiocarbon dates (the age of the object according to the state of the radioactive isotope with respect to the stable carbon isotopes) of the found artifacts and horse bones.
"We received radiocarbon dates that made it possible to date the complex with an accuracy of several decades. A comparison of these dates with the known ones allowed us to conclude that horsemanship, that is, the use of horses in military affairs, began to be practiced much earlier than many researchers had previously expected. So the accepted date for the formation of horsemanship is about 900 BC. Our materials suggest that armed horsemen who fought on horseback could have appeared in the Eurasian steppes no later than 1600 BC," Igor Chechushkov said.
Work at the repository in Kazakhstan was carried out with the participation of the paleozoologist Pavel Kosintsev from the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Yekaterinburg). Igor Chechushkov received radiocarbon dates at the University of Arizona (U.S.). When the age of the horses became clear, a 3-D-modeling of the burial and the remains of animals was needed in order to analyze the pathologies associated with the use of animals in work. Indirect signs indicated changes in turtles associated with the use of bridles for riding.
This part of the study was conducted in collaboration with a specialist from the University of Minnesota. Dr. William Taylor from the University of Colorado (U.S.), one of the leading researchers on the use of horses in the bronze age of Mongolia, showed interest in the work and suggested taking part in the publication of a special study for the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
Burial of the Bronze Age Sheriffs
The study of an international team of scientists not only broadened the idea of the early stage of using a horse but also provided an understanding of how human society worked.
"It is likely that militarized elite, whose power was based on the physical control of fellow tribesmen and neighbors with the help of riding and fighting skills, was buried in the Novoilinovsky-2 burial ground. The rider has a significant advantage over the infantryman. There may be another explanation: These elite fulfilled the function of mediating conflicts within the collective, and therefore had power and high social status. Metaphorically, this kind of elite can be called Sheriffs of the Bronze Age," Igor Chechushkov explained.
Work at the Novoilinovsky-2 burial ground will continue. New findings, along with a published study, can make significant refinements to the early history of horsemanship. Igor Chechushkov added that the use of domestic horses was confirmed around 2000 BC in Central Eurasia. However, the latest research in the field of animal DNA shows that the question of the time and place of their domestication is far from being resolved.

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    Science Codex / July 13, 2020
    Astrophysicists suggest carbon found in comet ATLAS help to reveal age of other comets
    После наблюдений за кометой ATLAS (C/2019 Y4), которая приблизилась к Земле в мае 2020 года, после чего разрушилась, астрофизики из Дальневосточного федерального университета, Института прикладной астрономии РАН, южнокорейского Университета Кенхи и американского Института космических наук предложили определять время пребывания комет внутри Солнечной системы по количеству углерода в их составе. Чем меньше углерода, тем старше комета.

Astrophysicists from Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU, Russia), South Korea, and the USA appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, suggesting carbon indicates time comets have spent in the Solar System - the less carbon, the longer they have been in the proximity of the Sun. The proof is their study of the comet ATLAS (C/2019 Y4) approaching the Earth in May 2020 and disintegrated with displaying a major outbreak of the carbonaceous particles.
FEFU astrophysicists, Ekaterina Chornaya and Anton Kochergin joined an international team to analyze the composition of dust particles in the coma, i.e. shell, and tail of Comet ATLAS (C/2019 Y4). According to the researchers, the levels of carbonaceous matter inside the comet were very high.
The team suggest that the amount of carbon in the comas of other comets can indicate the time spent by them in the Solar System. The more carbon a comet coma contains, the less it has been around the Sun, and vice versa.
Comet ATLAS approached the Earth in May 2020 drawing a major interest among the researchers from all over the world, having disintegrated almost literally in front of their eyes.
"ATLAS was expected to be the brightest comet of 2020, visible from the Earth with a naked eye. However, instead of observing the comet itself, we witnessed its disintegration. Luckily, we had begun photometric and polarimetric studies before the process started, and because of that, we are able to compare the composition of the coma before and after the disintegration. In the course of disintegration we noticed a dramatic growth of the positive polarization branch which, according to modeling, is consistent with a high concentration of carbonaceous particles," said Ekaterina Chornaya, a postgraduate at the School of Natural Sciences, FEFU.
According to Ekaterina, Comet ATLAS was a long-period comet - it used to enter the Solar System once in 5,476 years. Long-period comets approach the Sun only occasionally and therefore are rarely subject to heating. Researchers are especially interested in these comets, as they contain a lot of preserved primordial matter, ancient elements that were formed in the early days of the Solar System. Under the influence of solar radiation, the primordial matter starts to evaporate, and that is when the researchers on the Earth get a chance to study it. In short-period comets that approach the Sun frequently the volume of the primordial matter is very low.
Scientists from all over the world study and compare the physical and chemical composition of dust particles from the comas of comets to learn more about the evolution of the Solar System. To do so, they analyze the ability of such particles to absorb, refract, and polarize light.
According to Ekaterina Chornaya, the polarimetric response of the particles from Comet ATLAS matches that of one of the brightest comets in the history of Earth - Comet Hale-Bopp, or C/1995 O1 (though several epochs suggest that ATLAS is closer to Comet Hyakutake, or C/1996 B2).
The members of the research team represented the School of Natural Studies of FEFU, the College of Humanities of Kyung Hee University (South Korea), the Department of Astronomy and Space Sciences of Kyung Hee University (South Korea), Institute of Applied Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Space Sciences (USA).

* * *
    Archaeology / Tuesday, July 14, 2020
    CT Scan of Siberian Mummy Reveals Wounds and Tattoos
    Компьютерная томография позволила ученым Государственного Эрмитажа заглянуть под погребальную гипсовую маску мумии, найденной в Хакасии. Представитель так называемой таштыкской культуры скончался около 1700 лет назад.

The Siberian Times reports that scientists at Russia’s State Hermitage Museum have taken a CT scan of a mummified head dated to between the third and fourth centuries A.D.
Discovered in 1969 in a burial house made of larch logs in the Oglakhty burial ground, the masked mummy head belongs to the Tashtyk culture of Siberia’s Yenisei River Valley.
"The computer scan allowed us to see, so to say, three layers - the layer of the mask, the layer of the face without the mask, and the layer of the skull," said museum curator Svetlana Pankova. The scan revealed brown hair and a sutured wound beneath the gypsum death mask, which was painted red with black stripes. The scar, which travels from the left eye to the left ear, is thought to have been sewn after death, perhaps to repair a wound so that the mask would fit properly. Pankova said there is also a hole in the left side of the mummy’s skull, which is also thought to have been made after death in order to remove the brain and prepare the body for burial.
"Expert analysis shows the hole was made by a series of blows with a chisel type or hammer type tool," she explained. The scan also revealed the presence of tattoos on the body, the first to be found on a Tashtyk mummy. To read about tattoos adorning mummified members of the Pazyryk culture uncovered in Siberia, go to "Ancient Tattoos: Iron Age Mummy."

(c) 2020 Archaeology Magazine, a Publication of the Archaeological Institute of America.
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    Washington Post / July 15, 2020
    Siberian heat streak and Arctic temperature record virtually ‘impossible’ without global warming, study says
    Research shows one the strongest links to global warming of any extreme event yet investigated.
    • By Andrew Freedman
    Климатологи из России, Франции, Германии, Нидерландов, Швейцарии и Великобритании опубликовали доклад по результатам исследования причин аномального тепла в Сибири на протяжении первых шести месяцев этого года. Работа проходила в рамках международного проекта World Weather Attribution. Ученые пришли к выводу, что основной причиной сибирской жары стали техногенные и антропогенные факторы. При отсутствии таковых подобная тепловая волна могла бы сформироваться не чаще чем раз в 80 тысяч лет, но в нынешних климатических условиях она может повториться еще до конца века.

In a stark new finding, a study shows that six straight months of anomalously mild conditions in large parts of northern Siberia so far this year, along with an Arctic temperature record of 100.4 degrees (38 Celsius) that occurred in June, would have been virtually impossible without human-induced global warming.
The study, released Wednesday by the World Weather Attribution project, was produced through a collaboration between climate researchers from multiple institutions in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The researchers found that the prolonged January-to-June heat, which has led to a record spike in wildfires across the Siberian Arctic, was made at least 600 times as likely by human-caused climate change. This led them to conclude such an event would be nearly impossible in the absence of global warming.
The analysis shows that the six months of much above-average temperatures in the region would only occur less than about once in 80,000 years without human-caused climate change.
The scientists used an increasingly well-established technique known as climate detection and attribution, which is analogous to climate change detective work, to determine whether and by how much global warming influenced the odds of an extreme climate or weather event.
In this case, the researchers used statistical methods and dozens of computer models to examine six months of above-average temperatures seen during the January through June period in much of Siberia, as well as the tentative Arctic temperature record of 100.4 degrees (38 Celsius) that occurred in Verkhoyansk, north of the Arctic Circle on June 20.
Even in the current climate, the study shows, the six months of unusually mild conditions stand out, with the event expected to occur less than once every 130 years.
The study found that for the large region examined, temperatures during the past six months would have been at least 3.6 degrees (2 Celsius) cooler had the same weather pattern established itself in the January to June period in 1900 compared to 2020.
And in Verkhoyansk, maximum June temperatures have increased by at least 1.8 degrees (1 Celsius) relative to 1900.
Past studies from this group have consistently found that climate change makes heat waves more likely and more intense than they would be in the absence of human-caused global warming. But they have not reached such strong conclusions before.
For example, one study of a European heat wave last year found that global warming probably quintupled the odds of the extreme event, yet the new study finds that Siberia’s January to June heat streak might only happen less than approximately once every 80,000 years in the absence of global warming.
"From what we’ve done, it’s the strongest signal that we have seen," said Friedericke Otto, acting director of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute and co-leader of the World Weather Attribution initiative, during a conference call with reporters.
The temperatures in Siberia during the past six months would have been "effectively impossible without human influence," said Andrew Ciavarella, a lead author of the research and senior detection and attribution scientist at the U.K. Met Office.
Ciavarella said there are greater uncertainties about how much global warming increased the odds of the record temperature at Verkhoyansk, but that the hottest June temperatures at that location have warmed by as much as 1.8 to 3.6 degrees (1 to 2 Celsius), making the Arctic record temperature much more likely to occur today.
"In the natural world, this event would have been nearly impossible," he said.
The new research is not the first to conclude that an extreme event would have been virtually impossible absent human-caused climate change. So, too, did another study on a deadly 2018 heat wave in Japan, and a study published last year on a spate of heat extremes around the Northern Hemisphere.
To arrive at the study’s conclusions, researchers ran about 70 computer models with thousands of simulated years to capture the climate’s evolution both with and without the addition of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. They also examined observational records in the broad region and in Verkhoyansk.
The study found that temperatures in the region have been warming at about three times the rate of the rest of the world, and looking forward to 2050, between another 0.9 to 9 degrees (0.5 to 5 Celsius) of warming is anticipated.
While the study itself was done as a rapid analysis without peer review, the methods the scientists used were based on peer-reviewed research and the authors said they probably will submit the work to an academic journal.
Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who was not involved in the new study, said the methods the researchers used are "state of the art." He described the findings as conservative.
"This is a very careful and comprehensive study performed by the finest in the field using established methods," Wehner said via email. "Their finding of a very large human influence on this event is actually quite conservative. There is no doubt in my mind that this heat event was made much more severe by the human interference in the climate system."
Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech who was not involved in the new study, said many attribution studies find that human influences on particular extreme events are relatively small, but that’s not the case with this one.
"In this case, the answer is truly unprecedented. We are witnessing events today that would, as the authors state, be nearly impossible absent human-induced climate change," she said in an email.
"The reality is that we humans are conducting an unprecedented experiment with the only planet we have. It was already unprecedented in terms of the amount of carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere every year, and now it is becoming unprecedented in terms of the impacts that we as humans are witnessing first-hand."
Siberian heat impacts are widespread and ongoing
The prolonged, unusually mild temperatures in Siberia are having clear impacts on ecosystems, human settlements and even the climate itself. Arctic wildfires sparked unusually early this year because of hot, dry conditions in Siberia, with particularly fierce blazes occurring in Russia’s Sakha Republic. Such fires add to global warming by emitting carbon dioxide and soot, and they can also destabilize permafrost, releasing ancient stores of carbon dioxide and methane.
Arctic infrastructure is also threatened by warming temperatures, as was demonstrated by the damaging oil spill in Norilsk, which authorities have blamed on melting permafrost. While Siberia is not heavily populated, heat waves are among the deadliest weather events in much of the world, and they can exacerbate preexisting conditions while affecting people both mentally and physically.
"As emissions continue to rise we need to think about building resilience to extreme heat all over the world, even in Arctic communities - which would have seemed nonsensical not very long ago," Otto said in a statement.

© 1996-2020 The Washington Post.
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    CNBC / Jul 15 2020
    Top Russian space official dismisses NASA’s moon plans, considering a lunar base with China instead
    • Michael Sheetz, Yelena Dzhanova
    Глава Роскосмоса Дмитрий Рогозин заявил, что Россия не заинтересована в участии в лунной программе НАСА Artemis по повторной отправке астронавтов на Луну, назвав программу «большим политическим проектом». Вместо этого ведутся переговоры с Китаем по созданию совместной лунной научной станции.

The head of Russia’s space organization criticized the current United States plan to return astronauts to the moon as "a big political project," saying his country is instead speaking with China about establishing a lunar base of operations.
NASA last year announced its Artemis program, the agency’s plan to fulfill President Donald Trump’s order in 2017 to return Americans to the surface of the moon by 2024. Additionally, NASA in May unveiled the "Artemis Accords" - a set of principles it seeks to use as the basis of international agreements with other countries about using and operating in space, especially as the U.S. returns to the moon.
But Dmitry Rogozin, the leader of state-backed space corporation Roscosmos, said Russia does not intend to join any such U.S. partnership. CNBC translated Rogozin’s comments from an interview with Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, published on Monday.
"For the United States, this right now is a big political project. With the lunar project, we are observing our American partners retreat from principles of cooperation and mutual support, which formed in collaboration with the [International Space Station]. They are perceiving their program not as an international one, but one resembling NATO," Rogozin said.
NASA and the White House did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment on Rogozin’s remarks.
Rogozin declared that Russia is not interested in participating in NASA’s Artemis, but hinted that "there are other projects that interest us." One such possibility for Roscosmos: Joining China in building a base on the moon’s south pole. Rogozin emphasized that he recently spoke with the leadership of China’s space agency about shaping such a partnership.
"We agreed to begin the first steps toward meeting each other halfway, namely by determining the contours and value of a lunar scientific base," Rogozin said.
While he did not rule out partnering with other countries, "including Americans," Rogozin said that Russia and China intend to lead the development of a lunar base. That effort would in essence compete with NASA’s Artemis plan, which aims to establish a continued presence on the surface of the Moon within the next decade. Despite the recent track record of U.S.-Russia cooperation in space, Rogozin declared China "a deserving partner" for his country.
"Today the relationship between Russia and China is very good. That’s why China, yes, is certainly our partner," Rogozin said. "The Chinese have grown tremendously in the last few years."
China has been steadily accelerating its space program in recent years, such as successfully landing a lunar rover on the far side of the moon in a historic first last year.
Despite the shift in Russia’s intentions, Rogozin said existing agreements with the U.S. continue "to be a valuable bridge for cooperation." He emphasized his good relationship with NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, which he hopes continues.
"I trust that this collaboration will persist and will be to a less degree subject to the impact of a dumb political environment, which, unfortunately, is what comes out of Washington today," Rogozin said.
NASA published comments from Bridenstine about the Artemis program’s goals of international collaboration on Tuesday, a day after Rogozin’s interview. Bridenstine highlighted that Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency are each partnering with NASA. Bridenstine addressed Rogozin’s comments in a statement to CNBC on Wednesday, emphasizing "the overwhelming support NASA has received from both emerging and traditional international space agencies" for Artemis.
"Building on our solid relationship with Roscosmos aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, I’m hopeful there are opportunities for NASA and Roscosmos to expand our collaboration farther into the solar system, including the Moon," Bridenstine said in the statement.
SpaceX is ‘just at the beginning’
The launch of SpaceX’s first mission with NASA astronauts in May marked historic firsts for both the company and space agency. But for Russia, the SpaceX mission is the beginning of the end of nearly a decade of U.S. dependence on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to send astronauts to the International Space Station. Those Russian flights have come at a steadily increasing cost for the U.S. since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, recently rising to more than $86 million per NASA astronaut.
Rogozin downplayed the SpaceX accomplishment, instead pointing to the track record of the Soyuz spacecraft.
"No matter what is said by the media or our American colleagues, they are only just at the beginning of the challenge of their new manned spacecraft," Rogozin said. "Right now there is only one space transportation system that has monumental statistics of successful launches, with a proven emergency rescue system - this is Soyuz MS."
In comments more pointedly directed at Elon Musk’s space company, Rogozin emphasized that he believes space is more about function than sleek design.
"In space, one must run not after beautiful goods with wonderful labels, under the music of Bowie, but one must lean, first and foremost, on well-functioning systems. Especially there where it comes to people’s lives," Rogozin said.

© 2020 CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
    MIT News / July 15, 2020
    Decarbonize and diversify
    How energy-intensive economies can survive and thrive as the globe ramps up climate action.
    • Mark Dwortzan
    Исследователи Массачусетского технологического института и Национального исследовательского университета «Высшая школа экономики» оценили последствия для экономики России Парижского климатического соглашения, вступившего в силу в ноябре 2016 г.

Today, Russia’s economy depends heavily upon its abundant fossil fuel resources. Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of fossil fuels, and a number of its key exporting industries - including metals, chemicals, and fertilizers - draw on fossil resources. The nation also consumes fossil fuels at a relatively high rate; it’s the world’s fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide. As the world shifts away from fossil fuel production and consumption and toward low-carbon development aligned with the near- and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, how might countries like Russia reshape their energy-intensive economies to avoid financial peril and capitalize on this clean energy transition?
In a new study in the journal Climate Policy, researchers at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change and Russia’s National Research University Higher School of Economics assess the impacts on the Russian economy of the efforts of the main importers of Russian fossil fuels to comply with the Paris Agreement.
The researchers project that expected climate-related actions by importers of Russia’s fossil fuels will lower demand for these resources considerably, thereby reducing the country’s GDP growth rate by nearly 0.5 percent between 2035 and 2050. The study also finds that the Paris Agreement will heighten Russia’s risks of facing market barriers for its exports of energy-intensive goods, and of lagging behind in developing increasingly popular low-carbon energy technologies.
Using the Joint Program’s Economic Projection and Policy Analysis model, a multi-region, multi-sector model of the world economy, the researchers evaluated the impact on Russian energy exports and GDP of scenarios representing global climate policy ambition ranging from non-implementation of national Paris pledges to collective action aligned with keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.
The bottom line: Global climate policies will make it impossible for Russia to sustain its current path of fossil fuel export-based development.
To maintain and enhance its economic well-being, the study’s co-authors recommend that Russia both decarbonize and diversify its economy in alignment with climate goals. In short, by taxing fossil fuels (e.g., through a production tax or carbon tax), the country could redistribute that revenue to the development of human capital to boost other economic sectors (primarily manufacturing, services, agriculture, and food production), thereby making up for energy-sector losses due to global climate policies. The study projects that the resulting GDP increase could be on the order of 1-4 percent higher than it would be without diversification.
"Many energy-exporting countries have tried to diversify their economies, but with limited success," says Sergey Paltsev, deputy director of the MIT Joint Program, senior research scientist at the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) and director of the MIT Joint Program/MITEI Energy-at-Scale Center. "Our study quantifies the dynamics of efforts to achieve economic diversification in which reallocation of funds leads to higher labor productivity and economic growth - all while enabling more aggressive emissions reduction targets."
The study was supported by the Basic Research Program of the National Research University Higher School of Economics and the MIT Skoltech Seed Fund Program.

© Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
* * *
    Reuters / July 16, 2020
    Russian scientists plan major Arctic expedition after fuel spill
    • Polina Devitt
    14 институтов Сибирского отделения РАН впервые за несколько десятков лет примут участие в арктической научной экспедиции на Таймыр, которая пройдет с июля по ноябрь этого года. Ученые проведут исследование воды, почвы, биоразнообразия и вечной мерзлоты; научным руководителем экспедиции является председатель СО РАН Валентин Пармон.

Russian scientists are organising their first major expedition to the Arctic in decades to study climate change, mining company Norilsk Nickel said on Thursday, weeks after a giant fuel leak at one of its power plants in Siberia.
Arctic environment security has been in the spotlight since 21,000 tonnes of diesel leaked from a tank at the power plant near the city of Norilsk on May 29.
"Such expeditions and in-depth studies beyond the Arctic Circle have not been carried out in several decades," Valentin Parmon, the expedition’s scientific director, said in a statement.
The statement did not mention the spill or the source of the funding.
Scientists from 14 institutions will spend July-November in the Taymyr Peninsula, where the city of Norilsk is located, to study water, soil, biodiversity and permafrost. An official investigation into the spill continues, but Nornickel initially blamed melting permafrost driven by climate change for eroding the fuel tank’s foundations. Federal investigators have blamed the poor state of the fuel tank. Russia’s environmental watchdog demanded Nornickel pay damages of $2 billion, while a series of smaller incidents at Nornickel prompted Rusal, one of its major shareholders, to demand an overhaul of its environmental policies.
"For the implementation of large-scale plans for the Arctic’s development, it is important to know what geological and biochemical processes were the result of both natural and anthropogenic changes," Vladimir Potanin, Nornickel chief executive and the largest shareholder, said in the statement.
"Nornickel, as the region’s leading industrial developer, is aware of its responsibilities and intends to revise its approach to industrial ecology based on the results of the expedition."
Nornickel had collected 90% of the spilled diesel and was improving environmental policies of its corporate culture, Gareth Penny, its board chairman, said earlier.

© 2020 Reuters. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
    Free News / July 17, 2020
    Physicists made an earthquake in the laboratory, which brought science closer to the control of the elements
    • By John Kessler
    Ученые из Института динамики геосфер РАН и Московского физико-технического института впервые воспроизвели в лабораторных условиях «медленное» землетрясение, когда земная кора колеблется очень слабо, хотя выделяемая энергия вполне может быть сравнима с обычным землетрясением. Полученные результаты показали, что землетрясение можно предсказать по анализу акустических колебаний в зоне разлома.

Scientists from the Institute of Geosphere Dynamics of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have for the first time been able to reproduce a slow earthquake with the generation of low-frequency oscillations in laboratory conditions. An analysis of the results showed that according to the recorded seismic data, it is possible to predict the processes in the faults of the earth’s crust, which are hypocenters of real earthquakes.
The work was published in the journal Scientific Reports. Science adds intermediate tones to the black-and-white perception of the surrounding world by man. In the case of earthquakes, it was previously believed that there are two extremes: either the earth’s crust is at rest, or an earthquake occurs that cannot be overlooked. In fact, everything is more complicated. An earthquake is a consequence of a shift of blocks of the earth’s crust relative to each other along a tectonic fault.
In addition to ordinary earthquakes, there are "slow" ones, in which the earth’s crust fluctuates so weakly that often people don’t feel them at all, although the energy released during such an event can be the same as during an ordinary earthquake. Such events can only be recorded instrumentally. Therefore, scientists need to understand what determines the formation of different types of earthquakes and whether there are general patterns between these processes.
"The potential task is to learn how to transform a regular earthquake into a slow one. Make sure that energy is released, and destruction due to elastic vibrations do not occur. But to date, there is still no deep understanding of the mechanics and nature of the different types of slip of the blocks of the earth’s crust along the fault, leading to different types of earthquakes. We are trying to understand these mechanics. And at the moment, we have already learned how to reproduce in the laboratory analogs of these events: slow and fast earthquakes, "commented co-author Alexei Ostapchuk, a senior researcher at the Institute of Geosphere Dynamics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, associate professor of the Department of Theoretical and Experimental Physics of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
But in nature it is impossible to go down to the depth of the hypocenter of an earthquake and see what kind of material is there, to measure stresses. The only way to get at least some information about ongoing processes at depth is to analyze seismic vibrations coming from the fault zone, or vibrations that pass through the fault zone and can carry information about its state. The authors investigated the acoustic vibrations that occur during the nucleation of laboratory earthquakes in order to "read" the history of mechanical movements in the fault zone and predict the moment of the earthquake.
"We used granite blocks to model the tectonic fault, the space between which we fill with granular materials (sand, clay, granite chips) with different characteristics (particle size, humidity). In a real fault, the same fragmented environment, only the scale is much larger.
With different earthquakes, their characteristic waveforms are emitted: with fast ("ordinary") earthquakes, we see an impulse with a sharp sudden start, and with slow events, the oscillations increase gradually, it is difficult to determine their beginning, so they were not detected in the laboratory before. We showed in this work that it is important to look at the waveform of the pulse along with the amplitude and energy, and that slow and fast types of earthquakes can be observed in laboratory experiments, "explains Ostapchuk.
After processing a huge amount of seismic-acoustic data, the authors identified two fundamental classes of pulses. It turned out that by the shape of the acoustic pulses one can really judge what is happening with the fault, and fast and slow micro-events are responsible for different structural zones in this fault. Fast micro events - for the destruction of the power frame and the evolution of the stressed structure. Slow ones are associated with the mobility of individual unloaded elements of the fault zone. Thus, the revealed patterns suggest that an imminent earthquake can be predicted from the analysis of seismoacoustic data.
The next step, approximating the possibility of transforming fast earthquakes into slow ones, should be the study of technogenic-tectonic earthquakes, which are directly related to human engineering, namely, the extraction of mineral raw materials. Such events take place at depths where field development directly takes place. Knowing the structural features of faults and blocks in the field due to mechanical actions, it will be possible to predictably change the slip mode, which will allow working out methods for converting a fast earthquake into a slow one.
There are two different approaches. The first approach is to try to reduce the intensity of the earthquake due to external explosive impact, that is, exchange one large earthquake for many small ones. But this way often does not give any gain in safety for people. The second method is the injection of special liquids or fluids into the fault zone. Then, depending on the properties of the fluid, brittle fracture transforms into viscoplastic deformation mechanisms.
"In our laboratory experiments, we begin to understand what kind of fluid should be injected into the fault, what properties of this fluid should be, and what characteristic size of the impact zone should be. The next step is to identify the features of the structure of the faults based on seismoacoustic data and, thereby, determine the impact zone. This will be a new stage in our understanding of the nature of earthquakes", concludes Alexey Ostapchuk. This work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation.

Copyright © 2020.
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    The Union Journal / July 18, 2020
    Russian and German scientists develop ‘sodium sandwich’ that could replace lithium batteries
    • By Carlos Christian
    Команда российских и немецких ученых из Национального исследовательского технологического университета «МИСиС», Института биохимической физики им. Н.М.Эмануэля РАН и Центра им. Гельмгольца Дрезден-Россендорф нашла возможную замену литию для использования в аккумуляторах. Они предложили своеобразный «бутерброд» из слоя атомов натрия между двумя слоями графена. При такой структуре емкость аккумулятора почти не уступает литиевой батарее.

Scientists in Russia and Germany have actually established a brand-new method to ‘stack’ salt to produce less expensive and more effective batteries that could become an option to the mass-produced and ecologically hostile lithium type.
Lithium batteries are vital to the world today. From smart phones to laptop computers, nearly all electronic devices take advantage of lithium and presently it is extensively comprehended that there is no from another location efficient option. The issue when something is so common, obviously, is that ultimately it is most likely to go out and end up being more pricey while doing so.
However, scientists from Russia’s National University of Science and Technology (NUST), the Russian Academy of Science, and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf lab have actually discovered a service to the issue which includes "stacking" salt to make a "sandwich" - like battery.
What they found is that, when salt atoms are layered in a specific method, salt (and other alkali metals) can quite show the exact same qualities aslithium In reality, a two-layer plan of the less expensive salt can "demonstrates anode capacity comparable" to that of a traditional graphite anode in lithium- ion batteries.
To produce the less expensive option, atoms are put in the area in between 2 sheets of graphene under high voltage, comparable to how a battery itself would work.
This "sandwich" includes a layer of carbon, 2 layers of alkali metal (in this case salt), and another layer of carbon.
Prior to the research study, it was extensively comprehended that lithium atoms in batteries could just be found in one layer, and that increasing the quantity of layers would increase instability. Scientists now understand that it is possible "to create multilayer stable lithium structures," described Ilya Chepkasov, scientist at the NUST MISIS Laboratory of InorganicNanomaterials As for salt, it in fact increases in stability the more layers there are, scientists state.
In 2019, Amnesty global challenged market leaders to tidy up their battery supply chains. Mined mainly in China, South Korea, and Japan, lithium’s carbon footprint continues to grow as deposits reduce and need increases, especially due to its effectiveness in the blossoming electrical automobile market.
Amnesty alerted about the deep-sea mining occurring to farm lithium, which research studies have actually forecasted will have a permanent effect on biodiversity.
The research study group prepares to evaluate their thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart. If shown effective, it might cause a brand-new generation of salt batteries that would be both less expensive and possibly more efficient than our present lithium ones.

© Copyright 2019 - theunionjournal.com.
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    Phys.Org / July 20, 2020
    Uplifting of Columbia River basalts opens window on how region was sculpted
    Ученые из США, России и Швейцарии получили новые данные о том, как проходило извержение магмы в районе базальтовой группы реки Колумбия в США 14-16 млн лет назад.

Uplifting of Columbia River basalts has allowed University of Oregon researchers to better understand of how magma 14-16 million years ago shaped the region and why greenhouse gases released during a series of volcanic eruptions did not trigger a global extinction event.
The insights, published in Scientific Reports, were drawn from analyses of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in crustal material, a mix of magma and original rocks, that is now exposed by geological uplifting and erosion.
The Columbia River Flood Basalts represent the youngest continental flood basalt province on Earth and one of the best preserved. It covers roughly 210,000 square kilometers, extending from eastern Oregon and Washington to western Idaho and part of northern Nevada.
Pivotal to the research were 27 samples from 22 different dikes - wall-like bodies of magma that cut through the sheeted lava flow landscape during the eruptions. A 10-meter-thick feeder dike into the Wallowa batholith, formed from a mix of basaltic magma and granite 16 million years ago, for example, likely acted as a magma conduit for up to seven years. It formed one of the largest surface lava flows and chemically altered about 100 meters of surrounding bedrock.
"We found that when hot basaltic magma intruded into the crust it boiled groundwater and volatilized everything in and near its path, causing chemical and isotopic changes in the rocks and the release of greenhouse gases," said Ilya Bindeman, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, who led the study.
Collectively, the effects of the heating throughout the flood-basalt region may have lasted about 150 years after magma stopped flowing, building the landscape that is visible today across the region, the seven-member research team from three countries concluded.
"The Columbia River basalts that are so dear to us in the Pacific Northwest," Bindeman said. "They are now uplifted and eroded to the level that allows us to sample the contacts of these basalts with the previous rocks. The same process today is happening every hour and everywhere under midocean ridges and also on continents. By studying these not-so-ancient rocks we have learned what is going on under our feet."
Computer modeling done with the chemical data suggests that the hydrothermal heating of the region's original metasedimentary rocks - a metamorphic rock formed through the deposition and solidification of sediment - and relatively low levels of organic matter affected by the eruptions would have generated the release of about 18 gigatons of carbon dioxide and methane. One gigaton equals a billion metric tons.
The individual Columbia River basalt eruptions were each 10 to 100 times larger than the largest historically experienced eruptions of Iceland's Eldgja and Laki volcanic eruptions in the years 934 and 1783, respectively, noted study co-author Leif Karlstrom, a professor of earth sciences, who along with Bindeman is a member of the Oregon Center for Volcanology.
The Laki eruption, which killed thousands of people, released volcanically derived greenhouse gases that generated a year without summer followed by a warm year across Europe and North America, Karlstrom said.
While the Columbia River eruptions released 210,000 cubic kilometers of basaltic magma over 1.5 million years, leading to global climate impacts, the researchers concluded, they did not cause mass extinctions such as the one triggered by eruptions over a similar timescale about 250 million years ago that formed the Siberian Traps.
The difference, the research team theorized, is in the geology of the regions. The Columbia River basalt eruptions occurred in igneous crust that contained low levels of organic matter that could be released by hydrothermal heating. Eruptions in the Siberian Traps occurred in organics-rich sedimentary rocks.
While the new findings suggest that similar regional-scale groundwater circulation around dikes is a signature of flood basalt volcanism globally, the researchers noted, the consequences may not always be catastrophic on a broad scale.
In the Columbia River basalts and the likely related Yellowstone hotspot, hydrothermal circulation is manifested as subtle isotopic signals, a depletion of oxygen isotopes, in the rocks, the research team found.

© Phys.org 2003-2020 powered by Science X Network.
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    Green Prophet / July 23, 2020
    Russians make cheese and wine from invasive American weed
    • By Karin Kloosterman
    Ученые Южно-Уральского государственного университета обнаружили, что экстракт инвазивного сорняка череды волосистой (Bidens pilosa) может стать недорогой и доступной альтернативой ферментам, используемым в виноделии и сыроварении.

Like making lemonade from lemons (or fermented lemons which are even better) Russian scientists have found the best way to use an invasive weed brought from America - and called hairy beggarticks or Bidens pilosa officially. Its other names are black-jack, cobbler’s pegs and Spanish needle. The Russians found that the leaves of the plant contain an interesting enzyme, one that could function as a vegan alternative in the food industry to make cheese and wine, they report in the International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research. This plant, like duckweed as a superfood (see the startup GreenOnyx), could be a promising new ingredient that is vegan, kosher and halal.
Eating a Plant-Based Diet
The scientists say that the leaf extract of hairy beggarticks (let’s say it three times: hairy beggarticks, hairy beggarticks, hairy beggarticks!) contains enzymes that speed up fermentation in wine and which help turn milk into cheese, working as a plant-based alternative to the expensive enzymes used in the food industry such as rennet which comes from an animal stomach. Vegans are looking for alternatives to animal based products constantly such as sturgeon or gelatine as wine clarifiers. Remember when Starbucks got called out for putting crushed red beetles in its frappuccinos? That’s what we are talking about.
According to the authors from South Ural State University, the technique they now use with the invasive plant can produce cheaper plant alternatives to expensive enzymes necessary in wine and cheese production. And obviously the vegan alternative is much desired as more people turn to a plant based diet.
"There is a long tradition of using Bidens pilosa as a medicine," says Irina Potoroko from the Russian institute. "Due to its prevalence, its use, in our opinion, is extremely beneficial in winemaking and milk processing, where the Bidens pilosa extract can become an alternative to many food animal enzymes," she said.
In the experiments, the researchers proved that fresh leaves of Bidens pilosa have high protease activity in an acidic buffer pH 4 (8.2567 × 10-7 mM / mg / min) compared to an alkaline buffer pH 10 (5.15 × 10-7 mM / mg / min) at 30 degrees Celsius. The scientists were able to determine the optimal conditions for the enzymatic activity of the leaf extract, which makes it possible to use in various technological processes.
Potoroko believes that it is necessary to continue the research in order to find out which part of the plant (roots, stem, flowers?) has the greatest protease activity, because the research carried out was focused only on fresh leaves.
Bidens pilosa is widespread in the world as a weed imported from America. In Russia, the plant was found in the Far East. Bidens pilosa belongs to the quarantine weeds prohibited for import. Going forward, the scientists want to break down even more parts of the plant, which originated in the U.S. but spread throughout the world as an invasive weed.

© 2020 Green Prophet. All Rights Reserved.
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    The Christian Science Monitor / July 23, 2020
    With Siberia in flames, climate change hits home for Russia
    • By Fred Weir
    Потепление в Сибири в два раза превышает средний мировой уровень, что приводит к экстремальным погодным явлениям и серьезному ухудшению состояния окружающей среды и здоровья населения. Например, обширные лесные пожары этим летом привели к рекордному выбросу в атмосферу углекислого газа - порядка 56 млн тонн, больше, чем годовой выброс некоторых европейских стран. По мнению ученых, это климатическая катастрофа, которая только начинается.

Siberia is burning.
Russia’s enormous but sparsely populated Asian landmass is experiencing record-breaking temperatures, the fifth year in a row it has done so.
But this year has brought unprecedented forest fires that have devastated a territory the size of the state of Washington, and blanketed vast areas with thick air pollution. Cities that have seldom seen summer temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit have been sweltering under a hot season that began a month early this year, and has been consistently delivering daily temperatures several degrees above average.
Scientists say Siberia is warming at twice the global average - leading to extreme weather events, severe environmental deterioration, and serious complications for human habitation. And, they warn, it is a climate catastrophe that might be just beginning.
"If these temperatures repeat themselves next year, the situation on the southern fringe of Siberian forests is going to become critical," says Nadezhda Chebakova, a researcher at the Sukachev Institute of Forest in Krasnoyarsk. "In the long run, something has to be done about the emissions of greenhouse gases."
"Unprecedented" phenomena
The ongoing forest fires are estimated to have so far released 56 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - more than the annual emissions of some midsized European countries. And the toxic haze from the fires has reportedly settled over several towns, aggravating health conditions - and moods - for many inhabitants who are still under obligatory coronavirus lockdown.
Meanwhile, high temperatures are accelerating the melting of Russia’s 17 million square miles of permafrost above the Arctic Circle. That has caused at least one disastrous industrial accident, and threatens the integrity of the entire region’s infrastructure, including pipelines, roads, and housing.
The receding permafrost has exposed copious remains of long-extinct woolly mammoths, frozen for thousands of years beneath the tundra, sparking worries of a new "gold rush" to harvest the prehistoric beasts’ valuable ivory tusks. But the melting earth also threatens to disgorge huge amounts of greenhouse gases, such as methane, that have been locked in the ice throughout human history, threatening incalculable future consequences.
The near-complete disappearance of sea ice off Russia’s northern coast this year has proved an economic boon, with shipping companies predicting that year-round navigation through the once icebound Northeast Passage might soon become possible. For over a decade Russia has been preparing to exploit the vast trove of resources opening up as the Arctic ice pack recedes and has been steadily building infrastructure, including military bases, to promote that effort. But scientists fret that the declining albedo, or reflectivity, of the vanishing ice sheets will only create a negative feedback loop that accelerates the melt-off in coming years.
"These phenomena are unprecedented," says Valentina Khan, deputy director of the Hydrometeorological Research Center of the Russian Federation, part of the national weather service. "What we are witnessing is not just a rate of warming over Siberia and the Arctic that’s two or three times the global average, but changes in atmospheric patterns. There is the likelihood in future of more extreme weather events, which will be greater in their frequency and duration."
"We have been warning about this"
A team of international researchers has concluded that this year’s Siberian heat wave would have been virtually impossible without man-made climate change. It’s a view the Russian government has been slow to accept, but most Russian scientists now admit that it must be deemed a permanent factor.
"What we’ve seen here in central Siberia is an absolutely abnormal April, with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius [86 F], and in general temperatures about 2 degrees above the 100-year average," says Dr. Chebakova. "It’s pretty clear that we are looking at a general warming trend, and 90% of Russian scientists believe it is caused by human activity."
Environmentalists are beside themselves with dread and frustration.
"We have been warning about this for at least two decades, and successive Russian governments have failed to take heed," says Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of Ecodefense, one of Russia’s oldest - and perennially embattled - environmental organizations. "Now it’s happening, and they are still in denial. Of course there is much more reliable information about global warming and the growing environmental catastrophe in the Russian media than there was 10 years ago, and scientists are talking about it more. But we still don’t hear much from government officials.
"What we need to see, urgently, is the creation of an adaptation plan. Two decades ago, we might have concentrated on reducing greenhouse gases. But now we have a warming process that’s well underway, and it’s going to be with us for some time," he says. "For instance, we need proper management of forests, with better fire prevention and firefighting capacities, yet the numbers of people doing these things have been steadily reduced. The main approach in play right now appears to be to wait for autumn, for the rains to come. But what about next year?"
"A lack of official responsibility"
The government’s lack of preparedness became clear at the end of May after melting permafrost caused fuel tanks to rupture at a power station belonging to the huge NorNickel mining and smelting company, near the city of Norilsk in Siberia’s far north. The spill released 20,000 tons of diesel fuel into the soil and nearby rivers, creating what local activists described as an "environmental catastrophe." A few days later, President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency in Norilsk, but the damage to the delicate northern ecosystem seems set to persist for decades.
"The main problem is a lack of official responsibility," says Vassily Yablokov, climate project manager at Greenpeace Russia. "The dangers of melting permafrost have been obvious for years. But big business cares only about maintaining the status quo, exploiting nature in profitable ways. So they never invested in prevention. Then they tried to cover up the accident, and failed to act swiftly to contain the damage. That’s why we can say that the human factor is the key problem here."
Mr. Slivyak of Ecodefense says the reason for the Russian government’s reluctance to face and adapt to the realities of long-term climate change is that it would mean calling into question Russia’s basic economic strategy.
"We have had the same strategy for the past 50 years, which is to ramp up extraction of fossil fuels, mostly for export," he says. "Russian officials may be learning to talk the talk about climate change at international forums, but whenever issues of economic development come up, the chief goals are always more oil, gas, and coal. They are just not ready to accept that without radical adaptations, this is going to get worse, much worse."

© The Christian Science Monitor. All Rights Reserved.
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    Devdiscourse / 27-07-2020
    ExoMars finds new gas signatures in Martian atmosphere
    Российский спектрометрический комплекс, установленный на борту орбитального аппарата Trace Gas Orbiter, впервые обнаружил в атмосфере Марса следы озона и углекислого газа. Две группы планетологов во главе с Александром Трохимовским (Институт космических исследований РАН) и Кевином Олсеном (Оксфордский университет) опубликовали в журнале Astronomy & Astrophysics результаты анализа собранных данных.

ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted new gas signatures at Mars. These are known to unlock new secrets about the Martian atmosphere and will enable a more accurate determination of whether there is methane, a gas associated with biological or geological activity, at the planet. The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) has been studying the Red Planet from orbit for over two years. The mission aims to understand the mixture of gases that make up the Martian atmosphere, with a special focus on the mystery surrounding the presence of methane there.
Meanwhile, the spacecraft has now spotted never-before-seen signatures of ozone (O3) and carbon dioxide (CO2), based on a full Martian year of observations by its sensitive Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ACS). The findings are reported in two new papers published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, one led by Kevin Olsen of the University of Oxford, UK and another led by Alexander Trokhimovskiy of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia.
"These features are both puzzling and surprising. They lie over the exact wavelength range where we expected to see the strongest signs of methane. Before this discovery, the CO2 feature was completely unknown, and this is the first time ozone on Mars has been identified in this part of the infrared wavelength range," said Kevin. The Martian atmosphere is dominated by CO2, which scientists observe to gauge temperatures, track seasons, explore air circulation and more. Ozone - which forms a layer in the upper atmosphere on both Mars and Earth - helps to keep atmospheric chemistry stable. Both CO2 and ozone have been seen at Mars by spacecraft such as ESA's Mars Express, but the exquisite sensitivity of the ACS instrument on TGO was able to reveal new details about how these gases interact with light.
Scientists have mapped how Martian ozone varies with altitude before. So far, however, this has largely taken place via methods that rely upon the gas' signatures in the ultraviolet, a technique which only allows measurement at high altitudes (over 20 km above the surface). The new ACS results show that it is possible to map Martian ozone also in the infrared, so its behaviour can be probed at lower altitudes to build a more detailed view of ozone's role in the planet's climate.
One of the key objectives of TGO is to explore methane. To date, signs of Martian methane - tentatively spied by missions including ESA's Mars Express from orbit and NASA's Curiosity rover on the surface - are variable and somewhat enigmatic. While also generated by geological processes, most of the methane on Earth is produced by life, from bacteria to livestock and human activity. Detecting methane on other planets is, therefore, hugely exciting. This is especially true given that the gas is known to break down in around 400 years, meaning that any methane present must have been produced or released in the relatively recent past.
"Discovering an unforeseen CO2 signature where we hunt for methane is significant. This signature could not be accounted for before and may therefore, have played a role in detections of small amounts of methane at Mars," said Alexander Trokhimovskiy. The observations analysed by Alexander, Kevin and colleagues were mostly performed at different times to those supporting detections of Martian methane. Besides, the TGO data cannot account for large plumes of methane, only smaller amounts - and so, currently, there is no direct disagreement between missions.
"In fact, we're actively working on coordinating measurements with other missions. Rather than disputing any previous claims, this finding is a motivator for all teams to look closer - the more we know, the more deeply and accurately we can explore Mars' atmosphere," said Kevin. Methane aside, the findings highlight just how much we will learn about Mars as a result of the ExoMars programme.
"These findings enable us to build a fuller understanding of our planetary neighbour. Ozone and CO2 are important in Mars' atmosphere. By not accounting for these gases properly, we run the risk of mischaracterising the phenomena or properties we see," said Alexander. Additionally, the surprising discovery of the new CO2 band at Mars, never before observed in the laboratory, provides exciting insight for those studying how molecules interact both with one another and with light - and searching for the unique chemical fingerprints of these interactions in space.
"Together, these two studies take a significant step towards revealing the true characteristics of Mars: towards a new level of accuracy and understanding," said Alexander. As its name suggests, the TGO aims to characterise any trace gases in Mars' atmosphere that could arise from active geological or biological processes on the planet and identify their origin.
The ExoMars programme consists of two missions: TGO, which was launched in 2016 and will be joined by the Rosalind Franklin rover and the Kazachok landing platform, due to lift off in 2022. These will take instruments complementary to ACS to the Martian surface, examining the planet's atmosphere from a different perspective and share the core objective of the ExoMars programme: to search for signs of past or present life on the Red Planet. "These findings are the direct result of hugely successful and ongoing collaboration between European and Russian scientists as part of ExoMars," said ESA TGO Project Scientist Hakan Svedhem.
"They set new standards for future spectral observations and will help us to paint a more complete picture of Mars' atmospheric properties - including where and when there may be methane to be found, which remains a key question in Mars exploration," added Svedhem. "Additionally, these findings will prompt a thorough analysis of all the relevant data we've collected to date - and the prospect of new discovery in this way is, as always, very exciting. Each piece of information revealed by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter marks progress towards a more accurate understanding of Mars, and puts us one step closer to unravelling the planet's lingering mysteries," said Svedhem.

© Copyright 2020.
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    Science / Jul. 28, 2020
    Siberia’s ‘gateway to the underworld’ grows as record heat wave thaws permafrost
    • By Richard Stone
    В результате арктического потепления и таяния вечной мерзлоты Батагайский разлом в Якутии увеличивается с каждым годом, достигая уже 900 метров в ширину. Это дает доступ ученым к образцам самой древней в Евразии открытой вечной мерзлоты возрастом до 650 тысяч лет - и это еще не предел.

On a spring day in 2019, Alexander Kizyakov rappelled down the 60-meter headwall of the Batagay megaslump in eastern Siberia, pausing to chisel out chunks of ice-rich soil that had been frozen for eons. "One of my hobbies is rock climbing," says Kizyakov, a permafrost scientist at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Colleagues below sampled the most ancient soil along the base of the cliff. Such work is too dangerous in summertime, when the constant crackling of melting ice is punctuated by groans as slabs of permafrost, some as big as cars, shear off the headwall.
Known to locals as the "gateway to the underworld," Batagay is the largest thaw slump on the planet. Once just a gully on a slope logged in the 1960s, the scar has expanded year by year, as the permafrost thaws and meltwater carries off the sediment. Now more than 900 meters wide, it epitomizes the vulnerability of permafrost in the Arctic, where temperatures have shot up twice as fast as the global average over the past 30 years.
But it is also a time capsule that is seducing scientists with its snapshots of ancient climates and ecosystems. "It’s a mind-blowing place," says Thomas Opel, a paleoclimatologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute. Dates from ice and soil gathered at Batagay show it holds the oldest exposed permafrost in Eurasia, spanning the past 650,000 years, Opel and colleagues reported in May at the European Geosciences Union’s online general assembly. That record could reveal how permafrost and surface vegetation responded to past warm climates. "It gives us a window into times when permafrost was stable, and times when it was eroding," Opel says.
Global warming is inflicting wounds across Siberia. Outbursts of pent-up methane gas in thawing permafrost have pocked Russia’s desolate Yamal and Gydan peninsulas with holes tens of meters across. Apartment buildings are listing and collapsing on the unsteady ground, causing about $2 billion of damage per year to the Russian economy. Forest fires during the past three summers have torched millions of hectares across Siberia, blanketing the land with dark soot and charcoal that absorb heat and accelerate melting.
Intensifying this year’s fires was a heat wave that baked Siberia for the first half of 2020. On 20 June, the town of Verkhoyansk, just 75 kilometers from Batagay and one of the coldest inhabited places on Earth, reached 38°C, the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic. The record-breaking heat "would have been effectively impossible without human-induced climate change," said the authors of a 15 July study by World Weather Attribution, a collaboration of meteorologists who analyze the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events.
An abiding question is how much carbon the thawing soil will release to the atmosphere, and whether the lusher growth of Arctic plants in the warming climate will absorb enough carbon to offset the release. The Arctic may already have reached a tipping point: Based on observations at 100 field sites, northern permafrost released on average about 600 million tons more carbon than vegetation absorbed each year from 2003 to 2017, scientists estimated in October 2019.
Scientists are venturing to Batagay in annual campaigns to learn what it can say on the matter. Visits, organized by the Institute of Applied Ecology of the North in Yakutsk, are not for the faint of heart. In 2014, Kseniia Ashastina slogged through 3 kilometers of mosquito-infested forest to reach the headwall’s edge. "You hear a lot of cracking noises as you get closer, and all of a sudden there are no trees and you’re standing on an overhang," says Ashastina, a paleobotanist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. She and colleagues from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum lodged with Indigenous Siberians - Evens and Sakha - some of whom fear the megaslump. "They say it’s eating their land, swallowing up the trees and their sacred places," she says.
To learn the age of the exposed permafrost, Opel’s team relies on luminescence dating, which reveals the last time minerals in the soil saw daylight, and a new Russian technique for dating chlorine in the ice. The dates allow them to match soil layers to the known climate record, while abundances of two isotopes trapped in ice wedges, oxygen-18 and deuterium, are proxies for local temperatures. Assaying Batagay’s soil composition should yield insights into how much carbon the permafrost sequestered over the millennia.
The permafrost also holds glimpses of ancient Arctic ecosystems. Sampling trapped plant remains, the team learned that during the last ice age, when winter temperatures plunged even lower than in modern times, the vegetation was surprisingly lush, supporting woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos, and other now-vanished herbivores in a meadow steppe ecosystem. "It was a paradise for the foraging animals," Ashastina says.
Sometimes, the remains of these lost creatures tumble out of the headwall in exquisite condition. In 2018, scientists recovered a young ginger-colored Lena horse (Equus lenensis), an extinct relative of the Yakutian horse, with intact soft tissue. Scientists hope to find a live cell so they can attempt to clone the 42,000-year-old foal. Some of its preserved muscle is particularly promising, says P. Olof Olsson, a molecular biologist with the Abu Dhabi Biotech Research Foundation, which is teaming up on the effort with North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk. "I’m skeptically optimistic," Olsson says. "At least, it’s not impossible."
As the elements carve up more of the Batagay megaslump, it could transport scientists deeper into time. Glaciers scour away soil as they advance, but they largely bypassed Siberia during recent ice ages, leaving the permafrost in some areas hundreds of meters thick. For decades, as the hot summers liquefied its ice-rich soil, Batagay’s headwall advanced about 10 meters per year, says Frank Guenther, a permafrost researcher at the University of Potsdam. Since 2016, he says, that rate has surged to 12 to 14 meters per year. It’s harder to peg how fast the slump is deepening, and thus how much farther back in time the thaw is penetrating. The most ancient permafrost ever dated, from Canada’s Yukon territory, is 740,000 years old. As much as climate watchers may cringe at the thought, several more roasting Siberian summers could push the Batagay megaslump to claim another record.

© 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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    The Barents Observer / July 28, 2020
    Sea ice extent in the Arctic reaches historical low in July
    • By Levon Sevunts
    В июле площадь арктического морского льда достигла рекордно низкого уровня за всю историю спутниковых наблюдений, т.е. с конца 1970-х годов. Сокращение протяженности льда особенно заметно у побережья Сибири.

The Arctic sea ice extent reached a record low in July, shrinking to levels not seen since satellite observation of the region’s ice cover began in the late 1970s, according to an international team of researchers drifting in the Arctic aboard the German research icebreaker, Polarstern.
The sea ice retreat has been especially pronounced off the Siberian coast, leading to a virtually ice-free Northeast Passage by mid-July along nearly all of Russia’s Arctic coastline from the Bering Sea in the east to the Barents Sea in the west, researchers said. The record low ice extent in July followed a scorching month of June when a cell of warm air produced extremely high temperatures in Siberia that seriously impacted the sea ice cover in the Russian Arctic, according to the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, or MOSAiC for short. According to the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), on July 15, Arctic sea ice extent stood at 7.51 million square kilometres, 330,000 square kilometres below the record for July 15, set in 2011.
In the Russian Arctic, roughly 1 million square kilometres less of the ocean is covered with ice in July than in the past seven years, according to MOSAiC. By contrast, ice extent north of Alaska is near the 1981 to 2010 average for this time of year. This year, temperatures on the East Siberian coast were more than 6 C warmer than the long-term average in May and June, according to MOSAiC.
In June, this warming also led to intensified sea ice retreat in the Laptev Sea, a phenomenon that spread to the East Siberian Sea in early July. By mid-July this had progressed to such an extent that the Northeast Passage was completely open for the first time in 2020. Since the beginning of July, a high-pressure cell has settled over the East Siberian and Chukchi Seas, accompanied by unusually warm temperatures - up to 10 C above average - over the Central Arctic.
"Introducing so much warmth into the system so early in the year has accelerated the melting of the ice," said in a statement MOSAiC expedition sea ice physicist Marcel Nicolaus from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).
"This has also been worsened by the low albedo at this time of year, when the sun sits high in the sky during the Polar Day, producing an especially pronounced feedback."
"Melting in full swing"
Gunnar Spreen from the Institute of Environmental Physics at the University of Bremen and a member of the sea ice team on the MOSAiC expedition said it’s still too soon to say whether this trend will continue until the yearly minimum in September, since it is largely dependent on weather conditions.
Nicolaus, who like Spreen is currently in quarantine in preparation for the last cruise leg of the MOSAiC expedition, said he can’t wait to start analyzing the expedition’s extensive field data.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that the melting has been consistently monitored up to the point at which the ice completely disappears."Marcel Nicolaus, sea ice physicist
Meanwhile, the Polarstern is currently in the Fram Strait between Svalbard and Greenland.
Markus Rex, leader of the MOSAiC Project and an atmospheric physicist at the AWI in Potsdam, said while Polarstern remains firmly encased in ice, all the ice around their ice floe has long-since broken up or been ground into fragments.
"Today we measured a balmy 14 C 300 metres above the floe, and the melting is in full swing. For the last phase of MOSAiC, our focus will be on the freezing phase: the last piece of the puzzle in our observations of the Arctic’s annual cycle."Markus Rex, leader of the MOSAiC Project
Polarstern is expected to move further north in mid-August for the last leg of its expedition, once it completes its resupply and the turnover of the research team and the vessel crew, he added.

© 2002-2020.
* * *
    Smithsonian / July 29, 2020
    Woolly Mammoth Skeleton With Intact Ligaments Found in Siberian Lake
    Part of the extinct animal’s foot was recovered from the water with well-preserved, millennia-old soft tissue.
    • By Alex Fox
    В ямальском озере Печевалавато обнаружили хорошо сохранившиеся кости мамонта возрастом не менее 10 тысяч лет. Ученые не исключают, что на дне озера может оказаться остальная часть скелета.

Reindeer herders in northern Siberia have discovered the skeleton of a woolly mammoth whose ligaments remain intact at least 10,000 years after its death, reports the Associated Press.
Scientists pulled parts of the mammoth’s skull, ribs and foot - some still held together by soft tissue - from the muck of Pechevalavato Lake in the Yamalo-Nenets district of Russia on July 23, according to Reuters. The team is currently searching the site in hopes of uncovering more of the region’s extinct fauna.
Based on initial findings, "the whole skeleton is there," Dmitry Frolov, director of the Arctic Research Centre, tells the Siberian Times Anna Liesowska, who was the first to report on the discovery. "Judging by the pictures this was a young mammoth, but we’ll have to wait for tests to give the exact age."
The mammoth - documented in Siberian Times photographs of a foot’s well-preserved soft tissue, as well as enormous bones strewn on the lake’s shores - is the latest prehistoric creature to emerge from the region’s rapidly thawing permafrost after spending millennia locked in frozen soil. In recent years, researchers have identified a 42,000-year-old foal with no signs of external damage, a 32,000-year-old wolf head and an extinct cave lion cub, among other stunningly well-preserved finds.
Last month, a historic heatwave struck Siberia with temperatures of up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit above average, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The region has experienced wild temperature swings before - from 90 below zero in winter to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in summer - and thanks to human-driven climate change, blistering heat waves are becoming increasingly likely.
Rising temperatures and melting permafrost have even spawned an illicit industry: bone hunting. As Andrew Roth reported for the Guardian in 2019, hunters and prospectors have been digging and even diving for ancient ivory tusks loosened from the permafrost’s grip, creating a market worth an estimated $50 million each year.
Mammoths went extinct some 10,000 years ago, per the AP, but scientists suspect that small groups in Alaska and Wrangel Island (off the coast of Siberia) may have persisted for slightly longer. This means the newly discovered remains are at least 10,000 years old. Researchers have previously found mammoth fossils dated to around 30,000 years ago, according to Reuters.
Yevgeniya Khozyainova, a paleontologist at the Shemanovsky Institute in Salekhard, tells Reuters that the team hopes to find more of the mammoth’s skeleton.
"Whenever there is soft tissue left behind, it is valuable material to study," she explains.
Even if the rest of the animal’s skeleton is hidden nearby, researchers say it will take significant time and special equipment to recover, reports the AP.
In a television interview quoted by the news agency, Khozyainova notes that complete mammoth skeletons are rare. Still, she adds, such a find could deepen scientists’ understanding of these ancient beasts.

© 2020 Smithsonian Magazine.
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