|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Из-за аномально теплой зимы и жаркой весны в российской Арктике высок риск возобновления так называемых торфяных «зомби-пожаров», когда тление в глубине почв может продолжаться неопределенно долгое время - вплоть до нескольких лет, то уходя под землю, то снова вспыхивая. Такие пожары могут вызвать таяние вечной мерзлоты, что приведет к выбросу углекислого газа и метана в атмосферу, к повреждению ледяного покрова и повышению уровня моря.
Early wildfires caused by a historically warm and snowless winter have ignited concerns of "zombie" fires re-emerging across the Russian Arctic, scientists and activists have said.
European climate scientists said Wednesday that satellite images "hinted" at remnants of last year’s blazes returning to the Arctic Circle. Ground measurements across last summer’s wildfire hotspots are needed to confirm the "zombie" fire phenomenon, the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) said.
"This year has seen an unusually large number of overwintering peat fires," Grigory Kuksin, the head of Greenpeace Russia’s firefighting program, told The Moscow Times. Embers deep in organic soils such as peat lands can spark into flames weeks, months and even years later - lending them the "zombie" moniker. "Some have indeed survived in Russia’s abnormally snowless winter," Kuksin said.
The risk of wildfires increases with hot weather and low humidity, and Europe in particular has seen record temperatures for March and April this year, according to CAMS. Western Siberia, for example, has experienced temperatures up to 6 degrees Celsius above average since January. The weather anomaly picks up from 2019, which forecasters declared as the hottest year on record in Russia. Greenpeace Russia has said that the dry, warm winter caused the wildfires to start a month earlier than usual, and warned that they could become the most destructive this century.
The "zombie" fires are "an alarming phenomenon, simply because such an abnormal winter creates very dangerous conditions," Kuksin told The Moscow Times. Scientists fear that the blazes may trigger a permafrost melt that could release mass amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as well as glacier damage, sea level rise and methane gas release, CAMS said.
Climate change is heating Russia at a rate more than twice the global average, thawing what was once permanently frozen ground in the Arctic tundra. Russia, the world’s fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter with an economy heavily dependent on oil and gas, has been slow to take steps to curb its carbon emissions. Kuksin called the estimated 5 million acres of wildfires that burned in the spring of 2020 a "minimal amount" compared with past averages. As of Friday, almost three dozen blazes raged across more than 35,000 acres in 10 Siberian and Far Eastern regions. Kuksin said emergency crews and volunteers have so far been able to bring the man-made blazes under control.
Last year’s wildfires in Siberia burned across an area the size of Belgium at their peak and emitted the equivalent of Sweden’s total annual carbon dioxide emissions in one month alone. Russia, Greenland, Canada and Alaska were the hotbeds of last summer’s wildfires, said Mark Parrington, a CAMS senior scientist and wildfire expert. If ground measurements confirm "zombie" fires in 2020, Parrington said "we may see a cumulative effect of last year’s fire season in the Arctic." That effect, he noted, will "feed into the upcoming season and could lead to large-scale and long-term fires across the same region once again."
The "zombie" fires are also migrating from their usual locations in European Russia, Greenpeace Russia’s Kuksin explained. "These year-round fires do appear in more unusual places with climate change each year, where it hadn’t burned or where it was too cold or wet. We’re seeing more of these fires, for example, in northwest Russia," Kuksin told The Moscow Times. Kuksin warned that Siberia’s wildfires will pick back up this weekend and peak, especially in parts of northern Russia, in July. "If forecasters are correct and this will be a hot summer, then large areas of Siberia and the Far East will likely burn again this year," he said. "Plus, we observe that the fires move further north into the Arctic each year and we’ve been seeing fires above the Arctic Circle in recent years," Kuksin told The Moscow Times.
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Nunatsiaq News / 1 June 202
Russian researchers carry out census of Arctic’s freshwater mollusks
Of the 104 species, 39 live in the North American Arctic.
Российские исследователи из Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета провели перепись арктических пресноводных моллюсков - впервые с 1887 года. Всего обнаружилось 104 вида, причем ни один из них не проживает исключительно за Полярным кругом - все моллюски когда-то перебрались туда с более низких широт.
What are small, hardy and can be found all over the circumpolar world? That’s not a riddle, but rather the answer lies in the subject of new serious study by Russian researchers - freshwater mollusks.
Researchers at the St. Petersburg University Laboratory of Macroecology and Biogeography of Invertebrates have come up with a new list of freshwater mollusks that live in rivers and lakes around the circumpolar region. It’s the first such census since an outdated one from the 1800s on these mollusks, which include snails, clams and mussels, and usually have a shell.
The researchers registered 104 species of these creatures living in waters within the Arctic Circle, 39 of which live in the North American Arctic.
In a recent paper in Hydrobiologia: the International Journal of Aquatic Science, they said they found all the mollusks originally came from the lower latitudes. This, they suggested, is due to repeated periods of glaciation in the Arctic, from about 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago, which prevented the mollusks from spreading north. But not every freshwater mollusk can survive above the Arctic Circle: it helps to be a hermaphrodite, able to hitchhike to new habitats with birds and built to survive under ice, they said.
"Above all, it is their hermaphroditism, thanks to which any one of them can, when their numbers are limited, mate with any other member of the population, or even to fertilize oneself," Maxim Vinarski, the head of the Laboratory of Macroecology and Biogeography of Invertebrates at St Petersburg University, said in a recent university news release. "Another useful trait is that they can travel by air, for example, with birds, being attached to their feathers or legs. Beyond that, the short life cycle of Arctic mollusks helps them to breed quickly and form sustainable populations in northern waters."
Some freshwater mollusks are even able to fasten onto the legs of aquatic insects. And they can also overwinter, frozen into ice. Among the Arctic mollusks, only three have a conservation status of minimal concern, and resident species are widespread and abundant, the researchers said. For now, the number of non-alien species in the circumpolar freshwater system remains low, they found. But that could change, they said.
"Because of warming in the Arctic, animal species that used to live in less harsh conditions have begun to filter into the region. And, with the global climate changes, we can already conclude that at least three species of snails and bivalves will be able to extend their habitats into the extreme North," Vinarski said. "This might have an unpredictable effect on the indigenous ecosystems - it could, for instance, oust the native species of mollusks."
It is also possible that parasitic diseases may move north, and many freshwater mollusks could become the hosts of parasitic worms, he said. "Up until now, the effect of alien species on the Arctic freshwater communities has been minimal, but in the next few decades the situation could change," he said.
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В Норильске после утечки в ближайшую реку 20 000 тонн топлива с электростанции объявлено чрезвычайное положение. Экологи назвали ущерб «катастрофическим», а Росприроднадзор сообщил, что концентрация отравляющих веществ в окрестных водоемах уже превысила допустимые уровни в десятки тысяч раз.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a state of emergency in the Siberian city of Norilsk, after 20,000 tons of fuel spilled into a nearby river from a power station.
An environmental group has described the damage as "catastrophic," and the concentration of contaminants in nearby waters has already exceeded permissible levels tens of thousands of times over, according to Russian environmental agency Rosprirodnadzor.
The power station's employees originally tried to contain the spill on their own and did not report the incident to emergency services for two days, head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Evgeny Zinichev said during a Wednesday meeting chaired by Putin and shown on national television.
"So what, we are going to learn about emergencies from social media now? Are you okay over there?" Putin said, chiding Krasnoyarsk governor, Alexander Uss and managers of the Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Company, which operates the station, for a delayed response after local authorities learned about the spill from social media.
The Investigative Committee, Russia's top law enforcement body, said Tuesday a criminal probe had been launched into 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilling into a Norilsk river following "unexplained decompression" of a storage tank.
Nornickel, the energy company's parent, said the foundation of the storage tank possibly sank due to thawing permafrost, highlighting the dangers increasingly warming temperatures pose to Arctic infrastructure and ecosystems, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
"Right now we can assume... that due to abnormally mild summer temperatures recorded in the past years, permafrost could have melted and the pillars under the platform could have sank," said Nornickel chief operating officer, Sergey Dyachenko, according to the TASS news agency.
Northern Asia, especially above the Arctic Circle in Siberia, has seen the most above-normal temperatures on the planet so far in 2020. Through the first four months of the year, the region has seen temperatures more than 4 degrees Celsius above normal on average.
The Arctic region is warming, on average, twice as fast as the rest of the planet, as a consequence of global warming, scientists say.
The local authorities said the spill might take weeks to start a clean up as the region lacks expertise in utilizing such amounts of fuel, the river is not navigable and there are no roads surrounding it. Additional groups of experts are being deployed from other regions following the state of emergency.
"The incident led to catastrophic consequences and we will be seeing the repercussions for years to come," Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects of Russia's WWF branch, said in a statement. "We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds, and poisoned animals."
Norilsk has been historically among one of the world's most polluted cities. According to a 2018 NASA study based on satellite data, Norilsk tops the list for worst sulphur dioxide pollution, spewing 1.9 million tons of the gas over the Arctic tundra.
© 2020 Cable News Network.Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Разлив дизельного топлива в Норильске может оказаться крупнейшей экологической катастрофой в Арктике с 1989 года, когда в результате крушения американского танкера «Эксон Валдиз» у побережья Аляски вылилось 287 000 тонн нефти. Хотя дизельного топлива разлилось гораздо меньше, оно намного токсичнее, чем сырая нефть.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a state of emergency Wednesday in the Taymyr region near the Arctic Ocean, after 20,000 tons (150,000 barrels) of diesel fuel spilled from a Russian power plant into surrounding soil and a nearby river. The accident occurred in the Siberian city of Norilsk on Friday May 29, after the plant’s fuel reservoir collapsed into thawing permafrost, releasing its contents. Diesel is more toxic than unrefined crude oil, meaning more danger for cleanup crews and the surrounding ecosystem.
In a conversation with Putin, Governor of the region Alexander Uss admitted that authorities only reacted to the situation two days after the incident, stating that experts initially assured him that there was no danger of pollution. "Only after the appearance of disturbing images on social media and persistent questions, the real picture of the incident became known to officials on Sunday morning" said Uss. The head of the Ministry of Emergencies, Yevgeny Zinichev, confirmed that his department learned about the incident only on May 31.
Putin criticized the ownership of the NTEC power and heating plant in a televised video conference for their slow reaction to the emergency: "Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Is there something wrong with you?" Putin asked of NTEC chief Sergei Lipin in an unusually stern dressing-down.
Following the meeting, Putin instructed law enforcement agencies to investigate why the information about the accident was delayed.
The Ministry of Natural Resources said that regional authorities would not be able to handle the spill in Norilsk on their own and would require assistance from the Ministry of Emergencies with the involvement of the army. Putin made the declaration of federal support shortly thereafter.
In terms of environmental impact, initial assessments appear dire. The concentrations of oil pollutants in the water near Norilsk are tens of thousands of times more than the normal limit, according to the head of Rosprirodnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources). Thus far, the diesel oil has spilled over a distance of 20 kilometers, causing $13 million in damages, and counting. Regarding cleanup, authorities are saying that diesel can only be completely removed through burning or natural evaporation - both terrible options for the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem. In the meantime, a total of 262 tons of diesel fuel has been collected near the power plant, a total of 800 cubic meters of contaminated soil has been removed and approximately 80 tons of fuel has been collected from the spill to Ambarnaya river."
Greenpeace is calling the Norilsk event the worst spill in the history of the Arctic, comparing it to the Exxon Valdez tanker which spewed 287,000 metric tons of oil off the coast of Alaska in 1989. Of course, the Norilsk spill is just a fraction of this volume, but the location of the incident and toxicity of its contents make the potential for environmental harm incredibly high.
Melting permafrost, which in this case caused the support beams of the diesel reservoir to collapse, is a troubling and widespread phenomenon in the world’s coldest regions. As the earth warms, once frozen soil begins to melt, turning terrain into thick mud and destroying any infrastructure built atop the soil. Thawing permafrost also releases tremendous amounts of heat-trapping methane gas into the atmosphere, accelerating the global warming process. According to experts, some 2.5 million square miles of permafrost - 40% of the world’s total - could disappear by the end of the century.
Russia, until recently a global warming skeptic, is discovering the hard way what climate change could mean for its future. Tens of thousands of miles of roads and pipelines that criss-cross the Arctic are now in jeopardy. Moscow has no technical capabilities, technology, or money to secure this vital infrastructure and protect the environment.
The Norilsk disaster may portend a bleak road ahead for the world’s largest Arctic power.
© 2020 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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В состав железных метеоритов входят редкие фосфиды железа и никеля, в том числе высокобарическая форма Fe2P - аллабогданит, считавшийся до последнего времени индикатором высоких давлений при образовании метеоритов. Ученые Института физики высоких давлений им. Л.Ф.Верещагина РАН, Института геологии и минералогии им. В.С.Соболева СО РАН, Института ядерной физики им. Г.И.Будкера СО РАН и НГУ экспериментально установили, что аллабогданит может быть фазой не высоких, а атмосферных давлений. Полученные данные помогут специалистам в дальнейшем изучении природы метеоритов.
Scientists from Russia conducted a research, which established how the Solar system formed iron meteorites. Part of celestial bodies was formed not as a result of shock pressures, and the flow of other processes.
The new discovery belongs to a group of Russian specialists. Scientists from Russia have set the task to determine how the formed iron meteorites, the conditions of birth which differed from the previously recognized. You know, these objects inherently represent fragments of cores of planetesimals. These space objects were formed in the young Solar system from the primitive substance, which she was full. Distinguished by their presence in the composition of rare phosphides of iron and nickel. In addition, included in the list of substances and elaborant. To obtain it experimentally has managed only under extreme conditions - at a temperature of 1400° and a pressure of close to 80 thousand atmospheres. While previously it was thought that iron meteorites, in which no traces of the shock-melt lived and deformation structures, but there were elaborant, could be formed only in the core planetesimal. The pressure at the center of such entities does not exceed 50 thousand atmospheres, but the size of the bodies had to exceed the moon.
Working with constituents, including phosphorus, iron and other elements, including the phosphides of synthetic origin, scientists have studied samples in the laboratory using an electronic microscope. It is possible to establish that elaborant not in all cases associated with a phase of a high pressure impact force. The obtained data indicate that iron meteorites could arise in a much smaller planetesimal.
Copyright © 2020 The Times Hub. All Rights Reserved.
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Phys.Org / June 5, 2020
Scientists demonstrate ion implantation advantages for the use of silicon in optoelectronics
Кремний является хорошим приемником света, но плохим излучателем, что препятствует его использованию в оптоэлетронике. Одним из способов решения проблемы является введение в кремний линейных дефектов путем облучения поверхностного слоя ионами кремния с последующим отжигом при высоких температурах, после чего кремний начинает излучать свет на нужной длине волны.
Исследователи из Научно-исследовательского физико-технического института Университета Лобачевского обнаружили, что дополнительное ионное легирование бором способно усиливать люминесценцию и повышать ее термостойкость, а также вычислили, при каких условиях эффект становится наиболее выражен.
Silicon is the main material in electronic engineering. All information and computing technologies that play a key role in modern civilization are based on silicon: computers, communications, astronautics, biomedicine, robotics and much more.
According to Alexey Mikhaylov, Head of the laboratory at the Lobachevsky University's Research Institute for Physics and Technology, the main stumbling block on the way to increasing the speed of integrated circuits is the limited speed of electrical signal propagation in metal interconnection wiring. "This requires the replacement of metal interconnections with optical waveguides and, thus, the transition from traditional electronics to optoelectronics, where the active elements are light emitters and receivers rather than transistors," says Alexey Mikhaylov.
Silicon shows satisfactory performance as a light receiver, but, unlike A3B5 semiconductors, is a poor light emitter because of an indirect bandgap of this semiconductor. This feature of its electronic structure, according to the laws of quantum mechanics, strictly speaking, prohibits the emission of light (luminescence) under external excitation.
"It would be very undesirable to refuse from silicon at a new stage, as we would have to abandon the perfectly developed technology for mass production of integrated circuits. This would involve huge material costs, not to mention the environmental problems that arise when working with A3B5 materials," states Professor David Tetelbaum, Leading Researcher at Lobachevsky University.
Scientists are trying to find a way out of this situation by either using nanocrystalline silicon, or by coating silicon with films of other light-emitting materials. However, the emissivity (luminescence efficiency) of silicon nanocrystals is still insufficient for practical applications.
Besides, silicon nanocrystals emit in the area at the "red" edge of visible radiation, while many technical applications, in particular in fiber optics communication technology, require longer wavelengths (about 1.5 μm). The use of "foreign" material layers on silicon substrates, however, is poorly compatible with the traditional silicon technology.
An effective way to solve this problem is to introduce in silicon a special type of linear defects known as dislocations. Researchers have come to the conclusion that a high concentration of dislocations can be achieved in the silicon surface layer by irradiating it with silicon ions with the energy of the order of a hundred keV and then annealing it at high temperatures. In this case, silicon emits light at exactly the right wavelength - close to 1.5 μm.
"The luminescence intensity appears to depend on the implantation and annealing conditions. However, the main problem with dislocation-related luminescence is that it is most pronounced at low temperatures (below ~25 K) and decays quickly as the temperature rises. Therefore, it is very important to find ways to increase the thermal stability of dislocation-related luminescence," continues Alexey Mikhaylov.
Lobachevsky University scientists together with their colleagues from the RAS Institute of Solid State Physics (Chernogolovka) and the Alekseev State Technical University (Nizhny Novgorod) have made significant headway in solving this problem with the support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (grant No.17-02-01070).
Previously, it was found that one way to achieve dislocation-related photoluminescence in silicon samples is to implant silicon ions into silicon (self-implantation) with subsequent annealing. This proved to be not the only benefit of the implantation technology, when the team of Lobachevsky University discovered that additional boron ion doping can enhance the luminescence. However, the phenomenon of enhanced luminescence properties alone does not solve the main problem. Moreover, it remained unclear how boron ion doping affects the luminescence thermal stability, which is a key parameter, and under what conditions (if any) such effect will be most pronounced.
In this study, scientists have confirmed experimentally the increase in thermal stability of silicon doped with boron ions. Moreover, the effect is nonmonotonically dependent on the boron dose, and in a certain range of doses, a pronounced second maximum in the region of 90 to 100 K appears on the intensity versus temperature curve, along with the usual low-temperature maximum in the region of 20 K.
"It is important to note that the "beneficial" effect of boron is unique in the sense that the replacement of boron ions by another acceptor impurity does not lead to the effect described above. After refining the modes of boron ion doping and heat treatment of silicon samples where centers of dislocation-related luminescence were formed by irradiation with silicon ions, we have found that with the highest previously used dose of boron ions and an additional heat treatment at 830° C, it is possible to achieve a measurable level of luminescence at room temperature," concludes Professor Tetelbaum.
The results obtained during further optimization of the implantation and heat treatment conditions brighten up the prospects for silicon application in optoelectronics.
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Два новых исследования с участием российских ученых проливают свет на то, кто и каким образом мигрировал в древности из Сибири в Северную Америку. В первом исследовании ученые секвенировали полные геномы 34 человек, живших в Берингии от 600 до почти 32000 лет назад. Получилось, что предки американских индейцев отделились от этих древних сибиряков около 24000 лет назад. Второе исследование представляет собой попытку проследить генетическую историю палеоэскимосов, обосновавшихся на Аляске примерно 5000 лет назад, и их связи с современными народами Арктики.
Indigenous Americans, who include Alaska Natives, Canadian First Nations, and Native Americans, descend from humans who crossed an ancient land bridge connecting Siberia in Russia to Alaska tens of thousands of years ago. But scientists are unclear when and where these early migrants moved from place to place. Two new studies shed light on this mystery and uncover the most closely related Native American ancestor outside North America.
In the first study, researchers led by Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen, sequenced the whole genomes of 34 individuals who lived in Siberia, the land bridge Beringia, and Alaska from 600 to nearly 32,000 years ago. The oldest individuals in the sample - two men who lived in far northern Siberia - represent the earliest known humans from that part of the world. There are no direct genetic traces of these men in any of the other groups the team surveyed, suggesting their culture likely died out about 23,000 years ago when the region became too cold to be inhabitable.
Elsewhere on the Eurasian continent, however, a group arose that would eventually move into Siberia, splinter, and cross Beringia into North America, the DNA analysis reveals. A woman known as Kolyma1, who lived in northeastern Siberia about 10,000 years ago, shares about two-thirds of her genome with living Native Americans. "It’s the closest we have ever gotten to a Native American ancestor outside the Americas," Willerslev says. Still, notes Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks who was not involved with the work, the relation is nevertheless distant.
Based on the time it would have taken for key mutations to pop up, the ancestors of today’s Native Americans splintered off from these ancient Siberians about 24,000 years ago, roughly matching up with previous archaeological and genetic evidence for when the peopling of the Americas occurred, the team reports today in Nature.
Additional DNA evidence suggests a third wave of migrants, the Neo-Siberians, moved into northeastern Siberia from the south sometime after 10,000 years ago. These migrants mixed with the ancient Siberians, planting the genetic roots of many of the area’s present-day populations.
The results are exciting, if a bit unsurprising, says Connie Mulligan, an anthropologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. "To me, it makes total sense that there were a lot of populations migrating through the region and replacing each other, with some of them moving into the Americas."
In the second study, led by biologist Pavel Flegontov at the University of Ostrava in the Czech Republic and also appearing today in Nature, Potter and colleagues attempt to uncover the roots of a genetic family known to scientists as Paleo-Eskimos (although this term is disputed by Indigenous groups themselves). Archaeological records suggest the ancestors of these individuals moved into modern-day Alaska and the Canadian Arctic about 5000 years ago, but how they relate to modern groups remains a mystery.
The scientists analyzed the genomes of 48 ancient individuals from sites in the North American Arctic and Siberia dating from between about 7000 to 300 years ago. They then compared their DNA to those of other modern and ancient Indigenous people across northern North America and looked for patterns in shared ancestry and language families.
Paleo-Eskimos originating in Siberia crossed Beringia about 5000 years ago, mixing with indigenous Americans from a previous wave of Siberian migrants, as well as a much later lineage called Neo-Eskimos, the team concludes. This tangled family tree underpins the ancestry of modern speakers of indigenous Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut languages.
Based on the DNA analysis, the group that gave rise to Kolyma1 identified by Willerslev’s team may be the ancestors, or very close relations, of the Paleo-Eskimos. "[They are] in the right spot to be ancestors, or related in some way, to the Paleo-Eskimos that expanded into North America around 5000 years ago," Potter says. "It fits together really nicely."
© 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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Роскосмос отказался от предложенного NASA соглашения Artemis Accords, регулирующего процесс исследования Луны странами и частными компаниями, поскольку это соглашение, разрешает вести коммерческую деятельность на поверхности Луны, в частности, добывать ресурсы. Автор статьи полагает, что вместо категорического отказа следует начать переговоры с участниками соглашения, поскольку в сложившейся ситуации (появление у США собственного многоразового корабля для отправки космонавтов на МКС и сокращение бюджета российской космической программы почти в три раза) самостоятельная реализация космических планов России может оказаться как минимум проблематичной.
The Russian News Agency TASS recently quoted Dmitry Rogozin, the CEO of Russia's Roscosmos State Space Agency, as rejecting the idea of commercial operations on the moon. He stated on the Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station, "We will not, in any case, accept any attempts to privatize the Moon. It is illegal, it runs counter to international law."
The statement is seen as a rejection of the proposed Artemis Accords, a set of ground rules for behavior of how nations and private entities should explore the moon. The accords, based on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, would, among other things, allow for commercial operations on the lunar surface, particularly the mining of resources. The accords would create international acceptance of a recent American law that allows private companies to retain ownership of resources that they extract.
For the simple reason that the Russian space program is dependent on the support and good will of NASA, Rogozin might want to rethink his rejection of the Artemis Accords.
The Russian space program is about to lose a lucrative revenue source thanks to the success of NASA’s Commercial Crew program. Since the end of the space shuttle, NASA has had to pay increasing amounts of money to Russia for its astronauts to travel to and from the International Space Station. The arrangement not only gave the Russian space program a lot of money, it also gave Russia de facto control over access to the ISS.
A few years ago, Rogozin reminded the United States of Russia’s control over the orbiting space lab when, facing sanctions because of Russian military involvement in Ukraine, he observed that "I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline."
Now NASA has that trampoline, courtesy of SpaceX’s Elon Musk. In the meantime, as Axios recently pointed out, the Russian space program has seen better days. The loss of NASA money is going to hurt. The Russian space program’s budget has declined from $5 billion a year to about $1.7 billion a year. Brave plans to land robotic probes on the moon or build the long-delayed replacement for the venerable Soyuz seem problematic at best in that fiscal environment.
Clearly, under the current circumstances, if Russia rejects the Artemis Accords and hence a partnership with NASA, its options are severely limited. With few resources, its space program cannot go it alone. Russia will need other partners. But which ones?
Most of the possible partners for an independent Russian space effort are more likely to align themselves with NASA and its commercial partners. NASA and companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin have the resources to return to the moon and go on to Mars. European and most Asian countries are going to want in on that action and will not find the Artemis Accords irksome in the least.
That leaves China, the only other country besides the United States with the means of mounting human voyages to the moon. However, if Beijing’s recent actions concerning the coronavirus pandemic prove anything, it is that it does not play well with others. Russia would be a decidedly junior partner in any Beijing-Moscow space axis.
Russia knows that the United States is a good space partner because it already has almost 30 years of experience with NASA helping to run the ISS. All things considered, if Russia wants to participate in humankind’s exploration and development of space, NASA is the only option available.
What Rogozin is really rejecting when he rejects the Artemis Accords is the rule of law beyond the domain of Earth. Instead of claiming that Russia will not accept "any attempts to privatize the Moon," Russia should join in negotiations with the United States and other countries to ensure that the expansion of the human race into space will happen in peace and freedom. Russia could only benefit from sharing the opportunities for wealth and knowledge that are there for the taking on the moon, Mars and beyond.
© 2020 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp.
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Астрофизики из России, Германии, Финляндии и США изучили более 300 квазаров - вращающихся черных дыр, из которых бьют раскаленные струи плазмы - джеты. Оказалось, что при удалении от центра джеты меняют свою форму от параболической к конической, напоминая джинсы-клеш. Определив размер «штанов», ученые смогут вычислить, как формируется и разгоняется вещество в активных галактиках.
Researchers from Russia, Germany, Finland and the U.S. have studied more than 300 quasars - spinning black holes that produce beams of plasma. The team has found that the shape of these so-called astrophysical jets changes from parabolic to conical at some distance from the black hole, reminiscent of the iconic flared jeans of the '70s. By effectively measuring these "cosmic pants," the researchers aim to interpret the workings of the central engine that accelerates matter to nearly the speed of light at the centers of remote active galaxies. The study is reported in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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Beacons of the universe
Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe, despite being billions of light years away from the Earth. They are sometimes called beacons, and what they help us navigate is not only the remote cosmic past and intricate structure of the universe, but our own planet, too. Because they are so remote, quasars can be used as stable reference points in the sky for measuring the Earth's rotation and the coordinates of objects on the planet's surface. This principle underlies GPS, GLONASS, and other positioning systems.
A quasar is so bright it can be discerned from an enormous distance. Shown in figure 1, it hosts a spinning supermassive black hole that weighs up to several billion times as much as our sun. Matter around the black hole falls onto it, carrying a magnetic field. The field lines are akin to wires with charged particles strung on them like beads. Figure 2 illustrates that as the magnetic field lines rotate, plasma accelerates to nearly the speed of light. The resulting outflows are called astrophysical jets, and it is because of them that quasars are such dazzling objects.
Reaching for the sky
Astronomers have previously thought that almost every jet is shaped like a narrow cone, expanding sideways after it leaves the black hole region.
After observing hundreds of quasars for two decades via a network of radio telescopes scattered around the globe, the authors of the new study have challenged this assumption. They produced images of over 300 quasar jets monitored by the MOJAVE program and ran an automated analysis of their shapes. As a result, the team discovered 10 quasars with parabola-shaped jets evolving into cones. This transformation could be discerned owing to the relative proximity of the quasars involved: Each of the 10 turned out to lie "mere" millions of light years away. The "bootleg flaring" occurred at a distance of roughly several dozen light years from the black hole.
"The mechanism behind the formation and acceleration of jets in remote active galaxies has not been fully understood so far, yet it is crucial that we figure out how these cosmic accelerators work," said Professor Yuri Kovalev from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"The region where jets originate is difficult to discern. It is very compact, and the distance to these objects is so great that everything blurs together. So while multiple theoretical models were available, there were no observational data to test them against. Our study is the first to report the detailed geometry of jets based on observations of large numbers of quasars," the astrophysicist added.
Comprehending the unseen
The geometry of the jet results from an intricate interplay between the internal and external forces, the magnetic field, the plasma, and the interstellar gas. The astrophysicists found an elegant way to account for these factors. A central engine consisting of a spinning black hole and a magnetic field provides a limited power supply and cannot push particles to higher and higher velocities indefinitely, just like a rocket engine. It was known before that plasma speeds up easily only up to a certain point. After that the acceleration is so slow it effectively stops. It is at this point that the pants flare.
"Earlier studies pointed to the shift in quasar jet shape observed in a few galaxies. However, they did not draw the conclusion that it was a property of all quasars rather than the individual objects concerned. We have pinned this effect on the internal characteristics of jets, and that explanation turned out to be neat and intuitive," commented Dr. Elena Nokhrina from MIPT.
Scientists now have a new way to evaluate the speed of black hole rotation and make sense of the mechanism behind the formation of the incredibly focused and rapid jets of plasma in quasars, which are so bright they are visible from billions of light years away.
EurekAlert / 8-Jun-2020
New light for plants
Scientists: Use of glass-ceramics in greenhouse lamps will facilitate plants' growth.
Ученые ИТМО и Томского политехнического университета предложили использовать в теплицах источники света из стеклокерамики с добавлением хрома: такие лампы излучают одновременно красный и инфракрасный свет, что положительно влияет на рост растений.
Many may have seen bright pink light in some windows - it comes from special lamps that are used for providing sufficient lighting to house plants. Similar lamps are also used by farmers in greenhouses. Still, specialists in photophysiology argue that such lamps do not provide all the light that plants need. Scientists from ITMO in collaboration with their colleagues from Tomsk Polytechnic University came up with an idea to create light sources from ceramics with the addition of chrome: the light from such lamps offers not just red but also infrared (IR) light, which is expected to have a positive effect on plants' growth. The research was completed as part of a Russian Science Foundation grant, and the results were published in Optical Materials.
Growing vegetables, fruit and berries in huge greenhouses rather than in the open is becoming more and more common. In such facilities, plants are protected from hail, droughts and chill. Then again, farmers have to compensate for the lack of natural sunlight in such greenhouses. Advanced agricultural facilities use light diodes for this purpose: they consume little energy, give bright light and can be easily set up in a greenhouse. The light they emit is pink, which is produced by simultaneous use of blue and red diodes.
"Scientists found out that such lighting isn't optimal," says Anastasia Babkina, a lab assistant at the Faculty of Photonics and Optical Information. "Thing is, a red diode lights in the range of about 650 nanometers, and its spectrum is very narrow, similar to that of a laser. Plants, however, absorb red and IR light better in the range that's a bit more than 650 nanometers, which people can barely see. So you see, this means that we use the light that's more comfortable for humans and not optimal for plants."
All this means that we need to find a material that can be used in light diode lamps in such a way that they would produce light of a wider spectrum, including the IR range. A group of researchers from ITMO and Tomsk Polytechnic University took up this task. Classical red light diodes use materials based on manganese and europium compounds. The crystals of this chemical element make the diode emit at the wavelength of about 650 nanometers, making the light red, and jointly with the emission of the blue diode - pink.
"We decided to use not a different crystal but glass-ceramics," says Anastasia Babkina. "This is a transitive material between glass and crystal. What's the difference? We have to specifically grow crystals, whereas glass is synthesized by moulding, and it can be produced quickly and in large amounts, in any shape you need. The drawback is that glass is fragile. For this reason, we take glass and begin to slowly crystallize it so that it doesn't lose transparency. In result, we get glass with microscopic crystals inside that are invisible to the eye. Such a material is more sturdy, has better luminescent properties - and is called glass-ceramics."
Chrome is added to glass-ceramics at the production stage: this gives the material a pink tone that allows it to produce red and IR light at the same time. There are two potential applications for the new material.The first is to mill it to get microparticles which can be used to produce a new type of light diodes. This offers great prospects, but the introduction of such a technology calls for a lot of time and money. Another option is to use it to create lampshades.
"We can take blue and green light diodes and use our glass-ceramics as a filter to obtain a wide-spectrum emission that will include the IR range," explains Anastasia Babkina.
Copyright © 2020 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
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С помощью нового радиоуглеродного метода российские и нидерландские исследователи определили точную дату основания крепости Пор-Бажын (Республика Тыва). Расположенная на небольшом острове посреди озера Тере-Холь глинобитная крепость была заброшена почти сразу после постройки во второй половине VIII века. Исследовав образцы лиственниц из стен крепости, ученые обнаружили следы так называемых «событий Мияке» - резких колебаний содержания в атмосфере углерода-14 в определенные годы. Это позволило датировать начало строительства Пор-Бажына летом 777 года.
Dating archaeological objects precisely is difficult, even when using techniques such as radiocarbon dating. Using a recently developed method, based on the presence of sudden spikes in carbon-14 concentration, scientists at the University of Groningen, together with Russian colleagues, have pinned the date for the construction of an eighth-century complex in southern Siberia to a specific year. This allows archaeologists to finally understand the purpose for building the complex - and why it was never used. The results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 8 June.
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The Por-Bajin complex, on the border of the Russian Federation and Mongolia, measures 215 x 162 metres and has outer walls of twelve metres high. All of the walls are made of clay (Por-Bajin translates as ‘clay house’) on a foundation of wooden beams. The complex was created by nomadic Uyghurs, sometime in the eighth century. But archaeologists did not know the purpose of the complex and why it appears to never have been used.
‘In order to understand this, the exact construction date was required to find out which local leader, or khan, gave the orders for the construction,’ explains Dr. Margot Kuitems, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Isotope Research at the University of Groningen. She currently works on the Exact Chronology of Early Societies (ECHOES) project, funded by the European Research Council and led by Assistant Professor of Isotope Chronology Michael Dee, who is also an author on the PNAS paper.
For the early mediaeval period, radiocarbon dating is generally precise to a few decades. This is good enough for most applications. However, as khans came and went during the eighth century, the exact construction date was required to link it to a specific leader. Within the ECHOES project, Kuitems applied a recently developed method to date her samples exactly.
Carbon-14 (a radioactive isotope of carbon) is created in the upper atmosphere. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, which includes a tiny amount of carbon-14. When the plant - or the animal that ate the plant - dies, the carbon uptake stops and the carbon-14 slowly decays. Every 5,730 years, half of the carbon-14 decays. Therefore, the carbon-14 concentration tells you how old the object (animal, plant or any other organic material) is.
Production rates of carbon-14 in the atmosphere are not constant. However, changes in atmospheric carbon-14 were believed to show little variation from one year to the next. Then, in 2013, the Japanese Professor Fusa Miyake analysed individual tree rings and found a spectacular spike in carbon-14 content in the year 775. ‘When you find wood at an archaeological site from that period, you can look for the spike by measuring the carbon-14 content of subsequent tree rings,’ explains Kuitems. The spike tells you which tree ring grew in the year 775. And when the sample includes the bark, it is even possible to determine when the tree was felled.
This approach was used to analyse a beam taken from the very foundation of the Por-Bajin complex. The sample that they used had 45 rings, followed by the bark. Measurements showed that the spike that dated to the year 775 was present in the 43rd ring. ‘So, we knew the tree was felled in 777. Tree ring specialist and co-author Petra Doeve determined that the final, partial ring was created in the spring.’ In southern Siberia, there is a clear distinction between summer and winter wood.
Russian archaeologists previously reported that the entire complex was completed in a very short time, about two years. Por-Bajin is situated on an island in a lake and it was determined that the trees came from the surrounding area. ‘We are fairly certain that they were felled for the construction of the complex, and it is therefore highly likely that construction took place around 777.’ Previously, the site had been dated to 750, based on a runic inscription on a monument called the ‘Selenga Stone’, which described the construction of a large complex. In 750, Bayan-Chur Khan ruled the Uyghurs. He was married to a Chinese princess and this may explain why some Chinese influences were found in the Por-Bajin complex. ‘However, previous radiocarbon dating attempts already suggested that the buildings might be slightly younger.’
In the year 777, Tengri Bögü Khan was in charge. He had converted to Manichaeism, a gnostic religion that was strongly opposed. Indeed, Bögü Khan was killed during an anti-Manichaean rebellion in 779. ‘All this ties in neatly with the archaeological evidence,’ explains Kuitems. It is likely that the complex was built to serve as a Manichaean monastery. ‘This explains why it was never used after the anti-Manichaeans defeated Bögü Khan. If it had been a palace or a fortress, it is more likely that the victors would have moved in.’
The study shows how carbon-14 spikes can help to solve archaeological conundrums, says Kuitems: ‘This technology can be really useful in cases where an exact date is required.’ And as ever more spikes are identified, their uses will become more widespread.
Simple Science Summary
At the border between the Russian Federation and Mongolia stands a large clay complex of buildings called Por-Bajin. Archaeologists are not sure who built it and what its purpose was. They do know that it was never used. Scientist have used a promising method to pinpoint the construction date. Normal carbon dating of wood leads to a range of a few decades at best. However, sometimes a spike in carbon-14 levels can be found in one particular tree ring, all across the world. These spikes have been dated to the year by counting the rings in continuous records from known-age wood from tree-ring archives. In the complex, the scientists found a beam with a spike from the year 775. As they were able to ascertain that the tree was felled two years later, the complex must have been constructed in 777. Shortly before this, the local leader (khan) had converted to the Manichaean religion but he was killed by anti-Manichaeans in 779. It was concluded that the complex was built as a Manichaean monastery but was never used, since anti-Manichaeans took control of the area.
С помощью компьютерной томографии и фрагментов нескольких черепов палеонтологи Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета создали виртуальную модель мозга и сосудов головы анкилозавра Bissektipelta archibaldi. Ученые установили, что этот некрупный травоядный динозавр обладал хорошим слухом и обонянием, а сосуды мозга позволяли регулировать его температуру, не допуская перегрева. При этом сам мозг был в полтора раза меньше, чем у современных животных сопоставимых размеров.
Russian palaeontologists have studied the structure of the brain and blood vessels in the skull of the ankylosaur Bissektipelta archibaldi by making a digital cast of its braincase.
This allowed them to discover that ankylosaurs, and Bissektipelta in particular, were capable of cooling their brains, had an extremely developed sense of smell, and could hear low-frequency sounds.
But their brains were one and a half times smaller than that of modern animals of the same size, a team from St Petersburg University writes in a paper in the journal Biological Communications.
Herbivorous ankylosaurs looked a bit like a modern armadillo, with thick armour and sometimes a bony club on the tail. They roamed the Earth from the middle of the Jurassic period - about 160 million years ago - until the end of the dinosaur era.
"If you look at dinosaurs, then ankylosaurs and their closest relatives, stegosaurs, were almost outsiders," says lead author Ivan Kuzmin. "The mass of their brain turned out to be at least half less than what we would expect, based on a comparison with present-day animals. It was about 26.5 grams for a three-metre Bissektipelta.
"Its brain size can be compared with two walnuts. Nevertheless, ankylosaurs existed on the planet for 100 million years. They were quite successful in terms of evolution. However, judging by the size of their olfactory bulbs, they sniffed a little faster than they thought."
A trove of uniquely preserved ankylosaur fossils was found, among other treasures, during a series of international expeditions in Uzbekistan two decades ago. Three fragments of ankylosaur braincases were the subject of the recent study.
"Thanks to the development of computer tomography over the past 15-20 years, palaeontologists are able to learn more and more about the dinosaur brain and its structure," says Kuzmin. "We decided to re-describe Bissektipelta archibaldi, and we managed to clarify its place on the phylogenetic tree of ankylosaurs.
After meticulous work over three years, the researchers discovered that a considerable part of the dinosaur’s brain was occupied by olfactory bulbs: about 60% of the size of the cerebral hemispheres. This allowed for impressive olfaction that can even be compared with that of the famous predator Tyrannosaurus rex, they suggest.
Its hearing was quite different too. Studying the anatomy of the inner ear suggests it heard frequencies from about 300 to 3000 hertz, similar to modern crocodiles.
And then there is the interesting ability "to cool its brains in the literal sense".
"The network of veins and arteries in its braincase turned out to be very complicated: they did not go in a single direction, but constantly communicated with each other, like a system of railway tracks," Kuzmin says.
"The blood could have flown in different directions and been redistributed, while maintaining the optimal brain temperature of the animal. For example, if the top of an ankylosaur’s head became warm, the vessels diverted quickly the warm blood and created a screening effect - as if a dinosaur put a sun hat on.
"Moreover, the endocranial vasculature of ankylosaurs turned out to be somewhat more like the vessels of present-day lizards than that of the closer extant relatives of dinosaurs - crocodiles or birds."
© The Royal Institution of Australia Inc.
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Newswise / 10-Jun-2020
QS rankings makes MIPT best Russian tech university
QS lists MIPT among 300 best universities worldwide, ahead of other Russian tech universities.
Компания Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) опубликовала ежегодный рейтинг лучших университетов мира QS World University Rankings. В рейтинг вошли 28 российских вузов, а пятерка лучших выглядит следующим образом: МГУ (74-е место), Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет (225-е место), Новосибирский государственный университет (228-е место), Томский государственный университет (250-е место), Московский физико-технический институт (281-е место).
The latest edition of the QS World University Rankings, which came out June 10, places the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology at No. 281 globally, up 21 positions from last year’s results. The Institute has the highest standing of all Russian technical universities featured in the league table. This makes MIPT one of just three universities in its country to be listed among the top 300 schools worldwide according to both Quacquarelli Symonds and Times Higher Education. The other two institutions earning that distinction are Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Higher School of Economics.
Along with two other prominent university rankings - compiled by THE and the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy - the one published by QS is highly regarded in the academic, professional, and student communities. In Russia, a university’s position in the QS rankings is one of the key performance indicators for institutions participating in Project 5-100, the nation’s academic excellence program.
QS compares and ranks universities based on six criteria: academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per faculty, the student-faculty ratio, international student ratio, and international faculty ratio.
In 2020, MIPT improved its score for academic reputation, which is calculated based on a global poll of researchers and educators, who are asked to name the institutions that they believe stand out in terms of academic and scientific excellence.
The number of citations per MIPT faculty member has also grown, according to the data of the Scopus database, which is used by the rankings. The Institute has also secured a higher position in terms of the international student metric. It measures the ratio between the foreign and the domestic students a school enrolls and reflects to what extent it is attractive to learners from abroad.
"For MIPT, rankings are not a goal in and of themselves. They rather reflect the real changes that are taking place. For four years running, we have been featured among the world’s top 100 universities for physics according to QS, but we are not stopping at that. We are advancing and emphasizing both the traditional fields of engineering sciences, chemistry, and mathematics, and the cutting-edge areas, such as artificial intelligence and genomic technology. The latter two have seen MIPT establish two world-class research centers and launch the complementary degree programs to support them, all in the course of the past three years. Studies conducted at the interface between different areas of science enable highly relevant research projects and educational programs that attract the brightest young minds. This has allowed us to incentivize quality personnel to not seek employment abroad, and we have even reclaimed more than 50 young Russian specialists with prior experience of work in other countries. The strength of MIPT is in its broad cooperation with the leading research institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and high-tech companies. It puts us in a much better position to speed up the transfer of technologies from exploratory research into applied science," MIPT Rector Nikolay Kudryavtsev said.
"MIPT has gone beyond its traditional competences in physics," added Vitaly Bagan, the Institute’s vice rector for science and development programs. "In 2017, we became the founding institution for a new competence center for artificial intelligence research. Last year MIPT was joined by a number of institutions in a large consortium to open the world-class research Center for Genomic Technology and Bioinformatics. We are also planning to set up a Center for Graphene and Novel 2D Materials. Behind each of these initiatives, there is breakthrough research, whose international recognition is reflected in the increasing number of citations and growing academic reputation."
In 2020, MIPT was also listed among the best universities in two broad subject areas of the QS World University Rankings by Faculty. For the first time it placed as high as No. 67 for natural sciences, as well as securing a No. 202 position for engineering and technology. In the QS rankings by subject, which use a more fine-grained list of areas, the Institute has retained its standing among the top 100 universities to study physics and astronomy, and remained in the top 150 bracket for mathematics. MIPT has also climbed the computer science and information systems rankings to the 151-200 band and the chemistry rankings to the 351-400 band. Besides making it into the top 300 list for electrical engineering, the Institute has maintained its standing in the league tables for mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing engineering (201-250) and materials science (251-300), as well as making a comeback in the biological sciences (401-450).
© 2020 Newswise, Inc.
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Физики из МФТИ создали новый метод дистанционного измерения скорости ветра на различных высотах вплоть до стратосферы. Разработанное ими компактное устройство использует принцип гетеродинной регистрации сигнала, который обычно применяется в радиотехнике, но в данном случае работает в оптическом инфракрасном диапазоне на длине волны около 1,65 мкм. Принцип основан на объединении принятого сигнала (излучения Солнца, прошедшего через атмосферу) и эталонного источника (гетеродина), в качестве которого используется перестраиваемый диодный лазер.
Physicists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology have developed a new method for wind speed remote measurements. It may complement the widely employed lidar and radar sensing techniques. The paper is published in Atmospheric Measurement Techniques.
Wind speed measurements are essential for many applications. For example, assimilation of this data is required for fine-tuning climatological and meteorological models, including those used for weather forecasting. Despite the progress made in remote sensing over recent decades, measuring the movement of air masses is still a challenge. Most of the data are collected by means of traditional contact methods: via sensors installed on weather stations or sounding balloons. Lidar or sonar anemometers are commonly used for local measurements at distances of several hundred meters or less. Weather radars can help at distances of up to tens of kilometers. However, the latter are normally ineffective outside the troposphere - the Earth's closest atmospheric layer, which is 10 to 18 kilometers thick. Satellite-based direct measurements of the movement of air masses are rare, only occasional experiments have been accomplished.
"Information on atmospheric dynamics is still fairly hard to obtain through direct observations. As of today, the most reliable way to remotely measure wind speeds is using Doppler radars. This technique involves sounding the environment with a powerful source of radiation and therefore takes considerable resources, including power, equipment mass, size, and cost. Our instrument offers an advantage in terms of these parameters: It's compact, inexpensive, and involves commercial components available in the telecom market," said the study's lead author Alexander Rodin, who heads the Applied Infrared Spectroscopy Lab at MIPT.
The instrument is based on the principle of heterodyne detection, the basis of many radio engineering applications. However, it should be noted that the instrument operates in the optical, or to be more precise, the near infrared range - at a wavelength of 1.65 micrometers. The operating principle is based on combining the received signal (in this case, solar radiation that has passed through the atmosphere) and an etalon source (local oscillator), namely a tunable diode laser. Since the laws of electromagnetic wave propagation are the same for all spectral ranges, the principle of heterodyning is equally applicable to both radio signals and infrared radiation.
However, heterodyning faces certain difficulties if applied to the optical range. For instance, highly accurate matching of wave fronts is required, as displacement by even a fraction of a wavelength is unacceptable. The MIPT team employed a simple solution, applying a single-mode optical fiber.
A further challenge is the need for extremely precise frequency control of the local oscillator, with an error of no more than 1 MHz, a tiny quantity compared to the optical radiation frequency. To address this, the team had to employ a tricky approach and delve deep into the processes of diode laser emission. These efforts have resulted in a new instrument - an experimental laser heterodyne spectroradiometer - characterized by an unprecedented spectral resolution in the near infrared range. It measures the infrared atmospheric absorption spectrum with an ultra-high spectral resolution, making it possible to retrieve wind speeds with an accuracy of 3 to 5 meters per second.
"Building an instrument, even with record characteristics, is only half of the story," Rodin said. "To retrieve wind speed at various altitudes up to the stratosphere using the measured spectra, you need a special algorithm that solves the inverse problem."
"We decided not to use machine learning but to implement a classical approach based on Tikhonov regularization. Despite the fact that this method is known for more than half a century, it is widely used all over the world, and its capabilities are far from being exhausted," the scientist said.
The calculations will enable vertical wind profile retrieval from the surface up to about 50 kilometers. Based on the relatively simple and affordable spectroradiometer, in the future one may create extensive networks for atmospheric monitoring.
The Applied Infrared Spectroscopy Lab at MIPT is planning to carry out an observational campaign to measure the stratosphere polar vortex as well as greenhouse gas concentration in the Russian Arctic with their newly developed instrument. In addition to that, in cooperation with the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the lab is developing an instrument for the studies of Venus atmosphere based on the same principle. The instrument will be installed aboard India's Venus orbiter in the framework of international cooperation.
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Ученые Дальневосточного федерального университета, Тихоокеанского института биоорганической химии ДВО РАН, Университетской клиники Гамбург-Эппендорф и Грайфсвальдского университета создали лекарственное соединение против устойчивой к химиотерапии формы рака простаты. Исследователи воспользовались так называемым эффектом Варбурга (склонностью раковых клеток к поглощению глюкозы), прицепив с помощью атомов серы глюкозный «хвост» к активным противоопухолевым молекулам на основе пигмента морских ежей. Ученые полагают, что новое соединение будет полезно при лечении и других видов рака.
Scientists of Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), together with German and Russian colleagues, have developed a lead compound to fight chemotherapy-resistant prostate cancer. The original design comes out as scientists combine biologically active molecules from the chemically modified pigment of sea urchins with glucose molecules to deliver the active drug substance inward the tumor cells. A related article recently was published in Marine Drugs.
To cure prostate cancer scientists decided to capitalize on the Warburg effect, which turns as tumor cells inclination to eat lots of "sugar", i.e. consume glucose compounds more intensively comparing to the majority of normal cells.
Researchers took active molecules analogous to the molecules isolated from sea urchins pigment and "sewed" on a sugar tail to them using Sulfur linker to tie up. The resulted compound was introduced to the cell culture of prostate cancer sustainable to Docetaxel, a standard chemotherapeutic drug. The outcome was cancer cells died more efficiently.
The scientific breakthrough comes out as the result of the close cooperation of teams from Russia and Germany that includes collaborators from FEFU School of Natural Sciences (Vladivostok Russia), University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (Germany), G.B. Elyakov Pacific Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry (PIBOC FEB RAS, Vladivostok, Russia), and University of Greifswald (Germany).
The Russian-German scientific paper was recognized as a best research article of the current issue of Marine Drugs.
In our study, we benefit from the chance to combine the ideas and experience of specialists from different countries. Firstly, we had at our disposal analogues of biologically active compounds from sea urchins which antitumor potential had been increased via chemical modification by Far Eastern colleagues from PIBOC FEB RAS. Secondly, we used the broad experience of German colleagues in the field of prostate cancer to establish and explain the mechanism that makes tumor cells more sensitive to glucose-related molecules. It turned out that prostate cancer cells have a large number of receptors responsible for the uptake of glucose and associated molecules into the cell." (Dr. Sergey Dyshlovoy, senior researcher at the Laboratory of Biologically Active Compounds of FEFU School of Natural Science).
The scientist went on that although new drug compound effectively targets prostate cells culture there is a good prospect it might cure other types of cancer if the outcome of the first clinical trials is positive. The majority of tumor cells consume more glucose than healthy cells of the body.
The research outcomes not only in the new compound of sea urchins molecules tagged with glucose but also in the new way of conjugating them via Sulfur, instead of Oxygen, as it used to be early. The reason for the new method of molecules connection is a looking for the drug not breaking up by enzymes in the bloodstream before it hits a tumor target. Previous experiments confirm that compounds joined via Oxygen molecules are not as stable as needed.
Fall 2020, researchers plan to start the study possible side effects of the new drug, first on mice and then on other laboratory animals. Before this, the molecule of the drug compound will be further modified to assure its even greater stability in the bloodstream. The patent will secure the rights to a new generation molecule.
Considering the time spent on laboratory and subsequent clinical trials, as well as in case of these trials' success, a new on-the-shelf drug should approach the market in the next 10 years.
Prostate cancer is the second most deadly cancer for men living in developed countries.
AZoNetwork, © 2000-2020.
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Изучив найденного в Британской Колумбии окаменелого представителя семейства нимфид отряда сетчатокрылых возрастом 50 млн лет, палеонтологи Брюс Арчибальд из канадского Университета Саймона Фрейзера и Владимир Макаркин из ФНЦ биоразнообразия наземной биоты Восточной Азии ДВО РАН обнаружили в Австралии его современных родственников. Это открытие может помочь понять, как изменение климата и движение континентов в древности влияли на миграцию живых существ.
The discovery of a tiny insect fossil is unearthing big questions about the global movement of animals and the connection to changes in climate and shifting continents across deep time. The fossil, estimated to be 50 million years old, was found in rocks near the city of Kamloops, British Columbia, but today its relatives live exclusively in Australia.
The finding is the latest in a pattern of discoveries that are leading experts to contemplate a Canada-Australia connection not previously considered. Paleontologists Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and the Royal British Columbia Museum and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok published their findings in The Canadian Entomologist.
According to Makarkin, the fossil is part of the "split-footed lacewing" family. Little is known about this group over the 66-million-years following the extinction of the dinosaurs. "These fossils are rare," he says. "This is only the fourth one found from this time-span world-wide, and it's the most completely preserved. It adds important information to our knowledge of how they became modern."
The paleontologists identified the fossil by the characteristic network of veins covering its wings. They emphasize that fossils like the new lacewing species help in understanding large-scale patterns of the modern distribution of life across the globe.
Previous fossil insects of this age found in B.C. and neighbouring Washington have shown connections with Pacific-coastal Russia to the west and with Europe to the east - patterns that are not surprising since the northern continents were connected then.
"Fifty million years ago, sea levels were lower, exposing more land between North America and Asia, and the Atlantic Ocean had not widened, leaving Europe and North America still joined across high latitudes," says Archibald. He explains that the far-north experienced warmer climates then as well, helping a variety of animals and plants to disperse freely between northern continents.
The Australian connection is more puzzling though, as there is no such clear land connection. That continent was closer to Antarctica then and farther from Asia than today, leaving formidable ocean barriers for life to disperse between it and Canada's west coast.
This lacewing joins other insect fossils from B.C. and Washington whose modern relatives only live in the Australian region. These include bulldog ants, a family of termites, and a kind of parasitoid wasp.
Archibald says that "a pattern is emerging that we don't quite understand yet, but has interesting implications."
The researchers suggest that the answer might be connected to climate. The forests of the ancient British Columbian temperate upland where this lacewing lived had very mild winters, in fact, probably without frost days.
The climate of modern Australia shares these mild winters even in temperate regions. "It could be that these insect groups are today restricted to regions of the world where climates in key ways resemble those 50 million years ago in the far western Canadian mountains," says Archibald.
Archibald and Makarkin emphasise that it's important to understand the little things in order to appreciate the big picture. "The more we know about these insects, the more we can piece together the history of how climate and the movement of continents have shaped global patterns of the distributions of life that we see in our modern world," says Makarkin.
"To understand where we are today and where we may be going with the big changes that we are seeing in global climates, we need to understand what's happened in the deep past."
Copyright 2020 ScienceDaily.
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Международная группа геологов из восьми стран, включая Россию, под руководством профессора Аризонского университета Линди Элкинс-Тантон обнаружила и изучила следы горения древесины и угля в базальтовых породах Сибирских траппов, образовавшихся в результате извержения магмы примерно 252 млн лет назад. Это подтверждает версию о том, что продолжавшееся около 2 млн лет извержение стало причиной Пермской катастрофы, крупнейшего массового вымирания жизни на Земле на границе пермского и триасового периодов.
A team of researchers led by Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton has provided the first ever direct evidence that extensive coal burning in Siberia is a cause of the Permo-Triassic Extinction, the Earth’s most severe extinction event. The results of their study have been recently published in the journal Geology.
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For this study, the international team led by Elkins-Tanton focused on the volcaniclastic rocks of the Siberian Traps, a region of volcanic rock in Russia. The massive eruptive event that formed the traps is one of the largest known volcanic events in the last 500 million years. The eruptions continued for roughly 2 million years and spanned the Permian-Triassic boundary. Today, the area is covered by about 3 million square miles of basaltic rock.
This is ideal ground for researchers seeking an understanding of the Permo-Triassic extinction event, which affected all life on Earth approximately 252 million years ago. During this event, up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct.
Calculations of sea water temperature indicate that at the peak of the extinction, the Earth underwent lethally hot global warming, in which equatorial ocean temperatures exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It took millions of years for ecosystems to be re-established and for species to recover.
Among the possible causes of this extinction event, and one of the most long-hypothesized, is that massive burning coal led to catastrophic global warming, which in turn was devastating to life. To search for evidence to support this hypothesis, Elkins-Tanton and her team began looking at the Siberian Traps region, where it was known that the magmas and lavas from volcanic events burned a combination of vegetation and coal.
While samples of volcaniclastics in the region were initially difficult to find, the team eventually discovered a scientific paper describing outcrops near the Angara River.
"We found towering river cliffs of nothing but volcaniclastics, lining the river for hundreds of miles. It was geologically astounding," Elkins-Tanton said.
Over six years, the team repeatedly returned to Siberia for field work. They flew to remote towns and were dropped by helicopter either to float down rivers collecting rocks, or to hike across the forests. They ultimately collected over 1,000 pounds of samples, which were shared with a team of 30 scientists from eight different countries.
As the samples were analyzed, the team began seeing strange fragments in the volcaniclastics that seemed like burnt wood, and in some cases, burnt coal. Further field work turned up even more sites with charcoal, coal, and even some sticky organic-rich blobs in the rocks.
Elkins-Tanton then collaborated with fellow researcher and co-author Steve Grasby of the Geological Survey of Canada, who had previously found microscopic remains of burnt coal on a Canadian arctic island. Those remains dated to the end-Permian and were thought to have wafted to Canada from Siberia as coal burned in Siberia. Grasby found that the Siberian Traps samples collected by Elkins-Tanton had the same evidence of burnt coal.
"Our study shows that Siberian Traps magmas intruded into and incorporated coal and organic material," Elkins-Tanton said. "That gives us direct evidence that the magmas also combusted large quantities of coal and organic matter during eruption."
And the changes at the end-Permian extinction bear remarkable parallels to what is happening on Earth today, including burning hydrocarbons and coal, acid rain from sulfur and even ozone-destroying halocarbons.
"Seeing these similarities gives us extra impetus to take action now, and also to further understand how the Earth responds to changes like these in the longer term," Elkins-Tanton said.
Inverse / 6.16.2020
"Hovering" boats could solve one of the biggest problems for electric aircraft
Where do you stop to fill up gas in the middle of the ocean?
В Санкт-Петербургском политехническом университете Петра Великого разрабатывают уникальную лодку-беспилотник «Шторм-600» на воздушной подушке и солнечных батареях. Экраноплан развивает скорость до 200 км/час при неограниченном запасе хода, способен прокладывать маршрут и обходить препятствия. Испытания опытного образца запланированы на ближайшие месяцы.
Shipping companies dream of drones racing across the ocean to make deliveries - last year, aeronautics giant Airbus began trialling a drone package delivery system. But there's one crucial problem: where are these drones carrying your Amazon packages going to recharge? Unpredictable ocean waves and animals make adding a fueling station mid-ocean a difficult feat, but Russian scientists have a solution: a solar-powered boat that can practically walk on water.
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This mouth-full of a boat uses simple physics to create a cushion of air that allows it to effortlessly fly along the tops of ocean waves with near inexhaustible solar energy. The researchers say that this sleek, solar vessel could act as a mobile charging station for drones in the deep ocean or could conduct oceanic search and rescue missions.
Walking, or sailing, on water may sound like a challenging technical feat, but lead researcher on the project from Peter the Great St.Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU,) Alexei Maistro, told PR Newswire that the levitation is actually a simple trick of physics.
"On the physics lessons at school the experiment is demonstrated when a tennis ball hangs in the stream of the air from the vacuum cleaner: it doesn't fall down and doesn't fly up," said Maistro. "The same principle is used here."
The boat, which the team dubbed "Storm-600" and is approximately the size of a standard sailboat, is part of a family of vehicles called a "wing-in-ground-effect vehicle" (GEV,) which in this case is a hybrid between an airplane and a boat. These vehicles, including planes like the Boeing Pelican, have short wings that dip into the water, creating a semi-enclosed cavity between the bottom of the plane and the water's surface.
When the plane accelerates forward it experiences lift between the wings that creates a cushion of air between the boat and the water. This cushion pushes the boat upwards, enough to skate along the water's surface but not such much that it takes off completely. The closer the wings are to the surface, the more effective this wing-in-ground-effect is. And, because these crafts experience less drag as an effect of the air cushion, they are also able to use less fuel than traditional boats or planes.
"The device literally floats above the water," said Maistro. "There is a screen effect when an aerodynamic cushion is created under the wing of the aircraft. Our wing-in-ground-effect vehicle has long wings, thus it moves along the air cushion itself."
The craft designed by the SPbPU researchers has been able to reach speeds up to 124 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour,) and researchers plan to increase the speed even further up to 186 miles per hour (300 kilometers per hour.) Part of what makes this possible, in addition to its air cushion, is that this craft is free of two heavy loads: fuel tanks and a human pilot.
The solar panels spread across the surface of the craft negate the need for heavy fuel tanks, but to make the vehicle even faster the researchers also decided to do away with a human pilot. Instead, they equipped the boat with an AI that uses lidar and radio radar to see obstacles in its path up to 30 miles away.
The team plans to test their vehicle this summer on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia, and say that it has a future as a mid-ocean fuel-up station for underwater and air drones and as a water patrol vehicle.
Forbes / Jun 16, 2020
We’ll Clean-Up Space Junk Using Sticky Foam ‘Spiderwebs’ In Orbit, Says Russian Space Startup
Российская стартап-компания StartRocket разрабатывает технологию для решения проблемы космического мусора с помощью спутников-ловушек. Небольшие самоуправляемые спутники захватывают куски космического мусора с помощью длинных нитей липкой пены на основе полимеров и спускают их с орбиты вниз, после чего мусор сгорает в атмосфере. Первый орбитальный тест запланирован на конец 2021 года.
After more than half a century of space activity there are about half a million man-made "things" orbiting our planet. Trash, debris, junk. These big and tiny objects - from defunct satellites to flecks of paint - take-up valuable orbits that satellites could be in, and they’re a collision risk for satellites and spacecraft.
Worse, if we don’t start clearing-up "space junk" then it’s ultimately going to preclude orbital launches of all kinds - from satellite launches to Mars missions - thereby trapping us on Earth and sending us back to the stone age.
So let’s create sticky "spiderweb" satellites that can spray all this space junk with polymeric foam that will then sink safely, and burn-up in Earth’s atmosphere.
The future of space isn’t metal, but foam.
That’s the crazy-sounding idea behind a plan called "Securing Space" from Russian space research startup StartRocket, which wants to crowdsource funds, first for a test mission in late 2021, and then for a full-blown "Foam Debris Catcher" satellite.
"If we’re talking about garbage here on Earth we have to talk about garbage in orbit - Earth’s orbit is part of our planet," says Vlad Sitnikov, the founder of StartRocket, to Forbes. "Elon Musk’s SpaceX wants to send 6,000 Starlink satellites into orbit, but when they stop working, or he switches them off - or he moves to Mars - someone is going to have to clean-up."
"This is why we’re going to make this tool and give it to the people of Earth for free."
StartRocket first came to the fore in 2018 with its less-than-popular plan to launch "space advertising" orbital displays project that proposed having corporate logos visible in the night sky. It wasn’t popular. "It’s on hold because I saw how many people hated the idea," said Sitnikov. "People want something different."
Can foam really be used to de-orbit space debris?
The crazy-sounding idea about foam does have a basis in orbital mechanics, namely aerodynamic drag. "It works on the well-known process of increasing a debris surface area in order to increase its drag, and thus make it re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up faster," said John L. Crassidis, a professor in the Dept. of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, and an expert on space junk independent of RocketStart’s project.
Covered in foam, the space debris descends from orbit into the atmosphere and burns-up.
The concept of using foam to de-orbit space debris has it roots in a technology pioneered by the European Space Agency (ESA), which is hugely concerned about the issue.
Crassidis explained to me that a "Foam Debris Catcher" spacecraft could work because it doesn’t need to dock to anything, which could cause the main satellite to tumble out of control. "The main disadvantage is that it is still in an initial research stage," he said. "We need more data to see how viable it is - an in-space experiment would be useful."
Phase one: ‘ScoopSat’
Cue "ScoopSat" - officially known as Test Foam Sat (TFS) - RocketStart’s plan is to launch in late 2021, largely to see if the foam concept works. "It’s just a barrel with a rocket engine that will connect to the orbit of a specific piece of junk, spread the spider to catch it," said Sitnikov. "It’s just a 3D printer in orbit to prove that the foam works - it shoots the foam and then it becomes firm."
TFS will basically be a small solar-powered 3D printer attached to a CubeSat. It will attempt to create small square "traps" made from foam, and will have a camera to photograph and film the whole process.
A TFS could de-orbit as much as 50kg of space debris in five years, says StartRocket.
How much would Test Foam Sat cost?
TFS only weighs 5kg, which RocketSat thinks will cost $88,500 to build and $100,000 to launch into orbit. "We can go with any missions - SpaceX, or a mission from India or Japan - we just need to find some empty space on a rocket," said Sitnikov.
Phase two: Foam Debris Catcher (FDC)
If all goes to plan with TFS then RocketStart wants to launch a much more capable and larger satellite - about 30 to 50 meters in diameter. Once in an orbit as high as 1,000km the FDC will spray threads of the foam to create 150 meter-diameter sticky spheres around the satellite - creating something of a spiderweb or fly-trap for space junk.
How much would Foam Debris Catcher cost?
FDC would weigh about 100kg, which RocketSat estimates will cost $1 million to construct and $2 million to launch into orbit. It’s hoped that it could catch a tonne of space junk.
Who’s going to pay for all of this?
Although the initial development stages of "Securing Space" project is backed by Russian IT security company Kaspersky - owned by billionaire Eugene Kaspersky - this is a private social initiative financed exclusively by crowdsourcing. "We believe in the people - we’re going to ask people to give us money," said Sitnikov. "It’s like Greenpeace - maybe we’ll be the second Greenpeace!" Sitnikov is also pretty clear that he wants to avoid working with space agencies.
StartRocket is currently working on the precise formula for the polymeric foam, it told me, but it’s well under development. If successful, the formula for the foam will be made open-source so that other, similar satellites can be launched.
Has anything like this been tried before?
"There have been only experimental-type missions at this point, such as RemoveDEBRIS," said Crassidis. Launched from the International Space Station (ISS) a couple of years ago as a technology demonstration, RemoveDEBRIS undertook a series of experiments on how to capture space debris - including a harpoon to shoot chunks of space debris. Magnets are another concept.
Mega-constellations and space junk
Almost certainly. SpaceX just launched another batch of its Starlink satellites, and it’s only one of several companies that intend to create vast constellations in low Earth orbit. "With the proliferation of these mega-constellations, there’s a lot more of a chance that they can collide with other objects, especially ones that we can’t track," said Crassidis. He’s referring to smaller-than-a-softball chinks of debris in orbit. "These are the objects that scare me the most because we can't track them, and because they are traveling at 17,000 mph," said Crassidis. "I’m afraid that with these mega-constellations, Kessler's Syndrome will become more of a reality."
There are no international treaties regarding space junk. Crassidis believes that there needs to be, and that every small satellite that does not have thrusters should be required to blow up a balloon - or something similar - to bring it back down faster. Until then, scientific experiments and sticky foam "spiderwebs" is all we’re doing to prevent the growth of a cloud of space debris around Earth.
© 2020 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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Ученые Института теплофизики им. С.С.Кутателадзе СО РАН стали лауреатами Государственной премии РФ 2019 года в области науки и технологий.
On Thursday, June 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on awarding State prizes in science and technology in 2019 - the list includes three of the Novosibirsk scientists, employees of SB RAS.
- To award the State prize of the Russian Federation in the field of science and technology of 2019 and assign the honorary title of laureate of the State prize of the Russian Federation in the field of science and technology <...> Predtechenskiy, Mikhail Rudolfovich, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, head of the research laboratory of physical-chemical processes in energy of the Federal state budget institution of science Institute of Thermophysics S. S. Kutateladze of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Markovich Dmitriy Markovich, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the same institution, Meledin Vladimir Genrihovich, doctor of technical sciences, chief research associate of the same institution for building the foundations of the world industry single-walled carbon nanotubes and a scientific substantiation of new methods of diagnostics of nonequilibrium systems and management, - stated in the text of the decree.
© THE GLOBALDOMAINSNEWS.
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Более десяти лет назад ученые Петербургского института ядерной физики им. Б.П.Константинова Анастасия Макарьева и Виктор Горшков выдвинули теорию о том, что леса - не только «легкие» планеты, но и сложные самоподдерживающиеся дождевые системы, а также основной фактор циркуляции атмосферы на Земле и способ переноса воды из Мирового океана в отдаленные части суши посредством «воздушных рек» - формирующихся над лесами ветров. Если первая часть теории быстро нашла поддержку в ученом сообществе, то вторая часть, получившая название «лесной биотический насос атмосферной влаги», по-прежнему встречает шквал критики. Однако если допустить, что идея насоса верна, это поможет объяснить ряд природных явлений и парадоксов.
Every summer, as the days get long, Anastassia Makarieva leaves her lab in St. Petersburg for a vacation in the vast forests of northern Russia. The nuclear physicist camps on the shores of the White Sea, amid spruce and pine, and kayaks along the region’s wide rivers, taking notes on nature and the weather. "The forests are a big part of my inner life," she says. In the 25 years she has made her annual pilgrimage north, they have become a big part of her professional life, too.
For more than a decade, Makarieva has championed a theory, developed with Victor Gorshkov, her mentor and colleague at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute (PNPI), on how Russia’s boreal forests, the largest expanse of trees on Earth, regulate the climate of northern Asia. It is simple physics with far-reaching consequences, describing how water vapor exhaled by trees drives winds: winds that cross the continent, taking moist air from Europe, through Siberia, and on into Mongolia and China; winds that deliver rains that keep the giant rivers of eastern Siberia flowing; winds that water China’s northern plain, the breadbasket of the most populous nation on Earth.
With their ability to soak up carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, the world’s great forests are often referred to as the planet’s lungs. But Makarieva and Gorshkov, who died last year, say they are its beating heart, too. "Forests are complex self-sustaining rainmaking systems, and the major driver of atmospheric circulation on Earth," Makarieva says. They recycle vast amounts of moisture into the air and, in the process, also whip up winds that pump that water around the world. The first part of that idea - forests as rainmakers - originated with other scientists and is increasingly appreciated by water resource managers in a world of rampant deforestation. But the second part, a theory Makarieva calls the biotic pump, is far more controversial.
The theoretical foundation of the work has been published, albeit in lesser known journals, and Makarieva has received support from a small coterie of colleagues. But the biotic pump has faced a head wind of criticism, especially from climate modelers, some of whom say its effects are negligible and dismiss the idea completely. The dispute has made Makarieva an outsider: a theoretical physicist in a world of modelers, a Russian in a field led by Western scientists, and a woman in a field dominated by men.
Yet, if correct, the idea could help explain why, despite their distance from the oceans, the remote interiors of forested continents receive as much rain as the coasts - and why the interiors of unforested continents tend to be arid. It also implies that forests from the Russian taiga to the Amazon rainforest don’t just grow where the weather is right. They also make the weather. "All I have learned so far suggests to me that the biotic pump is correct," says Douglas Sheil, a forest ecologist at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. With the future of the world’s forests in doubt, "Even if we thought the theory had only a small chance of being true, it would be profoundly important to know one way or the other."
Many meteorology textbooks still teach a caricature of the water cycle, with ocean evaporation responsible for most of the atmospheric moisture that condenses in clouds and falls as rain. The picture ignores the role of vegetation and, in particular, trees, which act like giant water fountains. Their roots capture water from the soil for photosynthesis, and microscopic pores in leaves release unused water as vapor into the air. The process, the arboreal equivalent of sweating, is known as transpiration. In this way, a single mature tree can release hundreds of liters of water a day. With its foliage offering abundant surface area for the exchange, a forest can often deliver more moisture to the air than evaporation from a water body of the same size.
The importance of this recycled moisture for nourishing rains was largely disregarded until 1979, when Brazilian meteorologist Eneas Salati reported studies of the isotopic composition of rainwater sampled from the Amazon Basin. Water recycled by transpiration contains more molecules with the heavy oxygen-18 isotope than water evaporated from the ocean. Salati used this fact to show that half of the rainfall over the Amazon came from the transpiration of the forest itself.
By this time, meteorologists were tracking an atmospheric jet above the forest, at a height of about 1.5 kilometers. Known as the South American Low-Level Jet, the winds blow east to west across the Amazon, about as fast as a racing bike, before the Andes Mountains divert them south. Salati and others surmised the jet carried much of the transpired moisture, and dubbed it a "flying river." The Amazon flying river is now reckoned to carry as much water as the giant terrestrial river below it, says Antonio Nobre, a climate researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.
For some years, flying rivers were thought to be limited to the Amazon. In the 1990s, Hubert Savenije, a hydrologist at the Delft University of Technology, began to study moisture recycling in West Africa. Using a hydrological model based on weather data, he found that, as one moved inland from the coast, the proportion of the rainfall that came from forests grew, reaching 90% in the interior. The finding helped explain why the interior Sahel region became dryer as coastal forests disappeared over the past half-century.
One of Savenije’s students, Ruud van der Ent, took the idea further, creating a global model of airborne moisture flow. He combined observational data on rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and temperature with theoretical estimates of evaporation and transpiration to create the first model of moisture flow at scales larger than river basins.
In 2010, van der Ent and his colleagues reported the model’s conclusion: Globally, 40% of all precipitation comes from the land rather than the ocean. Often it is more. The Amazon’s flying river provides 70% of the rain falling in the Río de la Plata Basin, which stretches across southeastern South America. Van der Ent was most surprised to find that China gets 80% of its water from the west, mostly Atlantic moisture recycled by the boreal forests of Scandinavia and Russia. The journey involves several stages - cycles of transpiration followed by downwind rain and subsequent transpiration - and takes 6 months or more. "It contradicted previous knowledge that you learn in high school," he says. "China is next to an ocean, the Pacific, yet most of its rainfall is moisture recycled from land far to the west."
IF MAKARIEVA IS CORRECT, the forests supply not just the moisture, but the winds that carry it.
For a quarter-century, she worked with Gorshkov, initially as his pupil, at PNPI - part of Russia’s foremost civil and military nuclear research agency, the Kurchatov Institute. They were mavericks from the start, studying ecology in a place full of physicists who use neutron beams from nuclear reactors to study materials. As theorists, she says, they had "exceptional freedom of research and thought," pursuing atmospheric physics wherever it took them. "Victor taught me: Do not be afraid of anything," she says.
In 2007, in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, they first outlined their vision for the biotic pump. It was provocative from the outset because it contradicted a longstanding tenet of meteorology: that winds are driven largely by the differential heating of the atmosphere. When warm air rises, it lowers the air pressure below it, in effect creating space at the surface into which air moves. In summer, for example, land surfaces tend to heat faster and draw in moist breezes from the cooler ocean.
Makarieva and Gorshkov argued that a second process can sometimes dominate. When water vapor from forests condenses into clouds, a gas becomes a liquid that occupies less volume. That reduces air pressure, and draws in air horizontally from areas with less condensation. In practice, it means condensation above coastal forests turbocharges sea breezes, sucking moist air inland where it will eventually condense and fall as rain. If the forests continue inland, the cycle can continue, maintaining moist winds for thousands of kilometers.
The theory inverts traditional thinking: It is not atmospheric circulation that drives the hydrological cycle, but the hydrological cycle that drives the mass circulation of air.
Sheil, who became a supporter of the theory more than a decade ago, thinks of it as an embellishment of the flying river idea. "They are not mutually exclusive," he says. "The pump offers an explanation of the power of the rivers." He says the biotic pump could explain the "cold Amazon paradox." From January to June, when the Amazon Basin is colder than the ocean, strong winds blow from the Atlantic to the Amazon - the opposite of what would be expected if they resulted from differential heating. Nobre, another early acolyte, enthuses: "They don’t start with data, they start with first principles."
Even those who doubt the theory agree that forest loss can have far-reaching climatic consequences. Many scientists have argued that deforestation thousands of years ago was to blame for desertification in the Australian Outback and West Africa. The fear is that future deforestation could dry up other regions, for example, tipping parts of the Amazon rainforest to savanna. Agricultural regions of China, the African Sahel, and the Argentine Pampas are also at risk, says Patrick Keys, an atmospheric chemist at Colorado State University, Fort Collins.
In 2018, Keys and his colleagues used a model, similar to van der Ent’s, to track the sources of rainfall for 29 global megacities. He found that 19 were highly dependent on distant forests for much of their water supply, including Karachi, Pakistan; Wuhan and Shanghai, China; and New Delhi and Kolkata, India. "Even small changes in precipitation arising from upwind land-use change could have big impacts on the fragility of urban water supplies," he says.
Some modeling even suggests that by removing a moisture source, deforestation could alter weather patterns beyond the paths of flying rivers. Just as El Niño, a shift in currents and winds in the tropical Pacific Ocean, is known to influence weather in faraway places through "teleconnections," so, too, could Amazon deforestation diminish rainfall in the U.S. Midwest and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, says Roni Avissar, a climatologist at the University of Miami who has modeled such teleconnections. Far-fetched? "Not at all," he says. "We know El Niño can do this, because unlike deforestation, it recurs and we can see the pattern. Both are caused by small changes in temperature and moisture that project into the atmosphere."
Lan Wang-Erlandsson, who researches interactions between land, water, and climate at Stockholm University, says it’s time for water resource managers to shift their focus from water and land use within a river basin to land-use changes occurring outside it. "We need new international hydrological agreements to maintain the forests of source regions," she says.
Two years ago, at a meeting of the United Nations Forum on Forests, a high-level policy group on which all governments sit, David Ellison, a land researcher at the University of Bern, presented a case in point: a study showing that as much as 40% of the total rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands, the main source of the Nile, is provided by moisture recycled from the forests of the Congo Basin. Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are negotiating a long-overdue deal on sharing the waters of the Nile. But such an agreement would be worthless if deforestation in the Congo Basin, far from those three nations, dries up the moisture source, Ellison suggested. "Interactions between forests and water have been almost entirely ignored in the management of global freshwater resources."
The biotic pump would raise the stakes even further, with its suggestion that forest loss alters not just moisture sources, but also wind patterns. The theory, if correct, would have "crucial implications for planetary air circulation patterns," Ellison warns, especially those that take moist air inland to continental interiors.
THE THEORY’S SUPPORTERS are a minority. In 2010, Makarieva, Gorshkov, Sheil, Nobre, and Bai-Lian Li, an ecologist at the University of California, Riverside, submitted what was meant to be a landmark description of the biotic pump to Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, a major journal with open peer review. Titled "Where Do Winds Come From?" the paper faced a barrage of criticism online, and it took the journal many months to find two scientists willing to review it. Isaac Held, a meteorologist at Princeton University’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, finally volunteered - and recommended rejection. "This is not a mysterious effect," he says. "It is small and included in some atmospheric models." Critics said the expansion of air from heat released when water vapor condenses counteracts the space-creating effect of condensation. But Makarieva says the two effects are spatially separate, with the warming effect happening aloft, and the pressure drop of condensation occurring closer to the surface, where it generates the biotic wind.
The other reviewer was Judith Curry, then an atmospheric physicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has long had concerns about the atmospheric dynamics at the core of climate models. She felt it was important to publish the paper and says the standoff was "very bad for climate science, which badly needs an infusion from hard-core physicists." After 3 years of debate, the journal’s editor overruled Held’s recommendation and published the paper, saying it was published "not as an endorsement" but "to promote continuation of the scientific dialogue on the controversial theory [that] may lead to disproof or validation."
Since then, there has been neither validation nor disproof, but largely a standoff. Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at Columbia University, says, "It’s simply nonsense." The authors’ responses to criticisms were "really just mathematics that gave no one any confidence that there was any point in continuing the dialogue." Jose Marengo, a meteorologist in Brazil and head of the National Centre for Monitoring and Warning of Natural Disasters, says: "I think the pump exists, but it’s very theoretical right now. The climate model community hasn’t embraced it, but the Russians are the best theoreticians in the world, so we need proper field experiments to test it." Yet no one, including Makarieva, has yet proposed clearly what such a test might look like.
For her part, Makarieva is building on the theory, arguing in a series of recent papers that the same mechanism can affect tropical cyclones, which are driven by the heat released when moisture condenses over the ocean. In a 2017 paper in Atmospheric Research, she and her colleagues proposed that biotic pumps set up by the forests on land draw moisture-rich air away from the cyclone nurseries. This, she says, might explain why cyclones rarely form in the South Atlantic Ocean: The Amazon and Congo rainforests between them draw so much moisture away that there is too little left to fuel hurricanes.
Kerry Emanuel, a leading hurricane researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the proposed effects "while not negligible are very small." He prefers other explanations for the lack of South Atlantic hurricanes, such as the region’s cool waters, which send less moisture into the air, and its strong shearing winds, which disrupt cyclone formation. Makarieva is equally dismissive of the traditionalists, saying some of the existing theories for hurricane intensity "conflict with the laws of thermodynamics." She has another paper on the topic under peer review at the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. "We are concerned that, despite the editor’s encouragement, our work will get rejected once again," she says.
Even if Makarieva’s ideas are fringy in the West, they are taking root in Russia. Last year, the government began a public dialogue to revise its forestry laws. Aside from strictly protected areas, Russian forests are open to commercial exploitation, but the government and the Federal Forestry Agency are considering a new designation of "climate protection forests." "Some representatives of our forest department got impressed by the biotic pump and want to introduce a new category," she says. The idea has the backing of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Being part of a consensus rather than the perennial outsider marks a change, Makarieva says.
This summer, the coronavirus lockdown put the kibosh on her annual trip to the northern forests. Back in St. Petersburg, she has settled down to respond to yet another round of objections to her work from anonymous peer reviewers. She insists the pump theory will ultimately prevail. "There is a natural inertia in science," she says. With a dark Russian humor, she invokes the words of the legendary German physicist Max Planck, who is said to have once remarked that science "advances one funeral at a time."
© 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights Reserved.
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Ученые Томского государственного университета установили комплекс нового оборудования на ледниках Актру в Горном Алтае. В последние годы ледники активно тают, поэтому необходим постоянный мониторинг изменений массы.
During an expedition to Gorny Altai, scientists from the TSU Faculty of Geology and Geography delivered and installed a set of new equipment on some Aktru glaciers. The equipment will automatically measure the various parameters needed to monitor glacier mass balance. The data obtained will help not only to evaluate the dynamics of accumulation and mass loss but also to find out the reasons for changes.
- Aktru glaciers are the most indicative transformations of mountain glaciation and landscapes for the whole of Central Asia, - said Alexander Erofeev, head of the Laboratory of Glacioclimatology at the TSU Faculty of Geology and Geography. - It is in the highlands that the fastest response of the landscape to climate change occurs. In recent decades, Aktru has been undergoing active processes of glaciation degradation. So, for example, Small Aktru is the fastest melting glacier in Russia. Its condition is such that it is dangerous to be there and, unfortunately, all research is prohibited. Therefore, with our partners from the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, it was decided to install glaciological monitoring equipment on the Left Aktru glacier. One of the main tasks for us is to maintain continuity and bring to the modern level the work of the monitoring system that existed here until the 1990s.
Until recently, only two glaciers remained in Russia with a continuous series of measurements, both located in the Caucasus. In May 2019, scientists from the TSU Faculty of Geology and Geography, along with glaciologists from the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, restored constant monitoring on the Left Aktru - part of the Big Aktru, which fell apart into two in the second half of the 20th century. Currently, Left Aktru is the only glacier in Russia beyond the Urals whose data are transmitted to the World Glacier Monitoring Service (Zurich).
To do this, at the bottom of the Aktru Valley, in the area of the TSU scientific base, a Davis automatic weather station was installed, which continuously transmits temperature, wind speed, and rainfall parameters to a remote data reception server. The same weather station appeared on the side moraine of the Left Aktru near Blue Lake at an altitude of 2,850 meters.
On the main tributaries of the Aktru River, automatic meters of the acoustic noise level of the water flow, combined with automatic precipitation meters, are installed. On the tongue of the Left Aktru glacier, a portable automatic weather station Glacier (Lednik) now works to measure radiation balance and other parameters.
- The new equipment will help us to collect a whole series of data needed to track changes in the mass of the glacier: how it accumulates snow mass, firn, and ice in different periods, under what conditions and how quickly it loses them, - added Alexander Erofeev. - In October 2019, we calculated the balance of the Left Aktru glacier, and it was negative - the loss was 425 mm of water equivalent. 2020 is already breaking records in temperature, according to the forecast of many experts, it may become the warmest in the entire history of observations. In October, we will again calculate the mass of Left Aktru. It is possible that its losses will be even more pronounced.
According to the TSU scientist, if the trend continues and the glacier loses mass at the same rate, then by the second half of the 21st century, the Left Aktru will completely melt. However, one cannot state this with absolute certainty, because the glacier extinction rate can both decrease and increase. This will depend on two main parameters: the amount of precipitation in the form of snow, due to which the glacier increases its mass, and air temperature. Along with this, solar radiation plays an important role, data about which scientists now receive from the Glacier (Lednik) automatic station.
Researchers will also receive new information thanks to special sensors developed at the request of TSU by the university's partner, the Institute for Monitoring Climate and Ecological Systems of the SB RAS, for measuring the acoustic noise level of a water stream. This new method of measurement has proven itself in the extreme hydrological conditions of the Altai highlands, where traditional methods of measuring water flow are either not available or ineffective.
According to Alexander Erofeev, Left Aktru is a representative glacier for many other inland continental glaciers. Therefore, the data on transformations will also be indicative of how other North Asia mountain glaciers "feel".
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Российские и немецкие ученые расшифровали полный геном неандертальской женщины, жившей около 80 тысяч лет назад в Чагырской пещере на Алтае. Судя по всему, чагырская популяция было немногочисленна - не более 60 человек - и жила довольно изолированно.
An international team of researchers has sequenced and analyzed the genome of an 80,000-year-old Neanderthal woman from Chagyrskaya Cave in the Altai Mountains, Siberia. The genome provides insights into Neanderthal population structure and history and allows the identification of genomic features unique to these human cousins.
Neanderthals and Denisovans are the closest evolutionary relatives of modern humans. Analyses of their genomes showed that they contributed genetically to present-day people outside sub-Saharan Africa.
However, the genomes of only two Neanderthals and one Denisovan have been sequenced to high quality. One of these Neanderthal genomes was from an individual (Vindija 33) found in Vindija Cave in Croatia, whereas the other Neanderthal genome (Denisova 5 or the Altai Neanderthal) and the Denisovan genome (Denisova 3) both came from specimens discovered in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains.
In the new research, Dr. Fabrizio Mafessoni from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and colleagues sequenced the genome from a Neanderthal phalanx (Chagyrskaya 8) found in 2011 at Chagyrskaya Cave, which is located about 100 km away from Denisova Cave.
The researchers found that Chagyrskaya 8 lived 80,000 years ago, about 30,000 years after the Denisova 5 Neanderthal and 30,000 years before the Vindija 33 Neanderthal.
They also found that the Chagyrskaya Neanderthal was a female and that she was more closely related to Vindija 33 and other Neanderthals in western Eurasia than to Denisova 5 who lived earlier in the Altai Mountains.
"Chagyrskaya 8 is thus related to Neanderthal populations that moved east sometime between 120,000 and 80,000 years ago," they said.
"Interestingly, the artifacts found in Chagyrskaya Cave show similarities to artifact collections in central and eastern Europe, suggesting that Neanderthal populations coming from western Eurasia to Siberia may have brought their material culture with them."
"Some of these incoming Neanderthals encountered local Denisovan populations, as shown by Denisova 11, who had a Denisovan father and a Neanderthal mother related to the population in which Chagyrskaya 8 lived."
From the variation in the genome, the authors estimated that Chagyrskaya 8 and other Siberian Neanderthals lived in relatively isolated populations of less than 60 individuals.
In contrast, a Neanderthal from Europe, a Denisovan from the Altai Mountains, and ancient modern humans seem to have lived in populations of larger sizes.
When the team analyzed the Chagyrskaya 8 genome together with two previously sequenced Neanderthal genomes, they found that genes expressed in a part of the brain called striatum may have changed especially much, suggesting that the striatum may have evolved unique functions in Neanderthals.
"We found that genes expressed in the striatum during adolescence showed more changes that altered the resulting amino acid when compared to other areas of the brain," Dr. Mafessoni said.
"The results suggest that the striatum - a part of the brain which coordinates various aspects of cognition, including planning, decision-making, motivation and reward perception - may have played a unique role in Neanderthals."
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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Science Times / Jun 20, 2020
Unique Telescope Captures First-Ever X-ray Imaging of the Milky Way, Including Spectacular Nebula and Blackholes
Немецкий телескоп eROSITA, установленный на борту запущенной в июле 2019 года российской космической обсерватории «Спектр-РГ» завершил первый этап сканирования неба в ренгеновском диапазоне. На основе полученных данных российские и немецкие астрофизики построили карту, на которой можно увидеть более миллиона галактик, туманностей, черных дыр, двойных звезд и других источников рентгеновского излучения.
A unique telescope, the eROSITA X-ray Telescope, hunts for galaxies and recently completed its half-year mission. Astronomers shared captivating images of supernovas and blackholes; part of an entire map with more than one million cosmic beings.
The eROSITA X-ray Telescope has been gathering data for only about half a year, yet was able to make discoveries twice as much as other X-ray telescopes have gathered in the last 60 years. The spectacular map includes detailed imaging of the Milky Way's hot gas, nebulas, black holes, binary stars, and other cosmic objects within the universe. It is four times the depth of previous space maps.
German and Russian astronomers worked together to begin the telescope's mission last year. 'We built eROSITA to transform the way we see the X-ray sky, and to unravel the mysteries of cosmology and black holes,' said Peter Predehl, the principal investigator of the X-ray telescope at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany (MPE).
'This all-sky image completely changes the way we look at the energetic universe,' Predehl said in a recent press release. The images are unique because eROSITA traced the thermal energy of the sky. Galaxies appear in clusters, looking like bright, vivid halos because of concentrations of dark matter which confine hot gases.
Almost 80% of the image consists of supermassive black holes, our active galactic nuclei, which consume dark space material in the middle of galaxies. As the one million space objects emit X-rays, known as X-ray sources, the team had to sort through about 165 gigabytes of data from the telescope's seven cameras to put together the map.
Within the Milky Way, eROSITA captured ancient white dwarves, supernova remnants, stars with hot, active coronae, neighboring galaxies like the Magellanic Clouds. Mara Salvato, the lead scientist at MPE said that they all eagerly await eROSITA'S complete, all-sky map. Previously, telescopes have measured the sky at other wavelengths and the new X-ray images can match those discoveries. Predehl describes the stunning images as a 'wealth of detail.'
More surveys are needed for X-ray sources to be identified so that astronomers can understand their nature better. Rare phenomena were also captured: stars swallowed by black holes, merging neutron stars, and thermal readings from compact objects, which eROSITA picked up as 'unexpected bursts of X-rays.' 'We need to alert ground-based telescopes immediately to understand what's producing them,' said Salvato.
Russian Scientist Rashid Sunyaev said that their second survey will soon begin until the end of the year. The team plans to create seven similar maps within the next 3.5 years. 'Their combined sensitivity will be a factor of five better and will be used by astrophysicists and cosmologists for decades,' said Sunyaev.
Kirpal Nandra, head of the high-energy astrophysics group at MPE said that the work eROSITA has accomplished just revolutionized X-ray astronomy. The team is anticipating much more in the near future.
'This combination of sky area and depth is transformational. We are already sampling a cosmological volume of the hot universe much larger than has been possible before. Over the next few years, we'll be able to probe even further, out to where the first giant cosmic structures and supermassive black holes were forming.'
© Copyright 2020 The Science Times. All Rights Reserved.
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Ученые из МГУ разработали тест для определения биологического возраста на основе недорогого набора химических реагентов. В качестве маркера используется соединение никотинамидадениндинуклеотид, который живые существа используют для выработки энергии.
Scientists from Moscow State University have developed a method for determining the biological age of a person using an inexpensive set of chemicals. The results of the study are published in the journal Analytical Biochemistry.
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is a compound that living beings use to generate energy. In metabolic processes, it takes away electrons from some molecules, oxidizing them, and gives them to others, restoring.
Russian scientists have proposed using NAD + as one of the markers of the biological age of the body and pathologies of its metabolic processes, for example, obesity, chronic diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and others. In addition, the content of NAD + can serve as an indicator of the effectiveness of the pharmacological action of drugs aimed at combating these diseases.
Scientists have found that the form of NAD, capable of picking up electrons, is also involved in the signal systems of the cell, allowing it to respond to external stimuli. Changes in the amount of NAD + in cells during the day is involved in the mechanisms of maintaining the biological clock - the so-called circadian rhythms. Note that the work of the biological clock worsens during the aging process: violations lead to various diseases. Therefore, if you are not armed with methods for determining the amount of NAD + in cells, then it can be easily used in research.
In this regard, scientists have proposed the use of formate dehydrogenase (FDH) - an enzyme that microorganisms and plants have. It oxidizes the smallest of organic acids, formic, transferring its electrons to the NAD + molecule in the form of a hydride ion - a negatively charged hydrogen ion containing an "additional" electron. In this case, NAD + passes from the oxidized form to the reduced form, which means that the amount of NAD + can be determined using fluorescence analysis.
According to the authors, the method will help to greatly simplify and reduce the cost of existing methods for measuring the level of NAD. In the future, it is planned to use the algorithm in clinical and research practice.
Copyright © 2020.
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National Geographic / June 23, 2020
What a 100-degree day in Siberia really means
The record-setting high is much more than a quick spike for the Russian Arctic, where months of extreme heat may have dangerous consequences.
Рекордно высокие температуры в Сибири и в арктических районах последние несколько месяцев - признак стремительного и непрерывного потепления планеты, причем Арктика нагревается в два с лишним раза быстрее, чем остальная часть планеты. Какими будут последствия?
An extended heat wave that has been baking the Russian Arctic for months drove the temperature in Verkhoyansk, Russia - north of the Arctic Circle - to 100.4°F on June 20, the official first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This record high temperature is a signal of a rapidly and continually warming planet, and a preview of how Arctic warming will continue in an increasingly hot future, scientists say.
"For a long time, we’ve been saying we’re going to get more extremes like strong heat waves," says Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute. "It’s a little like the projections are coming true, and sooner than we might have thought."
Saturday’s record wasn’t just a quick spike before a return to more normal summer temperatures for the Russian Arctic: The heat wave behind it is projected to continue for at least another week. It was the hottest temperature ever recorded in the town, where records have been kept since 1885.
A climate-toasted Arctic
Hot summer days aren’t unheard of in the Arctic. The ocean-tempered coasts tend to stay slightly cooler, but inland, summer temperatures sometimes soar. Fort Yukon, Alaska, recorded the first-ever 100°F (37.7°C) day north of the Arctic Circle in 1915; Verkhoyansk hit 99.1°F (37.3°C) in 1988.
"At this time of the year, around the summer solstice, you get 24 hours of sunlight," says Walt Meier, a climate scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "That’s a lot of solar energy coming in. So in these high-latitude areas - 80 degrees, 90 degrees, that’s not unheard of."
But climate change is "loading the dice" toward extreme temperatures like the one recorded this week, he says. The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet: Baseline warmth in the high Arctic has increased by between 3.6 to 5.4°F (2 to 3°C) over the past hundred or so years. About 0.75°C of that has occurred in the last decade alone.
That means any heat waves that hit the region are strengthened by the extra warming. So the average warmness of a summer increases, and the extremes do too.
This month’s super-hot day emerged from a potent mix of factors. First, climate change nudged base temperatures up. Then, western Siberia experienced one of its hottest-ever spring seasons, according to climate scientists at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Since December, air temperatures in the region have averaged nearly 11°F (6°C) above the average seen between 1979 and 2019. The high heat is also likely well above the average seen in any similar six-month stretch going back to 1880. In May, air temperatures hovered some 18°F (10°C) above the "normal" May average of 33.8°F (1°C) - something that would be likely to occur only once in 100,000 years, if human-caused climate change hadn’t thrown a wrench in the climate system’s plumbing.
"It has been really bizarre to see," says Ivana Cvijanovic, a climate scientist at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. "All across Siberia, it has really been so hot for so long. January, then February, then March, then April. The pattern - it really stands out."
The warm winter and hot spring meant that the snow usually blanketing the ground across much of the region melted about a month earlier than normal. Bright white snow plays a crucial role in keeping parts of the Arctic cool, by reflecting the sun’s incoming heat. Once it had gone away, dirt and plants readily soaked up the heat instead.
Then, the weather conditions aligned. A big, high-pressure system settled into place over western Siberia, where it stalled. These kinds of systems often have clear, cloudless skies - perfect for solar heat to shine through unobstructed, straight onto the hot Siberian ground.
"The air is just kind of trapped there; it’s like an oven sitting over the area, just heating it up more and more the longer it sits there," says Meier.
In recent years, the effects of these kinds of immobile heat waves have become more obvious across the Arctic. In 2012, 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet’s surface got so warm it turned essentially to slush. In 2016, it was so warm in High Arctic Svalbard, Norway, that rain fell instead of snow for part of the winter. Last summer, the edges of the Greenland ice sheet experienced up to three extra months of melting weather. Limpid blue pools formed on its surface; floods of melt gushed off the edge of the continent, and fires broke out in its sparse landscapes after a heat wave parked over the island for weeks.
There’s a lively scientific debate underway about whether these kinds of heat waves in the high latitudes are lasting longer or becoming more frequent than they were in the past because of climate change. But there’s little debate that the future holds much more extreme heat for the Arctic. Winter average temperatures in the Arctic have already exceeded the 3.6°F (2°C) threshold stated in the Paris climate agreement; predictions suggest the annual average temperature for the region will exceed that within decades.
"By 2100, under an extreme warming scenario, we would expect to see an event like this every year," says Robert Rohde, a climate scientist with Berkeley Earth.
Similar patterns are playing out at the southern pole, too. A site on the Antarctic Peninsula hit nearly 65°F (18.3°C) during January, its summertime.
Polar amplification and human fingerprints
The poles are warming up more quickly than the rest of Earth because of a phenomenon called "polar amplification." The sea ice that used to blanket much of the Arctic Ocean provided a bright white cap across the northernmost reaches of the planet. Like the snow that reflects incoming solar radiation in Siberia, the ice bounced the sun’s heat back toward space.
But as Earth has warmed, there’s less sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean, leaving behind dark waters that absorb much more heat. Sea ice forms less readily in that warm water, leading the water to absorb even more solar heat, and the system goes on a self-reinforcing loop.
It’s difficult to say for sure that this or that single heat wave was worse because of climate change - and no one has yet done that analysis for this stretch of excessive Siberian warmth. But researchers found human-caused climate change’s fingerprints all over the heat wave that caused excessive melting in Greenland and across northern Europe last summer. 2019’s June heat - which caused temperatures in France to spike above 113°F (45°C), was at least five times more likely to occur because of human impacts. And some 60 percent of 2016’s excessive Arctic heat was attributable to human-caused climate change, scientists found.
Fires, oil spills
This season’s hot weather comes with consequences. Below the ground, much of the Russian Arctic is covered in permafrost, carbon-rich peat soils capped by a layer of ice that usually stays frozen for most or all of the year. But hot air temperatures destabilize the frozen ground and lead to often irreparable change.
In June, defrosted soils may have led to the collapse of a diesel storage tank in Siberia, spilling 20,000 metric tons of fuel into a nearby river. A recent study suggests that this is far from an isolated risk: By 2050, scientists say, vast amounts of infrastructure across the Arctic are at risk from thawing ground collapsing beneath them. Thousands of miles of pipelines and roads, buildings and storage tanks, oil fields and airports, and more, all potentially destabilized by overheated weather that has melted the ground.
Fires have also been smoldering across the Russian Arctic. The overwarm spring dried out both soils and vegetation, leaving them primed to burn, and over 12 million acres were on fire as of early June, according to Russia’s forest service.
"There’s lot and lots of vegetation and forest across Siberia," says Meier. "And when it’s hot like this for so long, it dries out and becomes like a tinderbox.
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В 1988 году экспедиция Санкт-Петербургского института истории материальной культуры обнаружила в могильнике Сарыг-Булун (Республика Тыва) скифское захоронение возрастом около 2600 лет с останками подростка. В деревянном саркофаге находился полный набор оружия, что традиционно указывало на мужской пол. Однако недавний генетический анализ, проведенный в Лаборатории исторической генетики, радиоуглеродного анализа и прикладной физики МФТИ, показал, что скифский воин был тринадцатилетней девочкой.
In a time of ancient gods, warriors and kings, the tale of a tribe of warrior women was established in Greek mythology. Said to be daughters of the gods, these fierce female fighters from Asia Minor have caught people's imaginations for centuries and still permeate through popular culture today as legendary Amazon warriors.
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For a long time these warrior women were assumed to be figments of ancient imaginations, but archaeological evidence has since revealed that the warrior women, who may have inspired these myths, really did exist.
Late last year, an archaeological discovery of two women thought to be nomadic Scythians from around 2,500 years ago (4th century BCE) was revealed. They were buried in what's now the western Russian village of Devitsa, with parts of a horse-riding harness and weapons, including iron knives and 30 arrowheads.
"We can certainly say that these two women were horse warriors," said archaeologist Valerii Guliaev of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archaeology at the time.
They were found in a burial mound with two other women - one aged between 40-50 years old, who wore a golden headdress with decorative floral ornaments. The other, aged 30-35, was buried alongside two spears and positioned like she was riding a horse.
"During the last decade our expedition has discovered approximately 11 burials of young armed women. Separate barrows were filled for them and all burial rites which were usually made for men were done for them," explained Guliaev.
Now, another team from Russia has mapped the genome of 2,600-year-old Scythian remains that had been discovered in a wooden sarcophagus with an array of weapons back in 1988.
"This child was initially considered to be male because with him were found characteristics [usually attributed to male] archaeological finds: an axe, a bow, arrows," archaeologist Varvara Busova from the Russian Academy of Sciences told ScienceAlert.
But the child's DNA revealed the remains were actually female. "That means we can say with some probability that [Scythian] girls have also participated in hunting or military campaigns," Busova added.
The warrior girl was buried in Siberia's modern-day Tuva republic, with an axe, a birch bow and a quiver with ten arrows - some wood, bone or bronze tipped. Due to the larch coffin sealing tightly against fresh air, her remains were partially mummified.
"This young 'Amazon' had not yet reached the age of 14 years," said lead author of the new research, archaeologist Marina Kilunovskaya from the Institute for the History of Material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences.
The girl was clothed in a long fur coat, a shirt, and trousers or a skirt. Using a scanning electron microscope ,the researchers found her coat was composed of a patchwork of skins from a rodent related to Jerboa. And carbon dating of other grave items placed the burial complex from 7th-5th centuries BCE, which is early Scythian times.
Busova said the research team would now like to get more accurate dating of the young warrior girl's remains, investigate the composition of the metal grave objects, and work to restore and conserve what they have found. They're also hoping CT scans of the remains may give them clues on how the young female warrior died.
The finding "unwittingly brings us back to the myth about the Amazons that have survived to this day thanks to Herodotus (Herod. IV: 110-118)," the team wrote in their paper.
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus claimed Amazons fought the Scythians, but it seems they could actually be the Scythian women who trained, hunted and fought alongside their male counterparts.
"About one-third of all Scythian women are buried with weapons and have war injuries just like the men," historian Adrienne Mayor told National Geographic in 2014.
"They lived in small tribes, so it makes sense that everyone in the tribe is a stakeholder. They all have to contribute to defence and to war efforts and hunting."
Through the centuries, myths of the Amazons have been embellished with outrageous claims, from cutting off their own breasts to improve their archery, to murdering their male children.
But we now have the opportunity to learn more about the true female warriors behind the myths thanks to modern archaeological studies and DNA techniques.
The new study was published in Stratum Plus.
The New York Times / June 25, 2020
Decades-Old Soviet Studies Hint at Coronavirus Strategy
A married pair of virologists in Moscow tested a vaccine on their own children in the 1950s. Now, a side effect they found is sparking new hope for a defense against the coronavirus.
Побочный эффект вакцины от полиомиелита, обнаруженный советским вирусологом Мариной Ворошиловой в 1959 году, может оказаться полезным в борьбе с коронавирусом. Ворошилова заметила, что получившие живую антиполиомиелитную вакцину люди в течение некоторого времени не болели другими вирусными заболеваниями, а масштабные исследования, проводившиеся с 1968 по 1975 годы подтвердили ее наблюдение.
To the boys, it was just a sugary treat. To their parents, prominent medical researchers, what happened in their Moscow apartment that day in 1959 was a vital experiment with countless lives at stake - and their own children as guinea pigs.
"We formed a kind of line," Dr. Peter Chumakov, who was 7 at the time, recalled in an interview. Into each waiting mouth, a parent popped a sugar cube laced with weakened poliovirus - an early vaccine against a dreaded disease. "I was eating it from the hands of my mother."
Today, that same vaccine is gaining renewed attention from researchers - including those brothers, who all grew up to be virologists - as a possible weapon against the new coronavirus, based in part on research done by their mother, Dr. Marina Voroshilova.
Dr. Voroshilova established that the live polio vaccine had an unexpected benefit that, it turns out, could be relevant to the current pandemic: People who got the vaccine did not become sick with other viral illnesses for a month or so afterward. She took to giving the boys polio vaccine each fall, as protection against flu.
Now, some scientists in several countries are taking a keen interest in the idea of repurposing existing vaccines, like the one with live poliovirus and another for tuberculosis, to see if they can provide at least temporary resistance to the coronavirus. Russians are among them, drawing on a long history of vaccine research - and of researchers, unconcerned about being scoffed at as mad scientists, experimenting on themselves.
Experts advise that the idea - like many other proposed ways of attacking the pandemic - must be approached with great caution.
"We are much better off with a vaccine that induces specific immunity," Dr. Paul A. Offit, a co-inventor of a vaccine against the rotavirus and professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a telephone interview. Any benefits from a repurposed vaccine, he said, are "much shorter lived and incomplete," compared with a tailored vaccine.
Still, Dr. Robert Gallo, a leading advocate of testing the polio vaccine against coronavirus, said that repurposing vaccines is "one of the hottest areas of immunology." Dr. Gallo, director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that even if the weakened poliovirus confers immunity for only a month or so, "it gets you over the hump, and it would save a lot of lives."
But there are risks.
Billions of people have taken live poliovirus vaccine, nearly eradicating the disease. However, in extremely rare cases, the weakened virus used in the vaccine can mutate into a more dangerous form, cause polio and infect other people. The risk of paralysis is estimated at one in 2.7 million vaccinations.
For those reasons, public health organizations say that once a region eliminates naturally occurring polio, it must stop routine use of oral vaccine, as the United States did 20 years ago.
And this month, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases delayed a study designed by Dr. Gallo’s institute, the Cleveland Clinic, the University at Buffalo and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to test the effectiveness of live polio vaccine against coronavirus, using health care workers as subjects. The agency raised safety concerns, including the chance of live poliovirus making its way into water supplies and infecting others, according to researchers familiar with the study application. The press office of the N.I.A.I.D. declined to comment.
But other countries are moving ahead. Trials with the polio vaccine have begun in Russia, and are planned in Iran and Guinea-Bissau.
A specific vaccine for the coronavirus would be one that trains the immune system to target that virus specifically, and more than 125 vaccine candidates are under development around the world.
Repurposed vaccines, in contrast, use live but weakened viruses or bacteria to stimulate the innate immune system more broadly to fight pathogens, at least temporarily.
The first polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, an American, used "inactivated" virus - particles of killed virus. It had to be injected, an obstacle to immunization campaigns in poorer countries.
When that vaccine was widely introduced in 1955, Dr. Albert Sabin was testing a vaccine using live but attenuated poliovirus, which could be taken orally. But in the United States, with the Salk vaccine already in use, the authorities were reluctant to take the perceived risk of conducting live-virus trials.
Dr. Sabin gave his three strains of attenuated virus to a married pair of virologists in the Soviet Union, Dr. Mikhail Chumakov, the founder of a polio research institute that now bears his name, and Dr. Voroshilova.
Dr. Chumakov vaccinated himself, but a medicine intended primarily for children needed child test subjects, so he and Dr. Voroshilova gave it to their three sons and several nieces and nephews.
Their experiment enabled Dr. Chumakov to persuade a senior Soviet official, Anastas Mikoyan, to proceed with wider trials, eventually leading to the mass production of an oral polio vaccine used around the world. The United States began oral polio vaccinations in 1961 after it was proved safe in the Soviet Union.
"Somebody has to be the first," Dr. Peter Chumakov said in an interview. "I was never angry. I think it was very good to have such a father, who is confident enough that what he is doing is right and is sure he will not harm his children."
His mother was, if anything, even more enthusiastic about running the tests on the boys, he said.
"She was absolutely sure there was nothing to be scared of," he said.
Something Dr. Voroshilova noticed decades ago has renewed interest in the oral vaccine.
A typical healthy child is host to a dozen or so respiratory viruses that cause little or no illness. But Dr. Voroshilova could not find any of them in children soon after they were immunized against polio.
A huge study in the Soviet Union of 320,000 people, from 1968 to 1975, overseen by Dr. Voroshilova, found reduced mortality from flu in people immunized with other vaccines, including the oral polio vaccine.
She won recognition in the Soviet Union for demonstrating a link between vaccinations and broad protection against viral diseases, likely by stimulating the immune system.
Dr. Voroshilova’s and Dr. Chumakov’s work clearly influenced their sons’ minds as well as their health - not only did all of them become virologists, they embraced self-testing as well.
Dr. Peter Chumakov today is the chief scientist at the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology at the Russian Academy of Sciences and co-founder of a company in Cleveland that treats cancer with viruses. He has developed about 25 viruses for use against tumors - all of which, he said, he has tested on himself.
He is also now taking polio vaccine, which he grows in his own laboratory, as possible protection against coronavirus.
Dr. Ilia Chumakov, a molecular biologist, helped sequence the human genome in France.
Dr. Alexei Chumakov, who was not yet born when his parents experimented on his brothers, worked as a cancer researcher at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles for much of his career. While working in Moscow, he developed a vaccine against hepatitis E, which he tested first on himself.
"It’s an old tradition," he said. "The engineer should stand under the bridge when the first heavy load goes over."
Dr. Konstantin Chumakov is an associate director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Vaccine Research and Review, which would be involved in approving any coronavirus vaccines for use in Americans. He is also a co-author, with Dr. Gallo and others, of a recent article in the journal Science that promotes research into repurposing existing vaccines.
In an interview, Dr. Konstantin Chumakov said he cannot remember eating the sugar cube back in 1959 - he was 5 years old - but approved of his parents’ experiment as a step toward saving untold numbers of children from paralysis.
"It was the right thing to do," he said. "Now, there would be questions, like ‘Did you get permission from the ethics committee?’"
© 2020 The New York Times Company.
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Исследователи Балтийского федерального университета им. И.Канта и НИТУ «МИСиС» изучили, как магнитные наночастицы воздействуют на раковые клетки печени человека. Оказалось, что нанокубики и нанокластеры оксида железа способны активировать определенные гены, что заставляет раковые клетки самоуничтожаться.
Scientists from the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (IKBFU) and National University of Science and Technology "MISiS" have studied how magnet nanoparticles affect cancer cells in the human liver. In the authors' opinion, this research will help to treat oncology. The research results were published in Nano Convergence.
Because of their unique properties, magnetic nanoparticles can be used for therapeutic diagnostics and personalized treatment of cancer diseases, as well as be an effective contrast agent for MRI examination and imaging of tumors.
It is known that human cancer cells can absorb magnetic nanoparticles. This property can be used in cancer therapy in at least three ways: local heating of a tumor when exposed to a variable magnetic field (magnetic hyperthermia), targeted drug delivery, or selective cytotoxic effects of nanoparticles on cancer cells.
Scientists from the IKBFU Laboratory of Novel Magnet Materials studied the peculiarities of nanoparticles' influence on cell organelles and got acquainted with the peculiarities of intracellular processes in detail by using different lines of liver cancer cells. Small objects such as nanoparticles can be easily 'eaten' by cells, but this does not always happen - in some cases, nanoparticles can damage the structure of a cell, penetrate it and kill it. By adding iron oxide nanoparticles of various shapes to the nutrient medium of cells, scientists were able to check the degree and nature of the changes in cell culture.
According to the authors of the study, the behavior of cancer cells depends on the concentration of nanoparticles in the solution and, most importantly, the type of cancer. The fact is that different cells respond differently to the same particles. This makes it possible to create an instrument based on nanoparticles, selectively suppressing cancer cells while keeping healthy cells intact.
Scientists have carried out experiments on how cancer cells in the human liver react to various types of magnet nanoparticles. They found that iron oxide nanocubes and nanoclusters are capable of activating certain genes that give a 'self-destruct command' to liver cancer cells. This discovery sheds light on the mechanisms that regulate cell death caused by the cytotoxicity of nanoparticles.
Maxim Abakumov, co-author of the research, head of NUST "MISiS" Biomedical materials Laboratory said, "The mechanism of toxic effect is associated with the progressive permeability of lysosomal membranes in hepatocytes, which provokes the processes of apoptosis and autophagy, basically, 'cell death.'"
According to Valeria Rodionova, the Head of the IKBFU Novel Magnet Materials Laboratory, the results of the research may be used for cancer diagnosis and therapy.
Valeria Rodionova said, "This interdisciplinary project brought together scientists from different fields: physics, chemists, and biologists. Our joint work allowed us not only to synthesize unique types of nanoparticles but also to analyze the mechanisms of specific cellular signaling pathways that they activate in the cell."
Cooperation in the scientific world often proves to be decisive in research. Thus, microscopic studies were carried out in the laboratory of biophysics, under the supervision of Dr. Oleg Lunov, head of the laboratory (Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences). Scientists of the Mendeleev Russian University of Chemistry and Technology also took part in the study.
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BBC News / 26 June 2020
The USSR's secret Siberian 'democracy'
In Akademgorodok, residents experienced cultural freedom unlike anywhere else in the USSR. To this day, the town is one of the most important research centres in Russia.
- By Irina Sedunova and Luana Harumi
Видеосюжет о новосибирском Академгородке на сайте BBC.
The Siberian tundra, where average temperatures in winter can plunge as low as -40C, might seem like an unlikely place to build a science and technology hub. Yet, hidden among the birch and pine trees and - for much of the year - the snow, stands one of the most important research and educational centres in Russia: Akademgorodok - the former USSR’s aptly named "Academic Town".
Located about 30km south of Novosibirsk city and more than 3,000km directly east from Moscow, Akademgorodok was conceived in the late 1950s by mathematician Mikhail Lavrentyev and the USSR’s then-premier Nikita Khrushchev as a place to conduct fundamental research and develop technology during the Cold War. Construction began in 1958, and the place mostly attracted young researchers and recent graduates. By the following year, it had its own campus, the Novosibirsk State University. And by the mid-1960s, the town’s main drag was filled with roughly 20 science and technology institutes dedicated to genetics, chemistry, physics, automation and social sciences - leading some to call it the "brainiest street in the world".
In the late 1960s, the town was big enough to accommodate up to 65,000 people, most of them scientists. Akademgorodok’s first decade is considered the town’s golden age, with pioneering work in several research areas and a bustling social life: its sheer distance from Moscow also meant it had a political and cultural distance from the Communist Party. Researchers met up in social clubs where they could discuss literature, art, music and even hold festivals that would have been impossible anywhere else in the Soviet Union.
In 1968, however, amid the country’s growing political conservatism, a satirical festival and a letter signed by Akademgorodok scientists protesting the government’s violation of human rights led Soviet authorities to shut down all social clubs in town. Academic studies were still funded throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 - when the town’s population was at its peak with 100,000 people - led many residents to leave.
In the mid-2000s, the Russian government began reinvesting in Akademgorodok. International tech companies have since established offices in the region and the town’s main research focus has shifted to technology innovation.
Copyright © 2020 BBC.
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Ученые из 12 стран, включая Россию, в рамках международного проекта секвенировали самый древний на данный момент полный геном собаки возрастом 9,5 тысяч лет с сибирского острова Жохов и обнаружили большое сходство с геномами современных ездовых собак. Жоховская собака оказалась их общим предком, а значит, ездовых собак стали разводить не 2-3 тысячи лет назад, а гораздо раньше. Результаты исследования опубликованы в журнале Science.
An international team of researchers has sequenced the genomes of 10 modern sled dogs, an ancient sled dog and an ancient wolf, both from Siberia, and analyzed their genetic relationships with other modern dogs. They’ve found that sled dogs represent an ancient lineage going back at least 9,500 years and that wolves bred with the ancestors of sled dogs as well as American dogs.
Archaeological evidence from eastern Siberia suggests that sled dogs have likely been integral to human life in the Arctic for at least 15,000 years.
Similar to their roles in these regions today, ancient Arctic-adapted dogs were used to pull sleds, facilitating long-distance travel and transportation of resources across the harsh, frozen landscape.
Despite being one of the most unique groups of dogs, little is known about the modern sled dog’s ancient genetic and evolutionary past.
In the new study, Globe Institute scientist Mikkel Sinding and colleagues sequenced the genomes of 10 modern Greenland sled dogs, a 9,500-year-old Siberian dog associated with archaeological evidence for sled technology, and a 33,000-year-old Siberian wolf and compared them to modern dog genomes.
They revealed the ancient Siberian dog as a common ancestor to modern sled dog breeds - particularly Greenland sled dogs, which, due to their isolated populations, can trace more direct genomic ancestry to ancient sled dogs.
"We have extracted DNA from a 9,500-year-old dog from the Siberian island of Zhokhov, which the dog is named after," Sinding said.
"Based on that DNA we have sequenced the oldest complete dog genome to date, and the results show an extremely early diversification of dogs into types of sledge dogs."
"This means that modern sledge dogs and Zhokhov had the same common origin in Siberia more than 9,500 years ago," said Globe Institute researcher Shyam Gopalakrishnan.
"Until now, we have thought that sledge dogs were only 2,000-3,000 years old."
While the results indicate gene flow from Siberian Pleistocene wolves, unlike many other dog breeds, the authors found no significant admixture between any sled dog - modern or ancient - and American-Arctic wolves, suggesting a roughly 9,500-year genetic continuity in Arctic dog breeds.
The team also found several convergent adaptations in Arctic dogs, including one that allowed sled dogs to eat the fat-rich and starch poor diets of their human counterparts.
"This emphasizes that sledge dogs and Arctic people have worked and adapted together for more than 9,500 years," Dr. Gopalakrishnan said.
"We can also see that they have adaptations that are probably linked to improved oxygen uptake, which makes sense in relation to sledding and give the sledding tradition ancient roots."
"Our results imply that the combination of these dogs with the innovation of sled technology facilitated human subsistence," the scientists said.
The findings appear in the journal Science.
© 2011-2020. Sci-News.com. All Rights Reserved.
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Ars Technica / 6/29/2020
Russia’s replacement for the Proton rocket costs way too much
"Angara has no chance of successful competition."
По мнению руководителя Института космической политики Ивана Моисеева планы российской космической отрасли по разработке многоразовых ракет-носителей рискуют так и остаться на бумаге. Причина в отсутствии четкой стратегии космических исследований, а также в многочисленных внутренних проблемах отрасли.
In recent months, the Russian space industry has talked a good game about its plans for developing new rockets to compete on the international stage.
One of the country's storied rocket engine manufacturers, NPO Energomash, announced it was working on developing a large, methane-fueled rocket engine, named the RD-0177. This engine was part of an overall plan for a "new generation" of rockets. The work comes as three US rocket companies, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, and Blue Origin, are building their next-generation rockets around methane engines.
Additionally, Russian officials have continued to talk about developing the Soyuz 5 rocket - a medium-lift rocket that is supposed to provide affordable access to space. This booster has been linked to Sea Launch's floating spaceport as well as human launches in the mid-2020s.
However, Ivan Moiseev, the head of the Russian Space Policy Institute, said these projects are best thought of as "paper rockets," lacking the funding to become real hardware.
"In fact, we do not have a clear and understandable strategy for space travel, and huge problems have accumulated inside Russia’s space industry," he said in an interview with the Vzglyad online newspaper (a translation of this article was provided by Robinson Mitchell). "At this time, Roscosmos is coming up with all kinds of new rocket projects on paper but only those which will remain on paper and will never come to fruition."
These announcements of futuristic rocket projects likely play well domestically, feeding into Russia's image as a superpower. But the real future of Russia's rocket program appears less than bright.
Waiting for Angara
For decades, to deliver large payloads into space and compete for international launch contracts, Russia relied primarily on the Proton rocket. This booster, which debuted in the 1960s, had a base price of about $65 million, which was competitive with SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster. But it has had reliability issues of late, and about 15 years ago, the Russian government decided to develop the "Angara 5" rocket to replace the Proton rocket.
The Angara 5 rocket has flown once, in 2014, lofting a 2-ton mass simulator into geosynchronous orbit. But due to a number of factors, including costs, production issues, and a lack of demand, the Angara 5 rocket has not flown since. Nevertheless, the Angara 5 rocket is slated to take over for the more modestly priced Proton rocket within the next few years.
Russia's state news service, TASS, reported on Monday that efforts are underway to cut the price of the Angara 5 rocket from more than $100 million per launch to $57 million by 2024. These cost savings would come along with serial production of the rocket rather than single production.
But Russian observers of the industry continue to mistrust these official statements. "Angara has no chance of successful competition," said Andrey Ionin, member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics. Of Russia's plan to reduce the costs of the Angara 5 rocket, Ionin said, "This is an attempt to bombard real facts with informational garbage." He does not believe the rocket can ever be competitive with the reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
The reality seems to be that Russia's next rocket costs substantially more than the rocket it is replacing, the Proton. This comes at a time when international price competition, led by SpaceX but joined by Japan's H3 and Europe's Ariane 6 boosters, is hotter than ever.
© 2020 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.
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Drug Target Review / 29 June 2020
Four compounds discovered in starfish show efficacy against cancer cells
Scientists have revealed that four molecules found in the Ceramaster patagonicus starfish show potency against cancer in cell lines.
Исследователи Дальневосточного федерального университета, Тихоокеанского института биоорганической химии ДВО РАН и Национального научного центра морской биологии им. А.В.Жирмунского ДВО РАН выделили из морской звезды Ceramaster patagonicus биологически активные вещества, обладающие противоопухолевой активностью в отношении некоторых видов рака.
Russian scientists report they have discovered four new steroid substances which target cells of human breast cancer and colorectal carcinoma. They were extracted from the starfish Ceramaster patagonicus, a Kuril basin seabed dweller.
The participating institutions which discovered the potential cancer drugs include the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU), G.B.Elyakov Pacific Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry (PIBOC FEB RAS) and A.V.Zhirmunsky National Scientific Center for Marine Biology (NSCMB FEB RAS).
The four new compounds belong to a class of non-typical derivatives of polar steroids with residual tails of fatty acids in their molecular structure. According to the scientists, these compounds may be responsible in the starfish for the delivery of nutrients from the digestive tract to peripheral cells, acting like bile acid in the human stomach. Previously, only one such compound was isolated from starfish.
"Importantly, the new steroid compounds from starfish curb the reproduction of cancer cells in non-toxic concentrations. That gives a hope that new substances will not kill healthy body cells and shows a promise for further study and testing," said Dr Timofey Malyarenko, associate professor at FEFU School of Natural Sciences. "It is interesting that these compounds had been found almost by accident when I was looking for new lipid molecules or fats of marine origin in the starfish extract. During the separation of substances on chromatographic plates (TLC), curious spots were detected. Having studied them, we established the structures of four new derivatives of polar steroids with fatty acids. There are five of them in the world now."
The anticancer effects of the compounds were revealed using an MTS assay. The researchers found that one molecule in particular was non-toxic against tested cell lines even after three days of treatment. They also found that another compound was able to suppress cancer colony formation and tumour cell migration.
A further step of the study will now likely be the production of molecules with increased therapeutic properties based on the steroid compounds.
The researchers suggest that, due to their steroid nature, the compounds could also be considered as potential blockers of neurodegenerative diseases, since they help nerve cells survive distress like, for example, low levels of oxygen and glucose.
The findings appear in Marine Drugs.
© Russell Publishing Limited, 2010-2020. All rights reserved.
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