|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
Science Daily / September 1, 2020
Neglected for over a century, Black sea spider crab re-described
Впервые с 1880 года российские ученые описали краба-паука Macropodia czernjawskii, обитающего в Черном море. Сотрудники Института океанологии РАН провели молекулярно-генетический анализ имеющихся образцов, исправили и дополнили информацию, не обновлявшуюся более ста лет.
Even though recognised in the Mediterranean Sea, the Macropodia czernjawskii spider crab was ignored by scientists (even by its namesake Vladimir Czernyavsky) in the regional faunal accounts of the Black Sea for more than a century. At the same time, although other species of the genus have been listed as Black sea fauna, those listings are mostly wrong and occurred either due to historical circumstances or misidentifications.
Now, scientists re-describe this, most likely, only species of the genus occurring in the Black Sea in the open-access journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.
The spider crab genus Macropodia was discovered in 1814 and currently includes 18 species, mostly occurring in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The marine fauna of the Black Sea is predominantly of Mediterranean origin and Macropodia czernjawskii was firstly discovered in the Black Sea in 1880, but afterwards, its presence there was largely ignored by the scientists.
After the revision of available type specimens from all available collections in the Russian museums and the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt-on-Main, as well as newly collected material in the Black Sea and the North-East Atlantic, a research team of scientists, led by Dr Vassily Spiridonov from Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of Russian Academy of Sciences, re-described Macropodia czernjawskii and provided the new data on its records and updated its ecological characteristics.
"The analysis of the molecular genetic barcode (COI) of the available material of Macropodia species indicated that M. czernjawskii is a very distinct species while M. parva should be synonimised with M. rostrata, and M. longipes is a synonym of M. tenuirostris," states Dr Spiridonov sharing the details of the genus analysis.
All Macropodia species have epibiosis and M. czernjawskii is no exception: almost all examined crabs in 2008-2018 collections had significant epibiosis. It normally consists of algae and cyanobacteria and, particularly, a non-indigenous species of red alga Bonnemaisonia hamifera, officially reported in 2015 at the Caucasian coast of the Black Sea, was found in the epibiosis of M. czernjawskii four years earlier.
"It improves our understanding of its invasion history. Museum and monitoring collections of species with abundant epibiosis (in particular inachid crabs) can be used as an additional tool to record and monitor introduction and establishments of sessile non-indigenous species," suggests Dr Spiridonov.
Copyright 2020 ScienceDaily.
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Big News Network / 1st September 2020
Russian Glacier In Urals Region Has Completely Melted, Scientists Say
Летняя экспедиция российских гляциологов на Полярный Урал обнаружила, что один из крупнейших в регионе ледников - ледник МГУ протяженностью более 2 км - полностью растаял.
One of the largest glaciers in Russia's Urals region has completely melted, according to members of a research group that carried out an expedition.
The glacier known as MGU, which was 2.2 kilometers long when it was discovered in 1953, has vanished, the researchers from the Scientific Center for Arctic Studies said in an August 31 statement.
The researchers carried out their expedition from August 19 to August 28 and visited the sites of two other glaciers. MGU was the second largest glacier by mass in the Urals polar region and its longest when it was initially discovered. Mikhail Ivanov, one of the scientists, said a "large amount" of ice still existed when they last visited MGU in 2010. Parts of the iceberg were still visible in photographs taken by tourists to the area in recent years, he said.
"This year, it turned out, it completely melted," Ivanov said.
Russia's Urals and Siberian regions have experienced unusually high temperatures in recent years that have been blamed on global warming.
Copyright © 1998-2020 Big News Network All rights reserved.
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H2 View / Sep 02, 2020
Germany and Russia want to cooperate on hydrogen technology
Россия и Германия намерены усилить экономическое и научное сотрудничество в области водородных технологий.
German and Russian businesses, government representatives and researchers want to cooperate more closely in the field of hydrogen technology, the German-Russian Raw Materials Forum (DRRF) announced after a meeting at the end of August. The aim is to intensify bilateral cooperation on the subject of hydrogen on an economic and scientific level, and to network existing activities and competencies.
Members of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and representatives of the Russian Energy Ministry also took part in the meeting, including Deputy Russian Energy Minister Pawel Sorokin and Thorsten Herdan, Department Head of Energy Policy - Heat and Efficiency in the BMWi.
"I am firmly convinced that a joint Russian-German development of the hydrogen economy offers a great opportunity for both countries, but also for Europe and worldwide," said Klaus Töpfer, DRRF spokesman.
"Germany was, is and will be dependent on energy imports, and hydrogen will play a central role in energy and climate policy."
"Russia has enormous potential in the hydrogen sector and the country has a great deal of experience in the production and use of hydrogen. Both countries are linked by an energy partnership steeped in tradition."
"It is all the more important to use the existing trust in the interests of the science-based development of an international hydrogen economy."
"Together with Russia we are convinced that extremely important questions still require a technical solution."
Thorsten Herdan added, "We are very much in favour of setting up such a working group with German and Russian representatives from business and science."
"It is a wonderful example of how companies and scientific institutions not only rely on politics, but also take the reins of trade into their own hands."
"In particular, to promote the energy carrier hydrogen in a targeted manner, these impulses and international cooperation are needed."
Copyright © 2020 H2 View All Rights Reserved.
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The New York Times / Sept. 5, 2020
Land in Russia’s Arctic Blows ‘Like a Bottle of Champagne’
Since finding the first crater in 2014, Russian scientists have documented 16 more explosions in the Arctic caused by gas trapped in thawing permafrost.
Впервые это явление было отмечено в Арктике в 2014 году - земля неожиданно взрывалась, оставляя кратеры глубиной до 30 метров. С тех пор российские ученые зафиксировали еще 16 взрывов, причиной которых стал метан, скопившийся в тающей мерзлоте.
A natural phenomenon first observed by scientists just six years ago and now recurring with alarming frequency in Siberia is causing the ground to explode spontaneously and with tremendous force, leaving craters up to 100 feet deep.
When Yevgeny Chuvilin, a Moscow-based geologist with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, arrived this summer at the rim of the latest blast site, called Crater 17, "it left quite an impression," he said. The pit plunged into darkness, surrounded by the table-flat, featureless tundra. As Mr. Chuvilin stood looking in, he said, slabs of dirt and ice occasionally peeled off the permafrost of the crater wall and tumbled in.
"It was making noises. It was like something alive," Mr. Chuvilin said.
While initially a mystery, scientists have established that the craters appearing in the far north of western Siberia are caused by subterranean gases, and the recent flurry of explosions is possibly related to global warming, Mr. Chuvilin said.
Since the first site was found in 2014, Russian geologists have located 16 more on the Yamal and Gydansk peninsulas, two slender fingers of land stretching into the Arctic Ocean. Mr. Chuvilin said the conditions causing the explosions, which are still not fully understood, are probably specific to the geology of the area, as similar craters have not appeared elsewhere in Siberia or in permafrost zones in Canada and Alaska that are also affected by global warming.
The explosions occur underneath small hills or hummocks on the tundra where gas from decaying organic matter is trapped underground. Contained beneath a layer of ice above and permafrost all around, the gas creates pressure that elevates the overlying soil. The explosions occur when the pressure rises or the ice layer thaws and breaks suddenly. Where the gas comes from is a matter of debate, said Mr. Chuvilin, one of Russia’s leading experts on permafrost, the jumbled layer of soil, ice, prehistoric plants and the occasional frozen mammoth that covers 67 percent of Russia’s land surface. Permafrost also extends under the Arctic Ocean in some place.
"In Russia, we have a lot of experience studying permafrost," said Mr. Chuvilin, who graduated from the Department of Permafrost at Moscow State University, one of the few universities to have such a specialty.
From this icebox of the Arctic, bits or even whole frozen mammoths, musk ox, woolly rhinoceroses, prehistoric horses, wolves and other ancient beasts wash out from the banks of rivers. But Mr. Chuvilin said he found no animal parts in the debris field of frozen mud the explosions threw out.
The strata of perpetually frozen soil are usually a few hundreds of yards deep, but they go down almost a mile in some places in Siberia. Each summer, a portion near the surface, known as the active layer, thaws. With warmer summers, the active layer is deepening, potentially melting and weakening the ice over the gas deposits. The gases causing the explosions, said Mr. Chuvilin, may have built up to their current pressure tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago as the organic components of the permafrost partially decayed, before freezing. Another possibility is that methane trapped in deeper layers of the permafrost in a crystalline, ice-like form known as methane hydrates is reverting to its gaseous state, possibly because of effects of global warming. In this theory, rising pressure rather than thawing on the surface is causing the gas pockets to burst.
"It goes off like a bottle of champagne," Mr. Chuvilin said.
The most recent to blow, at Crater 17 site on the Yamal Peninsula, was one of the more dramatic. A reindeer herder was near enough to hear the blast but was unhurt. The Russian scientific expedition arrived by helicopter about a month later, in August. The crater was at least 100 feet deep.
Though the Russian government is encouraging oil, natural gas and mining ventures in the far north, the area is still too sparsely populated for the explosions to pose much risk, Mr. Chuvilin said. Reindeer herder communities had passed along tales of such eruptions before 2014, said Mr. Chuvilin, but Soviet and later Russian scientists had not documented any instances in earlier years. They have likely been rare occurrences until recently. Global warming is heating the Arctic faster than the rest of Earth.
"The permafrost is actually not very permanent, and it never was," Mr. Chuvilin said.
Within a year or two of erupting, the craters fill with water and appear no more suspicious than small lakes.
© 2020 The New York Times Company.
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Ars Technica / September 5, 2020
Russian vaccine trial data has some odd-looking data
Most of the results are fairly expected, but there are some interesting details.
4 сентября Национальный исследовательский центр эпидемиологии и микробиологии имени Н.Ф.Гамалеи наконец опубликовал на сайте журнала The Lancet статью о результатах клинических испытаний вакцины «Спутник V». После этого группа ученых из разных стран опубликовала открытое письмо с вопросами - в первую очередь их удивило, что во многих случаях данные для разных образцов дают идентичные или почти идентичные результаты.
Russia has been one of the countries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But its response to that has been a bit... unusual. As many other countries have, Russia worked to develop its own vaccine. But while that development was still in progress, it announced that it wasn't going to wait for detailed safety data, instead rolling the vaccine out to millions. Shortly afterward, it became clear that the country was actually going to run a standard phase III clinical trial, albeit a large one, involving 40,000 people.
It was hard to judge whether any of this was reasonable, because few details about the vaccine itself were available. But that changed somewhat on Friday, as the people who developed the vaccine published results from the initial clinical trials. And so far, it seems to be about as effective as some of the other vaccine candidates that have made it past initial trials.
Two viruses better than one?
As our earlier coverage mentioned, the vaccine is composed of two different engineered viruses. These contain the backbone of an innocuous virus, called an adenovirus, engineered to include the gene that encodes the major surface protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This protein, called spike, is what the coronavirus uses to latch on to and enter cells. The use of adenovirus allows the immune system to learn to recognize the spike protein while the body only experiences a harmless adenovirus infection.
The issue with this approach is that lots of people have already encountered adenoviruses and so may mount a robust immune response to it. This can lead to side effects that resemble the body's normal response to a viral infection. (This was seen in tests of an adenovirus-based vaccine developed in China). But it can also limit the immune response to the spike protein, as the immune system focuses on the parts of the engineered virus that are familiar.
To test the vaccine, the researchers enrolled two groups of 38 people. The first group simply received a single injection of an adenovirus engineered to produce the spike protein. The second group received the same initial injection, but it was followed up by a booster that used a different strain of adenovirus engineered with spike.
The idea behind using two different engineered viruses is that, even if the immune system reacts to the adenovirus used in the first injection, it won't be recently primed to attack the one used in the booster. Ideally, this should get the immune system to focus on the one thing that's identical between these two viruses: the spike protein.
Side effects and antibodies
As expected, many of those who received the vaccine, either with or without the booster, had side effects that resembled those you'd get from a viral infection. These included fever, headaches, general weakness, and muscle and joint pain. Beyond that, the only side effect noted was pain at the site of injection. None of these were rated as severe, and all of the participants in the vaccine-plus-booster group were able to go on and receive the booster.
Among those who had received a single shot, about 85 percent had developed SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies two weeks after. By three weeks after, everyone had antibodies against the virus. Similar numbers were seen in the shot-plus-booster group, although the booster increased the levels of antibodies.
The researchers also looked for the presence of neutralizing antibodies, which bind to the spike protein in a way that keeps it from interacting with and/or entering cells. These antibodies are often considered to be essential for defending against a viral infection, though the degree to which that's true for SARS-CoV-2 has yet to be determined. Here, the use of a booster injection made a big difference. Without it, fewer than two-thirds of the participants generated neutralizing antibodies. With the booster, everyone did.
Another potential advantage of using a virus to deliver the spike protein is that it engages all the normal features of the immune response - both antibody-producing B cells and the T cells that recognize infected cells. The researchers confirmed that the vaccination activated a T cell response in the participants, which may lead to a more robust immunity. And they found that many of these T cells responded to the spike protein, rather than the adenovirus.
Works on ice
One of the nicer results reported here is that, despite requiring an intact virus to work, the vaccine worked after it had been frozen (though its effectiveness wasn't compared to an unfrozen vaccine). In fact, the researchers were able to generate an immune response that was only slightly reduced using a vaccine that had been freeze-dried and then re-dissolved in water. The researchers indicate that most of the vaccine will be administered from frozen stocks, but the freeze-dried version will be used for communities that aren't very accessible, of which Russia has a number.
Overall, this is about what you'd want to see before moving on to larger trials - no major side effects paired with the production of an immune response that includes neutralizing antibodies. But the larger trials will be essential for a couple of reasons. One is that we need to know if there are rare but severe side effects, which might only become apparent in a larger population. And the second is that we need to know if the formation of neutralizing antibodies is actually protective - something that can only be established by giving the vaccine to a large enough population that some will inevitably be exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
This isn't the only adenovirus-based vaccine that's in development, and a number of them are already moving into large-scale trials. If any are successful, it's likely to mean good news for the others that aren't as far along. And if not, we'll have to wait for one of the other technologies to make it through a trial.
Update, September 9, 2020: On Monday, Enrico Bucci published an open letter outlining some concerns with the data in The Lancet paper that describes the vaccine safety tests. Bucci is an adjunct professor at Temple University who also runs a company that focuses on research integrity, so he has some history in this area. His open letter highlights a number of instances in the paper where the data for different samples produces identical or near-identical results.
While a few instances of this might be expected due to the similarities between the experiments and the small population of participants, the large number of such cases is highly unusual. And, as Bucci notes, the raw data underlying these graphs has not been made available, making it impossible to identify any innocuous reasons the results are so similar.
The letter simply calls the issue to the attention of the editors at The Lancet, where the study was published. As of today, 25 additional professors have signed it.
© 2020 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.
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The Conversation / September 7, 2020
Mammoth task: the Russian family on a resurrection quest to tackle the climate crisis
Об экологах Сергее и Никите Зимовых и их эксперименте, начатом более 20 лет назад - попытке восстановить на участке арктической тундры экосистему «мамонтовой степи». Согласно гипотезе, пастбище, на котором пасутся крупные травоядные, может замедлить или даже остановить таяние вечной мерзлоты: вытаптывание мерзлой почвы уплотняет ее и не дает таять, а выросшая на этом месте трава отражает солнечное излучение. За неимением мамонтов на площади в 144 кв км обитают якутские лошади, северные олени, яки, овцы, калмыцкие коровы, овцебыки, зубры и бизоны. Таяние мерзлоты в границах парка действительно происходит менее интенсивно, однако на фоне глобального потепления прогнозы все же неважные.
On the banks of the River Kolyma, deep into the Arctic circle in north-east Siberia, lies a gently rusting Soviet-era tank. It doesn’t look out of place here. After all, just down the river is the hull of a half-sunken ship and the remains of an Aeroflot airplane fuselage that met an unfortunate end.
The tank isn’t working at the moment - it’s hard to find parts - but until recently, it was driven by a bearded Russian wearing a beret, a cigarette clamped permanently between his jaws, taking a sort of macabre delight in destroying trees and churning up soil.
This is Sergey Zimov who, together with his son Nikita, is carrying out an experiment on this scrubby patch of Arctic tundra: they want to restore the prehistoric "mammoth steppe" ecosystem and see if it proves their hypothesis that a grassland grazed by large herbivores has an effect on slowing down - or even reversing - the thawing permafrost.
Currently the landscape is mostly larch forest with very low biodiversity. There are no animals, save for the odd moose and millions of mosquitoes. Meanwhile, Arctic temperatures are increasing twice as quickly as those in the rest of the planet, and the permafrost that covers 65% of Russia is thawing. Fast. Many of the buildings in the town of Chersky - where the Zimov experiment is based - sport deep cracks (some have collapsed altogether), roads are buckled and the ground is humped and hollowed.
The clue to what counts as permafrost is in the name - permanently frozen ground. As with anything frozen, it is liable to thaw if temperatures get too hot. That is precisely what is happening all across the Arctic.
Permafrost is difficult to define. It covers almost a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere and sequesters double the carbon found in the atmosphere today. When frozen, the microbes that feed on the organic material found in permafrost are "asleep". When it thaws, they wake up and the anaerobic respiration produced releases greenhouse gases.
Officially, it’s soil that has been frozen for two years or more, with an "active layer" that thaws seasonally. But thanks to global warming, permafrost has been thawing with increasing magnitude, with all sorts of disruptive effects. A process called a "thermokarst megaslump" has opened up huge holes across the tundra and the bodies of mammoths are being found with greater frequency, their flesh decomposing in the Arctic sun. Strange things are awakening. A couple of years ago, a team of Russian scientists reportedly found 30,000-year-old worms in the permafrost which, upon being warmed up gently in a Moscow laboratory, began to wriggle around.
Almost ironically, the mammoths exposed by the thawing of permafrost are what sparked Sergey Zimov’s hypothesis: that large herbivores are necessary to maintain the integrity of permafrost. The Zimovs use their tank to mimic the tread and destructiveness of the woolly mammoth in a 144km² fenced off area they call "Pleistocene Park".
Recreating the mammoth’s former ecosystem might seem like an impossible task given the creature has been extinct for 4,000 years, but for the Zimovs this is a minor detail. They are concerned with ecological processes - the web of connection that produces a functioning ecosystem. The tank will do just fine as a mammoth-stand in, destroying trees and stimulating grass growth in its wake.
There are animals in the park that play a similar role. Yakutian horses and reindeer have been purchased from local indigenous herders, and other creatures that haven’t lived in the region for a long time (yak, sheep, Kalmykian cow, musk ox, bison) have come from much further afield. There are around 120 animals in total, although deaths and births happen with regularity. Last summer, Nikita Zimov undertook a perilous journey by truck to transport 12 baby bison all the way from Denmark. The roads are dreadful for most of Northern Siberia, and then they disappear completely. Travelling by barge along the Kolyma is the only way in.
A few seasons before that, an expedition to Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean to find musk oxen almost ended in disaster after their boat hit a storm. The discovery on return that all the oxen were males was a particularly frustrating one. The animals in the park roam where they please, encouraged to breed and forage so their behaviours have an effect on the permafrost: trampling compacts ground and keeps it frozen, while grassland reflects solar radiation.
Even though the tank remains out of commission, the Zimovs are hoping that soon they won’t need it at all. They’re hoping that one day a mammoth will return to the Arctic.
Resurrecting the dead
Sometime in the early 2000s, rumblings began in the scientific community of a new form of conservation that would potentially fix a growing problem. What if, instead of fighting what seemed to be an increasingly losing battle against extinction, you could potentially resurrect an extinct creature through cloning methods?
Still reeling from the implications of Dolly the sheep in 1997, in 2003 a team of scientists in Zaragoza, Spain, managed to successfully produce a clone of the extinct Pyrenean ibex, having previously collected genetic material from the last remaining individual of the species. Although the cloned calf only lived for ten minutes, the genie was out of the bottle: extinction didn’t have to be forever.
Advances in genetic technology saw the arrival of CRISPR, a type of gene editing software that allowed for swift and cheap splicing of genomes. Now it didn’t matter if you didn’t have a viable cell for cloning - you could simply create a complete genome in a laboratory. This is what happened with the mammoth, whose genome was sequenced in 2015, becoming the first extinct creature to be catalogued.
While preserved mammoth bodies are common finds in Siberia, their flesh prevented from decomposition by permafrost, living cells begin to degrade at the point of death so a certain amount of cell degradation is inevitable. But by using CRISPR, a scientist is able to plug, say, the genome of an Asian elephant with the genes that make the physical traits of a mammoth (cold adapted blood, thick hair, small ears). Theoretically, if that genome was implanted into an egg and then fertilised, the Asian elephant in question would give birth to a mammoth, albeit one that is genetically a hybrid.
De-extincting the mammoth in the future is a possibility, but the follow up question must surely be: what does one do with such a creature? Enter the Pleistocene Park. The vast expanse of tundra and cold temperatures, not to mention the ready-made connotations with a similar de-extinction "project", Jurassic Park, mean it is the obvious place for any newly "resurrected" (hybridised, to be exact) mammoth to go.
All this talk of restoration, rebirth and resurrection raises further questions: one of them being the ethical implications of "playing God". But the other, larger question regards the role of humanity on the planet. We are now unofficially living in the Anthropocene - a new epoch that designates humans as top geological agents, leaving our mark in the rock and influencing just about every planetary process. Most of our actions are not positive ones, evidenced by the tide of environmental destruction, global warming and explosive levels of extinction left in our wake.
Would resurrecting the mammoth be a way for humans to right past wrongs, or would it be an extension of the power and control we wield over a ravaged planet?
‘We are as gods’
I visited the Pleistocene Park in the summer of 2018 to attempt to answer this question. The mammoth is a bit of a thorny conversation topic to the Zimovs. Yes, Sergey Zimov strides around the tundra wearing a t-shirt sporting a stylised cartoon of the massive hairy elephant, but his son is quick to shoot me down when I ask about their level of involvement in de-extinction.
"You have a lot of people believing in God," he says. "And they don’t like this mammoth return. So I try and use it to bring attention to the park, but I don’t want any of the criticism!" But the relationship between de-extinction scientists and the park is difficult to ignore. A few weeks after I leave the park, the Zimovs are visited by the geneticist George Church, probably the biggest proponent of mammoth de-extinction, and Stewart Brand, lifelong environmentalist and now supporter of what is termed a "good Anthropocene" (the idea that humans should use their power to benevolently steward the planet). "We are as gods," Brand famously quipped: "And we have to get good at it."
I’m sceptical of this viewpoint. The Anthropocene concept is a flattening one: it categorises all humans as the same, separated from nature, wreaking havoc on a lifeless Earth. It distributes blame equally, rather than directed towards the worst polluters. It ignores the uneven and ongoing effects of climate change on different parts of the globe. Planetary stewardship - no matter how benevolent - reinforces this idea. It suggests things can, and should, be controlled.
But I don’t see much evidence of this control during my time at the park. The first day I’m taken there (it’s a 30 minute boat ride away from the science station that houses visitors) Nikita Zimov is informed by his rangers that the herd of musk oxen hasn’t been seen for days so he heads into the undergrowth to find the animals. I’m left alone, surrounded by flooded plains, no animals to be seen save for a blind yak.
A few days later, the permafrost tunnel floods. A sort of underground laboratory dug to house permafrost cores, scientific equipment and frozen fish, it was supposedly placed at a high enough level that the annual floodwaters of the Kolyma would never reach the entrance - until they did. We spend a day pumping the water out and dislodging the items that had stuck fast to the frozen ceiling. A little way down the river, the expensive scientific equipment owned by a well-funded contingent of German permafrost scientists is submerged under water.
Meanwhile, the Zimovs are furious about the 12 baby bison they have purchased from an Alaskan herder, still stuck in their pen. They’re unable to find a pilot willing to fly them over in the creaky, old DC-4 plane they have found. Everything that seemingly can go wrong, does go wrong. The Pleistocene Park is showing encouraging signs of becoming a grassland ecosystem, and initial tests show the permafrost is thawing less within the park’s boundaries.
But on the summer solstice (a swelteringly hot June day in the Arctic) we take a drill and some thaw depth probes to do some readings outside of the park, and the prognosis for the permafrost is not good. "We are fighting global warming," Nikita Zimov says. "But global warming is fighting back."
When permafrost makes the news, it’s never good. In early June, a fuel tank at the Norilsk power plant in Siberia collapsed because of thawing permafrost and 17,500 tonnes of diesel spilled into the river. A lot of people live and work on top of permafrost in Russia, and at the time of the Soviet Union, thousands of people were lured to the Arctic on the promise of highly paid jobs and cheap houses as part of a plan to "master the North". Now the Soviet Union is long gone, along with all the perks, and thawing permafrost is making Arctic life very difficult.
A sort of black-market industry has emerged, with groups of men heading out onto the tundra for months at a time to look for mammoth bodies that thawing permafrost has exposed. They’re after the tusks that can be sold for a hefty profit to China, by far the world’s top market for ivory goods. These tusk hunts are often dangerous, with the men using illegal high-powered water cannons to blast holes and tunnels in permafrost, hundreds of miles away from towns or hospitals. Those who find a tusk have struck white gold, but those that don’t (most of them) will lose money.
There’s another tension too. To many Siberian indigenous groups, the mammoth is a sacred beast and mustn’t be disturbed - to do so could mean death. Tusk hunters face an often-agonising decision: to betray their belief system or to feed their family.
I became aware of an uneasy relationship between tusk hunters and scientists when I visited the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk, where I spent the winter in 2018. Yakutsk is the world’s coldest and largest city built on permafrost, and it has no roads in or out - in the summer you take the plane, in the winter the frozen rivers become ice roads and a thriving trucking network ferries supplies to and from the Arctic towns.
The Mammoth Museum and the Melnikov Permafrost Institute are institutions dedicated to understanding permafrost and tundra flora and fauna. This includes the mammoth. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the funding for these institutions has dried up. The scientists at the permafrost institute can only wait for international researchers with big grants to show up.
The museum has struck up an awkward partnership with a biotechnology company in Seoul, South Korea. Sooam Biotech is known for cloning pets (most famously, Barbara Streisand’s dog) and has made no secret of its desire to clone a mammoth. The Mammoth Museum is informed of any mammoth finds by tusk hunters and Sooam Biotech is offered first dibs on collecting genetic material from the body. In exchange, Sooam Biotech has financed a state-of-the-art laboratory and equipment for the museum.
Meanwhile, the Yakutian government has recently passed a law that protects permafrost, enshrining the rights of Yakuts to live on top of solid ground. This law is mostly symbolic. Permafrost thaw is a result of global warming, yet it is Arctic Siberia that bears the brunt.
These smaller, messier permafrost interactions say something important. The Pleistocene Park and the designs of scientists wanting to resurrect the mammoth work very much within a global narrative. The promotional material for the park involve references to "the world’s best plan" and "saving the world". Similarly to the way the Anthropocene concept flattens humanity, constructing the Earth on a purely global scale produces a potential future catastrophe that hasn’t happened yet. Think about any Hollywood disaster movie - we must do something to prevent it.
Curating apocalypse in this way means the more local catastrophic events become seen as harbingers of a threat to come, rather than catastrophes in their own right. Permafrost makes the news as a "ticking time bomb", something that will blow up unless we do something about it. Yet the people who live in the Arctic, particularly indigenous groups and fragile communities like Chersky, are already dealing with an apocalypse and have been for some time.
The unpredictability of permafrost - now very much impermanent - challenges those proponents of a good Anthropocene who believe we can control the planet.
Putting life on ice
Freezing, being frozen, staying frozen - they all suggest a period of stasis, of suspension. Permafrost itself indicates permanence, but that can no longer be said to be true. What to do, when the planet is warming and the Arctic is warming even faster? Build freezers, that’s what.
Cryobanks have emerged in the past decade, often attached to museums, as a response to the rapid rise in species extinction. They offer a way to put "life on ice", stored safely away until something can be done, be that captive breeding or de-extinction. Many of these projects have eschatological overtones - the Lazarus Project, The Frozen Ark - and suggest that control can somehow be regained by turning the temperature down.
The 42,000-year-old horse lying in Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum is dead. I can smell it. Its body had been found a few months earlier in a permafrost bank, and had been frozen in the museum’s freezer ever since. The horse has been so well preserved, it looks like it’s merely sleeping. A delegation from the pet cloning company Sooam Biotech is visiting Yakutsk to take samples, and I’ve been invited along to view the autopsy.
The head of the delegation, and CEO of the company, is Hwang Woo-Suk - a once disgraced South Korean veterinary scientist who made headlines in 2005 when he claimed he had cloned human cells. He hadn’t, and went from the pride of South Korea to a laughing stock overnight while claiming he had been deceived by a former colleague in the process. A few years later he began showing up in Yakutsk looking for mammoths and other prehistoric creatures. His pet cloning company makes him rich, but cloning a mammoth would bring global fame again.
The Anthropocene may be the time of the human, but really it is the time of certain humans, or certain actions. Actions have consequences. The warming of the Arctic and the thawing of permafrost is but one of these consequences. The reaction to this, to attempt to regain control of planetary processes, whether this be through resurrecting the mammoth or restoring its habitat, is indicative of a commitment to a good Anthropocene that aims to continue human dominance on the Earth.
Having lived on top of permafrost, felt my feet sink into the mushy ground and rolled a ball of it between my fingers like putty, I remain doubtful any of this will work. What impact the Pleistocene Park may have on the permafrost around it is negated thousands of miles away by yet another thermokarst megaslump or another Arctic wildfire. While Nikita Zimov is philosophical about this, saying "it’s better to walk rather than to sit and wait for death", it’s difficult to imagine the park ever reaching a point where it can mitigate permafrost thaw across the world. The mammoth, should it ever be resurrected, would surely exist as a curio rather than a thriving species, a monument to the hubris of playing God.
Those advocating a good Anthropocene mean well, but a much deeper state change is needed. The continuous layer of permafrost in Arctic Siberia is showing signs of becoming discontinuous through thaw. Discontinuity, I think, must also be our path. We need to halt and refuse the destructive practices that have underpinned the last century and beyond if there’s to be any hope of doing better in the future.
Discontinuity isn’t just a state of being, it is also a state of mind. The warming of the Arctic and the thawing of permafrost are huge concerns, yes, but attempts to force control of an increasingly out of control situation might well produce terrible gods rather than benevolent ones. Resurrecting mammoths - playing god - speaks to a doubling down of the mastery implied by the Anthropocene moniker.
Discontinuity, conversely, allows for the creativity in thinking of futures that relinquish destructive human dominance. The Pleistocene Park may be one of these futures, or it may not be. The point is, by becoming discontinuous, we become attuned to a radical openness that allows for thinking differently - ethically, collectively, progressively - about our role as humans on a discontinuous Earth.
Copyright © 2010-2020, The Conversation Trust (UK) Limited.
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Mirage News / September 7, 2020
Scientists have identified 300 previously unrecorded fish species
Ихтиологи Томского госуниверситета совместно с чешскими и немецкими коллегами провели масштабную «ревизию» ихтиофауны, заходящей в пресные воды России и прилегающих территорий. Предыдущее полноценное исследование такого рода относится к середине прошлого века, так что ученые обнаружили целых 300 неучтенных видов рыб и морских организмов.
Yury Dyldin, a scientist at the TSU Biological Institute, initiated a large-scale study of the diversity of freshwater fish and marine species entering the fresh waters of the Russian Federation and adjacent regions. The audit carried out by scientists from Russia, the Czech Republic, and Germany showed more than 300 previously unrecorded species in the Russian Federation. The findings are presented in the journal of the Kyoto Imperial University Publications of the Seto Marine Biological Laboratory.
As the TSU ichthyologist notes, quantitative data on fish biodiversity are based mainly on studies in the middle of the last century with minor additions, which gives extremely erroneous data on the true state of the Russian ichthyofauna. A group of scientists that included specialists from the three countries, including one of the most recognized ichthyologists in the world, Ronald Fricke (Germany), analyzed a large array of information regarding the ichthyofauna of the Russian Federation.
The work is based on critically analyzed sources - books, publications, dissertations, and reports of research institutes and typical catalogs and databases, for example, "Catalog of Fishes", over more than two hundred years. Along with this, the ichthyologists analyzed long-term studies published in various scientific sources in the past 35 years (up to 2016 inclusive). Also, the ichthyological collections of 15 scientific organizations in Canada, Japan, Russia, USA, and UK were studied.
New data were obtained for various water bodies, in particular, for the largest river in Russia - the Ob and its basin. For example, the taxonomic status of Nikolsky grayling was restored and the existence proved of the Siberian lamprey, which many scientists had considered part of another species, the Kamchatka lamprey. As another example, the researchers cite data on the small river Lyutoga, which flows in the south of Sakhalin and flows into Aniva Bay. In less than five years, a number of migrant species from more southerly waters have been recorded here, among them several species of puffer previously not found in Lyutoga and Aniva, sea perch, and others.
"Until recently, according to various sources, the composition of the fresh and brackish ichthyofauna of Russia included from 351 to 486 species", says Yury Dyldin. "Our studies have shown that their number is almost twice as large and includes 791 species. It should be noted that Russia - due to its size and a large number of different waterways - remains a natural reservoir for the preservation of a huge number of wild populations of various fish species. Certainly, some representatives of ichthyofauna require protective measures, but compared with many other countries, Russia appears at an advantage".
The new data, published in the journal of Kyoto Imperial University, is integrated into the most authoritative taxonomic database in the Eschmeyer Fish Catalog of the California Academy of Sciences. The research results will be presented in full in a monograph, which is planned for publication in New Zealand by Zootaxa.
© Mirage News.
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Nature / 10 September 2020
The Arctic is burning like never before - and that’s bad news for climate change
Fires are releasing record levels of carbon dioxide, partly because they are burning ancient peatlands that have been a carbon sink.
К концу августа в результате лесных пожаров в арктических районах Сибири в атмосферу было выброшено 244 мегатонны углекислого газа - на 35% больше, чем в прошлом году. Сгорело почти 14 млн гектаров. По мнению ученых, одной из причин этого могут быть торфяники - около половины пожаров в мае и июне начались именно там.
Wildfires blazed along the Arctic Circle this summer, incinerating tundra, blanketing Siberian cities in smoke and capping the second extraordinary fire season in a row. By the time the fire season waned at the end of last month, the blazes had emitted a record 244 megatonnes of carbon dioxide - that’s 35% more than last year, which also set records. One culprit, scientists say, could be peatlands that are burning as the top of the world melts.
Peatlands are carbon-rich soils that accumulate as waterlogged plants slowly decay, sometimes over thousands of years. They are the most carbon-dense ecosystems on Earth; a typical northern peatland packs in roughly ten times as much carbon as a boreal forest. When peat burns, it releases its ancient carbon to the atmosphere, adding to the heat-trapping gases that cause climate change.
Nearly half the world’s peatland-stored carbon lies between 60 and 70 degrees north, along the Arctic Circle. The problem with this is that historically frozen carbon-rich soils are expected to thaw as the planet warms, making them even more vulnerable to wildfires and more likely to release large amounts of carbon. It’s a feedback loop: as peatlands release more carbon, global warming increases, which thaws more peat and causes more wildfires (see ‘Peatlands burning’). A study published last month shows that northern peatlands could eventually shift from being a net sink for carbon to a net source of carbon, further accelerating climate change.
The unprecedented Arctic wildfires of 2019 and 2020 show that transformational shifts are already under way, says Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics and Political Science. "Alarming is the right term."
The fire season in the Arctic kicked off unusually early this year: as early as May, there were fires blazing north of the tree line in Siberia, which normally wouldn’t happen until around July. One reason is that temperatures in winter and spring were warmer than usual, priming the landscape to burn. It’s also possible that peat fires had been smouldering beneath the ice and snow all winter and then emerged, zombie-like, in the spring as the snow melted. Scientists have shown that this kind of low-temperature, flameless combustion can burn in peat and other organic matter, such as coal, for months or even years.
Because of the early start, individual Arctic wildfires have been burning for longer than usual, and "they’re starting much farther north than they used to - in landscapes that we thought were fire-resistant rather than fire-prone", says Jessica McCarty, a geographer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Researchers are now assessing just how bad this Arctic fire season was. The Russian Wildfires Remote Monitoring System catalogued 18,591 separate fires in Russia’s two easternmost districts, with a total of nearly 14 million hectares burnt, says Evgeny Shvetsov, a fire specialist at the Sukachev Institute of Forest, which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Krasnoyarsk. Most of the burning happened in permafrost zones, where the ground is normally frozen year-round.
To estimate the record carbon dioxide emissions, scientists with the European Commission’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service used satellites to study the wildfires’ locations and intensity, and then calculated how much fuel each had probably burnt. Yet even that is likely to be an underestimate, says Mark Parrington, an atmospheric scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, who was involved in the analysis. Fires that burn in peatland can be too low-intensity for satellite sensors to capture.
The problem with peat
How much this year’s Arctic fires will affect global climate over the long term depends on what they burnt. That’s because peatlands, unlike boreal forest, do not regrow quickly after a fire, so the carbon released is permanently lost to the atmosphere.
Smith has calculated that about half of the Arctic wildfires in May and June were on peatlands - and that in many cases, the fires went on for days, suggesting that they were fuelled by thick layers of peat or other soil rich in organic matter.
And the August study found that there are nearly four million square kilometres of peatlands in northern latitudes. More of that than previously thought is frozen and shallow - and therefore vulnerable to thawing and drying out, says Gustaf Hugelius, a permafrost scientist at Stockholm University who led the investigation. He and his colleagues also found that although peatlands have been helping to cool the climate for thousands of years, by storing carbon as they accumulate, they will probably become a net source of carbon being released into the atmosphere - which could happen by the end of the century.
Fire risk in Siberia is predicted to increase as the climate warms, but by many measures, the shift has already arrived, says Amber Soja, an environmental scientist who studies Arctic fires at the US National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia. "What you would expect is already happening," she says. "And in some cases faster than we would have expected."
© 2020 Springer Nature Limited.
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Forbes / Sep 10, 2020
These Are The 50 Most Dangerous Objects Orbiting Earth Right Now
11 групп экспертов из 13 стран, в том числе из России, проанализировали несколько тысяч крупных космических обломков на околоземной орбите и составили список 50 самых опасных, которые необходимо ликвидировать в первую очередь.
Доклад будет представлен на Международном конгрессе астронавтики, который состоится 12-14 октября 2020 г.
A group of experts has compiled a list of what they say are the most dangerous pieces of space junk in low Earth orbit today, noting that efforts should be undertaken to remove them as soon as possible before a disaster occurs.
In a paper to be presented at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) next month, 11 separate teams from countries including the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, and Europe analyzed thousands of pieces of large space debris currently orbiting Earth.
The goal was to jointly decide which objects posed the biggest risk of creating large amounts of space junk were they to collide. Objects were rated on their chance of collision with other objects, along with their mass, altitude, and several other factors.
Each group performed their own assessment to arrive at what they thought were the most dangerous objects, before the lists were correlated into a joint top 50.
"What’s never been done before is to get 11 different teams from 13 different countries and organizations to agree on what are the top ones," says Darren McKnight from the U.S. firm Centauri, the lead author on the paper.
It’s hoped that raising the alarm about some of these objects may spur governments and industry into action to deal with space junk. This debris, which today includes 3,000 dead satellites, 15,000 smaller pieces of trackable debris, and 150,000 pieces of lethal non-trackable debris, poses a significant threat to satellites both now and in the future.
The first 20 objects on the list are all large rocket boosters launched by Russia and the Soviet Union (referred to as the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS) between 1987 and 2007. These SL-16 R/B boosters each weigh 9,000 kilograms and orbit at altitudes above 800 kilometers. Were two of these boosters to collide, the resultant debris produced could be catastrophic.
"Two 9,000 kilogram objects hitting would double the low Earth orbit debris population in one instance," says McKnight. "You would make 15,000 trackable objects. That’s the most consequential event that is possible. But it’s not a one in a million possibility, it’s one in a thousand each year."
These boosters also orbit together in clusters, meaning they remain on similar orbital paths to one another. "And these clusters have been formed for decades," says McKnight. "God’s rolling the dice every year. And the cumulative probability [of a collision] is going up."
The list also includes several satellites, with the European Space Agency’s defunct ENVISAT satellite launched in 2002 - weighing in at 7,800 kilograms and orbiting at an altitude of 765 kilometers - deemed to be the highest risk. Also rating highly was the Russian Meteor 3M satellite, launched in 2001, and Japan’s ADEOS I and II satellites, launched in 1996 and 2002.
The rest of the list is almost entirely composed of Russian rocket boosters and satellites, along with two Japanese rocket boosters, one Chinese rocket booster, and one French rocket booster. In total, 43 of the objects on the list are of Russian origin, comprising 35 rocket boosters and eight satellites.
The purpose of the paper is to highlight which objects we should aim to target first in our efforts to clean up space junk from Earth orbit. Several proposals have been put forward in recent years to do this, such as by the Japanese company Astroscale and the British RemoveDEBRIS project, which would grab dead objects and pull them into the atmosphere.
However, the paper notes "that 37 objects of the top 50 list have a mass greater than 2,000 kilograms," most notably the large Russian rocket boosters left orbiting Earth. In order to deal with these larger objects, it may be necessary to come up ways to make sure they avoid colliding rather than trying to remove them from orbit, since their re-entry would pose a significant risk.
"Just-in-time collision avoidance [like a proposal to use clouds of gas to change their paths], long-term debris management, and nanotugs are three different approaches," says McKnight. "The idea is if you see this close approach coming, [you] go ahead and nudge one of the objects to avoid a collision."
Currently, while the United Nations has a loose guideline for companies and countries to remove their own space debris within 25 years, these guidelines are not enforced. Many want governments to take firmer action in cleaning up space junk, and ensure future generations have the same access to space afforded to us today.
McKnight and his colleagues hope their paper will make people aware of the huge danger space junk poses in orbit, and the urgent need to tackle the problem. But while most people think of the movie Gravity, and how that depicted a threat known as the Kessler syndrome - a chain reaction of collisions - such a scenario is likely centuries away.
"Our concern in the next ten years is not the Kessler syndrome," says McKnight. "It’s the fact that operational satellites will not function realiably due to the large number of lethal non-trackable debris. That’s an impact on global economy, connectivity, remote-sensing, disaster management, and financial transactions.
"It’s not as glamorous as Gravity, but it’s much more likely, and it’ll have a much greater effect on people."
© 2020 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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Le Point / Le 15/09/2020
Sibérie : une exceptionnelle carcasse d'ours des cavernes découverte intacte
L'ours des cavernes, dont la carcasse a été retrouvée, aurait entre 22 000 à 39 500 ans.
На Ляховских островах (часть архипелага Новосибирских островов) обнаружены останки пещерного медведя возрастом 22-39,5 тысяч лет. Это первая и единственная находка в таком хорошем состоянии - уцелели все внутренние органы и мягкие ткани.
C'est une trouvaille historique. Une carcasse d'ours des cavernes a été découverte en très bon état sur l'île arctique de Grande Liakhov, dans l'archipel de Nouvelle-Sibérie, comme le relate The Siberian Times. La scientifique russe Lena Grigorieva explique que cette carcasse pourrait aider les scientifiques du monde entier. « (L'ours) est complètement préservé avec tous les organes internes en place, y compris son nez.
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Auparavant, seuls des crânes et des os avaient été retrouvés. Cette découverte est d'une grande importance pour le monde entier », indique-t-elle au sujet de cet ours qui aurait entre 22 000 à 39 500 ans. Jusqu'alors, seuls des os avaient été retrouvés, comme le souligne l'université fédérale russe de Iakoutsk.
Le changement climatique favorise ces découvertes
Cette espèce se serait éteinte après la période interglaciaire de Karginsky. La carcasse de l'ours retrouvée par des éleveurs de rennes est très bien conservée : les dents et le nez de l'animal sont toujours intacts. La carcasse doit à présent faire l'objet de recherches de la part de scientifiques de l'université fédérale du Nord-Est (NEFU) à Yakutsk notamment pour déterminer l'âge précis du mammifère. Pour ce faire, « il est nécessaire d'effectuer une analyse au radiocarbone », détaille le chercheur Maxim Cheprasov. Avec le changement climatique et la fonte du pergélisol en Sibérie, des carcasses de mammouths et rhinocéros laineux avaient déjà été découvertes.
Cosmos / 12 September 2020
Watching a volcano make a comeback
Scientists analyse images over seven decades.
Обработав данные за 70 лет, российские и немецкие вулканологи впервые задокументировали и описали жизненный цикл вулкана. Камчатский вулкан Безымянный частично обрушился в 1956 году, после чего его рост возобновился и вырос новый конус. Ученые также рассчитали среднюю скорость роста вулкана и возможную дату следующего обрушения.
German and Russian scientists say they have documented the life cycle of a volcano for the first time, revealing that it has a kind of "memory".
The volcano in question is Bezymianny, an active stratovolcano on the Kamchatka peninsula in eastern Russia which suffered a collapse in its eastern sector back in 1956.
Photographs of helicopter overflights from Soviet times have now been analysed alongside more recent satellite drone data using state-of-the-art methods at the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam. The series shows the rebirth of the volcano after its collapse.
Writing in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, the researchers say the initial re-growth began at different vents about 400 metres apart. After about two decades, the activity increased and the vents slowly moved together. After another three, the activity concentrated on a single vent, which allowed the growth of a new and steep cone.
The team determined an average growth rate of 26,400 cubic metres per day - equivalent to about a thousand large dump trucks. The results, they say, make it possible to predict when the volcanic building may once again reach a critical height, and possibly collapse again under its own weight.
The numerical modelling also explains the changes in stress within the volcanic rock and thus the migration of the eruption vents, says GFZ volcanologist and co-author. Thomas Walter. "Our results show that the decay and re-growth of a volcano has a major impact on the pathways of the magma in the depth. Thus, disintegrated and newly grown volcanoes show a kind of memory of their altered field of stress".
For future prognosis, Walter adds, this means that the history of birth and collapse must be included to be able to give estimates about possible eruptions or imminent collapses.
© The Royal Institution of Australia Inc.
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Phys.Org / September 17, 2020
Ash from power stations processed into reagents for water purification
Российские металлурги предложили перерабатывать зольные отхода электростанций в реагенты для очистки воды. Зола обрабатывается нагретой выше температуры кипения соляной кислотой, в результате чего образуется хлорид алюминия, осаждающий примеси в загрязненной воде.
Russian metallurgists have proposed to dissolve the ash waste of thermal power stations with hydrochloric acid at high pressure. The resulting compounds can be used for water treatment at water utilities and thermal power stations themselves. The method has already shown effective deposition of impurities in water from Moskva River. The description of the technology is published by scientists from NUST MISIS and a number of other universities in Journal of Cleaner Production. The research is funded Russian science Foundation under the Presidential Program for Research Projects.
Although the share of coal-fired generation in Russia has been gradually decreasing since the 90s, it still makes up a large part of the country's entire energy sector. In 2019, Russian thermal power stations generated more than 60% of all electricity produced in the country. In addition, the current volume of coal energy will not be reduced to prevent the Russian economy from depending on gas. However, this area is one of the least environmentally friendly. Coal-fired stations annually produce 20-25 million tons of ash and slag as waste. In Russia, more than 1.5 billion tons have already been buried already, and the sludge fields cover an area larger than the whole area of Israel.
Scientists are looking for ways to utilize and recycle waste, focusing on the extraction of non-ferrous metals, such as aluminum, one of the main components of ash. This would help to increase the environmental friendliness of thermal power plants: one can get rid of already accumulated solid waste and prevent the formation of new ones. In their work, scientists have proposed a fundamentally new method for processing ash, which would allow obtaining reagents for water purification from waste.
Scientists treated the ash with superheated hydrochloric acid, the temperature of which was significantly higher than its boiling point. This can be achieved using an autoclave. The reaction produces aluminum chloride. The researchers selected special conditions under which more than 95% of the metal transformed into solution. In this form, it coagulates, that is, it precipitates suspended particles. Using the example of water from Moskva river, scientists have shown the effectiveness of treatment with this reagent. The resulting samples met WHO standards for drinking water: they were free of heavy metal ions, and the turbidity and color values were at an acceptable level.
"To increase the ash utilization rate from the current 8% to the planned 50% by 2035, it is necessary to learn how to effectively extract non-ferrous metals and their compounds from waste. We focused on the extraction of aluminum and the production of a reagent for water purification. This way we not only get rid of ash waste, but also reduce the cost of coagulant by 25% compared to industrial analogs," says Dmitry Valeev, head of the research project, researcher at NUST MISIS and senior researcher at Baikov Institute of Metallurgy and Materials Science, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Scientists plan to participate in the development of a pilot plant for the production of coagulant for the needs of one of the largest heat generating companies in Siberia, TGC-11, in Omsk. Earlier, the same research group proposed expanding the Russian alumina market with ash waste, as well as separating iron and carbon concentrate from the ash.
© Phys.org 2003-2020 powered by Science X Network.
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Science Codex / September 22, 2020
Entomologists from SPbU discover a rare species of tropical Heteroptera with long antennae
Энтомологи Санкт-Петербургского университета открыли новый редкий вид тропических клопов с очень длинными усами. Клопы, отнесенные к семейству слепняков, получили название Tatupa grafei.
The Heteroptera are a large group of insects. However, not all of its representatives are widely known as true bugs. For example, it includes a pond water strider (Gerris lacustris), which is very common in Russia. 'Most often, when it comes to these insects, people imagine blood-sucking bed bugs. They bring the rest of the bugs into disrepute, but most of these insects do not bite. The bug we discovered belongs to the plant bugs (Miridae) and it also does not feed on human blood,' says Veronica Tyts, the first author of the research, a first-year master's student in the biology programme at St Petersburg University.
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Borneo, also known as Kalimantan, is the third-largest island in the world. About 1% of the island's territory is occupied by the state of Brunei Darussalam where Ulu Temburong National Park is located. Its tropical forests remain practically intact and preserve an amazing variety of flora and fauna. Here Claas Damken, a research participant from Jalan Universiti, Brunei Darussalam, Brunei, collected the Heteroptera, which were later sent to Anna Namyatova, the second author, for identification.
'This collection included very important samples for us. Within the large family of the Miridae, there is a subfamily that I specialise in. Most of its representatives are extremely rare in different collections. The fact is that in nature they live in the forest floor and have a cryptic lifestyle. At the same time, the sample from Brunei turned out to be relatively large: nine specimens are representing the monotypic new genus Tatupa. Monotypic means that only one species belongs to it - Tatupa grafei. It is highly probable that the bug is endemic, that is, it does not live anywhere except the island of Borneo,' says Veronica Tyts.
Tatupa grafei belongs to the relatively small Rhinocylapus-complex, currently comprising 24 species. Its representatives vary in colour and have huge antennae, often twice longer than a body. The Tatupa grafei bug is golden and spotted. It is noteworthy that in the Rhinocylapus-complex, sexual dimorphism is very common: the male can be half the size of the female. Before copulation, the males sit on the back of the female and 'ride' it for some time.
'At the same time, the males and females of Tatupa grafei are the same size. Their body length, without antennae, is approximately five millimetres. Of course, there is a compelling question: why one part of the group is characterised by sexual dimorphism, while the other does not. In the future, we would like to find an answer to it as well,' notes Veronika Tyts.
Most aspects of the behaviour of the Tatupa grafei bugs are unknown due to the extremely small number of its representatives. These insects are often found on fungi growing on rotten wood. Because of this, it has been suggested that these bugs feed on fungi, but whether this is true remains to be explored. It is also possible that Tatupa grafei eats smaller insects, which feed on fungi. The third version is that the bug menu can be mixed and consist of both fungi and insects. The answers to these questions can be given by observing Tatupa grafei bugs in a natural environment, but it is pretty tricky to carry it out.
The genus name Tatupa is a random combination of letters. The scientists could not come up with a suitable name for it for a long time. It was important that no animal has the same name. Additionally, the scientists needed to find out if the word Tatupa exists in any languages and what it means. It turned out that there was only one hit on the Internet - in an episode of a Polish television game where its participants are busy coining new words. The species is named after the Brunei professor Ulmar Grafe, who had provided significant support to the scientists.
'The planet's biodiversity is a great treasure that we, unfortunately, are constantly losing. It is important to find and describe new types of living organisms to preserve them - if not in their natural habitat, then at least in the vast knowledge database created by mankind. Moreover, each of these creatures has a specific role in the global ecosystem. And the more ramified the connections in it, the higher its stability. Therefore, the small bug we discovered may play a significant role in the ecosystem of the island of Borneo,' says Veronica Tyts.
Alongside Veronica Tyts, Fedor Konstantinov, Candidate of Biology and Associate Professor of the Department of Entomology at St Petersburg University, took part in the discovery and description of Tatupa grafei. Other authors of the research were: the already mentioned Claas Damken; Anna Namyatova, a senior research associate at the All-Russian Research Institute of Plant Protection; and Rodzay A. Wahab, a lecturer at Jalan University, Brunei Darussalam, Brunei.
Colour photographs of Tatupa grafei were taken at the Department of Entomology of St Petersburg University using a camera attached to a stereo microscope. The rest of the images were created using a scanning electron microscope of the resource centres of the Research Park of St Petersburg University 'The Centre for Molecular and Cell Technologies' and 'The Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis'. Aleksei Miroliubov, a centre engineer, rendered significant assistance to the scientists.
The authors of the publication are currently continuing the research, which will result in a long paper on the phylogeny of rare bugs from the Rhinocylapus-complex. The researchers plan to build a phylogenetic tree that will reflect the probable evolutionary relationships of organisms. To achieve this, a morphological analysis of insects and an analysis of their DNA markers have been carried out. As for the specimens, seven of the nine provided specimens will return to their homeland in Brunei, while the other two will remain in the large collection of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Ancient Origins / 20 September, 2020
High Levels Of Ancient Extreme Siberian Nomadic Violence Discovered
Российские и швейцарские археологи, антропологи и эксперты-криминалисты изучили около 100 скелетов из раннескифской «царской гробницы» в Туве возрастом около 1700 лет. Многие останки носили следы «экстремального насилия», что, по мнению ученых, может быть связано с ритуалами жертвоприношения.
A Swiss-Russian team of archeologists, anthropologists and forensic experts have discovered evidence of extreme Siberian nomadic violence within communities of ancient Siberians. The team’s research findings of Siberian nomadic violence provide new insights into social life in Siberian nomadic peoples that is both surprising and detailed.
The steppe nomads were horse-riding, bow-wielding warriors who dominated the Eurasian steppe 1700-years-ago. They were an active force from classical antiquity (Scythians) all the way through to the early modern era (Dzungars). Historians of old wrote of the nomads obsessive acts of warfare and plundering, however, until now, hard archaeological or anthropological evidence of this historic violence was thin. This new study by the Swiss-Russian research team of almost 100 ancient skeletons recovered from a "royal" tomb has finally provided insights not only into warfare in ancient Siberia, but also into the practice of ritual sacrifice.
Siberian Nomads Were Brutal And "Exceptionally Violent"
The new study was undertaken by an international team of archaeologists, anthropologists and forensic specialists from the University of Bern and the Russian Academy of Sciences. A paper covering the results of their investigations has been published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
Dr. Marco Milella, from the Department of Physical Anthropology, Institute of Forensic Medicine (IRM), at the University of Bern, led the study which looked at the traumatic wound sites discovered on the skeletal remains of ancient Siberians who had lived between the 2nd-4th centuries AD. What they found was shocking!
The remote Russian republic of Tuva, in southern Siberia, is still populated by the descendants of traditionally nomadic, yurt-dwelling tribes. The entire region is a relatively unexplored archaeological wonderland containing evidence of human occupation dating as far back as the Paleolithic period (roughly 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 BC).
The "Tunnug1" archaeological site is one of the earliest royal Scythian tombs from the Bronze-Iron Age and, according to the new paper, "87 skeletons representing both sexes and different age classes dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD" were recovered within this ancient burial chamber." Many of the recovered bones "presented exceptional traces of violence," and not exclusively related to warfare, but possibly also due to sacrificial rituals.
Nomadic Interpersonal Violence Rates Were Very High
If you’ve ever doubted that we live in the safest period of history, you really need to read this new study. The study’s conclusions include this stunning fact: "25% of the individuals died as a consequence of interpersonal violence, mostly related to hand-to-hand combat, often represented by traces of decapitation." And this violence wasn’t restricted to men, for the bones of women and children were also found with horrific wounds including "traces of throat-slitting and scalping."
The discovery of such high levels of violence might be expected on an ancient battlefield. According to Dr Marco Milella, first author of the study, finding horrific wounds in a social context suggests that violence was not only related to raids and battles, "but probably also due to specific, still mysterious, rituals involving the killing of humans and the collection of war trophies."
Did Chinese Unrest Cause Bronze Age Siberian Nomad Violence?
Attempting to rationalize the high amount of evidence pertaining to social violence, Dr Marco Milella says that during the early AD centuries the whole area of southern Siberia went through a period of political instability. The new study demonstrates how political changes affected, in the past and today, the life and death of people.
The unrest he describes is specifically related to the political turmoil in northern China that caused huge changes in southern Siberia, greatly affecting the nomads who inhabited what is today the Republic of Tuva. Dr Marco added that during the "first centuries after Christ," after the collapse of the Xiongnu steppe kingdom, this great political change had "a strong impact on the lives of the people," and they seemed to turn to violence in response to the political upheaval.
Aiming to support the harrowing findings presented in the new study, scientists at the Institute of Forensic Medicine are currently completing an analysis of the ancient DNA samples gathered from the bones recovered in the Tunnug1 royal tomb. It is expected that their findings will enable future scientists to build accurate reconstructions of the diets and lifestyles, the mobility, and the genetic affiliation of peoples that practiced these forms of ancient Siberian nomadic violence.
Ancient Origins © 2013-2020.
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Mirage News / September 21, 2020
TSU geographer made first-ever landscape map of Medny Island
Географ Томского государственного университета Ирина Чильчигешева создала первую крупномасшатбную карту ландшафта острова Медный, входящего в состав Командорского биосферного заповедника. Остров был открыт в 1741 году, но подробной его карты до недавнего времени не существовало.
Medny Island, discovered by Europeans in 1741, is part of the Commander Islands in the Bering Sea. It is uninhabited and is a part of a protected biosphere, a unique place where plants and animals from the Red Book have been preserved. Irina Chilchigesheva, a postgraduate student in the Faculty of Geology and Geography, used GIS technologies to create the first-ever large-scale digital landscape map of Medny Island. containing data on soil, relief, and flora and fauna of the island.
"Medny, along with Bering Island, is one of the largest objects in the Commander archipelago", says Irina Chilchigesheva. "From the end of the 19th century to the second half of the 20th century, Aleuts, who founded the Preobrazhenskoye village, lived here, but in 1970 they all moved to Bering Island. Medny is interesting because it is the habitat of many rare animals. On its rocks there are bird colonies, also there are rookeries of marine mammals on the beaches, so in summer scientists come here to study the unique flora and fauna".
Although Medny was discovered by Europeans almost three centuries ago, there was no large-scale landscape map of the island until recently. This gap was filled by Irina Chilchigesheva, who took two years to collect information for drawing up a map, including a month that she lived on the uninhabited island, collecting data on its landscape features and traversing far and wide.
"Mountainous relief prevails on Medny, so the island looks very picturesque. It attracts tourists, but few people manage to get there", says Irina Chilchigesheva. "Along the coast, sheer cliffs are hanging over the sea; boulders, deep gorges, and waterfalls are often found. With a colleague from the reserve, we conducted orthophotomaps of key areas using drones and collected other data that were included in the electronic map".
In addition to landscape photography, at the stage of working on the map, the graduate student created electronic databases with information about the flora, fauna, relief, and soils of the island. This data is connected with the map and appear as balloon help.
The GIS technologies that were used to create the interactive map are one of the priority directions developed by the Faculty of Geology and Geography for 25 years. The scientists actively collaborate in this area with their colleagues from the Tokyo Metropolitan University. One of the new products developed by the Russian-Japanese group is a simulation model that shows in real-time the process of flooding a settlement and offers the safest escape routes.
"The existence of landscape GIS for Medny Island is important both for planning environmental protection measures and for conducting research related to climate and environmental change", explains Vadim Khromykh, the scientific supervisor of the graduate student. "It is these ecosystems that are undisturbed by humans that are very well suited for studying the natural dynamics and evolution of landscapes. This work has special importance and prospects because of the outlined eastern vector of research by the StrAU TSSW (The Trans-Siberian Scientific Way). Such a large-scale map with reference to various information databases will enable monitoring ecosystems in the unique biosphere preserve".
© Mirage News.
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Pledge Times / September 27, 2020
Russian scientists have created a compound that increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy
Сотрудники Института химической биологии и фундаментальной медицины СО РАН создали соединение, повышающее эффективность химиотерапии при раке шейки матки.
Russian researchers have proven the effectiveness of using modified short DNA fragments to restore sensitivity to an anticancer chemotherapy drug for cervical cancer.
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Scientists at the Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine (ICBFM) of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences synthesize compounds called modified oligonucleotides, which are short DNA fragments with chemical groups attached to them, which endow the created oligonucleotides with additional beneficial properties, he said in an interview with TASS Oleg Markov, Researcher, Laboratory of Biochemistry of Nucleic Acids, ICBFM SB RAS.
According to him, such compounds are considered promising in the field of creating new generation drugs.
For many years, the main problem has been the efficient delivery of the created drugs into the cell.
"As part of our study, it was shown that cervical cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy, after treatment with synthesized compounds, restored sensitivity to an antitumor chemotherapy drug," said Maxim Kupryushkin, deputy head of the laboratory of nucleic acid chemistry at the ICBFM SB RAS.
According to him, this approach will potentially significantly increase the effectiveness of the chemotherapy used.
According to scientists, these compounds not only effectively penetrate into cells, but also can reduce the survival of tumors, acting at the genetic level. As expected, using the same modifications, but for other oligonucleotides aimed at different molecular targets, it will be possible to create promising gene-targeted drugs for the treatment of various types of diseases.
Earlier in September, it was reported that an international team of scientists, together with the Tyumen State University (Tyumen State University), created nickel-based compounds that are able to effectively fight cancer cells.
Air & Cosmos / 29/09/2020
Préparatifs à Baïkonour du module-laboratoire russe de l’ISS
После 14 лет задержек новый модуль российского сегмента Международной космической станции, возможно, наконец отправится на орбиту. Лабораторный модуль «Наука» был доставлен на Байконур в августе, запуск запланирован на 20 апреля 2021 года.
Le tant attendu module russe Nauka semble enfin voir le bout du tunnel. Son lancement vers la Station spatiale internationale, en avril prochain, interviendra avec 14 ans de retard...
Neuf jours de voyage jusqu’à Baïkonour
Quittant le centre GKNPZ Khrounitchev à Moscou, en Russie, après avoir passé des tests pneumatiques, le module-laboratoire multifonctionnel MLM Nauka (Science, en russe) de l’entreprise d’Etat Roscomos a été expédié le 10 août dernier vers le cosmodrome de Baïkonour, au Kazakhstan.
Après neuf jours de voyage en train, il a intégré le bâtiment d'assemblage et d'essai de la société RKK Energia. Celle-ci réalisera l'aménagement final du module, en vue d'un envoi vers la Station spatiale internationale le 20 avril 2021, à l’aide d’un lanceur Proton M.
Une construction émaillée de problèmes techniques
MLM Nauka mesure 13 m de long pour un diamètre de 4,1 m, et offre un volume pressurisé de 70 m3. Sa masse est de 20,3 tonnes. Dédié à la recherche et au stockage, mais également d’aire de repros, le module est équipé de quatre écoutilles (dont une disponible au départ), de panneaux solaires, de systèmes de navigation, de guidage et de contrôle d’attitude, ainsi que du bras télémanipulateur européen ERA. Son lancement, initialement prévu pour 2007, marquera le dénouement d’une histoire ponctuée de problèmes récurrents depuis 2004, dont une contamination en 2013.
Deux EVA préalables
Pour l’heure, deux sorties à l’extérieur de l’ISS, en novembre 2020 et février 2021, devront être effectuées par des cosmonautes russes, afin de préparer le désamarrage puis la désorbitation du compartiment d’amarrage Pirs.
Celui-ci est actuellement solidaire du port Nadir du module de service russe Zvezda de la station (face à la Terre), et devra laisser sa place au laboratoire MLM Nauka.
Ainsi, nous devrions assister au départ de Nauka le 20 avril 2021, à la séparation du vaisseau-cargo Progress MS-16 avec le module Pirs trois jours plus tard, puis l’amarrage de Nauka sur Zvezda à la place de Pirs le 29 avril.
© Copyright 2020 - Air & Cosmos. Tous droits réservés.
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Pew Research Center / September 29, 2020
Public Views About Science in Russia
Негосударственная компания Pew Research Center занимается исследованиями социальных вопросов и общественного мнения в разных странах мира. В октябре 2019 - марте 2020 компания провела в 20 странах исследование того, как общественность относится к науке и научным разработкам. Опрос, проводившийся в России, показал, что накануне пандемии россияне критически относились к отечественной медицине, сомневались в пользе прививок, при этом высоко оценивали научные достижения страны и считали, что государственные инвестиции в научные исследования необходимы и в конечном счете себя окупают, а искусственный интеллект - скорее хорошо, чем плохо.
This roundup of findings shows public views about science-related issues and the role of science in Russian society. The findings come from a Pew Research Center survey conducted across 20 publics in Europe, the Asia-Pacific, Russia, the U.S., Canada and Brazil from October 2019 to March 2020.
Ratings of medical treatments, scientific achievements and STEM education in Russia
Majorities in most of the 20 publics surveyed saw their medical treatments in a favorable light on the eve of the global pandemic. Medical treatments were often seen more favorably than achievements in other areas.
Across the 20 publics, a median of 59% say their medical treatments are at least above average. In Russia, only 21% think their country’s medical treatments are the best in the world or above average. About four-in-ten Russians (37%) think their medical treatments are below average.
Overall, 42% of Russians view their scientific achievements as above average or the best in the world; 37% say this about their technological achievements. When it comes to STEM education, 38% rate Russia’s STEM education at the university level as above average or better, while 29% say this about STEM education at the primary and secondary school levels.
Majorities in all publics agree that being a world leader in scientific achievement is at least somewhat important, but the share who view this as very important varies by public. A 20-public median of 51% place the highest level of importance on being a science world leader. In Russia, 49% of people say being a world leader in scientific achievements is very important.
Overall, there is broad agreement among these 20 publics that government investment in scientific research is worthwhile. A median of 82% say government investments in scientific research aimed at advancing knowledge are usually worthwhile for society over time. In Russia, 83% of people say this.
Views on artificial intelligence, food science and childhood vaccines in Russia
Majorities in most publics see their government’s space exploration program as a good thing for society. Across the 20 publics, a median of 72% say their government’s space exploration program has mostly been a good thing for society. In Russia, nearly eight-in-ten (79%) say ROSCOSMOS’s space exploration program has been good for society.
Public views on artificial intelligence (AI) and using robots to automate jobs are more varied from public to public. A median of 53% say the development of AI, or computer systems designed to imitate human behaviors, has mostly been a good thing for society, while 33% say it has been a bad thing. The Center survey also finds that publics offer mixed views about the use of robots to automate jobs. Across the 20 publics, a median of 48% say such automation has mostly been a good thing, while 42% say it has been a bad thing.
In Russia, views of both developments tilt positive. Overall, 54% say workplace automation through robotics has been good for society, compared with 30% who say it has been bad. Opinions about the effect of AI are similar: 52% say it has been a good thing, while 30% say it has been a bad thing.
Across most of the publics surveyed, views about the safety of fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides, food and drinks with artificial preservatives and genetically modified foods tilt far more negative than positive. About half think produce grown with pesticides (median of 53%), foods made with artificial preservatives (53%) or genetically modified foods (48%) are unsafe. In Russia, people are broadly skeptical about foods grown or produced with these techniques. Only 10% say fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides are safe, while about three-quarters (74%) think they are unsafe, and 14% say they don’t know enough about this issue to say. Large majorities also say food and drinks with artificial preservatives (74%) or genetically modified foods (70%) are unsafe to eat.
When it comes to childhood vaccines such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, a median of 61% say the preventive health benefits of such vaccines are high, and a median of 55% think there is no or only a low risk of side effects. Russia is among the survey publics least likely to rate the preventive health benefits as high and the risk of side effects as low. About half of Russians (49%) say the preventive health benefits from the MMR vaccine are high; 33% rate the risk of side effects from the MMR vaccine as low or none.
Views on climate and the environment in Russia
Majorities across all 20 survey publics would prioritize protecting the environment, even if it causes slower economic growth. A median of 71% would prioritize environmental protection. Russians are among the least likely to think that protecting the environment should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs: 56% say this, compared with 33% who think creating jobs should be the top priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent.
Public concern about global climate change has gone up over the past few years in many publics surveyed by the Center.
Majorities in all 20 publics say they are seeing at least some effects of climate change where they live. A median of 70% say they are experiencing a great deal or some effects of climate change where they live. In Russia, almost seven-in-ten (68%) say climate change is affecting where they live a great deal (25%) or some (43%).
A 20-public median of 58% say their national government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. In Russia, 54% say their government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, while 28% say government is doing about the right amount and just 6% say it is doing too much.
Find out more
Read the full report online.
All surveys were conducted with nationally representative samples of adults ages 18 and older. Here is the survey methodology used in each public.
Copyright 2020 Pew Research Center.
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