Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Август 1999 г.

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Август
1999 г.
Российская наука и мир
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)

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    Fox News / 9.12 p.m. ET (115 GMT) August 29, 1999
    On 50th anniversary of Soviet nuke test, scientist warns of continuing damage

    В 50-ю годовщину первого испытания атомной бомбы в Советском Союзе известный российский ученый Алексей Яблоков еще раз напоминает об опасности ядерных испытаний для окружающей среды.


Moscow, (AP) -- On the 50th anniversary of the first Soviet atomic test, a prominent Russian scientist said Sunday that the arms race had left behind massive environmental damage that would take generations to repair.
Soviet researchers carried out their first experimental blast on Aug. 29, 1949, near the Semipalatinsk testing ground in what is now part of northern Kazakstan.
The Cold War arms race "has created environmental problems with which future generations will have to contend," said Alexei Yablokov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a former adviser to President Boris Yeltsin, now one of the country's leading anti-nuclear campaigners.
"If the enormous human and material resources burnt in the furnace of the nuclear arms race had been spent on the solution of global problems," many of them could have been solved, Yablokov told the Interfax news agency. Soviet citizens living near the Semipalatinsk testing ground were exposed to dozens of above-ground tests, and these people and their descendants have suffered from extremely high rates of cancer, birth defects and other serious illnesses. Ecologists say there are several inhabited areas of Semipalatinsk that contain radiation levels unsafe for humans.
Several churches held services in Semipalatinsk on Sunday to remember the people who died because of the testing. The Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991, mounted its crash program to develop nuclear weapons after the United States used atomic bombs against Japan at the end of World War II in 1945.
President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday praised the Soviet nuclear program, saying it had helped preserve world peace. "Half a century ago the selfless work of scientists, engineers, workers and military men created a strong foundation for Russia's nuclear shield," Yeltsin said in a message to the builders of the first Soviet weapon. "That was an event of historic significance, which played an extremely important role in maintaining durable peace on the planet," the message added.
Nuclear weapons remain an important part of Russia's defenses, although many missiles are old and unsafe. The United States and Russia have both been reducing their arsenals in recent years, and each country now has about 6,000 strategic nuclear weapons.
The START II arms control treaty, signed by both countries but ratified only by the United States, calls for the countries to cut their nuclear arsenals further to 3,000 to 3,500 warheads each.

© 1999, News America Digital Publishing, Inc.
d/b/a Fox News Online. All rights reserved.
©1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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    Environmental News Network / Thursday, August 12, 1999
    Scientists say Antarctic lake worth a look-see
    Ученые полагают, что стоит внимательно изучить жизнь подо льдами антарктического озера Восток, так как условия его окружающей среды очень напоминают условия окружающей среды спутника Юпитера.

The possible existence of microbes unknown to science residing in the liquid waters of Lake Vostok beneath the Antarctic ice sheet justifies exploration of the sub-glacial environment, according to an Aug. 3 National Science Foundation report.
The scientists believe that the sub-glacial environment may resemble the environment of Jupiter's moon Europa. Recent images of Europa have led scientists to believe that an ocean lies beneath the ice that covers the moon.
" The thick cover of ice over a liquid ocean may be a fertile site for life. The Antarctica sub-glacial lakes have similar basic boundary conditions to Europa, " according to the final report on the foundation's Lake Vostok Workshop.
Thus, if life is able to exist in the depths of Lake Vostok, then life may exist on Europa and other extreme environments elsewhere in the solar system, the scientists concluded at the workshop held Nov. 8-9, 1998, in Washington, D.C. Lake Vostok is roughly the size of Lake Ontario in the United States. Vostok Station - a Russian scientific outpost is located in the vicinity of the lake.
As part of a joint U.S., French and Russian research project, Russian teams have drilled down into the ice covering the lake, producing the world's deepest ice core. But drilling was deliberately stopped roughly 120 meters above where the ice and liquid water meet to prevent possible contamination.
The report concludes that Lake Vostok merits further scientific investigation, including devising a way to drill through the ice sheet to reach the water - and lake-bottom sediments - without contaminating them.
Besides searching for unknown life forms, the lake offers other scientific reasons for exploration. Water below the ice, which has been cut off from the outside world for hundreds of thousands of years, may have a unique chemical composition.
There may also be an active tectonic rift below the lake, which may be warming its waters. Or sediments at the lake bottom may contain a record of ancient climate conditions.
Robin E. Bell, a geophysicist and a co-editor of the report, says it " illustrates the emerging importance of the lake for understanding the processes that may have triggered the evolutionary explosion on Earth and perhaps on other planets as well as deciphering the geologic history of Antarctica. "
The National Science Foundation will send a delegation of scientists to a meeting of the international Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, scheduled for September in Cambridge, England.
At that meeting, scientists will discuss the scientific objectives of sub-glacial lake exploration and will examine the logistical and engineering requirements for exploring the lake.

© Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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    EurekAlert / 2 AUGUST 1999
    "All my friends dream of artificial limbs": US, Russian nuclear labs work with prosthetics company to develop replacement knee
    В лабораториях России и США, которые раньше занимались разработкой ядерного оружия, сейчас работают над созданием искусственных конечностей и суставов.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A letter expressing "deepest gratitude"from a Russian landmine victim fitted with a newly developed artificial foot demonstrates one reason for the initiation of a second prosthetics project between the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories and the Ohio Willow Wood Company. This one, to develop an advanced artificial knee, is supported by a $1.4 million cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) from the DOE's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program. The agreement was signed on July 28.
In a unique arrangement, technologies for foot and knee prostheses are being jointly developed by two nuclear weapons laboratories on opposite sides during the Cold War, Sandia and the Russian laboratory known as Chelyabinsk-70, in Snezhinsk, about 900 miles southeast of Moscow.
Ohio Willow Wood, located in Mount Sterling, near Columbus, will define the requirements for parts and perform final laboratory and clinical testing. The Russians will design a titanium housing, and Sandia robotics researchers Mark Vaughn and Dave Kozlowski will design the knee's internal workings and electronics. Sandia and the Russian nuclear lab will split their half of the funding.
"This work will have many benefits," says Sandia chemist and project leader Mort Lieberman, who will also manage the Russian connection. "Someone in this world loses a limb to a landmine explosion every 20 minutes. Our work, though only remedial, will help landmine survivors and other amputees."
The work also provides employment on areas of civilian need for Russian nuclear scientists who might otherwise be tempted to sell their expertise to countries the United States would prefer not have it. In an odd twist, "We will have created the world's biggest research center for lower-limb prosthesis in a Russian laboratory," says Lieberman. The first collaboration, on an artificial foot, has reached the stage where the devices have been experimentally affixed to willing amputees. The improvement in motion over currently marketed prosthetic feet is such that "I am amazed by your invention," writes Russian amputee Sergei Burlakov to Mark Pitkin, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine who invented the initial version of the foot being further developed by the weapons labs and Ohio Willow Wood.
Burlakov reportedly now can walk the entire day on the improved model without experiencing discomfort that formerly made him unable to wear a prosthesis for more than two or three hours. "At the institute where I have undergone my rehabilitation process, your Rolling Foot made a sensation," he wrote to Pitkin. And, in the unintentionally saddest of his sentences, "All of my friends and acquaintances there dream of having prostheses like these." The current project will draw upon Sandia's electronic expertise and Russian materials knowledge to create, respectively, the brains and shape of the knee. "The work is a good fit with the capabilities of both labs," says Lieberman. "It involves stress analysis, mechanical testing, reliability testing, microprocessor control, and materials analysis."
It also helps out the prosthetics industry, which is dominated by small companies with relatively small technical support. While prosthetic companies certainly have worked to improve their devices, says Lieberman, they lack the resources to perform the type of testing possible at both nuclear laboratories. A knee must be able to vary the speed of its response. Then it needs to lock so that its wearer doesn't fall when standing. "The knee is not simply a hinge," says Lieberman. "If it were only that, it might swing back too far or not enough, letting the foot hit the ground too soon and causing its wearer to trip." Other proposals related to prosthetics have been submitted by Sandia and Chelyabinsk-70 researchers to various funding organizations, says Lieberman. The proposals deal with the creation of sockets able to adjust to the swelling and shrinkage of an amputee's stump during the course of the day, knees that help prevent falling when a wearer stumbles, and microprocessor-controlled prosthetics to obtain a more natural gait. Lieberman serves on the Executive Board for the International Institute for the Prosthetic Rehabilitation of Landmine Survivors, is on the executive board of New Mexico Dept. of Health's Disability Health Advisory Council, and has been nominated to serve on US Dept. of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Lieberman also represents Sandia in a consortium established by the Amputee Coalition of America in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control on the subject of limb-loss research and prevention of secondary conditions. He credits the push that took place in technology transfer in the early 1990s for opening the door to applying weapons technology to other applications. Sandia is a multiprogram DOE laboratory, operated by a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy, and environmental technologies.

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    Nature / Vol.400, No.6744, P.493 August 5, 1999
    Russian Antarctic base falls prey to budget cuts
    • CARL LEVITIN
    Российская антарктическая станция стала жертвой урезания бюджета.

MOSCOW -- Russia's main Antarctic scientific base, Molodezhnaya, has been closed owing to lack of funds. The fate of the base, which has been shut "until better days", was sealed two years ago, when the Russian cabinet adopted a strategy of adapting Antarctic research to meet budgetary pressures.
Molodezhnaya, founded in 1963, was a heavy burden on the limited budget, as it has the best-developed infrastructure of Russia's Antarctic bases, including permanent living quarters for scientists, whose upkeep required large amounts of money.
Furthermore, as Valery Martyshenko, head of the the Russian Hydro-meteorological Service (RHMS), points out, the finance minister has delivered only one third of the 72.5 million rubles promised for the station.
The closure of the base means that only four of the Soviet Union's original eight stations in Antarctica are left: Mirny, Progress (which now becomes Russia's main research centre), Vostok and Novolazarevskaya. Each is supposed to continue research and fulfil Russia's commitment to the international programmes in which it participates.
But there could be difficulties in closing the Molodezhnaya base because, under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, no waste can be left behind. "For this, we need special equipment, containers and many other items that we are unable to buy," says Sergei Khodkin, RHMS deputy head.
Ships must leave Vladivostok no later than October to complete the clean-up before the Antarctic ice becomes too thick. But the cabinet is not scheduled to consider the problem until the first week of September.
Russian ecologists warn that international organizations could employ a private contractor to clean up the Molodezhnaya site, and then send Russia the bill, perhaps with an additional fine. If so, the attempts to save money could end up costing more than keeping the base open.

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 1999

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    Business Wire / Monday August 23, 1999
    Moscow Scientific Institute Begins Trials of Coronado Industries' PNT Device for Addition to the Russian Health System
    • Company Press Release
    В Московском институте микрохирургии глаза начались испытания нового прибора, который будет применяться при лечении глаукомы.

FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. (BW HealthWire) -- Aug. 23, 1999 -- Coronado Industries Inc. (OTC BB:CDIK) (www.coronadoindustries.com) Monday announced that Professor Svatyslav N. Fyodorov, M.D., chief of the Moscow Scientific Institute for Eye Microsurgery (one of the largest such institutes in Russia), has begun trials of the PNT(TM) device for addition to the Russian health system.
Professor Fyodorov is well known in the medical community as the inventor of radial keratotomy (for near-sightedness) and as a pioneer in intraocular lens implantation for cataracts. He is a member of the Russian senate and former Minister of Health for Russia. "This represents a giant step for Coronado Industries Inc. to facilitate the use of its PNT equipment in certainly one of the largest national health care systems in the world," said Gary Smith, president of Coronado Industries Inc. Coronado Industries, through its two wholly owned subsidiaries American Glaucoma and Ophthalmic International, manufactures devices to treat forms of glaucoma and operates facilities that offer glaucoma diagnosis and treatment under an I.D.E. Study (Investigational Device Exemption). Pending FDA approval, Coronado will license its patented treatment procedure and equipment in the United States. Coronado's Pneumatic Trabeculoplasty (PNT(TM)) procedure uses a non-invasive, patented, low-cost pneumatic device that has proven to be an effective and safe treatment option for glaucoma. In December 1998, Coronado was granted a CE Mark from the European Commission, which serves as a "passport" to allow a manufacturer to freely sell its products within the European Marketplace.

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    Reuters / Wednesday August 11, 1999
    Rostelecom Agreement Positions Teleglobe as Leading International Internet Access Provider in Russia
    • Full text of press release from Canadian Corporate News

RESTON, VIRGINIA -- More Than Half of Russian Internet Users Access U.S. and Global Internet Through Teleglobe Backbone Network Nearly half a million Internet users in Russia soon will have faster access to U.S. Internet networks and the global Internet thanks to an agreement between Rostelecom, Russia's national telecommunications carrier, and Teleglobe Communications Corporation. The companies are deploying a 52 megabit per second (Mbps) fiber optic link that will connect Rostelecom's Moscow-based facilities to Teleglobe's North American Internet backbone. Rostelecom currently provides approximately 40 per cent of all international Internet capacity in Russia.
The Rostelecom agreement, combined with Teleglobe's existing business with a growing number of Russian Internet Service Providers, makes Teleglobe the leading provider of global Internet access for Russia, supporting customer connections of more than 130 Mbps of bandwidth.
"As the Internet becomes increasingly available to Russian Internet users, it is important that our customers have reliable, high-speed global access that can support basic applications as well as the latest in bandwidth-intensive technologies such as video streaming," said Victor A.Grishkevich, General Director of Rostelecom Information Technology Center. According to a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) Research report, there were 1.2 million Russian Internet users at the end of 1998, up from 380,000 users in 1996. IDC expects the number of users to reach over 3 million by the year 2001.
"The Internet is rapidly developing in Russia, with an ever-increasing demand for bandwidth and a growing number of Internet Service Providers, Internet users and Internet networks seeking high-performance access services," said Gian Franco Bucelli, Teleglobe Communications Corporation's Vice President and General Manager for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa.
"Teleglobe has the global Internet backbone network and decades of communications experience necessary to deliver these services in Russia." Teleglobe currently provides global Internet access to a number of Russian Internet Service providers including Comstar, Macomnet, Rosniiros (Russia's Academic backbone network), MTU-INFORM and WEBplus. Teleglobe also is providing a high-speed transatlantic Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) link to MirNET, a joint U.S.-Russian academic network designed to provide next generation Internet services to collaborating U.S.-Russian scientists, researchers and educators.
Teleglobe's ATM backbone network will support high bandwidth applications, including medical imaging, distance learning, data visualization, remote instrumentation and control, and high quality multi-point audio-visual conferencing.
As part of its GlobeSystem network deployment plan, Teleglobe will continue to expand its Internet backbone business worldwide and establish peering agreements with major backbone providers around the world.
Teleglobe recently announced that it has started construction on a GlobeCity network access site in St. Petersburg, which is expected to be operational by year-end 1999. Upon completion of GlobeSystem, customers will have direct network access to Teleglobe's network from 160 major cities worldwide. Teleglobe's Internet backbone now connects more countries to North America than any other network in the world. Hundreds of Internet Service Providers, Content Providers and Search Engines in more than 100 countries are directly connected to the company's GlobeSystem backbone network.

    About Teleglobe
Teleglobe recently announced that it would invest US$5 billion over the next five years to build GlobeSystem, the world's first globally-integrated Internet, voice, data and video network. GlobeSystem will increase Teleglobe's currently installed network capacity by an estimated 200-fold. Teleglobe Inc. (NYSE, TSE, ME: TGO) is a recognized leader in global telecommunications. Through its subsidiary Teleglobe Communications Corporation, the company develops and supplies global connectivity services to carriers, Internet service providers, business customers and content providers worldwide.
Through Excel Communication's proven marketing and distribution channels, Teleglobe also caters to an expanding international consumer customer base. According to TeleGeography, the company is the fourth-ranked long distance provider in the United States and, according to a recent KMI Corporation study, the third largest owner of undersea fiber optic cable systems.
Teleglobe has a 50 percent interest in ORBCOMM, the world's first commercial low-earth-orbit, satellite-based, data communications system. Additional information is available at www.teleglobe.com.
© 1999 Reuters Limited

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    Reuters / Wednesday August 11, 1999
    Bugs From Space Spice Up New Russian Yogurt
    Журнал The New Scientist сообщает, что в Московском институте биомедицинских проблем создан новый йогурт, который помогает бороться с кишечными бактериями, развивающимися в организме космонавтов в результате стрессов, возникающих во время космических полетов и подавляющих их иммунитет. Работа микробиологов над созданием таких йогуртов началась в начале 80-х годов как часть Советской космической программы.

LONDON (Reuters) -- Russians will soon be able to combine healthy eating with history by tucking into a yogurt containing bacteria taken from the saliva and guts of some of the space program's most distinguished astronauts.
The New Scientist magazine said Wednesday the yogurt would hit the shelves this autumn. Nadezhda Lizko, who led the yogurt project at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow, told the magazine astronauts made ideal culture donors for live yogurts. "They are under constant and strict observation of a whole range of medical specialists. The slightest change in their physical condition is instantly noticed," she said. The stresses of space flight can upset astronauts' immunity, allowing potentially dangerous bacteria to oust benign inhabitants of an astronaut's guts.
In the early 1980s, microbiologists attached to the Soviet space program began developing the yogurts as a remedy to these problems. They fed them to astronauts before they headed into orbit. Once just another tool in the Soviet battle for space supremacy, the yogurt is now a potential Russian money spinner.
Lizko and her team have diversified their range to include fruit-flavored yogurts, cottage cheese and traditional Russian cheeses studded with garlic and herbs, the magazine said. They hope to produce two tones of dairy produce a day from the autumn. "Although samples have not been collected since 1993, Lizko has 1,000 cultures of astronaut's gut bacteria -- enough to sustain the business indefinitely," the magazine said.

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    Science / Vol.285, No.5431, Iss. of 20 Aug. 1999, P.1205
    Tunguska Revisited
    В надежде разрешить загадку Тунгусского метеорита итальянско-российская группа ученых обследовала дно сибирского озера в поисках причины гигантского взрыва, выдернувшего из земли деревья и обуглившего их в радиусе сотен квадратных километров. Восемь лет назад группа под руководством физиков Джузеппе Лонго и Менотти Галли из Болонского университета собрала микроскопические частицы тяжелых металлов, которые, как представляется, могли выступить при высоких температурах из смолы 90-летних деревьев, растущих на месте взрыва. Западные исследователи предполагают, что это частицы метеоритов, а российские ученые указывают на кометное происхождение частиц. Сейчас Д.Лонго и Н.Васильев вернулись в Сибирь для поиска более точных свидетельств.

Hoping to solve a mystery that has persisted for more than 90 years, an Italian-Russian team last month scoured the bottom of a Siberian lake for clues to the cause of a titanic explosion that flattened and charred trees over hundreds of square kilometers.
On 30 June 1908, witnesses saw a fireball hurtle through the dawn sky over eastern Siberia before exploding with a force of 1000 Hiroshima bombs in a remote region called Tunguska. What hit has been a mystery despite Russian expeditions to the site over the years. Eight years ago, a group led by physicists Giuseppe Longo and Menotti Galli of the University of Bologna in Italy culled microscopic particles of heavy metals, which appeared to have been forged at high temperatures, from 90-year-old tree resin at the site. Western researchers tend to think the particles came from a meteorite, while many Russians say they could have been in a chunk of cometary debris. Now Longo and Nikolai Vasiliev, deputy director of the Tunguska Nature Reserve, have returned to Siberia to look for more definitive evidence. Braving mosquitoes, horseflies, and sweltering heat, the scientists took two dozen core samples at the bottom of a lake 8 km from the epicenter, where, they figure, any fragments should be preserved in the sediment. Longo's group will analyze the cores in Italy, hoping for pieces that might solve the puzzle (www-th.bo.infn.it/tunguska).

© 1999 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science
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    The Associated Press / Thursday August 19 5:29 PM ET
    New Russian Jets Attract Huge Crowds
    • VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
      Associated Press Writer
    Тысячи зрителей и покупателей собрались на сверхсекретной воздушной базе, чтобы увидеть представление самых современных российских военных самолетов - зрелище, немыслимое десять лет назад. На выставке были представлены военные самолеты конструкторского бюро Сухого.

ZHUKOVSKY, Russia (AP) - Thousands of viewers and buyers poured into a top-secret air base Thursday to see a performance of Russia's most advanced combat jets, a spectacle unthinkable a decade ago.
The Zhukovsky air base, opened up for the Moscow International Air Show this week, featured a special attraction - a demonstration of top-of-the-line fighters developed by the Sukhoi design bureau. The performance was a welcome distraction from the desperate cash problems plaguing the Russian military and hurting its aviation industry. The Russian air force hasn't been able to afford a single new plane since 1992, and Sukhoi is one of the few Russian aircraft makers that has continued to prosper since the 1991 Soviet collapse. The Zhukovsky base, part of the Gromov Flight Research Institute in charge of testing new military aircraft, was once one of the Soviet Union's most tightly-guarded facilities. Huge hangars hid aircraft from being spotted by U.S. spy satellites, and testing went on between the satellite flyovers.
On Thursday, the jets roared through a sunny sky, slowing down and nearly stopping in the air, standing on their tails like snakes and then sliding steeply down, drawing shouts and applause from the crowd. The black S-37 Berkut, or Golden Eagle, the first prototype of a new-generation fighter said to rival the most advanced Western jets, attracted attention because of its unorthodox shape, forward-swept wings pointing ahead in a V-shaped wedge, resembling a futuristic spaceship. Sukhoi designers say their planes' agility gives them a clear edge in dogfights. However, the Berkut's pilot avoided any sharp maneuvers during the flyover.
The new aircraft is still in the middle of its test program, and the plane's designers and the military have remained coy about its prospects, given the government's desperate cash shortage. The Russian air force is so short of fuel that pilots average 25 hours flying time a year, compared to what is considered a minimum 200 hours in Western air forces. Unable to market their products at home, Russian aircraft manufacturers have been looking abroad for customers. The Sukhoi company has been far more successful than others, selling large batches of Su-27s and Su-30s to China and India under contracts worth billions of dollars. As a result, the firm has been able to finance the development of new planes and prevent a massive exodus of its personnel.
At $180 a month, the average salary of Sukhoi workers is the highest in Russia's industrial sector, company director general Mikhail Pogosyan said Thursday. Nationwide, the average salary hovers around $40. Those who build civilian aircraft are far less successful. Production at the Tupolev company, which supplied hundreds of passenger jets to the Soviet flagship carrier Aeroflot, has ground to a near halt since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Aeroflot's largest successors have preferred leasing Boeings and Airbuses, snubbing Tupolev because it demanded full purchases. Tupolev is now trying to launch a leasing program to entice buyers.

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    UniScience / 04-Aug-1999
    Russian Military Slurry Polishing U.S. Precision Optics
    • Susan Murphy

A high-tech mix used in shock absorbers and clutches in Russian military vehicles has been recast as an award-winning U.S. technology for polishing precision optics, vital components in today's products such as camcorders, CD players, surgical lasers, bar-code scanners, and telescopes. A team of scientists in Minsk, Belarus, in 1988 came up with the idea of using the slurry to polish glass, an application that piqued the interest of scientists at the University of Rochester's Center for Optics Manufacturing (COM). Initially doubtful, optics expert Stephen Jacobs of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) visited the principal investigator, William Kordonski, in Belarus to see his discovery, and was immediately impressed. The visit resulted in a research collaboration between COM and Byelocorp Scientific Inc., a firm that develops new technologies; the agreement brought Kordonski and members of his team to the United States. Together, COM, Byelocorp and Kordonski's team launched a research program at COM in 1994 to perfect the technology. The collaboration has resulted in three patents and commercialization of the technology, known as magnetorheological finishing (MRF), in the optics industry. Kordonski now works for QED Technologies, a Rochester company that formed following the success of the MRF research program at COM. Last year QED, in cooperation with COM and Byelocorp, introduced the first commercial product using MRF. The machine, the Q22 Magnetorheological Finishing System for polishing high-precision spherical and aspherical lenses, was recently chosen by Photonics Spectra magazine as one of 25 winners of the 1999 Photonics Circle of Excellence Award.
"This has been an exciting and satisfying program to work on. That's extremely fast for a technology to be invented and turned into a commercial product," says Jacobs, who is senior scientist at COM and LLE as well as associate professor of optics and materials science. The MRF process relies on a unique "smart fluid" which changes viscosity and responds to external conditions. The fluid is a slurry of water and other materials, mainly carbonyl iron powder and an abrasive material, cerium oxide.
When exposed to a magnetic field, the mixture temporarily hardens and conforms to the surface of the glass to be polished, making it ideal to polish components of any shape. The water in the slurry softens the glass surface, making it easier for the abrasive particles to scratch off silica molecules and carry away the debris. A pump draws the slurry into a mixing bottle where a circulation system keeps the fluid homogenous. Such fluids are already used commercially as expensive shock absorbers to cushion the rides of long-haul truckers, but the fluids have remained a niche item in the commercial sector because of their high cost. "What we do at COM is really the only other commercial application for MRF. This is a very high-tech application, and the cost of the fluid is relatively inexpensive compared to the value added to the product," Jacobs says.
Magnetorheological finishing is good news for an industry faced with a dwindling number of master opticians, as fewer and fewer young people take up the craft of glass polishing. With the new technology, a computer program analyzes the errors on the surface of the lens and the shape of the polishing spot to determine the necessary polishing motion and duration. "The MRF process is fast and precise. It does an excellent job polishing glass and surpasses the conventional method," Jacobs says. The flexibility of the finishing process also makes it handy for producing oddly shaped optical components known as aspheres, highly efficient lenses that are normally very difficult and expensive to produce. The technology has been incorporated as a finishing step for the latest machine developed by COM, a conformal grinder; just last month COM received a prototype of this machine, which makes grinding free-form shapes possible for the first time.

© 1995-1999 UniSci.

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    Fox News / 1.54 p.m. ET (1754 GMT) August 23, 1999
    Russia May Beat NASA to ISS
    • Mark Prigg
    Россия в секрете готовит экипаж для посещения Международной космической станции Мир, чтобы оказаться там раньше американского экипажа

LONDON -- Russia is secretly training a crew to visit the International Space Station (ISS) before the first NASA-approved crew. NASA was last week trying to find out what is going on, while the Russian two-man crew was nearing the end of its training program in Moscow's huge hydrolab pool, which is designed to simulate space walks. According to Jim Oberg, a Russian space expert who has testified before the American Congress several times on the ISS, the visitors could actually prove very useful, but it is no surprise that NASA has not been told of the plans. He says: "NASA is completely used to getting screwed over by the Russians, particularly over the ISS. However, this time Russia could actually be doing the ISS a great service by putting a crew there to monitor the docking of the Russian-built service module." The service module will act as the living quarters for the first official crew, called Expedition One. It is due to be launched in November, although the launch is likely to be put back because of difficulties with the module. Oberg believes one option may be to launch an unfinished service module and have the Russian crew finish it. He says: "Russia has been criticized so often for missing deadlines that maybe it will just launch the module and fix whatever goes wrong in space. If it has a crew there, I think that's a definite possibility." The service module was originally designed to dock automatically with the two ISS modules already in orbit. Space officials are worried that the modules are already showing signs of wear and tear after being left unmanned for far longer than planned.
Russia hopes that its planned Expedition Zero crew can board the service module before it docks and manually control the procedure if that is required. Oberg says there are several repair jobs the crew may be able to do: "A few weeks ago controllers had to shut down one of the ISS batteries because it was not functioning properly, and there are several other problems with the station. It was designed to be unmanned for only a few months at most, and it will have been left for over a year when the next visitors arrive. "Unfortunately, it is not holding up as well as everyone hoped, so there are a lot of repair jobs the Expedition Zero crew could do. In many ways they would actually be a great asset to the station, just in case anything does go wrong with the docking," Oberg says.
The two cosmonauts, both of whom have spent time on Mir, Russia's space station, are believed to have completed most of their training and are now practicing space walks. The crew would be launched in a Soyuz spacecraft about a week after the service module is blasted into orbit. They would then dock with the service module and stay on board while it docks with the other ISS modules. They could stay for up to six months, allowing them to prepare the station for the arrival of the real first crew - an American commander and two Russian cosmonauts.
NASA's Advisory Council on Space Station Readiness has set up a taskforce to try to find out what Russia is up to - Moscow has not yet formally told NASA of its plans for Expedition Zero. According to Major General Joe Engel, a technical adviser to the taskforce, the training is to be discussed at a special meeting in Moscow. "We are going to work out the impact of this before we decide what to do," he said.
Andrew Thomas, an astronaut on the taskforce, believes the Expedition Zero crew is already taking up the first crew's valuable time in the hydrolab training pool. This, he says, shows that they will almost certainly visit the station soon after the service-module launch. The loss of training time in the pool is a point that NASA officials hope to raise with their Russian counterparts.

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