Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Май 2011 г.
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    Nature / 23 May 2011
    Russia revitalizes science
    Researchers drawn by "mega-grants" find rewards and frustrations in equal measure
    • Quirin Schiermeier
    40 победителям первого этапа конкурса "мегагрантов", приглашенным на работу в российские вузы, предстоит не только "воскрешать" науку, но и разбираться с административными и правовыми вопросами. Запутанные инструкции и многочисленные бюрократические барьеры отнюдь не способствуют интеллектуальному и технологическому подъему.

Siberia, of all places? Ernst-Detlef Schulze's wife rolled her eyes when her husband agreed to lead a major ecosystem study in the Yenisey region in the heart of Russia's eastern vastness. At first, Schulze, the founding director of the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, had been hesitant himself - but sensing a unique opportunity to study how the Arctic tundra and boreal forests store and release carbon, he decided to pack his bags.
The German carbon-cycle expert is one of 40 foreign or expatriate Russian scientists working in the West who last year received a new type of grant to bring their expertise to Russian universities. The 12-billion-rouble (US$428-million) "mega-grant" programme is part of Russia's attempt to strengthen research at its neglected universities and modernize the country's science and economy at large (see Nature 465, 858; 2010).
The ambitious plan is clear evidence that research money is now flowing generously in Russia, where a once-vast scientific workforce shrank dramatically in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union (see "After the fall"). The will to revitalize science is real, says Schulze. Alas, Kafkaesque bureaucracy and a thicket of often-opaque regulations have survived the changes.
The Russian government is trying to smooth the way. This week, following a letter of complaint from scientists at Moscow State University (MSU), President Dmitry Medvedev met grant recipients to discuss the problems they have experienced, and promised to address them. But doing science in Russia remains a challenging, and often frustrating, mission for anyone unfamiliar with the country's idiosyncrasies, says Schulze.
"The administrative, legal and academic environment can be perplexing," he says. "Essentially, you need very good contacts and a great deal of local support. If you arrive unprepared - thinking only that it would be cool to do some science in Siberia - you're lost."
Fortunately, Schulze does enjoy plenty of support. During his long career he has published more than 20 papers with Russian colleagues, and some of his long-term collaborators are now helping him to get settled at his host institute, the Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk.
"Our faculty and our students are very lucky to have Detlef doing research here," says Evgeny Vaganov, the rector of the university. "We do everything we can to support him with the admittedly excessive paperwork."
Vaganov has commissioned a professor of economics to support Schulze full-time with the logistics of his planned fieldwork, with the procurement and import of equipment, and in his interactions with local and state authorities. Even so, the purchase of every single piece of equipment for Schulze's project had to be approved by the Russian security services, who Schulze says are usually suspicious of his efforts. "If it's new it's bad," he says. "That's the kind of mindset, unfortunately, that is hampering Russia's intellectual and technological renaissance. It is blocking curiosity and inventive genius."
Similar problems crop up when buying chemical reagents or transporting biological samples into or out of Russia. "In Sweden, if I need a chemical I order it, and I'll get it in a matter of days," says Boris Zhivotovsky, a cell biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and a holder of one of the grants, which he is using to set up a lab and PhD programme at MSU. "In Russia, you need to apply for, and put out to tender, every little thing you need for your research," he says. "It takes three months or more until you get what you need."
Other grant recipients worry about the time limits they face. "My main concern is what will happen after the two-year funding period," says Stanislav Smirnov, a mathematician at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and winner of the 2010 Fields Medal, who is using his grant to work at St Petersburg State University. "In mathematics, it can easily take two years to get one paper published. If this programme is to have a lasting impact, I think there would need to be a mechanism for expanding it beyond the short two-year funding period. Otherwise I fear the investment will just peter out."
The mega-grant programme is part of a much wider drive to boost science and innovation. Four years ago, the Russian government launched an ambitious 318-billion-rouble nanotechnology initiative (see Nature 461, 1036-1037; 2009). And a science and innovation centre currently being built in Skolkovo near Moscow will host Russian and foreign entrepreneurs and companies, including heavyweights such as Siemens and Bosch. Commercial research and development activities are expected to begin next year in five key areas - energy, information and communication, biotechnology, space and nuclear technologies.
But the poorly developed technology-transfer process at Russia's academic institutions is proving to be a major problem, says grant-holder Alexander Kabanov, a biochemist at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, who is setting up a drug-discovery group at MSU. In the absence of a well established domestic patent system (and with no budget available at universities for filing patents in the European Union or the United States), collaborators in intellectual-property-intensive fields such as Kabanov's risk leaving their inventions inadequately protected. Russia's regulations governing the welfare of animals used in experiments are also less stringent than in many other countries, which can cause problems for scientists who want to publish in international journals. "It's a touchy issue," says Kabanov. "It is important that what we do is not considered questionable in the West. When it comes to animal experiments, we need to apply the same protocols and ethical standards as we do everywhere else."
But he emphasizes that the mega-grant programme is already bearing fruit - and not only for Russia. Those returning to the country are "also benefiting as scientists and intellectuals" from the country's fine scholarly tradition and respect for science, he says, citing his new colleagues' willingness to share their knowledge.
Meanwhile, the Russian science ministry has already confirmed its commitment to the scheme by announcing a second call for proposals. "I expect they'll get at least twice as many applications as in the first round," says Vaganov, who is currently helping researchers to prepare six applications for projects to be hosted by the Siberian Federal University. "Despite some problems," he says, "this programme is a wonderful opportunity to uplift Russian science and get our students in touch with world-class research happening at our doorsteps."

© 2011 Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.
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    Россия планирует представить на саммите "большой восьмерки", который состоится в мае во Франции, проект по созданию международной нормативно-правовой базы в сфере ядерной энергетики. Страны, имеющие АЭС, обязуются соблюдать общие стандарты безопасности, и в случае утечки радиации, во-первых, своевременно предоставлять информацию, во-вторых, взять на себя ликвидацию последствий катастрофы. Вмешательство государства планируется сделать обязательным в случае присвоения катастрофе 4-й категории по 7-балльной международной шкале ядерных событий (INES).

MOSCOW - Pointing contritely to the example of their own industry's failures at Chernobyl, Russian officials have announced details of what is emerging as their main response to the disaster in Japan: a proposal to create an international regulatory framework for nuclear power.
Power plants would become safer if the 29 countries that operate them accepted common and binding safety standards, Sergei V. Kiriyenko, the director of the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, said at a briefing for journalists Wednesday in Moscow.
These countries should also commit to detailed procedures for releasing information about a leak, given the propensity of radiation to float across borders, Mr. Kiriyenko said.
The third proposal calls for governments to commit to taking the lead in responding to accidents. That would supplant the role typically taken by the operator or owner of a power plant. Governments, under the proposal, would intervene once a disaster passed Level 4 on the International Atomic Energy Agency's seven-level scale of nuclear disasters. Level 4 is defined as an "accident with local consequences," while Level 5 is an "accident with wider consequences."
In laying out these ideas, which Russia plans to present to the Group of 8 industrialized nations at a meeting this spring in France, Mr. Kiriyenko elaborated on a proposal announced Tuesday by the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, at a ceremony observing the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
The setting for that ceremony, near the ruins of the reactor, couched the Russian proposal as a magnanimous effort - the latest of many - to share the lessons of Chernobyl with a world at risk of nuclear blunders. Russia is also deeply invested in the continued global expansion of nuclear power, because it exports uranium fuel and reactor technology.
Vast commercial interests are tied up in the continued adoption of nuclear power and development of reactors, particularly in emerging markets, which are the primary customers of Russia's nuclear exports. Those business prospects help make Russia particularly committed to improving safety, rather than letting demand disappear in a din of protests against nuclear power.
The Russians say they are now building more nuclear power plants than any other country, or 15 of the 60 new reactors under construction around the world today.
Rosatom says it has an additional 30 firm orders for reactors and plans to sell more.
Rosatom sells reactors for $2 billion to $5 billion. A subsidiary, Tvel, exports about $3 billion worth of low-enriched uranium fuel each year, or about 17 percent of global demand.
Some of that market is already drying up. Germany will close seven aging plants ahead of schedule, and Italy has extended indefinitely a moratorium on building plants.
Mr. Medvedev's proposal, though announced in Chernobyl, may have been aimed at seizing some initiative in the public debate to restore confidence in the technology, more than at making a significant contribution to safety.
The proposal is intended to amend several decades-old global treaties, like the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage of 1963, to render International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards binding on the countries with civilian nuclear power plants.
Jeremy Gordon, an analyst with the World Nuclear Association, a trade group in London, said most national nuclear regulators already adhered to International Atomic Energy Agency standards, making it unclear why they would need to be made binding.
"Anybody who is using nuclear power in a serious way is already well within those guidelines," he said. Of the Russian proposal, he added, "I could not put my finger on a concrete change that would make."
For now, safety recommendations set by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna-based group known for its work to prevent the proliferation of bomb-making knowledge and materials, are voluntary for most countries. This is in contrast to nonproliferation rules, which are enforced by agency inspections and come under treaty obligations.

© 2011. The New York Times Company.
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    Новая датировка останков неандертальцев в Мезмайской пещере на юге Апшеронского района Кубани показала, что они, возможно, вымерли гораздо раньше, чем считалось до сих пор. В исследовании приняли участие специалисты из Университетского колледжа Корка (Ирландия), Оксфордского университета (Великобритания) и АНО "Лаборатория доистории" (Россия).

Des scientifiques d'Irlande et de Russie ont découvert que l'homme de Néandertal a probablement disparu plus tôt que ce que l'on croyait jusqu'à présent. Présentée dans la revue PNAS Online Early Edition, l'étude présente sous un nouvel angle la théorie qui soutient l'existence de l'homme de Néandertal et des hommes modernes depuis des milliers d'années. Les résultats suggèrent que les interactions entre ces derniers n'étaient ni sans restrictions ni de longue durée; il est probable que l'homme de Néandertal et l'homme moderne aient coexisté pendant quelques centaines d'années. Il serait même possible que l'homme de Néandertal se soit éteint dans certaines régions avant que l'homme moderne d'un point de vue anatomique émigre d'Afrique.
Des experts de l'University College Cork en Irlande et de l'université d'Oxford au Royaume-Uni, en coopération avec des chercheurs du Laboratoire de préhistoire à Saint Petersbourg en Russie, ont effectué leur étude dans la grotte de Mezmaiskaya, qui se situe sur les contreforts nord-ouest des montagnes du Caucase en Russie.
Dans cette région, l'équipe a trouvé les restes fossilisés d'un bébé de Néandertal datant de la période du Paléolithique moyen supérieur et une série d'os d'animaux associés. D'après eux, le fossile était âgé de 39 700 ans, suggérant que l'homme de Néandertal n'avait pas vécu dans la grotte plus longtemps.
En bref, les données mettent en doute ce que les chercheurs ont longtemps pensé de l'homme du Néandertal supérieur et de sa survie. L'homme du Néandertal supérieur s'est éteint il y a 30 000 années dans le Caucase du nord; il est donc très improbable que l'homme de Néandertal et l'homme moderne aient co-existé pendant une longue période de temps.
Forts de ce renseignement, les chercheurs croient en un des deux développements: que l'homme de Néandertal s'est éteint lors de l'apparition de l'homme moderne; ou que d'autres facteurs, dont le changement climatique ou les ressources restreintes, ont conduit à sa disparition avant l'arrivée des hommes modernes.
Les chercheurs déclarent que les données doivent être révisées, amendées et améliorées si l'on souhaite des chronologies précises. Il en résultera des évaluations correctes de la relation possible entre les extinctions de l'homme de Néandertal, les dispersions des premiers hommes modernes et les évènements climatiques.
L'équipe fait remarquer que les précédents processus de datation semblent avoir "systématiquement sous-estimé" l'âge réel des résidus, fossiles et artéfacts du Paléolithique moyen supérieur et du Paléolithique précoce supérieur d'environ de nombreux milliers d'années. "Il semble désormais beaucoup plus clair que l'homme de Néandertal et les hommes anatomiquement modernes n'aient pas co-existé dans le Caucase, et il est possible que ce scénario soit également valable pour la plupart des régions d'Europe", affirme le Dr Ron Pinhasi de l'University College Cork, auteur principal de l'étude. "De nombreuses dates concernant l'occupation de sites de résidence de l'homme de Néandertal à travers l'Europe sont problématiques.
Cela résulte simplement du fait que l'association entre le matériel daté et l'homme du Néandertal supérieur n'est pas toujours claire car nous ne pouvons pas toujours être certains si les ensembles archéologiques d'outils de pierre, tels que le Moustérien, qui a été attribué dans le cas de l'Europe à l'homme de Néandertal, n'ont pas été dans certains cas produits par les hommes modernes. Nous devons dater directement l'homme de Néandertal et les fossiles humains anatomiquement modernes pour résoudre cela."
Pour sa part, le Dr Tom Higham d'Oxford, un des co-auteurs du document, affirme: "Les dernières techniques de datation signifient que l'on peut purifier de façon très efficace le collagène extrait de minuscules fragments de fossile sans le contaminer. Auparavant, les équipes de recherche avaient fourni des dates plus proches que nous savons désormais non valides, probablement car le fossile a été contaminé par des particules plus récentes. Cette dernière preuve de datation met en lumière les dates d'extinction de l'homme de Néandertal dans cette région clé, qui est considérée comme le carrefour de la migration des hommes modernes vers les vastes plaines russes. L'extinction de l'homme de Néandertal représente donc ici, à notre avis, un indicateur du moment où cette migration eu lieu pour la première fois."

© Union européenne, 2005-2011.
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    В Лондоне состоялась премьера документального фильма "После апокалипсиса" (режиссер Энтони Баттс), посвященного последствиям ядерных испытаний на полигоне в Семипалатинске.

In his documentary After the Apocalypse, director Antony Butts visits Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, home to a Soviet-era weapon test site where 456 nuclear tests were conducted during the cold war. Butts explores the conflict between a pregnant woman whose own genetic deformity is believed to be due to radiation exposure and the head of the city's maternity clinic who tries to convince her not to carry her child to term. At the heart of their struggle is the legacy of nuclear weapons and how little we know about the long-term effects of radiation. On the eve of the London premiere of After the Apocalypse, Butts spoke to New Scientist.
What made you want to tell the story of the people of Semipalatinsk?
The fact that nuclear bombs were dropped out in a remote area of Kazakhstan is well known, but nothing had ever really been done about the elevated number of birth defects there. The story I was initially telling was quite simple - it was about the high rate of birth defects - but the more time I spent there I realised that it was more intense than that. When I interviewed the people in the Semipalatinsk Institute of Radiation, they told me that it was a deliberate experiment, which I found a bit shocking. And there is this huge bomb crater there; a herder had just set up shop 1.5 kilometres away and was grazing cattle there. It was this absurdist world that I had found.
There was also this doctor, Toleukhan Nurmagambetov, who thought that the only way you could sort out the birth defects common among this cohort of people - now 200,000 to 300,000 strong - with damaged genes from their parents who had been irradiated, is to genetically control who can have a child.
It's clear that the documentary is an examination of nuclear weapons and their legacy. Why did you choose to tell this story through the conflict between the pregnant woman Bibigul Balargazinova and the head of the maternity clinic Dr. Toleukhan Nurmagambetov?
The conflict shows that there is no right moral solution to deal with long term effects of nuclear weapons. Both take morally difficult views. Is having a child a privilege or a right? One in 23 children in Bibigul's village of Sarzhal, which is next to the test site, are born with a birth defect. At what point does this become an unacceptably high risk to expose an unborn child to? That's a very difficult question.
That said, I was very surprised that the radiation did die off as much as it had. They tested 456 bombs - 20,000 times the explosive power of Hiroshima - on this area. You go to the craters and sure, they're radioactive. But if you're a kilometre away from them, it's nothing. It's background level. When you have a nuclear war it's actually quite habitable afterwards, so in one sense it's not as scary as it's been made out to be.
Yet in another, there's this other kind of fear - of long-term genetic damage.
In the documentary, you visit the Institute of Radiation Safety in Semipalatinsk and are shown just how quickly radiation levels drop off as you get farther away from the source. The head of the institute makes the point that, with current levels, it's very unlikely that the higher percentage of deformities among children born in the area is due to radiation exposure...
He's correct in saying that. The radiation is concentrated around the craters, but elsewhere there's not enough radiation to cause these birth defects. So what is the reason? That's where we get into controversial science. The epidemiological data that the Institute of Radiation Safety has isn't perfect, but it suggests that children of the cohort that got irradiated live on average five to seven years less than those from a comparable socioeconomic group in an area that wasn't irradiated. Is that due to the psychological stress, or, alternatively, could it be because of this obsession the locals have of protecting themselves from radiation with vodka?
There is this elevated level of birth defects; there's no getting around it. There is a folic acid problem there - the whole area has a lack of greens and folic acid deficiency is linked to birth defects. But the scientists and doctors I spoke with said that folic acid deficiency could not account for so many birth defects, especially now as they've begun giving out supplements to little effect. This is where the science gets difficult.
You can talk to scientists who will say it's a load of rubbish, or others who will say that it's been proven that radiation damage can be passed on in mice but that we've got to prove it in humans. I think this is crucial to nail down.
Yuri Dubrova, a geneticist at Leicester University, has a freezer full of blood from all of these generations from Semipalatinsk, down the line. It's just sitting there waiting to be defrosted and analyzed when the time is right - and when the funding is there. I think the time is right now.
Do you think the issues explored in this documentary are particularly relevant now, in the wake of Fukushima?
I think Semipalatinsk is particularly relevant because it explores the harrowing consequences of radiation exposure. The Soviets tested nuclear bombs on their own people because at that time they calculated that nuclear war was inevitable. And now we have those results, and we should use the data, just as we use the data from Joseph Mengele's experiments in Auschwitz.
All forms of energy creation are going to kill people. Coal kills millions of people per year with particulate pollution. Before we get really scared about radiation we need to understand the science and make an analysis. Do we go nuclear power or not? Instead of the debate being idiotic nonsense of rhetoric and fear, we should honour these people and let their deaths and lives mean something.
What are the main things that you hope people take away from your film?
There are two main points I hope to make. One is about a post nuclear-war world - and why nuclear weapons are bad. The second is how paranoid people are about something they know nothing about. In the absence of knowledge, fear thrives. This is especially important because we must choose a new form of energy, and a lot of us are writing off nuclear power because of fear. We have this golden opportunity to say, well how scary is it? Let's give grants to these scientists and find out. Then we can choose to be frightened or not.

© Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
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    Разлив нефти 7 мая в Кандалакшском заливе Белого моря (Мурманская область) может нанести серьезный ущерб Кандалакшскому государственному природному заповеднику, который находится всего в полутора километрах от места загрязнения.

MURMANSK, Russia, May 12 (UPI) - Russian scientists said it is "hard to assess" the effect an oil spill into the Barents Sea is having on marine life.
The spill occurred Saturday as water from melting ice carried underground oil into Kandalaksha Bay near Murmansk, RIA Novosti, reported. By Thursday morning, a slick that was one-fifth of an inch thick in places had spread across almost 52 acres, just under one-10th of a square mile.
"It is still hard to assess the consequences of the oil slick for animals and birds of the Kandalaksha wildlife park," Ivetta Tatarenkova, a scientist at the park, said Wednesday.
She said it might harm eider ducks and invertebrate organisms like crustaceans and mollusks.
A cleanup is in progress.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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    21-23 сентября в Архангельске пройдет II Международный Арктический форум. Основными темами для обсуждения станут арктическая навигация и развитие Северного морского пути.

Navigation in the Arctic and development of the Northern Sea Route are the main themes for discussion when 500 Russian and foreign scientists, politicians and businesspeople gather in Arkhangelsk in September for the second International Arctic Forum.
The first forum "Arctic - Territory of Dialogue" was held in Moscow in September 2010. It included a number of prominent guests and was opened by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. During his recent visit to Denmark, Putin invited the Scandinavian countries to come to Arkhangelsk for the forum, which coincides with the celebrations of the 300 anniversary for the birth of the Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, the regional government of Arkhangelsk Oblast writes on its website.
Governor of Arkhangelsk Oblast Ilya Mikhalchuk has been included in the organization committee for the forum, which main organizer is the Russian Geographical Society.
Among the key questions up for discussion at the II International Arctic Forum is navigation in the Arctic, international scientific cooperation in the High North and development of the Northern Sea route as a new transport route between Europe and Asia.
The several successful shipping operations in 2010 are now making shipping companies look at the Northern Sea Route with increasing interest. As BarentsObserver reported, at least 150,000 tons of oil are planned shipped from Murmansk to China. In addition, there are plans for about 400,000 tons of gas condensate and 600,000 tons of iron ore to be sent along the same route. At least 150,000 tons of oil, 400,000 tons of gas condensate and 600,000 tons of iron ore are planned shipped along the Northern Sea Route in 2011.
United Russia has prepared a party project called "The Northern Sea Route - a national transport artery", that might be used as base for a federal program, Dvinaland.ru writes.
The forum takes place on September 21-23, just after the traditional Margaritinskaya Fair.

Copyright © 2003 BarentsObserver.
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    IT News Online / 2011-05-18
    Russian Research Collaboration Advances Through High Speed Network Connection
    Link between GÉANT and new Russian Point of Presence brings together millions of researchers
    Завершены работы по созданию нового высокоскоростного соединения между российскими научно-образовательными сетями и общеевропейской сетью GÉANT. В работе приняли участие российские и европейские организации: DANTE (оператор сети GÉANT), Национальная ассоциация исследовательских и научно-образовательных электронных инфраструктур "e-АРЕНА", Межведомственный Суперкомпьютерный Центр РАН и НИИ развития общественных сетей. Новая система информационного обмена позволит, в частности, создавать виртуальные каналы для международных проектов, предполагающих передачу больших объемов данных.

Cambridge, UK and Moscow, Russia May 18th 2011 - Collaboration between Russian researchers and their European counterparts has taken a major step forward with the completion of a new high speed network connection. Created by the joint efforts of DANTE, the organisation that on behalf of Europe's NRENs has built and operates the GÉANT pan-European network, and the e-ARENA Association, Russia's National Research and Education Network (NREN) jointly with JSCC of RAS, the links and new Point of Presence (PoP) in Moscow will drive closer collaboration in areas as diverse as particle physics and astronomy.
Whilst Russia is already connected to GÉANT, the new PoP and upgraded links will enable faster connections between Russia and other European countries and the launch of new, user-focused services such as GÉANT Plus. This makes it simple to create point-to-point circuits or Virtual LANs (VLANs) between international projects that need to share vast amounts of data, such as CERN's Large Hadron Collider and the work of the Russian Institute of Astronomy, INASAN.
"The power of our new connections will transform research collaboration with our European partners," said Marat Biktimirov, Director-General, e-ARENA Association. "It opens up new opportunities to our researchers and scientists and will lead to advances in projects across all academic disciplines. This link is part of the ongoing development of Russian research networking with e-ARENA providing the umbrella to bring all of our research networks together both technically and organisationally."
Operating at speeds of up to 10 Gbps, the new connections link Moscow to Frankfurt and Copenhagen, allowing users of GÉANT and their counterparts on Russia's three research networks RASNet (JSCC), RUNNet (INFORMIKA) and RBNet (RIPN) to share information quickly and seamlessly.
"Russia is a significant part of the international research community, and this substantial network upgrade will deliver major benefits in collaboration between users," said Matthew Scott, General Manager of DANTE. "Creating this link has been a complex technical process, but through close partnership with e-ARENA and our network providers users now have access to high speed connectivity and services that make international collaboration seamless and straightforward."

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    Российские и британские ученые разработали метод определения степени "опасности" вулкана. Сотрудники Бристольского университета и МГУ создали математическую модель, позволяющую рассчитать глубину залегания и размеры магматической камеры.

UK and Russian scientists say they are a step closer to predicting how dangerous a volcano is after developing a method that lets them figure out how individual volcanoes are "plumbed".
The new approach means researchers need only analyse a single chunk of rock from a volcano to work out how big and deep its magma chamber is.
The same method also lets them calculate the length and width of the vent that brings the magma from the chamber to the surface. Having both measurements is vital for predicting how hazardous a volcano will be.
"Generally speaking if a volcano has a big magma chamber and a narrow, short vent, the volcano tends to be more explosive than a volcano with a small chamber and wide vent," says Professor Jon Blundy from the University of Bristol, a member of the research team. "So, if we know the details of the plumbing system underneath a volcano, we're in a better position to say how dangerous it is likely to be," he adds.
Being able to predict how hazardous a volcano is has long been the Holy Grail for volcanologists. But the size and depth of magma chambers underneath volcanoes varies hugely, and finding out the inner dimensions of individual volcanoes' plumbing systems has until now proved time-consuming, challenging and expensive.
Now researchers at the University of Bristol and Moscow State University have developed a mathematical model that is cheap, safe and easy to apply.
It relies on a fact volcanologists have known about for some time: as magma moves from the magma chamber towards the surface, both crystals and gas bubbles form inside the magma. The rate at which crystals and bubbles grow depends on just how quickly the magma rises to the surface, which in turn depends on the diameter of the vent through which it travels.
"Magma from explosive volcanoes produces rocks with lots of bubbles in it, whereas rocks from volcanoes that ooze magma more slowly contain crystals of different sizes," explains Blundy.
The researchers have taken this further: using their mathematical model they show that the range of sizes and types of crystal in volcanic rock also tells them about the plumbing for different volcanoes.
"Counting the size of the crystals gives us a window into the subterranean plumbing of a volcano," says Blundy.
To test their model, the researchers applied it to a rock sample from Mount St Helens volcano in the US, which erupted in the 1980s.
Their model predicted a vent diameter of around 30 metres, connecting the volcanic crater to a magma chamber at a depth of around 14 kilometres. These predictions fit with other estimates using more traditional techniques like satellites or seismometers.
"The idea is to use this surprisingly simple and low cost technique in conjunction with some of the other methods to tell us about individual volcanoes' plumbing systems, that then inform our models of how volcanoes operate during eruptions," Blundy says.
The study is published in the April 2011 edition of the journal Geology.
Oleg E. Melnik, Jonathan D. Blundy, Alison C. Rust and Duncan D. Muir, Subvolcanic plumbing systems imaged through crystal size distributions, Geology v. 39 no. 4 p. 403-406, First published online March 8, 2011, doi: 10.1130/G31691.1

© Copyright Natural Environment Research Council 2008.
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    Российские и зарубежные специалисты займутся изучением предвестников землетрясений. В проекте примут участие Германия, Италия, Турция, США и Греция. Российскую сторону представляют компания "Российские космические системы", Институт прикладной геофизики имени Е.К.Федорова и Институт земного магнетизма, ионосферы и распространения радиоволн имени Н.В.Пушкова. Работа основана на отслеживании и изучении изменений в ионосфере посредством сети наземных станций слежения за ионосферой на острове Сахалин. Результатом проекта должна стать Международная аэрокосмическая система мониторинга.

12 mai 2011 (Nouvelle Solidarité) - Alors que l'obscurantisme vert poussé par Londres veut nous faire accepter que l'homme ne peut pas comprendre et améliorer l'univers, la Russie prend la tête de la coopération pour une science de la prévision sismique. C'est sous le titre "Précurseurs sismiques" que la radio publique Voix de la Russie rapportait le 9 mai que des experts russes et étrangers allaient, ensemble, entreprendre des recherches sur les signes avant-coureurs aux grands séismes. Côté européen, c'est l'Allemagne, l'Italie et la Turquie qui prendront part au projet. La NASA et la Grèce sont membres associés. La Russie est représentée par la compagnie des Systèmes Spatiaux Russes (Russians Space Systems - spécialisée dans la télédétection spatiale), l'Institut Pushkov de l'Académie des sciences (Magnétisme terrestre, ionosphère et propagation des ondes radio) et l'Institut Fiodorov de géophysique appliquée, un des centres scientifiques les plus avancés du monde en matière de précurseurs sismiques.
"Dès l'année 2006, Russians Space Systems a construit un réseau de stations au sol pour l'observation de l'ionosphère sur l'île de Sakhaline. Les scientifiques ont analysé les variations dans cette couche supérieure de l'atmosphère, induites par des activités sismiques. Depuis, des satellites russes ont enregistré à plusieurs reprises des perturbations de l'ionosphère précédant des tremblements de terre. Sept heures avant la première secousse au Japon, des scientifiques ont mis en évidence des anomalies semblables à l'endroit du drame. A cette époque, les experts russes ne savaient pas comment se servir de ces données. Les scientifiques pensaient qu'il était trop tôt pour prévoir des secousses souterraines sur la seule base de l'observation de l'ionosphère. Ils partaient du principe que ces anomalies n'indiquaient que certains événements dans la croute terrestre. Pour la prévision scientifique de tremblements de terre, nous avons besoin de tout un système intégré d'investigations des précurseurs sismiques.
"Sur cette base, un système d'observation de l'espace et de l'atmosphère sera mis en place, dans le cadre d'une projet commun avec l'UE. Le système devra par la suite avoir un caractère universel, a précisé le directeur de Russians Space Systems, Youri Urlichich. "Ce système préviendra des tremblements de terre ainsi que d'autres catastrophes, comme le danger des météorites, les tsunamis et autres menaces naturelles ou anthropogénique. Je peux vous donner un exemple impressionnant : de 1900 à aujourd'hui, 36 millions d'êtres humains sont morts du fait de catastrophes naturelles."
"Il est prévu d'observer l'ionosphère avec des nanosatellites pesant moins de 10 kilos", a expliqué Yuri Urlichich. "Pour garantir l'enregistrement de données sur toute la surface terrestre, nous proposons d'envoyer des nanosatellites dans la banlieue terrestre et d'utiliser les satellites existants, en les équipant d'accessoires spéciaux. Cela nous donnera l'opportunité d'observer un taux élevé d'électrons libres à tel ou tel endroit de la surface terrestre, indiquant l'imminence d'un tremblement de terre."

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    12-15 мая в Мадриде состоялась выставка "Научно-технические и инновационные достижения России", в которой приняли участие около 250 российских компаний.

Moscow, Russia and Madrid, Spain - On May 12-15 the exhibition "Scientific, technical and innovative achievements of Russia" was held in Madrid, Spain.
The exhibition was organized by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation in accordance with the order of the President of Russian "On the Year of the Russian Federation in the Kingdom of Spain and the Year of Spain in the Russian Federation" and became one of the most important events in the framework of the Year of Russia in Spain.
The opening ceremony was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Alexander Zhukov, the Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation Sergei Ivanets, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to the Kingdom of Spain Alexander Kuznetsov, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism of the Kingdom of Spain Miguel Sebastian Gascon, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Science and Innovation of the Kingdom of Spain Juan Tomas Hernani.
There was an exposition of the most prospective Russian technologies and innovations aimed to widen the cooperation between Russia and Spain. NT-MDT Co. demonstrated its fully automated scanning probe microscope SOLVER NEXT for a wide range of nanoscale scientific applications.
On May 13 Director General of NT-MDT Co. Viktor Bykov made a presentation at the Forum "The Russian-Spanish dialogue in the field of innovative cooperation: the industrial-economic aspect of the business", and participated as a moderator of the conference "Nanotechnology: the pioneering research and policy perspectives. Industry nanosystems and materials".

Copyright ©NT-MDT.
©Copyright 1999-2011 7thWave, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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    Доценту кафедры зоологии и анатомии Брянского государственного университета Игорю Прокофьеву вручена премия Британского Королевского географического общества "за усилия по сохранению популяции летучих мышей на западе России".

The London Whitely Fund for Nature has awarded its prize for the conservation of bats to a Russian scientist, Igor Prokofiev. This was the 18th awarding ceremony where each of the seven finalists received from the hands of Britain's Princess Anne a transparent crystal statue with an engraved a butterfly inside, as well as a check for 30,000 pounds, which according to organizers, should be spent for promoting their projects.
Here are more details from Lidia Kruglova.
Igor Prokofiev heads the laboratory of bio-indication and bio-monitoring at Bryansk University and guides the iBat programme, the first large-scale Russian project drawn up to monitor the population of bats. He mobilized volunteers and biology students to carry out a large-scale study of bats and protect them. Scientists have discovered that bats, which are almost one fourth of mammals in the world, are a good biological indicator that shows whether the environment is favourable or not. The population of bats and their species in Europe is persistently falling. It's high time to protect them, says Igor Prokofiev.
"Britain is handling the problem better then others. It has special laws under which no one has the right to expel bats from his or her house without special permission. Russia is making only first steps and has started to focus on bats in the country. We are taking measures to protect and study these animals. Bats are very useful because they destroy a large number of insects that cause damage to agriculture," Igor Prokofiev said.
These small animals live in large colonies on trees or in caves. They have a perfect echolocation system and feel even a slightest fluctuation of wind, like dolphins in water.
Some time ago, a study of bats marked the beginning of bionics and the development of echolocation equipment.
Bats are linked with many prejudices too. Some people consider them as vampires and are afraid of them. There are some species of bats in tropical countries which feed on the blood of animals, but they never attack people.
Millions of years ago, these animals were the same as today. This is witnessed by fossilized remains of bats. Bats are the only flying mammal. The smallest bat living in Thailand weighs less then 3 grams, while the largest species of bat has a wingspan of almost two meters. There are about 1,240 bat species worldwide.

© 2005-2011 Voice of Russia.
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    "РОСНАНО" открыло в Москве производство по выпуску термоэлектрических охлаждающих микроэлементов. Эти компоненты используются для охлаждения лазеров, фотоприемников и интегральных микросхем.

(Nanowerk News) RUSNANO opens a new production site for its portfolio company RMT specializing in manufacture of thermoelectric cooling devices. These components are widely used for cooling lasers, photodetectors and integrated circuits (ICs). The smaller-scale cooling elements effectively dissipate heat generated by power-hungry devices used in modern telecommunications, high-performance computing and optoelectronics industries. The total budget of the project is around 800 million roubles of which RUSNANO finances 150 million roubles. Their co-investor is the closed-end high-risk (venture) investment fund "S-Group Ventures", established with capital raised from the Russian Venture Company.
This project is a bright example of how the research done by Russian scientists has been commercialized to a full-scale production of innovative products greatly demanded by the world hi-tech market. RMT was founded by a team of researcher from varioius scientific institutions including the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (LPI RAS). Their start-up received support from the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises in the field of science and technology (the Bortnik Foundation). In 2009 the Supervisory Board of RUSNANO approved the financing of a project with the goal of increasing the production of thermoelectric cooling devices for opto-, micro- and nanoelectronics. RMT manufactures approximately 300,000 parts per year, and 80% of them are exported to the USA, Canada, Japan, Europe and South-East Asia. In 2010 the company's revenue exceeded 146 million roubles.
RUSNANO estimates that this figure will rise to around 1.3 billion roubles by 2015 after the expansion of production capacity. The RMT's share of the global market for thermoelectric cooling systems is expected to rise to 10% by 2015. RUSNANO CEO Anatoly Chubais, RMT Director-General Gennady Gromov, academic and Director of the Lebedev Physical Institute RAN Gennady Mesyats, and the head of the Moscow Department of Science and Industrial Policy, Evgeniy Balashov took part in the opening ceremony for the new production site.

Copyright © 2011, Nanowerk. All Rights Reserved.
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