|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
New Scientist / 02 October 2013
Fall of USSR locked up world's largest store of carbon
Развал колхозов в постсоветской России имел, как ни странно, и положительные стороны - для экологии. Заброшенные сельскохозяйственные угодья стали зарастать лесом, что привело к образованию так называемых "углеродных ловушек", возвращающих углерод из атмосферы в почву.
Группа российских ученых из Пущино составила подробную карту почв на заброшенных землях и подсчитала количество поглощаемого углерода. Если ситуация не изменится, то в ближайшие 30 лет в России может установиться "углеродное равновесие": растущие леса будут поглощать столько же углерода, сколько выбрасывается в атмосферу.
Статья "Carbon cost of collective farming collapse in Russia" будет опубликована в журнале Global Change Biology.
The fall of the Soviet Union created the largest ever human-made carbon sink - abandoned farmland.
In 1991, the USSR formally split into separate republics. The subsequent collapse of industry reduced the amount of greenhouse gas emissions Russia produced - helping it to easily meet the climate targets set by the Kyoto protocol.
But as well as cutting emissions, the fall had another effect. The privatisation of land led to one of the biggest land-use changes of the 20th century. Huge tracts of farmland were abandoned when the collectivised farming system introduced by Stalin collapsed, and farmers simply left the land and headed for the cities.
Ever since, plants have been reclaiming the land and locking in carbon as they grow.
Researchers have tried to put a figure on the size of this effect but estimates have varied dramatically, and haven't always taken account of the fact that plants grow at different rates on different types of soil and lock up more carbon as they grow larger.
To get an answer to how much carbon is sequestered in Russian territory, Irina Kurganova from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Pushchino and colleagues mapped the distribution of soil types for the Russian part of the former USSR and overlaid it with a map of land-use change. They then looked at every study of carbon storage they could find and collated them to estimate the amount of carbon captured at each point on their map.
Largest human-made sink
They found that in total, the 455,000 square kilometres of land abandoned in the part of the USSR that is now Russia has locked away an average of 42.6 million tonnes of carbon every year since 1990. This means that each year, the land has been locking away the equivalent of 10 per cent of Russia's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, the researchers calculate.
"Everything like this makes a difference," says Jonathan Sanderman, a soil chemist at CSIRO Land and Water in Australia. "Ten per cent is quite a bit considering most nations are only committed to 5 per cent reduction targets. So by doing absolutely nothing - by having depressed their economy - they've achieved quite a bit."
He says the abandoned farmland is probably the largest human-made carbon sink, but notes it came at the cost of enormous social and economic hardship.
Modelling the effect into the future, Kurganova estimates that, since the land has remained uncultivated, another 261 million tonnes will be sequestered over the next 30 years. At this point, the landscape will reach equilibrium, with the same amount of carbon escaping into the atmosphere as is being taken up.
She adds that the stored carbon should now be taken into account if recultivation of the land is contemplated.
Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
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The American Interest / October 6, 2013
Russia Waking Up to Shale Realities
Россия обладает крупнейшими запасами сланцевой нефти и девятыми по величине запасами сланцевого газа в мире, но при этом до недавнего времени полагалась исключительно на традиционные источники нефти и газа.
Russia has long relied on its enormous oil and gas reserves to not only heat and power its homes, but also to fund its government. But as blessed by resources as it has been, it has also displayed an impressive ability to stay behind the curve of an energy landscape that is changing now faster than ever. Nowhere is this more true than with its handling of the recent shale revolution, which has to this point consisted of denials and dragged feet. Now, as the FT reports, Moscow looks to finally be waking up to our new energy world order:
The lion's share of those reserves lie in the Bazhenov, a huge geological formation in the heart of Siberia about 2,000 miles east of Moscow. Experts believe that it could be one of the largest accumulations of shale oil on the planet. One estimate suggests that the dense rock could contain as much as 100bn barrels of recoverable oil, making it five-times larger than North Dakota's Bakken shale, the engine of America's oil renaissance. [...]
"In 20 years, the Bazhenov might be Russia's main source of oil - even bigger than the Arctic oceans," says Leonid Fedun, vice-president of Lukoil, the Russian oil major venturing into shale. "It allows us to be a lot more optimistic about the next 50 years of our oil production."
But as China, the UK, Australia, Mexico - basically every country not named the United States - know well, simply having shale oil or gas does not a shale boom make. Plenty of challenges remain, first among them whether the oil in the Bazhenov is "mature" enough (if the organic material beneath Siberia's frosty ground hasn't been heated or pressurized enough, it won't be much use as a fuel). And Siberia's remote location and cold climate won't make drilling any easier.
Unlike China, Russia has been drilling for oil for decades, so much of the requisite infrastructure - the pipelines, the refineries, the roads, the workforce - is already there. Unfortunately for Rosneft, it looks like Siberia's shale plays lack the clean "wedding cake" geology that America enjoys, that allows for relatively simple and predictable horizontal well drilling.
Russia has so far been extremely slow to change course and recognize the potential new sources of energy fracking has unleashed on the world. Taking the short-term view, this isn't a huge problem, as it still has enormous conventional sources of oil and gas. But oil and gas output is stagnating, and once hugely productive fields are petering out. Given that, and given the fact that
Russia has the world's largest shale oil reserves and ninth largest shale gas reserves, continuing to sluggishly adapt will have huge opportunity costs for the waning global power.
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2012.
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Space Daily / Oct 08, 2013
Russia to launch first android robot to ISS
В Научно-исследовательском испытательном центре подготовки космонавтов имени Ю.А.Гагарина (НИИ ЦПК) проходят испытания первого российского робота-андроида SAR-400. В дальнейшем робота планируется отправить на Международную космическую станцию для выполнения задач, опасных для человека, например, работы в открытом космосе.
A robot, model SAR-400 android, is destined for the International Space Station (ISS) as helpmate for Russian cosmonauts aboard. Scientists have started testing the first Russian robot designed to work in outer space.
Russia is planning to send its first android robot, SAR-400, to assist Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station. The robot is currently undergoing tests at the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center near Moscow.
Plans for its future were announced by Oleg Gordiyenko, science directorate deputy head at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre Research Institute, announced on Thursday at a space industry conference.
"It's to perform operations both aboard the ISS and outside," he said. "Scientists' plans envision introducing robots in manned cosmonautics. This is a promising avenue of research for coming years."
So far, the robot can perform the tasks that are simple yet involve risk for crew, such as inspections of the station's outer surface for possible damage and subsequent repairs, the center's deputy director Oleg Gordiyenko said at a conference on the development of space rocket equipment and aerospace engineering training.
In particular, SAR-400 can be used for visual inspection of the spacecraft to assess damage and conduct repairs.
The anthropomorphic robot, SAR-400, was developed by the Scientific-Production Association Android Technology. It has two robotic arms that end with five "fingers" and uses some technologies developed in the former Soviet Union for the Mir space laboratory and Buran space vehicle.
It will set out for the ISS within the next two years and may also be used during potential future missions to the Moon and Mars, Gordiyenko said.
The robot is 144 kilos heavy.
Controllers plan to loft the android to the ISS within two years to partner a US robot already there. Future destinations are likely to be missions to the Moon and Mars.
Soviet-era technologies have been put to use in developing the machine-man. Its manipulators have their roots in the Russian Buran shuttle programme and the pioneering Mir space station, now junk beneath Pacific waves since its work was brought to a close.
Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network.
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Phys.Org / October 11, 2013
Insight into space collisions from Chelyabinsk fireball
Международная команда, состоящая из российских, финских и чешских ученых, представила на ежегодном собрании Американского астрономического общества результаты исследований челябинского метеорита. Оказалось, что по возрасту метеорит - ровесник Солнечной системы и за это время неоднократно сталкивался с другими космическими объектами.
Scientists from the Czech Republic, Finland, and the Russian Federation are presenting today new findings on meteorites recovered after the Chelyabinsk fireball that exploded over Russia on February 15, 2013. The report was presented by Dr. Maria Gritsevich (Finnish Geodetic Institute and Russian Academy of Science) and Dr. Tomas Kohout (University of Helsinki, Finland, and Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic) to the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Denver, CO. The results are of special interest because they not only shed light on potentially hazardous impacts of asteroids on Earth, but also on more violent space collisions which disrupted ancient protoplanets in the early solar system into smaller asteroids we observe today.
The Chelyabinsk daylight fireball, which crossed the sky over Southern Ural in Russia on February 15, 2013, represents an exceptional event. It was the largest extraterrestrial body impacting the Earth since the Tunguska event in 1908. The atmospheric entry of the Chelyabinsk asteroid was observed by many witnesses, and the associated air blast caused significant damage including numerous broken windows and partial building collapses in the city of Chelyabinsk and the surrounding territories. The asteroid was only about 20 meters in diameter, but it disintegrated upon its hypervelocity atmospheric entry, releasing energy of 440 kilotons of TNT, equal to 20-30 times the energy of the nuclear bomb that detonated over Hiroshima. "Such large asteroids collide with Earth approximately once in 100 years. They come usually without any warning and can cause significant local damage," says Dr. Gritsevich, a scientist at the Finnish Geodetic Institute and the Russian Academy of Science. "Luckily for the residents of the Chelyabinsk region, the asteroid disintegrated high in the atmosphere, saving the Earth this time from a more catastrophic impact," Dr. Gritsevich adds.
The Chelyabinsk meteorite fragments dropped by the fireball on Earth's surface belong to silicate-rich ordinary chondrites. The ordinary chondrites are the most common stony meteorites falling on the Earth.
Extensive laboratory studies of the Chelyabinsk meteorite material revealed traces of ancient space collisions even more violent than the recent encounter with the Earth. While some meteorite rocks are bright gray with minor traces of space collisions, others contain signs of extensive impact-related melting and crushing. Some of them were even turned dark black. The dark black (so called shock-darkened) meteorite pieces experienced high pressure loads sufficient to entirely crush the mineral grains and melt metallic material. The molten iron filled tiny fractures within the silicate mineral grains making them to appear black.
The presence of rocks originating from a single asteroid, but modified by space collisions to varying extent, makes the Chelyabinsk meteorites exceptional. They allow us to study how space collisions change the appearance of asteroid surfaces and interiors. A major difference between the bright gray and shock-darkened meteorites was observed in laboratory measurements of their reflectance spectra (spectra of reflected visual-to-short-wave-infrared light). The bright gray Chelyabinsk meteorite spectra show the presence of silicate minerals such as olivine and pyroxene similarly to other ordinary chondrites.
However, the shock-darkened black meteorites have dark featureless spectra because the silicates are obstructed by molten metal.
"These dark meteorites are exciting rocks to study. Their spectrum and composition is masked by ancient space collisions. There are many dark asteroids with featureless spectra in our solar system. Some people think that they may be formed of rocks rich in carbon and organic matter. But they can be also made of shock-darkened ordinary chondrites similar to the dark Chelyabinsk meteorites," says Dr. Kohout, a scientist at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. "It may explain why we cannot identify the composition of dark asteroids. We need spacecraft to visit asteroids and return samples back to our laboratories," Dr. Kohout adds.
The Chelyabinsk event reminds us of the existing threat of asteroid impacts for our civilization. Additionally, the study of the Chelyabinsk meteorites reveals even more powerful ancient collisions that occurred in the early solar system and caused some asteroids to appear dark.
Despite their obstructed dark spectra, these dark asteroids can be linked to the ordinary chondrite meteorites found on the Earth.
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LiveScience / October 07, 2013
Gravetop Sundial Reveals Lost Civilization's Tech Savvy
Археологи из Донецкого краеведческого музея обнаружили в захоронении эпохи поздней бронзы (13-12 вв. до н.э.) солнечные часы - возможно, древнейшие в мире. То, что покрытый насечками плоский камень - это именно солнечные часы, подтвердили результаты исследования Ларисы Водолажской из Археоастрономического исследовательского центра при Южном федеральном университете (Ростов-на-Дону).
Статья "Analemmatic and Horizontal Sundials of the Bronze Age (Northern Black Sea Coast)" опубликована на сайте Корнельского университета.
A carved stone found marking a Bronze Age grave in the Ukraine is the oldest sundial of its kind ever found, a new study reveals.
The sundial may have marked the final resting place of a young man sacrificed or otherwise marked as a messenger to the gods or ancestors, said study researcher Larisa Vodolazhskaya of the Archaeoastronomical Research Center at Southern Federal University in Russia. Vodolazhskaya analyzed the geometry of the tire-size stone and its carvings, confirming the stone would have marked the time using a system of parallel lines and an elliptical pattern of circular depressions.
The elliptical pattern makes the carving an analemmatic sundial. A traditional sundial marks the time using a gnomon, a fixed vertical that casts a shadow. An analemmatic sundial has a gnomon that must move every day of the year to adjust to the changing position of the sun in the sky.
The sundial belonged to the Srubna or Srubnaya culture, known for the timber-framed graves they left on the steppes between the Ural Mountains and Ukraine's Dneiper River.
In 2011, a group of archaeologists led by Yurii Polidovich of the Donetsk Museum of Regional Studies was excavating a Bronze Age burial mound dating to the 12th or 13th century B.C. and uncovered the carved slab, which was marked with lines and circles on both sides. In February 2013, the archaeologists sent pictures of the find to Vodolazhskaya, suggesting that she might find it interesting given her work on Bronze Age petroglyphs.
"Having received photos of [the] plates, I pondered the possible interpretations of images," Vodolazhskaya wrote in an email to LiveScience. "One of my hypotheses was associated with a sundial."
To prove the carvings represented a sundial, Vodolazhskaya calculated the angles that would have been created by the sun and shadows at that latitude and confirmed that the carvings on the slabs could have been used to mark the hours accurately.
"They are made for the geographic latitude at which the sundials were found," she said.
How it works
Unlike many modern mass-produced garden sundials purchased and plopped down without a thought to the angle of the Earth and sun, the ancient Ukrainian carvings reveal a sophisticated grasp of geometry.
The circular depressions, placed in an elliptical pattern, are hour marks of an analemmatic sundial; the largest groove on the plate, Vodolazhskaya said, marks where the vertical, shadow-casting gnomon would have been placed at the winter solstice.
Meanwhile, a long carved line transected by a number of parallel grooves in the center of the slab would have acted as a linear scale for a more traditional horizontal sundial, where the hours are marked by a gnomon's shadow falling along hour lines. In this case, the horizontal sundial actually had two gnomons, Vodolazhskaya said. One gnomon tracked the time in the morning hours and early afternoon, and the second covered from late morning to evening, measuring time in half-hour increments. Ancient sundials with half-hour marks are rare, though one was discovered earlier this year at the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.
On the other side of the stone plate is a smaller horizontal sundial, as well as a carved imitation of an analemmatic sundial, this one incapable of marking the correct time. It's not clear why these secondary carvings were made, Vodolazhskaya said, though they may have been a tribute to the deceased. The carvers of the working sundial on one side of the stone may not have been part of the community that inexpertly carved the second side, she said.
The findings appear on the pre-print website arxiv.org. Vodolazhskaya and her colleagues plan to publish the work in the journal Archaeoastronomy and Ancient Technologies.
Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved.
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The Times Literary Supplement / 14 October 2013
Without savage joy
В 1850-60-х гг. писатель и публицист Александр Герцен жил в Лондоне, где и начал выпуск первых российских изданий, не подвергавшихся цензуре, среди них - журнал «Полярная звезда» и газета «Колокол». Опубликованные в них статьи и очерки Герцена включены в антологию «A Herzen Reader» и издаются на английском языке впервые.
A Herzen Reader by Alexander Herzen, edited and translated from the Russian with an introduction by Kathleen Parthé, with a critical essay by Robert Harris. Northwestern University Press, 2012, 382 pp.
Alexander Herzen, leading light of the Russian intelligentsia in the 1840s, lived in exile in London during the 1850s and early 1860s. There, he opened the first uncensored press in the Russian language, including two journals, The Polar Star and The Bell. Gathering news from informants in Russia, he published what could not be printed under conditions of tight censorship. In reward for this vital service, he was attacked from all sides. Secret police agents were commanded to seize all copies and ferret out the networks that smuggled them into Russia. Senior officials in St Petersburg devoured The Bell for its factual content, while denouncing Herzen as an incendiary. Moscow liberals, principally members of Herzen's own generation, including former friends, reluctantly concurred, accusing him of endangering security in Russia and of preaching revolution.
Revolutionaries, principally members of a younger generation, including many who were also in exile, sneered at Herzen for being too much of a liberal. They were all correct.
A Herzen Reader, edited and admirably translated by Kathleen Parthé, explains how and why. For the first time, anglophone readers have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with Herzen's voice in The Polar Star and The Bell, gaining a sense of the personality behind the words, the priorities and events that motivated him, but also of the dilemmas posed by publishing a free journal under politically tense and rapidly changing circumstances. The early regime of the autocrat Alexander II, liberator in 1861 of Russia's serfs, elicited hopes and induced despair. Herzen, eternally conflicted, felt both emotions keenly.
The question of which label to assign to Alexander Herzen has long preoccupied scholars, as Robert Harris's critical essay at the end of the Reader attests. Isaiah Berlin admired Herzen as a staunch defender of individual liberty in semi-scholarly, semi-belletristic essays that first brought Herzen and the Russian intelligentsia to public attention in anglophone countries, and which later appeared in Berlin's Russian Thinkers (1978). There were, of course, other representations of Herzen, notably Martin Malia's meticulously researched biography Alexander Herzen and the Birth of Russian Socialism (1961), covering Herzen's pre-London years, and explaining how a mixture of idealism, nationalism, an abiding hatred of Alexander's father, Nicholas I, and disillusionment with Western politics prompted Herzen to promote agrarian communalism as the solution to all Russia's ills. But it is Berlin's liberal Herzen that has gained the more favourable hearing in the West.
Western readers have had little enough material to form an opinion. Herzen's most widely known work, his autobiography My Past and Thoughts, has long appealed partly for the brilliance of the author's style and his gift for capturing individual personalities, with all their heroism and foibles. It was written between 1852 and 1868; sections were soon translated into multiple languages. Herzen portrayed himself, from early years, as an opponent and sometime hapless victim of autocracy. As students, Herzen and his close friend Nikolai Ogaryov attracted the attention of the security police in 1834 and were arrested and sent into internal exile on spurious charges. Herzen emigrated from Russia with his family in 1847 and witnessed the revolutionary upheavals of 1848 and 1849 in France and Italy at first hand. Joined by Ogaryov in London and Geneva in the 1850s and 60s, he used his vast inheritance to found the Russian Free Press. Such varied experiences brought Herzen into contact with political figures and intellectuals of every European country and every political stripe. Herzen knew everyone and spared no one (occasionally excepting himself).
Russian contemporaries, however, were drawn to Herzen's works much earlier, and for other reasons. Herzen began to publish in the early 1830s, and it was the sense of moral urgency conveyed in his literary works and critical essays that captured their attention. Though these early articles were heavily censored, they invariably expressed forceful judgements about the truthfulness - moral and factual - of the texts, opinions and persons he wrote about. These judgements may have been more intuitive than philosophically and scientifically rigorous, but the rhetoric of immediacy was exactly what his readers required of him. Herzen's willingness to deliver verdicts and to err allied him with the Russian literary critic of the 1830s and 40s, Vissarion Belinsky, who was revered for the same traits.
These features are on display in Herzen's uncensored writings for the Free Russian Press. The hundred short essays contained in this volume give readers a close view of the intensity and protean nature of Herzen's output. The liberal in Herzen certainly left his mark. In The Polar Star and The Bell, he explicitly defended freedom from censorship, freedom of conscience, and the right to open trial, while arguing for an end to corporal punishment. He further advanced these causes by publishing reports of abuses supplied to him by Russian state officials themselves. Naming names, he excoriated those "expert" members on the Commission for the abolition of serfdom who continued to defend the birch rod as a means of punishing serfs. In the same vein, he exposed corrupt bureaucrats for bribery and embezzlement. Such articles served not only to promote the need for rule of law and transparency in the courts, but to shame the "parvenus of the barracks and inkwells, the sham service oligarchy" for their "servility", "spineless sluggishness", "thievery", "fraudulence", "pettiness", "filth" and "cowardice". Herzen also fixed on paper the identity of the people most affected by these practices - in some cases, identifying serfs who had been flogged and robbed. More frequently, he provided names of students who had been detained or expelled, of writers arrested and held in solitary confinement, exposed, like Nikolai Chernyshevsky, to public pillory, only to disappear for years of Siberian detention, hard labour and exile. Herzen also named writers who, far from defending their colleagues, "did not even remain silent", but publicly expressed their support for state repression. Among the most painful passages in A Herzen Reader are the ones in which he names former friends who urged him to stop publishing names and to silence The Bell altogether.
By far the most controversial articles in The Bell, however, were the ones in which Herzen promoted the liberation of the serfs (before 1861) and his brand of Russian socialism. It was essential to him that liberation include land, by means of which rural communities might collectively organize their social and economic lives independent of the state. At times, Herzen expressed the hope that this could be achieved by peaceful means, if only Alexander II could be persuaded to carry out what Herzen called a "revolution from above". Herzen did his best to persuade, shaping several articles as letters addressed personally to Alexander II and his family, a gesture which radical readers criticized as contemptible grovelling. When Alexander II disappointed him, which he frequently did, Herzen resorted to threats, warning that, if the state did not rapidly take action, liberation would soon come from below, by means of "the axe". Introducing each article with valuable background information, Kathleen Parthé is perhaps too eager to emphasize Herzen's rejection of violence. It is easy to point to such statements as this one, issued by Herzen in 1857: "We have seen too much and too close at hand the terror of bloody revolutions and their perverted results to call them forth with savage joy". Herzen played cards with more than one deck. Increasingly after 1862, as state repression grew more virulent, with summary arrests and summary executions, he was willing to call revolution forth without savage joy, noting his support for what he called "the movement", most particularly the revolutionary group Land and Freedom.
Herzen's efforts to respond with emotional immediacy to events as they unfolded, and not only to address, but persuade, an increasingly divided audience, often left him running ahead of, and after, his readers. He freely admitted that he occasionally censored the expression of his own views in the interests of moving a target constituency. Such manoeuvres undoubtedly complicate scholars' efforts to pin him down as a liberal or revolutionary. They certainly infuriated his contemporaries. Addressing charges that he was inconsistent, Herzen was quick to blame the times, unforeseen circumstances, and the vacillating policies of Alexander II. But there was also Herzen. Having come of age with the poetry of Romanticism in hand, he inhabited the fractured world of a Faust. The duelling impulses of a divided soul appear to have spoken more loudly than the imperative to be consistent. The strength of A Herzen Reader lies in allowing all Alexander Herzen's voices to speak for themselves, permitting new readers to draw their own conclusions about which was the man himself.
Victoria Frede is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Doubt, Atheism, and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Intelligentsia, 2011.
Copyright © The Times Literary Supplement Limited 2011.
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Daily Mail / 16 October 2013
Russia and the U.S. unite: Former enemies sign agreement to work on nuclear weapons to tackle the danger of asteroids
16 сентября Россия и США подписали соглашение по совместному развитию технологий для создания международных средств безопасности для защиты от астероидов.
The two countries were once at loggerheads over the use of nuclear warheads, but now the U.S. and Russia have joined forces to develop the technology together - and the partnership could one day lead to weapons being used to destroy asteroids hurtling towards earth.
Last month an agreement between the two countries was signed outlining the use of technology to create "international safeguards" and offer "defense from asteroids."
The move signals a step closer towards the technology being used for such projects and builds on the work of various leading nuclear experts who have been actively developing the idea in recent years.
Entitled the "Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in Nuclear - and Energy-Related Scientific Research and Development", the document provides the legal framework needed to expand cooperation between U.S. and Russian nuclear research laboratories.
It was signed by the U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Director General of the Russian Federation State Corporation Sergey Kirienko, on 16 September.
It is hoped the new agreement will complement provisions of the U.S.-Russian Agreement for Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, that came into force in January 2011.
"This agreement supports President Obama's non-proliferation and climate priorities by providing a venue for scientific collaboration and relationship-building between the U.S. and Russian research and technical communities," said Energy Secretary Moniz at the time.
"Jointly, these communities will work to further develop advanced technologies that can address some of our most pressing nuclear energy and nuclear security challenges."
The original plans to join forces date back to 1995 when nuclear weapons designers from the Soviet Union and the U.S. met to discuss the imminent threat of asteroids and how technology could prevent it.
Since that time Nasa claims astronomers have detected more than 10,000 asteroids with orbits that could potentially bring them closer, or in contact, with earth.
Around nine per cent of these are believed to be around 3,000 feet long, according to reports in The Atlantic.
The most threatening of these, predicted to strike only once every 700,000 to 100 million years, could desolate the planet - similar to the asteroid believed to have killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
However, as Douglas Birch from the The Center of Public Integrity, explains: "even smaller rocks between 460 and 3,170 feet wide can flatten cities or wreak havoc."
The theory has also been used in science fiction films, for example, in the 1998 blockbuster film Armageddon, an asteroid the size of Texas threatens earth and a team of astronauts, led by Bruce Willis, fly towards it and blow it up.
Two years ago, research physicist and nuclear weapons designer David Dearborn, from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California received a discretionary grant for his work into solving how the weapons could be used.
His work runs parallel to that of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where American nuclear weapons are designed.
Research scientist Robert Weaver, from the laboratory, has been studying the effects of detonations on asteroids since 2012 and has simulated explosions using the Energy Department's Cielo supercomputer.
Elsewhere, Keith Holsapple, from Washington University recently received a million-dollar research grant from Nasa to discover if an "impact device or nuclear explosion could deflect an asteroid from its path."
Holsapple told Douglas Birch from - who has conducted a series of interviews with these leading experts - he is using a device called a "gas gun" set up at Nasa's Ames Research Center to study the impacter.
He explained that a complete nuclear deflection could work if researchers knew about the imminent danger around a decade in advance.
If the time to impact was closer than that, Hosapple added "it would be too late for deflection but a carefully executed nuke strike would prevent most damage."
A 60-foot asteroid damaged around 4,000 buildings in Russia when it exploded over the town of Chelyabinsk earlier this year - although objects this large are said to only plummet to earth once every 100 years or so.
While rocks around 460ft long, that would have 300 megatons of force, hit every 30,000 years.
The likelihood of the plans being put into action, however, could be limited after President Obama announced in 2009 he is committed "to seeking a world without nuclear weapons", and the plans could potentially go against the 1967 Outer Space Treaty signed by 129 countries, that prevents using nuclear weapons in space.
Concerns have been raised about radioactive debris falling to earth.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.
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Financial Times / October 17, 2013
Kremlin seeks to monetise the field of science
Россия сталкивается с огромными проблемами, пытаясь модернизировать экономику. Что мешает реализовывать многочисленные инновационные проекты?
Change is coming to the 289-year-old Russian Academy of Sciences. Once famous for work that won it 18 Nobel Prizes and helped put the first man in space, the Academy has failed to keep up with the times.
A law rushed through last month transferred control of the independent RAS and its real estate portfolio to a government agency. Many academicians protest that the law is no more than a state land grab, but even they admit that reforms are overdue.
Since the Soviet Union's demise in 1991, many of its best scientists have taken better paid jobs abroad. Those who remain have struggled to adapt to the new economic order, where brilliant ideas are valued only if they translate into profitable ventures.
"Russian scientists need to learn how to commercialise their inventions," says Leonid Melamed, a former scientist and chairman of Team Drive, a management company focused on pharmaceuticals. "It's the missing link in Russia's drive to innovate."
The country faces a huge challenge to modernise its $1.9tn economy and reduce dependence on oil and gas resources that, although substantial, will not sustain long-term growth.
The Kremlin has launched a series of high-profile initiatives including Rusnano, the state nanotechnology company, and Skolkovo, a technology park on the outskirts of Moscow. Founded in 2007, Rusnano aims to develop nanotechnology and high technology in Russia.
Led by Anatoly Chubais, architect of Russia's mass privatisation programme in the 1990s, the company has committed Rbs161.3bn ($5bn) to microelectronics, healthcare, energy and machine building among others. Priority is given to projects that transfer technology to Russia and boost research and development, says Sergey Filippov, its spokesman.
One of its biggest endeavours is a $760m joint investment with Domain Associates, a US venture capital company that specialises in medical technologies. Launched in 2012, the partnership buys equity stakes in US life science companies that pledge to conduct trials in Russia and transfer intellectual property rights for medicines they develop. Mr Melamed, whose Team Drive is involved in the partnership, says the rate of return on innovative pharmaceuticals is high, thanks to strong demand in Russia.
Government tax incentives and other privileges have persuaded foreign auto, agricultural vehicle and shipping groups to establish manufacturing bases.
Responding to a health ministry pledge to buy locally made medicines, pharmaceutical companies including Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis are building plants and R&D facilities.
Skolkovo shares the same goal as Rusnano of spurring Russian innovation, but instead of equity investments it provides grants to start-ups involved in information technology, biomedicine, nuclear technologies, energy saving and space.
The idea is to build bridges between science and innovative enterprises by bringing together inventions, research and development, venture capital, and business education.
Thanks to state incentives, Cisco and Siemens are among those that have committed to establish R&D operations at the techno-park.
Ideally, Skolkovo officials say, the Russian Academy of Sciences should collaborate in R&D programs, but contacts have so far been minimal.
In an effort to attract private investment and comply with World Trade Organisation rules, Russia has adopted internationally compliant intellectual property legislation and founded an IP court to rule in patent disputes.
The next step should be the removal of restrictions preventing universities from licensing IP that are slowing commercialisation, says Vitaliy Kastalskiy, the general director of the IP centre at the Skolkovo Foundation.
Although there have been some successful innovation projects, overall progress in diversifying the economy has not been impressive. The proportion of Russian exports made up by oil and gas, 70 per cent at present, has increased since the mid-1990s, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's 2012 "Diversify Russia" report.
The state's overwhelming presence means sectors linked to the military and oil and gas get priority, while smaller private enterprises that would be leaders in a more developed economy, struggle.
Thus Roscosmos, the federal space agency, has received state funding to develop the Glonass navigation satellite constellation and remote earth-sensing space craft as well as provide shuttle services to the International Space Station.
Plans include missions to Mars as well as lunar orbit research satellites.
However, setbacks in recent years including failed rocket launches have raised questions about the management of the space programme.
Ultimately, the speed of Russian innovation will depend on how fast private money flows into high-tech industries, says Mr Melamed.
© The Financial Times Ltd 2013.
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Maxisciences / le 17 octobre 2013
Météorite de Tcheliabinsk : un gros morceau repêché d'un lac en Russie
Из озера Чебаркуль подняли обломок метеорита, взорвавшегося в феврале 2013 г. над Челябинском. Обломок весом около 600 кг - самый крупный из обнаруженных на данный момент. Всего обнаружено более ста осколков.
Des scientifiques russes ont réussi à sortir d'un lac gelé un gros morceau issu de la météorite tombée en février dernier dans la région de Tcheliabinsk dans l'Oural.
C'est le plus gros morceau retrouvé depuis l'incident. Mercredi, des scientifiques russes ont annoncé avoir découvert un nouveau fragment de la météorite de Tcheliabinsk tombée dans la région de l'Oural en Russie, il y a maintenant plus de sept mois. C'était le 15 février dernier, en pleine journée, un météore s'est désintégré dans le ciel de Tcheliabinsk, provoquant une déflagration si puissante qu'elle a endommagé de nombreux bâtiments et fait plus de 1.200 blessés.
Depuis l'évènement, les scientifiques avaient passé au crible les environs pour retrouver des fragments de la météorite, en se basant notamment sur les témoignages. Ils avaient ainsi réussi à mettre la main sur de petits morceaux, rapidement analysés afin d'en savoir plus sur l'objet spatial. D'après les chercheurs, l'astéroïde faisait quelque 17 mètres de diamètre, pour un poids compris entre 5.000 et 10.000 tonnes et se serait séparé en un grand nombre de chondrites plus ou moins grosses.
Un fragment de 570 kg
Néanmoins, c'est un fragment d'une taille record qu'ont déniché les chercheurs russes : 570 kilogrammes environ, selon eux. Le morceau a été repêché dans les profondeurs du lac gelé de Tchebarkoul où il avait atterri, formant un cratère de 6 mètres de diamètre ensuite recouvert par la vase. Il aura ainsi fallu plus de six mois pour localiser précisément le fragment dans la glace du lac dont la profondeur atteint à cet endroit pas moins de 20 mètres.
Un mois supplémentaire a ensuite été nécessaire pour le libérer de 8 mètres de vase et le tracter à la surface, sur la terre ferme. Sergei Zamozdra, professeur associé à l'Université d'Etat de Tcheliabinsk, a indiqué à la télévision russe qu'il n'y avait aucun doute que le fragment retrouvé provient de la météorite. Il s'agit ainsi d'une des dix plus grosses chondrites jamais retrouvées. Cette catégorie désigne un certain type de météorites pierreuses qui sont aussi les plus primitives.
"Ce fragment a les caractéristiques propres aux météorites pierreuses. Nous pouvons donc dire que ce fragment fait partie de la météorite de Tcheliabinsk. Il a une forte écorce, une rouille très visible et un grand nombre de creux", ont indiqué les chercheurs repris par la Voix de la Russie.
Un morceau... déjà cassé
Malheureusement, le fragment n'est toutefois plus en un seul morceau. Celui-ci s'est malencontreusement cassé en trois morceaux alors que les chercheurs le pesaient. Un incident qui n'a pas étonné Brigitte Zanda, du Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Paris qui a récemment reçu des fragments de la météorite.
Citée par le Figaro, la spécialiste a expliqué : "C'est un type de météorite particulièrement fragile. Les forces de compression qu'elle a subies ont été considérables. La roche était nécessairement fissurée. Comme elle contient quelques minerais métalliques, elle a en plus probablement un peu rouillé pendant son séjour prolongé sous l'eau". Toutefois, cela ne va pas empêcher les chercheurs de poursuivre les analyses pour en savoir plus sur l'objet qui a explosé dans le ciel russe.
Presque aussi vieille que le système solaire
Récemment, des chercheurs russes ont estimé grâce à une analyse isotopique, que la météorite de Tcheliabinsk avait quasiment l'âge du système solaire. "La météorite de Tcheliabinsk est âgée de 4,56 milliards d'années, elle a presque le même âge que le Système solaire. Cela signifie que nous avons entre nos mains un fragment de la "matière de création", a déclaré Mikhaïl Marov, de l'Institut de géochimie et de chimie analytique Vernadski de Moscou.
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Medical Daily / Oct 19, 2013
New "Virulent" HIV Strain Spreading Rapidly Through Siberia Identified By Russian Scientists; Accounts For 50 Percent Of New Infections
Специалисты ГНЦ вирусологии и биотехнологии "Вектор" (отдел ретровирусов) нашли новый генетический вариант вируса ВИЧ-1, в котором соединились рекомбинантная форма 02_AG и российский вариант субтипа А. Обнаруженная форма может стать самым жизнеспособным вариантом вируса в России.
Scientists in Novosibirsk, Russia believe they have identified a new HIV strain that is more severe than others, and it's spreading at a "rapid rate" throughout Russia, Chechnya, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
The subtype of the HIV virus is referred to as 02_AG/A and was first detected in Novosibirsk in 2006, the Moscow Times reports. It may be the most virulent form of HIV in Russia and accounts for more than 50 percent of new HIV infections in the Novosibirsk region, according to the region's Koltsovo science city statement. Russia has battled against AIDS for the past decade, and the epidemic appears to be getting worse. "It's the 1980s in Russia," Kenneth Rapoza writes on Forbes regarding the HIV/AIDS crisis.
The subtype was discovered by scientists at the State Research Center of Virology and Viotechnology Vektor in Novosibirsk, located in Siberia. There are two groups of the HIV virus, the more virulent HIV-1 and HIV-2. A subtype of HIV-1 known as 02_AG/A is believed to be more easily transmitted compared to other strains of the virus.
The number of people in Novosibirsk infected with HIV has grown from 2,000 in 2007 to 15,000 in 2012, Russia's Federal AIDS Centre reports. Meanwhile, the United Nations states that Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the only parts of the world where HIV infections are rising, the majority of infected people living in Russia. Roughly one million people out of 143 million in Russia are HIV-positive. The World Bank estimates that by 2020, nearly 21,000 Russians per month could die because of HIV/AIDS. Globally, however, the incidence of HIV infections has dropped by a third since 2001.
"Russia has experienced the fastest-spreading HIV/AIDS epidemics in any one country in history, but there remains a lack of effective preventative measures to slow it down - in large measure because the people most affected are also the country's most reviled," Gregory Gilderman of the Pulitzer Center writes. A study completed in 2009 about HIV/AIDS in Russia and Ukraine, which has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, noted that the empowerment of women in particular, "is vital to reversing the HIV/AIDS epidemic." The authors concluded that "it is important to find ways to empower [women] by implementing policies and specific prevention measures that increase their access to knowledge about HIV/AIDS."
© Medical Daily 2013 All rights reserved.
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Vietnam+ / 19/10/2013
Un colloque sur la Mer Orientale à Moscou
18 октября в Москве прошла I Международная конференция "Безопасность и сотрудничество в регионе Южно-Китайского моря", организованная Институтом востоковедения РАН. Ученые из России, Австралии, Европейского Союза, Индии, США и Японии обсудили вопросы, связанные с историей, современным состоянием и способами урегулирования территориального конфликта в Южно-Китайском море.
Un colloque international sur la sécurité et la coopération en Mer Orientale a été organisé vendredi à Moscou par l'Institut d'études orientales de l'Académie russe des Sciences.
Cet évènement a réuni des représentants du Conseil de la Fédération, de la Douma et du ministère des Affaires étrangères de la Russie, ainsi que des dirigeants d'instituts d'études, des chercheurs et des spécialistes de l'UE, d'Australie, d'Inde, des Etats-Unis et du Japon...
Selon M. Alekxandr Tokovinin, un responsable du ministère russe des Affaires étrangères, son pays accorde son soutien à des mesures acceptables par les parties en vue de résoudre les différends en Mer Orientale. La Russie les appelle à faire preuve de retenue, à ne pas recourir à la force, et à régler les problèmes avec des mesures politiques et diplomatiques, sur la base du droit international, notamment la convention des Nations unies sur le droit de la mer de 1982.
Dans un communiqué de presse, l'Institut d'études orientales affirme que la Mer Orientale est un sujet qui retient une grande attention de l'opinion internationale. Il a décidé d'organiser ce colloque afin de créer un forum permettant aux hommes politiques et aux spécialistes de donner leurs avis sur cette question, ainsi que d'aider les parties concernées à trouver dans les meilleurs délais une solution pacifique, durable et mutuellement avantageuse.
L'Institut d'études orientales n'a pas invité les chercheurs de pays impliqués dans les différends en Mer Orientale dans le but d'assurer l'objectivité des interventions présentées lors du colloque.
© Copyright, VietnamPlus, Agence vietnamienne d'information (AVI).
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The Wall Street Journal / October 21, 2013
Private Space Co. Dauria Aerospace Will Use Smartphone Tech To Launch Russian Satellites
Частная аэрокосмическая компания намерена запустить в следующем году первый частный спутник в сотрудничестве с Samsung Electronics и корпорацией "Роскосмос". Цель - собирать данные о Земле с микроспутников, загружать их на облачную платформу и получать плату за доступ к ним.
Leveraging the same technology found in your smartphone, Dauria Aerospace will launch the first Russian private space satellite for about $3 million early next year.
Launching DX-1, which is being accomplished through a partnership with consumer electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Russian federal space agency Roscosmos, is the latest milestone for the private space industry and is a first step for the two-year-old startup. The company aims to gather data about earth collected by microsatellites it and others have manufactured, aggregate the data onto a cloud-based platform and then charge application developers and others to access it.
"In 2015 we are anticipating a certain percentage of revenue coming from the cloud platform," said Ilya Golubovich, founding partner of I2BF Global Ventures, a venture firm that invested $20 million in Dauria earlier this month.
Mr. Golubovich said Dauria is now generating 99% of its revenue through sales of its satellites to Roscosmos and other groups, but expects that percentage to shift by 2015 when he says cloud platform revenue will reach "hundreds of millions" of U.S. dollars.
Since opening the cloud platform in private beta this summer, developers have used the data to build applications for tasks including wheat harvesting, forest management and mining.
"The main thing for us is to acquire a bigger society of developers," said Dauria President Mikhail Kokorich.
Dauria's first satellite will use the same conventional flash memory used in smartphones and will be roughly the size of a desktop printer. The satellites incorporate pre-made parts from Samsung, will cost between $3 million and $5 million each and, because of their light weight, will also cost less to launch than traditional satellites.
Dauria also will produce $500,000 nano-satellites, which will be roughly one-fourth the size and will be used largely for machine-to-machine communications.
Dauria's push follows the high-profile successes earlier this year by private space companies Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corp.
Founded in 2011, Dauria is a resident of NASA Ames Research Park in California and has contracts with NASA. It's also a partner of Boeing Co. and Airbus SAS and is part of the Skolkovo space cluster, located on the outskirts of Moscow.
The company, which employs 100, is headquartered in Munich, where its CloudEO platform is being developed. Mr. Kokorich said the company expects to receive a grant from German space agency DLR shortly.
"The space market is global by nature. The Russian market is not rich enough to fuel the group's ambitions. Dauria Aerospace is one of the pioneers of the private sector in space," said Dmitry Payson, director of development of Skolkovo's Space Technologies and Telecommunications Cluster. The space cluster is one of five focus groups that are part of Russia's Skolkovo project, all aiming to jumpstart private enterprise in Russia with both cash and connections.
The group of 110 companies focus on everything from laser ignition models for rocket engines and remote sensors to control software, he said.
Mr. Payson said although it's still early, he sees the private space sector gaining momentum thanks to the lower cost of components and increased competition.
The biggest obstacle in Russia, along with updating federal regulations to enable smaller companies to compete for contracts alongside more established counterparts, is a mindset, he said.
"What we're doing is education on how to build startups and what private activity is," he said, adding his Skolkovo team now targets university teams and spinoffs from Roscosmos to start their own companies.
"A lot of things have changed from 30 years ago. Our country was a different country."
The DX-1 will be launched by Russian rocket Souz and booster stage Fregat in an event now slated for February.
© Copyright 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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BBC News / 23 October 2013
Emerald ash borer beetle on the march across Europe
- By Mark Kinver, Environment reporter, BBC News
Жуки под названием «ясеневая изумрудная узкотелая златка» (Agrilus planipennis) относятся к агрессивным стволовым вредителям, погубившим в Северной Америке несколько десятков миллионов ясеневых деревьев. В России златки обитают на Дальнем Востоке, но несколько лет назад их обнаружили и в Москве. Группа из двух британских и двух российских ученых проследила, как расширяется ареал жуков в европейской части России, и чем это грозит широколиственным лесам.
Статья «Distribution, impact and rate of spread of emerald ash borer Agrilus planipennis (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) in the Moscow region of Russia» опубликована в журнале Forestry.
An invasive species of beetle that has killed tens of millions of ash trees in North America could "spread unhindered" across Europe, researchers have warned. The emerald ash borer, first recorded in the Moscow area in 2007, has become established in surrounding broadleaved woodlands, they observed.The pest, which is expected to cost the US economy $10bn, has spread up to 25 miles each year, the team estimated. The findings of the survey have been published in the journal Forestry.
The team of two UK and two Russian scientists found that the emerald ash borer (EAB) population had spread 146 miles (235km) west of Moscow and 137 miles (220 km) south of the Russian capital city.
In their paper, the team described EAB (Agrilus planipennis) as a "major threat to Fraxinus excelsior (European ash), and south of Moscow, where the beetle has become established in natural broadleaved woodlands in which F. excelsior is a major component, many of the ash trees are suffering severe dieback and mortality".
They added: "The abundance and almost continuous distribution of F. excelsior in these woodlands means that A. planipennis now has the opportunity to spread unhindered on a broad front to other countries in Europe."
The beetle is native to north-east China, the Korean peninsula, Japan, Taiwan, Mongolia and the Russian Far East. The beetles' larvae feed on the surface layers of the wood of a tree, cutting off vital supplies of nutrients and water, causing branches and eventually the whole tree to die. Although the adult beetles only live for a matter of weeks, an individual female can lay in excess of 200 eggs during their short lives but the average is estimated to be in the region of 30-60 eggs.
While native Asian ash trees appear to have co-evolved resistance to the EAB, US native ash species, such as the green ash (F. pennsylvanica) and white ash (F. americana) have no such resilience, resulting in devastating consequences.
Since the first recorded case of an EAB infestation in Michigan back in 2002, the invasive alien species has spread rapidly through 19 US states and two Canadian provinces, leaving a trail of devastation in its trail.
The researchers wrote: "The beetle has killed tens of millions of trees over the past 10 years and has raised concerns over the future of ash in North America.
"The cost to the US economy over the 10-year period from 2009 to 2019 - in terms of tree removal and replacement alone - is expected to exceed $10bn."
Whether a similar fate awaits European ash trees remained uncertain at this stage, explained co-author David Williams, an entomologist from Forest Research, the scientific arm of the UK Forestry Commission.
During the summer, Dr Williams and colleague Dr Nigel Straw spent two weeks in and around Moscow to assess the impact and spread of EAB in the area. Dr Williams told BBC News that previous research suggested that an individual beetle would not fly more than six miles (10km) during its lifetime. Yet the team, in their assessment, found evidence that EAB was spreading by up to four times that distance.
"There is evidence that the species is riding on vehicles, which is why it is moving long distances," Dr Williams observed.
"If it is travelling long distances, it is dependent on a host tree being available for it to jump on to."
"To the south of the city, European ash is a component of the natural woodlands. Now that it is established in these woodlands, it is difficult to judge how quickly it is likely to move."
He added that it was difficult to quantify the size of the emerald ash borer population that had become established in the woodlands south of Moscow.
"Trying to find signs and symptoms of EAB damage is unbelievably difficult in the early stages," Dr Williams explained.
"It does seem to be from our observations that it [is] much harder to spot signs and symptoms of EAB damage in European ash than in North American species of ash.
"So the fact that it has reached this almost continuous forest of ash into Europe through Belarus and Ukraine is going to [make it] difficult to track its movement."
The UK is more than 1,500 miles from Moscow, and the Forestry Commission predicts that it is likely to be "many years" before the pest reaches these shores under its own steam.
However, a spokesman added: "Regulations are in place to minimise the risk of its accidental introduction in trade and transport, and we are assessing whether more needs to be done to further reduce these risks."
He added that the UK and the EU were currently drafting Pest Risk Analyses on EAB. In addition, tree health experts were developing a contingency plan in case there was an EAB outbreak in the UK. The spokesman said that it would follow the same approach used to tackle an outbreak of Asian longhorned beetle in Kent in 2012. And there was a Europe-wide network, known as Fraxback, that allowed scientists across the continent to share their research and findings. Although its efforts were focused on tackling ash dieback, it could provide information that could be used in terms of slowing or halting the spread of EAB.
Dr Williams said that during his time in the Russian woodlands, there were signs that some trees may have a degree of resistance to EAB infestations.
"European ash is supposed to be much more closely related to Asian ash species than North American species, so that resistance that Asian ash species has to EAB could well be part of genetic make-up of European ash," he suggested.
"There was certainly some evidence within Moscow itself. We did not find many European ash but when we did find them, half were looking perfectly healthy. Perhaps more interestingly, when we moved south into the forests where European ash is much more common, there was a much higher degree of variability in the trees' canopy condition. This is the opposite of what you find in North American species of ash. When it is attacked by EAB, the dieback is so obvious it is startling."
He added: "This suggests that it is perhaps not as susceptible to the beetle as North American species."
BBC © 2013.
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Los Angeles Time / October 23, 2013
Vladimir Keilis-Borok dies at 92; sought to predict earthquakes
Though met with criticism, UCLA professor Vladimir Keilis-Borok stood by his method that accurately predicted two earthquakes.
19 октября в Калифорнии, в возрасте 92 лет, скончался российский учёный в области глобальной сейсмологии и тектоники, академик РАН Владимир Исаакович Кейлис-Борок. Владимир Исаакович - основатель и первый директор Международного института теории прогноза землетрясений и математической геофизики РАН, под его руководством разработан эффективный метод предсказания землетрясений.
Vladimir Keilis-Borok, an internationally known seismologist and geophysicist who never wavered in his dogged pursuit of what he called his profession's "holy grail" - a method to accurately predict earthquakes - died Saturday at his Culver City home after a long illness. He was 92.
His death was announced by UCLA, where he had been a professor since 1998.
The eminent Russian scientist garnered headlines after two large temblors - in Japan and Central California - occurred in 2003 within the time frame forecast by his international team of earthquake experts.
So when Keilis-Borok announced that a magnitude 6.4-or-larger quake would strike before Sept. 5, 2004, in a 12,000-square-mile area of the Mojave Desert, skeptical colleagues who had long regarded earthquake prediction as shaky ground were intrigued.
That big one, however, never came, causing some experts to scoff that Keilis-Borok had simply been lucky the first two times.
Others have not been so quick to dismiss his work.
"He pushed the envelope on earthquake prediction," said John Vidale, a former UCLA geophysicist who is now director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, a group based at the University of Washington that monitors seismic activity. "A lot of people had shied away from it because it failed in the '70s. He helped focus our interest on earthquake prediction."
Keilis-Borok and his team identified patterns of seismic activity using mathematical algorithms. Their predictions were based on finding a "seismic chain," or series of smaller quakes, that could be a precursor to a major jolt. He called this methodology "tail wagging the dog."
"We look backward to make our earthquake predictions," he said in January 2004 when he went public with the prediction of a major quake in the Mojave in the next nine months.
He was the first to acknowledge that his team's predictions had only a 50-50 chance of being right. Yet scientists such as Vidale said that a system that was accurate only 50% of the time would be a vast improvement over previous attempts at prediction.
One of the most embarrassing failures had been a prediction in the early 1980s by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey that a temblor of magnitude 6 or higher would strike along the San Andreas fault at Parkfield in Monterey County in 1988.
That quake failed to materialize. Earthquake forecasting receded into the margins of seismological research until Keilis-Borok and his team scored two successive hits.
In July 2003 they said a magnitude 7 or higher quake would rock an area of northern Japan before the end of the year. On Sept. 25, 2003, a magnitude 9.1 quake struck Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, injuring hundreds.
The team also predicted that a quake of magnitude 6.4 or higher would strike in a 310-mile stretch between Fort Bragg and Cambria by 2004. In December 2003 a magnitude 6.5 quake struck six miles northeast of San Simeon, on the southern edge of the prediction zone, killing two people.
Their calculations drew serious scrutiny, including a review by a state panel of earthquake experts who said the team's methodology was sound. It was the first time since the Parkfield prediction that the scientific community didn't dismiss quake forecasting as nonsense.
Experts at USC and elsewhere are refining and testing prediction systems, including methods developed by Keilis-Borok's team. His highly publicized predictions were "something of a motivating factor" in the founding several years ago of an international research project on earthquake predictability at the USC-based Southern California Earthquake Center, spokesman Mark Benthien said.
Born in Moscow on July 31, 1921, Keilis-Borok was the only child of Russian Jews. His father was a merchant, his mother a secretary. When the Germans invaded Russia during World War II, he was sent to the front to install communication lines. He was later assigned to search for oil in eastern Russia. After the war Keilis-Borok studied at the Russian Academy of Sciences, earning a doctorate in 1948, and taught computational geophysics.
In the 1960s, during the Cold War, he studied seismic waves from underground nuclear explosions and compared them to the motion caused by earthquakes. He participated in the 1963 U.S.-Soviet arms-control talks, contributing his expertise on the differences between earthquakes and underground nuclear explosions.
By the 1980s he was immersed in earthquake prediction theory and founded a research institute in Moscow. He divided his time between Moscow and Los Angeles after joining UCLA in 1998.
In his spare time, Keilis-Borok turned his analytical skills on other phenomena, including presidential elections. After meeting American University historian Allan J. Lichtman in 1981 when both were visiting professors at Caltech, he proposed a collaboration to use his earthquake prediction methods to forecast the outcome of presidential contests.
"I said, "Wow, that sounds a little odd," Lichtman recalled in an interview this week. "But his methodology," he said, "was perfected suited to my theory," which examined patterns associated with upheaval or stability in the political environment. According to Lichtman, his work with Keilis-Borok has accurately divined the winner of the popular vote in every presidential election since 1981.
"It was one of the triumphs of his career," Lichtman said, adding that the scientist "would have liked to have gotten more credit for his earthquake predictions."
When the earth failed to move in the Southern California desert in 2004, Keilis-Borok remained philosophical about the setback. "To quote Churchill," he told The Times a few days after the deadline passed without event, "This is not the beginning of the end, it's the end of the beginning."
He is survived by a daughter, Irina Kashin, a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren.
Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times.
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Photonics Online / October 25, 2013
Aston, Novosibirsk Plan Photonics Research Centre
Новосибирский государственный университет и Университет Астон (Великобритания) заключили соглашение о создании совместного исследовательского центра по фотонике. Соглашение было представлено 17 октября на 11-й сессии Российско-Британского Комитета по науке и технологиям в Лондоне.
An Anglo-Russian academic partnership should see the development of a new photonics research centre.
The new collaboration signed between Aston University and Novosibirsk State University is planning to establish the Aston-NSU International Centre for Photonics in Novosibirsk.
The partnership was presented Oct. 17 at the 11th Ministerial UK Russia Joint Committee on Science & Technology Cooperation 2013-2015 at the Royal Society in London at which a Joint Statement on enhanced cooperation in science, higher education and innovation was signed between Minister Vince Cable and Minister Livanov, Russia's Minister for Education and Science.
According to Aston University, the main areas of the partnership will include:
- The development of applications for joint research funding for projects across the UK, Russia, EU and worldwide
- Joint experimental and theoretical research publications in photonics for international and high impact journals
- PhD student exchanges and undergraduate/postgraduate research opportunities
- Joint scientific seminars and workshops; public engagement and outreach activities
- Discussion and possible developments of double/joint research MSc and PhD degrees
The development of a joint research centre between two world-leading research teams, will increase our research capacity and will provide access to advanced laser science knowledge, technologies, facilities and infrastructure," said Professor Sergei Turitsyn, from Aston University's photonics research team (pictured).
The centre will operate as a distributed laboratory with locations in UK and Russia. It is an outstanding link up which will advance our capabilities in laser technologies with positive impact on our research in long distance communications, medical sensing devices and fibre-laser science among others.
Photonics is undoubtedly a fast-growing field of research and innovation. Both the UK and Russia have a strong photonics manufacturing industry base and a number of high-tech companies in the photonics field," said Dr Sergei Kobtsev from Novosibirsk State University. "Industry needs new knowledge-intensive photonics products and I anticipate that our Centre will play a key role in linking academic knowledge with practical technological and industrial applications.
The Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AIPT) at Aston University has 70 active researchers, states the university, and is one of the largest group in photonics research in the UK.
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Lake County News Sun / October 25, 2013
Russian scientist visits Waukegan to get PCB cleanup tips
- By Long Hwa-shu For Sun-Times Media
Елена Кузеванова, заместитель директора по науке Байкальского музея СО РАН, побывала в Уокигане, чтобы ознакомиться с системой очистки от полихлорбифенила, проблема загрязнения которым актуальна и для Байкала. Поездка состоялась в рамках соглашения о сотрудничестве между Иркутской Ассоциацией «Байкал-Экосеть» и общественной организацией «Группа общественных советников города Уокиган» (Иллинойс, США). Организации занимаются проблемами экологии двух великих озер - Байкала в России и Мичигана в США - и сотрудничают с 2001 г.
A Russian scientist called the PCB cleanup of Waukegan Harbor a valuable lesson to learn for the environmental protection of her native Lake Baikal in Siberia.
Elena Kuzevanova, deputy director of science for Baikal Museum, said there are many similarities between the Russian lake and Lake Michigan. The museum is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Academy of Science.
"It's a wonderful accomplishment," she said of the PCB cleanup made possible under the Superfund while attending a luncheon hosted by Roy Czajkowski, a member of U.S. Commerce Department's Committee of Environmental Trade & Technology.
Lake Baikal, the largest and the deepest lake in the world, contains 20 percent of the world's surface fresh water. So do the Great Lakes.
For Kuzevanova is a hydro-biologist and this is her eighth trip to Waukegan under a partnership agreement between Waukegan Harbor Citizens' Advisory Group and Baikal Ecological Network, a non-profit conservation organization in Irkutsk, Russia.
The goal of the partnership, which dates back to 2001, is to form a sustainable cooperation between them to enhance the quality of water, air, land and lives around the two lakes, according to Jean B. Schreiber, who chairs the Waukegan Harbor group.
"Together we share 40 percent of the world's surface fresh water," Schreiber said of the importance of the partnership. Schreiber visited Lake Baikal in 2002.
The exchange of information and technology, she said, will make it possible for the Russians "to learn where we failed and succeeded so that they can plan carefully."
"Together, both sides will benefit because science is global," she added.
Lake Baikal has its own PCB problem. It has been polluted by PCB left by a paper mill that has been shut down. But because the lake has attracted many tourists, it has been confronted with problems of trash and sewage, especially from boats.
"We need infrastructure and equipment to handle garbage and sewage from boats," she said.
During her present and previous trips, she visited not only the harbor, but also organizations such as the Lake County Forest Preserves, the North Shore Sanitary District and the Lake Forest
Open Land Conservation Leadership Program to learn about the American way of protecting the environment. She has also visited schools on the North Shore.
"I'm lucky and fortunate to visit the Lake County area. I have learned a lot," she said.
With a grant from the Waukegan advisory group, Kuzevanova was able to publish a book about Lake Baikal in Russia. Because that book sold well, she wrote another book about the lake. Both books have been used as textbooks for sixth- and seventh-graders in Russia.
Kuzevanova said she hopes to forge a student exchange as an outgrowth of the partnership.
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