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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Putin pledges $25 bln in state funding for high-tech projects

Posted by Kris Roman on August 20, 2008

Around 600 billion rubles ($25 bln) will be earmarked for a series of high-tech programs until 2010, Russia’s prime minister said Wednesday at a conference on science and education.
“We have never provided this sort of money for such purposes before,” Vladimir Putin said.

The Russian premier also announced that a five-year program for fundamental research worth 250 billion rubles ($10.2 billion) had been approved. The program should boost Russia’s socio-economic development and enhance its security, Putin said.

He criticized the Russian research sphere for dependency on federal budget funding and insufficient cooperation with education, and urged measures to develop the commercial potential of research.

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Solar eclipse: mind-bending phenomenon

Posted by Kris Roman on August 2, 2008

RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna

A solar eclipse will take place on August 1. Repeating itself in a certain rhythm since time immemorial, this dazzling spectacle is played out for different parts of the earth at different times.

This time, Russians living in Western Siberia and Altai have been lucky enough to get a free ticket to this amazing show.

From a spaceship, a lunar shadow looks like a dark spot sliding across the Earth at a speed of 2,000 km (1,200 miles) per hour. Although we all know about this phenomenon from school, it is a real treat to see one.

A full solar eclipse is a magical event that changes our routine life. It looks as if the sun has covered its golden face with a solid black veil, leaving only a very thin mother-of-pearl halo, the solar corona. Day turns into night, bringing out the stars. Nature is shocked. Plants stand stock-still, animals rush around creating a cacophony of sounds, and birds start screaming. People’s thoughts freeze. Thousands of filtered eyes are turned to the sky in anticipation of Nature’s sacral show. Some pray, others make wishes, while still others fall down in atavistic fear.

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100 Years Of Space Rock: The Tunguska Impact

Posted by Kris Roman on June 30, 2008

At around 7:17 on the morning of June 30, 1908, a man based at the trading post at Vanavara in Siberia is sitting on his front porch. In a moment, 40 miles from the center of an immense blast of unknown origin, he will be hurled from his chair and the heat will be so intense he will feel as though his shirt is on fire.

The man at the trading post, and others in a largely uninhabited region of Siberia, near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, are to be accidental eyewitnesses to cosmological history.

“If you want to start a conversation with anyone in the asteroid business all you have to say is Tunguska,” said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It is the only entry of a large meteoroid we have in the modern era with first-hand accounts.”

While the impact occurred in ’08, the first scientific expedition to the area would have to wait for 19 years. In 1921, Leonid Kulik, the chief curator for the meteorite collection of the St. Petersburg museum led an expedition to Tunguska.

But the harsh conditions of the Siberian outback thwarted his team’s attempt to reach the area of the blast. In 1927, a new expedition, again lead by Kulik, reached its goal.

“At first, the locals were reluctant to tell Kulik about the event,” said Yeomans. “They believed the blast was a visitation by the god Ogdy, who had cursed the area by smashing trees and killing animals.”

tunguska-impact-1908-bgWhile testimonials may have at first been difficult to obtain, there was plenty of evidence lying around. Eight hundred square miles of remote forest had been ripped asunder. Eighty million trees were on their sides, lying in a radial pattern.

“Those trees acted as markers, pointing directly away from the blast’s epicenter,” said Yeomans. “Later, when the team arrived at ground zero, they found the trees there standing upright — but their limbs and bark had been stripped away. They looked like a forest of telephone poles.”

Such debranching requires fast moving shock waves that break off a tree’s branches before the branches can transfer the impact momentum to the tree’s stem. Thirty seven years after the Tunguska blast, branchless trees would be found at the site of another massive explosion — Hiroshima, Japan.

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Tunguska Event Still A Mystery 100 Years OnTunguska Event Still A Mystery 100 Years On

Posted by Kris Roman on June 30, 2008

tunguska-trees-bgAt the Tunguska conference in the Krasnoyarsk Territory in Siberia scientists from all over Russia will gather to discuss, using the latest computer technology, as well as less traditional methods, what actually caused the destruction in the remote Siberian region.

Scientists will gather in Siberia to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska Event June 26-28, one of the world’s most mysterious explosions which flattened 80 million trees but largely went unnoticed at the time. The massive blast, equivalent to around 15 megatons of TNT, occurred approximately 7-10 km (3-6 miles) above the Stony Tunguska River in a remote area of central Siberia early on June 30, 1908.

The explosion, which was estimated to measure up to 5 on the Richter scale, knocked people off their feet 70 km away and destroyed an area of around 2,150 sq km (830 sq miles).

And if the explosion had occurred some 4 hours and 47 minutes later, due to the Earth’s rotation it would have completely destroyed the then Russian capital of St. Petersburg.

However, despite the fact that the night sky was lit up across Europe and Asia and the shock waves were detected as far away as Britain, the Tunguska Event largely went unnoticed eclipsed by global events leading up to World War I, the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war and it was not until almost 20 years later in 1927 that any scientific expedition managed to visit the remote site.

The 1927-expedition led by Leonid Kulik, a leading meteorite expert at the Academy of Sciences, discovered the massive destruction left by the blast and gathered witness statements from locals living in the area. It was assumed that a huge meteorite had hit the area, although Kulik failed, during his research in Siberia, to find an obvious crater.

And around 33 years later another expedition was also unsuccessful in its search for the elusive crater and scientists were faced with the Tunguska mystery – an explosion, 1,000 times more powerful that the WWII atomic bomb at Hiroshima, but which had left no trace as to its cause.

Although there have been dozens of theories since, from UFOs, antimatter, doomsday events and black holes, the most likely being an airborne explosion of a 10-30-meter wide meteorite or comet, none of them has provided conclusive evidence which has merely fuelled the speculation surrounding Tunguska.

At the Tunguska conference in the Krasnoyarsk Territory in Siberia scientists from all over Russia will gather to discuss, using the latest computer technology, as well as less traditional methods, what actually caused the destruction in the remote Siberian region.

As part of the anniversary, in the Evenki autonomous area, a statue of the Evenki god of Thunder, which reflects eyewitness testimony to the events 100 years ago, will be erected at the site believed to be the meteorite crash location.

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Russia to spend $25 bln on science research in 2008-2010 – Putin

Posted by Kris Roman on May 30, 2008

Russia will spend around 600 billion rubles ($25 billion) on scientific research in 2008-2010, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

“We have allocated substantial resources for the development of such promising areas as nano- and biotechnology, nuclear energy, aerospace and other research in 2008-2010. Federal target programs alone will receive about 600 billion rubles for these purposes,” Putin told a meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The volume of budget financing for the Russian Academy of Sciences has increased considerably, with the academy’s budget growing from over 37 billion rubles ($1.6 billion) in 2007 to around 45 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) in 2008, Putin said.

Federal budget spending on civil science in 2008 will reach around 125 billion rubles ($5.3 billion) and about 200 billion rubles ($8.5 billion), taking into account extra-budgetary funds, Putin said.

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Russian scientist decodes Nostradamus prophesies

Posted by Kris Roman on May 30, 2008

Vitaliy Khozyashev from Perm, Russia, doesn’t consider Nostradamus a graph maniac, but an outstanding person. He is sure his quatrain verses, grouped in centuries, are not nonsense, but a prophesy.

This started 8 years ago, when he found out that peoples’ attempts to decode Nostradamus’s verses were not very successful, except for the easy verse: ‘There will be new earthquakes and new authorities’ changes and this will last for just 73 years and 7 months’. It was concluded that Nostradamus was talking about the collapse of the Bolshevik system.

Read also: ‘Five Centuries of Nostradamus’

Usually all Nostradamus’s prophesies can be explained in different ways, as they don’t allude to the exact time in the future, which made them purposeless. Mr. Khozyashev decided to clear this out.

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Russia reports over 700 ‘foreign’ nuclear tests in past 50 years

Posted by Kris Roman on May 16, 2008


Up to 730 nuclear tests have been conducted in the past 50 years by the U.S., China, France, India, and Pakistan, a Russian Defense Ministry official said on Tuesday.

Col. Gen. Vladimir Verkhovtsev, head of the Defense Ministry Special Monitoring Service, which was established 50 years ago, said in an interview with the Krasnaya Zvezda daily that many of the tests registered by his agency had never been reported by the media.

The figures do not include nuclear tests conducted by Russia or the Soviet Union.

“Being a party to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Russia has access to data recorded by more than 320 stations belonging to the NTBT international monitoring system,” he said, adding that his service was able to register nuclear explosions with yields of 1 kiloton and upwards throughout the world.

He said one of the service’s main goals has been monitoring the implementation of international treaties banning or limiting nuclear tests.

The general said the service’s own laboratories were stationed throughout Russia, mainly in remote areas such the Upper North and the Far East.

The first test of an atomic weapon took place in New Mexico in the U.S. on July 16, 1945. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the project, and the man commonly referred to as ‘Father of the Atomic Bomb,’ later said that the line, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” from the Indian sacred text, the Bhagavad-Gita, came to mind as the mushroom cloud produced by the weapon rose.

Test director Kenneth Bainbridge reportedly simply said, “Now we are all sons of bitches.”


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From a new drug to the “father of all bombs”: Russian science in 2007 – some of the highlights

Posted by Kris Roman on May 16, 2008

Yury Zaitsev for RIA Novosti

2007 was a happy year for Russian science. The country’s leadership showed it understood that science and science-intensive industry were at the core of the economy and key to maintaining an independent foreign policy, sovereignty, and Russia’s position in the world’s league of nations.

The Government allocated more than 250 billion rubles (over $10 billion) for a five-year program of fundamental research. Now all the novel ideas in the country will follow an established pattern from conception to commercial realization.

In 2006, the government invested 2.86 billion rubles in 13 projects under the program, in addition to 3.6 billion rubles raised from private sources. Industry responded by turning out 12 billion rubles’ worth of hi tech products.

The 2007 figures are even more impressive. Business investment in science-intensive projects under the program jumped to 6 billion rubles, which the government matched.

The development of unique building materials for use on the polar shelf and in pipelines is the most successful example of public-private cooperation. Private spending to these projects was three times the size of the public contribution.

The following is a list of some of the achievements reported by Russian researchers in recent months. It should be remembered that the Academy of Sciences pursues fundamental studies practically across the whole range of science. The following selection is therefore not exhaustive, and reflects achievements in fields most familiar to this writer or representing sufficient public interest.

* The St. Petersburg Influenza Research Institute and the Organic Synthesis Institute of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in the Urals have developed a wide-spectrum anti-viral preparation called Triazoverin, which is also effective against the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus. Clinical tests have shown it effectively suppresses virus reproduction.

More than 240 chemicals were tested to develop the medicine, which has no equivalent abroad and is equally effective against infection whatever its gravity or stage.

Professor Alan Hay, director of the WHO World Influenza Centre, considers the development of the preparation one of the greatest achievements of Russian science and believes it could be used to protect humankind against a coming flu pandemic.

* In 2007, the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Cytology was given official go-ahead to manufacture and use its newly developed dermal equivalent (DE), which has proved effective in healing derma (deep-skin) burns.

The derma is a particularly important layer of skin that underlies the upper fabric. The DE is a combination of collagen gel (which acts as the “substratum”) and skin-forming cells or fibroblasts. Its application has already saved people with 90% to 98% skin burns. The DE can also be used to treat trophic ulcers, fistulas and bedsores.

Next on the agenda is the development of a full skin equivalent – a combination of the DE and a multi-layer package of ceratinocytes, which can effectively treat different skin lesions.

* In January, Sweden’s Royal Academy of Sciences decided to award the Crafoord Prize (second in importance only to the Nobel Prize) to Rashid Syunyaev, chief researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute. The prize was given for his decisive contribution to high-energy astrophysics and cosmology, particularly a study of processes occurring in the vicinity of black holes and neutron stars.

Among professionals Mr Syunyaev is known as the first person to “have seen” black holes. He showed that matter falling into a black hole or onto a neutron star forms a fast-rotating disk, and begins to emit high-energy photons as it accelerates.

In recent years the team of Russian scientists led by Syunyaev has been able to practically double the number of previously registered neutron stars and black holes.

Being the first to map three most interesting areas of the sky (within the Russian quota of the Integral observatory’s observation time), they detected and identified 135 point sources of hard X-ray radiation.

They have also discovered a specific population of X-ray objects wrapped up in a dense envelope of dust and gas. Their work has also revealed for the first time hard X-ray radiation from a gigantic molecular cloud in Sagittarius, which is most likely a light echo of the activity of a super-massive black hole.

A new class of neutron stars, which absorb matter from super-dense stellar winds, has also been discovered.

* The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has awarded the Bruno Rossi Prize to Alexei Vikhlinin and Maxim Markevich, members of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute, for their work to determine the Universe’s parameters from data on galactic clusters. This prize is awarded annually “for a considerable contribution to high-energy astrophysics”. The focus is usually put on recent original studies.

The Russian scientists have graphically demonstrated that so-called dark matter, which makes up more than 80% of the mass of galactic clusters, behaves almost like a non-interacting environment.

X-ray and optical observations of two merging clusters have shown that galaxies and dark matter freely “interpenetrate” each other, whereas flows of gas consisting of conventional protons and electrons are braked to form a huge cloud of hot plasma between the clusters.

Another important achievement has been exact measurement of the masses of galactic clusters at gigantic (~1029 km) distances from the Earth, and counting up the number of clusters of various masses in our closest neighborhood and in the “younger” Universe.

These measurements are essential for calculating the parameters of the modern Universe and, specifically, the properties of “dark energy”, which is supposed to determine the rate of the universe’s expansion.

The work done by the Russian scientists has graphically demonstrated the tremendous potential of X-ray cluster observations for “precision” cosmology – the measurement of the Universe’s cosmological parameters with an accuracy of a few percentage points.

* New data has been obtained from the Venus Express mission. Russian scientists have taken the most direct role in devising observation instruments and programs for the mission.

From orbit around Venus the apparatus made the first observations of the Venusian atmosphere from its upper layers practically down to its bottom.

The results obtained suggest that Venus resembles Earth not only in size, but also in the processes that once took place on its surface. The structure and movement of the Venusian atmosphere are now understood so well that we can map its temperature chart to the highest modern standards.

Instruments also determined the content of the atmosphere over different parts of the planet, and confirmed the presence of lightning on Venus, which may have a telling effect on atmospheric chemistry.

* Last year, St Petersburg’s Ioffe Physics and Technical Institute reported further advances in improving the performance of one of the most important elements of a fusion reactor – a tokamak. Today, the world has 300 different tokamaks, built to study controlled thermonuclear fusion. This reaction is the opposite of what happens in traditional nuclear reactors: nuclei fuse rather than divide, releasing enormous amounts of energy.

The Institute’s tokamak is an experimental model. It cannot initiate fusion, but it gives scientists an opportunity to study the processes that occur in a tokamak, and to test structural components for a larger reactor.

Specifically, scientists have devised a plasma gun, a device which injects the working gases – hydrogen and tritium – the fuel for the fusion reactor – into the tokamak. Their gun has already attracted worldwide attention, attracting several bids to buy it.

But no one is going to sell the technology as yet: the current priority is to bring the research to its logical conclusion. The technology has not yet been pushed to its limit. If the plasma’s injection rate is increased to 800 or 1,000 kilometers per second, the gun could rival the tried and tested, but less forward-looking, technology of fuel feeding at the $12bn International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor ITER in France.

* St Petersburg scientists have also been investigating the atomic structure of a new mineral (called krivovichevite) found in the Khibiny Mountains on the Kola Peninsula. A crystalline analysis of the mineral suggests that it is an intermediate form of lead. However, its instability (the mineral degrades on exposure to water) suggests that its next phase must be stable and highly toxic, in which lead is present in the atmospheric air and water. A study of the common features of krivovichevite and its atmospheric phase could show scientists how to “intercept” or “encapsulate” lead before it reaches the atmosphere (for example, from copper-nickel or sulphide deposits) and pollutes it.

* Scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of High-Molecular Compounds have combined useful properties of two different polymer classes. In 2007, they synthesized a polyamide that enjoys both high temperature and crack resistance and the ability to crystallize. Unlike its American “rival” ULTEM, produced by General Electric, which begins to disintegrate above 2150C, the new polyamide is in crystalline state at low temperatures, starts to devitrify at 2150C and does not begin to melt until 3150C. It is the ability to crystallize, which the scientists “grafted” onto polyamide that helps it withstand elevated temperatures.

* Non-biodegradable synthetic polymers brought about a revolution in human life in the 20th century. But their application created a global ecological problem, that of “polymer junk”, which can be solved only by adopting polymers able to degrade into benign by-products. Such polymers are currently being developed at the Biophysics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Siberia.

Its scientists have shown that a bottle made from the biodegradable plastic they invented can “dissolve itself” in a water pond within three to four months (depending on water temperature and mineral content).

* Scientists from the Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics and the Moscow Physics and Technical Institute have calculated the amount of methane released into the atmosphere in the second half of the 20th century. Methane is the third-ranking greenhouse gas in the world. A warmer climate could cause changes in the methane cycle with global effects. Permafrost, which covers some two-thirds of Russia’s territory, is one of the main sources of methane. If it melts, excessive quantities of methane will enter the atmosphere, a situation scientists call a “methane bomb”. A 1-degree change in temperature over the entire Earth’s surface could increase methane release by an average of 7%. Increased oil and gas production could also lead to more methane emitted into the air.

Now, to sum up, two more events that can be highlighted either as major achievements for Russian science or sensational scandals.

* In July 2007, news broke that the Russian submersibles Mir-1 and Mir-2 had dived four kilometers below the North Pole, set up a titanium Russian tricolor on the ocean bed, and successfully resurfaced. “Our mission was to remind the world that Russia is a great polar and research power,” said Artur Chilingarov, the expedition leader. In other words, it was to tell a special UN commission that the underwater Mendeleyev and Lomonosov ridges were a continuation of the Siberian continental shelf. In that way, Russia could extend the borders of its Arctic shelf and at the same time claim exclusive rights to 10 billion tons of hydrocarbons below the seabed. Russia would also retain full control of the Northern Sea Route, the shortest distance from Europe to America and Asia, which with continued warming could soon be free of ice all year round. But the world received Russia’s “patriotic campaign” with mixed feelings.

* In September 2007, Russia tested a vacuum bomb containing an explosive developed with the help of nanotechnologies that is more destructive than TNT. Compared with an American device known as the “mother of all bombs”, the Russian bomb contains less explosive (7.1 tons compared with 8.2 tons in the American weapon) but has four times more power, 20 times the area of destruction and twice the ground zero temperature. Its developers have dubbed it the “father of all bombs”.

Yury Zaitsev is an adviser at the Russian Academy of Engineering Sciences.

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Russian explorers defy dangers to reach top of the world

Posted by Kris Roman on March 21, 2008

Russian explorers defy dangers to reach top of the world 

Two Russian explorers have set a world record by reaching the North Pole during the Polar night. It took them 84 days in unimaginable cold – but they did it!

Matvey Shparo and Boris Smolin travelled more than one thousand kilometres in pitch darkness. They completed their hazardous trek, although disaster almost struck – on two occasions Shparo fell through thin ice into the icy Arctic waters.“When my son called me on the phone, he said that their flashlights could only cover about three metres because of the severe weather conditions. Imagine, what may happen if a polar bear approaches you and you can’t see or hear him,” said Dmitry Shparo, Matvey’s father.Their plan was to reach the North Pole by the first sunrise of the year, scheduled for today, March 21. However the pair beat their estimated arrival time by a week and are now waiting to be picked up from the Pole by special service helicopters from the mainland.Their journey began on December 22 last year.During the course of their journey, they had to battle freezing temperatures, the lack of light and frostbite.They say they are now looking forward to a hot shower, a clean shave and a kiss from their wives.

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