The strongest

How did the humanity fight dangerous viruses in different eras?

Reading time 6 minutes

When the coronovirus epidemic walks around the world, it’s time to recall what diseases people have already defeated. In the article we will tell you who, how and when saved the humanity from epidemics.

Plague

According to historians, up to 300 million people died from the plague. The disease was rolling in wave during the Middle Ages and the New Age. The most ferocious pandemics are the Justinian plague in the 6th-8th centuries and the “Black Death” in the 14th century. More often people got sick with bubonic plague – lymph nodes became inflamed and formed characteristic “buboes”. Pulmonary plague happened less frequently. A person began to cough and spit blood. In the first form, the probability of recovery was 25%, in the second – 0%. All the doctors could do was to protect themselves when approaching a sick patient.

Костюм, который вошёл в культуру Средневековой Европы: кожаные доспехи и маска. В «клюв» доктора закладывали травы, которые обладали антисептическими свойствами. При дыхании они нагревались и испаряли вещества, снижавшие риск заражения
This costume was popular in medieval European culture: leather armor and a mask. Doctors laid herbs in the beak that had antiseptic properties. When breathing, they heated up and vaporized substances that reduced the risk of infection.

We learned how to deal with “black death” in the 20th century. Epidemiologist Vladimir Khavkin created an inactivated vaccine against bubonic plague from temperature-killed plague sticks. The live vaccine was created and tested by the bacteriologist Magdalene Pokrovskaya. In 1947, Soviet scientists from the Red Army Research Institute of Epidemiology and Hygiene developed the antibiotic called streptomycin and began to use it in Manchuria, where an epidemic broke out at that time. All patients who received the new medicine recovered. Today, with proper treatment, 90-95% of patients survive.

Smallpox

Chinese annals mentioned smallpox in 12th century BC. In the 6th century AD, the disease entered Europe. Epidemics happened regularly and claimed up to 40% of patients. The ones who recovered often remained blind and had disfigured scars.

A person who had contracted smallpox usually did not get infected again. A Millennium BC the Chinese instilled a mild form of the disease, so, that a person would not become infected with a serious one. However, the course of the disease was still individual and the person who was vaccinated could die. There were few people who wanted to try their luck, and the disease spread further.

Екатерина II первой в России сделала прививку от оспы. Страна последовала её примеру и в XX веке для поступления в учебное заведение уже требовалась справка о прививке
Catherine II was the first who got smallpox vaccine in Russia. The country followed her example, and in the 20th century a certificate of vaccination was required for admission to an educational institution.

The safest way to protect oneself from smallpox was invented by the British physician Edward Jenner in the 18th century. He suggested that  vaccination from cow smallpox, which was easily tolerated by humans, could protect them from dangerous natural one. The doctor conducted an experiment on May, 14 in 1796. The vaccinated boy remained healthy. Jenner later discovered that a vaccine made using the blood of a previously vaccinated person is just as effective as one made from biomaterial that has been infected directly from a cow. Now, vaccination did not require waiting for rare outbreaks of vaccinia. The last case of smallpox was registered in 1977, and in 1980 the World Health Association announced the victory over the disease.

Poliomyelitis

The developed countries faced epidemics of poliomyelitis in the 20th century. The patients were mostly children under 5 years old. The virus affected the nervous system and the gray matter of the spinal cord. The person was broken by paralysis.

Poliomyelitis is not treatable, but it can be prevented. Salk’s inactivated vaccine was launched in the United States in 1955. At the same time, Virologist Albert Seibin invented a cheaper and more effective live vaccine. Soviet scientists Mikhail Chumakov, Marina Voroshilova and Anatoly Smorodintsev tested it on their children, grandchildren and relatives. The vaccine helped to stop the polio epidemic, which has been affecting the Baltic states since 1949.

Основатель и первый директор Института полиомиелита и вирусных энцефалитов АМН СССР действительный член АМН, профессор Михаил Чумаков за работой
Professor Mikhail Chumakov

In 1988, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on the eradication of poliomyelitis in the world. After this initiative, the number of cases decreased by 99%. Today, the virus persists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

 

Salvatore Ferragamo will restore sculptures in Florence

The fashion house will donate more than 1 million euros

Reading time 3 minutes

Salvatore Ferragamo will contribute more than a million euros to the restoration of sculptures in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Italian fashion house has already donated funds so that the masters can restore the Fountain of Neptune. Over the next three years, it is planned to restore both copies of the statue of David, one of them is located in the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio, and the second – in Piazzale Michelangelo. In addition, the equestrian monument of Cosimo I will be restored, as well as the statues Judith and the Head of Holofernes and Hercules and Cacus.

Fountain of Neptune
The Fountain of Neptune is a fountain in Florence, Italy, situated on the Piazza della Signoria
The Fountain of Neptune is a fountain in Florence, Italy, situated on the Piazza della Signoria

Bartolomeo Ammannati’s Neptune is made of Carrara marble and has the features of Cosimo I de Medici, it overlooks the representation of the two sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis (in Greek mythology, two immortal monsters that assaulted the hero Odysseus and his sailors in the wanderings described in Homer’s Odyssey) and is surrounded by satyrs and sea horses, the fountain was built for the marriage of François 1er de Medici who would in turn become Grand Duke of Tuscany and was the eldest son of Cosimo I.

The statue of David

Michelangelo’s David is one of the masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. During that period, sculptors such as Donatello, Ghiberti and Verrocchio produced works inspired by the Bible where David was shown after having beheaded Goliath. However, Michelangelo chose to represent the moment before the combat. Young David is ready to strike the giant holding a stone in his right hand with a sling resting on his left shoulder.

There are three copies of Michelangelo’s David in the city. The original one can be found in the Accademia Gallery. The second copy is located in Piazza della Signoria just opposite to the Palazzo Vecchio. The third replica is in the middle of Piazzale Michelangelo.

Judith and Holofernes
A copy stands in Piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio
A copy stands in Piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio

Judith and Holofernes, completed around 1460 is a masterpiece by Donatello. Under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II, there lived in Samaria, present-day Israel, a beautiful widow named Judith. The king’s general, named Holofernes, besieged the city where Judith lived. The situation was critical. Judith dressed in her finest attire and took some liquor and delicacies. She went to see Holophernes. The latter, charmed by her beauty, invited her under his tent. Judith made him drink and, taking advantage of his drunkenness, cut his head. By doing that she terrified the soldiers and saved her city. This precise moment is represented there by the artist.

Hercules and Cacus
Statue of Hercules and Cacus in Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, Italy
Statue of Hercules and Cacus in Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, Italy

When the Medici family (late 14th and 15th centuries) returned from exile in 1530, they instructed Baccio Bandinelli to create the statue of Hercules defeating the giant Cacus. It illustrates the victory of the Medici House. Among the members of the royal family were several dukes, two French queens and four Catholic popes.

Salvador Dali exhibition through the Curator’s eyes

A win-win combination for the immortal glory

Reading time 4 minutes

On January, 28, the large exhibition “Salvador Dali. Magical art ” opened its doors to the public in Moscow Manege. Everyone, like Elvis Presley, knows him. Thanks to bewitching paintings, mustache sharp as rapiers and a laid-back walk with an anteater. Painter, graphic artist, fashion designer, sculptor, performer and animator, he staged the ballet “Mad Tristan” and painted the ChupaChups logo, without changing himself.

Monsa Ager, the director of the Dali Museum, helped us to understand better the blossoming complexity of the creator.

In search of immortality

I would call Dali a true universal creator: an artist, graphic artist, sculptor, someone who can translate reality into a completely different plane. But first of all, he is a painter. Interested in classicism, the Renaissance, science, mysticism, he was able to achieve a triumph in surrealism, but did not stop there. He worked with well-known fashion houses, painted the covers of magazines and created jewelry.

He was a humble man who understood that creating a shocking image was simply necessary for his art. All his life, a struggle of becoming as good as his brother, followed him. His name was also Salvador (he died nine months before the birth of the future artist). In his autobiography, Salvador Dali wrote that he had been searching for real faith all his life, but never found a suitable one. Science gave more answers, considering that the artist aspired to immortality. And working on his art, he earned the immortality.

Dali’s secret is kept in the ability to reflect the anxieties of people, their dreams and fears in a very realistic way. When you look at the work of Salvador, you always see elements that cause discomfort, it is impossible to look at them calmly. So, the artist provokes the viewer to play a game. He arouses curiosity. At first glance, it seems that everything is clear in the picture, but then we go deeper and deeper into this tricky game, noticing all the new elements, details and symbols. As a result, the artist leads us into this complex maze and leaves us alone with ourselves and our thoughts. And whether you get out of this labyrinth or not, it is up you.

Symbols

Clock is a favorite Dali’s symbol. The artist was fascinated by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The shape of the clock in his work is fluid and unstable. It shows the master’s interest in the contrast between the soft and hard state of the object.

The Persistence of Memory, 1931
The Persistence of Memory, 1931

The perspective plays a very important role in all Dali’s works. It is an indicator of both time and the depth of a person’s subconscious.

Double images are constantly hidden on his canvases. Perhaps most often they appear as a self-portrait of the artist. This is probably a type of narcissism: Dali was constantly ill in childhood, so he was given a lot of attention – family, doctors, relatives – he still had a need for constant care until his death.

The Invisible Man, 1929-1933
The Invisible Man, 1929-1933

A face with an airplane is the image of a just dropped atomic bomb, which instantly explodes in the right corner, right next to a clock twisted into a tube and a human figure. It instantly affects the world, the passage of time and a human life. Other watches are leaning against the head. They flow down, hinting that the idea of the length of time after the appearance of the atomic bomb has changed.

Melancholy Atomic, 1945
Melancholy Atomic, 1945

Tears, a sad blue face and shadows demonstrate the artist’s attempt to find a place for his art in a new world.

Cracked elements such as vases, clocks, columns represent unbearable human pain.

Color and the turn of the head are homage to Diego Velazquez. Dali turned to his works quite often in the last period of the career.

Seated Figure Contemplating a 'Great Tapeworm Masturbator', 1981
Seated Figure Contemplating a ‘Great Tapeworm Masturbator’, 1981

Vertical figures in the background are cypress trees, which the hero of the picture (presumably Salvador Dali himself) reproduces from his childhood memories. He saw them through the window at school.

The male figure on the left – Dali himself, young, twenty-year-old. His whole life is yet to come. Light stripes symbolize good memories from life, dark ones – awareness of the inevitable end.

Portrait of Gala with Rhinocerotic Symptoms, 1954
Portrait of Gala with Rhinocerotic Symptoms, 1954

Recognizable features of Gala can also be considered as a certain symbol – inexhaustible love, passion, inspiration and sex. They appear in his works throughout his entire life – sometimes with a naked torso, then with a portrait, sometimes she is only taken apart into elements – but Gala is always recognizable.

 

British scientists shocked!

It turned out that the ancient Celtic warriors fought with willow bark shields

Reading time 4 minutes

In Leicestershire, England, researchers discovered a 2300-year-old shield that was made from tree bark. This fossil is the only specimen of such a shield of the territory of Europe.

The shield dates back to 395–250 BC. Archaeologists say that the discovery drastically changed their ideas about weapons of the Iron Age and caused a heated discussion between experts.

Щит сохранился благодаря оставлению в заболоченной яме
The shield is preserved because it was left in a marshy pit. (Photo: University of Leicester)

“This is certainly an amazing object, one of the most iconic and world-important finds I have seen in all my work,” admitted Julia Farley, curator of British and European Iron Age collections in the British Museum.

In 2015, researchers from the University of Leicester Archaeological Service near the Soar River found a shield. According to Matt Beamish, the chief archaeologist of the study, objects from natural materials of this time are extremely rarely preserved, but the shield has survived in marshy soil. Maybe he was specially placed in a water-filled pit.

Matt Beamish added that shields from the bark of that period had never been found in the northern hemisphere before. It was assumed that the wood material was too flimsy for use in wars. However, the reconstruction of weapons from alder and willow proved that the 3 mm thick shield was light but reliable enough in the battles of that time. According to Beamish, contrary to researchers’ assumptions, such weapons were widespread in that period.

Процесс реконструкции найденного щита из ольхи и ивы
Alder and willow shield reconstruction process (Photo: University of Leicester)

The weapon is made of green bark, which is reinforced from the inside with slats of the same material. The main part is surrounded by a rim of hazel and wicker willow. Matt Beamish noted that “this is a lost technology,” which was not known before. Apparently, this technique was used in many areas for the manufacture of products from the bark.

Supple green tree, giving the shield strength and shape that remotely resembles the figure eight

“It was important,” says Farley. According to her, the Battersea shield had a similar shape. It was extracted from the Thames in the middle of the 19th century and dates from the same period.

Щит Баттерси
Battersea Shield (Photo: British Museum)

Farley argues that the visual world of the Iron Age is lost for us, since from the period 395-250 BC few artifacts left. She added that a new find for her is “a small window into that world.” For Farley, this awareness is “incredible and so exciting.”

The shield was donated to the British Museum. Farley hopes that the shield will be exhibited in the museum next year.

Holocaust through the prism of modernity

The story of 13-year-old Hungarian Jew Eva Heyman recreated in Instagram

Reading time 5 minutes

The story of the Jewish girl Eva Heyman, who died in the Auschwitz camp in 1944, was brought to live in Instagram. The creators of the project showed what would be the life of Eva if she posted on her social media everything she had been going through.  

«The Nazis conquered us»

The eva.stories project recreates the events which Eva wrote about in her diary. It consists of 70 short videos that reflect the life of a Jewish family during the war years. Everything is depicted in insta-stories format, in the profile, the authors of the project posted only a poster and a trailer. The role of Eva Heyman is played by British actress Mia Quiney.

View this post on Instagram

Eva.Stories Official Trailer

A post shared by Eva (@eva.stories) on

War first comes to Eva’s family when her cousin gets deported to Poland. After some time, the accomplices of the Nazis come to the pharmacy of the Eva’s grandfather and confiscate it in favor of the government. The decisive moment for Eva Heyman’s fate is the day when she sees the incoming Nazi army. From now on, she promises subscribers to broadcast everything that happens. The girl shows the details of life with a yellow star on her chest. In the ghetto.

Ева Хейман, жертва Холокоста
Eva Heyman is a Holocaust victim whose story served as a reminder of the tragedy

The project was sponsored by the Israeli businessman Mati Kochavi and his daughter Maya. It was launched on May 2nd, Holocaust Memorial Day. Before filming the story of Heyman, Mati and Maya Kochavi looked through about 30 diaries written by the victims of those events. But Eva’s diary stood out for its modernity and simpleness.

Злосчастная желтая звезда, которую евреи впоследствии были обязаны нашивать на наиболее заметные места своей одежды, стала самым зримым символом нацистского антисемитизма.
The Yellow star – a symbol of Nazi antisemitism, all Jews were obliged to sew it on prominent places of clothing

Before launching the eva.stories the authors widely announced the project both on street billboards and in social media. The initiative was supported by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. The account was also noted by different celebrities in their profiles, including the actress Gal Gadot («Wonder Woman») and the stand-up comedian Sarah Silverman. As a result, the account had around 200.000 followers before it was even launched. Now Eva’s profile has about 1.7 million subscribers.

Билборд с рекламой Instagram-аккаунта Eva.stories
The billboard advertising the Eva.stories Instagram account

The initiator and producer of the project Mati Kochavi believes that the world is beginning to forget about the terrible events of the Holocaust. That is why he created the project and invested about $5 million in it. Neither the government nor any organizations financed the creation of Eva’s profile.

Although, there are some critics on the way. Disputes in the comments under the publications in Eva’s profile do not cease. Users think that the profile is not serious enough. Critics of the project reckon that it is inappropriate to use Emoji, stickers and hashtags when it comes to the Holocaust. Many also criticize the implausibility of Eva’s modern story. For instance, how did the girl manage to charge the phone if there was no electricity in the ghetto?

According to Maya Kochavi, their team was expecting this kind of reaction as well. However, Kochavi family is convinced that they chose the best way to address the situation: the problem of antisemitism does not lose its relevance. Instagram platform was chosen for a reason: it was important to bring the issue to the younger generation.

T-Rex found new relatives

Recently discovered fossils have filled the missing link in dinosaur evolution

Reading time 5 minutes

Paleontologists recently announced in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution that the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex evolved from dinosaurs as tall as a small child.

Newly discovered dinosaur, called Suskityrannus hazelae, weighed approximately from 20 to 40 pounds. Its height reached only 90 centimeters. Tyrannosaurus Rex weighed about 9 tons and had a length of about 12 meters.

The lead author of the study, Sterling Nesbitt, a paleontologist from Virginia Tech in the US, said that the fossils of the cousin of Tyrannosaurus Rex represent one of the best examples of how a smaller family of dinosaurs evolved into monstrous superhuman.

Fossilized bones of S. hazelae, which existed about 92 million years ago on the territory of modern Western new Mexico (Photo: VIRGINIA TECH)
Fossilized bones of S. hazelae, which existed about 92 million years ago on the territory of modern Western new Mexico (Photo: VIRGINIA TECH)

«A small group of dinosaurs spawned the biggest predators we’ve ever seen», Nesbitt said.

On Monday, it was reported that Suskityrannus hazelae is an intermediate between smaller tyrannosaurs and giant, the last surviving members of the species.

«Suskityrannus is a key link between bone huge dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus Rex and smaller types from which they evolved», said Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist from the University of Edinburgh. He added: «The New species shows that tyrannosaurs developed many of their characteristic features, such as a muscular skull, a wide mouth, and cushioning legs when they were still small».

The scientist shows how small a part of the skull of S. hazelae is compared to the casting of the full-size part of the jaw of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (Photo: VIRGINIA TECH)
The scientist shows how small a part of the skull of S. hazelae is compared to the casting of the full-size part of the jaw of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (Photo: VIRGINIA TECH)

It is believed that Suskityrannus hazelae existed 92 million years ago, about 20 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Nesbitt says he first discovered the incomplete skeleton of Suskityrannus hazelae in new Mexico in 1997 and another more complete specimen in 1998. But in the decades that followed, scientists weren’t sure what it was until other fossils of smaller Tyrannosaurus Rex brethren were discovered.

Nesbitt found fossils of S. hazelae in 1997 when he was a teenager (Photo: hazel wolf)

Another tiny relative of Rex, Moros the Fearless, was discovered in February and is believed to have lived 96 million years ago.

«Suskityrannus gives us an idea of the evolution of tyrannosaurs just before they took over the planet», Nesbitt said.

The report notes that Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed the earth for only 15 million years before the species was destroyed. Smaller tyrannosaurs are thought to have existed 150 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex. Incomplete paleontological data make it difficult to determine how dinosaur species evolved during this period of time.

Although the discovery helps to understand how Tyrannosaurus Rex evolved, paleontologists say it is still unclear why small carnivorous dinosaurs evolved to become so large.

Why didn’t Leonardo da Vinci finish the Mona Lisa?

Scientists have found the cause of the damage to the artist's hand

Reading time 6 minutes

Leonardo da Vinci could damage the nerve in the fall, which prevented him from drawing in the last years of life, suggest Italian doctors. They diagnosed the artist with elbow paralysis, analyzing the image of his right hand in two works.

Previously, it was assumed that the damage to Leonardo’s hand caused a stroke. But in the study published in the journal of the Royal medical society, doctors made an alternative assumption. The researchers believe that one of the hands of da Vinci began to function poorly due to nerve damage. This meant that he could no longer hold the palette and brush in his right hand.

Leonardo da Vinci, who lived from 1452-1519, was an artist and inventor whose talents spanned architecture, anatomy, engineering and sculpture, as well as painting. But experts have long argued to what extent Leonardo was Ambidextrous. And, although he was more skilled in drawing with his left hand, it is believed that he drew only with his right. A separate study published last month confirmed this theory.

Experts have confirmed that the 500-year-old engraving – a rare image of Leonardo da Vinci

To learn more about what caused Leonardo’s injury, the authors of the research published in the journal of the Royal medical society studied a number of historical artifacts. Among them was an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi in 1505 depicting a man playing the lyre da braccio – a stringed instrument of The Renaissance. The man in the print was recently identified as Leonardo da Vinci. This suggests that at this time he made good use of both hands, the researchers said.

Scientists have analyzed and portrait of an elderly Leonardo, written by Giovanni Ambrogio Figino, an artist who worked in Milan. According to the analysis, the picture of the Renaissance man held his right hand in a «hard, compressed position».

Sketch of Leonardo da Vinci with the image of his «clawed hand»

Dr. Davide Lazzeri, a specialist in plastic reconstructive and aesthetic surgery at the Villa Salaria clinic in Rome, who led the analysis, said: «Instead of portraying the typical clenched arm observed in post-stroke muscle spasticity (a state of increased muscle tone), the picture offers an alternative diagnosis, such as elbow paralysis, commonly known as clawed arm».

The ulnar nerve passes from the shoulder to the little finger and controls almost all of the internal muscles of the arm, which allow fine motor skills to work, so, a fall could cause shoulder injury, leading to paralysis or weakness.

Dr. Lazzery added that there are no reports of other motor disorders, which further confirms that it is unlikely that the stroke was the cause of damage to Leonardo’s hand.

Another evidence confirming the alternative version is a diary entry of one of Leonardo’s students about a visit to the artist’s house in 1517. The disciple Antonio de Beatis wrote: «you can Not expect better work from him, since his right hand is paralyzed. And although Messer Leonardo can no longer draw with his inherent sweetness, he can still create and teach others».

Experts believe that Leonardo da Vinci could leave the «Mona Lisa» unfinished due to injury of his right hand

«It would be interesting to examine Leonardo’s skeleton to verify at least the presence of fractures or injuries», – said Lazzeri.

The study may continue work on why Leonardo did not finish a number of paintings, including his portrait of the Mona Lisa.

«Five centuries after his death, during which thousands of scientists read his works, discussed his discoveries and explored his life from all points of view, there is still a lot that we need to learn about Leonardo da Vinci, a man of the Renaissance», – said Lazzery.

The most expensive mistakes of space engineers

How one bug in the program and confusion of meters and feet can cost millions of dollars

Reading time 6 minutes

Developers of space projects sometimes make expensive mistakes. Let’s recall the five largest engineering errors of the space era.

Rocket «Mariner 1»
Ракета «Маринер-1»
Rocket «Mariner 1». Ph: NASA

Mariner 1 is the first apparatus of the NASA’s «Mariner» project (automatic interplanetary probes designed to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury), the launch of which was scheduled on July 22, 1962. The apparatus was supposed to fly to Venus, however, after 293 seconds it deviated from the course, and was destroyed over the Atlantic ocean. According to the official version, the programmer made a mistake while translating the handwritten formula into a computer code: he mistook the index symbol for a regular dash. As a result, the on-Board computer software perceived normal speed jumps as critical, which led to a failure. The accident could not have happened, but the device’s antenna lost contact with the guidance system on the Ground, and the program automatically moved to plan «B». The engineering error cost $18.5 million, which the New York Times called «the most expensive dash in history».

 

Space station «Skylab»
Станция «Скайлэб»
Skylab space station. Ph: NASA

Skylab is the United States orbital station launched in 1873 (the first and only one). It was designed for Earth observation, astrophysical, technological, and biomedical researchs. Before the destruction, it held three space expedition, however, due to increased solar activity, it went off the orbit in 1979. The lowering of the Skylab accelerated, and since the station did not have its own engine, it was not possible to raise it to another orbit. According to the forecasts of the mission control Center, the station was to enter the Earth’s atmosphere on July 11, 1979 and sink for 1300 kilometers in South Cape Town. But the inaccuracy in the calculations by 4% led to the fall of some wreckage of the station in Western Australia. The damage from premature destruction was estimated at $10 million.

Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope. Ph: NASA

Hubble was launched in 1990, but immediately there was a problem in its work: the telescope transmitted a blurred image. After checking, it turned out that edges of the telescope’s main  mirror were too flat, making the telescope «myopic». NASA scientists have developed a program for image processing and, at first glance, the problem was solved. But few months later, other problems were discovered (gyro failures, problems with solar panels and computer malfunctions), and NASA organized three space expeditions to eliminate those defects. One of them brought «glasses» for the telescope — optical correction system COSTAR. Manufacturing and delivering of «glasses» have cost NASA 49.9 million dollars, while since the beginning of telescope’s construction there were spent 6 billion dollars.

Mars Climate Orbiter
Аппарат «Mars Climate Orbiter»
Mars Climate Orbiter. Ph: NASA

Mars Climate Orbiter is an apparatus studying the Martian climate, which was launched by NASA on December 11, 1998. The main objective of the apparatus is to picture the surface of Mars and to study the dynamics of its atmosphere. Nine months later the unit arrives to the planet, turns on braking and begins to move on highly elliptical orbit. According to the calculations of engineers, the device was supposed to change the orbit to circular and to begin research two months later. However, 5 minutes after the start of braking the apparatus passed Mars and never sent any signals. After analyzing the errors, it turned out that the NASA team calculated the parameters of the decisive stage of the flight in the metric system, and the engineers of Lockheed Martin — in the British system (pound-force). As a result, the device crossed the orbit for 53 kilometers lower than required and disintegrated in the atmosphere of Mars; the loss amounted to $193.1 million.

Satellite «NOAA-19»
Спутник «NOAA-19»
Satellite«NOAA-19». Ph: NASA

The accident is not related to the software, but to ordinary sloppiness. In 2003, September 6, during the construction of the satellite, engineers have tried to move it to a horizontal position, but the device collapsed to the floor. The investigation determined that shortly before failure the technician has pulled from the truck 24 screws and has not documented it, but other staff did not check the presence of screws either. As a result, $135 million were spent to repair the satellite.

 

 

There were more of us than we thought!

A new species of human was discovered in the Philippine cave

Reading time 5 minutes

During excavations in the Philippines, scientists discovered bones and teeth of a presumably new species of man. Based on fragments of bones and teeth found on the island of Luzon, the researchers established that our distant relatives were just over a meter tall and had several APE-like features.

Archaeologist Armand Salvador Mijares made the first discovery in 2007. He was excavating a cave in Callao and found a finger bone. «There’s something wrong with that bone»,- he told NPR, and continued digging.

Callao caves on the island of Luzon, where scientists discovered the remains of ancient people (Photo: archaeologists of the Callao cave)

In the study published in the journal Nature, scientists describe a finding of seven teeth and six bones that belonged to at least three human individuals. They were found in the cave in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Tests on two samples determined the approximate age of the fossils which was 50 000-67 000 years. This finding is another reminder that we, Homo sapiens, are the only surviving species of our branch on the evolutionary tree.

A range of upper teeth of Homo luzonensis (Photo: archaeologists of the Callao cave)

Expert Matthew Tohiri of the University of Lakehead in thunder Bay (Ontario), says that the discovery makes the origin of man in Asia «more confusing, more complex and much more interesting».

Analysis of bones from Luzon showed that they belonged to a previously unknown link Homo of our branch of the family tree. According to the researchers, the type and shape of the bones are different from what was found earlier in the family Homo. The new species was given the name Homo luzonensis.

Toe bone belonging to Homo luzonensis (Photo: archaeologists of the Callao cave)

One of the authors of the study, Florent Detroit from the National Museum of natural history in Paris, reported that the found species of man used stone tools. Since the teeth found were small, the species most likely had a small height.

Luzonensis Homo were living in Eastern Asia about the same time as other members of the branch of Homo, including Neanderthals, their obscure Siberian cousins the denisovans and hobbits miniature from the island of Flores in Indonesia.

There is no indication that Homo luzonensis has crossed paths with any other member of the Homo group, Detroit pointed out in an email to the Associated Press. He added that some human relative had been on Luzon more than 700,000 years ago, as evidenced by the presence of stone tools and the found skeleton of a butchered rhinoceros Dating back to the same time. It could be a new species or its ancestor.

It is not clear how Homo luzonensis is related to other Homo species. The species could have originated from an earlier human ancestor, Homo erectus, who somehow crossed the sea and ended up in Luzon.

Michael Petraglia of the German max Planck Institute believes that the discovery of Luzon «shows that we still know very little about human evolution, especially in Asia». More such discoveries are likely to emerge during further work in a region that has not yet been sufficiently explored.

Why did ancient whales need hooves?

The whale that was found off the coast of South America creates riddles

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Scientists have found that a giant fossil at the age of 42.6 million years led a semi-aquatic lifestyle (it was found in marine sediments along the coast of Peru). According to the shape of the animal’s limbs, scientists can assume that it carried the weight of its four-meter body and walked on the ground. Other anatomical features, including a powerful tail and webbed feet, make it clear that the animal was able to swim well.

Fossil whale lived about 43 million years ago

“The evolution of whales is the best documented example of macroevolution from small hoofed mammals to the giants of the ocean that we know and love today,” says Dr. Travis Park from the New York Natural History Museum. “However, despite the fact that the fossils are well known at different stages, there are still questions about the routes of ancient whales – how did their population spread around the world?”

“Other findings from this time are more fragmented and less completed,” says Olivier Lambert of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, the first author of the study in Current Biology. He adds: “We think that whales fed in the aquatic environment, where it is easier to move.”

Recent evidence suggests that ancient whales could swim for several days and weeks and retain the ability to move on land.

“Although whale could swim, it still had small hooves on its upper and lower limbs. It was much better for seals to move over land, ”says Park. The sharp teeth and the long muzzle of the animal indicate that ancient whales may have fished or crustaceans.

Scientists brought in special digital devices to document discoveries (Photo: Smithsonian Institution)
Scientists brought in special digital devices to document discoveries (Photo: Smithsonian Institution)

Earlier, more ancient remains of whales, dating back 53 million years, were found in India and Pakistan. Scientists argued when and how whales appeared near the Americas. Now we can roughly set the time when the first whales crossed the South Atlantic. This movement was facilitated by the western currents and the fact that the distance between the continents was half that of today.

The last few caudal vertebrae of the skeleton are lost, so it is unclear whether the creature on the tail had a large fin. This fin allows some modern whales to reach speeds of over 48 km per hour.

The most complete skeletons help scientists figure out how animals actually looked (Photo: Smithsonian Institution)
The most complete skeletons help scientists figure out how animals actually looked (Photo: Smithsonian Institution)

According to Lambert, it is likely that the whales returned to dry land in order to produce offspring. The first fully aquatic whales date from about 41-35 million years BC and fill a niche that remained free about 66 million years ago, when the last sea reptiles died out along with land dinosaurs.