Looking into the cosmos and micro-world
[b]Belarusian scientists and industrialists produce unique devices to study the Earth and the Universe [/b]The Large Hadron Collider, built near Geneva, at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), is known worldwide. The international scientific society is keen to discover answers to the most intricate questions of our Universe. Its atomic particles collide at maximum speed — achieved by generating a huge electromagnetic field (in a large circle underground). After colliding, new, previously unknown particles should emerge, as seen in the first moments after the Big Bang — the origin of our Universe. The technology is unrivalled, as we might imagine. Interestingly, Belarusian enterprises took part in its production.
The Large Hadron Collider, built near Geneva, at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), is known worldwide. The international scientific society is keen to discover answers to the most intricate questions of our Universe. Its atomic particles collide at maximum speed — achieved by generating a huge electromagnetic field (in a large circle underground). After colliding, new, previously unknown particles should emerge, as seen in the first moments after the Big Bang — the origin of our Universe. The technology is unrivalled, as we might imagine. Interestingly, Belarusian enterprises took part in its production.
In its hundred year history, Minsk Machine-Tool Plant MZOR has contributed greatly to the manufacture of special high-tech equipment for the processing of large metal components. It has now been awarded a CERN certificate for producing and assembling components for the Large Hadron Collider: elements for two detectors — ATLAS (Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid). This means little to the general public, of course. “MZOR was chosen as an official supplier for CERN,” explains the company’s General Director, Victor Butko. The plant has made eight circular assembly carrier-rings from aluminium alloy for ATLAS, alongside an assembly calorimeter from brass, an interface axis with clamps made of stainless austenitic steel, and a cover plate made of aluminium alloy for CMS. “It’s a real delight and honour for Belarusian tool makers to have helped implement such a major project,” Mr. Butko smiles.
In 2010, experiments involving the Large Hadron Collider should at last give us answers to how the Universe began. Meanwhile, Belarusian scientists have been working with foreign colleagues to decipher the secrets of nuclear particles’ interaction — of huge theoretical and practical significance. A memorandum on mutual understanding was signed between Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences and the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre in January 2010. The document aims to develop joint research and personnel training, as well as the creation of technologies to process and bury radioactive waste. Experiments, seminars and experience exchange are to be organised, with projects financed by the European Commission.
Our study of the micro-world is a reflection of the processes evident in our macro-world — the cosmos. Belarus has been working hard to penetrate its secrets, enabling us to study Earth with new eyes. Such investigations date back to Soviet times; every satellite and spacecraft in orbit used Belarus-made devices. Collaboration continues within the CIS, with Belarusian cosmic research gaining independence in a variety of vectors.
The Belarusian State University’s Scientific-Research Institute of Applied Physical Problems has developed a photo-spectral system to prognose and monitor natural and technogenic catastrophes. This is being installed at the International Space Station (orbiting Earth) in April. Its applications are wide-ranging, allowing us to discover how sandstorms and environmental pollutants (such as oil spills) move, and how forests are affected by pests and wood cutting. “These new cosmic technologies will allow us to regularly survey hazardous processes in the environment and, thereby, take optimal decisions,” explains an employee of the Scientific-Research Institute of Applied Physical Problems, Sergey Khvaley. “We’ll not only be able to identify natural and technogenic catastrophes but forecast their development.”
Belarusian scientists have huge experience of similar equipment making. Mr. Khvaley’s colleagues have already developed a modern spectrophotometric complex, used for forecasting geo-physical catastrophes. Every year, such research gains pace; Belarus is becoming a fully-fledged cosmic state. Recently, the National Space Agency was set up near Minsk; the Centre for Flight Management is soon to start operations. Additionally, the first Belarusian pilotless spacecraft is to be launched in 2010. It is smaller and lighter than other models, with twice the optic resolution. Moreover, its operating life has risen from 5 to 10 years. Its activity is being co-ordinated by the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.
Meteorologists and map compilers, agricultural workers and others are awaiting data from the device. The information obtained in real time from several hundred kilometres above the Earth will allow us to promptly solve the most complicated economic and industrial problems. However, the satellite will be spending just a few minutes a day above Belarus. It makes sense to share data with other states, so that its functions can be used throughout its full orbit; scientific and commercial orders are already forthcoming.
We aren’t seriously considering sending our own cosmonaut into space but, during Soviet times, Belarus sent two of its countrymen on cosmic expeditions. We should not totally exclude the possibility of future trips.
As regards scientific research — regarding the cosmos or medicine — this would be impossible without serious mathematical accompaniment. A decade ago, specialists from the National Academy of Sciences’ United Institute of Informatics Problems joined Russia in creating a supercomputer. This later became ranked among the top 500 in the world. A year later, it was among the top 100 and, since then, has been many times improved. Belarusian scientists are now working on GRID-technologies, which allow us to link supercomputers countrywide (and globally). Many are already connected by fibre-optic lines, which help transfer much information.
The practical applications are limitless. One of the 23 Belarusian polyclinics is linked to the supercomputer, allowing doctors to use a special mathematical programme to process X-ray film (comparing it to a standard X-ray). Meanwhile, surgeons and surgeon-oncologists are using supercomputers to precisely define the size of tumours. Machine builders, in turn, are using the technology to virtually design complex units. Universities use it to teach students and, each year, this list of applications expands. GRID-technologies are also developing in the neighbouring Baltic States and in Poland. Belarusian scientists are actively collaborating with colleagues in the field of super-quick calculations.
By Vladimir Bibikov