Tag Archives: Russia

Two More Mysterious Giant Holes Emerge In Siberia (Pictures)

About two weeks ago, I reported on a giant crater that appeared on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia.

Well, while scientists are still trying to figure out what caused this first crater, two more have been discovered in Siberia.

Crater of Antipayuta

Click to enlarge

This crater was alo discovered on the Yamal peninsula, near the village of Antipayuta (a few hundred miles from the first crater). It measures 50 feet in diameter.

Mikhail Lapsui is a deputy of the regional parliament in the area. He visited this second crater and talked to locals from Antipayuta.

Lapsui reported that locals claimed this crater was formed in September of last year. When he asked about what caused it, he got a number of different stories:

“According to the first, initially at the place was smoking, and then there was a bright flash. In the second version, a celestial body fell there.”

Crater of Nosok

Click to enlarge

The second crater is a bit smaller, measuring just 15 feet across. However, it has an estimated depth of about 200-330 feet and observers say the crater is perfectly cone-shaped. It is located near the village of Nosok, in the Krasnoyarsk region.

One expert in the region had this to say about the strange, cone-shaped crater:

“It is not like this is the work of men, but also doesn’t look like natural formation.”

While no official explanations have been given by scientists studying the craters yet, most theories center around the melting of permafrost in the Siberian tundra. This melting releases gas that was trapped in the ice underground.

As more permafrost melts, the pressure of this gas builds up. Hypothetically, this build-up could cause the ground above it to be ejected if the pressure gets high enough.

Since we reported on the first crater, video has been released showing it in more detail. Check it out below:

Read the original story from the Siberian Times here.

NASA’s Opportunity Rover Just Set the Off-World Driving Distance Record

NASA’s Opportunity rover landed on the surface of Mars in January of 2004. As of Sunday (July 26), the Opportunity rover had driven a total distance of 25 miles (40 kilometers).

Opportunity took the top spot in total off-world distance traveled by surpassing Russia’s Lunokhod 2 lunar rover, which traveled a total distance of 39 kilometers across the surface of the moon between January and May of 1973.

The Russian rover helped to bring about a golden age of space exploration in the 70s. As a sign of respect, the Opportunity rover’s operators decided to commemorate the Russian rover by naming one of the first craters they encountered after it.

Tracing the path that Opportunity has taken since it landed on Mars in 2004. On the left rim of the large Endeavor Crater, you can see the Lunokhod 2 crater. Click to enlarge (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS)

The craziest part of this record is that the Opportunity rover was only expected to travel a short distance when it was first sent to Mars in 2004. Here’s John Callas, who manages the Mars Exploration Project at NASA’s Jet-Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California:

“This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”

The Opportunity rover is collecting data on Mars as part of a long-term plan for a manned mission to the planet around the year 2030.

The infographic below compares the distances driven by different rovers throughout the years. Click to enlarge (courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech):

Read the original story from NASA here.

Intercepted Phone Calls Show Russia Directing Separatists to Seize MH17’s Black Boxes

The Ukrainian government has released recordings of alleged phone calls between pro-Russian separatists discussing the fate of Malaysian Flight MH17’s black boxes.

Ukrainian security officials released the tapes on Sunday, claiming that they proved Russia had directed the separatists to find and hide the black boxes.

The call is between Alexander Khodakovsky, leader of the Vostok (East) battalion of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and one of his men (“Oleksiy”) at the crash site. You can listen to the conversations below:

In the first of the recordings, Khodakovsky urges Oleksiy to find MH17’s black boxes, saying,

“Do it really quick, urgently. Moscow is asking where the boxes are… [they] must be under our control”.

In a second call less than an hour later, Khodakovsky talks to another man at the crash site (“Andriy”), telling him,

“I have a request for you. It is not my request. Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the black boxes. I mean people from Moscow.”

He also tells Andriy to,

“Try to take everything that you find so that it doesn’t get into somebody else’s hands.”

Around the time that the recordings were released, Reuters released footage of what appears to be the black boxes being removed from the crash site by the separatists:

Earlier this morning, the news service Interfax reported that rebel Russian separatists in Ukraine had handed over the black boxes to Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee.

Andrei Purgin is the self-proclaimed deputy prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the separatist government in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. Purgin told Interfax:

“Of course, we most likely will give them [the black boxes] to the Interstate Aviation Committee, to Moscow. High-level experts, who will be able to determine exactly the reason of the catastrophe, work there.”

So it seems that the black boxes are on their way to Moscow, if they’re not there already. This will definitely raise a lot more suspicion about Russia’s involvement in the MH17 tragedy.

But, for the sake of objectivity, it is definitely worth noting that these tapes have not been independently verified yet, and are being released by the Ukrainian government, who has every reason in the world to want Russia to be responsible for the tragedy.

That doesn’t mean I believe the tapes are fabricated- it’s just a reminder to tread carefully when trying to make sense of such a complex issue.

The Russian Government Just Edited the Wikipedia Page for the Plane Shot Down In Ukraine

On Thursday, Malaysian flight MH17,  headed to Amsterdam from Kuala Lampur, was shot down by a surface to air missile over Ukraine. All 298 of the passengers were killed.

As information started to come out, it became apparent that the missile that took the plane down came from an area controlled by pro-Russian separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine.

People walk through the debris of MH17 near the village of Grabovo (Photo: AP)

These pro-Russian groups refused to recognize the new government in Kiev after the Ukrainian revolution and have established strongholds in a number of cities on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.

Although the separatists have denied responsibility, much of the evidence points to them. Also, the fact that they are denying investigators access to the crash site while looters steal cash, credit cards and jewelry from the victims doesn’t seem to support their cries of innocence.

It is no secret that the separatist groups have the support of Russia, and many people think Russia holds some of the responsibility for the disaster. The main reason for this is that the missile used, an SA-11, requires a very complex weapons system operated by highly-trained personnel.

Some info about the missile system most likely responsible for taking down MH17. Click to enlarge

Yesterday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby weighed in:

“It strains credulity to think that they could do this without some measure of Russian support and assistance. It is a sophisticated system.”

Then, yesterday evening, a Twitter bot added another piece to the story.

The bot, @RuGovEdits is basically a Russian version of @CongressEdits– it informs people any time a Wikipedia page has been edited by a Russian government IP address.

The Russian Twitter bot announced yesterday that the Wikipedia page for flight MH17 had been edited by the Russian government. What was changed?

Well, the original submission stated the plane was shot down by,

“…by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.”

The new edited version says that,

“…the plane [flight MH17] was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.

Russia has maintained that they were not involved in the tragedy and that the flight was brought down by Ukrainian forces, but this new revelation definitely raises questions about the truth of that statement.

(h/t Gizmodo)

A Mysterious Giant Crater Just Opened Up At the “End of the World” (Video)

Yamal is a peninsula in northern Siberia. In the language of the peninsula’s indigenous inhabitants, the Nenets, Yamal means “end of the world”.

This past week, aerial images of the peninsula posted to YouTube showed a giant, 80m wide crater. Check out the footage below:

Authorities from Yamal have organized a team of scientists from Russia’s Center for the Study of the Arctic, the Cryosphere Institute of the Academy of Sciences and Russia’s Emergencies Ministry to investigate.

At first glance, it just looks like a sinkhole. But experts who have examined the images say the debris around the edge of the hole isn’t consistent with a sinkhole, and the blackened rim of the crater indicates “sever burning”.

This has led to speculation that the hole was the result of an explosion, a space laser, or even the burn-hole left behind by an alien spaceship.

One of the best theories I’ve heard so far comes from an expert at the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center in Canada. He theorized that warming temperatures in Siberia could be melting the thick layers of ice and permafrost on Yamal Peninsula.

When that ancient ice is melted, it releases gases that have been trapped within it. The theory is that these gases mixed with water and salt closer to the surface, creating an explosive chemical reaction (think vinegar and baking soda, but MUCH bigger) which pushed the earth up out of the crater, kind of like the cork popping off a champaign bottle.

It’s also possible that simply the pressure of the released gas alone could have caused this same cork-pop effect.

Those are still just theories though. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this investigation as more information becomes available.

(h/t 9News)

Fatal Drug Overdoses Have Tripled In Russia Since 2012, Reaching 100,000 Per Year

Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service announced some chilling statistics on Russian drug use this past Monday.

The most frightening data was on the number of fatal drug overdoses per year in the country. Last year, that number climbed over 100,000, making it nearly three times higher than it was in 2012.

The Service also announced that of the 108,700 people convicted of drug-related crimes last year, 66% were between the ages of 19-29, and another 2% were minors.

Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service

Russia has the highest population of injecting drug users (IDUs) in the world at 1.8 million. A third of these IDUs are HIV positive and a whopping 90% have Hepatitis C.

To make the problem worse, Russia’s drug treatment programs are woefully inadequate. Many people open businesses masquerading as treatment center while using arcane “treatments” like flogging, starvation, and electric shock among others.

Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service has also admitted that more than 90% of Russians who check into a treatment center are using drugs again within a year.

A large portion of the intravenous drug users are addicted to heroin or other opioids. These drugs are derived from the poppy plant.

One factor that has contributed to the increasing use of these drugs is an increase in poppy production in Afghanistan.

Poppy production in Afghanistan. Click to enlarge

Cultivating poppies that can be processed into opium or heroin has been a lucrative business in Afghanistan since the 90s. But when the Taliban took power in 2001, the militant group outlawed the growing of poppies, reducing production to almost zero.

Since the U.S. invasion however, there has been a rapid resurgence of opium production in Afghanistan. Last year saw the highest poppy production in Afghanistan in the past 20 years. The level of production was nearly 3 times higher than the average levels before the Taliban’s time in power.

This flood of poppies means cheaper prices for opium and heroin manufacturers and consequently cheaper prices for users, not to speak of the increase in availability.

About a quarter of the heroin manufactured in Afghanistan in 2010 ended up in Russia, and that percentage has only been rising in the past 3 years.

Click to enlarge

Though many people, like Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s Drug Control Service, like to blame U.S. involvement in Afghanistan for Russia’s drug problems, this simply isn’t the full story.

Heroin use has actually been on the rise in Russia since the early 90s, when the fall of the Soviet Union left high levels of unemployment and poverty across the country.

In the decade between 1994 and 2004, the total number of drug users in Russia rose an astounding 900%. The war in Afghanistan and the subsequent boom in the poppy supply has only poured gasoline on a problem that was already burning out of control.

Read the original story from RBTH here. Read more about drug abuse in Russia from DrugWarFacts.org here.

Did You Know… That the U.S. Almost Dropped A Nuke on the Moon During the Cold War?

After the end of World War II and the fall of Nazi Germany, two major global powers emerged: Russia in the east, and the United States (along with its NATO allies) in the west.

More than anything, the Cold War was an arms race. Both sides had built up their nuclear arsenals during the war, and both were fearful of having less firepower than the other. Many people thought that an all-out nuclear war was imminent.

During this period, the U.S. military came up with the idea of dropping a nuclear bomb on the moon as a show of force.

Leonard Reiffel was the physicist who headed the project at the U.S. military-backed Armour Research Foundation in the late 1950s.

Leonard Reiffel, who is now 86 years old

In 2000, he sat down for an interview with The Observer to tell the story:

“It was clear the main aim of the proposed detonation was a PR exercise and a show of one-upmanship. The Air Force wanted a mushroom cloud so large it would be visible on earth…

The explosion would obviously be best on the dark side of the moon and the theory was that if the bomb exploded on the edge of the moon, the mushroom cloud would be illuminated by the sun.”

Reiffel also pointed out that a big influence on the idea was the fact that we were lagging behind in the “Space Race”.

In July of 1955, during the height of the Cold War, the United States announced that it would be launching satellites into space. Not to be outdone, Russia announced their own satellite project four days later. The U.S. lost that leg of the race when Russia launched Sputnik in October of 1957.

The front page of The New York Times on the day Sputnik was launched (October 4, 1957)

Reiffel voiced his concerns as a scientist about the idea of nuking the moon, but they seemed to fall upon deaf ears:

“I made it clear at the time there would be a huge cost to science of destroying a pristine lunar environment, but the US Air Force were mainly concerned about how the nuclear explosion would play on earth.”

In 1958, officers from the Air Force had asked Reiffel to ‘fast-track’ a project to investigate what a nuclear explosion on the moon would look like, and what it’s effects would be.

So he hired none other than a young Carl Sagan to do the calculation of how a nuclear mushroom cloud would expand in the low gravity environment on the moon.

Carl Sagan

Sagan, who pioneered for the study of potential life on other planets, would later become famous for popularizing science in mainstream culture with his show “The Cosmos”.

Despite the highly classified nature of the project, it was later revealed to his biographer that Sagan actually discussed parts of the project in his application for the prestigious Miller Institute graduate fellowship at Berkley (he got in, of course).

Either way, top-secret project A119: ‘A Study of Lunar Research Flights’, never came to fruition. Reiffel ended his story by saying,

“Thankfully, the thinking changed. I am horrified that such a gesture to sway public opinion was ever considered.”

A spokesman from the Pentagon would neither confirm nor deny the reports. Read the full story from the Guardian here.