Electro-L three years in orbit

On January 20, 2011, the Russian meteorological satellite Electro-L went into space. After putting into geostationary orbit, at an altitude of 36 thousand km above the Earth’s surface, and a number of preparatory operations, the satellite began to create beautiful images of our planet. Six months after the launch, he reached the nominal operating mode, and now for more than two years he has been sending her portrait to the Earth every 30 minutes. The satellite resolution reaches 1 km per pixel, and the total size of each image is 124 megapixels.


Thanks to this survey, we can observe the passage of typhoons , dust storms, large fires , even solar eclipses , on the surface of our planet. When I say “we,” I mean, indeed, of every person, since all satellite data is open to everyone, which is a unique phenomenon for the Russian cosmonautics.

Images are available on the FTP server of the Scientific Center for Operational Monitoring of the Earth , related to Roscosmos, and the Planet Research Center , which is a division of Roshydromet.

So that everyone can enjoy the beauty of our planet, I prepared a picture for January 21, 2014 in large format (12 mb) and very large (on GigaPan).

Here you can see the condensation traces of aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea (more precisely, the clouds that formed on their basis):


Semi-Frozen Baikal:


Cyclone in Western Australia:


Unusual cloudy front over Pakistan:


And there are many other unusual and colorful phenomena that together add up to the picture of the most beautiful cosmic body in the Universe – our planet Earth. Look for the Maldives, see the red clouds illuminated by scarlet over Europe, find a chain of mini-typhoons off the coast of Antarctica, imagine what it is like for the inhabitants of the Arctic, immersed in the shadow of a polar night … This is an indescribable sensation from a trip over the planet, after which even the landscapes from the movie “Gravity” do not seem something unique. And looking at the NTsOMZ server you can find the pictures that were taken three hours ago, i.e. Electro-L acts as an online webcam for the entire Earth.

I must say a few words about the unusual color of the image. The satellite captures with the capture of the near infrared range, and when creating color images, the infrared channel is used instead of red. This is done in order to better identify the surface features of the planet. Living vegetation reflects the near infrared color much better, therefore, the more “orange” the color in the Electro-L image, the “livelier” the greens on the planet’s surface, which we see in the jungles of Africa, India and Indochina.


In addition to the direct useful information that Electro-L provides, its work in orbit is important as a demonstration of the capabilities of the new Navigator space platform developed at the NPO named after S.A. Lavochkina.


This is a set of equipment for orientation, control, power supply of scientific equipment installed on the platform. It is visible in the “rear” part of the spacecraft in the form of an octagonal block and ball fuel tanks, and a solar battery is attached to it.

This platform is now used on the Electro-L and Spektr-R devices ( Radioastron telescope ). In the future, it should become the basis of advanced spacecraft for astrophysical research, which will study the Universe in a wide range of ranges from ultraviolet to gamma. Later I will try to tell how their development is progressing.

Therefore, the longer Electro-L operates, the more it provides information about the operating features of Navigator, the more experience engineers and designers gain, the better and longer the next generation of Russian satellites will work.

Despite the fact that there are some problems with Electro-L related to both “technology” and “science”, I think, nevertheless, you can congratulate everyone who is somehow involved in the activities of this device.

And I will continue to talk about interesting things that happen in space. 

Plants don’t think or feel anything

Well-known physiologists published an article in a prestigious scientific journal stating that plants have no consciousness. What prompted them to take this desperate step?

Mimosa bashfulPhoto: H. Zell / Wikipedia

Unpleasant things sometimes happen to scientific ideas: they become too obvious. In the end, they just stop talking about them. It would not be a problem, but there is always somewhere else an alternative opinion (what to call an opinion alternative to the obvious? Nonsense? Yes, for example, let’s call it nonsense), which someone will express.

What for? For example, in order to expand the horizons of science, to free oneself from stereotypes, to open people’s eyes to the complexity of the world, its beauty and perfection – you never know in the world of good and noble motives to carry nonsense. And there is an obvious truth at the exit, which no one talks about anymore, and some nonsense, which they suddenly start talking more and more about. And here someone needs to rush into the embrasure and once again loudly and selflessly pronounce the banality. Because banality is true, and its original alternative is complete rubbish.

It was in this position that Lincoln Thais, a well-known plant physiologist and author of the world-famous textbook on this discipline, turned out to be. He explains his impulse  as follows: he, as the author, is asked why there is nothing about “plant neurobiology” in his textbook? And now the situation has gone so far that he can no longer simply say: “Because plants do not have any neurobiology.” He has to write a lengthy article about this . By the way, it’s interesting, we advise you to read it. But if laziness, read at least this small note.

The origin of nonsense

Plant Neurobiology dates back to a 2006 scientific review by Eric Brenner and triumphed in December 2013 in the form of an article by Michael Pollan in The New Yorker entitled Intelligent Plant. The word “intelligence” here, of course, does not mean high spirit ups, but simply the ability to perceive and analyze information, approximately as in the phrase “artificial intelligence” or “machine intelligence”. Of course, any living cell perceives information from the outside world and somehow changes its vital activity in response, but adherents of plant neurobiology clearly hint at something more.

What, for example? Here are a couple of instructive cases.

1. Mimosa gets used to the bad

Mimosa is bashful that from the legume family, she can fold leaves in response to mechanical stress. This is not a reason to endow it with “memory and intelligence,” as National Geographic did . And the reason is this: if you shake the mimosa leaf, it will close. If you shake again, it will close again, but not so willingly. If you shake it regularly, it will stop closing. Maybe mimosa simply exhausted strength? No: if you now drop the sheet onto the floor, it will close again.

Such experiments were described in 2014 by  Monica Galliano, who soon became one of the media stars on the topic “Plants can think, but do not explain how.” Its interpretation is obvious: the sheet simply remembers: “Shaking is not scary,” that is, in our opinion, it gets used and calms down. But a new type of exposure again scares the poor plant. The fact that a repeated effect blunts the reflex was written by physiologist Pavlov. But they were dogs. So, mimosa is almost like a dog.

And so Professor Thais and his co-authors are forced to remind : no memory, much less reason, is needed to explain these experiments. Just throwing it on the floor is more mechanical stress than just shaking it. It can give a signal for tissue swelling on one side of the sheet (which ensures curling) when the signal from shaking is no longer enough.

2. Conditioned reflexes in peas

Since we remembered Academician Pavlov, we must mention the conditioned reflexes. For example, peas. Galliano discovered the “conditioned reflexes” in him  in 2016: she grew a plant in a tube in the form of the letter Y and looked at which branch it would reach. The LED light was used as the “unconditional” stimulus, and the “conditional” was the breeze coming from the fan. When the light was turned off and the fan was left to no one needed, 65% of the plants grew in its direction – that is, to where, as they remember, there was once light.

And again, the good authors of our article are forced to give a bunch of evidence why these experiments (which, incidentally, were not very well reproduced) should be interpreted with caution. A lot of what looks like consciousness from the outside is not really it, and the presence of intelligence in peas should be proved a little more carefully (the authors cite the famous quote from Karl Sagan : “Extraordinary statements require extraordinary evidence.” Recall, by the way, that and in the case of a dog, the story of “conditioned reflexes” was never considered evidence of rationality – and Pavlov himself received his Nobel for “physiology of digestion”, to which area of ​​science his experiments were classified. His dogs were “reasonable” or much later. ”Pea, probably, is worth patience for now.

Why plants have no consciousness

The answer of the authors of the article consists of two parts: a) because they do not need it for anything, and b) because they have nothing for this.

The first part: the plant has absolutely nothing to think about. The brain is a very expensive organ, it consumes a lot of energy and nutrients, develops slowly, requires sleep, etc. Our survival strategy is such that we are prepared to take these losses. This strategy involves every minute choice: to stand or run, right or left, food or sex, sometimes even good or evil. The plant practically does not need to choose anything: it can only grow or not grow, at best, pour a little bit of tissue juice on the shadow side of the stem, so that the head of the sunflower turns after the sun.

When they say to you with condemnation that you turn from laziness and vodka into a plant (into a vegetable, into ficus, etc.), most likely the interlocutor will keep in mind that you are evading a moral choice or not acting on the basis of a choice previously committed and declared. For a plant, this is natural: no matter what choice it makes, it will not affect its life and growth. Because a vegetable is a vegetable, and he is not offended by this.

The second part of the answer: the nervous system and especially the brain is an awfully complex squiggle. “Complex” in the mathematical sense: a lot of connections between elements. Apparently, for what is called “consciousness”, this is absolutely necessary. The theoretical basis of this assertion was recently disassembled in bones in an article by  Todd Feinberg and John Malatt. Their conclusion is that: of all life on the planet, “consciousness” (in the rational everyday sense of the word) can, in principle, exist in vertebrates, including a respected reader, mollusks and arthropods. And that’s all. The rest simply do not have a sufficiently complicated place where it could fit.

And the last caveat: people like to be proud of their “complexity”, but in nature they don’t give a medal for “complexity”. She is given for a successful survival strategy. In plants, it is so successful that these creatures make up  4/5 of the entire living biomass of the planet. There are 500 times more trees on earth than people. The fact that they do not need to think for this – and we need to desperately – is still unknown whose problem.

Good motivations that gave birth to nonsense

Lincoln Thais is a plant physiologist, and it happened because he loves plants. He is generally a kind person and far from publicly making fun of Monica Galliano, who discovered the memory of mimosa, or Eric Brenner, who introduced the term “plant neurobiology”. He is trying to understand their motives.

And their motives are noble. They are just offended when plants – yes, they also love plants – are regarded by some as soulless machines. This means that they do not have to be protected and protected, but it is possible to cut down forests and destroy biocenoses. Such evil creatures are these Homo sapiens that they cannot relate to something humanly if it is something unlike them. So, in order to save the biosphere of the planet, a little anthropomorphism must be allowed into scientific concepts. Plant neurobiology is very helpful here.

Incidentally, Karl Linnaeus, who also loved plants, described the process of double fertilization in flowering as follows: “Petals of a flower do nothing for reproduction, serving only as a marriage bed, which the great Creator so nicely arranged, adorned with noble materials and covered with so many sweet aromas, so that the Bridegroom can perform the sacrament of marriage with the Bride in the greatest triumph. When the bed is removed, the time for the Bridegroom to accept the Bride and bring her her gifts ” ( quote from the article by L. Thais and others  in the author’s translation). A little pathos and exaggeration is normal for enthusiastic people, that’s what we want to say here.

Monica Galliano is also expressed sublimely , albeit in the style of her century:

<Debate about the presence of consciousness in animals> “has recently been extended to plants, and as experimental evidence of the presence of cognitive abilities in plants accumulates, it becomes impossible to ignore the controversial and even taboo ethical issues of their well-being and moral responsibility to them.”

In general, Monica Galliano just wants us to be kinder to plants. All her experiments are for the sake of it.

And here Lincoln Thais is in a difficult position:

“Is it necessary to attribute consciousness to plants – regardless of whether they have it or not – as psychological tactics to convince the general public of the urgent need to preserve the biosphere? If this is so, we are faced with an unacceptable choice: whether to accept a lie for the sake of spreading environmental awareness, or adhere to objective truth, while humanity rushes to an environmental disaster. ”

The conclusion of Professor Thais is this: “We object to believing that plants have consciousness, intentions or reason as a matter of our moral choice. Scientific knowledge only requires that we strive for truth. ”

For our part, we are glad that everything ended so well. We have a lot of ethical issues here, and sometimes you just want to cut a tomato, cut a hazel or dig a horseradish without all this nonsense. Well, because plants don’t feel anything, as everyone has known for a long time.

Best cameras in the world: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G – the new leader

DxOMark experts have already reached the new Samsung  and appreciated the capabilities of the cameras (both at once) of the top model – Galaxy Note 10+ 5G.   

Main camera

The  main camera of the smartphone has four modules: 12  megapixel  sensor (aperture from  f / 1.5 to  f / 2.4),  12  MP telephoto lens  (f / 2.1),  16  MP wide-angle module  (f / 2.2) with  a viewing angle of up to  123 degrees and  an additional ToF camera.

For the  photo she was  given 118 points. This is a  point less than the  Huawei P30 Pro, but  a  point more than the  Galaxy S10 5G.

The  camera received 101 points for the possibility of shooting video, and  this is the highest rating.

As a  result, the  Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ has an average score of 113, and the  smartphone becomes the new leader in the DxOMark rating, ahead of the Huawei P30 Pro and Galaxy S10 5G .


Experts rated the front-end at  99 points – and this is also the best result.  

It turns out that both cameras in the  smartphone are the best of all that is currently on the market.   

SpaceX will send the remains of 152 dead to space with Falcon Heavy

Tomorrow, June 24 (of course, if the weather permits), Elon Musk SpaceX company will launch its third rocket Falcon Heavy. At  this time  it is quite extraordinary space mission.

Funeral cargo

As  part of the Space Test Program-2 mission, the launch vehicle should  launch 24 satellites, an atomic clock for deep space, and  the ashes of 152 deceased people into space .

A special unit on  the spaceship was rented by Celestis Memorial Spaceflights. She will place there a container with  small capsules in  which will be the ashes of the deceased. These are children, astronauts, scientists and  people who dreamed about  space.

Relatives and friends left touching engravings on  their  capsules  : “ Reach for the  stars! ” And ” In outer space – forever . ”   

The weight of each capsule with  ashes is from 1 to 7 grams. The ashes of the deceased will be scattered in space. The delivery cost of one such capsule is from 5 to 12.5 thousand dollars, depending on the weight and flight range.          

The unusual flight will be launched from the  cosmodrome in  Florida.