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  Round Table 1

Joint Institute for Nuclear Research





Introducing the Main Idea
From most remote antiquity all humans have looked at the sky, have observed the stars and tried to obtain from them some answers to the most profound and intriguing questions that challenged their minds. Immanuel Kant, who was the first to understand the existence of other galaxies beyond the Milky Way, disposed that the inscription on his grave-stone should specify the two most relevant targets of his life-long philosophical meditation, namely the star globe above our head and the moral law within it.

The scientific advances of the twentieth century made it clear that all elements used in biological molecules, namely the building blocks of life, were synthesized in the core of ancient giant stars, long expired through supernova explosion. The night is dark. As Olbers first guessed and later the theory of General Relativity made logically unavoidable, this implies that the Universe expands undergoing an endless evolution just as it happens with all living species. The most distant objects that populate the sky are also the most ancient ones and send us information about primordial times.

Clarifying issues related with the problem of the “Origins” is the pursued task of all recent and planned space missions. There are many “Origins” looked for:

  1. The origin of Cosmic Rays
  2. The origin of Dark Matter
  3. The origin of Dark Energy
  4. The origin of Large Scale Structures
  5. The origin of Primordial Fluctuations
  6. The origin of the Universe
  7. The origin of Life
  8. The origin of Intelligence

In this panorama, the interplay between issues in biological sciences with issues in cosmic sciences comes at many levels. For instance, a very important aspect of manned space missions is the protection from radiations. This opens the vast chapter of Radiobiology, i.e. of the response of living beings to exposure to all those particles whose beams populate the physical universe. This tackles all the main fields of biological sciences, including Genomics, Physiology, Neurophysiology, Cellular Biophysics, Bacteriology and more. The issue of protection leads to address fundamental questions in science and the extreme conditions provided by real, or simulated, space-missions open new paths to understanding. The same is true of another aspect of manned space-missions, namely the “Stress from Confinement”. Studying human reactions to the extreme conditions of a simulated two-year excursion to other planets, as it is done in the MARS 500 experiment, presently carried on in Moscow at the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP), with important Italian contributions, discloses unique new perspectives in Psychology, Neurophysiology, Cardiology and other clinical studies.

While thus linked with the understanding of Life, Intelligence and their origin, cosmic researches pursue the goal of investigating all the other “origins” mentioned above. The mystery of Cosmic Rays might be resolved if we precisely understood how very strong gravitational fields, such as those produced by super-massive compact objects, can work as high power particle accelerators.

Most interesting early information on our Universe and its primordial fluctuations is encoded in the Cosmic Background Radiation which was investigated by several space-missions and forms the target, or one of the targets, of others to be launched soon. Italian-Russian collaboration in this field is already quite developed and one important example is given by the experiment Millimetron.

Indirect evidences for dark matter can be obtained by studying particle radiation spectra in the outside space, as it was done by the Italo-Russian collaboration PAMELA.

Besides cosmology, the astrophysics of stellar mass compact objects is another field where crucial information both about gravity and particle physics can be obtained. Radio-astronomy, X-ray-astronomy and optical astronomy are all allied in this task. Concerning Radio-astronomy an important perspective for Italo-Russian collaboration is provided by the soon to be launched radio-telescope RADIOASTRON, while in optical astronomy we have to register other important instances of joint-ventures, including the construction of new telescopes.

Overview of Themes Addressed In the Round Table
In view of the above considerations, the main themes addressed in the Round Table will be:
   1. Biology, Biophysics, Neurosciences & Space

           1.1 Biological effects of space radiation
           1.2 Problems of vision, memory and other neurophysiological issues
           1.3 Biochemistry and Biophysics of Nucleic Acids
           1.4. Genomics and gene-expression
           1.5. Cellular Biophysics and Biochemistry
           1.6. Protein Biophysics and computational biology
           1.7. Biological, neurological and clinical aspects of the Stress from Confinement
   2. Astrophysics, Astronomy, Cosmology & Space
           2.1 Cosmology, Dark Matter and Dark Energy
           2.2 CMB studies
           2.3 Terrestrial and Space-borne Radioastronomy. Perspectives for VLBI experiments
           2.4 Astrophysics of compact objects, including gravitational waves
           2.5 Cosmic Ray investigations on Earth and in Space
           2.6 Gravitational Lensing
           2.7 Aspects of Optical Astronomy and of its Technical Problems  

Pursued Goals
The main goals pursued by the Round Table are:

  1. To review the status of Italo-Russian collaborations in the mentioned fields of research.
  2. To establish new bilateral collaborations or create the conditions for their coming into being.
  3. To create the conditions for the bilateral exchange of lectures in highly advanced academic courses focused on the mentioned research lines.
  4. Write a memorandum containing the evaluations and the suggestions of the participants.

Structure of the Round Table
The Round Table is organized in two sections that will address the first group and the second group of mentioned research themes.