"SPECIAL FROM THE SOVIET UNION"
Rescuing Big Bird
Up the Past
FLOWERS Hi. I'm Woodie Flowers, host of Scientific American
Frontiers. We have just arrived here in Moscow. it's a long
flight. But I'm really excited about being here. Until a couple
of years ago, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were arch rivals
in the Cold War. In that tense climate, even the most innocent
bit of scientific information was sometimes guarded like a
state secret. But now, with the incredible economic and political
reforms that are unfolding, our two countries are coming together.
In the spirit of this new relationship, in the next hour we
are going to take you on a journey through the fascinating
and little-known world of Soviet Science. We will find out
how the Moscow Circus flies with the help of engineers. Meet
Igor Igorovich, as he gets a remarkable new surgery to save
his leg. Rescue the world's heaviest bird...down on the farm.
And explore whether the human body is ready for a trip to
Mars. All this and more on our special Soviet edition of Scientific
GTE brings you more than the power of telecommunications,
light, and precision materials. A grant from GTE also brings
you the power of a new world in Scientific American Frontiers.
At GTE, the power is on.
A Moscow playground. Like anywhere in the world the kids are
bursting with energy. Igor Igorovich, always wanted keeping
up with grandson Phillipe to be great fun. But lately it's
become excruciatingly painful. The problem is atherosclerosis,
fat clogging the arteries of Igor's left leg, reducing blood
flow and making exercise a nightmare.
IGOROVICH I'm afraid my disease is going to get Worse. The
distances I walk are steadily decreasing. I could become incapacitated
- or even paralyzed.
NARRATION Today Igor has come to medicine’s Central Institute
for Surgery, to see if he can be helped by a new treatment
that might reopen his arteries. He'll be in the hands of radiologist
Za Za Kavteladze, who first must find out just how badly Igor's
arteries are clogged. The diagnostic test is routine, available
worldwide. Za Za makes a small incision in Igor's back, then
snakes a thin, hollow blue tube called a catheter down into
Igor's leg arteries. The arteries themselves don't show up
on this x-ray screen. Only the catheter does. So next, a special
liquid will be pumped through the catheter into the arteries.
DR. KAVTELADZE Igor Igorovich, hold your breath please. Hold
the breath. 1-2-3, 4-5-6. Stop.
As the bright liquid fills Igor's leg arteries, the images
are recorded on film. For Igor it's an uncomfortable but tolerable
KAVTELADZA Are you feeling anything? Any dizziness?
IGOROVICH Yes, very slightly.
As expected, the x-rays reveal a serious condition which Igor's
own doctor explains back in the ward. His arteries are clogged
in several places. Here for example, one of the arteries running
past the hips shows an obvious narrowing. The result, blood
flow on the left side is much healthier than on the right.
The plan is to put another catheter into Igor's arteries -
one with a balloon on the end. The balloon is inflated, compressing
the fat, and restoring blood flow. This technique is also
standard throughout the world. But it has one big drawback:
The fat usually springs back within a few years. But now Soviet
doctors have solved this problem. Using an invention from
- of all places - the United States Navy.
FILM NARRATION This is Nitinol, a new battle compound. It
doesn't look unusual, and as you can see...
Developed in the 1950's, this miracle metal has an amazing
ability to remember its shape. Flatten out a curly piece of
metal. Then warm it up. And it springs back into its original
FILM NARRATION ...into hot water, it returns to its original
NARRATION A mixture of nickel and titanium, Nitinol was first
considered ideal for use in outer space. Objects compressed
for travel like antennas could automatically unfold when exposed
to the sun's heat. But recently it was adapted by Soviet doctors
to make a spring that can be placed inside arteries. Dr. Joseph
Rabkin on the right had the idea of stretching the Nitinol
spring so it can be slipped into arteries. Then when it warms
up to blood temperature, it will return to its original spring
shape. This device, called a stent, is just what newly cleared
arteries need according to Rabkin.
DR. RABKIN The stent acts much like a support frame for a
subway tunnel which keeps the curve from collapsing. Well,
an artery also needs support, so the stent acts like a frame.
It's still an experiment treatment, but for Igor any procedure
prompts mixed feelings.
IGOROVICH I don't know of anyone who will be absolutely unconcerned
about an upcoming surgery. Even when they have to change a
bandage on a finger you are a little afraid. So of course
I will be nervous. But the most important thing is my doctor
promises he can cure all my problems in one day. And this
makes me very hopeful and happy.
Three days after diagnosis Igor is back on the operating table.
Before any stents are used the arteries must be opened. But
two are so blocked that a balloon catheter won't fit. So another
type will be tried. Rabkin's son Dimitri, explains.
RABKIN The catheter has a special device for rotating. Here
Called a rotor catheter, it's a tiny, liquid-powered drill,
small enough to fit inside arteries. It can bore a channel
right through fat blockages. The rotor must be kept clear
of the artery walls so afterwards its' still necessary to
use the balloon to make a wider opening. Throughout this whole
procedure, Igor is groggy but awake. He can feel the balloon
as it's being inflated, as seen here on the x-ray monitor,
opening up his leg. But it's been a trying procedure for Igor.
So his doctors decide for today they'll just treat the worst
blockage. Now it's time for a Nitinol stent. In the shape
of a spring it's too wide to be pushed through an artery.
So the plan is to tightly wind it around the catheter. But
this requires some help.
RABKIN Before the introduction of this type of catheter we
have to cool it. And for this purpose we use a special solution
of which the temperature is nearly minus 70 degrees Centigrade.
The cooler the metal, the easier it is to take it out of its
memorized shape. And when the winding is finished, there can't
be any protrusions to interfere with its passage inside the
artery. This is the critical part. The stent has got to reach
precisely the right place on its first attempt. Once it opens
up there is no chance to move it. In less than a minute the
metal is at body temperature. So as soon as the ends are released,
it snaps back into its memorized shape. Now the catheter is
removed and there's a test to be sure blood is flowing freely.
It's the moment of truth.
RABKIN It is a normal artery.
And one week after surgery Igor is back walking on the Moscow
streets. He'll still need another treatment, but already the
pain is gone. And the stent should keep his leg artery permanently
IGOROVICH This surgery made me healthy again. I can move around
easily, play with my grandson. In other words, be a normal
FLOWERS One of my strongest impressions of Moscow is that
it has more trees and green spaces than most major cities.
All parks like this are not part of a pristine wilderness.
They do provide a home for birds, squirrels, and other urban
wildlife. And they give people a little reminder about just
how important true wilderness really is. And that's a critical
lesson these days because all around the world wild land is
disappearing. Even in the vast territories of the Soviet Union.
Five hundred miles to the southeast of Moscow is the Saratoy
region of Russia. It's a land of farmers, a breadbasket of
the Soviet Union. Here wheat is king and it's grown on almost
every inch of this immense flat plain. The wheat is vital
to the whole Soviet Union, but what often gets ignored is
its tragic impact on wildlife. Take the case of the Great
Bustard, the world's heaviest flying creature, a strange and
wonderful bird. They are naturally shy of people, so to see
them in the wild you have to get up early in the morning and
hide in a specially made blind. That's what biologists have
been doing for the past three years as part of a crash program
to save the Great Bustard from extinction. Today there are
just a few thousand of the majestic birds left in the world.
Yet earlier in the century hundreds of thousands used to come
here every spring, flying in from as far away as Africa to
find each other on one of the world's few bustard breeding
grounds. Males would proudly display their feathers in a ritual
dance to attract females who went on to lay their eggs in
the tall wild grass. But then came big agriculture and the
wild land disappeared. Now eggs were ending up in the middle
of farmers' fields and were constantly being smashed. The
bustards were in trouble, until a local wildlife official
HRUSTOV When we disrupt the ecological balance, for instance
by wiping out the Great Bustards, we can't even imagine what
it will lead to. Everything in nature is interconnected, interdependent.
And so our goal is to restore this ecological balance.
NARRATION Anatole Hrustov may sound like a typical environmentalist,
but in fact he's s hunter who would like nothing more than
to see the day when bustards can be stocked along with other
game animals. He insists it makes perfect sense for a hunter
to be in charge of a project to save endangered species.
HRUSTOV Great Bustards used to be hunted until the 1930's.
And then they became extremely rare. But hunters are so close
to nature. So they noticed the disappearance of the bird.
They were the first to pay attention. And then they got others
to pay attention too.
Today that attention is focused on Anatole's ambitious program
to protect Great Bustard eggs. He and his staff of biologists
are traveling from farm to farm, trying hard to convince tractor
drivers that the bustard's future is in their hands.
HRUSTOV Our goal is to save the Great Bustard right here on
the land we have affected.
The pitch is simple. If they can keep their eyes open for
bustard eggs and not run over them, they can save the species.
For each egg rescued, there is a reward of three rubles, about
a quarter of their daily wage. It might seem that spotting
the dark eggs in these vast fields would be next to impossible,
but in fact they are often impossible to miss. Bustards sitting
on the nest won't budge until the last, second. And so the
birds automatically tell the driver where to look for eggs.
The procedure the drivers are taught is straightforward. First
they have to protect the eggs against predators. Then they
plow around the spot. According to this driver it's not the
three ruble reward that inspires him to make this effort.
DRIVER If people aren't going to save them, who else will?
Do you think aliens will come down and do it?
Later in the day the driver leads biologists back to the site
he has carefully protected. To save the Great Bustard from
extinction, Anatole figures his program must collect several
hundred eggs per season. This year they are up to numbers
100 and 112 in mid season. The eggs are marked immediately
so their progress can be monitored from now on. In three seasons
so far they have saved over six hundred eggs, but this is
a job that will never end. Biologist Valetie Maseikin explains.
MASETKIN There are no longer any wild uninhabited places left.
So the only Great Bustard which can survive are those that
will with the help of man.
That help continues back at headquarters where all collected
eggs are placed in an incubator. The eggs take about 25 days
to hatch. For the newly hatched bustard chicks there is a
critical step somebody has to teach them how to eat. The steel
tweezers don't look very friendly - and that's the point.
The chicks mustn't realize it's a human feeding them. They
will soon have to fend for themselves back in the wild, so
they mustn't learn to associate food with people. But the
cold-shoulder treatment doesn't apply to all the birds. About
half will come to think of biologist Ludmila Borovskya as
Mom. This radically different treatment is designed for birds
that are destined to remain in captivity, birds the biologist
hope will be a second source for eggs.
BOROVSKYA We want to raise a bird which is less aggressive,
less jumpy, a quieter bird which can be in contact with humans
and not be afraid.
These adult birds were raised in captivity and you can see
why Ludmila wants bustards that are comfortable with people.
She and her husband Sasha have to regularly handle the birds,
to check their health for example. Maintaining proper weight
- up to forty pounds for a male - is an important measure.
Covering their eyes, by the way, helps calm them down. These
captive bustards won't start producing eggs for at least '
another year. The oldest male, now aged five, is just beginning
to display mating behavior. So it's still not known if captive
breeding is going to work. But for the biologists, there is
also the uncertainty about releasing other birds back into
MASEIKIN I am working so hard to save these birds. There is
a part of me in every one of them. So when I release them
back into the wild, it's like letting a part of myself go.
I look at their photographs and I start wondering: Will they
be okay? I really worry about them.
Nevertheless, the basic point of the rescue program is to
keep a large population of bustards living in nature. So at
the age of six months, half of the birds are set free.
After so much time in captivity, they are not exactly sure
what to do with their newfound freedom. But eventually they
fly off to find their wild cousins. Birds previously released
have joined in with the migration south for the winter. And
they have returned here again the next year. But whether these
efforts to save the Great Bustard will succeed in the long
run, only time will tell.
HIGH STAKES MATH
FLOWERS Alexey Pazhitnov?
FLOWERS This is Woodie Flowers. I'm down in the lobby.
PAZHITNOV Come up. I'm waiting.
FLOWERS You know, this guy is famous all over the world. Yet
in the Soviet Union, almost nobody knows who he is. That's
because he designs video games. And here, few people have
the personal computers or Nintendo machines that are necessary
to play them. So my questions is: What's the designer of best-selling
video games doing in the Soviet Union?
FLOWERS Hi. I'm Woodie Flowers.
PAZHITNOV I am Alexey. Nice to meet you.
FLOWERS Within minutes of meeting we were sitting at his computer,
loading up the game Tetris. This is Alexey's international
bestseller, and of course, he soon had me playing it.
PAZHITNOV Have you played Tetris before?
FLOWERS No, I have not...
PAZHITNOV The rules are simple. There are...
FLOWERS The object, he explained is to position these geometrically-shaped
pieces so that when they drop down to the bottom they fill
in a complete line.
PAZHITNOV Every time you have to solve this problem.
FLOWERS I like to solve problems, but this was a lot more
challenging that I had imagined. Making another deep hole
but, let's see.
PAZHITNOV That left gravitates. Rotate one time. OK.
PAZHITNOV No, no. Don't rotate it.
FLOWERS With Alexey's experience coaching, I started to relax.
And then I realized how he could invent Tetris. He's a mathematician.
Mathematicians here do have computers and geometrical puzzles
have a lot in common with modern math.
PAZHITNOV The main object of mathematicians is not the number
at all. Numbers are too simple for mathematicians now. And,
the mode of thinking of mathematics, is not to, it's not a
calculation. It's very close to puzzles, I think.
FLOWERS Alexey's puzzles usually stimulate the mathematical
mind, and Muddle, his new game, is a good example.
PAZHITNOV Your task is to put them away from the fields from
this small window. In this order. This will be first, and
FLOWERS I began to suspect Muddle was not for novice players.
The goal is to get all the objects out of the box, but the
difficult part is, they can only be moved in groups which
must be chosen by the player. If you put together spades and
clubs, or diamonds and hearts, you can move a group to the
right. Selecting all green backgrounds or all orange ones
lets you go to the left. To go up you have to choose between
circles or squares. To go down you have to mix red and black
suit. If you think you are confused...now I had to do it.
PAZHITNOV And now move the circle up.
FLOWERS Now I want to separate that guy and bring him down.
And, whoops, that's not a good idea, I'll bet. It took intense
concentration to avoid getting stuck. I could see this game
was geometry, logic, and strategy, all rolled into one.
PAZHITNOV You made it! You see this game is rich enough. I
like it very much but maybe it's a little bit complicated.
FLOWERS Right now I understand why you call it Muddle because
my mind is kind of a muddle right now. All of Alexey's creations
have a mathematical twist, and that's what makes them entertaining.
The object of this new children's game, for instance, is to
collect as many coconuts as possible. And players have to
balance their time between going for water, watering trees,
planting new ones, and collecting fruit. It's very different
from just zapping aliens from space.
PAZHITNOV You see there are different kinds of pleasures.
I feel that for me, for me personally, the best kind of pleasure
is the pleasure of intellectual activity. So this kind of
pleasure I would like to present to my customers, to my players.
FLOWERS Alexey is one of many talented Soviet mathematicians.
And their creativity is also leading into other unexpected
There are thousands and thousands buried in the rubble. They
know buildings that have hundreds and hundreds of people in
FLOWERS Imagine being able to predict an event like this.
A 1988 earthquake in Soviet Armenia. It was a major disaster,
claiming nearly 25,000 lives. For centuries people have tried
to foresee when and where such giant quakes would strike next,
but successful predictions have always been a dream, until
perhaps now. This unassuming building houses Moscow's Institute
for the Mathematical Prediction of Earthquakes. An organization
which attracted serious worldwide attention after predicting
the Armenian quake one year before it occurred. The international
team of mathematicians and geologists here has developed a
revolutionary prediction technique that seems to work any
place on earth. It all starts deep underground in thousands
of earthquake monitoring stations like this spread around
the world. The instruments in these stations register every
little shake of the earth's crust, creating a seismic record.
For many years earthquake scientists had studied these records
in hopes of finding some warning pattern that heralds a big
quake. The standard procedure is to examine the records of
a small area, about 50 miles wide, around where a big quake
occurred. But as I learned from the Institute's director,
mathematician Vladimir Kalis-Borok, looking at such a small
area may be a mistake. He and fellow mathematician Vladimir
CasaBokov gave me an analogy. This just looks like two blobs
of color, right? But widen the view and a pattern emerges:
It's two men boating on a river. Well, to see a pattern in
earthquake records, the mathematicians also had to widen their
view, examining areas 300 miles wide and comparing the records
leading up to dozens of earthquakes - instead of just analyzing
This is the earthquake...
FLOWERS As Kalis-Borok explained, there were many patterns
in these earthquake records. But to see them required looking
at the data in some special ways.
One way, here for example is a way to count the number of
events in a sliding window. So here you have nine events in
a sliding window. So here you have nine events. Here you have
four. Eleven. There you have about fifteen.
FLOWERS The rolling average as it's called, produced patterns
like this showing that most big quakes came just after a peak
of mild earthquake activity. The other analyses were much
more complicated, but each one revealed another specific pattern
of activity leading up to big earthquakes. No one pattern
showed up all the time. So Kalis-Borok came up with this prediction
We will declare an alarm with sufficient number of these phenomena,
is slightly anomalous.
FLOWERS To test this method, the Institute staff went back
through half a century of old earthquake data. Pretending
it was coming in little by little, they found they could predict
90 percent of all the big earthquakes that had occurred during
that time. This was a tremendous success. So next they tried
predicting the future. As they watched over the whole world,
California began looking suspicious. In 1985 this method warned
an earthquake would strike within a few years someplace within
this 300-mi!e circle. In 1988, another warning just to the
south. And then it happened. The big California earthquake
ANNOUNCER ..a building there collapsed and burst into flames
FLOWERS It was a tragedy for Californians, but it was the
second time the Institute's method had worked. Even though
the prediction method isn't precise about the time and place,
governments around the world are now taking these predictions
very seriously. And there are more quakes predicted for the
future. While evacuations might not be justified, if the prediction
method continues to hold up, at least it will be clear where
highways and buildings are vulnerable. Disaster planners will
know where it is most important to train local officials.
And extra medical supplies and personnel can be standing by.
Of course, a more precise prediction would be better. So the
Institute is now refining its techniques, working hard to
further narrow down the warning in time and place. And here
Kalis-Borok has an ambitious goal.
I think we can make probably less than a hundred miles, but
this is speculation, and less than a year. But that would
be, that would require a lot of luck and a lot of work.
FLOWERS Space. The Soviet Union was the first country in the
world to cross this frontier, back in 1957, with the launching
of a tiny satellite called Sputnik. It was an outstanding
scientific achievement. And as it turns out, the beginning
of a long-term commitment to explore the skies. As you can
see here in this Moscow space exhibition, during the past
thirty years the Soviet Union has launched thousands of satellites
and dozens of space programs. But most impressive of all,
they have put so many cosmonauts into orbit around the earth
that it has become routine. But many space scientists are
asking: Is it time for a human mission to Mars? Now that's
a controversial question. First, Mars is many millions of
miles away so getting there and back will be very expensive
and technically complex. Sending along a two-year supply of
food, water, and oxygen is bad enough. But as we will see
in this story, there's another critical problem: Can the human
body tolerate the trip?
The big problem is returning to gravity after a long time
in weightlessness with a landing on Mars or coming back to
earth. When cosmonaut Yuri Romanyenko returned from a 96-day
mission in 1979, he was unable to walk and needed three months
to recover. In a Mars landing, there would be nobody there
My heart felt weak. I was sweating a lot. I couldn't feel
my legs at all. Actually, it felt like they were filled with
lead. I couldn't move without help. It felt like I was coming
out of a severe illness with a high temperature. Like recovering
from a terrible cold.
Why space travel has such effects is something the Soviets
began investigating seriously just after that Romanyenko mission.
And today, one of their key laboratories is the space station
Mire. Since its launch in 1986, 28 different cosmonauts have
lived and worked here. Most find their first days amusing,
awkward, and hazardous. Back on earth all cosmonaut missions
are closely monitored at the Institute for Biomedical Problems
by doctors like Inessa Koslovskya.
Getting back, at first they have a lot of...They do movements
but it seems to them that they do exactly is necessary but
they go sour and have...
Within about a week though, cosmonauts adjust to weightlessness.
In fact, working in zero gravity soon becomes as comfortable
as working on earth. But adapting to life in space has a down
side too. As missions stretch on for six months or even a
year, on-board monitoring shows the cosmonauts' bodies change
in ways that make it hard to return to gravity. The heart
shrinks in size by up to ten percent, because in weightlessness
it doesn't have to pump so hard. Bones lose calcium because
they are not holding up any weight. And muscles lose their
strength because working in space requires very little physical
All these muscles are not used in space and since they are
not used, it is very old rule which all biologists know: That
which is not used, it disappears.
To stop this disappearing act, cosmonauts were given exercise
equipment. Three to five hours per day became standard practice,
and this helped muscles stay strong. But cosmonauts still
had problems coordinating their muscles once they got back
to earth. So at the Institute, scientists began trying to
find out why. The first step was to produce on earth the same
coordination problems created by space travel. This experiment,
for instance, uses a kind of water bed. Climbing in is researcher
Mikhail Borisov. The water completely surrounds Mikhail, allowing
him to float comfortably for weeks at a time. It's sure not
as thrilling as going into space, but it's as close as a non-cosmonaut
MIKHAIL BORISOV It's quite comfortable. I swim like
a fish in the warm water.
This experiment is testing Koslovskya's theory of how human
coordination breaks down. From birth, she says, the body is
constantly detecting its own weight, using special nerves
called pressure receptors. Changing patterns of high and low
pressure readings tell the brain how the body is in position.
And in turn the brain uses this information to coordinate
muscles. But in the weightlessness of space, all pressure
readings are zero so the pattern is always the same. Coordination
becomes difficult until the brain adapts. And the situation
should be similar in Koslovskya's immersion experiment.
The weight, body weight, is distributed equally along the
surface. So there is no gradient between different points
of the body - which accepts this pressure. So for pressure
receptors, the immersion is accepted exactly like weightlessness.
Subjects spend two weeks in the tank. Not enough for muscles
to deteriorate, but easily enough to produce the same coordination
effects of space if Koslovksya is right. Coordination is tested
daily. Even the movement of eye muscles could be affected
by lying in the tank. in fact, this eye-tracking experiment
shows during the first few days subjects have great difficulty
following a series of lights. But after a week, coordination
gets better again, just like in space. But the ultimate test
of Koslovskya's theory comes immediately after subjects are
out of the tank. It should be like cosmonauts returning to
How do you feel? O.K. stand up carefully. Try to stay straight.
The idea is to see how difficult it is to remain upright after
getting a measured push.
Now I am going to push you.
Subjects consistently sway back and forth for several seconds
following each push. By comparison, they recover much faster
before the experiment. So after spending two weeks in the
tank, coordination is thrown off and now doesn't work in gravity,
evidence that Koslovskya's pressure receptor theory is right.
Another experiment suggests what may be happening in the body
to disrupt coordination. Pressure receptor nerves which in
the tank got accustomed to the same steady pressure all day
long, now overreact and send signals that are too strong.
To the small accumulation, they give big response. To the
stimulation which were not enough to stimulate them before,
they answer now. So it means that the response is not proper.
But now attach a board to the subject's feet. Pull it tight
so as to create pressure along his body, as if he were standing
up on earth. And look what happens. Using this simple device
for only a few hours each day, Koslovskya's group finds they
can dramatically reduce coordination problems. Eye-tracking
hardly deteriorates. And coordination remains good after leaving
the tank. So now it space recommended exercises take advantage
of this Soviet discovery, with elastic straps pulling downward
on this cosmonaut, for instance, his knee bends feel much
the same as they would on earth. Better exercises have meant
today's cosmonauts can live and work in space for up to a
year, and come back with very few coordination problems. Of
course, cosmonauts still have to exercise two to three hours
a day - a waste of valuable research time. And these exercises
still don't solve the problem of bone loss. But Soviet scientists
have solved at least some of the medical challenges for long-term
FLOWERS If humans decide to go to Mars there would almost
certainly be a political challenge too. With the cost expected
to exceed several hundred billion dollars, realistically one
or more nations will have to share the expense. So we decided
to ask some Soviet citizens about how they feel about a joint
It would have Russian enthusiasm plus American practicality
MAN It is very important and necessary for mankind.
It would be nice not to go only with Americans. Somebody else
WOMAN We will gain knowledge. It will be cooperation. This
will bring us together in my opinion.
It would take us not only to Mars, but even further.
This is absolutely unnecessary. If we want to increase the
friendship between our two countries, we can do that here
on earth just as well.
I would like to be on the plane. I would like to fly there
myself. I would love it.
UP THE PAST
We are in Turkmenistan. Two thousand miles and a half a world
away from Moscow. With Iran and Afghanistan just over the
border. It's a place with its own distinct culture. For one
thousand years people here have followed the prophet Mohammed.
They are Moslems. But centuries earlier, what prophet followed
them? The Turkmenistan desert is revealing the answer. Recently
uncovered from its sands are the remains of ancient and immense
buildings. This one was excavated in 1981. This one, with
its enormous fortress-like walls, two years later. And this,
which promises to be the largest yet, is just now being excavated.
Even in September it's still over 100 degrees out here. But
the archaeology students dress accordingly. To do work like
this in the middle of the desert, you've got to be a bit of
a fanatic. Just like the discoverer of these sites, archaeology
SARIANIDI. He is here to explore the unknown.
SARIANIDI Maybe it is palace. I don't know exactly. That's
very, because we only found, we are beginning our excavations.
We don't know exactly what is this. It's interesting.
Sarianidi is interested in results. So in some areas he is
using machines to shift large amounts of dirt. It's a controversial
method. Maybe he will destroy something unwittingly. But with
small crews and tight budgets, it's the only way to work,
he responds. Once his crews get down to these walls, though,
they are very careful. And they certainly seem to know just
where to dig.
ROZENTHAL is their top wall finder. Since mud bricks aren't
much different from desert sand, it's not so simple.
ROZENTHAL There has to be a wall here someplace, but where,
we don't know.
Oleg looks for clues in the color and texture of the desert
ROZENTHAL Here, look. It's easy to see. One side is dark and
the other side is much lighter.
Well, maybe it's easy for him. In fact, he's so sure of his
judgement that he starts digging out the sand inside the walls.
He uses texture as his guide, picking out soft dirt, leaving
the harder material in place. Two days later he has traced
the walls. And confirmed his judgement with something you
often find against the wall of a room.
ROZENTHAL In the corner which we have excavated there is a
vessel. It is a big one, a common type, probably used to store
liquids and grains. So far we have only found two walls, but
there will be four. In fact, ! think I am uncovering one right
Three foot high walls is all that's left of the buildings
now, after 3500 years of erosion by the desert. But imagine
what this building used to look like - a massive structure,
perfectly laid out, all with an elegant symmetry. Sarianidi
calls it a fortress but that's just guesswork. What's certain
is the people who built it were highly civilized.
SARIANIDI Building this entire fortress was a giant undertaking.
It shows that the people who lived here, the architects, already
knew mathematics, already knew astronomy, already knew the
fundamentals of geometry.
In fact, Sarianidi has discovered nothing less than a new
civilization. His team is busy piecing together what these
people he calls them Bactrians - were like. Flourishing at
the same time as the Pharaohs of Egypt, they are now taking
their place as the world's fifth Bronze Age civilization.
Long buried in graves and erosion-filled rooms, ancient Bactria
is slowly emerging. Elegant drinking vessels. Oddly styled
figures - a God maybe? Animals of the desert, a centipede.
A scorpion. Cylindrical seals showing some kind of ritual.
And a distinctive kind of pot decorated with animal figures.
This one was reconstructed from pieces unearthed in the second
building Sarianidi excavated - which he believes was a temple.
In spite of his bulldozing image, Sarianidi is actually a
careful investigator. It's his usual practice to take soil
samples in and around pottery. And the shattered pieces of
the animal figure pot were no exception. The samples went
for chemical analysis and the results were startling. They
contained unmistakable traces of two local plants which apparently
had been mashed by grinding stones, also found here at this
SARIANIDI During excavation of the central part of the temple,
we found these grinding stones. And as you can see, they are
worn flat from constant use. On the stones we found traces
of ephedra and poppy.
Poppy produces opium. And ephedra contains a powerful hallucinogen.
Mix either of these plants with water, and you have got a
drink which packs quite a punch. All that's left is to strain
out the stocks using a piece of goatskin and a 4000 year old
filter cone, also found in the ruins. Actually it's not such
a surprise to find the Bactrians used drugs. Many ancient
civilizations incorporated them into their rituals, as a way
to feel closer to the Gods. But there was more to the ritual
life of the Bactrians as revealed by these pits which had
clear signs of soot on their walls. Sarianidi is convinced
these pits were used to illuminate altar platforms, now eroded
but once situated immediately behind the pits.
SARIANIDI It's likely that on these two platforms sat the
images of the gods. And in their honor a fire was burning
here. What does this mean? Of course fire plays an important
role in many religions of the world. But here we have the
rituals of fire and ephedra drinking together. It's the first
time known to science that these two rituals occurred simultaneously.
To Sarianidi, it's a very exciting discovery because fire
and a drink from ephedra are both used by one of today's religions.
They are followers of the prophet Zoroaster. Most are in India,
but they are worldwide. The strange thing is Zoroaster was
born l000 years after the rivers feeding ancient Bactria dried
up and the civilization crumbled. So Zoroastrians must have
taken over the rituals of a pre-existing religion, one that
had been Bactrian. Archaeologists, of course, have their own
rituals which often show up worldwide. Complaining about archaeology
is one of them.
Honestly I am tired of digging here in the sand. I don't get
any excitement here.
But in truth archaeology is a passion for these people, as
it has to be. After all, what else is going to send them back
into the desert with pick and shovel tomorrow at dawn. But
why the passion? It's because the rewards are unique.
SARIANIDI We have discovered an entire new country. Its culture,
its civilization its uniqueness must have had a strong effect
on its neighbors. It's a new page in ancient history!
FLOWERS A rehearsal at the Moscow Circus. Every year directors
here develop about a hundred new acts. And as you can see,
they are quite spectacular. Don't think it's all just daring
and artistry though. Before an act makes it from the director's
imagination to the circus ring, often some careful engineering
is required. That's what we found out when we went behind
the scenes at this brand new trapeze performance.
Before looking at the engineering though, first let's meet
the director. This is Valentin Gnuishev. He believes that
even a circus act should have a message.
GNUISHEV Russians have always been involved with wars. With
Napoleon, with the Tartars, with the Germans, with Afghanistan.
It seems we have always been fighting a war. And that's a
great misfortune. I want to show the horror of war, the horror
of these periods of delusion the history of these misguided
These ideas came to Valentin after hearing a Russian symphony
called "Chimes". When he asked the chief engineer to build
his new trapeze, he brought the music along. The act will
be complicated and taxing for all involved. Three high bars
at different heights. A swing for two catchers instead of
one - something never before tried by the Moscow Circus. And
then, daring double flips and near-impossible catches. At
first the chief engineer is skeptical about having so much
weight on one swing. But Valentin is passionate about the
concept and persuades the engineer to give a preliminary okay.
So the proposal is sent to the Engineering Laboratory where
ideas are tried out on paper before any hardware is built.
The most basic issue tackled here is the length of the trapeze
swing. Keeping in mind the height of each performer, engineers
calculate how long to make each swing so that jumpers and
catchers won't miss each other. Then there are detailed calculations
to predict the maximum force on every piece of the ring, including
support wires. Components can't be built without such analysis,
but they also reveal a critical problem in the joints which
support the swing. Unlike conventional straight trapeze swings,
this one is narrow at the bottom and wide at the top to achieve
a look desired by the director. This angled design creates
high side-to-side forces that would snap a conventional joint
which only moves back and forth. So the engineers return to
the drawing board to work out a solution. It's a universal
joint which swings not only back and forth, but also side
to side, in effect, creating freedom of movement in any direction.
Such a joint has never been used before in a trapeze. While
it looks good in theory, the performers will actually have
to use it. This will be their first test. Safety is taken
very seriously. Performers make and hang their own nets. And,
never trusting calculation, they also check the tension on
all support wire, using a force gauge. As they start warming
up, the swing's joint looks good. But will it hold up under
the impact of repeated catching? As for the force gauge, things
look fine. It reads about 250 kilos, well under the wire's
limit of 400.
GNIUSHEV Take your proper positions everyone. Take your positions!
Now it's time for real gymnastics. Will the jumpers and catchers
meet as calculated? One catch after the next fails. Perhaps
the swing is too short. Valentin is getting nervous. But gradually,
things come together. And even after two months of rehearsal,
the new joint is still in good condition. So when the time
comes for the first performance, nobody has to worry about
safety. It's another dazzling trapeze act for the Moscow Circus.
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