Duck and Cover!
Nuke News! Toxic Corn Flakes?
Microsporidia! Columbus Bones!
Magnetosphere Waves & More!
Duck and Cover - National Preparedness Month
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Press Release

August 10, 2004 – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), The America Prepared Campaign, the American Red Cross, the National Association of Broadcasters and the U.S. Department of Education have joined a coalition of more 50 national organizations to engage Americans in emergency preparedness by launching National Preparedness Month on September 9. The launch event at the United States Capitol is co-chaired by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Representatives Christopher Cox (R-CA) and Jane Harman (D-CA). In addition, all 56 state and territorial governors have pledged to mark National Preparedness Month with local events.

“National Preparedness Month brings together an amazing coalition of partners to make citizen preparedness a priority for every city, every neighborhood and every home across America,” said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. “Homeland security is a shared responsibility and I am pleased that so many organizations and so many national leaders are working together to help get this information out into communities across the nation.”

National Preparedness Month will provide Americans with a variety of opportunities to learn more about ways they can prepare for an emergency, get an emergency supply kit, establish a family communications plan, and become better aware of threats that may impact communities. It will also provide them with several opportunities to volunteer or get first aid or CPR training.

State and local governments, individual communities, private businesses and nonprofit organizations will host events or promote preparedness steps around the country during September to encourage all Americans to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools. 

Below is a list of the organizations participating in National Preparedness Month as of today: 

The Advertising Council 
The American Legion 
American Legion Auxiliary 
The America Prepared Campaign, Inc. 
American Red Cross 
The American Safety and Health Institute, Inc. 
Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association 
Boy Scouts of America 
Church World Service 
Citizen Corps 
The Council of State Governments 
Emergency Management Accreditation Program 
Easter Seals 
Fraternal Order of Police 
Girl Scouts of the USA 
Hispanic Business Roundtable 
Hispanic War Veterans of America 
International Association of Chiefs of Police 
International Association of Emergency Managers 
International Association of Fire Chiefs 
International Union of Operating Engineers 
Jewish War Veterans of the USA 
The Latino Coalition 
The Medical Reserve Corps 
National Association of Broadcasters 
National Association of Counties 
National Association of State EMS Directors 
National Cable and Telecommunications Association 
National Crime Prevention Council 
National Emergency Management Association 
National Fatherhood Initiative 
National Governors Association 
National League of Cities 
National Organization on Disability 
National Retail Federation 
National Safety Council 
National Sheriffs Association 
Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Persons 
Outdoor Advertising Association 
The Points of Light Foundation 
Reserve Officers Association 
The Safe America Foundation 
The Salvation Army 
Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. 
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners 
United Service Organization 
The United States Chamber of Commerce 
United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce 
USA Freedom Corps 
The U.S. Conference of Mayors 
U.S. Department of Education 
U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science 
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States 
Washington Metro Area Transit Authority 
World Vision of the United States

Details about the official launch of National Preparedness Month and local events will be distributed in late August.

For further information or to join this effort please call Kristin Gossel or Lara Shane at 202-282-8010.

The Ready Campaign is a national public service advertising campaign produced by the Ad Council in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Ready Campaign is designed to educate and empower American citizens to prepare for and respond to potential terrorist attacks and other emergencies.

Citizens interested in receiving a "Get Ready Now" brochure may call 1-800-BE-READY or visit for more information.

[If  The Points of Light Foundation sounds familiar, you might remember that it was founded in 1990 by former President George Bush as a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes volunteerism. Or so it says here. Ed.]

U.S. Department of Homeland Security -

Nuke News!
Radiation Is Good for You!

London August 11, 2004 (BBC) - The widely held view that even low levels of radiation damage health has no basis in hard science, a leading expert has said. Professor Zbigniew Jaworowski, former chairman of a United Nations committee on radiation effects, believes low levels may even be beneficial. 

He told the BBC Today program: "Low levels of radiation are probably essential for life itself." 

However, the National Radiological Protection Board rejected the claim. 

The standard measurement of radiation is set in terms of milliSieverts (mSv) per year. In the 1920s, the maximum dose regarded as safe was 700mSv. By 1941, it was reduced to 70. By the 1990s, it became 20 for people exposed to radiation as part of their job, and 1 mSv for the general population. 

Some people believe the maximum dose should be lower still. 

Professor Jaworoski, now based at the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw, Poland, said the background level of radiation was around 2.5mSv. However, in some parts of the world background levels were as high as 700-800mSV. He said a study in the Iranian city of Ramsar had shown people routinely exposed to 250mSv came to no harm. 

"There were many generations of people living in these houses, and there was no evidence of any harm. One of the gentlemen living there was more than 100 years old." 

Professor Jaworoski said the view that low levels of radiation were harmful was little more than an "administrative assumption". His view was echoed by Lord Dick Taverne, chairman of the pressure group Sense About Science. 

Writing in Prospect magazine, he said: "Far from safeguarding our health, current safety standards will almost certainly increase the incidence of cancer. A low dose of radiation seems to stimulate DNA repair and the immune system, so providing a measure of protection against cancer." 

Dr Michael Clarke, of the NRPB, said the scientific consensus was that low level radiation probably did pose a small risk to health. 

"The consensus is that every little bit does a little bit of harm, and you extrapolate from what you can see at high doses, down to low doses. A small exposure gives you a very small risk. Maybe over the years more science will show that DNA repair mechanisms are stimulated by low level radiation, but it is not clear at the moment." 

However, Dr Clarke accepted that there was little hard evidence that low radiation levels do damage health, but he said it was difficult to tease out the effect from all the other potentially damaging factors.

Four Killed in Japanese Nuclear Plant

Mihama Japan August 10, 2004 (AP) - A non-radioactive steam leak killed four people and injured seven in the worst accident at a Japanese nuclear power plant ever. Another worker was reportedly in a critical condition. 

No radiation was involved in yesterday's leak and there was no need to evacuate the area around the plant in Mihama, a city 320 kilometers west of Tokyo, officials said. 

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed to launch a thorough investigation into the accident, which follows a string of safety problems and attempted cover-ups at nuclear power plants in Japan. 

Yesterday's accident was caused by a lack of cooling water in the reactor's turbine, said Kimihito Kawabata, a spokesman for plant operator Kansai Electric Power.

The steam was believed to be about 270 degrees. 

Four workers died after suffering severe burns, said Takanori Amimoto, at the nearby Fukui prefecture government office. He did not know how serious were the conditions of those who were injured. 

Japanese media reported that another worker was in critical condition, and had suffered heart and lung failure.

The No. 3 nuclear reactor in Mihama, which started operations in 1976, automatically shut down when steam began spewing from the leak, said Takahiro Seno, another Kansai Electric official. The Mihama plant's two other reactors were operating normally, officials said. 

"There was no leak of radioactivity that could harm the environment," said Nobutake Masaki, a Mihama city official. He added that the steam, which was not radioactive, leaked only inside the building. 

The workers were all employees of Kiuchi Keisoku Co, an Osaka-based subcontractor of Kansai Electric. They were all inside the turbine building to prepare for regular inspections of the plant. 

Mr Koizumi said: "We must put all our effort into determining the cause of the accident and to ensuring safety." He added that the Government would respond "resolutely, after confirming the facts". 

Mihama's population is about 11,500. Yesterday's was the second fatal accident at a Japanese nuclear plant. 

The first was in 1999, when a radiation leak at a fuel-reprocessing plant in Tokaimura, north-east of Tokyo, killed two workers and caused the evacuation of thousands of local residents. That accident was caused by two workers who tried to save time by mixing excessive amounts of uranium in buckets instead of using special mechanized tanks. 

Several major power-generation companies have since been hit with alleged safety violations at their reactors, undermining public faith in nuclear energy and leaving Japan's nuclear program in limbo.

Energy-poor Japan relies on nuclear power to supply 30 per cent of its electricity. 

In February, eight workers were exposed to low-level radiation at another power plant when they were accidentally sprayed with contaminated water. The doses were not considered dangerous.

Japan Deploys Solar Sail Prototype
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency News Release

August 9, 2004 - ISAS [Institute of Space and Astronautical Science] succeeded in deploying a big thin film for solar sail in space for the first time in the world.

ISAS launched a small rocket S-310-34 from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan, at 17:15, August 9, 2004 (Japan Standard Time). The launch was the culmination of a historic new technology, and the success this time has really made a great achievement in the history of solar sail.

A solar sail is a spacecraft without a rocket engine. It is pushed along directly by light particles from the Sun, reflecting off its giant sails. Because it carries no fuel and keeps accelerating over almost unlimited distances, it is the only technology now in existence that can one day take us to the stars.

Although both scientists and science-fiction authors have long foreseen it, no solar sail has ever been launched until now.

It is because superlight material for thin film which could bear extremely critical environment in space. Now due to the development of material and production technology, we can utilize promising film materials for solar sail, and the experimental deployment trials toward realization of solar sail have been initiated in some countries. 

The S-310 rocket which was launched from Uchinoura Space Center at 15:15 of August 9, 2004, carried two kinds of deploying schemes of films with 7.5 micrometers thickness. A clover type deployment was started at 100 seconds after liftoff at 122 km altitude, and a fan type deployment was started at 169 km altitude at 230 seconds after liftoff, following the jettison of clover type system. Both experiments of two types deployment were successful, and the rocket splashed on the sea at about 400 seconds after liftoff. 

On February 4, 1993, a 2—meter thin film structure onboard Progress M-15 was deployed for the first time in the solar sail development history. By this experiment, the first illumination from space was demonstrated before sunrise over Western Europe.

And in 2001, the Cosmos 1 test spacecraft was launched from a submerged Russian submarine, but the command for separate the spacecraft did not function, and the solar sail experiment by this sub-orbital flight not carried out. This experiment was done by the Planetary Society and the Cosmos Studio who are going to launch a Voina missile in a few months from a Russian nuclear submarine to carry out a solar sail.

As is shown on its Website, the spacecraft is now being built in Russia by the Babakin Space Center and the Space Research Institute. The spacecraft will begin the mission in a near circular orbit, 800 kilometers above the Earth, and gradually increase its altitude by means of photonic pressure on its luminous sails. The goal of Cosmos 1 is to achieve a controlled solar sail flight, demonstrating the feasibility of solar sail propulsion.

JAXA is now planning to launch the next deployment experiment onboard a large scientific balloon from Sanriku Balloon Center this fall.

Planetary Society -

Toxic Kellogg's Cereal?
Denmark August 14, 2004 (Guardian UK) - Danish health officials this week banned the cereal company Kellogg's from adding vitamins and minerals to its products, saying they could damage the health of children and pregnant women.

The company, which expressed incredulity at the decision, had hoped to enrich 18 breakfast foods and cereal bars with iron, calcium, vitamin B6 and folic acid, just as it already does in many countries.

But the Danes said the manufacturer wanted to include "toxic" doses which, if eaten regularly, could damage children's livers and kidneys and harm fetuses in pregnant women.

Paolo Drotsby, of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, said: "We have turned down applications for a number of enriched products which will have toxic effects in the doses Kellogg's uses".

The rejection was delivered last month after a government laboratory conducted a scientific examination of ingredient lists provided by the company.

The company retorted that it had been adding vitamins and nutrients to products since the 1930s and that its products enriched by other ingredients would remain on sale.

Denmark does not have recommended daily allowances of nutrients.

Chris Wermann, director of corporate affairs for Kellogg's in Europe, said: "Most of us are a bit incredulous."

The extra B6 and folic acid accounted for a quarter of a person's daily allowance, and the calcium and iron just 17 per cent, he said.

"It is quite clear from nutritionists that diets around the globe are deficient in vitamins and minerals. We are quite worried about the Danish authorities challenging this. We don't believe there is any danger at all. There is every reason for people to have these."

Details of added ingredients were labeled clearly and were well within recognized international guidelines, he said.

"The Danish diet is pretty frugal or austere at the best of times. They are protective of their diet. Equally the Government is working in their country to take extra vitamins and minerals in their diets. We are not too sure where they are coming from on this one."

The company is seeking discussions with the authorities.
British News Goes Naked
London August 12, 2004 (AFP) - A 35-year-old black belt karate expert with a psychology degree will be the first ever British Naked News presenter. 

Samantha Page, who also has a degree in zoology, will appear on Naked News from Monday on Get Lucky TV, accessed on Sky Digital. 

In the show, each of the 12 female anchors begin their segment fully clad before gradually disrobing as they continue to speak. 

Page and colleague Lily Kwan, 27, demonstrated the stripping-while-you're-reading technique as photographers snapped her during a central London press conference today to launch the show. 

Asked whether women would find it degrading, she said: "Fair enough, I recognize some people will feel that way. But I think this is an empowering position. Nudity is okay." 

She said there had been a lot of positive feedback from female viewers but added that stripping while reading the news had proved hard at first. 

"It required a certain amount of coordination and it was difficult. But I have a great cast to work with," she said. 

"We are not perfect women," she said. "We are normal women and viewers accept that we are no better than they are."
Bug News! 
Deadly Microsporidia Carried By Mosquitoes
Rutgers Newark University News Release

NEWARK August 11, 2004 – Brush, then squash. Remember those three words and that technique the next time you catch a mosquito dining on your arm or leg, and you’ll go a long way to protecting yourself from a potentially lethal parasitic micro-organism that may be in the mosquito, and is especially dangerous to those with weakened immune systems. 

A study by Rutgers-Newark biology professor Ann Cali and others published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July indicates that microsporidia, a group of opportunistic single-celled micro-organisms that can invade and devour virtually any kind of human cell, may have entered and broken down the muscle tissue of a Pennsylvania woman when she crushed a mosquito over the site where it had been drawing blood.

The woman later died as a type of microsporidia called B. algerae, known to reside in the tissues of mosquitoes, systematically consumed muscle fibers in her body, leaving the muscles unable to contract and respond to mental commands. 

Cali, who serves as a consultant for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Army Hospital, theorizes that the B. algerae in the mosquito may have been ground into the wound left by the insect’s hypodermic-like feeding tube.

Mosquitoes secrete an anti-coagulant to keep blood from clotting as they drink, temporarily leaving a clear passage directly into the bloodstream. 

New research by Cali and one of her graduate students will be aimed at identifying how prevalent B. algerae is in mosquitoes in New Jersey through the collection and examination of specimens across the state. 

"Microsporidia kill people because they stay below the radar," Cali observed. 

Studies spearheaded by Cali have identified many of the dozen kinds of microsporidia now known to infect humans. About 1,500 species of microsporidia have been found infecting a wide variety of life forms. Their spores – a dormant stage in the creatures’ life cycle – inhabit virtually every surface water source, becoming active microsporidia once they have been ingested by an animal susceptible to infection by that particular species. 

Until recent research by Cali and her co-authors proved otherwise, the conventional scientific wisdom was that B. algerae, a microsporidium found in some mosquitoes, could only invade cells on the surface of the human body because it couldn’t survive in the higher temperatures of deep tissue. Several types of microsporidia can be lethal in human beings, although a healthy immune system is usually an adequate defense.

Cali notes that AIDS patients, organ-transplant recipients and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy – who have a low white blood-cell count – need to take extra care to avoid ingesting microsporidial parasites. She recommends that they always boil tap water before consuming it or stick to bottled water – as long as the source of the bottled water is deep springs or wells where microsporidia are unlikely to be present due to the absence of food sources. 

"Prevention is so much better than cure," Cali said, adding that although treatment for some types of microsporidia shows promise, "Whenever we start dealing with parasites in our cells, it’s very difficult to kill them without upsetting our body’s other processes." 

With mosquito season underway in earnest, Cali recommends some simple, common-sense approaches to avoid mosquito bites and resultant infections in addition to her brush-then-squash technique, which moves any B. algerae in a mosquito’s body away from the vulnerable wound site. 

If people are concerned about spraying insect repellents containing DEET on their skin, they can wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and spray the DEET on the fabric instead.

Taking garlic capsules, which cause the release of an odorless vapor through the pores that insects find unappetizing, also can be effective. 

Another approach involves coating exposed skin areas with a bath oil product called Skin So Soft, which has proven so effective that U.S. armed forces operating in swampy, mosquito-rich areas now routinely carry it with their other gear. Avoiding being outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active and prevalent, is another effective tactic, she adds.

Rutgers University -

Ants Attack Oz!

Melbourne August 13, 2004 (BBC) - A giant colony of ants stretching 100km (62 miles) has been discovered in the Australian city of Melbourne, threatening local insect species. The ants, which were imported from Argentina, are ranked among the world's 100 worst animal invaders. 

Although they exist in their usual smaller group size in their homeland, the colonies have merged in Australia to create one massive super colony. Experts fear that the invasion poses a threat to biodiversity in the area. 

Elissa Suhr, from Monash University, Melbourne, said the introduced pest's natural aggression kept numbers under control in its native country. But the lack of genetic diversity in the ants found in Australia has allowed them to build a super colony. 

"In Argentina, their native homeland, ant colonies span tens of meters, are genetically diverse and highly aggressive towards one another," Dr Suhr said. "So population numbers never explode and they are no threat to other plants and animals.

"When they arrived in Australia, in 1939, a change in their structure occurred, changing their behavior so that they are not aggressive towards one another. This has resulted in the colonies becoming one super colony." 

Dr Suhr said the Argentine ants have killed native ants, and consumed many other insects, posing a major threat to biodiversity. She said Argentine ants could even displace native species by taking over local habitats and preying on insects commonly eaten by Australian ants. 

Australia is not the only country to be invaded by Argentine ants, according to Dr Suhr. 

"In California, they have displaced native ants, decreased the diversity of other native insects, affected the dispersal of seeds and even decreased lizard numbers," she said. Australian scientists are studying colonies in Perth and Adelaide to see if they share the same genetic structure and behavior as the Melbourne ants. 

If they do, a super colony several thousand miles wide could spread across southern Australia.

Columbus Bones Not in Spain
By Giles Tremlett
The Guardian 

Madrid August 11, 2004 (Guardian UK) - A centuries-old historical row over the whereabouts of the body of Christopher Columbus appeared to have been solved yesterday when scientists in Spain conceded that the corpse buried at Seville's gothic Santa Maria cathedral was not that of the famous explorer. 

Instead, the bones they studied were probably those of his lesser known son, Diego, who was a small and weedy man, unlike his father. 

Christopher Columbus's body, the experts say, almost certainly lies back in the "new world" he sailed to 500 years ago. 

The exhumation by Spanish anthropologists appears to have settled a row between Spain and the Dominican Republic, which has contested the claim that Columbus's bones ended up in Seville. 

Although DNA tests have not been done, the anthropologists have already concluded that the body in Seville is too young and puny to have belonged to the rugged, hefty sailor who, depending on which version of history you prefer, was either Italian, Spanish or Portuguese. 

"This was a man who never developed his musculature and died at around the age of 45," said Marcial Castro, who is leading the investigation. "Columbus was a strong man who was aged between 55 and 60 when he died." 

The corpse lying under the Columbus Lighthouse monument in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, appears to be of someone around 60 years old who had taken a lot of physical exercise, he said. "I am convinced that Columbus is buried in the Dominican Republic," Mr Castro added. 

Spanish investigators are now seeking permission to open the coffin in Santo Domingo, which was found in 1877 by workmen who discovered a small lead box of bone fragments inscribed "Illustrious and distinguished male, Don Cristóbal Colón". 

Columbus's corpse is known to have had several resting spots in the years after he died in relative poverty in the Spanish city of Valladolid in 1506. 

His body spent three years in Valladolid before an 18-year rest at a monastery in Seville. It was finally shipped to Santo Domingo, along with Diego's body, and interred in the cathedral. In 1795, when Spain handed Santo Domingo to France, some of the bones were carried to Cuba. These were taken back to Seville when the Spaniards were thrown out of Cuba in 1898.
Shanghai Gets 2000 Years Older
Shanghai August 11, 2004 (AFP) - China's thriving and modern metropolis of Shanghai was first established nearly 6,000 years ago, about two millenniums earlier than previously estimated, experts and state press have said. 

Newly discovered artefacts in Shanghai's outskirts prove the first inhabitants migrated from neigbouring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces more than 6,000 years ago, Song Jian, director of the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission, told AFP. 

Mr Song said new archaeological evidence, including pieces of a human skull, show that today's teeming city of 17 million was first populated some 2,000 years earlier than thought. 

Experts previously thought the first people to arrive here came from central Henan province some 4,000 years ago, even though in the 1960s relics from a tribe originating from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces were discovered. 

"This April, we found a human skull that proved to be one of the first human beings in Shanghai," the China Daily quoted Zhang Minghua, a curator at the Shanghai Museum, as saying. 

"They brought Shanghai advanced tools and skills. Ruins of a well were found which marked the first time Chinese stopped being totally dependent on rivers and lakes. 

"People used to consider Shanghai as a booming new city with a history of only several hundred years, but that's wrong," Mr Zhang added.
Magnetosphere Waves and The Aurora Borealis
UC Berkeley Press Release
By Robert Sanders

BERKELEY August 11, 2004 – A bevy of satellites buzzing around in the Earth's magnetosphere has found at least part of the answer to a long-standing puzzle about the source of the charged particles that feed the aurora.

The charged particles come from explosions on the sun and smash into the Earth's magnetic field, which repels the bulk of them. But many slip through, often via a physical process called magnetic reconnection, where the magnetic field traveling with the particles breaks and reconnects with the Earth's field, opening a window for the particles to surge through. Once inside, these excited particles can spiral down toward the poles and create brilliant auroras when they hit the atmosphere.

But magnetic reconnection happens only when the solar wind's magnetic field direction is 180 degrees opposite from that of the magnetic field of the Earth. When the two fields are aligned, there is no obvious physical process allowing entry of charged particles, at least at the leading edge of the Earth's magnetosphere.

Three years ago, however, the four satellites of the Cluster mission, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), passed through the tail of the Earth's magnetic field, which stretches hundreds of thousands of miles in the shadow of the Earth, and observed a new process that could allow entry of the solar wind particles.

The satellite data revealed eddies and vortices in Earth's magnetosphere. These waves are kicked up by the solar wind as it blows past the magnetosphere. If these vortices, called non-linear Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, detach and spin off into Earth's magnetosphere, they could carry charged particles from the solar wind inside - enough to explain the hot, magnetically charged gas, or plasma, stored inside the tail of Earth's field.

"The Kelvin-Helmholtz instability has often been ignored as an important solar wind entry process," said Tai Phan, a space physicist at the University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory and a co-author of the paper. "Thanks to its multi-spacecraft measurements, Cluster has now proven the existence of these large-scale vortices that could lead to substantial entry of solar wind to populate the Earth's magnetosphere." 

Phan, lead-author Hiroshi Hasegawa of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, and their colleagues in Japan and Europe report their conclusions in the Aug. 12 issue of Nature.

A solar wind of charged particles blows incessantly past the Earth, compressing its magnetic field and pulling it into a teardrop shape pointing away from the sun. Periodic solar storms pump up the wind and send more particles toward Earth, which create atmospheric disturbances - auroras, magnetic storms, and radiation belt storms - that can affect satellites as well as radio communications. The goal of the Cluster mission and numerous other Earth satellites is to understand how space weather affects the Earth environment.

One big question is how these charged particles penetrate the protective magnetic field and fill up the magnetic bubble around Earth, and what triggers these particles to suddenly flame down onto the poles, creating colorful auroras. Magnetic reconnection explains the entry of charged particles when the solar wind magnetic field is anti-parallel to the Earth's field, but when the fields are parallel, they should present an impenetrable barrier to this flow. Spacecraft measurements dating to 1987 clearly show, however, that the magnetosphere is three to five times fuller when the fields are aligned than when they are not. So how is the solar wind getting in? 

Part of the answer came on Nov. 20, 2001, when the Cluster flotilla was heading around from behind the Earth and had just arrived at the dusk side of the planet, where the solar wind slides past the Earth's magnetosphere. There it began to encounter gigantic vortices of gas at the magnetopause, the outer edge of the magnetosphere.

"People have seen waves on the surface of the magnetosphere, but they couldn't tell if they were small ripples or crashing, rolling waves," Phan said. "You have to have big vortices to get the solar wind inside."

"These vortices were really huge structures, about six Earth radii across," said Hasegawa. The team's results place the size of the vortices at almost 40,000 kilometers each.

These vortices are products of non-linear Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, which occur when two adjacent flows travel past each other at different speeds and the friction between them kicks up eddies and vortices. Examples of such instabilities are the waves whipped up by the wind slipping across the surface of the ocean. When a KHI-wave rolls up into a vortex, it becomes known as a "Kelvin Cat's eye." The data collected by Cluster have shown density variations of the electrified gas at the magnetopause precisely like those expected when traveling through a Kelvin Cat's eye.

Scientists had postulated that, if these structures were to form at the magnetopause, they might be able to pull large quantities of the solar wind inside the magnetosphere as they collapse. Once the solar wind particles are carried into the inner part of the magnetosphere, they can be excited strongly, allowing them to smash into the Earth's atmosphere and give rise to the auroras.

Cluster's discovery strengthens this scenario but does not show the precise mechanism by which the gas is transported into the Earth's magnetic bubble. Thus, scientists still do not know whether this is the only process to fill up the magnetosphere when the magnetic fields are aligned. For those measurements, Hasegawa said, scientists will have to wait for a future generation of magnetospheric satellites.

Phan, in fact, suspects there are other mechanisms that allow entry of solar wind particles when the solar wind and Earth's field's are parallel. Detection last year by UC Berkeley scientists of a proton aurora over the Earth's poles may indicate that magnetic reconnection around the Earth's polar regions, instead of at the bow of the magnetosphere, can allow particles in.

The Cluster satellites, built by ESA with significant participation from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, were launched in summer 2000. The Cluster mission investigates three-dimensional structures throughout the Earth's magnetosphere and solar wind. NASA supports U.S.-based researchers associated with the mission.

"These multi-point, high time-resolution observations open a new window into understanding the connection of the solar wind to the Earth's magnetosphere," said William Peterson, NASA's geospace program scientist.

Coauthors, in addition to Hasegawa and Phan, are Masaki Fujimoto, Henri Rème, Andre Balogh, Malcolm W. Dunlop and graduate students C. Hashimoto and R. TanDokoro.

European Space Agency -

University of California - Berkeley -

Genre News: Roddenberry Effect, Buffy News, Harsh Realm, Shark Tale, War of the Worlds, Marvel DVDs & More!
The Roddenberry Effect
By FLAtRich

August 15, 2004 (eXoNews) - The Great Bird flies again! Late last month, mounted a virtual campaign called The Roddenberry Effect, a project dedicated to capturing the almost religious recognition of the philosophies of television visionary and producer Gene Roddenberry.

Fans of the shows that Gene Roddenberry created or inspired are usually more than happy to define Gene's influence with familiar catchphrases like "Live long and prosper", but how far can the Prime Directive really reach out of the box and into the real world?

Producer Rod Roddenberry - Gene's son and a syndicated success on his own with shows like Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda - invites the faithful to define his father's message by sending in their own photograph of the Roddenberry Spirit. Contributors are also asked to provide a 150-word caption that explains how their photo captures Gene's message.

Considering the whacky world of Star Trek fans, it's safe to assume that most photos will not make the cut. (Pictures of your butt dressed up as your favorite Star Trek captain, your pet turtle in his Porthos costume, the model of the Enterprise you made from a Coke bottle, etc.)

Rodenberry is asking you to think higher than that and send in a picture that expresses the "optimism, hope, inspiration, vision or humanity" Gene may have stirred in you through Star Trek.

The photographs should express "innovation, human kindness, nature, exploration, peace or how the Roddenberry Spirit (manifested in Star Trek) has affected you personally."

Submissions that are "part of the spirit" will be included in a book (presumably a physical one) to be released in the future.

See all the info and get full instructions on the Roddenberry Official site at

[And remember that 285th Ferengi Rule of Acquisition - "No good deed ever goes unpunished." Ed]

Buffyverse Movies - Joss Is Willing

Hollywood August 12, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel creator Joss Whedon told SCI FI Wire that he's ready to return to the Buffyverse with television films once he receives a green light from The WB, home of Angel, or another network.

"We haven't really heard anything," Whedon said in an interview. "Obviously, there's been a regime change at The WB. The fans are interested. I'm interested. I don't think either [Buffy star] Sarah [Michelle Gellar] or [Angel star] David [Boreanaz] would want to do it. But I think there's about 10 other characters I could name who would be totally worthy of movies. And I'm just waiting for somebody to say yea or nay."

As for a proposed Buffy animated series, Whedon said, "A presentation is being made. It hasn't been bought anywhere, but it's still in the creating stages, so it's still a possibility."

Beyond Buffy, Whedon said he'd readily return to series television.

"I had some ideas," he said. "I'm sort of trying to look at the marketplace and say, 'What kind of idea will actually go?' Because I'm not really interested in making things that don't.

"So I'm not sure if what I have is what the world wants right now."

But, Whedon added, "I am totally prepared to go back to TV. Not 24-seven, as I did with the first years of Buffy. But now I've learned about surrounding yourself with the right people and delegating so that I can actually run a show without ruining my life.

"And TV is, you know, … a medium that I love in a very different way than I love movies.

"The things that I can't do in [a] movie are things that I mourn: the smaller moments. The … protracted interactions. The things that make TV really fascinating. Watching characters change over the years.

"You know, I've waited my whole life to make movies, but movies don't do that. … You either write novels that are way too long, or you make TV if you want to do that. And … I can't write novels that are long."

Buffy Not Indecent!

LOS ANGELES August 10, 2004 ( The Federal Communications Commission has rejected indecency complaints against episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Will & Grace."

In both cases, watchdog groups complained to the FCC about sex scenes. The commission ruled Monday (Aug. 9) that neither scene in question, from a 2001 episode of "Buffy" and a "Will & Grace" episode that aired in syndication last year, was "sufficiently explicit or graphic to be indecent."

The Parents Television Council, known for its annual list of the most and least family-friendly shows on TV, filed a complaint in 2003 about the "Buffy" episode "Smashed" -- originally aired Nov. 20, 2001 -- in which Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Spike (James Marsters) have sex. The commission notes the scene contained no nudity and says "there was no evidence the activity depicted ... was used to pander, titillate or shock the audience."

An Arizona-based group called Americans for Decency complained about a "Will & Grace" episode that aired March 31, 2003, on Phoenix station KSAZ, a FOX affiliate that airs the sitcom in syndication. The complaint takes issue with a scene in which "[a] woman photographer passionately kissed [a] woman author and then humped her (what she called a 'dry hump.')" 

The FCC ruling says that since both people in the scene were fully clothed, and, again, there was no intent to "pander, titillate or shock," the scene isn't indecent.

Harsh Realm on DVD!
By FLAtRich

August 15, 2004 (eXoNews) - Stop whining, soldier! At long last, Chris Carter's aborted 1999 Harsh Realm TV series will appear as a complete DVD set in the USA. The 3-disc set will be released on August 24th, 2004 and includes the entire series, all nine episodes in widescreen* format and:

  • Commentary by Chris Carter and director Dan Sackheim on the pilot
  • Inside the Harsh Realm: making-of featurette
  • Creating the logo and title sequence
  • English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
  • Subtitled in English and Spanish, dubbed in English and French
  • Encoding: Region 1
  • Close Captioned

Most important, it is under $40 and you can get it online directly from the Fox Store ($29.95) or at Amazon.

For those of you who don't know, Harsh Realm was X-Files creator Carter's first series failure on Fox - the story of a group of rebels fighting a scurrilous dictator in a virtual reality world. Harsh Realm starred Scott Bairstow as Lt. Tom Hobbs, D.B. Sweeney as Mike Pinocchio, Vinnie as Dexter the Dog, and Rachel Hayward as Florence. Supporting and guest roles were filled by a bevy of genre favorites, including Terry O'Quinn (MillenniuM), Sarah-Jane Redmond (Smallville) and Lance Henriksen.

Carter executive produced and also wrote a couple of the nine episodes. Some of the best of his X-Files and MillenniuM crew participated in the experiment, including Carter's long time collaborator Frank Spotnitz and directors Kim Manners and Daniel Sackheim.

Vinnie (the dog) was a real scene stealer.

The best episode was Cincinnati, written by Carter and directed by Larry Shaw. It was never shown on broadcast TV in the USA (the entire series did appear briefly on Fox's FX Network in 2000.) Cincinnati features a largely Native American cast rebelling against the abovementioned scurrilous dictator (played by Terry O'Quinn) and is definitely worth the price of the entire DVD set.

The show was based on a 1993 comic book series, created by James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette. It ran into unexpected legal challenges by the comic authors after the first episodes, who objected to a "Created by Chris Carter" credit on the show. Fox was typically inept at publicizing Harsh Realm (as it was with MillenniuM, The Lone Gunmen, Wonderfalls, etc.) and the series garnered low ratings and was dumped after just three episodes aired.

Production was halted with only the pilot and eight episodes in the can.

International viewers, some still caught up in early seasons of X-Files and MillenniuM, rallied to Harsh Realm as it appeared in syndication around the world. It was a big hit earlier this year in Finland.

[* BTW, Amazon says "Widescreen anamorphic format" and Fox Store says "Full Frame". Obviously, it's just a game to them... I'm gonna eat that dog! Ed.]

Buy Harsh Realm directly from the Fox Store

Visit VRContinuum's Unofficial Harsh Realm fan site -

DeNiro Shark Defames Italians?

Washington DC August 14, 2004 (Guardian UK) - To millions of filmgoers around the world, Robert DeNiro is the epitome of the Italian man.

But the tough guy image and parts in blockbusters such as The Godfather II have not endeared him to some Americans of Italian descent.

This week it emerged that an influential Italian-American organization had appealed to Silvio Berlusconi, asking the Italian Prime Minister to cancel his country's plan to award DeNiro honorary citizenship.

The Order of the Sons of Italy in America - which is based in Washington, has 600,000 members and describes itself as the oldest and largest association of its kind - is indignant that the actor has "made a career of playing gangsters of Italian descent".

It is particularly annoyed that DeNiro is to star in a Steven Spielberg children's film which is, it says, deeply offensive and will instill in young people the idea that Italians are all mafiosi.

The society has asked Spielberg's company DreamWorks to edit what it considers the most offensive aspects of the film, Shark Tale, before it is shown at next month's Venice film festival in northern Italy and launched in the US in October.

In the film, DeNiro plays the voice of a shark that the society says is a classic godfather figure. 

"[Spielberg] is going to make millions of dollars with a film that is going to introduce unflattering and untrue stereotypes of Italian-Americans as gangsters to millions of children," the society said. 

It faxed Mr Berlusconi on Tuesday to demand the actor not be given the citizenship accolade.

The letter pointed out that for Italy to confer such an honor on DeNiro would be perceived as an insult by millions of Italian-Americans who have long objected to his "distorted and unbalanced portrayal of people of Italian heritage". 

Andy Spahn, a DreamWorks spokesman, rejected the society's criticism. "We are ... perplexed," he said. "It's an animated movie about colorful fish. I can't see how that can offend anyone."

Shark Tale Official -

War of the Worlds

Hollywood August 12, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - A new film based on H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, has been put on a fast track for production, Variety reported.

The project has pushed back both Spielberg's proposed untitled movie about the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics and Cruise's upcoming Mission: Impossible 3, which J.J. Abrams (TV's Alias) has been hired to direct, based on his rewrite of Frank Darabont's script. M:I 3 is now pushed back to next summer, the trade paper reported. Abrams, who makes his feature-film directorial debut, replaces Joe Carnahan, who quit over "creative differences."

War of the Worlds, which will feature complex computer-generated visual effects, has been put on a very fast track, with only 10 weeks of preproduction, the trade paper reported. DreamWorks and Paramount are co-financing the movie. Sources told the trade paper that the budget for the film could exceed $100 million.

War of the Worlds, a contemporary adaptation of Wells' classic Mars invasion novel, will have to be rushed to make its November start date and a 2005 release. David Koepp wrote the script; Kathleen Kennedy and Paula Wagner will produce, the trade paper reported.

[Industrial Light & Magic will most likely handle effects for War of the Worlds, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The 1953 version of War of the Worlds, directed by Byron Haskin, starring Gene Barry and produced by George Pal with a little uncredited help from Cecil B. DeMille, is fairly definitive. If Spielberg wasn't involved, we'd have to ask "Why bother?" Ed.]

The Avengers a Go on Marvel DVD 
By Marc Graser

Hollywood August 12, 2004 (Variety) - Months after inking a deal with Lions Gate to produce direct-to-DVD titles, Marvel Enterprises has tapped Eric Rollman to oversee the venture. 

Rollman will serve as senior veep of home entertainment and TV production at Marvel Studios and will shepherd the development and production of animated DVD features based on popular characters from the Marvel Universe. Marvel's library includes more than 4,700 comicbook characters. 

The first project, "The Avengers," will include Marvel's Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man superheroes. DVD will bow sometime in 2006. 

"With our world-renowned character library, there are countless possibilities for creating dynamic, action-packed animated made-for-DVD movies," said David Meisel, prexy and chief operating officer of Marvel Studios, to whom Rollman reports. "Eric's background, combined with his knowledge of Marvel, will be instrumental in taking advantage of this tremendous new opportunity for Marvel." 

Most recently, Rollman formed independent production company Rollman Entertainment to consult on and develop live-action and animated television, film and media projects. 

Before that, he served as prexy of Fox Family and Saban Entertainment, where he oversaw the "Power Rangers" and "Digimon" franchises, as well as turning several Marvel properties into animated TV series, including "X-Men," "Ultimate Spider-Man," "Silver Surfer" and "The Avengers."

[If these DVDs succeed, Marvel's move could lead the way for more direct-to-DVD productions. Kill ugly TV, buy a DVD! :o)> Ed.]

Moore Stands Firm on Headline

BLOOMINGTON IL August 12, 2004 (AP) - Filmmaker Michael Moore makes no apologizes for his Bush-bashing documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," and his lawyer says he'll make no apologies for its use of an Illinois newspaper headline, either.

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph says the headline, flashed briefly in the film, came from a letter to the editor about the 2000 presidential election recount but was doctored to look like a news story. Even the date was changed. 

The newspaper fired off a letter to Moore and his production company last month that it says was lighthearted but symbolic, demanding an apology and $1 in compensatory damages. 

But an attorney for Westside Productions replied this week that Moore violated no copyright laws and did nothing misleading. 

"Baloney," said Pantagraph President and Publisher Henry Bird, who directed his lawyers to send a follow-up letter asking Moore to explain why material from the paper was altered without permission. 

Westside Productions lawyer Devereux Chatillon acknowledged that Moore was two weeks off on the date of the headline, which read: "Latest Florida recount shows Gore won election." 

But the mistake "did not make a difference to the editorial point ... and was in no way detrimental to (The Pantagraph)," the New York-based attorney wrote in a letter to the paper. 

"Fahrenheit 9/11," which opened in theaters in June, quickly became the first documentary to top $100 million at the domestic box office.

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