|F Ring Moons! |
Nuclear Waste, Brain RAM,
DR21 Exposed! Cosmic Lens,
A Plague of Locusts & More!
|F Ring Moons: Prometheus and Pandora|
|NASA/JPL Press Release |
April 15, 2004 - Cassini has sighted Prometheus and Pandora, the two F-ring-shepherding moons whose unpredictable orbits both fascinate scientists and wreak havoc on the F ring.
Prometheus (102 kilometers, or 63 miles across) is visible left of center in the image, inside the F ring. Pandora (84 kilometers, or 52 miles across) appears above center, outside the ring.
The dark shadow cast by the planet stretches more than halfway across the A ring, the outermost main ring. The mottled pattern appearing in the dark regions of the image is 'noise' in the signal recorded by the camera system, which has subsequently been magnified by the image processing.
Pandora prevents the F ring from spreading outward and Prometheus prevents it from spreading inward. However, their interaction with the ring is complex and not fully understood. The shepherds are also known to be responsible for many of the observed structures in Saturn's A ring.
This strange behavior was first noticed in ground-based and Hubble Space Telescope observations in 1995, when the rings were seen nearly edge-on from Earth and the usual glare of the rings was reduced, making the satellites more readily visible than usual. The positions of both satellites at that time were different than expected based on Voyager data.
One of the goals for the Cassini-Huygens mission is to derive more precise orbits for Prometheus and Pandora. Seeing how their orbits change over the duration of the mission will help to determine their masses, which in turn will help constrain models of their interiors and provide a more complete understanding of their effect on the rings.
This narrow angle camera image was snapped through the broadband green spectral filter, centered at 568 nanometers, on March 10, 2004, when the spacecraft was 55.5 million kilometers (34.5 million miles) from the planet.
Image scale is approximately 333 kilometers (207 miles) per pixel. Contrast has been greatly enhanced, and the image has been magnified to aid visibility of the moons as well as structure in the rings.
The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.
|US Government Will Ship Nuclear Waste|
|By John Nolan |
CINCINNATI April 16, 2004 (AP) — The Energy Department said Thursday it will ship radioactive waste from a Cold War–era nuclear plant in Ohio to Nevada despite that state's threat of legal action.
"They're protesting our legal right to transport low-level defense waste," Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis said from Washington.
"We've got a plan in place. We're going to go forward with it."
Fernald processed uranium metal from 1951 until 1989 for use in government reactors to produce nuclear weapons.
|Feds Charge Greenpeace with Protesting Under 1872 Law|
|By Catherine Wilson |
MIAMI April 16, 2004 (AP) — A judge refused Thursday to throw out federal charges against Greenpeace for protesting a shipment of Amazon mahogany, setting up a trial that could serve as a test on the limits of political dissent.
The Justice Department charged the environmental group under an obscure 19th-century law enacted to stop pimps from clambering aboard ships heading for port. The government has never successfully prosecuted an activist organization on criminal charges over protest methods.
Although U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan allowed the case to move forward, parts of his ruling could give prosecutors reason to be nervous.
"This case is, to put it mildly, unusual," Jordan wrote. Although the law's "lack of use does not prevent the government from going forward against Greenpeace, it does point to how uncommon such a prosecution is."
Jordan did not make a final decision on Greenpeace's claim that the wording of the old law is too vague but said the argument "looks like a winner." U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Matt Dates declined comment.
Greenpeace claims the Bush administration is going out of its way to stifle dissent in retaliation for its pushy challenges to pollution, deforestation, and global warming.
The prosecution "has the potential to transform an important aspect of our nation's legal and political life, significantly affecting our tradition of civil protest," said Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando.
The charges stem from a 2002 protest on the 965-foot APL Jade more than three miles off Miami Beach. Two protesters jumped aboard the vessel while members in two rubber rafts zigzagged in front of the ship. The crew kept protesters from unfurling a banner reading, "President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging."
Greenpeace claims the ship was carrying illegally cut Brazilian mahogany and that Bush has failed to enforce an international import ban. Six Greenpeace members settled criminal charges over the boarding, but a misdemeanor indictment charged the group with conspiracy and an illegal boarding under the 1872 law. Each count carries a possible $10,000 fine plus probation, a chilling prospect for an organization that is afraid it could be forced to open its records to government inspection.
The judge said the fears were "unfounded" and specifically noted that Greenpeace's membership list would be protected.
The jury trial will begin May 17.
Greenpeace - http://www.greenpeace.org
|NIH/National Institute of Mental Health Press Release |
April 16, 2004 - Some people are better than others at remembering what they have just seen – holding mental pictures in mind from moment to moment. An individual's capacity for such visual working memory can be predicted by his or her brainwaves, researchers funded by the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health have discovered.
A key brain electrical signal leveled off when the number of objects held in mind exceeded a subject's capacity to accurately remember them, while it continued to soar in those with higher capacity, report University of Oregon psychologist Edward Vogel, Ph.D., and graduate student Maro Machizawa, in the April 15, 2004 Nature.
Analogous to a computer's RAM, working memory is the ever-changing content of our consciousness. It's been known for years that people have a limited capacity to hold things in mind that they've just seen, varying from 1.5 to 5 objects. "Our study identifies signals from brain areas that hold these visual representations and allows us to coarsely decode them, revealing how many objects are being held and their location in the visual field," explained Vogel.
To find out if the amplitude of detectable signals reflects the number of object representations held in visual memory, the researchers presented 36 subjects with a series of trials containing an increasing number of objects. Subjects briefly viewed a picture containing colored squares, followed by a one-second delay, and then a test picture. They pressed buttons to indicate whether the test picture was identical to -- or differed by one color -- from the one seen earlier. The more squares a subject could correctly identify having just seen, the greater his/her visual working memory capacity. Subjects averaged 2.8 squares.
Electrodes on the scalp recorded neural activity during the one-second delay to pinpoint signals reflecting activity of brain areas involved in holding the images in working memory. Asking subjects to remember just one of two sets of colored squares that appeared on the left and right sides of the screen revealed signals near the opposite rear side of the head as emanating from the brain area involved.
The researchers found that the more squares a subject correctly identified, the higher the spike of corresponding brain activity – up to a point.
Amplitude of the signal for correct trials was much higher than incorrect ones, suggesting that the delay activity specifically reflects the maintenance of successful representations in visual memory.
Neural activity of subjects with poorer working memory scores leveled off early, showing little or no increase when the number of squares to remember increased from 2 to 4, while those with high capacity, who correctly remembered more squares, showed large increases.
|Cheney Says Kerry a Threat to Gun Owners|
|By DAN NEPHIN |
Associated Press Writer
PITTSBURGH April 18, 2004 (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney portrayed President Bush and himself as champions of the Second Amendment — and Democratic candidate John Kerry as a potential threat to gun owners — in a speech at the National Rifle Association's 133rd annual convention Saturday.
"John Kerry's approach to the Second Amendment has been to regulate, regulate and then regulate some more," Cheney said, citing votes against legislation that would protect gun makers from lawsuits and in favor of allowing federal authorities to randomly inspect gun dealers without notice.
Cheney lauded the NRA for its safety programs and said the best way to prevent gun crimes was to enforce existing laws. Federal prosecutions of crimes committed with guns increased 68 percent under President Bush, he told the crowd.
Bush "has shown you respect, earned your vote and appreciates your support," Cheney said.
Cheney spoke for about 25 minutes after he was greeted by a standing ovation punctuated by chants of "Four more years."
Cheney did not address the federal assault weapons ban, which expires in September, and which the NRA maintains has been ineffective.
Kerry, in a statement issued before Cheney's address, said "most voters don't know that (Bush and Cheney) are standing against major police organizations and breaking their promise to renew the assault weapons ban — which helps keep military-style assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists."
Earlier in the day, Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was killed with an assault weapon in the Columbine High School killings five years ago, tried to enter the convention hall where the NRA was meeting, seeking to urge Cheney to support extending the assault weapons ban.
Mauser was turned away by a security guard as several conventioneers applauded. A couple of conventioneers yelled "Get a life" and "Vote for Bush."
Mauser, who marched three blocks to the convention hall literally in his son's shoes, said before the march that continuing the ban would be common sense.
"What is the useful purpose to these weapons? ... They are the weapons of gangs, drug lords and sick people." Mauser said. "It is a weapon of war and we don't want this war on our streets."
Mauser called the NRA "an organization with a Field-and-Stream-magazine membership but a Soldier-of-Fortune-magazine leadership."
The NRA expected up to 60,000 people at its weekend convention, dubbed "Freedom's Steel." The association, which endorsed Bush and Cheney in the 2000 election, will not endorse a candidate until the fall, spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said.
Associated Press Writer Joe Mandak contributed to this report.
National Rifle Association at www.nra.org
|Spitzer Space Telescope JPL Press Release |
April 13, 2004 - Hidden behind a curtain of dusty darkness lurks one of the most violent pockets of star birth in our galaxy. Called DR21, this stellar nursery is so draped in cosmic dust that it appears invisible to the human eye.
By seeing in the infrared, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has pulled this veil aside, revealing a fireworks-like display of massive stars.
The biggest of these stars is estimated to be 100,000 times as bright as our own Sun.
Launched on August 25, 2003, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Spitzer Space Telescope is the fourth of NASAÕs Great Observatories, a program that also includes the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and Chandra X-ray Observatory.
|Sony, Toppan Develop Optical Disc Made from Paper|
|TOKYO April 16, 2004 (Reuters) - Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp and Toppan Printing Co Ltd have developed a new optical disc, made mostly from paper, that they say will be compatible with next-generation DVD technology. |
In a joint news release distributed late Thursday, the two companies said the new disc was comprised 51 percent of paper, enabling lower production costs.
The disc can store up to five times more information than current discs, because it is based on blue-laser DVD technology.
Blue-laser DVD players are expected to replace the current generation of red-laser DVD players in a few years' time.
The paper disc is based on a version of a blue-laser DVD technology, called Blu-Ray, that is supported by a consortium of electronics makers including Sony, Matsushita Electric Industrial and Dutch firm Philips
Toppan, the world's leading maker of color filters for liquid crystal displays, said the new discs could be more secure, since disposal of used discs can be done easily.
The two companies said they planned to continue development of the disc for practical use.
|Cosmic Lens - Microlensing 17,000 Light Years from Earth|
|NASA/JPL NEWS RELEASE |
April 15, 2004 - Like Sherlock Holmes holding a magnifying glass to unveil hidden clues, modern day astronomers used cosmic magnifying effects to reveal a planet orbiting a distant star.
This marks the first discovery of a planet around a star beyond Earth's solar system using gravitational microlensing. A star or planet can act as a cosmic lens to magnify and brighten a more distant star lined up behind it. The gravitational field of the foreground star bends and focuses light, like a glass lens bending and focusing starlight in a telescope. Albert Einstein predicted this effect in his theory of general relativity and confirmed it with our Sun.
"The real strength of microlensing is its ability to detect low-mass planets," said Dr. Ian Bond of the Institute for Astronomy in Edinburgh, Scotland, lead author of a paper appearing in the May 10 Astrophysical Journal Letters. The discovery was made possible through cooperation between two international research teams: Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (Moa) and Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (Ogle). Well-equipped amateur astronomers might use this technique to follow up future discoveries and help confirm planets around other stars.
The newly discovered star-planet system is 17,000 light years away, in the constellation Sagittarius. The planet, orbiting a red dwarf parent star, is most likely one-and-a-half times bigger than Jupiter.
The planet and star are three times farther apart than Earth and the Sun. Together, they magnify a farther, background star some 24,000 light years away, near the Milky Way center.
In most prior microlensing observations, scientists saw a typical brightening pattern, or light curve, indicating a star's gravitational pull was affecting light from an object behind it. The latest observations revealed extra spikes of brightness, indicating the existence of two massive objects.
By analyzing the precise shape of the light curve, Bond and his team determined one smaller object is only 0.4 percent the mass of a second, larger object. They concluded the smaller object must be a planet orbiting its parent star.
Two years later, three groups reported the first detection of gravitational microlensing by stars.
Earlier claims of planet discoveries with microlensing are not regarded as definitive, since they had too few observations of the apparent planetary brightness variations.
He and his colleagues believe observations over the next few years may lead to the discovery of Neptune-sized, and even Earth-sized planets around distant stars.
Microlensing can easily detect extrasolar planets, because a planet dramatically affects the brightness of a background star. Because the effect works only in rare instances, when two stars are perfectly aligned, millions of stars must be monitored. Recent advances in cameras and image analysis have made this task manageable. Such developments include the new large field-of-view Ogle-III camera, the Moa-II 1.8 meter (70.8 inch) telescope, being built, and cooperation between microlensing teams.
"It's time-critical to catch stars while they are aligned, so we must share our data as quickly as possible," said Ogle team-leader Dr. Andrzej Udalski of Poland's Warsaw University Observatory.
Udalski in Poland and Paczynski in the U.S lead the Polish/American project. It operates at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, run by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and includes the world's largest microlensing survey on the 1.3 meter (51-inch) Warsaw Telescope.
Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics is primarily a New Zealand/Japanese group, with collaborators in the United Kingdom and U.S. New Zealand's Marsden Fund, NASA and National Science Foundation, Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, and the Japan Society support it for the Promotion of Science.
|Female Chimps Upstage Males|
|Tanzania April 15, 2004 (BBC) - It would seem young female chimpanzees take their studies a little more seriously than their male classmates, a study in the journal Nature has shown. |
Females learn from their mothers how to gather termites much faster than males - who prefer to spend more of their time playing, US scientists say.
Elizabeth Lonsdorf and colleagues conducted their research on wild chimps in Tanzania's Gombe National Park.
They say the gender differences are similar to those seen in young humans.
Girls and boys pick up fine motor skills such as writing at different rates, and the team suggests its research could therefore indicate that sex-based learning differences may have an ancient origin.
Educationalists trying to develop learning strategies for children could find the work instructive, the scientists believe.
"This finding is a heads-up to researchers studying the learning of relatively complex skills that they should take sex into account," said Dr Lonsdorf, the director of field conservation at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
In a four-year-long field study, the team observed 14 young chimps and their mothers engaged in the practice of "fishing" termites out of mounds with tools made from vegetation. The research found the females learnt the skills earlier, spent more time at it and tended to catch more termites with each try.
The young males spent a lot of their time playing and swinging around - behaviours the team says may help them in typically male adult activities later in life, such as hunting and struggling for dominance.
"The availability of animal protein is limited for chimpanzees. They can fish for termites or hunt colobus monkeys," explained Dr Lonsdorf, who caried out the study with Lynn Eberly and Anne Pusey. "Mature males often hunt monkeys up in the trees, but females are almost always either pregnant or burdened with a clinging infant. This makes hunting difficult. But termites are a rich source of protein and fat. Females can fish for termites and watch their offspring at the same time."
"Adult females spend more time fishing for termites than males do. The young of both sexes seem to pursue activities related to their adult sex roles at a very young age."
|Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) Press Release |
UK April 16, 2004 - A consortium of astronomers is celebrating the commissioning of the SuperWASP facility at the astronomical observatory on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, designed to detect thousands of planets outside of our own solar system.
SuperWASP has a novel optical design comprising up to eight scientific cameras (currently starting operation with five cameras), each resembling in operation a household digital camera, and collectively attached to a conventional telescope mount. SuperWASP has a field-of-view some 2000 times greater than a conventional astronomical telescope. The instrument, which will eventually be capable of running under robotic control, is housed in its own customized building.
Only about a hundred extra-solar planets are currently known, and many questions about their formation and evolution remain unanswered due to the lack of observational data.
This situation is expected to improve dramatically as SuperWASP produces scientific results.
|A Plague of Locusts Descends on Oz|
|SYDNEY April 16, 2004 (Reuters) — Millions of locusts swarmed toward Australia's second biggest city of Melbourne on Thursday, as the insects were also reported near the southern city of Adelaide. |
Brought to life in February by drought-breaking rains, billions of locusts first swarmed along a 1,200-km (745-mile) front from southwest Queensland state to the central New South Wales town of Dubbo, across an area twice the size of England.
The move to major cities by the crop-devastating insects widened the battlefront in Australia's three-month effort to contain the swarms. Despite an aerial spraying campaign since February, the locusts have now spread a further 700 km (435 miles) southwest to establish a 5-million-strong swarm north of Melbourne.
"We had somebody phone up this morning to say they had a locust in the back garden," said Laury McCulloch, a director of the Australian Plague Locust Commission.
Officials in Adelaide also confirmed the arrival of locusts.
Numbers in the outback have not been officially estimated but are recognized as the most serious since up to 100 billion locusts swarmed in late 2000.
The return of very dry weather to much of New South Wales has driven the locusts to search for more favorable conditions in the south, said McCulloch.
Aerial spraying is now in progress in hot spots north of Dubbo, a town on the edge of Australia's eastern population zone and which was invaded by the insects last month.
The swarm 80 kms (50 miles) north of Melbourne probably did not justify aerial spraying but was being monitored, officials said.
Australia's major crops have so far escaped damage from the outbreak, which has occurred between the end of the winter harvest and the planting of new wheat, barley, and canola crops. However, some oat crops in the central west of New South Wales had been devoured by the locusts, McCulloch said.
Locusts were also laying eggs in northwest New South Wales and would hatch in spring, in six months' time, when wheat crops would be maturing for harvest, he said.
|Genre News: Uma Kills, Angel Movie, Hitchhiker's Guide, David Duchovny, Brian Wilson, Valentino & More!|
Uma Kills - Tarantino's Muse
LOS ANGELES April 14, 2004 (AP) - Uma Thurman is one bride who wears red — from other people's blood.
"We were out one night talking and he was telling me about genres and filmmaking, and (the 1973 blaxploitation revenge film) `Coffy' and different movies ... "
"We got going back and forth and cooked up the character of The Bride together. Like, wouldn't it be great to play this woman ... assassin ... wedding chapel massacre ... and da da da da dah. Usually that kind of talk is cheap but not with him. He went and sculpted the seed ideas of the movie."
Thurman, he said, would play a sexy assassin who wants out of the business. Her boss and lover, Bill, would slay her groom and entire wedding party and leave her for dead. Resurrected years later, she would embark on a mission of revenge to kill you know who (David Carradine) and his squad of hired murderers (Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox and Michael Madsen).
Tarantino did not make himself available for an interview with The Associated Press to talk about "Kill Bill — Vol. 2."
"I think we're really different people actually, but that's what's fun about talking to each other. We have very different perspectives. He's a very extroverted, public person. I'm a very introverted person. We're just very different characters, but somehow or other ..." She finished the sentence with a shrug.
WB Considers Angel Movies and Wonderfalls
LOS ANGELES April 16, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - John Malkovich is thumbing a ride on "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," a Disney adaptation of the Douglas Adams novel.
Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell and Martin Freeman also star.
[If you've never heard the original BBC radio version, try to find it! Ed.]
BBC H2G2 Official - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2
LOS ANGELES April 16, 2004 (AP) - Slave to women's fashion that he is, David Duchovny jokes that he wishes he could have put on a dress for the new drag-queen comedy "Connie and Carla."
Prepare for X-Files II with the eXoNews X-Files Fan Poll - http://richlabonte.net/keyofx/x.htm
New Brian Wilson Studio Album in June
LOS ANGELES April 16, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Brian Wilson's first new studio album in six years, "Gettin' in Over My Head," will be released by Warner Music Group's Rhino Records on June 22.
He is currently in the studio working on the final version of "Smile," which will likely also be released through Warner.
The album also includes a duet with his late brother Carl Wilson titled "Soul Searchin'."
Official Brian Wilson - http://www.brianwilson.com
NEW YORK April 16, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - The WB Network, home to such clean-cut fare as "Everwood" and "Smallville," is developing an original movie about late rock icon Kurt Cobain, the troubled frontman for "grunge" band Nirvana.
Plummer As Cardinal Law
HOLLYWOOD April 12, 2004 (Variety) - Christopher Plummer will star as Boston's controversial Cardinal Law in the Showtime original pic "Our Fathers," based on the David France book examining the pedophilia scandal that shook the Roman Catholic Church.
Brigitte Bardot Defends Whales to Danish Queen
Islanders claim the mammals are an important source of food and contend they have restricted the use of gaffs and spears in the hunt to make it more humane. Once beached, the whales' spinal cords are severed and bled dry by cutting the arteries.
AMSTERDAM April 17, 2004 (Reuters) - The Dutch national film archive has discovered a complete copy of the long-lost 1922 silent classic "Beyond the Rocks" starring Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson in a private collection, it said on Saturday.
"It is a complete feature film in six acts with a beautiful story in which Valentino plays a rather decent character," he said, adding he believed the collector had the copy for decades.
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