|Galactic Mysteries! |
Hitler's Bomb, Dead Dolphins,
CIA Terror Plane, Perfect Mummy,
DC Coyotes, 1st Hominids & More!
|Galactic Mysteries! |
M33, the Triangulum Galaxy is part of the Local Group of galaxies,
which includes the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and our galaxy, the
Milky Way. M33 is over thirty thousand light years across, and
more than two million light years away. (Image courtesy of NRAO/
AUI and NOAO/AURA/NSF)
Galactic Motion in Space
National Radio Astronomy Observatory News Release
March 3, 2005 - Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) have measured the motion across the sky of a galaxy nearly 2.4 million light-years from Earth. While scientists have been measuring the motion of galaxies directly toward or away from Earth for decades, this is the first time that the transverse motion (called proper motion by astronomers) has been measured for a galaxy that is not a satellite of our own Milky Way Galaxy.
An international scientific team analyzed VLBA observations made over two and a half years to detect minuscule shifts in the sky position of the spiral galaxy M33. Combined with previous measurements of the galaxy's motion toward Earth, the new data allowed the astronomers to calculate M33's movement in three dimensions for the first time.
"A snail crawling on Mars would appear to be moving across the surface more than 100 times faster than the motion we measured for this galaxy," said Mark Reid, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA.
M33 is a satellite of the larger galaxy M31, the well-known Andromeda Galaxy that is the most distant object visible to the naked eye. Both are part of the Local Group of galaxies that includes the Milky Way.
In addition to measuring the motion of M33 as a whole, the astronomers also were able to make a direct measurement of the spiral galaxy's rotation. Both measurements were made by observing the changes in position of giant clouds of molecules inside the galaxy. The water vapor in these clouds acts as a natural maser, strengthening, or amplifying, radio emission the same way that lasers amplify light emission. The natural masers acted as bright radio beacons whose movement could be tracked by the ultra-sharp radio "vision" of the VLBA.
Reid and his colleagues plan to continue measuring M33's motion and also to make similar measurements of M31's motion. This will allow them to answer important questions about the composition, history and fates of the two galaxies as well as of the Milky Way.
"We want to determine the orbits of M31 and M33. That will help us learn about their history, specifically, how close have they come in the past?" Reid explained. "If they have passed very closely, then maybe M33's small size is a result of having material pulled off it by M31 during the close encounter," he added.
Accurate knowledge of the motions of both galaxies also will help determine if there's a collision in their future. In addition, orbital analysis can give astronomers valuable clues about the amount and distribution of dark matter in the galaxies.
3D representation of the galaxies in the Local Group, together
with the measured speed vector of M33. The speed measured
at M31 shows just the known motion towards the Milky Way.
(Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)
The direct measurement of M33's transverse angular spin is the first time such a measurement has been done accurately. In the 1920s, some astronomers thought they had measured the spin of spiral galaxies, but their results proved to be in error. More recently, radio astronomers have measured the Doppler shift of hydrogen gas in galaxies to determine the spin speed, which, when combined with the angular spin, gives a direct estimate of the distance of the galaxy.
The astronomers' task was not simple. Not only did they have to detect an impressively tiny amount of motion across the sky, but they also had to separate the actual motion of M33 from the apparent motion caused by our Solar System's motion around the center of the Milky Way. The motion of the Solar System and the Earth around the Galactic center, some 26,000 light-years away, has been accurately measured using the VLBA over the last decade.
"The VLBA is the only telescope system in the world that could do this work," Reid said.
"Its extraordinary ability to resolve fine detail is unmatched and was the absolute prerequisite to making these measurements."
Reid worked with Andreas Brunthaler of the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany; Heino Falcke of ASTRON in the Netherlands; Lincoln Greenhill, also of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; and Christian Henkel, also of the Max Planck Institute in Bonn. The scientists reported their findings in the March 4 issue of the journal Science.
The VLBA is a system of ten radio-telescope antennas, each with a dish 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter and weighing 240 tons. From Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the VLBA spans more than 5,000 miles, providing astronomers with the sharpest vision of any telescope on Earth or in orbit.
Dedicated in 1993, the VLBA has an ability to see fine detail equivalent to being able to stand in New York and read a newspaper in Los Angeles.
The VLBA's scientific achievements include making the most accurate distance measurement ever made of an object beyond the Milky Way Galaxy; the first mapping of the magnetic field of a star other than the Sun; movies of motions in powerful cosmic jets and of distant supernova explosions; the first measurement of the propagation speed of gravity; and long-term measurements that have improved the reference frame used to map the Universe and detect tectonic motions of Earth's continents.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory - http://www.nrao.edu
Most Distant Massive Galaxies Found
University of Michigan News Report
XMM-Newton observation of XMMU J2235.3-2557.
(Copyright: Mullis et al.)
March 2, 2005 ANN ARBOR - An international team of astronomers using the world's largest X-ray and optical telescopes have spotted the most distant massive object ever detected, a cluster of galaxies 9 billion light years distant from Earth.
The cluster of galaxies is so far away that the light detected by the team is much older than the Earth itself. The galaxy cluster, if it is even still there, would be at least 11 billion years old now.
"By capturing this ancient, 9-billion-year-old light, we have a snapshot of the universe at a youthful age of less than 5 billion years, which is about 1/3 of the present age," said project leader Christopher Mullis, a research fellow in the University of Michigan's Department of Astronomy.
As exciting as it is to break a record, it's also an important cosmological finding. "Just a few years ago, astronomers did not believe structures like this even existed at such an early time," Mullis said. This galaxy cluster, which is being seen as it appeared about 2 billion years after its formation, is well-organized and "mature," he said. Although it is very far back in time, it looks as if this structure had formed in a way that is consistent with more recent structures.
"Even at this early stage in cosmic history, this appears already as a mature, fully assembled structure which implies that this is an old cluster in a young universe," said European Southern Observatory astronomer Piero Rosati, who collaborated on the study.
The record-breaking galaxy cluster was also a somewhat surprising find for the team, who were testing a new approach to hunting distant objects. "Basically we stepped up to the plate for our first time at bat with this new system, and we hit a home run," Mullis said.
Mullis and his colleagues started their search by combing through archives of old images from the European Space Agency's orbiting X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton, looking for diffuse X-ray sources that had not been previously studied. Cluster galaxies shine brightly in optical light, but they also emit strong X-ray signals resulting from very hot gas that envelopes the cluster.
The record-breaking cluster initially turned up, small but distinct, off center in an image made by another team.
The X-ray image of the distant cluster is comprised of just 280 photons---individual parcels of light---collected over a 12.5-hour exposure. By comparison, on a sunny day the human eye is flooded by about 10 quadrillion photons per second.
With this distant cluster candidate and dozens of others culled from the X-ray archive, Mullis and his team then turned to one of the world's largest optical telescopes, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, located in the Atacama Desert, Chile. They took a series of relatively quick exposures of the candidates with red and blue filters on the telescope.
What Mullis and his Italian and German collaborators were looking for at each of the candidate spots were very red galaxies, indicating light that has traveled for an extremely long time to reach Earth. "The redder the better," Mullis said. Almost immediately, they turned up this cluster of red objects that seemed to be beyond the previous distance record.
"I spent a full day rechecking my data before I called any of the other scientists," Mullis said. "It appeared to be almost unbelievably distant."
Subsequent, more detailed measurements on 12 major galaxies in the cluster were used to confirm that they were equidistant from Earth at about 9 billion light years. The entire cluster is probably hundreds or even thousands of galaxies held together by gravity, Mullis said.
The distant, massive galaxy cluster as it existed
when the Universe was less than 5 billion years
old or 1/3 its present age. This is a color composite
image. Old cluster galaxies are the small red objects
and the diffuse, hot gas is revealed by the X-ray
emission. (Copyright: Mullis et al.)
Collaborator Hans Bohringer of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany said the discovery "encourages us to search for additional distant clusters using the same efficient techniques used to locate the present cluster."
Mullis and his team are going to broaden the search to find more super-distant galaxy clusters with this new approach. They also plan to go back and take longer optical and X-ray telescope exposures of the record-setting cluster to get a better sense of its features.
"Finding it is one thing," Mullis said. "We also need to go back in there and maximize that return." With enough data on this and other super-distant massive objects, Mullis expects to find new answers to some fundamental questions of how the universe formed.
Mullis will be presenting this finding at an international astronomy conference in Hawaii focused on connecting galaxy clusters to the underlying physics of space time and gravity. The meeting is being organized by U-M physics professor Gus Evrard, and sponsored in part by the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics.
"It's special to live in the era of human history when the terrain of the whole visible universe is being revealed," Evrard said.
A paper by Mullis and his team will also appear in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
University of Michigan - http://www.umich.edu/~newsinfo
European Southern Observatory - http://www.eso.org
Mysterious Population of Galaxies
Cornell University News Release
Reported and written for Cornell News Office by freelancer Larry Klaes
ITHACA March 1, 2005 - A Cornell University-led team operating the Infrared Spectrograph (IRS), the largest of the three main instruments on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, has discovered a mysterious population of distant and enormously powerful galaxies radiating in the infrared spectrum with many hundreds of times more power than our Milky Way galaxy.
These mysterious bodies are ultraluminous infrared galaxies. (NASA)
Their distance from Earth is about 11 billion light years, or 80 percent of the way back to the Big Bang.
Virtually everything about this new class of objects is educated speculation, the researchers say, since the galaxies are invisible to ground-based optical telescopes with the deepest reach into the universe. "We think we have an idea of what they are, but we are not necessarily correct," says Cornell senior research associate in astronomy Dan Weedman.
Among the more probable ideas are that these mysterious bodies are ultraluminous infrared galaxies, powered either by an active galactic nuclei (AGN) or by a starburst, a massive burst of star formation. AGNs are powered by the in-fall of matter to a massive black hole, while massive starbursts often are triggered by the collision of two or more galaxies.
What makes the objects studied by the Spitzer team stand out is that previously known AGNs are "not nearly as powerful, far away, or as dust-enshrouded" as these bodies are, says Weedman.
The Cornell Spitzer team's discovery is published in the March 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters (ApJL), published by the American Astronomical Society. The Spitzer telescope, which went into an Earth-trailing orbit around the sun in August 2003, is the last of NASA's Great Observatories, the Hubble being the first.
The IRS team used data obtained by the National Science Foundation's telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory, for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) Deep Wide-Field Survey. The team also used a catalog of infrared sources obtained in a survey in early 2004 by another of the Spitzer telescope's instruments, the Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer (MIPS). From the thousands of MIPS sources in a three-degree square patch of the sky -- about one-fourth the size of the bowl of the Big Dipper -- in the constellation Boötes the Herdsman, the IRS team selected and observed 31 that are quite bright in the infrared but invisible in the NOAO survey.
"The NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey is the best available optical survey for comparing to our data," Weedman says. "It would have been much more difficult to make this discovery without such a wide area of comparison. These NOAO data allowed us to compare the sky at infrared and optical wavelengths and find things that had never been seen before."
The Boötes area was chosen by the NOAO team because of the absence of obscuring dust in our galaxy, presenting a clear view of the distant sky. The presence of these mysterious, infrared, bright, but optically invisible, objects was first hinted at in 1983 in a paper by James Houck, Cornell's Kenneth A. Wallace Professor of Astronomy and principal investigator for the IRS. Houck was interpreting data from another space probe he was involved with, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), the first astronomy mission devoted to searching the heavens for infrared sources. More than a decade later these strange objects were again recorded by the European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory.
"Spitzer is more than 100 times more sensitive than IRAS for detecting objects at infrared wavelengths," says Houck.
"These celestial bodies are so far from our Milky Way galaxy that we detect them as they were when the universe was just 20 percent of its current age," says Sarah Higdon, a research associate in Cornell's Department of Astronomy, who led the group that developed the software package for analyzing Spitzer data.
In addition to their incredible distance, these objects also are enshrouded by a great deal of dust, which Cornell astronomy research associate Jim Higdon describes as being "the size of smoke particles made of silicates."
Other authors of the ApJL paper are: from Cornell, Terry Herter and Vassilis Charmandaris; from the Spitzer Space Science Center, L. Armus, H.I. Teplitz and B.T. Soifer; from NOAO, M.J.I Brown (now at Princeton University), A. Dey and B.T. Jannuzi; from Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, E. Le Floc'h and M. Rieke; and from Leiden Observatory, Holland, Bernhard Brandl.
The IRS, the most sensitive infrared spectrograph to be sent into space, is a collaborative venture between Cornell and Ball Aerospace and funded by NASA through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Ames Research Center. JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope for NASA.
NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc., under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.
Spitzer Space Telescope: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu
Cornell University News Service - http://www.news.cornell.edu
|eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept. |
|Radioactive Fishing Boats |
Somali fishermen boats are seen half buried in the sand on the beach in Hafun, northeast of Somaila's Puntaland region in this picture taken by the International Federation of Red Cross.
Somali members of parliament called on Saturday for international help to clean up tons of hazardous waste dislodged by the Asian tsunami, which they say is causing breathing problems and skin infections in Somalia.
A United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report released last month said the tsunami had dislodged hazardous materials in Somalia, which for years had been used as a dumping ground by other countries for their nuclear waste. (REUTERS/ IFRC/ Lydia Mirembe)
|Hitler's Bomb! |
BERLIN March 6, 2005 (AFP) - Nazi Germany built a nuclear reactor and atomic weapons before the end of World War II, contrary to popular belief, a Berlin historian says in a book to be released later this month.
In his book "Hitler's bomb", Rainer Karlsch says a reactor was functioning by the winter of 1944/45 and that nuclear weapons were being tested on a Baltic Sea island and Thuringia, central Germany, under the supervision of the SS.
"The Third Reich was extremely close to winning the race to build the first working nuclear weapon," publisher Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA) said in a statement on Sunday.
However, the weapon was not well-developed enough to be dropped by air.
Karlsch, whose book will be released here on March 14, maintains that he found "the first German nuclear reactor in working order" near Berlin and discovered documents on a project for a plutonium-based bomb dating from 1941.
According to DVA, his work is based on careful examination of building plans, aerial photographs, soil analyses, diaries of researchers linked to the project and reports by US and Russian spies.
Despite sabotage by the Allies and funding difficulties, Nazi Germany did succeed in producing "dirty bombs" which killed "several hundred" prisoners during tests in Thuringia.
They were nowhere near as devastating as the atomic bombs dropped by US aircraft on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing an estimated total of more than 200,000 people by the end of 1945.
|Bush Wants Looser Environmental Restrictions on Military |
US President George W. Bush delivers remarks
as Stephen L. Johnson is announced as the new
Administrator of the Environmental Protection
Agency. (AFP/ Paul Richards)
By John Heilprin
WASHINGTON March 3, 2005 (AP) — The Bush administration is asking Congress to amend three environmental laws to reduce their impact on military ranges after failing to win the changes last year.
Administration officials circulated among federal agencies their proposed language for changing the laws in a Jan. 6 document obtained by The Associated Press.
The language calls for the same changes that stalled in Congress last year.
Defense Department officials want the Clean Air Act amended so that any additional air pollution from training exercises wouldn't have to be counted for three years in the state plans for meeting federal air quality standards.
The document says that under the current law "it is becoming increasingly difficult to base military aircraft near developed areas."
Other changes sought are in the Superfund and the Solid Waste Disposal Act. The Pentagon opposes having to remove unexploded ordnance from its operational ranges. It also wants to delay cleanups until after contamination spreads beyond military boundaries.
Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood said the White House Office of Management and Budget was taking the lead on the three requests. "It's not in our hands," he said Wednesday. OMB officials had no immediate comment.
The Pentagon spends about $4 billion yearly on military environmental programs.
The Defense Department has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to make the requests more palatable to lawmakers. House Republicans want more details from the Pentagon before making a commitment to act on the administration's latest request, said GOP aides, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Environmentalists continue to oppose the requests.
"They would allow the Pentagon to pollute our air and our drinking water and neither the states nor local communities would have any recourse," said Karen Wayland, legislative director of Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
Since 2002, the Bush administration has sought more flexibility in complying with environmental laws, claiming the restrictions are compromising training and readiness.
Congress initially rejected most of the Pentagon request after investigators found little to support those claims. However, it did temporarily waive a law protecting migratory birds and eased restrictions for land conservation and transfer of surplus property in 2002.
A year later, Congress amended the Endangered Species Act to require that less land be set aside for species habitat on military bases. The Marine Mammal Protection Act was also changed to lower the threshold on "harassment" of a marine mammal to allow the Navy greater use of sonar technology.
|Sonar May Have Killed 20 Dolphins |
More than 20 rough-toothed dolphins have died
since Wednesday's beaching by about 70 of the
marine mammals, Florida Keys National Marine
Sanctuary spokeswoman Cheva Heck said. (AP
Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Rob O'Neal.)
KEY WEST March 6, 2005 (AP) - The Navy and marine wildlife experts are investigating whether the beaching of dozens of dolphins in the Florida Keys followed the use of sonar by a submarine on a training exercise off the coast.
More than 20 rough-toothed dolphins have died since Wednesday's beaching by about 70 of the marine mammals, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary spokeswoman Cheva Heck said Saturday.
A day before the dolphins swam ashore, the USS Philadelphia had conducted exercises with Navy SEALs off Key West, about 45 miles from Marathon, where the dolphins became stranded.
Navy officials refused to say if the submarine, based at Groton, Conn., used its sonar during the exercise.
Some scientists surmise that loud bursts of sonar, which can be heard for miles in the water, may disorient or scare marine mammals, causing them to surface too quickly and suffer the equivalent of what divers know as the bends — when sudden decompression forms nitrogen bubbles in tissue.
"This is absolutely high priority," said Lt. Cdr. Jensin Sommer, spokeswoman for Norfolk, Va.-based Naval Submarine Forces. "We are looking into this. We want to be good stewards of the environment, and any time there are strandings of marine mammals, we look into the operations and locations of any ships that might have been operating in that area."
Experts are conducting necropsies on the dead dolphins, looking for signs of trauma that could have been inflicted by loud noises.
|CIA Terror Plane |
The agency has not formally acknowledged the program's
WASHINGTON March 6, 2005 (AFP) - The CIA uses a secret jet to ferry terror suspects for interrogation to countries known to use torture, according to a report.
CBS television's "60 Minutes" program videotaped the Boeing 737 on a runway at Glasgow Airport in Scotland, saying it was able to trace it through a series of companies and executives that apparently exist only on paper.
It said the plane had made at least 600 flights to 40 countries, all after the September 11, 2001, attacks, including 30 trips to Jordan, 19 to Afghanistan, 17 to Morocco, and 16 to Iraq.
The plane also went to Egypt, Libya and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to the report.
The aircraft is part of the Central Intelligence Agency's so-called "rendition" program, in which suspects are sent to foreign governments for interrogation.
The agency has not formally acknowledged the program's existence.
A German national, which CBS identified as Khalid El-Masri, told a reporter he was on vacation in Macedonia when he was arrested by police and held in Macedonia for three weeks and then brought to the airport, beaten by masked men, drugged and put aboard the 737.
The plane left Skopje, Macedonia, and went to Baghdad and then Kabul, with El-Masri saying he awoke in a jail cell where his captors said, "You're in a country without laws and no one knows where you are," CBS News quoted the former detainee as saying.
"It was very clear to me that he meant I could stay in my cell for 20 years or be buried somewhere," El-Masri told the network.
He added that his fellow prisoners in the American-run jail were Saudi Arabians, Tanzanians, a Yemeni and a Pakistani who had lived in the United States.
El-Masri said he had been in solitary confinement for five months and then released without an explanation.
According to the report, the jet also made 10 trips to Uzbekistan, where former British ambassador Craig Murray said the jet's nominal owner, Premier Executive Transport Services, kept a small staff at the airport in Tashkent.
Murray said Uzbek interrogators use unusually cruel methods, including "techniques of drowning and suffocation, rape ... and also the insertion of limbs in boiling liquid."
Murray said he had complained to his superiors that information was being obtained by torture and sent his deputy to the CIA station chief to inquire about the practice.
"The CIA definitely knows," he told the television program, adding that his deputy had confirmed that evidence "probably was obtained under torture but the CIA didn't see that as a problem."
He was ordered to return to London four months ago and has since left government service, CBS News pointed out.
CIA Official Site - http://www.cia.gov
60 Minutes Official - http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/60minutes/main3415.shtml
|VR Games Alleviate Pain |
Chris Carter's Harsh Realm was the ultimate Virtual
Reality Game (Fox)
BioMed Central News Release
March 2, 2005 - Virtual reality games can help alleviate pain in children being treated for severe injuries, according to research published today in the Open Access, peer reviewed journal BMC Pediatrics.
Immersion in a virtual world of monsters and aliens helps children feel less pain during the treatment of severe injuries such as burns, according to a preliminary study by Karen Grimmer and colleagues from the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide, Australia.
A virtual reality game is a computer game especially designed to completely immerse the user in a simulated environment. Unlike other computer games, the game is played wearing a special headset with two small computer screens and a special sensor, which allows the player to interact with the game and feel a part of its almost dreamlike world.
"Owing to its ability to allow the user to immerse and interact with the artificial environment that he/she can visualize, the game-playing experience is engrossing", explain the authors.
Children with severe burns suffer great pain and emotional trauma, especially during the cleaning and dressing of their wounds. They are usually given strong painkiller drugs, muscle relaxants or sedatives, but these are often not enough to completely alleviate pain and anxiety. These medications also have side effects such as drowsiness, nausea or lack of energy.
Grimmer and colleagues asked seven children, aged five to eighteen, to play a virtual reality game while their dressing was being changed. The children were also given the usual amount of painkillers. The researchers assessed the pain the children felt when they were playing and then compared it to the amount of pain felt when painkillers were used alone.
To measure the intensity of the pain, the team used the Faces Scale, which attributes a score from 0 to 10, wherein 10 represents maximum pain, to a facial manifestation of pain. For younger children they used 5 different faces representing no pain to very bad pain. The researchers also interviewed the nurses and parents present during the dressing change.
The average pain score when the children received painkillers alone was 4.1/10. It decreased to 1.3/10 when the children had played a game and been given painkillers. Because the sample size was so small the researchers analyzed their results per child, and they found that all but one child lost at least 2 points on the scale when they were playing the game. The parents and nurses confirmed these results and said that the children clearly showed less signs of pain when they played the game.
"We found that virtual reality coupled with analgesics was significantly more effective in reducing pain responses in children than analgesic only" conclude the authors.
This is only a preliminary study, but the researchers are hopeful. They propose to test virtual reality on more subjects, possibly with games appropriate to each age group, in the hope that it could one day greatly reduce, if not completely replace, the use of painkillers.
BioMed Central - http://www.biomedcentral.com
VR Continuum's Harsh Realm Fan Site - http://flatdisk.net/hr/hr1.htm
|The Perfect Mummy |
Egypt March 3, 2005 (Independent UK) - The green eyes stare out unblinkingly from the beaded mask. The woman's dark eyebrows and terracotta face look as fresh as they ever did.
Pyramid at Saqqarah is the world's oldest major
stone structure, built around 2630BC, part of the
vast necropolis spread out in the desert sands 30
miles south of Cairo.
Yet the figure covered in turquoise beads and swaddled in black linen, nestling in a wooden sarcophagus, is believed to be 2,500 years old.
Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, yesterday proudly unveiled what he described as probably one of the best-preserved mummies ever.
He stood among the treasures that were uncovered by accident by an Australian team of archaeologists in Saqqara, the burial site of Memphis, once the capital of ancient Egypt.
The Australians, who were exploring a tomb dating back 4,200 years, pushed aside a pair of ancient statues last week and found a door which led them to the tomb containing three cedar coffins, each containing a mummy.
The ancient wooden coffin shaped
like a human body and the mummy
inside. (AP Photo/ Amr Nabil)
Inside one was the magnificently preserved beaded woman. Wooden boxes next to the coffins contained vital organs.
"The chest of the mummy is covered with beads. Most of the mummies of this period - about 500BC - the beads are completely gone, but this mummy has them all," Dr Hawass told journalists at the site.
For many people, the tourist trail to Egypt means taking a trip to the pyramids and the sphinx at Giza, perilously close to the encroaching Cairo suburbs, before embarking on a slow cruise down the Nile to Luxor, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings.
But further off the beaten track lies Saqqarah, the vast necropolis spread out in the desert sands 30 miles south of Cairo. Its most commanding pyramid is the world's oldest major stone structure, built around 2630BC for King Djoser. But its tombs were constructed over thousands of years, and many of its secrets have still to be discovered.
Excavations at Saqqara have been going on for the past two centuries. In 2001, Dutch archaeologists found a new tomb. In 2002, an Egyptian mission made a major discovery of seven mud-brick tombs of high-ranking officials who lived in the New Kingdom (1550-1069BC). Naguib Kanawati, the head of the Australian team from Sydney's Macquarie University, which made the astonishing discovery of the mummies from the 26th Dynasty (664-525BC), said their site had been under excavation for 10 years. The door was hidden behind statues of a man believed to have been Meri, the tutor of King Pepi II who was the last ruler in Egypt's 6th Dynasty, and the tutor's wife.
The face of a decorated mummy
dating to the 26th Dynasty that
ruled from 672 BC to 525 BC.
(AP Photo/ Amr Nabil)
After Pepi II's rule, the site was covered by 50 feet of sand, until it was used again as a cemetery 2,600 years later. "By that time the art of mummification was perfected to the extreme," Professor Kanawati said.
The identity of the mummies has not yet been ascertained, and they are to undergo ultrasound and X-ray testing, which may reveal their age, signs of disease and the possible cause of death. But there is speculation that the mummies may be teachers.
"These were not particularly wealthy people. They are not commoners ... They are middle-class people, but not royalty," Professor Kanawati said.
All three bodies were extremely well preserved. Two coffins contained male mummies, wrapped in dark linen bandages and painted or covered in beads from their head to their knees. The third coffin, which was in worse condition than the other two, contained the woman.
"We cannot and we don't want to unwrap them because that would start the deterioration," Professor Kanawati stressed. The mummies will be handed over to the Egyptian authorities once Australian researchers have fully studied the bodies. Inscriptions on the body-shaped coffins will also be studied.
"I believe this discovery can enrich us about two important periods in our history, the Old Kingdom, which dates back to 4,200 years, and the 26th Dynasty, that was 2,500 years ago," Dr Hawass said.
|Coyotes Invade Washington DC? |
|By Patricia Wilson |
Perhaps seeking federal environmental protection?
WASHINGTON March 4, 2005 (Reuters) — They're smart, adaptive, secretive and operate under cover of darkness. Alert and wary, they've now been spotted less than 3 miles from the White House.
The wily coyote, denizen of the West and bane of ranchers, has come to downtown Washington D.C. and the government wants to know where they are and what they're doing.
"Don't leave out pet food at night," said National Park Service ranger Ken Ferebee. "And, you know, don't leave your pets out at night either."
Coyotes were first seen late last year at the outer edges of Rock Creek Park, a natural hardwood forest of valleys and hillsides that runs in a narrow band through northwest Washington and its suburbs and borders Georgetown, Washington's most famous neighborhood, known for its historic elegance.
But Ferebee spotted one recently near the embassy district, a stone's throw from Georgetown and about a 10-minute drive from the White House. The Park Service has received reports of four other sightings near the same spot.
"I was driving up Rock Creek Parkway and it was 6:30 in the morning and one ran across right in front of me, across the road at full speed," Ferebee said. "They've kind of spread out. We've had them in the upper part of the park and now we've had a little rash of sightings around the Massachusetts Avenue area."
The coyotes, along with the booming deer population in Rock Creek Park, have drawn so much attention that a town hall meeting will be called soon to discuss the wildlife with local officials and city residents.
In the meantime, Ferebee and his colleagues are trying to track the coyotes.
"We're looking for active den sites," he said. "We want to maybe set up a motion-sensitive camera so that we can see, especially in April and May when the new ones are born."
Not Your Average Pooch
Since much of the 1,754-acre preserve -- slightly bigger than President Bush's Texas ranch -- winds through some of Washington's swankiest neighborhoods, deer have become a popular target for homeowners who want to protect pampered lawns and gardens.
They also have been blamed for traffic accidents -- about 40 were killed by motorists in the park last year -- and for spreading tick-borne diseases.
But the coyote is a relative newcomer that brings with it a whole new set of potential problems.
It is a member of the dog family but is not your average pooch. Both a scavenger and a hunter, the coyote has an acute sense of hearing and smell, can weigh up to as much as 40 pounds, easily leap an 8-foot fence and has a taste for cats. He may dine on small mammals, but also eats insects, reptiles, fruit and berries.
"Just don't attract them" Ferebee advised. "Right now, I think there's so much other stuff for them to eat in the park -- squirrels and mice and chipmunks."
Ferebee, the park's natural resources manager, and two of his colleagues, caught their first glimpse of coyotes on Sept. 19. The newer sightings are much farther south and closer to the heart of the city. Despite the novelty of a wild animal expanding its territory into the most powerful capital in the world, he said Washington was actually one of the last big American cities to have the coyote.
The animal has been moving eastward for more than a century. It originally ranged primarily in California and the northwest but sightings now commonly occur in Florida, New England and eastern Canada.
"They roam around so much," Ferebee told Reuters in a telephone interview. "They have a huge range. A male can wander 30 to 40 miles."
How many are in the park is still a mystery. In the next few weeks, Ferebee and others will begin searching for dens -- which are usually hidden but can be often be found by trails that lead away from them. January to March is mating season for coyotes and the pups are born about two months later.
The stuff of folklore in the Southwest, the coyote is revered by Native Americans, considered a pest by farmers and regarded by environmentalists as necessary to preserve the balance of nature.
Wildlife experts say it will be all but impossible to banish the coyotes from Rock Creek Park and teaching Washingtonians to coexist with them could well be the best solution.
"There might be more of an outcry to manage them if they start getting aggressive with people," Ferebee said. "It's going to be a touchy. It's illegal to hunt, bother or harass native wildlife in the park."
|First Hominids Found? |
Humankind's first walking ancestor (BBC)
By ANTHONY MITCHELL
Associated Press Writer
ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia March 6, 2005 (AP) - A team of U.S. and Ethiopian scientists has discovered the fossilized remains of what they believe is humankind's first walking ancestor, a hominid that lived in the wooded grasslands of the Horn of Africa nearly 4 million years ago.
The bones were discovered in February at a new site called Mille, in the northeastern Afar region of Ethiopia, said Bruce Latimer, director of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio. They are estimated to be 3.8-4 million years old.
The fossils include a complete tibia from the lower part of the leg, parts of a thighbone, ribs, vertebrae, a collarbone, pelvis and a complete shoulder blade, or scapula.
There also is an ankle bone which, with the tibia, proves the creature walked upright, said Latimer, co-leader of the team that discovered the fossils.
The bones are the latest in a growing collection of early human fragments that help explain the evolutionary history of man.
"Right now we can say this is the world's oldest bipedal (an animal walking on two feet) and what makes this significant is because what makes us human is walking upright," Latimer said. "This new discovery will give us a picture of how walking upright occurred."
The findings have not been reviewed by outside scientists or published in a scientific journal.
Leslie Aiello, an anthropologist and head of the Graduate School at University College in London said, however, that the new finds could be significant.
"It sounds like a significant find, ... particularly if they have a partial skeleton because it allows you to speculate on biomechanics," Aiello, who was not part of the discovery team, told The Associated Press by telephone from Britain.
A finger of a scientist pointing at a tibia from the lower
part of the leg of what is believed to be humankind's
first walking ancestor, a hominid that lived 4 million
years ago. (AP Photo/ Anthony Mitchell)
Paleontologists previously discovered in Ethiopia the remains of Ardipithecus ramidus, a transitional creature with significant ape characteristics dating as far back as 4.5 million years. There is some dispute over whether it walked upright on two legs, Latimer and Aiello said.
Scientists know little about A. ramidus. A few skeletal fragments suggest it was even smaller than Australopithecus afarensis, the 3.2 million-year-old species widely known by the nearly complete "Lucy" fossil, which measures about 4 feet tall.
Scientists are yet to classify the new find, which they believe falls between A. ramidus and A. afarensis. The fossils would help "join the dots" between the two hominids, said Yohannes Haile-Selassie, an Ethiopian scientist and curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History as well a co-leader of the discovery team.
"This discovery will tell us much about how our 4-million-year-old ancestors walked, how tall they were and what they looked like," he said. "It opens the door on a poorly known time period and (the fossils) are important in that they will help us understand the early phases of human evolution before Lucy."
The specimen is the only the fourth partial skeleton ever to be discovered that is older than 3 million years. It was found after two months of excavation at Mille, 37 miles from the famous Lucy discovery.
"It is a once in a lifetime find," Latimer said.
|Genre News: Why Enterprise Died, Night Stalker, Desperate Housewives, Cher, The 4400, Tribeca & More! |
Why Enterprise Died
Enterprise: it takes more than a spiffy ship and
good actors... (Paramount)
Hollywood March 5, 2005 (eXoNews) - There is no up and down in space. It is vast and unrestricted. There are no limits to where you can go in an endless vacuum with the slightest puff of a thruster, even if you expire long before you reach your destination.
I saw a commercial on UPN last week during Star Trek Enterprise that caught my attention. UPN is running a sweepstakes on their website asking viewers to choose their favorite episode from the four seasons of Enterprise.
The Grand Prize - one of Captain Archer's uniforms (presumably dry-cleaned first, no offense Scott.) Twenty-five runners up win Season One of Enterprise on DVD and the three episodes receiving the most votes get aired during the otherwise Enterprise hiatus from March 25 - April 8th.
"Great!" I thought. And promptly forgot all about it.
Caged more severely than Archer's
dog Porthos. (Paramount)
This morning UPN sent me an email to remind me about the Enterprise Final Frontier Finale Sweepstakes and I went to the UPN site, fully prepared to vote for Carbon Creek, my favorite Enterprise episode and one of my favorite Trek episodes of all time.
Carbon Creek is the episode where T'Pol tells Archer the story of how a crew of Vulcans became accidentally stranded on Earth long before First Contact.
I loved that episode because it was a total departure from the Star Trek formula. In fact, after I saw Carbon Creek I had all sorts of high hopes for Enterprise.
"Wow," I thought at the time. Maybe Enterprise will become sort of a Trek anthology series ala Twilight Zone veering off into unexplored out of the box Trek space where no one has gone before.
I would place Carbon Creek right up there with The Inner Light, All Good Things and Elementary, Dear Data (STTNG); Shore Leave, The City on the Edge of Forever, Wolf in the Fold and All Our Yesterdays (TOS); Faces, Resolutions, Distant Origin, The Killing Game and Dark Frontier (Voyager); and The Storyteller, Crossover, The House of Quark, Past Tense, Little Green Men and at least a dozen other DS9 episodes, titles forgotten (I always liked DS9 best.)
Kirk and the original crew meet Spock's
mom and dad (Paramount)
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the UPN site and found that I didn't really have a choice! UPN had already picked 10 Enterprise episodes to vote on - including The Andorian Incident, Dear Doctor, Shuttlepod One, Dead Stop, Cogenitor, Twilight, Similitude, Azati Prime, The Forge and Babel One - but no Carbon Creek!
"How could they do that?" I thought as Real Video intruded with a popup to insist I needed to download still another upgrade for their mostly useless media player to view scenes I didn't want to view from The Andorian Incident on the UPN site. I declined and the UPN site promptly refused to load any further.
Suddenly my enthusiasm for the UPN Enterprise Final Frontier Finale Sweepstakes dropped away.
I envisioned Picard, old and grey, babbling about the anomaly in the Neutral Zone. I thought of Sisco welcoming Worf aboard Deep Space Nine. (Music by Dennis McCarthy.)
Archer was denied access to the rich legacy
of Kirk and Picard (Paramount)
I thought of Kirk and McCoy. Spock and his mom. Spock's dad. Wesley Crusher allowed on the bridge for the first time. Data's evil twin Lore. Janeway and her crew stranded on a primitive planet as the Kazon lifted off with Voyager.
I thought of Jake and his dad flying that Bajoran solar ship to Cardassian space. Ensign Roe and Picard discussing the plight of her people. Worf defending his family name before the High Council. Major Kira trying to talk Brian Keith off his doomed planet.
I remembered Riker going mad, Q stealing Picard's anthropological thief girl friend, Worf's son Alexander learning about Klingon honor from his future self.
Enterprise crew: there is no up and down
in space. (Paramount)
I thought of Odo and Quark, Janeway and Seven, Data losing his virginity to Denise Crosby. I remembered a nanocivilization addressing Picard and his crew as "ugly bags of mostly water."
And I realized that there really wasn't one moment of Star Trek Enterprise that could hold a candle to the previous offerings of its progenitors, not even Carbon Creek.
There's more to good science fiction than a spiffy ship and good actors.
There is no up and down in space. There is no back and forth.
To boldly go into the
was a pilot, Jim.
Enterprise was born a paradox, a prequel set centuries before all good things happened. Maybe the producers of Enterprise were trying to eliminate the shadow of the Great Bird, Gene Roddenberry, by rewriting the Trek backstory. Maybe they just couldn't see the future.
Whatever their reasoning, Captain Archer was denied access to the rich legacy of Kirk and Picard and Sisco and Janeway. Archer's crew was mired in the past, caged more severely than his poor dog Porthos.
Enterprise died because Star Trek is not about the past. When Roddenberry said to boldly go, he was sending us forward into the future.
Roddenberry was a pilot, Jim, not a librarian.
Word is that the next Star Trek movie will also be a prequel. Set your phasers for overload.
UPN's Enterprise Final Frontier Finale Sweepstakes - http://www.upn.com/shows/enterprise/fan_favorites
Irish actor Stuart Townsend
LOS ANGELES March 4, 2005 (Zap2it.com) - Irish actor Stuart Townsend has been tapped to star in "Night Stalker," ABC's update of the cult 1970s series.
Townsend, who starred in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and is equally well-known for his relationship with Oscar winner Charlize Theron, will play reporter Carl Kolchak in the pilot, the Hollywood trade papers report. Gabrielle Union ("Something the Lord Made") has also joined the cast.
The show revolves around a crime reporter who uncovers supernatural phenomena in the course of chasing stories but has a hard time convincing anyone of what he witnessed. Union will play a colleague of Kolchak's.
"X-Files" veteran Frank Spotnitz is writing and executive producing "Night Stalker," which seems fitting. The original series, which starred Darren McGavin, had a big influence on "The X-Files," and Spotnitz himself worked as a journalist before becoming a screenwriter.
In addition to "LXG," Townsend has also starred in "Queen of the Damned," "Trapped" and "Head in the Clouds," the last two opposite Theron. He was also famously replaced by Viggo Mortensen after a few days of filming "The Lord of the Rings."
Union's credits include "Bring It On" and "Deliver Us from Eva." She was also a regular on the CBS series "City of Angels" in 2000.
Jane Curtin in Crumbs
By Nellie Andreeva
LOS ANGELES March 4, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Jane Curtin, William Devane and Fred Savage have been cast in ABC's comedy pilot "Crumbs."
Jane (right) with other Coneheads
The project revolves around two estranged brothers, one to be played by Savage, who are brought together when their father (Devane) and mother (Curtin) get divorced.
Curtin won two Emmys for her stint on "Kate & Allie."
She next will be seen in the feature "The Shaggy Dog," directed by "Crumbs" executive producer Brian Robbins.
Devane co-stars on Fox's "24" this season as Secretary of Defense James Heller.
"The Wonder Years" and "Working" star Savage has appeared in such features as "Austin Powers in Goldmember" and "The Rules of Attraction."
In other pilot casting news, Tyler Labine has joined ABC's drama pilot "Invasion," which chronicles the bizarre occurrences in a small Florida town after it is ravaged by a hurricane. Labine's credits include ABC's short-lived drama "That Was Then" and the feature "My Boss's Daughter."
[It's about time Curtin resurfaced on TV. One of the best of the original SNL cast and wonderful as Dr. Albright in 3rd Rock From The Sun. Ed.]
Newhart Meets Desperate Housewives
Bob (right) with a legal blonde
NEW YORK March 2, 2005 (AP) - Now look who's moving onto Wisteria Lane. Bob Newhart will begin a multi-episode stint on ABC's "Desperate Housewives" set to air in April. The 75-year-old actor-comedian will play Morty, the estranged boyfriend of Susan Mayer's mom, Sophie, played by guest star Lesley Ann Warren.
"I'm looking forward to being involved with one of the hottest shows on TV," Newhart said in a statement Wednesday.
In the episode, Teri Hatcher's single mom Susan will attempt to get Sophie and Morty back together to keep her mother from moving in with her and her daughter.
"Desperate Housewives" airs Sundays (9 p.m. EST).
On March 13, "The Bob Newhart Show" will receive TV Land's Icon Award at a ceremony in Santa Monica, Calif. The first season of the TV classic will be released on DVD next month.
Newhart's memoirs will be published in 2006 by Hyperion.
Bob Official - http://www.bobnewhart.com
Housewives Official - http://abc.go.com/primetime/desperate
Don't Mess With Cher!
LOS ANGELES March 4, 2005 (AP) - Singer and actress Cher is suing Warner/Chappell Music Inc. for breach of contract on claims that it failed to pay royalties estimated at more than $250,000.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, alleges that the music publisher has not paid song and performance royalties for the last four years.
The other plaintiffs include Chastity Bono, the daughter of Cher and her late husband Sonny Bono, and Christy Bono, Bono's daughter from his first marriage.
Other plaintiffs are Mary Bono-Baxley and her children Chianna and Cesare Bono. It was not immediately clear whether she is Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, who married ex-minor league baseball player Glenn Baxley in 2001.
A phone call to Edward Adler, spokesman for Time Warner Inc., which owners Warner/Chappell, seeking comment was not immediately returned early Friday.
Singing duo Cher and Sonny Bono had reached written agreements in 1965 and 1966 for recording services with York Records and Atlantic Recording Corporation that required them to pay royalties and provide an accounting of the payments, the suit said.
Warner/Chappell, which acquired Atlantic, breached those contracts, the suit said.
Glen Matlock and Johnny Lydon
(Rotten) back in the day. (BBC)
Pistol Says No Profanity
LONDON March 4, 2005 (Reuters) - "Wanna be an anarchist?"
At least one of the Sex Pistols, now middle-aged and a father of two, no longer does.
Former Pistols bassist Glen Matlock has called for swearing on British television to be curbed, nearly 30 years after the provocative punk rockers sent shock waves through Britain by using derivations of the dreaded "f"-word on live TV.
"It's pathetic when people swear for the sake of it," Matlock told a television show to be broadcast Sunday. "Something ought to be done about it."
Matlock, 48, also told "X-Rated: The TV Shows They Tried To Ban," that he hated it when his young children heard obscenities on the airwaves.
As a teenager, Matlock co-wrote some of the Pistols' most enduring anthems like "God Save The Queen" and "Anarchy In The UK." He left the group early in 1977 and was replaced by Sid Vicious.
The 4400 Return in June
Mahershalalhazbaz Ali stars as "Richard Tyler" in
the USA Network Original Series The 4400. (USA)
LOS ANGELES March 2, 2005 (Zap2it.com) - USA Network's highly rated series "The 4400" is starting production on its second season and will return to the cable network in June.
The show, about 4,400 people presumed missing or dead who return to Earth looking exactly as they did when they disappeared, is scheduled to premiere Sunday, June 5.
It will pick up six months after the events of the first season, with Homeland Security agent Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) having been reinstated to his job and continuing to investigate the returnees with partner Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie).
Meanwhile, would-be 4400 leader Jordan Collier (Billy Campbell) has published a book about the abductees containing some rather controversial allegations about the group.
Other cast members returning for the show's second season include Patrick Flueger (Shawn Farrell), Mahershalalhashbaz Ali (Richard Tyler), Laura Allen (Lily Moore), Chad Faust (Kyle) and Conchita Campbell (Maia).
"The 4400" debuted last July to more than 7 million viewers, making it the most-watched series premiere ever on basic cable. The ratings momentum continued for the rest of the show's five episodes, and it ended the year as ad-supported cable's top scripted series, averaging about 6.2 million viewers.
The 4400 Official - http://www.usanetwork.com/series/the4400
Quatermass Live on BBC!
LONDON March 3, 2005 (Reuters) - The BBC is taking multi-channel digital television back to broadcasting's earliest days with plans to show its first live drama in more than two decades.
Brian Donlevy (left) in a rather tepid
movie version of Quatermass.
Britain's public broadcaster said Thursday it would present a new version of the popular 1950s science fiction serial "The Quatermass Experiment" on its three-year-old BBC4 digital channel on April 2 as a one-hour program.
"Quatermass" features an alien-infected astronaut's return to Earth and was considered daring when it aired on BBC1 in 1953 as a six-part series, with Reginald Tate as the title scientist trying to save the planet.
It was the first BBC drama to be recorded onto film, though the results were disappointing and only the first two episodes survived. The program also spawned sequels and a movie.
BBC4 Controller Janice Hadlow said Quatermass was one of the first "must-watch TV experiences that inspired the water cooler chat of its day."
Live television, which was the norm from TV's inception, all but disappeared decades ago with the introduction of video tape.
The program is part of BBC4's "TV on Trial" series inviting the public to pronounce on whether today's television is better or worse than it used to be.
The lead role for the "Quatermass" revival has not yet been cast, a BBC spokeswoman said.
The last live drama to air on the BBC was "Japanese Style," which was shown on March 13, 1983, the spokeswoman said. It was the last in a series of different plays packaged together as "Live from Pebble Mill."
Tribeca Accepts New Filmmakers
By KAREN MATTHEWS
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK March 2, 2005 (AP) - Filmmakers desperate for their big break now have a shot, courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival.
De Niro reacts to a question during a news
conference for the Tribeca Film Festival
in New York March 3, 2005. (AP Photo/
Festival founder Robert De Niro and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos announced a short film competition on Thursday that allows budding filmmakers to submit films for the chance to win a $50,000 grant and have their projects screened at a downtown theater.
"The Tribeca Film Festival has always recognized the importance of short films, and we're excited about supporting the people who make them," De Niro told reporters. "The contest will undoubtedly help discover important new filmmakers."
The competition will accept films between two and seven minutes in length, appropriate for PG-13 audiences, to be submitted to the Amazon.com Web site through April 13.
Online customers will then be able to view the films and rate them. Organizers said the software will prevent viewers from voting repeatedly or even from choosing which film they can rate.
"Instead of you picking the film that you want to review, the software picks the film that you get to review," Bezos said. "And so that way you can't sort of coordinate this army of friends. ... They won't be able to select which film they want to review."
At the end of May, the five highest-rated films will be featured on the Web site, and customers will choose a winner. That filmmaker will win the monetary prize, provided by American Express, the corporate sponsor of the Tribeca Film Festival since its inception in 2002.
The five finalist films will also be screened later this year at a Tribeca theater that is one of the main viewing spots for the festival, which runs from April 19 to May 1.
The festival was designed to help the neighborhood rebound economically after the 2001 World Trade Center attack. Last year, it featured more than 250 films from 42 countries.
Tribeca Film Festival - http://www.tribecafilmfestival.org
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