Space Pollution!
H-Bomb Cancer! Popcorn!
Human Family Tree, Wholphins!
Lazio–Sirad, SPACEYS & More!
Space Pollution!

This is named the "business-as-usual" scenario. In the top panel
a much cleaner space environment can be observed, if the
number of explosions is reduced drastically and if no mission-
related objects are ejected. However, to stop the ever increasing
amount of debris more ambitious mitigation measures need to
be taken. In the long run, spacecraft and rocket stages will have
to be returned to Earth after completion of their mission. (ESA)

European Space Agency News Release

April 15, 2005 - There is a lot of junk orbiting the Earth and the problem will worsen unless there are changes in how spacecraft operators operate. But it is not all doom and gloom. The first steps toward a comprehensive solution are already well underway including a European code of conduct for space debris mitigation.

According to Dr Ruediger Jehn, a space debris specialist working at ESA's Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, there are several relatively simple measures that will help reduce the amount of debris in space. Some are already being implemented by spacecraft operators at little or no cost.

"These steps," he explains, "are based on common sense and include measures that should be acceptable to any spacecraft operator."

The basic concept is simple: do not make the existing problem worse; reduce or prevent the creation of any new debris; and, in particular, strive to protect the commercially valuable low Earth and geostationary orbits.

The amount of debris created during normal operations can be reduced by not discarding, ejecting or detaching anything that does not have to be discarded, ejected or detached. This includes payload covers, Yo-Yo despinners and instrument covers such as those used to protect the highly sensitive optical windows of sensors during launch. Lastly, minimize break-ups, a major source of small but deadly debris.

Explosions in space

It may be surprising to anyone outside the space community to learn that spacecraft (occasionally) and launch vehicles (frequently) do in fact break up in orbit.

Launch vehicle lower stages generally fall back into the atmosphere and completely burn up, providing a tidy, if fiery, solution but the typical fate of rocket upper stages, which are usually cast off after launch, is to blow up.

Why does this happen?

The explosions are mainly caused by onboard
energy sources, either due to a pressure build-
up in propellant tanks, battery explosions, or
the ignition of hypergolic fuels. Each explosion
creates thousands of small debris objects. (ESA)

Spacecraft engineers have traditionally ensured a good margin of launch success by carrying extra fuel onboard, as this comes in handy if the engine has to burn a little longer than planned.

However, that spare fuel mostly remains inside pressurized tanks once the rocket stage is discarded into Earth orbit. Over time, and in the harsh environment of space, the mechanical integrity of the booster's internal components breaks down; lines leak, corrosive fuel seeps into nooks and crevices, micro and not-so-micro meteoroids strike and penetrate. A sudden release of pressure often results, causing an explosion and spewing hard-to-track fragments, large and small, into orbit, adding to the debris field.

Other onboard power sources serve as latent explosion triggers, including batteries, other pressurized systems, fuel cells and hypergolic fuels. "Just stopping launch boosters from exploding is a big first step," says Dr Jehn, "and we are already seeing improvements."

The solution to latent explosions caused by onboard fuel is astoundingly simple: once the upper stage is discarded, simply run the engine until the fuel is depleted. The US Delta launch vehicle upper stage now performs such a burn to depletion.

Another fix is simply to vent any remaining fuel to space. This is called passivation, and both the Ariane upper stage and Japan's H-1 second stage now dump their residual fuel in this manner.

Batteries and other onboard energy sources can be similarly passivated, although this is not quite so simple and adds more cost.

These and other measures have been widely adopted by most, but not all, mission operators in the past decade but even so, debris continue to grow as older vehicles, launched 10, 20 or more years ago -- before mitigation requirements were understood -- continue to generate debris.

Parking hulks in graveyard orbits

Spent launch vehicles and expired satellites are themselves debris, even if they do not break up. Thus, another important mitigation step is to maneuver these out of the commercially and scientifically valuable low Earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO) zones upon mission completion. Of course, this requires carrying extra fuel specifically for this, adding to cost, but the effort is well worth it.

According to the 2002 draft Mitigation Guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), a grouping that includes ESA and 10 national space agencies, spacecraft in LEO should be deorbited, i.e. allowed to fall into the atmosphere and burn up, within 25 years of mission end while craft in GEO should be boosted to at least 300 km above the geosynchronous orbital ring and parked in a graveyard orbit. Why 300 km? "Solar radiation pressure and other small forces would eventually push any craft back into the GEO ring unless they're high enough," says Dr Jehn.

Up to now more than 180 explosions and 1 collision
in space have been recorded. Further explosions
and collisions are most likely. (ESA)

Both measures require fuel: the former to slow and lower craft from LEO and the latter to raise and park craft from GEO. It is too expensive to bring a spent craft all the way down from GEO to burn up, but graveyard parking is an adequate alternative.

In LEO, the solution is even more straightforward. For example, ESA's ERS satellite orbits at about 800 km altitude. Ideally, if it were slowed and lowered at mission end to 200 km altitude it would naturally deorbit and burn up in about 24 hours; but this would take a lot of fuel.

"For a craft the size of ERS, however, it will deorbit naturally within 25 years if we merely bring it down to 600 km," says Dr Jehn, "so this [altitude] is a fuel-saving compromise."

He cites research conducted at ESA and other institutions showing that merely deorbiting craft after 25 years would help cut the amount of new debris created by half. Obviously, low-cost mitigation measures can contribute significantly to debris reduction.

High-tech debris clearance

There are other, more high-tech, methods under research. These include using space-based lasers to slow then deorbit existing junk, deploying tethers to drag craft back down into the atmosphere or grabbing objects with a huge sling. "Tethers are a valid idea," says Dr Jehn, "but are not yet practical; they're too expensive." The other ideas remain on the drawing board, meaning that debris reduction will have to rely on mitigation, at least for the near future.

How is the global space community doing in implementing these well-known mitigation measures? "Not too good," says Dr Jehn, referring specifically to placing GEO craft into graveyard orbit. He cites a recent study which found that about 1/3 of satellite operators did boost their GEO craft at least 300 km out of the way, about 1/3 boosted them insufficiently to only 100-200 km and 1/3 just left them cluttering up the GEO ring. "Some operators fly their satellites until the last drop of fuel is used up and then just abandon them," he says.

Given the level of discussion and research on debris within the space community, it is becoming harder for any spacecraft operator to feign ignorance. Debris mitigation guidelines, draft or otherwise, and codes of conduct have been issued by several respected bodies, including NASA and Japan's JAXA, in addition to the IADC. Space debris is a regular agenda item at meetings of UNCOPUOS (UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space) and the IAA (International Academy of Astronautics) and ESA's own quadrennial space debris conference has become the world's largest forum dedicated solely to debris.

Europe's own code of conduct

Smokey says: Only you can prevent space disasters!

Europe's Network of Centres on Space Debris, a grouping of the Italian, British, French and German space agencies plus ESA, has prepared its own "European Code of Conduct for Space Debris Mitigation". While the document is still being studied for final approval, France's space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes spatiales) took the lead last October by becoming the first to sign off Europe's Code of Conduct (CoC).

However, implementing specific mitigation measures and codes of conduct remains at least somewhat controversial within the industry since their adoption as formal policy will invariably raise mission costs, but today almost everyone recognizes that there is a problem. In the future, there may be ways to cut the fuel requirements for deorbiting substantially.

ESA's SMART-1 (Small Mission for Advanced Research in Technology - 1) spacecraft, now orbiting the Moon, arrived there by using a new ion-thrusting electric propulsion (EP) engine. Engineers describe EP thrust as "similar to the weight of a sheet of paper on your hand". The engine, however, requires very little fuel compared to a conventional rocket motor.

Could EP serve as an auxiliary engine onboard future satellites to be fired and left to slowly bring a craft down from GEO into the atmosphere? "Using EP only takes about 5% of your fuel; I think in the long run we should figure out how to bring down satellites even from GEO," says Dr Jehn.

While technology will likely provide many solutions and many nations are now serious about following a code of behavior, Dr Jehn and others in ESA's space debris community argue that, ultimately, what is needed is a CoC negotiated at the UN level to push everyone to adhere to standards.

In the meantime, how can the average person become involved?

"Call your space agency," says Dr Jehn, "tell them: 'My kids want to travel in space in 30 years and I don't want you guys spoiling it'. Pressure from the public could help. Once space is polluted it's too late and I wouldn't dare go up there."

4th European Conference on Space Debris -

European Space Agency -

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Cities of the Future

A computer image of the 'Burj Dubai' in the United Arab Emirates, which will be the world's highest building when completed in November 2008. Three Emirati banks signed an 869 million dollar deal to finance the building of Burj Dubai -- projected, at around 800 meters, to become the world's tallest tower, the official WAM news agency reported. (AFP/ Samsung handout)

H-Bomb Cancer!

H-bomb test. "We'll meet again..." (AFP)

MAJURO April 17, 2005 (AFP) - A US study has found that the number of cancers caused by hydrogen bomb testing in the Marshall Islands is set to double, more than half a century after the tests were conducted in the tiny Pacific nation.

The study by the US governments National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimated 530 cancers had already been caused by the tests, particularly the explosion of a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb codenamed Bravo on March 1, 1954.

It said another 500 cancers were likely to develop among Marshall Islanders who were exposed to radiation more than 50 years ago.

"We estimate that the nuclear testing program in the Marshall Islands will cause about 500 additional cancer cases among Marshallese exposed during the years 1946-1958, about a nine percent increase over the number of cancers expected in the absence of exposure to regional fallout," the NCI study said. The study said because of the young age of the population when exposed in the 1950s, more than 55 percent of cancers have yet to develop or be diagnosed.

The NCI completed the study in September last year but it was only publicly released last week after officials from the Marshall Islands noticed a reference to it in a US Congressional report and requested a copy.

A huge dome, over top of a crater
left by one of the 43 nuclear blasts
in the Marshall Islands. (AFP)

It was prepared for the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is scheduled to launch hearings next month to review a petition from the Marshall Islands seeking more than three billion dollars in additional compensation for nuclear test damages and health care.

At the time of the Bravo test at Bikini Atoll, US officials played down the health implications for islanders.

Bikini Islanders were not evacuated despite their land's being engulfed in snow-like radioactive fallout for two-to-three days after the Bravo bomb, which was equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Although many islanders developed severe radiation burns and had their hair fall out as their land was engulfed in fallout, US Atomic Energy Commission authorities issued a statement following the test saying "there were no burns" and the islanders were in good health.

US officials later allowed islanders to return home to live in radioactive environments without performing any cleanup work on their islands.

The US paid 270 million dollars in a compensation package in the mid-1980s part of which went to the Majuro-based Nuclear Claims Tribunal.

But the tribunal says only a limited amount was made available for payouts and has described the original settlement as "manifestly inadequate".

NRA Claims Victory Over Gun Control

NRA fan Charlton Heston rallies the troops

HOUSTON April 15, 2005 (Reuters) — National Rifle Association leaders, emboldened by the Republican sweep in last year's election, declared victory Friday in their battle to keep America heavily armed, but said the war against gun control would never end.

Speaking at the NRA's annual convention, they ridiculed Democrats and liberals who support limits to gun ownership and praised Republican leaders for allowing the U.S. gun culture to flourish.

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre spoke defiantly about the organization's political victories, which he portrayed as a "heroic" defense of the U.S. Constitution's 2nd Amendment -- the addendum to the 18th century document that the NRA says gives the unfettered right to bear arms.

"Let those who oppose us hear our words loud and clear: we did not sweat and fight and struggle for 25 years (for) the 2nd Amendment to give back one bit," he said at the convention's opening.

"We have beaten you and beaten you and beaten you for 25 years," he said to the roar of the NRA faithful gathered at George Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

Many of the conventioneers appear to be elderly, but LaPierre said their places would be taken by new activists to continue the fight for "gun rights."

"There's a whole lot more where those came from," he promised.

The NRA, which claims 4 million members and gives millions of dollars to political candidates, has been credited with aiding the election of President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress last November and has been a powerful ally of the Republican Party for years.

In a bow to the NRA's political clout, some of Texas' top officeholders, led by Gov. Rick Perry, took the stage to show their support.

"Responsible gun owners like those in this room are not a threat to society, but they are a deterrent to crime," said Perry, a Republican. "The 2nd Amendment is not a loophole. Quit trying to fix it."

Republican U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla of Texas went a little further.

Liberal "extremists" are "not just trying to punch a hole in the 2nd Amendment, they are trying to tear down our American way of life," he said. "They really don't like our country."

Rock star Ted Nugent, a member of the NRA board of directors, kicked off the conference with an electric guitar version of the national anthem, then musician Charlie Daniels emceed a tribute to past NRA legislative "heroes."

"Ladies and gentlemen, the left-leaning political faction in this nation is not only dangerous, they're silly and unrealistic," said the fiddle-playing Daniels.

Amid all the political rhetoric of Friday's speeches, guns were barely mentioned, although thousands were on display in a vast vendors' hall which the NRA labeled "Five Acres of Guns and Gear."

Nor was there any talk about mass shootings in past years, most recently in Red Lake, Minnesota where a 16-year-old shot nine people to death, then killed himself.

The NRA said as many as 60,000 people were expected at the three-day convention. U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who represents a Houston area district, was scheduled to make the convention's keynote speech on Saturday night.

Perfect Popcorn

American Chemical Society News Release

April 14, 2005 - If you took a survey of life’s small annoyances, surely those unpopped kernels at the bottom of the popcorn bag would rank high on the list. But perhaps not for long.

“We think the secret to maximizing ‘pop-ability’ is found in the special chemistry of the corn kernel,” says food chemist Bruce Hamaker, Ph.D., of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Hamaker is part of a team of scientists at the school who have identified a key crystalline structure in popcorn that appears to determine its popping quality.

The finding could lead to a better microwave popcorn variety with fewer or no unpopped kernels, they say.

The study is scheduled to appear in the July 11 print version of the American Chemical Society’s BioMacromolecules, a peer-reviewed journal, and was published in the online version of the journal April 7. ACS is the world’s largest scientific society.

Besides being a nuisance, unpopped kernels, also called “old maids,” can break teeth, destroy fillings and cause choking. Manufacturers have tried to reduce the number of unpopped kernels through trial and error breeding of the better performing corn kernels, but the problem persists, especially in microwave popcorn. Now, science has come to the rescue.

“Through this study, we now have a better understanding of the science behind why unpopped kernels occur and how we can use this knowledge to go about reducing their number,” says Hamaker, who is director of Purdue’s Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research.

Hamaker and his associates analyzed 14 different genetic varieties of yellow popcorn and compared their microwave popping performance. Using the same experimental conditions, they determined that the number of unpopped kernels ranged from 4 percent (best) to 47 percent (worst), depending on the variety. The researchers then analyzed the properties of the better performing kernels to determine which factors contributed to their outcome.

They found that the key factor that appears to influence popping quality is the chemical structure of the pericarp, or outer hull, which is composed partly of cellulose (a polymer of glucose). During heating, the corn pericarp acts like a pressure cooker that locks moisture inside the corn kernel. The heated moisture leads to a pressure buildup until the kernel eventually ruptures and pops, essentially turning the kernel inside out and producing the fluffy white product that we eat.

In the best popping kernels, the pericarp is composed of a stronger, more highly ordered crystalline arrangement of the cellulose molecules than the pericarp of the poorer performing varieties, according to Hamaker and crystallographer Rengaswami Chandrasekaran, one of the team members. In laboratory studies, the researchers demonstrated that these stronger crystalline structures tend to maximize moisture retention, leading to a more complete rupture and fewer unpopped kernels.

“We believe that the amount and location of the cellulose component of the kernel are critical for crystallinity and think that this property can be transferred to corn kernels to improve their popping performance,” Hamaker says. “We’re not sure yet exactly how this will be achieved, but we’re optimistic that enterprising researchers will be able to do this in the near future.”

Possible techniques include selective breeding of those kernel varieties that best exhibit this optimal crystalline structure, chemical modification of corn kernels to produce the desired structure and even genetic engineering of the corn plant. If researchers are successful, the new microwave popcorn could be available to consumers in 3 to 5 years, Hamaker predicts.

Although the new popcorn will be slightly different chemically than conventional microwave popcorn, mainly from the presence of more cellulose, it will look and taste just like any other popcorn, he says. [h1]Although this study focused on microwave popcorn, the modified kernels will likely show improvements in popping quality using hot oil and hot air popping techniques, he says.

Popcorn manufacturers have already expressed strong interest in this research, which was funded by Purdue’s Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research.

Popcorn -

American Chemical Society -

Small Clades at the Periphery of Passerine Morphological Space!

You mean songbirds?

University of Chicago Press Journals News Release

April 15, 2005 - Although large evolutionary radiations producing many species have captured the attention of biologists, comparison of the sizes of evolutionary lineages show that unusually small groups with few species are more frequent than one would expect from a model of random speciation and extinction.

Among songbirds (Passeriformes), more than 30 of 106 tribe-level taxonomic groups have five or fewer species, compared to the average size of 54 species and a maximum of more than 10 times that number. The existence of so many small taxa suggests that these lineages must have unusually low rates of speciation and extinction compared to other songbirds.

In an earlier analysis, Robert E. Ricklefs suggested that species in these small groups might avoid extinction by competitive exclusion because they are marginal both geographically and ecologically.

In this new study, which will appear in the June 2005 issue of The American Naturalist, Ricklefs shows that species in small clades tend to have extreme morphology, in particular relatively long toes, sometimes in contrast with short legs, and small beaks.

Such traits are associated with foraging on bark or rock surfaces or feeding from perched positions or in dense, shrubby vegetation. These are unusual habits for typically more active songbirds. How such marginal ecology slows the rates of species formation and extinction remains an open question.

[Tweet!! This delightful headline really grabbed me, but I'm still not sure what it means! Ed. :o)>

The American Naturalist is a leading journal in the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology and animal behavior -

The Human Family Tree

Ancient ancestors (BBC)

University of Arizona News Release

April 15, 2005 - Ever wondered where your family's ancestors roamed 60,000 years ago? Now you can find out by participating in the world's most ambitious project tracing the genetic and migratory history of the human race.

Members of the general public from all over the world can supply their DNA to the Genographic Project, and scientists at The University of Arizona in Tucson will do the genetic analysis. The public DNA sampling is part of a larger undertaking to unravel the origins and migratory history of mankind thousands of years back in time by analyzing genetic samples from at least 200,000 people all over the world.

National Geographic and IBM are embarking on the Genographic Project, a landmark, five-year global study of human migratory history. The project will reveal how our ancestors diversified into different groups and what routes they took as they spread out over the Earth.

One major aspect of the project is doing field research and collecting DNA samples from indigenous peoples throughout the world. The field component of the project is underwritten by the Waitt Family Foundation.

UA is participating in a different aspect of the project, analyzing samples submitted by the public. Individuals can become part of the project and learn about their own ancestors by buying a participation kit and submitting their DNA sample.

"As more people provide their genetic information to the project, researchers will be able to fill in the local details of how people migrated across the Earth," said Michael Cusanovich, director of UA's Arizona Research Laboratories.

The information stored in people's genes persists (BBC)

Cusanovich added that this is the first time members of the general public can join a genetics project of this scale.

Michael F. Hammer, a research scientist at UA's Arizona Research Laboratories and UA's BIO5 Institute, will analyze the general public's DNA samples. His team will trace people's lineages using markers encoded into DNA. The DNA samples will be analyzed in UA's Genomic Analysis and Technology Core (GATC), a facility providing genomic research services to public and private research institutions. GATC has the capacity to process up to 10,000 samples each month. The actual work load will depend on how many people join in the multi-national effort.

"For the first time people all around the world can learn about their genetic ancestry," said Hammer, a population geneticist. One of his specialties is deciphering prehistoric human relationships using genetics.

By comparing the genetic markers, the UA scientists' work will unveil new aspects of people's family trees, ones that are almost impossible to discover through traditional genealogical methods. In contrast to written historical records that can be lost or oral histories that can fall into disuse, the information stored in people's genes persists.


Cusanovich had his own DNA analyzed, which helped him trace his family to a time "when the crusaders were rolling through the Middle East." Many people conduct genealogical research, said Cusanovich, a UA professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and a professor in BIO5. "If you ask around here, you find that every tenth person is building a little family tree at home. They go to all the records and they're using Web sites to trace back their history."

The UA scientists will analyze a tiny fraction of the participants' genetic material: the y-chromosome, which is passed on from father to son, and mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on from mothers to their sons and daughters. This enables the researchers to decipher the characteristic genetic markers of both parental lineages.

UA is collaborating in a joint venture with Family Tree DNA, a company specializing in tracing ancestry using genetics. The company has been contracted to process the samples in the Genographic Project. Hammer is a consultant for and holds stock in the company. UA will not generate profits from the project.

People who wish to participate in the Genographic Project can buy a kit at $99.95 (plus shipping and handling) from National Geographic. The kit contains a swab to collect cells from the inside of the mouth and a tube to ship the sample to Family Tree DNA. The company then registers the sample and sends it to The University of Arizona for analysis. All samples are analyzed anonymously to protect individuals' privacy, and the information will be used only for the project.

Participants can obtain their personal results on a Web site.

Participants who want to find out about a whole new set of relatives can do so by disclosing their names to Family Tree DNA and then plan their biggest family reunion ever.

University of Arizona -

Family Tree DNA -

The Genographic Project -

Ten Ounces of IMF Gold Equivalent to One Human Life
WASHINGTON DC April 16, 2005 (US Newswire) - The International development organization, ActionAid International, today condemned the International Monetary Fund's failure to act on a plan of selling IMF gold reserves to relieve the debts of the world's poorest nations, saying this failure may lead to over a million poverty-related deaths.

Said ActionAid International policy officer, Romilly Greenhill, "the IMF holds some 100 million ounces of gold in its reserves. Selling only a tenth of this each year could raise vitally needed money for development. If those funds were to be invested in basic healthcare, for example, one million lives a year could be saved. You add it up, and it comes down to the fact that less than ten ounces of unused and un-needed IMF gold, if spent on health, could save one life. In delaying their decision, the IMF has shown that it may value the lives of those living in poverty less than they do gold."

The sale of IMF gold to help relieve the suffering of impoverished countries was supported by the UK, but is running into opposition from the Bush Administration and US Congress.

Stated ActionAid International policy analyst, Rick Rowden, "today's failure amounts to an unnecessary tragedy, as there is already agreement among the G7 governments and the IMF over the need to cancel the debts of poor countries. What we saw today was mainly the result of political wrangling over how to pay for such debt cancellation. Because of these disheartening maneuvers, lives may now be needlessly lost."

Atila Roque, director of ActionAid International USA added, "IMF staff have agreed that selling gold to fund debt relief is technically feasible, and would do much to relieve the suffering of those living in poverty. By delaying this deal, the US Government has shown it possibly places the importance of US gold mining profits over the lives of the poor."

ActionAid International -
Meet the Wholphins!

Kekaimalu, right, a 19-year-old wholphin, swims
with her unnamed calf in a training tank at Sealife
Park in Honolulu on Thursday. (AP photo)

By Jeanette J. Lee
Associated Press

HONOLULU April 15, 2005 (AP) — A rare whale-dolphin mix has given birth to a playful female calf, said officials at a Hawaii water life park. The calf was born on Dec. 23 to Kekaimalu, a mix of a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Officials at Sea Life Park Hawaii said they waited to announce the birth on Thursday because of recent changes in ownership and operations at the park.

The young as-yet unnamed wholphin is one-fourth false killer whale and three-fourths Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Her slick skin is an even blend of a dolphin's light gray and the black coloring of a false killer whale.

The calf still depends fully on her mother's milk, but sometimes snatches frozen capelin from the hands of trainers, then toys with the sardine-like fish.

She is jumbo-sized compared to purebred dolphins, and is already the size of a one-year-old bottlenose.

"Mother and calf are doing very well," said Dr. Renato Lenzi, general manager of Sea Life Park by Dolphin Discovery. "We are monitoring them very closely to ensure the best care for them."

Although false killer whales and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are different species, they are classified within the same family by scientists.

"They are not that far apart in terms of taxonomy," said Louis Herman, a leading expert in the study of marine mammals. There have been reports of wholphins in the wild, he said.

Kekaimalu, whose name means "from the peaceful ocean," was born 19 years ago after a surprise coupling between a 4-meter (14-foot), 900-kilogram (2,000-pound) false killer whale and a 1.8-meter (6-foot), 180-kilogram (400-pound) dolphin. The animals were the leads in the park's popular tourist water show, featured in the Adam Sandler movie "50 First Dates."

Kekaimalu has given birth to two other calves. One lived for nine years and the other, born when Kekaimalu was very young, died a few days after birth. Park researchers suspect the wholphin's father is a 4.5-meter-long (15-foot-long) Atlantic bottlenose dolphin named Mikioi.

"He seems to be totally oblivious to this happening," Lenzi said.

False killer whales do not closely resemble killer whales. They grow to 6 meters (20 feet), weigh up to two tons and have a tapering, rounded snout that overhangs their toothed jaw.

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins reach a maximum size of 3 1/2 meters (12 feet) and can weigh up to 300 kilograms (700 pounds).

Sea Life Park officials said they hope to decide on a name for the baby wholphin soon and move her to a large display tank in a few months.

Lunar Colony - The Ideal Spot?

The illuminated part of the crater rim at the
top of the image is very close to the lunar north
pole and is a candidate for a peak of eternal
sunlight. (ESA/ SPACE-X, SEI)

PARIS April 13, 2005 (AFP) - Astronomers say they have identified a place on the Moon that lies in permanent sunlight and close to regions suspected to hold water ice: in short, an ideal location for a tentative lunar colony.

The spot is located on a highland close to the lunar north pole, between three large impact craters called Peary, Hermite and Rozhdestvensky, they report in Thursday's issue of Nature, the British weekly science journal.

The temperature there is estimated to range between minus 40 and minus 60 C (minus 40 to minus 76 F), which by lunar standards is relatively balmy -- and stable.

By comparison, the temperature on the Moon's equator ranges from minus 180 C to plus 100 C (minus 292 to plus 212 F).

Because the area is bathed in perpetual sunlight, a future human outpost on the Moon could draw on abundant solar energy.

In addition, the lunar pioneers could tap into supplies of water if -- as some scientists speculate -- ice lurks in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles.

The study is lead-authored by Ben Bussey of Johns Hopkins University, Maryland.

In January 2004, President George W. Bush sketched plans for a US return to the Moon as early as 2015, saying a lunar base would be a launch pad for manned missions to Mars and "across our Solar System."

Can Lazio–Sirad Predict Earthquakes?


Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare News Report

April 14, 2005 - Lazio-Sirad is ready to gather data. The experiment is installed on the International Space Station and its aim is to trace the slight variations of the so-called Van Allen belts that seem to occur before earthquakes.

At the same time the experiment will gather data that will make possible the development of techniques of protection from radiation for astronauts. The astronaut Roberto Vittori will carry out measures. He will leave for the International Space Station tomorrow April 15th and he will reach it after about 2 days.

Lazio-Sirad was developed by the Infn sections and by the Universities of Perugia, Rome "Tor Vergata" and Rome Tre, in collaboration with the Infn National Laboratories of Frascati, the Serms University Laboratory of Terni, the MePhi Institute of Moscow, the Ferrari Bsn, Nergal and Airtec with the participation of Filas (Lazio Region).

Our planet is incessantly bombarded with a rain of cosmic rays, charged stable particles, such as protons and electrons. This flux is partly prevented by the Earth magnetic field, that traps a part of it out of atmosphere, to a height of hundred up to thousand kilometers.

Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov (C) and
U.S. ISS commander Leroy Chiao (R) after the
docking between the Soyuz spacecraft and the
International Space Station on April 17, 2005.
In the back row are L-R: Russian cosmonaut
Sergei Krikalev, U.S. flight engineer John
Phillips and European Space Agency astronaut
Roberto Vittori of Italy.

The distribution of these particles is not though homogeneous: they place themselves in areas called Van Allen belts, after the name of the American physicist that discovered their existence in 1958. In whole, the Van Allen belts behave like a huge antenna, sensitive to the slightest variation of the Earth magnetic field.

The surprising aspect is that preliminary measures gathered by Russian and American researchers in more than 15 years and analyzed in details by Russian and Italian researchers, indicate that this natural antenna is able to reveal precursory phenomena of intense earthquakes four or five hours in advance.

The Lazio-Sirad experiment is the first sensor planned with the aim of verifying such a hypothesis in the Space, and it is clear the interest of such researches in a country exposed to seismic risk like Italy.

In which way can the Earth's crust tensions reflect on the cosmic particles trapped out of atmosphere?

It was observed, through measures realized at earth, that from the area of a future earthquake, electromagnetic waves of different frequency are generated in the underground: among these, low-frequency waves can reach atmosphere, cross it and interact with the particles trapped in the Van Allen belts.

In this way, it is possible to produce rapid variations of the charged particles flux: measuring these variations it would be possible to state the area in which the emission of low-frequency waves occurred and so state where an earthquake is taking place.

"In order to study the interaction between the Van Allen belts and geophysics phenomena as the seismic events, Lazio-Sirad uses sophisticated and innovative particles detectors based on the use of silica and scintillating plastics. The measure of the particles trapped in the Van Allen belts will be related to the magnetic field measurements made through a precision magnetometer, called Egle, part itself of Lazio-Sirad program.

"Once the physics principal of the instrumentation and its functioning in orbit will be verified, it will possible to open way to new Earth monitoring methods using not expensive micro-satellites", explains Roberto Battiston, director of the Infn section in Perugia, who coordinated the realization of Lazio-Sirad project, in close collaboration with Piergiorgio Picozza, director of the Infn section of Roma Tor Vergata, and with Vittorio Sgrigna, physics professor at the University of Roma Tre and spokesman of the Egle magnetometer.

In this circumstance the experiment Sileye3/Alteino, brought on board of the International Space Station just by Roberto Vittori during his previous mission "Marco Polo", will be put back into service.

"The experiment Sileye3/Alteino is particularly important to develop new materials and new technologies to protect man from bombing of cosmic particles during future lunar and interplanetary missions", explains Piergiorgio Picozza, who participated in Lazio-Sirad coordination and is also spokesman of the Sileye3/ Alteino experiment.

"The Lazio-Sirad experiment has another important goal: to improve the study on the phenomenon of the light flashes, observed by the astronauts on board of the Mir and of the International Space Station, by analyzing, in particular, the interaction between the different kinds of cosmic rays and the astronauts' visual apparatus", explains Marco Casolino of the Infn section of Roma Tor Vergata, spokesman for the Lazio-Sirad part dedicated to the study of the light flashes.

Earth's magnetic fields (BBC)

Lazio-Sirad will work at least for six months since the beginning of the operations of data acquisition. The first results of the data analysis are foreseen by the end of 2005. Lazio-Sirad has involved about 30 persons, among these: physicists, geophysicists, engineers and technicians from the different institutes that have participated. The instrument has been realized in a very short time (less than 6 months since the beginning of the project to the delivery to the Russian Space Agency on January the 25th) respecting all the complex security procedures, verification and space qualification required by the European Space Agency (ESA) and by the Russian Space Agency (Energia).

The project takes place in the context of the European mission Eneide, born from the collaboration between the Italian region Lazio, the Military Aeronautics, Alenia Spazio, the Chamber of Commerce of Rome, Esa, and Asi.

The Eneide mission will start April the 15th from the space polygon in Baikonur, in Kazakhistan, and it will travel on board of the Russian capsule Soyuz Tma, directed to the International Space Station. All the scientific experiments of Eneide mission will be managed from the control centre "Lazio user Centre", already working and settled in the Infn section of Roma Tor Vergata.

Lazio-Sirad -

Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare -

Genre News: SPACEYS, Hitchhiker's Guide, Jenna, James Dean, Morgan & Wong, Fran, Nostalgia TV & More!

Vote for The SPACEYS!
By FLAtRich

Canada April 17, 2005 (eXoNews) - Arm your mice and make it so! Canada's enviable SPACE television channel is currently accepting votes from fans in Viewer's Choice categories for the 2005 SPACEY Awards.

Online voting began April 1st and continues to May 15th. Viewer's Choice categories include favorite movies, TV shows, actors, and games.

To vote for the 2005 SPACEYS, go to

and click on Viewer's Choice. (You'll need the Macromedia Flash plug-in to vote, but most of you already have that.)

Michael Rosenbaum as
Smallville's Lex. (WB)

This year's Favorite TV Show nominees include Alias, Enterprise, Lost, Smallville and Stargate SG-1. Favorite Limited Series include Battlestar Galactica, Kingdom Hospital, The 4400 and Regenesis (we don't get that last one in the US.)

In the Favorite Male Character category, you can choose between Commander Adama, Captain Archer, Lex Luthor, General Jack O'Neill and Morgan Pym (from The Collector, another one American audiences don't get.)

Favorite Lady choices are Sydney from Alias, Kate from Lost, Lana from Smallville, Number 6 from Battlestar and T'Pol from Enterprise.

You can also vote for favorite Movie, Movie Hero, Movie Villain, Video Game and Canadian TV Series. (American viewers may be surprised to see how many of their current favs are actually produced in Canada.)

Number 6 (Sci Fi)

SPACE is Canada's all-in-one science fiction, fantasy and horror channel, featuring most everything Americans see on Sci Fi Channel along with current genre shows from other US networks and a multitude of favorite reruns and Canadian shows.

The 2005 SPACEYS will be presented on SPACE Sunday May 29th at 9 PM ET.

eXoNews has a list of last year's SPACEY winners here.


Arthur Dent On Hitchhiker Sequel

Martin Freeman (center) as Arthur in
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

April 15, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Martin Freeman, who plays Arthur Dent in the upcoming film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, told SCI FI Wire that he's open to a sequel if one is made, with conditions.

In the movie based on Douglas Adams' beloved SF book and radio series, Freeman plays Dent, a human whisked off Earth moments before its destruction, who then embarks on a bizarre adventure through space. He is accompanied by his alien best pal (Mos Def), a depressed robot (Warwick Davis), the president of the galaxy (Sam Rockwell) and a pretty alien female, Trillian (Zooey Deschanel).

Marvin the robot and HHG pals.

"I'd be interested if the same team was interested," Freeman said in an interview, referring to director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith. "I'd be interested if Spielberg or someone else I could really trust was going to do it. Then we could talk."

Freeman added: "But if Garth and Nick were going to do it I'd be immediately interested. The next book [in the Hitchhiker's book series] is Restaurant at the End of the Universe. So I'm presuming that they'd probably make that if they do a sequel.

"But it took 20 years to get a Hitchhiker's script into a film. So I don't think you could just rush into another one of these."

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy opens April 29th.

Porn Star Screwed By Reality TV

Jenna at work.

LOS ANGELES April 15, 2005 ( Porn Queen Jenna Jameson thinks she's been screwed. The adult film star and her publisher Judith Regan have exchanged law suits over any financial rewards from an A&E reality show that has yet to air.

Regan claims that she has a stake in an unscripted A&E series following Jameson's day-to-day life through a contract the thespian signed with Regan Media last April. According to the New York Daily News, Jameson's contract with Regan covered a one-hour special on Jameson's life as well as a vaguely described reality show and "any similar projects." Regan is suing for breach of that contract.

She's seeking a piece of the show and damages of some sort.

For her part, Jameson claims that her husband, John Grdina, had begun negotiating the deal with A&E long before last April. Jameson's complaint alleges that Regan knew about the A&E project before hand and understood that it existed outside of the contract, saying that only a pitched show for FOX had any relationship with Regan.

ReganBooks published Jameson's memoir "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale," last summer to strong sales.

Viewers wanting more information on Jameson's turn-ons and turn-offs can play "VirtuallyJenna," a new game released by XStream3D Multimedia. PC users are invited to, um, satisfy Jameson using a variety of sexual techniques. A Phoenix Federal Court will attempt to, um, satisfy either Jameson or Regan when their complaints are heard.

James Dean Fest

James Dean never dies.

MARION Indiana April 13, 2005 (AP) - Martin Sheen and Dennis Hopper will be among the celebrities visiting Indiana to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of James Dean.

The James Dean Fest is scheduled June 3-5 at the airport in Marion, about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

Included on the festival schedule, released by organizers Tuesday, is the American premiere of a documentary on Dean's life, "James Dean: Forever Young," narrated by Sheen.

Sheen, who stars in NBC's "The West Wing," has said he was inspired to become an actor after watching Dean's performance in the film "East of Eden." He will introduce the new documentary, which will be shown on June 4.

Organizers had wanted to show Dean's movies on the Fairmount farm where he grew up, but the plans outgrew the farm. Warner Bros. moved the event to Marion, where Dean was born.

Dean died Sept. 30, 1955, in a car crash in Cholame, Calif. He was 24. Dean's three movies, "Giant," "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without a Cause," also will be shown during the three-day festival. The films will be introduced by actors who co-starred with Dean.

"They're going to talk about the movies, they're going to be in the VIP tent, they're going to be doing some signatures," said Israel Baron, one of the event's organizers. "They're going to have different venues they will be attending."

James Dean Official -

Morgan & Wong Return for Final 3

A.J. Cook (left) and Michael Landes
in 'Final Destination 2' (New Line)

Vancouver April 15, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Glen Morgan — who with partner James Wong is returning to the Final Destination franchise by writing and producing the upcoming third installment — showed SCI FI Wire a glimpse of the sequel's opening disaster, which takes place on a roller coaster and will be shot in a way that hasn't been seen before.

"It's not necessarily groundbreaking, but it hasn't been done before, you know, in this way," Morgan said in an interview during a break in filming on the sequel's Vancouver, B.C., set on April 13. (Production started this month and will run through June.)

Like the previous two films, the movie begins with the main character—in this case, high school senior Wendy, played by newcomer Mary Elizabeth Winstead—experiencing a horrific disaster in which she and her friends all die—then realizing it's only a premonition of death.

In the first film the disaster was a plane crash. In the second, a multi-vehicle pileup on a freeway. In Final Destination 3, it's a disaster on a roller coaster, Morgan said. It all fits, he added.

"I don't know if we ever successfully pull it off, but Jim and I like to have themes," Morgan said. "And this one, for the Wendy character, is about loss of control. ... You got a roller coaster, [and] psychologists will tell you that's why people hate 'em. Why you're afraid of them. Or why you're afraid to fly. Because you have no control. And for me, ... when I'm going up any roller coaster, I just say, 'I want out.' But I'm not getting out. That's just torture. ... It's unbearable. I'm nervous talking about it. ... If you look at death, that's [the same thing]. ... All of a sudden. I feel that if it wants us, [it's going to get us]. I think that's why the franchise kind of works."

SCI FI Wire viewed a "pre-visualization" of the sequence, or animated storyboard, which takes place on a fictional roller coaster with a 200-foot drop, corkscrews and a high loop. The speeding coaster loses hydraulic pressure, causing restraining harnesses to relax and wheels to fall off. As the coaster accelerates into its various turns and whirls, high school students fly out, fall, get run over and wind up hanging upside down by their fingers. Some die gruesome deaths.

Final Destination - Goodie! More disasters!

To shoot the scene, the filmmakers will use a combination of an actual roller coaster (at a Vancouver amusement park), computer-generated extensions, wire stunts, computer animation and actual actors in simulated cars shot against a green screen.

"It's complicated," Morgan said. "We're going to have two weeks of green screen on hydraulic things, and CGI."

Added producer Craig Perry: "Actors being hung upside down, being yanked out of cars, cars falling, flipping. It's good times."

Final Destination 3, which Wong will direct, is slated for a 2006 release.

Time Tunnel, Shirley Jackson and Heroes Anonymous on Sci Fi
By Paul J. Gough
Hollywood Reporter

NEW YORK April 14, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Looking to capitalize on its momentum with original series, Sci Fi Channel on Wednesday unveiled development plans for a slew of new scripted projects, including one inspired by the life and work of author Shirley Jackson to be executive produced by Michael Douglas.

Mark Stern, Sci Fi Channel executive vp original programming, described the still-untitled Jackson project during Sci Fi's development overview presentation to reporters as " 'Desperate Housewives' meets 'The Twilight Zone.' "
It will blend supernatural themes from such famed Jackson stories as "The Lottery" and "The Haunting of Hill House" with the late author's real-life story of making the transition from being an urban mother to small-town matriarch.

Douglas is on board to exec produce; "Stargate Atlantis" writer Alan Brennert will pen the script.

James Darren and Robert Colbert
in the original Time Tunnel

Another new project detailed during the presentation at Sci Fi's New York headquarters were "Heroes Anonymous," a live-action drama that focuses on twentysomething superheroes who form a support group.

Based on the comic book series by Scott Gimpel and Bill Morrison, "Heroes" will be executive produced by Lawrence Bender ("Pulp Fiction"), Kevin Brown ("Roswell") and Karl Schaefer ("The Dead Zone").

Other projects include: "Those Who Walk in Darkness," an adaptation of the novel of the same name by John Ridley, who will write the script and executive produce for NBC Universal TV Studio; "Time Tunnel," an update of Irwin Allen's 1960s TV series from Fox TV Studios; and "3:52," focusing on life in a small Maryland town after 2 billion people mysteriously vanish from Earth, from writer/exec producer John Tinker.

Sci Fi also stays active on the alternative front, with development including animated series "Barbarian Chronicles" from David Letterman's Worldwide Pants and Brendon Small ("Home Movies").

Sci Fi gave a glimpse of one pilot, "Painkiller Jane," starring Emmanuelle Vaugier, Tate Donovan and Richard Roundtree. Production of another, "Eureka" starring Colin Ferguson, is slated to begin in two weeks. Sci Fi brass also announced the return in July of three hit dramas that have fueled the channel's solid ratings performance in recent months: "Battlestar Galactica," "Stargate SG 1" and "Stargate Atlantis."

Dave Howe, Sci Fi executive VP and general manager, said that Sci Fi would have 28 original movies next year for its Saturday franchise, up five from this year. Among the ones scheduled for the 2005-06 season are: "The Man With the Screaming Brain," written and directed by Bruce Campbell; "Heat Stroke," with "Farscape" executive producer David Kemper; and "Black Hole Terror," starring Judd Nelson and Kristy Swanson.

Franny Is Back!

Fran Drescher - Hey, laaaady!

LOS ANGELES April 11, 2005 ( The WB gave its new sitcom "Living with Fran" two chances to find an audience last week, and the second one worked out a lot better. As a result, the show will settle into that second spot - 9:30 p.m. ET Fridays - for the remainder of the season.

"Fran," which marks "The Nanny" star Fran Drescher's return to sitcoms, debuted to about 3 million viewers at 8:30 p.m. Friday (April 8), a little better than what "Grounded for Life" averaged in the timeslot earlier this season. The second episode, however, jumped to 4.4 million viewers.

It also did a very good job of holding onto the audience from its lead-in, "Reba." In total viewers and The WB's core demographics of people 12-34 and adults 18-34, "Fran" retained more than 90 percent of "Reba's" audience. The network had been airing repeats of "Reba" at 9:30 Fridays; those will likely move to 8:30 for the rest of the spring.

[You either love her or hate her - kinda like Jerry Lewis, in more ways than one. Me? I love them both. Hey, laaaady! Welcome back! Ed.]

Dorothy's Dress

Dorothy's dress - operators are
standing by. (AP Photo/ Jeff Chiu)

SAN FRANCISCO April 12, 2005 (AP) - "Wizard of Oz" fanatics hoping to own the dress worn by Judy Garland in the iconic film might need to appeal to the "Great and Powerful Oz" for financial support.

The blue and white gingham dress worn by Garland when she played Dorothy Gale in 1939 is on display at Bonhams & Butterfields here, and is set to be auctioned April 26 in London. Bonhams said the dress could fetch from $50,000 to $70,000.

"This dress represents the quintessential magic of childhood in the most beloved film of the 20th century," said Jon Baddeley, group head of Bonhams collector's department. "It has become a cherished memory for millions of fans worldwide and was worn by one of the most talented and respected stars in Hollywood."

The dress was custom made for Garland, who was 17 in 1939. It has a 27-inch waist and Garland's name on an inside hem label.

The dress will also be displayed in Los Angeles in mid-April. The auction house didn't identify the previous owner.

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for "Revolution," and a Mick Jagger jacket are also on display at Bonhams in San Francisco in advance of the auction of rock, pop and film memorabilia.

Bonhams -

3 Hour Lost Finale

Hollywood April 11, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Javier Grillo-Marxuach, a writer and supervising producer on ABC's hit series Lost, told SCI FI Wire that the much-anticipated season finale will clock in at three hours and give fans everything they love about the show.

"In terms of epic storytelling and shocking destiny, you ain't seen nothing yet!" Grillo-Marxuach said in an interview. "We were going to do a two-hour finale [over two weeks], and then ABC asked if we could do 90 minutes [the second week] so they could schedule it against American Idol.

The second season is strictly top secret. (ABC)

"Carlton [Cuse] and Damon [Lindelof, who co-created the show with J.J. Abrams,] did an amazing job on the finale script, and their first draft came in a little long anyway. [ABC] looked at it and decided to do a two-hour. So 'Exodus Part 1' will air on May 18th, and the epic saga that is 'Exodus Part 2' will air May 25th.

"The final two hours is so full of incident and character and shocks and scares and drama, all the things that people love about Lost, that it would have been silly to cut things out. So we've got a 25-hour first season! We busted our butts on it, but it's not going to feel like it's been padded. We are very proud of it."

Grillo-Marxuach wrote five episodes in the freshman season and confirmed that he would return for the second season, which begins production in July. Reflecting on his efforts this year, he said, "'... In Translation,' which I wrote with Leonard Dick, is my favorite episode this season." The episode revealed the troubled backstory to Jin, played by Daniel Dae Kim.

"It was such a great character piece for Jin. Daniel's performance was fantastic. I don't think it's our flashiest episode. There are episodes that have more incidents in them, but it was so emotional and was so much a closure for me, because I wrote the first episode ['House of the Rising Sun'] about Jin and Sun. My dad even wrote me an e-mail after that episode telling me he was proud of me."

As to what the castaways will have to endure next season, Grillo-Marxuach said: "The second season is strictly top secret right now. Damon has alluded to his ideas about what the second season is going to be like, and once the first season is over, we are going to begin secret summit meetings to start bashing out how it will lay out over the course of the season.

"Come May, we'll have a lot more information about what's going to be happening. But our masterminds are very much at work on what that second season will be about."

Lost airs on Wednesdays at 8 PM ET/PT on ABC.

Nostalgia TV in Europe
By Mimi Turner
Hollywood Reporter

The cast of Magnum, PI (CBS)

LONDON April 15, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - It's official: Nostalgia television is back. Many of the most-watched TV shows of the '70s and '80s are being dusted off, revamped and funneled back onscreen for a new generation of viewers in Europe.

All over Europe, slots are opening up for such evergreens as "Dynasty," "Magnum, P.I.," "The A-Team" and "Knight Rider."

Whereas a decade ago library shows were shorthand for television filler, they now are playing across a slew of digital channels and slots in a much more sophisticated and evolved market.

"Gone are the days when any channel could bang out filler; the market has gone through that stage, and now every part of the schedule is much more competitive," says David Clarke, channel controller of U.K. digital net Bravo, a young-male-skewing channel that airs "Knight Rider" and in the past has aired such shows as "Airwolf" and "The Fall Guy."

"We did some focus groups with young male viewers and found that people have a real affinity with these shows because they already have a relationship with them," he said. "Viewers get more excited about nostalgic shows."

Book 'em, cable!

Added SBS Broadcasting Netherlands channel head Patrice Tillieux: "There's a lot of emotion and affection about these programs. The audience already has a familiarity with them and has already built a relationship with them, and that makes a difference."

SBS is in the process of rolling out the Netherlands-based I Love channel across satellite, cable and DTH platforms in the region. The channel will air a solid flow of evergreen shows including "Hawaii Five-O," "Dallas," "The A-Team" and "Magnum, P.I."

With a budget of less than $5 million a year and programming already covered by the broadcast group's existing contracts, there is an economic rationale to the project, as well, at a time when SBS is making the transition from a free television group to a multirevenue broadcaster.

"We could see the launch of I Love in other territories, perhaps Belgium," Tillieux said.

Jeffrey Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. International Television Distribution, said that some of the start-up stations are "going to be hard pressed to establish an identity for themselves -- you can only have so many general entertainment channels." But programming with name recognition can help a new channel stand out from the crowd. "From that point of view there will be a growing opportunity to sell more library programming that the main stations may not be too interested in," he added.

The success of such boxoffice remakes as "Charlie's Angels" and "Starsky & Hutch" has itself triggered a slew of retro reinventions, including an upcoming theatrical version of "Dallas," a new NBC Universal formatting of "Kojak" and the forthcoming Joss Whedon-directed project "Wonder Woman."

There's a sense that television has been caught up in the tailwind as well, with programers taking a new look at their catalogs for projects to reconceive.


"As a business we tend to focus on new product development, and it's right that we should do so, but when you're in the licensing business we also started to think about how we could reinvigorate some of our most treasured assets and bring them back to a new audience," Buena Vista International Television managing director Tom Toumazis said.

BVITV recently unearthed "Moonlighting" from its archives and digitally remastered the original Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis starrer.

"I don't think 'Moonlighting' could have been broadcast as it is from a quality point of view," Toumazis added.

"It needed digitalization, the visual was too rough for the digital television world, and the audio needed some cleaning as well."

"We restored it visually frame by frame and cleaned up the audio; it was quite a long process, but we sold it to Paramount Comedy Channel, Kirch in Germany and ABC1 in the U.K."

Buena Vista now is working on the reinvigoration of '70s lovebug show "Herbie" in advance of the upcoming movie starring Lindsay Lohan.

Rereleasing a television show on the coattails of a theatrical revamp is one way of generating an initial audience for a program, but it's not always a guarantee of success, Bravo's Clarke cautioned.

"DVD releases or a movie remake always add to the mix, but first and foremost it has to be a good show in itself," he said. "It has to be something that a viewer will commit to spending time watching again and again."

The cast of Due South

Added Clarke: "We had a look at 'Starsky and Hutch' when the remake was out, but we thought it wasn't perhaps as good as we remember it. You can ride the wave of interest, but it's short-term and quite limited."

Elsewhere across Europe, nostalgia television is finding a place as part of a more mixed schedule.

Despite several new channels launching in France at the end of this month as the first wave of the digital terrestrial rollout, few are making classic U.S. reruns a central plank of their programming.

NT1, a startup channel from AB Groupe, has "Street Legal," "Due South," "Adrenaline" and "Bad Girls" on its schedule.

W9, the new digital channel from commercial network M6, has a show called "Funky Cops" that is '70s-inspired but not considered an evergreen. The channel also will air the 1998 sci-fi series "Chameleon," the Gena Lee Nolin action series "Sheena" and "From the Earth to the Moon," directed by Tom Hanks.


One solid buyer of vintage U.S. series is TMC, until now a cable and satellite channel that is migrating to digital terrestrial.

Co-owned by AB Groupe and TF1, TMC ranks eighth among French thematic channels, with an audience share of 1% among those French households that subscribe to at least one pay TV option.

Channel chiefs are hoping this share will increase significantly with the passage to free terrestrial broadcast, but with only 35% of the French territory initially covered, no one is prepared to make ratings forecasts.

TMC is inaugurating a new early-evening block every weekday called the Gold Trilogy, which will comprise three classic U.S. shows: "Kojak," "Ironside" and "The Wild Wild West." The channels also screen "Mission: Impossible" and Canadian show "Halifax."

Digital Ironside?

"These are quality series which have proved themselves," TMC's Gregoire Lebouc said. "They don't age, they're well written and well acted. There's a strong demand -- we know from viewers' letters."

There are likely to be further outlets for vintage U.S. shows when the second phase of digital terrestrial bows in the fall, with some 15 pay channels becoming available. These have not yet been selected by France's broadcasting authority, so it's too early to know which channel proposals will make it.

As Germany's digital rollout picks up the pace, the big unanswered question is the potential demand for niche channels packed with evergreen product.

Universal Studio Networks, Disney Channel Deutschland, Sony Pictures Television International, MGM and German indie Kinowelt operate niche digital channels that rely heavily on library product, mainly feature films.

On the series side, USN's Sci Fi Channel has scored small but significant audience numbers with reruns of "Battlestar Galactica," "Buck Rodgers" and "Star Trek," while the group's action and suspense label 13th Street fills its schedule with "Law & Order" repeats.

Click here for last week's Genre News!

Paperback books by Rich La Bonté - Free e-previews!