|String Theory! |
Nuke Cancer! Arthritis & Pot,
Pinhead Angel, Top Quark!
The Quantum Well & More!
|University of California News Release |
Santa Barbara June 11, 2004 - According to string theory, all the different particles that constitute physical reality are made of the same thing--tiny looped strings whose different vibrations give rise to the different fundamental particles that make up everything we know.
Whether this theory correctly portrays fundamental reality is one of the biggest questions facing physicists.
In order to see directly whether that point-like structure is really a looped string, physicists would have to figure out how to magnify particles 15 orders of magnitude more than the 13 orders of magnitude afforded by today's best magnifying techniques--a feat unlikely to occur ever.
"One way to characterize that number," said Polchinski, "involves the gravitational effect of the string. If you look at a string end on while a couple of light rays go past it on either side, the light rays will bend towards the string. So light rays that started out parallel to each other will now meet at some angle. The heavier the string, the more those light rays will bend, and the bigger the angle."
Branes, a key conceptual breakthrough discovered by Polchinski in 1995, are essential structures in string theory in addition to strings.
Instead of being only one-dimensional like strings, branes can have any dimensionality, including one. One-dimensional branes are called "D1 branes or D strings."
So there are essentially two types of strings-- the heterotic string or "F" (for "fundamental") string, which physicists knew about prior to 1995, and the "D string," or one-dimensional brane.
Tye and collaborators explained Inflation in terms of a brane and an anti-brane separating from each other and then attracting back together and annihilating.
So a brane and an anti-brane existing in the extra dimensions would thereby provide the energy responsible for Inflation. Everything existing afterwards--our universe--is the product of their annihilation.
And, according to the Tye models, at the end of Inflation, when brane and anti-brane annihilate, not only does their annihilation produce heat and light, but also long closed strings that could grow with the expansion of the universe.
At the outset of the KITP program in fall 2003, the only remaining objection to cosmic strings was what Polchinski calls summarily "the stability argument," first made by Witten back in the '80s.
If, on the one hand, the post-Inflation strings were charged, then they would pull back together and collapse before they could grow to any great size. If the strings weren't charged, then they would tend to break into pieces. Either way--collapsing or breaking--the strings couldn't survive until today.
During the "Superstring Cosmology" program at the KITP, Alessandra Buonanno (Institut d'Astrolophysique de Paris) provided an overview of the possible gravitational wave signatures from the early universe. "When she gave the talk," said Polchinski, "I didn't pay careful attention because I wasn't thinking about that, but later I went back to her talk in the KITP online series and started clicking through and got to where she talked about gravitational waves from cosmic strings. She had these curves which were quite amazing."
|Nuke Cancer - NPRI Calls for Bush Nuclear Reassessment|
|Nuclear Policy Research Institute News Release |
WASHINGTON June 11, 2004 – The Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI) today called on the Bush administration to reassess its commitment to the expansion of nuclear power; based on new study reported in the June edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology.
The study documents a dramatic increase in thyroid cancers following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
According to the study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, rates of thyroid cancers among women in Belarus have increased 12-fold in the years since the April 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
The authors noted that "the magnitude of increases observed is remarkable given the relatively limited time interval since Chernobyl."
Additionally, the study points out that children two years and younger at the time of the accident were even more vulnerable, and that their cancers tended to be more invasive and expanded beyond the thyroid gland.
A number of nuclear power plants in the United States have recently faced public safety problems that were unexpected by industry officials. These problems could have had catastrophic effect for the American people.
Inspectors at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant, located 21 miles southeast of Toledo, Ohio, identified a six-inch deep football-sized hole in the reactor vessel.
This hole was initially missed by years of inspections, and would have resulted in a meltdown had it not been identified.
At the time the hole was found, 95% of the steel protecting the reactor from meltdown had been eaten away by acid. In 2003 cracks were found in the instrumentation tubes which measure the operations of the South Texas Project nuclear reactors, 90 miles southwest of Houston, Texas, allowing the reactor to leak.
Had these leaks not been identified by routine inspection, they could also have eventually resulted in a meltdown.
"Given the disastrous consequences of a major nuclear accident as demonstrated by this new study, we call on the Bush administration to halt its push for funds to subsidize the nuclear power industry, and shift those funds into safe and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind," said Charles Sheehan-Miles, executive director of Nuclear Policy Research Institute.
Pointing out the risk of terrorist attack against one of the 103 operating nuclear plants in the United States, NPRI President Dr. Helen Caldicott said, "Terrorists don’t need nuclear weapons. Thanks to the nuclear power industry, they are already deployed all over America, and even terrorists with limited knowledge could cause a meltdown at one of these plants."
The Nuclear Policy Research Institute will host a symposium, Nuclear Power and Children’s Health, in Chicago, Illinois October 15-16, 2004.
More details are available at www.nuclearpolicy.org
|Cassini Spacecraft Passes Phoebe|
|By PAUL CHAVEZ |
Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES June 12, 2004 (AP) - The internationally built Cassini spacecraft completed a flyby of Saturn's largest outer moon as it prepared to enter a four-year orbit to study the ringed planet, NASA officials said Saturday.
The plutonium-powered spacecraft, which is carrying 12 science instruments and a probe, came within about 1,285 miles of the dark moon Phoebe on Friday, officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
The $3.3 billion spacecraft pointed its instruments at the moon, then turned to point its antenna toward Earth. Its data reached NASA's Deep Space Network on Saturday morning.
Officials said the spacecraft was operating normally and was in excellent condition.
"Although this is the first flyby in the Saturn tour, it is the only opportunity to see Phoebe," said Dennis Watson, project scientist for the mission. "This flyby is key to knowing more about the mysterious oddball, which has been the object of interest of many scientists."
A crisp black-and-white photo of Phoebe released Saturday looked somewhat like a skull with its overlapping shadows and craters. Higher-resolution photos of the moon, which is just 137 miles across, were to be released later.
The spacecraft also transmitted data that scientists will examine to answer questions about Phoebe's mass and composition, said Torrence Johnson, a member of Cassini's science team.
"This is an extremely battered, old surface we're looking at," Johnson said about early images from the spacecraft. "There are deep craters from other space debris that over eons have pockmarked the surface. It's roughly round, but it's really chipped away."
Scientist believe Phoebe originated in the outer reaches of the solar system but later hurtled toward Saturn, where it was captured by the planet's gravity.
With the flyby of Phoebe behind it, Cassini's next key maneuver is a trajectory correction scheduled for Wednesday to position the spacecraft to become a satellite.
The U.S.-European spacecraft is expected to enter Saturn's orbit on June 30 after it dashes through a gap in Saturn's rings.
Cassini will study Saturn, its rings and 31 known moons during its four-year orbit. Its two cameras could take as many as 500,000 pictures.
Other probes have flown by the planet, but none have entered Saturn's orbit.
Cassini also carries the Huygens probe, which is supplied by the European Space Agency and carries six instruments. The probe, set to be released in December, is expected to land on Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
NASA's Cassini-Huygens site: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
|Arthritis & Pot|
|London June 9, 2004 (BBC) - A drug made from an extract of cannabis has helped to reduce the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. The drug, Sativex, has been developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, which is assessing the medical benefits of cannabis under a UK government license. |
Tests of a spray form of the drug on 58 arthritis patients showed it helped reduce pain, and improve quality of sleep.
Few people showed signs of side effects, the company said.
GW Pharmaceuticals has previously carried out trials showing that Sativex can reduce the pain associated with multiple sclerosis.
"These results are particularly exciting because this is the first ever controlled clinical trial of a cannabis-based medicine in the treatment of arthritis," said Dr Philip Robson, director of GW's Cannabinoid Research Institute.
|Meteorite Hits The Living Room Couch!|
|AUCKLAND June 12, 2004 (AFP) - A 1.3 kilogram (2.8 pound) meteorite has crashed through an Auckland city home, hitting the couch and ending up under a computer. |
It hit Phil and Brenda Archer's suburban Ellerslie home Saturday morning and while they now have a large hole in their roof, they have been told the book-sized rock could be worth around 10,000 NZ dollars (6,000 US) to collectors, according to the report in the Sunday Star Times.
"I was in the kitchen doing breakfast and there was this almighty explosion," Brenda said. "It was like a bomb had gone off. I couldn't see anything, there was just dust." She thought something had exploded in the ceiling but her husband saw a stone under the computer and it was hot to touch.
The rock hit her leather couch and bounced backup to the ceiling before rolling under the computer. The Archer's one-year-old grandson Luca was playing nearby but was unhurt.
"He must have a guardian angel," Brenda said.
Auckland University meteorite expert Joel Schiff told the Sunday Star Times said the rock was "a national treasure" but said international collectors would offer big money for it.
He said the chondrite type meteor -- meaning it was chipped off an asteroid -- had probably hit the atmosphere the size of a basketball at 15 kilometers (nine miles) per second before slowing to around 100-200 meters (330-660 feet) a second at impact.
|University of Newcastle upon Tyne News Release |
June 11, 2004 - Two major UK landmarks now count among the world's smallest objects. Scientists & engineers based at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne specializing in miniaturization technology have recreated North East England's Tyne Bridge and the Angel of the North sculpture so they are smaller than a pinhead and invisible to the naked eye.
The team used a combination of chemistry, physics and mechanical engineering techniques to create the tiny structures. Both are created out of silicon, the material used to make microchips. They are around 400 microns wide and their details can only be seen through a microscope.
The technology used to develop the bridge and the angel could be used to make miniaturized antennae for next-generation mobile phones. These so-called chip antennae will significantly reduce the power consumption and cost of production of mobile communication devices.
The fact that these structures can be made in silicon is an important feature as this allows the integration of moving mechanical parts and smart materials with standard components used in the microelectronics and semiconductor industries.
The scientists, who are based at INEX (Innovation in Nanotechnology Exploitation), the engineering and commercialization arm of the Institute for Nanoscale Science & Technology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, undertook the project to showcase their expertise in an emerging technological field, micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS), in an interesting way.
The techniques are now being used by INEX to develop a number of applications on behalf of industry.
The applications range from accelerometer devices used in the automobile and medical markets; biosensors for rapid & cheap point-of-care diagnostics that are finding novel application in the healthcare sector; through to making grooves and channels 1/10th the width of a human hair to transfer picoliter (which is 0.0000000000001 liters) volumes of chemicals and biological materials for lab-on-a- chip applications that is enabling the generation of new and better drugs at a much faster pace than previously possible.
The business director of INEX, Richard Carter, said:
"Newcastle is already known for creating some of the UK's largest structures - and now the region is building a global reputation for making some of the smallest.
"These are not just gimmicks. The work was performed as part of a technology development program looking at new ways to make very small structures and devices.
Tyne-y Bridge: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/photos/167Bridge_Gold.jpg
|Suspected Killer Alcoholic Elephant Escapes Death Sentence!|
|JAMSHEDPUR India June 11, 2004 (AFP) - A rogue elephant which was blamed for the deaths of more than 20 people and was to have been put down, won a reprieve as proof of its guilt was insufficient, an Indian wildlife official revealed. |
Villagers in the hills near Jameshedpur town, 120 kilometers (74 miles) from Ranchi, capital of the eastern state of Jharkhand, said the elephant had trampled to death at least 20 people in the past five months. But forest officials said Friday that they could not kill the animal based on a public complaints.
"The death penalty on the basis of hearsay will be unkind towards the animal," said chief wildlife warden U.R. Biswas.
Forest officials will, however, film the suspect elephant's movements, Biswas said.
The forest department has asked a group of "tracers" to investigate whether it was indeed the elephant which killed the 20 people. Officials said there were at least 18 elephants of similar size and age in the area and it would be difficult for villagers to identify the rogue animal.
The forest department has also ordered fencing to segregate the human settlement from the elephants' habitat.
Officials say the elephants are drawn to villages by the smell of a local brew made from wild fruit. They say the elephants attack the liquor stalls, get drunk and trample anyone who gets in their way.
Human settlements have been encroaching on forest areas in many parts of India, including Jharkhand.
|University of Rochester News Release |
June 9, 2004 - Researchers from the University of Rochester have helped measure the elusive top quark with unparalleled precision, and the surprising results affect everything from the Higgs boson, nicknamed the "God particle," to the makeup of the dark matter that comprises 90 percent of the universe.
The scientists developed a new method to analyze data from particle accelerator collisions at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory, which is far more accurate than previous methods and has the potential to change the dynamics of the Standard Model of particle physics. Details of the research are in today's issue of the journal Nature.
"This is a remarkable achievement in the measurement of the top quark," says Thomas Ferbel, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, and a principal author of the paper.
"The improvement has caused quite a stir because it has changed the accepted mass of the top quark in such a way that the Higgs boson is now in an energy range we have yet to explore. It's as if we've been digging a hole for the Higgs, and suddenly we realize we read the map wrong and it's really somewhere else."
The masses of the top quark and Higgs boson are critical to understanding how the quantum world works, including answering one of science's great conundrums--what gives mass, mass?
The revision of the top quark mass started as a thesis project for one of Ferbel's doctoral students, Juan Estrada. He decided to see if there were a better way to calculate the mass of the top quark from the measurements already collected at Fermilab's particle accelerator.
Ferbel was initially skeptical since scientists figured they'd wrung every bit of information from the data collected since the top quark's discovery in 1995. But Estrada, along with Fermilab scientist Gaston Gutierrez, developed a method based on probabilities that seemed to give a dramatic increase in precision.
Ferbel brought in a third student, Florencia Canelli, to help extend the method to calculate the top quark's spin properties as well as its mass.
When the real-world data was parsed, the method yielded a nearly 40 percent increase in precision; less than predicted, but still a tremendous boon to physicists. The improved method allows researchers to glean as much information from the available data as would have been possible from a sample two and a half times as large, which is invaluable when collecting data from each collision is such an delicate and arduous task.
The second major fallout from the new measurements is that the Higgs boson--the particle that is theorized to give rise to mass itself--apparently exists at higher energy levels than where scientists have been searching.
Since all subatomic particles are related to each other, changes in the characteristics of one ripples through other particles, and since the top quark is especially massive, changes to it result in the largest changes in other particles--especially the Higgs.
Based on the old accepted value of the top quark mass, physicists expected to find the Higgs boson at around 96 GeV/c2 (gigaelectron-volts), but have been able to rule out that it actually exists there. That threw the whole Standard Model into a quandary.
The new measurement for the top quark mass, however, now places the Higgs at about 117 GeV/c2, which is a range accelerators haven't yet searched, putting the elusive Higgs back into play.
"No matter how hard we try to break the Standard Model, it always seems to flex and still work," says Ferbel. "It's puzzling because we know in the long run the model isn't quite right, but it won't be beaten down. Every time we put stress on it, it shows it's still alive and breathing."
|China Finds Pterosaur Fossil|
|LONDON June 9, 2004 (Reuters) - Scientists in China have discovered a 121 million-year-old fossil containing an embryo of a flying reptile that lived alongside the dinosaurs. |
It is the only known fossil of an embryo of a pterosaur, a winged lizard that evolved powered flight.
"Dinosaur embryos have been discovered all over the world, but so far no pterosaur embryos have been reported," Xiaolin Wang and Zhonghe Zhou, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said in a report in the science journal Nature on Wednesday.
The embryo is preserved in an almost complete egg and was found in the sediment of a lake in Liaoning in northeastern China that is known for its fossil riches.
Parts of its skull and skeleton are preserved and the lower jaw shows two slender and slightly curved teeth, according to the scientists.
It is bigger than fossils of hatched pterosaurs, which suggests it probably would have hatched soon.
"The Liaoning embryo has a wingspan of 10.6 inches, indicating that the embryo would have grown up into a medium-to-large pterosaur," the scientists added.
The earliest pterosaurs, the first known flying vertebrates, lived about 230 million years ago. They died out about 65 million years ago..
|Pumping the Quantum Well|
|Los Alamos National Laboratory Press Release |
LOS ALAMOS June 10, 2004 - University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a colleague from Sandia National Laboratories have developed a new method for exciting light emission from nanocrystal quantum dots.
The discovery provides a way to supply energy to quantum dots without wires, and paves the way for a potentially wider use of tunable nanocrystalline materials in a variety of novel light-emitting technologies ranging from electronic displays to solid-state lighting and electrically pumped nanoscale lasers.
In a paper published in the today's issue of the scientific journal Nature, Los Alamos Chemistry Division scientist Victor Klimov and his colleagues describe their method for using non-contact, non-radiative energy transfer from a quantum well to produce light from an adjacent layer of nanocrystals.
A quantum well is a semiconductor structure in which an electron is sandwiched between two barriers so that its motion is confined to two dimensions. In a real-life device, the quantum well would be pumped electrically in the same way a common quantum-well light-emitting diode is pumped.
According to Klimov, "The transfer of energy is fast enough to compete with exciton recombination in the quantum well, and that allows us to "move" more than 50 percent of the excitons to adjacent quantum dots. The recombination of these transferred excitons leads to emission of light with color that can be controlled by quantum dot size.
"The high efficiency of energy transfer in combination with the exceptional luminescent properties of nanocrystal quantum dots make hybrid quantum-well/nanocrystal devices feasible as efficient sources of any color light -- or even white light."
In addition to Klimov, project scientists include Marc Achermann, Melissa Petruska, Simon Kos and Darryl Smith from Los Alamos, along with Daniel Koleske from Sandia National Laboratories.
|Genre News: The Dead Zone, King Kong, SG-1, 21 Jump Street, Reno 911 & Ray Charles|
|Dead Zone Rocks the Future! |
Dead Zone Executive Producer Lloyd Segan promises Johnny Smith's third season will surprise us, touch us, terrify us and generally shake up the universe.
If the opening volley is any indication, Mr. Segan may just be modest.
The second part of the opener will be history by the time you read this, but Karl Schaefer's script for Finding Rachel certainly takes The Dead Zone to new realms.
Dead Rachel's sister Rebecca Caldwell (Sarah Wynter) has complicated his relationships with previous seasons' regulars Nicole deBoer (Sarah Bannerman), John L. Adams (Bruce), Chris Bruno (Sheriff Walt Bannerman) and David Ogden Stiers (Reverend Gene Purdy). Kristen Dalton (Dana Bright) is the only familiar face who seems to be missing in season three (not permanently, we hope!)
Luckily for intelligent "unreality" viewers, The Dead Zone shares the sunshine with good company this year. Mr. Monk returns to USA June 18th, Nip/Tuck to FX, and Stargate SG-1 begins its new season on Sci Fi Channel July 9th, followed closely by a Stargate spin-off to Atlantis the same month. Sci Fi kicked off the summer last week with the excellent mini-series 5 Days to Midnight starring Tim Hutton and Kari Matchett. (DZ's deBoer co-starred.)
The Season Two DVDs can be purchased directly on the DZ website along with The Dead Zone: Music from Season One CD.
Hollywood June 11, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Andy Serkis, the man behind the popular Gollum character from the "Lord of the Rings" films, is reuniting with the trilogy's Peter Jackson to become the man behind the monster in Universal Pictures' "King Kong," the director's retelling of the 1933 classic.
LOS ANGELES June 11, 2004 (AP) - John Schneider is still a good ol' boy at heart, but the former troublemaking off-road driver from "The Dukes of Hazzard" is now more known as young Superman's responsible, tough-talking father from the WB network's "Smallville."
"(On both shows) we have the good guys who are good not because they're lily-white, but they're good because they make the right choices even when they don't want to." The first season of "The Dukes of Hazzard" debuted on DVD for the first time last week.
Smallville Official - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||126,00.html
Speaking in an interview on the show's Vancouver, B.C., set, Anderson (Jack O'Neill) said that he has reduced the number of days he shoots in Canada to allow him to spend more time at his home in Southern California, where he cares for a 5-year-old daughter.
Stargate Official - http://www.scifi.com/stargate
Hollywood June 8, 2004 (Variety) - Stephen J. Cannell has struck an exclusive long-term distribution deal with Anchor Bay Entertainment to release some of his series on DVD.
Two additional sets from among "Hunter," "The Commish," "Renegade" and "The Greatest American Hero" are tentatively slated for the fourth quarter and the other two in early 2005.
Duck Turns 70
LOS ANGELES June 11, 2004 (Reuters) - As one of the greatest musical innovators of the 20th century, Ray Charles was certainly deserving of the "genius" tag bestowed on him by peers, fans and critics.
Both forms were steeped in the blues, but there had been very little crossover.
When gospel hero Sam Cooke went secular in 1956, he might as well have joined a satanic cult. It was no coincidence that Charles performed at Cooke's funeral eight years later.
"Gospel and the blues are really, if you break it down, almost the same thing. It's just a question of whether you're talkin' about a woman or God."
A "FEARLESS" INTERPRETER
In 1962, he ventured into the territory trod by boyhood heroes such as Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl by recording what many consider to be his greatest album, "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music." His version of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" topped both the pop and R&B charts.
He described the song "I Gotta Do Wrong," a regretful commentary on the need to attract attention by any means necessary in order to have wrongs redressed, as the story of his life.
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