Terraform Mars?
Missing Baryons, Deep Life!
Space War Games! Race Fear!
Hubble, Virtual TV & More!
Terraform Mars?

European Space Agency Mars Express image showing a perspective
view of Reull Vallis on Mars, looking south-east with added water.
ESA Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum) - Water added by
eXoNews Martian

American Geophysical Union News Release

WASHINGTON February 3, 2005 - Injecting synthetic "super" greenhouse gases into the Martian atmosphere could raise the planet's temperature enough to melt its polar ice caps and create conditions suitable for sustaining biological life.

In fact, a team of researchers suggests that introducing global warming on the Red Planet may be the best approach for warming the planet's frozen landscape and turning it into a habitable world in the future.

Margarita Marinova, then at the NASA Ames Research Center, and colleagues propose that the same types of atmospheric interactions that have led to recent surface temperature warming trends on Earth could be harnessed on Mars to create another biologically hospitable environment in the solar system.

In the February issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, published by the American Geophysical Union, the researchers report on the thermal energy absorption and the potential surface temperature effects from introducing man-made greenhouse gases strong enough to melt the carbon dioxide and ice on Mars.

"Bringing life to Mars and studying its growth would contribute to our understanding of evolution, and the ability of life to adapt and proliferate on other worlds," Marinova said.

"Since warming Mars effectively reverts it to its past, more habitable state, this would give any possibly dormant life on Mars the chance to be revived and develop further."

The authors note that artificially created gases--which would be nearly 10,000 times more effective than carbon dioxide--could be manufactured to have minimal detrimental effects on living organisms and the ozone layer while retaining an exceptionally long lifespan in the environment.


(NASA)

They then created a computer model of the Martian atmosphere and analyzed four such gases, individually and in combination, that are considered the best candidates for the job.

Their study focused on fluorine-based gases, composed of elements readily available on the Martian surface, that are known to be effective at absorbing thermal infrared energy.

They found that a compound known as octafluoropropane, whose chemical formula is C3F8, produced the greatest warming, while its combination with several similar gases enhanced the warming even further.

The researchers anticipate that adding approximately 300 parts per million of the gas mixture in the current Martian atmosphere, which is the equivalent of nearly two parts per million in an Earth-like atmosphere, would spark a runaway greenhouse effect, creating an instability in the polar ice sheets that would slowly evaporate the frozen carbon dioxide on the planet's surface.

They add that the release of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide would lead to further melting and global temperature increases that could then enhance atmospheric pressure and eventually restore a thicker atmosphere to the planet.

Such a process could take centuries or even millennia to complete but, because the raw materials for the fluorine gases already exist on Mars, it is possible that astronauts could create them on a manned mission to the planet. It would otherwise be impossible to deliver gigaton-sized quantities of the gas to Mars.

The authors conclude that introducing powerful greenhouse gases is the most feasible technique for raising the temperature and increasing the atmospheric pressure on Mars, particularly when compared to other alternatives like sprinkling sunlight-absorbing dust on the poles or placing large mirrors in the planet's orbit.

American Geophysical Union - http://www.agu.org

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Fate of the Ape
  

This photo released by Conservation International shows a Gorilla in the Congo forest. The fate of the vast forest expanse will be discussed at a regional summit meeting in Brazzaville, the capital of the Congo Republic, this weekend. (AFP/ Haroldo Castro)

Bush Wants $867 Million for Forest Thinning
WASHINGTON February 4, 2005 (Reuters) — The Bush administration will ask Congress to increase funding to $867 million in fiscal year 2006 for a plan to help reduce the risk of wildfires in federal forests, a senior administration official said Thursday.

The U.S. Agriculture Department's Forest Service division and the Interior Department, which work together to fight forest fires, received $811 million in the current budget year for the forest management plan.

Environmentalists have criticized the program as a way to give logging companies more access to timber under the guise of forest protection.

The proposed increase will be part of the federal budget request that the White House will submit on Monday to Congress, which will spend months debating and modifying the budget. The 2006 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

The forest management program, approved by Congress in 2003, aims to cut procedural delays at federal agencies and develop new ways to reduce the threat of wildfires on 10 million acres of fire-prone forest over several years.

Mark Rey, the U.S. Agriculture Department's undersecretary of natural resources, told reporters about $492 million of the requested $867 million in 2006 would be used to remove hazardous underbrush from more than 4 million acres of land. The rest would be spent to improve landscapes and wildlife habitats.

Rey said the program would focus on thinning forests near houses. By the end of fiscal year 2006, more than half of areas treated will be where people live.

This will result in the removal of more wood products -- ranging from biomass to commercial grade lumber -- because prescribed burning programs would be used less often, he said. In 2004, 277,000 acres, or about 5 percent of the 4 million acres treated, had lumber or wood products removed.

Rey and Lynn Scarlett, assistant secretary of the interior, declined to comment on other details of the 2006 budget for their agencies.
Missing Baryons Discovered!

Active Galaxy Markarian 421 (UGC 6132).
(Aimo Sillanpaa with the Nordic Optical
Telescope)

Ohio State University News Release

COLUMBUS OH February 2, 2005 – Found: 7 percent of the mass of the universe. Missing since: 10 billion years ago.

Consider one more astronomical mystery solved. Scientists have located a sizeable chunk of the universe that seemed to be missing since back when the stars first formed.

It’s floating in super-hot rivers of gas, invisible to the naked eye, surrounding galaxies like our own.

And a completely different kind of mystery matter - dark matter - may have put it there.

The results appear in the current issue of the journal Nature.

To make this latest discovery, astronomers at Ohio State University and their colleagues used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to take the highest-quality spectrum of its type ever made.

Though astronomers had previously detected the rivers of gas with X-ray telescopes, this is the first time that the gas has been studied in enough detail to calculate how much of it is out there. The amount of gas matches the amount of material that went missing 10 billion years ago, said Smita Mathur, associate professor of astronomy at Ohio State.


This optical (blue) and NASA's Chandra
X-ray (red-orange) composite image shows
Abell 2029, a cluster of galaxies. A large
elliptical galaxy is visible in the center of
the image, surrounded by smaller galaxies.
The red diffuse emission shows hot inter-
galactic gas, heated to about 100 million
degrees by the enormous gravity in the
cluster, and visible only in X-rays. This
galaxy cluster has a redshift of 0.078, at a
distance corresponding to a light travel time
of one billion years. (Optical: NOAO/ Kitt Peak
/J.Uson, D.Dale; X-ray: NASA/CXC/ IoA
/S.Allen et al.)

She and doctoral student Rik Williams did this work with astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), the University of California, Berkeley, the Instituto de Astronomia in Mexico, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lead author on the paper is Fabrizio Nicastro of CfA.

According to current theories, when the universe began, it contained a certain amount of normal matter, a cache of protons and neutrons that today make up all normal atoms - “stuff” as we know it.

Astronomers can use optical telescopes to look back in time and see what happened to the normal atoms, called baryons. Around 10 billion years ago, when half of the baryons became stars and galaxies and lit up the sky, the other half just seemed to disappear.

This new study shows that the missing baryons are still out there, Mathur said, they’re just floating in gas that is too hot to see with an optical telescope.

The gas that surrounds our galaxy, for example, is 100 times hotter than the sun -- so hot that it shines in high-energy X-rays instead of lower-energy visible light.

In 2002, Mathur and her colleagues used Chandra’s X-ray telescope to gather the first evidence that the gas was made of baryons. The image they obtained was a spectrum, a measurement of the different wavelengths of X-rays emanating from the material. But to prove that there was enough material there to account for the all the missing baryons, they knew they needed to take a better spectrum with the telescope.

“Those first results were tantalizing, but not foolproof. The signal-to-noise ratio in the spectrum was just not good enough,” Mathur said.

They needed a bright light source to pump up the signal, one located on the other side of the gas as viewed from Earth, so that the light shined directly through the gas. They found their source in a quasar, located in the constellation Ursa Major -- the Big Dipper.

Astronomers believe that quasars are galaxies with very massive black holes in the center. The black holes in quasars don’t just suck material in, they also shoot material out in a high-speed jet. The jet glows brightly, and the result is an intense beam of light -- exactly what Mathur and her colleagues needed to take their picture.

The astronomers decided to use the light from Markarian 421, one of the brightest quasars known. On two days -- one in October 2002 and another in July 2003 -- when Markarian 421 was at its brightest and the beam of light was pointing right at Earth, Mathur’s team took two very high quality X-ray spectra of the intervening gas.

Judging by the high signal-to-noise ratio of the data, the astronomers believe that one of their images is the best X-ray spectrum ever taken.


This illustration shows the absorption of X-rays from
the quasar Mkn 421 by two intergalactic clouds of diffuse
hot gas. These distant clouds (located 150 million and
370 million light years from Earth), are likely part of a
predicted diffuse web-like system of hot gas clouds - the
cosmic web - from which galaxies and clusters of galaxies
are thought to have formed. (CXC / M.Weiss)

That spectrum isn’t what most people would consider a pretty picture -- it’s really just a graph of energy levels of light that penetrated the gas -- but to Mathur it’s absolutely beautiful, because it proved definitively that there are enough baryons -- “normal” atoms -- out there to account for the missing mass.

“This is such a wonderful spectrum that there is just no doubt about it,” she said.

Once they had the new spectra, the astronomers were able to calculate the density of baryons in the gas, and confirmed that the amount of material matched the missing matter they were searching for.

As to how the missing baryons ended up where they are, Mathur suspects that they were drawn there by the gravity of a different kind of matter, known as dark matter.

Astronomers know that some unseen material provides most of the gravity of the universe, though they disagree on what dark matter is actually made of.

If Mathur and her colleagues are right, then their finding supports a dramatic theory: that dark matter provides a kind of backbone to the universe, where the structure of normal matter like galaxies follows an underlying structure of dark matter.

This research was sponsored by NASA-Chandra grants and NASA’s Long-Term Space Astrophysics program.

Ohio State University - http://researchnews.osu.edu

Also see Constellation-X - http://constellation.gsfc.nasa.gov

Cops Find 3.6 Million Stolen Nickels
MIAMI February 4, 2005 (AFP) - Miami police found a stash of 3.6 million stolen nickels, buried at a farm south of the city, as they looked for marijuana plants in the area. The coins were stolen from the US Federal Reserve in December.

Authorities said they had clues about a possible marijuana plantation property south of Miami, and that during their search they found a portable icebox full of five-cent coins. Agents, recalling the robbery late last year, when the coins went missing en route from the Federal Reserve Bank in New Jersey to New Orleans, got out metal detectors.

The hoard of coins was buried, still inside the Federal Reserve sacks they were originally transported in. Agents arrested a man on the property, and also found some marijuana being cultivated. The driver of the truck carrying the coins, Angel Mendoza, a resident of Hialeah near Miami, is the main suspect in the robbery, having gone missing, his whereabouts unknown.

"We are concerned because he's missing ... he became a suspect," Miami-Dade County police officer Randy Grossman told Channel 7 television.

The truck was found abandoned at Fort Pierce, in eastern Florida, five days after going missing after leaving New Jersey.
Deep Life Found in Deepest Ocean

Deep life: The scale bar is 50 microns
(millionths of a meter). (BBC)

By Randolph E. Schmid
Associated Press

WASHINGTON February 4, 2005 (AP) — Tiny single-celled organisms, many of them previously unknown, have been discovered beneath nearly seven miles of water in the deepest part of the ocean.

A sample of sediment collected from the Challenger Deep southwest of Guam in the Pacific Ocean Islands yielded several hundred foraminifera, a type of plankton that is usually abundant near the ocean surface.

"On the species level, all the species we found from the Challenger Deep are quite new," researcher Hiroshi Kitazato said vie e-mail.

The outer shapes are similar to other known foraminifera, but details of their structure differ, explained Kitazato, of the Institute for Research on Earth Evolution, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.

"I am very surprised that so many very simple, soft-shelled foraminifera are dwelling at the deepest point of the world ocean," he added.

"It is also exiting that most of the group belong to the oldest branch of foraminifera," he added, suggesting that these deep locations may form some sort of refuge for them.


Challenger Deep versus the Earth's tallest
mountain (BBC)

These distinct creatures probably represent the remnants of a deep-dwelling group that was able to adapt to the high pressures, the researchers suggest in reporting the find. Their discovery is reported in this week's issue of the journal Science.

Because the water is so deep, the pressure where the find was made is 1,100 times more than normal atmospheric pressure at the surface.

While many foraminifera have hard shells, the researchers noted that this newly found group does not.

Similar, though not identical, groups have been found in other, slightly shallower, ocean trenches, they note.

The creatures probably can exist by ingesting particles of organic matter that drift down from above or materials that are dissolved in the seawater, Kitazato said.

The research was funded by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, the Japan Society for Promotion of Science, the Kaplan Foundation and the Natural Environment Research Council.

Challenger Deep site - http://www.extremescience.com/DeepestOcean.htm

AOL Employee Steals 92 Million Email Addresses
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK February 4, 2005 (AP) - A 24-year-old former American Online software engineer pleaded guilty Friday to stealing 92 million screen names and e-mail addresses and selling them to spammers, setting off an avalanche of up to seven billion unsolicited e-mails.

The soft-spoken Jason Smathers of Harpers Ferry, W. Va., entered the plea to conspiracy charges in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where he was likely to face from 18 months to two years in prison at a May 20 sentencing.

Smathers also faces mandatory restitution of between $200,000 and $400,000, the amount the government estimates AOL spent as a result of the e-mails.

In December, Judge Alvin Hellerstein had rejected a similar plea by Smathers, saying he was not convinced he had actually committed a crime. But the judge said prosecutors now had sufficiently explained why he had.

Smathers told the judge that he accepted $28,000 from someone who wanted to pitch an offshore gambling site to AOL customers, knowing that the list of screen names might make its way to others who would send e-mail solicitations.

"Do you wish to accept responsibility for what you did?" the judge asked Smathers.

"Yes sir, I do," he answered.

Federal prosecutor David Siegal said Smathers had engaged in the interstate transportation of stolen property and had violated a new federal "can-spam" law meant to diminish unsolicited e-mail messages about everything from Viagra to mortgages.

In December, the judge said he had dropped his own AOL membership because he received too much spam.

The company has since launched a major assault on spam, significantly reducing unsolicited e-mails. America Online Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.

Smathers was fired by AOL last June. Authorities said he used another employee's access code to steal the list of AOL customers in 2003 from its headquarters in Dulles, Va.

Smathers allegedly sold the list to Sean Dunaway, of Las Vegas, who used it to send unwanted gambling advertisements to subscribers of AOL, the world's largest Internet provider. Charges are pending against Dunaway.

The stolen list of 92 million AOL addresses included multiple addresses used by each of AOL's estimated 30 million customers. It is believed to be still circulating among spammers.
Space War Games

Early space weapon: Russian combat satellite
Polyus was launched on 15 May, 1987. The
launch failed and the Polyus reportedly fell into
the South Pacific Ocean. (Credit: © Mark Wade)

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON February 5, 2005 (Reuters) - The U.S. military on Saturday launched a five-day war game to see how space-based assets such as satellite communications and precision bomb guidance systems would fare in a hypothetical war against terrorism in 2020.

"This is not warfare in space. Our focus is how to best use our space-based assets to coordinate the joint terrestrial fight," said Brig. Gen. Daniel Darnell, commander of the Space Warfare Center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

Over the past decade, the U.S. military has come to rely to a huge extent on satellites to relay communications, transmit high-resolution imagery; track U.S. forces; spot enemy missiles and guide precision munitions to their targets.

The classified tabletop war game, the third focused primarily on space, involves 250 military and civilian experts from about 20 federal agencies, and officials from Canada, Australia and Britain, all gathered at the isolated base on the plains east of Colorado Springs.

The game will pit friendly "blue" forces against enemy "red" forces, including state and non-state actors, some wielding weapons of mass destruction, Darnell said.

The first space-based war game, which took place in January 2001 focused on growing tensions between the United States and China in 2017. A second war game was held in February 2003.

The Air Force, conscious of growing budget pressures on military spending, hopes to gain insights into the best mix of assets, including space-based systems, near-space aircraft and traditional aircraft, Darnell said.

SPEED DATA HANDLING

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper also wanted to speed up the way various systems processed and handled data, especially in determining whether to engage a target.

The war game will also test possible responses in case certain satellites could no longer be used due to extreme space weather, or destruction of a ground-based control station due to an earthquake, Darnell said.

He conceded the game assumed completion of several Air Force space systems still under development, including Space-Based Radar and Transformational Satellite Communications System. Congress cut the budgets of both last year.

"There is somewhat of a leap of faith," he said.


US Space Warfare Center logo

For the first time, the game will also include "near space" aircraft operating above 65,000 feet but below an outer space orbit, which the Air Force sees as a promising new area for intelligence gathering and surveillance.

The Air Force hopes to begin operating the first of these new aircraft, such as helium-filled free-floating balloons and remotely controlled glider-like vehicles, within a year.

Darnell said such near-space aircraft could help provide the U.S. military with its own eyes and ears, complementing the intelligence satellites that now provide surveillance and reconnaissance data to U.S. forces.

The new class of aircraft would be valuable in terms of tracking U.S. forces on the ground, and providing persistent signals gathering capability, he said.

Top U.S. companies in the defense satellite making and launching business include Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Schriever Air Force Base - http://www.schriever.af.mil

Polyus 1 Space Weapons Platform - http://www.astronautix.com/craft/polyus.htm

Love Cookies Bad
DURANGO CO February 4, 2005 (Reuters) - A Colorado judge ordered two teen-age girls to pay about $900 for the distress a neighbor said they caused by giving her home-made cookies adorned with paper hearts.

The pair were ordered to pay $871.70 plus $39 in court costs after neighbor Wanita Renea Young, 49, filed a lawsuit complaining that the unsolicited cookies, left at her house after the girls knocked on her door, had triggered an anxiety attack that sent her to the hospital the next day.

Taylor Ostergaard, then 17, and Lindsey Jo Zellitte, 18, paid the judgment on Thursday after a small claims court ruling by La Plata County Court Judge Doug Walker, a court clerk said on Friday.

The girls baked cookies as a surprise for several of their rural Colorado neighbors on July 31 and dropped off small batches on their porches, accompanied by red or pink paper hearts and the message: "Have a great night."

The Denver Post newspaper reported on Friday that the girls had decided to stay home and bake the cookies rather than go to a dance where there might be cursing and drinking. It reported that six neighbors wrote letters entered as evidence in the case thanking the girls for the cookies.

But Young said she was frightened because the two had knocked on her door at about 10:30 p.m. and run off after leaving the cookies. She went to a hospital emergency room the next day, fearing that she had suffered a heart attack, court records said.

The judge awarded Young her medical costs, but did not award punitive damages. He said he did not think the girls had acted maliciously but that 10:30 was fairly late at night for them to be out.
Race Fear!

Confessions of a Nazi Spy (Warners 1939)

American Psychological Society News Release

February 3, 2005 - If you've ever walked down a dark alley and seen a stranger approach, then you probably know that automatic vigilance - a signal from your brain making you more alert. And even if you consider yourself unprejudiced, you may have also noticed that this response is more prevalent when you encounter people of races other than yours.

It can be chalked up partly as caution around the unknown - the fact that we are generally less familiar with other races than we are with our own - but it is still discouraging for race relations. Some new research, however, has shown that we may have more control over our race-based vigilance reaction than previously thought.

Princeton University researchers Mary Wheeler and Susan Fiske suggest that our automatic vigilance happens mainly when we put people into categories, and is not inevitable. "We react that way to harmless strangers of another race - unless we trouble to think of them as unique individuals," Fiske said.

Their findings are presented in the study "Controlling Racial Prejudice: Social-Cognitive Goals Affect Amygdala and Stereotype Activation," in the January 2005 issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure activity in the amygdala - the part of the brain triggering the rapid vigilance - while a group of White participants viewed pictures of unfamiliar Black faces and White faces. While viewing each picture, participants were asked to perform three alternative tasks: to decide if the person pictured would like a certain vegetable (celery, for example), to decide if there was a gray dot on the photo, or to decide whether the face fit into the over-21 or under-21 age category.

Results showed amygdala activation only in the last case, when White participants were asked to categorize the age of Black faces. Wheeler and Fiske argue the lack of activation after the first two tasks is due to participants not considering the racial characteristics of the person pictured. For instance, someone's preference for celery is a personal characteristic, not a racial one.

Fiske said amygdala and stereotype activation only happened when "thinking about the faces categorically and superficially" - as when making a determination of a person's age. By placing the person pictured into an age group, participants were categorizing them. We often categorize unfamiliar people, whether as young or old, black or white, rich or poor. And it is when we categorize that our brain's alarm signals kick in.

"We think this way about strangers on a bus. But the amygdala and stereotype response depends on exactly how you think about your seat-mate on the bus," Fiske said.

Download the report (PDF) - http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/ps/race_fear.pdf

American Psychological Society - http://www.psychologicalscience.org

EPA Favored Electric Industry
By John Heilprin
Associated Press

WASHINGTON February 4, 2005 (AP) — The Bush administration overlooked health effects and sided with the electric industry in developing rules for cutting toxic mercury pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general said Thursday.

The agency fell short of its own requirements and presidential orders by "not fully analyzing the cost-benefit of regulatory alternatives and not fully assessing the rule's impact on children's health," the agency's internal watchdog said in a 54-page report.

Nikki L. Tinsley's report said the EPA based its mercury pollution limits on an analysis submitted by Western Energy Supply and Transmission Associates, a research and advocacy group representing 17 coal-fired utilities in eight Western states.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set the limits based on the most advanced pollution controls used by industry. Tinsley said agency workers were instructed by "EPA senior management" to develop a standard compared with other regulations and a White House legislative plan, "instead of basing the standard on an unbiased determination" of the limits.

In response to the report, EPA officials said it was "not true" that the administration proposed mercury pollution standards without following requirements of the law.

Mercury from power plants settles in waterways and accumulates in fish. The toxic metal can cause neurological and developmental problems, particularly in fetuses and young children. It also is being studied for risks associated with cardiovascular diseases.

Sen. Jim Jeffords and six Democratic senators asked Tinsley in April to investigate how the EPA put together the mercury rule it proposed in December 2003.

"Unfortunately, this report confirms that the administration's proposal to regulate mercury compromises children's health for the benefit of corporate profits," said Jeffords, an independent from Vermont.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned that high levels of mercury in some fish, including albacore tuna, can pose a hazard for children and for women pregnant or nursing.

The EPA estimates that about 8 percent of American women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their blood to put a fetus at risk.

EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said the rule's purpose is to protect children and women of child-bearing ages, adding that a final decision on it hasn't been made and that more analyses are being done.

She said EPA does not want its regulation to encourage utilities to switch from coal to natural gas, and pointed out that Tinsley's report noted the "wide latitude" the agency has in deciding which pollution to use.

"The proposed rule would take us from no regulation to a mandatory 70 percent cut," Bergman said. "The report improperly characterizes the process, which has been inclusive."

The pending regulation envisions a 70 percent cut in mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants by 2018, from the current 48 tons a year to 15 tons.

The EPA is expected to issue the rule by March 15 to comply with a court-approved agreement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. The council agreed to that date to give the agency more time to do analysis and collect more public comments; so far, more than 500,000 have been submitted, mostly form letters.

Bergman and other EPA officials said Tinsley's report fails to consider that mercury pollution is a global problem and that most Americans are exposed to it by eating fish imported from abroad.

The environmental group sued EPA in 1992 to force the agency to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants. The Clinton administration in late 2000 directed EPA to regulate mercury as a toxic, hazardous substance and require "maximum achievable control technology" at hundreds of coal-fired power plants.

Since the late 1990s, the EPA had regulated mercury dumped in water and air from municipal waste and medical waste incinerators, but not from power plants.

Utilities could meet the EPA's target by switching to cleaner-burning coal or natural gas, or installing equipment to cut smog and acid rain.

The agency's favored approach is an industry-supported program that would let plants sell unused pollution rights to companies that overshoot their allowances. Under a pollution-trading system, plants unable to meet the required reductions could buy emission allowances from other plants that have exceeded the required cuts.
Fixing Hubble

The Hubble Space Telescope (NASA)

By Deborah Zabarenko

WASHINGTON February 2, 2005 (Reuters) - The decision on how to fix the aging Hubble Space Telescope - or whether to do it at all - could hinge on how much it costs and which part of NASA pays for the repair, aeronautics experts said on Wednesday.

If fixing the 14-year-old orbiting observatory costs $1 billion to $2 billion -- as some at NASA have estimated -- and comes out of the agency's space science budget, investigators who have studied the question have judged that it may not be worth the investment.

But if the repair bill to the science section is between $300 million and $400 million, with the rest paid out of the space flight budget that includes the shuttle and space station programs, experts told a House (of Representatives) Science Committee hearing that it would be well worth the expense.

"I think we are fully in agreement that at the $300 million or $400 million level we would surely go right ahead and do the servicing," said Joseph Taylor, a physics professor at Princeton University who served on an scientific panel on Hubble's future. "At the $1 billion or $1.5 billion or $2 billion level, it's not at all so clear."

Steve Beckwith, who directs the Space Telescope Science Institute that manages Hubble, said that the past four servicing missions to the telescope have been charged at the lower level.

A shuttle servicing mission to Hubble had been set for 2004, and would have been the fifth time astronauts went to repair and upgrade the craft. But that was before the Feb. 1, 2003, shuttle Columbia accident, which killed seven astronauts and prompted the grounding of the three remaining shuttles.

Since then, Hubble's future has been in doubt.

In January 2004, NASA chief Sean O'Keefe announced the cancellation of the shuttle repair mission, sparking cries of protest from the public and some members of Congress.

O'Keefe later agreed to study the question, and an expert panel said a shuttle repair mission to Hubble was the best option; other choices were a robotic repair, a new telescope "platform" to perform some of the same functions as Hubble, or no action at all, except to bring the telescope down safely.

Last month, a U.S. official told Reuters the Bush administration plans to cut any funds for a Hubble repair mission from its fiscal 2006 budget proposal. The budget proposal is to be released on Monday.

Hubble Official - http://hubble.nasa.gov

Macbeth Not Guilty?

Actors performing as Lady Macbeth (L)
and Macbeth at the 55th Avignon
Theater Festival. (AFP / Anne-
Christtine Poujoulat)

By James Kilner

LONDON February 3, 2005 (Reuters) - Macbeth was not the ambitious, cold-blooded murderer Shakespeare described in his play but a popular king who ruled over a peaceful land, a group of Scottish parliamentarians said Thursday. They want to restore the reputation of the 11th century king of Scotland, who has been stained with villainy ever since Shakespeare's play was first performed 400 years ago.

"He (Macbeth) was perceived as a good king who stabilized the country and has since been maligned by Shakespeare's play," said Scottish Member of Parliament, Alex Johnstone.

"In a time of war, he unified the country and promoted Christianity," Johnstone told Reuters. "He was even able to leave, visit Rome and return without trouble, something almost unthinkable in those times."

In the play, Macbeth is tormented by the prophesies of three witches, murders the king in his sleep to steal the throne and then succumbs to madness before being killed himself.

Mostly inaccurate, says Johnstone, who has tabled a motion in parliament commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the birth of Macbeth, who reigned between 1040 and 1057.  He says Shakespeare wrote the play to appeal to the superstitious Scottish king James VI, who had just succeeded to the English throne.

"Apparently King James believed in witches and Shakespeare want to appeal to that," Johnstone said.

Superstition still surrounds the work. Actors refer to it only as "the Scottish play," fearing bad luck if they call it by its real name.

Virtual TV?
Kitchen scenes, an off-the-shelf solution – the new technology overlays virtual shelves
and a virtual table on to a real kitchen. (EPSRC)

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Press Release

February 2, 2005 - Live TV outside broadcasts that combine real action and computer-generated images could become possible for the first time, thanks to camera navigation technology now under development.

The work is opening up the prospect of outdoor sporting, musical or other TV coverage that blends the excitement of being live with the spectacular visual impact that computer graphics can create.

It can also be applied at the consumer level, e.g. to enable interior design ideas to be visualized by adding virtual furniture to the view of a room provided by a hand-held camera as it moves.

The system is able to work out in real-time where a camera is and how it is moving, simultaneously constructing a detailed visual map of its surroundings. This enables computer graphics to be overlaid accurately onto live pictures as soon as they are produced. Previously the blending of live action and computer-generated images has only been possible in controlled studio environments.

Harnessing techniques from mathematics, computing and engineering, the new system is being developed at Oxford University with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project aims to extend the capabilities of a prototype system developed by the same team, also with EPSRC funding.

Dr Ian Reid and Dr Andrew Davison of Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science are leading the project. Andrew says: "This localization and mapping technology turns a camera into a flexible, real-time position sensor. It has all kinds of potential applications."

The system comprises a mobile video camera connected to a laptop computer, which analyses the images it receives using software developed by the researchers. As the camera moves, the system picks out landmarks as reference points and makes a map of their 3D locations against which to measure its position. The challenge is to estimate accurately the camera's position and the layout of its surroundings at the same time - a task known as Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM).

As well as TV and video applications, the technology under development could provide low-cost, high-performance navigation for domestic robots. It could also be incorporated into video games or wearable computing, e.g. for use in dangerous environments, where it could confirm the wearer's location and allow relevant guidance to be overlaid onto their view of surroundings.

[Great! Possible at last! Soon we will have real-time fake news! Wait! Don't we already have that? Ed.]

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council - http://www.epsrc.ac.uk

Genre News: What Are Ratings Sweeps? JAG, Enterprise, Casino Royale, Brian Wilson & More!
What Are Ratings Sweeps?
By FLAtRich

The cast of WB's Smallville with 5 million
viewers (WB)

February 6, 2005 (eXoNews) - So what the hell is this February Sweeps thing that TV fans keep hearing about? Here's my definition, stolen from reliable sources:

Four times a year, in November, February, May, and July, Nielsen Media Research measures all 210 local TV markets at the same time. The results of these "sweeps" measurements are used by the networks to determine advertising revenue for the upcoming ratings period.

TV networks make their money from ad revenues, so the higher the numbers your favorite show gets during "sweeps", the more advertisers are willing to pay, the more the networks rake in, and ultimately the longer your favorite show stays on the air.

To understand what those numbers mean is another story. There are supposedly more than 106 million television households in the US. These household are separated into 210 geographic "TV markets" by Nielsen. If you live in Los Angeles, you are in one market. If you live in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey you are in another, etc.

Within the markets, there are also demographic age groupings. The most important of these is the "adults 18-49" demographic because adults 18-49 supposedly spend the most money on products advertised during TV commercial breaks. There are also other important demographics like "men 25-54" and kids.

Get it? Men 25-54 drink more beer than women 25-54 and kids influence their moms to buy junk food at the supermarket.

So let's say your favorite broadcast network genre show is Smallville. Last week, just before President Bush made his predictable State of the Union address and blew out all the other Wednesday programming, Smallville got overnight "ratings" of 4.4/6 at 8PM.

Futon Critic defines "overnight ratings" as "the data from 'set top boxes' in approximately 20,000 households in 55 of the largest markets in the US.... This sample covers 68.96% of all households in the US."

So what does 4.4/6 mean? The first number is the "rating" and tells us that 4.4% of Nielsen measured US households were watching Smallville Wednesday night. The second number means that Smallville 's "share" of the total number of TV sets turned on at the time was 6%.

Now do the math and you find that Smallville had 4,664,000 households last Wednesday. You can safely punch that up to 5 million or more actual viewers.


Lost was a rerun last week so it came in second with 7.5/11
in the overnights (ABC)

Hey, you say. That's a lot of people! Well, yes and no.

On the positive side, the WB and UPN are smaller broadcast networks with fewer viewers overall than ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, so 4,664,000 households might be considered a good share for a Wednesday. 7th Heaven, the WB's highest rated show got a typical 6.0/9 rating last week.

On the negative side, 4,664,000 households is not a lot of out of 106 million. In fact, 4.4/6 is also a big drop compared to Smallville's 5.2/7 rating on February 4th last year.

Also keep in mind that Angel was staked by the WB last year when it dropped below 4 million households a week.

On the positive side, Smallville is up against the Fox mega-stupid hit American Idol this time of year. American Idol scored 17.9/26 at 8PM on the same night. ABC's big hit Lost now blasts Clark Kent at 8PM on Wednesdays as well, but Lost was a rerun last week so it came in second with 7.5/11 in the overnights. 60 Minutes came in third on CBS with 5.2/8.

Smallville did beat out Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search on NBC (3.5/5), however, and The Road to Stardom with Missy Elliott on UPN (1.8/3), so the boy of steel didn't tank altogether.

Assuming you are still interested, let's see what is happening to some other genre shows before the February Sweeps frenzy takes hold. When the dust clears, some of your favorites could be in trouble.


NBC's Crossing Jordan was 2nd
with 9.3/13 (NBC)

On Sunday, Crossing Jordan brought in a 9.3/13, making her number two against a movie on CBS. This is low for Jordan, who usually beats out Boston Legal in her 10PM slot but Boston Legal wasn't on last Sunday. Jordan may have to work harder to earn another season as Denny Crane now has Candice Bergen to play with.

The WB's Charmed is not doing well at all. With a mere 3.5/5 at 8PM on Sunday, it is definitely time to start up the Save Charmed campaign.

On Mondays, NBC's Medium was at the 10PM number one spot again last week. Medium scored 11.7/17 and also brought in a number one 6.1/15 among adults 18-49. Medium's popular 9PM lead-in on NBC is Vegas, which was a rerun Monday, so Medium's 11.7/17 is a solid showing. You don't have to be a psychic to predict that Medium will be around for future seasons unless Patricia Arquette gets tired of doing TV.

Viewers concerned about the Tuesday Fox show House (AKA House, MD) can rest easy. House was number one last week at 9PM with a 9.2/13 and a 5.2/13 among adults 18-49.


House was number one last week at 9PM with a 9.2/13 (Fox)

For those who haven't seen it, House is a hospital drama with a twist. Each week Dr. House (hence the series name - clever, eh?) and his group of demographically balanced young interns solve a baffling medical mystery. Sounds silly, but the cast is excellent and it works.

Now that House has found its audience, I would diagnose a probable new season pickup.

Thursday's Point Pleasant rating too miserable to record here. Let's just admit that this Fox series is destined for cancellation and you should be taping it or plan to buy the thirteen episodes in a boxed set later if you are one of the few still watching. The plotting on Point Pleasant has improved in the last two episodes and the cast is entirely likable but Point Pleasant is up against CSI on CBS at 9PM and the show lacks any semblance of humor.


Numb3rs - Rob Morrow has delivered a genuine hit
for CBS (CBS)

Darkness doesn't really work without humor. Reference almost any Alfred Hitchcock movie if you don't believe me. Marti Noxon must know this from Buffy and Angel. I can only suppose that Evil Network Executives have screwed up Point Pleasant.

Friday is Sci Fi Friday, but the competition is fierce. VCRs are running all night as Joan and JAG pull in the big 8PM and 9PM numbers for CBS, who recently wrapped up Friday dominance with the new deliberately misspelled Numb3rs at 10PM.

If you like Numb3rs, you're one of 15.46 million viewers.

Former Northern Exposure star Rob Morrow has delivered a genuine hit for CBS on the level of ABC's Lost and Desperate Housewives.

The ratings for Star Trek Enterprise on UPN at 8PM Fridays are just sad and pretty much justify UPN canceling the show this week. Enterprise has new management and better writing this year, but another season seems rather pointless. With an average 2.9 million viewers this season, the pre-Kirk concept clearly never went over with Trek fans.

An upcoming Enterprise episode promises to explain why Kirk's Klingons didn't have forehead ridges. Does anybody really give a targ's ass?

Fox's deliberately misspelled Jonny Zero is another Friday loser at 9PM. I watched one episode and it wasn't bad TV, but evil Los Angeles just doesn't seem the same without Angel Investigations. Jonny scored a lowly 2.2/4 last week, easily out failing former Fox Friday shows Firefly, John Doe and The Lone Gunmen.

Back to Sci Fi Fridays, ratings for the cable networks are judged differently than broadcast networks, as cable has all those sports channels and other distractions, but the Sci Fi Channel is scoring better than ever this year. Mediaweek's Mark Berman reports that the Sci Fi Channel is now "the top-rated cable network in persons 25-54 and men 25-54" thanks to Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and even more so, Battlestar Galactica.


Battlestar exploded with 3.0 million
viewers (Sci Fi)

Stargate SG-1 had 2.5 million viewers at 8PM last Friday, Atlantis had 1.9 million at 9PM and Battlestar exploded with 3.0 million viewers at 10PM. Compare this with the performance of former Sci Fi Channel flagship Farscape, which barely drew 1 million viewers during its series run.

Battlestar is clearly the biggest original series that Sci Fi has ever mounted - not counting the ten-episode Taken "mini-series" - and science fiction fans are delighted to have a new sci-fi universe to wallow in after decades of Star Trek and Stargate reruns.

Battlestar's producers have already begun preproduction on a second season.

Tony Shalhoub as USA Network's Mr. Monk is Battlestar's major basic cable competition. Monk returned without Bitty Schram as Sharona Fleming, but surprisingly the show hasn't missed a beat with actress Traylor Howard as Monk's new assistant Natalie.

Monk returned to take the Friday 10PM basic cable number one slot with 5.5 million viewers in his January premiere. How well our favorite odd detective will fare against newbies Numb3rs and Battlestar remains to be seen.

Monk - http://www.usanetwork.com/series/monk

Battlestar Galactica - http://www.scifi.com/battlestar

Stargate Atlantis - http://www.scifi.com/atlantis

Stargate SG-1 - http://www.scifi.com/stargate

Numb3rs - http://www.cbs.com/primetime/numb3rs

Star Trek Enterprise - http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/ENT/index.html

House - http://www.fox.com/house

Medium - http://www.nbc.com/Medium

Charmed - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||156,00.html

Crossing Jordan - http://www.nbc.com/Crossing_Jordan

Smallville - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||126,00.html

Nielsen Media Research - http://www.nielsenmedia.com

Mediaweek - http://www.mediaweek.com

David James Elliott Leaves JAG
By Nellie Andreeva


10 years comes to an end (CBS)

LOS ANGELES January 5, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - "JAG" star David James Elliott will leave the CBS military courtroom drama at the end of the season, and will develop projects at ABC.

For the past 10 years, Elliott played pilot-turned-lawyer Lt. Harmon Rabb on veteran producer Donald Bellisario's drama, which, after a rocky start on NBC, has enjoyed a long, successful run on CBS and spawned the hit spinoff "NCIS."

The role earned Elliott a TV Guide Award in 1995.

No decision on the future of "JAG" will be made until late spring but in anticipation of a possible departure by Elliott, Bellisario is introducing a new character, Navy Lt. Vukovic, a JAG attorney, to be played by Chris Beetem (CBS' "As the World Turns"). He will make his debut as a series regular in an episode set in San Diego slated to air Feb. 18.

Elliott, meanwhile, has inked a one-year deal with ABC and its sister studio Touchstone TV to develop series projects for the actor to star in, or to cast him in an existing series.

Elliott also can bring projects to the network; if those projects are picked up, he will serve as a co-producer.

The End of Enterprise


RIP (UPN)

LOS ANGELES Wednesday February 2, 2005 (AP) - After four years, the mission is over for "Star Trek: Enterprise." The prequel to the original "Star Trek" science fiction series will air its final episode May 13, UPN and Paramount Network Television announced Wednesday.

The series will get a send-off that "salutes its contributions to the network and satisfies its loyal viewers," said UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff. She didn't disclose details.

"Star Trek: Enterprise" debuted in September 2001. Scott Bakula stars as Capt. Jonathan Archer, along with John Billingsley, Jolene Blalock, Dominic Keating, Anthony Montgomery, Linda Park and Connor Trinneer.

The series has been sold into rerun syndication in most of the country and is set for debut this fall.

Its end means that, for the first time in 18 years, no first-run "Star Trek" series will be airing. The franchise included "Star Trek" (1966-69, NBC); "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987-94, syndicated); "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1992-99, syndicated); "Star Trek: Voyager" (1995-2001, UPN) and "Star Trek: Enterprise."

"Star Trek" movies also have been released.

While bidding a warm goodbye to "Star Trek: Enterprise," the studio hinted at more "Star Trek" to come.

"We all look forward to a new chapter of this enduring franchise in the future," said Paramount Network Television President David Stapf.

Berman Says No To Alternate Enterprise Networks


Berman says no shopping (Paramount)

Hollywood February 4, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Rick Berman, executive producer of UPN's just-canceled Star Trek: Enterprise, told SCI FI Wire that Paramount is not shopping the series to another network in the hope that it will remain on the air past its anticipated May 13 series finale on UPN.

The studio considered that option last year, when the fate of Enterprise hung in the balance, but UPN ultimately renewed the struggling series for a fourth and now last season.

"One of the greatest things that Paramount has offered us over the last 18 years has been the kinds of budgets that have allowed us to produce the show at the quality that it's been done," Berman said in an interview hours after the official announcement was made by UPN.

"The budget that all of our Star Trek series have demanded are the kinds of budgets that would be prohibitive on cable. So as of now the powers-that-be seem to feel it's time to give the franchise a rest, and I think it's most likely a good idea."

Sources told SCI FI Wire that the show costs as much as $1.6 million per episode to produce, for which UPN paid about half. To win renewal last year, Paramount cut its fee to UPN, which resulted in some cost-cutting, which included shooting the series on high-definition digital video instead of film.

Star Trek Enterprise - http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/ENT/index.html

Harry Ebook Hoax

WASHINGTON February 4, 2005 (AFP) - Evil forces are probably behind a website offering a purported electronic version of the upcoming Harry Potter book, author JK Rowling warned this week.

Rowling said in a message on her website that the since-closed site, www.harrybooks.info, had been offering what it alleged to be an e-book version of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," due for release in July.

The offer, she said, was a scam.

"You should NEVER trust any Harry Potter e-books offered for download from the Internet or on P2P (Peer-to-Peer)/file-trading networks," Rowling said.

"Setting aside the fact that these books are illegal (there are no authorized HP e-books to date), they may infect your computer with viruses, leave you vulnerable to the dangers of hacking and/or credit card fraud, and may also contain content that has nothing to do with Harry Potter, to say the least," the author warned.

The Next X-Files
By Cynthia Littleton

LOS ANGELES February 3, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - The hunt is on for primetime's next big fantasy/sci-fi franchise.

Reality-bending concepts dot the drama development slate this year as networks search for a worthy successor to "The X-Files," which wrapped its nine-season run on Fox in May 2002.

The success ABC has had with its spooky thriller "Lost" has helped whet the appetite among network buyers for genre-based shows, insiders say.

"I think people are trying to develop what is not currently on the air," said Dana Walden, president of 20th Century Fox TV, the studio behind such fantasy favorites as "X-Files" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

"There isn't a lot of science fiction on TV right now, and people are trying to capitalize on that."

The News Corp.-owned studio is attempting to do just that with "Briar & Graves," a project for its Fox corporate sibling, in which a priest and a female doctor investigate unexplained spiritual phenomena.

ABC has its share of weirdness with its revival of the 1970s cult favorite "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," which has generated strong buzz, and an untitled project from executive producer Shaun Cassidy revolving around the strange things that happen in a small Florida town after a hurricane.

CBS' "Threshold" has scientists and military types trying to make contact with a mysterious alien life-form, while the network's untitled John Gray project is inspired by the work of psychic James Van Praagh and the contacts he claims to make with those who already have done the mortal-coil shuffle.


Darren McGavin as the original Carl Kolchak

NBC's "Fathom" aims to pick up the torch from James Cameron's 1989 feature "The Abyss" in exploring the mysterious creatures of the deep sea.

The WB, which has a solid fantasy series in "Smallville," is hoping to concoct a "Smallville" companion piece with "Supernatural," about two brothers who travel the country tracking down beings that aren't exactly Homo sapiens.

"I think shows that are blatantly science fiction or fantasy or horror-oriented have a harder time making it on network TV because there's only so many (viewers) willing to give that kind of show a chance," said Frank Spotnitz, the "X-Files" alumnus who is executive producing "Night Stalker." "'The X-Files' was really a police procedural -- they just happened to be investigating paranormal occurrences."

But where there's a void, there's a pilot concept. Spotnitz said his goal with "Night Stalker" is similar to what motivated Chris Carter to create "X-Files" more than a decade ago.

"I am looking to make a scary show," Spotnitz said.

Casino Royale Seeks New Bond
By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES February 4, 2005 (Reuters) - The search is on for a young actor to fill the tuxedo of Agent 007 in the next James Bond film, "Casino Royale," to be based on Ian Fleming's first novel about the suave British spy with a license to kill.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. said on Friday that filmmaker Martin Campbell has signed on to direct the 21st Bond movie, paving the way for casting to succeed Pierce Brosnan, 51, as the star of the multibillion-dollar film franchise.

Campbell directed Brosnan in his debut as Bond in the 1995 film "GoldenEye."

In a message posted on his official Web site this week, the Irish-born actor bid farewell to the role he inhabited in four films over nearly a decade, saying, "everything comes to an end."

MGM and the producers behind the Bond franchise said no decision has been made about casting. Brosnan has suggested that fellow Irish actor Colin Farrell would be ideal for the role, but Farrell has said he was uninterested.

Other young actors whose names have surfaced as possible replacements include Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Eric Bana and Clive Owen.

Earlier big-screen incarnations of the British agent, starting with the film "Dr. No" in 1962, were played by Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby.

Production on "Casino Royale," slated for release in 2006, will start as soon as the New Zealand-born Campbell wraps up filming on his sequel to "The Mask of Zorro," MGM said.

"Casino Royale" is being adapted from the 1953 Fleming novel that introduced the Bond character.

It also was the title of a feature spoof of the Bond stories released by Columbia Pictures in 1967 starring Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and David Niven.

MGM acquired the title and rights to "Casino Royale" in a settlement with Columbia's corporate parent, Sony Pictures Entertainment. MGM is now in the process of being sold to a group of companies led by Sony Corp.

The Bond franchise is one of MGM's biggest assets. The most recent Bond film alone, 2002's "Die Another Day," grossed more than $425 million in ticket sales worldwide.

Pierce Brosnan Official - http://www.piercebrosnan.com

Brian Wilson's SMiLE
By Tamara Conniff


Brian Wilson

NEW YORK February 5, 2005 (Billboard) - It's been a stunning year for Brian Wilson.

The former Beach Boy released his rerecording of the group's "SMiLE" album to critical acclaim, and staged a worldwide tour chock-full of standing ovations. The original "SMiLE," recorded more than 37 years ago, was never released officially.

The Nonesuch Records release bowed at No. 13 on The Billboard 200. The set, whose full title is "Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE," has sold more than 300,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and has been nominated for three awards at the Grammys on Feb. 13.

Two nights before that, he will be feted as industry charity MusiCares' person of the year at the Palladium in Hollywood.

Wilson is already writing songs for his next opus. "I think it will be a rock'n'roll album," he says. "Wouldn't that be great? 'SMiLE' was a pop album. We need rock'n'roll for sure. We just want to try to make something that makes people get out of their seats and dance."

He laughs heartily just musing about his new rock tunes, yet his eyes can turn to shadows quickly. Wilson has long received treatment for mental illness, and he says he still battles mood swings.


"SMiLE" was scrapped in 1967

"SMiLE" was scrapped in 1967 as Wilson neared a mental breakdown. Drugs, pressure from the other Beach Boys -- especially his cousin Mike Love -- and Wilson's weak mental state doomed the project. Though the album was shelved, a few original "SMiLE" tracks -- "Wonderful," "Heroes and Villains" and "Surf's Up" -- found their way onto subsequent Beach Boys releases.

"People are much more ready for 'SMiLE' today," Wilson says. "It was ahead of its time. I'm glad I waited. Now it's finally time."

Wilson describes "SMiLE" as the American journey -- it takes listeners on a magical mystery ride from Plymouth Rock to Hawaii. "It represents early Americana. The Beach Boys were very American, but 'SMiLE' is even more Americana, I think."

MIXED MEMORIES

The new "SMiLE" sessions were not all easy. Wilson admits he feared that the bad memories of 1967 would haunt him. "I had some of that," he says. "But I got through it ... It brought back a lot of memories of when we were on drugs, stuff like that. And it brought back good memories because of all the creativity that went into it."

The demons, however, are never far away. "I've overcome a lot of them," he says. "Not all of them, but some of them ... Most people don't understand my moods."

Wilson credits his perseverance largely to his wife Melinda.


Brian says that his current band is
better than the Beach Boys (Reuters)

"I found the spirit," Wilson says. "(Melinda) inspired me. She gave me a solo career. It was her idea. I owe my life to her."

Wilson adds that his current band is better than the Beach Boys. "I've never played with a band so good in my life."

Wilson enlisted the help of old friend and original "SMiLE" collaborator Van Dyke Parks. Wilson and bandleader Darian Sahanaja were laboring to read a 38-year-old lyric sheet to "Do You Like Worms?" (renamed "Roll Plymouth Rock" on the new album). Wilson called Parks, who remembered the song verbatim, and the friendship was reborn.

Parks "created a third movement for 'SMiLE' with me," Wilson says excitedly. "So we have three movements instead of two."

During Wilson's performance of "SMiLE" last fall at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Parks made a surprise appearance, receiving a standing ovation.

Wilson still can't grasp the impact and success that "SMiLE" has had. "I wake up in the morning and I go, 'Oh, my God, I thank you, God, for another day of life."'

Official Brian Wilson - http://www.brianwilson.com

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