|By Julianna Kettlewell |
BBC News Science Reporter
Time travelers in the 1960s.
New York June 17, 2005 (BBC) - If you went back in time and met your teenage parents, you could not split them up and prevent your birth - even if you wanted to, a new quantum model has stated. Researchers speculate that time travel can occur within a kind of feedback loop where backwards movement is possible, but only in a way that is "complementary" to the present.
In other words, you can pop back in time and have a look around, but you cannot do anything that will alter the present you left behind. The new model, which uses the laws of quantum mechanics, gets rid of the famous paradox surrounding time travel.
Although the laws of physics seem to permit temporal gymnastics, the concept is laden with uncomfortable contradictions. The main headache stems from the idea that if you went back in time you could, theoretically, do something to change the present; and that possibility messes up the whole theory of time travel.
Clearly, the present never is changed by mischievous time-travelers: people don't suddenly fade into the ether because a rerun of events has prevented their births - that much is obvious. So either time travel is not possible, or something is actually acting to prevent any backward movement from changing the present.
Whoopi and Data travel back in time in the
Star Trek episode Time's Arrow (Paramount)
For most of us, the former option might seem most likely, but Einstein's general theory of relativity leads some physicists to suspect the latter. According to Einstein, space-time can curve back on itself, theoretically allowing travelers to double back and meet younger versions of themselves.
And now a team of physicists from the US and Austria says this situation can only be the case if there are physical constraints acting to protect the present from changes in the past.
The researchers say these constraints exist because of the weird laws of quantum mechanics even though, traditionally, they don't account for a backwards movement in time. Quantum behavior is governed by probabilities. Before something has actually been observed, there are a number of possibilities regarding its state. But once its state has been measured those possibilities shrink to one - uncertainty is eliminated. So, if you know the present, you cannot change it. If, for example, you know your father is alive today, the laws of the quantum universe state that there is no possibility of him being killed in the past.
The original Time Machine (MGM)
It is as if, in some strange way, the present takes account of all the possible routes back into the past and, because your father is certainly alive, none of the routes back can possibly lead to his death.
"Quantum mechanics distinguishes between something that might happen and something that did happen," Professor Dan Greenberger, of the City University of New York, US, told the BBC News website.
"If we don't know your father is alive right now - if there is only a 90% chance that he is alive right now, then there is a chance that you can go back and kill him. But if you know he is alive, there is no chance you can kill him."
In other words, even if you take a trip back in time with the specific intention of killing your father, so long as you know he is happily sitting in his chair when you leave him in the present, you can be sure that something will prevent you from murdering him in the past. It is as if it has already happened.
"You go back to kill your father, but you'd arrive after he'd left the room, you wouldn't find him, or you'd change your mind," said Professor Greenberger. "You wouldn't be able to kill him because the very fact that he is alive today is going to conspire against you so that you'll never end up taking that path leads you to killing him."
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign News Release
CHAMPAIGN IL June 17, 2005 - An international team of nuclear physicists has determined that particles called strange quarks do, indeed, contribute to the ordinary properties of the proton.
Quarks are subatomic particles that form the building blocks of atoms. How quarks assemble into protons and neutrons, and what holds them together, is not clearly understood. New experimental results are providing part of the answer.
The experiment, called G-Zero, was performed at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va. Designed to probe proton structure, specifically the contribution of strange quarks, the experiment has involved an international group of 108 scientists from 19 institutions. Steve Williamson, a physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is the experiment coordinator.
"The G-Zero experiment provided a much broader view of the small-scale structure of the proton," said Doug Beck, a physicist at Illinois and spokesman for the experiment. "While our results agree with hints from previous experiments, the new findings are significantly more extensive and provide a much clearer picture."
Beck will present the experimental results at a seminar at the Jefferson facility Friday morning. Also on Friday, the researchers will submit a paper describing the results to the journal Physical Review Letters. The paper will be posted on the physics archive (under "nuclear experiment") at www.arxiv.org
The centerpiece of the G-Zero experiment is a doughnut-shaped superconducting magnet 14 feet in diameter that was designed and tested by physicists at Illinois including Ron Laszewski, now retired. The 100,000-pound magnet took three years to build.
In the experiment, an intense beam of polarized electrons was scattered off liquid hydrogen targets located in the magnet's core. Detectors, mounted around the perimeter of the magnet, recorded the number and position of the scattered particles. The researchers then used mathematical models to retrace the particles' paths to determine their momenta.
"There is a lot of energy inside a proton," Beck said. "Some of that energy can change back and forth into particles called strange quarks." Unlike the three quarks (two "up" and one "down") that are always present in a proton, strange quarks can pop in and out of existence.
"Because of the equivalence of mass and energy, the energy fields in the proton can sometimes manifest themselves as these 'part-time' quarks," Beck said. "This is the first time we observed strange quarks in this context, and it is the first time we measured how often this energy manifested itself as particles under normal circumstances."
The results are helping scientists better understand how one of the pieces of the Standard Model is put together. The Standard Model unifies three forces: electromagnetism, the weak nuclear interaction and the strong nuclear interaction.
"The G-Zero experiment tells us more about the strong interaction -- how protons and neutrons are held together," Beck said. "However, we still have much to learn."
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - http://www.uiuc.edu
In lattice QCD space-time is approximated
by a four-dimensional box of points, similar
to a crystal lattice. (Ian McVicar)
Solving Quark Mysteries
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council News Release
June 2, 2005 - Particle Physicists are embarking on a new attempt to solve the mysteries of quarks with the completion of the three most powerful supercomputers ever applied to this problem, including one at the University of Edinburgh for use by the UK Quantum Chromodynamics (UKQCD) collaboration of scientists from seven British Universities.
Quarks are the fundamental particles that make up 99.9% of ordinary matter; yet it is impossible to examine a single quark in the laboratory. Consequently, some of the basic properties of quarks are not known, such as their precise masses or why they exist in six different types. Quarks are bound together by the Strong Force, which is weak when the quarks are close, but increases steadily as you try to separate them, making it impossible to isolate a single quark. Instead, the theory describing the Strong Force, called Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), has to be simulated on huge computers.
The Edinburgh computer is the first of three similar machines and has been operating since January 2005. The second computer is being inaugurated today at the RIKEN Brookhaven Research Center in Brookhaven National Laboratory in the USA. The third is part of the U.S. Department of Energy Program in High Energy and Nuclear Physics, and is also installed at Brookhaven where it is currently undergoing testing.
The proton consists of three quarks, two up
and one down, living in a complicated soup
of dynamical quarks, antiquarks and gluons,
which have 'color' charges. The total color
charge of the proton is zero. Lattice QCD
enables us to calculate the mass of the proton
and its internal structure. (Ian McVicar)
The computers are built with processing chips specifically designed for the purpose, known as QCD-on-a-chip, or QCDOC for short. A little slower than the microprocessor in your laptop, the QCDOC chip was designed to consume a tenth of the electrical power, so that tens of thousands of them could be put into a single machine. The computers were designed and built jointly by the University of Edinburgh, Columbia University (USA), the RIKEN Brookhaven Research Center (USA) and IBM.
Each QCDOC machine operates at a speed of 10 Teraflops, or 10 trillion (i.e. million million) floating point operations per second. By comparison, a regular desktop computer operates at a few Gigaflops (a thousand million floating point operations per second), whilst IBM's BlueGene, a close relative of QCDOC and the fastest computer in the world, operates at over 100 Teraflops. Edinburgh's machine and part of the QCDOC development costs were funded through a Joint Infrastructure Fund Award of Â£6.6million administered by PPARC. PPARC also fund the UK scientists in this field.
Prof Richard Kenway, who led UK participation in the QCDOC Project, said "After five years building this machine, it's exhilarating to be able to compute in days things which take everybody else months. Now we are about to run QCDOC for months to do the most realistic QCD simulation yet.
"It's like standing on the shore of a new continent after a long voyage, we've chosen our path of exploration, but we don't know what we're going to find."
PPARC's Chief Executive, Prof Richard Wade, welcomed the start of the QCDOC supercomputer saying "The UKQCD collaboration has been a world-leading group for some years, producing very elegant analysis methods to make the most of available computing resources. With the power of the new supercomputer at their fingertips, they will be able to make crucial advances to our understanding of fundamental particles like quarks."
The Mysteries of Quarks
Quarks never appear singly, but always as bound states of two or more, called hadrons, such as the protons and neutrons that make up the atomic nucleus. Thus, Nature hides its fundamental particles and we would like to understand better how the Strong Force achieves this.
Only the mass of the top quark is accurately known, because QCD effects are small for such a heavy particle. To determine the masses of the lighter quarks accurately (called up, down, strange, charm and bottom), QCD effects have to be computed. These masses are needed for detailed understanding of many phenomena and should eventually be predicted by the much sought after Theory of Everything.
The QCDOC chip integrates 50 million transistors
on a 1.3cm 1.3cm die and consumes approximately
5 Watts at a clock speed of 400 MHz. (UKQCD)
There are six types of quark and this seems to be related to the small difference between matter and antimatter, called CP violation, that may help to explain why our Universe is dominated by matter (and hence why we can exist at all). QCD simulations are needed to discover whether our current theories can explain this, or there is some new physics at work.
The Theory of Everything is very likely to permit protons to decay. If so, the proton lifetime must be enormous, since no decay has yet been observed. Experimental lower bounds on the lifetime, together with QCD simulations, place restrictions on what the Theory of Everything can be and have already ruled out some candidates.
At enormously high temperatures and densities, such as may be found in neutron stars, everyday matter made of bound quarks may melt into a new type of matter. This change of phase, which is being searched for at Brookhaven National Laboratory by colliding gold and lead nuclei at high energies, is accessible to QCD simulations. What happens may tell us about what is going on inside some of the most exotic objects in the Universe.
The UKQCD Collaboration
UKQCD is a collaboration of particle physicists from the Universities of Edinburgh, Southampton, Swansea, Liverpool, Glasgow, Oxford and Cambridge. It was formed in 1989 and has exploited a series of novel architecture computers for QCD simulations, becoming one of the leading projects in this field world wide. QCDOC gives UKQCD for the first time the fastest computer in the world available for QCD simulations.
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council - http://www.pparc.ac.uk
|Virginia Tech News Release |
Blacksburg VA June 16, 2005 - A study of fossils from the Paleozoic Era, collected across the world, reveals that ancient brachiopods were little bothered by predators. However, the rare predation traces left on brachiopod shells by unknown assailants coupled with a subtle increase in their frequency through time may be the shadows on the wall that show killers were in the room and their numbers increased with time.
An ancient brachiopod from the collections of the National Museum of Natural
History of the Smithsonian Institution. Photo courtesy Finnegan Marsh. (VT)
From 550 million years ago until 250 million years ago, brachiopods, or "lampshells," were plentiful in the earth's oceans. Today these shelly creatures that superficially resemble clams are rare, mostly lingering in cryptic habitats and subpolar regions of the oceans. But the fossil record, generously endowed with lampshells of diverse shapes, offers an impressive testament to the bygone glory of brachiopods.
A report in the June 17, 2005, issue of Science ("Secondary Evolutionary Escalation between Brachiopods and Enemies of Other Prey") by Michal Kowalewski and Alan Hoffmeister of the Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences, Tomasz Baumiller of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, and Richard Bambach, Virginia Tech professor emeritus of paleontology now at the Harvard University Botanical Museum, indicates that attacks on Paleozoic brachiopods, as recorded by round drill holes bored in prey shells by some unknown drilling attackers, were rare but widespread and continuously present through the entire Paleozoic Era.
The researchers report that the frequency of drilled victims went up slightly in the mid to late Paleozoic, but these late Paleozoic attacks were still less frequent when compared to drill holes found in shells of brachiopods dredged from modern ocean floors.
"These subtle increases in drill holes on brachiopods, from less than 1 percent in the early Paleozoic era to several percent today suggest that predators have become increasingly abundant and active through history of life," said Kowalewski, associate professor of geobiology. "This is consistent with previous studies of other fossil organisms that suggest that marine ecosystems escalated and have become an increasingly hostile theatre of survival."
However, even modern brachiopods are drilled at very low frequencies when compared to most common shellfish of today such as clams and snails (mollusks). "It is not uncommon in modern seas that 25 percent or more of mollusks are done in by voracious drilling killers such as whelks and moon snails," Kowalewski said.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, Kowalewski and his colleagues looked at the evidence of predation on brachiopods through the entire Paleozoic Era – the period from 543 million to 248 million years ago. Brachiopods were a common shellfish up until the mass extinction at the end of the Paleozoic that may have killed as much as 95 percent of all marine life.
The rich Paleozoic fossil record of brachiopods yielded ancient shells that retained traces of predation, in particular, drillings by predators and parasites, offering researchers quantifiable record of ecological interactions between brachiopod victims and their attacker. While many previous researchers studied drilled brachiopods at numerous sites, and there have also been extensive studies on mollusks in the more recent fossil record, this is the first comprehensive study of predation on brachiopods across the entire Paleozoic Era.
"The rarity of drill holes in brachiopods shows they were, most likely, the victims of mistaken identity or opportunistic attack when preferred menu items were absent," said Kowalewski. "There was a modest increase in frequency of drill holes in middle-to-late Paleozoic times and then another increase sometime after the end of the Paleozoic Era," he said.
"These increases are consistent with macroevolutionary models postulating two major intervals of increased ecospace utilization and escalating predation pressures: the mid-Paleozoic Marine Revolution followed by the Mesozoic Marine Revolution," the researchers write in Science.
From the collection of the National Museum of Natural
History, Paris. Photo courtesy Daniel Miller. (U of Michigan)
"During this marine revolution, the basic food supply of the oceans – phytoplankton – increased significantly, organisms up the food chain became more meaty, and predators – bony fish, snails, and crustaceans – increased in frequency and diversified," Kowalewski said. This evolutionary "escalation" started in the Late Mesozoic led to the predator heyday we observe in modern oceans, with drilling predators being just one of many carnivorous guilds that feed on shellfish.
"As predators became specialized in attacking their shell-protected victims, prey groups also diversified and became better armored. Some invertebrates, like sand dollars and many types of clams, invaded soft substrates by burrowing underneath the ocean floor," Kowalewski said.
"However, they may have not only been seeking refuge from predators, but also pursuing their own dietary needs by exploring the deeper layers of substrate that became enriched with nutrients as phytoplankton productivity increased in the oceans."
The fact that instances of drill holes creep up only slightly in brachiopods shows that drilling predators were never interested in eating brachiopods. But, as ecosystems became increasingly competitive, the predators were forced to go after less desirable prey more often, expending energy to drill the less nutritious, metabolically slower, and perhaps less palatable brachiopods, according to the Science article.
"Elevated competition, higher food demands of metabolically more active faunas, higher failure rates in attacks on more active or better defended prey, and increased predation pressures on drillers themselves could all have contributed to more frequent incidences of opportunistic and mistaken attacks on brachiopods," the researchers write.
Being unattractive to predators did not help brachiopods to maintain their ecological dominance in the marine biosphere, however. Following the Permo-Triassic mass extinction, the mollusks took over the ocean floors. This status quo has persisted through today, despite the fact that mollusks continue to be the meal of choice among many drilling predators and other types of carnivorous seafood lovers.
"Most interesting, perhaps, is this evolutionary persistence of incidental interactions between brachiopods and enemies of other prey," Kowalewski said. "We tend to view long-term predator-prey interactions in terms of evolutionary arms races that can lead to escalation or coevolution between assaulters and their victims. Yet, the rare opportunistic or mistaken attacks on brachiopods are not likely to have been evolutionarily important – they may reflect more than 500 million years of menu selection errors," he said.
"Finally, the subtle increase in errors and chance attacks has an interesting corollary for the famous Red Queen Hypothesis," Kowalewski said. Over 20 years ago, Leigh Van Valen of the University of Chicago postulated that organisms must keep evolving all the time to survive in constantly changing environments. The name refers to the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, who tells Alice that she must keep running simply in order to stay in the same place on a chessboard that keeps shifting beneath her feet. "It is intriguing to consider that the increase in error frequency through time may be a Red Queen phenomenon," Kowalewski said.
Virginia Tech - http://www.vtnews.vt.edu
Blood samples collected from one of the 12
female volunteers are compared against
baseline data gathered at the beginning of
the WISE study. The results may help
researchers better understand the effects
of space flight on immune response. (NSBRI)
National Space Biomedical Research Institute News Release
June 16, 2005 - A bed-rest study with female participants will help scientists understand changes to the immune response and decreased resistance to infection in space.
Investigators with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) are researching the immune system as part of the Women’s International Space Simulation for Exploration (WISE), a collaborative venture that includes NASA, the European Space Agency, the Centre National D’Études Spatiales (French Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
The study is being carried out by the French Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology (MEDES) in Toulouse, France.
"It is clear from existing data that space flight conditions alter immune responses," said Dr. Gerald Sonnenfeld, a researcher on the NSBRI’s Immunology, Infection and Hematology Team. "Space has such limited access; to research the immune response, we use a bed-rest model because it provides conditions similar to space conditions – fluid shift to the head and a lack of weight-bearing on the lower limbs."
Changes in immunity could have serious effects on an astronaut’s ability to resist infection and the development of tumors. Possible causes for a compromised immune system include exposure to radiation and the effects of microgravity. With current expeditions to the International Space Station for extended periods and future exploration missions to the moon and Mars, astronauts will be exposed to chronic radiation that could result in serious health problems.
To help unravel the infection-resistance issue, Sonnenfeld is researching the overall impact of the body’s immune response under space-like conditions. Through tests taken before, during and after bed rest, he will gauge whether participants’ white blood cells divide normally and whether messengers of the immune system, called cytokines, are produced. Sonnenfeld also will study the frequency by which latent viruses are reactivated and whether participants mount an immune response to a harmless vaccine, phiX174, that is introduced during the study.
"In the past, most bed-rest studies for immunity have been carried out on men. It is significant to be part of the international WISE study because scientists and the space community want valid conclusions about effects on women," said Sonnenfeld, who is also vice president for research at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
The study involves 24 healthy, non-smoking female volunteers between the ages of 25 and 40. Candidates in the first phase came from the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, The Netherlands and Poland. Recruitment for another 12 volunteers, who are needed for the second campaign, is currently ongoing (www.medes.fr).
For two months, participants lie at a 6-degree
angle and never leave the bed. In this position,
volunteers experience conditions and show
changes in measurable clinical parameters
similar to those encountered by astronauts
subjected to weightlessness for long periods.
Each subject is assigned to one of three groups, which include bed rest, bed rest with a series of exercises targeting the lower body, and bed rest with a nutritional supplement. Participants lie with their heads tilted six degrees below horizontal so that their feet are slightly higher than their heads.
During the study, researchers begin by collecting physiological data to serve as a baseline. Blood samples, urine samples and saliva swabs are taken at specified intervals during the 60 days of bed rest. After the bed-rest period, similar tests are taken for comparison. Participants will return to measure how their bodies recovered for up to three years.
"The data garnered by this study is not only historic, it will be valuable in international efforts to plan long-duration missions," Sonnenfeld said. "It could help determine how exercise and nutritional countermeasures for other space flight-induced problems including bone and muscle loss influence the immune system, making researchers better able to coordinate solutions to the challenges of human space flight."
Sonnenfeld’s team also is composed of Dr. Janet Butel of Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. William Shearer of Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. David Niesel of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and Drs. Michel Abbal and Antoine Blancher of the Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse.
NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration space flight. The Institute’s research and education projects take place at more than 70 institutions across the United States.
NSBRI - http://www.nsbri.org
The Italian company STAM's ultra-compact
nutating gearbox. (STAM)
European Space Agency News Release
June 16, 2005 - Drilling holes on other planets and inventing novel textiles to secure large structures in space are just two of the 27 challenges that expert teams have been working on in the first year of ESA’s Innovation Triangle Initiative.
"By combining the creativity of the inventor, the needs of end users and the production experience of industry we have created strong drive and a very successful synergy to identify, demonstrate and verify novel ideas for future space technologies," says Marco Guglielmi, head of ESA's Technology Strategy Section and one of the founders of ESA's new Innovation Triangle Initiative.
The Innovation Triangle Initiative (ITI) started in March 2004 and in just 12 months surpassed all expectations by kicking off 27 projects, fully validating the basic objective of quickly verifying the potential of new ideas and technologies. One of its main goals is to explore technologies or services which although not designed with space in mind, do have the potential for use in space.
Intelligent textiles for large space structures
One project focused on creating innovative materials, based on intelligent textiles, to build large deployable structures and booms on spacecraft to support solar panels, antennas and, in the future, solar sails.
The Italian company Grado Zero Espace proposed to ESA's
Innovation Triangle Initiative the idea of creating an
'intelligent' textile, rolled-up during launch, which expands
when reached the correct position in space upon an
'electrical' command. The textile is created by use of state-
of-the-art materials and technologies such as carbon
nanotubes, novel rubber-like materials named 'nematic
elastomers' and special 3-dimensional warp-knitted textile
based membranes. (Grado Zero Espace)
Solar panels for energy production on spacecraft are folded during launch and then unfolded once in orbit to many times their launch size. This requires expandable, strong, stable but ultra-light support structures.
Instruments and other spacecraft elements also need long booms, which can be folded during launch and then take their predefined much larger final form once in space.
In the future, huge 'sails' powered by solar particles could be used to push spacecraft through space, in the same way that sails power yachts through the sea. Solar sails would have to cover an area of at least 10 000 square meters and need ultra-light and extremely large rigid structures of booms to hold them in place, a feat difficult to realize with today’s techniques.
The Italian company Grado Zero Espace came up with the idea of using an 'intelligent' textile to construct the extremely light and very long deployable booms that would be needed.
The textile would be created by combining state-of-the-art materials and technologies such as carbon nanotubes, novel rubber-like materials named 'nematic elastomers' and special three-dimensional warp-knitted textile-based membranes.
The nematic elastomer nanocomposite material allows for a novel electromechanically actuated membrane for the reversible deployment of inflatable structures. As it is electromechanically actuated this membrane presents an alternative solution to the present inflated structures that need to be rigidified.
Nematic elastomer composites are prepared by spreading carbon nanotubes on to a rubber matrix, with the nanotubes pre-aligned in one preferential direction. Due to this alignment of the fibres, the material's properties are different along this direction. When an external electric field is applied, the nanotubes try to re-orient themselves and cause a change in shape of the whole rubber composite. This shape change was successfully exploited in a membrane prototype to generate a controlled bending movement, demonstrating the potential use for reversible and irreversible deployment of structures in space.
The nutating gear system, developed and patented
by the Italian company Stam, could deliver the
required reduction ratio for drilling on other planets
to take soil samples, with less elements than
conventional used gears. (STAM)
The project was completed in just nine months, mainly due to the combination of skills and expertise of the three parties involved. The Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University in the UK has much experience in the use of nematic elastomers; Grado Zero Espace has been carrying out research for many years on 'intelligent' textiles; and the Spanish company NTE has constructed many large structures for spacecraft.
Drilling in space
Another ITI project carried out research into new technologies for a soil penetrometer or 'mole', to collect samples of granulose soil on other planets. Collecting and analyzing samples increases our understanding of other planets, and of how our universe was created and fits together.
D'Appolonia from Italy proposed a penetrometer with a novel ultra-compact nutating gearbox invented by STAM, an Italian company specializing in flexible mechanical manufacturing systems. The two companies got together with the DLR Institute for Space Simulation in Germany that developed the subsurface penetrometer for the Mars Express's Beagle lander, as DLR are very interested in reducing the size of this equipment for future missions.
The advantages are the compact dimensions, the
wide range of possible reduction ratios from 10 to
3000 and the use of multiple tooth engagement,
which reduces the need for high-strength gear
material while allowing high torques and increased
The three partners combined their experience to investigate how to develop a more compact version to carry sensors to investigate mineralogy, organic compounds and water content in soil.
"Space exploration is done in harsh environments, with limited support from outside and where repairs are seldom possible. Systems must be autonomous, very reliable, light and compact to launch," says Marco Freire, ESA's ITI Project Manager. "The proposal to use a nutating gearbox is an interesting idea that could lead to significant innovation."
Beagle's subsurface penetrometer used a train of four planetary gears with more than 20 internal gears to reach the reduction ratio of 280 needed to penetrate the Martian surface.
With a nutating gearbox, the same reduction ratio can be reached by using just one set of four bevel gears, thus reducing weight, size and the gear’s complexity. This could result in more reliable and longer lifetime. A new STAM development for an even better performing gearbox, with a 'double-face' configuration, will allow volume to be reduced even further.
Novel ideas help Europe's space sector
The new ITI initiative has proven to be a sound complement to existing ESA technology programs and has introduced novel ideas to the European space sector. It has also created closer collaboration between inventors, developers and customers, generating a constructive synergy for technology innovation.
The long-term objective is to help establish a highly creative and dynamic industrial environment in Europe, thus contributing to a more competitive European space industry.
European Space Agency - http://www.esrin.esa.int
|Firefly on Sci Fi Channel |
Firefly crew and captain contemplate Sci Fi reruns
Hollywood June 15, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - SCI FI Channel announced that it will air reruns of Fox's canceled SF series Firefly, including three episodes that never aired on Fox.
SCI FI will air all 14 hours of the show, from creator Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), starting July 22, in the 7 p.m. ET/PT Friday timeslot. It will be followed by new episodes of Stargate SG-1 at 8, Stargate Atlantis at 9 and Battlestar Galactica at 10.
The channel will air the episodes in their intended order, beginning with Whedon's pilot. (Fox, by contrast, began with the show's third produced hour, "The Train Job," and aired the two-hour pilot at the end of the show's abortive first season.) SCI FI acquired exclusive rights to the show from 20th Century Television, which produced the show for the Fox Broadcasting Co.
Firefly centers on the ragtag crew of the firefly-class transport ship Serenity 500 years in the future, led by renegade Capt. Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), a veteran of the losing side in a galactic civil war.
Universal Pictures will release Serenity, a theatrical film based on Firefly, on Sept. 30th.
Buy Firefly The Complete Series directly from Fox!
Serenity Browncoats Fan Site - http://browncoats.serenitymovie.com/serenity
Lou Diamond Phillips Joins Sci Fi Triangle
By Kimberly Speight
Lou Diamond Phillips
LOS ANGELES June 17, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Lou Diamond Phillips has joined the ensemble cast of Sci Fi Channel's miniseries "The Triangle."
The six-hour miniseries, which is shooting in Cape Town, South Africa, focuses on a disparate group of professionals who are brought together to investigate the dangerous truths behind the Bermuda Triangle. Phillips will play Meeno Paloma, who's piloting a Greenpeace expedition when he encounters a deadly force in the Triangle.
"Triangle," which is set to premiere on the cable network in December, also stars Eric Stoltz, Catherine Bell, Michael Rodgers, Bruce Davison and Sam Neill.
Phillips' recent credits include the feature film "Hollywood Homicide" as well as USA Network's TV movie "Murder at the Presidio," Hallmark Channel's movie "The Trail to Hope Rose" and TBS' TV movie "Red Water."
(AP Photo/ Michael Dwyer)
SALEM Mass June 16, 2005 (AP) - Welcomed by many — including the mayor and some city councilors — but reviled by others, a statue of 1960s TV icon Samantha Stephens of "Bewitched" was unveiled amid a puff of smoke in Salem on Wednesday.
The statue depicts the late actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who played the nose-wiggling Stephens in the 1960s sitcom, sitting sidesaddle on a broomstick, her skirt flying behind her in the breeze, in front of a crescent moon.
Even though hundreds turned out to welcome the statue at Lappin Park, including some people who call themselves witches, others continued to protest.
"I think it's the best thing to happen to Salem in a long time," self-described witch Linda Monroe told WHDH-TV. "It's a long time coming for something so fun and cheery. She's awesome. She's everybody's idol."
While some Salem officials said the bronze statue, sponsored by the TV Land cable network, is just a bit of fun and will hopefully draw more tourists to the city, others have criticized it, saying it trivializes the real and tragic events that occurred in Salem in 1692, when 20 people were put to death after being accused of witchcraft.
Those people carried signs at Wednesday's event that said "Tragedy (does not equal) Whimsy" and "Is there no limit to the schlock and hype?" They say the statue is nothing but an ad for the "Bewitched" movie, starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, scheduled for release June 24.
The ceremony was attended by show director William Asher, who was married to Montgomery, as well as a number of actors who appeared in the original series, including Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay), Kasey Rogers (Louise Tate) and Erin Murphy (Tabitha Stephens).
The network has placed similar statues of famous sitcom characters around the country, including Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden of "The Honeymooners" at the Port Authority in New York and Mary Richards in Minneapolis, where "The Mary Tyler Moore" show was set.
Into The West Wheels Cable
LOS ANGELES June 16, 2005 (Zap2it.com) Spurred on by the successful roll-out of the epic miniseries "Into the West" and by an NBA Playoffs deciding game, TNT routed the cable ratings competition for the week ending Sunday, June 12.
Six plays of "Into the West" brought TNT 21 million
viewers over the weekend (TNT)
Overall, TNT averaged 3.75 million viewers per night in primetime, easily outdistancing the 2.44 million viewers averaged by the Disney Channel in second place. USA was third with 2.32 million viewers, right behind. TBS was well back in fourth with 1.88 million, followed by Nick at Nite, which averaged 1.71 million.
Game 7 between the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons was the week's most watched cable program, drawing 9.15 million viewers to TNT and also yielding the week's No. 9 show with a pregame special watched by 3.88 million.
TNT got rousing returns from Friday's premiere of the Steven Spielberg-produced "Into the West," cable's second most watched program with 6.47 million viewers, while Saturday (3.86 million, 10th) and Sunday (4.16 million, 6th) also found audiences. A TNT repeat of "Law & Order" also found a place in the basic cable Top 15 at No. 14 with 3.43 million viewers.
The Disney Channel's second place finish was paced by "Go Figure," which was No. 13 with 3.51 million viewers and USA took third with a big assist from "The 4400," which found 4.38 million fans at No. 5. Also placing single entries in the Top 15 were Spike TV, with the WWE Entertainment double-bill (4.76 million viewers, 3rd), and MTV, with the MTV Movie Awards (4.67 million, 4th).
Nickelodeon filled the rest of the basic cable list. Two episodes of "FairlyOdd Parents" were No. 8 with 3.89 million viewers and No. 11 with 3.75 and the "FOP" movie "School's Out" was No. 7 with 3.99 million. An episode of "SpongeBob SquarePants" came in at No. 12 with 3.68 million.
HBO took all of the slots on the premium cable Top 5, with a screening of "Collateral" (2.84 million) leading the way. A new "Six Feet Under" was a close second with 2.62 million viewers. "Boxing After Dark" claimed the final three spots, led by the Casamayor-Raiymkulov fight, which had 2.11 million interested fight fans.
Master Bra'tac Returns to SG-1
Tony Amendola as Bra'tac (Sci Fi)
Hollywood June 14, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Tony Amendola, who plays Master Bra'tac on SCI FI Channel's original series Stargate SG-1, told SCI FI Wire that he's thrilled the show is coming back for a ninth season.
"Season nine, go figure," Amendola said in an interview. "I'm completely shocked."
Amendola has played the Jaffa elder, a recurring character, since season one. "These shows are supposed to have a seven-year arc," he said. "They start. They spread. They're enjoyed by people. And by around the fifth year the audience starts narrowing again, and then they're complete.
"Stargate is unusual, because it started on Showtime, then went into syndication, and then it just exploded on SCI FI. And, really, it hasn't narrowed yet. The numbers are still there. And with the cast changes, it's almost become like Law and Order, which just keeps going."
Amendola, a veteran character actor, added that his character, a mentor to Teal'c (Christopher Judge), will appear several times during year nine.
"Last season, primarily, our enemy had been destroyed," he said. "The war essentially ended. And now it's a question of how do you make the peace? And how do you make the peace when you've be warring with each other, as factions, for thousands of years and only came together to defeat a common enemy? Now that the enemy is gone, how do you maintain the peace? How do you create a governance? It's very timely. I've already gone up to Vancouver and done two episodes, and the scripts were excellent. And I'll be going up again in August to do some more work."
Stargate SG-1 returns July 15 and will air Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT, followed by Stargate Atlantis at 9 and Battlestar Galactica at 10.
Golden Girl Protects Elephants
Rue (top) with fellow "Girls"
OKLAHOMA CITY June 15, 2005 (AP) - Former "Golden Girls" actress Rue McClanahan is trying to prevent four elephants from being transferred from Chicago to Hugo, Okla. because they were exposed to another animal with tuberculosis.
McClanahan, an honorary director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), wrote a letter to state Rep. Ray McCarter, a Democrat, asking him "to introduce an emergency resolution recommending against the importation of any elephants who have been exposed to TB in Oklahoma."
McClanahan, an Oklahoma native, said she would prefer the four elephants be sent to the Elephant Sanctuary, a 2,700-acre preserve in Hohenwald, Tenn.
McCarter said Tuesday he has not seen the letter, but "it would be difficult to do anything now." The Legislature adjourned its regular session May 27, and will return to special session this summer, but will not likely take up the resolution.
The Hawthorn Corp. in Chicago, is scheduled to give the elephants to the Endangered Ark Foundation which keeps retired circus elephants on an 80-acre tract, said Barbara Byrd with the nonprofit foundation.
None of the four elephants has tested positive for tuberculosis, but they will be isolated from the rest of the herd for about a year as a precaution, Byrd said.
The 71-year-old McClanahan, who played Blanche Devereaux on the long running sitcom "Golden Girls," last starred in "Back to You and Me," a movie made for the Hallmark Channel earlier this year.
Brad and Angelina (Fred Prouser/ Reuters)
Brad and Billy Bob?
LOS ANGELES June 17, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Billy Bob Thornton and Brad Pitt now have something more than Angelina Jolie in common.
Thornton has signed to star in a feature film adaptation of "Peace Like a River," a Warner Bros. project on which Pitt will serve as a producer.
Based on the book by Leif Enger, "Peace" is a tale of loyalty and revenge that revolves around an American family that gets into a deadly spat with some neighborhood thugs. No director is in place.
Thornton recently wrapped shooting on "Bad News Bears," which opens July 22 via Paramount. He last was seen in "Friday Night Lights" and is shooting "Mr. Woodcock." Pitt stars in last weekend's box office champ "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," alongside rumored paramour Jolie, Thornton's ex-wife.
Also producing "Peace Like a River" is Hollywood veteran David Brown, who acquired the book in 2001 with his own money, and his business partner Kit Golden.
The Closer Scores Top Audience
By Andrew Wallenstein
LOS ANGELES June 15, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - TNT's first original drama series, "The Closer," opened huge Monday, drawing slightly more than 7 million viewers at 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, "Hell's Kitchen" stayed hot for Fox on what was otherwise a ho-hum Monday night in primetime for the Big Four networks.
Kyra Sedgwick stars in TNT's new
hit The Closer
Neither NBC nor CBS did much business with hastily scheduled news specials on Michael Jackson's complete acquittal on child molestation and conspiracy charges, which were topped by a repeat of Fox's "Nanny 911."
CBS brought in 5.5 million viewers with its half-hour "48 Hours" special; an hourlong "Dateline" averaged 5.6 million.
The third outing of "Kitchen," Fox's culinary competition series, continued the show's upward ratings momentum with an average of 7.5 million viewers and a 3.8 rating/10 share in the adults 18-49 demographic from 9-10 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research. The series also had surprisingly solid numbers among younger gourmets, averaging a 4.3/10 in adults 18-34 and 2.1/8 in teens.
For TNT, "Closer," a detective drama starring Kyra Sedgwick, capped what is turning into a banner month for the top-rated cable network, which saw six plays of its limited series "Into the West" aggregate 21 million over the weekend, as well as NBA playoff coverage.
"Closer" notched the highest-ever household haul (5 million) for a cable series premiere. "Closer" also managed to top most broadcast fare Monday in total viewers, and to a lesser extent in 18-49.
However, neither "Closer" nor "West" was able to break the total-viewer record still held by USA series "The 4400," which drew 7.4 million to its premiere in July. The series remains strong in its second season, as evidenced by its second episode Sunday, which nearly matched "Closer" in 18-49, with 2.5 million. July's "4400" premiere drew 3.7 million in 18-49.
Sunday also saw the fourth season premiere of USA's "The Dead Zone" at 10 p.m. after "4400." "Zone" grabbed 3.5 million.
In addition, Lifetime brought back a pair of its returning veteran series Sunday, with "Strong Medicine" ringing in its sixth season with 2.9 million, up 25% over last year's season premiere. Looking shakier was the third-season premiere of "Missing," which dropped about 700,000 from its "Medicine" lead-in, and was down about 300,000 from the second-season premiere.
HBO also saw some softening on its Sunday series, particularly "Comeback," the half-hour starring Lisa Kudrow that has "Entourage" as a lead-in. "Comeback" saw its viewership drop 38% from the previous premiere week.
Lane Smith as Perry White
LOS ANGELES June 15, 2005 (AP) - Lane Smith, a longtime character actor who played a small-town district attorney who clashed with Joe Pesci in "My Cousin Vinny," died Monday. He was 69.
Smith, who also played Richard Nixon in the TV movie "The Final Days" and Daily Planet editor Perry White in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," died at his home in Los Angeles, according to his wife, Debbie Benedict Smith.
Born in Memphis, Smith appeared in numerous films and television shows. Most recently, he appeared in the 2000 movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance," starring Will Smith and Matt Damon.
Lane Smith also appeared in the original stage production of "Glengarry Glen Ross" and the revival of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Film credits include "The Distinguished Gentleman," "Son in Law," "The Mighty Ducks" and "The Hi-Lo Country."
Besides his wife, Smith is survived by his son Robbie, 18, and a brother and sister. He also has a 19-year-old stepson.
LOS ANGELES June 16, 2005 (AP) - Jaime Mendoza-Nava, a Bolivian native who composed music for "The Mickey Mouse Club" and hundreds of movies, has died. He was 79.
Mendoza-Nava died May 31 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills of complications of diabetes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Mendoza-Nava was a child prodigy who by age 11 had composed, performed and organized a children's orchestra. After studying in South America, he trained in piano and composing at New York's Juilliard School, and later at Madrid's Royal Conservatory of Music and elsewhere in Europe.
In 1951, still in his 20s, Mendoza-Nava was named director of Bolivia's National Symphony Orchestra.
The musician immigrated to Los Angeles in 1953 and soon went to work for Disney, where he composed music for 1950s television series including "The Mickey Mouse Club" and "Zorro."
In 1961, he became music director for United Productions of America, where he worked on the theatrical cartoon series "Mr. Magoo," among others.
Mendoza-Nava went on to form his own company and score music for more than 200 movies, including sci-fi, horror and adventure films. Among his credits were "Ballad of a Gunfighter" in 1964, "A Boy and His Dog" in 1975, "The Vampire Hookers" in 1978 and "Terror in the Swamp" in 1985.
Mendoza-Nava is survived by his wife, four children and four grandchildren.
The star of Disney's Chicken Little (Disney)
New Toons from Disney
By Sheigh Crabtree
LOS ANGELES June 16, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Walt Disney Feature Animation has made its first public recruiting pitch to the animation community in four years with executives from the studio unveiling five films on which they are working.
They also showed off the animation tools they are using as Disney makes the transition from traditional 2-D pen-and-ink animation to 3-D computer animated features.
A team of Disney executives on Tuesday made an impassioned plea for the Los Angeles Professional Chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH -- the area's premiere computer graphics artists -- to join the animation studio during a session at the ArcLight cinema complex in Hollywood.
Buzz Lightyear (Pixar-Disney)
With "Chicken Little," the studio's first 3-D animated film, set for release Nov. 4, Disney's animation division is undergoing a transformation in the wake of several unsettling developments. Last year, "Toy Story" producer Pixar Animation Studios ended talks about extending its deal with Disney. Internally, Disney issued a controversial corporate mandate to end all traditional animation processes in favor of computer animation. And over the past year, several key animation executives departed the studio.
The Disney team touted the company's new Glendale-based computer animation building, which is earmarked for "Toy Story 3" production, which Disney is proceeding with under its contractual right to produce sequels to the Pixar films. The story follows Buzz Lightyear as he is recalled to Taiwan after a series of malfunctions. Learning of a productwide recall, all the toys in Andy's room, under Woody's leadership, head to Taiwan to save Buzz from doom.
The program included preview material from five 3-D computer animated movies in the pipeline, which will comprise the studio's homegrown animation slate through 2008.
Wilber book cover
Nearly 10 minutes of scenes and set pieces from "Chicken Little" demonstrated how Disney is tackling such technical and artistic computer animation challenges as fluid simulations, chicken feathers and fur, subjected to sophisticated wind modules.
A second project, tentatively titled "A Day With Wilbur Robinson," based on the book by William Joyce, follows a time-traveling 12-year-old orphan who hooks up with a 13-year-old kid from the future in settings that recall 1930's "Metropolis" and the cartoon television series "The Jetsons."
The project stars stylized young human protagonists and a mustachioed and bowler-capped villain.
Ten minutes of rough story boards, hand-drawn animatics, and raw computer animation were shown from the tentatively titled "American Dog," from director Chris Sanders ("Lilo & Stitch"), which is scheduled for release in 2007.
Sanders' canine, a TV star, drinks martinis with starlets and showboats on sets until he is suddenly abandoned in his trailer in the Nevada desert where he meets up with a radioactive rabbit and a one-eyed cat who are trying to find new homes.
Also shown were brief test shots from "Rapunzel Unbraided," scheduled for release in 2008. Longtime Disney animator Glenn Keane, best known for animating the Beast in 1991's "Beauty and the Beast," is making his directorial debut with the movie starring a computer-animated princess.