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Acid Rain!
Nuclear Dangers, LIBRIé!
Squid, Robots, Peaceful Gorillas
Dark Matter Highway & More!
Acid Rain!

University of Maine News Release

March 25, 2004 - Researchers studying the environmental consequences of acid rain have reached an important milestone, adding evidence for a theory that has been the focus of much scientific debate.

Publishing in the December, 2003 issue of the Soil Science Society of America Journal, a team at the University of Maine reported that a modest addition of acid in a paired watershed experiment resulted in a decrease of crucial nutrients in forest soils.

For more than 30 years, scientists in Europe and North America have recognized that acid rain could spur the loss of nutrients that are important for growing trees.

Nutrients moving out of the soil into lakes and streams could also affect water quality.

Nevertheless, observations that such losses have occurred have often been dismissed as extreme cases or as a result of natural changes in forested landscapes.

At the Bear Brook Watershed in Hancock County, Maine, a research team led by University of Maine scientists has now documented that under carefully controlled conditions, treating a watershed with additional acids accelerates the loss of two critical nutrients, calcium and magnesium.

"No one else has shown this at an ecosystem scale in this region," says Ivan Fernandez, UMaine professor of soil science and lead author of the paper. "It shows that we can experimentally induce (nutrient) depletion in a Maine forest with modest treatment." Co-authors were Lindsey Rustad of the USDA Forest Service; Stephen A. Norton and Steve Kahl, both of UMaine; and Bernard J. Cosby of the University of Virginia.

The Bear Brook Watershed Manipulation project began in the mid-1980s on land now owned by International Paper with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Located on Lead Mountain in Down East Maine, the site includes two side-by-side forested watersheds. Scientists constructed concrete weirs on each stream at the base of each watershed in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey.

They installed continuous monitoring equipment to track changes in hydrology and water quality. In 1989, they began a bi-monthly routine of spreading ammonium sulfate, a commercial fertilizer, on the West Bear watershed to mimic high levels of acid rain. Subsequent studies have focused on changes to soil, water and vegetation on both the treated and untreated reference watersheds.

What the Bear Brook research does not yet conclusively show, Fernandez adds, is whether the loss of soil nutrients is being balanced by gains from other processes in the untreated watershed.

"It seems clear that the treatments have exceeded the natural supplies of nutrients in the treated watershed," says Fernandez. "Because there are no historical data on soils for comparisons, conclusions about the untreated watershed will require more time." Understanding the full nutrient picture in the untreated East Bear watershed would provide information that is representative of actual conditions in Maine and the Northeast. 

"We can infer what is occurring from stream chemistry, and indeed, there appears to be a slow loss of base cations (nutrients) that may or may not be balanced by soil weathering processes," adds Fernandez. "Our treatment watershed suggests that whether it is happening or not across the Maine landscape, it will definitely happen with a little push."

An ongoing synthesis of data from acid rain research sites in North America and Europe includes the Maine research group and the Bear Brook site. Almost none of the watersheds show evidence of increasing nutrient concentrations in soils and surface waters, but many show evidence of a decreasing trend, says Fernandez. Results from the synthesis are still being developed.

The loss of nutrients due to acid rain is likely a regional phenomenon, although consequences for New England's forests, lakes and streams vary across the landscape. These effects may become increasingly important to forest health if predicted climate warming occurs, Fernandez adds. Acidic inputs of nitrogen and sulfur are likely to interact with temperature and moisture changes in forested ecosystems.

How to test for acid rain -

University of Maine -

Nuclear Dangers!

Would Nuclear Waste Casks Survive 911-style Attack?
By Erica Werner
Associated Press 

WASHINGTON March 26, 2004 (AP) — The containers for carrying radioactive waste to the planned Yucca Mountain dump in Nevada would survive a Sept. 11 style airliner attack, the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday.

NRC Chairman Nils Diaz told a House subcommittee that officials concluded that after running classified tests. The potential danger of transporting nuclear waste across the nation's roads and railways has been a key argument made by opponents of the Yucca Mountain project.

"Our present findings are that a transportation cask that's been certified by the NRC ... would actually resist the impact of a large aircraft without releasing radioactivity to the public," Diaz said, responding to a question from subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas.

"We have even carried them beyond the aircraft crashes, and we feel confident that the present design of this cask is quite resistant to terrorist attack and will provide substantial protection to the American public," he said.

Diaz also said the casks would survive being stuck inside a burning train trapped in a tunnel — as happened in a Baltimore rail tunnel in 2001 — without a significant release of radioactivity.

The director of Nevada's Nuclear Projects Office, Bob Loux, questioned Diaz's assertions in an interview later.

"If the public can't have an opportunity to see casks being tested in all of these testing areas and possibly even tested to destruction so they know where the thresholds are, it doesn't seem to me that any of these tests really improve public confidence," he said.

The Yucca Mountain dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas would hold 77,000 tons of government waste from its nuclear weapons program and highly radioactive spent reactor fuel now held at commercial power plants in 31 states. The Department of Energy wants to open the dump in 2010 and intends to submit a license application to the NRC next December.

Nevada is challenging the project in federal court.

Nuclear Workers Hospitalized

RICHLAND, Washington March 26, 2004 (AP) — Three workers at the Hanford nuclear site were taken to a hospital Thursday after noticing a mysterious "sweet smell" near underground tanks holding radioactive waste.

The three initially declined medical evaluation, but co-workers called 911 when one of them developed a nosebleed, according to Erik Olds, spokesman for the Energy Department's Office of River Protection.

The worker with the nosebleed was taken by ambulance to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland.

The other two also were being evaluated at the hospital, Olds said. Their conditions were not immediately known.

The workers are monitors for radioactivity or chemical vapors during the cleanup of the vast site that once made plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Several investigations are under way to determine if Hanford workers are being exposed to toxic vapors from 177 underground tanks, which hold about 53 million gallons of radioactive waste from weapons production.

Last week, six workers sought medical attention after being exposed to tank vapors. They later returned to work.

The Energy Department and the contractor handling tank waste cleanup have said the vapors are not dangerous.

For 40 years, the 586-square-mile site in south-central Washington made plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons. Cleanup costs are expected to total $50 billion to $60 billion, with the work to be finished by 2035.

25 Years After Three Mile Island, Concerns Linger 
By Chris Baltimore 

WASHINGTON March 23, 2004 (Reuters) - Twenty-five years after a near-catastrophe at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant exposed lax safety practices, owners and regulators of the nation's aging fleet of 103 reactors still face nagging questions about their ability to prevent mishaps. 

These concerns, worsened by recent findings of massive corrosion at a plant in Ohio, have so far kept utilities from pursuing new nuclear plants for more than two decades despite their potential to replace aging, air-polluting coal units. 

In a bid to change that trend, the Bush administration has promoted incentives to build new nuclear plants. But the outlook is uncertain because a Republican-written energy bill with some of the administration's proposals has long been stalled in the U.S. Senate.

On March 28, 1979, Walter Cronkite opened his nightly news broadcast for CBS television, calling the accident at Three Mile Island "the first step in a nuclear nightmare." 

That was the first time that many Americans heard of the mishap, the most serious accident in U.S. nuclear history. 

A string of mechanical failures and human errors caused the accident at the Pennsylvania plant after operators with Metropolitan Edison Co. switched off crucial equipment that could have lessened the severity of the partial meltdown. 

Early that morning, pumps feeding cooling water to the plant's reactor failed, and 32,000 gallons (121,000 liters) of radioactive, superheated water spewed from a dodgy valve into the domed concrete reactor housing. Without water to cool them, more than half of the reactor's 36,000 nuclear fuel rods ruptured. 

Government scientists said the 636,000 people living within 20 miles of the plant got only minor doses of radiation. 

The near-catastrophe at the plant perched on an island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg effectively halted any expansion of the U.S. nuclear energy industry, which generates about 20 percent of the nation's electricity. 

The resulting cancellation of dozens of planned nuclear plants forced utilities to rely on decades-old nuclear and coal-burning plants for growing electric power demands. 

Meanwhile, activist groups worry that current security measures cannot prevent a terrorist attack on a U.S. nuclear plant. 


Safety concerns continue to plague the industry. 

NRC inspectors in early 2002 found massive corrosion at an Ohio nuclear plant owned by FirstEnergy Corp. . Leaking boric acid used as a coolant ate a football-sized hole in the steel outer hull protecting the Davis-Besse plant's reactor core. 

No radiation was released, and the NRC allowed FirstEnergy to begin reviving the unit this month after the utility agreed to change its "safety culture." 

NRC Chairman Nils Diaz said the agency "dropped the ball" by not spotting the corrosion sooner. "It was no way to do business, either on the part of operators or regulators," Diaz said. 

Nuclear industry officials bristle at any connection between the Three Mile Island and Davis-Besse incidents, and point to advances in operator training and plant design. 

But industry watchdogs say the aging U.S. nuclear utility fleet could be nearing the end of its trouble-free life, with incidents like Davis-Besse foreshadowing mishaps to come.

"We haven't seen a lot of near-misses in this country since (Three Mile Island)," said David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But the other end of the curve is what we're approaching, if we're not there already." 

The Bush administration, meanwhile, wants to jump-start the industry with an energy plan aimed at building at least one new nuclear power plant in the United States by 2010. 

One version of the energy bill stalled in the Senate would give tax incentives to build new plants, with a cost of $10 billion. The incentives could be stripped from the bill to appease budget concerns from the administration and others. 

Utilities have relied on squeezing more megawatts from existing nuclear plants. Capacity factors went from 58 percent in 1980 to 92 percent in 2002, forestalling the need to build new plants, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. 

The industry says the NRC carefully reviews capacity increases to ensure safety. 

But with a dearth of new building, aging nuclear plants pose a risk, said Jim Riccio, an antinuclear advocate at Greenpeace. 

"After Three Mile Island, the pendulum definitely swung in the direction of safety," he said. "In the last 25 years, it has swung in the other direction. They're running these plants to the verge of breakdown."

LIBRIé! Electronic Paper Reborn!
E Ink Press Release

Tokyo March 24, 2004 - Royal Philips Electronics, Sony Corporation and E Ink Corporation announced today the world's first consumer application of an electronic paper display module in Sony's new e-Book reader, LIBRIé, scheduled to go on sale in Japan in late April. This "first ever" Philips' display utilizes E Ink's revolutionary electronic ink technology which offers a truly paper-like reading experience with contrast that is the same as newsprint.

The Electronic Paper Display is reflective and can be easily read in bright sunlight or dimly lit environments while being able to be seen at virtually any angle - just like paper. Its black and white ink-on-paper look, combined with a resolution in excess of most portable devices at approximately 170 pixels per inch (PPI), gives an appearance similar to that of the most widely read material on the planet - newspaper. Because the display uses power only when an image is changed, a user can read more than 10,000 pages before the four AAA Alkaline batteries need to be replaced. The unique technology also results in a compact and lightweight form factor allowing it to be ideal for highly portable applications. 

Sony's e-Book reader LIBRIé, the first device to utilize Philips' display solution for enhanced reading, is similar in size and design to a paperback book. LIBRIé allows users to download published content, such as books or comic strips from the Internet, and enjoy it anywhere at any time. LIBRIé can store up to 500 downloaded books. 

"In today's mobile world, we know that the quality of the experience and ease-of-use are important in driving consumer adoption of mobile devices. Up until now, consumers have been less willing to adopt e-reading applications because of poor display quality on cumbersome devices," said Mr. Yoshitaka Ukita, General Manager, e-Book Business Dept, Network Application & Content Service Sector, Sony Corporation. "This display solution provides a level of text clarity comparable to paper. Combined with our thin, lightweight device design, this novel e-Book reader offers users an enjoyable experience and the freedom to access material at their convenience." 

"While the way people experience entertainment has changed dramatically with the rapid growth of portable entertainment devices like music and movie players, the way people read books, magazines and newspapers has not," said Jim Veninger, general manager, Emerging Display Technology, Philips Electronics. "The precision of this new high-resolution electronic ink display technology will revolutionize the way consumers read and access textual information." 

The commercialization of this revolutionary display technology is a result of a strategic collaboration started in 2001 among E Ink Corporation, Toppan Printing and Philips together with Sony. Over the past 3 years, the four companies have made significant developments in manufacturing the world's first high-resolution electronic ink-based display module designed specifically for reading-intensive applications. 

E Ink Corporation supplies electronic ink to their manufacturing partner Toppan Printing, who in turn processes the ink into a thin film called frontplane laminate. Philips integrates E Ink's frontplane laminate with an active matrix backplane and adds the driving electronics component. Philips works with Sony to co-develop and customize display solutions for innovative mobile devices. 

"E Ink is thrilled that our first commercial launch is in product by Sony", said Russell Wilcox, president of E Ink Corporation. "Since the inception of our Company our goal has been to change the way people receive and view information. The strength of our partnerships with Philips and Toppan Printing has helped to make this dream a reality." 

The longstanding partnership has resulted in more than 100 patents between all of the companies in a wide range of innovations including chemistry, electronics and manufacturing processes.

E-Ink -

Sony -

Pinging Dolphins

BRUSSELS March 23, 2004 (AFP) - The European Commission welcomed an EU accord to boost protection of dolphins from being caught in fishing nets, including the obligatory use of acoustic "pingers" to warn them off.

"This decision will better protect dolphins and porpoises against being accidentally trapped in fishing gear," said EU farming and fisheries commissioner Franz Fischler. 

EU ministers agreed the new measures Monday, notably including a ban on driftnets, the use of pinger deterrent devices and tightened checks on "by-catches," or unwanted creatures caught in nets. 

"Dolphins are not the only ones to benefit," added Fischer, pointing out the public relations angle of the new dolphin-friendly measures. 

"Biodiversity will be strengthened and reduced by-catches of dolphins and porpoises will be positive for the image of the fishing sector, as fishermen never want to catch them in the first place," he added.

Giant Squid Invasion!

European Space Agency Press Release

March 22, 2004 - Masses of large ocean-going squid have inundated the shores of Southern Chile, alarming local fishermen who fear these carnivorous invaders could threaten fish stocks. Envisat has helped account for their otherwise mysterious arrival.

These jumbo flying squid – Dosidicus gigas is their Latin name – are some of the largest known squids on the planet: the ones here measure between 70 to 150 centimeters in length, although specimens have been known to reach more than three meters. Making their home in the open ocean, they rise to the surface at night to aggressively feed on small fish using barbed suckers.

In the final days of February more than 200 of the squid were washed up on the beaches around Ancud, on the northern coast of the island of Chiloé in southern Chile. Further incursions have since taken place towards Calbuco, on the inner side of the Chacao channel and towards the southern part of the island along the coast, up to Castro in the middle of the big island of 'Los Lagos' region of the country. Strandings have also been reported in more northerly areas such as Chile's VIII region. 

Wondering why these deepwater animals unexpectedly made it to coastal waters is a matter of more than just scientific interest. Thousands of Chileans earn their livelihood from fishing in this part of the country, and these voracious cephalopods are known to prey on commercial fish including hake, sardines and anchovies. The squid themselves are a delicacy in some parts of the world but there is no local tradition of catching or consuming them. 

But an explanation for the incursions was available – from 800 km away in space. Envisat's Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) instrument works like a space-based thermometer, taking the temperature of land and sea as it orbits the Earth. It can measure sea surface temperature (SST) to an accuracy of 0.3 degrees centigrade at a spatial resolution of one square km.

A Chilean team is currently working with AATSR SST results in combination with ocean color data from another Envisat instrument, the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS). The main goal of the project is to investigate the feasibility of a satellite-based early warning system for harmful phytoplankton blooms – explosive growths of sometimes toxic marine algae. 

"The AATSR results show the appearance of the squid was connected with changes in the water mass conditions off the coast of Southern Chile in recent weeks," says Dr Cristina Rodríguez-Benito of oceanography company Mariscope Chilena.

This part of the Chilean coast, like most western continental coasts, is subject to upwellings – cold, nutrient-rich waters rise from the oceans depths as prevailing winds blow warmer surface waters away. The phenomenon supports rich fisheries. But the AATSR data reveal that a coastal upwelling that typically influencing the waters between Chiloé and the mainland was not seen in the last week of February. 

"This caused an influx of warmer water, between 0.5 and 1.5 degrees, and also squid, which are attracted to steep temperature and salinity gradients in the sea where they find their food," adds Rodríguez-Benito. "The squid ended up in a lens of cold water between warmer masses, and this carried them into the inner Gulf of Ancud area.

"The decrease in water temperature in the inner areas can also have a direct effect on aquaculture, because the metabolic systems of fish species are very sensitive to such changes. Envisat's AATSR data registered a decrease of up to 3ºC. 

"Even more important than temperature is the indication of the entrance of a water mass poor in oxygen that could be the reason for the losses already registered in some aquaculture sites. 

"We are interested in such events as part of our main project because temperature gradients are often where new phytoplankton blooms occur. But the possibility of being able to predict these phenomena would be very useful also to the fishing industry." 

The team plans to present their experiences of using Envisat data in this way to a conference this month of the Chilean Civil Protection Organization.

European Space Agency -

Clarke Book Best-Seller

NEW YORK March 26, 2004 (AFP) - A book that charges President George W. Bush with failing to take al-Qaeda seriously enough before the September 11 attacks has shot to the top of the bestseller lists on a wave of hype and controversy. 

Since going on sale Monday, "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror" has gone through six printings as the publisher, the Free Press -- an imprint of Simon and Schuster -- has struggled to keep up with demand. 

Written by Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism adviser to the past three presidents, including Bush, the book says the current administration failed to heed warnings of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and then focused its attention on Saddam Hussein rather than al-Qaeda. 

The charges have prompted an aggressive response from the White House, amid apparent concerns that they could undermine the president's re-election bid in November. 

A Free Press spokeswoman said there were currently 550,000 copies in print -- a huge figure for a political non-fiction work. 

The publisher had brought forward the book's release by a week to take advantage of Clarke's appearance Sunday on the prime-time news show "60 Minutes" and his testimony Wednesday before the commission investigating the September 11 attacks. 

As of Friday, "Against All Enemies" was at the top of the bestseller list, while the US book chain Borders said it was the company's number-one title for the week. 

"We took a very strong stock position, so have been able to keep up with the demand based on the stock we have already in our pipeline," said Borders spokeswoman Jenie Dahlmann. 

"The appearance on '60 Minutes,' and then the fact that he was testifying mid-week before the 9/11 commission, really made it critical for us to take a strong stand on the book," Dahlmann aid.

Robot News!

Sawfish Robot Harvests Forests Underwater
New Scientist News Release
By Kurt Kleiner 
New Scientist issue: 27th March 2004 

A chainsaw-wielding robotic submarine is roving beneath Lois Lake in British Columbia, Canada. But it's not a prop left over from a sci-fi movie. Rather, it's chopping down a forest that was left submerged decades ago when the valley was flooded by a hydroelectric dam. After it cuts the trees, they are floated to the surface, where they are dried out and sold to mills for use in furniture and construction, like any other lumber.

Trees left standing in flooded forests die, but they don't rot because the water keeps out oxygen. Worldwide, some 200 million trees are thought to be standing on the floor of hydropower reservoirs.

Triton Logging of Vancouver, British Columbia, has been harvesting them for years by sending divers down with chainsaws and then hoisting the waterlogged trunks to the surface (New Scientist, 11 August 2001, p 38).

But diving is very slow and dangerous, so Triton has developed a remote-controlled sub to do the job. Called the Sawfish, the 3-tonne, 3.5-metre-long, yellow submersible has high-resolution cameras that an operator on the surface uses to guide it to its target. After grasping the base of the tree in pincer-like arms, it attaches an inflatable flotation bag, which it then fills from its compressed air supply.

Finally, it uses its 1.5-metre chainsaw to cut the tree, and lets go of the trunk, allowing the flotation bag to carry it to the surface for retrieval. Triton's president Chris Godsall says Sawfish can cut 36 trees in 3 or 4 hours, operating as far as 300 meters down.

Goodsall is planning to make Sawfish submarines for sale to other loggers for CAN$1 million (US$750,000). He estimates that the machines will pay for themselves with three to five years' use - about the same as for other logging equipment.

New Scientist -

Triton Logging -

Japanese Robot T-52 Enryu 

TOKYO March 25, 2004 (AFP) - A Japanese company unveiled a 3.5-metre (11.55-foot) tall robot that can forage its way through a heap of debris as a trailblazer for rescue workers following a disaster such as an earthquake. 

The five-ton T-52 Enryu (literally "rescue dragon") is hydraulically operated and equipped with two arms ending in pincer "hands" that can grasp and remove obstacles to help rescuers reach people trapped under rubble. 

Each arm is capable of lifting 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) and when they are fully extended the two pincers are 10 meters (33 feet) apart. 

The prototype robot was developed by Tmsuk, a company based in the southwestern Japan city of Kita-Kyushu, in cooperation with fire-department officials and university researchers. 

The company aims to develop a commercial model by the end of the year.

Media Violence Affects Kids
American Psychological Society News Release

March 25, 2004 - Research report provides 'A scientific assessment of research on the influence of violent television and films, video games, and music "reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior" in children and youth, according to a report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the American Psychological Society. 

The report reviews the large body of research that has investigated the ways in which violent media influence behavior. Across all media genres, the authors found that the research consistently shows that even short-term exposure "increases the likelihood of physically and verbally aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, and aggressive emotions." 

The authors of the report, "The Influence of Media Violence on Youth," are Craig A. Anderson, Iowa State University; Leonard Berkowitz, University of Wisconsin; Edward Donnerstein, University of Arizona; L. Rowell Huesmann, University of Michigan; James D. Johnson, University of North Carolina-Wilmington; Daniel Linz, University of California, Santa Barbara; Neil M. Malamuth, University of California, Los Angeles; and Ellen Wartella, University of Texas at Austin. 

In the short-term, media violence can increase aggression by priming aggressive thoughts and decision processes, increasing physiological arousal, and triggering a tendency to imitate observed behaviors. In the long-term, repeated exposure can produce lasting increases in aggressive thought patterns and aggression-supporting beliefs about social behavior, and can reduce individuals' normal negative emotional responses to violence. 

The pervasive nature of violent media in society makes it difficult to minimize children's exposure. Even with parental supervision, interpretation, and control of children's media use, the available research suggests "no one is wholly immune to the effects of media violence." 

"Meeting the larger societal challenge of providing children and youth with a much healthier media diet may prove more difficult and costly," the authors wrote, "especially if the scientific, news, public policy, and entertainment communities fail to educate the general public about the real risks of media-violence exposure to children and youth."

American Psychological Society -
Peaceful Gorillas

By Helen Briggs 
BBC News Science Reporter

March 23, 2004 (BBC) - The western gorilla lives peacefully in human-like social groups, a study shows. Only the mountain gorilla, which is known for its aggressive behavior, chest-beating and fighting, has been widely observed in the wild until now. But the new research suggests the western gorilla, another gorilla species, interacts peacefully when it comes into contact with other apes. 

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, may give an insight into the social world of early humans. It suggests that some aspects of gorilla behavior are shared with chimpanzees and humans. 

The evidence is based on field studies of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) living near the Mondika Research Station on the border of Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Researchers in Germany and the United States collected hair and faecal samples from nests used by different social groups to analyze the animals' DNA. 

Paternity tests indicated that neighboring social groups of western gorillas were led by genetically related males. When a mature male, known as a silverback, encountered a tribe led by its brother or cousin, the encounter was almost always a friendly one. 

"Usually in mountain gorillas, when groups come across each other in the forest, the male-male interactions are quite aggressive, involving chest-beating displays and sometimes even physical violence," Brenda Bradley, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told BBC News Online. "In western gorillas, [researchers] have observed interactions where two groups have come together and members have co-mingled and interacted very peacefully and this has been very puzzling to researchers because they're used to observing interactions between gorillas as being something highly aggressive."

The researchers believe the behavior is due to the existence of an extended family of males - a male kin network. 

When a male gorilla leaves the group it was born into and starts its own family, it tends to stay in the same area of the forest and continues to interact with groups led by its father and brothers. The same has been seen in chimpanzees, our closest animal relatives, suggesting that early human societies evolved in the same way. 

"As early human society evolved, it would have been relations beyond the very close male-female offspring network - between male-male networks - that would have formed the basis for larger and larger groups coalescing and forming the basis of society eventually," said co-author Linda Vigilant, also at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 

Gorillas are the largest of the great apes, and among the world's most endangered species. Their precise taxonomic hierarchy has been hotly debated but they can be viewed as two species with four sub-species. 

The two species would be the western, including the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) and the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla); and the eastern, including the eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla berengei graueri) and the mountain gorilla (Gorilla berengei berengei). 

Mountain gorillas have been widely studied in the wild since the 1950s. Only about 700 are left. The western lowland gorilla is much more common, with a population size of about 94,000. 

However, recent surveys show they are declining rapidly due to poaching and disease.

Dark Matter Highway Streaming Through Earth!

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute News Release

TROY NY March 24, 2004 - Astrophysicist Heidi Newberg at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her colleagues suggest that a "highway" of dark matter from another galaxy may be showering down on Earth. The findings may change the way astronomers look for mysterious cosmic particles, long suspected to outweigh known atomic matter. 

The findings of Newberg and researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Utah have been published in the March 19 issue of Physical Review Letters. 

Scientists believe that about 90 percent of the mass in the universe is made up of particles called "dark matter." This belief is based on an unseen gravitational pull on the stars, but observations to directly detect dark matter have been sketchy. One Italy-based research group, called DAMA (for DArk MAtter), has made steady claims to have detected particles of dark matter, but so far the results have not been confirmed. 

But, the disruption of a dwarf galaxy called Sagittarius, which is being torn apart and consumed by the much larger gravitational pull of the Milky Way, may be the key to reconciling the results of dark matter experiments of DAMA and other research groups. 

The dwarf galaxy's entrails of stars and dust, like a long piece of ribbon, are entangled around and within our galaxy. The so-called "trailing tidal tail" can be seen to extend from Sagittarius' center and arcs across and below the plane of the Milky Way. The leading part of the tail extends northward above our galaxy where it then turns and appears to be showering shredded galaxy debris down directly on our solar system, Newberg and colleagues say.

"As the Milky Way consumes Sagittarius, it not only rips the stars from the smaller galaxy, but also tears away some of the dark-matter particles from that galaxy. We may be able to directly observe that in the form of a dark-matter highway streaming in one direction through the Earth," says Newberg, who has recently identified stars near the sun that could be part of this leading tidal tail. 

WIMPs, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, are the most likely form of dark matter.

Astrophysicists measure the possibility of WIMP detection based on calculations that the particles are coming from the Milky Way's galactic halo. 

As Earth orbits around the center of the galaxy, the planet flies through this cloud of dark matter.

As that happens, billions of these weakly interacting (and therefore difficult to detect) particles could be passing through each of our bodies every second. 

As a result of the new findings, scientists now have another source in which to look for these dark-matter particles, says Katherine Freese, University of Michigan researcher and co-author of the Physical Review Letters paper.

Freese, her graduate student Matthew Lewis, and Paolo Gondolo from the University of Utah have calculated the effects that the tidal stream would have on dark-matter detection experiments. 

"If you expect to see only halo WIMPs, there will be an extra set of particles streaming through the Earth that were not accounted for," Freese says. "Scientists will need to adjust their calculations to look for this. Finding this stream would represent a smoking gun for dark-matter detection."

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute -

Genre News: Buffy & Angel, Hellboy, William Shatner, Spider-man, Ray Charles, Jack White & More!

No Buffy for Angel 

RADNOR PA March 25, 2004 (AP) - Sarah Michelle Gellar won't appear in the series finale of "Angel," the spinoff of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in which she played the title role. 

Joss Whedon, the show's executive producer, told TV Guide for its online edition that he didn't invite Gellar to appear in the final episode because he didn't want it to "revolve around a guest star." 

"I want to end the show with the people who've been in the trenches together, the characters who have lived — and occasionally died — together, the regulars," Whedon said. 

He said he invited Gellar to appear in the second-to-last episode, but she wasn't available because she was in Tokyo working on the horror film "The Grudge" when the show was being shot.

Whedon's partner, Jeffrey Bell, said show executives eventually learned that Gellar was available for the final episode despite being booked at the time of the penultimate one. But by that time, the second-to-last episode had already been written and shot, and getting her into the last episode "didn't make any sense" with the plot that had been written so far. 

"By the time it became a possibility, the ship had sort of sailed," Bell said.

Angel Rally on March 31st -

Angel Food Bank Donation Drives and Blood Bank Drives -

Saving Angel: "We Will Follow Angel To Hell...Or Another Network" -  and

Hellboy True to Comic

Hollywood March 26, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Guillermo del Toro, who wrote and directed the upcoming SF film Hellboy, told SCI FI Wire that he included deliberate references to the original comic book created by Mike Mignola, such as the character's affinity for a certain breakfast item.

"The movie is full of nods and winks to the fans, but it's made for anybody to be able to watch it," del Toro said in an interview while promoting the film. "So if you don't notice the pancake joke as an insider, at least you'll notice he's going to swallow 50 pounds of pancakes."

In adapting the film, del Toro wanted to add his own touch to the origin of the red-skinned demon raised by humans to fight evil.

"In a silly way, I secretly hope that people will see the movies I make more than once," he said. "I kind of coded who [Hellboy] was in his origin. If you pay attention closely the first time you see him, he is next to a stone statue of a cat. And his father is Broom, but also a sergeant who has a big cigar and says, 'Crap. That's a load of crap.' I said, 'I want to make him the son of those circumstances.'"

One of the director's favorite additions to the character's personality was a large collection of cats in his room. Though the cats were not always cooperative on the set, they were an important element in the film's artistic design, del Toro said.

"To me, movies are about little textures, and I love having sort of a moving set," he said. "I felt that it was just so neat to have such a huge guy coexist with these needy little creatures. You know, just rubbing against his chin while he's writing a love letter. It sets him up, and it's not in the comics. ... That's why in this big action sequence, I wanted to put in a box of kittens. He goes, 'Oh, my God. I will destroy the entire train station, but I've got to protect these kittens.'"

Hellboy opens in theaters April 2nd.

Zap2it is running a Hellboy sweepstakes through April 12, 2004 at,1146,movies-20737,00.html

Official Hellboy -

Shatner May Spin with Practice

LOS ANGELES March 26, 2004 ( - William Shatner's guest-starring turn on "The Practice" may turn into something more permanent.

The veteran actor and former "Star Trek" star is likely to join James Spader in the spinoff -- or as ABC likes to call it, "evolution" -- of "The Practice" next season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Spader confirmed earlier this week that he'll star in the new show.

Shatner began a "Practice" guest arc last week, playing Denny Crane, a high-powered partner at the law firm Alan Shore (Spader) hires in a wrongful-termination suit against Young, Frutt & Berluti.

He's scheduled to appear on several more episodes through the end of the season.

Lake Bell ("Miss Match") and English actress Fay Masterson ("Johnson County War") are also set to join the spinoff, playing a law student and an attorney who work at Crane's firm.

Current "Practice" regular Rhona Mitra is also in talks for the new show.

Shatner's last regular TV role was in the mid-'90s sci-fi series "Tek War." [Unless you count his stint as a horror fim host on Sci Fi Channel. Ed]

In addition to "Star Trek," he starred in the 1980s cop show "T.J. Hooker." Recent movie credits include "Miss Congeniality," "Osmosis Jones" and "Free Enterprise," in which he goofed on his "Trek" role.

Shatner Official -

Spider-Man 3 
By Bob Tourtellotte 

LAS VEGAS March 25, 2004 (Reuters) - Even before comic book hero Spider-Man can weave his crime-fighting web in movie theaters for a second time, Sony Pictures Entertainment on Wednesday set a May 2007 launch date and star lineup for "Spider-Man 3." 

Returning for a third film in the hit series will be Tobey Maguire as the man with the powers of a super spider and Kirsten Dunst as his love interest, Mary Jane Watson. Sam Raimi will be back to direct, Sony Pictures Entertainment Vice Chairman Jeff Blake said here at the ShoWest convention for movie theater owners. 

Blake added that Sony is "so excited" about "Spider-Man 2," the sequel to the 2002 box office smash "Spider-Man," that it is debuting the second film on June 30 this year, two days earlier than planned.

"Spider-Man" remains the record holder for the biggest box office debut over a three-day weekend with just under $115 million in domestic ticket sales. Overall in 2002, it took in about $800 million worldwide. 

The film studio gave ShoWest audiences their first glimpse of "Spider-Man 2," and as promised it comes with all the action, romance and even the heartbreak of the first film. 

"We set out to make a movie that had the excitement, humor and the humanity of the first movie -- times two," said producer Laura Ziskin.

In "Spider-Man 2," the superhero battles a new nemesis Dr. Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Doc Ock (Alfred Molina). Ock's four mechanical appendages give him superpowers, too, but unlike Spider-Man, Ock's heart is cold and hard. 

Along with fighting his rival, Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker, battles personal demons and deals with his love for Watson.

In one revealing clip shown on Wednesday, Parker gives up his Spider suit in search of true love. 

But don't mistake "Spider-Man 2" for all romance because the comic hero wrestles with Ock high atop city skyscrapers and inside rushing subway trains. 

If "Spider-Man" fans can't wait for June's "Spider-Man 2" or, for that matter, the May 4, 2007, debut of "Spider-Man 3," then Sony promises to have their newest promotional clips in theaters by next month. 

Sony Pictures is a unit of Japanese electronics giant, Sony Corp.

Spider-man Movie Official -

Seth Green Does Cartoons 
By Andrew Wallenstein

NEW YORK March 25, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Actor Seth Green, who voiced one of the characters on the edgy Fox cartoon "Family Guy," is developing an animated series for the Cartoon Network. 

The cable channel has ordered 20 episodes of the untitled project, a stop-motion cartoon that depicts iconic toys acting out satirical vignettes. For instance, superhero action figures could be shown struggling to co-exist in a scenario lampooning MTV's "The Real World." 

"It's like 'Saturday Night Live' with toys instead of actors," Green said. 

Green, whose movie and TV credits range from "Party Monster" to "Greg the Bunny," created and produced the series with Matthew Senreich, editorial director of magazine publisher Wizard Entertainment. 

The series is scheduled to join Cartoon's late-night animation block Adult Swim in October. Cartoon parent company Turner Broadcasting plans to unveil the series for advertisers on Thursday. 

Green and Senreich will write the series with Doug Goldstein and Tom Roots. "We've been working together for a long time and like to play with toys," Senreich said. "We'll bring toys to life in a crazy, warped way." 

The pair most recently collaborated on the Internet-based entertainment series "Sweet J Presents," on Sony's 

Cartoon airs the reruns of "Family Guy," which has been a huge seller on home video. Green next appears in Paramount's "Without a Paddle."

Smallville Flies to Family

NEW YORK March 24, 2004 (Variety) - ABC Family will pony up close to $100 million for a huge slate of Warner Bros. Domestic Cable product, with cable TV rights to "Smallville" reruns as the highlight. 

The "Smallville" license fee will come to a healthy $400,000 an episode; ABC Family outbid the Sci Fi Channel and Spike TV, among other cable networks. 

In addition to "Smallville," ABC Family gets cable rights to another WB series, "JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment"; the renewal of the 192 half-hours of the sitcom "Full House"; some holiday animated specials; and up to 100 theatrical movies, including "You've Got Mail," "Miss Congeniality," "The Perfect Storm" and "Twister." 

ABC Family takes title to "Smallville" and "Jamie Kennedy," each with 66 episodes, in the fall. Warner Bros. will likely sell a weekend play of "Smallville" to TV stations in rerun syndication simultaneous with its ABC Family runs beginning in the 2005-06 season. 

Most of the movies ABC Family gets will have already run on broadcast and cable TV. Some will wind up in very short windows; others will be exclusive to ABC Family for between one and three years. 

Based on a previous deal with Warner Bros. Domestic, ABC Family gets "The Gilmore Girls" in the fall, so the network could pair it with "Smallville" in a two-hour early-evening block. And ABC Family could twin "Jamie Kennedy" with its long-running primetime bellwether "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" 

The point men for the deal were Mark Silverman, general manager and senior VP of ABC Family, and Eric Frankel, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution.

Ray Charles Croons for Starbucks 

LOS ANGELES March 25, 2004 (AFP) - US coffee giant Starbucks has teamed up with a record label to bring java drinkers new duets by legendary singer Ray Charles as part of its new digital music service.

The Seattle-based coffee chain announced Thursday it had sealed a deal with Concord Records to produce a new compact disc featuring duets by Charles under a scheme that allows customers to "burn" CDs of music albums or personalized compilations. 

Starbucks Hear Music's novel musical distribution gambit was unveiled last week and Charles is the first major musician to sign up to produce songs specifically for it. 

"While discovering new music has been an important part of the Starbucks experience, this recording marks the first time that Starbucks will be involved with the creation of music from such legendary icons," said Starbucks Music and Entertainment vice president, Don MacKinnon. 

"We are excited that this new venture will be launched with a renowned artist such as Ray Charles, and with songs that are sure to inspire music fans of all ages," he said.

The newly-completed CD features the 73-year-old Charles performing handpicked songs with artists including Elton John, Norah Jones, BB King, Diana Krall, Michael McDonald, Johnny Mathis, and Willie Nelson. 

"The duets project has been a tremendous experience," said Charles. "I am working with some of the best artists in the business, as well as some of my dearest friends."

During a career spanning more than 53 years, Charles has won 13 of music's highest awards, Grammys, and has made more than 250 recordings. 

The new album will however mark his first full album of duets. 

Starbucks last week launched its first Hear Music Coffeehouse in Santa Monica, near Los Angeles, and intends to expand this to more of its 7,500 worldwide locations. 

The music coffeehouses will allow customers to use Hewlett-Packard computers to access, personalize music and create their own CDs. 

Concord Records is co-owned by US entertainment guru Norman Lear, creator of such hit television shows as "All In the Family," and his long-time partner Hal Gaba. 

It boasts a catalogue of more than 1,000 albums from artists including Charlie Byrd, Rosemary Clooney, Gene Harris, Tito Puente, and Mel Torme.

Starbucks -

Ray Charles Official -

Jack White Gets Into Acting, Producing 
Associated Press Writer 

DETROIT March 25, 2004 (Reuters) - A whirlwind of court dates, award shows and tabloid rumors aren't slowing down Jack White.

The White Stripes frontman has recently been producing Loretta Lynn's upcoming album, filming scenes for a Jim Jarmusch movie and writing songs for a new Stripes disc. He even joined Bob Dylan, one of his idols, on stage last week in Detroit. 

The flurry of activity comes after a trying three-month period in which White was prosecuted for repeatedly punching a fellow rocker in the face at a concert. On March 9 he pleaded guilty to assault and battery for a December fight with Von Bondies lead singer Jason Stollsteimer. 

White, who will avoid jail time under the plea deal, says he regrets the incident and has put it behind him. Now he's focusing on what he does best: writing, producing and arranging music. He's also dabbling in acting, including appearances in last year's "Cold Mountain" and Jarmusch's upcoming "Coffee and Cigarettes." 

"I think making a film is probably the hardest art form in the world," he told The Associated Press in an interview this week. "It's so difficult to make a good film. ... If you're making a movie and it's kind of turning out bad, there's no stopping. If I write an album and record a few songs and it's just not sounding good, I can just start over again." 

It was on the set of "Cold Mountain" that White met Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger. The pair's romance is regular tabloid fodder. 

White also is spending significant time with the two other women in his life, bandmate Meg White and Lynn, whose album was written by the country legend and recorded under White's supervision over a two-week period in Nashville, Tenn. 

White has long been an admirer of Lynn's. He dedicated the White Stripes' breakthrough disc, 2001's "White Blood Cells," to her. 

Lynn's manager told her about it, and she wrote White a letter thanking him for the dedication and for the Stripes' cover of the Lynn song "Rated X." They eventually became friends and even performed three songs together in 2003 at New York show. 

When Lynn decided to record a new album, White "humbly put my name out to produce it and somehow they let me do it." 

White played guitar and piano on the album and did a duet with Lynn on "Portland, Oregon." 

"Loretta just sang like a 21-year-old. It was amazing," he said of the record due to be released at the end of April. "I'm so proud of this, because it's the first album since her very first record where all the songs are written by her. ... It's Loretta like I've always wanted to hear her — Loretta like she should be heard. It really turned out perfect."

As for the White Stripes, Jack and Meg are taking a breather after years of near-nonstop touring. 

They came together on Grammy night for an adrenaline-fueled performance of "Seven Nation Army," which was honored as best rock song. The Stripes also picked up the award for best alternative album for "Elephant." 

And last week, White fulfilled a dream by taking the stage with Dylan. White grew up in Detroit listening to the iconic folk rocker and recording Dylan covers using a four-track machine left by his older brothers. 

White and Dylan performed "Ball and Biscuit," a track off "Elephant." 

"There's no topping that," White said. "I can go on for an hour-and-a-half talking about it, or I can just say: It was splendid." 

White Stripes Official -

Loretta Lynn Official -

Coffee and Cigarettes Official -

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