|Hot Exoplanet! |
Galaxy Explorer, Back To Atlantis!
Iraq Contaminated? Chernobyl!
Madonna's Curse & More!
|European Southern Observatory Press Release |
April 22, 2003 - A group of German astronomers have discovered a very hot exoplanet circling a star near the center of our galaxy. It's no Earth at 1.4 times the size of Jupiter, but it's big news to the space community!
The search for exoplanets
More than 100 planets in orbit around stars other than the Sun have been found so far. These "exoplanets" come in many different sizes and they move in a great variety of orbits at different distances from their central star, some nearly round and others quite elongated. Some planets are five to ten times more massive than the largest one in the solar system, Jupiter - the lightest exoplanets known at this moment are about half as massive as Saturn, i.e. about 50 times more massive than the Earth.
Astronomers are hunting exoplanets not just to discover more such objects, but also to learn more about the apparent diversity of planetary systems. The current main research goal is to eventually discover an Earth-like exoplanet, but the available telescopes and instrumentation are still not "sensitive" enough for this daunting task.
However, also in this context, it is highly desirable to know not only the orbits of the observable exoplanets, but also their true masses. But this is not an easy task.
Masses of exoplanets
Virtually all exoplanets detected so far have been found by an indirect method - the measurement of stellar velocity variations. It is based on the gravitational pull of the orbiting planet that causes the central star to move a little back and forth; the heavier the planet, the greater is the associated change in the star's velocity.
This technique is rapidly improving: the new HARPS spectrograph (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher), now being tested on the 3.6-m telescope at the ESO La Silla Observatory, can measure such stellar motions with an unrivalled accuracy of about 1 meter per second (m/s). It will shortly be able to search for exoplanets only a few times more massive than the Earth.
A solar eclipse (caused by the Moon moving in front of the Sun) is a more extreme case of the same type of event.
The OGLE list
A very hot planet
|Galaxy Evolution Explorer Will Look Back in Time|
|NASA Press Release |
April 22, 2003 - NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, set to launch no earlier than April 28, 2003, will carry into space an orbiting telescope that will observe a million galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic history to help astronomers determine when the stars and elements we see today had their origins.
From its orbit high above Earth, the spacecraft will sweep the skies for up to 28 months using state-of-the-art ultraviolet detectors. Looking in the ultraviolet will single out galaxies dominated by young, hot, short-lived stars that give off a great deal of energy at that wavelength. These galaxies are actively creating stars, and therefore provide a window into the history and causes of star formation in galaxies.
"The Galaxy Evolution Explorer is crucial to understanding how galaxies, the basic structures of our universe, form and function," said Anne Kinney, director of astronomy and physics in the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "Its ultraviolet observations will round out the knowledge we gain from observations in infrared and other wavelengths."
Astronomers believe the universe originated 13.7 billion years ago in a cataclysmic event called the Big Bang. Galaxies, the basic building blocks of the universe, began to appear as the fireball of hydrogen and helium gas that was the early universe expanded and cooled. Recent observations suggest that star formation in the universe peaked some 8 billion to 10 billion years ago. The mission is specifically designed to investigate whether this occurred and why.
The centerpiece of the satellite is a 50-centimeter-diameter (19.7-inch) telescope equipped with sensors that will gather continuous images of galaxies in the ultraviolet to study their shape, brightness and size.
Ultraviolet light -- the type of invisible energy responsible for sunburn -- is at the higher end of the electromagnetic spectrum, just above visible light in frequency, but below X-rays and gamma rays.
Combined with precise measurements of the ultraviolet brightness of galaxies, astronomers will be able to determine the rate at which stars are forming within those galaxies.
|Anti-War Stars Face Vicious Retaliation Campaign in US|
|By Andrew Gumbel |
Los Angeles April 21, 2003 (Star) - Hollywood stars and other entertainment personalities are discovering that they speak out against the war on Iraq at their peril.
Among them is comedian Janeane Garofalo, whose outspoken views on the subject have made her the object of a vicious email and telephone campaign that has already successfully intimidated ABC into postponing her new sitcom, Slice O'Life, to next year.
The group intent on stringing up Garofalo, Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits, has campaigned energetically against everyone - from Martin Sheen, whose anti-war views led to a credit card commercial of his being scrapped; to Susan Sarandon, dropped as a speaker at a Florida branch of the umbrella charity group United Way; to Sarandon's husband Tim Robbins, who was disinvited from a 15th anniversary screening of the baseball movie Bull Durham at the National Baseball Hall of Fame because the Hall's president, a former Reagan administration press secretary, felt his very presence might undermine the efforts of United States troops in Iraq.
Television producer Ed Gernon, responsible for a four-part mini-series on Hitler's rise to power, was recently sacked by CBS after he told TV Guide magazine that the timing of the series was absolutely apt.
That was way too strong for CBS's chief executive Lesley Moonves, who fired him.
Singer Natalie Maines said at a concert in London in March that she was ashamed to come from the same home state as the president. One radio chain, Cumulus Media, even arranged for a tractor to crush Dixie Chicks CDs, tapes and videos, in uncomfortable echoes of historical book-burnings and other cultural purges.
There is a concerted attempt by conservatives to dismiss the anti-war celebrities as morally irresponsible, overpaid know-nothings who would do better to keep their mouths shut.
|False Memories and TV News|
|Kansas State University Press Release |
MANHATTAN KA April 22, 2003 - One of the most unusual, yet persistent, problems television broadcasters face is what Tom Grimes calls "unitentional defamation."
"This takes place when TV news viewers' memory plays tricks on them and they end up 'remembering' the facts of a TV news story in a way that defames an innocent person portrayed in the news story," said Grimes, the Ross Beach research chair in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University.
"People tend to use stereotypes to remember a person's role in a news story," Grimes said. "So if a black policeman is shown arresting a white criminal, some viewers may remember the black policeman as the criminal, and the white criminal as the policeman, thus defaming the black policeman."
Grimes said instances in which this type of mistake has happened have led to several defamation suits against both TV stations and networks over the past three decades.
Grimes detailed this odd quirk of human memory in a 1996 publication in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly with research colleague Robert E. Drechsel, a professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Grimes and Drechsel study was selected last week by Lawrence Erlbaum Publishing Company editors as one of the best examples of social science research in media law over the past decade. It will be featured in a new book, published by Erlbaum, "Communication and Law: Multidisciplinary Research Approaches," which will appear later this year.
Grimes and Drechsel documented for the first time the components of human memory and information processing that result in this interesting, yet annoying, phenomenon.
An update of this study appears this month in the latest issue of the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, a refereed scholarly journal published by the Broadcast Education Association.
In this latest publication, Grimes teamed with Jeff Gibbons and Rod Vogl, psychology Ph.D. graduates, to further explore the cognitive processes that lead to this type of false memory. Gibbons, Vogl and Grimes showed that the phenomenon is a function of stereotyping, and that it can be defeated by activating what psychologists call "semantic elaboration."
"That means making viewers think about what they are seeing and hearing so that they remember the message better," Grimes said.
"We also discovered that by showing viewers a photo of a wrong-doer's face before a video new story about that wrong-doer, a viewer's tendency to mis-remember who did what to whom is aborted. This can be done by showing a still shot of the wrong-doer's face next to the news anchor as the news anchor reads the introduction to the video taped news story that contains the wrong-doer. This is an otherwise common production practice in TV news, and is known as a box-wipe."
Gibbons, Vogl and Grimes discovered that placing a box-wipe of a wrong-doer's face next to the news anchor is especially important when women or minorities are the principal actors in TV news stories in which stereotyping might put them in the role of a wrong-doer.
|Back To Atlantis!|
|By Dr David Whitehouse |
BBC News Science Editor
Atlantic Ocean April 17, 2003 (BBC) - Scientists are returning to one of the most remarkable places on our planet, the so-called Lost City of Atlantis. An expedition from the University of Washington is to use the submersible Alvin to take the first samples from the formation of 18-storey-high hydrothermal vents in the mid-Atlantic.
Formed by superheated water seeping out of the seafloor, the strange structures are made in a different way from other known hydrothermal vents.
It could be home to new forms of life and it could shed new light on the origin of life on the Earth and on other worlds as well.
The so-called Lost City of Atlantis was discovered by accident in December 2000.
An automated sea-bed explorer stumbled across it near the end of a University of Washington, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and US National Science Foundation expedition to survey the mid-Atlantic.
Sketchy details were sent back allowing the submersible Alvin to briefly visit the site before bad weather ended the expedition.
The researchers will once again use the Alvin submersible for a series of six-hour dives to survey the region and collect samples.
University of Washington - http://www.washington.edu/newsroom/news/2000archive/12-00archive/k121200.html
|Iraqi Looters Return Antiquities|
|BAGHDAD April 20, 2003 (AP) - Prodded by imams and guilty conscience, residents here returned 20 looted pieces from Iraq's ransacked national collection holding some of the earliest artifacts of civilization. |
Iraq's antiquities chief, Jabar Hilil, on Friday called looting of Iraq's national museum following entry of US forces the "crime of the century" and questioned why US forces hadn't moved to safeguard it in the days of chaos that followed the toppling of President Saddam Hussein's government.
But Hilil left open the possibility the loss wasn't as absolute as first thought.
With no electricity in Baghdad, he said, museum operators had yet to make a full assessment of the now-unlit underground vaults in which they had stashed many pieces for safekeeping as war came. Even in the dark, he said, it was clear the storage rooms had been breached.
"We cannot say how many pieces were taken, but it is disastrous," Donny George, director-general of research for the state board of antiquities, told reporters in an impromptu press conference.
Interpol and the FBI pledged to try to help recover the goods. They urged governments around the world to block any sale of the looted goods citing Switzerland, the United States, Israel and Japan as the markets where smuggled art was most likely to surface.
The museum is recognized as the Middle East's leading archaeological collection. It held thousands of years of fragile artworks and clay tablet inscriptions from the Tigris-Euphrates valley where many of mankind's innovations began.
Items confirmed lost from the display galleries include an alabaster vase from 3200 B.C., bronze reliefs from 3500 B.C., and other ancient treasures of Assyrian, Sumerian and other early civilizations, Hilil said.
|US Troops Kill Baghdad Lions|
|Baghdad March 22, 2003 (BBC) - Four starving lions which dug their way out of a Baghdad zoo have been shot dead by American soldiers, the military says. Two of the big cats lunged for the US troops who then fired at them, one soldier said. |
The lions were among hundreds of animals abandoned at the zoo. Most of the others were stolen by looters or released in the aftermath of the US takeover of the Iraqi capital. But the thieves left seven lions and two tigers in their cages, unfed for 10 or more days.
Sergeant Matthew Oliver said three lionesses and one male lion clawed their way out of their outdoor pen through a crumbling wall.
"Two of them charged our guys. We had to take them down," he said. "The zoo keeper came the next day and he was pretty cut up, but I think he understood."
The US 3rd Infantry which controls Baghdad has now posted guards at the zoo to protect the big cats as well as two released bears which wandered back. The remaining animals are now fed regularly with supplies donated by Kuwait.
A Siberian tiger owned by Saddam Hussein's son Uday appears healthier according to one report from the capital.
Uday Hussein also kept lions in his own private zoo at a presidential palace.
|Will Depleted Uranium Weapons Contaminate Iraq?|
|By Joseph B. Verrengia |
DENVER April 22, 2003 (AP) As soon as it's safe, the United Nations and international scientists plan to fan out over Iraq's smoking battlegrounds to investigate whether the leftovers of American firepower pose serious health or environmental threats.
Thousands of rounds containing tons of depleted uranium were fired in Iraq over the past four weeks. Fragments of the armor-piercing munitions now litter the valleys and neighborhoods between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. That's where most of the combat occurred and where most of Iraq's 24 million people live. Wounded fighters and civilians also may carry depleted uranium shrapnel in their bodies.
Many medical studies have failed to show a direct link between DU exposure and human disease, though a study of rats linked intramuscular fragments with increased cancer risk. Test-tube experiments also suggest DU may trigger potentially dangerous changes in cells.
The munitions are conventional and do not generate a nuclear blast. Depleted uranium, a very dense metal fashioned from low-level radioactive waste, allows them to easily pierce armor and buildings that would deflect other projectiles.
U.S. defense officials vigorously defend the decisive battlefield advantage that the super-hard metal provides and says the munitions do not create pollution or health hazards. Tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and A-10 attack jets all fire depleted uranium rounds. Some missiles also contain the material.
"There's going to be no impact on the health of people in the environment or people who were there at the time," said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, a top Pentagon health official. "You would really have to have a large internalized dose. You are not going to get that with casual exposure."
|Snoring Linked to Headaches|
|American Academy of Neurology Press Release |
ST. PAUL MN April 21, 2003 A new study finds a link between snoring and chronic daily headache. The study, published in the April 22 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, examined the snoring habits of people with chronic daily headache and people with occasional headaches.
Chronic daily headache was defined as people with at least 15 headaches per month. Occasional headache was defined as two to 104 headaches per year.
|Russian Minister Fears Collapse of Chernobyl Shield|
|By Oliver Bullough |
MOSCOW April 22. 2003 (Reuters) - The concrete shield thrown up to block radiation escaping the Chernobyl nuclear power station after it exploded in 1986 is collapsing and needs urgent reinforcement, Russia's atomic energy minister said Tuesday.
Alexander Rumyantsev was speaking at a news conference almost exactly 17 years after one of Chernobyl's four reactors exploded and spewed clouds of radioactivity over much of Europe in the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster.
"We can see a situation where the roof could fall in, or rather the supports that hold up the roof could fall down," he said, adding that the concrete itself was leaking radiation.
"There are a lot of holes in the sarcophagus," he said.
He said workers from his ministry involved in monitoring the reactor in ex-Soviet Ukraine kept him informed.
"I know how the sarcophagus was built. It was built in difficult radioactive conditions for the builders. They had to work fast to get away from the danger," he said.
"We need to surround it with another sarcophagus."
"When Greenpeace or other ecologists talk about a million victims, I am prepared to agree that a million people were scared. That was the main medical result of the disaster."
|Oldest Human Art Debated|
|By Jenny Hogan |
France April 18, 2003 (New Scientist) - If the rock art in the Chauvet cave is 30,000 years old, it is the most ancient example of human art in existence and the implications for the evolution of culture are immense. This date is accepted and celebrated by archaeologists. But could it be wrong?
"I would be astounded if this date proves to be correct," leading archaeologist Paul Bahn says now. "It flies in the face of all we know about ice-age art." He has reignited the debate about the age of the paintings at Chauvet by questioning the science that says they are so old. The controversy is currently dividing the archaeology community.
The Chauvet cave was discovered in a valley in southern France in 1994. Its walls are a spectacular gallery of prehistoric art and the depictions of wild animals - rhino, lions and bison among others - are so sophisticated that specialists in ice-age art first assumed they must be relatively recent. Certain features, such as animals shown face on, also suggested that the cave paintings were about 15,000 years old.
But a few months later, tiny samples of black charcoal were scraped from some of the pictures and sent away for radiocarbon dating. The date that came back from the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science (LSCE) in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, shocked everyone. It suggested that the paintings dated to the very beginning of the Upper Paleolithic era, around 30,000 years ago (New Scientist print edition, 13 July 1996).
Picasso or Michelangelo?
People are generally wary of stylistic dating, explains Paul Pettitt, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford. So once the more "scientific" radiocarbon results were available, most researchers dismissed the more recent date suggested by the paintings themselves.
Instead the carbon data was used to support the revolutionary theory that sophisticated art developed extremely rapidly once modern humans arrived in Europe, and archaeologists who thought culture evolved over millennia were sidelined.
|Genre News: Joss on Angel, McCartney on Iraq, Katherine Heigl, Evel Knievel, Madonna & More!|
|Joss Says Angel Will Live On! |
Hollywood April 21, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - If and when the vampire TV series Angel returns to the air next year, there may be some familiar faces from nearby Sunnydale, cast and crew told SCI FI Wire at the wrap party for UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Though The WB has yet to announce a fifth-season renewal of Angel, co-creator Joss Whedon said:
"I'm pretty confident we will be picked up. Let me put it this way. Angel will be around. I just don't know where." It's possible that UPN could pick up the show if The WB doesn't.
As for Buffy cast members moving over, Whedon said, "We're still finding out who's where and what's what and making sure the show comes back," he said. "But as far as I'm concerned, everybody should stop by. ... Next year, we have an entirely new thing planned, which I'm really excited about. And we'll also be seeing some Buffy characters on it."
James Marsters (Spike) was the only cast member to say he's definitely working on becoming an Angel cast member.
"We're trying to work it out," he said in an interview. "There's goodwill and a real want for that to work out. There are constraints involved. And so it's not a lock. But I think that we're all going to make a good effort to try to make that happen in some way. Time and money, man. Time and money."
Both Alyson Hannigan (Willow) and Anthony Head (Giles) said in interviews that their characters might make guest appearances.
But Nicholas Brendon (Xander) won't be moving over, as he's already cast in a new sitcom pilot for the Fox network.
[Buffy reruns this week. Buffy's final episodes continue on Tuesday April 29th. The two-hour finale will happen at the end of May. Ed.]
In other Joss Whedon-related news, FireflyFans reports that Fox will release the ill-fated Whedon sci-fi series on DVD by December. The show starred Nathan Fillion (who is currently a baddie on Buffy) and Gina Torres (currently a baddie on Angel) and was canceled by Fox in the fall. The site also quotes Whedon on a future for Firefly:
"I still haven't given up on Firefly," [Whedon] says, "which may seem strange since its been off the air for months. If I can find a new home for Firefly, TV or movies or any damn thing, it will soften the blow."
Official Buffy - http://www.buffy.com
FireflyFans - http://www.fireflyfans.net
Official Angel - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||139,00.html
And a campaign to renew Angel lives at http://www.renewangel.com
McCartney Against Cluster Bombs and For Iraqi Children
McCartney's call for the ban came as he and other stars released an album to raise money for Iraqi children affected by the war.
Official Paul - http://www.paulmccartney.com
MTV Casts Katherine Heigl in Wuthering Heights
The project marks Christensen's onscreen singing debut. Her credits include "The Banger Sisters," "Swimfan" and "Traffic." She next stars in Paramount Pictures' "The Perfect Score."
I have to wonder if some Roswell fan thought of casting Katherine Heigl as "Isabella"? (Not that Katherine isn't up to it, mind you.)
Isabella was played by film great Geraldine Fitzgerald in Wyler's version, BTW. Ed.]
Evel Knievel - the Rock Opera?
Daily Show Host Throws Down on Politics
Official Daily Show site - http://www.comedycentral.com/tv_shows/thedailyshowwithjonstewart
Paul Allen's Science Fiction Experience
Miners Protest 'Hillbillies'
Welcome to 'TV-Turnoff Week'
Madonna's Curse! "What The F*ck...?"