|Mind Control? |
Snow Business, Clone Deaths,
Alien Abductees, Mona Lisa's Secret,
Asteroid Threat, Beatles & More!
|Mind Control? |
|Britons Face Extradition for Thought Crimes |
By Philip Johnston
Home Affairs Editor
London February 18, 2003 (Telegraph UK) - British citizens will be extradited for what critics have called a "thought crime" under a new European arrest warrant, the Government has conceded. Campaigners fear they could even face trial for broadcasting "xenophobic or racist" remarks - such as denying the Holocaust - on an internet chat room in another country. The Government has undertaken that if such "offences" take place in Britain the perpetrators would not be extradited - but it will be for the courts to decide the location of the crime.
This opens up the prospect of a judge agreeing to extradite someone whose observations, though made in Britain, were broadcast exclusively in a country where they constitute a crime.
Legislation now before Parliament will make "xenophobia and racism" one of 32 crimes for which the European arrest warrant can be issued without the existing safeguard of dual criminality.
This requires that an extraditable offence must also be a crime in the UK.
Alongside the arrest warrant, EU ministers are negotiating a new directive to establish a common set of offences to criminalize xenophobia and racism.
Countries such as Germany and Austria have crimes such as denying the Holocaust which have no equivalent in Britain. Under current laws, if a British citizen committed this offence in Germany and returned to the UK, he could not be extradited.
However, this will change when the arrest warrant becomes law next year. Lord Filkin, the Home Office minister, told MPs: "If someone went to Germany and stood up in Cologne market place and shouted the odds, denying the Holocaust, and then came back [to Britain], they would be subject to extradition under the European arrest warrant."
Holocaust denial laws are in place in seven EU countries but they would be a big departure for Britain, where a risk of fomenting public disorder is needed before a thought becomes a crime.
A German historian who claimed that Auschwitz prisoners enjoyed cinemas, a swimming pool and brothels was sentenced to 10 months in jail.
Lord Filkin has insisted that no one would be extradited "in respect of conduct which has occurred here and which is legal here". But when he was asked by the European scrutiny committee of the House of Commons whether comments originating in Britain but carried abroad on television or through an internet chat room would be extraditable, he said: "It will be for the courts to decide."
While he was adamant that a British citizen would not be extradited for a xenophobia or racism offence if part of the conduct took place in the UK, the committee asked whether this principle would be made clear in the Extradition Bill now before Parliament.
The proposed EU directive would extend the offences of racism and xenophobia to include discrimination on the grounds of religious conviction - something that was dropped by the Government more than a year ago following fierce opposition.
Britain has negotiated a deal under which the offences will only apply when they involve incitement to violence. Lord Filkin said this was in line with current UK race laws.
However, Britain has been forced to concede a review after two years at which point the directive could be extended to opinions that are simply considered offensive and not just those likely to incite violence. Agreement on the directive has been held up because some EU countries want a "low threshold for criminality on these issues".
Philip Duly, campaign manager for the Freedom Association, said the Government should protect citizens from extradition for what he called "thought crimes".
He added: "The Government has previously maintained that no one will be extradited for conduct which is not a crime in the UK. But here we have Lord Filkin admitting that there are circumstances which will be decided not by ministers but by courts."
University of California - Irvine Press Release
Irvine CA February 16, 2003 - During a recent study of memory recall and the use of suggestive interviewing, UC Irvine cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus successfully planted false memories in volunteers of several study groups -- memories that included such unlikely events as kissing frogs, shaking hands with Bugs Bunny at Disneyland, and witnessing a demonic possession.
Her success at planting these memories challenge the argument that suggestive interviewing may reliably prompt real memories instead of planting false ones. A pioneer in false memory research and Distinguished Professor of Social Ecology at UCI, Loftus presented her latest research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Denver Feb. 16.
Loftus conducted her study by having volunteers conduct a set of actions that mixed the common place (flipping a coin) with the unusual and even bizarre (crushing a Hershey's kiss with a dental floss container).
Later, her research team asked volunteers to imagine additional actions they performed that day, such as kissing a frog. At a future time, participants were asked to recall their actions on that specific day[j1]. Ayanna Thomas, a doctoral student in Loftus' research group, found that 15 percent of the study's volunteers claimed they had actually performed some of the actions they had only imagined.
In another study, Loftus showed how false memories can be planted with a visual. Loftus and her colleagues exposed volunteers to a fake print advertisement describing a visit to Disneyland where they would meet Bugs Bunny.
Later, 33 percent of these volunteers claimed they knew or remembered the event happening to them. (Bugs Bunny is a Warner Bros. character and has never appeared at Disneyland.) The false memory rate was boosted when people were given multiple exposures to the fake advertisement.
In one study, 36 percent of those given three exposures said they met Bugs Bunny, compared to only 9 percent in a control condition. Loftus' collaborators on this study included Kathryn Braun-LaTour, Melissa Grinley and Jacquie Pickrell.
These studies continue three decades of research by Loftus proving that memory is highly susceptible to distortion and contamination. Her past work has shown that people can be led to remember rather familiar or common experiences, even when these experiences likely had not occurred. Much of Loftus's work has focused on false claims of repressed memories of sexual abuse. She also has shown that eyewitness accounts, notably those given in court, often are inaccurate.
Loftus has served as an expert witness or consultant on some of the nation's most high-profile trials, including the McMartin Pre-school molestation case, the "Hillside Strangler" case, the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating and the Bosnian War Trials.
Ranked among the 25 psychologists most frequently cited in introductory psychology textbooks, Loftus is the author of "Eyewitness Testimony," which won a National Media Award, and co-author of the widely cited book, "The Myth of Repressed Memory."
|No Business Like Snow Business |
|American Association for the Advancement of Science Press Release |
DENVER February 17, 2003 Snow flakes may be the world's most innovative seasonal marketing campaign. Advertisers would be hard pressed to generate the sales and scientific research sparked by snow flakes--winter's one-of-a-kind ads.
Snow is always falling somewhere in the world, and scientists and engineers are amassing a wealth of winter knowledge: the science of snow and skiing.
After years of dissecting, studying, and photographing snow flakes, Charles Knight has never given the science of snow the "cold shoulder." (Knight's striking snow flake photos are available to journalists.) Instead, he works to understand snow on a molecular level. Far above the earth, "supercooled" drops of water form clouds. The few drops that contain "ice nuclei" freeze and begin to grow. "Growing molecule by molecule, the complex shapes that we associate with snow crystals form in clouds," says Knight. When these crystals aggregate with each other, snow flakes form.
When winter resorts run short on "the real stuff," they manufacture snow by spraying water into the cold air. Knight explains the process.
"The water hits the ground as sleet, or ice pellets, not 'snow' to an atmospheric scientist. Anyone standing under the spray from a snow machine wouldn't call it snow either."
Without special provisions, the water shot from snow guns would form a ground layer of ice that could turn slopes into vertical skating rinks.
"Artificial ice nuclei, prepared from cultures of bacteria, are commonly added to the water sprayed from snow machines to facilitate mid-air freezing," Knight says.
Advances in snow making are complemented by a decade of breakthroughs in ski design. This burst of innovation follows a 100 year period without major design advances. Bard Glenne, an engineer and former ski racer, will describe innovations made in the last ten years and predict advances for the next ten years. "Improvements in ski design will make skiing easier to learn," he says.
From the slopes back to the microscopes, snow science contributes to basic science and our understanding of the natural world, according to John Wettlaufer. Science at the thin "quasi-liquid film" at the surface of ice helps scientists explain the origins of arctic "rock circles" and lightning. The research that led to an understanding of ice's watery surface layer also applies to condensed matter in general.
From double black diamonds to quantum mechanics and pollution, snow and ice will keep scientists and the public engaged long after Frosty has melted for the year.
AAAS Website - http://www.aaas.org
|US Study Finds No New Links to Gulf War Illness |
|WASHINGTON February 18, 2003 (Reuters) - Studies show long-term exposure to certain pesticides and solvents can damage a person's health, but there is not enough evidence to show whether such chemicals are linked to Gulf War Syndrome, U.S. scientists said on Tuesday. |
A review of 3,000 studies confirmed the chemicals may be bad for those exposed to them, but hardly any of the studies looked at veterans, said the Institute of Medicine report.
"Our exhaustive examination of the literature produced no unexpected findings," said Dr. Jack Colwill of the University of Missouri, who led the study. "Our conclusions about exposure to insecticides and solvents and long-term health problems largely mirror those reached by many other scientific groups."
Gulf War Syndrome is a poorly defined group of illnesses seen in many veterans of the 1991 conflict. Few doctors dispute that veterans have a collection of symptoms, but experts have been unable to find an explanation. Vaccines and exposure to chemicals are the main suspects but no link has been found.
Congress asked the Institute of Medicine, an independent body that advises the federal government, to put together a panel of experts to look at possible causes.
Their first report focused on depleted uranium, the anti-nerve gas treatment pyridostigmine bromide, the poison gas sarin, and vaccines. There was not enough evidence to determine these caused the syndrome.
Wednesday's report looked at what is known specifically about insecticides and solvents and the next report will be on pollutants and particulates such as smoke from oil-well fires, diesel heater fumes, and jet fuels.
In the latest report the panel did not do any new research, but looked at studies of exposure to insecticides and solvents such as cleaning agents and their possible links to cancer and other health problems.
They found most of the studies involved farm or industrial workers. They reaffirmed that the solvent benzene can cause acute leukemia and aplastic anemia, which was already known
They also found some suggestion that benzene and organophosphorous and carbamate insecticides may be associated with a type of cancer known as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. But neither DEET nor permethrin, the pest-control agents most commonly used during the Gulf War, belong to these insecticide classes.
The committee said there was insufficient evidence to associate any insecticides or solvents with neurological diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS of Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's disease, or Alzheimer's disease.
|Clone Deaths: Goodbye Dolly - and Matilda? |
|[In the media rush to cover the death of Dolly the sheep, some of you may have missed this report of the earlier Matilda mystery. Ed.] |
Cloned Sheep Mystery Death
Adelaide February 7, 2003 (BBC) - Australia's first cloned sheep, Matilda, has died unexpectedly of unknown causes, scientists said. An autopsy failed to find any reason for the merino ewe's abrupt death last Saturday, Rob Lewis, director of the South Australian Research and Development institute, said.
The cremation of the carcass triggered criticism among opponents of cloning, who said that there would be no further opportunity to determine what killed Matilda.
Matilda was born in April 2000 from cloned embryos using a similar technology to that used to produce the world's first cloned sheep, Dolly, in Scotland in 1996. Mr. Lewis said that Matilda died on Saturday at the research institute near the southern city of Adelaide, but her decomposing carcass was only found the next day.
"The animal has been particularly sprightly and her death was very unexpected," he said. "There was nothing that was grossly obvious in the organs and outer body. The body's been cremated because it was in a very bad state. To be honest, it was clearly pongy, very pongy."
Mr. Lewis said Matilda's death was a blow for the institute's efforts to produce rare sheep with outstanding genes to boost meat and fleece production.
"She was the one that provided the confidence to our science community that we could do this technology. She was the one that gave us standing internationally."
But Mr. Lewis said the program would continue.
Critics of cloning and gene technology said the institute should have made greater efforts in establishing the exact cause of death.
"Animal's don't die and decompose in five minutes," said Bob Phelps of Australia's Gene Ethics Network. "That's not really very plausible."
Dolly the Cloned Sheep Put to Death
By EMMA ROSS
AP Medical Writer
LONDON - Dolly the cloned sheep was put to death Friday, after premature aging and disease marred her short existence and raised questions about the practicality of copying life. The decision to end Dolly's life at age 6 about half the life expectancy of her breed was made because a veterinarian confirmed she had a progressive lung disease, according to the Roslin Institute, the Scottish lab where she was created and lived.
"We must await the results of the post-mortem on Dolly in order to assess whether her relatively premature death was in any way connected with the fact that she was a clone," said Richard Gardner, a professor of zoology at Oxford University and chair of the Royal Society working group on stem cell research and therapeutic cloning.
"If there is a link, it will provide further evidence of the dangers inherent in reproductive cloning and the irresponsibility of anybody who is trying to extend such work to humans."
Ian Wilmut, the leader of the team that created Dolly, said it was unlikely her illness was attributable to being a clone.
"The most likely thing is an infection which causes a slow progressive illness and for which there isn't an effective treatment," he said. "Sadly, we have had that in some of the sheep on the farm, so that's the most likely explanation, but we don't know."
The institute's Dr. Harry Griffin said Dolly had suffered from a virus-induced lung cancer that was also diagnosed in the past few months in other sheep housed with Dolly.
"The most likely thing is she caught it from that sheep and it's an unfortunate result of having to be housed in order to give her security and so that we could observe her," Wilmut said. "Clearly, the whole group are very upset and sad."
Griffin said that Dolly had been coughing for about a week before the vet came Friday afternoon and conducted a CT scan.
She was born July 5, 1996, in a research compound of the Scottish institute, and the achievement of her creation announced Feb. 23, 1997 created an international sensation. Researchers had previously cloned sheep from fetal and embryonic cells, but until Dolly, it was unknown whether an adult cell could reprogram itself to develop into a new being. The Dolly breakthrough heightened speculation that human cloning inevitably would become possible.
But one of the biggest fears was that Dolly might have been born prematurely old.
It was feared that using adult genetic material to make a clone might produce an animal whose cells were already aged. On the other hand, scientists hoped the genetic clock might be "wound back" to its starting point.
Dolly, a Finn Dorset sheep named after the singer Dolly Parton, bred normally on two occasions with a Welsh mountain ram called David, first giving birth to Bonnie in April 1998 and then to three more lambs in 1999. The births were good news, showing that clones can reproduce. But in 1999, scientists noticed that the cells in Dolly's body cloned from the breast cell of a 6-year-old adult ewe had started to show signs of wear more typical of an older animal. Then in January 2002, her creators announced she had developed arthritis at the relatively early age of 5 1/2 years, stirring debate over whether cloning procedures might be flawed.
Some geneticists said the finding showed that researchers could not manufacture copies of animals without the original genetic blueprint eventually wearing out.
There are now hundreds of animal clones around the world, including cows, pigs, mice and goats, many of them appearing robust and healthy. But many attempts to clone animals have ended in failure. Deformed fetuses have died in the womb with oversized organs, while others were born dead. Others died days after being born, some twice as large as they should have been.
"It's important to remember just what she did contribute," Wilmut said. "She made biologists think totally differently about the way cells develop for all of the different tissues. The experiments that led to her birth are one of the things that are making people think very differently about how to produce cells to treat Parkinson's disease (news - web sites) and other unpleasant diseases."
Dolly's body has been promised to the National Museum of Scotland and will eventually be put on display in Edinburgh, the Roslin Institute said.
Roslin Institute, http://www.roslin.ac.uk/news
|Mysterious Oyster Rings |
|BY BO PETERSEN |
CHARLESTON, S.C. February 15, 2003 (AP) - One of the ancient mysteries of the south Atlantic coast, huge oyster shell rings, might be more than just the leftovers of prehistoric fish camps.
A leading archaeologist studying rings claims new discoveries on private land in Edisto suggest the 6,000-year-old rings were ceremonial sites.
The claim rubs right at the nub of the biggest controversy over the rings, whether the wide-as-a-house, taller-than-a-person enclosures were erected purposefully or simply built up over time from discards.
One of three rings archaeologist Rebecca Saunders excavated in 2000 might have had ramps and a large cone-shaped mound connected to the ring by a ramp. Along with the apparent structures, Saunders found signs that the rings were carefully layered with oyster shells rather than just piled.
"They are purposely built to look exactly as they look. I think it's pretty convincing evidence," said Saunders, a Louisiana State University archaeologist who'll present her findings at the annual South Carolina Archaeology conference Feb. 22.
"Her findings are very intriguing, and we certainly want to know more," said Chris Judge, a state Natural Resources Department archaeologist. "She's state-of-the-art, forcing archaeology to re-evaluate the shell sites."
The three Edisto rings are among some 30 known sites along the Southeast coast from Sewee, just north of Charleston, to northeastern Florida. A lone site recently found in Lake Okeechobee, Fla., farther south suggests the rings might have been spread across an even wider range.
The Sewee site has an interpretive trail in the Francis Marion National Forest near McClellanville.
The rings fascinate archaeologists, who began studying them in the 1960s.
"They're a mystery. They're uncharted. There's still much to be explained," said Nena Rice, of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. Saunders' excavation was the first significant work at the site since they were first excavated some 30 years ago. "There are new ideas, new ways of excavating and analyzing these sites."
Shell rings also hold the remains of fires and carved bone pins, stone from tools, bone projectile points and fish and other animal bones. They've been found more rarely than shell mounds, or middens, where more recent American Indians are thought to have dropped refuse.
The rings are left from a time when the nomadic people in the Southeast began staying longer at particular sites, storing food and leaving the earliest pottery artifacts found that give researchers clues about their economic, social and political organization, Rice said.
"We're able to reconstruct the environment, to reconstruct what life was like for these people," Rice said. It tells us more about "who we are and where we came from."
Rice, who worked with National Park Service archaeologist Michael Russo, has compiled a 250-page report on the work. She plans to return to the excavation to more closely study smaller ringlets of shells found along the outside perimeter of the largest ring.
Shell Rings of the Late Archaic - http://anthro.org/art0997a.htm
Council of South Carolina Professional Archaeologists - http://www.diachronic.org
|Alien Abductees Stressed Out! |
|By Jonathan Amos |
BBC News Online Science Staff
Denver February 18, 2003 (BBC) - People who claim to have been kidnapped by aliens have a tendency to believe in fantasies and suffer disturbing experiences in their sleep, scientists have found.
But the researchers say "abductees" also believe in their experiences so deeply that they display real stress symptoms similar to those of traumatized battlefield veterans.
The latest research on the "taken" phenomenon was unveiled at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver.
"This underscores the power of emotional belief," Professor Richard McNally, from Harvard University, told the BBC.
"If you genuinely believe you've been traumatized and recall these memories, you'll show the same psycho-physiologic emotional reactions as people who really have been traumatized."
A group of abductees told the BBC about their experiences on Saturday. One of them said: "I've had several encounters with alien craft and I've had an alien implant removed from my body."
It was typical of the stories they all had to relate. It is thought there are about four million Americans who believe they have been abducted by extraterrestrials.
Scientists believe this clearly is not true, so why do abductees believe they have been taken? Professor McNally has found that many of them share personality traits and sleep disorders.
"Most of them had pre-existing new-age beliefs - they were into bio-energetic therapies, past lives, astral projection, tarot cards, and so on," he said. "Second, they have episodes of apparent sleep paralysis accompanied by hallucinations."
These frightening experiences usually prompted the individuals to visit therapists, who would frequently suggest alien abduction as a cause - an explanation which the abductees readily accepted, he said.
Professor McNally has come up with a rational explanation of alien abduction experiences which was endorsed by other psychologists in Denver. He said the individuals conformed to a "common recipe". But the researcher stressed that many of the people really did believe what they were saying.
In laboratory experiments, individuals were asked to relate their experiences. These stories were played back to them and their physical responses recorded.
"When a Vietnam vet has his experiences played back to him in the lab of some combat event, his heart rate goes up and you see an increase in sweating. If you don't have post-traumatic stress disorder, you don't react that way. The heart-rate responses and sweating responses were at least as great in the alien abductees when they heard their memories of being taken and molested by space aliens and subjected to experiments as those of people with genuine traumatic events."
|New Data on Martian Ice! |
|Los Alamos National Laboratories Press Release |
DENVER February 15, 2003 - Lurking just beneath the surface of Mars is enough water to cover the entire planet ankle-deep, says Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Bill Feldman.
Feldman on Saturday released the first global map of hydrogen distribution identified by instruments aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft and offered initial minimum estimates of the total amount of water stored near the Martian surface.
His presentation came at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver.
For nearly a year, Los Alamos' neutron spectrometer has been carefully mapping the hydrogen content of the planet's surface by measuring changes in neutrons given off by soil, an indicator of hydrogen likely in the form of water-ice, within about 35 degrees latitude of the north and south poles. A color map is available (1.7 MB) at http://www.lanl.gov/worldview/news/pdf/MarsWater.pdf online.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that Mars has enough water to support future human exploration," Feldman said. "In fact, there's enough to cover the entire planet to a depth of at least five inches, and we've only analyzed the top few feet of soil."
The new map is based on views of the red planet through more than half a Martian year of 687 Earth days, so researchers have been able to see both poles without obstruction by the seasonal polar caps of frozen carbon dioxide, dry ice. From about 55 degrees latitude to the poles, Mars has extensive deposits of soils that are rich in water-ice, bearing an average of 50 percent water by mass. In other words, Feldman said, a typical pound of soil scooped up in those polar regions would yield an average of half a pound of water if it were baked in an oven.
The tell-tale traces of hydrogen, and therefore the presence of hydrated minerals, also are found in lower concentrations closer to Mars' equator, ranging from two- to 10-percent water by mass. Surprisingly, two large areas, one within Arabia Terra, the 1,900-mile-wide Martian desert, and another on the opposite side of the planet, show indications of relatively large concentrations of sub-surface hydrogen.
"The big reason we're so confident now is that we have an absolute calibration of our results," Feldman said. He and his Los Alamos colleagues recently compared their neutron spectrometer readings as Odyssey flew over the north pole during early spring, when the dry-ice ground cover was thickest, against simulations of the spectrometer's response to a thick layer of pure dry ice. This allowed them to calibrate the Odyssey readings with a known Martian soil type.
"We're sure there's dry-ice precipitation at the poles because the temperature of the ground cover is within the range for dry ice. And we can tell how thick the icecaps are, from the measured intensity of hydrogen gamma rays coming from underneath the icecaps," Feldman said. "We went from thick dry ice to a low-hydrogen abundance calibration when we applied our 'neutron ruler' at Mars' equatorial latitudes. We were surprised to see such huge amounts of hydrogen at those lower latitudes: close to 10 percent in some places."
How did water vapor get into the subsurface soils and into rocks farther beneath the surface of Mars? The effort to answer that question and to reconstruct the Martian hydrologic cycle will occupy Feldman and his colleagues for years to come.
Hydrogen is only absorbed chemically near rock surfaces, but Mars geology appears to be rich in minerals as zeolites, clays and magnesium sulfate, all of which can retain significant amounts of water.
"This is material that has absorbed the hydrogen chemically and has retained it for millions of years," Feldman explained.
The team also studied meteor craters more than 250 miles across such as Schiaparelli and discovered that the water content in the crater's center is reduced.
Scientists are attracted to two possible theories of how all that water got into the Martian soils and rocks.
The vast water icecaps at the poles may be the source. The thickness of the icecaps themselves may be enough to bottle up geothermal heat from below, increasing the temperature at the bottom and melting the bottom layer of the icecaps, which then could feed a global water table.
On the other hand, there is evidence that about a million years or so ago, Mars' axis was tilted about 35 degrees, which might have caused the polar icecaps to evaporate and briefly create enough water in the atmosphere to make ice stable planet-wide. The resultant thick layer of frost may then have combined chemically with hydrogen-hungry soils and rocks.
"We're not ready yet to precisely describe the abundance and stratigraphy of these deposits at high latitudes, but the neutron spectrometer shows water ice close to the surface in many locations, and buried elsewhere beneath several inches of dry soils," Feldman said. "Some theories predict these deposits may extend a half mile or more beneath the surface; if so, their total water content may be sufficient to account for the missing water budget of Mars."
|Mona Lisa's Secret! |
|American Association for the Advancement of Science Press Release |
DENVER February 15, 2003 - Put away those sunglasses, because the heat and brightness depicted in the fiery Impressionist sun is nothing but an illusion, a well-kept secret of knowing artists, from Monet to da Vinci. And, by the way, yes, Mona Lisa is hiding something underneath her smile.
While the world celebrates the 500th anniversary of the painting of Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, and continues to wonder whether she is smiling or frowning, neuroscientist Margaret Livingstone of Harvard University Medical School today revealed some of the science behind human visual perception of art at the 2003 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.
What makes objects appear in certain ways, in certain situations? Livingstone used artworks as examples to explain the difference between the luminance and flat-reflecting mediums, as well as between central and peripheral vision. For example, in a recent trip to Paris, Livingstone measured the luminance of the sunrise seen in Monet's Impression: Sunrise, and found that, contrary to what we perceive, the yellow sun is actually no brighter than the dark blue sky containing it.
"The reason is that in the color version the sun is interpreted as a type of brilliance; it's so striking because there is a disconnect in our visual system between the color and luminance pathways," Livingstone said.
Luminance refers to the quality of how light something appears, independent of color. It is equivalent of what appears in black and white photos (grayscales), so in a picture, if two objects are different colors, but the same luminance, they will both appear the same shade of gray.
That is exactly what happened when Livingstone took a black and white photo of the painting: the sun disappeared altogether and melted into the same gray as the sky. To the naked eye, in Impression: Sunrise, an orange sun deceives the senses and appears to shift and flicker in the middle of a dark blue sky. The sun is really, in fact, just as bright (or dull, depending on your perspective) as its surrounding sky. Although it certainly stands out as the focal point of the piece, the sun is exactly the same brightness, or 'equiluminent' as the rest of the sky.
Part of the human visual system consists of the "colorblind" mammalian visual system (the same system found in cats and dogs). The mammalian visual system can see three dimensions, and recognize things that move (this is what we use to navigate our environment). As primates, humans also have an object recognition system that sees in color, recognizes faces and evaluates the environment. We use both systems simultaneously.
Artists like Monet understood this dichotomy in our visual processes and used it empirically to give the illusion of color and space. The two parts are sometimes called the "where" and "what" system. The "where" system is the "colorblind" part that allows us to orient objects spatially, whereas the "what" system lets us recognize and evaluate them.
Livingstone also readdresses the visual perception behind the Mona Lisa's unique and mysterious smile in honor of the painting's 500th anniversary.
Livingstone's previous study of the Mona Lisa appeared in Science (November 17, 2000) and explained the brain's processes in how and why we interpret the Mona Lisa's smile as so elusive and mysterious.
"The elusive quality of the Mona Lisa's smile can be explained by the fact that her smile is almost entirely in low spatial frequencies, and so is seen best by your peripheral vision," according to Livingstone.
da Vinci used the shadows from her cheekbones to accentuate the Mona Lisa's mouth, so her smile appears more pronounced when one looks at her eyes or the background; however, if you look directly at her mouth, the smile seems to fade.
"I'm demystifying the procedures that some artists have known about for years, but not debunking their art in any way," she said. "These artists - the Impressionists, Da Vinci, Chuck Close, and Robert Silvers, for example-discovered fundamental truths that scientists are only now unraveling."
AAAS Website - http://www.aaas.org
|Drilling A Killer Volcano |
|By Hans Greimel |
TOKYO February 14, 2003 (AP) - In what resembles a journey to the center of the Earth, Japanese scientists launched the world's first attempt Thursday to bore a hole into the red-hot core of a volcano and unlock the secrets of deadly eruptions.
A 164-foot-high oil-rig-like derrick perched on the scrubby slopes of Mount Unzen will begin drilling through the volcano's crust next week in a bid to sample the magma bubbling below.
The aim is to study how the liquefied rock begets menacing gas buildup, said team leader Setsuya Nakata, of the University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute.
"Gassing is important because it controls the explosivity of eruptions," Nakata said after Thursday's launch party. "The results can be expanded to antidisaster research."
Mount Unzen, a craggy, wind-swept 4,875-foot dome on the southern island of Kyushu, is a perfect model. It erupted in 1991, showering avalanches of hot rocks over a nearby town, killing 43 people and leaving nearly 2,300 homeless. Another 11,000 people were evacuated from the area until 1995, when the volcano had stabilized.
Nakata described his project as the world's first to tap the magma at the core of a volcano that had so recently blown its top. Other probes have either sampled surface magma or the cold, stony centers of long dead volcano ranges.
The results are particularly important to a nation like Japan, where the meteorological agency monitors 20 dangerous peaks. Perhaps Japan's most famous volcano is snowcapped Mount Fuji, which last erupted in 1707 and sprinkled Tokyo with ash.
The drilling on Mount Unzen will begin next week from an altitude of 2,780 feet on its northwest slope. Scientists hope to tap a magma vent around sea level by August and extract a 656-foot-long core sample by summer 2004.
Boring into the glowing magma at that level would normally be impossible because of its fiery 1,292-degree heat. Thus, a slurry of water will be pumped into the drill shaft to cool the magma and allow the drill head to cut through.
Nakata said there is no danger of the drilling triggering another eruption, but he said the 15-member research crew could be imperiled if swelling gas pressure inside the mountain causes the cooling water to violently explode outward.
"We are taking many precautions, so we hope it goes safely,"
Nakata said. The $17 million experiment, funded by Japan's Ministry of Education and Science and several international groups, is being conducted by the University of Tokyo, Kyushu University, and the government-run Geological Survey of Japan.
|Asteroids Pose Real Threat To Earth! |
|NATIONAL OPTICAL ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY NEWS RELEASE |
February 16, 2003 - NASA should be assigned to lead a new research program to better determine the population and physical diversity of near-Earth objects that may collide with our planet.
Objects as small as 200 meters should be investigated, according to the final report of a workshop on the scientific requirements for the mitigation of hazardous comets and asteroids.
The workshop's report also recommends that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) work to more rapidly communicate surveillance data on natural airbursts of smaller rocky bodies. It concludes that governmental policy makers must "formulate a chain of responsibility" to be better prepared in the event that a threat to Earth becomes known.
"As our discussions proceeded, it became clear that the prime impediment to further advances in this field is the lack of assigned responsibility to any national or international governmental organization," said planetary scientist Michael Belton, organizer of the September 2002 workshop. "Since it is part of NASA's newly stated mission to 'understand and protect our home planet,' it seems obvious that this responsibility should reside in NASA."
Belton presented the findings of the workshop in Washington, DC, to officials at NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Management and Budget, and the report was delivered to the U.S. Congress.
About 2,225 near-Earth objects (NEOs) have been detected, primarily by ground- based optical searches, in the size range between 10 meters and 30 kilometers, out of a total estimated population of about one million; some information about the physical size and composition of these NEOs is available for only 300 objects.
The total number of objects a kilometer in diameter or larger, a size that could cause global catastrophe upon Earth impact, is now estimated to range between 900 and 1,230. The NASA-led Spaceguard Survey has a congressional mandate to detect 90% of these kilometer-sized objects by 2008, and it is making "excellent progress" on this goal, the report says.
However, a full survey of objects that could cause significant damage on Earth should reach down to NEOs at least as small as 200 meters, the report says, which should be within the capability of proposed ground-based facilities such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the PanStarrs telescope system. Ground-based radar systems will remain a "critical contributor" to obtaining the most accurate possible data on the orbits of many hazardous objects, the report says.
The workshop report discusses a preliminary roadmap based on five themes: more complete and accurate surveys of the orbits of potentially hazardous objects; improved public education about the risk; characterizing the physical properties of a range of asteroids and comets; more extensive laboratory research; and initial physical experiments toward a realistic plan to intercept and divert a future incoming object.
In order to keep maximum annual expenses on the order of a typical spacecraft mission (approximately $300 million), the report estimates that it would take about 25 years to accomplish this roadmap.
The workshop was attended by 77 scientists from the United States, Europe and Japan. It was co-sponsored by Ball Aerospace, Science Applications International Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and the University of Maryland.
|Face The Robots! |
|By Jonathan Amos |
BBC News Science Staff
Dallas February 17, 2003 (BBC) - Meet K-bot, probably the most sophisticated robot head yet developed. It is the creation of David Hanson, a former Disney employee now working at the University of Texas-Dallas.
The android head has cameras behind its eyes that will follow your movements; sophisticated software drives tiny motors under the polymer skin to mimic your facial expressions.
K-bot will smile, sneer, frown and even squint. Its 24 mechanical muscles react in under one second to produce the copycat visage.
The two-kilogram head was shown off to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Denver. Delegates were being updated on the latest developments in biologically inspired intelligent robotics.
"This is the face for social robotics," said Mr Hanson, who is building the machine as part of his PhD studies. "The human face is the most natural paradigm for human-computer interactions. This is how we will interact with the computers of tomorrow."
Remarkably, the main components in this advanced machine have been built from parts that cost less than $400, and Hanson believes this cost can be dramatically reduced.
"The goal is to turn these robot faces into a main mass-manufacture technology. As these robots reduce in size and weight, they will become more easily distributed in science laboratories."
When that happens, Hanson believes the development of the head will be accelerated. The basic unit will become a platform to try out other technologies such as artificial muscles.
"You could distribute these things to labs all around the world and then you would have a standardized humanoid intelligence platform that can be integrated with locomotion robots and natural language processors. You could then begin to knit together all the various components of artificial intelligence into a cohesive integrated humanoid emulation robot. But fundamentally you have to have a good face otherwise you will not relate to it."
There could also be medical applications for K-bot. It could be used to help people with disorders that affect communications skills. It is thought that in future a robot like this could help people with autism, for example, interpret and respond to facial expression.
|Genre News: Beatles, Gina Torres, Kristin Lehman, Dick Tracy, Buffy, Faith, Chiller Theater & More! |
|Fab Four Fans Rejoice! |
By Jason Hopps
LONDON February 18, 2003 (Reuters) - Beatles fans had two reasons to twist and shout on Tuesday with announcements of a Europe-wide tour by Paul McCartney and the release of a never-before seen video of three Beatles jamming together.
Fresh from a hugely popular North American tour, McCartney said he would kick-off his first British tour in 10 years in April.
The gigs will feature 22 Beatles songs from "All My Loving" to "Let It Be."
His "Back In The World" series of marathon concerts -- each nearly three hours long -- will also hit European cities in France, Spain, Germany and Scandinavia.
"I had a lot of fun touring this show around America last year, but now I'm bringing it on home and that's special to me as I always look forward to playing to a home crowd," McCartney, 60, said in a statement.
"We'll be playing some of my Beatles stuff -- rather a lot of Beatles stuff, actually -- some Wings stuff and some more recent stuff, so basically the show pretty much spans my whole career," he added.
His sweep through Canada, the United States, Mexico and Japan last year broke sales records and was hailed by Billboard Magazine as the tour of the year.
For Beatles fans unable to get their hands on a concert ticket, a reunion performance by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison filmed in 1994 will be released on DVD in March.
The session was filmed at Harrison's studios at his mansion in Oxfordshire, England and is the only time the three played together after the Beatles split in 1970.
A small segment of the footage was featured in the 1996 Beatles Anthology Video.
John Lennon was shot and killed outside his New York apartment in December, 1980 and Harrison lost a battle with throat cancer in November, 2001.
More recently, McCartney has been involved in a dispute with Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, after he reversed the credits on his latest album from the traditional "Lennon-McCartney" to "By Paul McCartney and John Lennon."
McCartney has said he was not worried about Ono's displeasure at the credit reversal and called the spat a "long-running and rather silly dispute."
See www.paulmccartney.com for a full list of tour dates and prices.
Gina Torres Big Bad on Angel?
LOS ANGELES February 13, 2003 (Zap2it.com) - Fans of "Angel" who were left bewildered by the ending of last Wednesday's (Feb. 12) episode will find out later this season who's been behind all the havoc befalling Los Angeles.
Turns out the Big Bad looks a lot like Gina Torres.
Torres, who starred in "Firefly" earlier this season and appears on "The Agency" Saturday (Feb. 15), has signed to do three episodes of "Angel," according to The Hollywood Reporter. "Firefly," like "Angel," is the brainchild of Joss Whedon.
Her character is described as a "godlike" being who's been the guiding hand behind recent events on the show. That could mean she was the unseen being to whom The Beast made an offering in Wednesday's show, and that she was behind Cordelia's (Charisma Carpenter) turn to the dark side at the close of Wednesday's episode.
In addition to "Firefly," Torres also starred in the syndicated series "Cleopatra 2525" and had a recurring part as Sydney's nemesis Anna Espinosa on ABC's "Alias."
"Angel" returns to The WB on Wednesday, March 5 at 9 PM.
Century City Casts Kristin Lehman
By Melissa Grego
HOLLYWOOD February 18, 2003 (Variety) - Ioan Gruffudd, Eric Schaeffer, Viola Davis and Kristin Lehman are traveling to "Century City," filling four of the six regular roles on the CBS drama pilot.
Gruffudd (A&E's "Horatio Hornblower") will portray a self-critical associate in the law firm at the heart of "Century City," which is set in 2053. Schaeffer ("First Years") will play a pleased-with-himself attorney; Davis ("Antwone Fisher") will portray a partner in and creator of the law firm; and Kristin Lehman will play an associate in the firm.
Kristin Lehman is probably best known to the genre world as Esther Nairn in the "Kill Switch" episode of X-Files and Dr. Sidney MacMillan in the short-lived Strange World series. She also had a recurring role on Judging Amy as Dr. Lily Reddicker.
Pilot casting season began in earnest last week, as major roles also were set for fellow hourlong dramas NBC's "Miss Match" and "EDNY," CBS' "Cold Cases," as well as Fox's half-hour "The Mallards" and WB's hybrid "Here Come the Joneses."
Dick Tracy Returns to Toontown
By Steve Brennan
HOLLYWOOD February 18, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Tough guy Dick Tracy, the cartoon detective who first hit the newspaper comic pages back in 1931, is setting out on new crime-busting adventures in a cartoon series announced by Los Angeles-based animation house Film Roman.
Plans for the animated series have been firmed up under a deal between Film Roman and Classic Media, the New-York-based family entertainment company that is also home to such classic characters as Lassie and Casper the Friendly Ghost.
The new Dick Tracy series will set the square-jawed crime fighter on the trail of a new crop of law-breaking villains and, of course, will feature Tracy's array of detective gadgets, including the famous wrist radio.
Dick Tracy was originally created by Chester Gould in 1931 and went on to become a major franchise for publishing, radio and film in the 1940s and '50s. In 1960, UPA Studios, best-known for its animated characters Mr. Magoo and Gerald McGoing Boing, produced a series of 130 five-minute cartoon television episodes that ran in syndication through the 1990s.
The new series will look to capture the style of the original UPA series, according to an announcement from Classic Media and Film Roman.
Buffy Goes Blair Witch
Hollywood February 14, 2003 (Sci Fi) - Tom Lenk, who plays the nerdy Andrew in UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told SCI FI Wire that the Feb. 25 episode, "Storyteller," will have his character shooting a video documentary of the Scooby Gang.
"The writers call it a Lenk-tastic episode," Lenk said in an interview. "It's all about Andrew documenting everything that happens in the Buffy household. He talks to the camera and whatnot, sort of Blair Witch-style meets Waiting for Guffman." The episode includes Lenk's first-person segments.
"It's a normal Buffy [episode] intercut with lots of video footage," Lenk said.
"So you see the footage of the actual documentary that I'm making, in addition to flashbacks and dream sequences." Lenk added that he's concerned that the audience may not be ready for him to star in an episode. "I am a little concerned that perhaps I'm not funny in large doses. We'll see. It will be the test."
Buffy airs on UPN Tuesdays at 8 PM ET/PT.
Buffy's site - http://www.buffy.com
UPN On The Way Out?
HOLLYWOOD February 18, 2003 (Variety) - Now that UPN has announced plans to drop its afternoon kids block this August, the broadcaster is in danger of being reclassified as a "limited network" by Nielsen Media Research.
Without its Disney-branded afternoon kids lineup, UPN will drop to 13 hours a week (including its Saturday movie and the second run of "Enterprise" offered to affiliates). Nielsen identifies any broadcast network offering more than 15 hours of programming as a full-fledged network. Webs with fewer than 10 hours are labeled as "emerging networks."
Viacom-owned UPN would be rated the same way, but as a "limited network" it would be segregated from full-timers ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the WB, and even Pax, on some Nielsen reports.
"We're in discussions with Nielsen about our reporting status, but the only thing it affects is our classification," UPN spokeswoman Joanna Lowry said. "It's doesn't affect our programming."
Indeed, UPN execs said they're not too concerned about any fallout from being knocked down to limited network status. Webheads even looked on the bright side: With fewer hours to rate, UPN's hefty Nielsen costs will go down.
Two Catwomen Better Than One
HOLLYWOOD February 18, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Former Catwoman Lee Meriwether told TV Guide Online that she will make an appearance in the upcoming CBS movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, but not as Catwoman.
"I was hoping that I would get to play Catwoman along with Frank Gorshin as the Riddler," Meriwether told the site. "But darn it, Julie Newmar was available. My daughter [stuntperson Lesley Aletter] got to be her double, though, so that was cool."
Meriwether will appear in a cameo role as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. She told the site that she has no hard feelings toward Newmar and that there was no animosity on the set.
"Julie and I actually get along just great," Meriwether said. "Besides, we worked on separate days." Return to the Batcave airs on CBS March 9.
A Buffy-less "Buffy"? Have Faith
By Lia Haberman
Hollywood February 11, 2003 (E!) - Sunnydale's gotta have Faith. After all, someone needs to stand guard over the Hellmouth if the city's original slayer, Buffy Summers, decides to call it a day.
A possible Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff with the runner-up slayer was the gist of a recent Sci-Fi Wire interview with Christopher Buchanan, president of Mutant Enemy, which produces Buffy and Angel, published on Friday.
While nothing's been signed in blood, the production prez confirmed the company was in talks with former regular Eliza Dushku to reprise her role as rogue slayer Faith in the untitled spinoff, saying, "I believe that's something that's being bounced around, along with other things, too."
Meanwhile, E! Online's TV maven Kristin confirmed this week that Dushku, who left the series to pursue a movie career (The New Guy anyone?), is currently shooting crossover guests spots for Angel and Buffy this season.
Faith will appear in Hell-Ay opposite Angelus on the WB March 5, 12 and 19.
She then makes the trek over to Sunnydale for a rumored five-episode run, though the UPN wouldn't spill the details.
However, a Web rumor that had Dushku signed to a two-year contract may be premature according to Buchanan. "Certainly, because she's around doing Buffy and Angel, I know there've been discussions," said the Mutant Enemy pres, adding, "We're kind of sitting on our hands until UPN and Fox figure out what they want to do."
In fact, announcing the potential Dushku deal may be premature according to a source close to production, who said, "I don't know why Chris Buchanan would be talking about Eliza and a spinoff...it's something that was actually never viable. Maybe they're hoping that by saying it that will make it true?"
Chosen One Sarah Michelle Gellar, who's put in seven seasons of blood, sweat and more bloodshedding, is not expected to return after her contract expires at the end of this season. She'll reportedly concentrate on her movie career (Scooby-Doo anyone?). Original reports had creator Joss Whedon handing the stake over to Buffy's little sis, Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg).
More recently, E! Online's Kristin reported news of a Faith-based spinoff after a visit to the set of Angel. When asked about her plans next year Dushku said, "Each year, I say I'm going to go to school next year. And it's inevitable that I'll end up getting my education. But I love working--I'm a worker bee at heart. I love coming here. It's such a stimulus."
Dushku joined Buffy and friends in the third season. Together, the double-the-trouble slayers staked their way through Sunnydale's finest bloodsuckers until Faith accidentally killed the town's mortal deputy-mayor and joined the dark side. Faith would later repent but never rejoin the series.
The third season also marked Buffy's bloody graduation from high school and the spawning of spinoff series Angel, now in its fourth season on the WB. Buffy moved to the UPN after its fifth season in 2001.
Fans of the unrequited lovers separated by destiny and networks will get a chance to see some more crossover action this season as Alyson Hannigan returns to the WB March 19 for a special Angel episode. The move has fueled a rumor that rival netlets UPN and the WB are finally ready to bury their stakes and allow Buffy's undead dreamboy Angel to make an appearance on what could be the series' final episode in May.
Buffy's site - http://www.buffy.com
Chiller Theatre - Spring 2003 Expo
HOLLYWOOD February 18, 2003 (eXoNews) - On April 25-27, 2003, the masterminds of Chiller Theater will be throwing their Spring Expo somewhere in the depths of New Jersey. If you live in that area you might be old enough to remember when horror host Zacherley hosted the infamous Chiller Theater on TV, but no matter how old you are this Expo had something for you.
Invited guests include Julie Adams, David Carradine, Angela Cartwright, Mark Goddard, Virginia Hey, Kane Hodder, Marta Kristen, June Lockhart, Carol Lynley, Pamela Sue Martin, Larry Matthews, Bill Mumy, Andrew Robinson, Cynthia Rothrock, Soupy Sales, John Saxon, Angus Scrimm, Liz Sheridan, Stella Stevens, Dee Wallace Stone, Tony Todd, Yvette Vickers and Zacherley himself!
[Liz Sheridan was Seinfeld's mom and Larry Matthews was Ritchie on Dick Van Dyke. Ed.]
The following guests have confirmed so far: Jonathan Breck (Jeepers Creepers), Soupy Sales, Yvette Vickers (Attack of the 50-Ft. Woman), Yvonne Craig (Batgirl), Musetta Vander (The Cell), Jeremy Bullock (Boba Fett), Linnea Quigley, John Saxon (Nightmare on Elm Street), Andrew Robinson (DS9 and Hellraiser).
There will be a memorial tribute to the late Jonathan Harris with original Lost In Space cast members Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Angela Cartwright, Bill Mumy and (AKA Lassie's mom) June Lockhart.
This year's Expo will also feature a Poseidon Adventure Reunion with guest actresses Pamela Sue Martin, Stella Stevens and Carol Lynley
For all the info, check out the Chiller Theater site at http://www.chillertheatre.com