The Mummy's Hand!
Nuclear Waste Threat, Cosmic Rays,
Galactic News! Shrinking Ice Fields!
Spielberg's Close Encounter & More!
Mummy News!
The Mummy's Hand!

BROOKVILLE NY October 22, 2002 (AP) - When a severed human hand arrived in his mailbox, Bob Brier wasn't horrified or shocked. He thought it might be something cool to bring to work. 

Brier is a professor of Egyptology and a renowned mummy expert, and the hand was a gift from a woman whose father had purchased it in 1926 in Egypt from locals touting it as an ancient mummified hand. 

On Monday, Brier and his students at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University took the hand to the school's radiologic technology lab to determine whether the hand was real or fake. 

The verdict? Brier has a hand between 2,000 and 3,000 years old on his hands. 

But that wasn't all he was able to determine. 

Due to the lack of growth plates, or growing tissue near the ends of the bones, Brier said the hand belonged to an adult -- not a child as he'd originally suspected. It was probably a woman, due to the hand's small size. The woman was well fed, since the bones showed no signs of malnutrition. And she was wealthy: The fingernails had the ancient version of a manicure -- painted with henna. 

"You can learn a lot from a mummy," Brier said. 

The hand was one of two bought by an American student, Merrill S. Tope, near the Valley of the Kings for what would be about 7 cents in today's currency.

Tope's daughter, Marilyn Tope Doolen, found one of the hands last year. She was a fan of Brier from his work on The Learning Channel and sent it to him when he expressed interest. 

The hand will now stay in the collection of Long Island University. Carbon dating of the linen it was wrapped in could tell its precise age, and the school's chemistry students might test a bit of the resin to determine what tree it came from. 

Stephanie Hitchcock, a freshman taking Brier's "Ancient Egyptian Thought" class, said Brier "is so enthusiastic about his work it makes you want to learn more and put a lot of hard work in." 

Still, she admitted picking up the mummified hand "was a little spooky." 

While the mummy's hand is not a significant scientific find, Brier said it was important for the access he was able to provide his students to an exciting historical project. 

"The fun thing is trying to figure out clues about life in ancient Egypt," Brier said. "It's a bit of a detective story. This is another little piece of the puzzle." 

Long Island University:

Mummy Hides Greek Poetry
By Marianne Kunnen-Jones

October 21, 2002 (University of Cincinnati News Release) - During the second century B.C., a mummy-maker took a scroll of poetry and used it as stuffing for a corpse. The roll of papyrus remained hidden inside the mummy's chest cavity until its rediscovery in the early 1990s. Today, what was once treated like trash survives as the oldest surviving example of a Greek poetry book, as well as an important source of information about the past.

To glean as many clues from this ancient scroll as possible, the University of Cincinnati Department of Classics is calling together an international array of scholars Nov. 7-9. More than 60 experts in the fields of papyrology, Hellenistic and Roman literature, art history and image studies, and Ptolemaic history will gather at the Vernon Manor for "The New Posidippus" conference analyzing this new artifact. 

Organized by Kathryn Gutzwiller, UC professor of classics and an expert on Greek poetry, the symposium takes its name from the scroll's author, Posidippus, a third century B.C. poet from Pella, Macedonia. "I knew that it would be important to assess the papyrus from a variety of perspectives," said Gutzwiller. She contacted scholars and asked them to spend the year prior to the conference preparing their assessments. 

Two Italian scholars at the University of Milan worked in consultation with a Cambridge University scholar to publish the first look at the scroll in 2001. That volume was published in Italian by Guido Bastianini, Claudio Gallazzi and Colin Austin. 

The UC conference represents the first public gathering of scholars in the United States to examine the scroll.

Prior to the scroll's discovery, scholars knew of only two of the brief poems, or epigrams, on the papyrus, and both were attributed to Posidippus, who was known prior to the new scroll as the author of more than 20 other epigrams. The new scroll, held by the University of Milan (Italy), contains 110 new Posidippus poems, in addition to the two already known. 

All of the new poems take the form of epigrams, which are Gutzwiller's specialty. But Gutzwiller notes that the Milan papyrus has significance far beyond the world of epigrams. Scholars know nothing of the mummy and its origin, because it is privately held. The scroll, however, is organized into nine surviving sections: stones, omens, dedications, grave epitaphs, statues, horse racing, shipwrecks, cures and character/manners. According to Gutzwiller, the scroll offers the most significant discovery of previously unknown Greek literature in decades. The new scroll also "constitutes our earliest surviving example of a poetry book," she said. "It was elegantly constructed, a deluxe edition."

It is remarkable for its length, its excellent state of preservation and for the information it provides about how poetry was arranged on papyrus rolls at this early period.

The scroll sheds new light on history, especially women's history. Posidippus wrote his poems for the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, who inherited that portion of Alexander the Great's kingdom after his death. In the dedications section, epigrams celebrate the cult worship of a queen who was regarded as a goddess after her death. In the racing section, Posidippus praises three Ptolemaic queens for their success in owning horses that won races throughout the Greek world.

The scroll also provides documentation about art history. The statue section makes references to Polycleitus, Myron and Lysippus, three of the best-known Greek sculptors.

Here is an example of one of the epigrams: 

Lysippus, Sikyonian sculptor, daring hand, learned artisan,
your bronze statue has the look of fire in its eyes,
that one you made in the form of Alexander. The Persians deserve
no blame. We forgive cattle for fleeing a lion.

The scroll is particularly intriguing to Gutzwiller because it provides proof of a thesis she first espoused in her book, "Poetic Garlands: Hellenistic Epigrams in Context" (1998).

The book, which won an award from the American Philological Association, argued that Greek epigrams had been placed in "collections" or scrolls of poetry as far back as the third century B.C. 

"Today we take collections of poetry for granted, but literature didn't appear in that form until after 300 B.C.," said Gutzwiller. "Before that, poetry was mostly performed as song." The poetry of Sappho, for example, was mostly sung and performed orally. Poetry books, like this one by Posidippus, were designed for reading, and that was new. 

Most Greek literature has come down to us by being copied and re-copied in manuscripts over a period of centuries, Gutzwiller said. Papyri from Egypt are our only source of new texts of Greek literature, and significant finds of this type are very rare. Most papyri are just scraps containing only bits of text, Gutzwiller said.

"This is the better part of a whole scroll," she said. "We think we have the beginning and most of the scroll, although some poems at the end are missing."

Humans Fill 83 Per Cent of the Planet!
NEW YORK October 22, 2002 (Wildlife Conservation Society) - Human beings now directly influence more than three quarters of the earth's landmass, according to a state-of-the-art map of the world produced by a team of scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN).

Published in the latest issue of the scientific journal BioScience, the map should serve as a wake-up call that humans are stewards of the natural world, whether we like it or not – something that should be viewed as an opportunity, the authors say.

The map adds together influences from population density, access from roads and waterways, electrical power infrastructure, and land transformation such as urbanization and agricultural use. It reveals that 83 percent of the land's surface is under human influence, while a staggering 98 percent of the area where it is possible to grow rice, wheat or maize is directly influenced by human beings. At the same time, wide swaths of land still remain wild, including: the northern forests of Alaska, Canada and Russia; the high plateaus of Tibet and Mongolia; and much of the Amazon River Basin.

According to WCS and CIESIN, wild areas can still be found in all the ecosystems on the land's surface, though some on a much smaller scale. Called the "last of the wild," the authors look at these less-influenced areas as opportunities for conservation of wild places all over the world.

"The map of the human footprint is a clear-eyed view of our influence on the Earth. It provides a way to find opportunities to save wildlife and wild lands in pristine areas, and also to understand how conservation in wilderness, countryside, suburbs, and cities are all related," said the paper's lead author Dr. Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist with WCS. "The map should be looked at as a blueprint for individuals, institutions and governments to understand our current influence on the planet and figure out ways to lessen the negative impacts, while enhancing the positive ways that people interact with the environment." 

The authors of the study also gave numerical scores to various areas around the world; the lower the number, the lesser the degree of human influence. Many of the world's largest cities, including New York, Beijing, Calcutta, etc. received the highest scores. But the authors of the study say that even among areas under heavier human influence, there are still opportunities for wildlife, pointing to examples like the progress made in restoring the Hudson River, and in India, where tigers share their landscape with one billion people.

"This map can be used to set specific targets for action," according to data specialist Marc Levy of CIESIN. "What can't be measured can't be managed--with this map we have an important management tool, a basis for scientific measurement of anthropogenic influences on nature."

"The two lessons of the human footprint are this: we need to conserve the last of the wild, because they are places where all the parts of nature are more likely to remain, and where conflicts with human infrastructure are least; and we need to transform the human footprint, so nature can still be nurtured everywhere, including in more heavily influenced areas. We can do both and nature is often resilient, if given half a chance," said Sanderson.

This study also vividly illustrates the application of geographic information systems (GIS) technology as a way of integrating diverse geographic data to reveal new patterns in a persuasive way.

This work was only possible because of increased access to global datasets on roads, land use, and human population density in recent years.

This work was supported by grants from the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) at Columbia University, and in-kind support from the ESRI Conservation Program.

Download the full size map - 

Nuclear Waste Could Be Bomb Threat!
By Dan Vergano

Los Alamos October 21, 2002 (USA Today) - Weapons scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory say the amount of a common nuclear waste, the radioactive element neptunium, needed to create atomic bombs is significantly less than expected.

Coming amid last week's disclosure of a North Korean nuclear weapons program and fears of nuclear terrorism worldwide, the find raises concerns about reactor waste being fashioned into bombs. "There's plenty of it out there," Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark says.

Found inside spent nuclear reactor fuel rods, neptunium lies between uranium and plutonium on chemistry's periodic table. The Los Alamos researchers found that the amount of the material needed to reach "critical mass," the point just before a nuclear chain reaction occurs, is about 25% less than believed.

The research, a 12-year effort, was conducted as part of the Energy Department's nuclear security program.

In the experiment led by Rene Sanchez and David Loazia of the lab's Advanced Nuclear Technology group, scientists remotely brought two halves of a neptunium sphere closer together over four days to learn at what point a reaction would begin.

Overall radioactivity was limited, and atomic fission, the chain reaction that occurs in atomic bombs, did not occur during the experiment.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) instituted a voluntary monitoring system for neptunium in 1999 after public disclosure of its potential as a bomb material. Americium, another reactor waste product, also could serve as weapons material and is monitored by the same voluntary system, although the agency views it as less of a threat.

The voluntary system cannot assure the world that neptunium isn't being diverted to secret bomb projects, says Michael Levi of the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C. "Certainly this contains loopholes that need to be closed." Of particular worry, he says, neptunium can be fashioned into some atomic bomb designs more easily than plutonium. In addition, the new research suggests that nuclear reactor operators can underestimate the radioactivity of the neptunium in fuel rods, posing a safety concern.

Determining the actual amount of neptunium needed to reach a critical mass also tells "non-proliferation" nuclear watchdogs when they have to worry, Roark says: "It helps weapons scientists interested in non-proliferation know who to watch."

Levi called for an increase in the watchdog budget of the IAEA, a U.N.-chartered agency, to make monitoring of neptunium and americium mandatory. "I doubt anyone with pure intentions would resist more monitoring," Levi says.

The agency's regular budget last year was $230 million.

Watchdog Slams Ottawa Toxic Sites
OTTAWA October 22, 2002 (CP) — Federal officials are all but ignoring ticking environmental time bombs at more than 3,600 toxic sites and 17 abandoned mines under their care, warns Canada's environment watchdog.

The government is also failing to monitor toxic chemicals in the blood, breast milk and urine of Canadians, says Environment Commissioner Johanne Gelinas. Nor is it adequately screening the estimated 25,000 industrial chemicals and 6,000 pesticides being used in Canada, Gelinas says in a scathing report today.

Untallied health and environmental costs are racking up across Canada as neglected waste leaches arsenic, cyanide and other noxious brews into soil and groundwater, the report says.

Ottawa is saddling future generations with the fallout "by failing to deal in a timely manner with contaminated sites in its own backyard," Gelinas says.

Thirteen years after the state of federal sites was red-flagged, Ottawa still can't say exactly how many are contaminated. There is also no ranking of the worst cases according to risk; no long-term, stable funds have been earmarked for cleanups; and the government has no action plan.

Ottawa spends just $3 per Canadian each year, about $100 million, to clean up and manage contaminated sites under its care, the report says. The environment commissioner, who has no legal power to order government action, urges Ottawa to take leadership, draft an action plan and commit the funds required. That bill will cost billions, Gelinas says.

A key recommendation — that Environment Canada should develop a clear requirement for federal agencies to clean up or contain their toxic sites — was rejected by the department.
Bush's Anti-clean Water Administration
WASHINGTON DC October 18, 2002 (Earthjustice) - Since taking office, the Bush administration has already weakened or is in the process of weakening several key regulations designed to protect and clean up the nation’s waters. These anti-clean water policies threaten the health of families, communities, and wildlife said a spokesperson for the non-profit environmental law firm Earthjustice. Today, October 18, is the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. 

"The Bush administration is pursuing plans to dismantle significant portions of the Clean Water Act just as the law turns 30," said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice. "From gutting the program that guides the cleanup of polluted waters, to eliminating a 25-year old ban on dumping mining and other industrial wastes into wetlands and streams, to abandoning the national ‘no net loss of wetlands’ goal, this administration’s actions pose the greatest threat to the nation’s waters in three decades." 

"The Clean Water Act has had many successes, but 30 years after embarking on this program to make all of the country’s waters clean enough to swim and fish in, a whopping 45 percent of waters are still too dirty to comply," said Mulhern. "Congress and the public need to tell the Bush administration to cleanup these polluted waters instead of redesigning new rules that will make the other 55 percent dirtier." 

Their latest and perhaps most far reaching proposal to date, said Mulhern, was announced on September 19 when EPA and Army Corps of Engineer officials testified before a House committee that they have decided to reconsider what waters should be protected under the Clean Water Act at all. The agencies said they now question whether tributaries of navigable waters, streams that periodically dry up, and wetlands next to these waters should receive Clean Water Act protections. Such waters have been covered by the Clean Water Act since 1972 and by the law’s implementing regulations since 1975. 

Administration officials claim that the new rulemaking is a response to a January, 2001 Supreme Court decision concerning "isolated" wetlands and subsequent lower court rulings concerning streams and wetlands. "Neither the Supreme Court ruling nor the majority of lower court rulings have suggested that any such weakening of Clean Water Act authority is warranted, let alone the sweeping proposal announced by the Bush administration," said Mulhern. "The Court’s decision opened a crack in the door, but the Bush administration is kicking the door down." 

"No other president in the last 30 years – Republican or Democrat – has ever proposed such a significant cutback to Clean Water Act protections," Mulhern added. "The goal of the Act – to make all of the nation’s waters safe for fishing, swimming, and other uses – cannot be met if the majority of waters are cut out of the law’s scope." 

"Polluting industries are circling Clean Water Act like sharks, each taking a few bites," said Mulhern. "Unfortunately, the Bush administration is all too eager to feed the frenzy by giving them whatever they want. At this rate, soon there may not be enough left of the Clean Water Act to save the nation’s precious and irreplaceable water resources."o
Cosmic Rays Linked to Clouds
By Alex Kirby 
BBC News Environment Correspondent 

Germany October 19, 2002 (BBC) - German scientists have found a significant piece of evidence linking cosmic rays to climate change. They have detected charged particle clusters in the lower atmosphere that were probably caused by the space radiation. 

They say the clusters can lead to the condensed nuclei which form into dense clouds. 

Clouds play a major, but as yet not fully understood, role in the dynamics of the climate, with some types acting to cool the planet and others warming it up. The amount of cosmic rays reaching Earth is largely controlled by the Sun, and many solar scientists believe the star's indirect influence on Earth's global climate has been underestimated. 

Some think a significant part of the global warming recorded in 20th Century may in fact have its origin in changes in solar activity - not just in the increase in fossil-fuel-produced greenhouse gases. 

The German team, from the Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, used a large ion mass spectrometer mounted on an aircraft. They say their measurements "have for the first time detected in the upper troposphere large positive ions with mass numbers up to 2500". 

They conclude: "Our observations provide strong evidence for the ion-mediated formation and growth of aerosol particles in the upper troposphere." 

The scientists report their findings in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. They support the theory that cosmic rays can influence climate change and affect cloud albedo - the ability of clouds to reflect light. 

The importance of clouds in the climate system is described by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, at the UK's University of East Anglia (UEA). It says: "Clouds strongly influence the passage of radiation through the Earth's atmosphere. They reflect some incoming short-wave solar radiation back into space and absorb some outgoing long-wave terrestrial radiation: producing cooling and warming effects, respectively." 

And UEA's Climatic Research Unit spells out the complexity of clouds' role in climate change. It says: "The cloud feedback may be large, yet not even its sign is known. Low clouds tend to cool, high clouds tend to warm. High clouds tend to have lower albedo and reflect less sunlight back to space than low clouds. Clouds are generally good absorbers of infrared, but high clouds have colder tops than low clouds, so they emit less infrared spacewards.

"To further complicate matters, cloud properties may change with a changing climate, and human-made aerosols may confound the effect of greenhouse gas forcing on clouds. Depending on whether and how cloud cover changes, the cloud feedback could almost halve or almost double the warming." 

Many scientists agree that the Earth's surface appears to be warming, while low atmosphere temperatures remain unchanged. 

Research published last August suggested the rays might cause changes in cloud cover which could explain the temperature conundrum. 

The discrepancy in temperatures has led some scientists to argue that the case for human-induced climate change is weak, because our influence should presumably show a uniform temperature rise from the surface up through the atmosphere. Although researchers have proposed that changes in cloud cover could help to explain the discrepancy, none had been able to account for the varying heat profiles. 

But the study suggested that cosmic rays, tiny charged particles which bombard all planets with varying frequency depending on solar wind intensity, could be the missing link.

Genre News: Buffy, Brothers Grimm, Spiderman, Superman, Drew in Oz & More!
Fans Find Buffy Stealth Site 

Hollywood October 22, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Christopher Buchanan—president of Mutant Enemy, the production company behind UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer—told SCI FI Wire that alert fans quickly discovered a sly Web site connected with last week's seventh-season episode, "Help." In the episode, a Sunnydale High student, Cassie Newton (Azura Skye), put up a Web site with her poetry and artwork.

Producers of the show, at the urging of creator Joss Whedon, actually created Newton's site and posted it without fanfare on the Web, where it remains. The episode's writer, Rebecca Rand Kirshner, composed the poetry and created the art that appears on the site, based on her own teenage journals.

"Joss said, 'Well, could we put up a site, not affiliated with the official Buffy site or anything, but just, like, this is a teenage girl's site that she put up on Geocities. Very simple,'" Buchanan said in an interview. "And we didn't really publicize it. There was no link on the Buffy site. It was just kind of something we did for fun. Three of the writers were having a chat on one of the fan sites and mentioned just to check it out. ... By the time the show aired, ... some of the fans already knew about it. But 5 million people saw it, and all of a sudden, it just went crazy. We've had almost 200,000 hits. ... I get with alarming frequency things saying, 'You've exceeded your data transfer limits. For $5, you can have another 500 megabytes.' But it's been a lot of fun. The thing that's been amazing to me is, we put a basic guest book on there. ... I think it allows 50 entries. It has filled up 30 times. ... And we have so many e-mails, ... we've been returning the e-mails in Cassie's voice, and we're 100 behind. ... It's just been a blast."

Buchanan said that the site will remain live as long as possible. "The thing about it I loved was, we did things like, when we registered the domain, we registered it as Cassie Newton, and ... of course, the fans are like, 'We notice that she lives on 13 Shadow Lane [in Sunnydale].'"

Buchanan added that Whedon et al may employ similar sites in the future. "I think we will do it where need be," he said. "It's been a great experience. It's just been a lot of fun. And the fans really, really love it. And that's what Joss cares about. ... We've been talking about doing it for, maybe, who knows, maybe Dawn [Michelle Trachtenberg] has her own Web site. Or we do something with [Whedon's new Fox SF show] Firefly in a slightly different kind of vibe." Buffy airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

[In case fans were worried, Sci Fi also reports that Firefly is still in production. According to Sci Fi: "Joss Whedon, creator of Fox's new SF series Firefly, will direct the 11th episode, which goes into production the week of Nov. 4, a production spokesman told SCI FI Wire. " The cast wasn't working Wednesday, though. Captain Mal Reynolds gave fans a v-sign from the stands during game three of the World Series in San Francisco. Firefly airs on Fox, Fridays at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Ed.] - 

Official Buffy Site -

Official Firefly site - 

Terry Gilliam Gets Grimm 
By Chris Gardner

Hollywood October 23, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Terry Gilliam is returning to the fantastical world of fairy tales and adventure that he explored in "Time Bandits" and "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," signing on to develop with an eye to direct "Brothers Grimm" for MGM and Mosaic Media Group.

A spring production start is being targeted. "Grimm" -- in development for nearly two years at MGM -- is a fictional action-adventure tale about folklore collectors and brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, called Jake and Will in this version.

While traveling from village to village pretending to protect townsfolk from enchanted creatures, they encounter a real sorceress with terrifying powers and are put to the test.

The project is described as mixing the adventure of the Indiana Jones films with the humor of "Shrek."

Is Your Name Peter Parker? Get a Free Spiderman DVD!

Hollywood October 18, 2002 (Cinescape) - HALF.COM announces a Peter Parker Pricing promo pre-order package for SPIDER-MAN DVDs. It's simple: If your name is Peter Parker, HALF.COM will give you the DVD free, plus a $25 gift certificate.

If your last name is Parker (as in, oh, May Parker), you get the disc only, also free. If your first name is Peter, you get a $5 discount on the $10.99 disc or $6.99 VHS. 

Got that? Great! The offer runs from November 1st to December 1st, and you'll have to fax proof of identity over, which may adversely impact your secret identity. Maybe Aunt May should handle this.


Hopkins Succeeds Brando As Jor-El 

Hollywood October 21, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Director Brett Ratner, who is tapped to helm a new Superman movie, confirmed to the Dark Horizons Web site that Anthony Hopkins will play the Man of Steel's Kryptonian dad, Jor-El.

"He did such a good Brando impression for me, I said I got to get this guy to play the father of Superman," Ratner said, referring to Marlon Brando, who played Jor-El in 1978's original Superman movie. Ratner added that Hopkins signed on two weeks ago. Ratner said that no one is under consideration for the title role yet, despite speculation to the contrary.

As for the script, which is being blasted on the Internet, Ratner said:

"I trust my instincts. ... A script is a script. It's not a movie. It's my interpretation of it, and I think they're reading like old drafts or something. I just got the new draft yesterday. That was hand-delivered by, like, a guy with a gun."

Dead Zone's Flanery in ABC Western 
By Nellie Andreeva

Hollywood October 18, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Then came Sean Patrick Flanery. The actor has been cast as the title character in ABC's midseason one-hour pilot "Then Came James," a period Western drama from writer-producers Chris Brancato and Bert Salke and Touchstone Television.

The project, set at the turn of the 20th century, centers on Ben Jones (Flanery), who, in a series of strange plot twists, becomes the sheriff of the border town of El Paso, Texas. Jesus Garcia is in negotiations to play El Fuego, Jones' best friend.

Flanery is recurring on the USA Network's "The Dead Zone" and the WB Network's "Charmed." He is best known for his roles in the features "Powder," "Suicide Kings" and "Boondock Saints." He is repped by the Gersh Agency and the Firm.

Drew Returns to Oz as Dorothy

Hollywood October 22, 2002 (Cinescape) - VARIETY reports that producer Robert Kosberg (COMMANDO, TWELVE MONKEYS) will produce three movies for Bungalow 78 Productions, one of which will be SURRENDER DOROTHY, a sequel to THE WIZARD OF OZ for Warner Bros., Atlas Entertainment and Flower Films.

Drew Barrymore (CHARLIE’S ANGELS, DONNIE DARKO) is set to star. 

WILD PITCH will be produced for Revolution Studios and Apostle Films, with Adam Sandler (8 CRAZY NIGHTS, LITTLE NICKY) in the starring role. 

THE HARDY MEN will be produced in association with Ben Stiller’s (ZOOLANDER, SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) Red Hour films for Fox 2000.

No star has been attached.

Cartoon Network Expands 'Adult Swim'

LOS ANGELES October 22, 2002 ( - The Cartoon Network will soon expand its "Adult Swim" block of animation for grown-ups (in age, anyway) to five nights a week.

Starting Sunday, Jan. 12, the two-hour block of comedies and Japanese anime will air at 11 p.m. ET Sunday through Thursday. Adult Swim currently airs only on Sundays and Thursdays.

At the same time, "Futurama" will makes its Cartoon Network debut as part of the block. The cable channel recently acquired rights to all 72 episodes of the Emmy-winning series (it returns to FOX Nov. 10), which will air at 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

"Since we began Adult Swim, the goal was to build it into an across-the-schedule franchise," says Jim Samples, Cartoon Network's executive vice president and general manager. "Now we have the depth in our Adult Swim programming portfolio to make it happen." 

Sunday's lineup will be devoted to comedies, with "The Oblongs" at 11 p.m., "Mission Hill" at 11:30 and "The Ripping Friends" at midnight. The 12:30 a.m. slot will feature a rotation of Cartoon Network originals "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," "Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law," "The Brak Show" and "Sealab 2021." 

In addition to "Futurama," the weeknight slate features "Home Movies" at 11:30, "InuYasha" at midnight and "Cowboy Bebop" at 12:30 a.m.o

Galactic News!
Clouds Found Above Milky Way


October 20, 2002 - New studies with the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) have revealed a previously unknown population of discrete hydrogen clouds in the gaseous halo that surrounds the Milky Way Galaxy. These clouds were discovered in the transition zone between the Milky Way and intergalactic space, and provide tantalizing evidence that supernova-powered "galactic fountains" continually blast superheated hydrogen gas into our galactic suburbs.

Extending far above the star-filled disk of the Milky Way is an atmosphere, or halo, of hydrogen gas. "By studying this halo, we can learn a great deal about the processes that are going on inside our Galaxy as well as beyond its borders," said Jay Lockman, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia. "It has remained a mystery, however, how this halo formed and what has prevented gravitational forces from collapsing the gas into a thin layer long ago." 

Some astronomers have speculated that this gas is distributed as a diffuse mist held up by either magnetic fields or cosmic rays streaming out of the plane of the Milky Way. Others believed that it is made of innumerable long-lived hydrogen clouds bobbing up and down like balls tossed by a juggler. 

Early observations with other telescopes discovered that there was some neutral hydrogen gas floating far above the Galaxy's plane, but these instruments were not sensitive enough to reveal any structure or resolve questions about its origin. 

Lockman's studies for the first time show a clear picture of the structure of the gas. Rather than a mist, the halo is in fact full of discrete clouds, each containing 50-to-100 solar masses of hydrogen and averaging about 100 light-years in diameter. "These objects were just below the ability of the older telescopes to detect," said Lockman, "but I looked with the GBT, and they popped right out." Lockman's results will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. 

The clouds were discovered about 15,000 light-years from Earth toward the center of our Galaxy, and about 5,000 light-years above the Galaxy's plane. 

One of the most compelling facts revealed by the GBT is that the clouds are coupled dynamically to the disk of the Galaxy; that is, they follow along with the rotation of the rest of the Milky Way. Material from other sources crashing into the Milky Way would have different velocities and also appear quite different. "These are home grown objects, and not interlopers from outside our own Galaxy," said Lockman.

Although the origin of these newly discovered clouds is not yet known, one mechanism to explain how this gas could be lifted into the halo is through supernova explosions. When a massive star reaches the end of its life it erupts in a cataclysm that produces a burst of cosmic rays and an enormous expanding bubble of gas at a temperature of several million degrees Celsius. Over time, this hot gas can flow outward into the Milky Way's halo.

The question remains, however, what happens to this gas once it's ejected into the halo. One possibility is that it leaves the Galaxy as a wind, never to return. Some astronomers predict, however, that as the gas slowly cools it would condense into hydrogen clouds, eventually falling like raindrops back into the Milky Way, and forming what is referred to as a galactic fountain.

"If the clouds were formed by material ejected from the Galactic plane into the halo," Lockman said, "then it's possible that they are now falling back onto the Galaxy. This would then require a continuing flow of new material from supernova explosions into the halo to replenish the hydrogen gas that has rained back into the disk." 

The researcher comments that further observations, now in progress, should clarify the properties of these halo clouds, determine their distribution throughout the Galaxy, show how they are related to other types of clouds, and reveal their internal structure. 

Radio telescopes are able to detect the naturally occurring radio emission from neutral atomic hydrogen. As hydrogen atoms move about in space, they can absorb small amounts of energy, sending the atom's single electron to a higher energy state.

When the electron eventually moves back to its lower energy -- or resting state, it gives up a small amount of electromagnetic radiation at radio frequencies.

The individual energy of a single atom is very weak, but the accumulated signal from vast clouds of hydrogen is strong enough to be detected by sensitive radio telescopes on Earth. 

The GBT, dedicated in August of 2000, is the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope. Its 100 by 110 meter dish is composed of 2004 individually hinged panels. It also has a unique offset feed arm, which greatly enhances the performance of the telescope, making it ideal for observations of faint astronomical objects.

The GBT is completing its commissioning and early science program and will be moving into full time operation.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement with Associated Universities, Inc.

Black Hole in the Milky Way

Germany October 17, 2002 (Globe and Mail UK) - An international team of astronomers says it has found the first direct proof that a supermassive black hole exists at the centre of our galaxy.

The dark heart (not even light escapes it) of the Milky Way has a mass up to 3.7-million times that of the sun, researchers reported in today's edition of the British journal Nature. Its powerful gravitational pull sucks in dust and gas and even stars that come too close.

The researchers reached that conclusion after using new imaging technology to document the extraordinarily fast orbit of a star, known as S2, that appears close to being drawn into the black hole and disappearing.

For years, researchers have been amassing indirect evidence that a black hole lurked 26,000 light years from us at the galaxy's centre. Viewed from Earth, that area of the Milky Way appears in the southern constellation Sagittarius. They called the dark area Sagittarius A. Although they suspected it was a black hole, they weren't sure. It might have been a collection of dense stars or a large concentration of particles.

Direct proof came when the team led by researchers from the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany used new optical-imaging technology to document the fast-moving star, S2, whipping around the dark centre of the galaxy in a 15-year orbit.

The researchers were able to see the star and measure its orbit because of the new technology now in use at the world's largest optical telescope in Chile (at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal site) provided them the sharpest and deepest pictures ever taken of the Milky Way's centre.

They say their measurements rule out the possibility that anything but a black hole could be exerting that kind of gravitational pull on the orbiting star.

"The new measurements . . . leave little doubt of the presence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy in which we live," the researchers said in a press release. "No event like this has ever been recorded."

Karl Gebhardt, an astronomy professor at the University of Texas, agrees that the only compelling explanation for the star's orbit is the existence of a gigantic black hole. He was not part of the team that made the discovery, but wrote a commentary about it for Nature.

"It is the most remarkable thing. We've been talking about black holes for a couple of decades without having any direct proof. About five years ago, we had a name, MDO, or massive dark object, because we didn't want to use the term black hole . . . it wasn't a sure thing." The MDO term never caught on, and now astronomers can abandon it.

Black holes are one of the least understood forces in the universe, even though they may be at the heart of all the galaxies in the universe. How they form is still a mystery.

They may start as a "seed black hole," formed when a star like our sun runs out of fuel and collapses. The hole may then grow bigger as it swallows dust and gas. The discovery announced today could lead to a clearer and more detailed picture of the universe, and our galaxy in particular. While black holes do absorb matter that comes too close, it is a mistake to imagine them as the vacuum cleaners of the universe, Prof. Gebhardt said.

"If you fall [too close to] . . . the black hole, you are lost forever. But if you are outside . . ., you can orbit it happily."

That means that S2, although close to the Milky Way's black hole, is safe for now, unless it gets knocked off its orbit by a collision with another star.

Shrinking Ice Fields and Global Warming
Ohio State University News Release

Columbus OH October 17, 2002 - A detailed analysis of six cores retrieved from the rapidly shrinking ice fields atop Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro shows that those tropical glaciers began to form about 11,700 years ago.

The cores also yielded remarkable evidence of three catastrophic droughts that plagued the tropics 8,300, 5,200 and 4,000 years ago.

Lastly, the analysis also supports Ohio State University researchers’ prediction that these unique bodies of ice will disappear in the next two decades, the victims of global warming. These findings were published today in the journal Science.

Lonnie Thompson, professor of geological sciences at Ohio State and leader of an expedition in 2000 to retrieve these cores, called Kilimanjaro’s ice fields "stagnant" and said they are "wasting away."

Thompson and his colleagues retrieved six cores from the mountain two years ago after his team spent more than a month camped at a drill site above 19,300 feet. After a logistical nightmare requiring the hiring of 92 porters and obtaining 25 official permits, the team returned 215 meters (705 feet) of frozen ice core to the freezers at the university’s Byrd Polar Research Center.

One key to dating the core came with the finding of a chemical marker in the ice -- a spike of the isotope chlorine-36, a radioactive remnant of nuclear bomb testing in 1951-52. The same spike appears in cores the team had retrieved from both South America and China, and this allows them to calibrate the historic records trapped in the ice.

Clues from the cores suggest a much different, far wetter landscape near Kilimanjaro 9,500 years ago than exists there today. Thompson said that at that time, Lake Chad, now the fourth-largest body of water on the African continent with an area of about 17,000 square kilometers today, covered some 350,000 square kilometers – an area larger than the Caspian Sea.

The analysis of the core showed a 500-year period beginning around 8,300 years ago when methane levels preserved in polar ice cores dropped dramatically. "We believe that this represents a time when the lakes of Africa were drying up," Thompson said, adding that the methane levels would register the extent of the wetlands thriving in the tropics.

The cores showed an abrupt depletion in oxygen-18 isotopes that researchers believe signals a second drought event occurring around 5,200 years ago. This cool, dry event coincides with the period when anthropologists believe people in the region began to come together to form cities and social structures. Prior to this, the population of mainly hunters and gatherers had been more scattered.

The third marker is a visible dust layer in the ice cores dating back to about 4,000 years ago. Thompson believes this marks a severe 300-year drought which struck the region. Historical records show that a massive drought rocked the Egyptian empire at the time and threatened the rule of the Pharaohs.

Until this time, Thompson said, people had been able to survive in areas that are now just barren Sahara Desert.

Last year Thompson initially predicted in a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science that Kilimanjaro’s ice fields would vanish within 15 years. More recent evidence is reinforcing this prediction. By using global positioning from satellites, aerial maps and an array of stakes placed on the ice cap, the researchers were able to confirm that the volume of the glacier is shrinking as well.

"We found that the summit of the ice fields has lowered by at least 17 meters (nearly 56 feet) since 1962," Thompson said. "That's an average loss of about a half-meter in height each year."

They were also able to show that the margin of the Northern ice field had retreated more than 2 meters since 2000. "That's more than 2 meter's worth of ice lost from a wall 50 meters (164 feet) high –- that’s an enormous amount of ice."

Automated weather stations on the summit of Kilimanjaro and on the lowlands nearby now provide scientists with the ability to monitor local conditions in the region. Thompson says that with another major El Nino event expected soon, "what happens on the mountain will be very interesting to watch."

"Whatever happened to cause these dramatic climate changes in the past, could certainly occur again," he said. "But today, 70 percent of the world’s population lives in the tropics. They would be dramatically affected by events of this magnitude. We have to find out what causes them to happen."

Along with Thompson, other members of the research team include Ellen Mosley Thompson, professor of geography, Victor Zagorodnov, Henry Brecher, Mary Davis, Keith Henderson, Ping-Nan Lin, Tracy Mashiotta, Vladamir Mikhalenko, Douglas Hardy and Jurg Beer.

The project was supported in part by a grant from the Earth System History Program of the National Science Foundation.

Byrd Polar Research Center - 

Earth System History Program - 

National Science Foundation - 

Ancient DNA Still Protects Us
By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Baltimore October 22,2002 (BBC) - A complex DNA protection system that evolved hundreds of millions of years ago so that the first primitive organisms could protect themselves is still at work today, according to American researchers. This ancient self-defense mechanism turned primeval genetic invaders' tricks against them and incorporated them into useful cell functions. 

The repair mechanism ensures that any foreign genetic material that has been inserted into the cell's DNA by a virus is neutralized before being passed on to the next generation. Scientists believe that a similar mechanism inspects and protects the DNA of higher animals such as humans and that the details of the process may be useful in fighting viruses. 

"This is exciting research that provides new understanding of how cells control the activity of their genes," says Joseph Gall, a cell biologist at the Carnegie Institution in Baltimore. "This work shows once again that basic research on a seemingly obscure topic - how a minute pond organism reproduces - can throw light on important medical issues such as viral infection." 

Professor Martin Gorovsky of the University of Rochester discovered the DNA repair mechanism while looking at a single-celled organism called Tetrahymena, which contains two nuclei, the region of a cell where DNA is stored. The researchers looked at how the cell transfers its genetic code from one of its nuclei to one in its offspring monitoring each step as the cell inspected its DNA and passed it on. 

They discovered a hitherto unrecognized system of checks used to ensure the organisms DNA has not become contaminated before it goes to the next generation. 

Tetrahymena houses different versions of its DNA in each of its two nuclei. The smaller nucleus (called the micronucleus) does nothing more than keep the cell's full genome safe. It seems that Tetrahymena uses the smaller of its two nuclei as a master record of its DNA so that it always has a safe set of genes for the cell's offspring.

The other nucleus, called the macronucleus, uses "working" DNA to regulate the cell's life functions. 

Gorovsky's team believes that in evolutionarily ancient times, cells had to fight against a variety of assaults just as they must today: viruses attacked cells, injecting their DNA to disrupt normal cell functions; and transposons, bits of nomadic genetic material that insert themselves into the cell's DNA causing havoc. To survive, cells evolved a correction system that recognized the invading DNA and either eliminated or silenced it. 

This new information could help scientists devise a way to develop drugs that would recognize invading viruses and neutralize their effects.
Plane-sized Bird Spotted in Alaska?
ANCHORAGE, Alaska October 18, 2002 (Reuters) - A bird the size of a small airplane was recently spotted flying over southwest Alaska, puzzling scientists, the Anchorage Daily News reported this week. 

The newspaper quoted residents in the villages of Togiak and Manokotak as saying the creature, like something out of the movie "Jurassic Park," had a wingspan of 14 feet -- making it the size of a small airplane. 

"At first I thought it was one of those old-time Otter planes," the paper quoted Moses Coupchiak, 43, a heavy equipment operator from Togiak, as saying. "Instead of continuing toward me, it banked to the left, and that's when I noticed it wasn't a plane." 

The Daily News, the largest daily in Alaska, said scientists had no doubt that people in the region, west of Dillingham, had seen the winged creature but they were skeptical about its reported size. 

"I'm certainly not aware of anything with a 14-foot wingspan that's been alive for the last 100,000 years," the paper quoted raptor specialist Phil Schemf as saying. 

Coupchiak said the bird disappeared over the hill and he then radioed Togiak residents to tell them to keep their children in. 

Another local resident, a pilot who had initially dismissed the reports, said he recently saw the bird from a distance of just 1,000 feet while flying his airplane. 

"The people in the plane saw him," John Bouker was quoted as saying. "He's huge, he's huge, he's really, really big. You wouldn't want to have your children out." 

Schemf and Rob Macdonald of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said there had been several sightings over the past year and a half of a Steller's eagle, a fish-eating bird that can weigh 20 pounds (10 kg) and have a wingspan of eight feet, the newspaper reported.
Asteroid is Earth's Little Brother
By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor

Canada October 21, 2002 (BBC) - Astronomers have discovered the first object ever that is in a companion orbit to the Earth. Asteroid 2002 AA29 is only about 100 metres wide and never comes closer than 3.6 million miles to our planet. 

But it shares the Earth's orbit around the Sun, at first on one side of the Earth and then escaping to travel along our planet's path around the Sun until it encounters the Earth from the other side. Then it goes back again. 

Researchers are speculating that 2002 AA29 could be visited by astronauts or used to understand the threat to our planet posed by such rocks from space. 

2002 AA29 was discovered by the linear automated sky survey project on 9 January 2002. Martin Connors of Athabaseca University in Canada writes in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science that it, "moves in a very Earth-like orbit," and is the "first true co-orbital object of Earth." 

General Simon Worden of the United States Space Command described it as a "near Earth object that is close to being trapped by the Earth as a second natural satellite". 

According to Helena Morais of the University of Lisbon and Allesandro Morbidelli of the University of Nice, writing in a paper to be published in the journal, Icarus: "2002 AA29 seems to be in a temporary horseshoe-like orbit with the Earth." 

This puts 2002 AA29 is in the same class as 3753 Cruithne, a similar rocky body in a horseshoe orbit around the Earth. But astronomers classify 2002 AA29 as the first real co-orbital body found associated with the Earth because it more completely shares the Earth's path around the Sun. 

Co-orbiting asteroids have been found around other planets. Over 1,200 so called "Trojans" have been found moving either ahead or behind Jupiter. Eight such objects have been found associated with Mars. But despite detailed searches no one has yet found any Trojan objects near the Earth.

It is clear that 2002 AA29 was discovered by accident at a time when it was at one end of its horseshoe orbit and, being at its closest to the Earth, was bright enough to be detected in an automated sky survey. 

Detailed observations of its trajectory through space show that 2002 AA29 will reach its minimum close approach to the Earth - 12 times the distance between Earth and the Moon - at 1900 GMT on 8 January 2003.

Thereafter it will travel ahead of the Earth moving faster than our planet does, until after 95 years it will catch up with the other side of the Earth and then reverse its motion. 

Analysis of 2002 AA29's motions have revealed a remarkable event that happens to it every few thousand years. In 550AD, and again in 2600AD and 3880AD, for a while it will become a true satellite of our planet, in effect Earth's second moon, although technically it will remain under the gravitational control of the Sun. 

It remains a second moon to Earth for about 50 years until it escapes. 

Although only about 100 meters across 2002 AA29 may play a role in the manned exploration of space out of all proportion to its size. Already researchers are speculating that it could be visited by an unmanned spaceprobe or even become the first object after the Moon to be stepped on by astronauts. The object could tell us a lot about the composition of asteroids. 

Some have speculated that it could be nudged into a permanent Earth orbit where it could be studied at greater length.

Spielberg's Close Encounter
By Josh Grossberg
E! Online

Hollywood October 21, 2002 (E! Online) - File this one under close encounters of the wrong kind. Steven Spielberg asked for and received a restraining order last week against a California woman who not only was allegedly stalking the E.T. director, but also claimed the filmmaker implanted a mind-control device inside her brain. 

Court papers filed by Spielberg's attorneys and obtained by allege that 47-year-old Diana Louisa Napolis posed "a serious risk of violent confrontation" with the filmmaker, after the woman announced her intention to try and contact Spielberg at a movie premiere. 

According to the legal documents, the Spielberg camp says Napolis suffers from a delusional disorder that necessitated the restraining order. 

Spielberg's security staff said the woman penned a 13-page manifesto accusing the Oscar winner and wife Kate Capshaw of being members of a "satanic cult" who gathered in their basement lair to spy on Napolis' meet-and-greets with E.T.s. Napolis also reportedly complained that Spielberg put a microchip in her brain called a "soul catcher" designed to control her. 

The New York Post reports that Napolis called Spielberg's office announcing plans to go public with her allegations. She also admitted passing out flyers at the September 19 premiere of The Tuxedo in Los Angeles and outside the Latin Grammy Awards stating Spielberg was acting like Big Brother and "monitoring a woman [Napolis] who had a devastating encounter with extraterrestrials." 

Included in the court filing was a statement by Spielberg in which he said he viewed Napolis' bizarre behavior as "alarming and threatening." 

"I am concerned for my safety and security and for the safety and security of my family and others around me," Spielberg said, adding that "to state the obvious, I am not involved with any form of manipulating Ms. Napolis' mind or body through remote technology or otherwise." 

Through her attorneys, Napolis rejected claims that she wanted to hurt the director. 

But she didn't convince the court. Considering Napolis had a prior record (a 2001 arrest in San Diego for unlawfully discharging a firearm and an alleged altercation involving another actress), a Los Angeles Superior Court judge agreed that she was a "credible threat" and granted the request of the 55-year-old director. The judge barred Napolis from coming within 150 yards of Spielberg, his family and his offices. 

Spielberg is old hand at avoiding whackos. In February, Spielberg obtained a restraining order against 30-year-old Christopher Richard Hahn, who was arrested in January for allegedly sneaking onto the Universal Studios lot hoping to meet the movie mogul in his DreamWorks compound and get discovered as an actor. Instead, he got discovered by security guards and wound up behind bars. 

In 1998, a judge sentenced a man named Jonathan Norman to 25 years to life in prison for devising a sick plan to rape the filmmaker and hold his family hostage. 

Spielberg's reps refused to comment on this latest incident. When not dealing with crazies, the filmmaker's busy gearing up for the release of his latest flick, the Leonardo DiCaprio -Tom Hanks action-comedy Catch Me If You Can, due out this Christmas.

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