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The Nanomachines!
Aral Sea Doomed, Dolphin News,
No Nessie? Gravity Anomalies!
Maps of Mars Water
& More!
The Rise of The Nanomachines!

Economic & Social Research Council Press Release

July 28, 2003 - Nanotechnology is an emerging range of technologies in which medicine and engineering meet physics and chemistry. Nanotechnology supporters claim that the machines and materials it may produce will mean faster computers, less pollution and cheaper energy, and longer and healthier lives.

Critics, however –from Prince Charles to Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton – fear that nanomachines could run amok and turn the surface of the Earth into an uninhabitable morass. Environmentalists also question the safety of nanoparticles.

The debate, like that on genetically modified food, is noisy but often uninformative. Before the technology has even emerged, the debate has largely become polarized into utopian and dystopian visions.

In a report published today (28th July 2003), a team at the University of Sheffield funded by the Economic and Social Research Council investigates the scientific reality behind nanotechnology, and looks at the hopes and the fears that it raises – and provides a sober assessment of the possibilities that will help both sides of the debate.

The Social and Economic Challenges of Nanotechnology is the result of collaboration between a social scientist and a natural scientist: Professor Stephen Wood of the ESRC Centre of Innovation and Organisation (COI), and Professor Richard Jones of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, with Alison Geldart (COI), all at the University of Sheffield.

It describes the emerging atom-by-atom science of nanotechnology and discusses the sweeping social and economic changes it might bring.

The word nanotechnology has been used to refer to everything from mundane, here and now applications, like stain-resistant trousers, to the most speculative extrapolations, such as self-replicating nano-robots. The report carefully distinguishes between what these technologies are delivering now, what may be possible in the future, and what is likely to remain beyond the bounds of feasibility.

The role of social science in nanotechnology's development should be more than one of smoothing the path for its acceptance.

Social science can help construct the lens (or lenses) through which we see nanotechnology, and understand its implications so these can be anticipated and incorporated into development.

Nanotechnology is also an opportunity to investigate broader themes, such as an evaluation of the drivers behind the technology development process, how society deals with risks under uncertainty, and issues of inequities and economic divides.

Easily readable, the report serves as a primer for those wanting to know what nanotechnology means.

For those already engaged in the technology, boosters and doubters alike, it will become a major reference.

The Social and Economic Challenges of Nanotechnology, by Professor Stephen Wood and Professor Richard Jones, is available from the ESRC online at

Aral Sea Doomed!
ESA Press Release

July 28, 2003 - Earth’s youngest desert is shown in this July MERIS satellite image of the Aral Sea in Central Asia (second photo below.) Once the fourth largest lake in the world, over the last 40 years the Aral Sea has evaporated back to half its original surface area and a quarter its initial volume, leaving a 40,000 square kilometer zone of dry white-colored salt terrain now called the Aralkum Desert.

As its water level has dropped 13 meters since the 1960s the Sea has actually split into two – the larger horseshoe-shaped body of water and a smaller almost unconnected lake a little to its north. This Small Aral Sea is the focus of international preservation efforts, but the Large Aral Sea has been judged beyond saving (the shallowness of its eastern section is clear in the image). It is expected to dry out completely by 2020.

Towards the bottom right can be seen the sands of the Qyzylqum Desert. Already stretching across an area greater than Italy, this desert is set to extend further west in future, eventually merging with its younger Aralkum sibling. The distinctive darker area to the south of the Large Aral Sea is the delta of the Amu Darya river. Its waters support environmentally-unique tugai forests found only in Central Asia, along with land used for rice and cotton cultivation.

The grey area seen in the otherwise whitish zone between the two arms of the Large Aral Sea was once Vozrozhdeniye ('Rebirth') Island, the isolated site of biological warfare experimentation during the Cold War, now joined to the mainland and freely accessible by foot. In reaction to this development, a US-led international team last year moved in to destroy remaining anthrax stocks.

Located on the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Aral Sea shows what happens when the concept of sustainable development is disregarded. Starting in the 1960s, the waters of the two rivers feeding the Sea – the Amu Darya, seen south, and the Syr Darya to the northwest – were diverted by Soviet planners to irrigate thirsty cotton fields across the region. By the 1980s there was little water reaching the lake and it began to shrink.

For local people the results have been disastrous. The Aral Sea's retreating shoreline has left ports landlocked and boats stranded on dry sand. Commercial fishing was forced to halt twenty years ago. The few remaining fishermen commute by car to the water's edge. The waters that remain grow increasingly saline so only salt-resistant fish imported from elsewhere can endure them. Wildlife habitats have been destroyed and communities find themselves without clean water supplies.

The retreat of the waters has also altered the regional microclimate. Winters are colder and the summers hotter. Each year violent sandstorms pick up at least 150,000 tons of salt and sand from the dried-up lakebed and transport it across hundreds of kilometers.

The sandstorms are tainted with pesticide residue and have been linked to high regional rates of respiratory illnesses and certain types of cancer. The salty dust does harm to livestock pastures and has even been linked with melting glaciers up in the distant Pamir Mountains, on the Afghanistan border.

Back in the days of the USSR, planners spoke casually of diverting Siberian rivers to save the Aral Sea. Today that certainly will not happen. Instead Central Asian governments have come together to establish the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. But their economies are too dependent on cotton exports to end all irrigation.

The Small Aral Sea is still thought to be savable, and several dikes have been constructed to cut it off from the Large Aral Sea – preventing water loss and salt contamination - but shifting water levels have so far defeated these efforts. The channel connecting the two should soon dry up anyway, preserving the Small Aral Sea at least. Meanwhile researchers are studying the salty Aralkum Desert – effectively the newest land surface on Earth – to see how best to promote plant growth and stabilize the dusty dry lakebed.

European Space Agency -

Hamburger Disease?

McGill University Press Release

July 29, 2003 - A research study, testing a new treatment for hamburger disease, was launched today at The Montreal Children's Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). The study conducted by investigators from the Research Institute of the MUHC and from The Children's, will test the ability of this treatment to stop disease progression in children.

"Hamburger disease", or hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), affects more than 3 000 North Americans annually and is one the leading causes of acute and chronic kidney failure in children. It usually occurs following a gastrointestinal infection caused by a strain of bacteria called E.coli O157:H7.

This bacterium has been associated with eating undercooked ground beef and drinking contaminated water, unpasteurized milk, or apple juice. The organism was involved in the Walkerton epidemic several years ago.

"Currently, there is no effective treatment for HUS," says MUHC pediatrician and lead investigator Dr. Paul Goodyer. "Approximately, ten percent of E.coli-infected patients, many of whom are children, develop HUS. About half of the HUS patients require dialysis and even with comprehensive medical care four to five percent of these patients will die. Thirty percent to fifty percent of the survivors will develop long-term complications such as chronic kidney disease and nervous system disorders. Clearly, we need treatment for this disease."

The MUHC is one of six Canadian centres testing this new treatment. The treatment involves administrating an antibody to the toxin produced by E.coli O157:H7. "We expect that this antibody will inactivate the toxin in the bloodstream at an early enough stage to prevent damage to kidneys and brain," says MUHC emergency room physician and co-investigator Dr. Dominic Chalut.

Children seen at the Montreal Children's Hospital Emergency Department who have bloody diarrhea for less than 72 hours and whose stools test positive for E.coli O157:H7 are eligible for the study. Following administration of the treatment, blood and urine samples will be taken and disease progression will be assessed. The children will be followed for a total of four months.

Dolphin News!

EU Plans Dolphin-friendly Baltic
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Environment Correspondent

UK July 23, 2003 (BBC) - The waters of northern Europe should soon be safer for dolphins, thanks to a European Union plan. It proposes extending the driftnet ban from the Atlantic to the Baltic. Boats in some EU waters will have to fit audible warnings to their nets, and carry onboard observers.

Thousands of dolphins and porpoises - known scientifically as cetaceans - die annually in EU waters after becoming accidentally trapped in fishing nets.

An EU driftnet ban came into force in 2002. It applies to all boats fishing in EU waters, and to all EU boats in any waters - but only to those catching named species, including tuna and swordfish.

Driftnets in the Baltic, used mainly to catch salmon, will now be included.

The proposals, being published by the European Commission on 24 July, would: initially limit the length of driftnets used in the Baltic to 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles), before phasing them out completely by 1 January 2007 oblige boats in some areas to use "pingers" (acoustic deterrent devices) on their nets to scare away dolphins, porpoises and other small cetaceans introduce a compulsory scheme of shipboard observers to monitor cetacean bycatch.

The UK fisheries covered by the proposed pinger rule include the English Channel, the Celtic and the North seas.

The proposals now have to secure the approval of EU fisheries ministers and the European Parliament.

Glyn Ford, the Labour MEP for the South West of England, said: "By tackling the Baltic sea, the EU is targeting one of the biggest problem areas.

"Clearly we have concerns that the driftnet ban should go wider, but we will have the information from the onboard monitors to make that case if necessary. We are talking about driftnets the size of football pitches, scooping up everything in their way. Dolphins use sonar to hunt and avoid obstacles, even in the dark.

"Yet despite this sophisticated navigation system, thousands die each year when they become entangled in fishing nets. In my own region, over 200 dolphins and porpoises were found dead around the coast in Devon and Cornwall between January and March this year. That's averaging two a day."

Many of these fatalities are thought to have been caused by trawl nets, often towed by pairs of boats.

The European fisheries commissioner, Franz Fischler, who is proposing the new rules, is well aware they will be strongly contested by some member states. His office says that because of "the high political sensitivity of the cetacean bycatch problem, this proposal will certainly lead to intensive debate in [the Fisheries] Council and European Parliament."

Mark Simmonds, of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), told BBC News Online: "The involvement of the European Commission in this problem is very good.

" But it would be wrong to think the pingers are going to be silver bullets. They work on some nets, but not all. And with them there's a danger of turning parts of the sea into dolphin exclusion zones, just fish production areas. But anything that takes us in the direction of observers on boats must be right, and we welcome that."

Mexican Aquatic Park Denies Dolphin Deaths
By Veronica Gaymer
Associated Press

CANCUN, Mexico July 25, 2003 (AP) — A Cancun aquatic park opened its doors to environmentalists on Thursday, allowing them to examine 28 dolphins brought from the Solomon Islands amid an international uproar over animal rights.

Sara Rincon, one of the environmentalists allowed into Parque Nizuc, told reporters the three sea corrals holding the mammals were too small. The activists also complained several dolphins appeared to be in shock because they were hardly moving.

Officials for Mexico's federal environmental agency said they met the plane that brought the dolphins Tuesday and all 28 had survived.

Environmental groups, including Greenpeace, have repeatedly insisted more than 30 dolphins were actually loaded onto the plane and that two were seen being pulled dead from the sea shortly after arriving in Cancun.

However, Rincon and others said photos of the allegedly dead dolphins were not clear enough to offer as proof.

Activists and the Australian government had asked Mexico to block the dolphins' arrival. But officials from the Mexican environmental protection agency said Parque Nizuc had met all legal requirements.

At a news conference in Mexico City on Thursday, Greenpeace continued to maintain the dolphins were imported illegally, saying officials failed to get proper authorization from the Solomon Islands.

Irene Blanco, of Mexico's federal comptroller's office, said she was investigating environmentalists' complaints the government violated its own laws and regulations. She said her report was expected in 15 days.

Over the past five years, ethnic conflicts have devastated the Solomon Islands, an impoverished South Pacific state of nearly 500,000, and a multinational intervention force arrived Thursday to try to restore order.

On Thursday, Greenpeace demanded the Mexican government seize the dolphins and send them back to the Solomon Islands, even though activists had earlier derided the long plane trip as a danger to the animals.

Activists argue the dolphins could spread disease to other marine life off the coast of Cancun and should be in their natural habitat.

"It is appalling that Mexican authorities are involved in the looting of nature and the trafficking of species," said Greenpeace's director in Mexico, Alejandro Calbillo.

Parque Nizuc is one of several Cancun attractions that charge tourists $100 or more to swim with dolphins.

The park said it plans to train the new dolphins over the next four months to interact safely with humans.

Most large water parks, including those in the United States, use only dolphins they breed in captivity. But the growing popularity of parks that allow tourists to swim with dolphins has encouraged some parks to seek captured animals.

While some visitors to Parque Nizuc said they didn't mind the new additions, Julie Pritchett of Mobile, Ala., said she refused to go to the park because they held dolphins in captivity.

"All animals should be free," she said.

Judge Finds EPA in Contempt
By John Heilprin
Associated Press

WASHINGTON July 25, 2003 (AP) — A federal judge held the Environmental Protection Agency in contempt Thursday for destroying former EPA chief Carol Browner's computer files, which were being sought by a conservative legal foundation.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled the EPA should be held in civil contempt and pay the Landmark Legal Foundation's legal fees and costs because the agency disobeyed his order to preserve the electronic records. The judge ordered the sanctions because he said the EPA had shown "contumacious conduct," or obstinate resistance to authority.

But Lamberth also ruled in the EPA's favor to essentially put the underlying issue in the case to rest, saying the agency had done all it could to search for and produce all the documents it possessed after some of them were destroyed.

Landmark also wanted Lamberth to hold Browner, two other EPA officials and the U.S. Attorney's Office in contempt, but the judge disagreed because he said they didn't have advance notice of his court order.

No one at the EPA or Landmark was immediately available for comment Thursday. Browner's attorney, Robert Trout, said his client had merely wanted to ensure her work computer was appropriately formatted for her successor in the Bush administration.

"We're pleased with Judge Lamberth's decision," Trout said. "As we've made clear from the outset, and as the facts plainly showed, there was never any basis whatsoever for Landmark's motion for contempt as to Ms. Browner."

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the foundation in September 2001 sought documents about the EPA's contacts with outside groups during the last months of the Clinton administration.

Lamberth issued a protective order on Jan. 19, 2001, the day before the Clinton administration ended, instructing the EPA to preserve all documents that might be relevant to the request by Landmark.

"Despite the court's order, the hard drives of several EPA officials were reformatted, e-mail backup tapes were erased and reused, and individuals deleted e-mails received after that date," Lamberth wrote.

Browner had testified she asked a technician to delete her computer files the same day Lamberth ordered them preserved. But the former EPA administrator said she usually didn't use her computer for work or e-mail, hadn't been notified about the court order, and had just wanted to remove some computer games her son had installed on her work computer.

Early on during the Bush administration, the EPA acknowledged it had wiped clean the computer files from Browner and other top staff despite Lamberth's order. The agency disclosed that in February and March 2001, the computer hard drives of several Clinton-era EPA officials had been reformatted, and between Jan. 19 and late April 2001, the e-mail backup tapes for their work computers — which are normally preserved for 90 days — had been erased and reused.

"These hard drive reformattings and e-mail backup tape erasures were contumacious. EPA does not dispute that they occurred. Therefore, EPA acted in contempt of the court's order," Lamberth wrote.

Lamberth noted the EPA had made some "too-little too-late efforts" to obey his order, including an EPA inspector general's investigation that succeeded in recovering some material from the reformatted hard drives. But the judge said a contempt finding was appropriate to show wrongdoing and prevent similar behavior in the future.
No Nessie?

Loch Ness July 27, 2003 (BBC) - A BBC team says it has shown there is no such thing as the Loch Ness monster. Using 600 separate sonar beams and satellite navigation technology to ensure that none of the loch was missed, the team surveyed the waters said to hide Scotland's legendary tourist attraction but found no trace of the monster.

Previous reported sightings of the beast led to speculation that it might be a plesiosaur, a marine reptile which died out with the dinosaurs.

The team was convinced that such an animal could have survived in the cold waters of Loch Ness, despite the normal preference of marine reptiles for sub-tropical waters.

The researchers looked at the habits of modern marine reptiles, such as crocodiles and leatherback turtles, to try to work out how a plesiosaur might have behaved.

They hoped the instruments aboard their search boat would pick up the air in Nessie's lungs as it reflected a distorted signal back to the sonar sensors.

The team did find a buoy moored several meters below the surface as a test for the equipment, but, in the end, no Loch Ness monster.

"We went from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom on this one, we have covered everything in this loch and we saw no signs of any large living animal in the loch," said Ian Florence, one of the specialists who carried out the survey for the BBC.

His colleague Hugh MacKay added: "We got some good clear data of the loch, steep sided, flat bottomed - nothing unusual I'm afraid.

"There was an anticipation that we would come up with a large sonar anomaly that could have been a monster - but it wasn't to be."

The BBC team says the only explanation for the persistence of the myth of the monster is that people see what they want to see.

To prove this, the researchers hid a fence post beneath the surface of the loch and raised it in front of a coach party of tourists.

Interviewed afterwards, most said they had observed a square object but several drew monster-shaped heads when asked to sketch what they had seen.

The television program detailing the investigation, Searching For The Loch Ness Monster, was made for BBC One.

Loch Ness Webcam -

Tight Neckties Linked to Glaucoma Risk

LONDON July 28, 2003 (Reuters) - Men should think twice about how tight they wear a necktie because it could increase their chances of developing glaucoma, a group of serious eye diseases.

Research reported in the British Journal of Ophthalmology on Tuesday showed that a tight necktie raises blood pressure in the eye, which is a leading risk factor in the illness that can lead to damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision.

"A tight necktie increases IOP (intraocular pressure) in both normal subjects and glaucoma patients and could affect the diagnosis and management of glaucoma," said Dr Robert Ritch of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in the United States.

Ritch and his colleagues tested IOP of 20 healthy men and 20 who suffered from glaucoma while they were wearing an open-neck shirt, before putting on a tight necktie and three minutes after loosening it.

Their results showed that 60 percent of the men with glaucoma and 70 percent of the healthy volunteers had an increased eye pressure after wearing a tight necktie.

In addition to raising the risk of glaucoma, donning a tight necktie during an eye examination could lead to a false diagnosis of the illness.

The researchers suspect that a tight necktie constricts the jugular vein, which increases blood pressure and IOP.

The risk of glaucoma, which affects about three million people in the United States alone, increases with age.

Gravity Anomalies!

University of Texas Press Release

July 21, 2003 - The joint NASA-German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission has released its first science product, the most accurate map yet of Earth's gravity field. Grace is the newest tool for scientists working to unlock secrets of ocean circulation and its effects on climate.

Created from 111 days of selected Grace data, to help calibrate and validate the mission's instruments, this preliminary model improves knowledge of the gravity field so much it is being released to oceanographers now, months in advance of the scheduled start of routine Grace science operations. The data are expected to significantly improve our ability to understand ocean circulation, which strongly influences weather and climate.

Dr. Byron Tapley, Grace principal investigator at UT's Center for Space Research, called the new model a feast for oceanographers. "This initial model represents a major advancement in our knowledge of Earth's gravity field. "Pre- Grace models contained such large errors many important features were obscured.

Grace brings the true state of the oceans into much sharper focus, so we can better see ocean phenomena that have a strong impact on atmospheric weather patterns, fisheries and global climate change."

Grace is accomplishing that goal by providing a more precise definition of Earth's geoid, an imaginary surface defined only by Earth's gravity field, upon which Earth's ocean surfaces would lie if not disturbed by other forces such as ocean currents, winds and tides.

The geoid height varies around the world by up to 200 meters (650 feet).

"I like to think of the geoid as science's equivalent of a carpenter's level, it tells us where horizontal is," Tapley said. "Grace will tell us the geoid with centimeter-level precision."

So why is knowing the geoid height so important? JPL's Dr. Lee-Lueng Fu, scientist on Topex/Poseidon and Jason project said, "The ocean's surface, while appearing flat, is actually covered with hills and valleys caused by currents, winds and tides, and also by variations in Earth's gravity field. "Scientists want to separate out these gravitational effects, so they can improve the accuracy of satellite altimeters like Jason and Topex/Poseidon, which measure sea surface height, ocean heat storage and global ocean circulation. This will give us a better understanding of ocean circulation and how it affects climate."

Dr. Michael Watkins, Grace project scientist at JPL, put improvements to Earth's gravity model into perspective. "Scientists have studied Earth's gravity for more than 30 years, using both satellite and ground measurements that were of uneven quality. "Using just a few months of our globally uniform quality Grace data, we've already improved the accuracy of Earth's gravity model by a factor of between 10 and nearly 100, depending on the size of the gravity feature. In some locations, errors in geoid height based upon previous data were as much as 1 meter (3.3 feet). Now, we can reduce these errors to a centimeter (0.4 inches) in some instances. That's progress."

Dr. Christoph Reigber, Grace co-principal investigator at GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, said, "As we continue to assess and refine Grace's instruments and subsystems, we're confident future monthly gravity solutions will be even better than the map we're releasing now. "Those solutions will allow us to investigate processes associated with slow redistribution of mass inside Earth and on its land, ocean and ice surfaces. Our initial attempts to identify such small gravity signals with Grace look very promising."

Grace senses minute variations in gravitational pull from local changes in Earth's mass by precisely measuring, to a tenth of the width of a human hair, changes in the separation of two identical spacecraft following the same orbit approximately 220 kilometers (137 miles) apart. Grace will map the variations from month to month, following changes imposed by the seasons, weather patterns and short-term climate change.

Grace is a joint partnership between NASA and the German Aerospace Center. The UT Center for Space Research has overall mission responsibility. GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam is responsible for German mission elements. Science data processing, distribution, archiving and product verification are managed under a cooperative arrangement between JPL, UT, and GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam.

For more information, visit: or

Model images are at:  and; and

Giant Seafloor Vents 30,000 Years Old

WASHINGTON July 25, 2003 (AP) — A collection of giant seafloor hot vents is thousands of years old and may be the type of place where life first developed on Earth, a new study suggests.

Located in the mid-Atlantic about 1,500 miles off the U.S. East Coast, the collection of towering vents discovered in 2000 has been nicknamed the Lost City.

Water coming out of the vents is heated by chemical reactions rather than the volcanic action seen at the better-known hot smoker vents that have been studied in the past, according to the research team led by Gretchen L. Fruh-Green of Switzerland's Institute for Mineralogy and Petrology.

Their findings are reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

The Lost City type of vents may be conducive to life because their fluids are less acidic and are rich in organic compounds, compared to the well-known black-smoker vent systems heated by volcanism, the researchers said. In addition, the water from these vents ranges from 105 degrees to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to 700 degrees at volcanic vents.

While the Lost City system, estimated to be 30,000 years old, is the only one of its type currently known, many others could exist, the researchers say.

The fact that hot vents can occur without volcanic activity means they can exist in many more parts of the ocean, increasing the areas where microbial life could have formed, the researchers said.

Some of the vents are 18 stories tall, dwarfing the volcanically heated vents seen elsewhere. Water circulates through the vents by heat from serpentinization, a chemical reaction between seawater and the rock on which Lost City sits.

"It's difficult to know if life might have started as a result of one or both kinds of venting," Deborah Kelley, a University of Washington oceanographer and co-author of the Science paper, said in a statement, "but chances are good that these systems were involved in sustaining life on and within the seafloor very early in Earth's history."

National Science Foundation -

New Maps of Mars Water!
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory Press Release

LOS ALAMOS NM July 24, 2003 - "Breathtaking" new maps of likely sites of water on Mars showcase their association with geologic features such as Vallis Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system.

The maps detail the distribution of water-equivalent hydrogen as revealed by Los Alamos National Laboratory-developed instruments aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. In an upcoming talk at the Sixth International Conference on Mars at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, Los Alamos space scientist Bill Feldman and coworkers will offer current estimates of the total amount of water stored near the Martian surface. His presentation will be at 1:20 p.m., Friday, July 25.

For more than 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. The new color maps are available at

"The new pictures are just breathtaking, the water-equivalent hydrogen follows the geographic features beautifully," said Feldman. "There's a lane of hydrogen-rich material following the western slopes of the biggest volcanoes in the solar system, a maximum reading sits right on Elysium mons, and another maximum is in the deepest canyon in the solar system."

The new maps combine images from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on the Mars Global Surveyor with Mars Odyssey spectrometer data through more than half a Martian year of 687 Earth days. From about 55 degrees latitude to the poles, Mars boasts 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 heated 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.

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, 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."

In fact, a team of Los Alamos scientists has begun a research project to interpret the Mars Odyssey data and their ramifications for the history of Mars' climate. The project is funded through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program - which funds innovative science with a portion of the Laboratory's operating budget - and seeks to develop a global Martian hydrology model, using vast amounts of remote sensing data, topography maps and experimental results on water loading of minerals.

Members of the Planetary Science team at Los Alamos working with Feldman on the Odyssey project include Bruce Barraclough, David Bish, Dorothea Delapp, Richard Elphic, Herbert Funsten, Olivier Gasnault, David Lawrence, G. McKinney, Kurt Moore, Robert Tokar, Thomas Prettyman, David Vaniman and Roger Wiens as well as Sylvestre Maurice of the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (France), S.W. Squyres of Cornell University, and Jeff Plaut of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Los Alamos' neutron spectrometer, a more sensitive version of the instrument that found water ice on the moon five years ago, is one component of the gamma-ray spectrometer suite of instruments aboard Odyssey. W.T. Boynton of the University of Arizona leads the gamma-ray spectrometer team.

The neutron spectrometer looks for neutrons generated when cosmic rays slam into the nuclei of atoms on the planet's surface, ejecting neutrons skyward with enough energy to reach the Odyssey spacecraft 250 miles above the surface.

Elements create their own unique distribution of neutron energy - fast, thermal or epithermal - and these neutron flux signatures are shaped by the elements that make up the soil and how they are distributed. Thermal neutrons are low-energy neutrons in thermal contact with the soil; epithermal neutrons are intermediate, scattering down in energy after bouncing off soil material; and fast neutrons are the highest-energy neutrons produced in the interaction between high-energy galactic cosmic rays and the soil.

By looking for a decrease in epithermal neutron flux, researchers can locate hydrogen. Hydrogen in the soil efficiently absorbs the energy from neutrons, reducing their flux in the surface and also the flux that escapes the surface to space where it is detected by the spectrometer. Since hydrogen is likely in the form of water-ice at high latitudes, the spectrometer can measure directly, a yard or so deep into the Martian surface, the amount of ice and how it changes with the seasons.

The Los Alamos expertise in neutron spectroscopy stems from longtime nuclear nonproliferation work at the Laboratory, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. The ability to measure and detect signatures of nuclear materials is a vital component of the Laboratory's mission to reduce the threats from weapons of mass destruction.

Mars Odyssey was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in April 2001 and arrived in Martian orbit in late October 2001. During the rest of the spacecraft's 917-day science mission, Los Alamos' neutron spectrometer will continue to improve the hydrogen map and solve more Martian moisture mysteries.

Los Alamos National Laboratories -

Genre News: BuffyFest, Sex Pistols, Bruce Campbell, Fellini, Orson Welles, Bob Hope, Nip/Tuck & More!

BuffyFest 2003!
By FLAtRich

San Diego July 28, 2003 (eXoNews) - The organizers of BuffyFest 2003 say that the con will be a Buffy and Angel fiesta where the devoted can meet cast members, authors and "scholars of the BuffyVerse."

Activities will include costumes and role-playing (I wanna be the dog-faced demon!)

Exhibits will include the wonderful world of Buffy commercialization and fan artists. There will be theatrical workshops for slayers in training and an evening rock concert.

The blow-out will occur in San Diego (rumored to be a Hellmouth, BTW) at the San Diego Concourse on October 11, 2003 from 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Order now and it will only cost you $30, or wait until the last minute and pay $50.

No matter, as the event is a charity affair with profits to go to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, The Breast Cancer Fund, The Renfrew Center, Women for Women International, Girls' Inc., and Sanctuary.

Participating cast members have not been announced, but you can watch for them at:

BuffyFest 2003 -

Most New Fox Series Wait for Baseball
By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES July 24, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Fox has set fall premiere dates for its prime-time schedule, with most new series launching after the end of the baseball season in late October and early November.

Meanwhile, after running repeats of "Cupid" on Tuesday for two weeks, CBS is moving its summer matchmaking reality series permanently from the Wednesday 10 p.m. to the Tuesday 9 p.m. slot, beginning Aug. 5. "48 Hours Investigates" will take over the Wednesday 10 p.m. time period starting Aug. 6.

The first original episode of "Cupid" in its new berth on Aug. 5 will face the series premiere of the Fox drama, "The O.C.," which is getting an early start as part of the network's summer rollout experiment. The show's premiere in its regular Thursday 9 p.m. time slot is slated for Oct. 30.

The second new scripted Fox series to debut before the break for the network's coverage of the Major League Baseball post-season is the comedy "Luis," which will launch with the rest of the Friday lineup -- including returning series "Wanda at Large" and "Boston Public" -- on Sept. 26.

Fox's Monday night, which includes the second installment of "Joe Millionaire" and the new drama "Skin," is set to premiere Oct. 20, while the rest of the nights will launch the week of Oct. 27.

[Fox killed at least two potential hit series last season - Firefly and John Doe - by launching and then preempting during the World Series. Ed.]

Fox Fall Preview -

Sex Pistols Ready to Bring Anarchy to U.S.A.
By Ray Waddell

NASHVILLE TN July 27, 2003 (Billboard) - Never mind the bollocks. Can the Sex Pistols sell tickets?

"That's a good question," says Jim Glancy, vice president for promoter Clear Channel Entertainment in New York. The answer will come soon enough; the punk pioneers embark on their first tour in seven years this summer.

The Pistols' John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon has no false illusions that tickets will fly out the window.

"They won't blow out," he says with a sneer. "We're just filling in between . And I don't care; I just do what I do. Bloody hell."

Despite punk's enduring popularity -- perhaps best exemplified by the consistently successful Vans Warped tour -- the Sex Pistols' drawing power remains somewhat of an enigma.

Not counting their ill-fated, seven-date 1978 fiasco, the band has only toured North America once, on 1996's Filthy Lucre reunion tour.

The absence makes the band a bit of an unknown entity. "I have a pretty good idea about what I'm gonna do with something like classic rock, modern rock or country," Glancy says, "but with the Sex Pistols, I have nothing to compare it to."

The Pistols package includes Dropkick Murphys and the Reverend Horton Heat. The tour is just 13 dates, beginning Aug. 20 at FleetBoston Pavilion in Boston and wrapping Sept. 7 at the San Diego Street Scene festival.

The 1996 reunion tour did "solid business," according to Ron Opaleski, agent for the Sex Pistols at the William Morris Agency. Only 11 shows from that tour were reported to Billboard Boxscore, with an average gross of $96,578 and average attendance per show at 4,143.

Lydon considers the '96 tour "very successful, but not money-wise. How would it be? We're the Sex Pistols, nobody likes us and we don't care."

So why reunite now?

"Who says we reunited?" Lydon asks. "We never separated. We don't need a reason for anything. Let the copycats sit around and come up with reasons for things."

Still, Lydon seems to think the time is right to spread a little anarchy in North America. "There is a vast amount of disenfranchised in America," he says. "It's important to let them know we're still here."


Glancy would like to do better than the 1996 average on his Aug. 21 show at Tommy Hilfiger at Jones Beach Performing Arts Center in Wantagh, N.Y.

Break-even is between 5,000 and 6,000, and Glancy says the curiosity factor alone ought to be enough to hit that number. "I'd be disappointed if we didn't do 6,000-7,000," he says. Tickets are $27.50 and $47.50 for the Jones Beach show.

Elliott Lefko, VP of artist development for House of Blues Concerts Canada, promoted the Pistols in '96 and is looking forward to HOB's Aug. 25 Pistols show at Toronto's Molson Amphitheater.

Lefko says ticket sales are "about what we thought they would be" in the early going, at between 3,000 and 4,000. He says they ended up at about 5,000 in 1996, but the show was even more successful on another level.

"This was one of the best shows we've ever done here, not in terms of sales, but how the joint was rocking," Lefko recalls. "It seemed like the whole amphitheater was pogo-ing."

Lefko believes the Pistols tour fills an underserved niche. "This audience doesn't have much out there anymore," he says. "It's a really cool audience, but they're not gonna go see Korn or a lot of what's on the radio."

Individual promoter deals were cut in each market, with buyers including CCE, HOB and independents. "Everyone's really excited," Opaleski says. "This is a band that shaped the scope of contemporary music."

Lydon is not surprised that promoters came to the table. "They always do, mate," he says. "We need them, and they need us."

Despite the tour's brevity, it is unlikely other dates will be added. "We wanted to hit the major majors and keep it short and sweet," Opaleski says.

"This is all we could get," Lydon counters. "If we can get more along the way, we will."

The Pistol's production will be predictably low-fi. "There will be no twaddling about playing with knobs and all that," he says. "We're the smallest-equipped band possible, but we kick up a ferocious sound."


Lydon says he is indeed serious when asked about published reports that the Pistols want to play Baghdad.

"We're very, very interested in playing Baghdad, and we're meeting all kinds of denials and red tape," Lydon says. "I'm slowly cutting my way through it."

He adds: "If you want to give them democracy, do it properly. Give them the Sex Pistols. Wake up, America."

Lydon says the band would promote the show "as an act of charity," adding, "I don't do these things as a joke or a prank, as strange as that may sound to those of lesser mental abilities that really don't get the point of being alive."

Dropkick Murphys, a Boston-based, Celtic-tinged punk band, will hook up with the Sex Pistols following a stint on Warped, bringing some box-office clout of their own to the tour, particularly in their hometown.

According to Somers, "The last time Dropkick Murphys played Boston over St. Patrick's Day, they sold out four nights at the Avalon in advance -- over 8,000 tickets."

Lydon calls Dropkick Murphys "a good bunch of lads." But he is mostly unimpressed with today's punk artists.

"Britney Spears is as punk as that silly Lavigne bird," he says. "I never, ever cared for Green Day, with their ice cream van and huge video productions. As far as I'm concerned, anything that's MTV-led I worry about. MTV is like a headless chicken."

Lydon feels young punk acts might be well-served to see the Pistols in action this summer.

"We can't find sponsors, we don't have a record company. But we're still here. That might be a bloody good little education for anyone out there that wants to be a pop star. They shouldn't want to be. They should want to be something more serious -- a la us."

Official Sex Pistols site -

Actor Bruce Campbell Injured in Car Crash

RUCH OR July 28, 2003 (AP) - Bruce Campbell, an actor whose credits include "Evil Dead," "Hercules," "Xena, Warrior Princess" and "Spider-Man" suffered minor injuries in a weekend accident.

Campbell, 45, of Jacksonville, was driving late Saturday when his car was struck by a Jeep driven by 36-year-old Steven Michael Sellers of Medford.

Sellars, who was ejected from his vehicle and struck the windshield of the Explorer, was listed in critical condition Sunday with head injuries.

Campbell, who has a cult following among horror film buffs, was treated and released from a local hospital.

Sellars was cited by the Jackson County Sheriff's Department for driving under the influence of intoxicants, assault, failing to maintain lane of travel, driving while suspended.

Sellars also had outstanding traffic tickets.

Rome Pays Homage to Late Director Fellini
Associated Press Writer

ROME July 26, 2003 (AP) - Rome will pay homage to Federico Fellini this fall — the 10th anniversary of his death — with exhibits, photo shows, concerts and screenings of clips from his movies.

"Romarcord" — named after Fellini's Oscar-winning "Amarcord" — will explore the director's relationship with the capital, where he lived for many years and set some of his classics, including 1960's "La Dolce Vita."

The tribute will begin in late September with a series of giant pictures displayed at some of Rome's sites that were significant to him, officials said this week.

Events also will include an exhibit with pictures, letters and sketches by Fellini, plus costumes and screenings of interviews and film clips; a concert featuring soundtracks from his films; and "Fellini Jazz," at the end of October, that will offer a jazz version of his soundtracks.

Fellini died on Oct. 31, 1993, at age 73. His career spanned some four decades and about 20 movies.

"La Strada," "Le Notti di Cabiria," "8 1/2" and "Amarcord" were winners of the Oscar for best foreign language film, and Fellini received an Oscar for lifetime achievement in 1993.

"La Dolce Vita," with its sexy scene of Anita Ekberg coaxing Marcello Mastroianni into the Trevi Fountain, was perhaps his most famous film. It won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.

In November, a conference will explore Fellini's relationship with the circus, a recurring theme in the director's world.

TV Viewers More Offended by Violence Than Sex

LOS ANGELES July 25, 2003 (Reuters) - More television viewers are offended by violence than by nudity or sexually charged language, a study commissioned by TV Guide magazine has found.

The survey of 1,015 adults nationwide, details of which were released on Friday, also found that 71 percent have changed channels to avoid seeing material they consider offensive, though 91 percent indicated they have never actually called a network to complain about such content.

About 17 percent of those polled said "graphic violence and gore" were the most offensive things on TV, compared to 9 percent for "bodily functions," 8 percent for "foul language" and 6 percent for "nudity or sexual innuendo."

A report on the study will appear in next week's issue of the magazine, which also noted that NBC did not receive a single complaint last year when U2 lead singer Bono swore on the air during the live broadcast of the Golden Globes award show.

Opinion Research Corporation performed the telephone survey for TV Guide.

Orson's Oscar Not For Sale

NEW YORK July 24, 2003 (AP) -- Orson Welles' 1942 Oscar for Citizen Kane, the centerpiece of an auction of entertainment memorabilia, was withdrawn from the sale when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences exercised its right to buy it back for $1.

"The Oscar has been withdrawn" from the Friday sale, a spokeswoman for Christie's auction house, which had featured the Oscar on the cover of its auction catalog, told The New York Times in Tuesday editions.

Bruce Davis, the academy's executive director, said he was perplexed that the statuette had been scheduled for sale because "we have a letter from Christie's general counsel assuring us that the Oscar would not be offered for sale until the legal issues are resolved," the Times reported.

Since 1950, all Oscar recipients have had to sign an agreement giving the academy the first right of purchase, for the nominal fee of $1, for any Oscar offered for sale by an owner.

The academy evoked the agreement in the Christie's sale even though the Welles Oscar was won eight years before the agreement came into being.

Davis said Christie's had even called the academy "and asked is this one that we would object to or not."

The Oscar, among a large selection of Welles-related material that was estimated to sell at $300,000 to $400,000, was being sold by Beatrice Welles, the youngest of the filmmaker's three daughters and the sole heir of his estate.

For many years, it had been believed to be lost, and in 1988 Beatrice Welles requested a duplicate from the academy.

"We gave her a duplicate, and fortunately we also had her sign a version of the winner's agreement at that time, which also covered the original, should it ever surface," Davis told the Times.

The Oscar did surface, in 1994, at a Sotheby's auction in London. It had belonged to Gary Graver, a cinematographer who had worked with Welles and said he had received the statuette as a gift from the legendary filmmaker, who died in 1985.

Graver sold it in 1994 to the Bay Holdings company for $50,000. Bay Holdings later offered it for sale to Sotheby's, but when Beatrice Welles learned of its existence, she sued Graver and Bay Holdings, and won, stopping the sale.

Davis said it is easy to distinguish the original Welles Oscar from the duplicate.

The ones given out in 1941 had a Belgian marble base; beginning in 1950, the base was changed to spun brass and each statuette was given a serial number.

Bob Hope's 89,000 Pages
By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES July 28, 2003 (Reuters) - Bob Hope was America's favorite funnyman for more than 70 years, spinning one-liners with immaculate timing from makeshift stages, radio microphones, vaudeville halls and Hollywood movie sets to an audience of presidents and royalty, soldiers and students.

More than 89,000 pages of his jokes -- most of them written by an army of other people -- have been preserved in the new Bob Hope Gallery at the U.S. Library of Congress. From classic double entendre to politics, wars, sexual liberation, golf and movie stars, they capture a changing America.

As Hope might say, But seriously, folks ... Thanks for the Memory.

"Wine, women and song have been replaced by prune juice, a heating pad and the Gong Show." (1980)

"I consider myself very fortunate. I owe everything to my family and my make-up man. My wonderful family keeps me going and my wonderful make-up man keeps me from looking like I already went."

"I'm tired. I've been digging a bomb shelter under my cellar but I can't quit now. The tunnel almost reaches Hedy Lamarr's house." (During World War II.)

"Where else but in America could the Women's Liberation Movement take off their bras, then go on TV to complain about their lack of support?" (1970)

"I have it on good authority that (Senator Joseph) McCarthy is going to disclose the names of 2 million communists. He has just got his hands on the Moscow telephone directory." (1954)

"Students are revolting all over the world. I don't know what they're revolting about, I just know that they're revolting." (1969)

"I feel very humble. But I think I have the strength of character to fight it." (1963, on being awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by President Kennedy)

"It's kinda confusing for Santa Claus over here. He climbs down the chimney and there's no house." (To a gathering of GI's in Vietnam)

"Did you see our show. Or were you sick before?" (To GI's in hospital tents in Burma, Vietnam and Korea)

"As soon as I arrived in camp they gave me a 10-gun salute --- or so they told me on the operating table."

"I guess I have my critics everywhere." (In Saigon where a bomb blast went off at his hotel just before checking in)

"My parents were English. We were too poor to be British." (On his family's British origins)

"A lot of people ask me how I stay in shape. I've got a new video coming out called the Bob Hope workout tape. If you do the exercises carefully you'll be laughed at wherever you go."

"When they asked Jack Benny to do something for the Actor's Orphanage -- he shot both his parents and moved in."

"There's so many talk shows, they're running out of applause machines ... I may have to lend them the one I have over my bed." (To Johnny Carson on the "Tonight Show")

"I went to play golf and tried to shoot my age, But I shot my weight instead." (1984)

"I used to keep my birthday a secret but I decided to stop. I wasn't getting any presents."

"If this hardens, I won't be able to blow it for months." (1943, on immortalizing his hand and nose prints in concrete outside Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

In a 1947 radio sketch with Dorothy Lamour:

Lamour: "I'll meet you in front of the pawn shop."

Hope: "Okay Dottie, and then you can kiss me under the balls."

"I don't believe in all that sexual permissiveness you hear about today. Maybe it's because I'm at the age when my bag is my lunch" (1969)

"I'm never going to retire. I intend to be cracking jokes on my way to the grave." (mid 1970s)

"Welcome to the Academy Awards. Or as it's known in my house -- Passover." (1968, opening the Oscar ceremony.

Hope won five "special" Oscars but none of them for acting)

Hope experienced one of his most embarrassing public moments in 1968 while introducing the Academy Awards after a two-day postponement because of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

"About the delay of two days ... it didn't affect me but it's been tough on the nominees. How would you like to spend two days in a crouch?"

The joke was met with stony silence.

Official Bob Hope website -

Library of Congress Bob Hope site -

Nip/Tuck Is Cutting Edge
By FLAtRich

Hollywood July 23, 2003 (eXoNews) - If you can take the gore, Nip/Tuck is the best new TV show of 2003. The premise, which I doubted heavily until I saw the FX "sneak preview" last night, centers on the adventures of two plastic surgeons in Miami.

This is not a show for everyone. A constant barrage of previews and pop-ups on FX and other stations warned that Nip/Tuck would be graphic, but I don't usually go for medical dramas so I must admit that I wasn't prepared to watch an ass lift.

I suspected a black comedy was afoot, because Nip/Tuck was co-created and produced by Ryan Murphy, who did the same with the WB series Popular (1999-2001), and I know Julian McMahon has a gift for understated comedy, but an excellent cast and superior writing on the pilot proved Nip/Tuck is very much the first-class drama FX claimed it to be.

McMahon stars as Dr. Christian Troy, a dark slick who admits to being a better salesman than surgeon, and Dylan Walsh as Dr. Sean McNamara, his somewhat nerdy and moral partner.

McMahon played Cole Turner on Charmed from 2000-2003, and he brings some of that angry demon with him to this new role. Christian Troy is an unscrupulous stud, mostly interested in conning his hotter patients into the sack with a little nip and tuck while making a personal fortune. Walsh as Sean McNamara is his alter ego, a brilliant surgeon who has had enough of lifting already perfect Miami breasts and wants to help people who really need his talents but also has a dysfunctional family to support.

In the ninety-minute pilot, the two are convinced to hide the face of a gangster on the run who turns out to be a loathsome pedophile with other gangsters on his trail. Once the truth is known, the good doctor McNamara flips out and tries to leave the semi-bad Troy, but his home life gets in the way.

And here's where Nip/Tuck really scored with me in an amazing performance by Joely Richardson as the good doctor McNamara's wife Julia. Miss Richardson, the daughter of late director Tony Richardson, is known mostly for lighter support and comedic roles on film, but she pulled out all the stops in the pilot episode, especially in a dialogue where she told her husband off for drowning her in his mid-life crisis.

Richardson was simply riveting! Jaw-dropping, Best Actress stuff, so let's hope the Television Academy and Golden Globes were watching.

The supporting cast was also good, especially John Hensley as the good doctor's son Matt McNamara.

Hensley will be familiar to genre fans from Witchblade, where he played Gabriel Bowman, Yancy Butler's occasional teenage hacker sidekick. Character actress Roma Maffia was also on hand briefly as anesthesiologist Liz Winters.

Nip/Tuck has all the promise missing from "big" network shows. It isn't family fare, doesn't have a predominantly teenage cast and it obviously isn't afraid of shocking realism or controversy (plastic surgeons won't like it.)

Nip/Tuck is aimed way out of the box and thinking adults should give it a chance.

[The premiere episode viewers did give it a chance. Zap2it reports that Nip/Tuck won a 3.2 household rating and over 3.7 million viewers, making it "the top new series cable premiere of 2003." Ed.]

Tune in to Nip/Tuck on FX Network at 10 PM Tuesdays.

Official Nip/Tuck site -


Paperback books by Rich La Bonté - Free e-previews!