|The Planet Quaoar? |
Sexual Jealousy, Endangered Primates,
Mickey Mouse vs. The Supreme Court!
Asteroid Wars! Kill Ugly Television?
|Is Quaoar a Planet?|
|NASA NEWS RELEASE October 7, 2002 - NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has measured the largest object in the solar system seen since the discovery of Pluto 72 years ago. |
Approximately half the size of Pluto, the icy world 2002 LM60, dubbed "Quaoar" (pronounced kwa-whar) by its discoverers, is the farthest object in the solar system ever to be resolved by a telescope. It was initially detected by a ground-based telescope as simply a dot of light, until astronomers aimed Hubble's powerful telescope at it.
[According to a BBC report, "astronomers named the new object Quaoar, after the creation myth of the Tongva people who inhabited the Los Angeles area before the arrival of the Spanish and other European settlers. To the indigenous peoples, Quaoar was the great force of nature that summoned all other things into being." Ed.]
Quaoar is about 4 billion miles away from Earth, well over a billion miles farther away than Pluto. Unlike Pluto, its orbit around the Sun is circular, even more so than most of the planetary-class bodies in the solar system.
Although smaller than Pluto, Quaoar is greater in volume than all the asteroids combined (though probably only one-third the mass of the asteroid belt, because it's icy rather than rocky). Quaoar's composition is theorized to be largely ices mixed with rock, not unlike the makeup of a comet, though 100 million times greater in volume.
This finding yields important new insights into the origin and dynamics of the planets, and the mysterious population of bodies dwelling in the solar system's final frontier: the elusive, icy Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune.
Michael Brown and Chadwick Trujillo of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. are reporting the findings today at the 34th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Birmingham, Ala.
Earlier this year, Trujillo and Brown used the Palomar Oschin Schmidt telescope to discover Quaoar as an 18.5-magnitude object creeping across the summer constellation Ophiuchus (it's less than 1/100,000 the brightness of the faintest star seen by the human eye). Brown had to do follow-up observations using Hubble's new Advanced Camera for Surveys on July 5 and August 1, 2002, to measure the object's true angular size of 40 milliarcseconds, corresponding to a diameter of about 800 miles (1300 kilometers). Only Hubble has the sharpness needed to actually resolve the disk of the distant world, leading to the first-ever direct measurement of the true size of a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO).
Like Pluto, Quaoar dwells in the Kuiper Belt, an icy debris field of comet-like bodies extending 7 billion miles beyond Neptune's orbit. Over the past decade more than 500 icy bodies have been found in the Kuiper Belt. With a few exceptions all have been significantly smaller than Pluto.
Previous record holders are a KBO called Varuna, and an object called 2002 AW197, each approximately 540 miles across (900 kilometers). Unlike dimensions derived from Hubble's direct observations, these diameters are deduced from measuring the objects' temperatures and calculating a size based on assumptions about the KBOs' reflectivity, so the uncertainty in true size is much greater.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov
|Bush Confirms Anti Abortion Stance|
|By Mary Leonard |
WASHINGTON October 6, 2002 (Boston Globe) - President Bush demonstrated again last week that his opposition to abortion was more than a campaign promise.
His actions have delighted abortion foes and dismayed reproductive rights advocates, who say Bush's decisions are politically motivated by the midterm elections.
|Sexual Jealousy Debunked|
|BOSTON October 8, 2002 (Northeastern University Press Release) – When it comes to jealousy, men and women may be from the same planet after all. |
New research from psychology professor David DeSteno from Northeastern University debunks the myth of a gender-determined reaction to sexual and emotional infidelity. Contrary to previous studies, he found that both men and women react most dramatically to a partner's sexual rather than emotional philandering. And while a partner's unfaithful emotional bonds with someone outside the relationship are unduly stressful, both men and women exhibit the strongest adverse reactions to sexual rather than emotional connections.
Jealous reactions were once thought to be determined by evolutionary instincts. Men were said to react more strongly to being cuckolded while women found partners who strayed emotionally to be more of a threat to resources benefiting themselves and their children. Before DeSteno’s research, most jealousy studies on this issue involved “forced choice,” scenarios that prompted participants to choose one more distressing event over another. DeSteno and his colleagues believed that this method of assessment created biased results. Differences in gender only emerge, they found, when participants are forced to consider the infidelity events in opposition to one another. In short, it’s how participants are asked the questions, not an innate psychological mechanism shaped by evolution.
Participants were asked to rate, using a variety of scales, how they’d feel finding out that their partner had been either emotionally bonded with someone else or had been sexually unfaithful. Forced choice caused a distinct gender split, DeSteno found, but on every other measure, men and women’s reactions were congruent and the divergence melted away: both genders were more disturbed by sexual, rather than emotional, infidelity.
In a second study meant to uncover the reason for this paradoxical result, DeSteno had participants complete the forced-choice measure under conditions known to favor the functioning of automatic, or ingrained, mental processes. Here, the gender difference usually found on the forced-choice disappeared; men and women both reported more distress to sexual infidelity as was the case on all the other measures.
“The theory that male and female jealousy is differentially aroused by specific kinds of infidelity threats has long been advocated by sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists,” DeSteno said. “In direct contradiction to the evolutionary view, both men and women appear to experience more distress in response to sexual encounters outside the relationship than to emotional infidelities. And while we’re not out to debunk every tenet held fast by evolutionary psychologists, this calls into question a large body of research that’s been done looking at jealousy.”
“Our findings challenge the empirical basis for the evolutionary theory of jealousy by demonstrating that evidence of a sex difference in distress to sexual and emotional infidelity represents, in all likelihood, a methodological artifact,” he said. “It’s not simply a matter of the brain being shaped by evolutionary pressures.”
The study is slated for publication in the November issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. For a hard copy of the research report, call 617-373-5455.
|Jeb Bush Implied Lesbian Remarks Criticized|
|TALLAHASSEE, October 4, 2002 (AP) - Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) told a delegation of Panhandle lawmakers during a meeting that he had "some juicy details" about the sexual orientation of the caregivers of a missing Miami girl. |
Bush implied during the Wednesday meeting that the two women, who had just been charged with fraud stemming from the investigation into Rilya Wilson's disappearance, were lesbians.
"As [Graham] was being arrested, she told her co-workers, 'Tell my wife I've been arrested.' The wife is the grandmother, and the aunt is the husband," Bush said, using his fingers to indicate quotation marks to emphasize the word "grandmother."
"Bet you don't get that in Pensacola," Bush told his guests.
Geralyn and Pamela Graham, who say they are sisters, were charged Wednesday with stealing more than $14,000 in public assistance. They were not charged in the disappearance of Rilya, who went missing 15 months before the state Department of Children & Families realized in April she was gone.
Joshua Fisher, Pamela Graham's attorney, called the governor's comments "outrageous" and "disgusting."
"He's making jokes when there is still a missing baby here, or doesn't he care?" Fisher said today. He said the women are sisters and not a lesbian couple. He said he is trying to obtain paperwork that will prove that. Edward Shohat, Geralyn Graham's lawyer, did not return a call seeking comment.
Bush made his remarks to three Republican Panhandle legislators, two GOP state House candidates and aides during a meeting in the governor's office. He apparently did not realize a reporter with Gannett Regional Newspapers of Florida accompanied the group. His comments were first reported in today's editions of the Pensacola News-Journal.
Bush spokeswoman Elizabeth Hirst said today that the governor "relayed details and factual information regarding the arrests of Rilya's caretakers. He intended no offense and continues to focus on the safe return of young Rilya."
Nadine Smith, head of Equality Florida, the state's largest gay and lesbian advocacy group, called the comments "childish" and "locker-room homophobia."
About nine or 10 people were attending the meeting with the governor on issues affecting the Panhandle delegation and the constitutional amendments on the ballot. Bush made the comments after he read an e-mail from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement handed him by an aide.
"It was a nonevent," said Dave Murzin, the GOP nominee in state House District 2. "It wasn't any big deal to us. Really, all of us were there for more important stuff."
Democrats assailed Bush.
"I think Floridians would be concerned that Jeb Bush has a different message behind closed doors than what he does in public," said Tony Welch, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride. "I think that's a cause for concern if that's his defense."
|No Charges in Secret Taping Case|
|By JODI WILGOREN |
Iowa October 8, 2002 (NY Times) - State and federal prosecutors said yesterday that they would not file criminal charges in the taping scandal that has disrupted the Senate campaign in Iowa.
John Sarcone, the lead prosecutor in Polk County, said no laws were violated when a supporter of Senator Tom Harkin, the Democratic incumbent, secretly taped a Sept. 3 strategy session held by the Republican candidate, Representative Greg Ganske, at a Des Moines hotel. Mr. Harkin's longtime campaign manager, Jeff Link, and the low-level aide who engineered the taping, resigned over the incident.
"What it boils down to is, Do you have an expectation of privacy?" Mr. Sarcone said. "There were 750 people invited; there's 22 present; you're in a political campaign and you're a public figure making comments. From our perspective, that's the end of the inquiry."
Charles Larson Jr., chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, said that while the secret taping did not "reach the bar" for criminal charges, "this is a type of behavior that Iowans do not respect or condone."
A poll by a television station last week found that Senator Harkin's lead had narrowed to 9 percentage points, from 12 points a month earlier. In the survey, 56 percent said the taping would not influence their votes, 17 percent said it made them less likely to vote for Mr. Harkin, 13 percent said it helped him win their support, and 14 percent said they were unsure whether it would influence their votes.
|One Third of All Primates Are Endangered!|
|Washington DC October 7, 2002 (Conservation International News Release) - New evidence of the peril facing the world's apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates, with one in every three now endangered with extinction, is revealed in a new report - The World's Top 25 Most Endangered Primates-2002 released today by Conservation International (CI) and the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Primate species and sub-species classified as "critically endangered" and "endangered" jumped nearly 63 percent from 120 to 195 since the initial report was issued in January 2000. |
The report was finalized during a recent gathering of the International Primatological Society, at its 19th Congress in Beijing, China. Asia now accounts for almost 45 percent of the world's most endangered primates, with 11 listed in the top 25, including six that are new additions. Africa (8), the Neotropics (3) and Madagascar (3) are home to the other primates represented on the list. These include the Sumatran orangutan of Indonesia, the mountain gorilla of Africa, and northern muriqui of Brazil.
"The latest information made available at the International Primatological Society Congress in Beijing highlighted the fact that Asia has now become the world leader in endangered primates," said Conservation International President Russ Mittermeier.
"Of particular concern is the situation in Vietnam and China. Indeed, with several primates now numbering only in the dozens or low hundreds of individuals, Vietnam is at risk of undergoing a major primate extinction spasm within the next few years if rapid action is not taken. Fully 20 percent of the top 25 primates are located in Vietnam, with another 16 percent from China and 12 percent from Indonesia."
Twenty-three of the 25 primates are found in the world's biodiversity hotspots: 25 regions identified by Conservation International which cover a mere 1.4 percent of Earth's land surface but harbor more than 60 percent of all terrestrial plant and animal diversity.
As flagship species, primates are important to the health of their surrounding ecosystems. Through the dispersal of fruit seeds and other foods they consume, primates help support a wide range of plant and animal life that make up the earth's forests. Nonhuman primates are our closest living relatives, and their loss is directly linked to the global extinction crisis.
|Dead Zones Support Life|
|By Peter N. Spotts |
Christian Science Monitor
Acapulco October 3, 2002 (CSM) - Some 200 miles west of Acapulco, Mexico, Volcano 7 rises 8,600 feet from the ocean floor. A range of odd organisms grows along the seamount's flanks, but the volcano is not exactly a hotbed of biological activity.
As marine biologist Lisa Levin tells it, however, that picture shifts dramatically roughly 200 feet short of the summit. There, a narrow zone bustles with shrimp, crabs, starfish, worms, and rattail fish. Just as abruptly, the scene changes to one of submarine desolation – a peak as seemingly barren of life as a Rocky Mountain summit above the timber line.
The abrupt shift remained a mystery until Dr. Levin and colleagues discovered that the peak juts into a layer of water severely depleted of dissolved oxygen. And despite its appearance, the peak was home to thriving colonies of tiny worms and bacteria.
The discovery 14 years ago that this low-oxygen region was anything but dead has underscored how little researchers understand these naturally occurring zones, according to Levin, at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.
First noted off the coast of Africa in 1925, oxygen-depleted zones affect more than 400,000 square miles of ocean floor on time scales spanning thousands of years. These zones "are very large features, but they're very poorly known," says Levin.
Recent calculations based on modeling studies and direct measurements of dissolved oxygen in seawater suggest that the seas may be losing oxygen as a byproduct of global warming.
Some models hold that if the climate continues to warm, as many scientists expect, low-oxygen zones may become more widespread, affecting fisheries.
|Global Warming Cuts Nutrients|
|WASHINGTON October 7, 2002 (Reuters) - Global warming could increase rice, soybean and wheat production in some areas, but the greater plant growth could also hurt the nutritional value of the crops, Ohio researchers said on Monday. |
The nutritional quality declines because while the plants produce more seeds with higher levels of carbon dioxide, the seeds themselves contain less nitrogen, said Peter Curtis, a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University.
Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas linked to automobile exhaust and other fossil fuels. Some scientists expect the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to significantly rise over the next few decades.
A gradual increase in the earth's temperature is feared to have many harmful effects, including melting glaciers, raising sea levels and destroying some wildlife habitats.
"If you're looking for a positive spin on rising carbon dioxide levels, it's that agricultural production in some areas is bound to increase," Curtis said. "Crops have higher yields when more carbon dioxide is available, even if growing conditions aren't perfect."
But while there may be more food, it may not be as nutritious, Curtis said.
"The quality of the food produced by the plant decreases, so you've got to eat more of it to get the same benefits," Curtis said. "Under the rising carbon dioxide scenario, livestock -- and humans -- would have to increase their intake of plants to compensate for the loss."
Curtis and other researchers pulled together data from 159 similar studies from the past two decades to determine the effects of climate change on plant reproduction. They analyzed the ways plants respond to carbon dioxide through flowers, fruits, fruit weight, number of seeds, and the plant's capacity to reproduce.
Individual crops varied in their response to higher carbon dioxide levels.
Rice was the most responsive with its seed production increasing an average of 42 percent. Soybeans showed a 20 percent increase in seed, followed by wheat with 15 percent, and corn with 5 percent, Curtis said.
Even though seed size increased, the amount of nitrogen in the seeds didn't. Nitrogen levels fell by an average of 14 percent across all plants except cultivated legumes, such as peas and soybeans, the research showed.
For example, the total number of seeds in wheat and barley plants increased by 15 percent, but the amount of nitrogen in the seeds declined by 20 percent.
"That's bad news," Curtis said. "Nitrogen is important for building protein in humans and animals. If anything, plant biologists want to boost the levels of nitrogen in crops."
|Bush Foiling Environmental Law|
|By Seth Borenstein |
Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON October 7, 2002 (Philadelphia Inquirer) - Bit by bit, the Bush administration is carving out exceptions to a law widely regarded as the nation's legal cornerstone of environmental protection.
The law is the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. It requires the government to study systematically all environmental impacts that a federal project would have, to weigh alternatives, and to take public comments into account before going forward.
NEPA's requirement for "environmental-impact statements" has resulted in the delay, cancellation or alteration of many federal projects over the years - from roads and dams to airports - in the name of protecting nature from unnecessary despoilment.
The act is "the Magna Carta of all the environmental laws," said Patrick Parenteau, a University of Vermont law professor. It is the model for more than 100 nations.
In the name of improving efficiency, the Bush administration wants to change the way NEPA works. Environmental groups say the proposed changes amount to a devastating attack on the law.
In the last three months alone, the Bush administration has taken these actions:
Proposed a "Healthy Forests Initiative," exempting loggers from the NEPA process in certain fire-prone federal forests.
Argued in federal court that NEPA does not apply to military projects outside U.S. territorial waters but within 200 miles of America's shoreline. A federal judge ruled last month against the Bush administration's argument that environmental-impact statements were not required for Navy sonar tests that environmental groups say harm sea life.
Issued an executive order in September to begin a faster environmental-impact statement process for a set of unidentified transportation projects that the administration deems high priority.
In addition, Congress is considering bills - filed by both Republicans and Democrats - that would streamline the environmental-impact statement process for specific projects, such as the expansion of runways at Chicago's O'Hare airport and an electrical generating plant in Arizona. Another bill would give environmental agencies and organizations only 30 days to comment on the environmental impacts of transportation projects.
Finally, some environmentalists fear that the White House Council on Environmental Quality may be moving toward even more sweeping changes in the law. The council has nearly completed a study by a special NEPA task force that is aimed at improving the environmental-impact statement process, which could include drafting new regulations.
"It's a concerted attack on NEPA," said Rep. John D. Dingell (D., Mich.), who cowrote the law in 1969.
James Connaughton, who oversees the act as chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, denies the charge. He said the administration was trying to make an important and effective environmental law better.
"Nothing's been chipped away; the NEPA statute is still there," Connaughton said. "There are very few proposed changes to the NEPA process in the agencies, and to the extent they're looking at it, they're just trying to improve them... . It's a critically important tool, actually."
The biggest controversy stems from the forest plan's proposed NEPA exemptions. The idea is that, to reduce fire hazards, timber companies would be permitted to cut trees in areas that are prone to wildfires and are near homes. Instead of filing individual NEPA statements for each forest, the government would issue only one massive forest-thinning plan.
Current and former federal attorneys who deal in these issues say the idea of exempting some forests from the NEPA process is troubling.
"It excludes rational criticism and debate on whether this is the place and time to be doing this activity," said Robert Cunningham, assistant director of lands and realty management for the U.S. Forest Service.
Connaughton said the President supported plans before Congress that would exempt up to 120 million acres of forest from NEPA because it was an urgent need.
Speeding the process is not necessarily good, said Bill Cohen, a Washington lawyer who teaches federal officials about the NEPA process. He was a senior NEPA lawyer in the Department of Justice under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.
"There's just a lot of good in the process, and in the name of streamlining you can shortchange the process and the public input," Cohen said. "So many of these issues really need the involvement of the public. People care. Yes, it takes time. So what? It should take time."
Business interests see the issue differently.
The NEPA process takes so much time and involves so many sideshows and lawsuits that it paralyzes important projects, said Bill Kovacs, vice president for environmental affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"They're speeding it up. They're bringing finality to the process," Kovacs said. "People just thought NEPA was out of control."
For most environmental groups, the issue often comes down to a matter of trust, and they do not trust the Bush administration.
"They're talking about improving the NEPA process, but their acts have all been to circumvent it," said Sharon Buccino, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Connaughton said that was not true. He challenged environmental groups to name specific degradations of NEPA. He said those groups were using NEPA and the environment as political wedge issues to undermine a popular President.
|Mickey Mouse Versus The Supreme Court|
|By GARY GENTILE |
AP Business Writer
LOS ANGELES October 7, 2002 (AP) - Mickey Mouse's days at Disney could be numbered and paying royalties for warbling George Gershwin tunes could become a thing of the past if the U.S. Supreme Court sides with an Internet publisher in a landmark copyright case this week.
The high court will hear the case Wednesday that could plunge the earliest images of Disney's mascot and other closely held creative property into the public domain as early as next year.
If upheld, the precedent-setting challenge could cost movie studios and heirs of authors and composers millions of dollars in revenue as previously protected material becomes available free of charge.
At issue is a 1998 law that extended copyright protection an additional 20 years for cultural works, thereby protecting movies, plays, books and music for a total of 70 years after the author's death or for 95 years from publication for works created by or for corporations.
The law was almost immediately challenged by Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig on behalf of Eric Eldred, who had been posting work by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and others on his Web site.
The plaintiffs lost their case at trial and then on appeal but stunned many observers by persuading the Supreme Court to hear the case.
"Nobody has ever attacked the extension of copyright before," said Lionel Sobel, editor of the Entertainment Law Review. He said the Internet has pumped up the demand for images that are now protected.
"Now we have thousands of people who want to create a Web site and would like to have ready access to a whole library of materials," Sobel said.
The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 was sponsored by late Rep. Sonny Bono and quickly became known as the "Mickey Mouse Extension Act" because of aggressive lobbying by Disney, whose earliest representations of its squeaky-voiced mascot were set to pass into the public domain in 2003.
The impact of the law extends far beyond corporations. Small music publishers, orchestras and even church choirs that can't afford to pay high royalties to perform some pieces said they suffer by having to wait an additional 20 years for copyrights to expire.
Compositions such as Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," which would have passed into the public domain in 1998, now are protected until 2018 at least. Books by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald also were due to become public property.
Lessig claims Congress acted unconstitutionally by extending copyright protection 11 times over the past 40 years. The plaintiffs contend the Constitution grants Congress the right to grant copyright protection for a limited time and that the Founding Fathers intended for copyrights to expire so works could enter the public domain and spark new creative efforts to update them.
The plaintiffs also claim that by extending copyright protection retroactively, Congress has in effect made copyright perpetual largely in response to corporate pressure.
The government and groups representing movie studios and record labels argue that the Constitution gives Congress, not the courts, the job of balancing the needs of copyright holders and the public, especially in the face of new technology.
Backers of the extension also argue that the Internet and digital reproduction of movies and music threaten the economic viability of creating those works, thus requiring greater protection.
"This is essentially a dispute about policy dressed up as a Constitutional question," The Walt Disney Co. said in a statement. "Eldred is simply trying to second-guess what Congress has already decided, and we believe the Supreme Court should reject their attempt."
Disney has come under special criticism because the company reaped a fortune making films from such public domain fairy tale characters as "Snow White" and "Cinderella," but is fighting to prevent others from doing the same with characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Legal experts said it would be unlikely that Disney and other companies would suffer immediate harm if copyrights expire on their movies and characters.
|Navy Sonar Tests Linked to Whale Deaths |
By KENNETH R. WEISS
The maneuvers were cut short at the request of the Canary Islands government after the dead whales were discovered.
Japanese Turn Out to Rescue Whale
|Moon Power for Earth|
|HOUSTON October 7, 2002 (University of Houston Press release) – The key to a prosperous world is clean, safe, low-cost electrical energy, according to University of Houston physicist David Criswell. And his idea for how to get it is literally out of this world. |
For more than 20 years, Criswell has been formulating the plans and the justification for building bases on the moon to collect solar energy and beam it through space for use by electricity-hungry Earthlings.
Criswell will talk about lunar solar power systems at the World Space Congress 2002 in Houston Oct. 10-19.
“Prosperity for everyone on Earth requires a sustainable source of electricity,” Criswell says. The World Energy Council, a global multi-energy organization that promotes the sustainable supply and use of energy for the greatest benefit of all, agrees. The WEC’s primary message is that affordable modern energy services for everyone –including the two billion people who have no access to commercial energy – are a key to sustainable development and peace throughout the world. See http://www.worldenergy.org/wec-geis/publications/default/stat2002.asp for details.
Criswell estimates that by the year 2050, a prosperous population of 10 billion would require about 20 terawatts of power, or about three to five times the amount of commercial power currently produced.
The moon receives more than 13,000 terawatts of solar power, and harnessing just one percent could satisfy Earth’s power needs, he says. The challenge is to build a commercial system that can extract a tiny portion of the immense solar power available and deliver the energy to consumers on earth at a reasonable price.
“A priority for me is getting people to realize that the lunar power system may be the only option for sustainable global prosperity,” Criswell says. He contributed a chapter to a new book, Innovative Solutions for CO2 Stabilization, published in July, which addresses major aspects of sustainability and global commercial power. See http://uk.cambridge.org/engineering/catalogue/0521807255 .
Criswell’s lunar-based system to supply solar power to Earth is based on building large banks of solar cells on the moon to collect sunlight and send it back to receivers on Earth via a microwave beam. Solar cells are electronic devices that gather sunlight and convert it into usable electricity. The microwave energy collected on Earth is then converted to electricity that can be fed into the local electric grid.
Such a system could easily supply the 20 terawatts or more of electricity required by 10 billion people, Criswell says. The system is environmentally friendly, safe to humans, and reliable since it is not affected by clouds or rain, either on the Earth or the moon, which essentially has no weather.
The moon continuously receives sunlight, except once a year for about three hours during a full lunar eclipse, when stored energy could be used to maintain power on Earth, Criswell adds.
The system could be built on the moon from lunar materials and operated on the moon and Earth using existing technologies, he says, which would greatly reducing the cost of the operation. He estimates that a lunar solar power system could begin delivering commercial power about 10 years after program start-up.
Technology under development at UH increases the options for successfully building a lunar power base. UH researchers at the Texas Center for Superconductivity and Advanced Materials (TcSAM) are developing nanotechnology techniques that could transform the lunar soil into solar cells.
“The raw materials needed to make solar cells are present in the moon’s regolith,” says Alex Freundlich, research professor of physics, who has examined lunar material to determine whether it contains the necessary ingredients for making solar cells. He, research scientist Charles Horton, Alex Ignatiev, director of TcSAM, and a team of NASA-JSC and industry scientists also have used “simulated” moon soil to determine how to go about manufacturing the solar cell devices on the moon.
“Our plan is to use an autonomous lunar rover to move across the moon’s surface, to melt the regolith into a very thin film of glass and then to deposit thin film solar cells on that lunar glass substrate. An array of such lunar solar cells could then be used as a giant solar energy converter generating electricity,” Freundlich says.
Criswell, who has a Ph.D. in physics from Rice University, began thinking about lunar-based power systems more than 20 years ago when he was an administrator at the Lunar Science Institute, now the Lunar and Planetary Institute. For about seven years at the institute, Criswell was responsible for reviewing nearly 3,400 NASA proposals for lunar science projects.
“I really got to know the peer-review process and I learned about all aspects of lunar science,” he says.
For the past 10 years, Criswell has been director of UH’s Institute for Space Systems Operations, which receives funding from the state for space-related research projects conducted by faculty and students at UH and UH-Clear Lake in conjunction with NASA- Johnson Space Center.
Institute for Space Systems Operations - http://isso.uh.edu
|Astronomers Slice and Dice Galaxies|
|Douglas Pierce-Price, Joint Astronomy Centre Press Release |
Hawaii October 4, 2002 - New views of star birth and the heart of a spiral galaxy have been seen by a state-of-the-art astronomical instrument on its first night. The new UKIRT Imaging Spectrometer (UIST) has a revolutionary ability to 'slice' any object in the sky into sections, producing a three dimensional view of the conditions throughout entire galaxies in a single observation. UIST has just been installed on the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii.
Project scientist Suzanne Ramsay Howat from the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (ATC) in Edinburgh said "UIST will give astronomers using UKIRT a unique way of viewing the Universe, keeping this telescope at the cutting-edge of science".
The instrument saw its 'First Light' on the night of 24th September, when it was trained on the Omega Nebula. This nebula, also called Messier 17, is a gas cloud where new stars are forming. Located 5000 light years from Earth, M17 is a near neighbor and can be studied in exquisite detail with an instrument such as UIST. The intense ultraviolet radiation from young, hot stars blasts the atoms in clouds of interstellar gas, making them glow brightly as seen in the bottom right of the UIST image.
One of the most exciting new features of UIST is its 'image slicer' or Integral Field Unit (IFU). The IFU 'slices' the light from an astronomical target into thin sections. Each slice is then spread out to make a spectrum, rather like the rainbows produced when light passes through a prism of glass. Astronomers can use these spectra to investigate the interactions between stars, cosmic dust and gas in complex objects like galaxies.
The image slicer was tested in UIST's first night on UKIRT. The galaxy NGC1068, 47 million light years from Earth, was chosen for the observations. This galaxy is known to have an active nucleus, or centre, which is a perfect target for the image slicer. The IFU creates an infrared 'data cube' from the galaxy's nucleus in a single observation. This can be sliced in one direction to show the appearance of the nucleus at a single infrared wavelength, or at right angles to produce spectra across the entire nucleus.
The UIST team have spent five weeks commissioning and installing the instrument on UKIRT. The telescope is situated atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is one of the best sites in the world for astronomy. This follows five years of construction at the ATC in Edinburgh, where the team overcame many technological challenges.
Dr Ramsay Howat explained "At infrared wavelengths, the ambient heat of the instrument itself creates unwanted background light. To avoid this, the entire 750kg instrument is cooled inside a cryostat to about -200C, just 70 degrees above absolute zero. The dinner plate sized wheels that allow different optical components to be selected have to be rotated to within 1/250 of a degree, and the optical pathways must stay precisely aligned even as the instrument shrinks in the extreme cold."
At the heart of UIST is an extremely sensitive infrared detector with a million pixels - 16 times more than the previous spectrometer 'CGS4'. UIST combines and improves upon the capabilities of the instruments previously on the telescope.
Dr Andy Adamson, Director of UKIRT, is extremely excited about the future with UIST. "Combining the power of UIST imaging and spectroscopy with the telescope's excellent image quality will revolutionise observations at UKIRT. We'll be able to image objects of interest and analyse them spectrally, all with the same instrument."
|Asteroid Could Start Atomic War|
|By PAUL RECER |
AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON October 4, 2002 (AP) - At least 30 times a year, asteroids smash into the Earth's atmosphere and explode with the violence of a nuclear bomb. Now some officials are worried the natural explosions could trigger an atomic war.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Simon P. Worden told members of a House Science subcommittee that the United States has instruments that determine within one minute if an atmospheric explosion is natural or manmade.
But none of the other nations with nuclear weapons have that detection technology, and Worden said there is concern that some of those countries could mistake a natural explosion for an attack and immediately launch an atomic retaliation.
Worden, deputy director for operations of the U.S. Strategic Command, said there was the risk of such a mistaken atomic exchange last August when Pakistan and India, both with atomic bombs, were at full alert and poised for war.
Not far away, a few weeks before, Worden said, U.S. satellites detected over the Mediterranean an atmospheric flash that indicated "an energy release comparable to the Hiroshima burst." Air Force instruments quickly determined it was caused by an asteroid 15 feet to 30 feet wide.
"Had you been situated on a vessel directly underneath, the intensely bright flash would have been followed by a shock wave that would have rattled the entire ship, and possibly caused minor damage," Worden said in his testimony.
Although the explosion received little or no notice, the general said it could have caused a major human conflict if it had occurred over India or Pakistan while those countries were on high alert.
"The resulting panic in the nuclear-armed and hair-triggered opposing forces could have been the spark that ignited a nuclear horror we have avoided for over a half-century," he said.
Worden said the Air Force's early warning satellites in 1996 detected an asteroid burst over Greenland that released energy equal to about 100,000 tons of explosives. He said similar events are thought to have occurred in 1908 over Siberia, in the 1940s over Central Asia and over the Amazon basin in the 1930s.
"Had any of these struck over a populated area, thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands might have perished," he said.
Worden said early warning satellites do a good job of detecting asteroid bursts in the atmosphere and that new equipment will be even better. He said the Air Force is working on an asteroid alert program that would quickly send information from the satellites to interested nations.
He said the Air Force is studying the establishment of what he called a Natural Impact Warning Clearinghouse that would be part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command communications center in Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colo.
NASA is in the midst of a 10-year program to find and assess every asteroid six-tenths of a mile or more in size that could pass close to the Earth and might pose a danger to the planet.
He said telescopes and instruments weighing less than 150 pounds could easily be launched to establish an observing network.
|Beneath Earth's Core|
|Washington DC October 2, 2002 (BBC) - Scientists probing the secrets of the Earth's inner core say there is evidence of another, smaller, core hidden within it. If they are correct, it could reveal more about how the Earth itself formed. |
The inner core was first discovered in the 1930s, and scientists have been looking ever since for ways to measure it. It is solid, about 2,440 km across, and composed mainly of iron and nickel.
A new way of measuring the composition of the core was found when the shock-waves from earthquakes on one side of the world were measured by sensors on the opposite surface. To get there, they would have had to pass through the centre, and it proved possible to measure subtle changes to the speed of the waves depending on what kind of rocks and minerals they encountered on their route.
Bizarrely, a wave traveling from north to south moved faster than one going east to west.
It is believed that this effect happens because the core has been formed in a crystalline manner - with its components lining up in the same direction, changing the speed at which the waves pass through depending on their initial direction. This phenomenon is called anisotropy.
The latest research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that a wave precisely targeted through the inner core behaved differently depending on which part of the core it traveled through. There appeared to be a separate "inner inner" core - perhaps 600 km in diameter.
Not only was the anisotropy effect much stronger - suggesting an even more crystalline composition - but the angle of most resistance, a guide to the alignment of these crystals, was different to that of the rest of the inner core.
Researchers from Harvard University, US, used data from more than 300,000 seismic events between 1964 and 1994. They believe that this difference may be the result of changes in the environment of the core during its formation. As such, further studies may be able to shed some extra light on how, and at which point, the core was formed. The researchers said that, with more seismometers in place around the world, it might be possible to complete a more detailed survey of the core.
Professor Guy Masters, from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, US, told BBC News Online that, if the findings were correct, the "core within a core" could be left over from an early stage of the planet's formation. He said: "This would change the way we think about the formation of the inner core. If it's right, we have to explain it somehow. Trying to understand how the Earth evolved is one of the fundamental problems we have in science. The core is just so strange that it seems to catch people's attention."
PNAS - http://www.pnas.org
|Genre News: Paul McCartney, Push & Firefly, Smallville, Dragnet and More!|
|Paul Will Release Tour DVD |
Hollywood October 9, 2002 (eXoNews) - According to www.paulmccartney.com, Sir Paul will release a two-disc DVD of his latest tour that "candidly reveals the intimate backstage life on the road." McCartney will also release a 2-CD live set "of his most triumphant tour since The Beatles."
The Back In The USA DVD will come out November 26th 2002 in NTSC format (for USA/JAPAN and multi-region dvd players in UK and Europe.)
The DVD will run 3 hours and include footage of more than 30 classic songs filmed at shows all across America, plus sound checks with Paul and his new band. The DVD will also take Pauls fans "inside the dressing rooms, seeing scenes from the back seat of his personal limo and even aboard his chartered jet."
"This feels like a very special tour and because of that we wanted to film not only the great shows we’ve been enjoying but also reveal to people what we’re doing when we’re not doing the show. There are a lot of private moments on the DVD – it’ll be like a backstage pass to the intimate zones where most people never get," said Paul, who has just started "Back In The U.S.," the second leg of his 50-date American tour.
To order in advance from Paul's site (and get free postage and packing worldwide on all orders) - http://www.paulmccartneyshop.com
To find out more about Sir Paul's activities - http://www.paulmccartney.com
Push and Firefly in TiVo Users' Top 5
CSM To Land in Smallville?
The Web site noted that Davis will play the corrupt mayor of Smallville and suggested that the actor might return on a recurring basis.
Smallville airs Tuesdays at 9PM on The WB.
Official Smallville site - http://www2.warnerbros.com/web/smallville/ledger/home.jsp
X-Files' Spotnitz Quits CBS
Spotnitz will continue to run the series for the time being, and the exact date of his departure is yet to be determined.
O'Neill Is Joe Friday on 'Dragnet'
He will replace Danny Huston, who left the show after filming the first episode, which wrapped Sept. 30. Production on the show will resume on Friday, Oct. 11.
|Opinionated Babble Dept. - Kill Ugly Television?|
|By FLAtRich |
Hollywood October 9, 2002 (eXoNews) - No, I'm not one of those people who "never watch TV" ranting about what Bucky Fuller once labeled as "chewing gum for the mind." Regulars here at eXoNews know that I'm quite the opposite - I'm a passionate fan of genre TV shows present and past.
I've lived with TV since we were both black and white infants and I still love settling down in front of my Sony with a bowl of corn chips to watch Buffy protect folks from the denizens of the hellmouth, or Captain Archer and his crew explore a new world, or Johnny Smith puzzle out a Dead Zone vision, or Mulder and Scully do it again on Sci Fi Channel.
Hell, I'm such a long-time fan that I can laugh out loud at the stupid TV questions on Beat The Geeks. I was a TV Geek before that kid was even born! Go on, TV Geek, tell me who played Colonel Edward McCauley in the TV series Men Into Space? (No clicking!)
But things have changed in TVLand, buckaroos. The thinking audience has left the living room. The Big Networks have malformed our TV young. They only care which Barbie or Ken gets voted off the island. They don't see that there are no winners. All is lost.
Forget what Bucky Fuller said. Today's audience can barely chew gum and watch TV at the same time. The short attention span of yesterday has been replaced by the no attention span of today. The vast wasteland has expanded off into the Twilight Zone.
No wonder Firefly hasn't flown and Push, Nevada has no pull!
Today I stumbled across the ultimate solution, folks. Well, maybe, maybe not, but here it comes: why even bother trying to woo the mass majority network audience with carefully scripted, beautifully acted, expensively produced, complex genre programs when there is an easier alternative?
Why not produce genre series directly for DVD and VHS? That's right! Bypass the little tube and its quiz show and sitcom Nielsen families, 18-49 demographic driven sponsors, witless network executives, Puritan network censors, and clueless TV Guide critics. Shoot the 13 episodes and put them right up there on the video store racks in a boxed set, man!
Only Smallville really pulled its own, but nothing genre is flying high on TV this season - not even Clark Kent. The genre numbers began dropping off last season, and they haven't made a comeback.
Funny, because people sure flocked to Spiderman. Folks are buying Lord of the Rings and renting science fiction and horror movie DVDs every day. It's not like they aren't out there.
Agree? Disagree? Opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org
And for the TV Geek, the answer is here - Men Into Space (1956) - http://us.imdb.com/Details?0052493