Help Save Moya!
Tracking Terrorism From Space,
Nano Chips, Whale Sanctuaries,
US Sells Moon,
Rock Art & More!
Genre News: Farscape Canceled, Witchblade Canceled, Star Trek Nemesis, The Dead Zone & More!
Save Moya! - Sci Fi Cancels Farscape!

By FLAtRich

LOS ANGELES September 11, 2002 (eXoNews) - Frell! In what can only be described as a catastrophe for quality science fiction on television, the Sci Fi Channel has decided to cancel Farscape after 88 episodes at the end of season four.

The award-winning show follows the adventures of US Astronaut John Crichton, played by Ben Browder, and alien ship mates played by Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Gigi Edgley, Wayne Pygram and Raelee Hillon.

Farscape has been described as the most original science fiction show ever to hit the small screen - and it is just about as far from what we've grown used to as Trek's Enterprise is from Farscape's living Leviathan ship Moya.

Farscape won the 2002 Saturn Award for Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series. Star Ben Browder also won the 2002 Saturn Award for Best Actor on Television.

The show received its first Emmy nomination this year.

You Can Help Save Moya!

A Message from Virginia Hey (Zhaan):

Darling friends,

Farscape needs your help urgently and desperately!

Farscape has been cancelled by the Sci-Fi Channel, NO MORE SEASONS, and David Kemper has asked us ALL to help, we need you to storm USA Networks with calls
and letters. (NOT emails, they don't work under these circumstances.)

We have only till next Wednesday Sept 11th before the sets will start to be destroyed.. My beloved Pilot has already been dismantled and put in a box!!!!!!! They are about to film the last week of the last ep of season 4
next week, so PLEASE hurry!!!!!

Send urgent letters requesting a season 5 to:

USA USA NETWORKS
SCI FI CHANNEL AUDIENCE SERVICES
1230 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS, F115
NEW YORK, NY 10020-1513

The Sci Fi Channel: Rockefeller Center
PO BOX 331 - NY, NY 10185

AND CALL
212-413-5000 OR 212-413-5821 OR 212-413-5577

Get updates on the campaign (and posters as shown left) at the main Save Farscape site - http://farscape.wdsection.com
 

Save Farscape Petitions Online - http://farscape.wdsection.com/petitions.html

Virginia Hey's Official site -
http://www.virginia-hey.com 

According to Zap2it, The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment had been negotiating with Sci Fi for the last few weeks for a fifth season, but executive producer David Kemper reported to fans that Sci Fi sited the cost of production and declining ratings scuttled Moya and her crew.

"Tuesday will be the last time Ben dons the uniform of Commander John Crichton," Kemper said in an online chart last Friday. "We are all hugely sad. I am shaking as I write this. Yesterday, we all cried on the set. Being just the people who make the show and not the corporate entities that fund and air it, we are as helpless as anyone. And we are sad. And we are shattered. And we are sorry."

Farscape fans can take some hope, however. The Sci Fi news may just be a cliff-hanger. The Jim Henson Company released this official statement on Tuesday:

"Farscape is a flagship show for The Jim Henson Company. We are proud of its achievements over the past four years, which have included international critical recognition, three Saturn Awards, and a recent Emmy nomination. As always, your show of support is a true inspiration for our company and has been integral to our success.

"Although SCI FI Channel has chosen not to pick up a fifth season, The Jim Henson Company is in active development on a new Farscape film, an anime project and is currently discussing syndication of this highly acclaimed series. We are eager to move forward with the Farscape creative team in developing new projects that will resonate with our overwhelmingly loyal fan base."

Time will tell if Sci Fi made a wise decision. In canceling Farscape, the network compared Farscape to higher ratings garnered by their more recent acquisition Stargate SG-1 - but this seems strange. Stargate SG-1 originated on pay-cable's Showtime, who canceled the show before airing a completed sixth season. This created a built-in Showtime roll-over audience waiting to see the season six episodes Sci Fi chose to premiere in their Friday-night schedule this summer.

But the first four seasons of Stargate have already been widely syndicated on broadcast TV. This leaves only season five of Stargate to keep broadcast and basic cable viewers coming in after season six completes. Once season five is aired, Stargate SG-1 will be just another set of reruns on the Sci Fi schedule.

Also notable: Stargate SG-1 has no Claudia Black or Gigi Edgley to seduce male viewers. With all due respect to SG-1's more demure Amanda Tapping and Teryl Rothery, Farscape's alien women are hot!

According to The Hollywood Reporter, there are 11 fourth season episodes of Farscape still to be shown by Sci Fi, starting in January. The direct-to-video anime version of Farscape will be written by series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon.

In this week's online reader poll, Cinescape reported 81% of voters disapproved of the Farscape cancellation (of 3166 voters at press time.) Only 5% had not heard of Farscape.

Creation Entertainment issued their regrets and wants fans to know that Farscape Fan Conventions will continue as scheduled. The next con in California will be at the Burbank Airport Hilton Hotel, the weekend of November 22, 2002.

Appearances by CLAUDIA BLACK (Aeryn Sun), GIGI EDGLEY (Chiana), WAYNE PYGRAM (Scorpius), ANTHONY SIMCOE (D'Argo), KENT MCCORD (Crichton's dad) and RAELEE HILL (Sikozu Shanu) are confirmed for the Burbank Convention. Check the Creation web site for Farscape events near you and to buy advance tickets.

See our sidebar for a message from Farscape actress Virginia Hey and info on fan efforts to save Farscape!

Official Farscape Site - http://www.farscape.com 

Creation Entertainment - http://www.creationent.com 

Sci Fi Farscape Site - http://www.scifi.com/farscape 

Contact The Henson Company for notification about upcoming Farscape projects - farscape@henson.com 

For more info on the good fight, you can join the newly created Save Farscape Announcements group on Yahoo! Groups - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SaveFarscapeAnnouncements 

Save Farscape Petitions Online (over 10,000 signers at press time!)  - http://farscape.wdsection.com/petitions.html

'Ackermansion' To Be Sold 

Hollywood September 9, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Longtime SF editor and literary agent Forrest Ackerman is selling off his legendary Hollywood house, nicknamed the "Ackermansion," and his collection of SF movie memorabilia to pay legal bills, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The two-story, 5,800-square-foot mansion, perched on a winding street in the hills above Hollywood, once had more than 300,000 SF and horror film items crammed into every nook and cranny.

Ackerman reportedly led more than 50,000 fans on personal tours of the house and the ragtag collection of memorabilia, including movie posters, paintings and masks of screen legends like Boris Karloff, as well as costumes and props from classic SF movies.

Ackerman, the former literary agent for such authors as Ray Bradbury and founding editor of the cult magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, is selling the house, which was listed for $1.3 million and is now in escrow.

In addition, Ackerman, 85, said he is liquidating his memorabilia collection to raise money to pay for an expensive legal fight against his onetime business associate, Ray Ferry. Ackerman now lives in a rented five-room house in Los Angeles with a few of his most-treasured items, including a replica of the female robot from his favorite film, Metropolis.

Larry Sanders Goes Broadcast

Sony TV Press Release September 10, 2002 - Hey now! Larry, Artie, and Hank are back in this award-winning, breakthrough comedy, The Larry Sanders Show, making its broadcast television debut Saturday, September 14th. 

Critically praised as "the best-written, most daring comedy series on television," The Larry Sanders Show broke records as the first-ever cable series to receive 56 Emmy Awards and nominations. Check your local listings.

[If you've never seen it, it's rather brilliant, so don't miss it. It may be on late in your area - set your VCRs. Ed.]

TNT Shelves Witchblade

LOS ANGELES September 4, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - A mystical weapon is no match for programming executives. TNT has canceled their signature drama series "Witchblade" after two seasons despite its strong ratings performance. The show consistently drew a 2.0 rating in TNT's cable universe, and debuted to record-breaking numbers in 2001.

It is considered to be the most successful series the basic cable network has ever produced.

"Witchblade" star Yancy Butler entered rehab six episodes into second-season filming, and rumors circulated that she would be replaced.

She returned to production after one week, and the show made its scheduled debut on time, improving over its previous bow among adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.

The network issued a statement saying, "From its pilot through two seasons, 'Witchblade' on TNT delivered on many levels for the network, our affiliates and advertisers while proving to have a solid fan base. But at this time, the network feels that the series has reached a fitting conclusion and did not feel stretching to a third season was in the best interest of the show."

[For once, I agree. This show was a stretch from the beginning and it just got worse in the second season. Ed.]

Goldsmith Completes Score of STAR TREK: NEMESIS 
BY CHRISTOPHER ALLAN SMITH 

Hollywood September 5, 2002 (Cinescape) - Word has it Jerry Goldsmith, who started composing for the STAR TREK series in the late 1970s with the first big screen adventure for the franchise (that would be STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE), has announced he’s completed work on his fifth TREK film.

The film, this December’s STAR TREK: NEMESIS (obviously), is the third in a row for him, as he scored both STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT and STAR TREK: INSURRECTION. This is the first time a composer has done more than two TREK films in a row.

He also reports post-production is steaming along nicely under the direction of TREK newbie Stuart Baird (who worked with Goldsmith on EXECUTIVE DECISION). Word also has it from Paramount’s marketing department this will be the last adventure for the NEXT GENERATION crew (as you may have seen from the trailer’s tagline) but most involved have said if it’s financially successful, they expect to be back for another go around.

[MSN sez: Chat with the Enterprise's new captain Scott Bakula on September 18 at 6pm ET http://g.msn.com/0NL34075/446 Ed.]

Hall Zones In On Season Two 

Hollywood September 9, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Anthony Michael Hall, who stars as Johnny Smith in USA Network's original series The Dead Zone, told SCI FI Wire that work is underway on season two, even as the series winds up its first season on the air. "They're already working on storylines," Hall said in an interview. "I received two outlines, which were great."

Added Hall, who also co-produces the show, "One of the things I'm going to do when I get back to Los Angeles [from Vancouver, B.C., where the show is shot,] is spend more time with [head writers/producers] Michael and Shawn [Piller] and the rest of the writers, because I want to get a sense of some of the ideas they have in mind. I want to raise the stakes. I think, as we've seen with hit shows on HBO, for example, that you always have to raise the bar and give [the audience] more than what they expected. And that's a challenge for everybody, the actors as well as the writers. We want to improve upon what we have already."

[And see what Johnny says in this additional DZ data below from the official newsletter... Ed.]

Get the popcorn ready and throw away the remote, because next Sunday, September 15, USA will be presenting an all-day Dead Zone marathon!

All 12 Dead Zone episodes so far will air in order, beginning bright and early at 10AM/9C. Then, at 10PM/9C, don't miss the premiere of "Destiny," the exciting season finale!

That means no time for dinner, no time for the kids -- just commercial breaks all day. Remember, if you miss a second... Johnny will know about it.

The Dead Zone returns with new episodes in early 2003.

Dead Zone Official Site - http://www.usanetwork.com/thedeadzone 

Tracking Terrorism From Space
ATHENS, Ohio September 10, 2002 (Ohio University Press Release) - Orbiting 500 miles above the planet, satellites give scientists a "big picture" view of changes to the Earth's landscape - from suburbanization trends to shoreline erosion.

Now, an Ohio University researcher is using the technology to try to detect a more dangerous activity: terrorism and the areas of the country most vulnerable to potential attacks.

With the aid of a grant from NASA, geographer James Lein will study the use of satellite data to identify geographic areas that could be at risk of terrorist threats. The project, aimed at supporting homeland security, will use information collected from the Landsat and Aster satellites to inventory chemical and power plants, utility lines, key public buildings and geographic characteristics of a region, including population density. Changes in the data, updated every 24 hours, could identify problems and emergencies. 

"Satellite data has the advantage of being able to see a lot of different things in a lot of different ways," said Lein, an associate professor of geography at Ohio University. "The project is trying to support the idea of homeland security by giving information to communities that haven't thought about what's in their backyards." 

The satellites, supported by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, can use digital cameras to zoom in on geographic areas as small as a half meter in size to capture finely detailed images of the landscape, Lein said. For several years, researchers have used satellites to track changes in the Earth's landscape to monitor such issues as the loss of farm land to residential development, deforestation and water pollution. For the purposes of homeland security, government officials can compare images from the same location over time to detect unusual activity, such as at the site of a remote pipeline. 

"It could signal to policy makers where they might be vulnerable and where they should take appropriate actions," he said. The satellites collect information in a process known as "remote sensing," or measuring energy wavelengths such as sunlight reflected off the surface of the Earth.

Different land surfaces, such as forests, streams, agricultural fields, reflect different energy patterns. The satellites then transmit the information, often in electronic form, to a ground station where the data are processed into an image. The technology also could have potential for the detection of airborne agents, Lein noted.

Highly sensitive satellites can spot the wavelength signatures of gases in the atmosphere, as they can record between 100 to 250 different types of energy wavelengths, compared with other satellites, which pick up between only three and 12 types. 

The number of chemical industries and power plants located on the Ohio River makes southeastern Ohio a good test site for the project, Lein said. Preliminary work suggests that the technology could be applied to other areas of the country as well, he added. 

Lein intends to make the satellite data available to state and local government officials as a resource for security planning and response programs. 

Lein previously used satellite technology and remote sensing for risk assessment of natural hazards, including identifying homes in the flood plain that could be damaged by floods. The homeland security project, an idea spawned from a discussion with an Ohio policy maker, is a natural outgrowth of the prior work, he said. His 18-month NASA grant for the project is administered through the Ohio Aerospace Institute.

The geographer is a member of Ohio View, a consortium of 10 Ohio universities and government partners dedicated to using satellite data for education and research purposes. Recent projects by the organization's researchers include using the data to study gypsy moth infestations around the state and water quality of Lake Erie.

Lein expects to compile more findings from the homeland security project, which will involve Ohio University graduate students, in four to five months and will present and publish data in the upcoming year.

OhioView - http://www.ohioview.org 

Landsat Home Page - http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov 

Large Landsat 7 photo of downtown Denver Colorado - http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/data/Browse/Cities/denver_sub_10jul1999.jpg 

Billion Year Old Life on Earth
By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Scotland September 9, 2002 (BBC) - Life colonized the land more than a billion years ago, far earlier than previously thought. A geologist at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, Dr Tony Prave, has evidence that some ancient sandy surfaces were covered in a film of bacteria, a so-called biocrust. 

The rocks with the evidence for a biocrust are in the Torridon region of north-west Scotland, where they were laid down between 1,000 million and 543 million years ago. Ripples have been found that show the sand was being held together by a bacterial film.

"This may be traces of the first creatures ever to live on the land," Dr Prave told BBC News Online. 

A billion years ago the Earth was undergoing a series of cataclysmic changes. The composition of the atmosphere was fluctuating wildly. Climatic conditions went from extreme to extreme. Primitive life had already taken hold on the Earth and consisted of single-celled organisms like bacteria and was confined to the vast seas that even then covered most of the globe. But scientists believe that the land was barren and was not colonized by life until hundreds of millions of years later. 

But that picture may change if features seen in rocks by geologist Dr Tony Prave are what he thinks they are. 

"When you get up into the Torridon region you are looking at sandstones and shales, rocks with well understood mineralogical composition. They record the history of a part of what was then North America." 

Then he looked closer. 

"Looking in detail at the sedimentary rocks I saw a particular series of features that seemed odd. I knew these rocks formed inland, in rivers, and not in the sea, but there were intriguing features on the surface of them that I had never seen before." 

What Dr Prave may have found is the first physical evidence for bacteria having colonized the land. 

"What you basically see are flakes, little ripples on the surface of the rock that were the surface of the land back then. It appears that the flakes are almost plastic or rubber-like in texture," he told BBC News Online. 

"I believe the sand was being held together in clumps by ancient bacteria that formed a film, a biocrust, over the surface. If this is true then the invasion of the land had begun far earlier than we realized, by a billion years ago it was already underway." 

Writing in the journal Geology, he says that, unfortunately, all that remains of the first land dwellers are the matted clumps of sand they held together. It is not possible to tell very much about the organisms themselves. 

"The fascinating thing about bacteria is that today they seem to have an uncanny ability to live just about anywhere," he says. "And so it was a billion years ago. These ripples in the rocks are all that remains of the first creatures ever to live on the surface of our planet."

Nuclear Meltdown
Dublin September 9, 2002 (Greenpeace) - The lid has finally been blown off the nuclear industry’s chamber of secrets. Coverups, bankruptcies and insolvencies, safety lapses and failures in plant security have been on the roll call in the last week alone.

And all this as the most potent symbols of the industry's failure, two nuclear freighters, near the Irish Sea. 

As the highly dangerous and unnecessary shipment of reject plutonium from Japan to the UK enters European waters, nearing its eventual destination of Sellafield, the British and Japanese nuclear industries must be wishing they had never signed the contract for it to proceed. 

Last week British Nuclear Fuel’s (BNFL) largest single reprocessing client, British Energy, declared itself on the verge of insolvency. Then, news broke that Japan’s largest utility, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has been embroiled in a scandal around falsification of safety inspections at their reactors. 

Oh for clean, safe energy which many could have had access to by now if the huge subsidies gratefully received by the nuclear and fossil fuel industries had been spent with the health and security of the planet and its people in mind. In a recent poll, 72 percent of the British public said ‘No’ to nuclear and ‘Yes’ to wind power. The City Assembly of Kashiwazaki in Japan has just voted against approval for plutonium loading at the Kashiwazaki-kariwa reactor, it is hoped that other cities and prefectures follow suit.

En-route, the plutonium shipment has already moved the governments of 80 nations to register strong protests. Some seafarers have felt so strongly that they have put their lives on the line by forming a flotilla to protest the shipment’s passage through the Tasman Sea. Many thousands more concerned landlubbing citizens have joined Greenpeace’s virtual flotilla and have emailed protest letters to the Japanese and British foreign ministers as well as to South Africa’s President Mbeki. 

To add to the nuclear industry’s woes, in the next week or so the reject plutonium shipment will sail into the Irish Sea into possibly the largest peaceful protest that it has encountered. A flotilla of sailboats from Ireland and Wales, and Greenpeace’s flagship, Rainbow Warrior II, will be there to ensure that the plutonium shipment will get the world’s attention. 

Ireland is the country most affected by the UK’s nuclear industry. Sellafield is only 60 miles away from the Irish coast and has been pumping 2 million gallons of liquid radioactive waste into the Irish Sea every day, making the Irish Sea the most radioactive sea in the world. If an accident happens at the plant or with the shipment, or if there is a terrorist attack, depending on which way the wind blows, Dublin, Dundalk, Drogheda, Belfast, and vast parts of Ireland, would be uninhabitable. No wonder the Irish government is sending a navy patrol boat and a spotter plane to closely monitor the shipment.

There is a huge global groundswell of anger against this shipment as it is a potent symbol of the unreliable, uneconomic and dangerous industry which it services. Let us hope that the people who so easily risk our lives to turn a profit finally see the light, cancel further shipments and recognize that only clean, safe energy will do.

Nano News!
Nano Chips Arrive

STOCKHOLM September 9, 2002 (HP Press Release) - Hewlett-Packard has announced dramatic new breakthroughs in molecular electronics by scientists in HP Labs the company's central research facility. 

Speaking at a symposium celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden, R. Stanley Williams, HP Fellow and director of Quantum Science Research at HP Labs, said his group had created the highest density electronically addressable memory reported to date.

The laboratory demonstration circuit, a 64-bit memory using molecular switches as active devices, fits inside a square micron -- an area so tiny that more than 1,000 of these circuits could fit on the end of a single strand of a human hair. The bit density of the device is more than 10 times greater than today's silicon memory chips.

The lab has also combined, for the first time, both memory and logic using rewritable, non-volatile molecular-switch devices. They have fabricated the circuits using an advanced system of manufacturing called nano-imprint lithography -- essentially a printing method that allows an entire wafer of circuits to be stamped out quickly and inexpensively from a master. 

"We believe molecular electronics will push advances in future computer technology far beyond the limits of silicon," said Williams. "Capacity and performance could be extended enormously by layering molecular-switch devices on conventional silicon without the need for complex and expensive changes to the base technology." 

The circuits were fabricated using HP's patented cross-bar architecture incorporating molecular switches. 

First, researchers made a master mold of eight parallel lines, each only 40 nanometers wide. Then, in a three-step process, researchers: 

Pressed the mold into a polymer layer on a silicon wafer to make eight parallel "east-west" trenches, which they then filled with platinum metal to form wires; 
Deposited a single layer of electronically switchable molecules on the surface; and 
Repeated the first step, after rotating the mold 90 degrees to make another eight wires, running "north-south," on top of the molecular layer.

At each of the 64 points where the top and bottom wires crossed, the roughly 1,000 molecules sandwiched between them became a bit of memory. A bit can be written by applying a voltage pulse to set the molecules' electrical resistance and read by measuring their resistance at a lower voltage. 

"Using a combination of optical and electron beam lithography, it took about a day to create the master, which included 625 separate memories connected to conventional wires so that we can communicate with them," said Williams. "After that, it took just a few minutes to make an imprint." 

The memories also proved to be both rewritable and non-volatile -- that is, they preserved information stored in them after the voltage was removed. Today's DRAM chips do not have this capability. 

The researchers also put logic in the same circuit by configuring molecular-switch junctions to make a demultiplexer -- a logic circuit that uses a small number of wires to address memory. A demultiplexer is essential to make memories practical. 

"This is the first demonstration that molecular logic and memory can work together on the same nanoscale circuits," said Williams. 

Four U.S. patents have been awarded in connection with this work and scientific papers are being submitted to reviewed technical journals for publication. 

The HP Labs research team that fabricated and tested the memory was led by senior scientist Yong Chen and included Douglas A. A. Ohlberg, Xuema Li, Duncan Stewart, Tan Ha, Gun-Young Jung and Hylke Wiersma.

Images are available at http://www.hpl.hp.com/about/media/stockholm/ 

HP Labs - http://www.hpl.hp.com

Nanotech Eco-threat?

By Jim Krane
Associated Press

NEW YORK September 06, 2002 (AP) — It's supposed to make computers small enough to implant into a wrist and supply materials that strengthen and lighten bridges and airplanes. It might even cure cancer. 

But some environmentalists fear that nanotechnology, the fast-advancing science of manipulating materials at the molecular scale, may create contaminants whose tiny size makes them ultra-hazardous. 

"If they get in the bloodstream or into ground water, even if the nanoparticles themselves aren't dangerous, they could react with other things that are harmful," said Kathy Jo Wetter, a researcher with the ETC Group, an environmental organization that also opposes genetically modified crops.

Scientists say such fears consist mainly of speculation. Nanotechnology, they say, involves well-known materials such as carbon, zinc and gold — both toxic and benign. New tools simply let researchers alter those materials at the atomic level, where the particles are measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. 

"It may have some unexpected consequences. Some could be toxic," said Mihail Roco, the National Science Foundation's senior adviser on nanotechnology. "But this happens with larger particles and in other industries. The risks are very small in comparison with the benefits." 

Nanotechnology research is one of the U.S. government's top science initiatives, fed by $604 million in federal funds this year. ETC estimates worldwide research funding at $4 billion, including government initiatives in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Australia. Wetter, whose Canada-based group organized discussions at the World Summit on Sustainable Development last week in South Africa, believes the coming industrial production of nanoparticles has not been properly scrutinized for environmental or health risks. 

What if the tiny, man-made particles accumulate in the liver or lungs? she asks. 

Carbon nanotube molecules currently touted as a substitute for silicon in ever tinier transistors closely resemble spiky asbestos fibers, she said. Although a pair of studies on mice and guinea pigs indicated that the carbon fibers probably posed little risk to humans, Wetter and others speculate they could damage humans' lungs. In a move that researchers believe is too dramatic, ETC is asking governments to halt development of nanotechnology until environmental and health concerns are researched and assuaged. 

"Commercial applications are getting closer," Wetter said. "This is a new material and it needs to be looked at." 

In the United States, the federal Environmental Protection Agency hopes to hatch a pair of such studies this year, although research grants to fund them have yet to be awarded, said Peter Preuss, director of the EPA's National Center for Environmental Research. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration plan to examine agricultural and food aspects during a nanotechnology workshop in November. 

"We're moving on it, but we don't have any work under way at this point," Preuss said. 

The ETC Group poses other scary potential scenarios. It says nanoparticles being tested as bloodstream carriers for medicines that attack cancer and other diseases might as easily deliver toxins. Since nanoparticles have been able to evade the brain's defenses against blood impurities, a toxin-toting piece of nanomatter could take hold in the brain, Wetter said. Scientists have called this a speculative long shot. 

The ETC Group also worries that future nanotech-enabled foods such as so-called "interactive beverages", which could change color or flavor at the guzzler's behest, would require ingesting millions or billions of nanoparticles. Rick Smalley, the Nobel Prize-winning nanotechnology researcher at Houston's Rice University, labeled the idea of such foods a futuristic scenario that would first need to pass muster with the FDA. 

Nanoparticles are so small that they pass through most filters, and can't be seen. Some, like carbon nanotubes, aren't believed to exist in nature. If there were a problem, and nanoparticles needed to be removed from a normal environment, it might be too late. There remains no detector or sensor that can find some types of nanoparticles outside the laboratory.

Still, several companies are already producing nanoparticles, mainly those used in paints and sunscreen, along with the carbon nanotubes touted for electronics. 

For instance, Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. has announced it will soon be involved in industrial-level production of carbon nanoparticles for use in everything from transistors to makeup. Smalley's company, Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc., produces about a pound of carbon nanotubes per day, mainly for research. The company hopes to increase that to 1,000 pounds per day, he said. 

Smalley said an as-yet unreleased National Aeronautics and Space Administration study showed little cause for alarm, though one mouse tested died after receiving "vast amounts" of nanotubes in its lungs.

Besides, most potential uses of nanoparticles find them sealed inside a polymer used in a cell phone case, perhaps, or a car door or computer chip, Smalley said. 

"Just because you have some nanothing in a product doesn't mean it is floating around and getting into your food," he said. 

Some nanoparticles, like those of gallium arsenide, which contain arsenic, are known to be toxic — as is regular gallium arsenide, a substance used in computer chip manufacture. 

"Are there going to be classes of nanomaterials that are going to pose health problems? Sure," said Kevin Ausman, director of the Rice University Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology. "But those are things we'll know beforehand. We can plan around them."

South Pacific Whale Sanctuaries
By RICHARD C. PADDOCK
NY TIMES STAFF WRITER

AVARUA, Cook Islands September 8, 2002 (NY Times) - Combating Japan's effort to resume commercial whaling in the South Seas, island nations and territories across the South Pacific have begun creating a patchwork of whale sanctuaries to protect the giant mammals.

During the last year, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Niue have banned whaling in their territorial waters. Environmental activists hope that other nations, such as Fiji and the Solomon Islands, will follow suit.

In some cases, the sanctuaries are huge. Extending 200 miles from shore, they comprise the same area as the islands' territorial waters, known as exclusive economic zones. French Polynesia's whale sanctuary, for example, is 1.9 million square miles, more than half the size of the United States.

Although there has been little whaling in the region for decades, advocates say the sanctuaries will help protect whales if Japan tries to expand what it calls "scientific" whaling into the South Pacific. The havens would also provide long-term protection for the animals should Japan succeed in rolling back the International Whaling Commission's 16-year-old ban on commercial whaling, sanctuary advocates say.

"Having declared a whale sanctuary makes it harder for any whaling country to go in there, and it gives people a sense of pride that they have done their part to help save the whale," said Mike Donohue, a New Zealand Conservation Department whale expert and a leading sanctuary advocate.

The recent sanctuary designations add to the areas of the South Pacific that have been off limits to whale hunters since Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Tonga banned whaling in their territorial waters in the 1970s. The Cook Islands, an autonomous territory of New Zealand 3,000 miles south of Hawaii, started the recent wave of whale protection last September when it declared its 700,000-square-mile exclusive economic zone a haven for whales.

"We are closely attached to whales," said Cook Islands Environment Minister Norman George. "We hate them to be hunted and slaughtered. We just love whales."

Despite their small landmasses, many of the island nations are spread out over vast distances, and their territorial waters make up much of the South Pacific. Altogether, the newly protected region covers 4 million square miles, an area larger than Europe.

The World Wildlife Fund, which is spearheading the sanctuary movement, hopes to persuade all Pacific island nations and territories to ban whaling in their economic zones by 2004.

"It is important to protect the Pacific Ocean, as it is both the migratory route for whales on their way to their feeding grounds in the southern oceans and the breeding ground for these great mammals," said Dermot O'Gorman of the World Wildlife Fund in Fiji.

There was little whaling in the South Pacific until the whaling fleets of the United States and other northern nations began hunting the giant mammals here in the 19th century. By the 1960s, the great whales of the South Pacific were nearly wiped out, the vast majority of them killed by fleets from the Northern Hemisphere.

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission enacted a moratorium halting the hunting of whales. But the commission still allows whaling by indigenous hunters for subsistence or cultural purposes. It also allows Japan to carry out its limited whaling and to kill more than 400 whales a year. Norway, which rejects the moratorium, continues to hunt whales commercially.

In the early days of whaling, the kingdom of Tonga was a major base for U.S. ships. The foreigners taught the natives to hunt the animals near their islands. One technique favored by the Tongans was to use a harpoon with a stick of dynamite attached. The hunters would spear a calf and tether it to their boat. When the mother came near, a whaler would light the fuse on the dynamite and harpoon the larger whale.

In 1978, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV declared an end to whaling in the kingdom. Since then, whale watching has become one of the island's biggest tourist attractions. In the late 1990s, the king rejected a proposal by Japan that Tonga resume whaling under the guise of subsistence hunting in exchange for increased foreign aid.

One Japanese proposal called for the killing of as many as 150 whales a year.

The International Whaling Commission established whale sanctuaries in the Indian Ocean in 1979 and in the Southern Ocean, which encircles Antarctica, in 1994. In 2000, New Zealand and Australia proposed the creation of a sanctuary covering the South Pacific, but the proposal was defeated. The South Pacific whale sanctuary won the support of more than 60% of the member nations but fell short of the 75% needed for approval. Whale advocates have been lobbying the Pacific island nations to declare their own sanctuaries.

"I think it's an idea whose time has come," Donohue said. "Japan has greatly increased its vote in the past four years. If the moratorium goes, at least we've got our sanctuaries."

Australian Women Win Dow Implant Battle
Victoria September 10, 2002 (Sydney Morning Herald) - Thousands of Australian women who received up to $120,000 each in compensation for faulty breast implants today celebrated the end of their decade-long legal battle. 

The claim by 3,100 Australian women against US company, Dow Corning, went before the Victorian Supreme Court for the last time today when Justice Barry Beach finalized proceedings. Justice Beach paid tribute to all involved, saying it was a "remarkable result" that was unique to the Australian claimants. 

Melbourne lawyer Peter Gordon had "left no stone unturned in his efforts to obtain compensation for the Australian claimants and achieved a result that has not been achieved on behalf of other claimants throughout the world," Justice Beach said. 

"Indeed, there is material before the court to the effect that if any of the other claimants are ultimately successful in their claims, it may well be some five to 10 years or so before they receive compensation." 

Justice Beach said there were about 197,000 other claimants worldwide seeking compensation from Dow Corning, which went into bankruptcy in 2001. 

The Australian women received checks for their individual share of the $35 million lump sum settlement in July. Mr. Gordon said the payouts ranged from several hundred dollars from women who suffered no injuries, to $120,000 for women who suffered catastrophic injury. 

One of the grateful claimants wrote to Mr. Gordon: "No-one should be allowed to take risks with someone else's health, no matter how small they might consider the risks to be. Thanks for sticking it to them." 

Another woman wrote: "It has been a long struggle and I must admit many times over the years I began to wonder whether it was going to be resolved, let alone winning any form of compensation." 

Mr. Gordon said he had made use of a window of opportunity, that had now closed, and negotiated the lump-sum settlement with the US insurers of Dow Corning. But he warned the women would not have received any compensation under changes to the nation's tort system proposed by NSW Premier Bob Carr and Prime Minister John Howard that would attack the rights of ordinary people. 

"The laws that Carr and Howard are proposing are not just to protect pony clubs, they are to protect asbestos companies, tobacco companies, pharmaceutical giants - all of the big nasties that you see in these courts every day." 

Up to 2000 other Australian women were still pursuing claims against the company through other law firms, he said.
Luna News!
US Sells Moon to Private Company

By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Washington September 10, 2002 (BBC) - The first private Moon landing has finally been given the green light by the US Government. TransOrbital of California has become the first private company in the history of spaceflight to gain approval from the US authorities to explore, photograph and land on the moon. 

The US State Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have granted it permission to send its TrailBlazer spacecraft into lunar orbit. The launch is set for June 2003 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 

The decision to let TransOrbital launch its lunar mission could spell the beginning of the commercialization of the Moon. 

"The Moon is ripe for commercial development," said Dennis Laurie, of TransOrbital. "It's a lot closer than you think, at least in travel time, which is four days."

Selling The Moon
Maybe it's just me, but does it seem strange to you that no one seems to question the implied need for US government permission to exploit Earth's only moon. Since when does the US Government own the moon? And when did the people of Earth - or US voters, for that matter -  decide it was OK to commercialize it? Just wondering. :o)>Ed.

Winning permission took TransOrbital more than two years. To get federal blessing it had to prove the Trailblazer satellite would not contaminate the Moon with biological material, pollute the lunar surface or disturb previous landing sites. In the long term, TransOrbital wants to develop communications and navigation systems for lunar exploration.

"The cost of Moon travel will be coming down and opportunities going up," says Mr Laurie. 

Several other private companies are pursuing Moon missions. LunaCorp of Virginia also wants to put a satellite into lunar orbit in 2003. 

TransOrbital and LunaCorp hope to find the money for their missions by selling pictures and video taken by their spacecraft.

One use of their images could be for immersive video games that give players the feel of going to the Moon and back.

Trailblazer will provide high-definition video as well as maps of the lunar surface (at 1 meter resolution), as well as new images of Earthrise over lunar terrain. After 90 days the mission will end with the delivery of a time capsule to the lunar surface. It will contain messages, photographs and memorabilia.

The cost to the public to send something to the lunar surface is $2,500 (£1,600) a gram. In addition, the Trailblazer mission should provide the opportunity to photograph the equipment left behind by past Apollo and Russian landings putting an end to suspicions that the Moon landings were faked. 

Beyond the orbital missions TransOrbital and Lunacorp have plans for lunar landers and rovers. TransOrbital says it has the technology, the desire and now the licensing. 

"It's a significant moment for our company," says Dennis Laurie. "People will soon get to experience the moon in ways they never imagined."

[Maybe it's just me, but does it seem strange to you that no one seems to question the implied need for US government permission to explore Earth's only moon. Since when does the US government own the moon? And when did the people of Earth - or US voters, for that matter -  decide it was OK to commercialize it? Just wondering. Ed.]

Man Claims Moon Astronaut Punched Him 

BEVERLY HILLS September 10, 2002 (AP) - Detectives are investigating a complaint that retired astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin punched a man in the face after being asked to swear on a Bible that he'd been to the moon. 

Officers were called to the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive Monday and took a report from Bart Sibrel, 37, who said the former Apollo 11 astronaut had attacked him. 

Aldrin, 72, had left the hotel when police arrived around 4:30 p.m. and was not interviewed, said Beverly Hills Police Lt. Joe Lombardi. 

Sibrel, of Nashville, Tenn., said he doesn't believe Aldrin or anyone else has ever walked on the moon. He said he was trying to confront Aldrin about his 1969 lunar mission when he was punched. Video of the punch aired Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." 

An early morning telephone call left at the office of Aldrin's publicist was not immediately returned.

Moon Dust Stolen From Sweden Museum 

STOCKHOLM September 7, 2002 (AP) - Four grains of moon dust brought to Earth by the first manned lunar mission were stolen from a space exhibit in Sweden, a museum official said Saturday. 

The dust was collected by astronauts during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 and presented to Sweden as a gift by President Nixon a year later. 

The Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm displayed the four .04-inch particles in a coin-sized capsule inside a stainless steel cylinder capped with a glass plate, museum spokesman Goeran Adenskog said. Museum staff noticed Tuesday morning that someone had smashed the glass plate and removed the capsule. 

"We don't think it has any commercial value when the moon dust has been taken out of its context. Without documentation it is very difficult for a layman to determine whether its moon dust or earth dust," Adenskog said. 

Police were notified but had dropped the investigation for lack of clues, he said. 

Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Florian Noller's Spaceflori sells space artifacts - http://www.spaceflori.com 

Bush Wants Forest Control
By Tom Kenworthy
USA TODAY

Washington September 9, 2002 (USA Today) - The Bush administration is asking Congress to ease environmental laws so 10 million acres of overgrown federal forests can be thinned more rapidly to reduce wildfires.

At the same time, the administration is quietly mapping a far more ambitious plan that would bypass Congress: changing agency procedures so such projects can proceed on 190 million acres with far less environmental scrutiny than is now required.

"If you balance the short-term impacts of doing this work against the long-term effects of catastrophic fire, the net environmental impact is favorable," says Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, a former lobbyist for the timber industry. 

The administration strategy, still being fine-tuned, would involve an array of administrative changes to skirt some requirements of federal environmental laws. The result: Thinning projects wouldn't be subject to reviews gauging their environmental impact; citizens would have less opportunity to comment; and there would be fewer studies of the potential harm to endangered species.

The goal of the legislative and administrative plans is what President Bush last month called a more "common sense" approach to protecting vast stretches of forest. Many of those woodlands have become choked with brush and small trees that act as kindling. 

Fires have burned about 6.4 million acres this year, about double the 10-year average for this point in the season.

Legislators in the House and Senate are separately pushing proposals that would accomplish many of the administration's goals.

Many conservationists say that short-circuiting fundamental environmental laws would cater to the timber industry and result in widespread abuses: commercial logging of large, valuable trees instead of brush and smaller trees that feed fires; thinning projects deep in the woods rather than near communities at risk; and excessive road building in sensitive wildlife habitats.

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and Interior Secretary Gale Norton proposed legislation that would effectively exempt thinning projects from the National Environmental Policy Act. That 1969 law requires the government to study the environmental impact of its actions and involve the public in decision-making.

The proposed legislation also would prohibit judges from temporarily blocking thinning projects that are being challenged in court. That could allow the Forest Service and other agencies to complete tree-cutting projects before legal challenges are fully heard.

The legislation envisions such policies on only 10 million acres of forests. The administrative changes being developed would apply to all 190 million acres the government classifies as at risk of fire. Most of that land, a combination of federal, state and private acreage, is in the West.

"It's breathtaking," says Chris Wood, public lands director for the conservation group Trout Unlimited. "It's essentially a wholesale revision of... the most comprehensive network of environmental laws in the world."
Antarctic Species Face Wipeout
By Jeremy Lovell 

LEICESTER, England September 10, 2002 (Reuters) - Thousands of the world's most exotic species of sea animals from spiders the size of dinner plates to giant woodlice face extinction if Antarctic sea temperatures rise as predicted, a scientist said Monday. 

"If the models are correct, we are likely to lose large populations of scallops, giant isopods, bivalve mollusks and giant sea spiders among others," scientist Lloyd Peck of the British Antarctic Survey told reporters at the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual festival. "So far we have looked at 11 species and the answer has come up the same each time. At a temperature rise of two to three degrees, they asphyxiate."

The behemoth-scale giant isopods resemble woodlice but grow to the size of a mobile phone. 

Peck said water temperatures around the Antarctic -- one of the last outposts of relatively untouched environment in the world -- were rising at more than twice the rate of the land temperature, having climbed by one degree in the past 15 years. Scientific models trying to predict the pace and scale of future change pegged the likely rise at up to three degrees within 100 years. Surveys have shown that the Antarctic sea dwellers were unable to adapt to such temperature changes so they effectively suffocated due to their inability to move oxygen round their bodies. 

"These are probably the most fragile group of animals in the world to temperature change," he said. "They grow very slowly, producing only a few generations in 100 years. Yet studies show it takes several generations to adapt. Several thousand species of cold-blooded invertebrate animals would be at risk if we get the kind of temperature rise indicated. In this part of the world we have some of the most exotic animals there are."

He said there was every possibility that such a wholesale climatic slaughter would have an impact higher up the food chain, but that it was impossible to say just how they would be affected. While the impact of temperature change on the animals was undoubted, the key lay in whether the predictive models were right. 

"The major question is if the models are correct. If they are, things don't look very good," Peck said. 

Scientist Andrew Brierley, of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said his studies showed that on the plus side of climate change, krill -- a basic foodstuff of whales and penguins -- might not be as much at risk as previously thought. 

He told the same news conference that krill -- minute shrimp-like creatures -- had been found to be concentrated at the edge of the Antarctic sea ice and therefore lost relatively little of their habitat as the ice receded with global warming. 

"The edge of the sea ice is relatively small compared to the total area of the ice shelf, and that is critical," he said. "A smaller proportion of the krill's habitat is lost than the total."
Is Rock Art a Sign of Universal Language?
By Rossella Lorenzi
Discovery News

ITALY September 6, 2002 (Discovery) — Human communication across the globe began with the same primitive metaphors, logic associations and rules, all of which emerged from three main concerns: food, sex and territory, according to an Italian scholar who claims to have deciphered 30,000-year-old rock drawings.

In fact, since there are so many visual similarities among prehistoric rock art around the world, it's likely that a kind of "primordial mother language," existed as Homo sapiens were getting under way "from which all the spoken languages developed," wrote Emmanuel Anati, founder of the World Archive of Rock Art, in a three-book series published recently by the Val Camonica Center for Prehistoric Studies.

Only much later did differences in conceptualization, language and art emerge, influenced by factors such as environment, climate, diet and social norms, he said. "Comparative analysis shows that the earliest art is homogeneous all over the world, presenting the same logic structure, the same associations and symbolism. It is a mirror of the workings of Homo sapiens' mind," he told Discovery News. 

Anati, one of the world's authorities on rock art and a graduate of five Universities — Harvard, the Sorbonne, Oxford, London and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem — compared rock art from 160 countries on five continents. 

According to his study, the earliest prehistoric art in Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas feature the same fundamental colors, with a striking predominance of red. 

The same themes occur over and over — mainly sex, food and territory — as does a unified system of signs, what Anati calls pictograms, ideograms and psychograms. 

Five subjects recur constantly: human figures, animal figures, weapons and tools, topographic signs, ideograms and symbols. Representations of plants and landscapes are very unusual. 

"Across the world, the human mind tends to associate similar values to similar signs. Rectangles and squares generally mean 'territory' in Euroasiatic and American regions. Sets of wavy lines represent water or liquid in at least four continents, while a rayed disc depicts the sun in all continents," Anati wrote in his "Elementary Structure of Art." 

His primordial language model has sparked a scholarly dispute.

"I believe art developed in a mosaic fashion at different times and in different ways. The predominance of the color red may bind early art to some extent across the globe, but after all this is the color of blood, of fecundity and procreation — it is the color of life," Christopher Henshilwood, responsible for finding amazing evidence of artworks and early-than-thought human behavior in the South African Blombos rock, told Discovery News. 

Robert Bednarik, president of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations, said any truth in Anati's ideas may be just pure coincidence.

He noted that relatively complex speech is probably well over a million years old, much older than the production of palaeoart, which began only after that. 

"In some respects, Anati may be right, but his time frame is obviously false ... . I agree that the range of motifs and art-producing behavior of both the Lower and the Middle Palaeolithic societies of the world is amazingly similar. 

"In fact, the patterns are so universal, that I would favor a period of great cultural uniformity. But palaeoart seems to be a result of much improved cognition rather than an impetus of it."


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