|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! |
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.
The show received its first Emmy nomination this year.
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.
"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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
TNT Shelves Witchblade
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.
Goldsmith Completes Score of STAR TREK: NEMESIS
[MSN sez: Chat with the Enterprise's new captain Scott Bakula on September 18 at 6pm ET http://g.msn.com/0NL34075/446 Ed.]
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."
|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.
Lein intends to make the satellite data available to state and local government officials as a resource for security planning and response programs.
|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.
|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.
|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
Still, several companies are already producing nanoparticles, mainly those used in paints and sunscreen, along with the carbon nanotubes touted for electronics.
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.
|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.
One Japanese proposal called for the killing of as many as 150 whales a year.
|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.
|US Sells Moon to Private Company |
By Dr David Whitehouse
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.
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.
[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
Moon Dust Stolen From Sweden Museum
|Bush Wants Forest Control|
|By Tom Kenworthy |
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 |
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.
"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.
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.