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Terrorism: Truth or Die!
Where's Osama? H-bomb Dad Dead,
Black Hole Sings, Bacterial Battery,
Kuiper Belt Fossils & More!
Terrorism: Truth or Die!
[Two years later and the sad truth is that the US War on Terror is far from over. The deadliest game on earth continues to be played out every day in every nation and our leaders can offer little consolation to victims or real proof of progress. Citizens of the world continue to look over their shoulders while the politicians squabble. Paranoia has become fashion, and perhaps "Trust No One" is our only defense. Ed.]

New Steps Urged to Curb Biological Weapons Threat
By Patricia Reaney

MANCHESTER, England September 9, 2003 (Reuters) - Days before the second anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, biological weapons experts warned that more needs to be done to lessen the threat and prevent a new biological arms race.

Mark Wheelis, an expert from the University of California, Davis, said on Tuesday that existing intelligence was inadequate and an international inspection system might be needed.

"In the long-term if the international community wishes to constrain the biological weapons threat, two major steps will be necessary -- first, transparency in biodefense activities and secondly some kind of international regime to allow the resolution of suspicions," he told the British Association science conference.

Secrecy in biodefense provoked suspicion, he added, and was likely to fuel a new biological arms race.

Since the September 11 suicide hijack attacks in New York and Washington and the receipt of anthrax-tainted letters by politicians and media offices later that year, fears of the use of biological weapons have escalated.

Smallpox, anthrax and plague are the agents that cause the most concern because a deliberate release could cause widespread disease and panic.

"We have recent evidence in the last decade of significant failures of intelligence (of the existence and scope of a biological weapons program)," Wheelis said.

Malcolm Dando, a professor at Britain's Bradford University, said the simplification of technologies which could be misused meant small groups and deranged individuals could also pose a threat and cause mayhem.

"We are going to have to get a much more serious grip on control measures," he said.

Trevor Findlay, the executive director of the independent London-based Verification, Research, Training and Information Center, said the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention does not have a verification system to determine compliance.

The experts agreed that it was unclear what would happen in the event of a biological attack and whether any warning would be given before or after an attack.

They suspected the first sign was likely to be people becoming ill, but scientists would only be able to spot an attack by mapping the spread of the disease.

"There are a range of different scenarios that are possible and it isn't clear how these things will pan out," said Alastair Hay, a professor at Britain's Leeds University, adding that a chemical incident would be easier to map than a biological one.

New System to Detect Biological Agents Aboard Warships
Ohio State Press Release

NEW YORK September 9, 2003 – An Ohio State University professor is part of a team that developed a new protocol that the U.S. Navy now uses to detect biowarfare (BW) agents, such as anthrax, aboard its ships.

"Until mid-2002, the only equipment to detect biological agents that warships had were the sailors themselves," said Michael Boehm, an associate professor of plant pathology at Ohio State and a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

"The military was ill-prepared to deal with what might happen if a 37-cent letter filled with anthrax or smallpox was opened on a ship at sea."

Boehm was called to active duty shortly after September 11, 2001, to help the Navy develop an inclusive biowarfare agent detection program. In late 2001, he headed for the Naval Medical Research Center’s Biological Defense Research Directorate (BDRD) in Silver Spring, Md. Boehm's active duty stint ended in February 2003, and he returned to Ohio State.

He and his colleagues at BDRD developed, implemented and trained Navy personnel in how to sample, test and respond to possible biowarfare attacks by agents such as anthrax and smallpox that, this past spring, the Navy adopted as a standard operating procedure for detecting the presence of BW agents. According to Boehm, the plan can be used anywhere there's a suspected BW incident.

Navy BDRD site -

Most Physicians Unready for Bioterrorism
University of Chicago Medical Center Press Release

September 9, 2003 - A survey of 1,000 physicians found that four out of five were willing to care for victims of a bioterrorist attack, but only one out of five felt well prepared for such a role.

Despite the terrorist attacks of September 11, the anthrax mailings, widespread media coverage and a proliferation of programs to teach physicians about bioterrorist agents, a survey conducted in early 2002 by University of Chicago researchers and published in the September 9, 2003, issue of Health Affairs, found that most doctors did not believe they or their practice were well prepared.

"Two years later we really aren't where we ought to be in terms of readiness to handle the next bioterrorism event, whatever that may be," said co-author Matthew Wynia, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of the American Medical Association's Institute for Ethics. "The good news is that physicians are learning more about this and most are willing to help out. The bad news is that, despite this, they don't yet know what their role is and where they fit in the disaster response system."

The researchers were just as troubled by the 20 percent who were unwilling as by the 80 percent who were unprepared.

"Doctors have a moral obligation to care for the sick," said co-author Caleb Alexander, M.D., an instructor in clinical medicine and associate faculty at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago.

Risk has traditionally been part of medical care and there have long been statements in professional codes of ethics supporting the duty to treat, yet only 55 percent of the surveyed doctors agreed that physicians have an obligation to care for patients in epidemics even if doing so endangers the physician's health.

Fewer physicians reported a willingness to treat as the authors described scenarios of increased personal risk. Although 80 percent were willing to treat patients with an "unknown but potentially deadly illness," that fell to 40 percent when the question involved a risk of "contracting a deadly illness." It dropped to 33 percent when the virus was specified as smallpox and it was stipulated that the physicians had not first been vaccinated.

Physicians in primary care were more likely to report willingness to treat, as were those who felt well prepared and those who saw it as a professional duty.

"Given the complexities of learning about bioterrorism, the perceived low likelihood of a local attack, and the many competing priorities facing doctors, it might be unrealistic to expect most physicians to learn how to detect and treat even the most likely bioterror agents," noted the authors. "Efforts to strengthen the public health infrastructure and ensure that all physicians understand their role in the emergency response system may be equally important ways of fostering preparedness."

"Furthermore," Alexander added, "this is an opportunity for physicians to rearticulate and reaffirm long-standing ethical principles regarding the duty to treat."

The research was supported by the Institute for Ethics at the AMA and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program.

University of Chicago Medical Center -

Symposium Focuses on Protecting Food Supply
American Chemical Society Press Release

NEW YORK September 9, 2003 — Protection of the nation's agriculture and food supply has taken on an increased sense of urgency in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01.

Government agencies, industry and academic institutions are vigorously examining security procedures and looking for ways to more accurately assess potential threats and reduce vulnerability. Discussions of initiatives underway in several key areas and organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were featured in a daylong symposium, "Agriculture, Agrochemicals and Homeland Security," during the 226th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Homeland security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — Michael Ruff, Director of Homeland Security for USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Assistant Administrator for ARS' Office of Technology Transfer, says the agency has issued a number of stringent policies and procedures covering pathogen control, physical and cyber security, human reliability, and emergency response planning.

USDA has worked extensively with other federal agencies, state and local governments, universities and the private sector to improve communications and the ability to rapidly detect and respond to any threats to America's agriculture and food supply, he says.

Detecting and preventing agricultural bioterrorism — Neville Clarke, director of the Institute for Countermeasures against Agricultural Bioterrorism (ICAB) at Texas A&M University, outlined the strategies that ICAB has developed to help guard against biological agents designed to cause plant and animal disease. The Institute also is involved in developing plans to handle emergency outbreaks that may threaten the food supply, including recovery plans to accelerate a return to normalcy.

Livestock diseases: A threat to national security — David Huxsoll of Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine, says terrorists who are seeking ways to attack the United States could deliberately introduce foreign animal diseases into the country, which could be difficult to prevent.

Industry's response to ensuring food security and safety — Jenny Scott of the National Food Processors Association's Food Safety Programs says the food industry is focusing on increased screening and supervision of food workers, more controls on access during production and transportation of food products, and stronger barriers against possible intruders.

The Association has developed a Threat Exposure Assessment and Management (TEAM) process to evaluate food security risks and prepared a security checklist of questions to consider when assessing potential vulnerabilities.

American Chemical Society -

Brookhaven Researchers Develop Counterterror Technologies
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory Press Release

September 7, 2003 - NEW YORK, NY -- Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory are developing counterterrorism technologies to help protect the United States from would-be terrorists wielding nuclear weapons, dirty bombs, toxic chemicals, or explosives.

"These sensor technologies give us the capability to discern and identify minute quantities of radioactive materials, and also detect chemical and biological agents and explosives," said Ralph James, Brookhaven's Associate Director for Energy, Environment, and National Security.

"When deployed at the nation's ports, bridges, tunnels, and transportation hubs, these sensors can help law enforcement agencies intercept dangerous materials before they are used in a terrorist attack."

Current technologies under development include:

Cadmium-zinc-telluride sensors: These tiny sensors can detect gamma rays emitted by radionuclides of interest to terrorists, including cesium and cobalt. Unlike high-purity germanium detectors, which are expensive and must be kept chilled, these work at room temperature and are inexpensive.

Large-volume xenon-based detectors: These xenon-gas-filled detectors are another room-temperature device that can detect and identify radioisotopes with great sensitivity.

Thermal neutron camera: This highly sensitive helium-based imaging system uses a wire chamber and coded aperture to "see" fissionable radioactive materials like plutonium from a distance.

Mini-Raman LIDAR chemical sensor: This one-of-a-kind portable chemical sensor can locate and identify chemicals (like those used in nerve gas) in the air or deposited on surfaces from a safe distance, using laser scattering patterns to identify a substance's distinct chemical signature.

Urban Shield: This initiative would integrate real-time data from a network of sensors distributed within a municipal area. This network would employ an array of meteorological instrumentation, satellite data, and detectors to identify and help track chemicals or radionuclides after a release, and provide crucial information to emergency responders.

This work is primarily funded by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Brookhaven site -

House Split on Terror Contingency Plan
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON September 9, 2003 (AP) - Despite widespread speculation that the Sept. 11 terrorists had targeted the Capitol, Congress is still arguing over how to quickly repopulate the House of Representatives if an attack kills most of the nation's lawmakers.

The Constitution allows state governors to quickly appoint new senators if something happens to the Senate, but does not specify how to reconstitute the House beyond holding special elections.

That could leave the House partly empty for weeks during a national crisis and lead to other officials deciding issues, such as possible nuclear retaliation, without congressional oversight, a House member told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.

"As an alternative to either leaving the House vacant for five weeks or more, to leaving an unelected person in charge of the entire country, to a rushed election that doesn't do justice to the process, it is possible to suggest that we temporarily appoint replacements to House members," said Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash.

Baird has called for a constitutional amendment allowing governors to make emergency interim appointments if 25 percent of the House is killed or incapacitated. Baird's legislation died last year without being voted on by the House.

The Continuity of Government Commission, a project of the conservative American Enterprise (news - web sites) Institute and the more liberal Brookings Institution, also suggested in June that a constitutional amendment would be a good idea.

The commission, made up of scholars and one-time government officials like former House speakers Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Tom Foley, D-Wash., also said governors should appoint the replacements, selecting people of their choice or picking from a list of candidates that House members would compile.

"As the 'People's House,' we have never contemplated appointment and as such we want to preserve our distinct quality of being sent as the elected representatives of the people," said House Rules Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif.

He and other House members believe the Constitution already gives Congress the means to quickly replace House members by saying "The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof, but the Congress may at anytime by law make or alter such legislation."

They want legislation allowing the House speaker to call a special election within 21 days if there are more than 100 vacancies in the House, unless a regularly scheduled election is within 51 days.

"In the long term, I believe that after a national crisis, when large number of members of the House have been killed and even the existence of our republic may be at stake, we should still choose to have faith in elections, not selections," Dreier said. "In a national crisis, printing ballots and conducting elections will not be insurmountable obstacles to Americans."

But waiting for a special election while what's left of the American government decides what to do about the attack on Congress leaves one important branch of government out of the loop, Baird said.

"We value direct elections, but we also value the House of Representatives and its constitutional authority, and I don't want to abandon that for five weeks or more during a time of national crisis to people who are almost entirely unelected," Baird said.

The text of Dreier's bill, H.R. 2844, can be found at

Where's Osama?

By Jane Macartney

Singapore September 9, 2003 (Reuters) - His nearly 2m-tall frame may lie in an unmarked grave in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains. Or he could be moving, leaning on a cane and circled by bodyguards, from safehouse to safehouse along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

That mystery serves as a daily reminder to the United States of its failure to capture Osama bin Laden after a two-year hunt. Even the $25-million (about R200-million) reward has yet to net either the al-Qaeda chief or the world's newest most-wanted fugitive, Saddam Hussein.

The former Iraqi president may be easier to capture than the Saudi-born Islamic militant suspected as chief architect of the September 11, attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon that killed 3 000 people, counter-terrorism experts say.

"There are not many places that Saddam Hussein can go except Iraq," said David Wright-Neville, former terrorism adviser to Australia's office of National Assessments, equivalent of the US National Security Agency.

"There are many places that Osama bin Laden can go. I think they will get Saddam, dead or alive, but I am not convinced they will get bin Laden - and if they do he will be dead," said Wright-Neville, now at the Monash Global Terrorism Research Unit in Melbourne, Australia.

US security experts believe bin Laden remains alive after leading the world's most-wanted list for two years and they voice increasing frustration at his success in eluding massed US special forces, spy satellites and aircraft surveillance.

Most dismiss rumors that he lies in a grave, which would be unmarked in line with his Wahhabi Islamic beliefs, in Afghanistan's Tora Bora hills where the al-Qaeda staged one of their last coordinated stands against US forces in late 2001.

Most agree bin Laden is flitting among safe houses along the porous borders dividing Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

That is a large area, populated by tribal leaders sympathetic to a fugitive from US justice and patrolled by intelligence services who may be content to see a little humiliation for the mighty US war machine, analysts say.

"He had built up an extensive network in Pakistan well before September 11 and that was the hub of his communications and logistics," said Afghan expert Ahmed Rashid.

That network is not only in lawless tribal areas where Pakistani forces have long been forbidden to tread, but extends into cities where most arrested al-Qaeda leaders have been found.

"It is very difficult to know to what degree the Pakistanis are really co-operating as far as the tribal belt is concerned," said Rashid. "This is a very sensitive area and the last thing the authorities want to do is to antagonize the tribals."

Tribal anger in the vital buffer along the border with Afghanistan could not only spark domestic political unrest but give birth to even more secure hiding places for Afghans opposed not only to the US forces but to their Pakistani allies.

Bin Laden and his top lieutenant, the Egyptian operations mastermind Ayman al-Zawahri, may be receiving protection not only from renegade members of Pakistan's military intelligence, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but possibly even from similar elements in Iran eager to counter US interests, analysts said.

"The Americans have to live with the Pakistani bureaucracy that works against them and the police that works with them," said Clive Williams, terror expert at Australia National University in Canberra.

Afghanistan offers plenty of hideouts to a man fighting a jihad (holy war) there since the Soviet invasion nearly 25 years ago.

"He knows the language, he knows the people, he understands the area and he has money and Afghans need money," said former Pakistani intelligence chief Hamid Gul.

And the temptation of a $25-million reward from the United States has little meaning for an Afghan farmer who measures his worth in goats and knows such a betrayal means certain death.

"I am sure bin Laden can up the ante and pay much more," said Gul.

Some question whether the son of one of Saudi Arabia's wealthiest construction millionaires retains the financial means to pay off those around him and the physical means to contact those who adhere to his anti-American message.

Bin Laden, who walks with the help of a cane, has not been seen since a videotape in late 2001 in which he appeared grey-faced and tired. He has not been heard from since well before the US invasion of Iraq.

He almost certainly communicates only by human courier and if he does not travel with Zawahri, he then meets him amid great care although probably with some regularity, analysts say.

"It might be that he is ailing... and if he is debilitated then he does not want to present the image of a person who is clearly fading," said Wright-Neville. "He wants to maintain his mystique."

Recent audiotapes breathing of revenge attacks have been voiced by Zawahri. Bin Laden has good reason to keep quiet.

"I'm a little surprised they haven't got him given the resources they have put into this over two years," said Wright-Neville.

They may prefer not to catch him. Recent rumors he was in southeastern Kunar province elicited scant US response.

"They would be putting on trial a man of great conviction," said Williams.

Big Brother in Your TV?

MANCHESTER, England September 10, 2003 (Reuters) - Big Brother technology that already allows people to be tracked through their mobile phones could soon be installed in household objects, tipping off police if they are stolen.

Televisions, DVD players and computers could be fitted with microchips identifying their location and their normal proximity to each other, automatically alerting police if they change unexpectedly, according to a scientist on Wednesday.

"We haven't yet proved the technology will do it, but we are confident it will," says Prof. Nigel Linge from Britain's Center for Networking Telecommunications Research.

He said a police-monitored pilot project testing the hybrid wireless (news - web sites) and mobile phone technology should be up and running within six months in the northern English city of Manchester.

The technology could probably locate a tagged machine down to the nearest meter, he added.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Linge said there were even talks about installing global positioning technology in cars that could regulate speed remotely.

"If you are in a 30 miles an hour zone, the system would automatically prevent the car going over that speed," he said.

Linge said he was well aware of the potential implication for civil liberties of the intrusive potential of the new technology, but at present he was focusing only on the technical aspects.

H-Bomb's Dad Edward Teller Dies at 95

By Andrea Orr

STANFORD CA September 10, 2003 (Reuters) - Edward Teller, a pioneer in molecular physics dubbed the "father of the H-bomb" for his role in the early development of nuclear weapons, died on Tuesday, a Stanford University spokeswoman said. He was 95.

Elaine Ray, a spokeswoman for the Stanford University news service, said Teller had suffered a stroke earlier this week and died at his home on the university campus on Tuesday.

A naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hungary, Teller was a key member of a group of top scientists who fled Hitler's Germany and ended up working on the Manhattan Project, the secret program that developed the atomic bomb.

After the war, Teller pressed the case for a continued strong national defense, persuading President Harry Truman of the need for the far more powerful hydrogen bomb.

The United States detonated the first H-bomb on the Pacific atoll of Eniwetok in November 1952.

It was 2,500 times more powerful than the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which prompted Japan's surrender and brought World War II to a close.

"It wasn't a choice. Nuclear energy existed," Teller told a newspaper interviewer shortly before his 80th birthday. "We would have found it no matter what we did. It's sheer arrogance to say we created the bomb."

Earlier in his career Teller also taught physics and helped set up a graduate department in applied sciences at the University of California.

"Edward Teller was one of the world's leading scientific minds of the 20th century, and he made a major contribution to the security of our nation and world peace," University of California President Richard C. Atkinson said in a statement.

At the time of his death, Teller was a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, specializing in defense and energy policy.

Although he had retired from his post as director emeritus of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a major U.S. nuclear weapons labs, he continued up until his death to come into his office there, about an hour away from his home, three or four times a week, a spokeswoman for the lab said.

Born in Budapest in 1908, Teller completed his Ph.D. in physics under Werner Heisenberg in 1930 at the University of Leipzig and did post-graduate work in Copenhagen with pioneering Danish nuclear physicist Niels Bohr.

Teller was director of the Livermore lab from 1958 to 1960 and professor of physics at the University of California from that time until his retirement in 1975.

The H-bomb, never used in warfare, was the linchpin of the "MAD" (mutually assured destruction) defense doctrine that kept the United States and Soviet Union at bay during the Cold War.

Teller said he regretted Truman's decision to drop the A-bomb on Japanese cities, saying he felt the weapon should have been tried first in a demonstration in hopes Japan's leaders would have been impressed enough to end the war.

Considered too hawkish by many of his colleagues, Teller argued that the absence of defense can bring disastrous results, citing Hitler's takeover of Hungary as evidence.

He came under fire in the 1980s when he helped convince President Ronald Reagan the United States should spend billions of dollars on a space-based defense umbrella that came to be know as "Star Wars."

Critics said the system, based partly on laser-equipped satellites designed to shoot down enemy missiles, was unfeasible and too expensive. Teller won the day, but the ambitious defense umbrella remains a work in progress.

Teller is survived by a son and a daughter, four grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Alaska Freezes Out Seniors
AARP News Bulletin

Juneau September 10, 2003 (AARP) - September marks the first month with no longevity bonus checks for Alaskans age 71 and older since Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) redlined them last spring.

Not many of us could suddenly do without $250 each month," says AARP Alaska's Pat Luby. "Alaska's oldest residents are no exception."

The program's elimination was proposed in the governor's 2004 budget as a way to save the $44 million that was helping nearly 18,000 older citizens manage their budgets.

The Legislature resisted the cancellation of the benefits but also rejected a compromise five-year phase-out proposed by AARP Alaska and other consumer advocates.

The Alaska Senior Assistance Program will provide $120 a month to Alaskans age 65 and older with income less than $15, 134 (for couples, $20,439) during a 10-month transition period. If eligible, call AARP Alaska's information center at (888) 805-1540.


Black Hole Sings!

NASA News Release

September 9, 2003 - Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have — for the first time — detected sound waves from a supermassive black hole. Coming from a black hole 250 million light years from Earth, the "note" is the deepest ever detected from an object in the Universe. The Marshall Center manages the Chandra program.

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory detected sound waves, for the first time, from a super-massive black hole. The "note" is the deepest ever detected from an object in the universe. The tremendous amounts of energy carried by these sound waves may solve a longstanding problem in astrophysics.

The black hole resides in the Perseus cluster, located 250 million light years from Earth. In 2002, astronomers obtained a deep Chandra observation that shows ripples in the gas filling the cluster. These ripples are evidence for sound waves that have traveled hundreds of thousands of light years away from the cluster's central black hole.

"We have observed the prodigious amounts of light and heat created by black holes, now we have detected the sound," said Andrew Fabian of the Institute of Astronomy (IoA) in Cambridge, England, and leader of the study.

In musical terms, the pitch of the sound generated by the black hole translates into the note of B flat. But, a human would have no chance of hearing this cosmic performance, because the note is 57 octaves lower than middle-C (by comparison a typical piano contains only about seven octaves). At a frequency over a million, billion times deeper than the limits of human hearing, this is the deepest note ever detected from an object in the universe.

"The Perseus sound waves are much more than just an interesting form of black hole acoustics," said Steve Allen, also of the IoA and a co-investigator in the research. "These sound waves may be the key in figuring out how galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe, grow," Allen said.

For years astronomers have tried to understand why there is so much hot gas in galaxy clusters and so little cool gas. Hot gas glowing with X-rays should cool, and the dense central gas should cool the fastest. The pressure in this cool central gas should then fall, causing gas further out to sink in towards the galaxy, forming trillions of stars along the way. Scant evidence has been found for such a flow of cool gas or star formation. This forced astronomers to invent several different ways to explain why the gas contained in clusters remained hot, and, until now, none of them was satisfactory.

Heating caused by a central black hole has long been considered a good way to prevent cluster gas from cooling. Although jets have been observed at radio wavelengths, their effect on cluster gas was unclear since this gas is only detectable in X-rays, and early X-ray observations did not have Chandra's ability to find detailed structure.

Previous Chandra observations of the Perseus cluster showed two vast, bubble-shaped cavities in the cluster gas extending away from the central black hole. Jets of material pushing back the cluster gas have formed these X-ray cavities, which are bright sources of radio waves. They have long been suspected of heating the surrounding gas, but the mechanism was unknown.

The sound waves, seen spreading out from the cavities in the recent Chandra observation, could provide this heating mechanism.

A tremendous amount of energy is needed to generate the cavities, as much as the combined energy from 100 million supernovae. Much of this energy is carried by the sound waves and should dissipate in the cluster gas, keeping the gas warm and possibly preventing a cooling flow.

If so, the B-flat pitch of the sound wave, 57 octaves below middle-C, would have remained roughly constant for about 2.5 billion years.

Perseus is the brightest cluster of galaxies in X-rays, and therefore was a perfect Chandra target for finding sound waves rippling through the hot cluster gas. Other clusters show X-ray cavities, and future Chandra observations may yet detect sound waves in these objects.

Animation of Sound Waves Generated in Perseus Cluster -

For images and additional information visit: and

Ghostbusters Probe Police Station
SHELBYVILLE KY September 5, 2003 (AP) - Stymied by mysterious sights and sounds in their own headquarters, cops in Shelbyville called in the ghostbusters.

In the still of night, doors rattled and stairwells creaked in the city's police department. In the light of day, a secretary's desk drawer opened on its own. A city worker who toured the building late one night even reported feeling something grab her leg.

So the police took the probe to another dimension.

"The way I treat it is not that there is a ghost, there's just things that I can't explain," said Officer John Wilson, who contacted the Scientific Investigative Ghost Hunting Team, based in Louisville.

The team of professional paranormal investigators gave the brick building a preliminary review and will return this fall for a thorough probe. The group will set up cameras and tape recorders as well as infrared thermometers to capture any temperature variations.

The goal is to try to prove the strange occurrences aren't caused by paranormal forces, said Kay Owen, vice president of the nonprofit ghost hunting team, which doesn't charge for its services.

"We'll go in and try to recreate everything that they are experiencing," she said. "If they can recreate it, it's not paranormal. It can be explained. It's a process of elimination."
Bacterial Battery?

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Science Editor

Amherst September 9, 2003 (BBC) - Cheap, portable batteries based on sugar-eating bacteria could be a possibility, say scientists. A novel microbe, found in marine sediments, is able to convert sugar into electricity with a higher efficiency than any previously known organism.

Because sugar is abundant in the environment, a battery using the new microbes could provide economical electricity in remote places. While the prospects are good, the researchers say more work needs to be done before their research can be exploited commercially.

Previous study has shown it is possible to use microbes to convert organic matter into electricity. But the process has been cumbersome and costly.

Now, writing in the Journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the US report how the bacterium Rhodoferax ferrireducens can turn simple sugars - found in fruit - into electricity.

"There's been a lot of interest in microbial fuel cells trying to covert sugar into electricity," Derek Lovley of the university says. "But in the past, they've converted 10% or less of the available electrons, and now we're up over 80%."

R. ferrireducens was found in marine sediments in Virginia. "This is a unique organism," Mr. Lovley says.

It is capable of generating electricity while feeding on simple sugars such as glucose (the main form of sugar in the environment), fructose (found in fruits), sucrose (in sugar cane and beet) and xylose (a constituent of wood and straw).

"Although the new process is highly efficient, it is slow. And as the process is right now, we're not talking about a lot of power. It's barely enough to run a calculator."

Nonetheless, the prototype device ran for up to 25 days.

In principle, it could allow a cup of sugar to power a 60-watt light bulb for 17 hours.

A bacterial battery could be used in environments where it is difficult or costly to charge batteries. The US Department of Defense is interested for powering underwater microphones and sonar.

For people living in poor, remote communities, it might be possible to adapt the process so that they can use farm waste to power batteries.

Pericú of the Baja: First Americans?

By Bruce Bower

Mexico September 6, 2003 (Science News) - Around 600 years ago, the Pericú people roamed the southern tip of what is now Mexico's Baja peninsula, a finger of land that extends below California. Although the Spanish conquest spelled their demise in the 16th century, the Pericú were living links to America's first settlers, according to a new anthropological study.

Pericú skulls closely resemble 8,000- to-11,000-year-old human skulls unearthed in Brazil, say Rolando González-José of the University of Barcelona, Spain, and his colleagues. The Brazilian skulls look strikingly like those of today's Australian aborigines. Moreover, the scientists contend, the data indicate that the Pericú were unrelated to modern Native American and eastern Asian groups.

These findings support the scientists' theory that both the first Americans, who arrived at least 12,000 years ago, and the first Australians, who showed up down under around 40,000 years ago, have a common root in southern Asia. A second wave of American settlers, the ancestors of present-day Native Americans, immigrated from northeastern Asia a mere several thousand years ago, González-José's group concludes in the Sept. 4 Nature.

That scenario clashes with the traditional view that both the initial and later waves of American settlers came from northeastern Asia.

"Slowly, we are realizing that the ancestry of the Americas is as complex and as difficult to trace as that of other human lineages around the world," comments anthropologist Tom D. Dillehay of the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

González-José and his coworkers compared measurements of 33 Pericú skulls housed at a Mexican museum with those of 22 ancient Brazilian skulls and hundreds of skulls from a worldwide sample of contemporary groups.

The Baja and Brazilian skulls exhibit telling similarities, the investigators say. These include long, narrow braincases and short, thin faces, a pattern akin to that of modern inhabitants of southern Asia and South Pacific islands.

The Pericú and the ancient Brazilians were descendents of America's initial settlers, the scientists propose. After the last ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, they add, the expansion of a desert across the middle of the Baja peninsula isolated the Pericú from other Native American groups.

Some of the continent's first arrivals probably traveled south along the Pacific coast from Alaska to reach the Baja peninsula's southern tip, González-José says. Researchers typically theorize that after trekking through Alaska, the first Americans headed south through an inland ice corridor.

It's still unclear whether the Baja population descended from the continent's ancient settlers or grew to resemble prehistoric Brazilians by virtue of adapting to a New World environment that's similar to Brazil's, Dillehay says.

According to archaeologist David J. Meltzer of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the next step is to extract DNA from the Baja and Brazilian skulls and determine whether the two groups had close genetic ties. For now, Meltzer remains convinced by skeletal and archaeological evidence that points to Siberia as the homeland of America's first settlers.

More Science News on these early ancestors

Hubble Spots Kuiper Belt Fossils

University of Pennsylvania Press Release

PHILADELPHIA September 6, 2003 - Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered three of the faintest and smallest objects ever detected beyond Neptune.

Each lump of ice and rock is roughly the size of Philadelphia and orbits just beyond Neptune and Pluto, where they may have rested since the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

The objects reside in a ring-shaped region called the Kuiper Belt, which houses a swarm of icy rocks that are leftover building blocks, or "planetesimals," from the solar system's creation.

The results of the search were announced by a group led by Gary Bernstein of the University of Pennsylvania at today's meeting of NASA's Division of Planetary Sciences in Monterey, Calif.

The study's big surprise is that so few Kuiper Belt members were discovered. With Hubble's exquisite resolution, Bernstein and his co-workers expected to find at least 60 Kuiper Belt members as small as 10 miles in diameter -- but only three were discovered.

"Discovering many fewer Kuiper Belt Objects than was predicted makes it difficult to understand how so many comets appear near Earth since many comets were thought to originate in the Kuiper Belt," said Bernstein, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Penn. "This is a sign that perhaps the smaller planetesimals have been shattered into dust by colliding with each other over the past few billion years."

Bernstein and his colleagues used Hubble to look for planetesimals that are much smaller and fainter than can be seen from ground-based telescopes.

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys was pointed at a region in the constellation Virgo over a 15-day period in January and February. A bank of 10 computers on the ground worked for six months searching for faint moving spots in the Hubble images.

The three small objects the astronomers spotted - given the prosaic names 2003 BF91, 2003 BG91 and 2003 BH91 - range in size from 15 to 28 miles and are the smallest objects ever found beyond Neptune. At their current locations, these objects are a billion times fainter than the dimmest objects visible to the naked eye. But an icy body of this size that escapes the Kuiper Belt to wander near the sun can become visible from Earth as a comet as the wandering body starts to evaporate and form a surrounding cloud.

Astronomers are probing the Kuiper Belt because the region offers a window on the early history of our solar system. The planets formed more than 4 billion years ago from a cloud of gas and dust that surrounded the infant sun. Microscopic bits of ice and dust stuck together to form lumps that grew from pebbles to boulders to city- or continent-sized planetesimals. The known planets and moons are the result of collisions between planetesimals. In most of the solar system, all of the planetesimals have either been absorbed into planets or ejected into interstellar space, destroying the traces of the early days of the solar system.

Around 1950, Gerard Kuiper and Kenneth Edgeworth proposed that in the region beyond Neptune there are no planets capable of ejecting the leftover planetesimals, so there should be a zone, now called the Kuiper Belt, filled with small, icy bodies. Despite many years of searching, the first was not discovered until 1992; nearly 1,000 have since been discovered from telescopes on the ground. Most astronomers now believe that Pluto, discovered in 1930, is in fact a member of the Kuiper Belt.

Astronomers now use the Kuiper Belt to learn about the history of the solar system, much as paleontologists use fossils to study early life. Each event that affected the outer solar system -- such as possible gravitational disturbances from passing stars or long-vanished planets -- is frozen into the properties of the Kuiper Belt members that we see today.

If the Hubble telescope could search the entire sky, it would find perhaps a half-million planetesimals, but, if collected into a single planet, they would be only a few times larger than Pluto. The new Hubble observations, combined with the latest ground-based Kuiper Belt surveys, reinforce the idea that Pluto itself and its moon Charon are just large Kuiper Belt members. Why the Kuiper Belt planetesimals did not form a larger planet and why there are fewer small planetesimals than expected are questions that will be answered with further study of the Kuiper Belt. This will help to understand how planets might have formed around other stars as well.

The new results from Hubble were reported by Bernstein and David Trilling of Penn; Renu Malhotra of the University of Arizona; Lynne Allen of the University of British Columbia; Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology; and Matthew Holman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The results have been submitted to the Astronomical Journal for publication.

Hubble Project website -

Genre News: Summer Series Ratings, Nip/Tuck, Lawless Tarzan, Karen Sisco, Bowie, Smallville, Firefly & More!
Summer Series Show Mixed Success
By FLAtRich

Hollywood September 9, 2003 (eXoNews) - Monk and The Dead Zone triumphantly led the race of cable TV show ratings hopefuls this summer. Not surprising as Dead Zone, Michael Piller's USA series based on Stephen King's bestseller, won Saturn nominations this year and Monk's Tony Shalhoub is up for a Best Actor Emmy.

USA's returning winners from last summer "exceeded their performances in July", according to Hollywood Reporter, citing Nielsen Media Research for July 28th through August 30th. USA recently announced that Dead Zone has been renewed for another 13 episodes, to be aired in 2004. Mr. Monk is expected to return as well.

The new USA western series Peacemakers was less of a draw, dropping from a successful premiere at 5.2 million viewers to less than 3 million for succeeding episodes. Peacemakers returns for another go at fall viewers Wednesday September 10th at 10 PM. Perhaps they can lasso a wave of new watchers on the tail of the revamped Star Trek Enterprise Wednesday at 8PM and the new supertech series Jake 2.0 at 9PM on UPN.

Summer action series Fast Eddie was quickly canceled by Fox before the first 13 episodes played out but FX's ratings superstar and critically successful dark drama Nip/Tuck has been renewed for another season (see following article.)

Lesser-known Lifetime dramas 1-800-MISSING and Wild Card fared worse in the summer heat, finishing the period with fewer than 2 million viewers.

The A&E spy series MI-5, first unwisely pitted against Nip/Tuck and later moved to an earlier timeslot dropped from 1.8 million at its premiere to under a million.

The Reporter added that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and other new reality shows performed well.

Playmakers, a sports drama offered by ESPN, is still in contention, but early reports indicate low attendance following the series opening game.

The Dead Zone Official site -

Monk Official site -

Peacemakers Official site -

Enterprise Chat

Hollywood September 10, 2003 (eXoNews) - will host a live chat with Scott Bakula Wednesday, September 10 at 2:00 p.m. PT/ 5:00 p.m. ET. If you miss it, check for transcripts and more info here:

Send your chat questions to

Read more about this week's return of Enterprise on Zap2it in "Trip's Dark Journey on Enterprise" By Kate O'Hare -,1002,274|83374|1|,00.html

Nip/Tuck Renewed

LOS ANGELES September 5, 2003 ( - Although "Nip/Tuck" is only about halfway through its first season, FX has seen enough to decide it wants more of the series.

The cable network has ordered 15 more episodes of the show about two plastic surgeons in Miami. The second season will make its debut in the spring or summer of 2004.

"It's very gratifying to receive a pickup for a second season while we still have seven weeks remaining in season one," series creator Ryan Murphy says. "This show has touched a nerve with the viewing public, and I believe the best is yet to come."

"Nip/Tuck," which stars Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon as best friends and partners in a cosmetic-surgery practice, is among the highest-rated new series on cable this year. Its average audience of 3.4 million viewers a week is a close second to USA's "Peacemakers" (3.7 million), and it draws the most viewers -- 2.1 million -- among the advertiser-friendly demographic of adults 18-49.

The show has beaten its cable competition in each of its first five airings, outdrawing Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," A&E's "MI-5," and MTV's combination of "The Real World" and "The Osbournes" or "Newlyweds."

Lawless Tarzan's Aunt

LOS ANGELES September 8, 2003 ( - Xena's warrior cry is about to make beautiful music with Tarzan's monkey holler. Lucy Lawless is joining the cast of The WB's "Tarzan" in the crucial (but only recently added) part of Tarzan's aunt.

The Kiwi actress will play Kathleen Clayton, a publishing magnate and younger sister of Mitch Pileggi's Richard Clayton, the acting head of Greystoke Industries.

Kathleen and Richard have very different ideas of how to handle their recently rediscovered nephew Jack (Travis Fimmel).

Richard believes that Tarzan must be rehabilitated and reintroduced to non-simian society, while Kathleen wants to give the monkey man time to find his own way. Both may have ulterior motives, as they know that whoever controls Tarzan also controls Greystoke.

"Lucy has a tremendous sense of humor, warmth and grace," says The WB's Entertainment President Jordan Levin.

"She has a fun, larger-than-life personality that will shape the character of Kathleen Clayton as she makes it her own and that is what attracted us to her for future development."

Lawless, who starred in "Xena: Warrior Princess" from 1995 until 2001, is only signed as a regular for the show's first season. Her deal with The WB also includes an exclusive series development deal for the 2004-2005 season.

"Tarzan" reunites Lawless with executive producer Laura Ziskin, who performed the same duties on "Spider-Man," which featured a small cameo from Gabrielle's former bosom buddy.

Tarzan Official site -,7353,||1474,00.html

DeVito and Perlman Meet Up with 'Karen Sisco'

LOS ANGELES September 5, 2003 ( - It's a safe guess that Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman didn't have to audition for their guest roles on ABC's new drama "Karen Sisco."

DeVito is an executive producer of the series, based on Elmore Leonard's "Out of Sight," and Perlman has been married to him for more than 20 years.

As they say, it's who you know.

The couple will appear together in an episode of the show this fall. DeVito will play Charlie Lucre, a South Florida mob boss who becomes a crime victim himself when his prized Babe Ruth-autographed baseball is stolen by two dim-bulb brothers who recently escaped from prison.

Federal marshal Karen Sisco (Carla Gugino) is assigned to track the brothers down before Lucre's goons do.

She turns to their mother (Perlman) for help in finding the boys.

DeVito and Perlman have appeared on screen together numerous times, going back to "Taxi" in the late 1970s. They most recently acted opposite each other in the 1996 movie "Matilda."

An airdate for their episode hasn't been set. "Karen Sisco" premieres Wednesday, Oct. 1 on ABC.

Bowie Does Live Cinema

LONDON September 8, 2003 (Reuters) - David Bowie will attempt to make technological history on Monday with the launch of his new album by beaming his accompanying live performance into selected cinemas around the world.

The live set in London, will showcase tracks from his new album, entitled "Reality," and many cuts from his extensive back catalog.

The 90-minute concert at the Riverside studios in Hammersmith will be beamed live by satellite to 22 cinemas in Europe, including five in the UK.

Cinemas in the rest of the world, including those in Rio de Janeiro, New York, Sydney, Warsaw, Toronto and Tokyo will see the concert the following day due to the time difference.

The performance, shot in widescreen and digitally fed to cinemas, will include an interactive question and answer session with Bowie.

Cinema audiences will also have the chance to request Bowie classics.

Bowie has been a longtime pioneer of technology in the music industry.

In the 1980s he was one of the first artists to use e-mail to communicate with the media while on tour.

In the 1990s, he offered fans a chance to download his latest release from the Internet in one of the first widespread uses of that technology.

Bowie's latest album will be released on September 15 and will be followed by his first world tour in almost a decade.

Official Bowie -

Cleese Nixes Python Reunion
AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES September 8, 2003 - Don't expect to see a reunion of the surviving Monty Python comedians any time soon.

It's not that they hate each other, said one member of the troupe, John Cleese. It's just that they've all become too busy with other projects to work together anymore.

"It is absolutely impossible to get even a majority of us together in a room, and I'm not joking," Cleese said.

"It just happens very, very seldom — every three years or something."

The closest they have come since 1999, when they celebrated the comedy group's 30th anniversary on a BBC reunion special, is working together on new sketches for the extra features on the recent DVD release of their 1982 film "The Meaning of Life."

And even that was done remotely, for the most part.

Cleese, who lives in Santa Barbara, said Michael Palin, who has worked on several acclaimed travel documentaries, was in the Himalayas; American Terry Gilliam, the group's animator and director of "The Fisher King" was in Prague; Terry Jones was "God-knows-where" developing a British history documentary; and Eric Idle was in Canada awaiting the start of a movie that eventually fell through. Graham Chapman died in 1989.

"We stay in contact vaguely because there are often little things to discuss, but I don't think we've been in a room together for four years," Cleese said.

Sometimes their failure to get together has resulted in hard feelings.

"We had all sort of thoughts about doing a final stage tour," Cleese said. "And then Michael, who is painfully nice, who finds it impossible to say 'No,' finally summed up the courage to say 'No,' at which point Eric became very cross about it."

"The Meaning of Life" DVD came out Sept 2, and Cleese said he will watch it for the first time in many years — eventually.

"Sometimes I think people think in our old age we sit around watching our work, and we really don't," the 63-year-old said.

"I'm looking forward to, in the last week before I die — as I lie there in my bed, surrounded by my adoring family, all of them holding out checks for me to sign — I shall in those twilight hours start watching all my old programs again," he said, laughing.

Another Fly Will Fly

Hollywood September 5, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Fox Searchlight has just made a deal to remake the classic SF movie The Fly, with newcomer Todd Lincoln writing the script and directing, Variety reported. Lincoln's resume consists of commercials, shorts and music videos, the trade paper reported.

Searchlight was encouraged by the sleeper success of its summer zombie movie 28 Days Later. Lincoln, an avowed horror buff, told the trade paper that he admires the 1958 original Fly and David Cronenberg's 1986 remake.

"This is certainly inspired by the original, but it's a total re-imagining," Lincoln told the trade paper. He added, "Why, in both films, did the fly never fly?"

Chloe Gets Dark

Hollywood September 2, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Smallville co-star Allison Mack told SCI FI Wire that her character, tyro journalist Chloe Sullivan, is no longer the innocent, spunky and naive girl who thought she knew everything, but really knew nothing.

"As the years have gone on, we've really seen her grow and develop and change," Mack said in an interview. "She's become a woman and realized her strengths and her weaknesses. I think she's gotten a lot more guarded, and she's a lot less open to rejection from the people around her.

"She's been thrown into a horrible situation, and she's been forced to grow up in a lot of ways. So I think that she's matured as a woman."

During season two, Chloe took a bit of a back seat to Clark (Tom Welling) and Lana (Kristin Kreuk), as they explored their burgeoning romantic relationship, and to Pete (Sam Jones III), as he learned of Clark's super secret.

In the upcoming season, Mack revealed, Chloe will step to the fore and toward the dark side.

"I think, as you saw last season, that she was screwed over one too many times," Mack said. "Now she has to make the decision 'Am I the most important person in my life or are my friends?' That's a tough question. It's good. It's very tantalizing, the dark side, and it's very interesting to her. Lionel Luthor [John Glover] makes it sound even more tantalizing.
So she definitely plays with it and touches it, and I think that Chloe definitely has it in her to go that way."

Season three of Smallville will take flight Oct. 1 on The WB at 8 PM, preceding Angel. The super series will begin with "Exile," part one of a two-part opener that concludes the following week with "Phoenix."

Smallville Official site -,7353,||126,00.html

Venice Film Festival Winners

Venice September 6, 2003 (AP) - For those who follow arty things, here is the list of award-winners at the Venice Film Festival announced Saturday night:

Golden Lion for Best Film: "The Return" (directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev; Russia)

Silver Lion of Jury Grand Prix: "The Kite" (directed by Randa Chahal Sabbag; Lebanon/France)

Silver Lion for Best Director: Takeshi Kitano ("Zatoichi"; Japan)

Coppa Volpi for Best Actress: Katja Riemann ("Rosenstrasse"; Germany)

Coppa Volpi for Best Actor: Sean Penn ("21 Grams"; United States)

Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress: Najat Dessalem ("Raja"; France)

Award for an Outstanding Individual Contribution: Marco Bellocchio for script of "Good Morning, Night" (directed by Bellocchio; Italy)

Silver Lion for Best Short Film: "The Oil" (directed by Murad Ibragimbekov; Azerbaijan)

UIP prize for Best European Short Film: "The Trumouse Show" (directed by Julio Robledo; Spain)

San Marco Prize of $55,500 for best film: "Vodka Lemon" (directed by Hiner Saleem; France/Italy/Switzerland/Armenia)

Special Director's Award: Michael Schorr ("Schulz Gets the Blues"; Germany)

Upstream Prize for Best Actor: Asano Tadanobu ("Last Life in the Universe"; Thailand)

Upstream Prize for Best Actress: Scarlett Johansson ("Lost in Translation"; United States)

"Luigi De Laurentiis" Venice Award for a First Film: "The Return"

Firefly the Movie!
By Zorianna Kit and Chris Gardner

Hollywood September 4, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - The short-lived TV series "Firefly" is moving to the big screen. After taking his "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" feature film and turning it into a successful TV series, Joss Whedon is about to do the reverse with another one of his creations. Whedon has teamed with Universal Pictures to turn "Firefly," a TV cult favorite, into a feature film.

In addition to having adapted it for the big screen, Whedon will also make his feature directorial debut with the project. Plans are to see "Firefly" go into production in first-quarter 2004.

Universal recently acquired the rights to "Firefly" from 20th Century Fox Television, where Whedon's Mutant Enemy Inc. production company has a television deal.

The action-adventure series was set 500 years in the future and centered on a crew aboard a spaceship. The feature version will incorporate the mythology from the show but will take on a more epic feel. Whedon hopes to enlist the entire cast to come back for the feature, depending on their previous commitments, with new characters added as well.

Whedon is producing the film through his Mutant Enemy Inc. along with studio-based producer Barry Mendell. Mendell, a former agent at UTA, used to represent Whedon. Mutant Enemy president Christopher Buchanan is executive producing. Universal production president Mary Parent is shepherding the project.

"Ever since the show went off the air, our fan base has grown even more," Buchanan said. "We've had tremendous outpouring from the U.S. and Canada as well as the U.K., which just finished a run of 'Firefly' over there. Every comic book and sci-fi convention has had a 'Firefly' presence since the show first aired."

For the series, which ran this past season, Whedon produced 15 hours of television, including a two-hour episode. Three shows never aired on Fox but will likely be featured on the series' DVD release, due out in December. Buchanan said fans created such a demand that DVD presales on sold out within 24 hours.

Whedon, repped by CAA, continues to be executive producer of "Angel," which he created. His feature film screenplay credits include "Titan A.E.," "Alien: Resurrection" and "Toy Story."

Firefly Fan website -

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