Visit eXoNews for more recent news!

UFOs: Mars & Earth!
State of the Planet 2004
Waves of Titan,
Galactic Heart
Probing Einstein
& More!
UFOs Spotted on Mars and Earth!

UFO on Mars
NASA Press Release

Observing the sky with the green filter of it panoramic camera, the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit came across a surprise: a streak across the sky. The streak, seen in the middle of this mosaic of images taken by the navigation and panoramic cameras, was probably the brightest object in the sky at the time.

Scientists theorize that the mystery line could be either a meteorite or one of seven out-of-commission spacecraft still orbiting Mars. Because the object appeared to move 4 degrees of an arc in 15 seconds it is probably not the Russian probes Mars 2, Mars 3, Mars 5, or Phobos 2; or the American probes Mariner 9 or Viking 1.

That leaves Viking 2, which has a polar orbit that would fit with the north-south orientation of the streak. In addition, only Viking 1 and 2 were left in orbits that could produce motion as fast as that seen by Spirit.

Said Mark Lemmon, a rover team member from Texas A&M University, Texas, "Is this the first image of a meteor on Mars, or an image of a spacecraft sent from another world during the dawn of our robotic space exploration program? We may never know, but we are still looking for clues."

Get the latest eXoNews Mars Rover Reports here.

UFOs on Earth
from the archives of the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC)

Harwich, Essex (UK/England) 
Occurred : 3/29/2004 11:15
Reported: 3/29/2004 3:04:08 AM 03:04

Driving home from the shops and my girl friend said look as she is pointing in to the sky not to far away. I only got a glimpse as I was at the traffic lights as they were turning green to go.

I saw a dark bobly shape looked like it had different round pods or parts, it was just showing through the low clouds.

My girl friend got a really good look and she is freaked out coz she don't believe in things like that.

As I drove around the round about to stop and get a better look it had gone nowhere to be seen. I didn't hear any noise but if there was any it was probably drowned out by the engine of the car.

Any questions or if any one saw the same please contact me ((e-address deleted))

North Vernon, IN
Occurred : 3/28/2004 19:00
Reported: 3/28/2004 6:01:20 PM 18:01

The object is round with one dip in the top and one dip in the bottom, with something sticking up in the middle of the top dip. It appears to the naked eye as a real bright object, but with the close up view of a video camera, it takes the above described shape.

It appears every night at the same time (around 7 pm) in the eastern sky, then moves into the western sky (around 8 pm) and leaves at the same time (around 10 pm).

I noticed the first one in the sky in the year 2000, it appeared to be shooting red beams of light straight out from it, at times.

Then a few months ago I started seeing this one that appears to be keeping the same time schedule and has the similar shape. I have told people about it and most don't believe me.

I am not the only one that has seen this and I just recently took another video of it and shown it to people.

Laurel, MS
Occurred : 3/28/2004 14:30
Reported: 3/28/2004 7:10:28 PM 19:10

At 2:30 today my wife and I were outside allowing our puppy some time to play and do her business. We were sitting in lawn chairs when I looked up and saw a dark brownish-red object directly overhead.

The object looked like a tube with each end rounded like a ball. It was undulating and twisting around slowly.

After I determined it wasn't a bird or any other known object I ran into the house to get my camcorder.

My wife, who wears glasses was unable to see the object mostly because she couldn't find it in the sky. It was moving in and out of the clouds.

After I finally found my camcorder case inside I brought it outside and took out the camera, attached the battery and inserted a tape. All of which took some moments. By this time the object had moved off and was further away.

When I first saw the object it was directly overhead and moving in a north - northeast direction. Now that I had the camera I moved across the yard to a spot where I could shoot through the trees at where I figured it would be by now. In a moment I found it and shot the attached video.

The object was still moving to the north - northeast while clouds were moving slowly to the north. Today was a partly sunny day with rain clouds moving into the area from the south.

My video camera has an onboard automatic focus and it kept trying to focus on infinity during the shoot, thus the image is sometimes out of focus. At one point I pointed the camera down to the top of some trees to force it to focus. As the object moves thru the trees it appears to remain focused. It then disappeared into the cloud bank. My Hi-8mm camera has a 22x zoom which I had it zoomed full. The video is shaky because of this extreme zoom.

I have a higher resolution version of this file as well as the 8mm tape.

Brighton (UK/England)
Occurred : 3/28/2004 00:15
Reported: 3/27/2004 4:25:15 PM 16:25

When I was laying on my bed getting ready to go to sleep I noticed a bright light peak through the blinds from my window.

Being the curious little man I am I decided to get up and have a look.

I was amazed at what I saw. It sounded like a jet but was moving too slow to be a jet, it was moving at the speed of a helicopter but didn't sound anything like it. There was 2 lights on opposite side both blinking and one at the back forming the craft into a triangle shape.

But what really got me was that there was another light in the middle at the front of the craft that was in alignment with the 2 blinking lights. I haven't heard or seen a type of plane with a flat/straight front. This light was like a flood light causing a visible ray of light directing ahead as if it was searching for something.

After watching it got out of my view and on the other side of my house. I went into the other room to look out for it and alerted my brother who didn't seem to be bothered. I failed to see anything.

I then proceeded back into my room to see that it was going back the opposite direction taking a "U" turn around my house, red lights flashed as it got far into the distance as it was no longer visible to me.

Amman (Jordan)
Occurred : 3/25/2004 19:25
Reported: 3/25/2004 9:50:14 AM 09:50

My son and me were looking at Taurus constellation close to the moon when we registered something passing by heading direction north (coming south) appx. 50 meters high.

We thought first it was a bird or a bat, but there were no wings or so, just this cigar shaped object (50cm long) passing by without any sound.

The colour was something like cherrywood. It made some 100 meters within 10 seconds.

Maybe somebody else has seen it in the northern part of Jordan or Syria.

National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) - http://www.nuforc.org

Unidentified Sound Is Heard by Space Crew

By MARCIA DUNN
AP Aerospace Writer 

CAPE CANAVERAL March 2, 2004 (AP) - The two men aboard the international space station heard a strange metallic sound again Friday, four months after being startled by it the first time.

Cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri was talking to flight controllers in Moscow when he heard a loud drumlike noise coming from the instrument panel of the station's Russian-built living quarters. 

Kaleri and astronaut Michael Foale first heard the mystery noise — described as a flapping sheet of metal — back in late November. Neither the crewmen nor flight controllers were ever able to identify the sound, although engineers suspected space junk may have damaged something on the exterior.

Kaleri said Friday morning's noise came from about the same place as before and sounded the same. 

"I had the headset on, so I didn't hear it very clearly. But it sounded sort of like a drum. It sounds sort of like a sheet of something being bent," the cosmonaut reported. 

Russian flight controllers told Kaleri that they would try to figure out where the noise was coming from, and speculated that perhaps one of the systems inside the station was the source of the problem, rather than something on the outside. 

NASA officials, however, said all systems appeared to be operating properly. 

"It's very strange," Russian Mission Control said. "I doubt that it would be a coincidence that you're hearing the same thing coming from the same place." 

During a spacewalk in February, Kaleri and Foale were supposed to check the exterior of the space station where the noise originated last November. But Kaleri's spacesuit overheated and became damp, and the spacewalk had to be cut short, so the men did not have time to inspect the area. 

Kaleri and Foale's six-month space station mission is almost over. Their replacements are due to arrive in another 2 1/2 weeks. 

NASA: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov

State of the Planet 2004

The Earth Institute at Columbia University Press Release

April 2, 2004 - For two days, scientists from around the world gathered at Columbia University to examine the relationship between the human condition and the condition of the Earth. Focusing on four essential determinants of human well-being-energy, food, health and water - these leading experts assessed how science and technology can best be mobilized to achieve sustainable development. The development challenge is to enable the poor to meet their basic needs for energy, food, health, and water, recognizing that these needs are also human rights under international law and long-standing international commitments of both the rich and poor nations. The Millennium Development Goals, agreed by all of the world's governments, are critically important poverty reduction targets to be met by the year 2015. The sustainability challenge is to achieve development while protecting the world's ecosystems, ensuring that economic activity does not undermine the biodiversity, climate and other natural processes on which our security, well-being, and life itself, depend. These scientists have identified areas for priority action as well as new research initiatives. 

The recommendations that follow are based on consensus achieved among a broad cross section of these experts, and are meant to help policy makers and the public understand the scientific underpinnings in several critical areas of sustainable development. In addressing these issues, the conference participants recognized the stark contrasts of the challenges facing the rich and poor. In the poorest countries, where an estimated 800 million people are chronically hungry and where extreme poverty leads to some 20,000 avoidable deaths per day, meeting basic human needs has first priority. Providing safe energy for cooking, clean water for drinking and sanitation, sufficient food for basic nourishment, and systems for disease control and prevention are paramount and urgent global challenges, in which the high income countries will need to help the poorest. Environmental degradation in these places is often both a direct cause and consequence of the struggle to meet basic needs on a daily basis, as when poor rural households cut down forests to clear land for farming or to harvest fuel wood for cooking. Women typically face the greatest burdens of this daily struggle for survival, and often suffer the added hardships of legal and social discrimination. 

In the rich countries, where basic human needs are exceeded by a very wide margin, the pursuit of increasingly affluent lifestyles also has broad and pervasive impacts on Earth. By loading the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, the high-income countries are making a dangerous contribution to long-term climate change, with potentially dire risks for societies both rich and poor in all parts of the world. Maintaining and indeed improving the standard of living in the developed world without irreversibly depleting global resources and altering natural systems is the rich world's sustainability challenge. 

The world therefore faces multiple and complex challenges: extreme poverty and the environmental degradation causing and resulting from poverty, as well as pervasive environmental consequences of affluence that must be brought under control. Ecosystem resilience and stability, which sustains healthy human communities, must be maintained through environmentally sustainable practices in energy, food, water and health management. The scientists have therefore aimed to identify paths of sustainable development, which will permit the poorest of the poor to improve their lot decisively, while permitting the rich to enjoy improvements in living standards as well, but in both cases in a manner that protects the environment and the vital services of the Earth's ecosystems. 

These problems are amenable to human solutions, but only under four circumstances, which constitute over-arching recommendations of the scientists. 

OVER-ARCHING RECOMMENDATIONS 

1. The rich countries must help the poor countries to escape from the trap of poverty, consistent with international obligations of international assistance and cooperation. The first step in this effort should be to meet the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed targets for poverty reduction by the year 2015. The needed financial assistance from the rich countries is of crucial important for poverty reduction but is modest in size relative to the income of the rich countries, within the international target of 0.7 percent of rich-world GNP in official development assistance. 

2. Both rich and poor countries must heed the lessons of science and foster the benefits of under-utilized and yet-to-be developed technologies. We must support increased national and international scientific and technological efforts to achieve technological breakthroughs in energy systems, food production, health care, and water management. Not only must we make a special effort to address the technological needs of the poorest, as these are often neglected, but also to build and sustain scientific capacity in the poorest countries. 

3. All key stakeholders must have a voice in approaching these problems in a cooperative and respectful political environment, mindful of international commitments and legal obligations concerning human rights, poverty reduction, and the environment. Free market, profit-driven solutions alone will not be sufficient. Sustainable development will also require governmental leadership; new forms of taxation of social 'bads' such as pollution, and budget subsidies of social 'goods' such as research and development of new technologies, in order to align social costs and benefits; inter-governmental cooperation; participation by civil society; and greater corporate social responsibility. 

4. These problems will require multilateral approaches, and a strong United Nations system, since the scale and nature of problems necessarily transcend national boundaries and require global solutions.

To veiw the individual recommendations for energy, food, water, and health, visit www.earth.columbia.edu/sop2004/consensus.html

The Earth Institute at Columbia University - http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu

Fairy Circles of Namibia

South Africa March 31, 2004 (BBC) - South African botanists say they have failed to explain the mysterious round patches of bare sandy soil found in grassland on Namibia's coastal fringe. 

They looked into possible causes of the "fairy circles" - radioactive soil, toxic proteins left by poisonous plants, and termites eating the seeds. 

But tests do not support any of these theories for the rings which are 2-10m across, New Scientist magazine reports. 

For now, the botanists are left with "fairies" to explain the phenomenon. 

Lead scientist Gretel van Rooyen is exploring the theory that, somehow, toxic elements are deposited in the shape of the circle, making it impossible for plant life to get established there. 

"But even if we find them, how they came there is the next problem - for the moment, we're left with the fairies," Ms van Rooyen, from University of Pretoria, said. 

Tests of soil samples taken from the circles found all to be negative for radioactivity and desert plants were successfully cultivated in the lab on soil which had previously supported poisonous milk bushes (Euphorbia damarana). 

As for the termites, the team dug trenches up to 2m deep in and around the circles, but found no sign of these insects or their nests. 

Fairy circles occur in a broken belt in the pro-Namib region, from southern Angola to the Orange River in South Africa and have become so famous that they are included in visitors' tours. 

The research will appear in a future issue of the Journal of Arid Environments.

Waves of Titan

European Space Agency Press Release

April 2, 2004 - ESA could be releasing its own marine weather report next January - but not for any Earthly ocean. Thanks to the NASA/ESA Cassini/Huygens mission, the first data about an extraterrestrial ocean may finally be received, ending 25 years of scientific speculation.

There is a growing body of evidence that at least part of Titan’s surface is covered with liquid methane and a related chemical, ethane.

On Earth, methane is a gas but at the colder temperatures of Titan, around –180 °C, it could exist as a liquid or be frozen solid into ice. 

If it is a liquid, it could exist as lakes in craters or even as vast oceans. Recent radar observations suggest that up to seventy-five percent of the surface may be covered in liquid.

In that case, it is highly likely that after its descent through Titan’s atmosphere, the Huygens probe will not so much land as ‘splashdown’.

To understand what to expect if this happens, the Principal Investigator of the Huygens Surface Science Package, John Zarnecki of the UK’s Open University, has teamed up with Nadeem Ghafoor, Surrey Satellite Technology, and colleagues from the Southampton Oceanography Centre.

Together, the team used a computer model to predict the behavior of the ocean on Titan. They looked at the waves they might encounter. On Earth, wind drives the waves. By placing Titan’s characteristics into their computer program, the team discovered that Titan’s waves will be slow-motion giants, reaching some seven times the height of a typical wave on Earth. 

Their height is mostly generated because Titan’s gravitational strength is only one seventh that of Earth.

If Huygens does land on an ocean, the Surface Science Package will attempt to measure its composition, and depth using sonar. It will also record the frequency and height of any waves that pass. 

Extreme sports fans might find surfing on these waves a wild ride, according to Nadeem Ghafoor, because the waves would look seven times bigger but move three times more slowly than those on Earth. 

Of course, the sea would be 180 degrees below zero and it would not smell very good either. The surroundings would be a murky orange-brown because of the permanently overcast conditions and there might be the occasional iceberg to dodge near the shore! 

In short, Titan could be like nothing like we have seen before and Cassini/Huygens is due to reveal all on 14 January 2005.

European Space Agency - http://www.esrin.esa.it

Mapping Titan
European Southern Observatory Press Release

April 1, 2004 - A team of French astronomers have recently used the NACO state-of-the-art adaptive optics system on the fourth 8.2-m VLT unit telescope, Yepun, to map the surface of Titan by means of near-infrared images and to search for changes in the dense atmosphere. 

These extraordinary images have a nominal resolution of 1/30th arcsec and show details of the order of 200 km on the surface of Titan. To provide the best possible views, the raw data from the instrument were subjected to deconvolution (image sharpening). 

Images of Titan were obtained through 9 narrow-band filters, sampling near-infrared wavelengths with large variations in methane opacity. This permits sounding of different altitudes ranging from the stratosphere to the surface. 

Titan harbours at 1.24 and 2.12 µm a "southern smile", that is a north-south asymmetry, while the opposite situation is observed with filters probing higher altitudes, such as 1.64, 1.75 and 2.17 µm. 

A high-contrast bright feature is observed at the South Pole and is apparently caused by a phenomenon in the atmosphere, at an altitude below 140 km or so. This feature was found to change its location on the images from one side of the south polar axis to the other during the week of observations. 

An additional series of NACO observations of Titan is foreseen later this month (April 2004). These will be a great asset in helping optimize the return of the Cassini/Huygens mission. Several of the instruments aboard the spacecraft depend on such ground-based data to better infer the properties of Titan's surface and lower atmosphere.

The above was derived from a longer press release at http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2004/phot-08-04.html

European Southern Observatory - http://www.eso.org

Judge Orders Release of Cheney Documents
WASHINGTON April 02, 2004 (Reuters) — A federal judge ordered several government agencies to release documents related to an energy policy task force led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

In an opinion released late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ordered seven government agencies including the Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, and Bureau of Land Management to hand over pertinent documents by June 1.

He was ruling on a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The two groups had sued to force the various departments involved in the energy task force to release documents related to the task force and its deliberations.

In particular they had asked for the agencies to release records of the task force's executive director and those of other federal agency employees assigned to carry out the task force's day-to-day operations.

Friedman said the agencies had an obligation to release the data.

"The court's ruling is a wake-up call to the Bush administration: It's time to come clean about how it is doing the public's business," said Sharon Buccino, an NRDC senior attorney. "Once Congress and the American people finally get the details about what happened at the task force's closed-door meetings, the administration's energy plan will be revealed for what it is: a payback to corporate polluters."

The Justice Department said it was reviewing the ruling.

The lawsuit is a separate one from another case involving Cheney that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court agreed in December to hear an appeal from Cheney, who is resisting a judge's order to produce documents about White House contacts with the energy industry in 2001.

The Sierra Club and Judicial Watch sued in 2001 to find out the names and positions of members of the energy task force led by the vice president that year. They alleged that Cheney, a former energy company executive, drafted energy policy by consulting industry executives.

The task force produced a policy paper calling for more oil and gas drilling and a revived nuclear power program.
Galactic Heart

University of California - Berkeley Press Release

April 1, 2004 - Thirty years after astronomers discovered the mysterious object at the exact center of our Milky Way Galaxy, an international team of scientists has finally succeeded in directly measuring the size of that object, which surrounds a black hole nearly four million times more massive than the Sun.

This is the closest telescopic approach to a black hole so far and puts a major frontier of astrophysics within reach of future observations. The scientists used the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope to make the breakthrough. 

"This is a big step forward," said Geoffrey Bower, of the University of California-Berkeley. "This is something that people have wanted to do for 30 years," since the Galactic center object, called Sagittarius A* (pronounced "A-star"), was discovered in 1974. The astronomers reported their research in the April 1 edition of Science Express. 

"Now we have a size for the object, but the mystery about its exact nature still remains," Bower added. The next step, he explained, is to learn its shape, "so we can tell if it is jets, a thin disk, or a spherical cloud." 

The Milky Way's center, 26,000 light-years from Earth, is obscured by dust, so visible-light telescopes cannot study the object. While radio waves from the Galaxy's central region can penetrate the dust, they are scattered by turbulent charged plasma in the space along the line of sight to Earth. This scattering had frustrated earlier attempts to measure the size of the central object, just as fog blurs the glare of distant lighthouses. 

"After 30 years, radio telescopes finally have lifted the fog and we can see what is going on," said Heino Falcke, of the Westerbork Radio Observatory in the Netherlands, another member of the research team. 

The bright, radio-emitting object would fit neatly just inside the path of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, the astronomers said. The black hole itself, they calculate, is about 14 million miles across, and would fit easily inside the orbit of Mercury. Black holes are concentrations of matter so dense that not even light can escape their powerful gravity. 

The new VLBA observations provided astronomers their best look yet at a black hole system. "We are much closer to seeing the effects of a black hole on its environment here than anywhere else," Bower said. 

The Milky Way's central black hole, like its more-massive cousins in more-active galactic nuclei, is believed to be drawing in material from its surroundings, and in the process powering the emission of the radio waves. While the new VLBA observations have not provided a final answer on the nature of this process, they have helped rule out some theories, Bower said. Based on the latest work, he explained, the top remaining theories for the nature of the radio- emitting object are jets of subatomic particles, similar to those seen in radio galaxies; and some theories involving matter being accelerated near the edge of the black hole.

As the astronomers studied Sagittarius A* at higher and higher radio frequencies, the apparent size of the object became smaller. This fact, too, Bower said, helped rule out some ideas of the object's nature. The decrease in observed size with increasing frequency, or shorter wavelength, also gives the astronomers a tantalizing target.

"We think we can eventually observe at short enough wavelengths that we will see a cutoff when we reach the size of the black hole itself," Bower said. In addition, he said, "in future observations, we hope to see a 'shadow' cast by a gravitational lensing effect of the very strong gravity of the black hole."

In 2000, Falcke and his colleagues proposed such an observation on theoretical grounds, and it now seems feasible.

"Imaging the shadow of the black hole's event horizon is now within our reach, if we work hard enough in the coming years," Falcke added. 

Another conclusion the scientists reached is that "the total mass of the black hole is very concentrated," according to Bower.

By making the "most precise localization of the mass of a supermassive black hole ever," the astronomers said that a mass of at least 40,000 Suns has to reside in a space corresponding to the size of the Earth's orbit.

Most likely, however, all the black hole's mass -- equal to four million Suns -- is concentrated well inside the area engulfed by the radio-emitting object. 

To make their measurement, the astronomers had to go to painstaking lengths to circumvent the scattering effect of the plasma "fog" between Sagittarius A* and Earth. "We had to push our technique really hard," Bower said. 

Bower likened the task to "trying to see your yellow rubber duckie through the frosted glass of the shower stall."

By making many observations, only keeping the highest-quality data, and mathematically removing the scattering effect of the plasma, the scientists succeeded in making the first-ever measurement of Sagittarius A*'s size. 

In addition to Bower and Falcke, the research team includes Robin Herrnstein of Columbia University, Jun-Hui Zhao of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Miller Goss of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and Donald Backer of the University of California-Berkeley.

Falcke also is an adjunct professor at the University of Nijmegen and a visiting scientist at the Max-Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany. 

Sagittarius A* was discovered in February of 1974 by Bruce Balick, now at the University of Washington, and Robert Brown, now director of the National Astronomy and Ionospheric Center at Cornell University. It has been shown conclusively to be the center of the Milky Way, around which the rest of the Galaxy rotates. In 1999, Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and his colleagues used VLBA observations of Sagittarius A* to detect the Earth's motion in orbit around the Galaxy's center and determined that our Solar System takes 226 million years to make one circuit around the Galaxy.

University of California - Berkeley - http://www.berkeley.edu

Amazonian Condoms!
SAO PAULO March 30, 2004 (AFP) - Brazilian scientists have given a thumbs-up to a prototype condom made from natural latex found in an Amazonian rain forest reserve, where the government wants to erect a factory in a bid to cut its rising condom import costs.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Technology (INT) and the University of Rio de Janeiro had led to the creation of the new environmentally-friendly prototype condoms which passed certain quality control tests with flying colors. 

The condoms were "made with native rubber extracted from the Chico Mendes reserve," the Sao Paulo state research group (Fapesp) said. 

It is hoped the natural rubber condoms will lower the state's health bills, as the government currently distributes some 600 million odd condoms a year around Brazil. 

Brazil's health ministry and the local authorities plan to support the construction of a new plant that will produce the condoms in the muncipality of Xapuri where many people already earn their livings extracting rubber. 

Production is slated to strike 100 million condoms in 2005, rising to double that by 2006. 

The reserve is named after Chico Mendes, a rubber-tapper turned environmentalist who was murdered in 1988.
Probing Einstein Predictions

By ANDREW BRIDGES
AP Science Writer 


LOS ANGELES April 2, 2004 (AP) - A satellite designed to test two fundamental predictions made by Albert Einstein about the universe is ready for launch, 45 years after it was first proposed, NASA and Stanford University officials said Friday. 

Since 1959, Gravity Probe B has overcome a half-dozen attempts at cancellation, countless technical hurdles and several delayed launches. The NASA-funded, university-developed spacecraft is now scheduled to begin its mission following an April 17 liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The unmanned, Earth-orbiting satellite is designed to test two of Einstein's predictions about the nature of space and time, and how the Earth and other bodies warp and twist the fabric that combines the two. 

At the spacecraft's heart are four pingpong-sized balls of quartz, the most perfect spheres ever made. To ensure accuracy, the balls must be kept chilled to near absolute zero, in the vacuum of the largest thermos ever flown in space, and isolated from any disturbances in the quietest environment ever produced, said Anne Kinney, director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's division of astronomy and physics. 

Once in space and set spinning, the orientation of the balls should change — unless Einstein was wrong. 

He proposed in 1916 that space and time form a structure that can be curved by the presence of a body, like the Earth, warping it like the dimple created by the heft of bowling ball resting on a soft mattress. That distortion accounts for gravity. 

Two years later, others suggested that the rotation of such a mass should drag space-time with it, twisting the structure of the fabric. 

If theory holds, the mass and rotation of the Earth, 397 miles below the probe, should throw the alignment of the spinning balls off kilter in subtle but measurable ways. 

The warping effect has been measured before. The twisting effect, called frame-dragging, has never been directly detected. Gravity Probe B aims to detect both. 

Stanford University - http://einstein.stanford.edu

Genre News: Star Trek DS9, Wonderfalls, John Belushi, Jack Black, Galactica, Sir Peter Ustinov & More!

Star Trek DS9 Returns!
By FLAtRich
eXoNews Federation Representative

April 3, 2004 - Well, sort of... Spike TV will honor an old promise to become the Star Trek Network, despite a much hyped name change and a lot of other obnoxious programming initiated since they first appeared on the scene as TNN (The National Network).

TNN became the home of Star Trek: The Next Generation syndication in the US. The cable broadcaster claimed a potential audience of 86 million homes when they rebranded themselves as Spike: The First Men's Network in April of 2003.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine begins on Spike Monday April 5th with an opening all-day marathon and thereafter with nightly episodes at 7PM (ET/PT).

Spike says: "The third series in the saga, Deep Space Nine explores new worlds, new concepts, and new civilizations which takes a candid look at the often tragic conflicts between differing civilizations and how they are experienced by their participants. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine features a whole new cast of alien characters and nail biting situations."

Often called the "lost" Star Trek series, DS9 opened as STTNG ended, was never elevated into feature films and was somewhat eclipsed by the far less interesting Star Trek Voyager.

DS9 has a solid subspecies of Trekers who will probably be delighted to relive the adventures of Captain Benjamin Sisko and his odd bunch of alien cohorts.

I know I'll be watching! Let's hope they show it in the original episode order for a while!

Official Spike - http://www.spiketv.com

Official Star Trek - http://www.startrek.com

The Official Campaign for a DS9 Movie - http://www.starfleetlibrary.com/ds9petition

Ain't It Cool Knowles Goes to Mars!
By Borys Kit

Austin April 2, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Harry Knowles, creator of the Internet movie gossip Web site Ain't It Cool News, is coming on board to co-produce "Princess of Mars," Paramount Pictures' adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp classic that Robert Rodriguez is directing.

Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel of Alphaville are producing the project along with Rodriguez and his wife and producing partner, Elizabeth Avellan.

In Knowles' 2002 autobiography, he describes Burroughs' "Martian Tales" series, revolving around adventurer John Carter, as one of the literary world's properties that is most deserving of a big-screen treatment.

Jacks, who had read Burroughs' "Martian Tales" books as a child, said he was reminded of them when he read Knowles' autobiography. Soon after Paramount secured Alphaville the rights to the books, Jacks began talking with Knowles about them.

Knowles -- based in Austin, Texas, where he oversees his Web site -- began consulting on the project, and Jacks suggested that he become involved in a more official capacity with a title, though any director who joined the project could have overruled that offer.

In the fall, Knowles gave the script by Mark Protosevich to Rodriguez, a longtime friend who also lives in Austin, and Rodriguez decided to join the team as director.

"So many filmmakers go to (Harry) for advice and he does it under the table," Rodriguez said. "I've always said to him that he should get credit for this, and with all the work we've done on this project, he deserves it."

Jacks said of Knowles' contributions: "He was very instrumental in us landing Robert, and he is truly well versed in all the John Carter books. With the help he had given and the help that he will give, it seemed only right that we include him in the movie, so we asked him to be a producer."

Knowles already has set up one other project as a producer, "Ghost Town" at Revolution Studios. He said his involvement in the two films shouldn't affect how he operates his Web site.

"I've been working pretty steadily on ('Princess') for the last several months and still updating and working on the site and writing columns for it," Knowles said.
"I'm sure as things pick up, I'll need to bring on an editor. ... I don't want it to suffer."

Asked how Ain't It Cool will cover Paramount movies now that he is working on a Paramount project, Knowles said: "This is not about me coming on board as a publicist for Paramount. While I have been in talks for this, I've had test screenings of their movies, not all of which have been good. The site does what the site does. What I do creatively is a separate thing."

Ain't It Cool - http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com

Wonderfalls Cancelled!

LOS ANGELES April 3, 2004 (eXoNews) - Wonderfalls is cancelled. Tim Minear made the announcement on the Buffistas board yesterday.

Tim Minear Post from Buffistas.org - Apr 3, 2004 5:56:32 pm PST 

Well, not sure what to tell ya'll -- but we're cancelled. Effective at once. The cow creamer will be silent this Thursday and forever forward. Once we recover from the not-shock, Todd, Bryan and I will see if there's some venue in which to air the remaining episodes. As I have said from the start, the thirteen taken as a whole tell a story and go to a place, so a run of this "limited" series would not be unsatisfying elsewhere. It's a question as to whether the studio will want to invest in a DVD release of a failed series. Maybe the episodes will sit in a warehouse someplace with that sled and the arc of the covenant. 

Thanks for all the support and enthusiasm. 

Tim
edited by Tim Minear on Apr 3, 2004 6:01:11 pm PST

That post is here: http://www.buffistas.org/showthread.php?thread_id=71&post_id=9310

Tim had more to say here: http://www.buffistas.org/showthread.php?thread_id=71&post_id=9446

[We liked this show. It was on the wrong network, though. There is no future for innovative TV comedy or drama on the broadcast networks. They pander to the lowest common denominator. They always have, and they always will. It makes them rich and bloated, cynical and pathetic. Nothing really changes, does it? Ed.]

Century City Blows Up 

Hollywood April 1, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - CBS has canceled its SF legal series Century City, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The show lasted just four episodes.

Century City, which starred Hector Elizondo, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Schaeffer and Viola Davis, followed the goings-on at a major Los Angeles law film in the year 2030. The show debuted to dismal ratings and was routinely trounced by timeslot competitor American Idol.

Its last episode, which aired March 30, attracted only 7.7 million viewers, finishing fourth for the hour. The Hollywood Reporter noted that CBS will replace Century City with The Guardian, the show the network displaced to make room for Century City.

[Thank god! It was a horrible future! Sorry for Kristin, though... Ed.]

John Belushi - Posthumous Star 
By VERONICA TORREJON
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES April 1, 2004 (AP) - The late John Belushi was posthumously honored Thursday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and salutes from his brother Jim and former "Saturday Night Live" cast members Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd. 

"He was just funny," said Jim Belushi, star of "According to Jim," who stood in for his brother at the ceremony. "He had a funny face ... and you couldn't take your eyes off him." 

Fans from as far away as Belushi's native Chicago were on hand along with Belushi's widow, Judy Belushi Pisano, and celebrities Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and Tom Arnold. 

"We had some of the most hilarious times," Chase said, recounting a moment when the two jokingly posed in underwear, pretending they were models. "John kept me laughing all the time when we were together." 

Aykroyd said and fellow celebrities now have a duty to polish Belushi's star. 

"He'd wanna say to the rest of us here ... next time you come to this spot, stock up on the Brasso," Aykroyd said. 

Belushi was 33 when he died of a drug overdose in Hollywood in 1982. 

Jim Belushi recounted several times when his brother stole the spotlight from him and other comedians. He also referred to Belushi's legacy as one of the great comedians of his generation. 

"When you drink the water remember the men who dug the well," he said, quoting an old saying. "I'm grateful for the well that John dug and the water we all drink from it." 

Belushi was an original "SNL" cast member and won an Emmy in 1977 for his work in the series. 

He went on to star in the 1978 comedy "National Lampoon's Animal House." 

His star, located on Hollywood Boulevard near Ivar Avenue, is number 2,250.

Jack Black Takes on 'King Kong' 
By Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES March 29, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Comic actor Jack Black has been in cast alongside Naomi Watts in Peter Jackson's remake of "King Kong," the director said Monday. 

Black will play Carl Denham, an adventurer filmmaker who is trying to make a name for himself in 1930s New York. Robert Armstrong played the role in the 1933 original. (Jackson has said he is pretending the 1976 update does not exist.) 

Watts is playing Ann Darrow, an American actress who makes a living performing in Broadway song and dance shows. The project, which will shoot in Jackson's native New Zealand, is set up at Universal Pictures. 

"I've been wanting to work with Jack Black ever since I saw him in High Fidelity," said Jackson, who is also writing the remake along with his "Lord of the Rings" co-screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. "He's a smart and versatile actor blessed with an abundance of energy and charm and I'm absolutely thrilled that he is joining us on 'Kong."' 

Black earned a Golden Globe nomination this year for his starring role in last fall's hit comedy "The School of Rock." His other credits include "Orange County" and "Shallow Hal."

Richard Hatch Returns to Galactica

Hollywood April 2, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Ronald D. Moore, executive producer of SCI FI Channel's upcoming series Battlestar Galactica, told SCI FI Wire that Richard Hatch, star of the original Battlestar Galactica series, is in final negotiations to make a guest appearance as a Nelson Mandela-like character in an episode of the new show.

"It's a character who's been held prisoner," Moore said in an interveiw. "We established in the miniseries that there was a ship of prisoners that are along in the ragtag fleet."

Moore added, "Somewhere in that group of prisoners is a character who's been essentially a prisoner of conscience, who's been in jail going on 20 years. It's possible the character could recur, but that is to be determined."

Moore acknowledged that Hatch had been critical of his and SCIFI's efforts to mount a new version of Battlestar Galactica, but the executive producer explained that he did not take it personally and did not hold a grudge against Hatch.

"I can only say that from my perspective I've maintained all along that I was hoping that there would come a time when we would be able to incorporate some members of the original cast into the show," Moore said. "I remember saying that before the miniseries had ever even aired. I never personally held anything against him for what he said about the miniseries or the direction of the show. He was entitled to his opinion. He felt passionately they should have done a continuation and he fought long and hard for it. Ultimately, it didn't work out."

Hatch and Moore eventually met at a Battlestar Galactica convention, which paved the way to the actor's upcoming appearance on the show.

"We had a good chat, I liked him and we got along well," Moore said. "We said that after the miniseries aired and the show got picked up we'd talk again. So I contacted him shortly after we got the pickup to series and said, 'OK, we're making the series and I've got a role in mind for you. I think you'll like it and it'll be something important on the show. Let's talk.' He was open to that. He came in. We had a meeting, and it went very well."

If all goes according to plan, Hatch will shoot his episode in May; Battlestar Galactica will debut first quarter of 2005.

Battlestar Galactica Official site - http://www.scifi.com/battlestar

Critics Urge Delay of Nielsen's "People Meter"
By Kathleen Anderson

NEW YORK April 1, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Minority advocacy groups have called on Nielsen Media Research to delay next month's planned rollout of People Meters ratings-measurement devices in the New York market, saying that Nielsen's methodology undercounts minority television viewership.

At a news conference Wednesday held outside Nielsen's Manhattan office, the advocacy groups and other activists urged Nielsen to reconsider its scheduled April 8 launch of People Meters in New York. (Nielsen Media Research is owned by VNU, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.)

A variety of groups -- from New York councilmen to the Hispanic Federation to 100 Black Men of New York -- turned out with picket signs at the outdoor news conference to assert that People Meters and the Nielsen research system in general are skewed in their representation of black and Hispanic groups.

Hannigan's NBC Sitcom Gets New Face

LOS ANGELES March 30, 2004 (Zap2it.com) - With the bulk of pilots for next year having finished casting, a few projects will now get to the business of re-casting -- or, as it's known in showbiz, "going in another direction."

NBC's comedy pilot starring "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" Alyson Hannigan is one such project. The show, known in pilot-season parlance as the Untitled Tarses/Wrubel Project, has dropped Eric Christian Olsen ("Dumb and Dumberer") as the male lead in favor of Michael Landes ("Special Unit 2"), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The show revolves around Andrea (Hannigan), an ex-nerd with a carefully, if rather artificially, constructed life that revolves around her job at a Restoration Hardware-type retailer. Her brother, Ben (Landes), disrupts that life when he brings his anti-authority worldview to his new job at the same company.

Landes starred in the supernatural cop show "Special Unit 2," which aired on UPN in 2001-02. He played Jimmy Olsen in the first season of "Lois & Clark" and starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom "Union Square."

Another NBC comedy, "D.O.T.S.," has also undergone some recasting. Khary Payton ("Teen Titans") has replaced Chester Gregory in the pilot, which is about parking-enforcement cops. (The acronym stands for Department of Transportation Services.)

Sir Peter Ustinov Dies at 82 
By JONATHAN FOWLER
Associated Press

GENEVA March 29, 2004 (AP) - Sir Peter Ustinov, a wit and mimic who won two Oscars for an acting career that ranged from the evil emperor Nero in "Quo Vadis" to the quirky Agatha Christie detective Hercule Poirot, has died. He was 82.

Ustinov, whose talents included writing plays, movies and novels as well as directing operas, also devoted himself to the world's children for more than 30 years as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. 

He died of heart failure Sunday in a clinic near his home at Bursins overlooking Lake Geneva, said Leon Davico, a friend and former UNICEF spokesman. 

Born in London, the only son of a Russian artist mother and a journalist father, Ustinov claimed also to have Swiss, Ethiopian, Italian and French blood — everything except English. 

Ustinov delighted in national differences and frequently referred to them in his works and public appearances. He was — as he noted proudly in his autobiography "Dear Me" — conceived in Russia, baptized in Germany and reared under a succession of Cameroonian, Irish and German nurses.

His imposing figure, variously described as resembling a teddy bear or a giant panda, began at 12 pounds at birth and stayed with him throughout his career. 

Ustinov made some 90 movies and also wrote books and plays. He directed films, plays and operas. His narration of Sergey Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" won him a Grammy. 

Among his film roles were a nomad in the outback who befriends a family in "The Sundowners," a one-eyed slave in "The Egyptian," Inspector Poirot in "Death on the Nile," and Abdi Aga, an illiterate tyrant in "Memed My Hawk." 

Ustinov won best supporting actor Oscars for the role of Batiatus, owner of the gladiator school in "Spartacus" (1960), and as Arthur Simpson, an English small-time black marketeer in Turkey who gets caught up in a jewel heist in "Topkapi" (1964). 

His Nero — the Roman emperor who presided over the throwing of Christians to the lions — won him a Golden Globe for best supporting actor in the 1951 movie "Quo Vadis."

He also won three Emmys, portraying Samuel Johnson in "Dr. Johnson," Socrates in "Barefoot in Athens" and an aged Jewish delicatessen owner in "A Storm in Summer." 

He directed, wrote the screenplay and starred in the 1962 movie "Billy Budd."

He was performing by age 3, mimicking politicians of the day when his parents invited Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie for dinner. 

His first attempts at acting were in the disguise of a pig in a dramatized nursery rhyme, as Friar Tuck of Robin Hood fame and as one of three nymphs tempting Ulysses.
"Ulysses wisely passed us by," he recalled. 

He was educated at the Westminster School, but hated it and left at age 16. 

At age 19, he appeared in his first revue and had his first stage play presented in London.

Ustinov turned producer at 21, presenting "Squaring the Circle" before entering the British army in 1942. 

If his plays had a continuing theme, it was a celebration of the little man bucking the system. One of his most successful was "The Love of Four Colonels" which ran for two years in London's West End. Davico asked Ustinov to join the U.N. children's agency as a goodwill ambassador after seeing the play. 

Davico said Ustinov recently attended a UNICEF event despite needing a wheelchair — sciatica gave him trouble walking, and diabetes left him with 30 percent vision and foot problems.

Ustinov also set up a foundation dedicated to understanding between people across the globe and between generations. 

"I think knowing people is the best way of getting rid of prejudices. When I was young, I was brought up in an atmosphere which was just loaded with prejudices," he said in 2001. 

Ustinov treated getting older the way he treated everything else in life — as another experience to be added to his repertoire of anecdotes, quips and material for books. 

When he turned 60, Ustinov was asked if he was tempted to take things a little easier. "I only feel 59," he said.

"But what really surprises me," he added, "is that I don't say many different things now than I did when I was 20. The only difference is that having white hair means that people tend to listen now while they never did before." 

It was an attitude that stayed with him as he turned 80. 

"Why should one slow down? I don't quite understand it," he said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2001. 

Ustinov's son Igor said his father viewed his own mortality with humor. Responding to an interviewer who asked what Ustinov would like to see on his tombstone, he reportedly said: "Keep off the grass." 

When he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990, his main worry was how to reply to the invitation from the palace. 

"The invitation said, 'Delete whichever is inapplicable: I can kneel — I cannot kneel.' But there was nothing for those who can kneel but not get up," Ustinov recalled. 

But he remained active until close to his death, playing himself in the 2003 TV movie "Winter Solstice."

In other late roles, he was the voice of Babar the Elephant, portrayed a doctor in the film "Lorenzo's Oil," and in 1999 appeared as the Walrus in a TV movie version of "Alice in Wonderland." 

Ustinov was married three times, and is survived by four children and his third wife, Helene du Lau d'Allemans.

Click here for last week's Genre News!

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