|US Anti-War Protests! |
The Whole World Is Watching!
Space News, Nanowires,
World's Largest Virus & More!
|US Anti-War Movement Breaks Ranks with the '60s|
|By Greg Frost |
BOSTON March 31, 2003 (Reuters) - Peace vigils and rallies against war in Iraq have broken out in U.S. towns and cities, drawing hundreds of thousands of participants.
Student strikes are disrupting college campuses, where old protest anthems like "We Shall Overcome" mix with the tinny sound of speeches belted out over bullhorns.
They are joining a more predictable crowds of college students, environmentalists, socialists, anarchists and other activists.
John Llewellyn, a 45-year-old computer industry worker from Knoxville, Tenn., is among the tens of thousands of people who turned up at a recent anti-war protest in Boston -- the city's biggest demonstration in at least 30 years.
Victoria Carter a 46-year-old actuary, said her appearance at the Boston rally was her first since taking part in an anti-apartheid protest decades ago.
Joseph Gerson, a 56-year-old Boston-based pacifist, marvels at the speed at which rallies are put together, and he envies the breadth of information available to protesters online.
Gerson said he is stunned by how quickly the anti-war movement has grown, noting that it took years to reach a critical mass of people opposed to the conflict in Vietnam.
In place of the draft, Gerson said, is a sense of "straight altruism" shared by people who are simply concerned about their country's future.
"People who oppose the war actually think it's bad for the country, that it will make the country unsafe."
|Hubble Finds Mysterious Erupting Star |
NASA NEWS RELEASE
March 26, 2003 - In January 2002, a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy.
The mysterious star has long since faded back to obscurity, but observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of a phenomenon called a "light echo" have uncovered remarkable new features. These details promise to provide astronomers with a CAT-scan-like probe of the three-dimensional structure of shells of dust surrounding an aging star. The results appear tomorrow in the journal Nature.
"Like some past celebrities, this star had its 15 minutes of fame," says Anne Kinney, director of NASA's Astronomy and Physics program, Headquarters, Washington. "But its legacy continues as it unveils an eerie light show in space. Thankfully, NASA's Hubble has a front row seat to this unique event in our galaxy."
Light from a stellar explosion echoing off circumstellar dust in our Milky Way galaxy was last seen in 1936, long before Hubble was available to study the tidal wave of light and reveal the netherworld of dusty black interstellar space.
"As light from the outburst continues to reflect off the dust surrounding the star, we view continuously changing cross-sections of the dust envelope. Hubble's view is so sharp that we can do an 'astronomical cat-scan' of the space around the star," says the lead observer, astronomer Howard Bond of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
Bond and his team used the Hubble images to determine that the petulant star, called V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) is about 20,000 light-years from Earth. The star put out enough energy in a brief flash to illuminate surrounding dust, like a spelunker taking a flash picture of the walls of an undiscovered cavern. The star presumably ejected the illuminated dust shells in previous outbursts. Light from the latest outburst travels to the dust and then is reflected to Earth. Because of this indirect path, the light arrives at Earth months after light coming directly toward Earth from the star itself.
The outburst of V838 Mon was somewhat similar to that of a nova, a more common stellar outburst. A typical nova is a normal star that dumps hydrogen onto a compact white-dwarf companion star. The hydrogen piles up until it spontaneously explodes by nuclear fusion -- like a titanic hydrogen bomb. This exposes a searing stellar core, which has a temperature of hundreds of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit.
By contrast, however, V838 Mon did not expel its outer layers. Instead, it grew enormously in size, with its surface temperature dropping to temperatures not much hotter than a light bulb. This behavior of ballooning to an immense size, but not losing its outer layers, is very unusual and completely unlike an ordinary nova explosion.
"We are having a hard time understanding this outburst, which has shown a behavior that is not predicted by present theories of nova outbursts," says Bond. "It may represent a rare combination of stellar properties that we have not seen before."
The star is so unique it may represent a transitory stage in a star's evolution that is rarely seen. The star has some similarities to highly unstable aging stars called eruptive variables, which suddenly and unpredictably increase in brightness.
The circular light-echo feature has now expanded to twice the angular size of Jupiter on the sky. Astronomers expect it to continue expanding as reflected light from farther out in the dust envelope finally arrives at Earth. Bond predicts that the echo will be observable for the rest of this decade.
The research team included investigators from the Space Telescope Institute in Baltimore; the Universities Space Research Association at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.; the European Space Agency; Arizona State University; the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory at the University of Arizona at Tucson; the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes in Spain's Canary Islands; and the INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Asiago, Italy.
Adolescent Universe Snapped
|By Rick Borchelt |
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
CAMBRIDGE March 31, 2003 – The same characteristics that make misfolded proteins known as prions such a pernicious medical threat in neurodegenerative diseases may offer a construction toolkit for manufacturing nanoscale electrical circuits, researchers report this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists working at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the University of Chicago write that they have used the durable, self-assembling fibers formed by prions as a template on which to deposit electricity-bearing gold and silver, creating electrical wire much thinner than it is possible to make by current mechanical processes.
"We thought we'd try a 'bottom-up' approach, and let molecular self-assembly do the hard work for us."
Moreover, these devices depend on nanowires to conduct electricity. So far, the mass production of these tiny wires has stymied researchers. Making very small computers and optical switches, or even biomedical devices that could be inserted into the body, could open up whole new fields of computation and medicine.
In the test tube, conformational cascade generates strings and strings of tough, durable and heat-resistant protein fibers of a type known as "amyloid". In humans, amyloids are best known as the plaque that gunks up neurons in people with Alzheimer's, mad cow disease and other neurodegenerative illnesses. This may be one reason why these diseases are so resistant to treatment. However, yeast prions used as the source of protein in these experiments are completely harmless, making them safe to work with in manufacturing.
|Slowing Light to a Crawl|
|University of Rochester Press Release |
March 31, 2003 - Though Einstein put his foot down and demanded that nothing can move faster than light, a new device developed at the University of Rochester may let you outpace a beam by putting your foot down on the gas pedal. At 127 miles per hour, the light in the new device travels more than 5 million times slower than normal as it passes through a ruby just a few centimeters long.
Instead of the complex, room-filling mechanisms previously used to slow light, the new apparatus is small and, in the words of its creator, "ridiculously easy to implement." Such a simple design will likely pave the way for slow light, as it is called, to move from a physical curiosity to a useful telecommunications tool. The research is being published in this week's Physical Review Letters.
The new technique uses a laser to "punch a hole" in the absorption spectrum of a common ruby at room temperature, and a second laser shines through that hole at the greatly reduced speed. A recent successful attempt to slow light to these speeds used a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), a state of matter existing 459 degrees below zero Fahrenheit where all atoms act in unison like a single, giant atom. The laser shining through the BEC was slowed to 38 miles per hour, but the system had enormous drawbacks, not the least of which was that the equipment needed to create the BEC wouldn't fit in the average living room, and the created BEC itself was little bigger than the head of a pin.
"If that was the world's hardest way to slow down light, then what we've found is the world's easiest way to do it," says Robert Boyd, the M. Parker Givens Professor of Optics at the University. "We can slow light just as much in a space the size of a desktop computer."
Slowing light, at least a little, isn't as difficult as it may seem. Light passing through a window is 1.5 times slower while moving through the glass, and is slowed slightly less so when passing through water. But to achieve the 5.3-million fold slowdown, Boyd and his team, students Matthew Bigelow and Nick Lepeshkin, used a quantum quirk called "coherent population oscillations" to create a special gap in the frequencies of light that a ruby absorbs. Rubies are red because they absorb most of the blue and green light that strikes them. Shining an intense green laser at the ruby partially saturates the chromium ions that give ruby its red color. They then shine a second beam, called the probe laser, into the ruby.
The probe beam has a frequency slightly different than the first laser, and these offset frequencies interact with each other, causing variations the same way two ripples encountering each other on a pond might create waves higher and lower than either one had alone. The chromium ions respond to this new frequency of rhythmic highs and lows by oscillating in sympathy. One consequence of this oscillation is that it allows the probe laser to pass through the ruby, even though the laser is green, but it only allows it to pass 5.3 million times more slowly than light would otherwise travel.
It would be the difference between slowing an economy car a few feet to let another economy car merge, and a double-tractor trailer slowing only a few feet and expecting another double trailer to merge into the gap. Boyd suspects that different materials may yield slowed light that can transmit shorter pulses that would be more useful for telecommunications work.
|By Helen Briggs |
BBC News Science Reporter
Southampton March 27, 2003 (BBC) - The popular image of Neanderthals as clumsy, backward creatures has been dealt another blow. It was always thought they were a somewhat ham-fisted lot.
However, computer reconstructions of fossilized bones show their hands had almost the same manual dexterity as ours. Far from being "butter fingered", they would have been adept at using implements such as axes and knives.
The finding is important because it casts doubt on the idea that Neanderthals died out because of a physical inability to use stone tools.
Earlier evidence had suggested that our ancestors triumphed over their more primitive cousins because they were better at DIY.
The Neanderthals made mainly flake-based tools but the Cro-Magnons created long, slender stone implements as well as carved bone and antler.
|2000 Year-Old Roman Invader|
|BY WILLIAM CHISHOLM |
Scotland March 29, 2003 (Scotsman UK) - Medical experts who reconstructed the face of a Roman soldier who died mysteriously almost 2,000 years ago believe he was a native of northern Europe, and came to Scotland with the armies of occupation.
Replica features of Trimontium Man, a 45-year-old military veteran, have been crafted from computerized data gleaned during a CT scan of his skull at Borders General Hospital.
The only complete skull of a Roman militiaman to be discovered in Scotland is thought to be of Germanic or Gallic origin, although further analysis of the teeth will be necessary before firm conclusions can be reached.
As the reconstructed head went on public display at the Trimontium Trust Museum in Melrose, speculation over the cause of death intensified. The Romans cremated their dead, so the soldier, whose skeleton was recovered from a 14ft-deep pit or well in 1846, cannot have died from natural causes.
An archaeological dig by a team from Bradford University in the Nineties showed that the place where Trimontium Man was found lay close to an area of the fort which included inns and brothels.
Dr John Reid, a consultant radiologist at Borders General Hospital, said: "Some people think he may have been an executed prisoner, but if so why would they throw him down a well and risk poisoning the water supply? It seems more likely he was returning from a night at the tavern, and simply fell down the well."
In Dr Reid’s view the main achievement of the re-construction had been in establishing what the soldier may have looked like, although the hair color and eye color were guesswork.
The £7,000 reconstruction project also involved Dr Iain MacLeod, of the Edinburgh Dental Institute.
|World's Largest Virus!|
|Bradford UK March 28, 2003 (BBC) - A giant virus that lurks inside amoebas and may cause pneumonia in humans has been spotted by scientists. |
"Mimivirus" is the biggest virus found so far, and was discovered in a sample taken from a water cooling tower in Bradford, UK, in 1992. It has at least 900 genes, an enormous number for a virus, and its size is more like that of a bacterium. It can be spotted through a good optical microscope - most viruses can only be visualized by electron microscopes.
In terms of DNA, it is approximately a fifth bigger than the virus previously considered to be the largest in the world.
Although it has been linked to pneumonia in humans, it is in no way related to the SARS virus currently sweeping the Far East.
A report about the discovery was published on Thursday in the journal Science.
Amoebas, large single-celled organisms, are commonly found in air-conditioning systems in large buildings, and often harbor various bacteria and viruses inside them, which can go on to infect people working in those buildings.
The researchers who examined Mimivirus, from the National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris, France, said that blood samples from people with pneumonia had revealed antibodies for this virus, suggesting that their immune systems had come into contact with it at some point.
They believe it is a virus because it lacks certain genes which are universal to bacteria - but contains others which are known to have key functions in viruses.
The virus, while it has some genetic similarities to the family of viruses that includes smallpox virus, has now been classed as the first of a completely new virus family, the Mimiviridae.
|Genre News: Tremors, Paul, Ringo, John & Yoko, Eric Dane Charmed, Madonna, King Kong & More!|
|Tremors: Worm History and Hand Puppets |
Hollywood April 1, 2003 (eXoNews) - Tremors the Series is a played out premise with nothing left to offer.
Tyler Reed (Victor Browne) races his car down an empty desert road in the opening of the new Tremors series, Sci Fi Channel's choice of investment over canceled gems like Farscape and The Invisible Man.
Pictures that start with cars always send me a warning. They remind me of a comment on car chases by Roger Ebert. To paraphrase, Ebert said that when a movie ends with a car chase the writers have run out of plot.
I'd like to add that when a movie opens with a car racing down an empty road, the writers probably didn't have a plot to begin with.
Tremors (1990) was a very funny movie starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward. It was basically about a desert town running from giant worms. Even rabid science fiction fans tremor at the thought of still another mutant creature movie, but Bacon and Ward made it work.
Tremors was a riot thirteen years ago and it won a deserved place of honor in the cross-genre intentional comedy slash sci fi category. Michael Gross had a featured comic roll as Burt Gummer, a paranoid militant gun freak, but Kevin Bacon was the key to Tremors' success.
Fred Ward is one of those actors whose face most people can't remember. I never forgot him after he played Detective H. Philip Lovecraft in the HBO movie Cast A Deadly Spell (1991). Cast A Deadly Spell is easily one of the best genre movies of the 90s. HBO spawned a sequel in 1994 called Witch Hunt and replaced Fred with Dennis Hopper, but even Hopper couldn't top Fred Ward. Ward was also the key to Tremors 2.
The Tremors "2-hour premiere" was, in fact, two episodes back to back: another bad omen. Much ballyhooed Christopher Lloyd was a guest star, but only in the second episode and he didn't show up until the last half-hour.
The first worm sign we saw in Tremors the Series was a bunch of sock puppets poked through the windows of the aforementioned car on the desert road. After that, things just got worse.
A Tremors 4 feature is threatening to arrive after the first season of Tremors the Series wraps production. I can wait.
The Cecil puppet on Time for Beany was voiced by Stan Freberg.
Oliver J. Dragon was, of course, late of the trio Kukla, Fran and Ollie (1947-1957), the first great TV kid's show.
Ollie and Kukla were voiced by their creator, puppeteer Burr Tillstrom (1917-1985). Fran was Fran Allison, probably the first human star to interact with puppets on TV.
Fran and Tillstrom's puppets broke ground for later Muppets and even Rigel and Pilot on Farscape.
Unofficial Kuklapolitan Web Page - http://lion.ultinet.net/~kfo
LONDON March 31, 2003 (Reuters) - Ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, one year into a world tour stretching from the United States to Japan, has been told to keep the volume down when he gets to Rome in May for fear of disturbing the aging Pope.
Ringo Relishes Playing Live
Ringo's first wife, Maureen, died in 1995. Three years later, longtime friend Linda McCartney died, and close confidant Harrison died in 2001.
Yoko Reminds Lennon Fans
"And I'm sure that he would have expressed his anger and told them off", she said, referring to Bush and Blair, about "how stupid it is to go through this".
Phoebe Gets a New Charmer
Hollywood March 28, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - Eric Dane, who joins the cast of The WB's witch series Charmed, told TV Guide Online that spark will fly between his character and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano).
Phoebe's half-demon husband Cole (Julian McMahon) met his end in the show's 100th episode. But Dane said that he doesn't feel any pressure.
"That's probably because I had no idea about [McMahon]," he said. "Nobody told me I was replacing anyone."
Madonna Pulls Anti-War Video
LONDON April 1, 2003 (AP) - Madonna has decided to withdraw the violent, anti-war video for her new single "American Life" out of respect for the troops fighting in Iraq.
The video was scheduled to premiere on VH-l on Friday. The single "American Life" has just been released to radio.
Official Madonna site - http://www.madonna.com
Rings Maker Goes Kong
Jackson and Walsh will produce through their WingNut Films banner with Universal president of production Mary Parent overseeing for the studio.
The script will be based on the original story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace, which served as the basis for the 1933 RKO Radio Pictures release.
That film, directed by Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, introduced audiences to the story of the gigantic gorilla captured in the wilds and brought to civilization, where he meets a tragic fate.
"It has endured for precisely these reasons, and I am honored to be a part of its continuing legacy."
"We are thrilled to be working with Peter and Fran, and we are confident that their execution of 'King Kong' will amaze moviegoers."