Borrelly and Eros,
Pipeline Debated,
Dinosaur Eggs and
The Soap Lady!
NASA Snaps Surface and Nucleus of Comet Borrelly

Highest Resolution Comet Picture Ever Reveals Rugged Terrain

In this highest resolution view of the icy, rocky nucleus of comet Borrelly, (about 45 meters or 150 feet per pixel) a variety of terrains and surface textures, mountains and fault structures, and darkened material are visible over the nucleus's surface. This was the final image of the nucleus of comet Borrelly, taken just 160 seconds before Deep Space 1's closest approach to it. This image shows the 8-km (5-mile) long nucleus about 3417 kilometers (over 2,000 miles) away.

Smooth, rolling plains containing brighter regions are present in the middle of the nucleus and seem to be the source of dust jets seen in the coma. The rugged land found at both ends of the nucleus has many high ridges along the jagged line between day and night on the comet. This rough terrain contains very dark patches that appear to be elevated compared to surrounding areas. In some places the dark material accentuates grooves and apparent faults. Stereo analysis shows the smaller end of the nucleus (lower right) is tipped toward the viewer (out of frame). Sunlight is coming from the bottom of the frame.

Deep Space 1 completed its primary mission testing ion propulsion and 11 other advanced, high-risk technologies in September 1999. NASA extended the mission, taking advantage of the ion propulsion and other systems to undertake this chancy but exciting, and ultimately successful, encounter with the comet. More information can be found on the Deep Space 1 home page at http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds1 .

Deep Space 1 was launched in October 1998 as part of NASA's New Millennium Program, which is managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.

Deep Space 1 flew by comet Borrelly and took these measurements with its plasma instruments between 90,000 kilometers (56,000 miles) and 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away. These data show that the flow of ions around the comet's rocky, icy nucleus (the center of the deep V-shaped feature) is not centered on the comet's nucleus as scientists expected before the Borrelly flyby. Ions in the turbulent flow are heated to about 1 million Kelvin (2 million degrees Fahrenheit) causing the bands of ions to appear broad and jagged compared to the solar wind.

Comet Nucleus Found to the Side

Deep Space 1 flew by comet Borrelly on September 22, 2001 and took these measurements with its plasma instruments between 90,000 kilometers (56,000 miles) and 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away. These data show that the flow of ions around the comet's rocky, icy nucleus (the center of the deep V-shaped feature) is not centered on the comet's nucleus as scientists expected before the Borrelly flyby. Ions in the turbulent flow are heated to about 1 million Kelvin (2 million degrees Fahrenheit) causing the bands of ions to appear broad and jagged compared to the solar wind.

Deep Space 1 completed its primary mission testing ion propulsion and 11 other advanced, high-risk technologies in September 1999. NASA extended the mission, taking advantage of the ion propulsion and other systems to undertake this chancy but exciting, and ultimately successful, encounter with the comet.

Deep Space 1 was launched in October 1998 as part of NASA's New Millennium Program, which is managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.

Comet Slows Solar Wind

Over 1300 energy spectra taken on September 22, 2001 from the ion and electron instruments on NASA's Deep Space 1 span a region of 1,400,000 kilometers (870,000 miles) centered on the closest approach to the nucleus of comet Borrelly. A very strong interaction occurs between the solar wind (horizontal red bands to left and right in figure) and the comet's surrounding cloud of dust and gas, the coma. Near Deep Space 1's closest approach to the nucleus, the solar wind picked up charged water molecules from the coma (upper green band near the center), slowing the wind sharply and creating the V-shaped energy structure at the center.

Deep Space 1 completed its primary mission testing ion propulsion and 11 other advanced, high-risk technologies in September 1999. NASA extended the mission, taking advantage of the ion propulsion and other systems to undertake this chancy but exciting, and ultimately successful, encounter with the comet.

Deep Space 1 was launched in October 1998 as part of NASA's New Millennium Program, which is managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.

Mystery 'Blue Ponds' On Eros

By Dr. David Whitehouse
BBC News Online Science Editor

September 26, 2001 (BBC) - "Asteroids are more subtle than we imagined," says Dr Erik Asphaug, of the University of California, US, commenting on the data sent back by the Near-Shoemaker spacecraft as it touched down on asteroid Eros last February.

The survey and landing carried out by the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (Near)-Shoemaker probe revealed Eros to be a tiny irregularly-shaped world strewn with boulders, pitted with rocks, and, surprisingly, strange "mobile" soils.

Eros is over four billion years old, a leftover from the formation of the planets, and has never been part of a much larger body. It bears the scars of numerous impacts but its composition has remained relatively unaltered.

In low regions, scientists have observed "ponds" of bluish dust. It is speculated that they may have been lifted from beneath the surface by electrostatic forces, and flow like liquid into depressions.

After a fly-by of asteroid Mathilde in 1997, Near-Shoemaker became the first spaceprobe to orbit an asteroid.

Then, although it was not designed to land on Eros, it was commanded to touch down. Images were returned during its descent but ceased when the probe hit the surface. However, data continued to be returned from the gamma-ray spectrometer for several days, revealing the surface composition of Eros.

This seems to be awash with sediment, forming striking flat "ponds" within craters. It is also strewn with boulders, probably as a result of the recent formation, by impact, of an eight-kilometre- (five mile-) wide crater.

The boulders, like so much of Eros's geomorphology, are a puzzle. It was once believed that the surfaces of asteroids would be clean as any fragments from an impact would be ejected into space. Data from Near-Shoemaker show the opposite to be true, and scientists are mystified and excited.

The distribution and size of boulders scattered on the asteroid's surface could give scientists a chance to find out what Eros is like below the surface. Simulations of an impact could be carried out to see what parameters (speed, mass of projectile, strength and density of Eros) would yield the observed distribution of boulders.

Beneath the surface Eros may be a loose aggregation of boulders and dust, which would explain how it could absorb the energy of a large impact without breaking apart. Fractures seen on the surface may indicate that Eros has been internally riven by impacts.

The bluish soils are a mystery. "Deposits with the properties seen on Eros have no obvious analogues in previous lunar or asteroid data," say scientists.

Does our closest ever look at an asteroid help us if we ever have to deflect one from a collision course with Earth?

"There is no telling how they would respond to more forceful poking and prodding than would be needed to divert them," says Erik Asphaug.

Someday that will be a pertinent question. Over its lifetime, Eros has a 5% chance of colliding with the Earth, but fortunately not anytime soon. Then again, some other asteroid will have us in our sights before that.

The research is published in several papers in the journal Nature.

UN Says 7,500,000 Afghans Will Need Winter Aid

ISLAMABAD September 26, 2001 (Reuters) - The number of Afghans who will need some form of assistance during the harsh winter is estimated to reach 7.5 million, the United Nations said on Thursday.

The number of those displaced internally -- by conflict or drought -- was expected to double to 2.2 million from a current 1.1 million, said Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office of Humanitarian Assistance for Afghanistan (UNOCHA).

"Originally, we had 5.5 or 6 million people who would need assistance of various kinds, but our latest (projection) is 7.5 million people," she said.

If urgent help is not made available, "their grip on survival is definitely slipping," she said.

She said the Afghan donor group would meet Thursday in Berlin and a donor alert draft would be discussed.

Jolie Donates $1 Million To The UN

Geneva September 27, 2001 (eXoNews)  - Actress Angelina Jolie donated $1 million this week to the U.N. refugee agency to help Afghan refugees.

Jolie was recently made a special refugee ambassador to the United Nations High Commission and has traveled widely of late to see the problems of refugees around the world.

In an interview with Larry King on Thursday, she noted the unpopularity of the subject of Afghan refugees but pointed to the dire needs of women and children uprooted by the threat of war.

"They are just like us," Jolie said, explaining to King that the refugees she interviewed are victims of circumstance and do not support terrorism. "They love their children. They love their husbands."

"This significant contribution from a concerned young American reinforces my belief that, despite the trauma of recent events in her country, a strong sense of humanitarian responsibility toward innocent civilian suffering in far-off places continues to animate the spirit of caring individuals everywhere,'' United Nations High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said in a statement.

Click here for previous story featuring three excerpts and links to the journal Angelina Jolie kept while in Africa.

This story uses data from an Associated Press report.

McCartney to Headline NY Benefit

LONDON September 27, 2001 (AP) - Sir Paul McCartney will headline a rock 'n' roll extravaganza in New York City on Oct. 20 to benefit survivors and rescue workers in the World Trade Center attacks.

The concert will take place at Madison Square Garden, and will be broadcast on MTV, VH1 and other networks, McCartney's publicist Geoff Baker said Thursday.

Ono Carries on Lennon Peace Message

NEW YORK September 26, 2001 (AP) — The full-page ad in The New York Times carried a simple message: "Imagine all the people living life in peace.''

The John Lennon lyric, carried on page 29 of Sunday's paper, was a message from his widow, Yoko Ono, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, her spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

The eight-word quotation from Lennon's "Imagine'' was unaccompanied by any photos or text. Ono decided not to sign the ad because "she felt it would be more effective if her name wasn't on it,'' explained spokesman Eliot Mintz.

"This is one of the ways she makes her feelings known,'' Mintz said. "The message is in the ad.''

Ono, 68, also plans to erect a Times Square-area billboard with another message from Lennon's lyrics: "Give peace a chance.''

Lennon was murdered by a deranged fan outside his Upper West Side apartment building in December 1980.

Japanese-American Lawmakers Condemn Harassment of Arab-Americans
By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press

WASHINGTON September 27, 2001 (AP) - The hurt has subsided, but anger remains in Rep. Michael Honda's voice when he says his family was singled out because "we looked like the enemy."

Honda, D-Calif., was talking about the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II. But he said he could just as easily have been describing the experience of people of Middle Eastern descent in the two weeks since the terrorist attacks.

Arab-Americans have been stopped by police, forced to leave airplanes and, in some cases, subjected to violence.

Honda, a freshman, and fellow Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Calif., in his 12th term, say they feel a special duty to speak out against harassment of Arab-Americans following the terrorist attacks because of their families' experiences during World War II.

"We have a particular responsibility based upon a unique experience," said Honda, 60, who was moved with his parents from California's Central Valley to a compound in Amache, Colo., ringed with barbed wire and armed guards.

Matsui said he shuddered when he heard the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks compared to Pearl Harbor. It's not that he found the analogy inapt. Rather, he said, it was a reminder of what can happen to civil liberties in times of crisis.

"In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, no one spoke out," Matsui said.

The two congressmen were infants when their parents were forced from their homes and into internment camps in what the government has since acknowledged was a bigoted effort borne of war hysteria.

The Supreme Court, in a wartime ruling that never has been overturned, upheld the forced relocation of 120,000 Japanese-Americans. But in the late 1980s, Congress apologized and set aside about $20,000 for each of the internees or their heirs. Matsui and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, then a member of Congress who also was held in a camp as a child, led the drive.

Matsui's American-born parents were in their early 20s when they were moved from Sacramento to an internment camp at Tule Lake, Calif., which held nearly 19,000 people at its peak. No one in the Matsui household spoke of the experience for nearly 40 years.

"It wasn't until my mother was on her death bed in 1984 that she said she had nightmares about the camps," Matsui, 60, recalled in an interview. "She'd wake up and think she was still in them."

That silence is one reason why Honda and Matsui said they feel obligated to call attention to reported instances of apparent racial profiling, the practice of singling out people based on their appearance.

They also said they are watching closely the Bush administration's proposal for more anti-terrorism measures, including one to hold immigrants suspected of terrorism indefinitely. "Under the Constitution of the United States, we have an obligation to give people due process," Matsui said.

Both said they have been pleased by the denunciation by President Bush and other government officials of threats and attacks against Arab-Americans and Muslims.

One discordant note was the comment last week by Rep. John Cooksey, R-La., who used derogatory language to call for the questioning of all turban-wearing airline passengers. Cooksey has since apologized.

Honda said such language is "irresponsible." And he worries that the nation may not have seen the worst of harassment of Arab-Americans.

"There's no guarantee there's not going to be a second (terrorist) event," Honda said. "What's going to be the emotional and public outrage and where will it be directed?"
Genre News:

Enterprise Scores 15 Percent Share

Hollywood September 27, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - UPN's two-hour Sept. 26 premiere of Enterprise drew big ratings, placing the Paramount network in second place for the night.

According to preliminary estimates, Enterprise averaged a 9.9 rating (15% share), beating out everyone but West Wing and 60 Minutes on NBC and CBS.

The new Star Trek series, starring Scott Bakula, fell short of Star Trek: Voyager's debut ratings back in 1995 by a 5% share, but Trek analysts attribute Voyager's higher score to publicity for UPN's simultaneous network launch at the time.

Overall critical and fan reaction to the latest spin on Gene Roddenberry's creation has been gleefully enthusiastic. [The Klingons are back and I definitely like everything about it. A solid 10, and not just for that Vulcan! Ed.]

Official Enterprise site - http://www.startrek.com/launch

Roswell Tensions Ease?

Hollywood September 27, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - Nick Wechsler, who plays Kyle on UPN's teen alien series Roswell, told SCI FI Wire that it's business as usual on the set, despite buzz that co-stars Brendan Fehr and Jason Behr didn't want to return to the series for its third season.

"I don't ask anyone else about it," Wechsler said in an interview. "So far I think I've managed to stay out of anyone else's business."

Wechsler plays the son of Sheriff Jim Valenti (William Sadler), ex-boyfriend of Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) and ally to the aliens Max (Behr), Michael (Fehr) and Isabel (Katherine Heigl).

He added, "If [anyone's] complaining, they're complaining to each other or to friends on the outside or whatever, but I haven't heard much of it. I haven't seen the effects of it, but I've seen a couple of little things. I can feel the reluctance, and it's a little frustrating. There are people like me who aren't as capable of moving forward immediately and who would appreciate everybody being cooperative and being there so I don't lose my job. I don't want [anyone] to look down on the entire cast. I just feel like it's making me look bad, too, if the word on the street is the Roswell cast had to be dragged back, and when people come to the set, it shows. It's really unfortunate."

UPN will launch Roswell Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, starting October 9. The network has given the show and its persistent fan base the best possible lead-in series ever: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which premieres on October 2 with a two-hour episode.

Supreme Roswell site - http://www.crashdown.com

NASA Probes Rocket Crash

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE September 22, 2001 (AP) - Investigators are trying to determine why a privately owned rocket carrying satellites and the cremated remains of 50 people apparently crashed into the Indian Ocean.

Orbital Sciences Corp. said it is convening an investigation board to determine why its Taurus rocket veered from its intended flight path on Friday.

NASA lost its ozone-monitoring QuikTOMS satellite at a cost of $50 million, including $11 million for its share of the launch. Orbital Imaging Corp. lost its OrbView-4 satellite, which was designed to take high-resolution images of the Earth for sale.

The Taurus reached an orbit 266 miles high and could have placed the satellites there but lacked the proper velocity, causing the satellites to re-enter the atmosphere, said NASA spokesman Ed Campion.

Instead, the satellites apparently hit the water northeast of Madagascar, Campion said.

"They were essentially low and slow," he said.

It was the first failure of Orbital Sciences' four-stage Taurus in six launches since 1994.

Celestis Corp., a Houston company that launches small capsules of human remains into space for $5,300 apiece, had sent portions of ashes of 50 people up with the rocket. Families of the deceased are made aware of the risk and are asked to provide a second sample of cremated remains for a second attempt is the launch fails, said Charles Chafer, the company's chief executive.

Greenpeace Reports Illegal Logging on Indian land
By Marco Sibaja

BRASILIA September 27, 2001 (Reuters) — Environmental group Greenpeace presented evidence Wednesday to Brazilian public prosecutors of massive illegal logging of mahogany on Indian land in the Amazon jungle.

Greenpeace activists met with prosecutors to show them pictures, video, and satellite images of large clearings in the mahogany forests of the Kayapo Indians, deep in the world's biggest tropical forest. "The clearings are large enough to be seen from satellite," said Paulo Adario, coordinator of Greenpeace's Amazon campaign.

The Amazon, most of which is located in Brazil, is larger than all of Western Europe combined and shelters up to 50 percent of the world's animal and plant life. Environmentalists fear it is being destroyed at an unsustainable rate, and last year deforestation was the highest in five years.

Logging of mahogany, which can fetch $1,600 per 10.76 square feet on international markets, was banned in Brazil in 1996 on worries that it is becoming extinct. Logging of any kind is outlawed on Indian land.

There are 13 permits allowing the logging of mahogany, however, that include requirements for sustainable replanting of trees by logging firms. But of the companies that hold permits for sustainable mahogany logging, five have been fined for illegal logging. "We suspect that some of these permit holders are the ones logging in the Indian area," said Adario.

An official at the Brazilian government's environmental agency Ibama said the clearings on the Kayapo land were as large as 150 meters by 150 meters.

A recent study by the World Wildlife Fund found that 4.23 million cubic feet of mahogany from Latin America reaches global markets every year, mainly from Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. A large portion of that is illegally logged.

It is not uncommon for Brazilian Indians to allow loggers onto their land, even though it is illegal, to make some meager earnings. Adario said ending the logging on their land would require finding ways to help the Indians. "We have to find alternatives for the Kayapo who are making some income from this," he said.
Debate Over Trans-Alaska Pipeline Continues

By MAUREEN CLARK
Associated Press

ATIGUN PASS Alaska September 26, 2001 (AP) - Viewed as an engineering marvel by some and a potential environmental disaster by others, the trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline has been a looming image in the state's pristine wilderness for more than two decades.

The future of the pipeline will be getting an even closer look over the next year as governments consider renewal of the 30-year lease for the land it crosses. The chief questions about the pipeline are its stability and how long it will be needed as oil reserves decrease.

Given the fact that the pipeline carries 17 percent of the nation's oil production, no one doubts that the pipeline's license to operate will be renewed.

But depending upon what the study finds, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. could find itself operating with new restrictions in operating the line. The lease could also be renewed for less than the 30 years Alyeska has requested.

The lease process will include a study of the environmental, economic and social impacts of the oil pipeline; its physical condition; and whether Alyeska has complied with regulations.

"It's like peeling an onion," said Jerry Brossia, the top federal official with the Joint Pipeline Office, the state-federal agency that oversees pipeline operations.

When the pipeline was first proposed a generation ago, it touched off impassioned debate about the environmental impact of resource development in the wilderness of Alaska. Critics feared its effects on wildlife and habitat. Would caribou pass under the pipe? Would the heat of the oil melt the tundra? What about leaks and spills?

In the 24 years since the pipeline began operating, the caribou population has thrived and heat transfer units atop the pipeline's pilings protect the permafrost.

The worst oil spill occurred not along the pipeline itself, but in Prince William Sound when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in March 1989. Spills caused by corrosion have been a problem in other lines in Alaska's North Slope, however.

Walking beside the line, Bill Howitt sounds like a proud parent as he points out features designed to protect it from earthquakes and corrosion.

"The more I'm with this pipeline, the more I'm impressed with the original designers," said Howitt, a senior vice president with Alyeska, who has worked on the pipeline since construction days.

"One of the things I didn't realize back then was just how robust and how elegant the pipeline is," he added. "It functions as designed year after year."

As the lease renewal process gets under way, environmentalists have new concerns. There are fears that global warming could melt permafrost, causing instability in some of the 78,000 vertical pilings that support the 420 miles of aboveground pipe.

A bigger question in the minds of critics is just how long the pipeline can last.

"Are they going to be willing to spend billions of dollars for maintenance when there's only $3 billion worth of oil left up there on the slope?" said Ross Coen of the Fairbanks-based Alaska Center for Environmental Responsibility.

Alyeska says that with proper maintenance, monitoring and repair, the pipeline can last indefinitely. The company spends about $150 million a year on pipeline maintenance, Howitt said. Crews check the line each week by helicopter, and maintenance coordinators do a ground inspection once a month.

"Some critics try to paint a picture that this thing has just been sitting here for 25 years. Nothing could be farther from the truth," said Steve Jones, who heads Alyeska's lease renewal effort.

How Reptiles Survived The Big One

By Helen Briggs
BBC News Online

September 25, 2001 (BBC) - Fossils of reptiles that survived the greatest extinction in the Earth's history suggest that the catastrophe had a far greater impact on ocean life than on land-dwellers.

The theory that an asteroid or comet slammed into the planet, wiping out most living things, may have to be revised following the discovery.

Scientists have found that two-thirds of a group of ancient land reptiles managed to escape the devastation, while about 90% of marine life died out. They say an extraterrestrial impact would have had far-reaching effects on Earth, and propose that the extinction was caused by something else.

Fluctuations in sea level, global cooling or volcanic activity are just some of many scenarios proposed to explain an event so severe it has been dubbed "the mother of mass extinctions".

Earlier this year, scientists in the United States said they had found evidence that the extinction was triggered by an asteroid or comet hitting the planet. And Japanese researchers said last week that sulphur trapped in rocks in southern China provides further evidence of a massive impact.

Super-Continent

The disaster happened about 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period. It was far more devastating than the extinction that ended the reign of the dinosaurs, nearly 200 million years later.

At the time, life was flourishing on land, then largely a giant continent covered by desert. Amphibians and reptiles continued their invasion while crinoids, ammonites, corals and fish colonised the seas.

What happened next is still a mystery. But it had devastating effects. Evidence from the fossil record suggests that as many as 96% of all marine species were lost, while on land more than three quarters of all vertebrate families became extinct.

Now, scientists in Canada and South Africa have pieced together the family tree of an ancient group of reptiles, which they say could shed light on the nature of the event. They have analysed existing fossils of a relatively small group of lizard-like reptiles, called procolophonoids, which arose in the Permian. The research shows that four out of six lines of these four-legged burrowing reptiles escaped extinction and made it through to the Triassic period, the beginning of the age of the dinosaurs.

"Our work with this group of reptiles together with other recent work suggests that the mass extinction at the Permo-Triassic boundary was not as devastating for terrestrial animals as for marine animals," team leader Sean Modesto told BBC News Online.

"It also suggests that the cause of the extinction was not extra-terrestrial."

City-Sized Asteroid

Dr Modesto, a palaeobiologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, believes an asteroid impact would have wiped out most land animals as well as marine ones.

Scientists behind the asteroid hypothesis estimate that a body up to 12 km (7.4 miles) wide hit the Earth. They say the impact would have released an amount of energy equivalent to about one million times the largest earthquake recorded in the 20th Century.

Mark Bailey, of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, said it was very difficult to predict what might happen to life on the land or in the sea following an asteroid collision on this scale.

"When comets or asteroids hit the Earth, you get very complex environmental degradation," Dr Bailey told BBC News Online.

A collision could trigger anything from acid rain and global temperature changes to tsunamis, he said. He pointed out that many animals - such as small mammals, crocodiles, lizards and indeed reptiles - survived the impact of 65 million years ago while dinosaurs died out.

"We see from the dinosaurs that some species can survive," he said. "And there is very little doubt that this extinction was caused by an asteroid."

But Dr Modesto says the new work is just one piece in a big jigsaw puzzle. He says there could well be alternative explanations for the reptiles' survival. Perhaps the creatures, which were burrowers, were able to escape the environmental catastrophe by hiding underground.

The reptile research is published in the journal Royal Society Proceedings B.

Unhatched Dinosaurs Discovered in South America
By PAUL RECER
Associated Press

WASHINGTON September 27, 2001 (AP) - In a South American nesting area once used by hundreds of generations of dinosaurs, researchers have found scores of unhatched babies that come from the last and most massive family of long-necked, plant-eating sauropods.

Luis Chiappe, first author of a study appearing Friday in the journal Science, said the baby dinosaurs drowned in their eggs just before hatching when a river flooded some 80 million years ago in what is now the Patagonia region of Argentina.

Chiappe, chairman of the department of vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said the dinosaur nesting area was discovered in 1997, but researchers only now have identified the types of animals that used it as a nursery. He said the embryos are from a sauropod type of dinosaur in a family group known as titanosaurs.

A member of this family group, argentinosaurs, lived 90 million years ago and is thought to be the largest animal ever to walk the Earth - some 120 feet long and weighing more than 80 tons. Chiappe said the embryos found in the drowned eggs are from a previously unknown species that is a later and smaller member of the same titanosaur family.

"We have found hundreds of nests" in an area known as Auca Mahuida, said Chiappe. "Sauropods gathered in great numbers - by the hundreds of thousands - to nest at this site. They returned to this site time after time."

Sauropods had small heads atop long, long necks. The massive body ended with a muscular tail. The animals foraged from tree tops, are thought to have lived in herds and were among the most successful of the dinosaurs, appearing in fossil records of nearly every continent starting almost 200 million years ago. The brontosaurus, now known as apatosaurus, is probably the most famous of the sauropods because it once was the symbol of an oil company.

So numerous are the nests that the researchers named the dinosaur excavation site Auca Mahuevo. The last word is a pun based on two Spanish words, mas huevos, which means "more eggs."

Chiappe said the dinosaurs apparently dug holes, laid their eggs in irregular clusters, often with two or three layers on top of each other. They then mounded the nests with vegetation, he said, and abandoned the young to their fate.

"They preferred to lay their eggs on the flood plain, but not close to river channels," he said. The fossilized eggs prove the animals could misjudge the river. At least four times, he said, the nests were flooded, drowning the young in their shells and burying them in mud. The mud preserved and fossilized the eggs and the embryos.

Chiappe said the eggs were about the size of softballs, and the six baby dinos analyzed were about a foot long. Fossil fragments of adults from the same species, found nearby, suggest that when fully grown the babies would have been about 50 feet long.

"They grew about 50 feet in 15 to 20 years, which means they grew very, very fast," said Chiappe.

The six baby dinos have the most complete skulls of any titanosaur yet discovered, a fact that Chiappe called ironic.

"The best preserved skulls of this large group of long-necked dinosaurs come from embryonic remains, which are among the rarest of all dinosaur fossils," he said.

Lawrence Witmer, a dinosaur researcher at Ohio University, said the Chiappe discovery "is truly remarkable" and will contribute important new understanding about dinosaurs.

"This is important," said Witmer. "It tells us about the growth and development of dinosaurs, ... a key element of biology and one that is sorely missing from dinosaur studies.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles - http://www.nhm.org/tiniestgiants

China and Vatican Reportedly Plan Reconciliation

HONG KONG September 26, 2001 (Reuters) - China and the Vatican are preparing to bridge the historical differences between them and may even pave the way for the establishment of full diplomatic relations, the Far Eastern Economic Review said Wednesday.

A series of carefully choreographed statements and meetings in the weeks ahead will end decades of hostility between the tiny European state and Beijing, the magazine said in a news release trailing an article in this week's edition, which hits newsstands Thursday.

The magazine said Beijing wants to bridge the rift for political reasons.

"In the event of mutual diplomatic recognition, the Vatican would be obliged to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan," the FEER said. "It would also weaken the stance of half a dozen predominantly Catholic countries in Central America that maintains ties with Taiwan."

China and Taiwan have been archrivals since 1949 when the Chinese Nationalists lost a civil war to the Communists and set up a new base in Taiwan.

The Vatican heads the world's hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics. China expelled foreign clergy and broke links with the Vatican in the 1950s.

Quoting diplomatic and church sources, the magazine said the healing of relations will begin on October 14 when Catholic scholars from around the world gather in Beijing for a conference to mark the 400th anniversary of the start of Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci's mission to China in 1601.

The weekly said a similar ceremony will take place in Rome later in that month, where Pope John Paul will offer some form of apology for historical wrongdoing by the Catholic Church in China, primarily its close connection with European imperialism.

"According to the schedule worked out by both sides, relations between the two states will be much improved by the end of next month," the magazine said.

A bitter row between Beijing and the Roman Catholic church erupted last year over the nomination of bishops and the canonization of saints.

In January 2000, China's state-backed Catholic church defied the pope by ordaining five new bishops.

Nine months later, on China's National Day on October 1, the Vatican canonized 120 Catholic martyrs in China. This angered Beijing, which called the saints "evil-doing sinners" who raped, looted and worked as agents of Western imperialism.

The weekly said visible steps toward improved relations could coincide with the planned visit by President Bush to China on October 20 to 21. "This would allow Beijing to deflect U.S. criticism of its human rights record."

For the Vatican, an official relationship with China would mean the potential to enlarge its following among the 1.3 billion mainland Chinese, the magazine noted.

Chinese officials were not immediately available to comment.

Woman Dies On Knott's Berry Farm Ride

BUENA PARK CA  September 22, 2001 (AP) - A woman died after suffering injuries on a ride at the Knott's Berry Farm theme park, officials said Saturday.

Bruce Lyle, supervising deputy of the Orange County coroner's office, said Lori Mason-Larez, 40, died of extensive injuries sustained on the attraction. He said he could provide no further details about what caused the incident Friday.

The ride, a combination roller coaster and water slide called the "Perilous Plunge," remained closed Saturday.

Park spokeswoman Susan Tierney said Mason-Larez was injured about 10:20 p.m. Friday on the ride, which features a 115-foot drop into a 650,000-gallon pool.

Tierney declined further comment, citing ongoing investigations.

The death was the second this month involving a visitor to Knott's Berry Farm.

Earlier this month, Justine Dedele Bolia, 20, died of a brain aneurysm after losing consciousness on Knott's Montezooma's Revenge roller coaster. Final autopsy results are pending.

Al Tafazoli, manager of the Southern California Amusement Ride Office of the state Department of Occupational Health and Safety, did not immediately return a call for comment Saturday.

Chessie The Manatee Sighted After 5 Years

By Randolph E. Schmid
Associated Press

WASHINGTON September 27, 2001 — Chessie, the manatee who made headlines in 1995 by swimming all the way to Rhode Island, has been visiting the north again.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists confirmed Tuesday that a manatee sighted three weeks ago at Great Bridge, Va., was Chessie. He was seen inside a lock along the Intercoastal Waterway, patiently waiting for the lock to fill so he could continue his trip south, the researchers said.

"Manatees know about negotiating locks," said Jim Reid, a manatee expert at the agency's Florida Caribbean Science Center in Gainesville, Fla. "Manatees have gotten used to being around people and so have adapted to human-created habitats."

While Chessie was in the lock, workers there called the Virginia Marine Science Museum, which sent over a team of scientists to study and photograph the animal. Comparing the pictures with those taken in 1994 and 1995 showed the same pattern of scars, confirming that Chessie has indeed made another trip north.

It's common for Florida manatees to swim north to Georgia and the Carolinas in the summer, Reid said. The coastal areas feature salt marshes and grasses that the animals enjoy for food. But they rarely venture into the colder water north of that.

Chessie first became famous in 1994 when he made it into Chesapeake Bay. When the weather turned cold in October, he was captured by the National Aquarium and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and returned by a U.S. Coast Guard plane to Florida.

He was radio tagged at that time, and in 1995, researchers were able to track him as he swam to the Chesapeake Bay; on to Delaware Bay; into salt marshes near Atlantic City, N.J.; past the Statue of Liberty; and through Long Island Sound. Stopping to rest and feed along the way, he continued northward until he reached Point Judith, R.I., in mid-August 1995. That time he went home on his own, and he was last seen near Portsmouth, Va., in 1996, having lost the radio tag.

Since Chessie's trip, people have seen manatees in northeastern waters. Some scientists believe that Chessie's annual migration from Florida to the Chesapeake Bay may have been common for manatees in previous centuries. The repeated sightings of a "sea monster" in the Chesapeake Bay, nicknamed Chessie, date back throughout this century and may merely have been manatee sightings. Chessie was named after this purported monster.

Mummified 'Soap Lady' Scanned

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA September 28, 2001 (AP) - Sometime during the 19th century, a fat woman died and her body changed almost entirely into soap.

It may sound like an urban legend, but researchers are serious. On Thursday, they performed a CT scan on the woman's mummified body hoping to learn more about the process that turns some corpses into a waxy, soap-like substance called adipocere.

The body, dubbed "Soap Lady," has been on display for more than a century at the Mutter Museum, a former haven for medical students but now a Philadelphia tourist attraction featuring thousands of medical oddities.

The CT scan unexpectedly revealed some organ tissue, raising hope that researchers might be able to learn how the woman died.

"There's tons of stuff in there," said Gerald Conlogue, a Quinnipiac University professor of diagnostic imaging. "What we may be looking at is a shell or casing made out of this soapy substance sealing out the outside environment."

Conlogue said the results will give researchers greater understanding of saponification, the chemical conversion of fat into adipocere.

Saponification is an unusual occurrence, dependent on factors such as humidity, temperature, the presence of clothing and bacterial activity. The fatter the person, the greater the chance saponification will occur.

Thursday's scan was the first time the Soap Lady had left her wooden display table since 1874, when a prominent University of Pennsylvania anatomist named Joseph Leidy donated the body to the museum.

Leidy claimed the Soap Lady, who was discovered by workers removing bodies from an old burial yard, had died in the late 1700s. "The woman, named Ellenbogen, died in Philadelphia of yellow fever in 1792 and was buried near Fourth and Race Streets," according to the original label attached to the exhibit.

Leidy's explanation stood until 1942, when museum curator Joseph McFarland determined that the Soap Lady had actually died in the 1800s and that her name had been lost to history.

McFarland could find no record of any yellow fever deaths in Philadelphia in 1792. A yellow fever epidemic did strike the city in 1793, but the name "Ellenbogen" appeared nowhere on an official list of the dead. Furthermore, there was never a cemetery at Fourth and Race.

A 1987 X-ray of the mummy showed eight straight pins and two four-hole buttons manufactured in the 19th century.

"At this point, we know less about her than we thought we did before," said Gretchen Worden, the Mutter's current curator.

The CT scan, a computer-enhanced image of areas that cannot be seen by X-ray, was taped for a new television series called "The Mummy Road Show," premiering Oct. 5 on the National Geographic Channel.

The filming made for a bizarre scene: With the television crew and museum workers eating cheese steaks a few feet away, the blackened mummy slowly passed through a portable CT scanner in a Mutter side room filled with large oil portraits of long-dead Philadelphia physicians.

The Mutter was founded in 1849 by the Philadelphia College of Physicians, which still operates it. Its exhibits include malformed skeletons, a 27-foot-long human colon and a plaster cast of the famous Siamese twins, Chang and Eng Bunker.

Roadside America - http://www.roadsideamerica.com/attract/PAPHImut.html


Visit eXoNews for more recent news!

 

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