Corso Dead,
Light Stopped,
Bugs for Lunch
and More!
Beat Poet Gregory Corso Dies at 70
Associated Press Writer

MINNEAPOLIS January 18, 2001 (AP) — Poet Gregory Corso, one of the circle of Beat poets that included Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, has died. He was 70.

Corso, who had prostate cancer, died Wednesday, his daughter, Sheri Langerman, said Thursday. He had been living with her since September, she said.

Born in New York's Greenwich Village, Corso was the author or co-author of more than 20 collections of poetry and other works. Ginsberg discovered Corso in the 1950s. Corso's first poems were published in 1955.

One of his best-known works was the 1958 poem "Bomb,'' an ode to atomic weapons in the shape of a mushroom cloud. "Know that the earth will madonna the Bomb/ that in the hearts of men to come more bombs will be born/ magisterial bombs wrapped in ermine,'' he wrote.

Among his collections of poems are "Gasoline,'' "Elegiac Feelings American'' and "Mindfield.'' He remained active up until his death, recording a CD with Marianne Faithfull at his daughter's home, Langerman said.

Corso was born March 26, 1930, to teen-age parents who separated a year after his birth. His own biographical notes in a compilation called "The New American Poetry'' give a sample of his style and the early hardship of his life:

"Born by young Italian parents, father 17 mother 16, born in New York City Greenwich Village 190 Bleecker, mother year after me left not-too-bright father and went back to Italy, thus I entered life of orphanage and four foster parents and at 11 father remarried and took me back but all was wrong because two years later I ran away and caught sent away again and sent away to boys home for two years and let out and went back home and ran away again and sent to Bellevue for observation ...''

At age 17, Corso went to prison for three years on a theft charge. After his release in 1950, he worked as a laborer in New York City, a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles, and a sailor on a boat to Africa and South America. It was in New York City that he first met Ginsberg, who introduced him to contemporary, experimental work.

Maria Damon, an English professor at the University of Minnesota who has taught Beat literature, spent a week studying under Corso at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colo., in 1977. While Corso was lesser known than Ginsberg and Kerouac, he deserves no less recognition, she said.

"I would say that he was very gifted, also undisciplined, which is part of the beauty of Beat writing,'' she said. "He was very well-read but not from formal schooling. He put things together in a highly romanticized way.''

Michael Skau, author of a 1999 book on Corso, said Corso was a media favorite when the Beat movement exploded in the 1950s because he was "the prototype of a bad boy.''

"He was very disruptive whether it was a social setting or a literary setting, very antagonistic even toward his closest friends,'' Skau said. "Ginsberg tolerated behavior from Corso that made Ginsberg look like a saint.''

Corso was married three times. Survivors include five children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Langerman said.

Funeral arrangements were not final, but a service was planned in Greenwich Village, with burial in Rome, Langerman said.

Physicists Bring Light to a Stop
AP Science Writer

JANUARY 18, 2001 - Physicists say they have brought light particles to a screeching halt, then revved them up again so that they could continue their journey at a blistering 186,000 miles per second. The results are the latest in a growing number of experiments that manipulate light, the fastest and most ephemeral form of energy in the universe. 

Eventually, researchers hope to harness its speedy properties in the development of more powerful computers and other technologies that store information in light particles rather than electrons.

The experiments were conducted in separate laboratories in Cambridge, Mass., by groups led by Lene Vestergaard Hau of Harvard and the Rowland Institute of Science and Ronald L. Walsworth and Mikhail D. Lukin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics.

The results will be published in upcoming issues of the journals Nature and American Physical Letters.

Physicists who did not participate in the experiments said the two research papers make an important contribution to understanding the properties of light. However, any practical applications are far off, they said.

"It's a real first,'' said Stanford physicist Stephen Harris, who collaborated on a 1999 experiment with Hau that slowed light to 38 mph. "These experiments are beautiful science.''

In the latest experiments, researchers took steps to not only slow light to a virtual crawl, but to stop it completely.

To do so, they created a trap in which atoms of gas were chilled magnetically to within a few-millionths of a degree of absolute zero and a consistency they described as "optical molasses.'' Hau's group used sodium atoms, while Waldsworth's group used rubidium, an alkaline metal.

Normally, the gas atoms would absorb any light directed into the trap. The researchers solved this problem by aiming a "control'' laser beam into the gas, which transformed it from opaque to a state known as electromagnetic ally induced transparency, or EIT.

Then they shined a second, probe laser that operated at a different frequency. When the wave of light particles hit the gas atoms, the particles slowed dramatically.

To stop the probe light entirely, the researchers waited until it had entered the vessel, encountered the gas atoms and imprinted a pattern into the orientation of the spinning atoms.

Then the scientists gradually reduced the intensity of the control beam.

As a result, the probe light dimmed and then vanished. But information in the light particles still was imprinted on the atoms of sodium and rubidium, effectively freezing or storing it, according to Hau.

Then the scientists gradually restored the control beam. The light that had been stored in the spinning atoms was reconstituted and continued its journey through the vessel.

"It's as if you stretched a silk thread across a railroad track and a train vanishes into it,'' said University of Colorado physicist Eric Cornell, who reviewed the Hau study for Nature.

"You wait and then — bam! — the train reappears and goes zooming down the track,'' Cornell said. "It's not at all what you would expect from a pulse of light.''

About 50 percent of the light — and its information — was retrieved in the regenerated light pulse, scientists said. That might not be good enough for a practical computing system, but it demonstrates how such a system might store and ship data.

"Nothing is ready to be picked up by the optical communications industry,'' Harris said. "It needs further invention.''

Whether either group actually stopped the light completely is open to some interpretation. The probe laser actually is a bundle of light waves that form a single wave. This is known to physicists as the group velocity; it is the light that your eye sees and a camera uses to record an image.

Does stopping the group velocity means that the individual light waves themselves were stopped? That's a deeper quantum question, physicists said, but they considered the Cambridge groups' claims to be valid.

"It is a real effect,'' said Ben Stein of the American Physical Society.

Manipulating light's properties is a subject of intensely competitive research. In July, physicists in Princeton, N.J., apparently pushed a laser pulse through a vapor of cesium atoms so it traveled faster than the conventional speed of light.

Tools Suggest Early Human Termite Diet
Washington DC January 17, 2001 (REUTERS) - Early humans liked termites so much that they made special bone tools to grub out the juicy insects, researchers said on Tuesday.

The finding suggests that some of humanity's earliest ancestors had a diet that was more varied and nutritious than was earlier believed, Lucinda Backwell of the University of the Witwatersrand and Francesco d'Errico of the National Scientific Research Center (CNRS) in Talence, France, said.

"Previous studies have suggested that modified bones from the Lower Paleolithic (old stone age) sites of Swartkrans and Sterkfontein in South Africa represent the oldest known bone tools and that they were used by Australopithecus robustus to dig up tubers,'' they wrote in their report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"However, our analysis suggests that these tools were used to dig into termite mounds, rather than to dig for tubers.''

Chimpanzees are frequently seen using sticks to "fish'' for termites, but it has been unclear how much early humans depended on bugs for food and what sort of tools they used to catch them.

Backwell's study suggested that the hominids carefully selected their tools, as thousands of bones of a similar size and shape were found at the site and found to have the distinctive markings made by poking into a termite mound.

Pat Shipman, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University who has studied tools at the site, called the research "remarkable'' and said it needed to be looked at closely.

The sites are anywhere between a million and 1.8 million years old -- methods of dating them are not precise. Earlier researchers found the bones and determined they had been used to dig up tubers.

Tubers are an important source of food to modern humans as well and include cassava, peanuts and potatoes.

But it is hard to tell what a tool was actually used for. Backwell and D'Errico ran extensive tests on the bone fragments to see what could have caused the marks on them, and did comparisons to make sure that, for example, an animal chewing on them did not make the marks.

The wear pattern most closely resembled that made when a bone tool is used to dig into a termite mound, they decided.

Big, heavy digging sticks are usually used to get at tubers, the researchers said.

Knowing this is important in understanding the diets of human ancestors, the researchers said. "Termites are a valuable source of protein, fat and essential amino acids in the diets of both primates and modern humans,'' they wrote. "While a rump steak yields 322 calories per 100 grams and cod fish 74, termites provide 560 calories per 100 grams.''

They said it is not clear which early or pre-human used the tools at the sites, noting that remains of both Australopithecus robustus and of a species of Homo -- the group that includes modern humans -- are there.

Such nutritious food would have been important for the survival of Australopithecus, Shipman said, because the hominids otherwise survived on vegetables they could forage while later species added meat to their diets.

"It seems irresistible to conclude that robust australopithecines may have relied on termites seasonally or even year-round in addition to vegetable foods,'' Shipman wrote in a commentary on the research.

Unmanned Chinese Spacecraft Returns
Associated Press Writer

BEIJING (AP) — A capsule China says is identical to the one that will carry its first astronaut into space touched down Tuesday after orbiting the earth for a week, state media reported.
The unmanned Shenzhou II landed on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia in northern China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

"The second space test was a complete success,'' China Central Television said in a brief report on the main evening news broadcast. The 108-orbit trip was the second test flight of a craft intended to one day make China only the third nation, after the United States and Russia, capable of manned space travel. The vessel is technologically identical to one that would carry a person, Xinhua said. Shenzhou II's successful mission "indicates that China's manned spaceflight technology is advancing and has laid a solid foundation for the country to eventually conduct manned space flights,'' it said.

The first Shenzhou flight landed in November 1999 after orbiting Earth for 21 hours. Western experts have said a successful second test could bring a manned flight within two years.

Chinese scientists quoted by state media have said three or four more unmanned flights will be needed first. All equipment worked smoothly throughout the flight, and Shenzhou II collected data that will be used for future missions, it said. In a phone call to the director of the manned space program, Gen. Cao Gangchuan, President Jiang Zemin expressed "warm congratulations'' on the vessel's successful return.

Shenzhou II, whose name means "sacred vessel,'' was traced by four monitoring ships in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, all under the command of China's space control center in Beijing, the reports said.

One of those ships sent the craft the order to land as it flew above the southern Atlantic, Xinhua said. The Shenzhou's return capsule then detached from the orbital sections and fired its engines to return to Earth.

China has placed great prestige on its secretive 31-year-old space program and has increased spending in the past decade.

Several would-be astronauts have been sent to Russia for instruction and Western experts believe those graduates are now training other candidates in China. Western analysts believe the Shenzhou tested systems essential to manned flight, namely life-support, guidance and re-entry.

News reports on the Jan. 10 launch said the capsule also carried cell and tissue samples from dozens of animals, plants and micro-organisms. China has portrayed its space ambitions as a sign of its rising might and influence but has provided few details of its space program, code-named Project 921. The program's military association is one reason for the secrecy. Cao, director of the manned space program, also sits on the powerful Communist Party Central Military Commission and heads the General Armament Dept. of the People's Liberation Army.

Highest Density of Matter Created
STONY BROOK, N.Y. January 16, 2001 (AP) — Scientists say they used a particle accelerator to smash the nuclei of gold atoms together to make the highest density of matter ever created in an experiment.

The accelerator, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, smashed the nuclei together at nearly the speed of light, Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists said at a conference Monday. Physicists who studied the debris streaming from the collisions concluded that densities more than 20 times higher than those within the nuclei of ordinary matter had been produced. Temperatures in the compressed matter topped 1 trillion degrees.

The scientists believe that large amounts of matter so dense and so hot last existed a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang, the explosion credited with giving birth to the universe.

Physicists hope the violent collisions will break protons and neutrons into their subcomponents — quarks and gluons — further revealing the internal structure of nuclei. Although the measurements reported Monday cannot determine whether that goal has been achieved, they strongly suggest that further collisions will bring the so-called "quark-gluon plasma'' to light.

"There is some tantalizing evidence I would say, but I think that we need to get some better statistics,'' said John Harris, a physicist at Yale University.

The Brookhaven scientists said measurements at the accelerator, if confirmed, indicate they produced matter with a density approaching two times the record announced last year at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.

The results may shed light on the birth of the universe and the centers of dense and exploding stars, the scientists said.

NASA Aims to Blast Comet to Study Solar System
SANTIAGO, Chile January 17, 2001 (REUTERS) - NASA scientists aim to blast a comet with a copper projectile to learn about the formation of the solar system as part of a $270 million project funded by NASA, the head of the project said on Tuesday.

The project, called Deep Impact and which will cause an explosion capable of destroying a small town, would be the first space mission to probe inside a comet, whose primitive core could reveal clues about evolution of the solar system.

"All our studies of comets look only at the surface layer. Our theoretical models tell us the surface has changed, and only the interior has the original composition. So our main goal is to compare the interior with the surface,'' the project's director, Michael A'Hearn, told reporters. Scientists chose copper, Chile's No. 1 export, because it is less likely to interfere with the materials inside the crater.

In January 2004, a rocket would launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a spacecraft that would orbit the sun. In July 2005 the spacecraft would separate from a battery-powered, copper projectile that would collide with the comet 24 hours later at a velocity of 6 miles (10 km) per second.

It would produce a crater the width of a football field and up to 100 feet (30 meters) deep.

The spacecraft would observe the composition of the crater's interior, while telescopes on Earth would monitor the impact.

The project also aims to see if scientists can alter the orbit of a comet to protect the Earth from falling matter. The impact would alter the comet's orbit by a "just barely measurable'' 62 to 620 miles (100 to 1,000 km), A'Hearn said.

The project would blast the Comet Tempel 1, which was discovered in 1867 and is a little less than Earth's distance from the sun, he said. It was chosen because its size, rotation and trajectory favor the project and because the collision would be observable from Earth.

In February, NASA will carry out a preliminary design review to see if the project can succeed.

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