|What Is Firefly? |
Buffy and Angel Win! Dilithium,
Europa's Ocean, Venus Bugs,
Chimps Versus Humans & More!
|What Is Firefly?|
|By FLAtRich |
Hollywood September 29, 2002 (eXoNews) - As if you didn't know, Firefly is an amazing new show on Fox created by Joss Whedon. If you really didn't know, Whedon created Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. Even if you did know, Whedon also co-produces Firefly with Tim Minear, who was an executive story editor on Chris Carter's X-Files and later became executive producer of Angel.
Both of these guys did lots of other things, but we're here to talk about Firefly, and why it may be destined to become television's latest cult science fiction favorite.
There is plenty of room for humans because there are no pointy-eared Vulcans or blue-skinned Andorians in the Firefly universe. Whedon has left prosthetic aliens to the Trek franchise, Andromeda, and Farscape. In Firefly, it's just us homo sapiens. No vampires either, so crossovers with Buffy are unlikely.
It's 500 years from now and the Alliance has just won a galactic civil war. The group of intrepid adventurers aboard the transport ship Serenity were on the losing side and now they must scrounge for work to stay alive. Sometimes the work is not so legal and it's tough in the post-bellum galaxy. The stars are full of carpetbaggers and big bads. Due to their past political preferences, the crew also has to avoid running into Alliance soldiers along the way.
The first episodes of Firefly introduced a rather large cast all at once. Long-time Whedon fans probably caught the characters immediately, but just for the record here are their names and their jobs on Serenity.
Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is the Serenity's engineer, or "mechanic" according to Firefly. Good sense of humor, stays in the ship and has great faith in Mal. A bit like Willow in the old days, and a bit like Fred on Angel.
Unofficial Firefly fan site - http://www.fireflyfans.net
|Anti-Environmental Bush Paybacks|
|Washington, DC/Oakland, CA September 25th, 2002 (Earthjustice) - In a report released today, Earthjustice and Public Campaign established in detail for the first time the strong correlation between big corporate contributions to the Bush-Cheney campaign and Republican National Committee (RNC) and Bush administration policy paybacks that benefit these interests. |
"These contributions and policy paybacks tell the story of how corporate interests brought the Bush administration to power so that it could weaken the law to benefit the companies’ bottom line," the groups said. The report, entitled PAYBACKS, makes an accounting of industrial contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign and the industry-friendly policies that have become the regular order of business since President Bush took office. The report also names some of the top environmental officials within the administration who built their careers as lawyers and lobbyists for the industries they are now in charge of regulating.
"The Bush administration’s anti-environmental agenda doesn’t just appear to be made-to-order for polluting industry interests. It is," conclude Earthjustice and Public Campaign in PAYBACKS. "Industries now reaping the benefits of an administration intent on eliminating important environmental and public health safeguards are the same ones that helped underwrite the Bush-Cheney campaign and the RNC with more than $44 million in contributions."
"Over thirty years of progress in addressing environmental problems – spurred by public servants and private individuals of all political persuasions – is being squandered by this administration," said Buck Parker, executive director of Earthjustice. "The Bush administration is giving away our nation’s clean water and air, national forests, and public lands to its corporate contributors."
"Because you have to pay to play in the current campaign finance system, anti-environmental special interests with plenty of cash see all their policy wishes granted. Meanwhile, the public’s interest in a healthy environment is ignored," said Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign.
The report, which is available on the web (www.earthjustice.org and www.publicampaign.org), focuses on the investments made by timber, mining, oil and gas, coal-burning utilities, chemical, and other manufacturing interests. PAYBACKS shows how these investments resulted in handsome returns for polluting and resource extractive industries in the form of anti-environmental policy decisions, often facilitated by Bush administration political appointees who are former industry lawyers and lobbyists.
The groups also will launch a website today (www.GeorgeWBuy.com) that presents some of the information from the report. "The GeorgeWBuy website is an accurate depiction of the sad reality: the Bush administration has put the public’s health and precious natural resources on the auction block," said Parker.
|Hairy-kneed Camels Get Protection|
|BERLIN September 26, 2002 (AP) — A wild hairy-kneed camel that drinks salt water and can survive in the harshest conditions, including on a former nuclear test site, will be better protected from poachers and other threats under new status granted by a U.N. convention, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. |
Joining the Bactrian camel in being newly elevated to the United Nations Environment Program agency's most-protected list were the great white shark, the blind river dolphin, and several other species.
The camels, discovered in 1999 on the edge of the Tibetan mountains, number fewer than 1,000 and are being threatened by poachers and encroaching human populations whose domestic camels compete for scarce resources.
The Bactrian camel is thought to be a distinct species and will be reduced in numbers by more than 80 percent in 30 years unless protected, scientist John Hare, who found a herd on a former nuclear testing site on the border of Mongolia and China, told the Convention on Migratory Species in Bonn.
Elevating the species to the convention's "Appendix I" status means that countries are obliged to take immediate measures to prevent them from being killed, caught, or used for scientific research, said Veronika Lenarz, a spokeswoman for the convention.
Delegates from the 80 countries represented at the convention also threw their support behind a campaign spearheaded by Prince Charles and Birdlife International to save the albatross, some 100,000 of which are estimated to die every year when they become snared by longline fishing boats and are pulled under water.
The convention meets every three years and wrapped up its weeklong conference Tuesday.
|Genre News: Buffy and Angel Win! Farscape, William Shatner, Doom, Monk and More!|
|Buffy and Angel Win Top Drama Picks! |
Hollywood September 29, 2002 (eXoNews) - CUT TO The Beach Boys singing: "Wouldn't it be nice?" CUT TO Network executives tearing out their hair. CUT TO Joss Whedon with a big grin.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer didn't even get nominated for the top drama Emmy, but Zap2it readers voting in the entertainment site's 2002 Emmy Straw Poll righted the wrong and voted Joss Whedon's Slayer saga their 2002 favorite for Outstanding Drama Series.
Whedon actors David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof and Alyson Hannigan also won as top viewer picks. (About bloody time, too! Ed.]
The Zap2it poll was conducted online during the months following this year's Television Academy 2002 Emmy Nominations announcement.
Zap2it.com is the web's leading Entertainment site, with a keen eye for genre show news and daily reports on overnight and overall ratings results.
Outstanding Drama Series:
Outstanding Lead Actor In a Drama:
Outstanding Lead Actress In a Drama:
Outstanding Supporting Actor In a Drama:
To read the full article and see who won the straw poll in comedy categories, go here: http://tv.zap2it.com/news/tvnewsdaily.html?28125
The Burbank Farscape Con will be held November 22-24 at the Burbank Airport Hilton. Farscape stars Claudia Black, Gigi Edgley, Wayne Pygram, Anthony Simcoe, Raelee Hill and Kent McCord will be there. Details at: http://www.creationent.com/cal
Creation is also sponsoring a Farscape Music Video contest for the Burbank Con. Fans can "submit your own Farscape music video for possible showing at this Official Farscape event! Entries should be no more than 5 minutes long, and only one per tape: submissions should be on standard VHS tape. You may submit up to two."
Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Virginia Hey, Gigi Edgley and Wayne Pygram will also be among the stars at the New York Farscape Con, November 29-30 at the Brooklyn Marriott Hotel.
The Save Farscape Campaign continues. For the latest breaking news and to help save the show from oblivion, go to: http://farscape.wdsection.com
Sci Fi Airs Shatner in Esperanto!
Warners To Film Doom
USA Picks Up Second Season of 'Monk'
|Look Up Dilithium|
|Oxford September 26, 2002 (BBC) - Science fiction terms have become official language with the inclusion of Jedi, Klingon and Tardis in the latest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Also getting a mention is Blairite, the term used for supporters of prime minister Tony Blair. |
The terms are among some 3,500 extra words which have been included in the dictionary which is published on Thursday by Oxford University Press. The tome replaces the last version - which was published nearly 10 years ago in 1993.
In the intervening years such phrases as ladette, singleton and shedload have become so commonplace as to elevate their status from pure slang. And sci-fi films such as Star Wars and Men In Black have made a case for the inclusion of a "shedload" of space-based words.
These include Klingon, Warp Drive, Dilithium and parallel universe.
In the fast-moving world of politics, many new 21st century phrases have made it to the edition. The world is now very familiar with asylum seeker, bed-blocking, just war and name and shame which now find a place among the pages.
There is even a place in the 4,000-page dictionary for the ill-fated Millennium Dome, ensuring that the name will not just be confined to history.
Angus Stevenson, co-editor of the shorter Oxford English Dictionary said politics and current affairs provide "fertile subjects" for today's dictionary. But he added: "We include words that achieve a certain level of usage whatever their origins, making sure that slang terms are clearly identified."
And some may well merit an explanation.
In particular the word wedgie which, according to Thursday's edition of the Independent, denotes the action of pulling up the material of someone's underwear tightly between their buttocks, as a practical joke.
To be included in the dictionary words must have been used five times, in five different sources over five years. The edition is described as the most comprehensive dictionary of current English and its history from 1000AD to the present day.
|Amateur Astronomers Needed|
|LONDON September 25, 2002 (Reuters) - Amateur astronomers around the globe are being enlisted to help the professionals monitor stars with planets orbiting around them. |
Astronomers in the United States have set up a program to co-ordinate the efforts of experienced amateurs in discovering transiting extra-solar planets.
"They want amateurs to sign up to a program called Transitsearch to spur the discovery of planets that pass between us and their parent stars," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
The program was set up by Tim Castellano of NASA Ames Research Center and Greg Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz after they learned that a Finnish amateur astronomer had charted the path of a planet across the star HD 209458.
"They are now searching for amateurs worldwide to monitor stars already known to have planets orbiting them, and have posted a list of target stars and predicted transit times at www.transitsearch.org," the magazine added.
The scientists are hoping the transit information will provide data about a planet's mass and density and its composition and atmosphere.
"Collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers aren't new, but they're growing because of the falling cost of high-quality equipment now within the reach of many amateurs," the magazine said.
Join up with Transitsearch at: http://www.transitsearch.org
|Get Your Very Own Genetic Code on Disc!|
|By Helen Briggs |
BBC News Science Reporter
Cambridge September 23, 2002 (BBC) - Soon everybody could have a personal copy of their complete genetic code, for medical reasons or perhaps curiosity. A British company says it is close to perfecting a gene sequencing method that could "read" someone's genome in a day.
Meanwhile, Craig Venter - the US scientist who helped decode the first complete draft of the human genome - is reported to be taking orders from millionaires who want to know their genetic make-up.
Dr Venter says he will be able to provide an individual's genome on a CD in about a week for $712,000 (£400,000) from later this year. The data could reveal whether someone has genes that give them a higher risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimer's. It might even give an idea of how and when they will die.
The British company, Solexa, was set up by two Cambridge University chemists. It says it has developed a quicker, cheaper method to sequence human DNA. This will be used at first to provide a service mapping an individual's single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) - the "letters" of the DNA code that differ between individuals.
These minute differences could explain why some people are predisposed to diseases such as cancer and diabetes, while others are not.
Solexa's ultimate goal is to sequence an individual's entire genome in 24 hours for $1,000 (£562). Chief executive officer, Nick Mc Cooke, envisages a scenario where you would visit your GP for a blood test and get a complete map of your genetic code. He says such information could potentially improve human health but must be interpreted properly by a health professional.
"It is possible to contemplate at some point in the future that your complete code is kept confidentially with the rest of your medical records," he told BBC News Online. "It would shed light on your genetic predisposition to disease and response to certain medications."
Genewatch UK, an independent pressure group, says there is an urgent need for better regulation of genetic testing.
"The interpretation of what it means for your future is highly uncertain and often disputed," said Deputy Director, Dr Helen Wallace. "We wouldn't like to see any company marketing this kind of test until a regulation exists to check whether that test is valid or useful."
The human genome is a string of three billion DNA "letters", comprising all the instructions needed to build and maintain a human being. Two draft versions of the human genome were published in February 2001, in what was hailed as a landmark in scientific achievement.
The effort, which took many years, was carried out by an international public consortium of scientists and a private US company, Celera, headed by Dr Venter, who has now stepped down. The DNA came from a small number of undisclosed individuals, who are currently the only people in the world to have had their genomes sequenced.
However, Dr Venter recently revealed that his DNA was among the samples used in the Celera work.
|Researchers Grow Teeth|
|BOSTON September 26, 2002 (AP) - A team of scientists grew accurate versions of natural teeth in a laboratory, raising the possibility of an eventual replacement for manmade implants such as dentures, bridges and crowns. |
The scientists, based at Forsyth Institute, were reportedly the first to grow such a complex tooth structure from a collection of individual cells.
"This is very exciting, and I don't think it's expected," said R. Bruce Donoff, dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
Researchers said it would be at least a decade before the technique could be used to help patients. The results appear in the October issue of the Journal of Dental Research.
The Forsyth scientists manipulated pigs' dental stem cells — primordial cells that differentiate into the various tooth structures — to make enamel, which gives teeth their distinctive, hard exterior.
The next goal was to grow tooth roots, said Pamela C. Yelick, who led the project.
Forsyth Institute - http://www.forsyth.org
|The Third Door|
|Egypt State Information Service September 26, 2002 - Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Farouq Hosni, said on Monday that the US National Geographic Society's mission discovered a third door inside the Queen's chamber in the Pyramid of (Cheops) Khufu. |
Hosni pointed out that the new find was supervised by the Egyptian archaeologists.
Last Tuesday, Egyptian and foreign archaeologists conducted a scientific experiment by sending a robot, the Pyramid Rover, inside the Great Pyramid, which peered into a narrow shaft and opened into the Queen's Chamber.
On his part, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egyptologist Zahi Hawas, said that they sent the robot all the way through the upper northern shaft and found that the pyramid's passage sloped northward into different directions, since the ancient Egyptians endeavored to avoid the Pyramid’s great hall.
The new discovery, Hawas said, reveals that there are three doors inside the Great Pyramid, leaving the Egyptologists in a state of perplexity.
Hawas stated that such doors were constructed for religious purposes due to the books found there, such as "the gateways," "the cavities," and "two roads" which guided the dead to the hereafter and warned them against the dangers they might face. Hawas said that the Great Pyramid’s entrance was facing the polar star until the interior design of the Pyramid was changed, forming a labyrinth of corridors to mislead thieves.
Hawas added that the Pharaohs might have used such doors as a symbol of their ascendance to heaven.
|By Helen Briggs |
BBC News Science Reporter
September 27, 2002 (BBC) - The chances of finding life on another planet have received a boost. Data from the Galileo space probe's journey to Jupiter suggests an ocean on its moon, Europa, is somewhat Earth-like.
Scientists in the United States think the moon's icy crust is relatively thin. There seem to be cracks and vents, which would allow gases, heat and organic matter to reach what may be water beneath.
Dr Richard Greenberg and colleagues at the University of Arizona, Tucson, came to this conclusion after looking at images of the moon's cracked surface.
The images were captured by the space probe Galileo, which has been flying past some of Jupiter's many moons over the past few years. Dr Greenberg's team thinks the Europan sea has parallels with some of Earth's icy oceans. Surprisingly, perhaps, it appears to be more like the Arctic Ocean than Lake Vostok.
Lake Vostok in Antarctica is one of the deepest-known bodies of fresh water on the planet. At least 30 million years old, it is a model for some of the ice-covered oceans elsewhere in the Solar System.
"If we're getting a sulfur source going into the lake it's an exciting possibility," Dr Ellis-Evans adds. "It increases the opportunity for life".
Astrobiologists had thought the ice sheet covering the moon was too thick to allow anything to get in. The new research will give them food for thought.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory - http://www.jpl.nasa.gov
Galileo Mission site - http://galileo.jpl.nasa.gov
|Titan Probe Passes Test|
|JPL Press Release September 26, 2002 - The Huygens probe, riding aboard the Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft, stepped flawlessly through a test run last week of the activities it will perform when it descends through the soupy atmosphere of Titan less than 28 months from now. |
"All the probe subsystems and probe instruments did just what they are supposed to do," said European Space Agency systems engineer Shaun Standley, stationed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. For the multinational Cassini-Huygens mission, NASA provided the large Cassini spacecraft, which will begin orbiting Saturn July 1, 2004, and the European Space Agency provided the Huygens probe, which will parachute into the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, on Jan. 14, 2005.
Last week's Huygens checkout was the 10th since launch on Oct. 15, 1997. The probe is sleeping for most of the seven-year journey. About every six months, though, engineers wake it up to check its health and exercise the moving parts in its valves and pumps.
"As nearly as possible, we put the probe through all the stages of the real descent sequence," Standley said. The sequence lasts about five hours. Since Huygens remains inside a protective shell, the simulation can't include every instrument activity nor, of course, one-time events such as parachute deployment. The checkout does turn on each instrument for the periods they will be used as the probe descends, take data from each, and send the data to Cassini for transmission to Earth. That allows evaluation of the subsystems, such as power, computers and transmitter, as well as each instrument.
Results of the checkout have been evaluated by engineers and scientists at the Huygens Probe Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, and at the home institutions for each of the probe's instruments in France, United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States.
The Huygens atmospheric structure instrument will analyze features such as temperature, pressure and lightning at different layers of Titan's atmosphere. Instruments named the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer and the aerosol collector and pyrolyser will work in tandem to collect, break down and identify particles and gases, including organic chemicals in the atmosphere. The descent imager/spectral radiometer will take pictures and spectra of the atmosphere and surface. The Doppler wind experiment will track how winds carry the probe. And the surface science package will investigate physical properties of Titan's surface.
Additional information about the Cassini-Huygens mission is available online at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
|Bugs on Venus|
|Texas September 26, 2002 (BBC) - Scientists in the United States say clouds high in the atmosphere of the planet Venus contain chemicals that may suggest the presence of life. |
Space probes have never found any sign of life on Venus, which has an extremely hot surface and an atmosphere that contains a mixture of poisonous chemicals.
But Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Louis Irwin, from the University of Texas, say the Venusian atmosphere is "relatively hospitable" and may be home to large numbers of bacteria.
"From an astrobiology point of view, Venus is not hopeless," the scientists claim after finishing their research, reported in the New Scientist magazine.
However, most astronomers remain skeptical and the general consensus is that life on the Earth's closest neighbor would be impossible.
Using data from the Russian Venera space missions and also the US Pioneer Venus and Magellan probes, the researchers have been studying the high concentration of water droplets in the Venusian clouds.
They noticed oddities in its chemical composition that they say could be explained by the presence of microbes.
The scientists found hydrogen sulphide and sulfur dioxide - two gases which react with each other, and are not seen in the same place unless something is producing them.
They also say that - despite solar radiation and lightning - the atmosphere contains hardly any carbon monoxide, suggesting that something is removing the gas.
The researchers told the New Scientist that "bugs living in the Venusian clouds could be combining sulfur dioxide with carbon monoxide and possibly hydrogen sulphide or carbonyl sulphide in a metabolism similar to that of some early Earth bugs".
They also believe the temperatures of Venus was once much cooler and there could have been oceans on the planet.
"Life could have started there and retreated to stable niches once the runaway greenhouse effect began," Mr Schulze-Makuch says.
But most scientists are skeptical. They say that tiny droplets of water are not enough to support life.
|Running the Trail for Sacred Sites|
|By KIM BACA |
Associated Press Writer
Sacramento September 27, 2002 (AP) - For centuries, young American Indians have run a series of trails that stretch from the muddy red waters of the Colorado River to the Arizona-California line. Running the trail has been at the center of the Quechan Nation's religion, traditions and history. Now 30 young men are running to try to save the paths for the next generation.
The runners are making a 700-mile relay trek through California to focus attention on state legislation that seeks to protect ancient sites like the one they hope to safeguard from becoming a gold mine.
The group wants Gov. Gray Davis to sign a bill that would require local governments to notify a tribe of proposed construction within 20 miles of a reservation and to protect sacred sites from development. Opponents of the bill said it could grant tribes veto power over both private and public land. The California Chamber of Commerce said the bill threatens to delay or stop public improvement projects, school buildings and new homes.
Davis, who has until month's end to sign or veto the bill, has not publicly taken a position.
"This is not only for politics," said 15-year-old runner Richard "Ticky" Smith, a Quechan tribal member who has sweated through triple-digit temperatures in California's Central Valley this week. "It's for all the elders _ the ones that passed on, the ones who are sick, the ones who can't run or walk or hear or see. It's also for the future."
The run began last Friday in Sacramento, Calif., and is expected to end Saturday at the tribe's Imperial Valley reservation. The proposed mine site _ at Indian Pass, a remote spot near the Arizona-California line _ sits on federal land outside their reservation.
Lillian Sparks, an analyst for the National Congress of American Indians, said no state has enacted legislation similar to the bill before the governor.
"California is really taking initiative to protect Native American sacred places, and we're hoping other states will follow through until we can get protection at the federal level," said Sparks.
Across California, about 300 sites that average a quarter-acre each need protection, according to the Native American Heritage Commission. Under the legislation, a local government would hire an outside investigator such as an anthropologist to check historical records and determine whether a site has long been considered sacred. The investigator also would look at whether the area has a shrine or other religious artifacts.
The bill stems from Quechan opposition to plans by Glamis Gold Ltd., a Reno, Nev.-based company that wants to build an open pit gold mine on 1,600 acres of BLM land near the tribe's reservation. The Bureau of Land Management parcel includes a site of religious ceremonies that contains ancient pottery shards and petroglyphs.
Charles Jeannes, senior vice president of Glamis, said the proposed state bill could ruin the company's efforts to create an operation on which it already has spent $15 million. Jeannes said the bill now on Davis' desk would hamper development statewide by only allowing construction of projects on sacred sites that have an overriding environmental, public health or safety reason.
"It's a fairly narrow exception and it gives the native tribe any right to veto any project they deem sacred," he said.
The Clinton administration rejected the gold mine plan, citing "undue impairment" to Quechan sacred land, but the Bush administration rescinded that ruling in October 2001. Quechan president Mike Jackson said the issue is about continuing a tradition for his 3,000 tribal members.
"We want to preserve our history just like any other person," he said. "We should enjoy our religious rights like anybody else."
The bill, SB1828: http://www.sen.ca.gov
Indian Pass: http://www.sacredland.org/indian_pass.html
Map of Endangered Sacred Sites - http://www.sacredland.org/involved.html
|Iron Age Puzzle|
|By John Innes |
Orkney Scotland September 26, 2002 (The Scotsman) - Archeologists are trying to work out why 100 bodies lie buried around an Iron Age home in Orkney. The stone building on the remote island of Westray is the best preserved house from the period ever found in Scotland.
As a dig at the site came to an end yesterday, the skeletons of six or seven Pictish people were carefully removed for analysis.
“Everywhere we’ve looked we’ve found bones,” said Graeme Wilson, from EASE Archaeology, the company leading the excavation. “We’ve only scratched the surface so far, but it looks as if the entire mound covering the house is full of bones – between 50 and 100 individuals could well be buried here.”
The team working at the site – the Knowe of Skea – believe that a house was first built on the remote headland around 2,000 years ago. The evidence suggests it was abandoned at some stage, then taken over again in Pictish times, in the seventh or eighth century AD, when the island was still a pagan community.
“It’s a very important site, but it’s also very baffling,” said Mr. Wilson. “It’s about the best preserved Iron Age site I’ve seen in Scotland. It’s obviously a house of some kind and yet it has burials surrounding it. We just can’t make sense of what was happening here – it’s very confusing.”
The headland is in an isolated corner of the island, battered by Atlantic storms in winter. It would have been an inhospitable place for living people, leading the archaeologists to believe it may have served a ritual purpose linked to the burial of an entire community.
“This is an exposed location and it would have been a very odd place to build a house,” said Mr. Wilson. “We’ve found very few finds associated with a settlement – but everywhere we’ve looked we’ve found skeletons.”
The bones are from people of all ages and both sexes. Some of the bodies were laid out straight, some were crouched and lying on their side and one was on its back.
“This was a pre-Christian pagan burial site and we need to come back for another two summers if we are to get a better understanding of what happened here,” he added. “This is a very rare opportunity to excavate a prehistoric cemetery and we have a wonderful opportunity to find out more about the people buried here – how they lived and died. It seems as if the entire mound is a cemetery – and that in the middle we have a house. One thing is for sure – this a very strange place.”
The dig was sponsored by Historic Scotland and Orkney Islands Council.
|Spooky Nebra Disc at Coven Site|
|Nebra, Germany September 25 2002 (IOL) - Archaeologists offered a first glimpse on Wednesday of a lost culture's holy site atop a German peak, and confirmed it as the source of the world's oldest map of the heavens. |
The exact location has been kept secret for weeks, amid fears that treasure-seekers would move in and disturb Bronze Age remains. The site is atop the Mittelberg, a 252m hill in the Ziegelroda Forest, 180km south-west of Berlin.
Adding a spooky touch is the discovery that, seen from the Mittelberg, the sun sets every June 22 behind the Brocken, the highest mountain in northern Germany. The Brocken is in a direct line of sight on a clear day, 85km to the north-west.
The Brocken is fabled in northern European mythology as the place where witches gather for a coven every April 30.
Scientists are still scratching their heads at the full meaning of a 32cm bronze-and-gold disc found by treasure hunters on the Mittelberg in 1999. The map on its face shows the Brocken as well as 32 stars including the Pleiades.
Experts in pre-history can only guess at the identity of the people who made the "Nebra Disc" 3,600 years ago.
"This disc, with the oldest concrete representation of the stars in the world, was placed in a pit in the middle of a ringwall during the early Bronze Age," Harald Meller, the chief archaeologist in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, said on Wednesday. "We still don't know if it was a princely grave or a treasure store for holy objects."
On Wednesday reporters were shown a clearing where the archaeological dig had gone down about half a meter into the soil, leaving what appeared to be loose stone walls standing. The site was once surrounded by wooden palisades and a complex of defensive ditches.
Wolfhard Schlosser, an expert in ancient astronomy at the University of the Ruhr, added, "The ringwall was built in such a way that the sun seemed to disappear every equinox behind the Brocken."
Experts believe the map and site formed an observatory, which was used to set the calendar for planting and harvesting crops.
The nearby forest contains 1 000 barrows or princely graves from the period, but little else is known about the lost people, who are not mentioned in ancient Greek or other Mediterranean sources.
Meller said two bronze swords found at the site had been made with a technique unique to Mycenaean and Anatolian swords, and had a similar shape to arms found in modern Romania and Hungary. The site is to become a tourist attraction when the dig finishes in a year or two.
|French Car Runs on Air!|
|By Jon Sopel |
BBC Europe Correspondent
Paris September 25, 2002 (BBC) - Engineers in France believe they have come up with the answer that environmentalists and economists have spent years searching for: a commercially viable, 100% non-polluting car, which costs next to nothing to run.
The latest prototype will be unveiled on Thursday at the Paris motor show.
|Chimps Not So Close to Humans|
|By John Pickrell |
National Geographic News
Houston September 24, 2002 (National Geographic) - For decades, scientists have agreed that human and chimpanzee DNA is 98.5 percent identical. A recent study suggests that number may need to be revised.
Using a new, more sophisticated method to measure the similarities between human and chimp DNA, the two species may share only 95 percent genetic material.