|Peru's Lost Empire, |
Lewis and Clark,
Spike Is Back!
|The Mysterious Moche - Peru's Lost Empire |
By Gabriella Gamini
Peru September 16, 2001 (Times UK) - Archeologists in Peru have unearthed new evidence of the technology and culture of the Moche, a fierce warrior people who performed human sacrifices to placate their gods as they ruled the desert plains between the Andes and the Pacific 1,500 years ago.
Treasures recovered from a ruined citadel on the outskirts of the city of Trujillo in northern Peru reveal that the community of fishermen, craftsmen and farmers played a role in the development of the Americas comparable in cultural importance to that of the Greeks in the Mediterranean.
The Incas in Peru, Aztecs in Mexico and Mayas in what is now Guatemala have long been regarded as the most advanced cultures in the New World before its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
The latest finds suggest, however, they were little more developed than the Moche, who lived in northern Peru some 10 centuries before the height of Inca domination, before mysteriously dying out in the ninth century.
Santiago Uceda, the director of the Museum of Trujillo, is leading the excavations at the Huanca de la Luna citadel, the heart of the Moche's empire, just over 200 miles north of Lima.
"We believe we have come across the legacy of what can be called the earliest and most sophisticated of the pre-Columbian peoples," he said.
Uceda's team of 37 archeologists began digging at the site two years ago, but the excavations only began to bear fruit in the past few weeks when dozens of relics and precious items were recovered. The team was particularly intrigued by the discovery of a burial site at the center of the citadel, inside a 100ft pyramid-like structure made of platforms of tiles.
The elaborately decorated walls, showing geometric figures, ornate jewelry, gold and cloaks studded with precious stones, give a glimpse into a sophisticated world. The 60 plates, vases and jars used in funeral rites are the most beautiful to have been found in the Peruvian desert. "They will allow us to unravel many of the mysteries of this society," said Uceda.
The designs also reflect a darker side. The Moches apparently bred an elite caste of giant warriors who took part in sacrificial rituals. Murals found in the funeral site show a warrior with the title Ai-Apaec ("Strangler"), who was always present when priests beheaded and dismembered people offered to the gods.
The Moches ate human meat from these sacrifices and drank victims' blood mixed with rainwater, believing it would bring longer life. The victims were chosen after a duel between two warriors, who were revered as deities.
After the fight the loser was killed and the winner was given the right to wear a cloak made from puma hide, decorated with feathers, golden shields, emeralds and other precious stones. A bat mask was worn by the greatest warriors.
The most surprising aspect of these warriors is their size. A team of Peruvian and American archeologists found another pyramid structure at a place once called Sipan, further north along the coast. They opened the tombs of three warriors and found they would have been at least 6ft tall - well above the height of the average Moche man, who stood between 4ft 9in and 5ft 7in tall.
The desert empire of the Moches thrived between AD300 and AD800. At its peak more than 15,000 Moches inhabited the plains that cover the 300-mile area around modern-day Trujillo. The ruins of government buildings and mausoleums at Huanca de la Luna give way to a maze of irrigation canals and terraced fields, suggesting the Moches were capable farmers.
Researchers are now trying to discover what happened to the Moches, and have linked their decline to abrupt climatic changes associated with El Nino, the warm water currents from the Pacific that bring higher temperatures and torrential rain to the region. The remains of 70 men, women and children discovered in 1996 in a mass grave are now believed to have been the victims of a mass ritual slaughter by Moche priests as they tried to end the fury of the rain gods.
Archeologists are now digging deeper on the outskirts of Trujillo, exposing more of the citadel's government buildings and scouring the interior of the funeral pyramid. They expect to unearth more significant finds when they begin to dig beneath the ruins of smaller buildings where the ordinary Moche people lived and worked.
"We know that they were a great empire long before the Incas," said Uceda. "But there is much more to discover."
|Tuscany's Excalibur Is Real! |
By Rory Carroll
Rome September 16, 2001 (Observer) - The sword of St Galgano, said to have been plunged into a rock by a medieval Tuscan knight, has been authenticated, bolstering Italy's version of the Excalibur legend.
Galgano Guidotti, a noble from Chiusdano, near Siena, allegedly split the stone with his sword in 1180 after renouncing war to become a hermit. For centuries the sword was assumed to be a fake. but research revealed last week has dated its metal to the twelfth century.
Only the hilt, wooden grip and a few inches of the 3ft blade poke from the hill, which still draws pilgrims and tourists to the ruins of the chapel built around it.
'Dating metal is a very difficult task, but we can say that the composition of the metal and the style are compatible with the era of the legend,' said Luigi Garlaschelli, of the University of Pavia. 'We have succeeded in refuting those who maintain that it is a recent fake.'
Ground-penetrating radar analysis revealed that beneath the sword there is a cavity, 2m by 1m, which is thought to be a burial recess, possibly containing the knight's body. 'To know more we have to excavate,' said Garlaschelli, whose findings have been published in Focus magazine.
Carbon-dating confirmed that two mummified hands in the same chapel at Montesiepi were also from the twelfth century. Legend has it that anyone who tried to remove the sword had their arms ripped out.
In English legend the sword Excalibur is pulled from a stone by the future King Arthur, heralding his glory. In Galgano's case the miracle signified humility and holiness.
The son of an illiterate feudal lord, Galgano had a reputation for arrogance and selfishness. After a vision of the Archangel Michael, however, he retired to a cave to become a hermit. Lured out by his family he was thrown by his horse while passing Montesiepi, a hill near Chiusdano, where another vision told him to renounce material things.
Galgano objected that that would be as difficult as splitting a rock and to prove his point he struck one with his sword. The rock, it is said, yielded like butter.
Want your very own sword? - http://albionarmorers.com
|St. Louis Mayor Bans AIDS Billboards |
|By JOE STANGE |
ST. LOUIS September 20, 2001 (AP) - The St. Louis mayor ordered the removal of nine taxpayer-funded billboards aimed at raising AIDS awareness, including eight that show two bare-chested black men embracing with the caption, "Brothers Loving Brothers Safely."
Mayor Francis Slay said Tuesday the billboards were inappropriate. Slay's chief of staff, Jeff Rainford, said it was unclear whether the men in the billboards were engaging in sex acts.
The billboards were among about 18 in a campaign that cost $64,000, which came from a federal grant administered by the city. The ninth sign showed a rolled-up condom.
"That may be appropriate for a magazine, that may be appropriate for a newspaper, but that's not appropriate for a residential neighborhood," said Rainford.
Rainford said the city is acting only because the billboards were publicly funded. Otherwise, he said, "it wouldn't be any of our business."
The billboards were approved by two "low-level" city health employees, he said. City Health Department director Mike Thomas was the first to call for the four billboards' removal.
One group in the campaign, Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS in St. Louis, called the billboards "bold and innovative."
"If you're going to really support HIV ... prevention, don't succumb to the complaints or political pressure of a few people," group director Erise Williams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Rainford said he didn't find the signs offensive, "but I think the little old ladies in our neighborhoods find them very offensive."
|Fossils Show Whales Related to Early Cows and Pigs |
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON September 19, 2001 (Reuters) - Fossils recently unearthed in Pakistan show that whales evolved from land animals related to sheep and pigs, and that hippos could be their closest living kin, scientists said on Wednesday.
How whales evolved and who their ancestors were has been hotly debated for decades.
Scientists knew they were related to land mammals but they have been divided on which ones because fossil evidence of the whale's 10-million-year transition from land to water has been sketchy.
But paleontologists have discovered 50-million-year-old fossils of early whales that lived on land, and ankle and skull bones from primitive aquatic whales that fill in the gaps.
"With these new discoveries the whale fossil record is now so complete," Hans Thewissen, of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, said.
"It shows us so well how whales became aquatic that it is probably the best, or one of the best, examples of evolution where these major changes are documented with fossils," he added in a telephone interview.
Thewissen and his colleagues uncovered fossils of a fox-size mammal called Ichthyolestes, and Pakicetus which resembled a wolf. The research is reported in the science journal Nature.
The ankle bones are seen only in a group of animals known as artiodactyls such as cows, pigs and hippos. But the heads of the creatures have whale-like features.
"They are whales that were still living on land. Their relatives are a group of even-toed ungulates," Thewissen said, using another term for artiodactyls.
In a separate report in the journal Science, Professor Philip Gingerich, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor described a skeleton of a later aquatic whale that included both ankle and skull bones that he and his colleagues discovered in a different part of Pakistan.
The ankle bone was also of an artiodactyl.
"Now I even admit the possibility that hippos are a side line of artiodactyls that might be closer to the whales than any other living animals," Gingerich said in a statement.
Until now paleontologists thought whales had evolved from mesonychians, an extinct group of land-dwelling carnivores, while molecular scientists studying DNA were convinced they descended from artiodactyls.
"The paleontologists, and I am one of them, were wrong," Gingerich said.
Christian de Muizon of the Museum of Natural History in Paris described the discovery of the land whales as one of the most important events in the past century of vertebrate paleontology.
"The newly discovered fossils show the first whales were fully terrestrial, and were even efficient runners," he said in a commentary in Nature.
|A Whale of a Time Off Copacabana Beach |
RIO DE JANEIRO September 19, 2001 (Reuters) - Surfers and a handful of sunbathers had to share Copacabana beach with some unexpected visitors on Tuesday as two whales cavorted off Brazil's Rio de Janeiro coast.
A female southern right whale and her calf frolicked some 164 feet (50 meters) from the beach, pausing in front of Rio's traditional Copacabana Palace Hotel and drawing hordes of school children, tourists and fishermen to watch the show.
"This is great news," said Leonardo Wedekin, a researcher at Brazil's Jubarte Whale Project. "The right whale was almost hunted into extinction but now we are beginning to see them again along the Brazilian coast."
Lifeguards circled the whales in boats trying to draw them away from the beach.
The southern right whale, which can grow to 59 feet (18 meters) and weigh up to 100 tons, is still a threatened species, he said. The whales migrate north from Antarctica to mate from July to November off the coast of Brazil, South Africa and Australia, among other countries.
|Cow Is Penalty For Sex With Teenage Girls |
Swaziland September 18, 2001 (Reuters) - Swaziland's king has forbidden Swazi men from having sex with teenage girls for the next five years and slapped a fine of one cow on those breaking the law.
"Those of us who were about to propose love to these girls should wait until the end of the five-year period, the girls will be ready and matured by then," King Mswati III told a crowd Sunday that had gathered to mark his 33rd birthday.
It was not clear why the King had decided to impose the ban for five years. His birthday was in April but official celebrations were postponed because he fell ill.
Lungile Ndlovu, in charge of the country's traditional girls' regiment to which all unmarried teenage girls and young women belong, told the gathering any Swazi girl who falls pregnant out of wedlock over the next five years will be fined one cow. The same fine will be applied to any man who impregnates an unmarried teenage girl.
She also said Swazi girls would be required to wear woolen tassels to signify their virginity. She said the measures were needed to reintroduce "chastity and traditional values."
Mswati can choose a new wife every year from among thousands of virgins at an annual festival known as the Reed Dance.
Swaziland, a small, landlocked kingdom sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, is grappling with growing poverty as its birth rate soars and breadwinners die from HIV/AIDS. Estimates vary, but one U.N. study estimates close to a third of the country's adult population is infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
The country is also sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarchy, so the King's word amounts to law.
|Doctors in New York Use Robot to Operate in France |
By Rebecca Harrison
PARIS September 19, 2001 (Reuters) - Surgeons in New York have used a robot to remove the gall bladder of a woman in France in the world's first long-distance operation, the head of the team said Wednesday, predicting it could radically change medical practice.
A team of French surgeons in the U.S. metropolis used video technology and telecommunications to manipulate scalpel-wielding robotic arms in a hospital in northeast France -- a technique that could be used to spread medical expertise across the globe.
"It's a phenomenal step and we can't even begin to imagine the implications for medicine...the barriers of space and distance have collapsed," Jacques Marescaux, the surgeon who conducted the operation and pioneered the research told a news conference.
"Any surgeon could feasibly take part in any operation anywhere in the world."
The technology could enable specialists to be on hand to help surgeons in war zones who lack a particular expertise, or to train doctors in resource-strapped developing countries.
"If a surgeon in the field knows how to cut but lacks the expertise to know exactly where, that information can be relayed with this technology," Robert Duggan, president of Computer Motion which made the system, told Reuters.
"I could imagine that saving a lot of pain, trauma and even life," he added.
The robot responds to verbal commands like "move up" or "move down" and can warn the medical team on the other side of the ocean if it was running out of surgical tape or other key materials.
Experts have had the technology to carry out long-distance operations for some time, but it only became feasible once they squeezed the time-delay down to a fraction of a second.
The images seen by the doctors are almost the same quality as television pictures and the time-delay is virtually imperceptible to the human eye.
Marescaux was even able to greet his patient in Strasbourg, north-east France, via the satellite link-up before he began his landmark operation from Lower Manhattan last week.
He said the $1 million operation was the biggest revolution in surgery after the development of keyhole surgery and computer-assisted methods, and would replace normal surgery before the end of the century.
He said he hoped to use the system in more complex operations such as heart surgery, and predicted that the equipment would soon be as widely used as that for ultra-sounds at present.
"It's not often that surgeons run into difficulty, but when they do things can get nasty. But if an expert steps in he can turn it from hell back to heaven," Duggan said.
"An expert could get a beep on his e-mail and will be able to step in to help other doctors in trouble wherever they are in the world."
|Biotech Vs Activists in Gene-Modified Fields |
|By Greg Frost |
LABRIHE, France September 17, 2001 (Reuters) - A sickle in his hand and a broad grin on his face, Jacques Lachaud wiped the sweat from his brow after helping to destroy a field of genetically modified corn near this southwestern French town.
"This feels really good," the retired shopkeeper said as the late summer sun beat down on him and approximately 150 other activists taking part in the illegal protest of genetically enhanced crops.
Standing on the dusty earth where just minutes earlier hundreds of plants were being grown by a French farmer on behalf of U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto, Lachaud explained the simple motive behind his radical act.
"I'm sick of eating lousy food," he said. "I will definitely be back for more (protests) if they want us."
Poor food -- known in France as "la malbouffe" -- has become a national preoccupation in recent years, with everyone from small consumers to the country's farm minister weighing in on how to improve the quality of French cuisine.
Why all the fuss? It's simple enough: a series of food scares and farm panics have revealed that France, while certainly not serving the worst meals in the world, may have lost its reputation for having the best.
SERIES OF FOOD SCARES
The problems began in the mid-1990s when there were outbreaks of listeria, a food-borne germ that kills infants, pregnant women and the elderly.
Then there were consumer panics over bioengineered crops and a subsequent scare linked to cancer-causing dioxin in imports of Belgian meat.
Environmentalists have also charged that water supplies in certain regions of the country have become contaminated by pesticides -- a casualty of the intensive farming habits that have marked French agriculture since the Second World War.
But the real shocker was the discovery last October that meat from a French herd infected with mad cow disease had made its way into the human food chain.
Almost overnight, two of France's proudest traditions -- gastronomy and farming -- were turned on their heads, as homes, school kitchens and restaurants stripped the meat from menus and beef prices dropped 40 percent.
The government banned meat and bone meal in animal feed, commonly believed to be the main factor behind the spread of mad cow disease, and it outlawed T-bone steaks, because the spine is one of the most infective parts of a diseased animal.
The ensuing gastronomic chaos culminated earlier this year when Arpege, a high temple of the normally carnivorous Paris food scene, went vegetarian.
"We must get back to the essences of the earth. I hope to contribute to a deep change in culinary creation," Arpege chef Alain Passard said as he announced his dramatic move.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Frederic Jollet of livestock market analysts MHR Viandes said the food crises pushed quality to the front of consumers' minds after a long absence.
"For years, markets were geared toward consumerism and the need to produce at low cost," he said. "But the debates of recent years show us that it can't only be about price."
He said a good example of how consumers are putting quality first lies in the revitalized fortunes of traditional butcher shops, which consumers perceive as supplying better meats than supermarkets.
Jollet said the French have learned to be more conscious about the environment, a point illustrated by the growing number of farmers producing food organically, or without the use of chemicals.
The cult-hero status of activist and farmer Jose Bove, who has lashed out at both McDonald's fast food and GM produce, is another case in point.
Benoit Vergriette, of the French organic farmers' union FNAB, pointed out that "more and more farmers are looking at organic production." In fact, he said some 3,000 farmers are expected to make the shift this year.
POLITICIANS WEIGH IN
Changes such as this, and the new health-conscious attitude of food retailers and politicians, are finally reassuring consumers.
French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said more changes are needed in the way France, and Europe, feeds itself.
He and his German counterpart, Renate Kuenast, recently agreed that the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy should switch its focus from quantity to quality.
Glavany is no stranger to the struggle against "la malbouffe," having sparked a transatlantic war of words two years ago when he described the United States as having "the worst food in the world."
The minister remains unrepentant about American-style food. He recently told Reuters that he was battling to ensure that fast food did not devour the planet.
"This 'fast food' made with ground beef, with a certain tomato sauce, fries and sugary, gassy drinks, does not strike me as a universal dream," he said.
"Just look at the obesity level in a certain country and you'll understand why I want to spare Europeans this."
|Studies Find Few Risks to Butterflies From Bio-Corn |
By Julie Vorman
WASHINGTON September 10, 2001 (Reuters) - U.S. scientists said on Monday that a set of new studies indicate the danger of pollen from bioengineered corn plants to monarch butterflies is negligible, a key finding as the federal government mulls whether to renew the expiring registration of several crop varieties.
Windborne pollen from Bt corn -- a variety engineered to produce the pesticide Bacillus thurigiensis -- had been found harmful to the ubiquitous brown-and-yellow butterfly larvae in previous studies two years ago.
That raised broad concerns about the safety of biotech crops, especially to other wildlife and plants.
But a new set of papers prepared for the National Academy of Sciences (news - web sites) show there is little, if any, risk from Bt corn pollen.
The papers, prepared by researchers at the University of Illinois, Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, and private biotech companies, are scheduled to be published in the next few days.
"The pollen itself is, in most hybrids... at such a low value that it takes quite a large amount of it to be encountered by a caterpillar,'' said Mark Sears, a researcher with the University of Guelph's environmental biology department.
Another key factor is that the Bt corn plants shed pollen during a brief 10-day period, which must coincide when the monarch larvae are present, Sears told reporters. Lastly, only 19 percent of U.S. corn fields were planted with Bt varieties this year, further reducing the risk to caterpillars, he said.
"If we multiply those factors together, there is less than a 1 or 2 percent risk of a monarch caterpillar being exposed,'' Sears said.
GREEN GROUPS CRITICAL
However, some environmental groups criticized the studies for failing to consider the long-term effects on wildlife.
The Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) ended its public comment period on Monday for the proposed renewal of several Bt corn and cotton registrations that expire on Sept. 30. The varieties were first approved by the EPA six years ago.
The biotech industry is pressing for renewal of the EPA registrations, contending that the benefits of Bt crops far outweigh any risks.
Jane Rissler, a biotech critic with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the new National Academy of Sciences studies also showed that at least one variety of Bt corn was harmful to monarch larvae.
That variety, known to the EPA as "Event 176'' and made by Syngenta AG of Switzerland, was found to be toxic to the caterpillars. The corn variety is being withdrawn from the market, mostly because it failed to gain acceptance among U.S. farmers.
"It was not due to any regulatory intervention that Event 176 is going off the market,'' Rissler said. "The monarchs lucked out only because this didn't sell well.''
While she said it was "good news'' that other Bt varieties had a negligible impact on caterpillars, "it is still troubling that we have a regulatory program that couldn't tell the toxic variety from the non-toxic variety.''
Of more concern, Rissler said, was the lack of any long-term studies of whether Bt pollen might cause developmental or reproductive problems for wildlife or other plants.
UNUSUAL APPROACH TO SECRET DATA
The EPA has also been criticized for the unusual manner in which it made public some data provided to the agency by the biotech industry.
Two weeks ago, the EPA announced it would allow the public to read previously secret data about the effect of Bt corn pollen on butterflies -- but only if viewers agreed to sign a confidentiality form at one of the EPA's regional offices. That means viewers cannot discuss the data with others or make public their responses to it.
Some 27 pages of data was deemed sensitive by its industry sponsor, the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee.
An EPA spokesman said the agency tried to make as much information public as it could.
"We try very hard to have an open, participatory process,'' the spokesman said. "If a researcher or company wants something held back as confidential, there are procedures we have to follow.''
The agency was also expected to extend the public comment period on the Bt re-registrations through Sept. 21, now that the set of National Academy of Sciences studies are being released. That could delay a decision by the Sept. 30 deadline when the Bt corn and cotton registrations expire.
The biotech industry has pressed the agency to act promptly on the issue so seedmakers and farmers can prepare for any changes in the next planting season.
|NASA Tracks Lewis and Clark From Space |
By JOHN PORRETTO
Associated Press Writer
JACKSON Mississippi September 20, 2001 (AP) - The Lewis and Clark expedition was a two-year journey into a new frontier that helped put the West on the map. Now NASA is trying to do the same for the historic trek.
Scientists are using high-resolution satellite images to help pinpoint and map possible camp sites along the trail of the expedition, which is approaching its 200th anniversary.
NASA has conducted such space archaeology in the past, locating roads built by Pueblo Indians in New Mexico and Arizona more than 1,000 years ago.
"Conducting archaeology from space is an exciting concept," said Lewis and Clark archaeologist Ken Karsmizki, a curator at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, Ore. "Our efforts to uncover Lewis and Clark outposts are enhanced using this technology."
NASA's Stennis Space Center on Mississippi's Gulf Coast is working with Karsmizki and the center on the project, which will continue until at least 2004, when the nation marks the journey's bicentennial.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark started from St. Louis in May 1804 and eventually reached the mouth of the Columbia River in what is now Washington state. Their 3,700-mile odyssey ran into several snags along the way, including grizzly bears, harsh winters and choppy waters that made navigation nearly impossible.
Karsmizki, who has examined sites along the expedition in Montana, Oregon, North and South Dakota, Idaho and elsewhere, said many of the duo's journal entries were written after long, grueling days on the trail and contain geographical inaccuracies.
NASA is combining precision satellite imagery with detailed historic maps to help Karsmizki locate camp sites. In some cases, the technology can reduce a potential dig site from several square miles to a matter of acres.
"By comparing data from the expedition archives to NASA imagery, we improve our probability of finding an outpost location dramatically," Karsmizki said.
NASA's Earth Science Applications Directorate is providing the images to Karsmizki and his team. Marco Giardino, ESAD's acting deputy director at Stennis, said NASA scientists can create a 360-degree view of an area where the explorers traveled.
"From that view, archaeologists can follow the trails as if they were flying over the actual landscape, in real time and in any direction or angle they choose," Giardino said.
Color is extremely important in locating historic sites. For example, a slight difference in the shade of wheat in a large field may indicate the location of an outpost.
Two centuries after their odyssey, Lewis and Clark continue to captivate Americans. Western states are beefing up tourism efforts in anticipation of the bicentennial, and earlier this year at a White House ceremony, former President Clinton promoted Clark from Army lieutenant to captain, the same rank held by Lewis.
Stennis Space Center: http://www.ssc.nasa.gov
National Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Council: http://www.lewisandclark200.org
Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation: http://www.lewisandclark.org
|Three Pennsylvania Residents Contract West Nile Virus |
|HARRISBURG PA September 19, 2001 (AP) - Preliminary testing indicates that three residents of Pennsylvania are the first in the state to contract the West Nile virus, health officials said Wednesday. |
The patients' names were not disclosed. Final confirmation of the diagnoses is not expected until next week, but the preliminary tests are 95 percent accurate, officials said.
None of the patients' lives were in danger, said Health Department spokeswoman Amy Kelchner.
"They're all recovering," she said.
While the mosquito-borne virus can be fatal, only two of the 18 people who have contracted the virus across the country have died, Kelchner said.
Most people who become infected either show no reaction or become mildly ill, but the elderly, the very young and those with immune deficiencies are considered especially vulnerable to serious attacks.
Two of the Pennsylvania residents are 60-year-old men; the third is a 49-year-old woman.
|Web Without The Waiting |
|By Mark Ward |
BBC News Online
September 18, 2001 (BBC) - A British scientist has gone back to the drawing board to make computers that can cope with the internet age.
By ditching the 50-year-old internal workings of existing computers, Geoff Barrall has developed a new design that does a better job of finding and passing information to web users.
The novel design does away with the internal bottlenecks that can turn the web into a waiting game.
The machines made by BlueArc, the company Mr. Barrall founded, could be a boon to the web hosting companies using thousands of high-powered PCs to store and serve up information via the net.
The logical layout of the components inside almost every computer sitting on a desk or the net is little changed from the architecture first drafted by John Von Neumann shortly after World War II.
Crudely the Von Neumann architecture revolves around a central processing unit (CPU) that acts as the interface between a program and a computer's subsystems such as its display, memory, storage and network connections.
This configuration means a PC does a tolerable job on many different computational tasks - such as game playing or code cracking - and is outstanding at none of them. It is a decathlete rather than a sprinter.
The shortcomings of this design have been revealed as networks get faster. "It is a fundamental problem," said BlueArc spokesman Donal Madden. "No matter how you change it you are just chasing the bottlenecks around."
The central CPU approach creates a bottleneck between the processor and the memory it is consulting that can slow down the data transfer rates.
"Before now, throughput was never an issue because the networks were always slower than the machines," he said. "That's changed with the advent of gigabit networks."
Many web-hosting companies use thousands of high-powered servers to act as the interface between surfers and the web. These machines take in requests for information and serve it up to the relevant users.
Instead of using a general-purpose chip that can do a variety of tasks well, BlueArc founder Barrall has created a machine customized to do nothing but find and pass on files for web users.
Mr. Barrall did his basic research on the new server before founding BlueArc and moving its head office to the US.
The BlueArc machines speed up their ability to handle web traffic by putting the key net protocols on custom chips, using small reconfigurable processors to do the decision-making and adding very fast input/output systems.
"It's not a computational engine," said Mr. Madden, "it's designed to store information and allow you fast access to it."
BlueArc claims that its machines can get data across the web at multi-gigabit rates and can handle databases of information far larger than existing single servers.
Already the BlueArc machines are proving popular with research labs, such as Rutherford Appleton in Oxfordshire, UK, that have lots of scientists who shuffle a lot of data back and forth.
Currently, BlueArc servers can only serve up files rather than handling complex database queries, but Mr. Madden said it would soon be updating the machines to carry out such tasks. Like many areas of web technology, BlueArc faces competition from other companies, such as Tricord, Nishan and Zambeel, who are also looking to take the waiting out of web surfing.
BlueArc Website - http://www.bluearc.com
|Hatch Pens Song After Attacks |
By ROBERT GEHRKE
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON September 18, 2001 (AP) - Moved by the carnage of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Sen. Orrin Hatch has set out to compose "Americans United," a song about last week's events.
Hatch, R-Utah, started his latest work on Monday, scrawling the lyrics on a yellow legal pad.
"The whole terrorist attack has had him thinking about what has happened and he's had a couple ideas about the song that he might dedicate to what has happened," said Hatch's spokesman, Chris Rosche.
Hatch has written dozens of religious and patriotic tunes and has seven CDs. He frequently collaborates with Janice Kapp Perry, a Utah composer who puts Hatch's lyrics to music. Professional musicians perform the songs on the recordings.
Earlier this year, one of Hatch's songs - "America Rocks" - was used in the movie "Rat Race."
Sen. Hatch's music site: http://www.hatchmusic.com
|Stockhausen Apologizes |
HAMBURG September 19, 2001 (AP) - German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen apologized for calling last week's attacks on the United States a "work of art" - words that prompted the cancellation of four concerts in this northern city.
The 73-year-old Stockhausen, one of Germany's best-known postwar composers, had described the attacks as "the greatest work of art one can imagine."
Organizers of a music festival in Hamburg promptly canceled four concerts of Stockhausen's music.
The composer has since apologized for the comments, which he made Sunday during a press conference, Hamburg's top culture official Christina Weiss said Tuesday.
"If anyone feels hurt by what I said at the press conference, I ask their forgiveness, because I have never felt or thought what was read into my words," he said, according to Weiss.
However, festival organizers still consider staging Stockhausen's music inappropriate in view of his "unconsidered verbal gaffes," she said. The music festival itself will continue.
Stockhausen gained fame through his avant-garde works in the 1960s and 70s. He later moved to huge music theater and other projects, some involving military equipment, that have been less popular.
|Police Investigate 'Millionaire' TV Quiz Show |
|LONDON September 20, 2001 (Reuters) - Police are investigating a claim of cheating on the popular British TV quiz show "Who wants to be a Millionaire," Scotland Yard said on Thursday. |
The Sun newspaper said police were called in to investigate whether Army Major Charles Ingram, who won the jackpot of one million pounds ($1.47 million), was helped by someone coughing in the audience. Scotland Yard said only that its Special Inquiry Team was investigating an allegation of deception in connection with the program. It said it had received the allegation on September 14, but there had been no arrests.
The Sun said the show in which the major won the jackpot was due to have been screened last week, but the broadcast was suspended after the attacks in the United States.
The paper quoted Major Ingram as saying: "I don't know what there is to investigate."
The Ministry of Defense said Ingram remained in his post at Uphaven in Wiltshire and had not been suspended from duty.
"There is an individual who is a member of the armed forces who is helping with (police) inquiries," a ministry spokeswoman said. ITV and the show's producer, Celador Productions, said in a statement that police were investigating "apparent irregularities" relating to an episode of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
"Until these investigations are concluded ITV has postponed transmission of parts of the episodes in question," the statement said.
Celador said the major's wife, Diana, and her brother Adrian had also each previously won 32,000 pounds on the show. Diana and Adrian have also written a book about how to win. Calls to the major's home were unanswered.
Millionaire, hosted in Britain by cigar-puffing Chris Tarrant, is one of the television world's most successful formats. First aired in Britain in September 1998, it has since been broadcast in local versions in over 75 countries.
|The Vampire They Hate to Love |
By Ian Spelling
Entertainment News Daily
Santa Monica September 14, 2001 (END) - The actor, who plays the vampire Spike on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer,'' had just read the script for the fifth-season finale, "The Gift.'' In it, series creator Joss Whedon killed off the show's main character, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who sacrificed herself to save her sister (Michelle Trachtenberg) and the world as we know it.
"I went straight to Joss,'' Marsters says. "I said, `Joss, you can't kill Buffy. The show is called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer!'' You can't do that, man - I need the job!'
"Joss looked me straight in the eye and said, `Dude, it's my show. I can do whatever I want.'
"He smiled his little trickster smile and left,'' the actor recalls, "which led me to believe that I'd have my job, not to worry. And I think this was the most dramatic way to close the original thesis of the show, which was, `How does one get from childhood to adulthood? How does one pass through adolescence?'''
Now the question for Buffy and the Scooby Gang is, "How does one negotiate the perils of adulthood?'' And a bloody good corollary is, "What's Spike's role in that process?''
The questions will be answered soon enough, as "Buffy" kicks off the new season - its first on UPN, after five on WB - with a two-hour season premiere on Oct. 2. The Scooby Gang will surely be mourning the Slayer, but chances are that Buffy will return, first as a Buffy-bot and then as a resurrected figure, perhaps even revived by Willow (Alyson Hannigan).
"Imagine what you would see if word got out into the demon world that Sunnydale, which is the center of evil on Earth, was no longer protected by the Slayer,'' Marsters says by telephone from his home in Santa Monica, Calif., on a rare day off. "The Scoobies hate Spike - I don't think there's a lot of trust between him and any of them. But he is certainly very much taken with Buffy, so anyone who's important to Buffy will become important to him.
"Whether they feel that way about Spike is a whole different matter.''
Marsters won't divulge much more, other than to acknowledge that he'll participate in the November sweeps musical episode. He also "can almost guarantee" that Drusilla (Juliet Landau), the twisted love of Spike's life, will be back as a pain in the neck.
For the record, Marsters arrived on the "Buffy" scene in "School Hard,'' the second episode in the second season, in what was to have been a one-shot appearance. The character was popular with viewers, however, and Spike turned up more and more often as time passed. By season four, Marsters' name joined the others in "Buffy's" opening credits. Spike, aka William the Bloody, had come of age - and he's a mere 200 years old.
Marsters thinks he can explain the character's appeal.
"I think there's a complexity to him,'' the actor says. "He was designed as a disposable villain, so they really let him rip a lot of heads off at the start, because they were going to kill me and there wasn't going to be any worry about making him accessible to people. Then they decided not to kill me, so they had to go far away to make him accessible.
"That meant we really had to delve into the character,'' he says. "So we've explored his past, his background and the reasons why he might be so complex. Spike's now a very well-fleshed-out and multidimensional character.
"Also,'' Marsters adds, "the coat works and the hair works. If the coat had been shorter or the hair had been black, I would have been dead.''
During his summer hiatus, Marsters didn't sit idly. The 29-year-old actor attended a few conventions, co-starred opposite Roger Daltrey in "Soul Man" - an August segment of VH-1's "Strange Frequency" anthology series - and played a supporting role in the independent film "Chance,'' written, directed, produced by and starring "Buffy" co-star Amber Benson. He also shot an episode of "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda.'' That episode, "Into the Labyrinth,'' will air in October and feature Marsters as Nietzschean archduke Charlemagne Bolivar.
To the actor, however, those efforts are already in the past. He's more interested in thinking about the future, which right now concerns Spike. What would he like to see for his "Buffy" alter ego?
"If you talk to any actor about what they want it will boil down to two things,'' Marsters says, "and this is true of any show on television: more chicks and more fights. I want to kick ass and bag babes. Actors will go on all afternoon about this incredible story they have, but what it really boils down to, I think, are those two things.
"Unfortunately, writers are paid to come up with much more interesting stuff than that.''
Marsters laughs a sinister laugh.
"Look, they put me on a motorcycle last week,'' he says. "What more do you want than that?''
Buffy returns at 8 PM on UPN October 2, 2001. Check out returning genre show premiere dates here.