|Plague, Drought & Floods! |
Crows Outsmart Chimps, 3D DVDs,
100,000 Galaxies, Nanotechnology,
Frisbee's Father & More!
|Plague, Drought & Floods! |
Seal Plague Hits UK
London August 14, 2002 (BBC) - A fatal virus that has killed seals throughout northern Europe has returned to UK waters, wildlife experts say. Tests on five seals found off the coast of Lincolnshire and East Anglia confirmed they died from phocine distemper virus (PDV).
The animals - two adults and three pups - were found two weeks ago and taken to the Norfolk Wildlife Hospital. The disease was last seen in Europe in 1988, when some 18,000 seals were wiped out.
"We're in a similar situation to 1988 when 50-60 % of common seals in Europe died," Paul Jepson, of the UK Institute of Zoology, said on Wednesday. "It could be a major threat to their long-term viability."
The virus is predicted to spread around England's east coast and then on to Scotland, and the Irish Sea. It returned to Denmark in May 2002, and has so far killed 2,000 seals in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Holland and northern France have also been affected.
Since then, wildlife experts have warned it was only a matter of time before the virus hit British shores. Initial results of tests carried out on seals found at the end of July proved negative.
However wildlife charity, the RSPCA, which runs the wildlife hospital, said the latest results were positive.
"It's early days and we hope the virus is not as disastrous as last time," said veterinary manager Ian Robinson.
"However, it is a vicious virus. There is no treatment for it and no prevention for animals in the wild."
The highly infectious virus is similar to dog distemper and cannot be treated. It attacks the seals' immune system and leaves them open to infection.
Harbour seals can travel hundreds of miles in days, causing the virus to spread quickly. The virus is not harmful to humans.
Drought and Floods Boost Earth Summit
By Emma Thomasson
BERLIN August 13, 2002 (Reuters) - The storm clouds massed over Europe that are causing some of the worst floods for decades may have a silver lining for the continent's environmentalists as the battle lines are drawn for the Johannesburg Earth Summit.
While floods threatened historic buildings and crops across Europe and hundreds drowned after torrential rain in Nepal, Iran and the Philippines this week, drought has shriveled harvests in southern Africa, Vietnam, Australia and the United States.
Ahead of the summit on the environment and development that starts in Johannesburg in two weeks, Europeans have used the extreme weather as ammunition for criticism of President Bush's rejection of moves to fight global warming.
Speaking during a visit to the flooded historic center of the Bavarian university town of Passau, German Interior Minister Otto Schily said weather disasters like floods showed the need for a redoubling of efforts to protect the environment.
German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin agreed, saying higher global temperatures in recent decades had led to rising sea levels and increased rainfall and were at least partially to blame for a bout of unpredictable weather seen in recent years.
"If we don't want this development to get worse, then we must continue with the consistent reduction of environmentally harmful greenhouse gases," he told NDR radio in an interview.
Benedict Southworth from the Greenpeace environmental group in Britain, said temperature records were being broken across Europe and the frequency of extreme events would increase. "Now we're getting the first sense of urgency of what it will be like when climate change really starts to bite," he said.
RICH WORLD MUST PAY
Gallus Cadonau, the managing director of the Swiss Greina Foundation for the preservation of Alpine rivers and streams, agreed and suggested a punitive tariff on imports from the United States to force cooperation on greenhouse gas emissions.
"This definitely has to do with global warming. We must change something now," he said. "Those nations that really are careless with the environment should have to compensate."
U.N. Environment Program chief Klaus Toepfer said the latest extreme weather should persuade rich nations of the need to act fast to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that are believed to contribute to global warming.
"We must massively fight that and it is above all an obligation of industrialized countries," Toepfer told DeutschlandRadio Berlin in an interview.
Toepfer rejected suggestions that a lack of U.S. interest could render irrelevant the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development that runs from August 26 to September 4 in South Africa, although he admitted it might disappoint.
"We would like to go much further, but the world cannot be changed just by one conference," he said.
While the summit will host some 50,000 participants including dozens of world leaders, President Bush is expected to be on holiday at his Texas ranch. The United States produces a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Bush pulled out of the Kyoto agreement on reducing greenhouse gases last year, saying it would cripple the U.S. economy and give unfair exemptions to developing countries.
NO PROOF OF LINK
Cato Buch of Norwegian environmental group Bellona admitted there was no proof of a direct link between erratic weather and the so-called greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels that are believed to be increasing global temperatures.
"We can't say 100 percent that this is linked to climate change caused by people, but scientists agree that such dramatic weather is more likely if the greenhouse effect is taking place," he said.
Germany's Trittin also said global warming was by no means the only cause of the recent floods in Europe and said building along river banks and flood plains was also partly to blame.
"In many cases, we don't need more dykes, but fewer dykes. Rivers should not be forced to act like canals, but given the space to spread onto the plains," he said.
In Romania, where 10 people have died as a result of bad weather in recent weeks, Ion Simion, adviser to the Environment Ministry, said tree felling was also a problem.
"Another cause of these floods is the fact that forests have been cut down, not only in Romania but everywhere," he said.
Danica Leskova from Slovakia's Hydrometeorological Institute cautioned against jumping to conclusions about a link between floods and global climate change.
"Our memory is too short," she said. "Our regular and scientific observations did not begin long enough ago to make such self-assured deductions. There is one nice -- or ugly -- thing about nature: it is unpredictable."
Earth Summit sites - http://www.earthsummit2002.org and http://www.johannesburgsummit.org
Fire Info at the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center - http://www.or.blm.gov/nwcc
Oregon's Biscuit Fire - http://www.biscuitfire.com
|Intergalactic Collisions |
CHANDRA X-RAY CENTER NEWS RELEASE August 8, 2002 - Long ago, a giant eruption occurred in a nearby galaxy and plunged it into turmoil. Now NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed the remains of that explosion in the form of two enormous arcs of hot gas. This discovery can help astronomers better understand the cause and effect of violent outbursts from the vicinity of supermassive black holes in the centers of many so-called "active" galaxies.
Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) report that two arc-like structures of multimillion-degree gas in the galaxy Centaurus A appear to be part of a ring 25,000 light years in diameter. The size and location of the ring suggest that it could have been produced in a titanic explosion that occurred about ten million years ago.
A composite image of the galaxy made with radio (red and green), optical (yellow-orange), and X-ray data (blue) presents a stunning tableau of a tumultuous galaxy.
A broad band of dust and cold gas is bisected at an angle by opposing jets of high-energy particles blasting away from the supermassive black hole in the nucleus. Lying in a plane perpendicular to the jets are the two large arcs of X-ray emitting hot gas.
"Putting all the images together was the key to understanding what Chandra showed," said Margarita Karovska, lead author on a paper in the September 6, 2002, issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "Suddenly it all clicked in, as with a giant puzzle, and the images fit together to make a complete picture of the galaxy geometry that was not at all apparent before."
The team proposes that the orientation of the arcs of hot gas perpendicular to the jet and the symmetry of the projected ring with respect to the center of the galaxy could be evidence that the ring is the result of a giant eruption in the nucleus of the galaxy 10 million years ago. This explosion may have produced a galaxy-sized shock wave that has been moving outward at speeds of a million miles per hour.
The age of 10 million years for the outburst is consistent with other optical and infrared observations that indicate that the rate of star formation in the galaxy increased dramatically at about that time. Other authors have suggested that the merger of a small spiral galaxy with Centaurus A about a hundred million years ago triggered the high-energy jets and the ongoing violent activity in the nucleus of the galaxy. The tremendous energy released when a galaxy is "turned on" by a collision can have a profound influence on the subsequent evolution of the galaxy and its neighbors.
The mass of the central black hole can increase, the gas reservoir for the next generation of stars can be expelled, and the space between the galaxies can be enriched with heavier elements.
"Active galaxies could have played a significant role in the evolution of galaxies in the early universe when collisions between galaxies were much more frequent," said Giuseppina Fabbiano, a coauthor on the paper. "Centaurus A, at a distance of only 11 million light years, gives us a rare opportunity to study such an active galaxy in action."
Chandra observed Centaurus A with its High Resolution Camera instrument on September 10, 1999, for approximately 4.7 hours. Other members of CfA research team include Martin Elvis, Ralph Kraft, Stephen Murray, and Fabrizio Nicastro.
|American Indians File Largest Voter Lawsuit |
|By David Melmer |
Indian Country Today
RAPID CITY, S.D. August 09, 2002 (ICT) - Voting discrimination allegations involving American Indians on two reservations have made the state of South Dakota the target of the largest voting rights suit ever filed.
The complaint, filed in federal court on Aug. 5, stated that more than 600 state voting statutes over the past 30 years were implemented without the state’s attempt to seek or obtain the necessary federal preclearance approval. Many of the statutes discriminated against the voters of Shannon County on the Pine Ridge Reservation and Todd County on the Rosebud Reservation, stated a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Virtually all of the voting statutes on the books in South Dakota are involved in the lawsuit. Some will pass purview without problem, but others will be discriminatory and require close scrutiny by the federal authorities, said Bryan Sells, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and lead counsel in the case.
"All of them, however, regardless of their discriminatory effect, must be submitted for preclearance before they can be lawfully enforced," the complaint stated.
The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the state from enforcement of any changes in the voting laws that did not have clearance by the federal courts or U.S. Attorney General’s office.
At the heart of the lawsuit is Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act of 1965 as amended in 1975, which prevents discrimination by requiring all changes in voter laws to be submitted to the federal courts or the U.S. Attorney General’s office for approval. The state failed to comply with this law deliberately, the complaint stated.
"We are a proud people and all we seek is an opportunity to have a voice," said Elaine Quick Bear Quiver, Lakota elder and plaintiff in the lawsuit. "Many members of the Great Sioux Nation do not vote because they have become so discouraged that they feel their votes won’t make a difference. We are hopeful that this lawsuit will lead to state compliance and an improvement in the condition of our people."
Theresa "Huck" Two Bulls, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe said it was about time the state recognized that American Indians existed in the state. She said, "we’ve always been here."
Equal treatment is what the American Indian population always wanted and this lawsuit might make the state act according to its own laws, Two Bulls said.
|Taming The Brown Haze Menace |
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Environment Correspondent
East Anglia UK Auggust 12, 2002 (BBC) - A British researcher says there are simple technical solutions to the huge problems caused by pollution in southern Asia. United Nations scientists say the pollution is both a regional and a global menace.
They say the Asian brown haze affects rainfall and farming, and puts hundreds of thousands of people in jeopardy. They fear the pollution's impacts will worsen over the next 30 years. It has a direct effect on human health, they say, causing more respiratory disease.
The British scientist is Dr David Viner, of the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, UK. He told BBC News Online: "The London smogs of the last century were a comparable problem, though the Asian haze is more widespread, more persistent, and thicker. There are solutions - stop burning the forests, switch to less polluting fuels, and introduce clean air technology, like scrubbers on power station chimneys. They're simple to work out. Unfortunately, they're rather more difficult to implement."
The scientists, working for the UN Environment Programme (Unep), have based their work on data gathered by the Indian Ocean Experiment (Indoex), supplemented by satellite readings and computer modeling.
The team includes Professors V Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, US, Paul Crutzen, of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany, and A P Mitra, of India's National Physical Laboratory. The head of Unep, Dr Klaus Toepfer, told journalists in London the threat was real.
"The haze is the result of forest fires, the burning of agricultural wastes, dramatic increases in the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, industries and power stations, and emissions from millions of inefficient cookers burning wood, cow dung and other 'bio-fuels'. These initial findings clearly indicate that this growing cocktail of soot, particles, aerosols and other pollutants is becoming a major environmental hazard for Asia. There are also global implications, not least because a pollution parcel like this, which stretches three kilometres (two miles) high, can travel halfway round the globe in a week."
The UN says about two billion people in south and southeast Asia use wood or similar "biomass" fuels. Clean energy will be one of the preoccupations of the sustainable development summit starting in Johannesburg in late August. The haze is reducing the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface by up to 15%. But it also absorbs heat, and they estimate that it is not only cooling the Earth's surface but warming the lower atmosphere appreciably.
They believe this is altering the winter monsoon, sharply cutting rainfall over north-western Asia and increasing it further east. The models they used suggest the haze may reduce rain and snow over parts of western central Asia by between 20% and 40%.
Researchers at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, UK, say the overall cooling of the northern hemisphere, where aerosol concentrations are higher than south of the Equator, may also weaken the summer monsoon and reduce rainfall in south Asia. They say most rain falls during the summer monsoon, and it helps to wash pollution out of the atmosphere.
The report's authors say the reduction in solar energy reaching the Earth's surface means less oceanic evaporation of the moisture which controls summer rainfall. They estimate that the haze could be reducing India's winter rice harvest by up to 10%. And they fear "several hundreds of thousands" of premature deaths from haze-related respiratory diseases.
The report, commissioned by UNEP, was prepared by the Center for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate.
|Einstein Vs Star Trek |
Sydney Australia August 8, 2002 (BBC) - The theory that the speed of light is always constant has come under fire. Australian physicists propose that it may have slowed over the course of billions of years.
If true, it would mean a rethink of Einstein's theory of relativity.
The idea is floated in a brief communication in the journal Nature. It is based on astronomical data involving light from a quasar, a very distant star-like object. Observations suggest the light has taken about 10 billion years to reach the Earth.
What is more, a key constant involving the interaction of light photons and electron particles seems to have changed. It appears to have been smaller 10 billion years ago.
According to Paul Davies, a physicist at Macquarie University, Sydney, this can be explained only if the speed of light or electron charge has changed since then.
"But two of the cherished laws of the Universe are the law that electron charge shall not change and that the speed of light shall not change, so whichever way you look at it we're in trouble," he says.
Studies on black holes suggest that the second option is more likely, according to Davies' team. The theoretical physicist believes the speed of light was faster six to 10 billion years ago than its current value - 300,000 km (186,300 miles) per second.
"It's entirely possible that the speed of light would have got greater and greater as you go back (through time) towards the Big Bang and if so it could explain some of the great mysteries of cosmology," he says.
He admits that further work on light from quasars is needed to firm up the theory. In addition, the physics of black holes are known to be extremely shaky. But there are startling implications if the law that nothing can go faster than light is overturned.
"Maybe it's possible to get around that restriction, in which case it would enthrall Star Trek fans because at the moment even at the speed of light it would take 100,000 years to cross the galaxy," says Davies.
"It's a bit of a bore really and if the speed of light limit could go, then who knows? All bets are off."
|Crows Outsmart Chimps! |
Oxford August 8, 2002 (BBC) - The crow is putting our closest cousins to shame. Experiments show the humble bird is better than the chimp at toolmaking. British zoologists were astonished when a captive crow called Betty fashioned a hook out of wire to reach food.
It is the first time any animal has been found to make a new tool for a specific task, say Oxford University researchers. They believe the bird shows some understanding of cause and effect.
"It is not only cleverer than we think in this particular direction but probably, at least in relation to tools, has a higher level of understanding than chimpanzees," says Alex Kacelnik, Professor of Behavioural Ecology.
The Oxford team stumbled on the discovery while studying the behaviour of Betty and an older male crow, Abel. Both belong to a crow species, Corvus moneduloides, from the French overseas territory of New Caledonia in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The researchers were testing whether the birds were able to lift food out of a vertical tube using either a straight piece of wire or a hook.
"The surprise came in trial number five when the male stole away the hook and flew to another part of the aviary," Professor Kacelnik told BBC News Online. He watched as Betty spontaneously bent a straight piece of wire and used it to retrieve a snack.
The researchers then repeated the experiment with just a straight piece of wire to see if it was a fluke. Betty was able to bend the wire and get at the food nine times out of ten.
"Although many animals use tools, purposeful modification of objects to solve new problems, without training or prior experience, is virtually unknown," adds Professor Kacelnik.
He says experiments with primates, who are much closer relatives of humans than birds, have failed to show any deliberate tool making and human-like understanding of basic physical laws.
New Caledonian crows have been seen to make at least two sorts of hook tools in the wild. Gavin Hunt of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, has studied them. He said the behavior of the young female crow was very interesting but not that surprising.
"It is tempting to say that the bird used some kind of insight to access and solve the problem of extracting the food, as humans often do in their toolmaking," he told BBC News Online. "However, we need to carry out more experiments to see if this was the case."
Other birds have also shown surprising levels of ingenuity. The woodpecker finch of the Galapagos Islands uses a cactus spine to spear insects. Pigeons have been known to recognize humans and letters of alphabet. Parrots, though, appear to be at the top of the pecking order.
Alex, an African grey parrot, hit the headlines in the 1980s. The bird had a vocabulary of 100 English words and was able to ask questions and make requests.
Full details of the Oxford University research are published in the journal Science.
|Brit Bats Battle Extinction |
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Environment Correspondent
London August 9, 2002 (BBC) - UK conservationists say many British bat species are facing serious trouble. Their roosting places are often damaged or destroyed, either by accident or deliberately, and the insects they eat are also in decline.
Scientists say bats constitute one-third of the UK's total number of land-based mammal species.
Two conservation groups, the Woodland Trust and the Bat Conservation Trust, are working to raise awareness of the animals' plight.
They say two of the 16 species found here are classed as endangered, with nine others threatened, despite the existence of UK and European legislation designed to protect them. The Mammal Society says: "Populations of the 14 species which breed in Britain have all declined in recent decades. Pipistrelle numbers fell by 60% between 1978 and 1986. Greater and lesser horseshoe bats are endangered, the barbastelle is very poorly known and the mouse-eared bat became extinct in 1991."
The last mammal to have become extinct in the UK before 1991 is thought to have been the wolf, wiped out more than 250 years ago.
The two trusts say bats have different roosting requirements at different times of year. They usually return to the same roost year after year. They choose trees, houses, bridges and caves, and woods with cracked and creviced ancient trees are important to them. The noctule bat, the UK's largest native species, prefers hollow trees, and feeds on beetles.
The rare barbastelle bat likes to roost behind pieces of bark, and depends on small moths. The pipistrelle, the smallest British bat, has been known to eat 3,000 midges in a single night.
The trusts say many insects important for bats are declining because of pesticide use, loss of wild flowers, woodland and water, and the reduction in the number of wetland areas. Some bat species have been drastically reduced. There were an estimated 300,000 greater horseshoe bats in 1900, but probably just 3,000 or so by the late 1980s.
In 1995 the UK Government launched the five-year National Bat Monitoring Programme, designed to develop an effective monitoring strategy for bat species resident in the UK.
The Bat Conservation Trust says a lack of historical data means that "population trends of the 16 species of bats are, in general, poorly known".
|3D Is Back - On DVD |
MENLO PARK, CA August 13, 2002 (PRNewswire) - Razor3D today announced it has entered into an agreement with X3D Technologies to produce twenty 3D movie titles in DVD format. The movies will be classic productions from a variety of genres: horror, action, sci-fi, B-monster, detective and family.
Titles include well known hits such as "Night of the Living Dead;" "The Chinese Connection," starring Bruce Lee; and "To Kill a Mockingbird," starring Gregory Peck.
"We've started with movies that are popular with diverse audiences," said Ryan Oto, Marketing Director of Razor3D. "By converting these well-known titles to 3D, we create an entirely new entertainment experience for both first-time and repeat viewers."
The 3D titles in DVD format will be authored using X3D Technologies's proprietary z3D process. z3D allows a single DVD to include both 2D and 3D versions of the movie. In addition, the technology allows viewers to switch between 2D and 3D versions by hitting a single button on the DVD remote control. 3D movies produced using z3D have backgrounds that appear to be inside the TV and objects that occasionally seem to fly out of the TV. Electronic 3D glasses are required to view the 3D version of the movie.
"We are very excited about the 3D DVD business opportunity," said Elliot Klein, President of X3D Technologies. "During the past year, we saw a great market emerge for 3D DVDs even though there were very few titles available. With a growing number of well-known titles, we plan to build an important library of 3D DVDs and contribute to the growth of this new market."
The first new 3D movie in DVD format will be available on September 20, 2002. All twenty 3D titles in DVD format will be available by spring of 2003. The suggested retail price of the DVDs will be $19.95.
Razor3D - http://www.razor3d.com
X3D Technologies - http://www.3dworld.com
|Genre News: Farscape, Stan Lee, Emma Caulfield, Monk, Angel, Murder She Wrote & More! |
Frelling Fantastic! Farscape PC Game Arrives!
Hollywood August 9, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Farscape: The Game, a PC game based on the SCI FI Channel's original series Farscape, arrived in stores this week, Simon & Schuster Interactive announced.
The game was developed in association with Jim Henson Interactive, a division of The Jim Henson Co., which produces the series.
The game is a character-driven, team-based, fully 3-D action game played from an isometric perspective. The company also launched an official game Web site.
In the game, Moya is attacked and boarded by a Peacekeeper strike force while in orbit around a desert planet.
Though several of Crichton's friends are still trapped aboard the occupied ship, he escapes with Chiana, and the duo embarks on an epic adventure while trying to reunite with their crew and free Moya. The game features the voices of series actors Ben Browder (Crichton), Claudia Black (Aeryn Sun), Anthony Simcoe (D'Argo), Gigi Edgley (Chiana), Lani Tupu (Crais/Pilot) and Jonathan Hardy (Rygel XVI).
Farscape airs on SCI FI at 10 p.m. ET/PT as part of SCI FI Fridays.
Farscape Game Official site (where you can download the PC demo!) - http://www.farscapegame.com
Stan Lee talks Stripperella
By CHRISTOPHER ALLAN SMITH
Hollywood August 12, 2002 (Cinescape) - Stan Lee is talking about his previously announced (and still surprising) partnership with Pamela Anderson for the adult-oriented superhero cartoon, STRIPPERELLA.
Set to hit the TNN network next year, STRIPPERELLA’s main character will be voiced… now are you ready for this?… Anderson with Lee helping to guide the show’s creative development.
While talking to fans at last weekend’s Comic Con, Lee revealed the show is about a female AUSTIN POWERS type hero with the tag line, “Stripper by night. Superhero by later that night."
Said Lee, creator of SPIDER-MAN, THE HULK, and the FANTASTIC FOUR if you didn’t already know, joked to attendees, “I met Pam Anderson and I wanted to do something for the kid. I though 'I'll try and make her famous,’ First I wanted her to play a nun in something like TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL but I thought, 'she's done that sort of thing.”
He added, “We may well put the whole animation industry out of business. I want to caution you. If fashion is your hobby you'll be frustrated. She doesn't wear too many clothes."
Buffy's Caulfield Bites Fairy
Hollywood August 12, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Emma Caulfield, who stars in the upcoming horror movie The Tooth Fairy, told SCI FI Wire that her character is not the archetypal damsel-in-distress depicted in slasher films of the past.
"I think initially they really wanted it like a hard-core slasher pic," she said in an interview at Comic-Con International in San Diego. "I think the original girl is sort of ditzy and wearing tight clothes. And [I said], 'Well, I really want to work with you, ... but I'm not going to be doing that.'"
Caulfield added that she was gratified to see the script develop from that point into something wholly different. "That was just the initial idea," she said. "And then they got [screenwriter Joe Liebesman] on board, and it just sort of evolved from there. And by the time I signed on and we went to Australia to shoot it, it was very clear that it was going to be a dark, sort of methodical, slow-paced [film]."
Audiences likely know Caulfield best for her role as Anya, former vengeance demon and spurned bride, on the UPN series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Caulfield shot the television show and the film concurrently, making frequent trips back and forth between Santa Monica, Calif., where Buffy is filmed, and the set of Tooth Fairy in Melbourne, Australia.
"Yeah, it was pretty hard," she said. "But truthfully I had such a great time, and I was very much aware of something very surprising that we were creating down there. So I've kind of been blessed in that way."
Although the two projects are distinctly different in tone and subject matter, Caulfield sees one important commonality between the television series and the film. "I'm on a show that surprises people, and then I'm doing a movie called The Tooth Fairy. And so, like Buffy, ... you watch it, and you're like, 'Oh wow, it's not like that at all.' It's sort of the same thing, really. ... It's not a tooth fairy movie. It's a lot more complicated, and there's a lot of layers to the film."
Official Buffy site - http://www.buffy.com
ABC Adds Mr. Monk From USA
LOS ANGELES August 7, 2002 (AP) - Struggling ABC is getting more programming help from the cable TV world, adding a USA Network deal to one just announced with HBO. ABC will air episodes of the new detective drama "Monk" following their debut on USA, the networks said Tuesday.
On Monday, ABC said it had signed a deal with HBO to have the cable network's independent production arm help develop new programming over the next two years. ABC called the agreement to rerun episodes of "Monk" beginning Tuesday "an innovative summer programming experiment."
It goes against the grain of the cable-broadcast relationship, in which programs usually debut on broadcast networks and then repeat on cable channels.
"Monk," which stars Tony Shalhoub as an obsessive-compulsive private investigator, was a top 10 cable draw when it debuted in July and has continued performing well for USA.
ABC's Tuesday airings of "Monk" will follow each episode's original Friday showing on USA. As part of the agreement, USA won't show any episodes in between, the networks said.
The deal is mutually advantageous, according to the networks: ABC said it gets an original series at for a "significantly reduced" licensing fee while USA gets more exposure for its series.
Angel Drops New Producer
By Kate O'Hare
LOS ANGELES August 9, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - David Simkins, recently hired to be the show-runner of The WB's "Angel" in the wake of the departure of the supernatural drama's co-creator, David Greenwalt, has also left the series. The parting of ways is due to "creative differences," according to a spokesman for producing studio 20th Century Fox.
It was only last month that Simkins, who previously ran the short-lived FOX series "FreakyLinks," participated in a luncheon/press conference with some of the cast at the Fox studio lot, as part of the biannual Television Critics Association press tour.
With Simkins gone, the task of running "Angel" as it moves into its fourth season falls to co-creator Joss Whedon and executive producer Tim Minear, both of whom are also shepherding Whedon's new science-fiction series, "Firefly," for FOX.
In addition, Whedon who continues to team with executive producer Marti Noxon on UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," is writing an "Angel" episode to air during the November sweeps period that will see the characters returning to the personas they had during the first season.
Greenwalt, who continues to consult on "Angel," has taken over as show-runner of "Miracles," a midseason supernatural drama for ABC.
Unofficial Angel site - http://www.cityofangel.com
Betty White and Tom Poston Do The 70s
By Nellie Andreeva
Hollywood August 13, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - TV vets Betty White and Tom Poston, who co-starred together in CBS' comedy "Bob" and the feature "The Story of Us," are set to reunite for a multiepisode guest arc on Fox's sitcom "That '70s Show."
The two will play the parents of Wisconsin suburban mom Kitty Forman (Debra Jo Rupp) in at least two episodes of the Carsey-Werner-Mandabach show's upcoming fifth season. Poston won an Emmy for his role on NBC's "The Steve Allen Show," while White garnered Emmy wins for CBS' "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and NBC's "The Golden Girls" and "The John Larroquette Show." Poston's series credits also include ABC's "Grace Under Fire," while White starred in CBS' "Ladies Man."
Angela Finds More Murders
LOS ANGELES August 12, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - The death toll surrounding Jessica Fletcher continues to rise.
You'd think Angela Lansbury's character from the CBS series "Murder She Wrote" would stop getting invitations to group functions. After all, her visits always result in at least one homicide.
In the fourth movie made for the network, "Murder, She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle," (currently being filmed in Los Angeles and Ireland), Jessica inherit a small cottage in Ireland.
From her new digs she watches other heirs bicker over the keys to a lost treasure and finds her sleuthing powers called upon after the handyman, gardener and housekeeper are each murdered.
Actress Fionnula Flanagan ("Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" ) co-stars . No airdate has been set for the movie.
|Brain Music May Cure Insomnia |
By Jessica Whiteside
Toronto August 12, 2002 (UofT) - Sleep scientists at the University of Toronto are pursuing research that's music to insomniacs' ears.
Researchers in the sleep clinic of U of T's psychiatry department and the University Health Network's Toronto Western Hospital are studying the ability of "brain music" to help people relax and improve the quality of their sleep. To create this music, researchers study a person's brain waves to determine which rhythmic and tonal sound patterns create a meditative condition in that individual.
A special computer program developed by the researchers or a music therapist who is a member of the research team then selects unique "healing" music that will create those same brain wave patterns when the individual is trying to sleep.
The brain music appears to alleviate some psychosomatic symptoms such as anxiety without the potential to cause dependency that has raised concerns with some pharmacological treatments for insomnia, says psychiatry professor Leonid Kayumov.
"Brain music therapy, because of its more favorable side-effect profile, may represent a possible alternative for therapeutic management of insomnia and anxiety. From ancient times through to the present, philosophers, historians and scientists have written and spoken of music as a therapeutic agent."
At the annual Associated Professional Sleep Societies' meeting in Seattle, Wash. in June, Kayumov and colleagues presented findings from a study that found brain music reduced anxiety and improved sleep in subjects who had complained of insomnia of at least two years in duration.
Ten volunteers listened to brain music created specifically for them; another eight, used as a control group, listened to placebo music. While both groups experienced reduced anxiety after listening to the music over a four-week period, the effect was more pronounced in the experimental group listening to the customized brain music.
|One Hundred Thousand Galaxies! |
EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY NEWS RELEASE August 8, 2002 - A series of wide-field images centred on the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 300, obtained with the Wide-Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-m telescope at the La Silla Observatory, have been combined into a magnificent colour photo.
These images have been used by different groups of astronomers for various kinds of scientific investigations, ranging from individual stars and nebulae in NGC 300, to distant galaxies and other objects in the background.
This material provides an interesting demonstration of the multiple use of astronomical data, now facilitated by the establishment of extensively documented data archives, like the ESO Science Data Archive that now is growing rapidly and already contains over 15 Terabyte.
Based on the concept of Astronomical Virtual Observatories (AVOs), the use of archival data sets is on the rise and provides a large number of scientists with excellent opportunities for front-line investigations without having to wait for precious observing time.
In addition to presenting a magnificent astronomical photo, the present account also illustrates this important new tool of the modern science of astronomy and astrophysics.
No less than about 100,000 galaxies of all types are visible in this amazing image. Three known quasars lie inside this sky field, together with many interacting galaxies, some of which feature tidal tails. There are also several groups of highly reddened galaxies - probably distant clusters in formation.
More detailed investigations of the numerous galaxies in this field are now underway. From the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 300 to objects in the young Universe, it is all there, truly an astronomical treasure trove!
See more at the European Southern Observatory - http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2002/phot-18-02.html
|Acid Rain Threatens Songbirds |
|By Steve Connor |
Ithaca NY August 13, 2002 (Independent UK) - Acid rain is contributing to declining songbird populations, say scientists.
A study of the breeding patterns of North American wood thrushes since 1966 in the eastern United States has found that its decline over the past 30 years can be closely correlated with levels of the atmospheric pollution acid rain.
The scientists, led by Ralph Hames of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, said that acid rain might affect calcium levels in the soil and so weaken the ability of birds to make strong shells for their eggs.
Low calcium might also affect the populations of soil-dwelling animals that birds live on, or increase the risk of poisoning through the uptake of other substances that can replace calcium in the diet.
There has been a similar decline in songbirds in Britain, mostly linked to changes in farming practices. The latest findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest acid rain could also be a factor.
|Texan Brazoria Girl Is 11,000 Years Old |
By TERRY KLIEWER
LAKE JACKSON TEXAS August 9, 2002 (Houston Chronicle) - The gummy clay of coastal Texas holds plenty of secrets, but it may have given up one of its oldest when routine excavation near here uncovered prehistoric human bones.
The bones -- a skull, two vertebrae and part of a jaw with some teeth -- may date back 11,000 years or more, according to preliminary analysis that included radiocarbon dating at the University of Arizona.
A final report on the site and the find were submitted this week to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Spring-based archaeologist Robert d'Aigle, who recovered the skeletal remains three years ago in the San Bernard River National Wildlife Refuge in south Brazoria County. D'Aigle announced his discovery this week.
The bones were turned up during mechanical excavation work on a levee on federal land in the refuge, he said. They were buried about three feet deep in what d'Aigle thinks is a vertical position, leading him to suspect the area was a bog in which the victim became trapped and died.
D'Aigle said experts who examined the remains believe they are from an adolescent female who was about 4 feet tall.
If confirmed, this would be only the third discovery in North America of skeletal remains that are 10,000 or more years old, experts say. As such, "Brazoria Girl" may turn out to be a milestone in documenting the inhabitation of the continent.
The find comes as scientists are rethinking the long-held theory that North and South America were populated by prehistoric tribes that crossed from Asia via a Bering Strait land bridge. Even those who don't question the migration aren't sure about its timing. D'Aigle, a registered professional archaeologist, said his discovery may force scientists to revise their timetable.
"This will shake up a lot of archaeologists," he predicted.
Anthropologist Michael Collins of the Texas Archaeological Research Lab in Austin called the find "rare and extremely important," but doubted it would be as important as d'Aigle thinks. Other discoveries, mainly of artifacts, have long since established human presence in Texas 100 centuries ago, Collins said.
"There is carbon dating and then there is carbon dating," he added, expressing reservations about the University of Arizona's testing capabilities. He urged more tests on both bones and soil, noting that bones often are contaminated by carbon from surrounding soil.
Most prehistoric discoveries are subjected to multiple tests by several labs, Collins said. Until that is done, "I certainly wouldn't call this a hoax, but its reliability is in question," he said. But Collins' own nominee for the most highly credentialed carbon dating analyst in the country, geologist Tom Stafford of Boulder, Colo., said he has little doubt that d'Aigle's find is the real deal.
D'Aigle sent an ear bone and a sample of soil from within the skull to the Stafford Research Laboratories for analysis. Stafford said that, while his own radiocarbon testing was inconclusive, other signs, such as the soil in which the bones were found, point to the remains being at least 11,000 years old. Stafford also said the importance of d'Aigle's find is not necessarily that it is the oldest human skeleton on the continent, but that it is one of so very few.
As such, he termed it "a pretty incredible discovery" on par with two other 10,000- to 11,000-year-old specimens, one from Montana and the other from California.
"Our population of prehistoric skeletons is pretty small."
Besides, he said, the University of Arizona has a "spectacular" lab and is capable of reliable radiocarbon testing. However, he too said more testing by other labs is needed to determine the age of the remains. As for the discovery's importance, he said, "I'd give a very enthusiastic but qualified 'yes'. I think we're in the right ballpark for age. I think it really may be what Bob (d'Aigle) thinks it is."
D'Aigle said his delay in announcing his April 1999 discovery was imposed by his contract obligations to the federal government. The radiocarbon dating and other analysis done on the recovered remains was done largely on a voluntary basis by several labs and at least 10 scientists, he said.
The findings were included in a report submitted this week to the Fish and Wildlife Service. D'Aigle said he was free to talk publicly only after completing the report.
David Siegel, historic preservation officer for the federal agency's southwest region, said the remains may go to the University of Texas for museum preservation and possible exhibition. He cautioned that federal regulations about the handling of Native American remains and artifacts will first have to be considered. The discovery site has been covered with dirt to preserve it and prevent tampering, Siegel said.
"At this juncture, we have no plans other than to leave the site alone," he said. "It could be years before we do anything further."
|British Bunnies Unearth Ancient Artifacts |
|LONDON August 13, 2002 (Reuters) - An intrepid bunch of rabbits have emulated Indiana Jones, turning into archaeologists to unearth a rare and ancient glass window in central England. |
State body English Heritage said on Tuesday that the bunnies uncovered shards of the window, which belonged to a 14th century manor house, while burrowing into an unremarkable grassy hump.
"Over the years, as the rabbits have done their own home improvement work, the glass, shards of pottery and fragments of animal bone have been kicked out of their burrow," said Dr. Paul Stamper, English Heritage Ancient Monuments Inspector in the West Midlands. "Pieces of glass were discovered six months ago by a team of dedicated local archaeologists."
Now they face a race against time to preserve the window before its designs are corroded by the open air, which it hasn't been exposed to for centuries. The house, complete with moat, was demolished in the 15th century when its owners built a bigger home nearby and found the first one blocked their view.
And the bunnies, finders of the trove, may now become part of the problem.
Further research will need to be done before English Heritage decides how to minimize "future rabbit damage," the body said.
|Nanotechnology News! |
Atlanta August 9, 2002 (Georgia Tech News Release) - Using photon emissions from individual molecules of silver, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created what may be the world's smallest electroluminescent light source.
Believed to be the first demonstration of electroluminescence from individual molecules, the work could lead to new types of nanometer-scale optical interconnects, high-resolution optical microscopy, nanometer-scale lithography and other applications that require very small light sources. And because single molecules are known to emit one photon at a time, the technique could ultimately be the basis for high-efficiency quantum information processing and cryptography.
Though the effect was first reported in silver clusters composed of 2-8 atoms, the researchers also demonstrated electroluminescence in similarly prepared copper clusters, suggesting the effect may broadly apply to other metals. Details of the research were reported in the August 6 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This is the first time that anyone has seen electroluminescence from individual molecules," said Robert Dickson, assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "What we have observed involves sub-nanometer scale sources to which an electric field is applied. These molecules emit very strongly, and are very robust."
Dickson and collaborators Tae-Hee Lee and Jose Gonzalez began with thin films of silver oxide that are not electroluminescent. By exposing the film to electrical current of approximately one amp, they "activated" some of the silver oxide molecules, which then appeared within "discolored" regions in the film. When electrodes were attached to the film and an alternating current applied, a thin line of silver clusters began to emit light in colors that varied depending on the size of the clusters. The system operated at room temperature.
"When you zoom in more closely, you can see the emissions coming from single molecules," said Dickson. "They blink and have dipole emission patterns. You see an incredibly thin line of emissive species close to the middle of the sample."
Electroluminescence occurs when an electron recombines with a positively charged molecule from which a single electron has been removed to create an electron-hole pair. First, an electron is removed from a molecule, creating a positive charge. Then, an electron is quickly injected into a different state of the same molecule. Because of the charge differences, the electron is attracted to the hole, and when they recombine, a photon is released.
While normally stimulated by applying direct current (DC), the Georgia Tech group observed a dramatically enhanced response from high frequency alternating current (AC).
While DC voltage produced electroluminescence in the activated silver clusters, Dickson and his colleagues found that high frequency AC voltage -- above 150 megahertz -- produced a response as much as 10,000 times greater. Dickson believes the AC voltage created rapid recombination within single molecules in a very narrow section of a sample, producing the enhanced response. Bulk materials normally cannot respond quickly enough to the alternating current to enhance the electroluminescence to such a large degree.
The AC current was more efficient than DC current at converting electrical current to light because it injects the electron charge at just the right time, minimizing the amount of energy lost to production of heat, Dickson explained. From a practical standpoint, that increases the operating life of the emitting clusters and reduces the amount of current required to produce light, he noted.
"We know that the charge is recombining in the molecules because you can simultaneously measure the electroluminescence and the current, and the peaks are correlated," he said. "This is an extremely interesting materials system, not only because of the single-molecule electroluminescence, but also because of the resonance we see at relatively high frequencies."
Though the discovery may have important implications for optoelectronic devices, Dickson's group is focusing first on understanding the basic process.
"We are concentrating on understanding the very fundamental aspects of this: what the nature of the emission is, how the emission occurs, the different time scales for electron injection, hole injection and recombination," he said.
"We need to know how to better control this before we can begin to use it in nanometer scale devices or as nanometer scale optoelectronic components in circuitry. A lot of engineering will have to be done to make any potential optoelectronic devices both useful and stable."
The electroluminescence research builds on earlier work done by Dickson and colleagues Lynn Peyser and Amy Vinson that demonstrated optical storage potential of thin-film silver oxide clusters. In that work, reported in the journal Science in January 2001, the researchers demonstrated binary optical storage by writing and reading simple images recorded on films of silver oxide nanoparticles activated by light of a specific frequency. That work is continuing, and advances have been made toward potential optical storage systems.
Nanoparticles Used in Solar Energy Conversion
MANHATTAN, KA August 8, 2002 (Kansas State University) - An enormous source of clean energy is available to us. We see it almost every day. It's just a matter of harnessing it.
The problem with solar energy is that it has not been inexpensive enough in the past. David Kelley, professor of chemistry at Kansas State University, developed a new type of nanoparticle -- a tiny chemical compound far too small to be seen with the naked eye -- that may reap big dividends in solar power.
Kelley's team is studying the properties and technical problems of gallium selenide nanoparticles. The properties of the nanoparticle change as the size changes. One of those properties is the part of the light spectrum it absorbs.
"You can make dramatically different colors just by changing the size of the nanoparticles," Kelley said.
Kelley is developing nanoparticles that are just the right size for solar cells -- they can absorb all visible light but nothing from the invisible light at the red end of the spectrum, which would reduce voltage.
"The correct-sized nanoparticles look dark red to black. There is an optimum size and that's what you want to shoot for," Kelley said.
Today's solar panels are made with silicon. The silicon usually has impurities, which limits its efficiency. Purifying a chemical is too expensive. For that reason, smaller is better. One can fit as many nanoparticles into a golf ball as one can fit beach balls into the earth.
Only a tiny percentage of a piece of material has impurities. If the entire chunk of material makes one crystal in a solar panel, the crystal will not work. But if that chunk is broken up into 100 tiny nanoparticles, then only the few unlucky nanoparticles with the impurities will not function. All the other nanoparticles will be pure and therefore will work.
Kelley said he is a long way from developing compounds that are comparable to today's silicon solar cells, because the physics of nanoparticles is so poorly understood. By using gallium selenide, Kelley is laying the groundwork for a similar, but more complex and potentially more effective nanoparticle called indium selenide. It is difficult to make silicon nanoparticles, but indium selenide has great potential for nanoparticle solar cells, Kelley said.
"The idea is to make large, high-output solar voltaic panels that are dirt cheap to produce. It's only then that the price starts to become competitive with burning fossil fuels," Kelley said.
He nearly had to start from scratch. His team invented gallium selenide nanoparticles. Kelley said he knew six years ago that many semiconductor materials had potential use in solar power, but were not being studied because there were no methods to make them into nanoparticles.
"All these really interesting materials were being ignored and I thought it just can't be allowed to stay that way," Kelley said.
|Judge Allows Nuclear Waste Suit |
|WASHINGTON August 12, 2002 (NDRC) — A federal district court judge late Friday denied the Department of Energy's motion to dismiss a suit alleging that the agency gave itself the authority to illegally reclassify high-level nuclear waste so that it could leave it at three facilities. In his ruling, the judge, B. Lynn Winmill at U.S. District Court in Boise, said, "[I]t is inconceivable that Congress intended to allow the DOE unfettered discretion in the management of radioactive waste as the Defendants [DOE] have alleged." (A pdf file of the judge's decision is available from NRDC.) |
"We are pleased Judge Winmill denied DOE's motion to dismiss and that the facts of this case will be heard," said Geoffrey Fettus, an attorney with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), one of the plaintiffs and lead counsel in the case. "It's stunning that the Energy Department is trying to cut corners when dealing with a substance as dangerous as high-level nuclear waste.
"The agency says it would like to accelerate cleanup," Fettus added. "We would like the cleanup to take less time, but not by stashing thousands of tons of the nation's most radioactive waste under a concrete cap in leaky tanks and hoping no one notices."
The original lawsuit, filed in February 2002 by NRDC, the Snake River Alliance and the Yakama Indian Nation, argues that DOE, by giving itself the authority to reclassify high-level nuclear waste as "incidental waste," would use an illegally low standard for cleaning up some 100 million gallons of the nation's most highly radioactive waste. Most of this waste is located in underground tanks at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington; the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) near Idaho Falls; and the Savannah River site near Aiken, South Carolina. Dozens of the tanks in Washington and South Carolina are leaking.
NRDC and its coplaintiffs maintain that DOE is required by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to bury all of its high-level radioactive waste deep underground in a geologic repository. They say that leaving the waste in tanks and covering it in concrete would ensure it would eventually leach into groundwater adjacent to the Columbia River in Washington, the Snake River Aquifer in Idaho, and into the water table at the Savannah River site.
Since filing the suit, the plaintiffs have been joined by the Shoshone-Bannock tribe, whose reservation sits about 40 miles downstream on the Snake River from the INEEL. The court also has allowed Washington and Idaho standing in the lawsuit as "friends of the court."
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Natural Resources Defense Council Web site - http://www.nrdc.org
|Frisbee's Father Dies |
By RON HARRIS
SAN JOSE CA August 13, 2002 (AP) - Ed Headrick, father of the modern Frisbee and designer of Wham-O's first "professional model" flying disc, has died. He was 78.
Headrick died at home in his sleep Monday, according to his eldest son, Ken. He had been partially paralyzed after suffering two strokes last month at a disc golf tournament in Miami.
Headrick patented toy maker Wham-O's first designs for the modern Frisbee after improving the aerodynamics of the company's initial models. After joining the company in the early 1960s, Headrick incorporated concentric grooved lines into the top of the curved disc to create the first "professional model" for Emeryville-based Wham-O.
The added ridges created better lift, straighter flight and improved stability by increasing "interference with the smooth airflow pattern," according to U.S. Patent No. 3,359,678, filed by Headrick on Nov. 1, 1965, for a "Flying Saucer."
The patent was officially issued in 1967, but Wham-O began selling its version in 1964, according to the company's Web site. The patent number is stamped onto Frisbees around the world and has been rubbed by the hands of millions who toss the discs across park lawns and beaches, into the grasp of fellow players or the mouths of waiting dogs.
"I felt the Frisbee had some kind of a spirit involved," Headrick told the Santa Cruz Sentinel last October. "It's not just like playing catch with a ball. It's the beautiful flight."
Headrick founded the International Frisbee Association and Disc Golf Association to oversee the sport of disc golf.
The family will honor Headrick's wish that his ashes be molded into memorial flying discs to be given to a select few family and friends and others who make donations in his memory, Ken Headrick said.
He is survived by his wife, a daughter, three sons and 11 grandchildren.
Official Wham-O Site - http://www.wham-o.com