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Earth Day 2006!
Nanostars! Space Gemstones!
Breast Implants! Rape Myths!
Paint-on Laser? Earthworks!
Earth Day 2006 - You Can Help!

Turn off your monitor at night (NASA)
WASHINGTON April 19, 2006 (US Newswire) - This Earth Day, April 22, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - the largest conservation organization in the world - challenges everyone to try some of these simple actions that can make a big difference.

1. Don't leave the water running. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or washing the car. Fresh water is one of our most precious natural resources.

2. Flick off the light when you leave the room. Power plants burn fuels to create energy for your light bulb. Burning fuel makes smog that pollutes the air and adds to global warming. The less energy you use the less they need to make. Plus you'll save on your energy bill.

3. Print on both sides of the page at work. It's easy to change your printer settings -- you'll use half the paper and save trees.

4. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water. It works just as well as hot in your washing machine and cuts back on energy use.

5. Ditch the paper cups. Bring in a glass to keep at work instead of using the paper ones by the water cooler.

6. Use the right settings on your appliances. Many appliances, like your dishwasher and refrigerator, come with energy-saving settings. Make sure they're turned on.

7. Turn off your computer at the end of the day. A monitor left on overnight uses enough energy to print 5,300 copies.

8. Give your loose change to an environmental charity. After checkout at the supermarket, instead of tossing the coins into your pocket drop them into a Coinstar Center(r) to donate to WWF. Just select the "donate" option from the menu and choose WWF as the charity. There's probably a machine right in the store so it's an easy stop on your way out.

9. Pay attention to labels. Buy paper items with the "recycled" emblem over the ones without. Also, look for the Energy Star symbol when buying new appliances.

10. Sign up for an e-newsletter. Get updates on environmental issues and solutions emailed to you and glance through at your leisure. The WWF e-newsletter is easy to sign up for and comes out once a month, so it won't crowd your inbox. Visit http://www.worldwildlife.org  to sign up now.

For more information on World Wildlife Fund and how you can make a difference this Earth Day and every day, visit http://www.worldwildlife.org  for their special Earth Day coverage.

About World Wildlife Fund

World Wildlife Fund is the largest conservation organization in the world. For 45 years, WWF has worked to save endangered species, protect endangered habitats, and address global threats such as deforestation, overfishing, and climate change. Known worldwide by its panda logo, WWF works in 100 countries on more than 2,000 conservation programs. WWF has 1.2 million members in the United States and nearly five million supporters worldwide. For more information on WWF, visit http://www.worldwildlife.org
Nanostars!

Metallic structures with typical dimensions below the
wavelength of light are expected to show dramatic local
enhancement of the electromagnetic field strength. In this
project, triangular metallic structures of varying shape are
fabricated by using colloidal monolayers as masks. The near-
field optical resonances of the resulting structures is studied
experimentally and theoretically by a finite-element model
calculation. Optimised coupling of incident light to a highly
localised spot and defined placement of a chromophore is
envisaged. (Max Kreiter and Heiko Rochholz)
Rice University News Release

April 18, 2006 - New optics research from Rice University's Laboratory for Nanophotonics suggests that tiny gold particles called nanostars could become powerful chemical sensors.

The findings are available online and due to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Nano Letters.

Nanophotonics is a rapidly growing field of study that looks at ways to generate and manipulate light using ultrasmall, engineered structures. The virus-sized nanostars, so named because of their spiky surface, are one of a growing number of intricately shaped particles that are increasingly drawing the attention of experts at LANP and other leading photonics labs.

"Just a few years ago, everyone's attention was on the size of nanoparticles because altering size was a straightforward way to change the wavelength of light that the particle reacted with," said lead researcher Jason Hafner, associate director of LANP and assistant professor of physics and astronomy and of chemistry. "Today, researchers are increasingly interested in intricate shapes and the specific ways that those shapes affect a particle's interaction with light."

Most nanophotonic research at LANP involves the study of plasmons, waves of electrons that flow like a fluid across metal surfaces.

Light can be used to amplify plasmon waves on metal nanoparticles. Like a child in a bathtub, rhythmically building waves until they slosh out of the tub, the plasmons on the particles dramatically amplified with wavelengths of light that correspond to the rhythm of the electron waves. The study of plasmonics is one of the fastest growing fields in optics because it could prove useful for a wide range of applications in biological sensing, microelectronics, chemical detection, medical technology and others.

"LANP is building a broad-based plasmonics research program at Rice, and our recent cutting-edge work on novel structures like nanostars and nanorice is a clear indication of leadership we're building in this field," said LANP Director Naomi Halas, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of chemistry.

Nanostars incorporate some of the best properties of oft-studied photonic particles like nanorods and quantum dots. For example, they deliver strong spectral peaks that are easy to distinguish with relatively low-cost detectors. But Hafner's team found unique properties too. A painstaking analysis revealed that each spike on a nanostar has a unique spectral signature, and preliminary tests show that these signatures can be used to discern the three-dimensional orientation of the nanostar, which could open up new possibilities for 3-D molecular sensing.

"We are just getting started with our follow-up work, but nanostars clearly offer some exciting possibilities," said Hafner, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and of chemistry. "Their extreme sensitivity to the local dielectric environment is a particularly attractive quality for molecular sensing."

Co-authors of the study include physics and astronomy graduate student Colleen Nehl and chemistry graduate student Hongwei Liao. The research was supported by the Army Research Office, the National Science Foundation and the Welch Foundation.

Rice University - http://media.rice.edu

Magellanic Space Gemstones!

Credit: ESA / NASA / Davide de Martin / Edward W. Olszewski
ESA/Hubble Information Centre News Release

April 18, 2006 - Hubble has captured the most detailed images to date of the open star clusters NGC 265 and NGC 290 in the Small Magellanic Cloud - two sparkling sets of gemstones in the southern sky.

Two new composite images taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys onboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope show a myriad of stars in crystal clear detail. The brilliant open star clusters, NGC 265 and NGC 290, are located about 200,000 light-years away and are roughly 65 light-years across.

Star clusters can be held together tightly by gravity, as is the case with densely packed crowds of hundreds of thousands of stars, called globular clusters. Or, they can be more loosely bound, irregularly shaped groupings of up to several thousands of stars, like the open clusters shown in this image.

The stars in these open clusters are all relatively young and were born from the same cloud of interstellar gas. Just as old school-friends drift apart after graduation, the stars in an open cluster will only remain together for a limited time and gradually disperse into space, pulled away by the gravitational tugs of other passing clusters and clouds of gas. Most open clusters dissolve within a few hundred million years, whereas the more tightly bound globular clusters can exist for many billions of years.

Open star clusters make excellent astronomical laboratories. The stars may have different masses, but all are at about the same distance, move in the same general direction, and have approximately the same age and chemical composition. They can be studied and compared to find out more about stellar evolution, the ages of such clusters, and much more.

The Small Magellanic Cloud, which hosts the two star clusters, is the smaller of the two companion dwarf galaxies of the Milky Way named after the Portuguese seafarer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521). It can be seen with the unaided eye as a hazy patch in the constellation Tucana (the Toucan) in the Southern Hemisphere. Both the Small and the Large Magellanic Clouds are rich in gas nebulae and star clusters. It is most likely that these irregular galaxies have been disrupted through repeated interactions with the Milky Way, resulting in the vigorous star-forming activity seen throughout the clouds. NGC 265 and NGC 290 may very well owe their existence to these close encounters with the Milky Way.

The images were taken in October and November 2004 through F435W, F555W, and F814W filters (shown in blue, green and red, respectively).

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Hubble - http://www.spacetelescope.org
Breast Implants Cancer-free

Before...
Vanderbilt University Medical Center News Release

April 19, 2006 - The longest follow-up study to date of cancer incidence among women with silicone breast implants shows having implants does not put women at an increased risk for cancer, in fact, breast implants were actually shown to be associated with a decreased breast cancer risk.

That's according to research led by Joseph McLaughlin, Ph.D., cancer epidemiologist with the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the International Epidemiology Institute, and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Their research will appear in the April 19, 2006 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

McLaughlin and colleagues studied 3,486 Swedish women who had cosmetic breast implantation for the first time from 1965 to 1993 using data collected from the Swedish Inpatient Register and Cancer Register, among other extensive records collected in Sweden.

"They have the best cancer registries in the world, going back almost 50 years," said McLaughlin.

He followed women over an average of more than 18 years, but some were tracked for up to 40 years. "It is the longest follow-up of women with breast implants for cancer incidence seen in the literature.


...and after...

It includes more than 2,200 women who were followed for 15 years or more after breast implantation and over 700 women who were followed for at least 25 years."

McLaughlin said he was not surprised to find that the women with implants had a decreased risk of breast cancer. "They tend to be thin, have smaller breasts, have children at a younger age, and all of these things are associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer," he said.

Women in the study did show an increased risk for lung cancer, but McLaughlin attributes the outcome to the number of women with implants who are smokers, rather than any effects from the implants. "Women in Sweden who have breast implants smoke much more than the general population."

McLaughlin said the take home message is women with breast implants should not be concerned about an increased risk for cancer. "This is one in a series of reassuring study results that shows there is no credible evidence to indicate an excess risk of any form of cancer due to breast implantation."

The study was funded by the International Epidemiology Institute, which received funds from the Dow Corning Corporation; however McLaughlin said they were not involved in any aspect of the study design, data collection or analysis or interpretation of the results.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center - http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/reporter

Rape Myths Persist
ENOLA PA April 19, 2006 (US Newswire) - Karen Baker, director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), responded to recent media attention of the rape case involving the Duke University Lacrosse Team.

"I am concerned that public opinion surrounding this case is essentially elevating rape myths and innuendo, and increasing confusion. Rape is a devastating crime that deserves thoughtful deliberation and a clear understanding of the facts."

On March 13, 2006, a North Carolina mother and student reported being raped by three members of the Duke University Lacrosse Team at a party; the team had hired the student to dance at this party. Since that date, media and public interest in the case escalated.

Monika Johnson-Hostler, executive director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault also expressed concern over the recent coverage of this case.

"The public discussion in the media of this case demonstrates fairly widespread misunderstandings of the real facts about sexual assault, DNA, trauma, the role of alcohol, 'date rape drugs' and a host of other facts. It shows how deeply imbedded certain myths are about this crime. Sexual assault experts and advocates have for years tried to dispel these rape myths."

Johnson-Hostler points particularly to a range of possible explanations for the victims' seemingly drugged or drunk condition as a result of the party.

"Public speculation about the condition of the victim suggests that she was very drunk and that that in some way justified the rape. The reality is that trauma could explain such a state; and 'date rape drugs' can cause serious impairment of consciousness; some of these drugs act very quickly and powerfully, and then the effects may wear off within a few hours."

Johnson-Hostler said, "alcohol use by a victim or an offender is never an excuse for sexual assault, and in cases where a victim is drunk, she is clearly unable to give consent -- so, it is still sexual assault. I think there is too much attention and speculation about the condition of the victim. Alcohol is never an excuse or justification for rape.

Baker adds, "I am also concerned about some of the misunderstanding regarding DNA evidence in rape cases. The vast majority of rape cases do not have DNA evidence and in many of these cases, the only evidence there is comes from the identification of the perpetrator by the victim."

Baker says "the NSVRC hopes that media will turn to the sexual assault experts and advocates for information and facts about sexual violence. Rape is a serious, traumatic crime. Victims should be believed, not re-victimized by misinformation and speculations. Then, let the criminal justice system judge the case."

The NSVRC is a national information and resource center relating to all aspects of sexual violence. It collects and disseminates a wide range of resources on sexual violence including statistics, research, position statements, statutes, training curricula, prevention initiatives and program information. The NSVRC assists coalitions, local programs, advocates and others working to end and prevent sexual violence.

For additional information, visit http://www.nsrvc.org  or call toll free 877-739-3895.

The NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault is a statewide alliance working to end sexual violence through education, advocacy and legislation. NCCASA provides training and resource information to rape crisis centers, law enforcement, sexual assault nurse examiners, students and others working to end sexual violence.

For additional information, visit http://www.nccasa.org  or call toll free 888-732-2272.
Paint-on Laser Could Rescue Computer Chip Industry
University of Toronto News Release
By Nicolle Wahl

April 19, 2006 - Researchers at the University of Toronto have created a laser that could help save the $200-billion dollar computer chip industry from a looming crisis dubbed the “interconnect bottleneck.”

But this isn’t a laser in the stereotypical sense — no corded, clunky boxes projecting different coloured lights. In fact, Professor Ted Sargent, of the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, carries a small vial of the paint used to make this laser in his briefcase — it looks like diluted ink.

Lasers that can produce coherent infrared light in the one to two nanometre wavelength range are essential in telecommunications, biomedical diagnosis and optical sensing. The speed and density of computer chips has risen exponentially over the years, and within 15 to 20 years the industry is expected to reach a point where components can’t get any faster. But the interconnect bottleneck — the point where microchips reach their capacity — is expected sometime around 2010.

To tackle this problem, Sargent, a Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology, created the new laser using colloidal quantum dots — nanometre-sized particles of semiconductor that are suspended in a solvent like the particles in paint. “We’ve made a laser that can be smeared onto another material,” says Sargent. “This is the first paint-on semiconductor laser to produce the invisible colours of light needed to carry information through fiber-optics. The infrared light could, in the future, be used to connect microprocessors on a silicon computer chip.” A study describing the laser was published in the April 17 issue of the journal Optics Express.

According to Sjoerd Hoogland, a post-doctoral fellow and the first author of the paper, “this laser could help us to keep feeding the information-hungry Internet generation.” The laser’s most remarkable feature was its simplicity. “I made the laser by dipping a miniature glass tube in the paint and then drying it with a hairdryer,” he said. “Once the right nanoparticles are made, the procedure takes about five minutes.”

The microchip industry is looking for components that exist on the scale of transistors and are made of semiconductors, which would produce light when exposed to electrical current. With this development, it could be possible to use the electronics already found on microchips to power a laser that communicates within the chip itself.

“We crystallized precisely the size of the nanoparticles that would tune the colour of light coming from the laser. We chose nanoparticle size, and thus colour, the way a guitarist chooses frets to select the pitch of the instrument,” Hoogland said. “Optical data transfer relies on light in the infrared—beams of light 1.5 micrometers in wavelength travel farthest in glass. We made our particles just the right size to generate laser light at exactly this wavelength.”

Lionel C. Kimerling, Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Science and director of the Microphotonics Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reviewed the work. “The wavelength and the thermal budget of the Toronto laser are very appealing for applications in optical interconnects,” Kimerling says. “The performance is excellent, particularly the temperature insensitivity of the output wavelength.”

The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) under its NanoIP (Nano Innovation Platform) Initiative, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Province of Ontario and the Canada Research Chairs program.

University of Toronto - http://www.news.utoronto.ca

Virtual Ancient American Earthworks On Tour!

Birds-eye view of how the earthworks at Marietta,
Ohio, might have looked before the town grew up
around them. (UC)

University of Cincinnati News Release

April 19, 2006 - The Midwest’s immense earthworks, structures built by ancient Native American cultures, have been all but lost to plow and pavement. No longer. An ambitious effort by the University of Cincinnati has rebuilt the mounds of two millennia ago. These virtual earthworks will soon be set to travel.

Native American cultures that once flourished in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia constructed geometric and animal-shaped earth works that often rivaled Stonehenge in their astronomical accuracy.

A few are still extant – Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio, for example – but most of the region’s ancient architecture was all but squandered.

Earthworks, from as early as 600 BC that stretched over miles and rose to heights of 15 feet or more, were either gouged out or plowed under in the 19th century or paved over for development in the 20th.


Seip Earthworks in Ross County, Ohio, once held
elaborate tombs. (UC)

But now, this lost heritage from the Adena, Hopewell and Fort Ancient cultures is returning in the form of a traveling exhibit that will include virtual reconstructions of earthworks from 39 sites. The electronic recreations represent nearly ten years of work by an extensive team of architects, archaeologists, historians, technical experts and Native Americans. Project director is John Hancock, professor of architecture at the University of Cincinnati, working in partnership with the Center for the Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS) at the University of Cincinnati. The title of the project and the coming traveling exhibit is: “EarthWorks: Virtual Explorations of the Ancient Ohio Valley.”

The “EarthWorks” reconstructions will be the centerpiece within a 500-square-foot traveling exhibit which will also include a graphic timeline wall with cross cultural comparisons; a giant map wall of the Ohio River Valley (from the approximate location of Pittsburgh to Louisville) indicating placement of Native American earthworks; panels with diagrams, photos and text; and 3-D topographic models of five earthwork sites. The exhibit opens June 20, 2006, at the Cincinnati Museum Center. It remains at the museum center till Sept. 7, 2006. Later venues include the Ohio Historical Center, Columbus, opening on Sept. 30, 2006. Discussion are now underway for later exhibits in the state and nation.

Set amid the physical elements of the exhibit, the 3-D virtual reconstructions by Hancock and his team recreate the earthworks for school children and scholars alike. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a large screen on which the 3-D explorations of “EarthWorks” by a user at the touch-screen computer can be shared with a larger audience. Virtual exploration of a gallery of period artifacts is also possible at two stand-alone kiosk stations.


Shaman figure found at the Newark
earthworks in Licking County, Ohio.
The shaman is wearing a bear skin. (UC)

The project is built upon archaeological data gleaned from such modern technology as sensing devices and aerial photography as well as frontier maps and other aids provided by archaeologists to re-establish the location, size, shape and appearance of many of the region’s earthworks. Then, using architectural software and high-resolution computer modeling and animation, the UC-led team virtually rebuilt these massive structures and further created animated, interactive, narrated “tours” among them..

Funding for the traveling exhibit has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In all, the NEH has provided close to $500,000 for the project. Additional development support over the years has come from the Ohio Board of Regents, the Ohio Humanities Council, the Ohio Arts Council, the George Fund Foundation, and in-kind donations from the University of Cincinnati. Add up all funding and in-kind donations, and project support totals around $1.5 million.

Detailed explanation of “EarthWorks” and the Native American cultural achievements it targets - http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=3760

An inventory of the virtually rebuilt sites as well as other Adena, Hopewell and Fort Ancient cultural sites treated in “EarthWorks” - http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=3769

Cultural topics explored within the context of “EarthWorks” - http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=3784

“EarthWorks” components: Traveling exhibit, DVD to take home, Web site - http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=3801

Permanent exhibits of regional segments in the “EarthWorks” project - http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=3803

The technology of “EarthWorks” - http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=3804

“EarthWorks” team members - http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=3817

Previous projects by CERHAS (Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites) at the University of Cincinnati - http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.asp?id=3831

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