Saturday, January 19, 2008

Louis J Sheehan Esquire 30085

Scientists longing to sneak a peek at the molecular machinery of living cells came one step closer to that goal in March with the creation of lenses that break the limits of current light microscopy.

Electron microscopes can already capture the realm of the supersmall, but the sample preparation and imaging conditions make it impossible to observe live cells. Optical microscopes are great for viewing living samples, but their resolution is limited by the properties of light. Now two teams of researchers have devised unconventional lenses that could capture the nanoworld without killing it.

One group, led by Xiang Zhang of the University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, created a “hyperlens” that bends light in a way no ordinary material can. “Natural materials prevent some of the waves from coming through to the camera,” Zhang says. “You lose certain kinds of waves, called evanescent waves, which don’t travel far. That blurs the image.” But the layered structure of his half-cylinder-shaped hyperlens preserves these evanescent waves, allowing incredibly tiny objects to be resolved.
The second team, led by Igor Smolyaninov at the University of Maryland, created a “superlens” with concentric rings of acrylic on a gold film surface. The lens can be used to see objects on the scale of small viruses. “If we’re successful in this work,” Smolyaninov says, “we will hopefully be able to visualize what is going on inside cells.”

When the dinosaurs died out some 65 million years ago, many perished in the exact same iconic pose: neck, spine, and tail curved backward, mouth open, limbs contracted. The reason for this characteristic dino death pose has been unclear. Conventional wisdom held that the dead dinos’ pose was struck when the muscles contracted under rigor mortis or because the dinos’ tendons and ligaments had dried up, suggesting that their bodies had been exposed to the sun for a long time. But if so, why hadn’t the bones been scattered by scavengers?

Now the answer is coming from the corpses of some modern-day birds and mammals, which look very similar when they have died under certain specific conditions. The connection was never made before because paleontologists rarely see dead parrots. But veterinarians do. And luckily, Cynthia Marshall Faux is both—with doctorates in veterinary medicine as well as geology (with a specialty in vertebrate paleontology).

It was clear to Faux that the dinosaurs’ pose was a sign of opisthotonos, a condition that results from an injury affecting the cerebellum, which regulates fine muscle movement. While working at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, Faux collaborated with Kevin Padian, a professor of integrative biology and curator of the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California at Berkeley, to make her argument: Brain injury during death, not later rigor mortis, explains the typical look of dino fossils. “Paleontologists are familiar with dead things,” says Faux, who is a vet in Idaho. “But I know about dying things. I see animals die all the time. I see the process, not just the result.”

Adding to the intrigue is that opisthotonos is usually seen in warm-blooded animals like birds and mammals but not reptiles. Faux’s paper on opisthotonos, published in March, rethinks dinosaurs not just as having died for reasons other than meteor impacts and volcanic eruptions but also advances the argument that these creatures may have had hot blood pumping through their veins.

Darwinian natural selection is at work among the communities living in the Tibetan mountains, according to Case Western Reserve University anthropologist Cynthia Beall. She reported at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists meeting in March that women who carry more oxygen in their blood have more than twice as many surviving children as women who carry less oxygen. “We determined that the strength of natural selection at altitude was even stronger than the strength of natural selection by falciparum malaria, and that is the classic example,” Beall said.

Women who carry at least one copy of a gene variant, or allele, that codes for high oxygen saturation had 125 percent more surviving children than those who carry two copies of a low-saturation allele. By contrast, women who carry a sickle-cell allele, which protects against malaria, have only about 50 percent more surviving children in malaria-infested regions than women lacking the variant.

Beall’s team hasn’t yet identified the gene that provides such protection, but that’s next on her agenda. In the meantime, she thinks the reason the selective difference at altitude is so large is that the altitude is constant, affecting people every day. Malaria, on the other hand, ebbs and flows over time, so the physiological benefits associated with the sickle-cell allele may be tempered.

The mass of the new-found "X" particle which scientists have been discovering in cosmic ray research may not have a fixed value, says Dr. Seth H. Neddermeyer of the California Institute of Technology.

Dr. Neddermeyer is a colleague of Dr. Carl Anderson and worked with him when the latter made the discovery of the positron for which he received the Nobel Prize award. The team of Anderson and Neddermeyer, too, made the initial discoveries of the "X" particle, whose mass appears to be intermediate between that of the electron and the proton.

"There are . . . reasons for believing that the mass (of the X particle) may not be unique and that many masses, ranging from a few times the electron mass up to very large values, may exist," says Dr. Neddermeyer's report, in part.

By theory, explains Dr. Neddermeyer, photons of radiant energy create pairs of particles—positive and negative in electrical sign—in their rush through the atmosphere on their way to Earth. The energy and mass possessed by these new particles, which are the offspring of dying photons, are variable, postulates Dr. Neddermeyer. Thus many different masses might be observed, depending on the energy possessed by the original photon that creates them.

The point is that particles can have two kinds of mass; the so-called rest mass and a mass due to motion. Theoretically, at least, a particle moving with the speed of light should have an infinitely large mass.

The second kind of mass, which varies with the speed of the particle, was observed in the present experiments.

Tusks scattered on the frozen shore of Siberia opposite Alaska may mean that Soviet scientists will some day add more complete specimens of the extinct hairy mammoth to the two bodies already found, Tass, Soviet news agency, reported.

Detailed information on the body, the second one to be found, reached Moscow. It revealed that this hairy mammoth, as it existed thousands of years ago, was in the neighborhood of 18 feet long, had a trunk more than 9 feet long and hair more than 3 inches long.

Like the first specimen found, the second body, which was uncovered last October, was partially damaged by wild animals. The head, one leg, and a part of the trunk have been partly eaten away. Otherwise, the body is intact, preserved through the ages in the frozen earth of the north, as effective an icebox as man has devised.

The tusks of the specimen found have not yet been located, but they may be under its body, which has not yet been removed from the pebbly ground. Next spring, when the sea in this area is clear of ice, soundings of the coastal zone will be taken to see if a ship can approach the shore to take on board the find.

UFO investigators flock to Stephenville, Texas!

A team of six investigators from the Mutual UFO Network will be interviewing citizens of Stephenville, Texas who say they spotted an Unidentified Flying Object at sunset on January 8th.

The Mutual UFO Network is a non-governmental group interested in documenting UFO's. State director Ken Cherry says the network has received calls from 50 citizens who say they witnessed the UFO and that the number and credibility of the people is exceptional.

The rural Texas town has attracted world wide attention after the sightings. The Local Newspaper, the "Stephenville Empire-Tribune" has received calls from as far away as Finland and Japan as people remain fascinated about the reports of a giant bright object in the sky that witnesses say was a mile long.

It remains the talk of the town and the Stephenville High School Science Club is now selling T-shirts to cash in on the craze.

Stephenville prides itself on being the dairy capital of Texas and the shirts that sell for ten dollars have a picture of a Holstein cow being beamed up to a flying saucer.

More than 30 residents of Stephenville, Texas, claim to have seen a UFO, described as a mile-wide, silent object with bright lights, flying low and fast. And now it's actual front-page news. So what was it?

"It was very intense, bright lights," said local newspaper reporter Angela Joyner.

"The lights were like going like this," said Constable Leroy Gateman making hand gestures to describe what he saw when he spotted the UFO.

Rick Sorrells says he saw it while he was hunting deer in the woods.

"You look at the trees, and it was right here," Sorrells told ABC News correspondent Mike Von Fremd as he showed him the location in the woods where he spotted the UFO.

Steve Allen, a 50-year-old pilot, was at a campfire with friends and says the object was a mile long and half a mile wide. "I don't know if it was a biblical experience or somebody from a different universe or whatever but it was definitely not from around these parts," Allen said.

Allen drew a sketch of the object, which he said traveled at amazing speed without making a sound. While drawing, Allen told Von Fremd that he saw "an arch shape converted in a vertical shape, and then it split and made two of them, and then these turned into just fire and it was gone."

A spokesman for the 301st Fighter Wing in Fort Worth says no aircraft from his base was in the area, and says the objects may have been an illusion caused by two commercial airplanes. But those who saw the lights don't buy that explanation.

"It's an unidentified flying object," insisted a former Air Force technician.

"It was so fast I couldn't track it with my binoculars," said Gateman.

Constable Leroy Gateman describes what he saw in the sky.

Some in Stephenville are a bit embarrassed about all the attention. "It's crazy," said one teenage girl in town.

"A lot of folks aren't used to this kind of thing. They are not UFO nuts or anything like that around here," said City Councilman Mark Murphy.

Like it or not, all eyes are now trained on the sky over Stephenville to see whether any mysterious flying objects make a return.

Cue the Twilight Zone theme ... Dozens of people say they saw a UFO hovering over their rural community near Stephenville, Texas. The Stephenville Empire-Tribune says at least 40 people have reported sightings of the object, which reportedly appeared in the sky just after 6 p.m. on Jan. 8.

Lee Roy Gaitan, a local police officer, tells the newspaper: I was outside with my eight-year-old son, Ryan, when I saw lights. It was like nothing I've ever seen before. It was dark already. At first it was two red burning glows that went away and then came back on. I went inside to tell my wife. When I came back out I saw something like lights you'd see in a bar. My little boy and I counted and we came up with nine flashes and they were real spread out. But I couldn't see them attached to anything, just the lights. So I went to my pickup and got my binoculars to see if I could see a plane or something. Even with the binoculars there was no outline. It started moving towards Stephenville and moving so fast I had trouble following it with my binoculars. It covered a big area. It sounds crazy but we really saw what we saw.

The paper has more eyewitness accounts, including this one from pilot Steve Allen: The ship wasn't really visible and was totally silent, but the lights spanned about a mile long and a half mile wide. The lights went from corner to corner. It was directly above Highway 67 traveling towards Stephenville at a high rate of speed - about 3,000 mph is what I would estimate.

Chuck Mueller, a helicopter pilot who served in Iraq, says he saw unusual lights on the horizon a few days after the UFO sightings were reported near Stephenville.

Mueller tells KXAS-TV that he was flying a medical helicopter around dusk when "we saw the lights come on, one little orange light, and then another one and another one in sequence across the sky." He was shocked at first, but then concluded that the lights, which appeared to be more than 30 miles northeast of the original sightings, were coming from flares that were dropped over the Brownwood Military Operations Area.

There's just one problem with that theory. The NBC station says the military didn't have any planes in the air at the time of the original sightings.

A spokesman for the 301st Fighter Wing at the Joint Reserve Base Naval Air Station tells the Associated Press that he's convinced there's a logical explanation for the lights. "I'm 90 percent sure this was an airliner," Maj. Karl Lewis tells the wire service. "With the sun's angle, it can play tricks on you."

The sightings are big news in rural Texas. The top item on the Stephenville Empire-Tribune's website tells readers where to report a UFO sighting and, below that, the paper notes that a local businessman is offering a $5,000 reward for "video that would confirm a UFO sighting in Selden on Jan. 8."

They're also big news around the world. "The reported sightings have become a catalyst on blogs and in chat rooms, triggering scientific and philosophical debates, religious inquiries, conspiracy charges and bad Texas jokes," the Star-Telegram reports.

The Mutual UFO Network is holding a meeting this weekend for people who saw the object. The non-profit group says its investigators will begin taking statements at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The Star-Telegram says this isn't the first time people in that part of the state have reported seeing strange things in the sky. Back in 1897, a Stephenville man told The Dallas Morning News that a 60-foot-long "aerial monster" landed on his farm.

Faster than a speeding bullet — and bigger than a Wal-Mart.

That's how residents near the west Texas town of Stephenville described an object they spotted in the sky one night last week.

Dozens of the town's residents — including a pilot and a police officer — said a UFO hovered over the farming community for about five minutes last Tuesday before streaking away into the night sky.

Pilot Steve Allen saw the object when he was out clearing brush off a hilltop near the town of Silden. Allen described the unidentified object as being an enormous aircraft with flashing strobe lights — and it was totally silent.

He said the UFO sped away at more than 3,000 mph, followed by two fighter jets that were hopelessly outmaneuvered. Allen said it took the aircraft just a few seconds to cross a section of sky that it takes him 20 minutes to fly in his Cessna.

The veteran pilot said the UFO, an estimated half-mile wide and a mile long, was "bigger than a Wal-Mart."

Military Dismisses Sighting

The Stephenville Empire-Tribune, which has written about the mysterious object, said about 40 people saw the thing — though some were too sheepish to admit the sighting until others came forward.

Police officer Leroy Gatin said he was walking to his car when he saw a red glow that reminded him of pictures he'd seen of an erupting volcano.

He said the object was suspended 3,000 feet in the air. Gatin said he was so awestruck that he called his son to come and see — but he didn't talk much about it until he saw a story about a UFO in the local paper.

Military officials, however, were skeptical. They said the residents are letting their imaginations run wild and passed it off as an optical illusion. They said it was likely nothing more than a reflection of sunlight on two airliners.

Officials at a nearby air force base also said their fighter pilots didn't chase down anything that night.

The incident was eerily similar to a UFO sighting a little more than a year ago at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

As many as 12 United Airlines employees spotted the object and filed reports with United.

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