Saturday, February 16, 2008


Using a cosmic magnifying glass to peer into the deepest reaches of space, two teams of astronomers have discovered tiny galaxies that may be among the most distant known. Images suggest that one of the galaxies is so remote that the light now reaching Earth left this starlit body when the 13.7-billion-year-old universe was only about 700 million years old.

LONG AGO, FAR AWAY. Gravity of the cluster Abell 1689 acts as a gravitational lens, bending into arcs and magnifying the light from remote background galaxies. One galaxy appears so remote that it doesn't show up in visible light but only in the infrared.

The discoveries are important, notes Tim Heckman of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, because they probe a special time in the universe, when the cosmos changed from a place filled with neutral gas to a place ionized by the emergence of the first substantial population of stars and black holes. Studies of distant galaxies help pinpoint when that critical era happened.

All of the galaxies are so small that even the keen eye of the Hubble Space Telescope couldn't have spotted them without nature providing a gravitational assist. According to Einstein's theory of general relativity, a massive foreground body acts like a lens, bending and magnifying light from a more remote galaxy that lies along the same line of sight to Earth.

That's why Garth Illingworth and Rychard Bouwens of the University of California, Santa Cruz and their colleagues went hunting for distant galaxies around a nearby cluster of galaxies called Abell 1689.

The cluster's gravity distorts images of background galaxies, bending them into arcs and magnifying their brightness. One of these galaxies proved especially intriguing because it appeared bright at several infrared wavelengths recorded by Hubble but disappeared in visible light.

That's a sign that the galaxy, dubbed A1689-zD1, is both extraordinarily distant and youthful. The data also indicate that the galaxy forms stars at a rate equivalent to five suns a year, typical of the small galaxies thought to be common in the early universe, says Bouwens.

The researchers don't have a spectrum for the galaxy and therefore can't be sure of its distance, but they calculate in an upcoming Astrophysical Journal paper that the galaxy most likely lies 13 billion light-years from Earth and has a redshift of 7.6. That redshift signifies that cosmic expansion has stretched the wavelengths emitted by the galaxy by a factor of 8.6.

"The reason we are excited about this [galaxy] is that we can look at it in great detail because of the factor of 10 gravitational amplification by the foreground cluster," Bouwens says. A1689-zD1 is the brightest known galaxy that's likely to be extremely distant, his team notes.

The Hubble images show several dense clumps, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. Follow-up images, taken at longer infrared wavelengths with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, provide additional evidence that the galaxy is remote and also yield a more accurate measurement of the galaxy's mass.

"It looks pretty convincing" that A1689-zD1 is remote, but proof may require spectra taken by Hubble's proposed successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, Heckman says.

In searching for distant galaxies, a second team, which includes Richard Ellis and Johan Richard of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, also surveyed several galaxy clusters. The team found evidence of six distant galaxies, which may lie between 12.9 billion and 13.1 billion light-years from Earth, Richard reported this week at an astrophysics meeting at the Aspen Center for Physics in Colorado. Because the galaxies don't appear as bright—the clusters magnify them by a factor of only two to four—astronomers have less information about these faint bodies than about A1689-zD1, Richard notes.

At first, it may seem like a treat to stay up late—but the next day will be no picnic. There'll be yawning, heavy limbs, and a cranky disposition.

At times like these, the desire to sleep can feel overwhelming.

And it should.

Growing kids need sleep, as do people of all ages. Indeed, research shows that health and safety both suffer when we try to get by with too little shut-eye. So it's fortunate that our bodies do such a good job of alerting us when it's time to hit the sack.

Like people, other animals also take time out to rest. You've probably seen a lion dozing at the zoo, or maybe watched your dog snooze away, curled up in its bed. In fact, sleep is a necessity for every animal that's ever been studied. This includes whales, octopuses—even fruit flies.
How long animals slumber, though, varies widely. Elephants and giraffes sleep only about 2 to 4 hours a day, while bats and opossums may nod off for up to 20 hours. By studying similarities and differences in when and how long various animals sleep, researchers hope to better understand why the need for rest is critical to creatures throughout the animal kingdom.

Getting sleepy? Yawning is just one trait we share with many animals that are tired.

Getting sleepy? Yawning is just one trait we share with many animals that are tired.

What is sleep?

It's obvious what your mom means when she says it's time to go sleep, But how do scientists describe this restful period? When we sleep, our eyes usually close and we lose consciousness. You might even think that your brain shuts down. But it doesn't.

By attaching sensors to the surface of a sleeper's scalp, researchers can listen in on patterns of electrical waves within the brain. Such measurements show that the patterns of these waves change throughout the night as the body alternates between two types of sleep.

In the first type, brain activity slows as the body enters an especially deep sleep. In the second type, known as rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, our eyes flutter rapidly under their lids (hence the name)—and our brains become almost as active as they are when we're awake. This period is also when we dream.

Unlike reptiles, amphibians, and fish, all land mammals and birds experience this type of resting. "REM sleep is quite a mystery," says Jerome Siegel, who studies slumber in animals at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers don't know why people or any other animals do it.

One thing REM-sleeping animals have in common, though, is that they're all relatively intelligent. Researchers wonder if the need for REM sleep, with its buzzing brain activity, has something to do with that.
The need for sleep is important, which is why many animals—including cats and dogs—grab a nap when there's little need for activity.

The need for sleep is important, which is why many animals—including cats and dogs—grab a nap when there's little need for activity.

"We have always joked and used the term 'birdbrain' to indicate that somebody's stupid," says Niels Rattenborg, who studies bird sleep at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany. But birds are better at certain intelligence tests than are some mammals, so perhaps "birdbrain" should be considered a compliment, he says.

On the other hand, Siegel has found that the duck-billed platypus, which isn't a particularly brainy animal, has "spectacular" REM sleep—twitching its bill and legs throughout this stage. And some of the smartest animals—dolphins and whales—experience no REM sleep. So its purpose remains a puzzle.

That's not the only baffling thing about the sleep habits of dolphins and whales. A second mystery is that just half of their brain dozes—and one eye closes—at a time. Keeping partly alert may be one way that these mammals protect themselves in the open ocean, Siegel says: "They have no safe place to sleep."

Ducks do something similar. When sleeping together, the birds on the edge of the group slumber with the outside eye open and half of their brain awake—presumably to keep watch while the other half of their brain snoozes.

Some birds may even sleep while flying. Rattenborg's team has designed instruments to attach to birds that spend most of their life in flight. Using these tools, the scientists will measure the birds' brain waves as the animals fly, looking for signs that they might nap in the air.

The fact that all animals make time for sleeping, even under potentially dangerous circumstances, suggests that sleep must serve a crucial function. And indeed, some evidence suggests that sleep is essential for learning and forming permanent memories.

But sleep may also be primarily a way for animals to save energy and stay out of harm's way, Siegel says. This may help explain why meat-eating critters sleep more than herbivores, which are animals that dine solely on plants. Herbivores like cows and zebras need to spend more time searching for and grazing on food than do meat eaters, such as lions and other big cats. A lion that has just fed on an antelope won't have to eat again for several days. So a big cat might be better off snoozing for a spell after it eats, rather than prowling around and risking injury.

Top predators, like this polar bear, may slumber for a long time after a major meal.

Top predators, like this polar bear, may slumber for a long time after a major meal.

But that's just an educated guess, really, based on a growing number of observations. Scientists need to study the animals they've already looked at in greater detail. And they need to study other animals as well before they can fully understand the benefits of sleep and identify which benefits are most important for a particular species.

One thing is certain: ample slumber is essential to health and learning. So give in when a strong urge to sleep hits, and catch plenty of ZZZ's.

Jupiter’s twin found… 60 light years away!Triple asteroid amateur imageDid salt lick Martian life?AstroShaqCarnival of Space 41XKCD has SETI’s numberGLAST’s rocket arrives at CapeJupiter’s twin found… 60 light years away!
Astronomers have just announced that they have found a near twin of Jupiter orbiting the star HD 154345, a fairly sunlike star about 60 light years away. This is very cool news, and has some pretty big implications for finding another Earth around some distant star.

Finding a planet like this isn’t as easy as it sounds! Finding planets with the same mass as Jupiter isn’t hard; many have been found with even lower mass. The hard part is finding one that is orbiting a sun-like star at the same distance Jupiter orbits our Sun. The closer in a planet is to its star, the easier it is to find: the method used measures how hard the planet’s gravity tugs on its parent star as it orbits; the planet pulls the star around just like the star pulls the planet, and we see this as a change in the velocity of the star toward and away from us (called the radial velocity; Wikipedia has a nice animated GIF for this), and that effect gets bigger with bigger planets, and the closer they orbit.
So we see lots of
superjupiters orbiting close in, and some lighter planets also close to their parent stars. But finding a Jupiter-like planet on an orbit like Jupiter’s, well, that takes a long time to do. Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the Sun, so it would take many observations over many years to detect a planet like that.
But they’ve done it! The team (Jason White, Geoff Marcy, Paul Butler, and Steven Vogt) have been using the monster 10-meter Keck telescope for ten years, observing HD 154345. This star is a lot like the Sun (it’s a G8, and the Sun is a G0 G2, meaning it’s a little smaller, lower mass, and cooler than the Sun). The planet (called HD 154345b) has a mass of no less than 0.95 times that of Jupiter, and orbits the star 4.2 AU out — 1 AU is the Earth-Sun distance, and Jupiter’s orbit is about 5.2 AU from the Sun. The planet takes a little over 9 years to orbit the star, and the orbit is circular.

This makes HD 154345b the first true Jupiter analog discovered. It’s a tremendous achievement!
So why is this important?
The superjupiters in tight orbits that have been discovered probably didn’t form that close to their stars; it’s a tough environment to form a big planet. The commonly accepted theory is that a planet like that forms farther out from the star and migrates closer in over millions of years, probably due to friction from the disk of gas and dust from which it formed.
Now imagine: you’re a planet that’s about the size of Earth, orbiting your star at about the same distance Earth is from the Sun. You’re pretty happy, thinking that in a few hundred million years, things’ll cool off, you’ll form oceans, and continents, and life. But then, hey, what’s that? Oh, it’s a planet with 5000 times your mass, headed right for you! When it passes you by, its tremendous gravity either drops you into the star, or ejects you right out of the system!
So we don’t think that the stars that have close-in massive planets will have Earth-like planets. It may be that the only solar systems with planets like Earth will have their Jupiter analogs orbiting farther out, where they can’t hurt the smaller planets.
And hey, that’s just what we have here!
So, does HD 154345 have a blue-green ball orbiting it as well? These observations can’t say; they are only sensitive enough to find the Jupiter-like planet (and they can’t rule out planets farther out either). It might, or it might not. But here’s an interesting point: the system is probably about 2 billion years old. By that age, the Earth was already teeming with microscopic life. Provocative, eh?
I expect that future missions will spend quite a bit of time peering at this system. As of right now, it holds a lot of promise for those of us hoping that one day we’ll find another Earth.

Did salt lick Martian life?
Scientists working to see if Mars ever had life have concentrated, of course, on looking for water. It appears to have been abundant on Mars a long time ago, but what was it like?

On Earth, water can be pure, or salty, or laden with minerals and metals. On Mars, the presence of minerals like jarosite indicate that at least in some spots, Martian water was high in minerals, with a corresponding high acidity. That’s bad enough, but now evidence from the rover Opportunity indicates that the water was also very salty, far higher in salinity than Earth’s oceans.
This has dimmed somewhat the idea of life on Mars, at least lately — meaning, the last few billion years. It’s possible that the water was in better shape to develop life as we know it early on in the history of Mars, but over time, the water got more acidic and more salty. At first blush, this precludes life arising and flourishing on the Red Planet, but I wonder. One scientist said "This tightens the noose on the possibility of life," but I think that’s a hasty conclusion.
Life arose on Earth almost immediately after the asteroid and comet bombardment ceased, just a billion or so years after Earth formed. Conditions then were very different than they are now, and yet here we are. Whatever life started back then, it evolved, adapted. Every corner of the Earth has life in it, from miles down under the surface to pools of chemicals that would kill a human (and most bacteria) instantly. Check out D. radiodurans for a real eye-opener on how tough life can be. I have little doubt our oceans have changed their salinity numerous times over the past 3 billion years, and life adapted.
From this press release, it’s impossible to say how much things have changed on Mars — besides, of course, the loss of its atmosphere, its water, and the drop in temperature. In this case, I mean how the water on Mars changed over time, and how rapidly. If it happened overnight, then sure, it’s not hard to imagine it wiping out all life on the planet. But what if it took, say, a few million years? Life on Earth has survived horrific circumstances in the past. Could any possible Martian life have done the same?

We still have no idea if life ever arose on Mars or not — Mars cooled more rapidly than the Earth did, and so may have had life on it before we did. If any life did form there, it may not be around anymore, and there could be any number of causes. We simply don’t know, and I think it’s way too early in our exploration of the planet to rule anything out.

Cupid is the Roman love god associated with the cherubic archer of Valentine's Day. Cupid is also the fully adult god associated with Psyche in the story of the marriage of Cupid and Psyche, our first record of which comes from the Golden Ass of Apuleius, and was retold in C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. The story of Cupid and Psyche has also interested Jungian psychologists, including Erich Newman and Marie-Louise Von Franz. Cupid is the son of the Roman goddess of love and beauty Venus. The Roman love god is Eros.

In 1957, marketing executive James Vicary claimed that during screenings of the film Picnic, the words “eat popcorn” and “drink Coca-Cola” were flashed on the screen every five seconds for 1/3,000 second—well below the threshold of conscious awareness. Vicary said soda and popcorn sales spiked as a result of what he called “subliminal advertising.”

Psychologists had been studying subliminal messages since the late 19th century. It was Vicary’s ideas, presented in Vance Packard’s 1957 best seller, The Hidden Persuaders, that catapulted the concept of subliminal advertising into the public consciousness. Even though in a 1962 interview with Advertising Age Vicary admitted that the amount of data he’d collected was “too small to be meaningful,” subliminal messages continued to attract public—and commercial—interest.

In 1974, the FCC held hearings about the perceived threat of subliminal advertising and issued a policy statement saying that “subliminal perception” was deceptive and “contrary to the public interest.”

Concerns about subliminal advertising continued for decades. As recently as 2000 during the presidential race, the Republican National Committee ran an ad attacking the policies of Al Gore in which the word rats briefly flashed on the screen. Many suspected subliminal intent, which the ad’s creator denied.

Matthew Erdelyi, a psychology professor at Brooklyn College, says that while Vicary’s methods were controversial, new studies continue to suggest the use of subliminal perception in advertising could be effective. “There’s a lot of interest, but the subject matter is a little bit taboo,” he says. Still, if subliminal messages in advertising have a resurgence in the future, “nobody should be terribly surprised.”

An icy landscape studded with frozen lakes, the wintry terrain of southern Finland appears to be the birthplace of ice skating.

To trace the sport’s origins, researchers studied remnants of bone-and-leather skates found throughout northern Europe and dating to at least 2000 B.C. They re-created these ancient skates and gave them to volunteers, who glided on ice while scientists measured the energy spent. Then the researchers entered findings in a computer program that simulated journeys through five different European regions. For each region, the computer calculated the energy spent by travelers who walked around every lake as opposed to those who skated across them.

In places where lakes are relatively uncommon, like northern Germany, a human making a 10-kilometer trek would have saved two or three percent of his energy by skating across frozen lakes. But in southern Finland, there are so many lakes that those with skates could save as much as 10 percent of their metabolic energy.
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“These tools were used for traveling and to save energy and time when people had to go hunting and fishing,” said Federico Formenti, a human locomotion biomechanist at the University of Oxford and one of the study’s authors. “The energy saved in the southern area of Finland was far greater than the energy saved in any other area,” making it the most likely birthplace of the ice skate.

But the Finns don’t get all the credit, Formenti says. The next big innovation—the more efficient wooden skates with steel blades—likely originated in the Netherlands, where extensive, man-made canals provided new skating opportunities.

Do emotions influence a cancer patient’s prognosis? In one of the largest, longest, and most controlled studies of its kind, researchers investigated whether the emotional state of cancer patients has any relationship to their survival.

University of Pennsylvania psychologist James Coyne and his colleagues followed 1,093 adults, all of whom had advanced head and neck cancer with nonspreading tumors. All patients received standardized medical care through clinical trials run by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG).

At the start of the study, the participants completed a 27-item questionnaire used to evaluate the physical, social, and emotional quality of life in people with cancer and other chronic diseases. Five items targeted emotional state, asking patients to rate, on a scale of 0 to 4, the extent to which statements like “I feel sad” and “I am losing hope in my fight against my illness” had been true for them over the past seven days. The researchers then calculated a score for each person’s initial emotional well-being.

Coyne tracked patients for an average of nine years, until they either dropped out of the study or died. The study reported 646 deaths. Once the records for the participants were complete, researchers analyzed the data. “We were surprised to find absolutely no relationship” between emotion and survival, Coyne says.

The researchers then looked at emotion and survival in greater detail, examining data for the most buoyant optimists, the most despondent individuals, and patients with complicating factors like smoking. In none of these analyses did emotional well-being affect survival. Because the study was so large and long, it gathered far more information than previous investigations of emotion and cancer survival. In smaller studies, Coyne says, it can be difficult to tell whether deaths were related to a factor like emotion or were simply due to chance.

While the huge pool of subjects and the controlled clinical trial conditions give the study statistical heft, Coyne acknowledges a few limitations. Having only people with head and neck cancers in the study eliminates the variability of a group suffering from different forms of the disease, but it also eliminates information about whether patients with other forms of cancer would show the same results. Additionally, patients had to be judged “mentally reliable”—able to follow instructions and keep appointments—in order to qualify for the clinical trials, so their emotional scores might not represent the full spectrum of psychological states among cancer patients.

Coyne says this is the most in-depth study of its kind, and until a study with a similar sample size proves otherwise, he is convinced there is no conclusive relationship between emotional well-being and cancer survival. Many cancer patients struggling to maintain a positive outlook—and fearing that their lives depended on it—have contacted Coyne to express relief that their survival may not be dependent on their emotions. “Having a positive outlook is not going to extend the quantity of life,” Coyne says. “Not everybody is capable of being positive when they have cancer.”

• A 2004 study found that 72 percent of the public and 86 percent of cancer patients believe psychological factors affect cancer survival. Only 26 percent of oncologists agree.
• About 25 percent of breast cancer patients who joined support groups told researchers in a 2005 study that they attended to improve their immune systems.
• Four previous studies indicate that people with better psychological function do survive longer with cancer—but four others suggest that a healthier psychological condition predicts shorter survival time. More than a dozen studies have found no relationship between the two variables.
• A 2007 study found that the emotional, physical, and social questionnaire Coyne used is effective at predicting depression.
• Major depression afflicts about 25 percent of all cancer patients.
• The two clinical trials in Coyne’s study were conducted by the RTOG, which had a $13 million budget in 2007 and is funded by the National Cancer Institute.
• The American Cancer Society cited 1.4 million new cases of cancer in the United States in 2007 and more than 500,000 cancer deaths, with about 11,000 due to head and neck cancer.

While this study attempts to correct factors that muddied previous research, few experts think the question of cancer and emotion is closed. Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel notes that coping strategies are an important part of the picture and that they were not addressed by Coyne’s research. He points to a study of breast cancer patients that provides evidence that survival has to do more with how people deal with emotions than how they feel. (Coyne believes the sample size in that study was inadequate and says larger studies oppose Spiegel’s contention.)

Spiegel says support groups and other therapies might improve outcomes by helping patients manage stress and improve communication with doctors. Coyne acknowledges the possibility that psychological support could affect survival by mechanisms other than emotional well-being but says no methodologically sound study has yet shown a relationship.

In 1957, marketing executive James Vicary claimed that during screenings of the film Picnic, the words “eat popcorn” and “drink Coca-Cola” were flashed on the screen every five seconds for 1/3,000 second—well below the threshold of conscious awareness. Vicary said soda and popcorn sales spiked as a result of what he called “subliminal advertising.”

Psychologists had been studying subliminal messages since the late 19th century. It was Vicary’s ideas, presented in Vance Packard’s 1957 best seller, The Hidden Persuaders, that catapulted the concept of subliminal advertising into the public consciousness. Even though in a 1962 interview with Advertising Age Vicary admitted that the amount of data he’d collected was “too small to be meaningful,” subliminal messages continued to attract public—and commercial—interest.

In 1974, the FCC held hearings about the perceived threat of subliminal advertising and issued a policy statement saying that “subliminal perception” was deceptive and “contrary to the public interest.”

Concerns about subliminal advertising continued for decades. As recently as 2000 during the presidential race, the Republican National Committee ran an ad attacking the policies of Al Gore in which the word rats briefly flashed on the screen. Many suspected subliminal intent, which the ad’s creator denied.

Matthew Erdelyi, a psychology professor at Brooklyn College, says that while Vicary’s methods were controversial, new studies continue to suggest the use of subliminal perception in advertising could be effective. “There’s a lot of interest, but the subject matter is a little bit taboo,” he says. Still, if subliminal messages in advertising have a resurgence in the future, “nobody should be terribly surprised.”

We report the anticarcinogenic, anti-aging polyphenol resveratrol activates the radio- and chemo-inducible cancer gene therapy vector Ad.Egr.TNF, a replication-deficient adenovirus that expresses human tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) under control of the Egr-1 promoter. Like ionizing radiation or chemotherapeutic agents previously shown to activate Ad.Egr.TNF, resveratrol also induces Egr-1 expression from its chromosomal locus with a possible role for Egr-1 promoter CC(A+T)richGG sequences in the expression of TNF-alpha. Resveratrol induction of TNF-alpha in Ad.Egr.TNF-infected tumor xenografts demonstrated antitumor response in human and rat tumor models comparable to that of radio- or chemotherapy-induced TNF-alpha. Although sirtuins are known targets of resveratrol, in vitro inhibition of SIRT1 activity did not abrogate resveratrol induction of Egr-1 expression. This suggests that SIRT1 is not essential to mediate resveratrol induction of Egr-1. Nevertheless, control of transgene expression via resveratrol activation of Egr-1 may extend use of Ad.Egr.TNF to patients intolerant of radiation or cytotoxic therapy and offer a novel tool for development of other inducible gene therapies.

resveratrol, adenovirus, TNFerade, SIRT1, TNF-alpha

Dietary habits and incidence of prostate cancer (PCa) are very different in several parts of the world. Among the differences between Eastern and Western diets is the greater intake of soy in the Eastern cultures. This might be one factor contributing to a lower incidence of PCa in Asian men. Many studies using PCa cells and animal studies of chemical carcinogenesis have shown that a wide range of dietary compounds have cancer chemopreventive potential. Therefore, the interest in nutrition-based approaches for prevention and treatment of PCa is increasing. We reviewed all experimental preclinical in vitro and in vivo data as well as clinical trials performed with soy isoflavone genistein for prevention and treatment of PCa. The preclinical data for genistein presented in this review show a remarkable efficacy against PCa cells in vitro with molecular targets ranging from cell cycle regulation to induction of apoptosis. In addition, seemingly well-conducted animal experiments support the belief that genistein might have a clinical activity in human cancer therapy. However, it is difficult to make definite statements or conclusions on clinical efficacy of genistein because of the great variability and differences of the study designs, small patient numbers, short treatment duration and lack of a standardized drug formulation. Although some results from these genistein studies seem encouraging, reliable or long-term data on tumor recurrence, disease progression and survival are unknown. The presented data potentially allow recommending patients the use of genistein as in soy products in a preventive setting. However, at present there is no convincing clinical proof or evidence that genistein might be useful in PCa therapy.

Hot on the heels of that fabulous Spitzer image comes news that Hubble and Spitzer have teamed up to find what may be the most distant galaxy ever seen. It appears to be at a distance of 12.8 billion light years.

The big image shows the incredible galaxy cluster Abell 1689, a well-studied city of galaxies. The combined gravity of the galaxies in that cluster act as a lens, distorting and magnifying the light of galaxies on the other side, more distant galaxies that might be too faint to be seen on their own. The arcs you see are all more distant galaxies, their light strewn out by the gravity if the intervening cluster (see how they all appear to have the center of the cluster as their own center of curvature?).
Even boosted by this gravitational lens, the light of the distant galaxy named A1689-zD1 is too faint to be detected in the visible, but Hubble’s infrared camera NICMOS got a peek at it. Then the Spitzer Space Telescope was able to see it even more clearly, as can be seen by the three images on the right.
The more distant galaxies we see, the younger they are, because it takes light a long time to cross the Universe. We see this galaxy as it was when the Universe itself was only about a billion years old. Astronomers are not sure how long it took galaxies to form after the Big Bang, but every time we look farther away, we still see galaxies. Mind you, the ones we see have to be fantastically bright, so they may be skewing our view (there may be much dimmer ones, but they are as yet too faint to see). But the point is, we do see galaxies at this fantastic distance.
The distance was determined by looking at the colors of the galaxy. The Universe is expanding, and more distant galaxies recede from us more quickly. This stretches the light from distant objects out, making them redder, a cosmic variation on the more familiar Doppler shift that makes car engines make that WWEWEEEEEOOOOOORRRR sound as they pass. By knowing what kind of light a young galaxy emits, and then comparing it to the amount of light in each image, the amount of redshift can be estimated, and the distance determined. For A1689-zD1, it’s invisible in visible light, detectable at near infrared wavelengths, and stronger yet in the longer infrared colors. This indicates a tremendous redshift, and therefore a great distance.
From my rough calculation, it may be possible to nail down the redshift using STIS, a camera on board Hubble. STIS is currently dead, the victim of an electrical short. However, astronauts will attempt a repair of it in September during the Hubble servicing mission. I wonder if it’s worth trying to observe the galaxy… it’s a marginal observation; it’s possible that even if STIS can detect this faint smudge, it will only be able to give us a lower limit to the distance (in other words, the data will say that the galaxy is at least at a distance of X billion light years, but not tell us what the actual distance is). Still, it might be worth a shot.
By knowing the distance to this galaxy, and examining
the way it emits light, we can put yet another data point in our models of the early Universe. We’re still trying to figure out just what the heck the cosmos was doing back then, and every time we see farther back, we nail down a little bit more about this place we live in. Observations like this one from Hubble and Spitzer propel us that much farther in our understanding.

Cognitive side effects like memory loss and fuzzy thinking aren't listed on the patient information sheet for Lipitor, the popular cholesterol-lowering drug. But some doctors are voicing concerns that in a small portion of patients, statins like Lipitor may be helping hearts but hurting minds.

• Like every medication, statins also have side effects such as muscle aches and memory loss that can be difficult to measure. What's your experience been with statins? Join a discussion.
• Health Mailbox: Melinda Beck reviews the procedure recommended to care for someone who is unconscious.

"This drug makes women stupid," Orli Etingin, vice chairman of medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital, declared at a recent luncheon discussion sponsored by Project A.L.S. to raise awareness of gender issues and the brain. Dr. Etingin, who is also founder and director of the Iris Cantor Women's Health Center in New York, told of a typical patient in her 40s, unable to concentrate or recall words. Tests found nothing amiss, but when the woman stopped taking Lipitor, the symptoms vanished. When she resumed taking Lipitor, they returned.

"I've seen this in maybe two dozen patients," Dr. Etingin said later, adding that they did better on other statins. "This is just observational, of course. We really need more studies, particularly on cognitive effects and women."

Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor is the world's best-selling medicine, with revenues of $12.6 billion in 2007. The company says that its safety and efficacy have been demonstrated in more than 400 clinical trials and 145 million patient years of experience, and that the extensive data "do not establish a casual link between Lipitor and memory loss." Pfizer also says it draws conclusions about adverse events from a variety of sources "as opposed to anecdotal inferences by individual providers with a limited data pool."

World-wide, some 25 million people take statins, including Zocor, Mevacor, Crestor, Pravachol and Vytorin. As a group, they are widely credited with reducing heart attacks and strokes in people at high risk, though the benefits are less clear in people who are not at high risk, particularly women and the elderly. Some 15% of patients complain of side effects; muscle aches and liver toxicity are the most recognized to date. But anecdotes linking statins to memory problems have been rampant for years.

On balance, most cardiologists see little cause for concern. "The benefits far outweigh the risks," says Antonio Gotto, dean of the Weill-Cornell Medical School and past president of the American Heart Association. Dr. Gotto, who has consulted for most of the statin makers and been involved in many of the trials, says "I would hate to see people frightened off taking statins because they think it's going to cause memory loss."

Thinking and memory problems are difficult to quantify, and easy for doctors to dismiss. Many people who take statins are elderly and have other conditions and medications that could have cognitive side effects.

Still, the chronology can be very telling, says Gayatri Devi, an associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, who says she's seen at least six patients whose memory problems were traceable to statins in 12 years of practice. "The changes started to occur within six weeks of starting the statin, and the cognitive abilities returned very quickly when they went off," says Dr. Devi. "It's just a handful of patients, but for them, it made a huge difference."

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego are nearing completion of a randomized controlled trial examining the effects of statins on thinking, mood, behavior, and quality of life. Separately, the UCSD researchers are collecting anecdotal experiences of patients, good and bad, on statins; memory problems are the second most common side effect, after muscle aches, in about 5,000 reports to date.

"We have some compelling cases," says Beatrice Golomb, the study's lead researcher. In one of them, a San Diego woman, Jane Brunzie, was so forgetful that her daughter was investigating Alzheimer's care for her and refused to let her babysit for her 9-year-old granddaughter. Then the mother stopped taking a statin. "Literally, within eight days, I was back to normal -- it was that dramatic," says Mrs. Brunzie, 69 years old.

Doctors put her on different statins three more times. "They'd say, 'Here, try these samples.' Doctors don't want to give up on it," she says. "Within a few days of starting another one, I'd start losing my words again," says Mrs. Brunzie, who has gone back to volunteering at the local elementary school she loves and is trying to bring her cholesterol down with dietary changes instead.

"I feel very blessed -- I got about 99% of my memory back," she adds. "But I worry about people like me who are starting to lose their words who may think they have just normal aging and it may not be."

Of course, not every case of mental decline can be reversed by stopping statins. In fact, there's some evidence that statins may ward off Alzheimer's by reducing plaque and inflammation in the brain.

On the other hand, the brain is largely cholesterol, much of it in the myelin sheaths that insulate nerve cells and in the synapses that transmit nerve impulses. Lowering cholesterol could slow the connections that facilitate thought and memory. Statins may also lead to the formation of abnormal proteins seen in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

The cognitive changes can affect men as well as women. But women on statins are often simultaneously losing estrogen due to menopause, which can also cause cognitive changes. "Women are getting hit with a double whammy," says Elizabeth Lee Vliet, a women's health physician in Tucson, Ariz., who has a background in neuroendochronology.

Side effects are always highly individual. Most patients tolerate statins very well, and heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. for men and women.

But it pays to think hard about whether you really need to be on a statin -- or if you could accomplish your goals with diet and exercise instead. "Some people want to take a pill and think they can eat whatever they want," says Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and medical director of the Women's Heart Program at the New York University School of Medicine. She says she typically prescribes statins for women who have elevated cholesterol and have already had a heart attack. But for younger women with high cholesterol and no other risk factors, she encourages lifestyle changes.

"I try to initiate diet modifications and physical activity in all my patients -- even if they still need medication, I can give them a lower dose," says Dr. Goldberg. "I try to make the point that we are all in this together."

If you do need to be on cholesterol-lowering medication, pay close attention to any side effects and talk with your doctor. You may have a different experience with a different dose or different statin. Also remember that the doctor taking care of your heart condition may not be as experienced in other body parts. "You really need a balanced approach," says Dr. Vliet. But "each physician may be looking at only one part of the elephant -- that's the way medicine is practiced in the U.S.

As Jane Brunzie says, "I learned through this experience that you have to use your own brain, as well as your doctor's brain, when it comes to your health."

The drug of the week is Zetia—another tale of a good drug potentially gone bad. Zetia lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) by preventing it from being "recycled" in the intestines. This is different from the more commonly used "statins" that prevent bad cholesterol from being formed in the liver. The news stories have highlighted research suggesting that lowering your cholesterol with Zetia may not have the same benefits as doing so with statins. There is even a suggestion that Zetia may have a negative effect on fat deposits in blood vessels.

This story has a lot of angles. There are allegations that these new data were not released in a timely manner. Other stories suggest that guidelines encouraging ultralow levels of bad cholesterol were influenced by the makers of Zetia. Some of the more insightful stories have pointed out that Zetia, unlike statins, has never been

There is some merit to all of these concerns. For me, though, the big question is what this new information tells us about treating heart disease in general and LDL in particular. Over the past few years, many studies have shown that statins prevent heart disease and stroke, saving lives. The medical community has centered on the role of LDL in this story, with the mantra being that lower is better. But statins do much more than lower LDL—they affect the function of the lining of our blood vessels and reduce some markers of inflammation, for instance.

Why then the emphasis on LDL? Probably because it's something that makes intuitive sense: Statins save lives. Statins lower LDL. So a lower LDL must save lives. (Kind of like the old Woody Allen joke: Socrates is a man. men are mortal. So all men are Socrates.) What the Zetia story tells us is that there’s more to preventing heart disease than lowering LDL, and that how we lower LDL may be more important than we thought.

An unidentified flying object, or UFO, is any real or apparent flying object that cannot be identified by the observer, especially those which remain unidentified after investigation. UFOs have been spotted in many different places around the world.

Reports of unusual aerial phenomena date back to ancient times, but modern reports and first official investigations began during World War II with sightings of so-called foo fighters by Allied airplane crews and in 1946 with widespread sightings of European "ghost rockets." UFO reports became even more common after the first widely publicized United States UFO sighting, by private pilot Kenneth Arnold in the summer of 1947.

Many tens of thousands of UFO reports have since been made worldwide. But many sightings may yet remain unreported, due to fear of public ridicule because of the social stigma surrounding the subject of UFOs, and because most nations lack any officially sanctioned authority to receive and evaluate UFO reports.

Once a UFO has been identified as a known object; it can be reclassified as an Identified flying object.

On April 14, 1561 the skies over Nuremberg, Germany were reportedly filled with a multitude of objects.

Unusual aerial phenomena have been reported throughout history.Some of these phenomena were undoubtedly astronomical in nature: comets, bright meteors, one or more of the five planets which can be seen with the naked eye, planetary conjunctions, or atmospheric optical phenomena such as parhelia and lenticular clouds.An example is the Comet Halley, which was recorded first by Chinese astronomers in 240 B.C. and possibly as early as 467 B.C.

"The Baptism of Christ", 1710, by Aert de Gelder. UFO proponents have drawn comparisons between modern UFO reports and aerial objects depicted in historical art, such as this religious painting.

Other historical reports seem to defy prosaic explanation, but assessing such accounts is difficult, because the information in a historical document may be insufficient, inaccurate, or embellished enough to make an informed evaluation difficult.

For example, in the Old Testament of the Bible, Ezekiel apparently had a first-hand encounter with something that might now be described as an Unidentified Flying Object, but which the Bible describes as a fiery chariot.

Whatever their actual cause, such sightings throughout history were often treated as supernatural portents, angels, or other religious omens. Art historian Daniela Giordano cites many Medieval-era paintings, frescoes, tapestries and other items that depict unusual aerial objects; she acknowledges many of these paintings are difficult to interpret, but cites some that depict airborne saucers and domed-saucer shapes that are often strikingly similar to UFO reports from later centuries.
Louis J Sheehan
Louis J Sheehan, Esquire

Before the terms “flying saucer” and “UFO” were coined in the late 1940s, there were a number of reports of unidentified aerial phenomena in the West. These reports date from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century. They include:

* On January 25, 1878, The Denison Daily News wrote that local farmer John Martin had reported seeing a large, dark, circular flying object resembling a balloon flying “at wonderful speed.” He compared its shape when overhead to that of a "large saucer".
* On November 17, 1882, a UFO was observed by astronomer Edward Walter Maunder of the Greenwich Royal Observatory and some other European astronomers. Maunder in The Observatory reported “a strange celestial visitor” that was "disc-shaped," "torpedo-shaped," "spindle-shaped," or "just like a Zeppelin" dirigible (as he described it in 1916). According to Maunder, it was much brighter than the concurrent auroral displays, had well-defined edges and was opaque in the center, whitish or greenish-white, about 30 degrees long and 3 degrees wide, and moved steadily across the northern sky in less than 2 minutes from east to west. Maunder said it was very different in characteristics from a meteor fireball or any aurora he had ever seen. Nonetheless, Maunder thought it was probably related to the huge auroral magnetic sunspot storm occurring at the same time; Maunder called it an "auroral beam."
* On February 28, 1904, there was a sighting by three crew members on the USS Supply 300 miles west of San Francisco, reported by Lt. Frank Schofield, later to become Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Battle Fleet. Schofield wrote of three bright red egg-shaped and circular objects flying in echelon formation that approached beneath the cloud layer, then changed course and “soared” above the clouds, departing directly away from the earth after 2 to 3 minutes. The largest had an apparent size of about six suns.

Drawing of E. W. Maunder's Nov. 17, 1882, "auroral beam" by astronomer Rand Capron, Guildown Observatory, Surrey, UK, who also observed it.
Drawing of E. W. Maunder's Nov. 17, 1882, "auroral beam" by astronomer Rand Capron, Guildown Observatory, Surrey, UK, who also observed it.

* On 5 August 1926, while traveling in the Humboldt Mountains of Tibet's Kokonor region, Nicholas Roerich reported that members of his expedition saw "something big and shiny reflecting sun, like a huge oval moving at great speed”.
* In both the European and Japanese aerial theatres during World War II, “Foo-fighters” (balls of light and other shapes that followed aircraft) were reported by both Allied and Axis pilots.
* On February 25, 1942, the U.S. Army detected unidentified aircraft both visually and on radar over the Los Angeles, California region. No readily-apparent explanation was offered. The incident later became known as the Battle of Los Angeles, or the West coast air raid.

* In 1946, there were over 2000 reports of unidentified aircraft in the Scandinavian nations, along with isolated reports from France, Portugal, Italy and Greece, then referred to as “Russian hail,” and later as “ghost rockets,” because it was thought that these mysterious objects were Russian tests of captured German V1 or V2 rockets. Over 200 were tracked on radar and deemed to be “real physical objects” by the Swedish military.

The post World War II UFO phase in the United States began with a reported sighting by American businessman Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947 while flying his private plane near Mount Rainier, Washington. He reported seeing nine brilliantly bright objects flying across the face of Rainier towards nearby Mount Adams at “an incredible speed”, which he "calculated" as at least 1200 miles per hour by timing their travel between Rainier and Adams.

His sighting subsequently received significant media and public attention. Arnold would later say they “flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water” (it would ricochet) and also said they were “flat like a pie pan”, “shaped like saucers,” and “half-moon shaped, oval in front and convex in the rear. ...they looked like a big flat disk.” (One, however, he would describe later as being almost crescent-shaped.) Arnold’s reported descriptions caught the media’s and the public’s fancy and gave rise to the terms flying saucer and flying disk. Arnold’s sighting was followed in the next few weeks by hundreds of other reported sightings, mostly in the U.S., but in other countries as well.

Another case was a United Airlines crew sighting of nine more disc-like objects over Idaho on the evening of July 4. At the time, this sighting was even more widely reported than Arnold’s and lent considerable credence to Arnold’s report. In fact, American UFO researcher Ted Bloecher, in his comprehensive review of newspaper reports, found a sudden surge upwards in sightings on July 4, peaking on July 6-8. Bloecher noted that for the next few days most American newspapers were filled with front-page stories of the new “flying saucers” or “flying discs.” Starting with official debunkery that began the night of July 8 with the Roswell UFO incident, reports rapidly tapered off, ending the first big U.S. UFO wave.

Over several years in the 1960s, Bloecher (aided by physicist James E. McDonald) discovered 853 flying disc sightings that year from 140 newspapers from Canada, Washington D.C, and every U.S. state save Montana.
The Falcon Lake incident report filed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Stephen Michalak claimed incident with a UFO.
The Falcon Lake incident report filed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Stephen Michalak claimed incident with a UFO.

Starting July 9, Army Air Force intelligence, in cooperation with the FBI, began a formal investigation into selected sightings with characteristics that could not be immediately rationalized, which included Arnold’s and the United crew’s. The FBI used “all of its scientists” to determine whether or not “such a phenomenon could, in fact, occur.” The research was “being conducted with the thought that the flying objects might be a celestial phenomenon,” or that “they might be a foreign body mechanically devised and controlled.”Three weeks later they concluded that, “This ‘flying saucer’ situation is not all imaginary or seeing too much in some natural phenomenon. Something is really flying around.”A further review by the intelligence and technical divisions of the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field reached the same conclusion, that “the phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious,” that there were objects in the shape of a disc, metallic in appearance, and as big as man-made aircraft. They were characterized by “extreme rates of climb [and] maneuverability,” general lack of noise, absence of trail, occasional formation flying, and “evasive” behavior “when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar,” suggesting a controlled craft. It was thus recommended in late September 1947 that an official Air Force investigation be set up to investigate the phenomenon.This led to the creation of the Air Force’s Project Sign at the end of 1947, which became Project Grudge at the end of 1948, and then Project Blue Book in 1952. Blue Book closed down in 1970, ending the official Air Force UFO investigations.

Use of UFO instead of flying saucer was first suggested in 1952 by Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, the first director of Project Blue Book, who felt that flying saucer did not reflect the diversity of the sightings. Ruppelt suggested that UFO should be pronounced as a word — you-foe. However it is generally pronounced by forming each letter: U.F.O. His term was quickly adopted by the Air Force, which also briefly used “UFOB” circa 1954, for Unidentified Flying Object. Ruppelt recounted his experiences with Project Blue Book in his memoir, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (1956), also the first book to use the term.

Air Force Regulation 200-2, issued in 1954, defined an Unidentified Flying Object (UFOB) as “any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object.” The regulation also said UFOBs were to be investigated as a “possible threat to the security of the United States” and “to determine technical aspects involved.” As with any then-ongoing investigation, Air Force personnel did not discuss the investigation with the press.

In Canada, the Department of National Defence has dealt with reports, sightings and investigations of UFOs across Canada. In addition to conducting investigations into crop circles in Duhamel, Alberta, it still identifies the Falcon Lake incident in Manitoba and the Shag Harbour incident in Nova Scotia as "unsolved".

Ufology is a neologism coined to describe the collective efforts of those who study UFO reports and associated evidence. Not all ufologists believe that UFOs are necessarily extraterrestrial spacecraft, or even that they are objective physical phenomena. Even UFO cases that are exposed as hoaxes, delusions or misidentifications may still be worthy of serious study from a psychosocial point of view. While Ufology does not represent an academic research program, UFOs have been subject to various investigations over the years, varying widely in scope and scientific rigor. Governments or independent academics in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and the Soviet Union are known to have investigated UFO reports at various times. No national government has ever publicly admitted that UFOs represent any form of alien intelligence. Perhaps the best known study was Project Blue Book, previously Project Sign and Project Grudge, conducted by the United States Air Force from 1947 until 1969. Other notable investigations include the Robertson Panel (1953), the Brookings Report (1960), the Condon Committee (1966-1968), the Project Twinkle investigation into green fireballs (1948-1951), the Sturrock Panel (1998), and the French GEIPAN (1977-) and COMETA (1996-1999) study groups.

In March 2007, the French Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) published an archive of UFO sightings and other phenomena online.

At 11am on November 12, 2007, Former Arizona Governor Fife Symington moderated a panel of former high-ranking government, aviation and military officials from seven countries at the National Press Club; discussing the UFO topic and governmental investigations. The press conference was open for credentialed media and congressional staff only.
The following officials and former officials participated in the press conference:

* Fife Symington, Former Arizona Governor, Moderator
* Ray Bowyer, Captain, Aurigny Air Services, Channel Islands
* Rodrigo Bravo, Captain and Pilot for the Aviation Army of Chile
* General Wilfried De Brouwer, former Deputy Chief of Staff, Belgian Air Force (Ret.)
* John Callahan, Chief of Accidents and Investigations for the FAA, 1980’s (Ret.)
* Dr. Anthony Choy, founder, 2001, OIFAA, Peruvian Air Force
* Jean-Claude Duboc, Captain, Air France (Ret.)
* Charles I. Halt, Col. USAF (Ret.), Former Director, Inspections Directorate, DOD I.G.
* General Parviz Jafari, Iranian Air Force (Ret.) As a young Iranian Air Force pilot, Jafari was a participant in the 1976 Tehran UFO incident, one of the most famous and well-documented UFO incidents in modern times.

* Jim Penniston, TSgt USAF (Ret.)
* Dr. Claude Poher, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, founder, French GEPAN
* Nick Pope, Ministry of Defence, UK, 1985-2006
* Dr. Jean-Claude Ribes, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France, 1963-98
* Comandante Oscar Santa Maria, Peruvian Air Force (Ret.)

Although it is sometimes contended that astronomers never report UFOs, the Air Force's Project Blue Book files indicate that approximately 1% of all their reports came from amateur and professional astronomers or other users of telescopes (such as missile trackers or surveyors). In the 1970s, astrophysicist Peter A. Sturrock conducted two surveys of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and American Astronomical Society. About 5% of the members polled indicated that they had had UFO sightings. In 1980, a survey of 1800 members of various amateur astronomer associations by Gert Helb and astronomer J. Allen Hynek of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) found that 24% responded "yes" to the question "Have you ever observed an object which resisted your most exhaustive efforts at identification?"

Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who admitted to 6 UFO sightings[, including 3 green fireballs supported the Extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) for UFOs and stated he thought scientists who dismissed it without study were being "unscientific." Another astronomer was Dr. Lincoln La Paz, who had headed the Air Force's investigation into the green fireballs and other UFO phenomena in New Mexico. La Paz reported 2 personal sightings, one of a green fireball, the other of an anomalous disc-like object. Even later UFO debunker Dr. Donald Menzel filed a UFO report in 1949.

Various public scientific studies over the past half century have examined UFO reports in detail. None of these studies have officially concluded that any reports are caused by extraterrestrial spacecraft (e.g., Seeds 1995:A4). Some studies were neutral in their conclusions, but argued the inexplicable core cases called for continued scientific study. Examples are the Sturrock Panel study of 1998 and the 1970 AIAA review of the Condon Report. Other private or governmental studies, some secret, have concluded in favor of the ETH, or have had members who disagreed with the official conclusions. The following are examples of such studies and individuals:

* One of the earliest government studies to come to a secret ETH conclusion was Project Sign, the first official Air Force UFO investigation. In 1948, they wrote a top-secret intelligence estimate to that effect. The Air Force Chief of Staff ordered it destroyed. The existence of this suppressed report was revealed by several insiders who had read it, such as astronomer and USAF consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Edward J. Ruppelt, the first head of the USAF's Project Blue Book. (Ruppelt, Chapt. 3)
* An early U.S. Army study, of which little is known, was called the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit (IPU). In 1987, British UFO researcher Timothy Good received a letter confirming the existence of the IPU from the Army Director of Counter-intelligence, in which it was stated, "...the aforementioned Army unit was disestablished during the late 1950s and never reactivated. All records pertaining to this unit were surrendered to the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations in conjunction with operation BLUEBOOK." The IPU records have never been released. (Good, 484).
* In 1967, Greek physicist Paul Santorini, a Manhattan Project scientist, publicly stated that a 1947 Greek government investigation that he headed into the European Ghost rockets of 1946 quickly concluded that they were not missiles. Santorini claimed the investigation was then quashed by military officials from the U.S., who knew them to be extraterrestrial, because there was no defense against the advanced technology and they feared widespread panic should the results become public. (Good, 23)
* Various European countries conducted a secret joint study in 1954, also concluding that UFOs were extraterrestrial. This study was revealed by German rocketry pioneer Hermann Oberth, a member of the study, who also made many public statements supporting the ETH.
* In 1958, Brazil's main UFO investigator, Dr. Olavo T. Fuentes wrote a letter to the American UFO group APRO summarizing a briefing he had received from two Brazilian Naval intelligence officers. Fuentes said he was told that every government and military on Earth was aware that UFOs were extraterrestrial craft and there was absolute proof of this in the form of several crashed craft. The subject was classified Top Secret by the world's militaries. The objects were deemed dangerous and hostile when attacked, many planes had been lost, and it was generally believed that Earth was undergoing an invasion of some type, perhaps a police action to keep us confined to the planet. This information had to be withheld from the public by any means necessary because of the likelihood of widespread panic and social breakdown.

* An FBI field office letter to the FBI Director, dated January 31, 1949, stated "...the matter of 'Unidentified Aircraft' or 'Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,' otherwise known as 'Flying Discs,' 'Flying Saucers,' and 'Balls of Fire' considered Top Secret by Intelligence Officers of both the Army and Air Forces." (emphasis included in original).
* During the height of the flying saucer epidemic of July 1952, including highly publicized radar/visual and jet intercepts over Washington, D.C., the FBI was informed by the Air Force Directorate of Intelligence that they thought the "flying saucers" were either "optical illusions or atmospheric phenomena" but then added that, "some Military officials are seriously considering the possibility of interplanetary ships." FBI document
* The CIA started their own internal scientific review the following day. Some CIA scientists were also seriously considering the ETH. An early memo from August was very skeptical, but also added, " long as a series of reports remains 'unexplainable' (interplanetary aspects and alien origin not being thoroughly excluded from consideration) caution requires that intelligence continue coverage of the subject."
A report from later that month was similarly skeptical but nevertheless concluded "...sightings of UFOs reported at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge, at a time when the background radiation count had risen inexplicably. Here we run out of even 'blue yonder' explanations that might be tenable, and we still are left with numbers of incredible reports from credible observers." A December 1952 memo from the Assistant CIA Director of Scientific Intelligence (O/SI) was much more urgent: "...the reports of incidents convince us that there is something going on that must have immediate attention. Sightings of unexplained objects at great altitudes and traveling at highs speeds in the vicinity of U.S. defense installation are of such nature that they are not attributable to natural phenomena or known types of aerial vehicles."
Some of the memos also made it clear that CIA interest in the subject was not to be made public, partly in fear of possible public panic. (Good,331-335)
* The CIA organized the January 1953 Robertson Panel of scientists to debunk the data collected by the Air Force's Project Blue Book. This included an engineering analysis of UFO maneuvers by Blue Book (including a motion picture film analysis by Naval scientists) that had concluded UFOs were under intelligent control and likely extraterrestrial. (Dolan, 189; Good, 287, 337; Ruppelt, Chapt. 16))
* Extraterrestrial "believers" within Project Blue Book including Major Dewey Fournet, in charge of the engineering analysis of UFO motion. Director Edward J. Ruppelt is also thought to have held these views, though expressed in private, not public. Another defector from the official Air Force party line was consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who started out as a staunch skeptic. After 20 years of investigation, he changed positions and generally supported the ETH. He became the most publicly known UFO advocate scientist in the 1970s and 1980s.
* The first CIA Director, Vice Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, stated in a signed statement to Congress, also reported in the New York Times, February 28, 1960, "It is time for the truth to be brought out... Behind the scenes high-ranking Air Force officers are soberly concerned about the UFOs. However, through official secrecy and ridicule, many citizens are led to believe the unknown flying objects are nonsense.... I urge immediate Congressional action to reduce the dangers from secrecy about unidentified flying objects." In 1962, in his letter of resignation from NICAP, he told director Donald Keyhoe, "I know the UFOs are not U.S. or Soviet devices. All we can do now is wait for some actions by the UFOs." (Good, 347)
* Although the 1968 Condon Report came to a negative conclusion (written by Condon), it is known that many members of the study strongly disagreed with Condon's methods and biases. Most quit the project in disgust or were fired for insubordination. A few became ETH supporters. Perhaps the best known example is Dr. David Saunders, who in his 1968 book UFOs? Yes lambasted Condon for extreme bias and ignoring or misrepresenting critical evidence. Saunders wrote, "It is clear... that the sightings have been going on for too long to explain in terms of straightforward terrestrial intelligence. It is in this sense that ETI (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) stands as the `least implausible' explanation of `real UFOs'."
* Nick Pope, the head of the UK government UFO desk for a number of years, is an advocate of the ETH based on the inexplicable cases he reviewed, such as the Rendlesham UFO incident, although the British government has never made such claims.
* Jean-Jacques Velasco, the head of the official French UFO investigation SEPRA, wrote a book in 2005 saying that 14% of the 5800 cases studied by SEPRA were utterly inexplicable and extraterrestrial in origin.
Yves Sillard, the head of the new official French UFO investigation GEIPAN and former head of the French space agency CNES, echoes Velasco's comments and adds the U.S. is guilty of covering up this information. Again, this isn't the official public posture of SEPRA, CNES, or the French government. (CNES recently announced that their 5800 case files will be placed on the Internet starting March 2007.)
* The 1999 French COMETA committee of high-level military analysts/generals and aerospace engineers/scientists declared the ETH was the best hypothesis for the unexplained cases.

Besides visual sightings, cases sometimes have an indirect physical evidence, including many cases studied by the military and various government agencies of different countries. Indirect physical evidence would be data obtained from afar, such as radar contact and photographs. More direct physical evidence involves physical interactions with the environment at close range—Hynek's "close encounter" or Vallee's "Type-I" cases—which include "landing traces," electromagnetic interference, and physiological/biological effects.

* Radar contact and tracking, sometimes from multiple sites. These are often considered among the best cases since they usually involve trained military personnel and control tower operators, simultaneous visual sightings, and aircraft intercepts. One such recent example were the mass sightings of large, silent, low-flying black triangles in 1989 and 1990 over Belgium, tracked by multiple NATO radar and jet interceptors, and investigated by Belgium's military (included photographic evidence).[53] Another famous case from 1986 was the JAL 1628 case over Alaska investigated by the FAA.
* Photographic evidence, including still photos, movie film, and video, including some in the infrared spectrum (rare).
* Recorded visual spectrograms (extremely rare) — (see Spectrometer)
* Recorded gravimetric and magnetic disturbances (extremely rare)
* Landing physical trace evidence, including ground impressions, burned and/or desiccated soil, burned and broken foliage, magnetic anomalies, increased radiation levels, and metallic traces.
See, e.g. Height 611 UFO Incident or the 1964 Lonnie Zamora's Socorro, New Mexico encounter, considered one of the most inexplicable of the USAF Project Blue Book cases). A well-known example from December 1980 was the USAF Rendlesham Forest Incident in England. Another less than 2 weeks later, in January 1981, occurred in Trans-en-Provence and was investigated by GEPAN, then France's official government UFO-investigation agency.[55] Project Blue Book head Edward J. Ruppelt described a classic 1952 CE2 case involving a patch of charred grass roots.[56] Catalogs of several thousand such cases have been compiled, particularly by researcher Ted Phillips.[57][58]
* Physiological effects on people and animals including temporary paralysis, skin burns and rashes, corneal burns, and symptoms superficially resembling radiation poisoning, such as the Cash-Landrum incident in 1980.
One such case dates back to 1886, a Venezuelan incident reported in Scientific American magazine.[59]
* So-called animal/cattle mutilation cases, that some feel are also part of the UFO phenomenon. Such cases can and have been analyzed using forensic science techniques.
* Biological effects on plants such as increased or decreased growth, germination effects on seeds, and blown-out stem nodes (usually associated with physical trace cases or crop circles)
* Electromagnetic interference (EM) effects, including stalled cars, power black-outs, radio/TV interference, magnetic compass deflections, and aircraft navigation, communication, and engine disruption.[60] A list of over 30 such aircraft EM incidents was compiled by NASA scientist Dr. Richard F. Haines.[61] A famous 1976 military case over Tehran, recorded in CIA and DIA classified documents, resulted in communication losses in multiple aircraft and weapons system failure in an F-4 Phantom II jet interceptor as it was about to fire a missile on one of the UFOs. This was also a radar/visual case. (Fawcett & Greenwood, 81-89; Good, 318-322, 497-502).
* Remote radiation detection, some noted in FBI and CIA documents occurring over government nuclear installations at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1950, also reported by Project Blue Book director Ed Ruppelt in his book.
* Actual hard physical evidence cases, such as 1957, Ubatuba, Brazil, magnesium fragments analyzed by the Brazilian government and in the Condon Report and by others. The 1964 Socorro/Lonnie Zamora incident also left metal traces, analyzed by NASA.
* Misc: Recorded electromagnetic emissions, such as microwaves detected in the well-known 1957 RB-47 surveillance aircraft case, which was also a visual and radar case;polarization rings observed around a UFO by a scientist, explained by Dr. James Harder as intense magnetic fields from the UFO causing the Faraday effect.

These various reported physical evidence cases have been studied by various scientist and engineers, both privately and in official governmental studies (such as Project Blue Book, the Condon Committee, and the French GEPAN/SEPRA). A comprehensive scientific review of physical evidence cases was carried out by the 1998 Sturrock UFO panel.

Attempts have been made to reverse engineer the possible physics behind UFOs through analysis of both eyewitness reports and the physical evidence. Examples are former NASA and nuclear engineer James McCampbell in his book Ufology online, NACA/NASA engineer Paul R. Hill in his book Unconventional Flying Objects, and German rocketry pioneer Hermann Oberth. Among subjects tackled by McCampbell, Hill, and Oberth was the question of how UFOs can fly at supersonic speeds without creating a sonic boom. McCampbell's proposed solution of a microwave plasma parting the air in front of the craft is currently being researched by Dr. Leik Myrabo, Professor of Engineering Physics at the Rensselaer

An Air Force study by Battelle Memorial Institute scientists from 1952-1955 of 3200 USAF cases found 22% were unknowns, and with the best cases, 33% remained unsolved. Similarly about 30% of the UFO cases studied by the 1969 USAF Condon Committee were deemed unsolved when reviewed by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). The official French government UFO scientific study (GEIPAN) from 1976 to 2004 listed about 13% of 5800 cases as very detailed yet still inexplicable (with 46% deemed to have definite or probable explanations and 41% having inadequate information).

Despite the remaining unexplained cases in the cited scientific studies above, many skeptics still argue that the general opinion of the mainstream scientific community is that all UFO sightings could ultimately be explained by prosaic explanations such as misidentification of natural and man-made phenomena (either known or still unknown), hoaxes, and psychological phenomena such as optical illusions or dreaming/sleep paralysis (often given as an explanation for purported alien abductions).

Other skeptical arguments against UFOs include:

* Most evidence is ultimately derived from notoriously unreliable eyewitness accounts and very little in the way of solid or other physical evidence has been reported.[citation needed]
* Most UFO sightings are transitory events and there is usually no opportunity for the repeat testing called for by the scientific method.

* Occam's razor of hypothesis testing, since it is considered less incredible for the explanations to be the result of known scientifically verified phenomena rather than resulting from novel mechanisms (e.g. the extraterrestrial hypothesis).
* The market being biased in favor of books, TV specials, etc. which support paranormal interpretations, leaving the public poorly informed regarding more mundane explanations for UFOs as a possibly socio-cultural phenomenon only.[citation needed]

What appears interesting is that UFO sightings depend on the technological environment of their time. At late 1800s UFOs were described as airships larger,sturdier and more maneuverable than those commonly used. As planes were developed UFO descriptions appeared as planes with speed and maneuverability greater than in any known design. Nowadays UFOs have many shapes, but are still described to perform maneuvers no known aircraft is able to. These include complete or near complete silence when spotted, hovering, great speeds and very small turn radius. Also capability for rapid change in altitude have been sighted.

To account for unsolved UFO cases, a number of explanations have been proposed by both proponents and skeptics.

Among proponents, some of the more common explanations for UFOs are:

* The Extraterrestrial Visitation Hypothesis (ETH) (most popular)
* The Interdimensional Hypothesis
* The Paranormal/Occult Hypothesis
* The hypothesis that they are time machines or vehicles built in a future time.
* Another is the Extraterrestrial energyzoa theory

Similarly, skeptics usually propose one of the following explanations:

* The Psychological-Social Hypothesis
* The man-made craft hypothesis
* The unknown natural phenomena hypothesis, e.g. ball lightning, sprites
* Peter F Coleman advanced a meteorological theory that many so-called UFOs or unexplained lights seen now and in the past are actually instances of visible combustion of a fuel (e.g. natural gas) inside an atmospheric vortex. He has argued his case in his book, Great Balls of Fire-a unified theory. This vortex fireball theory was first published in Weather and later in the Journal of Scientific Exploration
* Earthquake lights/Tectonic Strain hypothesis
* One explanation is that (some) UFOs are misidentified "shiny-bodied insects".

Among the many people who have reported UFO sightings, some have been exposed as hoaxers. Not all alleged hoax exposures are certain, however, and many claimants have stuck by their stories, leaving the determination of specific cases as hoaxes contentious. Some of the controversial subjects include these:

* Perhaps most notably, Ed Walters' 1987 hoax, perpetrated in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Walters claimed at first having seen a small UFO flying near his home, and then in a second incident seeing the same UFO and a small alien being standing by his back door after being alerted by his dog. Several photographs were taken of the craft, but none of the being. Three years later in 1990, after the Walters family had moved, the new residents discovered a model of a UFO poorly hidden in the attic that bore an undeniable resemblance to the craft in Walters' photographs. Various witnesses and detractors came forward after the local Pensacola newspaper printed a story about the discovered model, and some investigators now consider the sightings to be a hoax. In addition, a six-figure television miniseries and book deal were nearly struck with Walters.
* Contactees such as George Adamski, who claimed he went on flights in UFOs. (Even some believers contend he had real
experiences and later fictionalized others, leaving the subject murky.)
* Bob White (UFO hunter) claims to have an alleged UFO artifact.
* Billy Meier, some of whose photographs have been discredited.
* The Maury Island Incident
* The Ummo affair, a decades-long series of detailed letters and documents allegedly from extraterrestrials. The total length of the documents is at least 1000 pages, and some estimate that further undiscovered documents may total nearly 4000 pages. A Jose Luis Jordan Pena came forward in the early nineties claiming responsibility for the phenomenon, and most consider there to be little reason to challenge his claims.
* The Sci-fi channel ran an advertising promo of a UFO near the World Trade Center being seen by a group of tourists in a helicopter. Created prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, the commercial used realistic special effects to simulate the encounter. The video has subsequently been aired on East Asian television and posted to video-sharing sites like YouTube as genuine footage.[76]
* A video was posted as genuine footage to by a "barzolff814". It depicts two large UFOs flying over an observer on a tropical island, said to be Haiti in the title "Haiti Ufo". The video was quickly debunked by, and other sites. The video was done entirely with CGI 3D Animation programs by French animator David Nicolas, also known as "Numero 6." It managed to fool many people; many still thoroughly believe that the video is real.
The hoax was discerned by the identical palm trees in the video, which were the same as in a promo video for a 3D program called Vue Infinite.

Several physicists, some working for the US Military, others said to be associated with the US Intelligence Community are seriously interested in UFOs as alien extraterrestrial flying machines. Dr. Jack Sarfatti, in his book "Super Cosmos" (2005), has the most detailed "theory" based on the recent discovery of the repulsive anti-gravity field "dark energy" that is accelerating the expansion of the 3D space of our universe. Sarfatti also cites Alcubierre's weightless warp drive without time dilation as essential conditions for "propellantless propulsion" in what Puthoff has called "metric engineering." However, in his book "The Physics of Star Trek," Lawrence M. Krauss reveals that it would be physically impossible to concentrate enough energy in one place to "warp" the fabric of space. Sarfatti's key idea is that the ship is able to control its own zero-g force geodesic flight path using small amounts of energy, despite the evident lack of external propulsion visible in most UFO sightings.

The study of UFO claims over the years has led to valuable discoveries about atmospheric phenomena and psychology. In psychology, the study of UFO sightings has revealed information on misinterpretation, perceptual illusions, hallucination and fantasy-prone personality.
Many have questioned the reliability of hypnosis in UFO abduction cases.

Famous psychologist Carl Gustav Jung compared the UFO's "saucer" shape with mandala symbolism and speculated with the idea of UFO sightings being linked to his theory of Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, suggesting UFOs are projection carriers of the archetype of "psychic wholeness" (also known in Jungian terms as The Self).
Such projections endow the carrier with numinous and mythical powers giving it a highly suggestive effect and rapidly turning it into a saviour myth.

Some researchers recommend that observations be classified according to the features of the phenomenon or object that are reported or recorded. Typical categories include:

* Saucer, toy-top, or disk-shaped "craft" without visible or audible propulsion. (day and night)
* Large triangular "craft" or triangular light pattern
* Cigar-shaped "craft" with lighted windows (Meteor fireballs are sometimes reported this way, but are very different phenomena).
* Other: chevrons, equilateral triangles, spheres (usually reported to be shining, glowing at night), domes, diamonds, shapeless black masses, eggs, and cylinders.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek developed another commonly used system of description, dividing sightings into six categories. It first separates sightings based on proximity, arbitrarily using 500 feet as the cutoff point. It then subdivides these into divisions based on viewing conditions or special features. The three distant sighting categories are:

* Nocturnal Lights (NL): Anomalous lights seen in the night sky.
* Daylight Discs (DD): Any anomalous object, generally but not necessarily "discoidal", seen in the distant daytime sky.
* Radar/Visual cases (RV). Objects seen simultaneously by eye and on radar.

The distant classification is useful in terms of evidentiary value, with RV cases usually considered to be the highest because of radar corroboration and NL cases the lowest because of the ease in which lights seen at night are often confused with prosaic phenomena such as meteors, bright stars, or airplanes. RV reports are also fewest in number, while NL are largest.
In addition were three "close encounter" (CE) subcategories, again thought to be higher in evidentiary value, because it includes measurable physical effects and the objects seen up close are less likely to be the result of misperception. As in RV cases, these tend to be relatively rare:

* CE1: Strange objects seen nearby but without physical interaction with the environment.
* CE2: A CE1 case but creating physical evidence or causing electromagnetic interference (see below).
* CE3: CE1 or CE2 cases where "occupants" or entities are seen. (Hence the title of Steven Spielberg's movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

Hynek's CE classification system has since been expanded to include such things as alleged alien abductions (CE4s) and cattle mutilation phenomena.

Jacques Vallee has devised a UFO classification system which is preferred by many UFO investigators over Hynek's system as it is considerably more descriptive than Hynek's, especially in terms of the reported behavior of UFOs.

Type I (a, b, c, d): Observation of an unusual object, spherical discoidal, or of another geometry, on or situated close to the ground (tree height, or lower), which may be associated with traces - thermal, luminous, or mechanical effects.

1. On or near ground.
2. Near or over body of water.
3. Occupants appear to display interest in witnesses by gestures or luminous signals.
4. Object appears to be "scouting" a terrestrial vehicle.

Type II (a, b, c): Observation of an unusual object with vertical cylindrical formation in the sky, associated with a diffuse cloud. This phenomenon has been given various names such as "cloud-cigar" or "cloud-sphere."

1. Moving erratically through the sky.
2. Object is stationary and gives rise to secondary objects (sometimes referred to as "satellite objects").
3. Object is surrounded by secondary objects.

Type III (a, b, c, d, e): Observation of an unusual object of spherical, discoidal or elliptical shape, stationary in the sky.

1. Hovering between two periods of motion with "falling-leaf" descent, up and down, or pendulum motion.
2. Interruption of continuous flight to hover and then continue motion.
3. Alters appearance while hovering - e.g., change of luminosity, generation of secondary object, etc.
4. "Dogfights" or swarming among several objects.
5. Trajectory abruptly altered during continuous flight to fly slowly above a certain area, circle, or suddenly change course.

Type IV (a, b, c, d): Observation of an unusual object in continuous flight.

1. Continuous flight.
2. Trajectory affected by nearby conventional aircraft.
3. Formation flight.
4. Wavy or zig-zag trajectory.

Type V (a, b, c): Observation of an unusual object of indistinct appearance, i.e., appearing to be not fully material or solid in structure.

1. Extended apparent diameter, non-point source luminous objects ("fuzzy").
2. Starlike objects (point source), motionless for extended periods.
3. Starlike objects rapidly crossing the sky, possibly with peculiar trajectories.

Source: 1. Jacques and Janine Vallee: Challenge To Science: The UFO Enigma, LC# 66-25843

UFOs are sometimes an element of elaborate conspiracy theories in which the government is said to be intentionally covering up the existence of aliens, or sometimes collaborating with them. There are many versions of this story; some are exclusive, while others overlap with various other conspiracy theories.

In the U.S., opinion polls again indicate that a strong majority of people believe the U.S. government is withholding such information. Various notables have also expressed such views. Some examples are astronauts Gordon Cooper and Edgar Mitchell, Senator Barry Goldwater, Vice Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter (the first CIA director), Lord Hill-Norton (former British Chief of Defense Staff and NATO head), the 1999 high-level French COMETA report by various French generals and aerospace experts, and Yves Sillard (former director of the French space agency CNES, new director of French UFO research organization GEIPAN).

There is also speculation that UFO phenomena are tests of experimental aircraft or advanced weapons. In this case UFOs are viewed as failures to retain secrecy, or deliberate attempts at misinformation: to deride the phenomenon so that it can be pursued unhindered. This explanation may or may not feed back into the previous one, where current advanced military technology is considered to be adapted alien technology. (See also: skunk works and Area 51)

It has also been suggested by a few fringe authors that all or most human technology and culture is based on extraterrestrial contact. See also ancient astronauts.

Some also contend regarding physical evidence that it exists abundantly but is swiftly and sometimes clumsily suppressed by governments, aiming to insulate a population they regard as unprepared for the social, theological, and security implications of such evidence. See the Brookings Report.

There have been allegations of suppression of UFO related evidence for many decades. There are also conspiracy theories which claim that physical evidence might have been removed and/or destroyed/suppressed by some governments. (See also Men in Black) Some examples are:

* On July 7, 1947, William Rhodes took photos of an unusual object over Phoenix, Arizona.[81] The photos appeared in a Phoenix newspaper and a few other papers. According to documents from Project Bluebook, an Army counter-intelligence (CIC) agent and an FBI agent interviewed Rhodes on August 29 and convinced him to surrender the negatives. The CIC agent deliberately concealed his true identity, leaving Rhodes to believe both men were from the FBI. Rhodes said he wanted the negatives back, but when he turned them into the FBI the next day, he was informed he wouldn't be getting them back, though Rhodes later tried unsuccessfully.The photos were extensively analyzed and would eventually show up in some classified Air Force UFO intelligence reports. (Randle, 34-45, full account)
* A June 27, 1950, movie of a "flying disk" over Louisville, Kentucky, taken by a Louisville Courier-Journal photographer, had the USAF Directors of counterintelligence (AFOSI) and intelligence discussing in memos how to best obtain the movie and interview the photographer without revealing Air Force interest. One memo suggested the FBI be used, then precluded the FBI getting involved. Another memo said "it would be nice if OSI could arrange to secure a copy of the film in some covert manner," but if that wasn't feasible, one of the Air Force scientists might have to negotiate directly with the newspaper. In a recent interview, the photographer confirmed meeting with military intelligence and still having the film in his possession until then, but refused to say what happened to the film after that.
* In another 1950 movie incident from Montana, Nicholas Mariana filmed some unusual aerial objects and eventually turned the film over to the U.S. Air Force, but insisted that the first part of the film, clearly showing the objects as spinning discs, had been removed when it was returned to him. (Clark, 398)
* During the military investigation of green fireballs in New Mexico, UFOs were photographed by a tracking camera over White Sands Proving Grounds on April 27, 1949. The final report in 1951 on the green fireball investigation claimed there was insufficient data to determine anything. However, documents later uncovered by Dr. Bruce Maccabee indicate that triangulation was accomplished. The data reduction and photographs showed four objects about 30 feet in diameter flying in formation at high speed at an altitude of about 30 miles. Maccabee says this result was apparently suppressed from the final report.
* Project Blue Book director Edward J. Ruppelt reported that, in 1952, a U.S. Air Force pilot fired his jet's machine guns at a UFO, and that the official report which should have been sent to Blue Book was quashed. 1952 newspaper articles of USAF jets being ordered to shoot down saucers.
* Astronaut Gordon Cooper reported suppression of a flying saucer movie filmed in high clarity by two Edwards AFB range photographers on May 3, 1957. Cooper said he viewed developed negatives of the object, clearly showing a dish-like object with a dome on top and something like holes or ports in the dome. The photographers and another witness, when later interviewed by Dr. James McDonald, confirmed the story. Cooper said military authorities then picked up the film and neither he nor the photographers ever heard what happened to it. The incident was also reported in a few newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times. The official explanation, however, was that the photographers had filmed a weather balloon distorted by hot desert air. McDonald, 1968 Congressional testimony, Case 41

* On January 22, 1958, when NICAP director Donald Keyhoe appeared on CBS television, his statements on UFOs were pre-censored by the Air Force. During the show when Keyhoe tried to depart from the censored script to "reveal something that has never been disclosed before," CBS cut the sound, later stating Keyhoe was about to violate "predetermined security standards" and about to say something he wasn't "authorized to release." What Keyhoe was about to reveal were four publicly unknown military studies concluding UFOs were interplanetary (including the 1948 Project Sign Estimate of the Situation and Blue Book's 1952 engineering analysis of UFO motion). (Good, 286-287; Dolan 293-295)
* Astronomer Jacques Vallee reported that in 1961 he witnessed the destruction of the tracking tapes of unknown objects orbiting the Earth. (However, Vallee indicated that this didn't happen because of government pressure but because the senior astronomers involved didn't want to deal with the implications.)
* In 1965, Rex Heflin took four Polaroid photos of a hat-shaped object. Two years later (1967), two men posing as NORAD agents confiscated three prints. Just as mysteriously, the photos were returned to his mailbox in 1993. detailed article and photos
* A March 1, 1967 memo directed to all USAF divisions, from USAF Lt. General Hewitt Wheless, Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, stated that unverified information indicated that unknown individuals, impersonating USAF officers and other military personnel, had been harassing civilian UFO witnesses, warning them not to talk, and also confiscating film, referring specifically to the Heflin incident. AFOSI was to be notified if any personnel were to become aware of any other incidents. (Document in Fawcett & Greenwood, 236).
* In 1996, the CIA revealed an instance from 1964 where two CIA agents posed as USAF representatives in order to recover a film canister from a Corona spy satellite that had accidentally come down in Venezuela. The event was then publicly dismissed as an unsuccessful NASA space experiment.

UFOs constitute a widespread international cultural phenomenon of the last half-century.Gallup polls rank UFOs near the top of lists for subjects of widespread recognition. In 1973, a survey found that 95 percent of the public reported having heard of UFOs, whereas only 92 percent had heard of US President Gerald Ford in a 1977 poll taken just nine months after he left the White House. (Bullard, 141) A 1996 Gallup poll reported that 71 percent of the United States population believed that the government was covering up information regarding UFOs. A 2002 Roper poll for the Sci Fi channel found similar results, but with more people believing UFOs were extraterrestrial craft. In that latest poll, 56 percent thought UFOs were real craft and 48 percent that aliens had visited the Earth. Again, about 70 percent felt the government was not sharing everything it knew about UFOs or extraterrestrial life.

Documentary channels, such as the Discovery Channel and the History Channel, air UFO and alien related material from time to time.(e.g., UFO Files)

In a 2006 survey, 24.6% of Americans agreed (or strongly agreed) that some UFOs are probably spaceships from other worlds.[89]

Several mechanisms have been suggested for the Moon's formation. The formation of the Moon is believed to have occurred 4.527 ± 0.010 billion years ago, about 30–50 million years after the origin of the solar system.

* Fission Theory - Early speculation proposed that the Moon broke off from the Earth's crust because of centrifugal forces, leaving a basin (presumed to be the Pacific Ocean) behind as a scar.This fission concept, however, requires too great an initial spin of the Earth. Furthermore, it would have resulted in an orbit following Earth's equatorial plane, which is not the case.

* Capture Theory - Others speculated that the Moon formed elsewhere and was captured into Earth's orbit. However, the conditions required for this capture mechanism to work (such as an extended atmosphere of the Earth for dissipating energy) are improbable.

* CoFormation Theory - The coformation hypothesis posits that the Earth and the Moon formed together at the same time and place from the primordial accretion disk. In this hypothesis, the Moon formed from material surrounding the proto-Earth, similar to the formation of the planets around the Sun. Some suggest that this hypothesis fails adequately to explain the depletion of metallic iron in the Moon.

A major deficiency with all of these hypotheses is that they cannot easily account for the high angular momentum of the Earth–Moon system.

* Giant Impact Theory - Today, the giant impact hypothesis for forming the Earth–Moon system is widely accepted by the scientific community. In this hypothesis, the impact of a Mars-sized body (Theia) on the proto-Earth is postulated to have put enough material into circumterrestrial orbit to form the Moon. Given that planetary bodies are believed to have formed by the hierarchical accretion of smaller bodies to larger ones, giant impact events such as this are thought to have affected most planets. Computer simulations modelling this impact are consistent with measurements of the angular momentum of the Earth–Moon system, as well as the small size of the lunar core. Unresolved questions regarding this theory have to do with determining the relative sizes of the proto-Earth and impactor, and with determining how much material from the proto-Earth and impactor ended up in the Moon.

Silicon Valley is the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California in the United States. The term originally referred to the region's large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers, but eventually came to refer to all the high-tech businesses in the area; it is now generally used as a metonym for the high-tech sector. Despite the development of other high-tech economic centers throughout the United States, Silicon Valley continues to be the leading high-tech hub because of its large number of engineers and venture capitalists. Geographically, Silicon Valley encompasses the northern part of Santa Clara Valley and adjacent communities.

The term Silicon Valley was coined by Ralph Vaerst, a Northern California entrepreneur. His journalist friend, Don Hoefler, first published the term in 1971. He used it as the title of a series of articles "Silicon Valley USA" in a weekly trade newspaper Electronic News which started with the January 11, 1971 issue. Valley refers to the Santa Clara Valley, located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, while Silicon refers to the high concentration of semiconductor and computer-related industries in the area. These and similar technology and electricity firms slowly replaced the orchards which gave the area its initial nickname, the Valley of Heart's Delight.

Perhaps the strongest thread that runs through the Valley’s past and present is the drive to “play” with novel technology, which, when bolstered by an advanced engineering degree and channeled by astute management, has done much to create the industrial powerhouse we see in the Valley today.

Looking west over northern San Jose (downtown is at far left) and other parts of Silicon Valley
Looking west over northern San Jose (downtown is at far left) and other parts of Silicon Valley

Since the early twentieth century, Silicon Valley has been home to a vibrant, growing electronics industry. The industry began through experimentation and innovation in the fields of radio, television, and military electronics. Stanford University, its affiliates, and graduates have played a major role in the evolution of this area.

The San Francisco Bay Area had long been a major site of U.S. Navy research and technology. In 1909, Charles Herrold started the first radio station in the United States with regularly scheduled programming in San Jose. Later that year, Stanford University graduate Cyril Elwell purchased the U.S. patents for Poulsen arc radio transmission technology and founded the Federal Telegraph Corporation (FTC) in Palo Alto. Over the next decade, the FTC created the world's first global radio communication system, and signed a contract with the U.S. Navy in 1912.

In 1933, Air Base Sunnyvale, California was commissioned by the United States Government for the use as a Naval Air Station (NAS). The station was renamed NAS Moffett Field, and between 1933 and 1947, US Navy blimps were based here. A number of technology firms had set up shop in the area around Moffett to serve the Navy. When the Navy gave up its airship ambitions and moved most of its West Coast operations to San Diego[citation needed], NACA (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, forerunner of NASA) took over portions of Moffett for aeronautics research. Many of the original companies stayed, while new ones moved in. The immediate area was soon filled with aerospace firms such as Lockheed.

After World War II, universities were experiencing enormous demand due to returning students. To address the financial demands of Stanford's growth requirements, and to provide local employment opportunities for graduating students, Frederick Terman proposed the leasing of Stanford's lands for use as an office park, named the Stanford Industrial Park (later Stanford Research Park).

Leases were limited to high technology companies. Its first tenant was Varian Associates, founded by Stanford alumni in the 1930s to build military radar components. However, Terman also found venture capital for civilian technology start-ups . One of the major success stories was Hewlett-Packard. Founded in Packard's garage by Stanford graduates William Hewlett and David Packard, Hewlett-Packard moved its offices into the Stanford Research Park slightly after 1953. In 1954, Stanford created the Honors Cooperative Program to allow full-time employees of the companies to pursue graduate degrees from the University on a part-time basis. The initial companies signed five-year agreements in which they would pay double the tuition for each student in order to cover the costs. Hewlett-Packard has become the largest personal computer manufacturer in the world, and transformed the home printing market when it released the first ink jet printer in 1984. In addition, the tenancy of Eastman Kodak and General Electric undoubtedly made Stanford Industrial Park a center of technology in the mid-1990's.

In 1953, William Shockley left Bell Labs in a disagreement over the handling of the invention of the transistor. After returning to California Institute of Technology for a short while, Shockley moved to Mountain View, California in 1956, and founded Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory.
Unlike many other researchers who used germanium as the semiconductor material, Shockley believed that silicon was the better material for making transistors. Shockley intended to replace the current transistor with a new three-element design (today known as the Shockley diode), but the design was considerably more difficult to build than the "simple" transistor. In 1957, Shockley decided to end research on the silicon transistor. As a result, eight engineers left the company to form Fairchild Semiconductor.
Two of the original employees of Fairchild Semiconductor, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, would go on to found Intel.

By the early 1970s there were many semiconductor companies in the area, computer firms using their devices, and programming and service companies serving both. Industrial space was plentiful and housing was still inexpensive. The growth was fueled by the emergence of the venture capital industry on Sand Hill Road, beginning with Kleiner Perkins in 1972; the availability of venture capital exploded after the successful $1.3 billion IPO of Apple Computer in December 1980.

Although semiconductors are still a major component of the area's economy, Silicon Valley has been most famous in recent years for innovations in software and Internet services. Silicon Valley has significantly influenced computer operating systems, software, and user interfaces.

Using money from NASA and the U.S. Air Force, Doug Engelbart invented the mouse and hypertext-based collaboration tools in the mid-1960s, while at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International). When Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center declined in influence due to personal conflicts and the loss of government funding, Xerox hired some of Engelbart's best researchers.
In turn, in the 1970s and 1980s, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) played a pivotal role in object-oriented programming, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), Ethernet, PostScript, and laser printers.

While Xerox marketed equipment using its technologies, for the most part its technologies flourished elsewhere. The diaspora of Xerox inventions led directly to 3Com and Adobe Systems, and indirectly to Cisco, Apple Computer and Microsoft. Apple's Macintosh GUI was largely a result of Steve Jobs' visit to PARC and the subsequent hiring of key personnel.[citation needed] Microsoft's Windows GUI is based on Apple's work, more or less directly.[citation needed] Cisco's impetus stemmed from the need to route a variety of protocols over Stanford's campus Ethernet.

Silicon Valley is generally considered to have been the center of the dot-com bubble which started from the mid-1990s and collapsed after the NASDAQ stock market began to decline dramatically in April of 2000. During the bubble era, real estate prices reached unprecedented levels. For a brief time, Sand Hill Road was home to the most expensive commercial real estate in the world, and the booming economy resulted in severe traffic congestion.

Even after the dot-com crash, Silicon Valley continues to maintain its status as one of the top research and development centers in the world. A 2006 Wall Street Journal story found that 13 of the 20 most inventive towns in America were in California, and 10 of those were in Silicon Valley. [6] San Jose led the list with 3,867 utility patents filed in 2005, and number two was Sunnyvale, at 1,881 utility patents.

Thousands of high technology companies are headquartered either in or near Silicon Valley; among those, the following are in the Fortune 1000:

* Adobe Systems
* Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)
* Agilent Technologies
* Apple Inc.
* Applied Materials
* Business Objects
* Cisco Systems
* eBay
* Electronic Arts (actually in Redwood Shores north of the Valley)
* Google
* Hewlett-Packard
* Intel
* Intuit

* LSI Logic
* Maxtor
* National Semiconductor
* Network Appliance
* Nvidia
* Oracle Corporation (actually in Redwood Shores north of the Valley)
* SanDisk
* Solectron
* Symantec
* Sun Microsystems
* Yahoo!

Additional notable companies headquartered (or with a significant presence) in Silicon Valley include (some defunct or subsumed):

* 3Com (headquartered in Marlborough, Massachusetts)
* Actuate Corporation
* Adaptec
* Amdahl
* Aricent
* Asus
* Atari
* Atmel
* BEA Systems
* Cypress Semiconductor
* Computer Literacy Bookstore
* Foundry Networks
* Fujitsu (headquartered in Tokyo, Japan)
* Gaia Online
* Hitachi Global Storage Technologies
* Juniper Networks
* Knight-Ridder (acquired by The McClatchy Company)
* Logitech
* McAfee
* Memorex (acquired by Imation and moved to Cerritos, California)
* Microsoft (headquartered in Redmond, Washington)
* Netscape (acquired by AOL)
* NeXT Computer, Inc. (acquired by Apple)
* Nintendo of America
* Opera Software
* Palm, Inc.
* PalmSource, Inc. (acquired by ACCESS)
* PayPal (now part of eBay)
* Rambus
* Redback Networks
* SAP AG (headquartered in Walldorf, Germany)
* Silicon Graphics
* Silicon Image
* Sony
* SRI International
* Tesla Motors
* Tellme Networks
* TiVo
* VA Software (Slashdot)
* WebEx
* VeriSign
* Veritas Software (acquired by Symantec)
* VMware (acquired by EMC)
* Xilinx

Silicon Valley is also home to the high-tech superstore retail chain Fry's Electronics.

* Northwestern Polytechnic University (Fremont)
* Carnegie Mellon University (West Coast Campus)
* San José State University
* Santa Clara University
* Stanford University
* International Technological University(Sunnyvale), this is NOT an accredited school.
* University of California, Santa Cruz (NASA Ames UARC & UC Extension)

A number of cities are located in Silicon Valley (in alphabetical order):

* Campbell
* Cupertino
* East Palo Alto (San Mateo County)
* Fremont
* Los Altos
* Los Altos Hills
* Los Gatos
* Menlo Park (San Mateo County)
* Milpitas
* Mountain View
* Newark
* Palo Alto
* San Jose
* Santa Clara
* Saratoga
* Sunnyvale

Cities sometimes associated with the region:

* Redwood City (home to Oracle and PDI/DreamWorks)
* San Mateo
* Scotts Valley
* Santa Cruz

* List of technology centers around the world
* List of research parks around the world
* List of places with 'Silicon' names
* Pirates of Silicon Valley — Movie about the early development of Microsoft and Apple.
* Science park

As the first wave of baby boomers hits retirement age, life overseas beckons. But be warned: Retiring abroad can have its logistical headaches.

Many of today's graying expatriates are heading permanently offshore to stretch their nest egg. Jon and Gretchen Nickel, formerly of Portland, Ore., settled in Panama, where they say they can live like the rich without needing a big bankroll. Lee Harrison and Julie Lowrey, from Vermont, moved to Uruguay because the lower living costs allowed them to retire years early. Other expat retirees are seeking foreign adventure, cultural experiences and exotic travel, without having to board an airplane.

But retiring to a foreign land can present a number of challenges, from opening a local bank account to avoiding being gouged for services. And while many countries, from Belize to South Africa, offer inducements to attract foreign retirees, making sure you've got health insurance can be a big problem.

Moving abroad also means leaving behind family and friends, though Internet communications can shorten the distances. There can also be safety and security concerns, depending on where you end up.

"People go on a vacation and love the place and say 'I want to live here.' But that's very different than living there day to day and buying groceries and dealing with your finances," says Hugh Bromma, chief executive of Entrust Group, a financial-services firm that caters to many expat retirees.

Roger and Jennifer Miller retired to the Caribbean nation of Dominica in 2005, expecting that meeting residency requirements "would be a cakewalk, and it wasn't," says Mr. Miller, 61, a former analytical chemist in St. Louis. What's more, he says, "expenses you expect to be cheaper often aren't" because locals expect Americans have money and charge more for services. He says life in Dominica "is about two times more expensive than I was led to believe when we started asking around down here about retiring here."

No agency tracks how many U.S. retirees live overseas. The federal government requires no forms. To help start you in the right direction, here are some things you should consider before making a move:

Banking and Finance

Online banking and brokerage accounts make managing money easy from anywhere you can find an Internet connection. But working with local banks can be frustrating.

Mr. Harrison, a former project manager with power company Exelon Corp., first retired to Ecuador at the age of 49, before relocating last year to a $160,000 beach house near Punta del Este, Uruguay, and a 1,000-square-foot apartment in Montevideo, Uruguay's cosmopolitan capital. In Ecuador, which uses the U.S. dollar as the national currency, he could deposit dollar-denominated checks at his local bank, though they generally took three weeks to clear. But Uruguay uses the peso, and local banks don't accept dollar checks.

So, like many retired expats, Mr. Harrison operates his finances from the U.S. He maintains a Citibank account in the U.S. and wires blocks of money to Uruguay three times a year at a cost of $45 per transaction. Other retirees also rely on local ATMs to tap their cash in the U.S., though fees for currency conversion and non-network ATM use can add up quickly.

Most retirees also keep their credit cards based in the U.S. Mr. Harrison says he buys lots of merchandise online "and American vendors generally don't let you use a foreign credit card." Bills also are paid online.

Opening accounts can range from simple to vexing. Mr. Harrison's bank in Uruguay "just wanted my passport. It was so easy." For the Millers, the process took weeks. They didn't bring any documents, and the Dominican bank they chose wanted letters of credit and references from the couple's U.S. bank.

Banks are trying to make some of these processes easier. HSBC PLC has revamped its Premier Account to help customers moving overseas arrange for bank accounts and mortgages in their new country. The bank also provides documents necessary for obtaining services such as a mobile phone, which often requires a local credit history. Charles Schwab & Co. has begun allowing its overseas customers, located in more than 200 countries, to establish standing letters of authorization so they can request with just an email that money be wired to an account abroad.

Health and Social Security

Social Security won't be much of a problem. The Social Security Administration will electronically deposit a monthly Social Security check in many banks around the world, though not all. Still, many expat retirees, to avoid challenges with local banking, have their Social Security checks electronically deposited into their U.S. bank, which they can then access online.

Health care is a bigger concern. Few U.S. employers offer health-care coverage to expat retirees, and U.S. carriers typically don't provide individual coverage to Americans living abroad. Moreover, the federal Medicare program generally doesn't cover costs outside the U.S. As such, many retirees either pay out of pocket or, once eligible for Medicare at age 65, return to the U.S. from time to time for care.

The Nickels bought a catastrophic health-care policy from a European insurer to cover them in case a pricey medical emergency arises in Panama. The policy costs less than $2,000 a year, but kicks in only after the first $10,000 in expenses. "I'm gambling at the moment that my health will hold out to 65," says Mr. Nickel, 62 years old. "Once I get Medicare in three years, I'll be flying to Houston or Miami more often for my health care."

There is some good news. Health insurer Cigna Corp. a year ago rolled out a new insurance plan, covering health, dental and vision, that allows employers to extend health coverage to retired workers who move abroad. The plan currently covers about 200 retirees living abroad, but the insurer expects larger numbers because "we anticipate the trend to retire overseas will grow," says a Cigna spokeswoman.

Many retirees also say that basic health care in many parts of the world is very good and inexpensive.
Many doctors are Western trained, and some local hospitals are affiliated with U.S. institutions. Hospital Punta Pacifica in Panama City, for instance, has partnered with Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

In some countries, retirees who become residents gain access to the national health-care system. Mr. Harrison, who just gained Uruguayan residency, is considering joining the national health plan. He says a friend recently joined and pays the equivalent of $65 a month for coverage that includes hospitalization, doctor visits and prescriptions.

Measuring one country's quality of health care against another isn't easy, since so many variables exist. However, the World Health Organization's World Health Report 2006 (available at contains some statistical indicators to help compare health systems across various countries.

Still, for most major medical issues, "you probably want to return to the U.S.," because of superior medical technology in U.S. hospitals, says Robert Gallo, who founded, a Web site that offers information about overseas living., to which Mr. Harrison is a contributor, also offers information on living overseas.

Some expat retirees rent property, others buy. The Millers bought land in Dominica and are building a 900-square-foot home with a big veranda in southern Dominica overlooking the Caribbean. The Nickels gutted and remodeled an apartment on the 24th floor of a Panama City apartment building and built a "very nice kitchen area" because they like to cook and entertain.

In some situations, there can be legal issues to owning property abroad. Mr. Gallo, of, encourages people to set up and own their property in the name of a Panamanian or British Virgin Islands corporation. When you go to sell it, you sell the corporation and the property just switches hands, easing transfer of title, Mr. Gallo says.

Taxes and Legal Issues

Many countries try to lure foreign retirees. Belize's nearly decade-old Retired Persons Incentive Act, for instance, allows retirees over age 45 to import their personal effects duty free, and to earn retirement income tax free. Countries from Italy to Panama to South Africa and Thailand offer a "pensioner visa" or "retirement visa" to Americans who can prove a certain level of monthly income. The visas can provide a variety of benefits, such as automatic discounts on certain purchases and the ability to obtain a local passport.

Still, the Internal Revenue Service taxes Americans on income no matter where it's earned in the world. Tax regimens vary widely overseas, and you may or may not be subject to local taxes. Many countries have tax treaties with the U.S. to alleviate double taxation. A list of countries with such tax treaties is available at; search "tax treaties A to Z."

Yamato (大和), named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, was a battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was lead ship of her class. She and her sister Musashi were the largest, heaviest, and most powerful battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tonnes at full load. The class carried the largest naval artillery ever fitted to any warship - 460 mm (18.1 in) guns which fired 1.36 tonne shells.

The ship held special significance for the Empire of Japan as a symbol of the nation's naval power ('Yamato' was sometimes used to refer to Japan itself), and its sinking by US aircraft in the final days of the war during the suicide Operation Ten-Go is sometimes considered symbolic of Japan's defeat itself.
The Yamato class was built after the Japanese withdrew from the Washington Naval Treaty at the Second London Conference of 1936. The treaty, as extended by the London Naval Treaty of 1930, forbade signatories to build battleships before 1937.

Design work on the class began in 1934 and after modifications the design for a 68,000 ton vessel was accepted in March 1937. Yamato was built in intense secrecy at a specially prepared dock to hide her construction at Kure Naval Dockyards beginning on 4 November 1937. She was launched on 8 August 1940 and commissioned on 16 December 1941.

Originally, five ships of this class were planned. The third, Shinano, was converted to an aircraft carrier during construction after the defeat at the Battle of Midway. The un-named "Hull Number 111" was scrapped in 1943 when roughly 30% complete, and "Hull Number 797", proposed in the 1942 5th Supplementary Program, was never ordered.

Plans for a "Super Yamato" class, with 20 inch (508 mm) guns, provisionally designated as "Hull Number 798" and "Hull Number 799", were abandoned in 1942.

The class was designed to be superior to any ship that the United States was likely to produce. Her 460 mm main guns were selected over 406 mm (16 in) ones because the width of the Panama Canal would make it impractical for the U.S. Navy to construct a battleship with the same caliber guns without severe design restrictions or inadequate defensive arrangement. To further confuse the intelligence agencies of other countries, Yamato's main guns were officially named 40.6 cm Special, and civilians were never notified of the true nature of the guns. This worked so well that as late as 1945, the U.S. believed the Yamato had 16 inch (406 mm) guns and a 40,823 tonne displacement, comparable to the Iowas. Funding for the Yamato class was also scattered among various projects so the huge costs would not be immediately noticeable.

At the Kure Navy Yard, the construction dock was deepened, the gantry crane capacity was increased to 100 tonnes, and part of the dock was roofed over to prevent observation of the work. Many low-level designers and even senior officers were not informed of the true dimensions of the battleship until after the war. When the ship was launched, there was no commissioning ceremony or fanfare.

Yamato was designed by Keiji Fukuda and followed the trend of unique and generally excellent indigenous Japanese warship designs begun in the 1920s by Fukuda's predecessor Yuzuru Hiraga. The design of Yamato contained a number of unique features, some of which contributed to the striking appearance of the vessel. To begin with, unlike most of the designs of the 1920s and 1930s, Yamato's deck was not flush. The undulating line of the main deck forward saved structural weight without reducing hull girder strength. Tests of models in a model basin led to the adoption of a semitransom stern and a bulbous bow, which reduced hull resistance by 8%.

The nine 460 mm main battery were the largest ever fielded at sea, a major technological challenge to construct and operate. Their successful implementation in the Yamato class constitutes a major achievement on the part of Japanese naval constructors. The exponentially higher blast effect of the main armament prevented the stowage of boats on deck or the stationing of unshielded personnel in combat. As a result, all anti-aircraft positions (even the smallest) were enclosed in blast shields as designed. Later in their career the anti-aircraft armament of both ships were considerably augmented by open positions of both light and heavy weapons. Presumably AA gun crews would evacuate the weather deck prior to the firing of the main armament. This might help explain Yamato's ineffectiveness at the Battle off Samar; the ship was under almost continual air attack and may have been prevented from firing her main armament at the risk of killing or disabling gunners in open positions. For similar reasons, the superstructure of the ship was extremely compact, which reduced armored citadel length but also hampered anti-aircraft arcs of fire.
Boats were stowed in below-deck hangars and launched via an unusual traveling crane arrangement mounted on both quarters. The quarter deck aft of Turret 3 was paved with concrete, beneath which a hangar for the stowage of up to seven spotter aircraft was provided for via a wide elevator-like opening in the stern. Contrary to some descriptions the Yamato and Musashi did not have "Pagoda" masts as did previous Japanese battleships, but modern tower bridge structures to house command and fire control facilities. The mainmast, funnel and tower bridge were all unique in design and appearance, differing markedly both from other Japanese battleships and from capital ships of other navies. There is a general "familial" resemblance however between the architecture of the Yamatos and the Hiraga/Fujimoto designed series of cruisers of the 1920s and 30s, particularly the Takao and Mogami classes.

The immense beam of these ships made them perhaps the most stable of all battleships. Both ships were reported to be very stable even in heavy seas. However, the increased width of the hull also meant that any loss of stability required a correspondingly greater righting-arm to correct in the event of significant flooding. The ship had one single large rudder (at frame 231), which gave it a small (for a ship of that size) turning circle of 640 m. By comparison the U.S. Iowa-class fast battleship had one of over 800 m. There was also a smaller auxiliary rudder installed (at frame 219) which turned out to be virtually useless.

The steam turbine power plant was a relatively low powered design (25 kgf/cm² (2.5 MPa), 325 °C), and as such, their fuel usage rate was very high. This is a primary reason why they were not used during the Solomon Islands campaign and other mid-war operations. In addition, installed horsepower was only 147,948 (110,324kW), limiting her ability to operate with carriers.

Arc welding, a relatively new procedure at that time, was used extensively. The lower side-belt armor was used as a strength member of the hull structure. This was done to save weight, an important concern for the designers, despite the lack of treaty limitations. There were a total of 1,147 watertight compartments in the ship (1,065 of these beneath the armored deck).

Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944. Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460 mm gun turret, during attacks by U.S. carrier planes as she transited the Sibuyan Sea. This hit did not produce serious damage.
Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944. Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460 mm gun turret, during attacks by U.S. carrier planes as she transited the Sibuyan Sea. This hit did not produce serious damage.
Yamato was the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto from 12 February 1942, replacing Nagato. She sailed with Nagato, Mutsu, Hosho, Sendai, nine destroyers, and four auxiliary ships as Yamamoto's Main Body during the attempted invasion of Midway Atoll in June 1942, but took no active part in the Battle of Midway. She remained the flagship for 364 days until February 11, 1943, when the flag was transferred to her sister ship Musashi. From 29 August 1942 to 8 May 1943, she spent all of her time at Truk, being underway for only one day during this entire time. In May 1943, she returned to Kure, where the two wing 155 mm turrets were removed and replaced by 25 mm machine guns, and Type-22 surface search radars were added. She returned to Truk on 25 December 1943. On the way there, she was damaged by a torpedo from the submarine USS Skate, and was not fully repaired until April 1944. During these repairs, additional 127 mm anti-aircraft guns were installed in the place of the 155 mm turrets removed in May, and additional 25 mm anti-aircraft guns were added.

She joined the fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944. In October, she participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, during which she first fired her main guns at enemy aircraft and surface ships. During the initial air attack, she received two bomb hits from aircraft which did little damage. However, her sister, Musashi, bore the brunt of the US carrier aircraft attacks and was sunk. Yamato compatriots later sank an escort carrier and some escort vessels at Samar, but Yamato herself was largely absent from the climax of this engagement due to her having turned away from American torpedoes launched from USS Heermann (DD-532). She returned home in November and her anti-aircraft capability was again upgraded over the winter. She was attacked in the Inland Sea on 19 March 1945 by carrier aircraft from Task Force 58 as they attacked Kure, but suffered little damage.

On 6 April 1945, Yamato was sent on a suicidal mission (operation Ten-Go) against more than 1000 US ships off Okinawa. US carrier-based aircraft sank her before she was close to her target.

Operation Ten-Go

Her final mission was as part of Operation Ten-Go following the invasion of Okinawa on 1 April 1945. It was a suicide mission (commanded by Admiral Seiichi Ito) to attack the U.S. fleet supporting the U.S. troops landing on the west of the island; her mission was to beach herself on the coast, in effect becoming an unsinkable gun battery. In addition, the Yamato's crew was to join the defending Japanese forces on Okinawa after the beaching. On 6 April Yamato and her escorts, the light cruiser Yahagi and eight destroyers, left port at Tokuyama. They were detected by US submarines on the night of 6 April as they exited the Inland Sea southbound.

Yamato had no air cover for her final mission, nor did she have many escorts. All of the officers and crew assumed it would be her last voyage. On her final evening, as it was expected U.S. carrier planes would attack the next morning, the officers allowed or even ordered the crew to indulge in sake.

At about 0830 hours on 7 April 1945, United States fighter planes were launched to pinpoint the Japanese task force. By 1000 hours, Yamato's radar picked up the U.S. planes and a state of battle readiness was commanded. Within seven minutes all doors, hatches and ventilators were closed, and battle stations were fully manned.

Yamato fired beehive shells (三式燃散弾, san-shiki shosan dan ) from her main guns against the US planes. Each of these anti-aircraft shells contained thousands of pellets that would be scattered upon explosion - analogous to a massive shotgun round. However, the beehive shells were ineffective against the incoming US planes, and performed little more than pyrotechnic displays. Strafing attacks by the US warplanes would decimate many of the AA gun crews, reducing the battleship's ability to fend off the attacking US aircraft.
Planes from the carrier Hornet joined the strike force from Bennington. Bennington's VB-82, led by Lieutenant Commander Hugh Wood, was flying at 6,000 m (20,000 ft) altitude in heavy clouds on the bearing to intercept the ships. Although the radar indicated they were very close, the pilots were startled when they realized they were directly above the Japanese task force and within range of anti-aircraft fire. Lieutenant Commander Wood immediately pushed his Helldiver into the clouds and made a sharp left turn, commencing their attack. Wood's wingman was unable to stay with the formation, leaving Lieutenant (jg) Francis R. Ferry and Lieutenant (jg) Edward A. Sieber to follow Wood into the first strike on the Yamato.

The dives began at 20,000 ft directly over the Yamato, bearing from stern to bow. Bombs were released at an altitude of less than about 500 m (1,500 ft). The dives were made as close to a 90-degree angle as possible to avoid most anti-aircraft guns. Each of the three planes released eight 127 mm (5 in) rockets; two armor-piercing bombs and bursts of 20 mm machine gun fire. Lt. (jg) Ferry remembers that "at this distance a miss was impossible".

The first two bombs dropped by Lt. Commander Wood hit on the starboard side of the weather deck, knocking out several of the 25 mm machine guns and the high-angle gun turret and ripping a hole in the flying deck. Seconds later came the two bombs from Lt. (jg) Ferry, destroying secondary battery fire control station as they blew through the flying deck, and starting a fire that was never extinguished. This fire continued to spread and is believed to have caused the explosion of the main ammunition magazine as the Yamato capsized some two hours later. Hot on Ferry's tail was Lt. (jg) Sieber, delivering two bomb hits forward of the island, ripping more holes in the decks in the vicinity of the number three main gun turret.

The torpedo plane pilots were ordered to aim for the parts of the Yamato's hull unprotected by her torpedo defense system: the bow and stern. They were also ordered to attack her on one side only, so that their target would capsize more easily since counter-flooding would become more difficult. Within minutes of the Avengers' torpedo attacks, the Yamato suffered three torpedo hits to her port side and began listing.

Over the next two hours, two more attacks would be launched, pounding the Yamato with torpedoes and bombs. Attempts at counter-flooding failed, and shortly after 1400 hours, the commanding officer gave the word to prepare to abandon ship. As the ship listed beyond a 90° angle and began sinking, a gigantic explosion of the stern ammunition magazines tore the ship apart. The huge mushroom of fire and smoke exploded almost four miles into the air and the fire was seen by sentries 125 miles away in Kagoshima prefecture on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands. Only 280 of the Yamato 2,778-man crew were rescued from the sinking ship. The end had come for the Yamato, foreshadowing the coming end of the Imperial Japanese Military. Ten aircraft and 12 airmen were lost in the attack on the Yamato.

Naval gunfire took no part in Yamato's demise. The sinking of the world's largest battleship by aircraft alone confirmed the lessons learned by the sinking of the Prince of Wales, Repulse, and Musashi: The battleship had been supplanted by the aircraft carrier as queen of the sea and the capital ship of any fleet.

The wreckage lies in around 300 meters of water and was surveyed in 1985 and 1999. These surveys show the hull to be in two pieces with the break occurring in the area of the second ('B') main turret.

The senior surviving bridge officer Mitsuru Yoshida claims that a fire alert for the magazine of the forward superfiring 155 mm guns was observed as the ship sank. This fire appears to have detonated the shell propellant stored as the ship rolled over, which in turn set off the magazine in Turret No. 2, resulting in the famous pictures of the actual explosion and subsequent smoke column photographed by US aircraft.

The bow section landed upright, with the stern section remaining keel up. The three main turrets fell away as the ship turned over and landed in the wreckage field around the separated hull pieces.

A further large hole was found in the stern section, strongly suggesting that a third magazine explosion occurred, possibly the aft 155 mm gun magazine.

Further examples of capital ships being lost due to magazine detonations of this nature during or after battle are the British battlecruisers HMS Queen Mary, Invincible and Indefatigable at the battle of Jutland in 1916, Hood at battle of the Denmark Strait in 1941, and USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor in 1941. A magazine or shell room explosion occurred aboard HMS Barham in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1941, but she was already sinking fast - in fact rapidly capsizing - as the explosion occurred.

Commanding officers
Rank Name Command Notes
Chief Equipping Officer
Captain / RADM Shutoku Miyazato 5 September 1941 –
1 November 1941 Promoted to Rear Admiral on 15 October 1941.
Chief Equipping Officer
Captain Gihachi Takayanagi 1 November 1941 –
16 December 1941
Captain / RADM Gihachi Takyanagi 16 December 1941 –
17 December 1942 Promoted to Rear Admiral on 1 May 1942.
Captain / RADM Chiaki Matsuda 17 December 1942 –
7 September 1943 Promoted to Rear Admiral on 1 May 1943.
Captain / RADM Takeji Ono 7 September 1943 –
25 January 1944 Promoted to Rear Admiral on 1 November 1943.
Captain / RADM Nobuei Morishita 25 January 1944 –
25 November 1944 Promoted to Rear Admiral on 15 October 1944.
Captain / VADM* Kosaku Aruga 25 November 1944 –
7 April 1945 *Posthumous 2-rank promotion upon special request of CinC Combined Fleet.

Nature changed the rules of the game of radioactivity 10 billion years ago, probably long before the Earth was formed. It was then that potassium, an element essential to life, began disintegrating radioactively, Dr. A.K. Brewer, chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture here, has determined.
Measuring the rate of breakdown of potassium into a kind of calcium, a component of limestone, then determining the time that this breakdown has been going on from the amount of this calcium now existing, Dr. Brewer finds that the process has been going on for about 10 billion years. In reaching this figure, he assumes that all of this special calcium, which has an atomic weight of 40 instead of 40.08 as does ordinary calcium, was derived from the breakdown of potassium, and that the breakdown rate has been uniform since it started. A similar time has elapsed since a variety of rubidium, a rare earth, started to break down into a kind of strontium, another rare earth.

Attempts to determine our planet's age by studying the end products of radioactive breakdown, such as calcium derived from the decay of potassium, may be as futile as trying to find out how old a stove is by weighing the ashes. The method will show, Dr. Brewer believes, how long the disintegration has been going on or, more simply, how long the fire has been burning.

Dr. Brewer's new studies in no way affect the ages determined for a number of rocks by radioactive methods. The amount of uranium, another radioactive element, in rocks is measured and then compared with the lead that it has added to the rock by uranium's previous decay. The oldest rocks dated by this method are about 1.5 billion years old.

With Earth age estimated from a number of sources at not more than 2.5 billion years, some of the breakdown of potassium must have occurred before Earth was formed. Under present theories, the breakdown began on the sun, 7 or 8 billion years before that little star was torn apart to create the solar system.

How matter behaved under the old rules, in force until 10 billion or so years ago, before the formation of the solar system, Dr. Brewer will not state. His studies give no clue to older, now nonexistent states of matter.

Life, in the early days of our planet, hundreds of millions of years ago, may have been greatly affected by the radioactivity of potassium, says Dr. Brewer. Potassium is necessary to life, and if the minute fraction that is radioactive gets into a plant or animal, its radiations may damage the plant or animal and cause a sudden change of form, called a mutation.

Recently, by exposing fruit flies to X rays, similar to radium radiations, Dr. Calvin Bridges, California Institute of Technology geneticist, was able to produce freak flies in a very few generations. Millions of years ago, when radioactivity was stronger than at present, changes in life forms may have been greatly accelerated by radiations from this type of potassium.

Studies of the ages of rocks, using radioactive potassium as the clock, indicate to Dr. Brewer that their age cannot exceed 6 billion years and probably they are very much younger. Disintegration long ago of other elements, now completely broken down, may make this age entirely too large. More work on radioactivity, leading to a more exact, and probably smaller, value for rock age, is suggested by Dr. Brewer.


Revision of our maps of the moon may be necessary as a result of the discovery of a series of craters and walled plains near the edge of our satellite's visible disk by H. Percy Wilkins, British astronomer.

Occupying 20 degrees of latitude on the southeast edge of the moon, this tangle of walled valleys, craters, and high peaks has escaped discovery for many years, chiefly because nobody looked there carefully enough until now. Commenting on Mr. Wilkins' discovery, Dr. Walter Goodacre, acting director of the British Astronomical Society, recommended further observations of the moon's edges, which may lead to additional discoveries.

In the 1967 film classic The Graduate, a businessman corners Benjamin Braddock at a cocktail party and gives him a bit of career advice. "Just one word…plastics."

Although Benjamin didn't heed that recommendation, plenty of other young graduates did. Today, the planet is awash in products spawned by the plastics industry. Residues of plastics have become ubiquitous in the environment—and in our bodies.

A federal government study now reports that bisphenol A (BPA)—the building block of one of the most widely used plastics—laces the bodies of the vast majority of U.S. residents young and old.

Manufacturers link BPA molecules into long chains, called polymers, to make polycarbonate plastics. All of those clear, brittle plastics used in baby bottles, food ware, and small kitchen appliances (like food-processor bowls) are made from polycarbonates. BPA-based resins also line the interiors of most food, beer, and soft-drink cans. With use and heating, polycarbonates can break down, leaching BPA into the materials they contact. Such as foods.

And that could be bad if what happens in laboratory animals also happens in people, because studies in rodents show that BPA can trigger a host of harmful changes, from reproductive havoc to impaired blood-sugar control and obesity (SN: 9/29/07, p. 202).

For the new study, scientists analyzed urine from some 2,500 people who had been recruited between 2003 and 2004 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Roughly 92 percent of the individuals hosted measurable amounts of BPA, according to a report in the January Environmental Health Perspectives. It's the first study to measure the pollutant in a representative cross-section of the U.S. population.

Typically, only small traces of BPA turned up, concentrations of a few parts per billion in urine, note chemist Antonia M. Calafat and her colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, with hormone-mimicking agents like BPA, even tiny exposures can have notable impacts.

Overall, concentrations measured by Calafat's team were substantially higher than those that have triggered disease, birth defects, and more in exposed animals, notes Frederick S. vom Saal, a University of Missouri-Columbia biologist who has been probing the toxicology of BPA for more than 15 years.

The BPA industry describes things differently.
Although Calafat's team reported urine concentrations of BPA, in fact they assayed a breakdown product—the compound by which BPA is excreted, notes Steven G. Hentges of the American Chemistry Council's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group. As such, he argues, "this does not mean that BPA itself is present in the body or in urine."

On the other hand, few people have direct exposure to the breakdown product.

Hentges' group estimates that the daily BPA intake needed to create urine concentrations reported by the CDC scientists should be in the neighborhood of 50 nanograms per kilogram of bodyweight—or one millionth of an amount at which "no adverse effects" were measured in multi-generation animal studies. In other words, Hentges says, this suggests "a very large margin of safety."

No way, counters vom Saal. If one applies the ratio of BPA intake to excreted values in hosts of published animal studies, concentrations just reported by CDC suggest that the daily intake of most Americans is actually closer to 100 micrograms (µg) per kilogram bodyweight, he says—or some 1,000-fold higher than the industry figure.

Clearly, there are big differences of opinion and interpretation. And a lot may rest on who's right.

Globally, chemical manufacturers produce an estimated 2.8 million tons of BPA each year. The material goes into a broad range of products, many used in and around the home. BPA also serves as the basis of dental sealants, which are resins applied to the teeth of children to protect their pearly whites from cavities (SN: 4/6/96, p. 214). The industry, therefore, has a strong economic interest in seeing that the market for BPA-based products doesn't become eroded by public concerns over the chemical.

And that could happen. About 2 years after a Japanese research team showed that BPA leached out of baby bottles and plastic food ware (see What's Coming Out of Baby's Bottle?), manufacturers of those consumer products voluntarily found BPA substitutes for use in food cans. Some 2 years after that, a different group of Japanese scientists measured concentrations of BPA residues in the urine of college students. About half of the samples came from before the switch, the rest from after the period when BPA was removed from food cans.

By comparing urine values from the two time periods, the researchers showed that BPA residues were much lower—down by at least 50 percent—after Japanese manufacturers had eliminated BPA from the lining of food cans.

Concludes vom Saal, in light of the new CDC data and a growing body of animal data implicating even low-dose BPA exposures with the potential to cause harm, "the most logical thing" for the United States to do would be to follow in Japan's footsteps and "get this stuff [BPA] out of our food."

Kids appear most exposed

Overall, men tend to have statistically lower concentrations of BPA than women, the NHANES data indicate. But the big difference, Calafat says, traces to age. "Children had higher concentrations than adolescents, and they in turn had higher levels than adults," she told Science News Online.

This decreasing body burden with older age "is something we have seen with some other nonpersistent chemicals," Calafat notes—such as phthalates, another class of plasticizers.

The spread between the average BPA concentration that her team measured in children 6 to 11 years old (4.5 µg/liter) and adults (2.5 µg/L) doesn't look like much, but proved reliably different.

The open question is why adults tended to excrete only 55 percent as much BPA. It could mean children have higher exposures, she posits, or perhaps that they break it down less efficiently. "We really need to do more research to be able to answer that question."

Among other differences that emerged in the NHANES analysis: urine residues of BPA decreased with increasing household income and varied somewhat with ethnicity (with Mexican-Americans having the lowest average values, blacks the highest, and white's values in between).

There was also a time-of-day difference, with urine values for any given group tending to be highest in the evening, lowest in the afternoon, and midway between those in the morning. Since BPA's half-life in the body is only about 6 hours, that temporal variation in the chemical's excretion would be consistent with food as a major source of exposure, the CDC scientists note.

In the current NHANES paper, BPA samples were collected only once from each recruit. However, in a paper due to come out in the February Environmental Health Perspectives, Calafat and colleagues from several other institutions looked at how BPA excretion varied over a 2-year span among 82 individuals—men and women—seen at a fertility clinic in Boston.

In contrast to the NHANES data, the upcoming report shows that men tended to have somewhat higher BPA concentrations than women. Then again both groups had only about one-quarter the concentration typical of Americans.

The big difference in the Boston group emerged among the 10 women who ultimately became pregnant. Their BPA excretion increased 33 percent during pregnancy. Owing to the small number of participants in this subset of the study population, the pregnancy-associated change was not statistically significant. However, the researchers report, these are the first data to look for changes during pregnancy and ultimately determining whether some feature of pregnancy—such as a change in diet or metabolism of BPA—really alters body concentrations of the pollutant could be important. It could point to whether the fetus faces an unexpectedly high exposure to the pollutant.

If it does, the fetus could face a double whammy: Not only would exposures be higher during this period of organ and neural development, but rates of detoxification also would be diminished, vom Saal says.

Indeed, in a separate study, one due to be published soon in Reproductive Toxicology, his team administered BPA by ingestion or by injection to 3-day-old mice. Either way, the BPA exposure resulted in comparable BPA concentrations in blood.

What's more, that study found, per unit of BPA delivered, blood values in the newborns were "markedly higher" than other studies have reported for adult rodents exposed to the chemical. And that makes sense, vom Saal says, because the enzyme needed to break BPA down and lead to its excretion is only a tenth as active in babies as in adults. That's true in the mouse, he says, in the rat—and, according to some preliminary data, in humans.

Vom Saal contends that since studies have shown BPA exhibits potent hormonelike activity in human cells at the parts-per-trillion level, and since
the new CDC study finds that most people are continually exposed to concentrations well above the parts-per-trillion ballpark, it's time to reevaluate whether it makes sense to use BPA-based products in and around foods.

LETTER FROM POLAND about novelist Krystian Bala and the murder of Dariusz Janiszewski. Writer describes the discovery of Janiszewski’s body in the Oder River in December, 2000. Janiszewski had run a small advertising firm in the city of Wroclaw. He had no apparent enemies and no criminal record. After six months, the investigation was dropped. Tells about police detective Jacek Wroblewski taking an interest in the Janiszewski case in 2003. In cold cases the key to solving the crime is often an overlooked clue in the original file. The file detailed a series of calls to Janiszewski’s cell phone on the day of the murder, some from a phone booth down the street from his office. Yet the cell phone had never been found. Wroblewski and a colleague traced the cell phone, which had been sold on an Internet auction site four days after Janiszewski disappeared. The seller, investigators learned, was a thirty-year old Polish intellectual named Krystian Bala. Bala had recently published a sadistic, pornographic, creepy novel called “Amok.” The book featured a murder not unlike Janiszewski’s and a narrator named Chris, the English version of Bala’s first name. Discusses Bala’s interest in postmodern thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Georges Bataille, and Michel Foucault. Bala constructed myths about himself so that friends often had trouble distinguishing his real character from the one he had invented. Bala married his high-school sweetheart, Stasia, in 1995; they had a son in 1997. To support his family, he left the university and started a cleaning business, which went bankrupt in 2000. His marriage also collapsed. He left Poland, traveling widely, and worked on his novel, finishing the book in 2002. The book came out in 2003 but it did not sell well.
Describes Wroblewski using the book as a guide to his investigation of Bala’s possible involvement in the murder and discusses similarities between events in the book and Bala’s life. When Bala returned to Poland, he was arrested. Bala claims that he was violently beaten during the interrogation, a claim Wroblewski denies. Bala took a polygraph test but the results were inconclusive. Further investigation revealed a darker picture of the years during which Bala’s business and marriage failed (and during which Janiszewski was murdered). Investigators were able to connect Bala to the card that was used to make calls to Janiszewski’s cell phone on the day he was murdered. A friend of Bala’s ex-wife then told Wroblewski that, in the summer of 2000, Stasia had met Janiszewski at a night club. Bala had then confronted Stasia in a jealous rage. Tells about Bala’s trial and conviction for the murder. He was sentenced to twenty-five years. Writer visits Bala in prison. Bala tells him about a new novel he is working on called “De Liryk.”

Sometime after midnight on September 6, 2007, at least four low-flying Israeli Air Force fighters crossed into Syrian airspace and carried out a secret bombing mission on the banks of the Euphrates River, about ninety miles north of the Iraq border. The seemingly unprovoked bombing, which came after months of heightened tension between Israel and Syria over military exercises and troop buildups by both sides along the Golan Heights, was, by almost any definition, an act of war. But in the immediate aftermath nothing was heard from the government of Israel. In contrast, in 1981, when the Israeli
Air Force destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, near Baghdad, the Israeli government was triumphant, releasing reconnaissance photographs of the strike and permitting the pilots to be widely interviewed.

Within hours of the attack, Syria denounced Israel for invading its airspace, but its public statements were incomplete and contradictory—thus adding to the mystery. A Syrian military spokesman said only that Israeli planes had dropped some munitions in an unpopulated area after being challenged by Syrian air defenses, “which forced them to flee.” Four days later, Walid Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister, said during a state visit to Turkey that the Israeli aircraft had used live ammunition in the attack, but insisted that there were no casualties or property damage. It was not until October 1st that Syrian President Bashar Assad, in an interview with the BBC, acknowledged that the Israeli warplanes had hit their target, which he described as an “unused military building.” Assad added that Syria reserved the right to retaliate, but his comments were muted.

Despite official silence in Tel Aviv (and in Washington), in the days after the bombing the American and European media were flooded with reports, primarily based on information from anonymous government sources, claiming that Israel had destroyed a nascent nuclear reactor that was secretly being assembled in Syria, with the help of North Korea. Beginning construction of a nuclear reactor in secret would be a violation of Syria’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and could potentially yield material for a nuclear weapon.

The evidence was circumstantial but seemingly damning. The first reports of Syrian and North Korean nuclear coöperation came on September 12th in the Times and elsewhere. By the end of October, the various media accounts generally agreed on four points: the Israeli intelligence community had learned of a North Korean connection to a construction site in an agricultural area in eastern Syria; three days before the bombing, a “North Korean ship,” identified as the Al Hamed, had arrived at the Syrian port of Tartus, on the Mediterranean; satellite imagery strongly suggested that the building under construction was designed to hold a nuclear reactor when completed; as such, Syria had crossed what the Israelis regarded as the “red line” on the path to building a bomb, and had to be stopped. There were also reports—by ABC News and others—that some of the Israeli intelligence had been shared in advance with the United States, which had raised no objection to the bombing.

The Israeli government still declined to make any statement about the incident. Military censorship on dispatches about the raid was imposed for several weeks, and the Israeli press resorted to recycling the disclosures in the foreign press. In the first days after the attack, there had been many critical stories in the Israeli press speculating about the bombing, and the possibility that it could lead to a conflict with Syria. Larry Derfner, a columnist writing in the Jerusalem Post, described the raid as “the sort of thing that starts wars.” But, once reports about the nuclear issue and other details circulated, the domestic criticism subsided.

At a news conference on September 20th, President George W. Bush was asked about the incident four times but said, “I’m not going to comment on the matter.” The lack of official statements became part of the story.
“The silence from all parties has been deafening,” David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post, “but the message to Iran”—which the Administration had long suspected of pursuing a nuclear weapon—“is clear: America and Israel can identify nuclear targets and penetrate air defenses to destroy them.”

It was evident that officials in Israel and the United States, although unwilling to be quoted, were eager for the news media to write about the bombing. Early on, a former officer in the Israel Defense Forces with close contacts in Israeli intelligence approached me, with a version of the standard story, including colorful but, as it turned out, unconfirmable details: Israeli intelligence tracking the ship from the moment it left a North Korean port; Syrian soldiers wearing protective gear as they off-loaded the cargo; Israeli intelligence monitoring trucks from the docks to the target site. On October 3rd, the London Spectator, citing much of the same information, published an overheated account of the September 6th raid, claiming that it “may have saved the world from a devastating threat,” and that “a very senior British ministerial source” had warned, “If people had known how close we came to World War Three that day there’d have been mass panic.”

However, in three months of reporting for this article, I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria. It is possible that Israel conveyed intelligence directly to senior members of the Bush Administration, without it being vetted by intelligence agencies. (This process, known as “stovepiping,” overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.) But Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations group responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said, “Our experts who have carefully analyzed the satellite imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.”

Joseph Cirincione, the director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank, told me, “Syria does not have the technical, industrial, or financial ability to support a nuclear-weapons program. I’ve been following this issue for fifteen years, and every once in a while a suspicion arises and we investigate and there’s nothing. There was and is no nuclear-weapons threat from Syria. This is all political.” Cirincione castigated the press corps for its handling of the story. “I think some of our best journalists were used,” he said.

A similar message emerged at briefings given to select members of Congress within weeks of the attack. The briefings, conducted by intelligence agencies, focussed on what Washington knew about the September 6th raid. One concern was whether North Korea had done anything that might cause the U.S. to back away from ongoing six-nation talks about its nuclear program. A legislator who took part in one such briefing said afterward, according to a member of his staff, that he had heard nothing that caused him “to have any doubts” about the North Korean negotiations—“nothing that should cause a pause.” The legislator’s conclusion, the staff member said, was “There’s nothing that proves any perfidy involving the North Koreans.”

Morton Abramowitz, a former Assistant Secretary of State for intelligence and research, told me that he was astonished by the lack of response. “Anytime you bomb another state, that’s a big deal,” he said. “But where’s the outcry, particularly from the concerned states and the U.N.? Something’s amiss.”

Israel could, of course, have damning evidence that it refuses to disclose. But there are serious and unexamined contradictions in the various published accounts of the September 6th bombing.

The main piece of evidence to emerge publicly that Syria was building a reactor arrived on October 23rd, when David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, a highly respected nonprofit research group, released a satellite image of the target. The photograph had been taken by a commercial satellite company, DigitalGlobe, of Longmont, Colorado, on August 10th, four weeks before the bombing, and showed a square building and a nearby water-pumping station. In an analysis released at the same time,

Albright, a physicist who served as a weapons inspector in Iraq, concluded that the building, as viewed from space, had roughly the same length and width as a reactor building at Yongbyon, North Korea’s main nuclear facility. “The tall building in the image may house a reactor under construction and the pump station along the river may have been intended to supply cooling water to the reactor,” Albright said.
He concluded his analysis by posing a series of rhetorical questions that assumed that the target was a nuclear facility:

How far along was the reactor construction project when it was bombed? What was the extent of nuclear assistance from North Korea? Which reactor components did Syria obtain from North Korea or elsewhere, and where are they now?

He was later quoted in the Washington Post saying, “I’m pretty convinced that Syria was trying to build a nuclear reactor.”

When I asked Albright how he had pinpointed the target, he told me that he and a colleague, Paul Brannan, “did a lot of hard work”—culling press reports and poring over DigitalGlobe imagery—“before coming up with the site.” Albright then shared his findings with Robin Wright and other journalists at the Post, who, after checking with Administration officials, told him that the building was, indeed, the one targeted by the Israelis. “We did not release the information until we got direct confirmation from the Washington Post,” he told me. The Post’s sources in the Administration, he understood, had access to far more detailed images obtained by U.S. intelligence satellites. The Post ran a story, without printing the imagery, on October 19th, reporting that “U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the aftermath of the attack” had concluded that the site had the “signature,” or characteristics, of a reactor “similar in structure to North Korea’s facilities”—a conclusion with which Albright then agreed. In other words, the Albright and the Post reports, which appeared to independently reinforce each other, stemmed in part from the same sources.

Albright told me that before going public he had met privately with Israeli officials. “I wanted to be sure in my own mind that the Israelis thought

it was a reactor, and I was,” he said. “They never explicitly said it was nuclear, but they ruled out the possibility that it was a missile, chemical-warfare, or radar site. By a process of elimination, I was left with nuclear.”

Two days after his first report, Albright released a satellite image of the bombed site, taken by DigitalGlobe on October 24th, seven weeks after the bombing. The new image showed that the target area had been levelled and the ground scraped. Albright said that it hinted of a coverup—cleansing the bombing site could make it difficult for weapons inspectors to determine its precise nature. “It looks like Syria is trying to hide something and destroy the evidence of some activity,” he told the Times. “But it won’t work. Syria has got to answer questions about what it was doing.” This assessment was widely shared in the press. (In mid-January, the Times reported that recent imagery from DigitalGlobe showed that a storage facility, or something similar, had been constructed, in an obvious rush, at the bombing site.)

Proliferation experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency and others in the arms-control community disputed Albright’s interpretation of the images. “People here were baffled by this, and thought that Albright had stuck his neck out,” a diplomat in Vienna, where the I.A.E.A. is headquartered, told me. “The I.A.E.A. has been consistently telling journalists that it is skeptical about the Syrian nuclear story, but the reporters are so convinced.”

A second diplomat in Vienna acidly commented on the images: “A square building is a square building.” diplomat, who is familiar with the use of satellite imagery for nuclear verification, added that the I.A.E.A. “does not have enough information to conclude anything about the exact nature of the facility. They see a building with some geometry near a river that could be identified as nuclear-related. But they cannot credibly conclude that is so. As far as information coming from open sources beyond imagery, it’s a struggle to extract information from all of the noise that comes from political agendas.”

Much of what one would expect to see around a secret nuclear site was lacking at the target, a former State Department intelligence expert who now deals with proliferation issues for the Congress said. “There is no security around the building,” he said. “No barracks for the Army or the workers. No associated complex.” Jeffrey Lewis, who heads the non-proliferation program at the New America Foundation, a think tank in Washington, told me that, even if the width and the length of the building were similar to the Korean site, its height was simply not sufficient to contain a Yongbyon-size reactor and also have enough room to extract the control rods, an essential step in the operation of the reactor; nor was there evidence in the published imagery of major underground construction. “All you could see was a box,” Lewis said. “You couldn’t see enough to know how big it will be or what it will do. It’s just a box.”

A former senior U.S. intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, said, “We don’t have any proof of a reactor—no signals intelligence, no human intelligence, no satellite intelligence.” Some well-informed defense consultants and former intelligence officials asked why, if there was compelling evidence of nuclear cheating involving North Korea, a member of the President’s axis of evil, and Syria, which the U.S. considers a state sponsor of terrorism, the Bush Administration would not insist on making it public.

When I went to Israel in late December, the government was still maintaining secrecy about the raid, but some current and former officials and military officers were willing to speak without attribution. Most were adamant that Israel’s intelligence had been accurate. “Don’t you write that there was nothing there!” a senior Israeli official, who is in a position to know the details of the raid on Syria, said, shaking a finger at me. “The thing in Syria was real.”

Retired Brigadier General Shlomo Brom, who served as deputy national-security adviser under Prime Minister Ehud Barak, told me that Israel wouldn’t have acted if it hadn’t been convinced that there was a threat. “It may have been a perception of a conviction, but there was something there,” Brom said. “It was the beginning of a nuclear project.”

However, by the date of our talk, Brom told me, “The question of whether it was there or not is not that relevant anymore.”

Albright, when I spoke to him in December, was far more circumspect than he had been in October. “We never said ‘we know’ it was a reactor, based on the image,” Albright said. “We wanted to make sure that the image was consistent with a reactor, and, from my point of view, it was. But that doesn’t confirm it’s a reactor.”

The journey of the Al Hamed, a small coastal trader, became a centerpiece in accounts of the September 6th bombing. On September 15th, the Washington Post reported that “a prominent U.S. expert on the Middle East” said that the attack “appears to have been linked to the arrival . . . of a ship carrying material from North Korea labeled as cement.” The article went on to cite the expert’s belief that “the emerging consensus in Israel was that it delivered nuclear equipment.” Other press reports identified the Al Hamed as a “suspicious North Korean” ship.

But there is evidence that the Al Hamed could not have been carrying sensitive cargo—or any cargo—from North Korea. International shipping is carefully monitored by Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit, which relies on a network of agents as well as on port logs and other records. In addition, most merchant ships are now required to operate a transponder device called an A.I.S., for automatic identification system. This device, which was on board the Al Hamed, works in a manner similar to a transponder on a commercial aircraft—beaming a constant, very high-frequency position report. (The U.S. Navy monitors international sea traffic with the aid of dedicated satellites, at a secret facility in suburban Washington.)

According to Marine Intelligence Unit records, the Al Hamed, which was built in 1965, had been operating for years in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, with no indication of any recent visits to North Korea. The records show that the Al Hamed arrived at Tartus on September 3rd—the ship’s fifth visit to Syria in five months.
(It was one of eight ships that arrived that day; although it is possible that one of the others was carrying illicit materials, only the Al Hamed has been named in the media.) The ship’s registry was constantly changing. The Al Hamed flew the South Korean flag before switching to North Korea in November of 2005, and then to Comoros. (Ships often fly flags of convenience, registering with different countries, in many cases to avoid taxes or onerous regulations.) At the time of the bombing, according to Lloyd’s, it was flying a Comoran flag and was owned by four Syrian nationals. In earlier years, under other owners, the ship seems to have operated under Russian, Estonian, Turkish, and Honduran flags. Lloyd’s records show that the ship had apparently not passed through the Suez Canal—the main route from the Mediterranean to the Far East—since at least 1998.

Among the groups that keep track of international shipping is Greenpeace. Martini Gotjé, who monitors illegal fishing for the organization and was among the first to raise questions about the Al Hamed, told me, “I’ve been at sea for forty-one years, and I can tell you, as a captain, that the Al Hamed was nothing—in rotten shape. You wouldn’t be able to load heavy cargo on it, as the floorboards wouldn’t be that strong.”

If the Israelis’ target in Syria was not a nuclear site, why didn’t the Syrians respond more forcefully? Syria complained at the United Nations but did little to press the issue. And, if the site wasn’t a partially built reactor, what was it?

During two trips to Damascus after the Israeli raid, I interviewed many senior government and intelligence officials. None of President Assad’s close advisers told me the same story, though some of the stories were more revealing—and more plausible—than others. In general, Syrian officials seemed more eager to analyze Israel’s motives than to discuss what had been attacked. “I hesitate to answer any journalist’s questions about it,” Faruq al-Shara, the Syrian Vice-President, told me. “Israel bombed to restore its credibility, and their objective is for us to keep talking about it. And by answering your questions I serve their objective. Why should I volunteer to do that?” Shara denied that his nation has a nuclear-weapons program. “The volume of articles about the bombing is incredible, and it’s not important that it’s a lie,” he said.

One top foreign-ministry official in Damascus told me that the target “was an old military building that had been abandoned by the Syrian military” years ago. But a senior Syrian intelligence general gave me a different account. “What they targeted was a building used for fertilizer and water pumps,” he said—part of a government effort to revitalize farming. “There is a large city”— Dayr az Zawr—“fifty kilometres away. Why would Syria put nuclear material near a city?” I interviewed the intelligence general again on my second visit to Damascus, and he reiterated that the targeted building was “at no time a military facility.” As to why Syria had not had a more aggressive response, if the target was so benign, the general said, “It was not fear—that’s all I’ll say.” As I left, I asked the general why Syria had not invited representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the bombing site and declare that no nuclear activity was taking place there. “They did not ask to come,” he said, and “Syria had no reason to ask them to come.”

An I.A.E.A. official dismissed that assertion when we spoke in Vienna a few days later. “The I.A.E.A. asked the Syrians to allow the agency to visit the site to verify its nature,” the I.A.E.A. official said. “Syria’s reply was that it was a military, not a nuclear, installation, and there would be no reason for the I.A.E.A. to go there. It would be in their and everyone’s interest to have the I.A.E.A. visit the site. If it was nuclear, it would leave fingerprints.”

In a subsequent interview, Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador to Washington, defended Syria’s decision not to invite the I.A.E.A. inspectors. “We will not get into the game of inviting foreign experts to visit every site that Israel claims is a nuclear facility,” Moustapha told me. “If we bring them in and they say there is nothing there, then Israel will say it made a mistake and bomb another site two weeks later. And if we then don’t let the I.A.E.A. in, Israel will say, ‘You see?’ This is nonsense. Why should we have to do this?”

Even if the site was not a nuclear installation, it is possible that the Syrians feared that an I.A.E.A. inquiry would uncover the presence of North Koreans there. In Syria, I was able to get some confirmation that North Koreans were at the target. A senior officer in Damascus with firsthand knowledge of the incident agreed to see me alone, at his home; my other interviews in Damascus took place in government offices. According to his account, North Koreans were present at the site, but only as paid construction workers. The senior officer said that the targeted building, when completed, would most likely have been used as a chemical-warfare facility. (Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and has been believed, for decades, to have a substantial chemical-weapons arsenal.)

The building contract with North Korea was a routine business deal, the senior officer said—from design to construction. (North Korea may, of course, have sent skilled technicians capable of doing less routine work.) Syria and North Korea have a long-standing partnership on military matters. “The contract between Syria and North Korea was old, from 2002, and it was running late,” the senior officer told me. “It was initially to be finished in 2005, and the Israelis might have expected it was further along.”

The North Korean laborers had been coming and going for “maybe six months” before the September bombing, the senior officer said, and his government concluded that the Israelis had picked up North Korean telephone chatter at the site. (This fit the timeline that Israeli officials had given me.) “The Israelis may have their own spies and watched the laborers being driven to the area,” the senior officer said. “The Koreans were not there at night, but slept in their quarters and were driven to the site in the morning. The building was in an isolated area, and the Israelis may have concluded that even if there was a slight chance”—of it being a nuclear facility—“we’ll take that risk.”

On the days before the bombing, the Koreans had been working on the second floor, and were using a tarp on top of the building to shield the site from rain and sun. “It was just the North Korean way of working,” the Syrian senior officer said, adding that the possibility that the Israelis could not see what was underneath the tarp might have added to their determination.

The attack was especially dramatic, the Syrian senior officer said, because the Israelis used bright magnesium illumination flares to light up the target before the bombing. Night suddenly turned into day, he told me. “When the people in the area saw the lights and the bombing, they thought there would be a commando raid,” the senior officer said. The building was destroyed, and his government eventually concluded that there were no Israeli ground forces in the area. But if Israelis had been on the ground seeking contaminated soil samples, the senior officer said, “they found only cement.”

A senior Syrian official confirmed that a group of North Koreans had been at work at the site, but he denied that the structure was related to chemical warfare. Syria had concluded, he said, that chemical warfare had little deterrent value against Israel, given its nuclear capability. The facility that was attacked, the official said, was to be one of a string of missile-manufacturing plants scattered throughout Syria—“all low tech. Not strategic.” (North Korea has been a major exporter of missile technology and expertise to Syria for decades.) He added, “We’ve gone asymmetrical, and have been improving our capability to build low-tech missiles that will enable us to inflict as much damage as possible without confronting the Israeli Army. We now can hit all of Israel, and not just the north.”

Whatever was under construction, with North Korean help, it apparently had little to do with agriculture—or with nuclear reactors—but much to do with Syria’s defense posture, and its military relationship with North Korea. And that, perhaps, was enough to silence the Syrian government after the September 6th bombing.

It is unclear to what extent the Bush Administration was involved in the Israeli attack. The most detailed report of coöperation was made in mid-October by ABC News. Citing a senior U.S. official, the network reported that Israel had shared intelligence with the United States and received satellite help and targeting information in response.

At one point, it was reported, the Bush Administration considered attacking Syria itself, but rejected that option. The implication was that the Israeli intelligence about the nuclear threat had been vetted by the U.S., and had been found to be convincing.

Yet officials I spoke to in Israel heatedly denied the notion that they had extensive help from Washington in planning the attack. When I told the senior Israeli official that I found little support in Washington for Israel’s claim that it had bombed a nuclear facility in Syria, he responded with an expletive, and then said, angrily, “Nobody helped us. We did it on our own.” He added, “What I’m saying is that nobody discovered it for us.” (The White House declined to comment on this story.)

There is evidence to support this view. The satellite operated by DigitalGlobe, the Colorado firm that supplied Albright’s images, is for hire; anyone can order the satellite to photograph specific coördinates, a process that can cost anywhere from several hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The company displays the results of these requests on its Web page, but not the identity of the customer. On five occasions between August 5th and August 27th of last year—before the Israeli bombing—DigitalGlobe was paid to take a tight image of the targeted building in Syria.

Clearly, whoever ordered the images likely had some involvement in plans for the attack. DigitalGlobe does about sixty per cent of its business with the U.S. government, but those contracts are for unclassified work, such as mapping. The government’s own military and intelligence satellite system, with an unmatched ability to achieve what analysts call “highly granular images,” could have supplied superior versions of the target sites. Israel has at least two military satellite systems, but, according to Allen Thomson, a former C.I.A. analyst, DigitalGlobe’s satellite has advantages for reconnaissance, making Israel a logical customer. (“Customer anonymity is crucial to us,” Chuck Herring, a spokesman for DigitalGlobe, said. “I don’t know who placed the order and couldn’t disclose it if I did.”) It is also possible that Israel or the United States ordered the imagery in order to have something unclassified to pass to the press if needed. If the Bush Administration had been aggressively coöperating with Israel before the attack, why would Israel have to turn to a commercial firm?
Last fall, aerospace industry and military sources told Aviation Week & Space Technology, an authoritative trade journal, that the United States had provided Israel with advice about “potential target vulnerabilities” before the September 6th attack, and monitored the radar as the mission took place. The magazine reported that the Israeli fighters, prior to bombing the target on the Euphrates, struck a Syrian radar facility near the Turkish border, knocking the radar out of commission and permitting them to complete their mission without interference.

The former U.S. senior intelligence official told me that, as he understood it, America’s involvement in the Israeli raid dated back months earlier, and was linked to the Administration’s planning for a possible air war against Iran. Last summer, the Defense Intelligence Agency came to believe that Syria was installing a new Russian-supplied radar-and-air-defense system that was similar to the radar complexes in Iran. Entering Syrian airspace would trigger those defenses and expose them to Israeli and American exploitation, yielding valuable information about their capabilities. Vice-President Dick Cheney supported the idea of overflights, the former senior intelligence official said, because “it would stick it to Syria and show that we’re serious about Iran.” (The Vice-President’s office declined to comment.) The former senior intelligence official said that Israeli military jets have flown over Syria repeatedly, without retaliation from Syria.

At the time, the former senior intelligence official said, the focus was on radar and air defenses, and not on any real or suspected nuclear facility. Israel’s claims about the target, which emerged later, caught many in the military and intelligence community—if not in the White House—by surprise.

On the days before the bombing, the Koreans had been working on the second floor, and were using a tarp on top of the building to shield the site from rain and sun. “It was just the North Korean way of working,” the Syrian senior officer said, adding that the possibility that the Israelis could not see what was underneath the tarp might have added to their determination.

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