Saturday, September 13, 2008

Full Coverage Of Hurricane Ike: Hurricane Blogs, News, And Webcam Links -- This Post Is Bumped To The Top Of Cool Science News Till Sunday

Tracking Hurricane Ike


Hurricane/Weather News
Storm Pulse
National Hurricane Center -- Home Site
National Hurricane Center -- Satellite Shots
National Hurricane Center -- Sign Up For Email Advisories -- Hurricane Central News Center -- Hurricane Central News Center Updates
NOLA -- New Orleans, Louisiana news
Houston Chronicle -- Hurricane News
NOAA Satellite And Information Service -- Home Page
Crown Weather Services -- Weather Aggregator

Texas/Louisiana Weather Observations
Coastal Texas Observations
Southwest Louisiana Observations
Southeast Louisiana Observations
Ike Marine Weather Observations

Weather And Hurricane Blogs
Weather Underground
Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog
Weather Nerd
Hurricane Track
Miami Hurricane

Blogs For Ike
Twitter search for “Hurricane Ike”
Google Blog Search for “Hurricane Ike”
BlogPulse search for “Hurricane Ike”
Flickr photo/video search for “Hurricane Ike”
YouTube video search for “Hurricane Ike”

News Links For Hurricane Ike
Global Storm Tracker -- Yahoo News
Weather News -- Yahoo News
Hurricane Ike -- Yahoo News (Recent Stories on Ike)
Hurricane Ike -- Google News (Stories For The Past 24 Hours)
News and Newspaper Websites in Louisiana -- ABYZ News Directory
News And Newspaper Websites In Mississippi -- ABYZ News Directory
News And Newspaper Websites In Texas -- ABYZ News Directory

Texas News Media Links (Hat Tip to Crown Weather)
Live News Cameras Hurricane Ike Center
Hurricane Ike Live TV Coverage Wall (FLHurricane)
Hurricane Ike Live TV Feeds From All Houston Stations
Live Hurricane Ike Coverage From All Houston Stations (MaroonSpoon)
Hurricane Ike Resources From
Broadcast Coverage From Internet Partnership Radio
Broadcast Coverage From Hurricane City
Broadcast Coverage From The Weather Radio Broadcast Network
Texas News Media Links
KTRH AM 740 Radio Houston
MyFox Houston
KHOU TV Houston, TX
ABC 13 TV Houston, TX
Channel 2 TV Houston, TX
Houston/Galveston, Texas Radio Scanner Feed
KGBT TV 4 Local News From Harlingen, Texas
KRGV TV 5 Local News From Weslaco, Texas
Local News From KIII TV 3 From Corpus Christi, Texas
Local News From KRISTV From Corpus Christi, Texas
KURV 780 AM Talk Radio From Mcallen, Texas
Q94.5 Brownsville, TX
KQXX 105.5 From Brownsville, Texas
Wild 104 From Brownsville, Texas

Texas/Louisiana Webcam Links (Hat Tip To Crown Weather)
Louisiana Webcams
Texas Webcams
Louisiana Webcams
Texas Webcams (WeatherMatrix)
Louisiana Webcams (ABC Webcams)
Texas Webcams (ABC Webcams)
Upper Texas Coast Webcams (HurricaneCity)
Brownsville, Texas-Matamoras, Mexico Webcams
Corpus Christi, Texas Webcam #1
Corpus Christi, Texas Webcam #2
Freeport, TX Webcam
Galveston, TX Webcams
Galveston, TX Webcam (WeatherUnderground)
Galveston-Houston, TX Webcams
Houston, TX Traffic Cams
Houston, TX Webcams (KHOU TV)
Houston, TX Webcams (Ch. 2 TV)
Houston, TX Webcam (WeatherUnderground)
KRGV Tv5 Webcam, Weslaco, Texas
Matagorda Bay Webcam
Port Aransas, Texas Webcam #1
Port Aransas, Texas Webcam #2
Rio Grande Webcam
South Padre Island, Texas Webcams
South Padre Island, Texas Webcam #1
South Padre Island, Texas Webcam #2
South Padre Island, Texas Webcam #3
South Padre Island, Texas Webcam #4
Webcam From A Platform In The Western Gulf of Mexico (NDBC)

Experiment Boosts Hopes for Space Solar Power


WASHINGTON — A former NASA scientist has used radio waves to transmit solar power a distance of 92 miles (148 km) between two Hawaiian islands, an achievement that he says proves the technology exists to beam solar power from satellites back to Earth.

John C. Mankins demonstrated the solar power transmission for the Discovery Channel, which paid for the four month experiment and will broadcast the results Friday at 9 p.m. EDT. His vision is to transmit solar power collected by orbiting satellites as large as 1,102 pounds (500 kg) to lake-sized receiver stations on Earth.

Mankins, who worked at NASA for 25 years and managed the agency's space-based solar program before it was disbanded, transmitted 20 watts of power between the two islands in May. The receivers, however, were so small that less than one one-thousandth of a percent of the power was received, Mankins said.

Read more ....

World's Strongest Hurricanes Could Be Getting Stronger

Gustav and Hanna spin in the Caribbean Sea last week. A study released today found that the strongest Atlantic hurricanes have become stronger due to global warming over the past 25 years.

From USA Today:

The strongest hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean have become more intense due to global warming over the past 25 years, according to a new study in Wednesday's edition of the British journal Nature. The findings add fuel to the simmering argument in the meteorological community about the Earth's changing climate, and its relationship to the power of tropical systems worldwide.

Scientists from Florida State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison analyzed satellite data from nearly 2,000 tropical cyclones around the world from 1981 to 2006, and found that the strongest storms are getting stronger, especially over the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Tropical cyclones are the umbrella term for hurricanes (in the Atlantic and east Pacific), typhoons (in the West Pacific) and cyclones (in the Indian).

"As seas warm, the ocean has more energy that can be converted to tropical cyclone wind," FSU professor of geography and study lead author James B. Elsner explained.

Read more ....

The Science Behind A Storm Surge

Hurricane Ike, still forming in the Gulf of Mexico, caused floods near Surfside Beach, Texas September 12, 2008. Hurricane Ike closed in on the Texas coast on Friday, pushing a wall of water that weather officials warned could bring certain death to those who did not heed mandatory evacuation orders.


As Hurricane Ike races toward Texas, it is pushing a mound of water in front of it that could inundate parts of the Gulf coast with up to 25 feet of water. The surge involves some incredible feats of physics, and in many hurricanes it’s the leading cause of death.

Galveston Island, Texas, destroyed at least once before by a major hurricane in 1900, began to see the Ike-related water creeping up along its beaches Thursday and by Friday, parts of the city of Galveston were flooded by the surge coming in from Galveston Bay.

And, "it's only going to get worse," said Lance Wood, the Science and Operations Officer for the Houston/Galveston National Weather Service (NWS) office.

Read more ....

A Guide To Hurricanes

From Scientific American:

Fay, Gustav, Hanna, Ike: What's next for the U.S.? What causes nature's destructive storms? How do scientists study and predict them? How are they linked to global warming?

Scientific American has compiled an extensive and detailed examination of hurricanes and what the future may hold for us. The link to read this guide is here.

With Ike, Size Matters For Killer Storm Surge

From My Way News/AP

Hurricane Ike's gargantuan size - not its strength - will likely push an extra large storm surge inland in a region already prone to it, experts said Thursday.

Ike's giant girth means more water piling up on Texas and Louisiana coastal areas for a longer time, topped with bigger waves. So storm surge - the prime killer in hurricanes - will be far worse than a typical storm of Ike's strength, the National Hurricane Center said.

And because coastal waters in Texas and Louisiana are so shallow, storm surge is usually larger there than in other regions, according to storm experts. A 1900 hurricane following a similar track to Ike inundated Galveston Island, killing at least 8,000 people - America's deadliest storm.

"It's a good recipe for surge," said Benton McGee, supervisory hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's storm surge center in Ruston, La. "We're already seeing water being piled up in the Gulf. On top of that you're going to have water forced into the bays along the coast."

The National Hurricane Center is forecasting a 20-foot surge - a rapid rising of water inundating areas and moving inland - for a large swath of Texas and the Louisiana coasts. Above that, the center predicts "large and dangerous battering waves." Waves could be 50 feet tall, said hurricane center spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen.

Read more ....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Antarctic Sea Ice Increases Despite Warming

Cold, snowy, and stuck at the “bottom” of the Earth, Antarctica might seem like a dull place. But this big continent can produce a surprisingly dynamic range of conditions. One example of this range is temperature trends. Although Antarctica warmed around the perimeter from 1982 to 2004, where huge icebergs calved and some ice shelves disintegrated, it cooled closer to the pole.

From the New Scientist:

The amount of sea ice around Antarctica has grown in recent Septembers in what could be an unusual side-effect of global warming, experts say.

In the southern hemisphere winter, when emperor penguins huddle together against the biting cold, ice on the sea around Antarctica has been increasing since the late 1970s, perhaps because climate change means shifts in winds, sea currents or snowfall.

At the other end of the planet, Arctic sea ice is now close to matching a September 2007 record low at the tail end of the northern summer, in a threat to the hunting lifestyles of indigenous peoples and creatures such as polar bears.

"The Antarctic wintertime ice extent a rate of 0.6% per decade" from 1979 to 2006, says Donald Cavalieri, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

At 19 million square kilometres, it is still slightly below records from the early 1970s of 20 million, he says. Since 1979 however, the average year-round ice extent has risen too.

Read more ....

My Comment: OK .... because it is getting warmer .... we now have more ice in the Antarctic. Is it me, but is this a contradiction?

Sigh..... this article makes no sense. Shame on The New Scientist, they should know better that you need to have data before making explanations on explaining a climatic effect.

Painting Rooftops White Would Slow Global Warming

From Sustain A Blog:

Study: If we painted every rooftop in 100 major cities white, it would offset the entire planet’s carbon dioxide emissions for one year. That’s nearly 44 metric gigatons.

It makes sense. We all know white reflects heat (that’s why we wear white shirts and dresses on hot days), and we even knew that painting rooftops white lessens the need for air conditioning. But until now, we didn’t know that changing dark-colored surfaces to white would help fight against global warming.

The news broke yesterday at California’s Climate Change Research Conference. Hashem Akbari, attending the conference from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, announced that replacing dark shingles on an average-sized household rooftop with a lighter color would offset 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide—comparable to taking two mid-sized cars off the road for a year.

Speaking of roadways, they’re part of the problem too. Because of its cheap nature, most roads are paved with black asphalt instead of light grey concrete, which causes roads to absorb an inordinate amount of heat. Repaving roads with lighter-colored materials would have a similar impact to painting rooftops.

California already mandates that newly-built large buildings have light-colored rooftops, but the law was intended to decrease air conditioning costs. Akbari hopes to enlist the United Nations in an effort to convince major cities to make their roadways and rooftops more pale.

Read a full summary of the report here.

Black Hole's 'Birth Scream' Heard Across Universe

From FOX News:

Six months ago, satellite telescopes spotted an exceptionally bright burst of energy that would have been the most distant object in the universe ever visible to the naked eye, if anyone had noticed it.

Even though no humans have reported seeing it directly, the gamma-ray burst, an explosion that signals the violent death of a massive star, is changing theories of how these events look.

Gamma-ray bursts are typically accompanied by intense releases of other forms of radiation, from X-rays to visible light.

This burst, dubbed GRB 080319B, was first detected by the Swift satellite on March 19, while the spacecraft was serendipitously looking at another gamma-ray burst in the same area of the sky.

Read more ....

9 Big Questions On NASA Infighting

From Popular Mechanics:

As if a new administration and the rise of the private space industry weren't enough, it's suddenly become an even more critical time for NASA, with its ambitious plans to send manned missions to the moon and Mars while facing mounting fiscal and political realities. The Orion spacecraft at the heart of the agency's next-gen Constellation exploration program is being designed to resupply the International Space Station and fly to the moon, but the space shuttle fleet is due to retire in 2010 and Orion won't be ready to fly in time. The plan is to use Russia's spacecraft to make the supply runs, but that nation's war with Georgia has cast doubt on that plan. Grumbling from engineers and officials inside NASA is joining a chorus of outside critics, so we asked four-time shuttle astronaut Tom Jones to help make sense of the turmoil. —Jennifer Bogo

In the internal e-mail written by NASA administrator Michael Griffin, which was leaked to the Orlando Sentinel recently, he articulates a catch-22 in the space program: If we continue to fly the shuttle past its retirement date, it harms our long-term prospects of manned travel by competing for funds with the Constellation program. But if we retire the shuttle as planned, our short-term prospects are impaired by the tenuous situation with Russia. Have we painted ourselves into a corner?

Remember, Griffin was ordered to stop flying the shuttle in 2010. You know, get it off the stage as soon as possible. Then he was told, "Bring on Orion as quickly as you can after that." The original plan, about four years ago, was for Orion to be ready by 2012. But Congress has been given budgets every year by the president that have not included the funds to do these things at the pace they need. So the two-year gap turned into a five-year gap. Congress figured there was no downside: Just let it slip and, big deal, we have a long gap. That was all fine when it was five or six years in the future, but now the Russians have turned unfriendly, and we don't know where that's going to go. And suddenly a bunch of people are saying, "There's this big, long gap, and it's unacceptable, and, NASA, why didn't you take care of this?"

Read more ....

Why Ike Could Be Texas' Worst Nightmare

The unnamed Category 4 hurricane that slammed into Galveston, Texas Sept. 8, 1900 remains the deadliest ever to hit the United States, having killed at least 8,000 people (estimates vary) and leveling virtually the entire town. Credit: NOAA

From Live Science:

As Hurricane Ike revs up again over the Gulf of Mexico, residents of coastal Texas, especially Houston and Galveston, are preparing for the arrival of the monstrous storm, which could be the most devastating that the Lone Star State has seen Hurricane Alicia came ashore in 1983, causing nearly $6 billion in damage and 21 fatalities.

Ike is huge. Hurricane-force winds extend out 120 miles (195 kilometers) from the storm's center, and tropical storm-force winds reach out 275 miles (445 km), both measurements exceeding what's seen with many storms. Ike could reach major hurricane status as a Category 3 before it makes landfall late Friday or early Saturday morning somewhere along the Texas coast.

And right now it looks like that somewhere will be the Houston/Galveston area.

Read more ....

Fifty Years Of Earth-Observation Satellites

Views such as this one are made possible by satellites orbiting the planet, a feat they have been performing for the past half-century. Although such satellites were initially put in place for military uses, most current ones are used to observe the Earth, and they have provided a wealth of information about the world. This image of an aurora was compiled from data collected in July 2000 by NASA’s Polar satellite, which ceased operation earlier in 2008. The data were recorded in ultraviolet light, as the event occurred during daylight hours. False color from blue to red corresponds to increasing magnetic activity.

From American Scientist:

Views from space have led to countless advances on the ground in both scientific knowledge and daily life

A half a century ago, the launch of Sputnik-1 saw the start of an era where we began to launch artificial satellites into orbit to tell us what we look like from above. Hundreds of Earth-observing satellites have followed, and this extensive remote sensing has provided both iconic views and unprecedented insights into our planet. Tatem, Goetz and Hay review the development of these satellites over the past 50 years, as well as the data they have produced, which has lead to a greater understanding of Earth's terrestrial, aquatic and atmospheric processes. They examine current trends and speculate on what the next 50 years of satellite remote sensing may bring.

Read more ....

The Microchip's 50th Birthday Party

The first integrated circuit invented by Jack Kilby. Kilby won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2000 for his work.

Happy 50th Birthday: Microchip Celebrates Five
Decade Milestone -- Daily Mail

When Jack Kilby demonstrated the first working integrated circuit in Texas in 1958, he could have had no idea how his invention would change the world.

Now 50 years later, microchips are integral to modern-day life in devices as wide-ranging as computers to credit cards, cameras to cookers.

Kilby's design used a strip of germanium, rather than silicon, with one transister and other components glued on to a glass slide.

In July, the electrical engineer had not been allowed to go on holiday because he had only recently joined the company Texas Instruments. Kilby used the time to create his ground-breaking design, which tackled the problem of connecting large numbers of electronic components in circuits in a cost-effective way.

Jim Tully, vice president at the technology analyst Gartner said the microchip slashed the cost in producing electronics, which allowed the technology to spread rapidly through all areas of society.

'Integrated circuits are so woven into our lives that it would be hard to imagine a world without them,' Tully said.

Read more ....

Eight Organisms That Make You Go 'Eww'


Skunk. The mere mention of the black and white mammal is enough to make people plug their noses. That's because these creatures are legendary for deterring predators with an oily, foul-smelling spray emitted from glands on either side of their anus. Eww. Some species can shoot the fetid substance more than ten feet and whatever it hits may forever carry the stench. As a defense mechanism, scientists say the stinky spray is quite effective: Most would-be skunk predators stay away unless they have nothing else to eat. Even humans are well trained to keep their distance.

When the skunk in this photo got its head stuck in a jar of salad dressing, a police officer cracked it off with a pellet gun fired from 40 feet away.

Click here for the other nine.

U.N. Agency Eyes Curbs On Internet Anonymity

From CNET News:

A United Nations agency is quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous.

The U.S. National Security Agency is also participating in the "IP Traceback" drafting group, named Q6/17, which is meeting next week in Geneva to work on the traceback proposal. Members of Q6/17 have declined to release key documents, and meetings are closed to the public.

The potential for eroding Internet users' right to remain anonymous, which is protected by law in the United States and recognized in international law by groups such as the Council of Europe, has alarmed some technologists and privacy advocates. Also affected may be services such as the Tor anonymizing network.

"What's distressing is that it doesn't appear that there's been any real consideration of how this type of capability could be misused," said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C. "That's really a human rights concern."

Read more ....

U.S. Makes 1st Antarctic Night Landing

From CBS News:

(AP) A U.S. Air Force pilot has landed a plane in Antarctica in the dark for the first time using night-vision goggles, a feat that could lead to more supply flights to scientific bases in the frozen continent during its dark winter months, officials said Friday.

The C-17 Globemaster cargo airplane landed in a driving snowstorm on the six-mile ice runway at the U.S. Antarctic research center at McMurdo Station, after months of practice runs by pilots using the goggles.

The Air Force plane took off from Christchurch, New Zealand, and flew nearly six hours before landing Thursday night. It returned to Christchurch early Friday.

Air Force Lt. Col. Jim McGann said the airplane's own lights - reflecting off of traffic cones - allowed it to land without electrical runway lights that are too hard to maintain in the frozen environment.

Read more ....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meat: Making Global Warming Worse

From Time Magazine:

Need another reason to feel guilty about feeding your children that Happy Meal — aside from the fat, the calories and that voice in your head asking why you can't be bothered to actually cook a well-balanced meal now and then? Rajendra Pachauri would like to offer you one. The head of the U.N.'s Nobel Prize–winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Pachauri on Monday urged people around the world to cut back on meat in order to combat climate change. "Give up meat for one day [per week] at least initially, and decrease it from there," Pachauri told Britain's Observer newspaper. "In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity." So, that addiction to pork and beef isn't just clogging your arteries; it's flame-broiling the earth, too.

By the numbers, Pachauri is absolutely right. In a 2006 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concluded that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions — by comparison, all the world's cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. Much of livestock's contribution to global warming come from deforestation, as the growing demand for meat results in trees being cut down to make space for pasture or farmland to grow animal feed. Livestock takes up a lot of space — nearly one-third of the earth's entire landmass. In Latin America, the FAO estimates that some 70% of former forest cover has been converted for grazing. Lost forest cover heats the planet, because trees absorb CO2 while they're alive — and when they're burned or cut down, the greenhouse gas is released back into the atmosphere.

Read more ....

Russia May Build Own Particle-Colliding Machine

From RIA-Novosti:

MOSCOW, September 11 (RIA Novosti) - A day after the Large Hadron Collider was successfully switched on in Switzerland, a Russian scientist said Russia could build its own collider.

Viktor Matveev said that scientists around the world are currently considering a proposal by their Russian colleagues to build a new collider.

The idea was put forward by scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, who suggested that a new device be built in the Moscow Region.

He said that a delegation of international scientists had visited the proposed site and concluded that, "It is one of the best places in the world for construction of that kind."

Matveev also said that the idea for the collider "came from Russia," and that the world's first collider had been built by scientists in the West Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

He went on to say that the collider, which could be even more powerful than the European version, would boost Russian scientific progress and allow young researchers to take part in the projects to follow.

Read more ....

Websites Shed Light On How Humans Value Fresh Ideas

From New Scientist:

Analysing the rise and fall of websites is the perfect way to shed light on the old debate over whether talent or experience matters most, say mathematicians.

The question crops up everywhere, from job interviews to presidential races, says Vwani Roychowdhury, but it's hard to examine the problem using hard figures.

However, the same way of thinking can be applied to websites, which also succeed or fail based on many millions of human decisions. In fact, the web may be one of the few places it is possible to quantify the balance between the two, say the researchers.

Read more ....

With Hurricane Ike, Size Matters For Killer Storm Surge

From My Way/AP:

Hurricane Ike's gargantuan size - not its strength - will likely push an extra large storm surge inland in a region already prone to it, experts said Thursday.

Ike's giant girth means more water piling up on Texas and Louisiana coastal areas for a longer time, topped with bigger waves. So storm surge - the prime killer in hurricanes - will be far worse than a typical storm of Ike's strength, the National Hurricane Center said.

And because coastal waters in Texas and Louisiana are so shallow, storm surge is usually larger there than in other regions, according to storm experts. A 1900 hurricane following a similar track to Ike inundated Galveston Island, killing at least 8,000 people - America's deadliest storm.

"It's a good recipe for surge," said Benton McGee, supervisory hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's storm surge center in Ruston, La. "We're already seeing water being piled up in the Gulf. On top of that you're going to have water forced into the bays along the coast."

Read more ....

Sleek Probe To Map Earth’s Gravity

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 10, 2008) — The European Space Agency is launching a new satellite to map variations in the Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented accuracy. The satellite will give UK scientists vital information about ocean circulation and sea level change needed to improve climate forecast models.

The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is the first of three Earth Explorer core missions in ESA’s Earth Observation Envelope Programme. Data from GOCE will allow scientists to create a detailed model of the Earth's gravity field, or geoid.

“GOCE will yield details of the Earth's gravity field to an accuracy and resolution that is simply unobtainable by existing terrestrial and space techniques,” says Professor Philip Moore from Newcastle University, who specialises in gravity research.

Read more ....

Why Female Spiders Eat Their Mates


Small males are easier to catch and are more likely to be prey

In many spider species, females eat the males after sex. Studies have suggested various complex evolutionary reasons involving costs and benefits to the species, sperm competition and esoteric sexual selection schemes.

Turns out the motivation for this creepy cannibalism is much simpler.

It's all about size. If males are small, they're easier to catch and therefore more likely to be prey, say Shawn Wilder and Ann Rypstra from Miami University in Ohio. Big females eat their puny mates simply because a) they're hungry and b) they can.

Read more ....

Converting Fibre Into Fuel Without Using Enzymes

From Fibre To Fuel In A Flash -- Nature

Chemists convert cellulose to potential biofuel without enzymes.
A genuine revolution in biofuels is currently hindered by the difficulty of converting the most recalcitrant parts of plants, primarily the cellulose of their fibres, into useful fuel. Two chemists in California now claim that it might be remarkably easy to do just that with little more than a strong acid to break down the cellulose.

Mark Mascal and Edward Nikitin of the University of California, Davis say their new process is the most efficient way yet described for converting cellulose into small, energy-rich organic molecules, using no more than basic textbook chemistry.

Read more ....

1843 Stellar Eruption May Be New Type Of Star Explosion

An artist's conception of the fast blast wave from Eta Carinae's 1843 eruption, which today has caught up with a slow-moving shell ejected in a previous outburst about 1,000 years ago, producing a bright fireworks display that heats the older shell and makes it emit X-rays (orange). The well-known two-lobed "Homunculus" nebula, a slow-moving shell of gas and dust also produced in the 1843 eruption, is shown closer to the star, which is a hot blue supergiant. (Credit: Gemini Observatory artwork by Lynette Cook)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 11, 2008) — Eta Carinae, the galaxy's biggest, brightest and perhaps most studied star after the sun, has been keeping a secret: Its giant outbursts appear to be driven by an entirely new type of stellar explosion that is fainter than a typical supernova and does not destroy the star.

Reporting in the Sept. 11 issue of Nature, University of California, Berkeley, astronomer Nathan Smith proposes that Eta Carinae's historic 1843 outburst was, in fact, an explosion that produced a fast blast wave similar to, but less energetic than, a real supernova. This well-documented event in our own Milky Way Galaxy is probably related to a class of faint stellar explosions in other galaxies recognized in recent years by telescopes searching for extragalactic supernovae.

"There is a class of stellar explosions going off in other galaxies for which we still don't know the cause, but Eta Carinae is the prototype," said Smith, a UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow.

Read more ....

Tracking Hurricane Ike

Hurricane History: Texas A Top Target

The unnamed Category 4 hurricane that slammed into Galveston, Texas Sept. 8, 1900 remains the deadliest ever to hit the United States, having killed at least 8,000 people (estimates vary) and leveling virtually the entire town. Credit: NOAA

From Live Science:

Florida and Louisiana have had an unfair share of hurricane activity these past four years while Texas has generally taken less of a beating.

That could change this week as powerful Hurricane Ike takes aim at the Lone Star State.

In fact, Texas has been in the crosshairs many times before and is second only to Florida among U.S. states in the number of direct hits from hurricanes.

It seems ages ago now, but it was just seven weeks back that Dolly struck southern Texas, knocking down trees and power lines and causing extensive flooding of low-lying areas. Preliminary damage estimates were put at $1 billion or more. In some isolated areas, rainfall reached 16 inches. But Dolly was not a major hurricane. Its peak wind gusts were around 100 mph, and its eye made landfall, on July 23, in a largely uninhabited area.

The big storm that defines the hurricane threat to Texas was the disaster that struck Galveston more than a century ago.

Read more ....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Minor Planet May Help Explain Comets

From The Globe And Mail:

WASHINGTON — A newly discovered "minor planet" with an elongated orbit around the Sun may help explain the origin of comets, researchers said Monday.

The object, known as 2006 SQ372, is starting the outward portion of a 22,500-year orbit that will take it 240 billion kilometres away from the Sun.

The icy lump of rock is just over three billion kilometres from Earth, a bit closer than the planet Neptune, researchers told a symposium on Monday. They will publish their findings in the Astrophysical Journal.

The orbit of 2006 SQ372 is an ellipse four times longer than it is wide, said University of Washington astronomer Andrew Becker, who led the research team. Sedna, a distant, Pluto-like dwarf planet discovered in 2003, is the only other object with a similar orbit, but not nearly as stretched out.

The new object is about 100 kilometres in diameter.

"It's basically a comet, but it never gets close enough to the Sun to develop a long, bright tail of evaporated gas and dust," Dr. Becker said in a statement.

University of Washington graduate student Nathan Kaib said it is unclear how the object formed.

"It could have formed, like Pluto," he said, "in the belt of icy debris beyond Neptune, then been kicked a large distance by a gravitational encounter with Neptune or Uranus."

More likely, he said, it came from the Oort Cloud, a distant reservoir of icy, asteroid-like bodies that orbit the Sun at distances of several trillion kilometres.

"One of our goals is to understand the origin of comets, which are among the most spectacular celestial events. But the deeper goal is to look back into the early history of our solar system and piece together what was happening when the planets formed," Mr. Kaib said.

The Possible Extinction Of North America's Freshwater Fish

Freshwater Fish In N. America In Peril, Study Says
-- Yahoo News/AP

WASHINGTON - About four out of 10 freshwater fish species in North America are in peril, according to a major study by U.S., Canadian and Mexican scientists.

And the number of subspecies of fish populations in trouble has nearly doubled since 1989, the new report says.

One biologist called it "silent extinctions" because few people notice the dramatic dwindling of certain populations deep in American lakes, rivers and streams. And while they are unaware, people are the chief cause of the problem by polluting and damming freshwater habitats, experts said.

In the first massive study of freshwater fish on the continent in 19 years, an international team of dozens of scientists looked not just at species, but at subspecies — physically distinct populations restricted to certain geographic areas. The decline is even more notable among these smaller groups.

Read more ....

Large Hadron Collider To Reach Full Capacity By Yearend
-- RIA Novosti

GENEVA, September 10 (RIA Novosti) - Scientists are planning to run the world's largest particle collider at full capacity by the end of 2008, a Russian physicist told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

During the first full tests conducted Wednesday, beams of sub-atomic particles were for the first time sent round the accelerator ring in opposite directions at almost the speed of light, but the powerful superconductor magnets in the collider operated at minimum capacity.

"The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is an extremely complex system," said Vladimir Karzhavin of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna. "That is why its initial launch is a very complicated and sensitive process."

The physicist, who heads of a team of Russian scientists from the institute who participate in the LHC project, said collisions initially would be rare and involve low-energy protons, but over time the frequency and energy output would gradually increase.

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The Future Of NASA's Shuttle Program

Enter the Dragon -- The Economist

The war in Georgia is prompting a rethink of America’s route into space.

IN TWO years’ time America’s space shuttle is supposed to retire. It is a complicated bit of technology—expensive and unreliable. And every launch raises fears of another accident. Something cheaper, simpler and safer, known as project Constellation, is planned to replace it, but this will take time to build, and probably will not be operational before 2015. That means five years during which NASA, the country’s space agency, will have no means of its own to ferry its astronauts between the ground and the space station that it spent so much money helping to build.

Until a few weeks ago, the plan was to buy tickets on Soyuz, Russia’s system of manned space vehicles. That was what happened when the shuttle was grounded after the Columbia accident in 2003. America spent hundreds of millions of dollars for flights on Soyuz.

Buying rides on Russian rockets requires approval from Congress. At the best of times, Congress takes some convincing, but now that America and Russia have fallen out over Russia’s war with Georgia, the chances of a multimillion dollar shopping spree to Moscow look less likely than ever. And although political moods may change, time is running out if NASA is to put an order in for the missions it will need from the end of 2011, when its contract with the Russians expires. Each vehicle takes about three years to build, so America needs to decide soon whether it wants to buy from Russia.

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The God Particle Will Be Found

An engineer leans on a magnet in the 27km-long tunnel that will house the Large Hadron Collider (Image: Cern/Maximilien Brice).

Higgs: Particle Will Be Found -- News 24

London - The British scientist who gave his name to the so-called "God Particle" said he believes it will be found by the world's biggest atom-smasher, which was finally fired up on Wednesday.

"I think it's pretty likely," said Professor Peter Higgs a few hours after the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was switched at the home of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) below the Franco-Swiss border.

"The way I put it is that if there isn't anything there, then it means I and a lot of other people no longer understand all the things we understand about these weak and electromagnetic interactions," added the 79-year-old.

Physicists have long puzzled over how particles acquire mass. In 1964 Higgs, came up with this idea: there must exist a background field that would act rather like treacle.

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Galactic Blast From Dying Star Detected


Last March our planet looked straight down the barrel when one of the universe's most deadly kinds of stellar artillery fired — and we lived to tell about it.

The March 19 cosmic cannon was a jet of powerful gamma rays that shot out matter at speeds just a hair shy of the universal speed limit — that of light.

The explosion, which occurred not far from the handle of the Big Dipper, was even more remarkable because it was accompanied by enough visible light to be seen briefly with unaided human eyes. That's despite the fact that the dying mega-star that created the blast was in another galaxy, a whopping 7.5 billion light-years away.

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Why We Drink Ourselves Under The Table

Scientists say alcohol is addictive because it erases the worst memories of being drunk

Why Drinkers Do It All Again – They Only
Recall The Good Bits -- The Independent

Some people drink to forget, but scientists have found that anyone who binge drinks is more likely to forget only the worst experiences of being drunk – which is why alcohol is such an addictive drug.

Alcohol has been found to affect memory in a selective manner. Drinking makes it easier to remember the good things about a party but harder to recall the bad things that happen after having too much.

Studies into the memories of people engaged in heavy drinking have shown that it is the inability to remember the worst excesses of a night out – while remembering the happy things that led up to them – is one of the main causes of repeated binge drinking.

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The Large Hadron Collider -- Complete News Coverage From Nature News

From Nature News:

The Large Hadron Collider is the world's most powerful particle accelerator. As the first proton beams zip around the LHC's massive 27-kilometre ring on 10 September 2008, it marks a new era of physics that could pin down the identity of the dark matter that shapes galaxies; find the Higgs boson, believed to confer mass on the other particles of the quantum bestiary; and recreate conditions that existed a split-second after the Big Bang. In this online Special, Nature asks how it works, what it will find, and why we should be excited.

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Melting Ice Caps Could Suck Carbon From Atmosphere

From New Scientists:

It's not often that disappearing Arctic ice is presented as good news for the planet. Yet new research suggests that as the northern polar cap melts, it could lift the lid off a new carbon sink capable of soaking up carbon dioxide.

The findings, from two separate research groups, raise the possibility – albeit a remote one – of weakening the greenhouse effect. The researchers say the process of carbon sequestration is already underway. Even so, the new carbon sink is unlikely to make a significant dent in the huge amounts of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by industrial activities.

Kevin Arrigo and colleagues at Stanford University studied satellite data collected between 1998 and 2007 to see how sea surface temperatures and the quantities of sea ice and phytoplankton had changed during that time.

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Music Therapy Improves Well-Being of Very Ill Patients

From Live Science:

(HealthDay News) -- Exposure to music therapy can dramatically improve the mental and physical condition of patients receiving palliative care, a new study suggests.

The research team says that this is the first large study to gauge -- and substantiate -- the potential of music therapy as a physical and psychological aid to patients coping with advanced illness.

"We've known for a while that music therapy can be used for a wide variety of things in a medical setting," said study author Lisa M. Gallagher, a music therapist with the Cleveland Music School Settlement and The Cleveland Clinic's Horvitz Center for Palliative Medicine. "But this particular study clearly shows that it helps improve mood while decreasing pain, anxiety, depression and even shortness of breath among seriously ill patients."

Gallagher was expected to present her findings Tuesday at the American Academy of Pain Management Meeting being held this week in Nashville, Tenn.

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Largest Particle Collider Conducts Successful Test -- Collection Of News Reports

Scientists cheer atom smasher success
From Myway/AP:

GENEVA (AP) - The world's largest particle collider successfully completed its first major test by firing a beam of protons all the way around a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel Wednesday in what scientists hope is the next great step to understanding the makeup of the universe.

After a series of trial runs, two white dots flashed on a computer screen at 10:36 a.m. (0836 GMT) indicating that the protons had traveled the full length of the US$3.8 billion Large Hadron Collider.

"There it is," project leader Lyn Evans said when the beam completed its lap.

Champagne corks popped in labs as far away as Chicago, where contributing scientists watched the proceedings by satellite. Physicists around the world now have much greater power than ever before to smash the components of atoms together in attempts to see how they are made.

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More News On The First Large particle Collider Test

Large Hadron Collider: subatomic particles complete first circuit -- The Telegraph
Scientists cheer as protons complete first circuit of Big Bang machine -- Times Online
World's mightiest atom-smasher starts operations -- AFP
Largest particle collider conducts successful test -- Yahoo News/AP
Working LHC produces first images -- New Scientist
Beam Me Up: Big Bang Protons Away -- Sky News
Slideshow: Cern’s Large Hadron Collider goes live -- Financial Times
30 stunning images of the Large Hadron Collider -- Dvice
LHC Win: Beaming smiles all round -- ZDNet
Scientists cheer atom smasher success -- CNN
CERN experiment simplified -- NDTV
Today is not Hadron Collider Day -- Register Today
Large Hadron Collider: Why You Really Won't Die Today -- Gizmodo
TIMELINE: Major events for CERN and particle physics -- Reuters

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

5 Things You Need To Know About The Large Hadron Collider

A a large dipole magnet is lowered into the tunnel to complete the basic installation of the more than 1700 magnets that make up the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which measures 27 km in circumference. (Photograph by CERN/AFP/Getty Images)

From Popular Mechanics:

The largest particle accelerator in history will take another step on Wednesday toward living up to its own celebrity. In the ongoing autopsy of the subatomic functions of the universe, the Large Hadron Collider could be the best hope yet to transform theoretical reality, such as dark matter and extra dimensions, into observable fact. And we'll be on hand to watch the LHC turn on, so stay tuned.

But why, exactly, are people without advanced degrees in physics counting the minutes until the first proton beam travels the length of the LHC's 27-kilometer (about 17-mile) accelerator ring? Is it because the bad science of the machine's supposed doomsday potential traveled faster—and louder—than responsible dissections of quantum mechanics? Is it because the LHC, which sits underneath Switzerland and France, feels like a turning point in the loss of American scientific primacy? Or is it because, however complex the physics might be, there's simply never been a larger, more powerful proton-smashing mega-gadget like it?

The answer is probably the doomsday thing, but on the eve of the accelerator's first full beam (and despite the glut of existing coverage) there's still a lot to be learned from—and about—the LHC.

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Childbirth Was Already Difficult For Neanderthals

Neanderthals had a brain at birth of a similar size to that of modern-day babies. (Credit: Ch. Zollikofer, courtesy of University of Zurich)

From The Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Sep. 9, 2008) — Neanderthals had a brain at birth of a similar size to that of modern-day babies. However, after birth, their brain grew more quickly than it does for Homo sapiens and became larger too. Nevertheless, the individual lifespan ran just as slowly as it does for modern human beings.

These new insights into the history of human evolution are being presented in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by researchers from the University of Zurich.

Dr. Marcia Ponce de León and Prof. Christoph Zollikofer from the Anthropological Institute of the University of Zurich examined the birth and the brain development of a newborn Neanderthal baby from the Mezmaiskaya Cave in the Crimea. That Neanderthal child, which died shortly after it was born, was evidently buried with such care that it was able to be recovered in good condition from the cave sediments of the Ice Age after resting for approximately 40,000 years.

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Windfarms On The Coast

Offshore Wind Farms May Line U.S. Coast -- CNN

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Visitors to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, soon may be greeted by more than sand dunes, seagulls and beach umbrellas.

If offshore wind advocates have their way, scores of 140-foot blades will be spinning in the ocean breeze nearly a dozen miles away, barely visible to the sunbathers.

Offshore wind has taken a back seat to offshore drilling for oil and natural gas in the current energy debate. But those wind-driven turbines probably will be operating long before oil platforms appear off Atlantic Coast states.

Delaware hopes to be the first state to construct a wind farm off its coast. The project, scheduled to be completed in 2012, is one of several offshore wind proposals that have cleared significant hurdles in recent months.

Proponents say wind offers more long-term energy independence than offshore oil. Residents along the Eastern seaboard are embracing it as a stable-priced, environmentally friendly energy alternative.

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Stephen Hawking: Big Bang Experiment Could Finally Earn Me A Nobel Prize

From The Daily Mail:

Experts around the world are eagerly awaiting the switch on of the world's biggest scientific experiment, and none more so than Professor Stephen Hawking.

The £5billion Large Hadron Collider aims to recreate the conditions moments after the Big Bang that created the universe.

It could offer Professor Hawking his best chance so far of winning a Nobel prize if it confirms his theory that black holes give off radiation.

He told the BBC: 'If the LHC were to produce little black holes, I don't think there's any doubt I would get a Nobel prize, if they showed the properties I predict.

'However, I think the probability that the LHC has enough energy to create black holes, is less than 1 per cent, so I'm not holding my breath.'

The British physicist put forward his idea in the 1970s but it proved controversial because many scientists believed nothing could escape the gravitational pull of a black hole.

Although Hawking's theory has become accepted by the profession is remains unproven. Nobel prizes in physics are awarded only when there is experimental evidence for a new phenomenon.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern may produce microscopic black holes that could evaporate in a flash of Hawking radiation.

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A Continuation Of The Gender Wars

Men's Brains Are 'Better Connected' -- The Telegraph

Men have higher levels of nerve connections in parts of their brain than women, according to a study that will renew hostilities in the long running gender war.

Previous studies have revealed differences in the density of nerve cells and other brain features but none of these gender differences have been linked to behaviour or function in a very convincing way.

Now, Dr Lidia Alonso-Nanclares and Prof Javier De Filipe of the Instituto Cajal, Madrid, Spain; and colleagues there and at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, used fresh brain tissue removed from epileptic patients during brain surgery to explore microscopic differences in the brain structure of men and women, revealing a consistent difference.

The authors of a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences used an electron microscope to study the brain tissue and discovered that in the temporal neocortex, a key part which is involved in both social and emotional processes, located near the ears, among other skills, that men had a one third higher density than women of synapses - the junction between two brain cells that enables precisely tuned cell-to-cell communication.

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Doomsday Scenarios

At Cern, the Large Hadron Collider could recreate conditions that last prevailed when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old. Above is one of the collider's massive particle detectors, called the Compact Muon Solenoid

Totally Fictional Doomsday -- MSNBC

Have you heard the one about the physics experiment that created globe-gobbling black holes? Or killer neutrino beams? Or the voice of God? How about antimatter explosives and the boson bomb? There's even a supercollider that set off a crisis so huge that scientists had to be sent back in time to make sure the supercollider was never built in the first place.

All these subatomic nightmares, and more besides, are pure science fiction ... with a bit of science woven in.

The black-hole nightmare in particular has touched off a wave of worry about the Large Hadron Collider, complete with lawsuits, tearful protests and death threats.

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Rediscovering Hydro Power

U.S. Looks to Rediscover Hydropower as Untapped Energy Source
-- Popular Mechanics

From the pipes in water-treatment plants to long-forgotten river turbines, overlooked sources of energy throughout the U.S. are poised to be tapped.

From the front, the old brick mill in Middlebury, Vt., looks like any of the other quaint buildings lining the town’s main street. But inside, through yawning gaps in a patchwork floor of long, narrow planks, the gray-green waters of Otter Creek can be seen churning toward a 23-ft. waterfall. Anchored to a stone bridge above the river, the building once had a mill wheel that drove wool-processing equipment; later, a penstock carried water to a turbine, generating electricity for the town’s streetlights.

For the past 42 years, the power of the river has gone untapped—the turbine is long since dismantled—and Middlebury’s electricity now comes from the grid. The only sign of the penstock, the pipe that funneled water to the powerhouse, is a crumbling concrete frame, and the sluice gate that controlled the river diversion is missing its metal plate. Local resident Anders Holm plans to change that.

An ear, nose and throat specialist who grew up in town, Holm was born a few years after the hydropower system was retired. His father purchased the mill in the 1980s and rented it out as commercial space. But changing times—particularly the events of Sept. 11, 2001—convinced Holm to reduce his dependence on foreign oil. He covered his home with solar panels. Then he and his brother, Erik, decided to restore both the mill and the hydropower.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

CERN News Updates -- September 8, 2008

Proton-smashing will start at the 27-kilometer tunnel beneath Switzerland in a month. (Martial Trezzin/Keystone, via The Associated Press)

CERN Fires Up New Atom Smasher To Near Big Bang
-- Yahoo News/AP

GENEVA - It has been called an Alice in Wonderland investigation into the makeup of the universe — or dangerous tampering with nature that could spell doomsday.

Whatever the case, the most powerful atom-smasher ever built comes online Wednesday, eagerly anticipated by scientists worldwide who have awaited this moment for two decades.

The multibillion-dollar Large Hadron Collider will explore the tiniest particles and come ever closer to re-enacting the big bang, the theory that a colossal explosion created the universe.

The machine at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, promises scientists a closer look at the makeup of matter, filling in gaps in knowledge or possibly reshaping theories.

The first beams of protons will be fired around the 17-mile tunnel to test the controlling strength of the world's largest superconducting magnets. It will still be about a month before beams traveling in opposite directions are brought together in collisions that some skeptics fear could create micro "black holes" and endanger the planet.

Read more ....

More News On CERN

Atom-smasher promises closer look at makeup of matter -- International Herald Tribune
Excitement and Fear Abound Over Super Collider -- Yahoo News/News Factor
CERN fires up new atom smasher to near Big Bang -- San Francisco Chronicle
Next Stop: The Fourth Dimension, With Large Hadron Collider Experiments -- Science Daily
Fingers Crossed, Physicists Are Ready for Collider to Roll -- New York Times Science
Multibillion-dollar experiment to probe nature's mysteries -- New York Sun
60,000 Computers Primed For Big Bang Probe -- CBS News
Global computer network ready for Big Bang probe -- USA Today
'The Grid' will see 80,000 computer network processing data from LHC -- The Telegraph
Super-smasher targets massive mystery -- MSNBC
Discovery or doom? Collider stirs debate -- MSNBC
Fear Looms Over Scientist's Experiment to Uncover Secrets of 'Big Bang' -- FOX News
The Large Hadron Collider: "the most extreme historical reenactment society ever" -- The Guardian
Five Particles; The Making of CERN -- Times Online
World's Biggest Physics Experiment Moves Closer to Completion -- Voice Of America
How the Large Hadron Collider Might Change the Web -- Scientific America
Scientists Get Death Threats Over Big Bang Experiment -- New York Sun
CERN's LHC 'First Beam' to be broadcast live on Wednesday -- Edgadget

Hubble Crew Faces Higher Risk Of Debris Hit: NASA

From Reuters:

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The shuttle crew being dispatched to work on the Hubble Space Telescope faces a higher-than-usual chance of disaster due to orbital debris, the shuttle program manager said on Monday.

NASA is preparing for a fifth and final servicing mission to the orbital observatory next month.

The environment where Hubble flies, about 350 miles (560 km) above the planet, is more littered with shards of exploded spacecraft and rockets than the area around the International Space Station, which orbits about 210 miles above Earth.

The odds of catastrophic damage from an orbital debris strike are 1 in 185 for the Hubble crew, compared with 1 in 300 for missions to the space station, John Shannon, the shuttle program manager, told reporters.

"It's our biggest risk," he said.

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More News On The Space Shuttle's Mission

NASA: Space Debris a Higher Risk for Hubble Shuttle Flight --
NASA warns Hubble mission brings greater space debris risk -- AFP
Shuttle Atlantis Faces Debris Danger on Hubble Mission -- The Write Stuff
Hubble shuttle flight faces higher space junk risk -- International Herald Tribune
Atlantis is moved to launch pad -- L.A. Times
Shuttle Launch Dates for 2008 Rescheduled -- Geek Dad