PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 5/2003 -  17 January 2003
-------------------------------


"Israelis are avidly watching the progress of their first ever
astronaut, who is in space after the successful launch of the Columbia
shuttle on Thursday. Colonel Ilan Ramon, an Israeli fighter pilot,
blasted off with six other crew members on a mission which is to
undertake a series of scientific experiments. Mr Ramon - whose mother was a
survivor of the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz - took with him a
drawing by a 14-year-old Jewish boy who perished there. "In two
generations, we're moving from the lowest ebb, the darkest point of our
history, to a very great moment of excellence and achievement," Mr Ayalon
said."
--BBC News Online, 17 January 2003

"Virginia Tech researchers are helping to design a sticky space
probe that may one day bring home souvenirs of a trip to an asteroid. Why
send adhesives to space? According to Tim Long, a Tech associate professor
of chemistry, adhesives do a lot more than glue stuff together. They might
just make the perfect space explorer. Imagine peeling a big Band-Aid off
an asteroid and bringing it back to Earth. You'd have all sorts of
chemicals, minerals, dust particles and other space stuff that scientists
go crazy for. And it would be a lot simpler and cheaper than sending
somebody up there with a shovel. (Ever tried to shovel in zero
gravity? It's not easy.)"
--Roanoke Times (VA), 11 January 2003


(1) FIRST ISRAELI [SINCE ELIJAH] BLASTS INTO SPACE
    BBC News Online, 17 January 2003

(2) ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN STUDENTS JOIN FORCES ON SPACE SHUTTLE EXPERIMENT
    The Planetary Society <tps@planetary.org>

(3) MYSTERY OF THE 1953 LUNAR FLASH
    Pravda, 16 January 2003

(4) 'SPACE SHEEPDOGS' COULD ROUND UP SPACE JUNK
    New Scientist, 15 January 2003

(5) TO BOLDLY STICK WHERE NO CRAFT HAS STUCK BEFORE
    Roanoke Times (VA), 11 January 2003

(6) NEW RESEARCH CASTS DOUBT OVER 'NOAH'S FLOOD'
    Newsday, 14 January 2003

(7) TUNGUSKA & THE 1953 LUNAR FLASH
    Jens Kieffer-Olsen <dstdba@post4.tele.dk>

(8) AVERTING ARMAGGEDON
    Duncan Steel <D.I.Steel@salford.ac.uk>

(9) SO WHAT IF THE END OF THE WORLD HAS ALREADY BEGUN?
    Worth Crouch <doagain@jps.net>

(10) CONFERENCES
     Alan Penny <alan.penny@rl.ac.uk>

(11) AND FINALLY: WORLD'S SECOND RICHEST NATION TOLD TO SWITCH OFF THE
LIGHTS
     Financial Times, 17 January 2003

(12) UNDER THE BOTTOM LINE: HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE?

=============
(1) FIRST ISRAELI [SINCE ELIJAH] BLASTS INTO SPACE

>From BBC News Online, 17 January 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2663853.stm

Israelis are avidly watching the progress of their first ever astronaut, who
is in space after the successful launch of the Columbia shuttle on Thursday.

 
Colonel Ilan Ramon, an Israeli fighter pilot, blasted off with six other
crew members on a mission which is to undertake a series of scientific
experiments.

Extra security measures, including a large security cordon, sniffer dogs and
swat teams, were brought in as Mr Ramon's presence, along with a delegation
of 300 Israeli officials, heightened security fears.

The mission is carrying a special pressurised laboratory into space for 16
days of experiments, principally on microgravity.

Israeli excitement

The launch - broadcast live by Israeli TV and radio stations - has caused
great excitement around the country.

"We had deep, beautiful, blue skies and then with this smoke coming in huge
bursts, it was very, very moving," said the Israeli ambassador to the United
States, Danny Ayalon.

"You know, these are our national colors."

Every Israeli school child will now be required to spend 25 hours of
classroom time studying Mr Ramon's flight and also space science.

The ambassador said Mr Ramon - whose mother was a survivor of the Nazi death
camps at Auschwitz - took with him a drawing by a 14-year-old Jewish boy who
perished there.

"In two generations, we're moving from the lowest ebb, the darkest point of
our history, to a very great moment of excellence and achievement," Mr
Ayalon said.

Kosher food

Although Mr Ramon is not particularly religious, as the first representative
of the Jewish state in space, he said he would carry a Bible and eat only
Kosher food.

His desire to keep the Sabbath on Saturday was a potential problem as the
sun sets and rises several times a day in space.

However, a Florida rabbi ruled he should adhere to the same time as Houston,
where Nasa Mission Control is based.

"This is such an exciting time for us... he makes us so proud," Mr Ayalon
said.

Mr Ramon's wife and children were among those present for the launch.

Mrs Ramon admitted to some nervousness and said she could not wait for the
mission to be over, the Associated Press reported.

"I don't want to talk about fear. We're not talking about fear. I'm sure
Nasa is doing everything that is possible not to take any risk and any
chances," she said.

"The most calm and relaxed person is Ilan."

Extensive testing

Weather conditions were near perfect for the launch of flight STS-107, with
a clear, cool morning.

The shuttle's lab will test microgravity

The mission is dedicated purely to scientific experimentation as the shuttle
will not be ferrying any parts to the growing International Space Station
(ISS).

The crew of seven will work in shifts for 24 hours each day to complete an
extensive programme of tests.

However, the mission could be of great benefit to the ISS, as it will test a
new technology which could enable the permanent recycling of water there.

Copyright 2003, BBC

===========
(2) ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN STUDENTS JOIN FORCES ON SPACE SHUTTLE EXPERIMENT

>From The Planetary Society <tps@planetary.org>

NEWS RELEASE
The Planetary Society
65 N. Catalina Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106-2301 (626) 793-5100 Fax (626)
793-5528
E-mail: tps@planetary.org  Web: http://planetary.org

For Immediate Release: January 15, 2003
Contact: Susan Lendroth

Israeli and Palestinian Students Join Forces on Space Shuttle Experiment

An Israeli and a Palestinian student are joint participants in an
astrobiology experiment sponsored by The Planetary Society on the space
shuttle Columbia's mission STS107. The Growth of Bacterial Biofilm on
Surfaces during Spaceflight (GOBBSS) experiment was developed by the Israeli
Aerospace Medical Institute and the Johnson Space Center Astrobiology
Center. The astrobiology experiment is designed to advance understanding of
the evolution of life in the universe and to help build peaceful
international cooperation in our often divided world.

"Space exploration is a symbol of the linked destiny we all share as humans
and as residents of the home we call Earth," said Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson,
Vice President of The Planetary Society.  "This project exactly fits the
mission of The Planetary Society -- to inspire the people of Earth to
explore new worlds and seek other life through research, education and
public participation." 

The two university students, an Israeli and a Palestinian, are participating
with Dr. Eran Schenker of the Israeli Aerospace Medical Institute in seeking
data about the effects of space on cells and DNA. Such data might provide
new insight to theories of life traveling between planets.  Schenker is
conducting a series of cell biology experiments that will fly on the
Columbia space shuttle as part of ITA's Commercial Payload, the CIBX-2. This
is an ITA corporate biomedical payload performing both cancer research and
student experiments through a commercial Space Act Agreement between ITA and
NASA.  

Tariq Adwan, a Palestinian biology student from Bethlehem, and Yuval Landau,
an Israeli medical student from Tel Aviv, will be co-investigators on the
student experiment. Adwan is currently attending College Misericordia in the
United States, while Landau attends Tel Aviv University in Israel.

In addition to Schenker, other scientists advising on the experiment include
Palestinians Johnny Younis of Poria University Hospital, Nazareth, and Dr.
Ahmad Tibi, physician and Arab member of the Israeli Knesset; and Dr. David
Warmflash and Dr. David McKay of NASA Johnson Space Center. Warmflash helped
the students design the experiment and was responsible for bringing it to
The Planetary Society as a peaceful science initiative. 

"The experiment is primarily a demonstration to show how people, united by a
common goal, can work together to answer questions that have intrigued all
humanity for ages," said Warmflash. "However, this is also a useful and
original experiment that may contribute valuable insight into the question
of life in the cosmos."

The GOBBSS experiment will help test the much debated "panspermia"
hypothesis -- the belief that microorganisms from other planets arrived on
Earth in the distant past and helped spur the development of life on Earth.


"Especially in this unstable time," said Younis, "I am happy to take part in
the selection process of students from both sides to work together on a
united bio-space study."

The experiment, which combines ideas proposed by the two students, involves
a sample of bacterial cells enclosed within a compartment in a special
container carried in the shuttle's Spacehab module.  Once the shuttle is in
orbit, an astronaut will activate the experiment container, releasing the
bacterial sample into a second compartment, which contains inorganic crystal
material similar in structure to the meteorites that have traveled from Mars
to Earth.  Before returning to Earth, the astronauts will deactivate the
study, causing a fixing agent from a third compartment to mix with the
bacteria-exposed material. 

Once the container has been returned to Earth, the students and their
advisors will examine the bacteria using scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
to see how well the bacteria grew on the material, if at all. They will
compare the results with those from a parallel experiment done on the
ground. 

"If the organisms produce a biofilm under weightless conditions, it will add
weight to the hypothesis that organisms can be transported by meteorites
from one planet to another and possibly seed a lifeless planet," said
Warmflash.

Seeds of Peace, an organization dedicated to increasing understanding and
cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian youth, is working with The
Planetary Society in this project. Seeds of Peace and the Israeli Aerospace
Medical Institute advertised the experiment to university students in Israel
and Palestine to seek their participation. The Peres Center For Peace is
also helping support and promote the Science for Peace project.  

"The Planetary Society believes that the study and exploration of space not
only expands our horizons out into the universe, but also brings together
the people of Earth," said Dr. Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The
Planetary Society. "The organization has long been committed to advancing
international cooperation in peaceful space exploration, beginning with
cooperative ventures with scientists in the Soviet Union in the 1980's and
continuing today with programs around the world with -- and in -- many
nations. The GOBBSS experiment is especially apropos since the concept of
panspermia reminds us that life everywhere is connected and that what we
share far outstrips what divides us."

For more information, visit the Planetary Society's website at
http://planetary.org.

-o0o-

THE PLANETARY SOCIETY:
Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in
1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the
search for extraterrestrial life. With members in over 125 countries, the
Society is the largest space interest group in the world. For more
information, contact Susan Lendroth at (626) 793-5100 ext. 237 or by e-mail
at susan.lendroth@planetary.org. (http://planetary.org)

ISRAELI AEROSPACE MEDICAL INSITUTE INFORMATION
The Israeli Aerospace Medicine Institute is the center for space biomedical
research in  Israel. To date, Israel has sent to space three successful
biomedical experiments on board NASA shuttles.  IAMI was the initiator,
sponsor and coordinator for all of them.  IAMI has sent early stage embryos
on STS-80 to learn about the early biology development in space. On STS-95
IAMI sent bone specimens to study osteoporosis, and on STS-107 IAMI
researchers are launching a new prebiotic nutrition product to study the
effects of microgravity on new food products. (www.iami.org.il)

==============
(3) MYSTERY OF THE 1953 LUNAR FLASH

>From Pravda, 16 January 2003
http://english.pravda.ru/main/2003/01/16/42120.html

A mysterious flash on the Moon registered half a century ago still agitates
the minds of scientists. If the flash was the result of falling of a large
asteroid, it means that such collisions with the Moon and the Earth may
happen oftener than was earlier supposed.

In 1953, astronomer Leon Stuart took a picture of the Moon with a bright
spot in the center of its visible surface. The brightness of the flash
corresponded to the energy liberation equivalent to an explosion of about
500 kilotons.

Astronomer Bonnie Buratti from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in
Pasadena says that the newly obtained data allow to suppose that the flash
on the Moon could be the result of falling of an asteroid of about 20 meters
in diameter. If she is right, it may mean that collision of asteroids with
the Moon (and with the Earth) may happen oftener: approximately once in 500
years with the Moon, and once in 30 years with the Earth.

The crater formed after falling of the hypothetical asteroid is too small to
be discerned from the Earth. However, astronomer Buratti says that the
pictures made from the Clementine automatic station on the circumlunar orbit
in 1994 revealed a new crater which appeared as a result of impact. The new
crater was exactly in the region where Leon Stuart discovered the flash 50
years ago. Ejection of a brighter substance cover the territory of 1.5
kilometers in diameter; and the color indicates that the crater is new
enough.

Nevertheless, several scientists still insist that the picture presented by
Stuart reveals not an asteroid falling on the Moon, but a so-called
stationary meteor, a rather rare phenomenon: the meteor's mechanical
trajectory is directed along the eyesight axis of an observer, so that the
observer can see only a flash in the sky.

Skeptics assume that the meteor on Stuart's picture just accidentally
projected on the picture of the Moon disk in the background. Despite the
fact that such stationary meteors are rarely observed, they still happen
oftener than falling of large asteroids on the Moon. Besides, opponents of
Bonnie Buratti say that existence of the "new" crater on the Moon is of
slightest importance: there are no effective criteria to determine its
actual age. It is likely that the "new" crater is 20 million years old and
it is just a bit newer than others.

Bonnie Buratti rejects such doubts. She says that Stuart was a very
experienced astronomer. His picture was taken with the exposure of half a
second; there were no signs of camera movement; and the flash itself
occurred in the Moon's part along its orbit, where fallings of meteorites
are highly possible. Bonnie Buratti says that discovery of the crater in the
pictures taken from Clementine proves that the astronomer was right when 50
years ago he took a picture of the Moon at the moment when a new crater
appeared on the planet.

Copyright 2003, Pravda

===========
(4) 'SPACE SHEEPDOGS' COULD ROUND UP SPACE JUNK

>From New Scientist, 15 January 2003
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993268
 
An aerospace company is proposing to deploy what it calls a "space sheepdog"
to usher space junk safely out of orbit. It could even put the junk's spare
momentum to good use.

Space junk poses an increasingly serious danger to spacecraft. A head-on
collision with a centimetre-sized piece would release a similar amount of
energy to a collision with a bowling ball at 100 kilometres per hour.
Low-Earth orbits are now littered with about 1900 tonnes of debris.

Most of the junk is accounted for by a relatively small number of large
items such as spent launchers and dead satellites, which are easy to track
and avoid. But that could change. In some orbits, a chain reaction is under
way: fragments from past collisions are becoming involved in more
collisions, generating more fragments, and so on.

"It's a very slow process but at some point we will have to tackle this
problem," says Joe Carroll, an aerospace engineer at Tether Applications, a
space technology company based in California.

One way to clear the skies is to attach rocket motors to the largest objects
and send them crashing to Earth. But this requires large amounts of fuel to
put the rockets into orbit and power them when they get there. So Carroll
suggests a more elegant solution: a reusable solar-powered craft that
manoeuvres using forces generated when an electric current interacts with
the Earth's magnetic field. NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts is
funding a feasibility study into his idea.

Electrodynamic tether
 
The main component of Carroll's vehicle is a conducting wire several tens of
kilometres long, known as an electrodynamic tether, carrying an electric
current. As the tether sweeps though the Earth's magnetic field, the current
interacts with the field, raising or lowering the craft's orbit. "It's a bit
like tacking in a sail boat. You push and pull against the field until you
get where you want," says Carroll.

His plan is to equip the tether with a roving sheepdog, a small vehicle that
is released near a piece of debris to fly around it looking for a suitable
point to latch onto. Once attached, it returns to the tether with its prize
in tow. The tether then heads for another piece of junk and sets the
sheepdog loose again. "A single tether could be reused up to 100 times,
capturing a piece of junk many times its own mass each time, " he says.

To drag pieces of junk out of orbit would be relatively straightforward -
they simply need decelerating to sub-orbital speed. But Carroll has a more
ambitious idea. He suggests using the momentum of a large mass of collected
junk to boost the orbit of a working spacecraft by transferring momentum
from the junk to the spacecraft.

In Carroll's scheme, the junk would act as ballast at one end of the tether
with the spacecraft at the other end. By carefully controlling the forces
produced on the tether, the two masses would be set rotating about each
other. Releasing the spacecraft at the appropriate moment would send it to a
higher orbit - while the junk ends up in a lower orbit. The junk's orbit can
then be restored slowly using the tether until it is ready for its next
launch.
 
Justin Mullins, Boston

Copyright 2003, New Scientist

=============
(5) TO BOLDLY STICK WHERE NO CRAFT HAS STUCK BEFORE

>From Roanoke Times (VA), 11 January 2003

Virginia Tech researchers are helping to design a sticky space probe that
may one day bring home souvenirs of a trip to an asteroid.

While others will design the spacecraft, the NASA-backed project requires
Tech's Center for Adhesive and Sealant Science to perfect the sticky part.

Why send adhesives to space? According to Tim Long, a Tech associate
professor of chemistry, adhesives do a lot more than glue stuff together.
They might just make the perfect space explorer.

"We can take a 'fingerprint' of an asteroid surface," he said.

Peel off a Band-Aid after wearing it a couple of days and take a good look
at the sticky parts. There's a treasure trove of stuff on there - skin
cells, dirt, maybe a couple of leg hairs.

Now imagine peeling a big Band-Aid off an asteroid and bringing it back to
Earth. You'd have all sorts of chemicals, minerals, dust particles and other
space stuff that scientists go crazy for. And it would be a lot simpler and
cheaper than sending somebody up there with a shovel. (Ever tried to shovel
in zero gravity? It's not easy.)

NASA was interested enough in the idea to approve more than $300,000 for the
two-year project, but the agency is not guaranteeing that the adhesive will
ever get off the launchpad.

Spaceworks, an Arizona aerospace company, and the University of Arkansas at
Fayetteville are going to figure out most of the science and engineering.
They called Tech's adhesives center for the Band-Aid part.

Except of course, it won't be a Band-Aid. It will have to be some sort of
sticky substance that can survive extreme temperatures and a long space
flight. It will have to pick up and hold both tiny molecules and big clumps
of matter.

It will have to be quick, because the nine-armed spacecraft probably won't
actually land on the asteroid - just "kiss and run," according to Derek
Sears of the University of Arkansas.

And when it's all over, the adhesive will have to let go, dropping whatever
it picked up without leaving sticky residue.

The right sticky stuff may not yet exist, but Tech's adhesives researchers
are used to creating adhesives that never before existed.

"Virginia Tech is known for being able to do this," Long said. For instance,
they're working on "smart" adhesives that stick until you tell them not to.
That research, funded by a medical company, really would make a better
Band-Aid.

Their research is all about seeing adhesives in new ways, said Long, and the
asteroid project means seeing them in a "science fiction kind of way."

When his students hear about it, he said, they say, "Wow, that's so much
different than a Post-it Note."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2003, Roanoke Times

===========
(6) NEW RESEARCH CASTS DOUBT OVER 'NOAH'S FLOOD'

>From Newsday, 14 January 2003
http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsnoah14,0,2079747.story

Some research backs the biblical story and some finds no evidence of the
catastrophe

By Robert Cooke
Staff Writer

Scientists are seriously challenging a recent, fascinating proposal that
Noah's epic story -- setting sail with an ark jam-full of animal couples --
was based on an actual catastrophic flood that suddenly filled the Black Sea
7,500 years ago, forcing people to flee.

In a detailed new look at the rocks, sediments, currents and seashells in
and around the Black Sea, an international research team pooh-poohs the Noah
flood idea, arguing that all the geologic, hydrologic and biologic signs are
wrong.

Little that the earth can tell us seems to fit the Noah story, they say. The
new research takes direct aim at the work of two Columbia University
geologists -- William Ryan and Walter Pitman -- whose proposal in 1997
ignited much new interest, and much new research, into Middle East history
and geology.

According to Ryan and Pitman, their strong evidence shows that sudden
flooding of the Black Sea did occur, and they think it was such a traumatic
event that it became part of the folklore of ancient peoples of the Middle
East, showing up vividly in the Bible.

Ryan and Pitman's bold proposal, first published in a marine geology
journal, holds that the gradual rise of sea level at the end of the last Ice
Age eventually overtopped and washed out a fragile natural barrier across
what is now the Bosporus Strait. And once the barrier fell, it set off a
catastrophe for settlers living in a huge basin to the northeast.

As the fragile barrier across the Bosporus collapsed, Ryan and Pitman
proposed, a massive amount of seawater surged from the Mediterranean into
what was then a stagnant, low-lying basin, the huge region now filled by the
Black Sea. According to their scenario, the surge of seawater continued for
about two years, until the major inland sea reached its present size.

Before the flood, Ryan and Pitman calculated, the basin contained a large
soggy marsh sitting about 500 feet lower than the sea, which was held back
by the barrier at the Bosporus. Once the barrier was breached, they
estimated, some 10 cubic miles of seawater poured through the gap every day,
a roaring cataract 200 times greater than the daily flow of Niagara Falls.

That, certainly, would have been a memorable event for people living around
the basin. They would have seen the water rising inexorably, pushing them
farther and farther up-slope, driving them away from their homes and fields.
But whether it actually happened, and whether it matches what the ancient
writings report, are questions that are open to serious debate.

Now an international team lead by Ali Aksu argues there was no Black Sea
flood at that time, and little else to support Noah's story. Instead, they
see evidence that 7,500 years ago the Black Sea was already full, that it
wasn't very salty, and more water was running out of the Black Sea than was
pouring in through the Bosporus. As it does today, they said, the narrow
strait carried a two-way flow 7,500 years ago, with salty water going in via
the bottom, and less-salty water coming out on the surface. So, no flood.

This narrow strait, the Bosporus, is important both geologically and
historically. It is a thin channel that separates the two major land masses,
Europe and Asia. It has been a historic crossroads for millennia, a place
where East meets West, in what is now Turkey. At the Bosporus' northeastern
end is the Black Sea, and at the other end is the Sea of Marmara, linked to
the Mediterranean, and thus to all the world's oceans.

What Aksu and his co-workers argue is that for the past 12,000 years
brackish water has been steadily streaming out of the big inland sea and
into the Mediterranean. Their studies of deltas, sea-floor sediment cores
and the remains of marine life at the southern end of the Bosporus show no
evidence of a Noachian flood.

This detailed study of the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara region was
undertaken by Aksu and Richard Hiscott at the Memorial University of
Newfoundland, Canada; Peta Mudie and Andre Rochon of the Geological Survey
of Canada; Michael Kaminski at University College in London; Teofilo
Abrajano at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and Dogan Yasar
at Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey.

Their new look into the region's history was undertaken in response to the
controversial proposal by Ryan and Pitman, at Columbia University's
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, N.Y. Ryan and Pitman
announced their intriguing evidence in 1997, boldly suggesting that old
flood stories in the Bible and other ancient texts speak of a true flood, an
event of gigantic proportions.

Despite the new evidence gathered by Aksu's team, Ryan and Pitman aren't
retreating. Ryan pointed out in an interview that Aksu's team did most of
its work outside the Black Sea, mapping the flow of water, the build-up of
sediments and other evidence beyond the southern end of the Bosporus.

"Their paper is strongly model-driven," Ryan said, using a "concept of how
water masses work. But our work is with directly sampled and directly dated
Black Sea sediments."

Also, Ryan said, "I will concede to them that there was an outflow" from the
Black Sea "from 11,000 to 10,000 years ago. But we see after that another
drawdown, the Black Sea going back down" in time to allow the huge flood
that is part of the Noah story.

Ryan also said Aksu's conclusion that certain shores and deltas in the Black
Sea are older than the Noah story suggests "is a little gutsy, because we do
have the direct observations" with accurate dating. "It's going to be very
interesting how this gets resolved."

Aksu and his international research team politely disagree. "Many of our
observations are entirely incompatible with a late catastrophic flooding of
the Black Sea," they announced in a detailed report in the journal of the
Geological Society of America.

They even claim to have enough new data "to discard this hypothesis" about a
flood.

The new research by Aksu and his colleagues involved taking seismic
soundings of ocean floor sediments over a 7,500 kilometer-long series of
tracks, collecting soft sediment cores from sea-floor muds at 65 sites, and
doing radio-carbon age-dating studies at 43 locations. Even though the bulk
of this work was done outside the Black Sea itself, the international team
concluded:

That sediments in the deltas south of the Bosporus have built up steadily
for almost 12,000 years from brackish surface water flowing out of the Black
Sea. These layers of sediment indicate the outward flow has been relatively
steady for that whole length of time. In other words, no big flood into the
Black Sea. The remains of organisms trapped in the sediments show that it
was brackish water, not salty seawater, that was -- and is -- going through
the Bosporus via the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean. In fact there is
a net outward flow into the Mediterranean because the Black Sea continuously
receives large amounts of fresh water from major rivers.

"Today the Black Sea is swollen by the discharge of major European rivers,"
the researchers wrote in GSA Today, published by the Geological Society of
America. These large rivers are the Danube, the Don, Dnieper, Dniester and
Southern Bug. And as a result, about 300 cubic kilometers of water --
brackish water -- flows out of the Black Sea annually.

So the present exchange of water through the Bosporus channel "is a
two-layer flow. A cooler, lower salinity surface layer exits the Black Sea,
and warmer, high-salinity Mediterranean water flows northward through the
strait at depth" into the Black Sea, the researchers explained.

The growth of seawater-loving Mediterranean mollusks on underwater shelves
in the Black Sea -- which Ryan and Pitman cited as major evidence for Noah's
saltwater flood -- probably didn't result from a sudden influx of saltwater.
Instead, Aksu's team said, he mollusks grew because of a gradual intrusion
of saltwater along the bottom of the Bosporus channel. That might account
for the mollusks being able to live there, but without any need for a major
saltwater flood.

While the flood explanation proposed by Ryan and Pitman was admittedly
speculative, it found a ready audience. They soon wrote a popular book,
"Noah's Flood," published in 1999, explaining the idea and the depth of
their research. There were also feature articles in National Geographic
Magazine, Scientific American and New Scientist, plus a BBC television
documentary. Also, several expeditions into the Black Sea have been mounted,
in hopes that signs of old settlements might be found on ancient shorelines
that are now submerged. Some remnants of ancient dwellings have actually
been found under the Black Sea's waters. Such clues indicate that the Black
Sea's water level has changed, although they don't prove the flood
hypothesis.

Several of the recent Black Sea expeditions were conducted by famed
geologist and explorer Robert Ballard, discoverer of the sunken Titanic in
1985. His Black Sea research team reported finding some spectacular
underwater archaeological sites, including several sunken ships that may
date from Roman times, as well as a few remains from small buildings in
areas that are now submerged off the Turkish shore. These signs of
structures fired the imagination, and the interest in further exploration
has intensified.

Ballard's main interest, however, is the discovery of old shipwrecks. He
surmised that some of the trading vessels that plied waters of the
Mediterranean, and the Black Sea, must have sunk, and many of them should be
in water that is so deep that the wrecks haven't been touched. That has
turned out to be true.

Ballard, attending a recent deep sea archaeology meeting at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that the challenge to the Noah
idea from Aksu's team should ignite a good fuss.

"It's going to be interesting to see people attack that" new report, which
argues there was no massive flood. In any case, Ballard added, Aksu's new
results don't mean it's not worthwhile to study the Black Sea. The ancient
shipwrecks already found are so well-preserved that they make research and
study efforts very tempting and exciting.

For example, at the recent meeting at MIT, archaeologist Cheryl Ward, from
Florida State University, reported on four old vessels that were recently
found on the bottom of the Black Sea. One is in such pristine condition that
its mast still stands upright, even though it has probably been under water
for more than a millennium.

The shipwrecks are especially well-preserved, scientists said, because water
near the Black Sea's bottom is anoxic, very low in oxygen. This means that
many materials aboard the sunken ships do not rot and disintegrate as
rapidly as they would in other conditions.

Because of a lack of oxygen in the water at depth, there are "toxic
conditions on the bottom," Ward said. As a result, below a certain depth
"there is an opportunity for excellent preservation" of goods that sink to
the bottom. In some of the wrecks the wood is still present, some fabrics
have been found, and there are often heaps of old clay containers --
amphorae -- piled up around and within the wreck sites.

Among the wrecks found, she added, the fourth one "was very interesting.
It's in an extraordinary state of preservation," offering archaeologists "an
opportunity to look at an ancient ship" that is still fairly intact.

It is in such good shape, she added that "the first thing we saw was the
mast" as the deep submergence vehicle passed over the wreck. "The mast is 11
to 14 meters tall, which is about as big as the ship" itself. Along the
sides of the wreck, the explorers could also see at least 18 frame ends
poking up through sediment, as well as several large spars lying across the
vessel.

Further, more detailed exploration is planned.

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(7) TUNGUSKA & THE 1953 LUNAR FLASH

>From Jens Kieffer-Olsen <dstdba@post4.tele.dk>

Dear Benny Peiser, Andy Smith, et alea

Following CCNet 4/2003 -  14 January 2003 with the item TUNGUSKA & THE 1953
LUNAR FLASH I have received certain comments from CCNet subscribers, which
prompt me to clarify said item.

I'm aware that the Moon impact in 1953 is far from confirmed. And I'm
certainly not in a position to judge on the authors' claim that the
photograph is an unambiguous record of a crash of an
asteroid. Whether Tunguska-sized objects hit the Earth/Moon binary system
once every 150, 250, or 950 years is as much an open question to me as it is
to everybody else. My gut feeling on the matter is of course totally
irrelevant, even if it crystallizes from years of perusing CCNet articles.

However, since the consequences of a future major impact are obviously being
downplayed in many a learned quarter, I feel tempted to join one Stephen
Schneider in his cry "So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make
simplified, dramatic statements". Rather than contribute to the general
complacency, that is.

It cannot be said too often that asteroids do not hit Earth as if they were
fired in our direction owing to some random Poisson process. On the contrary
the coming impact dates and hours are already determined by the lay of the
solar system. All we need to do is make the necessary observations to
identify those dates. Were we to adopt - at the expense of a fistful of
dollars - a program to map orbits of all NEA's greater than 50m in diameter,
as called for by Andy Smith among others, we would in fact be virtually guaranteed to
net one or more of these dates.  That is, even if mean time between impacts is close to a
millennium, as the AD 2880 known close encounter by 1950 DA has
demonstrated. And even if it takes another fistful of dough to launch a
couple of 'cheap, fast, and good' asteroid-bound probes to enable us to
distinguish between close calls and bull's eyes.

Am I the only person to feel it is a perversion of common sense to celebrate
the scientific achievement of spotting and mapping the orbits of tiny KBO's,
knowing that at the same time the effort to map potential city- and
country-killers within the NEA population is starved of funds?
 
I'm also unable to share in the joy expressed by some astronomers whenever a
new comet rears its threatening tail. Knowing that one of its mates may one
day obliterate the world as we know it, I feel myself much more on
wavelength with those medieval observers, who shivered in fearful respect of
such an advent. I take heart from the fact that the movie Deep Impact may
have pushed a soul or two into my pen.

Even though future impacts by comets are just as determinable as those by
asteroids it is obvious that at our current technological level we are
unable to identify the associated dates, and that we are therefore
reluctantly forced to address the risk as probabilistic, the inevitable
consequence being that no effort towards obviating such cometary impacts is
cost-justified to-day.  Let's hope that it takes less than a century for
mankind to mature to meet even this challenge.

Yours sincerely
Jens Kieffer-Olsen, M.Sc.(Elec.Eng.)
Slagelse, Denmark

----
MODERATOR'S NOTE: I'm afraid that if we were to follow Stephen Schneider's
notorious scare tactics, we would inevitably (and rightly so) lose all
credibility and respect in the eyes of the interested public. I am proud to
say that the NEO community has been extremely self-critical with regards to
those few (and inadvertent) asteroid scares of our own making. It is evident
that  disingenuous exaggeration of a low-probability risk for political or
funding purposes is absolutely unacceptable even to those of us who
genuinely feel that more should be done to address the impact hazard. As
everyone knows, I have been advocating a future Spaceguard programme that
embraces the search for Tunguska-class objects. Nevertheless, I am pragmatic
and realistic enough to accept that such a goal and the advanced technology
it requires will have to be developed gradually. For more than 5 million
years, humans have survived everything nature has thown at us. There is
every reason to believe that we will survive the next 200 years too. And by
then, I am confident, the impact hazard will have been solved for good. BJP

===========
(8) AVERTING ARMAGGEDON

>From Duncan Steel <D.I.Steel@salford.ac.uk>

Dear Benny,

A new BBC TV asteroid/comet documentary entitled "Averting Armageddon"  will
go to air on BBC 2 on Thursday 23rd January at 9 p.m.

Cheers,

Duncan

============
(9) SO WHAT IF THE END OF THE WORLD HAS ALREADY BEGUN?

>From Worth Crouch <doagain@jps.net>

"End of World Has Already Begun"; The newswire article dated 1/13/2003,
refers to a newly published book ''The Life and Death of Planet Earth''
written by Brownlee and Ward. Eagerly the Boston Globe and other paper and
Internet publications are covering the story. The articles report, "In its
4.5 billion years, Earth has evolved from its hot, violent birth to the
celebrated watery blue planet that stands out in pictures from space. But in
a new book, two noted University of Washington astrobiologists say the
planet already has begun the long process of devolving into a burned-out
cinder, eventually to be swallowed by the sun." They go on to say, "The
prospects of humans surviving by moving to some other habitable planet or
moon aren't good, Brownlee and Ward contend, because even if such a place
were found, getting there would be a huge obstacle."
 
Then again, many scientists agree with a thesis I was invited to present to
the NASA Astrobiology Institute's (NAI) Annual 2001, Meeting in Washington
D.C. The thesis concluded that although the end of the World is probably
inevitable humankind has the ability to protect the Earth for a long time.
After all it has only been 100 years since the Wright brothers taught us to
fly. And given that, if we can hold on for at least a few thousand more
years we should be able to disperse life in general, along with human life,
to other habitats away from this planet.

Except for some changes in life's duration, such as their calculation that
most life will become extinct in 500 million years, the book doesn't offer
much that's new or hopeful. As a matter of fact few people now will be
affected by or even care about what happens 500 million years in the future.

 
Moreover, if there is to be a continuance of life beyond an ultimate cosmic
catastrophe, such as a Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet Earth impact, or the sun's
consumption of Earth, the continuance will probably be the result of
intelligent biological intervention by machine capable beings working in
teams.
 
Thus, highly evolved life from the Earth does not necessarily face dead end
extinction, as has been traditionally predicted and accepted by Brownlee and
Ward. On the other hand, it is not yet a certainty that our kind of human
being will be the machine capable beings needed to do the job.

Worth Crouch

=======
(10) CONFERENCES
 
>From Alan Penny <alan.penny@rl.ac.uk>

Dear Benny,

Three conferences you may like to consider:

UK Astrobiology 2003    Cambridge, UK          March 27-28
Eddington               Palermo, Italy         April  9-11
Darwin                  Heidelberg, Germany    April 22-25


1) UK Astrobiology 2003

     Cambridge UK                 March 27-28  2003

     An opportunity for the UK Astrobiology Community to gather and
     discuss topics of mutual interest.

     http://astrobiology.rl.ac.uk/uk_astrobio_2003.html

2) 2nd Eddington Workshop

     Palermo, Italy                April  9-11  2003

     This workshop is an invitation to the wider scientific community
     to get involved in the Eddington mission - both the planet finding
     and asteroseismology phases.
 
     http://www.astropa.unipa.it/Eddington/Eddi2003.html

3) Toward Other Earths

     Heidelberg, Germany          22-25 April 2003

     Darwin / TPF and the search for extra-solar terrestrial planets

     http://www.mpia-hd.mpg.de/DARWIN/


[This is a circular letter to people who signed a round-robin last
year to ESA supporting Exoplanets and Astrobiology.]

Regards, Alan Penny

===========
(11) AND FINALLY: WORLD'S SECOND RICHEST NATION TOLD TO SWITCH OFF THE
LIGHTS

>From Financial Times, 17 January 2003
http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1042490866864&p=1012571727166

By Nicholas George in Stockholm
 
Norwegian civil servants were yesterday told to turn down office heaters,
leave corridors unlit and dim street lights as the country faced an
unprecedented electricity crisis.

It seems an extraordinary development in the world's second richest
industrial nation, whose wealth is based on huge oil and gas reserves and
which is usually awash with cheap hydro-electric power.

But Norway is not alone in the Nordic region in trying to limit consumption.
Sweden's power intensive industry has been forced to curtail production
while Finland's government has advised citizens to cut down on their beloved
electric saunas.

The problems have been caused by the region's coldest start to the year for
more than a decade and extremely low water levels in reservoirs feeding the
hydro-electric plants that generate 50 per cent of the region's electricity.
The reservoirs will not refill until snow and ice in the north thaws in
spring....

Against this backdrop of soaring prices and threat of shortages, the Swedish
government will in March have to decide whether to decommission a second
nuclear reactor while the Norwegians may be forced to consider gas, despite
reluctance on environmental grounds.

The Finns say the extreme cold has vindicated government's decision last
year to build a new nuclear reactor.
 
Copyright 2003, Finanicial Times

see also

SOUTH ASIA COLD SPELL WORSENS
CNN, 16 January 2003
http://asia.cnn.com/2003/WEATHER/01/16/southasia.cold.ap/index.html

NEW DELHI'S LONGEST COLD SPELL IN 40 YEARS
>From UNI, 16 January 2003
http://www.deepikaglobal.com/ENG3_sub.asp?ccode=ENG3&newscode=23375

BIG FREEZE HITS HOME AS RUSSIA DELAYS GLOBAL WARMING PACK, MAY WRECK DEAL
Reuters, 15 January 2003
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030115/sc_nm/environment
_russia_dc_1

AND A REMINDER OF LAST YEAR'S ICY WINTER: "CLIMATIC CATASTROPHES STRIKE"
http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/cc010502.html

================
(12) UNDER THE BOTTOM LINE: HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE?

Morris, the Jewish astronaut, was asked why he was packing a tie with his
spacesuit. He replied, "My mother said that when I do a space walk I should
look nice."
Later on, during the flight, Morris became frantic and radioed mission
control.
"I must make an emergency landing!"
"Why?"
"My wife called and she wants to be picked up from the hairdresser."

--------------------------------------------------------------------
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please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser < b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk >.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational
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The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on, can be
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*

'NATURE' REBUKES DANISH COMITTEES ON SCIENTIFIC DISHONESTY

>From Nature, 16 January, 2003, page 195

"More heat, less light on Lomborg"

A Danish committee has picked an appropriate target and misfired.

Not surprisingly, last week's ruling by the Danish Committees on
Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) that Bjørn Lomborg, in his controversial
book The Skeptical Environmentalist, selected data in a "severely biased"
manner and exhibited poor scientific practice (see page 201) received
widespread international media coverage. But whether the DCSD emerged
with credit also deserves reflection.

Lomborg's hypothesis that warnings issued by environmentalists and
scientists are unwarranted, presented in the book rather than in the
peer-reviewed literature, has been widely criticized by researchers.
But what is the DCSD's authority to tackle what many consider a polemical
rather than scientific book?

The DCSD was the first European body to be set up - by the Danish
Research Agency - to examine issues of scientific misconduct, and it is
still unusual in being mandated to consider any complaint about any
scientist, or any scientific work, emerging from both the private and
public sectors. A look at its guiding principles (see
http://www.forsk.dk/eng/index.htm) and its judgement (see
http://www.forsk.dk/uvvu/nyt/udtaldebat/bl_decision.htm) confirms that
the DCSD has the freedom to assess the case because, arguably,
Lomborg presented himself as an academic and his book as a scientific
argument. Appropriately enough, the DCSD emphasizes that it is assessing
Lomborg's scientific standards, not his conclusions.

The national context of this independent assessment is relevant here.
Lomborg was made director of the politically influential Danish
Environmental Assessment Institute, founded by the new right-wing
government after the 2001 elections, solely on the strength of it.
According to its own statutes, the institute must be headed by a
scientist of appropriate research experience, whereas Lomborg has
little additional experience.

Lomborg's claims in his book are certainly significant and potentially
influential. The Danish public, at least, has the right to know whether
he is arguing on scientifically rigorous grounds, not least given the
influence of his position.

Unfortunately, the DCSD has left itself in a weak position. It did not
conduct an independent analysis of the book but relied on published
criticisms, especially a controversial selection published by Scientific
American. Even to call this judgement's basis a 'meta-analysis' would be
too generous: there is, for example, no justification given for the
particular selection of published critiques. Furthermore, through a
tangled combination of translation and legalese, the committee's
judgement characterizes Lomborg as "objectively dishonest" while at the
same time stating that they have no evidence for what most people would
call dishonesty: deliberate misrepresentation. That subtle, not to say
tortuous, distinction has been lost in the media coverage.

There remains a need for rigorous scrutiny of Lomborg's methods, given
his prominence, his claims to serious analysis, and the polarized debate
surrounding his book. But this episode leaves everyone little wiser, and
the waters surrounding Lomborg even muddier.

© 2003 Nature Publishing Group

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CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser < b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk >.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational
use only. The attached information may not be copied or reproduced for
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The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on, can be
found at http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/cccmenu.html. DISCLAIMER: The
opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the articles and texts and
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