PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet DIGEST, 21 January 1999
-----------------------------

   THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

   From H.G.Wells@cyberspace

   "This World Encyclopaedia would be the mental background of every
   intelligent man in the world. It would be alive and growing and
   changing continually under revision, extension and replacement from
   the original thinkers in the world everywhere. Every university and
   research institution should be feeding it. Every fresh mind should
   be brought into contact with its standing editorial organisation....
   It would do just what our scattered and disoriented intellectual
   organisations of today fall short of doing. It would hold the world
   together mentally."

   Cheers,
   H. G. Wells, 1938

-----------------------

(1) CATACLYSMIC EXPLOSIONS MAY HAVE HELD UP ALIEN VISITORS
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(2) LARGE GENE STUDY QUESTIONS CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION THEORY
    National Science Foundation News <medwards@nsf.gov>

(3) INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN HUMAN SPACE EXPLORATION
    E. Sadeh, COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY

(4) PLANETARY PROTECTION, SAMPLE RETURN MISSIONS AND MARS EXPLORATION
    D.L. DeVincenzi, NASA, AMES RES CTR

(5) A 'WORLD BRAIN'? SURFING THROUGH THE INTERNET
    F. Pivec, IZUM

======================
(1) CATACLYSMIC EXPLOSIONS MAY HAVE HELD UP ALIEN VISITORS

From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

New Scientist

Contact:
Claire Bowles, claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk, 44-171-331-2751

US CONTACT:
Barbara Thurlow, New Scientist Washington office
Tel: 202-452-1178 or email newscidc@idt.net

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: January 20, 1999, 2 p..m. EST

Cataclysmic Explosions May Have Held Up Alien Visitors

GAMMA-RAY bursts -- incredibly powerful explosions that may be caused
by collisions between collapsed stars -- could solve one of the oldest
riddles about extraterrestrial civilisations: why haven't they reached
Earth already? After studying the effects of gamma-ray bursts on life,
an astrophysicist has concluded that aliens may have just started to
explore their galaxies.

Enthusiasts for the existence of extraterrestrials have long been
haunted by a simple question supposedly posed by the Nobel prizewinning
physicist Enrico Fermi around 1950. Fermi pointed out that the Galaxy
is about 100 000 light years across. So even if a spacefaring race
could explore the Galaxy at only a thousandth of the speed of light, it
would take them just 100 million years to spread across the entire
Galaxy. This is far less than the Galaxy's age of about 10 billion
years.

So if ETs exist in the Milky Way, where are they? Maybe they don't
share the human urge to explore. Or perhaps there's another reason,
says James Annis, an astrophysicist at Fermilab near Chicago. He thinks
cataclysmic gamma-ray bursts often sterilise galaxies, wiping out life
forms before they have evolved sufficiently to leave their planet
(Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, vol 52, p 19). GRBs are
thought to be the most powerful explosions in the Universe, releasing
as much energy as a supernova in seconds. Many scientists think the
bursts occur when the remnants of dead stars such as neutron stars or
black holes collide.

Annis points out that each GRB unleashes devastating amounts of
radiation. "If one went off in the Galactic centre, we here two-thirds
of the way out on the Galactic disc would be exposed over a few seconds
to a wave of powerful gamma rays." He believes this would be lethal to
life on land.

The rate of GRBs is about one burst per galaxy every few hundred
million years. But Annis says theories of GRBs suggest the rate was
much higher in the past, with galaxies suffering one strike every few
million years -- far shorter than any plausible time scale for the
emergence of intelligent life capable of space travel. That, says
Annis, may be the answer to Fermi's question. "They just haven't had
enough time to get here yet," he says. "The GRB model essentially
resets the available time for the rise of intelligent life to zero each
time a burst occurs."

Paul Davies, a visiting physicist at Imperial College, London, says the
basic idea for resolving the paradox makes sense. "Any Galaxy-wide
sterilising event would do," he says. However, he adds that GRBs may be
too brief: "If the drama is all over in seconds, you only zap half a
planet. The planet's mass shields the shadowed side." Annis counters
that GRBs are likely to have many indirect effects, such as wrecking
ozone layers that protect planets from deadly levels of ultraviolet
radiation.

Annis also highlights an intriguing implication of the theory: the
current rate of GRBs allows intelligent life to evolve for a few
hundred million years before being zapped, possibly giving it enough
time to reach the spacefaring stage. "It may be that intelligent life
has recently sprouted up at many places in the Galaxy and that at least
a few groups are busily engaged in spreading."

Author: Robert Matthews
New Scientist magazine issue 23rd Jan 99

PLEASE MENTION NEW SCIENTIST IF YOU USE THIS ARTICLE - THANK YOU

==================
(2) LARGE GENE STUDY QUESTIONS CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION THEORY

From National Science Foundation News <medwards@nsf.gov>

January 22, 1999

The ancestors of major groups of animal species began populating Earth
more than 600 million years earlier than indicated by their fossil
remains, according to the largest study ever on the subject using gene
sequences.  The recently completed study at Penn State University,
funded in part by NSF, suggests that animals have been evolving
steadily into different species for at least 1200 million years --
which challenges a popular theory known as the Cambrian Explosion that
proposes the sudden appearance of most major animal groups, known as
phyla, 530 million years ago.  A paper describing the research is
published in the January 22, 1999, issue of the Proceedings of the
Royal Society of London (Series B) by Penn State scientists Daniel Y.-
C. Wang, Sudhir Kumar, and S. Blair Hedges.

To gauge the pace of evolution, the research team tested hundreds of
gene sequences to find those that developed mutations at a constant
rate over time.  "Because mutations start occurring at regular
intervals in these genes as soon as a new species evolves -like the
ticking of a clock -- we can use them to trace the evolutionary history
of a species back to its actual time of origin," Hedges explains.

"Not only are all these genes telling us that a wealth of animal
species in at least three phyla were already on Earth millions of years
before their fossils start appearing," Hedges says, "but they also are
telling us when three of the major kingdoms of living things --
animals, plants, and fungi -- first diverged from a common ancestor and
began evolving down separate evolutionary paths."  That date -- about
1.6 billion years ago -- is the earliest yet obtained by gene studies
for this evolutionary event.  [Cheryl Dybas]

====================
(3) INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN HUMAN SPACE EXPLORATION

E. Sadeh*), J.P. Lester, W.Z. Sadeh: Modeling international cooperation
in human space exploration for the twenty-first century. ACTA
ASTRONAUTICA, 1998, Vol.43, No.7-8, pp.427-435

*) COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY, CTR ENGN INFRASTRUCT & SCI SPACE,FT
   COLLINS,CO,80523

The policy process of international cooperation in space exploration,
including optimistic and pessimistic scenarios for the twenty-first
century, is modeled and examined in this study. In the optimistic
scenario, international cooperation involves a balanced and
interdependent distribution of capabilities between states, their
respective national space agencies and communities of space scientists
and space engineers. Cooperation is characterized by interstate
participation in critical path components and joint research and
development. In the pessimistic scenario, international cooperation is
structured and dominated politically and economically by powerful
states vis-ci-vis weaker states. Cooperation is limited to coordination
of separate nationally approved projects and augmentation of
capabilities in noncritical path components. On the basis of these two
scenarios, policy predictions and implications relevant to exploration
missions in the twenty-first century, such as a human-tended lunar base
and human missions to Mars, are presented and discussed. (C) 1998
Elsevier Science Ltd.

==========================
(4) PLANETARY PROTECTION, SAMPLE RETURN MISSIONS AND MARS EXPLORATION

D.L.. DeVincenzi*), M.S. Race, H.P. Klein: Planetary protection, sample
return missions and Mars exploration: History, status, and future
needs. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-PLANETS, 1998, Vol.103, No.E12,
pp.28577-28585

*) NASA, AMES RES CTR,MS 245-1,MOFFETT FIELD,CA,94035

As the prospect grows for a Mars sample return mission early in the
next millennium, it will be important to ensure that appropriate
planetary protection (PP) controls are incorporated into the mission
design and implementation from the start. The need for these PP
controls is firmly based on scientific considerations and backed by a
number of national and international agreements and guidelines aimed at
preventing harmful cross contamination of planets and extraterrestrial
bodies. The historical precedent for the use of PP measures on both
unmanned and manned missions traces from post-Sputnik missions to the
present; with periodic modifications as new information was obtained.
In consideration of the anticipated attention to PP questions by both
the scientific/technical community and the public, this paper presents
a comprehensive review of the major issues and problems surrounding PP
for a Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, including an analysis of
arguments that have been raised for and against the imposition of PP
measures. Also discussed are the history and foundations for PP
policies and requirements; important research areas needing attention
prior to defining detailed PP requirements for a MSR mission; and legal
and public awareness issues that must be considered with mission
planning. Copyright 1999, Institute for Scientific Information Inc.

==========================
(5) A 'WORLD BRAIN'? SURFING THROUGH THE INTERNET

F. Pivec: Surfing through the Internet - the new content of teenagers'
spare time. ASLIB PROCEEDINGS, 1998, Vol.50, No.4, pp.88-92

IZUM, INST INFORMAT SCI,PRESERNOVA 17,MARIBOR 2000,SLOVENIA

The appearance of the Internet brings changes into social context and
into the cultural and moral experience of people. This applies
especially to teenagers, who are attracted to the Internet much more
intensively than other sections of the population. Cyber Cafes are
their favourite places of meeting and at the same time gives the
opportunity to study their behaviour. Since this is important for
getting to know a significant part of the users of our activities as a
bibliographic utility, we organized free access to the Internet in our
institute. This article presents the results of the inquiry conducted
among the visitors over a longer period of time. We compared our
findings with similar researches in the world. "The Net is my culture,
my tribe if you would. In many ways it is the only place where I feel
at home." (H. Hardy /LSTSERV@gnom.georgetown.edu). A long time ago, in
1938, H. G. Wells predicted the "establishment of a world brain." "This
World Encyclopaedia would be the mental background of every intelligent
man in the world. It would be alive and growing and changing
continually under revision, extension and replacement from the original
thinkers in the world everywhere. Every university and research
institution should be feeding it. Every fresh mind should be brought
into contact with its standing editorial organisation.... It would do
just what our scattered and disoriented intellectual organisations of
today fall short of doing. It would hold the world together mentally."
Of course the Internet is not such a consistent unity but rather a
"chaotic mishmash", which nevertheless gives the impression of an
all-embracing brain that hives and grows from within itself and where
you have to be close by if you want to belong to civilization. What
will be the most intriguing and valuable is in fact the variety of
messages, which was stressed with a special reason by Ben Goedegebuure
at the FID 100(th) anniversary. "We will measure scholarly achievement
in a different manner than before, since text will be only one
dimension of a person's knowledge and not, as in today's world the only
dimension." However, it's not good to look upon the Internet from the
serious side only, since if requires a lot of good will, patience and
above all time. And we have to be careful all the time nor to fall into
a trap, such as mentioned by Robin Ruskin (according to a sincere
confession in PC Magazine, 26th April 1994). "If I was ever in close
competition with another scientist, and I wanted to get a year ahead,
I'd just go out and buy them a computer." Something like that cannot
happen to the participants in our story because they are very young and
they have all their lives in front of them. Besides, they don't take
their occupation with the Internet deadly seriously but rather as
amusement in their free time, because they like it and because it is
different from everything else they have to do. Copyright 1999,
Institute for Scientific Information Inc.

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