PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 58/2002 - 10 May 2002
--------------------------


"Space scientists hitched a ride earlier this year aboard an F/A-18B
fighter jet traveling through the stratosphere at 0.92 Mach. From the
cockpit, the night sky was inky black and pierced with diamond-like
planets, streaks of comet dust, and a zodiac of light.... Daniel
Durda, a senior research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, flew
in this F/A-18 jet at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards,
California, to search for vulcanoids-a group of asteroids that might
exist in the twilight halo of the sun."
--John Roach, National Geographic News, 6 May 2002


"The International Space Station may be port of call for a
free-flying telescope capable of not only probing the depths of the
Universe, but also listening for the chatter of other civilizations and
spotting Earth-threatening asteroids."
--Leonard David, Space.com, 8 May 2002


(1) FIGHTER JET HUNTS FOR "VULCANOID" ASTEROIDS
    National Geographic News, 6 May 2002

(2) ORBITAL TELESCOPE PLATFORM PROPOSED FOR SETI, ASTEROID WATCH DUTIES
    Space.com, 8 May 2002

(3) WORKSHOP ON "GLOBAL SCALE DISASTERS" EXPLORES HUMAN CONSEQUENCES OF
ASTEROID AND COMET THREAT
    Albert A. Harrison

(4) COSMIC CATASTROPHE 'A CERTAINTY' - IN THE NEXT 100 MILLION YEARS, THAT
IS
    BBC News Online, 8 May 2002

(5) HOW NOT TO WORRY ABOUT EXPLODING STARS & MASS EXTINCTIONS
    http://www.hotbitscafe.com/go/maitreya/hp-type.html
 
(6) THE NEW UPWARD MOBILITY
    Tech Central Station, 8 May 2002

(7) AND FINALLY: FORGET NEO SEARCHES AS "INVISIBLE ASTEROIDS MAY POSE THREAT
TO EARTH"
    Space Daily, 6 May 2002


==============
(1) FIGHTER JET HUNTS FOR "VULCANOID" ASTEROIDS

>From National Geographic News, 6 May 2002
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/04/0430_020506_vulcanoids.html

By John Roach

Space scientists hitched a ride earlier this year aboard an F/A-18B fighter
jet traveling through the stratosphere at 0.92 Mach. From the cockpit, the
night sky was inky black and pierced with diamond-like planets, streaks of
comet dust, and a zodiac of light.

Not out merely for a night ride, the scientists had their eyes trained on
the western horizon, where twilight hung low in a range from deep blue to
glowing red.
  
Daniel Durda, a senior research scientist at the Southwest Research
Institute, flew in this F/A-18 jet at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center
in Edwards, California, to search for vulcanoids-a group of asteroids that
might exist in the twilight halo of the sun.

There, in the twilight space, is where a cluster of small asteroids known as
vulcanoids are thought to exist, if they exist at all, said Daniel Durda, a
senior research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder,
Colorado.

"Finding such objects and being able to study their physical properties
would help astronomers better understand the conditions in the solar nebula
from which the planets-our own Earth included-formed," he said.

Durda and his colleague Alan Stern, director of the institute's Space
Studies Department, have enlisted the help of a high-tech camera and
high-flying aircraft to better search the twilight sky for vulcanoids. That
region of the sky is difficult to search from the ground because of
atmospheric hazes, turbulence, and its proximity to the sun.

Vulcanoid Theory

When space scientists in the early 1900s were unable to account for all of
the gravitational forces in the planet Mercury's orbit, they theorized that
an undiscovered planet even closer to the Sun-called Vulcan-could cause the
unaccounted-for gravitational pull.

In his general theory of relativity in 1915, Albert Einstein provided a more
complete description of gravity and how it behaves close to a massive body
such as the Sun. As a result, astronomers were able to account for all the
tugs and pulls on Mercury's orbit, and astronomers abandoned their search
for Vulcan.

"However, there remained some interest in looking for smaller debris-small
asteroids-in the region, since such material might have remained from the
disk of planet-forming material after the planets grew to their final size,"
said Durda.

Other astronomers theorize that Mercury suffered a major impact late in its
formation that stripped the planet of its outer rocky layers. That debris
might still be in the vicinity of the planet as a population of small
asteroid-like bodies.

"Our motivation for looking for vulcanoids today is no longer linked in any
real way with the original motivation for looking for Vulcan," said Durda.
"Today, we're only treating the region as a more or less unexplored region
in the solar system that could have undiscovered objects there."

Rationing Space

Until now, the search for vulcanoids has been conducted solely from the
ground. Observations have been confined to the small windows of time that
occur during solar eclipses and in the moments just after sunset and just
before sunrise.

To date, these observations have resulted only in speculation about how many
vulcanoids might exist, with none actually found, said Durda.

Theoretical models based on these searches suggest that a population of a
few hundred vulcanoids about a kilometer (0.6 miles) in size could have
survived the harsh dynamic environment of the inner solar system. Asteroids
of that size, however, are exceedingly difficult to observe in the twilight
sky with ground-based telescopes. "In the glare of twilight, only big-thus
fairly bright-objects can be seen," said Stern. "From 50,000 feet (15,240
meters), the sky is much darker at twilight. Thus, we should do better than
one can do from the ground."

That was the basis of a funding proposal that Durda and Stern submitted to
NASA's Planetary Astronomy Program. It bought the space scientists and their
high-tech camera a ticket for three rides in the F/A-18B fighter jet earlier
this year, and possibly a seat in a U-2 aircraft in September.

"This observation campaign presents a major improvement over previous
unsuccessful ground-based surveys," said Serge Tabachnik, an astrophysicist
at Princeton University in New Jersey whose calculations indicate that
vulcanoids could exist in stable orbits near the Sun.

In-Flight Movie

To aid their search for the vulcanoids, Stern and Durda took a very
sensitive camera along for their ride in the fighter jet at NASA's Dryden
Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The camera, called the
Southwest Ultraviolet Imaging System-Airborne (SWUIS-A), allows the
researchers to obtain images of objects that are 600 times fainter than what
is visible to the naked eye.

The SWUIS-A, which was designed at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder,
has been used previously in high-performance aircraft to observe comets and
asteroids. It records images 60 times a second and sends the data to a video
recorder, explained Durda.

>From these images, the scientists assemble a deep and clear image of the
stars.

The imaging process eliminates any movement in the images due to the motion
of the aircraft. It also allows the scientists to, in effect, take a time
exposure-"to look fainter than we could in any individual 1/60-second
exposure," said Durda, who is currently processing the image data collected
on the research flights.

Durda and his colleagues will analyze the images from the three flights to
search for any moving objects that might be vulcanoids. The orbits of any
candidate asteroids will be calculated to see if they are in the region
where vulcanoids have been proposed to exist.

"The data analysis is tricky and we have over 100,000 images to sort
through," said Stern. The task will take several months.

Are They There or Not?

The success of the search mission depends not on whether the researchers
actually find vulcanoids, but in determining whether they exist. The answer
will help astronomers' understanding of the universe.

If the researchers do discover convincing evidence of vulcanoids, the next
logical step would be to study the composition of the space rocks.
Scientists speculate that the asteroids would probably be very rich in
minerals with a very high melting point, such as iron and nickel or rarer
metals like tungsten, osmium, and zirconium.

If the vulcanoids formed as debris from Mercury, said Durda, researchers
will have to wait for the results from the MESSENGER spacecraft, which is
scheduled to launch in March 2004 on a mission to Mercury.

"If we do not find vulcanoids, that is important too, since that can help
place constraints on the processes which could have removed material from
the inner solar system after the planets formed," said Durda.

One theory is that the material in the inner solar system could have
spiraled into or away from the Sun due to the so-called Yarkovsky Effect,
which is a term used to describe how an asteroid's trajectory can be
influenced by its heat radiation.

The influence of the Yarkovsky Effect is quite small and is strongest on
asteroids with a rough, fragmented surface and smaller than one kilometer
(0.6 miles) in diameter. Dusty, fragmented materials heat up and cool down a
lot faster than smooth, solid-rock materials, making asteroids with a
"regolith" surface more mobile and likely to be long gone, explained Durda.

"If we see no vulcanoids at all, it might be because on average objects
there had a regolith cover," he said. "That would be a nice thing to know."

Durda and Stern's research is funded in part by a grant from the National
Geographic Society.

Copyright 2002, National Geographic

=================
(2) ORBITAL TELESCOPE PLATFORM PROPOSED FOR SETI, ASTEROID WATCH DUTIES

>From Space.com, 8 May 2002
http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/submillimetron_020508-1.html

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
 
The International Space Station may be port of call for a free-flying
telescope capable of not only probing the depths of the Universe, but also
listening for the chatter of other civilizations and spotting
Earth-threatening asteroids.

The Submillimetron Project is underway by a team of researchers from Sweden,
Finland and Russia. This new telescope would be home-based at the Russian
segment of the International Space Station (ISS). When periodically docked
to the orbiting outpost, this astronomical tool can be serviced by a crew
and then dispatched to continue its research work.

Designed to operate at super-cold temperatures, the telescope permits
astronomical peeks at the Cosmos in unprecedented wavelengths. The primary
goal is to conduct a submillimeter wave, full sky survey.

Objects of interest by the Submillimetron telescope include the "cold"
components of matter left over from the Big Bang. Furthermore, the
instrument can reveal remote galaxies now unseen by current technology. A
significant majority of detected objects would be luminous, high redshift
galaxies. These objects emit most of their light in the submillimeter range.

High sensitivity of the telescope to cold bodies permits it to detect
asteroids at a distance far beyond Jupiter's orbit. So along with the
Submillimetron Project's astrophysics and cosmology agenda, suggests the
scientific team promoting the telescope, the space-based eye can provide
early warning to Earth of menacing asteroids.

Voice of the sky

The Submillimetron operates at a terahertz waveband, at a boundary between
infrared rays and microwave frequency, explained Vladimir Gromov, an
astronomer at the Astro Space Center in Moscow, one of the organizations
working on the concept.

Playing the role of a supersensitive "ear", the telescope also makes use of
supersensitive arrays and radio electronics. These can hear the "voice of
the sky at a new bandwidth", and are capable of eavesdropping on an
extraterrestrial civilization.

"With the help of this device [the Submillimetron], the astronomers and
physicists will be able to answer the questions they are not even thinking
about yet. Probably, they will hear the voice of an extraterrestrial
civilization. Or perhaps they will discover something absolutely new, for
instance, a type of substance previously unknown," explains a release on the
project.

Gromov told SPACE.com that the Submillimetron is specially intended to look
for objects billions of light years distant from Earth. "The goal is to
detect more than a million such objects," he said.

No space, ground-based or balloon instruments planned for this decade can
fulfill the task feasible with the Submillimetron, claim supporters of the
project.

Using the telescope to look for other star folk is a task readily handled by
the Submillimetron.

Gromov said that the telescope could detect so-called Dyson Spheres, a
manifestation of a developed civilization. "No real need for some
civilization to send informative signals through space. But any civilization
must consume energy and, as a result, dissipates heat, and therefore
generates infrared radiation," he said.

Nobody knows the spectrum of Dyson Sphere radiation, Gromov said. "Probably
it's absolutely different from that of other astronomical objects. We plan
to analyze detected sources of this subject," he added.

Sight and sound chores

"It has been approved for flight to the Russian segment," Gromov said, but
gaining the financial wherewithal to keep scientific instruments for the
telescope moving forward is an issue.

The Russian Academy of Sciences supports bringing the project to fruition. A
feasibility study of the Submillimetron was undertaken by the S.P. Korolev
Rocket Space Corporation Energia, and approved by the Russian Space Agency
for flight to the ISS after the 2004-2005 time period.

A preliminary estimate of building the scientific space platform (SSP),
replete with the Submillimetron, is less than $150 million.

The free-flying SSP is based on a modified Russian Progress cargo craft.

First, the SSP-carried Submillimetron would be lofted and docked to the
International Space Station. An ISS crew could final check the equipment
prior to release.

Set loose, the platform-carried telescope would be maneuvered far away from
the space station, perhaps to a higher orbit. Once the telescope is in
position, super-cold liquid helium is used to chill sky-scanning equipment,
thereby increasing the sensitivity of the Submillimetron's telescopic gear.

At mission end -- which could be years in the making -- the platform is
brought back to the space station. After redocking to the ISS, the scope's
instruments undergo a Hubble Space Telescope-like maintenance job. Thus,
replacement of old equipment with new technology is made feasible. There is
significant volume onboard the SSP for it to carry a bevy of other studies.
Another goal of the project is to provide a test bed for a variety of
technological experiments, to help seed the development of follow-on
projects.

Once checked-out and its cryogen topped off, the Submillimetron is
re-launched from the ISS - picking-up where its sight and sound chores last
left off.

Valery Altunin, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in
Pasadena, California, said the proposed telescope offers good science, as
well as helping in other, "political" issues. "There are not too many
astronomy experiments yet proposed to be deployed on the ISS," he said.

The projected sensitivity of the space telescope assumes the use of new type
of sensors. "Although a lot of work was done, this new technology is not
mature yet," Altunin said. Moving the Submillimetron project ahead needs
strong partnerships with scientists from multiple nations, including the
United States.

"The overall assessment is that the project may succeed...but it is a long
road to success," Altunin said.

Copyright 2002, Space.com

============
(3) WORKSHOP ON "GLOBAL SCALE DISASTERS" EXPLORES HUMAN CONSEQUENCES OF
ASTEROID AND COMET THREAT

>From Norman <letter.man@btinternet.com

Dear Benny,
 
I have been talking to Al Harrison, University of California, Davis who
attended the Workshop in Irvine California on Friday, April 11, 2002 to
discuss human reaction to the possibility that a large asteroid or comet
will collide with Earth, perhaps causing global devastation as you did.
 
Below is his write-up of the conference. He has agreed to share his
thoughts.
 
Regards
Norman.
 
WORKSHOP ON "GLOBAL SCALE DISASTERS" EXPLORES HUMAN CONSEQUENCES OF ASTEROID
AND COMET THREAT

Albert A. Harrison

University of California, Davis

Social scientists convened in Irvine California on Friday, April 11, 2002 to
discuss human reaction to the possibility that a large asteroid or comet
will collide with Earth, perhaps causing global devastation.  The purpose of
this workshop was to consider managing disasters that are far beyond the
scope of local, regional, and national authorities. Although the papers
focused explicitly on the threats to Earth posed by asteroids and comets,
much of the material was applicable to other low-probability high
-consequence events. The session was a sequel to a technically oriented
workshop sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
and held in Spain in 2001. This earlier conference focused on finding and
intercepting dangerous near earth objects. Participants there realized that
purely technical solutions were not enough, and urged a follow-up workshop
to explore the socio-cultural and psychological aspects of the threat.

Although we can see the record of impacts on the surface of the Moon the
threat to Earth was not widely appreciated until the latter part of the 20th
century when scientists discovered that asteroid impacts were the most
likely cause of past massive extinctions on Earth including the extinction
of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. We know that objects hit Earth's
atmosphere all the time; most burn up, but some make it through to the
Earth's surface. Small objects are common but do little damage (one
literally smashed the trunk of a car). Large objects are rare, but can do
immense damage and very large objects have the potential of destroying all
human life. We can expect a major local disaster about once every thousand
years, a global disaster about once every million years, and an
extinction-level event about once every hundred million years.

Astronomers have made tremendous progress finding and tracking potential
interlopers in our solar system, and it may be possible to predict an impact
decades or even centuries in advance. We can develop the technology to
destroy or deflect some approaching objects, but not all threatening objects
have been found and there is a 40 percent chance that a major comet or
asteroid would arrive with very little advance warning. It could be a matter
of days before we realize with any degree of certainty when and where an
object will hit Earth.

Issuing a warning can itself have a profound effect, even if the prediction
turns out not to be true. Who issues the alert, and at what level of
probability that the object will hit Earth?  At present, no governing or
advisory body is in a position to oversee alerts.

Advance warning would allow time for planners to generate alternatives,
consult, carefully weigh and evaluate new information, reach decisions,
build consensus, and make careful plans for implementation. On the other
hand, substantial warning may place the event beyond the institution's
planning horizon, and discourage people from attending to the threat. Ample
warning increases the opportunity for special interest groups to form,
generate dissent, and initiate political action. Advance warning is likely
to incur certain costs such as an economic slowdown, and a lowered quality
of life. Warnings could be counterproductive if they routinely prove to be
false alarms, or if the public does not believe that there are ways to
mitigate the threat. Governments may consider it to their benefit to create
a "spin" that decreases warning costs. Little or no warning raises prospects
of horrendous casualties and the catastrophic failure of rescue and recovery
operations.

Authorities at many different levels including top policy makers,
enforcement agencies such as the military and police, disaster and relief
workers, and residents of affected or at-risk areas will make decisions with
life-death outcomes. Such decision-making could be viewed as an interactive
process that empowers people to take self-protective steps. Offering the
public objective information is only one small step. Widespread
understanding is unlikely if the information is not geared to people with a
sixth grade education. Cultural and psychological factors will influence how
the public processes the warning and whether or not they then take sensible
action. People understand that there are "official" and "unofficial" parts
of a government announcement, and they will not always listen to scientists.
People who call astronomers for reassurance do not always accept that
reassurance at face value. Furthermore, many people adhere to religions that
predict that the end of the world will come about as the result of an
asteroid strike.

It will be difficult to avoid falling prey to wishful thinking (including
denial, rationalization, and buck-passing) and to panicky, ineffective
decision-making brought about by extreme stress. Other threats to planning
and survival include the "giggle factor" (that is, ridicule on the part of
people who lack foresight and are so absorbed by the immediate here and now
that they are completely insensitive to unlikely events); sensationalized
and rapidly abandoned dire predictions; supernatural interpretations that
direct attention away from rational searches for survival strategies;
disaster myths; a widespread and growing lack of trust in the US government;
and the misinterpretation of an asteroid impact as an act of war. Because we
have little or no experiential base for planning for very rare occurrences,
planning efforts may lead to "fantasy documents" that bear little or no
correspondence to the actual unfolding of events.

Casualties will result from the primary effects of the impact and from
"secondary effects" associated with the breakdown of the infrastructure
including transportation and communication systems, the loss of water and
food supplies, and the loss of home and livelihood. Disasters have ripple
effects, spreading out from the epicenter and affecting ever-larger numbers
of people. In essence there are "circles of victims" beginning with the dead
and injured and expanding to include the bereaved, the disaster workers, and
(through the media) society at large. People who are physically unscathed
may bear profound psychological scars, including post-traumatic stress
disorders. Psychological problems may appear long after the fact. Overall,
minimizing and managing casualties could be an overwhelming task. Our
society may not be able to maintain the luxury of poring through the rubble,
looking for survivors when there is only the slimmest chance that anyone
could remain alive, and we may have to come up with tough new standards for
managing triage.

Extinction is generally a two-step process, beginning with a calamitous
event that kills the preponderance of members of a species followed by a
series of "local disasters" that "mop up" the survivors. One way for Homo
sapiens to minimize the risk of extinction is to become a two-planet
species. Another possibility is to create "survival communities" in the form
of stout underground shelters that are able to withstand a large impact and
the functional equivalent of a nuclear winter. Risk is reduced if survival
communities are widely dispersed (so that people who survive the initial
impact will not all succumb to the same localized secondary catastrophe) and
if each community is relatively large (over 500 people each). Establishing
underground or orbiting shelters for some but not all people raises issues
of authority, selection criteria, enforcement procedures, and public
acceptance and buy-in.

To some extent plans for establishing permanent communities on the moon or
on Mars can inform our plans for re-establishing ourselves on Earth
following a near extinction-level event. Post-impact recovery will depend on
such factors as population size and growth, rate of depletion of stored
supplies, and the restoration of means of production. Psychological problems
and social conflicts that are kept under control during the period of
"button up" may break loose during the re-emergence stage. Since they will
function in isolation from one another during the period of isolation and
confinement, there may be some tendency for different communities to become
separatist by the time that they emerge from their shelters. To reduce the
risk of hostility, aggression, and destructive competition among surviving
groups, we might try to imbue a strong overall culture and make sure that
these separated communities remained in constant communication during the
"button up" period.

The workshop concluded with an appeal for additional research. It is not
entirely clear how to plan for unprecedented events. How can we encourage
study and preparation without raising fear?  To what extent can we draw on
past experience as we think about the unthinkable? Are atomic blasts,
volcano eruptions, major earthquakes and tsunami useful analogues? How can
we develop warning systems that do more good than harm? Certainly we cannot
devote a substantial portion of the GNP to protecting ourselves from remote
events, so how can we ensure that the relevant scientific, industrial,
medical and humanitarian organizations can grow quickly at the "moment of
truth?"

An Australian astronomer, Ray Norris, notes that a supernova would be likely
to depopulate all planets within 50 light years. A Gamma Ray Burster is even
more formidable, releasing energy on the order of five magnitudes the order
of energy released by a supernova. It can exterminate life over many
thousands of light years. Norris calculates that supernovas and GRBs should
activate Earth's "reset" button every 200 million years but as far as Norris
can tell this has not happened for about twenty times that period. Perhaps
our luck will continue to hold, perhaps not.

Harvey Wichman, Director of the Aerospace Psychology Laboratory at
Claremont-McKenna College, and Ivan Bekey, an engineer with the
International Academy of Astronautics and organizer of the technical
workshop held in Spain organized the Irvine Conference. The Conference was
sponsored by the Kravis Leadership Institute, Ron Reggio Director, and had
strong support from the Western Psychological Association. Speakers included
Clark Chapman, Office of Space Studies, the Southwest Research Institute;
Benny Peiser, Department of Social Anthropology, Liverpool John Moores
University UK; Albert A. Harrison, Department of Psychology, University of
California, Davis; Geoffrey Sommer, Policy studies, RAND Corporation; Lee
Clarke, Department of Sociology, Rutgers University; Douglas Vakoch,
Psychologist, The SETI Institute and Tammy Calvano, now of New Mexico State.

============
(4) COSMIC CATASTROPHE 'A CERTAINTY' - IN THE NEXT 100 MILLION YEARS, THAT
IS

>From the BBC News Online, 8 May 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1975000/1975354.stm

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor 
 
Sooner or later, a catastrophe from space will wipe out almost all life on
Earth.

According to Dr Arnon Dar, of the Technion Space Research Institute, Israel,
a particular type of exploding star going off anywhere in our region of the
Universe would devastate our planet.

Using the latest statistics and calculations, he argues that a supermassive
star collapsing at the end of its lifetime would form a black hole and send
out a beam of destructive radiation and particles that would sterilise any
planet in its path.

The odds are that any planet in our galaxy would be affected about once
every one hundred million years. "It is a certainty; the timescales are
comparable to mass extinctions seen in Earth's geological record," Dr Dar
told BBC News Online.

No hiding place

Supermassive stars, those with a mass substantially greater than our Sun,
are scattered throughout the galaxy. It is thought that when they collapse
at the end of their lives, they eject an intense beam of radiation, called
gamma-rays, into space.

So powerful are these gamma-rays, and the energetic sub-atomic particles
that follow in their wake, that they could have a major influence on life in
our galaxy.

"If such a beam were to strike Earth, the effects would be totally
devastating, unlike anything we could imagine," Dr Dar said.

On the side of Earth facing the explosion, searing shock waves will begin to
rip through the atmosphere igniting infernos when they reach the ground.

Within moments of the arrival of the radiation from deep space, the
atmospheric temperature will begin rising rapidly, wreaking havoc with
global weather systems.

Destructive 'daughters'

All organic material on the surface of Earth will start to burn. Survivors
will cower in caves and buildings. But the worst is yet to come.

The initial gamma-ray burst will last a fraction of a second. Almost
immediately afterwards will come the cosmic rays, which will drench our
planet for days. There will be no hiding place.

Cosmic rays are highly energetic particles travelling through space at
almost the speed of light. They will slam into the atmosphere, depositing
vast amounts of energy and creating swarms of destructive "daughter"
particles.

These particles, called muons, will penetrate hundreds of metres into rocks
so that few caves will offer protection and even deep-sea creatures will be
affected by lethal doses of radiation.

The Earth's ecosystem will be destroyed. "The few who might survive will
wish they had died," said Dr Dar. "They will struggle, forlornly, on a
wrecked planet."

Dr Dar points out that many of the great extinctions that regularly
punctuate the Earth's history are consistent with being caused by a
devastating influx of radiation from space.

Threatening stars

"Direct proof that it happened this way is lacking at present," he said,
"but many people are looking for it."

There is some good news! Because the gamma-ray bursts from collapsing
supermassive stars are shot across the cosmos in narrow beams, probably no
more than a degree across, most of them will miss the Earth.

However, the latest statistics suggest once every one hundred million years
or so, we will be unlucky. Curiously, this is about the rate of global
extinctions on Earth.

At the moment, astronomers do not know which star to watch. Stars, like the
supermassive Eta Carinae, visible in the Southern Hemisphere, are likely to
explode and send out a gamma-ray burst sometime in the next million years or
so. But this particular star is not pointing in our direction.

Undoubtedly, there is a star that is, but as yet astronomers have not found
it. But even if they do, will we get any warning?

"Not with our current understanding of science," said Dr Dar, "but then
science progresses. Perhaps, one day we will be able to tell which stars are
threatening."

Copyright 2002, BBC

==============
(5) HOW NOT TO WORRY ABOUT EXPLODING STARS & MASS EXTINCTIONS

>From http://www.hotbitscafe.com/go/maitreya/hp-type.html
 
Type I, II, III Civilizations
An excerpt from the book of Michio Kaku: Visions : How Science Will
Revolutionize the 21st Century (1998) 

Futurology, or the prediction of the future from reasonable scientific
judgments, is a risky science. Some would not even call it a science at all,
but something that more resembles hocus pocus or witchcraft. Futurology has
deservedly earned this unsavory reputation because every scientific" poll
conducted by futurologists about the next decade has proved to be wildly off
the mark. What makes futurology such a primitive science is that our brains
think linearly, while knowledge progresses exponentially. For example, polls
of futurologists have shown that they take known technology and simply
double or triple it to predict the future. Polls taken in the 1920s showed
that futurologists predicted that we would have, within a few decades, huge
fleets of blimps taking passengers across the Atlantic.

But science also develops in unexpected ways. In the short run, when
extrapolating within a few years, it is a safe bet that science will
progress through steady, quantitative improvements on existing technology.
However, when extrapolating over a few decades, we find that qualitative
breakthroughs in new areas become the dominant factor, where new industries
open up in unexpected places.

Perhaps the most famous example of futurology gone wrong is the predictions
made by John von Neumann, the father of the modern electronic computer and
one of the great mathematicians of the century. After the war, he made two
predictions: first, that in the future computers would become so monstrous
and costly that only large governments would be able to afford them, and
second, that computers would be able to predict the weather accurately.

In reality, the growth of computers went in precisely the opposite
direction: We are flooded with inexpensive, miniature computers that can fit
in the palm of our hands. Computer chips have become so cheap and plentiful
that they are an integral part of some modern appliances. Already, we have
the "smart" typewriter (the word processor), and eventually we will have the
"smart" vacuum cleaner, the "smart" kitchen, the "smart" television, and the
like. Also, computers, no matter how powerful, have failed to predict the
weather. Although the classical motion of individual molecules can, in
principle, be predicted, the weather is so complex that even someone
sneezing can create distortions that will ripple and be magnified across
thousands of miles, eventually, perhaps, unleashing a hurricane.

With all these important caveats, let us determine when a civilization
(either our own or one in outer space) may attain the ability to master the
tenth dimension. Astronomer Nikolai Kardashev of the former Soviet Union
once categorized future civilizations in the following way. A Type I
civilization is one that controls the energy resources of an entire planet.
This civilization can control the weather, prevent earthquakes, mine deep in
the earth's crust, and harvest the oceans. This civilization has already
completed the exploration of its solar system. A Type 11 civilization is one
that controls the power of the sun itself. This does not mean passively
harnessing solar energy; this civilization mines the sun. The energy needs
of this civilization are so large directly consumes the power of the sun to
drive its machines. The civilization will begin the colonization of local
star systems.

A Type III civilization is one that controls the power of an entire galaxy.
For a power source, it harnesses the power of billions of star systems. It
has probably mastered Einstein's equations and can manipulate space-time at
will. The basis of this classification is rather simple: Each level is
catergorized on the basis of the power source that energizes the
civilization. Type I civilizations use the power of an entire planet. Type
II civilizations use the power of an entire star. Type III civilizations use
the power of an entire galaxy. This classification ignores any predictions
concerning the detailed nature of future civilizations (which are bound to
be wrong) and instead focuses on aspects that can be reasonably understood
by the laws of physics, such as energy supply.

Our civilization, by contrast, can be categorized as a Type 0 civilization,
one that is just beginning to tap planetary resources, but does not have the
technology and resources to control them. A Type 0 civilization like ours
derives its energy from fossil fuels like oil and coal and, in much of the
Third World, from raw human labor. Our largest computers cannot even predict
the weather, let alone control it. Viewed from this larger perspective, we
as a civilization are like a newborn infant.

Although one might guess that the slow march from a Type 0 civilization to a
Type III civilization might take millions of years, the extraordinary fact
about this classification scheme is that this climb is an exponential one
and hence proceeds much faster than anything we can readily conceive.

With all these qualifications, we can still make educated guesses about when
our civilization will reach these milestones. Given the rate at which our
civilization is growing, we might expect to reach Type I status within a few
centuries.

For example, the largest energy source available to our Type 0 civilization
is the hydrogen bomb. Our technology is so primitive that we can unleash the
power of hydrogen fusion only by detonating a bomb, rather than controlling
it in a power generator. However, a simple hurricane generates the power of
hundreds of hydrogen bombs. Thus weather control, which is one feature of
Type I civilizations, is at least a century away from today's technology.

Similarly, a Type I civilization has already colonized most of its solar
system. By contrast, milestones in today's development of space travel are
painfully measured on the scale of decades, and therefore qualitative leaps
such as space colonization must be measured in centuries. For example, the
earliest date for NASA's manned landing on the planet Mars is 2020.
Therefore, the colonization of Mars may take place 40 to 50 years after
that, and the colonization of the solar system within a century.

By contrast, the transition from a Type I to a Type II civilization may take
only 1,000 years. Given the exponential growth of civilization, we may
expect that within 1,000 years the energy needs of a civilization will
become so large that it must begin to mine the sun to energize its machines.


A typical example of a Type II civilization is the Federation of Planets in
the "Star Trek" series. This civilization has just begun to master the
gravitational force-that is, the art of warping space-time via holes-and
hence, for the first time, has the capability of reaching nearby stars. It
has evaded the limit placed by the speed of light by mastering Einstein's
theory of general relativity. Small colonies have been established on some
of these systems, which the starship Enterprise is sworn to protect. The
civilization's starships are powered by the collision of matter and
antimatter. The ability to create large concentrations of antimatter
suitable for space travel places that civilization many centuries to a
millennium away from ours.

Advancing to a Type III civilization may take several thousand years ore.
This is, in fact, the time scale predicted by Isaac Asimov in his c
Foundation Series, which describes the rise, fall, and re-emergence of a
galactic civilization. The time scale involved in each of these transitions
involves thousands of years. This civilization has harnessed the energy
source contained within the galaxy itself. To it, warp drive, ad of being an
exotic form of travel to the nearby stars, is the standard means of trade
and commerce between sectors of the galaxy. Thus although it took 2 million
years for our species to leave the safety of the forests and build a modem
civilization, it may take only thousands of to leave the safety of our solar
system and build a galactic civilization.

One option open to a Type III civilization is harnessing the power of
supernovae or black holes. Its starships may even be able to probe the
galactic nucleus, which is perhaps the most mysterious of all energy
sources. Astrophysicists have theorized that because of the enormous size of
the galactic nucleus, the center of our galaxy may contain millions of black
holes. If true, this would provide virtually unlimited amounts of energy.

At this point, manipulating energies a million billion times larger than
present-day energies should be possible. Thus for a Type III civilization,
with the energy output of uncountable star systems and perhaps the galactic
nucleus at its disposal, the mastery of the tenth dimension' becomes a real
possibility.

================
(6) THE NEW UPWARD MOBILITY

>From Tech Central Station, 8 May 2002
http://www.techcentralstation.com/1051/defensewrapper.jsp?PID=1051-350&CID=1051-050802B

By James Pinkerton 05/08/2002 
 
Upward mobility has a new trajectory, if what today's young and moneyed are
striving toward is any indicator. Space exploration in the past was powered
by the triple engines of scientific discovery, engineering virtuosity, and
military necessity; it is now being lifted by a fourth booster: Pop-culture
curiosity.

"Reaching for the stars" used to be just an expression, although it always
revealed mankind's innate yearning for physical transcendence. But for
Type-A Gen Y and Gen X specimens, such as young American heartthrob Lance
Bass of the boy band *NSYNC and 28-year-old South African Internet mogul
Mark Shuttleworth, the stars are less the stuff of poetic inspiration than
of plausible destination.

Scientists and astronauts may be doing the real work to make space travel
possible, but pop culture and new money are adding a new kind of value. Bass
and Shuttleworth -- toothy bachelors, good-naturedly conscious of their own
personal and financial magnetism - are the profit-making prophets of a new
generation of space-trekkers.

The edgy, itchy enthusiasm of these new pioneers -- rich, famous, and
stimuli-starved -- may lack the dry elegance of a Carl Sagan PBS series or
the awe-inducing depth of a Stephen Hawking tome, but cash and flash have a
way of grabbing the attention of the public in a way that physics equations
scribbled on a blackboard on the NASA cable channel just can't.

Shuttleworth, 28, is the third-youngest person to go out of this world; he
paid $20 million of his own fortune for the privilege of eight days and
seven nights aboard the International Space Station. Moreover, he is the
first African in space, a milestone proudly advertised on the eponymous
website www.africaninspace.com. The self-described "Afronaut" spoke with
former South African president Nelson Mandela via live television hookup,
before gracefully sidestepping a marriage proposal from a lovestruck
14-year-old.

Lance Bass, 23, who can be said to lovestrike 14-year-olds for a living, can
look forward to achieving more than just the endless devotion of teenage
girls if he makes it to space. Having been to Space Camp in Huntsville,
Alabama, when he was a boy, he is currently training at Russia's Star City;
his flight is to be documented by LA-based Destiny Productions for a
reality-TV program. Once that show airs, one might expect that reality-TV
fans will have new activities to admire; instead of role-modeling
bug-eaters, young people might choose once again to role-model space-goers.

Indeed, space travel is making a cool comeback. Teenybop temptress Britney
Spears' video for her hit song "Oops I Did it Again" had her flirting on
Mars with a lucky astronaut; rockosaurus Steven Tyler of Aerosmith told the
Boston Globe that he, too, was interested in a space jaunt. And the most
anticipated movie of the summer is "Star Wars: Episode Two-Attack of the
Clones"; its young star Natalie Portman appears on the cover of this month's
Vogue magazine in a high-tech-looking Prada dress.

Meanwhile, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Satish Krishnan made
People magazine's "Top Fifty Bachelors" list last year, keeping company with
such decidedly un-spacey luminaries as golf great Tiger Woods and actor Ben
Affleck, who shot to prominence, as it were, in the asteroid-threatens-Earth
drama "Armageddon," which starred Liv Tyler, daughter of space-minded
Steven.

But if space is sexy, it's not just because Hollywood has hitched its stars
to the stars. Space is sexy because it is compelling, even inspiring. And
if, as Henry Kissinger once said, power is an aphrodisiac, then being a part
of the Big Parade is something of a turn-on.

Another part of the thrill of it all, of course, is the risk factor.
Unfortunately, as spacefaring reaccelerates after its three-decade,
post-Apollo slowdown, some astral trippers will undoubtedly perish. They
will remain forever, perhaps, in the Great Beyond, joining the pantheon of
heroes remembered today in the names of constellations, from Hercules to
Orion. And after such future tragedies, some will say that men and women
should pull back, retreat to earth, where it's safe and warm and static. But
if the stars truly become the destination of the stars, such a retreat is
unlikely to happen, no matter what the cost.

After landing in Kazakhstan late Saturday night-a time when most millionaire
bachelors might be stirring up the hot tub-an elated Shuttleworth told
journalists that he would go back to space "anytime." But will he? After
all, earthly delights are pretty delightful, especially for the well-moneyed
and well-muscled yuppie. Now that the first African in space has been there
and done that, will he devote any more of his considerable charm and talent
to making the experience more attainable to others? Was it a joy ride, or an
inaugural trip?

And what will happen when Lance Bass re-enters Earth's atmosphere, if,
indeed, he makes it up there at all? "First *NSYNC-er in Space" is great
publicity, and it will make for a great TV show.

But beyond the Guinness Book of World Records and the Nielsen's, both men
must choose a path. Will they sink back to their earthbound lives? Or will
they become permanent advocates for others going, too, as John Glenn and
Sally Ride have become?

Only time will tell, but the lesson of heroes in history is that those who
go boldly are most remembered, admired-even loved. And that's sexy, then and
now.

2002 Tech Central Station

===========
(7) AND FINALLY: FORGET NEO SEARCHES AS "INVISIBLE ASTEROIDS MAY POSE THREAT
TO EARTH"

>From Space Daily, 6 May 2002
http://www.spacedaily.com/news/mirror-matter-02a.html

New Theory Asserts The Existence Of Mirror Matter

Melbourne - May 06, 2002

Invisible asteroids and other cosmic bodies made of a new form of matter may
pose a threat to Earth, asserts Australian Physicist Dr. Robert Foot.

In a revolutionary new theory, Dr. Robert Foot of the University of
Melbourne argues that meteorites composed of `mirror matter' -- a candidate
for the invisible dark matter that astronomers say is necessary to explain
their observations -- could impact with the Earth without leaving any
ordinary fragments.

Indeed, the theory seems to provide a simple explanation for the puzzling
Tunguska event - the blast which destroyed a huge area of Siberian forest in
1908.

While scientists have attributed this explosion to an ordinary meteorite, no
traces of such an object have ever been found. Moreover, there are frequent
smaller such events, occurring on a yearly basis, which are even more
puzzling.

The idea of mirror matter comes from the established fact that the
interactions of the known elementary particles, such as the electrons,
protons and neutrinos, violate mirror symmetry -- they have left-handed
interactions.

This experimental fact motivates the idea that a set of `mirror particles'
exist. The left-handedness of the ordinary particles can then be balanced by
the right-handedness of the mirror particles.

In this way mirror reflection symmetry can exist but requires something
profoundly new -- a new form of matter called `mirror matter'.

In a recently published book -- Shadowlands, quest for mirror matter in the
Universe -- the scientific case for the existence of mirror matter is given.

At the very least, there is a range of fascinating evidence for its
existence including: astronomical observations suggesting that most of our
galaxy is made from a new form of matter - dark matter, puzzling Jupiter
sized planets only a few million miles from their host star, and the
mysterious slowing down of spacecraft in our solar system. Remarkably, it is
also possible that Pluto -- the most distant planet in our solar system --
might even be a mirror world, which can explain various anomalous features
of its orbit.

Perhaps, the most important consequence of all this -- if true -- is the
possibility of actually extracting the mirror matter from the Tunguska
impact site and other such sites around the world.

The mirror matter idea has not attracted a huge following among physicists.
In a recent UPI article, Howard Georgi of Harvard University says: "Foot's
ideas have not attracted a huge following in the community that cares about
these things, perhaps because the problems they solve, while interesting,
are not the most critical puzzles that we are wrestling with."

Nevertheless, mirror matter, if it exists, would be a completely new type of
material with a potentially huge commercial value.

Its scientific value would be of no less importance

Copyright 2002, Space Daily


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