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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Skull, jaw fossils offer new insight into human lineage

A 1.5-million-year-old skull and an equally old jaw found in Kenya are helping rewrite the history of early man, eliminating one reputed ancestor from the human lineage and suggesting that another was much more primitive than previously believed, researchers said Wednesday.

Analysis of the jawbone shows that Homo habilis, once thought to be a direct ancestor of Homo erectus and thus of humans, lived side by side with H. erectus, making them sister species rather than mother and daughter.

"They coexisted at the same time and in the same place for half a million years," said anthropologist Fred Spoor of University College London, a coauthor of the paper appearing in the journal Nature. "How likely is it that one would give rise to the other?"

Coauthor Maeve G. Leakey of Stony Brook University in New York added, "The fact that they stayed separate as individual species for a long time suggests that they had their own ecological niche, thus avoiding direct competition."

The situation is similar to modern Homo sapiens and Neanderthals living side by side in Europe 50,000 years ago, said anthropologist William Kimbel of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, who was not involved in the research.

Researchers once thought that Neanderthals were a predecessor of modern humans, but it eventually became clear that they were an evolutionary dead end. Now it seems the same is true of H. habilis, Kimbel said.

The finds "are consistent with a growing consensus" that the evolutionary tree of humans is highly branched rather than a single linear trunk, he said. The diversity, he said, tells us that "there is very little in the events of the early Pleistocene that can be seen as foretelling human adaptations."

Homo habilis -- "handy man" -- is the oldest representative of the genus Homo, dating from about 2.5 million years ago. The species was defined by Mary and Louis Leakey based on fossils found in Tanzania between 1962 and 1964. Short and with disproportionately long arms, it was the least similar to humans.

Homo erectus -- "upright man" -- dates from about 1.8 million years ago. It was originally described in the 1890s, and specimens have been found throughout Africa, Europe and Asia. Specimens bear a striking resemblance to modern humans, but the brain is about one-quarter smaller.

Modern humans -- Homo sapiens, or "knowing man" -- originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago and are characterized primarily by a larger brain capacity.

The two new fossils were found in 2000 east of Lake Turkana by a team headed by Spoor, Leakey and her daughter, anthropologist Louise N. Leakey, also of Stony Brook. The jawbone was identified as H. habilis because of the distinctive pattern of its teeth. Analysis of the rock around it by Frank Brown and Patrick Gathogo of the University of Utah dated the jawbone to 1.44 million years ago, making it by far the youngest H. habilis found. The most recent previous specimen dated from about 1.62 million years ago.

The skull, which was remarkably well preserved because it was almost fully embedded in sandstone, was found nearby and dated to 1.55 million years ago. The skull was so well preserved that researchers could tell that its growth plates had fused, indicating that it was that of an adult, Spoor said.

Its physical characteristics indicate that it is H. erectus, but it is the smallest such skull found, a feature that suggests the species was more primitive than thought.

"The direct importance of these is that they both come from the same site," Kimbel said. Researchers had previously found similar overlapping specimens at different locations, but it was possible to argue that they were geographical variants. Finding them at the same site eliminates that argument, he said.

Spoor thinks the two species coexisted by occupying separate ecological niches. The smaller teeth and jaws of H. erectus, for example, indicate that H. habilis had a tougher diet.

The evidence suggests that both species descended from a common ancestor somewhere between 2 million and 3 million years ago. Few fossils from that period have been found.

The small H. erectus skull indicates that variability in skull size in that species -- called sexual dimorphism -- "was substantially greater than in modern humans and chimpanzees, and closer to gorillas," Spoor said. Greater variability is considered a more primitive feature.

"We know that species who are very variable in size and show a major difference between genders are organized with one dominant male and several females in a harem, with other males on the periphery," he said.

That H. erectus may have still been very dimorphic suggests the possibility of a reproductive strategy that mostly was polygamous

Indise News

New jaw fossils might suggest a direct line of descent between two species of early humans, including the one to which "Lucy" belongs.

The 3.2 million-year-old Lucy, the earliest known adult hominid, was found in Ethiopia in 1974 by U.S. paleontologists Donald Johanson and Tom Gray. Lucy and her kind, Australopithecus afarensis, stood upright and walked on two feet, though they might also have been agile tree-climbers.

Anthropologists have suspected an ancestor-descendant relationship between the Lucy species and a predecessor--Australopithecus anamensis--based on their similarities but lacked fossils from an intervening period.

Now, Australopithecus fossils found in the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar Region, Ethiopia, fill the date gap between A. anamensis (4.2 to 3.9 million years ago)-and the Lucy species (3.0 to 3.6 million years ago). The species identifications for all the bones remain uncertain, though it appears that some are A. afarensis.

Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a physical anthropologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, says his team's 2007 field season in the Woranso-Mille region uncovered the key evidence.

"We recovered fossil hominids that date to between 3.5 and 3.8 million years ago," Haile-Selassie said in a prepared statement. "These specimens sample the right time to look into the relationship between Australopithecus anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis and will play a major role in testing the ancestor-descendant hypothesis."

The team had found teeth from this time frame at the site over the past few years, but the new material includes more complete jaws that will enable better comparisons, he said.

"We have about 35 specimens, mostly isolated teeth, but including one partial skeleton which we believe will give us a lot of information on the post-cranial morphology of early human ancestors," Haile-Selassie told LiveScience.

At least 40 hominid specimens have been recovered from the site so far, including the complete jaws and the partial skeleton. The latter was found in 2005. The team started work in the Woranso-Mille region in 2004 and quickly started finding fossils of early hominids as old as 3.7 million years old, Haile-Selassie said.

"We were sure of their importance," he said, "because we knew right from the beginning how old these bones were. We used what is called biostratigraphy to estimate the age of the fossils. Now, we have radiometric dates from volcanic rocks that we sampled from the study area, and now we have a minimum age of 3.5 million years and a maximum of 3.8 million years."

Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania have yielded many of the earliest hominid and ape fossils that have allowed anthropologists to piece together the history of human evolution.

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New exoplanet 20 times Earth's size

New exoplanet 20 times Earth's size

Scientists have discovered the universe's largest known planet, a giant ball made of mostly hydrogen that is 20 times larger than Earth and circling a star 1,400 light-years away.

An illustration of the new planet, called TrES-4, with its host star.

Scientists believe the planet is 1.7 times the diameter of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, and has a temperature of 2,300-degrees.

"There is probably not a really firm surface anywhere on the planet. You would sink into it," said Georgi Mandushev, a research scientist at Lowell Observatory and lead author of an article announcing the finding in the peer-reviewed Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Lowell, along with the California Institute of Technology's Palomar Observatory in San Diego County and telescopes operating in Spain's Canary Islands, discovered the planet circling a star in the constellation Hercules.

Lowell announced the finding Monday. Scientists first spotted the new planet, called TrES-4, and a smaller one in spring 2006. Scientists at Caltech, Harvard University and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii later confirmed the discovery.

"It's very solid stuff," astronomer Alan Boss at the Carnegie Institution of Washington said of the discovery of TrES-4. He marveled at the planet's extremely low density, about half that of Saturn in our solar system.

"It's just letting us know that nature has some surprises for us ... a much wider range of possibility than we could imagine," Boss said.

He said scientists "can't understand why these so-called fluffy planets are so fluffy. It really is a mystery, just how they can be so low-density."

Scientists also are working on the possibility of another planet in the same constellation. "It's tough," Mandushev said. "We're not really sure what's going on there. There might actually be another planet in this field, which would be incredible."

The participating Lowell telescope is housed on top of Anderson Mesa, about 15 miles south of Flagstaff.

Lowell is best known for the 1930 discovery of Pluto, which since has been demoted from planet status.

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Electrical Implant Steadies Balance Disorder In Animals

Electrical Implant Steadies Balance Disorder In Animals

Hearing and balance experts at Johns Hopkins report successful testing in animals of an electrical device that partly restores a damaged or impaired sense of balance.

Though human testing of the so-called multichannel vestibular prosthesis remains a few years away, the scientists say such a device, which is partially implanted in the inner ear, could aid the 30,000 Americans the experts' own estimates show are coping with profound loss of inner ear balance. These people often suffer from unsteadiness, disequilibrium or wobbly vision. Problems with vestibular sensation can be inherited at birth or result from use of antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, Ménière's disease, viral infection, stroke or head trauma.

The Hopkins study, done in chinchillas because their inner ear function is well studied, "is proof of concept that we can restore three-dimensional sensation of head movement with a multichannel vestibular prosthesis," says Charles C. Della Santina, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vestibular Neuroengineering Laboratory at Hopkins.

"While everyone knows about the five senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing, few people think about a possible sixth sense - the sensation of head orientation and movement - until the system fails," says Della Santina, who has been working on this prosthesis since 2002.

In their report in the June 2007 edition of the journal I.E.E.E. Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, the Hopkins team showed that a matchbox-size prototype device, weighing less than 3 ounces, effectively mimics the workings of the inner ear's three semicircular canals by sensing head rotation and transmitting that information to the brain.

Adapting the design of cochlear implants, which restore hearing through electrical stimulation of the cochlear nerve, researchers constructed a circuit that could measure and transmit 3-D balance information to the brain through multiple electrodes connected to the vestibular nerve.

The device, which researchers started testing more than a year ago, consists of a head-mounted, battery-operated box containing the sensors, which are positioned outside the head so that the sensors are parallel to the animal's actual semicircular canals, where head rotation is normally sensed. The sensors are connected to a microprocessor and up to eight electrodes surgically implanted in the inner ear and separately connected to nerve endings. Each electrode can act as one information channel.

Della Santina says people disabled by loss of vestibular sensation often feel chronically off balance and lose the ability to keep the eyes steadily pointed at an object when they move their head, "seeing the world like the wobbly image on a shaky handheld video camera."

According to Della Santina, an assistant professor of otolaryngology - head and neck surgery and biomedical engineering at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, this is the first implantable device made with multiple sensors and channels of processing that can measure and encode head rotation in all directions.

Each of the three sensors, he notes, can measure the speed of head rotation about one of three axes, or directional planes.

Della Santina says that previous implants developed elsewhere were limited to one functioning sensor and electrode and one plane or axis of rotation, "when in reality, we move in multiple directions."

Every measurement in the balance device is processed in the implanted central microprocessor unit, using computer software developed by Della Santina and his team.

Once processed, the information is used to tailor timing of brief, electronic pulses through the electrodes implanted near the three branches of the vestibular nerve that respond to changes in head rotation. These branches normally carry signals from the inner ear's three semicircular canals.

In the chinchilla tests, pulses lasting less than a millisecond were delivered with timing patterns that mimicked normal nerve activity.

Della Santina and his colleagues first caused imbalance in chinchillas by treating them with a high dose of gentamicin, an antibiotic known to wipe out the tiny hairlike projections on cells in the inner ear canals that are normally key to sensory balance function. Treated animals displayed unsteady walking and wobbly eye movements commonly seen in people with impaired balance. Precise measurements of eye movements, using a technique of video-tracking adapted by researchers, were made during a fixed set of head movements. Results confirmed profound loss of normal eye-stabilizing reflexes.

The animals were then fitted with the vestibular prosthesis, with sensors oriented parallel to the semicircular canals they replaced. Post-activation eye testing showed, in three chinchillas mentioned in the report, that animals partially regained their vision-stabilizing reflex.

Researchers say many hurdles remain before a human device will be available. Efforts are underway to reduce electrical interference to other nerve branches and to refine the timing patterns of electrical stimulation to make them more like normal. In addition, they plan to work on making the device smaller and hermetically sealed so that it can fit completely inside the head beneath the skin.

The resulting vestibular implant, they say, could ultimately serve as a safety net for people who need high-dose gentamicin therapy, for example, to combat severe abdominal infections after bowel surgery.

"People with profoundly impaired balance need better treatment options," says Della Santina. "Many cope through rehabilitation exercises or by restricting their activities, but the chronic disequilibrium and blurry vision can be disabling."

The study was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a member of the National Institutes of Health, and by the American Otological Society.

Patents are pending on several aspects of the prosthesis.

Other researchers involved in this study were Americo Migliaccio, Ph.D., and Amit Patel

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Maturity brings richer memories

Maturity brings richer memories

Maturity brings richer memories

MIT neuroscientists exploring how memory formation differs between children and adults have found that although the two groups have much in common, maturity brings richer memories.

In the August 5 advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience, the MIT team reports that children rival adults in forming basic memories, but adults do better at remembering the rich, contextual details of that information. The MIT study provides new insights into how children learn that are not only theoretically important, but could also inform practical learning in everyday settings.

The ability to remember factual information - who, what, where, when - emerges gradually during childhood, and plays a critical role in education. The brain systems underlying it have been extensively studied in adults, but until now little was known about how they mature during child development.

The MIT study indicates that a more developed prefrontal cortex (PFC) - an area of the brain long associated with higher-order thinking, planning, and reasoning -- may be responsible for creating richer memories in adults.

"Activation in the PFC follows an upward slope with age in contextual memories. The older the subjects, the more powerful the activation in that area," explains senior author John Gabrieli of MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

"That makes sense, because there's been a convergence of evidence that the PFC develops later than other brain regions, both functionally and structurally.... But this is the first study that asks how this area matures and contributes to learning."

For the study, Noa Ofen, a postdoctoral associate in Gabrieli's lab, forewarned 49 healthy volunteers ranging in age from eight to 24 that they would be tested on their recognition of 250 common scenes, such as a kitchen, shown to them as they lay in a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. She recorded their brain responses as the volunteers tried to commit each picture to memory. Shortly after the volunteers left the scanner, she showed them twice as many scenes. Had they seen each one before, and if so, how vividly did they recall the scene?

Ofen then went back to the brain activation patterns. In both children and adults, several areas in the PFC and the medial temporal lobe (MTL) showed higher activation at the time when subjects studied a scene they would later remember. No age-related differences showed up in the activation patterns of the MTL regions in children and adults, but differences did appear in the PFC when looking at pictures that were later correctly recognized.

Those age-related differences related to the quality of the volunteers' memories. The older the volunteers, the more frequently their correct answers were enriched with contextual detail. Going back to the brain scans, Ofen found that the enriched memories also correlated with more intense activation in a specific region of the PFC.

"We found no change with age for memories without context," Ofen explains. "All the maturation is in memories with context. Our findings suggest that as we mature, we are able to create more contextually rich memories, and that ability evolves with a more mature PFC."

Susan Whitefield-Gabrieli, a research associate at MIT's McGovern Institute, contributed to this research, in addition to scientists from Harvard University, New York University, and the University of California, Berkeley.

"This study takes an important step forward in our understanding of the neural basis of memory development," comments Daniel Schacter, an expert on memory at Harvard University who was not associated with the study.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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Smartphones are the PCs of the developing world

Smartphones are the PCs of the developing world

THEY were once simple little devices that we used to call our friends from the road to say we were running late. But no longer. As the unfettered drooling over the iPhone has demonstrated, these days we like our cellphones to come customised for our amusement with games, video cameras and internet access.

Smartphones may seem like a frivolous indulgence for rich westerners, but it turns out that their added features can be harnessed to help people in poorer countries do business, educate their children and even hold those in power to account.

"Smartphones are probably much more revolutionary for developing countries," says John Canny, an engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, who is creating educational video games that run on smartphones (See "Learn English by phone"). "Here smartphones are a bit gimmicky. In the developing regions you have hostile conditions for a PC so phones have a lot of potential to become the computing platform for people," says Canny.

Being able to communicate in real time via speech and text using basic cellphones has already proved invaluable for communities that were never connected by landlines. Ajedi-ka, an organisation that works to promote human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, distributes phones to local teachers, elders and business leaders so that they can report incidents of children being drafted as soldiers. The phones make reporting faster and easier. Meanwhile, health workers across the developing world have started using cellphones to monitor disease outbreaks in real time. In Kenya phones are being turned into mini-ATM machines via Vodafone's M-PESA program, which allows users to load money onto their phones in shops and then send it via a text message to someone else, in their village say. They can also withdraw the money at another location using a password, which in Kenya can be much safer than carrying cash.

For some financial uses, however, it is the phones' ability to take photos and record and send video clips that researchers believe will come in handy.

Micro-lending groups are typically run by women in rural areas who arrange small loans for each other or act as mediators between banks and the local community. They have proved to be a successful strategy in sparking business endeavours and combating poverty. But one problem is that these groups often keep poor accounts, which can make it difficult for banks or other lenders to invest in them with confidence.

"When banks are interested in lending to these people, if they're lucky the groups will have a stack of paper records," says Tapan Parikh, a computer scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle who works with micro-finance groups in India.

Typically, these records would include forms stating the agreed amount, duration of the loan and repayment receipts. Parikh learned that group members prefer the paper forms because many can't read and so fill them out by memorising which numbers go in which boxes. As a result, he stuck with paper but turned to camera-phones to make the accounting process more secure and transparent.

He created a new version of the paper forms, which look like the old ones except that a barcode has been added next to each box or section where you need to fill in numbers. Instead of filling out these new forms, you take a picture of each barcode with a cellphone. Software on the phone recognises the barcode and a message appears on the screen, prompting you to enter the figures that would have gone in the section that corresponds to that barcode. There is also a spoken version of the message to make things clearer for those who can't read. In this way, the borrower or lender scrolls through the whole form, taking snapshots of the barcodes and entering data via the phone's keypad. The result is an electronic version of the form, which is initially stored on the phone and later uploaded to a central server when the phone is near a mast.

Saving the information on a server makes accounting simpler as data can't easily be lost, and it provides a way for large banks that are considering investing in these small businesses to check how successful they are.

Parikh's system has another advantage, however: additional information, such as photos or videos, can be attached to the electronic form that was saved, and stored on the central server as well. In order to inform a potential lender of what exactly the business does, you might photograph a written description or send a video of the business in action. "You can capture data potentially in the local language or with people who can't read or write," says Parikh.

After running trials of the barcode system in communities in Tamil Nadu, India, Parikh has co-founded a company that will charge banks trying to decide where to invest for the data the system stores.

The forms can also be used by inspectors who certify rural farmers as organic or fair trade. By laminating the forms so that they can survive the rough and muddy conditions the inspectors face, the barcodes are being used to bring up the correct part of the electronic forms, allowing data gathered on site to be entered straight into the phone. Again, photos or videos can be attached.

Farmers can also use photo and video-recording facilities on cellphones to share information about farming practices. In India, the non-profit organisation Almost All Questions Answered (aAqua) already operates a network where farmers can send questions to agricultural experts via text message or the internet, and check crop price information. But it is only accessible to those who can read, says Srinivasan Keshav of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. "If you're educated, you can send text. If you're not, you need video or audio."

"Farmers can use video recording on phones to share information about farming practices"Keshav is working on ways to help farmers send videos from their cellphones in place of text and to make these videos searchable by other farmers.

He also sees other uses for video and photo sharing, such as tracking whether development funds assigned to build a dam, say, are being properly used. With videophones, whistle-blowers could publicise footage showing that a dam is not actually being built or that logging regulations are being breached. Keshav's group is trying to work out how to send such videos anonymously.

One problem with relying on video and photos is the expense. While the cost of the hardware will probably come down, sending photos or videos via a standard cellphone network is expensive because the files are large and take a long time to send. Using Wi-Fi to send messages, instead of cellphone networks, would provide more bandwidth and cost less. But although cellphone chips capable of Wi-Fi have been available for years, phone service providers have fought to keep them shut off, because people talking via Wi-Fi instead of the cellular networks would cut into their revenues.

Now that could change. Last month, T-Mobile tried to snag new customers by becoming the first US cellphone provider to allow users to talk via Wi-Fi whenever they were within range of a base station, from anywhere in the world, for a monthly fee of $10. Keshav hopes that allowing phones to use Wi-Fi networks wherever possible will also speed up the sending of video and pictures in the developing world and make it cheaper.

Learn english by phone

It isn't just the photo and video features of smartphones that are useful to people in the developing world. The advanced graphics and high-speed chips they come with are being harnessed to build educational video games.

John Canny's group at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the language skills of some English teachers in Mysore, India, were lacking and that children were often kept away from school to help with chores. Yet 19 of 47 students had parents with cellphones.

To tackle the problem, they have created educational video games that run on cellphones. In one, based on the South Indian children's game Tree Tree, trees displaying different letters from the English alphabet are scattered around the screen. The player hears a letter pronounced and must move an on-screen figure under the tree whose letter was spoken while avoiding being caught by a "baddie". Another builds a knowledge of animal vocabulary: based on the game Frogger, where a player has to cross a road without being hit by traffic, children playing Canny's game must choose to move one of a number of animals across the road depending on an instruction spoken in English. The game can be adapted to teach the words for vegetables or colours as well.

The team is testing the games this summer to see whether they improve students' English. The next step is to allow students to collaborate on games via Bluetooth connections. Later the group plans to incorporate speech recognition, so students can get feedback on their pronunciation based on whether the phone software recognised what they said. Meanwhile, the company ZMQ Software Systems has developed HIV education games for cellphone users in Africa and India.

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Largest Known Planet Found, Has Density of Cork

The biggest alien planet found so far is baffling scientists with properties that defy current scientific explanation.

By all rights, TrES-4, a gas giant recently discovered about 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Hercules, shouldn't exist.

The planet's size is much larger than predicted for its mass, said Georgi Mandushev of Lowell Observatory, lead author of a new study on the exoplanet.

Though 70 percent bigger than Jupiter, TrES-4 contains only three-quarters of the red giant's mass. (Related: "First Proof of Wet 'Hot Jupiter' Outside Solar System" [July 11, 2007].)

That means the alien planet is about as dense as balsa wood or cork, said Mandushev, who is part of a planet-hunting team known as the Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey.

"At this point the most valuable thing about this study is it presents a challenge to our theoretical models," Mandushev said. "Most advances in science come from confrontations just like this one."

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Hot Find

Peter McCullough leads another exoplanet discovery team, called the XO Project, from his position at the Baltimore, Maryland-based Space Telescope Science Institute.

Both he and Mandushev suspect that the unusually large size of TrES-4 has something to do with extreme heat.

The planet is only 4.5 million miles from its parent star, and it orbits in about three days, compared to Jupiter's 12-year revolution.

That means TrES-4 is superheated to about 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit (1,260 degrees Celsius).

"There must be more heating than we have anticipated for the planet's size to be larger than we anticipated," McCullough said.

Hydrogen and other elements could be trapping heat in a similar way to the gases that contribute to atmospheric warming on Earth, study author Mandushev speculated.

Teasing out the exact mechanism that would allow a planet to get so large is now work for theoreticians, the astronomers say.

Seeing is Believing

TrES-4 may be the largest planet known, but it's not the most massive.

That honor is reserved for HAT-P-2, a planet eight times Jupiter's mass located about 440 light-years away, also in the constellation Hercules.

The discovery of that exoplanet, which is only slightly larger than Jupiter, was announced in early May by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (Read the story: "'Weird' New Planet Weighs as Much as 2,500 Earths" [May 3, 2007].)

Both HAT-P-2 and TrES-4 are among the 20 or so planets found using the "transit method," where scientists spot a world when it crosses between Earth and the parent star.

Planetary scientists first began using the method about five years ago, and success has crept along at a snail's pace.

Meanwhile, more than 200 exoplanets have been discovered by the alternative wobble method, which relies on detecting a planet's gravitational pull on its host star. (Related: "New Planet 'Bonanza' Discovered at Center of Milky Way" [October 4, 2006].)

But "at this point, I think that the [transit] discovery process is accelerating," Mandushev said.

The Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey-which uses telescopes in California, Arizona, and the Canary Islands-found its first transiting world in 2003, and another was unveiled last fall.

The next two finds, TrES-3 and TrES-4, were discovered in May, but TrES-3-which is about twice the mass of Jupiter-was confirmed more quickly and announced earlier this year.

Mandushev prefers the transit method because it yields more information about a planet, including its mass, size, orbit, and even its chemical composition. The wobble method only reveals a planet's mass.

The fledgling method is soon likely to reveal even more scientific puzzlers.

The Space Telescope Science Institute's McCullough said his team is working to confirm an exoplanet they're calling XO-3b.

They believe that planet will dwarf all others, at 13 times Jupiter's mass and twice its size.

It's like "the troll in the fairy tale of Billy Goat Gruff," McCullough said.

"TrES-4 is a very big planet," he said. "But if you wait, there will be even bigger planets in the future."

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Strong earthquake hits West Java of Indonesia

JAKARTA, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 rocked western part of Java Island of Indonesia early Thursday, Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said here.

T he U.S. Geological Survey reported in its Web site that the quake's magnitude was 7.4.

The quake struck just after midnight at 00:04 Jakarta time (1704 GMT Wednesday) with epicenter at 75 kilometers northwest Indramayu of West Java province and at a depth of 286 kilometers under sea bed, an official of the agency said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake could not generate a tsunami in the Indian Ocean as it was located too deep inside the earth.

The epicenter was about 100 kilometers east of Indonesia's capital Jakarta. It could be felt by the people in the capital. Many came out of their houses or apartment buildings in hurry in the city after the quake struck.

"I am scared that the building could break down and hit us," Ana who lives in an apartment building in the capital of Jakarta told Xinhua.

However there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the quake.

Indonesia is laid on a vulnerable quake hit-zone so called the Pacific Ring of Fire, where two continental plates meet that cause frequent seismic and volcanic movements.

Over 170,000 people were killed in the December 2004 tsunami triggered by a strong quake in Indonesia.

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The Endeavour ship blasted off at 6:36 p.m.(EDT) local time from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral .

Endeavour Lifts Off! Launch Date: Aug. 8 .Launch Time: 6:36 p.m. EDT

Aug. 8 (24hoursnews) -- NASA's shuttle Endeavour launched from Florida this evening, marking its first flight in five years and the start of an 11-day mission to expand the International Space Station.

The ship blasted off at 6:36 p.m. local time from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. It should reach the space station in two days, where the Endeavour's crew will deliver a truss to support solar panels and an external platform to stow equipment.

Aboard the Endeavour are six career astronauts and a former schoolteacher who has waited two decades to fly. Barbara Morgan, 55, was the backup for NASA's ``Teacher in Space'' program. The agency suspended the program in 1986 when the shuttle Challenger exploded just after liftoff, killing seven astronauts, including teacher Christa McAuliffe.

``For Barbara Morgan and her crewmates, class is in session,'' said an announcer on NASA TV as the Endeavour reached preliminary orbit about 10 minutes after launch.

Morgan resumed astronaut training in 1998 and left teaching. While at the space station, she'll steer the robotic arm that positions equipment on the outpost's hull. If desired, NASA may extend the mission by three days.

``What I am most excited about is those next steps that will get us back to the moon,'' Morgan said in a NASA interview. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has vowed to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, with an eye toward eventually reaching Mars.

Upgraded Endeavour

Today's flight is the first for Endeavour since 2002. Like all NASA shuttles, it was grounded for more than two years after the 2003 accident that destroyed the shuttle Columbia and killed its seven-member crew.

NASA traced the cause to damaged heat tiles and instituted stricter launch procedures. At the same time, engineers upgraded Endeavour's plumbing and electrical systems, almost doubling -- to a month -- the time the ship can spend in space.

The agency has vowed to finish construction of the space station by 2010, the same year it's set to retire the shuttles.

Reaching the next goal -- the moon -- will depend on the shuttle's successor, called Orion. The six-person craft, being built by Lockheed Martin Corp., is scheduled for introduction in 2015, NASA says.

More From NASA News

NASA's Administrator and top launch managers celebrated the flawless liftoff of Space Shuttle Endeavour Wednesday evening as the fulfillment of a legacy.

"A launch operation doesn't get any better than this, it can't," Administrator Mike Griffin said following the launch.
+ View Launch Video

The flight placed seven astronauts, a space station segment and 5,800 pounds of cargo and supplies into orbit and on the way to the International Space Station. The 11-day mission calls for attachment of the space station segment, transfer of the cargo and supplies and a test of a new power transfer system. If the system works, the mission would be extended to 14 days.

Teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan will also conduct several educational programs during the flight.

Mission Information
+ STS-118 Mission Overview
+ STS-118 Fact Sheet (900 Kb PDF)
+ STS-118 NASA TV Schedule
+ STS-118 Briefing Animations
+ STS-117 Mission Archive

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10 Innovators Place in 2007 Knight-Batten Awards

Ten creative ways of generating news and information - from tracking how the 2008 presidential candidates are using the Web and how the Web is using them, to in-depth guides to world crisis areas, and virtual guides to news in virtual places - are named the finalists of this year's Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.

"Repeatedly in a robust field of entries, we saw both journalists and non-journalists partnering with the public to fill spaces that traditional media is leaving bare," said Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, which administers the awards program. "Overall, the competition left us optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future of journalism."

"The depth and breadth of the work we examined were amazing," said Advisory Board member Jody Brannon, senior editor at

A national panel of judges chose winners for a $10,000 Grand Prize, a $2,000 First Place Award, and four other $1,000 awards, including a Wild Card and a Citizen Media Award. Because of the diversity of good ideas, the Advisory Board cited four efforts for Honorable Mention.

The top winner will be announced Sept. 17 at a symposium and luncheon, "Creativity Unleashed," at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Highlighting that event will be a keynote address by Susan Clark-Johnson, President of the Newspaper Division of Gannett Co. Inc. To attend the awards symposium and luncheon, RSVP to The event is free but you must register.

Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program officer, said the range of this year's winners was encouraging. "It shows creativity and innovation throughout the news and information field from daily newspapers to virtual worlds," he said.

The Knight-Batten Awards spotlight the creative use of new information ideas and technologies to involve citizens in public issues. They are administered by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland.

You can view the finalists as well as more than three dozen other notable entries at This year's winners are: Crisis Guides - In-depth, interactive news and information guides to the world's most pressing crisis zones that seek to operate according to the tenets of objective journalism within a think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations. They help make sense of complex issues beyond U.S. borders.
Second Life Virtual News Bureau - Reuters' virtual news bureau in the online 3D world known as Second Life is engaging more than 7 million users in financial news, participatory interviews with top newsmakers and virtual news delivery devices, all anchored within the professionalism of Reuters' real world practice of journalism. - A data-rich, group blog that is breaking investigative stories, collecting voter-generated content, and charting the metrics of a net-centric presidential campaign - from tracking video views of candidates on YouTube, numbers of their "friends" on MySpace and Facebook, voter demands for appearances on Eventful, blog mentions on Technorati and voter-generated photos on Flickr.

MyTeam Varsity High School Sports - The's highly participative high school sports zone shows the newspaper's commitment to serving its community by offering every school a customized sports page and every parent a way to track an athlete. User-generated content supplies scores, schedules, announcements, photos and ways to compare high school statistics in Central Florida.

onBeing - The's engrossing video-portrait series captures intimate, unexpected stories that citizen narrators share with an invisible journalist who distills the epiphanies of commonalities among her diverse subjects. Each video can be viewed, downloaded, e-mailed, sent by cell phone or discussed.

The Forum - An all-volunteer online newspaper for Deerfield, N.H., that in two years has become the major source of news for three rural communities. In a readership area of 7,000 homes, it has more than 200 bylined contributors and averages 37 original articles per week, excluding obituaries, classifieds, letters to the editor and events listings.

Because of the diversity and breadth of creative ideas in this year's competition, the awards judges for the first time this year cited four projects for Honorable Mention:

The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla. - For watchdog journalism at its citizen-participation finest. The news organization has done an exemplary job of elevating crowdsourcing by systematically enlisting its readers to be the eyes and ears watching over the accountability of their public officials and government. Its biggest project drew more than 6,500 user contributions. Zero - An intriguing open-source experiment by and Wired News to harness the collective wisdom and expertise of members of the public under the guidance of professional journalists in reporting and writing stories. - For collecting information as broad and deep as the Great Lakes it covers. This project of Michigan State's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism has the categories, content and organization that made this wiki the best of those entered.

Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada-Reno - For the collected work of journalism students that engaged them in how they might reinvent election coverage and how they could engage the public in issues of concern around Lake Tahoe. Clearly, the judges said, this is a school where students are being prepared for the future of journalism.

Two of these projects have received past funding under the Knight-funded New Voices program, which J-Lab also administers. The Forum received a start-up grant in May 2005; received a start-up grant in May 2006.
The winners were selected from 133 entries submitted by print, television and online news organizations and education and non-profit institutions.
The Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism honor the late James K. Batten, former CEO of Knight Ridder newspapers and a pioneer in exploring ways journalism could better connect with audiences.

To attend the Knight-Batten Symposium and luncheon, RSVP to or call 301-985-4020. To receive information about the Knight-Batten Awards or subscribe to J-Lab's newsletter, e-mail

The winners were selected by an Advisory Board led by Bryan Monroe, Vice President and Editorial Director, Ebony and Jet magazines. They included the Knight Foundation's Gary Kebbel; Jody Brannon, Senior Editor,; Jim Brady, Executive Editor,; Lee Rainie, Executive Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project; Rosental C. Alves, Director, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas; Bill Buzenberg, Director of the Center for Public Integrity; Nick Charles, former Editor in Chief, AOL Black Voices; Chris Harvey, Online Bureau Director & Lecturer, Philip Merrill College of Journalism; Tom Kunkel, Dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism; and Jan Schaffer, J-Lab Executive Director.

The Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.

J-Lab helps news organizations and citizens use new media technologies to create fresh ways for people to participate in public life. It also administers the Knight Citizen News Network ( and the New Voices community media grant program (

The Award...

The Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism spotlight news and information that is more than multimedia journalism. They reward novel efforts to involve citizens actively in public issues, to invite their participation and create entry points that stir their imagination and engagement.

Honored are pioneering approaches to journalism that:

  • Encourage new forms of information sharing.

  • Spur non-traditional interactions that have an impact on community.

  • Enable new and better two-way conversations between audiences and news providers.

  • Foster new ways of imparting useful information.

Entries could consist of such things as online news experiences, news games, novel uses of cell phones, Web cams, iPods, computer kiosks, new uses of software, content management systems and other advances in interactive or participatory journalism. Entries may also demonstrate simple efforts that notably connect in new ways with a community.

Entries from all media are eligible. Encouraged are both top-down and bottom-up innovations, those driven by news creators and those driven by news consumers.

The Knight Foundation has funded a $10,000 Grand Prize and up to $5,000 in Special Distinction Awards to be given at the judges' discretion

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How Dynamic Brain Networks Enable Object Recognition

Which brain processes enable humans to rapidly access their personal knowledge" What happens if humans perceive either familiar or unfamiliar objects" The answer to these questions may lie in the direction of information flow transmitted between specialized brain areas that together establish a dynamic cortical network.
Fruit or vegetable, insect or bird, familiar or unfamiliar -- humans are used to classify objects in the world around them and group them into categories that have been formed and shaped constantly through every day's experience. Categorization during visual perception is exceptionally fast. Within just a fraction of a second we effortlessly access object-based knowledge, in particular if sufficient sensory information is available and the respective category is distinctly characterized by object features.

The precise neural mechanisms behind this brain function are currently not well understood. Several theoretical models are available, but empirical data and detailed measurements of brain processes in humans are still rare. In the last years of research evidence has accumulated to regard the brain as a parallel system with highly specialized compartments, so that different processing stages take place at different brain sites.

According to the prominent theory of neuronal synchronization, cooperation between different brain areas is realized through synchronization of their rhythmic activity (30-100 Hz) leading to emergence of short-lasting dynamic networks.

An international team of scientists that includes biologists, engineers, physicists and psychologists has now investigated this network in humans by measuring electrical brain currents (EEG) and by applying the most advanced analysis techniques currently available.

"Human knowledge is definitely not stored in one single brain area. Access to knowledge results from the cooperation of several brain areas that jointly build a dynamic brain network. In this study we were not only able to confirm that recognition of familiar and unfamiliar objects activates a set of distributed brain areas. Rather, importantly, for the first time we have measured in humans how brain areas communicate with each other by directed information transfer, depending whether object-specific knowledge was available or not," tells co-author and initiator of the study, Thomas Gruber of the Department of Psychology of the University of Leipzig.

The participants in Gruber's study were asked to categorize objects that were subsequently presented on a screen either as familiar or unfamiliar during the registration of their brain waves (EEG). Unfamiliar objects represented complex visual patterns, physically resembling the familiar ones in every possible way, except for familiarity. Familiar objects represented objects of every day's life such as cup, dog or violin. Actually, in the experiment only the factor familiarity was manipulated. Both conditions just differed in the possibility of the subjects to access specific, object-related knowledge in the course of recognition. Based on previous studies the scientists expected to find not only a different level of brain activation in a set of distributed areas but also a different number of interactions between these areas.

"We expected that a larger number of brain interactions, a stronger degree of connectivity occurs, whenever a perceived object is familiar, that is whenever specific knowledge is available and can be used for processing. The contribution of our study is that by using a new method of signal analysis we succeeded in measuring the directionality of neuronal interactions. Cooperating brain areas forming a dynamic network are not just connected, but rather each area can be engaged either in receiving or sending signals or both. Until now this has been difficult to investigate, but our analysis suggests that most areas are involved in both during access to object-related knowledge," states first author Gernot Supp with the Department of Neurophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and the Max-Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Science, Leipzig, Germany.

"Traditional methods of analysis are insensitive to the true directionality of information flow. Here, for the first time, we investigated object recognition in humans by applying a new method, which in fact represents a measure of causality. With this measure, we were able to distinguish between feed-forward and feed-backward information flow and quantified the interaction between brain areas in greater detail", reports Alois Schlögl, expert for biomedical signal processing at the University of Technology Graz, Austria and at the Fraunhofer Institute Berlin. He has made this new type of coupling analysis freely available for the scientific community in his open-source software-project BioSig (

Together with the new method of directional coupling analysis these results may open a new perspective on brain processes. For the accurate execution of brain functions it might be crucial not only which brain areas are involved but, perhaps even more importantly, how they cooperate with each other. The investigation of this new dimension in brain research is just beginning.

This finding is reported in PLoS One published on August 1st, 2007 [].

Citation: Supp GG, Schlögl A, Trujillo-Barreto N, Müller MM, Gruber T (2007) Directed Cortical Information Flow during Human Object Recognition: Analyzing Induced EEG Gamma-Band Responses in Brain's Source Space. PLoS One 2(8): e684. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000684

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Background: Facts on space shuttle Endeavour

Washington - The space shuttle Endeavour, scheduled to blast off Wednesday on its 20th mission, is the youngest of NASA's three still-active space shuttles. Endeavour replaced the Challenger shuttle, which blew up January 28, 1986, a little over a minute after launch.

Endeavour is named after the ship on which 18th century British explorer and seafarer James Cook set sail on his first voyage to the south seas.

On its maiden voyage in May 1992, three Endeavour crew members on a space walk caught a spinning 4.5-ton satellite, pulled it into the shuttle's cargo bay, repaired it and sent it back into orbit.

At 37.4 metres-long and with a launch weight of 109 tons, Endeavour is shorter and lighter than Discovery and Atlantis. Endeavour has spent the least amount of time in space of any of the shuttles. In its 19 flights so far, it logged 206.6 days in space and has orbited Earth 3,250 times.

One of its most important missions was a flight to the Hubble Space Telescope in December 1993. The telescope was delivering out- of-focus pictures, so the crew was sent on a maintenance mission to install a corrective optics package. It took a record five space walks to complete the work.

In February 2000, Endeavour was launched on NASA's 99th shuttle mission, the so-called Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. This involved using a set of radar antennas to map most of the Earth's surface. Data collected by a radar system on the ground was used later to calculate highly specific global models.

Endeavour's last mission was in November 2002. After the accident in which the space shuttle Columbia was lost on February 1, 2003, all shuttle flights were suspended. The shuttles were modernized during the suspension.

After its latest mission, Endeavour is scheduled to make four other trips to the International Space Station before being retired by 2010.

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Kill Cancer Cells With Light-activated Molecules

Igor V. Alabugin is an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at FSU. He specializes in a branch of chemistry known as photochemistry, in which the interactions between atoms, small molecules and light are analyzed.
A key challenge facing doctors as they treat patients suffering from cancer or other diseases resulting from genetic mutations is that the drugs at their disposal often don't discriminate between healthy cells and dangerous ones -- think of the brute-force approach of chemotherapy, for instance. To address this challenge, Florida State University researchers are investigating techniques for using certain molecules that, when exposed to light, will kill only the harmful cells.

"When one of the two strands of our cellular DNA is broken, intricate cell machinery is mobilized to repair the damage," he said. "Only because this process is efficient can humans function in an environment full of ultraviolet irradiation, heavy metals and other factors that constantly damage our cells."

However, a cell that sustains so much damage that both DNA strands are broken at the same time eventually will commit suicide -- a process known as apoptosis.

"In our research, we're working on ways to induce apoptosis in cancer cells -- or any cells that have harmful genetic mutations -- by damaging both of their DNA strands," Alabugin said. "We have found that a group of cancer-killing molecules known as lysine conjugates can identify a damaged spot, or 'cleavage,' in a single strand of DNA and then induce cleavage on the DNA strand opposite the damage site. This 'double cleavage' of the DNA is very difficult for the cell to repair and typically leads to apoptosis."

What's more, the lysine conjugates' cancer-killing properties are manifested only when they are exposed to certain types of light, thus allowing researchers to activate them at exactly the right place and time, when their concentration is high inside of the cancer cells, Alabugin said.

"So, for example, doctors treating a patient with an esophageal tumor might first inject the tumor with a drug containing lysine conjugates," he said. "Then they would insert a fiber-optic scope down the patient's throat to shine light on the affected area." The light exposure would activate the drug, leading to double-strand DNA damage in the cancerous cells -- and cell death -- for as much as 25 percent to 30 percent of the cells in the tumor,at a rate that rivals in efficiency any of the highly complex and rare DNA-cleaving molecules produced by nature, Alabugin said -- and, perhaps just as importantly, avoids damage to healthy cells.

For tumors located deeper within the body, he pointed to other studies showing that a pulsed laser device can be used to penetrate muscle and other tissues, thereby activating the drugs using near-infrared beams of light.

As proof of principle to the idea that lysine conjugates possess anti-cancer activity, Alabugin collaborated with cancer biologist Dr. John A. Copland of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Fla. In their tests, several of the molecules demonstrated little effect upon cultured cancer cells -- in this case, metastatic human kidney cancer cells -- without light, but upon phototherapy activation killed more than 90 percent of the cancer cells with a single treatment. Future work will include demonstrating anti-cancer activity in an animal model. Successful completion of the preclinical studies then could lead to clinical trials with human patients.

Alabugin recently collaborated with four other FSU researchers -- Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Nancy L. Greenbaum and her postdoctoral fellow, Jörg C. Schlatterer, as well as Alabugin's postdoctoral fellow, Serguei V. Kovalenko, and doctoral student Boris Breiner -- on a paper describing the results of their research. That paper, "DNA Damage-Site Recognition by Lysine Conjugates," was published in the July 23 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Alabugin and his FSU colleagues also have applied for a patent on their work.

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Apple Inc. introduce new additions to its desktop computer (iMac)linet ,this week


24hoursnews:Following on from speculation that Apple Inc. introduce new additions to its desktop computer line, the California-based tech company has duly delivered by whipping the covers off a range of revamped iMac models to tempt back notebook users.

On Tuesday, Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs fulfilled industry predictions by unveiling a new line of iMacs that will arrive as more streamlined offerings when measured against their direct predecessors while also delivering enhanced performance.

Specifically, the new desktops will arrive with fresh software for storing, editing, and transferring various forms of media. "There's not going to be any more sending DVDs to grandmom," enthused Jobs while outlining just how to quick and easy it is to post video content to the Internet.

"The new iMac. You can't be too thin. Or too powerful," boasts the new product slogan. Apple's latest hardware introductions are being touted as the company's attempt to bolster a market that has declined somewhat beside the ever-increasing draw of the notebook computer, and it's clear that Apple believes its iMac desktop line still has plenty of aesthetic appeal and hardware potential.

The new iMacs are bodily constructed from lightweight aluminium, which, Jobs noted, is "a very desirable material from a recycling point of view." Equally, the same can be said for the use of glass rather than plastic in the screen of the new iMacs.

From a technical standpoint, the new iMacs will offer as much as 1TB of storage, while also providing support for 4GB of memory. Performance will arrive through as much as 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processors, while wireless networking gets boosted to 802.11n. Newly introduced to these iMacs is a Firewire 800 port for delivering enhanced data transfers with compatible devices.

The new iMac computers come with either a 20-inch screen for $1,199 or a 24-inch screen for $1,799. Steve Jobs announced Apple believes that "customers are going to switch" to iMacs because of the inclusion of slim-line aesthetic restyling, environmentally conscious construction, and technical enhancements.

More Inside new
Apple Inc

Apple Unveils New iMac
All New Line Features Sleek Aluminum 20- and 24-inch Designs
CUPERTINO, California-August 7, 2007-Apple® today unveiled an all new all-in-one iMac® line featuring gorgeous 20- and 24-inch widescreen displays encased in elegant and professional aluminum and glass enclosures. The entire new iMac line features the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors and a new, ultra-thin aluminum Apple Keyboard, built-in iSight® video camera for video conferencing and iLife® '08, making it the ultimate digital lifestyle desktop computer for both consumers and professionals. The 20-inch iMac now starts at just $1,199, $300 less than the previous 20-inch model, and the 24-inch iMac starts at just $1,799, $200 less than the previous 24-inch model.

"This new iMac is the most incredible desktop computer we've ever made," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Our new design features the innovative use of materials, including professional-grade aluminum and glass, that are highly recyclable."

Redefining Apple's signature all-in-one design, the new iMac integrates the entire computer system into a sleek, professional aluminum enclosure for a striking, clutter-free desktop. An elegant glass cover joins precisely to the aluminum enclosure creating a virtually seamless front surface. The new iMac's 20- and 24-inch glossy widescreen displays provide incredibly crisp images, ideal for photos and movies using the all new iLife '08 suite of digital lifestyle applications that are included. The new ultra-thin aluminum Apple Keyboard is just 0.33 inches thin at its front edge. A new optional Apple Wireless Keyboard is a compact design that, with Apple's wireless Mighty Mouse, offers a cable-free desktop.

Packing professional performance into the convenience of an all-in-one design, the new iMac includes the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors running up to 2.8 GHz with 4MB of shared L2 cache and up to 4GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM memory. The iMac line features ATI's next generation of graphics with the ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB of GDDR3 memory and the ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB of GDDR3 memory. The new iMac now offers up to 1TB of internal storage to accommodate a user's growing library of digital photos, movies and music.

Providing the latest in high-performance connectivity options to quickly and conveniently transfer digital photos, music and video, the iMac includes built-in AirPort Extreme® 802.11n Wi-Fi networking, delivering up to five times the performance and twice the range of 802.11g;* Gigabit Ethernet; a total of five USB 2.0 ports (including two on the new Apple Keyboard); and one FireWire® 400 and one FireWire 800 port.

The new iMac, with its stunning design, features highly recyclable and durable materials including scratch-resistant glass and professional grade aluminum. The power-efficient iMac also meets the stringent new Energy Star 4.0 requirements.

Every iMac also includes iLife '08, the most significant update ever to Apple's award-winning suite of digital lifestyle applications, featuring a major new version of iPhoto® and a completely reinvented iMovie®, both seamlessly integrated with the new .Mac Web Gallery for online photo and video sharing. The new iMac also comes with the world's most advanced operating system, Mac OS® X version 10.4.10 Tiger, including Safari™, Mail, iCal®, iChat AV, Front Row and Photo Booth.

Pricing & Availability
The new iMac line is available immediately through the Apple Store® (, Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers. The new Apple Wireless Keyboard will ship by the end of August and will be available as a build-to-order option with the new iMac through the Apple Store ( for a suggested retail price of $30 (US), or $50 (US) when purchased along with the wireless Mighty Mouse, and as a standalone purchase for a suggested retail price of $79 (US) through the Apple Store (, Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

The new 20-inch 2.0 GHz iMac, for a suggested retail price of $1,199 (US), includes:

20-inch widescreen LCD display;
2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor;
1GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM expandable to 4GB;
a slot-load 8x SuperDrive® with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB GDDR3 memory;
built-in iSight video camera;
built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking & Bluetooth 2.0+EDR;
250GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
mini-DVI out (adapters for DVI, VGA and Composite/S-Video sold separately);
built-in stereo speakers and microphone; and
the new Apple Keyboard, Mighty Mouse and infrared Apple Remote.

The new 20-inch 2.4 GHz iMac, for a suggested retail price of $1,499 (US), includes:

20-inch widescreen LCD display;
2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor;
1GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM expandable to 4GB;
a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB GDDR3 memory;
built-in iSight video camera;
built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking & Bluetooth 2.0+EDR;
320GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
mini-DVI out (adapters for DVI, VGA and Composite/S-Video sold separately);
built-in stereo speakers and microphone; and
the new Apple Keyboard, Mighty Mouse and infrared Apple Remote.

The new 24-inch 2.4 GHz iMac, for a suggested retail price of $1,799 (US), includes:

24-inch widescreen LCD display;
2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor;
1GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM expandable to 4GB;
a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB GDDR3 memory;
built-in iSight video camera;
built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking & Bluetooth 2.0+EDR;
320GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
mini-DVI out (adapters for DVI, VGA and Composite/S-Video sold separately);
built-in stereo speakers and microphone; and
the new Apple Keyboard, Mighty Mouse and infrared Apple Remote.

Build-to-order options and accessories include: a 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme processor, up to 4GB DDR2 SDRAM and up to a 1TB Serial ATA hard drive on the 24-inch iMac; up to 4GB DDR2 SDRAM and up to 750GB Serial ATA hard drive on the 2.4 GHz 20-inch iMac; and up to 4GB of DDR2 SDRAM and up to 500GB Serial ATA hard drive on the 2.0 GHz 20-inch iMac. Additional options include: new Apple Wireless Keyboard and wireless Mighty Mouse; AirPort Express® and AirPort Extreme Base Station (now with Gigabit Ethernet); the AppleCare Protection Plan; and pre-installed copies of iWork™ '08, Logic® Express 7, Final Cut® Express HD 3.5 and Aperture 1.5.

*AirPort Extreme is based on an IEEE 802.11n draft specification. Actual performance will vary based on range, connection rate, site conditions, size of network and other factors. iChat AV and video-conferencing require broadband Internet connection; fees may apply.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market this year with its revolutionary iPhone.

Press Contacts:
Teresa Brewer
(408) 974-6851

Lynn Fox
(408) 974-4300

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FAU picks contractor to build ‘green’ engineering building

Florida Atlantic University has chosen James A. Cummings Inc., a contractor with offices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, as construction manager for the new College of Engineering Building on the Boca Raton campus.

"What makes this complex unique is that it will be submitted to the United States Green Building Council for certification as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified 'Platinum' level," said Nicole Flier, director of business development in Palm Beach County for the firm. Platinum is the highest of four levels of environmental friendliness.

"Upon successful completion, this project will be one of the first to obtain the prestigious distinction of 'Platinum' level in the State of Florida," she said.

The new engineering building is one of several projects in Boca Raton being considered for the "green" environmentally friendly designation. The Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at FAU is also in the process of being certified, and several other structures are also in line for green certification.

A lot of hype

The engineering building "is our first platinum building," said Flier. She said the firm is planning "a lot of hype," and will also work with the university to conduct a fundraiser for it.

Flier explained that while plans call for the College of Engineering complex to have 250,000 square feet of new construction, the initial phase will contain between 80,000 and 100,000 square feet.

"This will include classroom and laboratory spaces as well as administrative areas along with a super computing center and the 'Center for Innovation Leadership,"' she said.

"What also makes this building unique is that it will be a 'living, learning' laboratory," Flier added. "Students will be able to learn about green building concepts from the use of educational plaques, which will be located throughout the complex."

Some of these features may include the use of enhanced indoor environmental controls, high efficiency exterior wall systems, solar panels, high efficiency plumbing and wastewater systems, xeriscaping, a storm water collection system to reduce water usage and other techniques will be considered into the design.

She said the estimated start date is early 2008 with an anticipated completion date of fall 2009.

James A. Cummings Inc. has built hundreds of millions of dollars worth of educational, governmental, industrial and private facilities including the construction of more than 45 K-12 facilities.

About LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

What is LEED?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings' performance. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

LEED provides a roadmap for measuring and documenting success for every building type and phase of a building lifecycle. Specific LEED programs include:

USGBC is also developing LEED for Healthcare, and LEED for Labs.

We also have the LEED Resources page which has informative PowerPoint presentations, brochures, and case studies, as well as LEED News and LEED-Online sample credit templates.

How is LEED Developed?
The LEED Rating System was created to transform the built environment to sustainability by providing the building industry with consistent, credible standards for what constitutes a green building. The rating system is developed and continuously refined via an open, consensus-based process that has made LEED the green building standard of choice for Federal agencies and state and local governments nationwide. Click here for more information on the LEED Development Process.

What is LEED Certification?
The first step to LEED certification is to Register your project. A project is a viable candidate for LEED certification if it can meet all prerequisites and achieve the minimum number of points to earn the Certified level of LEED project certification. To earn certification, a building project must meet certain prerequisites and performance benchmarks ("credits") within each category. Projects are awarded Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification depending on the number of credits they achieve. This comprehensive approach is the reason LEED-certified buildings have reduced operating costs, healthier and more productive occupants, and conserve our natural resources.

Note for Product Manufacturers and Service Providers:
Although USGBC does not certify, promote, or endorse products and services of individual companies, products and services do play a role and can help projects with credit achievement. (Note that products and services do not earn projects points.) Learn more here about how you and your company can help advance green building, while also achieving your own environmental and economic goals.

Who Can Use LEED?
Everyone: Architects, real estate professionals, facility managers, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, construction managers, lenders, government officials...

The LEED program also includes a full suite of training workshops and a Professional Accreditation program to develop and encourage green building expertise across the entire building industry.

Contact LEED Customer Service at 1-800-795-1747 or

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