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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Greek fires

Firefighters rescued the marble temples and stadiums of ancient Olympia from raging flames on Sunday, but forest fires ravaged nearby villages and the death toll from Greece's three-day inferno rose to 58.

The Greek government offered rewards of up to one million euros ($1.66 million) for help in tracking down arsonists who it suggests have played a major role in Greece's worst forest fires in decades.

Thick black smoke billowed over the preserved ruins of Olympia, site of the first Olympic Games, on Greece's Peloponnese peninsula. Slowly, the blaze crept up a hillside, engulfing surrounding pine and cypress woods.

"With self sacrifice, firefighters fought 'trench battles' to rescue these sensitive and important sites,'' Public Order Minister Byron Polydoras told reporters.

The fires scorched the yard of the museum, housing a number of famous classical sculptures such as Hermes by Praxiteles, but planes, helicopters and scores of firefighters fought it back.

Ancient Olympia, which hosted the Olympics for centuries from 776 BC, is the site of an Olympic flame ceremony every two years.

"Here it is, the contrast: ancient Greece gave the world civilisation and modern Greece gives it destruction," a resident of ancient Olympia told Alter TV station.

Since Friday, towering walls of flame have cut a swath of destruction through the southern Peloponnese peninsula and swept across other regions, prompting Greece to declare a nationwide state of emergency on Saturday.

Firefighters and planes from other European Union countries have joined the battle.

The fires have covered Athens in white ash, forced thousands to flee their villages and burned about 500 homes and thousands of hectares of forest and farmland.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who has called a snap parliamentary election on September 16, has suggested arsonists are behind the fires. On Sunday, Greece offered a reward for information leading to their capture.

"The reward is set between 100,000 euro ($A166,000) and one million euro for every (act of) arson, depending on whether death or serious injury occurred and the size of the damage," the Public Order Ministry said in a statement.

TODAY The Night of Deliverance ,Shab-e-Baraat

THE belief of ISLAM by Md. Moshiur Rahman sponsored by

The fifteenth night of the month of Sha'baan, commencing with sunset, is a highly auspicious night. It is known as Shab-e-Baraat - tha Night of Deliverance from sins.

Silent Night, Holy Night
All Is Calm, All Is Bright
Round Yon Virgin, Mother And Child
Holy Infant, So Tender And Mild
Sleep In Heavenly Peace
Sleep In Heavenly Peace
Silent Night, Holy Night
Shepards Quake At The Sight
Glories Stream From Heaven Afar
Heavenly Host Sing Halleluja
Christ, The Savior Is Born
Christ, The Savior Is Born
Silent Night, Holy Night
Son Of God, Love's Pure Light
Radiant Beams From Thy Holy Face
With The Dawn Of Redeeming Grace
Jesus Lord At Thy Birth
Jesus Lord At Thy Birth
Silent Night, Holy Night
All Is Calm, All Is Bright
Round Yon Virgin, Mother And Child
Holy Infant, So Tender And Mild
Sleep In Heavenly Peace
Sleep In Heavenly Peace

Authentic Traditions reveal that the account of a person's activities of the last year is closed this evening and simultaneously fresh account is opened for the new year. In this night Allah passes of His Knowledge of every individual's activities in the year ahead to the angels concerned.

It is revealed to us in Traditions that in this night Allah proclaims : Is there any seeker of deliverance from sins? Then I forgive him his sins. Is there any seeker of happiness ? Then I make him happy. Is there any seeker of provisions ? Then I provide him with provisions. Is there any seeker? Is there any seeker?

The giver is bent upon giving In this night. Where is the taker? If the taker is sleeping, he is the loser. Therefore, Allah's Messenger (Blessing of Allah and Peace be on him), the Mercy for the universe, has advised is to keep awake the whole night and occupy ourselves in the recitation of the Holy Qur'aan, voluntary namaaz (Nafl), visiting the graveyard and putting forth supplications before the Almighty Allah for the fulfillment of our material as well as spiritual desires. It is set out in Traditions that three hundred gates of Allah's Mercy are opened this night and all supplicants are granted their prayers except the polytheist, the sorcerer, the astrologer, the miser, the drinker of wine, malicious, the usurer and the adulterer. Therefore let everyone repent sincerely for his past misdeeds and wrong beliefs, make a vow to Allah that he shall never indulge in these and other vices and then stick to his vow in order fo derive the utmost benefit of the Divine Gifts showered in this night.

While visiting the graveyard, one must not indulge in idle talk, fireworks, and other absurdities. The time spent in this visit, including the time for coming and going, should not be wasted in trifles.

'LAA HAV-LAA WA- LAA QUV-VA-TA IL-LAA BIL-LAA HIL A-LIY-YIL A-ZEEM' at least forty times. Pray this after Asr and continue it till the Magrib Azaan. This will show credit entries at the end and beginning of your old and new accounts respectively. From sunset your life's new year begins. Begin it with prayers. After the Nagrib Namaaz, offer six raka'at Nafl. Two at a time. Offer the first two raka'at with the intention (niyyat) of seeking Allah's favour for granting you long and prosperous life.

The second two raka'at with the intention of warding off all calamities and the third two raka'at at with the intention that you may not be subjugated to the will of the creation for your needs.

After every two raka'at recite Suratul Yaaseen once or Suratul Iklas twenty-one times and then the Du'aa (Supplication) for the night. After the first recitation of the du'aa, seek Allah's favour for granting you long, prosperous life, after the second, pray for warding off all calamities and after the third pray that you may not be subjugated to the will of the creation for your needs.

Take permissible food and drink in the night till dawn. Then observe fast for the next day, the 15th Sha'baan (you may abserve fast on 14th as well). This will bring you happiness and Allah's favours in both the lives.

Laylatul Baraah (Shab-e-Barat) | The Blessed Night of Deliverance

God Almighty looks upon all those created by Him in the middle Night of Sha'ban and forgives all those created by Him, except the one who associates partners with Him or the one who has malice in his heart". - Prophet Muhammad

Of the nights in a year there are six which may be marked out from the average run for their grandeur and majesty, serenity and sacredness. These are Shab-e-Qadr (Night of Power), Shab-e-Miraj (Night of Ascension), the two nights of Eids (Festival), the Night of Arafat (Great Gathering) and Shab-e-Barat (Night of Deliverance). On these auspicious Nights are a person' s prayers, his outpouring of the heart's sentiments, the reverential expression of the soul's sincerest desires before its Maker, never fail to evoke the most coveted response from Benign Providence. The glorious night of the 15th of Sha'ban, the eight month of the Islamic year, known as Laylatul Baraah (Laylatul Baraat, Shab-e-Barat, also written as Shab-e-Berat).

Shab-E-Barat means the night of forgiveness or of atonement or deliverance. In Persian language, 'Shab' means night and 'Barat' means 'the night of commission or assignment'. In Arabic language it is known as Lailatul Bara'at, meaning the night of emancipation.

The night of special virtuous deeds falls on the 15th Shaban, i.e. the night after the 14th day of Shaban (lunar dates start at moon rise). In Mecca 15th Shaban is on 28th (tuesday) this year. In other parts of the world it will be followed on 29th or 30th Night, according to local islamic lunar calendar. check you local .

The month preceding the holy month of Ramzan (Ramadan) and the eighth month of the Hijri year is Sha'ban. It is full of virtue and mercy of Allah. According to a historical Prophetic tradition (Bukhari, Muslim), narrated by Hazrat Ayesha (ra), The Messenger of God, Muhammad, performed maximum fasting (except the month of Ramzan) in the month of Sha'ban.

The Prophet himself performed and have recommended prayers during this night and fasting during the following day. It reported that the Prophet used to visit the cemetery on this evening and he used to pray for the ones who left the earthly realm (Al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib, Imam al-Mundhiri, vol. 2).

From the report by Ummul-Mu'mineen (Mothers of the faithfuls) 'Aishah, we know that on this night Prophet Muhammad performed the Salah of the night (Tahajjud) and made a very long Sajdah (Prostration), so long that his wife Aishah feared that the Prophet's soul may have left his body. In that long prostration the Prophet prayed: 'I seek refuge of Your forgiveness from Your punishment, and I seek refuge of Your pleasure from Your annoyance, and I seek Your refuge from Yourself. I cannot praise You as fully as You deserve. You are exactly as You have defined Yourself.' Thereafter, when he raised his head from Sajdah, he informed about the blessed night of the half of Sha'ban.

Imam Ali bin Husayn Al Zanul Aabideen (A.S.) told his companions: "The Holy Prophet, upon him be peace, used to observe fast during the whole month of Shaa'-baan. Therefore whosoever, in love of the Holy Prophet, wishes to seek nearness to Allah and receive bounties, favours and rewards in this world and in the Hereafter, must connect Shaa'-baan with Ramazaan (or Ramadan) (in the matter of fasting and special prayers).

May this night become the night of Remembrance for whole of humanity regardless of their association of faith or spiritual understanding and may the gates of mercy be open for all in this blessed night. Accept O All Hearing, O All Witnessing, O the Accepter of Prayer. Amen.

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"Azg" has provided enough information about the JENAM international science conference in Yerevan. On august 27 members of the conference's organization board Hayk Haroutiunian, head of the Biurakan Observatory and Areg Mikaelian, an eminent scientist, held a press conference. Avoiding repetition of what was said in earlier publications about the science conference, we would only add that both Hayk Haroutiunian and Areg Mikaelian emphasized the importance of the conference for the prestige of the Armenian science, development of astronomy in Armenia and perspectives of cooperation with foreign states as Italy and Great Britain.

As Mr. Haroutiunian and Mikaelian told, on the opening ceremony of the conference the Trade and Economy Development Minister of Armenia Nerses Yeritsian was speaking of commercialization of science. Hayk Haroutiunian noted that it is a rather complicated and long process, although science can also have additional products, which may serve for getting financing. One of such spheres for Armenia is research of cosmic anthropogenic litter and establishing a regional education center in Biurakan observatory.

Another problem was also spoken about. Armenia is a member of the European Astronomy Union, and two of its neighbors were driven out of the organization because of low level of astronomy development and ignoring member fee payments. Due to the traditions of Armenian astronomy and paying the member fees in early 90's, Armenia is still preserving its place. Now Armenia lacks that 2,5 necessary for the next payment. The Union wondered how can it be when Armenia registers two-digit economy growth over the recent years. "One can suggest the following: either we lie that we cannot pay, or if we do not lie, the Government lies," noticed the astronomers.

The Biurakan Observatory director said that unless the Government takes care of astronomy, Armenia will soon lose its specialists. "Young astronomers go abroad and get huge wages," he said. Armenian astronomy and Armenian scientists are demanded at major observatories around the world, and the Government must take all necessary measures to preserve this situation


presented by Md Moshiur Rahman

Astronomical events for September:

4: Last quarter moon

11: New moon

19: First quarter moon

26: Full moon

Planet watch

Mercury is very difficult to see in the sunset glow during September. Binoculars aid viewers 20 to 30 minutes after sundown. Look low in the west and near the horizon on a clear evening.

Venus is true to its nickname, "Morning Star." It is seen glowing brilliantly at dawn. Look low in the east early in the month, then watch the planet climb higher during the month, reaching maximum brightness by month's end.

Mars is seen in the east as it rises in the late evening sky. Mars is in Taurus the Bull for most of the month; then it moves into Gemini the Twins. Best telescope views are in the third week of September.

Jupiter is located in the south southwest at twilight. Look in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. The planet appears near Antares, the bright red star in Scorpius. Jupiter is lower in the sky throughout the month and best viewed an hour or so after sunset. It sets about 10 p.m. by the end of the month.

Saturn rises in the dawn in the constellation Leo the Lion. The ringed planet rises with Regulus, the bright heart star of the lion. Binoculars help viewers spot the pair. Saturn is higher in the east and easier to see as the month continues.

Free telescope viewing, presented by members of the Fort Worth Astronomical Society, will be Sept. 22 on the north parking lot of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1501 Montgomery St

Online: For more information, visit the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History Web site at

Early Products in the Nanotech Revolution

Building complex products atom by atom with advanced nanotechnology: if and when this is accomplished, the resulting applications could radically transform many areas of human endeavor.

Products are manufactured in our modern industrial society for a variety of purposes, including transportation, recreation, communication, medical care, basic needs, military support, and environmental monitoring, among others. In this column I'll consider products in each category in order to convey a sense of the extent to which the early stages of the nanotech "revolution" could be limited by practical design problems, and to explore how those impacts, while limited, may still be quite profound.

Molecular manufacturing (MM) will be able to build a wide variety of products -- but only if their designs can be specified. If we know what kind of product we want and only need to enter the design into a CAD program, then certain nanofactory-built products may be relatively easy to design Extremely dense functionality, strong materials, integrated computers and sensors, and inexpensive full-product rapid prototyping will combine to make product design easier.

(See ,August)

However, there are several reasons why the design of other products may be difficult. Requirements for backward compatibility, advanced requirements, complex or poorly understood environments, regulations, and lack of imagination are only a few of the reasons why a broad range of nanofactory products will be difficult to get right. Some applications will be a lot easier than others. So, let's look at what can -- and what can't -- be expected in the early stages of the "next industrial revlution."

Transportation is simple in concept: merely move objects or people from one place to another place. Efficient and effective transportation is quite a bit more difficult. Any new transportation system needs to be safe, efficient, rapid, and compatible with a wide range of existing systems. If it travels on roads, it will need to comply with a massive pile of regulations. If it uses installed pathways (future versions of train tracks), space will have to be set aside for right-of-ways. If it flies, it will have to be extremely safe to reassure those using it and avoid protest from those underneath.

Despite these problems, MM could produce fairly rapid improvements in transportation. There would be nothing necessarily difficult about designing a nanofactory-built automobile that exceeded all existing standards. It would be very cheap to build, and fairly efficient to operate -- although air resistance would still require a lot of fuel. Existing airplanes also could be replaced by nanofactory-built versions, once they were demonstrated to be safe. In both cases, a great deal of weight could be saved, because the motors would be many orders of magnitude smaller and lighter, and the materials would be perhaps 100 times as strong. Low-friction skins and other advances would follow shortly.

Molecular manufacturing could revolutionize access to space. Today's rockets can barely get there; they spend a lot of energy just getting through the atmosphere, and are not as efficient as they could be. The most efficient rocket nozzle varies as atmospheric pressure decreases, but no one has built a variable-nozzle rocket. Far more efficient, of course, would be to use an airplane to climb above most of the atmosphere, as Burt Rutan did to win the X Prize. But this has never been an option for large rockets. Another problem is that the cost of building rockets is astronomical: they are basically hand-built, and they must use advanced technology to minimize weight. This has caused rocketry to advance very slowly. A single test of a new propulsion concept may cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

When it becomes possible to build rockets with automated factories and materials ten times as strong and light as today's, rockets will become cheap enough to test by the dozen. Early advances could include disposable airplane components to reduce fuel requirements; far less weight required to keep a human alive in space; and far better instrumentation on test flights -- instrumentation built into the material itself -- making it easier and faster to determine the cause of failures. It seems likely that the cost of owning and operating a small orbital rocket might be no more than the cost of owning a light airplane today. Getting into space easily, cheaply, and efficiently will allow rapid development of new technologies like high-powered ion drives and solar sails. However, all this will rely on fairly advanced engineering -- not only for the advanced propulsion concepts, but also simply for the ability to move through the atmosphere quickly without burning up.

Recreation is typically an early beneficiary of inventiveness and new technology. Because many sports involve humans interacting directly with simple objects, advances in materials can lead to rapid improvements in products. Some of the earliest products of nanoscale technologies (non-MM nanotechnology) include tennis rackets and golf balls, and such things will quickly be replaced by nano-built versions. But there are other forms of recreation as well. Video games and television absorb a huge percentage of people's time. Better output devices and faster computers will quickly make it possible to provide users with a near-reality level of artificial visual and auditory stimulus. However, even this relatively simple application may be slowed by the need for interoperability: high-definition television has suffered substantial delays for this reason.

A third category of recreation is neurotechnology, usually in the form of drugs such as alcohol and cocaine. The ability to build devices smaller than cells implies the possibility of more direct forms of neurotechnology. However, safe and legal uses of this are likely to be quite slow to develop. Even illegal uses may be slowed by a lack of imagination and understanding of the brain and the mind. A more mundane problem is that early MM may be able to fabricate only a very limited set of molecules, which likely will not include neurotransmitters.

Medical care will be a key beneficiary of molecular manufacturing. Although the human body and brain are awesomely complex, MM will lead to rapid improvement in the treatment of many diseases, and before long will be able to treat almost every disease, including most or all causes of aging. The first aspect of medicine to benefit may be minimally invasive tests. These would carry little risk, especially if key results were verified by existing tests until the new technology were proved. Even with a conservative approach, inexpensive continuous screening for a thousand different biochemicals could give doctors early indications of disease. (Although early MM may not be able to build a wide range of chemicals, it will be able to build detectors for many of them.) Such monitoring also could reduce the consequences of diseases inadvertently caused by medical treatment by catching the problem earlier.

With full-spectrum continuous monitoring of the body's state of health, doctors would be able to be simultaneously more aggressive and safer in applying treatments. Individual, even experimental approaches could be applied to diseases. Being able to trace the chemical workings of a disease would also help in developing more efficient treatments for it. Of course, surgical tools could become far more delicate and precise; for example, a scalpel could be designed to monitor the type and state of tissue it was cutting through. Today, in advanced arthroscopic surgery, simple surgical tools are inserted through holes the size of a finger; a nano-built surgical robot with far more functionality could be built into a device the width of an acupuncture needle.

In the United States today, medical care is highly regulated, and useful treatments are often delayed by many years. Once the technology becomes available to perform continuous monitoring and safe experimental treatments, either this regulatory system will change, or the U.S. will fall hopelessly behind other countries. Medical technologies that will be hugely popular with individuals but may be opposed by some policy makers, including anti-aging, pro-pleasure, and reproductive technologies, will probably be developed and commercialized elsewhere.

Basic needs, in the sense of food, water, clothing, shelter, and so on, will be easy to provide with even minimal effort. All of these necessities, except food, can be supplied with simple equipment and structures that require little innovation to develop. Although directly manufacturing food will not be so simple, it will be easy to design and create greenhouses, tanks, and machinery for growing food with high efficiency and relatively little labor. The main limitation here is that without cleverness applied to background information, system development will be delayed by having to wait for many growing cycles. For this reason, systems that incubate separated cells (whether plant, animal, or algae) may be developed more quickly than systems that grow whole plants.

The environment already is being impacted as a byproduct of human activities, but molecular manufacturing will provide opportunities to affect it deliberately in positive ways. As with medicine, improving the environment will have to be done with careful respect for the complexity of its systems. However, also as with medicine, increased ability to monitor large areas or volumes of the environment in detail will allow the effects of interventions to be known far more quickly and reliably. This alone will help to reduce accidental damage. Existing damage that requires urgent remediation will in many cases be able to be corrected with far fewer side effects.

Perhaps the main benefit of molecular manufacturing for environmental cleanup is the sheer scale of manufacturing that will be possible when the supply of nanofactories is effectively unlimited. To deal with invasive species, for example, it may be sufficient to design a robot that physically collects and/or destroys the organisms. Once designed and tested, as many copies as required could be built, then deployed across the entire invaded range, allowed to work in parallel for a few days or weeks, and then collected. Such systems could be sized to their task, and contain monitoring apparatus to minimize unplanned impacts. Because robots would be lighter than humans and have better sensors, they could be designed to do significantly less damage and require far fewer resources than direct human intervention. However, robotic navigation software is not yet fully developed, and it will not be trivial even with million-times better computers. Furthermore, the mobility and power supply of small robots will be limited. Cleanup of chemical contamination in soil or groundwater also may be less amenable to this approach without significant disruption.

Advanced military technology may have an immense impact on our future. It seems clear that even a modest effort at developing nano-built weapon systems will create systems that will be able to totally overwhelm today's systems and soldiers. Even something as simple as multi-scale semi-automated aircraft could be utterly lethal to exposed soldiers and devastating to most equipment. With the ability to build as many weapons as desired, and with motors, sensors, and materials that far outclass biological equivalents, there would be no need to put soldiers on the battlefield at all. Any military operation that required humans to accompany its machines would quickly be overcome. Conventional aircraft could also be out-flown and destroyed with ease. In addition to offensive weapons, sensing and communications networks with millions if not billions of distributed components could be built and deployed. Software design for such things would be far from trivial, however.

It is less clear that a modest military development effort would be able to create an effective defense against today's high-tech attack systems. Nuclear explosives would have to be stopped before the explosion, and intercepting or destroying missiles in flight is not easy even with large quantities of excellent equipment. Hypersonic aircraft and battle lasers are only now being developed, and may be difficult to counter or to develop independently without expert physics knowledge and experience. However, even a near parity of technology level would give the side with molecular manufacturing a decisive edge in a non-nuclear exchange, because they could quickly build so many more weapons.

It is also uncertain what would happen in an arms race between opponents that both possessed molecular manufacturing. Weapons would be developed very rapidly up to a certain point. Beyond that, new classes of weapons would have to be invented. It is not yet known whether offensive weapons will in general be able to penetrate shields, especially if the weapons of both sides are unfamiliar to their opponents. If shields win, then development of defensive technologies may proceed rapidly until all sides feel secure. If offense wins, then a balance of terror may result. However, because sufficient information may allow any particular weapon system to be shielded against, there may be an incentive to continually develop new weapons.

This overview has focused on the earliest applications of molecular manufacturing. Later developments will benefit from previous experience, as well as from new software tools such as genetic algorithms and partially automated design. But even a cursory look at the things we can plan for today and the problems that will be most limiting early in the technology's history shows that molecular manufacturing will rapidly revolutionize many important areas of human endeavor.

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Secret To Bone's Strength by MIT

Scientists and engineers are eager to understand the secret behind bone's lightweight toughness so they can mimic it in the design of new materials, but experimental studies have revealed a number of different strength mechanisms at different scales of focus, rather than a single theory.

The top left image shows the mineralized collagen fibrils of bone with the characteristic stair-step configuration of hydroxyapatite crystals (represented in yellow) and collagen molecules (purple). At bottom, each brick-like structure represents a mineralized collagen fibril within the level 2 bone fabric. (Credit: Markus Buehler)

New research from MIT appearing in the July 25 issue of Nanotechnology reveals for the first time the role of bone's atomistic structure in a toughening mechanism that incorporates two previously proposed theories. This combination mechanism allows for the sacrifice of a small piece of the bone in order to save the whole, helps explain why bone tolerates small cracks, and seems to be adapted specifically to accommodate bone's need for continuous rebuilding from the inside out.

"The newly discovered molecular mechanism unifies controversial attempts of explaining sources of the toughness of bone, because it illustrates that two of the earlier explanations play key roles at the atomistic scale," said the study's author, Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Professor Markus Buehler of MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

"It's quite possible that each scale of bone-from the molecular on up-has its own toughening mechanism," said Buehler. "This hierarchical distribution of toughening may be critical to explaining the intriguing properties of bone and laying the foundation for new materials design that includes the nanostructure as a specific design variable."

Unlike synthetic building materials, which tend to be homogenous throughout, bone is heterogeneous living tissue whose cells undergo constant change. Scientists have classified bone's basic structure into a hierarchy of seven levels of increasing scale. Level 1 bone consists of bone's two primary components: chalk-like hydroxyapatite and collagen fibrils, which are strands of tough, chewy proteins. Level 2 bone comprises a merging of these two into mineralized collagen fibrils that are much stronger than the collagen fibrils alone. The hierarchical structure continues in this way through increasingly larger combinations of the two basic materials until reaching level 7, or whole bone.

Buehler scaled down his model to the atomistic level, to see how the molecules fit together-and equally important for materials scientists and engineers-how and when they break apart. More precisely, he looked at how the chemical bonds within and between molecules respond to force. Last year, he analyzed for the first time the characteristic staggered molecular structure of collagen fibrils, the precursor to level 1 bone.

In his newer research, he studied the molecular structure of the mineralized collagen fibrils that make up level 2 bone, hoping to find the mechanism behind bone's strength, which is considerable for such a lightweight, porous material.

At the molecular level, the mineralized collagen fibrils are made up of strings of alternating collagen molecules and consistently sized hydroxyapatite crystals. These strings are "stacked" together in a staggered fashion such that the crystals appear in stair-step configurations. Weak bonds form between the crystals and molecules in the strings and between the strings.

When pressure is applied to the fabric-like fibrils, some of the weak bonds between the collagen molecules and crystals break, creating small gaps or stretched areas in the fibrils. This stretching spreads the pressure over a broader area, and in effect, protects other, stronger bonds within the collagen molecule itself, which might break outright if all the pressure were focused on them. The stretching also lets the tiny crystals shift position in response to the force, rather than shatter, which would be the likely response of a larger crystal.

Previously, some researchers suggested that the fundamental key to bone's toughness is the "molecular slip" mechanism that allows weak bonds to break and "stretch" the fabric without destroying it. Others have cited the characteristic length of bone's hydroxyapatite crystals (a few nanometers) as an explanation for bone's toughness; the crystals are too small to break easily.

At the atomistic scale, Buehler sees the interplay of both these mechanisms. This suggests that competing explanations may be correct; bone relies on different toughening mechanisms at different scales.

Buehler also discovered something very notable about bone's ability to tolerate gaps in the stretched fibril fabric. These gaps are of the same magnitude-several hundred micrometers-as the basic multicellular units or BMUs associated with bone's remodeling. BMUs are a combination of cells that work together like a small boring tool that eats away old bone at one end and replaces it at the other, forming small crack-like cavities in between as it works its way through the tissue.

Thus, the mechanism responsible for bone's strength at the molecular scale also explains how bone can remain so strong-even though it contains those many tiny cracks required for its renewal.

This could prove very useful information to civil engineers, who have always used materials like steel that gain strength through density. Nature, however, creates strength in bone by taking advantage of the gaps, which themselves are made possible by the material's hierarchical structure.

"Engineers typically over-dimension structures in order to make them robust. Nature creates robustness by hierarchical structures," said Buehler.

This work was funded by a National Science Foundation Career award and a grant from the Army Research Office.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Hominid Fossil Lucy Visits the United States

The fossilized bones of a female hominid creature found in Ethiopia in 1974 and today known around the world as Lucy are now in the United States on an unprecedented tour. The bones are part of a larger exhibit on Ethiopia, as both the birthplace of humankind and as a cradle of early civilization, that is set to open at Houston's Museum of Natural Science on Friday. But, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, Lucy's tour outside Ethiopia has generated some controversy.

The bones are arranged on a flat surface, protected by thick glass in a darkened room. Nearby, in another glass case, is a sculptor's rendition of what this female ancestor to humankind might have looked like when she walked the earth more than three million years ago.

Tadelech Dalacho
Tadelech Dalacho

On hand for the news media's first look at the exhibit were several officials from Ethiopia including Tourism Minister Tadelech Dalacho. "The visitors to the exhibit 'Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia will find Lucy to be an amazing creature that will remind them that we all have a common origin in Africa," she said.

Ethiopian officials say the payment from the museum in Houston will support their efforts to continue research and preservation of cultural artifacts back home. They are also using the Lucy exhibit as a way of promoting tourism to Ethiopia.

The partial skeleton, which was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, was named by American paleontologists on the scene Lucy because they had been listening to the Beatles'song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds at the time. Ethiopians, however, call her Dinkenesh, an Amarhic word for beautiful one.

Dirk Van Tuerenhout
Dirk Van Tuerenhout

Houston Museum of Natural Science Curator of Anthropology Dirk Van Tuerenhout says the display of this fossil provides enormous educational benefits for the Houston community. He says this 40 percent complete fossilized skeleton provides the key to understanding human evolution.

"Even today, when other discoveries are made, no matter how old or how young, the benchmark continues to be 'how does your find relate to Miss Lucy, how does your find relate to Dinkenesh," he said.

Not everyone is happy that Lucy is on display here. Famed paleontologist Richard Leakey has condemned the removal of the fossil from its homeland as exploitation of an extremely important artifact. Other scientists have expressed concerns that the fossil might be damaged either in transit or during its planned six-year stay in the United States.

Joel Batrsch
Joel Batrsch

Houston Museum of Natural Science President Joel Bartsch says such fears are unfounded.

"When we first began conversations with our Ethiopian partners, we assembled a team of conservators to go down and study Lucy and make sure that she was, indeed, fit for travel. They reported back to us that she was literally hardy and robust. That is pretty high praise for a 3.2-million-year-old lady," he said.

Mamitu Yilma
Mamitu Yilma

He says security and environmental systems in place at the museum were approved by the Ethiopians in advance of Lucy's arrival. Ethiopia's National Museum Director Mamitu Yilma says she was reluctant to let the fossilized bones out their safe storage area back home, but she relented because she sees Lucy as important not only to Ethiopia, but to all humankind.

Yilma says she also relates to Lucy, or Dinkenesh, as more than just an assemblage of bone fragments on display.

"I have an emotional thing with her. I have trouble thinking of her as a fossil sometimes. I sometimes consider as a human being that has life in her," she said.

Museum officials in Houston say Lucy may make a side trip to the University of Texas in Austin for a CAT-scan procedure that would reveal more about the structure of the ancient bones, but that idea is still being negotiated with Ethiopian officials. Lucy is also expected to appear at some other U.S. museums over the next six years, but those deals are yet to be completed. What is certain is that Houston will be her home until April 20 of next year.

Texas museum to show Lucy fossil amid criticism

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Lucy, the world's most famous human ancestor, will go on public display for the first time in the United States this week amid criticism that her 3.2 million year old bones are too fragile to withstand an 11-city tour.

Lucy's remains were unveiled to reporters during a news conference on Tuesday at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Under an undisclosed financial deal with Ethiopia, Houston is the first stop on what is expected to be a six-year tour.


The public will be able to view Lucy beginning on Friday.

The exhibition, aimed at drumming up tourism in Ethiopia, has drawn criticism from scientists who say Lucy's bones may suffer damage.

"I definitely think that Lucy should not have been sent to America. ... Unique biological specimens and fossils such as Lucy are for science and should be retained in their country of origin," renowned paleontologist Richard Leakey told Reuters by telephone.

"Nobody will benefit from Lucy's tour apart from American museums, which are exploiting Africa's resources," he said.

Some of the country's most prestigious museums, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the American Museum of Natural History in New York have refused to host the fossilized remains.

"We share our colleagues' concerns for the safety and security of the fossil," said Joel Bartsch, president of the Houston museum. "Museums are in the business, quite frankly, of lending irreplaceable objects to each other all the time."

Local acceptance of the exhibit has been good, Bartsch said, although one Ethiopian group based in Houston is planning to protest on Friday.

"Protesters are welcome. It's wonderful, they will publicize it for us," Samuel Assefa, Ethiopia's U.S. ambassador said at the news conference. "You know, I think it's evidence of the importance of Lucy that protests take place."

The fossil was named Lucy after the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," which played during a celebration of the discovery in Ethiopia by U.S. scientist Donald Johanson in 1974. Ethiopians refer to her as "Dinkenesh."


The fossilized remains are considered one of the world's most significant archeological finds. The hominoid skeleton, which is 40 percent complete, was a landmark in the search of for the origins of humanity.

Before agreeing to host the exhibit, the Houston museum sent a team of conservators to Ethiopia to determine whether Lucy's 76-piece skeleton was sturdy enough for travel.

Details of the remainder of the U.S. tour have not been disclosed, but Bartsch said he has been in discussions with over two dozen museums interested in displaying the remains.

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About the gPhone

A new report surfaced Tuesday that Google's hell-bent on making its own mobile phone operating system, adding to the rumors that a prototype could be released soon.

Engadget is reporting that we could hear official news from Google about its plans for a handset-optimized operating system in September. The newest report falls into the more likely category--at least in my opinion--that Google would be working with existing phone companies on a device that uses a Google-developed operating system and suite of mobile applications, not building its own hardware.

The appeal for Google is simple: mobile phone growth is exploding, and it's the future of computing. It's not a perfect analogy, but it's almost like the early days of the PC industry when Microsoft hadn't yet come to dominate the industry and there were several different ideas for software to run those new-fangled PCs.

Google's OS is supposedly based on Linux, and designed to work well with its existing applications. If the rumors are true, Google will find itself in new ground competing against Microsoft, Palm, Symbian and its good buddy Apple.

Google Phone: Revolutionary or evolutionary?

pplicatioNow that Apple's iPhone has passed from anticipation to release, talk of a Google mobile phone has taken its place as a favourite online fixation.

The latest whisper comes from Rediff, an IT publication with offices in the United States and India, which claims that the Google phone, or Gphone, will be released within two weeks in India.

"Talks are believed to be taking place with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar, respectively India's first and third largest mobile telephony operators, and state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam," Rediff said.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google had invested hundreds of millions of dollars on cell phone development, had developed prototype handsets, and had initiated partnership talks with mobile network operators including T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless.

And late last year, The Observer of London reported that Google had held talks with European mobile operator Orange to offer a co-branded phone designed by Taiwanese handset maker HTC.

Google's acquisitions and patents support the suggestion that there's phone work going on at Google. In 2005, Google acquired both Android, a mobile technology startup, and Dodgeball, a mobile social networking service.

Other acquisitions, like Reqwireless, a mobile e-mail and browser developer, and Skia, a developer of mobile-friendly graphics software, similarly demonstrate Google's commitment to mobile services.

Google patent applications, like the recent "Local Search and Mapping for Mobile Devices," also mention mobile phones or mobile devices explicitly.

Google has consistently declined to comment on a phone. But it makes no secret of its interest to bring its services to mobile devices, as can be said about Microsoft and Yahoo, to name a few.

"Google is committed to providing users with access to the world's information, and mobile becomes more important to those efforts every day," a Google spokesperson said via e-mail.

"We're collaborating with partners worldwide to bring Google search and applications to mobile users everywhere." Along those lines, Google has announced partnerships with Apple and Samsung to provide access to Google services on each company's respective phones.

The fixation on a Google phone, however, may be misplaced. Unlike Apple, Google isn't known for its elegant integration of hardware and software. Google's expertise is in software, massively parallel supercomputing, and commodity hardware for data centers.

It's difficult to see how Google's involvement would add value to the physical aspects of mobile handsets.

While it's certainly possible that Google could help handset makers deliver mobile phones that surpass the iPhone in terms of design aesthetics, user interface, and ease of use, it seems more likely that the Gphone will be noteworthy not as spiffy hardware but as a utilitarian device designed to lower or eliminate mobile phone bills by subsidising network operators' costs with revenue sharing from Google's online services.

The most significant unanswered question about the Gphone is whether it will be based on an open mobile platform such as OpenMoko or whether it simply will be a suite of Google services offered by mobile network partners.

Because Google, still weathering the ire of intellectual property owners for pushing the copyright and trademark envelope, appears eager to befriend mobile network operators rather than challenge them, the Gphone will probably be more evolutionary than revolutionary.

That may not be the case if Google wins the right to use the 700-MHz spectrum in the upcoming FCC auction. At the Progress & Freedom Foundation's annual Aspen Summit on Tuesday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that Google would probably participate in the auction.

If Google emerges with spectrum rights, that's when the fun begins

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Headed to a galaxy far, far away ...

One of the lightsabers used in the making of the original 'Star Wars' will be on board the space shuttle Discovery in October

A long time ago, 30 years to be exact, in a galaxy called Hollywood, an ultimate weapon was developed with enough power to mesmerize an entire species.

One of those weapons from the original 1977 "Star Wars" movie, the very lightsaber that hung on young Luke Skywalker's belt, delighted and amazed passengers and a bevy of baggage handlers, reporters and publicists Tuesday morning at Oakland International Airport.

There, at Southwest Airlines' Terminal 2 baggage claim area, the cosmic swashbuckler's sidearm bridged the gap between the fantasy world wrought by George Lucas' six blockbuster movies and the reality of extraterrestrial travel.

Chewbacca, the Bigfoot-resembling Wookie, green-armor-clad bounty hunter Boba Fett and a delegation of other characters from the films presented NASA with the lightsaber for its first real space journey in October.

Lucasfilm, based at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, loaned the cinematic artifact to NASA so that real-life astronauts can take the weapon, which resembles a fancy flashlight, aboard the space shuttle Discovery. The instrument famous for effortlessly slicing through Death Star bulkheads and disagreeable alien barflies is scheduled to lift off Oct. 23 for a short stay aboard the International Space Station.

Turns out NASA is staffed with more than a few aging "Star Wars" nerds.

Coming out of theaters three decades ago, "we looked up into the night sky and wondered about a galaxy far, far

Bornstein, NASA director of marketing and corporate sponsorships.

"So many people at NASA, so many of the scientists, were inspired by 'Star Wars' when they were kids," said Lucasfilm publicist Tracy Cannobbio.

"We find them inspirational," Cannobbio said. "To find out that they were inspired by us was amazing."

Those scientists weren't the only ones sucked into the Empire's vortex.

Ron Drinkard, a 50-year-old insurance broker from Vacaville, volunteered to suit up and play the part of blaster-armed Boba Fett. Lucasfilm sought his services and that of fellow members of the 501st Legion of Star Wars enacters.

Chris Richards, a 35-year-old Web site designer who donned a brown cloak to play the part of a Jedi master, said he and fellow members of the 501st Legion as well as Rebel Legion, both based in the Bay Area, often are called on to summon "the Force" at area events.

"By far this is special, because there's an actual piece of history that we're giving up to NASA that's going up in the space shuttle," said Richards, who lives in San Leandro.

In the end, it was Chewbacca, played by Lucasfilm actor Michael Healy of Marin County, who sat on the tractor that pushed back the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737. The plane would take Borenstein and the lightsaber in its shiny padded aluminum case to the Space Center in Houston.

The lightsaber, which was used as a costume prop while other versions of the weapon were used by the stunt doubles doing the fighting, will go on display at the center before and after the shuttle flight and eventually be returned to Lucasfilms.

Before Princess Leia and several imperial stormtroopers went through security, the Transportation Security Administration was questioned about its rules regarding lightsabers in carry-on luggage.

"I'm not a very big 'Star Wars' fan, so I'm not sure what it's capable of," said Sheyi Ogunleye, TSA's customer support and quality improvement manager for Oakland. "That's something for our screening experts to determine."

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THE show really was out of this world,

THE show really was out of this world, and the star performer truly heavenly. It was the first total lunar eclipse to be seen from start to finish over Sydney since July 2000.

Hundreds of people crowded into the grounds of Sydney Observatory to watch through telescopes, paying up to $15 a head for the pleasure. Many brought rugs and hampers, turning the occasion into a picnic beneath starry skies.

But with the celestial show visible from the western US to Western Australia, countless others watched free of charge from home.

The curtain went up at 6.51pm sharp, exactly as the laws of celestial mechanics had predicted long ago. At that moment the Earth's shadow began to sweep across the moon, taking a bite out of its yellowish orb. At 7.52pm the shadow completely swallowed the moon - and "totality", as astronomers call it, began.

The lunar surface suddenly took on a dull reddish hue. The eerie glow was the result of light passing through the Earth's atmosphere. Most of the light was scattered in all directions but the red light was largely able to pass through, bouncing off the lunar surface and turning it red.

The spectacular view of the eclipse was made possible by a cloudless sky on another unseasonally warm evening.

This month the minimum overnight temperature in the city has averaged 11.2 degrees, almost 2 degrees above average, said the Bureau of Meteorology's climate technical officer, Mike De Salis. Top daytime temperatures during the month have averaged 19.4, also well above normal.

The mercury soared to 27 yesterday afternoon after almost reaching 28 on Monday - 10 degrees above normal.More fine weather is predicted for the rest of the week.

"It is starting to get unusual,"

Lunar magic stirs cosmic thoughts

IN THE early years of the 16th century, Christopher Columbus used his ability to forecast a total eclipse of the moon to intimidate the natives of Jamaica after he was shipwrecked on the island.

The stakes were not so high at the rooftop car park at Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre in Richmond last night, but the natives, like their counterparts several centuries ago, were mightily impressed to see the moon disappear into the earth's shadow.

Patchy cloud did not keep the hundreds of amateur astronomers away, and when the moon's last sliver disappeared at 7.53pm exactly loud cheers rang out. "I think we have an innate need to find out a little more about where we fit in the cosmic scheme of things," said Perry Vlahos, vice-president of the Astronomical Society of Victoria.

Dust in the earth's atmosphere gave the moon a pinkish tinge during the hour in which it was only faintly visible due to the earth's shadow.

During that hour the 20 telescopes assembled in the car park were trained on the planet Jupiter. A bit of a cosmological two for one, if you like.

The last total lunar eclipse was in July 2000. The next one visible in Victoria will be in 2011

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New sports car- Hacker skills gift

A TEENAGE hacker who managed to unlock his iPhone so that it can be used with cellular networks other than AT&T will be trading his reworked gadget for a new sports car.

George Hotz said he had reached the deal with CertiCell, a Kentucky-based mobile-phone repair company.

The procedure, which the 17-year-old laid out on his blog last week, raises the possibility of a cottage industry springing up to buy iPhones, unlocking them and then selling them to people who do not want an AT&T service or cannot get it.

The phone, which combines an innovative touch-screen interface with the media-playing abilities of the iPod, is currently sold only in the US.

Hotz posted on his blog that he traded his modified iPhone for "a sweet Nissan 350Z and three 8GB iPhones.

"This has been a great end to a great summer," Hotz added.

The hacker said he would be sending the three iPhones to the three online collaborators who helped him divorce Apple Inc's product from AT&T's network. It took 500 hours, or about eight hours a day, since the iPhone's 29 June launch.

The youth made the deal with Terry Daidone, co-founder of CertiCell, who also promised him a paid consulting job.

Something More About Computer crime:

Why Apple Can't Stop iPhone Hackers
AT&T and Apple may face an uphill battle prosecuting hackers who untether the iPhone from the AT&T wireless network

It sure sounds like a steal. On Aug. 31, George Hotz plans to trade in his iPhone for a metallic blue Nissan (NSANY) 350Z sports car and three brand-new iPhones. But the 17-year-old's device is no ordinary Apple phone. Hotz hacked his iPhone and unlocked it so that it can be used on a variety of cell-phone networks, becoming the first person known to have done so. The person buying Hotz's phone, Terry Daidone, believes he's the one getting the deal because Hotz has agreed to work for him at his cell-phone refurbishing company, CertiCell.

Daidone says he doesn't plan to sell unlocked iPhones just yet. Rather, he says that he wants Hotz to teach CertiCell's technicians the secrets to unlocking other kinds of cell phones. But that could change-if he can clear up legal questions surrounding the practice of unlocking mobile phones. "As the need arises to unlock phones, we should be at the forefront of that," Daidone says.

Apple (AAPL) and AT&T (T), the sole authorized supplier of the iPhone in the U.S., are doing what they can to make sure that legal clearance never comes. The two companies have put their lawyers on the case, applying pressure on hackers involved in unlocking iPhones to try to get them to stop. Much is at stake. AT&T has been hoping that as the exclusive provider of the iPhone, it will see a surge in new customers and monthly service charges of at least $60 from each one. Apple is supposed to get a cut of the revenues. If iPhones are unlocked, they can be used on the wireless networks of rivals like T-Mobile USA-and AT&T gets zippo. AT&T wouldn't comment for this story, while Apple didn't return a request for comment.

Fuzzy Laws
So will Apple and AT&T's legal action deter hackers? Hardly. Individual users are already allowed to unlock their own phones under an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that the U.S. Copyright Office issued last November. The exemption, in force for three years, applies to "computer programs…that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network."

What's less clear is whether companies and hackers can legally unlock the phones and then sell them to others, or sell unlocking software. "The law here is unclear," says Jonathan Kramer, founder of Kramer Telecom Law Firm in Los Angeles. "There just isn't any case law in this area for us to figure out how it plays out."

Experts believe that AT&T and Apple will point to the DMCA's section 1201, stating that "no person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title." They will claim that a phone lock is just such a technological measure that protects copyrighted work: namely, cell-phone software.

Hackers Undeterred
Problem is, it could be argued that, in reality, the lock only protects access to a carrier's communications network-and communications services aren't copyrightable under the Act, explains Jane Ginsburg, professor of literary and artistic property law at Columbia Law School. "This law was written for DVDs and video games," she explains. "What's going on here is using the Copyright Act to achieve another objective."

Indeed, this time, hackers may have the law on their side. Remember, decades ago, automakers built their instrument panels so that only authorized radios of their own manufacture would fit in. Eventually, U.S. courts ended that practice

If Apple and AT&T push too hard, they might see a revision of [the Copyright Act, and it won't be in their favor]," says Richard Doherty, director of consultancy the Envisioneering Group.

That's why, for now, some hackers contacted by AT&T lawyers still plan to release their wares. "Over the next few days…you will get what you are looking for," promises an Aug. 27 message posted on the Web site of UniquePhones, which helps people unlock mobile phones.

Opening Up the Networks

Demand for unlocked iPhones, which sell for $499 and $599, is rising. Already, the phone has become a cultural phenomenon, with enthusiastic fans going to great lengths to get their hands on one. Consumers in rural areas where AT&T doesn't have a network or in markets with spotty AT&T coverage may want to use the popular device through T-Mobile's network. Overseas, consumers want to try it in conjunction with Orange (FTE) and Vodafone (VOD) wireless service. "If Apple offered unlocked iPhones for $1,200, they'd probably sell some," Doherty says.

Frustration over locked iPhones is showing up in the courts as well. A class-action lawsuit filed on Aug. 27 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York tells of an iPhone buyer who racked up $2,000 in charges because he couldn't use a different carrier's network while he was on a trip to Mexico. Filed against Apple, the suit claims the plaintiff didn't know that iPhone was tethered to the AT&T network.

Many hope that the legal wrangling will, eventually, result in major shifts in how the U.S. wireless industry operates. For one, a case could pave the way to making all wireless networks more open to unlocked phones. In the next five years, 10% to 15% of U.S. wireless users could move to unlocked phones, figures Andrei Jezierski, founder of venture consultancy i2 Partners in New York (see, 12/4/06, "Motorola, Nokia Set Cell Phones Free").

Plus, to answer pent-up demand for untethered phones, a cell-phone carrier could differentiate its offerings by selling all of its handsets unlocked, says David Chamberlain, an analyst with consultancy In-Stat. "It's an anomaly that the phones are tied to individual carriers," he says. "Can we change that business as usual? Maybe. But people who want that will fight for a very long time."

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It was big, it was red, it was beautiful Only once in a Red Moon

HUNDREDS of stargazers flocked to a rooftop car park in Richmond last night hoping to catch a glimpse of a red moon.

Unfortunately clouds made it almost impossible to see the rare lunar eclipse, but it didn't seem to bother the astronomy enthusiasts.

Astronomical Society of Victoria vice-president Terry Vlahos remained upbeat about the event despite the moon's virtual no-show.

"It's better than nothing," he said, as a sliver of the moon disappeared.

"I'm happy with the turnout and people seem to be having a good time. We can see Jupiter and some of the other constellations."

For almost an hour the moon teased the attentive crowd as it poked through the clouds before clear sky revealed the moon in all its red glory.
Christian Vasquez travelled from Deer Park for the lunar viewing.

"It's a bit unfortunate," he said. "But the turnout and the atmosphere has more than made up for it.

"It's great to see everyone having a good time, especially the kids."

Curator of Astronomy at Sydney's observatory, Nick Lomb, said most people in NSW had been able to see the eclipse.

"It's rare, but not as rare as a blue moon," he said.

While lunar eclipses occur at least twice a year somewhere in the world, the last time a total eclipse was visible from Australia's eastern states was in 2000.

Its really !!!

IT was big, it was red, it was beautiful and everyone across Australia had a view of last night's total eclipse of themoon.

Surprisingly, the moon didn't vanish as the sun does during a total solar eclipse, thanks to the geometry of Earth, the sun and the moon in relation to one another.

It glowed a warm red because of the dust particles in the atmosphere.

"Ash in the atmosphere from bushfires and volcanoes contributed to the depth of colour," said stargazer Dave Reneke, news editor of Sky and Space magazine.

"If we have another Mt St Helens eruption, it will turn the moon purple," he said, referring to the 1980 eruption of the US volcano in Washington State.

He suggested the blazing fires in Greece contributed to the depth of the colour displayed last night.

Astronomers such as Nick Lomb at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum are fascinated by the depth of red produced by a total lunar eclipse, as it is an indication of atmospheric conditions.

He agreed that pollution contributed to lunar eclipses, and said the particles in the atmosphere scattered the blue light.

"(But) the red remains," explained DrLomb, who watched last night's show from Sydney Observatory, along with hundreds of excited adults and children.

"There was lots of noise. People brought picnics and set up telescopes. It was very exciting."

The last total eclipse of the moon that was visible from beginning to end was July 16, 2000. The next lunar eclipse visible from Australia will be a partial one, on the morning of August 17 next year.

"The next time we'll see a total eclipse from beginning to end doesn't start until a quarter to midnight on 10 to 11 December, 2011," said Dr Lomb.

"That's why last night's was perfect. It was a time that even children are up."

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves into the shadow of Earth. The moon passes through Earth's main dark, circular shadow, the "umbra". It then moves through a lighter region of shadow, the "penumbra", surrounding the umbra.

Unless the moon's edge is very close to the umbra, it's difficult to notice any changes or dimming of the moon's disc because it still receives some direct sunlight.

One of the most spectacular views to be had in Australia was along the west coast, where the reddened orb was totally eclipsed at moonrise.

Speaking for space watchers across the nation, Mr Reneke summed up last night's light show: "It was a beautiful view."

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