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     Volume 4 Issue 44 | April 29, 2005 |

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Lego Star Wars
The unyielding Hollywood marketing juggernaut has given us dozens of games and hundreds of toys based on movies. However, it takes George Lucas, the emperor of movie marketing, to give us Lego Star Wars, a video game based on a toy based on a trilogy based on an older, more popular trilogy. If you love Lego toys, have a tolerance for the Star Wars prequels, enjoy video games and won't be psychologically scarred by seeing a small plastic figure in childbirth, then this may be the cross-marketing meta-product for you. The story runs through all three prequels, letting you play as a number of characters, including Mace Windu, Yoda and several varieties of Obi-Wan. Those who don't want major plot points of Revenge of the Sith spoiled by little Lego people may want to hold off playing the game until the movie comes out.

Space Station to Spot
Seismic Shocks

An experiment aboard the International Space Station will check the theory that imminent earthquakes can be spotted from space. Researchers hope that tracking changes in the radiation belts that blanket the globe will give them early warning of tremors hundreds of kilometres below. If successful, the work could help pave the way for a system of satellites that watch for earthquakes. Seismologists know that the rumblings that precede an earthquake cause disturbances across a wide range of frequencies that can be picked up by radio antennae. These disruptions are thought to result from the opening of tiny cracks in the rocks as they begin to deform. Monitoring these effects on the ground would require a huge, global network of antennae. Fortunately our planet has a natural version of such a net: bands of charged particles trapped in Earth's magnetic field, called Van Allen belts. These belts are best known for shielding the atmosphere from cosmic radiation. Electromagnetic disturbances may be detectable in the Van Allen belts before an earthquake occurs, says Roberto Battiston of the University of Perugia, Italy, a coordinator of the study, which is called Lazio-Sirad. But, he adds, no one has yet been able to show that the effect can be spotted within the useful time frame of a few hours before an earthquake.

Holographs in Pocket-sized Projectors
Nic Lawrence, Edward Buckley, Adrian Cable and Peter Mash, researchers within the Photonics and Sensors Group at the University of Cambridge, Department of Engineering are developing ground-breaking holographic technology, which will power a new generation of pocket-sized digital video projectors.
Digital video projectors that produce large, high quality images are becoming increasingly popular, but there are limitations in the technology that make miniaturisation very difficult, preventing projectors from making inroads into the potentially lucrative mobile device markets.

The Mercedes of iPod Headphones
As an early iPod customer, I was one the first of what a weekly alternative newspaper dubbed the "iSnobs." That is, people who arrogantly feel they can glide through each day without having to endure the grating sounds of daily life. They are easy to spot by the white wires dangling from their ears. Indeed I'm thankful--and maybe a little arrogant--for the tiny sound bubble Apple Computer's miraculous little music box provides every time some panhandler or would-be preacher decides to give an unwanted speech on my subway car. But like many iPod owners, I've upgraded from the tinny-sounding, uncomfortable headphones that come standard with the iPod for a set from Shure, of Niles. I own the E3c from Shure. The company's headphones have become some of the most popular iPod accessories on the market. They're popular because they sound excellent and fit inside the ear like earplugs. Yet much as I appreciate the sound quality I can't quite see myself dropping a lot of money for something I abuse as much as I do a pair of headphones. I love driving a Mercedes too but I still have not bought one.

Choppiness in Sea-level Records
A new reconstruction of past changes shows that the level of the oceans varied more dramatically during between ice ages than was previously thought, implying that the global climate during these intervals was not as stable as most scientists think. One of the best ways to document the rising and falling of the oceans over time is by coral dating. Coral thrives in shallow waters with plenty of sunlight; as sea level rises, however, coral grows in stacks from the murky sea floor, forming terraces to reach the rays nearer the surface. The age of the coral in a terrace is determined by monitoring the rate of decay of radioactive uranium, which is present in the corals, into the element thorium. But coral readily exchanges uranium with seawater, thereby complicating the dating process.
To correct for this, William Thompson and Steven Goldstein, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, developed a new method for determining the age of coral to generate a record of past sea levels.Using their new dating system, Thompson and Goldstein reassessed past measurements of uranium decay, and reconstructed sea-level changes from between 70,000 and 240,000 years ago. And what they found was very surprising, explains Thompson. "This record shows high-frequency changes that are very consistent and persistent." "It is the first time that such variability has been accurately dated with so many corals," says Mark Siddall, an oceanographer at the University of Bern, Switzerland.
Large variations in sea level of up to 100 metres are caused by the growth and melting of global ice sheets. These changes are commonly thought to occur on a maximum 100,000-year timescale based on variations in Earth's orbit. Thompson and Goldstein, however, uncovered sea-level changes of as much as 30 metres that occurred at intervals of 3,000-9,000 years - relatively rapid oscillations.

Source: Chronicle, Wired News, News@Nature and Forbes

Compiled by: Imran H. Khan

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