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Rabbits Threaten Chicago!

Postby Duchess of Malfi » Fri Sep 26, 2003 4:33 am

Famished Rabbits Threaten Chicago Trees
Park Vegetation Attracting Floppy-Eared Critters

CHICAGO (Sept. 25) - Ravenous rabbits are taking a bite on vegetation big-time in Chicago's Grant Park.

The biting bunnies have prompted city officials to seek expert advice on how to protect trees and other plants from the cottontail infestation.
City officials worry that the rabbits might harm elm trees that will be planted in Chicago's Grant Park.
"They're like miniature bison," Joel Brown, a University of Illinois-Chicago biology professor, said of the rabbits' grazing habits.
He told the Grant Park Advisory Board on Wednesday that the rabbits have been drawn by park vegetation - lawns, plants and the sap behind tree bark.
City officials are concerned that the rabbits might harm some 200 elm trees that are to be planted in the park, which is located along the downtown lakefront.
The advisory board is working with the city to develop a permanent, yet humane, solution to the rabbits, said board president Bob O'Neill, who called the situation desperate.


"They're like miniature bison."
-Joel Brown, a University of Illinois-Chicago biology professor

The best way to protect the new elms would be to erect wire-mesh fences around the trees, then trap and relocate the rabbits, Brown said.
O'Neill said the city made such a move last year, capturing rabbits and moving them to the Cook County Forest Preserve. But the effort did little to stifle the spread of the floppy-eared critters.
"They relocated 100 (rabbits) from the Green at Grant Park and there are hundreds and hundreds still in the park," O'Neill said.
Brown explained the reason behind the problem: The bunnies have a 30-day gestation period and produce four to six rabbits per litter, with as many as four litters per season.
While city and advisory board officials seek a bunny-friendly solution to the Grant Park problem, someone has taken a more drastic approach in years past.
In 2001, more than 100 rabbit carcasses with gunshot wounds were found in the park. No arrests have been made.
Brown called for more humane measures.
"Standard humane treatment says you capture the animal and we will return it to an ideal place for cottontail (rabbits)," he said.


09/25/03 10:40 EDT

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.
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Re: Rabbits Threaten Chicago!

Postby Sylvanus » Fri Sep 26, 2003 8:53 pm

The giant rodent in the swamp reminds me of a certain scene in The Princess Bride.

Inconceivable!
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solar flares

Postby Duchess of Malfi » Fri Oct 24, 2003 5:54 pm

Solar Burst May Scramble Phones, Power Lines

Marsha Walton, CNN.com NewsWire

(Oct. 24) -- Satellites, pagers, cell phones, and electrical grids could be affected Friday by a moderately powerful ejection of magnetic material from the sun.

Space weather forecasters say the coronal mass ejection, or CME, was detected Wednesday morning at 3 a.m. EDT. It is expected to reach Earth about 3 p.m. EDT Friday, and its effects could last 12 to 18 hours.

Space weather forecasters at NOAA's Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colorado, warn a number of industries when there is a major release of the hot flares of solar gases. They usually take two to four days to reach Earth.

In the midst of these electromagnetic events, power companies often refrain from peak uploading and downloading of power across the grid. Airlines are also alerted, because some navigation systems may be affected.

Satellites are perhaps most affected by the solar activity.

"Satellites live and breathe in space; they are very vulnerable to solar activity," said Larry Combs, NOAA space weather forecaster. "They affect our banking systems, our TVs and cell phones, all the luxuries of life."

Combs said some operators will put their satellites into a stow, or a sort of "sleep" mode during the highest impact of the electromagnetic activity.

In the past there have been major outages and interruptions of cell phone and pager service because of electromagnetic interference.

"Sometimes satellites can be damaged beyond repair," said Combs. But there are hundreds of satellites in space now, most with some sort of backup possible.

The CMEs can also have a biological effect on humans, so space forecasters do daily briefings that might affect any crews in space. For example, it would not be a good idea to do a space walk when a solar event is predicted.

Forecasters track the CMEs from the time they leave the sun, and as the material gets closer to earth they pick up increases in X-rays and electromagnetic emissions.

Solar activity is rated, similar to the system for hurricanes or earthquakes, on a scale of one to five, with 5 as the most intense. Friday's activity is expected to be a 3, or moderate.

These magnetic storms can also produce spectacular displays of the northern lights; NASA's Space Weather Web site is predicting that the northern lights could be visible as far south as Oregon and Illinois.

Scientists made their first solar flare forecasts back in 1964. Since then a variety of instruments, both in space and on the ground, have improved their ability to track the activity.

"But like anything in nature, sometimes they don't act like we expect them to," Combs said.


10/23/2003 13:01 GMT-5
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Re: solar flares

Postby Metadron » Mon Nov 10, 2003 2:00 pm

hehe nice thread, it looks like damelon has subscribed for magazine nature :p <i></i>
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Mars Mission about to Land

Postby Duchess of Malfi » Wed Dec 24, 2003 5:36 pm

European Spacecraft Ready Mars Approach
Europe's First Mars Mission Set to Land on Red Planet Christmas Day
By DAVID McHUGH, AP

FRANKFURT, Germany (Dec. 24) - Controllers of Europe's first Mars mission sent final pre-orbit commands through space Wednesday as twin spacecraft streaked toward the Red Planet on a quest to look for possible signs of life.

The Mars Express craft was being prepared for a 34-minute burn of its engine to thrust it into orbit early on Christmas Day in Europe, minutes after its companion, the Beagle 2 lander, was expected to touch down on Mars' surface.

"From this point, the tension really starts to grow," flight director Michael McKay said in a statement. "We don't have a lot more to do except watch and wait."

Mission control in the west German city of Darmstadt sent commands to heat the orbiter's fuel tanks before the engine is fired and also switched off its nonessential equipment.

A successful launch into orbit will pave the way for Mars Express to make contact with the lander, which is supposed to probe the planet's rocks and soil for evidence of organic matter.

Shaped like an oversize pocket watch, the Beagle 2 is designed to fly through the Martian atmosphere, deploy parachutes and bounce to a landing on inflatable bags. Then it should open up, unfold its solar panels like the petals of a flower and begin sending a signal to let controllers know it has safely touched down.

The Mars Express orbiter is meant to send back overhead pictures of the planet's surface and scan for underground water with a powerful radar, as well as relaying information from the 143-pound Beagle 2, which it released toward Mars Friday.

Mars Express was some 124,300 miles from Mars mid-Wednesday and on course for the orbit maneuver, which was to be performed some 250 miles above the surface, mission control said.

While Beagle 2 is scheduled to touch down at 0245 GMT Christmas Day, it will be several hours before controllers get a chance to confirm its landing.

Mars Express won't be in place to pick up the signal until Jan. 3, so the first chance of contact will be when NASA's Mars Odyssey passes overhead at around 0515 GMT Dec. 25.

If that fails, scientists at Britain's Jodrell Bank Observatory will have a chance to train its radio telescope on Mars Thursday evening, European time, to try to pick up the signal.

The Odyssey orbiter, which reached Mars in 2001, will have a daily chance to pick up the signal until Mars Express can make its own first contact.

Mission control spokesman Bernhard von Weyhe said controllers were "very confident" of pulling off the much-rehearsed Mars Express orbit sequence, but said the Beagle 2 landing carries greater risks.

Still, he said controllers wouldn't be too concerned if no signal from Beagle 2 is detected Thursday.

"It doesn't have to mean anything," von Weyhe said. "It can mean it needs more time to be unfolded, or it's at a funny angle."

Beagle 2, named for the ship that carried naturalist Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery in the 1830s, will conduct experiments by scratching the surface with a robotic arm to test for signs of organic matter.

It is expected to transmit its first pictures from Mars between Dec. 29-31. The first radar pictures from Mars Express are expected in the spring.

Scientists believe that Mars, which still has frozen water in its ice caps, might have once had liquid water and suitable conditions for life, but lost them billions of years ago. It is believed that water may also still exist as underground ice.

The European mission is the first search for signs of life on Mars since two U.S. Viking landers probed the planet in 1976 but sent back inconclusive results. Of 34 unmanned American, Soviet and Russian missions to Mars since 1960, two-thirds ended in failure. Japan this month abandoned a mission to determine whether Mars has a magnetic field after its Nozomi probe failed to hit planetary orbit.


12/24/03 08:55 EST

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.

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Re: Mars Mission about to Land

Postby danlo60 » Sat Dec 27, 2003 5:46 pm

They haven't been able 2 pick up the Beagle2's signal yet have they? *****
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Re: Mars Mission about to Land

Postby Duchess of Malfi » Sun Dec 28, 2003 12:13 am

As of the the last I had heard on the news this afternoon, no they have not. ******************************************************

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Re: Mars Mission about to Land

Postby Damelon » Sun Dec 28, 2003 2:14 am

They havn't yet. But they will keep trying through January <i></i>
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Re: Mars Mission about to Land

Postby Earthblood » Tue Dec 30, 2003 3:33 am

poor little beagly-beagly....got lost in a big ol' crater by the looks of it Cripple but free; I was blind all the time I was learning to see<i>Edited by: Earthblood at: 12/29/03 8:33 pm
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Stardust

Postby Duchess of Malfi » Wed Dec 31, 2003 3:55 am

Yes, it does sound as if the little guy fell into a crater...


NASA Probe Heads for Close Encounter with Comet

By Steve Gorman

PASADENA, Calif. (Reuters) - After a five-year voyage of 2 billion miles NASA's spacecraft Stardust is finally nearing the climax of its mission -- a close encounter with a comet to grab dust samples that could yield clues to the origins of the solar system.

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said on Tuesday that the space probe is scheduled on Friday to plunge into the "tail" of gas and debris spewing from the comet Wild 2, passing within 188 miles of the streaking chunk of rock and ice.

The spacecraft will reach speeds of nearly 14,000 miles per hour as it snaps pictures, gathers data and scoops up dust particles destined to be the first cometary samples returned to Earth for study.

"We are literally collecting preserved samples of the building blocks of our solar system and our Earth and even ourselves," said Donald Brownlee, a University of Washington astronomer who is the mission's chief scientist. "They've been preserved for the age of the solar system out there at low temperature and are basically in a pristine state."

The historic "fly-by" will take place 242 million miles from Earth, with passage through the most intense hailstorm of particles inside the Wild 2's coma lasting about eight minutes.
At that point, debris will be pelting the bookcase-sized spacecraft at six times the speed of a bullet, but the probe's solar panels and sophisticated instruments will be shielded by two specially designed bumpers at the front of the spacecraft, NASA scientists said.

Tiny bits of matter 10 to 330 microns in diameter, up to three times the width of a human hair, will be collected in the spacecraft's "cometary catcher's mitt," a tennis racket-shaped panel lined with a super-fluffy material called aerogel, consisting of pure silicon dioxide and 99.8 percent air.

The aerogel has enough cushion to stop the particles without substantially altering them. After the fly-by, the collector panel will fold down into a clamshell-like capsule for a return flight to Earth aboard Stardust in two years.

The capsule will ultimately separate from the spacecraft and re-enter Earth's atmosphere for a landing in the Utah desert in January 2006, while Stardust veers back into space.

Scientists say the dust samples, containing particles gathered by the comet since its formation at the dawn of the solar system and during its own ancient interplanetary wanderings, hold clues to how the solar system, and even life on Earth, began.

"One of the mantras of our project is that we are stardust, as in the Joni Mitchell song, because the atoms in our bodies, before the Sun and solar system formed, were actually interstellar grains," Brownlee said. "And by going after a comet, we are collecting building materials of the solar system that aggregated to form comets out Pluto's distance from the Sun, 4.5 billion years ago."

Stardust was launched aboard a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Feb. 7, 1999, and has since made three giant obits around the Sun en route to its meeting with Wild 2, a comet discovered by astronomer Paul Wild.

The comet, whose solid core, or nucleus, is about 3 miles in diameter, is believed to have dwelt among the outer planets until about 30 years ago, when a close brush with Jupiter flung the celestial wanderer onto a new path through the inner solar system.
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Re: Ice Age Man in Siberia...

Postby Damelon » Sun Jan 04, 2004 2:58 pm

This is kind of related. I was watching a program on the National Geograpic channel the other day about what was apparently the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere. A city in Peru that dates to 2600 B.C.. It was located 10 miles inland, but was the center of a sophisticated trading network. Items found there came from as far as the Amazon. <i></i>
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Spirit Lands on Mars

Postby Duchess of Malfi » Sun Jan 04, 2004 11:15 pm

I think I saw something about that in National Geographic...Peru seems to be quite a cradle for civilisations in the New World...I am reading a book of botany essays right now and about how the ancient Peruvians domesticated soemthing like 3,000 types of potatoes, one for each conceivable purpose and microclimate...


Spirit landed 'without a hitch'
Sunday, January 4, 2004 Posted: 9:17 AM EST (1417 GMT)
PASADENA, California (CNN) -- NASA's remote controlled rover Spirit is safely sitting on the surface of planet Mars sending images to Earth, where excited scientists will examine data for signs of water and life.

CNN's Miles O'Brien is covering Spirit's amazing journey from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and filed this report:

O'BRIEN: The Spirit has landed. Quite a marked contrast to what happened four years ago, when NASA tried to land a lander on Mars. The Mars Polar Lander crashed when it prematurely shut off its rocket engines, mistaking the jolt of the landing gear deploying for touchdown.

This time it went off without a hitch -- and then some. As a matter of fact, if anybody had expected this result last night, they sure weren't saying anything about it.

A joyous pandemonium erupted in the mission control room when the first signals from the rover were received this morning -- after 4 solid years of work and a 303-million-mile journey and seven months of travel time. The landing happened, the tones were sent back, and before too long, amazingly, a series of pictures came back.

The images showed the Martian surface in the afternoon and Spirit sitting in the midst of what may be a dry lake bed. Scientists would like to prove that by analyzing data from the rover during the next few months.

The airbags which protected Spirit on impact have deflated. Its petals have opened up, which protected it as well. Solar arrays opened and a mast with a stereoscopic camera has been raised.

It will take nine days before this team of scientists is expected to move Spirit off its platform and begin moving around the planet's surface.

It will go across the exploration field looking for interesting rocks. It has a tool which will be able to auger into rocks and analyze them to get a sense of what they can tell us about the history of the planet, and what may have happened to the Martian water and whether Mars ever hosted any forms of life.

It's hard to believe -- when you look at it that this cold, arid, unforgiving place that scientists believe was once warm and wet -- there's a good chance there probably was life there at one time. Where did it all go?

The science team is already working, looking at these new images. Obviously at this early point they're not going to come up with any smoking-gun evidence. They're going to continue looking at these initial images and go through a really methodical checkout period.

In nine days they will start moving the rover. They'll pick a rock, probably one very close by. They'll go up to it. They'll use this tool to pick off the rock's outer surface. Then they'll take a close look at it. It might very well be that on the first rock they'll see very clear signs of sediment. And sediment is caused by water being on top of a place for a long time and that would be pretty much smoking-gun proof that there was water there.

Who knows, they may even get really lucky -- because it has a microscope on it -- they might even find a fossil, and wouldn't that be something?





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endangered cloned animal at San Diego Zoo

Postby Duchess of Malfi » Fri Jan 23, 2004 3:33 am

Zoo to Take 1st Cloned Endangered Animal
Thu Jan 22, 3:35 PM ET Add Science - AP to My Yahoo!



SAN DIEGO - The world's first clone of an endangered species is getting ready for his public debut at the San Diego Zoo.

Jahava, an 8-month-old male banteng, was expected to be moved Thursday from the San Diego Wild Animal Park in north San Diego to the zoo, where he will share an area with three banteng females.


Jahava was cloned from skin cells collected from a male banteng born at the zoo in 1974 that never reproduced. A banteng is a form of wild cattle from Southeast Asia.


The cells were cultured by the Zoological Society of San Diego's Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species and were stored in liquid nitrogen at minus 328 degrees. Last year, the cells were inserted into the egg of an Iowa cow.


Although Jahava looks like a banteng, he has genetic material from the cow, zoo geneticist Oliver Ryder said. If Jahava mates with another banteng, the offspring is expected to be full banteng, he said.


In his new home from the zoo, Jahava will be the smallest of the banteng group for some time. He will be distinguishable by his thicker and slightly parted horns.


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scientists worry about large carnivores

Postby Duchess of Malfi » Mon Jan 26, 2004 2:08 am

Loss of Maneaters Is Ecological Warning
Thu Jan 22, 8:43 PM ET Add Science - Reuters to My Yahoo!


By Ed Stoddard

KROMDRAAI, South Africa (Reuters) - They have been stalking and eating us for millions of years and the evidence is embedded in South Africa's Sterkfontein Caves.



Famed for apeman fossils dating back millions of years, the caves have also yielded the bones of ancient predators such as big-toothed cats and long-legged hyenas that would have regarded our distant ancestors as warm meals.


"Until two million years ago, our hominid ancestors had no tools and so they had no defense against these predators besides their speed and ability to climb trees," said Tim Partridge, a leading researcher at the caves.


Today people can walk the hills around the caves, about 15 miles northwest of Johannesburg, without fear of being eaten. But the area is ecologically poorer as a result.


The rolling countryside nearby boasts a number of reserves that have reclaimed former cattle farms for wild antelope.


But wild, free-roaming carnivores in the area are rare, apart from jackals and some small species of wild cats.


And the big man-eaters -- what natural history writer David Quammen in a new book calls the "alpha predators" -- are confined to fenced-off enclosures.


The plight of the planet's carnivores will be discussed at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 7) in Malaysia from February 9-20.


Just a few miles from the caves is the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, 1,600 hectares of former cattle land that has been turned into a park with over 20 species of antelope plus eight white rhinos -- the world's second largest land mammal.


There is plenty of room and grassland for the four-legged herbivores but not enough for big cats.


"We don't have enough room here to let a lion have the run of the place," said Ed Hern, the reserve's owner.


Hern has about 40 lions for breeding purposes -- for conservation and trade -- plus several tigers, an Asian import, in a number of large enclosures.


But wild lions that hunt for themselves need a lot more room and, in South Africa, those that still do are confined to fenced areas, albeit big ones, like the Israel-sized Kruger Park.


This doesn't mean that Hern's animals are pussycats.


One of his enclosures is home to a Siberian tiger, the world's largest cat. This one, coyly named "Cuddles," is 686 pounds of heart-stopping muscle.


"Cuddles is eight years old and couldn't fend for himself in the wild now if he was set free," said Kelly Pera, the reserve's conservation manager, as Cuddles menacingly bared his formidable fangs and snarled at the visitors.


But if you were foolish enough to enter the enclosure?


"He'll kill you," Pera says, without hesitation.

The invasion of his territory, not hunger, would be Cuddles' trigger. But he would probably eat you just the same.

In short, once a man-eater, always a man-eater.

GLOBAL TREND

It is a global trend -- the large predators that prey on humans are vanishing or being confined to fenced enclosures or zoos, which could be their last hope for survival.

It comes down to space and our own fears.

"The largest predators are spread thinly on Earth because energy, in forms they can harvest, is limited and broadly dispersed," writes Quammen in 'Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind'.

This is because -- as he explains -- there is only so much energy passed up through each link in the food chain. When it reaches the top, there is only so much to go around.

"They (big predators) can't afford congregation. They need to hunt and compete desperately. They must be bold, prudent, stealthy, opportunistic, and lucky. Their meals are few and far between," he writes.

For these reasons -- and because of their threat to people on the ground and their livestock -- they are often the first species to vanish in the face of human encroachment.

And given their crucial ecological role -- and the large spaces they need for survival -- the loss of the sharp-toothed carnivores bodes ill for countless other species on the lower rungs of the planet's many food chains.

The big predators help to keep a varied population of herbivores and smaller predators in check. And as the first to suffer from human activities and habitat loss, they warn of the grim road ahead for other species.

REMIND US THAT WE ARE MEAT

The big man-eaters also remind us of our own precarious place in the natural world -- something the pre-historic hominids at Sterkfontein would have been well aware of as they ventured out into a world inhabited by horrifying creatures.

"Great and terrible flesh-eating beasts have always shared landscape with humans. They were part of the ecological matrix within which Homo sapiens evolved... Among the earliest forms of human self-awareness was the awareness of being meat," writes Quammen.

Wild beasts that hunt and devour human flesh -- Quammen's 'alpha predators' -- are actually few in number.

They include the big cats, a few bears, crocodiles, some sharks and (nightmare of nightmares) a couple of gigantic snakes, plus the Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard.

The rare Chinese tiger is on the list, and two young ones have been brought to a reserve in South Africa's northern Limpopo province to learn how to hunt in a bid to save the species from extinction.

The Chinese sub-species of tiger is highly endangered, with only about 60 left in zoos and perhaps 30 in the wild.

The goal is eventually to release the pair or their offspring into a specially created reserve in southern China in 2008 -- the year Beijing hosts the Olympic Games (news - web sites).

But saving this alpha predator will not be easy.

Quammen refers to a noted scientist who found wisdom in an ancient Chinese proverb that captures the ecological reality of the predators: "Each hill shelters only a single tiger."

And there may not be enough untouched hills left to shelter viable populations of the planet's big predators.

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scientists create new type of matter

Postby kinslaughterer » Thu Jan 29, 2004 1:55 am

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Scientists said on Wednesday they had created a new form of matter and predicted it could help lead to the next generation of superconductors for use in electricity generation, more efficient trains and countless other applications.

The new matter form is called a fermionic condensate and it is the sixth known form of matter -- after gases, solids, liquids, plasma and a Bose-Einstein condensate, created only in 1995.

"What we've done is create this new exotic form of matter," Deborah Jin, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology's joint lab with the University of Colorado, who led the study, told a news conference.

"It is a scientific breakthrough in providing a new type of quantum mechanical behavior," added Jin.

Jin and her colleagues' cloud of supercooled potassium atoms is one step closer to an everyday, usable superconductor -- a material that conducts electricity without losing any of its energy.

"It is related to a Bose-Einstein condensate," Jin said. "It's not a superconductor but it is really something in between these two that may help us in science link these two interesting behaviors."

And other researchers may find practical applications.

"If you had a superconductor you could transmit electricity with no losses," Jin said. "Right now something like 10 percent of all electricity we produce in the United States is lost. It heats up wires. It doesn't do anybody any good."

Or superconductors could allow for the invention of magnetically levitated trains, she added. Free of friction they could glide along at high speeds using a fraction of the energy trains now use.

Jin, a recent recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," was building on the discovery of the Bose-Einstein condensate by her colleagues Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman. They won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery.

Bose-Einstein condensates are collections of thousands of ultracold particles that occupy a single quantum state -- they all essentially behave like a single, huge superatom.

But Jin says these Bose-Einstein condensates are made with bosons, which like to act in unison.

"Bosons are copycats. They basically want to do what everyone else is doing," she said.

Her team's new form of matter uses fermions -- the everyday building blocks of matter that include protons, electrons and neutrons.

"They are not copycats," Jin said. "Fermions are your independent thinkers -- they don't copy their neighbors."

But Jin's team coaxed them into doing just that.

They cooled potassium gas to a billionth of a degree Celsius above absolute zero or minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit -- which is the point at which matter stops moving.

They confined the gas in a vacuum chamber and used magnetic fields and laser light to manipulate the potassium atoms into pairing up.

"This is very similar to what happens to electrons in a superconductor," Jin said.

This is more likely to provide applications in the practical world than a Bose-Einstein condensate, she said, because fermions are what make up solid matter.

Bosons, in contrast, are seen in photons, and subatomic particles called W and Z particles.

Jin stressed her team worked with a supercooled gas, which provides little opportunity for everyday application. But the way the potassium atoms acted suggested there should be a way to translate the behavior into a room-temperature solid.

"Our atoms are more strongly attracted to one another than in normal superconductors," she said.
What we have here is a failure to communicate.<i></i>
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