Mighty T. Rex Killed by Pigeon Parasite?

The finding is a new interpretation of multiple holes in the jawbone of “Sue,” the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil yet found, which is on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.

Initially researchers had said the holes are bite wounds made by other another T. rex. But most paleontologists now agree that the holes are too neat and smooth to have been caused by teeth scraping across bone.

In a new study, researchers instead propose that the holes are lesions made by an ancient version of trichomonosis, a single-celled parasite that infects the throats and beaks of modern birds.

Pigeons carry trichomonosis without suffering any symptoms. But the birds are common prey for falcons and other raptors, which then become infected and can also transmit the disease. (See raptor pictures.)

“There’s a possibility that this disease is quite old,” said study author Ewan Wolff, a paleontologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

T. Rex Infection

Sue was discovered in 1990 in South Dakota. Although the dinosaur’s sex is unknown, the fossil was nicknamed for the female fossil hunter who found the bones.

The 42-foot-long (12.8-meter-long), 7-ton dinosaur lived about 67 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period.

In addition to the jawbone holes, the fossil shows evidence that Sue survived multiple fractured ribs, arthritis, and savage clashes with other dinosaurs to reach the ripe old age of 28.

How the huge dinosaur died, however, has been unclear. Despite Sue’s multiple injuries, the animal seems to have lived with most of them for years.

In birds, trichomonosis causes inflammation in the beak and upper digestive tract, which makes feeding and even breathing very difficult.

Birds’ bodies react by sealing off infected tissue, but over time byproducts from this immune response can damage bone, creating lesions.

Sue had about ten such lesions on her jaw, some of them large enough for a human adult to poke a finger through.

Based on the size and number of lesions, the team thinks Sue’s disease was at an advanced stage and may have been so severe that the dinosaur starved to death.

Parasite Link

The researchers also found evidence of possible trichomonosis-like infections in two other tyrannosaurid species, Daspletosaurus and Albertosaurus.

Sue may have contracted the disease after having been bitten by another T. rex during a fight or by cannibalizing the infected bodies of other tyrannosaurids, Wolff said.

The finding adds a new twist to the evolutionary connection between dinosaurs and modern birds.

That’s because parasites tend to evolve with their hosts, Wolff said. Since tyrannosaurids are among the dinosaurs thought to be avian ancestors, it wouldn’t be surprising for the same parasite that infected tyrannosaurids to now infect birds.

4.4 Million-Year-Old Fossil is Oldest Human Ancestor

“This may be the most important specimen in the history of evolutionary biology,” said C. Owen Lovejoy, an anthropologist at Kent State University in Ohio, in an interview with ABCNews.com.

Lovejoy was one of more than 40 researchers from around the world who analyzed the Ardi fossils.

Ardi is not the long-sought “missing link” — the ancestor that scientists say humans and apes have in common — but comes close. And it helps show that both human beings and apes have evolved from something, about six million years ago, that did not look much like either.

“Six months ago, we would have said our common ancestor looked something like a chimp,” said Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley, a senior researcher on the project. “Now all that has changed.

“What we found in Ethiopia at 4.4 million years ago is the closest we’ve ever come to that ancestor along our own line,” White said.

The most complete skeleton, out of more than 30 found, was female, about four feet tall. They discerned the sex from the shape of the pelvis, which was wide enough for her to have borne a baby in her womb.

Walked Upright, but Feet Like a Chimp

The scientists said the fossils show that Ardi walked upright, and that her teeth resemble modern human teeth more closely than they do those of a chimpanzee.

Curiously, though, her feet were capable of grasping, something chimps need in order to climb in trees. She would have been able to climb trees, but she probably did not swing from branches the way modern chimps do.

The back of her skull is small, indicating she had a small brain.

The Ardipithecus bone fragments came from a layer of rock beneath the Afar region of Ethiopia. Afar is now desert, but the scientists said it was woodland 4 million years ago. They found fossilized wood and seeds around the Afar bones.

The fossil hunters, from Ethiopia and the United States, sent the bone fragments they found to a team in Japan. There, 3-D computer models were made of each piece, and the pieces were digitally reassembled, a bit like a jigsaw puzzle.

‘Missing Link’? African Fossil Brings Paleontologists Closer

The first fragments were found in 1992, and more in later years. It took this long, said Lovejoy, to put the pieces together so that a detailed description could be published. The results are online in this week’s edition of the journal Science.

Ardi 1.2 million years older than Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), the famous pre-human fossil found in Africa in 1974. Lucy, like Ardi, walked upright and had a small brain, but was clearly closer to modern human beings — probably not capable, for instance, of climbing routinely in trees.

So what would life have been like for a primitive being more than four million years ago? Scientists say they can deduce a fair amount from Ardi’s skull, jaw, hands, legs and pelvis.

The teeth, for instance, suggest that Ardipithecus was probably an omnivore — eating anything, plant or animal, that it could find. It did not have the pointed teeth found in modern chimpanzees, useful for eating fruit.

Darwin Would Be Pleased

The shape of the large canine teeth in the front of the jaw is important. Male teeth were no larger than females’. It provides clues about social structure, suggesting that the males of the species did not fight each other for the females’ attention.

Instead, said Lovejoy, “It is likely that the males went looking for food and brought it back to the females, possibly in return for sex, though that’s another story.”

He added, “This was probably a species for which male aggressiveness was not something that led to evolutionary success.”

Scientists have believed since Charles Darwin’s time that apes and human beings have common origins. But they have been hampered by the lack of fossils to trace the evolutionary path.

White and Lovejoy said that is why Ardipithecus is so important.

“This,” said Lovejoy, “fills a huge gap.”

The Living Matrix Movie Highlights Noetic Science

Dan Brown’s break-away success novel The Lost Symbol, last week catapulted the frontier science of Noetics into the global spotlight, introducing its readers to the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) along with science writer, Lynne McTaggart, both prominently featured in the sell-out documentary, The Living Matrix, released earlier this year.

While The Lost Symbol character of noetic scientist “Katherine Solomon” is fictional, industry insiders have speculated that she is inspired by a real-life noetic scientist and a key participant in The Living Matrix film, Dr. Marilyn Mandala Schlitz. As CEO of IONS and recognized for her research into the powers and potentials of the human mind, Schlitz is a leading authority on Noetic science.

McTaggart, whom Brown describes as a “noetic author,” enjoys recognition in the novel for her global, web-based study – theintentionexperiment.com, which is aimed at discovering how human intention can affect the world.

Dr. Schlitz and other film participants will participate in a live panel discussion following the Los Angeles premiere of The Living Matrix at the Egyptian Theater on September 30th, 2009. The event is co-sponsored by American Cinematheque and The Reconnection.

Dr. Schlitz and McTaggart join other scientists, researchers and academics in The Living Matrix, the groundbreaking documentary that preceded the mystery novel in highlighting noetic science but which also moves other empirical scientific research in bioenergetic healing out of the New Age and into mainstream consciousness. They include IONS founder and former Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, PhD; senior IONS scientist Dean Radin, PhD; Peter Fraser, chief scientific officer for NES Health; cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton; world renowned teacher and author Dr. Eric Pearl; biophysicist James Oschman, PhD; and director of research at the Institute of HeartMath Rollin McCraty, PhD, among others.

Described as “packed with the latest information on healing and consciousness,” by WholeScience, and “a must-see for anyone interested in opening the mind to the possibilities of healing that allopathic medicine does not address,” by Beyond Words publishing, The Living Matrix is an ideal guide for The Lost Symbol readers hoping to learn more about noetic science.

The Living Matrix is the first documentary to question the exclusive role of genetics in human biology and explores scientific evidence that energy and information fields are controlling factors in health. Thought-provoking interviews with leading-edge scientists, academics, and authors; 3-D motion graphics; and remarkable stories of recovery create a film which has drawn sell-out crowds at both its European and U.S. premieres this year.

IONS and Dr. Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, CEO
The Institute of Noetic Sciences is a nonprofit membership organization located in Northern California that conducts and sponsors leading-edge research into the multidisciplinary studies into the potentials and powers of consciousness. The Institute maintains a commitment to scientific rigor while exploring phenomena that have been largely overlooked by mainstream science.

For three decades, scientist and anthropologist Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, PhD, has explored consciousness, transformation and healing. She has conducted clinical and field-based research, delving into the powers of the mind, including remote viewing, mind over matter and distant intention and healing. Dr. Schlitz is currently heading a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study on the effects of compassionate intention on wound healing in women undergoing reconstructive surgery. Her fieldwork has spanned the globe – from the West Indies and rural Texas to the Ecuadorian Amazon and among healers and spiritual teachers from a broad representation of the world’s traditions.

Lynne McTaggart
Science journalist Lynne McTaggart is the award-winning author of international bestsellers on quantum health and consciousness. In “The Field,” she uncovers a picture of an interconnected universe and describes new scientific theory that makes sense of supernatural phenomena. Her newest book, “The Intention Experiment,” explores the question: “Can our thoughts influence the world around us?” McTaggart is an internationally recognized spokesperson on the science of spirituality and quantum aspects of health. She appears in the full-length version of the cult film “What the Bleep!? – Down the Rabbit Hole.”

The Living Matrix Filmmakers
Greg Becker is president of Emaginate video/film productions in San Rafael, CA. The Living Matrix executive producer is British entrepreneur Harry Massey, CEO of NES Health in Poole, England. Susan Becker is producer of The Living Matrix and vice president of Emaginate.

New Images of Water Ice on Mars

Images of recent impact craters taken by the HiRISE Camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed sub-surface water ice halfway between the north pole and the equator on Mars.

While the Phoenix lander imaged subsurface ice where the top layer of soil had been disturbed at the landing site near the north pole, these new images – taken in quick succession, detecting how the ice sublimated away — are the first to show evidence of water ice at much lower latitudes. Surprisingly, the white ice may be made from 99 percent pure water.

“We knew there was ice below the surface at high latitudes of Mars, but we find that it extends far closer to the equator than you would think, based on Mars’ climate today,” said Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona, a member of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE camera.

“The other surprising discovery is that ice exposed at the bottom of these meteorite impact craters is so pure,” Byrne said. “The thinking before was that ice accumulates below the surface between soil grains, so there would be a 50-50 mix of dirt and ice. We were able to figure out, given how long it took that ice to fade from view, that the mixture is about one percent dirt and 99 percent ice.”

Scientists used several instruments on MRO to take a series of images, detecting and confirming highly pure, bright ice exposed in new craters, ranging from 1.5 feet to 8 feet deep, at five different Martian sites.

The images here were taken of the Arcadia Planitia region, located northwest of the Tharsis region in the northern lowlands, at 40-60° North and 150-180° West. The before and after HiRISE images show a fresh meteorite crater 12 meters, or 40 feet, and reveal how water ice excavated at the crater faded with time. The images, each 35 meters, or 115 feet across, were taken in November 2008 and January 2009.

The discovery of these “white” impact craters began in August 2008, the orbiter’s Context camera team examined their images for any dark spots or other changes that weren’t visible in earlier images of the same area. Meteorites usually leave dark marks when they crash into dust-covered Mars terrain.

A few days later in September 2008, the orbiter’s “CRISM” team used their Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and got the spectral signature of water ice exposed in one of the impact craters, further clinching the discovery.

“All of this had to happen very quickly because 200 days after we first saw the ice, it was gone, it was the color of dirt,” Byrne said. “If we had taken HiRISE images just a few months later, we wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual. This discovery would have just passed us by.”

How far water ice extends toward the equator depends largely on how much water has been available in the Martian atmosphere in the recent past, Byrne said: “The ice is a relic of a more humid climate not very long ago, perhaps just several thousand years ago.”

While Phoenix’s discovery of sub-surface ice was not totally unexpected, finding highly pure ice far closer to the equator because of random meteor impacts was unexpected, he said.

There are several theories about how a layer of such pure ice could have formed beneath Mars surface. Byrne said he thinks that one of the most promising ideas is that this ice on Mars formed in the same way that pure ice lenses form beneath the surface of the Earth.

The HiRISE team followed up in September 2008 by taking high-resolution images of the dark spots.

“We saw something very unusual when we followed up on the first of these impact craters,” Byrne said, “and that was this bright blue material poking up from the bottom of the crater. It looked a lot like water ice. And sure enough, when we started monitoring this material, it faded away like you’d expect water ice to fade, because water ice is unstable on Mars’ surface and turns directly into water vapor in the atmosphere.”

“That’s where you have very thin films of liquid water around ice grains and soil grains and they migrate around to form clear ice lenses on top of the ice table, even at temperatures well below zero. This process is called ‘frost heave’ on Earth, and it’s considered a nuisance in most places because it cracks up roads and tilts walls and destroys foundations of houses.

“But on Mars it would be of great interest if we could discover a process that involved liquid water in today’s climate, and not just in some of the warmest areas of the planet but in some of the coldest areas of the planet in the high latitude regions,” Byrne said.

Exclusive – Men Who Lie for the CIA

The official story is that in the 1970’s, the U.S. govt. became aware that Russia was successfully accessing American military secrets using psychic spies.  Concerned that it was way behind in the field of psychic warfare, it charged Stanford Research Institute with researching the issue.  The scientists at Stanford reported back that “yes, it was possible to accurately access information from a distance using nothing more than the mind”.  This, and other ‘initiatives’ led the military to develop a formal psychic spying (remote viewing) program that also included remote influencing.

The other “initiatives” included the occult and evil elite who secretly rule most countries. The occult has long known about the powers of the mind and has used them to its advantage.  In world war II, Germany used psychics extensively for plotting military strategy and developing new technologies. It used remote viewing to pinpoint the location of convoys crossing the Atlantic.  At the same time, Britain used psychics to spy on the Germans.

Occult leaders have no loyalty to any nation.  They are part of a global brotherhood which seeks to increase its power and cause as much suffering as possible.  Because their power comes from darkness they are afraid of exposure and use multiple layers to conceal their existence and agendas.

The studies conducted at Stanford Research Institute were mostly clumsy attempts to formalize existing occult technology so it could be more easily passed into military intelligence. Most of the scientists involved in the original remote viewing program were Scientologists, as was the psychic, Ingo Swann, who developed the remote viewing procedures and training program. The ‘founder’ of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, believed that he was Satan incarnate (according to his son) but in reality was just a small and pathetic man who was a victim of occult mind control programs.  Scientology was started as a front for occult activity and continues to be a cover for occult and military intelligence mind control programs.

The intelligence agencies knew that they had far too many leaks and so two programs were created – the real one was deep black and kept secret and the other was unclassified but kept mostly off the books and out of the public eye for nearly 20 years. The second program was the decoy program and was deliberately discredited in order to discredit the whole notion of psychic spying. After all, the military didn’t want its use of the powers of the mind to encourage the development of foreign or civilian psychic spies.  Advanced military technology is only one reason to maintain secrecy.  The U.S. military regularly engages in outrageous criminal activity and has far too many secrets it must preserve if it is to maintain its position of power over the U.S and other countries.

Public opinion is very much controlled by mass media. So, the occult, CIA and various branches of military intelligence control most mass media in the U.S. As a result, most Americans have little clue about the bigger reality which exists around them. They actually believe what they read, see and hear from the massive propaganda machine. Even the Internet is controlled to a great extent and the sites which appear to be good sources of information are in reality just more disinformation dispensers. Sites which are not controlled are simply ignored by most search engines or even blocked.  The U.S. military still controls the Internet on a global basis and the National Security Agency (NSA) monitors all Internet traffic and Email.

“Men Who Stare At Goats” will be seen by millions of people and the film will alter public perception about psychic phenomenon and discourage individuals from developing the power of their own minds. The evil elite will strengthen its position of power and the masses will continue to be controlled and victimized without knowing it.

Perhaps a few people will have an interest in learning remote viewing and will buy some videos or take an ineffective course put on by former govt. remote viewers.  But, it won’t make any difference. The human species will continue to live in its delusions with only a very few people having any idea of the true nature of their existence.

If you want to increase the powers of your mind the best way to do so is to simply evolve as a human, unplug from the mind control matrix,  stop damaging yourself through exposure to microwave radiation (cell phones & wifi) and avoid toxic food and water.  Heal and release your past, learn to meditate, learn quantum energy management (qigong, quantum touch, tai-chi, etc), love yourself and all other life.  Focus your intention on who you want to be and what you want in life and you will start to manifest greater power and happiness.  It really is that easy.

NASA Selects Target Crater for Lunar Impact

The target crater is Cabeus A. It was selected after an extensive review of the best places to excavate frozen water at the lunar south pole.

“The selection of Cabeus A was a result of a vigorous debate within the lunar science community. We reviewed the latest data from Earth-based observatories and our fellow lunar missions Kaguya, Chandrayaan-1, and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter,” says Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principle investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “The team is looking forward to wealth of information this unique mission will produce.”

LCROSS will search for ice by plunging its spent upper-stage Centaur rocket into the permanent shadows of Cabeus A, where water might be trapped in frozen form. The LCROSS satellite will then fly into the plume of debris kicked up by the impact and measure the properties of the plume before it also collides with the lunar surface.

The LCROSS team selected Cabeus A based on a set of conditions that includes favorable illumination of the debris plume for visibility from Earth, where astronomers will be watching closely. Cabeus A also has a high concentration of hydrogen (a constituent of water, H2O) and favorable terrain such as a flat floor, gentle slopes and the absence of large boulders.

Professional astronomers will use many of Earth’s most capable observatories to monitor the impacts. These observatories include the Infrared Telescope Facility and Keck telescope in Hawaii; the Magdalena Ridge and Apache Ridge Observatories in New Mexico and the MMT Observatory in Arizona; the newly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope; and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, among others.

Amateur astronomers can monitor the impact, too. Observing tips may be found here.

“Telescopes participating in the LCROSS Observation Campaign will provide observations from different vantage points using different types of measurement techniques,” says Jennifer Heldmann, lead for the LCROSS Observation Campaign at Ames. “These multiple observations will complement the LCROSS spacecraft data to help determine whether or not water ice exists in Cabeus A.”

During a media briefing Sept. 11, Daniel Andrews, LCROSS project manager at Ames, provided a mission status update: The spacecraft is healthy and has enough fuel to successfully accomplish all mission objectives. Andrews also announced the dedication of the LCROSS mission to the memory of legendary news anchor, Walter Cronkite, who provided coverage of NASA’s missions from the beginning of America’s manned space program to the age of the space shuttle.

“Dad would sure be proud to be part, if just in name, of getting humans back up to the moon and beyond,” says Chip Cronkite, son of the famed news anchor.

Spectacular Images from Rejuvenated Space Telescope

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland unveiled the images today at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

“This marks a new beginning for Hubble,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “The telescope was given an extreme makeover and now is significantly more powerful than ever, well-equipped to last into the next decade.”

Topping the list of new views are colorful, multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densely packed star cluster, an eerie “pillar of creation,” and a “butterfly” nebula. Hubble’s suite of new instruments allows it to study the universe across a wide swath of the light spectrum, from ultraviolet all the way to near-infrared. In addition, scientists released spectroscopic observations that slice across billions of light-years to probe the cosmic-web structure of the universe and map the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life as we know it.

“I fought for the Hubble repair mission because Hubble is the people’s telescope,” said Mikulski, chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA. “I also fought for Hubble because it constantly rewrites the science textbooks. It has more discoveries than any other science mission. Hubble is our greatest example of our astronauts working together with scientists to show American leadership and ingenuity.”

“I want to salute Team Hubble — everyone who worked on Hubble from the Goddard Space Flight Center and Space Telescope Science Institute scientists in Maryland, to the ground crew at the Kennedy Space Center, to the Johnson Space Center where the astronauts train, and to the astronauts who were heroes in space,” she concluded.

The new instruments are more sensitive to light and, therefore, will improve Hubble’s observing efficiency significantly. It is able to complete observations in a fraction of the time that was needed with prior generations of Hubble instruments. The space observatory today is significantly more powerful than it ever has been.

The new results are compelling evidence of the success of the STS-125 servicing mission in May, which has brought the space observatory to the apex of its scientific performance. Two new instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3 and Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, were installed, and two others, the Advanced Camera for Surveys and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were repaired at the circuit board level. Mission scientists also announced that the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer have been brought back into operation during three months of calibration and testing.

“On this mission we wanted to replenish the ‘tool kit’ of Hubble instruments on which scientists around the world rely to carry out their cutting-edge research,” said David Leckrone, senior project scientist for Hubble at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Prior to this servicing mission, we had only three unique instrument channels still working, and today we have 13. I’m very proud to be able to say, ‘mission accomplished.’ ”

Hubble now enters a phase of full science observations. The demand for observing time will be intense. Observations will range from studying the population of Kuiper Belt objects at the fringe of our solar system to surveying the birth of planets around other stars and probing the composition and structure of extrasolar planet atmospheres. There are ambitious plans to take the deepest-ever near-infrared portrait of the universe to reveal never-before-seen infant galaxies that existed when the universe was less than 500 million years old. Other planned observations will attempt to shed light on the behavior of dark energy, a repulsive force that is pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

Hubble is back and better than ever. Let the observing begin!

Are Sunspots Disappearing?

“Personally, I’m betting that sunspots are coming back,” says researcher Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson, Arizona. But, he allows, “there is some evidence that they won’t.”

Penn’s colleague Bill Livingston of the NSO has been measuring the magnetic fields of sunspots for the past 17 years, and he has found a remarkable trend — sunspot magnetism is on the decline.

“Sunspot magnetic fields are dropping by about 50 gauss per year,” says Penn. “If we extrapolate this trend into the future, sunspots could completely vanish around the year 2015.”

This disappearing act is possible because sunspots are made of magnetism. The “firmament” of a sunspot is not matter but rather a strong magnetic field that appears dark because it blocks the upflow of heat from the sun’s interior. If Earth lost its magnetic field, the solid planet would remain intact, but if a sunspot loses its magnetism, it ceases to exist.

“According to our measurements, sunspots seem to form only if the magnetic field is stronger than about 1500 gauss,” says Livingston. “If the current trend continues, we’ll hit that threshold in the near future, and solar  magnetic fields would become too weak to form sunspots.”

“This work has caused a sensation in the field of solar physics,” comments NASA sunspot expert David Hathaway, who is not directly involved in the research. “It’s controversial stuff.”

The controversy is not about the data. “We know Livingston and Penn are excellent observers,” says Hathaway. “The trend that they have discovered appears to be real.” The part colleagues have trouble believing is the extrapolation. Hathaway notes that most of their data were taken after the maximum of Solar Cycle 23 (2000-2002) when sunspot activity naturally began to decline. “The drop in magnetic fields could be a normal aspect of the solar cycle and not a sign that sunspots are permanently vanishing.”

Penn himself wonders about these points. “Our technique is relatively new and the data stretches back in time only 17 years. We could be observing a temporary downturn that will reverse itself.”

The technique they’re using was pioneered by Livingston at the McMath-Pierce solar telescope near Tucson. He looks at a spectral line emitted by iron atoms in the sun’s atmosphere. Sunspot magnetic fields cause the line to split in two—an effect called “Zeeman splitting” after Dutch physicist Pieter Zeeman who discovered the phenomenon in the 19th century. The size of the split reveals the intensity of the magnetism.

Astronomers have been measuring sunspot magnetic fields in this general way for nearly a century, but Livingston added a twist. While most researchers measure the splitting of spectral lines in the visible part of the sun’s spectrum, Livingston decided to try an infra-red spectral line. Infrared lines are much more sensitive to the Zeeman effect and provide more accurate answers. Also, he dedicated himself to measuring a large number of sunspots—more than 900 between 1998 and 2005 alone. The combination of accuracy and numbers revealed the downturn.

If sunspots do go away, it wouldn’t be the first time. In the 17th century, the sun plunged into a 70-year period of spotlessness known as the Maunder Minimum that still baffles scientists. The sunspot drought began in 1645 and lasted until 1715; during that time, some of the best astronomers in history (e.g., Cassini) monitored the sun and failed to count more than a few dozen sunspots per year, compared to the usual thousands.

“Whether [the current downturn] is an omen of long-term sunspot decline, analogous to the Maunder Minimum, remains to be seen,” Livingston and Penn caution in a recent issue of EOS. “Other indications of solar activity suggest that sunspots must return in earnest within the next year.”

Whatever happens, notes Hathaway, “the sun is behaving in an interesting way and I believe we’re about to learn something new.”

Watchdog: Cellphone Radiation Levels Vary Widely

The government watchdog group today releases a list ranking cellphones in terms of radiation. The free listing of more than 1,000 devices can be viewed at www.ewg.org.

Concerns about radiation and cellphones have swirled for years. Scientific evidence to date has not been able to make a hard link between cancer and cellphones. But recent studies “are showing increased risk for brain and mouth tumors for people who have used cellphones for at least 10 years,” says Jane Houlihan, senior vice president of research at the Washington-based group.

CTIA, the wireless industry lobbying association, disagrees. In a statement it noted that “scientific evidence has overwhelmingly indicated that wireless devices do not pose” a health hazard.

That’s why the American Cancer Society, World Health Organization and Food and Drug Administration, among others, “all have concurred that wireless devices are not a public health risk,” the CTIA statement says.

Houlihan acknowledges that “the verdict is still out” on whether cellphones can be linked directly to cancer.

“But there’s enough concern that the governments of six countries” — including France, Germany and Israel — “have issued limits of usage of cellphones, particularly for children.”

Houlihan says her group is “advising people to choose a phone that falls on the lower end of the (radiation) spectrum” to minimize potential health problems. The Samsung Impression has the lowest: 0.35 watts per kilogram, a measure of how much radiation is absorbed into the brain when the phone is held to the ear.

The highest: T-Mobile’s MyTouch 3G, Motorola Moto VU204 and Kyocera Jax S1300, all at 1.55 W/kg.

The Apple iPhone, sold exclusively by AT&T in the USA, is in the middle of the pack at 1.19 W/kg.

The Federal Communications Commission, which sets standards for cellphone radiation, requires that all devices be rated at 1.6 W/kg or lower.

The Environmental Working Group says the FCC’s standard is outmoded, noting that it was established 17 years ago, when cellphones and wireless usage patterns were much different. The group wants the government to take a “fresh look” at radiation standards.

The FCC currently doesn’t require handset makers to divulge radiation levels. As a result, radiation rankings for dozens of devices, including the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 and Motorola KRZR, aren’t on the group’s list.