Sunday, December 13, 2009

Traitor Joe Backstabs the American People Once More

Maybe blog about Banks later ... ZenPupDog: Today I'm still sorry I shook his hand 9 years ago ... Someone should ask Traitor Joe why he wants to fuck the American People without a kiss while he'd go to 2nd Base with the evil puppet head "W" or hothead John McCain. & Let's keep the equally evil Sarah Palin in the headlights.

Lieberman resists Medicare buy-in plan
WASHINGTON (AP) - Risking the wrath of Democrats, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., threatened Sunday to join Republicans in opposing health care legislation if it permits uninsured individuals as young to 55 to purchase Medicare coverage.

Lieberman, whose vote is critical to the bill's prospects, expressed his opposition twice during the day: first in an interview with CBS, and more strongly later, according to Democratic officials, in a private meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Reid, who is hoping to pass the legislation by Christmas, needs 60 votes to overcome Republican objections, and has been counting on Lieberman to provide one.

But appearing on CBS, Lieberman said of the Medicare proposal, "Though I don't know exactly what's in it, from what I hear, I certainly would have a hard time voting for it because it has some of the same infirmities that the public option did.

"It will add taxpayer costs. It will add to the deficit. It's unnecessary," he added of a provision that Reid last week hailed as part of a breakthrough between liberals and moderates.

Democratic aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lieberman later told Reid he would support a Republican-led filibuster against the bill if it contained the Medicare provision or permitted the government to sell insurance in competition with private companies.

The same aides added that Lieberman had responded differently last week when Reid asked him privately about the proposed Medicare provision. "He voiced support for the idea," said one official. Lieberman's public comments last week were also generally favorable. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they was not authorized to comment publicly.

In an interview that aired Sunday night - but was recorded last week - President Barack Obama voiced optimism about his call for sweeping legislation to expand coverage while cracking down on the insurance industry.

"I think it's going to pass out of the Senate before Christmas," he told CBS'"60 Minutes."

If Lieberman follows through on his plans, he leaves Democrats with few options as they try and pass legislation before Christmas. Most obviously, they could strip out the provisions he opposes, and hope liberals overcome their inevitable unhappiness and vote for the bill. For that approach to have any chance of success, Obama would have to lobby heavily in its favor.
The bill's supporters could turn to Republicans instead in search of support, but that is unlikely to produce a compromise in the next few days.

Democrats are not without political leverage, however. Lieberman lost the Democratic nomination for re-election the last time he ran, in 2006, then won a new term as an independent. Even so, he retains his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, a post he holds at the pleasure of the Democratic-controlled Senate.

On CBS, Lieberman pleaded with Democrats to start subtracting expensive proposals from the overhaul, saying, "We don't need to keep adding onto the back of this horse or we're going to break the horse's back and get nothing done."

While Lieberman drew most of the attention for his comments, Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Ben Nelson of Nebraska also expressed concern about the legislation.
"I'm concerned that it's the forerunner of single-payer - the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option," Nelson said of the Medicare proposal. By single-payer, he meant national health insurance run by Washington. Unlike Lieberman, Nelson participated in negotiations last week between liberals and moderates that produced the general framework that included the Medicare provision.

Nelson also is seeking stricter abortion restrictions than are currently in the bill.

"The whole reason we're doing this bill is to bring down cost, first for the American people in health care, and secondly for the deficit," said Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. "So until we get the numbers back from the Congressional Budget Office, we're all on hold."
Asked if she would vote against the bill if it raised health care costs overall, she said, "Absolutely."

In the meantime, only a few moderates have come out against the Medicare plan. But in a legislative struggle that is a game of inches, Democrats need all 60 votes in their caucus, and they don't yet have them.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell gave no indication of backing down. "With the American people as overwhelmingly opposed to this bill as they are, for the Democrats to basically, arrogantly take the position that we're going to ignore public opinion and jam this through before Christmas, I think that's really a stretch," said McConnell, R-Ky.

The early Medicare buy-in was part of a compromise reached last week when Senate Democrats dropped the idea of setting up a federal health insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Lieberman was a firm opponent of the bill's original plan for a public insurance option.

Many Democrats who had favored that public option only grudgingly let it go, in return embracing the Medicare proposal as an appealing way to help people 55 to 64 - a group often vulnerable to losing employer-based health insurance when it's needed the most.

Under the compromise, private nonprofit plans overseen by the federal government would be offered in the marketplace.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he was working with Lieberman and others on controlling Medicare costs, and he voiced confidence fellow Democrats could get past their divisions. Party leaders are pushing hard to finish the Senate overhaul legislation before Christmas and to begin negotiations with the House, which has passed its plan.

Lieberman, Nelson, McConnell and Rockefeller spoke on CBS'"Face the Nation." McCaskill was on "Fox News Sunday."

Joe Lieberman Lies About Bush Kiss: Someone should ask Traitor Joe why he wants to fuck the American People without a kiss while he'd go to 2nd Base with the evil puppet head Bush.

And I caught this via twitter -

Latest results for Joe Lieberman

- PauseResume

  • Need to write song You Are Worthless Joe Lieberman to the tune of You Are Worthless Alec Baldwin
    YouTube - Team America - You Are Worthless Alec Baldwin -

    clmerle - - 2 minutes ago

  • Joe Lieberman: the Senator from Aetna.

    holborne - - 5 minutes ago

  • RT @Remender: RT @MarkWaid: If I had one wish, it would be to see Joe Lieberman wake up tomorrow morning stripped of his health insurance.

    imaginepeace - - 7 minutes ago

  • Sarah Palin Goes 'Birther': Obama Birth Certificate 'A Fair Question' (VIDEO)

    Sarah Palin declared on Thursday that the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate is "rightfully" an issue with the American public, and that it is "fair game" for politicians to question Obama's citizenship.

    The comments came during an interview with conservative radio host Rusty Humphries, who asked Palin whether she planned to "make the birth certificate an issue" if she runs for president in 2012.

    "I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue," Palin said. "I don't have a problem with that. I don't know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers."

    Humphries -- who began the interview with a rendition of the song "Sarah, Queen Of The Wild Frontier" -- followed up: "Do you think it's a fair question to be looking at?"

    "I think it's a fair question just like I think past associations and past voting records. All of that is fair game," Palin responded, adding that "the McCain-Palin campaign didn't do a good enough job in that area. We didn't call out Obama and some of his associates on their records and what their beliefs were, and perhaps what their future plans were, and I don't think that was fair to voters to not have done our job as candidates and a campaign to bring to light a lot of things that now we're seeing manifest in the administration."

    Palin later referenced "that weird conspiracy theory freaky thing that people talk about that Trig isn't my real son, and a lot of people that went 'Well, you need to produce his birth certificate, you need to prove that he's your kid,' which we have done, but yeah, so maybe we can reverse that, and use the same [inaudible] thinking on the other one."

    UPDATE: At 1:16 AM ET, Palin posted the following on her Facebook page:

    Stupid Conspiracies

    Voters have every right to ask candidates for information if they so choose. I've pointed out that it was seemingly fair game during the 2008 election for many on the left to badger my doctor and lawyer for proof that Trig is in fact my child. Conspiracy-minded reporters and voters had a right to ask... which they have repeatedly. But at no point - not during the campaign, and not during recent interviews - have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate or suggested that he was not born in the United States.

    WATCH: has done the most comprehensive debunking of the various conspiracy theories related to Obama's citizenship. Here is their bottom line:

    In June, the Obama campaign released a digitally scanned image of his birth certificate to quell speculative charges that he might not be a natural-born citizen. But the image prompted more blog-based skepticism about the document's authenticity. And recently, author Jerome Corsi, whose book attacks Obama, said in a TV interview that the birth certificate the campaign has is "fake."

    We beg to differ. staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as "supporting documents" to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.

    (H/T Ben Smith and Jed Lewison)

    But it gets better —

    Palin's Father: She Left Hawaii Because Asians Made Her Uncomfortable

    Did Sarah Palin leave Hawaii because there were too many Asians? In the New Yorker review of "Going Rogue," Sam Tanenhaus writes that Palin's father suggested as much to the reporters who wrote "Sarah From Alaska." The account contradicts the former Alaska governor's own description of her reasons for leaving college in Hawaii after only one semester.
    Palin, though notoriously ill-traveled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii. She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. "Hawaii was a little too perfect," Palin writes. "Perpetual sunshine isn't necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls." Perhaps not. But Palin's father, Chuck Heath, gave a different account to Conroy and Walshe. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: "They were a minority type thing and it wasn't glamorous, so she came home." In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, "because it was much like Alaska yet still 'Outside.' "

    The passage was first flagged by Issac Chotiner at The New Republic, who wondered why it hadn't gotten any media attention.


    1. Palin's Latest Rogue Gaffe

    2. Palin Gets Another Ethics Complaint (Read Her Staff's Emails)

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    BBC's Spaceman -

    This is relevant to my interests - so:

    About BBC's Spaceman

    Jonathan Amos Jonathan Amos, BBC science correspondent. Come here for a European and UK focus on space.
    His use of acronyms

    The thinnest, most delicate thing in space

    Jonathan Amos | 11:34 UK time, Wednesday, 23 September 2009

    Comments (2)

    The line between the success and failure on a space mission can be a very fine one. Very fine.

    We've had an illustration of that in recent days with the contrasting fortunes of two European Space Agency (Esa) missions - Goce and Cryosat.

    The Goce satellite is in orbit and about to start its quest this week to make the most detailed global map ever obtained of Earth's gravity field.

    Cryosat - or at least the second version of it - is heading back to the launch pad for another attempt to get its ice science off the ground following a disastrous rocket failure four years ago.

    Artist's impression of Goce at separationLaunches are always high anxiety events.

    I remember in March chatting with a member of the Goce team just 20 minutes prior to what would eventually prove to be a successful climb to orbit - and it was clear at the time that his stomach was doing some Olympic somersaults.

    You could tell because he was ever so slightly struggling for breath as he spoke. We've all been there; we all know and sympathise with that experience.

    Some of the stress comes from knowing all of the things that could possibly go wrong. One in particular on Goce caught my attention, and this concerned some spectacularly thin wires.

    Goce will make its gravity map using an instrument called a gradiometer. Put very simply, it's a box that houses three pairs of platinum blocks.

    These metal blocks, or test masses as they call them, sit across the three axes of the spacecraft; and as Goce bumps and grinds through the Earth's gravity field, the blocks sense the disturbance.

    Of course that disturbance is fantastically small. It is so tiny in fact that if an electrical potential were to build up in the mechanism, the attraction between the blocks and their housing would totally swamp the measurements.

    So to get over this problem, the engineers attached gold wires to the blocks to, in essence, "ground" them so that potential could not develop. But then the weight of the wire might also have introduced a bias to the measurements, so the engineers were forced to make the wires ridiculously slim and light.

    The wires are just five microns (millionths of a metre) thick.

    Problem solved? Yes, perhaps. But how would these astonishingly slender wires survive the violent shaking experienced on launch? If the vibration snapped them then Goce would arrive in orbit as a worthless hunk of junk.

    This single puzzle kept Goce engineers engaged for 18 months while they carried out the tests needed to prove the wires were sufficiently robust.

    Ultra-thin wires in Goce's gradiometerTheir confidence was well placed. All the wires did the business and Goce is now "go for science".

    Cryosat, sadly, fell victim to a "circumstances beyond our control" event - the failure of its Russian Rockot launcher.

    The Rockot is a converted intercontinental missile, a former war machine pressed into the civil service of space.

    It had an excellent record at the time; there was nothing to suggest Cryosat might be at risk - but fail, it did.

    Richard Francis, the Esa project manager on the mission, re-lives the gory detail (you can listen below).

    It gives a remarkable insight into the emotions that exist in a control room when a shiny new satellite goes missing, and all the procedures to deal with an emergency that were practised in the pre-launch simulations fail to recover the situation.

    To summarise: The Rockot is a three-stage vehicle. The first stage worked perfectly.

    It was in the second-stage that something went amiss. An onboard command was executed out of sequence which meant the second-stage engine, instead of shutting down at the correct moment to allow for separation with the third-stage, continued to burn.

    Cryosat-2 is ready to go to the launch padThe whole assembly - second and upper-stages, and the precious Cryosat on top - went tumbling out of control and fell back to Earth.

    The descending mass was moving at about 5km per second and eventually exploded over the Arctic some 120km from the pole. It's said a Russian meteorological station saw the fireball come in.

    A fireball that had taken in the region of 75m euros and 6,000 man-hours to build.

    Richard Francis recalls:

    "The flight operations director, who had normally been very careful at the end of each simulation as to how we should shut down our various computers, basically said, 'turn them off anyway you want, and go'.

    And at that point a large number of the operations team were in tears."

    Events have turned for Cryosat. The European Space Agency ordered a replacement.

    We filmed the new spacecraft in Ottobrunn, Germany, last week. It was about to be packed up ready for despatch to the launch complex at Baikonur.

    At the end of filming, as we turned to head out of the cleanroom door, the mission's chief scientist Professor Duncan Wingham mused: "That's probably the last time I'll see it."

    Let's hope he's wrong. Let's hope he'll see Cryosat-2 again soon as a fast-moving dot in the night sky, heading pole-to-pole to acquire some of the best data yet on the state of the Earth's ice sheets.

    Hubble still has what it takes

    Jonathan Amos | 21:23 UK time, Wednesday, 9 September 2009

    Comments (5)

    Extraordinary Hubble. Some say it is the greatest scientific instrument since the telescope Galileo himself used to study the sky 400 years ago.

    Certainly, it is hard to think of another machine that has changed so completely the way our species views its place in the cosmos.

    Butterfly NebulaThe Pillars of Creation, the Eskimo and Cat's-Eye Nebulas, the Tadpole and Sombrero Galaxies - we all know the pictures even if we're not quite sure precisely what it is we're looking at.

    The images fill books, adorn posters, and feature in TV docs and movies - they really are "iconic".

    And so here we are again. Hubble 6.0. A repaired, refurbished, revitalised telescope ready to reveal yet more wonders.

    Nasa's PR machine has been in overdrive to find the pictures that best illustrate the observatory's new capabilities following its fifth and final servicing mission in May.

    A TV producer came to see me before the announcement to say they were worried that Wednesday's new batch might not be as exciting as past releases. "Don't be," I said. "They'll be spectacular; they always are."

    And I haven't been disappointed. The picture of the Butterfly Nebula, showing the end stages of a star, I predict will become the wallpaper on umpteen computers in the next few days.

    For sure, we've been given the "money shots" - the ones that tell US and European taxpayers that their orbiting investment continues to be well spent (remember that Hubble is 15% a European Space Agency mission).

    But it is some very fuzzy - and on the face of it, pretty dull - pictures that I'm anxiously waiting to see.

    Hubble servicingThese will also come via Hubble's new Wide Field Camera 3.

    It has the power to look deeper into the Universe than ever before, to peer at events so far back in time and so faint that their light will be arriving at the telescope's detectors just a few photons at a time.

    Even before the latest servicing mission, Hubble could spy events occurring a mere 700 million years after the Big Bang, when the Universe would have been just 5% of its present age.

    "New Hubble" should be able to stretch that vision still further, taking us into an epoch when we think the very first stars and galaxies came into being.

    Theory would suggest that the first stars were monsters - more than a hundred times the mass of our little Sun. They would have burned brilliant but brief lives, blowing themselves apart to seed the cosmos with the very first heavy elements.
    Iron, magnesium, calcium, carbon - the stuff from which we're all made.

    Who knows? Some of that material could be in our bodies right now.

    Can New Hubble see this early action? I hope so.

    Astronomy's great "discovery machine" is back in action.

    Bugs, 'pineapple cans' and a commercially savvy ISS

    Jonathan Amos | 12:40 UK time, Tuesday, 8 September 2009

    Comments (0)

    Bugs are battling worms in space right now, and the outcome could have profound implications for our health here on Earth.

    MRSA bacteriaThis isn't the plot of some sci-fi movie but the description of a fascinating scientific experiment taken up to the International Space Station (ISS) by the shuttle this past fortnight.

    Discovery astronauts have been running an investigation which could one day lead to a vaccine for MRSA, or some other novel approach to combating a bug that has come to blight modern hospitals worldwide.

    Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus results in hundreds of thousands of infections every year, delaying the recovery of some patients and hastening the deaths of others.

    Its refusal to budge in the face of some of our best antibiotics has sent scientists scurrying for new solutions. Space may have the answer.

    You needn't worry that the astronauts on the station will have been infected. The experiment they took up was in a tightly sealed container about the size of a pineapple can.

    Astronaut cranks the canInside this vessel are a series of eight tubes divided into compartments. In some compartments are armies of Caenorhabditis elegans - the tiny roundworms so loved by laboratory scientists because their biology on a very simple level resembles our own.

    In others are different types of MRSA bacteria. These have been modified at a genetic level to try to reduce their virulence - to remove their ability to infect a host.

    The astronaut simply takes the can in hand and cranks a handle, at which point the tubes' contents are mixed, and the C. elegans and the MRSA go at each other hell-for-leather.

    The worms eat the bacteria and the bacteria fight back.

    Now, something really odd happens in the weightless conditions experienced in orbit. Bacteria can multiply rapidly and their ability to cause disease can become greatly amplified. The bad become worse.

    C. elegans wormsQuite why this happens is still a bit of a mystery. What it means, though, is that few worms will be expected to survive unless their particular MRSA foe has been severely weakened by the modification process.

    In other words, find the worms that are flourishing and you may have identified a "flavour" of bacterium which looks just like a virulent form but doesn't actually cause disease.

    And that's the basis for a vaccine - something which will provoke a sustained immune response without inducing an illness.

    The pineapple can - or assay, to give it its correct term - has already delivered some smart results for salmonella.

    Astronaut studies have identified two genes in the infamous food-borne bacterium which, if you delete them, will cause the bug's virulence to go away.

    An application will soon be filed with the US Federal Drug Administration to start initial clinical trials on a salmonella vaccine.

    Inside the ISS Columbus labAll this work is being led by a company operating out of Austin, Texas, called Astrogenetix.

    The US space agency (Nasa) has guaranteed the firm experiment opportunities on all the remaining shuttle flights to the ISS.

    It's a facility that's priceless, Dr Jeanne Becker, the company's chief science officer, told me:

    "In order for us to do any of this has required iterative opportunities for science - to be able to ask a question, do the flight, get an answer, and then go forward with the next series of investigations.

    "This is all about using space for product development; this is what ISS was built for. We really feel that ISS is a platform for new discovery."

    Astrogenetix is something of a rarity - a commercial venture that has sought to exploit the space station to advance new applications.

    That so few others have come forward in the same way has something to do with the difficulties the ISS has gone through in its construction phase. Utilisation has taken a backseat.

    But it probably also now has something to do with the uncertainty over the station's continued existence.

    It's a truism in business that companies need confidence to invest; and currently there are considerable risks in getting involved in a project that may not be flying beyond the first few months of 2016 if no mission extension is granted.

    The review President Barack Obama has called to look at the future of Nasa's human spaceflight programme will have far-reaching consequences beyond just identifying a spaceship to replace the shuttle.

    It will also decide whether some of the original goals set out for the space station are ever to be fully realised.

    Other posts from this blog

    Nasa's 'stick of a rocket' - will it launch?

    by Jonathan Amos on 14:30 UK time, Thursday, 3 September 2009 | Comments (8)

    I don't know if Nasa has launched scaffolding and ladders on a rocket before. But when the Ares 1-X lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in October, that's exactly what will be onboard. In recent days, I got a...


    Time now for the space station to deliver

    by Jonathan Amos on 09:35 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009 | Comments (13)

    The launch of a space shuttle is an awesome experience. First, you see it - an incredibly bright light from its engines. Then you hear it - a low-pitched rumble and a deafening crackling. But the overriding sensation that stays...


    Still waiting to bag the big one

    by Jonathan Amos on 14:12 UK time, Friday, 21 August 2009 | Comments (9)

    It was supposed to be the first great scientific discovery of the 21st Century - or so many researchers thought when they rushed down to the bookmakers to place bets at what were deemed at the time to be ludicrously...


    How Beer came to be on the space station

    by Jonathan Amos on 16:44 UK time, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 | Comments (3)

    There are chunks of Devon coastline in space. I jest not. On the end of Europe's Columbus science laboratory at the International Space Station, there is a small cluster of boxes known as Eutef (European Technology Exposure Facility). And tucked...


    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Shuttle News

    'Minor' damage found to shuttle

    An inspection of the space shuttle Atlantis has uncovered some "minor" damage to the vehicle's right side, Nasa officials say.

    Space shuttle (Nasa)
    Nasa's annotation highlights the damage along the shuttle's right side

    Atlantis appears to be in good overall shape, but Nasa engineers in Houston are still studying the 53cm (21in) line of chips on the shuttle's right side.

    More analysis is required to evaluate the case for another inspection.

    Atlantis was launched on Monday to begin a risky repair mission intended to save the stricken space observatory.

    Hubble has been hit by failures to its science instruments and to gyroscopes.

    These gyros are used to point the observatory at targets in the sky. If successful, the mission could extend Hubble's lifetime beyond 2014.

    During their first full day in orbit, Atlantis's crew used a laser-tipped boom to look for any damage to the orbiter in a 10-hour inspection.

    Space shuttle (Nasa)
    The chips could have been caused by debris seen during the launch

    The line of chips uncovered by the astronauts are in thick tiles that make up the protective heat shield on Atlantis' starboard side.

    The damage is located where the right wing joins the shuttle's fuselage. Nasa said the chips could be related to a "debris event" detected by the wing's leading edge sensors 104-106 seconds into the lift-off.

    Officials said the damage did not appear to be serious: "To my untrained eye... I would think [the chips] were minor," lead flight director Tony Ceccaci told reporters at a news conference in Houston.

    But more analysis by engineers would determine whether a "focused inspection" was needed in that specific area. If so, astronauts would use sensors to determine the exact depth of the damage to the heat shield tiles.

    Nasa has placed the space shuttle Endeavour on stand-by to rescue the crew of Atlantis if they are endangered.

    If something goes wrong on this mission, Atlantis's astronauts will not be able to shelter on the International Space Station (ISS).

    Hubble servicing (Nasa)
    Named after the great US astronomer Edwin Hubble
    Launched in 1990 into a 600km-high circular orbit
    Equipped with a 2.4m primary mirror and five instruments
    Length: 15.9m; diameter: 4.2m; Mass: 11,110kg

    Impacts from micrometeoroids and space debris present one of the most pernicious threats to the astronauts.

    There is more space junk - from old satellites and rocket stages - at Hubble's altitude than at the ISS's.

    But a successful mission would make Hubble up to 90 times more powerful than it was in its original guise.

    Atlantis roared up into the sky at 1901 BST (1401 EDT) on Monday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Nasa discovered a surprising amount of damage from Monday's launch at the pad used by Atlantis.

    Managers wanted to make sure none of the material blasted off during launch hit Atlantis.

    Atlantis is due to rendezvous with Hubble just after 1700 BST (1200 EDT) on Wednesday.

    As the shuttle approaches Hubble, astronaut Megan McArthur will use the shuttle's robotic arm to grab the 13.2m- (43ft-) long telescope.

    She will then mount the observatory on a work platform in the shuttle's cargo bay to allow the spacewalkers easy access to Hubble.

    The next day, astronauts will begin the first of five gruelling spacewalks planned for the 11-day mission.

    Crew members will install new instruments and thermal blankets, repair two existing instruments, replace gyroscopes, batteries and a unit that stores and transmits science data to Earth.

    Astronauts will remove the existing Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 instrument to make way for the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

    This camera, able to take amazingly sharp images over a broad range of colours, will enable astronomers to carry out new studies of dark energy and dark matter, searching for remote galaxies previously beyond Hubble's vision.

    Spacewalkers will also swap the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (Costar) device for the new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS).

    COS is designed for ultraviolet spectroscopy and will probe the origins of large scale structure in the Universe as well as the formation and evolution of galaxies.

    Nasa plans to make repairs to the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which suffered a power failure in 2004, and to the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), which was hit by an electrical short in 2007.

    After the work to Hubble is complete, Atlantis will boost the telescope to a higher altitude, ensuring that it survives the tug of Earth's gravity for the remainder of its operating lifetime.

    Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope is now regarded as one of the most important instruments in the history of astronomy. It has made a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the origin and evolution of the Universe.

    Following the Columbia disaster in 2003, which claimed the lives of seven astronauts, another mission to service Hubble was considered too hazardous.

    The reason was astronauts would not be able to use the space station as a safe haven if the shuttle sustained damage on launch.

    Nasa has now accepted the risk of the mission, but will have the shuttle Endeavour ready to launch immediately to bring the crew home if the servicing mission is put at risk.


    Hubble set for repairs in space

    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Published: 2009/05/12 19:20:27 GMT

    © BBC MMIX

    Wednesday, May 06, 2009

    Update: Hobbits

    Hobbit foot (William Jungers/ARKENAS)
    The Hobbit's foot is in many ways quite primitive

    Scientists have found more evidence that the Indonesian "Hobbit" skeletons belong to a new species of human - and not modern pygmies.

    The 3ft (one metre) tall, 30kg (65lbs) humans roamed the Indonesian island of Flores, perhaps up to 8,000 years ago.

    Since the discovery, researchers have argued vehemently as to the identity of these diminutive people.

    Two papers in the journal Nature now support the idea they were an entirely new species of human.

    The team, which discovered the tiny remains in Liang Bua cave on Flores, contends that the population belongs to the species Homo floresiensis - separate from our own grouping Homo sapiens .

    They argue that the "Hobbits" are descended from a prehistoric species of human - perhaps Homo erectus - which reached island South-East Asia more than a million years ago.

    Over many years, their bodies most likely evolved to be smaller in size, through a natural selection process called island dwarfing, claim the discoverers, and many other scientists.

    However, some researchers argued that this could not account for the Hobbit's chimp-sized brain of almost 400 cubic cm - a third the size of the modern human brain.

    Disease theory

    This was a puzzle, they said, because the individuals seem to have crafted complex stone tools.

    They said the Hobbits were probably part of a group of modern humans with abnormally small brains.

    One team led by William Jungers from Stony Brook University in the US analysed remains of the Hobbit foot.

    They found that, in some ways, it is incredibly human. The big toe is aligned with the others and the joints make it possible to extend the toes as the body's full weight falls on the foot, attributes not found in great apes.

    But in other respects, it is incredibly primitive. It is far longer than its modern human equivalent, and equipped with a very small big toe, long, curved lateral toes, and a weight-bearing structure that resembles that of a chimpanzee.

    So unless the Flores Hobbits became more primitive over time - a rather unlikely scenario - they must have branched off the human line at an even earlier date.

    In another study, Eleanor Weston and Adrian Lister of London's Natural History Museum looked at fossils of several species of ancient hippos. They then compared those found on the island of Madagascar with the mainland ancestors from which they evolved.

    "It could be that H. floresiensis' skull is that of a Homo erectus that has become dwarfed from living on an island, rather than being an abnormal individual or separately-evolved species, as has been suggested," said Dr Weston, a palaeontologist at the museum.

    "Looking at pygmy hippos in Madagascar, which possess exceptionally small brains for their size, suggests that the same could be true for H. floresiensis , and that (it could be) the result of being isolated on the island.

    Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    More Science from the NYT!

    Science Times
    Dickenson V. Alley/Burndy Library

    REMNANTS OF A DREAM Nikola Tesla in a multiple-exposure photo in 1899, as a Tesla coil discharged millions of volts. A science group wants to preserve the remains of his lab. More photos.

    A fight is looming on Long Island over the ghostly remains of Nikola Tesla’s biggest and most audacious project.

    In 1901, Nikola Tesla began work on a global system of giant towers meant to relay through the air not only news, stock reports and even pictures but also, unbeknown to investors such as J. Pierpont Morgan, free electricity for one and all.

    A publicity photo taken in 1899 at Nikola Tesla's laboratory in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the inventor worked before he established his Wardenclyffe laboratory on Long Island. The photo was a double exposure -- his pose and the sparks recorded at different times -- helping him avoid electrocution. The "magnifying transmitter" pictured here was said to produce millions of volts of electricity.

    Photo: Yugoslav Press and Cultural Center

    It was the inventor’s biggest project, and his most audacious.

    The first tower rose on rural Long Island and, by 1903, stood more than 18 stories tall. One midsummer night, it emitted a dull rumble and proceeded to hurl bolts of electricity into the sky. The blinding flashes, The New York Sun reported, “seemed to shoot off into the darkness on some mysterious errand.”

    But the system failed for want of money, and at least partly for scientific viability. Tesla never finished his prototype tower and was forced to abandon its adjoining laboratory.

    Today, a fight is looming over the ghostly remains of that site, called Wardenclyffe — what Tesla authorities call the only surviving workplace of the eccentric genius who dreamed countless big dreams while pioneering wireless communication and alternating current. The disagreement began recently after the property went up for sale in Shoreham, N.Y.

    A science group on Long Island wants to turn the 16-acre site into a Tesla museum and education center, and hopes to get the land donated to that end. But the owner, the Agfa Corporation, says it must sell the property to raise money in hard economic times. The company’s real estate broker says the land, listed at $1.6 million, can “be delivered fully cleared and level,” a statement that has thrown the preservationists into action.

    The ruins of Wardenclyffe include the tower’s foundation and the large brick laboratory, designed by Tesla’s friend Stanford White, the celebrated architect.

    “It’s hugely important to protect this site,” said Marc J. Seifer, author of “Wizard,” a Tesla biography. “He’s an icon. He stands for what humans are supposed to do — honor nature while using high technology to harness its powers.”

    BON VIVANT Tesla, circa 1907. He was celebrated for his inventions, but he also made bitter enemies. More Photos.

    Recently, New York State echoed that judgment. The commissioner of historic preservation wrote Dr. Seifer on behalf of Gov. David A. Paterson to back Wardenclyffe’s preservation and listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

    On Long Island, Tesla enthusiasts vow to obtain the land one way or another, saying that saving a symbol of Tesla’s accomplishments would help restore the visionary to his rightful place as an architect of the modern age.

    “A lot of his work was way ahead of his time,” said Jane Alcorn, president of the Tesla Science Center, a private group in Shoreham that is seeking to acquire Wardenclyffe.

    Dr. Ljubo Vujovic, president of the Tesla Memorial Society of New York, said destroying the old lab “would be a terrible thing for the United States and the world. It’s a piece of history.”

    Tesla, who lived from 1856 to 1943, made bitter enemies who dismissed some of his claims as exaggerated, helping tarnish his reputation in his lifetime. He was part recluse, part showman. He issued publicity photos (actually double exposures) showing him reading quietly in his laboratory amid deadly flashes.

    Today, his work tends to be poorly known among scientists, though some call him an intuitive genius far ahead of his peers. Socially, his popularity has soared, elevating him to cult status.

    Books and Web sites abound. Wikipedia says the inventor obtained at least 700 patents. YouTube has several Tesla videos, including one of a break-in at Wardenclyffe. A rock band calls itself Tesla. An electric car company backed by Google’s founders calls itself Tesla Motors.

    Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, sees the creator’s life as a cautionary tale. “It’s a sad, sad story,” Mr. Page told Fortune magazine last year. The inventor “couldn’t commercialize anything. He could barely fund his own research.”

    Wardenclyffe epitomized that kind of visionary impracticality.

    Tesla seized on the colossal project at the age of 44 while living in New York City. An impeccably dressed bon vivant of Serbian birth, he was widely celebrated for his inventions of motors and power distribution systems that used the form of electricity known as alternating current, which beat out direct current (and Thomas Edison) to electrify the world.

    His patents made him a rich man, at least for a while. He lived at the Waldorf-Astoria and loved to hobnob with the famous at Delmonico’s and the Players Club.

    Around 1900, as Tesla planned what would become Wardenclyffe, inventors around the world were racing for what was considered the next big thing — wireless communication. His own plan was to turn alternating current into electromagnetic waves that flashed from antennas to distant receivers. This is essentially what radio transmission is. The scale of his vision was gargantuan, however, eclipsing that of any rival.

    Investors, given Tesla’s electrical achievements, paid heed. The biggest was J. Pierpont Morgan, a top financier. He sank $150,000 (today more than $3 million) into Tesla’s global wireless venture.

    Work on the prototype tower began in mid-1901 on the North Shore of Long Island at a site Tesla named after a patron and the nearby cliffs. “The proposed plant at Wardenclyffe,” The New York Times reported, “will be the first of a number that the electrician proposes to establish in this and other countries.”

    The shock wave hit Dec. 12, 1901. That day, Marconi succeeded in sending radio signals across the Atlantic, crushing Tesla’s hopes for pioneering glory.

    Still, Wardenclyffe grew, with guards under strict orders to keep visitors away. The wooden tower rose 187 feet over a wide shaft that descended 120 feet to deeply anchor the antenna. Villagers told The Times that the ground beneath the tower was “honeycombed with subterranean passages.”

    The nearby laboratory of red brick, with arched windows and a tall chimney, held tools, generators, a machine shop, electrical transformers, glass-blowing equipment, a library and an office.

    But Morgan was disenchanted. He refused Tesla’s request for more money.

    Desperate, the inventor pulled out what he considered his ace. The towers would transmit not only information around the globe, he wrote the financier in July 1903, but also electric power.

    “I should not feel disposed,” Morgan replied coolly, “to make any further advances.”

    Margaret Cheney, a Tesla biographer, observed that Tesla had seriously misjudged his wealthy patron, a man deeply committed to the profit motive. “The prospect of beaming electricity to penniless Zulus or Pygmies,” she wrote, must have left the financier less than enthusiastic.

    It was then that Tesla, reeling financially and emotionally, fired up the tower for the first and last time. He eventually sold Wardenclyffe to satisfy $20,000 (today about $400,000) in bills at the Waldorf. In 1917, the new owners had the giant tower blown up and sold for scrap.

    Today, Tesla’s exact plan for the site remains a mystery even as scientists agree on the impracticality of his overall vision. The tower could have succeeded in broadcasting information, but not power.

    “He was an absolute genius,” Dennis Papadopoulos, a physicist at the University of Maryland, said in an interview. “He conceived of things in 1900 that it took us 50 or 60 years to understand. But he did not appreciate dissipation. You can’t start putting a lot of power” into an antenna and expect the energy to travel long distances without great diminution.

    Wardenclyffe passed through many hands, ending with Agfa, which is based in Ridgefield Park, N.J. The imaging giant used it from 1969 to 1992, and then shuttered the property. Silver and cadmium, a serious poison, had contaminated the site, and the company says it spent some $5 million on studies and remediation. The cleanup ended in September, and the site was put up for sale in late February.

    Real estate agents said they had shown Wardenclyffe to four or five prospective buyers.

    Last month, Agfa opened the heavily wooded site to a reporter. “NO TRESPASSING,” warned a faded sign at a front gate, which was topped with barbed wire.

    Tesla’s red brick building stood intact, an elegant wind vane atop its chimney. But Agfa had recently covered the big windows with plywood to deter vandals and intruders, who had stolen much of the building’s wiring for its copper.

    The building’s dark interior was littered with beer cans and broken bottles. Flashlights revealed no trace of the original equipment, except for a surprise on the second floor. There in the darkness loomed four enormous tanks, each the size of a small car. Their sides were made of thick metal and their seams heavily riveted, like those of an old destroyer or battleship. The Agfa consultant leading the tour called them giant batteries.

    “Look up there,” said the consultant, Ralph Passantino, signaling with his flashlight. “There’s a hatch up there. It was used to get into the tanks to service them.”

    Tesla authorities appear to know little of the big tanks, making them potential clues to the inventor’s original plans.

    After the tour, Christopher M. Santomassimo, Agfa’s general counsel, explained his company’s position: no donation of the site for a museum, and no action that would rule out the building’s destruction.

    “Agfa is in a difficult economic position given what’s going on in the global marketplace,” he said. “It needs to maximize its potential recovery from the sale of that site.”

    He added that the company would entertain “any reasonable offer,” including ones from groups interested in preserving Wardenclyffe because of its historical significance. “We’re simply not in a position,” he emphasized, “to donate the property outright.”

    Ms. Alcorn of the Tesla Science Center, who has sought to stir interest in Wardenclyffe for more than a decade, seemed confident that a solution would be worked out. Suffolk County might buy the site, she said, or a campaign might raise the funds for its purchase, restoration and conversion into a science museum and education center. She said the local community was strongly backing the preservation idea.

    “Once the sign went up, I started getting so many calls,” she remarked. “People said: ‘They’re not really going to sell it, are they? It’s got to be a museum, right?’ ”

    Sitting at a reading table at the North Shore Public Library, where she works as a children’s librarian, Ms. Alcorn gestured across a map of Wardenclyffe to show how the abandoned site might be transformed with not only a Tesla museum but also a playground, a cafeteria and a bookshop.

    “That’s critical,” she said.

    Ms. Alcorn said the investigation and restoration of the old site promised to solve one of the big mysteries: the extent and nature of the tunnels said to honeycomb the area around the tower.

    “I’d love to see if they really existed,” she said. “The stories abound, but not the proof.”

    A version of this article appeared in print on May 5, 2009, on page D1 of the New York edition.
    "Telsa and the Avon Lady are attacking"

    ORB (Venture Bros. episode)

    The Venture Bros. episode
    "Come on, you gotta hit this! Don't leave me hanging!"
    Episode no. Season 3
    Episode 37
    Written by Doc Hammer
    Directed by Jackson Publick
    Production no. 3-29
    Original airdate August 10, 2008
    Episode chronology
    ← Previous Next →
    "The Lepidopterists" "The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part I)"
    List of The Venture Bros. episodes

    "ORB" is the 37th episode of The Venture Bros. and is part of Season 3.


    While watching an episode of the old Rusty Venture cartoons, Billy Quizboy discovers a hidden message describing the length and circumference of a cylinder intended to be used as a scytale, the final clue needed to crack a cipher that has been concealed throughout the vintage television series. Upon decoding the message, Billy finds the message to be incomprehensible, but Pete White reveals that the code hidden in the 30 year old series is an Internet URL which leads them to an online map of the Venture compound.

    The map indicates a point which proves to be Brock's herb garden, but when they suggest digging it up, Brock vehemently objects, stating that when he took the mission to protect the Ventures, he was instructed to protect that plot of land. Under orders from Doctor Venture, however, he allows them to excavate. A box from an episode of the Rusty Venture cartoon is found, as well as a gramophone cylinder intended for Brock.

    The cylinder is a recording made by the bodyguard of the late Colonel Lloyd Venture, Eugen Sandow, who recounts a battle between Nikola Tesla and his allies, and a mysterious Guild of historical figures (among them Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley, and Mark Twain), all protecting a mysterious Orb. The Guild, at this time made up of writers, poets, scientists, wizards, and sinister costumed men, laments the fighting. The two key members of the society appear to be Venture and Fantômas (apparently one of Phantom Limb's ancestors who may or may not be the fictional literary character). Their world is being torn asunder, which leads various members of the Guild (in particular, Fantômas) to suggest activating the Orb, even though its function is ambiguous. The more sensible Guild members (primarily Colonel Venture and Wilde) rebuke Fantômas' impetuousness, stating that "the Orb is a source of untold power. We must take our time and learn how to harness that power for the good of mankind." Wilde scoffs at Fantômas, who believes the Guild alone should decide what is best for mankind; the writer states that the Guild was designed to "protect and serve man at his best," not to be a "Guild of Calamitous Intent." Even Wilde, however, cannot resist suggesting that the Orb be tested. This causes even more dissension within the Guild.

    Back in the present, the Ventures and their friends use the internet to decipher Billy's clues which presents them with a riddle:

    In Minuit's bargain sits house that coke built. In a loud room of quiet Whistlers behind the Wilde Gray gentleman sits the 221210.

    Their interpretation of the clues sends them to Studio 54 in Manhattan; Doctor Venture and Billy promptly take off. Brock begins to search for the second recording cylinder. When he uses the directory in his Dodge 'Hemi' Charger to get further information on his mission, Operation Rusty's Blanket, the car tries to assassinate him.

    Brock then visits Hunter Gathers, who is working as an exotic dancer after his sex change. Gathers informs him that guarding Doctor Venture wasn't his mission: rather, it was to protect the mysterious device left behind by his father. Furthermore, in case Doctor Venture found the Orb and tried to activate it, Brock was to "take him out." For more information, however, Hunter tells him that he needs to talk to another Venture bodyguard.

    While Doctor Venture and Billy investigate Studio 54, Brock finds Kano from the original Team Venture, who still has the second gramophone cylinder. It reveals that Sandow was forced to kill Colonel Venture upon his decision to activate the Orb. Sandow recounts how Colonel Venture revealed that the Orb was a collaboration of the best painters, alchemists, poets, and philosophers known to mankind; Archimedes, DaVinci, Galileo, and Newton are among its contributors. The Orb's purpose remained unknown through the centuries, as it had never been activated. While many believed it to be a weapon of catastrophic power, Colonel Venture believes it to be a self-sustaining engine.

    A further aspect of Brock's discovery is that Kano is not actually a mute. The former bodyguard reveals that it was a self-imposed punishment for depriving the world of a great man. When Brock asks him if he was the one who killed the great Jonas Venture, Kano does not answer and Brock leaves.

    Doctor Orpheus has discovered the Ventures' activities, and calls upon the Alchemist to help decode the clues, which he believes Billy and Doctor Venture have misinterpreted. The Alchemist successfully decodes the clues, and sends Billy and Venture to the Frick Museum. With Billy's help, Doctor Venture rediscovers the thrill of the adventure, a sensation long-lost since his father died and the boys were born. Neither Venture nor Billy realize that Brock is closing in, prepared to kill them both if necessary.

    The pair discover the Orb where the Alchemist said it would be. To Brock's surprise, Doctor Venture does not attempt to activate the Orb. Remembering Jonas (whom Venture remembers as a lousy father but a great scientist), he decides to study it responsibly: if even his father was afraid of using the Orb, he rationalizes that he probably should be too. He locks it in a safe in the Venture Compound, resolving that - should it ever prove to be of use to the good of mankind - he will share it with the world.

    Brock, having stowed away in the X-1's landing gear compartment, exits the jet and goes to leave the garage when the Charger suddenly appears. The episode ends just before it hits Brock.

    Production notes

    • One of the animation directors (Kimson Albert) gets to have a "nickname" inserted into his credits. For "ORB" the credit reads Kimson "Butter me, I'm on a roll!" Albert.


    Preceded by:
    "The Lepidopterists"
    The Venture Bros. episodes
    original airdate:
    August 10, 2008
    Followed by:
    "The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part I)"

    Taaa ....


    Pup camps The New York Times for Science News —

    A Tiny Hominid With No Place on the Family Tree

    Art by Barron Storey
    Published: April 27, 200

    STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Six years after their discovery, the extinct little people nicknamed hobbits who once occupied the Indonesian island of Flores remain mystifying anomalies in human evolution, out of place in time and geography, their ancestry unknown. Recent research has only widened their challenge to conventional thinking about the origins, transformations and migrations of the early human family.

    Indeed, the more scientists study the specimens and their implications, the more they are drawn to heretical speculation.

    ¶Were these primitive survivors of even earlier hominid migrations out of Africa, before Homo erectus migrated about 1.8 million years ago? Could some of the earliest African toolmakers, around 2.5 million years ago, have made their way across Asia?

    Did some of these migrants evolve into new species in Asia, which moved back to Africa? Two-way traffic is not unheard of in other mammals.

    Or could the hobbits be an example of reverse evolution? That would seem even more bizarre; there are no known cases in primate evolution of a wholesale reversion to some ancestor in its lineage.

    The possibilities get curiouser and curiouser, said William L. Jungers of Stony Brook University, making hobbits “the black swan of paleontology — totally unpredicted and inexplicable.”

    Everything about them seems incredible. They were very small, not much more than three feet tall, yet do not resemble any modern pygmies. They walked upright on short legs, but might have had a peculiar gait obviating long-distance running. The single skull that has been found is no bigger than a grapefruit, suggesting a brain less than one-third the size of a human’s, yet they made stone tools similar to those produced by other hominids with larger brains. They appeared to live isolated on an island as recently as 17,000 years ago, well after humans had made it to Australia.

    Although the immediate ancestor of modern humans, Homo erectus, lived in Asia and the islands for hundreds of thousands of years, the hobbits were not simply scaled-down erectus. In fact, erectus and Homo sapiens appear to be more closely related to each other than either is to the hobbit, scientists have determined.

    It is no wonder, then, that the announcement describing the skull and the several skeletons as remains of a previously unknown hominid species, Homo floresiensis, prompted heated debate. Critics contended that these were merely modern human dwarfs afflicted with genetic or pathological disorders.

    Scientists who reviewed hobbit research at a symposium here last week said that a consensus had emerged among experts in support of the initial interpretation that H. floresiensis is a distinct hominid species much more primitive than H. sapiens. On display for the first time at the meeting was a cast of the skull and bones of a H. floresiensis, probably an adult female.

    Several researchers showed images of hobbit brain casts in comparison with those of deformed human brains. They said this refuted what they called the “sick hobbit hypothesis.” They also reported telling shoulder and wrist differences between humans and the island inhabitants.

    Even so, skeptics have not capitulated. They note that most of the participants at the symposium had worked closely with the Australian and Indonesian scientists who made the discovery in 2003 and complain that their objections have been largely ignored by the news media and organizations financing research on the hobbits.

    Some prominent paleoanthropologists are reserving judgment, among them Richard Leakey, the noted hominid fossil hunter who is chairman of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University. Like other undecided scientists, he cited the need to find more skeletons at other sites, especially a few more skulls.

    Mr. Leakey conceded, however, that the recent research “greatly strengthened the possibility” that the Flores specimens represented a new species.

    At the symposium, Michael J. Morwood, an archaeologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia who was one of the discoverers, said that further investigations of stone tools had determined that hominids arrived at Flores as early as 880,000 years ago and “it is reasonable to assume that those were ancestors of the hobbits.” But none of their bones have been uncovered, so they remain unidentified, and no modern human remains have been found there earlier than 11,000 years ago.
    Djuna Ivereigh/NOVA-WGBH

    LITTLE FEET The fossil foot bones of H. floresiensis, a small hominid whose discovery has challenged established ideas about ancient human relatives

    Excavations are continuing at Liang Bua, a wide-mouth cave in a hillside where the hobbit bones were found in deep sediments, but no more skulls or skeletons have turned up. Dr. Morwood said the search would be extended to other Flores sites and nearby islands.
    UNCERTAIN ORIGIN A previously unknown species or not? The skull of a hobbit-size hominid was on display in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2004.

    Peter Brown, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Australia, said that his examination of the premolars and lower jaws of the specimens made it almost immediately “very, very clear that this was a hominid in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The first premolars in particular, he said, were larger than a human’s and had a crown and roots unlike those of H. sapiens or H. erectus.

    Dr. Brown, a co-author of the original discovery report, said that no known disease or abnormality in humans could have “replicated this condition.”

    At first, Dr. Brown and colleagues hypothesized that the hobbits were descendants of H. erectus that populated the region and had evolved their small stature because they lived in isolation on an island. Island dwarfing is a recognized phenomenon in which larger species diminish in size over time in response to limited resources.

    The scientists soon backed off from that hypothesis. For one thing, dwarfing reduces stature, but not brain size. Moreover, researchers said, the hobbit bore little resemblance to an erectus.

    In an analysis of the hobbit’s wrist bones, Matthew W. Tocheri of the Smithsonian Institution found that certain bones were wedge-shaped, similar to those in apes, and not squared-off, as in humans and Neanderthals. This suggested that its species diverged from the human lineage at least one million to two million years ago.

    So if several lines of evidence now encourage agreement that H. floresiensis was a distinct and primitive hominid, the hobbit riddle can be compressed into a single question of far-reaching importance: where did these little people come from?

    “Once you establish that this is a unique species,” said Frederick E. Grine, a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook, “then these primitive features that it has suddenly take on a profound evolutionary significance.”

    Scientists said in reports and interviews that they had only recently begun contemplating possible ancestries.

    As a starting point, scientists rule out island dwarfing as a primary explanation. Dwarfs and pygmies are simply diminutive humans; they do not become more apelike, as the hobbits appear to be in some aspects. Besides, normal dwarfing would suggest that the hobbits presumably evolved from H. erectus, the only previous hominids identified in this part of Asia or anywhere outside Africa; the first one was discovered in Java in the late 19th century. But research has found few similarities between the hobbit skeleton and Asian H. erectus.

    If the hobbit is a throwback to much earlier hominids, scientists said, reverse evolution would be the most far-fetched explanation. Dr. Jungers, a paleoanthropologist who organized the symposium, said there were no known examples of mammals becoming significantly reduced in size and anatomy as a consequence of reverting to an ancestral form.

    “Is it possible?” he asked rhetorically. “If that is the case, it is unprecedented and a tremendous discovery.”

    Several scientists think the answer to hobbit ancestry lies deeper in the hominid past. If this species is unlike H. erectus, it presumably descended from even earlier small-bodied migrants out of Africa that preceded erectus into Asia. Just the thought questions conventional wisdom.

    Possible candidates include Homo habilis, the first and least known species of the Homo genus. The short, small-brained habilis might have emerged as early as 2.3 million years ago and lived to co-exist with the brainier, long-limbed H. erectus. At present, erectus fossils, found in the republic of Georgia and dated at 1.8 million to 1.7 million years ago, are the earliest well-established evidence for hominids outside Africa.

    If hobbits resemble habilis in some respects, scientists said, it indicates that habilis or something like it possibly left Africa earlier and became the likely hobbit ancestor.

    Another possible ancestor might even have been a pre-Homo species of the Australopithecus genus. The first evidence for stone toolmaking in Africa, at least 2.5 million years ago, is associated with australopithecines. Several scientists called attention to skeletal similarities between hobbits and A. afarensis, the species famously represented by the 3.2-million-year-old Lucy skeleton from Ethiopia.

    The suggestion that the H. floresiensis ancestor might have reached Asia a million years before H. erectus left Africa was raised earlier this month at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

    And then there is the idea, raised again at the symposium, of hominid migrations out of Africa and back. Dr. Jungers advised abandoning the old image of the long-limbed H. erectus striding out of Africa in the first wave of hominids making their way in the world.

    “Why think they couldn’t have done it many times, even before erectus?” he said. “Other mammals have migrated in and out of Africa.”

    The idea revived speculation that erectus itself might have evolved in Asia from an earlier migrant from Africa, and then found its way back to the land of its ancestors. Similarly, other hominids arriving in distant parts of Asia might have churned out new species, among them the hobbits.

    Robert B. Eckhardt of Penn State University, an ardent hobbit skeptic, is unyielding in his opposition to the interpretation that the Flores skull belongs to a previously unrecognized species. He insists that it will prove to be from a modern human stricken with microcephaly or a similar developmental disorder that shrinks the head and brain.

    “Convincing others is much more difficult than I thought it would be at the outset,” Dr. Eckhardt acknowledged in an e-mail message, “but increasingly it is becoming evident that what is at stake is not just some sample of specimens, but instead the central paradigm of an entire subfield.”

    Susan G. Larson, an anatomist at the Stony Brook School of Medicine who analyzed the non-human properties of the hobbit shoulders, said in an interview that the investigations had entered “a period of wait and see.”

    “Someday,” Dr. Larson said, “people may be saying, why was everyone so puzzled back then — it’s plain to see where the little people of Flores came from.”