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News Briefs, part 1

Two Research Teams Claim To Have Found Elusive Top Quark

The Washington Post

Two research teams working independently at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago Thursday declared they have finally found the elusive top quark

The announcement had been nervously awaited since last April, when the CDF group reported it had probably detected the "top," an egregious porker of a subatomic particle that does not exist in ordinary matter, is about as heavy as an entire atom of gold, and is so hard to observe that it took modern science nearly 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to find it.

Thursday, CDF declared that, with three times the data available last year, the team had confirmed its initial findings. They calculate the top's mass at about 176 billion electron volts (GeV) - about 40 times larger than the next heaviest known particle.

Definitive evidence of the top quark was so eagerly awaited because it was necessary to validate the so-called "Standard Model" of particle physics-the consensus view of how matter and force behave in their most elementary forms.

Eventually, careful measurements of the super-hefty quark may provide new insight into one of the most profound questions in the history of scientific inquiry: Why do things have mass at all, and why should there be such an extraordinary discrepancy in the masses of particles that are virtually identical in size?

Grammy Winners Draw Fire From Critics, Industry Executives

Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES

"I can't believe this," Tony Bennett said, accepting his Grammy for best album Wednesday night. "I really don't believe this."

For much of the night, he wasn't alone.

Time and again as winners were announced during the three-hour ceremony, it was hard to believe what we were hearing.

Bennett was a gracious winner, but his "MTV Unplugged" wasn't the best album of the year.

Sheryl Crow was nicely appreciative, but her single, "All I Wanna Do," was in no way the best record of the year.

On Wednesday, the main anxiety was among Grammy voters concerned about their own credibility.

It's no longer a matter of just critics, musicians and a growing segment of the pop audience grumbling about the Grammys' continuing tendency to favor mainstream best-sellers over challenging forces. Industry executives are speaking out publicly in favor of voting reform. Nothing happened Wednesday to lessen that discontent.

Program Designed to Help Landowners and Wildlife

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt this week announced a new program that encourages private landowners to create habitat for endangered species without facing land-use restrictions if they decide later to develop the land.

Babbitt said the program, dubbed "Safe Harbors," will help defuse widespread concerns of landowners that they will be penalized under the Endangered Species Act if they practice good stewardship that attracts federally protected wildlife.

The first beneficiary of the program will be the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered bird that once ranged widely in mature long-leaf pine and loblolly pine forests throughout the South and Southeast. Listed as endangered in 1970, the woodpecker has been reduced to about 4,500 family units because of habitat destruction and alteration that has left it occupying about 1 percent of its original range.

Under the new program, landowners who enroll their land and sign agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take actions designed to attract woodpeckers can later develop the land or harvest timber without facing Endangered Species Act restrictions.