# News this Week

Science  09 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6048, pp. 1364
1. # Around the World

1 - Stirling, U.K.
Tobacco Firm Seeks Study Data On Young Smokers' Habits
2 - Petrified Forest, Arizona
New Growth for Fossil Forest
3 - Reykjavík
Iceland's Avalanche Funds Redirected to Study Volcano Risk
4 - Washington, D.C
Captive Chimps: ‘Endangered’?
5 - Ankara, Turkey
Turkish Government Takes Control of Academy

## Stirling, U.K.

### Tobacco Firm Seeks Study Data On Young Smokers' Habits

Scottish researchers are protesting an attempt by Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, to obtain what they consider confidential information on the smoking habits of British teenagers. Using the Scottish Freedom of Information Act, the company has requested that the University of Stirling provide information, which includes thousands of interviews with teenagers, obtained in a research project funded by the charity Cancer Research UK. “These kids have been reassured that only bona fide researchers will have access to their data. No way can Philip Morris fit into that definition,” Gerard Hastings, director of the university's Institute for Social Marketing, told The Independent, a British newspaper. Some of the study material may provide insight into how teenagers would react to a cigarette pack devoid of branding, which the United Kingdom is considering mandating. The tobacco firm says it is not seeking the names of the study participants or any other confidential information, but that it has a legitimate interest in the study and its requests are legal.

## Petrified Forest, Arizona

### New Growth for Fossil Forest

Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park may get a big boost in future fossil finds, thanks to the addition 8 September of 11,000 hectares of once-private land likely to be rich in Late Triassic fossils. The deal between the owners and the National Park Service, 11 years in the making, was brokered by Virginia-based nonprofit organization The Conservation Fund. The park previously spanned 38,000 hectares in total, but the park lands were interspersed with private lands, which hindered cohesive and sustainable management of the resources, says Mike Ford, southwest director of The Conservation Fund. The new acquisition increases the park size by a third, with large blocks intact, Ford says.

The badlands that cross through the park are replete with fossils of phytosaurs, distant ancestors of both dinosaurs and crocodiles, as well as with early dinosaurs and ancient plants, says National Park Service paleontologist Bill Parker. The acquisition is “going to add immensely to figuring out the story of the park and Late Triassic paleontology in general,” he says.

## Wanted: Neutrons

But adding protons to make new elements is not the only frontier. Researchers also hope to move toward the island of stability by adding more neutrons to elements already discovered. Driving the search is a quantum-mechanical theory of how atomic nuclei are put together. The classical “liquid-drop model” pictures a nucleus as a random jumble of protons and neutrons held together by “binding energy” much like the surface tension that holds together a drop of water. This model predicts that elements greater than 100 ought to be too unwieldy to exist, and it cannot explain all the differences in stability that researchers see among nuclei.

To overcome its flaws, theorists in the late 1940s superimposed a quantum model in which protons and neutrons are arranged in “shells,” analogous to the atomic shells electrons occupy around the nucleus. And just as a full electron shell leads to a chemically stable atom, such as a noble gas, so a full proton or neutron shell—a magic number of protons or neutrons—gives a nucleus extra stability. But the nuclear shell model is a many-body problem that is impossible to solve conclusively, so different theorists use different approximations with a variety of results. Hence there is some disagreement over where the island of stability is, or if it exists at all.

Researchers have seen signs of “shell effects” among superheavy elements. There are proposed proton magic numbers at 108 and 114, and some nuclei of those elements survive for seconds before decaying—thousands of times longer than usual. Significantly, the four known isotopes of element 114 become more long-lived with each added neutron, suggesting that there is a neutron magic number in the vicinity. Theorists currently think the summit of the island of stability will be at or near 114 protons and 184 neutrons.

But moving closer to 184 neutrons is proving a tough nut to crack. The chart of nuclides tends to bend over toward more neutron-rich nuclei as the nuclei get bigger. “We may not get [to the island]. No combination of target and projectile has enough neutrons,” says Yuri Oganessian, head of the JINR team. New facilities currently in the works, including Michigan State University's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and GSI's Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research, will soon be churning out beams of short-lived radioactive ions, including neutron-rich ones that could be used as projectiles to make neutron-rich superheavies. But researchers in the field say the beams will not be intense enough to be useful to them.

Another possibility is an entirely different sort of reaction that involves colliding large nuclei, such as uranium with uranium or curium with curium, at relatively low energy. The nuclei would not fuse but would form a short-lived association that, occasionally, would allow protons and neutrons to move from one nucleus to the other before they break apart. Researchers at GSI studied such reactions several decades ago, Düllmann says, “but this avenue was not followed because finding new elements was more exciting.” There's been a revival of interest, he says, because “this is probably the best route to more neutron-rich nuclei up to element 108.” New detectors would be needed to detect the disintegrating nucleus pairs, which could fly off in any direction. GSI researchers have simulated such a detector, dubbed the Inelastic Reaction Isotope Separator.

Nuclear theory veteran Walter Greiner of the University of Frankfurt in Germany advocates a direct approach to producing neutron-rich superheavy elements in bulk: taking a sample of a superheavy element and bombarding it with neutrons in the hope that some will lodge in its nucleus. Today's nuclear reactors aren't up to the job, Greiner says, as they produce at most 1015 neutrons per square centimeter per second (cm−2s−1). What is needed is a purpose-built pulsed reactor producing 1021 or 1022 neutrons cm−2s−1. “Building such a pulsed reactor would be like developing a new accelerator at CERN,” he says.

Even better, Greiner says, would be to set off two or three nuclear explosions near a suitably protected target sample deep underground. Such an experiment, he calculates, would produce milligram quantities of priceless neutron-rich nuclei. “The Russians are not completely against this,” Greiner says, although it is hard to list all the practical and political hurdles to such an approach, not least the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. “Our Greens [German politicians] would crucify me,” he jokes. “But for scientific purposes, maybe?”