NTS LogoSkeptical News for 2 April 2001

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Monday, April 02, 2001

Randi and Shermer on Larry King Live

I'll be on the Larry King Live show Tuesday night -- tomorrow.

Speaking with Michael Shermer -- on ghosts.....

                 ---  Randi

Cursed fish attracts no bids at auction

From Ananova at http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_259375.html

A stuffed fish which is said to be cursed failed to get a single bid when it went up for auction in Chester.

The 20lb pike, blamed for numerous deaths, was kept at the Carlsberg Tetley Club in Warrington but, after renovation, managers no longer had space for it.

The fish had been expected to fetch around £1,000 but a spokesman for Halls Fine Art Auctioneers said the curse appeared to strike again and it failed to attract a single bid.

The glass-cased pike, caught in 1935 and which hung near the club's dartboard, was blamed when each member of a bowls team died because their squad picture hung below it.

The fish is also reported to have been blamed after members of the club's domino team, who used to sit below it for regular games, died one at a time.

A spokesman for the auction house said: "We are still in negotiations to sell it, but it may go into a future auction."

He added there is usually a good demand for stuffed fish and they can get some good prices. "It's still looking for a loving home," he added.

Suzanne Somers' Cancer Battle

by Marcus Errico
Mar 29, 2001, 11:15 AM PT


Three's Company's bombshell Suzanne Somers has dropped a bombshell of her own: She's in treatment for breast cancer and has had liposuction to counter the effects.

Somers, who jiggled her way to superstardom as ditzy roommate Chrissy Snow on the 1970s sitcom, made the admission Wednesday night on CNN's Larry King Live, during an appearance that was supposed to tout her new cookbook.

She revealed she had part of her breast removed after a tumor was found last year during an annual mammogram, and underwent radiation treatment. However, against the advice of her doctors, she decided to skip chemotherapy and instead go with a homeopathic treatment.

Somers, 54, said she decided to make the announcement in response to a story that ran in the National Enquirer two weeks ago. The supermarket tab reported the Thighmastered fitness maven went to a Beverly Hills clinic to have "fat suctioned from her inner and outer thighs, abdomen, hips, and upper back behind the armpits."

The former pinup and sometime E! personality explained how she felt "disfigured" by the disease and the partial mastectomy and that's why she sought liposuction. "It was just to even some things out," she said. She said she felt it was "humiliating" that people would question the reason for her liposuction.

When King asked why she had waited to disclose her cancer battle, the teary actress said, "I'm not even a year away from it...Each day it is like a stab in my heart. I just wanted to get far enough away from it."

As for her long-term prognosis, Somers said, "I really feel that I'm licking this."

Neighbours hit by psychic phone scam

From Ananova at http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_259314.html?menu=

A Pennsylvanian woman told her neighbours she needed to make emergency phone calls, then ran up a £1,500 bill ringing a psychic hotline.

Keziah Stahl told two women her phone was broken and asked them to leave the room while she made the "private" calls.

Stahl has been put on probation for two years and ordered to pay back the money.

On one occasion she told neighbour Philomena Grohal she had been locked out of her apartment.

Her neighbour took pity on Stahl and let her stay the night - during which time she made almost £1,000 worth of calls to the line, which charges by the minute.

Mrs Grohal told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "I'd let her in to make calls in private ... then I get these bills. I thought I was helping that girl."

Justice minister puts curse on police

From Ananova at http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_259279.html?menu=

A senior Nigerian politician is said to have placed a curse on the country's police force.

The justice minister said he hoped corrupt police officers would experience "only sorrow and poverty".

The comments came after reports some officers had demanded money from members of the public.

Channel Africa News reports Bola Ige's words have created controversy because many Nigerians believe curses have special powers.

It says ministers rarely accuse the police of corruption and it is also rare for anyone to issue a public curse.

Scientist to make 'Dragonslayer' sword from meteor

From Ananova at http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_259147.html?menu=

An Indiana scientist is using a meteorite to make the world's strongest sword.

He hopes the "Dragonslayer" will have mythical properties because of the metal's out-of-this-world origins.

He says the blade should be able to cut through a Samurai sword when complete.

Harvey Abramowitz will refine iron from the meteorite and mix it with other super-strong metals.

The plan is to create just one Dragonslayer and auction it off.

He said: "It will be made out of a new metal alloy that will be stronger than any other sword blade.

"The idea is to create 'The Dragonslayer' in such a way that it is stronger than either a Samurai sword or a Damascus sword and give it dragon-slaying mythical properties."

The associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University has used computer models to predict the new alloy's strength.

Once finished it will be sold at auction.

Prof Abramowitz added: "Sword collectors would pay handsomely for such an artefact."

Mobile customer compensated for losing 'lucky' number

From Ananova at http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_259099.html?menu=

A Hong Kong mobile phone service has been ordered to pay compensation for freezing a customer's number which he considered lucky.

SmarTone has been ordered to pay Percy Chan Tsz-for 25,000 Hong Kong dollars, the equivalent of £2,200.

A court found the firm acted inappropriately by freezing the number without Mr Chan's consent and refusing to restore it.

The University of Hong Kong graduate bought the SmarTone phone card in 1999 and received the number containing five eights, which signifies prosperity.

But when he switched companies and then returned to SmarTone, still with the same number, it had been frozen, reports the South China Morning Post.

SmarTone said the sale of the phone card was not in the company's records and it suspected it might have been stolen. They said they offered Mr Chan alternative services and packages.

Sunday, April 01, 2001

Talking to Heaven Through Television

In CSICOP's latest Web feature, Generation SXeptic columnist Matt Nisbet examines how the mass media promote pyschic mediums. More details follow.

To read the full column, go to


Talking to Heaven Through Television: How the Mass Media Package and Sell Psychic Medium John Edward

Ithaca, N.Y.; March 13, 2001
Matt Nisbet

When psychic medium John Edward appeared March 6 on CNN's Larry King Live, viewers deserved a balanced treatment of his claims, especially considering that the Larry King Live guest panel included two skeptics and a rabbi critic. Instead, quantitative and qualitative analysis of the program's transcript indicates that King and his producers offered viewers a carefully controlled and framed promotion of psychic ability.

Aztec, NM UFO Symposium & CSICOP Decals

From CSICOP Consultant Dave Thomas:

Did a UFO crash in Aztec, New Mexico in 1948? No, says Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, and a CSICOP technical consultant. Dave will present the real story behind Aztec's UFO (it was a con game cooked up by oil swindlers!), and will discuss Roswell's incident also, at the 4th annual Aztec UFO Symposium. Other speakers this weekend in Aztec include Stanton Friedman, who agrees with Thomas about Aztec, but who strongly disagrees with him about the reality of the "Roswell Incident."

Details of the symposium are on the web, at

and at

John Edward show's response to TIME magazine article

John Edward on His Own

THE STAFF OF THE TV SHOW CROSSING Over with John Edward aims to present a truthful and accurate representation of John's work as a psychic medium. We wish that TIME, in Leon Jaroffs article about the program [BEHAVIOR, March 5], had done the same for the magazine's readers. Jaroffs piece was a mix of erroneous observations and baseless theories. Your readers should know the following: No information is given to John Edward about the members of the audience with whom he talks. There is no eavesdropping on gallery conversations, and there are no "tricks" to feed information to John.

While time constraints mandate that we edit gallery sessions for broadcast, we cut both hits and misses to honestly reflect John's true level of accuracy; we don't edit out of sequence. And while Crossing Over is a hit and one of the Sci Fi Channers stronger shows, it is not the "highest rated show," as Jaroff claimed. Our aim is not to persuade anyone to believe in psychic phenomenon. We encourage viewers and guests to approach Crossing Over with a healthy sense of skepticism and then make up their own minds about what they see.

CHARLES NORDLANDER EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Crossing Over with John Edward New York City

Physicist says those who see UFOs aren't 'wackos' in U. New Mexico speech


Updated 12:00 PM ET March 21, 2001

By Alma Olaechea
Daily Lobo
U. New Mexico

(U-WIRE) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman told tales of alien abductions, showed slides of flying saucers and complained about blacked out military documents during his presentation, "Flying saucers are Real," on Monday at the University of New Mexico.

Excerpt from Space-Tech FAQ: THE "FACE ON MARS"

There really is a big rock on Mars that looks remarkably like a humanoid face. It appears in two different frames of Viking Orbiter imagery: 35A72 (much more facelike in appearance, and the one more often published, with the Sun 10 degrees above western horizon) and 70A13 (with the Sun 27 degrees from the west). The feature, about 2.5 km across, is located near 9 degrees longitude, +41 degrees N latitude, near the border between region Arabia Terra and region Acidalia Planitia.

Science writer Richard Hoagland has championed the idea that the Face is artificial, intended to resemble a human, and erected by an extraterrestrial civilization. Most other analysts concede that the resemblance is most likely accidental. Other Viking images show a smiley-faced crater and a lava flow resembling Kermit the Frog elsewhere on Mars. There exists a Mars Anomalies Research Society (see address for "Mars Research" below) to study the Face.

Due to the unfortunate loss of the Mars Observer mission, this issue will remain open for future missions. In the meantime, speculation about the Face is best carried on in the altnet group alt.alien.visitors, not sci.space.* or sci.astro.

Two images of the Face are available in ftp://explorer.arc.nasa.gov/pub/SPACE/FAQ/
Files 33a72pr, 33a72pr.GIF, 70a13pr, 70a13pr.GIF

These have been subjected to considerable image processing, and so should not be used for scientific purposes, just casual viewing.

Some references:

V. DiPeitro and G. Molenaar, *Unusual Martian Surface Features*, Mars Research, P.O. Box 284, Glen Dale, Maryland, USA, 1982. $18 by mail.

R.R. Pozos, *The Face of Mars*, Chicago Review Press, 1986. [Account of an interdisciplinary speculative conference Hoagland organized to investigate the Face]

R.C. Hoagland, *The Monuments of Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever*, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, USA, 1987. [Elaborate discussion of evidence and speculation that formations near the Face form a city]

M.J. Carlotto, "Digital Imagery Analysis of Unusual Martian Surface Features," *Applied Optics*, 27, pp. 1926-1933, 1987. [Extracts three-dimensional model for the Face from the 2-D images]

M.J. Carlotto & M.C. Stein, "A Method of Searching for Artificial Objects on Planetary Surfaces," *Journal of the British Interplanetary Society*, Vol. 43 no. 5 (May 1990), p.209-216. [Uses a fractal image analysis model to guess whether the Face is artificial]

B. O'Leary, "Analysis of Images of the `Face' on Mars and Possible Intelligent Origin," *JBIS*, Vol. 43 no. 5 (May 1990), p. 203-208. [Lights Carlotto's model from the two angles and shows it's consistent; shows that the Face doesn't look facelike if observed from the surface]

OS: UFO Statistics


From: Rob Bull


During the course of my UFO investigations and general reading I became interested in the quoted PERCENTAGE of UFO reports that were evaluated as 'unknown'. Figures in the 5 - 10% range (ie 90-95% 'IFO's) seemed to be common and generally accepted, although I had come across much lower IFO figures.

It seemed to me that I needed a clearer understanding of:

- what is meant by IDENTIFIED
- what is meant by UNIDENTIFIED
- what is meant by REPORT

To this end, at the suggestion of and with the help of Philip Mantle, I instituted a survey of 18 UFO groups worldwide, plus the alt.alien.visitors and alt.paranet.ufo newsgroups.


Besides the obvious 'What's your percentage?' question, I also posed a number of other questions relating to factors that I felt might influence reported percentages, as shown below (with supporting detail where necessary):

What is your organisation's percentage of IFOs (Identified Flying Objects)?

How many reports is this percentage derived from, and in what year did you start investigating reports? [Obviously, more weight can be given to a percentage figure based on 10,000 reports gathered over 40 years than 100 reports from a group started up this year.]

How thoroughly is each report investigated? [Someone sitting at a desk (dare I say wearing a USAF uniform, in the 1960s?!) thumbing through a pile of reports and saying ''Venus, aircraft, Venus, hmm, maybe we'll look into that one . .'' is taking a different route to a conclusion on a report than someone who gets out there and INVESTIGATES. I would suggest that the former has a greater incentive to return an 'identified' conclusion than the latter.]

Is the field investigator's explanation of a case taken as final, or could this conclusion be overruled by a more experienced investigator before the case is archived? [Clearly the 'evaluator' has a duty to 'filter' investigation reports handed in by inexperienced, enthusiastic investigators (like yours truly!), but there's a risk that 'genuine unidentifieds' (whatever that means) may be 'sanitised'. I don't somehow feel there's a risk of a mis-evaluation going the other way. See UFORUM's answer to this one.]

For IFOs, could you give a rough breakdown of the percentages of types of IFO (eg stars, planets, aircraft etc)? [I was just curious as to what type of IFO was reported most often.]

Have these proportions changed over the years? [I was wondering whether, for man-made IFOs in particular, people might be becoming more 'educated' over the years, and would be mis-reporting this type of IFO less often. See MUFON's answer to this one.]

What happens to cases where there is 'insufficient data'? Are they:

- counted as UFOs?
- counted as IFOs?
- not counted at all?

[If you do the maths, the answer to this one could have quite a significant effect on the reported percentages. In 'The UFO Experience', Hynek [2] shows that Blue Book's IFO percentage comes down to 77% if 'insufficient data' cases are counted as 'UFOs'.]

Do you have any general comments on this overall topic? [I expect there were plenty of questions I didn't think to ask!]


I eventually received six replies, including one Internet message. For what they're worth, the 'raw' IFO percentage figures I got back were:

CUFOS:                   (no figure given) 
MUFON:                   80-90%
SOS OVNI:                98%
UFO Research Australia:  96-98%
UFOROM:                  31.5%
VUFORS:                  90%

(The UFOROM figure is NOT a mistake - see UFOROM's entry below.)

Other relevant comments, by organisation, are as follows.


(J.Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies.) Disappointingly for such an august body, they had NO STATISTICS for their IFO percentage, or for the total number of sighting reports on their files. Whilst making some interesting observations (eg 'The real change that has been noticed over the years is the dramatic world-wide decline in good UFO reports.'), NONE of my survey questions were answered properly. (Reply unsigned.)


(This one from Walt Andrus himself!) Started investigating reports in 1967, but no total number of investigations given. Extensive network of Investigators/State Directors/Regional Directors. Definite IFO reports (where 'IFO' could be decided at State Director level) not archived. Stated that the number and proportion of IFO reports is moving down as the public becomes more 'educated'. 'Insufficient data' cases not counted.


(France, P.Petrakis. Sexy stamps on this one!) Didn't answer the questionnaire as such, because he (?) admitted that SOS OVNI didn't keep any statistical records. Had been investigating UFO reports since 1974, returning 98% as IFOs. 'Insufficient data' cases counted as IFOs (50% of the IFO conclusions coming from this source - see Table 1 for comments on this topic). Cited common (peculiarly French?) IFOs as 'Sky Trackers' used to advertise nightclubs, and rocket launches from the Biscarosse launch site.

UFO Research Australia

(aka Australian International UFO Flying Saucer Research Inc.) Claimed to have investigated 60 cases since 1952 (??). 'Insufficient data' cases counted as UFOs. Very little information in this reply, none of it useful (or believable!).


(Email from Chris Rutkowski.) A very interesting and useful reply, easily the best that I received . Said that IFOs to them were POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED objects, and as such constituted a small percentage of reports. Their 1993 figure was 31.5% (based on 489 reports) [3], this being MUCH HIGHER than in previous years (due to a significant fireball event occurring over Canada in October 1993). All reports within UFOROM's 'patch' investigated very thoroughly. Case reports reviewed by a 'compiler', who could make 'adjustments' to the field investigator's conclusions. 'Insufficient Data' cases kept as a separate category, i.e. not counted as IFOs.


(Victorian UFO Research Society, Australia.) Quite a useful report from Paul Norman. VUFORS has been investigating UFO reports since 1957. Stated that 'best' cases such as the Frederick Valentich case and the Knowles case were investigated very thoroughly, whereas 'lights in the sky' cases were usually handled by post + telephone, although this policy was only adopted after experience showed that follow-up visits in such cases usually yielded little useful extra information. Gave a breakdown of IFO types, which, interestingly, was not even close to the breakdown reported by Allan Hendry [1] following his study; see Table 2. 'Insufficient data' cases not counted at all. Sent extra information about a recent spate of 'prank balloons' (reported as UFOs) in the Dandenong hills (ah!, the Dandenongs . . . !).


The number of replies received was far to few to draw any firm conclusions regarding the topics mentioned at the start of this report. However, the fact that their was considerable variation in investigation and reporting methods adopted by the replying organisations highlights the fact that statements like '95% of UFO reports turn out to be reports of identifiable objects or phenomena' should not be accepted unreservedly.

Two particularly interesting points to come out of the survey were:

- the differing treatments of 'insufficient data' cases.

- variation in the breakdown of IFO types.

These aspects are discussed below.


The table below illustrates the effect of categorising 'insufficient data' cases as IFOs, UFOs, or 'uncounted'.

               TABLE 1: UFO PERCENTAGES

          ID cases counted as. . .

                    IFOs UFOs (not counted)
Reporting sample

Hendry (2.8% ID's)             8.6 11.4  8.9 
Hynek/Blue Book (18% ID's)     5.5 23.5  6.7 
JTAP ('80-'82) [4] (28% IDs)  14.6 42.4 20.3 
UFOROM ('89-'93) (41% IDs)    13.1 54.1 22.2 
SOS OVNI (49% IDs)             2.0 51.0  3.9

Here we see that, for example, for the Blue Book sample, counting ID cases as 'identified' (the usual approach) gives a UFO proportion of 5.5%; counting the ID cases as 'unidentified' (ie as UFOs, as suggested by Hynek) gives a UFO proportion of 23.5%; not counting the ID cases at all (ie by saying that, in this example, there wer not 10137 cases but (10137-1822) = 8315 cases, 557 of them unidentified) gives a UFO proportion of 6.7%.

Two things to note here: - The effect of changing the ID classification is invariant with sample size. (I don't actually know the sample size in the SOS OVNI case, but that doesn't matter.)

- The effect of changing the ID classification varies with the percentage of IDs in the sample - the greater the proportion of IDs, the more pronounced (on average) the effect of varying the ID classification.

The latter may just result from a mathematical property of the data (ie forget we're talking about UFOs at all) or it could be saying that a wide variation exists in the way 'insufficient data' (and, by implication, the other categories) are defined.


The table below illustrates the differing breakdown of IFO types (definite IFOs, IDs not counted) across three samples. I was just idly curious about this, but I began to wonder if there may be significant differences in the availability of some IFO types to different groups in different parts of the world at different times.

For example, 'Ad planes' were Hendry's second-most frequently reported IFO; 'ad planes' are virtually unknown in the UK, especially at night, so what would Hendry have done if he went on to investigate the same number of UFO reports in the UK? Would the temptation to assign reports to the other (globally-available) IFO types have been stronger than it should have been, thus resulting in a few 'real' UFOs being missed?

All hypothetical I know, but I still think the table makes interesting reading.

               TABLE 2: IFO BREAKDOWNS

        %age of total IFOs

    IFO Type             Hendry    VUFORS    JTAP

Stars & planets          35.2      75.0      25.4 
Advertising planes       22.5        -         - 
Aircraft                 19.1       8.0      26.3 
Meteors and re-entries   11.0        -       15.2 
Ball lightning             -         -        5.9 
Satellites                2.3        -        4.2 
Moon                      2.1        -        1.7 
Prank balloons            1.4        -         - 
Searchlights              0.9        -       <1.0 
Balloons                  0.9       2.0       5.9 
Missile launches          0.6        -         - 
Fixed ground lights       0.5        -       <1.0 
Flares                   <0.5        -        3.4 
Hoaxes                     -        5.0       1.7 
Hallucination              -         -        1.7 
Birds                    <0.5        -         - 
Kites                    <0.5        -        1.7 
Clouds                   <0.5        -       <1.0 
Test clouds              <0.5        -         - 
Airborne Residue         <0.5        -       <1.0
Mirage                   <0.5        -         -                 
Moondog                  <0.5        -         -
Window reflection        <0.5        -         -       


I would have liked more data, but what I think the survey shows is that there is considerable variability in the percentages of UFO report evaluation categories, and that this variation is due, at least in part, to the different DEFINITIONS used for each evaluation category.

If all report evaluation agencies used the SAME definitions, then one could be reasonably confident that any differences in evaluation patterns thrown up by the different groups would be due to differences in the data itself rather than the way it was evaluated.

What I think is needed therefore are STANDARD definitions of:

- what is meant by IDENTIFIED

- what is meant by UNIDENTIFIED

- what is meant by INSUFFICIENT DATA

- what is meant by REPORT.

I expect (and hope) that what follows will the subject of much debate, but the following are SUGGESTED definitions.


The reported object has been identified with 100% certainty.

For example, the investigator contacts an airline (or air force) which says: 'Yes, the serial number you gave us is one of ours, and it was in the air at that location at that time.'


The reported object has all, or some, of the characteristics of its probable/possible identification.

An example of 'probable' would be a case where the investigator is as near as dammit certain that an aircraft has been reported, but the independent verification which would result in a positive identification cannot be obtained.

An example of 'possible' would be a case where the investigator suspects that an aircraft has been reported, and that those characteristics which do not seem to be ascribable to an aircraft are the result of mis-reporting. (Witnesses could be confused by 'nocturnal light' sightings, where lack of a fixed frame of reference (the ground) makes it difficult to tell whether an object is moving along or across the observer's line of sight.)


Some or all basic details such as the observer's location, the time and date, and the observed object's appearance and movement are missing from the report.


Despite an intensive investigation, and despite there being sufficient information to otherwise evaluate the report, no probable or possible explanation in terms of known phenomena can be suggested.


The investigator has spoken to a witness of a sighting and has recorded details of the conversation.

Thus an investigator could be 'fed' details of a sighting from a variety of sources, or the investigator could track down a witness, starting from, say a newspaper report. A newspaper report IN ITSELF thus would not count as a report.


Adoption of the above definitions is not going to solve the UFO mystery, but if all investigators used them then any subsequent analysis of evaluation profiles (across different investigation agencies) would be meaningful.

Of course, when I say 'all investigators' then it would be wonderful if that could mean worldwide! In practice though, that is probably going to be impossible to achieve (although perhaps some inroads could be made through ICUR), but I think that adoption of a standard set of definitions within BUFORA at least, should be achievable.

We already have the recent requirement that no-one can become an Accredited Investigator for BUFORA unless he/she successfully completes the investigator's postal training course; this gives reason to believe that the QUALITY of investigations will increase. Use of a standard set of definitions for evaluation purposes should increase the CONSISTENCY of evaluations.

I suggest that use of a standard set of definitions should be mandatory; investigators should be directed not to return a UFO conclusion (for example) unless the 'UFO' conclusion definition is met. If BUFORA can arrive at a situation where high-quality, consistent investigations are being produced then the workload on the Director of Investigations would be reduced (although he/she should still have the right to overrule investigators' conclusions if necessary).

A standard set of definitions could be enshrined in an all-new BUFORA Investigators Manual.

          . . . now there's a thought . . .


1. Hendry, A., 1979. The UFO Handbook, Sphere Books Limited, London.
2. Hynek, J. Allen, 1972. The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry, Corgi Books, London.
3. Rutkowski, C.A., 1993, The 1993 Canadian UFO Survey - Five Years of UFOs, UFOROM, Canada.
4. Wootten, M.R., 1985, 'A Statistical Overview - 1980-1982', The Journal of Transient Aerial Phenomena, September 1985 issue.

New Magnetic-Electric Device Can Power Home

From: Rense E-News

From Near Free Energy Source
By Penny Robins
The Cairns Post - Northern Queensland, OZ

(Note - 'Ergon' refers to the local electricity supplier utility which used to be known as the FNQEB Far North Queensland Electricity Board).

Two Cairns inventors yesterday unveiled a world first commercial machine which can power a house from a permanent, clean, green and virtually free energy source.

The machine, developed by Brinsmead mechanical engineer John Christie and Edge Hil electrician Lou Brits, has an international patent pending and is expected to go on the market for $4000-$5000.

Relying on the attraction and repulsion of internal magnets, the Lutec 1000 operates continually on a pulse-like current 24 hours a day - producing 24 kilowatts of power - once it is kickstarted from a battery source.

The device is more than 500 per cent efficient, compared to a car which is less than 40 per cent efficient and loses power through heat and friction.

No powerlines would be needed to distribute energy from the individual power sources.

There is no heat, harmful emissions or airborne matter in the transmission.

If it were not for the magnets, which have a life of 1300 years, and the battery pack, which has a life of about five years, the machine would be in perpetual motion.

A demonstration of the motor from the carpeted study of Mr. Christie's Brinsmead home revealed the device in all its glory -- bigger than the average cyclone back-up generator but much less noisy.

M Christie and Mr Brits have been tinkering together on the motor in their spare time since they met in a Sheridan St cafe five years ago and began sharing ideas.

One and a half years ago, the design was perfected and the pair lodged a patent with Brisbane patent attorneys Griffith Hack.

Mr Christie said the next step was to develop a small-scale pilot plant in Cairns to begin distributing the motors to the places they were needed most - such as shops and homes in the power-starved Daintree region and the Torres Strait.

He said the price tag for the devices could vary in remote locations depending on government rebates, freight and installation costs.

The beauty of the device was that it was transportable and could be packed in a removalist van along with other earthly possessions when moving house, he said

The only problem the pair now face is in raising $500,000 to start their production plant.

"We're trying to keep it local, and trying to keep it in Australia, but it's hard because, offshore, they are more aggressive in taking up new initiatives," Mr Christie said.

Already, the invention has received interest from the United States, China, Japan and Indonesia.

"But we want to set up here and put the product on the market first, and then we'll take it to the world," he said.

Mr Christie said it had been hard to keep a lid on the invention which had such a huge potential in the quest for clean, green, energy production.

He said he and Mr Brit also feared the worst once they realised the significance of their invention.

"We were afraid the kids would be kidnapped or we'd be shot, I'm not kidding," he said.

"You hear horror stories about people running up against fuel companies, but it's all hogwash - people in the main are desperately looking for technologies that will help our environment."

The pair have begun discussions with Ergon as there is also the opportunity of selling energy back to the grid.

Mr Christie said the average home with a pool needed only 14kW of energy per day - which meant a 10 kW daily excess would be left over during the generation process.

Griffith Hack partner Cliff Carew, who was speaking from Brisbane, confirmed the device was genuine and unique.

"An international application has been lodged, they've conducted an international search and haven't come up with anything similar, so it would seem to be a new concept," Mr Carew said.

He said it would be another two and a half years before the patent was recognised in 140 countries around the world -- the usual length of time for an international patent to be processed.

Saturday, March 31, 2001

Russia developed a 'poached egg' UFO

From Ananova at


A revolutionary Russian flying saucer could now be developed in China.

The machine was designed and built after years of research by UFO experts at the Moscow Aviation Institute.

But a shortage of cash has now forced the engineers behind it to try and get development money from Beijing.

Two jets built into the front of the egg-shaped dome power it forward through the air, and the dome itself creates lift similar to a traditional wing.

The Daily Mail reports that it was developed for spying, but larger versions could carry up to 1,300 passengers.

End of the road for devilish Route 666

From Ananova at


Officials in New Jersey are changing the name of Route 666 because devilish thieves keep stealing the road signs.

Religious residents in Morris County say nobody wants to look at the signs on the five mile route because it is the number of Satan and a bad omen.

Road managers say the decision to change to another number has been prompted by the thefts and has nothing to do with superstitious fears.

It was called Route 66 until the 1970s, when the state decided all roads should have three digits.

Road supervisor Joe Stuppiello told the New Jersey Star-Ledger: "Every time we put a sign up it doesn't last a day or two before it is stolen. Six, six, six - it's the devil, isn't it?"

Friday, March 30, 2001

CSICOP In The News

February 2001 and March 2001

"25 years of CSICOP and Skeptical Inquirer: Accept no cheap imitations."

February 1, 2001
Health Insider with Deane Jordan
"Are You Dying to Use Alternative Medicine?"

In a webcast event with host Deane Jordan, Paul Kurtz and Dr. Timothy Gorski sounded off on the dangers of the alternative medicine industry. Kurtz and Gorski blasted AM practitioners and warned about the dangers posed to the public by untested and unregulated procedures and products.

February 3, 2001
Mercury News (San Jose, CA)
"Gift from Heaven"
by Lisa Fernandez

Fernandez reports on the "miraculous" happenings at the home of Cora Lorenzo in Union City, CA. Rose-scented oil allegedly exudes from statues and other artifacts that festoon Lorenzo's home. According to Fernandez, "Throngs of excited Catholics streamed into [her] home, some clutching crucifixes and Virgin Mary statues in Ziploc bags. All hoped for a miracle"

Fernandez interviewed and quoted Joe Nickell for the article, describing Nickell as a "professional debunker"--a term he resists: "...Nickell said olive oil drizzled on objects can stay fresh and glisten for weeks. During a reporters two visits to Lorenzo's house, oil was present on the walls and and statues, but did not flow on either occasion. And a vial of the oil Lorenzo gave to the Mercury News did not multiply its contents over three weeks' time, as others have claimed their oil samples have."

February 4, 2001
Florida Today (Melbourne, FL)
"Miraculous images give people hope"
by Billy Cox

Cox examines cases of "simulacra" in Florida, including the an image of the Virgin Mary on the Seminole Finance Corp. building in Clearwater, the inage of Jesus on a brick day-care center behind Rosa Jones' home in Cocoa, and a stange image in the wood work of Nawal Huhn's home in =Melbourne. Joe Nickell cites the minds natural tendancy to see patterns as the cause of simulcra: "Everything we see, we want to try to understand and categorize--it's a human tendancy to make sense out of random shapes. But it's very selective. If you see Mickey Mouse in the wood, you laugh it off, It doesn't mean anything. [Certain] People want a tangible religious experience....The impulse is to see a miracle with their own eyes, something personal."

February 5, 2001
Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)
"Learning skeptical thinking"

The Post Gazette announces the grand opening of the Young Skeptics web site at www.csicop.org/youngskeptics.

February 8, 2001
North County Times (San Diego, CA)
"Throngs flock to home to see miraculous oil flow"

Associated Press covers the Union City story about statues exuding miraculous oils in the home of Cora Lorenzo, cites Joe Nickell and Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

February 9, 2001
Chronicle of Higher Education (Washington, DC)
"Hot Type: Alien Abduction Scholar Provides Reading List for Publications Web Site"
by Christopher Shea and Janice Paskey

"SKEPTICISM IS A VIRTUE: That's the slogan under which Brill's Content, the media-watchdog magazine, wages war on bias, cant, and sloppiness in the press," write Shea and Paskey. The two writers then point to the startling decision of sister company Contentville to hire on alien abduction monger John Mack as an expert "Professor's Picks" reviewer. Mack pitches Budd Hopkin's "Intruders" and Whitley Streiber's "Communion which, according to Mack "makes a persuasive case for the reality Streiber was forced to confront." Kevin Christopher, spokesman for CSICOP, is quoted as calling it "sad" that Contentville chose Mack and said that "People who think their getting an academic or unbiased opinion are being misled."

February 13, 2001
The Post (Denver, CO)
"Miracle or medicine"
Op-ed feature by Ellen Makkai

Makkai writes with shameless abandon, painting a credulous portrait of faith healing and intercessory prayer. She describes skeptics like CSICOP's Joe Nickell (misspelling is name) as one the "secularists" who are "shadowing the debate." Incredibly, she writes that Nickell "believes miracles ultimately have a rational explanation, although he's often stumped." Makkai has obviously never had a conversation about miracle claims with Joe Nickell.

February 18, 19, 24, 2001
The Learning Channel
"Best Kept Secrets of the Paranromal"

University of Pittsburgh Physics Instructor David Willey, a friend of CSICOP who has lectured twice at its Center for Inquiry offices in Amherst, NY, and Joe Nickell, were featured on the Learning Channel Program "Best Kept Secrets." The show was taped with Willey and Nickell here at CSICOP headquarters. Last September, Willey performed an amazing demonstration of firewalking at CFI which dispelled the myth of psychical mind-over-matter claims. It garnered extensive local coverage and TV interviews of Willey and Paul Kurtz during the event.

March 6, 2001
"Larry King Live"

On March 6, 2001, CSICOP Chaiman Paul Kurtz and Leon Jaroff from Time magazine (also a venerable CSICOP Fellow) appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live." Kurtz and Jaroff sounded off on psychic claims citing the lack of evidence for mediumistic and psychic powers and the shameless tactics employed by some mediums. Six other guests appeared on King's program: mediums Sylvia Browne, John Edward and James Van Praagh, along with Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, retired physicist Dale Graff, and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.

March 2001
Galileu (Rio De Janiero, Brazil)
"Ceticos: Os inquisadores da razao"
by Mauricio Tuffani

Mauricio Tuffani covers the rich history of Skepticism from ancient times to the present. The article and the inside cover the magazine feature covers from recent issues of Skeptical Inquirer and Tuffani's piece features the biographies and opinions of Brazilian and international luminaries of skepticism, including CSICOP's interpid leader, Paul Kurtz. A side bar at the end of the article lists a link to www.csicop.org: all-in-all the Galileu article gives us excellent exposure to the Brazilian public interested in science.

March 2001
"The Joe Nickell Files"
by John Snider

March's paranormal topic: cryptozoology. John Snider's monthly series of pretaped online interviews with Joe Nickell is approaching its first year. These lengthy interviews (now totalling 10) are great compilation of CSICOP's Senior Research Fellow's views on a range of paranormal topics, from Aliens to Mediums to Spontaneous Human Combustion.

March 14, 2001
Daily Tribune (Columbia, MO)
Prayer put to the test"
by Pierrette J. Shields

In a feature article, Shields covered the March 13, 2001, debate between Dr. William Harris, professor of medicine at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and Irwin Tessman, Skeptical Inquirer contributor and professor of biological sciences at Purdue University, on the evidence for medical prayer. The first-of-its-kind debate--co-sponsored by CSICOP and entitled "Is There Scientific Evidence That Intercessory Prayer Speeds Medical Recovery?"--was held on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus in Columbia, MO. (A video of the debate will soon be made available.)

March 14, 2001
The Maneater (University of Missouri - Columbia)
Professors debate medical benefits of prayer
by Megan Clark

University of Missouri - Columbia's student paper also covered the Harris-Tessman debate. Quoting Tessman: "If you ask me if intercessory paryer shorten's anyone's stay in purgatory, I don't know of any evidence. If you ask me if intercessory prayer shortens the stay in the hospital, I'd say there is evidence, and the evidence says it does not."

Darwin Awards, part 203

From Jaco's Wacky Newz at

Larry Blanchfield, 31, an inmate serving a life term at the Delaware Correctional Center, was crushed to death when he tried to escape in a garbage truck. Authorities explained it is standard procedure for truck drivers to compact the trash they pick up before leaving the prison.

Psychic strategy


From The Times at

URI GELLER, the famous spoon-bender, is suing BAE Systems Avionics, part of the old British Aerospace, over comments a member of staff made on the company's e-mail network. A writ has been issued but not yet served, so no details of the allegations are available, while BAE's legal people are not discussing it.

It seems the employee was talking to an Internet newsgroup called sci-sceptic, a chatroom for scientists disinclined to believe the claims of various New Agers, paranormal types and the like.

Geller has sued to defend his psychic claims in the past. He was last seen in the courts suing Nintendo over a Pokémon card — remember them? — which he claimed depicted him in a bad light.

Just one question occurs. Given how many bits of metal there are strategically placed in BAE's various products, was there not at least one strategy of revenge open to our psychic that would be far more satisfying than a mere libel writ?

Viewpoint: Get off warming bandwagon

Here's someone skeptical of global warming

From BBC News Online at


Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 17:16 GMT

By Professor William M Gray of Colorado State University

As a boy, I remember seeing articles about the large global warming that had taken place between 1900 and 1945. No one understood or knew if this warming would continue. Then the warming abated and I heard little about such warming through the late 1940s and into the 1970s.

In fact, surface measurements showed a small global cooling between the mid-1940s and the early 1970s. During the 1970s, there was speculation concerning an increase in this cooling. Some speculated that a new ice age may not be far off.

Then in the 1980s, it all changed again. The current global warming bandwagon that US-European governments have been alarming us with is still in full swing.

Not our fault

Are we, the fossil-fuel-burning public, partially responsible for this recent warming trend? Almost assuredly not.

These small global temperature increases of the last 25 years and over the last century are likely natural changes that the globe has seen many times in the past.

This small warming is likely a result of the natural alterations in global ocean currents which are driven by ocean salinity variations. Ocean circulation variations are as yet little understood.

Human kind has little or nothing to do with the recent temperature changes. We are not that influential.

There is a negative or complementary nature to human-induced greenhouse gas increases in comparison with the dominant natural greenhouse gas of water vapour and its cloud derivatives.

It has been assumed by the human-induced global warming advocates that as anthropogenic greenhouse gases increase that water vapour and upper-level cloudiness will also rise and lead to accelerated warming - a positive feedback loop.

It is not the human-induced greenhouse gases themselves which cause significant warming but the assumed extra water vapour and cloudiness that some scientists hypothesise.

Negative feedback

The global general circulation models which simulate significant amounts of human-induced warming are incorrectly structured to give this positive feedback loop.

Their internal model assumptions are thus not realistic.

As human-induced greenhouse gases rise, global-averaged upper-level atmospheric water vapour and thin cirrus should be expected to decrease not increase.

Water vapour and cirrus cloudiness should be thought of as a negative rather than a positive feedback to human-induced - or anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases.

No significant human-induced greenhouse gas warming can occur with such a negative feedback loop.

Climate debate has 'life of its own'

Our global climate's temperature has always fluctuated back and forth and it will continue to do so, irrespective of how much or how little greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere.

Although initially generated by honest scientific questions of how human-produced greenhouse gases might affect global climate, this topic has now taken on a life of its own.

It has been extended and grossly exaggerated and misused by those wishing to make gain from the exploitation of ignorance on this subject.

This includes the governments of developed countries, the media and scientists who are willing to bend their objectivity to obtain government grants for research on this topic.

I have closely followed the carbon dioxide warming arguments. From what I have learned of how the atmosphere ticks over 40 years of study, I have been unable to convince myself that a doubling of human-induced greenhouse gases can lead to anything but quite small and insignificant amounts of global warming.

The author is a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado where he is an expert in tropical meteorology.