NTS LogoSkeptical News for 24 July 2001

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Lie Detector Nonsense


I'm no fan of the man from Modesto. But it was troubling to see Gary Condit being hounded by the cable news shows into taking a polygraph test and then trashed for using his own polygrapher, a retired FBIman. Even J. Edgar Hoover knew that the polygraph wasn't any good for detecting deception. He dropped the test.

The polygraph was invented in 1915 by a Harvard man called William Moulton Marston, who claimed that his clunky little gizmo could detect lies by measuring blood pressure. Marston's main claim to fame derives not from his machine, but from a doodle he came up with: the cartoon character Wonder Woman.

In the past 85 years, the polygraph hasn't changed much from the Marston prototype. "The secret of the polygraph is that their machine is no more capable of telling the truth than were the priests of ancient Rome standing knee-deep in chicken parts," says Alan Zelicoff, a physician and senior scientist at the Center for National Security and Arms Control at the Sandia Labs in Albuquerque, NM. Zelicoff gave us this view in an article featured in the July-August edition of The Skeptical Inquirer.

He writes that the polygraph administrator is a kind of confidence artist or modern day mesmerist who tries to seduce (or scare) his subjects into believing in the power of the machine to catch them in the most minute inconsistency.

"The subject, nervously strapped in a chair, is often convinced by the aura surrounding this cheap parlor trick, and is then putty in the hands of the polygrapher, who then launches into an intrusive, illegal and wide-ranging inquisition," Zelicoff writes. "The subject is told from time to time that the machine is indicating 'deception.' It isn't, of course. And he is continuously urged to clarify his answers, by providing more and more personal information." At an arbitrary point, the polygrapher calls off the testing, consults the spools of graph paper and makes an entirely subjective rendering on whether the subject has given a "deceptive response."

"Every first-year medical student knows that the four parameters measured during a polygraph–blood pressure, pulse, sweat production, and breathing rate–are affected by an uncountable myriad of emotions: joy, hate, elation, sadness, anxiety, depression, and so forth," says Zelicoff. "But there is not one chapter–not one–in any medical text that associates these quantities in any way with an individual's intent to deceive. More importantly, dozens of studies over the past 20 years in psychology departments and medical schools all over the world have shown that the polygraph cannot distinguish between truth-telling and lying."

Connoisseurs of the Wen Ho Lee affair will remember that at one point the FBI falsely told the Taiwanese nuclear physicist (accused of spying for the Chinese at Los Alamos) that polygraph tests showed he was lying. Cops play these sorts of tricks all the time, faking forensic reports and then shoving them under the nose of their suspect, shouting that he's a proven liar and that he'd best sign a confession right away.

The most comprehensive review of the polygraph was conducted in 1983 by the Office of Technology Assessment, a research branch of congress. The OTA concluded, "There is no known physiological response that is unique to deception." The report did note that the CIA and its companions "believe that the polygraph is a useful screening tool." However, OTA concluded that the available research does not establish the scientific validity of the polygraph for this purpose. The best that OTA could say about the polygraph was that it might have some limited validity in "specific criminal incidents." But the report went on to observe that in such cases, "the polygraph test detects deception better than chance, but with error rates that could be significant." As for the supposedly revealing physiological responses, the congressional study reported that they could be masked "by physical movement, drugs or other techniques to avoid detection as deceptive."

There are numerous ghastly stories of federal employees who were abused by the machine and its operators. Take the case of 19-year Navy veteran Daniel M. King, who was suspected of selling classified information. King was locked up in military prison in solitary confinement for 500 days and subjected to repeated polygraphs. Some of them lasted for as long as 19 hours. A military judge dismissed all the charges against him.

A few years ago FBI agent Mark Mallah was given a routine polygraph. The polygrapher, who had only 80 hours of experience with the machine, concluded that Mallah had lied. (Zelicoff notes that even barbers must have 1000 hours of training before getting a license to cut hair.) His life soon transformed into a Kafka story. He was stripped of his badge, subjected to midnight searches of his house, his diary and appointment book seized and scrutinized, his neighbors, friends and relatives interrogated, his every move outside monitored by helicopters. In the end, Mallah's life was pretty much destroyed, but nothing was ever proved against him. The FBI finally apologized and Congress outlawed the use of the polygraph for civilian employees in 1988.

It's worth noting that the Walker brothers and Aldrich Ames both beat the polygraph with no sweat. Kim Philby settled himself with a dollop of Valium before breezing through his polygraph exams.

One investigator for a defense lawyer in California tells me that, while the polygraph isn't admissible in most courts, it's used all the time by prosecutors, mostly to seal plea bargains. "It's a perilous option, because the utility of the polygraph is almost totally up to the operator. There are good polygraphers, but many who work for the district attorneys have only minimal training."

The investigator described a recent case where a defense witness in a homicide case, who had passed a polygraph given by a former FBI polygrapher with 20 years of experience, was sent to the DA for another test given by their examiner, a relative novice with the device. Defense lawyers can't be in the room while the test is given, even when their clients are being examined. The prosecutors videotape the session, and while the results of the polygraph can't be used at trial, the videotape can become evidence. In this case, the defense lawyer waited in the hall until the witness emerged from the room "with his face red as a beet." The lawyer heard the DA's investigator threaten the witness: "You little slimebag, I know you're lying. We're going to revoke your parole." The DA's examiner had interpreted the readings from one of his answers as being "deceptive."

The only disagreement I would have with Zelicoff is his deprecation of animal parts as any sort of reliable guide to the future. Prophets and soothsayers in ancient times used all sorts of materials that would be disdained by such modern exponents of "scientific" forensics as, let's say, the FBI crime lab, which theoretically espouses scientific methods but which simply manufactures or suppresses data as each case requires.

So what would a good look at a liver plucked from a recently slaughtered chicken tell us? The color and condition would indicate what sort of feed the chicken factory was using, thus offering useful evidence about the economic and indeed the moral propensities of the chicken breeders. Furthermore, since this feed varies according to the futures prices on the Chicago Commodities Exchange, an educated glance at the liver would be suggestive about future economic and meteorological trends, as assessed by the collective analytic wisdom of the Exchange.

Wall St. Journal slams Fox, psychics

From: Beth Wolszon

Excerpted from Taranto's column:


Monday, July 23, 2001 1:03 p.m. EDT
The Medium Is the Message

We usually like the Fox News Channel, but when we saw a preview for this weekend's "Judith Regan Tonight," we had an urge to pelt our television with rotten fruit. Here's how Fox's Web site describes Regan's lineup of guests:

A panel of criminal profilers, attorneys and a psychic come together to share some insight on the Chandra Levy case.

Excuse us, a "psychic"? That's right, one of Regan's guests was James Van Praagh, a so-called spiritual medium (though to judge by the picture on his Web site, we'd say he's a small rather than a medium). As the Skeptic's Dictionary explains, Van Praagh says he talks to the dead--and the dead talk back:

According to Van Praagh, all the billions and billions and billions of dead people are just waiting for someone to give him their names. That's all it takes. Give Van Praagh a name, any name, and he will claim that some dead person going by that name is contacting him in words, fragments of sentences, or that he can feel their presence in a specific location.

By providing a forum for such occult claptrap, Fox manages to insult anyone who believes in God, science or both. And this is hardly an isolated incident. Fox has put at least three other "psychics" on the air in the past two weeks alone.

On July 12 Paula Zahn interviewed "spiritual medium Rosemary Altea" about the Chandra case. There was a fig leaf of a rationale for this interview, in the form of a report that Chandra's desperate parents had "authorized a close friend to seek a psychic's help in finding their daughter." But Zahn showed not the slightest hint of skepticism, even prefacing one of her questions with the preposterously respectful observation that "I know it's unprofessional for you to try to analyze another psychic's work."

Zahn is a repeat offender. On July 17 she interviewed "world-renowned psychic Sylvia Browne." Here's an excerpt:

BROWNE: This girl--I am sorry to tell you this, but this girl is not alive.

ZAHN: How do you know that, Sylvia? Has this been something that you've been spending time . . .

BROWNE: Well, Paula, you know . . .

ZAHN: . . . thinking about and analyzing?

BROWNE: No, no. No. Paula, you know, you can either be one place or the other. If you're not here, you've got to be there.

ZAHN: And why are you so convinced she's there?

BROWNE: Because I'm a psychic.

And on July 18 Bill O'Reilly interviewed "handwriting expert and psychic Paula Roberts," who purports to identify "personality types" by looking at people's signatures. O'Reilly prefaced the interview by declaring: "I'm skeptical here. I don't know if you can tell anybody what their real character is by their handwriting." But then he lobbed a softball that would have made Larry King blush: "You disagree, correct?" For the rest of the segment O'Reilly--normally a swaggering skeptic who calls his program "the no-spin zone"--was so ovine in his credulity that we expected him to sprout wool.

Fox News employs a lot of journalists whose work we admire. Are Jim Angle, David Asman, Fred Barnes, Carl Cameron, Rita Cosby, Brit Hume, Mort Kondracke and Tony Snow proud to show their faces on a network that routinely gives free airtime to salesmen of occultist snake oil? And what does Steven Milloy, who writes a weekly column on "junk science" for the Fox Web site, think of all this?

Most important, does Roger Ailes care if people take Fox seriously as a news organization? Or is he content to continue presiding over the Psychic Friends Network?

Reincarnation 2002 dot com

From: Dean A. Batha

Has anyone on this list ever heard of this guy? He describes a world where every sort of woo-woo and nuttiness is taken seriously. It's his idea of a utopia.


Welcome to Reincarnation2002.com. This web site is dedicated to those souls who are intelligently looking for meaning and purpose for their lives and for the incentive to live them according to their highest ideals with neither hope for reward nor fear of punishment.


The Application of Natural Laws Upon Reincarnation
by Joseph R. Myers. P.E.

A well-ordered society with deep reverence and concern for the environment, a genuinely democratic One-World Government, a stable population, no war, no poverty, no neglected children, political leadership which represents the highest order of human intelligence, character and dedication to service, an intellectually, morally and spiritually oriented religion which eliminates the concept of death for the individual from the Race Consciousness, no unemployment, the education of its citizens, development of their character and creative talents the highest priority of the land and the virtual elimination of illness; can such a society ever exist on earth and has such ever existed in prehistoric times?

There is now a logical basis for answering Yes!, to both of these questions. The transformation from primitive means of transportation, communication, farm production and building construction has occurred in a time span that is like the blinking of an eye in comparison with the time span that man is known to have inhabited the earth. Because of this short time span, the ability of man to conceive of and use mathematical formula, learn to use the laws of chemistry and physics, even to create works of art and music that we now have, indicates that such capacities already existed from earlier prehistoric times when highly developed civilizations existed. They are obviously not a "survival of the fittest" product of the last five centuries of man's evolution. Modern civilization began with the development of the means to preserve knowledge for succeeding generations. It started with the invention of papyrus, the Egyptian paper, then took a giant step forward with the invention of the printing press.

But the accurate preservation of physical appearances through photography, in combination with the computer's capacity for storing data and making vast accumulations of records instantly accessible, has introduced an element that must transform human society as drastically as the introduction of written records. Science is based upon probabilities. Computer science provides a basis to examine an hypothesized probability and correlate vast data to establish it as an aspect of Natural Law or to dismiss it. This capacity of the computer has already stimulated previously undreamed of advancement in the physical sciences.

Since the Mind of Man is the source of computer technology, the suggestion that Outer Space is the last frontier appears to be primitive thinking in comparison with the frontier of Inner Space, the Mind and its powers. Evidence of it powers of communication by extrasensory perception, of its capacity to observe physical events at great distances by clairvoyance, to move and even transport physical objects by teleportation, to accomplish healings by touch or at a distance through prayer, to foresee future events, to make medical diagnoses from a trance state, to discover ancient archeological ruins, find lost objects, discover new scientific laws and solve crimes by intuitive means has come to the surface in recent times and from many cultures down through the centuries. The ability of computer science to correlate data associated with the records of such aforementioned phenomena provides a basis to discern patterns and to hypothesize the Natural Laws which govern the development of the talent for such accomplishments.

However promising and intriguing it may sound that we can expect to learn how to make practical application of Natural Laws governing the phenomena just mentioned, yet the most inspiring and challenging aspect of what computer science can accomplish for our civilization lies in another area.

Now with the aid of computer science, we are about to be catapulted into a new kind of civilization, a civilization in which the current view that it is only the chance assembly of certain genes at conception which provides the basis for the infinite variety of human beings will be discarded. That concept will be replaced by a scientifically validated understanding of individual man as the product of his own free will choices and use of his opportunities in the earth to create his own unique individuality by his thoughts and actions.

So very much more is involved here than just learning that there is no death for the individuality and that each soul-entity inhabits a body for which it is entirely responsible with regard to all of its characteristics. We have now encountered the proposition that every aspect of the physical expression of an individual has taken on a form that represents and therefore reveals the character of the inner man. This means that it is only a matter of making a systematic approach to recording individual physical characteristics and their associated character traits until we have sufficient data to prepare computer software for character analysis. Such computer programming will enable a technician to work from purely physical data to make a completely impartial in-depth character analysis, including state of health or predisposition to certain illnesses. While graphology, phrenology, cheiromancy and astrology have had their proponents for centuries, until now there was not a basis to develop accurate criteria grounded in scientific disciplines so that they could become genuine sciences. In particular, phrenology has been highly regarded for centuries, even millennia, since Chinese emperors employed it for at least two thousand years to evaluate the character of those who might be selected for positions of trust and responsibility. The shape of the skull and its protuberances are the subject of phrenology, so it is obvious that photography will play an important role in transforming this study into a branch of science. With the recognition that Natural Laws interacting with the creative forces of thought produce identifiable patterns, all of these ancient arts for character analysis will become important sciences to implement democracy and advance civilization.

Lunar Life Forms

From: Shaun Cronin

More like "looney" but have a look at


and prepare to be amazed.


Monday, July 23, 2001

Marcello Truzzi on Geller

Those with a serious interest in Uri Geller's claims might wish to examine an independently gathered and pretty comprehensive bibliography with some enlightening commentaries linked in, at:


Truzzi was one of the original founders of CSICOP.

Sunday, July 22, 2001



Saturday Night | 21 July 2001 | p. 35

By Allen Abel

One afternoon a few years ago, Doug Perovic returned from lunch to his office at the University of Toronto, and standing at his door was a woman who claimed to have been ravished by creatures from another world.

"They took me from my bedroom and had sex with me," she said. Then the woman, who was in her fifties and neatly dressed and quite well-spoken, reached into her purse and pulled out a crumpled rag in which she had wrapped a small metallic object. She said that the ETs had entombed the article deep in her nasal cavity. "Great!" the scientist recalls thinking. "I had just had lunch, and here comes something out of someone's nose."

"I can't sleep at night," the woman continued. "I need your help."

It wasn't the first time that Dr. Dragan (Doug) Perovic, a forensics expert and the chair of the University of Toronto's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, had received a strange request for assistance. He agreed out of curiosity to submit the artifact to a quick analysis in his department's $1-million Hitachi S-4500 Scanning Electron Microscope. It was a fairly dense little trinket, rusted and corroded. The test established that the item was composed of a brass alloy, amazingly similar to those manufactured right here on Planet Earth.

"Then it hit me what it was," Professor Perovic tells me, over a Malaysian meal not far from campus. "I said, 'I think it's the valve cap from a bicycle tire.'

"Her face drops. She's so upset. She opens her purse and pulls out these Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors held together with elastics. She starts waving them at me and chanting like I'm some sort of devil.

"I booted her out. That was my experience of dealing with a client. Normally, I don't deal with the public."


Saturday, July 21, 2001

Encyclopedia Of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy

A fairly comprehensive collection of short entries related to paranormal and fringe claims. The quality and depth of the contributions are uneven, but overall, the encyclopedia succeeds as an introductory exposure to allegedly pseudoscientific subjects, with a usually skeptical but sympathetic tone. For the experienced skeptic, it might serve as a quick reference, but the "further reading" suggestions provided are almost always inadequate. Still, a useful encyclopedia which is a welcome addition to the literature of skepticism.

Reviewed by Taner Edis

Strange Lights


'I Think We Witnessed Some Type of Miracle'

C A R T E R E T, N.J., July 17 — Something dazzled the people of New Jersey this weekend. Something bright, high in the sky.

"It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen," said eyewitness Joe Malvasio. "They were just hovering, and then they just disappeared. One at a time, each one started to fade until they were gone." Some witnesses thought the phenomenon may have been a sign of an alien presence. Others called it a miracle. But no one knows just what it was - all they can do is attempt to describe it. "I saw 16 golden-orange colored lights, several in a V-type formation," said Lt. Daniel Tarrant of the Carteret Police Department. "Others were scattered around the V." At Least 15 Report Lights to Police At least 15 people contacted Tarrant's department to report the strange lights. But Tarrant and other police officials are at a loss to explain just what it was hovering in their skies. Most callers described the same scenario: golden-orange lights moving quietly, some say beautifully, across the night sky over the Arthur Kill river. They described how the lights flickered and how they seemed to vanish into the night, one-by-one. Some drivers even pulled off the New Jersey Turnpike for a better look. But even more amazing is the explanation: there is none, not as of yet. According to the Associated Press, nearby Newark Airport reported no unusual flight patterns, and a National Weather Service meteorologist could find nothing in the weather to explain the lights. Peaceful, Easy Feeling "It's really amazing," said Veronica Bagley, whose family captured the lights on video. Paulette Holmes said whatever it was, she was unafraid. "I wasn't alarmed because it was peaceful," she said. Patty Ercallino, another witness, took it a step further. "Very peaceful, very serene, very beautiful," she said. "I think we witnessed some type of miracle." ABC station WABC in New York contributed to this report.

Fantastic Local Conference with Decidely Paranormal UFO Perspectives

The 38th Annual
September 14th, 15th & 16th
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
409 Colorado Street
Austin, Texas



-Schedule of Events

-Advance Registration Discount


Celebrating the 40th anniversary of America's first publicized incidence of alien abduction (the Betty & Barney Hill case), scientists, experiencers, writers and researchers will share with you their conclusions about the true nature of UFOs and related paranormal phenomena.

The National UFO Conference has been educating the public about UFO reality for 38 years. This year's conference will break new ground by combining the perspectives of the most under reported UFO research findings while also focusing on the phenomenon of Saucer Culture and the media's influence. Learn all there is to know about UFOs and Alien Abductions, including how they relate to consciousness research, government cover-ups, mind control experiments, hyperdimensional realities, psychedelic shamanism and much more. Peer beyond the veil!

See what is revealed as we tear away the curtain of secrecy. See the best researchers and film makers converge for 3 days and 3 nights of hard science and informed speculation about where we've been, where we stand now and where we are going as evidenced by the bizarre phenomenon known as UFOs.

Whether investigating UFO landing trace cases, alien abduction experiencers or the nature of academia's ridicule for the UFO subject, this collection of presenters will blow your mind! Special panel discussions will give you a hands on opportunity to learn all you need to know about UFOs and related phenomena.

Plus, there will be three nights of UFO Films and LIVE Flying Saucer Rock n Roll with special guests and psychotronic entertainment! And don't forget to sample the Alien Cuisine being imported from Off-World.

Scheduled Presenters:

Robert Anton Wilson, Jenny Randles, Constance Clear, Patrick Huyghe, Karl Pflock, Kenn Thomas, Greg Bishop, Eugenia Macer-Story, James Arthur, David Perkins, James Moseley, Mack White, Russ Dowden, Tom Deuley, Loren Coleman, Diana Hoyt, Pamela Stonebrooke, Bruce Wright, Ed Conroy, Erik Stearns, Dennis Stacy, Don Webb, Miles Lewis and more.

For individual Speaker Bios...

Schedule of Events

The 38th Annual
National UFO Conference
September 14th, 15th & 16th, 2001
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
409 Colorado Street

FRIDAY September 14th
"The Future of Ufology"

First Session 10am-6pm
-Introductions by SMiles Lewis
-Press Conference/Open House for Media & Local Civic Authorities
-Jim Moseley- "Shockingly Close To The Truth: Memoirs of a Skeptical Believer"
-Dennis Stacy- "The Field Guide Approach to UFOs"
-Tom Deuley- "The El Indio Saucer Crash"
-Karl Pflock- "The Roswell 'Saucer Crash': Some Hard Lessons for Ufology""
-Diana Hoyt- "UFOs - Forbidden Science"
-Panel Discussion Q&A (Best Future Research/Gaining Legitimacy)
featuring: Deuley, Pflock, Hoyt, Randles


Second Session 7pm-2am
-Introductions by SMiles w/Mack White "Conspiracy Gnosis"
-Jenny Randles- "Media Influence on public experiencing of the UFO"
-Music: Eugenia Macer-Story "MultiDimensional Music"
-Panel Discussion Q&A (Media Influence & Psychological Warfare)
featuring: Randles, Wright, Dowden, Thomas, White
-Documentary: UFOs It Has Begun (1978)
-Movie: To Be Announced!
-Music: To Be Announced!

SATURDAY September 15th
"Alternate Paradigms for the UFO Phenomenon"

Third Session 10am-6pm
-Introductions by SMiles w/Russ Dowden
-Eugenia Macer-Story- "Configurational Time: Conceptual & Sensory Perception of Multidimensional Events"
-David Perkins- "Gaia: Implications of Parapsychology on UFOs"
-Pamela Stonebrooke- "Astral Contact Experiences"
-Greg Bishop- "Psychedelics, Alien Abductions, Shamanism and Alien Writing"
-James Arthur- "UFOs, Mushrooms, God and the Near Death Experience"
-Panel Discussion Q&A (Alternate Paradigms for Anomalous Events/Experiences)
featuring: Macer-Story, Perkins, Stonebrooke, Bishop, Arthur, Randles


Fourth Session 7pm-2a
-Introductions by SMiles w/Donn Webb "Sabbath of the Zeppelins"
-Special Guest: Robert Anton Wilson!
-Panel Discussion (Fact/Fiction the Art Interface w/in Anomalous Narratives)
featuring: Wright, Adams, White, Lewis and...
-Documentary/Art: Tribulation 99 & More!
-Documentary/Art: To Be Announced!
-Music: To Be Announced!

SUNDAY September 16th
"Integrating the Anomalous"

Fifth Session 10am-6pm
-Constance Clear- "Abductee/Experiencer Therapy or Event Investigations"
-Ed Conroy- "From UFO Researcher to Cabalist: A Report on Conroy's Transformation after his Journey through "Communion"
-Loren Coleman- "A Fortean Looks at the Last Four Decades"
-Patrick Huyghe- "Swamp Gas Times: My 20 Years on the UFO Beat"
-Kenn Thomas- "The ParaPolitics of UFOs"
-Panel Discussion Q&A (Balancing Experiencer Therapy w/Event Investigations)
featuring: Clear, Lewis, Conroy and...


Sixth Session 7pm-2a
-Introductions by SMiles w/Erik Stearns "Remote Viewing"
-Jenny Randles- "Earth Lights, Time Storms and Atmospheric Physics revealed by UFO Related Phenomena"
-Panel Discussion Q&A (Electromagnetics & Anomalous Phenomena)
featuring: Randles, Beal, Lewis, Perkins and...
-Music: Pamela Stonebrooke "The Galactic Diva Sings"
-Documentary: Contact UFO - Alien Abduction
-Movie: Spectres of the Spectrum with Director Craig Baldwin
-Music: To Be Announced!

Advance Registration Discounts:

Friday the 14th, Saturday the 15th & Sunday the 16th September 2001

Advance Registration Before September 9th
$30 Individual Day Session Pass
$20 Individual Night Session Pass
$45 Day/Night Combo Pass (2 same day sessions)
$120 All Sessions Pass (all 6 sessions)


National UFO Conference
PO Box 33509
Austin, TX 78764
Make checks payable to: National UFO Conference

Seating is limited so please inquire immediately.

Tickets Available with Credit Card On-Line Very Soon

Where To Stay

The Embassy Suites Hotel has been kind enough to offer a Conference Discount to attendees of the National UFO Conference. The discount price is $119 plus taxes per night. This is a fine hotel with many amenities such as FREE covered parking, FREE shuttle service to and from the hotel within a two mile radius (the Conference is half a mile to the North) plus a FREE breakfast (made to order/much more than a Continental Breakfast) and more.

For reservations please contact
Denise Arnold: mailto:denise_arnold@hilton.com
(512) 469-9000
Embassy Suites
300 South Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704

For other affordable accomodations:

Austin Motel - 1220 South Congress Avenue
$60+ per night (one mile from conference)
(512) 441-1157

San Jose Hotel - 1316 South Congress Avenue
$70+ per night (one mile from conference)
800 574-8897 / (512) 444-7322

La Quinta Inn Austin Capitol - 300 East 11th Street
(512) 476-1166 (less than a mile from conference)

Homestead Studio Suites - 507 South 1st Street
(512) 476-1818 (less than a miles from conference)

What To Do In Austin
Besides the Conference

- See the Texas State Capitol Building 1100 Congress Avenue

- Take a Tour of Town Lake - Capital Cruises 208 Barton Springs Road (512) 480-9264

- Visit the Austin Nature & Science Center 301 Nature Center Drive (512) 327-8180

- Visit the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum 1800 North Congress Avenue (512) 936-8746

- See the Governor's Mansion 1010 Colorado Street (512) 463-5518

- Visit the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum 605 Robert E. Lee Road (512) 445-5582

- See the Sunset at Mount Bonnell Park 3800 Mt. Bonnell Drive

- Take a swim at the historic Barton Springs Pool 2100 Barton Springs Road (512) 867-3080

- Walk, job, bike along Town Lake Trails

- Take a Walking Tour of Historic Downtown

- Hear some Live Music on 6th Street "Live Music Capital of the World"

- Eat at one of our Many Fine Restaurants

- Watch the Bat Colony at the Congress Ave bridge "Bat Capital of America" In midsummer, more than a million bats make their home under the bridge.

Will Bobos ever see scientific truth?

By Chet Raymo, 7/17/2001


Is scientific knowledge true?

Or is it just one more made-up story of the world, with no greater claim on truth than any other?

Critics on both the religious right and political left state that scientists are self-serving and unreliable, slaves of fashion or faceless pawns of their military-industrial patrons, and that therefore anything scientists state as truth is suspect.

Haiti's voodoo faithful pray

SAUT D'EAU, Haiti (AP) - Wearing red satin scarves and lugging rum and palm-thatch mats on their heads, tens of thousands trekked to sacred waterfalls Tuesday in a voodoo pilgrimage to pray for everything from good crops to an end to Haiti's political impasse. The weeklong Saut d'Eau pilgrimage came as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the opposition and foreign mediators struggled to end a yearlong deadlock stalling aid to the Caribbean nation. "I think the gods will help me faster than Aristide," said 23-year-old farmer Joel Poince, sitting under a tree studded with burning white candles and calabash rinds filled with rum and sugar water. Legend has it that in the mid-1800s an image of the Virgin Mary appeared near the waterfalls of Saut d'Eau. Today, most pilgrims pay homage to the goddess of love - Erzulie - the equivalent of the Virgin Mary in Vodou, the Creole word for voodoo.

Full article at:


Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News"
which mirrors the daily e-mail update.


from The Associated Press

BONN, Germany - With Washington maintaining it has no plans to rejoin the Kyoto Protocol, European delegates said Friday that any meaningful treaty on climate change can be effective only if the Americans come back on board.

The United States, the world's largest emitter of so-called greenhouse gases, rejected the Kyoto treaty in March, saying it would harm the American economy.

Even so, the United States was among 178 nations that sent top officials and environment ministers here for talks aimed at rescuing the foundering treaty by devising implementation rules to bring it into force.

The talks were at a critical phase Friday, with agreement needed on key issues including financing of clean-air projects in poorer countries and schemes to credit nations for forest management.


from The Washington Post

Federal officials notified Johns Hopkins University yesterday that it must suspend all federally supported medical research involving human participants -- hundreds of clinical trials involving more than $300 million -- and that it cannot enroll any new individuals in those trials for an undetermined period of time.

The move came only three days after the school's medical leadership released an investigation committee's report on the June 2 death of a healthy young volunteer in a Hopkins asthma study. The report blamed the project's principal researcher and an internal review board for inadequately scrutinizing the risks of the chemical used and not sufficiently warning participants who would inhale it.

The U.S. Office for Human Research Protections concurred in that assessment in the 12-page letter it sent yesterday, which also signaled that federal officials had been dealing with other concerns regarding Hopkins's clinical review process since last fall.



John Moorhead knows exactly what happens when federal regulators shut down a university's human subject research - a lot of work and a lot of headaches.

An associate dean for research affairs at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Moorhead and his colleagues were ordered by federal regulators in September 1999 to suspend thousands of its human research studies and overhaul the school's research program.

The four-month suspension cost the school $3 million to revamp research guidelines, strengthen its internal review board and hire consultants. Administrators endured grueling 15-hour days, punctuated by yelling and screaming. Researchers lost months of work - and in some cases had to start all over. But, worst of all, Moorhead says, some patients seeking cutting-edge experimental treatment couldn't get it.

"It's devastating," says Moorhead of the experience. "I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

Now it's Johns Hopkins' turn. Yesterday's order from the federal Office for Human Research Protection that the Baltimore institution stop human research until it fixes some safety practices is just the latest effort by regulators to step up oversight of human research.


Source Documents: Full text of the correspondence between Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Office for Human Research Protections over the death of an asthma study volunteer: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/bal-hopkinsgallery.storygallery?coll=bal%2Dhome%2Dheadlines

from Newsday

British and German scientists have uncovered the oldest fossilized crustaceans ever found, two remarkably well-preserved specimens that may land the tiny creatures an enormous role in a reconstruction of Earth's early evolutionary history.

Mark Williams, a paleontologist with the British Geological Survey and a co-author of today's study in the journal Science, said the find could reshape scientists' perceptions about the Cambrian "explosion," a geological period about 545 million years ago when many of today's basic animal body types appeared abruptly among prehistoric creatures.

Some scientists have viewed the sudden proliferation of fossilized animals in Cambrian rock layers as evidence of a unique burst of evolutionary creativity that may have lasted only 10 million years, relatively fast by geological standards.

Supporters of an alternate theory point to the numerous fundamental changes required for the evolution of simpler life forms into more complicated body plans, and instead advocate a long evolutionary "fuse" during the Precambrian that has merely gone undetected.


from Newsday

Washington - While welcoming a key senator's decision to back embryonic stem cell research, several scientists said yesterday they were troubled by his proposal to limit the number of cell variants that could be studied.

Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a transplant surgeon whom President Bush has looked to for guidance in the past on health matters, said Wednesday he will support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research under strict guidelines and oversight. He called for a limit on the number of stem cell lines that could be established, each dervived from a single early embryo.

If Bush were to favor restricting the number of cell lines, scientists said, it could hamper the research effort. Frist gave no number, saying he would like to talk it over with scientists.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, July 19 - Scientists planning the next phase of the human genome project are being forced to confront a treacherous issue: the genetic differences between human races.

With the decoding of the human genome largely complete, government scientists are beginning to construct a special kind of genetic map that would provide a shortcut to locating the variant human genes that predispose people to common diseases.

The question the scientists face is whether that map should chart possible differences that may emerge among the principal population groups, those of Africans, Asians and Europeans.

Identifying the genetic variations that predispose people to diseases like cancer, diabetes and schizophrenia was a major purpose of the Human Genome Project. Most of these variant genes are thought likely to be the same throughout the world. But some may differ by population.


from The New York Times

The Atlantic Seaboard and the Caribbean face 10 to 40 years of stronger and more frequent hurricanes, a new analysis of weather data shows.

As a result, crowded coastlines and islands are confronted with the greatest risk of devastation in a generation, said the scientists who conducted the study.

Many meteorologists said the new analysis provided the firmest evidence yet that cycles in ocean and atmospheric conditions that suppressed big storms from 1971 to 1994 had shifted into a storm-spawning state.

The number and power of storms first jumped in 1995, but only now have enough years passed to measure a significant trend, the researchers said. In a paper in today's issue of Science, they say the driving force is a periodic warming of the Atlantic north of the Equator and a simultaneous drop in wind shear, the difference between trade winds near the surface and winds at higher altitudes.


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Polygraph Theism


Two weeks ago, besieged by speculation that he had killed former Washington intern Chandra Levy, Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., launched a strategic retreat. He granted the police a long interview, reportedly admitting to an affair with Levy. The cops emerged to say he had answered all their questions. Condit gave them a DNA sample and let them search his apartment. Then his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, delivered the coup de grâce: He announced that Condit had passed a private polygraph exam. The cops, the Levy family, and many commentators cried foul, but the speculative bubble around the congressman had burst. The old headlines about his role in Levy's disappearance faded, replaced by talk of serial killers, Web sites, and fresh searches for her body.

Friday, July 20, 2001

Ghosts & Ectoplasm Captured by the Camera!

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

The American Museum of Photography
Ghosts & Ectoplasm Captured by the Camera!


A child whispers "I see dead people" and millions of moviegoers feel a chill go up their spines. More than a century ago, however, photographs of ghosts were greeted as joyous proof that the spirit survives after death. Were these images the result of manipulations -- or miracles? View this exhibit, weigh the evidence... then, you decide.

The American Museum of Photography's exhibition of spirit photography from 1868 - 1935 gives you three galleries devoted to ghosts and ectoplasm captured on film. The images chronicle spirit photography, starting with "technological marvels intended to amuse" to the international wave of spirit photography launched in 1868 when a Boston engraver claimed that he had taken actual photographic records of ghosts.

And just because they said I couldn't resist (they were right):

Suspicious wives in Japan are stopping their men from cheating on them--with the help of magical holy phalluses. Worried women head to the Yumizori Shrine in Kumamoto, a fertility temple with a two-meter long phallus as a centerpiece. Each buys a scaled-down version of it, and inscribes thereon her husband's name. The women then hammer nails into the phalluses--one for each year of their age. The result: The gods will ensure that the named husbands will be physically unable to commit adultery.


Sorry, no pictures accompany the article.

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News"

http://www.mediaresource.org/news.htm which mirrors the daily e-mail update.


Today's Headlines - July 19, 2001

from The Washington Post

The campaign for federal funding of human embryo cell research gained new political momentum yesterday with an announcement by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) that he would back the use of taxpayer dollars in the controversial but promising field.

As the Senate's only physician, Frist has been a trusted and influential adviser on medical issues to President Bush, who is struggling to decide whether to fund research on embryonic stem cells. Suspense had been building in recent days as rumors spread that the heart surgeon was close to taking a position on the research, which scientists say could lead to treatments for many chronic diseases but which depends on the destruction of human embryos.

"After grappling with the issue scientifically, ethically and morally, I conclude that both embryonic and adult stem cell research should be federally funded within a carefully regulated, fully transparent framework," Frist told a Senate subcommittee yesterday.


from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- After heaven and Earth, fruit and fowl, cattle and every creeping thing, the book of Genesis turns its attention to the creation of man. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground," it says, "and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life."

On Wednesday, in a chamber known more for cutthroat battles over the laws of the workaday world, U.S. senators turned to that biblical passage for guidance on whether a human embryo is equivalent to a human life and whether it may be destroyed for its stem cells.

"We all agree that the embryo is alive," Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) told a Senate panel. "The question is, is it a life?" The theological debate, which also drew on a parable from the book of Matthew, came as pressure grows for President Bush to decide quickly on whether to allow federal funding for medical research using stem cells from embryos. Many scientists believe the cells hold the key to new treatments for disease, but anti-abortion groups say the research is a form of murder, as embryos must be destroyed in order to harvest their stem cells.


from The Los Angeles Times

BONN -- Supporters of a treaty to reduce global warming said Wednesday that they are increasingly optimistic about rescuing the pact despite a U.S. rejection, noting that the rest of the world wants success at make-or-break negotiations that begin here today.

Prospects for hammering out the last details of the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to limit emissions of heat-trapping "greenhouse gases," appeared dim before behind-the-scenes discussions got underway this week under the auspices of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change. Japan had expressed sympathy with President Bush's decision to abandon the treaty.

However, Japanese delegates here have renewed their commitment to the accord, summit leaders reported with relief. "My hopes are growing day by day" about the 1997 pact getting put into final treaty form during this two-week session, said summit chief Jan Pronk, the Dutch environment minister. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000058933jul19.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

from The Christian Science Monitor

Keep your eye on the climate, but your hand on your wallet.

That's the attitude the Bush administration takes in rejecting the Kyoto climate treaty: It will cost American jobs, causing as much as a 2 percent drop in US economic output over the next decade.

But a series of studies in the US, Europe, and Japan released in recent days suggests that if the Kyoto guidelines are implemented, the US and other industrial nations are likely to see only a slight decline of as little as 0.15 percent, or a modest economic boost of as much as 1 percent.

The studies may breathe new life into a global-emissions reduction plan that is in trouble without US participation. The US alone accounts for 25 percent of the world's carbon emissions.

How could such divergent conclusions be reached about Kyoto's impact?


from The Associated Press

Women with genetic mutations that often trigger breast cancer can save their lives by having their healthy breasts removed before they develop the disease, Dutch researchers found in the strongest study yet to show that the controversial strategy works.

In the study, none of the women who chose to undergo preventive, or prophylactic, mastectomies developed the often-deadly cancer. In a comparison group of women who also had the mutant genes and opted only for regular checkups, one-eighth got breast cancer and one woman died.

Scientists had questioned whether the extreme approach really prevents breast cancer because some breast tissue remains after surgery and the dangerous mutant genes are in every cell in the body.

"We can say to our patients that this method of prevention is nearly 100 percent effective and that they can sleep without fear of getting breast cancer," said Dr. Jan Klijn, chairman of the Rotterdam Family Cancer Clinic, part of Erasmus University Medical Center, where the research was done.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Charles Darwin's eyes would pop out if he could see what computer scientists are doing with his theory of evolution.

Researchers are using computers to generate "digital organisms" that undergo evolutionary processes such as mutation and reproduction. As a result, they have overturned a long-standing assumption of evolutionary theory, according to today's issue of the journal Nature.

The digital organisms are not simulations of life, one California Institute of Technology researcher insists. To him, they are literally alive -- as alive as any bacterium wriggling across a Petri dish.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, July 18 - The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History has offered General Motors the right to name a new 20,000-square-foot hall of transportation in exchange for a $10 million gift, museum officials said today.

Spencer Crew, the museum's director, emphasized that the Smithsonian had not reached a final agreement with G.M. But he described the pending arrangement as an appropriate and necessary way of updating the museum, which has many exhibition halls that have not been renovated since it opened in 1964.

"In order to do these exhibitions, one has to work with the corporate world of donors," Dr. Crew said in a telephone interview. "We're all pretty familiar with this. It is happening everywhere in relations between public institutions and private donors."

Asked whether General Motors would have any say in the content of the exhibition, Dr. Crew replied, "Absolutely not."


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Scientists say jurassic chicken not far-fetched - Ananova Alerting

Chickens could be turned into Jurassic Park monsters by turning back the evolutionary clock to when birds were dinosaurs.

Although it sounds far fetched, US scientists believe advances in DNA technology could make such a feat possible in 60 to 100 years.

The aim would be to reverse-engineer bird DNA so that what hatched out of a chicken egg was the nearest thing possible to a real dinosaur.

Modern birds are the closest living relatives of Tyrannosaurus rex and his kin, and some say that structurally birds are dinosaurs.

The idea of re-creating dinosaurs from fossilised DNA - as portrayed in the film Jurassic Park - has been dismissed since little if any of the fragile molecule could have survived after 65 million years.

But another approach that involves taking modern bird DNA and making it more primitive stands a chance of success, according to US experts.

Already one team at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles has succeeded in getting the beaks of chicken embryos to grow budding teeth. This is a feature bird ancestors lost 60 million years ago, soon after the death of the dinosaurs.

Other scientists at the University of Florida in Gainesville have reconstructed a gene that belonged to Cretaceous yeast - an organism which lived alongside T. rex 70 million years ago.

New Scientist magazine reports that groundwork for a "Jurassic Chicken Project" has already been laid by a small group of researchers who have started retrieving long-lost genomic data.

David Stern, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University in the US, estimates that it will be possible to hatch a "dinosaur" from a chicken egg in 60 to 100 years time.

See this story on the web at


Charles Tart

From: Jerry Goodenough j.goodenough@uea.ac.uk

For a MUCH more sceptical view of Charles Tart and his researches into the paranormal, see the Skeptic Dictionary entry at


Momo mystery rears its head once more in Louisiana, Mo.




COPIED FROM: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
This story was published in Everyday Magazine on Wednesday, May 2, 2001.

By Brandy Warren
Of The Post-Dispatch

LOUISIANA, MO. - Almost 30 years after their moment in the national spotlight, the people of this small Mississippi River town are still split on what to believe. And now outsiders are stirring things up again.

In 1972, many put stock in stories about the Missouri Monster, or "Momo," a large, hairy creature with a nasty stench that some believe roamed nearby Star Hill, about 80 miles north of St. Louis.

And many didn't. They figured some of the believers were tippin' the bottle.

The buzz began when a 15-year-old girl reported seeing Momo outside her home. The sighting sent a slew of armed locals into the hills, looking for the beast. Some even planted bait, hoping to be the hero who captured Momo.

Reporters flocked in from around the country to give Louisiana, population 4,000, its 15 minutes of fame.

After a few weeks, the buzz -- not to mention the reported stench -- died down. Old differences of opinion faded. People went back to their lives.

But they're talking about it again, since an organization based in Tucson, Ariz., spent a week on Star Hill, just north of downtown Louisiana, looking for any traces of the almost-forgotten monster.

Mostly, the effort brought laughter. When someone brings up Momo, a light enters people's eyes and a smile crosses their faces.

The children of the '70s, who believed, are now grown up and raising their own children. Momo seems like a fable to them.

But for the International Society of Cryptozoology, the visit is serious.

Its members examined the area April 14-20, collecting witness statements and checking whether that locale could provide enough food to sustain a Bigfoot-like creature.

Richard Greenwell, secretary of the organization and a zoologist, said this was just one of many trips the group makes each year. The society was formed in 1982 to document and evaluate evidence about animals that have been reported to exist but never verified.

Its Internet Web site boasts that cryptozoologists in the past 200 years have discovered many now-familiar animals, including the gorilla (in 1847), the giant panda (in 1869) and the giant gecko (in 1984).

Greenwell said most of his trips have been to the Pacific Northwest.

Greenwell said there does appear to be enough food to support such a creature. But he said it will take more than testimonials of the locals to convince him.

"We don't accept things on faith," he said. "We evaluate information. Sometimes it takes years to reach a conclusion. This is just one piece."

On this particular trip, he was joined by Bill Riley, a Hannibal native who also claimed to have seen the creature in July 1972.

Riley said Momo chased him onto the porch of a farmhouse along Highway 79. He described the beast as around 8 feet tall, and putting off an odor he described as a mixture of sulfur and feces, only worse.

He said he didn't tell anyone about the encounter for six years, fearing no one would believe him. He finally confided in his future wife.

When Riley made this trip to Louisiana, one of several in recent years, he said many other locals came forward with stories of their encounters, some as recently as 1996.

A lot of people don't want to admit publicly what they saw, out of fear of being the butt of humor, he said.

It is true that mere mention of Momo can send Louisiana residents into gales of laughter.

"I believed in it then," said Candy Barnett, who at 44 has changed her mind about the sightings in 1972. "I think I would actually have to see it to believe it."

Mary Shrum, 52, owns a farm outside of town and said she's never seen anything out of the ordinary - only raccoons, coyotes, deer and the like. No giant, hairy creature and no nauseating smell.

"I just don't believe it," she said.

Some do believe it though, people such as Beverly Siders, 54, of Elsberry, who grew up in Louisiana. Siders said she doesn't have a reason to doubt those who say Momo exists. "I believe there's something out there," Siders said.

But exactly what might be out there remains to be documented. Maybe it was a bear or some other already discovered creature. Or a prank.

The cryptozoologists' visit was not completely without incident.

Some of their gear disappeared during the week. Police Chief James Graham said that after his officers asked questions about it around town, the researchers heard a knock on their motel room door and found the missing equipment sitting outside. They saw no sign of anyone - or anything.


Reporter Brandy Warren:

E-mail: bwarren@post-dispatch.com

Phone: 314-340-8205

Published in Everyday Magazine on Wednesday, May 2, 2001.

Hoping its not all false ghosts and no flickers




THE most comprehensive scientific investigation into the existence of ghosts and ghoulies begins today in Edinburgh.

Over the next two weeks, 10 researchers aided by more than 200 members of the public will seek to record the presence of various types of spirit beings.

They will be using the most sophisticated equipment to see what might be lurking in the dungeons of Edinburgh Castle, the vaults underneath South Bridge, and Mary King's close, underneath the High Street.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at Hertfordshire University who is leading the investigation, is not convinced but is willing to be converted.

"I am not a great believer in spirit hypotheses but we have equipment which is more sensitive than what has been used before. The difference is that we will be logging all the information and the good thing is that the public can also join in," he said.

Edinburgh was chosen because of a high concentration of paranormal personages and weird behaviour. Not much new here, Auld Reekie cynics might say, but the aim now is to put some flesh on sightings.

"It is probably the most haunted city in Europe. A lot of people report unusual experiences, particularly in the underground city," Dr Wiseman said.

The team will have a thermal imager, geomagnetic sensors, temperature probes, and night vision equipment to monitor the locations. The ability to detect naturally occurring low-level magnetic fields may come up trumps. Initial results will be presented on the final day of Edinburgh Science Festival.

"I would be totally delighted if we did detect something. But if a spirit did come out in front of me I would be out of there pretty quickly," Dr Wiseman said.

His last investigation examined claims that Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife, was still walking around Hampton Court Palace screaming in terror at the prospect of being beheaded.

The study which reported last week to the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Glasgow pointed to a more likely physical cause - two cold, draughty areas, one of which was beside a concealed door.

Dr Wiseman says more was found in Hampton Court but he is keeping mum lest anything prejudices what might be revealed in Edinburgh.

"We think we are on to something in terms of understanding why people have these experiences - something that we did not know before," he said.

For all his professional distance he is in no doubt of the reality of the powerful experiences people do have. It is how these are interpreted that causes the debate.

Some might be down to suggestion - from visits to Culloden, for example, where people already know it was a scene of mass slaughter. Others may have a predisposition to such spiritual presence which is not readily explicable.

- April 4

A House Built On Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science

Noretta Koertge, ed.
1998, Oxford University Press; 336p., illustrated
anti-science, anti-science:philosophy, science:history, science:philosophy, science:sociology


A strong defense of science against its postmodernist critics. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the "science wars," as it provides a good survey of the positions of the pro-science side. However, it often adopts a polemical tone, and seems more interested in bashing postmodernists than casting light on some difficult and interesting questions regarding science. Of course, some postmodern thinkers richly deserve bashing, but the volume might have worked better if it were not so antagonistic in approach. Part III is the best in the book, where contributors explore how, even with all the ambiguities and difficulties involved, and even though they are always subject to revision, experiments *do* independently probe the world.

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/ Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Cultural Boundaries Of Science: Credibility on the Line

Thomas F. Gieryn
1999, University of Chicago Press; xiv+398p.
anti-science:philosophy, phrenology, science:history, science:sociology


A good example of a "social constructionist" view of science. Gieryn, a sociologist, asks why science is considered to be so credible, and answers this question by looking at the complex cultural negotiations which take place far from the laboratory or blackboard. Much of what he says is quite interesting and, well, credible; skeptics will especially be interested in his chapters on how phrenology and cold fusion was discredited in public. However, though Gieryn brings up some important questions, his treatment is also troubling -- it is as if scientists' interactions with nature have little or nothing to do about the debates on credibility. With this account, though we understand a good deal about appeals to the media or the struggle for funding, we end up knowing little about what the internal debates scientists engage in accomplish. The problem with social constructionism is that it strangely ignores non-social reality -- it is true that our interactions with the physical world are mediated socially, but that does not make the world disappear in a cloud of sociological jargon.

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/ Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Why God Won't Go Away


Hysteria: The Indian experience

Times of India
Author: STOI Mumbai

MUMBAI: 1960s, 1985-87 mass hysteria over unexplained killings gripped Mumbai twice. The first time, the killer was identified as Raman Raghav, who was finally arrested for the murder of 42 people. By 1985, the killings started again, but the mystery murderer remained elusive. Was it a man, stoneman, or something else entirely?

Whoever it was, he committed a series of 12 murders in the Sion and King Circle suburbs between 1985 and 1987. The killer, whose modus operandi was to crush the head of his victim with a huge stone, remains untraced. He is, perhaps, the most mysterious serial killer in Mumbai's crime history.

The sleeping beggars' heads were smashed with an incredibly heavy stone, sometimes weighing as much as 30 kg. The stone killer never attacked beggars who slept in groups. In most cases, even the victims' names could not be ascertained since they either slept alone or had no relatives or friends who could identify them.

The Matunga police were baffled by the killings. When they inspected the murder spot, they found no significant clues which led to the murderer. Although the police invariably found a huge stone near the spot, even the sniffer dogs brought in to track the killer lost his scent. Since most victims were beggars, robbery was ruled out as a motive. The police then began a search for eye-witnesses to the killings.

During the search, the police came across a waiter in an Irani restaurant near Sion Circle. The waiter was perhaps the only one who had managed to escape before the stoneman could crush his head. But he was unable to recollect the face of the killer.

Shortly after his interrogation, the stoneman struck again. A ragpicker was hacked to death near King's Circle. The murderer had begun to move out of the Sion area and towards Matunga. Panic-stricken residents from Matunga urged the local police to intensify their vigilance during the night.

The case was marked high priority -- with more than 100 persons patrolling the area at night. People were warned not to sleep alone on the footpaths. After the twelfth murder in 1987, the killings stopped abruptly.

Which still leaves the police wondering whether the psychopath will one day strike again....


In the history of the nation's oldest detective department, Stoneman remains one of the greatest mysteries unsolved. Memories of Stoneman still haunt the sleuths who investigated case.

He first struck in mid-June, 1989. His victims: all pavement dwellers. His murder weapon: a stone or concrete slab weighing over 14-15 kg, which was left near the victim. The toll: 13 in a space of six months.

The first incident was reported from the Laldighi area, a stone's throw away from the police headquarters at Lalbazar. Circumstantial evidence indicated that the assailant was tall and well built.

"He used to drop the concrete slab on the sleeping victim's head, crushing it completely. There was no hammering involved," said a senior detective department official. As more killings were reported, panic set in.

"Every month, one to three murders were reported," recalled Prasun Mukherjee, IG (law and order), who was then the detective department chief. "Nobody saw him as he carefully chose only those who slept alone. The victim was given no chance to raise an alarm," he added.

Soon rumours of sightings began to do the rounds. While some described him as a giant, others recounted seeing an apeman prowling the streets. Many saw it as the handiwork of an evil force.

"We picked up some rumour-mongers. However, none of them could give a proper description for our artist to draw his picture," a senior detective said. The department tried to identify a pattern in the killings. Initially, they thought the murderer struck only on Fridays. ``However, we were proved wrong. Also, the murders were neither age nor gender specific," he recalled.

From psychiatrists to tantriks, every possible angle was investigated by the police to work out a motive. According to one theory, it could be someone acting on a tantrik prescription, to sacrifice a certain number of human lives to attain spiritual fulfilment.

The murders were limited to a few police station areas around central Kolkata. "We were in such a state of panic that our officers would leave early evening and start removing concrete slabs from areas where pavement dwellers usually slept. We also appealed to pavement dwellers to sleep together in clusters as there was safety in numbers," a police officer said.

The only positive fallout of the whole affair was the decline in nocturnal crime. "The killings went on till early March 1990. We arrested a man but he turned out to be insane. We could not conclusively prove that he was the stoneman but after the arrest, the murders stopped," said Mukherjee.


House after house had the Kannada inscription Naale baa (Come Tomorrow) on its front door. For months together in 1996, the ghost of an old lady would coming knocking at your door. Open it and you invited certain death, not just yours but others in the family too.

What started in the slums of the Srirampuram area, spread rapidly to the western and northern parts of the city. Soon enough, not just slum-dwellers but even middle class homes in Vijayanagar, RPC Layout, Rajajinagar and Malleswaram were putting up the signs like name-plates on their main doors.

``It all began in the Tamil-speaking slums of Srirampuram when two or three households lost family members without any apparent rhyme or reason. Then the ghost theory came up. The slum dwellers put up `Naale Vaa' in Tamil. Soon, residents in other areas got to hear of the ghost and were taking precautionary measures,'' a Malleswaram old-timer recounts.

The ghost was bad enough to kill but kind enough to spare you if you requested it to come the next day. ``With the inscription up permamently, the devil would never come in. You literally bought an additional day of life every day,'' recalls a resident of Vijayanagar.

The ghost gave up one day. Bangaloreans had got clever. ... AND 1998

`You've been injected with the HIV virus. Welcome to the world of AIDS,' the sticker supposedly proclaimed. In 1998, the murmurs began in Bangalore, went on to become a cacophony which scared, irritated and troubled the citizens and then died away. Nobody could quite disprove it. But then, nobody proved it was true in the first place either.

Film-goers. Local bus commuters. Solitary walkers. Sinister messages, mostly left behind in the form of stickers on one's jacket or the bike.

The rumours spread thick and fast. People being jabbed with syringes containing the HIV virus in dark theatres; on their way back from work and in crowded supermarkets.

Nothing original, though. A similar scare had taken place a few days before at a cinema hall in Chennai. Were they pranksters or was it a lunatic?

Bangalore went into a tizzy for over a month. The counter-measures? Look over your shoulder. Avoid late-night film shows and never ever give strangers a lift.

The police said that none of the 80-plus police stations in the Bangalore city limits had seen a complaint registered. A senior police officer had in fact told The Times of India then that the police had also heard of several such cases but nobody had formally approached the police.

The stories got more outlandish with every passing day. Callers to newspaper offices related tales of how innocent victims were dying of AIDS because of the injections. Little children in front of schools, old men taking a walk...

And then just as suddenly, the rumours died a quiet death. Rumour or truth, one still hasn't been able to say. But Bangaloreans did reel under the viral attack for some time.

(With inputs from STOI Mumbai, Krishnendu Bandopadhyay in Kolkata, Sriranjan Chaudhuri in Bangalore)

The Connor O'Ryan Affair and Area 51/S-4

From: Terry W. Colvin

From: JohnWW JohnWW@Xtra.co.nz

I have recently re-read an article by Col. Wendelle C. Stevens, "Area
51/S-4: Secrets Behind the Scenes", in NEXUS Magazine
(www.nexusmagazine.com , editor@nexusmagazine.com , or PO Box 30,
Mapleton, Queensland 4560, Australia) for Dec.1997/Jan.1998, p.53 ff, about a series of events in which he was involved in October-November 1991, and which he disclosed for the first time in 1997 at a UFO conference in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

The events concerned an alleged former Area 51 security guard from the US Marines, by the name of Connor O'Ryan, formerly of Las Vegas, Nv., who guarded a 4-level underground crashed/donated UFO and alien body storage depot in the "S-4" section. According to the NEXUS article, in 1991 he and four co-workers "fell out" with his employer over the peoples' right to know what was going on, and because of this was medically discharged due to a cancer with which it appears he was deliberately infected. Before he left, he and the four other personnel (including scientists), who also left soon afterwards, took photos of items in the interior of the underground base, and copies of above-top-secret UFO/alien related documents. Several copies of this archive were deposited with various friends (so at least one of the copies should still be safe). O'Ryan contacted Col. Stevens about his experience, and because his bank accounts were "frozen" after this contact (he should have been asked for his bank account and credit card numbers), he had to get Col. Stevens to pay for him to come from Los Angeles, Ca., to Tucson, Az., and accommodate him. An attempt to mail Col. Stevens a copy of his archive was intercepted and the material stolen. Events which then occurred at the Stevens' home and elsewhere in Arizona made it clear that there were tracking transmitters implanted in the ex-guard's body and his identity cards, because of how soon O'Ryan's pursuers apparently found out he was staying with the Stevens. He mysteriously disappeared shortly afterwards, although not before Col. Stevens made a 2-hour video of him telling his story. The Stevens' house was searched several times apparently by Government security agents while they were out, apparently for the original videotape of the O'Ryan interview.

All this came out for the first time at the 1997 Australian International UFO Synposium, in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

I am very interested to know if anyone among the list members has any further inmformation about O'Ryan and his four Area 51 co-workers, in the nearly 10 years since these events and especially since 1997. Did anyone ever manage to get a copy of his archive of UFO/alien related material, or of the 2-hour video of O'Ryan telling his story? This material seems very important, if it exists.

It should have become clear to Col. Stevens at an early stage that O'Ryan had a microchip in the form of a tracking radio beacon implanted in his body, and in his identity cards, without his knowledge. This would have betrayed his location, via the GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) system, which would then have allowed the NSA to track him using their high-resolution spy satellites. If I were in Col. Stevens' position then, when this became apparent, I would have taken photocopies of his identity cards then lodged them in a bank vault, or failing that destroyed them, and then taken O'Ryan (preferably to a chiropractor) to have his entire body X-rayed, along with any clothing he wore while in Area 51. (Chiropractors have the most easily accessible and cost-effective medical X-ray facilities). If the X-rays showed any anomalous unexplained foreign bodies, I would have taken O'Ryan immediately to (preferably) Dr Leir, or any nearby surgeon recommended by him, to have it removed and destroyed. Or, if the object was small and just below the skin, I would have looked at the possibility of removing and destroying it myself, time being of the essence, with O'Ryan's permission. So, you now know what to do if you are ever faced with a similar situation.

The tracking device would probably have been implanted in O'Ryan's body during the first of his quarterly hypnosis sessions, as related in thge NEXUS article, after joining Area 51. Contrary to popular belief, and Col. Stevens' statement "even their most secret thoughts were probed", hypnosis alone cannot be used to induce one to divulge information that one does not want disclosed, or to undergo medical procedures to which one has not consented. O'Ryan was probably given a drug injection on the false pretext that it was to induce an hypnotic state; but the real purpose of the drug was probably to render him deeply unconscious so that the tracking device could be implanted in him without his knowledge. If this drug was something like sodium pentothal - a so-called "truth drug" - this could probably have been used in a lesser dose to induce him to disclose information which he wished to keep secret.

By the way, with the recent disclosure by the European Parliament about the ECHELON US/British spying by the NSA and British GCHQ on all e-mails and other electronic messages world-wide, sometimes to give American and British corporations unfair commercial advantages e.g. when tendering for contracts, which occurred as the result of a member of the European Parliament reading the book "Secret Power" by Nicky Hager of New Zealand and a subsequent investigation, one should be careful about what one says about secret UFO and similar government conspiracies over the phone or by e-mail or fax. This is unless using "strong" (128-bit) message encryption (although both sender and receiver would have to have it installed), e.g. the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) program which can be downloaded and which beats anything the NSA can use to decode messages. (I think their website may be www.PGP.com, or prettygoodprivacy.com, or similar, but of course it could be searched for).

Yours, John Wynniatt, Whangarei, New Zealand. JohnWW@xtra.co.nz

Reply from Bill Hamilton:

I know Stevens fairly well and have sat down over coffee withhim discussing this story and its similarity to that told to my partner and Iby Thomas C. about the Dulce Base. However, Col. Stevens decided to act in response to Connor'srevelations was the path he chose to take. >From a document that I have in my possession and other inputsthere is allegedly more than one underground level at Area S-4 and ithouses a live alien in a biospheric containment chamber. This alien,according to the TS report I have is suffering from nerve degeneration. According to Wendelle, Connor described and Wendelle had drawnsome of what he had seen of ET craft and alien bodies at Level-2which he called the "museum".As I understand it, Connor has not been seen again and some years havepassed. A similar fate befell Thomas C and we have not seen him in years.He allegedly left a package of evidence behind on a certainmountain, but attempts to retrieve it have failed. If these stories have validity, and they just might, then we canexpect to hear more in the future, and, hopefully will be more alert andhave a better plan of action.-Bill Hamilton

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