NTS LogoSkeptical News for 18 January 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, January 18, 2002

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

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Today's Headlines - January 18, 2002

from The New York Times

One of the biggest predicted impacts of global warming is a rise in sea level as ice on land melts. And nowhere is there more terrestrial ice than in Antarctica. If the vast West Antarctic Ice Sheet were to slide into the sea, it would raise oceans more than 13 feet.

But a new study of several inland rivers of ice that nourish this sprawling frozen plain shows that after a long period of rapid movement and thinning, their flow is slowing, and as a result, they are growing thicker.

The change means that this part of western Antarctica is likely to serve as a frozen bank for water instead of a source, slightly countering an overall trend toward rising seas, according to the research.

In the study, described in today's issue of the journal Science, the researchers calculated that the change in the seaward flow of ice in this part of Antarctica could, by the end of the century, be the equivalent of turning off the Missouri River.


An overview of this week's new polar studies, and how they might inform the political debate.
from The Christian Science Monitor

The Earth's polar regions long have been considered canaries in the coal mine on climate change - the first places to look, many scientists said, to learn whether the planet's temperature is, in fact, rising. Indeed, climate models generally predict that the heating of the atmosphere - precipitated by global warming - will cause the vast layer of ice that covers Antarctica to melt, raising sea levels and changing regional climate patterns by altering ocean currents.

This week, that widely held presumption is being challenged.

Two studies of temperatures and ice-cap movements in Antarctica suggest that the Southern Hemisphere's "canary" isn't going down without a fight - key sections of the ice cap appear to be growing thicker, not thinner, as previously believed. And the continent's average temperature appears to have cooled slightly during the past 35 years, not warmed.


from The New York Times

In an experiment that could lead to mass production of strong, lightweight silk, scientists at a Canadian biotechnology company and a United States Army research center have spliced spider genes into cells from cows and hamsters and induced the cells to churn out silk. The silk, grown in tissue cultures, has been spun into threads that are comparable to those produced by spiders.

The scientists are seeking to produce dragline silk, what spiders use for the radiating spokes in their webs, a fiber that, pound for pound, is stronger than steel but also light, elastic and easily recyclable.

"No one has been able to make fibers like this before," said Dr. Jeffrey D. Turner, president and chief executive of the company, Nexia Biotechnologies. "That's a huge advance in this field."

Nexia, of Vaudreuil-Dorian, Quebec, is planning to expand its silk production to a commercial scale with goats that have been genetically altered to secrete silk proteins in their milk. The company has bred the goats, but they have not yet begun producing milk.


from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- President Bush challenged his newly installed bioethics advisers to be the "conscience of the country" as they tackle difficult questions about the promise of science and the dignity of life.

Bush repeated his opposition to human cloning, which is the first topic on the panel's agenda, but said the group can serve an important role in helping Americans understand the issue.

"I have spoken clearly on cloning. I just don't think it's right," Bush told his President's Council on Bioethics, which met with him at the White House Thursday. "On the other hand, there is going to be a lot of nuance and subtlety to the issue, I presume. And I think this is very important for you all to help the nation understand what this means."


from Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Galileo spacecraft, which on Thursday began its final fly-by past one of Jupiter's four major moons, was unable to collect data after mistakenly shutting down on-board computers, U.S. space scientists said.

Eileen Theilig, project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said Galileo, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 1995, had placed itself into "standby mode" while approaching the giant gas planet's volcano-studded moon Io.

Theilig said Galileo's flight team was sending commands to the 6,000-pound spacecraft in hopes that it would switch the computers back on in time for the rest of the Io fly-by.


from The Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK -- As New Yorkers choked and gagged under a cloud of smoky dust after the World Trade Center attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency constantly assured them that the air did not pose a major health risk.

"EPA is greatly relieved to learn that there appears to be no significant levels of asbestos in the air in New York City," said Administrator Christie Whitman in a Sept. 13 message repeated many times.

But now, amid growing scientific evidence of high asbestos levels in homes and other potentially serious air quality problems related to the attacks, many New Yorkers believe the EPA misled them and was perhaps too eager to promote the return to business as usual in lower Manhattan. "The assurances we got from the EPA came from ignorance, and we do not want to pay a terrible price in death and sickness down the road," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) said Thursday, joining federal, state and local officials in a call for the EPA to clean up contaminants inside New York homes and businesses.


from The Associated Press

There is a new problem with the Pentagon's troubled program to protect military forces from the deadly anthrax virus -- pregnant women have mistakenly been given anthrax vaccinations that can cause birth defects.

The Defense Department has ordered military health workers to come up with new plans for avoiding such mistakes after a study by the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery found pregnant women who received anthrax vaccinations ran a higher risk of having babies with defects.

Officials think the study may have used faulty data and have ordered a review, bureau spokesman Lt. j.g. Mike Kafka said Thursday.


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Covering the Whole Weird World


The Magazine Reader

From Falling Fish to Death by Dishwasher, Fortean Times Is Bizarrely

By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2002; Page C02

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a . . . goldfish?

Taming Ball Lightning

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

This link is from the Black-Triangle mailing list.



Taming Ball Lightning

For over ten years, Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems, Inc. (Acton, MA), has been on a mission. He's been trying to show that ball lightning--a rare and unexplained natural event in which a spherical cloud glows for as long as a minute--could hold the key to a revolutionary energy technology. This mission recently passed an important milestone as Dr. Chiping Chen, a research scientist at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, has confirmed the existence of a generic class of self-organized plasma toroids, stable in atmosphere with no external magnetic fields required for containment. A paper by Chen, Pakter, and Seward will be published in October in Physics of Plasmas.

Credible science

Chen's work supports Seward's experimental research on plasma toroids, which began after theorizing that ball lightning is a naturally occurring self-organized plasma toroid. Since producing small, short-lived, self-organized plasma toroids in the lab--which he calls spiral plasma toroids (SPTs)--Seward has concentrated on developing a theoretical framework to explain their existence. This framework was essential, he thought, to obtain the scientific credibility he needed to sustain a long-term program for building larger, more practical SPTs. Seward and Chen presented a paper at ICOPS 2001 titled "Ball Lightning Explained as a Stable Plasma Toroid."

With Chen's theoretical work published, Seward now has this stamp of approval on the physics, and he can start moving toward his ultimate goal and that of the BMDO STTR program managers who funded some of this work: a workable energy storage device for propulsion or directed energy weapons.

For instance, Chen has suggested a radical new propulsion system based on this technology. Theoretical calculations suggest that the SPT can be accelerated as an entity at up to 600,000 m/s. This would provide thrust in atmosphere with a specific impulse of 60,000 seconds, compared to the 500 seconds for chemical systems. This improvement in specific impulse means that rockets using the SPT unit would be able to carry 120 times less propellant. While similar accelerators are being developed using compact toroids at Kirtland AFB, SPT's can be made rapidly in a simple apparatus, and can last in atmosphere. By directing the SPT beams outward from a gun, instead of backward from a rocket, the SPT could also be used to form a new kind of directed particle beam that would travel through atmosphere. Such a system would project significant force and energy through atmosphere and onto an incoming missile or aircraft. And, at 600,000 m/s, it would be projected rapidly over long distances. Finally, Seward has also calculated that the technology will increase the capacity of charged particle traps by an order of magnitude. If so, it can be useful for storing protons, ions, and antimatter. This will have long-term benefits in the field of energy storage and power generation.

Next Steps

Seward says the next steps for developing the technology are clear. Plans are on the drawing board to make a larger, more practical SPT. "The physics provide guidance on how to modify the present experimental apparatus to do this," added Seward. "There is no technical impediment, just time and effort." The scale-up will allow the demonstration of the particle trap technology, and will lead to experiments to demonstrate the SPT acceleration. Seward is looking for strategic partners to complete these experiments.
--T. Lynch

Mr. Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems, Inc.
(Acton, MA) at (978) 263-3871
Email: cseward@ieee.org


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


Today's Headlines - January 17, 2002

from The Washington Post

The White House yesterday released the names of 17 philosophers, medical experts, lawyers and theologians who will make up the newly created President's Council on Bioethics, a group that will advise the president on matters at the intersection of medicine and morality.

Bush had already tapped University of Chicago ethicist Leon R. Kass in August to chair the council. But the White House did not release the names of the other members until last night, on the eve of the council's inaugural meeting to be held in Washington today and Friday.

At the top of its agenda is the ethics of human cloning and of experimentation on cloned human embryos -- contentious topics that will be the focus of a Senate hearing next Thursday and are due for a full-blown debate by March.


from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The first human clone has not yet been born and may never be. But Jim Kallinger is thinking ahead. The Florida state legislator last week filed a bill to give cloned children the right to sue the scientists who create them, seeking money to cover living expenses, medical costs and emotional damages.

In Wisconsin, sponsors of a broad anti-cloning bill claim support from 41 of the 99 members of the state Assembly. In Kentucky, a committee of the state House on Wednesday approved a bill to ban human cloning.

State anti-cloning bills, which are also on the agenda in California, Massachusetts, Colorado and elsewhere, are a measure of the broad national unease with the prospect of human cloning. But they also reflect another fear: that Congress will fail to act.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A third of a century after astronauts left mirrors on the moon, the reflective arrays are still helping scientists explore the question: Was Albert Einstein right?

Scientists continually refine the known distance to the moon to determine whether Einstein's theory of gravity -- which works great on the cosmic scale for explaining the motions of planets and galaxies -- remains valid at very small scales.

Their latest goal: to use laser reflections to measure the distance to the moon with almost unbelievable precision -- about the thickness of a paper clip.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

The death of a single rhesus monkey at a Harvard University laboratory may signal a major setback for a promising new advance in AIDS vaccine research.

In October 2000, Harvard scientists reported that an experimental vaccine had protected eight monkeys by suppressing an AIDS-like virus that quickly killed unvaccinated monkeys.

Unlike vaccines that prevent infections altogether, this one protected the monkeys by keeping the infection at such a low level it caused no harm. It was good news for the future of so-called cellular immunity vaccines, which stir up white blood cells, instead of antibodies, to fight off invading microbes.

But in today's issue of the British journal Nature, Dr. Dan Barouch and colleagues at Harvard report that six months after the rhesus monkeys were vaccinated, a mutant virus emerged in one of the animals, and eventually killed it.


from The New York Times

FOR most people, time just flies. But for scientists who build atomic clocks, which are the most accurate timepieces in the world and crucial to the proper functioning of telecommunications networks, Global Positioning System satellites and other systems, time flies in increments of one nine- billionth of a second.

All clocks have some kind of oscillator, or "ticker," whether it is the pendulum in a grandfather clock or a quartz crystal in a wristwatch, as well as a mechanism that accumulates and counts the seconds, minutes and hours. In the best atomic clocks, including those at the National Institute of Standards and Technology's laboratory in Boulder, Colo., which, along with the United States Naval Observatory, keeps the nation's time standards, the ticker is an oscillating microwave signal synchronized to the resonance of cesium 133 atoms.

Cesium 133 resonates between different energy states 9,192,631,770 times each second with almost no variation. So a clock that ticks to that resonant frequency will be highly accurate. The National Institute of Technology's most accurate cesium clock, which along with a similar device in Paris is the most accurate in the world, will neither gain nor lose a second in 20 million years.


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Herbal treatment proven for hay fever - Your News from Ananova

Researchers say the herbal extract butterbur is just as effective as antihistamines for treating hay fever.

But it doesn't have the side-effect of making the user sleepy.

The Swiss team behind the research say butterbur, which grows in woodland near streams, should be considered as a valid treatment.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_497742.html

Sex helps women avoid cellulite, says report

From Ananova at


A new report claims that sex helps women avoid getting cellulite.

German magazine Glamour claims sex strengthens body tissue and helps the skin to renew itself more quickly, becoming firmer and more elasticated.

The reason for this is that during sex the female body releases an extra dose of oestrogen. This helps combat the dimpled "orange peel" effect.

The report didn't say how often women should make love to avoid cellulite but, as a guideline, suggested "as often as you like".

Thursday, January 17, 2002

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


Today's Headlines - January 16, 2002

from The Washington Post

Scientists have discovered what may be the first model for extraterrestrial life -- a community of hydrogen-eating microbes living in the darkness of a geothermal hot spring 600 feet beneath southeastern Idaho.

The tiny microbes, living organisms known as Archaea, grow as they combine hydrogen with carbon dioxide in an environment that requires neither sunshine nor organic carbon.

The presence of such ecosystems on Earth, where sun and food sources containing organic carbon are the familiar prerequisites for most life forms, suggests they may be present elsewhere in the solar system, scientists said.

Other planets' surface conditions are virtually untenable, even where there is water. In these hostile environments, the best chance for life may lie with Archaea-like microbial communities in hot, geothermal pockets -- deep beneath the chill surface of Mars, or in liquid water trapped under the miles-thick ice sheets cloaking Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Exploring the prickly terrain of biology and race, tobacco researchers say they may have found why some Asian smokers have lower lung cancer rates than whites.

A study shows Chinese Americans metabolize nicotine at a slower pace, and possibly because of that, inhale less smoke per cigarette. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco are reporting the results today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The experiment enrolled 131 white, Latino and Chinese American smokers at San Francisco General Hospital. Volunteers received intravenous doses of nicotine laced with a chemical tracer that allowed scientists to measure how quickly the substance was broken down.


from Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain announced plans on Wednesday for a network of "genetic knowledge parks" designed to keep the country at the cutting edge of the genetics revolution.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said the six parks, which are backed by government funding of $22 million, would extend the range of diagnostic tests for genetic disorders.

"The knowledge parks will bring together clinicians, scientists, academics and industrial researchers. They will be centers of clinical and scientific excellence seeking to improve the diagnosis, treatment and counseling of patients," Millburn told a genetics conference in London.

The centers will also develop new tests to find out which patients will respond best to which drugs and new testing procedures so that disease progression and treatment are monitored more effectively.


from The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Since 1989, the camera on NASA's Galileo spacecraft has filmed a comet slamming into Jupiter, volcanoes erupting on one of its moons and the first known moon orbiting an asteroid.

On Thursday, the camera will snap its last pictures. Galileo will make its final flyby of one of Jupiter's major moons when it sweeps within 62 miles of Io.

The mission budget does not cover any further pictures.

Galileo will continue making other scientific observations until September 2003, when the $1.4 billion spacecraft is expected to slam into Jupiter in a spectacular finale. But the 70 photographs to be transmitted to Earth over the next three months will be the last.


from The Christian Science Monitor

For decades, fingerprinting and handwriting analysis have enjoyed sure acceptance in American courts.

But now, in an age of scientifically grounded DNA analysis, judges are looking with increased skepticism at forensic techniques that rely solely on the subjective experience of experts.

Last week, Philadelphia federal judge Louis Pollak ruled a fingerprint expert could not testify that a suspect's prints definitively matched those found at a crime scene. Other courts have also recently knocked out testimony from handwriting and knife-mark experts.

Legal observers view the decision by Judge Pollak as a breakthrough that could lead to major changes in the way everything from firearms to bite marks are investigated and presented in court.


from The Chicago Tribune

Science teacher Gail Green has an unusual problem that most teachers would be happy to have: The 7th and 8th grade girls in her after-school math and science club are complaining that they're not getting enough math problems.

"Some of you have been asking to do more math rather than science, so today we are doing an exercise in genetics and probability," Green told the dozen pupils recently assembled for the Girls in Engineering and Math (GEMS) meeting she leads each week.

Green, who teaches at District 54's Keller Junior High School in Schaumburg, left a career in computer science four years ago to become a teacher. She started the club to address what she feels is a lack of student interest in science and math.

"There is a dearth of students of any gender interested in the technology fields right now, but especially girls," she said.


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NCSE email news service

From: Ludwig Krippahl

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California, is the only group dedicated to protecting the teaching of evolution in public schools science classes and keep sectarian material out.

NCSE has now established an email news service to alert interested parties about the latest developments in the creation/evolution controversy.

To subscribe to the list send:
subscribe ncse <your email address>

NCSE will not distribute your email address to any company or other organization.

Please distribute this notice to any groups or individuals you think might be interested in this information. Many thanks.

Eugenie Scott

Scientists' breakthrough shows objects fall in mini steps

From Ananova at


An experiment has shown for the first time that objects falling under gravity do so in tiny lurching steps. Scientists in France have seen the very small quantum forces involved in gravity.

They did it by monitoring tiny, slow-moving, uncharged particles in a specially-designed detector.

Gravity, especially at small scales, is a weak force, making it difficult to measure its quantum effects.

So, Nature reports, Valery Nesvizhevsky and his team at the Laue-Langevin Institute in Grenoble, designed a new way of observing them. Their machine isolated the slow-moving ultracold neutrons, or UCNs, from the Universe's other three fundamental forces of electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear force.

By following the progress of hundreds of UCNs falling from the top of the detector to the bottom, the team found that the particles exist only at certain heights.

Nesvizhevsky says: "They do not move continuously, but rather jump from one height to another as quantum theory predicts." The new technique has excited many physicists: some believe it may even help discover where gravity comes from.

Story filed: 10:33 Thursday 17th January 2002

Magician-turned-politician to get friends to hypnotise voters

From Ananova at


An Indian magician who's hoping to become a politician is getting 200 of his magician friends to hypnotise voters.

They also plan to ride motorbikes while blindfolded and put on magic shows during the campaign.

O P Sharma is hoping to win a seat in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.

He's the Samajwadi Party's candidate for Govindnagar in Kanpur district, Sify News reports.

He says magicians from all over India will join the campaign to get him elected.

O P Sharma has staged 26,000 shows during his career. He became a magician at the age of six.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

A 2,000 Year-Old Technique May Hold The Key To Acupuncture's Therapeutic Effect



Bethesda, MD -- Western medical experts have been inherently skeptical of acupuncture's therapeutic value for the treatment of pain and other medical conditions. One reason is that it seems very unlikely that the simple act of inserting fine needles into tissue could elicit any effect at all, let alone wide-ranging and long-lasting therapeutic effects. Acupuncture needles are of a finer gauge than even the finest hypodermic needles (not considered therapeutic); acupuncture rarely results in a single drop of blood being discharged. What skeptics are not aware of is that acupuncture typically involves manual needle manipulation after needle insertion. Manual needle manipulation consists of rapidly rotating (back-and-forth or one direction) and/or pistoning (up-and-down motion) of the needle. The manipulation can be brief (a few seconds), prolonged (several minutes), or intermittent depending on the clinical situation. Manipulation occurs even when electrical stimulation is used (a relatively recent development in the history of acupuncture).

Traditionally, manipulation is performed to elicit the characteristic reaction to acupuncture needling known as "de qi." De qi has a sensory component, known as "needle grasp," which is perceived by the patient as an ache or heaviness in the area surrounding the needle and a simultaneously occurring biomechanical component that can be perceived by the acupuncturist. During needle grasp, the acupuncturist feels as if the tissue is grasping the needle such that there is increased resistance to further motion of the manipulated needle. This "tug" on the needle is classically described as "like a fish biting on a fishing line."

Needle grasp can range from subtle to very strong, with pulling back on the needle resulting in visible tenting of the skin. During acupuncture treatments, needle manipulation is used to elicit and enhance de qi, and de qi is used as feedback to confirm that the proper amount of needle stimulation has been used.

De qi is widely viewed as essential to acupuncture's therapeutic effectiveness. Needle manipulation, de qi, and needle grasp, therefore, are potentially important components of acupuncture's therapeutic effect, yet the mechanisms underlying de qi and needle grasp are unknown. As a first step toward understanding the physiological and therapeutic significance of de qi, researchers quantified needle grasp by measuring the force necessary to pull an inserted acupuncture needle out of the tissues (pullout force). They also hypothesized that:

* Pullout force is greater with two different types of needle manipulation commonly used in acupuncture practice [bidirectional (BI) and unidirectional (UNI) needle rotation] than with needle insertion with no manipulation (NO). If proven true, this will demonstrate that needle manipulation has measurable biomechanical effects.

* These measurable effects could suggest that needle manipulation may indeed play an important role in acupuncture therapy as de qi is traditionally believed to be greater at "acupuncture points."

* Pullout force is greater at classically defined acupuncture points than at nonacupuncture control points.

To test these hypotheses, an experiment was performed in which normal human subjects received different types of acupuncture needle manipulation at eight acupuncture points and eight corresponding control points.

The authors of the research study, "Biomechanical Response to Acupuncture Needling in Humans," are Helene M. Langevin, David L. Churchill, James R. Fox, Gary J. Badger, Brian S. Garra, and Martin H. Krag, all from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, Vermont. Their findings are published in the December 2001 edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology.


Healthy volunteers, ages 18-55, were invited to participate. Exclusion criteria were a history of diabetes, neuromuscular disease, bleeding disorder, collagen vascular disease, acute or chronic corticosteroid therapy, and extensive scarring or dermatological abnormalities in the areas tested. Volunteers taking anti-inflammatory or antihistamine medications were asked to discontinue their use three days before testing. Female volunteers were excluded if they were pregnant. Testing was not scheduled during menstruation to avoid possible discomfort due to cessation of anti-inflammatory medication.

Thirty-eight women and 22 men completed the testing protocol. The mean age and body mass index of the participants was 37.1 ± 10.2 years and 26.5 ± 5.3 kg/m2, respectively. There were no significant differences with respect to these subject characteristics between the groups of subjects randomized to the three needle-manipulation types.

Eight traditional acupuncture point locations were investigated. For each location, pairs of corresponding acupuncture points on the right and left sides of the body were identified and marked with a skin marker (16 acupuncture points total). Acupuncture points were identified according to traditional methods. Approximate position was determined in relation to anatomic landmarks (e.g., bones, tendons) and proportional measurements (e.g., fraction of the distance between wrist and elbow creases). Palpation, feeling for a slight depression or yielding of tissues determined the precise position of each acupuncture point. For each location, right and left sides of the body were then randomly selected for acupuncture point and control point. On the side selected for control point, a disk-shaped template was centered on the acupuncture point.

Throughout testing, subjects were neither told nor able to see or hear any indication of which side was used for each point (acupuncture and control) and which needle manipulation type (NO, BI, or UNI) was being performed. All needling procedures (insertion, manipulation, pullout, and pullout-force measurement) were performed by a computer-controlled acupuncture needling system. This ensured consistent experimental conditions and eliminated many potential sources of investigator bias.


The measurements of pullout force are the first quantification of needle grasp, a biomechanical aspect of the characteristic de qi reaction widely viewed as essential to the therapeutic effect of acupuncture. The research found 167 and 52 percent increases in pullout force with UNI and BI, respectively, compared with NO. Needle manipulation increased pullout force at both acupuncture points and control points. Although 18 percent difference in mean pullout force between acupuncture points and control points existed, the magnitude of this difference was much smaller than the difference caused by manipulation of the needle. Together, these results indicate that needle grasp is strongly influenced by needle manipulation and that this effect is not unique to acupuncture points.


Needle grasp has been described in acupuncture textbooks for over 2,000 years. This study constitutes a first step toward determining the biological and clinical significance of this phenomenon. For the first time, a link has been demonstrated between acupuncture needle manipulation and biomechanical events in the tissue. These biomechanical events are potentially associated with long-lasting cellular and extracellular effects. Developing an understanding of these effects in future studies may eventually lead to insights into acupuncture's therapeutic mechanisms. In the shorter term, these same effects may also provide important biological markers that can be used in clinical trials of acupuncture.

Source: December 2001 edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology.


The American Physiological Society (APS) was founded in 1887 to foster basic and applied science, much of it relating to human health. The Bethesda, MD-based Society has more than 10,000 members and publishes 3,800 articles in its 14 peer-reviewed journals every year.

Punxsutawney Phil a terrorist target?


January 16, 2002 Posted: 11:12 AM EST (1612 GMT)

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania (AP)

-- When Punxsutawney Phil pops his head out of his hole on February 2 to tell people whether or not they will experience six more weeks of winter, the famous groundhog may see more than his shadow.

Because of the September 11 terrorist attacks, security will be stepped up at Phil's home, Gobbler's Knob.

"They'll be checking people a little more, naturally, the way conditions are," said Barney Stockdale of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

People with backpacks or bags will be subject to a search when they go to Gobbler's Knob.

What are we doing, in God's name?




Has God had a good war this year? Has the new century started well for religious belief? As the last closed, politicians were talking about what they called the "faith community"; after September 2001, how is that community doing? How high, at the end of this strange and shocking chapter, is deism's stock? The smoke has cleared in New York. Western man has witnessed a mad tragedy actuated by faith. But it is not clear whether for most people this only underlines the need for a true God - to save us from the false ones - or whether gods, all gods, were the problem, not the solution.

Evolution targeted in curriculum study



John Mangels and Scott Stephens
Plain Dealer Reporters

Columbus - A controversy about the teaching of evolution is threatening to derail the process educators had been using to update what's taught in Ohio public school classrooms.

Unhappy with an early draft of the proposed science curriculum for grades K-12, several members of the State Board of Education are pushing for a rewrite that would present evolution as "an assumption, not fact," and would include an alternative explanation for how humans and all other living things came to exist.

Catholic Exorcist takes on Harry Potter


January 13, 2002. Proving that wisdom does not necessarily accompany aging, 75-year old Fr. Gabriele Amorth confidently boasts of his superstitious notion that the Devil is behind all evil, including Harry Potter. Amorth is proud that he performs countless exorcisms, despite the fact that these days the Catholic Church hardly recognizes Satan as a force to reckon with. "An unnecessary exorcism never hurt anybody," says the good priest who considers the movie "The Exorcist" to be a documentary of his kind of work. Raised in Italy, where it is common to believe in such things as the evil eye and the casting of spells, Fr. Amorth has never outgrown his early training in superstition.

Amorth realizes that many people who think they are possessed by the Devil are mentally ill. He requires his victims to first see a doctor, but he doesn't seem to think the mentally ill can't also be possessed. He says he's treated some victims for 16 years. It is ironic that he thinks his victims have sometimes been dabbling in magick.

Villagers appeal for scientists to explain 'monsters'

From Ananova at


Filipino villagers are appealing for scientists to explain large unidentified creatures seen in the Tikis river.

Five of the mysterious black creatures have been spotted in the river in Bhawen since November.

They have baffled the Aeta tribe who live there. There is no account of such creatures in their oral history.

Dubbed the Pinatubo Monsters, they are believed to be 7ft long and 3ft wide.

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


Today's Headlines - January 15, 2002

from The Washington Post

Babies who are born as little as one to four weeks premature are at risk of suffering mild developmental delays, government researchers announced yesterday.

Warning against the assumption that such births are completely safe, the scientists said slightly premature infants were slower than full-term infants to hit such milestones as picking up small objects, crawling and speaking. The delays were observed for at least four years.

When compounded with other risk factors, such as poverty or low education in the family, the developmental delays could become significant, said the scientists.

"The conventional wisdom is there are no long-term consequences to being born moderately pre-term," said Mary Hediger, a biologist in the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.


from The Washington Post

He died 5,300 years ago in the high Alps with an arrow in his back. He had an ax in his belt, arrows in his quiver, a bearskin hat and an unfinished yew bow, and he lay in a shallow trench filled with ice and dirt.

Ever since his corpse was discovered by two mountaineers in 1991, the "Iceman" has fascinated scientists and archaeologists as a unique Copper Age mummy from a part of the world whose Neolithic prehistory is little more than a blank slate.

The discovery last year that the Iceman had been shot in the back with a flint-tipped arrow ruined the popular view that he was an unfortunate hunter who died of exposure on a chill mountain pass. Instead, it appeared he was the prey.

Now, however, archaeologist Johan Reinhard has offered a new and probably controversial theory for the Iceman's demise: that he was the victim of a ritual murder or human sacrifice, intended as an offering to deities who dwelt in the snowy crags above the 10,500-foot mountain pass where he was found.


from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The tiny fairy shrimp, which lives in rainwater ponds in California's Central Valley, won a victory of sorts Monday at the Supreme Court, as the justices turned away a challenge to its federal protection as an endangered species.

It marked the third time in recent years that the high court has refused to limit the federal government's power to protect wildlife. Property rights advocates have been eager for the court's conservative justices to reconsider the reach of the Endangered Species Act.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to "regulate commerce . . . among the several states," and lawmakers relied on this power in passing the federal environmental laws. But the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, has moved to put limits on this power. In 1995, the court struck down on a 5-4 vote a federal law that made it illegal to have a gun near a school. Two years ago, the court struck down a second law that gave rape victims a right to sue their attackers in federal court. In both instances, Rehnquist said that because gun possession and sexual assault do not involve interstate commerce, Congress had no power to make them federal offenses.


from The Associated Press

A NASA robot used its piping-hot tip to melt 75 feet into an Arctic glacier, demonstrating a technology that could hunt for microbes living beneath the ice on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system.

The 5-inch diameter, cylindrical Cryobot took four days to melt into the glacier on the island of Spitsbergen, north of the Arctic Circle in the Norwegian-administered international territory of Svalbad.

"It was basically like a hot iron against the ice," said Lloyd French, who was among scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology involved in the October test.


from The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Dead Sea, already the lowest point on Earth, is sinking even lower.

Areas along the shores of the Dead Sea subsided by as much as 2.5 inches a year between 1992 and 1999, according to a new study. The region on the Israeli-Jordanian border lies about 1,360 feet below sea level.

The subsidence followed a drop in the water table around the Dead Sea, allowing the ground to settle and compact, according to scientists who published their findings in the January issue of the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

Water that would normally flow into the Dead Sea has steadily been siphoned off for agricultural and other uses in the thirsty region. As a consequence, the level of the body of water, among the world's saltiest, has fallen by about 20 feet over the past decade.


from The New York Times

Fires are burning in thousands of underground coal seams from Pennsylvania to Mongolia, releasing toxic gases, adding millions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and baking the earth until vegetation shrivels and the land sinks.

Scientists and government agencies are starting to use heat-sensing satellites to map the fires and try new ways to extinguish them. But in many instances - particularly in Asia - they are so widespread and stubborn that miners simply work around the flames.

There is geological evidence that grassland and forest fires, lightning and spontaneous combustion of coal have spawned such fires for hundreds of thousands of years. In Wyoming and northern China, broad layers of earth are composed of "clinker," the brittle baked rock left behind when subterranean coal burns.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/15/science/15FIRE.html 'HARD-WIRED' GRAMMAR RULES FOUND FOR ALL LANGUAGES
from The New York Times

In 1981 the linguist Noam Chomsky, who had already proposed that language was not learned but innate, made an even bolder claim.

The grammars of all languages, he said, can be described by a set of universal rules or principles, and the differences among those grammars are due to a finite set of options that are also innate.

If grammar were bread, then flour and liquid would be the universal rules; the options - parameters, Dr. Chomsky called them - would be things like yeast, eggs, sugar and jalapeños, any of which yield a substantially different product when added to the universals. The theory would explain why grammars vary only within a narrow range, despite the tremendous number and diversity of languages.

While most linguists would now agree that language is innate, Dr. Chomsky's ideas about principles and parameters have remained bitterly controversial. Even his supporters could not claim to have tested his theory with the really tough cases, the languages considered most different from those the linguists typically know well.


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Tuesday, January 15, 2002

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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Today's Headlines - January 14, 2002

from The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON - Momentum is building behind a campaign to get the US Senate to act quickly to ban human cloning, a subject that is energizing social conservatives and emerging as an important domestic political issue for the White House this election year.

Conservative activists predict that in his Jan. 29 State of the Union address, President Bush will urge the Senate to follow the House, which in July passed a comprehensive ban on cloning human embryos, and made it a crime to harvest cells for reproduction or research for medical treatments.

Majority leader Thomas Daschle promised a Senate vote on the bill this spring. But its sponsor, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, said the action can't wait because of the November announcment by Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester that it had created the first clone of a human embryo for medical research.

''Now that the threshold has been crossed, it is only a matter of time before cloned human embryos are implanted for live birth,'' said Brownback, a Republican who is pushing for a human-cloning debate as early as February.


from The Washington Post

The Earth may be in the midst of a planet-wide warming cycle, but in a startling departure from global trends, scientists have found that temperatures on the Antarctic continent have fallen steadily for more than two decades.

Researcher Peter Doran said scientists working in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of east Antarctica have found temperatures dropping at a rate of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1986, and have observed similar downward trends across the continent since 1978.

Doran stressed that although scientists could not explain the falling temperatures, the research "does not change the fact that the planet has warmed up on the whole. The findings simply point out that Antarctica is not responding as expected."

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that there has been a net rise in global air temperature of 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit per decade in the 20th century, a calculation that includes the Antarctic data.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Biologists at the University of California at Santa Cruz say that although a fiery blaze gutted two labs this weekend, much of their research was spared because it was stored on computers located in different parts of the building.

"The important computers were not actually in the lab, and they escaped water damage and smoke contact," said Manuel Ares, one of two molecular biologists whose labs were destroyed in the fire, which began early Friday morning. "I'm feeling much better. They were initially telling us that smoke damage can ruin hard drives."

Ares, who chairs the university's Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology department, said he had lost all of the lab equipment used for conducting experiments. He also lost research in old notebooks kept in the lab that included information about experiments that didn't work.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Almost from the time he could walk, Berkeley concert pianist Roy Bogas felt the pull of music -- and an uncanny facility for recognizing, and eventually naming, notes.

Bogas, who performs for the San Francisco Ballet and other orchestras, can instantly tell whether a given tone is an A or a D or a G or any interval between.

Known as "perfect" or "absolute" pitch, it's a rare ability in adults, even among professional musicians, who typically have what's known as "relative pitch," or the ability to tell what a note is only when given a starting note as a reference.

Now, Bogas and other walking tuning forks are the focus of intense scientific interest as researchers hunt for the roots of this remarkable skill.



Dr. Burton I. Edelson, a leader in satellite communications who helped start and oversee some of NASA's most popular science programs, died Jan. 6 in New York, where he was visiting family and friends. He was 75 and lived in Chevy Chase, Md.

The cause was a heart attack, said his son Daniel.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Dr. Edelson associate administrator for space science and applications at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In that post he played a central role in beginning and directing several programs, including the Hubble Space Telescope and Mars exploration missions.

"When he came to NASA, the space science budget was at a low," said Neil Helm, deputy director of George Washington University's Institute for Applied Space Research, which Dr. Edelson founded after retiring from NASA in 1987. "But he managed to increase the budget significantly, and established a number of programs that helped reinvigorate space science at NASA.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/14/obituaries/14EDEL.html GROUP SUES NIH FOR DOCUMENTS ON CAT EXPERIMENTS
from The Washington Post

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a health advocacy group that generally opposes animal experimentation, is suing the federal government for documents that it believes would lead to the shutdown of a federally funded project involving experiments on cats.

PCRM filed suit in U.S. District Court here, alleging that the National Institutes of Health improperly withheld data that should be made public under the Freedom of Information Act. The group says it needs the documents to challenge the way NIH reviews scientific projects and to show that the experiments should never have been approved.

The suit, filed Dec. 27, contends that the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of NIH, refused to release records pertaining to a five-year project at Ohio State University at Columbus that was awarded a $1.68 million federal grant.


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Social Disease

An interesting editorial dissecting why South Africa's president is supporting AIDS quackery:


Social Disease
by Peter Beinart

Post date 01.10.02 Issue date 01.21.02

To American eyes, Thabo Mbeki is a contradiction. Throughout his political career, he's been known as a pro-Western moderate. He favored diplomatic rather than military efforts to end apartheid; he enjoys long-standing friendships with the captains of South African industry; his economic policies have been an IMF dream. And yet on AIDS, he spews Afrocentric nonsense--denying that Western science can help his people, claiming that racists are exaggerating the scope of the disease, and flirting with homegrown quack cures. A recent New York Times editorial remarked, "It is hard to understand how Mr. Mbeki, a reformer in many other ways, can be so irresponsible about AIDS."

Actually, from a South African perspective, it's not hard to understand at all. In the United States we take it for granted that "left-wing" economic policy and "left-wing" race policy go hand in hand: If you believe in redistributing wealth, you probably also believe in affirmative action. But in South Africa it's often the reverse: The left has generally been associated not with racialism, but with multiracialism. And capitalism and Afrocentrism often go hand in hand.

A major reason is that throughout the twentieth century, the easiest way for whites to enter the anti-apartheid struggle was through communism. (This was particularly true for Jews, who brought a tradition of labor radicalism with them from Eastern Europe.) By arguing that South Africa's fundamental conflict was not racial but economic, white leftists legitimized their role in the liberation movement. The still-influential South African Communist Party has long discouraged an excessive focus on race; in American parlance, it has always opposed identity politics.

But precisely because it has, South Africa's black racialists have generally viewed communism with suspicion. They have dubbed it a "European" import, a pretext for whites (and Indians) to control the anti-apartheid movement. And their anti-communism has often made South Africa's Afrocentrists sympathetic to the free market. In 1959, racialists formed the Pan-African Congress, which suggested that Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) was being controlled by whites and Communists. In the 1980s, Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi wooed American conservatives by arguing that his tribalism was more conducive to free-market economics than was the ANC's multiracial leftism.

This is the line of attack that Mbeki has now adopted as well. Within the ANC, he has long been considered a soft-liner. As Adrian Hadland and Jovial Rantao point out in their book The Life and Times of Thabo Mbeki, he played no role in the ANC's military campaign against the white government and, indeed, opposed the movement's 1985 decision to begin targeting civilians. In the late '80s, he led the ANC's efforts to woo influential white South African businessmen--becoming so chummy with some of them that colleagues in the ANC whispered that he was a government spy. To become Mandela's successor, he beat out two more militant rivals--ANC military chief Chris Hani, who was felled by an assassin's bullet in 1993, and Cyril Ramaphosa, the streetwise former head of the National Union of Mineworkers. As Anton Harber, former editor of the South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian, has put it, Mbeki "was known to the business community, having been the ANC's front-man dealing with them for some years.... But he did not have a popular base."

If his populist credentials weren't already suspect enough, since taking office Mbeki has pursued an economic policy that both admirers and critics call "Thatcherite." He has cut the budget deficit, reduced inflation to its lowest rate in 30 years, and slashed tariffs faster than the World Trade Organization requires. And he has been rewarded internationally, as Moody's and Standard & Poor's have upgraded South Africa's credit rating to investment-grade.

At home, however, Mbeki's free-market orthodoxy has brought howls of protest from South Africa's labor federation and Communist Party--both major players in black politics. To Mbeki's chagrin, South Africa's unions launched a major strike against his privatization policies just days before last summer's high-profile UN anti-racism conference in Durban. And there is reason to believe that the unions and the Communists accurately reflect public sentiment. In late 2000, The Economist quoted a survey showing that almost 50 percent of South Africans believed the government owed them a free house, and the same percentage believed that banks should be forced to lend to poor people, even if they can't pay back the loans.

Set against this backdrop, Mbeki's AIDS quackery is politically comprehensible. He is doing what black South African politicians have always done when attacked from the left: He is playing the race card. As The Mail and Guardian put it recently, "a kind of racial insecurity" characterizes Mbeki's statements about AIDS. His advisers have accused international pharmaceutical companies of exaggerating the epidemic's severity in order to sell drugs. Last October he said that international AIDS activists saw Africans as "germ carriers and human beings of a lower order." His first health minister notoriously claimed that South African researchers had found a homegrown cure for the virus, and his current health minister recently distributed a document saying that whites introduced AIDS as a plot to kill blacks.

Mbeki's rivals in the Communist Party and the labor federation have taken the bait. In keeping with their antiAfrocentric tradition, they have criticized his refusal to give antiretroviral drugs to pregnant women, and called on him to accept the Western scientific consensus that HIV causes AIDS. At first blush, Mbeki's strategy has worked--he can finally lay claim to racial authenticity. One of his key lieutenants has even called for purging the ANC of Communists in order to make it a more genuinely black party.

The problem, of course, is that Mbeki is pursuing his political gambit on the back of the worst plague in modern history. Shrewd racial politics or not, millions of South Africans are still dying of AIDS. And there is reason to believe that South Africa's president has guessed wrong--that most black South Africans care much more about saving lives than they do about blaming whites. Last year Mbeki's approval rating dropped from 70 percent to 50 percent, and Chris Landsberg, a political scientist at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, told The New York Times, "The AIDS policy and the communication of that policy was simply an unmitigated public relations disaster." The good news, then, is that South Africa's president may be learning a lesson about the limits of racial demagoguery--an especially timely lesson given the horrifying events in neighboring Zimbabwe. The bad news is that while he has been learning it, millions of his countrymen have needlessly died.

Endangered turtles 'saved by Hindu god link'

From Ananova at


Conservationists in India are saving endangered turtles by telling poachers the animals are the living form of a Hindu god.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Visakhapatnam claims it's successfully saving Olive Ridley turtles.

Its advertising campaign claims the animals are the turtle incarnation of Vishnu.

According to the Patrike newspaper, the society says it has had particular success in the coastal village of Pudimadaka where poachers have worked for several years.

Locals are said to believe turtle spleen can help women conceive and improve elderly men's sexual performance.

Society officials say there has been a dramatic change in people's attitudes.

They say fishermen have stopped killing turtles when they inadvertently catch them. They now release them into sea after worshipping them with flowers and vermilion powder, they add.

"Religion has proved to be a very useful tool in the save the turtle campaign. It has proved to be more effective than the fear of criminal prosecution. There has been a huge reduction in poaching," Pradeep Nath, spokesman for the SPCA says.

The society plans to extend the campaign to other areas.

Milk industry turns to ghost for ad campaign

From Ananova at


A US commercial featuring a ghost is trying to persuade more children to drink milk.

California milk producers are starting the $2 million campaign that features the ghost who cries over the loss of her children, who she drowned after being spurned by her husband.

The ghost, "La Llorona," is Spanish for weeping woman.

The California Milk Advisory Board hopes to reverse a trend of teenagers drinking less milk.

"Are we taking a chance? Absolutely," said spokesman Jeff Manning. "I hope it's an intelligent risk."

The commercial will run first in California, but also will be offered to other regions.

The legend is deeply ingrained in Hispanic culture.

Parents sometimes warn unruly children, "If you don't behave, La Llorona will come for you."

In the commercial, the shrouded ghost goes to the refrigerator for milk, finds the carton empty and leaves weeping.

The campaign was developed by four Hispanic students at the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena. Some wonder if using the Weeping Woman makes sense.

"My grandmother used to say 'La Llorona is coming to get you,'" said Gabriela Lemus, director of policy for the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington. "I don't know if I'd buy milk from someone who was trying to kill me."

Oprah Winfrey's Haunting Secret


Oprah Winfrey's Chicago headquarters is a state-of-the-art facility, complete with the latest in cameras, lighting - and ghosts. The talk show queen's Harpo Studio complex, where she tapes her syndicated series, is haunted by the sounds of footsteps, a child crying, doors that open and close by themselves and the eerie spectre of a woman in a grey dress and old-fashioned hat. According to author Leslie Rule, who documents the supernatural sightings at Harpo in her new book Coast To Coast Ghosts, Oprah had never uttered a word about them and likely never will. Leslie jokes, "She's probably afraid her guests would run out of the studio and keep going." Leslie reveals that the old armory Oprah bought in 1988 and transformed into her home base was once at the center of a great maritime disaster. It became the body identification center for thousands of men, women and children killed on a capsized ship in 1915. The writer adds of Oprah, "I think she should book all the ghosts as guests. Maybe if they tell their story, they'll be released from this world and can move on. Plus, ratings would go through the roof!"

Monday, January 14, 2002

Foot-reading fortune-teller jailed for fraud

From Ananova at:


A Japanese court has jailed a leading member of a cult that claimed it could tell people's fortunes by looking at their feet.

Yasunori Hoshiyama was second in command at the Hono-Hana-Sanpogyo "foot-reading" religious cult.

He was sentenced at Tokyo District Court to five years in jail for fraud for his part in cheating people out of over £850,000.

"You took an active role in what was effectively an organised scam carried out on a massive scale," Judge Osamu Ikeda said.

Court records show that Hoshiyama, 55, conspired in the fraud by claiming to "read" the soles of people's feet.

Between 1994 and 1997, he helped take 149 million yen from 31 women who asked for help, the court heard.

Hoshiyama is one of 15 cult members arrested in connection with the case.

Nine have already been convicted. The cult leader Hogen Fukunaga is still on trial, the Mainichi Daily News reports.




"As seen on German Television!"
Written and Illustrated by Tom Weller
Presented here in an Abridged Form
All contents © Copyright 1985 Tom Weller

About the Author


Since the dawn of time, man has looked to the heavens and wondered: where did the stars come from? He has looked at the great diversity of plants and animals around him and wondered: where did life come from? He has looked at himself and wondered: where did I come from? Later, he began to ask more complicated questions. He looked in his wallet and asked: where did my paycheck go? Am I on the right bus? Who do you like in the series? To the former questions, at least, science has provided answers.

Mystery Solved?


Author Patricia Cornwell on the Case of 'Jack the Ripper'

Dec. 7 — For more than a hundred years, law enforcement officials and crime buffs alike have tried to crack the case of "Jack the Ripper," the serial killer who brutally murdered five prostitutes in the East End of London in 1888.

Crime fiction writer Patricia Cornwell says she thinks she's finally solved history's most famous murder mystery. Read our Primetime report and the transcript of our online chat with Cornwell, below.

Sunday, January 13, 2002

Antarctica defies global warming

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,3-2002021502,00.html BY MARK HENDERSON, SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT

ANTARCTICA has become appreciably colder over the past 35 years and continues to cool, in defiance of the global warming effect seen everywhere else in the world, according to a study by American scientists. While temperatures on every other continent have risen over the past century, Antarctica has bucked the trend, although the reasons remain a mystery.

Over the past century, the world's average temperature has increased by 0.06C a decade, with even more marked warming, by 0.19C, between 1979 and 1998.

Data from weather stations across the Antarctic, however, show that it is getting colder: temperatures there are falling by 0.7C a decade. A separate set of measurements from the Dry Valleys region confirms the trend.

The results, published in the journal Nature, challenge orthodox theories of climate change, which hold that the effects of global warming ought to be magnified at the poles. The study, led by Peter Doran of the University of Illinois at Chicago, also suggests that standard theories of the phenomenon are flawed because they do not predict the Antarctic's cooling effect. Estimates of future rises in sea level may not be accurate, researchers said. Previous research has always shown that Antarctica is getting warmer.

Flying Saucer

From: John T. Willis

Verse 1:
I'm tired of the same old toy
and the same old recreation
my life in general bores me to the core
I need a permanent vacation

But I'm not gonna fool myself
I'm not gonna tell me lies
I won't pretend anything at all
but I really need a big surprise

I wanna see a flying saucer
I wanna see a flying saucer
I wanna see it land in front of my car
a flying formation over my back yard
carry me off to the nearest star
I wanna see a flying saucer
I wanna see a flying saucer

Verse 2:
I don't wanna read your book
I don't wanna hear your tale
I don't wanna see any photos you took
Or get UFO news in the mail

I wanna see something not from earth
Something new to understand
Something way beyond sex, death, or birth
Or playin' music in this band

- Brave Combo "Polka's for a Gloomy World"

Why should we again choose to speak of an aether?


Isn't that like resurrecting the notion of God, a single God, in scientific terms?

It is a poorly grasped truism that the Michelson-Morely Experiment 'ended once and for all any notion that an Aether did or could exist'. We have already written extensively on this matter (see Infinite Energy, #'s 38 & 39), but let us say again in a summary fashion that the Michelson-Morley Experiment did not, in any way, do away with any possible consideration of the Aether. What it did do away with was consideration of a fixed aether that, to boot, was electromagnetic in nature. Einstein himself supposed, until well into the 1920s, that there could and should be an Aether and that, in all likelihood, it would prove to be gravitational. Later, of course, a flawed geometrical analysis more than satisfied him, and there no longer remained a need, in his mind, to think of the gravitational field as an actual energy flux. Instead, his theorizing resorted to deformations of a quasi-static geometry. Einstein felt legitimized, in a sense, to do this because he thought that this was where the 'technologized' senses, the laboratory experiments and the Gedanken experiments inevitably led. But this turn in his thinking is, in a sense, a betrayal of his earlier positions. And, to this day, those who speak of an aether are only able to conceive of it as an electromagnetic reality.

Magic Medicine, just maybe

Leonard Leibovici, a professor of medicine at the Rabin Medical Center decided to explore whether it was possible to reach back from the future, into the past and, using Therapeutic Intent(TI)/prayer, to effect clinical outcomes of patients with a severe blood infection. The results, published in the Christmas 2001 number of the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) are as challenging and provocative as any in medicine.

In addition to using well-established procedures of randomization and double-blind, Leibovici avoided any charge that he selected his patients to produce a desired result by simply taking all of them -- "all adult patents - 3,392 of them -- whose bloodstream infection was detected" at the Rabin Center in Israel during a four year period between 1990 and 1996. "Bloodstream infection was defined as a positive blood culture (not resulting from contamination) in the presences of sepsis."

The patients were sorted into two population groups using a random number generator. And three primary outcomes were compared: ""the number of deaths in hospital, length of stay in hospital from the date of the first positive blood culture to discharge or death, and duration of fever.

TI Practitioners were given only a list of the patient's first names and were asked to say "a short prayer for the well being and full recovery of the group as a whole."

Leibovici, says: "We cannot assume a priori that time is linear, as we perceive it, or that God is limited by a linear time, as we are, the intervention was carried out 4-10 years after the patient's infection and hospitalization. The hypothesis was the remote retroactive intercessory prayer reduces mortality and shortens the length of stay in hospital and duration of fever." The results challenge our understanding of reality: "Remote, retroactive intercessory prayer said for a group is associated with a shorter stay in hospital and shorter duration of fever in patients with a bloodstream infection and should be considered for use in clinical practice."


Main outcome measures: Mortality in hospital, length of stay in hospital, and duration of fever.

Results: Mortality was 28.1% (475/1691) in the intervention group and 30.2% (514/1702) in the control group (P for difference=0.4). Length of stay in hospital and duration of fever were significantly shorter in the intervention group than in the control group (P=0.01 and P=0.04, respectively).

Conclusions: Remote, retroactive intercessory prayer said for a group is associated with a shorter stay in hospital and shorter duration of fever in patients with a bloodstream infection and should be considered for use in clinical practice.


Virgins? What virgins?


It is widely believed that Muslim 'martyrs' enjoy rich sensual rewards on reaching paradise. A new study suggests they may be disappointed. Ibn Warraq reports Special report: religion in the UK

Saturday January 12, 2002

The Guardian

In August, 2001, the American television channel CBS aired an interview with a Hamas activist Muhammad Abu Wardeh, who recruited terrorists for suicide bombings in Israel. Abu Wardeh was quoted as saying: "I described to him how God would compensate the martyr for sacrificing his life for his land. If you become a martyr, God will give you 70 virgins, 70 wives and everlasting happiness." Wardeh was in fact shortchanging his recruits since the rewards in Paradise for martyrs was 72 virgins. But I am running ahead of things .

Since September 11, news stories have repeated the story of suicide bombers and their heavenly rewards, and equally Muslim scholars and Western apologists of Islam have repeated that suicide is forbidden in Islam. Suicide (qatlu nafsi-hi) is not referred to in the Koran but is indeed forbidden in the Traditions (Hadith in Arabic), which are the collected sayings and doings attributed to the Prophet and traced back to him through a series of putatively trustworthy witnesses. They include what was done in his presence that he did not forbid, and even the authoritative sayings and doings of his companions.

Experiments into Remote Mind Control Technology

Robert O. Becker, M.D., in Crosscurrents: The Perils of Electropollution, says of GWEN: "GWEN is a superb system, in combination with cyclotron resonance, for producing behavioural alterations in the civilian population. The average strength of the steady geomagnetic field varies from place to place across the United States. Therefore, if one wished to resonate a specific ion in living things in a specific locality, one would require a specific frequency for that location. The spacing of GWEN transmitters 200 miles apart across the United States would allow such specific frequencies to be 'tailored' to the geomagnetic-field strength in each GWEN area."

By Jim Keith


An excerpt from his book Mind Control - World Control.

Experiments into Remote Mind Control methods has been well researched since the 50's.

The Soviets reportedly began to delve into the biological effect of microwaves as early as 1953. A number of laboratories were set up across the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, including one at the Institute of Hygiene and Occupational Diseases Academy of Medical Sciences. Although the Soviets reported on their experiments in the open literature, the parameteres they defined were insufficient for duplicating the experiments, and some scientists in the United States questioned whether the whole matter was disinformation. It was not.

Early CIA funding provided the wherewithal for a project launched at Honeywell, Inc. for "a method to penetrate inside a man's mind and control his brain waves over long distance."

At the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Maitland Baldwin, under CIA supervision, bombarded the brains of lobotomised monkeys with radio waves. According to researcher Alex Constantine, "His CIA monitors noted weird excesses: in one experiment, Baldwin decapitated a monkey and transplanted its head to the body of another, then attempted to restore it to life with radar saturation."


Saturday, January 12, 2002

UFO Sighting


KTRK-TV (Houston), January 7 2002

Report of a "fireball" in the sky seen and taped over Pearland on Sunday, January 6 2002. Includes a link to a video clip and quotes from witnesses.

Science In the News

[From our back issues]

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


Today's Headlines - December 11, 2001

from The Los Angeles Times

In a victory for companies that develop genetically modified plants, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that seeds and seed-grown plants can be patented.

The 6-2 ruling, which upheld a court of appeals decision, strengthens the intellectual property rights of the nation's largest seed biotechnology companies.

If these protections had been struck down, companies such as DuPont, Monsanto Co. and Sygenta would have seen hundreds of patents invalidated or restricted, giving other companies and farmers access to their technology without having to pay for it. "We have spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, to bring forth our products, some biotech solutions, some not," said Monsanto spokeswoman Lori Fisher. The court "clearly wanted to protect the rights of investors."

With biotechnology advancing at a rapid pace, the ruling sends a signal that the nation's highest court is taking a tough stance on intellectual property rights in every industry, said analyst Donald Carlson of J.P. Morgan.


from The Washington Post

Establishing the first likely link between service in southwest Asia during the Persian Gulf War and a specific disease, the Department of Veterans Affairs said yesterday that military personnel who served in the gulf region during the war appear to be almost twice as likely as other veterans to develop ALS, the fatal neurological disorder commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

In announcing the results of a study of Gulf War veterans by the VA and the Defense Department, VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi said his department would begin immediately providing additional benefits and compensation to veterans who were deployed in the Gulf region during the war and later developed the disease.

Principi described the study results as "preliminary" because they have not been reviewed by other scientists, but he said the VA decided to offer immediate benefits to those affected because ALS is "fatal and rapidly progressive." About half of the 40 Gulf War veterans who developed the disease have died, he said.


from Reuters

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Gabon has cordoned off a remote forest village to stop an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus thought to have killed at least 10 people in the central African country, health authorities said Monday.

In the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo, officials investigating the mysterious deaths of 17 people said they could probably rule out Ebola -- which bleeds its victims to death and has no known cure.

The World Health Organization had confirmed during the weekend that at least one of those killed by hemorrhagic fever in Gabon had died of Ebola.

"The zone is completely cordoned off," Gabon's assistant health director, Obame Edou, told Reuters. "A team has left for the area today and the government will not delay in releasing news on the epidemic."


from The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Scientists unveiled new images Monday of Jupiter's moon Io, including the highest resolution color picture yet of one of the hundreds of volcanoes on its surface.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's aging Galileo spacecraft swept past Io in August and again in October, on its 31st and 32nd orbits of Jupiter. During the flybys, Galileo snapped images of Io, made magnetic field measurements and recorded radio transmissions produced in the region surrounding the moon.

Among the new images is a close-up look at the volcanic crater Tupan Patera, named for the Brazilian god of thunder. The image shows that the kidney-shaped crater is a riot of red, yellow, black and green.

"This is basically what you'd see if you could look down on Io," said Elizabeth Turtle, of the University of Arizona, Tucson. The crater, thought to be a lake of molten lava, is about 47 miles across.


from The New York Times

What does a flower known as the sacred white lotus have to do with house paint?

In the world of biomimicry, everything.

The white lotus is a symbol of purity, yet it grows in swamps around the world. The secret of how the flower rises above its dismal environment was discovered by a German botanist, Dr. Wilhelm Barthlott at the University of Bonn, who spent 20 years studying the microscopic architecture of thousands of plant surfaces with a scanning electron microscope. Dr. Barthlott noticed that the leaves that needed the least amount of cleaning before they were scanned had the roughest surfaces.

And the cleanest leaf of all - the white lotus - turned out to have tiny points on it, like a bed of nails, Dr. Barthlott found. When a speck of dust or dirt falls on the leaf, it teeters precariously on those points. When a drop of water rolls across the tiny points, it picks up the poorly attached dirt and carries it away.


from The New York Times

Four years ago, Dr. Tanja Dominko went to a laboratory in Oregon with high hopes that she would soon be cloning monkeys. The lab was generously financed with federal grants, there were plenty of monkeys to work with and most experts thought that since Dolly the sheep had just been created by cloning, monkeys would not be far behind.

She left a year ago, with a cloning portfolio that she calls her gallery of horrors. After three years, and about 300 attempts, the best she got was a placenta with no fetus. Most of the time, she saw grotesquely abnormal embryos containing cells without chromosomes, where the cell's DNA resides; or cells with three or four nuclei and one time even nine; or cells that looked more like cancer cells than the cells of a healthy animal.

So Dr. Dominko joined a long line of cloning researchers unable to create clones. And the story she tells, she says, is a seldom-heard cautionary tale.


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Baby with tail 'reincarnation of Hindu god'

From Ananova at:


Crowds are flocking to Indian temples to see a Muslim baby with a 'tail' who is believed to be the reincarnation of a Hindu god.

The 11-month-old boy has been named Balaji or Bajrangbali, another name for monkey-faced Lord Hanuman.

He is reported to have a 4in 'tail' caused by genetic mutations during the development of the foetus.

Iqbal Qureshi, the child's maternal grandfather, is taking Balaji from temple to temple where people offer money to see the boy.

Mr Qureshi says the baby has nine spots on his body like Lord Hanuman and showed them to journalists, reports Indian newspaper The Tribune.

There have been other cases of babies born with tails. A report appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1982 by Dr Fred Ledley.

His paper entitled 'Evolution and the Human Tail' concerned a baby born with a 2in growth on its back.

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