NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 January 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Neighbour returned Witnesses' cold call




A MOTHER of three children became so fed up with Jehovah's Witnesses calling at her home that she interrupted their Sunday service by banging on their church door and offering them free magazines.

Jane White, 35, who has been visited by the religious group every month for more than 12 years, spent 30 minutes on the steps of the Kingdom Hall, in Peacehaven, East Sussex, until police moved her on. Afterwards she said:

"I've never done anything like this before, but I had a visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses the day before and that was the straw which broke the camel's back.

"I've been having regular visits from them in the 12 years I've lived in Peacehaven. It is not the religion I object to, it is just the intrusion into my privacy which I find annoying."

She added: "I timed my visit for 10am because I knew it would be in the middle of a service. One member of the congregation thought it was funny, others took it seriously.

"I tried to hand out free magazines to see if they would like a copy, just like the copies of The Watchtower the Jehovah's Witnesses hand out. Nobody seemed to want them though."

Paul Gillies, a spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses in Britain, said: "If someone states they do not want our representatives to call we make a note and avoid calling."

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines - January 22, 2002

from The Washington Post

The anthrax spores that went missing from the Army's top biological warfare laboratory in 1991had been sterilized and could not have played a role in last fall's terrorism attacks, a former senior officer at the research facility said yesterday.

But the apparent loss of more than two dozen biological specimens from the military research complex here reflected what numerous officials described as a deeply dysfunctional working environment in the early 1990s. They said these conditions contributed to multiple security lapses as well as acrimony among scientists working with some of the world's deadliest bacteria, viruses and chemicals.

"It was a very bad situation," said C. J. Peters, former deputy commander for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Md. "But the important question is how many of these missing samples were infectious, and the answer is none."


from The Los Angeles Times

GOMA, Congo -- Dieudonne Wafula is a prophet whose predictions were not respected in his own land.

Only last week, the Goma volcanologist warned local authorities that the 11,380-foot Mt. Nyiragongo volcano was going to erupt--and soon. No one heeded his warning, and four days later the volcano unleashed its fury on this eastern Congo town.

Red-hot lava covered about 40% of Goma, killing scores of people and displacing half a million. U.N. officials have said it could take weeks before they know how many people died. On Monday, other volcano experts and aid workers were praising Wafula's work. "Wafula has done a beautiful job with limited equipment," said Jacques Durieux, a French volcanologist who is advising the United Nations on Nyiragongo.

Ross Mountain, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy to the disaster area, said the world body will use research by Wafula and other volcano experts in determining how to help victims of the eruption.


from Reuters

NORWALK, Conn. (Reuters) - J. Craig Venter, the driving force behind the mapping of the human genome, has stepped down as president of Celera Genomics Group to focus on the scientific aspects of its business, parent company Applera Corp. said on Tuesday.

Venter, who faced criticism for turning in his lab coat for a business suit when he left the Institute for Genomic Research to help create Celera in 1998, will continue his affiliation with the company by chairing its Scientific Advisory Board.

Applera Chairman and Chief Executive Tony White will be president of Celera on a temporary basis while it seeks additional management. Applera owns a majority of Celera and related biotech company Applied Biosystems.


from The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Scientists have identified a second faulty gene that appears to make some families prone to developing prostate cancer.

Only about 9 percent of prostate cancer cases are hereditary, and the gene is related to only an unknown fraction of these. It's not clear whether the gene, called RNASEL (pronounced "R-N-ace-L"), plays any role in nonhereditary cancers.

The new work appears in the February issue of the journal Nature Genetics. The previously identified gene linked to hereditary prostate cancer, called HPC2-ELAC2, also appears to be implicated in only a small fraction of cases.


from The New York Times

CAMBRIDGE, England - In the fall of 1973 Dr. Stephen W. Hawking, who has spent his entire professional career at the University of Cambridge, found himself ensnared in a horrendous and embarrassing calculation. Attempting to investigate the microscopic properties of black holes, the gravitational traps from which not even light can escape, Dr. Hawking discovered to his disbelief that they could leak energy and particles into space, and even explode in a fountain of high-energy sparks.

Dr. Hawking first held off publishing his results, fearing he was mistaken. When he reported them the next year in the journal Nature, he titled his paper simply "Black Hole Explosions?" His colleagues were dazzled and mystified.

Nearly 30 years later, they are still mystified. When they gathered in Cambridge this month to mark Dr. Hawking's 60th birthday with a weeklong workshop titled "The Future of Theoretical Physics and Cosmology," the ideas spawned by his calculation and its aftermath often took center stage.


from The New York Times

Over the last couple of weeks, as the Enron fiasco has played itself out like a louche fusion of Shakespeare and the old "Dewey, Cheatum & Howe" routine, Americans have been transfixed by the story, united in a nearly seamless sense of outrage.

Regardless of whether any laws were broken in the spectacular collapse of one of the nation's largest companies, citizens of all political pipings have voiced disgust at accounts of top Enron executives selling off their stock in time to enrich themselves handsomely, while ordinary Enron employees were later forced to sit by in impotent desperation as their retirement savings evaporated.

In the ferocity of the public outcry, and the demand from even those with no personal stake in the Enron collapse that "justice" be done, some scientists see a vivid example of humanity's evolved and deep-seated hatred of the Cheat. The Cheat is the transgressor of fair play, the violator of accepted norms, the sneak who smiles with Chiclet teeth while ladling from the community till.

Human beings are elaborately, ineluctably social creatures, scientists say, and are more willing than any other species to work for the common good - to cooperate with nonkin and to help out strangers, sometimes at great cost to oneself, as the death of hundreds of rescue workers at the World Trade Center only too sadly showed.


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Parapsychology Experiment

From: Fiona fiona@moebius.psy.ed.ac.uk

Can people foresee future events without using the normal five sense or an educated guess? I am currently conducting a study at the University of Edinburgh to test this hypothesis.

Participants will be asked to try to imagine what picture will be shown to them over the WWW at a later date to see if overall participants guess the correct picture more often than would be expected by chance.

If you would like to be a participant in this experiment, you should email me at fiona@moebius.psy.ed.ac.uk with an account of a premonition that you have had at some point in your life and that you feel you can't explain via the normal five senses or as an educated guess. I will then send you full details of the experiment.

I look forward to receiving your replies.

Dr Fiona Steinkamp
Dept of Psychology
The University of Edinburgh
7 George Square


Monday, January 21, 2002

Virtual lies face foolproof software

By Fiona Harvey in London
Published: January 20 2002 22:03 | Last Updated: January 20 2002 22:13


Software that can detect when people are lying in their e-mails sounds a bit far-fetched, but its manufacturers declare it is true.

SAS Institute, which makes fraud-detection systems for banks and phone companies, will on Monday announce a product that can sift through e-mails and other electronic text to catch elusive nuances such as tone.

"The patterns in people's language change when they are uncertain or lying," says Peter Dorrington, business solutions manager at SAS. "We can compare basic patterns in words and grammatical structures versu s benchmarks to detect likely lies."

People might not be intending to lie, he added, but might just be uncertain of what they were saying. The software could sift through an average-sized library of text in a few hours, he said.

In his book Detecting Lies and Deceit, Professor Aldert Vrij described some verbal characteristics used to deceive. Over-use of adjectives and of the word "or" can be giveaways.

Another software company, SER Solutions, claims it has used its software to prove that Shakespeare was indeed the author of one of his disputed plays, Henry VIII. SER uses neural network algorithms, which mimic the working of the human brain, to make connections between words.

SAS says its software can also be used to sift through texts such as CVs and job applications to match applicants' qualifications with job vacancies.

Top 10 Net Hoaxes/Urban Legends of 2001

From: Alan Cox alan_r_coxa@yahoo.com

2001 roster of the most popular, most infamous and most annoying hoaxes and legends of the year

By David Emery

Those who predicted doom and gloom for the start of the new millennium weren't far off, as it turned out, though for the most part, because of an arithmetical error (calculating the beginning of the millennium at 2000 instead of 2001), they had the year wrong. In any case, 2001 won't be soon forgotten, mainly due to the lingering horror of what are now euphemistically referred to as "the events of September 11."

Along with the horror came new folklore rumors, urban legends and hoaxes, so many and so widespread in such a short space of time that were we to compile a Top 10 list based on circulation alone it would consist entirely of items related to the terrorist attacks.

This list is not scientific, then, nor definitive. It is largely based on popularity, but tempered subjectively to arrive at a reasonable sampling of the whole range of topics deemed folklore-worthy over the course of one very long year.

Here, for your edification and pleasure, is our adjusted-for-terrorism list of the Top 10 Net Hoaxes, Rumors and Urban Legends of 2001:

1. Nostradamus Prophesied the World Trade Center Attack
Circulating within 24 hours of the terror attacks of September 11, this "prophecy" attributed to 16th-century seer Nostradamus was soon to become the most-forwarded email of 2001. It was spooky because it seemed properly "interpreted" to predict not only the WTC tragedy, but the advent of World War III. Trouble was, Nostradamus didn't write it. A college student did.

2. The Tourist Guy
His was one of the most recognizable faces of 2001, right up there with G.W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. The nerdy "Tourist Guy," posing obliviously for a snapshot on the observation deck of one of the World Trade Center towers as a wayward jetliner loomed in the background, popped up on computer screens in every corner of the world in the weeks following the terrorist attacks. The photo was quickly debunked as a product of Photoshop wizardry, but all the skepticism in the world couldn't dent the popularity of this timely sick joke and its many parodies.

3. Warning: Halloween Terror Attacks on Shopping Malls
If Phase One of September 11 folklore was largely about explaining and coping with the tragedy, Phase Two was about fear: What would happen next? Authorities warned of further attacks but could provide no specifics, creating an information vacuum soon to be filled by rumors. Among the earliest and most widespread was the claim that someone's boyfriend of Arab descent had mysteriously disappeared before the terror attacks, leaving behind a letter with this chilling warning: "Don't fly on airplanes on September 11 and don't go to any shopping malls on Halloween." The FBI said the warning lacked credibility, but it squelched the Halloween plans of many families and businesses across the U.S. just the same.

4. The Klingerman Virus
This 2000-vintage email hoax alleging that fatal viruses or other "deadly substances" are being sent to random households via packages in the mail seemed laughable before September 11; not so afterward, when real cases of anthrax were found to be caused by spores sent in anonymous letters to government offices. Though still a hoax, the recycled "Klingerman Virus" warnings both reflected and compounded public fears surrounding terrorism and the safety of the mail, making it one of the most virulent rumors of 2001.

5. Snowball, the Giant Mutant Cat of Ontario
Strange that a hoax should be remembered fondly, but the photostory of Roger Dedagne and his 87-pound housecat, the progeny of kittens retrieved from an abandoned nuclear facility, hearkens back to a more innocent time only a few months ago. This one was just for laughs no dire warnings, no doom and gloom, just a sweet, preposterous tale of a man and his beloved mutant pet.

6. George Turklebaum, R.I.P.
The press committed its share of boo-boos in 2001, one of the earliest and most amusing being the repetition, sans fact-checking, of a tabloid item concerning one George Turklebaum, a New York City proofreader supposedly discovered slumped at his desk by fellow employees five days after he had passed away from a heart attack. "George was always the first guy in each morning and the last to leave at night, so no one found it unusual that he was in the same position all that time and didn't say anything," his boss allegedly told reporters. The truth was that Mr. Turklebaum never existed in the first place.

7. Britney Spears Dies in Car Crash
If you believe what you read on the Internet, pop star Britney Spears died twice in 2001 first in mid-June, when two radio DJs started a rumor (which then took off by email) that Spears and her beau, Justin Timberlake, had been in a fatal car crash, then again in October, when a hacker posted the same story on a Web page disguised to look like CNN. The DJs who started the whole thing were ultimately sacked. The hacker claimed he was only "conducting research."

8. Premature Rapture
This irreverent tale of a woman who mistakes a bearded guy pulling up next to her in a pick-up for the Second Coming of Jesus wasn't supposed to fool anyone, but when it began circulating by email it caught a few people with their B.S. detectors down in early 2001. Its author, who is still scratching his head over the sudden popularity of his satire, never expected to reach such a wide or gullible audience.

9. Snake Swallows Man!
This set of photos purporting to show a human male being swallowed whole by a huge snake was already well-traveled at the dawn of 2001, but new texts kept popping up to "explain" what was happening in the pictures and where, hence the phenomenal circulation of this dubious presentation during the first half of the year. Was it real, or staged? Have a look and the photos and the stories and decide for yourself.

10. The Piano Teacher
Another terrorism story, but this one didn't take place in 2001. It's the inspirational tale (or "glurge," as this genre is becoming known in Internet parlance) of a talentless piano student who overcame all the odds and logical inconsistencies to become an overnight prodigy in order that his deaf mother, now dead, might finally hear him play "in heaven." Just in case there was still a dry eye after that, it turned out that Robby the child prodigy grew up to serve his country in Operation Desert Storm and survived, only to be killed several years later in the terrorist bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahomah City, "where he was reportedly... playing the piano."

Dishonorable Mentions:

1. Bonsai Kitten
Probably the most controversial Website of 2001, the repugnant BonsaiKitten.com spawned protests, petitions and even an FBI investigation. Why all the fuss? The site, "Dedicated to preserving the long lost art of body modification in housepets," appears to advocate confining kittens in small glass jars to change the shape of their bodies as they grow.

2. ManBeef.com
A slick commercial Website "catering to the sophisticated human meat consumer." Along with recipes and member services for modern-day cannibals, the site purports to offer easy online ordering and discreet home delivery of the choicest cuts of human meat. You may, however, have better luck purchasing the ManBeef.com logo apparel, given that the FDA has yet to approve the sale of human flesh for food.

2001 Dubious Achievement Awards

Post-Apocalyptic Edition

By Daniel Kurtzman

They told us irony was dead. We feared we'd never laugh again. But then along came Jerry Falwell, Geraldo Rivera, "Evil Bert," and John Walker to open the comic floodgates.

In recognition of some of the more memorable feats of stupidity, logic-defying behavior, and other bizarre antics inspired by the events of Sept. 11, we proudly present the Dubious Achievement Awards for 2001.

The irradiated envelopes, please:

Worst semester abroad program: Johnny "Jihad" Walker, the American Taliban fighter whose quest for spiritual enlightenment ended in a dank prison basement in Afghanistan, clearly picked the wrong cause at the wrong time. It's unclear what fate awaits him, but former President George H. W. Bush offered this possibility: "Make him leave his hair the way it is and his face as dirty as it is, and let him go wandering around this country and see what kind of sympathy he would get." Now there's a reality TV show that might actually be worth watching. Call it "Survivor: America."

Best impersonation of an insane fundamentalist cleric: Rev. Jerry Falwell didn't waste any time pointing the finger of blame following the terrorist attacks. The founder of the "Moral Majority" said homosexuals, abortionists, pagans, the ACLU, and People for the American Way bore responsibility for what had happened because they had irritated God. It's not clear what role the Teletubbies may have played, but it's a safe bet that John Aschcroft detained them for questioning.

Strangest anthrax scare: After receiving a yellow envelope in the mail with no return address label, a Nevada man contacted authorities, who immediately quarantined the package in a biohazard barrel. An examination of its contents later revealed a pair of black thong panties and a sexually suggestive letter from an anonymous admirer.

Worst revival: The washed-up rock band "Anthrax," whose star of mediocrity peaked years ago, received a big boost from the bio-terrorism scare. While grateful for the publicity, one band member admitted to hoarding Cipro so as to avoid "an ironic death."

Most unlikely jihadist: It's not clear how a muppet got all the way from Sesame Street to the streets of Bangladesh, but there was Bert, making a peculiar cameo at an anti-American protest. Supporters of Osama bin Laden were seen carrying signs that featured a bizarre image of a menacing-looking Bert standing beside the terrorist leader. The photo is one of many "Evil Bert" images floating around the Internet, a popular parody in which Bert is pictured cavorting with evildoers the world over. No one could quite figure out what Islamic extremists would want with Bert, but it's safe to say your jihad is not going well when you need to resort to recruiting muppets to your cause.

Best tips from "Mohammad Stewart's Living": U.S. forces discovered a handbook in a house abandoned by Al Qaeda terrorists containing detailed instructions to help terrorists operate undercover in the West. It advised the agents on such varied topics as traveling with a false passport, how to scout out targets, and the proper way to apply deodorant (on the body, rather than on clothing). It stressed the difference between perfume and after-shave, and fragrances for men and women. "If you will use the female perfume so you will be in big trouble," the handbook warned.

Best upshot to terrorism fears: "Terror sex" became all the rage in Manhattan following 9/11, with many of the city's residents turning to each other for solace. As it turned out, former President Clinton moved to town just in time to help feel the excess pain.

Best cannon fodder: Geraldo Rivera provided some much-needed comic relief when he traipsed off to Afghanistan to cover the war with his gun in tow. His best on-air moment came when he said he had choked up after walking the "hallowed ground" where three American soldiers had been accidentally killed in a U.S. bombing raid. One problem with the story: Rivera was hundreds of miles away.

Lowest profile in courage: Reuters editors admonished reporters to avoid using the term "terrorist" in their stories. Their reasoning: one man's "terrorist" is another man's "freedom fighter." We'll refrain from passing any value judgments about the news agency, since one man's birdcage liner could be another man's most trusted news source.

Best weapons of mass delusion: Shortly after Kabul fell, journalists discovered documents left behind by fleeing Al Qaeda terrorists that appeared to contain detailed instructions for building a nuclear bomb. But on closer inspection, it turned out that many of the documents were based on a parody that has been circulating on the Internet for years called "How to Build an Atom Bomb." The instructions included such helpful tips as: "Wash your hands with soap and water after handling the material, and don't allow your children or pets to play in it or eat it," and "Any left over Plutonium dust is excellent as an insect repellant."

Biggest snub: NBC and CBS refused to preempt "Friends" and "Survivor" when President Bush delivered a prime-time address about homeland security and the war on terrorism. As Jay Leno quipped, "God forbid, let's hope the enemy never attacks on a Thursday night."

Most accidental tourist: An odd photo began circulating on the Internet a couple of weeks after the attacks showing an unwitting tourist posing for a picture atop the World Trade Center just moments before one of the hijacked jets hit the building. No one knew who the famed "tourist guy" was until a 25-year-old Hungarian man eventually came forward and admitted to doctoring the photo of himself "as a joke meant for my friends." It wasn't half as funny as the series of hilarious "Where's Waldo"-style parody photos it inspired, which placed the tourist guy at the scene of other disasters, including the Hindenburg crash site, aboard the Titanic, and alongside JFK's motorcade.

Least likely to be invited to entertain the troops: Bill Maher, the host of ABC Politically Incorrect, was roundly lambasted after he said some of the U.S. military's actions in the past had been "cowardly." And if that wasn't bad enough, he added, "Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."

Least likely to actually entertain the troops: After careful consideration of all available options, the Bush administration decided to deploy 59-year-old comedian Wayne Newton to Afghanistan to entertain our fighting men and women. Fortunately, it was the only major strategic military blunder the Bush administration made in prosecuting the war on terrorism.

Best attempt to channel Joseph McCarthy: A year after losing the Missouri Senate race to a dead man, John Ashcroft began trying to conjure the spirit of famed communist witch hunter Joseph McCarthy. While Ashcroft has stopped short of waving a list of suspected card-carrying terrorists in front of the cameras, it remains to be seen whether, in the end, he will have any sense of decency left.

Best attempt to channel George Orwell: White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was widely criticized for stepping over the line in criticizing comedian Bill Maher over his remarks calling past U.S. military actions "cowardly." Said Fleischer: "There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that. "In other words, Big Ari is watching you.

Worst adapted screenplay: Seeking help in the war on terrorism, the military enlisted several top Hollywood filmmakers and writers to brainstorm future terrorism scenarios and solutions. It's unknown what recommendations they made, but some Internet jokesters came up with a few ideas for how Hollywood can help. Take a sneak peak at "The Turbanator," "Tali Wars: America Strikes Back," and "Afghanistone."

Most amusing terror scare: In Singapore, an Indian passenger was detained for hours after another traveler thought he had described himself as a "Bosnian terrorist." In fact, the man said he was a "bass guitarist."

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Lost city 'could rewrite history'


By BBC News Online's Tom Housden

The remains of what has been described as a huge lost city may force historians and archaeologists to radically reconsider their view of ancient human history.

Marine scientists say archaeological remains discovered 36 metres (120 feet) underwater in the Gulf of Cambay off the western coast of India could be over 9,000 years old.

The vast city - which is five miles long and two miles wide - is believed to predate the oldest known remains in the subcontinent by more than 5,000 years.

The site was discovered by chance last year by oceanographers from India's National Institute of Ocean Technology conducting a survey of pollution.

Using sidescan sonar - which sends a beam of sound waves down to the bottom of the ocean they identified huge geometrical structures at a depth of 120ft.

Debris recovered from the site - including construction material, pottery, sections of walls, beads, sculpture and human bones and teeth has been carbon dated and found to be nearly 9,500 years old.

Lost civilisation

The city is believed to be even older than the ancient Harappan civilisation, which dates back around 4,000 years.

Marine archaeologists have used a technique known as sub-bottom profiling to show that the buildings remains stand on enormous foundations.

Author and film-maker Graham Hancock - who has written extensively on the uncovering of ancient civilisations - told BBC News Online that the evidence was compelling:

"The [oceanographers] found that they were dealing with two large blocks of apparently man made structures.

"Cities on this scale are not known in the archaeological record until roughly 4,500 years ago when the first big cities begin to appear in Mesopotamia.

"Nothing else on the scale of the underwater cities of Cambay is known. The first cities of the historical period are as far away from these cities as we are today from the pyramids of Egypt," he said.

Chronological problem

This, Mr Hancock told BBC News Online, could have massive repercussions for our view of the ancient world.

"There's a huge chronological problem in this discovery. It means that the whole model of the origins of civilisation with which archaeologists have been working will have to be remade from scratch," he said.

However, archaeologist Justin Morris from the British Museum said more work would need to be undertaken before the site could be categorically said to belong to a 9,000 year old civilisation.

"Culturally speaking, in that part of the world there were no civilisations prior to about 2,500 BC. What's happening before then mainly consisted of small, village settlements," he told BBC News Online.

Dr Morris added that artefacts from the site would need to be very carefully analysed, and pointed out that the C14 carbon dating process is not without its error margins.

It is believed that the area was submerged as ice caps melted at the end of the last ice age 9-10,000 years ago

Although the first signs of a significant find came eight months ago, exploring the area has been extremely difficult because the remains lie in highly treacherous waters, with strong currents and rip tides.

The Indian Minister for Human Resources and ocean development said a group had been formed to oversee further studies in the area.

"We have to find out what happened then ... where and how this civilisation vanished," he said.

Schools fool with rules

Nanette Asimov, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2002
2002 San Francisco Chronicle


Some California public schools teach creationism. Others teach Islam. Several shortchange on teaching time, and many have no professional teachers at all. One has even charged tuition.

State officials learned last year that certain public schools were violating the law, including charging tuition and teaching religion. But no one has brought legal sanctions against them. Some school districts even unwittingly kept them going.

The schools are satellite campuses of California public charter schools, a shadowy new subclass of public education that is barely understood by state officials or even the Boards of Education that sponsor them. No state laws specifically address them, and most satellites are so far from the districts responsible for them that they are rarely monitored for legal compliance or quality.

On Wednesday, the Fresno Unified district revoked its charter contract with an agency that ran 14 campuses, after discovering legal violations. It is the second district to yank such a charter.

In the first case, though the charter was revoked, its satellites lived on with new charter operators to provide their books, supplies and paychecks.


Charters are independent public schools, free of many state regulations. But they must still follow basic laws: They cannot charge tuition, teach religion or convert from a private school. They must also give state exams and hire credentialed teachers.

A school board that approves a charter must monitor it for legal compliance and can take a 3 percent fee. But the system can go awry when districts and charter operators aim for profit. Instead of granting the charter to an actual school, some districts grant them to agencies that run many schools the satellites often hundreds of miles away. That boosts enrollment, and with it, per-pupil funding from the state.

No directory tells how many satellites exist, but estimates range from dozens to hundreds. One Southern California operator says he has 6,000 students in 58 schools.

The operator receives about $5,000 per student in education funds $30 million with little or no oversight of how it is spent.

Even a small percentage of that can look good to school districts. But with the profits come problems, because school board members often have little notion of their monitoring responsibilities.

"I'm not exactly sure how it all works,'' said Carl Ackerman, vice president of the Oro Grande school board in San Bernardino County, which recently approved a charter with 24 satellites. "Primarily, it helps us financially.''

Oro Grande had just 110 pupils and a $1.2 million budget when Steven Cox, chief executive officer of California Charter Academy, approached the board last spring. He proposed increasing district enrollment more than tenfold.

"These people sounded like they had everything under their control,'' Ackerman said.

And the prospect of an extra $250,000 proved irresistible.

"That's a windfall for us,'' said Superintendent Kenneth Larson.

The Sierra-Plumas school board was similarly tempted in 1997 when it approved a charter contract with an agency called Sierra Summit. It had 21 satellites.

Board members thought the deal would relieve money troubles in the Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified school district, said county Superintendent William Rouse. It didn't work out that way.

"The district was hurting,'' Rouse said. But he grew suspicious of glowing reports by charter operator Jeff Bauer and sent staff members to inspect the faraway satellites.

Their findings were later documented by state Controller Kathleen Connell in a devastating audit made public in September: Four satellites taught religion, 14 lacked credentialed instructors, and 13 had converted illegally from private schools. None fulfilled legally required class time, and Bauer could not verify the existence of 1,200 pupils.

In June, the state told Sierra-Plumas to return $5.7 million, saying the money was misspent. The district filed an appeal, and revoked Sierra Summit's charter.


But the satellites moved on. Three charter operators Gateway, California Charter Academy and One Step Up absorbed them into their charters with other school districts. Trouble traveled with them.

The Fresno school board granted Gateway's charter in 1999, knowing little about its many satellites.

In December, The Chronicle reported that Gateway's Silicon Valley Academy, a former Sierra Summit satellite, was teaching Islam and charging tuition at its Sunnyvale campus. The story prompted the Fresno school board to send inspectors to all its charter's satellites, where they found a host of violations.

On Wednesday, in a replay of what the Sierra-Plumas district did with its Sierra Summit charter just seven months earlier, the Fresno school board revoked Gateway's charter.

But its satellites could move on just as Sierra Summit's did when they found Gateway and the California Charter Academy, the state's largest satellite operator.

The agency holds four charters. Together, said CEO Cox, he has 58 satellites and 6,000 students. The sponsoring districts are in Southern California but their satellites are as far away as Sacramento, San Jose and Oakland.

Cox said his satellites are all academically strong and legal. "We don't have any noncredentialed teachers. We range from 25 to 27 students per credentialed teacher, and we don't enter into arrangements with religious organizations,'' he said.

The public record says otherwise.

Seven of Cox's satellites come from Sierra Summit. All were cited in the controller's audit. Now, they are among the 24 satellites in Cox's charter with Oro Grande.


One is the Oakland Learning Center, cited in the audit for employing noncredentialed teachers and providing too little instructional time. The school occupies a corner of an East Oakland church, which gets $6,450 rent every month from public funds.

Three instructional aides preside over about 60 students in kindergarten through grade 12. The school's one credentialed teacher, Debra Aston, lives in Sacramento, 90 miles away.

"Three days a week we have (aide) Miss Anita,'' said student Chris Lopez, 16. "Twice a week we're supposed to have Miss Aston. But we mostly learn from each other.''

Students try to complete five pages daily from workbooks that comprise their curriculum. The program is popular among satellites and requires no real teachers, said Barry Bridges of Pathway Publishers of Texas. It covers math, social studies, language arts, science and creationism.

"We present creation as well as evolution from an open-minded standpoint,'' he said. "We believe students need to know both.''

Lawmakers have been reluctant to interfere with the popular charter movement, but have taken some steps to stop abuses.

Chronicle articles last summer prompted a new law that withholds funds from home-study charters that cannot show money is well spent.

Earlier, lawmakers capped at 3percent the fee districts can charge to charter operators.

But legal experts and charter advocates alike say they are unsure what to do about satellites.

"Satellites are like that mythological beast where you cut off its head and two grow in its place,'' said Michael Hersher, legal counsel for the state Department of Education. "Control over charter school quality has been placed at the local level. Opportunities for the state to intervene are limited.''

Until something changes, he said, districts need to be more vigilant. "Otherwise, everyone's happy except the taxpayer.''

Did humans descend from "aquatic apes"?


Dear Straight Dope:

A few years ago, Elaine Morgan published a book called The Aquatic Ape that publicized a theory that humans, at some time in their evolution, had partially adapted to a marine environment. This theory had first been proposed by an English marine biologist named Alister Hardy (if I remember correctly) and was held to explain a host of differences between Homo sapiens and the rest of the great apes, among them: relative hairlessness, subcutaneous body fat, bipedality (to make swimming and wading more efficient), a "diving reflex" to prevent drowning in infants, our horrendously inefficient water management system, our lack of fear of the water, the webbing some people have between their fingers and toes, and so on. The theory seemed reasonable enough to me, but every time I've heard paleontologists refer to it, they seem to be rolling their eyes the way archeologists do when you mention James Churchward to them. What do these guys know that Hardy and Morgan and I don't?
--John LaTorre,

Germans See a Plot in Mysterious Ads on Religion


Copyright 2001 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

Steven Erlanger New York Times Service
Friday, January 18, 2002
'Power for Living' Campaign Backed by U.S. Group Is Banned

BERLIN A mysterious U.S.-funded advertising campaign promoting Christian values and "power for living" has caused an uproar here, prompting a ban on its television and radio spots and some self-searching on the part of Germany's established churches.

Celebrities like the German golfer Bernhard Langer, the Bayern Munich soccer star Paulo Sergio and the ageless British pop singer Cliff Richard are promoting the campaign on billboards. Germans are urged to call a number (not toll-free) to get a free copy of a book that, the celebrities say, changed their lives. But the ads provide no clue to the sponsor of the campaign or the book.

The book, "Power for Living," is an evangelical Christian text that opposes smoking, homosexuality and abortion. Written nearly 20 years ago, it provides a primer for individual conversion, based on such principles as "God loves you," "Mankind is sinful," and "Everyone must accept Christ personally." Bible-reading is encouraged. The campaign is sponsored by the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation of West Palm Beach, Florida. Mr. DeMoss, who died in 1979, made his money from the mail-order life insurance business. His wife, Nancy, has carried on the work of the foundation. Last year, the foundation had assets of about $563 million. It has helped to finance the Campus Crusades for Christ and Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and helped support projects of Pat Robertson, another American evangelist.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Church considers changing star over links with witchcraft

From Ananova at:


A Suffolk church is considering removing the Christmas star on top of its tower following a complaint that it's a symbol of witchcraft.

The five-pointed star was made by craftsmen in Stradbroke 25 years ago.

Now a resident living in a nearby village has complained to the Archdeacon of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

The Venerable Geoffrey Arrand has asked the church council to consider taking action after his research revealed a five-pointed star, or pentangle, is "sometimes associated with mysticism and magic".

He told the East Anglian Daily Times: "I have no authority to order them to do anything."

Hedley Griffin, who made the complaint and lives in Laxfield, said: "The five-pointed star is a witch's mark, but a lot of people, including members of the church authorities, don't seem to realise this.

"It is puzzling to me why a symbol of the opposition should be used on the spire of a Christian church. I don't believe it is right."

Mr Griffin says a six or seven-pointed star should have been used. The six-pointed star was the Star of Bethlehem, while the figure seven was always associated with good.

Stradbroke church's rector David Streeter says he believes the star brought joy and happiness to many people in the area.

"However, I have also carried out some research on the internet and it seems that the five-pointed star is often associated with mysticism and magic. To avoid concern to others, it might be best if we give it an extra point," he said.

It wasn't a bid to kill me: Sai Baba


Bangalore, Jan 19

Two days after police overpowered a youth who pulled out an airpistol during a spiritual congregation in his Whitefield ashram, godman Satya Sai Baba spurned reports that it was an attempt to kill him and ridiculed the media for 'spreading matters far from truth.'

"Why should they (media) spread lies? The pistol possessed by the man may be meant to kill birds. But the media tried to make a mountain out of a molehill," he told a gathering at the first anniversary of the Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences.

"The fact is that no one came close to me as reported. It is nothing but a blatant lie. It is a matter of shame to spread falsehood," he said.

Recalling his activities on January 17 when the incident took place, he said: "I went around the audience, gave darshan and sat on the dais for over 45 minutes. Nothing happened. I later visited my super-speciality hospital and by the time I returned to the ashram, a gossip about an attempt to attack me had spread.

"That night I kept on receiving numerous calls even from people and organisations abroad about my well-being," Sai Baba said.

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Secular humanist novel

Title:  Calling Bernadette's Bluff 
Author:  Dale McGowan 
Publisher:  Xlibris 
ISBN:  1-4010-3607-4


From: Jack Kolb

[from AANEWS for Thursday, January 17, 2002]


Are Christian Advocacy & Legal Organizations Distorting What Happened?

A Special AANEWS Investigative Report...

Claims made by a fundamentalist news service that students in California districts are being proselytized in the Islamic religion and forced to chant verses from the Koran and dress in Moslem clothing have been picked up by mainstream media, and resulted in warning letters, an on-line petition, and a possible court suit by Christian legal advocacy groups.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a religious rights organization founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, contacted the Byron (California) School District earlier this week charging that a course designed to enhance student awareness of Islamic culture "contains materials and requirements that impermissibly force certain students to engage in speech and in practices conflicting with their religion, in violation of the student's free speech and free exercise rights as well as their parents' right to direct the education and upbringing of their children."

Students were ostensibly required to pray and chant Islamic slogans including "Praise to Allah, Lord of creation," memorize verses from the Koran and study the lives and teachings of Islamic prophets.

"Moreover," charges the ACLJ, "the students are required to 'pretend' that they are Muslims, wear Muslim clothing to school, stage their own Jihad via a dice game, and pick out a Muslim name from a list to 'replace' their own name." The group added that school officials refused to accommodate objections from parents "to adjust the way the material is presented or to excuse the objecting parents' children from participation..."

The incidents allegedly involved schools in and around Brentwood, California, a community between Sacramento and San Francisco.

In a related case, a parent in San Luis Obispo has contacted the Pacific Justice Institute charging that a school textbook being used by her 7th grade child glorifies the Islamic religion while depicting Christianity in a negative light. A statement by the group says that the text "specifically displays its bias by only citing Christianity for examples of religious persecution, focusing on church schisms, crusades, and inquisitions."

An institute press release dated January 14, 2002 adds, "The textbook allegedly makes statements of fact instead of qualified statements of belief.

"However, the greatest controversy has been found with reports of students in other school districts being instructed to carry out actual practices of Islam including adopting Islamic names, building model mosques, and memorizing scripture from the Quran (sic)..."

An investigation by AANEWS, however, found that at least some of the charges -- those in the Brentwood case -- distort the actual record of events, and the nature of the instructional course.

-- The activities in the Byron Union School District, and specifically at the Excelsior School (where the incident allegedly took place) all conform to a set of standards mandated by the California Department of Education and found at the department web site (http://www.cde.ca.gov/standards). "Students also learn about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other major religions as they apply to the understanding of history and the development of major Western and non-Western civilizations," notes a statement issued today by the district.

"We're teaching the California standard, which is written out in detail" said Nanci Castro, principal at Excelsior.

-- Students were not forced to dress in Islamic costume or engage in religious rituals; but students had the option of participating in those and related activities for extra academic credit.

The story originally broke on Wednesday, January 9, 2002 as a dispatch from ASSIST News Service in Garden Grove, CA., operated by the evangelical Christian ministry. Written by Rev. Austin Miles, it reported: "As children return to school this week, following the Christmas break, 7th graders in a growing number of public schools, who are not permitted to wear a cross or speak the name of Jesus, will be required to attend an intensive three week course on Islam; a course in which students are mandated to learn the tenets of Islam, study the important figures of the faith, wear a robe, adopt a Muslim name and start their own Jihad."

The dispatch went on to report that parents were "outraged" when they learned of the activity. "Their complaints to the school principal not only were ignored, but officials of this public school, funded by tax dollars, essentially fluffed them off."

From there, the story was picked up by the conservative Washington Times which featured an article on Wednesday, January 16 ("Islam course at middle schools angers parents"), but did not point to ASSIST as the source. It repeated accounts that students "dressed up in Muslim robes" and recited proverbs and Koranic verses. But the "jihad" or holy war scenario was not mentioned. Students instead organized "a make-believe journey, or hajj, to Mecca..." noted the Times story.

"We are not teaching religion," Principal Peggy Green told the Times. "We are teaching the California state-mandated standards with state-adopted textbooks. Dressing up in costume, role-playing and simulation games are all used to stimulate class discussion and are common teaching practices used in other subjects as well. There's nothing to be upset about."

Family values maven Phyllis Schlafly, head of the Eagle Forum was upset, though, and told the Times, "I don't think seventh-graders should be reading the Koran ... it's just an outrage."

Kevin Conor of the Washington, DC-based Family Research Council said that were students to dress up as Pilgrims and "give thanks to the Almighty" in class, civil rights advocates would be "apoplectic" about it.

"This reflects a terrible double standard," Connor groused. "Anything that smacks of Christianity is systematically excluded in the classroom, but everything else like Wicca to Islam is welcome."

Parents, Legal Groups Take Action

As a result of the publicity given the ASSIST News Service report, the ACLJ has launched an on-line petition drive demanding that students have the option to "opt out of a mandatory course on Islam that requires students to pray in the name of Allah..." A January 15, 2002 statement from the organization adds that "no student should be required to attend a course that violates their free speech or free exercise (of religion) rights."

Meanwhile, the Pacific Justice Institute has targeted a textbook which it says depicts Christianity "in a negative light." The book, "Across The Centuries," is published by Houghton-Mifflin of Boston as part of a series of materials adopted by the state school system. The ASSIST News Service story charged that the book presented Islam "in a totally positive manner," but portrayed references to Christianity unfavorably "with events such as the Inquisition, the Salem witch-hunts, etc. highlighted in bold, black type.

"Nor is any mention made of the way Muslims treat their own people, cutting off hands, feet and heads for even the slightest violations of the Islamic tenets of faith, or the shocking way they treat their women," continues the ASSIST dispatch.

"This has been a tragic example of what happens when an article goes out on the Internet, which is not corroborated and is accepted as truth without knowledge of what we are actually doing," said Ms. Green in today's media release. "The accusation is that the Byron Union School District is instructing their students in Islam...The truth? In response to the public's cry for accountability, California has adopted a set of content standards for public schools. In grade seven, one of the eleven World History and Geography standards is -- 'Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the civilizations of Islam in the Middle Ages.' Students also learn about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other major religions as they apply to the understanding of history and the development of major Western and non-Western civilizations."

Green goes on to defend "Dressing up in costume, role-playing and simulation games" as a way of helping students learn, and in stimulating class discussions.

"Students are not required to pray to Allah, recite verse from the Qur'an, or wear Muslim clothing. At no time do we mandate students to participate -- we offer alternative assignments to any family who requests it...

"We are sorry for the information that has been picked up by the media and the distress it has caused to parents and members of the public. The Byron School District is not 'teaching religion'; we are teaching the California state-mandated standards with state adopted textbooks. The public school system was established to educate all children. In light of the events of this past year, it is imperative that our instruction includes an understanding of and insight into all cultures and tolerance for the diversity found in the world. As such, public schools do not 'indoctrinate' children on various religions, but they do expose them t the belief systems that have impacted the formation of our world."

(Thanks to Larry Mundinger for helping on this story -- Ed.)

(Background on the Islamic superstition)

The Stella Awards -- Maybe funny but bogus

From: Jack Kolb

Below is an item that appeared recently in various Humor lists. It did not appear credible to me, so I wrote to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America for their comments on its veracity. Their comments (including a little propaganda for their side) follow the summary of the Stella Awards below. We may have some "goofy" legal decisions in America, but the ones below appear to be bogus.

Origin of the Stella Awards:

In 1994, a New Mexico jury awarded $2.9 million U.S. in damages to 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who suffered third-degree burns to her legs, groin and buttocks after spilling a cup of McDonald's coffee on herself.

This case inspired an annual award - The "Stella" Award -for the most frivolous lawsuit in the U.S. The ones listed below are clear candidates.

1. January 2000: Kathleen Robertson of Austin Texas was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running amuck inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little rodent was Ms. Robertson's son.

2. June 1998: 19 year old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car, when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

3. October 1998: Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up, because the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation. Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found, and a large bag of dry dog food. Mr. Dickson sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of half a million dollars.

4. October 1999: Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor's beagle. The beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced-in yard, as was Mr. Williams. The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog may have been provoked by Mr. Williams who, at the time, was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

5. May 2000: A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania $113,500 after she slipped on soft drink and broke her coccyx. The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson threw it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

6. December 1997: Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware successfully sued the owner of a night club in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. This occurred while Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.

7. And just so you know that cooler heads do occasionally prevail: Kenmore Inc., the makers of Dorothy Johnson's microwave, were found not liable for the death of Mrs. Johnson's poodle after she gave it a bath and attempted to dry it by putting the poor creature in her microwave for, "just a few minutes, on low," The case was quickly dismissed.
Reply from Association of Trial Lawyers of America

You are, of course, right to be skeptical. These reputed cases simply do not exist. Searches for articles and litigation matching these stories cannot be found. The first tip-off to the fact that they are phony is that no case citations are included. And these are only a few of the phony cases circulating around the internet for many months.

One analysis of this phony e-mail mentioned that, "Some versions bear the following footer, although many omit it:

Mary R. Hogelmen, Esq.
Law Offices of Hogelmen, Hogelmen, and Thomas
Dayton Ohio

"There is no law firm of Hogelmen, Hogelmen, and Thomas in Dayton, Ohio, as a call to directory assistance quickly confirmed. This detail was included to give the mailing credibility in the eyes of those who received it -- if a law firm had pulled this list together to build grassroots support for its tort reform program, then it went without saying a pack of lawyers had properly researched each item and were guaranteeing the information provided. But of course this detail was as false as everything else in the e-mail."

Whenever you are sent anything like this, you should ask the purveyor for more details, especially the case names or citations. I assure you that, in most cases, those details cannot and will not be provided, because they do not exist. Even some real cases that seem frivolous at first glance may not be, or if the "facts" presented have any basis in truth, they have been dismissed or crucial facts have been omitted from the story-telling.

Thank you for your skepticism and for your understanding that there are people and corporations that want to make Americans distrustful of citizen juries (that's you, me, our neighbors, friends, and co-workers) and a legal system that, in spite of its imperfections, is the bedrock of our democracy and the envy of people in every other nation in the world. Our civil justice system has multiple safeguards to help assure that justice is achieved, as it is in most instances.

Carlton Carl
Director of Media Relations
Association of Trial Lawyers of America

See also


mini-AIR Jan 2002



mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")

Issue Number 2002-01

January, 2002

ISSN 1076-500X

Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the


A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), the journal of inflated research and personalities



2002-01-02 Soon
2002-01-03 What's New in the Magazine
2002-01-03 New Year's Bureaucracy
2002-01-04 Pink Flamingo Villainy
2002-01-05 Troy and the: 1) Bear; 2) Terrorists; 3) Oil
2002-01-06 Name Question
2002-01-07 Answer to the Name Question
2002-01-08 Art Favorites
2002-01-09 Mathematicians + Applesauce
2002-01-10 Perplexing Question of the Month
2002-01-11 Rhetorical Question of the Month: Belch and Flicker
2002-01-12 Euro Physics Calamity
2002-01-13 Rotated Readers
2002-01-14 Pointless Pictures
2002-01-15 Matt Carr Wants to Know
2002-01-16 CAVALCADE OF HotAIR: Boxing Cats, Blob, Ultra
2002-01-17 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Seized With and Without Delight
2002-01-18 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Hypochondriac, Plate, Woof Woof
2002-01-19 AIRhead Events
2002-01-20 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)
2002-01-21 Our Address (*)
2002-01-22 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)
2002-01-23 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

mini-AIR is a free monthly *e-supplement* to AIR, the print magazine

2002-01-02 Soon

Please bring friends to the AIR events in:

* New York City on Feb 3
* Boston Feb 15

For details see section 2002-01-19 below.

2002-01-03 What's New in the Magazine

AIR 8:1 (Jan/Feb 2002) will be a special IG NOBEL ISSUE. It will be appearing in your mailbox (if you are a subscriber) in a very few weeks. Here are some highlights:

These and many other articles appear in the magazine.

(What you are reading at this moment is mini-AIR, a small, monthly e-mail supplement to the print magazine.)

2002-01-03 New Year's Bureaucracy

We extend a hearty congratulations and welcome to the newest chapter of the Bureaucracy Club -- the Bureaucracy Club of San Diego. Their home page is at


2002-01-04 Pink Flamingo Villainy

Something sinister has been done to the world's preeminent icon of the art and science of bad taste -- the plastic pink flamingo.

Don Featherstone designed the plastic pink flamingo in 1957 -- an achievement for which he was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize some 39 years later.

Recently the manufacturer, Union Products of Leominster, Massachusetts, altered the flamingo mold to remove the Don Featherstone signature that has graced the rump of every genuine Featherstone-designed flamingo manufactured since 1986. They have been refused to answer inquiries from the public or the press.

On the scale of world events this is not important, but it is wrong.

The Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) has teamed up with the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) to call for a boycott. Before you buy a new plastic pink flamingo, peer at its butt. If you don't see Don Featherstone's signature, go buy a used bird instead.

To see photos of (1) a good flamingo and (2) a mangled, de- Featherstoned flamingo -- and for basic info about the boycott -- see


Please join the boycott! Please spread the word!

2002-01-05 Troy and the: 1) Bear; 2) Terrorists; 3) Oil

What happened when Troy Hurtubise and his home-built suit of armor finally went up against a Kodiak bear? Last month we alerted you to the what was about to happen. Little could we have predicted what actually DID transpire.

See what happened:

1. When Troy met the Kodiak bear:

2. When Troy met the hijackers:

3. When Troy made his fateful discovery about oil, and in so doing quite possibly began to alter the international balance of power:

2002-01-06 Name Question

Investigator Alistair McCulloch, who is Head of Research at Edge Hill College of Higher Education, poses a simple question:

Idly wandering through the Science Citation Index this lunchtime, I came across the following citation which I would propose as a leading contender for the longest ever author list in the history of academe. My question, as a social scientist: Is this the longest ever?
The paper to which investigator McCullogh refers is:
"Effects of Ramipril on Cardiovascular and Microvascular Outcomes in People with Diabetes Mellitus: Results of the HOPE Study and MICRO-HOPE Substudy," Lancet, vol. 355, no. 9200, January 22, 2000, pp. 253-259.
The authors are:

Gerstein HC, Yusuf S, Mann JFE, Hoogwerf B, Zinman B, Held C,
Fisher M, Wolffenbuttel B, Bosch J, Richardson L, Pogue J, Halle
JP, Yusuf S, Sleight P, Dagenais G, Montague T, Bosch J, Pogue J,
Taylor W, Sardo L, Arnold M, Baigrie R, Davies R, Gerstein H, Jha
P, Johnstone D, Joyner C, Kuritzky R, Lonn E, Mitchell B, Morris
A, Sussex B, Teo K, Tsuyuki R, Zinman B, Probstfield J, Young J,
Diaz R, Paolasso E, Avezum A, Piegas L, Mann J, Wolffenbuttel B,
Ostergren J, Meaney E, Aprile M, Bedard D, Cossett J, Ewart G,
Harris L, Kellen J, LaForge D, Magi A, Skanes J, Squires P,
Stevens K, Bosch J, Cherian F, Holadyk-Gris I, Kalkbrenner P, Lonn
E, Mazur F, McQueen M, Micks M, Monti S, Pogue J, Sardo L,
Thompson K, Westfall L, Yusuf S, Richardson L, Raw N, Genisans M,
Diaz R, Paolasso E, Avezum A, Piegas L, Gerstein H, Zinman B,
Dagenais G, Arnold M, Auger P, Avezum A, Bata I, Bernstein V,
Bourassa M, Diaz R, Fisher B, Gerstein H, Grover J, Gun C, Gupta
M, Held C, Hoeschen R, Kouz S, Lonn E, Mann J, Mathew J, Meaney E,
Meldrum D, Pilon C, Ramos R, Roccaforte R, Starra R, Trivi M,
Davies R, Johnstone D, Lonn E, Probstfield J, McQueen M, Sackett
D, Collins R, Davis E, Furberg C, Hennekens C, Pitt B, Turner R,
Braver J, Cuneo C, Diaz M, Dizeo C, Guzman L, Lipshitz S, Llanos
S, Lopez J, Lorenzatti A, Machado R, Mackey C, Mancini M, Marino
M, Martinez F, Matrone A, Nordaby R, Orlandini A, Romero G, Ruiz
M, Rusculleda M, Saavedra S, San Damaso J, Serra J, Tuero E,
Zapata G, Zavala A, Grisold M, Klein W, Brosch E, Baumans P,
Brusselmans H, Bodson A, Boland J, Cano J, Chaudron JM, Degaute
JP, Duprez D, Heyndrickx G, Krzentowski G, Mockel J, Wautrecht J,
Alexandre E, Amodeo C, Armaganijan D, Ayub J, Bertolami M,
Bodanese L, Borges J, Caramelli B, Carvalho A, Coelho O, Dioguardi
G, Faludi A, Brage JF, Fichino M, Franken R, Ghorayeb N, de Souza
MG, Greque G, Guedes A, Kadri T, Kawamura T, Labrunie A, Malheiros
F, Marafon L, Nakamura M, Nonohay N, Ogawa C,  Pavanello R, Puech-
Leao P, Ramires F, Ramires L, Sampaio M, Saraiva L, Tanajura L,
Ueti O, Vitola D, Armstrong F, Armstrong W, Baptie B, Basinger M,
Bell N, Beresford P, Black W, Brass N, Browne M, Browne K,
Brownoff R, Chaytors G, Cottier W, Donnelly R, Dzavik V, Edwards
A, Felker P, Giannoccaro P, Goeres M, Greenwood P, Grose M,
Grossman L, Gulamhusein S, Hui W, Hutchison F, Irving A, Kasian L,
Kasza L, Korner L, Kvill L, Lakhani Z, Lam S, Lesoway R, Ma P,
Martinez V, Meldrum D, Mitchell B, Mitchell D, Montague T, Musseau
A, Muzyka T, Neffgen C, Neffgen J, Nichol R, O'Beirne M, Paradis
J, Paterson D, Plesko A, Prosser A, Radomsky N, Roth D, Ryan E,
Senaratne M, Simon M, Stenerson P, Stone J, Talibi T, Wedel R,
Wyse D, Altwasser F, Ashton T, Askew J, Bernstein V, Bishop W,
Bloomberg G, Boone J, Breakwell L, Buller L, Calvert K, Carere G,
Dahl M, Dawson K, Dodek A, Dufton J, Geddis R, Ghosh S, Heath J,
Hilton D, Imrie J, Jay D, Kiess M, Klinke P, Kornder J, Lee P,
Leong W, Lewis J, Lounsbury N, MacDonald L, MacDonald K, MacNeil
A, MacRitchie D, McGee L, Mitchell L, Mulcahy K, O'Donoghue S,
Pearce A, Perreault L, Polasek P, Rabkin S, Reilly M, Richardson
P, Scoffield E, Sweeney R, Terwiel M, Thompson C, Wagner K, Webb
J, Wedding K, Woo K, Wright M, Zutz A, Briol L, Hoeschen R, Mehta
P, Mohammed I, Ong A, Ong G, Bessoudo R, O'Brien L, McLellan L,
Milton J, Elgar F, Joyce C, O'Keefe D, Parsons M, Ravalia M,
Sherman G, Smith R, Worrall G, Atkinson A, Barnhill S, Bata I,
Crossman L, Folkins D, Hatheway R, Johnson B, MacFarlane M, Machel
T, Morash J, Sheridan W, Shirley M, Anderson I, Arnold M, Baigrie
R, Baird M, Baitz T, Barnie A, Basta M, Blakely J, Bozek B,
Bradley W, Brown K, Burnham G, Cameron W, Cann M, Carroll S,
Carter R, Chan N, Chan Y, Charles J, Cheung M, Cina C, Cleghorn L,
Curnew G, Currado P, Davies R, DeGagne S, DeYoung P, Dhaliwal R,
Dowell H, Drobac M, Dubbin J, Duffield K, Edmonds M, Fallen E,
Feldman D, Fell D, Ferguson C, Finkelstein L, Fong G, Fowlis R,
Fraser M, Frenette L, Fulop J, Glanz A, Goode E, Gupta M, Hanna A,
Harris K, Hess A, Hierlihy P, Houlden R, Hramiak I, Hrycyshyn B,
Iwanochko R, Janzen I, Kannampuzha P, Keely E, Kennedy R, Kenshole
A, Kent E, Khan S, Kostuk W, Kowaleski M, Krupa M, Kumar G,
Kuruvilla G, Kwok K, Lai C, Langer A, Laor J, Lau D, LaVallee T,
Lent B, Liu P, Lochnan H, Lovell  M, Lowe D, Mabb T, Maclean S,
Man K, Marois L, Massel D, Matthews E, McManus R, McPhee E,
McQueen M, McSherry J, Millar D, Miller F, Miners L, Misterski J,
Moe G, Mulaisho C, Munoz C, Nawaz S, Noseworthy C, O'Keefe H,
Oosterveld L, Panju A, Paquette H, Parkovnick M, Paterson R,
Pflugfelder P, Powers S, Rebane T, Redda A, Reeves E, Ricci J,
Sasson Z, Sayles M, Scott M, Sibbick M, Singh N, Southern R,
Spence D, Sternberg L, Stewart J, Styling S, Sulllivan B, Sullivan
H, Sullivan M, Swan J, Taichman J, Tan K, Tanser P, Tartaglia C,
Taylor K, Thomson D, Turek M, Vakani T, vanWalraven A, Varey M,
Vexler R, Walters J, Weeks A, Weingert M, Wetmore S, Whitsitt P,
Willing J, Wilson C, Wilson J, Wisenberg G, Wolfe M, Wolter B, Yao
L, Costain G, Hickey E, MacMillan E, Aris-Jilwan N, Auger P,
Banville P, Beaudoin J, Belanger A, Belanger N, Belleville L,
Bilodeau N, Bogaty P, Boulianne M, Bourassa M, Brophy J,
BrouilletteM, Buithieu J, Calve C, Campeau J, Carmichael P,
Carrier S, Chiasson J, Coutu B, Coutu D, Croteau S, D'Amours G,
Dagenais N, Delage F, Deschamps J, Dion D, Douville Y, Dumont F,
Dupuis R, Frechette L, Gauthier S, Gervais P, Giguere G, Giroux R,
Gossard D, Gosselin G, Goulet G, Grondin F, Halle J, Henri L,
Houde G, Joyal M, Kandalaft N, Karabatsos A, Kiwan G, Kouz S,
Labbe R, Langlais M, Lauzon C, LeBlanc M, Lenis J, Leroux S,
Loisel R, MacLellan K, Morissette A, Noel H, Ouimet F, Pedneault
L, Piche J, Pilon C, Plourde P, Poirier C, Poisson D, Roberge B,
Robert M, Rodrique M, Roy C, Roy L, Ruel M, Samson M, Saulnier D,
Savard D, Serpa A, Sestier F, Smilovitch M, Starra R, St-Hilaire
R, Theroux P, Toupin-Halle A, Tremblay J, Truchen H, Turcotte J,
Vachon S, Vienneau R, Wilson P, Habib M, Habib N, Ahmed S, Hart M,
Walker J, Walker M, Thomasse G, Meunier L, Sayeed Z, Juhl H,
Kolendorf K, Hamalainen T, Gin H, Rigellau V, Bohm M, Erdmann E,
Forst P, Gordalla A, Hampel R, Hartmann C, Hasslacher G, Henrichs
H, Hensen J, Hopf R, Kromer E, Martin T, Maus J, Mayer B, Miedlich
S, Moeller A, Nast H, Oehmen-Britsch R, Paschke R, Prehn B,
Riegger G, Riel R, Rosak C, Schroeder C, Schulze-Schleppinghoff B,
Schunkert H, Schweda R, Stablein A, Stein U, Truchon H, Unger H,
Wetzel H, Crean P, White U, Aina F, Balzan C, Barbaresi F,
Brancaleoni R, Brunazzi M, Brunelli C, Cambiano A, Caponnetto S,
Casaccia M, Centofante P, Cernigliaro C, Goi AC, Cicciarello C,
Cotogni A, DeJoannon U, Dellavesa P, di Gerogio L, Di Luzio S,
Fava A, Frigeni G, Gatto E, Giani P, Giorgi-Pierfranceschi D,
Imparato C, Landoni M, Magnani B, Manicardi E, Mantovani B, Marini
M, Martini U, Mazzantini S, Merni M, Miglierina E, Marini M,
Molinari G, Nanni D, Paciaroni E, Pareschi P, Pasqualini M,
Perazzoli F, Polese A, Poletti F, Portioli I, Provasoli S, Repetto
S, Rigatelli G, Roccaforte R, Romano E, Rossi E, Rugolotto M,
Rusticali F, Saccomanno G, Simoni C, Stucci N, Terranova P, Tortul
C, Velussi M, Vincenzi M, Vincenzi P, Zavaroni D, Cardona-Munoz E,
Elizondo L, Fausto M, Galindo R, Gloria-Breceda F, Hernandez-
Garcia H, Ibarra-Flores M, Illescas-Diaz J, Lopez-Alvarado A,
Meaney E, Olvera-Ruiz R, Rivera-Capello J, Romero-Soltero M,
Samaniego-Mendez V, Vidrio-Velazquez M, Kruseman A, Mulder H, Sels
J, van Doorn L, Vogel N, Hjerkinn E, Reikvam A, Albert X, Alvarez
A, Cardona M, Cosio FG, Gilabert R, Karoni A, Lopez-Bescos L,
Masia R, Saenz L, Sanz G, Ahnberg K, Andersson D, Andersson O,
Astrom L, Bergsten L, Bjorkman  H, Borgman C, Cervin P, Dalhgren
C, Ekholm L, Ericsson UB, Eriksson C, Fagher B, Gertow O, Gillberg
P, Hagg A, Hallberg A, Hansson B, Hansson P, Held C, Heinonen M,
Henning R, Jacobsson L, Jagren C, Jonasson T, Kahan T, Katzman P,
Kristensson B, Krogager K, Leijd B, Lennerhagen P, Ljungdahl L,
Menyes H, Ohman P, Olsson PO, Rosenqvist U, Ryden L, Sartor G,
Sjostedt P, Smith L, Stahl L, Svensson A, Svensson K, Taghavi A,
Thulin T, Torebo E, Weber P, Wysocki M, Anesini A, Boman P, Cozzi
R, Gerber P, Honegger R, Kick A, Kiowski W, Lehmann R, Lull B,
Moccetti T, Pasotti E, Rojas J, Rossi A, Rossi M, Safwan E,
Schindler R, Sessa F, Spinas G, Allan B, Cumming L, Fisher B,
Heller S,  Kennedy J, Kesson C, Lochiel R, Manns J, McGroarty E,
Raeburn K, Small M, Struthers S, Wilkinson I, Brown E, Holt J,
Perry G, Singh B, Szlachcic Y, Vlachou M, Yee F, Clegg L, Horwitz
L, St John M, Anderson J, Rashkow A, Schwartz K, Abercrombie L,
Cintron G, Garrett D, McHale J, Miller A, Sullebarger J, Tripp G,
Zoble R, Orander P, Sridharan M, Sridharan V, Berger S, Davidson
M, Geohas J, Islam N, Rajanahally R, Seikel K, Susmano A,
Wentworth M, Advani S, Rough R, Wickemeyer W, Young N, Goldstein
M, Dinneen S, Farkouh M, Helgemoe P, Miller T, Parkulo M, Pierpont
G,  Weigenant J, Rich M, Schmidt P, Abrams J, Robbins D, Bonora M,
Cohen G, Constantinou M, Dimova A, Fitzpatrick P, Gage L, Graham
S, Kohn R, Lader E, Powers J, Reiter P, Witt N, Buchsbaum R,
Donese B, Gupta S, Hoogwerf B, Suhan P, Suryaprasad A, Williams D,
Danisa K, Lowery M, Lyon K, Rae C, Gandara B, Gramberg M, Grover
J, Amidi M, Bell M, DiTommaso M, Day J, Durand J, Farmer J, Torre
G, Vooletich M, Gorham J, Gowing B, Kingry C, Lehmann K, Letterer
R, Lorch G, Lwai S, Mack R, Nemanich J, Primm R, Utley R, Vaughn
L, Bergentoft A, Borgman C, Brosch E, Engbers A, Flores M, Forst
P, Frisenda L, Gerle S, Huber D, La Tour F, Lehtonen R, Luca C,
Keays JS, Masterson N, Moore R, Morales-Virgen J, Penson, Persson
C, Pina C, Plouffe D, Reglier JC, Riley J, Rolstad T, Ronsted P,
Spinewine P, Styner L, van den Boom N, and Yuki-Miyakoshi S.

2002-01-07 Answer to the Name Question

The answer to investigator McCulloch's question is: No, it is not the longest.

So far as we know, the academic paper with the greatest number of co-authors is a medical report by Topol, Califf, Van de Werf, Armstrong, and their 972 co-authors, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 329, no. 10, September 2, 1993, pp. 673- 82. Their report has one hundred times as many authors as pages. These co-authors shared the 1993 Ig Nobel Prize in literature.

2002-01-08 Art Favorites

A quick survey of Bohemian science cafes shows a new name at the top of the "Favorite Item for Dramatic Readings Accompanied by Bongo Drums" list. Yes, it's Klimcak, Camparo, Cook, and Frueholz's "Subnatural Optical Pumping Dips" (Phys Rev A., vol. 34, no. 2, August 1986, pp. 1575-7).

And what leads the "Favorite New Lyrics Source for Rappers" list? Chatellier and Audic's "Mass Balance For On-Line Alphakla Estimation in Activated Sludge Oxidation Ditch" (Water Science and Technology, vol. 44, nos. 2-3, 2001, pp. 197-202).

2002-01-09 Mathematicians + Applesauce

Investigator Tab Doherty is compiling a list of math professors who eat applesauce.

2002-01-10 Perplexing Question of the Month

This month's Perplexing Question comes from investigator Kim Willoughby, who was stirred by the "CHEMISTRY LESSON -- TODAY'S WATER" feature on the AIR web site [that feature can be found at


Your article explores the question 'How large is an 8 oz. glass?' I encountered a much more puzzling case than the one you describe.

There is a glass of water on a shelf halfway up a wall in Liverpool's Tate Gallery which is an oak tree. Because the artist says it is. Art and science working on the same problems here. Could this 'oak tree' be getting larger every year? Or does evaporation make sure it shrinks?

2002-01-11 Rhetorical Question of the Month: Belch and Flicker

This month's rhetorical question was sent in by investigator Chris Corich:

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon and wonder if it happens to other people. Whenever I belch loudly while looking at TV or computer monitor (but not as much with laptop screens; well, actually, I don't know about laptop screens, and I don't really want to wake up the fellow in the next cube right at this moment) ANYWAY, under these conditions, the screen seems to shake and flicker. Is this normal?
2002-01-12 Euro Physics Calamity

The introduction of the Euro is a terrible blow to the hopes and dreams of physicists-on-money (POM) collectors. POM collectors collect currency that has pictures of physicists on it. By wiping out the currencies of entire nations, the Euro has diminished the prospects for common citizens who want to carry physicists in their pockets.

The definitive display of "Physicists on the Money" can be seen at http://www2.physics.umd.edu/~redish/Money/. (Thanks to Peter Melvoin for bringing it to our attention.)

2002-01-13 Rotated Readers

Several readers sent notes informing us that taught themselves to read technical publications upside down, and now habitually read everything that way.

We do not know what to make of this, nor do we want to know what to make of this.

2002-01-14 Pointless Pictures

We are pleased to announce the beginning of PROJECT POINTLESS TEXTBOOK PHOTOS. The concept was suggested by investigator Neil Martin:

I was browsing through a leading textbook on abnormal Psychology. In all my many years as a reader and investigator of the truth I have never seen such a collection of gratuitously pointless photos. So, I suggest that AIR starts a new competition: to detect the more gratuitously pointless photographic illustration in a student textbook. There are about 200 in my eighth edition of Davison & Neale so, admittedly, I have a head-start.
If you know of a sterling example of gratuitously pointless photos in a textbook, please send a BRIEF (but complete! but still brief!) description to:
c/o marca@improbable.com

2002-01-15 Matt Carr Wants to Know

Investigator Matt Carr wants to know if there is much published research about the efficacy of acupuncture on porcupines. So do we.

2002-01-16 CAVALCADE OF HotAIR: Boxing Cats, Blob, Ultra

Here are concise, incomplete, flighty mentions of some of the features we've posted on HotAIR since last month's mini-AIR came out. See them by clicking "WHAT'S NEW" at the web site, or go to:

==> Adult Human Male Reactions to Boxing Felines (VIDEO)
http://www.improbable.com/news/2002/jan/boxing-cats.html ==> The Mystery Blob

==> The Second-Hand Effects of Bitching [from AIR 7:6]

==> Who Is Most Likely to Be Awarded a MacArthur Fellowship?

==> Eye-Catching Eye Movements

==> Ultra Testing

==> Our Favorite Pharmacistical/Medical/Scientifical Calendars

==> How To Welcome a New Lab Member (VIDEO)

==> Still more comely new Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club members


2002-01-17 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Seized With and Without Delight

Each month we select for your special attention a research report that seems especially worth a close read. Your librarian will enjoy being asked for a copy. Here is this month's Pick of the Month:

"A Case of Musicogenic Epilepsy Induced by Listening to an American Pop Music" [article in Japanese], M. Nakano, Y. Takase, and C. Tatsumi, Rinsho Shinkeigaku, vol. 38, no. 12, December 1998, pp. 1067-9. The authors report:

A 23-year-old woman was admitted to our hospital due to the musicogenic epilepsy. She had four generalized tonic clonic seizures at 18 and 19 years old. Since 19, she had had complex partial seizures lasting for about 20 seconds which was easily evoked by listening to an American pops particularly "Dreamlover" song by Mariah Carey.
2002-01-18 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Hypochondriac, Plate, Woof Woof

"Management of Grief in the Hypochondriac," L.E. Jennings and R.D. France, Journal of Family Practice, vol. 8, no. 5, May 1979, pp. 957-60.

"Perforation of the Sigmoid Colon Following Ingestion of a Dental Plate," B. Peison, B. Benisch B, and E. Lim, New Jersey Medicine, vol. 92, no. 7, July 1995, pp. 452-3. (Thanks to Beatrice Tallos for bringing this to our attention.) The authors are at Rahway Hospital, Rahway, New Jersey.

"The Harmonic-to-Noise Ratio Applied to Dog Barks," T. Riede, H. Herzel, K. Hammerschmidt, L. Brunnberg, and G.Tembrock, Journal of the Acoustics Society of America, vol. 110, no. 4, October 2001, pp. 2191-7. (Thanks to Simon Richardson for bringing this to our attention.)

2002-01-19 AIRhead Events

==> For details and updates see http://www.improbable.com
==> Want to host an event? marca@chem2.harvard.edu 617-491-4437

6 PM. 29 Cornelia Street (between Bleecker and W. 4th)
An evening of funny science organized by Nobel chemist ROALD HOFFMANN, with:

* Scientific American humor columnist STEVE MIRSKY
* humor scholar JIM LYTTLE
* physics chanteuse LYNDA WILLIAMS
DIRECTIONS: http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com

Evening -- Special Ig Nobel presentation for members of the National Assn. of Science Writers

Evening. Exact time and location TBA.
AIR's annual special session at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Details TBA.

2002-01-20 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

Here's how to subscribe to the magnificent bi-monthly print journal The Annals of Improbable Research (the real thing, not just the little bits of overflow material you've been reading in this newsletter).

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2002-01-21 Our Address (*)

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

EDITORIAL: marca@chem2.harvard.edu
SUBSCRIPTIONS: air@improbable.com
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2002-01-22 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever appropriate. The only limitations are: A) Please indicate that the material comes from mini-AIR. B) You may NOT distribute mini-AIR for commercial purposes.

------------- mini-AIRheads -------------
EDITOR: Marc Abrahams (marca@chem2.harvard.edu)
MINI-PROOFREADER AND PICKER OF NITS (before we introduce the last few at the last moment): Wendy Mattson
WWW EDITOR/GLOBAL VILLAGE IDIOT: Amy Gorin (airmaster@improbable.com)
COMMUTATIVE EDITOR: Stanley Eigen (eigen@neu.edu)
CO-CONSPIRATORS: Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Ernest Ersatz, S. Drew
AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts

(c) copyright 2002, Annals of Improbable Research

2002-01-23 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

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