NTS LogoSkeptical News for 24 March 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Sunday, March 24, 2002

An Astrophysicist's Sympathetic and Critical View of Astrology

A plenary talk presented at the Cycles and Symbols Conference
San Francisco, February 14-16, 1997

Victor Mansfield

Physics and Astronomy Department
Colgate University
Hamilton, NY 13346
vmansfield@colgate.edu

I. Introduction

It is an honor to speak at this extraordinary conference, but some tension comes with it. Rick Tarnas displayed exquisite sensitivity to this tension when he asked me if it would embarrass me to receive a fax about an astrology conference at my physics and astronomy department. No, that was not a serious problem, but I also have not trumpeted it around my department that I am speaking at an astrology conference.

For many decades, I have been struggling to be true to two parts of me--the Piscean lover of depth psychology, mysticism, meditation, and astrology, and the tough-minded theoretical astrophysicist who looks skeptically on all these things. The astrophysicist is fond of his intellect, confident in the power of reason, even arrogant--a somewhat swaggering intellectual hard hat. The more mystically inclined part carries my wounds, is a more withdrawn dreamer, occasionally beset by corrosive self-doubt, but is always the doorway to the higher-a hippie visionary in a baseball hat. As you might guess, these two parts of me are often in opposition, both in the inner and outer world. For example, in 1975, well after my involvement in astrology, I was asked to sign the Bok "Objections to Astrology" manifesto along with 192 of my physics and astronomy colleagues.[1] These colleagues wanted me to take sides in their cultural battle, not knowing of my inner struggle to get the hard hat and the hippie to dance together.

http://www.lightlink.com/vic/astrol.html

Science & Religion: No Ends in Sight

By Freeman J. Dyson

The God of Hope and the End of the World
by John Polkinghorne
Yale University Press, 154 pp., $19.95

Sir John Polkinghorne is a well-known physicist who spent twenty years doing research in theoretical particle physics and then switched to theology. He was ordained as an Anglican priest and has spent the last twenty years as an influential member of the Church of England, serving as a link between the Church and the academic community. This is the latest of many books that he has written about science and religion for the general public. It arose out of a gathering of theologians invited by the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton to discuss the theological implications of the end of the world.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/15220

Ghost Haunts Apartment Block

Fri Mar 22, 8:12 AM ET

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Ghosts including that of the late communist leader Marshal Josip Broz Tito are stalking a Yugoslav apartment block built on an old military graveyard, residents complained on Thursday.

Construction workers dug up the bodies of World War One Serb soldiers in 1990 to lay foundations for the army accommodation building in the southern city of Nis.

Now tenants say they are being haunted by mysterious footsteps on the roof and weird noises in the night.

"Something strange is going on here, I tell you," resident Radmila Babic told the Nacional tabloid newspaper.

"Tito's image appears on the wall of our bedroom whenever rain falls on the cemetery," another tenant said referring to a nearby cemetery. Tito's grave is in Belgrade.

But an army officer who lives there was not spooked.

"Oh come on -- you can't really believe all those ghost stories," he said. "To tell you the truth, it seems to me that our wives have been spreading these silly tales."

New evidence: expansion of universe is accelerating

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY NEWS RELEASE -- Posted: March 22, 2002

A team of UK and Australian astronomers has discovered new, independent evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Their findings have just appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Three years ago, two teams of astronomers rocked the scientific world by finding evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating rather than slowing down, as had generally been expected, because of the gravitational attraction between the matter within it. According to these groups, the brightnesses of supernovae (massive exploding stars) they observed in remote galaxies require a universe filled with a strange kind of dark energy that causes it to accelerate increasingly faster into the infinite future. The concept of dark energy was first postulated by Einstein (who called it 'the cosmological constant'). But Einstein later referred to this idea as his greater scientific blunder since it spoilt the simplicity and elegance of his General Theory of Relativity. Since then, the cosmological constant has had a controversial history. The great Cambridge astronomer Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington was convinced of its existence, arguing that the cosmological constant distinguished between the vast size of the observable universe and the tiny scales of subatomic particles. But to most theoretical physicists, the cosmological constant has seemed utterly mysterious and unnecessary, and many have been reluctant to accept the results of the supernovae teams. Now, a team of 27 astronomers led by Professor George Efstathiou of the University of Cambridge has published strong evidence for the existence of dark energy using an entirely different technique. They used the clustering pattern of 250,000 galaxies in a large volume of the universe, surveyed with the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring, New South Wales, Australia. By comparing the structure in the universe now, some 15 billion years after the Big Bang, with structure observed in the cosmic microwave background radiation, which preserved information about what the universe was like when it was only 300,000 years old, the Anglo-Australian team could apply a simple geometrical test to elucidate the composition of the universe. Their results show that the universe is full of dark energy, completely consistent with the earlier supernovae results. "It seems that Einstein did not made a blunder after all -- dark energy appears to exist and to dominate over more conventional types of matter" says Professor Efstathiou. "An explanation of the dark energy may involve String Theory, extra dimensions or even what happened before the Big Bang. At present, nobody knows. The ball is now firmly in the theorists court.

It would appear that the Universe is not winding down as expected, but that the Dark Energy proposed by Einstein is fueling a continuous expansion for the infinite future.

52 Ohio scientists back teaching disputed idea

From http://www.dispatch.com/news-story.php?story=dispatch/news/news02/mar02/1158447.html

Saturday, March 23, 2002

David Lore
Dispatch Science Reporter

Ohio State University biochemist Robert DiSilvestro spent little time thinking about evolution -- until recently.

"My kind of research is like that of a lot of scientists, it's not directly related to origins,'' he said yesterday.

"I'm not an evolutionary scientist. Most of us aren't.''

Now, DiSilvestro is a spokesman for 52 Ohio scientists, including 18 from OSU, who this week sent a statement to the State Board of Education endorsing the teaching of "intelligent design'' in high-school science classes.

"Intelligent design'' is the idea that life is too complex to have evolved from strictly naturalistic processes. Advocates say this complexity required an intelligent creator, which may or may not be God.

The signers don't think religion should be taught in science classes, but consider intelligent design to be a scientific alternative to evolution.

Scientists opposed to intelligent design responded that it would amount to religious instruction.

The board by December must decide whether the state's new school science standards should allow intelligent design to be taught along with Darwinian evolution.

Even in the life sciences, most people don't pay much attention to the evolutionary debate, said DiSilvestro, a professor in the OSU Department of Human Nutrition and Food Management.

"Most are busy trying to cure diseases or set up agricultural projects or study ecosystems,'' he said.

If they paid attention, he said, more scientists might support intelligent design. Those 52 signing the letter agree that:

* Religion, or anti-religion, should not be taught in science classes.

* Biological evolution "is an important scientific theory that should be taught.''

* Where "alternative scientific theories'' such as intelligent design exist, students should be exposed to that debate.

* There should be no censorship "of scientific views that may challenge current theories of origins.''

The letter was circulated and prepared by Columbus medical illustrator Jody Sjogren, co-founder and managing director of the Intelligent Design Network, of Kansas.

Sjogren said the letter was circulated in the past three weeks. Signers include doctors and scientists from 11 Ohio colleges and universities.

Of those identified, about half have backgrounds in medicine, agriculture, veterinary science, biology, biochemistry and related fields.

"The list continues to build,'' Sjogren said. "What we're saying is there's growing support for teaching the controversy.''

Sjogren is now looking for money to publish the letter as an advertisement in Ohio newspapers.

Pam Keiper at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History said yesterday she's not surprised or impressed by the Sjogren letter.

Keiper organized Ohio Citizens for Science, which is rallying support for keeping intelligent design out of the standards.

"Scientists, of course, are a really diverse group, and you'll always find a lot of different ideas out there,'' Keiper said. "But they only got 52 to sign this . . . It doesn't seem like this has a lot of weight in the scientific community.''

Case Western Reserve University physicist Lawrence Krauss, also a member of Ohio Citizens, said, "It is disingenuous to teach that biological evolution and intelligent design are alternative scientific theories, or that there is a scientific controversy at the present time.

"While on the surface this petition seems to argue sensibly in favor of academic freedom, the real question is whether we should introduce nonsense into the science curriculum, by creating controversies where they do not exist, or by promoting certain religiously motivated ideas as 'scientific alternatives,' when they are not.''

Keiper said 2,600 "citizens of the world'' have in the past two weeks endorsed a petition on her group's Web site opposing intelligent design in the standards.

At the Ohio Department of Education, public comments on the new standards are running about even pro and con, said spokeswoman Beth Gianforcaro. As of March 20, 321 correspondents favor teaching only evolution, and 303 favor teaching evolution, intelligent design and biblical creationism.

Additional comments will be sought after a new draft of the science standards is released April 1.

This draft was rewritten last month to head off intelligent design by saying acceptable "scientific knowledge is limited to natural explanations for natural phenomena.''

For more information on the standards, see www.ode.state.oh.us/ .


Saturday, March 23, 2002

Evolution is designed for science classes

The March 14 Commentary piece, "Illiberal education in Ohio schools," written by my colleague Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, erroneously suggested that I support the teaching of "intelligent design" as an alternative to biological evolution. That simply is not true. Rather, I believe that public school science classes should focus on teaching students how to understand and critically analyze genuine scientific theories. Unlike biological evolution, "intelligent design" is not a genuine scientific theory and, therefore, has no place in the curriculum of our nation's public school science classes.

EDWARD M. KENNEDY
Senator
http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20020321-76780268.htm

Little dino's tall tale


Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 00:36 GMT

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1881000/1881702.stm

By Helen Briggs
BBC News Online

The fossil of a dinosaur the size of a dog gives an insight into how giant dinosaurs walked the Earth.

Newly discovered skeletons show the tiny dinosaur called Liaoceratops was the distant cousin of giant quadrupeds such as Triceratops.

The last of the plant-eaters, which had neck frills and horns, died out about 65 million years ago.

The discovery of small, primitive relatives that also walked on four legs suggests the gait was not an adaptation to increasing body size. According to Peter Makovicky of the Field Museum in Chicago, US, it was because the dinosaurs' heads were so large.

"This animal, even though it was small and very primitive, probably was a quadruped," Dr Makovicky told BBC News Online. "It may be that it's in response to this fairly massive skull that horned dinosaurs have.

"Even in these early little guys, the skulls are quite massive," he added. "It just becomes biomechanically advantageous for the animal to move on four legs instead of two."

Body armour

Dinosaurs known as ceratopsians were the last to die out, apart from birds.

A typical ceratopsian dinosaur was about the size of a car and weighed about 10 tonnes.

It had enormous horns and frills which it probably used to fend off predators or tempt a mate.

But two fossils uncovered in northeast China show the snorting, stampeding giants had much smaller relatives.

The bones were found in 124-145-million-year-old rocks from the Early Cretaceous period.

The miniature dinosaurs weighed about three kilograms (seven pounds) and were about 30 centimetres (one foot) tall. They had blunt beaks and a rudimentary frill.

Scientists think the frills may have originally served for supporting large jaw muscles needed to chomp plants.

The work, by a team in China and the United States, is published in the journal Nature.

Google Yanks Anti-Church Sites

By Declan McCullagh

http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,51233,00.html

8:55 a.m. March 21, 2002 PST
WASHINGTON -- The Church of Scientology has managed to yank references to anti-Scientology websites from the Google search engine.

Citing the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Scientology lawyers are claiming that Google may no longer include anti-Scientology sites that allegedly infringe upon the church's intellectual property.

A letter from Google to the xenu.net Scientology-protest site says: "We removed certain specific URLs in response to a notification.... Had we not removed these URLs, we would be subject to a claim for copyright infringement, regardless of its merits."

So far, the DMCA has come under fire because it bans most attempts to bypass or disable copy-protection technology. But Scientology is relying on another section of the 1998 law, which says a "service provider shall not be liable" for copyright infringements -- if it moves with dispatch to delete any "reference or link to material or activity claimed to be infringing."

Until this week, anyone typing in "Scientology" on the wildly popular search engine found references to the Xenu.net site in the first page of results.

Now Xenu.net and clambake.org have virtually disappeared from Google's database.

When using the DMCA as a legal club to thwap critics, Scientology must claim that its copyrighted material has been unlawfully expropriated.

Among the ostensibly infringing sites: Excerpts from an internal report on a Scientology member who died under mysterious circumstances after allegedly being held against her will, and photographs of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and others juxtaposed with Adolf Hitler.

This isn't the first time Scientology has used copyright threats to stifle criticism.

As far back as August 1995, Scientology sued one of its former members for posting anti-church information to the Internet and persuaded a federal judge to permit the seizure of his computer. The church then sued The Washington Post for reporting on the computer seizure and quoting from public court records.

Last November, Scientology used the DMCA to pressure a U.S. Internet provider to remove the church's secret scriptures from the scientology-kills.org site. DMCA threats from the church seem to be becoming so common that Dave Touretzsky, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon, has even drafted a form letter that can be sent in reply.

Since Xenu.net and its companion sites are in the Netherlands, Scientology can't use U.S. law to remove the pages directly. But in getting Google to delete them from its mammoth database, the church hopes to remove one of the most obvious ways that Internet users can stumble across the sites.

Xenu.net does have the option to reply to Google and try to make its way back into the database by refuting Scientology's claims. The DMCA offers that way out -- but Xenu.net's publisher would have to agree to the jurisdiction of a U.S. court.

One Internet executive in the Netherlands reported this week that Scientology "harassed" him and his upstream providers for years because he hosted an anti-Scientology site.

Hubbard's secret scriptures teach that 75 million years ago, an evil galactic overlord named Xenu solved the galaxy's overpopulation problem by freezing excess people and transporting the bodies to Teegeeack, now called Earth. After the hapless travelers were defrosted, they were chained to volcanoes that were blown up by hydrogen bombs -- and their disembodied spirits continue to haunt mankind today.

Google Restores Web Page Critical of Scientology

Update on Scientology. Also, some good comments on it at this bulletin board:
http://lucianne.com/threads2.asp?artnum=186898

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020322/wr_nm/tech_google_dc_2&cid=582

Fri Mar 22, 1:30 AM ET
By Elinor Mills Abreu

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google (news - external web site) Inc. restored a Web site critical of the Church of Scientology on its Internet search engine on Thursday while free speech advocates slammed the company for removing the site in the first place.

Google said the company had only removed certain pages from the site because of a copyright dispute.

"Certain pages of the Xenu.net Web site were removed from our search engine earlier this week in response to a copyright infringement notification under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (news - web sites) (DMCA)," Google spokesman David Krane said in an e-mail.

The home page for Xenu.net was "inadvertently removed" along with a long, two-page list of associated Web pages on Wednesday but was put back on Thursday, said Google spokeswoman Cindy McCaffrey. Neither she nor Krane were available for further comment.

On Thursday evening, the Web site was listed fourth under Google search results for "Scientology" and 8th under "Church of Scientology."

A lawyer representing the Church of Scientology accused Xenu.net of "wholesale, verbatim copyright infringement" by allegedly reprinting large amounts of material on the site.

"We don't abuse this act," the lawyer, Helena Kobrin of the Los Angeles firm of Moxin & Kobrin said of the DMCA. "We go very strictly by what the copyright laws are."

Copyright law allows people to use pieces of copyrighted material for personal, education and other purposes under a so-called "fair use" provision. However, Kobrin said the Web site used more than was allowed under fair use.

"We will do whatever we can to protect these copyrights," she said. "The real story here is my clients are constantly the targets of some really horrendous stuff on the Internet."

The Church of Scientology, whose members include actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, has mounted challenges to Web sites and organizations that are critical of it in the past.

STIFLING CRITICISM

Robin Gross, staff attorney for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the Church of Scientology was trying to use copyright law to stifle criticism.

"A lot of the cases using copyright to quell critics are Church of Scientology cases," she said.

The DMCA protects companies that host or link to Web sites from being held liable if they notify allegedly offending Web sites that there is a complaint about them and give them a chance to respond, Gross said.

Google did not have to remove Xenu.net immediately, as the company claimed it did in a letter to Andreas Heldal-Lund, the Norwegian Web master of the site, attorney Gross said.

"Had we not removed these URLs (uniform resource locators, or network address of Web pages), we would be subject to a claim for copyright infringement, regardless of its merit," Google said in its letter.

Don Marti, an activist who protested the arrest of a Russian programmer under the DMCA last year, said he and other activists met with Google on Thursday to discuss the situation.

"Google invited us right in," said Marti, whose ad hoc group is called "Mountain View, California, Xenu Independent Study Group."

Google had the Web site back up before the group arrived at its Mountain View offices on Thursday afternoon, he said.

"We're discussing Google's DMCA policy and trying to keep this from happening again," Marti said. "Google should be a fair and accurate representation of what's on the Internet."

New Freethought Directory Is Here!

From: Victoria D McCoy freethoughtdirectory@juno.com

Fellow Freethinkers,

NEW print and Internet versions of The Freethought Directory are now available!

THE BOOK
Third edition, 320 pages (228 pages of individual freethought group listings), laminated color cover, photos of speakers/debaters, new First Amendment attorneys category, expanded information in all categories. US$16 per copy, including postage, worldwide. Volume discounts (fund raisers and donations to local libraries): 2-5 copies: $15 each; 5-10 copies, $13 each; 10+ copies, $12 each ($4 profit per copy).

SINGLE copies can be purchased by credit card at
http://www.atheistalliance.org/.
DISCOUNTED copies by check only:
AAI
5146 Newton Ave. N
Minneapolis, MN 55430-3459
(Please write Freethought Directory on check.)

THE INTERNET
Very abbreviated online listings of three categories -- U. S. Individual Groups, International Individual Groups, and Electronic Communications -- are provided at http://www.atheistalliance.org/ as an Atheist Alliance service to the Community of Reason, thanks to the generous contribution of time and effort by Dave Feroe of www.HeresyHouse.com.

Please check your Online listing and send changes to freethoughtdirectory@juno.com.

Thanks to all of you for your contributions of information to The Freethought Directory.

Victoria McCoy
Editor

Log available of "Irreducible Complexity" discussion event with Prof Massimo Pigliucci

From: pental

Check http://skepsis.on.chatster.org/transcripts/past.htm for the log of the discussion.

Matthew

Photobuzzard http://photobuzzard.on.chatster.org
Skepsis http://skepsis.on.chatster.org


Friday, March 22, 2002

Articles of Note

From: CSICOP www@cuinfo2.cit.cornell.edu

Check out the CSICOP Los Angeles Conference Program at:
http://www.csicop.org/events/conference-2002/

L.A. Theater to Honor Steve Allen
Associated Press

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020316/ap_en_ot/allen_honored_5

"Steve Allen, who made his mark on Broadway, television, in concert halls and bookstores, will be honored with a 99-seat theater in the heart of Hollywood."

Assaults in a Cloak of Faith
By MILTON CARRERO GALARZA
Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-031302faith.story

"Esmeralda was curious about the man who was known for his ability to see into the future."

Storm over teaching of creationism at school
By Ian Herbert North
The Independent [UK]

http://education.independent.co.uk/news/story.jsp?story=274566

"The Bishop of Durham indicated yesterday that a school where fundamentalist Christian teachers stand accused of undermining the scientific teaching of biology should subject itself to further examination by inspectors."

School attacked over evolution teaching
BBC News

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/education/newsid_1872000/1872331.stm

"Leading scientists are calling for school inspectors to re-examine a UK faith school over the way it is teaching evolution."

Revising the Book of Life
By RICHARD MONASTERSKY
The Chronicle of Higher Education

http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i27/27a01401.htm

"It's the baby-blue walls, peeling after so many decades, that he particularly cherishes. Throughout much of his career at Harvard University, Stephen Jay Gould has protected the walls of his office, in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, from those who would cover up the aged paint and the large black words stenciled around the room. The patch of plaster overlooking one of his desks proclaims "Vermes," Latin for "worms." The titles "Mammals" and "Fish" adorn another section."

On Public Access, Must-Sense TV
By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23740-2002Mar13.html

""Telepathic TV" is not TV that people set the VCR for. More than likely, they're introduced to it in a two-second zap, as they surf their way up the Fairfax County cable lineup from Channel 9 to C-SPAN."

Public less worried about MMR vaccine than many other issues
by Trevor Jackson
British Medical Journal

http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/324/7338/630/a

"The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine may not be as great a bogeyman as recent media coverage suggests."

The creation of a row
By Nick Assinder
BBC News

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk_politics/newsid_1872000/1872520.stm

"It would appear to be a simple question - does the prime minister believe the theories of evolution and creation have equal merit?"

Teachers proposing book ban in Russell
By Bill Estep
Lexington Herald-Leader

http://www.kentucky.com/mld/heraldleader/2848247.htm

"A teachers' prayer group is involved in an effort to get dozens of books dealing with ghosts, cults and witchcraft reviewed for possible removal from the library at Russell County High School."

Critics: No science in intelligent design
By Randy Ludlow
Cincinnati Post

http://www.cincypost.com/2002/mar/12/evol031202.html

"Supporters of intelligent design contend Earth's abundance of wildly differing flora and fauna is too complex to have evolved from a shared ancestor in the primordial ooze."

Nature's diversity beyond evolution
by Carl T. Hall
San Francisco Chronicle

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/03/17/MN141455.DTL

"Leaving fundamentalist dogma behind, a new species of anti- evolutionists has arisen under the banner of "intelligent design" -- now at the heart of a bitter debate erupting in Ohio about how science and evolution should be taught in the public schools."

Just a perfectly ordinary doomsday fanatic
By Elaine Cassel
Christian Science Monitor

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0314/p19s02-bogn.html

"Sociology professor Richard Mitchell has written a book purporting to explain American "survivalists," whom he defines as people preparing for a myriad of anticipated "troubles.""

Mystery surrounds Uganda cult deaths
Associated Press

http://europe.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/africa/03/16/uganda.cult.aftermath.ap/index.html

"Two years ago, hundreds of followers of a doomsday cult were burned alive inside a locked church in Uganda. Hundreds more were found buried under the homes of cult leaders."

Creationists 'harm religion'
by Tania Branigan
The Guardian [UK]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,668482,00.html

"The Bishop of Oxford yesterday fuelled the row over creationism in state funded schools by accusing teachers who promote anti-evolutionary theories of bringing Christianity into disrepute."

We saw 'Bigfoot', claim villagers
By Rahul Karmakar
The Straits Times

http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/cybernews/story/0,1870,108731,00.html?

"BIGFOOT is back."

Boy's cure may become official miracle for church order
By Eric Gorski
Colorado Springs Gazette

http://www.gazette.com/stories/0317top2.php

"On Oct. 19, 1998, a nun visited Jill Burgie's religion class at St. Patrick's Catholic Church."

Secret files reveal mysterious sightings of UFOs in Farmington
By Debra Mayeux
Farmington Daily Times

http://www.daily-times.com/Stories/0,1002,6572%257E468130,00.html

"It reads like a good science fiction novel -an unsuspecting reporter gets his hands on a newspaper publisher's secret files. The files contain drawings, photographs and considerable correspondence with scientists and ufologists about extraterrestrial contact."

Scientific American, March 18, 2002

FUSION CLAIM SPARKS DEBATE
Donald Kennedy, editor of the prestigious journal Science, knew he was in for a row if he published the paper. What the authors were claiming was just so extraordinary: that nuclear fusion reactions, of the sort that power stars and hydrogen bombs, had been created on a lab bench using little more than a vibrating ring, a neutron gun and a beaker of specially prepared acetone.
http://sciam.rsc03.net/servlet/cc?lJpDUWEqPmohtHlFlhgpJDgLmE0EXBV

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.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - March 22, 2002

SENATE STRIKES A BLOW IN THE ENERGY BATTLE
from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Senate moved Thursday to require utilities to generate a larger share of their electricity from sources such as solar and wind power, a potentially significant shift in national energy policy.

The requirement for investor-owned utilities to produce at least 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2020 handed environmentalists their first important victory in the debate about comprehensive energy legislation. An effort to strip the bill of the requirement was defeated by a 58-40 vote.

"It is a strong message from the Senate that the country needs a minimum renewable energy standard," said Alan Nogee, director of the clean energy program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Gary Skulnik, a spokesman for the environmental group Greenpeace, called the Senate vote a "step that has never been taken before" but said he is disappointed that lawmakers did not go further. A Sierra Club representative was unenthusiastic about the Senate action. "It's a pretty hollow victory," said Debbie Boger, senior Washington representative for the environmental organization. Because of exemptions and other provisions, she asserted that the measure would result in "only 4% to 5% of new renewables" by 2020.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000020912mar22.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

ASTRONAUTS TO SPEND AN EXTRA MONTH AT SPACE STATION
The Associated Press

SPACE CENTER, Houston - Astronauts aboard the international space station will spend an extra month in orbit because of robot arm trouble, pushing their mission to a U.S. record-setting 189 days.

NASA decided Thursday to bump the crew's ride home from May to June so the visiting astronauts can replace a balky wrist joint in the space station's mechanical arm. The additional 3 1/2 weeks are needed to train the shuttle astronauts for the repair work and add the spare joint to the mission payload.

American astronauts Carl Walz and Daniel Bursch and their Russian commander, Yuri Onufrienko, moved into the space station in early December and logged their 106th day in orbit on Thursday. Space shuttle Endeavour was supposed to lift off with their replacements on May 6; that launch is now scheduled for May 31.

http://www.nando.net/healthscience/story/318560p-2716478c.html

OLDER SET OF RUINS DISCOVERED NEAR POMPEII
from The Associated Press

Rome - Near the ruins of Pompeii, archaeo- logists have found another, far older abandoned settlement, unearthing the remains of buildings, canals and ornate tools from more than 2,500 years ago.

Italian scientists and the Culture Ministry announced at a news conference yesterday details of excavations at the ancient riverside port at Poggiomarino, six miles northeast of Pompeii in southern Italy. The site was first discovered two years ago during the construction of a water purification plant.

Like ancient Pompeii - a Roman city destroyed in AD 79 by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius - this town was also abandoned due to natural disaster: a flood in 600 BC.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsbron222634211mar22023441.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

BRAIN RUSHES TO JUDGEMENT IN GAMBLING, STUDY SHOWS
from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lose five cents, lose 25 cents -- it's all the same to the brain, which decides in just a quarter second whether a gamble has won or lost, researchers said on Thursday.

And if the gambler loses, the brain seems hard-wired to make a riskier bet in the next few seconds, the researchers at the University of Michigan found.

"The findings suggest that in many situations our brains rush to judgement," psychologist William Gehring, who led the study, said in a statement.

"They rapidly evaluate whether events are good or bad, and this judgement influences how wE react," he added.

http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=sciencenews&StoryID=728580

SAVING BREEDS THAT ARE HISTORIC, TASTY AND ALSO KIND OF CUTE
from The New York Times

For ruggedness, strength and overall rustic hairiness, neither Mel Gibson nor Liam Neeson, both of whom have had a go at kilt-wearing and sword brandishing, can compare with Highland cattle.

Let the ubiquitous black-and-white Holstein reign as an ice cream cow. These are cattle. A Highland bull, or cow, looks something like a cross between a Tibetan yak and a Texas longhorn, with a bit of Yoda thrown in. They have bovine charisma.

For a glimpse of a Highland bull, with the irresistible name of Tussock of Swain's Fold, you can turn to the new "Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds," by Janet Vorwald Dohner (Yale, $75). Or, if you want to see a Highland cow in person, you can do as I did and visit Pumpkin, the Highland cow who lives at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/22/arts/22OUTS.html

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North pole is on the move - Your News from Ananova

The magnetic north pole could soon move out of Canada and into Russia.

Scientists say it has been drifting for decades but has now speeded up.

It is now expected to move out of Canada and begin migrating north of Alaska as soon as 2004.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_549963.html

Tree rings may point to earlier global warming

By Roger Highfield
(Filed: 22/03/2002)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/22/wring22.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/03/22/ixworld.html

A TREE ring study has revealed that 1,000 years ago the Northern Hemisphere may have been as warm as today, suggesting that global warming can happen naturally.

The study shows that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has been focusing on the effects of burning fossil fuels, has probably underestimated the extent of global warming free of human influence. The IPCC executive summary found that conditions during the 20th century were warmer than at any other time since AD 1000.

However, the new work, combined with other studies, suggests that the "Medieval Warm Period" 1,000 years ago may have been just as warm as recent decades in the Northern Hemisphere.

The latest findings are published today in Science by Dr Jan Esper and Fritz Schweingruber, of the Swiss Federal institute in Birmensdorf, and Dr Edward Cook, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York.

Trees grow an additional layer of wood every year, forming annual rings whose width varies, depending on environmental conditions. Scientists can use these overlapping annual ring-width series to piece together year-to-year-climate changes based on ring thickness.

However, this gets tricky for older trees because age also make rings become increasingly narrow.

The new work, an extension of a method used by Prof Keith Briffa at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, shows that it is possible to get around this problem to create a record of climate change over the past 1,000 years, which corresponds well to known climate events. "There is no escaping the fact that the climate swings and potential natural long term variability is greater than portrayed by the IPCC," said Prof Briffa.

'The idea that medieval warmth was restricted to Europe is looking far less likely as evidence for warmth at about AD 1000 from much farther afield is coming to light."

Work had to be carried out on relating tree rings to "the time of greatest directly recorded warmth - that of the last 20 years". Prof Briffa added: "Surprisingly, we do not have enough tree-ring and other indirect climate evidence for this period.

"Many of the records were developed in the 1970s and early 1980s and a huge international effort is required to resample at many sites around the world."

Darwin software is evolutionary time machine - Your News from Ananova

A computer is accurately predicting the course of evolution.

Doctors are using it to find out how bacteria will evolve immunity to medicines.

The new software was tested by asking it to predict how bacteria evolved from a known point 40 years ago.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_549824.html

The Systematic Corruption of the Catholic Church

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A53120-2002Mar19

Washington Post
March 20, 2002
By Michael Kelly

BOSTON -- A few weeks ago, Cardinal Bernard F. Law met with an annually scheduled convocation of the Archdiocese of Boston's pastors and leading laity. By all reports, many among the laity harshly criticized Law for his decades-long and now-exposed efforts to hide and protect sex-predator priests under his supervision.

A few days later, the priest in the church I attend spoke of this event in his Sunday sermon. He seemed shaken by what he had seen and heard at the convocation -- by the openly expressed threat to the authority of the Catholic Church and even to the faith that the church serves. He pleaded with the parishioners to continue attending church, to continue believing. He admitted that the church, in its handling of cases of sexual abuse by clergy, had been guilty of "what could be called a crime of silence."

Google pulls anti-Scientology links

http://news.com.com/2100-1023-865936.html?tag=dd.ne.dht.nl-sty.0

By Matt Loney and Evan Hansen
Staff Writers, CNET News.com
March 21, 2002, 11:35 AM PT

Google was accused Wednesday of effectively removing from the Internet a Web site that is critical of the Church of Scientology after it deleted links to some of the site's pages from its search engine.

The popular search company said it removed the links after it received a copyright-infringement complaint from the Church of Scientology. Andreas Heldal-Lund, Webmaster of the site Xenu.net , said in a Usenet posting that the complaint demanded that Google take down a large number of references to different parts of Xenu.net.

Kennedy Says Intelligent Design Not Science

In response to Senator Rick Santorum's March 14 op-ed piece in the Washington Times, which implied that Senator Edward Kennedy approved of teaching "intelligent design" in public school science classes, Kennedy explained in a letter to the Times that he does not; "intelligent design," he said, "is not a genuine scientific theory."

For the full text of Senator Kennedy's letter see:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20020321-76780268.htm#2

Skip Evans
Network Project Director
National Center for Science Education
420 40th St, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609
510-601-7203
510-601-7204 (fax)
800-290-6006
evans@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

WHITEHEAD DROPPING DISTRICT COURT CASE OVER FIRING FROM KU MEDICAL CENTER

from A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S NEWS for Thursday, March 21, 2002

In what is likely the end of a three-year-long dispute, former University of Kansas Associate Professor and freethought historian Fred Whitehead is dropping his case in federal court against KU's Medical Center.

Whitehead was given notice in October, 1999 that his annual contract with KUMC was not being renewed. He was told that his research "no longer fit the mission" of the medical school. There was evidence that the firing was linked to workshops he hosted for "freethinking physicians" who questioned claims associating religious beliefs and physical well being, and other activities.

After being notified verbally, then in writing that he was being dismissed, Whitehead initiated a lengthy legal and procedural battle, which included filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). His status as an author and expert in the history of American freethought movements also raised questions about what was going on at KUMC, since the institution had embarked on an aggressive program of meetings, staff seminars and other events dealing with the alleged role of religion and prayer in medicine.

Whitehead's case became the object of an international letter-writing and e-mail campaign directed at political officials in Kansas. It raised issues of academic freedom and the direction being taken by University of Kansas' Medical Center, a tax-funded institution. A recent article in Lawrence Journal-World newspaper (February 9, 2002) discussed "larger problems" and charges that there is "severe meltdown" in progress at KU Medical. Employees at the Center blamed the crisis on "poor state financial aid," "inept leadership and other factors.

For Whitehead, author of "Freethought on the American Frontier" and other publications, it was a combination of the "religion friendly" environment festering within KUMC, and a cavalier attitude of administrators. His $37,000 annual salary paled in comparison to that of the Dean and other officials. Whitehead was in the charge of the Preceptorship Program at the school. He cited financial costs and personal factors, including the wear-and-tear of pursuing a seemingly endless battle against the well-oiled University attorneys, for backing away from the case.

Whitehead said that KU had the legal advantage by having placed him on an annual contract, and classifying him as "staff" rather than a member of the faculty.

"They had one-up in the court, and that allowed them to avoid issues like academic freedom," said Whitehead. "This has been quite a grind for me, and the University has the financial resources to fight this case as long as they want."

Since leaving KUMC, Whitehead and held down several jobs and now works for the local transit company. He is editing two books of poetry, and continues work on the Freethought series. He has also written an unpublished manuscript, "KU Confidential" about the history of University of Kansas, and background on his case.

Dr. Whitehead thanks all of those who have supported his case, and he welcomes e-mail at fredwh@swebell.net.

For further information:

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/kansas9.htm
("Whitehead case finds new legs in District Court," 10/15/01)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/kansas8.htm
("EEOC ruling leaves few options for dismissed freethinking prof," 6/13/01)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/kansas7.htm
("AAUP report, publicity in firing case has Whitehead optimistic," 9/26/00)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/kansas6.htm
("Transcript, the Whitehead hearing," 7/29/00)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/kansas5.htm
("Whitehead: down, nearly out in Kansas," 7/29/00)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/kansas4.htm
("Hearing slated in Whitehead case," 6/21/00)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/kansas3.htm
("Kansas City Star calls for resolution in Whitehead case," 6/13/00)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/kansas2.htm
("University of Kansas axing staffer for freethinking ways?" 5/5/00)

A warmer Earth: The signs mount

Barry James International Herald Tribune
Friday, March 22, 2002
No longer an abstract threat

http://www.iht.com/articles/52074.html

PARIS Climate change is no longer a future abstraction. Although plenty of uncertainty naturally shrouds a phenomenon with so many variables, most Earth scientists concur that global warming, along with increasingly unpredictable weather, is happening already.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the last decade was the warmest since accurate records began in the mid 19th century. If present trends continue, the Arctic will become a navigable ocean by the middle of this century, virtually free of ice throughout the summer. This week, scientists reported the collapse of a huge ice shelf in the eastern Antarctic, apparently as a result of higher-than-usual temperatures in the region.

NEW EVIDENCE THAT EXPANSION OF UNIVERSE IS ACCELERATING

http://www.ras.org.uk/press/pn02-06.htm

A team of UK and Australian astronomers has discovered new, independent evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Their findings have just appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Three years ago, two teams of astronomers rocked the scientific world by finding evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating rather than slowing down as had generally been expected because of the gravitational attraction between the matter within it. According to these groups, the brightnesses of supernovae (massive exploding stars) they observed in remote galaxies require a universe filled with a strange kind of dark energy that causes it to accelerate increasingly faster into the infinite future.

The concept of dark energy was first postulated by Einstein (who called it 'the cosmological constant'). But Einstein later referred to this idea as his greater scientific blunder since it spoilt the simplicity and elegance of his General Theory of Relativity. Since then, the cosmological constant has had a controversial history. The great Cambridge astronomer Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington was convinced of its existence, arguing that the cosmological constant distinguished between the vast size of the observable universe and the tiny scales of subatomic particles. But to most theoretical physicists the cosmological constant has seemed utterly mysterious and unnecessary, and many have been reluctant to accept the results of the supernovae teams.

Now, a team of 27 astronomers led by Professor George Efstathiou of the University of Cambridge has published strong evidence for the existence of dark energy using an entirely different technique. They used the clustering pattern of 250,000 galaxies in a large volume of the universe surveyed with the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring in New South Wales, Australia. By comparing the structure in the universe now, some 15 billion years after the Big Bang, with structure observed in the cosmic microwave background radiation, which preserved information about what the universe was like when it was only 300,000 years old, the Anglo-Australian team could apply a simple geometrical test to elucidate the composition of the universe.

Their results show that the universe is full of dark energy, completely consistent with the earlier supernovae results. "It seems that Einstein did not made a blunder after all -- dark energy appears to exist and to dominate over more conventional types of matter" says Professor Efstathiou. "An explanation of the dark energy may involve String Theory, extra dimensions or even what happened before the Big Bang. At present nobody knows. The ball is now firmly in the theorists court."

NOTES

1. The paper reported here is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 330, No. 2, 21 February 2002.

2. The galaxy data used in this analysis was from the 2dF (2-degree field) Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dFGRS). More information about the 2dFGRS is available at
http://www.mso.anu.edu.au/2dFGRS/

Martian climate puzzle solved - Your News from Ananova

Scientists have worked out why Mars has a climate with a split personality, making it drier in the south than in the north.

They say the planet's south pole is almost four miles higher than its north pole and that changes the way the atmosphere circulates there.

Downward-moving moisture has to fall all the way to the equator from the pole, from where it moves northwards.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_549771.html

Scientologists force Google to cut links

http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-866058.html

By Matt Loney and Evan Hansen
ZDNet (UK)
March 21, 2002, 12:05 PM PT

Google was accused Wednesday of effectively removing from the Internet a Web site that is critical of the Church of Scientology after it deleted links to some of the site's pages from its search engine. The popular search company said it removed the links after it received a copyright-infringement complaint from the Church of Scientology. Andreas Heldal-Lund, Webmaster of the site Xenu.net, said in a Usenet posting that the complaint demanded that Google take down a large number of references to different parts of Xenu.net.

"The complaint mentions a ridiculous list of addresses, which successfully removes the whole site from their engine," he said.

Search engines routinely remove links to URLs, or Web addresses, upon request to avoid litigation. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), sites cannot be held liable for copyright infringement provided they promptly take down content flagged by a copyright holder. Much of that activity has targeted links to MP3 files that turn up on search engines.

Digital rights advocates said the Church of Scientology's takedown request is noteworthy because it underscores potential conflicts between the DMCA and free speech.

"The danger is that people will attempt to silence critics under the guise of copyright infringement," said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In the Xenu.net case, the removed links led to pages that contain material copyrighted by the Church of Scientology. On his site, Heldal-Lund defends this use of copyrighted material, saying that he believes Scientology survives "through the protection afforded it by copyright laws in a way that copyright laws were not designed to address."

A representative for the Church of Scientology could not be immediately reached for comment.

The right to link has been the subject of several high-profile lawsuits, including a dispute between hacker publication 2600.com and the motion picture industry over code known as DeCSS that can theoretically be used to crack DVDs. In that case, a federal judge in New York held that links to the DeCSS code violated the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA, which bars trafficking in software that can be used to defeat copy protection. That decision was upheld on appeal.

Another linking case under way in New York involves MP3 search service MP3Board.com, which is challenging the DMCA's notice and takedown provision. The case, filed in May 2000, is pending. MP3Board had created a delisting feature allowing copyright holders to pull offending links automatically, but the move did not mollify copyright holders, who were upset that the search engine included results from peer-to-peer exchanges such as Gnutella.

The EFF's von Lohmann said search engines are not required to comply with takedown notices, but that most do to avoid the risks of litigation.

"Search engines can't take on every copyright holder," he said. "It's hard to say search engines should pay for this fight themselves."

Google noted that Xenu.net has some recourse. "Google provides Webmasters the ability to have their content reinstated if they submit a counter notification to Google," the company said in a statement.

Xenu.net's Heldal-Lund said this would require the services of a lawyer and would be prohibitively expensive.

Matt Loney reported from London; Evan Hansen reported from San Francisco.

Google Relists Operation Clambake

http://slashdot.org/yro/02/03/22/0141250.shtml?tid=153

Posted by timothy on Thursday March 21, @09:41PM from the squeaky-wheels dept. DarkZero writes: "After almost every tech site and individual geek banded together to either carry the story about Google's delisting of Operation Clambake or flat-out protest it, Google has apparently relisted Xenu.net. Searches for 'xenu' and 'scientology' list Operation Clambake as the first and fourth results, respectively. The search for "scientology" also lists a story from C|Net about Google delisting Operation Clambake, as well as a protest ad from a Kuro5hin reader (oc3)."


Thursday, March 21, 2002

The Church of Scientology's Supremacy over the search term "Scientology" on Google

http://www.operatingthetan.com/google/

UPDATED 20 Mar 2002 ORIGINAL 12 Feb 2002

21 Mar 2002: Slashdot weighs in. Shortly thereafter, so does Heise.de, a German geek webzine fairly similar to Slashdot.

Xenu.net Comments on its removal from the Google search engine.

FLASH: This Usenet post from Andreas Heldal-Lund, webmaster of xenu.net, indicates that Google has removed links from its search engine based on a DMCA notification from the cult of Scientology. If true, this has huge repercussions for the entire Internet--sites will disappear from the Google search engine based upon a mere allegation that they MIGHT be infringing--in other words, based upon the mere opinion of a copyright holder. In light of AOL's recent smash victory in which it was proven that the DMCA provided it immunity, Google's decision seems bizarre, and even suicidal. Note that these Scientology allegations are nothing new. This cult has been shopping their laundry list of bogus allegations around to anyone who would listen for years. They have never to date filed an infringement suit, although they have had years to do so. The obvious reason for this is that Xenu.net contains no infringing content.

QUICK AND DIRTY LINK LIST: A few links to the developing story concerning the disappearance of Xenu.net from Google. Scientology conspiracy? Google revenge? Inadvertent fallout from overzealous supporters of the site? Only Google knows.

Xenu.net Comments
Kuro5hin thread
Daily Rotten article
Microcontent article on "Google Bombs"
Slashdot subthread on "Search Engine Payola"
Search for "Scientology Google search" on Google Groups (some but not all ongoing Usenet threads)

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.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines March 21, 2002

SMITHSONIAN CHIEF TESTIFIES IN DEFENSE OF DONOR REWARDS
from The Washington Post

Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small told a congressional panel yesterday that the $2.5 billion needed to modernize the institution's museums and the National Zoo will have to be raised from both government and private sources.

But Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) told Small he had already seen enough of soliciting funds from corporations and individuals, and then rewarding them with their names on halls, buildings and theaters.

"Frankly, just speaking as an individual citizen, I deeply resent it. You didn't start this but you seem to me to be the biggest cheerleader. What we are experiencing is crass commercialization," Hinchey said. "I think it is a bad thing -- we are selling ourselves very, very cheaply. I would hope that it would stop. I would hope you will do something to stop it. I hope that this Congress would recognize its responsibility and fund all of what goes on so we wouldn't have to stoop so low. This is very troubling."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58775-2002Mar20.html

NEW EVIDENCE WE ALL HAVE THE SAME ANCESTORS
from The San Francisco Chronicle

Fossil hunters say they have found the strongest evidence yet that mankind's direct ancestors were members of a single unique species of skilled tool-using creatures who thrived a million years ago across much of the world from China and Java to Africa and Europe.

The new evidence comes from the discovery of a single partial skull, found encrusted in rock and surrounded by scores of stone tools near a village in Ethiopia where other and even earlier humanlike creatures were discovered by the same team only a few years ago.

The discovery should resolve a long controversy among researchers into the forebears of humanity, some of whom have held that at least two separate species of creatures known as hominids were among our ancestors.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/03/21/MN53948.DTL

NEW CAUSE OF DEATH IN A VERY OLD CASE
from The Washington Post

ROME, March 20 -- Scientists responsible for the preservation of a 5,300- year-old "Iceman" mummy found in the Alps presented evidence today that suggests the prehistoric mountaineer engaged in a violent close-quarters struggle before a flint-tipped arrow took his life.

Recent X-rays of the mummy's right hand revealed a half-inch wound that penetrated to the bone, forensic pathologist Eduard Egarter Vigl said today in a telephone interview from Bolzano, Italy. "We cannot consider this a minor wound," Egarter said. "It is a clear sign that the Iceman suffered a severe trauma before he died."

The finding goes against recent theories that the Iceman was shot with the arrow as a ritual sacrifice high in the mountains, Egarter said.

Egarter was inspired to examine the Iceman's hand in detail after a conversation with mountain guide Alois Pirpamer, who was one of the first people to view the frozen corpse found in 1991 wedged in a glacial trench of the Otzal Alps.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58974-2002Mar20.html

GENETIC ENHANCEMENT OF ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE STUDIED
from The Associated Press

Stronger muscles and bones. Enhanced tolerance of pain. Faster recoveries from exercise. A boost in oxygen efficiency.

Those are just some of the ways athletes may be able to turn discoveries in gene therapy into an advantage on the playing field.

Trying to get a jump on the next wave of cheating in sports, Olympic officials met with scientists to study genetic enhancement of athletic performance.

"Their possible misuse raises questions that society must address," Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said Wednesday.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/03/21/sports0317EST0090.DTL

STUDY RANKING UTILITY POLLUTERS AIMS TO SWAY EMISSIONS DEBATE
from The New York Times

As debate flares anew over White House plans to revise air pollution regulations, a study that ranks the biggest air polluters in the power industry is expected to be issued today.

The study was conducted by two environmental organizations and a large New Jersey utility and uses government data. It contends that a handful of companies accounts for at least half of the industry's most noxious emissions, including those that contribute to smog, acid rain and possibly global warming. Moreover, the study shows a wide disparity in the relative level of emissions produced by power plants, a gap that the authors say reflects the level of investment that companies have made toward improving their environmental performance.

The report's release is timed to sway the current discussion about revisions to air pollution rules.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/21/business/21POLL.html

A CONCRETE THAT PERCOLATES, KEEPING SNOW AND SPIES AT BAY
from The New York Times

SECURITY experts looking to prevent spies from eavesdropping on computers by intercepting the electromagnetic waves they throw off don't turn to Martha Stewart for interior-design inspiration. The solutions they employ are often unattractive and well beyond even her budget. For example, one involves building a room within a room out of welded thick steel plates.

But a new concrete that can conduct electricity may make it possible to construct buildings in which the basic structure does double duty as an electromagnetic shield.

Not that the scientists who developed conductive concrete at the National Research Council of Canada were looking to play a role in the world of counterespionage.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/21/technology/circuits/21NEXT.html

CALLING POIROT: BIZARRE CASE OF CROSS-BORDER 'SUPER CORN'
from The Christian Science Monitor

ST. LOUIS It's a border crossing of the worst kind. US biotechnology has spread southward to Mexico, its effects showing up in the native corn of remote southern villages. The high-tech invasion may threaten the birthplace of corn, which is also a key center of biodiversity.

That's the contention, anyway, of two scientists in the United States who have touched off a firestorm.

Scientists around the globe are trading increasingly vitriolic charges over the scientists' findings. Mexican activists claim biotechnology has violated their natural heritage. And an international research center in Mexico faces the unsavory possibility of spending its entire biotech research budget to test its gene banks for the offending material.

Can corn really be so controversial? Apparently so, when the subject is bioengineering. The current corn clash shows how quickly and unexpectedly genetically altered DNA can hop over national borders. It also poses a new question for biotech crops: If the new genetics invades its own cradle, will it weaken the old genetics? Or will it, oddly, enhance it?

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0320/p05s01-ussc.html

Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

Sigma Xi Homepage
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http://www.americanscientist.org

For feedback on In the News,
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Evidence Behind Claim of Religion-Health Link Is Shaky, Researchers Say

http://hbns.org/newsrelease/religion3-11-02.cfm

Popular claims that religious activity provides health benefits have virtually no grounding in the medical literature, according to an article in the March issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

This conclusion sharply contradicts assertions that a large body of evidence indicates that religious people enjoy better physical and mental health. Belief in the health benefits of religious and spiritual activities is so widespread that many think these activities should be incorporated into clinical practice.

"Nearly 30 U.S. medical schools now include courses on religion, spirituality and health for medical students," notes lead author Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D., professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University. "One Denver-based HMO offers spiritual counseling," he adds.

Sloan and his colleague, Emilia Bagiella, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical public health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, analyzed the medical literature to determine if, indeed, religion provides a health benefit.

Sloan and Bagiella first tested the claim that hundreds of articles address the possible impact of religion on health. They evaluated every article listed in a medical database that was written in English, published in the year 2000 and responsive to the search term "religion."

The authors found that 83 percent of the 266 articles that they found were "irrelevant to claims of a health advantage associated with religious involvement," Sloan reports, because these studies, while about religion, had nothing to do with an effect of religion on health.

For example, he notes, some studies examined only the association between health and the lifestyle practices -- not the beliefs -- of certain denominations, such as the dietary habits of Seventh-Day Adventists. Other studies examined how health problems influence religious practices, not vice versa.

Sloan and Bagiella then examined two previous reviews of the literature, both citing broad support for the religion-health link. The authors scrutinized only those studies investigating religion's impact on cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

Again, the authors found that little of the evidence claimed to link religious practice to better health withstands close scrutiny. "About half of the articles cited in [these] reviews ...were irrelevant," Sloan reports.

"Of those that actually were relevant, many had significant methodological flaws," he adds. Others were cited as evidence that that religion benefits health when, in fact, their findings were inconclusive.

Overall, Sloan concludes, "There is little empirical support for claims of health benefits deriving from religious involvement. To suggest otherwise is inconsistent with the literature."

Science weighs in on nontraditional therapies

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-000019690mar18.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Dscience

Many people swear by nontraditional therapies such as acupuncture and herbs. To determine the value of these alternatives to consumers, government researchers are testing unconventional medicine.

By MARLENE CIMONS
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
March 18 2002

BETHESDA, Md. -- Dr. Stephen E. Straus has never tried acupuncture. He has never gone to a chiropractor, nor has he ever swallowed a Chinese herb. Millions of Americans have used complementary medical approaches, but Straus is not one of them.

Some might find this unusual, since it is Straus who leads the federal government's research effort aimed at finding out what works and what doesn't in this controversial medical field. Straus describes his abstinence as more the result of his robust physical condition than a product of his inherent scientific skepticism. "I have no symptoms," he says. "I'm healthy."

SkeptiNews: Virtual Hell

SkeptiNews! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - All The News That's Fit To Question

# Fringes of: Science, Faith, Sex, Dope, Art, Paranormal, Conspiracy, etc.
# Confused? See the disclaimers & excuses at http://skeptilog.pitas.com/
# No anatomically-correct dolls were purchased to produce this bulletin.

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1856000/1856558.stm

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Does your faith say sexuality is damnable whilst its leaders bugger every available victim? Are you worried about hell for your dolls/cars/dogs/self?

* NASA to keep launch times secret - to guard against attacks. The swine.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1881000/1881517.stm
* ALIENS AMONG US. 'Tooth Fairy Turned My Son Gay!' Oh, the humanity.
http://weeklyworldnews.com/features/aliens_story.cfm?instanceid=23439

* Martian Surface Was Eroded By Liquid Carbon Dioxide, Not Running Water.
Gosh darn: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/03/020313074642.htm
* Spots On Mars Related To Seep Stains? Leaky planet gets wet in armpits.
Argh. http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2002/mar/m19-016.shtml

* CANCER: http://www.weeklyworldnews.com/news/index.cfm?instanceid=23641
* Boring sex is global: http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_539159.html
* GW Bush - Scorecard of Evil: http://www.wage-slave.org/scorecard.html
* Paranoid? Try these: http://www.sensibleerection.com/entry.php/1104

Have aliens interfered with your technology/politics/science/health/planet lately? Do they sweat? Has ET sweat changed your sexuality? Are you happy?

* Darwin's Time Machine: Scientists Begin Predicting Evolution's Next Step.
Smi-i-le: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/03/020320081607.htm
* Who are you? http://www.students.uiuc.edu/~ellingwd/dndwho/index.html

* I yearn for Yeti with the soft brown hair / And the soft brown eyes and the soft brown thighs / I yearn for Yeti to unload my cares / But where has my Yeti gone? O where? http://www.sonic.net/~ric/music/vamp3.htm#iyea

* CORRECTION: Soviet Moon rocket secrets revealed. New pix are released of once-top-secret Soviet superbooster designed to beat the Yanks to Moon.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1883000/1883348.stm

Are you better-designed/evolved/profiled than the average hominid? Are you ready for the next technological/evolutionary/spiritual stage? Are'ya sure?

"There is no gravity -- the Earth sucks." --anon.
# Rev. R.Carter, ULC * http://www.sonic.net/~ric * FAX: 561-423-6102
# These bulletins are now posted online: http://skeptinews.pitas.com
# To get this in realtime, subscribe: http://sonic.net/~ric/vsub.htm

Skull find boosts single ancestor theory - Your News from Ananova

Experts who reassembled a one million-ear-old skull say it proves the early human it came from was part of a successful global species.

Some scientists said the Ethiopian find was different from skulls found in Europe and Asia and so proved the areas had different species.

But the team which rebuilt the skull are now convinced it is exactly the same.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_549147.html

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.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines March 20, 2002

CHIEF PLANS OVERHAUL OF REGULATORY PROCESS
from The Washington Post

The Bush administration wants to hire more scientists for its White House regulatory review office. It wants to hear not only from businesses that want rules reduced, but also from citizens who want rules strengthened. And it wants agencies to adopt a "science-based" approach to regulation that weighs a rule's costs as well as its benefits.

These plans, announced in a 2002 draft report to Congress released yesterday, reflect a Republican administration that is taking an unusually activist approach toward government regulation.

"This is the first major statement of the Bush administration's commitment to science-based quality regulation," said John D. Graham, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Supporters and foes alike say the former Harvard professor is one of the most aggressive administrators in OIRA's 21-year history.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A53222-2002Mar19.html

U.S. ACTS TO SHRINK ENDANGERED SPECIES HABITATS
from The New York Times

LOS ANGELES, March 19 The Bush administration, under pressure from lawsuits by real estate developers, is urging federal judges to roll back legal protections for nearly two dozen populations of endangered species around the country.

In an effort to resolve as many as a dozen cases against them, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, two agencies that enforce the Endangered Species Act, are asking federal courts in California to rescind millions of acres of protected habitat for whipsnakes in the state's northern grasslands, rare birds in the scrublands to the south, fairy shrimp in shallow pools along the coast and salmon among the rivers, estuaries and shorelines of four Western states.

The administration is also questioning whether to preserve the "critical habitat" designations that safeguard millions of acres for about 10 other endangered species, from the Mexican spotted owl to the California red- legged frog, signaling a widespread shift in environmental policy that has consoled developers and incensed environmentalists.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/20/politics/20HABI.html

U.S. MORATORIUM ON CLONING SOUGHT
from The Associated Press

Oakland -- Led by a scientific advocacy group in Oakland, more than 100 liberal, academic and pro-choice leaders have asked the U.S. Senate to pass a moratorium on medical research that involves cloning in addition to banning the cloning of babies.

The Center for Genetics and Society, based in Oakland, billed its open letter to the Senate as a compromise between rival cloning bans proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

Brownback's bill, backed mainly by religious groups, would make all human cloning a crime. Feinstein's proposal, supported by many scientists and biotech firms, would ban the cloning of babies but allow the cloning of embryonic stem cells for medical research.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/03/20/MN192061.DTL

Yesterday "Science In the News" contained an Associated Press story about the Antarctic ice shelf that recently collapsed into the sea. Today we include two versions of the story -- one from The Washington Post, the other from Reuters -- that illustrate different methods of telling the science story.

ANTARCTIC ICE SHELF COLLAPSES INTO SEA
Scientists Split on Global Warming Role
from The Washington Post

An Antarctic ice shelf the size of Rhode Island recently shattered and collapsed into the sea after an unusual warming period, stunning some scientists who said they had never seen such a large loss of ice mass in the remote Antarctic Peninsula.

The disintegration of the ice shelf -- 1,260 square miles in area and 650 feet thick -- was most alarming to some because of the extraordinary rapidity of the collapse. The shelf is believed to have existed for as long as 12,000 years before regional temperatures began to rise, yet it disintegrated literally before scientists' eyes over a 35-day period that began Jan. 31.

"We knew that it would collapse eventually, but the speed of it is staggering," said David Vaughan, a glaciologist with the British Antarctic Survey, which announced the event yesterday in London and released vivid video images of the breakup.

Researchers and scientists who study the Antarctic Peninsula cautioned that there was little evidence to directly link the ice shelf collapse to the effects of global warming, which is induced by carbon dioxide and other man- made "greenhouse" gases. Rather, they are blaming a localized warming period that allowed melt water to seep into cracks and trigger massive fracturing of the ice when temperatures dropped.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A53178-2002Mar19.html

ICE SHELF REIGNITES GLOBAL WARMING FEARS
from Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - The sudden collapse of a huge shelf of Antarctic ice into the sea, described by scientists as "staggering," reignited fears Wednesday of global warming.

About 500 billion tons of ice known as the Larsen B shelf has disintegrated over the last month, the result of 50 years of sharp temperature rises on the Antarctic Peninsular unmatched elsewhere on the icy continent and in the rest of the world.

The British glaciologist tracking the movement of ice on the Earth's southern tip said the link between the shifting shelf and global climate change was not proven and that the dramatic events of recent weeks need not give people sleepless nights.

http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=sciencenews&StoryID=722493

TINY HEART DEVICES REDUCE DEATH RATE, BUT COST IS CONCERN
from The New York Times

Researchers have found that they can sharply reduce the death rate in high- risk heart attack patients with small but costly devices that are tucked under the skin of the chest and can avert potentially fatal heart rhythms.

The devices, implantable defibrillators, sense when the heart's rhythm is going awry and administer a small electric shock to the heart to bring its fluttering rhythm back to normal, preventing sudden death. The new study found that the device was effective in patients whose hearts were so damaged from heart attacks that they could no longer pump blood effectively.

Implantable defibrillators are routinely used for a relatively small group of patients who, like Vice President Dick Cheney, have demonstrable heart- rhythm disturbances. The new study showed that the devices are effective in a much larger group of people who have had serious heart attacks that placed them at risk for heart-rhythm disturbances, but may not have had such problems yet.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/20/health/20DEFI.html

ADVISORY PANEL SAYS NEW COLD PILL NOT SAFE ENOUGH FOR GENERAL USE
from The Associated Press

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) -- An experimental pill taken as a cold begins can clear up runny noses a day sooner than usual -- but Picovir faces a big hurdle before it goes on pharmacy shelves.

Government scientists decided it may not be safe enough to be taken by millions of Americans.

Even a one-day reduction in sniffles may be important for many people, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration acknowledged.

But because the common cold typically is a weeklong annoyance and not a real danger, any treatment must mount "a very substantial bar" of safety proof, panelist Dr. L. Barth Reller of Duke University said Tuesday.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/03/20/national0316EST0466.DTL

Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

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http://www.americanscientist.org

For feedback on In the News,
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Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Do we have a misplaced faith in religious belief?

By JOHN MACLACHLAN GRAY
Wednesday, March 13, 2002 Page R3

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Suffering through the unusually hideous world events of the past couple of weeks, appalled by the role of religious belief in events as overwhelming as the atrocities in the Middle East and India, and as underwhelming as the Alliance Party leadership contest, I find myself becoming less sanguine about the place of religion itself in public life.

For some reason, we don't read about mobs of atheists stoning and burning alive human beings who do not share their non-beliefs. So far, no agnostics have blown themselves up in discos, taking someone's children with them. No scientific determinists have been kidnapped and murdered by supporters of chaos theory. Moral relativists are not organizing militias for the purpose of putting people in jail for possession of the Ten Commandments; nor are agnostics firing rockets at pantheists from helicopter gunships.

jmgray@globeandmail.ca

NASA's Dirty Little Secret: Remarkable UFOs Captured On NASA Open Broadcasts

http://www.rense.com/general21/nasas.htm

Video Submitted by Oren Swearingen
manfrommars@webtv.net
3-16-2

The following video footage submitted by Oren Swearingen comes from NASA's public satellite broadcasts. NASA cannot possibly black out everything, and Oren has certainly found this to be true. In fact, it appears that during some very routine maneuvers, UFOs are distinctly visible, and in some cases edited out of the "replays" of the day's events once the live feed has taken place.

Oren captured two such attempts at censorship. One successful, and one a bumbling failure.

Unfortunately, the failure footage cannot be translated to video for the web as the object in question is simply too dim to register under normal video compression methods, which is disappointing. Every attempt was made to render a part of the sequence, but the file size for the video would exceed 50 megs and even then comes nowhere near the clarity of the actual video.

The item in question was footage of the Hubble space telescope being released from repairs during STS-109 of March 2, 2002. As the massive telescope separates from the robot arm holding it in bay, a glimmering, flashing UFO enters the picture from the lower left, apparently some distance beyond the floating telescope. The camera operator clearly spots the twinkling UFO and adjusts the camera upward to remove it from the scene. The UFO then moves across the field of view, re-entering the frame! Again, the camera operator attempts to hide the UFO even shifting the framing of the Hubble completely to one side, but to no avail.... the UFO continues to make a mockery of his obfuscation and passes on the opposite side of the Hubble where it cannot be avoided. Suddenly, the transmission goes completely static and the next scene is a silent Houston control center. No comments, of course.

The rest of the footage submitted fared better in compression. And one in particular will absolutely astound you.

We want to thank Oren for taking the time to not only monitor the NASA transmissions, but to analyze endless hours of footage and commit it to videotape.

http://www.rense.com/internal/baydoorfastwalker.qt

http://www.rense.com/internal/bayslowalk1.qt

http://www.rense.com/internal/bayzipper.qt

Fortune Teller: Winning Lotto Stolen From Dreams

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=573&u=/nm/20020319/od_nm/fortune_dc_1

Tue Mar 19,10:17 AM ET

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - An Argentine fortune teller who accused a lottery ticket seller of "stealing" winning numbers by entering her dreams may face prosecution for threatening to burn down his house, police said on Monday.

A police spokesman in the small town of Las Heras, 1,250 miles south of Buenos Aires, said Angel Fernandez filed a complaint against the local woman after she allegedly sprayed threatening graffiti on his family members' houses.

The spokesman said Silvia Ines Umile had accused Fernandez of "coming into her dreams" at night and robbing her powers to predict winning lottery numbers.

State news agency Telam quoted several Las Heras residents as saying Umile had never correctly guessed the winning lottery numbers, even before Fernandez allegedly began the thefts.

'Unlucky' dressing room gets feng shui treatment

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_548252.html?menu=news.quirkies

A feng shui expert has taken a tour of a sport's stadium's unlucky changing room to try to chase away its jinx.

Millennium Stadium chiefs in Cardiff turned to the ancient Chinese art after eight soccer teams, which used the dressing room at the south end of the ground, all lost matches.

Now the unlucky dressing room has been given the feng shui treatment ahead of the LDV Vans Trophy final between Blackpool and Cambridge on Sunday.

Expert Paul Darby, from Nottingham, carried out the ancient ceremony.

During a brief traditional ritual he scattered incense and sea salt around the redecorated room, rang bells, lit candles and made Buddhist chants.

Teams which have previously lost when based in the south dressing room include Arsenal, Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur.

Stadium manager Bob Evans said: "The Millennium Stadium offers a level playing field, in all senses of the phrase, to every team that plays here.

"In reality there is no physical difference between the two dressing rooms and it is only a matter of time before this statistical anomaly is broken.

"But, this is the greatest stadium in the world and we are prepared to go to any lengths to ensure all teams enjoy their Millennium Stadium experience."

The Football League has also backed the initiative with communications manager John Nagle saying: "Managers often talk about winning the psychological battle before they take to the pitch and the Millennium Stadium is sensitive to this issue."

The Nature of Things

From: Laurie Forbes

Those with access to the CBC television may want to watch the Nature of Things (with David Suzuki) next Tuesday for what looks like is going to be a credulous account regarding the psychic. At least that's what the promo seems to say - asking if there are psychic phenomena that are beyond investigation by science (this from a "scientist"??) and, supposed examples of remote viewing and a psychic informing police as to the whereabouts of a body. For those not familiar, Suzuki (Susuki?) is a geneticist and well known Canadian popularizer of environmental issues.

Laurie Forbes


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