NTS LogoSkeptical News for 12 April 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, April 12, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – April 12, 2002

from Scripps Howard News Service

Government climate scientists say they should know in the next six weeks or so whether the latest El Nino cycle is more likely to make for mudslides or mist along the Pacific Coast and a normal or mild winter in the Midwest.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's network of ocean buoys and satellites has found increasingly warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures across much of the equatorial Pacific since early last year.

El Nino weather conditions occur when eastern Pacific water temperatures warm up enough to alter normal patterns of cloudiness and rainfall in the tropical Pacific basin.


from The Associated Press

Scientists say they have discovered a way to make tomatoes taste fresher and last longer by tinkering with a gene that controls ripening.

The researchers, who report their findings in Friday's issue of the journal Science, believe the procedure may also work with strawberries, bananas, bell peppers, melons and other produce.

"For understanding tomato ripening and eventually taste, this could be the Holy Grail," said Jim Giovannoni, an Agriculture Department scientist who led the research.



from The New York Times

NIKKO, Japan — At a mountain highway rest stop, tourists were browsing in a souvenir shop and lining up to ride a red-topped gondola to a snowy peak. Suddenly, word spread through the parking lot: a robbery.

An intruder had jumped through the open door of a car and was rummaging through the interior.

Finally, the car owner offered some acceptable loot: a ripe banana. With razor-sharp incisors slicing through peel and fruit, the Japanese monkey bounded off.

"There is one monkey that will sit in the road, betting that the car will stop, then he will jump on the hood and demand food," said Tomoaki Matsuo, a freelance television reporter who makes his living filming monkey encounters in this resort town 75 miles north of Tokyo. Others try to jump through open windows of cars moving at close to 20 miles an hour. "The cars almost get into accidents," he said.


from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- James M. Jeffords, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, took issue Thursday with a White House proposal to enact a treaty phasing out a dozen highly toxic chemicals without offering a means to eliminate future pollutants.

"To send up this proposal without the ability to regulate new harmful substances is shortsighted and does not fulfill our commitment to this global treaty," said Jeffords (I-Vt.), who introduced a bill that would restore such an ability.

The treaty contains a provision for dealing with future pollutants; the administration's legislation enabling Congress to enact the treaty is missing that provision. Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.), is sponsoring the White House effort to have the Senate ratify the Clinton-era treaty on persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, and have Congress pass legislation enabling the treaty.


from The Boston Globe

Bad news for those of you who like to lie in bed late: It looks like it may not be good for you. Daniel S. Kripke of the University of California at San Diego in La Jolla and his colleagues looked at data from 1.1 million people ages 30 to 102 who filled in a questionnaire. Taking into account the effects of factors like age, smoking, weight, and so on that might have skewed the results, they found that over a six-year period people sleeping seven hours a night were least likely to have died. Those who snoozed eight hours were 13 percent more likely to die, while those who slept nine hours were 23 percent likely to never wake up again. On the other hand, those who got five or six hours a night were 7 percent more likely to die. So, it looks like seven hours might be a good mark to aim for.

ref.: Archives of General Psychiatry, February 2002.


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Kook of the day


Open Letter to Stephen Hawking

From George Hammond, M.S. Physics (1967)

March 10th, 2002 Hyannis MA, USA

Dear Sir:

I have just read your 1996 book with Sir Roger Penrose. I had not previously detected in your language that you are probably the most sensible and reliable scientist alive today. I know well the hand that moves and can't be seen and the foot that falls and can't be heard. I salute you for that divine possession.

Meanwhile, an important scientific discovery has been made which I think that you should know about. Hopefully someone will see this letter and bring the matter to your attention. A "scientific proof of God" has been discovered. Yes, an actual hard scientific proof that the "God of the Bible" is physically real and is caused by a curvature in Psychometry Space. To you, I can explain it in a few sentences, whereas to lesser scientists pages are required:

All of modern (experimental) Psychology amounts to no more than an analysis of the eigenvector structure of the "correlation matrix" in any psychological testing procedure. IQ tests, Personality tests, Behavior tests etc. Amazingly, no matter where the matrix comes from or what size it is, it always has 4 and only 4 eigenvectors, known as E,N,P,g. (g is another name for IQ, and E,N,P are personality eigenvectors).

I have discovered (Hammond 1994, peer reviewed literature), that the physical cause of this is the 3-axis Cartesian cleavage of the brain itself (causes E,N,P), and the g is simply caused by the mental speed (time variation) of the brain. This brain geometry points immediately to a Factor Analytic Isomorphism between the X,Y,Z,t of real Spacetime and the E,N,P,g of Psychometry eigenvector space because it is the Riemannian-Euclidean metric of real space which physically causes the 3-axis orthogonal cleavage of the brain (indeed the Cartesian vertibrate bodyplan itself). Now, the curvature of spacetime (X,Y,Z,t) causes Gravity, and it turns out that there is a curvature in Psychometry space which causes a single eigenvector of the (oblique) 4x4 matrix (Metric) of E,N,P,g. This eigenvector is easily identified as "God" since the biological cause of it is the famous Secular Trend in brain growth. This then, means that Gravity is the cause of God. In fact, it is easy and elementary to show mathematically that:

God = guv
in other words, that the gravitational spacetime metric is the direct cause of God. Factor Analysis of course does not tell us where the the gravity is, but apparently, it is Roger Penrose's "brain gravity" that mediates brain growth ( Shadows of the Mind, 1994). Naturally the discovery of this equation, which is confirmed by the time dilation (intelligence difference), the Twins Paradox (difference in human ageing rates), the space contraction (apparent size of the world to different observers), and the Structural Model (Hammond 1994) also points to the manifest possibility (guv --> infty) of a "Black Hole" phenomena of some kind in Psychometry Space (God --> infty). This, one might intuitively suspect is connected with the phenomena of "death". We have here, an actual possibility of discovering, scientifically, if there is a physical mechanism for such a thing as "life after death". Einstein and Rosen's 1935 "2-worlds" solution could very well be a primitive description of the 2-worlds (Heaven and Earth) of classical Religion. I know that you have done a great deal of research on this idea of Einstein's (Black Holes and Baby Universes) in recent decades.


From: Michael Shermer skeptix@fortnet.com

Many of you who have attended our recent SKEPTIC programs have enjoyed the remarkably erudite and entertaining songs of Richard Milner, the singing Darwinian scholar. Now Richard is offering a brand new CD of ALL his hilarious and thought-provoking songs. CHARLES DARWIN: LIVE & IN CONCERT includes all the songs from Richard's "Darwin" show, including two new ones about Stephen Jay Gould and Jimmy Durante (you heard right!) that were specially commissioned by the Skeptic Society for our Gould Festschrift last year. The high-quality, digitally mastered CD album features 21 cuts, with 11 songs and runs a full 34 minutes. Milner is author of "The Encyclopedia of Evolution" and is a Senior Editor at Natural History Magazine at the American Museum of Natural History. Among his fans are Stephen Jay Gould, lyricist Sheldon ("Fiddler on the Roof") Harnick, Sir David Attenborough, Tony Randall, and members of the Darwin family. If you haven't heard them, Milner's songs are something like a mixture of Gilbert & Sullivan, Lerner and Loewe, Stephen Jay Gould, and Tom Lehrer.

Price is $12.50 plus $1.50 postage = $14.00. Order from Richard Milner, 2067 Broadway, Suite 49, New York, New York, 10023, or e-mail him at rmilner@nyc.rr.com Please allow two to three weeks for delivery. For those of you in the Los Angeles area: Richard will perform his show on May 19, 2002 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History in the afternoon, in conjunction with their "Voyages of Discovery" exhibit. Details regarding the show can be obtained by contacting the Museum.

For those who can get to Manhattan, there are two programs of interest at the American Museum of Natural History in April. The first is anthropologist-songwriter Richard Milner's one-man musical about the life and times of Charles Darwin.

"My favorite Darwin show"-Stephen Jay Gould
"Performed with skill and panache"-Tony Randall
"Smartest show in NY"-Time Out New York

Charles Darwin: Live and in Concert
Tuesday, April 9, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
$15 ($13.50 Members, students, senior citizens)
Kaufmann Theater, first floor (use 77th St. entrance)
To make sure you secure a seat, reserve tickets in advance by
calling 212-769-5200 Code: EL22C for Darwin show


Evolution or Intelligent Design?
Examining the Intelligent Design Issue
Tuesday, April 23, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
$15 ($13.50 Members, students, senior citizens)
Kaufmann Theater, first floor
For advance tickets call 212-769-5200, Code: EL22A for ID forum

Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., will moderate the discussion between evolutionists Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown University and author of the book Finding Darwin's God, and Robert T. Pennock, a philosophy of science professor at Michigan State University and author of Tower of Babel, and two of ID's leading proponents, Michael Behe, Professor of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University and author of Darwin's Black Box, and William Dembski, Associate Research Professor, Baylor University and author of The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities. Copresented with Natural History magazine, which has published a series of articles by some of the panelists in the April issue. You may also want to check the Museum's website, which is www.amnh.org Click to "Public Programs," then to "Hot Topics in Science and Culture."


At the Ohio Board of Education meeting held March 11, 2002, Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC) President Stephen Meyer and CRSC Senior Fellow Jonathan Wells presented the board with a bibliography of forty four papers published in peer reviewed scientific literature.

The Bibliography was prefaced with the following explanation: The publications represent dissenting viewpoints that challenge one or another aspect of neo-Darwinism (the prevailing theory of evolution taught in biology textbooks), discuss problems that evolutionary theory faces, or suggest important new lines of evidence that biology must consider when explaining origins.

A posting on the CRSC web site, dated March 11, contains the bibliography with the following disclaimer:  The publications are not presented either as support for the theory of intelligent design, or as indicating that the authors cited doubt evolution.

[emphasis in the original]

Now, if you're starting to wonder whether the intended purpose of the bibliography is to support intelligent design, or demonstrate "problems with evolution", you're going to be even more confused if you read the article the CRSC posted on its web site, again dated March 11th, by Fred Hutchison.

Hutchison writes that "[Stephen Meyer and Jonathan Wells] offered to the board a list of forty papers (sic) written by intelligent design scientists which had been published in peer reviewed journals."

NCSE requests the CRSC to clear the air. First, correct the false claim that the 44 articles are written by intelligent design scientists. Second, explain why the bibliography was presented to the Ohio Board of Education sans the disclaimer that appeared with it on the CRSC web site. (Was the board ever notified of its insertion?)

It is of little wonder why the intelligent design movement seems to find it difficult to take positions on basic concepts like the age of the earth and descent with modification when their leading organization suffers so much confusion.

For NCSE's complete analysis of the bibliography and comments from authors see:


Material for Teachers About How We Know the Age of the Universe Is Now On Line

In several U.S. states there have been demands that discussions of the Big Bang and the vast age of the cosmos be excluded from science curricula in K-12 classrooms. In response, the Astronomy Education Board of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) has put together an article for teachers on how astronomers know that the universe is old and that it changes with time.

The illustrated article has been posted on the Web at:
It is a special issue of "The Universe in the Classroom," a newsletter on teaching astronomy in grades 3-12, published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

The article explains the evidence showing that we live in a universe that is between 10 billion and 15 billion years old and that both the universe and its contents undergo evolutionary change. It is designed to help teachers explain these ideas to their classes and concerned community members. A list of written and web resources is also included.

The article grew out of a formal statement on behalf of the astronomical community issued by the Council of the AAS in 2000, when the Kansas State Board of Education in 1999 adopted state standards that eliminated both evolution and Big Bang cosmology. While those standards have now been repealed, following the election of new Board of Education members, the scientific perspective continues to be questioned in states and communities around the U.S. Both the AAS Council, and the Society's Astronomy Education Board feel that astronomers have an obligation to assist teachers in sorting out the evidence supporting our modern view of an ancient universe.

Planetary Traffic Jam Overhead

Follow the Grand Tour at Harvard

Comet Hale-Bopp dazzled us for weeks. The Perseid meteor shower thrilled us for one night. But the world hasn't seen anything like the planetary traffic jam that's going to occur the last week of April and the first two weeks in May! Inching across the sky like bumper-to-bumper commuters on their way to work, a rare planetary alignment will allow sky observers to see every planet in our solar system in a single evening! "There will be other opportunities in the future to see the planets in different configurations," says Philip Sadler, Director of the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, MA, " but it won't be anything like this for at least another 70 years. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Even more amazing, two very special events will occur during this planetary line-up. On May 10, the planets Mars and Venus will appear to pass so close to one another that, to the naked eye, the Roman God of War and the Roman Goddess of Love will become one.

Earlier, on May 5, something even more spectacular will happen. The bright planets Mars, Saturn and Venus will group together to form a perfect equilateral triangle in the western sky. This dazzling configuration will be visible almost everywhere on Earth. In the Middle East, this pyramid-shaped specter will hang directly above Bethlehem.

Oddly enough, more than 2,000 years ago, this same grouping of planets may have caught the attention of the Biblical Magi. On April 1, 2 B.C., the planets Mars, Saturn and Venus came together to form a perfect equilateral triangle over the city of Bethlehem. Now, in the 21st Century, amid the turmoil taking place in the Middle East, the ancient Roman gods of Love, War and Agriculture/Wisdom, are coming together to look down upon this war-ravaged landscape once again.

In the past, many different configurations of planetary alignments have been seen from Earth. They occur due to the random positions of the planets in their eccentric orbits around the Sun.

In the early 1980s and in May of 2000, the planets stacked up directly behind the Sun. Many people thought the combined gravitational pull might create havoc here on Earth resulting in giant earthquakes, sweeping tidal waves or erupting volcanoes.

But, the collective gravitational pull was so insignificant, nothing happened. The other planets are simply too small or too far away in space to affect us back on Earth. To see just how insignificant the gravitational pull of the planets can be, let's do what many good, red-blooded Americans like to do. Let's go shopping!

Imagine if we stood in the produce section of a grocery store and held up a big yellow grapefruit representing the Sun. The planet Mercury would be the size of a small grain of salt orbiting around it 18 feet away. Venus would be somewhat larger, like a grain of sugar you get in those little brown packets at the coffee shops, 34 feet away. Earth, also a grain of sugar, would be located 50 feet away.

Mars also would be the size of a grain of salt 75 feet away. As for the rest of the planets: Jupiter, a cherry-sized tomato, would be found at 240 feet; Saturn, the size of a green grape, at 420 feet; Uranus, a frozen green pea, at 300 yards; Neptune, also the size of a frozen pea, at 470 yards; and Pluto, represented by a speck of dust, would orbit our grapefruit-sized Sun at a distance of 475-600 yards.

As you've probably guessed, not much gravitational pull is exerted on the Earth by these grocery store lightweights!

In late April and early May, when the planets line up, they will not be arranged behind one another or the Sun. Instead, they will present a beautiful line across the sky from horizon to near zenith. For a period of a little more than three weeks, anyone looking west at sunset will be able to see the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

A few hours later at 4 A.M., armed with a large-size amateur telescope, they can continue their grand tour by observing Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, a few wandering asteroids and maybe even Comet Ikeya-Zhang in the east. Finally, by quickly glancing down at the ground, they will have completed their grand tour of the solar system.

"Seeing nine worlds in just one night is something few astronomers can say they've accomplished," waxes Sadler. " I can't wait to do it myself!"

Looking at the planets spread out across the sky during this alignment also demonstrates, better than any book, how our solar system formed 4 billion years ago; something astronomers just recently have begun seeing around other distant stars in space.

"Our solar system condensed out of a nebular dust cloud that flattened down into a giant disk that resembled a big pizza pan," says CfA astrophysicist David Wilner. "Utilizing instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope and data from the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, we are now witnessing the formation of new solar systems spread out into flattened discs of gas and dust.

"We are even detecting large lumps of materials in the dust disks that may be the signatures of planets in formation. Astronomers are now assembling snapshots of our own past frozen in time billions of years ago."

This pathway of planets, or the ecliptic as astronomers call it, is what remains after our dust cloud coalesced into planets. Tracing the path of this ancient dust ring across the sky is easy. Stand sideways facing south with your right hand extended and pointing to where the Sun recently set along the western horizon. Now, extend your arm up to point at the Moon or a bright planet overhead.

Connecting these two points together, continue to sweep your arm in an arc until it reaches the opposite horizon. Bingo! You have just traced out the ecliptic. All the planets will be found along this line and nowhere else. And this is where the traffic jam will occur.

"Coincidentally," says Sadler, " have you ever wondered why the twelve signs of the zodiac were chosen? Why someone you know wasn't born under the sign of Hercules or Orion?"

To the Greeks and Romans, the ecliptic was the Highway of the Gods or the path the planets and Moon moved across at night and the Sun traveled during the daytime. "Located directly behind this highway were the twelve special constellations the Gods passed by as they moved across the sky. They constituted the signs of the zodiac. This was the basis for astrology-- religious beliefs and basic sky observations mixed together. It should not be confused with the science of astronomy that emerged centuries later," says Sadler.

Today, it is widely held by many historians and planetarium directors that a conjunction of the planets, similar to the one on May 5, accounts for the Star of Bethlehem that sent the Magi on their way to seek the Christ child.

Certainly the timing was right. An almost identical triangular alignment of Saturn, Mars and Venus did take place on April 1, 2 B.C.

And the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars also formed a triangular conjunction in 6 B.C., in the constellation Pisces, the sign of the Christians. However, renowned astronomical historian Prof. Owen Gingerich of the CfA disagrees. "The very, very short duration of a grouping of planets was not the Star of Bethlehem," he states. "A conjugation like this would have meant nothing to the Magi. It was not part of their astrological tradition.

It really wasn't until Kepler became fascinated with the harmony of the planets in the 16th century that the idea of a planetary conjunction came about to try to attach a scientific explanation to this event. In fact, Kepler even went so far as to add an imaginary supernova to the conjunction of planets in 6 B.C. to try to make it even more spectacular to catch the Magi's attention. "

Will this event be religiously significant or just an astronomical oddity? Is it the most dramatic way to visualize how our solar system formed? Or, is it an exciting challenge for amateur astronomers to conduct their only whirlwind tour of the solar system in just one evening? Answering yes to any or all of the above makes the alignment of late April and early May something not to be missed.

Nothing like it will occur again in our lifetime. At the very least, it presents a wonderful opportunity for friends and family to come together and share an experience beyond the daily routine. It also may be an opportunity to ponder our fragile existence on this tiny blue world racing around an ordinary yellow star with eight other planetary companions and maybe help us, just a little bit, bring our own world back into perspective.

The Patchwork Gospels


The Patchwork Gospels -- The Evolutionary Origins of the Four Gospels from Jesus to ~210 C.E.

About This Book:

There are two major assumptions at the root of all modern New Testament scholarship which have been shielded from challenge, whereas nearly every other assumption has been ravaged and savaged in modern criticism. They are the assumptions (1) that the four canonical gospels, or at leastthe synoptic three of them, were written and completed in the eighth or ninth decades of the first century, and (2) that "early church" theology, myth, Christology, eschatology, apocalyptic, or any other issue about doctrine or praxis, can somehow be known by guesswork without reference to actual documents. Vast and profound conclusions about Jesus are founded upon totally non-existant and hypothetical gospel documents. Judgments are based upon literary forms (Form Criticism is the father of this notion), aside from any exact reference to written statements in any one of the early church writers, including the first century writers with their very meagre available literary output. And the second century writings of Barnabas, the Didache, Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and a few others, and citations from Marcion's AntiqeseV, and Valentinus's Upomnhmata, the first writings ever which actually present the sayings and events as the story of Jesus Christ, are regarded as commentaries only, and not as the creative matrices of the actual evolving gospels themselves. These vague and mostly groundless assertions about "the early church" are not improved by the currently stylish reference to recently rediscovered para-canonical literature from the dry caves of Egypt and Judea....

Herb Seems to Interfere With Chemo



, From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- St. John's wort appears to interfere powerfully with a common cancer drug and can reduce its punch for weeks after people stop taking the herbal supplement, a study shows.

St. John's wort is often taken as an over-the-counter remedy for mild depression, though its effectiveness has been questioned. Doctors also know the herb can interfere with the body's use of a variety of other medicines.

Imagine no religion

'Free, proud, godless, and on the move' at the American Atheists' convention. Not to mention finding a new definition of WWJD.



THERE IS SOMETHING incongruously amusing about listening in on several hundred atheists who have gathered to wallow in the exaggerated sense of grievance and persecution that is the hallmark of identity politics. Atheists, after all, think of themselves as superior beings, as rationalists who have succeeded in rising above the superstition and prejudice that so blight the lives of their fellow citizens. Shouldn't such virtue be its own reward?

Apparently not. Take, for example, Ellen Johnson, the president of American Atheists, speaking to her fellow members at the opening of last weekend's national convention in Boston. Johnson — described in the organization's literature as "a second-generation Atheist" and "soccer mom" — spoke of the rage atheists felt after the September 11 attacks. From George W. Bush to the lowliest local official, she charged, government's response was drenched in religion.

"Atheists felt marginalized and angered," Johnson said, standing in front of a banner that announced AMERICAN ATHEISTS: LEADING THE WAY FOR ATHEISTS' CIVIL RIGHTS. "It's religion that caused the attack on our country," she added, "and it's religion that divides America."

Johnson seethed as she denounced such post–September 11 idiocies as the Ten Commandments Defense Act, which would give states the right to decide whether to display the Ten Commandments on public property, and a decision by school officials in Palestine, Texas, to allow a minister to lead students in prayer.

"We are also grieving Americans, and we won't shut up and be quiet while others break the law," she thundered — that is, if thundered is the right word for someone who comes across more as a carefully groomed, well-spoken K Street lobbyist than as the fire-breathing heir of that most infamous atheist of them all, the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

St. John's Wort Not Effective In Treating Depression


April 10, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO (San Francisco Chronicle) -- St. John's wort, a popular herbal supplement touted as a remedy for depression, did no better than dummy pills in a long-awaited government-backed study, doctors report Wednesday.

The findings cast doubt on marketing-fueled folk wisdom that has helped turn extracts of a short, yellow-flowering weed, formally known as Hypericum perforatum, into a consumer-health phenomenon with $180 million in sales in 2000.

Family Council wants day of prayer

Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 9, 2002
425 Portland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, 55408
(Fax: 612-673-4359 ) (E-Mail: opinion@startribune.com )
( http://www.startribune.com/ )

The Minnesota Family Council says it is irked that the governor on Monday declared June 2002 as "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Celebration Month," while continuing to refuse to proclaim a "National Day of Prayer" as most other states do.

"Governor Ventura has thumbed his nose at millions of Minnesotans with his 'celebration' of homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism while refusing to acknowledge the important role prayer and faith play in our society," said Tom Pritchard, president of the council.

Spokesman John Wodele said Ventura is simply acknowledging the constitutional separation of church and state.

In the past, Ventura has signed a certificate of recognition marking the day.

Associated Press

Skeptical Resources in Alternative Medicine Web Directory

From: Leonid Meyzin http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/11/science/11QUAR.html?ex=1019523796&ei=1&en=62f296e3c485f694

NYTimes.com Article: Stars Suggest a Quark Twist and a New Kind of Matter

April 11, 2002


Observations of two stars, one unusually small and the other unusually cold, have led astronomers to think they are seeing evidence of a new form of matter and a new kind of star, one possibly made of elementary particles known as quarks and denser than any cosmic object other than a black hole.

As a group, quarks are building blocks of larger particles and are normally bound together as protons and neutrons. Now it appears that a certain combination of these quarks are capable of a more independent existence as "strange quark matter" inside quark stars.


Archaeological Cover-ups


-- A Plot to Control History? --

The scientific establishment tends to reject, suppress or ignore evidence that conflicts with accepted theories, while denigrating or persecuting the messenger.

Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 9, Number 3 (April-May 2002)
PO Box 30, Mapleton Qld 4560 Australia. editor@nexusmagazine.com
Telephone: +61 (0)7 5442 9280; Fax: +61 (0)7 5442 9381
From our web page at: www.nexusmagazine.com by Will Hart © 2002 Email: Wrtsearch1@aol.com


Any time you allege a conspiracy is afoot, especially in the field of science, you are treading on thin ice. We tend to be very sceptical about conspiracies--unless the Mafia or some Muslim radicals are behind the alleged plot. But the evidence is overwhelming and the irony is that much of it is in plain view.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Man's lottery dream literally comes true

From Ananova at:


A Winnipeg man has won the equivalent of £437,000 after having a dream that he'd won the lottery.

Harry Maertins says he often dreamed he'd win before he turned 40.

He struck lucky one month before his fortieth birthday.

He said his most recent dream was "so real" he bought several lottery tickets at three different locations the following day.

He didn't have any luck at the first two, but went on to buy eight scratch-and-win tickets each worth the equivalent of £2. The fifth won him CAN$1 million.

Mr Maertins told the Winnipeg Sun: "I just felt when I got up that it wasn't a dream, that I had the money."

Story filed: 16:05 Thursday 11th April 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – April 11, 2002

from The Washington Post

President Bush called on Congress yesterday to render all types of human cloning illegal, setting forth an ethical, legal and scientific case to ban a controversial technique that advocates say holds promise to cure disease.

Declaring that "life is a creation, not a commodity," Bush pressed the Democratic Senate to adopt legislation that would outlaw the cloning of microscopic human embryos for research into new medical therapies, in addition to outlawing the creation of cloned babies.

Although Bush has made clear since last year that he opposes cloning, his speech yesterday was his most forceful and expansive exhortation against it, trying to catapult into the political front ranks an issue that has been less visible than stem cells but has emerged as equally polarizing.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Astronomers have discovered two strange stars whose nature is unlike anything they have ever seen, suggesting that the stellar objects are a new form of matter.

Signals from an orbiting telescope and X-ray satellite indicate that the stellar objects -- one of them unusually small and the other unusually cold -- are so dense that they may be clumps of free-floating quarks, the most fundamental of all subnuclear particles.

If the stars indeed prove to be made of quarks, the scientists say, it could open a new window in the study of nuclear physics and the basic structure of matter under extreme conditions.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The couch potato's fantasy of a fitness pill may become a reality some day, according to researchers who have found the chemical pathways muscle cells use to build strength and endurance.

With this basic knowledge in hand, it now may be possible to develop a pill that pumps up muscle cells without all that exercise, said Dr. R. Sanders Williams, dean of the Duke University of School of Medicine and senior author of a study appearing Friday in the journal Science.

Does this mean sedentary people could build muscle by taking pills?

"That may be one of the possibilities," said Williams, but the main target of the research is to promote the health of people with heart disease or other conditions that keep them from doing enough exercise.


from The Washington Post

The late afternoon sun is shedding the perfect light on the rock pile, and Dr. Peter Kranz reminds his searchers that they are looking for mud cracks.

No cracks means no ancient sediments. No sediments, no dinosaur footprints.

Kranz, 57, standing to one side in his tattered cardboard pith helmet, notes, however, that he hasn't found a single footprint in a dozen trips to this mound of red sandstone piled up by construction workers beside the new Sleep Inn.

He did find one about 100 yards away four years ago. It was sort of faint, and not the world's greatest footprint. But, after 15 years of searching, it was something.


from The Christian Science Monitor

For Henry Petroski, even an ordinary hotel room can hold technological wonders.

On tour promoting his new book, "Paperboy: Confessions of a Future Engineer" (Knopf), Mr. Petroski, a civil engineering professor at Duke University, has spent many recent nights in the company of complimentary chocolates on pillows. The experience, he says, has been the source of some recent intellectual turbulence. Consider, for example, "the way maids fix up towels and fold them.

"Every hotel staff has little idiosyncrasies, and some of them are quite clever," he explains in a phone interview from his hotel in New York, marveling that some towels come folded as intricately as table napkins at the Four Seasons.

Petroski doubts he could replicate such mechanical ingenuity – even though he understands intimately and intuitively the physics of suspension bridges.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – April 10, 2002

from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Opponents of cloning research began a push this week to outlaw all forms of human cloning, including experiments aimed at helping patients produce their own tissue and organ transplants.

In a speech at the White House on Wednesday, President Bush is expected to ask the Senate to pass legislation that would ban all human cloning experiments. Supporters of the bill were planning their own gatherings, replete with movie stars, ethicists, religious leaders and scientists.

Both sides of the debate are trying to tug at the heartstrings of undecided senators, while at the same time deploying hard science and cool reasoning.

Cloning is one of several issues Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle wants to address between now and late May. A White House spokesman said Bush wanted to make his feelings clear to Congress as it returns from an Easter/Passover break.


from The Washington Post

Two new studies show that people who eat substantial amounts of oily fish are greatly protected from sudden, unexpected death, a common condition usually caused by severely abnormal heart rhythms.

The studies -- which drew their conclusions from long-term observation of tens of thousands of people -- greatly bolster the evidence that eating fish regularly can have major health benefits. While most of the earlier studies involved only men, one of the new studies demonstrates how fish benefit women.

The benefits for men and women appear to come mostly from fish's effect on the risk of sudden cardiac death. In the study involving women, fish protected against nonfatal heart attacks, too.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Scientists have discovered a new species of whale -- a long-nosed, timid, toothless squid-muncher that lives in the deep, cold waters off the California coast.

Described in a coming issue of the journal Marine Mammal Science, the cetacean is a species of beaked whale. Identification was made on the basis of five carcasses that washed up in California during the past three decades.

Beaked whales are medium-size marine mammals that roam the world's oceans. So far, 21 species have been discovered, ranging in length from 12 to 40 feet. The newly discovered species is on the small end of the size spectrum, reaching up to 13 feet.

Researchers know very little about beaked whales, because specimens are obtained only occasionally -- usually through accidental netting by fishing vessels or the beaching of a carcass.


from The New York Times

BAHÍA DE LOBOS, Mexico, April 5 — The fishermen set out before dawn from this dirt-poor town to the Gulf of California. They returned with seven crabs and a baby shark.

"There just aren't any fish anymore," said Teresa López, 39, a villager. "Less and less every year for many years. Now we haven't enough to eat."

Greed and corruption are draining the gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortés. It is not dead yet, but it is exhausted.

American and Japanese ships were the first to exploit it. Now fleets of Mexican fishermen, mostly unlicensed and ungoverned, are taking whatever they can, as fast as they can, for American and Asian markets. Every important species of fish in the sea is in sharp decline, fishermen and marine scientists say.


from The Washington Post

Life may never grow cushy at the federal government's most far-flung outpost on Earth, but it's going to get a tad easier. The National Science Foundation is building a new research station at the South Pole.

When the new building debuts -- a 52-person section is scheduled to open next year, and the entire 110-person structure is set to debut by 2006 -- residents will no longer have to eat in shifts or don winter coats to walk through icy hallways between the cramped buildings clustered under the South Pole's 27-year-old dome. Snow removal will no longer be a dreaded beast that consumes massive amounts of time and fuel.

The new living space and amenities will be especially welcomed by the summer residents of the station. Now dozens of the 200-plus summer residents cram into Jamesways, plywood- and canvas-walled Quonset huts sprawled near the dome.


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Link between birds and dinosaurs 'proved'


Claims of a link which will prove how modern birds are descended from small feathered dinosaurs has been unveiled in Edinburgh.

A variety of feathered dinosaurs have been discovered at a site in north-east China and the beasts have been trapped in volcanic rock, allowing their outer covering to be preserved.

The remains of the bipedal dinosaurs, coming from the group known as raptors, showed the creatures could not fly but were covered in feathers.

Dr Angela Milner from the Natural History Museum in London said further research on the 125 million-year-old remains had conclusively proved a link.

She was speaking during a discussion on techniques for reconstructing what dinosaurs might have looked like during the University of Edinburgh Science Festival.

Most experts believe all birds can be traced back to dinosaurs which existed 125 million years ago, following a breakthrough discovery in China.

She said: "The fact that we found this really is the last piece of evidence needed to substantiate that one particular group of meat-eating dinosaurs were the ones that gave rise to birds. There is a lot of anatomical evidence that suggests they are related and also what we now know about their nesting and mating patterns suggests this."

"This was a very fine level of preservation. The creatures died very quickly after being covered in volcanic rock and their bodies were preserved in a similar way to what happened (to human volcano victims) in Pompeii."

Dr Milner added: "The dinosaurs were covered in feathers but did not have flight capabilities, so that gives us a clue that feathers did not necessarily develop for flight, but possibly for insulation, especially as a way for keeping some of the young warm.

The relics, which date back to the early cretaceous period, were discovered in the Liaoning province of China in 1996 and will be brought to the UK for exhibition at the Natural History Museum in July.

Icy insight into star birth


By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

The harsh conditions encountered in interstellar space are being recreated in the lab to reveal new insights into how stars form.

It is an environment where the pressure is only a miniscule fraction of the Earth's atmospheric pressure, and the temperature is a mere 10 degrees above absolute zero.

Dr Martin McCoustra and colleagues at the University of Nottingham, England, simulate the surfaces of the ice-coated dust grains in interstellar space to study the complex chemical and physical processes that take place on them.

"Until recently, processes of this kind have been very poorly understood," said Dr McCoustra, "but now we are seeing a revolution in what we can achieve.

"Ultra-high vacuum and surface science techniques in the laboratory have given us the tools we need to probe the workings of an interstellar cloud.

"Our unique surface astrophysics experiment is contributing to a fundamental reappraisal of the interactions between the gas and dust grains that pervade much of the space between the stars."

Cold, dark, diffuse

Stars and planets form in cold, dark clouds of gas and dust that are spread between the stars. Observations have revealed that the clouds consist of a "soup" of over 110 different chemicals, some with molecules made of 10 or more atoms.

Even though they account for only about 1% of the mass of a typical interstellar cloud, interstellar dust grains play a crucial role in the creation of this rich variety of molecules and in the process of star formation.

About the same size as fine particles of cigarette smoke, the grains are made of silicate minerals and carbon-based materials coated with ice - principally water ice and frozen carbon monoxide.

Dr McCoustra said: "When a star is trying to form, it gets hotter and hotter as more gas collapses in on itself. There comes a point when the gas is so hot it could expand out again as fast as it falls in.

"But if some of the heat is radiated away, the collapse can continue and a star can actually form. It is the hot gas molecules that act as the radiators and the icy mantles of the interstellar grains are the main reservoirs where the gas molecules can come from."

The researchers say they need to understand exactly how the ice gets on to the grains and evaporates from it again so that they can simulate the process of star formation with computers.

More complicated

In recent experiments, members of the Nottingham team have studied how water ice is released from grains and interacts with carbon monoxide (CO).

"We have shown that the crude picture of each substance evaporating separately at some theoretical temperature is wrong," said Dr McCoustra.

"Our measurements indicate that a higher temperature than expected is needed to evaporate water ice, and the combined water/carbon monoxide interaction is more complicated that had been thought.

"The water ice acts like a sponge, trapping the CO in pores. This trapped CO is not released as a gas until all the water has evaporated."

The research is to be described at the National Astronomy Meeting being held in Bristol.

Items of Interest

Check out the CSICOP Los Angeles Conference Program at:


Science Fiction
By Chris Mooney


After spending half a billion taxpayer dollars, alternative medicine gurus still can't prove their methods work--how convenient.

Spectacular planet show promised
by Helen Briggs
BBC News


"The five planets visible to the naked eye will line up in the sky at the end of April."

Paranoia paradise
By Chris Horrie
BBC News


"What makes a good conspiracy theory? What is it about some stories that, however unlikely, convince people that they are true?"

French '9/11 hoax' book sells out
Agence France-Press


"A widely criticised book alleging that the September 11 attack on the Pentagon was faked by US agents in a bid to win more funding has proved a huge hit France, selling out in many stores, booksellers said Wednesday."

Alternative Medicine Report: Is It for Learning or Burning?
by Ridgely Ochs


"AFTER TWO YEARS and $2 million, the White House Commission on Alternative and Complementary Medicine Policy released its report last week, and it's probably no surprise it has stirred up as much dust as alternative medicine itself has."

$1 million for science to discover God's plan
By Faye Flam
Philadelphia Inquirer


"Can science divine the hand of God in the universe?"

A Quick Glimpse of Snopes - The Series


Aborigine demands right to spear officer
By Phil Mercer
BBC News


"An Aboriginal activist is seeking permission from Australia's High Court to spear a senior police officer to death because he desecrated a sacred fire."

For More Stores Please Visit: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/skepticsearch/ 2) Skeptics in the Pub

This month's meeting is on Wednesday 17 April. We're having Mike Brass talking on a little known form of creationism: Hindu Creationism. Mike runs a fantastic site, called "The Antiquity of Man", at http://www.antiquityofman.com. Check it out if you have a few moments.

This is an interesting topic because of the recent furore over teaching Creationism at Emmanuel College. And also because Mike will show that there's not just the "normal" Christian creationism that we're familiar with, it also comes in a Hindu variety. A web site you might be interested in looking at is http://www.learning-together.org.uk .

This is a rather good site exploring the issues surrounding faith schools. It also contains the text from the address made at Emmanuel College by Stephen Layfield, Head of Science at Emmanuel. This speech originally appeared on http://www.christian.org.uk but they took it down after Richard Dawkins publicised it in his Daily Telegraph article, which can be found on the Telegraph's site (http://www.telegraph.co.uk) if you register with them! Our website (which contains comprehensive instructions on how to find us) is http://www.skeptic.org.uk/pub. See you on Wednesday week. Cheers
Nick Pullar

3) Can you help this reader

Subj: Universities offering Ph.D.'s in Parapsychology
Date: 4/4/02 5:12:40 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: ruloncl@yahoo.com

1. Are there any accredited colleges in the U.S. that currently do research in psi? Award Ph.D.s in parapsychology? If so, who are they?

2. In the last 20 or so years, which major universities have discontinued their research programs in psi?

Any information would be most welcomed for the class I teach. Thanks.

Charles Rulon --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Check out the CSICOP Los Angeles Conference Program at:


April 10, 2002

National Briefing: West

Scientists have discovered a new species of beaked whale using DNA analysis of specimens that washed ashore in California over the last three decades. The 13-foot whales, named for their pointy snouts, were previously lumped together with another species, found in Australia and New Zealand. A report detailing the discovery will be published in July in the journal Marine Mammal Science. (AP)


Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Science In the News

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

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


Today's Headlines – April 9, 2002

from The Washington Post

The hand tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson's disease that had started to interfere with a California man's life have largely disappeared since doctors retrieved stem cells from his brain, grew them into neurons and then transplanted those cells back into his brain, doctors reported yesterday.

The brain cell transplant was the first in humans involving "adult neural stem cells," a recently discovered type of cell that can morph into every kind of brain cell.

If studies confirm the procedure's usefulness in other patients, the approach could evolve into a biological therapy for the disease in which patients would essentially grow their own cures from a few starter cells taken from their own brains.

But doctors and neuroscientists warned against reading too much into the initial results. They noted that Parkinson's is a notoriously variable disease that ebbs and flows unpredictably, and improvement in a single patient does not prove the therapy works. Indeed, some studies have found that simply traumatizing the brain with surgery can trigger neuronal sprouting and clinical improvement, without adding any new cells or drugs. And mysteriously, the man's improvement has persisted even though the cells that were transplanted have apparently stopped making the brain chemical they were intended to produce.


from The New York Times

For years, it was a medical truism that the earlier cancer could be detected, the better. Most cancers would inevitably worsen if left untreated, the theory went. Spontaneous remissions were so rare as to be almost unheard of.

But last week, those assumptions were shattered, at least in the case of a childhood cancer. A screening test that looked as if it would save children from terrible deaths from a cancer of the nervous system utterly failed to fulfill its promise.

Now the story of that screening and questions about tests for adult cancers like mammography and a blood test for prostate cancer are ushering in a broader debate about cancer screening in general, with questions about what is known of the benefits and risks of tests that look for cancers in healthy people with no symptoms.


from The New York Times

Many women with breast cancer undergo unnecessary chemotherapy after having their tumors removed. About three-quarters of women with early-stage cancer would survive anyway without the drugs, but there has been no reliable way to tell which women that would be. So, many undergo the drug treatment, which can have nasty side effects.

But a new study shows it may be possible to spare women needless treatments by taking a genetic fingerprint of their tumors. Scientists at Merck & Company and the Netherlands Cancer Institute recently reported that different genetic patterns occurred for tumors that would spread through the body — thereby requiring chemotherapy — and those that would not.

The findings are preliminary, and scientists say it may be two to five years before the technique can be used in actual patient care. But the study is one of many recent ones pointing to possible benefits of a profound change occurring in how cancers are classified.


from The Washington Post

AMARGOSA VALLEY, Nev. -- Here in the Nevada desert, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas and a thousand feet beneath the surface of an ugly mountain ridge, the Bush administration is preparing to bury the nation's least desired waste: 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel that will remain radioactive for at least 100 centuries.

Over the past 20 years, government engineers and scientists have carved a vast underground netherworld of tunnels, vaults and test bores to assess Yucca Mountain's geology, part of a controversial plan to store the byproduct of the nation's nuclear power plants.

By relying on a combination of natural barriers and hardened steel alloy storage casks, President Bush and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham declared recently that the government could safely bury the deadly radioactive refuse for at least 10,000 years without it leaching into underground water or escaping into the environment in harmful doses. During a recent trip into the bowels of this remote mountain, Michael D. Voegele, the government's chief scientist on the project, fervently declared: "There's overwhelming evidence this is a good site."


from The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA - Children born to couples who are first or second cousins have a lower risk of birth defects than is commonly believed, but it can still be nearly twice as high as usual, according to a study released last week.

An unrelated couple has an approximately 3 percent to 4 percent risk of having a child with a birth defect, significant mental retardation or serious genetic disease, the researchers said. They found that close cousins face an additional risk of 1.7 percent to 2.8 percent.

That is lower than many people, including family doctors, believed to be the case, said one of the researchers, Robin Bennett.

''The common-sense point of this is that there is a definite risk, but the risk is rather small,'' said another one of the researchers, Dr. Arno G. Motulsky, professor of medicine and genome sciences at the University of Washington.


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The running animal

In the evolutionary race, scientists find humans were built to outlast the competition

By Gareth Cook, Globe Staff, 4/9/2002


The marathon likely began not in Greece, but on the vast savannas of Africa some 2 million years ago. Under a beating equatorial sun, the runners would have plunged through the grass, aiming toward a column of circling buzzards many miles in the distance. Beneath the buzzards lay a fresh kill. And the runners - our distant ancestors - would have been racing the clock for survival: If they were fast, they would find food for their families; but if they were slow, they would find only bones, picked clean by other scavengers.

When religion subverts science

By Chet Raymo, 4/9/2002


Question: Who said, ''Whenever [one] hears [our] religion abused, he should not attempt to defend its tenets, except with his sword, and that he should thrust into the scoundrel's belly, as far as it will enter''?

Osama bin Laden? Mullah Omar?

The speaker was King Louis IX of France, a saint of the Roman Catholic Church, as remembered by his friend and biographer John of Joinville (recounted in Piers Paul Read's ''The Templars'').

Louis was one of many thousands of European Christians of the Middle Ages who took up the cross and sword to do battle with Islam. Holy war was preached in Europe with all the fervor of today's Islamic jihad. To die in battle against the Moslem infidel assured the Crusader a place in paradise. If anything, Christians were more bloodthirsty in their righteousness than the Saracens they fought against.

Clothes factory owner quits after 'Jesus appears on jeans'


A Chilean clothes factory owner is becoming a full-time preacher after finding Jesus Christ's face on a pair of jeans.

Juan Carlos Arellano says the image in the dyed fabric spoke to him - advising him to preach the gospel of true love.

He says he noticed the image when one of the workers at his Santiago factory said the jeans were stained.

He says he now plans to leave his family and the factory to spread the word full-time.

It's thought his business partners will run the factory in his absence. A picture of the jeans appears on the front page of La Cuarta.

Mr Arellano told La Cuarta newspaper: "Christ's face hasn't faded since then, although we have passed the jeans about."

The 47-year-old has denied the image is a fraud.

"It would be very difficult for anyone to paint it on, as it's exactly the same colour as the rest of the jeans, only slightly darker," he said.

He says the image "told me to leave here, leave my five children and all my friends".

Landlord insures against ghosts harming drinkers


A pub landlord has taken out an insurance policy against ghosts following fears that the resident poltergeist could hurt customers.

Terry Meggs, of the Royal Falcon Hotel, in Lowestoft, Suffolk, decided he needed the cover after watching the ghost shoot glasses along the bar one night.

The building, which is next to a disused graveyard, is the second oldest in Lowestoft and was formerly Eastholme Girls School.

He said: "Locals know this place has always been haunted. I never believed in ghosts before I came here. I saw glasses move across the bar and be picked up one night, and thought, what happens if it does something to hurt somebody."

The building is allegedly haunted by a monk who hanged himself after being caught having an affair with one of the pupils or teachers.

Shirley Meggs said: "We get sounds of moving furniture, the glasses move, we get very loud banging as if someone is banging with a hammer, we get bells ringing, and sounds of someone walking across the floor, and things get moved to different places."

She said the ghost had never hurt anyone but it sometimes touched drinkers and often blew into people's ears, and sometimes rooms felt very cold even though the heating was always on.

Mr Meggs added that they are currently in the process of renovating accommodation in the building, and he is particularly worried that guests staying in room 10, which is where the monk is supposed to have killed himself and is particularly badly haunted, might be hurt by it.

The couple have taken out the policy with insurers Ultraviolet, which offers cover for a range of paranormal activity. For a premium of £500 a year the policy will pay out up to £1 million if staff or customers are killed or suffer permanent disability caused by ghosts, poltergeists or other abnormal phenomena on the premises.

The group has met claims in the past. Several years ago it paid out £100,000 on its Spooksafe policy after investigators looking into the death of a woman who had been thrown over the bannisters at her home in the US concluded that a ghost was responsible for the crime.

Strange lights in the sky baffle Bavarians


MUNICH, Germany, April 7 (Reuters) - Strange lights in the sky baffled Bavarians late on Saturday as hundreds of panicked callers jammed police telephone lines seeking an explanation for the phenomenon.

Reports of an unsettling late-night natural light show came from all over the southern German state as well as the neighbouring region of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

"It had nothing to do with the weather. But I don't think little green men from Mars have landed in Bavaria. It was something burning out in the atmosphere," a meteorologist said.

"It was like a huge firework," a Reuters TV correspondent in Munich said, describing the display. "You could even see it through half-closed blinds. It lasted around three seconds," she said.

Pilots flying into Munich airport radioed the control tower with reports of unusual lights in the sky.

The German police said NASA scientists initially thought the light was caused by space junk -- floating debris in the Earth's atmosphere -- but later said they were still unsure.

The German army reported no unusual movements on its radar.

Scientists said the lights may have the result of a meteor breaking through the Earth's atmosphere.

"There are no signs of impact or damage. We can't say what it was," a police spokesman said.

Strange happenings at Worcestershire pub blamed on mean ghost


A mean ghost is thought to be causing problems at a Worcestershire pub.

Mysterious footsteps, smashed glasses and pint glasses swinging like pendulums at The Mug House in Claines are thought to be the work of a former drinker called Bert.

Pub regular Peter Sansome says it's all down to a challenge former landlord Wally Trow gave Bert when he used to drink at the pub.

He told the Evening News: "Bert was mean, although he had money. Wally says if he was a ghost he would be too mean to give anyone a fright.

"Then Bert died. This would have been in the 1940s and that's when Wally claimed the noises started. Wally said he started hearing the sound of someone walking upstairs from the bedroom landing to where the safe was kept.

"He was convinced it was the ghost of Bert. There was another landlord who took over the pub after Wally and he also claimed he could hear noises."

Judy Allen, who has managed the pub for the past 13 years with her son Russell, says strange things have been taking place since they took on the tenancy.

"There are so many stories about this place and the older locals know the best ones," she said.

"I've had many things happen. For instance, once the front of a brass ship clock blew off at quarter past two on a Saturday. It stopped, then started up again at quarter past two the day after, so I can well believe this story about Bert."

Story filed: 19:27 Monday 8th April 2002

New study reveals twice as many asteroids as believed


New study reveals twice as many asteroids as believed
Posted: April 7, 2002

Asteroids in our Solar System may be more numerous than previously thought, according to the first systematic search for these objects performed in the infrared, with ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO. The ISO Deep Asteroid Search indicates that there are between 1.1 million and 1.9 million 'space rocks' larger than 1 kilometre in diameter in the so-called 'main asteroid belt', about twice as many as previously believed. However, astronomers think it is premature to revise current assessments of the risk of the Earth being hit by an asteroid.

Despite being in our own Solar System, asteroids can be more difficult to study than very distant galaxies. With sizes of up to one thousand kilometres in diameter, the brightness of these rocky objects may vary considerably in just a few minutes. They move very quickly with respect to the stars - they have been dubbed 'vermin of the sky' because they often appear as trails on long exposure images. This elusiveness explains why their actual number and size distribution remains uncertain. Most of the almost 40,000 asteroids catalogued so far (1) orbit the Sun forming the 'main asteroid belt', between Mars and Jupiter, too far to pose any threat to Earth. However, space-watchers do keep a closer eye on another category of asteroids, the 'Near Earth Asteroids' or 'NEAs', which are those whose orbits cross, or are likely to cross, that of our planet.

The ISO Deep Asteroid Search (IDAS), the first systematic search for these objects performed in infrared light, focused on main belt asteroids. Because it is impossible to simply point the telescope at the whole main belt and count, astronomers choose selected regions of the belt and then use a theoretical model to extrapolate the data to the whole belt.

Edward Tedesco (TerraSystems, Inc., New Hampshire, United States) and Francois-Xavier Desert (Observatoire de Grenoble, France) observed their main belt selected areas in 1996 and 1997 with ESA's ISO. They found that in the middle region of the belt the density of asteroids was 160 asteroids larger than 1 kilometre per square degree - an area of the sky corresponding to that covered by four full moons as seen from Earth. Then, a model developed by Tedesco and the astronomers Alberto Cellino and Vincenzo Zappala (Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino, Italy), allowed them to estimate the whole asteroid population in the main belt: between 1.1 million and 1.9 million asteroids with a diameter larger than 1 kilometre.

"If you consider the average value of 1.5 million asteroids, the ISO result is about twice as high as estimated by two other recent studies in visible light," Tedesco says.

The study by Durda et al., published in 1998, gave an estimate of about 860,000 asteroids larger than 1 kilometre in the main belt. In 2001, Ivezic et al. obtained an even lower figure of 740,000 asteroids based on preliminary data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Why the discrepancy?

The fact that visually dark objects - such as asteroids - are better detected in the infrared might explain the discrepancy between visible and infrared results. For an optical telescope, the brightness of an asteroid depends on the visible light it reflects from the Sun. Observations with infrared telescopes, on the other hand, detect the 'heat' of the asteroid, which does not depend that much on the reflected sunlight, but on the absorbed sunlight.

As an example, let's consider two spheres of the same size, and located close to each other in the asteroid belt, one of which reflects ten times as much of the visible light striking it as the other. As seen by an optical telescope, the sphere which reflects more appears ten times brighter than the other sphere which might be even invisible. However, for ISO both spheres would be visible. Actually, the 'dark' sphere would appear brighter in the infrared because it would have a higher temperature (as it has absorbed more sunlight).

Expert's 'best estimate'

Tedesco assumes that both visible and infrared searches might have their own biases, which is the reason why the given results have an error margin. Considering both the visible and infrared results, the 'best estimate' would be "1.2 million asteroids larger than 1 kilometre in the main belt, give or take 500,000," Tedesco says.

The best strategy for finding the asteroid size distribution, according to this expert, is to combine near-simultaneous observations at infrared and visible light. "They provide different kinds of information and therefore play a complementary role in the search for the asteroid population's size distribution," he says.

The 'impact hazard' A better knowledge of the number and size distribution of asteroids in the main belt is essential to understand the population of Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), since most NEA are believed to be former main belt asteroids. In the main belt there are four 'special' regions where Jupiter's gravitational influence is especially disruptive; originally, most asteroids currently known as NEA suffered collisions which resulted in them ending up in one of those four key regions, and because of Jupiter's gravitational influence their orbits quickly evolved into Earth-crossing orbits. Therefore, by studying the asteroids near these so-called 'source regions' in the main belt astronomers can learn about NEA. About 500 NEAs have been found so far, and none of them pose any threat to Earth in this century.

The generally accepted impact rate by objects larger than 1 kilometre in diameter is one every 100,000 to 300,000 years. The new 'best estimate' of about 1.2 million asteroids of 1 kilometre or larger in the main belt will not change the current estimates of impact hazard, the IDAS astronomers say; at least not yet.

"IDAS has contributed to our knowledge of main belt asteroids. And, although we did not observe any NEAs, the ISO data will be used to improve our knowledge regarding asteroids currently near the NEA source regions. This, in turn, will allow us to better understand the population characteristics of the NEAs and so ultimately enable us to refine our estimates of the NEA impact frequency and the magnitude of the impact hazard," Tedesco says.

Note to editors

The European Space Agency's infrared space telescope, ISO, operated from November 1995 until May 1998. As an unprecedented observatory for infrared astronomy ISO made nearly 30 000 scientific observations.

This note is based on the paper "The Infrared Space Observatory Deep Asteroid Search" by Edward F. Tedesco and Francois-Xavier Desert, published in the April 2002 issue of The Astronomical Journal.

(1) 39,462 main belt asteroids were catalogued as of 28 March 2002. This number increases by about 2,000 per month at present.


Russian scientists have made a sensational discovery. Some fundamental investigations realized by them could entail a real revolution on the field of industry and power engineering and allow to make series of new inventions.

Traditional ways of producing energy are becoming now unworkable. Completely new materials and technologies are being created. In particular, it is possible today to build so-called airborne vehicles of non-supported moving, like UFO…

According to the Russian Academy of Science member, Doctor of Technics Valeri Sobolev, a special electrochemical process has been discovered – "exhausting process" – which results in appearing high-temperature materials in a new condition". Therefore a new condition of a material, a new power source and a new superconducting matter have been received and magnetic charge has been discovered. Scientists are intending now to work out completely new current sources for domestic and industry aims, which could continuously produce energy without using any kinds of fuel. It would allow to renounce using nuclear fuel, gas, oil and coal. Environment's condition could be bettered too. On the basis of "exhausting process" new ultrastrong materials are supposed to be created, which could be used in producing cars, planes and rockets. Metals and other constructing materials could be replaced with them.

The group of scientists has already sent a letter addressed to the Russian President, which informs about their discoveries. Now is the state's turn to give a government contractual work.


A scientific proof of ALLAH

From: George Hammond ghammond@attbi.com

[George Hammond, M.S. Physics (1967)]


I have recently come from Skeptics-Forum where I have been discussing my discovery of a scientific proof of God with Prof. Eric Carlson, president of the Carolina Skeptics Society (Dr. Carlson is a PhD physicist, Harvard 1988 and physics professor at Wake Forest Univ.).

My "extraordinary claim" is that I have discovered and proven that:

|                        |
|                        |
|   and specifically:    |
|                        |
|        God=g_uv        |


This obviously is a "scientific proof of God".

The shortest presentation of the theory is given at:


A more formal presentation is given at:


   (15 pages)

I suggest you at least read the 1-PAGE article, and have a look at my website at:


Immediately you can see that a competent discussion of this theory requires at least a knowledge of Psychometry (Linear Algebra) and General Relativity. I understand that there are several Psychologists and at least 4 Physicists somewhere on this list as well as a few Biologists. I am particularly interested in talking to these professionals.

A sample of my discussions with Eric Carlson may be seen at:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/skeptics-forum/message/4994 and http://home.attbi.com/~ghammond/EricCarlson.html

I would hope that someone, perhaps other than Taner Edis who is a physicist, would be able to carry on a discussion at this level.

Of course, ANYONE who has a polite and positive attitude is invited to inquire about the matter.

BTW, George Hammond is a veteran internet personality and his website has had 260,000 visitors in the past 29 months and he has posted 50,000 messages, mostly replies to amateurs on the Usenet physics groups. Mr. Hammond has heard every kook one liner and amateur insult in the book, and is no longer interested in such material. All ad hominem posts will be ignored, and all abusive posters will be killfiled. Hopefully, some competent scientists will have something to say about this discovery.

Finally, you will notice that the header reads "proof of Allah" and not "proof of God". Since God and Allah are one and the same deities (historically), This is simply an attention getter to remind you of the PRESSING POLITICAL URGENCY of a scientific proof of God in today's world, vis a vis the military conflict between Moslem terrorists and the (Christian) West.

In my opinion, Third World forces have already discovered that "God is coming", i.e. they have "anticipated" the discovery of a scientific proof of God that is going to transform the World and means salvation for them. The Christian world is ignoring it, and the Moslems have taken to arms. Therefore, it is IMPERATIVE that Christian scientists pay attention to this discovery, and get to the bottom of it before we all find ourselves unexpectedly speaking Arabic.


Postmodernism promotes creationism

Article28 March 2002
And then there was postmodernism...
by Patrick West

If creationism is on the rise in the UK, blame the academic left as much as the religious right.

For a generation now, the academic left has been engaged in a war against science as we know it: propagating the notion that science is an inherently Western concept, that it is culturally perspectival, but most of all, after Werner Heisenberg, that it is an imperfect and thoroughly flawed 'discourse'.

Reprinted from : http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000006D867.htm

Monday, April 08, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – April 8, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

The baby aspirin that many Americans now take daily to cut their risk of future heart attacks also may help ward off colon polyps that can lead to cancer, scientists reported yesterday.

The positive effect found was not large, leading to a 19 percent reduction in polyps overall. However, when researchers look at the type of polyps that are more likely to lead to colon cancer, they found the baby aspirin had a 40 percent protective effect.

"It's clear that aspirin can be at least somewhat helpful, but it's not a magic bullet," said Dr. John Baron of Dartmouth Medical School, who headed up the study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting being held at Moscone Center in San Francisco.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Chris McKay's album of family photos opens with a picture of fossilized bacteria, entombed within rock billions of years old.

"This is one of (my family's) oldest, oldest, oldest ancestors," declares the NASA scientist, showing a slide of the photo and drawing a big laugh from his packed audience. But he's only half joking.

The quest for "alien" life forms on the primeval Earth and their possible counterparts on Mars has consumed much of McKay's career at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, he said on the opening day of the space agency's biannual Astrobiology Science Conference.


from The Washington Post

Last week's announcement that the rice plant probably contains more genes than a human being might have seemed mystifying. But step back a moment to consider the harried life of a plant.

A plant has to find its nutrients wherever it happens to be. It cannot take shelter from a storm. Some plants can deploy physical defenses, such as nettles or bark, but most cannot. If plants had a point of view, they would see the animals of the Earth, including people, as marauding plunderers determined to gobble them up; plants would feel naked before the onslaught.

Above all, plants lack a critical advantage that pretty much every animal on the planet takes for granted.


compiled by The Washington Post

Stun Grenade Made Safer

A government scientist has developed a device to enable police to stun and subdue kidnappers or terrorists without endangering hostages...

Marijuana May Impair Memory

Do people endanger their memories by smoking a lot of marijuana? A new study suggests they do, although it may be just for the day after they've smoked...

Planets Take Unusual Formation

Five planets will appear to line up in the night sky this month in a highly unusual, evocative celestial event...


from The New York Times

NORTHBROOK, Ill., April 5 — The fiery collapse of three World Trade Center skyscrapers has led scientists, engineers and building officials to question the century-old practice of relying on tests done in hulking, low- tech furnaces to determine if building materials will survive out-of- control blazes.

The furnace tests, conducted at places like Underwriters Laboratories here, focus on the ability of separate building components — a steel column or a concrete roof support — to survive temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees.

The test has many defenders, but many scientists say that even before Sept. 11, they had concluded that the furnace tests were out of touch with a computer-age understanding of the devastation caused by the fury of a real fire. At least when it comes to buildings, that research shows, the whole often acts differently from a simple-minded sum of the parts.


from The New York Times

MOSCOW — A large repository of anthrax, plague and other deadly bacteria stored in a high-security laboratory complex 100 miles south of here is facing a threat never imagined in the Soviet era — the meter man.

An official from the Moscow region's Mosenergo electric utility arrived recently and threatened to turn off the electricity for lack of payment at the 90-building campus, which served as the secret biological weapons program of the Soviet era.

A headline in the newspaper Izvestia warned, "Deadly Viruses From a Moscow Regional Depository Threaten Moscow."

Actually, there are no viruses at the State Scientific Center of Applied Microbiology in Obolensk, just every kind of deadly bacteria that was studied for use in the secret biological weapons program of the Soviet Union. (A large virus repository is in Siberia.)

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Saturday, April 06, 2002

Vanished: The Plane That Disappeared [New STENDEC explanation]

From: Terry W. Colvin

In next week's "Radio Times" there's a letter that offers another explanation not found on the BBC "Horizon" page

Apparently they would have been broadcasting STAR E (STandard AppRoach Easterly) followed by an "end of transmission" marker, which could be construed as "STENDEC" if not transcribed properly. Dunno if this is news to anyone other than "Horizon", but I thought it worth passing on.

I've also heard "St[ardust] - E[nd] E[mergency] C[ommunication]."

But the trouble with ad hoc explanations like this one is that there doesn't seem to any other aviation use of them.

And there's the anagram theory - that "stendec" was "descent" as transmittted by a very groggy or already dying radio operator. Now had the operator been overcome by smoke or fumes, he might very well have mispelled "descent," but he wouldn't have gotten that spelling so impossibly balled up. ("Stendec" also gives us "scented," which has a certain Fu Manchu death-lily mystique about it, but it also falls short for the same reason mentioned above.)

IIRC the Chilean recieving station queried the first transmission and Star Dust repeated it at least once, so clearly the radio operator meant to send "STENDEC" and presumably expected it to be understood.


New Miracle Reported at Medjugorje in Bosnia

Volume 7, Number 14
April 2, 2002
Editor: Joseph Trainor


On Wednesday, February 27, 2002, an Italian UFO contactee, visionary and stigmatic named Giorgio Bongiovanni appeared on the TV show La Vita in Diretta in Rome "without his habitual (stigmatic) scar on his forehead, which he had been exhibiting for about nine years."

Bongiovanni claimed to have the stigmata (a phenomenon in which people spontaneously develop the wounds of Jesus Christ--J.T.), in particular a cross on the forehead similar to that of St. Gemma Galgagni (1878- 1903). Shortly after his TV appearance, Bongiovanni "issued a press release through his magazine Nonsiamosoli (Italian for We Are Not Alone--J.T.) that he made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina," where he received a miraculous cure..

According to Bongiovanni, he visited the shrine atop Mount Podbrdo on the morning of Monday, February 11, 2002 "and prayed silently to ask the Virgin Mary to render invisible at least the scar of his stigmata."

To his astonishment, the former Miriam bat-Joachim suddenly appeared before him and touched his forehead with her fingertips. The scar instantly vanished. Then she asked him to return to Italy and make known what had happened.

This is the latest in a series of miraculous happenings involving Miriam and Medjugorje (Croatian for Between the Mountains--J.T.)

Medjugorje is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Mostar and about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of Sarajevo, Bosnia's capital.

The first strange incident took place in 1932 involving Pope Pius XI. This pope was born Achille Ratti near Milano and, after his ordination as a priest, was an archivist at the Vatican Library. After World War I, he became the papal nuncio in Warsaw, Poland. He was also an enthusiastic mountain climber.

(Editor's Note: Curiously enough, the then-Archbishop Ratti was in Warsaw in May 1920 when Pope John Paul II --birth name Karol Wojytla--was born.)

One night in February 1932, Pope Pius XI was asleep in his Vatican bedroom and dreamed that he was climbing a mountain. A mountain he had never seen before. He knew he wasn't in Italy--he had scaled nearly every peak in the Alps. When he reached the summit, he found Miriam waiting patiently for him there. She was wearing a light gray dress with a long white veil.

"Achille," she told him, "I want you to build a cross on this site. Because this place will become very important in the future."

Looking around in bewilderment, he mumbled, "Where am I?"

"Yugoslavia." And smiling gently, she added, "Remember this mountain, Achille."

And the pope suddenly woke up. That was a weird dream, he thought.

A few months later, Pope Pius XI received a petition from the Archbishop of Mostar in Yugoslavia (now Bosnia- Herzegovina--J.T.) The diocese wanted to erect a concrete cross on Mount Sipovac commemorating the 1,900th anniversary of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. When the pope saw a photograph of the proposed site, he gasped out loud. It was the mountaintop he had seen in his dream.

He signed the construction order immediately. The cross was erected in 1933, and the mountain's name was changed from Sipovac to Krisevac (Croatian for Mountain of the Cross--J.T.)

Flash-forward nearly a half-century to June 24, 1981. Two teenaged girls--Ivanka Ivankovic, 15, and Mirjana Dragicevic, 16--were hiking up Mount Podbrdo. Both girls were staying with relatives in Bijakovici, a village located between Mount Krisevac and Mount Podbrdo, and had decided to hike up the latter to smoke some cigarettes and enjoy the view.

As they reached the summit, Ivanka and Mirjana saw strange lights flashing in the sky above the cross on Mount Krisevac. Then a brilliant light appeared on Mount Podbrdo, about 40 meters (132 feet) away, and they saw "a beautiful lady in a gray dress with a long white veil" appear at the heart of the glow.

"Let's get out of here!" Ivanka yelled, and they ran down the hillside trail in a panic.

Halfway down the mountain, they encountered some friends from the village and told their story. "A group of them returned to the mountain. There she was! They wondered if she could really be the Blessed Virgin Mary. They all ran away in terror."

Yet Mirjana Dragicevic was intrigued by the incident. She returned to the spot the following day, June 25, 1981, with some friends, Vicka Ivankovic, 17; Ivan Dragivecic, 16; Marija Pavlovic, 17; Jakov Colo, 10--and a reluctant Ivanka, and the Marian apparitions began in earnest. They have been going on now for over twenty years. (See UFO- Italia for March 9, 2002. Also The Visions of the Children: The Apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje by Janice T. Connell, St. Martin's Press, New York, N.Y., 1993, pags 4 through 7; and The Queen of Peace Visits Medjugorje by Joseph A. Pelletier, A.A., Assumption Publications, Worcester, Mass., 1987, pages 13 through 21. Grazie a Edoardo Russo di Centro Italiano di Studi Ufologici per questo rapporto.)

(Editor's Comment: Bongiovanni's encounter took place on February 11. Oddly enough, this is a significant date in Marian lore. On February 11, 1858, Bernadette Soubirous had her first encounter with Miriam at the Grotte de Massabielle near Lourdes in southern France.)

Life on Mars hopes raised


Friday, 5 April, 2002, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Scientists have found "intriguing" new evidence that may indicate there is life on Mars.

An analysis of data obtained by the Pathfinder mission to the Red Planet in 1997 suggests there could be chlorophyll - the molecule used by plants and other organisms on Earth to extract energy from sunlight - in the soil close to the landing site.

Researchers stress their work is in a very preliminary state and they are far from making definite claims.

Even so, the work is attracting much attention in the scientific community and will come under intense scrutiny when it is presented to an astrobiology conference in the US next week.

Dr Carol Stoker, from the American space agency's (Nasa) Ames Research Center, confirmed the findings to BBC News Online but cautioned that they were "not ready for the big time".

Early data

Mars Pathfinder mission touched down in the Ares Vallis region of Mars in July 1997. It took many images of the surrounding area and released a small rover to sample rocks.

A detailed analysis of the images of the landing site now reveals two areas close to Pathfinder that have the spectral signature of chlorophyll.

According to experts it might be highly significant - or could be just a patch of coloured soil.

Dr Stoker's team scrutinised the so-called Superpan, which is a high-resolution, highly processed series of superimposed images produced by Pathfinder's camera.

It is a multispectral panorama of the landing site recorded in 15 regions of the spectrum, and contains a wealth of information about rock types, colours and textures.

Knowing the spectral signature of chlorophyll, the researchers wrote a computer program that systematically scanned the Superpan for any pixels of interest.

Specifically, the program looked for the spectral signature associated with red light absorption by chlorophyll.

Previous searches for evidence of chlorophyll in Pathfinder's pictures were carried out shortly after it landed.

Some tentative indications were seen but they were later dismissed as "possible image misregistration".

Two patches

In Dr Stoker's study six regions of the Superpan matched positive for the chlorophyll signature.

For each of the regions, a full spectrum was plotted out and their exact position in the Superpan was then carefully examined.

All of the detections occurred close to the camera. This is to be expected say the researchers, as these are the areas where the camera has the highest sensitivity and resolution.

Close examination revealed that four of the cases occurred on the Pathfinder spacecraft itself. But two regions showed a chlorophyll signature in the soil around Pathfinder.

Given the controversial nature of their findings and the early stage of the research, the scientists want to hold back any claims about what they may have found until they have done more work and prepared a detailed paper for submission in a scientific journal.

Good conditions expected for comet spotting - Your News from Ananova

Skywatchers will have their best chance of viewing a fiery comet which was discovered earlier this year on the next few evenings.

Comet Ikeya-Zhang, named after the Japanese and Chinese astronomers who first spotted it on February 1, will be the brightest comet to make an appearance since Hale-Bopp in 1997.

It has been visible as a faint smudge low in the western sky since the middle of last month but can now be seen with the naked eye until about 9pm for the next few days.

Full story: http://www.ananova.com/yournews/story/sm_561057.html



By Jim Hopper, Ph.D.
(last revised 1/30/2002)

Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse is a condition.

The existence of this condition is beyond dispute.

Repression is merely one explanation – often a confusing and misleading one – for what causes the condition of amnesia.

At least 10% of people sexually abused in childhood will have periods of complete amnesia for their abuse, followed by experiences of delayed recall.

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