NTS LogoSkeptical News for 20 April 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, April 20, 2002


Fifteen years ago I was stationed at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico - less than 100 miles from Roswell. I had the honor of presenting a technical paper to the Post Commander Major General Fulwyler and his senior technical staff:


The paper gave proof that every star had to have many small planets for dynamic stability. It was a radical idea at the time and I was ridiculed for it. Of course, the ridiculing might have been because of the elaborate poster I brought to the presentation showing the working parts of an advanced "Star Trek" type spacecraft, illustrating some concepts of earlier research of mine that had been favorably evaluated by NASA and TAB Books:


This research must have upset SOMEBODY quite badly, because a little war started out there in New Mexico not long after my presentation - I had a car blown up, and a motorcycle totaled (with me on it) in a freak accident , etc...

Eventually I went on the offensive myself and turned in a half dozen senior enlisted personnel for drug use on the job . . . my Commanding Officer told them I was the informant; and it REALLY hit the fan. The accused threatened my life, etc... By law the Army should have transferred me to another post ASAP, but they did nothing; I had to appeal for assistance from my U.S. Congressman. Eventually the accused were all found guilty and given dishonorable discharges, or hard time in Leavenworth; I got the Army Commendation Medal.


This is the highest peacetime award in the Army. But it was clear the scientists had the upper hand at White Sands, and I too was eventually railroaded out of the military with an absurd medical discharge having not an ounce of substantiation. I was recently told that only a formal Act of Congress would make the Army accept any written appeals to my wrongful discharge. So I wrote it all up in a book and published it, two years ago. chapter four:


has verbatim testimony from my formal medical discharge hearing. Last year I wrote a screenplay based on the novel, available in PDF format


My autobiographical novel is called "Behold Leviathan." You can get a copy in electronic format for $4 or paperback for $9, from 1st Books:


where you'll find a synopsis, author bio, and a free excerpt. I also have a recent book review is


White Sands is only an hours drive from Roswell, the site of the infamous UFO event in 1947. Even back then White Sands was the highest security installation in the world - the atomic bomb had been tested there, and the German V2 rockets were brought there to be studied. What better place to bring remnants from the crash at Roswell, and anything else that you wanted to hide from the American people; and from the world?! Maybe the military's extreme reaction to my research was they thought I was a crusading Fox Mulder after the Truth, and not the sober scientist I really was . . .

This past summer I remembered a visit I made to the High Energy Laser facility there on post. It's where the "Star Wars" ballistic missile defense laser was being tested (we needed ultra top secret clearance to go there). It was in a huge auditorium sized building, with a large yard of chemical tanks outside like a small refinery, and a giant domed computer facility extending from the surface several stories deep into the ground. Yet, with all that horsepower, the best they could do was toast a cow in a nearby field! Fifteen years of solid engineering experience later (and I still vividly recall the entire facility), I'd swear on the Bible that place wasn't a laser facility at all; a large microwave could do more damage than it could . . .

Actually, it wasn't until I finished my Ph.D research here at the University of Texas at Austin that I really started to believe in the possibility - not in UFO's and extraterrestrials, but in a very secret government program to build advanced aircraft. What convinced me was some research I was doing in my field, Celestial Mechanics, showing that a significant shift in perspective happened in the field in the early 1900's. They stopped using Fourier Series methods; methods which I found were extremely effective, and which I show in the technical reports here on the web site could possibly have lead to the design of a device capable of masking gravity by a method similar to that done by our own Solar System naturally.

Even then I was extremely skeptical - although by this time the UFO community had become quite fascinated in my work. It wasn't until I went public with my findings last summer, and immediately started getting severely harassed by the authorities here at the University of Texas at Austin, that my skepticism started to fade. Eventually I was


from graduate school for non-academic reasons (I have a 3.8 GPA and just passed all my written Ph.D qualifying exams). The Graduate College and the Aerospace Engineering Department have between them rejected over twenty letters of reference and other documents I have submitted in my own support, violating their own rules - and making the chances of my appeal succeeding next to nil. They are very serious about getting rid of me, and it is clear they will stop at nothing. Please sign my guestbook to support my appeal:


Bill Clark
Austin, Texas

Sex shop 'haunted by messy prostitutes' ghosts'

From Ananova at:


The owners of a sex shop in Kent claim their store is haunted by ghosts which throw bras and knickers on the floor.

Staff at Pillow Talk in Margate arrive most mornings to find it in a mess.

Boss Alan Butler thinks the shop is haunted by the employees of a brothel which once stood on the site.

He told the Sunday People the problem wouldn't be so bad if they tidied up after themselves.

He said: "It doesn't matter how tidy we leave the place - it's wrecked by the next day. It's like an orgy's taken place."

Mr Butler, 50, has ruled out pranksters, saying only he and his manager have keys to the shop.

He told the newspaper: "I've never really believed in ghosts but there's definitely something weird going on.

"Knickers and bras are removed from pegs and left littering the floor. French maid outfits are found lying over the back of chairs and from door handles."

Shop assistant Sharon O'Connell, added: "It's becoming a pain. It takes ages to clear up as the clothes have to be put back in the correct order of sizes."

Mr Butler is considering bringing in a psychic to try and solve the problem.

New Report Says Second Gunman Fired at Kennedy


Washington Post
By George Lardner Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 26, 2001; Page A03

The House Assassinations Committee may have been right after all: There was a shot from the grassy knoll.

That was the key finding of the congressional investigation that concluded 22 years ago that President John F. Kennedy's murder in Dallas in 1963 was "probably . . . the result of a conspiracy." A shot from the grassy knoll meant that two gunmen must have fired at the president within a split-second sequence. Lee Harvey Oswald, accused of firing three shots at Kennedy from a perch at the Texas School Book Depository, could not have been in two places at once.

A special panel of the National Academy of Sciences subsequently disputed the evidence of a fourth shot, contained on a police dictabelt of the sounds in Dealey Plaza that day. The panel insisted it was simply random noise, perhaps static, recorded about a minute after the shooting while Kennedy's motorcade was en route to Parkland Hospital.

A new, peer-reviewed article in Science and Justice, a quarterly publication of Britain's Forensic Science Society, says the NAS panel's study was seriously flawed. It says the panel failed to take into account the words of a Dallas patrolman that show the gunshot-like noises occurred "at the exact instant that John F. Kennedy was assassinated."

Sex Abuse by Clergy a Global Problem


AP Religion Writer
April 19, 2002, 1:44 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- Canada, Australia, Ireland, Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, Poland.

It may be the American cardinals who are headed to the Vatican, but the Roman Catholic Church has faced clergy sex scandals around the globe -- with the most widespread problems in English-speaking countries.

No one knows whether those nations actually have more molester priests. Some observers suggest that victims in English-speaking countries -- along with journalists, lawyers and prosecutors -- just have more support if they dare to speak up.

Friday, April 19, 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 19, 2002

from The Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Thursday blocked oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, handing President Bush a key defeat and putting in doubt the future of comprehensive energy legislation.

In the closely watched roll call, pro-exploration forces fell well short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic-led filibuster against the drilling plan. Only 46 senators voted to end the debate, while 54 opposed the motion.

Drilling advocates had hoped to win at least 50 votes. Their failure to achieve that goal increased already steep odds against the proposal being part of any final energy bill. Still, neither side in the dispute thought the vote would end the decades-long debate on whether to open a portion of the 19-million-acre refuge in Alaska's northeast corner to drilling.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, April 18 — The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska was not the only place where the Bush administration was hoping to find more oil. It is also encouraging drilling at more than 50 new sites in the lower 48 states, particularly in the Rocky Mountains.

The energy bill passed last year by the House includes a provision directing the administration to make it easier for oil and gas companies to obtain federal leases and permits to drill for oil and gas. That version will have to be reconciled with the Senate's.

The Bureau of Land Management is considering dozens of projects across the West. In addition, President Bush set up a task force last May to examine how to streamline the permit and leasing process. In doing so, Mr. Bush said that the "increased production and transmission of energy in a safe and environmentally sound manner is essential to the well-being of the American people."


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Molten rock welling up from hundreds of miles deep in the Earth has been detected in two hot superplumes of magma that spread horizontally beneath the crust south of Hawaii and on the other side of the globe beneath Africa, Berkeley scientists report.

The plumes may play a major role in the rise of volcanoes around the globe and the slow movement of vast slabs of the crust, and they could have been rising from near the Earth's core for millions of years, the researchers say.

Barbara Romanowicz, director of the University of California's Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, and Yuancheng Gung, a graduate student at the lab, describe their insights into the planet's dynamic interior in a report published today in the journal Science.


from The Washington Post

Members of Congress are used to being lobbied creatively, but House and Senate conferees hammering out this year's farm bill received especially memorable packages yesterday morning: A videocassette featuring gruesome footage of laboratory mice and rats being experimented upon.

The film was taken by a spy who infiltrated a University of North Carolina animal research facility with a hidden camera and documented apparent violations of federal animal-care guidelines.

The video was shot by a 24-year-old technician who worked at the university for six months undercover for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA is one of several groups trying to kill a farm bill amendment, introduced by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), that would keep rats, mice and birds from coming under the protections of the the Animal Welfare Act. Helms and others have claimed that rodents and birds are adequately protected by other federal and institutional rules.


from The New York Times

Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian anthropologist and adventurer whose imagination and vigor brought him acclaim navigating the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans to advance his controversial theories of ancient seafaring migrations, died yesterday. He was 87.

Mr. Heyerdahl died of cancer in Italy, where he had been vacationing, his family said. He had lived in recent years in Güímar, Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.

Fame came to Mr. Heyerdahl in 1947, at the age of 32. A tall, lean man in an appropriately Viking mold, he and five others crossed a broad stretch of the Pacific in the balsa-log raft Kon-Tiki, seeking to prove that the Polynesian islands could have been settled by prehistoric South American people.


compiled by The Washington Post

Black Infant Deaths In Big Cities Higher

Black infants in major U.S. cities are up to five times as likely as white infants to die before age 1, the government said yesterday...

New Arthritis Drugs May Spur Heart Attacks

New research supports a growing suspicion that some popular arthritis drugs could increase certain people's risk of heart attacks by causing a chemical imbalance that spurs blood clots...

Smoking May Play Role in Baby's Sex

Couples are more likely to have a girl than a boy if either of the partners smoked heavily while they were trying to conceive, new research suggests...


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Kenya launches herbal medicine processing plant

James Njoroge

[NAIROBI, KENYA] A herbal medicine processing plant has been launched in Kenya amid a raging debate over the government's intention to introduce herbal drugs in public hospitals.

The plant — the first of its kind in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region — will allow large scale production of herbal medicines in tablet, capsule or syrup form, and will act as a training centre for herbal practitioners in the region.



Some asteroids have astronomers seeing double


Some asteroids have astronomers seeing double
Posted: April 14, 2002

Binary asteroids -- two rocky objects orbiting about one another -- appear to be common in Earth-crossing orbits, astronomers report today in the journal Science. This makes them an important new asteroid class to study in case future generations find one coming near Earth.

"If you see two bodies orbiting each other, you can tell how far away from each other they are and how fast they go around each other," said Dr. Lance Benner, an asteroid researcher and an author of the paper from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This helps us to determine the asteroids' mass, volume, internal structure and what they're made of."

Using the world's two most powerful astronomical radar telescopes, Benner and his colleagues, led by Jean-Luc Margot of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, estimate that about 16 percent of near-Earth asteroids larger than 200 meters (219 yards) across are likely to be binary systems. These systems may have been formed by the pull of gravity during close encounters with our planet, Mercury, Venus or Mars.

The first near-Earth binary asteroid ever detected, 2000 DP107, was found by radar in September 2000 at NASA's Goldstone, Calif., tracking telescope facility. Subsequent observations were made at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, operated by Cornell University. Like Earth's Moon, the smaller (300-meter or 1,000-foot diameter) body always presents the same face to the larger (800 meters, or about a half-mile diameter) asteroid body as it orbits. To date, five near-Earth binary systems have been identified by radar. But none of them, adds radar astronomer Jon Giorgini, have orbits that could threaten Earth, at least through this century.

Near-Earth asteroids may become binaries when the planets' much larger gravities pull on their rubble-clustered bodies, distorting them and sometimes breaking off a satellite. Theoretical and modeling results show that binary asteroids most likely form when the asteroids closely encounter the inner planets Earth or Mars, sometimes just 10,000 miles from a planet's surface.

"Of course, the most important thing to know about any asteroid is whether it is two objects or one, and this is why we want to observe these binaries with radar whenever possible," said Dr. Steve Ostro, a senior research scientist at JPL. "Radar is the best way to identify interesting and potentially hazardous asteroids. Radar observations provide information that can be later used by spacecraft to do more detailed studies efficiently and at lower cost."

Previous evidence that near-Earth binary asteroids were common came from craters on the Earth and Moon that formed in pairs and were exactly the same age. Astronomers also have noted the changes in brightness of reflected sunlight for some near-Earth asteroids, suggesting that a double system was causing an eclipse or occultation of one by the other.

Jean-Luc Margot, of the California Institute of Technology, led the research. The article is also co-authored by Michael Nolan, research associate at Arecibo; Raymond Jurgens, Jon Giorgini and Martin Slade at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Donald Campbell, professor of astronomy at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. The observations were made at the 70-meter Goldstone NASA tracking telescope in California and at Arecibo Observatory, which is operated by the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center at Cornell under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages many missions for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

DeLay's take on Baylor, A&M draws fire


'Don't send your kids' to schools taken wrong, he says in apology


By BRUCE NICHOLS and CHRISTOPHER LEE / The Dallas Morning News

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay went to meet the Christians and a week later found himself in the lion's den.

What started as a question to Mr. DeLay about which colleges offer an appropriate Christian education became a forum Thursday on the attributes of two of the state's prominent institutions of higher education – Texas A&M University and Baylor University.

In the end, Mr. DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who made his original comments to a church group in suburban Houston last week, apologized and said his comments had been taken out of context.

During a question-and-answer session, the House majority whip was asked where good Christians who believe in creationism should send their children to college. Not realizing he was being taped, the congressman replied: not Texas A&M or Baylor.

"Don't send your kids to Baylor," Mr. DeLay said. "And don't send your kids to A&M. There are still some Christian schools out there – good, solid schools. Now, they may be little, they may not be as prestigious as Stanford, but your kids will get a good, solid, godly education."

Wrath o' God


Miss Cleo's next gig


Spiritual School of Ascension - Warning to all Humans


Mastering One's Own Destiny
The Dolphin and Whale Kingdoms through Karen Danrich "Mila"
April 13, 2002

Dear Beloved Ascending Human,

The Dolphin and Whale Kingdoms have much to say to our ascending human initiates at this time in particular of global ascension transition and transformation. Now is the time for all initiates to take full responsibility for one's own destiny. If one fails to begin to consciously intend not only one's ascension, but one's life dream and dance upon a daily basis, one will now become subject to the underlying and unconscious pull towards death that predominates over the human dream during this time of cleansing. Such a dream is being brought to fruition by the earth mother so that she may ascend.

At this time, humans are being prepared for cleansing from the earth plane. The vast majority of humans (roughly 60%) are not capable of moving through the impending changes required to ascend into the fourth dimension. Map carvers have tried to create a map suitable for a mass ascent of humanity and have devoted the past five years of focus and attention to such a pursuit. Much of such map carving proved to be fruitless in relation to certain lineages that much of humanity is related to.


In its January 2002 issue, Scientific American published the feature "Misleading Math about the Earth," in which four environmental experts charged statistician Bjørn Lomborg with being out of touch with the facts. They criticized the arguments on global warming, energy, overpopulation and biodiversity that he makes in his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Lomborg has since written a detailed online rebuttal to our feature. Visit ScientificAmerican.com this week to read his response to the criticism, readers' reactions to the original article and replies from author John P. Holdren and Scientific American editor in chief John Rennie.


ET Sighting Reports [some stats]

From: Terry W. Colvin fortean1@mindspring.com

FILER'S FILES #16-2002, MUFON Skywatch Investigations
George A. Filer, Director, Mutual UFO Network Eastern
April 17, 2002, Majorstar@AOL.COM.
Webmaster: Chuck Warren http://www.filersfiles.com


Larry Hatch review alien reports. Robot, RBT isanything that looks or acts robotic. PSH: Pseudo-human! "UFO Nordics" Think of Travis Walton. MIB: Men in Black. Humans? PSH on out-calls? MON: Monsters of all types. GNT: Giants. FIG: Vague figures, shadows moving behind a portholes. Actual form indiscernible NOC: No "UFO occupant" seen or reported. I add here one last field, "ALL" which is the number of *U* records for each decade or continent, whether entities were noted or not. Out of some 17,850+ sightings events in the *U* data, here is how they break down by decades:

pre-1940   25    2   33    6    0    3   24   369   442
1940s      23    1   11    1    2    1    6   998  1040
1950s     165!  12   89    6   21    7   65  4061  4730
1960s     167   16   96    9   28   16  119  2760  3137
1970s     222   46  170    7   49   30  214  3774  4378
1980s      83   10   39    5   11   11   54  1514  1692
1990s-02   80    6   17    3   18   12   45  2603  2790

Pre-1940s cases go back to antiquity in these data. About 16.5% of those listed reports involve entities, and no doubt some of those are unverifiable.

The 1940s is notable for the low percentage of entity sightings, about 4% of events. This changes in the 1950s with over 14% of events involving some sort of "UFONAUTS." From 1 or 2 robot cases, we jump to 12. One odd thing: MON (monsters) blossomed on the silver screen in the 1930s or so, but stayed out of the UFO literature for those years. What few monsters I list make their best showing in the 1970s! I have no idea why, but that was the best decade for PSH (fake humans) as well. What sort of "monsters" get into the filtered (stodgy) *U* database? Many of these reports have wild titles but indicate people are seeing strange creatures such as: Bird-man hovers over barn, Mummy OIDS take observer for a free ride, Hairy OID with owl's eyes, Fat ugly being w/helmet in garden, Numerous hairy critters in France, S. America etc, Bird-men rush car in France, Terrifying Oid unintelligible in Gabon, Africa. "Mothman" listings, Humanoids with crocodile skin, Huge hairy robot w/mechanical gait, Weird catfish with fins and feathers, Strange ball-figure emerges from UFO, 7' Bigfoot vanishes in a flash! Hairy hooved figure walks mechanically! Frightened looking ape-man," Mummy's" exit UFO and abduct 2 people, Silhouette like frog's head seen in UFO window, and Campers chased by 7-foot monsters:3 fingers-no thumb.

One last note about Monsters. I compared continents for this database, started during the cold war. North America lists 49 monster sightings out of some 8541 or about 0,574 percent, a rather low monster coefficient. South America lists 19 monster events from some 1170 entries, a more encouraging 1.62 percent, or three times the rate of North America. Western Europe shows 177 monster listings out of 5385, for the grand prize, some 3.28 percent of all listings, six times the rate for North America! "Oceania" (mostly data from Australia/NZ) ranks lowest, 5/1154 = 0.433%.

Thanks to Larry Hatch,
'U' database

This Is Your Brain on God


Michael Persinger has a vision - the Almighty isn't dead, he's an energy field. And your mind is an electromagnetic map to your soul.

By Jack Hitt

Over a scratchy speaker, a researcher announces, "Jack, one of your electrodes is loose, we're coming in." The 500-pound steel door of the experimental chamber opens with a heavy whoosh; two technicians wearing white lab coats march in. They remove the Ping-Pong-ball halves taped over my eyes and carefully lift a yellow motorcycle helmet that's been retrofitted with electromagnetic field-emitting solenoids on the sides, aimed directly at my temples. Above the left hemisphere of my 42-year-old male brain, they locate the dangling electrode, needed to measure and track my brain waves. The researchers slather more conducting cream into the graying wisps of my red hair and press the securing tape hard into my scalp.

After restoring everything to its proper working position, the techies exit, and I'm left sitting inside the utterly silent, utterly black vault. A few commands are typed into a computer outside the chamber, and selected electromagnetic fields begin gently thrumming my brain's temporal lobes. The fields are no more intense than what you'd get as by-product from an ordinary blow-dryer, but what's coming is anything but ordinary. My lobes are about to be bathed with precise wavelength patterns that are supposed to affect my mind in a stunning way, artificially inducing the sensation that I am seeing God.

Mind over Matter


Princeton University scientists believe that the human mind can influence machines. Now, when is the last time you said something nice to your computer?

By Rogier van Bakel

"Come on, sweetheart, you can do it. Oh, now, show me what you're made of. Thaaat's it!"

I am alone in a room with a woman I met barely an hour ago. She is talking softly, seductively, in a voice that is both sweet and persuasive. Not to me, mind you. She is directing her words - saccharine mutterings that other people might reserve for a sick child or a particularly weak puppy - to an ugly electronic box with a red digital display.

Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter


The first testament says "an eye for an eye."
The second testament says "love thy neighbour."
The third testament… KICKS ASS!

The filmmaking team that brought you Harry Knuckles and won the "Spirit of Slamdance" prize with Harry Knuckles and the Treasure of the Aztec Mummy ups the ante with this tale of the ultimate action hero: Jesus Christ.

The second coming is upon us, and Jesus has returned to earth. But before he can get down to the serious business of judging the living and the dead, he has to contend with an army of vampires that can walk in the daylight.

Combining kung-fu action with biblical prophecy and a liberal dose of humour, the film teams the Savior with Mexican wrestling hero El Santos against mythological horrors and science gone mad, and also manages to address contemporary sexual politics. And did we mention that it's a musical?



Even if YOU don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic knows. Answer 20 questions about your concept of God, the afterlife, human nature, and more, and Belief-O-Matic will tell you what religion (if any) you practice...or ought to consider practicing.

Warning: Belief-O-Matic assumes no legal liability for the ultimate fate of your soul.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Science In the News

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

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

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 18, 2002

from The Washington Post

Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of Inca mummies buried in dusty graves beneath a windblown Peruvian shantytown, offering an unprecedented look at the life and times of South America's premier civilization on the eve of Spanish conquest.

The site at Puruchuco-Huaquerones, at the base of desert foothills on the eastern edge of modern-day Lima, has yielded the remains of at least 2,200 individuals, many of them buried in fabric-clad bundles containing more than one person and shaped to resemble humans.

Lead archaeologist Guillermo Cock, of Peru's National Institute of Culture, said the dead were buried during a 75-year period ending perhaps in 1540-- five years after the Spaniards founded the settlement that became modern- day Lima.


from The New York Times

In a finding sure to stun the world of entomology, scientists say they have discovered a major new group, or order, of insects, the first to be identified in 88 years.

Their assertion is based on the discovery of previously unrecorded inch- long wingless creatures. The insects, Mantophasmatodea, have features of praying mantises, walking sticks and other phasmids.

The discovery of insect species is not rare. But insect orders are huge groups. One, for example, includes all the butterflies and moths, another comprises all beetles. The last new insect order was discovered in 1914.

"Everybody had said that's it, we have them all, guys," said Dr. Joachim Adis, entomologist at the Max Planck Institute for Limnology in Germany and an author of a report on the find, which he said brought the total number of known insect orders up to 31.


from The Associated Press

The five brightest planets visible from Earth have lined up in plain sight to form a spectacular celestial array that will not be seen again until 2040.

Through the next four weeks, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn and Venus will appear in the western sky, visible in the evening with the naked eye.

"The five naked-eye planets are converging in one part of the sky and from now until mid-May you can see all five at one glance, which is pretty unusual," said John Mosley, an astronomer at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.


from The Associated Press

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was offering the Bush administration's first public defense Thursday of its choice of Yucca Mountain as the nation's long-term home for radioactive waste.

Abraham was testifying at the first congressional hearing to review the Yucca Mountain project since President Bush recommended the Nevada site in February and Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn -- under special rules devised by Congress -- rejected that recommendation 10 days ago.

The House Energy and Air Quality subcommittee was expected to give Abraham a mostly friendly reception. Its chairman is Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, a leading advocate in the House of Representatives for the Yucca Mountain project.


from The Christian Science Monitor

How well will Nevada's Yucca Mountain perform as a long-term storage site for the nation's most radioactive waste?

The US Department of Energy offered a multivolume answer to that question three years ago. But to a National Research Council team that reviewed the findings, that response was hardly reassuring. The group found shortcomings in the study that rendered it "unlikely" that it described the site's probable long-term behavior.

But the team also noted a more troubling issue for those looking to science for absolute answers on the site's suitability. Assessing Yucca Mountain's performance, they said, "may be beyond the analytical capabilities of any scientific and engineering team." The reason: It's too hard to predict what will happen over tens of thousands of years, given the diverse processes – such as volcanic activity, seepage, or changes in rock chemistry – at the site.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A puzzling surge of recent earthquake activity in the northern Bay Area has left scientists wondering whether the modest tremors presage a major quake on the San Andreas Fault system as stress builds up deep underground.

But it is also possible, they say, that the smaller quakes could actually be relieving some of the strain and thus delaying the Big One that all earthquake experts say is virtually inevitable within the next 20 to 30 years.

The new concern comes on the eve of today's 96th anniversary of the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which claimed 3,000 lives and caused the fire that destroyed much of the city.


from The Washington Post

Some of the strangest Smithsonian Institution employees toil around the clock in a windowless room the size of a walk-in closet.

Their job: to eat the flesh from the bones of dead animals.

The flesh-eating workers are voracious beetles called dermestids. They're native to Africa, where they're near the bottom of the food chain, devouring the carcasses of any dead animal they find.

Two million of them do the same thing at the Smithsonian's Vertebrate- Osteology Laboratory in Suitland. Vertebrate means having a backbone. Osteology is the study of skeletons. National Museum of Natural History scientists have discovered that the best way to turn a dead animal into a clean skeleton is to let hungry beetles and their baby larvae munch away.


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Articles of Note

From: Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

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Pejawar seer for examining `magic' lamps
Times of India


"The Dakshina Kannada Rationalist Association here have received a shot in the arm with Pejawar Math seer Vishweshateertha Swamiji expressing the need to `investigate the miraculous phenomenon' of three lamps burning without oil for the past two decades at Chigalli (near Mundgod) in Uttara Kannada district."

Conflict begins anew debate on end times
By Larry Witham


"The bloody conflict in the Middle East is again turning some evangelicals to the Bible for texts that speak of a final cosmic battle in those ancient lands."

Eminent biologist hits back at the creationists who 'hijacked' his theory for their own ends
By Steve Connor
The Independent [UK]


"Stephen Jay Gould, one of the great evolutionary biologists of our time, will publish his "magnum opus", this month, in which he lambasts creationists for deliberately distorting his theories to undermine the teaching of Darwinism in schools."

'Creationist' school has evolution debate
by Tania Branigan
The Guardian [UK]


"The school at the centre of the row over creationism in education is inviting one of its chief critics to speak to its students about evolution, it has emerged."

Stalking legendary creatures
By Sharon J. Huntington
Christian Science Monitor


"IN 1912, a pilot crash-lands on a rugged Indonesian island. He hears loud rustling in the bushes. He sees the flash of a huge tail and hears a ferocious hissing. Frightened and alone in a strange land, he wonders: Could it be a dragon? It disappears before he can get a good look."

Coincidence? We think so
Toronto Sun


"You all know that psychic-bond scenario, where you're thinking about someone you haven't seen in ages. Suddenly the phone rings, and it's them."

Government cracks down on psychic lines
By Jerry Schwartz
Associated Press


"To Shlomit Galperin, the future looked bleak. And she wasn't even a psychic - yet."

Loose connections
by Anjana Ahuja
The Times [UK]


"Like so many other experiments that Stanley Milgram dreamt up, it was an ingenious and publicity-friendly idea. Why not try to find out how many connections link a person to a stranger? And so in 1967 the Harvard University social psychologist asked people in Kansas and Nebraska to post documents to a stranger such as a Massachusetts banker."

Herb ineffective as anti-depressant
BBC News


"The popular herbal supplement, St John's wort, is an ineffective treatment for depression, a major study has found."

MB psychic, relatives plead not guilty to tax evasion
Torrance Daily Breeze


"A self-proclaimed psychic from Manhattan Beach, her husband and daughter-in-law pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of mail fraud and tax evasion."

St. John's Wort Reduces Chemotherapy Effects
By Jeanie Davis


"Here's an important note for cancer patients taking the chemotherapy drug irinotecan. The herb St. John's wort can interfere with the drug's cancer-killing power, according to a report from the Netherlands. The effectiveness of other chemotherapy drugs may be similarly diluted by St. John's wort, say scientists presenting a report at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in San Francisco."

Creationism proposal extinct
By Nancy Mitchell
Rocky Mountain News


"Under threats of lawsuits, school board members in rural Joes unanimously defeated a proposal that would have taught creationism alongside evolution in the classroom."

Ponzi, pyramids and pumps -- schemes designed to take your money and run
by Ann Hatchitt
Austin Business Journal


"There's an important question anyone should ask when offered an investment opportunity that sounds too good to be true. "Why would this one company have so much better a performance than the next company?""

Is there any future in it?
by Maureen Freely
The Observer [UK]


"You may not be surprised to hear this, but it's been a bumper year for psychics. This is especially so in the US, as it happens. Especially since 11 September. It's not just the huddled masses, either. According to the fashion arbiters at Harper's Bazaar, they're this season's Must Have. To quote PR executive Laura Shiftman: 'Psychics are today what therapists were in the Nineties. It's not just a trend; it's a phenomenon.'"

Bishop warns Blair over danger of creationism
by Robin McKie
The Observer [UK]


"Leading clerics and scientists have warned Downing Street about their 'growing anxiety' over the spread of faith schools in Britain."

© St. Petersburg Times
By GRAHAM BRINK, Times Staff Writer published April 15, 2002

Parents fight to link vaccines, autism


In what could be the next great wave of litigation, moms and dads are set to take on pharmaceutical companies for exposing children to mercury found in some vaccines.

For More Stories Visit:


It's an Inch Long and Wingless, and a Surprise to Insect Experts

April 18, 2002


In a finding sure to stun the world of entomology, scientists say they have discovered a major new group, or order, of insects, the first to be identified in 88 years.

Their assertion is based on the discovery of previously unrecorded inch-long wingless creatures. The insects, Mantophasmatodea, have features of praying mantises, walking sticks and other phasmids.


Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – April 17, 2002

from The Boston Globe

Dr. David A. Kessler, the former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, told drug and advertising executives yesterday that he was wrong in his seven-year effort to prevent the pharmaceutical industry from promoting drugs directly to consumers, an indicator of how completely the once-forbidden ads have won over some critics.

Kessler, now the dean of Yale University School of Medicine, opposed prescription drug advertisements during his tenure at the FDA from 1990 to 1997, fearing they would create a flood of misinformation and confusion.

''I think I was wrong,'' he said, speaking at a conference on direct-to- consumer advertising - or DTC in the jargon of the industry - at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel in Boston. ''I think you've done a pretty good job.''


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Democrats in the U.S. Senate are maneuvering for a quick vote on oil drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge, confident they can turn back one of the Bush administration's top energy priorities.

Alaska's two Republican senators introduced a proposal Tuesday to allow oil companies to develop the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

A group of Democrats immediately made clear they intend to filibuster the amendment. With Republicans believed to be short of the 60 votes needed to end it, Democrats moved to force a vote on the filibuster by Thursday.


from Newsday

About one in every four people with a family history of Alzheimer's disease opted to know whether they carry a specific gene that would increase their risk for the mind-robbing disease, according to a new study.

The gene, apo-E4, is the first known risk gene for late-onset Alzheimer's disease, and it can be revealed in a blood test. It carries susceptibility to the illness, but it does not guarantee someone will get the disease.

There are several forms of the gene. Two copies of apo-E4, for example, put people at twice the risk of Alzheimer's after age 65, compared with people without the gene.


from The Associated Press

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Le Cao Dai, a leading Vietnamese expert on Agent Orange, a defoliant widely used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 74.

Dai's insistence on the need for open and independent research into the effects of dioxin, the defoliant's highly toxic component, made him unpopular at times with Vietnam's communist government.

He died Monday at the Central Army Hospital in Hanoi after suffering from acute pancreatitis for two weeks, his family said.


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The Ararat Anomaly: Is This The Real Noah's Ark At Last?

By Isaiah Flair


It may be exactly what millions of people believe that it is. If so, it is the greatest archaeological find in centuries. Its official name is "The Ararat Anomaly".

An independent correlation of maps of the region with information released in 1995 by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency places the Ararat Anomaly at "approximately 39 42' 10" N 044 16' 30" E at an elevation of approximately 14-15,000 feet and approximately 2.2 KM horizontal distance west of the summit".

It is located by the Ahora Gorge, near the summit of Mt. Ararat, in Turkey. Turkey, in turn, is bordered by the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The October 2001 American Journal of Archaeology attested to massive flooding in the region 7,500 years ago, noting that the Black Sea was "abruptly filled by waters from the Mediterranean when the Bosporus was cut by rising world sea levels."

Mt. Ararat itself is of volcanic origin, glaciated and covered with ice and loose rocks. Expeditions, while not impossible, are dangerous due to frequent avalanches. Indeed, an avalanche in 1840 destroyed a 500-year-old monastery, which had in turn preserved many of the artifacts that had been discovered in the area.

The weather is also treacherous. Mt. Ararat is a magnet for thunderstorms. The resulting inclement weather often impedes progress towards the summit. On the other hand, locals say that the storms result in beautiful rainbows. Kurdish rebels tend to shoot at foreigners seeking to explore Mt. Ararat, a not-unimportant fact which has dissuaded many from pursuing the facts about whatever it is up there.

On June 17, 1949, a United States Air Force plane flew a then-classified aerial photographic mission over Mt. Ararat. The pilot, to his surprise, recorded two images of the Ararat Anomaly - a linear, oddly symmetrical shape approximately 600 feet in length, with roughly 90 feet of that length protruding clearly from out of the snow and ice.

Whatever it was appeared to be damaged.

The pilot also recorded three pictures of a second anomaly, smaller, and similar in shape, nearby. It was speculated that something had been split in half, or more exactly into a 2/3 part and a 1/3 part by one or more of Mt. Ararat´s frequent avalanches. The smaller part may have, according to more recent United States Government satellite images of the Ararat Anomaly, slipped into the Ahora Gorge.

The Ahora Gorge is a full mile wide, and reportedly miles deep. It may hold quite a few answers.

These findings were accentuated by the pictures taken between October of 1999 and the summer of 2000 by the Ikonos 2 Satellite, which resolves images as small as one meter across.

From the 1949 pictures, per the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analysis thereof released in 1995, there are from the front of the surviving 2/3, now known as the Ararat Anomaly, three giant, prong-like structures, akin to what might be found in an ancient marine vessel. Similar structures were similarly identified in images of the smaller anomaly, the 1/3 of the original that may be lost to the depths of the Ahora Gorge.

Nearby, on Parrot Glacier, French explorer Fernand Navarra found a five-foot long piece of carefully hand-crafted wood.

Published reports confirm that the hand-crafted piece of wood found by Navarra was submitted to the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, the Forestry Institute of Research and Experiments of the Ministry of Agriculture in Madrid, Spain and the Department of Anthropology and Prehistoric Studies at the University of Bordeaux in France.

The age of the hand-crafted piece of wood was determined to be in excess of 5,000 years old.

The site where it was found was only a few hundred meters from the site of the 1949 U.S. Air Force pictures.

However, Navarra was unaware of those pictures when he submitted his discovery: those pictures remained classified until 1982. Navarra independently made his discovery in the same area on July 5, 1955.

And then, finally, there is the interesting report of proto-Sumerian pictographs found on a rock from a cave near Mt. Ararat´s Ahora Gorge, as reported in the National Geographic Society's publication, Research & Exploration, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1994, p. 484.

The pictographs refer to the covenant of the bright bow and add "let man and woman go forth and procreate". The pictographs, collectively, are known as the "Ahora Covenant Inscription".

Notwithstanding all of that... the central question, of course, is whether what has been officially recognized as "The Ararat Anomaly" is - or was - a boat.

More specifically, a very, very ancient boat which set forth thousands of years ago, through torrential rains, into the deepening water of a great deluge, alighting on dry land after forty days and forty nights...

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Embattled psychic hotline owner puts mansion up for sale

By Matt Bean
Court TV

The House That Cleo Built is now up for grabs.

The posh waterfront mansion owned by businessman Steven Feder, who has made millions on a telephone psychic business helmed by a would-be shaman named Miss Cleo, is on the block for the low, low price of $8.9 million.


The Flat-Earth Bible

© 1987, 1995 by Robert J. Schadewald
Reprinted from The Bulletin of the Tychonian Society #44 (July 1987)


When I first became interested in the flat-earthers in the early 1970s, I was surprised to learn that flat-earthism in the English-speaking world is and always has been entirely based upon the Bible. I have since assembled and read an extensive collection of flat-earth literature. The Biblical arguments for flat-earthism that follow come mainly from my reading of flat-earth literature, augmented by my own reading of the Bible.

Except among Biblical inerrantists, it is generally agreed that the Bible describes an immovable earth. At the 1984 National Bible-Science Conference in Cleveland, geocentrist James N. Hanson told me there are hundreds of scriptures that suggest the earth is immovable. I suspect some must be a bit vague, but here are a few obvious texts:

1 Chronicles 16:30: "He has fixed the earth firm, immovable."

Psalm 93:1: "Thou hast fixed the earth immovable and firm ..."

Psalm 96:10: "He has fixed the earth firm, immovable ..."

Psalm 104:5: "Thou didst fix the earth on its foundation so that it never can be shaken."

Isaiah 45:18: "...who made the earth and fashioned it, and himself fixed it fast..."

Suffice to say that the earth envisioned by flat-earthers is as immovable as any geocentrist could desire. Most (perhaps all) scriptures commonly cited by geocentrists have also been cited by flat-earthers. The flat-earth view is geocentricity with further restrictions.

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 16, 2002

from Newsday

DEEP UNDERWATER, and deeper underground, scientists see surprising hints that gas and oil deposits can be replenished, filling up again, sometimes rapidly.

Although it sounds too good to be true, increasing evidence from the Gulf of Mexico suggests that some old oil fields are being refilled by petroleum surging up from deep below, scientists report. That may mean that current estimates of oil and gas abundance are far too low.

Recent measurements in a major oil field show "that the fluids were changing over time; that very light oil and gas were being injected from below, even as the producing [oil pumping] was going on," said chemical oceanographer Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt. "They are refilling as we speak. But whether this is a worldwide phenomenon, we don't know."


from Newsday

AMID A GROWING catalog of data on disorders that air pollution can trigger, a recent investigation has shown precisely how air pollution leaves its signature on the cardiovascular system.

The study tracks the path of inhaled particles as they travel through nasal passages down the trachea - the windpipe - lodge in the alveoli, the tiny air sacs of the lungs, and possibly enter the bloodstream destined for parts unknown.

Anecdotal evidence and statistical studies have made a correlation between pollution and a host of diseases, particularly asthma, heart disease, respiratory disorders and cancer. Michigan scientists decided to find out how pollutants cause heart disease.


from The New York Times

Carved in the limestone of a desert cliff in Egypt is a 5,250-year-old tableau of a victorious ruler, perhaps the so-called King Scorpion — whose exploits, previously the stuff of myth and legend, may have been critical to the founding of Egyptian civilization. The archaeologists who discovered the tableau seven years ago now say it may be the world's earliest historical document.

More than that, they say, the inscribed scenes and symbols bear a strong resemblance to later hieroglyphs. This is a significant addition to a growing body of evidence that the first true writing originated in Egypt — not in ancient Sumer, in what is now Iraq, as scholars of antiquity had believed.

While some aspects of the discovery are controversial — particularly the suggestion that the ruler depicted is King Scorpion — several archaeologists familiar with it agree that this represents an early stage of writing, perhaps earlier than Sumerian writing.


from The New York Times

If three wind-power proponents succeed, 170 slender turbines will one day appear in Nantucket Sound and, if the winds are right, generate nearly half the electrical supply for Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Brian Braginton-Smith, James S. Gordon and Brian Caffyn, partners in Cape Wind Associates, want to build a "wind farm" on Horseshoe Shoals, a protected shallows with powerful breezes off Cape Cod. They say their wind park will deliver clean electricity, protect the environment and ease dependency on foreign oil. Advocates call the wind farm the future of renewable energy.

But critics say the turbines will disturb birds, harm fisheries and scare away tourists. The result has been a debate about how and where to harvest the wind.

Though dozens of wind farms are generating electricity across the country and off the coast of Europe, no one in the United States has ever built one of this magnitude, or at sea.


from The Boston Globe

Describing the fascination of Mount Kilimanjaro, Boston filmmaker David Breashears asks, ''Where else on our planet can you journey from the Amazon to the North Pole'' in 45 miles?

On this basis alone, the Tanzanian peak would seem like a scientist's dream, a place where researchers can study five climatic zones in about the distance from Boston to Worcester.

Kilimanjaro is the ultimate anomaly: a perpetually ice-capped dome in the heart of the tropics, just 200 miles south of the equator. There it looms like a lone beacon, 19,640 feet up. Part of no mountain range, it was created by three volcanoes that erupted almost on top of each other. It is the largest freestanding mountain in the world - and home to several plant and animal species found nowhere else.

Those who climb to its summit experience a peculiarly condensed version of the earth's climate, vegetation, and wildlife. Because the mountain had formed abruptly out of an ancient landscape, its plants and animals dispersed as they would have onto an oceanic island, or even a new continent.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A pair of California condors have hatched and are successfully feeding a chick in the wild, marking an important step toward survival of a species skirting extinction.

If the downy baby survives in a cave in Ventura County, it will be the first time in 18 years that adult condors living in the wild have conceived, hatched and brooded a chick.

Observers say the female and male condors are taking turns feeding and warming their offspring. It may be the most closely watched parenting of the bird world.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A widely used herbicide has been linked for the first time to developmental defects in a species of aquatic frog, scientists report today, raising the possibility of a hidden toxic hazard in the environment.

Laboratory experiments at the University of California at Berkeley suggest that even at very low levels, exposure to the common farm chemical atrazine can disrupt hormones and alter the sexual development of male African clawed frogs.

"We saw a loss of male characteristics," said UC Berkeley biologist Tyrone B. Hayes, lead author of the study, which appears today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "As somebody who's concerned about biodiversity and environmental health, I think it's very serious. Now, we need to explore the possibility that such effects are occurring in the wild."


from The Los Angeles Times

The massive supercolony of pesky Argentine ants that stretches across California has been trumped: A newly discovered supercolony in Europe is nearly three times as long, spanning the Mediterranean coast from Portugal to Italy.

Like the California supercolony, the European counterpart appears to be so successful because the ants behave so strangely: Residents from different nests cooperate and share instead of fighting one another to the death as Argentine ants do back home.

Scientists on both continents are having a difficult time explaining just why these "tramp ants" are so nice to each other. The amiable behavior among distant strangers contradicts a basic idea of evolutionary biology called kin selection theory--the notion that gallant behavior should persist only among related individuals because helping your kin helps perpetuate the genes you share. In Argentina, typical ant behavior-- defending boundaries, ripping off the legs and heads of enemies and spurting out toxic chemicals--leaves piles of wartime casualties and colonies about the size of suburban lots.


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David Hume Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion




It has been remarked, my Hermippus, that though the ancient philosophers conveyed most of their instruction in the form of dialogue, this method of composition has been little practised in later ages, and has seldom succeeded in the hands of those who have attempted it. Accurate and regular argument, indeed, such as is now expected of philosophical enquirers, naturally throws a man into the methodical and didactic manner; where he can immediately, without preparation, explain the point at which he aims; and thence proceed, without interruption, to deduce the proofs on which it is established. To deliver a SYSTEM in conversation, scarcely appears natural; and while the dialogue-writer desires, by departing from the direct style of composition, to give a freer air to his performance, and avoid the appearance of Author and Reader, he is apt to run into a worse inconvenience, and convey the image of Pedagogue and Pupil. Or, if he carries on the dispute in the natural spirit of good company, by throwing in a variety of topics, and preserving a proper balance among the speakers, he often loses so much time in preparations and transitions, that the reader will scarcely think himself compensated, by all the graces of dialogue, for the order, brevity, and precision, which are sacrificed to them.


Len Cleavelin stopped by The Landover Baptist Website and suggested that (even though they don't allow unsaved people to view their site or come within a 10-mile radius of their 150-thousand acre, 27.5 billion dollar, Christian campus in Freehold, Iowa) you simply must see this URL:


Here is their message....
Test your understanding of Science as Presented in the Bible. Enjoy!

The Landover Baptist Website


EVOLUTION AND CREATIONISM: Waiting for the Watchmaker

A review by Kevin Padian*

Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives
Robert T. Pennock, Ed.
MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2001. 825 pp. $110, £75.95. ISBN 0-262-16204-0. Paper, $45, £30.95. ISBN 0-262-66124-1.

Intelligent Design (ID) is the cryptoscientific arm of a sociopolitical movement of conservative Christians who are upset about the displacement of their concept of God from institutional life in the United States and are determined to do something about it. Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics presents the arguments of ID advocates in their own words and provides closely argued critiques of the science, philosophy, and theology that underlie their positions. Robert Pennock, the editor, is a philosopher at Michigan State University whose previous book, Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1999), exposed the problems and pitfalls of ID, particularly in its logic and rhetoric. In the present volume, he has assembled two broad, well-qualified teams for what amounts to a wrestling-style "smackdown" that lays the current controversies bare.



April 16, 2002


An Insatiably Curious Observer Looks Back on a Life in Evolution


EDFORD, Mass. — At the elegant housing development for the elderly where the biologist Ernst Mayr lives, there are a game room, a library and a shrine to commemorate residents who have recently died. Not long ago, in a misfired joke, one of Dr. Mayr's housemates passed the shrine and asked, "Are you next for this, Mayr?"

Without a blink, Dr. Mayr, emeritus professor of zoology at Harvard and one of the greatest living experts on evolution, returned: "I may be the oldest man here, but I'm not going anywhere. I still have a few books to write."

Monday, April 15, 2002

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines – April 15, 2002

from Reuters

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Scientists expect to publish next year the complete sequence of the human genome, a development that could revolutionize medicine, the head of a leading genome research organization said.

"It will be completed in 2003," Lap-Chee Tsui, president of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) told reporters on Sunday.

"Everybody is trying very hard to meet that deadline."

London-based HUGO is the largest international non-profit organization involved in human genome research.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

The world's fisheries are tanking, going the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon. The causes are many, but the primary one, say marine scientists, is humankind's insatiable appetite for seafood.

A recent report to the Pew Oceans Commission determined that between 25 and 30 percent of the world's fish populations are overfished, while an additional 40 percent are "fully exploited" -- meaning that additional pressure could result in their collapse.

Pollution and oceanic temperature fluctuations have played a role in reducing some fisheries, but scientists increasingly concur that overfishing on a vast scale is the primary culprit.


from The Washington Post

Chimps, Humans: A Brain Apart

The human DNA blueprint is 98.7 percent identical to that of chimpanzees, yet many people believe that humans are more than 1.3 percent different from our pouty, big-eared evolutionary cousins. How can nearly identical stretches of genetic code make such different creatures? Researchers believe they have found part of the answer...

Lions Lack Mane, Have Pride

Scientists have discovered that a type of male lion not only lacks the distinctive mane associated with a lion's masculinity, but also is the only known male lion that has large groups of females all to itself...

Robust Birds Sing Long, Strong

Scientists have long known that one of the ways female birds pick their mates is by the quality of their songs, which presumably said something about their overall suitability as a mate. It turns out that among at least one type of bird, the males with the best songs have the strongest immune systems...


from The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Two spacewalking astronauts floated out of the international space station Sunday to do more wiring work on a newly attached girder.

It was the third spacewalk for the visiting crew of shuttle Atlantis.

"Two down, two to go!" Mission Control told the astronauts. Their final excursion is scheduled for Tuesday.

Steven Smith and Rex Walheim threw open the hatch as the docked spacecraft soared over the South Pacific. "Pretty dark out there," Smith said.


from The New York Times

Say that there happens to be this internationally famous campus in the city about which most New Yorkers are clueless. That it attracts doctoral students from all over the world, that it sends out scientists on exploratory missions across the planet and helps anchor global research on genomics, conservation and endangered species.

And say that it happens to be in, oh, the Bronx. And that it's about to get a new $100 million state-of-the-art cynosure to house one of the world's greatest collections of its kind.

How many New Yorkers would be able to identify it by name? (All right, some of you guessed, it's the New York Botanical Garden.)

"Most people only know about the big conservatory with the tropical plants," said Gregory Long, the garden's president, referring to its $27 million Victorian conservatory, the nation's largest, which was renovated in 1997. "But as for the rest of what we do — we have had something of a low profile."


from The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea, April 12 — School was called off throughout much of this sprawling city last Monday because of inclement weather.

It was not a freak spring snow storm, a heat wave or torrential rains.

Rather, it was an immense cloud of dust that blew in from China's fast- spreading deserts, about 750 miles away.

It hid Seoul from view throughout the morning, obscuring the sunrise just as surely as the heaviest of fogs. Clinics overflowed with patients complaining of breathing problems, drugstores experienced a run on cough medicines and face masks that supposedly filter the air, and parks and outdoor malls were nearly empty of pedestrians.


Book Review from The San Francisco Chronicle

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
By Stephen Jay Gould

Charles Darwin published the first edition of "The Origin of Species" in 1859, and in my own copy of his sixth and final edition, the great scientist refined his revolutionary theory of natural selection and added details to his compilation of the evidence for it -- all in a modest book of 338 pages. With Darwinian diffidence he called it an "abstract."

Now comes Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard paleontologist, to boldly redefine Darwin in light of what the world has learned from more than 150 years of progress in genetics, molecular biology and the fossil record.


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'Creationist' school has evolution debate

Tania Branigan
Tuesday April 9, 2002
The Guardian


The school at the centre of the row over creationism in education is inviting one of its chief critics to speak to its students about evolution, it has emerged.

Sir Peter Vardy, the multimillionaire entrepreneur who donated £2m to found Emmanuel city technology college in Gateshead, and who remains director of its board, wants Richard Dawkins to take part in a debate.

Emmanuel has been criticised since the Guardian revealed last month that lectures given by its staff, suggested evolution was a "faith position" and urged teachers to "counter [its] false doctrines".

At the time, Professor Dawkins, an authority on evolution, wrote: "Any science teacher who denies the world is billions (or even millions) of years old is teaching children a preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood. These men disgrace the honourable profession of teacher."

But the two men have been corresponding privately since the dispute broke out and are now planning to meet. Sir Peter said: "We are quite open to talking to anybody. I would like to have a debate at Emmanuel college for the students to hear and I'll be asking him to take part."

He added: "I am not a creationist and neither is Emmanuel college. We have guys who do believe in young earth [theories], but we also have atheists and agnostics and folks that believe in the old earth _ What we seek to do is present all the views of both creation and evolution."

But in a lecture, the school's head of science, Steven Layfield, urged Christian teachers to "show the superiority" of creationist theories.

He added that they should "note every occasion when an evolutionary/old-earth paradigm [millions or billions of years] is explicitly mentioned or implied and courteously point out the fallibility of the statement". Most scientists agree that life on earth is around four billion years old.

"I'm keen to meet Sir Peter and no doubt the idea of a debate will be one of many things we discuss when we meet up," Prof Dawkins said.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Eminent biologist hits back at the creationists who 'hijacked' his theory for their own ends

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

09 April 2002


Stephen Jay Gould, one of the great evolutionary biologists of our time, will publish his "magnum opus", this month, in which he lambasts creationists for deliberately distorting his theories to undermine the teaching of Darwinism in schools.

Professor Gould accuses creationists of having exploited the sometimes bitter dispute between him and his fellow Darwinists to promulgate the myth that the theory of evolution is riven with doubts and is, therefore, just as valid as biblical explanations for life on Earth.

The distinguished professor of zoology at Harvard University, whose 1,400-page book, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, has been 10 years in the writing, was intimately involved with the fight against creationist teaching during the 1970s and 1980s in the American Deep South.

Try a Fanny-Gram!

Jacqueline Stallone has revived the ancient art of Rumpology. Just as your fingerprints, palms, soles, and ears tell a story, so does your rump. Or shall we say, your fanny. The lines, crevices, and folds of your fanny can, to the trained eye, reveal your personality, fate, and future in luck and love. So they thought in ancient India and Babylon and so today.

Send us a print of your fanny (a fanny-gram, if you will) by either using a photocopier or a legible ink print on white paper (please use washable ink). Include your initials and your date of birth along with a check or postal money order for $100, or use your credit card and our shopping cart (coming soon) to place your order on-line. All shipping and handling charges are included.


'Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics': Supernatural Selection

April 14, 2002


In the last decade or so, creationism has grown sophisticated. Oh, the old-fashioned creationists are still around, especially in the Bible Belt. They're the ones who believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old, that God created it and all its inhabitants in six days and that fossils are a product of Noah's flood. In the early 1990's, however, a new breed of creationists appeared. These ''neo-creos,'' as they have been called, are no Dogpatch hayseeds. They have Ph.D.'s and occupy positions at some of the better universities. The case they make against Darwinism does not rest on the authority of Scripture; rather, it proceeds from premises that are scientific and philosophical, invoking esoteric ideas in molecular biology, information theory and the logic of hypothesis testing.


Saturday, April 13, 2002

NYTimes.com Article: Alternative Medicine Is Finding Its Niche in Nation's Hospitals

April 13, 2002


SAVANNAH, Ga. - Memorial Health University Medical Center has ambitious goals for itself, and executives here hope Deepak Chopra can help achieve them. In a bid to become a regional leader in health care by combining traditional and alternative medicine, the hospital has joined with Dr. Chopra, the best-selling author and holistic health guru, to create a center where patients and Savannah residents can come for yoga, meditation or a treatment called Shirodhara in which warm herbalized sesame oil is dripped languorously onto their foreheads.

The embrace of mantras and massage is not limited to Memorial. In March of last year, St. Joseph's/Candler, Memorial's only rival in Savannah, opened a Center for Wellbeing, where people can take yoga classes and learn about aromatherapy. And in May, St. Joseph's will introduce a program affiliated with the Mind/Body Medical Institute, founded by Herbert Benson, the Harvard physician who has been at the forefront of advocating the health benefits of reducing stress.


NYTimes.com Article: Bush Urges Tax Break for Religious Charities (2 articles)

April 11, 2002


Filed at 10:26 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is calling on the Senate to pass legislation boosting religious charities by Memorial Day, the latest in a string of presidential proddings.

With the April 15 tax deadline approaching next week, the president planned a White House event Thursday to highlight a new tax break that would help up to 84 million tax filers if they give to charity.


Bush Rallies Faithful in Call for Passage of Charity Bill

April 12, 2002


WASHINGTON, April 11 - President Bush urged the Senate today to pass a bill, central to his "compassionate conservative" agenda, that would give federal money to religious charities.

"Some of the greatest welfare programs in America are on the street corners of inner-city America in a house of worship," Mr. Bush said to a gathering of religious and charity leaders in the East Room, which the White House billed as a rallying call to pressure the Democratic-controlled Senate to act.

"Part of the reason you're here is so we can unleash your talents and energy on the Hill," Mr. Bush said, to laughter. "And I appreciate your willingness to be practical in Washington. Because there is a piece of legislation that I hope you work on. It's an urgent time for you to act." http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/12/politics/12BUSH.html?ex=1019643597&ei=1&en=b19013ca697a8f19

Uri Geller bids to heal Beckham's foot with willpower


Uri Geller has appealed to the nation to help heal David Beckham's left foot.

He has asked GMTV viewers to put their hands on a TV picture of the foot and visualise the bone knitting together.

He wants viewers to focus their minds and send healing energy throughout the morning.

Geller says the nation's willpower could ensure the England captain is fit for the World Cup.

He told GMTV Beckham can trigger his own immune system by focusing his energy and staying positive.

He said: "I'm not a miracle worker, but if millions of people focus their minds on David's foot and visualise the bone knitting together we can unleash a powerful healing force.

"I want people to touch their TV screens. Take it seriously, if just for a few seconds, and send him some healing energy."

Manchester United and an array of experts say Beckham could be back in six weeks - 10 days before England's first match against Sweden on June 2.

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