NTS LogoSkeptical News for 24 May 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, May 24, 2002

Science In the News

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

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

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Today's Headlines – May 24, 2002

from Newsday

WASHINGTON -- "Cuuutie piiiie, youuu are sooooo sweeeet."

That may sound syrupy to the adult ear, but to babies it is an important lecture from the infant's most important teacher: Mommy.

Australian researchers who analyzed the sounds mothers make when they talk with adults, with animals and with their babies found that the parents slipped automatically into a different speech pattern for each audience.

For the pets and for the infants, the mothers used roughly the same tone and rhythm, but there was a subtle difference: For baby talk the mothers went into a teaching mode with the vowels elongated and emphasized.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (May 23, 2002 4:35 p.m. EDT) - A band of chimpanzees in West Africa routinely swing crude stone hammers to crack open nuts, a sophisticated use of tools the apes have been teaching to each new generation for more than a century.

Using carefully selected stones weighing up to 33 pounds, the chimps pound the tough shell of the panda nut to extract a high-energy kernel that is an important part of the animal's diet, researchers report Friday in the journal Science.

"It is a very skillful behavior that takes up to seven years for them to learn," said Melissa Panger, a George Washington University researcher and co-author of the study. "It looks easy, but if you sit down and try it is a very difficult task."


from The New York Times

REHOVOT, Israel, May 23 — Soft and warm as babies, more naked than jaybirds, two mutant, featherless chickens gamboled on the close-cropped lawn.

But when the rooster wandered out of the shade into direct sunlight, he flopped over onto his side, seemingly stunned.

The breeder, Avigdor Cahaner, a professor of quantitative genetics, had warned minutes before of such a reaction. With their vulnerable, reddish skin, "the birds don't like to be in the sun, naturally," he explained.


from The New York Times

GUERRERO VIEJO, Mexico, May 22 — Half a century ago this town was drowned. The United States and Mexico built a huge reservoir by damming the Rio Grande, under a treaty to divide the water of the mighty river.

Now the ghost of Guerrero Viejo has risen. The reservoir, drained by drought, thirst, population growth and personal greed, holds one-twelfth of its capacity. The town, once deep under water, stands on dry land. On the water's edge, two miles away, horses and cattle graze on grasses that should be five fathoms under.

The treaty is falling apart, along with any pretense that the United States and Mexico are not on the verge of political war. The water-management policies of both nations for the border can best be described in three words: pray for rain.

Under the terms of the treaty, Mexico now owes the United States 456 billion gallons of water — enough to quench the thirst of New York City for a year. The water should have flowed down the Rio Grande over the past decade, but didn't.


from The Christian Science Monitor

SAN FRANCISCO – The thought is almost too frustrating to bear: the possibility that the solar system's most promising spot for extraterrestrial life is beyond the reach of modern science.

Almost universally, scientists acknowledge that Europa, a moon of Jupiter nearly as large as our moon, is covered by an ocean of liquid water – the indispensable building block for organic life as we know it. That ocean, however, is hidden beneath a crust of ice of unknown thickness.

Today, a new report suggests the worst scenario – that the cap is as many as 15 miles deep. Scientific opinion is far from unanimous, though, and a mounting debate indicates that this has become one of the most pressing questions in the search for life elsewhere in the solar system. Indeed, its answer will likely determine not only what science is possible, but also whether life elsewhere is even feasible.

Moreover, with the discovery of 11 additional tiny Jovian moons late last week, it is highlighting one of the most intriguing corners of the solar system, where 55,000-foot mountains and 4 billion-year-old landscapes are all just part of the neighborhood.


from The Christian Science Monitor

As cosmic virtuosos go, a swollen star in the constellation Hydra clearly qualifies as a sub-basso profundo.

For billions of years, however, this "voice" has gone unheard – until now.

A team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory's La Silla facility in Chile is reporting the detection of seismic "oscillations" in xi Hya, a sun-like star 130 light-years away that has expanded into a red giant. The observations represent the first time such signals have been detected in such a highly evolved star, the team says.

Those signals, first detected in our sun 30 years ago, open a unique window for astronomers on a star's structure and composition.


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Scientology Court Files


A public library containing court papers related to lawsuits involving Scientology in some way. Collected to help lawyers and critics of Scientology in future lawsuits from or against this cult. Please report back if this has been of help. Thanks.

New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography (ID)

From: Taner Edis edis1@llnl.gov


Signs Of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design

William A. Dembski and James M. Kushiner, eds.
2001, Brazos; 224p.
creationism:defense, creationism:philosophy, religion:defense,
religion:philosophy, science:philosophy
An excellent introduction to the arguments of "Intelligent Design" (ID) creationism. This collection brings together short, accessible writings from the leading lights of the ID movement, and does a good job in presenting the major themes and concerns of ID. Especially useful is how the writers, in a more popular-oriented publication, are more explicit than usual about the religious and political motivations of ID, allowing the reader to see how things tie together from the ID point of view. It is also good to have ID arguments presented in this somewhat simplified but also clearer form. Much in ID writing suffers from jargon for jargon's sake, trying to create an impression of "real science." This book largely stays away from such pyrotechnics, which makes it doubly useful. A must read for anyone interested in ID, including critics.

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/ Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

URGENT MESSAGE for 23th of May 2002

Hold your breath. Here it comes. (If it actually comes, remember: you read it here first.)


(Especially for Southern Californians Occupying Buildings
on the San Jacinto Fault Lines)

7.7 QUAKE DUE , May 23th.

This Website is designed to advertise the book, "The Amazing Magma-Quake Machine," which includes the story of the development of the new technology, "Magma-Quake Technology," and the predictions of large earthquakes due to strike in California on the 23th of May, 2002.

Because of the importance of saving lives on the San Jacinto Fault Lines in mid May 2002, the Home Page and Book Page emphasize the quake prediction, the deadly hazards, and maps of the San Jacinto Fault Lines (which are in Southern California). The Book Page includes the maps and prediction diagrams, and the contact page presents the book ordering information.


Although a number of large quakes are expected to strike Southern, Central, and Northern California at about the same time on the 23th of May 2002, only the two largest (both on the San Jacinto Fault) are described in the Website. The others are discussed in the book. The largest, and potentially most deadly quake predicted, is the

Date                   Quake         Location

23th of May, 2002        7.7      San Jacinto Fault NW

Which will be accompanied by, or followed by, the

Date                   Quake         Location

23th of May, 2002        7.2      San Jacinto Fault SE


The two quakes on the San Jacinto Fault are potentially deadly because buildings located on the fault lines may be destroyed when the fault ruptures. The most hazardous location is the San Bernardino Valley College Campus, where nine buildings are located on the S J Fault Lines. Also in the NW region, a number of houses in the housing development in southwest San Bernardino near the Fwy 212/10 Interchange appear to be located on secondary faults, which also may rupture. In the SE region, in East Hemet, some of the houses are located very close to the fault lines. In San Jacinto, the Acapulco Restaurant at San Jacinto St and Menlo Ave. is located on a main ranch of the fault. On the Northeast side of San Jacinto, at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, Gilman Hot Springs and Soboba Hot Springs are located on the northeast branch of the fault, but I have not investigated to see if any of the Buildings are located on fault lines.

The fault lines and hazardous locations on the fault lines are shown on maps on the Book Page, but more investigations are required to determine that all buildings on fault lines are identified.

Numerous streets, and Freeways 15, 215, and 60 may be served by the rupture of fault lines.

NOTE: click on maps, diagrams, photos, etc. for an enlarged view.

for Those now Occupying Buildings on the S J Fault lines:

Try to vacate the Buildings on the fault line before the 23th of May 2002, because the fault rupture may rather suddenly destroy the building on the 23th of May.

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 – May 23, 2002

from The Los Angeles Times

As insecticides fail and vaccine efforts falter, scientists combating malaria have created genetically engineered mosquitoes that do not transmit the lethal disease, a feat hailed as a milestone in the effort to conquer a pestilence that infects 300 million people every year.

Working with a strain of malaria in mice, researchers created a gene in the hardy insect that normally spreads the malaria parasite, turning it into a cleverly designed trap that one day could eradicate a disease that kills as many people as AIDS and tuberculosis, according to work made public Wednesday.

There are serious safety concerns and regulatory issues that must be resolved before any of these experimental insects could be released, experts said. There have been no approved releases into the wild of genetically modified insects.

But eventually, the researchers hope to transform the entire species. Swarms of such modified mosquitoes could wipe out malaria by transferring this gene to the entire population of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, said Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, a geneticist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who led the research team.


from The Washington Post

The nominees were a varied lot. A monkey. A cow. A hairy, single-celled organism called Oxytricha trifallax. Each was backed by a group of scientists with a singular goal: convince a panel of experts that their creature was worthy of having its entire genetic code spelled out.

The judging wasn't televised and Whoopi Goldberg wasn't there. But yesterday, in a contest tracked closely by scientists around the world, a committee of the National Institutes of Health awarded what amounts to the Oscar of comparative genomics to six winning "model organisms."

And the winners are: the chimpanzee, the chicken, the honeybee, the sea urchin, the yeastlike protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila, and a family of fungi.

The decision, made by a council of experts at the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute, launches the newest chapter in genetic research since scientists announced to great fanfare last year that they had identified and placed in order virtually all 3.1 billion "letters" of the human genetic code.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

LIVERMORE, Calif. (AP) -- National lab scientists are developing a plan to help cities track nearly invisible enemies such as anthrax and other chemical and biological agents.

The program, demonstrated Wednesday at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, links cities to the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), which now provides emergency planning response help to the Energy and Defense departments.

In case of accident or attack, cities would send NARAC the coordinates where a toxic release is believed to have taken place. Using weather and previously gathered geographic information, NARAC would map out where the substance is likely to spread.


from The New York Times

Expansion of cities, destruction of forests, erosion of fields and rising demand for water are likely to threaten human and ecological health in many countries for at least a generation, according to a new United Nations report on environmental trends.

The world has seen significant environmental progress in recent years, says the report, which was released yesterday by the United Nations Environment Program. Population growth is slowing, for example, and food production is largely keeping pace with it.

But the report warns of severe water shortages in the Middle East over the next generation, and it says the growth of agriculture is damaging landscapes, depleting aquifers, raising the level of salt in the soil and reducing habitat for wildlife.


from The Los Angeles Times

SPENCER MOUNTAIN, Tenn. --If many trees are cut down in a forest, but others are planted to take their place, is it still a forest?

Or is a forest something more elusive: a repository of varied life forms, a cradle for clear-running streams, a historical continuum where children and their fathers and grandfathers can sit atop old stumps, watch for squirrels and talk?

That's the question posed here in central Tennessee, where giant timber- cutting machines shear native trees off Spencer Mountain like skin off a black bear. Mathematically, clear-cutting tens of thousands of trees is not a problem. The South is growing more trees than it is cutting down. By mid- century, trees may well cover more ground than they do today.


from The New York Times

MADRID, May 22 — In death as in life, it seems, Christopher Columbus could never stay in one place. The many journeys made post-mortem by Columbus, or Cristóbal Colón as he is known in Spain, has led to doubt and confusion over his last resting place, with rival tombs claimed by authorities in Seville and Santo Domingo.

Two Spanish teachers, one a history professor with an interest in genealogy, have now enlisted a prominent forensic science team to try to resolve the dispute with the help of DNA identification.

"We have two Colóns, or possibly even a third, buried in the church of La Cartuja in Seville," explained the professor, Marcial Castro, who teaches at a public school in Andalusia and is the driving force behind the project.

Many historians have grappled with the whereabouts of the explorer's bones, but Mr. Castro is apparently the first to come up with a workable solution to identify them. He is now seeking an answer through the skeleton of Hernando, an illegitimate son of Columbus's love affair with a woman from the Andalusian city of Cordoba.


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Thursday, May 23, 2002

A Personal Remembrance: Stephen Jay Gould A Scientist And Skeptic Who Cared About More Than Science


Michael Ryan has written, directed and produced films, television, and theater, published several books of humor and satire, and worked as a Washington and foreign correspondent and editor for major magazines.

Steven Rosenfeld produced this piece.

He was a pudgy man, even as a 20-something, and the quintessential geek -- I never saw him without a shirt pocket crammed full of cheap plastic pens.

The first time I met him, he came to a party in my freshman dorm; famous faculty members didn't do that sort of thing. But in those days, he was just a rising star, new to the faculty, but on the charts with a bullet.

China sets date for the Moon


Monday, 20 May, 2002, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK China says it is planning to establish a base on the Moon to exploit its mineral resources.

Beijing has not yet put a human into space, but scientists say they expect to do so within three years and they have outlined an ambitious programme for the future.

A chief scientist with China's Moon exploration programme, Ouyang Ziyuan, said that the country was planning to launch its first mission to the Moon in 2010.

He reportedly told the Beijing Morning Post: "Our long-term goal is to set up a base on the Moon and mine its riches for the benefit of humanity."

China announced last year that it was planning to launch a manned flight into space by 2005, and in March China successfully launched its third unmanned test flight of a Shenzhou space capsule.

Only two countries - the former Soviet Union and the United States - have achieved manned space flight.

In training

The official China Daily said the country was already training 12 astronauts to prepare for the nation's first manned space mission.

That mission would aim to create a Chinese space station and establish links with international space stations, it said.

China first announced a four-step, manned spaceflight programme in 1999, which included plans for a space station served by shuttle-style vehicles.

Correspondents say China's main motivation for space exploration is to raise national prestige, both at home and overseas.

But China's space industry suffered a series of setbacks in the mid-90s. A Long March 2E rocket carrying a telecommunications satellite exploded after blast-off in January 1995, killing a family of six.

Another rocket blew up after take-off in early 1996 and, later in the year, a Long March rocket placed a $120m Chinese satellite in the wrong orbit, leaving it to drift hopelessly in space.

Wednesday, May 22, 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 – May 22, 2002

from The Boston Globe

ORLANDO - Many older men may not need annual prostate cancer tests, according to a study released yesterday that reverses conventional wisdom on preventing the disease.

For years, many doctors have urged annual prostate cancer tests, or PSA screenings, for men over 50. But the new study found that those men with low PSA levels on their initial test overwhelmingly had low PSA levels five years later. Based on this data, cancer doctors gathered here at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting yesterday recommended that men scoring low initially can wait five years before their next test.

The new policy could save the US health care system $1 billion, the researchers estimated, as well as prevent the considerable anxiety generated by false-positive test results, a common occurrence.


from The Washington Post

PHILADELPHIA, May 20 -- A top independent advisory panel today recommended that doctors begin routinely screening all patients for depression, saying that America's primary care doctors are missing and mistreating more than half of all cases of the common mental disorder.

Asking all patients who walk into offices for tests, physicals and appointments two simple questions about whether they have experienced some of the warning signs of depression can swiftly begin to identify 90 percent of people who suffer from major depression, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The panel is a highly influential group of scientists that sets widely followed standards on topics ranging from prostate cancer screenings to mammograms.

The recommendation is the latest manifestation of the growing recognition that depression is one of the most common -- and most commonly undiagnosed and untreated -- chronic illnesses. About 19 million American adults suffer from depression, and estimates suggest that as many as two-thirds do not get treatment. The new recommendations could bring many of these people into treatment and add millions to the numbers who are taking antidepressants such as Prozac.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A group of scientists say it may be possible to simultaneously reduce global warming and increase dwindling supplies of fish around the world by adding relatively tiny amounts of powdered iron to the ocean.

Although the concept is controversial, several demonstration experiments have already been conducted, including by the Half Moon Bay-based Planktos Foundation, which hopes to eventually turn the cultivation of plankton forests at sea into an environmental-restoration business similar to reforestation on land.

The proposal has sparked considerable debate within the scientific and environmental communities, in part, because some energy and oil companies see it as a possible way to offset atmospheric pollution caused by their products. If it works, its backers say, the idea could help save humanity from the twin dangers of dying oceans and an overheated planet. On the other hand, others see it as an unworkable scheme that would interfere with nature, one that could lead to consequences even more dire than those it seeks to address.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A congressional report released Tuesday found racial and sexual disparities in employment at the nation's premier weapons laboratories, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Alameda County.

Auditors with the watchdog General Accounting Office looked at employment data from 1995 to 2000 regarding 22,000 employees at Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. They found statistically significant differences in the way Asian Americans, women, African Americans and Latinos fared versus white men.

Salaries for minorities and white women at the labs, operated by the Department of Energy, were generally lower than for white males. White males also held 64 percent of managerial and professional jobs, while they represented just 54 percent of the workforce.

"Our findings . . . do not prove or disprove discrimination," concluded the report, but "they do, however, raise questions about the reasons for these statistical differences." Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said the report "paints a disturbing picture of inconsistency in the way minorities and women are treated in certain personnel actions."


from The New York Times

BOSTON — Say the word "anthropologist" and images of Margaret Mead in Samoa or Bronislaw Malinowski among the Trobriand Islanders may spring to mind. But for Dr. Hugh Gusterson, 43, a professor of anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the intensive scrutiny of scientific investigation is applied not to island natives but to mostly affluent white men with "Ph.D." affixed to their names.

Since 1984, Dr. Gusterson has studied nuclear weapons scientists based at the Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories, exploring the ways they adjust to culture-shattering events like the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.

The results of his research are described in "Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War," published in 1996. Now he is working on a sequel, and a book of essays is due in 2003.


from MSNBC

Scientists have announced plans to publish in 2003 the full sequence of the human genome, the genetic blueprint of human life — hastening a field of study that some say will revolutionize medicine. "Gene(sis)," a new art exhibition inspired by the Human Genome Project, likely won't revolutionize art. But the show, touring nationally over the next two years, offers artistic speculations — from stark to whimsical, from outlandish to the downright silly — on genomics' possible impact on life in that ultimate petri dish: the world we live in.

The exhibition, presented in affiliation with the Berkeley Art Museum, is at the Henry Art Gallery, on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle. But it's also located squarely at the busy intersection of science, culture and ethics. The exhibition's range of media, stylistic approaches and outlooks is being used as a springboard for a range of public programs designed to generate debate on the bioethical issues spawned by the genome project in particular, and by technology in general.

The "Gene(sis)" exhibition had its own genesis over a three-year period, as Robin Held, the museum's assistant curator, engaged in running dialogues with artists, educators, historians and scientists.


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Factual Error Found on the Internet


LONGMONT, CO—The Information Age was dealt a stunning blow Monday, when a factual error was discovered on the Internet. The error was found on TedsUltimateBradyBunch.com, a Brady Bunch fan site that incorrectly listed the show's debut year as 1968, not 1969.

Caryn Wisniewski, a Pueblo, CO, legal secretary and diehard Brady Bunch fan, came across the mistake while searching for information about the show's first-season cast.

"When I first saw 1968 on the web page, I thought, 'Wow, apparently, all those Brady Bunch books I've read listing 1969 as the show's first year were wrong,'" Wisniewski told reporters at a press conference. "But even though I obviously trusted the Internet, I was still kind of puzzled. So I checked other Brady Bunch fan sites, and all of them said 1969. After a while, it slowly began to sink in that the World Wide Web might be tainted with unreliable information."

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Books by Stephen Jay Gould

I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History (2002)

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002)

Crossing Over: Where Art and Science Meet (2000)

The Lying Stones of Marrakesh: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History (2000)

Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (1999)

Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History (1998)

La Vie Est Belle: Les Surprises De L'evolution (1998)

Millenium: Histoire Naturelle Et Artificielle De L'an 2000 (1998)

L'eventail Du Vivant: Le Mythe Du Progres (1997)

Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown (1997)

Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin (1996)

Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History (1995)

Un Herisson Dans La Tempete: Essai Sur Des Livres Et Des Idees (1994)

Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History (1993)

The Book of Life (1993)

Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History (1991)

The Individual in Darwin's World: Second Edinburgh Medal Address (1990)

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989)

Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Ecological Time (1987)

An Urchin in the Storm: Essays About Books and Ideas (1987)

The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History (1985)

Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1983)

The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History (1980)

The Evolution of Gryphaea (1980)

Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History (1979)

Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977)

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 – May 21, 2002

from The New York Times

Stephen Jay Gould, the evolutionary theorist at Harvard University whose research, lectures and prolific output of essays helped to reinvigorate the field of paleontology, died yesterday at his home in Manhattan. He was 60.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Rhonda Roland Shearer.

One of the most influential evolutionary biologists of the 20th century and perhaps the best known since Charles Darwin, Dr. Gould touched off numerous debates, forcing scientists to rethink sometimes entrenched ideas about evolutionary patterns and processes.


An Appreciation from The Washington Post

"He was a really wonderful explainer of science to the nonscientific public." -- Harvard scientist Richard Lewontin on his colleague, Stephen Jay Gould, Sigma Xi member and 1994 recipient of the the society's William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement.

A brilliant scientist who can write beautifully is an unusual creature, almost an evolutionary impossibility. It's like a flying horse, or a talking shark. Nature usually is sparing when it hands out talent and specializations. Stephen Jay Gould -- who died of lung cancer yesterday at the age of 60 -- was a prize example of a very rare breed.

Gould was a professor at Harvard, a longtime columnist for Natural History magazine, the author of numerous bestsellers, and a dependably feisty public intellectual. He did not suffer fools gladly; he pummeled them in print. Like his hero Lou Gehrig, he was a durable figure, filing a monthly column for 27 years before signing off finally at the millennium.

Even when stricken with a usually fatal form of cancer 20 years ago, and devastated by chemotherapy, he insisted on meeting his deadline.

"When I'm writing, it's the only time I don't feel pain," he told his editor.


from The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON - The United States faces a substantial threat of a terrorist nuclear attack on an American city, and the federal government is not doing enough to prevent it, two scientific teams concluded in independent studies released yesterday.

''The possibility that terrorists could acquire a nuclear weapon and explode it in a US city is real,'' a team of researchers from Harvard University reported. ''While efforts to reduce the chances of this happening have been underway since long before last September 11, and have recently been bolstered in some respects, the size and the speed of the US and international response is not yet remotely commensurate with the magnitude of the threat.''

The detonation in an urban setting of even a rudimentary nuclear device - of 1 to 10 kilotons, pirated from a military arsenal or constructed from stolen plutonium or enriched uranium - would devastate a circular area of one or two miles in diameter and kill tens of thousands of people.


from The Boston Globe

ORLANDO - Women genetically predisposed toward breast and ovarian cancer can increase their chances of avoiding both diseases by having their ovaries and fallopian tubes surgically removed, according to a new study that better prepares thousands of women to confront a wrenching medical decision.

The study shows that women with a defect in the so-called ''breast cancer gene,'' a defect linked to 10 percent of all breast cancers in women under 40, can reduce their risk by having their reproductive organs removed even before they are diagnosed with cancer.

Since women with mutations of the gene called BRCA face a 59 percent to 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 15 percent to 65 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer, the study is likely to give doctors a powerful reason to recommend ovary and fallopian tube removal, known as salpingo-oophorectomy.


from The Associated Press

MURRAY HILL, N.J. (AP) -- Bell Labs has formed a panel to study accusations of scientific misconduct, possibly calling into question the validity of some recent impressive experiments.

The five-member panel was formed last week after an outside researcher provided Lucent Technologies with information about the experiments. Bell Labs is the research arm of Murray Hill-based Lucent.

Bill Price, a Lucent spokesman, would not say what the exact accusations were or who had made them.

"We've asked the panel to look into concerns about the validity of data published in five papers," Price told The New York Times for Tuesday's editions.


from The Associated Press

Training in secret, a dozen fighter pilots are getting ready to make history as China's first astronauts.

Two attended Russia's cosmonaut school, but little else is known about them. China's communist government, pursuing a unique, costly propaganda prize and worried about embarrassing setbacks, hasn't announced their names or a launch date.

But with confidence growing after three test launches of empty spacecraft, foreign experts say China's astronauts could carry its gold-starred red flag into space as early as this year.


from The New York Times

A treaty enacted nine years ago to conserve and exploit the diversity of species on earth is seriously impeding biologists' efforts to catalog and comprehend that same natural bounty, many scientists say.

They say the treaty has spawned paralyzing biological bureaucracies built on the widespread belief that any scientist collecting samples — whether for a drug company or a dissertation — is bent on stealing genetic material and making a fortune.

As a result, biologists say, in many tropical regions it is easier to cut a forest than to study it.

"Something that was well intentioned and needed has been taken to an illogical extreme," said Dr. Douglas C. Daly, a curator of Amazonian botany at the New York Botanical Garden, who has worked in Brazil for 20 years in partnerships with Brazilian scientists, but recently had to wait a year and a half for a new research visa.


from The New York Times

Biological diversity is normally associated with pristine tropical rain forests or coral reefs, not rivers laden with heavy metals and so acidic they bear a pH of 2, halfway between vinegar and stomach acid.

But when an international team of biologists took a closer look at the Rio Tinto, just such a river in southwestern Spain, they were startled by what they found: hundreds of species of one-celled algae, fungi, yeast, amoebas and other microbes, some of them apparently unique to that river.

The biologists say their findings may broaden the search for life, or evidence of past life, on other planets and also show that an array of microscopic life can adapt to conditions that scientists have long thought were hostile to all but the hardiest bacteria.


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An information site on the UFO phenomenon by and for professional scientists.


Skeptic - One who practices the method of suspended judgment, engages in rational and dispassionate reasoning as exemplified by the scientific method, shows willingness to consider alternative explanations without prejudice based on prior beliefs, and who seeks out evidence and carefully scrutinizes its validity.

(updated May 3, 2002)

Famed biologist, author Stephen Jay Gould dies at 60


May 20, 2002 Posted: 6:09 PM EDT (2209 GMT)

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- Stephen Jay Gould, a world-renowned scientist who brought evolutionary theory and paleontology to a broad public audience in dozens of wide-ranging books and essays, died Monday of cancer.

He was 60, and died at his home in New York City, according to his assistant, Stephanie Schur.

"Most of us just appreciated that in Steve we had someone who put this very positive public face on paleontology, who was able to reach an audience that most of us would never reach and not nearly so effectively," said Andrew Knoll, a colleague of Gould's at Harvard University for 20 years. "He really was paleontology's public intellectual."

Monday, May 20, 2002

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines – May 20, 2002

from The Times (UK)

TONY BLAIR has promised to break down the "anti- science fashion" in Britain, declaring that the Government will never give way to misguided protesters who stand in the way of medical and economic advance.

The Prime Minister said in an interview with The Times that there should be a more mature attitude to science in Britain. "It is time to speak up for science," he said in advance of a substantial speech on the subject on Thursday.

Mr Blair gave warning that research work would be lost to Britain and Europe and go elsewhere in the world if animal welfare activists and other protesters were allowed to get away with stopping projects that could save lives. He called for an end to the air of suspicion and mistrust that sometimes surrounded the work of scientists and the misplaced fears and ignorance it often generated. Mr Blair said there were huge opportunities in science, for medical progress and for dealing with some of the great environmental and economic challenges.


from The New York Times

ECONOMICS may be the dismal science, but these days the news about chemistry, physics and biology is fairly dismal as well. At the end of April, the National Science Foundation released its biannual report on the state of science and to no one's surprise, public understanding and attitudes have been found wanting.

A bare majority of Americans, for instance, know that it takes the Earth a year to orbit the Sun, according to a survey conducted for the report. More than half think that the dinosaurs and the earliest humans coexisted, and that lasers work with sound waves.

Scientific illiteracy in the United States is not a new problem, of course, and the foundation's analysis contained the usual hand-wringing about the state of science education, particularly in secondary schools. But perhaps the problem goes beyond the classroom, to what happens when school is out.

For many children, particularly boys, free play used to mean fiddling around with a chemistry set in the basement or lighting things on fire in the backyard. These days, with parents' penchant for overscheduling their children, there is less time for such youthful experimentation.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Two Bay Area firms unveiled promising studies of cutting-edge cancer drugs Sunday as the American Society for Clinical Oncology met in Orlando to review the latest developments in the field.

South San Francisco's Genentech provided an encouraging update on a new drug designed to starve kidney tumors by depriving them of the blood that would otherwise fuel their growth.

In a separate report, Foster City's Cell Genesys said an experimental cancer vaccine seemed to double the life expectancy of patients with advanced prostate cancer in one small study.

With cancer drugs now making up the largest category of biotech medicines, the experimental results reported at ASCO have become almost as important for biotech companies as for cancer patients and physicians.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

The history of medicine is filled with tales of bold surgeons replacing human body parts with artificial ones and of even bolder patients living with them.

Artificial hearts are already beating tentatively in a few brave people, and biomedical engineers are constantly improving artificial limbs. Dozens of high-tech projects are under way that draw on the latest computer technology, synthetic materials and miniaturization methods.

But the history of bionic efforts goes back for thousands of years:

The Rig-Veda, a sacred poem of ancient India written some time between 3500 and 1800 B.C., recounts the story of Queen Vishpla, a warrior who lost her leg in battle and was fitted with an iron prosthesis so she could return to violent conflict.


from The Washington Post

For centuries, philosophers have been bedeviled by this question: What makes people aware of themselves, and what gives rise to intention and free will? In other words, what is consciousness?

In the 17th century, the French philosopher Rene Descartes suggested that consciousness was like an "observer" in the head, a higher function, separate from the workings of the physical brain. In the four centuries since, no one has done much better in explaining subjective experience -- your sensation of the color red, or a twinge of pain, or your ability to choose your actions. In recent years, philosophers who study cognition have come to call this "the hard problem."

Neuroscientists -- data-dependent investigators who map brain function, trace neural networks and explore the biochemistry of neurotransmitters -- have traditionally treated the question of consciousness like an unwelcome guest at the dining table. Some have dismissed it as irrelevant to their understanding of the brain, and others have contended that objective analysis can never comprehend a feeling that is entirely subjective.


from The Washington Post

Even before the first bite, mouths were salivating at the prospect of a new oyster. Plump, juicy and sweet, the Asian bivalve has flash and flavor. It makes the Chesapeake Bay's native oyster look tired and dowdy. Not to mention diseased.

But last week, as Virginia seafood processors prepared to take their infatuation with the Asian oyster to the next level by dumping 1 million of the experimental creatures into state waters, a group of more dispassionate scientists stepped in.

Don't rush things, they urged. No one has any idea what could happen if the Asian oyster took to the bay. It could reproduce wildly, elbowing its native rival out of the way and irreversibly altering the bay's natural order.

On Friday, the Virginia Seafood Council backed off its efforts to plant millions of oysters in the bay this summer.


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The Doctor's Plot

by James Gleick


In the world of professional wrestling, fans fall into two categories, known as the Smarts and the Marks. The Marks believe that they are watching spontaneous contests of strength and skill. The Smarts know that they are watching a fascinating, highly plotted, roughly scripted form of dramatic entertainment--a sort of sweaty soap opera. The Smarts and the Marks have a lot to talk about, though their conversation sometimes seems at cross-purposes. They have both developed an enthusiastic appreciation for the phenomenon, but on different levels.

In the world of unidentified flying objects, John E. Mack (or, as his book jacket labels him, "John E. Mack, M.D., the Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard psychiatrist") is a Mark masquerading as a Smart.

Mack believes that little gray aliens have been abducting Americans in large numbers and subjecting them to various forms of unwilling sex. (Yes, that again.) Mack also believes that, for a bunch of cosmic rapists, these aliens are a pretty benign bunch. They're trying to bring us in touch with our spiritual sides, or trying to remind us how important it is to care about the planet, or otherwise trying to help our consciousness evolve.

But you already know this--unless you've missed him these past few weeks on Oprah, in the New York Times Magazine, on 48 Hours, and in supermarket tabloids, talk shows, and news programs across the country.

Alien-abduction mythology has been one of this country's tawdry belief manias since the 1960's. It is a leading case of the antirational, antiscience cults that are flourishing with dismaying vigor in the United States, and with dismayingly little counterbalance from people who ought to know better--the Smarts. UFO's in general, paranormals who bend spoons, parapsychologists who sense spiritual auras, crystal healers, believers in reincarnation, psychic crime-solvers--all of these natural descendants of Tarot-readers and crystal-ball-gazers get uncritical television time and newsprint. It's a dangerous trend. The blurring of distinctions between real knowledge and phony knowledge leaves all of us more vulnerable to faith healers and Holocaust-deniers of all sorts.

Unusual Phenomena Listing


All of these publications are in PDF (Portable Document Format).

Animal/Cattle Mutilation 1/12/98
Majestic 12 1/12/98
Project Blue Book 7/24/97
Roswell 1/12/98
Unidentified Flying Objects 1/12/98

The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

by Douglas Adams

Buy It




Science Academic Content Standards for Ohio

The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions


Science & The Paranormal

Edited by James R. Lewis

The macabre mass suicide by adherents of the Heaven's Gate Cult in 1997 was shocking and difficult to comprehend for most outsiders. Their bizarre mindset, which mixed New Age religion with belief in extraterrestrial visitation, struck many as unique. In fact, as the contributors to this intriguing study show, the belief in alien contact has had religious overtones since the first purported sighting of an unidentified flying object (UFO) in 1947. Moreover, the religious dimensions of the UFO phenomenon may be the key to understanding the widespread appeal of this modern craze.

An expert in new religions, Professor James Lewis has here brought together twenty insightful articles that cover the many variations of UFO-based religions. What the contributors demonstrate is that there are persistent and salient themes underlying the diversity of beliefs centered on the UFO phenomenon. Hearkening back to theosophy, many groups have interpreted UFO sightings and alleged contacts as attempts by alien ambassadors from a more advanced civilization to bring spiritual enlightenment to Earth, where humanity is seen to be floundering in ignorance. The extraterrestrial message is usually channeled through a charismatic human leader, who then mobilizes a group around this New Age "revelation."

The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions

Sunday, May 19, 2002




Richard C. Hoagland
(Principal Investigator, Enterprise Mission)
Michael Bara
(Executive Director, Formal Action Committee on Extraterrestrial Studies).


Conventional models of Mars, based on measurements by initial Mariner unmanned spacecraft, found an arid, apparently ancient environment without current liquid water. This prompted subsequent, highly negative assessments regarding Mars' history, and the difficulty for the origin and/or evolution of higher forms of life. Later, the unmanned Viking missions (as well as the 1997 Pathfinder Lander) seemed to confirm this barren model. Complex, sometimes contradictory geologic theories to explain this desolate Mars environment have been proposed, based on a wide variety of observed surface phenomena and features. A new model that reconciles major puzzling contradictions among past models is now put forth, using new observations from MGS high-resolution images of Mars and a reevaluation of certain Viking era experiments. Small-scale surface features are identified which, it is proposed, are the direct product of wide spread ancient and recent bursts of subsurface liquid water. These water "stains" are shown to cluster (beyond statistical chance) in an unmistakable tidally-determined, bi-modal distribution on the planet: centered near the Tharsis and antipodal Arabia "bulges." A revaluation of Mars ancient history is therefore proposed, suggesting that Mars (well after solar system formation) was captured into synchronous orbital lock with a larger planetary companion ("Planet V"), accounting for the clustering of present day water bursts around the former beds of two bi-modally distributed "Mars ancient oceans" as a direct result. The current Tharsis and Arabia mantle uplifts are shown to be an inevitable additional fossil signature of such former tidal stresses, induced by a close gravitational relationship with Planet V. Other heretofore inexplicable Martian surface features are shown to be consistent with such a simple "tidal model": Valles Marineris (as an eroded ancient tidal bore, formed immediately post-capture); the presence of the extremely flat terrain covering the northern hemisphere (via deposited sediments from the once tidally supported oceans, when released); and the current trench or "moat" around the Tharsis bulge (from relaxation of Tharsis back into the mantle, after tidal lock was broken). The long-mysterious "Line of Dichotomy" is explained as a remnant of a "blast wave" of debris from this sudden severing of the former orbital lock relationship with Planet V, due to either a catastrophic collision or explosion. Chemical signatures of this extraordinary destruction event on Mars are shown to be consistent with the model; including the distribution of olivine preferentially below the line of dichotomy; the presence of primitive mantle and core materials such as iron and sulfur in unusual abundance on Mars surface; and the concentration of proposed "water stains" in areas bereft of olivine. Mars unusual magnetic field "striping" is now shown to be another unique southern hemisphere signature of this destruction event, caused by standing P and S waves reverberating through the planet's crust as a result of the massive simultaneous impacts from Planet V debris. Recently published research showing unprecedented outflow channels from the Tharsis and Arabia bulges are shown to be consistent with the sudden relaxation of the two tidal oceans, as is the sculpting of huge amounts of material by fluvial processes north of the Arabia bulge. Two possible mechanisms for the destruction of Planet V and the breaking of this tidal lock are outlined. Finally, a new timeline for Mars geologic evolution is proposed that is consistent with these observations, placing these events between capture ~500 MYA and the destruction of Planet V at 65 MYA.

Is Reincarnation Biblical?


Today approximately 30 million Americans (one in four) believe in reincarnation. The word "reincarnation" literally means to "come again in the flesh." The process of reincarnation - continual rebirths in human bodies - allegedly continues until the soul has reached a state of perfection and merges back with its source (God or the "Universal Soul").

One's lot in life, according to those who believe in reincarnation, is based on the law of karma. This law says that if bad things happen in one's life, this is an outworking of bad karma. If good things happen in one's life, this is an outworking of good karma.

"Karma" refers to the "debt" a soul accumulates because of good or bad actions committed during one's life (or past lives). If one accumulates good karma by performing good actions, he or she will be reincarnated in a desirable state. If one accumulates bad karma, he or she will be reincarnated in a less desirable state. In Shirley MacLaine's book Out on a Limb we are told, "Reincarnation is like show business. You just keep doing it until you get it right."

Some people twist the Scriptures and say that Jesus Himself taught reincarnation or "cyclical rebirth." In Matthew 11:14, for example, Jesus said, "And if you are willing to accept it, [John the Baptist] is the Elijah who was to come." Likewise, in John 3:3 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

But these passages, rightly interpreted, do not support reincarnation. Matthew 11:14 does not really teach that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah. Luke 1:17, an important cross reference, tells us that the ministry of John the Baptist was carried out "in the spirit and power of Elijah." Moreover, reincarnationists conveniently forget that John the Baptist, when asked if he was Elijah, flatly answered, "No!" (John 1:21).

Regarding Jesus' words about being "born again" in John 3:3, the context clearly shows that Jesus was referring to a spiritual rebirth or regeneration. In fact, the phrase born again carries the idea of "born from above," and can even be translated that way. Jesus clarified His meaning by affirming that "flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (v. 6).

There are other Scriptures that clearly debunk the notion of reincarnation. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment...." Each human being lives once as a mortal on earth, dies once, and then faces judgment. He does not have a second chance by reincarnating into another body. Second Corinthians 5:8 indicates that at death the Christian immediately goes into the presence of the Lord, not into another body. Luke 16:19-31 indicates that unbelievers at death go to a place of suffering, not into another body.

We must also remember that Jesus taught that people decide their eternal destiny in a single lifetime (Matthew 25:46). This is precisely why the apostle Paul emphasized that "now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Further, Jesus taught the concept of resurrection, not reincarnation. In fact, He predicted His own resurrection early in His public ministry (John 2:19). And after Jesus resurrected from the dead, He appeared to some disciples and said, "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). Jesus resurrected in the same body that went into the tomb. His body even retained the scars and wounds in His hands, feet, and side from the crucifixion (John 20:28).

In addition to biblically refuting reincarnation, we must also point to some of the practical problems involved in the theory of reincarnation. For example, we must ask, Why does one get punished (via "bad karma") for something he or she cannot remember having done in a previous life? Moreover, if the purpose of karma is to rid humanity of its selfish desires (as reincarnationists say), then why has there not been a noticeable improvement in human nature after all the millennia of reincarnations on earth?

Finally, if reincarnation and the law of karma are so beneficial on a practical level, as reincarnationists claim, then how do they explain the immense and ever-worsening social and economic problems - including widespread poverty, starvation, disease, and horrible suffering - in India, where reincarnation has been systematically taught throughout its history?



Some thoughts about Reincarnation - an approach into Soul-Evolution on physical plane. How Past and Future are perceived and realized finally by the Soul. Why Karma doesn't simply mean: "If I hurt you now, you will hurt me in next life ..." - but much more a Law of Forgiveness and Love.

We are not human-beings having a spiritual experience,
but we are spiritual-beings having a human experience.
Where we come from, where we go . . . beyond punishment and judgments there is acceptance and unconditional love, from where we separated us. Life never starts, never ends, just its expression does change, which makes us believe we die, or we take birth.

Fostering Fundamentalism


This article was published in The Textbook Letter for March-April 2000. It accompanied a review of Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum, a book in which Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes advanced a scheme for converting America's public schools into religious-indoctrination centers.

William J. Bennetta

In Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum, Warren A. Nord and Charles C. Haynes decry the treatment of Jesus in two history textbooks. One of the texts, Nord and Haynes allege, devotes less space to Jesus than to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the other gives less space to Jesus than to Joseph Stalin.

I haven't been able to check those allegations, because Nord and Haynes haven't identified the two texts. However, I have examined the treatment of Jesus and of early Christianity in four "history" textbooks that were being sold to schools at the time when Taking Religion Seriously was written. The four texts are the 1994 version of Glencoe's World History: The Human Experience, the 1995 version of Glencoe's Human Heritage: A World History, the 1997 version of Prentice Hall World History: Connections to Today and the 1997 version of McDougal Littell's Heath World History: Perspectives on the Past [see note 1, below]. My major findings are these:

Town's schools abandon creationism


Threat of lawsuit prompts school board to change course

April 10, 2002 Posted: 10:55 AM EDT (1455 GMT)

DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- Fearing a lawsuit, a school board in a small Colorado town unanimously voted against teaching creationism in science classes.

The Liberty J-4 School Board in the town of Joes -- which had voted 5-to-0 in favor of teaching creationism at an earlier meeting, threw out the proposal in a new vote Tuesday.

The idea was spearheaded by Douglas Sanford, a Baptist minister who's also a member of the school board. Sanford said he wanted teachers to mention alternative theories such as creationism when explaining the theory of evolution.

Third Annual IDnet Symposium


The third annual symposium on teaching origins science objectively.

In August 1999, the Kansas State School Board fired the educational equivalent of the "shot heard round the world" when it stripped science education of the mandate to teach origins science with a naturalistic bias. In February 2001, a new Board reversed that decision by adopting a naturalistic definition of science that gives Darwinian Evolution an intellectual monopoly in origins science, the study of the origins of life and its diversity. In 2002 the Ohio State Board of Education was asked to follow the Kansas's lead, to indoctrinate students in the Naturalistic World View. What will be the practical and legal consequences of this action? How should we respond when our children ask, "where did life come from?" What should we be teaching our children about a question so fundamental to their lives?

Intelligent Design network, inc. presents Darwin, Design and Democracy III, a symposium exploring the nature of this debate and demonstrating how origins science can and should be taught objectively. This entertaining and educational Event is designed for The Public, Parents, Students, Home Schoolers, Science Teachers and School Administrators!

The symposium features:

For a detailed look at the program click here: Program

For information about the featured speakers click here: Speakers

We're here to set the record straight. We hope you will join us!

Roswell autopsy film on CD


The complete Alien Autopsy Film has been digitized using the first generation Beta cam copy made from the actual 16 mm Alien Autopsy footage.

This is now available to the public on a 2 CD set.

Against Depression, a Sugar Pill Is Hard to Beat

Placebos Improve Mood, Change Brain Chemistry in Majority of Trials of Antidepressants


By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 7, 2002; Page A01

After thousands of studies, hundreds of millions of prescriptions and tens of billions of dollars in sales, two things are certain about pills that treat depression: Antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft work. And so do sugar pills.

A new analysis has found that in the majority of trials conducted by drug companies in recent decades, sugar pills have done as well as -- or better than -- antidepressants. Companies have had to conduct numerous trials to get two that show a positive result, which is the Food and Drug Administration's minimum for approval.

What's more, the sugar pills, or placebos, cause profound changes in the same areas of the brain affected by the medicines, according to research published last week. One researcher has ruefully concluded that a higher percentage of depressed patients get better on placebos today than 20 years ago.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Professor's time travel idea fires up the imagination


By David Abel, Globe Staff, 4/5/2002

Ronald Mallett, a physicist at the University of Connecticut, believes he knows how to build a time machine - an actual device that could send something or someone from the future to the past, or vice versa.

He's not joking.

Unlike other physicists who have pondered the science of time travel, the 57-year-old professor has devised a machine he believes could transport anything from an atom to a person from one time to another.

''I'm not a nut. ... I hope to have a working mockup and start experiments this fall,'' says Mallett, who will detail his ideas about time travel tonight at Boston's Museum of Science. ''I would think I was a crackpot, too, if there weren't other colleagues I knew who were working on it. This isn't Ron Mallett's theory of matter; it's Einstein's theory of relativity. I'm not pulling things out of the known laws of physics.''

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 4/5/2002.

Physics professor confident his time machine will work

From Ananova at:


A physics professor says he is building a time machine that will transport things to the future or the past.

Ronald Mallett says his machine could transport anything from an atom to a person.

The University of Connecticut professor hopes to have a working model and start experiments this autumn.

He told the Boston Globe he's basing his work on Einstein's theory of relativity.

He says the project is serious and added: "I'm not a nut."

He told the paper: "I would think I was a crackpot, too, if there weren't other colleagues I knew who were working on it. This isn't Ron Mallett's theory of matter - it's Einstein's theory of relativity. I'm not pulling things out of the known laws of physics."

The professor and his colleagues plan to build a machine to test whether it's possible to transport a subatomic particle through time using a ring of light.

He hopes the energy from a rotating laser beam may warp the space inside the ring of the light so gravity forces the neutron to rotate sideways. With more energy, he thinks it's possible a second neutron would appear. This second particle would be the first one visiting itself from the future.

He admits sending a human through time may need more energy than scientists know how to harness currently, but he sees it as just ''an engineering problem.''

Prof Mallett's boss, William Stwalley, chairman of the university's physics department, said: "His ideas certainly have merit. I think some of his ideas are very interesting and they would make nice tests of general relativity."

Story filed: 16:02 Friday 5th April 2002

Italian woman paid clairvoyant £20,000 to see if husband was cheating on her

From Ananova at:


An Italian woman paid a clairvoyant £20,000 to find out whether her husband was cheating on her.

The husband, who denies straying, is now divorcing her for ruining him financially.

The woman took out a £15,000 bank loan and used £5,000 savings to pay the clairvoyant.

Police are investigating and are looking for the clairvoyant who has gone missing.

The woman, who has not been named, is a 31-year-old school teacher from Frosinone, central Italy.

She was obsessed with the idea that her husband was seeing another woman, Il Nuovo website reports, and asked the clairvoyant to find out the truth.

Gianfranco Barrella, the couple's lawyer, said the husband found out when he was informed that his wife had asked the bank for a loan.

"She has ruined us financially, but in reality she's been tricked by the clairvoyant, who has taken the money and fled," the husband said.

"But I never cheated on her".

Geek horoscopes

http://www.bbspot.com/News/2002/04/horoscopes20020404.html Scorpio
Oct 24 - Nov 21

This horoscope has performed an illegal operation an must be closed.

Velikovsky and the day the sun stood still

From: Dave Palmer

The modern Uranometria is published by Willman-Bell, and is available at most any astronomy outlet.


Comparisons between "normal" and "reversed" sky maps:


Impact crater characteristics question current planetary structure


Craters on planets present a new intriguing mystery. Geological imprints left from medium to large impacts are at odds with our current understanding of inner planetary structure.

All terrestrial (rocky) planets within the Solar System bear the scars of past celestial impacts. Craters of all sizes pinpoint locations where meteorite and asteroid debris impacted with unimaginable force. None of the planets or moons escaped the era of the 'Great Bombardment'. Falling material originates from the remains of the galactic cloud which condensed to form the planetary bodies of the Solar System. Impacts were generally larger and more frequent in the past, an indication of the gradual diminishing of potential impact material left in space.

Floods on Mars - What caused them?

Mars Flood Photo Gallery:

Mars Floods Global Map:

Dinosaur Extinction links:

Expanding Earth Links:

Hollow Earth Links:

Best Book on the Shroud, December 1, 2000

Inquest on the Shroud of Turin : Latest Scientific Findings

Reviewer: Robert from Houston,Tx

Joe Nickell does an outstanding job of research into the Shroud's providence and possible methods of creation. It is quite clearly the best book on the subject, as it dispences with gullible and wild speculation and sticks to the facts of its history and the science behind the image. The book was written orginally well before the carbon dating conclusively showed it to be exactly what had been predicted beforehand: a mid 14th century piece of linen. It is truly amazing that such books have to be written in the early 21st century to dispel what sensible adult minds should have done a long time ago. Highly recommended.

Friday, May 17, 2002

God re-floods Middle East


JERUSALEM—In what theological and meteorological authorities are calling "a wrathful display of Old Testament proportions," the Lord Almighty re-flooded the Middle East Tuesday, making good on last week's threat to wipe the region clean if there was not an immediate halt to the bloodshed between Arabs and Jews.

The Lord made the decision to go ahead with His second Great Flood after last-ditch U.S.-Saudi peace initiatives were rejected Monday night.

"The Lord thy God has warned you and warned you, but you have, in your hatred and selfishness, chosen to turn away from Him," read a press statement from God, delivered by seraphim and cherubim acting as His earthly agents. "Prepare now to face His wrath and be drowned beneath the cleansing waters of His righteous rage. Children of Israel and Palestine, you who would not repent your sinful ways and live together as God's children, prepare to face your doom under the unstoppable deluge of the Lord's retribution."

As of press time, a torrential rain continues to fall on Israel and the West Bank, with the downpour expected to continue for another 39 days and 39 nights. Thus far, flood waters have risen more than 200 feet, drowning most of the humans and animals in the vicinity. The few remaining survivors, most of whom cling to pieces of driftwood, have made desperate pleas for mercy, but their cries have fallen on deaf ears in Heaven, with the Lord refusing to stem the raging waters.

Mystery of Dead Sea Scroll unravels


By Claudia Joseph
31 March 2002

It is a mystery that has baffled religious scholars for 50 years. Now the secret of the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, may finally be unravelled.

Robert Feather, a member of the Institute of Metallurgists, will claim in a television documentary tonight that he has cracked the secret code of the Copper Scroll

Mr Feather rejects current thinking that the copper document was written by the Essenes monastic sect 2,000 years ago. A member of the Jewish Historical Society, and the Egypt Exploration Society, Mr Feather believes the engraved scroll, which lists treasures buried in the Holy Land, is written in Egyptian not in Hebrew.

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 – May 17, 2002

from The New York Times

The University of Missouri has received a patent that some lawyers say could cover human cloning, potentially violating a longstanding taboo against the patenting of humans.

The patent covers a way of turning unfertilized eggs into embryos, and the production of cloned mammals using that technique. But unlike some other patents on animal cloning, this one does not specifically exclude human from the definition of mammals; indeed, it specifically mentions the use of human eggs.

Those opposed to cloning and to patenting living things say the patent is a further sign that human life is being turned into a commodity.

"It is horrendous that we would define all of human life as biological machines that can be cloned, manufactured and patented," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the International Center for Technology Assessment, a Washington group that has long opposed patenting of living things and also wants to ban all human cloning.


from The New York Times

The age of dinosaurs, which ended with the cataclysmic bang of a meteor impact 65 million years ago, may also have begun with one.

Researchers report today in the journal Science the first direct, though tentative, geological evidence of a meteor impact 200 million years ago, coinciding with a mass extinction that eliminated half of the major groups of life and opened the evolutionary door for what was then a relatively small group of animals: dinosaurs.

"There is a geochemical signature of something important happening, probably an asteroid impact, just before the time in which familiar dinosaur-dominated communities appear," said the lead author of the article, Dr. Paul E. Olsen, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A new iceberg nearly as large as Chesapeake Bay has broken away from Antarctica.

The National Ice Center reported Wednesday that the berg, named C-19, had split off and was afloat next to Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf.

C-19 measures 124 miles long and 19.5 miles wide, or 2,428 square miles. Chesapeake Bay is 2,747 square miles.

The iceberg is named C-19 because it's the 19th new berg reported in that section of Antarctica since records were first kept in 1976.


from The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — Astronomers at the University of Hawaii have discovered 11 more moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing the number orbiting the solar system's largest planet to 39.

The discovery by the team led by astronomer David Jewitt and graduate student Scott Sheppard was announced Thursday by the International Astronomical Union. The group, which first identified the moons in December, discovered 11 other moons orbiting Jupiter in January 2001.

``It's pretty exciting to find these,'' Sheppard said. ``When you're actually up there observing, it's very time consuming, very rigorous.''


The New Outer Satellites of Jupiter
Click on the link below to view movie images of Jupiter's satellites and to find out more about their orbital and physical data.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Worn-out satellites need to be rocketed into a deep space junkyard to preserve the key orbit used for worldwide television communications, a researcher says.

Writing in the journal Science, Richard Crowther, a British expert on orbiting space debris, said global communications could face a serious problem if spacecraft operators don't clean up after themselves in geosynchronous orbit, the 22,300-mile-high orbit used by most communications satellites.

Without a dedicated effort to eject abandoned spacecraft into higher orbits, said Crowther, ``crowding will occur and collisions will be inevitable.''


from The Christian Science Monitor

Ronald Mallett has wanted to travel in time ever since, as a boy, he first read "The Time Machine," by H. G. Wells. The science-fiction novel suggested to him the possibility of returning to the past to save his father, who died at 33, when young Ronald was only 10.

Now Dr. Mallett, a physicist at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, believes he has found a way to make time travel possible – on a circulating beam of light.

"I was devastated," Mallett says of the loss of his father. But he did not wallow in his grief – instead he used it to shape his life. His childhood fantasies fueled a distinguished career in physics.

Mallett happened upon the studies of Einstein and realized that he would have to "learn a lot more physics and a lot more math" before he would be able to understand the possibilities of time travel. He studied physics on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and eventually earned a doctorate in physics from Pennsylvania State University in 1973.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Nearly 5 million people worldwide can see better because of Flash Gordon, a Thanksgiving turkey and a boy's amusement at frying bugs with a magnifying glass.

Those elements all star in a happenstance tale about how three scientists created LASIK eye surgery, an accomplishment that landed them in this year's class of inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

The three were among 16 unsung heroes of everyday technology -- including the seat belt, aspirin and the catalytic converter -- who were honored Thursday at Hewlett-Packard, the hall's corporate sponsor.


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

Sigma Xi Homepage

Media Resource Service

American Scientist magazine

For feedback on In the News,

God's voice mail

Most of us have now learned to live with voice mail as
a necessary part of our daily lives. But have you ever
wondered what it would be like if God decided to install
voice mail? Imagine praying and hearing the following:

Thank you for calling Heaven.
For English, Press 1.
For Spanish, press 2.
For all other languages, press 0 and get a life.

Please select one of the following options:
Press 1 for Requests.
Press 2 for Yom Kippur.
Press 3 for Thanksgiving or 4 for Christmas.
Press 5 for Complaints.
Press 6 for all other inquiries.

I am sorry. All of our angels and saints are currently
busy assisting other sinners. However, your prayer is
important to us, and will be answered in the order it
was received. Please stay on the line.
Estimated wait time is 32,587 years.

If you would like to speak to:
God, press 1.
Jesus, press 2.
Moses, press 3.
Holy Spirit, press 4.
Rajeesh Bagwan, press 5.
Jimmy Hoffa, press 6.
David Koresh, press 7.

If you would like to hear King David sing a Psalm
while on hold, press 8.

If you would like to reset the universe to the
beginning and start all over again, press 9.

To find a loved one that has been assigned to Heaven,
press star 7 then enter his or her social security
number followed by the pound sign. If you receive
a negative response, please hang up and try area code 666.

For reservations at Heaven, please call
1-800-K-A-D-I-S-H or enter J-O-H-N, followed by the
numbers 3-1-6. For answers to nagging questions about
dinosaurs, apes, the age of the earth, life on other
planets, and where Noah's Ark is, please wait until
you arrive.

Our computers show that you have already prayed today.
Please hang-up and try again tomorrow.
The office is now closed for the weekend to observe
a religious holiday.

Please pray again on Monday after 9:00am. If you are
calling after hours and need emergency assistance,
please contact your local rabbi, pastor, or spiritual healer.

For issues related to the real world, phone
The North Texas Skeptics hotline at 214-335-9248.

And thank you for calling God. At Heaven we
always know you have a choice.

Spiritual Beliefs and Fluorite


For those who follow the Wicca, New Age or believe in the Spirit World, Crystals, Minerals, Rocks, Semi-Precious Stones and metals can have powers for Astral Travel, Aura Cleansing, Channeling, Cosmic Awareness, Crystal Healing, ESP, Meditation, Psychic Communication, Psychic Energy and Transcendental Meditation. They also believe a crystal can have crystal magic that gives it the ability to connect to spirits, spirit guides, spiritual energy and help with channeling spirits and increase cosmic awareness.

As a spiritual stone, according to crystal healing practitioners, Fluorite excels at calming the spirit and the mind, thereby opening up the individual to the power of the spirit world. In this calm state, crystal healers believe Fluorite creates an atmosphere conducive to inner knowledge and exploration that prepares the mind for advanced meditative states, wherein one can further expand into the spiritual realm. In this meditative state, the mind is open to the universal intelligence, which can bring prophetic dreams, knowledge of past lives, inter-dimensional communication and spiritual energy.

In the world of the spiritualists, Fluorite grounds, balances and focuses energy and absorbs and alters negative energy. It also softens the energy aura for the use of other stones. Further uses by healers include activating universal energies, resolving Karmic issues, healing holes in auras, nourishing the body's energy and stabilizing chaotic energy. To charge its energy, place it on a windowsill so it can absorb the energy of the cosmos.

VooDoo Herb and River Cleansing Bath


This is one of Papa Bones favorite bathes for removing all negativity from your body and spiritual soul. Its highly recommended to always take a cleansing bath before and after doing any VooDoo rituals, or just to keep the shield off you that blocks positive energy flow to you. When you are working with any type of energy, whether for you or someone else you can absorb the energy and problems that you are working with.

For Example

If you are doing a VooDoo ritual to help a friend with her or his love relationship, you can absorb her or his problems and energy. It is very important to cleanse one self both before and after performing a ritual.

Dinosaurs may also have been 'born' by asteroid

From Ananova at


There is new evidence that a comet hitting the Earth may have led to the rise of the dinosaurs.

Researchers say the impact wiped out most of their competitors allowing them the chance to flourish and later dominate Earth.

US scientists looking at rocks from the time dinosaurs arose have found traces of a material commonly found in space debris.

They say the finding is ironic because a similar impact wiped out the dinosaurs 135 million years later.

The iridium dust was found using a new technique developed by scientists in Austria.

Professor Dennis Kent, of Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, analysed footprints, bones and plant spores from sites throughout eastern North America.

He said: "Our research adds to the speculation that there was a comet or asteroid impact about 200 million years ago, followed relatively quickly by the rising dominance of dinosaur populations of the Jurassic period. Dinosaurs went on to dominate for the next 135 million years."

Professor Kent believes the effects of the first impact killed off or reduced many competitive species and cleared the way for dinosaurs to adapt and flourish.

Story filed: 19:03 Thursday 16th May 2002

Contacting the North Texas Skeptics
The North Texas Skeptics
P. O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
214-335-9248 Skeptics Hotline (current information)

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