NTS LogoSkeptical News for 5 June 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Wednesday, June 05, 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 – June 5, 2002

from The Washington Post

President Bush appeared to distance himself yesterday from a report by his administration that says human activities are mostly to blame for recent trends in global warming, which many scientists predict will seriously disrupt the environment.

The report, prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency and submitted last week to the United Nations, for the first time put the administration on record as saying that the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels is the main cause of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Until now, Bush administration officials have insisted there was too much uncertainty in climate change research to accurately assess blame.


more from The New York Times

...Critics across the political spectrum said that Mr. Bush was trying to appear more moderate to environmentalists while signaling to conservatives and industry that he would not promote the views contained in the report.

Mr. Bush's spokesman emphasized that the report carried numerous caveats about the uncertainty that still exists about the science of climate change.

Ari Fleischer, the spokesman, obviously anticipating a question about the report at the daily White House briefing, said: "There is `considerable uncertainty' — that's in this recent report — relating to the science of climate change. This report submitted to the United Nations also recognizes that any `definitive prediction of potential outcomes is not yet feasible' and that `one of the weakest links in our knowledge is the connection between global and regional predictions of climate change.' "


from The New York Times

TOKYO, June 4 — Japan ratified an international accord on limiting emissions of heat-trapping gasses today, ending more than six months of internal debate, and said it would lobby the United States and other large polluters to do the same.

Japan's ratification of the agreement, despite the opposition of many major industries, was an important step forward for the accord, known as the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

"In order to ensure the effectiveness of measures against global warming, it is essential that all countries make efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in a statement.

Japan is the fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, which is produced by the burning of fossil fuels and is believed to be the most important heat- trapping gas and the main cause of global warming. The leading polluters are the United States, the European Union and Russia.


from The Associated Press

CHICAGO - One of the world's leading medical journals has put itself and its competitors under the microscope with research showing that published studies are sometimes misleading and frequently fail to mention weaknesses.

Some problems can be traced to biases and conflicts of interest among peer reviewers, who are outside scientists tapped by journal editors to help decide whether a research paper should be published, according to several articles in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Other problems originate in news releases some journals prepare to call attention to what they believe are newsworthy studies. The releases do not routinely mention study limitations or industry funding and may exaggerate the importance of findings, according to one JAMA study.


from The Washington Post

Steven Wise leans to the lectern. "I don't see a difference between a chimpanzee," he states unequivocally, "and my 4 1/2-year-old son."

At Politics and Prose bookstore this warm Friday evening last month, it's a coffeehouse-activist audience of about 40 that's versed in animal rights rhetoric. They came to hear Wise make his controversial case for extending legal rights to some animals, the argument he lays out in his new book, "Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights."

Pallid, wearing a dark suit and a loosened tie, Wise looks Establishment. He is not a tree hugger, he is a lawyer. He's a professional at drawing hard lines. Now he is the latest luminary of an animal rights movement better known for starlets posing naked to protest furs than for lawyers arguing science. Some think the case he's taking nationwide may become one of the groundbreaking civil rights battles of the next generation.


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Articles of Note

Barry Karr SkeptInq@aol.com

Jesus of Siberia
by Ian Traynor
The Guardian [UK]


"Four thousand feet up a mountain deep in the Siberian taiga, the middle-aged man appears in a velvet crimson robe, long brown hair framing a beatific smile. He sits down in a log cabin perched on the brow of the hill. It is a room with a stunning view. The snowy Sayan mountains sparkle in the distance. The silver and pink of the birch forests shimmer in the clear sunlight. Down to the right, the pure blue water of Lake Tiberkul mesmerises. Behind the cabin, for much further than the eye can see - a thousand kilometres - the Siberian wilderness stretches, bereft of human habitation."

Preacher has faith in his pitch, but FBI doesn't
Houston Chronicle


"For years, no one paid much attention to the aging, silver-blue trailer house on the hilltop just outside of town, the one with the rust-pocked lavender Cadillac with a peeling vinyl top parked in front."

Prophet revives dead man
by Elize Smith
City Press [South Africa]


"Nigerian prophet T B Joshua laid his body partially over that of a man who had been declared clinically dead more than half-an-hour before and ordered: "In the name of Jesus, arise.""

Back From Outer Space
By Matthew Nisbet
The American Prospect


"Last Sunday's series finale of FOX's The X-Files appears to mark the end of a two-decade media infatuation with all things extraterrestrial, from abductions and UFO crashes to government cover-ups. There's no doubt that this obsession helped promote a mass following for The X-Files series, and widespread public interest in UFO claims. According to a recent survey by the National Science Board, some 43 percent of respondents indicated that they watched The X-Files at least occasionally. In the same survey, roughly 30 percent of respondents professed a belief that alien spacecraft from another planet had visited Earth."

Weird science need not be overwhelming
by Liz Cox
Spokane Spokesman-Review


"Of all the sayings that scientists have come up with through the ages to explain things, my favorite is, "When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.""

Psychic mediums spread message of life by communicating with the dead
By Gina Carbone
Portsmouth Herald


"It's a beautiful day outside, but for more than 300 people packed into the Frank Jones Center what's happening inside, deep inside - unheard and unseen - is far more interesting."

The New Yorker


"Late one afternoon in the spring of 1998, a police detective named Shirley McKie stood by the sea on the southern coast of Scotland and thought about ending her life. A promising young officer, the thirty-five-year-old McKie had become an outcast among her colleagues in the tiny hamlet of Strathclyde. A year earlier, she had been assigned to a murder case in which an old woman was stabbed through the right eye with a pair of sewing scissors. Within hours of the killing, a team of forensic specialists had begun working their way through the victim's house. Along with blood, hair, and fibres, the detectives found some unexpected evidence: one of the prints lifted from the room where the murder took place apparently matched the left thumb of Detective McKie."

Scientologists slam 'French witch-hunt'
Agence France-Presse


"The Paris branch of the US-based Church of Scientology on Monday denounced France's anti-sect legislation as "French McCarthyism", publishing a brochure saying it was "how lives are destroyed.""

Teaching Alternative To Evolution Backed
By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post


"Two House Republicans are citing landmark education reform legislation in pressing for the adoption of a school science curriculum in their home state of Ohio that includes the teaching of an alternative to evolution."

Police fear ritual murder has spread to Europe
by Herve Clerc
Agence France-Presse


"Globalisation and the massive population movements that come with it may have led to the macabre arrival in Europe of the African ritual murder."

Weather Patterns and Contrails
Here & Now


"When you look up in the sky and see a jet high above, often you'll see a white stream trailing the plane. It's not skywriting, it's a contrail: the jet engine exhaust condensing in the icy atmosphere."

Some cancer clusters could be more fiction than fact
Houston Chronicle


"Cancer clusters. Two words that can cause fear in a neighborhood."

Work-at-home scams attracting more victims
By Anne Michaud


"Work from home β€" mail order, Internet. $8,000 a month working 20 hours a week. No more financial doubts."

Gunslinger science
Seattle Weekly


"BEHIND ALL THE condoling voices last week mourning the death of Steven Jay Gould, you could sense a certain relief. Gould was a maverick, never content unless embroiled in a bitter quarrel, usually with fellow scientists. Most of his popular-science writing, originally appearing as monthly essays in the magazine Natural History , was devoted to illustrating the wayward history of life on Earth in line with mainstream Darwinian evolutionary theory. But it was his heretical notions about how evolution works in detail that generated the most noise and heat in professional circles."

Weird science
Denver Westword


"The death of Dr. Steven Mostow , an infectious-diseases specialist and associate dean at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, certainly didn't go unnoticed in Denver. The 63-year-old professor, known as Dr. Flu, died on March 24 when the twin-engine plane he was piloting crashed near Centennial Airport in Douglas County. Mostow's passengers -- prominent Denver businessman Kent Rickenbaugh, his wife, Caroline, and their son, Bart -- also died in the crash, and the tragedy was covered extensively by local news outlets. Services for Mostow were held on the health sciences center campus, while a funeral for the Rickenbaughs was attended by around 1,500 people."

Paranormal? Or Parakeet? The gerbils get verbal on 'The Pet Psychic'
by Noel Holston


"Much as I admire "Marty," Paddy Chayefsky's sweetly humane "golden age" TV-play about a Bronx lug who finds love, I'm more inclined with the passing years to believe that the late dramatist's most remarkable achievement was accurately predicting his favored medium's sideshow future. In his caustic script for the 1976 movie "Network," Chayefsky foresaw the likes of Jerry Springer and "Fear Factor" when the height of mindlessness on TV was merely Charlie's bouncy-wouncy angels. Not in his most cynical imaginings, however, did Chayefsky envision anything quite like "The Pet Psychic," which begins a 13-week run tonight at 8 on Animal Planet."

Psychic wants reward for missing man
By Shelly Whitehead
Kentucky Post


"A Ludlow woman who says her psychic powers helped searchers find the body of an Alabama man on the Covington riverfront April 10 says she plans to file suit today in an attempt to claim the $10,000 reward offered by the family."

Reward sought for psychic help
By Jennifer Edwards
Cincinnati Enquirer


"A woman who claims her psychic powers led searchers to the body of an Alabama man on the riverbank here last month filed a lawsuit Thursday in Kenton County Circuit Court against the man's family to claim the $10,000 reward they posted."

Rash theory: It was all in their minds
Cape Cod Times


"A few months ago, students were roaming the halls at Nathaniel Wixon Middle School scratching, afflicted with a red, bumpy rash."

A restless soul
Sunday Times [South Africa]


"Is Graham Hancock mad? The question goes through my head as the controversial Scottish author picks somewhat disdainfully at his cheesecake and announces that he is turning his back on the subject that has made him rich and successful."

Hysteria Hysteria
New York Times


"Last fall, something peculiar began to happen at more than two dozen elementary and middle schools scattered across the country. Suddenly, groups of children started breaking out with itchy red rashes that seemed to fade away when the children went home -- and to pop up again when they returned to school. Frustratingly for the federal, state and county health officials who were working to explain this ailment, it did not conform to any known patterns of viral or bacterial illness."

Elvis alive? Only on Fox
Fort Worth Star Telegram


"We now interrupt the daily Fort Worth civic upheaval to bring you a breaking news bulletin:"

Tuesday, June 04, 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 – June 4, 2002

from The New York Times

BALTIMORE — One is the world of cold dark matter; the other is the world of warm wet matter. One is majestic, terrible in its bright furies of exploding stars and galaxies, abstract and far away. The other is squirmy and slithery, often gross, and as close as your fingernails.

But without astronomy to provide the stage, in the form of galaxies, suns, planets, comets, sheets of cosmic radiation and that dark stuff that makes up most of the universe, there would be no place for biology, for life, to strut its stuff.

The pursuit of that ancient heavenly connection has lately moved near center stage at NASA, which assembled some 100 astronomers, physicists, chemists, geologists and even a few biologists at the Space Telescope Science Institute on the Johns Hopkins University campus recently to talk about extraterrestrial life.


from The New York Times

Scientists investigating an abandoned quarry in Canada have found what appear to be the oldest known footprints of terrestrial creatures — footlong critters resembling modern bugs that crawled from the sea onto land and left tracks in sandy dunes.

The sandstone is 480 million to 500 million years old. Scientists believe the discovery region — just north of Lake Ontario outside Kingston, Ontario — was a sandy beach on a primordial sea.

The find, the scientists say, pushes back the colonization of land by about 40 million years and puts it in or near the late Cambrian period, when the seas were starting to boil with large creatures. The tracks were saved from oblivion when quarry crews shunned the sandstone as unsuitable for commercial use.


from Reuters

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Reuters) - Cosmic dynamos in black holes could be the most efficient power plants in the universe, spawning magnetic energy fields so big they push past galaxy borders and into intergalactic space, scientists said on Monday.

These monster magnetic fields have been known to astronomers for decades, and the link between them and black holes has also been theorized, but now researchers have created a picture of the energy fields and measured just how huge they are.

Astronomers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory did this by interpreting radio waves emitted by such fields, revealing an image that looks like a pair of red wings with white circles at their tips.


from The Washington Post

Recent research has cast critical new light on estrogen replacement therapy, which over the past few decades has been prescribed to one in three menopausal women seeking relief from hot flashes, vaginal dryness and bone loss. Given the treatment's purported extra benefits, ranging from heart health to improved mood, the decision to take estrogen was often easy.

But that common practice is now being called into question. First came a study casting doubt on the ability of estrogen to prevent and treat heart disease. Other research questioned whether estrogen helps protect against Alzheimer's disease. As continuing research clarifies estrogen's corresponding risks, women and their doctors are looking with new urgency at the question of how -- and whether -- to treat symptoms of menopause.

"Women come into my office these days, and look me straight in the eye, and say, 'Are you for or against estrogen?' " says Wolf Utian, executive director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and a consultant to the Cleveland Clinic. "It's like saying, 'Are you a Republican or a Democrat?' I'm not for or against estrogen replacement therapy. It's just one of the tools that I have at my disposal."


from The Washington Post

Intuitively, we know something in us responds to nature, even as most of us live our workaday lives further and further removed from flora and fauna.

Why else are adolescents with depression, substance abuse, attention deficit disorder and other behavioral and psychological problems referred to more than three dozen "wilderness therapy" programs around the country?

Why, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, did authorities put "comfort" dogs on the boat ferrying victims' families and rescue workers to the World Trade Center site?

And why did the Bank of America create a rooftop garden in 1994 for its San Francisco employees, who used to see green only on their computer screen savers?

Now a growing body of research suggests that this human affinity to nature - - plants, animals and landscapes -- is something hard-wired into us. Scientists call it "biophilia."


from The Boston Globe

It is his first memory, fired in that crucible of disease and despair that is so rarely the province of those still learning their ABCs.

''I can remember the socks I was wearing,'' Kyle Rattray said as he recalled that day when the first traces of an illness that would frame his life as a child and as a young adult emerged. ''They were gray with blue stripes.''

He can remember, too, the vision of blood sluicing in the toilet bowl, the trips to see doctors in big hospitals in big cities, a world away for the 3- year-old from Sunnyside, Wash. Today, 16 years later, the diagnosis makes more sense than it did back then: Wilms' tumor, cancer of the kidneys that strikes young children.

Rattray lived to tell his story - and to hunt for a cure for the disease that struck him and that besets 400 to 500 children a year in the United States, accounting for 6 percent of all pediatric cancer cases. He is a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, invited into one of the research sanctums usually reserved for those with advanced degrees or, at least, a few years as undergraduates.


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The Speed-of-Light-Limit Argument


The Leading Theory-Based Rejectionist Argument (which we all know) The speed of light is a universal upper limit. Distances between stars range from 4.3 light years to Alpha Centauri to a hundred thousand light years across the Milky Way galaxy to millions of light years between galaxies. These facts are incompatible with tens of thousands of apparent visitations

Comment on the Argument I agree completely that if the only way to get from star system A to star system B is to travel at sublight speed, this rules out frequent visitation. You might expect a visit once every ten thousand years (to cite a number I believe Carl Sagan once pulled out of his hat) even if the galaxy is teeming with civilizations. The questions is, are there conceivable alternatives to slogging through space? Maybe.

New entry for SKEPTIC Bibliography (Miller)

From: Taner Edis edis1@llnl.gov


Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution

Kenneth R. Miller http://www.harpercollins.com/catalog/book_xml.asp?isbn=0060175931
2000, Cliff Street Books; 352p.
creationism, creationism:philosophy, religion:defense
One of the more scientifically articulate attempts to reconcile evolution and religion written by a professor of biology. Most books of this type are written by liberal theologians. This one is by a religious scientist. Aside from defending religion and describing why evolution is correct, Miller also devotes some pages to attacking creationists, including those of the "Intelligent Design" variety.

[ Reviewed by Jonathan Harvey, StarPerson@rocketmail.com ]

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

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer

Man uses silver dagger to 'kill' vampire mum

From Ananova at


A man in Transylvania plunged a silver dagger into the heart of his dead mother because he thought she was a vampire.

Nicolae Mihut stabbed his own mum Anghelina through the heart the day before her funeral, according to reports from Romania.

It's alleged a local priest in the village in Transylvania, original home of Count Dracula, told him his dead mother showed the signs of being a vampire.

Nicoleae had earlier seen a cat jump over her coffin - a sign showing the transformation of the dead into the undead in Romanian folklore.

He also saw that his mother's lips and cheeks were tinged blood red and fearing she was still alive, called the local priest. He told the grieving son she was a vampire - and Nicolae followed local custom to ensure his mother didn't become zombie-like vampire.

Nicolae told Romania's Romnet press agency: "We know from our ancestors that when a soul doesn't leave the body of a dead person somebody has to stab that person with a silver knife in the chest or the stomach."

He added: "When the knife pierced her heart we all heard a very long sigh and the body became rigid and very pale, unlike before.

"It was terrifying but we had to do it. We were told that if we didn't release her soul she would have come back to haunt us or to even kill us."

Monday, June 03, 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 – June 3, 2002

from The New York Times

In a stark shift for the Bush administration, the United States has sent a climate report to the United Nations detailing specific and far-reaching effects that it says global warming will inflict on the American environment.

In the report, the administration for the first time mostly blames human actions for recent global warming. It says the main culprit is the burning of fossil fuels that send heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

But while the report says the United States will be substantially changed in the next few decades — "very likely" seeing the disruption of snow-fed water supplies, more stifling heat waves and the permanent disappearance of Rocky Mountain meadows and coastal marshes, for example — it does not propose any major shift in the administration's policy on greenhouse gases.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A former research assistant at UC Davis is scheduled to appear in a Yolo County courtroom Tuesday on charges that he stole key ingredients in an experiment aimed at curing a rare form of blindness.

The attorney representing former UC Davis researcher Bin Han did not return calls for comment about the case, which is being investigated as a possible instance of economic espionage.

Han, 40, a naturalized citizen of Chinese descent, was arrested May 18 after co-workers in the lab of UC Davis scientists Rivkah Isseroff and Ivan Schwab noticed that 20 vials of an experimental protein were missing.

UC Davis spokesman Paul Pfotenhauer said lab workers notified campus police, who obtained a search warrant and found what they said was the missing protein in Han's refrigerator. They also found a ticket for a flight to China due to depart the next day, he said. Now investigators are trying to determine whether Han acted alone or had encouragement from abroad.


from The Associated Press

ATLANTA - Later this month, Army virologist Peter Jahrling will put on a blue spacesuit, enter one of the country's highest security laboratories and begin injecting monkeys with deadly smallpox.

The goal is to create a way to study if new medications could battle smallpox and if new tests could detect it more rapidly, should terrorists ever resurrect the world's scariest virus.

In one of the biggest steps yet toward modernizing defenses against smallpox, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month dedicates one of its two maximum-containment laboratories to smallpox-only research like Jahrling's indefinitely.

It is a huge step, diminishing the CDC's capability to investigate outbreaks of highly lethal diseases such as the Ebola virus on the chance that a disease long eradicated might return - and thus a step the agency took somewhat reluctantly.


from The New York Times

NEWARK — What exactly is that black goo in water sample No. 242807? And how did it come to be in the Passaic River on a recent Friday afternoon under the Pulaski Skyway just as Kelly L. Rankin and her team happened by in the Phoenix, their 25-foot research boat?

Dr. Rankin, an assistant professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, is the first to admit she does not have the faintest idea.


It is audacious to even think that she could know how any one corner of the sprawling, sloshing, wind-tossed system of bays, inlets and rivers that constitute the New York Harbor estuary really works. But that is the goal.


from The Boston Globe

Boston-area researchers created miniature cow kidneys and heart tissue from cloned cow embryos, then implanted them in the original animals without complication, according to a new study that scientists said demonstrates the enormous medical potential of cloning.

The implanted tissue, genetically identical to the cows that received it, did not provoke any signs of rejection from the cows' immune systems, proving that cloning could help eliminate the most troublesome obstacle in transplant medicine, the researchers said.

''The study is proof of principle that therapeutic cloning can be used to create tissues without any threat of rejection,'' said Dr. Anthony Atala, tissue engineering director at Children's Hospital and an author of the paper, which appeared in yesterday's Internet edition of Nature Biotechnology.


from The Boston Globe

These should be glorious days for an unfortunate creature known as the OncoMouse.

In the mid-1980s, Harvard researchers learned to insert cancer-causing genes, known as oncogenes, into a mouse, making the animal vulnerable to human cancers. Today, with researchers able to create smart drugs that target cancer's genetic weak spots, the OncoMouse has suddenly become an ideal test subject for new treatments.

But leading cancer researchers say E.I. DuPont, which has an exclusive deal with Harvard to license the mouse, is impeding the war on cancer by charging high fees to companies, imposing unusually strict conditions on university scientists and pushing an overly broad interpretation of which lab mice the patents cover.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

A new government report on plummeting rockfish populations is expected to result in a ban on most forms of bottom fishing on the West Coast's continental shelf, devastating major segments of the commercial and sport fishing industries.

The analysis by the Groundfish Management Team, a group of federal and state biologists that advises the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, found that key rockfish species -- known generically as rock cod or red snapper in the marketplace -- have declined in recent years to catastrophically low levels.

Rebuilding rockfish populations will take years or even decades of rigorous protection, the biologists say.

In conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the council sets fishing policies in U.S. waters, which extend 200 miles offshore. Authorities say the report will force drastic fishing closures.


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Jesuit journal raps US media's church coverage

By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, 5/31/2002


A Vatican-approved journal is lashing out at American news media, accusing them of anti-Catholic bias in their coverage of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis and contending that news organizations here are driven by ''morbid and scandalistic curiosity.''

The broadside in this week's edition of La Civilta Cattolica is the second recent attack by the prestigious Jesuit journal, which in its previous edition published an article by a Vatican lawyer who suggested that bishops should not turn over to prosecutors the names of abusive priests.

Scholars said the attacks, combined with similar statements by other Vatican officials in recent months, reflect a growing concern in Rome that the clergy sexual-abuse crisis is being inflamed by anti-Catholicism.

Plug your snake oil into the wall: The EMPower Modulator


Every now and then, a product comes along that does something really amazing. Something which up until now was impossible. Something that nobody believes until they see it.

But usually, products like this are con jobs.

This story is about a product in the latter category.

Harmonic Energy Products is an outfit based in Queensland, Australia, which manufactures two basic lines of products - the EMPower Modulator and the No Risk Disk. More on the Disk later; the EMPower Modulator is the big news.

The EMPower Modulator is a device that looks vaguely like an aquamarine Toblerone with a strong Star Trek influence, with a cable coming out of each end. There's a three pin electrical plug on one cable and a three pin socket on the other. It costs $295.

The interesting things start happening when you plug it in. Once the EMPower Modulator is plugged into a power point, an appliance plugged into the socket and the chain turned on, all kinds of beneficial effects apparently occur, all over the building where the thing's plugged in - you only need one Modulator to cover a house, or office.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Rachel, Nevada

The Closest Town to Area 51


Rachel, Nevada takes us to a small town 110 miles from Las Vegas, site of a formerly secret US Air Force installation known as Area 51. The base develops new planes such as the stealth bomber. The secrecy shrouding Area 51 has given rise to suspicions over the years, earning the town of Rachel (primarily a collection of trailer homes) the title "UFO Capital of the World," and Nevada State Highway 375 "Alien Highway". The film focuses on the everyday people of Rachel, once left alone to service the military, now the center of tourism and a publicity boom. There are enough stories and photos to persuade even the most die-hard skeptics that something extraterrestrial may be going on.

Bigfoot at 50

Evaluating a Half-Century of Bigfoot Evidence


The question of Bigfoot's existence comes down to the claim that "Where there's smoke there's fire." The evidence suggests that there are enough sources of error that there does not have to be a hidden creature lurking amid the unsubstantiated cases.

Benjamin Radford

Though sightings of the North American Bigfoot date back to the 1830s (Bord 1982), interest in Bigfoot grew rapidly during the second half of the twentieth century. This was spurred on by many magazine articles of the time, most seminally a December 1959 True magazine article describing the discovery of large, mysterious footprints the year before in Bluff Creek, California.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Oxygenics Shower Head


The Oxygenics Showerhead will enrich your shower with pure oxygen. Start your day feeling refreshed and energized.

Some of the world's most elegant hotels and resort spas, from the Sheraton in San Francisco to the Sonesta Beach Hotel in Curacao to the Renaissance Wailea in Maui, have pleased guests for years with this ergonomically designed shower head. Using the same principle as a jet engine, this showerhead continually sucks in fresh air and infuses it into the water creating a powerful Oxygenating spray of revitalizing oxygen enriched water. The moment you turn it on you realize this is like no other showerhead you've ever experienced. It increases the water's oxygen content up to ten times, helping to purify your shower water, and leaving your skin and hair cleaner than ever before.

That old black magic has them in its spell...


Police bust crime rings
By Saqr Al-Amry, Arab News Staff

JEDDAH, 1 June — Makkah police have busted a number of crime rings involved in running abortion clinics, black magic, gambling, forgery and other financial crimes.

Informed sources told Arab News that four expatriates who were running "abortion clinics" at their homes were arrested.

The sources said that at least 40 people, mostly expatriates, were rounded up while gambling. "Another group of expatriates were held with 39 kilograms of narcotic drugs in their possession," they added.

As many as 24 others were picked up for practicing black magic.

A number of people were arrested for forging official documents to obtain telephone connections.

Dr. Safi Mojalled, director of environment health in Makkah, told Arab News that about 175 Africans were arrested for distributing erotic herbal medicines, which caused serious complications in people who used them.

Friday, May 31, 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 31, 2002

from The Washington Post

Responding to the threat of anthrax and other forms of chemical and biological terrorism, the Food and Drug Administration adopted new rules yesterday that will speed the approval of drugs that could protect people from attacks.

In a major change from past practice, the agency said that in some unusual circumstances it would allow companies to base their new drug applications on animal testing alone when assessing whether a drug is effective. Previously, a drug's effectiveness had to be tested on humans before the FDA would give its approval and allow it onto the market.

"The terrorist attacks of last fall underscored the acute need for this new regulation," said Lester M. Crawford, the FDA's deputy commissioner. "Today's action will help make certain essential new pharmaceutical products available much sooner -- those products that because of the very nature of what they are designed to treat cannot be safely or ethically tested for effectiveness in humans."


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 30 — A vital instrument on a new billion-dollar satellite designed to resolve questions about the changing climate is malfunctioning, NASA officials said today.

The satellite, called Aqua, is the centerpiece of NASA's Earth Observing System, a suite of satellites and projects intended to improve forecasting and gather data on the human role in global warming.

The malfunctioning instrument, a radiometer with a five-foot dish, records with resolution far better than previous space-based instruments patterns that trace how water moves from the oceans and soil to the atmosphere and back again. That cycle is a major influence on global weather patterns, and because water vapor is the dominant natural heat-trapping gas, also plays a role in long-term climate change.


from The New York Times

For once, Washington secured a bargain.

The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act set up a market-based system in hopes of reducing pollution from power plants more efficiently than regulation alone would, but no one thought the cuts would come cheap. The government estimated that eliminating emission of 10 million tons of sulfur dioxide — which causes acid rain — would cost companies up to $15 billion a year. Yet left to their own devices, the generators cut emissions for a fraction of that amount.

"The Congress and Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the acid rain program back in 1990 would be 5 to 10 times more expensive than it has been," said S. William Becker, executive director of an organization of state and local air pollution officials, who called the program one of the most effective pieces of environmental legislation ever put in place.

Now the White House wants to expand that approach, replacing existing air quality controls and applying "emissions trading" to other pollutants.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Plant-eating dinosaurs of different species may have herded together, to escape meat-eaters nearby, according to an analysis of 163 million-year-old dino footprints on a muddy coastal plain in England.

In a study appearing Friday in the journal Science, British researchers say that 40 tracks of dinosaur footprints hint at a life and death struggle between prey and hunter in the days when dinosaurs ruled the world.

The tracks suggest that large and lumbering plant eaters of different types - some as long as 90 feet and weighing 10 tons or more - walked together across an open tidal plain, perhaps fleeing for their lives. These animals were all sauropods, but of different types.


from The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Despite a worsening forecast, NASA was aiming for a Friday evening launch of space shuttle Endeavour after thunderstorm clouds forced a one-day delay.

Forecasters expect stormy weather to continue into the weekend.

The delay in delivering a new crew to the international space station means yet another day in orbit - and a record-breaking stay - for Americans Daniel Bursch and Carl Walz. They have been living aboard the orbiting outpost since December along with their Russian commander, Yuri Onufrienko.

Their mission, already at the 176-day mark, will reach at least 189 days by the time they return to Earth. The U.S. space endurance record stands at 188 days; Shannon Lucid posted that aboard Russia's Mir space station in 1996.


from The Washington Post

Spiders and their intricate webs fascinated humans long before the Hollywood blockbuster "Spider-Man." For centuries, people envied the arachnid's ability to ensnare fast-flying insects with its delicate silk threads. Flexible and lightweight, the best spider silk is five times as strong as steel.

Despite relentless efforts, scientists couldn't figure out how to produce spider silk in large quantities. Unlike silkworms, fiercely territorial spiders can't be farmed because they will eat each other before satisfying demand for their valuable proteins.

Now researchers believe they have found the perfect spider-silk factory where few would look: the udders of dairy goats. On farms in the Montreal suburbs and in Upstate New York, researchers are breeding hundreds of goats genetically engineered to produce milk rich with spider-silk proteins that can be spun into fiber.


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Republicans Seek to Loosen Darwin's Grip in Schools


Published on Thursday, May 30, 2002 in the Toronto Globe & Mail
by John Ibbitson

WASHINGTON -- Critics say it's creationism in the classroom by another name. Supporters say it's now the law.

Conservative Republicans in the U.S. Congress are pressing the Ohio Board of Education, which is in the midst of devising a new curriculum, to introduce religious alternatives to evolution in the classroom, saying such theories are mandated by a recently passed federal education act.

This would surprise many of the senators and representatives who voted for the act, which does not contain a word about the book of Genesis. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching "creation science" violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

But the new act, which was passed with broad support from both Republicans and Democrats, contains an addendum known as a conference report, stipulating that "where topics are taught that may generate controversy -- such as biological evolution -- the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist."

To supporters of a divinely inspired humanity, this mandates that schools teach such concepts as "intelligent design theory." The theory, which has been endorsed by a small number of scientists, argues that complex organisms such as a human eye could never have evolved though Darwinian natural selection, and that a higher power must guide evolutionary process.

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines – May 30, 2002

from The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (May 29, 2002 7:19 p.m. EDT) - The international space station is about to get its first real research scientist.

But with only three people on board and loads of maintenance work, astronaut-biochemist Peggy Whitson will not have all that much time to devote to experiments. She will squeeze in as much science as she can during her 4-month stay in orbit.

"Every spare minute that I get, that I can, I will be doing investigations," she promised.

Liftoff aboard space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled for Thursday evening, though stormy weather could keep the spacecraft grounded until next week. The shuttle will drop off Whitson and her two Russian crewmates and bring home the three men who have been living up there since December.


from The Christian Science Monitor

ASHLAND, ORE. – Advocates of political change often say of those they're trying to influence: "If they won't see the light, then make them feel the heat."

The light – and the heat – of public exposure has been a key reason why the amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment continues to decline. According to new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figures, such pollution dropped 8 percent in 2000 (the most recent data).

This continues a steady decrease totaling 48 percent since Congress ordered some 23,500 companies to report on more than 667 chemicals in the wake of major deadly toxic releases in the mid-1980s, including the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak that killed some 3,800 people in Bhopal, India.

This "Emergency Planning & Community Right-To-Know" law allows anybody to find out quickly and easily who the polluters are in any city, town, or neighborhood. In a matter of moments, a person can type a zip code into one of several websites, and up pops the amounts and types of chemical releases and – more to the point – which companies or government agencies are responsible for them.


from The Christian Science Monitor

..."If this water is readily accessible, this would change everything about the way we would design the first human missions to Mars and colonize Mars," says James Longuski, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue University.

Simple solar-powered techniques, he continues, can break water down into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen can be used for rocket propellant, as can methane, which could be produced by combining the hydrogen with carbon from Mars' atmosphere. The water also could be used for drinking, while its oxygen could be extracted for breathing.

As a result, he explains, large quantities of accessible water on Mars could drastically cut the cost and time required to mount a mission to the red planet by reducing the amount of material, including hydrogen, that would have to be launched from Earth. "Now scientists are telling us that the hydrogen is already there waiting for us!" Mr. Longuski says.


from The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Every four years, more than just athletes, sponsors and spectators show up at the Olympic Games. Scientists also make the trip.

Their missions vary from identifying the strongest tennis serve to finding effective ways to avoid injury.

The results of many such studies during the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, were released Wednesday at the American College of Sports Medicine's 49th annual meeting and the International Olympic Committee's sixth World Congress on Sport Sciences.

The research is sponsored by Pfizer Inc., which puts up $250,000 every two years to attract research proposals. The money is divided among the top nine proposals selected by the Pfizer/IOC Medical Commission.


from Newsday

As New York braces for its fourth summer of fighting West Nile virus, the city's new battle plan includes increased larviciding and steeper fines for properties with standing water where mosquitoes breed.

At a news conference with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, city Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden released details of the mosquito control plan saying the city would keep pesticide spraying to a minimum.

The West Nile virus, which is transmitted to people by mosquitoes, was first detected in New York City in 1999 and led to 44 hospitalizations and four deaths. In the 2000 outbreak, the city health department reported 19 hospitalized cases and one death. Last year, as monitoring and control efforts intensified, there were seven hospitalizations and no deaths.


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Thursday, May 30, 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 29, 2002

More on the "Science" report from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A huge sea of ice lies just under the surface of Mars, ready to be tapped by future explorers as a source of fuel and maybe even drinking water, scientists report.

It might also harbor life, and certainly explains where some of the water went when Mars went from being a warm and wet place to the cold, dry desert it is now, the researchers report in this week's issue of the journal Science.

"It turns out it is really quite a bit more ice than I think most people ever really expected," William Boynton of the University of Arizona, who led one of the studies being published this week, said in a telephone interview.


from The Washington Post

...While scientists debate the causes of climate change and politicians debate whether to ratify the Kyoto accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that many scientists believe cause global warming, the Inuit who live in Canada's Far North say they are watching their world melt before their eyes.

For years, the wisdom of Inuit hunters and elders about climate in the Arctic, known as "traditional knowledge," was largely disregarded. Sometimes it was called merely anecdotal and unreliable by scientists who traveled here with their recording devices, measuring sticks and theories about the North. Some of them viewed the Inuit as ignorant about a land in which they and their ancestors have lived for thousands of years.

But in the last few years, scientists have begun paying more attention to what the Inuit are documenting, and even incorporating it into their research about changes in the climate, the prevailing weather conditions of a given area. In 1997, the Canadian government mandated that government agencies incorporate traditional knowledge into land-use decisions and consult aboriginal people about the environment.

"Traditional knowledge is very useful," said George Hobson, a geophysicist and retired director of the Polar Continental Shelf Project, a Canadian government agency that provided logistical support to government and university scientists researching the Arctic.


from The Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- The extinct Tasmanian tiger may one day roar back to life, Australian scientists said Tuesday, announcing they have taken some steps to clone the animal by replicating DNA from preserved specimens.

"What was once nothing more than an impossible dream has just taken another giant step closer to becoming a biological reality," said Mike Archer, director of the Australian Museum, which is backing the project.

However, reproductive biologists were highly skeptical of plans to clone the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine. The wolf-sized, tiger-striped, carnivorous marsupial native to Australia that was hunted to extinction by farmers who blamed it for attacking sheep. The last known specimen died in captivity in 1936.


from The New York Times

On a ski slope in Utah in March, Paul Grant and Rick Greene made a bet about superconductors.

Dr. Grant and Dr. Greene, who had been longtime colleagues at the I.B.M. Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., had debated all day a sensational scientific report that molecules of carbon shaped like soccer balls had been turned into superconductors — materials that carry electricity with virtually no resistance — at surprisingly warm temperatures.

Dr. Grant doubts the findings. Dr. Greene said he thought that they they would be verified.

Last week, Dr. Grant sent an e-mail message reminding Dr. Greene of the wager, because the lead researcher of the experiment was Dr. J. Hendrik Schφn, the Bell Labs scientist who is now the center of a scientific misconduct investigation. Nearly identical graphs appear in several of Dr. Schφn's scientific papers, even though the graphs represent different data from different experiments. Bell Labs, part of Lucent Technologies, has convened an independent panel to investigate.


from The New York Times

The small, remote-controlled submarine was skimming above a newly laid oil pipeline, checking it for kinks and breaks.

On a ship 2,650 feet above, the submarine's operators suddenly saw something big and dark come into view on the video monitors.

To their surprise, it was a ship, sitting on the sand, deep in the Gulf of Mexico. By unlikely chance, ExxonMobil had placed its new pipeline right across the midsection of an old, sunken wooden ship.

ExxonMobil promptly reported its discovery in February 2001 to the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency responsible for historical artifacts discovered on the outer part of the continental shelf.


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Litmus test proposed for 'pseudo-science'


John Scott

'Pseudo-science' can be distinguished from legitimate science by asking a series of questions about its goals and how it is practised, rather than whether it is a credible explanation of the natural world, according to an expert working group set up by the International Council for Science (ICSU).

Making this distinction, says the group, should also help to clarify how traditional knowledge, once it has been distinguished from 'pseudo-science', can strengthen modern science and contribute to a wide variety of sustainable development practices in areas that range from medicine to environmental management.

"There are many different ways of knowing and learning," says Jane Lubchenco, the incoming president of ICSU. "Traditional knowledge represents a different tradition from modern science. The challenge is to define it in a way that recognises its value and does justice to its tradition without giving credibility to pseudo-science such as creationism."

Martian history revealed by Odyssey maps


Posted: May 29, 2002

There are tantalizing indications emerging from the thousands of infrared images taken so far by NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft that Mars experienced a series of environmental changes during active geological periods in its history.

"We knew from Mars Global Surveyor that Mars was layered, but these data from Odyssey are the first direct evidence that the physical properties of the layers are different. It's evidence that the environment changed over time as these layers were laid down," said Dr. Philip Christensen, principal investigator for Odyssey's camera system and professor at Arizona State University, Tempe. "The history of Mars is staring us in the face in these different layers, and we're still trying to figure it all out."

"I expect that the primitive geologic maps of Mars that we have constructed so far will all be redrawn based on Odyssey's new information," said Dr. R. Stephen Saunders, Odyssey's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

A mosaic of daytime infrared images of the layered Terra Meridiani region shows a complex geology with craters and eroded surfaces, exposing at least four distinct layers of rock. Though the image does not include the infrared "colors" of the landscape (showing surface mineral composition), it does map the temperatures of the features, with surprising results.

"With these temperature data, Odyssey has already lived up to our expectations, but Mars, in fact, has itself exceeded our expectations," said Christensen. "It would have been entirely possible for the rocks of Mars to have been very similar and thus give us all the same temperatures, but Mars has a more interesting story to tell and we have the data to tell it."

Christensen is presenting his findings today at the spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C.

"When we look at these distinct layers we see that the temperatures are very different, indicating that there are significant differences in the physical properties of the rock layers," Christensen said.

The differences in surface temperature could be caused by the fundamental differences in either the size of the rock fragments in the layer, the mineral composition or the density of the layers.

Odyssey's imaging team is working on fully processing the infrared images, a complex and difficult task. When finished, the data will help them test some important theories about what causes the layers on Mars by examining the mineral composition of the specific layers. Plausible explanations include a history of volcanic activity depositing layers of lava and volcanic ash; a history of different processes that created the layers through wind and water; or a history of climate change that varied the nature of the materials deposited.

Christensen theorizes that the layers are caused not by surface effects, but by changes in the planet's subsurface water table. The presence or absence of water and the minerals carried in it can significantly affect how sediment particles are cemented together. With no clear evidence for surface water, precipitation or runoff, Christensen believes that changes in levels of underground water percolating through layers of buried sediments could account for differences in rock composition between layers. More complete infrared data will help to confirm or disprove this and many other hypotheses concerning Mars' geology.

"Looking at craters, we're seeing new distributions of rock on the surface that are helping us understand events in martian geology, and we are getting our first glimpses of 'color' infrared images, which will help us precisely determine the composition of the Mars' surface. This is just the beginning," Christensen said.

A Sudden Host of Questions on Bell Labs Breakthroughs

May 28, 2002

On a ski slope in Utah in March, Paul Grant and Rick Greene made a bet - about superconductors.

Dr. Grant and Dr. Greene, who had been longtime colleagues at the I.B.M. Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., had debated all day a sensational scientific report that molecules of carbon shaped like soccer balls had been turned into superconductors - materials that carry electricity with virtually no resistance - at surprisingly warm temperatures.

Dr. Grant doubts the findings. Dr. Greene said he thought that they they would be verified.

Last week, Dr. Grant sent an e-mail message reminding Dr. Greene of the wager, because the lead researcher of the experiment was Dr. J. Hendrik Schφn, the Bell Labs scientist who is now the center of a scientific misconduct investigation. Nearly identical graphs appear in several of Dr. Schφn's scientific papers, even though the graphs represent different data from different experiments. Bell Labs, part of Lucent Technologies, has convened an independent panel to investigate. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/28/science/28BELL.html?ex=1023728655&ei=1&en=ccda9b1cde8a6494

Wednesday, May 29, 2002


Using instruments on NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft, surprised scientists have found enormous quantities of buried treasure lying just under the surface of Mars-enough water ice to fill Lake Michigan twice over. And that may just be the tip of the iceberg.

"This is really amazing. This is the best direct evidence we have of subsurface water ice on Mars. We were hopeful that we could find evidence of ice, but what we have found is much more ice than we ever expected," said William Boynton, principal investigator for Odyssey's gamma ray spectrometer suite at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Scientists used Odyssey's gamma ray spectrometer instrument suite to detect hydrogen, which indicated the presence of water ice in the upper meter (three feet) of soil in a large region surrounding the planet's south pole. "It may be better to characterize this layer as dirty ice rather than as dirt containing ice," added Boynton. The detection of hydrogen is based both on the intensity of gamma rays emitted by hydrogen, and by the intensity of neutrons that are affected by hydrogen. The spacecraft's high-energy neutron detector and the neutron spectrometer observed the neutron intensity.

The amount of hydrogen detected indicates 20 to 50 percent ice by mass in the lower layer. Because rock has a greater density than ice, this amount is more than 50 percent water ice by volume. This means that if one heated a full bucket of this ice-rich polar soil it would result in more than half a bucket of water.

The gamma ray spectrometer suite is unique in that it senses the composition below the surface to a depth as great as one meter. By combining the different type of data from the instrument, the team has concluded the hydrogen is not distributed uniformly over the upper meter but is much more concentrated in a lower layer beneath the top-most surface.

The team also found that the hydrogen-rich regions are located in areas that are known to be very cold and where ice should be stable. This relationship between high hydrogen content with regions of predicted ice stability led the team to conclude that the hydrogen is, in fact, in the form of ice. The ice-rich layer is about 60 centimeters (two feet) beneath the surface at 60 degrees south latitude, and gets to within about 30 centimeters (one foot) of the surface at 75 degrees south latitude.

"Mars has surprised us again. The early results from the gamma ray spectrometer team are better than we ever expected," said R. Stephen Saunders, Odyssey's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. "In a few months, as we get into Martian summer in the northern hemisphere, it will be exciting to see what lies beneath the cover of carbon dioxide dry-ice as it disappears."

"The signature of buried hydrogen seen in the south polar area is also seen in the north, but not in the areas close to the pole. This is because the seasonal carbon dioxide (dry ice) frost covers the polar areas in winter. As northern spring approaches, the latest neutron data indicate that the frost is receding, revealing hydrogen-rich soil below," said William Feldman, principal investigator for the neutron spectrometer at Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico.

"We have suspected for some time that Mars once had large amounts of water near the surface. The big questions we are trying to answer are, 'where did all that water go?' and 'what are the implications for life?' Measuring and mapping the icy soils in the polar regions of Mars as the Odyssey team has done is an important piece of this puzzle, but we need to continue searching, perhaps much deeper underground, for what happened to the rest of the water we think Mars once had," said Jim Garvin, Mars Program Scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington.

Another new result from the neutron data is that large areas of Mars at low to middle latitudes contain slightly enhanced amounts of hydrogen, equivalent to several percent water by mass. Interpretation of this finding is ongoing, but the team's preliminary hypothesis is that this relatively small amount of hydrogen is more likely to be chemically bound to the minerals in the soil, than to be in the form of water ice.

JPL manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. Investigators at Arizona State University, Tempe, the University of Arizona, Tucson, and NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, operate the science instruments. The gamma-ray spectrometer was provided by the University of Arizona in collaboration with the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, which provided the high-energy neutron detector, and the Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico, which provided the neutron spectrometer. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Additional information about the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the gamma-ray spectrometer is available at /is available on the Internet at: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/ and http://grs.lpl.arizona.edu.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Is life the rule or the exception? The answer may be in the interstellar clouds


28-May-2002 Is life a highly improbable event, or is it rather the inevitable consequence of a rich chemical soup available everywhere in the cosmos? Scientists have recently found new evidence that amino acids, the 'building-blocks' of life, can form not only in comets and asteroids, but also in the interstellar space. This result is consistent with (although of course does not prove) the theory that the main ingredients for life came from outer space, and therefore that chemical processes leading to life are likely to have occurred elsewhere. This reinforces the interest in an already 'hot' research field, astrochemistry. ESA's forthcoming missions Rosetta and Herschel will provide a wealth of new information for this topic.

Amino acids are the 'bricks' of the proteins, and proteins are a type of compound present in all living organisms. Amino acids have been found in meteorites that have landed on Earth, but never in space. In meteorites amino acids are generally thought to have been produced soon after the formation of the Solar System, by the action of aqueous fluids on comets and asteroids - objects whose fragments became today's meteorites. However, new results published recently in Nature by two independent groups show evidence that amino acids can also form in space.

Rainmakers' state funding evaporates


By Tom Lindley
Capitol Bureau

The state's controversial $1 million weather modification program has been grounded, meaning any rain that falls in Oklahoma will have to be made the old-fashioned way.

The statewide cloud seeding and hail suppression program recently ran out of money and won't be bailed out as it has been in the past by the state's Rainy Day Fund.

In March, Gov. Frank Keating vetoed funding for cloud seeding along with more than 50 other items he termed nonessential.

Jurassic Park techniques may bring back thylacine


By Deborah Smith, Science Writer
May 29 2002

Scientists claim to have made a major breakthrough in their controversial quest to clone the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine.

An Australian Museum team said yesterday it had succeeded in making multiple copies of four of the extinct creature's genes.

Museum director, Mike Archer, said the finding gave him hope the first cloned thylacine pup could be born within a decade. It showed that old DNA extracted from preserved specimens of the animal was undamaged and could be copied in large quantities.

"An impossible dream has come a giant step closer to biological reality," Professor Archer said.

A&M-CC prof searches for the sounds of Sasquatch


Scientist to appear on Discovery Channel show

By Tricia Schwennesen Caller-Times
May 28, 2002

Dr. Robert Benson believes in evidence.

The Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi physics professor and director of the university's Center for Bioacoustics won't allow himself to believe in anything unless there is strong evidence.

Benson did not believe in Big Foot, which is why the world-renowned bioacoustician was tapped by a Whitewolf Entertainment producer to analyze possible audio evidence for a documentary co-produced by the Discovery Channel called, "Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science."

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 28, 2002

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Amid concerns about bioterrorism, researchers who are trying to understand how smallpox targets humans have managed to make a protein that helps the disease overcome the human immune system.

By studying this protein, the researchers at the University of Pennsylvania hope to learn how smallpox defeats the immune system.

"The best defense against any virus is to understand how it functions so that we can disable it," Dr. Ariella M. Rosengard, the research team's leader, said in a telephone interview.

The university team modified the weaker vaccinia virus to help create the protein that makes its cousin, variola, so dangerous.

The work is reported in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


from The Washington Post

Twenty-six years ago, the United States government got word that a deadly virus nobody had seen for years – and which experts thought was gone forever – was possibly circulating again.

There wasn't any proof it was back, just a few worrisome hints. However, the microbe had killed millions of people earlier in the century, so even a small amount of evidence had to be taken seriously. So, at great effort and expense, the government launched a plan to vaccinate the American population against the virus.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. But it turned into one of the biggest public health debacles in memory.

The disease was swine flu, whose appearance in 1976 was believed to be a reincarnation of the infection that killed tens of millions of people in 1918 and 1919. Today, the U.S. government is engaged in similar deliberations about smallpox, a disease officially eradicated in 1980 but whose virus some experts believe may be possessed by terrorists.


from The Washington Post

Bad news for those who can't stomach broccoli: New research suggests that broccoli is especially good for the stomach.

A compound found in broccoli and broccoli sprouts appears to be more effective than modern antibiotics against the bacteria that cause peptic ulcers. Moreover, tests in mice suggest the compound offers formidable protection against stomach cancer -- the second most common form of cancer worldwide.

If upcoming human tests confirm the findings, a daily snack of tangy broccoli sprouts could become a medically indicated staple -- especially in Asia, where the ulcer bacteria and stomach cancer occur in epidemic proportions.

The new work, led by scientists at Johns Hopkins University, is the latest in a 10-year series of studies on the cancer-fighting potential of broccoli.


Compiled by The Boston Globe

Aftershave Explained

Aftershave stings the face and whiskey burns the throat, and now scientists know why. John B. Davis of Glaxo-SmithKline in Harlow, England, and Pierangelo Geppetti of the University of Ferrara in Italy have shown that alcohol lowers the trigger threshold of some pain-sensing nerves, and in fact can even simulate the effect of heat. It turns out that alcohol can trigger the release of the same chemicals released by vanilloid receptor 1, or VR1, the one that responds to hot peppers as well as to actual heat. Alcohol also lowers the threshold for the VR1 receptors to go off, from about 42 Celsius to 34 Celsius, which is actually below body temperature. In addition to knowing why alcohol is sometimes called firewater, you can look forward to new painkillers that build on a better understanding of VR1.

ref: Science News, May 11, 2002, Nature Neuroscience (to appear).



from The New York Times

BENEATH THE SVARTISEN GLACIER, Norway — To find the Aladdin's Cave of modern glaciology, follow these simple directions:

Fly to Bodo, in the Arctic Circle. Drive three hours south to an empty jetty and wait for the boatman. Cross the fjord, walk a mile on a gravel road toward the glacier, which looks like a huge cracked dragon's tongue of cornflower-blue ice.

Make a brutal climb 1,800 feet up the mountain, sometimes sinking up to your waist in wet snow, sometimes climbing hand over hand on ropes stretched down slopes polished slick by the glacier. (You can use a helicopter in good weather, but that is expensive.)

Enter a hole in the mountain resembling a sewer pipe. Don a hard hat, miner's light and rubber boots, and walk a mile as the tunnel slowly widens until it is big enough for a truck and is lighted by dim electric bulbs. Pass through a vast cement wall that in summer holds back a subterranean torrent. Find and climb the 79 wood steps that lead up through the tunnel roof. You are now at the bottom of the glacier. There are 700 feet of ice above you, and it all seems to be dripping down your neck.


from The New York Times

Scientists this week are publishing a wealth of detail about the discovery in March of what could be the frozen remains of once vast oceans on Mars.

The finding, by NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft, lends support to theories that early in its history Mars was wet and warm — and possibly amenable to life. It could also simplify a future manned mission to Mars, supplying a source of drinking water and fuel for a return.

Scientists who study the present-day surface of Mars, arid and frigid, have long wondered, where did all the water go?

The answer appears to be down, and not very far. In the polar regions of Mars, the surface is covered by a foot or two of dry soil. Below that, pores in the soil and rocky debris appear to be encrusted with ice. The concentration of ice is surprisingly high — one-fifth to one-third by weight, and up to 60 percent by volume, the scientists report. In the equatorial regions, there was little water near the surface.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Is evolution like a well-tuned car that purrs down the road at a steady pace? Or is it more like an aging, rattling jalopy that often lurches forward?

The aging jalopy is a handy metaphor for the evolutionary theory popularized by Stephen Jay Gould, who died of cancer last week at age 60. Thanks to Gould's numerous popular writings, his theory known as "punctuated equilibrium" has been at the center of a major scientific debate since the early 1970s.

Gould and his colleague Niles Eldredge argued that the evolution of life isn't a slow, steady, gradual process, as conventional scientific wisdom held. Rather, they said, evolution is a multi-million-year saga usually characterized by brief, sudden shifts separated by long periods of little or no change.

In recent years, some experts claim, the weight of evidence has increasingly favored the Eldredge-Gould hypothesis. Others aren't so sure.


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,

Monday, May 27, 2002

Mystery from the Depths of Time


It's baaack!

by Pierre Stromberg and Paul Heinrich
[Last Update: May 31, 2000]


Creationists have often been criticized for failing to present original research and evidence that would overthrow our contemporary view of human origins in favor of another. However, this is not an entirely fair accusation. The creation "science" field known as OOPARTS, or "Out Of Place ARTifactS" is a lively area of study with numerous examples. This paper will examine the most popular and least understood specimen, the Coso Artifact.

The Discovery

The story of the Coso Artifact has been embellished over the years, but nearly all accounts of the actual discovery are basically unchanged.

The Amazing Kreskin



The Original Mastermind Backs His Claim With $50,000

NEW YORK, NY - In one of his boldest predictions ever, world-renowned mentalist The Amazing Kreskin is forecasting the largest UFO sighting in recorded history to take place in Nevada during the months of May or June. So sure of this occurrence, Kreskin is backing his prediction with $50,000 of his own money that will be donated to a not yet named charity should he be wrong.

While UFO sightings have increased 42% in Canada in the past year, Kreskin predicts that this one will take place in the Nevada desert and will be seen by hundreds of people. His bold forecast is the most recent prediction by a man who has successfully foretold the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election, the Academy Awards and the beginning of a war on terrorism.

"I am absolutely convinced that in May or June of this year the largest sighting to date will take place in the Nevada desert, probably the largest sighting in the past century, " said Kreskin. "I am so convinced of the accuracy of my prediction that I am putting up $50,000 to back my claim."

New Bibliography Entry (ID)

From: Taner Edis edis@truman.edu


Intelligent Design Creationism And Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives
  Robert T. Pennock, ed.
  2001, MIT Press; xx+805p., illustrations
  creationism, creationism:defense, creationism:philosophy, religion:defense, religion:philosophy, science:methodology, science:philosophy

Reprints many papers important for understanding the theological and philosophical aspects of the debate over "Intelligent Design." The collection includes material from both ID proponents such as Alvin Plantinga and Phillip Johnson and opponents such as Robert Pennock and Philip Kitcher. Strangely, though, the occasional straight science pieces such as that contributed by Matthew Brauer and Daniel Brumbaugh are the most satisfying. Perhaps the clearest success of the ID movement is in portraying the issue one for primarily philosophical debate -- in this arena, neither side seems all that persuasive. Some of the points defenders of evolution in this collection make, especially demands for "methodological naturalism," seem just as bad as ID whoppers. It is a good thing there are excellent scientific reasons to uphold evolution, so we can get somewhere apart from the usual stalemate resulting whenever philosophers and theologians lock horns together.

Please visit the rest of the bibliography at


Consider contributing an entry or two yourself...

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC Bibliographer

Sunday, May 26, 2002

URGENT MESSAGE for 23th of May 2002

[Captured 26 May 2002, Ed.]


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


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

Stephen Jay Gould, 1942-2002

Skeptical inquirers deeply regret the passing of Stephen Jay Gould. He played a unique role in the public square, for he was an eloquent exponent of the scientific outlook. His prolific writings and brilliant lectures at Harvard and universities far and wide on evolutionary paleontology and biology and his forthright criticisms of creationism cast him as a powerful defender of science. At a time when pseudoscientific and fringe claims continue to grow, there are all too few scientists willing to enter into the fray.

Gould's death leaves a void; and it dramatizes anew how important it is to have popularizers of science. This role was played by Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, CSICOP Fellows of the past. We need to encourage today new and daring defenders of science, gadflies in the name of critical inquiry; interpreters able to extend the public's understanding of science and its methods. All too few scientists and scholars today are willing to venture beyond their specialties in order to communicate with a wider audience.

Gould offered his own often controversial theories on how evolution occurred--such as his punctuated equilibrium hypothesis--and he suffered criticisms as a result. A veteran polemicist, he stood his ground in many debates with scientific colleagues. Throughout, he demonstrated that science grows by constant questioning, and peer review.

Stephen Jay Gould was a Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and a recipient of its highest "In Praise of Reason" award. He was a frequent speaker at our conferences. He will be sorely missed.

Paul Kurtz
Chairman, CSICOP


Ohio State University


(This story embargoed until 2 PM ET, Thursday, May 23, 2002 to coincide with publication in the journal Science.)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Two teams of researchers from Ohio State University reported today that they had identified the 22nd genetically encoded amino acid, a discovery that is the biological equivalent of physicists finding a new fundamental particle or chemists discovering a new element.

Two papers describing the discovery appear in the current issue of the journal Science. Prior to this, scientists had believed that there were only 21 natural amino acids -- the key building blocks of proteins.

For 30 years after the discovery of the structure of DNA and the unraveling of the genetic code, scientists believed that there were only 20 natural amino acids. Then in 1986, researchers broke that numerical barrier announcing that the 21st had been discovered.

Finding a 22nd suggests that even more of these basic biological building blocks may be found using modern genome sequencing techniques.

The discovery grew out of some very basic biochemistry examining how a particular type of microbe - methanogens - can convert methyl-containing compounds into methane. While researchers have long understood the biochemical mechanisms for how acetate and carbon dioxide are converted to methane, they didn't understand how a common class of compounds - the methylamines - are transformed into this gas.

One research group, led by Joseph A. Krzycki, an associate professor of microbiology, had been working for several years with a particular strain of microbe, Methanosarcina barkeri. This organism, a member of the recently identified domain Archaea, is able to convert monomethylamine, dimethylamine and trimethylamine into this greenhouse gas.

Krzycki's research group had isolated specific proteins related to the process in 1995 and, two years later, they had isolated and sequenced one of the genes responsible. Then in 1998, they published a paper showing that the gene had a component called an in-frame amber codon that behaved unusually.

Codons are three-letter "words" identifying the bases DNA uses to specify particular amino acids as building blocks of proteins. Normally, codons signal the start of a protein, its end or a particular amino acid used to construct it. Surprisingly, the codon Krzycki's team identified should have signaled a stop to protein building but it did not.

"Joe and his colleagues found this happening in genes important for all three of the methylamine compounds - something that wasn't supposed to happen," explained Michael Chan, an associate professor of biochemistry and chemistry at Ohio State. Chan led the second research team that identified and determined the structure of the amino acid.

The realization of the codon's odd behavior suggested the possibility of a new amino acid, but the researchers knew there might be other explanations as well. Krzycki and his colleagues sliced the protein into smaller bits called peptides, and began sequencing them, a process which usually ultimately reveal the amino acid responsible for the protein.

"That all seemed to point to this being just lysine, one of the normal amino acids," Chan said. Regardless, Krzycki asked Chan and Ph.D. student Bing Hao to start working on deducing the crystalline structure of the protein containing the amino acid. At the end of the two-year process, Hao and Chan had determined the structure of the protein, part of which revealed a new amino acid.

At the same time, Krzycki was looking for other evidence. He, along with doctoral students Gayathri Srinivasan and Carey James, was eventually able to identify the specific transfer-RNA (tRNA) needed to insert the new amino acid into protein, as well as another important enzyme essential to the process. These two discoveries, along with the detailed crystalline structure, convinced the teams that they had found a new genetically encoded amino acid -- pyrrolysine - the 22nd known to science.

"We realized that we had to know which tRNA would decode that amber codon," Krzycki said. "Finding it was an essential part of the puzzle."

He believes this will be a very rare amino acid, given the fact that it has taken so long to identify it. However, Krzycki believes it is likely to be found in other situations - in other organisms - aside from methanogens. He's philosophic about the importance of the discovery: "This shows us that the genetic code, and therefore, evolution is much more plastic than people might have thought."

Chan agrees, pointing to the strong possibility that finding a 22nd genetically encoded amino acid should stimulate the search for a 23rd or a 24th. "With so many researchers dissecting so many genomes now, it's reasonable to suggest that there might be more waiting to be found.

"I think this work will cause researchers to start looking at genetic sequences that they might have thought at first were simply aberrations," he said. "Instead, they might signal discoveries like ours."

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Along with Krzycki, Chan and Hao, Weimin Gong and Tsuneo Ferguson worked on the project.

Contact: Joseph A. Krzycki, (614) 292-1578; Krzycki.1@osu.edu or Michael Chan, (614) 292- 8375; Chan.136@osu.edu.
Written by Earle Holland, (614) 292-8384; Holland.8@osu.edu.

His Sense Is to Just Go With the Flow

Bill Cox works as a dowser, defying skeptics with his unusual ability




May 23 2002

In most of Southern California, the earth hides its water beneath rock and sand and mountain. When Steve Andrews and Diane Best began to build their house deep in the San Bernardino wilderness, 21 rugged miles from the nearest municipal water tank, they knew they'd have to dig a well. But, on their square mile of land, where? And how deep?

They asked Bill Cox, a soft-spoken, exceptionally fit octogenarian who has spent the past 35 years finding secret stashes of water in the ground beneath the American Southwest, Canada, Japan, Egypt, Brazil and, mostly, California. He finds it--or dowses--with a stick, his hands or his "aurameter."

Truth and reconciliation


Incest accusations of the recovered-memory craze tore families apart. Now one of its leaders wants to let bygones be bygones.

By Julia Gracen

May 22, 2002 | "For ten years of my life, the fact that I had been sexually abused was the principle around which I organized my existence," writes Laura Davis, coauthor of the phenomenally popular and influential "bible" for abuse survivors, "The Courage to Heal," in her surprising new book, "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again: The Road From Estrangement to Reconciliation."

In her 20s, after a tumultuous adolescence, Davis began to remember her grandfather molesting her when she was a child. But when she told her mother about the abuse, her mother refused to believe it, and their previous "rocky" relationship became "a shambles." For a decade Davis was completely alienated from her mother's side of the family. "My rule was simple: if you believed me, you were in; if you didn't, you were out."

Saturday, May 25, 2002

MIOS MEETING Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Hear Jan Mercer, Ph.D. Present

DNA And The Human Genome

This program provides basic genetic information as it relates to living organisms in general, and humans in particular. DNA will be discussed as a molecule of design, with emphasis on DNA as an information system. The discussion will include the behavior of chromosomes during the reproductive process. The precision of replication during this process will be related to the concept of intelligent design.

Dr. Mercer has an M.S. in Biology Education from Louisiana Tech University and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Cambridge Graduate School. For 30 years she taught biology at Tarrant County Junior College and is the author of five college text books.

Bucky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX
Tuesday, June 4th, 7:30 PM

Editor's note for the uninitiated: This is a creationist meeting.

Preliminary Notes on Dr. Lorraine Day


Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Lorraine Jeanette Day, M.D., would like you believe that she has discovered the answer to cancer. She would also like you to believe that her experience as a patient has qualified her to give advice about cancer. She warns people not to trust the medical profession and claims that all drugs can cause cancer. Her Web site states that "the entire foundation of conventional medicine is based on ERROR." [1] Her videotapes state that standard cancer treatment has never cured anyone and that nobody should undergo chemotherapy and radiation for any cancer [2]. She claims that (a) all cancers are essentially the same; (b) the basic cause is weakness of the immune system; and (c) her diet-centered program cures people by strengthening their immune system [2]. She tells people that, "Drugs never cure disease; they only change the form and location of the disease." [3] She claims that "sugar is as addictive as cocaine" and paralyzes the immune system for four hours" after eating it [3]. She claims that "osteoporosis is not caused by lack of calcium" and that "the more milk you dring the more oteoporotic you become." [3] She spouts long lists of health problems that she claims are caused by commonly used foods and drugs [3]. She also advises against vaccination [4] and the use of standard treatment for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder [5]. She speaks eloquently and from the heart, but her tapes contain hundreds of factual errors and far-fetched claims. In my opinion, her advice is untrustworthy and is particularly dangerous to people with cancer.

Silvia Browne's Clock - Update


The Clock is ticking - again....

The new Sylvia Browne Clock is placed here so that interested readers can follow an ongoing situation. The original clock started March 6th, and ran 181 days. Then Sylvia agreed, on September 3rd, to the suggested protocol for a definitive test of her claimed powers, for the JREF million-dollar prize.

The figure you will see on this new clock, is the number of days that have passed since she accepted this latest step in the procedure. We still have a variety of very well-qualified savants, here and abroad, who are willing to participate. We have major centers of learning and a prominent parapsychologist on tap, ready and willing to design, supervise, and conduct proper tests of her ability.

Stay tuned.

It has been 264 days since Ms. Browne publicly accepted this latest phase of the challenge.

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