NTS LogoSkeptical News for 31 July 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Wednesday, July 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.

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

Today's Headlines – July 31, 2002

STUDIES SUGGEST UNKNOWN FORM OF MATTER EXISTS
from The New York Times

Painstaking observations of a kind of subatomic dance suggest that the universe may contain a shadowy form of matter that has never been seen directly and is unexplained by standard physics theories, a team of scientists working at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island announced yesterday.

The studies appear to confirm similar findings the scientists reported last year. The research involves muons, rare subatomic particles similar to electrons but 207 times as heavy.

The work has been controversial, though for reasons that have little to do with the experiment itself. Theorists who are not involved in the research, but whose computational results must be used to interpret it, have recently uncovered errors and uncertainties in their own work. For that reason, the Brookhaven experimenters say they are not ready to claim they have proved a new form of matter exists.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/31/science/31PART.html

STRANDED WHALES DYING DESPITE RESCUERS' EFFORTS
from The New York Times

WELLFLEET, Mass., July 30 — It looked like one of the most successful whale rescues people on Cape Cod could remember. But today those hopes were dashed.

A day after 46 pilot whales that became stranded on a beach on Cape Cod Bay were returned to the water by scores of volunteers and tourists, the whales washed up 25 miles farther northeast this morning. More than a dozen died during the day, and although tides lifted the whales afloat for a few hours, by evening, despite the efforts of volunteers to guide them to sea, the animals were back on a beach and veterinarians were beginning to euthanize them.

"They're not going to make it," said A. J. Cady, deputy director of public affairs for one group of rescuers, the International Fund for Animal Welfare based in Yarmouthport, on Cape Cod. "They're just too far gone. The best thing for the animals is to end their suffering."

The episode appeared to be the worst marooning of whales since 1986, when 60 pilot whales came ashore along a wide span of the Cape Cod coast. Virtually all of the them died, experts recalled today.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/31/science/31WHAL.html

SCIENTISTS UNSURE WHAT TRIGGERS STRANDING -- ILLNESS, PERILOUS COAST MAY BE FACTORS
from The San Francisco Chronicle

The mass stranding of pilot whales on Cape Cod was probably a natural event, marine biologists said Tuesday, an accident linked to tight social groupings and the perils of navigating a rugged coastline.

Pilot whales tend to swim in large, stable family groups. If for some reason one of the leaders goes astray, "they all follow," said Steve Webster, senior marine biologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

"They're not all planning to go kill themselves on the beach," he said. "It happens because they have this social structure, and it becomes something like the highly mechanized behavior we see in birds or insects."

Janet Whaley, a veterinarian and coordinator of a national whale-stranding response program at the National Marine Fisheries Service, said investigators had found no evidence of pre-existing sickness or injuries among the whales, although that possibility cannot be ruled out entirely until necropsies are completed. Whales and other marine species tend to wash up individually or in small groups along the California coast, most often already dead or too sick to fight incoming currents. The latest incident on the East Coast is much different, and far more disconcerting to human observers: a mass stranding of apparently healthy animals.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/07/31/MN185450.DTL

MATH EXPERTS SUGGEST AIDS WILL BE HALTED; CRITICS FAULT ASSUMPTIONS IN MODEL
from Newsday

It might be possible to stop the AIDS epidemic purely through use of currently available drug therapies, a mathematical model based on San Francisco predicts.

If the model developed by the University of California at Los Angeles researchers holds up, it would mean the pandemic could be slowed, even eradicated, after 50 years of widespread use of anti-HIV drugs.

Based on controversial assumptions about the behavior of HIV and infected individuals, mathematician Sally Blower and her UCLA colleagues believe that, "the United States has a moral imperative to start pouring money into eradication throughout the world ... These drugs, even though they cannot cure individuals who are treated, could head us towards eradication," Blower said in an interview.

The UCLA model, which appears in today's issue of the British publication The Lancet Infectious Diseases, uses a mathematical method called "uncertainty analysis" to calculate the impact of a range of variables, offering possible outcomes from decades of use of anti-HIV drugs in San Francisco. And even making what Blower considers worst-case assumptions, such as the evolution of drug-resistant viruses that remain infectious and an increase in unsafe sexual activity among the treated individuals, the UCLA model predicts the drugs will stop the San Francisco epidemic well before the end of this century.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hshiv312804628jul31.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

STARVED FOR FOOD, ZIMBABWE REJECTS U.S. BIOTECH
from The Washington Post

Thousands of tons of U.S. emergency food aid destined for crisis-stricken Zimbabwe has been diverted to other countries, and a new shipload may be diverted within days, because the donations include genetically modified corn that the Zimbabwean government does not want to accept.

The image of a nation on the brink of starvation turning down food because it has been genetically engineered has reignited a long-smoldering scientific and political controversy over the risks and benefits of gene- altered food.

Some biotech advocates are criticizing the Zimbabwean government for balking at the humanitarian assistance, saying President Robert Mugabe seems to care more about his political independence than his citizens' lives. About half of Zimbabwe's 12 million residents are on the verge of famine because of drought and political mismanagement, according to the United Nations.

But other scientists and economists say the troubled African nation has good reason to reject the engineered kernels. If some of the corn seeds are sown instead of eaten, the resulting plants will produce gene-altered pollen that will blow about and contaminate surrounding fields.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23728-2002Jul30.html

SURGE IN CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS CITED
from The Washington Post

U.S. cars and light trucks produce a fifth of all carbon dioxide in this country associated with problems of global warming, and those emissions have begun to surge after decades of steady decline, a new study says.

The report by Environmental Defense, a New York-based advocacy group, blames the problem on an auto industry that has catered to mounting consumer demand for light trucks, sport-utility vehicles and minivans that provide more room and power but less fuel efficiency.

New vehicles built in 2000 by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG, for example, emitted a disproportionately large amount of carbon dioxide for their share of the overall market, according to the study.

General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker, claimed 28.3 percent of the sales but almost 30 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions, the study said. Ford, the No. 2 company, accounted for 25 percent of the emissions and just under 24 percent of the market. And DaimlerChrysler got 16.6 percent of U.S. sales while accounting for 18 percent of the emissions.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23972-2002Jul30.html

RESEARCHER HOPING FOR BIG CHANGES FROM STUDY TYING SECOND-HAND SMOKE TO FELINE LYMPHOMA
from The Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- Dr. Antony Moore knows smokers often won't quit to protect themselves or their children. But he hopes his new study tying second-hand smoke exposure to the most common kind of feline cancer will persuade some people to kick the habit.

"I think there's a lot of people who might not quit smoking for themselves or their family," said Moore, a veterinarian at Tufts University. "But they might for their cats."

In the study, Moore and other researchers at Tufts and the University of Massachusetts say living in a household with smokers considerably increases a cat's risk of acquiring feline lymphoma, which kills three-quarters of its victims within a year.

The researchers, writing in Thursday's issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, studied 180 cats treated at a Tufts veterinary hospital between 1993 and 2000. They found that, adjusting for age and other factors, cats exposed to second-hand smoke had more than double the risk of acquiring the disease.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/07/31/national0615EDT0491.DTL

MILITARY RESEARCHERS LOOK TO ENCOMPASS BIOLOGY
from UPI

ANAHEIM, Calif. (July 31, 2002 10:16 a.m. EDT) - The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, long known for creating better machines and technology, now is reapplying itself in the biological sciences area, agency officials said at a conference Tuesday.

Putting bio-science into action could enable soldiers to stay awake for days at a time without side effects, for example, said Michael Goldblatt, director of DARPA's Defense Sciences Office. The work, he said, is meant to address what many consider the biggest point of failure in today's defense systems - the human being.

Human capabilities are fair game for augmentation, said DSO researcher Joseph Bielitzki. Sleep - and the consequences of a lack of it - constitute an obvious starting point for this work, he told the conference.

Researchers are focusing on ways to reduce sleep needs and the effects of sleep deprivation, Bielitzki said. These methods include resetting or eliminating a person's body clock, allowing a portion of the brain to rest while the remainder continues to function, and even prompting the brain to produce additional connections between brain cells, he said.

http://www.nando.net/healthscience/story/483980p-3865527c.html

RESEARCHERS DIFFER OVER AUTHENTICITY OF VINLAND MAP
from The Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Two new studies add fresh fuel to a decades-old debate about whether a parchment map of the Vikings' travels to the New World, purportedly drawn by a 15th century scribe, is authentic or a clever 20th century forgery.

Using carbon dating, scholars from the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Arizona and Brookhaven National Laboratory determined the map predates Christopher Columbus by about 50 years, proving he was not the first European to reach America.

But researchers at University College in London, who analyzed the map's ink under a Raman microscope, concluded that the map was produced after 1923.

Both studies were published independently in scholarly journals, the researchers announced Monday.

http://www.nando.net/healthscience/story/483096p-3857856c.html

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Transcendental Meditation: The solution to terrorism?

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/Full&cid=1023716579184

DANIEL BEN-TAL
Jul. 1, 2002

A small number of meditators can stop terrorism in the Middle East, a leading US scientist told a Tel Aviv news conference yesterday.

"We have an important message for the people of the Middle East," said Dr. John Hagelin, a quantum physicist and author, and recipient of the prestigious Kilby Award for scientific research.

"If the square root of 1 percent of the population regularly practice Transcendental Meditation (TM) techniques in a group, the wave effect of calm will eventually halt terrorism," he claimed.

Speaking by telephone from Fairfield, Iowa, where he heads the Maharishi University of Management, Hagelin pointed to what he calls the root cause of the Middle East conflict. "The Palestinians are violent and vengeful, while Israelis are stressed and angry. This core negativity is driving social conflict. The circumstances are ripe for escalating violence. Negotiated settlements and peace treaties are barely worth the paper they're written on," he told Israeli journalists. "They cannot hold as long as people's hearts are filled with enmity."

Hagelin, a former director of the Washington-based think-tank, the Institute of Science, Technology, and Public Policy, has been lobbying the US Congress, and was presidential candidate for the Natural Law Party that drew some 500,000 votes in the 1996 elections.

"This practical approach, known as Invincible Defense Technology, applies cutting-edge discoveries in quantum mechanics, neuroscience, and human consciousness to diffuse stress, effectively disarming aggressors," he said.

"It targets the root cause of violence acute stress resulting from religious and ethnic tensions." "Just as anger can spread though a population, so can calm. Humanity is connected at the deepest level of human interaction an abstract, quiet communication so that collective consciousness can be influenced in a tangible and measurable way." "There is a proven correlation between meditation and reduced social stress," he claimed, pointing to 19 published research studies. "In recent years, even the US military has started using TM techniques for treating post-trauma stress."

According to Hagelin, there has been a noticeable reduction in Indian-Pakistani tensions since some 9,000 meditators began gathering on the banks of the Ganges in India over the past three-four weeks. This action is being organized by the Maharishi Yogi leader of the worldwide TM movement now in his nineties and based in Holland.

"As they continue to arrive, we look forward to increasing calm in the area. Within a year, we expect a global reduction in terror and violence."

As the World Girds for War Maharishi Mobilizes for Peace

http://www.hagelin.org/press_conference/new_release.html NEWS RELEASE

Full-Page Announcements in Major Newspapers Detail Plan

Proposal Calls for $1 Billion Endowment Fund for Permanent World Peace

NEWS CONFERENCE
His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
(First news conference in 7 years
Live via satellite from Vlodrop, Holland)
Friday, September 28, 10 a.m.
National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

As millions of soldiers around the world gird for war, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is mobilizing tens of thousands of experts to create peace.

In full-page announcements appearing this week in the New York Times, Washington Post, and International Herald Tribune, Maharishi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, revealed the details of his "Proposal for Permanent World Peace" and appealed to the wise and the wealthy to implement it immediately.

The need, the announcement states, is clear. "When the U.S. Government, with the most powerful defense force in the world, and a defense budget of over $300 billion, has hopelessly failed to defend its nation against the attacks of the enemy, what hope is there for any nation to protect itself against its enemies through the use of arms."

Maharishi's solution? Establish one group of 40,000 experts trained in ancient Vedic technologies of peace — technologies which have been shown by extensive research, published in leading peer-reviewed journals, to dissolve acute ethnic and religious tensions, and dramatically reduce violence and war.

News Conference Speakers

Maharishi will present his proposal during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday, September 28, 10 a.m., at the National Press Club. Maharishi will speak live via satellite from Maharishi University of Management in Vlodrop, Holland. Speaking at the news conference in Washington will be John Hagelin, Ph.D., Harvard-trained quantum physicist and Natural Law Party presidential candidate in the 2000 election; Major General Kulwant Singh, a highly decorated 35-year military leader from India and an expert in anti-terrorism.

Two Approaches that Have Failed

The announcement describes the perilous state of the current global crisis: "With the U.S. government and the allies of NATO on one side, and the terrorists on the other side, life on earth — whether it is American life, Chinese life, Afghani life, or any life — will be burnt in flames.

"Can the prevailing national defense system of any country save that country from space-based warfare, chemical warfare, biological warfare, information warfare, guided missile warfare, suicidal attacks, and any other destructive system of warfare where the enemy is seen or unseen?

"We must take recourse to a more effective approach which will be better than the two approaches that have failed: negotiations and the use of destructive weaponry," the announcement states. "Only a new seed will yield a new crop."

Solution

"The wise retaliation against terrorism will be to take a step which will completely root out terrorism forever — and this will be by creating a very strong influence of positivity and harmony in world consciousness, so that any kind of negative trends do not arise," the announcement reads.

For that, the proposal calls for establishing a group of 40,000 experts in the Vedic knowledge and technologies of peace.

Scientific Validation

More than 50 studies, published in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, have documented the ability of group practice of Transcendental Meditation and its advanced techniques, including Yogic Flying, to reduce societal stress and violence, and to calm open warfare in war-torn areas. In the mid 1980's this approach was used to quell violence in the Middle East, and resulted in an 80% drop in war fatalities and war-related injuries, according to articles published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution and other scientific publications.

Endowment Fund for Permanent World Peace

The announcement also outlines the financial requirements of the proposal. "What is immediately needed is an endowment fund of $1 billion in order to permanently engage 40,000 peace-makers in India — at the rate of $100 to $200 per person per month — in the performance of Vedic technologies of peace.

"There must be a few peace-loving billionaires in America who would understand our offer and who can immediately, in one day, create the required endowment fund to try this new peaceful angle of approach to establish permanent world peace.

"The U.S. Congress has just voted $40 billion for the war against terrorism. If they want to truly eliminate terrorism, they should put $1 billion in the Endowment Fund to create peace in the world through the power of the Vedic technologies of peace."

Maharishi Predicted Trade Center Attack Two Years Ago

The announcement also highlights the fact that Maharishi predicted the chilling attacks on Washington and the World Trade Center over two years ago, on April 12, 1999, in an announcement that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune of Europe, and the Financial Times of London.

Calling on the world's wealthy to establish an Endowment Fund for Perpetual World Peace during the war in Yugoslavia, the announcement predicted the dire consequences if a group of peace-promoting experts was not created:

"The horror of war being witnessed in Yugoslavia is creating fear in the hearts of everyone everywhere. This crisis is a challenge to the wealthy of the world to save their own wealth and the life of all people in their nation. What is happening in Yugoslavia can happen to any nation anytime. Can you imagine if bombs began to fall on Washington, D.C. and to destroy the high-rises of money markets of New York? Will NATO be able to prevent this?"

For more information, and to arrange interviews, call Robert Roth, 202-251-7014.


Tuesday, July 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.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – July 30, 2002

WEST NILE VIRUS IN 33 STATES, SEEN SPREADING RAPIDLY
from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - West Nile virus is sickening people far earlier this summer than usual, and is spreading so quickly - it's hit 33 states, as far west as South Dakota - that health officials believe it will reach California this year or next.

Nobody knows how bad the mosquito-borne illness will get - although a rapidly growing outbreak among 32 people in Louisiana began a month earlier than West Nile has ever struck in this country, a big worry. But it's clear the virus first detected in New York City a mere three years ago has become a permanent summertime threat in most states.

Yet it's fairly easy to prevent: Spray on DEET-containing mosquito repellent when you go outdoors, and don't let puddles collect in flower pots, wading pools or other spots where mosquitoes can breed. One specialist equates the safety steps to the routine of buckling a seat belt before driving.

"That's the level of worry people should have," says Dr. Lyle Petersen of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "You should be concerned enough about it to do something but not have it change your whole lifestyle."

http://www.nando.net/healthscience/story/482361p-3851441c.html

FORMER CORNELL RESEARCHER CHARGED IN THEFT OF BIOLOGICAL MATERIALS
from The Associated Press

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A former Cornell University researcher was charged Monday for allegedly stealing biological materials from the Ivy League school and attempting to return with them to his native China.

FBI agents detained Yin Qingqiang, 38, at Syracuse's Hancock International Airport after security workers conducting a random luggage search found more than 100 glass vials and containers holding unknown substances Sunday.

Yin was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States government by transporting stolen property and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in interstate or foreign commerce. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Magistrate David Peoples remanded Yin to the custody of U.S. marshals Monday and scheduled a pretrial detention hearing for Friday.

http://www.nando.net/healthscience/story/482384p-3851544c.html

PROMISING TREATMENT FOR BRAIN DISORDER
from Newsday

Researchers see strong signs that an odd substance in bear bile may offer a way to treat a devastating human genetic disorder, Huntington's disease.

In a report published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team at the University of Minnesota said that a particular bile acid found in bears' gall bladders seems to be effective in reducing and delaying the onset of terrible symptoms of the brain disorder. And, they said, the treatment seems to cause no troublesome side effects, at least in the mice that were being studied.

The mouse tests showed that the bile extract is a potent inhibitor of cell death. In mice, doses greatly prolonged the survival of brain cells that would have died because of the Huntington's disease mutation. Brain damage was reduced and muscular coordination was improved, compared with untreated mice, said Dr. Clifford Steer, a member of the Minnesota research team.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-dsfocus2803588jul30.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

THE CASE AGAINST LARIAM: ARE MENTAL PROBLEMS LINKED TO ANTI-MALARIA DRUG?
from Newsday

Scores of Peace Corps volunteers are coming forward saying that during the past 12 years they suffered crippling paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, memory loss, suicidal behavior and physical ailments because of the drug handed out by the Peace Corps to prevent malaria.

Many were medically evacuated and some were hospitalized because of problems they said were caused by Lariam, also called mefloquine. Others risked contracting malaria when they quit taking the drug because of side effects. Some say that debilitating problems have continued for years, long after they stopped taking the drug.

"This has been the big story among Peace Corps volunteers for 12 years," said Allen Hoppes, a volunteer in Mali, West Africa, in 1992. That was just three years after the Peace Corps began using Lariam.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-dstop2803592jul30.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

RACE IS SEEN AS REAL GUIDE TO TRACK ROOTS OF DISEASE
from The New York Times

Challenging the widely held view that race is a "biologically meaningless" concept, a leading population geneticist says that race is helpful for understanding ethnic differences in disease and response to drugs.

The geneticist, Dr. Neil Risch of Stanford University, says that genetic differences have arisen among people living on different continents and that race, referring to geographically based ancestry, is a valid way of categorizing these differences.

Dr. Risch's position was prompted by an editorial last year in The New England Journal of Medicine asserting that " `race' is biologically meaningless," and one in Nature Genetics warning of the "confusion and potential harmful effects of using `race' as a variable in medical research."

Dr. Risch's assertion, in a paper in the online journal Genome Biology, comes as researchers and physicians are trying to interpret the DNA data streaming from the Human Genome Project and to make sense of the fact that the pattern of data differs among ethnic groups.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/30/health/genetics/30RACE.html

ASTRONOMERS CHASE A SHADOW IN EFFORT TO EXPLORE PLUTO
from The New York Times

To learn about Pluto, the solar system's tiniest, most distant planet, the best astronomers can do right now is chase its fleeting shadow.

Late on July 19, two teams of astronomers watched from northern Chile as Pluto briefly passed in front of a distant star known as P126A. Data gathered from the eclipse, or occultation, will tell them the structure and temperature of Pluto's atmosphere.

Astronomers have had only one previous look at Pluto's atmosphere, during a similar eclipse in 1988. If the atmosphere has thinned since then, the results could give urgency to NASA's on-and-off plans to send a spacecraft to Pluto, which is the sole planet that has not been observed close up.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/30/science/space/30PLUT.html

BRIDGING THE GAP: PRIVATE FOUNDATIONS CRUCIAL TO STEM CELL RESEARCH
from The Washington Post

President Bush restricted fund-ing for stem cell research last summer and Congress is considering imposing more limits on the promising science. But private foundations are fighting back by funding basic research on their own.

Groups like the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and Rockville-based Stem Cell Research Foundation have stepped forward with millions of dollars in grants for the field's talented scientists.

Research teams in Washington area laboratories and elsewhere are working to unlock some of the more vexing secrets of cell biology: How can embryonic stem cells and germ cells, along with adult stem cells, be grown and maintained in the laboratory so they can be manipulated and developed into treatments? How will the transplanted cells act in animals?

"There are more unanswered questions than answered questions at this point," says Michael Manganiello, senior vice president and director of government affairs for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which recently awarded 18 research grants totaling more than $2.3 million.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20335-2002Jul30.html

IS CRAWLING OVERRATED?
from Newsday

Among the Au people of Papua, New Guinea, babies don't crawl. They scoot around on their bottoms, propelling themselves with their hands. The adults call it - but this is a polite translation - "rear-end walking."

David P. Tracer, an anthropologist working among them, decided to do some research into who crawls and why.

His conclusion: For most of human history, babies probably haven't crawled. He presented his findings this spring at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Buffalo.

"Crawling is a relatively recent phenomenon," said Tracer, associate professor of anthropology and director of the Program in Health and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado at Denver.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-dsspdn2803587jul30.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

PROTECTING RIGHTS IN THE NOOSPHERE
Commentary from The Boston Globe

My tattered copy of Teilhard de Chardin's ''The Phenomenon of Man,'' which I read enthusiastically when it was published as an English paperback in 1961, now and then tumbles off the bookshelf, demanding a re-read.

Teilhard was a paleontologist, a Jesuit priest, and a mystic. In his book, he traced the evolution of the universe from the original matter and energy, up through the emergence of life, to consciousness. He purported to see a trend that will lead ultimately to the consolidation and redemption of all things in the Godhead, which he called Omega.

His vision of the creation as the Creator's primary revelation attracted many readers in the 1950s and '60s, especially among those who hoped to find some reconciliation between science and traditional faith.

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/211/science/Protecting_rights_in_the_noosphere+.shtml

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Close Call

http://www.msnbc.com/news/770760.asp?0dm=C449N

A giant space rock whisked past Earth this week, but an MIT scientist says he's not losing any sleep

NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE

June 21 — Last week, a giant space rock the size of a football field came within 75,000 miles of hitting the Earth. It was one of the closest calls in decades. Though not large enough to destroy the planet, scientists say a collision of that magnitude would certainly cause chaos. Traveling at 23,000 miles per hour, the asteroid would likely have exploded into a fireball capable of destroying thousands of acres of land.

GRANT STOKES, associate head of the aerospace division at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the principal investigator of the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid research program, first reported the sighting on Monday. It was confirmed later in the week. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Adam Piore by phone about the incident and the science of asteroids.

NEWSWEEK: How close a call was it?

Grant Stokes: Well, 75,000 miles in the scale of the solar system is really pretty close. Typically people pay attention to things that are lunar distance [distance between the Earth and the moon] or less away and this was about a third of that.

How scared should we be?

It doesn't keep me up at night. I think if you look at asteroids in this size range, something of this size would hit every couple hundred years. In 1908, one hit in Siberia and I think that one is the same scale of event. It flattened a thousands square miles of trees. This kind of thing happens on a century timescale.

Shooting swamis

http://www.the-week.com/20jan09/events3.htm Controversy: In Chitrakoot
they need guns to survive

Deepak Tiwari

Wrestler Vinesh Dwivedi had a tough time safe guarding his 10 acres from land-grabbers in Chitrakoot, a pilgrim centre in Madhya Pradesh. The strapping young bachelor finally found a way out: he set up an ashram on his land, sought out a guru and changed his name to Nirbhayananda.

'Weapons are necessary to protect the property': Divyananda (sitting) with his security guards

When the guru began eyeing the land Nirbhayananda found a new guru and later became a guru himself. Today he heads the Bajrang Ashram and plans to hold a huge congregation of sadhus. "The purpose is to show our might," says Nirbhayananda. Prayers to God come second.

Chitrakoot bustles with 2,000 men in ochre from 690 ashrams and temples, which is not surprising since Lord Ram is believed to have spent most of his 14-year exile here. Lakhs of pilgrims throng the holy town during Diwali, enriching the sadhus with liberal offerings. Rest of the year, most sadhus are busy fighting succession and real estate wars.

Healing with touch

http://www.sptimes.com/2002/07/29/TampaBay/Healing_with_touch.shtml

Patients and doctors in mainstream hospitals are coming to rely on therapeutic touch.

By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2002

TAMPA -- Eileen Weber's hands scan the air above the hospital patient's body, gently, rhythmically, like a metal detector over soft sand.

She sweeps a few inches above the woman's head, down her body, all the way to her toes, feeling for an energy field. When she senses imbalance, Weber motions like she is wiping it away.

The patient, 32-year-old Kari Patton, has been ailing as she waits in Tampa General Hospital for a heart transplant. But she relaxes and smiles under Weber's hands.

Weber is practicing a controversial form of faith therapy called therapeutic touch, which claims to temporarily rid the body of pain and discomfort through the shifting of energy.

While therapeutic touch has its critics, it is now taught in many nursing programs and offered at more than 70 hospitals nationwide, including Tampa General and South Florida Baptist in Plant City.

Fundamentally unsound

http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2002/07/29/left_behind/print.html

Left Behind, the bestselling series of paranoid, pro-Israel end-time thrillers, may sound kooky, but America's right-wing leaders really believe this stuff.

By Michelle Goldberg

July 29, 2002 | The most popular novel in America right now is one in which the world is tyrannized by the former secretary general of the U.N., who operates from Iraq, and his global force of storm troopers, called "peacekeepers." Revered rabbis evangelize for Christ, repenting Israel's "specific national sin" of "[r]ejecting the messiahship of Jesus." Much of the world is deceived by a false prophet, part of the inner circle of the Antichrist, who seems a lot like the pope -- he's a Catholic cardinal, "all robed and hatted and vested in velvet and piping."

"The Remnant," which debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, is the 10th entry in Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye's phenomenally popular "Left Behind" series, a Tom Clancy-meets-Revelation saga of the Rapture, the Tribulation and, presumably, the eventual return of Jesus. Last year's "Desecration," the ninth volume of a projected 14, was 2001's bestselling hardcover novel. There is probably very little overlap between Salon's readership and the audience for apocalyptic Christian fiction, but these books and their massive success deserve attention if only for what they tell us about the core beliefs of a great many people in this country, people whose views shape the way America behaves in the world.

Misguided Medicine

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14366-2002Jul28.html

A stunning finding about antidepressants is being ignored.

By Timothy A. Kelly
Monday, July 29, 2002; Page A19

A classic conflict between science and dogma is brewing in the arena of mental health policy, and its resolution will affect the welfare of millions of Americans who suffer from depression. They will either be consigned to the status quo of current mental health treatment -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- or they will benefit from all that medical research can offer in terms of innovative, high-quality care.

On the side of science, a recent study unexpectedly found that antidepressants sometimes perform no better than placebos (sugar pills) in treating depression. On the side of dogma, some claim that this stunning finding does not matter.

Boeing tries to defy gravity

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2157975.stm

Monday, 29 July, 2002, 03:23 GMT 04:23 UK

Researchers at the world's largest aircraft maker, Boeing, are using the work of a controversial Russian scientist to try to create a device that will defy gravity.

The company is examining an experiment by Yevgeny Podkletnov, who claims to have developed a device which can shield objects from the Earth's pull.

Dr Podkletnov is viewed with suspicion by many conventional scientists. They have not been able to reproduce his results.

The project is being run by the top-secret Phantom Works in Seattle, the part of the company which handles Boeing's most sensitive programmes.

The head of the Phantom Works, George Muellner, told the security analysis journal Jane's Defence Weekly that the science appeared to be valid and plausible.

Asteroid to miss - this time around

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2158898.stm

Monday, 29 July, 2002, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Astronomers have ruled out an Earth impact from asteroid 2002 NT7 on 1 February 2019 - but they say, as yet, future collisions have not been completely excluded.

2002 NT7, a two-kilometre-wide (1.4 miles) chunk of rock, was discovered on 9 July. Initial estimates of its orbit suggested there was a small chance of it colliding with our planet in 17 years' time.

However, the latest observations accumulated over the last few days have confirmed the asteroid will fly harmlessly by.

Dr Don Yeomans, of the US space agency's (Nasa) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: "We can now rule out any impact possibilities for 1 February 2019."


Monday, July 29, 2002

Science In the News

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

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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – July 29, 2002

EVIDENCE OF NEW COSMIC KINK FOUND WITH STANFORD ACCELERATOR
from The San Francisco Chronicle

Half the universe is missing, and for decades physicists have struggled to figure out where it went.

Now, thanks to their latest experiments at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), they're both more and less puzzled about the great mystery of "matter-antimatter asymmetry," as it's called.

The mystery is this: More than 10 billion years ago, the cosmos was born in an explosion, the Big Bang. According to physical theory, the earliest solid "stuff" came in two types: 1. matter (like the atoms in your body) and 2. antimatter (atoms that are exactly the same as matter atoms, only with opposite electrical charges).

However, astronomers say the universe appears to now consist almost entirely of matter. True, there is a comparatively negligible amount of antimatter that is generated by various astronomical processes, such as a star- gobbling black hole at the center of our galaxy. Otherwise, there's little but matter as far as astronomers can see.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/07/29/MN136555.DTL

CDC BEGINS AMBITIOUS PROGRAM TO SHORE UP FACILITIES THAT ARE FALLING APART
from The San Francisco Chronicle

CHAMBLEE, Ga. (AP) -- At one Centers for Disease Control and Prevention building, paper towels are attached with masking tape to clattering air conditioning units to keep condensation from dripping onto computers that cost nearly $1 million each.

In another building, a $20 oscillating fan blows on sophisticated circuit boards to keep them from overheating.

Since Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks, lawmakers have been quick to promise the CDC money to fight bioterrorism. But agency officials say the crumbling buildings need just-as-urgent attention.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/07/28/national1243EDT0548.DTL

UNDERSTANDING THAT LOVING FEELING
from The Washington Post

Neuroscientists have discovered what romantics have always known: The touch of a lover's hand is special.

Scientists announced a study today that shows humans have a special set of nerves for feeling pleasure at a mother's caress or a lover's embrace.

These nerves are sensitive to the soft touch of fingers gliding over a forearm or a parent's soothing hand, but not to rough touches, jabs or pinches. Scientists speculate that the nerves might be designed to guide humans toward tenderness and nurturing -- a theory bolstered by the fact that the nerves are wired to the same brain areas activated by romantic love and sexual arousal.

Although these special nerves, which have thin fibers and send relatively slow signals to the brain, had been identified in animals and humans, their role had been unclear.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12587-2002Jul28.html

CARP THREATEN GREAT LAKES
from The Los Angeles Times

CHICAGO -- The carp have migrated north at the rate of 35 miles per year, leaping so high at times they have smacked into the faces of the boat borne fishermen and researchers.

They are almost here now and, beyond their unexplained aerial assaults, pose what biologists believe may be the greatest ecological threat ever to North America's largest water system.

Fat, voracious and with a complexion only a dermatologist could love, Asian carp are just 25 miles from Chicago's downtown entryway to the Great Lakes. The only thing standing in their way is an experimental electrical curtain.

As long as 5 feet and weighing up to 110 pounds, the carp eat as much as half their body weight daily in plankton, the same food virtually every other fish in the lakes eats when it is young. They breed so quickly, Australian biologists call them "river rabbits."

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/07/28/MN105933.DTL

SCIENCE EDGES CLOSER TO FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
from The Chicago Tribune

Having succeeded in using a trick of nature to dramatically increase the life span of every creature it's been tried on, scientists believe they are finally on track to develop tools that can fend off the aging process in humans and prolong their lives.

The trick is calorie restriction: When animals eat less, they live longer. It's thought to be nature's way of enabling an organism to survive long enough to reproduce in times of food scarcity.

The process works by triggering genes that inhibit the damage associated with aging, thus prolonging life. In the last few years, powerful new molecular and genetic tools have allowed these longevity genes to be identified at a rapid pace, boosting the field of aging research to new heights.

Scientists are so emboldened by the discoveries that many are racing to form companies with the specific goal of discovering drugs or nutrients that will slow aging the same way calorie restriction does but without the agony of going on a food-restricted diet.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-0207290052jul29.story

SCIENCE NOTEBOOK
compiled by The Washington Post

Reading to the Rhythm

The reading disorder dyslexia may be caused by a fundamental problem in perceiving the rhythms of speech, according to new research...

The Matter of the Next Question

Physicists have refined a measurement that they hope will help explain why the universe is filled with matter instead of being void...

Cabin Fever

Airline passengers are no more likely to catch cold by flying in newer planes that recirculate air than by flying in older planes that don't, according to new research...

What the Early Birds Got

Paleontologists in China have found the earliest direct evidence of seed eating by a bird...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14390-2002Jul28.html

ON THE WINGS OF EAGLES, THE FATE OF A CALIFORNIA ISLAND
from The New York Times

CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Calif., July 22 — Eight new residents moved onto Santa Cruz island this week and into homes with some of the most sweeping views in the state.

Although they put up a bit of a fight about the arrangements, the new residents, fledging bald eagles, soon settled into the boxes on cliffs high above the Pacific Ocean, where they will acclimate for a month before soaring free.

It is hoped that the eagles will eventually nest and mate, re-establishing a population on the islands, which were once home to one of the heaviest concentrations of bald eagles in the United States. Shipped from Alaska and San Francisco, the eagles are an integral part of an effort by the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service to restore the original ecosystem on Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands. The Nature Conservancy owns 76 percent of the 96-square-mile island.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/29/science/29EAGL.html

TIME TRAVEL ISN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE
from The New York Times

OF all the dreams of science fiction, time travel is the giddiest. To escape time is to escape everything — history, regret and, above all, death. Fed up with Victorian England? Speed to the distant future, as in H. G. Wells's 1895 classic, "The Time Machine." Miserable as an adult? Fly back to your own happier high-school days, as in two of this fall's new television shows. Angry at the end of life? Then choose cryonics, the most immediately available, if certainly the most inelegant, of time machines.

But is actual time travel possible? "The answer is a resounding maybe," said Paul C. W. Davies, a professor of natural philosophy at Macquarie University in Sydney. Dr. Davies is the author of "How to Build a Time Machine" (Penguin Putnam, 2002).

In the seemingly staid world of physics, time travel is all the rage. Some of the giants of physics like Kip S. Thorne of the California Institute of Technology, John A. Wheeler of Princeton University (who coined the term black hole) and the world's best-known physicist, Stephen W. Hawking of the University of Cambridge, have written books in the last few years with speculations about time travel.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/28/weekinreview/28RAMI.html

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Articles of Note

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Puyallup man leading long quest for Noah's Ark
by Bill Hutchens
Tacoma News Tribune

http://www.tribnet.com/news/local/story/1377023p-1495710c.html

"A Puyallup Biblical researcher believes he has discovered the exact location of Noah's Ark on Turkey's Mount Ararat."

Prophetess Duped of N.65m
This Day [Lagos]

http://allafrica.com/stories/200207150036.html

"A middle-aged woman, Mrs. Oyedele Owolabi of Ikokoro street, Ilorin, Kwara State, who described herself as a prophetess, has been duped of N650,000 by a gang of "miracle workers.""

Holy Water Drying Up In Colorado Drought Affecting Historic Shrine Of Mother Cabrini
CBS

http://wcbs880.com/water/StoryFolder/story_1314749238_html

"It is plain water to some, but to others the Shrine of Mother Cabrini in Colorado is a source of healing. However, if it does supply miracles, they may soon be in short supply."

English God promises sex and luck
by Alka Rastogi
Hindustan Times

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/919_19124,001800010001.htm

"After lying buried in a grave near Lucknow for 145 years, an Englishman has been 'discovered' to have supernatural powers. Local people are today flocking to the site with hopes of having their most cherished wishes fulfilled."

The Weekly Scalawag
BY SCOTT HENRY
Creative Loafing Atlanta

http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/2002-07-17/news_scalawag.html

"As our inaugural Scalawag, we'd like to recognize Sid E. Williams, a true American original -- we can only hope."

State board gets earful about history textbooks
Associated Press

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/metropolitan/1498334

"Some believe there is too much focus on technology instead of history in the social studies books that could be used in Texas classes. Others say there is not a fair representation of minorities in the texts."

Kids Books Targets Of Witch Hunt
by DENIS HORGAN
Hartford Courant

http://www.ctnow.com/news/local/hc-horgan0717jul17.story

"While they're at it, why not ban "Macbeth"? All those witches with their "Fair is foul, and foul is fair" stuff, their otherworldly behavior, their predictions. Burn "Macbeth.""

Candice Bergen Debunks Pet Psychic!
by Daniel R. Coleridge
TV Guide

http://www.tvguide.com/newsgossip/insider/020716c.asp

"At 52, Murphy Brown star Candice Bergen is taking it easy. No more of what she calls the "hamster Habitrail" life of headlining a sitcom. She's content playing mom to daughter Chloe, 15, and taking occasional movie roles. Come fall, she'll also host Oxygen's Candice Checks It Out."

Medical Myths: Well-meaning parents pass on some scary notions about health
By DEBRA MELANI
Scripps Howard News Service

http://www.naplesnews.com/02/07/neapolitan/d790670a1.htm

"Remember Grandma's foreboding threat that if you stepped outside without a coat, you would "catch your death of cold"?"

Anti-evolution conservatives plan comeback in Kansas
By DIANE CARROLL
Kansas City Star

http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/mld/ledgerenquirer/news/politics/3666498.htm

"Two years ago, the world watched as moderates and conservatives battled for control of the Kansas Board of Education."

Element 118 Dropped from Periodic Table
Scientific American

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00001E33-9B03-1D34-BCD4809EC5880000&catID=1

"Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) have formally retracted their claims for the discovery of the most massive chemical element. The synthesis of the "superheavy" element 118, comprising 118 protons and 175 nucleons, was announced in a 1999 paper in Physical Review Letters. The results appeared to confirm theories from the 1970s that predicted heightened stability for nuclei containing around 114 protons and 184 neutrons."

Blind Psychic Feels Buttocks To Tell Future
WKMG

http://www.local6.com/orlpn/news/stories/news-156377520020717-150748.html

The case of the missing code
By Farhad Manjoo
Salon

http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/07/17/steganography/index.html

"If you were a terrorist schooled in fundamentalist Islam, mass violence, digital cryptography and, not least, the pack-rat ethos peculiar to eBay, in which corner of that vast auction site might you hide your plans for America's end?"

Did J. Edgar Hoover Really Wear Dresses?
By Ronald Kessler
History News Network

http://hnn.us/articles/814.html

"In 1993, Anthony Summers, in his book Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, claimed that Hoover did not pursue organized crime because the Mafia had blackmail material on him. In support of that, Summers quoted Susan L. Rosenstiel, a former wife of Lewis S. Rosenstiel, chairman of Schenley Industries Inc., as saying that in 1958, she was at a party at the Plaza Hotel where Hoover engaged in cross-dressing in front of her then-husband and Roy Cohn, former counsel to Senator Joe McCarthy."

Science Plus Politics Yields An Explosive Reaction in Capital
By CORY REISS
Lakeland Ledger

http://www.theledger.com/local/florida/21scie.htm

"President Bush gave 19 budding conservationists something to think about when presenting them with Environmental Youth Awards in April last year at the White House."

A theory evolves
By Thomas Hayden
U.S. News & World Report

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/020729/misc/29evo.htm

"When scientists introduced the world to humankind's earliest known ancestor two weeks ago, they showed us more than a mere museum piece. Peering at the 7 million-year-old skull is almost like seeing a reflection of our earlier selves. And yet that fossil represents only a recent chapter in a grander story, beginning with the first single-celled life that arose and began evolving some 3.8 billion years ago. Now, as the science of evolution moves beyond guesswork, we are learning something even more remarkable: how that tale unfolded."

Life's Grand Design
By Holly J. Morris
U.S. News & World Report

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/020729/misc/29design.htm

"Two people come to your door with a petition to give evolution some competition in the science classroom. One is a biblical literalist who wants genetics out and Genesis in. The other is a science professor with exquisite academic credentials, championing a compelling theory called intelligent design. He speaks in painful detail about the bacterial flagellum, whatever that is. Though many may prefer old-style creationism, nowadays the scientist in the suit is getting the most signatures."

The truth is out there ... but not as far as some would like us to think
By BEN BOVA
Naples Daily News

http://www.naplesnews.com/02/07/perspective/d800617a.htm

"I've enjoyed several of Mel Gibson's films, but his latest, "Signs," which deals with "mysterious" crop circles, worries me."

Crop Circle Confession
By Matt Ridley
Scientific American

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00038B16-ED5F-1D29-97CA809EC588EEDF&catID=2

"On August 2, Touchstone Pictures released Signs, starring Mel Gibson as a farmer who discovers mysterious crop circles. Directed by Sixth Sense auteur M. Night Shyamalan, the movie injects otherworldly creepiness into crushed crops. The truth behind the circles is, alas, almost certainly more mundane: skulking humans. Herewith is the account of one such trickster."

Mob storms house of witch doctor in Bandra Chalomumbai

http://in.news.yahoo.com/020721/57/1sbt1.html

"On Friday night a mob of 50 to 60 people attacked the Bandra (East) house of the witch doctor who had instigated an Ambernath resident to do a human sacrifice in June to tide over his personal problems. Police said that the mob, mostly local residents attacked the house of Abdul Sattar Malik also called Baba Rajak Bangali in Bharat Nagar, a sprawling slum near the Bandra-Kurla complex. “They were local residents and they were angry that the incident had spoilt the reputation of their locality,” a policeman from Kherwadi police station said."

Psychologist studies mystery of stigmata
By BRIAN LEWIS
The Tennessean

http://www.tennessean.com/local/archives/02/07/20134669.shtml?Element_ID=20134669

"A local psychologist is investigating the causes of stigmata, the mysteriously appearing wounds resembling those that Christians believe Jesus received when he was crucified."

A Spiritual Awakening at ABC
By Diane Werts
Newsday

http://www.newsday.com/news/printedition/ny-steph2792625jul19.story

"God in politics and prime time? At ABC this fall, spiritual thinking is definitely in the mix."

Hollywood's Alien Obsession
Entertainment Tonight

http://www.etonline.com/celebrity/a11452.htm

"Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's an alien? For years, Hollywood has been obsessed with aliens and the supernatural, from 'Close Encounters' to 'Signs,' MEL GIBSON's mysterious new movie about crop circles. Now, the producer of FOX's "Alien Autopsy" is back with shocking, all-new footage of U.F.O.s, and ET has your exclusive sneak peek!"

Wheat Graffiti
By Daniel Pinchbeck
Wired

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.08/crop.html

"THEY SHOW UP EVERY SUMMER: spirals and interlocking rings, alchemical and shamanic symbols, massive mandalas and Mandelbrot sets, all cut into swaths of land â€" some as large as two football fields set side by side. These patterns, made from swirled wheat and flattened rapeseed, first appeared in the fields of southern England 30 years ago. Their mysterious origin caused a media frenzy until 1991, when two local farmers claimed responsibility for a few of the early formations. The press, satisfied that the whole thing was a hoax, decamped. But crop circles never went away. From the Netherlands to Japan to the farmlands of Canada and the Midwest, hundreds of new glyphs materialize every year â€" and they're growing in both size and complexity."

Debating September 11
The Nation

http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=special&s=web20020712

"David Corn's May 30, 2002, "Capital Games" article, "The 9/11 X-Files," debunking what he saw as the numerous conspiracy theories that have sprung up purporting to explain what happened on September 11, generated numerous letters. We've printed five of them below along with a response from Corn."

Mystery of Delhi's Iron Pillar unraveled
Press Trust of India

http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=12824

"Experts at the Indian Institute of Technology have resolved the mystery behind the 1,600-year-old iron pillar in Delhi, which has never corroded despite the capital's harsh weather."

ROUND IN CIRCLES
by Jason Zasky
Failure Magazine

http://www.failuremag.com/arch_science_crop_circles.html

"On August 2 Touchstone Pictures will release M. Night Shyamalan’s "Signs," a star vehicle for Mel Gibson, who plays a farmer that becomes famous after crop circles begin appearing in his fields. For the uninitiated, crop circles are patternsâ€"man-made or the work of non-human, intelligent beings (depending on who you believe)â€"created by flattening crops in a pre-conceived fashion so that a recognizable design becomes evident. Determining the true nature of crop circles is difficult because crop circle artists (a.k.a. hoaxers), researchers, historians and enthusiasts rarely make definitive claims. While "Signs" isn’t likely to clarify any hot-button crop circle issues, it promises to be entertaining and will certainly add fuel an already lively debate."

Alien Armada!
By Peter Carlson
Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A31625-2002Jul19.html

"In the control tower at Washington National Airport, Ed Nugent saw seven pale violet blips on his radar screen. What were they? Not planes -- at least not any planes that were supposed to be there."

Ayurveda's answer to Viagra hits the shelves

By Bibhuti Mishra in Bhubaneswar

A young Ayurvedic doctor in Orissa has developed a drug he says is India's answer to Viagra: Semegra!

Santosh Kumar Arya, a Berhampur doctor says his "wonder drug", released after clearance by Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy, can be a cure for premature ejaculation, sexual debility, impotency, male infertility and general weakness.

"Most of the males today face difficulties in sexual life and it leads to all kinds of discord in family life. That set me thinking."

I found that there are some drugs in the market sold as remedies to sexual dysfunction but some of them are very costly; others are useless."

"So I got down to preparing this new drug by going through ayurvedic texts."

Semegra, he claims, is free of side effects and older people with diabetes or cardiac problems can safely take this drug.

Semegra was sent to the authorised analysts of drugs-ATOZ pharmaceuticals and Sanjeevani. Their report said Semegra was prepared from natural sources, contained no synthetic articles and is a good and safe sexual stimulant.

Semegra is available at Rs four per capsule, a cheaper option compared to Viagra, which sells at Rs 20 per capsule.

http://headlines.sify.com/1046news4.html


Sunday, July 28, 2002

SOLAR GRAND SLAM

http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/20020724grandslam.html

July 25, 2002 - (date of web publication)

While Tiger Woods was trying to claim the top four golf tournaments, the Sun delivered a grand slam of its own, blasting four of its most powerful class of solar flares in just eight days.

Solar flares are tremendous explosions in the atmosphere of the Sun, with the most powerful class, called the X class, capable of releasing as much energy as a billion megatons of TNT. Flares are closely watched by solar astronomers because they can disrupt high-technology systems, but the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft gave a preview of the stormy solar weather while it was still rumbling on the far side of the Sun, the side opposite the Earth.

The flares came from sites of violent activity on the Sun, called active regions. Active region (AR) 10030 blazed with an X 3.0 flare on July 15, and an X 1.8 flare July 18. On July 20, AR 10036 blasted an X 3.3 flare, and an X 4.8 flare, the most potent of the series, exploded July 23 from AR 10039. These active regions were all associated with sunspots, planet-sized dark areas on the solar surface caused by an intense concentration of magnetic fields.

Active regions are much larger than the Earth and consist of strong magnetic fields on the Sun's surface. Active regions produce flares and eruptions of plasma (hot, electrically charged gas), called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The radiation and plasma from these events sweep past the Earth, sometimes affecting spacecraft electronics and terrestrial power systems, and disrupting radio communications. Understanding and forecasting solar eruptions and their consequences is a relatively new science called space weather.

Now space weather experts watch the Sun more closely than ever, because modern systems are much more vulnerable to solar disturbances than old technology. The experts can still be taken by surprise because the Sun rotates, bringing the effects of hidden active regions to bear on Earth.

However, scientists using SOHO had advance warning that stormy weather was brewing on the Sun. "Activity from active region 10039 was 'expected,' based on a series of strong, far-side halo coronal mass ejections during the last week and far-side observations by the SOHO Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI)," said Dr. Joe Gurman, the U.S. Project Scientist for SOHO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"It adds some fun to see things coming," said Dr. Philip Scherrer, Principal Investigator for MDI at Stanford University. Scherrer sent an email to Gurman warning of the imminent appearance of AR 10039.

SOHO orbits a special point in space one million miles from Earth in line with the Sun, so it can't see the far side of the Sun directly. However, the MDI instrument can form an image of far-side active regions by analyzing ripples on the Sun's surface. Sound waves reverberating through the Sun generate the ripples, which are analyzed by computer to form an image of the far side and the solar interior. Analysis of solar sound waves is the science of helioseismology, and it opened the Sun's gaseous interior to investigation in much the same way as seismologists learned to explore the Earth's rocky interior with earthquake waves.

"Halo" CMEs are named because of their appearance in another SOHO instrument, the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO). A halo CME resembles a faint, white ring that expands in LASCO's field of view as the ejected plasma cloud moves away from the Sun. Astronomers pay close attention to halo CMEs because they can be on a collision course for Earth. Since these were from active regions on the far side of the Sun, they were heading in the opposite direction and posed no threat. However, they were useful as harbingers of the angry active regions about to rotate into our view.

SOHO is a cooperative project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The spacecraft was built in Europe for ESA and equipped with instruments by teams of scientists in Europe and the USA.

U. of I. study casts doubt on bubble fusion report

By Jeremy Manier
Tribune staff reporter

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0207250403jul25.story

July 25, 2002

Studying tiny water bubbles that collapse in intense flashes of light and heat, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have added a skeptical note to a growing controversy over whether similar bubbles could create cheap energy through nuclear fusion.

The Illinois team's work, published Thursday in the journal Nature, may cast more doubt on a disputed report from earlier this year in which physicists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., said they had detected fusion reactions in bubble experiments. Some researchers criticized the work as inconclusive, recalling a furor in the 1980s over unfounded claims that scientists had discovered the key to limitless energy using "cold fusion."

Nuclear fusion, the potent energy source that powers the sun and hydrogen bombs, has been produced in a controlled way only in vast and expensive experimental facilities. The instruments used achieve fusion by subjecting a form of hydrogen to intense heat and pressure, causing the atoms to fuse.

If successful, bubble fusion could replicate that process in devices that fit on a tabletop, possibly providing a cheap and clean source of energy.

Dial up peace and love with 'phone shui' Web site organizers hope to bring 'positive energy'

http://167.216.192.98/httabloid/cda/storymain/0,4074,1384,00.html

July 24, 2002, Reuters

Job hassles got you down? Relationships causing problems?

Don't despair -- salvation could be just a new mobile phone tone away, according to the principles of "phone shui."

The 21st century take on the ancient Chinese art of feng shui promises "all good things" to those who put the art of harmonious living to use through the omnipresent earpiece.

A Web site launched on Wednesday by feng shui expert to the stars Paul Darby and mobile phone retailer phones4U invites the UK's 28 million mobile phone users to log on and receive a phone shui diagnosis.

Darby said mobile phone users need to understand that their ring tones and how they answer, text and charge their phones can help bring "positive energy" to their lives.

Visitors to the site www.phoneshui.co.uk are asked to answer a set of questions to determine their character type. They are then told how they can get the most from their mobiles to improve high-priority areas of their lives.

Must-haves for those looking to spice up their love lives are a pink phone cover and ring tones such as "Endless Love" and "Something Stupid."

Faltering lovers are also told they can rekindle the flame by tying their mobile phones together with a red ribbon and charging them together in the southwest corner of their homes or offices.

Placing an elephant design on their phones should give a boost to those looking to jump-start their careers, while a blue phone wi th a frog or fish logo could help those looking for a life of riches.

Darby said the techno-age twist on the ancient philosophy could help people cope with the stresses and strains of everyday life.

"I think combining feng shui with one of the items we use most in life, the mobile phone, will provide vital wellbeing on a wide scale for our hectic modern lives," he said in a statement.

See also http://www.ntskeptics.org/news/news2002-03-24.htm.

Academy of Sciences to Hold Summit on Limiting Science Publications to Prevent Terrorism

Jul 26, 2002

By Randolph E. Schmid
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Concerned that researchers may be publishing information that might be useful to terrorists, the National Academy of Sciences is planning a meeting to discuss whether researchers should withhold some information from publications.

Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society for Microbiology, proposed the meeting in a letter to Academy president Bruce Alberts.

Atlas said his society has been asked by some authors to allow them to withhold information out of concern that it might be misappropriated or abused.

Such a step runs counter to current policies in the scientific community, which generally require researchers publishing their findings to include enough detail for others in the field to duplicate their results.

Indeed, it is through that process of duplicating and building upon published research that scientific progress continues.

"Science, by its definition, is supposed to be repeatable and if we permit publication of manuscripts that lack sufficient detail ... we will be undercutting science and we're not prepared to do that," Atlas said.

In cases where an editor thinks there may be national security problems, the society has a policy of calling a meeting to discuss whether to publish the article, he said.

An example, Atlas said, might be if a scientist developed a molecular method for detecting smallpox or anthrax and did not want to disclose details of how it is done.

He stressed that this is not a question of research that is classified for national security reasons. That decision is usually made when the research is started, Atlas explained, not at the end when it is submitted for publication.

The current concern is with work that has been done and is described in a manuscript submitted for publication.

Academy spokesman William Skane said the meeting of publishers of journals and other interested groups in the biological sciences will be scheduled in the fall.

"We look forward to this as an opportunity to air concerns and also to try to do some fact-finding. There has been talk of these problems since Sept. 11, but we don't know how genuine they are. We believe this will be a good opportunity to find out," he said.

Atlas noted that his society publishes 11 journals and has a policy that requires inclusion of all relevant data and methods in research reports.

"We consider the ability to replicate research results the cornerstone for the ethical publication of scientific research," he said.

AP-ES-07-26-02 1348EDT

This story can be found at: http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGANNHGD44D.html

Paranormal beliefs linked to brain chemistry

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992589

9:15 27 July 02

Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition

Whether or not you believe in the paranormal may depend entirely on your brain chemistry. People with high levels of dopamine are more likely to find significance in coincidences, and pick out meaning and patterns where there are none.

Peter Brugger, a neurologist from the University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, has suggested before that people who believe in the paranormal often seem to be more willing to see patterns or relationships between events where sceptics perceive nothing.

To find out what could be triggering these thoughts, Brugger persuaded 20 self-confessed believers and 20 sceptics to take part in an experiment.

F-16s Pursue Unknown Craft Over Region

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8131-2002Jul26.html

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 27, 2002; Page B02

For Renny Rogers, it was strange enough that military jets were flying low over his home in Waldorf in the middle of the night. It was what he thinks he saw when he headed outside to look early yesterday that floored him.

"It was this object, this light-blue object, traveling at a phenomenal rate of speed," Rogers said. "This Air Force jet was right behind it, chasing it, but the object was just leaving him in the dust. I told my neighbor, 'I think those jets are chasing a UFO.' "

Military officials confirm that two F-16 jets from Andrews Air Force Base were scrambled early yesterday after radar detected an unknown aircraft in area airspace. But they scoff at the idea that the jets were chasing a strange and speedy, blue unidentified flying object.


Saturday, July 27, 2002

Everything under the Sun

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2153775.stm

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Astronomers have produced a snapshot of the Solar System - a map showing where everything is right now.

The image plots all the known inner Solar System objects on 26 July 2002.

Planets, comets and asteroids are all recorded in this unique plot, obtained by merging information from several active databases that are updated almost daily.

The light blue lines indicate the orbits of the planets. The green dots indicate asteroids. The red dots are asteroids that come within 1.3 Earth-Sun distances of the Sun, thus posing an increased (although small) risk of collision with the Earth.

Comets appear as dark blue squares, while the dark blue points are so-called Jupiter Trojan asteroids - objects that orbit just ahead of, or just behind, Jupiter.

As can be seen, most of the asteroids of the inner Solar System orbit between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt. About 40,000 asteroids have been catalogued to date.

One researcher involved with the project at the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass, US, said that it looked as though our Solar System was a crowded and busy place.

In reality, all these objects are spread across a billion miles of space and mostly orbiting the Sun in the same direction.

New cellular evolution theory rejects Darwinian assumptions

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-06/uoia-nce061402.php

Contact: Jim Barlow
b-james3@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Life did not begin with one primordial cell. Instead, there were initially at least three simple types of loosely constructed cellular organizations. They swam in a pool of genes, evolving in a communal way that aided one another in bootstrapping into the three distinct types of cells by sharing their evolutionary inventions.

The driving force in evolving cellular life on Earth, says Carl Woese, a microbiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been horizontal gene transfer, in which the acquisition of alien cellular components, including genes and proteins, work to promote the evolution of recipient cellular entities.

Woese presents his theory of cellular evolution, which challenges long-held traditions and beliefs of biologists, in the June 18 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cellular evolution, he argues, began in a communal environment in which the loosely organized cells took shape through extensive horizontal gene transfer. Such a transfer previously had been recognized as having a minor role in evolution, but the arrival of microbial genomics, Woese says, is shedding a more accurate light. Horizontal gene transfer, he argues, has the capacity to rework entire genomes. With simple primitive entities this process can "completely erase an organismal genealogical trace."

His theory challenges the longstanding Darwinian assumption known as the Doctrine of Common Descent – that all life on Earth has descended from one original primordial form.

"We cannot expect to explain cellular evolution if we stay locked in the classical Darwinian mode of thinking," Woese said. "The time has come for biology to go beyond the Doctrine of Common Descent."

"Neither it nor any variation of it can capture the tenor, the dynamic, the essence of the evolutionary process that spawned cellular organization," Woese wrote in his paper.

Going against traditional thinking is not new to Woese, a recipient of the National Medal of Science (2000), and holder of the Stanley O. Ikenberry Endowed Chair at Illinois.

In the late 1970s Woese identified the Archaea, a group of microorganisms that thrive primarily in extremely harsh environments, as a separate life form from the planet's two long-accepted lines – the typical bacteria and the eukaryotes (creatures like animals, plants, fungi and certain unicellular organisms, whose cells have a visible nucleus). His discovery eventually led to a revision of biology books around the world.

The three primary divisions of life now comprise the familiar bacteria and eukaryotes, along with the Archaea. Woese argues that these three life forms evolved separately but exchanged genes, which he refers to as inventions, along the way. He rejects the widely held notion that endosymbiosis (which led to chloroplasts and mitochondria) was the driving force in the evolution of the eukaryotic cell itself or that it was a determining factor in cellular evolution, because that approach assumes a beginning with fully evolved cells.

His theory follows years of analysis of the Archaea and a comparison with bacterial and eukaryote cell lines.

"The individual cell designs that evolved in this way are nevertheless fundamentally distinct, because the initial conditions in each case are somewhat different," Woese wrote in his introduction. "As a cell design becomes more complex and interconnected a critical point is reached where a more integrated cellular organization emerges, and vertically generated novelty can and does assume greater importance."

Woese calls this critical point in a cell's evolutionary course the Darwinian Threshold, a time when a genealogical trail, or the origin of a species, begins. From this point forward, only relatively minor changes can occur in the evolution of the organization of a given type of cell.

To understand cellular evolution, one must go back beyond the Darwinian Threshold, Woese said.

His argument is built around evidence "from the three main cellular information processing systems" – translation, transcription and replication – and he suggests that cellular evolution progressed in that order, with translation leading the way.

The pivotal development in the evolution of modern protein-based cells, Woese said, was the invention of symbolic representation on the molecular level – that is, the capacity to "translate" nucleic acid sequence into amino acid sequence.

Human language is another example of the evolutionary potential of symbolic representation, he argues. "It has set Homo sapiens entirely apart from its (otherwise very close) primitive relatives, and it is bringing forth a new level of biological organization," Woese wrote.

The advent of translation, he said, caused various archaic nucleic-based entities to begin changing into proteinaceous ones, emerging as forerunners of modern cells as genes and other individual components were exchanged among them. The three modern types of cellular organization represent a mosaic of relationships: In some ways one pair of them will appear highly similar; in others a different pair will.

This, Woese said, is exactly what would be expected had they individually begun as distinct entities, but during their subsequent evolutions they had engaged in genetic cross-talk – they had indulged in a commerce of genes.

The Snowball Earth

http://www-eps.harvard.edu/people/faculty/hoffman/snowball_paper.html

Many lines of evidence support a theory that the entire Earth was ice-covered for long periods 600-700 million years ago. Each glacial period lasted for millions of years and ended violently under extreme greenhouse conditions. These climate shocks triggered the evolution of multicellular animal life, and challenge long-held assumptions regarding the limits of global change.

by Paul F. Hoffman and Daniel P. Schrag

August 8, 1999

CONTENTS

Introduction
Frozen and fried
Sea ice at the equator
The acid test
Survival and redemption of life
Snowball episodes and Earth history
Further reading
Illustrations

Introduction

Geology tells us that the Earth's climate is subject to change on various timescales, but what are the limits to climatic variability? Over the last million years that constitute the Pleistocene epoch, the time in which humans evolved, continents bordering the North Atlantic Ocean were periodically glaciated at intervals governed by changes in the Earth's orbit around the Sun. At the height of the last ice age, a mere 21,000 years ago, much of North America and Europe were covered by glaciers over 2 kilometers thick, causing sea level to drop by 120 meters. The chill was global: land and sea ice combined to cover 30 percent of the Earth's surface, more than at any other time in the last 500 million years. Although these are dramatic examples of the variability of Earth's climate, they pale by comparison with climatic events near the end of the Neoproterozoic eon (1000-543 million years ago), events that immediately preceded the first appearance of recognizable animal life around 600 million years ago.

In 1964, Brian Harland at Cambridge University postulated that the Earth had experienced a great Neoproterozoic ice age. He pointed out that Neoproterozoic glacial deposits, similar in type to those of the Pleistocene, are widely distributed on virtually every continent. Harland could only speculate on the positions of continents in Neoproterozoic time and could not rule out the possibility that various continents were glaciated at different times as they drifted close to the poles. Nevertheless, he inferred that ice lines penetrated the tropics from the occurrence of glacial deposits within types of marine sedimentary strata characteristic of low latitudes. What could cause glaciers to reach sea level near the Equator? Climate physicists were just developing mathematical models of the Earth's climate, providing a new perspective on the limits to glaciation. The Earth's climate is fundamentally controlled by the way that solar radiation interacts with the Earth's surface and atmosphere. We receive ~343 watts per square meter of radiation from the Sun. Some of this is reflected back to space by clouds and by the Earth's surface, but approximately two thirds is absorbed by the Earth's surface and atmosphere, increasing the average temperature. Earth's surface emits radiation at longer wavelengths (infrared), balancing the energy of the radiation that has been absorbed. If more of the solar radiation were reflected back to space, then less radiation would be absorbed at the surface and the Earth's temperature would decrease. The surface albedo is a measure of how much radiation is reflected; snow has a high albedo (~0.8), seawater has a low albedo (~0.1), and land surfaces have intermediate values that vary widely depending mainly on the types and distribution of vegetation. When snow falls on land or ice forms at sea, the increase in the albedo causes greater cooling, stabilizing the snow and ice. This is called ice-albedo feedback, and it is an important factor in the waxing (and waning) of ic e sheets.

Caveat Impactor

NASA Science News

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2002/26jul_nt7.htm

An asteroid with almost no chance of hitting Earth made big headlines this week.

July 26, 2002: I slid a dollar bill across the counter, and the cashier handed back a lottery ticket. The odds for winning: 1-in-250,000. A long shot, but you never know.

Walking out of the store, ticket in hand, I glance at a newspaper. "Tony Phillips wins the lottery!" the headline declared. Gosh, I thought, that seems premature ... not to mention weird.

Indeed, it's fiction. For one thing, I never buy lottery tickets. But mainly, no one would write such a headline based on such slender odds.

Yet that's what happened this week, in real life, to an asteroid.

On July 9, 2002, MIT astronomers discovered 2002 NT7, a 2 km-wide space rock in a curious orbit. Unlike most asteroids, which circle the Sun in the plane of the planets, 2002 NT7 follows a path that is tilted 42 degrees. It spends most of its time far above or below the rest of the solar system. Every 2.29 years, however, the asteroid plunges through the inner solar system not far from Earth's orbit.

After a week of follow-up observations, researchers did some calculations. There was a chance, they concluded, that 2002 NT7 might hit our planet on February 1, 2019. The odds of impact: 1-in-250,000.

"Space Rock 'on Collision Course'," a headline declared days later. "Asteroid Could Wipe Out a Continent in 2019," another one warned. Really.

"In fact," says Don Yeomans, the manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at JPL, "the threat is minimal. One-in-250,000 is a very small number."

The odds are not only low, but also uncertain. Yeomans explains: "We've been tracking 2002 NT7 for a very short time--only 17 days so far," Meanwhile, the asteroid takes 2.29 years to orbit the Sun. Predictions based on such a small fraction of an orbit are seldom trustworthy.

It's becoming a familiar routine: Astronomers discover a near-Earth asteroid. With only meager data at hand, they can't rule out a collision in the distant future. Headlines trumpet the danger. Finally, the alarm subsides when more data lead to a better orbit--one that rules out an impact.

"As far as the public is concerned," says Jon Giorgini of JPL's Solar System Dynamics Group, "it just isn't worth getting worked up about an object with a couple weeks of data showing a possible Earth encounter many years from now. Additional measurements will shrink the uncertainty by a large amount--and Earth will (almost certainly) fall out of the risk zone."

Already this is happening for 2002 NT7. The calculated probability of a collision with Earth is shrinking as astronomers add new data each day. "I suspect it will take only a few more weeks (or maybe months) to completely rule out an impact in 2019," says Yeomans.

Giorgini explains further: "When we calculate an asteroid's position (based on measurements made at a telescope), the result isn't a single point in space. Instead, it's a volume of space where the asteroid could be with some probability. We deal with probabilities, not absolute answers, because the measurements contain errors." For example, optical data can be corrupted by twinkling and refraction in Earth's atmosphere. (Radar is better, notes Giorgini, but no radar data have yet been obtained for 2002 NT7.)

"When you project this initial probability region years into the future, it naturally expands. For a newly discovered object with only a few days tracking, the uncertainty region can easily grow to cover a big part of the inner solar system. Because Earth is in the inner solar system, and can potentially cut through this volume of smeared out probability, we end up with finite impact probabilities."

"A finite probability, however, is not really a prediction of impact," he cautions, "but a statement that one is possible." Of course, many things are possible. Like the newspaper headline "Tony Phillips wins the Lottery!" But most of them do not happen.

JPL lists asteroids like 2002 NT7 on their Internet "risk page" not to raise an alarm, says Yeomans, but to alert astronomers when new discoveries merit attention. "It's important that we continue tracking these asteroids to refine their orbits," he says. The more observers, the better.

What's an ordinary person to do?

The next time you see a headline "Killer asteroid threatens Earth!" ask yourself two questions: Have we known about this space rock for more than a week or so? (If not, check again in a month. It probably won't be considered a killer then.) And what are the odds of impact?

If you're more likely to win the lottery, there's probably nothing to worry about.

Editor's note: Big asteroids have hit Earth before and it's only a matter of time before one threatens us again. Will it be years, decades, millions of years? No one knows. The point of this article is not that we are safe from asteroid strikes. We are not safe. Rather, we hope to give readers some of the information they might need to evaluate popular reports of impending collisions.


Friday, July 26, 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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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – July 26, 2002

SCIENTISTS WORRY JOURNALS MAY AID TERRORISTS
from The New York Times

The leader of a national scientific organization has sought the advice of the National Academy of Sciences on whether scientific journals should withhold information that may aid bioterrorists or countries contemplating biological warfare.

In a letter to the academy, Dr. Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society for Microbiology, wrote, "We are now being asked to allow authors to withhold critical information because of concern that significant data could be misappropriated or abused."

The issue is a hard one for scientific journals; many of them insist that scientific articles must include the information necessary for others to reproduce the findings.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/26/science/26RESE.html

FISH GENES AID HUMAN DISCOVERIES
from The New York Times

Almost a thousand new human genes have been discovered in the human genome by scientists who have decoded the genome of a very distant relative, the fugu, or puffer fish.

As many as three-quarters of the fish's genes have direct human counterparts, despite the 450 million years of evolution since the two vertebrates shared an ancestor, according to an article posted today on the Web site of the journal Science.

The fugu, a highly poisonous delicacy prepared in Japanese restaurants by specially trained chefs, has long been of interest to Dr. Sydney Brenner, one of the founders of molecular biology, because of its highly compact genome. Though the fugu fish has much the same number of genes as people, its genome is a mere eighth the size because it lacks much of the junk DNA that clutters the human genome.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/26/science/26FISH.html

PUT STRONG WARNING ON TUNA, FDA TOLD; PREGNANT WOMEN MOST AT RISK
from The San Francisco Chronicle

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should warn pregnant women that eating large amounts of canned tuna can cause potential fetal damage from mercury, a science panel recommended Thursday.

The 15-member panel that advises the FDA on food matters issued its recommendations Thursday after meeting for three days about whether women needed stronger warnings on how much fish is safe to consume. The panel's recommendations are generally approved by the FDA.

Mercury waste from mines and industry flows to oceans and lakes, and taints fish and wildlife. At the greatest risk are fetuses, which can suffer damage to their developing nervous systems.

The panel, meeting in Beltsville, Md., agreed that the FDA's fish advisories issued last year don't go far enough and should include limits on canned tuna, the most commonly eaten seafood in the nation.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/07/26/MN229793.DTL

WOMAN CARRIES HUMAN CLONE, GROUP SAYS
from The Boston Globe

A fringe religious movement's South Korea-based scientific team yesterday said they had implanted a cloned human embryo in a woman, the latest of a string of similar uncomfirmed experiments to emerge from the underground field of human cloning.

The Raelian Movement's chief scientist refused to confirm details of the team's report, but said that they soon would make an announcement that numerous scientists and governments around the world have been dreading.

"The only thing I can tell you is that, yes, we have done implantations and the next announcement will be the birth of a baby," said Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, director of Clonaid, the scientific wing of the Swiss- headquartered Raelian Movement, which believes humans are clones of God- like aliens destined to revisit Earth.

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/206/nation/Woman_carries_human_clone_group_says+.shtml

BRAZIL UNVEILS RADAR SYSTEM TO KEEP TABS ON AMAZON
from The Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (July 25, 2002 5:39 p.m. EDT) - Brazil unveiled a state-of-the-art radar system Thursday that it hopes will help unlock the mysteries and economic potential of the vast Amazon as well as track down lawbreakers.

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso flew to the jungle city of Manaus to inaugurate the Amazon Surveillance System, a $1.4 billion network of radar stations and computers built by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Corp. that will track everything from illegal landing strips to climatic conditions to soil composition in the world's largest wilderness.

The system, known here as SIVAM, aims to help protect the Amazon from environmental destruction and drug-dealing guerrillas while providing data to unlock the region's economic potential.

http://www.nando.net/healthscience/story/478376p-3820648c.html

THE TRUE STORY OF 'K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER'
Web Site Review from The Christian Science Monitor

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – The facts, ma'am. Just the facts.

July 19 marked the first major motion picture release by the National Geographic Society. K-19: The Widowmaker is based on the true story of a near-disaster aboard the Soviet Union's first nuclear ballistic submarine. But while National Geographic is involved, this Harrison Ford/Liam Neeson film is not a documentary – not by a long shot – so those who would like to learn the real story should visit the National Geographic site.

While the film doesn't claim to be historically accurate, "inspired by real events" is often interpreted as the same thing, so this website plays an important role in providing some factual damage control.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0724/p25s02-stin.html

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Member of Sex Abuse Panel Upsets Some

July 26, 2002
By ANTHONY DePALMA and LAURIE GOODSTEIN

With memories, some from long ago, at the heart of many reports that priests committed sexual abuse, the appointment to a national lay board of a prominent psychiatrist who has crusaded against the validity of repressed memories has upset victims' groups and reignited a fierce debate among psychiatric professionals.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Paul R. McHugh, is former chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He has been one of the strongest critics of psychiatric therapy based on the technique that traumatic experiences, especially in young people, can be subconsciously repressed for years.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/26/national/26BISH.html?ex=1028664674&ei=1&en=995fbe94382e6976

Scientists model waves caused by black hole mergers

http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0207/25blackhole/

PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Posted: July 25, 2002

Merging black holes will rock the fabric of space and time with gravitational waves that start quiet, grow to a thunderous roar at the moment of impact, and then resonate from the final gong, according to international team of scientists who have created a novel computer model of such a merger based on Einstein's equations. Scientists present these results this week at the Fourth International LISA Symposium on gravitational radiation at Penn State University in University Park.

Gravitational waves constitute a form of radiation predicted by Einstein but which has yet to be directly detected. "The collision of two black holes is the ultimate manifestation of Einstein's theory of general relativity," said Lee Samuel Finn, Director of the Center for Gravitational Wave Physics at Penn State and chair of the LISA Symposium Scientific Organizing Committee. "Anything we can do to understand that process better is a step toward the success of the LISA mission."

"We can only observe black holes plunging into each other through gravitational waves," said John Baker of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "This model is an important first step toward understanding what such waves will look -- or sound -- like."

Baker and his colleagues, Manuela Campanelli and Carlos Lousto of the University of Texas at Brownsville, and Ryoji Takahashi of the Theoretical Astrophysics Center in Copenhagen, collectively known as the Lazarus Team, have recently published a journal article about this modeling in the journal Physical Review D. Baker presents his novel computer model during the LISA meeting this week.

Gravitational waves ripple through space like waves upon an ocean. These exotic waves offer an entirely new window on the Universe and may carry direct information about black holes and stellar explosions, or information about the Big Bang itself. Gravitational waves are produced by massive objects in motion. The waves travel at light speed with a wide range of frequencies, carrying energy away from the source.

Unlike light waves (electromagnetic radiation), gravitational waves do not interact strongly with matter. Passing gravitational waves alter the distance between objects, gently shifting them so they bob like buoys rising and falling on the sea surface with each passing wave. Even for objects as far apart as the Earth and the Moon though, gravitational waves might alter their separation only by a length a thousand times smaller than an atom.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Washington and Louisiana -- funded by the National Science Foundation and now in the commissioning phase -- hopes to detect distances between test objects altered by gravitational waves. A proposed NASA - European Space Agency mission called the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) would do the same from space. But these observatories need models in order to interpret the data they hope to collect.

"These calculations are the first to give us some insight into certain kinds of signals that we'll be receiving with LISA," said Robin Stebbins, the NASA Project Scientist for LISA. "Since gravitational waves produce such tiny effects, even in the best receivers we know how to build, any knowledge of this complex phenomenon is very valuable. Now that the Lazarus team is able to model the expected signals, we can better optimize the detectors."

Events that produce detectable gravitational waves include black-hole and galaxy mergers, neutron-star mergers, and massive-star explosions. The Lazarus team focused on binary black holes in their final orbit, just as they are about to merge. This model also includes galaxy mergers -- the coalescence of supermassive black holes in galaxy cores.

This latest computer model uses a combination of treatments, each specialized to a different stage in the process of binary-black-hole coalescence. Most importantly, the model employs Einstein's nonlinear equations to describe the critical moment when the black holes plunge together, requiring a supercomputer with at least 100 gigabytes of RAM. Simple Newtonian theory does not account for the warping of spacetime by gravity, a prediction of General Relativity, and is thus inadequate for describing the physics of strong gravity near a black hole.

The model supports previous predictions that the gravitational waves from coalescing black holes will be relatively weak until just moments before the merger. Then, the wave would grow louder, culminating in a thunderous impact. After this, the newly formed single black hole would resonate with that final gong from the merger. Stellar-size black holes would produce waves with a frequency of about 10 hertz, in the range of the ground-based LIGO detector. Supermassive black holes would produce waves with a frequency of a thousandth of a hertz, in the range of the space-based LISA detector.

John Baker works at Goddard's newly formed gravitational wave Group in the Laboratory for High-Energy Astrophysics and is funded through a grant with the National Research Council. A copy of the journal article, "Modeling Gravitational Radiation from Coalescing Binary Black Holes", is available at http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0202469.

This work began while all the collaborators were working at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Germany. The institute's director, Bernard Schutz, who is a European member of the LISA International Science Team, commented that this study "... is a perfect illustration of the international nature of work in gravitational waves and the interpretation of Einstein's theory. From detector development to the prediction and interpretation of observations, we need to involve the best scientific minds from around the world if we are to do justice to Einstein's great vision."

Re: Scientists model waves caused by black hole mergers

If you want to see nice pictures of the Lazarus gravitational wave simulations, go to

http://www.aei.mpg.de/about/news/PM_details.html

If you don't believe in ghosts, here is something that may change your mind.

http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/news/072502_nw_ghost.html

A woman saw something strange while working at an Oklahoma car impound lot earlier this month. She saw a figure circling around, and it was caught on a surveillance tape.

The woman told another worker to check it out, but that person found nobody there.

Three vehicles on the lot that night where involved in fatal accidents.

A paranormal investigator says its possible the mysterious figure could have been one of those spirits, searching for its car.

File-erasing viruses debunked

http://www.cnet.com/techtrends/0-7311128-8-7322123-1.html?img

Did you hear the one about an unnamed virus that deletes the contents of your hard drive? So did I, and it's a hoax.

By Robert Vamosi
Associate editor, CNET Software
(4/5/02)

If you've found this e-mail in your in-box, think twice before you take it at face value:

WARNING: If you receive an e-mail titled [fill in the blank], DO NOT OPEN IT. It will erase everything on your hard drive. This information was announced on (date) by IBM stating that this is a very dangerous virus, much worse than Melissa, and that there is NO remedy for it this time.

Sound familiar? ehoax@cnet.com has received more than its fair share of this e-mail. The actual text varies, but each can be considered a variation of the Let's Watch TV hoax or the Takes Guts to Say Jesus hoax. One of the latest variations references Happy99, Snow White, and I Love You as possible attachments. While these are the names of attachments found in legitimate, virus-infected e-mail, it's extremely unlikely that one virus would contain all of these potential attachments.

The Virtues of Promiscuity

http://www.alternet.org/mobile/story_mobile.html?StoryID=13648

Sally Lehrman, AlterNet
July 22, 2002

"Slutty" behavior is good for the species. That is the conclusion of a new wave of research on the evolutionary drives behind sexuality and parenting.

Women everywhere have been selflessly engaging in trysts outside of matrimony. And they have been doing it for a good long time and for excellent reasons. Anthropologists say female promiscuity binds communities closer together and improves the gene pool.

More than 20 tribal societies accept the principle that a child could, and ideally ought to, have more than one father, according to Pennsylvania anthropologist Stephen Beckerman. "As one looks, it begins to crop up in a lot of places," says Beckerman, who has reviewed dozens of reports on tribes from South America, New Guinea, Polynesia and India as co-editor of the newly released book, "Cultures of Multiple Fathers."

Less than 50 years ago, Canela women, who live in Amazonian Brazil, enjoyed the delights of as many as 40 men one after another in festive rituals. When it was time to have a child, they'd select their favorite dozen or so lovers to help their husband with the all-important task. Even today, when the dalliances of married Barí ladies in Columbia and Venezuela result in a child, they proudly announce the long list of probable fathers.

In other words, the much-touted evolutionary bargain of female fidelity for food -- trotted out by evolutionary psychologists with maddening regularity -- just doesn't hold up.

Off with their headlines!

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/020729/opinion/29john.htm

By John Leo
US News & World Report

One of my favorite headlines made the newspapers yet again the other day: "Mankind Older Than Previously Believed." This is a revered headline, often wheeled out in summer, when things are slow. One media outlet deviated boldly from the conventional script ("Skull Fossil From Chad Forces Rethinking of Human Origins"). Nice try, but veteran readers know MOTPB when they see it, no matter how much novelty-besotted editors try to gussy things up. Readers of science sections also keep seeing a similar headline: "Universe Older Than Previously Believed." You may have thought the universe was, say 20 gazillion epochs old, but science sections tirelessly point out your utter ignorance by showing that things are much older. "New Theory of Dinosaur Extinction" is another traditional headline. No matter how you think the tiresome giant reptiles died off, it always turns out that they probably perished some other way.

Many observers insist that science sections are reluctant to use any headline that is less than 40 years old, but that is surely an exaggeration ("Science Headlines Younger Than Previously Believed"). One source of originality is the regular flow of studies showing that fatty things may be good for you after all. Coming soon to a science section near you: "Butter - Our New Health Food?" But it's surely true that science editors are fond of the familiar. Why else do we keep reading "Feelings- Keys to a Balanced Life," "Our Cheatin' Hearts-Why People Lie," and "Rich People Get Better Medical Care Than Poor, Study Shows"?


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