NTS LogoSkeptical News for 10 August 2002

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Saturday, August 10, 2002


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 600 August 1, 2002 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

HIGH PRECISION TESTS OF THE STANDARD MODEL have been reported this past week in two areas: CP-violation in B mesons (experiments at the KEK lab in Japan and the SLAC lab in California) and the magnetic moment of the muon (an experiment at the Brookhaven lab in New York). The standard model, trying to explain the forces of nature through the exchange of particles, consists of the electroweak framework (force exchanged by photons and by Z and W bosons) plus the quantum chromodynamic (QCD) framework for quarks (force exchanged by gluons). The model has been highly successful in accounting for the behavior of electrons in atoms (in the case of some transition frequencies, theory and experiment agree at the parts-per-trillion level or better) and does a good job of predicting other phenomena as well, such as CP violation. The model does not include, but can accommodate, neutrino oscillation. Extensions of the standard model, such as superstring theory--which pictures all matter as consisting of tiny strings or membranes--can (unlike the standard model) account for the force of gravity, the existence of extra spatial dimensions, and the proposition (known as supersymmetry, or SUSY) that all fermion particles have boson counterparts and vice versa. SUSY is by now an acceptable idea for many particle physicists but it would necessitate an overhaul of the standard model since the existence of superparticles would entail a whole new force, one which transforms fermions into bosons and back again. This force, in turn, would be transmitted via a hypothetical "leptoquark" particle.

The new CP violation tests were reported at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Amsterdam. Both the Belle detector group at KEK and the BaBar detector group at SLAC observed subtleties in the decays of B mesons and measured a parameter called sine two beta. The value measured for both groups, with much better precision than ever before, is approaching the value predicted by the standard model, thus erasing past discrepancies.


Meanwhile, at Brookhaven the g-2 collaboration seeks to observe a departure of the muon's magnetic moment (related to the muon's spin by the g parameter) from 2, the value it would have in the absence of interactions between the muon and virtual particles in the universal vacuum, including possible exotica outside the standard model such as the supersymmetric entities. Although the SUSY particles are rare and unstable their mere existence in the vacuum would modify observable quantities such as the muon magnetic moment. Thus a measurement of the magnetic moment, by watching muons decay even as they wobble about in a strong magnetic field, would give indirect evidence for the extra particles. Moderate evidence in this direction was previously reported by the g-2 team; the new results, reported also in Amsterdam (and submitted to Physical Review Letters), follow suit but with twice the precision of the last report. (http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2002/bnlpr073002.htm)

NEW COSMOLOGICAL UPPER LIMIT ON NEUTRINO MASS. Neutrino news has been dramatic these past few years: neutrinos have been shown to oscillate from one type to another

(http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1998/split/pnu375-1.htm) and the solar neutrino problem has been resolved (http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2002/split/586-1.html) after puzzling solar physicists for decades. These results imply that at least one or more of the neutrino flavors (electron, mu, tau) have some mass and this, considering the number of nu's loose in the universe, means that even lightweight neutrinos will have had a palpable role in influencing the development of galaxies. But how much nu mass is there and how big a role did nu's play? Particle physics experiments so far directly establish only values for the square of neutrino mass differences. From tritium decay experiments comes an upper limit of 2.2 eV for the electron neutrino. Upper limits for the mu or tau neutrinos are up in the MeV range. The new mass limits come from looking at the distribution of galaxies across the canopy of the sky. The 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey has scanned 250,000 galaxies (viewed 400 at a time with a telescope in Siding Spring Mountain, Australia). The galactic coordinates can be compared two at a time, providing a plot of the number of galaxies versus inter-galaxy distance. Turned into a galactic "power spectrum," this correlation study can be used to estimate the likely density of the constituent species of matter in the universe: baryons (such as protons), cold dark matter (WIMPs), and hot dark matter (neutrinos are the leading candidate). The 2dF work arrives at two big neutrino conclusions. (1) Neutrinos can account for no more than 13% of the matter in the universe and (2) the sum of all the nu masses (electron plus mu plus tau) is no more than 2.2 eV. Group member Oystein Elgaroy (University of Cambridge, elgaroy@ast.cam.ac.uk, 44-1223-75 x17) says that this is the best upper limit for neutrino mass derived with relatively conservative assumptions on the total matter density in the universe. (Elgaroy et al., Physical Review Letters, 5 August 2002; also see Physical Review Focus, 12 July, focus.aps.org/)

A NEW WAY OF MEASURING COMPLEXITY for biological systems has been proposed by researchers at Harvard Medical School and University of Lisbon (contact Madalena Costa, 617-667-2428, madalena@mimic.bidmc.harvard.edu , Ary L. Goldberger, 617-667-4267, agoldber@caregroup.harvard.edu and C.-K. Peng, 617-667-7122, peng@physionet.org). Their method suggests that disease and aging can be quantified in terms of information loss. In the researchers' view, a biological organism's complexity is intimately related to its adaptability (e.g., can it survive hostile environments on its own?) and its functionality (e.g., can it do higher math?). In this view, disease and aging reduce an organism's complexity, thereby making it less adaptive and more vulnerable to catastrophic events.

But traditional yardsticks sometimes contradict this "complexity-loss" theory of disease and aging. Such conventional metrics, originally developed for information science, quantify complexity by determining how much new information a system can generate. By traditional measures, a diseased heart with a highly erratic rhythm like atrial fibrillation is more complex than a healthy one. That's because a diseased heart can generate completely random variations ("white noise") in its heart rate. These random variations continually produce "new" information, i.e., information that cannot be predicted from the heart's past history. On the other hand, a healthy heart displays a less-random pattern known as 1/f noise (see Update 90).

The problem, according to the researchers, is that conventional measures of complexity ignore multiple time scales. To address the inherent multi-scale nature of biological organisms, the researchers developed a new "multi-scale entropy" (MSE) tool for calculating biological complexity. Their technique works like this: Take a heart rate time series of about 30,000 beats. Then split it into coarse-grained chunks of 20 heartbeats each and compute the average heart rate in each chunk. Then measure the heart rate's unpredictability (its variations from chunk to chunk). More unpredictability means more new information, and greater complexity. Repeat this complexity calculation numerous times for different-sized chunks, from 1-19 heartbeats. Such a technique can reveal the complex arrangement of information over different time scales. Applied to heartbeat intervals in healthy young and elderly subjects, patients with severe congestive heart failure, and patients with atrial fibrillation, the MSE algorithm consistently gives the fluctuations of healthy hearts a higher complexity rating than the fluctuations of diseased or aging hearts. (Costa et al., Physical Review Letters, 5 August 2002)

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Experts reject latest MMR research


Friday, 9 August, 2002, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK

Experts have rejected fresh claims of a link between the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine and autism.

A study by scientists in the United States suggests a "strong association" between the three-in-one vaccine and autism.

They said the vaccine triggers an autoimmune response which they believe plays a role in the onset of autism.

But doctors in the UK have dismissed the study saying it provides no evidence of any link.

Dr Vijendra Singh and colleagues at Utah State University in Logan analysed blood samples from 125 autistic children and 92 children who did not have the developmental disorder.

Immune system

They found that the children with autism who had received the vaccine had raised levels of measles antibodies compared to those without the disorder.

Over 90% of the samples from these children were also positive for antibodies which the authors believe are involved in autism.

These antibodies attack the brain by targeting the basic building blocks of myelin, the insulating sheath that covers nerve fibres.

Dr Singh has maintained for a number of years that this process is one of the root causes of autism.

However, this theory is not widely shared. The paper's suggestion of a link between these antibodies, autism and the MMR vaccine have also been rejected.

Professor Peter Lachmann, Emeritus professor of immunology at Cambridge University, said: "There is no evidence of causality."

Speaking to BBC News Online, he added: "There is a tremendous logical gap in this research."

Research criticised

Dr Liz Miller, head of the immunisation division of the Public Health Laboratory Service, also criticised the study.

"There is no data in this paper that implicates MMR vaccine as a cause of autism nor that challenges the robust body of evidence on the safety of the vaccine".

In a statement, the PHLS added: "This claim by the authors that they have identified abnormal measles-mumps-rubella antibodies in autistic children is not substantiated by the data in the paper.

"No abnormal virus-specific antibodies have been demonstrated."

It continued: "The data that they show as evidence that this component is one particular antigen of the measles virus is not credible."

Vaccine warning

Professor Lachmann urged parents to have their children vaccinated.

"The evidence of the possibility of coming to any harm from the measles vaccine is so small that anyone who doesn't have their child vaccinated against measles is very foolish," he said.

"Measles is not a trivial disease. If we were to have a measles outbreak the risks to children are very much higher."

However, campaigners said the study highlighted the need for more research.

David Potter, head of information and policy at the National Autistic Society, said: "The NAS would be keen to see further independent research to replicate these findings, which might provide a way forward in understanding and treating the condition."

Keith Lovett, of Autism Independent UK, said: "Parents have been suspecting this for many years now but research was needed in the area to back it up or put it to bed.

"It's certainly not going to go away until it's done properly. Proper trials are needed."

The study is the latest to look at the possible link between MMR vaccine and autism.

Figures show that the number of infants receiving the vaccine has fallen recently. Uptake fell from 76% to 70% between December last year and March. It rose to 72% in April.

The PHLS, Department of Health and British Medical Association have all consistently driven home the message that the vaccine is safe.

They have warned that low uptake of MMR could increase the risk of measles outbreaks.

But the anti-MMR pressure group JABS called on the government to reverse its position to only offer the three-in-one vaccine to parents.

Its spokesman Jonathan Harris said: "The evidence is building up tremendously. I really feel there's a very, very strong case now for suspending MMR use while further investigations are carried out."

Friday, August 09, 2002

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines – August 9, 2002

from The Baltimore Sun

Contrary to claims he made on his resume, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, now under scrutiny in the FBI's anthrax investigation, did not earn a doctoral degree and never served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, according to academic and military officials and records.

But the apparent fabrications did not prevent him from getting hired in 1995 by the National Institutes of Health and in 1997 by the Army's biological defense research center at Fort Detrick. The Defense Department also apparently failed to check his credentials thoroughly before granting him "secret" security clearance in 1999.

Because no one discovered the problems, Hatfill was granted access to the world's deadliest pathogens in his research at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, where he worked from 1997 to 1999. While at the institute, and afterward at Science Applications International Corp., a defense contractor, Hatfill briefed officials at the CIA, FBI and the Pentagon about bioterrorism.

The job history of Hatfill, 48, raises questions about the federal government's hiring procedures for sensitive jobs, particularly in the field of biological defense.

"Obviously, if this is true, he was not adequately vetted by the U.S. government to work with dangerous pathogens," said Elisa D. Harris, a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland who is studying how to regulate biological programs, including possible licensing of scientists to work with dangerous organisms.


from The Washington Post

The National Academy of Sciences warned yesterday that the $7.8 billion effort to revive the Florida Everglades might trigger algal blooms and kill sea grasses in nearby Florida Bay, challenging widely held assumptions that the largest environmental project in American history would restore the degraded bay to a gin-clear fishermen's paradise.

The peer-reviewed report by a panel of scientists concludes instead that the Everglades project's impact on the 1,000-square-mile bay remains highly uncertain. It cites "persuasive" evidence that the impact "may be perceived as undesirable." In general, the academy calls for far more research into the bay's complex problems and potential solutions.

This could create a dilemma for the project's leaders. They have promoted their plans to boost southerly water flows through the Everglades as a "win- win" for the shallow bay and dying coral reefs nearby.


from The Associated Press

LONDON - Injecting patients' own stem cells into their leg muscles could create new blood vessels, eliminating pain from bad circulation and helping to prevent gangrene or amputations, new research indicates.

The study, described this week in The Lancet medical journal, is the first demonstration that implanting stem cells into humans can result in new blood vessel networks, a process called angiogenesis.

Experts say the findings offer hope to millions of people worldwide who suffer pain in their limbs because of clogged arteries but can't have an operation.

Controlling blood vessel growth is an emerging field of medicine. In the case of cancer, which spreads by sprouting its own blood vessel network, scientists are testing drugs to thwart angiogenesis.

However, when parts of the body are starved of oxygen because blood vessels supplying them are blocked, doctors want to boost blood vessel growth - treatment they call therapeutic angiogenesis.


from The Associated Press

Atlanta - For reasons health officials cannot explain, this year's victims of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus are younger than usual.

The median age for this year's infections is 55, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released yesterday.

In previous years, the median was in the mid-60s.

"The reason patients seem to be younger this year is unknown and certainly something we're looking into," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, a CDC expert.

However, CDC officials said the declining median age is not a cause for immediate concern.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco -- A year after President Bush opened the door a crack on embryonic stem cell research, Intel Corp. Chairman Andy Grove is trying to kick it wide open by offering a $5 million grant to UCSF and challenging science supporters to match his cash.

University officials announced Thursday that the 66-year-old high-tech executive, who has supported medical research since he was treated for prostate cancer in 1995, wanted to publicly support the possible medical applications of embryonic stem cells -- including studies that can't be conducted with federal funding.

The grant announcement came on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Bush's prime-time televised speech in which he laid out the rules under which stem cell research could get federal funding. It was a compromise that satisfied neither scientists, who wanted to move faster, nor abortion opponents, who wanted to stop any research that destroys a human embryo.

"Given the fact that the federal government has to some extent politicized these studies, we think the challenge helps the public and the scientific community see that this is important stuff," said Keith Yamamoto, UCSF vice dean for research.


from The Associated Press

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) -- Former government researcher Wen Ho Lee says he hasn't found a job since he was fired and prosecuted for making copies of sensitive nuclear weapons data.

"I have tried to get a job in both the university and industry setting, but so far I have not been able to locate a job," Lee said in an interview in the July issue of the American Physical Society News.

"I am currently doing my own research on semiconductor design. I hope that someday I can make a contribution to the electronics industry."

Lee, responding to written questions submitted by the online publication through an intermediary, said foreign-born scientists face difficulties getting jobs requiring security clearance.


from The Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A review by officials at the University of California, San Diego has cleared a scientist accused of stealing trade secrets from Harvard Medical School,

School officials announced Thursday that they completed a review of Jiangyu Zhu's work while working at UCSD and found no wrongdoing. Zhu, who was placed on administrative leave shortly after his arrest in June, will be reinstated, school officials said.

Zhu and his wife, Koyoko Kimbara, a scientist at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, are accused of stealing gene research while they both worked at Harvard Medical School. They are charged with theft of trade secrets, conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property. They posted $250,00 bail each and remain free while they await trial.


from UPI

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- A domestic violence expert who advises the Pentagon said Thursday that the military should look into whether an anti- malaria drug associated with aggression and suicidal thinking could have triggered any of the recent incidents in which Fort Bragg soldiers are suspected of killing their wives and, in two of the cases, also killed themselves.

Army troops in Afghanistan and other malarial countries are routinely prescribed Lariam, which is also known as mefloquine.

At least one of the four Fort Bragg soldiers suspected of killing his wife this summer, Sgt. 1st Class Rigoberto Nieves, had almost certainly been given Lariam, according to an Army medical source familiar with Nieves' duty in Afghanistan.

Debby Tucker, co-chair of the Defense Department's task force on domestic violence and co-founder of the National Training Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence in Austin, Texas, said that in its review of the murders, the military should consider all factors that could have contributed. This would include any drug that can alter the patient's behavior.


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The Vinland Map shows its true colors; scientists say it's a confirmed forgery


Contact: Beverly Hassell
American Chemical Society

For the first time in the controversial saga of the famous Vinland Map, scientists say they have shown with certainty that the supposed relic is actually a 20th-century forgery. The findings are reported in the July 31 print issue of Analytical Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

The Vinland Map -- a drawing that suggests Norse explorers charted North America long before Columbus -- has given scientists and historians a fertile platform for debate throughout its contentious history. Several studies have questioned its authenticity, but disagreement about techniques and interpretations has left some adherents to the map's 15th-century origins unconvinced.

While other evidence has already established the pre-Columbian presence of the Vikings in North America, the map still serves as an important piece of history and has been valued by some at more than $20 million. It resides at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University.

"The Vinland Map is arguably one of the most important maps in the world," said Robin Clark, D.Sc., Sir William Ramsay Professor of Chemistry at University College London. Clark and Katherine Brown, a doctoral candidate, used Raman microprobe spectroscopy to identify the chemical components in the inks on the Vinland Map.

In this technique, a laser beam is directed at an object; a small portion of the light scatters off the molecules as radiation with different colors. Every material has a unique scattering spectrum that acts as a fingerprint, allowing scientists to identify it.

The ink is made up of two parts: a yellowish line that adheres strongly to the parchment overlaid with a black line that appears to have flaked off.

The yellow line contains anatase -- the least common form of titanium dioxide found in nature. Some scientists have concluded that the map must be of 20th-century origin because anatase could not be synthesized until around 1923. Others have suggested that anatase could have been formed during the medieval production of iron-based inks.

The current study is the first to establish precisely where the anatase is located on the map. The Raman technique allowed the researchers to examine the entire map in place, as opposed to other methods that drew individual samples from the map. "Anatase was detected solely in the ink lines and not elsewhere on the parchment, so [it] must be an integral part of the yellow line," the authors assert in their paper.

Prior to the development of the printing press, manuscripts were generally written in either carbon-based inks or iron gallotannate inks. Erosion of the latter makes the parchment brittle and often leads to brown or yellow staining. "Knowing that such yellowing is a common feature of medieval manuscripts, a clever forger may seek to simulate this degradation by the inclusion of a yellow line in his rendering of the map," the researchers suggested.

The study shows, however, that the black ink is made from carbon, not iron gallotannate, which makes the natural occurrence of yellowing impossible. Also, the map has not grown brittle over the years, as would be expected with an iron gallotannate ink.

"The Raman results provide the first definitive proof that the map itself was drawn after 1923," Clark said. "The results demonstrate the great importance of modern analytical techniques in the study of items in our cultural heritage."

Scientists determine age of first New World map


Contact: Elizabeth Tait
202-357-2627 129
Smithsonian Institution

Parchment points to authenticity of Vinland Map

For the first time, scientists have ascribed a date – 1434 A.D., plus or minus 11 years – to the parchment of the controversial Vinland Map, possibly the first map of the North American continent. Collaborators from the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE), Suitland, Md., the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y., used carbon-dating techniques to analyze the parchment on which the map is drawn. Their findings, published in the August edition of the journal Radiocarbon, place the parchment of the map 60 years ahead of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the West Indies, and provide compelling evidence that the map is authentic.

"Many scholars have agreed that if the Vinland Map is authentic, it is the first cartographic representation of North America, and its date would be key in establishing the history of European knowledge of the lands bordering the western Atlantic Ocean," said Jacqueline S. Olin, assistant director for archaeometric research at SCMRE when the study began in 1995. Olin and co-authors Douglas Donahue, a physicist at the University of Arizona and Garman Harbottle, a chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, along with SCMRE paper conservator Dianne Van Der Reyden, sampled the bottom right edge of the parchment for analysis. The dating was carried out at the National Science Foundation-University of Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometer in Tucson. The unusually high precision of the date was possible because the Vinland Map's date fell in a very favorable region of the carbon-14 dating calibration curve.

The parchment analysis again indicates the map's connection with the Catholic Church's Council of Basel, convened between 1431 and 1449, first posited by R.A. Skelton, T.E. Marston and G.D. Painter, the scholars who undertook a six-year investigation of the Vinland Map and accompanying "Tartar Relation," and made their argument for the map's authenticity in the book, The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation, published in 1965 by Yale University Press. Paul A. Mellon had purchased the map and manuscript for $1 million in 1958, and requested the study after donating them to Yale.

The map came to light in Europe in the mid-1950s without any record of previous ownership or provenance in any library or collection. It is now in the collection of Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, Conn. The name "Vinland" derives from text on the map that recounts Bjarni and Leif Eriksson discovering "a new land, extremely fertile and even having vines, … which island they named Vinland." The "Island of Vinland" appears on the map in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Scholars postulate it may represent present-day Labrador, Newfoundland or Baffin Island. The map also shows Europe, Africa and Asia.

Several previous studies challenging the map's authenticity focused on the chemical composition of the ink used to draw it, and pointed to the presence of anatase, which was not produced commercially until the 20th century. But there are questions about how an ink containing anatase could have been formulated and used by a forger. More recently, the ink has been shown to contain carbon, which also has been presented as evidence of a forgery. However, carbon can be present in a medieval ink.

"Anatase may be a result of the chemical deterioration of the ink over the centuries, or may even have been present naturally in the ink used in medieval times," Olin said, adding, "The elemental composition of the ink is consistent with a medieval iron gall ink, based on historical evidence regarding ink production."

Present carbon-dating technology does not permit the analysis of samples as small as the actual ink lines on the map.

Concluded Olin, "While the date result itself cannot prove that the map is authentic, it is an important piece of new evidence that must be considered by those who argue that the map is a forgery and without cartographic merit."

The article is available online at http://www.radiocarbon.org.

The Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education advises and assists the Smithsonian and other museums in the study, preservation and conservation of artistic and historic objects. Its staff conducts research in the areas of material technology, chemistry, art and cultural history, as well as in the development of treatment procedures. The Center also offers educational programs about the properties and preservation of collections to museums and associated professionals around the world.

Anti-gravity propulsion comes 'out of the closet'


By Nick Cook, JDW Aerospace Consultant, London

Boeing, the world's largest aircraft manufacturer, has admitted it is working on experimental anti-gravity projects that could overturn a century of conventional aerospace propulsion technology if the science underpinning them can be engineered into hardware.

As part of the effort, which is being run out of Boeing's Phantom Works advanced research and development facility in Seattle, the company is trying to solicit the services of a Russian scientist who claims he has developed anti-gravity devices in Russia and Finland. The approach, however, has been thwarted by Russian officialdom.

The Boeing drive to develop a collaborative relationship with the scientist in question, Dr Evgeny Podkletnov, has its own internal project name: 'GRASP' — Gravity Research for Advanced Space Propulsion.

A GRASP briefing document obtained by JDW sets out what Boeing believes to be at stake. "If gravity modification is real," it says, "it will alter the entire aerospace business."

GRASP's objective is to explore propellentless propulsion (the aerospace world's more formal term for anti-gravity), determine the validity of Podkletnov's work and "examine possible uses for such a technology". Applications, the company says, could include space launch systems, artificial gravity on spacecraft, aircraft propulsion and 'fuelless' electricity generation — so-called 'free energy'.

But it is also apparent that Podkletnov's work could be engineered into a radical new weapon. The GRASP paper focuses on Podkletnov's claims that his high-power experiments, using a device called an 'impulse gravity generator', are capable of producing a beam of 'gravity-like' energy that can exert an instantaneous force of 1,000g on any object — enough, in principle, to vaporise it, especially if the object is moving at high speed.

Podkletnov maintains that a laboratory installation in Russia has already demonstrated the 4in (10cm) wide beam's ability to repel objects a kilometre away and that it exhibits negligible power loss at distances of up to 200km. Such a device, observers say, could be adapted for use as an anti-satellite weapon or a ballistic missile shield. Podkletnov declared that any object placed above his rapidly spinning superconducting apparatus lost up to 2% of its weight.

Although he was vilified by traditionalists who claimed that gravity-shielding was impossible under the known laws of physics, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) attempted to replicate his work in the mid-1990s. Because NASA lacked Podkletnov's unique formula for the work, the attempt failed. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama will shortly conduct a second set of experiments using apparatus built to Podkletnov's specifications.

Boeing recently approached Podkletnov directly, but promptly fell foul of Russian technology transfer controls (Moscow wants to stem the exodus of Russian high technology to the West).

The GRASP briefing document reveals that BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin have also contacted Podkletnov "and have some activity in this area".

It is also possible, Boeing admits, that "classified activities in gravity modification may exist". The paper points out that Podkletnov is strongly anti-military and will only provide assistance if the research is carried out in the 'white world' of open development.

New Vedic City Aims to Create Ideal Municipality


Residents Voted "Yes" on Referendum to Incorporate in state of Iowa

A new city dedicated to creating maximum health, well-being and success for its inhabitants was approved by residents in a vote late last month. Located 2 miles north of Fairfield in southeast Iowa, Vedic City is Iowa's first new city since 1982 and the 950th city in the state.

Vedic City is the first city in the modern world to be based entirely on the ancient principles of Maharishi Sthapatya-Veda® design and other aspects of Maharishi Vedic Science. "Veda" is the Sanskrit word meaning knowledge. Rogers Badgett, one of the city's developers, said Maharishi Vedic Science is comprised of 40 approaches, including architecture, community planning, health care, education, music, agriculture, etc. Its goal, he said, is to bring the life of the individual and society in tune with the laws of nature and thus gain support of natural law for every undertaking.

State of Iowa Approved Petition to Incorporate

Earlier this year, the State of Iowa City Development Committee approved a petition to incorporate the 654-acre site for the new city. The area currently has over 40 buildings, including The Raj, a nationally known health spa and clinic based on Maharishi Vedic Medicine, two hotels, many businesses, housing developments, condominiums, and a Vedic observatory. More than $30 million has already been spent on development.

Maharishi Vedic Science Programs Attract Families

Over the last 27 years, more than 2,000 individuals and families from across the US have moved to the neighboring city of Fairfield to take advantage of the programs offered by Maharishi University of Management. Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the University integrates the study of traditional academic disciplines with the practical technologies of Maharishi Vedic Science to develop the students' full potential.

"Vedic City will provide this Vedic knowledge to its citizens in every aspect of their lives and will provide visitors access to Maharishi Sthapatya-Veda designed hotels, health clinics, and other amenities so they can also experience improved health and well-being," said Bob Wynne, a Vedic City developer.

Incorporation of Vedic City will allow financing such as general obligation bonds that will help the new city to create necessary infrastructure and municipal services.

The city is projected to grow from 125 to several thousand permanent residents within a few years and to attract many more to its hotels, clinics, and other amenities.

For more information, please call 641-469-7000.

Overview of the Unique Components of Vedic City

"The goal of every community should be to promote the highest level of health, happiness and success for its citizens," said Vedic City developer Rodgers Badgett. "The profound insights of Maharishi Vedic Science give us a comprehensive framework for enlightened living. This city will set the standard for all other cities."

Maharishi Sthapatya-Veda

This science of healthy buildings and enlightened community planning includes recommendations for building and street orientation, room placement and dimensioning, landscaping, building materials, etc. Vedic City and its buildings are built in accord with these principles.

Maharishi Vedic Medicine

Maharishi Vedic Medicine programs provide knowledge and techniques to unfold the inner intelligence of the body. The Raj, currently a central amenity of Vedic City, has already gained an international reputation for its success in addressing a wide range of chronic disorders.

In addition, developers of the new city donated 58 acres to Maharishi University of Management for the construction of the UniversityŐs College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine, which recently received $7.9 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health. The College's Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention is one of 12 specialized centers of research in complementary and alternative medicine in the country sponsored by the NIH.

Consciousness-based Education

The new city is just down the highway from Maharishi University of Management and the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (K-12). Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the University offers bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. programs in the sciences, arts, and humanities and integrates Maharishi Vedic Science into its curriculum. Research on the University students has shown improved brain functioning, increased IQ and creativity, less anxiety and stress and improved health, all fundamental components of a successful education. Students at the K-12 school consistently score in the top 1% on standardized achievement tests and have won more than 70 state titles in the past decade. Twenty-five percent of the students in last year's graduating class were National Merit scholars and finalists.

Maharishi Vedic Observatory

Ancient observatories are found in almost every country in the world either as physical remains or a myth or legend — Stonehenge in England, Maachupichu in Peru, and observatories in Mexico, China, Egypt, and India. The Maharishi Vedic Observatory, which sits on two acres centrally located in Vedic City, consists of ten full-size working astronomical instruments based upon ancient designs. The precise measuring instruments of the observatory reflect in their form and function the movement of the stars and planets with relation to the individual, and display this mathematical relationship.

Coherence-Creating Group Meditation

Every morning and afternoon Vedic City residents create a harmonious influence in the environment through their group practice of the Transcendental Meditation® and TM-Sidhi® program, including Yogic Flying, in the Golden Domes of Maharishi University of Management. Rodgers Badgett said, "The desire to create perfect health and a peaceful world and to unfold our full potential is the shared priority of everyone in this community. It's the purpose of Vedic City."

Investigation Casts Light on the Mysterious Flying Black Triangle


By Leonard David
posted: 07:00 am ET
05 August 2002

They are big, black, and triangular. In UFO folklore they are proof-positive that planet Earth is a rest stop for joyriding, but road-weary, extraterrestrials.

A just released study by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), based in Las Vegas, Nevada, sheds new light on the dark and mysterious craft. They offer a more down-to-earth hypothesis.

NIDS researchers contend that these type vehicles are lighter-than-air, blimp-style craft of the U.S. military's making. Likely powered by "electrokinetic" drive, the lifting body-shaped airships have been skirting the skies from perhaps the early to mid 1980s.

Bigfoot named by defense in triple murder


Yosemite killer obsessed with the hairy beast, defense tells jury

By Brian Melley
Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The hairy beast of legend known as Bigfoot wanders through the mind of Yosemite killer Cary Stayner.

It is a fixation that led to his beheading nature guide Joie Armstrong, a psychiatrist testified recently in Stayner's triple-murder trial.

Two decades after he said he first saw the apelike creature near a cabin in Yosemite National Park, Stayner remains obsessed with Bigfoot in a religious or mystical way, said Dr. Jose Arturo Silva, an expert called as part of Stayner's insanity defense.

Man Puts Curse on Sewer System


Man Who Put a Curse on City's Sewer System Says He Will Remove It if City Apologizes

The Associated Press

LIVERMORE, Calif. Aug. 7 — A man who put a curse on the city's sewer system said he will remove it if the city apologizes.

Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall, formerly of Hayward, claims to have put a curse on the city back in the early 1970s, after he said officials mistreated a totem pole he gave Livermore as a gift.

The 20-foot totem pole depicts Robert Livermore, the town's founder, sitting under an eagle, which is supposed to protect the city.

When officials went to install the pole, they cut several feet off the bottom and set it in concrete.

Nordwall said the act desecrated his work of art, and demanded it be restored. When city officials refused, Nordwall said he put a curse on the sewer system.

A week later, sewers in the city backed up.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Science In the News

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

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

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


Today's Headlines – August 8, 2002

from The Washington Post

Scientists have discovered a hormone made in the digestive tract that acts on the brain to

reduce appetite, a potential lead in efforts to develop new weight-loss drugs.

"I think it's an excellent drug target," said Michael A. Cowley, a scientist at the Oregon

National Primate Research Center in Beaverton and a co-author of a study on the finding,

published in today's issue of the journal Nature.

The newly discovered chemical messenger, known as peripheral hormone peptide YY3-36, or

PYY3-36, is produced by cells in the stomach, small intestine and large intestine in

response to a meal. It carries a signal to appetite-regulating nerve cells in an area called

the arcuate nucleus, located in the hypothalamus at the base of the brain.

Since the mid-1990s, scientists have made remarkable progress in learning how chemical

messengers made by fat tissues and by organs of the digestive tract communicate with nerve

cells in the brain to regulate food intake and maintain body weight.


from The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 7 — Scientists at I.B.M. and the Nion Corporation have developed an advanced electron microscope optics system that makes possible the creation of the most precise images yet, with resolving power less than the radius of a single hydrogen atom.

The technology, which employs a powerful desktop computer and an array of magnetic lenses to minimize distortions that are inherent in images made by today's electron microscopes, will also permit researchers to peer deeply into materials and create three- dimensional images.

The scientific advance, which the group will report in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, will make possible a new generation of microscopes that can resolve subatomic images with an electron beam that is only three-billionths of an inch wide.

Electron microscopes project a thin beam of electrons at an object and synthesize an image from its reflections.


from The New York Times

Three Indian computer scientists have solved a longstanding mathematics problem by devising a way for a computer to tell quickly and definitively whether a number is prime — that is, whether it is evenly divisible only by itself and 1.

Prime numbers play a crucial role in cryptography, so devising fast ways to identify them is important. Current computer recipes, or algorithms, are fast, but have a small chance of giving either a wrong answer or no answer at all.

The new algorithm — by Manindra Agrawal, Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur — guarantees a correct and timely answer. Though their paper has not been published yet, they have distributed it to leading mathematicians, who expressed excitement at the finding.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Environmental groups sued Wednesday to stop the U.S. Navy from deploying a new anti-submarine sonar system that they say could harm sea creatures wherever it's used in the world's oceans.

The federal lawsuit seeks an injunction against using the low-frequency active sonar system, which critics fear will threaten entire populations of whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals.

It was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Humane Society of the United States, Ocean Conservancy and other groups. They say that using the sonar, or underwater radar, would violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and two other federal laws.

"We've asked the court (to order) . . . the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Navy to comply with environmental law before deployment of the system," said Andrew Wetzler, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Los Angeles.


from Newsday

An unexpected experiment - the sudden three-day grounding of air traffic after last September's terrorist attacks - shows that high altitude jet contrails are having an important impact on temperatures, scientists said yesterday.

Because thousands of commercial flights were canceled after the disaster, the researchers said, a thin blanket of cirrus clouds that often forms from water vapor exiting jet engines in high traffic corridors was absent. The lack of clouds allowed daytime temperatures at ground level to rise and nighttime temperatures to fall.

The researchers said the loss of cloud cover caused by the grounding of commercial planes led to a 1.98-degree increase in the difference between the highest day temperature and lowest night temperature over the United States. Their report showing the human impact on temperature was published in today's issue of Nature.


from The Christian Science Monitor

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – It's the kind of sultry, late July day that drives tourists and locals to the beach for a cool ocean dip. But for atmospheric scientists aboard the research vessel Ronald H. Brown, the day is just what they've been looking for: ideal for cooking up smog.

"These are the kind of conditions we love," says Fred Fehsenfeld, as the 274-foot ship rides the tide down the Piscataqua River.

The atmospheric chemist and a small army of colleagues hope to analyze those conditions that lead to smog to help solve the riddle of air pollution in New England. Over the next five years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has budgeted $9.4 million for the New England Air Quality Study, which is designed to determine how smog forms in the Northeast and what its patterns of movement are. It already has raised significant questions about prevailing notions that Northeast air pollution comes primarily from industry and power plants in the Ohio Valley. And its lessons could have implications in other parts of the country as well.

The study's results, combined with earlier studies in Nashville, Atlanta, and along the Pacific Coast, could help build reliable forecasting tools to warn the public up to three days in advance of a bad-air day.


from The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Scientists say they have overestimated the potential of trees and shrubs to soak up carbon from the atmosphere. The reassessment casts doubt on whether planting trees is always a positive step in the fight against global warming, as President Bush and others have suggested.

Details of the new study appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Duke University scientists say trees and shrubs growing in areas of abundant rainfall are less effective storehouses for carbon than native grasslands they have steadily replaced across much of the western United States.

Vegetation stores carbon that otherwise might trap heat in the atmosphere, driving up temperatures and leading to climate change.


from The Washington Post

Just when it appeared that Maryland officials' plans to snuff the northern snakehead fish from a suburban pond were set to get underway, lawyers entered the fray.

As a result, the poisoning of the Crofton pond is on hold while attorneys for the state negotiate with the property owners.

Before they can proceed with plans to eradicate the slithering, air-gulping fish from the pond behind a shopping center, state officials need the permission of the owners.

But the development firm that owns the land sent a letter yesterday to Department of Natural Resources officials saying it would not grant that permission without blanket indemnification from any liability, should any part of the extermination go awry.


from The Associated Press

Jerusalem - A thriving Bronze Age drug trade supplied narcotics to ancient cultures throughout the eastern Mediterranean as balm for the pain of childbirth and disease, proving a sophisticated knowledge of medicines dating back thousands of years, researchers say.

Ancient ceramic pots, most nearly identical in shape and about five inches long, have been found in tombs and settlements throughout the Middle East, dating as far back as 1,400 B.C., said Joe Zias, an anthropologist at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

When turned upside down, the thin-necked vessels with round bases resemble opium poppies pods.

The Mycenaean ceramics were analyzed with a procedure called gas chromatography that turned up traces of opium.


from The Associated Press

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) -- Additional evidence of human remains was found inside the gun turret of the USS Monitor, raising the number of victims found inside the Civil War artifact from one to possibly three.

The discovery Wednesday came two days after a salvage operation run by the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration raised the 120-ton turret from the wreckage site off Cape Hatteras, N.C.

"It was certainly unexpected that we'd find so much additional evidence right away. But I guess it shouldn't have been," chief scientist John Broadwater of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in Newport News told the Daily Press. "There may be even more remains as we continue to work."


from The Chicago Tribune

DEARBORN, Mich. -- The styling dictated by designers and the price dictated by the marketing folks will attract consumers to one vehicle over another.

But don't rule out the role of scientists, says Richard Parry-Jones, group vice president of global product development and chief technical officer for Ford Motor Co.

"New technology will differentiate vehicles from one another in the future," Parry-Jones said as he opened Ford's scientific research laboratory here for a look at technology coming soon.


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Crop Circle Confession


July 15, 2002

How to get the wheat down in the dead of night

By Matt Ridley

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.

I made my first crop circle in 1991. My motive was to prove how easy they were to create, because I was convinced that all crop circles were man-made. It was the only explanation nobody seemed interested in testing. Late one August night, with one accomplice--my brother-in-law from Texas--I stepped into a field of nearly ripe wheat in northern England, anchored a rope into the ground with a spike and began walking in a circle with the rope held near the ground. It did not work very well: the rope rode up over the plants. But with a bit of help from our feet to hold down the rope, we soon had a respectable circle of flattened wheat.

Supernatural suspicions on rise


By Lucy Jones

BANGUI, Central African Republic — The selection of sticks belonging to Martin Nagoagoumi, a "witchcraft" detective, does not bode well for Stephanie as she stands accused of sorcery. Top Stories Stacked under dusty scales of justice in the police station of the Central African Republic's capital are long, thin sticks for beating children, as well as metal poles with flattened tops and a wooden beam punched with nails for adults who refuse to "confess." Stephanie, 13, an orphan, shook at the sight of the weapons as she explained to the detective how a neighbor told her that the soup she had eaten contained a human heart and that now she, like her neighbor, possessed supernatural powers.

Asteroid fly-by visible from Earth


Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK

A close encounter with a small asteroid this month could be viewed with binoculars or a small telescope, say experts.

The space rock, 800 metres across (half a mile) and designated 2002 NY40, will make its closest approach on 18 August.

The opportunity for amateur skywatchers get such a close-up view of an asteroid occurs only once every half-century.

The nearest the asteroid will get is within 530,000 kilometres (330,000 miles) - slightly farther away than the Moon.

Future pass

Its track in the sky will pass close by the bright star Vega and through the constellation of Hercules.

It will be significantly dimmer than even the faintest star visible with the naked eye.

European skywatchers will catch their best glimpse in the early hours of the 18th. For viewing from North America, the best time to watch will be in the evening of 17 August.

Scientists will be able to use the close approach to plot the course of the asteroid over the years to come.

They say there is a minute risk - one in 500,000 - that the rock could strike Earth in 2022, but the new measurements could show it will definitely miss us.

Drawing skills

Jay Tate, from the Spaceguard UK observatory in Powys, said that with a little effort, it should be possible to detect the movement of the asteroid.

He told BBC News Online: "People should look at the right area of the sky through their binoculars, and make a rough drawing of the position of all the bright objects.

"Then they should look again five minutes or so later and see which of them has moved.

"This asteroid won't look anything like a normal shooting star, or even a satellite.

"It's not groundbreaking science for us, but this is an opportunity for thousands of amateur astronomers to see something like this."

Spin rate

He said that measurements taken by experts might show the rate at which the rock was spinning in space, giving clues to its composition.

Other astronomers may also be able to produce three-dimensional maps of its surface.

The asteroid fly-by follows last month's reports of another, bigger, rock, called 2002 NT7, which scientists speculated might be a candidate for colliding with the Earth in 2019.

Further data revealed, however, that there was no chance of this happening.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Articles of Note

For More Articles Visit: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/skepticsearch/

Gould uses modern science on Darwin's theories
Scripps Howard News Service


"Stephen Jay Gould's distinguished dual careers as a paleontologist and as a writer about science both, in their different ways, paid homage to Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. Not long before his death in May, Gould published The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, a massive reorganization of the subject that incorporates the findings of 20th-century science."

The Sinner Behind the Saint
by Joseph Treviño
LA Weekly


"MILLIONS OF LATINOS IN MEXICO and Southern California watched joyfully this week as Pope John Paul II made Juan Diego the first full-blooded Mexican Indian to be elevated to sainthood. But this day of pride and festivity might never have occurred were it not for Bishop Onésimo Cepeda, who stood just behind the pope at the famed Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Bishop Cepeda heads the impoverished diocese where the Juan Diego miracle took place, and he labored years to overcome critics who questioned whether Diego ever existed."

Time Travelin' Man
By Alistair Highet
New Mass. Media


"Boyd Mallett, in the words of his son, "was the best." After a stint in the Army, Boyd became a television technician at a time when TV was the technology of the future."

China lays claim to its own Nessie
Australian Broadcasting Corporation


"Hundreds of sightseers visiting have reported spotting a black monster with a horse-like head in a deep volcanic lake near China's border with North Korea."

Blue flash in sky a mystery
By Craig Garretson
Cincinnati Post


"Was it a meteor, a flash of lightning or something not quite of this world that streaked across the skies of Greater Cincinnati at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday?"

Cereal spin doctors
by Rick DelVecchio
San Francisco Chronicle


"On April Fool's Day four years ago, Joe Nickell issued his skeptics' Top 10 list of the world's hardiest paranormal hoaxes. His prime examples included the Amityville Horror, King Tut's Curse, psychic surgery and the Roswell saucer crash."

Witchcraft convict had heart wrapped in cloth


"A Zambian man has been jailed for witchcraft after a human heart was found in his possession, and police are investigating a possible murder, state radio and prosecutors said Thursday."

Letters on the article "Fundamentally Unsound" by Michelle Goldberg


Circular logic
By Vanessa E. Jones
Boston Globe


"They call themselves cereologists, a term that makes them sound as if they're researching Cap'n Crunch or Froot Loops. But the people in this group study crop circles, those dazzling geometric designs that have been carved into barley, wheat, and oat fields throughout England, Germany, Japan, and the United States."

Skepticism Greets Local Archaelogist's Find
Hartford Courant


"A colorful University of Hartford archaeologist ignited an international debate Thursday when he claimed he had discovered a 2,000-year-old skeleton in Israel, possibly that of John the Baptist."

Song case first in department to use psychic
By Kathy McGinley
Daily Collegian [PSU]


"The Ferguson Township Police investigation into the disappearance of Penn State student Cindy Song -- now in its tenth month -- is continuing to use psychic help."

Sea creature spooks swimmers
Fall River Herald News


"A fun-filled day of swimming and fishing for one local group of friends and family turned into a nightmare that most only witness in the movies."

Villagers beat five women to death for being 'witches' Times of India


"Five tribal women suspected of being witches were beaten to death by a village mob in West Bengal, a senior police official said on Thursday."

KC conference explores evolution debate
Kansas City Star


"Until intelligent design is accepted by a majority of scientists, don't look for it in public school science classes, a panel of evolution supporters said on Saturday."

It's harvest time for crop-circle hype
By Alan Boyle


"You'd think a professional crop-circle chronicler like Colin Andrews would be absolutely ecstatic: Three films about crop circles are coming out this year, including "Signs," the subject of Hollywood hype and magazine cover stories. But Andrews is actually worried ... worried that all this hype will bring less respectful amateurs into the, um, field. On the other hand, crop-circle makers like John Lundberg are thrilled."

Chiropractors sue UIL over physical exams
Associated Press


"Texas chiropractors are suing the University Interscholastic League to be allowed to perform physical exams for student athletes."

No Easy Autism Answers


"Sean Green was a happy, easygoing baby until one morning, when everything changed."

Skulls Found in Africa and in Europe Challenge Theories of Human Origins
New York Times


"Two ancient skulls, one from central Africa and the other from the Black Sea republic of Georgia, have shaken the human family tree to its roots, sending scientists scrambling to see if their favorite theories are among the fallen fruit."

Report casts light on UFO triangles
By Leonard David


"They are big, black, and triangular. In UFO folklore, they are proof-positive that planet Earth is a rest stop for joyriding, but road-weary, extraterrestrials. A just-released study by the National Institute for Discovery Science, based in Las Vegas, sheds new light on the dark and mysterious craft. They offer a more down-to-earth hypothesis."

How our demons fuel witch-hunts born from demons
by Richard Webster
The Observer [UK]


"The story of what happened to Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie is so bizarre that it might seem to be without parallel. It would be reassuring to dismiss Shieldfield as a terrible aberration. But that would only be to replace one delusion with another."

Crop circles: A myth takes root
By Robert W. Welkos


"IN M. NIGHT Shyamalan's new sci-fi thriller, "Signs," a Pennsylvania farmer played by Mel Gibson awakens one morning to discover a 500-foot geometric pattern that has mysteriously appeared in his cornfield overnight."

'UFO' in air show crash
The Daily Telegraph [Australia]


"A previously unidentified flying object may have caused the deadly crash of a Ukrainian fighter into an air show crowd a week ago, the Russian NTV television company reported."

"The Hunt for Zero Point" by Nick Cook
Reviewed by Kurt Kleiner


"The U.S. government confiscated secret Nazi anti-gravity technology at the end of World War II, and later may have tested it in aircraft that account for the rash of post-War UFO sightings. Some of that technology has probably made its way into the B2 stealth bomber. Some of it is probably so dangerous that it's buried away in secret government vaults."

Science In the News

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

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

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


Today's Headlines – August 7, 2002

from The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- Two of biotechnology's biggest companies are going to court to fight over nearly $1 billion in profits generated by Genentech Inc.'s breast cancer drug Herceptin.

Some of the world's smartest scientists will leave their labs during the next few weeks to be questioned by lawyers in the high-stakes biotechnology arena of patent litigation.

Chiron Corp. sued Genentech over commercial rights, saying it holds a key patent to the technology behind Herceptin, one of biotech's best-selling drugs.

U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb has already ruled that Genentech has indeed infringed on a Chiron patent. Now it's up to Genentech's lawyers, from whom opening statements were expected Wednesday, to persuade a jury that Chiron's patent was improperly granted.


from The Los Angeles Times

A 76-year-old woman became the fifth Louisiana resident to die of West Nile virus, the state's epidemiologist said Tuesday, and 14 more people have fallen ill across the state.

The new cases bring Louisiana's sick toll to 71 and make this the worst outbreak of West Nile since the disease came to the United States three years ago. This summer, the southern rite of bug bites can be a deadly affliction -- and the virus shows no sign of abating.

"This is only the beginning," Louisiana epidemiologist Raoult Ratard said. "It won't be surprising if we get 200 or 300 cases before it's over."


from The Chicago Tribune

SPRINGFIELD -- A 22-year-old student is believed to have contracted Illinois' first human case of West Nile virus while living in the Chicago area this summer, state public health officials confirmed Tuesday.

The announcement comes at a time when the most serious outbreak is occurring in Louisiana, where officials announced Tuesday that a fifth person has died of the disease. At least 71 people have been infected there.

While recently working for eight weeks at a summer job in DuPage County, the student, who lives in Maryland, contracted West Nile fever, a mild form of the disease.

She did not require hospitalization and has recovered at home on the East Coast.


from The Washington Post

Beneath the algae-slicked surface of the cordoned-off pond in Crofton, time is dwindling for the largemouth bass, bluegill, pickerel and eels that have the misfortune of sharing the waters with one of America's most unwanted fish.

Their death sentence is expected to come today, the deadline that Maryland officials have set for the property owners to grant permission to exterminate the fishing hole and everything in it.

Northern snakeheads, which are native to China, are the target, but the destruction of virtually all other plants, fish and animals in the pond will be required in order to snuff the prolific, voracious snakeheads.

Since the fish were discovered in the pond by an angler in May, natural resources officials have moved aggressively and deliberately toward this point, consulting with national experts and then doing a trial run in preparation for the main event.


from The New York Times

DENVER, Aug. 6 — Wildlife experts from the United States and Canada are meeting here to discuss strategies for containing the spread of chronic wasting disease, the variant of mad cow disease that kills deer and elk.

The malady, once found only in the brushy foothills near Fort Collins, Colo., has now been identified in both captive and wild herds of deer and elk in Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Some states, like New Mexico, have found only one infected animal in the wild. But Saskatchewan, for example, has diagnosed the disease in more than 100 captive animals bred for their meat and antlers.

At a two-day symposium on the disease, which began here today, officials from the nine states and provinces described where they were finding the disease and what they were doing about it. Prevalence rates run from 0.002 percent to more than 20 percent of animals surveyed. Over all, a few hundred deer and elk have been diagnosed with the disease out of tens of thousands killed for scientific analysis.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 — When President Bush opened the door to human embryonic stem cell research a year ago this week, he imposed strict limits on federal financing to discourage the destruction of embryos. But in a little- noticed ruling, the administration later told federally financed researchers they could go beyond the president's strictures — as long as they did so with private money.

In a prime-time television address on Aug. 9, 2001, the first of his presidency, Mr. Bush said scientists could use taxpayer dollars only to study those self-sustaining colonies, or lines, of cells that had already been extracted from human embryos.

"This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research," Mr. Bush said then, "without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos."

That policy still stands. But in March, in an interpretation that attracted little public attention, the National Institutes of Health determined that federally financed researchers could indeed study new stem cell lines — and even derive them from embryos — in their university laboratories, provided that they do not commingle their federal and private money.


from The Chicago Tribune

ROCKFORD -- A paleontology team from a small Rockford museum has unearthed a remarkably complete dinosaur skeleton that they believe will convince all doubters that Tyrannosaurus rex had a smaller cousin called a nanotyrannus, or pygmy tyrant.

If confirmed, the discovery would resolve a major debate in dinosaur circles, as some scientists have argued that the nanotyrannus was actually a juvenile T. rex. With at least a third of its bones preserved, including the pelvis, leg bones, backbone and jaws, the new specimen is complete enough that it seems likely to settle the question.

The skeleton, dubbed "Jane" after a financial supporter, was unearthed this summer in Montana by a digging team sponsored by Rockford's Burpee Museum of Natural History.

The find is being hailed as "a truly wonderful fossil" by paleontologist Peter Larson, leader of the expedition that found Sue, the famous T. rex at the Field Museum.


from The Washington Post

Scientists at biotech companies across the region have begun to employ cancer patients' own immune systems to deliver powerful, personalized treatments and better boost the body's defenses.

Immunotherapy, in which drugs enhance the body's ability to fight off disease, has its roots in the molecular biotechnology research that began in the 1960s.

But only a handful of treatments are on the market, notably interferon and IL-2, both approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat some types of cancer, including melanoma and kidney cancer. Side effects can include malaise and other flu-like symptoms.

The number of such drugs remains small because their development is labor- intensive and the field itself is still developing, according to the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. FDA officials don't track how many immunotherapy drugs are being tested across the country, said FDA spokeswoman Kathleen Kolar.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

Keiko, the feisty orca hero of the hit children's movie "Free Willy," seems to be edging closer to a free life at sea. After a life of captivity, the 23-year-old whale has been traveling for nearly a month with wild orcas near Iceland, scientists said, raising hope that this is the summer he'll break away from dependence on humans.

Tracking the high-profile marine mammal with a radio signal and a satellite tag, experts have seen him moving up to 100 miles a day with a congregation of about 40 orcas, or killer whales. The number is down from 80 a month ago, before they started to leave the Iceland feeding grounds to follow the winter herring in the North Atlantic.

But scientists can't confirm whether he's feeding on his own -- a crucial factor for his winter survival.

The scientists know Keiko can vocalize in an Icelandic orca whale dialect. But their underwater microphone cannot distinguish his sounds from those of other whales as the noisy congregation feeds and communicates and breaks up into smaller pods for the journey.


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IIT Kanpur to probe the 'muhnochwa' phenomenon


Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow

Having failed to unravel the mystery of the unidentified nocturnal flying object that allegedly claws the faces of its victims, the Uttar Pradesh government has urged the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, to send a team of scientists to find out what it is that is stalking villages in Mirzapur and other districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The problem has become so rampant in certain rural pockets of Mirzapur, Gonda, Basti, Allahabad and Sultanpur districts that locals have coined their own name for the entity, "muhnochwa" (pronounced mooh-knowtch-wa), literally, someone who claws the face.

Uttar Pradesh Home Secretary Dipti Vilas told reporters, "We have requested IIT Kanpur to send its experts to find out if some remote device is being used by mischief-mongers to create this trouble."

"According to reports received so far," he said, "some strange, brightly lit object comes flying towards its victims and leaves claw marks as it flies off."

Local police have failed to identify the object, though in some places they have attributed it to superstition or a psychological phenomenon.

Investigation Casts Light on the Mysterious Flying Black Triangle


By Leonard David
posted: 07:00 am ET
05 August 2002

They are big, black, and triangular. In UFO folklore they are proof-positive that planet Earth is a rest stop for joyriding, but road-weary, extraterrestrials.

A just released study by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), based in Las Vegas, Nevada, sheds new light on the dark and mysterious craft. They offer a more down-to-earth hypothesis.

NIDS researchers contend that these type vehicles are lighter-than-air, blimp-style craft of the U.S. military's making. Likely powered by "electrokinetic" drive, the lifting body-shaped airships have been skirting the skies from perhaps the early to mid 1980s.

Illinois sighting

NIDS has followed up on their study of last year that correlated sightings of large triangular or delta-shaped objects with Air Force Materiel Command and Air Mobility Command bases throughout the United States. Matches were made suggesting flight paths in and out of certain base locations.

The new assessment focuses on what four police officers, and more than a dozen others observed on January 5, 2000: A large, silent, low-flying black triangular shaped object. It flew on a southwesterly direction between Highland, Illinois and Dupo, located less than 30 miles (48 kilometers) from St. Louis, Missouri.

Part of the flight path took the enormous object near the perimeter of Scott Air Force Base.

NIDS does not come up with definite conclusion regarding the origin of the object sighted in Illinois.

However, the reports jibe with over 150 separate reports of sightings of large triangular or deltoid shaped objects. Those eyewitness accounts, accumulated by NIDS, have mainly come from the United States. A small number of the sightings they have on file come from Canada and Europe.

'UFO' in air show crash


August 06, 2002

KIEV: A previously unidentified flying object may have caused the deadly crash of a Ukrainian fighter into an air show crowd a week ago, the Russian NTV television company reported.

Slow-motion videotape of the July 27 accident show a dark object rising in an arc from a wood near the Lviv airfield close the flight path of the Su-27, which went on to crash into the crowd.

It was not clear what exactly the object was, or whether it struck the aircraft. The crash killed 84 and left 199 hospitalised.

Evhen Marchuk of the Ukrainian National Security Council said initial investigations "almost certainly" ruled out technical problems with the aircraft or a possible bird strike.

NORTHWESTERN WISCONSIN: Search is on for bigfoot


Posted on Mon, Aug. 05, 2002

Pioneer Press

Dennis Murphy of Plymouth is a hunter.

Over the years, armed with a camera and a supply of plaster of Paris, Murphy has hit the woods of northwestern Wisconsin in search of a creature so rare that no one has ever bagged one: Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Yeti. Or as the Ojibwe call him, Bug-way'-jinini, the wildman.

Murphy, 54, said he first encountered two aging bigfoots while searching for a fishing spot 30 years ago. He mostly kept the sighting to himself, fearing he would be ridiculed.

He still tracks the elusive creature and believes he captured its image on film during a recent foray into the woods near Danbury. He said he didn't see the creature but found its image when he had his film developed after his return.

Crop circles appear in Quebec barley field


Last Updated Tue, 06 Aug 2002 11:04:29

MONTREAL - A dairy farmer near Montreal is trying to figure out how a series of mysterious circles appeared in his barley crop.

John Peddie chuckles at all the attention his field is drawing. "I've no idea how they were made, but they're certainly well made. It's a mystery to me," he said.

Peddie says, however, that he doesn't believe anything extraterrestrial is responsible – like flying saucers. Neither does Andre Bordeleau, a lecturer at the Montreal planetarium. He says the circles are man-made, someone used a plank to flatten the grain.

Elizabeth Targ dead

Elisabeth Targ, 41, professor
By Betty Barnacle
Mercury News

All kids ask questions. But as a child, Elisabeth Targ ``was exceptionally inquisitive. She got into everything -- intellectually, not physically,'' said her father, Russell Targ of Palo Alto.

As she grew, Dr. Targ proved to be exceptional in a lot of things.

At 11 she visited friends in Switzerland and learned German. At 12, she stayed with other acquaintances in France and became fluent in French. And at 15 she was a freshman at Stanford University.

Dr. Targ, who was a psychiatry professor at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and a respected researcher, died Thursday of glioblastoma, a rare brain tumor, while conducting a 5-year-old study into the efficacy of prayer on patients with the same rare cancer. She was 41. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.



by Clay Watts

"A Summary of End Times Events"


While we must be careful about interpretation of end times Bible prophecy, we must nevertheless be knowledgeable about what may happen. To help with this, we are providing a summary of end times events, arranged roughly according to Revelation. These serve as a reference guide and reminder of what to expect as Christ's second coming grows closer.

The order of these scriptures does not imply a sequential chronology. In fact, many of the placements have been arbitrarily determined, and could easily have been otherwise. For example, some of the early references to Israel could just as well be placed with Revelation 20.

UFO reported in area again, after 50 years



Many Maryland residents say they were disturbed about 1 a.m. on July 26 by loud aircraft rumblings and some insisted they saw a UFO. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) scrambled two D.C. Air National Guard F-16 jets out of Andrews Air Force Base to investigate an unknown aircraft picked up by radar.

Phone lines at radio stations lit up as puzzled callers wondered what exactly was going on. Renny Rogers, a Waldorf, Md., resident, said he saw a jet pursue a blue light in and out of the clouds. NORAD explained the July 26 sighting: "The F-16s investigated, found nothing out of the ordinary, and returned to base. At no point in the mission did the fighters chase or intercept another aircraft," said Army Maj. Barry Venable, spokesman for NORAD. "Those are the facts from our perspective."

The NORAD spokesman didn't hesitate to use the phrase "UF0," but said that it merely refers to an unexplained sighting.

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