NTS LogoSkeptical News for 15 August 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Thursday, August 15, 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 15, 2002

from The Washington Post

Scientists in Pennsylvania have created pig and goat sperm inside the bodies of laboratory mice, marking the first time that male reproductive cells have been produced in such distantly related species.

The researchers said they hope to use mice as "bio-incubators" to grow sperm cells for endangered species whose survival is threatened by a lack of sexually mature males. They also want to produce sperm from valuable farm animals without waiting for them to reach puberty.

The technique, in which bits of testicular tissue from newborn pigs and goats were grafted onto the backs of mice, could also provide an unprecedented window through which scientists may watch the mysterious process by which sperm develop in various species -- including humans.

Indeed, several experts predicted yesterday that it won't be long before human sperm are grown in mice -- an advance that scientists and ethicists said could lead to both useful and troubling scenarios.


from The Washington Post

Two critical mutations appeared roughly 200,000 years ago in a gene linked to language, then swept through the population at roughly the same time anatomically modern humans began to dominate the planet, according to new research.

The findings, released online yesterday and due for publication soon in the journal Nature, provide the most compelling evidence to date that the gene, which researchers described in detail only last year, may have played a central role in the development of modern humans' ability to speak. Researchers said that could have given them a critical advantage that allowed them to supplant more primitive rivals.

A mounting body of research suggests that the mutant gene conferred on human ancestors a finer degree of control over muscles of the mouth and throat, possibly giving those ancestors a rich new palette of sounds that could serve as the foundation of language.

"It's a very exciting discovery," said Steven Pinker, a top language expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "This could be a watershed, because now that the technique has been successfully used, we can apply it to other genes with psychological effects. I think it opens the door for a new field of study."


from The New York Times

J. Craig Venter, who raced government-financed researchers to decode the human genome then was ousted from the company he made famous, plans to create a huge laboratory that would rival efforts by his former company and his public competitors.

Dr. Venter is to announce today that he plans to build what he believes will be the nation's largest genome sequencing center, one that will introduce new technology that vastly decreases the time and cost required to determine the DNA code of people, animals and microbes.

"Our goal is to get to where we can do a whole genome analysis in minutes or hours, in contrast to months or years," Dr. Venter said in an interview.

The center could move Dr. Venter back into the center of the genomics world, a position he had until January when he was forced to resign from Celera Genomics, the company he helped found to sequence the human genome in an often acrimonious race with the publicly financed Human Genome Project.


from The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Churchill Downs' primary weapon against the West Nile virus sits in a clear, plastic vial on the desk of track superintendent Butch Lehr.

The vial holds birdseed-like pellets that release a chemical that kills mosquitoes in their larval stage. The chemical is otherwise safe and is harmless to horses, making it an ideal mosquito repellent for the home of horse racing's premier event, the Kentucky Derby.

The mosquito-borne disease has killed nine people in the United States this year, seven in Louisiana and two in Mississippi. Besides humans and birds, horses are the most vulnerable to the virus, and in Kentucky alone, eight have been diagnosed with West Nile this summer and five have died.

The horse racing industry is trying to protect the animals from West Nile, and there is a vaccine available for horses. The industry also is still recovering from Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome, an illness that killed hundreds of foals and caused pregnant mares to abort last year.


from The Associated Press

LONDON - New research adds to a growing body of evidence that adult health is set to a significant degree by conditions in the womb and suggests the programming may start earlier in pregnancy than previously believed.

A study published this week in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that fetuses with shorter thigh bones at 24 weeks had higher blood pressure at the age of 6 than those with longer thigh bones.

Understanding how life in the womb influences later health has become a hot area of medical research. It has focused mostly on the effect of birth weight on health and the subsequent development of illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis. But the latest study is among the first to find evidence earlier in human life.

Scientists believe that when a fetus is undernourished, it diverts resources to areas it really needs at the time, such as the brain, at the expense of organs it will need later in life. That may permanently change the baby's structure, functioning and metabolism, experts believe.


from The Boston Globe

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. - On a mountainside high in the Colorado Rockies, an elite group of physicists were thinking of ways to reclaim lost glory.

For many years, physics had prospered: The era of Einstein and the atomic bomb brought physicists an aura of invincibility, generous funding from the government, and a seat at the top of the scientific hierarchy. But the century of physics is over, and the century of biology has begun. The possibility that genetics will radically improve everything from human health to agriculture has captured the public's imagination, and Washington's checkbook.

And so these physicists, among them three Nobel laureates, gathered at a resort outside Aspen to plot ways to join, and perhaps transform, the biology juggernaut. Already, at laboratories around the world, physicists are jumping into life sciences, creating a vibrant new zone of intellectual ferment with applications that range from curing Alzheimer's to detecting cancer.

Yet also on display was a seismic cultural shift, a vision of both arrogance and newly found humility that evoked the declining years of the British Empire. While some sipped chardonnay on a deck by a sky lift and some wondered aloud whether biologists really care about "truth," others argued the deposed queen of the sciences needs an attitude adjustment.


from The Christian Science Monitor

DELTA COUNTY, COLO. – From his back porch, Larry Jensen surveys a view of freshly shorn hay fields, grazing cattle, and the etched peaks of the West Elk Mountains. "This ranch is my kids' legacy," he says emphatically. "I don't take their future and what I'm leaving to them lightly."

The cattle rancher is discussing a proposed natural-gas development that he and most residents in this sparsely populated county believe threatens their livelihood and way of life.

In fact, for all the pastoral calm of Jensen's rangeland, this valley is at the center of one of the biggest environmental controversies in the Rocky Mountains.

The conflict is over new drilling methods that promise abundant fuel but could also deplete and contaminate water supplies. The opposition here will test whether county governments can successfully challenge state authorities to determine whether drilling goes forward.


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Language Gene Is Traced to Emergence of Humans


August 15, 2002

A study of the genomes of people and chimpanzees has yielded a deep insight into the origin of language, one of the most distinctive human attributes and a critical step in human evolution.

The analysis indicates that language, on the evolutionary time scale, is a very recent development, having evolved only in the last 100,000 years or so.

The finding supports a novel theory advanced by Dr. Richard Klein, an archaeologist at Stanford University, who argues that the emergence of behaviorally modern humans about 50,000 years ago was set off by a major genetic change, most probably the acquisition of language.

The new study, by Dr. Svante Paabo and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, is based on last year's discovery of the first human gene involved specifically in language.

Roswell museum publishes UFO magazine


By Sarah Means
The Washington Times

A small New Mexico city that is the scene of America's most famous UFO incident is now the base for a new magazine on extraterrestrials.

Incident, a bimonthly publication, premiered last month at the UFO Festival in Roswell, which is in the southeastern corner of the state.

Incident is a compilation of research on UFOs, stories about the legendary 1947 crash landing of a spaceship a few miles outside town and other unexplained phenomena. As the official magazine of Roswell's International UFO Museum and Research Center, it is available to any visitor who makes a donation.

"[The museum´s] goal is to build up their membership base," said publication director Ralph Damiani, "and expand ground support."

A popular feature is the museum's Kid's Club, where children ages 5 to 14 can submit UFO drawings for publication.

A two-page spread draws interest to the museum itself, and a "Fact or Fiction" page tests readers' abilities to discern accurate UFO photos. The page has fabricated photos sprinkled alongside apparently real ones.

Incident also informs out-of-state readers about the museum and research center. Based on estimates of museum visitors, the magazine is reaching 220,000 readers. Its publishers hope to expand to 100,000 paid subscriptions worldwide.

"We are hoping to put together the most informative magazine on the topic of unexplained phenomena in the United States," said sales manager Carl Lucas. "We just want to provide the information and allow people to make their own conclusions about the phenomena."

The magazine's contributors are specialists in their fields, having written books, delivered lectures or otherwise established themselves with the research center.

Author Stanton Friedman, author of "The Roswell Cover-up" in the premier issue, has written several books, given numerous lectures, worked as a consultant for the Fox TV show "The X-Files," and is regarded as one of the premier UFO researchers in the country.

Another writer, Paul Davids, was the executive producer of Showtime's "Roswell."

"I'm thrilled that they're doing it," he said about Incident's publication. "I think it fills a need we've had for a long time — to have a journalistic voice coming out of Roswell that gives special attention to this famous incident from 1947. I think the magazine will continue to help us get the truth."

Roswell holds special significance for UFO researchers because the incident there on July 8, 1947, is the only time the U.S. military has admitted to having found a flying saucer.

Within 24 hours, however, the statement was retracted. But the retraction only gave rise to more questions and theories. The first issue of Incident focuses two of its three feature stories on events surrounding the Roswell crash.

"The Roswell incident is the jumping-off point for this magazine," Mr. Davids said. "If it happened the way [UFO researchers] said it did, it's the most important story in the last 100 years."

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Astronaut "UFO" Sightings


James Oberg


Journal of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
Volume III, No.1, Fall 1978

The glamour and drama of manned space flights has been transferred to the UFO field via a highly publicized group of "UFO sightings" and photographs allegedly made by American and Russian space-pilots. Hardly a UFO book or movie fails to mention that "astronauts have seen UFOs too."

Careful examination of each and every one of these stories (and they total more than 20 or 30) can produce quite reasonable explanations, in terms of visual phenomena associated with space flights. On a visit to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston in July 1976, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, of the Center for UFO Studies, concluded that none of the authentic cases (as opposed to the majority of reports, which are fictitious) really had anything to do with the "real UFO phenomenon."

Skeptical investigators, while pleased that Hynek had dismissed all "astronaut UFO reports" as unreliable, have insisted that this body of stories has quite a lot to do with the major problems besetting the UFO community. How, they ask, can a body of stories so patently false and unreliable obtain such seeming authenticity simply by being passed back and forth among researchers without ever being seriously investigated? Is this a characteristic of UFO stories in general; and if so, the skeptics ask, can a study of how the "astronaut UFO" myth began and flourished help us to understand better the UFO phenomenon in general?

James Oberg: Insights

'Science' of Ufology


1. [ "Failure of the 'Science' of Ufology" ]
2. [ "Open Letter to Richard Haines Re Russian Ufology" ]
3. [ "The 'Black Box' Approach to UFO (Mis)Perceptions: Foundation of a Skeptical View of Extraordinary Assertions" ]
4. [ Counterfeit "Garry Henderson Endorsement" of Astronaut UFO Cases ]

"NASA UFO Videos (Gemini, Apollo)"

e-mails in response to this posting
Date: Sun, 17 Jan 1999 16:57:21 EST
From: JamesOberg@aol.com
To: MarkLCenter@iname.com

NASA film CL 862, "Photo Aberrations, Debris, and UFOs" (May 1979) Silent. Color. Running time approx 10 min 30 seconds.

Scene description by James E. Oberg (Nov 23,1979)

NASA photo technician Don Pickard had assembled this collection based on my request (in my unofficial role as a public lecturer on the subject of UFO claims) for the most famous claimed "astronaut UFO photos", so that they could be shown in their original complete form rather than in the distorted, often modified images that appeared in the UFO literature. Pickard added a few of his own favorite "UFO" scenes too. In particular, in 1980 this film was shown at the Smithsonian Institute seminar on UFOs and at an OMNI-sponsored "UFO Summit" where I debated Allen Hynek.

Bad Spirits Ousted from Colorado Town Hall


TELLURIDE, Colo. - A Town Council known for some downright nasty squabbling has been setting town policy in occasional harmony since calling on a shaman to rid its meeting hall of bad vibes.

Shaman Christopher Beaver conducted a smudging ceremony in the Telluride Town Council chambers earlier this summer after he declared the basement room full of negative, even violent, energy.

Town leaders are reluctant to attribute the more agreeable atmosphere to Beaver's ceremony, which included burning imported menthol and wafting the smoke into every corner of the hall. But they say it opened their minds.

"I'm not saying there is a connection," said Mayor John Steel, a 67-year-old, cowboy-hat-wearing attorney. "What it really did maybe was to focus people's minds on trying to seek higher ground."

Telluride is a mountain town where Tibetan prayer flags flutter from Victorian porches and American Indian medicine men bless the ski slopes.

Its town leaders have other unusual practices among Colorado municipal boards. They open meetings with a poetry reading and a moment of silence.

Steel said he started that as another way of clearing council members' minds before they get down to business.

There is so much communicating going on now that council business regularly stretches meetings to nine or 10 hours. Two extra meetings have been added every month. Steel said the open-minded town council may be open to whatever else might bring and keep harmony.

"We haven't gone to a sweat lodge yet," he said. "Maybe that will be the next step."

Beaver did his first council smudging ceremony immediately after last fall's acrimonious election that seated three new council members.

He was invited by incoming council member Hillary White, who said she felt it was difficult to make decisions, speak well or be clearheaded in the bad-vibe-ridden council chambers.

The council and townspeople were embroiled in a fight over annexation of land to the east of town and condemnation of the valley floor to the west.

Those issues were brought to a simmer by public votes, and the council currently is dealing with watering restrictions, parking, midyear budget adjustments, new regulations for vending carts and noxious weed control.

White said she believes smudging, which is used in different forms by many Christian religions as well as by American Indians, should be done regularly. She lights little sage sticks when she arrives early for council meetings.

Tuesday, August 13, 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 – August 13, 2002

from The Associated Press

Four cloned calves genetically engineered with human DNA and currently grazing in Iowa could hold the key to creating herds of identical cows that produce medicines in their milk and blood.

"Cows are ideal factories," said James Robl, president of Hematech LLC, which hopes to profit from drug-producing bovines. "Cows are big and have a lot of blood and produce a lot of milk."

Hematech of Sioux Falls, S.D., and its partner on the project, Kirin Brewing Co., aim to harvest groups of disease-fighting human proteins -- called "immunoglobulins" -- in cows.

The protein groups are produced daily when the body comes under attack from foreign agents, and they're typically tailor-made to attack each invader.

The immunoglobulins hold great promise as medicines to treat a whole range of invaders from anthrax to earache-causing viruses in infants. Doctors already use them to treat such maladies as tetanus, rabies and even some cases of infertility.


from The Baltimore Sun

The FBI denied yesterday that anthrax investigators have smeared a former Army bioterrorism expert with leaks to the news media but said it would look into some allegations of misconduct made by Dr. Steven J. Hatfill.

FBI spokesman Chris Murray said agents did not reveal Hatfill's identity to reporters or tip them off in advance to searches of his Frederick apartment June 25 and Aug. 1.

"We're not aware of any FBI employee who has named a 'suspect' in the anthrax deaths investigation," Murray said. Also, he said, "the FBI does not alert the news media to the service of search warrants."

He added, however, "credible allegations concerning the mishandling of evidence will be investigated thoroughly." The FBI spokesman did not elaborate, but Hatfill's attorney, Victor M. Glasberg, alleged Sunday that the text of a bioterrorism novel written by Hatfill had been leaked to a TV network.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Using lasers to measure the scattering of light off vibrating molecules could lead to a new method for quickly detecting anthrax spores and other bioterror agents.

The system is proposed in a paper appearing in today's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The work is in its preliminary stages, acknowledges Marlan O. Scully of Texas A&M University.

"We're still doing the science, we're not ready to build the device and put it out right away," said Scully, lead researcher on the project.


from The Washington Post

The government approved a treatment for the nation's second-most-fatal cancer yesterday -- after a record seven-week review -- to be chemotherapy for advanced-stage patients who have exhausted today's standard drugs.

Eloxatin's effects at first glance seem small: When taking it with older drugs, about 9 percent of treated colon cancer patients said their tumors shrunk significantly, and they gained about two months before the cancer started growing again.

But until now, these patients have had no alternative once standard treatment failed -- and the Food and Drug Administration is expecting data that could prove whether Eloxatin works better when given in earlier stages of the disease.

The drug, made by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Synthelabo, was approved faster than any other cancer treatment. Only AIDS drugs have passed through the FDA faster.


from Newsday

No sooner had medical researchers released what to them is the definitive word on mammography - saying the diagnostic procedure helps reduce deaths from breast cancer by more than previously thought - than a major activist group assailed the research.

The complaint reopened a debate that began last year when two Danish researchers charged that mammography does not spare lives by reducing breast cancer mortality. The American Medical Association and other influential organizations countered their stance. But the flap only heightened the controversy, confusing many women who had been getting tested routinely.

Now the report breast cancer specialists had hoped would prove the last word on mammography, published a week and a half ago in the American Cancer Society's journal Cancer, instead is prompting even more words.

"Every major medical organization agrees that screening works," said Dr. Stephen Feig, a radiation oncologist and cancer researcher at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. In an editorial in Cancer, Feig hailed an international study showing that mammography reduces breast cancer deaths by as much as 44 percent. The low-dose X-ray technique helps lower breast cancer mortality by allowing doctors to spot early, treatable cancers, he said.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

PARIS (AP) -- It may be less enjoyable than relying on taste buds, but French researchers say they have found a way to use DNA to tell the difference between a high-end wine and a cheaper blend.

Scientists at the National Institute of Agronomic Research recently succeeded in mapping the DNA sequences of unpurified wine, with the hope that one day they can distinguish diluted wines from authentic champagnes, or grand crus.

So far, the technological advance consists of taking unpurified wine made from a single type of grape -- not the purified wine people drink -- and tracing its DNA sequence to differentiate it from mixtures, says Philippe This of INRA's wine genetics lab in the southern city of Montpellier.

"It's not quantitative -- we can't tell if a wine is, say, 85 percent of one type of grape and 15 percent of another, but we can determine which ones are present," he said.


from The New York Times

Twenty-five years ago, in the late summer of 1977, two identical spacecraft took off on missions of exploration deep into the outer solar system. No drum rolls accompanied their launchings, no bloated language of cold war victories to be won or Odysseyan adventures ahead. In a departure from an earlier practice, the spacecraft were not given fanciful names from mythology, like Mercury or Gemini or Apollo. They were called simply the Voyagers.

Their grandeur had to be earned. And so it was, through their own unexpected durability, the ingenuity of engineers and scientists on the ground and — in no small measure — nature's unending capacity for surprise, diversity and breathtaking beauty.

Both spacecraft visited Jupiter and Saturn, and Voyager 2 kept on to Uranus and Neptune. Their missions, the longest and most scientifically bountiful of the space age, came to epitomize planetary exploration.

Now the wonder is, both spacecraft are still cruising on, transmitting data far beyond the Sun's outermost planets and closer to the true edge of the solar system, where interstellar space begins.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 — University officials and leading scientists are warning that new government regulations on biological research adopted in the wake of Sept. 11, and simultaneous efforts to inhibit publication, threaten to undermine the fundamental openness of science and campus life.

As they scramble to meet a Sept. 10 deadline for telling the federal authorities whether they have material that could be used to make biological weapons, scientists and administrators say the rules signal a new age of tighter controls on who can work with such material — and even, scientists fear, what may be published about it.

"This has the potential for changing the definition of science, the way people do science, and even what we mean when we say science," said Dr. Ron Atlas, president of the American Society for Microbiology.

Dr. John H. Marburger III, President Bush's science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, acknowledged that the old ways of doing business were changing but said that the debate between the national security and scientific interests was healthy and necessary.


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Owner to Make Changes at Natural History


August 12, 2002


Steven Spielberg is not the only one who thinks there is a durable franchise in making dinosaurs come to life.

Earlier this month, several longtime executives in the science publishing community, with the backing of Exeter Capital Partners, purchased Natural History, the 100-year-old magazine of the American Museum of Natural History.

Charles Harris, the former publisher of Physics Today and The Industrial Physicist, will serve as president of a newly formed company. Peter Brown, editor in chief of The Sciences magazine until the New York Academy of Sciences closed it last year, will become editor. The purchase price was not disclosed.

"This began as a conversation about how we could help the museum with the magazine," Mr. Harris said. "That conversation grew to a place where we decided that the best thing we could do for the magazine was to take full control of it."

A Silent Morton, More Junk Physics, Creatures Revisited, The Jasker Device, Edward's Producer Speaks, Hasted Deceased, Christ-In-The-Field, Florida "UFO," and A UK Healing Group....


When attorney Jorge Caporazo Mendes wrote me from Brazil on April 26th — three weeks ago — demanding that I meet the famous "psychic" Thomas Green Morton there and hand over the million-dollar prize, I responded immediately and asked that Morton fill out the application form. Well, I've not heard a word since, from Mendes or from Morton! Isn't that exceedingly strange! Morton is a loud chap who goes about shouting "RA!" and producing flashes of light — not one of your major wonders, in any case. Kids just getting into the magic business have been using this corny trick for the last ten years. The biggest TV network in Brazil, TV GLOBO, is standing by to cover the event, but Mendes and Morton are apparently in hiding somewhere.... Hey, guys, I'm all ready! Let's go! Hello? Flash! RA! Anyone there....?

Rare Earth Debate Part 1: The Hostile Universe


posted: 07:00 am ET
15 July 2002

When the book "Rare Earth" was published two years ago, it raised a great deal of controversy among astrobiologists. Written by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee, the book's hypothesis suggests complex life is rare in the universe, and may even be unique to Earth. If life does occur elsewhere, the authors contend, it will only be in the form of single-celled microbial life such as bacteria.

This debate, a 5-part series beginning today, will cover a variety of topics prompted by the Rare Earth hypothesis. The moderator is Michael Meyer, the NASA senior scientist for astrobiology.



Two Hasidic Jews were arrested Tuesday (July 2, 2002) when they attempted to scale the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem's Old City in order to have a closer look at a strange phenomenon on the millenia-old structure.

"Jews are flocking to the Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem to view a phenomenon that is interpreted as a sign of the coming of the Messiah. A wet spot measuring 40 by 10 centimeters (15 by 4 inches) appeared on the face of the Wall. It has led religious Jews to proclaim that it is a portent of the Messiah's imminent arrival."

The phenomenon began on Saturday, June 29, 2002--the Sabbath--when, shortly after sunrise, Hasidic Jews praying at the Wall noticed water seeping from the smooth face of the stone 4 meters (13 feet) above the ground.

The seepage has continued without interruption ever since.

However, not everyone believes that the flow is "miraculous."

"An archaeologist of the Authority for Antiquities of Israel says there may be an ancient water pipe within the Temple Mount which has ruptured, and that this is the cause of the damp spot."

(Editor's Comment: If that were the case, the seepage would be at ground level, not several feet above ground where the man-made wall touches empty air.)

But Hasidic Jews who have witnessed the seepage claim "the Wall is weeping" and cite an ancient prophecy, which proclaims, "When you see water coming through the stone, know that such is a sign that the coming of the Messiah is nigh."

The phenomenon's appearance just days before Tisha B'Av (the Ninth of Av on the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to July 17--J.T.) is considered significant. This is because the Ninth of Av is the date of tumultuous events in Jewish history.

July 17 was the day Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, captured Jerusalem and destroyed the First Temple in the Seventh Century B.C.

July 17, 70 A.D. was the day the Roman general Titus and the Tenth Legion sacked and destroyed the Second Temple, of which the Wailing Wall is the only piece left standing.

July 17, 1941 is the day the Nazis began mass executions at Oswieicim, Poland in the concentration camp they called Auschwitz. (See the Jerusalem Post for July 3, 2002 and July 5, 2002. Many thanks to Rick Wiles and Ayesha al-Khatabi for these news reports.)

(Editor's Note: This type of phenomenon is called a flow in Forteana. Sometimes they are associated with religious sites, such as the flow that appeared in the church at Ars in southern France, after St. Jean Vianney, the Cure d'Ars (Parish Priest of Ars--J.T.) was laid to rest. Another sprung from the ground in October 1921 at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, Portugal, four years after Lucia Abbobora dos Santos, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto last saw the Virgin Mary. Then there was the mysterious flow from an acacia tree in La Feria, 11 miles (18 kilometers) west of Harlingen, Texas in 1972, which has absolutely nothing to do with religion. The current phenomenon in Jerusalem marks the first time a Fortean flow has taken place at a long-established religious site.)

`Star Trek' heading for new space territory


Posted on Tue, Jul. 16, 2002

PASADENA - ``Star Trek'' is about to rewrite its space history again.

An episode of ``Enterprise'' next fall will be set in 1957 and ``it's going to turn out that the Vulcans were keeping an eye on Sputnik when it got launched,'' said Rick Berman, co-creator of the UPN series.

Even more significantly, Berman added that the Vulcans ``have a little accident and have to land in western Pennsylvania. ... It's going to turn out that Zefram Cochrane was not the first human to make contact with Vulcans.''

That may surprise fans of ``Star Trek: First Contact,'' the 1996 movie in which Cochrane -- played by James Cromwell -- had what was supposed to be the first human-Vulcan encounter.

And it moves ``Enterprise's'' T'Pol (played by Jolene Blalock) deeper into ``Star Trek'' history. T'Pol's great-grandmother -- also played by Blalock -- is part of that 1957 Vulcan crew.

Now, maybe you do not care about any of this. Maybe you don't even know that ``Enterprise'' follows pioneering space exploration in the 22nd century, 100 years before the original ``Star Trek'' of Capt. James T. Kirk.

But people immersed in the 30-plus-year history of ``Star Trek'' do know, and do care.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Minnesota's close encounter of another kind


Terry Collins
Star Tribune

Published Aug 10, 2002 CORN10

David Olson is still laughing, nearly 23 years later.

At a family reunion, Olson's nephew, Curtis, and his friends were wondering what would happen if they came across a UFO. David Olson decided to play a little practical joke that became a close encounter of another kind.

On a steamy September night in 1979, Olson, equipped with a propane torch and burlap sacks on his feet, spent five hours creating two huge circles simulating UFO landings in his nephew's cornfields outside Lake City, Minn.

They apparently became the first crop circles reported in the United States, and the southeastern Minnesota town was invaded all right. International media and UFO investigators scoured the landscape.

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 12, 2002


Scientist Steven J. Hatfill yesterday intensified his efforts to clear himself of any connection to the anthrax-laced envelopes that killed five people last fall, calmly standing before a battalion of cameras, microphones and reporters as he read a statement saying he didn't send the envelopes and never worked with anthrax.

Beneath a blazing sun, Hatfill spoke in tones of barely restrained indignation to a live national cable television audience and did not answer questions.

"I am a loyal American, and I love my country," Hatfill said outside his attorney's office in Alexandria. "I had nothing to do, in any way, shape or form, with the anthrax letters. And it is extremely wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise."

Hatfill, 48, became the subject of international speculation after the FBI twice searched his apartment in Frederick, once in June with his permission, and then again Aug. 1 with a search warrant. Each time, scores of reporters and photographers have documented the searches, thrusting Hatfill into the spotlight, although he has not been charged with a crime.


from The Chicago Tribune

In the wilting July sunshine, as President Bush exhorted workers at Argonne National Laboratory to help "lift the dark threat of terrorism through technology," he brought attention to Jim Peerenboom's usually secretive realm.

As director of the Infrastructure Assurance Center, Peerenboom is leading scientists and other professionals charged with protecting the nation's critical infrastructure from terrorism.

Their days are spent creating ways to protect electric power, oil and gas pipelines, water supplies, information and communication systems, banking and finance, transportation networks, emergency services and--while they're at it--the government.

In the days since Sept. 11, their work has taken on a new urgency. After three years of toiling largely unnoticed, the center's estimated $12 million budget may double as early as next year.


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 — The United States is moving rapidly toward shipping tons of bomb-grade plutonium and uranium out of a vulnerable laboratory in New Mexico, according to Energy Department officials and internal documents. Experts said it would be the first time the government has moved nuclear weapons fuel to reduce the risk of terrorists stealing it.

The plutonium and uranium would be shipped to a complex at the Nevada Test Site, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, that was formerly used to assemble nuclear devices for detonation. It would be taken from a place called Technical Area 18, or T.A.-18, at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory.

Several internal Energy Department documents describing the plan were obtained by a nonprofit group based here, the Project on Government Oversight, which has been lobbying for better security at nuclear weapons sites.


from The Associated Press

LONDON - The "Asian Brown Cloud," a 2-mile-thick blanket of pollution over southern Asia, may be causing the premature deaths of a half-million people in India each year, deadly flooding in some areas and drought in others, according to the biggest-ever scientific study of the phenomenon.

The grimy cocktail of ash, soot, acids and other damaging airborne particles is as much the result of low-tech polluters like wood- and dung- burning stoves, cooking fires and forest clearing as it is of dirty industries, the U.N.-sponsored study found.

"When you think about air pollution, many people think of industry and fossil fuels as the only causes," report co-author Paul Crutzen, a scientist at the Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, told a news conference in London.

Often ignored, he said, was "biomass burning," including forest fires and the burning of vegetation to clear land or to warm the homes of poor people.


from The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - West Nile virus is an "emerging, infectious disease epidemic" that could be spread all the way to the Pacific Coast by birds and mosquitoes, the director of the Centers for Disease Control said Sunday.

The Northeast and the South have been hardest hit by the virus since it was first identified in the United States in 1999, but Dr. Julie Gerberding said birds and mosquitoes infected with West Nile are now in most states east of the Mississippi River and some to the west of it.

West Nile is "a problem that is having an unusually high human toll this year. So it is serious, and we have to continue our public health action to combat it," Gerberding said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Seven people with West Nile virus have died in Louisiana this year, and Mississippi officials are investigating a death they say appears to be linked to the virus. The virus has been detected in 35 states and Washington, D.C.


from The Chicago Tribune

Life on Earth did not start just once, as biology books have long taught, but possibly millions of times. Most of these experiments of nature failed, but three managed to beg, borrow or steal enough genes from the losers to hang on.

In fact, if rambunctious prelife bundles of chemicals hadn't cooperated 3.8 to 4.5 billion years ago and exchanged primitive genes on a wholesale basis, thereby sharing newly invented survival skills, life would probably still be in a retarded stage of evolution.

At least that is the picture taking shape as molecular biologists, using their new ability to decipher the genes of different species, seek to solve biology's most important problem--the evolution of modern cells.

Until now, scientists thought they knew the great founding parent from which all other life evolved: a single-celled organism that managed to put together a group of chemicals that carried instructions for building cell walls and other cellular structures. Today, we call those chemical instructions genes.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

High above the Arctic Circle, glaciers are melting steadily as planet Earth warms, and day by day, entire communities of microbes and plants emerge on the bare ground after living for centuries entombed beneath the ice.

As they thrive anew in the cold open air, those organisms exploit the soil around them to nourish new ecosystems and add fresh sources of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere that could speed the Arctic's warming process, scientists say.

And deep beneath the world's oceans, where undersea volcanoes erupt from rifts in the Earth's crust, strange life forms feed in the total darkness on sulfur-eating bacteria that live around "black smokers" where temperatures reach 300 degrees and -- some scientists believe -- offer tantalizing clues to the origins of life.

Icebound or heat-loving, these are the "extremophiles" -- hardy forms of life whose existence on the planet marks life's extraordinary tenacity as it evolves and thrives in environments deadly to everything but those that live there.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

At a greenhouse in Vacaville, scientists are betting on an unlikely plant in their effort to treat a certain type of cancer: tobacco.

Scientists at Large Scale Biology Corp. are using genetic engineering techniques to turn rows of tobacco seedlings into organic factories, producing a medicinal protein that may treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The experiments going on here are just one example of a new field called biopharming -- the attempt to produce biotech medicines in plants.

For the last two decades, biotech proteins have been made by splicing human genes into bacteria, mammalian cells or fungi. Large quantities of these fast- growing cells are brewed in fermentation vats.

Biopharming advocates think living plants -- corn, soybeans and tobacco are the current favorites -- can produce protein medicines faster and cheaper than the stainless steel fermentation factories that can cost tens, if not hundreds,of millions of dollars to build.


from The Associated Press

SEATTLE - When scientists figured out that sea water drowned groves of tall trees up and down the coast of Washington state the same year a tsunami hit Japan, they theorized that a massive earthquake in the Pacific most likely triggered both events.

Based on Japanese records, scientists were able to pinpoint a date - Jan. 26, 1700 - and estimate that the rupture of a long stretch of sea floor had caused a magnitude 9 quake, which would be the largest known temblor ever to strike what is now the contiguous United States.

But Ruth Ludwin, a University of Washington geophysics professor, wanted more. There appeared to be no accounts of cataclysmic earth-shaking in the stories and legends of the only North Americans who would have been here to witness the quake - Indians.

"When you talk about a very large earthquake in 1700, for that to be really convincing to me, I really need to have evidence from people who were there," Ludwin said. "I was looking for a more comprehensive story."


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Unidentified object scare continues


Post Report

NEPALGUNJ, Aug 10:The life in the Nepal-India border at Belaspur and Nepalgunj went panicky for the second consecutive day on Saturday when an unidentified object again attempted to kill a woman.

The same mysterious object had killed a 40-year-old woman in the neighbouring Indian village a few days ago. Sahim Khan, 55, of Belaspur-16 was sleeping peacefully on the terrace of her house when the fireball-like object flew towards her ready to attack her, say locals.

"When we rushed towards Khan's house after seeing the object, it disappeared instantly," they said. The locals then brought Khan from the terrace and kept her safely inside the house. The locals said they saw the same object the previous day over Nepalgunj Municipality and Guleria area.

Even the object continues to attack villagers for the last couple of days and more and more people are attacked, authorities from both Nepal and India have failed to identify the object, which is said to be active at night and disappears instantly after the attack.

The local eyewitnesses said it resembles a fire-flame and attacks those sleeping outside their houses on rooftops and terraces. Deputy Superintendent of Police, Gokarna Bahadur Pal of Banke admitted that he saw the red object but said he could not identify it.

India's Lucknow-based newspapers even published reports that said three people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded across the border after the mysterious object was detected in the region a couple of days ago.

Puyallup man leading long quest for Noah's Ark


Bill Hutchens; The News Tribune

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

Edward Crawford, an archaeological field technician with a background in biblical languages, is leading a local research team that will travel to the mountain as soon as the Turkish government grants the necessary permits.

Crawford, 57, privately teaches Greek and has been studying Mount Ararat since he saw a 1977 slide presentation given by John Morris, a researcher who has written extensively about his own hunt for the ark.

Currently, Crawford is a teaching elder with the Evergreen Reformation in the South Hill area. The conservative Christian church formerly was associated with the Bible Presbyterian Church but split off because of doctrinal differences.

Crawford has traveled to Turkey 17 times and has been to Mount Ararat six times. He has spent 25 years and more than $75,000 on his quest, and says he has marked the location of a large rectangular structure buried in the ice at about the 14,700-foot level.

The ark has been the subject of many quests, and Crawford is one of several people who claim to have found it. While some researchers assert the ark's remains are strewn about Mount Ararat, others believe they are located far to the south.

According to the Bible and the legends of many cultures, the ark ran aground in the Ararat region as the waters of a cataclysmic flood receded thousands of years ago.

The Bible, in Genesis chapters 6 through 9, as well as the oral and written histories of many cultures, describes the ark and a great flood associated with it. A popular Bible story, the ark saga centers on Noah, a man charged by God with building a wooden boat big enough to house many animals. The Sunday School version of the story typically tells of male and female animals marching two-by-two into the ark.

The ark was to provide protection against a catastrophic flood that would wipe out humanity, which, the Bible says, had become evil. The Genesis account says Noah, his family and the animals weathered the flood in the ark for more than a year.

"This find intersects every area of human existence," Crawford said. It could alter much of what we think we know about human and geological history, he said. And the implications could run as deep as the debates between creationists and evolutionists about the age of the Earth and the origins of man, he said.

"It could mean a trillion books in a million libraries are obsolete," Crawford said.

David Huelsbeck, professor of anthropology and dean of social sciences at Pacific Lutheran University, said that while there is evidence of a massive flood in the Black Sea area near Turkey, there is no proof of a global flood.

"There's no way to prove there wasn't a person named Noah who built a big boat and saved a bunch of animals and his family," Huelsbeck said. "But in terms of the literal extent of the story of the flooding of the entire world...there is no geological evidence for it."

The key to the mountain

Crawford's work began with John Morris' slide show in Edmonton, Alberta. One slide showed an inscribed stone from Mount Ararat. Crawford said he recognized the symbols as symbols from an ancient alphabet from a time period that has long been linked to the stories of the Flood.

"I realized the inscriptions were the key to the whole mountain," he said.

Later that year, he purchased a satellite slide of the mountain from U.S. Geological Survey archives in South Dakota.

He said it wasn't until years later that he discovered his satellite slide showed one exposed end of the ark during a period of extreme melt in 1973.

During a 1983 climb, Crawford said, he found several inscribed stones in the Ahora Gorge about 2,000 feet below the spot he would mark as the location of the ark seven years later.

Crawford recognized the inscriptions as early Sumerian, from an ancient culture that flourished in what is now southern Iraq. The signs, he believes, represented a man and woman, the sacrifice of several animals, a rainbow and the command to go forward, reminiscent of biblical passages.

"He made a reasonable, good translation of the inscriptions," said Veysel Donbaz, a Sumerologist and chief specialist and curator of the Cuneiform Tablet Archives of Istanbul, a department of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums.

Donbaz said the mountain, the site of many ancient burials, could well be full of ark-related artifacts.

Winfield Swanson, a former managing editor of Research & Exploration: A Scholarly Publication of the National Geographic Society, published Crawford's account of his findings in the autumn 1994 edition of the reference periodical.

In a recent interview, she said Crawford's thesis was "a tad on the far-out side." No one else had interpreted the mountain's inscriptions at that time, she said.

She said Donbaz's assessment of Crawford's work was the only positive one she had heard.

Identifying the ark

In 1986, Crawford carefully examined his satellite photo and noticed an out-of-place object high on the north face of the mountain.

"I was presented with the unmistakable image of a man-made rectilinear structure protruding out of the ice," he said. "When I realized I had discovered a structure in that slide, every neuron in me was firing."

During a 1990 climb, he used the satellite slide for reference and pinpointed the place where the structure lay. There he found a rectangular depression in the ice that matched the length and width dimensions for the ark given in Genesis: about 475 feet long, 80 feet wide and 50 feet high. Crawford left a marker of discovery, a plastic pipe full of test tubes, at the south end of the buried structure.

In 1994, with the help of Scott Tipton, then an Air Force captain stationed at McChord Air Force Base, Crawford was able to overlay a map onto a blown-up image of his satellite slide. The latitude and longitude positions of the image in the slide, Crawford said, turned out to be the same as those for the rectangular depression he had seen and marked in the snow.

Tipton has since retired from the service and joined Crawford's team as a site surveyor.

In recent years, Crawford has returned to Turkey several times and has presented his research to Turkish government representatives and Air Force officers stationed in Turkey.

Maj. Gen. Phil Nuber said he met with Crawford in Ankara in 1999 and instructed him about making a presentation to the Turkish military.

"It's absurd to think that that would transpire if I hadn't gotten it right," Crawford said.

Crawford visited the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in September 2001; a representative of the office said the ministry had a file on all of Crawford's work but would not comment further.

Crawford and his team have a 30-year site plan that calls for the meticulous study and preservation of the ark and its contents and surroundings as well as the inscriptions. He has sent a copy of the plan and a request for a technical research permit to the Turkish government.

According to the Web site of ArcImaging, another group of contemporary ark researchers, the Turkish government has denied Ararat research permits for 2002 because of military activity in the region.

But Crawford said he has yet to receive a written denial and remains optimistic.

"Now that I have been compelled to divulge these things publicly," he said, "the world is watching."

Bill Hutchens: 253-941-9636

For more information • For more information about Edward Crawford's research on Mount Ararat, visit the Web site www.vonbora.org.

(Published 12:30AM, July 7th, 2002)

Is NASA Afraid to Send a Manned Mission to Mars?


YOWUSA.COM, July 15, 2002
Janice Manning

It seems that NASA is ducking any serious questions about sending a manned mission to Mars. Rather than face direct, on-camera questioning by reporters at a press conference regarding their own leak and first major turnaround in 26 years, they scurried for cover! What major Martian discovery would cause the big boys at NASA to turn tail and run? The answer is simple: water! Mars, that so-called cold, dead, dry, dusty dune of a place, has oceans of it in an ice-rich layer just a few feet under the surface of the planet in many areas!

Robert H. Williams, former professor at Clinton Community College in New York State, has gathered mountains of data on the red planet. He expressed his deep dismay with NASA in a letter that he sent to YOWUSA on June 10, 2002. He sees NASA's lack of the "scientific enthusiasm" that they used to express abundantly during the glory days of the Moon launches as a stumbling attempt to cover up a glaring blunder. This blunder, if corrected, could actually point to life on Mars.

Dwarf galaxies give universe a breath of fresh oxygen


Posted: July 24, 2002

Astronomers have discovered that a nearby dwarf galaxy is spewing oxygen and other "heavy" elements into intergalactic space. This observation from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory supports the idea that dwarf galaxies might be responsible for most of the heavy elements between the galaxies.

Despite comprising only a very small fraction of the mass of the universe, so-called heavy elements -- everything other than hydrogen and helium -- are essential for the formation of planets and can greatly influence astronomical phenomena, including the rate at which galaxies form.

A team led by Crystal Martin of the University of California, Santa Barbara, observed the dwarf galaxy NGC 1569 using Chandra. As reported in an article to be published in The Astrophysical Journal, the group found that huge quantities of oxygen and other heavy elements are escaping from the galaxy in bubbles of multimillion-degree gases thousands of light-years in diameter.

"Dwarf galaxies are much smaller than ordinary galaxies like our Milky Way and much more common," said Martin. "Because of their small mass, they have relatively low gravity and matter can escape more easily from dwarfs than from normal galaxies. This makes them very important in understanding how the universe was seeded with various elements."

Scientists have speculated that heavy elements escaping from dwarf galaxies in the early universe could play a dominant role in enriching the intergalactic gas from which other galaxies form. Enriched gas cools more quickly, so the rate and manner of formation of new galaxies in the early universe would have been strongly affected by this process.

"With Chandra it was possible to test these ideas," said Henry Kobulnicky of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a member of the research team. "We could trace the distribution of oxygen and other elements in the galaxy and determine how much of this matter is escaping from the galaxy."

NGC 1569 is a good case study because it is only about seven million light-years from Earth, and for the last 10 million to 20 million years has been undergoing a burst of star formation and supernova explosions, perhaps triggered by a collision with a massive gas cloud. The supernovae eject oxygen and other heavy elements at high velocity into the gas in the galaxy, heating it to millions of degrees. Hot gas boils off the gaseous disk of the galaxy and expands outward at speeds of hundreds of thousands of miles per hour.

The team found large hot bubbles extending above and below a disk of gas along the equator of the galaxy. The measured concentration of oxygen, neon, magnesium and silicon showed that the elements from thousands of supernovas are evaporating out of the galaxy, carrying much of the surrounding gas with them. The astronomers estimate the bubbles are carrying away an amount of oxygen equivalent to that found in about three million Suns.

In addition to Martin and Kobulnicky, Timothy Heckman of The John Hopkins University in Baltimore, was part of the team that observed NGC 1569 for 27.4 hours using the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) on April 11, 2001. ACIS was built for NASA by Penn State, University Park, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the Office of Space Science, Washington. TRW, Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for the spacecraft. The Smithsonian's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

AT NEWS: Legislators Play into AT Hands

Congressional Resolution on "Rebirthing"

The problem with focusing only on "rebirthing" was dramatically illustrated by the recent introduction of HCR 435 in Congress, authored by Rep. Susan Myrick (R-NC). The resolution recounts how Candace Newmaker was killed by a rebirthing technique, then asks state legislatures to ban the practice of rebirthing. Candace's birth family lives in North Carolina, in the district which is represented by Rep. Myrick. The resolution, if passed, does not have the force of law.

Next year, the North Carolina legislature will be considering a bill along the lines requested by HCR 435. (Indeed, this legislation inspired the congressional resolution.) The bill, to be introduced by NC Senator Austin Allran, would ban the practice of rebirthing, though there is no indication that it is practiced by Attachment Therapists in that state.

The bill has the support of Attachment Therapists in North Carolina; they are offering rebirthing as a sacrificial lamb to preserve the exemption in NC restraint law which permits them to do the more popular forms of restraint therapy (e.g. "holding therapy," "compression therapy," "emotional shuttling," etc.). A bill that would have eliminated the real problem of abusive restraint as therapy was withdrawn earlier this year by Sen. Allran when Attachment Therapists turned on some political heat.

AT NEWS activists have pointed out the problems with targeting only rebirthing to both Rep. Myrick's staff and Sen. Allran. Our arguments fell on deaf ears in both cases. Myrick and Allran see an "easy" win on the rebirthing issue, while substantive protections would require real effort -- and the courage to take on the AT special interest lobby, a group that is expert at intimidation and threats, as all too many children know firsthand.

[AT NEWS sends the latest news to activists and interested organizations about the many abusive practices inflicted on children by Attachment Therapy (aka "holding therapy" and "therapeutic parenting"). ]

Linda Rosa, RN
Corresponding Secretary
Loveland, CO

The Corn Is Flat


Signs is a hucksterish religious parable; Full Frontal is one big muddy mistake.
By David Edelstein
Updated Friday, August 2, 2002, at 10:30 AM PT

Sci-fi invasion epics often come swaddled in religion, with epilogues crediting God for sending everything from microscopic germs to atomic bombs to vanquish the alien threat. But I can't think of another that wears its faith as showily as M. Night Shyamalan's scary/sappy Signs (Touchstone), which seems destined to be a monster hit--to strike a soothing chord in an especially anxious time. The title is a double-entendre. The movie takes off from the appearance of giant crop circles (two or three rings joined by a straight line, like bathroom-door sex symbols for the polymorphously peverse), one of which turns up in the Pennsylvania cornfield of the ex-minister protagonist, Graham Hess (Mel Gibson). These signs are obviously the work of extraterrestrials--but of what stripe? Beatific or mean? Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) or Independence Day (1996)? Have they come to heal humankind or to harvest it?

The writings of Charles Darwin on the web


by John van Wyhe, Ph.D.

Welcome to the only website which provides the writings of Charles Darwin in citable form with original page numbers and bibliographical details.

Swapping 'Religion' for 'Postsecularism'


August 3, 2002

Is it time for those who study religion and those who preach it to take advantage of an ordinary four-letter word with extraordinary impact? A word that declares something new by declaring something old? A word that conjures up groundbreaking developments in ideas and sensibilities?

The word is "post."

Anyone who doesn't recognize the power of "post" in intellectual strategy just hasn't been watching. It can gel loosely related phenomena into a major intellectual movement or cultural vanguard without having to be very precise about what unites them or what they are rather than what they are not. Postmodernism is the reigning example.

There may be a valuable lesson here for religious thinkers and religion scholars who believe that their work, regardless of its contemporary importance, is still held at arm's length in the worlds of intellect, scholarship and high culture.

Judge Orders Changes In Abstinence Program


La. Groups Found to Be Promoting Religion

By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 26, 2002; Page A03

A federal judge in Louisiana ruled yesterday that the state illegally used federal money to promote religion in its abstinence-only sex education programs, a decision that could jeopardize President Bush's ambitions for expanding the effort nationwide.

U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ordered the state to stop giving money to individuals or organizations that "convey religious messages or otherwise advance religion" with tax dollars. He said there was ample evidence that many of the groups participating in the Governor's Program on Abstinence were "furthering religious objectives."

Using government money to distribute Bibles, stage prayer rallies outside clinics that provide abortions and perform skits with characters that preach Christianity violate the Constitution's separation of church and state, he ruled.

One group in its monthly report talked about using the Christmas message of Mary as a prime example of the virtue of abstinence.

"December was an excellent month for our program," the Rapides Station Community Ministries said in a report quoted by the court. "We were able to focus on the virgin birth and make it apparent that God's desire [sic] sexual purity as a way of life."

Gov. Mike Foster (R) expressed dismay over the decision and said he would review the state's legal options.



For 2000 years, people have been saying: "The die is cast," as if the act of casting relinquished the fall of the die completely to fate. Perhaps not!!

"This article presents a meta-analysis of experiments testing the hypothesis that consciousness (in particular, mental intention) can cause tossed dice to land with specified targets face up. Seventy-three English language reports, published from 1935 to 1987, were retrieved. This literature described 148 studies reported by a total of 52 investigators, involving more than 2 million dice throws contributed by 2,569 subjects. The full data base indicates the presence of a physical bias that artifactually inflated hit rates when higher dice faces (e.g., the '6' face) were used as targets. Analysis of a subset of 39 homogeneous studies employing experimental protocols that controlled for these biases suggests that the experimental effect size is independently replicable, significantly positive, and not explainable as an artifact of selective reporting or differences in methodological quality. The estimated effect size for the full data base lies more than 19 standard deviations from chance, while the effect size for the subset of balanced, homogeneous studies lies 2.6 standard deviations from chance. We conclude that this data base provides weak cumulative evidence for a genuine relationship between mental intention and the fall of dice."
(Radin, Dean I., and Ferrari, Diane G.; "Effects of Consciousness on the Fall of Dice: A Meta-Analysis," Journal of Scientific Exploration, 5:61, no. 1, 1991.)

From Science Frontiers #78, NOV-DEC 1991. © 1991-2000 William R. Corliss

What's In A Name? Plenty!


Reviewed by Linda Richards

Books aimed at new parents are always popular. After all, parents are a renewable resource: there are fresh ones being made every day. As with all genres, some of these books are simply better than others. Some are must haves, some are OK and some are just plain silly.

The Astrological Book of Baby Names falls easily into this last category. Unless, of course, you're really stuck for an awful name for the new arrival and don't know where to look. Three entries from the possibilities of names for boys born under the sign of Virgo sum things up pretty neatly. Listed here as they appear in the book: Sextus, Sombrero, Spica. I could add: Seriously? (Though that would have to go at the beginning of that particular list.) The Astrological Book of Baby Names could -- perhaps should -- be subtitled: Names For Children Who Will Be Beaten Up On the Playground.

Unconvinced? Try these -- again, as they appear in the book -- under Libran names for boys: Craddock, Culver, Cupid. Or there's the ever popular Moonwart for Cancerian girls or Lagoon and Lapis Lazuli for Sagittarian boys.

The Astrological Book of Baby Names makes me wish I was an elementary school teacher and I had a class filled with children whose parents had made use of this book. Imagine the roll calls, if you can: Pasiphae, Pelagie, Poppaea, Caius, Violante (not that you'd want to be teaching that little girl), Sapphira, Urania, Canace, Fortunatus, Trigg ("Down, Trigg!"), Candida, Alured, Cream, Zenobia... I could go on. And on. And on.

It's possible that some reader somewhere will pass over these words and be deeply offended. Wounded, even. Especially if their name is Poppaea or Canace or Cupid. If so, I'm sorry, but not deeply so. If you were inflicted at birth with such an unfortunate handle, you should make haste and go and find yourself a less offensive moniker: a David or Pam, a Carrie or a Mike. I know there is a case for original names -- and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore have made the case more strongly than many -- but perhaps some of the original name choosing should be left to those who have left childhood behind and don't have to worry about bullies in cloakrooms whispering or on the playground shouting.

Which brings up another point: Does everyone know how to pronounce Lapis Lazuli? Or Benzoin, Aloysius, Ynyr or even the relatively innocuous Aickin? The lack of pronunciation guide in The Astrological Book of Baby Names causes me extra concern: the only thing more pathetic than a child with a really bad name is a child with a really bad name he or she can't even pronounce.

Thus far, I have been poking a bit of fun at The Astrological Book of Baby Names and, in some ways, that's not very nice of me. (Just thinking about school yard bullies has brought it out, I guess.) In truth, author Catherine Osbond must have gone to a great deal of trouble to put together a book with this many ridiculous names and then grouping them in order of relevance for star signs. It boggles the mind.

In truth, if you have even a passing interest in astrology and a baby, The Astrological Book of Baby Names will provide the type of fun that new parents so crave: thinking about everything to do with baby. In this case, the characteristics of your baby as determined by the stars. Each chapter is a sign and each sign begins with the characteristics, connections and general personality considerations of very young people born under that star. And then the lists of names and names and names. And, truly, not all of those included are as idiotic as those I've included here. The more everyday names are here, as well: just overshadowed by the long lists of otherworldly possibilities.

The Astrological Book of Baby Names will be fun for new parents with an interest in astrology and should also -- and I'm completely serious here -- be quite helpful if you're naming a dog. Sit, Remus! Good boy. | July 2002

Linda Richards is the editor of January Magazine.

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