NTS LogoSkeptical News for 30 October 2002

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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines - October 30, 2002

from The Washington Post

The Bush administration has revamped the charter of the federal advisory committee that addresses the safety of research volunteers, stating for the first time that embryos in experiments are "human subjects" whose welfare should be considered along with that of fetuses, children and adults.

The addition of human embryos to the committee's charge -- completed at the beginning of October but not yet posted on the federal Web site that lists such committees -- marks the latest effort by the administration to bring the unborn under the umbrella of federal health protections. In September the administration enacted a new policy that extends certain health benefits to fetuses.

The new move does not mandate that embryos used in research be given the same protections as fetuses, children or adults. The committee can only offer recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services, which would then have to initiate rulemaking or encourage legislation if it wanted to put new protections in place.

But the wording marks a political victory for those in favor of increased protections for the unborn, experts inside and outside the government said. And depending on whom the administration selects to sit on the committee, it could be the start of a process that could result in greater restrictions on embryo research at some fertility clinics, universities and research labs, experts said.


Scientists Hope Effort Leads to Better Understanding of Common Diseases' Hereditary Basis
from The Washington Post

A worldwide coalition of scientists launched a broad effort yesterday to understand human genetic variation, vowing to create a new type of gene map that may propel medical research forward by explaining such common ailments as heart attacks, diabetes and obesity.

The three-year, $100 million project is one of the biggest scientific undertakings since the Human Genome Project, out of which it grows. Scientists will study genes from people in Japan, China, Africa and the United States, a geographic range that they believe will reveal most, if not all, of the common human genetic variations.

The analytical work will be carried out in public and private laboratories in the United States, Britain, Japan, Canada and China.

The project could have "a profound impact on the future of medicine," said Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, a prime sponsor. He said at a news conference in Washington yesterday that it was an essential next step in turning the promise of the Human Genome Project into concrete health information.

The Human Genome Project, which produced draft genetic maps two years ago amid White House fanfare, is an effort to determine the genetic makeup of what amounts to a theoretical average person. With a nearly complete reference genome in hand, scientists now need to know the ways in which people diverge from that average -- and to determine which of those patterns can be linked to illness.


from The Miami Herald

WASHINGTON - More than 33 years after the United States landed men on the moon, NASA is spending more than $15,000 to convince people that it really did happen and that the space agency didn't make it all up.

Stubborn conspiracy theorists claim that NASA's six Apollo-program moon landings were faked. After decades of belittling and ignoring them, NASA has decided to fight back. It hired James Oberg, a Houston-based former aerospace engineer and award-winning author of 10 books on space, to confront skeptics point by point. Many scientists already have done that on the Internet, but skeptics remain unconvinced.

"Ignoring it only fans the flames of people who are naturally suspicious," Oberg said Tuesday in an interview.

Last year, Fox television twice broadcast a show entitled Conspiracy Theory: Did We Really Land on the Moon?, and NBC's Today show staged a debate on the topic. Last month, Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, punched a conspiracy theorist who had been pestering him to swear on a stack of Bibles that the landing was real.

After the Fox show first aired, NASA put out a one-paragraph press release titled Apollo: Yes, We Did.

Yet a 1999 poll found that 11 percent of the American public doubted the moon landing happened, and Fox officials said such skepticism increased to about 20 percent after their show, which was seen by about 15 million viewers.

Stephen Garber, NASA's acting chief historian, said Oberg's 10-chapter, 30,000-word monograph "is not going to convince the people who believe in these myths. Hopefully, it'll speak to other people who are broad-minded."


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Evolution debate not over, historian says


By LARRY MITCHELL - Staff Writer

Historian Edward Larson claims the fiery controversy that led to the famous Scopes trial in 1925 over teaching evolution still burns today.

The Scopes case has been badly misunderstood, said professor Larson, speaking at Chico State University last week. Influenced by the play and movie "Inherit the Wind," many people today mistakenly regard the trial as a great victory of science over religion.

And they wrongly picture Clarence Darrow as an idealistic lawyer championing rationality and tolerance against a benighted, reactionary, William Jennings Bryan.

The trial did not deliver a knock-out punch to foes of teaching evolution. In fact, after the sensational trial, little teaching about evolution took place in public schools for the next 25 years, said Larson.

He is a professor of history and law at the University of Georgia and winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his book "Summer for the Gods," which deals with the Scopes trial.

He said the authors of "Inherit the Wind" admit they weren't trying to accurately portray the Scopes trial. Their play was a veiled commentary on McCarthyism. Their artwork used anti-evolutionism to stand for the super-patriotic fervor of the McCarthy era.

Larson spent two days on campus last week as a "presidential scholar." Wednesday evening he spoke to a large crowd at Laxson Auditorium, delivering the Joanna Dunlap Cowden Memorial Lecture.

He said a rift among Protestant Christians began in the late 1800s, when some theologians began interpreting the Bible's creation story as not literally true.

Darwin's theory of evolution through survival of the fittest was at first resisted by many scientists and theologians. But as evidence supporting the theory mounted, opposition diminished.

American Christianity was split. Half the church worked evolution into its theology, Larson said. "Another half of the church didn't want it taught."

In the 1920s, the religious rift over science widened, and the teaching of evolution became a focal issue, Larson said. The Scopes trial, "for many Americans represented the inevitable clash between new-fangled scientific thinking and old-fashioned supernatural belief."

Bryan wasn't afraid of science, but he saw the theory of natural selection - applied to humans - as a threat to Christian morality and humanitarian values. "Equate humans with other animals ... and they'll act like apes," Bryan argued, according to Larson.

Bryan, who had served as secretary of state and had run for president as a Democrat several times was in fact a progressive, Larson said. He was a proponent of peace and stood for social justice.

Darrow, a famous criminal defense lawyer, "challenged traditional morality," he said. "He was a thoroughly modern mind, who saw nothing as truly wrong or right. Everything was culturally or biologically (determined)."

"Bryan honored God as love and Christ as the prince of peace," Larson said. "Darrow damned religion as hateful to others and Christianity as the cause of wars."

Where Bryan crusaded against teaching evolution, Darrow wanted all influence of religion removed from public life.

In the Scopes trial, Darrow volunteered to defend John Scopes, a young high school teacher accused of breaking Tennessee's law against teaching evolution. Bryan pressed the state's case. In the end, the jury found Scopes guilty and fined him $100.

"Inherit the Wind" portrayed Darrow as the trial's true victor, Larson said, but historically the legal jousting amounted to a draw: "Both men succeeded in getting their cases made. Both sides were expressed well."

Although the legal battle over teaching evolution seems mostly resolved, Americans still struggle emotionally over that and related issues, he said. "Religion continues to matter greatly in America. Three out of five of us say religion is very important in our lives. It troubles us that science does not support our faith."

And counterparts to Bryan and Darrow can be found today, Larson said. Philip Johnson, an evangelical Christian and law professor at UC Berkeley, "argues that science education should not automatically exclude the supernatural." Johnson tries to find evidence suggesting the universe formed as a result of "intelligent design."

On the other side, one finds a sort of modern Clarence Darrow in the scientist Richard Dawkins, a strident atheist, "who leads the pack of religion haters," Larson said.


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 611 October 29, 2002 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

THE INTERNAL STATES OF ANTI-HYDROGEN have been studied, for the first time, by the ATRAP collaboration, working at CERN where antiprotons are slowed and then joined with positrons to form anti-hydrogen atoms within a detector- and electrode-filled enclosure (a nested Penning trap) over the past year.

This work suggests that anti-hydrogen is preferentially formed in an excited state via a three-body process when two positrons and an anti-proton collide. Only a month ago the ATHENA collaboration, working at the same CERN facility, made the first report of cold anti-H atom detection (Update 605: http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2002/split/605-1.html) using techniques largely pioneered by ATRAP (the antiproton accumulation techniques, the nested Penning trap used, the positron cooling approach, etc.) So what has changed since then?

Three things. (1) First of all, the ATHENA detection of anti-atoms is indirect. The presumed presence of the anti-atom (positron plus antiproton) is registered by a dual annihilation of the positron with an electron and the antiproton with a nearby proton. Complicating the detection scenario is the fact that the proton-antiproton annihilation itself sometimes spawns positrons which (when they annihilate in their turn) could falsely indicate the prior presence of an anti-atom. This class of events constitutes a background which must be subtracted out in the analysis process, and it precludes one from identifying any particular double-annihilation event as having been a genuine anti-hydrogen (sometimes written as an H with a bar over it).

By contrast, the ATRAP direct detection process unambiguously identifies H-bar in a process called field ionization, which works as follows. Having formed in the center of the enclosure, neutral anti-atoms are free to drift in any direction. Some of them annihilate but others move into an "ionization well," a region where strong electric fields tear the H-bar apart. Negatively charged antiprotons not in the company of a positively charged positron cannot reach the well. Once there, though, the field sunders the atom, and the antiprotons are trapped in place, leaving the positron to move off and annihilate elsewhere. By counting the number of antiprotons one knows how many anti-atoms had arrived at the well. Every event represents an anti-atom. (Picture at http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2002/168.htm )

(2) Moreover, one can now make a statistical study of the electric field needed to ionize the positron and deduce from this, in a rudimentary way, some information about the internal energy states of the H-bar. Thus the internal properties of an anti-atom have been studied for the first time. The observed range in principal quantum number n (n=1 corresponding to the ground state, or lowest level) goes from 43 up to 55.

(3) Finally, another thing that is different in this experiment is the much higher rate of anti-H production. The collaboration spokesperson, Gerald Gabrielse of Harvard (617-495-4381, US cell 617-834-7929, CERN 41-22-767-9813, CERN cell 41-79-201-4281), gabrielse@physics.harvard.edu) says that more anti-H atoms can be recorded in a few hours than have been reported in all previous experiments.

The ultimate goal of these experiments will be to trap neutral cold anti-hydrogen atoms and to study their spectra with the same precision (parts per 10^14 for an analysis of the transition from the n=2 to the n=1 state) as for plain hydrogen. One could then tell whether the laws of physics apply the same or differently to atoms and anti-atoms. (Gabrielse et al., Physical Review Letters, probably to be published online Oct 30; other ATRAP contacts are Walter Oelert at Forschungszentrum Julich, 49-2461-61-4156, CERN 41-22-767-1758, cell 49-1787-19-0524; Jochen Walz at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Physics, 49-89-32905-281, CERN 41-22-767-9813; Eric Hessels at York University, CERN 41-22-767-9813; ATRAP website: http://hussle.harvard.edu/~ATRAP/).

In recent work ATRAP sees a further increase in the antihydrogen production rate by using a small radio transmitter to heat antiprotons into making repeated collisions with cold positrons. With this higher production rate, they are able to make the first measurements of a distribution (not just the range) of excited states of antihydrogen. (For an early background article, by Gabrielse, see Scientific American, Dec 1992.)

TESTING NEW PHYSICS WITH NOTHING. To detect new forces, particles, and dimensions in a sub-micron-sized force experiment, physicists must inevitably confront the Casimir force, an exotic quantum phenomenon in which empty space can push together a pair of metal plates. Empty space, or the "vacuum," is actually teeming with fleeting particles and electromagnetic fields. But in between a pair of narrowly spaced plates, the vacuum does not pack energy as densely as it does outside the plates. Just as an underground tunnel blocks AM radio signals with wavelengths that are bigger than the opening of the tunnel, the metal plates keep out electromagnetic fluctuations with wavelengths greater than the distance between the plates. And just as the invisible atmosphere pushed together Otto von Guericke's pair of evacuated hemispheres so strongly in his 1600s demonstration that even horses could not pull them apart. The more energy-dense vacuum outside the plates pushes together the metal plates, because they enclose a less energy-dense vacuum, although this effect occurs much more subtly than the 1600s demonstration. This vacuum pressure, which has been confirmed experimentally (Update 300), can become large enough at short separations to conceal the effects of new physics.

To overcome this problem, theorists at Purdue University and Wabash College (contact Dennis Krause, kraused@wabash.edu) propose to exploit a key fact: the metal material itself influences the strength of the Casimir force, primarily through electronic interactions between the metal and the vacuum. On the other hand, the plates' interaction with any new forces, particles, or dimensions would likely depend on the metal's nuclear as well as electronic properties.

Therefore, the theorists suggest making differential measurements of the Casimir force. Together with experimentalists at IUPUI and Lucent, they would compare the Casimir force for plates made with different metal isotopes of the same element. Isotopes of an element have fairly identical electronic properties, but different nuclear and gravitational properties. If there is a difference between the measured Casimir forces, the researchers can attribute it to new physics after other effects (such as sample preparation) are taken into account. (Isotopes do affect the plates' electronic properties slightly, but the researchers compute the resulting change in Casimir force to be tiny compared to other effects, about 10,000 times smaller than the magnitude of the Casimir force itself.) Their technique has another advantage: by directly measuring Casimir force differences, rather than the force itself, they reduce the dependence upon theoretical assumptions. (Krause and Fischbach, Physical Review Letters, 4 November 2002; also Fischbach, Krause, Decca, Lopez, Physics Letters A, upcoming).

TOOTH AND NAIL. The architecture of many living creatures combines soft organic tissue with hard inorganic crystal. How do the hard parts develop while up against the soft parts? To examine this issue, physicists at Northwestern University have grown an inorganic lattice (barium fluoride, BaF2) directly beneath a two-dimensional crystalline array of organic molecules (a fatty acid). Using the diffraction of synchrotron radiation from these planar arrays, the researchers observe the structure of the two lattices and also affirm that the two become commensurate (that is, they register with each other), the first time this has been done in an experiment. Even though the lattice spacings of the BaF2 and the organic monolayer are different, each contributes toward a compromise, the barium fluoride structure by contracting just a bit, and the molecules by expanding their spacing at one end: picture the molecules as a stack of pencils standing on end and then being tilted a bit, modifying the spacing of the pencil tips (figure at www.aip.org/mgr/png/2002/167.htm). BaF2 is not a biologically important mineral, but the Northwestern scientists (contact Pulak Dutta, 847-491-5465, pdutta@northwestern.edu) expect to look directly at biomineralization in an upcoming phase of their work. Furthermore, since growing two or more incommensurate materials next to each other (an important operation in the microelectronics industry) is difficult because of the unequal atomic spacings, the new research might in the long run be able to lessen or end the currently stringent need for high vacuum to make epitaxially grown materials. (Kmetko et al., Physical Review Letters, 28 Oct)

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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 - October 29, 2002

from The New York Times

Astronomers have gazed out at the universe for centuries, asking why it is the way it is. But lately a growing number of them are dreaming of universes that never were and asking, why not?

Why, they ask, do we live in 3 dimensions of space and not 2, 10 or 25? Why is a light ray so fast and a whisper so slow? Why are atoms so tiny and stars so big? Why is the universe so old? Does it have to be that way, or are there places, other universes, where things are different?

Once upon a time (only a century ago), a few billion stars and gas clouds smeared along the Milky Way were thought to encompass all of existence, and the notion of understanding it was daunting - and hubristic - enough. Now astronomers know that galaxies are scattered like dust across the cosmos. And understanding them might require recourse to an even broader canvas, what they sometimes call a "multiverse."

For some cosmologists, that means universes sprouting from one another in an endless geometric progression, like mushrooms upon mushrooms upon mushrooms, or baby universes hatched inside black holes. Others imagine island universes floating and even colliding in a fifth dimension.

For example, Dr. Max Tegmark, a University of Pennsylvania cosmologist, has posited at least four different levels of universes, ranging from the familiar (impossibly distant zones of our own universe) to the strange (space-times in which the fundamental laws of physics are different).

Dr. Martin Rees, a University of Cambridge cosmologist and the Astronomer Royal, said contemplating these alternate universes could help scientists distinguish which features of our own universe are fundamental and necessary and which are accidents of cosmic history. "It's all science, but science for the 21st century, to seek the answers to these questions," Dr. Rees said, adding that he is often accused of believing in other universes.


from The New York Times

American officials said yesterday that they suspected the Russian security police who raided a Moscow theater early Saturday might have used an aerosol version of a powerful, fast-acting opiate called Fentanyl to knock out Chechen extremists and prevent them from killing the 750 hostages they were holding.

The gas killed all but one of the 117 hostages in the Russian assault to retake the theater.

The senior administration officials said their suspicions were tentative, because Russian authorities had refused to provide American officials in Moscow with information about the drug used in the assault. Nor has the United States been able to test the gas or take samples from hostages exposed to it, they said.

But a senior American official did say intelligence sources had indicated that the Russians probably used an aerosol form of Fentanyl, "or a derivative that has a narcotic effect," by itself or in combination with another compound, in their desperate bid to free the hostages.

In interviews yesterday, senior American authorities and private experts said the agent used by the Russians was probably similar to one of a small arsenal of nonlethal weapons that the United States is quietly studying for use by soldiers and police officers against terrorists. Scientists said the United States had conducted research on Fentanyl, a well-known drug with many medical applications, as a human incapacitant for nearly a decade.


Remote hazards seen coming home
from The Boston Globe

In one city, community watchdogs backed by the public health agency issue informational warning tickets to drivers whose idling cars belch exhaust fumes. In another, medical leaders are pivotal in the drive to reduce pollutants by 10 percent. In a third, health authorities lead the charge for a light-rail system.

>From cities as disparate as Miami and Seattle, public health commissioners gathered in Boston yesterday to better understand - and better combat - environmental changes that have contributed to outbreaks of disease, leaving millions of Americans wheezing or with life-threatening fevers.

Their goal is to demonstrate how seemingly remote issues, such as global warming and ground-level ozone levels, can relate to a child's asthma or a next-door neighbor's infection with West Nile virus.

"Consumers need to know about the link between health and climate, because we can change it," said Dr. Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans Health Department. "People may think their contribution is just one drop in the bucket. But if everybody puts a drop in, we've got a whole bucket of water."

And that is exactly what Louisiana could have used last spring, when drought swept a state better known for its swampy humidity. That drought, disease trackers believe, provided the foundation for an epidemic of West Nile disease in the summer.

Mosquitoes, epidemiologists found, congregated in storm drains, among the few sources of water available. But those drains are especially rich feeding grounds for mosquitoes.


Woman's case may be unprecedented transmission of virus
from The Rocky Mountain News

COMMERCE CITY, COLO. - Jennifer Lei is the third person in her family and the sixth person in Colorado to come down with West Nile virus, and she believes she got it through sexual contact with her husband.

There have been no confirmed cases nationally of West Nile virus being transmitted through sexual contact, but a state scientist doesn't rule out the possibility.

"A year ago, I would have said it doesn't get transmitted that way," said John Pape, epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "But there was no description about a blood transfusion a year ago. We know now it's been transmitted in organ transplants, blood transfusions and, very likely, breast milk."

Pape added that if it's been transmitted in those body fluids, "It's not hard to imagine it showing up in other bodily fluids."

The Leis' 18-year-old son, Jacob, also tested positive for West Nile, which means the family has experienced 50 percent of the reported human cases in Colorado.


from The New York Times

Europeans first came to the Western Hemisphere armed with guns, the cross and, unknowingly, pathogens. Against the alien agents of disease, the indigenous people never had a chance. Their immune systems were unprepared to fight smallpox and measles, malaria and yellow fever.

The epidemics that resulted have been well documented. What had not been clearly recognized until now, though, is that the general health of Native Americans had apparently been deteriorating for centuries before 1492.

That is the conclusion of a team of anthropologists, economists and paleopathologists who have completed a wide-ranging study of the health of people living in the Western Hemisphere in the last 7,000 years.

The researchers, whose work is regarded as the most comprehensive yet, say their findings in no way diminish the dreadful impact Old World diseases had on the people of the New World. But it suggests that the New World was hardly a healthful Eden.

More than 12,500 skeletons from 65 sites in North and South America - slightly more than half of them from pre-Columbians - were analyzed for evidence of infections, malnutrition and other health problems in various social and geographical settings.

The researchers used standardized criteria to rate the incidence and degree of these health factors by time and geography. Some trends leapt out from the resulting index. The healthiest sites for Native Americans were typically the oldest sites, predating Columbus by more than 1,000 years. Then came a marked decline.

"Our research shows that health was on a downward trajectory long before Columbus arrived," Dr. Richard H. Steckel and Dr. Jerome C. Rose, study leaders, wrote in "The Backbone of History: Health and Nutrition in the Western Hemisphere," a book they edited. It was published in August.

Dr. Steckel, an economist and anthropologist at Ohio State University, and Dr. Rose, an anthropologist at the University of Arkansas, stressed in interviews that their findings in no way mitigated the responsibility of Europeans as bearers of disease devastating to native societies. Yet the research, they said, should correct a widely held misperception that the New World was virtually free of disease before 1492.


Is it right to create one child to save another? A British panel that could become a model for the U.S. tells an ailing boy's parents it's not.
from The Los Angeles Times

BICESTER, England -- Freshly changed into pajamas, Charlie Whitaker sucks on a pacifier and tries to ignore the needle in his father's hand. He focuses on the television while the needle goes into his belly, then winces as his father tapes it in place. The needle will stay there overnight so that the drug Desferal can filter into Charlie's body.

"Why do we give you Desi?" his father asks in a comforting ritual.

"To get rid of iron in my blood," answers the 4-year-old boy.

"And what does Billy Blood do?" his father asks.

"It keeps you alive," says the boy.

Charlie needs this nightly ritual, along with frequent blood transfusions, because his body cannot produce red blood cells. The disorder threatens his life. But illuminating one of the most gripping moral quandaries of modern genetics, a British government panel has barred the Whitakers from trying a promising new cure.

The reason: The cure depends on creating another person--specifically to help Charlie. Charlie's parents would mix their eggs and sperm to produce embryos, a common fertility technique. But to select which embryo to grow into a baby, they would use a new screening test to find the one that could best donate blood-making cells to their ailing son.

Is it proper to create one child to help another? In the U.S., no government agency even considers the question. But for the British government panel, it is only the latest concern in a decade-long effort to determine what is proper-and what is immoral--as scientists put the human embryo to new uses.

The panel is called the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, and it is quickly becoming a major force in the worldwide debate over embryo science.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-embryo29oct29,0,5892852.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dto days%2Dtimes

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Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Indian scientists find evidence of life outside Earth


NAGPUR: Indian scientists have found traces of extra-terrestrial microbial life in samples collected in space, noted researcher Jayant Narlikar has claimed.

Narlikar, who led a team of scientists from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said in Nagpur that micro-organisms resembling coccus, fungal and rod like bacillus were discovered in samples collected 25 to 41 kilometres above the Earth's surface.

Biologists are now trying to verify the origin of the micro-organisations, Narlikar, chairman of inter-university Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, said.

Delivering a public lecture on 'Search For Extra Terrestrial Life', Narlikar said the finding were made only a few weeks ago and he was making the revelations public for the first time.

The chance of microbial life coming from debris of comets and other celestial objects could not be ruled out, he said.

"Whatever may be the source of life, if biologists confirm the results, it will prove that extra-terrestrial life does exist. It will open a new line of challenge for the scientific community," Narlikar said.

ISRO scientists conducted the experiment using a cryosampler, he said adding this was only the second experiment of its kind in the world.

The USA had conducted a similar study where some evidences of life were found but chances of micro-organisms from Earth contaminating the samples could not be ruled out during that experiment, Narlikar said.


News Photographer Catches UFO On Tape


Local6.com ^ | October 28, 2002

Posted on 10/28/2002 8:59 PM PST by Michael2001

A photographer for a television station in Albany, N.Y., caught an unusual object on his camera while shooting a story for the local 10 p.m. news, according to a Local 6 News story.

Brandon Mowry filmed the fast-moving unidentified metallic flying object Oct. 20 while shooting a weather story.

Mowry said that he didn't notice the fast-moving object zooming across the sky until he went back to his station and watched the video.

The television station sent their tapes to the FBI and now an investigation is under way to determine exactly what the object is.

"It seems to be long and narrow and symmetrical and traveled at a high speed," retired U.S. Air Force pilot Graham Pritchard said. "However the fact that that was not reflecting any kind of light that was more like a shadow type appearance and the little white dots on each sides of it are not similar to any kind of missile that I have seen."

The FAA said that the object never showed up on local radar.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist details how green exaggerations could trigger needless global tragedy


by Mike Byfield

BJORN Lomborg is hardly a typical champion for any conservative cause. The 37-year-old Danish professor is a former Greenpeace activist and vegetarian homosexual. He favours jeans and backpacks over ties, he votes socialist, advocates a strong welfare state and enthuses about the United Nations. Yet this month the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based free-market think-tank, sponsored speeches by the telegenic statistician in Calgary and Toronto. The subject on everyone's minds was the proposed Kyoto climate control treaty.

Science In the News

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

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


Today's Headlines - October 28, 2002

Only 2 Slain by Rebels; More Than 600 Remain Hospitalized in Moscow
from The Washington Post

MOSCOW -- The gas that Russian authorities pumped into a theater to knock out Chechen guerrillas during a pre-dawn commando raid Saturday killed at least 115 of the hostages in a tragic climax to the siege, Moscow's chief medical officer disclosed today.

Doctors said that only two hostages had died from gunshot wounds before Russian special forces stormed the theater and killed 50 militants, ending a 58-hour standoff. The rest of the civilians who were killed had been weakened by the long ordeal and died "from the effects of the gas exposure," said Andrei Seltsovsky, head of the Moscow health department. Of the 646 former hostages who remained hospitalized today, 45 were in critical condition.

The conclusion that nearly all the slain hostages died from the gas and not from their captors' bullets contradicted initial assertions by law enforcement officials that their "special means" had not been fatal, and shed new light on an operation that has begun to draw more criticism as the death toll rises.

The medical findings, and new accounts from those who were trapped inside the theater, indicated that the Chechen militants had not begun systematically killing their hostages as Russian authorities believed before launching the assault. Some specialists said security agencies used an excessive dosage of the gas, which was funneled into the ventilation system of the theater building. The government's refusal to identify the gas, even to doctors treating the freed hostages, and its decision to keep most of the hostages incommunicado in hospitals provoked new controversy today.


Attacks Not Likely Work Of 1 Person, Experts Say
from The Washington Post

A significant number of scientists and biological warfare experts are expressing skepticism about the FBI's view that a single disgruntled American scientist prepared the spores and mailed the deadly anthrax letters that killed five people last year.

These sources say that making a weaponized aerosol of such sophistication and virulence would require scientific knowledge, technical competence, access to expensive equipment and safety know-how that are probably beyond the capabilities of a lone individual.

As a result, a consensus has emerged in recent months among experts familiar with the technology needed to turn anthrax spores into the deadly aerosol that was sent to Sens. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) that some of the fundamental assumptions driving the FBI's investigation may be flawed.

"In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them," said Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998. "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."


Theory focuses on production in hippocampus
from The Boston Globe

NEW YORK - It was one of the most startling brain discoveries in recent history: the finding, announced in 1998, that people continue to make brain cells well into adulthood.

Now scientists are looking into another surprising idea: that waning and waxing of this brain-cell birthing contributes to depression and the effects of antidepressants.

If it's true, it could help unlock the riddle of just what goes wrong in the brain to bring on depression. And it could help lead to better treatments, such as faster-acting antidepressants.

The theory focuses on the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain that plays a key role in learning and memory. This is where scientists reported finding new cells in autopsied adult brains in 1998.

The idea that the rate of brain-cell birth, called neurogenesis, in the hippocampus affects depression is still in its infancy. It has met skepticism in the field. And even its advocates stress that a decrease in neurogenesis in the hippocampus would clearly not be the only brain change involved in bringing on depression.

So far the evidence for the theory is sketchy. But it's hard to ignore a pattern in recent findings in lab animals: Stress, which plays a key role in triggering depression, suppresses neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

Antidepressants, on the other hand, encourage the birth of new brain cells


from The New York Times

CHICAGO (AP) - The pain relievers ibuprofen and acetaminophen, contained in scores of over-the-counter remedies, may increase the risk of high blood pressure, a study of women suggests.

Skeptics say the connection needs more confirmation in better-designed studies, and the Harvard researchers who conducted the study do not recommend that people stop taking the medications. But the authors said their findings were plausible given what is known about how the drugs affect the body.

The study, to be published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved 80,020 women ages 31 to 50 who participated in a nurses' health study and were not known to have high blood pressure at the outset. They were asked in 1995 about their use of painkillers. Information about high blood pressure was obtained from a survey two years later.

In those two years, 1,650 participants developed high blood pressure. Women who reported taking acetaminophen 22 days a month or more were twice as likely to develop high blood pressure, or hypertension, as women who did not use the drug. Those who used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, mostly ibuprofen, that frequently were 86 percent more likely to develop hypertension than nonusers. Aspirin use did not appear to be associated with an increased risk.

Acetaminophen is contained in Tylenol and ibuprofen is in Motrin, two of the most popular over-the-counter painkillers.

While the relative risks sound high, the results suggest that the vast majority of women taking the medications will not develop high blood pressure, said Dr. William J. Elliott, an internal medicine and pharmacology specialist at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago.

Dr. Elliott, who was not involved in the research, also noted that the study lacked essential information on the doses participants used.


from The Miami Herald

CHICAGO - Few older men with hip fractures indicative of osteoporosis are tested or treated for the bone-thinning disease, which puts them at risk for debilitating illness and death, a study suggests.

The researchers and other osteoporosis experts blame the findings on doctors' and patients' unawareness that the disease does not only affect women.

"This is a very new concept in the medical field that, in fact, men get osteoporosis, too," said lead author Gary Kiebzak, chief research scientist at the Center for Orthopaedic Research and Education at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston.

Of the estimated 10 million Americans afflicted with the disease, about two million are men.

But the percentage of men affected rises with age, and those studied were age 80 on average. Still, just 4.5 percent of them had been prescribed osteoporosis treatment after they were discharged from a hospital following their fractures. Up to five years later, only 11 percent had had a bone-density test and just 27 percent were using any kind of osteoporosis treatment, the researchers found.

Thirty-two percent of the men died within a year of their fractures. Many deaths were likely from ailments linked to the weakened condition of being immobilized by the fractures, which may have been preventable with treatment for osteoporosis or underlying conditions that can cause it, Kiebzak said.


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Geller goes in search of a battle armed with psychic powers



URI Geller, the celebrity psychic, will take to the sky above central Scotland today in the hope that his paranormal powers will unearth one of the country's most mysterious historical secrets.

With the help of a helicopter and some spiritual guidance, Geller will try to find the long-hidden location of the 1298 Battle of Falkirk. There, Edward I defeated William Wallace's troops in revenge for his defeat at Stirling Bridge the year before.

Despite the best efforts of historians, the site of the battle remains unknown, although it is now thought to be within the eight by four-mile boundaries of the old Falkirk parish.

The intervening seven centuries have left no bodies, monuments or historical artefacts that might pinpoint the battle and the many theories of its whereabouts remain a matter of speculation.

John Walker, a Falkirk-born historian, earlier this year invited the psychic to the area. He was anxious to discover if Geller's powers could lay some ghosts to rest.

The Austro-Hungarian psychic said he was fascinated by the mystery that Mr Walker had presented him with and said he was "quite confident" of success if he passed over the right place.

He said: "Since I've done this in the past successfully, I thought why not try now? There is no guarantee but then I'm not charging any money. It's a very important historical event in the history of Scotland. "Thousands of people died there and it's mystifying why there are no relics from it. I find it amazing that not a tiny, small fragment of a weapon or a shoe or something has not been preserved from that time."

Geller's own "very strong" theory is that there were orders "to intentionally hide the battlefield away".

There will be no digging. Instead, Geller hopes to utilise dowsing to reveal the presence of the dead as he passes over their unmarked graves.

"It's a talent to do with intuitive forces in your mind," he explains. "I will be visualising a battle, trying to see colours and masses of people. I'll be looking down at the area, holding the map in my hand. If I feel a very strong pull, very powerful, like two magnets fighting each other, creating an energy field - that's the feeling that will tell me it is there."

Geoff Bailey, a historian at Falkirk Museum, has a different version of historic events. He said that evidence of the battle had most likely been removed by local looters and the subsequent passage of time.

"History is usually written by the victors," he said. "In this case, it was written down in England at quite a distance from the battle by people who were not concerned whether it took place within a few miles of this or that landmark.

"If it was within Falkirk parish, we can assume it took place within an area eight miles wide and four miles deep. The main English nobles who were killed were buried at Falkirk Parish Church which would suggest that it was somewhere within Falkirk parish."


Geller is Hungarian-Austrian and was born in Israel in 1946.

He is most famous for claims to be able to bend spoons and keys with his mind - an ability he says may be attributable to extraterrestrials.

Previous reported stunts include halting cable cars in Germany, and predicting the throw of a dice eight times out of 10.

Geller apparently stopped Big Ben in 1991 - a feat he has repeated twice. On the first occasion, the clock stopped at 11:11- his mystical number.

Throughout his career Geller has faced his critics, and has shown himself willing to go to court to defend his name against humiliation.

He is co-chairman of Exeter City Football Club, and counts among his friends Michael Jackson who he invited to a charity dinner there in June.

-Oct 22nd

Clay idol of Hindu goddess 'changes colour'

From Ananova at


Hundreds of people have flocked to a house in Calcutta to witness what's thought to be the "miracle" of an idol changing its colour.

Deep Ghosh says the clay idol of Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Wealth, recently installed at his house in Chetla, has changed from white to black.

He says he bought the pinkish white idol from a local artisan but the morning after the puja (Hindu religious ceremony) he noticed the face, hands and legs were turning black.

Neighbours and local residents have since visited the fish trader's house in the belief that the idol of Lakshmi has metamorphosed into the dark-hued Goddess Kali, who represents death and destruction.

Rationalist groups have rubbished claims of a change of colour saying that it may be due to a chemical reaction caused by the moisture content in the air around the house.

Prabir Ghosh, a spokesman for the Rationalists' Society told the Press Trust of India: "We can prove that a chemical reaction is behind the phenomenon being dubbed a miracle.

"But for that we need a portion of the earth, out of which the idol has been made."

Mr Ghosh is refusing to allow people to touch the idol before the final immersion ceremony on November 4.

A police picket has been posted outside the house, which has been converted into a shrine, to control the surging crowds.

Story filed: 08:47 Wednesday 23rd October 2002



By David Icke

The best-known of the crop circle investigators, Colin Andrews, has claimed very publicly that he has solved the "mystery" of this so far unexplained phenomena. He says the intricate formations, like the one pictured here, are hoaxed by "crop-artists", and the simple circles are created by the earth's magnetic energy field. Mmmmm.

I first met Colin in the early 1990s when crop-circle-fever was still pretty much at its peak. The last time I met him was in a crop formation near Avebury in Wiltshire in 1998. He seems a nice chap.

However, when he got involved with the Rockefellers and massive funding of his research, it was clearly going to lead somewhere that suited them and their agenda. The official congressional investigation into the Rockefellers tax-exempt "foundations", which fund the projects of the New World Order, documents how the outcome of "research" was agreed before the Rockefellers handed over the cheque to START the research. (See And The Truth Shall Set You Free for the details)

Now I am not saying that Colin Andrews has been knowingly deceitful here for a moment. But I am saying that Laurance Rockefeller, who also finances UFO "research", does not pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund an outcome that doesn't suit him. The Rockefellers are 100% Illuminati. So does anyone think that they want the public to know what the crop formations really are?? My goodness. And it is this Rockefeller-funded research that has produced Colin's answer to the mystery. I think I'll wait just a little longer to be so definite, if you don't mind, Col.

I don't know what is behind the crop formations, although many are clearly hoaxed, but I find Colin's neat little answer rather questionable. He says that the simple circles are caused by the earth's magnetic field, but, because that could not possibly be the reason for the intricate ones, he dismisses ALL of those as "hoaxes".

How very convenient. OK, problem solved, back to sleep.

In fact, I find Colin's neat and tidy "solution" only slightly less credible than the claims by Doug and Dave some years ago that they had made them all.

Here are two reports from today's London Daily Mail...the first a news story and the second an opinion piece by writer, Colin Wilson:

Circular Evidence

by Colin Andrews, Pat Delgado

Unexplained: Ufos and Aliens

Colin Wilson (Editor)

Why I Still Believe that Aliens Created Crop Circles


By Colin Wilson

The mystery of crop circles is now solved according to Colin Andrews, the electrical engineer whose investigations first made the British public aware of this bizarre phenomenon. In 1989, his book Circular Evidence (co-authored with Pat Delgano) became an enexpected bestseller, partly because if contained dozens of beautiful photographs of crop circles taken from the air. In conclusion, the authors admitted that there was a strong possiblity that crop circles were connected with flying saucers, which had often been seen in fields where circles had appeared. Now, it seems, Andrews has changed his mind. After 11 years of research, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, he has come to the conclusion that the circles are 'simply formed by the earth's magnetic field.' This magnetism somehow 'electrocutes' the wheat, causing it to lie down in a neat cirlce. But what about the elaborate patterns that have been appearing during the past few years: the triangles, concentric circles, the exotic spirals, or even the enormous key shapes? These, say Andrews, are all fakes, made by hoaxers who use short planks to flatten the corn and create the patterns. Only one fifth of all the crop formations - the perfect circles - are, he says, genuine.

If he is correct, millions of people are going to be disappointed. In the past 20 years, crop circles have become one of the earth's great mysteries - like the lost city of Atlantis, the Loch Ness monster and the curse of Tutankhamen. They seem to hint that we are living in a stranger and more mysterious universe than scientists and cynics belive, and that tomorrow our lives might be transformed by some discovery that will astound us us all. I believe that our instict is right. Scientists seem to be possessed by an urge to short-change us, and to reduce all mysteries to the level of the commonplace. And I am pretty certain that, whatever the final explanation of crops circles, it is not going to be commonplace. There is one simple and obvious objection to Andrews' theory about earth magnetism. If crop circles really are caused by some form of electricity, then why have they appeared only in the past 20 years or so? England, Canada, America, Australia, have been full of gigantic cornfields for centuries, and there have always been chroniclers to record strange events. Why do we not hear about crop circles in the time of Chaucer or Shakespeare? Because, I am fairy certain, they did not exist. Whatever is happening began in the mid -20th century. On September 1, 1974, long before anyone had heard of the crop circle phenomenon, a Canadian farmer named Edwin Fuhr, who lived near Langenburg, Saskatchewan, was driving his tractor in a field of rapeseed when he saw a round, shiny disc, about 11-ft across, whirling above the crop and causing it to sway. Then he saw four more in different parts of the field. For 15 minutes he sat frozen with fear, until suddenly the discs took off, rising in a kind of grey vapour. There in the grapeseed were five circle, 11ft across. Hoards of journalists rushed to photograph and report on them.

Other circles began to be reported: from Manitoba, Canada, from Victoria and Queensland, Australia, from Ibiuna, Brazil from New Zealand, the Soviet Union, France and Switzerland. It was not until 1980 that the first crop circles were reported in England. A Wiltshire farmer, John Scull, found three of them, each 60ft wide, in his oat field near the famous White Horse land-mark at Uffington. A meterologist named Terence Meaden lost no time in providing a commonsense explanation. The circles, he said, were by summer whirlwinds. But Farmer Scull's circles would have needed three whirlwinds, each 60ft across. In fact, they would have to have been tornadoes. In August the following year, crop circles near the Cheesefoot Head beauty spot in Hampshire refuted Meaden's theory. There were three of them, one 60ft across, and the other two, placed symmetrically on either side of it, 25ft across. They were far too neat to have been made by a whirlwind - it was as if some gigantic pastry cook had leaned down from the sky with one of those metal cutters for stamping out biscuits. And the corn around them had not been broken or trampled. So it went on for year after year, with the British Press growing more and more exited. Then in 1991, two Southampton artists named Doug Bower and Dave Chorley announced that they had made all the crop circles, using a short plank. They obligingly demonstrated their trechnique for photographers by making a pattern like a dumbell in an hour and a half. But they also trampled down the wheat, and left broken stalks all over the place. Genuine circles had bent stalks that were unbroken, and no trampled wheat. And although Doug and Dave claimed they had made all the British Crop circles, even they admitted they had not travelled to Canada, Australia or the Soviet Union.

Again and again, observers noticed odd phenomena associated with the circles. In June 1990, six observers at Wansdyke, near Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, heard a high pitched trilling and saw 'black rods jumping up and down' among the wheat; next day there were crop circles. A radio ham in Devon had his listening spoilt in June 1991 by a series of high-pitched blips and clicks; the next day, a 70ft circle was found nearby. Astronomer, Gerald Hawkins was so fascinated by Colin Andrews' book that he began to study the precise measurements of all the circles in it. He soon noticed that these circles - often with patterns inside them - had been constructed very precisely according to the geometry of Euclid, the Greek mathematician who lived around 300BC and compiled what was the standard text on geometry until the 19th century. So if the 'circle makers' were hoaxers, they must also be first-class geometers too. Then Hawkins noticed something even odder - that a large number of the circles also had complex musical ratios, rather like the simple fractional relationship that exists between the pitch of different notes on a keyboard.

None of the circles made by Doug and Dave, or other self-confessed hoaxers, had been made with this musical code. As a scientist, Hawkins was naturally cautious in announcing his conclusions. But he admitted to me that he believed that these complex patterns were made by extra-human intelligence. Their purpose was not to convince the whole human race of the really of extra-terrestrials, but simply to convince a few intelligent scientists and philosophers that there are intelligences apart from our own, and that they are attempting a breakthrough in communication. When I started to study crop circles and UFOs in the mid-nineties, I was convinced that they were due either to hoaxers or to over-heated inmaginations. It took less than six months to leave me in no doubt: that something or someone is trying communicate with us, but with the exaggerated caution of beings trying to get us slowly and gradually accustomed to the idea. That is why I am convinced that Colin Andrews will fail in his attempt to provide a neat and down-to-earth explanation of crop circles. So far the circle makers have managed to keep one step ahead of the 'explainers', and they I strongly suspect that they will continue to do so.

Death Makes a Holiday:  A clutural history of Halloween

By David J. Skal

256 pages

Halloween:  From pagan ritual to party night

By Nicholas Rogers

Oxford University Press
198 pages

Primeval terror (since 1929)

http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2002/10/28/halloween/index.html?x You think Halloween has pagan roots? Guess again.

Two new histories of America's second favorite holiday reveal the truth.

Editor's note: Salon presents a week of Halloween stories, beginning with today's history of the holiday. Over the next four days, watch for articles about the Salem Witch Trials, photographs of vintage Halloween costumes and, on Oct. 31, our dream -- or, rather, nightmare -- playlist for a marathon of the world's scariest movies.

Oct. 28, 2002 | Of all today's holidays, Halloween seems like the most primeval. Its bats, witches, spooks, skeletons and monsters surely indicate roots reaching back before the dawn of science and Christianity; the whiff of prehistoric campfires clings to its sable robes. Well, guess again.

Halloween has been creeping up on Christmas to become the second biggest annual bonanza for U.S. retailers, a Grim Reaper that harvests $6.8 billion per year in exchange for candy, costumes, cards and party supplies. That success sets it up for the kind of debunking that Christmas has endured recently, as historians have shown that what we think of as time-honored Yuletide traditions are actually only about 100 years old. Likewise, as two new books document, the seemingly ancient customs of Halloween turn out to be recent embellishments to a holiday that used to be a pretty low-key affair. And forget those Transylvanian villagers and superstitious medieval peasants -- Halloween is as American as the Fourth of July.

The basic elements of an American Halloween -- pranks, treat-begging, masquerade and scary images -- aren't new, of course, but gathering them together and using them to celebrate a holiday at the transition from October to November (from late summer to early winter) is. As both Nicholas Rogers' "Halloween" and David J. Skal's "Death Makes a Holiday" point out, those customs can be found scattered here and there among various other holidays throughout history, yet pinpointing the moment when they all came together to define Halloween as we know it is a tricky matter indeed.

It's often said that Halloween originates with the Celtic festival of Samhain (show off your pagan cred by correctly pronouncing it as "sow-an"), but it's hard to recognize the modern world's gleefully ghoulish festivities in what one scholar called "an old pastoral and agricultural festival" that marked the beginning of winter. Rogers, whose book is at its best when digging up the anthropological forerunners of the holiday, says that "there is no hard evidence that Samhain was specifically devoted to the dead or to ancestor worship," although in Ireland it was thought to be a time when mischievous spirits were particularly frisky. (The ancient Celts are rumored to have engaged in human sacrifice in some of their rites -- not Samhain specifically -- but those reports came from the conquering Romans and may have been propaganda.) Samhain was a time of reckoning when livestock were slaughtered for the winter stores and the days became short, cold and gloomy.

Despite the fact that conservative Christians in America have protested the "pagan" revelry of Halloween, the holiday owes its name and many of its trappings to Christianity. "Halloween" derives from All Hallows Even, the night before All Saints' Day (Nov. 1), which is in turn followed by All Souls' Day (Nov. 2), an occasion for praying for and visiting with the dead. In Mexico, the celebration of Las Dias de Los Muertos, or the Days of the Dead, closely resembles the old All Souls rites of the Middle Ages. The most extravagantly Catholic places had the grisliest practices: "In Naples," writes Rogers, "the charnel houses containing the bones of the dead were opened on All Souls' Day and decorated with flowers. Crowds thronged through them to visit the bodies of their friends and relatives. Sometimes the cadavers were dressed in robes and placed in niches along the walls." Leaving food out for the spirits was a fairly common ritual, as it still is in Mexico today.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Skeptic Newssearch - 10/20/02


Book, Chapter and Verse
Denver Westworld


"In the beginning, the Big Bang created the heavens and the earth. The Big Bang, not God. Also, camels and lions were never immortal, and neither were humans, who actually used to be monkeys. Oh, and get this: The Earth is billions of years old, not six thousand, like the Bible tells us."

Mesmerized by Magnetism
By Michael Shermer
Scientific American


"In an uncritical August 11, 1997, World News Tonight report on "biomagnetic therapy," a physical therapist explained that "magnets are another form of electric energy that we now think has a powerful effect on bodies." A fellow selling $89 magnets proclaimed: "All humans are magnetic. Every cell has a positive and negative side to it.""

Selling the Free Lunch
By Graham P. Collins
Scientific American


"In recent decades crackpot inventors have focused on a variant of perpetual-motion machines known as free-energy devices or over-unity generators. These contraptions supposedly output more power than they take in, generally by drawing on an implausible font of energy hitherto unknown to science. The motionless electromagnetic generator discussed last month is a good example. At first it appears to be based on misconceptions about magnets, but it turns out the inventors have published a physics paper describing a "higher symmetry electrodynamics" that would allow infinite energy to be extracted from the vacuum by their device."

The business of religion
by Philip Willan
The Guardian [UK]


"Enterprising Italians have been combining business with religious esotericism with sometimes remarkably profitable results. One of the most successful exponents of the art of charismatic business leadership was a man called Mirco Eusebi, who ended up in prison on fraud charges earlier this month."

Miami Circle artifacts going on display
Associated Press


"Indian ruins recovered from a downtown Miami construction site were set to go on public display for the first time Friday, nearly four years after they were first discovered."

Exhibit includes artifacts found at Miami Circle
By Angela Delgado
South Florida Sun-Sentinel


"Those curious to see what archaeologists dug up at Miami Circle four years ago finally had their curiosity fed when the Historical Museum of Southern Florida opened its First Arrivals exhibit on Friday."

Cow Urine Distillate Receives Patent
by Barbara Kieker and David Milner
Animal News Center


"Scientists in India recently obtained a United States patent for a cow-urine distillate that increases the efficacy of a number of different medications."

Savannah ghost hunters seek paranormal proof mixing psychics and science
Associated Press


"At the Moon River brewery, built on the bones of an 1820 hotel, employees are afraid to go alone to the shadowy, vacant rooms upstairs. That's why Scott Flagg sets up here at midnight."

Five men found clubbed to death for skinning a cow
By Phil Reeve
The Independent [UK]


"In an agricultural town an hour's drive past the swamps and ruddy-soiled fields west of Delhi, a corpse has been laid out with care and reverence. It is being examined, to find out how and crucially when it died. Five men were beaten to death on Tuesday because of this body. It is a cow."

A case of mistaken identity
by Yoginder Gupta
The Tribune [India]


"It was a case of mistaken identity which led to the lynching of five innocent persons by a mob in Jhajjar district on Dasehra day. The mob mistook the victims, who were Dalits, for cow slaughterers. Preliminary investigations into the shocking incident suggest that the victims were, in fact, traders of animal skins, according to highly placed sources."

Tourist plan for 'haunted' lane
BBC News


"Fresh light is to be shed on one of Edinburgh's darkest secrets with plans to turn a "haunted" lane into a tourist attraction."

Revealed . . the secret of Mary King's Close
Edinburgh Evening News


"IT is one of the most disturbing and enduring of Edinburgh's historic tales."

Research focusses on Black Shuck
Norfolk Eastern Daily Press

"The famous Black Dog of Bungay said to have killed churchgoers in the 16th century and haunted townsfolk ever since is at the centre of a psychology lecturer's research."

Strange happenings: Similar UFO sightings occur exactly 50 years apart
By Barb Campagnola
Athens NEWS


"It was Sunday morning, July 28, 2002. The news came on the radio as I was chatting with a friend: a big ball of blue light had been spotted in the sky, but we didn't catch where. It was picked up on radar; fighter jets had been scrambled to the scene. The chase was witnessed by people on the ground. The light traveled at a phenomenal rate of speed and then Blip! - it vanished from the radar and from the skies."

Ira Einhorn Found Guilty of Murder
Associated Press


"Ira Einhorn, the onetime counterculture guru who fled the country and spent nearly 17 years on the run in Europe, was convicted of bludegeoning his former girlfriend and stuffing her corpse in his closet a quarter-century ago."

Former Hippie Guru Accused Of Killing Ex-Girlfriend


"Ira Einhorn has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after being found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Holly Maddux."

Einhorn guilty of murdering girlfriend


"A jury Thursday found former hippie guru Ira Einhorn guilty of murdering his girlfriend 25 years ago and stuffing her mummified corpse in his closet."

Counter-culture killer faces life in prison
by Duncan Campbell
The Guardian [UK]


"Ira Einhorn, once a leading member of the American counter-culture, was convicted in Philadelphia yesterday of murdering his girlfriend Holly Maddux a quarter of a century ago."

"Bittersweet" Symphony
Philadelphia Weekly


"Monday's proceedings at the Criminal Justice Center featured two acts that would've shaken most murder-victim survivors, but forgive Holly Maddux's siblings for not appearing too shocked. They've heard it all before."

For Ira Einhorn, a fate worse than death
By Dave Lindorff


"Ira Einhorn, the smart, smooth-talking icon of Philadelphia's counterculture in the late 1960s and early 1970s, finally got the murder trial he wanted: one with no death penalty. On Thursday, he got the sentence that relatives of his victim, former girlfriend Helen Holly Maddux, have sought for over 20 years: life in prison without the possibility of parole."

Ira flops with the jury
By Jacqueline Soteropoulos
Philadelphia Inquirer


""The Unicorn" will spend the rest of his life in a cage."

Former Guru Einhorn Convicted of 1977 Slaying
By David Morgan


"Former hippie guru Ira Einhorn, who eluded police for 20 years as a fugitive in Europe, was convicted in the 1977 murder of his girlfriend Holly Maddux on Thursday and sentenced to life in prison."

How the press can atone for its role in the Einhorn saga
Philadelphia Daily News


"NOW THAT Ira Einhorn has been duly convicted, its time to face the fact that people in the news business bear some responsibility for creating the legend-in-his-own-mind."

Feeling Antigravity's Pull
By Adam Rogers


""Don't call it antigravity research," Ron Koczor pleads. He's a physicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and he's talking about a project he's been working on for almost a decade. "Call it 'gravity modification.' 'Gravity anomalies.' Anything but antigravity. That's a red flag.""

'Faith healer' jailed for sex assault of girl
Toronto Globe & Mail


"A professed faith healer who persuaded a superstitious mother to let him sleep with her daughter from the age of 10 until she was 16 to remove a curse has been convicted of sexual-abuse charges and jailed for 15 months."

Doctor claims pressure to ratify Teresa's 'miracle'
by M Chhaya


"A doctor who treated Monica Besra, the tribal woman whom Mother Teresa is believed to have miraculously cured, has alleged that some persons claiming to represent the Roman Catholic Church and the Missionaries of Charity are trying to pressurise him to pass off the case as an inexplicable medical phenomenon."

I ain't afraid of no ghost
By Jennifer Mitchell
The South End [Wayne State University]


"There's something weird in the neighborhood. Who are you gonna call? You might want to try the Michigan Ghostbusters."

Haunted house?
Wapakoneta Daily News


"The horse-driven carriages of Sunday church-goers no longer stroll by to pick up the weekly groceries. There are no maidens in corsets and lace, nor gentlemen to have their chickens dressed."

Nessie has some local competition
Charlotte Observer


"No one can prove there is a monster in Lake Norman."

Ghosts in our midst? N.C. author has a list
Charlotte Observer


"From mysterious mountain lights to a railroad conductor who swings a lantern in search of his severed head, North Carolina is full of famous ghost tales."

Hanuman bridge is myth: Experts
Times of India


"After Nasa, it's the turn of Indian experts to declare that there is no evidence linking the mythical Lanka bridge built by Hanuman to the chain of sandbanks captured by the US space agency's cameras across the Palk Strait."

Dinamo Zagreb to sign spiritual ghost buster


"Croatia's top team Dinamo Zagreb has asked clerical leaders in this predominantly Roman Catholic country to provide a priest who would become part of the team and its spiritual guide."

A walk on the weird side
by Randy Erickson
La Crosse Tribune


"My first thought was Chad Lewis can't be a real alien hunter. He's too trusting. Not once during an hour-long interview did I catch him trying to get a look at the back of my neck."

Why we love Nessie and Bigfoot
by Bruce Ward
Ottawa Citizen


"Why are humans so taken with tales of strange and elusive animals?"

Bird the Size of a Plane Spotted in Alaska?


"A bird the size of a small airplane was recently spotted flying over southwest Alaska, puzzling scientists, the Anchorage Daily News reported this week."

Tale of big bird catches some air
By Peter Porco
Anchorage Daily News


"A newspaper story this week about the sightings of a large bird in Southwest Alaska turned out to have wings."

'Pterodactyl' seen in sky over Alaska
By Charles Laurence
The Telegraph [UK]


"A bird described by witnesses as being as a big as a light aeroplane and looking like a pterodactyl was this weekend becoming Alaska's version of the Loch Ness monster."

First it was bigfoot, now it's big bird
by Oliver Burkeman
The Guardian [UK]


"It may be a bird. It almost certainly isn't a plane. All that is known for sure is that several people have reported seeing an enormous creature with a 4-metre wingspan flying over south-west Alaska in recent days. Those who saw it are urging children to stay indoors."

Savannah residents take great pride in their unsettled spirits
Fort Myers News-Press


"Among the grandiose mansions and moss laden parks in Savannah, Ga., lies a chilling history. Legends of disembodied spirits have become a lure for vacationers."

Church not to blame for evangelical injuries, judge finds
Australian Broadcasting Corporation


"A southern Sydney woman who sued her church after she collapsed and hit her head during an evangelical prayer service has failed to win compensation for her injuries."

Poll Reveals UFO Belief
Sci Fi Wire


"A new national poll found that 72 percent of Americans believe the government is not telling the public everything it knows about UFO activity, and 68 percent think the government knows more about extraterrestrial life than it is letting on, the SCI FI Channel reported."

The Spirits of Guam
by Tech. Sgt. Mark Kinkade


"Senior Airman Jeannine Hattig talks to trees. More precisely, she asks trees for permission to pass when she heads into the jungles of Guam. It's the respectful thing to do."

When Risk Ruptures Life
New York Times


"AS he prepared last week for a trip to the nation's capital, Arnold I. Barnett, a professor of statistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reassured himself that his risk of being shot by the Washington area sniper was "statistically low." Then he worried he might get shot."

Theater of echoes
Napa News


"Any theater worth its popcorn has a ghost. And the Uptown Theater may have more than its share."

Mekong X-Files
The Nation [Thailand]


"It's the twelfth night of October. Nong Khai is enveloped in darkness. A waxing, crescent moon provides only a dim outline of the Mekong River. All is at peace. But come the full moon on October 23 and this sleepy little town will be visited by magic, and people. Lots of people. "It was very peculiar and we're not sure who or what did it," recalls Manas Anuraksa, a local painter, recalling the full moon night last October when he witnessed the "Naga fire rockets"."

2 school officials acquitted of abuse
By Alan Maimon
Louisville Courier-Journal


"A jury took just 45 minutes yesterday to acquit two officials of a religious boarding school of criminal abuse charges in a trial that focused on how corporal punishment was used."

Spooky show at Dudley Castle
By Steve Johnson
Birmingham Evening Mail


"Ghost hunters will be seeking out the paranormal when they make a live TV bid to solve the mysteries behind the haunted Dudley Castle."

'E.T.' pays visit to Roswell
by Lillian Kafka
Roswell Record


"Camera crews for Universal Studios flew around Roswell yesterday to shoot 200 kids dressed as Elliot from "E.T." as they formed aerial messages to the extra terrestrial and toted the wrinkly brown alien on bicycles."

Search for missing boy expands this weekend
Associated Press


"The family of 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck said more than 300 volunteers have offered to help in an all-out search for the missing boy this weekend."

Family still seeking justice
By Eduardo Vento
Palm Beach Post


"Only through pictures does 6-year-old Taylor know her mother."

Quirks predict California quake
By Gina Keating


"The prognosticators are at war over whether a full moon on Monday will produce California's next big earthquake."

Libertarian candidate likes militias
Billings Gazette


"There is no delicate way to say it: Stan Jones is the blue guy."

Does the Sun have a doomsday twin?
By Paul Blakemore
The Telegraph [UK]


"In 1846, researchers noticed that Uranus was wobbling in a way that confounded Newton's Law of Motion. This meant they had two options: rewrite the most time-honoured of the laws of physics, or "invent" a new planet to account for the extra gravitational pull. Compared to Newton's reputation, an eighth planet seemed much less massive and Neptune was discovered."

Selman v. Cobb County: court battle over creationism
By Vivi Abrams
Atlanta Jewish Times


"Jeffrey Selman, who is suing the Cobb County School District, says the county's school board is kowtowing to a "vocal, myopic, sectarian minority" by allowing educators to teach creationism in science classes."

'Father' of intelligent design to visit NE Ohio
by Scott Stephens
Cleveland Plain Dealer


"One of the best-known figures in the debate over Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is coming to Northeast Ohio."

Feds target ads for miracle diets
by Paul Colford
New York Daily News


"The Federal Trade Commission is targeting ads for dubious weight-loss products and scolding magazines for carrying them."

Hastings woman to teach ancient art of feng shui in G.I.
By Mike Bockoven
Grand Island Independent


"The name is familiar. The concepts are rooted in nature. But the term feng shui carries with it a lot of meaning, and a lot of misunderstanding, said Diana Bienkowski of Hastings."

Charge dropped after 'psychic' adds disclaimer
By Sherris Moreira-Byers

Sharon Herald

"A Hermitage man who claims he's psychic agreed to return a $25 fee to police, pay court costs and advertise that his business is for entertainment only in exchange for fortunetelling charges against him being dismissed."

An odd tapestry of religious, political aims
By Steve Gushee
Palm Beach Post


"At first glance, Jews seem to be the naive crowd. In the end, evangelical Christians take that dubious honor."

As Halloween approaches, Witte performer regales young visitors with stories of the supernatural
By Daryl Bell
San Antonio Express-News


"With Halloween just days away, it's not difficult to find supernatural spirits in San Antonio."

Phantom or phenomenon?
St. Petersburg Times


"Old Fort Niagara has a ghost, of course, and that's as it should be. It would be hard to imagine a more likely home for a spirit."

Ghost hunters seek paranormal proof
By Russ Bynum
Associated Press

"At the Moon River brewery, built on the bones of an 1820 hotel, employees are afraid to go alone to the shadowy, vacant rooms upstairs. That's why Scott Flagg sets up here at midnight."

Point Roberts psychic directs spiritual journeys
by Jack Kintner
Bellingham Herald


"Don't ask Point Roberts psychic Mary Elizabeth Hoffman if the Giants or Angels will win the World Series, or expect her to find your lost car keys."

Historic home to be auctioned
By Helen Bebbington
Dayton Daily News


"Those who pass by the 32-room historic home being readied for auction at 235 E. Second St. in Xenia see its beauty and may have heard about its ghostly partygoers."

Scientific Fakery
Talk of the Nation


"A committee convened by Bell Labs has concluded that one of its physicists falsified and fabricated data in several journal articles. In this hour, we'll talk about scientific fakery and how to safeguard against it."

Doctor claims pressure to ratify Teresa's 'miracle'


M Chhaya in Kolkata

A doctor who treated Monica Besra, the tribal woman whom Mother Teresa is believed to have miraculously cured, has alleged that some persons claiming to represent the Roman Catholic Church and the Missionaries of Charity are trying to pressurise him to pass off the case as an inexplicable medical phenomenon.

Dr Manzur Murshed, superintendent of the Balurghat Hospital in South Dinajpur district of West Bengal, said, "They want us to say Monica Besra's recovery was a miracle and beyond the comprehension of medical science."

According to Dr Murshed, in 1998 Besra received nine months of anti-tubercular treatment for her abdominal tumour and was cured.

Commentary: 'James, brother of Jesus'?

[ Re: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60769-2002Oct21.html
Scholar Touts Oldest Link to Jesus ]


By Lou Marano
Published 10/25/2002 7:45 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- The emergence of a limestone box thought to have contained the bones of James, called the "brother" of Jesus, reopens arguments about the Roman Catholic belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The artifact's existence, revealed this week, was a source of excitement to those interested in early Christianity and 1st century Judaism. If authentic, it could prove to be the first archaeological evidence of Jesus of Nazareth. No serious scholar doubts that such a person lived (some half-dozen references to him exist in secular texts from antiquity), so the container -- or ossuary -- brings no dramatic new information. Nor does the object, almost certainly looted from a tomb in the environs of Jerusalem, shed light on whether Jesus was God, the Jewish Messiah, or whether he rose from the dead, as millions of Christians believe.

Urban legends


In The Spotlight

Sun, Oct 27, 2002
The Seventh-Inning Stretch
Does anyone really know when, where and how this baseball custom got started? Notes on the presidential origins (or not) of a time-honored tradition.

Godless Americans March on Washington


What's Wrong With It?

Many nonbelievers may be familiar with the upcoming "Godless Americans March on Washington," designed to raise awareness of the existence of nonbelievers in American society and to call for an end to various forms of discrimination and harrassment which nonbelievers must endure. That certainly sounds like a laudable goal, and it has received widespread support from nonbelievers around the country.

There are, however, some problems with it. Some are relatively minor - for example, the FAQ refers to "Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists and others who have no religious beliefs or creeds." This seems to indicate that atheists, freethinkers and humanists cannot be relgious, an obvious error. Practitioners of Buddhism are frequently atheistic, humanism comes in both secular and theistic varieties, and freethought only refers to a process and an attitude, not a particular conclusion.

A Surprise Ending
With the Sniper, TV Profilers Missed Their Mark


By Paul Farhi and Linton Weeks Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 25, 2002; Page C01

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It wasn't, apparently, the work of al Qaeda operatives. It wasn't an angry young white man working alone. It wasn't someone who lived in Montgomery County.

Almost everything the sniper "profilers" and pundits told the media over the past three weeks turns out to have been off the mark, considering the very real profiles of the two people arrested early yesterday. The men and women who had been described on the air and in print as "forensic psychologists" and "former FBI investigators" took many swings at the who and why of the sniper case -- and mostly missed.

On a Vacation, or Maybe a Quest

October 27, 2002

I WAS my usual anxious self, I admit, when I booked my rental car with a company I'd never heard of. I thought I would probably have to walk miles from the airport to the office, which would no doubt be on a dusty street somewhere on the outskirts of town. But there it was, Advantage Rent-A-Car, right next to the baggage claim at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, wedged between Budget and Enterprise and staffed by a harried looking Russian woman wearing misapplied lipstick.


'Psychic' pub boss sees soccer results in lager froth

From Ananova at:

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_696553.html?menu=news.quirkies A pub landlady who claims to be psychic says she can predict soccer results by staring at lager froth.

Ann Leatherdale says she can see numbers in the froth.

Mrs Leatherdale says a number eight was a signal that England would reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

According to The Sun the froth told her that England would beat Slovakia 2-1 this month.

Now she claims to have seen a 3-0 win for England over Euro 2004 group rivals Turkey.

Mrs Leatherdale, who runs the Swan pub in Brewood, Staffordshire, told the paper: "I am confident England will thrash Turkey, though my customers aren't so sure after the way we played against Macedonia!"

She first spotted numbers in the foamy bottom of a glass. Now they appear in the bubbles on top of her pints of Miller draught.

She claims to have picked 2001 Grand National winner Red Marauder when the horse's number materialised in a glass. She also forecast a 2-0 promotion win for West Brom.

But Mrs Leatherdale, who lives with taxi driver hubby Derek, 51, said: "The customers were mortified when that came true as they all support Wolves."

She has won 500 with her beer-based bets. She reckons Liverpool will win the Premiership. She says the lager has told her Wolves will beat Grimsby 2-1 tomorrow, but won't be promoted.

Story filed: 08:03 Friday 25th October 2002

Voodoo a Legitimate Religion, Anthropologist Says


Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
October 21, 2002

Voodoo is widely regarded as a mysterious and sinister practice that's taboo in many cultures. The mere word conjures images of bloody animal sacrifices, evil zombies, dolls stuck with pins, and dancers gyrating through the hot night to the rhythm of drums. But experts on voodoo beliefs say there are many misconceptions about the practice, which is performed in various forms worldwide.

"Voodoo is not some kind of dark mystical force, it is simply a legitimate religion," says anthropologist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who has studied voodoo extensively in the Caribbean nation of Haiti.

Haiti is ostensibly a Catholic country, but voodoo is widely practiced there. In his best-selling book The Serpent and the Rainbow, Davis wrote: "As the Haitians say, the Catholic goes to church to speak about God, the vodounist dances in the hounfour to become God."

Voodoo is thought to have originated in West Africa and was later combined with a variety of different beliefs into a new spirit-based religion that is practiced in many regions of the world.

Yet voodoo goes even beyond religion- it's a world view, Davis says in the National Geographic Channel program Taboo: Voodoo, which airs in the United States on Monday, October 21, at 9 p.m. ET.

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