NTS LogoSkeptical News for 24 November 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, November 24, 2002

mini-AIR Nov 2002 -- Spy Density, Anguish of Spaghetti

mini-Annals of Improbable Research ("mini-AIR")
Issue Number 2002-11
November, 2002
ISSN 1076-500X
Key words: improbable research, science humor, Ig Nobel, AIR, the
A free newsletter of tidbits too tiny to fit in the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), the journal of inflated research and personalities


2002-11-01 Table of Contents
2002-11-02 Soon...
2002-11-03 What's New in the Magazine
2002-11-04 Spy Density
2002-11-05 IG NOBEL UPDATE: The Further Art of Research
2002-11-06 The Value of Numbers
2002-11-07 The Anguish of Spaghetti
2002-11-08 Bleb Results
2002-11-09 Mutterings in Obscurity
2002-11-10 Pocket-Gopher-Lice Limerick Contest
2002-11-11 A Matter of Time
2002-11-12 Smellies
2002-11-13 Smell
2002-11-14 Sniff
2002-11-15 Memory and Teeth (1)
2002-11-16 Memory and Teeth (2)
2002-11-17 BURSTS OF HotAIR: Procrastination and Müttering
2002-11-18 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Subatomic Approach to Cleanliness
2002-11-19 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Turkey and Not Toilet Seats
2002-11-20 AIRhead Events
2002-11-21 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)
2002-11-22 Our Address (*)
2002-11-23 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)
2002-11-24 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

Items marked (*) are reprinted in every issue.

mini-AIR is a free monthly *e-supplement* to AIR, the print magazine

2002-11-02 Soon...

On FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29, the day after Thanksgiving, listen to the annual special Ig Nobel radio-and-Internet broadcast on NPR. For details, see Section 2002-11-20 below.

2002-11-03 What's New in the Magazine

AIR 8:6 (November/December 2002) will be the special ART & SCIENCE ISSUE. It will be arriving from the printers in a few weeks. (What you are reading at this moment is mini-AIR, which is just a wee, small, monthly e-mail supplement to the print magazine.)

2002-11-04 Spy Density

We are trying to ascertain which city in the world has the highest density of spies. Here, for example, are data for the city of Belgrade. According to the 1991 census, there are 1,168,454 people in the city proper. The city has an area of 35,996 hectares. And according to a report done by Blic News, which is available in its entirety at , the city contains 4000 spies:

At the beginning of 90s, Belgrade became European spy center. Collocutors of "Blic News" weekly estimate that our capital is full of foreign spies, who collect information for political and economic power centers using methods like bribes and blackmails...

Simple calculations, then, show that the city of Belgrade has a density of approximately .0034 spies per inhabitant, and a density of .1111 spies per hectare.

If you have equally complete and reliable data for other cities, please submit it to:

Spy Density Survey
c/o marca@chem2.harvard.edu

Please indicate the source of your data.

2002-11-05 IG NOBEL UPDATE: The Further Art of Research

While some winners of the Ig Nobel Prize may rest on their laurels, others continue to work, work, work away at the frontiers of research. Here is yet another published example:

"Van Gogh, Chagall and Pigeons: Picture Discrimination in Pigeons and Humans," Shigeru Watanabe, Animal Cognition, vol. 4, nos. 3- 4, 2001, pp. 147-151. The author, who shared the 1995 Ig Nobel Psychology Prize for co-authoring the landmark report "Pigeons' Discrimination of Paintings by Monet and Picasso" in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, extends his previous work. He describes his new research as follows:

The author has previously reported that pigeons can discriminate paintings by different artists. Here, the author replicated the previous findings, carried out additional tests and compared discrimination by pigeons with that of 4 university students (aged 19-21 yrs). In Experiment 1, pigeons were trained to discriminate between paintings by Van Gogh and Chagall.... In Experiment 2, human subjects were tested with the same paintings. ... [The results] suggest that the visual cognitive function of pigeons is comparable to that of humans.

2002-11-06 The Value of Numbers

Numbers may have intrinsic financial value, according to information sent us by INVESTIGATOR ARTHUR STOCK. He writes:

Here is an article of great importance to scientists interested in a new source of revenue: copyright those numbers you work with, and earn royalties! (tip: numbers ending with 99 may be especially valuable)

The article, which appeared in the January 31, 2000 issue of the National Law Journal, describes the calculating legal arguments advanced in the case of CDN Inc. v. Kapes, which appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. We would be interested to hear (A) whether the ramifications of the case have congealed into a stable state; and (B) the extent to which it has enriched the (perhaps) copyrightable numbers of scientists who generate copyrightable numbers; and (C) also the new method by which imaginary numbers get their value.

2002-11-07 The Anguish of Spaghetti

Spaghetti is much on the mind of INVESTIGATOR ADRIANO MELIS, who writes: "I was really stunned upon reading this research report you describe at http://www.improbable.com/news/2001/jul/spaghetti-innov.html.

"The researcher's statement that typical spaghetti take 30 seconds to cook is to me, a reasonably typical Italian specimen, simply astounding. "High quality spaghetti (like Barilla or Agnesi brands -- I bet they can be found in the U.S.), made with durum wheat semolina, take 10 to 12 minutes to cook in correctly salty boiling water at an average pressure of 1 atmosphere (101325 pa). Moreover, usually the longer the spaghetti takes to cook, the better is the quality of the spaghetti themselves. This statement is confirmed by every Italian Mom I have ever interviewed). I wonder what kind of 'typical spaghetti' talks about the author of the report!"

2002-11-08 Bleb Results

Here are the winners of the first and last annual BLEB LIMERICK COMPETITION, for the best (NEWLY composed!) limerick that elucidates this research report:

"A Case of a 360 Degree Exuberant Trabeculectomy Bleb," J.D Rossiter, S.J. Godfrey, K.G. Claridge, Eye, vol. 13, part 3a, June 1999, pp. 369-70.

The winner, who will receive a free non-Trabeculectomized copy of an issue of the Annals of Improbable Research, is the team of INVESTIGATORS HEATHER B. ZACKER AND DAVID C. HARLOW, who created this vision of light and clarity:

I can study the tides as they ebb!
Or a spider as she spins a web!
So exub'rant am I
Since the doc fixed my eye
With a trabeculectomy bleb!

Blebs, especially trabeculectomy blebs, are a subject of popular fascination. Here are but two of the nigh innumerable runners-up in the bleb limerick contest:

Now I'm back in my hospital bed
My months of glaucoma have fled
But since the incision
I've 360 degree vision
Like eyes in the back of my head.

There once was a woman named Deb,
Whose eyesight had started to ebb,
"Marijuana aroma
Didn't help my glaucoma
So... Trabeculectomy bleb!

Quasi-special thanks to Investigator Mihaly Tongus, whose limerick did not rhyme, but who alerted us to an informal interview entitled "When a Trabeculectomy Fails," with an eminence named Dr. Rick. The interview can be viewed by ye of adequate eyesight at .

2002-11-09 Mutterings in Obscurity

This month there is but scant, muttering progress to report on the search for the world's most outstandingly obscure journals.

INVESTIGATOR JONATHAN ADAMS, who is Managing Director of the U.K.-based firm Evidence Ltd, reports:

We were commissioned by the RAE Manager to carry out the validation of the RA2 publications database for the Research Assessment Exercise last year. Among the journals we were pleased to encounter during this work were

The wonderfully titled "Mrs Bulletin" sadly seems to be the bulletin of the Materials Research Society. We also found the "Sloan Management Review", which sounded quite exciting but turned out to be linked to the business school of that name and not to be about problems of upper class girls in Chelsea.


According to the late Ivor Darreg, The Journal of Calendar Reform would be a prime candidate for cancellation for lack of readership and/or boring content, but, alas, I've never seen it and Ivor is dead. [EDITOR'S NOTE: the journal ceased publication many decades ago, giving it an unfair leg up in the obscurity race.]

2002-11-10 Pocket-Gopher-Lice Limerick Contest

We invite you to enter the first and last annual POCKET-GOPHER- LICE LIMERICK COMPETITION, for the best (NEWLY composed!) limerick that elucidates this research report, which was brought to our attention by Diana A. Rogers:

"Comparative Body Size Relationships in Pocket Gophers and Their Chewing Lice," Serge Morand, Mark S. Hafner, Roderic D.M. Page, and David l. Reed, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, vol. 70, no. 2, June 1, 2000, pp. 239-49. The authors, who are variously at the Université de Perpignan, Louisiana State University, and the University of Glasgow, explain that:

Our study of gopher hair-shaft diameter and louse head-groove dimensions suggest that there is a "lock-and-key" relationship between these two anatomical features.

Please make sure your rhymes actually do, and that your limerick at least pretends to adhere to classic limerick form.

The winning author will receive a free, almost completely chewable copy of an issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. Send entries (one entry per entrant) to:

c/o marca@chem2.harvard.edu

2002-11-11 A Matter of Time

The new book "The Ig Nobel Prizes" (published by Orion Books, London, ISBN 0752851500) has not yet been banned in Britain, which is the only place it is on sale.

2002-11-12 Smellies

Smellies seldom get their due, is the complaint lodged by INVESTIGATOR T.G. SMELLIE, who grouses:

"As a loyal subscriber to the magazine, I am disappointed that your Special Smelly Issue contained no mention of the fine work done by scientists with whom I have the honor of sharing a family name. In particular, I am shocked at the absence of Dr. G.D. Smellie, whose article on 'The Swallowed Safety Pin,' was the highlight of the March 1968 issue of the Journal of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and of Dr. J.H. Smellie, whose treatise on the subject of giant hogweed had a certain European vogue after its shocking appearance, that same year, in the July 13 issue of the British Medical Journal."

2002-11-13 Smell

A similar sentiment echoed in the message from INVESTIGATOR PAOLO ROTA:

"I am shocked that your Special Smelly Issue overlooked the work of R.M. Smell, whose classic 'Ribonucleic Acid Synthesis: Some Thoughts and Speculations' was published in the Biochemical Journal, volume 103, no. 3, June 1967. I once had the honor of eating in a cafeteria where R.M. Smell was also eating, and I shall never forget the experience."

2002-11-14 Sniff

Not to be left out, apparently, was INVESTIGATOR JANICE WHEELOCK, whose plaint was plangent:

"Your Special Smelly Issue made no mention of Dr. E.S. Sniff, co- author of the precedent-setting 'Chlamydia Infection Associated With Peritonitis in a Cat,' which was published to thunderous acclaim in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in June, 1980. Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame."

2002-11-15 Memory and Teeth (1)

Memory and teeth are yet again linked in the news. The following report appeared in the November 5, 2002 issue of Nature Science Update:

Kristy Nielson of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin... revealed [her research findings] yesterday at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Orlando, Florida. Nielson asked 32 people to memorize a list of words, such as fire, queen and butterfly. Half of them then watched a film of a full dental extraction, complete with blood and screeching drill. "It was nasty - it made you crawl," she says. 24 hours later, the traumatized subjects' word memory was around 10% better than that of those who'd sat through a dull video on tooth brushing.

The full report is at

2002-11-16 Memory and Teeth (2)

A different approach to what is either the same question or a very different one is evident in the following report:

"Impairment of Spatial Memory and Changes in Astroglial Responsiveness Following Loss of Molar Teeth in Aged SAMP8 Mice," M. Onozuka, et al., Behavioural Brain Research, vol. 108, no. 2, March 2000, pp. 145-55.

The authors present evidence that they believe is food for thought, or at least for chewing over, to advance their notion that mastication is vital to memory.

2002-11-17 BURSTS OF HotAIR: Procrastination and Müttering

Here are concise, flighty mentions of some of the features we've posted on HotAIR since last month's mini-AIR came out. See the whole list by clicking "WHAT'S NEW" at the web site, or go to:

Holiday Procrastination Procrastination

Edison's Research on Gravity (video)

A New Book for Happy Müttering

The Mystery of Kimi

New Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club Members


2002-11-18 RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Subatomic Approach to Cleanliness

Each month we select for your special attention a research report that seems especially worth a close read. Your librarian will enjoy being asked (loudly, so other library patrons can hear it) for a copy. Here is this month's Pick of the Month:

"Neutron Activation Analysis of Laundry Dryer Lint," J. Ene-Parent and L. Zikovsky, Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, vol. 247, no. 1, 2001, pp. 197-19.

2002-11-19 MAY WE RECOMMEND: Turkey and Not Toilet Seats

"A Note on the Amino Acid Composition of the Turkey," C. Fisher and R. Scougall, British Poultry Science, vol. 23, 1982, pp. 233- 7. (Thanks to Jean Dormand for bringing this to our attention.)

"Transylvania: the Ball-Point Pen Connection," J.A. Nelson, Beginnings, vol. 16, no. 9, October 1996, p. 13. (Thanks to P. Vello for bringing this to our attention.)

"Don't Sit on the Toilet Seat," R.S. Joseph, Journal of Practical Nursing, vol. 42, no. 4, December 1992, pp. 4 12-3. (Thanks to Wim Crusio and Eve Lepicard for bringing this to our attention.)

2002-11-20 AIRhead Events

For details and updates see http://www.improbable.com
Want to host an event? marca@chem2.harvard.edu 617-491-4437

Broadcast of specially edited highlights from this year's Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, on NPR's "Talk of the Nation / Science Friday with Ira Flatow" program. Simulcast on the web at WWW.SCIENCEFRIDAY.COM (consult WWW.NPR.ORG for times and radio stations)

AIR editor MARC ABRAHAMS will present a public talk about Advances in Improbable Research.

Special Ig Nobel program prepared by, and broadcast on, the Japanese public television network.

Special Annals of Improbable Research session at the Annual Meeting of the American Assn for the Advancement of Science. Featuring:

and others TBA

8:00 PM, Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts
INFO: Valerie Pegg, vepegg@mtu.edu, 906-487-2844

2002-11-21 How to Subscribe to AIR (*)

Here's how to subscribe to the magnificent bi-monthly print journal The Annals of Improbable Research (the real thing, not just the little bits of overflow material you've been reading in this newsletter).

City and State:                         
Zip or postal code: 
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SUBSCRIPTIONS (6 issues per year):      
USA                     1 yr/$29                2 yrs/$53
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BACK ISSUES are available, too:
First issue: $8 USA, $11 Canada/Mex, $16 overseas Add'l issues
purchased at same time: $6 each
Send payment (US bank check, or international money order, or
Visa, Mastercard or Discover info) to:
        Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) 
        PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA 
        617-491-4437  FAX:617-661-0927  air@improbable.com

2002-11-22 Our Address (*)

Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)
PO Box 380853, Cambridge, MA 02238 USA
617-491-4437 FAX:617-661-0927

EDITORIAL: marca@chem2.harvard.edu
SUBSCRIPTIONS: air@improbable.com
WEB SITE: http://www.improbable.com

2002-11-23 Please Forward/Post This Issue! (*)

Please distribute copies of mini-AIR (or excerpts!) wherever appropriate. The only limitations are: A) Please indicate that the material comes from mini-AIR. B) You may NOT distribute mini-AIR for commercial purposes.

------------- mini-AIRheads -------------
EDITOR: Marc Abrahams (marca@chem2.harvard.edu)
MINI-PROOFREADER AND PICKER OF NITS (before we introduce the last few at the last moment): Wendy Mattson wendy@posh.com
WWW EDITOR/GLOBAL VILLAGE IDIOT: Amy Gorin (airmaster@improbable.com)
COMMUTATIVE EDITOR: Stanley Eigen (eigen@neu.edu)
CO-CONSPIRATORS: Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Gary Dryfoos, Ernest Ersatz, S. Drew
AUTHORITY FIGURES: Nobel Laureates Dudley Herschbach, Sheldon Glashow, William Lipscomb, Richard Roberts

(c) copyright 2002, Annals of Improbable Research

2002-11-24 How to Receive mini-AIR, etc. (*)

What you are reading right now is mini-AIR. Mini-AIR is a (free!) tiny monthly *supplement* to the bi-monthly print magazine. To subscribe, send a brief E-mail message to:


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ScienceMaster Newsletter

Learning Science Through Technology
Newsletter for November 2002
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Univ of Okla Newspaper Has "Photo" of Ghost

The Oklahoma Daily, newspaper of the University of Oklahoma, has a story today reporting that paranormal "researchers" claim to have found "evidence" of a ghost in a dormitory cafeteria where a boy in 1988 had accidentally died from an accident involving a dumbwaiter. They offer readers a chance to hear the child's "voice" at this website:


Further, the headline on the second page continuation says: "Expert says child's voice recorded on audio tapes." On the front page there is also an image of a funny light pattern with the suggestion that this is the ghost's "face."

The "experts" are said to be members of the Stillwater Paranormal Research Group, which claims to be able to search for "real and solid evidence of life after death." Go here for the story:


Also, last fall for the first time in memory, the Oklahoma Daily started publishing an astrology column, "Horoscope," by Linda C. Black of the Tribune Media Services. Previously I think I told you about the OU anthropology department having accepted a PhD dissertation which actually embraces the mystical notion that we are entering an astrological "New Age." For my critique of this nonsense go here:


The University of Oklahoma is a sadly deteriorated institution badly in need of external critical review.

Michael Wright
Norman, Oklahoma

Evolving Education: "Teach the Controversy"


When the orthodoxy of America's science classrooms - namely, Neo-Darwinism - meets even the hint of a challenge, be assured of a firestorm. That's exactly what occurred in an Atlanta suburb recently - reminiscent of similar cases in Alabama, California, Kansas and, most recently, Ohio. The issue: school boards (or in some cases, textbook committees) show the temerity to bring Darwinian naturalism onto the academic "table" for scrutiny, and in some cases, to give option to its competitors, such as Intelligent Design.

In September, 2002, the school board in Cobb County, the second largest school district in Georgia, was considering the adoption of a new science education policy. The policy, while not restricting the teaching of evolution, would allow the teaching of other "disputed" views on science. If alternative views have scientific merit, they can enter Cobb's classrooms. This could include Intelligent Design theory and overt Creationism. Many concerned parents, family groups, and churches urged the policy's enactment.

Others were quite opposed to the policy, including the ACLU and the National Academy of Science, whose members comprise 96% atheists and agnostics, according to recent research done for Oxford University. The whole story was drawing national attention and, true to form, the media painted proponents with a Scopes-trial, backwoods-religionist brush. However, that party line hit some real static when 28 scholars from public and private universities all over the state signed a statement expressing reservations about Darwinism's ability to explain life as seen both from a life sciences and paleaontological perspective. When 130 other credentialed professors from around the nation - a significant number from top universities - joined in the signing of the admittedly minimal statement, the stage was set for a fight which detractors felt was fair for once. The Cobb County board unanimously approved the policy, which for all intents and purposes simply opened up classrooms to the kind of fair-minded scrutiny and discourse taken for granted in academic circles, but so assiduously curtailed by much of the established science education elite.

Why the brouhaha and the newsworthiness of such a seemingly simple step? According to evolution's (that is, macroevolution's) detractors, much has to do with the predisposition of scientists and science educators not only to close off debate, but to place themselves and their views above the review even of other disciplines - much less the public. Time and time again, the issue of whether or not the problems with evolutionary theory and alternative explanations are presented becomes clouded by ad hominem attacks of skeptics' motives and straw-man accusations of "importing religion into science." A recent debate on a National Public Radio talk show hosted by Ira Flatow - weighted toward the pro-Darwinism-only side - was typical: a representative of The Discovery Institute, a pro-Intelligent Design public policy think tank in Seattle, was attacked and verbally run over by Darwinist spokesmen (transcript here).

In this Special Focus, we look back at similar instances of controversy regarding Darwinism, its competitors and public science education, as well as essays and articles by those who present alternatives to naturalistic views and challenge popularly held notions of science and religion. Seeing that every view is colored inexorably by one's worldview - the framework one adopts through which to view reality - we call into question some of the most accepted norms of our day regarding how to teach one of life's most important lessons: where did that life come from? Your comments and questions are welcome.

Penn & Teller coming to Showtime


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Proving that it can be twice as raunchy as the major broadcast networks, premium cable channel Showtime is using an eight-letter word in the title of its upcoming series starring comic illusionists Penn & Teller.

The first of 13 half-hour episodes of "Penn & Teller: Bull----!" (the actual vulgarity will appear in full) premieres Jan. 24, billed as an irreverent expose of taboo subjects that Showtime says "may be too controversial for other networks."

Boisterous Penn Jillette and his silent, diminutive partner, Teller, will use their mastery of magic, carnival tricks and con-artistry, as well as hidden cameras and "blatant confrontation" to shed light on frauds of fakes of all kinds.

Each episode will include interviews and undercover segments mixed with Penn & Teller's offbeat comedy-magic routine.

Penn & Teller, known for revealing the secrets of their tricks while keeping their audience baffled, are no strangers to network television, having appeared in numerous specials and as guests on various sitcoms and late-night shows over the years. Their 1985 PBS special, "Penn & Teller Go Public," garnered two Emmy awards.

But the profane title of their upcoming Showtime series was a hint that the duo's cable TV venture may not be suitable for the more contrained boundaries of the broadcast networks.

Expert: Man Buried In Rochester Is Prime 'Jack The Ripper' Suspect


(Rochester-WABC, October 31, 2002) — The prime suspect in the still-unsolved "Jack The Ripper" case is buried in our area. A retired British constable, considered one of the leading authorities on the Ripper murders, says that Irish-born Francis Tumblety is buried in Rochester.

Tumblety was raised in that upstate city in the 1840s, and by all accounts he was destined for trouble from an early age. As a young man, he made money peddling pornographic literature on canal boats and worked for a medical quack.

Having made a fortune as a snake-oil salesman, he was in London in 1888 when five women were butchered in what became known as the Jack the Ripper murders.

While Tumblety was considered a suspect, he was never charged. And records show that the murders stopped after he left England. Retired constable Stewart Evans says he's convinced that Tumblety is the most viable suspect.

When Tumblety died in St. Louis in 1903, his relatives in New York had his body brought back and buried in a Rochester cemetery.

Number Crunching In Alabama, a judge posted the Ten Commandments in his courthouse. But did he even post the right 10?


By David L. Englin

Web Exclusive: 11.21.02

"We will defend it because it is truth, and you can't deny truth," said Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court, explaining why he had erected a two-and-a-half-ton monument of the Ten Commandments in the Alabama State Judicial Building's rotunda. On everything from the war on terrorism to human reproduction to school vouchers, the mouthpieces of the religious right -- like Moore -- have a habit of claiming for themselves unique knowledge of God's will. And when it comes to displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings, they also seem to claim unique knowledge of God's laws, deciding for all Judeo-Christian believers which Ten Commandments constitute undeniable truth.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that "Roy's Rock" is an unconstitutional government monument to "the Judeo-Christian God, and, in particular, to his sovereignty over all the affairs of men." But even as he pointedly chastised Moore for his theocratic vision of American governance, Thompson went to great pains to note that some displays of the Ten Commandments in government buildings are appropriate, even agreeing with Moore that the Ten Commandments are an important source of American secular law. benefits three days

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Humans aren't accidents




In my line of work, I hear from people of every imaginable persuasion, but some of the most fascinating folks who contact me are those who profess to be atheists and agnostics.

Whenever I mention God in my writing, they send me little notes telling me, among other things, what a lunatic I am. They send me links to Web sites and offer to mail me reams of information, all in the hopes of opening my thick brain to their "enlightened" point of view.

I tell those well-meaning people that they are wasting their time. Believing that human beings and all of the wonders of this magnificent world just evolved -- or are the result of some cosmic explosion -- seems much more unlikely and requires much more faith than does believing in a Creator.

In my home is a stately Howard Miller grandfather clock. Its mechanism is detailed, complex and precise. It chimes four times every hour and tolls the "Big Ben" gong at the top of the hour. There is a selection of chime melodies from which to choose, simply by moving a lever.

There also is a moon dial on the clock bearing these instructions: "Using an almanac or calendar, look up the date of the last full moon. Count the number of days past the last full moon. Turn the moon disc clockwise one click for every day [24 hours] past the full moon."

Once set, the dial will indicate the correct moon phases as long as the clock operates continuously. I should know; it has been running smoothly since 1989.

Call me a nut if you will, but not once have I doubted that this magnificent clock is the work of a master craftsman. In fact, I would feel foolish believing that the clock has no maker but evolved from scrap wood and metal left over from some mysterious explosion.

Yet there are those who say they believe that this magnificent world of ours, with all of its accuracy and splendor, and the incredible human body, with all of its precision and complexity, aren't the creation of a Creator but the result of a big bang.

No wonder the psalmist David said, "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1).

Consider the amazing brain. A brief look at an encyclopedia offers some amazing facts. The brain weighs about three pounds, but without it, you couldn't perform the countless functions -- both voluntary and involuntary -- of your body.

Not only does the brain control your thinking and feelings, it sends messages to your spinal cord, which controls the body's activities.

When you touch a hot iron, you jerk your hand away. That is because the brain sends a message to the spinal cord. The spinal cord gives you the order to jerk your hand away. Almost without thinking, you respond.

Your brain takes care of you, even when you don't know it. Your lungs breathe in fresh air and breathe out used air. Your heart pumps blood through your body approximately 100,000 times a day. And all without you even thinking about it.

And you say such a wonderfully engineered organ has no maker?

In my Howard Miller owner's manual is a section called "The Howard Miller Story," summed up with this sentence: "Your Howard Miller clock has been designed, engineered and built to last a lifetime."

My arm needs no twisting to believe that simple but sweeping statement.

Neither do I have any trouble believing this one found in Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Or this one in

John 1:3: "All things were made by [God], and without him was not anything made that was made."

I suppose that -- in my own unique way -- I do believe in the "big bang" theory after all. God said it, and -- bang! -- it happened!

Dayle Shockley is an author and writing instructor in Houston.

[See also One less elephant - Ed.]




November 17, 2002 -- You would never believe anyone would fall for it. But cops say New Yorkers are still being swindled out of thousands of dollars by petty street cons.

In the first six months of this year, city cops logged 4,885 grand larceny complaints - thefts of more than $1,000 committed against individuals - and 43,449 petit larceny complaints from those ripped off for amounts less than $1,000, which both include street rip-offs.

Brooklyn has suffered a rash of "dropped pocketbook" scams this year in which crooks show wads of purportedly found cash to their marks but end up walking off with their victims' money.

Cops busted one con artist last September outside the Astoria Federal Savings Bank on the corner of Church and McDonald avenues in the Kensington section.

Phony law-enforcement badges or uniforms - and even real ones sold by collectors at street fairs and trade shows - are another popular tool of the rogue trade.

Last week, an upstate man was sentenced to three years behind bars for impersonating a city marshal and bilking 16 drivers in Manhattan, Queens and The Bronx out of $8,500, claiming he was authorized to accept payment of fines and could get their towed cars released.

And last May, three hoaxers posing as NYPD detectives duped senior citizens in every borough but Staten Island, including an Upper West Side man who gave them $47,000.

The team flashed a bogus white police badge and produced a counterfeit wanted poster of a bank robbery "suspect" named "Sullivan" while demanding to be let inside the home to look for the criminal or the money.

Once the pair entered victims' homes, they rummaged through their belongings and often tried to convince the hapless elder to withdraw money from the bank to aid their "investigation."

Last month, a distressed-looking pregnant woman walked into a Brooklyn Heights yoga school and asked to use the bathroom. She walked out with a student's cell phone and wallet and quickly used his credit cards to buy a MetroCard, pay for gas at two stations and pick up $122.29 worth of merchandise from a discount store.

On Nov. 4, a swindler walked into the International Haircutters salon on Columbus Avenue and demanded $80 for light bulbs he claimed the owner had ordered.

The thief provided his firm's name and phone number, and after some miscommunication between a hairdresser and the owner's wife, he walked out with the $80. The light bulbs never arrived.

Three-card monte games have again sprung up in Manhattan in Chinatown, SoHo and Times Square cops said.

As the holidays approach, tourists and New Yorkers are warned to be on the lookout for con men. Last Christmas Day, cops wrestled a dealer to the ground as he ditched his box and ran off in Times Square.

Archeologists look for UFO at famed Roswell site


By Zelie Pollon

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - In trying to unravel a mystery that may involve the war of the worlds, cable TV's SCI FI Chanel has turned to a group of educated men and women with shovels and set them loose on the southern New Mexico desert.

In an effort to verify once and for all whether a UFO crash-landed in New Mexico more than 50 years ago, the cable TV channel sent a team of archeologists to conduct an in-depth study of the legendary crash site.

And just like the alleged government conspiracy by those who say aliens landed near Roswell, New Mexico, the results of the scientific study are top secret. That is until Nov. 22, when SCI FI airs "The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence," which will include what network representatives are calling a "smoking gun."

Until then believers and debunkers will just have to wait, said Bill Doleman, the principal investigator with the University of New Mexico archeology team.

Doleman, along with three other archeologists and six volunteers were hired by the SCI FI Channel to conduct the research, which took place over 10 days last September.

"We found things -- some things I still don't know what they are -- but they surprised me," Doleman said, reiterating his confidentiality agreement with SCI FI.

SCI FI representatives say the program promises never- before-seen eyewitness interviews, late-breaking revelations and a "smoking gun bombshell," which does not necessarily coincide with the archeological findings.

"The smoking gun is fascinating and compelling. It's going to raise a lot of questions afterwards," said Thomas Vitale, a senior vice president of programming at the SCI FI Channel.

The supposed crash of an alien ship in Roswell on July 3, 1947 has become legendary. According to some accounts, the ship crashed in an empty field with several aliens on board. Witnesses claim to have seen extraterrestrial beings, which were taken away by military personnel never to be seen again. Those who believe an alien craft landed are adamant the incident involves a huge government cover-up. The government, in turn, says the incident involved a weather balloon and the accounts of aliens comes from anti-military conspirators.

Doleman says his team was directed to use purely scientific methods, such as geophysical prospecting and archeological testing of anomalies, to find any evidence of a crash.

They primarily investigated what is called the "skip site," the second site of impact where the craft supposedly spewed debris before skipping 17-25 miles (27 km 40 km) away to its final crash site.

"We weren't out there to bunk or debunk. We were just scientists using scientific methods," he said.

Along with evidence found at the scene, the "smoking gun evidence sheds light on government truthfulness about this whole event," Vitale said.

Ghost in a go-go bar? Dancers say it feels like it


Staff Writer
Published in the Courier News on November 17, 2002

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ -- A quivering blob of ectoplasm is causing more excitement at Liquid Assets go-go bar than are the comely dancers baring their flesh.

A dancer, Dee Dee, clad in a sparse turquoise costume sprinkled with silver and sporting gemstone navel jewelry, took a break from gyrating for some very attentive customers last week to share her experience. "There are times when things will just fall," she said, tossing a mane of blonde curls.

The ghostly presence also has tugged on dancers' hair and made them feel like someone was brushing up against them, said owner John Colasanti.

Psychic investigator Jane Doherty says there are several presences in and around the building. She's now sleuthing to see whether one is a bootlegger from the Prohibition era. Another might be a young man who died on the nearby railroad tracks in 1983 after bar-hopping at a couple of taverns and at the former Pellegrino's Bar & Grill, now Liquid Assets.

Then there are the tales of a former owner who went upstairs, had a heart attack and died, and the suicide of a man who came home to his apartment above the bar to find that his family had perished in a fire.

Colasanti thinks the ghost captured on the outside security camera may be "Mad Dog" Coll, a notorious gangster who as a child was raised along with Colasanti's uncle in New York. He's hoping to learn the secrets the family would never tell him about the reputedly violent death of his uncle.

As the thumping music of the go-go bar blasted, Doherty, who previously was president of the now-defunct Jersey Society of Parapsychology, explained that it is too noisy during business hours to get to the bottom of things.

But she has held hands with two other people after closing and felt in the silence a presence wanting to make itself known.

Now she is planning an off-hours seance with people who are sensitive to spirits longing to connect with the living, for whatever reason. After that, she intends to make a video documentary of the phenomenon.

Dee Dee believes that there are many spiritual planes.

"Sometimes I think we're a speck of dust in a corner of the universe," she said.

The building at 118 New Market Ave. dates at least as far back as 1917 and has offered hospitality and entertainment for decades. In 1970, the go-go bar Boomerang opened there. One of the spirits may be a young dancer killed in a car accident on her way to the place, Doherty said.

Destroyed by fire in 1982, the former two-story building was rebuilt the same year with just one level. The Pellegrino family operated a "shot and beer bar" with dancers, said Anthony Pellegrino of Clark, who still owns the building that houses Liquid Assets. Pellegrino reserved comment on the ghost stories.

"I was there for a lot of years and I never heard anything," he said. But then again, the Pellegrinos never had the outside digital cameras on which the ghost first appeared July 12.

The camera works only when motion is detected. That night, there was no one in the parking lot when the camera picked up a white, amorphous image that moved around.

"It's just too vivid to shuck it off," Colasanti said. "It looks like a ghost."

Jason Gonzalez, of the Freedom Systems company in Garden City, N.Y., firm checked the camera thoroughly and has no explanation. It was working properly, and the image was nothing anyone had encountered in more than 4,000 installations of the equipment.

There have been more sightings, the last on Monday, Colasanti said. Meanwhile, the physical phenomena are intensifying, he said. Colasanti cited reports of a flying bar stool, keys flying out of someone's hand, and a dancer having her shirt mysteriously ripped open on Thursday. The club's DJ, Sergio, had an encounter with some spooky lights and a feeling of being pressed down when he slept in the club Oct. 27, Colasanti said.

Doherty thinks the presence wants to manifest itself, and she will be there to greet whomever emerges, whether it's the distraught husband and father, the man who died on the tracks, the bootlegger or whomever.

There's even a story of a guy long ago who took a dare to drink a whole bottle of vodka and died on the spot, said Doherty, who was born and raised in South Plainfield. She had a worrisome dream about the bootlegger after her first overnight stint of quietly waiting in the bar.

"I know he wants to communicate," she said.

Doherty said that as a psychic, it is her work to help troubled spirits find rest.

"We're doing God's work in helping souls," she said.

But she admits to being a bit jarred by the call to communicate with ghosts in a go-go bar.

"I said, 'God, you're being humorous.'" But then, she said, she felt a message: "God loves all people -- be totally nonjudgmental."

Bernice Paglia can be reached at (908) 707-3137 or bpaglia@c-n.com.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more information about Doherty and her psychic experiences and services, go to www.janedoherty.com

from the Courier News website www.c-n.com

The Skeptic Report is back and ruder than ever!


You thought we'd never come back...but we did.

Look for a new article today!

SkepticReport is a site dedicated to skeptical writers. If you know of anybody who would be willing to contribute to SkepticReport, I would be grateful for their participation.

The authors will of course have full copyright to the articles they decide to have published on SkepticReport. They will also get a link to a site of their choice.

I will look forward to hear from you.

Claus Larsen


Dear NCSE Friends & Supporters,

NCSE is pleased to announce that its extensive critique of Jonathan Wells's Icons of Evolution -- "ICONS OF EVOLUTION? Why much of what Jonathan Wells writes about evolution is wrong" -- is now available at http://www.ncseweb.org/icons In Icons, Wells attacked biology textbooks for presenting what he claims is a systematic pattern of misinformation about the evidence for evolution. "ICONS OF EVOLUTION?", written by NCSE's Postdoctoral Scholar Alan D. Gishlick, critically analyzes Wells's claims, concluding that "the scholarship of Icons is substandard and the conclusions of the book are unsupported."

Skip Evans
Network Project Director
National Center for Science Education
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510-601-7204 (fax)

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Mormon cinema is on a mission for profits

C.G. WALLACE, Associated Press Writer
Friday, November 22, 2002
©2002 Associated Press



(11-22) 00:51 PST SALT LAKE CITY (AP) --

It began with "God's Army," a small movie about Mormon missionaries in Los Angeles that cost $240,000 to make and netted $2.6 million.

Since then, Mormon-themed movies have been flooding Utah screens.

Now some of the genre's own directors fear quality is succumbing to quantity.

Program says there were 'victims' in 'Roswell incident'

From: Terry W. Colvin



Three victims were supposedly recovered from the final crash site, and a team of archaeologists, coincidentally, were in the area doing research on ancient Indians at the time, Carey said. Among them was Curry Holden, an archaeologist from Texas Tech in Lubbock, whom Carey located in 1992. "Curry Holden said he saw everything - the craft and the bodies," Carey said. Holden died a few months later.

Did quark matter strike Earth?


Friday, 22 November, 2002, 14:39 GMT

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

A group of researchers have identified two seismic events that they think provide the first evidence of a previously undetected form of matter passing through the Earth.

The so-called strange quark matter is so dense that a piece the size of a human cell would weigh a tonne.

The two events under study both took place in 1993.

Other scientists are tantalised, saying that while these seismic disturbances are unlikely to have been caused by strange quark matter, they do not as yet have alternative explanations.

Out of the fireball

Strange quark matter could have arisen after the Big Bang, according to a theory by physicist Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, US.

The primordial fireball may have produced dense, heavy particles made of three types of quarks, which are fundamental particles.

Whereas so-called "up" and "down" quarks form protons and neutrons, the addition of "strange" quarks might result in a stable form of matter that could grow far more massive than ordinary atoms.

There is some evidence that strange quark matter does exist in the cosmos. In April 2002, two different teams of scientists reported that they had identified collapsed stars that might be composed of the ultra-dense material.

Chandra observatory finds evidence for quark stars

In 1984, Harvard physicist and Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow suggested that physicists should team up with seismologists to search for traces of the strange matter that might have passed through the Earth at supersonic speed.

'Unassociated events'

He calculated that strange quark particles would dash through Earth with dramatic effect: a one-tonne spec would release the energy of a 50-kilotonne nuclear bomb, spread along its entire path through the Earth.

In 1993, Vidgor Teplitz, Eugene Herrin, David Anderson and Ileana Tibuleac, all of the Southern Methodist University in the US, began looking for such events.

They searched the world's seismographic records for so-called "unassociated events". They looked at more than a million records collected by the US Geological Survey between 1990 to 1993 that were not associated with traditional seismic disturbances, such as Earthquakes.

Previously, Herrin and Teplitz speculated that it would be possible to search for seismic events that might indicate passage of strange quark matter (also known as nuclearites) through the Earth because such events would have a distinct seismic signal - a straight line.

This seismic signature would be caused by the large ratio of the nuclearites speed to the speed of sound in the Earth. It was estimated that the strange quark matter might pass through the earth at 400 km per second (250 miles per second), 40 times the speed of seismic waves.

Data collection halted

The team also determined that the minimum requirement for detection of a nuclearite would be detection of its signal by seven monitoring stations.

The researchers latest findings single out two seismic events with the linear pattern they were looking for.

In two cases, the arrival times and forms of seismic waves at nine far-flung stations pointed to linear bursts of energy. The ruptures ripped through the planet at hundreds of kilometres per second rather than fracturing only near the surface, as typical earthquakes do.

One event occurred on 22 October, 1993, when, according to the researchers, something entered the Earth off Antarctica and left it south of India 0.73 of a second later.

The other occurred on 24 November, 1993, when an object entered south of Australia and exited the Earth near Antarctica 0.15 of a second later.

The first event was recorded at seven monitoring stations in India, Australia, Bolivia and Turkey, and the second event was recorded at nine monitoring stations in Australia and Bolivia.

"We can't prove that this was strange quark matter, but that is the only explanation that has been offered so far," Herrin says.

Unfortunately, scientists may not be able to find any more events that suggest the passage of strange quark matter through the Earth.

In 1993 the US Geological Survey stopped collecting data from "unassociated events."

Friday, November 22, 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 - November 22, 2002

from The New York Times

Dentists leafing through The Journal of the American Dental Association last May found a study concluding that a new drug called Bextra offered relief from one of their patients' worst nightmares - the acute pain that follows dental surgery.

Federal regulators had rejected that conclusion only six months before, leaving Bextra's marketers, Pharmacia and Pfizer, hard pressed to sell it as an advance over Celebrex, their earlier entry in a crowded market for pain drugs.

The new study helped light a fire under Bextra. Its sales soared 60 percent over the three months that followed, according to industry data. But the research was not conducted by academics. Instead, the lead investigators were from Scirex, a little-known research firm owned partly by Omnicom, one of the world's biggest advertising companies.


from The Dallas Morning News

Forget about your prize-winning dog's pedigree: Scientists have found that all pooches, from Maltese to mastiffs to mutts, trace their ancestry to a group of wolves that once lived in East Asia. Three new studies, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, may put to bed some evolutionary questions that have long dogged researchers.

The discoveries include where and when dogs were first domesticated; how they spread into the New World; and why they so successfully bonded with humans in the first place.


from The Miami Herald

Wading birds, the most visible and beautiful denizens of the Everglades, have been engaged in a breeding frenzy unseen in more than half a century.

A survey recorded nearly 70,000 nests in the Everglades and surrounding natural areas this year -- half of them in one amazing rookery alone, a rare "super colony" packed onto a stand of willow trees rising from a sawgrass marsh a few miles west of Broward County suburbia.

It was 1941 when scientists last estimated so many white ibis, snowy egrets and nine other wading species making whoopie in the Everglades. Marjory Stoneman Douglas had not yet begun writing River of Grass. Everglades National Park, dedicated in 1947, did not exist.


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Io blows its top


Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 14:00 GMT

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

The most powerful eruption ever detected on any planet in our Solar System has been seen on Io, one of Jupiter's moons.

Io, one of the four large Jovian satellites, is highly volcanic with high-temperature eruptions similar to those on Earth.

The outburst was detected using an advanced optical system on the Keck II telescope in Hawaii. The eruption took place in February 2001, though image analysis has only recently been completed.

"It is clear that this eruption is the most energetic ever seen, both on Io and on Earth," says Frank Marchis of the University of California, US.

"Truly massive"

Adaptive optics employs a technique to remove the distorting effects of atmospheric turbulence - the same effect that makes the stars twinkle - by flexing telescope mirrors fast enough to stabilise and focus the bouncing image.

The 2001 Io eruption was very close to Surt, the site of a large eruption in 1979 that took place between the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft flybys.

"We were lucky to detect the beginning of an outburst eruption," says Imke de Pater, also of the University of California.

The Keck telescope captured images of Io on two days in February 2001.

On the first day, Io was mostly quiet, with visible surface features such as dark calderas and relatively bright areas rich in sulphur dioxide frost. Two days later, however, what seemed a small hot spot on the surface had become a large, bright eruption.

"We observed the same side of the satellite and were amazed to see a very bright eruption that had suddenly appeared," says Marchis.

"The Surt eruption appears to cover an area larger than the city of Los Angeles and even larger than the entire city of London," Marchis says.

"The total amount of energy being released by the eruption is amazingly high, with the thermal output from this one eruption almost matching the total amount of energy emitted by all of the rest of Io's other volcanoes included."

"This eruption is truly massive," says Ashley Davies, a scientist at the US space agency's (Nasa) Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The volcano on Io is far more powerful than any eruption recorded by scientists on Earth, with an estimated eruptive power output of about 78,000 gigawatts. By comparison, the power produced by the last significant eruption of Mount Etna in Italy in 1992 was just 12 gigawatts.

Terrestrial geological records indicate that there may have been some comparably large eruptions many millions of years ago in Siberia and in India, which may have contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs.

Fire fountains

The observations will also help reveal more about the nature of Io, says Lionel Wilson at the Planetary Science Research Group at Lancaster University, UK.

"These results may be the first to allow us to make a good estimate of the volume eruption rate of lava on Io in a large volume eruption with a high eruption rate,"

"Building up statistics on the range of eruption conditions that can occur on Io will allow us to deduce much more about the structure of the crust and mantle than we understand at the moment.

"The observed energy indicates the presence of a vigorous, high-temperature volcanic eruption. The kind of eruption to produce this thermal signature has incandescent fire fountains of molten lava which are kilometres high, propelled at great speed out of the ground by expanding gases, accompanied by extensive lava flows on the surface."

The results are published in the November issue of the planetary sciences journal Icarus.

NIDS Mapping Project of 250 Black Triangle Cases.

From: Terry W. Colvin

NIDS Mapping Project of 250 Black Triangle Cases. The locations of the 250 recently investigated sightings of black triangles mapped with a subset of Air Mobility Command and other Air-Force Bases..

Vallee Powerpoint Presentation at the November 8, 2002 GWU Symposium. Jacques Vallee PhD was one of the six presenters at a recent symposium at George Washington University.

The Ominous Numinous by J. Allan Cheyne, Professor of Psychology, University of Waterloo describes the latest research into sleep paralysis.

All can be found in the What's New section of the NIDS web site:


The bogus miracles


by SEAN POULTER, Daily Mail

femail.co.uk - 22nd November 2002

A damning attack was launched yesterday on rogue firms that claim their products offer miracle cures, dramatic weight loss or youthful looks.

They were trading on the fears and dreams of vulnerable people, said the Office of Fair Trading.

It also urged consumers to be wary of adverts for products claiming to beat diseases such as cancer and Aids.

Although the Advertising Standards Authority received 1,200 complaints in these areas alone last year, many victims were reluctant to come forward.

The OFT's Deputy Director-General, Penny Boys, said rogue firms are increasingly using the Internet to peddle products.

A survey found more than 1,000 such sites - one even offering a tablet to be taken with alcohol that can prevent a beer belly developing.

Miss Boys said: 'We are in the area of people's dreams. We have unscrupulous advertisers who are promising what cannot possibly be delivered.'

She added: 'There are lots of products which can help you slim and look better, but they go with hard work, dieting, more exercise and looking after your skin properly.

'We are concerned about the sort of products that are making ridiculous claims such as "overnight cure", "personal transformation", "miracle cures" or ones claiming to include secret ingredients.

'Those sorts of adverts are usuallyfor products designed to persuade people to part with their money for virtually nothing.'

She said some people have spent £250-£300 on a course of slimming pills that turned out to be vitamins.

'Others have paid £100 for jars of "magic" face cream to remove wrinkles overnight.

'Yet these are virtually the same as something they could have bought from any high street store for £5,' she said.

Birds of a Feather star Linda Robson, who launched the OFT campaign, said she had spent years trying every expensive product, pill and special diet available to try to lose weight when she was over 14 stones.

None worked, but the 44-yearold-actress later lost over four stones in six months with a sensible diet and exercise regime.

'I think we all know deep down that these diets and products won't do what they claim, but we are taken in by claims of secret ingredients and clever claims,' she said.

'I was also guilty of paying £120 for a tub of cream that was going to get rid of crow's feet and wrinkles. But in truth it was just the same as any other moisturiser.'

The OFT said consumers should look sceptically and critically at advertisements to assess whether claims were backed up with evidence.

In the worst cases, the OFT can take offending firms to court.

Thursday, November 21, 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 - November 21, 2002

from The Los Angeles Times

U.S. researchers have successfully tested a vaccine against human papilloma virus, a feat many consider the first step toward the eventual prevention of most cases of cervical cancer, which is caused by the virus.

Widespread use of the vaccine, which could occur in as little as five years, could eventually result in an 85 percent reduction in the worldwide number of 450,000 new cervical cancer cases and 250,000 deaths each year.

Such an effective vaccine "would have profound effects," said Dr. Christopher P. Crum of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who added that papilloma infections could eventually fade away, as have polio, smallpox and diphtheria.


from The Washington Post

Scientists in Rockville, Md., are to announce this morning that they plan to create a new form of life in a laboratory dish, a project that raises ethical and safety issues but also promises to illuminate the fundamental mechanics of living organisms.

J. Craig Venter, the gene scientist with a history of pulling off unlikely successes, and Hamilton O. Smith, a Nobel laureate, are behind the plan. Their intent is to create a single-celled, partially man-made organism with the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain life. If the experiment works, the microscopic man-made cell will begin feeding and dividing to create a population of cells unlike any previously known to exist.

To ensure safety, Smith and Venter said the cell will be deliberately hobbled to render it incapable of infecting people; it also will be strictly confined, and designed to die if it does manage to escape into the environment.


from The Los Angeles Times

An analysis of once-secret satellite data indicates that asteroids capable of causing catastrophic damage strike the Earth only about once every 1,000 years - far less frequently than previously thought.

Using eight years of data collected for national security purposes by the departments of Defense and Energy, researchers disputed long-held assumptions that asteroids about 50 meters in diameter (about 55 yards across) enter the atmosphere once every 200 to 300 years.

Data from the new study suggest that...a city is likely to be destroyed no more than every 30,000 years given that most of the Earth is ocean and much of the land mass is sparsely populated, said David Morrison, a space scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-asteroids21nov21,0,2938958.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dtodays%2D times

from The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON - The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering expanding the boundaries for major breeding grounds and habitat areas for right whales off the coast of New England.

The Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group, petitioned for the potential change, which would merge the two critical habitats of Cape Cod Bay and Great South Channel and enlarge it to include most of the waters from Massachusetts to Maine.

The Ocean Conservancy contends that new data on the right whale's range, habits, and causes of mortality along the East Coast of the United States show that the current critical habitat designation is not sufficient to protect the whales.


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The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 614 November 20, 2002 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

RECORD-HIGH MAGNETIC FIELDS IN THE LAB, almost a Gigagauss in magnitude, have been achieved by aiming intense laser light at a dense plasma, expanding the possibilities for laboratory re-creations of astrophysical events. At last week's APS Division of Plasma Physics Meeting in Orlando (www.aps.org/meet/DPP02/baps/press/), researchers from Imperial College, London, and the Rutherford Appleton Lab in the UK announced evidence of super-strong magnetic fields that are hundreds of times more intense than any previous magnetic field created in an Earth laboratory and up to a billion times stronger than our planet's natural magnetic field. Such intense magnetic fields may soon enable researchers to recreate extreme astrophysical conditions, such as the atmospheres of neutron stars and white dwarfs, in their very own laboratories. At the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford in the UK, researchers at the VULCAN facility aimed intense laser pulses, lasting only picoseconds (trillionths of a second), at a dense plasma. The resulting magnetic fields in the plasma were on the order of 400 Megagauss. To determine the magnitude of the fields, the researchers made polarization measurements of high-frequency light emitted during the experiment. Recent measurements presented at the APS/DPP conference suggested that the peak magnetic field in the densest region of the plasma approaches 1 Gigagauss. Due to technological advances peak laser intensities are likely to increase still further and consequently even higher magnetic fields may soon be possible, making it possible to put models of extreme astrophysical conditions to the test. (Poster CP1.125, November 11, contact Karl Krushelnick, Imperial College, University of London, 011-44-20-7594-7635, kmkr@ic.ac.uk; for background see Tatarakis et al., Nature, 17 January 2002)

MEGAGAUSS IN PICOSECONDS. The item above describes the creation of high fields; this item describes the rapid measurement of high fields. Physicists from the Tata Institute and the Institute for Plasma Research in India have recorded in detail, for the first time, the huge magnetic spike encountered by atoms in a sample bearing the brunt of an intense laser shot. Fields as great as 27 megagauss, roughly 50 million times the strength of Earth's magnetic field, come about very quickly in the following way: the 10^16-watt/cm^2 pump laser beam strikes an aluminum target, the surface layer of atoms is quickly ionized, and a stream of very fast electrons is released into the body of the target, inducing the huge field. Many high-power lasers around the world study the effects of intense light upon a solid sample. The chief achievement of the Indian researchers is to look at this process with unprecedented temporal precision, monitoring the rising magnetic field in femtosecond intervals by watching the polarization of a delayed secondary laser beam reflected from the particle plasma engulfing the sample. Femtosecond knowledge of megagauss fields might have a bearing on designs for nuclear fusion reactions, and for studying other subjects where high magnetic fields are important—NMR, Hall effect, and perhaps even fast magnetic information storage and switching devices. (Sandhu et al., Physical Review Letters 25 November 2002; contact G. Ravindra Kumar, Tata Institute, grk@tifr.res.in; 91-22-2152971 x 2381; www.tifr.res.in )

NU APPROACH TO CP VIOLATION. The measured abundance of helium in the universe (about 25% of all normal matter) suggests that there is about one proton for every 10^10 photons. This in turn suggests that at some earlier phase of the universe an almost equal number of protons and anti-protons existed and gradually annihilated, but that because of some fundamental asymmetry (at the level of one part per ten billion) in the way that the weak nuclear force treats matter and antimatter, protons but not anti-protons survived to the present time. The standard model of particle physics usually enshrines this asymmetry in the form of "CP violation," a mathematical convention concerning the interaction of particles in which one imagines what happens when the charge of all the particles is reversed (charge conjugation, abbreviated as C) and the coordinates of all particles is reversed (the parity operation, or P). The standard model is successful in predicting how CP violation works out in the decay of K mesons or B mesons (see Update 600, http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2002/split/600-1.html) but not so good at predicting where the abundance of baryons (protons plus neutrons) comes from. Now physicists at Hiroshima University, Niigata University (Japan) and Seoul National University (Korea) have proposed an explanation in which the proton excess comes (at least in part) from the decay of hypothetical heavy neutrinos (in addition to the electron, muon, and tau neutrinos already known). One testable prediction of this theory is that there should be a slight preponderance of anti-neutrinos over neutrinos, a disparity that could be studied in the next round of neutrino oscillation experiments being planned. (Endoh, Physical Review Letters, 2 December 2002; contact Takuya Morozumi, Hiroshima University, morozumi@hiroshima-u.ac.jp, 81-824-24-7364)

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Sides agree on facts, not on interpretation


By Carl Johnson

The debate between creation and evolution is often portrayed as science versus religion, insinuating that creationists have no scientific basis for their belief and/or have no scientific credentials

However, many highly qualified scientists believe in the biblical story of creation:

o Dr. Russell Humphrey, who has a Ph.D in physics has worked 23 years at the Sandua National Laboratories on major physics projects;

o Henry Morris, Ph.D., served on the faculties of five major universities.

o Robert Gentry, Ph.D., has done major breakthrough work on the study of polonium halos.

Researcher, teacher and theoretical physicist -- all ardent creationists.

Evolutionary scientists exclude all but naturalistic forces in defining "science." The possibility of God is excluded! Any science accepting the possibility of God is not science and is discarded without consideration.

There is no debate between evolutionists and creationists about the facts. The difference is in the interpretation of those facts. Atheists exclude God from their world view and seek to explain the facts on the basis of that world view. Creationists believe that God is active in forming and sustaining this world. They interpret the facts from that viewpoint. These two world views lead to vastly different conclusions.

But the issue is not about good and bad science. The issue is whether good science should be excluded because it goes beyond naturalistic causes. Humanists get to write the rules. They exclude any debate.

Creationists' belief in God does not make them incompetent. They are declared unscientific not because of poor science, but because they believe the facts show that a divine hand formed the universe.

Disbelief in God is a religion. Man is autonomous, and self-sufficient. Man is his own God. Many evolutionary leaders are admittedly atheists.

People are bombarded with evolution throughout their lives. It is all they have ever heard. Bombarded from every source -- school, TV, newspapers, etc.

They have never looked into the alternative. Evolutionists are adamant about keeping it that way. If the people are given an opportunity, will they realize that the emperor has no clothes?

An open, honest debate hurts no one. A diligent study of both sides will give you an enlightened opinion unburdened by presuppositions laid upon you by others. Don't believe evolution because "they say so" or because you have heard it so often, "it must be right."

The divine hand of God is seen in nature and in all that he created. The only witness to creation was God. The only written report about the event is the Scripture. The exclusion of divine intervention is without scientific merit.

A few problems evolutionists face:

o The geological column is inverted in some places, and out of order in others.

o Radiometric dating of lava beds estimates their age in millions of years, while trees embedded in that lava are estimated in thousands of years.

o Trees which rot in a matter of a few years have been found extending through "millions of years" of rock.

o Fossils are said to be there for vast periods of time, while rock formed around them. How long does it take for a fish to rot?

o The missing links are still missing after looking for them incessantly. Changes within a kind (which creationists accept) are used to postulate changes between kinds (without scientific basis and not accepted by creationists). ALL the links are missing. Fishes are fishes and reptiles are reptiles.

o Increasing knowledge of the cell. Many conditions are absolutely and simultaneously necessary to the cell's survival. The improbabilities continue to mount (an impossibility remains an impossibility, no matter how many chances it is given).

o Old earth scenarios predict far more salt and silt in the seas than is found today.

o "Punctuated equilibrium" is speculated to cause sudden changes in organisms, changes which are so rapid that they left no record in the fossil beds. This proposal acknowledges that the fossil record is totally devoid of any progression in species development. But fossils fit perfectly in the creationist model. All life forms were created in the six days of creation. Creatures were buried by sediments during the Noahic flood.

o The "theory" directly contradicts the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

Evolution is faced with unreliable, unconfirmable dating methods. Major facts do not fit into their scheme. The fossil record is against them (unintentionally admitted by punctuated equilibrium proponents).

Go to www.answersingenesis.org. With their search engine you can find information on carbon dating, geological columns, fossils and more. They also have many excellent books.

Carl Johnson lives in Sedgwick.

Ghostly Cries Spook Workers in Mortuary


MADRID (Reuters) - Police in Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta were investigating ghostly sounds heard echoing in the city's municipal funeral hall, a local government spokesman said Tuesday.

Employees of the funeral parlor, where bodies lie in open caskets during wakes, had complained in recent weeks of hearing spectral cries of a shrieking woman and a sobbing child.

"Some noises have been heard," said the local authority spokesman in the coastal enclave, which is surrounded by Morocco. He confirmed police had been sent to investigate the noises but added, "Nothing has been found."

Local media reported an expert in the paranormal had requested permission to carry out tests inside the funeral hall.

Subject: Turkish Airline Pilots, 'UFO Fleet', and Soyuz Booster Reentry

From: James Oberg jamesoberg@houston.rr.com

Another pilot report of 'UFO fleets' shot down in flames, quite literally.

MSNBC's website covered my report on the Turkish 'UFO fleet', at http://www.msnbc.com/news/750150.asp?0dm=T29BT

The original report of the air crew observations is at http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2002/nov/m12-018.shtml and notice it is reported uncritically at UFO Roundup as part of a 'global UFO flap', here http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2002/nov/m12-017.shtml

However, for some reason, the parent UFO group in Turkey has 'closed the case' after deciding it was a fleet of Leonid meteors (which peak next week, and are NOT known to have bright 'out-liers' like this).

See http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2002/nov/m13-024.shtml

Below is the confirmation letter from a satellite tracker in Germany that the lights really were from a disintegrating rocket stage falling back into the atmosphere. He had first reported this entry on November 1 on this website http://www.satellite.eu.org/seesat/Nov-2002/0001.html but evidently nobody in the UFO world thought to check this possibility before releasing their endorsements of the reports.

posted at http://www.satellite.eu.org/seesat/Nov-2002/0119.html with details later

From: "Harro Zimmer" <Harro.Zimmer@t-online.de>; <p> To: <SeeSat-L@satobs.org> <p> Cc: <Jamesoberg@houston.rr.com>; <ballesterolmos@yahoo.es>

Subject: Re. Hugh UFO over over Turkey

Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 2:12 PM

The explanation is very simple: The event was the decay of 2002-050B (#27553)SOYUZ Rocket Body SCC' FINAL REPORT predicted :

01 November, 03:41 UTC +/- 07 minutes (38.0°, 26.00°)

ascending over the Mediterranian Sea near the coast of


My final analysis showed the decay on

01 November, 03:40 UTC +/- 22 minutes a bit more south.

The decayer crossed on the final part of its reentry trajectory around 03:42 UTC exactly the area between between Afyon and Yayola.

A more detailed analysis will follow.

See http://www.satellite.eu.org/seesat/Nov-2002/0126.html



Berlin, Germany

Ossuary was genuine, inscription was faked


I'm an expert on ancient scripts and I'm here to report that the "James ossuary" was genuine, but the second part of its inscription is a fraud.

By Rochelle I. Altman/Special to Jewsweek Magazine

Jewsweek.com | As an expert on scripts and an historian of writing systems, I was asked to examine this inscription and make a report. I did.

The bone-box is original; the first inscription, which is in Aramaic, "Jacob son of Joseph," is authentic. The second half of the inscription, "brother of Jesus," is a poorly executed fake and a later addition. This report has already been distributed on at least two scholarly lists.

Please note that the fraud is so blatant that I did not bother to go into extreme detail on whether the faked addition is supposed to be Hebrew or Aramaic. (If that's a vav, -- then it's Hebrew, not Aramaic; if it's yod, then it's says 'my brother', not 'his brother' or 'brother of'. By no stretch of the imagination can one claim this to be in Aramaic... 'of' in Aramaic is 'di'.)

You have to be blind as a bat not to see that the second part is a fraud.

Here is the report:

Report on the "James" ossuary inscription I carefully checked many photos and writings on ossuaries and covenants before sending you my report. I make no claim to be an expert on ossuaries, but inscriptions and scripts are another story. It might be in order to warn you that I have a great deal of experience at spotting ancient frauds and forgeries.

There are a few things we have to bear in mind about ossuary inscriptions.

First, according to Rahmani (1981, 1982) on Jerusalem burial practices, most ossuaries are from the period between 30/20 BCE-70 CE -- but by no means all.

Second, human remains are not dug up and displaced without very good reasons. Ossuaries show up in quantity when burial space is at a premium.

Solutions to the burial space problem are quite varied. In Classical Greece, for example, low status people were buried in space-saving one-person shaft graves (with a tiny round marker on the spot with the necessary data). The Keramikon in Athens is full of these. In Italy, from the Renaissance until the late 19th-century, after 3 years, unless a family could afford an ossuary or pay another three years rent, the bones were dumped in a mass grave site -- usually a convenient quarry or crevice or what have you, filled with dirt layer by layer. In Athens, ossuaries are still used (metal boxes nowadays); again, that three-year rent period runs. Even in modern Louisiana, along the Mississippi water seepage makes it impossible to dig graves of a reasonable depth; burials are in family mausoleums and bones are pushed down to make way for the latest arrival.

As ossuaries, after all, contravene the normal rules for Jewish burial, the appearance of so many ossuaries in the period before the destruction of the Temple is strong evidence that the cemeteries around Jerusalem were in a space-crunch. (The post-70 reduction in ossuaries follows naturally enough from the removal of enough people from the area to reduce the need for bone-boxes.)

It is not a question of "popularity" at all (which when one thinks about it, is a most peculiar way to think about the subject), but a lack of burial space... which also gives us information about population density of a given area. (Oddly enough, there does not seem to be very much in the literature that addresses this point for the relevant period; yet the correlation between the space constraints indicated by the rise in ossuaries and the density of the population of a given area is rather obvious.)

Third, while today, grave markers are carved by pros, this was not the case in these Jewish ossuary inscriptions. The apparently wide variations in ossuary inscriptions come from a simple fact: these ossuary inscriptions are covenants, vows to affirm continuing respect for the deceased in spite of having disinterred his/her remains. As any other vow, the text must be in the hand of the one making the vow. Thus (as is noted in the literature), a surviving member of the family painted on, or scratched into, the (usually) limestone box the memorial data. In some cases a professional would carve over the handwriting exactly as written. (By the way, this is the standard practice for all professionally carved covenants.)

In other words, all those ossuary inscriptions are holographs. Needless to say, in such a mass of individual writing, literacy varied tremendously from semi-literates who wrote only upon occasion to school-boys to scholars. [What is relevant to sorting out the apparent lack of relation between status and ossuary is not the wealth or social status of the individual(s) (up to three sets of same-family bones can show up in an ossuary), but the level of literacy and status of the survivors. Thus, there is a relationship between status and inscription... but we would need information on the "survivors" in each case to know who, what, when, how, and why.]

From the writing on the ossuary inscriptions, some are clearly written by youngsters and semi-literates who did not have complete control of graph sizes and could not hold a straight line. Others are clearly the holographs of literate people.

James inscription was written by two different people The inscription on the "James" ossuary is a bit more complicated. First it has been gone over by a professional carver; the words are excised (not incised). Second, it was written by two different people.

Translated, with the amendments to the original spelling as given in the article, the inscription reads:

Jacob son of Joseph brother of Joshua.

The emended translation does not indicate the way the words are actually written, which is in two distinct groups:


[Editor's note: the transliteration provided by the author is in accordance with the Michigan-Claremont Encoding System for ASCII]

Nor does the translation give any indication of the change from the carefully executed and expertly spaced *inscriptional* cursive -- including careful angles and the cuneiform wedge on the bet's, the resh, and the yod -- in

[Jacob son of Joseph]

to the less than expertly executed *commercial* sans-wedge cursive in

[brother of Joshua]

While it is customary to dismiss such differences as unimportant ("scribes are not typewriters"), here the differences between the two parts are glaring and impossible not to see.

In the first part, the script is formal In part 1, the script is formal, the ayin has an acute angle, the bets, resh, and yod have the cuneiform wedge, and the yods are consistent in size and cannot be confused with the vavs.

The person who wrote the first part of the inscription [ Y(KOBBRYWSF ] was necessarily a surviving member of the family. He was fully literate; he clearly was familiar with the formal square script (those cuneiform wedges), the writing is internally consistent, and this part of the inscription is his expertly written holograph.

In the second part, the script is informal In part 2, the script is informal, the two ayins are completely different from each other and differ yet again from the ayin in part 1. When we compare the yod in Y(KOB with the (amended) three yod's in )XWW(Y#W( we immediately can see that this is a different person writing. First of all, the yod in 'brother of' and the first yod in W(Y#W( are written as vavs. With the model of the correct way to write the yod-ayin [ Y( ] right in front of his nose on 'Jacob', there is no reason at all for the extended vav or the extra vav in what should be Y(#(. Then, the yod in the peculiarly misspelled W(Y#W( does not resemble the yod in Joseph [ YWSF ] as written in part 1 which also has a wedge. The shin in W(Y#W( [damned if I can figure out how to trans-literate this abhorrent spelling of Joshua] is wedgeless and does not accord with the first part of the inscription... but then, none of the forms in the second part agree with the script of the first part.

The person who wrote the second part [ )XWW(Y#W( ] may have been literate, but it is doubtful that he was literate in Aramaic or Hebrew. Again, aberrant spelling is dismissed as dialectic. True, there are dialectic variants, but there is always some linguistic logic behind these variants. There is nothing logical about these misspellings. They smell of someone guessing how the words "brother of" and the name "Joshua" would have been spelled a couple, three hundred years earlier. Once again, the writing in this part is internally consistent in its semi-literacy. Part 2 has the characteristics of a later addition by someone attempting to imitate an unfamiliar script and write in an unfamiliar language.

There is yet another tell-tale sign of fraud here. As noted, the text is excised. (Which indicates a wealthy family.) Nobody excises an entire block of stone to raise the text; not even the Yadi stele is entirely excised. In "name" plates or other small inscriptions, if excised rather than incised (cheaper), the normal practice is to excise the text and a frame, which frame itself is excised by incised limits but never beyond them. Only the area within the frame will be excised; the rest of the block will be left alone. Far too much here has been excised from around the names. More to the point, where is the original frame?

Second part of inscription added later Well, to anybody who knows something about anti-fraud techniques as practiced in antiquity, it is rather obvious. The frame was removed to add the second part of this inscription. The original frame would have been the barest minimum distance from the text and have appeared something like this:

|____________ |

If the entire inscription on the ossuary is genuine, then somebody has to explain why there are two hands of clearly different levels of literacy and two different scripts. They also have to explain why the second hand did not know how to write 'brother of' in Aramaic or even spell 'Joshua'. Further, they had better explain where the frame has gone.

The ossuary itself is undoubtedly genuine; the well executed and formal first part of the inscription is a holographic original by a literate (and wealthy) survivor of Jacob Ben Josef in the 1st century CE. The second part of the inscription bears the hallmarks of a fraudulent later addition and is questionable to say the least.

{ Rochelle I. Altman is co-coordinator of IOUDAIOS-L, a virtual community of scholars engaged in on-line discussion of Judaism in the Greco-Roman world. She is an expert on scripts and an historian of writing systems. }

Raelian Movement supports ID Theory


November 17, 2002

The Raelian Movement supports the Intelligent Design Movement and their attempt to promote the teaching of ID theory within science classes

Raelian Movement
Friday, November 15, 2002

The Raelian Movement supports the Intelligent Design Movement and their attempt to promote the teaching of ID theory within science classes

For the past 29 years, the International Raelian Movement has been actively involved in spreading the revolutionary idea that life originated from an Extraterrestrial intelligence. Not God, not evolution, but a 3rd and much more plausible theory. Indeed, since RAEL's physical encounter with the Elohim (extraterrestrial humans from another planet - see www.rael.org) in 1973, he has been traveling the world trying to educate people about the clear and concise message that he received from this civilization. More and more scientists are supporting this theory.....29 years later.

This 3rd theory was accepted in Quebec as part of the curriculum 10 years ago, so why can't it happen here in the USA? Because there is a powerful anti- and pseudo-science lobby in this country that thinks the truth can come from no one but themselves. Not to mention that every text book would have to be re-written and many would lose their jobs as well as their research grants, etc... Darwinism IS NOT a legitimate and factual science, and more and more students AND scientists are aware of this. It is just a theory which has not yet been proven scientifically . In fact, there overwhelming scientific evidence to disprove it.

"We should keep politics out of science, religion and education. Evidence for the "ID theory" can be found in every religion of the world and in every bit of scientific research. In fact, instead of the religion/science conflict, this 3rd option brings religion and science together perfectly. We intend to support the ID Movement until legislation grants the right to promote all sides to the oldest debate on Earth ideas to students everywhere. We are ready to go through all the proper legal battles and have competent representation to prove that it is 100% within the constitution." (Rick Roehr)

For interview requests with Rick Roehr, President of the US Raelian Movement , please contact Donna Newman, Public Relations at:



For Additional Information, Please Contact:

Donna Newman
Raelian Movement

Contacting the North Texas Skeptics
The North Texas Skeptics
P. O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
214-335-9248 Skeptics Hotline (current information)

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