NTS LogoSkeptical News for 3 December 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Fossil hints at India's mythical river

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/2534775.stm

Monday, 2 December, 2002, 16:15 GMT

By Narayan Bareth
BBC reporter in Jaipur

Geologists in India say they have found an elephant fossil in the Thar desert of Rajasthan, supporting earlier theories that the vast desert was once a fertile area.

They said the discovery also lent credence to popular belief that a mighty river, named in the ancient Hindu Vedic texts as Saraswati, flowed through the region thousands of years ago.

Senior geologist BS Paliwal said the elephant fossil was discovered in a village in Nagaur district, about 300 kilometres from the state capital of Jaipur, during gypsum mining.

Professor Paliwal, who is the head of the geology department at the Jai Narain Vyas university, termed the find as a "mammoth discovery for the scientific fraternity".

Hidden aspects

He said it might reveal many more secrets of the environmental conditions of that period.

Professor Paliwal said the fossil dated back thousands of years, from the middle Holocene epoch.

The remains were found embedded in a gypsum layer little more than two metres from the surface.

Professor Paliwal said it belonged to an elephant or its ancestor known as Stegolophodon.

The fossil is a 61-centimetre-long part of the femur bone, with well-preserved condyles, a number of rib fragments, a vertebral bone, probably a lumber with a small spine and a large body and a metatarsus suggesting a size big enough for more than two toes, he said.

Geography

Professor Paliwal said the size of the toes indicated that the elephant was about 3.5 metres in height.

He said during the Pleistocene epoch, India touched Eurasia and there were indications that Asian elephants moved south due to the prevailing ice-age in the northern hemisphere.

"It proves again that there were once rivers like Saraswati and civilisations were flourishing at their banks," Professor Paliwal said.

He added it was possible that there were sudden climatic changes which altered the geography of the region, turning it into a vast desert.

Climatic changes

Abrupt climatic changes led to the blocking of river systems and the formation of saline lakes, he said.

Professor Paliwal said the centuries-long drought resulted in migration or large-scale deaths of animals.

He said the elephant fossil proves that there were other animals too in the region as it was not possible for a single animal species to have existed in such circumstances and climate.

Geologists had a few years ago found fossils of fish in Jaisalmer, a district further west from the site of the present find.

These fossils were dated to be nearly 180 million years old.

Geologists said the find was evidence that large water bodies once existed in the region.

Cancer study offers guide to alternative treatments

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/337/nation/Cancer_study_offers_guide_to_alternative_treatments+.shtml

Boston Globe Online

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff, 12/3/2002

Harvard researchers today issued a sweeping review of alternative medical treatments for cancer patients, separating those that can relieve suffering from those that can cause harm.

Vitamin E, soy, and acupuncture can help, the study reports. Highly restrictive diets, St. John's wort, and big doses of injected vitamins can do damage.

The checklist marks the first attempt by a mainstream medical school to provide such a detailed assessment of the expanding roster of alternative therapies, which have grown into a $27 billion-a-year business nationwide. The guidelines are intended to help both doctors and patients navigate the frequently conflicting evidence about which therapies work, and for whom.

''Physicians are getting asked about these things more and more,'' said Dr. David S. Rosenthal, a cancer specialist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who chairs the American Cancer Society's advisory committee on complementary and alternative medicine. ''What this study has done is really to break it down into what we do know so far. It allows a doctor to say, `Gee whiz, there's no evidence this works and in fact it may cause some interactions with what you're taking.'''

Experts Question Authenticity of Bone Box for `Brother of Jesus'

December 3, 2002
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

Skeptics in growing number are weighing in with doubts about the authenticity of the inscription on a burial box that may have contained the bones of James, a brother of Jesus, and so could be the earliest surviving archaeological link to Jesus Christ.

When the existence of the limestone bone box, or ossuary, was announced five weeks ago, a French scholar asserted that the inscription - "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" - most probably referred to the Jesus of the New Testament. The script, he said, was in the style of the Aramaic language of the first century A.D.

Now that more experts have studied photographs of the inscription or seen it on display at a Toronto museum, they generally accept the antiquity of the ossuary itself, but some of them suspect that all or part of the script is a forgery. Apparent differences in the handwriting, they said, suggested that the Jesus phrase in particular could have been added by a forger, either in ancient or modern times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/03/science/social/03JAME.html?ex=1039944012&ei=1&en=41f64678a3fd64d8

'Why I believe UFOs are bunk'

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2538959.stm

Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 14:32 GMT

Government papers suggest that details of a "UFO scare" in Suffolk in 1980 were suppressed in order to avoid public panic. BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse says we should abandon the UFO "myth".

UFOs in the sense of unexplained lights in the sky certainly exist.

But flying saucers, that is, alien spacecraft, never have.

It really is about time we put down the whole UFO-spaceship thing as part of the past; part of an old-fashioned view of the mysteries of space.

At best, they were a delusion, wishful thinking by some who didn't want to know better.

At worst they were, in some instances, a con as unscrupulous people exploited others.

We have had UFO's for more than 50 years now. During that time, we are supposed to have had innumerable sightings of alien craft in our atmosphere, numerous encounters with strange beings as well as a great many abductions.

Fuzzy logic

And what have we got to show for it? Remarkably little - a few amazing stories told by those who claim to have been witnesses and abductees, as well as a fuzzy photographs and videos, and of course, lots of fakes.

Is it not strange that of all the photos and film shot of UFO's are poor and inadequate. You might have thought that at least one of them would be a close-up and in focus.

Indeed, the aliens can be small or tall, the spacecraft saucer or triangular shaped but the one constant thing in all UFO sightings and alien encounters is that nobody has any evidence that can be looked at.

One can talk to researchers, or read their books, and be told that they did have hard evidence, sometimes in the form of alien artefacts.

But enquire a little more, or read on, and one always gets to the part where the evidence vanishes for some reason or another that sometimes involves somebody dressed in black stealing it.

Faced with this lack of evidence the alien advocates have to rely on the last resort of a failed argument: conspiracy.

Only the gullible

There must be something in it, they say, as they unearth another secret memo or report that in fact sheds no new light on the reality of the phenomenon.

The fact that governments got involved is no evidence that there was anything in the UFO phenomenon.

Nor indeed are the many books being published about UFOs.

Putting to one side that they frequently contradict each other - all the plethora of books show is how gullible people are.

And there we have the reason why the UFO phenomenon lingers on.

So after 50 years we have no evidence to speak of, lots of books and a handful of extremely vocal pundits.

Couldn't someone beam them up?

Science In the News

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

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

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

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - December 3, 2002

IN FORENSIC SCIENCE CLASS, DEAD MEN DO TELL TALES
from The New York Times

NEWBURGH, N.Y., Nov. 26 - In classrooms throughout the Newburgh Free Academy here, teenagers stifle yawns at the 7:50 a.m. start of the school day. But Mikki Bieber's forensic science students bound up to the roof two steps at a time, eager to take part in one of the latest educational fads. The students, all fans of "C.S.I.," television's top-rated show, press their feet into boxes of powdered charcoal, stamp them on construction paper and preserve the prints with a spritz of hair spray.

They have already discussed in class the many things that can be learned at a crime scene through footprint analysis: How many people were present. Whether they were carrying heavy objects. If they limped or had a prosthetic limb. Now, by making two prints each of their own feet, they will figure out how to prove a match: By counting the number of treads and calculating the spacing. By noting the font of brand labels on the shoe's soles. By characterizing the arch as high or flat.

The enthusiasm of Mrs. Bieber's students goes a long way toward explaining the exploding popularity of the forensic science classes now being taught in hundreds - some say thousands - of middle and high schools across the country, despite the concern of some academic experts that they are pandering to teenagers' fascination with guts and gore.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/03/nyregion/03FORE.html

CANCER STUDY OFFERS GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS
from The Boston Globe

Harvard researchers today issued a sweeping review of alternative medical treatments for cancer patients, separating those that can relieve suffering from those that can cause harm.

Vitamin E, soy, and acupuncture can help, the study reports. Highly restrictive diets, St. John's wort, and big doses of injected vitamins can do damage.

The checklist marks the first attempt by a mainstream medical school to provide such a detailed assessment of the expanding roster of alternative therapies, which have grown into a $27 billion-a-year business nationwide. The guidelines are intended to help both doctors and patients navigate the frequently conflicting evidence about which therapies work, and for whom.

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/337/nation/Cancer_study_offers_guide_to_alternative_treatments+.shtml

CLINICAL TRIALS ARE SUFFERING
Suspicious of medical research, volunteers spurn tests of possibly lifesaving advances.
from The Los Angeles Times

Clinical trials are essential to medical progress -- they're the only way of testing whether new drugs, surgical techniques or experimental devices actually work. But researchers are finding it increasingly difficult to find volunteers. A new study illuminates part of the problem. Americans are deeply suspicious of medical research, it found, and don't trust their doctors to protect them from unnecessary risks when prescribing treatment.

"This is really an indictment of medical research," said Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith, co-author of the study published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "If individuals distrust the research enterprise and are unwilling to participate in it, it could impede patient recruitment for clinical trials."

Such distrust could also keep advanced, if unproved, treatments from the very patients who need them most. Although researchers have always had problems recruiting patients, they say the problem has worsened. In 2001, 86 percent of all clinical trials didn't meet enrollment goals, causing delays of up to a year, up from 80 percent in 1999.

http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-trials2dec02,0,1931700.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dhealth%2Dmanual

CAN GLOBAL WARMING BE STUDIED TOO MUCH?
from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 - On Tuesday, the Bush administration convenes a three-day meeting here to set its new agenda for research on climate change. But many climate experts who will attend say talking about more research will simply delay decisions that need to be made now to avert serious harm from global warming.

President Bush has called for a decade of research before anything beyond voluntary measures is used to stem tailpipe and smokestack emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are contributing to global warming.

"When you're speeding down the road in your car, if you've got to turn around and go the other direction, the first thing is to slow down, then stop, then turn," said David K. Garman, the assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy. But many climate experts say the perennial need for more study can no longer justify further delays in emission cuts.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/03/science/earth/03CLIM.html

PATCH RAISES NEW HOPE FOR BEATING DEPRESSION
from The New York Times

It was the first type of antidepressant, and for many people the monamine oxidase, or MAO, inhibitor remains the best hope for relief from major depression.

The trouble is that the side effects can be so serious that MAO inhibitors are rarely prescribed. When taken with certain foods, for example, they may bring on sudden and severe hypertension.

The problems, however, may soon be resolved. A study reported in November in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that by administering the MAO inhibitor selegiline in patch form, patients can receive the antidepressant benefits of the drug without the usual side effects.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/03/health/psychology/03PATC.html

Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

Sigma Xi Homepage
http://www.sigmaxi.org

Media Resource Service
http://www.mediaresource.org

American Scientist magazine
http://www.americanscientist.org

For feedback on In the News,
inthenews@sigmaxi.org

Psychotronic Crystals

[Crap alert!!!  Ed.]

http://www.rvscience.com/index.htm

To Remote View and Remote Influence, you need to increase the power of your Energy Field! Psychotronic Crystals are the optimum way of boosting and maintaining your energy fields. All BSRI Courses on Remote Viewing and Remote Influencing require participants to own Psychotronic Crystals.

New Articles

Energy beats Rote Learning
The Secrets of Psychotronic Crystals
Way back in 1975, the DIA had evaluated Czechoslovakian research on psychotronic generators for possible use as military weapons..
How to use Psychotronic Crystals
How Psychotronic Crystals increase your energy levels and improve health.
The magical system used by Aleister Crowley to shorten World War II
Creating a New Reality for the world.
Protocols for a Metahuman body.

British Strategic Remote Influencing

A system of Remote Influencing used for many years in the UK to influence events inspired by secret magical techniques used by Aleister Crowley. Centred around Torsion Field Technology, M-Theory, Quantum Mechanics and higher dimensional topological Riemann manifolds; the System makes all other forms of Remote Influencing obsolete. The key to the system is a programmed psychotronic amplifier crystal which acts as the operating system for the strategic remote influencing. Instructions are given on the biophysical torsion field soliton used by Russian Remote Influencers ultra-raised to strategic levels of effect using British metaphysic programming uncovered by Paul Hughes-Barlow.

Courses

Remote Viewing Course for the Corporate and Business community and for the individual. Remote Influencing Correspondence Course MBA Course

Tim Rifat

Tim Rifat is Europe's leading expert on remote viewing-psychic spying, Psi-warfare, mind control and microwave weaponry. As the only independent scientist in the field, he has had numerous articles already published, see articles on this site for a sample of his work..

Tim Rifat runs Paranormal Management Systems, the most comprehensive remote viewing training business in Europe. Remote viewing was developed by the superpowers, it is military clairvoyance and led to the development of remote sensing, remote influencing and telekinesis. Scientists in America have proved that telekinesis can influence machines.

Paul Hughes-Barlow

Paul Hughes-Barlow is the United Kingdom's foremost investigative historian on the secret occult knowledge of Great Britain.

Tim Rifat's 1st Remote Viewing Book Still Available

Order Remote Viewing from Amazon. This book contains the original DIA documents on Remote Viewing that have been deleted from archives.

New Book!

Remote Viewing, published by Vision Paperbacks 2001, which is the first textbook of the remote viewing and Psi-warfare fully documenting the inner space arms race. The Soviets spent the second largest part of their strategic defence budget on Psi-warfare and psychotronics (mind control) and the CIA admit spending over twenty million dollars. Since the Americans have secretly admitted that they have made public only one percent of their Psi-warfare research, the figure could be much higher.

The book covers the history of Russian Psi-warfare, US remote viewing, the science behind remote viewing and Psi-warfare, a complete do-it-yourself guide to remote viewing, then an in depth discussion of remote sensing (ESP and telepathy to read the enemy's mind) and remote influencing . The basic idea is to give a complete scientific and practical introduction to remote viewing and the military development of Psi-warfare. Vision, my publishers wish to position the book in the mainstream, so the book is a hard-nosed scientists appraisal of the immense research and development the superpowers undertook to develop a viable psychic spying capability and their advances into the realm of psychotronics, the military use of Psi-warfare and mind control to telepathically hypnotise the enemy and if need be remotely kill them. Defence Intelligence Agency documents support the contents of the book and show that the US military were very concerned with the Soviet's Psi-warfare projects.

The public are unaware of these advances - the book will be the first written anywhere to tell all on the subject of Psi-warfare. It will also be the first book to give detailed instructions on how to perform remote viewing and how it works.

© Tim Rifat, 2002: Contact Tim Rifat

Sceptic owes me a million, says Big Brother psychic

From Ananova at

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_719817.html

A psychic who correctly predicted the winner of Celebrity Big Brother says a leading sceptic owes him $1 million.

American James Randi has agreed to pay the sum if anyone can prove that psychic powers exist.

Gary Fowler claims he has done just that, after successfully predicting Mark Owen would win Celebrity Big Brother, before the line-up of the show was even announced.

He delivered his prediction to The Northern Echo newspaper offices two weeks ago. The newspaper says the envelope containing the prediction was kept in a locked safe in its offices, until the winner was announced.

Northern Echo features editor Nick Morrison, who opened the envelope, said: "When he gave me the envelope, he was certain it was right. There was never any doubt in his mind.

"I am very sceptical of these things and I have to say I was pretty surprised when he was proved correct." Mr Fowler, who lives in Teesside, claims to have had a childhood reminiscent of the hit film Sixth Sense, telling his mother from an early age that he "saw dead people".

He told The Northern Echo: "At five, I used to wake up in the middle of the night and see figures of spirits. I thought it was normal until my mother didn't seem to know what I was talking about. It began to frighten me.

Mr Fowler said he communicates with spirits on the other side, who tell him about the future, which is how he predicted the Big Brother winner.

Mr Fowler claims he knows about huge events that will unfold within the next year, and he says he has information for world leaders.

Save the tapes

From Alan J. Douglas

Greetings from Sunny Sydney!

When you get a free moment, lean very gently on the link below...

http://geocities.com/savethetapes

Thank you. And by the way, if you need cheering up, follow the 'September Knights' link to the Vatican Rag!

'Lost Discoveries': The Non-Western Roots of Science

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/01/books/review/01HALLLT.html?ex=1039879343&ei=1&en=f7ade19de9e46781

December 1, 2002
By STEPHEN S. HALL

In the early 1990's Dick Teresi went to Portland, Ore., where the county school board had started a politically correct and ill-starred program dedicated to ''multicultural science.'' Among the curriculum tools it devised, he notes in ''Lost Discoveries,'' was a series of essays explaining how the ancient Egyptians used sophisticated gliders for travel and recreation, how the Incas floated above the Nasca plain in hot-air balloons and how the Egyptians had also mastered advanced skills in precognition and psychokinesis. Teresi was promptly dispatched by a magazine to debunk these claims, which he did with relish. As he writes in his book, ''One can only wonder why this ancient civilization, with airplanes and telekinesis at its disposal, bothered with swords and spears to fight its battles.''

It was wise of Teresi, a science writer and former editor of Omni magazine, to establish his bona fides as a skeptic at the outset. He calls ''Lost Discoveries'' a book of ''unkempt historical details,'' but in surveying the non-Western roots of science he has created a very neat chronicle -- and a timely reminder -- of how much of the foundation of modern scientific thought and technological development was built by the mostly overlooked contributions of Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Polynesians and Mesoamericans. How timely? A dozen pages into the text, I found myself wondering how many publishers would have been courageous enough, after Sept. 11, 2001, to take on a book that documents, among other things, the superiority of Arab intellect and Muslim science in ancient and medieval times.

Cornucopia of spiritual choices Alternative religions really do thrive in Marin

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, December 2, 2002
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.

URL:

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/12/02/MARINGOD.TMP&nl=top

Marin County -- The Good Book is old hat in Marin County, where the teachings of Gautama Buddha and a host of New Age spiritualists are beginning to eclipse the Bible as the most prevalent guidebook for a better life.

A recently released survey by San Francisco's Institute of Jewish and Community Research shows that a far higher percentage of people in Marin County than in the rest of the country embrace alternative religions or no religion at all.

The findings, gathered from random telephone interviews of 604 people in April and May of 2000, do not mean the famously wealthy and liberal suburban county is full of barefoot pagans wearing robes and worshiping in the woods. But the study suggests the county would not be a bad place to start looking if one were trying to find people of that spiritual bent.


Monday, December 02, 2002

Science In the News

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

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

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

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines - December 2, 2002

THE GLUE THAT BROKE FLYING DINOSAUR'S BACK

Forgery is found to be mosaic of fossils from Microraptor and a bird. from The Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK -- When the smuggled stone slab first surfaced at a Tucson mineral show, it seemed the likely key to a mystery of evolution.

To the collector who paid $80,000 for it, the Chinese fossil had every appearance of a feathered dinosaur that flew like a modern bird. The purported missing link made headlines when National Geographic trumpeted the find in 1999, then caused red faces when it was revealed as a forgery a year later.

Researchers in China and at the American Museum of Natural History in New York now have completely deciphered the deception. The find wrongly hailed as a crucial link between the dinosaurs and the birds actually does contain fossils of a dinosaur and a bird. But the only connection between them is glue.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-fossil2dec02,0,4432678.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dnation%2Dmanual

A HUNT FOR WAYS TO KEEP THE TALKERS TALKING
from The Washington Post

IOWA CITY -- Ingo R. Titze, the director of the National Center for Voice and Speech at the University of Iowa, gained attention in the mid-1990s for appearing onstage and singing a duet with "Pavarobotti" -- a computer he had programmed to accompany him in an operatic aria.

Today, Titze is investigating a less highbrow challenge, but one that will have a greater impact on Americans who use their voice on the job. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Titze and his fellow investigators will soon be hooking up vocal-cord monitors to almost 100 volunteer teachers in Denver. The hope is to gain a better understanding of the basic mechanics of speaking, so that people who talk for a living can better avoid raspiness and pain.

Titze's project will be the first extensive study of how human vocal cords perform in real-life, workaday settings. "He is attempting to use the idea of a 'vocal vibration dose' much like we do with noise exposure for hearing, radiation exposure for nuclear power plant workers, or sun exposure for avoiding skin disorders," says Brad H. Story, a University of Arizona professor and former student of Titze's in the world of speech and hearing sciences.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A61492-2002Dec1.html

Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

Sigma Xi Homepage
http://www.sigmaxi.org

Media Resource Service
http://www.mediaresource.org

American Scientist magazine
http://www.americanscientist.org

For feedback on In the News,
inthenews@sigmaxi.org

Nigerian scam info

From: Scott Hurst

I am sure everyone within our org is quite familiar with the "nigerian scam" by now.

However, I have found a method of killing many instances of it very effectively.

Things to know technically:

1) The nigerian scam email is generally distributed use commerical email distribution (spam) techniques.
2) Because of number 1, it is pretty much useless/pointless to try to shut down or go after the originating server, it is frequently just a "temporary" server brought online to send the scam/span email and generally overseas.
3) All of these emails generally contain a valid reply to address in the body of the message. This nearly never matches the origination of the email.

If a person forwards the email to abuse@domain.com where the domain.com part matches the reply to address domain, quick action usually ensues.

I forward the original message with the below text inserted to the abuse@ address.

Just recieved this copy of the "nigerian scam".

I know it did not originate from your network, however... the reply address is within your network.

I encourage you to close the account and pass any information that might identify the owner of that account to the proper authorities.

Thanks for you attention in this,

Signed your name.

I have done this about a dozen times now, and have not failed to recieve a reply within hours indicating that the reply address is closed, and often indicating that appropriate measures are being taken.

Scott

Words, Science, and the State of Evolution

By LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS

In many ways, words are a scientist's enemy. They lack the precision of numbers, and their potential ambiguity makes them ill suited to describe or help predict physical phenomena. Opponents of science can also use words to confuse matters when it comes to scientific education.

In the nationwide attack on science teaching in public schools, the latest battleground is Ohio, and the newest weapon is careful wording that appears to accept evolution as the basis of our modern understanding of biology, but that at the same time appears to distinguish evolution from other pillars of modern science.

For the first time in the 77 years following the Scopes trial in Tennessee, the word "evolution" appears in the science standards proposed by Ohio's State Board of Education, meaning that public-school students will finally be guaranteed the opportunity to learn about that cornerstone of modern biology. Unfortunately, however, the specifics of the proposed language present a great danger to science education, not just in Ohio but throughout the United States.

An apparently innocuous phrase suggests that students learn "how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." On the surface, that is not an unreasonable expectation; similar language could usefully be applied to any scientific theory. However, the language appears only in the section of the standards associated with evolution. Its absence elsewhere suggests that evolutionary theory alone is the subject of controversy among scientists.

It is important to stress that there is no such controversy about evolution. In a recent electronic survey of the more than 10 million articles that have appeared in over 20 major science journals during the past 12 years, Leslie C. Lane, a biologist at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, found 115,000 articles that used the keyword "evolution," and most of those articles referred to biological evolution. "Intelligent design," often promoted by religious groups as the alternative to evolution, appeared as a keyword in 88 articles. All but 11 of those were engineering articles (where one certainly hopes that intelligent design exists); of the remaining 11, eight were critical of the scientific basis of the intelligent-design alternative in biology. The remaining three articles were not in research journals.

It is clear that evolution is as central to modern biology as Newton's laws are to physics. In fact, the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science passed a resolution in October stating that "the contemporary theory of biological evolution is one of the most robust products of scientific inquiry" (the resolution continued that the lack of evidence for the "so-called 'intelligent-design theory' makes it improper to include as part of science education"). But despite that absence of controversy, the ambiguous language in Ohio's proposed science standards gives the national movement against science education precisely the opening it wants.

In 1997, the creationist author and law professor Phillip E. Johnson explained what he called a "wedge strategy" to bring God back into the classroom: "My idea is to clear a space by legitimating the issue, by exhausting the other side, by using up all their ridicule." Part of the strategy is to avoid explicit mention of religion, but to attack the "materialism" associated with mainstream science in general, and evolution in particular. To further his goals, Johnson helped create a religious think tank, the Center for Science and Culture. (The original, more politically charged name was the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture.)

A document claiming to describe the center's mission of a "wedge strategy" lists two specific goals: "to defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies" and "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." It proposed beginning specific actions, including attacking science teaching in public schools, by 2003. Weekly wedge updates on the Web (see http://www.arn.org) describe progress toward achieving those goals.

Right on schedule, this year two representatives of the Center for Science and Culture, including its director, Stephen C. Meyer, appeared before Ohio's Board of Education, to debate (with me and Kenneth Miller, a biologist from Brown University) the merits of evolution versus those of intelligent design. During the debate, Meyer did not mention God or the wedge strategy. Instead, he suggested an apparent compromise that he called "teaching the controversy" -- that is, requiring teachers to discuss what he argued is a growing controversy among scientists over evolutionary theory.

Groups like Meyer's are touting Ohio's proposed language as just what they asked for. Indeed, Phillip Johnson descended on Ohio for a whirlwind tour. "Ohio is not a minor state," he told one large audience. Referring to the brief removal of evolution from the science curriculum in another state, he pointed out that "Kansas took a similar step, but it was not as well planned. And Kansas is a marginal state -- not one the Eastern establishment pays much attention to." He added that Ohio's decision "is a victory in the battle to free science classes from the grip of Charles Darwin," an Ohio newspaper reported.

If the current language about evolution remains in the final Ohio standards, the wedge strategy may succeed a year ahead of schedule. When other states next review their science standards, intelligent-design proponents would point to the Ohio language as evidence that evolution is controversial. It would then be only a short step to requesting equal time for alternatives that challenge the traditional scientific method, like intelligent design. Indeed, the statements by Johnson underscore the fact that the issue goes beyond Ohio.

The seductiveness of the wedge strategy is that it seems to be based on an appeal to fairness, which resonates particularly well in the United States. Unfortunately, however, science is not fair, and communicating that fact is a vital part of teaching what science is all about. Ideas that do not stand the test of experiment, or that make no useful predictions that can be empirically tested, are either discarded or fall by the wayside.

Nor is science democratic. Ideas are not selected by a popular vote. Some people in Ohio and elsewhere have argued that evolution should be singled out in high-school standards because of the strong public reaction to the issue. It is true that evolution pushes many popular buttons. However, it is the business of science-standards committees and state boards of education to help promote scientific literacy, based on sound scientific scholarship, and not to cave in to political, religious, or other popular pressures.

When ambiguous language muddies the water, as the language of the proposed Ohio standards does, the best solution is to remove the words. There is still time to act in Ohio. The Board of Education will make its final decision on the proposed standards in early December.

For the good of students in Ohio, and for students in other states that will soon be the focus of wedge-strategy lobbyists, one hopes that good sense will reign. If the wedge remains, then good science teaching throughout the country may be threatened by the singular power of bad language.

Lawrence M. Krauss is a professor of physics and astronomy, and chairman of the physics department, at Case Western Reserve University. His most recent book is Atom: An Odyssey From the Big Bang to Life on Earth -- and Beyond (Little, Brown, 2001).


Sunday, December 01, 2002

When Parents Say No to Child Vaccinations

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/30/health/30VACC.html

November 30, 2002 By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — Kate Packard, the school nurse here, has a nightmare she sums up in five words: "measles coming across the water."

If measles did make the 20-minute ferry ride across Puget Sound from Seattle — hardly unthinkable, since a case occurred last year near a ferry terminal in West Seattle — public health officers say the whole Vashon Island school district could be shut down until the island's last case disappeared or an emergency vaccination drive took effect.

Eighteen percent of Vashon Island's 1,600 primary school students have legally opted out of vaccination against childhood diseases, including polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and chicken pox. The island is a counterculture haven where therapies like homeopathy and acupuncture are popular, and where some cite health problems among neighbors' children that they attribute to vaccinations.

Most families opting out of vaccination here have obtained "philosophical exemptions" from normal vaccination requirements — exemptions that in Washington and several other states, including California and Colorado, can be claimed simply by signing a school form.

Judge: Vulcan has no religious purpose; tosses suit

http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/index.ssf?/xml/story.ssf/html_standard.xsl?/base/news/1038478575260510.xml

11/28/02

VAL WALTON News staff writer

A federal judge Wednesday said Vulcan has no religious significance and tossed out a lawsuit seeking to block the world's largest cast iron statue's return atop Red Mountain.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn in a written opinion said Vulcan, a representation of the ancient Roman god of the forge, is recognized as a symbol of Birmingham and the steel industry responsible for Birmingham's early growth.

"Its continued maintenance and display has a secular purpose, does not advance or inhibit religion, and does not create an excessive entanglement between the government defendants and religion," Blackburn wrote.

Trussville resident Carl Dykes filed suit against the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County, the state and the U.S. Department of Interior's National Park Service to block the defendants from placing the 56-foot tall Vulcan on public land. In the suit, Dykes said that as a Christian he is offended by the placement of Vulcan, which represents an image of the Roman god Vulcan and the Greek god Hephaestus, in a public park.

SCIENTOLOGISTS want children in Camden schools to be taught their beliefs as part of the new curriculum.

http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/archived/2002/1122/news/asp/p1news.asp

And the controversial group, which counts Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its supporters, also wants pupils to learn about the teachings of the Moonies and Pagans during religious education (RE) lessons when the new school curriculum is introduced in 2003.

The movement, founded in the 1950s by late American eccentric L Ron Hubbard, has never had formal religious status in the UK.

But members of the Camden branch, based in Tottenham Court Road for 35 years, believe Scientology, along with other smaller groups, should be given the same exposure as Catholicism and Protestantism at GCSE and A-Level.

Camdens standing advisory council for religious education (SACRE), which includes Church of England representatives, headteachers, councillors and school governors, is now set to consider the request, after two members of the Camden branch presented the council with a book on the movement on Tuesday.

Scientologist Paul Dolan, who was at the meeting, said: We are asking SACRE to think of introducing other religious communities into the new school curriculum for religious education.

It is really to extend religious tolerance of groups such as ourselves, the Unification church (the Moonies) the Unitarians, the Quakers and the Paganists.

Some of these groups that have come about in the last 50 years arent as represented as they perhaps should be.

The committee agreed to seek expert advice on the issue from leading experts on cults before reaching its decision. If it accepts the request, representatives from the Church of Scientology will be appointed to SACRE and allowed to visit schools and talk about the group.

But some SACRE members expressed concern that the move could encourage groups looking for a platform. Councillor Julian Fullbrook, former chairman of SACRE, said: I would be worried about the number of movements that might want to use SACRE as a platform.

SACRE committee member Councillor Mike Greene, a father of two who is also governor at New End Primary School, said: I feel its important my child should learn about other religions. I value the cultural diversity that it brings to children.

He said it was also very important that beliefs were not showcased for recruitment purposes.

The request has prompted serious concern by anti-cult groups.

Ian Haworth, of the Cult Information Centre, said the move was potentially hazardous. He added: If Scientology is considered a religion in the school curriculum, it will be the first to have a criminal record.

The main concerns are not so much their beliefs, but the methods they employ to recruit new members. By introducing their beliefs, students would be missing the main point, and this could give them a false sense of security about the organisations in any relationships they might have with those groups.

But a spokesman for the Church of Scientology, whose headquarters are in East Grinstead, said: With reports of religious discrimination still appearing in the media and elsewhere, we believe that schoolchildren should learn basic beliefs of all religions, as discrimination is very often fuelled by ignorance.

Hospital hires clairvoyant in bid to boost morale

From Ananova at:

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_718932.html?menu=news.quirkies

A hospital has been criticised for spending taxpayers' cash on hiring a clairvoyant in a bid to boost staff morale.

Workers at the Calderdale Royal Hospital will be able to consult a clairvoyant, have free hair cuts, manicure and massage at Saturday's

According to The Halifax Evening Courier the public will also foot the bill for a creche service while staff enjoy their day of relaxation and fun.

Retired consultant Dr Bob Heys, a member of the Calderdale Community Health Council, told the paper he thought it was unbelievable. He added: "There are far more important things money should be spent on. They could revert the situation of cutting down on staff - that would do far more to reduce stress among workers at the hospital.

"Perhaps they should have asked the nurses if they would prefer a rise in salary or more staff instead of this. The clairvoyant seems quite absurd, I can't see how it has any value to staff."

The day will be funded by a Government scheme with a contribution from the hospital's owner's, Catalyst Healthcare.

Local Tory Councillor Bill Carpenter, another member of Calderdale Community Health Council said he was unsure about the clairvoyant but one day of pampering could not hurt.

Angela Hope, organiser of the event, said: "Ultimately it is a fun day giving something back to the staff for all their hard work."

A spokesman for the hospital said the final cost of the day had not been calculated and that the event was open to anyone who worked at the hospital.

"It's all about thanking hard-working staff and the clairvoyant will be there as a bit of fun," the spokesman told the paper.

Story filed: 17:39 Friday 29th November 2002


Saturday, November 30, 2002

Close encounters, part two

http://www.lasvegasmercury.com/2002/MERC-Nov-28-Thu-2002/20138162.html

Thursday, November 28, 2002
Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury

Las Vegas businessman sets up shop at Utah ranch to study paranormal activities

By George Knapp

This is the second of two reports about persistent stories of anomalous phenomena in a section of northeastern Utah. The activity, as reported by hundreds of witnesses over several decades, includes UFOs, unusual balls of light, animal mutilations and disappearances, poltergeist events, sightings of Bigfoot-like creatures and other unidentified animals, physical effects on plants, soil, animals and humans, and a vast array of other unexplained incidents.

The activities seem most concentrated on a 480-acre cattle ranch owned by the family of Tom Gorman. (Gorman isn't his real name.) In 1996, the ranch was purchased by Las Vegas businessman Robert Bigelow, who arranged for an intense, ongoing scientific study of events at the ranch. By agreement with Bigelow, and at the request of many of the witnesses, a few names have been changed or omitted to protect those who don't want to be hassled by media outlets or UFO enthusiasts.

It began as a dull white light, appearing out of nowhere in the darkness of the middle homestead of the Gorman ranch. Tom Gorman saw it. So did a researcher named Chad Deetken. It was nearly 2 a.m. on Aug. 28, 1997. Gorman and Deetken were out in the pasture as part of an ongoing effort to document unusual activity on the property.

Both men watched intently as the light grew brighter. It was as if someone had opened a window or doorway. Gorman grabbed his night vision binoculars to get a better look but could hardly believe what he was seeing. The dull light began to resemble a bright portal, and at one end of the portal, a large, black humanoid figure seemed to be struggling to crawl through the tunnel of light.

After a few minutes, the humanoid figure wriggled out of the light and took off into the darkness. As it did, the window of light snapped shut, as if someone had flicked the "off" switch.

Deetken had the presence of mind to snap a few photos of the event, but would later learn that his film had recorded little of what the two men had witnessed.

Tom Gorman, his wife, two teenage kids and several extended family members had grown accustomed to weird things happening at the ranch. They had seen numerous UFO-type craft, as well as balls of light that seemed to be intelligently controlled. Their neighbors had seen them too. Residents of this basin have been reporting similar phenomena since the '50s. Native Americans say the sightings extend back even further. But aerial anomalies weren't the strangest occurrences on or near the ranch, not by a longshot.

...Full story at URL above...

Time Travel Possibility or Probability?

http://www.time-travel.com/skybooks/news.htm

By Preston Nichols and Peter Moon

In 1943, the Navy made a ship disappear by utilizing Einstein's Unified Field Theory. Although this is thought to be an incomplete work, many scientists in secret circles have seen what is referred to as Einstein's Third Paper. This is not available to the general public.

The primary purpose of this research appeared to be to make Navy ships appear invisible during the war. Many U.S. ships were being downed as they crossed the Atlantic. Although this research has been followed up to produce today's stealth aircraft, there is another entire side of this research that is even more bizarre. That is the manipulation of human beings and time itself.

After the Philadelphia Experiment of 1943, the crew went insane. They had been subjected to electromagnetic fields of a most peculiar nature. These fields were bending and warping the space-time continuum itself. When individuals entered the field, they lost their reference to normal reality (which is essentially an illusion of electromagnetic waves itself, albeit an ordered illusion). This means they were no longer in synch with normal time or reality and went insane. Although the Navy had them discharged as mentally unfit, research continued to find out why this had happened.

It was discovered that the mind could be broken down and read in terms of electromagnetic functions. John von Neumann, the inventor of the modern computer, was called upon to apply his brilliance in computers to mind functions. A complete study was done that resulted in mind-reading machines, thought transfer and mind control. Most of this occurred at Brookhaven National Labs on Long Island during the 1950's.

In about 1970, the program was to be fine tuned and applied on a much larger scale. The Montauk Air Force Base on Long Island was utilized. As the mind control research continued, it was discovered that time itself could be harnessed, it being a part of the space-time continuum.

The mind control equipment, which consisted of radiosondes, amplifiers and secret computer technology was barely strong enough to bend time. It couldn't do a complete job. This area was eagerly researched and the scientists involved were required to attend the "Sigma Conferences," held near Olympia, Washington. The research group decided that pulses had to be set up into a coil. Pyramid based geometry was studied and how that could bend the time field. The key to understanding time was the use of a particular antenna structure which was known as a Delta T antenna. This was a huge octahedronal antenna which was placed underground. This was supplied by three drives. Two of them came from pulse modulators from two transmitters and fed into two coils (x and y coils) of the Delta T antenna. The third axis was the z axis.. It was placed around the perimeter of the antenna and was derived from a white noise source that came from a 250 kilowatt audio amplifier. The white noise correlated the whole transmitter.

The radio frequency was fed into an omni-directional antenna located above ground on the top of the transmitter building. Additionally, the non-hertzian component (which is etheric in nature) of the radio frequency made it below ground and interfaced with the magnetic field that had been generated underground. When these frequencies are summed in that manner, time disturbances and distortions result. Eventually, such distortions could be isolated and controlled enabling the control of time itself.

Pow! Splat! Take That, You Darwin Disparagers!

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/30/arts/30TANK.html?ex=1039655699&ei=1&en=8e1f6a9dad216394

November 30, 2002

"Your species will make perfect slaves for our dung mines!" gloats Kor-Guu, the giant purple space beetle, wielding a glinting dagger in one hairy insect claw. "Come out and fight, you frail little thing. Let survival of the fittest decide this planet's fate!"

The old man clutching a wooden staff bravely stands his ground. "You fiend!" he shrieks. "We'll fight you to the bitter end!"

It could be a scene from the latest Tolkien movie, except that in this case, the bearded ancient routs his opponent not with Gandalfian magic but with science.

"Do you have any children?" the old man thunders as Kor-Guu leans in for the kill.

Flustered, the beetle confesses he has none.

"Well, in that case, Kor-Guu, I win," his adversary declares. "I may be an old fellow, but I've had several children. Evolutionary fitness isn't a measure of physical prowess, you chitinous cretin. It's an index of reproductive success. In fact, until we hear the pitter-patter of baby Kor-Guus, your fitness will remain a big, fat zero."

The defeated beetle scuttles off - presumably to attend to the urgent business of procreation - and the old man continues on his walk.

So it goes in the pro-evolution comic book world dreamed up by Jay Hosler, a biology professor at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., as a way of combating the creeping influence of creationism.


Friday, November 29, 2002

Global smorgasbord of ancient wisdom now offered in South India

by Curt Jonsson

At the 'Experience Festival' in the 'Golden City' outside Madras/Chennai in South India, February 9-15, 2003, the participants will have a unique introduction to ancient wisdom from around the globe. The intent of the festival is based on the belief that humanity in ancient times were more able to live in profound happiness, heal illnesses, develop extrasensory perception and even reach spiritual enlightenment. The Experience Festival will feature workshops within various themes of knowledge such as mysticism, Ayurveda, Kabbalah, Vaastu, astrology, the Mayan calendar, Vedic Art, Yellow Bamboo, enlightenment, and much more. There will also be all sorts of playful activities such as music, singing, dancing and creation of collective art. Immediately after the Experience Festival, February 17-25, the World University will start its first program of courses. The World University is an initiative of the Golden Age Foundation who is also co-creating the Experience Festival together with the founders out of Sweden.

In truth, the long-lost knowledge was never completely lost. There have always been 'isles', mostly in secluded places, where the old wisdom was preserved. Some cultures in particular stand out as guardians of these precious areas of knowledge. Egypt, the Maya people, the Native Americans, and of course India. But indigenous minority groups in all countries have held pieces of the puzzle. So, if the wisdom was so valuable, how could it ever be lost? And why was it at all possible to preserve it? Finally, why is it surfacing again at this time?

Intuition no longer worked

The old disciplines of knowledge differ in one important aspect from modern science. For several hundred years or more, scientists have been very careful to separate between the inner feelings and thoughts of the mind on one side and the pure intellectual knowledge on the other. That was because they discovered that feelings and thoughts were mostly distorting - rather than enhancing - the perception of reality.

In short, the problem was that the intuitive or spiritual side of man no longer worked as it should. The solution might have been to restore this capacity. Instead the modern principle of separation and 'objectivity' was chosen. It's believed that the reason why we can access the ancient wisdom once again is that we now have means to re-establish the spiritual contact that was lost.

A space of freedom

The Experience Festival is planned to be a recurrent event. It takes place in a beautiful and serene surrounding, at the outskirts of a jungle and national park. There, crystal-clear healing water is flowing in the creek and down the waterfalls. Sages and saints have come to this place for ages in order to meditate in the energy-filled atmosphere.

The Experience Festival provide a space of freedom and acceptance where many spiritual practices and traditions will be presented side by side. The teachers at the Festival brings the wisdom from the ancient cultures offering the opportunity for self-inquiry and new insights.

Mysticism, Women's Lib and Living on Light
During the festival, participants can choose from as many as twenty activities during one single day. There will be workshops dealing with enlightenment and pitfalls for the seeker. Mysticism and how to develop mystical abilitites is another subject that is likely to attract great interest. Some of the workshops are lead by enlightened monks from the Golden Age Foundation. Other areas are Srishti, the science of parenting and Women's Movement in a spiritual context.
Teachers are coming from all parts of the world to share their knowledge. Among the teachers are Acharya Sri Ananda Giri, Acharya Sri Samadarshini, Sri Naveen and Sri Sujayji from The Golden Age Foundation. Participants will also meet Adam-el David about The Kabbalah, Carl-Johan Calleman about The Mayan Calendar, Danny Becher about sound for healing, Paul Terrell about Yellow Bamboo balinesian mysticism, Curt Jonsson about living on light, Ragu Ananthanarayanan about Yoga, Birger Broberg about Vedic Art, Sashikala Ananth about Vaastu, Uma Mohan about womens movement, Leela Ganapathy about spiritual dance and many more

The first courses in the World University will take place during nine days immediately after the Experience Festival, February 17-25, and in the same location, in order to make it conveniant for Festival-participants to stay longer.

The purpose of the Festival

The Experience Festival is founded by a group of people in Sweden who come together in a shared purpose of contributing to a happier world. The team behind the Experience Festival collaborates with the Golden Age Foundation and together they form a partnership that offer ground for an event of this magnitude to be successfully implemented.

More information

For more information - please see http://www.experiencefestival.com or e-mail to info@experiencefestival.com.

UFO Group Supports Intelligent Design

A press release dated November 15 issued by the Raelian Movement, a movement that advocates the belief that life on earth was created by extraterrestrials, affirms the movement's support for the intelligent design movement. The press release states "[t]he Raelian Movement supports the Intelligent Design Movement and their attempt to promote the teaching of ID theory within science classes." Raelians are followers of French journalist Claude Vorilhon, now going by "Rael", who claims that on December 13, 1973, he was contacted by a visitor from another planet and asked to establish an Embassy to welcome these people back to Earth.(For the full text of the press release, see http://www.prweb.com/releases/2002/11/prweb50443.php.)

According to the group's web site, "The extra-terrestrial was about four feet in height, had long dark hair, almond shaped eyes, olive skin and exuded harmony and humour. He told Rael that 'we were the ones who made all life on earth, you mistook us for gods, we were at the origin of your main religions. Now that you are mature enough to understand this, we would like to enter official contact through an embassy'" (http://www.rael.org/int/english/index.html)

Although most intelligent design advocates are Christians and believe the designer to be the Christian God, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski has not ruled out the Raelian position, having stated that as far as the scientific evidence goes, the designer "could be an extraterrestrial" (http://www.discovery.org/viewDB/index.php3?program=CRSC%20Responses&command=view&id=1216).

Skip Evans
Network Project Director
National Center for Science Education
420 40th St, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609
510-601-7203 Ext. 308
510-601-7204 (fax)
800-290-6006
evans@ncseweb.org
http://www.ncseweb.org

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Age secrets of little worm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2521243.stm

Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 18:34 GMT

C. elegans is found naturally in the soil

By Dr David Whitehouse

BBC News Online science editor

New research suggests that changes in less than 1% of our genes are responsible for the ageing process.

Work carried out on nematode worms shows that only a very small number of genes become less efficient as our cells get older.

These genes produce proteins that keep the cells working properly and protect them against stress.

But when they fail, the effects can be devastating and this helps explain, on a molecular level, why our bodies wither.

Lifetime of stress

Nobody really knows why we get older. Some scientists argue that after an organism passes reproductive age its use to future generations is limited and it just slowly fades away.

Other scientists can describe in broad terms how an organism changes as it gets older, but what actually happens to the organism's cells to cause them to behave this way is far from clear.

There are several theories of which the most popular is that as they age, cells become less efficient and less able to rid themselves of waste and toxic products. Eventually, they are no longer able to work at all - and die.

According to James Lund, of Stanford University Medical Center, US, and colleagues, reporting in the journal Current Biology, "ageing can be thought of as a result of a lifetime of stress and hence genes that are regulated by stress could show age-dependent changes".

To look for these possible changes in the genes as an organism gets older, the research team grew batches of the well-studied nematode worm C. elegans. This was the first animal to have its genome decoded by science in 1998.

Significant find

The worms were allowed to develop to one of six specified ages between three days and 19 days, beyond which few of the organisms would normally survive.

Genetic material was then extracted from the nematodes' cells and placed on DNA microarray chips. These devices were able to check which of the creatures' 19,626 currently identified genes were active and at what stages during their lives.

The scan showed that over the course of a worm's life, 201 genes changed their pattern of activity.

The researchers then divided the 201 genes into two groups. The first included genes that changed when the worm was young but showed a constant activity later. The other group included genes that changed in the organism's later life.

There were 164 genes in the second category. And, of interest to the researchers, this collection included two so-called stress genes - sometimes called heat-shock genes.

It was an important observation, says the team, because there are only 26 known heat-shock genes in the worm's genome. To find two in the group of 126 is highly significant, it believes.

Age test

Proteins made by heat-shock genes have an important role in folding and shaping other proteins which is essential to their proper function.

If the heat-shock proteins do not work properly, there could be an accumulation of malformed, harmful proteins inside a cell that would impair its function and cause it to age.

Another suggestion given for why cells age is that they become damaged by so-called free-radicals - highly reactive molecules that can initiate a range of undesirable chemical reactions.

However, the researchers found no evidence to support this theory among the genes that change as C. elegans ages.

The observation that a relatively small number of genes change over the worm's lifetime is consistent, say the researchers, with the idea that ageing is caused by molecular damage that accumulates in the cells until they - and the organism - dies.

Detailed knowledge obtained by probing these genes may provide the basis for a molecular test to determine the age of cells.

It could also allow for future experiments that interfere with the age-related genes to see if the lifespan of cells can be increased.

The Big Bang

http://www.marxist.com/science/bigbang.html

To many people, unaccustomed to dialectical thinking, the notion of infinity is difficult to accept. It is so far at variance with the finite world of everyday objects, where everything has a beginning and an end, that it seems strange and unaccountable. Moreover, it is at variance with the teachings of most of the main world religions. Most of the ancient religions had their Creation Myth. Medieval Jewish scholars put the date of Creation at 3760 B.C., and in fact, the Jewish calendar dates from then. In 1658, Bishop Ussher worked out that the universe was created in 4004 B.C. Throughout the 18th century, the universe was considered to be six or seven thousand years old at most.

But—you might object—20th century science has nothing in common with all these Creation myths! With modern scientific methods we can get an exact picture of the size and origins of the universe. Unfortunately, things are not as simple as that. Firstly, despite colossal advances our knowledge of the observable universe is limited by the power of even the largest telescopes, radio-signals and space-probes, to provide information. Secondly and more seriously the way in which these results and observations are interpreted in a highly speculative manner, frequently bordering on mere mysticism. All too often, one has the impression that we have indeed regressed to the world of the Creation Myth (the "Big Bang"), complete with its inseparable companion, the Day of the Final Judgement (the "Big Crunch").

Bush team eyes star power for energy needs

http://www.msnbc.com/news/839596.asp

Scientists asked to chart path for commercial fusion by 2037
By Miguel Llanos
MSNBC

Nov. 26 — What if you could build your own star and use its energy to power entire cities — all with much less environmental risk than traditional nuclear power? It might sound crazy, but scientists convened at the Bush administration's request are drafting a statement that it's feasible within the next 35 years to create, contain and then commercialize what's known as fusion energy.

THE SCIENTISTS met Monday in Washington and are now finishing up a letter to the Energy Department.

The energy source of the stars, fusion has actually been studied for 50 years as a potential source of energy that emits no air pollutants or gases tied to global warming. It does produce some short-lived radioactivity, but nothing like traditional nuclear power.

Unlike fission — which powers today's nuclear power plants by splitting atoms, creating significant radioactive waste — fusion fuses hydrogen atoms and creates energy as a byproduct.

On top of that, its basic fuels — deuterium (a heavy form of hydrogen) and lithium — are abundantly available. Fifty cups of sea water, for example, contain enough deuterium to produce the same amount of energy as two tons of coal. Lithium, for its part, is a common element that would be used to extract tritium, a yet heavier hydrogen isotope that would fuse with the deuterium.

But the potential is matched by the formidable challenge involved: The fuels must be heated to 100 million degrees Celsius, at which point they become plasma. Then that temperature must be sustained and controlled so the resulting energy can be turned into electricity.

'ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE'

Last September, the Energy Department asked the 14 members of its Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee to weigh in.

In a first response ahead of Monday's meeting, the committee chair said the assumption of a 35-year target was completely sound.

"Accomplishments of the program during the past few decades have been truly remarkable," wrote Richard Hazeltine, director of the Institute for Fusion Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. "They have brought us to a point that makes the forward look described in your charge, including its explicit time scale, entirely appropriate."

Those advances include scientists' ability to better handle fusion. Thirty years ago, researchers reached a milestone by producing one-tenth of one watt of fusion power for one-hundredth of a second. Today they're able to produce 10 million watts for about a second.

Anne Davies, a senior Energy Department official for fusion energy, agreed with Hazeltine's view, adding that the biggest obstacles are financial, not technical. The fusion research program, she added, is "financially stressed," receiving about $250 million a year now. A scientist is seen inside a fusion reactor used by the Energy Department and Princeton to heat hydrogen atoms so that they become plasma and then energy. The reactor was disassembled last September after 15 years of research use.

CHENEY TASK FORCE

When the Energy Department asked experts to weigh in, it was acting on a directive from the national energy task force, chaired last year by Vice President Dick Cheney.

In the task force's report, fusion energy was described in glowing terms as not suffering from fission's downside.

"There are no emissions from fusion, and the radioactive wastes from fusion are short lived, only requiring burial and oversight for about 100 years," the report stated. "In addition, there is no risk of a melt-down accident because only a small amount of fuel is present in the system at any time. Finally, there is little risk of nuclear proliferation because special nuclear materials, such as uranium and plutonium, are not required for fusion energy."

The report envisioned fusion power plants that not only deliver electricity to the power grid but also "power an energy supply chain based on hydrogen and fuel cells" — technology that could replace the internal combustion engines in vehicles with zero or near-zero pollution.

The advisory committee was asked to report back to the administration by Dec. 1 with its general advice and note any significant issues. A second report in March will lay out funding priorities.

Fusion researchers have long lobbied for an international experimental reactor, but the estimated $10 billion cost has unnerved many governments, including the United States, which backed out in 1998.

The administration asked the committee to take another look at a scaled-back international effort.

"The administration is trying to assure itself it's the right thing to do," Davies said.

Background about the committee and the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences is online at www.ofes.fusion.doe.gov.

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 615 November 27, 2002 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

REFRACTION AT THE ATOMIC LEVEL. Light propagation in a cavity can now be controlled through interactions with a collection of fewer than 10 atoms, a new experiment shows. In general, the speed of light can be lowered from the vacuum value by passing it through a dense medium. Light speed can also be altered if the light pulse consists of a superposition of light waves at different frequencies and if the medium is dispersive (if its index of refraction varies for different frequencies). Using this dispersive approach, light was slowed to a halt in a Bose-Einstein condensate containing a million atoms (Update 521, http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2001/split/521-1.html). Now researchers from the University of Tokyo (Japan) and NIST (US) have managed the feat of altering a light pulse's speed in a microcavity with a medium whose density scarcely differs from vacuum—namely a handful of rubidium atoms. The secret to the control is a long dwell time. The 70-micron-long cavity is so reflective (its "Q" value is high) that the pulse reflects many times before leaking out. This allows the light to interact with the handful of atoms repeatedly, as if there were many more atoms present. According to the researchers (Yukiko Shimizu, shimizu-yukiko@aist.go.jp) this radical departure may be useful in quantum computing schemes. The pulses used in the experiment were themselves quite ephemeral, amounting to only four tenths of a photon (on average) in the cavity at any one time. The next goal is entangle a single photon with a single atom. (Shimizu et al., Physical Review Letters, 2 December 2002)

COOL FERRIC WHEELS. A new form of magnetic cooling has been demonstrated on tiny ring-shaped molecules. One obvious form of cooling is for one sample of particles to give excess energy to another, surrounding, ensemble of particles. Another way of chilling atoms (used to produce Bose-Einstein condensates) is simply to allow hotter atoms to escape. To see how "magnetic cooling" works in an ensemble of molecules consider first only the electrons spins in the molecule. The spins constitute a system all by themselves and can be "cooled" adiabatically (that is, without heat flowing in or out) by decreasing the strength of an applied magnetic field. Then some of the heat of molecular motion can be transferred to the spins; a lower molecular temperature is achieved. This "adiabatic demagnetization" was routinely used to achieve the low temperatures (milli-kelvin) needed for studying helium-3. The principle can even be extended to the spins of nuclei, and in this way the lowest cryogenic temperature ever was reached, 50 nK in copper.

Now physicists at Erlangen-Nurnberg University in Germany (contact Oliver Waldmann, now at Ohio State, waldmann@mps.ohio-state.edu, 614-292-3705) have demonstrated, for the first time, the inverse effect: cooling molecules by increasing the strength of the applied field. This adiabatic magnetization was achieved with "ferric wheels," ring-shaped molecules featuring six iron atoms plus a few ligand hangers-on (see figure at http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2002/170.htm). Research like this, involving the reactions between spins and molecules, and the coherence of states over time might be beneficial to a future quantum computing scheme. (Waldmann et al., Physical Review Letters, 9 December 2002)

GENTLE LITHOGRAPHY. Lithography is the key process in microchip fabrication whereby circuit elements are built up or "written" onto a backing in a series of steps that can include chemical action, heating, and irradiation. Many attempts are underway both to devise simpler forms of lithography and to produce smaller circuit elements. The use of scanning tunneling microscope (STM) probes to fashion small structures by moving individual atoms or molecules is one way to do this, albeit at a very slow rate. One new step in this direction is provided by Peter Kruse and Robert Wolkrow (National Research Council, Ottawa), who report a "gentle lithography," one requiring no heating, etching, or exposure to photons, in which a silicon surface is covered by a monolayer of benzene molecules. Thereafter the benzene can be selectively removed in long strips (as if a combine were harvesting grain), with an STM probe, to produce deliberate patterns with spatial resolutions as small as 2 nm. Then another species of molecule, such as ethylene, can be laid down in the cleared areas. According to the researchers, patterned ethylene (after it's been heat treated) could lead to the creation of silicon carbide structures. (Kruse and Wolkrow, Applied Physics Letters, 2 December 2002)

ADDENDUM to the item about the possible role of neutrino decay in CP violation and the preponderance of matter over antimatter (Update 614). A comparable result was reported by Frampton, Glashow, and Yanagida in Phys. Lett. B548, 119 (21 November 2002); see text at preprint hep-ph/0208157.

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UFO sighting sparked Britain's own 'X-file' mystery

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_718085.html

Details of an alleged UFO sighting near a Suffolk RAF base more than 20 years ago have been released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Rendlesham File is one of the first documents to be released as part of an opening-up of the inner workings of Whitehall.

It's only previously been seen by about 20 people, who requested access to it through the American Freedom of Information Act.

The sighting of a glowing triangular "strange glowing object" near RAF Woodbridge in the early hours of December 27, 1980 is described in colourful detail.

A number of US Air Force men witnessed the object hover in the darkness, transmitting blue pulsating lights and sending nearby farm animals into a "frenzy".

In a report entitled Unexplained Lights, USAF Lt Col Charles I Halt, Deputy Base Commander at RAF Bentwaters, adjacent to Woodbridge, told how he witnessed an object emitting a "red sun-like light" moving through the trees.

Two USAF security police patrolmen first spotted "unusual lights" outside the back gate of RAF Woodbridge. After gaining permission, the two men and a third patrolman investigated the lights.

In his report, Lt Col Halt said: "The individuals reported seeing a strange glowing object in the forest. The object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two to three metres across the base and approximately two metres high."

Next morning Lt Col Halt and his men discovered three circular depressions, seven inches in diameter, in the ground. Radiation measuring 0.1 milliroentgens was recorded in the depressions - a level 10 times higher than normal.

The MoD said one theory about the sightings was that it could have been the beam of the Orford Ness lighthouse "with distortions being caused by the beam having been seen through the trees".

Britain to Publish Files on UFO Sightings

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=1821504

Thu November 28, 2002 10:59 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government will publish files on reported UFO sightings as part of a shake-up of its laws on freedom of information. Among the documents to be published is the "Rendlesham File," which deals with one of the country's best known sightings of an unidentified flying object.

Until now, only about 20 members of the public have seen the file, which relates to a sighting in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, eastern England, in 1980.

According to some UFO enthusiasts, eyewitnesses including U.S. officers at a nearby military base saw a brilliantly lit spaceship land in the forest on two consecutive nights.

Skeptics say the witnesses were fooled by the beam from a lighthouse on the nearby coast.

The Rendlesham file has been available to the public for some time but only at the discretion of the Ministry of Defense.

Now, the government says it will publish it on the Internet before the end of this week, along with other files on reported UFO sightings.

"These first steps mark important progress toward changing the culture of government and extending the public's right to know what is being done in their name," Freedom of Information Minister Yvette Cooper said in a statement.

The government says it intends to repeal or amend up to 100 pieces of legislation which currently prohibit disclosure of information. It aims to replace them with provisions of a new Freedom of Information Act, passed in 2000.


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