Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings
AIDS has an uncanny knack for attacking people the dominant society considers "undesirables": gays,injection drug users (IDUs), prisoners, and people of color. The commonly cited US statistic that African Americans have twice the AIDS rate as white Americans understates the problem because it is based on the total number of cases since 1981. While white gay men constituted the large majority of cases in the early days, by the early 1990s the rate of new cases among Latinos was 2.5 times higher than among whites, and the black/ white ratio was even starker at 5-1 for men and 15-1 for women.
By 1993, AIDS had become the leading cause of death among African Americans between the ages of 25 and 44. Internationally, the racial disparity is even worse: About 80 percent of the world's 9 million AIDS deaths through 1995 have occurred in Africa, where 2 million children have already been orphaned.
WEB SITE NEWS AND COMMENTARY
Holiday Greeting From ScienceMaster We want to thank all our readers, over 10,000 strong, for making this a great year for all of us at ScienceMaster. We love what we do. In fact I wish there was more time each month to update our site, tell you about fantastic web pages we've found and share our enthusiasm for science and learning. We're especially proud of ScienceIQ.com which is exceeding our expectations. Again, thanks to all of you. We couldn't think of a better holiday gift.
The Snow Crystal Gallery
"The intricacy and wonder of nature revealed in a snowflake."For many of us, winter is here. In fact we've heard from some of our readers that New England got quite a blanket of snow for Thanksgiving. If you're interested in the white stuff, especially on a microscopic level, check out our Snow Crystal Gallery by Ken Libbrecht, where we've put together some amazing photographs of the white stuff up close and personal.
ScienceIQ Makes A Great Holiday Gift
Are you looking for a unique, educational and fun holiday gift? Why not give a subscription to ScienceIQ.com's Science Fact of the Day service? We are holding a special price for you, just $19.95 for an entire year. ScienceIQ.com helps keep you informed and up-to-date about the world of science and math, from white noise to gray matter to black holes. So hurry. And while you're at it, pick up a subscription for yourself if you haven't already.
SCIENCE NEWS AND LINKS
A Super Galactic Discovery
For the first time, scientists have found proof of two supermassive black holes together in the same galaxy. These black holes are orbiting each other and will merge several hundred million years from now. The event will unleash intense radiation and gravitational waves ... and leave behind an even larger black hole than before.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory spotted the two black holes
in the galaxy NGC 6240. The observatory was able to "see"
them because the black holes are surrounded by hot swirling
vortices of matter called accretion disks. Such disks are
strong sources of x-rays. [Read More]
Text Courtesy NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Science@NASA
In 1974, NASA's Pioneer 11 spacecraft plunged through the rings of Jupiter. And no one noticed. Jupiter's dark rings--as wide as Saturn's yet nearly invisible--hadn't been discovered yet. Indeed, it wasn't until five years later that cameras onboard Voyager 1 caught sight of them for the first time. On Mar. 5, 1979, the spacecraft swung behind Jupiter, and from inside the planet's shadow the faintly sunlit rings were visible--but just barely.
Ever since, researchers have wished for another flyby like
Pioneer 11's. NASA's Voyager, Cassini and Galileo spacecraft
have photographed the rings many times, but always from a
distance. No probe had actually entered the rings for 28
years. On Nov. 5, 2002, Galileo took the plunge and flew
through Jupiter's rings again. And this time scientists were
ready. [Read More]
Text Courtesy NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Science@NASA
The National Snow & Ice Data Center
Now that winter is just around the corner in the Northern hemisphere you might want to take a trip to the ice and snow. Better yet, try it from the comfort of your home and visit the online site of the "The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is part of the University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, and is affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Geophysical Data Center..."
World's First Hydrogen Fuel and Power Station Now Operating The Department of Energy announced on November 15th the opening of the world's first hydrogen energy station that can provide fuel for vehicles and also produce electricity. Producing both hydrogen fuel and electricity may be an attractive approach for future hydrogen merchants, who will be able to generate a steady revenue stream from electricity sales while their fuel sales to hydrogen vehicles ramp up. Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, the new $10.8-million station is the result of a private-public partnership among DOE, the City of Las Vegas, Plug Power Inc., and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.
Housed in the city's vehicle maintenance and operation
service center, the new station combines a hydrogen
generator, compressor, liquid and gaseous hydrogen storage
tanks, dispensing systems, and a stationary fuel cell. It is
capable of dispensing hydrogen, hydrogen-enriched natural gas
and compressed natural gas. DOE is also working with the city
and NRG Technologies Inc. to convert municipal vehicles to
operate on hydrogen. [Learn More]
Text Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy
WINDandSEA: The Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences Internet Locator
Last The NOAA has created a locator meant to make Internet
searching more efficient for anyone hunting down information
concerning oceanic and atmospheric issues. Presently
WINDandSEA has over 1,000 selected links to science and
policy sites organized by topic and alphabetically within
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Educators' Page
For formal and non-formal educators. This website includes curriculum resources and activities, community service projects, professional development opportunities, background information, and contacts and other links from the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service.
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Press and PR Office
The Royal Society
Tel: 020 7451 2508
4 December 2002
A totally new and highly controversial theory on the origin of life on earth, is set to cause a storm in the science world and has implications for the existence of life on other planets. Research[*] by Professor William Martin of the University of Dusseldorf and Dr Michael Russell of the Scottish Environmental Research Centre in Glasgow, claims that living systems originated from inorganic incubators -- small compartments in iron sulphide rocks. The new theory radically departs from existing perceptions of how life developed and it will be published in Philosophical Transactions series B, a learned journal produced by the Royal Society.
Since the 1930s the accepted theories for the origins of cells and therefore the origin of life, claim that chemical reactions in the earth's most ancient atmosphere produced the building blocks of life -- in essence -- life first, cells second and the atmosphere playing a role.
Professor Martin and Dr Russell have long had problems with the existing hypotheses of cell evolution and their theory turns traditional views upside down. They claim that cells came first. The first cells were not living cells but inorganic ones made of iron sulphide and were formed not at the earth's surface but in total darkness at the bottom of the oceans. Life, they say, is a chemical consequence of convection currents through the earth's crust and in principle, this could happen on any wet, rocky planet.
Dr Russell says: "As hydrothermal fluid -- rich in compounds such as hydrogen, cyanide, sulphides and carbon monoxide -- emerged from the earth's crust at the ocean floor, it reacted inside the tiny metal sulphide cavities. They provided the right microenvironment for chemical reactions to take place. That kept the building blocks of life concentrated at the site where they were formed rather than diffusing away into the ocean. The iron sulphide cells, we argue, is where life began."
One of the implications of Martin and Russell's theory is that life on other planets or some large moons in our own solar system, might be much more likely than previously assumed.
The research by Professor Martin and Dr Russell is backed up by another paper "The redox protein construction kit: pre-last universal common+ ancestor evolution of energy- conserving enzymes" by F. Baymann, E. Lebrun, M. Brugna, B. Schoepp-Cothenet, M.-T. Giudici-Orticoni & W. Nitschke which will be published in the same edition.
[*] "On the origins of cells: a hypothesis for the evolutionary transitions from abiotic geochemistry to chemoautotrophic prokaryotes, and from prokaryotes to nucleated cells", by Professor William Martin, Institut fuer Botanik III, University of Dusseldorf and Dr Michael Russell, Scottish Environmental Research Centre, Glasgow.
For further information, PDF file, and media password to access files direct, please contact:
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To read more about this forthcoming issue,
THE 5% of Europe's citizens who are atheist must not be allowed to block a reference to God in the new EU Constitution, Catholic Bishops warned yesterday.
"We ask if the 5% have a right to block a reference to God in a Constitution," said Bishop Homeyer from Germany. "In a pluralist and secular society," he said, a constitutional reference to God "provides a firewall against totalitarianism."
A third of those questioned said they believed in a personal God, a third acknowledged the existence of a higher power or supreme being, 20% were agnostic or did not know and only 5% described themselves as non-believers or atheists.
Lemon, lavender, and light studied as alternative treatments
Saturday, December 7, 2002 Posted: 7:45 AM EST (1245 GMT)
LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Alternative treatments such as aromatherapy could help elderly patients struggling with dementia, researchers said this week.
Drugs and sedatives prescribed to control the symptoms of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia often have uncomfortable side-effects.
Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 13:45 GMT
The oldest volcanic rocks in the world have been discovered by geologists in Canada.
The rocks date back almost four billion years and were discovered in northern Quebec.
By studying the rocks the scientists hope to find out more about how life began on Earth.
And by comparing these rocks with similar ones found in Greenland, the researchers can learn more about the first billion years of the planet's evolution.
The rocks lie in Porpoise Cove on the shores of Hudson Bay. They were found almost by chance.
Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 22:52 GMT
Astronomers in Europe have agreed to join forces in a single project to design and build the largest optical telescope in the world.
Its main mirror will be up to 100 metres (330 feet) across, and will mean scientists can examine remote objects in space in much more detail.
The biggest telescopes currently in operation are between eight and 11 metres across.
Building an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) of the size now envisioned would be a huge engineering endeavour - not least because the instrument will have to be built thousands metres above sea-level to see the heavens clearly.
Dr. Andrew A. Snelling and David E. Rush
First Published in
Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 7(1):2-42, 1993.
Using a figure published in 1960 of 14,300,000 tons per year as the meteoritic dust influx rate to the earth, creationists have argued that the thin dust layer on the moon's surface indicates that the moon, and therefore the earth and solar system, are young. Furthermore, it is also often claimed that before the moon landings there was considerable fear that astronauts would sink into a very thick dust layer, but subsequently scientists have remained silent as to why the anticipated dust wasn't there. An attempt is made here to thoroughly examine these arguments, and the counter arguments made by detractors, in the light of a sizable cross-section of the available literature on the subject.
Over 2,000 bibliographic references to the out-of-body experience (OBE), arranged by subject and author.
Includes references to the near-death experience (NDE).
The out-of-body experience is an extraordinary, mystifying, exhilarating, sometimes frightening, and often life-changing experience. It is a window of insight into our nature, our potential, our place in the universe, and indeed, the nature of reality. I hope this bibliography will help unfold our understanding of these timeless matters.
The strength of the total body of evidence for OBE is overwhelming and impels us to stretch well beyond the comfort of our traditional worldview. Perhaps a more confident understanding will follow a shift in our current, materialistic worldview. Perhaps a better understanding of OBE will promote that shift. OBE awakens us to consciousness as the great frontier. In that awakening, we stand at a vast horizon of discovery that comprehends virtually all human concern.
Accompanying these are equally extraordinary images, that are actually quite real.
This test collects together the most famous of these images and challenges you to separate the true from the false.
Test your hoax-detection skills at:
This is getting worse and worse...the further and further the story gets
from Seattle. Wallace hoax films are being mixed up with the 1967 film
taken Roger Patterson. The Wallace family said nothing about Mrs. Ray
Wallace being in the Patterson-Gimlin film. Then this Scottish paper throws
in the Loch Ness Surgeon's Photo, the Piltdown Man, the Cottingley Fairies,
and the UFO Autopsy film.
Glasgow Daily Record, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
LEGEND OF BIG FIB
Dec 7 2002
Mythic beast was `just my mum in an ape suit'
THE legendary Bigfoot has been exposed as nothing but a big hoax.
Film of the Abominable Snowman-like beast skulking deep in the forests of California almost 40 years ago is a fake, it was confirmed yesterday.
In reality, Bigfoot was the wife of a building company boss in a monkey suit.
And mysterious giant footprints were created using wooden false feet.
The man behind the Bigfoot myth, Ray L Wallace, recently died of a heart attack aged 84.
And yesterday, his family confirmed what sceptics have believed all along - Ray made it up.
His son Michael said: "Ray L Wallace was Bigfoot. In reality, Bigfoot just died."
He confirmed the classic footage of an ape walking upright into the woods was his mum in a gorilla suit.
Michael added: "Dad made a lot of people laugh, it was a fun family to grow up in."
Bigfoot was born out of a practical joke by Ray and his brother Wilbur in August 1958. A bulldozer driver, Jerry Crew, found giant footprints around his machine.
The local newspaper coined the term Bigfoot in a front page story about the phenomenon.
In fact, a friend of Ray's carved the 16in long wooden false feet and the brothers used them to lay the tracks.
But America, fascinated by tales of the yeti, the Himalayan abominable snowman, quickly bought into the homegrown myth. And Ray milked it for years.
In 1967, a film was released with grainy images of an apelike creature striding away from a camera operated by rodeo rider Roger Patterson.
Michael said his mother admitted she'd been photographed in the Bigfoot suit.
But despite the unmasking, Bigfoot still has believers.
Jeff Meldrum, an associate professor of anthropology at Idaho State University, said there had been other footprints found.
He added: "To suggest all these are explained by simple carved feet strapped to boots just doesn't wash."
MAKING MONKEYS OUT OF US BIGFOOT is far from the first fake to capture public attention.
THE most famous is a picture of the Loch Ness Monster. Taken by Harley Street surgeon Colonel Robert Spurling in April 1934, it showed the "monster's" long neck stretching above the surface. In reality, it was a toy submarine with a neck and head of plastic.
PILTDOWN Man was allegedly the skull of the missing link and fooled many scientists - it was actually an ape's jaw fitted to a human skull.
NO less a man than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was fooled by faked photos of fairies. They were taken in 1917 by two schoolgirls, using paper cutouts.
MANY UFOs captured on film have turned out to be simply car hubcaps flung like frisbees.
THE image of Tory leader William Hague's face on a piece of bread was also, unsurprisingly, a hoax.
A FILM purporting to show an autopsy on an alien, thought to have been made in 1947, is also a fake - but some dyed- in-the-wool alien fans still insist it is real.
A federal appeals panel in San Francisco ruled yesterday that the atheist father who challenged the Pledge of Allegiance on behalf of his daughter had a right to bring the case. In its ruling, the panel reaffirmed its view that allowing schoolchildren to hear the words "under God" in the pledge amounts to "unconstitutional indoctrination."
The action clears the way for a possible reconsideration by the full appellate court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, of the panel's June decision that the phrase "under God" in the pledge violates the First Amendment. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/05/national/05PLED.html?ex=1040103698&ei=1&en=218f9667e57b6ae9
Measurements by an underground laboratory in Japan may have put to rest a longstanding mystery of solar physics, an international team of scientists announced yesterday.
In a paper submitted to the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers make the most persuasive case yet that particles called neutrinos - wisps of near nothingness that course from the sun - are capable of changing identity in midflight.
This would solve what has become enshrined in physics as "the solar neutrino problem" - why the sun appears to emit only a portion of the number of neutrinos that theory predicts it should. Neutrinos come in three types, or "flavors," and scientists say they believe that some of the particles are transformed in their journey to Earth, eluding the electronic detectors.
By KENNETH LOVETT
December 6, 2002 -- ALBANY - For years, callers shelled out bucks to hear predictions from Miss Cleo. Now it's Miss Cleo who's paying the big money. Fresh off a $5 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Psychic Readers Network, which employed Miss Cleo as spokeswoman, agreed to a $25,000 settlement with New York state.
The state Consumer Protection Board had accused the Florida-based company of violating the state's telemarketing law aimed at protecting consumers from rip-offs and unwanted calls.
The $25,000 settlement allows the company to avoid potentially more costly legal action while still being able to deny it violated the law.
The recent astonishing wide adhesion of french people to the rumor claiming `No plane did crash on the Pentagon on September the 11", is given a generic explanation in terms of a model of minority opinion spreading. Using a majority rule reaction-diffusion dynamics, a rumor is shown to invade for sure a social group provided it fulfills simultaneously two criteria. First it must initiate with a support beyond some critical threshold which however, turns out to be always very low. Then it has to be consistent with some larger collective social paradigm of the group. Othewise it just dies out. Both conditions were satisfied in the french case with the associated book sold at more than 200 000 copies in just a few days. The rumor was stopped by the firm stand of most newspaper editors stating it is nonsense. Such an incredible social dynamics is shown to result naturally from an open and free public debate among friends and colleagues. Each one searching for the truth sincerely on a free will basis and without individual biases. The polarization process appears also to be very quick in agreement with reality. It is a very strong anti-democratic reversal of opinion although made quite democratically. The model may apply to a large range of rumors.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 6, 2002
By RICHARD MONASTERSKY
On the last day of October, a cavalcade of foreign dignitaries and Israeli officials joined hundreds of ordinary citizens making their way to the top of a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. They gathered to proclaim this secluded fortress, called Masada, one of the world's most important historical sites -- a place worthy of global attention and protection.
The United Nations, which put the Israeli mesa on the list of World Heritage Sites, chose the place in part to commemorate the Jewish rebels who held the lofty stronghold, and eventually perished there, in the waning days of a revolt against the Roman Empire in AD 73. In its report on Masada, the U.N. concludes that "the tragic events during the last days of the Jewish refugees who occupied the fortress and palace of Masada make it a symbol both of Jewish cultural identity and, more universally, of the continuing human struggle between oppression and liberty."
One prominent Israeli scholar, though, stayed home. He tossed aside his invitation and instead made scornful remarks to the news media. For Nachman Ben-Yehuda, a sociologist who is dean of the faculty of social sciences at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Masada stands as a symbol of national mythology and academic deception -- a case study of how archaeologists can hijack the scientific method for ideological purposes.
In his controversial new book, Sacrificing Truth: Archaeology and the Myth of Masada (Prometheus/Humanity Books), Mr. Ben-Yehuda accuses Israel's most celebrated archaeologist, the late Yigael Yadin, of professional misconduct in his excavations at the site during the 1960s. After studying transcripts of conversations and documents written during the work and years later, Mr. Ben-Yehuda concludes that Yadin conducted "a scheme of distortion which was aimed at providing Israelis with a spurious historical narrative of heroism."
Many archaeologists, however, reject Mr. Ben-Yehuda's harsh assessment and even accuse him, in turn, of manipulating facts to promote his own agenda. "He twists and distorts things," says Jodi Magness, a professor of early Judaism at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, who has excavated at Masada in recent years. "It's very disturbing to me. I can only imagine that Yadin must be rolling in his grave."
Diamond in the Desert
Seen from above, Masada is literally a diamond in the desert -- a kite-shaped mesa 2,000 feet long and 1,000 feet wide, rising 1,500 feet above the Dead Sea. It sits at a schism where two giant patches of the earth's crust have ripped apart, exposing a gaping chasm so deep that it ranks as the lowest spot on any continent.
The violent human history there mirrors its geologic past. For millennia, warriors have retreated to the flat top of the plateau to escape their enemies. Surrounded by cliffs, Masada provides a superb natural refuge that one group after another has exploited over the ages. Its Hebrew name (pronounced "Me-tza-dah") means fortress.
The most extravagant resident of Masada was Herod the Great, who was appointed client-king of the Jewish nation by the Roman emperor in 40 BC. Around 31 BC, Herod built a magnificent set of palaces and fortifications on the plateau as a winter home that could also serve as a safe house in case his restive subjects rejected his rule or Cleopatra tried to take his country.
Many of Herod's buildings still remain, but they alone do not draw the crowds. It's the remarkable set of events following Herod's death that make Masada the second-most-visited spot in Israel. Before the violence of the past two years, hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors each year ascended the plateau and heard the tale of resistance and death that turned the isolated rock into a memorial.
The standard story is attributed to Josephus Flavius, a Roman historian who had been a Jewish priest and commander. In The Jewish War, he tells how the "Great Revolt" broke out in AD 66, when militant Jews rejected Roman rule and kicked the foreign forces out of Jerusalem.
A group of Jewish rebels, known to history as the Zealots, took over Masada soon after the start of the revolt and occupied the site for seven years. After the Roman army reconquered Jerusalem and the rest of the country, Masada stood as the remaining pocket of Jewish resistance.
In AD 73, the Roman general Flavius Silva marched thousands of troops to the base of the plateau and built a siege wall around it, trapping the 967 Jewish men, women, and children at the top. The Roman forces built a ramp along the western edge of the plateau and hauled equipment to the top to batter down the walls of the fortress. As the Romans were breaching the defenses, the leader of the rebels, Elazer Ben Ya'ir, persuaded his people to burn their belongings and to kill themselves rather than let the women and children be taken as slaves.
When the Romans reached the top, Josephus says, they were "met with the multitude of the slain, but could take no pleasure in the fact, though it were done to their enemies. Nor could they do other than wonder at the courage of their resolution, and at the immovable contempt of death which so great a number of them had shown, when they went through with such an action as that was." The only survivors were two women and five children who had hidden themselves and so lived to describe the rebels' last acts to the Romans.
From Army to Archaeology
Two millennia later, another charismatic Jewish leader was rallying his troops at the summit of Masada. In 1963, Yigael Yadin marshaled a force there to carry out the most massive archaeological excavation ever attempted in Israel. He had served as a military commander of Jewish forces from the 1930s to the early '50s before going into archaeology. He gained fame in that discipline by studying one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that had been found in cliffs not far north of Masada. Written by the Essenes, a messianic Jewish sect, the scrolls provide a window into Jewish life around the time of Jesus.
Yadin came to Masada hoping to find more scrolls and motivated as well by Josephus's historical account, say his former students. Between October 1963 and April 1965, he led an archaeological team financed mainly by overseas backers and staffed largely by international volunteers and members of the Israeli Defense Forces. Igor Stravinsky gave thousands of dollars. Donations also came from The Observer, a London newspaper, which ran reports on the digging, says Mr. Ben-Yehuda.
The site attracted so much interest because Masada had by that time become a symbol of Jewish strength in the face of great odds. The Israeli army held regular ceremonies atop the hallowed site, inducting soldiers into the elite armored unit with the oath, "Masada shall not fall again!"
When Yadin's forces started excavating on the plateau, they found unmistakable signs that the Jewish rebels had occupied the fortress at precisely the time Josephus had said. The diggers uncovered living quarters, written scrolls, Jewish coins minted during the rebellion, pottery, weapons, and clothes. At the base of the plateau, the remnants of the Roman walls and siege camps were still clear, as was the earthen ramp constructed along the western edge, on top of a natural embankment.
Other evidence provided clues about the rebels' final moments. The archaeologists found signs of a great fire that had consumed the defenders' possessions. They also discovered many ostraca, or potsherds with writing on them. A cluster of a dozen ostraca in particular made a strong impression because 11 of them each bore a Jewish name -- one of which was Ben Ya'ir, the name of the rebel commander.
In his 1966 book on the excavations, Yadin called that cluster of ostraca the excavation's most spectacular find, even if it did not hold the most archaeological importance. "We were struck by the extraordinary thought: 'Could it be that we had discovered evidence associated with the death of the very last group of Masada's defenders?'" Josephus had described how 10 men were selected by lottery to kill the rest of the rebel families and then drew lots to determine which one of the 10 would slay the remaining fighters and finally himself. Yadin wondered whether the ostraca were the lots cast by the last 10 defenders and their commander. "We'll never know for certain. But the probability is strengthened by the fact that among these 11 inscribed pieces of pottery was one bearing the name 'Ben Ya'ir.'" At that time and place, such a name could refer only to the commander, said Yadin.
For the archaeological team and people around the world, such finds and others buttressed the tale of rebellion and suicide on that windswept mountaintop. "The archaeological interpretation provided for this [ostraca] discovery by the most authoritative contemporary voice -- that of Yadin -- helped bring into being a construction which appeared to give unequivocal support to Josephus's narrative," writes Mr. Ben-Yehuda.
'Falsifying Historical Evidence'
Unfortunately, the construction rests on a flimsy and even fraudulent foundation, he charges. It involved "falsifying historical evidence and concealing facts, adapting deceptive techniques and inventing historical realities," according to Mr. Ben-Yehuda, who has long done research on scientists who deviate from the mainstream, both those who commit fraud and those who legitimately seek out new methods of exploration.
Over the past decade, Mr. Ben-Yehuda has dedicated a large portion of his time to exposing what he sees as the Israeli self-delusion over Masada. He is not the first to have questioned the facts surrounding the rebellion that ended there, but he has provided one of the loudest voices on the topic.
In The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel (University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), Mr. Ben-Yehuda looks at the origins of what he calls the myth: that Masada was a heroic tale, worthy of celebration. He argues that the standard story's description of the Jewish rebels as Zealots -- religious revolutionaries -- is a distortion of Josephus's narrative by early Zionists. Josephus actually said the rebels belonged to a group known as the Sicarii.
The distinction is crucial, says Mr. Ben-Yehuda, because Josephus characterizes the Sicarii as political extremists, distinct from the Zealots. The name Sicarii comes from sica, the daggers that members of the group carried and used to assassinate their opponents, whether Jewish or Roman. According to Josephus, the Sicarii turned their weapons on the leaders of moderate Jews who submitted to Roman rule.
The Sicarii left Jerusalem early in the revolt, and they were the ones who took over Masada. While there, they raided the nearby Jewish town of En Gedi, killing some 700 people and stealing the town's food, says Josephus.
Contrary to the popular tale of heroism at Masada, Mr. Ben-Yehuda views the Sicarii as terrorists who killed innocent people and committed suicide rather than fight to the death. "If you read Josephus Flavius, there is no heroism" in the Masada story, the professor says. But like other Israelis of his generation and preceding ones, the 54-year-old scholar was weaned on the heroic epic, which had been molded by the Zionists to forge a new Jewish identity, he says. "They needed a new type of Jew, somebody who was willing to fight and die for his own country."
After finishing his first book, Mr. Ben-Yehuda wondered how a scientist as celebrated as Yadin could have perpetuated the myth. That curiosity turned into a research project when the sociologist learned that Yadin had tape-recorded the nightly meetings of his team during the Masada excavations. Examining transcripts of those discussions, Mr. Ben-Yehuda compared them with what Yadin said later about the excavations in his speeches, articles, and, most important, in his 1966 book, Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand (Weidenfeld and Nicolson).
What emerged from that research disturbed Mr. Ben-Yehuda, who says Yadin consistently distorted Josephus's words and the data that emerged from the digs. "It's obvious why he does that, because he wants to make the people who were on Masada appear in a more positive light."
By contrast, Mr. Ben-Yehuda casts much of Yadin's work in a negative light. In addition to faulting the archaeologist for calling the Masada rebels Zealots and failing to mention the massacre at En Gedi, the new book charges that he:
Labeled the dozen ostraca as potential "lots," when there were actually two more than Josephus described in his narrative.
Implied that the mass suicide happened in a part of the lower palace, which Mr. Ben-Yehuda says was too small to hold the 967 people on Masada at the time.
Never published a full scholarly report on the excavations, and prevented others from doing so until his death at the age of 67, in 1984.
Interpreted one building as a ritual bath and another as a synagogue, although the evidence was equivocal.
In the latter case, Mr. Ben-Yehuda says, Yadin was originally cautious, during the nightly meeting on November 6, 1963, in deciphering the use of a particular building that was designed to hold many people. Archaeologists at that session suggested that the building might be a synagogue, but Yadin demanded more proof. That caution disappeared a few days later, when he spoke to the news media, which reported the find as possibly a synagogue -- a conclusion that was unwarranted at the time, says Mr. Ben-Yehuda. Later, archaeologists made other discoveries -- including texts from Deuteronomy buried under the floor -- that solidified the interpretation of the structure as a synagogue.
Mr. Ben-Yehuda finds another major problem in the descriptions of the human skeletons found on Masada. Although Josephus wrote that nearly a thousand people committed suicide, the excavations uncovered the bones of only about 28 people, in two locations. For Mr. Ben-Yehuda, the story of those bones provides proof of Yadin's penchant for twisting the data to his own purposes.
Early in the excavation, the team found the remains of a man, woman, and child in Herod's former palace on the northern side of the plateau. In one of the Yadin team's nightly discussions, an anthropologist estimated that the woman had been 17 or 18 years old, the man between 20 and 22, and the child 11 to 12. In the same discussion, Yadin responded that the man and women could be a couple, but that the woman could not be the child's mother because of their ages. Yadin concluded that the man was a rebel warrior because some armor was found at the same spot.
Two years later, in an interim report, Yadin wrote, "It cannot be stated with certainty that these skeletons are those of the family of that last warrior who ... took the lives of his family and set the palace on fire ... but there seems to be no doubt that these skeletons are those of the people of the Great Revolt."
Although Yadin took care to qualify the uncertainty of his hypothesis at that point, his hesitation vanished over time, says Mr. Ben-Yehuda. In 1971, the archaeologist wrote that "the skeletons undoubtedly represent the remains of an important commander of Masada and his family."
Then, in a speech atop Masada in 1973, he said, "I shall mention the remains of the three fighters that we found in the northern palace: a very important commander, his wife, and their child, just like the description in Josephus Flavius."
To Mr. Ben-Yehuda, the metamorphosis in those statements exposes Yadin. "It was obviously a deliberate, falsified interpretation, one that had nothing to do with the facts, and it was meant to make audiences believe in a mythical narrative."
That statement angered North Carolina's Ms. Magness, who took a course with Yadin during her freshman year at Hebrew University. "That's not true," she says, "and it's libelous."
In fact, she accuses Mr. Ben-Yehuda of sloppy scholarship. "There are places where this guy not only distorts things but puts in factual errors in order to make his case."
For example, the professor accuses Yadin of misleading readers by wrongly implying "that the revolt against the Romans was a popular one and encompassed all the Jewish population." But Yadin was correct, Ms. Magness says. "During the course of the war, everybody became involved, moderates as well as radicals. Yes, the war was countrywide. It did involve massacres of Jews all over the place."
Similar reactions to Mr. Ben-Yehuda come from four former students of Yadin's who took part in the excavations during the 1960s and since have become some of Israel's top archaeologists. Ehud Netzer, a professor in the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University, says he hasn't read the new book but has discussed its contents with the author. "Nonsense, pure nonsense," is Mr. Netzer's synopsis.
He and Gideon Foerster, a professor at the institute, coordinated the publication of the final report on Masada, which came out in six volumes during the 1990s. Mr. Foerster says Yadin cannot be faulted for calling the rebels Zealots because that was the conventional term used by scholars, and the Sicarii fit its conventional use. In fact, in his 1966 book, Yadin referred to the Sicarii as a subgroup of Zealots. He chose a term that people would understand. "Nobody knows what Sicarii means, and everybody knows what Zealots means," says Mr. Foerster.
Morever, it was important to put Josephus's story in context, says Ze'ev Meshel, a retired professor at the institute. The historian, who was extremely critical of the Jewish rebellion against Rome, had his own political reasons for coloring events, and Yadin's team tried to take those issues into account, Mr. Meshel says.
When the archaeological discoveries matched the historical account, Yadin found such parallels compelling, and he described them to the public, says Mr. Foerster. "He was an excellent lecturer, and he wrote in an interesting way, and people were very enthusiastic." Yadin offered his own interpretations, but he did so responsibly, Mr. Foerster adds. In the case of the skeletons, he says, Yadin may have gone a little too far, "but it's a side point. It's not very significant."
Yoram Tsafrir, another professor at the institute, says Yadin could get carried away speaking to a crowd, as do many scientists while talking to the news media or giving public lectures. "But to accuse him of forging the conclusions? This is far from doing justice to the man. He was a great scholar and a great man."
Mr. Ben-Yehuda responds that Yadin always had a responsibility to be accurate and comprehensive, by including evidence contradicting his interpretations as well as the data supporting them. "I require from somebody who is a professor of archaeology to be very careful about what he says."
The sociologist's critical analysis does get some support from Philip L. Kohl, a professor of anthropology and Slavic studies at Wellesley College, who co-edited Nationalism, Politics, and the Practice of Archaeology (Cambridge, 1995). Mr. Ben-Yehuda's new book makes a good case that Yadin ignored data that went against his ideas, says Mr. Kohl. "I've got to believe that there was some sacrificing of truth going on [with Yadin], and that it was not just a totally unconscious procedure."
But Neil A. Silberman, a biographer of Yadin, argues that the archaeologist was a product of his time and wasn't aware of his biases. "He was living in the period of romantics. It's very difficult to confront an archaeologist of one period with all the accumulated knowledge that came subsequently," says Mr. Silberman, a historian of archaeology at the Ename Center for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation, in Flanders, Belgium.
As the descriptions of the skeletons show, says Mr. Silberman, Yadin's initial skepticism evaporated as time went on, just as that of other archaeologists did. "They got more and more in love with the story," he says. "As the years went by, their original hesitations got forgotten."
Mr. Ben-Yehuda's anger at Yadin makes sense because he feels deceived by earlier generations, much as other Israelis do, says Mr. Silberman. "The intellectual outrage at discovering the tales my father told me aren't true is still really raw. It's still part of the process of Israel trying to find some possible direction into the future. It is still in the realm of contradicting, criticizing, deconstructing."
For his part, Mr. Ben-Yehuda says he believes that Josephus's version of history probably was correct: The Sicarii held out against a Roman siege and committed suicide on top of Masada. But the scholar suggests that some of the people on Masada died against their will, and that there is no honor in the actions of the Sicarii. "I would not make it a World Heritage Site. Why should we? What is the 'heritage' there? Death? Futile and unwise revolt? Collective suicide by a group of political assassins?"
Still, he remains wistful for the days when he saw Masada as a national shrine and an uncomplicated symbol, rather than a morally ambiguous, commercialized tourist spot. "I have some warm corners in my heart for the Masada I knew as a kid," he says. "There is a sense of disappointment going up there and being so cynical about it."
Section: Research & Publishing
Volume 49, Issue 15, Page A16
ACOUSTIC MICROSCOPY. At this week's First Pan American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics in Cancun, researchers presented results on acoustic microscopy, a burgeoning technique that could provide new kinds of medically useful information on biological tissue. Unlike many other microscopy techniques, acoustical microscopy can be performed on living tissue and even inside the body, with the use of small ultrasound probes. And unlike optical microscopy of biological specimens, acoustic microscopy does not require tissue staining.
In the technique, an ultrasound probe makes contact with a tissue sample, then yields an image based on how the tissue responds to the ultrasound. Although the resolution of acoustical microscopy is ultimately limited to about the cell level, rather than the molecular level (its maximum resolution is about 0.1 microns, about a hundredth of the width of a red blood cell), it can provide unique information on a biological tissue's mechanical properties. For many materials, the mechanical properties have a wider range of values than the optical properties, so the technique could come in handy for characterizing Alzheimer's plaques, to name one example. In principle, an acoustic microscope could also yield quick assessments on the pathology of skin lesions, without a biopsy and long before other techniques could provide information.
At the meeting, researchers described how acoustic microscopy is already advancing cardiology, specifically in the area of intravascular ultrasound (IVUS), in which a small ultrasound camera is threaded into the body to detect artery blockage. Using a scanning acoustic microscope to gather basic data on artery plaque, Yoshifumi Saijo of Tohoku University (email@example.com) and his colleagues are helping clinicians better interpret IVUS images. Employing knowledge from acoustical microscopy, Ton van der Steen (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and colleagues have developed a clinical technique called IVUS elasticity imaging, which can detect vulnerable artery plaques, a hard-to-catch condition which kills up to 250,000 people every year in the US alone. (Session 1pBB at the meeting; Background information at http://www.acoustics.org/press/144th/Jones.htm and http://www.eur.nl/fgg/thorax/elasto/)
LONGEST ATOMIC STATE LIFETIME MEASURED FROM SPONTANEOUS DECAY IN UV. The internal state of an atom can change by absorbing or emitting bits of light. In a warm gas or plasma the electrons are frequently shuttling back and forth from one state to another. Some of these states are longer lived than others, though, because of extenuating circumstances. For instance, many transitions from an excited state to the ground state occur in nanoseconds, but some can last for tens of seconds or longer. Measuring the true lifetime of the longer-lived of these transitions is difficult for the simple reason that even when a sample of atoms is dilute, an atom is being bumped so often that de-excitations come about before the state decays radiatively.
When even the best laboratory vacuum on Earth is still too crowded for making such delicate measurements, persistent scientists turn to outer space. Tomas Brage of Lund University (Lund, Sweden), Philip Judge of the High Altitude Observatory at NCAR (Boulder, CO), and Charles Proffitt of the Computer Science Corporation (Baltimore, MD) resort to viewing excited atoms in the planetary nebula NGC3918 where, amid the wreckage of a dying star, there is enough energy to excite atoms but a density low enough (a few 1000 per cubic centimeter) that mutual pumping isn't a problem (see figure at http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2002/171.htm). Using the Hubble Space Telescope, the three scientists looked at the emissions of excited triply ionized nitrogen atoms and observed a lifetime of 2500 seconds for one particular hyperfine transition. Why is this state so robust? Brage (email@example.com, 46-46-222-7724) says that angular momentum can be preserved in this transition only if, in addition to the electron emitting an ultraviolet photon, the nucleus itself flips over. Other than adding to basic knowledge about atomic physics, studies like these should provide spectroscopic information for studying the deaths of stars. (Brage et al., upcoming article in Physical Review Letters, probably 16 December.)
PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.
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About 100 people attended the hearing yesterday, approximately half supporters and half opponents.
Speaking for the Board were AT therapists Lawrence Van Bloem, LCSW, Jennie Murdock Gwilliam, LCSW, and Charlie Risenmay, leader of SAFF CARE, a local AT support group. These three held forth for about an hour on the virtues of AT.
Van Bloem also demonstrated two kinds of restraint holds on his 10-year-old son (both methods now in clear violation of a new policy set forth by the Utah Chapter of the NASW condemning "coercive restraint therapies"). In the lap hold, the boy's arm was pinned behind Van Bloem's back. The compression therapy demo was done on the floor, with Van Bloem's full chest lying on top of his son's torso. The crowd mumbled in reaction to the abusive and dangerous techniques, AND over the fact that the legislators were getting sanitized renditions.
After the AT presentation, legislators subjected the petitioners to much intense and, at times, hostile questioning. One legislator claimed the AT therapists were having a PR problem and were coming to the State to solve their problem.
Gwilliam stated outright their intent, "We're trying to legitimize this therapy as much as we can with this."
In response to Van Bloem's characterization of compression therapy as only using partial body contact, one committee member blurted, "It looked like full body contact to me!"
Next came DOPL to explain that either AT is a specialty, such as OB/GYN is within medicine, and specialties aren't licensed seperately in Utah, or AT needs to be considered as an entirely new mental health profession. Even the AT petitioners themselves weren't clear on what they wanted.
When it came time for public comment, the chair asked for a show of hands on both sides of the issue. Asking to speak against the proposal were approximately 25 people. Those we identified included:
-- Utah Medical Association
-- Utah Association of Marriage & Family Therapists
-- Utah Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers
-- Utah Psychology Association
-- National Association for Consumer Protection in Mental Health Practices
-- American Association for the Humane Treatment of Children in Therapy
-- A psychiatrist to read the APA policy against holding therapy
Several adult survivors and anti-AT activists also planned to speak. Even the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights (Scientology) was there.
Three minutes later, after sizing up the opposition, Sen. Hellewell arose to announce that the application for a board would be withdrawn.
A clear win.
But even so, it was a pity not to have the statements of all those professional organizations go on the record against AT.
And, alas, the press missed the big story of the day -- that so much of Utah's health care system was represented there, and on such short notice, to make sure this very, very bad idea had a stake driven through its cold heart.
UPCOMING: More news from the Utah front.
IN THE PRESS:
"License Request Withdrawn"
By Jacob Santini, Salt Lake Tribune
December 5, 2002
"Professional License Standards Sought for Holding Therapy"
December 4, 2002
BY JACOB SANTINI
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
[*AT NEWS* sends the latest news to activists and interested organizations about the many abusive, violent practices inflicted on children by the fringe psychotherapy known as Attachment Therapy, aka "holding therapy" and "therapeutic parenting." Attachment Therapists claim to work with the most vulnerable of children, e.g. minority children, children in foster care, and adoptees. AT NEWS is the publication of the newly forming *American Association for the Humane Treatment of Children in Therapy.*]
Contact: Linda Rosa, RN
2001, Australian Skeptics Inc (CD-ROM)
All issues of the Skeptic (Australia) from 1981-2000 on a single CD-ROM with all original magazine covers, articles and illustrations reproduced with astonishing clarity. Also included is the full text (slightly updated) of our books Creationism: An Australian Perspective and Skeptical, which were published in the mid-1980s. Additionally it contains a number of color stills from assorted TV programmes Oz Skeptics have appeared in over the years. The disc contains around 4000 pages which can be read with equal facility on PC and Mac platforms. This is the first such project ever completed by any Skeptics group anywhere. The CD contains a full-text search facility so you can quickly find all articles containing selected words or phrases.
[ Reviewed by Richard Saunders, email@example.com ]
Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/
Please consider submitting an entry yourself.
Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer
Russell R. Standish and Colin D. Standish
1999, Hartland Publications; 300p.
creationism, cult-archaeology, religion
This is an excruciatingly detailed examination of "recent astounding archaeological claims," mostly by the late Ron Wyatt. Wyatt claimed to have discovered the Ark of the Covenant, Noah's Ark, Noah's grave, the tablets of the 10 Commandments, Egyptian chariot wheels in the Red Sea, and dozens of other important biblical relics. The Standishes show that most of these have never been produced for examination, and what has been examinable has been found to be utterly bogus. The Standishes are Seventh Day Adventists, the same Christian denomination as Wyatt himself, and so they include criticism on the basis of the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White. The book is somewhat repetitious, and the sections criticizing Wyatt on the basis of the writings of Seventh Day Adventist doctrine are without weight for anyone but a Seventh Day Adventist. The chapters are quite short, however, and those sections can easily be skipped or skimmed through. The repetition is indication that the book could have been better organized, but it is still a devastating critique of Wyatt's claims.
[ Reviewed by Jim Lippard, firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/ Please consider submitting an entry yourself.
Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer
By Bob Young
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bigfoot is dead. Really.
"Ray L. Wallace was Bigfoot. The reality is, Bigfoot just died," said Michael Wallace about his father, who died of heart failure Nov. 26 in a Centralia nursing facility. He was 84.
The truth can finally be told, according to Mr. Wallace's family members. He orchestrated the prank that created Bigfoot in 1958.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or email@example.com
From: Rick Pettigrew
Archaeologists today sometimes apply their craft to exploring very recent historical events. An unusual example of this is the archaeological testing at the claimed 1947 crash site of an extraterrestrial spacecraft near Roswell, New Mexico. In the latest Audio Interview featured by our public education website, The Archaeology Channel http://www.archaeologychannel.org, we asked University of New Mexico archaeologist Dr. Bill Doleman, who directed the Roswell fieldwork, to share with us his experience in "extraterrestrial archaeology." On November 22, 2002, the SCI FI Channel aired a two-hour documentary that depicted archaeologists investigating the purported crash site. Archaeological excavations under Dr. Doleman were carried out under contract with the SCI FI Channel. Although in this case the client (the SCI FI Channel) and the subject (extraterrestrial visitors) are both unusual, archaeology under contract is by far the most common form of archaeological work in the United States and in many parts of the world today. The shift in emphasis over the past three decades from purely research-oriented to contract archaeology has greatly expanded financial support for archaeological work, but has also highlighted issues about information-sharing and ethical standards. In this interview, we explore with Bill Doleman how this project came about, what his team found and how it has been portrayed, and how it illustrates the practice of contract archaeology today.
For Immediate Release
WDHS Student Video
Dearborn High School
19501 West Outer Drive
Dearborn, MI 48124
"Beam Me Up Scotty" Anti-gravity: Fact or Fiction? Dearborn High video/computer students are the first high school students in the world to build an "antigravity???" machine for 2002-2003 Metro-Detroit Science Fair.
Yes, you can say impossible. Yes, you can say it defies Newton's 3rd law of gravity. Yes, you can say it's done with smoke and mirrors. Nevertheless three teenage Dearborn High students, Luke Duncan, 16, Ethan Rein, 17, and Jim Bergren, 16, built and flew an "antigravity???" aircraft last Sunday in the school video/computer studio.
It has no fans, no jets, and no engines. It makes no sound, and yet it flies. In fact the first time that the students flew the craft it went up so fast and high that in future flights the craft had to be tethered or it just kept going up and up. The only power that is supplied to the beam ship is a thin electrical conducting wire that connects to the fuselage of the balsa wood and aluminum foil craft.
At first the students thought that it was working on a theory called the ion wind, whereby electrons fly through the air displacing air molecules thereby creating a small wind effect. Yet recently a similar craft was built at Purdue University and put in a vacuum chamber but it still flew. Oops, there goes another theory.
The students have been working via phone and internet with physicists and inventors all over the world to help them with their project including the Russian physicist Dr. Podkletnov who now lives in Finnland, The French Inventor Jean-Louis Naudin, American inventor Russell Anderson, President of Applied Electrogravitics, American Antigravity's Tim Ventura, their teacher Mr. Russ Gibb, Michigan Technology Teacher of the Year 2000, as well as many other people who have been building and working on lifters for years. Please note, that many respected investigators of the antigravity phenomenon dispute that beamship/lifter technology is an antigravity phenomen and say outright that it is not antigravity. Students Luke, Jim, and Ethan say "We don't know for sure what causes the craft to fly and are simply investigated the different theories."
Interestingly, this year is the 100-year anniversary of the Wright brothers first flight and also in the early 1900s, Nikola Tesla, the electrical genius, and physicist George S. Piggot were doing experiments on anti-gravity.
If you would like to see the craft take off and fly visit http://www.wdhsvideo.org and click on the picture of the craft, or contact Mr. Gibb at 313-730-3104.
1. GENERAL INFORMATION
In 2003 there will be 95-th anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska event. Despite numerous hypotheses, there is still no consensus on "what it was". The hypotheses vary from a meteorite fall, and a gas outburst to an "alien spaceship" (see, for example, Tunguska 98, and Tunguska 2001 conferences). Thus due to large interest in scientific and general public, administration of Evenkia has decided to organize, and hold an international conference "95-th Anniversary of the Tunguska event" (i.e. "Tunguska 2003") in cities of Moscow, and Krasnoyarsk, and in a settlement of Vanavara (which is about 70 km from the Tunguska epicenter). And, of course, a trip to the Tunguska epicenter is planned.
So if even you are not a scientist, but just interested to visit the epicenter as a tourist, for example, anyway you are welcome! Besides Tunguska, topics of the conference included related items, i.e other similar (whatever origin, as we don't know Tunguska's origin) natural events (including on other scales). Also a cultural program is to take place. Publication of Proceedings of the conference is planned.
2. PLACE AND TIME
The conference will be held in Moscow, a capital of Russia, and in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, and in a settlement of Vanavara, Evenkia.
Planned dates of the conference are on June 25-26, 2003 in Moscow, June 28-29 in Krasnoyarsk, and June 30 - July 2 in Vanavara and for the trip to the Tunguska epicenter (see below). Currently, a possible shift of the schedule is no more than 1-2 days (it will be "zeroed" in a couple of months). A few days long trip to the Tunguska epicenter right after the conference is planned, as it was during Tunguska 95, and Tunguska 98, and Tunguska 2001 conferences. If you want to better understand what does the trip mean, you can look at some pictures. And, of course, you can participate just in any part of the conference (just in Moscow, if you are not interested to visit the epicenter; or just in the trip to the epicenter, if you are a tourist, for example).
[see URL for rest]
The following challenge was made by Michael Drosnin:
When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in
Moby Dick, I'll believe them.
(Newsweek, Jun 9, 1997)
Note that English with the vowels included is far less flexible than Hebrew when it comes to making letters into words. Nevertheless,
without further ado, we present our answer to Mr Drosnin's challenge.
Chris Mooney; December 4, 2002
For those planning to watch all ten episodes of Steven Spielberg and the Sci-Fi Channel's new UFO-centered miniseries Taken, airing December 2-13, I have no intention of spoiling the plot. Still, I can't resist pointing out one annoying detail. Though it's probably the glitziest and most epic fictional treatment of alien abduction claims to date, Taken nevertheless borrows a rather tired motif from its predecessors: The introduction of a "debunker" character who is conveniently made to see the light in the course of the drama, and by the end renounces his or her skepticism.
To read More of this article Visit: http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/taken/
and to read more from Chris Mooney on "Taken" visit Slate magazine:
2) From our Public Relations Director, and the creator of the updated, new and improved Skeptical Inquirer online index, Kevin Christopher:
Welcome to the revamped Skeptical Inquirer Index.
As of this posting the index is current through Volume 24. The index is designed to be more readable for site visitors and make the process of ordering back issues a simple matter of clicking on a link. Expect this site to finally live up to the claim of being complete and up to date. Behind the scenes, the index source data originally compiled by Andrew Lutes has been reformatted and entered into an electronic database to make entering and sorting regular updates an easy task for the Skeptical Inquirer staff. We will very soon be bringing this index current.
Any questions or comments regarding this index should be directed to Kevin Christopher
As this is written, a "Believe It or Not" sort of history is being made in Utah.
Utah Attachment Therapists -- under severe threat by pending legislation to outlaw their abusive practices (i.e. coercive restraint therapies) and being pursued relentlessly by state regulators -- have stunned the state by applying for their very own regulatory board!!!
This morning, a panel of Utah legislators meets in a 3-hour session to consider the application for the creation of the "Attachment Holding Therapy Board."
Observers, referring to this more accurately as the "Board for Child Abusers," have found the 250+page application revealing:
-- The application's large list of supporters includes the names of many children, with one child known to be as young as 3 months old.
-- The proposed board would consist of five members, including the only two AT therapists in Utah currently in good standing: Lawrence Van Bloem, LCSW, and Jennie Murdock Gwilliam, LCSW. Both now face charges of horrific abuse by DOPL. The other AT therapist seat goes to William Goble, the North Carolina (now Florida) psychologist who diagnoses children as "attachment disordered" via fax (e.g. Candace Newmaker).
-- Fattening out the board is a chair reserved for someone who trains AT therapists. This position apparently goes to self-declared "therapeutic parenting expert," former dog groomer and Colorado resident, Nancy Thomas. Thomas' parenting methods have been linked to several criminal child abuse cases. A fifth seat on the board would be reserved for someone who has experienced "holding therapy."
AT NEWS' activist-on-the-ground Larry Sarner reports from the hearing room that those speaking against the application this morning include the Utah Medical Association, the Utah chapters of the APA, ApA, and Marriage and Family Therapists. Utah's DOPL will speak to the fact that psychotherapy is already regulated in Utah. And in a bold action, the Utah Chapter of the NASW, will present their just-passed policy condemning coercive holding therapies, a move which we can only hope will be duplicated by the national NASW.
Sarner, also considering that several Utah legislators on the panel are strongly anti-regulation, boldly predicts a unanimous defeat of the AT application for their own protectionist board.
While there are few AT practitioners in Utah, their fate now is certain to cause a ripple effect across the country. Certainly, AT proponents know this and are making extreme efforts keep AT live and well in the state. If AT can be defeated in Utah, a state known for its warm embrace of alternative health practices, it will go down elsewhere, too.
[*AT NEWS* sends the latest news to activists and interested organizations about the many abusive, violent practices inflicted on children by the fringe psychotherapy known as Attachment Therapy, aka "holding therapy" and "therapeutic parenting." Attachment Therapists claim to work with the most vulunerable of children, e.g. minority children, children in foster care, and adoptees. AT NEWS is the publication of the newly forming *American Association for the Humane Treatment of Children in Therapy.*]
Contact: Linda Rosa, RN
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IN THE NEWS
Today's Headlines - December 4, 2002
SATELLITE PHOTOS DEPICT 'EARTH AS ART'
from The Miami Herald
WASHINGTON - They look like the work of abstract artists, but the images reflect reality - the rhythmic shapes of mountains, deserts, clouds, fjords, scattered cities and towns turned into brilliant patches of red, green and blue - flashed to earth from a satellite 440 miles in space.
More than three dozen of 400,000 photos taken by Landsat-7 since it was launched in 1999 are on display in an exhibit at the Library of Congress called "Earth as Art."
Images from Landsat-7 are mainly used by the U.S. Geological Survey to keep tabs on crops and minerals. Some have been used by scientists to locate promising spots to dig for dinosaur bones in the Gobi desert.
TRACERS MAY HELP DETERMINE HEART ATTACKS
from The Philadelphia Inquirer
CHICAGO - A technique using radioactive tracers and computer imaging can screen out thousands of people who think they are having a heart attack but are not, according to a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
The finding could help prevent unnecessary hospital admissions for about a quarter-million people each year, the report from Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston said.
In the technique, a small amount of radioactive tracer is injected into the body. A special camera then detects radiation released by the substance to produce a computer image of the heart muscle, helping doctors determine if the heart is receiving adequate blood flow.
INCINERATION OF CHEMICAL ARMS BACKED
from The Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON -- America's arsenal of chemical weapons can be safely incinerated at a few sites around the country, despite chemical releases and violations at the only two operational incinerators, according to a report released Tuesday.
"The risk to the public and to the environment of continued storage overwhelms the potential risk of processing and destruction of stockpiled chemical agent," said the report by the National Research Council, a branch of the National Academies of Science. "The destruction of aging chemical munitions should proceed as quickly as possible."
The council did not weigh in on whether incineration was preferable to other methods of neutralizing the chemical agents. Critics who favor other options said the report ignored important incidents and glossed over the dangers of incineration.
EARLY CONTRACEPTIVE USE INCREASES BREAST CANCER RISK
from The San Diego Union-Tribune
WASHINGTON - Women with certain gene mutations have more than a 60 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Now a new study suggests the risk is even greater for these women if they used oral contraceptives at an early age or before 1975.
The study, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that among women with the BRCA1 gene mutation, taking the pill years ago increased the chances of developing breast cancer by 33 to 42 percent when compared to mutation carriers who did not take it.
Dr. Steven A. Narod, chairman of breast cancer research at the Centre for Research on Women's Health at the University of Toronto, said the study does not mean that modern birth control pills are dangerous for women with the breast cancer gene, but it does add a note of caution about how they should use the pill.
ON THIS CHICK'S FUTURE, A SPECIES COULD DEPEND
from The New York Times
GROUSE MOUNTAIN, British Columbia, Nov. 26 - After years of lawsuits and protests and government efforts to give the spotted owl a forest refuge from loggers, it has come down to this: a desperate experiment placing one baby bird in a pen on the outskirts of Vancouver.
The spotted owl - the same rare bird that a decade ago gave the American environmental movement one of its greatest victories in saving an endangered species and its forest habitat in the Pacific Northwest - is verging on extinction in Canada.
Even now in the United States, the spotted owl numbers only in the thousands. In Canada, according to the most optimistic estimate, there are no more than 30 mating pairs left, all of them in this western province, after a steep drop in their population. But many experts say there could be many fewer Canadian spotted owls left, and that no more than a handful hatched this year.
BRAIN IMAGING MAPS EMOTIONS, BEHAVIOR
from The Chicago Tribune
New technologies are enabling scientists to peer inside the living brain, revealing where human emotions reside and how neurochemicals can keep them in bounds or make them race out of control. Called neuroimaging, the technology is leading to more accurate ways of diagnosing mental problems and new therapies to correct them.
Using this growing power to map precise brain locations and chemicals, researchers reported Tuesday at the meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in McCormick Place that they have found abnormal patterns of activity in the brains of children who have difficulty learning to speak.
Another team reported Monday that they have found a different pattern of brain activity in aggressive children who played violent video games, a finding that indicates these children are emotionally primed to explode.
STUDY: FULL-BODY SCANS OFTEN CAUSE NEEDLESS ANXIETY
from The Miami Herald
CHICAGO - Full-body CT scans -- widely advertised as a way to gain peace of mind -- frequently find harmless abnormalities that lead to invasive, anxiety-producing follow-up tests, researchers say. And they may waste money for patients under 40, who run a low risk of serious disease, the study suggests.
"This got pushed to the public before any of the research was done," said Dr. Giovanna Casola of the University of California at San Diego. "They're saying do it for your peace of mind, do it for your wellness, for your family. Nobody's saying, `Half the time we're going to find things that you're going to worry about.'"
The increasingly popular CT scans -- widely promoted on radio, TV and billboards -- give doctors a view into the body from the neck to pelvis. The scans typically are offered at private, for-profit centers, cost several hundred dollars or more and seldom are covered by insurance.
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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 15:22 GMT
Tests on skulls found in Mexico suggest they are almost 13,000 years old - and shed fresh light on how humans colonised the Americas.
The human skulls are the oldest tested so far from the continent, and their shape is set to inflame further a controversy over native American burial rights.
The skulls were analysed by a scientist from John Moores University in Liverpool, with help from teams in Oxford and Mexico.
They came from a collection of 27 skeletons of early humans kept at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.
These were originally discovered more than 100 years ago in the area surrounding the city.
The latest radiocarbon dating techniques allow dating to be carried out on tiny quantities of bone, although the process is expensive.
Dr Silvia Gonzalez, who dated the skull, said: "The museum knew that the remains were of significant historical value but they hadn't been scientifically dated.
"I decided to analyse small bone samples from five skeletons using the latest carbon-dating techniques.
"I think everybody was amazed at how old they were."
The earliest human remains tested prior to this had been dated at approximately 12,000 years ago.
Domestic tools dated at 14,500 years have been found in Chile - but with no associated human remains.
The latest dating is not only confirmation that humans were present in the Americas much earlier than 12,000 years, but also that they were not related to early native Americans.
The two oldest skulls were "dolichocephalic" - that is, long and narrow-headed.
Other, more recent skulls were a different shape - short and broad, like those from native American remains.
This suggests that humans dispersed within Mexico in two distinct waves, and that a race of long and narrow-headed humans may have lived in north America prior to the American Indians.
Traditionally, American Indians were thought to have been the first to arrive on the continent, crossing from Asia on a land bridge.
Dr Gonzalez told BBC News Online: "We believe that the older race may have come from what is now Japan, via the Pacific islands and perhaps the California coast.
"Mexico appears to have been a crossroads for people spreading across the Americas.
"Our next project is to examine remains found in the Baha penninsula of California, and look at their DNA to see if they are related.
"But this discovery, although it is very significant, raises more questions than it solves."
Scientific analysis of early skull finds in the US has often been halted by native American custom which assumes that any ancient remains involve their ancestors and must be handed over.
However, this evidence that another race may have pre-dated native Americans may strengthen legal challenges from researchers to force access to such remains.
Dr Gonzalez said: "My research could have implications for the ancient burial rights of north American Indians."
Dr Gonzalez has now been awarded a grant from the Mexican government and the UK's Natural Environment Research Council to continue her work for three years.
Dear NCSE friends & supporters,
The National Center for Science Education is happy to announce the beginning a project we've wanted to do here for a long time. Those of you who have been with us since the flood (well, you know what I mean), probably remember the Creation/Evolution Journal.
This publication was first started by the American Humanist Association in 1980, and was the first to devote itself entirely to the creation/evolution controversy. In 1991 NCSE was invited to purchase C&E from the AHA, and until 1996 continued to published both it and its own NCSE Reports.
After five years of producing both publications they were combined into Reports of the National Center for Science Education.
But because C/E contains so much valuable historical information on the creation/evolution controversy, NCSE has wanted to make it available for a long time. We have recently taken on the task of scanning all of the back issues for posting on our web site, and today the first two completed issues are online. We'd also like to give a big NCSE thanks to our volunteer Tom Kerr, who has been brave enough to take on this project; thanks Tom!
To access them go to the NCSE web site, ncseweb.org, select Resources from the top navigation bar and then Creation/Evolution Journal from the right side navigation.
Enjoy your stroll down the creation/evolution memory lane.
Network Project Director
National Center for Science Education
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NCSE now has a one way broadcast news list. Please note that this is NOT a discussion list. You cannot post messages for members to receive. We use this list to broadcast news about the creationism/evolution issue to interested parties.
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Second Annual Paranormal Pennsylvania Conference, March 22, 2003 in
Lectures on Bigfoot, Ghosts, UFO's, Psychic Phenomena and more for more information visit
Yes, I know it looks horrible, but I've actually found,(in a mexican periodical "Casa" Vol.4 Issue 44 August 1998) scanned and posted a "new" picture of a chupacabra. I mean it looks phoney, but at least it looks like an animal and it's not a sketch. The article covered the Chupacabra debate and writes the whole thing off as an as yet unclassified carnivore belonging to the marsupal family. Hmmmmmmm. This picture and oh so many more interesting things, (AVI's, Wav's and photos) can be seen at http://members.tripod.com/~mainorg The homepage of the Michigan Anomalous Information Network. Please feel free to look around the sight, the photos, sound and video files are found in the Archive section their respective names. If you have any questions or topics you'd like to discuss feel free to post them on our messageboard, Don't forget to download our newsletter, (PDF format).
Thanks for your time and interest.
Reverend John E.L. Tenney