NTS LogoSkeptical News for 13 December 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, December 13, 2002

Subject: Missile fly by.

From: Michael Selby

I sent this off to Fox 4 news after they played a segment about a UFO/missile spotted on a video tape shot at an airport. Who knows, maybe they'll show a little integrity and run a retraction.

Dear Steve Eagar

The rouge missile you reported on in your Whatever Happened segment is the result of an insect fly by. It is a known optical illusion called "rods" which is caused when a flying insect passes in front of a video camera.

The frame rate of the camera is less than the wing beat of many insects. The insect's wings reflect the light like small mirrors when they are optimally positioned during the wingbeat cycle. The body of the insect then appears as a long streak since it is reflects light at a constant.

It is also obvious that the object was close to the camera since it was out of focus while the camera's focus was clearly set to long distance for the plane fly-by shot.

You can easily recreate the illusion by filming insect in flight from a stationary camera. Try pointing one at a street light where it is obvious insects are present.

Here are two sources that explain the phenomenon further. You may find plenty of others if you do a little research of your own.



Please respond.


Michael Selby

Dr Goldberg helps us with "past-life regression"


Welcome to the Site of Dr. Bruce Goldberg -- the Hypnotherapist

Welcome to what I believe will be a very memorable trip of your life to my website. I'm a dentist and a hypnotherapist. I specialized in past life regression (and Future Life progression) hypnotherapy, and have retired from dentistry to devote full-time to my rapidly expanding international hypnotherapy practice. With the magic of hypnotherapy, almost anything is possible!

I have been on many radio and television talk shows, I am a media consultant, a New Age metaphysical activist and spokesperson. I have written many interesting books, and have produced dozens of self-hypnosis tapes about this exciting field of hypnotherapy. Feel free to surf my site. Your imagination is the only limit of your experience as you explore the magic of a hypnotherapist.

Come and experience the magic of a healing hypnotherapist, give Dr. Bruce Goldberg a call today - - - 818-713-8190.

Bermuda Triangle: Behind the Intrigue

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1205_021205_bermudatriangle.html Hillary Mayell
for National Geographic News
December 5, 2002

On a sunny day 57 years ago, five Navy planes took off from their base in Florida on a routine training mission, known as Flight 19. Neither the planes nor the crew were ever seen again.

Thus was a legend born. The Bermuda Triangle is an area roughly bounded by Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. No one keeps statistics, but in the last century, numerous ships and planes have simply vanished without a trace within the imaginary triangle.

Unusual features of the area had been noted in the past. Christopher Columbus wrote in his log about bizarre compass bearings in the area. But the region didn't get its name until August 1964, when Vincent Gaddis coined the term Bermuda Triangle in a cover story for Argosy magazine about the disappearance of Flight 19. The article stimulated a virtual cottage industry in myth-making.

Many exotic theories have been propounded to explain what happened to the missing travelers.

The disappearances have been attributed to the machinations of enormous sea monsters, giant squid, or extra-terrestrials. Alien abductions, the existence of a mysterious third dimension created by unknown beings, and ocean flatulence—the ocean suddenly spewing great quantities of trapped methane—have all been suggested as culprits.

The reality, say many, is far more prosaic. They argue that a sometimes treacherous Mother Nature, human error, shoddy craftsmanship or design, and just plain bad luck can explain the many disappearances.

"The region is highly traveled and has been a busy crossroads since the early days of European exploration," said John Reilly, a historian with the U.S. Naval Historical Foundation. "To say quite a few ships and airplanes have gone down there is like saying there are an awful lot of car accidents on the New Jersey Turnpike—surprise, surprise."

Lieutenant A. L. Russell, in the U.S. Coast Guard's official response to Bermuda Triangle inquiries, writes: "It has been our experience that the combined forces of nature and the unpredictability of mankind outdo science-fiction stories many times each year."

Disappearance of Flight 19

The legend of the Bermuda Triangle will be forever tied to the fateful flight that took place on December 5, 1945.

Flight 19 originated at the U. S. Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers carrying 14 men took off at roughly 2:10 in the afternoon that day on a routine navigational training mission.

Led by instructor Lieutenant Charles Taylor, the assignment was to fly a three-legged triangular route with a few bombing practice runs over Hen and Chickens Shoals.

Taylor, in an age before the Global Positioning System (GPS) became commonplace for navigation, got hopelessly lost shortly after the bombing run. Pilots flying over water in 1945 had to rely on compasses and knowing how long they'd been flying in a particular direction, and at what speed.

Both of the compasses on Taylor's plane were apparently malfunctioning. Transcripts of in-flight communications suggest he wasn't wearing a watch. There are no landmarks in the middle of the ocean.

The planes flew in one direction then another as balmy daylight turned to stormy seas in the darkness.

Taylor is heard formulating a plan; as soon as the first plane's fuel level dipped below 10 gallons, all five planes were to ditch at sea.

The Avenger was known as an extremely rugged plane. Pilots sometimes called them "Iron Birds" or Grumman ironworks, said Mark Evans, a historian at the Naval Aviation History branch of the Naval Historical Center.

"They were built like tanks," he said. "Time and again they'd come back from battle all shot up and still functioning. Pilots loved them."

They were also very heavy, weighing more than 10,000 pounds (4,535 kilograms) empty. When ditched, the Avenger would go down hard and fast. The possibility of anyone surviving a landing in high seas was slim, the chance of surviving the night in the cold waters was nil, the likelihood of the wreckage making a quick descent to the bottom was high.

A massive land and sea search was mounted, but neither bodies nor wreckage were ever found.

Adding to the tragedy, one of the rescue planes also disappeared along with its 13-man crew. Their plane, a PBM Mariner, was nicknamed the "flying gas tank"; the slightest spark or a lit match could cause an explosion. A ship in the area reported seeing a huge fireball and crossing through an oil slick at the exact time and place where the plane would have been. The Navy halted production of that plane in 1949.

In the Navy's final report, the disappearance of Flight 19 was blamed on pilot error. Taylor's family protested and, after several reviews, the verdict was changed to "causes or reasons unknown."

Graveyard of the Atlantic

The Bermuda Triangle region has some unusual features. It's one of only two places on Earth—the other being an area nicknamed the Devil's Sea off the east coast of Japan, which has a similar mysterious reputation—where true north and magnetic north line up, which could make compass readings dicey [sidebar].

It is also home to some of the deepest underwater trenches in the world; wreckage could settle in a watery grave miles below the surface of the ocean. Most of the sea floor in the Bermuda Triangle is about 19,000 feet (5,791 meters) down; near its southern tip, the Puerto Rico Trench dips at one point to 27,500 (8,229 meters) feet below sea level.

Treacherous shoals and reefs can be found along the continental shelf. Strong currents over the reefs constantly breed new navigational hazards, according to the Coast Guard.

Then there's the weather.

"The biggest issues in that area normally are hurricanes, but it's not particularly a spawning area for storms," said Dave Feit, chief of the marine forecast branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Prediction Center.

However, Feit pointed out, the Gulf Stream travels along the western edge of the triangle and could be a factor. The Gulf Stream is like a 40- to 50-mile-wide (64- to 80-kilometer-wide) river within the ocean that circulates in the North Atlantic Ocean. The warm water and two- to four-knot currents can create weather patterns that remain channeled within it.

"If you have the right atmospheric conditions, you could get quite unexpectedly high waves," said Feit. "If wave heights are eight feet outside of the Gulf Stream, they could be two or even three times higher within it. Sailors can sometimes identify the Gulf Stream by the clouds and thunderstorms over it."

The Coast Guard also notes that unpredictable Caribbean-Atlantic storms can yield waterspouts that often spell disaster for pilots and mariners.

Still, given a choice between the horrifying idea of a giant squid's tentacles wrestling an innocent ship to the sea floor, or an alien abduction, versus human error, shoddy engineering, and a temperamental Mother Nature—who could resist the legend of the Bermuda Triangle?

Science In the News

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

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

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


Today's Headlines - December 11, 2002

Center will also focus on related cancer research
from The San Francisco Chronicle

Stanford University announced plans Tuesday to create a $120 million institute to study the overlapping biology of cancer and stem cells, including a plan to start cloning new stem cells from human embryos.

The new Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine will be directed by Dr. Irving Weissman, a Stanford pioneer of stem-cell research and staunch advocate of controversial "therapeutic cloning."

Stanford's move underscores the growing interest in stem-cell research among California institutions, fueled in part by a state law that specifically encourages the controversial field of study. Besides Stanford, UCSF Medical Center also is taking part, one of a handful of institutions supplying stem cells derived from human embryos to researchers around the world.


from The New York Times

A small biotechnology company has obtained the exclusive rights to commercial applications of a new type of stem cell that has the potential to defuse the public debate over the use of those cells in research. The company, Athersys Inc. of Cleveland, licensed the rights from the University of Minnesota, where the stem cell was discovered by Dr. Catherine M. Verfaillie and colleagues, university and company officials said.

The cells come from the bone marrow of adults but seem to be as versatile as stem cells from embryos in their ability to turn into different types of cells in the body. That means that various types of tissue might one day be made from them, defying the conventional wisdom that adult stem cells are less versatile than embryonic ones.

And since the cells come from adults, they do not raise the ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem cells, which are obtained by the destruction of human embryos. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research have championed Dr. Verfaillie's cells, which she calls multipotent adult progenitor cells, as alternatives to embryonic cells.


Underwater forest may be destroyed
from The Chicago Tribune

Captivated by tales of an ancient underwater forest, Jack Fessenden, a student at Northeastern Illinois University, recently dove through the dark, frigid waters of Lake Michigan to see the 8,300-year-old tree stumps for himself.

What Fessenden, 32, saw has alarmed Great Lakes researchers: Thick layers of zebra mussels are now caked over the wooden relics, threatening to destroy the site 15 miles northeast of Calumet Harbor. Scientists fear that the threadlike structures zebra mussels use to stay in place will tear apart the ancient wood within a few decades.

The recent infestation has implications that reach far beyond losing the submerged oak, ash and hickory trees, which have been preserved in 85 feet of water for thousands of years. Clues to geological history could be lost as well, said Michael Chrzastowski of the Illinois State Geological Survey.


from The Washington Post

Software meant to protect young people from the seamier side of the Internet may also be blocking important health information on issues ranging from diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases to depression and suicide, according to a Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study released yesterday.

This is especially critical, the foundation says, because more and more young people are seeking information from the Internet rather than from adults when it comes to touchy subjects like birth control and substance abuse.

The report added fodder to an already intense debate that has reached the Supreme Court over the congressionally mandated use of filters in public schools and libraries. The Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 requires that schools and libraries use Web-browsing filters to block pornographic content on computers connected to the Internet or risk losing federal funds. Each institution can set the parameters of its filters however it chooses.


from The New York Times

Scientists have known for some time that people who suffer from schizophrenia show abnormalities in the structure of their brains. But in a new study, researchers for the first time have detected similar abnormalities in brain scans of people who were considered at high risk for schizophrenia or other psychotic illnesses but who did not yet have full-blown symptoms. Those abnormalities, the study found, became even more marked once the illness was diagnosed.

The subjects in the study who went on to develop psychoses had less gray matter in brain areas involved in attention and higher mental processes like planning, emotion and memory, the researchers found.

Experts said the study's results, reported yesterday in an online version of The Lancet, the medical journal, offered the possibility that imaging techniques might eventually be used to predict who will develop schizophrenia, a devastating illness that affects more than 2.8 million Americans. Doctors could then offer treatment while the disease was still in its earliest stages, possibly preventing further damage to the brain.


from The Boston Globe

About half the chicken purchased in stores and supermarkets nationwide is tainted with bacteria most commonly associated with food poisoning, according to a survey of 25 metropolitan areas released by a national consumer magazine yesterday.

Consumer Reports' tests also indicated that the massive amounts of antibiotics fed to the chickens apparently are making humans increasingly resistant to the antibiotics.

Ninety percent of the contaminated chickens carried a strain of bacteria that showed resistance to at least one antiobiotic. That would have been extremely rare to find a decade ago, said Dr. Sherwood Gorback, an infectious-disease specialist at Tufts University.


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

Sigma Xi Homepage

Media Resource Service

American Scientist magazine

For feedback on In the News,

Human or Computer? Take This Test



As chief scientist of the Internet portal Yahoo, Dr. Udi Manber had a profound problem: how to differentiate human intelligence from that of a machine.

His concern was more than academic. Rogue computer programs masquerading as teenagers were infiltrating Yahoo chat rooms, collecting personal information or posting links to Web sites promoting company products. Spam companies were creating havoc by writing programs that swiftly registered for hundreds of free Yahoo e-mail accounts then used them for bulk mailings.

"What we needed," said Dr. Manber, "was a simple way of telling a human user from a computer program."

So, in a September 2000 conference call, Dr. Manber discussed the problem with a group of computer science researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The result was a long-term project that is just now beginning to bear fruit.

The roots of Dr. Manber's philosophical conundrum lay in a paper written 50 years earlier by the mathematician Dr. Alan Turing, who imagined a game in which a human interrogator was connected electronically to a human and a computer in the next room. The interrogator's task was to pose a series of questions that determined which of the other participants was the human. The human helped him, while the computer did its best to thwart him.

Dr. Turing suggested that a machine could be said to think if the human interrogator could not distinguish it from the other human. He went on to predict that by 2000, computers would be able to fool the average interrogator over five minutes of questioning at least 30 percent of the time.

Although the Turing test, as it is now called, spawned a vibrant field of research known as artificial intelligence, his prediction has proved false. Today's computers are capable of feats Dr. Turing never imagined, yet in many simple tasks, a typical 5-year-old can outperform the most powerful computers.

Indeed, the abilities that require much of what is usually described as intelligence, like medical diagnosis or playing chess, have proved far easier for computers than seemingly simpler abilities: those requiring vision, hearing, language or motor control.

"Abilities like vision are the result of billions of years of evolution and difficult for us to understand by introspection, whereas abilities like multiplying two numbers are things we were explicitly taught and can readily express in a computer program," said Dr. Jitendra Malik, a professor specializing in computer vision at the University of California at Berkeley.

Dr. Manuel Blum, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon who took part in the Yahoo conference, realized that the failures of artificial intelligence might provide exactly the solution Yahoo needed. Why not devise a new sort of Turing test, he suggested, that would be simple for humans but would baffle sophisticated computer programs.

Dr. Manber liked the idea, so with his Ph.D. student Luis von Ahn and others Dr. Blum devised a collection of cognitive puzzles based on the challenging problems of artificial intelligence. The puzzles have the property that computers can generate and grade the tests even though they cannot pass them. The researchers decided to call their puzzles Captchas, an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart (on the Web at www.captcha.net).

One puzzle, called Gimpy, consists of a display of seven distorted, overlapping words chosen at random from a dictionary of simple words. Solving the puzzle requires identifying three of the seven words and typing them into the box provided. The Carnegie Mellon group also created a simplified version of Gimpy — a single distorted word displayed against a complicated background. It is now part of Yahoo's registration process.

Another Captcha, called Sounds, consists of a distorted, computer-generated sound clip containing a word or sequence of numbers. To solve the puzzle, a user must listen to the clip and type the word or numbers into the box provided.

The idea of using puzzles to prevent automated registrations was not new. Other e-commerce sites, including the AltaVista search engine and eBay's PayPal service, were experiencing problems like Yahoo's and independently came up with Captcha-like puzzles. Through its acquisitions, Hewlett-Packard holds a patent on text-based Captchas.

Still, researchers credit Dr. Blum for the breadth of his vision. Dr. Blum "did a great thing by recognizing that this problem is much more than solving a nuisance for Yahoo and AltaVista," said Dr. Andrei Broder, who helped develop the AltaVista puzzle and is now at I.B.M.

As a cryptographer, Dr. Blum was familiar with the constant efforts of cryptographic researchers to advance the field by cracking codes to discover their weaknesses.

He hoped to start a similar dynamic for Captchas, spurring researchers to try to create better Captchas while building computer programs that crack existing ones.

"Captchas are useful for companies like Yahoo, but if they're broken it's even more useful for researchers," Dr. Blum said. "It's like there are two lollipops and no matter what you get one of them."

In October Dr. Blum got his wish. Dr. Malik of Berkeley and Greg Mori, a student, devised a computer program that could crack Gimpy — both the simple version used by Yahoo and the harder one on Captcha's Web site

More signs that solar system has tenth planet

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_medical/story.jsp?story=360803 By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor

12 December 2002

The solar system may have a tenth planet lurking beyond the orbit of Pluto, calculations by astronomers in Britain and Argentina indicate.

"Planet X" could lie 60 times further from the Sun than the Earth, roughly 600 million miles out. But nobody would have spotted it directly because, if it exists, it orbits in a direction that astronomers rarely study.

The new planet, thought to be the same size as Earth, would lie on the inside edge of the Kuiper Belt, a distant region of the solar system principally composed of small pieces of rock and interstellar leftovers from the creation of the solar system. Yet it could have the seeds of life, because astronomers have detected ice and complex molecules on the surface of some of the rocks there.

One of the scientists who developed the idea, Dr Mario Melita, of the astronomy unit at Queen Mary, University of London, said yesterday: "The Belt has a sharp edge to it, which isn't well understood. But people have noticed gaps in planetary rings and when they've looked there, they've found orbiting moons that have swept up the matter by their gravity."

Dr Melita, and Dr Adrian Brunini, of the University of La Plata in Argentina, suggested the sharp edge of the Kuiper Belt was caused by a similar sweeping, and that had, over time, created a planet-sized object, whose orbit of the sun would be almost circular, but angled by 20 degrees to that of the inner planets.

"We could observe it with telescopes, but there's a lot of space to cover," Dr Melita said. "And we don't normally look in that direction relative to Earth."

The idea has had qualified approval from other astronomers. "There's something funny going on out there [in the Kuiper Belt]," Marc Bule of the prestigious Lowell Observatory in Arizona told New Scientist magazine.

Alan Stern of the Southwestern Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said the area was "a region of planetary formation, with 100,000 objects that are 'miniature planets'."

Modern astronomers reckon that Pluto, discovered in 1930, actually originated in the Belt. Its orbit sometimes passes within that of Neptune, the next most outlying planet. In October, a team at the California Institute of Technology discovered a Kuiper Belt object half the size of Pluto, which they named Quaoar.

Dr Stern told New Scientist the discovery was probably only the first of many. "There are more likely 900 planets in the solar system than nine," he said. "And all but eight are in the Kuiper Belt."

But the existence of a planet is not yet confirmed. Other hypotheses could explain the Belt's shape, Dr Melita said, such as a small star about one-tenth as large as the Sun, passing near when the solar system formed about six billion years ago. "That could have created something like this," he said.

Quantum Mind 2003


Consciousness, Quantum Physics and the Brain

March 15-19, 2003, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

Could quantum information be the key to understanding consciousness? Could consciousness enable future quantum information technology?

The nature of consciousness and its place in the universe remain mysterious. Classical models view consciousness as computation among the brain's neurons but fail to address its enigmatic features. At the same time quantum processes (superposition of states, nonlocality, entanglement.) also remain mysterious, yet are being harnessed in revolutionary information technologies (quantum computation, quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation). A relation between consciousness and quantum effects has been pondered for nearly a century, and in the past decades quantum processes in the brain have been invoked as explanations for consciousness and its enigmatic features. Critics deride this comparison as a mere "minimization of mysteries" and quickly point out that the brain is too warm for quantum computation which in the technological realm requires extreme cold to avoid "decoherence", loss of seemingly delicate quantum states by interaction with the environment. However quantum computation would surely be advantageous from an evolutionary perspective, and biology has had 4 billion years to solve the decoherence problem and evolve quantum mechanisms. Furthemore recent experimental evidence suggests quantum nonlocality occurring in conscious and subconscious brain function, and functional quantum processes in molecular biology are becoming more and more apparent. Moreover macroscopic quantum processes are being proposed as intrinsic features in cosmology, evolution and social interactions. Following the first "Quantum Mind" conference held in Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University in 1999, "Quantum Mind II" will update current status and future directions, and provide dialog with skeptical criticism of the emerging paradigm.

Confirmed speakers:

Sir Roger Penrose, Paul Benioff, Henry Stapp, Guenter Mahler, Mae Wan Ho, Paavo Pylkkanen, Harald Walach, Jiri Wackerman, Jack Tuszynski, Dick Bierman, Koichiro Matsuno, Stuart Hameroff, Nancy Woolf, Scott Hagan, Paola Zizzi, Alexander Wendt, Jeffrey Satinover, Roeland van Wijk, Guenter Albrecht-Buehler, Ken Augustyn, Sisir Roy, Hartmann Roemer, E. Roy John, Gerald Pollack, Carlo Trugenberger, and Menas Kafatos

Submitted abstracts will be considered for Plenary Talks, Short Talks or Posters.

Deadline for abstract submission is December 1, 2002


* Quantum models of consciousness
* Quantum information science
* Decoherence, anti-decoherence and topological quantum error correction
* Cosmology and consciousness
* Protein, cytoskeletal and DNA dynamics
* Time: physics and perception
* Nonlocality and entanglement between macro-systems: experimental evidence
* Quantum mind and social science
* Quantum associative memory

Sponsored by

Center for Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona; The Fetzer Institute; The YeTaDeL Foundation; Mind Science Foundation; The Samueli Institute for Information Biology; School of Computational Science, George Mason University

Organizing Committee

Stuart Hameroff, Paavo Pylkkanen, Jack Tuszynski, Dick Bierman, Nancy Woolf, Scott Hagan, Avner Priel, Fred Thaheld, Adele Behar, Pierre St. Hilaire, Paola Zizzi, Alexander Wendt, Andrew Duggins, Harald Walach, Jeffrey Satinover

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Science In the News

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

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

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


Today's Headlines - December 12, 2002

from The New York Times

Nothing is quite so delicate as the dance of butterflies on the breeze, and, as new research suggests, nothing is quite so humbling to flight engineers. After spending several years constructing a small and very calm flight tunnel, scientists at the University of Oxford have taken high-speed digital photographs of free-flying butterflies and the intricate, swirling patterns their wing beats make in wisps of smoke.

This is the first time that anyone has captured images that show what the wing beats of free-flying insects do to the air they flutter on. (Other visual studies have used tethered insects, moths, for example, glued to a lightweight rod.) The red admiral butterflies, moving without restraint, show an extraordinary agility and complexity in their flight. Not only do they use many different wing strokes, they use them on successive wing beats.

"One insect uses all the known aerodynamic methods that anybody has conjectured," said Dr. Adrian L. R. Thomas, an author with Dr. Robert B. Srygley, now a visiting researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, of a report published today in the journal Nature. "That's a big surprise."


CLASS OF ESTROGENS LABELED CARCINOGENS U.S. Upgrades Danger Posed by Element in Replacement Therapies, Contraceptives
from The Washington Post

All estrogens used in replacement therapies and contraceptives were listed yesterday by the federal government as "known human carcinogens," a significant upgrading of the dangers they pose. However, government scientists said it is not known whether estrogens retain their cancer-causing potential when used in combination with other hormones, as they commonly are in hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives.

Some estrogen compounds were previously listed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences as likely to cause cancer in humans, but yesterday's listing of the entire class of steroidal estrogens was a broad expansion.

"Based on our review of the literature, we have now put the entire class of steroidal estrogens in the category of greatest hazard," said Christopher Portier, director of the Environmental Toxicology Program for NIEHS. "For us, this is a big step."


from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 - The new head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Mark B. McClellan, said today that he intended to speed the approval of new drugs and crack down on deceptive pharmaceutical advertising.

The agency has substantially reduced the time required to review and approve new medicines since 1993, when drug companies began paying fees to help cover the costs of such reviews. It still takes a little more than a year for the agency to approve a typical brand-name drug, and Dr. McClellan said today, "We can do better."

Dr. McClellan said he wanted to accelerate the approval of both brand-name and generic drugs, as well as medical devices. "We have some great opportunities to do better in drug approval times and in getting products that are safe and effective to market more quickly," Dr. McClellan, a physician and economist who worked at the White House until he took charge of the agency on Nov. 14, said.


from The Los Angeles Times

The year 2002 is the second-warmest in recorded history, according to NASA scientists who monitor global air temperatures. A record-breaking stretch of warmth in recent years -- with 2001 now going down as the third-warmest year on record and 1998 still holding the all-time record -- has scientists and climate experts concerned that greenhouse gases are warming the planet more quickly than previously expected.

"Studying these annual temperature data, one gets the unmistakable feeling that temperature is rising and that the rise is gaining momentum," said Lester R. Brown, an economist and president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington.

The Earth's average temperature during the 2002 meteorological year was 58.35 degrees Fahrenheit, more than one degree warmer than the long-term average of 57.2 degrees, said James E. Hansen, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies who analyzes surface temperatures collected from several thousand weather stations around the world.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-warmth12dec12,0,1279940.story?coll=la%2Dheadline s%2Dnation

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

Sigma Xi Homepage

Media Resource Service

American Scientist magazine

For feedback on In the News,

New Stanford Institute Is to Study Controversial Stem Cell Manipulation

December 12, 2002

A new stem cell institute being set up at Stanford University will study a wide variety of human diseases through two advanced but controversial techniques of cell manipulation. One is nuclear transfer, also used in cloning animals, and the other will involve generating new lines of human embryonic stem cells.

The institute will be headed by Dr. Irving Weissman, a Stanford expert on the stem cells in the bone marrow that daily renew the red and white blood cells. An anonymous donor has provided $12 million to start the institute.


Ohio Strengthens Teaching of Evolution

December 12, 2002


COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 11 - The state school board unanimously approved on Tuesday standards that more strongly advocate the teaching of evolution while letting students fully criticize the legitimacy of the theory.

The standards do not require the teaching or testing of the alternate "intelligent design" theory, which says a higher intelligence guides the universe. The vote was 18 to 0, with 1 absence.


Skeptic Newssearch - 11/12/02


Imagine His Surprise...


"Iranian police are looking for a phony sorcerer who conned a man into believing he was invisible and could rob banks, the Jam-e Jam newspaper said Thursday."

Wary of the nether world, the people keep watch
By Sarah Crichton
Sydney Morning Herald


"They have come from all over Bali and from all walks of life to protect the site of the October 12 blasts until a Hindu cleansing ceremony allows the spirits of the dead to go peacefully to heaven."

Condition of haunted Chitungwiza girl worsens
The Herald [Zimbabwe]


"THE condition of a 15-year-old Chitungwiza girl, who is claiming she is being haunted by goblins, worsened yesterday."

Bar and patrons are open to UFOs
by Beth Williams
Wisconsin State Journal


"Despite the pictures of aliens with their green eyes glowing eerily from behind the bar, the self-proclaimed UFO headquarters is all about acceptance."

Ossuary was genuine, inscription was faked
By Rochelle I. Altman
Israel Insider


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

"Brother of Jesus" bone-box plot thickens
By Ellis Shuman
Israel Insider


"An ancient burial box believed to have belonged to James, the Biblical brother of Jesus, was damaged while being sent for display at a Toronto museum. The museum is awaiting word from the ossuary's owner before attempting to repair the box, but the owner is being questioned by police as the burial box may actually belong to the State of Israel. Meanwhile, Israeli scholars insist that the inscription on the box is a fraud."

Scientists predict the mystery of the James burial box will never be unraveled
Associated Press


"In a souvenir shop on the Via Dolorosa, an antiquities dealer studied a photo of what may â€" just may â€" be the oldest archaeological link to Jesus. Then he shrugged."

Israel Man Vows Not to Sell Ossuary
Associated Press


"Breaking his silence, the reclusive owner of an ancient burial box said Thursday he will never sell what may be the oldest archaeological link to Jesus, but that he is willing to have it exhibited in Israel."

Ossuary's owner emerges to tell his story
Toronto Globe & Mail


"The man who owns a box in which the bones of James, brother of Jesus, are thought to have been buried says the discovery has changed his life, and not necessarily for the better."

Pat the Ripper
By David Cohen


"To understand Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), imagine a cross between Degas, Hopper, and Andy Warhol, and then for color and tone, add the English weather. He was a painter of fabulously murky realist scenes, smoke-filled music halls, and weirdly remote portraits worked up from press clippings. His big themes were whoredom and boredom. He was a prolific writer and opinionizer and man about town, a leading light in the art scene, with a flock of disciples, admirers, and mistresses."

Sask. believers say Virgin Mary appearing in frost
Canadian Press


"Hundreds of Catholics are gathering around an image formed by frost between the sealed panes of a window in the belief it's an apparition of the Virgin Mary."

Raelian religion centre vandalized
Canadian Press


"An information centre known as UFO land, which is run by the Raelian religion, was vandalized Thursday, with damage totalling more than $100,000."

UNLV unplugs program on human consciousness


"The UNLV Consciousness Studies program has faded to black."

Some method in Atlantis sage's madness
By Tim Harris
The Age [Australia]


"If sufficient ink and paper are devoted to an idea, many readers will take it as unassailable fact. No matter how odd the premise, once an author has done the hard work of enshrining it in a book, it will generally find adherents."

A bizarre tale of voodoo, murder
By Doug Moe
Madison Capital Times


"IN THOSE days when he was going to law school and tending bar nights in a faux-French restaurant on Madison's west side, Greg Dutch never thought there would be a case like this. Nobody would. Not even the movies or TV could dream it up."

Work to resume near one-eyed taniwha
New Zealand Herald


"Waikato Maori are happy, for the time being at least, for roadworks to resume on a section of the Waikato expressway near Meremere where Karu Tahi the one-eyed taniwha lurks."

Transit and the taniwha
New Zealand Herald


"When the BBC ran the story on its website - and it did - the headline said, "Maori swamp creature delays road." The Independent - yes, Britain's quality daily broadsheet reported it as well - said, "Construction on a major highway in New Zealand has been halted because a local Maori tribe says it is infringing on the habitat of a mythical swamp-dwelling monster"."

Sun's rays to roast Earth as poles flip
by Robin McKie
The Observer [UK]


"Earth's magnetic field - the force that protects us from deadly radiation bursts from outer space - is weakening dramatically."

Nasa pulls Moon hoax book
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News


"The US space agency (Nasa) has cancelled the book intended to challenge the conspiracy theorists who claim the Moon landings were a hoax."

One giant hoax for mankind
by Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News


"Am I the only one who thinks the US space agency (Nasa) has missed a good opportunity in cancelling the book planned to give a rebuttal of the Moon hoaxers?"

One giant leap for conspiricists
by Mark Lawson
The Guardian [UK]


"It's a key belief of conspiracy theorists that the state has shady powers, and so it was remarkable to be told this week that Britain's head of state may share such fears. After the crown's role in halting Paul Burrell's trial, many suspected that the Queen might be the instigator of a conspiracy, but the butler now helpfully presents her as the possible victim of one. The claim by Princess Diana's ex-Jeeves that the Queen warned him about "powers at work in this country about which we have no knowledge" suggests that conspiracy theorists have infiltrated the very heart of British power."

Starship memories
By Beth Potier
Harvard Gazette


"Susan Clancy's research has taken her into alien territory."

Ghost hunter started with cold, waxy, chance encounter
by Brett Andersen
ThisWeek [Burnsville, MN]


"A run-in 29 years ago with a “cold and waxy” ghost turned Rick Hagen of Minneapolis on to ghost hunting."

Cluster of lights baffles Yuma couple
Yuma Sun


"A Yuma couple did more than a double-take when they saw a cluster of circular white lights zip across the sky Tuesday night, they said."

Dorm residents retell legend of friendly ghost
by Christopher Barton
North Texas Daily


"Since the brutal unsolved murder of a freshman student more than 21 years ago outside Maple Hall, residents have claimed the ghost of the slain woman haunts the building where her life came to a sudden end."

Mom takes search for Lima girl to psychic
Toldeo Blade


"More than three years after her teenage daughter Nicholle disappeared, Krista Coppler refuses to give up hope of finding her."

Study finds no connection between autism and vaccine for childhood diseases
Orange County Register


"Debunking a conviction long-held by some parents of autistic children, Danish researchers have found no link between autism and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination."

The Not-So-Crackpot Autism Theory
New York Times


"Neal Halsey's life was dedicated to promoting vaccination. In June 1999, the Johns Hopkins pediatrician and scholar had completed a decade of service on the influential committees that decide which inoculations will be jabbed into the arms and thighs and buttocks of eight million American children each year. At the urging of Halsey and others, the number of vaccines mandated for children under 2 in the 90's soared to 20, from 8. Kids were healthier for it, according to him. These simple, safe injections against hepatitis B and germs like haemophilus bacteria would help thousands grow up free of diseases like meningitis and liver cancer."

True believers gather for UFO Conference
Pueblo Chieftain


"While the truth may be out there, a large portion of it could be found in the Fortino Ballroom at Pueblo Community College Saturday."

Ready Aura Not
Silicon Valley Metro


"PLUMBING THE DEPTHS of one's soul is a procedure that, like flossing, is probably best undertaken at home in a locked bathroom. Does anyone who isn't paid by the hour (save your mother or your slavishly devoted prom date) really need or want to wade through the grimy details of your elementary-school playground traumas and the stuff of 3am insomnia?"

SHOWTIME and Penn & Teller Expose Frauds and Fakes In Controversial New Series
Press Release


"Master showmen Penn & Teller will use their signature skills and biting wit in a provocative new original series for Showtime Networks. The show promises an aggressive, irreverent expose of taboo topics that may be too controversial for other networks, but these self proclaimed "pit-bulls for truth" will leave no stone unturned in their quest to destroy everything the trusting public believes in. The duo will expose frauds and fakes using their trademark humor, knowledge of carnival tricks and con-artistry, as well as hidden cameras and blatant confrontation. The show is currently in production and is slated to air in January 2003."

Animal health care hits a nerve
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


"Kiyak doesn't look like a dog with a back problem, but like Brett Favre after games, the Belgian Tervuren finds himself gimpy after long days of herding sheep and jumping through obstacle courses."

Mummified body kept under wraps
Australian Broadcasting Corporation


"Japanese police have arrested two cultists who kept the mummified and needle punctured body of their roommate in a back room under a pile of diapers."

New York Post


"A FEW years ago, I took a friend who'd lost his grandfather to the "Crossing Over With John Edward" show. And, yes, his grandpa, Aloisius, did in fact "come through" on the show."

Twinlab to Halt Ephedra Sales
By Randi F. Marshall


"After years of manufacturing and selling products that contain the controversial herb ephedra, Twinlab Corp. announced Monday it would stop all sales of products containing ephedra as of March 2003."

The mysterious disappearance of Art Bell
by Dawn Scire
Sarasota Herald-Tribune


"I have been a listener to this "aliens" program for years, including the night Art Bell went off the air in the middle of a program."

Brainerd men are ghostbusters
by Jodie Tweed
Brainerd Daily Dispatch


"They wear the costumes for fun, but two Brainerd men say their ghost-busting business is no joke."

Ancient therapy finds popularity on America's massage tables
Yuma Sun


"After just a few minutes of therapy, Margo Winzeler begins to feel the aches of backbreaking work in the flower garden slowly creep from her muscles as healing pulses and swirls throughout her body."

Chopra preaches understanding of body and spirit
By Bill Wolfe
Louisville Courier-Journal


"Deepak Chopra brought his message of mind-and-body medicine and spirituality to Louisville last night, and the audience of more than 250 who braved stormy weather to attend his lecture at the Cathedral of the Assumption got a concentrated dose of his insights."

Chinese medicine expert to speak
Calgary Herald


"A world-renowned Alberta doctor who practises traditional Chinese medicine will share his knowledge with Calgary women."

Apocalyptic book series stirring debate, study among Christians
The Tennessean


"Tim LaHaye has been called a ''pseudo-theologian,'' preacher of fear, biblical distorter."

Scientology critic sues over movie
St. Petersburg Times


"Church of Scientology critic Robert S. Minton put up $2.44-million to produce a film called The Profit, a thinly disguised movie about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard."

AP villagers torture widow for practicing "witchcraft"
by Uma Sudhir
New Delhi Television


"In a shocking incident, a 41-year-old widow was tied up and tortured for 12 hours in a village near Hyderabad, because villagers suspected her of practicing witchcraft."

SCI FI Airs UFO Specials
Sci Fi Wire


"The SCI FI Channel announced that it will air two original documentary specials dealing with the question of UFOs, government conspiracies and alien abduction, starting at 8 p.m. ET/PT Nov. 22. The specials will air in anticipation of the channel's upcoming original miniseries Steven Spielberg Presents Taken, which premieres Dec. 2."

Green Eggs and Hayyim

Or, Another Christ-Myth Clown

James Patrick Holding

Disclaimer: This document is for entertainment purposes only. Distribute with a grain of salt. Prepare to be laughed at. This document has been swiped uncritically from other likewise unqualified sources.

Here's a rule of thumb: If you bother me enough, I'll probably take on just about anyone. Tell me that Bozo the Clown has written a book about Jesus, and I'll have something to say about it. I'm a serious glutton for punishment. That's why we at Tekton have deigned to subject ourselves to the infamy and indignity of reading and addresing the work of Hayyim ben Yehoshua.

Jesus as myth links


Wednesday, December 11, 2002

A New Type of Weather Forecaster


Tue Dec 10, 9:22 AM ET

By Roberta Rampton

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - After examining 31 pig spleens, Canadian farmer Gus Wickstrom is sure of his six-month forecast for southwest Saskatchewan: snowstorms, mild spells and May rains.

The retired farmer from Tompkins, Saskatchewan, is one of a handful of people on the Prairies who forecasts the weather by examining the spleen of a freshly slaughtered pig .

"I look at it, I feel it with my fingers," Wickstrom told Reuters on Monday, explaining that depressions and fatty deposits on the 2-foot-long organ tell him what the weather will be like, and when.

The forecast is accurate for a 200-mile radius around where the pig was slaughtered, more than 80 percent of the time, he said.

"I'm right up there with (national forecast service) Environment Canada," Wickstrom said. "Lots of times they're not correct at all."

The 64-year-old has been reading spleens for more than two decades, carrying on a tradition his great-great-grandfather brought to Canada from Sweden.

When Western Canada was first settled, farmers would gather when weather turned cold to butcher hogs for the winter, and amuse themselves with spleen forecasts, Wickstrom explained.

Today, the vast majority of farmers ship their hogs to large slaughterhouses, leaving young rural people unaware of the old traditions, he said.

"They go and buy their pork from the store," Wickstrom said.

"This here, what I am doing, it can be classified as complete beeswax: it's just an old tradition I'm trying to keep alive," he said.

Wickstrom also touts the medicinal properties of the spleen as a cure for baldness and arthritis.

"To add some spice to this weather work, I cook it up and eat it," he said. With salt, onion, butter and bacon, he claims it has aphrodisiac effects.

"It's best if both partners eat it," he noted, adding he is now divorced.

The Science Of UFOs


William R. Alschuler
2001, St Martin's Press; ix+211p. B/W Photos

Alschuler, an astronomy professor, looks at UFO and abduction reports, and asks how, given our current knowledge of science, could some of these spectacular feats be accomplished. Along the way, he gives some entertaining and useful information about physics and astronomy in particular. As a quick and dirty resource on the difficulties of faster than light travel, or with quantum tunneling through walls, there is none better. Alschuler does not go into as much detail about the biological questions raised by UFO beliefs, and in looking for parallels between modern physics and some features of UFO reports he does not always adequately convey how speculative and improbable some of the ideas he discusses are. Nevertheless, this is a book anyone interested in the physics questions raised by UFO reports should look at, whether they are skeptics, believers, or just curious.

Visit the full bibliography at http://www.csicop.org/bibliography/
Please consider submitting an entry yourself.

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC bibliographer Judge moves to end jury room confidentiality http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/scotland.cfm?id=1361532002


THE time-honoured sanctity of the jury room could lead to serious miscarriages of justice, a Scottish judge warned last night.

Lord Reed said that in exceptional circumstances, such as jurors allegedly using an ouija board or the toss of a coin to reach their verdict, appeal courts should be allowed to investigate what went on behind closed doors.

He added his support to moves to change the law which currently protects the confidentiality of a jury's deliberations.

"It seems to me that a rule which prohibits an appellate court from ever inquiring into what has been said or done by jurors after they have retired to consider their verdict is liable to result in miscarriages of justice," said Lord Reed.

Delivering the Lord Upjohn Lecture at the Inns of Court School of Law in London, he recognised it was vital for the justice system that jurors should have privacy to discuss a case freely.

His concern was what could be done when allegations arose of bias, perhaps racial or because an accused's previous convictions had become known, or when there had been an irregularity.

Lord Reed recalled a case in England when a man had been convicted of murder after jurors reportedly held a seance and the spirit of the victim spelled out his killer's name via a ouija board.

"The most bizarre feature is perhaps not that the jurors held a seance ... it is perhaps even more extraordinary that, legally, it was not a straightforward matter to have any inquiry made into the allegation," said Lord Reed.

The appeal court had permitted an investigation, which led to a retrial, only because the seance had been held in a hotel during an overnight stay and not within the jury room.

"It remains to be seen how the court would respond if a jury were alleged to have set up a ouija board in the jury room, but the precedents - cases where the jury was alleged to have tossed a coin or drawn lots - suggest that the court should do nothing whatever about it."

Under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which applies to Scotland and England, it is an offence to obtain or disclose details of a jury's deliberations.

The government is currently considering whether the act should be amended to "permit, where appropriate, inquiry by the Court of Appeal into alleged impropriety by a jury …"

Lord Reed said he did not believe such a change would jeopardise the institution of trial by jury.

"If the court refuses to make any inquiry where an appellant has, on the face of it, a substantial case that the jury was biased or behaved improperly, then it will either have to refuse the appeal or allow it without knowing whether the allegation is in fact true," he added.

"If the appeal is refused where the allegation was true, there will have been a miscarriage of justice. If the appeal is allowed where the allegation was false, a sound conviction will have been quashed.

"Each possibility appears to me to be unattractive."

'Psychic' Convicted of Rape, Larceny


PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (Reuters) - A Trinidadian man who claimed to be a psychic was convicted of rape and larceny after conning a woman into having sex with him and giving him her jewelry in cleansing rituals.

A jury found Roy Dubay, 57, guilty on Monday. It was the fourth trial against Dubay, who introduced himself to his victim as a psychic from Suriname. Jurors in two trials failed to reach unanimous verdicts and a third trial was aborted when his lawyer fell ill.

Prosecutor Narissa Ramsundar told the court that in January 1995, Dubay walked up to his victim, now 29, and told her he had supernatural powers and that she would die in nine days.

Dubay threw a bottle of fizzed water on a piece of paper, crumpled it and then opened it to reveal "a face of a devil on it," the woman told the court.

Dubay told the frightened woman he had to perform rituals to get the devil out of her system and took her to a hotel where they stripped naked and engaged in sexual intercourse, the woman testified.

She said Dubay told her the sex was part of the life-saving ritual. She also gave him her jewelry which he claimed he wanted to cleanse. Police arrested Dubay when he failed to meet with his victim to return her jewelry.

Although the sex act was consensual, Dubay was charged with rape because of his fraudulent story.

Science In the News

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

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

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


Today's Headlines - December 10, 2002

from The Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON -- A high school senior who developed a theorem that could potentially apply to code-cracking and artificial intelligence won a $100,000 scholarship Monday.

Steven Byrnes, 18, of Lexington, Mass., emerged from five finalists to take home the prize in the fourth annual Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology, which hands out more than a half-million dollars in scholarships to high schoolers. For his math project, titled Poset-Game Periodicity, Byrnes created and proved a theorem that for years had stumped many mathematicians.

Organizers said Byrnes' work is a breakthrough in a famous poset game called Chomp that was invented in the 1970s. Two-player poset, or partially ordered set, games are important to the growing field of discrete mathematics for their potential use in artificial intelligence and secure codes on computer networks.


from The New York Times

After years of little innovation in birth control, an assortment of new methods offering a broad variety of choices is emerging, including a skin patch that is changed weekly, a hormone-enhanced IUD and a permanent sterilization procedure that requires no anesthesia.

All the new contraceptives are directed at women, and none of them offer proven protection against sexually transmitted diseases. But the new devices offer longer-lasting alternatives to a daily pill and are viewed as long overdue in light of an estimated three million unplanned pregnancies in the United States each year, about half of them ending in abortion.

"We clearly have undermet the need for contraception in the U.S.," said Dr. Lawrence B. Finer, assistant director of research for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based nonprofit group that focuses on sexual and reproductive health.


from The Boston Globe

Doctors have long assumed that the deadly spread within the body of many cancers was random and unpredictable, leaving patients - even those who are initially healed - with dreadful uncertainty about the future.

But data to be published today by Boston-area researchers indicate that certain tumors are genetically predisposed to metastasize, foreshadowing a day when DNA tests could answer cancer patients' most urgent query: Will my tumor spread?

"People who have their primary cancers removed live in a state of uncertainty," said Dr. Lawrence Shulman, the chief medical officer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who was not directly involved in the study. "These types of tests might help us determine whether a tumor will return or not."


from The New York Times

Now that the mouse's genome has been decoded, revealing just as many genes as its host, the 25 million mice that work in laboratories throughout the world may be demanding a lot more respect. It is the close cousinship that makes this vast labor force of furry little human surrogates so useful for exploring the human genome.

Many of the ills that humans inherit occur or can be generated in mice, making them models for studying how disease works in people. There are obese mice, mice with heart problems and even mice being developed as models for psychiatric diseases like autism and schizophrenia.

Because so much biomedical research is undertaken in mice, many laboratories now have to incur the large extra costs of operating mouse colonies. Nothing can so much incite a colleague's displeasure as sending a mouse with some pox that decimates the guest mouse colony. So mice, neatly stacked in wire baskets, are kept in germ-free high-containment rooms where they are fed and pampered and kept scrupulously free of mouse and human germs.


from The New York Times

Asked to make split-second decisions about whether black or white male figures in a video game were holding guns, people were more likely to conclude mistakenly that the black men were armed and to shoot them, a series of new studies reports.

The subjects in the studies, who were instructed to shoot only when the human targets in the game were armed, made more errors when confronted by images of black men carrying objects like cell phones or cameras than when faced with similarly unarmed white men. The participants, who in all but one study were primarily white, were also quicker to fire on black men with guns than on white men with guns.

"The threshold to decide to shoot is set lower for African-Americans than for whites," said Dr. Bernadette Park, a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and an author of a report on the studies to be published today in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


from The Chicago Tribune

Citing mounting evidence that children are starting to drink alcohol at younger ages and that alcohol can stunt brain development, the American Medical Association on Monday called on the television industry to drastically curtail alcohol advertising. Although the AMA has had a long-standing policy against all kinds of alcohol advertising, the association has not actively pursued it.

There is now a new sense of urgency that the AMA highlighted in a report released at its meeting in New Orleans. The report concluded from 60 recent studies that alcohol can damage learning and memory in young people ranging from children to college students.

"It's a public health crisis," Dr. J. Edward Hill, AMA chair, said at a news conference carried on telephone conference call. "Alcohol takes a greater toll on the brain development of children and adolescents than any other age group."


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

Sigma Xi Homepage

Media Resource Service

American Scientist magazine

For feedback on In the News,

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

A Trip as Far Away as Space-Time Will Allow Scientists Contemplate Ideas, Impossibilities of Interstellar Transit


By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, November 18, 2002; Page A12

So: It's about 7:45 p.m. in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on a chill, blustery December night, when this "big round thing" with flashing red lights suddenly crashes in Big Lake Park, just off North Eighth Street.

Eleven witnesses, including cops and firefighters, either see the crash or rush to the scene within 15 minutes to watch the flames from the molten metal - mostly carbon steel - that covers the ground.

It happened on Dec. 17, 1977. The "big round thing" that local resident Chris Moore saw hovering in the air 25 years ago has never been explained.

The year China discovered the world


This website has been set up to coincide with the launch of 1421- The Year China Discovered The World. The site contains information on the book and a searchable database of new evidence supporting the key theories. You can contribute evidence via the contact form or join our messageboard and mailing list.

Find Suggests Earliest Americas Writing


By Paul Recer
AP Science Writer
Thursday, December 5, 2002; 4:53 PM

WASHINGTON –– Symbols carved on stones 2,600 years ago in Mexico suggest that the Olmecs, an early North American people, invented the first writing system in the Americas and that the symbols were adopted by later native cultures such as the Mayas.

The symbols were found on chips from a stone plaque and on a cylinder stone used for printing that were unearthed in an archaeological dig at the site of an ancient Olmec city near La Venta on the Gulf of Mexico coast of southern Mexico.

"These symbols have a very close resemblance to symbols that were found from a later era among Mayan artifacts," said Kevin O. Pope, a co-author of the study. "We think the writing was developed by the Olmecs and then adopted later by the Mayans."

The loud bang


New findings of both a review of the Warren Commission Report and hearings of the 95th Congress offer positive proof that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of President Kennedy.

So says ballistics expert Edward P. Rem, who received the Purple Heart, two Silver Stars and the Bronze Star in World War II. Mr. Rem says he has proven mathematically that a missed rifle shot caused the preliminary "loud bang" that was heard as it passed unimpeded through the enclosed grassy knoll area at a supersonic speed of 2,200 feet per second.

The loud bang was recorded by a Dallas police motorcycle radio and has been misinterpreted by many as being an independent rifle shot from the grassy knoll. Mr. Rem now disputes that misinterpretation in two manuscripts just presented in book form to each member of the Senate and House.

In the manuscripts, Mr. Rem shows in scientific detail how the phenomenon occurred. His theory was earlier supported by the Justice Department, which referred his findings to Congress.

"I've been on the receiving end of all military hardware — the machine pistol, the rifle, the machine gun, the mortar, the artillery including the dreadful German 88mm, and on two occasions our own artillery," Mr. Rem says. "In combat, recognizing the acoustical aspects of ballistics is a matter of life and death."

The book form of the two manuscripts can be obtained through T.B.I. Publishing in the District, 800/732-9212.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or by e-mail: jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

Science In the News

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

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

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


Today's Headlines - December 9, 2002

The severe ice storm that struck North Carolina last week was responsible for disrupting the "Science in the News" e-mail bulletin distributed by the non-profit Media Resource Service. More than 1 million homes and businesses, including the administrative offices of Sigma Xi in Research Triangle Park, were without power in the wake of the storm.

from The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 6 - A team of IBM researchers plans to report on what would be the world's smallest transistor when they deliver a research paper this week at the annual International Electronic Device Meeting opening here on Monday.

The researchers said the advance would help ensure that the semiconductor industry could fulfill its performance projections through at least 2016. The transistor, which was designed by a team of IBM researchers led by Meikei Ieong, is just nine nanometers in length - or at least one-tenth the size of the most advanced transistors currently in production. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; the average human hair is more than 3,000 times as wide as a nanometer.

The tiny transistors would allow for high-capacity memory and faster digital logic abilities. But they also create challenges because as transistors are packed ever more densely on the surface of silicon wafers, heat becomes more of a problem.


from The Houston Chronicle

Astronauts journeyed to the moon as a display of Cold War technical prowess, but the far-reaching legacy of their explorations may be the discovery of an invisible nuclear power source locked in the gray lunar soil. The material is helium-3, a rare form of nature's second most plentiful chemical element and a potential radiation-free source of nuclear fusion-generated electricity.

Experts estimate that the most accessible layers of the lunar soil are laced with one million tons of helium-3. Though fusion power generation technologies are far from mastered, 40 tons of the material theoretically would supply the current annual electricity needs of the entire nation. Based on current spot crude oil prices, each ton of lunar helium-3 is worth about $5 billion.

Scientists examining the first lunar rocks the Apollo missions brought to Earth began reporting the presence of helium-3 in the early 1970s, but only over the course of time has its potential begun to be realized.


from The Chicago Tribune

The garage door to the research facility creaked, groaned and lifted slowly, and two scientists in dark blue lab coats pushed a small black car to the center of the room. They positioned the front wheels atop the two steel cylinders of a dynamometer, locked the back tires in place and clamped a 12-foot hose to the tailpipe.

Standing off to the side was the car's inventor, Charles Gray. "We're going to make history today," he confidently told his colleagues. The scientists slipped on their safety glasses and started the car's engine. Over the next 50 minutes its front wheels spun in place, starting, stopping, slowing and accelerating, as if on a treadmill.

When the test was over and the engine shut off, an engineer started crunching the computer data. Twenty-four hours later, he grinned widely as he handed the results to Gray: The car had achieved 60 miles per gallon.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0212090204dec09,0,6375265.story?coll=chi%2Dnewsnati onworld%2Dhed

from The Washington Post

NORFOLK, Va. -- Joe Coyne slides into the driver's seat, starts up the car and heads to town. The empty stretch of interstate gives way to urban congestion, and Coyne hits the brakes as a pedestrian suddenly crosses the street in front of him. But even if he hadn't stopped in time, the woman would have been safe. She isn't real. Neither is the town. And Coyne isn't really driving.

The 24-year-old psychology graduate student is demonstrating a computerized driving simulator that is helping researchers at Old Dominion University examine how in-vehicle guidance systems affect the person behind the wheel. The researchers want to know if such systems, which give audible or written directions, are too distracting - or whether any distractions are offset by the benefits drivers get from having help finding their way in unfamiliar locations.

"We're looking at the performance and mental workload of drivers," said Carryl Baldwin, the assistant psychology professor leading the research, which involves measuring drivers' reaction time and brain activity as they respond to auditory and visual cues.


'Tornado in a Can' Puts Hope in the Henhouse
from The Washington Post

CLINTON, N.C. -- Inside the corrugated tin shed that serves as the top-secret test site for Vortex Dehydration Technology's strange new invention, Frank Polifka cranks open a valve and unleashes the force of a tornado. Compressed air rushes into an eight-foot-tall steel cone and whirls counterclockwise at tremendous speeds, producing winds capable of turning rock into dust. It also emits a knee-buckling shriek that prompts Polifka to clap his hands over his ears and sends others staggering away.

There's a parade of visitors coming from all over the country to see this machine, to witness for themselves whether it really does what they've heard it can do. They want to know whether it really offers a new technology for mining precious metals, pulverizing trash, grinding concrete into a powder that can be reconstituted with water.

But the keenest interest so far is from poultry people who are watching closely to see whether it can revolutionize the way billions of pounds of chicken byproducts -- the feet, feathers, heads and entrails that don't end up in the supermarket -- are processed.


from The Los Angeles Times

PORT McNEILL, Canada -- PORT McNEILL, Canada -- If you bought a salmon filet in the supermarket recently or ordered one in a restaurant, chances are it was born in a plastic tray here, or a place just like it.

Instead of streaking through the ocean or leaping up rocky streams, it spent three years like a marine couch potato, circling lazily in pens, fattening up on pellets of salmon chow. It was vaccinated as a small fry to survive the diseases that race through these oceanic feedlots, acres of net-covered pens tethered offshore. It was likely dosed with antibiotics to ward off infection or fed pesticides to shed a beard of bloodsucking sea lice.

Industrial fish farming raises many of the same concerns about chemicals and pollutants that are associated with feedlot cattle and factory chicken farms. So far, however, government scientists worry less about the effects of antibiotics, pesticides and artificial dyes on human health than they do about damage to the marine environment.


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

Sigma Xi Homepage

Media Resource Service

American Scientist magazine

For feedback on In the News,

Monday, December 09, 2002

The Voynich Manuscript


There exists an extremely old and as-yet-undeciphered manuscript that has been dubbed the Voynich Manuscript, after its (re)discoverer, Wilfred Voynich. Dates surrounding the manuscript's writing float around the 1400 to 1600s AD. (My translation method indicates that ONE word used in the Manuscript (thus far) does not allow it to be dated before 1600.) There also exist tons of verified and speculative information about this manuscript on the web, as well as pictures of the pages. Rather than take up space here rewriting information that you can look up for yourself, I will put links at the bottom of this page so you can track down what you want to see on the web.

This manuscript was written in an alphabet that was designed to hide its information. The alphabet was itself seemingly cracked by a group known simply as the Voynich Group. This group is collection of scholars and a few secret society members that have been working on this for years. In the words of one of their members, "The small manuscript was written in a code, before which even the best cryptologists and linguists of the world have had to surrender so far."

The 12 Days of Kitschmas


Looking for the perfect seasonal gift to impress your pastor or priest? Well sing hallelujah, for your search is over! Welcome to the Ship of Fools 2002 12 Days of Kitschmas, with a choice selection of Gadgets for God. Here are our 12 favourites, one for each day of the festive season, with Bobble Head Jesus topping the lot. All the items can be ordered online. Click and be blessed...

The Healing Paradox



As a practicing physician, I confess that I learn about the latest medical breakthroughs while reading my morning paper. When my office mail eventually brings me the original study, my pleasure in the journal's pristine cover and untouched pages has been diminished because the tidings arrived before the messenger. But here is why I cannot complain: the science reported in my newspaper is genuinely newsworthy, deserving its place alongside matters of state and economy. For example, two weeks ago we learned of a promising approach to the prevention of cervical cancer -- a vaccine against one type of papilloma virus that is an antecedent to this malignancy. Imagine that. A vaccine for cancer! On the same day as that announcement came the first report of a vaccine that might prevent genital herpes. And then there's the ongoing news of the unraveling of the human genome in all its amazing complexity. History will draw a line here: Before Genome and After Genome. The Rosetta stone has been found and applied to the sacred scroll, and it promises important breakfast reading for years to come.

But my morning paper, laden with science, also carries evidence of our distrust of science and our search for another kind of healing. You've seen it: a full-page advertisement for a product that you know is too good to be true. The text has large type, a before-and-after picture, no listing of the contents of the product and a blizzard of endorsements from ''scientists'' and ''patients'' that take the place of data. These products are life extenders, fat fighters, growth-hormone releasers, relievers of limb pains, rebuilders of muscle and bone and sometimes all of the above together. I think of them as quark drugs, phantoms that if they could be studied in careful trials would soon lose the ''r'' for a ''c'' and be revealed for what they are.

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

Current News  News Back Issues

What's New | Search | Newsletter | Fact Sheets
NTS Home Page
Copyright (C) 1987 - 2008 by the North Texas Skeptics.