NTS LogoSkeptical News for 22 December 2002

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, December 22, 2002

True North

From Amazon.com:

Leaving behind the comforts of civilized life and armed with only a few essentials, award winning author and bush pilot George Erickson captures the exhilarating thrill of roughing it in the wild, as well as evoking the sheer romance of adventuring in the far reaches of North America. The result is a best-selling book that readers-flyers and armchair travelers alike - will not be able to put down.

Flying solo in his Piper Cub Special seaplane, Erickson revisits some of the arctic flights he once took with his father. He takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the pristine landscapes of Alaska, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Landing on unexplored lakes and rivers to set up camp, the author fishes for trout using his unique handmade lures, struggles with bad weather, dodges forest fires, and mingles with polar bears, killer whales, musk oxen and caribou.

Erickson channels the spirits of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Charles Lindbergh, and other great aviators. He nearly loses his life - twice - during the trip, but continues to extol the thrill of flying and the science that enables it. Erickson searches the tundra for clues to the disappearance of a long-missing priest, and measures the earth like Eratosthenes at the edge of an arctic sea. He tells tales of unscrupulous missionaries and explorers who starved to death; he communes at fireside with the skull of "Unok" under flaring northern lights and reexamines the Klondike Gold Rush at Alaska's Chilkoot Pass. 6 x 9, 320 pages, color photos)

George Erickson, who was named Minnesota Aviation Author of the Year for True North has served as Vice-President of the American Humanist Association and as a board member of the hemlock Society of Minneapolis and of the New Brighton, Minnesota Environmental Quality Commision. A retired dentist, he has logged more than a thousand hours flying over the North Country. He is married with two adult sons. This is his first book.

Other reviews of True North

True North: Exploring the Great Wilderness by Bush Plane A humanist's odyssey through Canada and Alaska.

Remember how creationists hid their intent by running stealth campaigns for school boards? Well, here's a great response from AHA board member George Erickson, whose adventure/travel best seller True North… tucks candid criticism of creationists and missionary practices between tales of polar bears and killer whales while promoting the science that makes our standard of living possible.

Eugenie Scott - National Center for Science Education - "True North is a winner."

Edd Doer – Pres. - American Humanist Assoc. - "I couldn't put it down."

Chicago Tribune – "Erickson is the spiritual descendant of the great explorers he writes about."

Best-selling author Clive Cussler – "a wonderful book"

Toronto Globe and Mail – "at campsites beside northern lakes he does battle with ideologues like St Ambrose, who said, "To discuss the nature and position of the earth does not help us in our hope of the life to come. We' ve had far too few books like True North."

Canadian Flight – "… an entertaining romp through the north, through history, through science, through astronomy, through exploration, a romp with something for everyone."

As they say - there is more to a book than its cover – and this truly applies to True North. Besides delivering marvelous tales of adventures with musk-oxen, caribou, polar bears and some of the north country's characters, Erickson's True North introduces new and unsuspecting minds to the way freethinkers operate. As a consequence, True North makes a marvelous birthday, graduation, Xmas or birthday present.

Darwin, Diamonds, Death and Deceit – True North has them all!

For a signed copy, mail a check for $22.00 – which includes postage – to George Erickson, 2300 17th St NW, New Brighton, MN 55112.
Profits will go to the North Texas Skeptics if you mention them by name.

Small molecule 2002's major find


Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 19:26 GMT

The discovery that molecules called small RNAs control much of a gene's behaviour - which may further research on cancer and stem cells - has been cited as this year's big breakthrough.

Every December, Science magazine produces its highlights of the year and according to the journal's editors, 2002's most significant advance concerned these overlooked molecules.

It has been a vintage year for research, the editors believe.

They salute major advances in the biological and physical sciences, including the new, sharper views obtained of the cosmos and a fascinating discovery that may change our view of the origin of humans.

Genetic control

Until recently, RNA was thought to do little more than carry out DNA's instructions for building proteins.

However, the new picture, which Science says came into focus this year, shows small RNAs at the heart of many of the cell's genetic workings.

This new approach is causing biologists to rethink their understanding of the cell and its evolution, and, hopefully, uncover new leads for treating diseases, such as cancer, caused by errors in the genome.

Small RNAs can switch genes on and off, and even remove unwanted sections of DNA. One of the most significant findings in 2002 was that small RNAs take charge during cell division, shepherding the material in chromosomes into the right configuration.

Researchers say this discovery raises the possibility that these processes may go wrong in certain diseases, producing cancer-causing mutations, for example.

From the Sun's heart

Research in 2002 also solved a longstanding mystery about some of the least understood particles in the Universe: neutrinos.

They come in three varieties, including electron neutrinos that are produced in the Sun's core by its nuclear furnace.

But for decades, scientists have puzzled over why the number of electron neutrinos reaching Earth is much smaller than expected.

In 2002, evidence from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada confirmed that the "missing" electron neutrinos change into the other neutrino types en route to Earth.

2002 also marked the first year that scientists announced genome sequences for organisms with major agriculture and public health relevance for the developing world.

The sequences of the indica rice sub-species and the short grain japonica sub-species may help efforts to improve rice's nutritional quality and crop yield.

During the year, the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, and the mosquito that carries it, Anopheles gambiae, also provided information that may make it possible to develop novel mosquito repellents, insecticides, and mosquito vaccines.

In the background

New observations of the relic radiation from just after the Big Bang have allowed new insights into the Universe's past and future.

The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) appears to us now as faint microwave static coming from all regions of the sky, but just 400,000 years after the Big Bang, it was high-energy radiation emitted in a cosmos that had yet to form stars and Galaxies.

In 2002, the Cosmic Background Imager, a microwave telescope in Chile, detected patterns in the CMB structure that revealed structures far smaller than any seen before, allowing new insights into the motion of matter in the early Universe.

Additional discoveries in 2002 helped explain why spicy food feels hot, and breath mints give the mouth a chill.

Researchers identified several proteins, embedded in the surfaces of certain cells, that respond to certain chemical and changes in temperature.

Researchers also caught a glimpse of electrons whizzing around atoms, and made it into a movie.

The high-speed film-making technique relies on ultra short pulses of laser light to freeze motion in frames just attoseconds (billionths of a billionth of a second) apart.

Body clock

In 2002, several research teams investigated a new class of light-responsive cells in the retinas of mammals.

These cells help reset the body's daily, or "circadian", clock, making it a critical part of human physiology.

Understanding them may lead to new insights on countering the effects of jet lag or winter depression.

During the year, new technology countered the blurring effect of Earth's atmosphere on telescopes' view of the heavens.

The result, enabled by the flexing of thin mirrors hundred of times each second, was a suite of space images crisper than any taken before.

Those images included the best evidence yet of a supermassive black hole at our galaxy's heart.

Other images included a volcanic eruption on Jupiter's moon Io, and ultra-clear pictures of the Sun's surface.

A technology for taking three-dimensional pictures of a cell overcame key technical obstacles in 2002, providing insights into how the cell's machinery carries out some of the basic processes of life.

Oldest hominid

In 2002, researchers overturned some fundamental ideas about human evolution.

In July, they reported the discovery of a primate skull between six and seven million years old. The fossil is almost three million years older than any known hominid, the lineage that includes humans but not the apes.

The location of the skull, by the ancient Lake Chad in western Africa, was a surprise. Until now, humans' earliest ancestors had been found in east Africa.

The skull's features look like a mix of chimpanzee, gorilla, and human, leading the researchers to classify their discovery as an altogether new genus and species of hominid - although some researchers disagree.

Black hole hunter's first image


Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 14:49 GMT

The Integral gamma-ray observatory - described as Europe's "black hole hunter" - has produced its first images of the Universe.

The spacecraft is still being tested prior to its full deployment, but early data have nonetheless delighted astronomers.

One of the first pictures, released at a press conference in Paris on Tuesday, shows a so-called gamma-ray burst (GRB).

The stream of high-energy radiation, which lasted just 20 seconds, came from an immensely violent event located about 5,000 million light-years from Earth.

GRBs are mysterious events that occur infrequently to our observation but when they do, they shine as brightly as hundreds of galaxies each containing millions upon millions of stars.

Ready soon

Astronomers speculate such events could result from the explosions of giant stars, or perhaps the collisions of extremely dense neutron stars to form black holes.

Either way, it was for just such an event that Integral was launched and the scientists reported in Paris that all the spacecraft's instruments worked perfectly when asked to track and record the GRB.

Integral (short for INTErnational Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory) can capture gamma rays, X-rays and visible light simultaneously.

It was built by the European Space Agency and launched on the Russian Proton rocket from Baikonur in October.

There is huge demand for its services and Esa says astronomers should start to get observing time within the next few weeks.

Ripped apart

"We have been optimising the instruments' performance to produce the best overall science. We expect to be ready for astronomers around the world to use Integral by the end of the year," says Arvind Parmar, acting Integral Project Scientist at Esa.

"These [first] images and spectra prove that Integral can certainly do the job it was designed to do, and more", which is to unlock some of the secrets of the high-energy Universe.

Integral has been called Europe's "black hole hunter" because it will scan along the galactic plane each week looking for new sources of gamma rays, which could well be new black holes.

It will also study those already known in far more detail than previously possible.

Integral will allow insights into the behaviour of black holes and register the gamma radiation emitted by fast-moving particles accelerated in the region around the holes by their huge gravitational pull.

Supermassive holes

As a first test, Integral observed the Cygnus region of the sky, looking particularly at an object known as Cygnus X-1.

This object has long been known to be a constant generator of high-energy radiation.

Most scientists believe that Cygnus X-1 is the site of a black hole, containing around five times the mass of our Sun and devouring a nearby star.

Observing objects like Cygnus X-1, which is relatively close by in our own galaxy - only 10,000 light-years away - will help scientists better understand so-called stellar- sized black holes.

The observatory should also provide fresh insight into supermassive black holes, such as the one though to exist at the centre of the Milky Way.

This black hole is calculated to have almost three million times the mass of our Sun

Integral sits in an orbit between 9,000 and 153,000 kilometres above the Earth.

Editorial | Hoax on us


Posted on Sat, Dec. 21, 2002

He used ingenuity to create legend of Bigfoot.

Was it itchy in that suit?

Was it hot in there, on that day in 1967, when Elna Wallace put on an ape suit and cavorted in a forest near Bluff Creek, Calif.?

Was the man behind the camera guffawing as Elna wandered around, looked back, then traipsed into the woods? Was she giggling? Was her husband, the prankster behind this whole thing, snickering fit to bust?

Well, now he is. On Nov. 26, Ray Wallace died, and with him, his greatest creation: Bigfoot.

Yes, Bigfoot. Ray Wallace made him up, and now that Ray is gone, the Wallace family has told the world the whole thing was a knee-slapper, a big old family joke at the world's expense.

You've probably seen the grainy, very homemade footage of Bigfoot maundering around the logs and boulders. It's the Zapruder film of the Bigfoot crowd. Sure looks like a person in an ape suit. But lots and lots of people believed.

Bigfoot was 9 years old at the time. Ray first made him up in 1958. He fashioned two large feet out of alder wood, then stamped the feet around a work site. When Ray's buddies came to work the next morning, they couldn't believe their eyes. Experts were summoned, plaster casts taken.

The United States was in the midst of an Abominable Snowman fad and Bigfoot fit right in. It was said this was Sasquatch, the forest creature revered in indigenous American myths. Hundreds of sightings were reported.

The pseudoscience of crypto-primatology was born. Bigfoot was described as a hairy bipedal hominid of uncertain features. Many scientists joined the search. Meanwhile, Ray, trying to keep from writhing with glee, did everything Bigfoot, including an album of Bigfoot noises.

Now the joke's up, the family has 'fessed - and some people are saying, "We still believe." Jeff Meldrum, an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State, says no way Bigfoot is Bigfantasy. What about my 50 plaster casts of Bigfoot's footprints? he asked. Explain them! Those were made by "authentic unknown primates." Unknown is right.

Ray Wallace deserves a place in the great pantheon of American flim-flam artists. He knew a gullible world when he saw one. But you have to ask: Why does this stuff happen so much?

The United States of America, from its very birth, has been the home of the swindler, the confidence man, the sleight-of-hand artist. From P.T. Barnum to to those Internet ads promising to grow what you want large and shrink what you want small, America cultivates these folks like star-spangled mushrooms. Our soil is richly manured with gullibility.

Some of this reflects the perpetual capacity of the human imagination to be hornswoggled. We want, we really want to think there are wild humans in the forests , wild beasts of incredible strangeness.

But there's something here closer to the American heartbeat. The prankster/con man/hoaxster is a step away from the entrepreneur.

Ben Franklin is near allied to Barnum and both of them to Thomas A. Edison. A mad genius unites them all, an energy to go and do, to make something that wasn't there before. Like Bigfoot. Rightly did Mark Twain have Huck Finn travel with the Duke and the Dauphin, swindlers and robbers who advertise the "Thrilling Tragedy of THE KING'S CAMELEOPARD, OR THE ROYAL NONESUCH!!!" to crowds who paid to be hoodwinked.

Mr. Twain would have loved Ray Wallace. He would have helped him stamp those big wooden feet in the ground, and he would have tried to keep a straight face when news came of the awesome discovery. All you can say is: A job well done, Mr. Wallace. This way to the egress.

Galaxies in destructive dance

http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0212/12hubble/ SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INSTITUTE NEWS RELEASE
Posted: December 12, 2002
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is witnessing a grouping of galaxies engaging in a slow dance of destruction that will last for billions of years. The galaxies are so tightly packed together that gravitational forces are beginning to rip stars from them and distort their shapes. Those same gravitational forces eventually could bring the galaxies together to form one large galaxy.

The name of this grouping, Seyfert's Sextet, implies that six galaxies are participating in the action. But only four galaxies are on the dance card. The small face-on spiral with the prominent arms [center] of gas and stars is a background galaxy almost five times farther away than the other four. Only a chance alignment makes it appear as if it is part of the group. The sixth member of the sextet isn't a galaxy at all but a long "tidal tail" of stars [below, right] torn from one of the galaxies. The group resides 190 million light-years away in the constellation Serpens.

This densely packed grouping spans just 100,000 light-years, occupying less volume than the Milky Way galaxy. Each galaxy is about 35,000 light-years wide. Three of the galaxies [the elliptical galaxy, second from top, and the two spiral galaxies at the bottom] bear the telltale marks of close interactions with each other, or perhaps with an interloper galaxy not pictured here. Their distorted shapes suggest that gravitational forces have reshaped them. The halos around the galaxies indicate that stars have been ripped away. The galaxy at bottom, center, has a 35,000 light-year-long tail of stars flowing from it. The tail may have been pulled from the galaxy about 500 million years ago.

'Extraterrestrial alien' invades nuclear plant


Mike Lyons, Daily Journal

December 10, 2002

BRAIDWOOD -- A crazed Chicagoan, swearing to be an extraterrestrial alien, crashed his car through the gates of the Braidwood nuclear facility late Monday before speeding away only to be arrested for reckless driving in Wilmington minutes later.

Khalil I. Ghandor, 29, was arrested by Wilmington officer Don Thomas at 11:37 p.m. after Ghandor allegedly ran a motorist off the road then barreled across the bridge on Baltimore Street with his lights off.

Wilmington police Chief James Metta said Ghandor did not appear drunk and gave no indication of being connected to a terror cell. He was also cited by Braidwood police. Will County sheriff's police cited him for trespass.

No injuries resulted. Metta said the intruder is alleged to have penetrated the parking area by crashing through closed gates, flashing past a plant checkpoint and then doing "donuts" in the parking lot.

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – December 18, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

In a move that could bring dramatic changes to the world of scientific publishing, a nonprofit venture backed by Nobel laureates and a $9 million startup grant announced two new scientific journals Tuesday with a promise to make all the content freely available online.

Leaders of the initiative, called the Public Library of Science, based in San Francisco, said their goal is to force a new standard of "open access" on academic publishing, traditionally a business of hefty subscriber fees and of limited online access to anyone who doesn't pay.

A taxpayer who helps to finance cancer research, and then gets cancer, should not have to pay twice for the right to read cutting-edge findings about his or her disease, said Patrick Brown, a Stanford University biochemist and one of the prime movers behind the new enterprise.

"Our intention is to do something that fundamentally changes the way scientific research is communicated," Brown said. "We want to establish a completely different business model for scientific publication."

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Bacteria and algae frozen for more than 2,800 years in ice capping an Antarctic lake returned to life after thawing in a laboratory in a study that may be a dress rehearsal for searching for life on Mars.

A research team led by Peter Doran of the University of Illinois at Chicago drilled through more than 39 feet of ice to collect samples of microscopic bacteria and algae from an Antarctic feature called Lake Vida.

"When we brought them back and warmed them up a bit, they sprang back to life," said Doran, the first author of a study appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Doran said the microbes have been age-dated at 2,800 years old, but even older microbes may live deeper in the ice sheet sealing Lake Vida, and in the briny water below the ice.

from The Chicago Tribune

DURHAM, N.C. -- Inside Biogen Inc.'s sprawling biotech manufacturing complex, no noisy cutting or grinding tools pierce the air, only the hum of air conditioning.

In the making of the company's multiple sclerosis drug, cell cultures grow in stainless-steel tanks called bioreactors. As they expand over 30 days, the cultures are transferred to progressively bigger tanks, the largest with a nearly 4,000-gallon capacity.

In much the same way, America's next New Economy grows slowly and quietly, with little of the flash and dash of the discredited dot-com New Economy of the late 1990s.

With industry swimming in a glut of capacity to produce goods, the climate for another technology-driven economic expansion is harsher than it has been in years. Amid today's uncertainties, companies are hesitant to invest heavily in technology to rejuvenate the economy, although they have added modestly to their investments in recent months.

from The New York Times

NYACK, N.Y. — Scientists mapping the bottom of the Hudson River with sonar say they have found nearly every single ship that ever foundered in the river over the last 400 years or more. Not just some of them, or most of them, but — astonishingly — all of them, except for a few that may have been disturbed by dredging.

The ghostly images provide a record of collisions and carelessness and storm-tossed fate — most of it previously unrecorded and utterly unknown — from the days of sail and steam through the diesel tugs and tankers on the river today. Altogether, more than 200 possible wrecks, spread out over 140 miles from the southern tip of Manhattan to Troy, have been identified.

But don't ask where the wrecks are. It's a state secret.

The sonar maps are the unexpected byproduct of a state-financed project to map the river's bottom for habitat and pollution-abatement studies, and because of the thoroughness of the research mandate — every square foot of river deeper than six feet was scanned — scientists feel confident that they missed almost nothing.

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Saturday, December 21, 2002

Bent Spoons for Peace

From: Linda Rosa

Friends and acquaintances, this is such special work affecting us FYI, here's spam we got for a Spoon-Bending Class for spiritual warriers.

They plan to have 100,000 spiritual warriers pray for world peace on February 9th, with observers in Israel that day gathering scientific evidence. Is this Uri Geller's doing? There's a little movie at the website that mentions a paralyzed Japanese child with a vision...

--Yrs, Linda


Friends and acquaintances, this is such special work affecting us all, i just want to give you all the opportunity to learn about it if you haven't already. blessings, bj

Beloved Friends,

Some important information has come my way through sources in Washington, DC that you'll want to know about. This convinces me how vitally important it is that we mobilize as a Spiritual Force of Peace as soon as we can, otherwise the tide will continue to turn toward disaster. As most of you already know, the Spoonbenders Course (which begins January 1) is designed to teach thousands of people an ancient technology that has the power to shift the prevailing energies of war toward peace and compassion. This is what we need more than anything, especially in light of the information I'll share with you now.

Sources in Washington (very high and well informed sources) have told me that the Bush Administration has no real interest in the results of the UN inspections taking place in Iraq. They are waiting for any excuse they can find to initiate a war, and if one is not provided then the next step may be to allow another catastrophe to take place, forcing the confrontation. In other words, another terrorists attack may be allowed, or even staged. As terrible as this sounds it would serve the administration's need and push us to the brink of a possible world war. Most people in Washington feel that the timeframe for the war is late February or early March. That is why it is so important that we mobilize a spiritual alternative NOW!

We have sixty-thousand people currently receiving the Spiritual Warrior correspondence. If everyone on that list participated in the Spoonbenders Course and the Great Experiment III on February 9, then we would be a formidable energetic force. I am going to ask that each one of you get one more person to join us, raising the number well over 100,000. I believe that this is the number that we will need to shift things on the level we need.

I hope you feel the urgency of this request. Many of our ancient cultures said we would need to make an important choice at this time in history, and I believe this is it. The sides are being drawn, and each one of us must choose. Are we going to promote peace and compassion, or continue to think that conflict is the path? Please join us in solving these problems with prayer and spirit-led action.

The Spoonbenders Course:
In this four week Internet course (by donation) you will learn how to bend a spoon with your mind, and then apply that same technology to healing the world. Our goal is to have 100,000 people actively practicing this technique on February 9 while I am in Jerusalem with around 100 other Spiritual Warriors.

To view a flash movie on this event, go to

If you are already on our list, you will receive registration info January 1. If you are not currently on our e-mail list please send an e-mail to list@emissaryoflight.com and put the word "list" in the subject box.

In Peace,
James Twyman

Join Our List: If you are interested in joining the email list of James Twyman and the Beloved Community, please send an email to list@emissaryoflight.com with the word list in the subject or body of the email.

Attorneys General Curb Claims for "Tahitian Noni"


On August 26, 1998, the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, New Jersey, and Texas announced a multi-state settlement with Morinda, Inc., a multilevel company headquartered in Linden, Utah. The states had charged that Morinda had made unsubstantiated claims in consumer testimonials and other promotional material that its "Tahitian Noni" juice could treat, cure or prevent numerous diseases, including diabetes, depression, hemorrhoids and arthritis. Such claims rendered the beverage an unapproved new drug under state and federal food and drug laws and should not have been sold until it received approval. Under the terms of the agreement, Morinda must:

No longer make drug claims, or claims that the product can cure, treat, or prevent any disease until "Tahitian Noni" is approved and cleared for those uses by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration. Not make any other claims, whether health claims or others, regarding the benefits of "Tahitian Noni" unless such claims are true and the company can substantiate the claim by reliable scientific evidence. Not use testimonials which imply that the advertised claimed results are the typical or ordinary experience of consumers in actual conditions of use, unless Morinda possesses and relies upon adequate substantiation that the results are typical or ordinary. In addition, Morinda must refund to any consumer who requests a refund in writing, the full purchase price paid for the product. The agreement also calls for Morinda to pay $100,000 for investigative costs.

Alien abductions, psychologists and the Harvard memory wars


Copyright © 2002 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

Diana Jean Schemo NYT Thursday, December 19, 2002

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts When Susan Clancy, a psychologist at Harvard University, wanted to study people with memories of events that had never happened, she cast her net wide. So wide it reached galaxies far, far away.

Have you ever been "contacted or abducted by space aliens?" the newspaper ads she ran read. Researchers at Harvard, the ads said, were seeking subjects "to participate in a memory study."

The responses tumbled in. From people outraged that a venerable institution like Harvard would raise such oddball questions. From illegal immigrants who thought that Clancy was asking about abductions by the border police. From reporters, and from tricksters who left the names of unsuspecting friends. From people who, Clancy guessed, believed that they were aliens themselves, and left messages that went "beep-bop-boop." And a few from people who genuinely believed that they had been taken by extraterrestrials and had built elaborate narratives of space travel, mind control and erotic encounters with beings from other planets.

"I felt like I had one foot in the ivory tower and one foot in the reality of their experiences," said Clancy, whose main interest is not outer space but the more mysterious question of whether children who are sexually molested can bury knowledge of their abuse, and yet later, as adults, recover true memories. Clancy says the answer to that question, one of the most fiercely disputed issues in psychology today, is no. Many psychiatrists, psychologists and victims of child sex abuse dispute her view.

In choosing people who remembered being spirited away by visitors from other planets, Clancy said she aimed to study people whose tales were undoubtedly fabrications. "I was so naive," she said.

She found herself walking from one intellectual land mine to another, and under attack from two camps: those who believe that memories can indeed be repressed, and those who support the work of John Mack, a Harvard professor and author of a 1994 book, "Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens," who maintains that alien visitations may really occur.

Clancy asked her subjects, eight of whom said they had recovered memories of abductions, to memorize lists of words that suggested ideas without stating them. One, for example, gave the words sour, candy, sugar and bitter. The people with recovered memories were more likely to mistakenly remember the word sweet than the control group. She concluded that people with recovered memories were open to suggestion, and more likely to distort memories.

"The whole notion of repressed memories has done a great disservice to the field," Clancy said. "Some people are prone to forget how, where or when a memory was acquired. They see a movie as a kid and remember the events, but don't remember whether they saw it or it actually happened to them."

But why would a psyche adopt the memory of being taken away by space aliens?

Clancy said all of her subjects had experienced a strange moment between sleep and wakefulness, where the eyes may be open but the body is still in the rapid-eye-movement stage of sleep, with its sense of paralysis. Sometimes there are hallucinations. Troubled by the experience, an "effort at meaning" follows, she said, in which popular portrayals of alien encounters, in science-fiction television shows, movies and books, seem to fit in the memory hole.

"What they're getting from alien abductions is what I wish I could get from religion," Clancy said. The people who spoke of abductions described a sense of belonging, and of someone watching over them.

"Not one of them said, 'I wish it didn't happen,'" she said.

The same, of course, cannot be said of victims of childhood rape.

Daniel Brown, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and author of the 1998 book "Memory, Trauma Treatment and the Law," said Clancy was not naive, but instead canny, in trying to equate adults who say they have unearthed memories of abuse with people who swear they have talked with space aliens.

"There's a political agenda here," he said.

Many of the main players in the highly charged debate over memory are here at Harvard, separated by only a few minutes' walk. But they never speak to one another, and each side accuses the other of doing shoddy science for political or financial ends.

"It's all about spin," Brown said. "It's absolutely hostile."

Copyright © 2002 The International Herald Tribune

Curse of Tutankhamen finally laid to rest



Posted on 12/19/2002 10:28 PM CST by Dallas

After 80 years, the curse of Tutankhamen's tomb - credited with a host of untimely deaths since its discovery - has finally been disproven by an Australian epidemiologist.

By comparing the survival of those exposed to the 'Mummy's Curse' to family members who were not, Dr Mark Nelson of Monash University shows there is no epidemiological basis for claims that desecrating the ancient tomb brought about untimely deaths.

His analsys is published today in latest issue of the British Medical Journal.

"It was just a bit of a fun thing to do," said Nelson, who has recently completed a doctorate in clinical epidemiology and has an interest in egyptology and archaeology. "A lot of these urban-type myths could be investigated or dispelled if you applied proper scientific methods to them."

The Mummy's Curse came to public notice after Tutankhamen's tomb was uncovered in November 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter. The man who financed his expedition, Lord Carnarvon, died months later from septicaemia and pneumonia.

When his dog died soon after, breathless articles ran in British newspapers suggesting an ancient curse against those involved in desecrating the tomb had been awakened. The story regularly reappeared whenever another person involved in the expedition died - even at the death of Lord Carnarvon's daughter in the 1980s. Nelson relied on the writings of Howard Carter for a list of 25 people who were involved with the expedition and present at key events, and another 19 family members who were not.

He defined exposure to the curse as being present at the breaking of the seals and the opening of the third door of the tomb in 1922; or, in 1926, at the opening of the sarcophagus, the opening of the coffins or the examination of the mummy. Each person would have therefore had between one and four exposures.

The control group of 19 people who were not exposed to the curse consisted largely of spouses, mostly wives. Nelson tracked most of the people involved by searching through dusty old newspapers and books, and said he often had difficulty tracing the women. "Women didn't exist in print in the 1920s" he said.

Those not exposed to the curse lived about nine years longer than those who were 'cursed'. However, the people who were exposed were already older than those who were not. "Five years of the difference was explained by that," he told ABC Science Online. "You would expect an older group to die earlier."

The fact that there were more women in the unexposed group - and the fact that women generally live longer - accounted for the other four years, he said.

The result - the first time epidemiology has been applied to such a question - shows that there is no evidence for the famed Mummy's Curse, Nelson concluded.

Although widely thought to have been based on Egyptian folklore, the story of the Mummy's Curse is more likely to have arisen in literature. One widely accepted source is Louisa May Alcott's short story, "Lost in a Pyramid: the Mummy's Curse", published in 1869.

Cindy Adams


EVERY December psychic Paula Roberts does my annual crystal ball gazing. The following is her 2003 predictions: Britney Spears engaged to a music exec. Barbra Streisand gets a fragrance line. Bruce Springsteen writes scores for films ... NYC: Labor disputes over undocumented foreigners working on WTC site. Public school attendance improves. Fire in MoMA with no loss of art ... USA: Hollywood studio goes bust. George W. Bush undergoes knee surgery. Ronald Reagan presidential library receives huge endowment. Breakthrough on safe disposal of toxic waste ... Global: Warming trend reversed by 2010. Poland considers a return to monarchy. Human rights commission meets with Chinese leaders. Charles announces he'll marry Camilla 2004.

Science In the News

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

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Today's Headlines – December 20, 2002

from The San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The chairman of President Bush's bioethics council demanded a public apology from Stanford University, accusing the school of trying to conceal the nature of its stem cell research and mischaracterizing the bioethics council's views.

Stanford has said its new cancer institute will conduct stem cell research using nuclear transfer techniques -- work that many consider to be cloning of human cells. However, Stanford said the characterization of its work as cloning is wrong because the institute won't create human embryos, just cells.

In a statement posted on the university's Web site last week, Stanford claimed the President's Council on Bioethics supported its view -- and its planned research.

But the council, which officially considers such work to be "cloning for biomedical research," demanded a public apology from Stanford for "obfuscating the nature of such research" and mischaracterizing the council's position.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Long seen as subservient to DNA, the molecule RNA was dismissed as the biological equivalent of a paper-shuffling drone in cells' lives, mindlessly carrying out the genetic instructions of its better-known chemical cousin.

Recent studies, however, show that RNA - or ribonucleic acid - often controls key actions within the cell and may play a role in cancer.

It is this new understanding of RNA that earned the top scientific breakthrough of the year by Science, one of the world's leading research magazines.

RNA can help cell division go smoothly and see to it that DNA moves into the proper position. Disruptions of the RNA's work may be part of what goes wrong in the development of cancer.

from The New York Times

A three-hour power failure at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center last weekend renewed concerns about the safety of the high-security government laboratory while it is being run partly by replacement workers during a five-months strike.

The loss of power and failure of all three backup generators raised fears for the first time that the containment of infectious pathogens could have been seriously compromised at the laboratory. The center, which is run by the United States Agriculture Department, studies highly infectious animal diseases like foot and mouth disease and African swine fever.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton called yesterday for the laboratory to cease all operations until an independent safety review could be conducted.

Scientists familiar with the center said that since the diseases studied on the island do not, for the most part, affect humans, the risk to workers at the center and to residents of the nearby North Fork of Long Island was minimal. Several experts in infectious diseases said, however, that a power failure at such a facility for so long was extraordinarily unusual.


from The Wall Street Journal

His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! ... He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed, like a bowlfull of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. ..."

He was indeed, when Clement Clarke Moore penned "A Visit From Saint Nicholas" in 1822 as a Christmas gift for his children. Santa Claus looked much the same when Thomas Nast drew him in 1862 for Harper's Weekly, and when Coca-Cola introduced its version in 1931, using the twinkly-eyed, cherry-cheeked visage for three decades of advertising. And so he appears today, on greeting cards, tree ornaments and just about anything else with Santa's image. Santa, you see, hasn't aged.

For good reason: Research on the biology of aging shows that if you hang in there long enough -- 95 seems to be the magic number -- you will stop getting biologically older even as you get chronologically ancient. That has fascinating implications for the possibility of halting aging when you can still enjoy it. Saint Nick aside, even if you aren't getting much older after 95, you're still, you know, old.

from The Associated Press

LONDON - Don't sweat the curse of the mummy.

Those who disturbed Tutankhamun's tomb died all right, but no sooner than those who kept their distance, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.

"It doesn't need to be scientifically debunked because it's rubbish really, but it's the first time I've seen it treated in this medical or scientific way," Neal Spencer, an Egyptologist at the British Museum said of the study.

When people associated with British archaeologist Howard Carter's 1922 expedition that unearthed the tomb began to die prematurely, their demise was widely attributed to the mummy's curse.

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"Intelligent Design" Not Smart for Science Classes

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific organization, recently announced the top ten key science and technology policy issues to emerge in 2002. Among them:

Efforts to kick the theory of biological evolution out of U.S. public school classrooms are taking a new twist. Instead of opposing evolution directly, evolution foes now are seeking to include intelligent design theory in science classrooms. Such efforts were seen in local and state school boards, including Cobb County, Georgia, and the State of Ohio during 2002. ID theory suggests that the complexity of DNA, for example, and the diversity of life forms can only be explained by a supernatural agent. Science educators will be keeping their eyes open to see where this issue pops up next in 2003. Meanwhile, the AAAS Board of Directors passed a resolution in October saying ID theory should be treated in the same manner as creationism or other family teachings--but not in science classrooms.

For the AAAS press release, see

For the AAAS resolution on intelligent design, see

Best wishes for the holiday season,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x 305
fax: 510-601-7204

S.F. may soon see psychics regulated Pioneering proposal would ban trickery

Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, December 20, 2002


The future looked cloudy for dozens of fortune-tellers and psychics in San Francisco on Thursday after legislation was proposed to require them to obtain permits, post their rates and stop tricking their clients.

Under the law, the first of its kind for a major U.S. city, fortune-tellers would no longer be allowed to perform such classic curse removals as the knot in the thread, the blood in the glass, or the hair in the grapefruit.

The bury-the-money trick would be outlawed, too.

"Everyone is going to think this is a little bit hokey," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, introducing his ordinance at the Hall of Justice.

"But it's not hokey if it's your money that's being taken," chimed in District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who is backing the proposal.

At present, San Francisco fortune-tellers need only possess a business license. The new law would force them to pay about $500 for a permit and would deny permits to convicted swindlers and thieves.

Police fraud inspectors say dozens of San Franciscans lose large amounts of money every year to fortune-tellers who charge $500 and up for weekly visits and who dupe clients with sleight-of-hand demonstrations of their "powers."

The tricks, banned under the new law, include the knot in the thread (the fortune-teller makes a knot disappear) and the blood in the glass (the fortune- teller asks a client to spit into a glass of water, then secretly adds black dye to show the client is cursed).

Also banned would be the hair in the grapefruit (the client rubs a grapefruit on his body and covers it with money, and the fortune-teller then plants a hair inside the grapefruit to prove the money is cursed, and keeps the money) and the buried money in the graveyard (the fortune-teller promises to bury a client's "cursed" money in a graveyard, but keeps it instead).

Peskin introduced a 36-year-old San Francisco woman who lost $17,000 last year to a Richmond District fortune-teller.

The fortune-teller charged the victim hundreds of dollars per visit and tricked her into buying two $2,000 gift certificates at Union Square stores. The fortune-teller said she would bless the gift certificates and return them to her lovelorn client, so that she could give the certificates to her estranged husband and win him back. Instead, the fortune-teller used the certificates herself.

"I don't know why I believed her," recalled the victim, who did not want to be identified. "It was so stupid. I lost my sanity, I guess."

The proposed law, which comes before the Board of Supervisors next month, covers fortune-telling by not only crystal balls, tarot cards and astrology charts, but by "sticks, dice, tea leaves, coins, sand and coffee grounds" as well. Fortune-tellers would be required to post rate cards and a phone number for complaints. Police say requiring permits would make it easier to keep tabs on swindlers.

The San Francisco Yellow Pages list no fewer than 105 psychics, 20 spiritual consultants and 17 astrologers. None of them seemed happy about the proposal.

"What a rip-off," said Dionysia, Goddess of Light and Direction. "It's just the city, capitalizing on folks trying to make a living. Terence Hallinan wouldn't know a psychic if it hit him on the head."

Peskin said fortune-telling is an "age-old industry that is welcome in San Francisco" and said he did not want to discourage legitimate, modestly priced psychics, seers, tarot card readers or sellers of fortune cookies, a plate of which was on the table where Peskin spoke.

At the end of his announcement, Peskin picked up a cookie and cracked it open.

"You will be fortunate in everything you put your hands to," said the slip of paper inside the supervisor's cookie.

E-mail Steve Rubenstein at srubenstein@sfchronicle.com.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Pope set to certify Mother Teresa's miracle


Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II will approve at a Friday ceremony the miracle needed to beatify Mother Teresa, whose dedication to the destitute earned her a special place in the pontiff's heart.

Once the approval is announced by the Vatican, a date can be announced for Mother Teresa's beatification ceremony, expected to be held next spring. A second miracle then will be needed to declare Mother Teresa a saint.

The miracle attributed to the Roman Catholic nun's intercession involves the recovery of a young Indian woman with a stomach tumor. Her recovery, after an image of Mother Teresa was placed on her abdomen, was judged to be without any medical explanation by a panel of doctors consulted by the Vatican.

The miracle was reported this fall by a Vatican committee and – although challenged as fake by Indian rationalists and doctors who treated the girl – will be formally seconded by the pope, who also will praise Mother Teresa's heroic virtue during Friday's ceremony in the Apostolic Palace.

As a sign of his affection and admiration for Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 at age 87, the pope waived the customary five-year waiting period to begin procedures that can lead to sainthood, or canonization.

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on Aug. 26, 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia. In 1949, she founded the Missionaries of Charity in India.

Tiny and frail, she cared for Calcutta's impoverished and sick, toiling daily and for long hours even when she was elderly and ailing herself. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Her order has opened places to provide comfort and care for the needy. The order was notified of Friday's ceremony by the Vatican.

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/religion/stories/122002dnintteresa.36a52.html

State board allows debate on evolution


By MARILYN H. KARFELD Staff Reporter

Some scientists and church-state watchdogs are slamming Ohio's new science standards, unanimously adopted last week by the State Board of Education, for allowing religion in the guise of pseudo-science to enter biology class.

But others praise the standards, saying they are a major improvement over the current curriculum and will finally ensure that Ohio students learn about evolution.

For the first time ever in Ohio, the word evolution (previously referred to only as "change through time") will be included in the science standards. While the standards are guidelines only, students will be tested on evolution on the 10th-grade proficiency exam, which they must pass in order to graduate.

But the compromise language the state board adopted also states that students should be able "to describe how scientists continue today to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."

By requiring students to critique evolution and not other scientific theories, the new standards invite teachers to discuss intelligent design. That theory says life is too complex to be explained by evolutionary chance and thus must be guided by a higher power.

Critics say intelligent design is creationism - the belief that God created life as written in the Bible - dressed up in new clothes.

However, the education board adopted a disclaimer to the standards, stating that in no way should they be construed as support for intelligent design. Without the disclaimer, at least six of the 18 board members said they would vote against the standards because they would imply evolution is controversial and could lead to anti-evolution teaching.

Even with the disclaimer, the new science standards give additional license to school boards and individual teachers to teach creationism, which the courts have ruled is unconstitutional, says Bettysue Feuer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"It's just a ploy to get religion taught in the public schools," she says. "It brings the fight down to local school boards. Nobody can fight that fight, school by school."

Proponents of intelligent design have claimed victory in Ohio because the new standards permit teachers to discuss alternative theories about the origins of life, although they do not require the teaching of intelligent design. Moreover, these advocates say, the yearlong debate brought great attention to intelligent design.

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, director of the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute, pronounced the new science standards "historic" on the Seattle organization's Web site.

"Ohio has become the first state to require students to learn about scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution," he noted. "This policy will help remedy the selective presentation of evidence made by most biology textbooks today."

Skip Evans of the National Center for Science Education in California says the new standards do not mention intelligent design and are, therefore, a victory for the students of Ohio. "Students will not be tested on intelligent design, which is nothing more than creationism without the overtly religious veneer that has lost in the courts," he says.

The fact that students may be asked to critique evolutionary theory does not disturb him. "Students should critically analyze aspects of any scientific theory," he says. "That's what science is about."

But the fact that only evolution is subject to such analysis "gives the impression that evolution is somehow special and different and controversial," says Prof. Lawrence Krauss, chairman of the physics department at Case Western Reserve University and an outspoken critic of intelligent design.

It's great that evolution is finally appearing in the Ohio science guidelines, he says. But it's "depressing and unfortunate" that the state board chose to "obfuscate" the issue by saying students should debate evolutionary theory.

That "opens the door for the enemies of science, like proponents of intelligent design, to claim victory and to move one step further to introducing religion to the science classroom," he says.

Although school board members sought to craft a compromise between the pro-evolutionists and those favoring the teaching of alternative theories, Krauss says "there is no such thing as compromise in science. If you say 2 plus 2 is 4 and I say it's 6, you don't compromise and say it's 5."

The new standards are a definite improvement over past guidelines, says Joyce Garver Keller, Columbus-based lobbyist for Ohio Jewish Communities. "The scientific community made it very clear that the word 'evolution' must be included, and it has been. The intelligent design people did not win this battle."

Even with the new state guidelines, undoubtedly some Ohio educators will continue to teach a religious point of view in science class, Garver Keller points out.

Indeed, a science teacher in Green High School in Summit County has his students debate the evidence for and against evolution, the Associated Press reports. Intelligent design is being taught In the Patrick Henry School District in rural Hamler, Ohio, southwest of Toledo, the ADL's Feuer notes.

The battle on this issue is not over, Garver Keller maintains. Conservative members of the Ohio House have introduced legislation to take control away from the state board on hot-button topics such as intelligent design and sex education.

Advocates of separation of church and state, guaranteed in the First Amendment, say they are prepared to fight to keep religion out of biology classes. If any school district begins teaching intelligent design, Chris Link, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, vows to take legal action.

Six years ago, a physics teacher at Lakewood High School taught creationism. Alerted by members of the Jewish community living in Lakewood, the ACLU threatened a lawsuit against the school district. Administrators then insisted the teacher stop teaching the biblical version of the origin of life.

"Intelligent design is simply another Trojan horse to bring religion into the classroom," Link says.

Unlike voters in Kansas, who ousted the school board members responsible for striking evolution from the science curriculum, Ohio citizens opposed to intelligent design missed the opportunity to draft new candidates for the state board.

Debra Owens Fink of Akron, who led the push for alternative theories of life's origins in the classroom, ran unopposed in her bid for another four-year term on the state board.

Kangaroo Jack (2003)


Plot Outline: Two childhood friends, a New York hairstylist and a would-be musician, get caught up with the mob and are forced to deliver $100,000 to Australia, but things go haywire when the money is lost to a wild kangaroo.

Two Groups Now Promise Cloned Babies Will Be Born Within Weeks

NEW YORK (AP) - The race to produce the first birth of a human clone is nearing the finish line - if you believe the public pronouncements.


Villagers attacked Indian man who returned from 'death'

From Ananova at


An Indian man who showed up at his village several days after he was thought to have died has been attacked by residents who mistook him for a ghost.

Ravindran returned to Poovam near Pondicherry, nearly 40 days after he was believed to have hanged himself.

Startled villagers couldn't believe their eyes and started throwing stones at him, Newindpress website reports.

Police say the man who hanged himself was mistakenly identified as Ravindran before the body was handed over to his family for cremation.

It has now emerged a "misunderstanding" with wife Tamilarasi persuaded Ravindran to spend some time at his workplace in a neighbouring town.

A local politician, R Nalamaharajan, who rescued the man from the mob, has asked authorities to conduct "a thorough inquiry" into the attack.

Ravindran now plans to approach the National Human Rights Commission seeking compensation and protection from "hostile" villagers.

Voices for Evolution

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Over seventy-five years after the Scopes trial, the controversy over the teaching of creationism in the public schools continues unabated. On the front lines of the controversy is the National Center for Science Education -- NCSE -- the only organization entirely devoted to defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Among the tools that NCSE provides for those wishing to defend the teaching of evolution is its publication Voices for Evolution, published first in 1989 and then in a revised edition in 1995. Voices for Evolution includes statements from educational, scientific, civil liberties, and religious organizations, all supporting evolution education. Together they amount to a powerful endorsement of the importance and value of evolution education.

In preparation for the third edition, due to be published in 2003, NCSE has added a host of new statements supporting evolution education on its web site at http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=2. The new statements, which are now incorporated in the appropriate sections of the web version of Voices for Evolution, are from the following organizations:

American Anthropological Association
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Astronomical Society
American Geophysical Union
Association for Women Geoscientists
Association of College and University Biology Educators
Australian Academy of Science
Ecological Society of America
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Genetics Society of America
Geological Society of America
Geological Society of Australia
History of Science Society
Iowa Academy of Science
Kentucky Academy of Science
Kentucky Paleontological Society
National Academy of Science
National Conference on Teaching Evolution
National Science Teachers Association
North American Benthological Society
North Carolina Academy of Science
North Carolina Math and Science Education Network
Ohio Academy of Science
Ohio Mathematics and Science Coalition
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
The Society of Systematic Biologists
Virginia Academy of Science

Also included are the Pope's 1996 Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences concerning the status of evolution and a joint statement, signed by the authors of twenty-three biology textbooks, affirming that "Evolution is a normal part of science, and should be treated the same way as all other scientific ideas."

As Molleen Matsumura wrote in her foreword to the revised edition of Voices for Evolution, "The voices in this book, even though each one represents an important group of concerned people, are not the entire chorus. They are like the instrument that sounds the pitch so all the singers can work together. The other voices for evolution are teachers and parents, school administrators and concerned citizens and scientists thousands of people across the country who work to defend evolution education in their own communities. This book is for everyone who wants to join the chorus."

For further information about NCSE, see http://www.ncseweb.org/. Voices for Evolution, including the new statements, is available on-line at http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=2; printed copies of the second edition are available from NCSE or from Amazon.com.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x 305
fax: 510-601-7204

Science In the News

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

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"Science In the News" is produced daily by the Media Resource Service, a public understanding of science program sponsored by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society.


Today's Headlines – December 19, 2002

from The New York Times

Researchers have found a genetic signature in breast tumors that seems to be a powerful predictor of whether the cancer will spread and kill or whether it can easily be cured by surgery, causing no further harm.

The research involved relatively few patients, all relatively young, and its conclusions remain to be confirmed by further studies. But scientists said the genetic signature — the activity of a collection of 70 genes — appears to predict cancer mortality better than traditional measures like tumor size or stage or whether the cancer has spread to a woman's underarm lymph nodes.

In the study, 5.5 percent of women whose cancers had a good genetic signature died within the next decade, as against 45 percent of those with bad genetic signatures.

It will be at least several years before the work could change medical practice. But the findings, by researchers in Amsterdam, are raising questions about the nature of cancer, its treatment and the benefits of early detection. The current study did not address questions about how to treat tumors. Questions about what to do when cancers have bad genetic signatures will have to be dealt with in future studies.


from The Washington Post

The white chemical tanks are two stories high and protected by heated tents. Nearby, diesel-powered generators hum, powering computers and the lights for a makeshift cafeteria. In the trailers strewn over a vast parking lot, lab technicians fill sample vials, statisticians crunch numbers and meteorologists check the skies.

The sprawling site is, of all things, a mail-sorting facility. But it is also Brentwood, where another sort of operation began to take shape just days after last fall's anthrax mailings, a complex, multimillion-dollar effort to rescue the building from the deadly bacteria.

More than a year later, a bustling, day-and-night community of engineers, chemists and other scientists, carpenters and plumbers has taken hold along a U-shaped corridor outside the sealed building on Brentwood Road in Northeast Washington. About 200 workers swarm over the site daily, traversing a cluttered avenue of tents and trailers and a maze of piping and chemical-mixing equipment assembled for the most ambitious reclamation of a biohazardous building in U.S. history.

Postal officials say the project is unlike any other -- part construction site, part testing ground, part chemical plant. "Ever worked on one of those Rubik's Cubes?" John H. Bridges, the Postal Service's on-scene commander in chief, said earlier this week, describing the world's largest anthrax decontamination.


from The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- Telescopes atop Mauna Kea have recorded for the first time clouds floating over Saturn's biggest moon -- considered by some astronomers to be the most earth-like body in the solar system, scientists reported Wednesday.

Peering across 808 million miles, scientists from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, used telescopes at the Keck and Gemini observatories atop the dormant volcano on the Big Island to photograph methane clouds near the south pole of the moon Titan.

Although some planets, most notably Jupiter, are covered in clouds, it's the first time the process of evaporation and cloud formation has been spotted in space, said Caltech scientist Michael Brown.

Brown and Henry Roe, of Berkeley, report on the work of a team of astronomers in Thursday's issue of Nature and Friday's issue of the Astrophysical Journal.


from UPI

Astrophysicists Wednesday said they have gleaned more about the dawning of the universe through a radio telescope array perched on the highest, driest, coldest, windiest continent on Earth, in observations that support bizarre theories of an exotic beginning some 14 billion years ago.

Getting a clear shot at the skies from a pristine South Pole site, the space watchers set their sights on cosmic microwave background radiation, or CMB, regarded as a leftover of the primordial gruel that nurtured the infant universe. In hopes of honing their understanding of the birth of the cosmos, they homed in on a patch of sky 3.4 degrees across - about the area enclosed by a thumb and forefinger arched in an "OK" sign at arm's length.

For 20 hours a day for 271 days, the scientists in essence turned their sky- hugging telescope into a pair of oversized polarized sunglasses to focus on the pervasive afterglow of a fireball of extremely compact and searing matter that, according to the widely accepted "Big Bang" theory, converted from a dimensionless point into an expanding universe.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

One thing was clear to researchers amid all the talk about sporangia and chlamydospores as the first ever scientific symposium on sudden oak death wound to a close Wednesday: When you mix 300 scientists and forestry officials together in a room, you get a formidable new strain of knowledge.

The numerous presentations from scientists will certainly be a valuable tool in helping researchers around the world understand the tree-killing microbe known as Phytophthora ramorum.

But many of the hundreds of forest and plant pathologists who attended the conference said what might have been even more important was the opportunity to meet with other scientists in the halls, at lunch and around the bar.


from The Christian Science Monitor

PRINCETON, MASS. – When this one-blink Massachusetts town decided against nuclear power 20 years ago, residents turned to an energy source as ancient as time. Today, the eight windmills they built still stand on the blustery slopes of Mount Wachusett, white sentries whose metal blades clank and turn in the breeze.

They haven't done a lot more.

On a good day, the windmills might power 30 of Princeton's 1,300 homes. It's the kind of tale that has made alternative energies and their earnest advocates the butt of many an oilman's joke.

But wind power just may be worth another look. Today it's the fastest- growing energy source in the world. And, despite their failed experiment, Princeton residents are among those banking on it.


from The Christian Science Monitor

COLLINSVILLE, ILL. – The welcome mat is rustic: prairie grass flattened by a pickup truck.

To a visitor walking up a slight rise to the tracks' end at a pile of dirt and two makeshift worktables, it appears that no one is home. Suddenly, a hand hefting a bucket sprouts from the ground, vanishes, and is replaced by a human.

The human is Jim Mertz, a volunteer helping archaeologists who are trying to answer fundamental questions about the ancient inhabitants of this site, known as Cahokia.

Archaeologists estimate that at a time when the Normans were consolidating their hold on a newly conquered England, central Cahokia covered five square miles, held more than 100 earthen mounds ranging from the mundane to the monumental, and was home to as many as 20,000 people.


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Religious sect claims cloned girl will be born this month


Wed, December 18, 2002

TORONTO (CP) -- A Quebec-based religious sect claims it will deliver the first human clone within 14 days, CTV News reported on Wednesday.

The Raelians, who set up a human cloning company called Clonaid and began offering a cloning machine for sale last May, say the cloned baby -- a girl -- will be born before the end of the month, CTV reported.

The director of Clonaid, Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, told CTV they had implanted 10 clone embryos this spring.

Boisselier said five miscarried but the other five are "doing well," the network reported.

The baby, said to be the genetic duplicate of a American woman in her 30s, will reportedly be born by Caesarean section at an undisclosed facility.

The Raelian Movement was founded in France by Rael, who was once a French racing-car driver known at Claude Vorilhon, who claimed he was contacted by an extraterrestrial on Dec. 13, 1973.

The extraterrestrial told Rael he was a clone of the supreme extraterrestrial being and prophets including Jesus and Mohammed.

The group claims to have 55,000 members in 84 countries.

Some experts say it's possible that the Raelian claim is true.

"It has been possible after many many attempts to clone other mammalian species ... there's no reason to think a human being would be very different from other mammals," said Prof. Lawrence Smith of the University of Montreal.

"It is certainly possible that they have accomplished what they claim to have accomplished," Princeton professor Lee Silver told CTV.

But Silver said the Raelians must prove it by showing that a DNA sample from the baby is identical to that of the woman.

Cloning experiments have produced numerous deformed and dead animals other experts warn.

"These people who claim to clone humans -- first of all they are highly irresponsible and if they do it they will produce abnormal cloned humans," warned Prof. Rudolf Jaenisch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Patricia Baird , who headed the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies more than a decade ago, has said cloning cells to produce a live organism or cloning to produce cells is ethically wrong.

Reproductive cloning of cows, sheep, pigs and mice has resulted in countless physical and developmental problems and less than three per cent of all cloning efforts have resulted in live births, she said.

"Human reproduction cloning is unlikely to be safe in the foreseeable future," Baird said.

"It controls the production of human beings in an unprecedented way," she said. "It opens up the possibility of genetic engineering on humans."

Baird said numerous European countries and Australia have banned reproductive cloning and similar legislation has been proposed in Canada but not approved.

Nadine Gary, a spokeswoman for the Raelians, would not confirm the reports on Wednesday.

"I cannot make any announcements because it's so late, it's impossible to reach Dr. Boisselier," Gary said from Las Vegas, Nev.

"I cannot make any announcements right now. The speaker for all of our research and all of the latest developments would be Dr. Boisselier and I'm not at ease saying anything. I would be very happy to arrange an interview, but not to speak on her behalf.

Articles of Note - Thanks to Joe Littrell (and welcome back!)

Cities give psychics license to entertain, not exorcise
By Edgar Sanchez
Sacramento Bee


"Believers in the occult and thrill-seekers are the bread and butter of psychic parlors."

Bermuda Triangle: Behind the Intrigue
by Hillary Mayell
National Geographic News


"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."

To Spite the Face
Phoenix New Times


"Under the surface of Mars lies an ancient, nuclear-powered city left by Martian citizens. At least, that's what a group of space researchers think. And they're trying to prove it by invoking a little-known remnant of President Clinton's last days called the "Data Quality Act" that went into force in October of this year. The filing, dated October 31, 2002, gives NASA 40 days to address the complaint that there is faulty data on Arizona State University's THEMIS Web site."

Are We Being Taken by Spielberg?
by Leon Jaroff


"The Sci-Fi Channel is best known for programs that contain very little Sci and an abundance of Fi. Its most popular show until now, John Edward's "Crossing Over" (which I savaged last year in TIME) remains devoid of science, let alone truth. Edward, you recall, claims to be a medium who can transmit messages from the dearly departed to their bereaved relatives. That's nonsense, of course, and lacks even the kind of scientific credibility and measurability that I have, for example, when my response to questions about my shirt size is "I'm a medium.""

Is the animal psychic a great practical joke?
By Baxter Black
Amarillo Globe-News


"I have been asked my thoughts about the animal psychic that appears on the TV channel Animal Planet. What can I say that would not seem unkind or less than professional, other than...Do you think that Eddie Murphy in Dr. Dolittle is historically accurate?"

Superstition takes toll, 8 kids die
by Nirmala Ganapathy
Indian Express


"An eerie silence pervades the village of Dariyapur at Bihta in Bihar. Superstition and a reluctance to seek medical attention has led to the death of eight children in this village of Musahars a Schedule Caste community that comes at the bottom of Bihar's caste set-up."

Ohio School Board OKs Science Standards
Associated Press


"The state school board unanimously approved science standards Tuesday that more strongly advocate the teaching of evolution while allowing students to fully critique the theory's legitimacy."

Board rejects disclaimer in biology books
The Advocate [Baton Rouge]


"The state's top school board rejected a move Thursday to add a disclaimer to high school biology textbooks that said evolution is only a theory."

Evolution disclaimer is struck down
By Laura Maggi

The Times-Picayune [New Orleans]


"Louisiana's state school board on Thursday rejected a proposed disclaimer for school science textbooks that would have instructed students learning about evolution to "keep an open mind" about the prevailing scientific theory of the creation of species."

Group Claims to Make Energy from Water
By Tonya Papanikolas


"Can you imagine a day when your home or business could be powered on nothing but water? Sound impossible? A group called Genesis World Energy says they've learned how to do it."

Presentation by Genesis Project has few details
by Julie Howard
Idaho Statesman


"A mysterious technology touted to end reliance on fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources was unveiled in Boise Thursday, but its cloak-and-dagger public launch left attendees puzzled and curious."

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Religion linked to positive outlook in teenagers


By Larry Witham

Teenagers who attend worship and rate religion as important have positive self-images, are optimistic and enjoy school, a study released yesterday said.

The survey of thousands of 12th-grade students found that optimism and confidence correlate with exposure to religion as much as with success, race, wealth or "self-esteem" education in public schools.

"The more religious the kids are, based on its importance to them or their attending worship, the greater their positive outlook on life," said sociologist Chris Smith of the University of North Carolina, where the National Study of Youth and Religion is being conducted.

"They have more self-esteem and confidence," he said. "The more religious they are, the less they hate school."

Only 15 percent of 12th-graders said they never attended religious services. Meanwhile, even passive religious affiliation and some youth-group activity were linked with optimistic outlooks.

"There's very good reason to support the idea that religion itself is making kids turn out optimistic," he said. "It's not a mystery to me that a more religious student has more hope."

The most striking finding, he said, is that nonreligious students "hate school" more.

Mr. Smith doubts that religious youth are optimistic because they block out a complex world of human problems.

"There may have been an era when kids were sheltered from the real world, but I don't think that's true anymore. Young people, with the Internet and the rest, are often more clued into the world than their parents."

Now, 'Integrative Care'

From: Thomas J Wheeler

As science rigorously examines herbs and acupuncture, a new blend of medicine emerges

By Geoffrey Cowley


While these huge clinical trials plod along, researchers are using state-of-the-art laboratory techniques to glimpse the physiological effects of different CAM remedies. At the University of California, Irvine, for example, radiology professor Zang-Hee Cho uses a high-speed imaging technique called fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to watch what happens in the brain when acupuncture needles enter the foot. Cho showed four years ago that an acupuncture point traditionally used to ease eye problems did in fact stimulate the visual cortex.


This study appeared in Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 95, 2670-2673 (1998). Abstract:


Wallace Sampson has provided a critique in Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine 2(2), 56-57 (Fall/Winter 1998). One of his points concerning this small preliminary study (12 subjects) concerns the direction of the response to acupuncture point stimuation. For some of the subjects, the response was in the same direction as for visual stimulation, but for others it was in the opposite direction. This was rationalized as being due to the fact that the subjects showing the same direction response were of "yin" character, whereas the others (with one exception) were of "yang" character.

Sampson further notes that there is no proof that stimulation of acupuncture points in the foot has any effect on eye disease. Also, if stimulation of activity in the visual cortex can improve an eye disorder, why not just treat by shining light on the retina?

Thomas J. Wheeler, Ph.D. tjwheeler@louisville.edu
Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
University of Louisville School of Medicine

Alternative medicine reading list:
NEW! Weekly updates Oct.-Dec. 2002

FDA cracks down on bogus health claims


Wednesday, December 18, 2002 Posted: 4:25 PM EST (2125 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The bold claims made on the labels of some food products and dietary supplements will have to be backed up by science from now on.

Officials Wednesday announced a new initiative to both encourage companies to make accurate claims about the health benefits of their products, and to prevent companies from making bogus ones.

The Food and Drug Administration will require companies to show that "the weight of scientific evidence" supports claims they make on product labeling.

Authorities intend to crack down on companies that make false or misleading claims about dietary supplements.

As evidence of that, the FDA announced Wednesday that federal marshals had seized $100,000 worth of a product called EverCLR, a dietary supplement.

EverCLR was marketed by a California company that made unsubstantiated claims it was a "natural" treatment for viruses, including the herpes virus, the FDA said.

Products that do work

As part of the initiative, health officials also want to alert consumers about products that do work as advertised.

"Food choices affect health outcomes, and consumers need to have the latest, most up-to-date scientific information in making their food choices," FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan said.

John Fowler of U.S. Pharmacopeia, the company that tests the quality of drugs for the FDA, said it will offer an independent testing program for dietary supplements to verify that they are what they claim to be and that they contain no harmful contaminants.

As many as 60 percent of Americans report taking some kind of dietary supplement, including vitamins and herbs, which are not regulated in the same way as pharmaceuticals. Companies generally do not need to get FDA approval before marketing a dietary supplement.

Vietnamese use psychics to find graves of missing relatives

The Electronic Telegraph

(Filed: 18/12/2002)

Thirty years after the Vietnam war the bereaved still hope their loved ones can take a place on ancestral altars, reports Kay Johnson in Hanoi

They were childhood sweethearts who fell in love at 18, married at 21 and were swept apart by war. Now, all Nguyen Thi Gai has to remember her husband by are her wedding photographs and a carefully folded death certificate.

But nearly 30 years after her husband was killed in battle with American soldiers, Gai has found new hope for burying him in his native village.

Like thousands of other Vietnamese, Gai has turned to a psychic grave-finding service to find relatives missing in action from the country's decades-long war.

"I've never been superstitious, before, but I'm willing to try anything," said Gai, 55, fingering a hand-drawn map showing roads, rivers and rice fields. "With this map, I really hope I can find Tien's grave."

Some 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers are still missing in action from what Vietnamese call the American War. Unlike the hundreds of millions of dollars Washington has sunk into finding remains of fewer than 2,000 American servicemen, the Vietnamese get little official help.

Hoping to find some sort of remains to put on the ancestral altars that grace nearly every Vietnamese home, more and more families are turning to decidedly unofficial assistance.

Since the Office for Grave Searches opened in Hanoi five years ago more than 5,000 Vietnamese families have consulted its three resident psychics, who churn out as many as 20 maps a day.

State media have warned of desperate relatives being duped by freshly buried bones - some not human - at the appointed site, but that does not stop those who refuse to give up hope.

The grave-finding service is a mixture of mysticism and modern technology, spiritualism and politics, housed in a wooden building with incense burning in the courtyard and an altar with a gold bust of Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary leader.

Hopeful relatives wait on straw mats outside until they are called up to a desk to the centre's head psychic, Nguyen Van Lien, who goes into a trance and begins speaking in verse, while his hands sketch out a colour-coded map on a torn-off length of poster paper.

"I see your brother who died very young. He was so handsome," Lien told an old man and his son as he drew green whorls on the map. "You should go to Quang Nam province and ask for village number three in Dien Tho commune. There you will find someone to help you reunite."

Fees for MIA psychics start at about £2. Lien insists that he is not in the business for the money, and anything that grateful families want to donate is up to them. But families can still spend a large amount in travel and expenses, and not everyone is a believer.

The wig from outer space


From The Borehamwood Times

The BBC Elstree Band Christmas concert once again attracted a full house at Allum Hall and my highlight was the singalong to the music of Gigi, especially as I am blessed with perfect pitch.

At least I assume that is what the musical director Mike Crisp meant when he said I sing everything in the same key?

Probably the youngest in the Hall were our stewards 20-year-old Michael 'Romeo' Readings and 19-year-old Ricky 'Cuddles' Brown. By contrast, our oldest audience member was Judy who celebrates her 109th birthday in a few days time. That makes her as old as the cinema in this country which is quite a thought.

There was a time in the 1950s when church service times were altered and pubs emptied. It was due to a very successful science fiction television series entitled Quatermass which had audiences riveted.

I have seen some of the surviving episodes and nowadays it is hard to capture that same impact enjoyed by viewers of a more innocent world half a century ago.

Hammer decided to capitalise on the success with three film versions, two of which were made here. I think they both stand up well and are quite enjoyable viewing.

Quatermass II was shot at the old Danziger Studios in Elstree in 1957 and was renamed Enemy From Space for the American market. The distributors wanted an American name in the lead role so fading Hollywood star Brian Donlevy was brought over.

Sadly, the actor was hitting the bottle a bit and the man who created Quatermass disliked both him and his performance.

Apparently, one amusing incident happened when they were filming a location scene on some hills. The wind picked up and blew off the wig from Brian's balding head.

This resulted in various members of the crew scampering around to catch it both to protect the actor's personal vanity and to maintain the continuity of the shots.

William Franklyn, who was in the supporting cast, is full of praise or the director Val Guest. "He ensured the film was shot quickly by putting up illustrations of the scenes and shots each day so everybody knew what was needed."

Val, who was an Elstree veteran dating back to the 1930s is now in his 90s and still going strong living in Arizona. 10 years later Hammer made Quatermass And The Pit at the old MGM Studio in Borehamwood. The Director this time was Roy Ward Baker and the film was retitled Five Million Years To Earth for the American market.

Roy recalls: "We were due to shoot the picture at Elstree Studios due to Hammer's link with the studio owners ABPC. However, they were too busy so we moved up the road to MGM which was a lovely facility. It was virtually empty so I guess we were a bit spoiled while we were there."

I am surprised nobody has remade Quatermass in recent years although I guess modern cinema audiences would know little about this once famous fictional character.

Finally, just a reminder to my friends that there are still five more shopping days to Christmas, if you have not yet got me a present!

Make I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. Don't forget if you get fed up with the repeats on television, go out and support our local cinema and enjoy films where they are meant to be seen.

10:42 Monday 16th December 2002

The real truth about bigfoot



I came away from that story realizing that the ancient Native American legend of Sasquatch had surfaced periodically from time immemorial. I'm sure it has something to do with our desire to reconnect with the wilderness, to believe some part of us still can live wild and free. I'm also sure that you can't own a legend, and that people like Rant Mullens or the fellow who pulled the 1958 prank could only borrow it for a while.

Treatment of the Common Cold with Unrefined Echinacea
A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial


Bruce P. Barrett, MD, PhD; Roger L. Brown, PhD; Kristin Locken, BA; Rob Maberry, BA; James A. Bobula, PhD; and Donn D'Alessio, MD

Background: Echinacea preparations are widely used to treat the common cold.

Objective: To assess the efficacy of dried, encapsulated, whole-plant echinacea as early treatment for the common cold.

Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled community-based trial.

Setting: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.

Participants: 148 registered students with common colds of recent onset.

Intervention: An encapsulated mixture of unrefined Echinacea purpurea herb (25%) and root (25%) and E. angustifolia root (50%) taken in 1-g doses six times on the first day of illness and three times on each subsequent day of illness for a maximum of 10 days.

Measurements: Severity and duration of self-reported symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection.

Results: No statistically significant differences were detected between the echinacea and placebo groups for any of the measured outcomes. Trajectories of severity over time were nearly identical in the two groups. Mean cold duration was 6.01 days in both groups as a whole, 5.75 days in the placebo group, and 6.27 days in the echinacea group (between-group difference, 0.52 day [95% CI, 1.09 to 0.22 days]). After controlling for severity and duration of symptoms before study entry, sex, date of enrollment, and use of nonprotocol medications, researchers found no statistically significant treatment effect (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.24 [CI, 0.86 to 1.78]). Multivariable regression models assessing severity scores over time failed to detect statistically significant differences between the echinacea and placebo groups.

Conclusion: Compared with placebo, unrefined echinacea provided no detectable benefit or harm in these college students who had the common cold.

Ann Intern Med.  2002;137:939-946.

To Spite the Face


Researchers accuse ASU's THEMIS of fraud and cover-up on latest image of 'Face on Mars'


Under the surface of Mars lies an ancient, nuclear-powered city left by Martian citizens. At least, that's what a group of space researchers think. And they're trying to prove it by invoking a little-known remnant of President Clinton's last days called the "Data Quality Act" that went into force in October of this year. The filing, dated October 31, 2002, gives NASA 40 days to address the complaint that there is faulty data on Arizona State University's THEMIS Web site.

THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System) is the crown jewel of ASU's science department that takes and analyzes images from an infrared camera on NASA's Odyssey satellite and releases them to the public. THEMIS also conducts expansive educational programs for students, scientists and interested observers. But its reputation is now being trashed in almost every Mars or space-related Web site on the Internet with headlines like, "Is NASA Capable of Lying?" and "Odyssey Slaps the Face on Mars."

The heated controversy that has incited the faithful conspiracy congregation -- led by a charismatic "preacher" named Richard Hoagland -- concerns one image that was released in July of this year, and the software manager at THEMIS, Noel Gorelick.

The image in question is the first high-resolution infrared image of a region called Cydonia -- which houses the so-called "Face on Mars." This has been the most hotly contested region of Mars since a 1976 Viking image showed what clearly appeared to be a human face on the planet's surface. But subsequent images from NASA have cast a web of suspicion on the region, the "face," and the other structures surrounding it, inciting almost epic conspiracy theories all over the world.

The reason the infrared, or "IR," images are so important is that they show temperatures, allowing for a more definitive analysis of the origin of structures on Cydonia.

Hoagland claims to have proof that ASU's Gorelick swapped the July 24 Cydonia image for a manipulated one in order to keep people off the scent -- or get them on it. And Hoagland's arguments are not falling on deaf ears -- starting a five-month feeding frenzy on the Web and on a popular conspiracy radio talk show hosted by Art Bell. The image in question has been viewed 120,000 times from a link on MSNBC mentioning Hoagland's beef with THEMIS.

Given his involvement with unorthodox scientific research, Hoagland is surprisingly difficult to throw into the crackpot category. His lengthy dissertations are reminiscent of the Lone Gunmen from The X-Files, but his rιsumι doesn't read like a typical conspiracy theorist. He was the recipient of the Angstrom Medal for Excellence in Science in Stockholm, Sweden, a colleague of Carl Sagan, and a former science adviser to CBS News and Walter Cronkite.

His pet project, The Enterprise Mission -- where he goes by "The Captain" -- monitors all of the data from NASA and does research in excruciating minutia. Its early '90s school education program, The Enterprise Classroom, received a Points of Light Award from Barbara Bush and was featured on NASA's Spacelink -- even getting a visit from the space shuttle Atlantis crew. But Hoagland and The Enterprise Mission's research now focuses almost exclusively on SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).

According to Hoagland, an image of the Cydonia region was released on July 24 via Web download to Keith Laney, a NASA Ames Research Center consultant who works with The Enterprise Mission. Laney claims that he did not alter the image, but when he compared it to the image on the THEMIS Web site, he realized the two were different.

"Science, if you do it right, does not lie," says Hoagland. "But here, the evidence tells a different story than [the people at THEMIS] do."

Enter vast conspiracy theory.

Hoagland and his horde say that there is little surprise when NASA releases misleading or purely false images. Several images have been released of the Cydonia plane since the original Viking expedition -- some making the "face" appear completely flat as though nothing is there, and others that present alternate views that look less human. Hoagland thinks these images have been released to kill public interest in the issue.

And Hoagland doesn't think it's just Mars. He also has theories of cover-up conspiracies on Europa (a moon of Jupiter), the dark side of Earth's moon, Mars moon Phobos, and a host of other topics.

As far as Hoagland is concerned, NASA is not trustworthy on anything because of a study produced by the Washington, D.C., think tank The Brookings Institute in 1963, before the Viking expedition. This report, known as The Brookings Report, asserts that the government should hide evidence of life on other planets -- if it finds any -- to avoid religious and overall societal breakdown. Assuming that this report was made a part of internal NASA policy, Hoagland now dedicates himself to searching for any and all possible manipulations of NASA images and information. "The people of this country pay good money for this research, and they should get what they pay for," says Hoagland. "The pattern of deception would only exist if there was something there."

It is Laney and Hoagland's assertion that ASU's Gorelick "bamf'ed" or redirected Laney to the "real" Cydonia image in order to send up a red flag that THEMIS' information was being purposefully flawed. Hoagland admits it sounds bizarre, but asks, "If we're crazy -- or have consciously perpetrated a fraud here -- why bother? Who's ultimately going to listen to seriously ill people for long?"

And many people are still listening to Hoagland.

THEMIS officials contradict Hoagland's allegations. "There is no scientific validity to anything Hoagland says about this," claims Dr. Philip Christensen, the principal investigator at THEMIS. "Their image is completely fabricated. It takes about six steps on Photoshop to make our image look like theirs."

Hoagland wants THEMIS to release the image exactly as it comes to them, with no processing. "If they have nothing to hide, why won't they show us the raw data?" Hoagland demands.

Christensen has a simple answer. "The reason we don't release the so-called raw-data' is that you can't read raw data. We give people as close to unaltered as humanly possible, short of saying, Here's a line of ones and zeroes.'"

But Hoagland believes ASU's Gorelick has a motive for the alleged image-swap. "Read between the lines. It's all code," he claims. Hoagland's basis for this belief is anomalous image dates, and a collection of numbers he feels to be significant indicators of a complex code. "The image is 333 pixels across and 1,947 pixels long. Those numbers have meaning -- they are very important.

"Forget what's in the image; look at the other things. It's a meta-message."

Realizing how cloak and dagger he sounds, Hoagland remarks, "When you're dealing with Spooksville, you have to be a little James Bond." Hoagland maintains that Gorelick logged more than 1,000 hours on The Enterprise Mission Web site during the controversy over the image. "Why would he do that?" Hoagland wants to know. "It's bizarre unless he is playing a very sophisticated game."

Gorelick himself (who goes by the handle "bamf" on Web chat rooms) says that the accusations are "totally false." Gorelick admits to frequenting both Hoagland's site and other Mars-related sites for personal interest reasons, but is less than happy with being characterized as a fraud and a liar. "I think it shows paranoid delusion," remarks Gorelick when asked whether he was sending secret messages to Hoagland and Laney. "Laney claims I was goading him into [analyzing the image]. But I wasn't even talking to him."

As far as Laney's image, Gorelick says, "My opinion is that Laney invented that image through intentional or unintentional manipulation," and believes Hoagland's crew is using him as a scapegoat in order to legitimize their cause. "Hoagland is getting good results with this sensationalism. He gets money, resources, and he's on the radio all the time."

Christensen echoes Gorelick's sentiment, saying, "Anything we do, that group is going to complain about it. You can't win."

But these protestations are not taken at face value by Hoagland's camp. "Why put this stuff out -- unless it's a cry for help? They want to get caught," says Hoagland.

Hoagland says ASU's Gorelick, and others like him, are unhappy with the fact that they cannot release complete data to the public -- and this "bamf'ed" image is his way of fighting back. "It only takes one white crow to prove that not all crows are black," Hoagland explains. "That's what I think [Gorelick] is trying to give us -- one white crow."

Gorelick laughs in response, "I actually like this part. He gives me more credit than I am probably worthy of -- that I could engineer such a thing."

In any case, Gorelick says that THEMIS is not bound by the federal Data Quality Act. "It's not a NASA Web site, it's an ASU Web site. And it's not a NASA image, it's an ASU image.

"Even if it were relevant, we would respond that Laney's data was incorrect and that the Web site has the correct image -- or more likely claim it's frivolous."

An answer on the filing is due on December 11. Hoagland is hopeful, saying, "If [Gorelick] sent Laney to a bamf to get another image, he has to admit what he did."

Either way, the response is unlikely to satisfy Hoagland. "If you begin to believe that the government can lie, why would they keep their grubby hands off of this?" Hoagland asks.

But THEMIS and her crew are not alarmed. Says Christensen, "[Hoagland] can go on and on for a long time -- but every now and again there's some interesting conjecture. The scientific community needs someone to keep them thinking on their toes."

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