NTS LogoSkeptical News for 9 May 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Friday, May 09, 2003

Bigfoot symposium a big deal

By John Driscoll The Times-Standard

WILLOW CREEK -- In September, the greatest minds in Bigfoot science will converge upon the little town of Willow Creek, a town that appears destined to forever be known as the sasquatch capital of the world.

The keynote speaker is primate expert Jane Goodall, whose renowned work with chimpanzees has been documented in National Geographic, on film and in many other places. Scientists from Moscow's State Darwin Museum and American zoologists and criminologists will lay out a case for Bigfoot.

It might not be easy. Recent media reports that the original Bigfoot tracks -- found not far from here -- were hoaxed have sent shock waves through the Bigfoot-believing community. The widely circulated stories have seriously set back the efforts to track down the elusive creature, believers say.

The three-day symposium could help change that, said longtime Bigfoot aficionado and author John Green.

"I hope it will wake some of you people up," Green said in a phone interview from his home in British Columbia. "Everybody is just so dang sure that it ain't so. ... These are people you should listen to."

Green was livid with the recent Bigfoot hoax stories. The family of Humboldt County contractor Ray Wallace, after his death last year, claimed Wallace pulled off the 1958 prank in Bluff Creek that launched the term Bigfoot and brought an ancient legend to life.

Green called it "nonsense." He said reporters around the country didn't do an ounce of homework on the matter. The fallout is still doing damage, he said.

Green hopes the symposium will spark interest in the possible discovery of a new large primate, and stir up funding woefully lacking in the search.

For some, the association of Willow Creek with Bigfoot is unfortunate. Nita Rowley of the Willow Creek Chamber of Commerce wishes folks would see the community for what it really offers -- rafting, fishing, swimming -- rather than for an animal she sees as make-believe. Wallace was suspected of the prank all along, she said.

"Willow Creek is a very nice little area without the Bigfoot," Rowley said. "I don't like Willow Creek getting fame on a trumped-up story."

But Rowley admits that people who come to Willow Creek for the symposium will have a net positive effect for merchants and businesses.

Other speakers include Jeffrey Meldrum from Idaho State University, who will talk about bipedal evolution. Texas crime scene investigator Jimmy Chilcutt will explain how he found "dermal ridge" evidence in Bigfoot casts.

The symposium costs $125 a pop, but there is an opportunity to make some money, too.

Green said there is a standing offer of $100,000 for anyone who can duplicate the original Bluff Creek Bigfoot prints. No, the money's not in a verifiable bank account. Green said he's promising the cash.

"The money would be tied up forever because it can't be done," Green said.

The symposium runs Sept. 12-14. A full agenda can be found at www.bigfootsymposium.com Anyone interested in attending should call (530) 629-2653 or the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau at (707) 443-5097.



Volume 8, Number 12
March 19, 2003
Editor: Joseph Trainor


"Phil Plait, 38-year-old astronomer and skeptic, was on the California State University, Northridge campus Friday," March 14, 2003, "punching holes in the tenacious myth that American astronauts never landed on the moon." "Given the crowd, Plait didn't have much persuading to do. His talk was sponsored by the university's Department of Physics and Astronomy, and the room was full of people who know one end of a telescope from another.

But many Americans cling to the view that the landings were staged--6 percent of those surveyed in a 1999 Gallup poll had their doubts, uncertainty fed by a steady stream of television shows, books and videotapes that claim that NASA was part of a vast government conspiracy." "But when Plait asked his 75 listeners if any believed the moon landings were a hoax, only one young man raised his hand."

"Wearing sneakers and a blue NASA cap, the astronomer ticked off the arguments presented in a 2001 FOX TV show, Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? seen by more than 6 million viewers. He systematically refuted each claim."

"On the staff at Sonoma State University in northern California, Plait is part of a program that develops educational activities based on NASA science and technology. He debunks on his own time, as part of an informal community of scientists who thinks it's important to counter the pseudoscientific notions that seem to flourish in the United States." (Editor's Comment: You mean, like the belief that a long- dead Galilean carpenter can be somebody's personal savior?)

"Sometimes, he confessed, taking on the conspiracy theorists seems like a lot of effort that could be better spent, say, doing astronomy. Plait paraphrases the famous observation: 'Never wrestle with a pig. You'll just get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.' But, he said, he believes it's important to give people 'the tools they need to think critically about these arguments and realize they are wrong.'"

"Look at the American flag supposedly being planted on the moon, the moon hoaxers say. If the astronauts were really on the moon, which has no atmosphere, why is the flag waving?"

"Plait explains that the astronauts caused the flag to move as they drilled the flagpole into the surface of the moon; inertia creates the apparent waving motion." (Editor's Comment: Which leaves the intriguing question of why the wave motion stopped after several minutes, especially when no counter-force was applied by the astronauts to halt the inertia of the original motion.) "Twenty-year-old student Joseph Farar was the one person who confessed to believing that the moon landing was a hoax. Afterward, he explained that he had a friend who knew somebody who claimed to work for the movie company that was hired by NASA to fake the landing. The conspiracy theorists point to the lack of stars in the photos as evidence that an event was staged. The studio employee in Farar's friend's story said the moviemaker forgot to put in the stars."

"Farar said Plait hadn't changed his mind, but he said he was going to look deeper into the evidence. And he said he thought there were others in the audience who believed it was a hoax but didn't want to admit it." (See the Duluth, Minn. News-Tribune for March 16, 2003, "Astronomer debunks moon landing conspiracy theory," page 14A.)

Astronomers 'pinpoint time and date of crucifixion and resurrection'


Two Romanian astronomers say their research shows Christ died at 3pm on a Friday, and rose again at 4am on a Sunday.

Liviu Mircea and Tiberiu Oproiu claim to have pinpointed the exact time and date of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

The pair, from the Astronomic Observatory Institute in Cluj, Romania, say Jesus died at 3pm on Friday, April 3, 33 AD, and rose again at 4am on Sunday, April 5.

They used a computer programme to check biblical references against historical astronomical data.

They said the New Testament stated that Jesus died the day after the first night with a full moon, after the vernal equinox.

Using data gathered on the stars between 26 and 35 AD they established that in those nine years, the first full moon after the vernal equinox was registered twice - on Friday, April 7, 30 AD, and on Friday, April 3, 33 AD.

They were convinced the date of the crucifixion was 33 AD, and not 30 AD, because records showed a solar eclipse, as depicted in the Bible at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, occurred in Jerusalem that year.

Story filed: 11:33 Thursday 8th May 2003

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Science In the News

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

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

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

In the News

Today's Headlines - May 8, 2003

from The Washington Post

The freezers of U.S. fertility clinics are bulging with about 400,000 frozen human embryos, a number several times larger than previous estimates, according to the first national count ever done, released today.

The unexpectedly high number -- by far the largest population of frozen human embryos in the world -- is the byproduct of a booming fertility industry whose success depends on creating many embryos but using only the best. Although most of the embryos are being held for possible use by the couples who wanted them, a large proportion will never be needed, experts said.

That reality, and the sheer scope of the phenomenon, has reignited a debate among scientists, theologians and parents about the moral standing of those microscopic entities. The question is philosophical, but the implications are practical. With clinics concerned about accidental meltdowns and insurance, and storage fees for parents reaching $1,500 a year, many people are wondering what should be done with the nation's prodigious stores of nascent human life.


from The Christian Science Monitor

In the early rounds of the global battle against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), few prizes have been more highly sought than the genetic "parts list" for the virus that scientists have linked to the disease.

Now, only a month after identifying the virus, research teams in several countries have produced full genome sequences for five strains of the virus and partial sequences for five more.

They did it with technology that, when first proposed in the 1980s, was viewed as Quixotic, according to Leroy Hood, its inventor.

Today, the impossible has become the indispensable. One machine can process and analyze in one day more genetic material than 100 scientists using manual techniques could process in a year.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

In the not-too-distant future, your house could be built with strong tiles that heat the rooms with solar power. Inside you could watch a smooth, flat-panel TV with electronic components built right into the glass instead of a web of wires at the back.

Nanosys Inc., a small Palo Alto nanotechnology firm, plans to deliver these and other products within the next three years. Nanosys' inventions arose from the type of industry collaboration with academic labs that Congress has been trying to promote since 2000 through an escalating round of funding for nanotechnology research.

It's the proven formula that has already made the Bay Area a powerhouse in biotechnology and that boosters say could put the region on the forefront of the next industrial revolution -- nanotechnology.


from The San Jose Mercury News

A few weeks after announcing that he and a colleague had solved an important math problem -- one he had labored on for 20 years -- Daniel Goldston had an experience familiar to anyone dipping a toe into the mathematical realm:

He found he'd goofed.

"It's not unheard of," said Goldston, a professor at San Jose State University. "Even if I had spent another year very carefully going over everything, I think I still would have missed that error."

Goldston's advance in the field of prime numbers, announced in March, was initially hailed as the most important breakthrough in this particular area of mathematics in decades. Now he must try to salvage it.

A number of famous mathematical proofs also had errors but were eventually fixed to everyone's satisfaction. Goldston hopes he can do the same.


from The Christian Science Monitor

For astronomers who study cosmic evolution, the past six months have brought unprecedented revelations. Data from ground- and space-based observatories have revealed what appear to be the remnants of the first stars ever to shine. They also have pinned down the age of our universe and outlined its bulk composition.

Cosmology "has turned a corner," says Charles Bennett, at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Astronomers no longer have to speculate about some of the earliest crucial events in cosmic history. They can check their theories of what happened after the universe appeared in the so-called "big bang" explosion of energy against what they actually see in the sky.

The excitement began last Oct. 31, when Norbert Christlieb, from Uppsala University in Sweden, and eight colleagues published, in Nature, their discovery of the oldest star yet found in our Milky Way galaxy. Given the prosaic name HEO107-5240, it lies 36,000 light-years away in the galaxy's halo of ancient stars. It has four-fifths the mass of our sun.


from The New York Times

Anyone exploring the tropical jungles of the Americas has been dazzled by the iridescent and colorful butterflies everywhere, flitting through the light-dappled understory.

But although scientists, likewise captivated, have studied the lives of these insects for decades, researchers had no idea that some of the pretty wings were signaling, one butterfly to another, in a manner all unseen by human eyes.

Now in a paper in the current issue of the journal Nature, researchers report that at least one butterfly species has patterns on its wings that reflect polarized light, invisible to the human eye but visible to other butterflies, and attractive to potential mates.

Researchers say the study is the first to show the use of polarized light patterns by an animal living on land to recognize another animal, or for that matter to recognize any object.


Spaced out or the Rael thing?


April 29 2003
By John Preston

Canadian Claude Rael runs a bizarre sect that claims to have cloned three human babies. He also says he's met Jesus and has been visited by green spacemen.

It's no easy business getting to see Rael, leader of the Raelians, the sect that claims to have produced the world's first cloned babies.

For a start, his headquarters, a down-at-heel theme park called UFOland, are out in the deso-late, snow-covered flatlands of Quebec, far away from anything apart from a pig farm. The main condition - among several rules he lays down for our meeting is that I should address him throughout as Your Holiness Rael.

Questions must be submitted a week in advance, and he reserves the right to leave at any time if he doesn't like the way things are going, or if anyone should display "an arrogant, disrespectful or offensive attitude".

It is mid-afternoon on a bitterly cold April day and I am in a room decorated in pastel squares, and it has a kitchenette in one corner. A small, white-suited man is advancing towards me. This, however, is no ordinary suit he is wearing; it's made out of white satin and has enormous quilted shoulder pads. He has a large medallion around his neck and his dark, thinning hair is pulled up into a topknot.

"Your Holiness," I say, "it's a great pleasure to meet you."

Rael clasps my hand in his, beckons me to a chair and in his hushed and honeyed voice starts to talk about the difficulties he has encountered in putting his Raelian message across to the world.

"At first, it was a nightmare," he acknowledges. "People, they laughed at me."


"Oh yes." He raises his eyebrows and gives a sad shake of his head. "They thought I was crazy, you know."

Rael hasn't always been as grand and god-like as this, or as nattily attired. Indeed, he hasn't always been Rael. Once he was Claude Vorilhon, a Frenchmotoring journalist who harboured dreams of becoming the formula one champion of the world. But then on December 13, 1973, Claude had an awfully big adventure.

Aged 26, and married with two small children, he had intended to go off to work as usual. Instead - "as if I was being guided" - he carried on driving until he reached an extinct volcano in the Auvergne region of France. Leaving his car, he walked to the centre of the crater, whereupon a tiny silver spaceship drew up along-side and a small bearded being stepped out.

"His skin was white, with a slightly greenish tinge, a bit like someone with liver trouble."

The greenish being proceeded to tell Claude that he had been chosen by a group of worthies from the Planet Elohim to be their representative on earth. From this moment forth, he should forswear married life, as well as the pleasures of the throttle, and devote himself to spreading the Elohim message.

In essence, this was that God didn't exist and that the theory of evolution, too, was a load of twaddle. In fact, it was they, the Elohim, who had created every form of life here using "incredibly advanced" DNA techniques - and now they were swinging by once more to check up on our progress.

Naturally, Claude was shaken by his meeting. Afterwards, he noted, "I bitterly regretted not having brought a camera with me".

Nonetheless, he complied with the Elohim's instructions as best he could, and two years later was rewarded for his pains with another meeting. This time, the Elohim whisked him back to their planet where he enjoyed a light lunch with Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha before being set back on earth.

At this second meeting Yahweh, the president of the Elohim, informed Claude, now renamed Rael, that he was not of entirely human form himself. Rael's father, it seems, was an Elohim. And what's more, Jesus was his brother.

After this, Rael threw himself into his work with even more gusto. He wrote and published various books that intersperse Raelian philosophy with predictions of what we can look forward to.

Basically, there's good news and bad news. Before long, Rael insists, we will all be sexually serviced by endlessly compliant robots known as nanobots. This, he believes, will remove the curse of jealousy from human relations for ever.

As for food, not so good - even for unfussy eaters. "Faecal matter will be re-used and recy-cled into tomorrow's food, along with the precious minerals extracted from our urine," he writes in his book Yes to Human Cloning.

Rael also encourages his followers to practise an ancient Elohim form of relaxation called "sensual meditation". This teaches them connect with the cosmos while in no way losing touch with their erogenous zones.

And then Rael developed a new interest - cloning. In conjunction with a French biochemist called Brigitte Boisselier, he set up a website called Clonaid, which subsequently spawned a laboratory along with a couple of subsidiaries for the extra-keen cloner: Clonapet and Insuraclone.

On December 29, 2002, Boisselier announced that a 3.2 kilogram cloned baby girl called Eve had been born to a 31-year-old mother somewhere in theUnited States. This news was greeted with almost universal derision from scientists, and frenzied excitement from newspapers.

Constant promises to provide proof of the baby girl's origins were made - yet never materialised.

Earlier this month, amid a good deal of solemnity and a now familiar lack of proof, a photograph of another cloned baby - the third - was released. To the untutored eye, it looked pretty much like any other baby lying in an incubator.

To the Raelian eye, it represented another step towards their goal. This is nothing less than founding heaven on earth.

To reach UFOland, I turn off a narrow snow-swept road on to a dirt one and bump along for a few kilometres until I come to a large sign that reads, The Messiah is Among Us.

Various Raelian helpers are waiting, all wearing medallions round their necks bearing the Raelian symbol - a bit like a Star of David, but with swirly bits in the middle.

Everyone, quite clearly, is extremely nervous. Rael is still preparing himself, so there is plenty of time to look around.

I am shown into the room where our interview will take place. There is a chair covered in a white cloth, with a small white cushion, for Rael to sit on. Then I am taken next door to the theme park area of UFOland, which is closed to the public amid doubts that it will ever reopen. We trudge through deep snow, medallions swinging, to another door which leads into an enormous blackened room.

One of Rael's followers, a French-Canadian called Daniel, fiddles with the lights, which come on to reveal, hanging from the roof, a full-scale replica of the silver flying saucer in which Elohim appeared. There is also a large portrait of Christ nearby.

Steps lead up into the saucer, the inside of which is about 2.4metres across. It is empty, apart from two transparent inflatable chairs. A notice reads: "Their technology is 25,000 years more advanced than ours. The craft is probably controlled by the mind of the pilot."

Daniel says he writes music "to harmonise myself".

"Is it Raelian music?"

"Mmm, some of it. And I also write advertising jingles. I have a number of different influences. Jazz-rock, also Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I like them very much."

Escorting me hurriedly back through the snow to the pastel room, Daniel and the others seem even more nervous for what is beginning to look very much like a carefully orchestrated entrance by Rael.

In our absence, more medallioned people have materialised and a film camera has been set up to record our encounter.

First, however, a woman of indeterminate age with long, streaked-blonde hair and wearing hugely flared trousers, enters. This, I realise, is Boisselier - normally resident in Las Vegas, she tells me, but recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Israel.

She has been working with Rael for 10 years. "I was a scientist and I believed in evolution," she says. "But then I went and heard Rael speak and immediately felt he was telling the truth. I still do."

Suddenly there is a commotion by the door, and Rael appears. Although everyone else in the room seems terrified of incurring his disapproval, I must say I rather take to him.

He's impish, quite funny and not obviously demonic in manner. When he crosses his legs, a length of cream-coloured material sticks out from beneath his trousers. His Holiness, I realise, is wearing long johns.

I'm curious about Rael's encounter with his brother, Jesus - a memorable event in anyone's book. Had Jesus greeted him as a brother?

"Oh yes."

"So you think he recognised you, Your Holiness?"

"Yes. But you know, all the Elohim are so brotherly. You feel the warmth of everyone. There was no more warm love from him than there was from the Elohim themselves."

Rael talks at length about being "submerged in love"' by the Elohim. As he does, it strikes me that he is being just a little bit circumspect about his relationship with Jesus. I can't help feeling a bit downcast by this, as I was keen to find out more.

Despite his early difficulties, Rael stuck devotedly to his appointed task of spreading the Elohim's word. He left his wife, Marie-Paul Cristini (who has since spoken of "debauched and wicked things that went on in our home"). Along the way he also infuriated his mother, to whom the news that she had inadvertently consorted with an Elohim came as a nasty surprise.

"Claude has always been weird," she says. "What he's doing now is vile."

Professionally, however, everything continus to go wonderfully well, most notably in the recruitment department.

There are about 60,000 Raelians "in 85 countries", all contributing annual membership fees - between three and seven per cent of their income. And all are attracted by the distant prospect of eternal life, all eagerly devouring his books and all turning hopeful eyes to the skies in the hope that one day they, too, might be visited by a little greenish man.

But here they might be out of luck. Although Rael says he is in occasional telepathic communication with the Elohim, apparently they have no plans to return to earth - at least not until he has built them "an embassy".

Which brings us, albeit rather erratically, to cloning.

The Elohim are particularly keen on cloning because, once properly developed, it will enable humans to enjoy eternal life - at least those humans who deserve it.

Right now, says Rael dismissively, "cloning is just a form of help for people with fertility problems. But the next step is to create an artificial womb.

"After that we will be able to accelerate the cellular duplication, so that instead of waiting 18 years to have an adult copy of yourself, you will be able to upload your personality and memories etcetera straight into this new body. It will be done by a special machine."

For the time being that day seems a long way off. There are, however, more topical cloning issues to contend with - namely the Raelians' unsubstantiated claims to have produced three cloned babies.

"Your Holiness," I say, "I have to tell you that while all this talk of cloned babies has won you a lot of publicity, in my opinion it's been a public relations disaster for the Raelians."

First, an appalled silence.

Then a nervous titter races round the room, broken by Rael's hushed inquiry, "How?"

"Because you've ended up looking ridiculous by repeatedly failing to produce any proof. The one scientist who was on your side - Dr Michael Guillen, the science editor of (America's) ABC News - now claims he was fooled. As for Mark and Tracy Hunt, the couple who donated 300,000 ($A782,676) in the hope of cloning a child, they have spoken of feeling disappointed and betrayed."

Here Rael engages in some keen, if not frantic, back-pedalling.

"She - that is, Dr Boisselier - keeps her company," he says. "It is a private concern. There is absolutely no link between the Raelian movement and the cloning company.

"We support the idea - that is all. Yes. But it is wonderful for us, all the publicity. The media coverage has been valued at seven million dollars - that's US dollars. So this is a very comfortable situation for me. It's a win-win situation, you know. I don't even know where the cloning laboratory is. And I don't want to know. As for the proof, that's her problem."

For her part Boisselier, a touch icily, informs me that she had intended to produce proof of the first baby's origins. A lawyer in Florida said that would be infringing the baby's rights, so what now?

Now she has decided that it would be unfair on either of the two other children and their parents to reveal their identities.

"You see, it's simple to prove scientifically, but not humanly."

If true, this makes her unique in the annals of medical science - someone who lights upon one of the greatest discoveries of all time, then opts to keep quiet about it in order to protect her patients' feelings.

However, Boisselier does say - amid anxious chirrups of "I know nothing!" from Rael - to have a team of six scientists in her employ and to be working on another 20 cloned pregnancies. And that is as far as she - or he - will go.

Rael, it turns out, has cleverly bypassed the need for cloning. He's been guaranteed eternal life on the Elohim Planet of the Eternals, where various human luminaries are sent to enjoy their post-twilight years.

But while Raelians are keen on artificial means of conception, they are not intrinsically opposed to more traditional forms of sexual enjoyment. By no means.

Rael is believed to be a keen advocate of multiple-partner sex. However, he points out that there is no pressure for anyone to join in. "We accept all people just as they are."

Indeed, you could quite easily be both Raelian and celibate, he says.

While he's relaxed about sexual conduct, there is one point on which Rael is absolutely firm. Other people - scores of them - may claim to have been abducted by extra-terrestials, but as far as he is concerned they are all either deluded or demented.

"There is," he says very deliberately, "only one messenger."

"And that is you, Your Holiness?"


"So everyone else is wrong?"

"Yes. They have problems."

"I see. Your Holiness, there is one question I wanted to ask you. A personal question. An impertinent question, you might think."

Once again, the room goes very quiet. Rael looks at me with an even sharper glint in his eye than usual. "Yes? What is your question?"

"Well, Your Holiness, I was wondering where you got your clothes from?"

An enormous smile spreads across Rael's impish features.

"Ah, that's a very interesting question. No, it's not disrespectful at all. As a matter of fact, I'm very pleased that you asked it. Actually, I make them all myself."

"You do?"

"Yes! Yes! I have a tailor, of course. But I do all the designs. You see, I am . . . " - and here Rael leans forward, sending folds of light shimmering from his jacket "against uniformity in all things."

After a pause to let this sink in, he stands up. Our interview, it appears, is at an end. Hopes of persuading Rael to have his photograph taken emerging from his replica spacecraft come to nothing. "No, no," he says. "It's too cold." Even in his long johns, he is unshakeable.

I ask him to autograph my copy of Yes To Human Cloning, which he does in a large, looping hand. And then, with a final handshake and one last shimmer of satin, he is gone.

On the way back to Montreal, it begins to snow again. Large flakes, as big as moths, fall slowly through the air. For some reason I feel incredibly tired. Later that evening, having a drink at the end of one of the oddest days I've had in years, I glance at my horoscope in the newspaper someone has left behind on thebar. It reads: "Unusual new friends come into your life and surprise you with their points of view. Your world is fascinating."

- The Sunday Telegraph

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions


This site features a library of papers on LENR, Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, also known as Cold Fusion. (CANR, Chemically Assisted Nuclear Reactions, is another term for this phenomenon.) It features a library of more than 180 original scientific papers in Acrobat format, reprinted with permission from the authors and publishers. The papers are linked to a bibliography of more than 2,900 journal papers, news articles and books about LENR.

The New Scientist magazine 29 March 2003 issue featured an article about cold fusion research at U.S. Navy. Click here for more about the article, and a list of papers in our library published by Navy researchers.

Appeal to readers: spread the word and help bring about a rebirth of interest in cold fusion

Click on the items listed on the left to see:

In the Introduction to LENR-CANR section, A Student's Guide to Cold Fusion, by Edmund Storms. Other essays by Storms, Peter Hagelstein and Talbot Chubb. The ICCF-10 First Announcement and Call for Pre-registration, allowing pre-registration on line.

Newly uploaded papers, links to other sites and the tally of visitors and papers downloaded. Photographs of laboratories and equipment, poster session material. The Library guide, including instructions for finding papers and downloadable versions of the bibliography.

The LIBRARY integrated with the extensive bibliography.


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 636 May 7, 2003 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon
ULTRA-LOW-ENERGY ELECTRONS CAN BREAK UP URACIL, a new study shows. How injurious is radiation (alpha, beta, and gamma rays or heavy ions) to living cells? This important question has been addressed in many ways. Much attention has centered on the secondary particles produced in the wake of the intruding primary radiation, especially electrons (about 40,000 electrons are produced for each MeV of energy deposited) with typical energies of tens of electron volts. Many of these secondary particles quickly lose their energy and become attached (solvated) to water molecules in the cell. What is the general effect of electron energies below 20 eV? A report from three years ago (Boudaiffa et al., Science 287, 1658, 2000) showed that electrons in the 3-20 eV range are able to produce substantial genotoxic damage, including breaking single- and double-stranded DNA? What about secondary electrons with even smaller energies?

To look at this energy range for the first time, Tilmann Maerk and his colleagues at the Universitat Innsbruck (Austria) and the University Claude Bernard Lyon (France) scattered a beam of sub-eV electrons from a beam of gaseous uracil molecules. Uracil is one of the base units of RNA molecules, and is thus a crucial component in cells. These scientists found that uracil is efficiently fragmented by electrons with energies as small as milli-electron-volts. It's not the electron's kinetic energy that causes the disruption, but the electron's charge, which changes the uracil's internal potential energy environment. Furthermore, in the process a very mobile atomic hydrogen can be freed, which on its own, as a radical (a free chemical unit by itself), can do damage to biomolecules (see a movie of this process at http://info.uibk.ac.at/ionenphysik/ClusterGroup/Uracil.html; schematic at http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2003/187.htm ). Maerk (tilmann.maerk@uibk.ac.at, 43-512-507-6240) says that this low-energy damage seems to be a general result since his group has since performed similar work with thymine (a DNA base) and have seen similar fragmentation. (Hanel et al., Physical Review Letters, 9 May 2003; Innsbruck website, http://info.uibk.ac.at/c/c7/c722/e-index.html )

PERFECT INSULIN CRYSTALS. Perfection is elusive both in nature and in the laboratory, but researchers at the University of Houston have found that crystals of insulin often grow in a perfect fashion. It is a discovery that may lead to improvements in future microelectronics, as well as higher quality medicines, chemicals, or devices that can benefit from improved crystal-growing methods. The researchers (Peter Vekilov, 713-743-4315, vekilov@uh.edu) found that as insulin proteins crystallize around a screw dislocation defect in an existing insulin crystal, they form spiraling hillocks of perfect crystalline insulin (see image at www.aip.org/mgr/png ). (Screw dislocations are a common type of crystal defect that results when there is a slight angular misalignment between crystal layers.) In most crystals, interactions between stepped layers that make up the edges of a growing crystal cause the steps to bunch up, which in turn leads to striated crystals. In addition, competition for dissolved material carried in the surrounding solution can also cause step bunching. Insulin, however, is unusual in that there is there is little interaction between steps. Although the researchers say that it is not clear whether such perfection is possible in many other substances, by coming to understand the factors that lead to perfect growth of insulin crystals we may soon learn how to tweak growing conditions to improve dramatically other crystals. For example, by properly stirring a solution, it may be possible to reduce step bunching that results from competition for dissolved material between different crystal regions. Alternatively, manufacturers may choose to introduce screw dislocations to induce crystal growth, rather than allowing crystals to form around other types of defects that tend to generate imperfect structures. Microelectronics is one field that could benefit from better crystal growing techniques. In particular, microchips built of gallium arsenide are frequently much faster that ones built of silicon, but it is currently very difficult to grow the perfect gallium arsenide crystals necessary for chip manufacturing.. Lessons learned from studying factors that lead to perfect insulin crystals may help solve the problem. (O. Gliko et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article)

THE TINIEST SOLID-STATE LIGHT EMITTER, produced by Phaedon Avouris and his colleagues at IBM, consists of a single-walled carbon nanotube (NT) strung between two electrodes, and controlled by a third. The business part of this minuscule transistor is a nanotube only 1.4 nm wide and tailored to be semiconducting. In this arena electrons coming from one electrode meet with positively charged "holes" coming from the other electrode. When the two species meet they combine and emit a tiny burst of light. This light is conveniently engineered to be at a wavelength of 1.5 microns, invisible to the human eye but perfect for photonic applications. Why use a NT when a larger piece of bulk semiconductor could also produce light? Because of the potentially much greater energy efficiency and compactness of the light emitting region. Single-molecule light emission has been instigated before, but not under the auspices of solid state wiring. The NT wire also seems to be robust: it is able to carry 6 micro-amps of current, for a current density of more than 100 million amps per square cm. (Misewich et al., Science 2 May 2003.)

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Science In the News

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Today's Headlines May 7, 2003

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from The New York Times

The death rate from SARS may be significantly higher than health officials had thought, up to 55 percent in people 60 and older, and up to 13.2 percent in younger people, the first major epidemiological study of the disease suggests.

Mortality rates are bound to change somewhat as an epidemic continues. But unless the numbers fall drastically, SARS would be among infectious diseases with the highest death rates. Until now, fatality rates reported by the World Health Organization had ranged from 2 percent, when the epidemic was first detected in March, to 7.2 percent.

The new findings come from a statistical analysis of 1,425 patients suspected of having SARS who were admitted to Hong Kong hospitals from Feb. 20 to April 15. Over all, their mortality rate was estimated to be as high as 19.9 percent. By contrast, the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed tens of millions of people worldwide, had an estimated mortality rate, over all, of 1 percent or less.

But calculating mortality rates for newly emerging diseases is a notoriously difficult challenge for epidemiologists, especially if there is no definitive diagnostic test, as is the case with severe acute respiratory syndrome.


from Newsday

Washington - The board investigating the Columbia accident made public its working hypothesis yesterday: The shuttle was lost because it entered the atmosphere with pre-existing damage to the leading edge of its left wing.

The board suspects the damage was caused by foam debris that struck the shuttle shortly after launch but may never be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, according to board chairman Harold W. Gehman, Jr.

"We were careful not to say that the foam knocked a hole in the leading edge of the orbiter because we can't prove it," he said. "That's not to say we don't believe that's what happened." The board is overseeing tests in which pieces of foam are fired at shuttle wing components to see what damage results, but key tests are not expected until early June.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A genetically altered common cold virus worked so well in destroying the most lethal type of brain tumor in experiments with mice that researchers want to take the treatment to people next year.

The scientists implanted the human glioblastomas inside the brains of mice, then injected the experimental virus directly into the tumors.

Untreated mice died in 19 days, but 60 percent of the treated mice were alive and thriving for four months. Healthy tissue nearby remained unharmed.

Scientists euthanized the survivors to see what was happening inside their brains -- and found only empty cavities and scar tissue where the tumors once were.


from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Army ants that sweep along in massive, voracious groups evolved just once, contrary to common scientific belief, a Cornell University researcher says.

Entomologist Sean Brady studied the DNA of 30 army ant species from across the world and concluded that they all had the same point of origin.

Brady's findings, scheduled for next week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were being released early, the academy said Tuesday.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

In the cold, dark waters north of the Farallon Islands, nearly a mile beneath the surface, scientists have discovered a new species of huge jellyfish with a striking red bell that grows more than a yard wide and has a cluster of wrinkled, fleshy arms instead of streaming tentacles.

They call it Big Red, and its entire life is a mystery. The researchers don't know whether the ones they have observed are males or females, they don't know how they reproduce, and they don't know what they eat or what eats them.

They do know that the jellyfish has anywhere from four to seven thick arms and uses them for eating. It also carries wartlike clusters of stinging cells. They think -- but don't know -- that it may prey on smaller jellies for food.


from The Los Angeles Times

Marine biologists now suspect that a mysterious die-off of sea otters in recent years is the result of parasites or infectious diseases that may be linked to pollution streaming into the ocean cat feces in particular.

"We are very concerned that the otters are dying so frequently of diseases," said Jonna Mazet, director of the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and the leader of the center's longtime otter research. "This indicates that the ecosystem is very unhealthy."

A new study by the wildlife health center released Tuesday concludes that endangered sea otters are mostly dying of brain and abdominal infections caused by parasites, as well as a mysterious cardiac disease. But the researchers believe that even otters that die of shark bites are addled by an infectious swelling of the brain that makes them twitch and shake, behavior that can attract sharks.


from The Baltimore Sun

GLOUCESTER, Va. - Archaeologists digging on a farm above the York River believe they have found Werowocomoco, principal village of the Indian chieftain Powhatan, who controlled the Virginia Tidewater when the English established the Jamestown colony in 1607.

It was at Werowocomoco that Powhatan's daughter, Pocahontas, purportedly intervened with her father to spare the life of Capt. John Smith, Jamestown's military leader.

That story may be more myth than reality, historians say. But there is no doubt about the importance of Powhatan and Werowocomoco (pronounced weh-ro- wuh-KO-muh-ko) to the history of Virginia and the United States.


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Chinese Acupuncture For Heart Surgery Anesthesia


From The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, Fall/Winter 1999

By Gary P. Posner, M.D. and Wallace Sampson, M.D.

The August 16, 1998, issue of Parade magazine contained an article on acupuncture written by Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, the magazine's health editor, well-known cardiologist, professor of clinical medicine, and author. Since the 1960s he has appeared often as a guest on nationally televised talk/interview shows, discussing a wide variety of medical subjects. Parade, a supplement to Sunday newspapers across the United States, claims a weekly adult readership of 82 million.

One paragraph of Rosenfeld's article, and an accompanying photograph taken by him, dealt with an extraordinary experience that took place more than 20 years ago during his visit to China with several other prominent American physicians, including Dr. Richard Gorlin (cardiology) and Dr. Wilbur Gould (ENT), both since deceased. In addition to the Parade article, one of his books also contains a description of the same China incident.1

The apparent intent of the delegation's hosts was to demonstrate the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine -- in this case, acupuncture as surgical anesthesia. According to Dr. Rosenfeld, as the contingent stood in an empty operating room at the University of Shanghai, a 28-year-old female patient was wheeled in. While the group observed, the woman was prepped for "open-heart surgery" to repair her mitral valve. "Her only 'anesthetic' was an acupuncture needle in her right earlobe that was connected to an electrical source."2 In his book, Rosenfeld says that acupuncture "needles" [plural] were placed in her "left" earlobe. (He explained to us that this "was a typo, which was not picked up since I did not use the photo" in the book.)

The woman remained awake and alert as, according to his book, "the surgeon . . . cut through the . . . breastbone with an electric buzzsaw [and] her chest was split in two [and] spread apart with a large clamp to expose the heart." The photograph in Parade (it does not appear in the book) shows an attractive, smiling face and a small operative field visible through the surgical drapes. Added Rosenfeld in Parade, "She never flinched. There was no mask on her face, no intravenous needle in her arm."

While acupuncture has its adherents in the West, even now, twenty-plus years after this remarkable demonstration, few of them would profess its efficacy for deep surgical anesthesia. Dr. Rosenfeld informed us that even his hosts had expressed to him their general preference for Western anesthesia: "They use this [acupuncture] technique in only a minority of patients."

Reasons for Doubt

Upon reading Rosenfeld's account in Parade, and subsequently the book's version, we found ourselves unable to reconcile his anecdote with scientific experience or common sense. There is no likely neurophysiological mechanism to account for how an electrode in the earlobe can insulate a human being from the effects of such major surgery. Nor could we understand how, even if acupuncture were able provide adequate analgesia, or if the patient had received a nerve block or other local anesthesia, or was quadriplegic or otherwise pain-sensory-deficient, a patient could have survived an open-chest, open-heart operation performed as described.

We wondered about: the absence of ventilatory support, since with her chest opened in the manner described, the negative pressure produced by chest-wall expansion could not be created, the lungs would collapse, and the patient asphyxiate; the absence of a heart-bypass machine, to detour the blood before and during open-heart surgery, lest the patient exsanguinate; the absence of intravenous access sites, especially for the cardiac drugs required to still the heart before it could be opened and repaired. In addition, the photograph itself appeared inconsistent with what was described, as we will discuss.

In responding to some of these concerns, Dr. Rosenfeld informed us that Dr. Michael DeBakey, one of the world's foremost cardiac surgeons, had witnessed a similar operation about a year after he did. Rosenfeld added that, as a result of our inquiry, he had telephoned DeBakey, who would be happy to address our questions.

During our telephone interview with Dr. DeBakey, we learned that he had neither read Rosenfeld's accounts nor seen the photograph, and was not aware of the precise details that were of concern to us. As for his own experience in China, DeBakey recalled that he had witnessed a mitral valve commissurotomy in a patient who had been given medication intravenously prior to and during the operation. Artificial ventilation was not needed since the operation involved only a small slit in the right atrium. And it had not been an open-heart, but rather a "closed-heart" procedure performed through a right intercostal incision. Such an operation, done in an area of low pressure (atrium), requires only a small puncture wound in the heart which remains essentially plugged by the surgeon's finger during his manipulation of the valve. This approach makes exsanguination unlikely, leaves the left hemithorax untouched, and permits the left lung to expand normally. DeBakey added that unless the left pleura were sclerosed and the mediastinum fixed, a sternal approach (such as described by Rosenfeld) would almost certainly result in collapse of both lungs, as we had previously suspected.

We then wondered what sort of procedure actually had been done. The photo shows an operative field and incision well to the left of midline. Dr. DeBakey and two other thoracic surgeons advised us that "closed" mitral commissurotomies were usually done through a right-sided incision, which gives a better anatomic exposure of the left atrium and mitral valve than does a left thoracic approach. Is it possible that Parade reversed the negative, making it appear that a left-sided operation was done? Or did the Chinese surgeons perform such an operation through the left side for specific reasons? Or, did they do something other than a mitral commissurotomy? If they approached the heart from the left, as Dr. DeBakey somewhat skeptically hypothesized, perhaps the patient had situs inversus or dextrocardia. However, such a rare condition would likely have been brought to the observers' attention. Another surgeon told us that left-sided operations could be done, albeit with more difficulty, and that he had seen such performed under special circumstances.

Sleight of Hand?

Regardless, the question remains: Had the patient received only acupuncture anesthesia? Or, had Dr. Rosenfeld and his party been treated not to a genuine surgical procedure, but rather to something more akin to "psychic surgery," a technique commonly employed by conjuring practitioners in the Philippine Islands? Thousands of people from the world over fly to the Philippines each year to have their bodies "opened" without a scalpel, have cancer or other tissue removed, and their state of health returned to "normal." This is done within minutes and without discomfort, all by various sleight-of-hand techniques -- in other words, it is a sham operation. Peter Sellers, the movie comedian of the 1960s and 1970s, reportedly opted for such a procedure over traditional cardiac bypass, with predictably disastrous consequences. Most, if not all, of these patients go home to die of their diseases.3

In his book, Dr. Rosenfeld dismisses the possibility that he could have been "duped by Chairman Mao." But had they been hoaxed, would trained physicians' eyes be expected to have spotted such a fraud? And what motive would their hosts have had to fool them?

Twenty years ago, the world was still in a Cold War between the Western democracies and the Communist governments of the Soviet Union and China. During the Cultural Revolution, according to Arthur Taub, MD, PhD, a member of an acupuncture evaluation committee, major surgical procedures said to be performed with acupuncture entailed administration of meperidine and barbiturates.4 Victor Herbert, MD, professor of medicine at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, found that patients supposedly having acupuncture anesthesia for simpler operations were actually getting morphine at the time.5 Chinese surgeons admitted to all the above observers that only suggestible people were selected for "acupuncture anesthesia," and that abdominal and chest operations were not done under acupuncture because the musculature must be sufficiently relaxed in order to expose an operative field large enough in which to work.

If an elaborate hoax had been staged for the benefit of Dr. Rosenfeld's party, physicians might not make the best observers to detect such chicanery. Such hoaxes generally are unveiled not by practitioners in the field of study, but by experts in conjuring. For instance, magician James Randi has done more to expose the Philippine "psychic surgeons" than has that nation's medical community. To our knowledge, only one physician took the trouble to expose this sham, the late William Nolen, MD.6 In India, magician B. Premanand has led the educational effort regarding the so-called God Men, who claim miraculous powers. And in the U.S., it was once again Randi who exposed the demonstrations of Uri Geller, after bedazzled physicists had tested Geller and vouched for his apparent paranormal abilities.7

In 1988 while in China as part of a scientific delegation, Randi discovered how "Ch'i" or "Qigong" masters, who claim abilities to cure ills from a distance with a mere wave of their hands, used magic tricks to fool their audiences (Ch'i or Qi is the presumed circulating energy force pervading all life). One of us (W.S.) was in the follow-up delegation in 1995 and heard from Chinese scientists a similar history about such deceptive practices.8

But if Dr. Rosenfeld's anecdote is essentially accurate -- that his group observed a patient tolerate major surgery without benefit of any conventional anesthesia -- could there be a natural explanation that does not require crediting acupuncture with extraordinary anesthetic properties? Though we have not heard of examples of open-chest surgeries having been so tolerated, the seldom-credited ability of humans to withstand severely painful procedures without anesthesia has been well documented. Skrabanek and McKormick record operations done in Europe without anesthetic or acupuncture needles, including amputations, thyroidectomies, and mastectomies. As for China:

A spectacular . . . response was observed by Western delegates during the Great Leap Forward, when Chinese doctors, on orders from Chairman Mao, discovered acupuncture "anesthesia." Credulous observers . . . were unaware of many reports, both from China and from Europe, that demonstrated it was possible for people to bear, in a most stoical fashion, the pain of surgery. In 1843, an American surgeon, Peter Parker, performed a mastectomy on a Chinese patient, who, when the operation was over, "raised herself from the table without assistance, jumped upon the floor, and made a bow to the gentlemen present . . . as though nothing had occurred." Another surgeon wrote in 1863 that a large proportion of those [in China] on whom operations were performed had no chloroform. . . . Some did not even clench their hands or teeth, but lay upon the table perfectly motionless, while their muscles were being cut by the knife and their bones divided by the saw.9

Anecdotal Evidence

Whether the operation witnessed by Dr. Rosenfeld's group was genuine or a sham, there is still the matter of his photograph. According to a passage from Dr. Rosenfeld's book, "I took a color photograph of that memorable scene: the open chest, the smiling patient, and the surgeon's hands holding her heart. I show it to anyone who scoffs at acupuncture."

At one point during our enmity with China, a famous still photo of an elderly Chairman Mao swimming the Yangtze was published worldwide. Most objective observers suspected that Mao's head had been superimposed upon the body of another. We do not suggest that Dr. Rosenfeld would perform such a trick, but the photograph is curious in a number of respects. Although we were denied permission to reproduce the actual photo in this article, Fig. 1 [accompanying this paragraph] is an artist's rendering that is faithful to the original, except that it has been rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise (to place the vertex of the patient's head at the 1:00 position).*

Contrary to Rosenfeld's description, his photograph clearly shows the surgeon's hands not to be holding the patient's heart, but outside the confines of the operative field. Only the patient's smiling face and incision are visible through the gaps in the surgical sheets, and her attractive, clear visage is more evocative of a professional model than of someone in the midst of open-heart surgery. More to the point, the incision seems displaced well to the left and somewhat below the level of the patient's sternum. There does not appear to be any appreciable distortion such as might be encountered from the use of a wide-angle lens. Rosenfeld told us that this apparent leftward displacement "must be due to the angle at which [the photo] was taken."

The patient's neck appears somewhat flexed, and her eyes are focused to her left, as if she is attempting to observe her own operation in progress. Perhaps the sheets affixed to her neck region prevented her from rotating her head to the left such that her eyes could then look straight ahead. So let us assume, as the photo appears to indicate, that despite some neck flexion, her head was essentially "face up" as opposed to being significantly rotated right or left. Drawing a vertical line down the midline of her face and extending it to the bottom of the photo, the degree to which the incision appears displaced leftward becomes marked. And what appears to be a rib separator seems to be at the wrong position and angle for a mid-chest operation. The operative field appears to be beyond the left border of the patient's body (see Fig. 2 [accompanying this paragraph]).

If Dr. Rosenfeld did witness a sternal-split operation requiring a "buzzsaw," how could this be? He stated that he saw a single patient being wheeled into the operating room and that he was present as the patient was prepped and covered with the surgical drapes. But if an elaborate hoax were being perpetrated, it seems to us that the clever planting of a second body would not be beyond the means of a team of concerted conjurers. One possibility is that the second body was not another human but an anesthetized, smaller animal, placed close to the patient's left side prior to her arrival or while the observers were distracted. Magicians could certainly manage such a maneuver, and with the drapes obscuring everything but the limited operative field, it could be difficult for observers to be certain of just what was being operated on. Dr. Rosenfeld acknowledged to us that not being a surgeon, he "did not pay any particular attention at the time to the surgical technique used."

A wealth of documented human experience and history indicates that people can be easily deceived. We know that governments can be ideologically and propaganda-driven. We know that magicians can stage a sham operation with illusions that would rival, or surpass, whatever was witnessed by the Rosenfeld party. We know that memory is subject to marked alterations of recall, including filling in blanks with imagined facts and other distortions.10-14 And we know that humans can be capable of enduring painful surgeries without anesthesia.

We do not similarly know that acupuncture treatment has effects beyond nonspecific ones (suggestion, distraction, counter-irritation, compliance) that can reduce the pain of major chest/heart surgery. Nor would acupuncture "anesthesia" allow a patient to breath on her own with her chest flailed open in the manner described by Dr. Rosenfeld. A 1998 National Institutes of Health "Consensus Conference" recommended acupuncture for limited purposes, including certain painful conditions. But even though the conference was dominated by advocates, it did not conclude that acupuncture is effective for surgical anesthesia.15

An even more famous "acupuncture" anecdote than the one under discussion here concerns the late New York Times writer James "Scotty" Reston. While in China in 1971, Reston required an emergency appendectomy. Reports circulated that the surgery had been performed with acupuncture anesthesia. In reality, his surgical anesthesia had been quite conventional, though he did receive acupuncture for post-operative discomfort.

Dr. Rosenfeld told us that in publicizing his own China story, his motivation was simply "to draw attention to the possible use of acupuncture to alleviate chronic pain and suffering. . . . I thought acupuncture was worth looking into. I still do, as does a panel convened recently by the NIH. . . . I continue to keep an open mind on the subject." While we expressed our appreciation of that position, we also conveyed our concern that many of Parade's 80-plus-million readers, as well as some practitioners who might be inclined towards dabbling with acupuncture for major surgical anesthesia, could easily have drawn a conclusion that Dr. Rosenfeld says he did not intend -- that acupuncture appears to possess mysterious and unexplained analgesic properties.

Rosenfeld also mentioned to us that Dr. Gould had taken photographs of his own during the operation, and that Gould's widow no doubt still has them in her possession. We were unable to locate her, and were equally unsuccessful in obtaining Rosenfeld's assistance in this endeavor. But even if Dr. Gould's photos were to confirm Rosenfeld's claim of a midline, sternal surgical approach, one could not survive such an operation without ventilatory support, suggesting a sham operation on a second body. A letter (from W.S.) to Parade's editor, suggesting a photographic or other hoax, was unanswered and unpublished.

In summary, the surgical procedure described in Dr. Rosenfeld's Parade magazine article and book would seem impossible for a patient to endure without ventilatory support. Upon inspection, Rosenfeld's photograph does not correspond to the midline, open-heart operation he described, but rather suggests either a lateral approach, or a sham operation performed on a second body. The conclusion that an acupuncture needle was the sole source of the patient's surgical anesthesia can be supplanted by other possibilities, including one that renders anesthesia of any kind unnecessary.

Postscript: Dr. Sampson has more recently received a call from a Nevada cardiac surgeon who states that, despite Dr. DeBakey's comments, the patient may very well have undergone an older type of mitral valve commisurotomy that can be performed from the left side. However, this would not correlate with Dr. Rosenfeld's description of the surgeon cutting through the breastbone with a buzzsaw and splitting her chest in two.

All personal communications with Dr. Rosenfeld were conducted by Dr. Posner via e-mail. Additional communications cited in this paper were conducted by Dr. Sampson. The authors also thank Jerome Riebman, MD, of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for helpful information.


1. Rosenfeld I. Dr. Rosenfeld's Guide to Alternative Medicine. New York, NY: Fawcett Columbine; 1996: 30-32.

2. Rosenfeld I. Acupuncture goes mainstream (almost). Parade. August 16, 1998: 10-11.

3. Nolen W. Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle. New York, NY: Random House; 1974.

4. Taub A. Acupuncture. In: The Health Robbers. Barrett S, Jarvis W, eds. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books; 1993.

5. Herbert V. Personal communication.

6. Nolen. Healing: A Doctor in Search of a Miracle.

7. Randi J. Flim-Flam. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books; 1982.

8. Beyerstein B, Sampson W. Traditional medicine and pseudoscience in China: a report of the second CSICOP delegation. Part 1. Skeptical Inquirer. 1996;20(4):18-26.

9. Skrabanek P, McCormick J. Fads and Fallacies in Medicine. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books; 1990.

10. Loftus E. Memory. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley; 1980.

11. Loftus E. Eyewitness Testimony. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1979.

12. Wiseman R. Deception and Self-deception. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books; 1997.

13. Gilovich T. How We Know What Isn't So. New York, NY: Free Press; 1991.

14. Reed G. The Psychology of Human Experience. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books; 1988.

15. Sampson W. On the National Institute of Drug Abuse consensus conference on acupuncture. Scientific Rev Alternative Med. 1998;2(1):54-55.

Researcher Is Calling All UFO Witnesses


POSTED: 8:59 a.m. EDT May 5, 2003

AZTEC, N.M. -- Calling all UFO witnesses.

Researcher Stanton Friedman wants to interview witnesses to the famed Roswell, N.M, crash in 1947. It's the stuff of legend. At the time the Air Force touted the discovery of a flying saucer. Within hours, officials said it wasn't a spaceship, but a weather balloon.

Friedman is convinced there was a cover-up and he wants to talk to people who were actually there. Friedman researched the site for the government years ago.

Now, he says he's racing the undertaker. He says there are people who know about Roswell, but don't know who to talk to.

Stanton's toll-free number is (877) 457-0232

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

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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In the News

Today's Headlines - May 6, 2003

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Concerned that genetically modified plants will spread their genes to related crops in nearby fields, researchers have developed a system aimed at preventing such crossbreeding.

It's a method they hope, with further refinement, will allow farmers to reseed crops yearly without worry about affecting nonmodified crops.

Biotech crops are a growing proportion of American agriculture. The Agriculture Department estimates 38 percent of the corn planted this year will be genetically engineered and 80 percent of soybeans will be a biotech variety.


from The New York Times

Orchids can be elegant, gaudy, lurid and even downright bizarre. But while the unusual flowers of these species have excited plant lovers for centuries, they have also made it difficult for evolutionary biologists to place them in the plant family tree and identify their closest relatives.

But now, scientists say, studies of the DNA of orchids are revealing a host of surprises, chief among them, that orchids are actually part of the asparagus group, closer kin to these vegetables than to the other, flashier, flowering plants they had been placed with before.

"They're so weird, so different from everything else," said Dr. Ken Cameron, orchidologist at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.


from Newsday

Delicate new experiments in baby mice are showing scientists that embryonic stem cells can, in fact, do everything. This success may provide a new, versatile source of stem cells for biomedical research.

A team at the University of Pennsylvania has shown that stem cells extracted from mouse embryos can divide and grow to make all the cells an adult animal needs for normal life. This even includes making new unfertilized eggs - ova - for the next generation.

"I'm doing this [research] because I want to understand how Dolly worked," said molecular biologist Hans Scholer. Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned mammal, shook the foundations of biology when she was born in 1996. The Scottish ewe proved that genes taken from an ordinary cell get "reprogrammed" when dumped into an egg cell, making them restart from square one to make a clone.


from The Washington Post

ATLANTA -- Most of the headquarters complex for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looks like the world's biggest high school -- hundreds of numbered rooms opening into corridors clad in concrete block and linoleum. The Emergency Operations Center, however, looks like a movie set. Perhaps something from "Independence Day."

The center opened last month, and the furniture, carpets and paneling are still off-gassing their heady hydrocarbons. Built below ground, it might be called a bunker except that it's the most stylish space on the 28-acre campus. Four long counters arc in front of a raised dais. Dozens of workstations are outfitted with computers, telephones, microphones and draftsman's lamps. On the front wall, plasma screens cycle data-rich maps and the giant heads of news anchors talk silently. Forty people, voices instinctively hushed, can work here without making the place feel crowded.

In the movies, this is the kind of place where the smartest men and women of the not-too-distant future plan battle against alien and implacable foes. The funny thing is, that's exactly what's happening here.


from The Washington Post

The Army convoy rumbled across the vast Utah desert just before twilight, as the July heat waned and the searing wind settled across the barren salt flats. Deep inside Dugway Proving Ground, a desolate 800,000-acre government weapons range, 30 young draftees dressed in olive-drab fatigues dismounted from 21/2-ton trucks and took their positions.

Just breathe normally, Merlin Neff remembers his commanding officer saying. Sitting on crude wooden benches jutting incongruously from the sand, and surrounded by caged rhesus monkeys and guinea pigs, the soldiers sat still and waited.

Then the whir of air-sampling devices indicated that the air they were breathing had been intentionally contaminated by the release of microbes that cause Q fever, a debilitating illness that could lay an army low for days. Within days, Neff and his fellow volunteers were racked with fever, chills and bone-shaking aches.


from The New York Times

The homelands of the Indo-European languages stretch from Dublin to Delhi. But Hadza, a tongue that is one of a kind, is spoken by just 1,000 people near Lake Eyasi in Tanzania. Why do the world's languages have so uneven a distribution pattern?

Two researchers theorize that much of the answer has to do with events that began 10,000 years ago, as crop plants were domesticated in different regions.

The invention of agriculture has long been invoked to explain the spread of the Indo-European languages. Now, Dr. Jared Diamond of the University of California at Los Angeles and Dr. Peter Bellwood of the Australian National University in Canberra have applied the concept to 15 major language families. Their article appeared in the April 25 issue of Science.


Share your thoughts on the required moment of silence in Texas classrooms.

From The Dallas Morning News readers' opinion survey, 6 May 2003

Here's what other people are saying:

It is just the first step toward daily public prayers in school. God help us all.

I am all for having a moment of silence and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. However, I do not feel it should be required of anyone.

Completely worthless. Adults advancing their own agenda to make themselves feel better without really improving the educational process in any meaningful way. How about programs to help recruit and attract the best teachers? How about programs to prevent dropouts. How about programs to improve the quality of education in our public schools instead of empty gestures aimed at accomplishing the moral goals of a specific segment of the population. Moment of silence schmilence. This is an attempt to bring religion into the classroom and further marginalizes young people who might not share the majority views of their fellow classmates. It's divisive, useless and typical conservative hogwash.

The idea of forced pledges and a required moment of silence really need no comment. Of course, there is an alternative. You may be embarrassed by being excused from this activity in front of your classmates. Does everyone remember how horrible it is to be singled out at school?

What's next? Full-blown prayer in schools? When will Texans get it through their thick heads that not everyone is Christian? What happened to religious diversity?

This is melding of Church and State.

They can't enforce this... the law conflicts with first admendment... and I predict Federal Courts will over rule this if it's past.

I have no problem pledging allegiance or a moment a silence. I have a problem with others trying to force others that do not want to.. That is McCarthyism at it's best. God help us all from that SOB and his ideas...Too bad his dictatorish thoughts still reside with the Right down in Austin..

If I thought along the same lines as the people voting for this, or if I had their attitude - the people that vote for this should be tried for treason and executed..

If it passes I doubt it will stand long.

Mandatory recitation of the pledge has already been knocked down by the Supreme Court. WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION v. BARNETTE, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)
"Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self- interest." Mr. Justice BLACK and Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring.

And the moment of silence is probably going to be seen as inextricably linked to (forced?) prayer. WALLACE v. JAFFREE, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)

Being from Michigan I can say you folks in Texas have no idea how lucky you are to have a government that isn't bleeding heart liberal!

It is a wonderful opportunity for students to either pray and ask the Lord for His blessing and guidance that day or perhaps to simply collect their thoughts at the outset of an event-packed day.

It's about time. Every child should have the opportunity to silently pray if they desire. It's sad to think one old lady who was an athiest got away with this. I can't believe all the Christians did not try to get this passed as soon as they found out she was dead. Talk about ridiculous. One person should not be able to keep the power of God out of the schools. What else do the kids have?

I am a conservative Christian and an proud American. I am opposed to any legislation that mandates or prevents specific expressions of patriotism or faith. I think this bill is jingoism at its worst.

Timothy Clark - Dallas Texas

I believe this is a step in the right direction. This will give students a chance to have greater control in their lives due to the busy demands of our culture. It will also create a discipline within them that will allow them to reflect more often that react.

I am totally for it - I have learned the value of silence and just getting still.

If we could teach this to the kids, I believe it would be a powerful tool for them. Just a great way to kind of start the day, focus on what needs to be done, pray - or whatever.

Silence is not bad, but unfortunately in our society - silence is scary and to be avoided at all cost. And that is a shame.

I think it would be a wonderful idea. I am not real crazy about prayer in the school - I'm not against prayer in school- and i do not want to see prayer band - but who's prayer are we going to teach our students, the muslims, the christians, the jewish. It is for an individual parent to teach the desired prayer to their child. Like i said i do not want to see prayer band - so this would be a great alternative.

While I am sure many teachers would wish this "moment of silence" were stretched to nearly an hour, those still in the trenches will take what little they can get.

However, seeing that the real purpose of this measure is remind students that The Great State of Texas stands fully behind belief in the supernatural, it makes one wonder why we are wasting all this money teaching science and rational thinking.

John Blanton
The North Texas Skeptics

This is great! I would much prefer prayer, but this is a step in the right direction. This allows everyone to be able to do their own thing.

I think this bill is simply indicative of the Republican hypocrisy that is evident in Texas and across this country. The GOP touts itself as the party that wants to "get government out of our lives" yet repeatedly imposes government squarely IN our lives at every turn. Mandating a moment of silence for every school child in Texas takes local control away from our schools, forcing state government into each Texas school without local options - and it is only the beginning.

Far more sinister are the other elements of the Texas GOP social agenda now underway in our great state. One of the most disturbing of these is the notion of mandating textbooks which offer only a "positive" spin on America. This is an attempt at blatant propaganda imposed on our own young citizens. Imagine a "traditional" family whose children grow up thinking all in the family is "positive" and just great even though there may be serious problems underneath the propaganda veil that are never confronted and are allowed to fester into massive dysfunction over decades. No different for our schoolchildren's true knowledge of historical facts. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

A moment is quiet reflection is a great idea. Much preferable to having one specific theological viewpoint forced on student.

I am not sure what the moment of silence is supposed to teach the children - but I do believe that we need to go back to saying the Pledge of Allegiance. It's not about God, it's about our country - and children that don't believe in God shouldn't have to say that one word (or just not say "under God"). But the words "one nation... indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" are very important and moving for children.


I don't feel that a student should be required to have a moment of silence but do agree with the pledge. I said it all through school and think the youth of today would benefit from it.

I feel that this is another way that this President and his political party is invoking their religious beliefs off on the public once again. There is supposed to be a separetion of church and state. How can a state or public run school show a separation of church and state if they invoke this ritual onto the lives of our children. I say that if their should be any time for a moment of silence, let it be at home or in the car with the parents, not the state. If a parent wants their child to participate in acts or rituals of religion, it should be with the parents supervision or at least their consent, not forced upon by the state or school system where the parent has no control of how they raise their children. If this is how they want to do things, they might as well do as Cuba does and indoctrinate the children at an early age by taking them from the parents and have the government raise them with their idealogical ways of thinking. Is starts as a small thing like a moment of silence, then what is next, a state invoked Bible class, a religious requirement for graduation? Like I have stated, if they want to do anything about prayer, maybe they should try to speak to the adults and try to raise awareness within the family, not the child.

The school calls the children together every AM to recite and reflect. How about the government calling us "all" out every AM to recite and reflect. This is still America, isn't it??

I believe this is GREAT! It's about time that we start to think and give freedom of choices/opportunities to our children--our furture. Give this few moments to them so they can use it in their own ways. Who knows hopefully they can ask whom ever their hero is in regards to their faith for guidance, direction, knowledge and wisdom---this should be THEIR CHOICE---isn't America is all about??? I hope to believe it is!!
This is only one way to give the freedom of choice to our children.

A moment of silence is a good thing. What could be wrong about taking the time to think, to reflect, on what you want out of a day. Our society is in such a rush to get no where. Students could use that time to focus and decide that I want this to be a good day, I want to be responsible for my actions, I want to make a positive influcence on someone this day....

If a moment of required silence helps 1 or 2 students, it will be well worth the time spent. For those who feel it is unnecessary, let them spend that moment of silence doing what they feel...of course, silently. It's a win-win situation.

I don't disagree with a "moment of silence" or saying the pledge. We had a school-wide Christian prayer and said the pledge when I was in elementary school in Texas. However, I do think that there are some politics involved in the new Republican majority making this such a high profile issue. Any student has the right now, under current laws, to have their own moment of silence, during school at anytime. I don't understand why we have to have a law requiring it. I think this is yet another way for Republicans to claim that they are the more patriotic and religious party and will probably try to spin things this way come election time.

We should have prayer every morning...not just a moment of silence. I do feel this is a step in the right direction.

Is it not amazing that with all the real problems, the Republicans are so concerned about the Pledge of Allegience and a moment of silence. Just another move to keep their real agenda from being seen. This is the same group that wants to rewrite history books, taking out negative side of events.

It's a 'non-issue' to me and doesn't matter one way or another. Texas lawmakers should be focused on more important matters.

This is dangerous. Anytime the goverment is allowed to tell people what to say and do, we have a large problem. Thank God I took my child out of this joke of a school system, and taught her myself. I think she has a much better chance of being able to think for herself, rather than join the sheep mentalilty apparently creeping over our state.

Sounds good to me. Kids aren't being taught respect and love of country anymore. If their not taught at home, who will teach them?

I would agree with this as soon as I can state my political views in church or as soon as churches start paying property taxes in exchange for their political influence.

I firmly believe in my Country and it's ideals and that love of it needs to be instilled in our little one's ,to know that it's freedom isn't a hand out.

First of all whatever happened to separation of church and state? The majority of Americans may be Christian, but this is not a Theocracy.

Secondly, since the Texas legislature meets only once every two years, shouldn't they use their time more wisely instead of debating on a moment of silence in classrooms!

A moment of silence is perfectly okay for those who want to use it to pray, to reflect or simply take a one minute nap. It does not in any way infringe on our Right of Separation of Church and State.

I believe that is a smoke screen. The state GOP is being coercive and dodging the important issues.

How can you "force" children to respect a flag or a state that doesn't seek justice for poor people? When will this state provide children and seniors with adequate medical insurance or care? I for one would exempt my child. No problem.

It is about time we get back to reality. Now, we just need to get prayer back in the class room. Not just a minute of silence, but open prayer to our Father. Those wishing not to participate can just sit or stand in silence while the majority gives thanks to the Lord all mighty. There is still hope for our land. I just pray that we can return to the roots that made the creation of this country what it once was. We just need more people like President Bush. Willing to stand up and be counted.

I think a moment of silence would be a great idea. It would give those who want to say a prayer the chance to and those who don't want to say one can have a moment of peaceful solitude. These things help to bring a serious tone to what is about to happen. It is well known that a moment of silence can cause the soul to quiet and reflect on what is important, in this case a day of learning.

We used to have a moment of prayer in the schools. I can see a person getting upset about that if the prayer happened to not be their particular religion. A moment of silence, without association to any specific cause or religion, would be a great compromise.

If any of our supreme court judges would read the true interpretation of the separation of church and state from the Federalist Papers, it is very, very clear that the founding fathers said that God was integral to the morality of the country, but that the church should not run the state.

that separation has been misconstrued and is a big reason for the decline in the morality of the USA through the years.

I'm a teacher...the kids will use the minute of silence each day to cut up and goof around. They don't take the pledge seriously now...

The whole idea of providing a minute of silence EACH DAY is 100 percent silly. Its just another way of promoting prayer and christian beliefs under the veil of silence.

Pledging allegiance and a moment of silence are the least we and our children can do as a sign of respect and appreciation for the privileges of being free and receiving an education.

Silence is golden, so the old saying goes. There is so much noise and chatter in our busy world today, I would think that teachers would be thankful for that moment of silence. Having a moment of silence does not mean that students have to fill it with prayer and it certainly doesn't infringe on anyone's rights. I say "go for the gold!"

I am not a religous man however; a moment of silence IS a positive move. This provides a respect factor that may otherwise be missing in the up bring up an adolescent or young child. This act also encourages an act of community and for those whom are religous permits them the time for prayer.

Typical of the Texas GOP to seek to control everyone's lives.

As a sixth grade teacher I welcome the moment of silence for myself as well as the class. It does remind me to take a breath and give a quiet moment of thought for the day. I use that time to say a prayer for our day and pray for the students. The kids are quiet and sometimes you can see some of them actually closing their eyes and reflecting on something!

I feel we *should* do the pledge and also the Texas pledge daily. I don't care one way or the other if we do a moment of silence. The kids won't be quiet anyway.


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 632 April 9, 2003 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

FIRST FUSION AT THE Z MACHINE was announced this week at the April meeting of the American Physical Society in Philadelphia. For the first time, Sandia National Laboratories' Z facility in New Mexico has created a hot dense plasma that produces neutrons associated with nuclear fusion. According to Sandia's Ray Leeper (rjleepe@sandia.gov), the neutrons emanate from fusion reactions within a BB-sized deuterium capsule placed within the central target in the Z facility, itself about a third of a football field in diameter. While tokamaks cause fusion reactions to occur by confining plasmas in large magnetic fields, and laser facilities focus intense beams on or around a target, Z applies a huge pulse of electricity (about 12 million joules) with very sophisticated timing. The pulse creates an intense magnetic field which crushes an array of 360 tungsten wires into an ultra-light foam cylinder to produce x rays. Striking the surface of the fuel capsule embedded in the cylinder, the x-ray energy produces a shock wave that compresses deuterium gas within the capsule, fusing enough deuterium to produce neutrons. Sandia researchers measured a yield of approximately 10 billion neutrons, around the expected energy of 2.45 MeV, corresponding to a very modest level of nuclear fusion (about 4 millijoules of energy). The deuterium capsule reached a temperature of about 11.6 million Kelvin and was compressed from a diameter of 2 mm to 160 microns. The whole compression took about 7 nanoseconds. Providing outside commentary, Cornell University's David Hammer (hammer@ece.cornell.edu) said the Sandia group performed pretty much a full set of tests to verify that they had achieved nuclear fusion. The ZR (Z-Refurbished) facility, an upgrade scheduled to go online in 2006, is slated to attempt scaled-up fusion experiments. While the Z approach to fusion is a promising, straightforward, and potentially robust method, researchers caution that they are at the start of a very long road in investigating its feasibility as a fusion power source.

FIRST LIGO SCIENTIFIC RESULTS. With two controlling partners, MIT and Caltech, and two branch offices (two completely independent detectors) located in Washington State and Louisiana, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is essentially a giant strain gauge. In the LIGO setup laser light reflects repeatedly in each of two perpendicularly oriented 4-km-long pipes. A passing gravity wave will distort the local spacetime, stretching very slightly one of the paths while shrinking the other, causing the interference pattern of the two merging laser light beams to shift in a characteristic way. LIGO does not measure static gravitational fields, such as those from the sun or the Earth itself. Rather it strives to see ripples in spacetime radiated by such events as the inspiral of two neutron stars toward each other, a phenomenon which would typically produce a strain in the LIGO apparatus as large as one part in 10^20. That is, a passing gravity wave is expected to change the distance between mirrors some 4 km apart by about 10^-18 meters, a displacement 1000 times smaller than a proton. Such a measurement represents a physics and engineering feat of great delicacy. But at long last the LIGO team has prepared its instrument and at this week's APS meeting, reported its first official results from the initial "science" run conducted over 17 days in September 2002.

In this first run no gravitational wave events were observed, but palpable knowledge was gained as to what the sky should look like when viewed in the form of gravity waves. So great is LIGO's sensitivity that it has been able to set the best upper limit on the output of gravitational waves from three of the four prime source categories. These four expected waveforms are as follows: bursts from sources such as supernovas or gamma bursters; chirps from inspiraling objects such as coalescing binary stars; periodic signals, perhaps from sources like spherically asymmetric pulsars; and a stochastic background source arising from gravity waves originating from the big bang itself. LIGO deputy director Gary Sanders (Caltech, sanders_g@ligo.caltech.edu) said that in three of these four categories, had set new upper limits on the rate at which gravitational waves were being produced. In the coalescing binary category, for instance, LIGO has established an upper limit of 164 per year from the Milky Way, a factor of 26 better than the previous limit. Erik Katsavounidis (MIT, kats@ligo.mit.edu) said that LIGO could establish an upper limit on periodic signals from bright pulsars with a sensitivity of about 10^-22. Sheila Rowan (Stanford Univ and Univ Glasgow) spoke of future operations at LIGO. First of all, the second scientific run currently underway will be some ten times more sensitive than the first run, the one being reported at the meeting. If in the first science run LIGO was essentially sensitive to gravity waves from the whole of the Milky Way, then in the second science run (conducted Feb-Apr 2003), featuring a ten-times improvement in sensitivity, the region of space patrolled would effectively reach out to about 15 million light years, a realm that includes the nearby Andromeda galaxy. (For more information about LIGO and a complete collaboration list, see www.ligo.caltech.edu ) In its search for gravity waves, LIGO (which with about 440 scientists is as big as the large particle physics experiments underway at accelerators) is also collaborating with other interferometer devices such as GEO (in Germany, www.geo600.uni-hannover.de ) and TAMA (Japan).

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. It is provided free of charge as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists. For that reason, you are free to post it, if you like, where others can read it, providing only that you credit AIP. Physics News Update appears approximately once a week.

CSICOP Event: The Skeptics Toolbox

Workshop Description

CSICOP was created to deal with paranormal claims. Most such claims lack any support from scientifically based research. However, an increasing number of paranormal claims are supported by evidence allegedly based on scientific research. Some examples would be the role of prayer in healing; communicating with the dead; psychic influencing of the output of random number generators; remote viewing; therapeutic touch; dowsing; the feeling of being stared at; water with memory; and psychic dogs. The research supporting these and similar claims employ many of the trappings of scientific methodology: gathering of data under controlled conditions; sophisticated methods of measuring outcomes; the latest tools of statistical inference; and state-of-the-art apparatus. How can the ordinary skeptic tell whether such studies pass muster? Even experts can be stymied by the fact that the published report often omits details that could seriously compromise the research. However, it is surprising how often the published report provides clues to the inadequacy of the underlying procedures. This workshop will provide some tools and concepts to help the skeptic to judge the acceptability or unacceptability of research offered in support of paranormal claims. The faculty will provide examples from their own experience of how they have probed for flaws in such evidence. In addition, the participants will be assigned sample cases to evaluate. To help in such evaluations the participants will be given guidelines and checklists.

For More Information Visit: http://www.csicop.org/events/2003-toolbox/

Monday, May 05, 2003

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 May 5, 2003

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from The Washington Post

Capping nearly three years of dogged analysis, a Maryland-based team of scientists has unveiled the entire genetic code of the bacterium that causes anthrax. The work, on a strain virtually identical to the one used in the 2001 postal bioterror attacks, lays bare many of the molecular tricks by which the notorious microbe wreaks havoc and presents new targets against which researchers can aim novel drugs, vaccines and bioterror detection devices.

By comparing the full genome of the anthrax bacterium to those of its medically benign bacterial cousins, researchers are piecing together the story of how a relatively mild-mannered soil-dwelling bacterium acquired the ability to infect healthy human beings, overcome their immune defenses and kill them with toxins.

It's important to find out how the anthrax agent, Bacillus anthracis, became homicidal, said Claire Fraser, president of the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville (TIGR), who oversaw the gene-sequencing effort. The current epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is the latest reminder that microbes are constantly changing and testing the limits of human defenses. Both the virus that causes SARS and the bacterium that causes anthrax are the offspring of less virulent forebears, Fraser noted, and studies of the killers' family trees can reveal much about their lingering vulnerabilities.


from UPI

Geophysicists Issue Turkish Aftershock Warning

There is a real danger of further earthquakes in the area of southern Turkey devastated by a quake Thursday, say University of Ulster geophysicists.

New Analysis Shows Global Warming

Satellite data of the lowest few miles of the atmosphere, from the late 1970s, shows a global temperature increase of about one-third degree Fahrenheit between 1979 and 1999.


from The Los Angeles Times

The virus that causes SARS can survive in the environment much longer than researchers had suspected, the World Health Organization said Sunday, suggesting that halting transmission of the disease may be harder than they thought.

Research from laboratories around the world, posted on the WHO's Web site, indicates that the SARS coronavirus can persist on public surfaces for a day or longer and in feces from infected people for as long as four days much longer than the coronaviruses that cause the common cold. It can survive even longer at low temperatures. And one commonly used detergent does not kill the virus as readily as researchers had hoped.

"This is the first time we have had hard data on the survival of the virus," said Dr. Klaus Stohr of the WHO, which is based in Geneva. "Before, we were just speculating."


from The New York Times

Federal health authorities and infectious disease experts say that the United States has escaped the full fury of the SARS epidemic, in part because of aggressive public health measures and in part because of sheer luck.

The 291 people across the country who are classified as possible or likely victims of the respiratory virus have been anything but lucky.

"I would call it a measure of unluck for those individuals who got those incident cases, certainly those that happened to stay in the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong," said Alonzo Plough, director of public health for Seattle-King County, Wash., which is a gateway to Asia and home of 14 suspected SARS patients. "I think the United States, by adopting a very conservative case definition, allowed for early isolation of individuals and played a role, certainly, in containment. But we were lucky in that we did not have an individual who came with the kind of infection that characterized what happened in Toronto."


from The New York Times

PARKFIELD, Calif., April 30 Earthquakes come with much of the territory in California, a cautionary consideration for living here, like hurricanes in the South, tornadoes in the Midwest and, for now anyway, the Mets in Queens. The state is laced with hundreds of fault lines, some considered unstable enough to produce the next Big One.

For the most part, though, Californians are a hardy bunch, willing to choose geographic splendor and pleasant weather over the threat of any old earthquake. That includes the entire population of Parkfield, all 18 of them.

For scientists, Parkfield is the earthquake capital of the world, a sleepy patch of barley fields and low mountains near the midpoint of the biggest fault in California, the San Andreas.


from The San Francisco Chronicle

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- After years of research and negotiations, Bob Weatherall stood trembling with fear and emotion outside a vault beneath the foundations of London's Royal College of Surgeons.

Behind the dusty steel door lay the remains of dozens of Aborigines, most likely stolen from their graves and shipped to Europe to satisfy the curiosity of 19th century anthropologists, doctors and scientists.

Weatherall had come to take his people home.

Weatherall, a member of the Kamilaroi tribe of eastern Australian Aborigines, went to London in early April with Henry Atkinson from the Yorta Yorta tribe and Major Sumner of the Ngaranjerri to reclaim the remains of 60 Aborigines that had been traced to the Royal College of Surgeons. Most of the remains came from those three tribes.


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Uri Geller Fails Football (soccer) Team

Exeter City FC relegated - official

Mail On Sunday, Sunday May 4, 2003:

Not even Geller can bend it for Exeter

Tears as Uri fails to conjure up escape act

By Peter Higgs

Angry fans shouted abuse towards the directors' box as their final judgement on a bizarre season in the history of Exeter City that ended with the proud Devon club losing its status in the Football League after 83 years.

When the final whistle sounded, to condemn Exeter to face the likes of Aldershot and Accrington Stanley in their centenary year, stunned supporters milled around on the pitch wondering where it had all gone wrong.

All the optimism generated by the world-wide publicity of the past 12-months had left Exeter and their fans with nothing but regrets and a bleak future.

Had the association with Uri Geller, Michael Jackson and an assortment of hangers-on done them any good when it came to the harsh reality of life in the Third Division?

'I am devastated,' said Geller as he wandered across the pitch at the end. 'This is the low point of my life. *** The only time I've felt like this was when I killed a man in war. I was a young soldier and when I realised I'd shot another man dead if was the worst moment I have known.

'Today was as bad for me and for my son Daniel. He broke down in the toilets at the end of the game and I had to drag him out of there.'

Sceptics who wonder whether failure will cause Geller to repeat his 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' routine received short-shrift from the TV personality and spoon-bender. 'People who doubt whether I'll stick this out don't understand. I love this club with a burning passion. I'll stay with Exeter until the day I die.'

Geller blamed the appointment of former Spurs star Neil McNab in mid-season as the reason for Exeter's demise. 'There's nothing wrong with him as a man but he's 90 per cent of the reason why we're out of the League,' said Geller. 'He tried to bring Premiership football to the club and it didn't work. Gary Peters was the right man.'

While his status and influence at Exeter remains unclear, Geller promised to do all in his power to persuade Peters to lead the club in the Conference next season. During 13 games in charge, the ex-Preston manager has lost only three times, won the final three games but still took the team down.

He refused to say whether he would stay on next season and added that: 'There's a lot of things that need to be talked about before I make my decision.'

With Swansea needing to drop points at home to Hull there was as much interest in the score from the Vetch Field as in the frantic, tension-filled action taking place in front of them.

But once the Welsh side had staged a dramatic come back to lead 4-2, Steve Flack's winner in injury time meant that Exeter had done the job - but in vain.


From: Terry W. Colvin

The RAF Lakenheath-Bentwaters 'radar visual' incident of 1956 has long been regarded as one of the classic cases in the annals of UFOlogy.

This is one of the few incidents classified as 'unexplained' by the 1969 Colorado University UFO study commissioned by the US Air Force, which conceded that "the probability that at least one genuine UFO was involved appears to be fairly high."

But the true extent and complex nature of the events in East Anglia have never been fully revealed, and divining the truth from a mass of contradictory evidence has confounded even the most dedicated of UFO researchers.

Now for the first time in UFOlogical history, a website dedicated to an in-depth re-investigation of a classic case is available on-line at:


The website is the product of three years work by the Lakenheath Collaboration - a team of British researchers that includes Martin Shough, David Clarke, Paul Fuller, Andy Roberts and Jenny Randles. Please remember the site remains under construction, with further documents (including several that are the subject of FOIA requests) to be added in the near future.

Building upon new testimony unearthed by Jenny, since 2000 extensive fieldwork by Clarke and Roberts has uncovered a host of new testimony and documentary evidence. Shough, the author of a detailed analysis of the case published in 1987, has compiled the existing and new material presented on the website.

Our front page opens with a surprise - a photograph dated 1955/56 showing the control console in the tower at RAF Bentwaters complete with UFO graffiti.

Follow the links into the body of the Lakenheath/Bentwaters/Neatishead incident of 13/14 August 1956. The Collaboration have gathered together all the available evidence, including new material relating to the RAF's response to the incident that has slowly emerged since 1996.

The re-investigation did not set out to debunk the case, but rather to look closer at what might have happened, with surprising results for both 'believers' and 'skeptics.' We present the evidence and take care to separate facts from speculation. We provide no resolution as it emerges that Lakenheath-Bentwaters is a far more complex and multi-layered mystery than was ever suspected in 1969.

All five contributors, despite having differing approaches and opinions, agree this is an instructive case and its re- investigation has brought to light information that not only overturns all previous accounts, but provides the sort of data that scientists claim has been previously lacking in the field of UFOlogy.

The site contains more than 270 text and image files, including, in addition to the original USAF intelligence reports and other Blue Book documents:

22 new official British Royal Air Force and Ministry of Defence documents;

36 new interview transcripts and statements from pilots, ground personnel and operations staff;

23 web-pages of in-depth commentary and analysis, fully interlinked;

14 pages of meteorological data, with detailed tables, charts and analysis;

14 pages of detailed radar and avionics specifications;

30 archived letters between investigators and principal witnesses between 1975 and 2001;

Plus much more, with numerous links and bibliographical references to research material.

The Lakenheath Collaboration would be pleased to receive your comments, criticisms and contributions to what we hope will be a on-going peer review process of our evolving case file.

Hubble glimpses earliest stars

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) indicate the first stars formed as little as 200 million years after the Big Bang - much earlier than previously thought.

The evidence comes from data showing large amounts of iron present in very distant, ancient quasars. This iron must have been made in the massive explosions that ended the lives of the first generation of stars in the cosmos.

The discovery is the first major scientific result to emerge from the Nicmos instrument that was revived during the Hubble servicing mission by the space shuttle in 2002.

It indicates that the raw materials for life - elements such as carbon - were present from a very early stage in the history of the Cosmos.

Profound implications

Stars are nuclear factories that process lighter elements such as hydrogen and helium into heavier elements such as nitrogen, carbon, and iron. When some stars explode in supernova explosions, this iron is scattered into space where it can become part of a new generation of stars.

The HST observations show massive amounts of iron in very distant and ancient quasars - galaxies with intense activity at their cores due to the presence of a supermassive black hole.

Hubble's work pushes back the era of the very first stars in the Universe to as early as 200 million years after the Big Bang.

This is much earlier than previously thought, though it is in agreement with very recent results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, which looks at the background radiation from the young Universe.

First generation

In October 2002, a team led by Wolfram Freudling used the HST to observe three of the most distant quasars known. The light from them had travelled for 12.8 thousand million years before reaching Hubble's detector, having left the quasars 900 million years after the Big Bang.

The spectra show clear signs of the large amounts of iron. This is the first time that elements created in the first generation of stars have been found.

Wolfram Freudling said: "Iron is a good indicator of the evolutionary state of a quasar. This element is not created during the Big Bang but in stars later on.

"We believe that the iron we detected with Hubble was created in the very first generation of stars which formed soon after the Big Bang."

The detection of iron so early in the Universe's history has profound implications.

Michael Corbin, of the Space Telescope Science Institute, said: "The presence of iron shows that basic ingredients for planets and life were present, at least in some places, very early in the history of the Universe.

"This is much earlier than the formation of the Earth itself 4.6 thousand million years ago."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/05/01 14:25:24


Physicists find 'rebel' particle

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Physicists have found a new subatomic particle, named Ds (2317). It will help them better understand the building blocks of matter.

The particle consists of an unusual combination of more fundamental particles - quarks.

Two quarks form Ds (2317) and, curiously, its properties are not what theory predicted.

The announcement was made by physicist Antimo Palano to a packed auditorium at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (Slac) in the US.

The discovery was made by the BaBar international consortium, which operates a detector at Slac that analyses debris from subatomic particle collisions.

'Back to the drawing boards'

"Congratulations to BaBar," said Slac's director, Jonathan Dorfan.

"The existence of the particle is not a surprise, but its mass is lower than expected. This result will send theorists back to their drawing boards."

Quarks are fundamental particles of which there are six types present in nature. The "up" and "down" quarks are the lightest, and are found within the nuclei of atoms of ordinary matter.

There are also the "charm", "strange", as well as the "top" and "bottom" quarks. These are heavier than the up and down quarks. Quarks can also have antiparticles such as anti-down, etc.

Heavier quarks were present in the early Universe and are created today in particle accelerators and in collisions of cosmic rays with atoms in the Earth's atmosphere.

The Ds (2317) combines a charm quark with another heavy quark - an anti-strange quark.

'From unexpected directions'

Physicists are hailing its discovery as important because it has unexpected properties that will provide insight into the force that binds the quarks together.

This force, unlike most others in nature, becomes stronger as the distance between the two quarks increases.

Marcello Giorgi, from the University of Pisa, Italy, who leads the BaBar collaboration, said: "Sometimes, the most exciting discoveries come from unexpected directions. There has been a buzz of excitement in the experiment in the past few weeks.

"We have discovered a new charm particle in an experiment designed to probe the difference between matter and antimatter using bottom quarks."

Bob Cahn, a BaBar collaborator from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, US, added: "The unexpected mass will make us look again at the forces between quarks and will stimulate new interest in charm-quark systems."

And Dr Raymond Orbach, director of the US Energy Department's Office of Science, said: "The BaBar experiment continues to produce important new knowledge adding to our fundamental understanding of the structure of matter."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/04/30 21:22:21


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