NTS LogoSkeptical News for 1 June 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Tabloid: Alien Baby Found in Wyoming


Posted on Fri, May. 30, 2003

Associated Press

CASPER, Wyo. - The headline raised some eyebrows, but authorities said there's no evidence an alien baby has been found in Casper.

According to a story published in The Weekly World News tabloid, local rancher Phil Merleson found a scaly skinned infant on the floor of his barn May 7 after hearing a humming sound emanating from the building.

The story added that mysterious lights were seen in the area the previous night. The creature, the paper reported, has two brains and three hearts, is in good health and can produce high-frequency wails capable of shattering glass.

Included with the story were several photographs allegedly taken from a video shot by Merleson's wife, Cynthia.

FBI Special Agent Ann Atanasio said the agency was not aware of any alien babies discovered in its territory covering Wyoming and Colorado and denied any involvement with such a case.

"But I suggest that you might want to refer any inquiries to FBI headquarters and ask for agents Mulder or Scully," she quipped, referring to the stars of the TV show "The X-Files."

Natrona County Sheriff Mark Benton was also unaware of any alien babies discovered in barns in his jurisdiction.

"I wish we had found an alien baby, but we have not found one and we have not really been looking for one," he said.

The newspaper learned of the happenings from the Merlesons themselves, who sent editors the videotape, Weekly World News executive editor Barry Dutter said.

No one named Merleson, however, is listed in Casper-area phone books or on any Internet-based telephone directory.

Jesus was gay - $51,000 says so


By Tess Livingstone
May 29, 2003

JESUS was gay – the University of Queensland gave $51,000 of public money to a PhD student to reach that conclusion.

Melbourne-based Rollan McCleary, who will today be awarded his doctorate, earned $17,000 a year to work on his three-year thesis on homosexual spirituality.

As well as his revelation about Christ, Dr McCleary has also reached the conclusion that three – or possibly four – of Jesus's chosen disciples were also gay. A former Paris radio broadcaster, Hong Kong teacher and graduate of London University, Dr McCleary lived in Brisbane while completing his thesis.

He now lives in Melbourne, where he hopes to pursue postdoctoral studies with the aim of making gay spirituality a separate academic discipline.

Dr McCleary also believes that gay people find it easier to be Christian. "You don't have to be gay to be Christian, but it would be easier," he said.

Gay people, he said, were "looking for the ecstatic", sometimes in harmful ways, but were more inclined to be visionary and open to the transcendent.

He said Jesus's astrological chart, clues in the scriptures to which the churches had been blind and accurate biblical translations had all played a part in his conclusions. "The starting point is the matter of John, who always referred to himself as Jesus's beloved disciple," Dr McCleary said.

In a forthcoming book, he attempts to present St John's gospel in a new light to back up his claims.

"If you assume that Christ was incarnate, there are perfect theological and mystical reasons to point to his sexuality," Dr McCleary said.

Gay spirituality, he said, had begun with Christianity then fanned out to other religious such as Buddhism.

An Anglican and a qualified reader of astrological charts, Dr McCleary is open about being gay himself.

The Courier-Mail


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 639 May 30, 2003 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

OPTICAL PERISTALSIS. Part of the digestion process consists of the massaging movement of powerful esophageal muscles urging food particles along the alimentary track. The same sort of "peristalsis" can also be carried out at the nanoscopic level with small objects in the grip of cleverly crafted light pulses. David Grier and Brian Koss at the University of Chicago use the optical tweezer method of controlling particles with multiple laser beams, but instead of a static array of beams, they use computer-generated holograms to convert a single beam of light into large numbers of optical traps. Each hologram may be considered to be a specialized diffraction grating, producing intricately articulated networks of hundreds of optical traps. Objects can fall into these light traps and then the traps can be moved, thus transporting the objects. The aim is to move and position sub-micron things in 3D space.

Applications include inserting the object into a microscopic reservoir and pulling it back (parallelism is one of the technique's strengths), or centering or rotating a biological cell in a microscope's field of view. Grier's work has led to a commercial version of this holographic optical tweezers, one in which a pattern of 200 optical traps can be refreshed or modified at a rate of 100 times per second. (By the way, how forefront research is turned into saleable products is an interesting story by itself. For example, the company Grier started, Arryx, Inc.---http://arryx.com---has a scientific advisory board (SAB) with notable scientists from Princeton, NIH, the Whitehead Institute, Harvard, and Northwestern.) In the "peristalsis" mode of operation, particles are deliberately handed off from one optical trap to another, as in a bucket brigade. In a separate "thermal ratchet" mode of operation, the transfer from trap to trap might involve intervals of free diffusion; this mode should be useful for fractionating DNA molecules (see previous Update story at http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2003/split/627-1.html ) as part of the process of sequencing a gene.

Speaking as a physicist, Grier says the most important aspect of his group's holographically generated tweezer patterns is the ability to implement time-varying potential energy landscapes for moving tiny objects in a "force-free" way. Speaking as a biophysicist, Grier points to the ability to reach into a microscopic environment and to position samples just where you want them. (Koss and Grier, Applied Physics Letters, 2 June 2003; d- grier@uchicago.edu, 773-702-9176, lab website at http://griergroup.uchicago.edu/~grier/hot/ )

A NEW OPTICAL GEOMETRIC PHASE has been measured for the first time, by a group of physicists at Colgate University. The new geometrical phase is associated with light beams carrying orbital angular momentum. This development can be considered yet another step toward understanding and exploiting the weirdness of quantum reality for performing novel feats of computation. To see the meaning behind the new effect, we shall break the explanation into parts, considering in turn the issues of phase, orbital angular momentum in light, and then geometrical phase in light. First, phase. Many common periodic things have phase. The orientation or phase of a minute hand on a clock is the amount by which the hand has swept around the clock face: a quarter past the hour, half past the hour, etc. Except when going into a new time zone the phase of the clock regularly returns to its original position every sixty minutes. The phase of a water wave specifies where along the wave's crest-to-trough cycle it might be at any moment. Now consider a different kind of phase. Picture a sign with an arrow on it, oriented north. Starting at the equator, and without changing its orientation, push the sign along the ground one fourth of the way around the world. Next push the sign due north until you reach the north pole, where, without changing the sign's orientation, you move directly south again to return to your starting point. Even though you will have traced a closed loop the sign will now have a westerly orientation. In other words, because of the intrinsic curved geometry of the path, a change in phase will have occurred. This kind of phase change can occur in a quantum system.

Second, orbital angular momentum. The ordinary forward momentum of a particle of light is equal to Planck's constant divided by the wavelength of the equivalent light wave. Furthermore, the light is said to possess an intrinsic angular momentum, or "spin." The spin angular momentum can be oriented by polarizers so that the electric field of the light wave is oscillating vertically up and down, or horizontally back and forth. Equivalently, if the light wave is circularly polarized (the electric field precesses in corkscrew fashion as the wave moves along) the two contrary states of the spin would then correspond to the light wave's electric field precessing clockwise (in a "right-handed" way) or anticlockwise (in a"left handed" way). For the purposes of data processing a 0 or 1 bit can be associated respectively with vertical and horizontal polarizations or, equivalently, with clockwise or anticlockwise polarizations. But what does it mean for light to have "orbital" angular momentum? What is it that orbits? To ponder this issue, picture the electric field values for a vertical planar slice of the light beam. For vertically-polarized light, the electric field at all the points on the slice are vertically oriented. Look at the sameslice at a later time and the fields are still vertically oriented. For circularly polarized light, the fields in the slice will, at a certain moment, also be oriented in the same way. A moment later, however, the electric field will have precessed a bit (from the one o'clock position, say, to the three o'clock position; another way of saying this is that the phase of the electric field will have advanced a bit) but the orientation of the field at each point on the vertical slice will be the same. With the use of special gratings one can produce an entirely different mode of light, one in which the electric field phase coils around the beam axis, and the light is said to possess an orbital angular momentum, or OAM. This condition is visualized at the following website prepared by physicists at Colgate University: departments.colgate.edu/physics/research/optics/oamgp/gp.htm. This extra property of "coiled light" might be exploitable for future quantum computing. For instance, recently a group at the University of Vienna used OAM in light to create a three-dimensional entangled state, or "qutrit" (Vaziri et al., Physical Review Letters, 9 Dec 2002). Third issue: geometrical phase. When a light pulse is made to follow a closed loop path in real space, the phase of the returning beam might be slightly off from the phase of light starting off at that point. This disparity (which can result in an interference effect) can be modified by changing the path length. It can also be modified by changing the path geometry. In addition, the space does not need to be real space. When the "mode" (set of standing waves in the beam) is changed, it can also produce a phase when changing the geometry of the path in "mode space," and it is this that the Colgate physicists have measured. (see a schematic of the setup at this website: departments.colgate.edu/physics/research/optics/oamgp/geomph.htm ). The change in phase that a quantum system undergoes in going around a closed path in a space of states or parameters is called a "geometrical phase," and can be measured when the light emerges from the path to form a spiral shaped interference pattern at an external detector (Galvez et al., Physical Review Letters, 23 May 2003; contact Kiko Galvez, egalvez@mail.colgate.edu, 315-228-7205). (For further background, see Physical Review Focus item at focus.aps.org/story/v9/st29 and an article on geometric phase in Physics Today, Dec 1990.)

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.

Finding Meaning in "Junk" DNA

The human genome is full of repetitive DNA sequences that do not code for proteins. Research over the last decade has indicated that these sequences, once assumed to be "junk DNA," are an important source of genetic variability that contributes to genome evolution. So-called Alu elements, which are repeated hundreds of thousands of times, are the most common repetitive sequences in the human genome and have been shown to contribute to numerous genetic diseases. In a report in the 23 May 2003 Science, Lev-Maor et al. ( http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/300/5623/1288 ) showed how Alu elements can be incorporated into the coding region of a gene without destroying the gene's function. According to the study, Alu sequences are inserted by an alternative splicing mechanism whereby specific sequences and positions of the elements can allow the splicing to occur. Any mutation in this "signal" sequence could potentially lead to production of abnormal proteins and result in disease. As noted in an accompanying Perspective by W. Makalowski ( http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/300/5623/1246 ), the new study further demonstrates that "repetitive elements are not useless junk but rather are important, integral components of eukaryotic genomes."

Saturday, May 31, 2003


Metroplex Institute of Origin Science

Don R. Patton, Ph.D.

Archeological Evidence For The New Testament

An exciting archeological discovery in Jerusalem was announced last fall, an ossuary (burial box) with the inscription, "James, the son of Joseph, the brother of Jesus."

It understandably, made headlines around the world but made many unhappy. It provided evidence for faith in the New Testament account, embarrassed liberal and Catholic theologians, while producing frantic efforts to mitigate its significance. Naive reporters repeated the many of the face saving efforts. One claimed the find was "the only archeological evidence supporting faith in the New Testament. Nothing else confirming existence of Christ has ever been found." Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Dr. Patton will describe and evaluate the find and demonstrate that this amazing discovery is only the tip of the iceberg of abundant evidence from archeology supporting faith in the New Testament.

Bucky Auditorium
Medical Office Building
2126 Research Row, Dallas, TX

Tuesday, June 2nd, 7:30 PM

FBI: Olympic bombing suspect arrested


From Henry Schuster
Saturday, May 31, 2003 Posted: 9:58 AM EDT (1358 GMT)

A man officials say they believe is Eric Robert Rudolph is arrested in Murphy, North Carolina. Fingerprint results are needed to confirm the man's identity (May 31) PLAY VIDEO

(CNN) -- Eric Robert Rudolph -- the man charged with the 1996 Olympics bombing, as well as the bombings of a gay nightclub and two women's clinics that performed abortions – has been captured alive, an FBI source told CNN. Two people were killed and many were injured in the attacks. A sheriff's deputy in Murphy, North Carolina, arrested a man believed to be Rudolph late Friday night without a struggle after he was found behind a business, Cherokee County Sheriff Keith Lovin told CNN.

AT NEWS: Book Examines AT

It's finally here! A book entirely devoted to critically examining the bizarre world of Attachment (Holding) Therapy, the most pernicious pseudoscience and dangerous quackery thriving in the United States today.

"Attachment Therapy on Trial: The Torture and Death of Candace Newmaker" by Jean Mercer, Larry Sarner and Linda Rosa (Praeger; May 30, 2003).

This book sells at a whopping $44.95, reflecting the wealth of insights provided by psychology professor Jean Mercer on nature of Attachment Therapy and AT parenting methods. All three authors assisted the prosecution in the "rebirthing" trial that resulted in historic 16-year sentences for therapists Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder.

The book carries two stellar endorsements:

From ELIZABETH LOFTUS, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine: "Masterfully chronicles the chilling story of how a 10-year old girl, Candace, endured painful physical stimulation, was dangerously restrained, and eventually suffocated to death. In the name of 'curing her' with Attachment Therapy, Candace's therapists ignored her begging, screaming, and gasping; eventually they were convicted in criminal court. The extent to which some therapists embrace such unvalidated fringe treatments is one of the greatest scandals in today's mental health system. This damning indictment should stir a badly needed national debate about these practices, and aid in the fight against them."

From FREDERICK CREWS, Principal Author, "The Memory Wars": "Here is a profoundly good book--humane, constructive, and scrupulously objective--about a case that could have been treated with sensationalism and melodrama. Attachment Therapy, the authors show, is only the most dangerous embodiment of a more general aberration: the founding of treatments on premises that have already been confuted by sound research. Every therapist and every legislator ought to take this important work to heart."

PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: "Candace Newmaker was an adopted girl whose mother felt the child suffered from an emotional disorder that prevented loving attachment. The mother sought attachment therapy--a fringe form of psychotherapy--for the child and was present at her death by suffocation during that therapy. This text examines the beliefs of the girl's mother and the unlicensed therapists, showing that the death, though unintentional, was a logical outcome of this form of treatment. "The authors explain legal factors that make it difficult to ban attachment therapy, despite its significant dangers. Much of the text's material is drawn from court testimony from the therapists' trial, and from 11 hours of videotape made while Candace was forcibly held beneath a blanket by several adults during the "therapy." This book also presents history connecting attachment therapy to century-old fringe treatments, explaining why they may appeal to an unsophisticated public. This book will appeal to general readers, such as parents and adoption educators, as well as to scholars and students in clinical psychology, child psychiatry, and social work."

INTERVIEWS WITH AUTHORS: Contact AT News for arrangements.


[*AT NEWS* sends the latest news to activists and allied organizations about the many abusive, pseudoscientific, and violent practices inflicted on children by the fringe psychotherapy known as Attachment Therapy, aka "holding therapy" and "therapeutic parenting." Attachment Therapists claim to work with the most vulnerable of children, e.g. minority children, children in foster care, and adoptees. AT NEWS is the publication of newly formed *Advocates for Children in Therapy.* For more information on Attachment Therapy, go to the Utah activists' site: http://www.kidscomefirst.info ]

Contact: Linda Rosa, RN
Corresponding Secretary
Loveland, CO

New-age Resources

- new-age related news, books and web resources.

Are psychics big old fakes? The Amazing Randi is a master debunker

By WENDY KALE/Colorado Daily Staff Writer http://www.coloradodaily.com/archives/index.inn?loc=detail&doc=/2003/May/21-471-BS01.txt

May 21, 2003

Just as Inspector Javert was on a relentless pursuit in "Les Miserables," The Amazing Randi is on his own non-stop mission to debunk psychics and faith healers in America.

Otherwise known as James Randi, the internationally known magician, speaker, and investigator of the paranormal is coming to CU to give a free public talk tonight. Covering ground from the Bermuda Triangle to UFOs and psychic spoon bending, Randi claims that he will demystify the woo-woo world of the paranormal.

Randi wasn't always bent on pursuing psychics run amuck. He started his career as a magician and appeared on children's shows like "Wonderama" in the '60s. However, he was always fascinated by the work of Harry Houdini.

One of the best-known magicians of the 20th century, Houdini not only spent time conjuring up tricks, but he was also famous for weeding out the phony psychics and spiritualists of his time.

Taking a cue from Houdini, Randi discovered that many modern psychics were using parlor tricks and ancient magical ruses to conduct readings and seances.

"I look at it this way - if you're in Central Park and you see a couple of thugs and the car speeds off, you can do nothing or call for help. I'm calling for help here, because something very wrong has been going in the world of psychics and the paranormal and money is being taken away from innocent people," remarked Randi.

Like Houdini, Randi believes that the only way to nab a fake psychic is to catch them in the game. He says he's driven to expose people who falsely claim they have supernatural powers, and like Houdini he's offering a large sum of money to anyone who can prove they are truly psychic.

"Houdini spent the last few years of his life doing this - but he couldn't handle it," said Randi. "He challenged the psychics of his time and said that if he couldn't duplicate what they did, he'd pay them. I don't happen to believe that any of the supernatural exists. It's like if I asked you do you believe in Santa Claus? The argument's weak and the evidence is not sufficient to prove the case."

To prove his point, Randi has upped the ante and is now offering a million dollars to anyone who says that they can prove they're psychic.

Anyone thinking they can pick up a quick million better think again, as Randi has stringent rules concerning this challenge. The applicant must state clearly in advance what powers he will demonstrate, and only an actual performance that falls within the agreed-upon limits will be accepted.

The agreement also states that if the event is successful the psychic will immediately get a check for $10,000, and then receive the balance of the million dollars in ten days.

But to date, Randi says that no one has past his test.

"Only the amateurs have come to us," admitted Randi. "Most people are innocent and believe they have powers. The professional psychics like Sylvia Browne and John Edward ignore us. I'm willing to be shown anything, but I just came back from Korea and saw all these psychics doing the same tricks that have been used in magic since the 1600's. It's all trickery."

Randi claims that TV psychics James Van Praagh and Edward rig their TV shows and find out information about audience members prior to show time. He says they use what's called "cold-readings" to press audiences for easy answers to their questions. A cold reading would be where a psychic stumbles around until they get a correct answer.

"These psychics are obtaining information from people before their shows and they just give out the same old tired, answers. It's funny that the spirits they talk to never seem to give you any important information - like where did Grandma hide the will?," joked Randi.

And while Van Praagh and Edwards have sometimes been known to freeze before live audiences, Randi seems to have a particular beef with the grande dame of psychics - Sylvia Browne.

"Sylvia Browne said that she would take up my challenge. She pressed for that agreement and said she would get in touch with me and never did. I know she's going to be on Larry King tonight (Friday). The only reason he keeps bringing her back is because she's a goldmine to that show," said Randi.

Browne did make an appearance on last Friday's Larry King show, and during the call-in segment of the program a guy from Texas demanded to know why she hadn't answered Randi's request for 620 days - which interestingly enough appears on Randi's website.

"If the money's not in the bank, why should I do it?" responded Browne during the King show. "He won't put the money in escrow, so why would I do it if when the money can't be validated?"

The caller then asked Browne if she would take the test if the money situation could be remedied. Although she rolled her eyes, Browne did agree. King then piped in, saying that he would arrange everything, if the caller came up with the actual money.

Browne also mentioned the fact that a young Russian psychic was complaining about the challenge. Earlier in the day - before the King show aired; Randi did freely talk about the incident.

"Her lawyer's calling me and she's accusing me of dragging my feet. But I want her to take the test again. I have no fear. She's just doing the same blindfold act that I've seen all these other kids do," explained Randi.

The Amazing Randi stands by his guns in claiming that "psychics" are fakes. He says that years ago he discovered the trick behind spoon-bender Uri Geller. Randi claims that he can duplicate the trick, because the spoon is not bent by the power of the mind. Instead, the magician says that sleight-of-hand magic is used, and that the spoon is bent while the audience is distracted.

Randi says that you can see all this on videotape when the trick is filmed. But psychics aren't the only paranormal topics that the magician likes to debunk. Randi claims that being an amateur astronomer has helped him prove that UFOs aren't real. Forget about alien abductions in the world of the Amazing Randi.

"I just can't believe in UFOs when the only people that seem to get picked up and abducted by them are unhappy middle-aged women," said Randi.

While people may go pro or con on Randi's beliefs on psychics and UFOs, there are many relieved that his work in revealing fake faith healers has come to light.

Randi takes full credit for busting TV evangelist Peter Popoff. Reminiscent of the Steve Martin movie "Leap of Faith," the fake healing preacher used electronic gizmos to "read" his audiences - until he was discovered by the magician.

"'Leap of Faith' was based directly on my book. I didn't get a nickel from that movie and Steve Martin was the one that wrote the script. But that million dollars I'm offering even goes to finding real faith healers. I filmed a story about TV evangelist Benny Hinn for the BBC showing all his healing tricks, but they wouldn't broadcast it and they threatened legal action," said Randi.

The Amazing Randi will cover all this and more during tonight's CU talk called "Search for Chimera: An Overview of How Science Has Pursued Magic and Miracles in the 20th Century and into the 21st Century."

Whether you call it bunk or reality, Randi certainly does bring up some interesting questions in his personal search for truth. Making blanket statements that there are absolutely no paranormal occurrences, no miracles, or that all psychics are fake are pretty broad statements to take on. But Randi is ready to challenge his Boulder audience tonight.

FYI: The Amazing Randi appears tonight at Macky Auditorium, CU Boulder campus, 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public.

Science In the News

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from The Washington Post

Scientists yesterday said they have discovered a long-sought "master gene" in embryonic stem cells that is largely responsible for giving those cells their unique regenerative and therapeutic potential.

The discovery of the gene brings scientists closer to a holy grail of biology: the ability to turn ordinary cells into those that possess all the biomedical potency of human embryonic stem cells, eliminating the need to destroy embryos to get them.

Researchers cautioned that the new work -- details of which were published in today's issue of the journal Cell -- will not bring a quick end to the political controversy over human embryo research. Some said research involving human embryos will be more important than ever for at least a while, as scientists turn their attention to the master gene and how it works in its natural, embryonic environment.

from The New York Times

Scientists said yesterday that they had cloned a mule for the first time, raising the prospect that it will soon be possible to produce genetic carbon copies of related animals, including champion racehorses.

The feat, by scientists at the University of Idaho and Utah State University, represents the first time an equine animal has been cloned. The baby mule, named Idaho Gem, was born at the University of Idaho on May 4 and is "vigorous and healthy," Dirk K. Vanderwall, one of the scientists, said at a news conference.

The successful experiment means that mules, which are typically sterile, can now reproduce. Mules are created by crossing a male donkey and female horse.

from The New York Times

HOUSTON, May 29 — A piece of insulating foam shot at a mocked-up shuttle wing opened a long slit in its leading edge, which may help to explain what caused the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, investigators said today.

In the experiment, which was conducted for the independent board investigating the shuttle disaster, researchers shot a 1.67-pound chunk of foam from a gas cannon at a full-size model of the wing's leading edge at about 530 miles per hour. They were trying to recreate the circumstances at the Columbia's launching, when a piece of insulating foam from the external tank slammed into the shuttle wing at similar speed.

The impact produced a 22-inch-long gap, ranging in width from the thickness of a dime to a quarter inch, a spokesman for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board said this evening.

from The Los Angeles Times

The first of two rovers headed to Mars will be launched no earlier than June 8, NASA officials said, marking the second liftoff delay for the project.

Jim Erickson, mission manager of the $800-million Mars Exploration Rover project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said Thursday that the spacecraft appeared to be in good shape for launch. The spacecraft has already been rolled out to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida and hoisted to the top of the Boeing Delta II rocket that will carry it into space.

"The vehicle's entered what we call the Boeing part of the flow," Erickson said. "It's all going really well."

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Friday, May 30, 2003

Historic Mars lander 'did find life'

By Helen Briggs
BBC News Online science reporter

Claims have re-emerged that the US space agency (Nasa) did find signs of life on Mars during the historic Viking landings of 1976. Dr Gil Levin, a former mission scientist, says he now has the evidence to prove it, just days before the US and Europe send new expeditions to the Red Planet.

The United States and Russia have spent billions since the 1960s on a handful of space craft designed to land on Mars. Only three have succeeded so far: the two Viking probes in the 1970s and Mars Pathfinder in 1997.

In 1976, the world was gripped by excitement when a robotic spacecraft touched down on Mars for the first time in history.

Biology experiments detected strange signs of activity in the Martian soil - akin to microbes giving off gas.

Before announcing the news that life had been found on another planet, Nasa carried out more tests to look for evidence of organic matter.

However, the Viking experiments failed to find this essential stuff of life and it was concluded that Mars was a dead planet.

New evidence

Dr Levin, one of three scientists on the life detection experiments, has never given up on the idea that Viking did find living micro-organisms in the surface soil of Mars.

He continued to experiment and study all new evidence from Mars and Earth, and, in 1997, reached the conclusion and published that the so-called LR (labelled release) work had detected life. He says new evidence is emerging that could settle the debate, once and for all.

He told BBC News Online: "The organic analysis instrument was shown to be very insensitive, requiring millions of micro-organisms to detect any organic matter versus the LR's demonstrated ability to detect as few as 50 micro-organisms."

Dr Levin, now president and CEO of US biotechnology company Biospherix, has a new experiment that he says "could unambiguously settle the argument".

But it was rejected by both Nasa and the European Space Agency (Esa) to go on-board this summer's Mars missions.

The British-built Beagle 2, which will be deposited on the Martian surface by Esa's Mars Express space craft, is going with the main purpose to hunt for life. This is a risky strategy according to Dr Levin.

"Strangely, despite its billing, Beagle 2 carries no life detection experiment!" he said. "Neither its GCMS (organic detector) which is claimed to be more sensitive than Viking's, nor its isotopic analysis instrument can provide evidence for living organisms."

Robot geologists

Nasa's mission to Mars is taking a more circumspect approach to the big life question.

Its two identical rovers will roam the ancient plains of Mars acting as robot geologists.

Mark Adler, deputy mission manager, said the main science objective was to understand the water environment of Mars not to search for life.

He told BBC News Online: "What we learnt from Viking is that it is very difficult to come up with specific experiments to look for something you don't really know what to look for."

Claims of life on Mars have always proved highly contentious. Twenty years after Viking, microbe-like structures discovered inside a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica led to more claims that were later rejected.

As the astronomer Carl Sagan once said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And there is no reason to believe that anything found this time will be any different.

"It's going to take a number of missions if we want to know whether there is life on Mars or not," said Dr Charles Cockell, a Mars biologist at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridgeshire, UK.

"If we find no evidence of life on Mars it may just mean we have looked in the wrong place."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/05/29 15:32:53 GMT

Items of Interest for Skeptics (From CSICOP)

1) Upcoming events to mark in your calendar
2) Center for Inquiry Meeting in NYC

1) a) Skeptics Toolbox in Eugene Oregon August 14-17
See: http://www.csicop.org/events/2003-toolbox/

b) European Skeptics Conference in London, England September 5-7
See: http://www.aske.org.uk/congress/

c) CSICOP Conference: Hoaxes, Myths, and Manias, Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 23-26
See: Tentative Program at: http://www.csicop.org/events/conference-2003/ (underdevelopment)

2) Also For Those of You in New York City

Responding to Evangelical Influence in American Public Life

May 31-June 1, 2003
The Doral Hotel
70 Park Avenue at 38th Street
New York, NY

The Center for Inquiry presents an extraordinary 2-day briefing on the increasing encroachment of evangelicalism and fundamentalism in American politics, culture, and education. CFI founder and chair Paul Kurtz leads a panel of experts in discussing the latest developments in the antievolution movement, new threats to free inquiry in education, theology and geopolitics, faith-based initiatives, and much more. How can defenders of the secular and scientific outlook respond?

Featured panel speakers: Wendy Kaminer, lawyer and author; Paul R. Gross, coauthor of Higher Superstition and Creationism's Trojan Horse; Paul Kurtz, philosopher and author; Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine; DJ Grothe, director of campus programs at the Center for Inquiry; and Bill Cooke, international director at the Center for Inquiry.

The $79 registration fee includes luncheon and the 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. program on Saturday, continental breakfast and 9 a.m. - 12 noon program on Sunday. Register now by calling 1-800-634-1610. A downloadable PDF program and registration form is available at http://www.cfimetrony.org/CFI%20Seminar.pdf.

The Center for Inquiry is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization that promotes reason and science in all human endeavors. Founded in 1995 by philosopher and author Paul Kurtz, the Center is home to the Council for Secular Humanism, publisher of Free Inquiry magazine, and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), publisher of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. For more information about the Center for Inquiry, visit the organization's official Web site at http://www.centerforinquiry.net.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Happy Birthday, Bob

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 29, 2003

from The New York Times

And now, the news that every parent dreads. Researchers are reporting today that first-person-shooter video games — the kind that require players to kill or maim enemies or monsters that pop out of nowhere — sharply improve visual attention skills.

Experienced players of these games are 30 percent to 50 percent better than nonplayers at taking in everything that happens around them, according to the research, which appears today in the journal Nature. They identify objects in their peripheral vision, perceiving numerous objects without having to count them, switch attention rapidly and track many items at once.

Nor are players simply faster at these tasks, said Dr. Daphne Bavelier, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Rochester, who led the study. First-person action games increase the brain's capacity to spread attention over a wide range of events. Other types of action games, including those that focus on strategy or role playing, do not produce the same effect.

from The (Raleigh, NC) News & Observer

Duke University Medical Center is pairing with one of science's most famous players in an ambitious effort to harness genetic information for disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment, officials announced Wednesday.

The university and J. Craig Venter, who raced the government to map the human genome, are beginning a collaboration that marries Duke's expertise with patients and Venter's technology to create a giant research venture.

The goal is to find a way of putting the human genome to use in everyday medicine, mapping the genetic susceptibility of patients for developing cancer or heart disease so that they could tailor their lifestyles to prevent sickness.
http://www.newsobserver.com/front/story/2573910p-2388770c.html BIGGEST BLAST IN COSMOS REVEALS ITS DARK HEART
from The New York Times

NASHVILLE, May 28 — While taking X-ray pictures of flares from the Sun in December, a scientific spacecraft happened to detect a tremendous blast of gamma rays from several billion light-years away. The observation, astronomers say, showed the driving force behind what appear to be the most powerful explosions in the universe.

In a report here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, researchers from the University of California at Berkeley said the coherence and alignment, the polarization, of the gamma radiation implied that the tremendous burst of energy originated from a region of highly structured magnetic fields.

The large-scale field, the scientists said, was being generated by the rapid rotation of the extremely dense core object, a black hole or a neutron star, remaining after the explosion of a huge star.

from The Los Angeles Times

BOULDER, Colo. — Cold. Dark. Forgotten. And so out of reach. Alan Stern has spent more than two decades dreaming about Pluto, certain that this most distant of planets, the only one in the solar system never explored, would soon be glimpsed by a set of robotic eyes sent from Earth.

"We thought this is a cinch. We'll have a Pluto mission in a few years," he recalled. That was 14 years ago. Stern was fresh out of graduate school and the outer solar system was just beginning to enthrall planetary scientists.

Now 45 and head of the space sciences department of the Southwest Research Institute here, Stern and a growing band of Plutophiles are still dreaming — but only for a little while longer. Finally, the mission is about to happen.

from The Christian Science Monitor

NEW YORK – In parks, as in fashion, New York led the way. In July of 1853, when the state set aside 778 acres in the middle of Manhattan Island to be used as "a public place," no American city had ever claimed so much private land for public use. The act forever altered Manhattan's developing grid of streets, and left the beloved Central Park as its legacy.

A century and a half later, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the park's eastern border, is presenting "Central Park: A Sesquicentennial Celebration," an exhibition about its design and construction. Museum visitors can compare the park they see outside with the one imagined on the walls.

A great urban park should "inspire the imagination to experience the city differently and cause us to think differently about who we are," says Theodore Landsmark, president of the Boston Architectural Center. This summer, New York City's commemoration of Central Park's 150th anniversary will give visitors an opportunity to reflect not only on the history of the park, but also on the reason this visionary space continues to draw visitors and inspire the development of urban parks nationwide.

Y Chromosomes Sketch New Outline of British History

May 27, 2003

History books favor stories of conquest, not of continuity, so it is perhaps not surprising that many Englishmen grow up believing they are a fighting mixture of the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Vikings and Normans who invaded Britain. The defeated Celts, by this reckoning, left their legacy only in the hinterlands of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

A new genetic survey of Y chromosomes throughout the British Isles has revealed a very different story. The Celtic inhabitants of Britain were real survivors. Nowhere were they entirely replaced by the invaders and they survive in high proportions, often 50 percent or more, throughout the British Isles, according to a study by Dr. Cristian Capelli, Dr. David B. Goldstein and others at University College London.

The study, being reported today in Current Biology, was based on comparing Y chromosomes sampled throughout the British Isles with the invaders' Y chromosomes, as represented by the present-day descendants of the Danes, Vikings (in Norway) and Anglo-Saxons (in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany).


Wednesday, May 28, 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

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In the News

Today's Headlines - May 28, 2003

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Contrary to widespread belief that hormone supplements are good for brain function, a new study has found that women taking the most popular hormone combination doubled their risk of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.

The startling new data, released in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, came from a study halted last summer when researchers found that combination estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy raised the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

About 6 million U.S. women were taking HRT as of a year ago, mainly to relieve symptoms of menopause, but that number is estimated to have dropped sharply since then because of the increased perception of risk.

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Aiming to reduce pollution threatening ocean ecosystems, a presidential commission favors injecting ocean science into decision-making on traditionally inland issues such as farm runoff, the panel's chairman says.

Ocean pollution often begins hundreds of miles inland, requiring a broader, ecosystem-based approach to controlling it, James Watkins, head of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said the commission will recommend such an approach to Congress this fall. It would involve weighing impacts on all species and habitats within a marine ecosystem rather than making decisions fish by fish as if each species were independent.

from The Washington Post

Howard University officials yesterday announced plans to create the first large-scale collection of genetic profiles of African Americans, an endeavor they described as a bid for a "place at the table in genetic research" and a pathway to improved medical care for blacks.

The DNA data would be collected in the form of laboratory samples from thousands of patients at Howard University Hospital, which serves a predominantly black and medically underserved population in the District. The confidential information on 25,000 Howard patients would be stored in computers by a Chicago-based private company that pledges to keep it safe from hackers and inquisitive health and life insurance companies, officials said. Later, the recruitment drive would tap Howard alumni, they said.

Promoters of the project contend it could supply important knowledge about health patterns in a racial minority group that has mostly shied away from participating in medical research for a half-century even as its members have endured starkly higher rates of chronic diseases and preventable deaths than whites. The incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure and prostate cancer, among other diseases, is far higher among African Americans than whites. It is sharply higher than the rate of those diseases among Africans, too, a point that Howard researchers want to study.

from The Washington Post

Health officials around the world are grappling with a rapidly spreading epidemic of a severe respiratory ailment known as SARS. Here's a quick look at who's at risk and other basic questions about the disease.

Q. What are the symptoms of SARS?

A. They are a lot like pneumonia or the flu. People get a very high fever -- at least 100.4 degrees. They also usually have shortness of breath or other problems breathing and a dry cough. Some people get other symptoms, including a headache, stiff or achy muscles, a loss of appetite, fatigue, a rash and diarrhea.

from The New York Times

NASHVILLE, May 27 — Penetrating thick dust where two galaxies are colliding, radio telescopes have observed the fireworks and afterglows of stars exploding at such an extraordinary rate that astronomers are calling the turbulent region a "supernova factory."

Astronomers, though not surprised, expressed awe at the discovery. Merging galaxies are known to be places of prolific star formation, and a few exploding stars, or supernovas, had already been detected in the region of the new discovery. What was impressive, scientists said, was what seemed to be an abundance of supernovas in one star cluster, a relatively small area by cosmic standards, and how conditions there could resemble those in the early universe.

In a report here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, researchers said that they had observed remnants of four supernovas and one newly exploded star in a region 350 light-years in diameter, which is merely part of the nucleus of one of the colliding galaxies. The new supernova was only seven light-years, a cosmic hairbreadth, from one of the other explosions.

from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 27 — Exxon Mobil has publicly softened its stance toward global warming over the last year, with a pledge of $10 million in annual donations for 10 years to Stanford University for climate research.

At the same time, the company, the world's largest oil and gas concern, has increased donations to Washington-based policy groups that, like Exxon itself, question the human role in global warming and argue that proposed government policies to limit carbon dioxide emissions associated with global warming are too heavy handed.

Exxon now gives more than $1 million a year to such organizations, which include the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, the George C. Marshall Institute, the American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The Holy Shroud (of Turin)


This name is primarily given to a relic now preserved at Turin, for which the claim is made that it is the actual "clean linen cloth" in which Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:59). This relic, though blackened by age, bears the faint but distinct impress of a human form both back and front. The cloth is about 13 1/2 feet long and 4 1/4 feet wide. If the marks we perceive were caused by human body, it is clear that the body (supine) was laid lengthwise along one half of the shroud while the other half was doubled back over the head to cover the whole front of the body from the face to the feet. The arrangement is well illustrated in the miniature of Giulio Clovio, which also gives a good representation of what was seen upon the shroud about the year 1540.

The cloth now at Turin can be clearly traced back to the Lirey in the Diocese of Troyes, where we first hear of it about the year 1360. In 1453 it was at Chambéry in Savoy, and there in 1532 it narrowly escaped being consumed by a fire which by charring the corners of the folds has left a uniform series of marks on either side of the image. Since 1578 it has remained at Turin where it is now only exposed for veneration at long intervals.

That the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is taken for granted, in various pronouncements of the Holy See cannot be disputed. An Office and Mass "de Sancta Sindone" was formerly approved by Julius II in the Bull "Romanus Pontifex" of 25 April, 1506, in the course of which the Pope speaks of "that most famous Shroud (proeclarissima sindone) in which our Savior was wrapped when he lay in the tomb and which is now honorably and devoutly preserved in a silver casket." Moreover, the same Pontiff speaks of the treaties upon the precious blood. Composed by his predecessor, Sixtus IV, in which Sixtus states that in the Shroud "men may look upon the true blood and portrait of Jesus Christ himself." A certain difficulty was caused by the existence elsewhere of other Shrouds similarly impressed with the figure of Jesus Christ and some of these cloths, notably those of Besançon, Cadouin, Champiègne, Xabregas, etc., also claimed to be the authentic linen sindon provided by Joseph of Arimathea, but until the close of the last century no great attack was made upon the genuineness of the Turin relic. In 1898 when the Shroud was solemnly exposed, permission was given to photograph it and a sensation was caused by the discovery that the image upon the linen was apparently a negative -- in other words that the photographic negative taken from this offered a more recognizable picture of a human face than the cloth itself or any positive print. In the photographic negative, the lights and the shadows were natural, in the linen or the print, they were inverted. Three years afterwards, Dr. Paul Vignon read a remarkable paper before the Académie des Sciences in which he maintained that the impression upon the Shroud was a "vaporigraph" caused by the ammoniacal emanations radiating from the surface of Christ's body after so violent a death. Such vapours, as he professed to have proved experimentally, were capable of producing a deep reddish brown stain, varying in intensity with the distance, upon a cloth impregnated with oil and aloes. The image upon the Shroud was therefore a natural negative and as such completely beyond the comprehension or the skill of any medieval forger.

Plausible as this contention appeared, a most serious historical difficulty had meanwhile been brought to light. Owing mainly to the researches of Canon Ulysse Chevalier a series of documents was discovered which clearly proved that in 1389 the Bishop of Troyes appealed to Clement VII, the Avignon Pope then recognized in France, to put a stop to the scandals connected to the Shroud preserved at Lirey. It was, the Bishop declared, the work of an artist who some years before had confessed to having painted it but it was then being exhibited by the Canons of Lirey in such a way that the populace believed that it was the authentic shroud of Jesus Christ. The pope, without absolutely prohibiting the exhibition of the Shroud, decided after full examination that in the future when it was shown to the people, the priest should declare in a loud voice that it was not the real shroud of Christ, but only a picture made to represent it. The authenticity of the documents connected with this appeal is not disputed. Moreover, the grave suspicion thus thrown upon the relic is immensely strengthened by the fact that no intelligible account, beyond wild conjecture, can be given of the previous history of the Shroud or its coming to Lirey.

An animated controversy followed and it must be admitted that though the immense preponderance of opinion among learned Catholics (see the statement by P.M. Baumgarten in the "Historiches Jarbuch", 1903, pp. 319-43) was adverse to the authenticity of the relic, still the violence of many of its assailants prejudiced their own cause. In particular the suggestion made of blundering or bad faith on the part of those who photographed were quite without excuse. From the scientific point of view, however, the difficulty of the "negative" impression on the cloth is not so serious as it seems. This Shroud like the others was probably painted without fraudulent intent to aid the dramatic setting of the Easter sequence:

Die nobis Maria, quid vidisti in via
Angelicos testes, sudarium et vestes.
As the word sudarium suggested, it was painted to represent the impression made by the sweat of Christ, i.e. probably in a yellowish tint upon unbrilliant red. This yellow stain would turn brown in the course of centuries, the darkening process being aided by the effects of fire and sun. Thus, the lights of the original picture would become the shadow of Paleotto's reproduction of the images on the shroud is printed in two colours, pale yellow and red. As for the good proportions and æsthetic effect, two things may be noted. First, that it is highly probable that the artist used a model to determine the length and position of the limbs, etc.; the representation no doubt was made exactly life size. Secondly, the impressions are only known to us in photographs so reduced, as compared with the original, that the crudenesses, aided by the softening effects of time, entirely disappear.

Lastly, the difficulty must be noticed that while the witnesses of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries speak of the image as being then so vivid that the blood seemed freshly shed, it is now darkened and hardly recognizable without minute attention. On the supposition that this is an authentic relic dating from the year A.D. 30, why should it have retained its brilliance through countless journeys and changes of climate for fifteen centuries, and then in four centuries more have become almost invisible? On the other hand if it be a fabrication of the fifteenth century this is exactly what we should expect.

Baumgarten stated in 1903 that more than 3500 articles, books, et,. Had at that time been written upon the Holy Shroud. The most important is CHEVALIER, Etude critique sur l'origine du saint suaire (Paris, 1900). Some useful details are added by MÉLY, Le saint suaire de Turin est-il authentique? (Parish, 1902). Baumgarten in Historiches Jahrbuch (Munich, 1903), 319-43, shows that the preponderance of Catholic opinion is greatly against the authenticity of the shroud. See also BRAUN in Stimmen aus Maria-Loach, LXIII (1902), 249 sqq. And 398 sqq.,; THURSTON in The Month (London, Jan. and Feb., 1903) and in Revue du clergé francais (15 Nov. and 15 Dec., 1902).

In favour of the shroud may be mentioned VIGNON, Le linceul du Christ (Paris, 1902) also in English translation; MACKEY in Dublin Review (Jan., 1903); DE JOHANNIS in Etudes (Paris, 1902 and Nov., 1910); LOTH, La photographie du s. suaire de Turin, documents nouveauz et concluants (Paris, 1910), the promise of "new and conclusive documents" is by no means justified; GARROLD in The Tablet, CXVII ( 1 and 8 April, London, 1911), Esplicatione del lenzuolo (Bologna, 1598 and 1599): MALLONIUS, Jesu Christi stigmata sacra sindoni impressa (Venice, 1606); CHIFFLET, De linteis sepulchralibus (Antwerp, 1624).

HERBERT THURSTON Transcribed by Maria de Medina Dedicated to J.C. Norris

So where is the plane?


Posted: March 11, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com

I receive a lot of strange information from a wide variety of sources. Some of it is intriguing. Some of it is flat-out weird. I try (and frequently fail) to temporarily set aside my own personal prejudices to objectively as possible consider the merits of both the intriguing and weird.

Recently, an interesting French website has been asking questions about the crash of American Airlines Flight 77, which reportedly crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

The conventional wisdom has been inculcated into us that there were four terrorist hijacked airplanes that tragic day. But there are refutations for each of the official scenarios floating around. The conspiracy theory industry hasn't been this jazzed since the JFK assassination.

However, in the shadow of the creative writing, multi-phased propaganda and bovine excrement, there are several questions that at least should be asked and answered.

The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State.
– Dr. Joseph M. Goebbels

The French website has pictures of the Pentagon from Sept. 11. I looked at the pictures shown and, frankly, (despite my visceral reluctance to buy into another conspiracy) can't answer the questions raised. Maybe our readers can? Click on the French link and let us know what you think. I have also viewed the MSNBC footage over two dozen times and I still can't see the plane. Can you?

1. The first satellite image shows the section of the building that was hit by the Boeing. In the image, the second ring of the building is also visible. It is clear that the aircraft only hit the first ring. The four interior rings remain intact. They were only fire-damaged after the initial explosion.

How can a Boeing 757-200 – weighing nearly 100 tons and traveling at a minimum speed of 250 miles an hour – only have damaged the outside of the Pentagon?

2. The next two photographs show the building just after the attack. The aircraft apparently only hit the ground floor. The four upper floors collapsed toward 10:10 am. The building is 78 feet high.

How can a plane 44.7 feet high, over 155 feet long, with a wingspan of almost 125 feet and a cockpit almost 12 feet high, crash into just the ground floor of this building?

3. Look at the photograph of the lawn in front of the damaged building.

Where is the debris? Any debris! Did it all disintegrate on contact?

4. There are photographs, which show representations of a Boeing 757-200 superimposed on the section of the building that was hit.

What happened to the wings of the aircraft? Why isn't there any wing damage?

5. One journalist asked: "Is there anything left of the aircraft at all?" At a press conference the day after the tragedy, Arlington County Fire Chief Ed Plaugher said, "First of all, the question about the aircraft, there are some small pieces of aircraft visible from the interior during this fire-fighting operation. I'm talking about, but not large sections."

The follow-up question asked, "In other words, there's no fuselage sections and that sort of thing?" Plaugher replied, "You know, I'd rather not comment on that. We have a lot of eyewitnesses that can give you better information about what actually happened with the aircraft as it approached. So we don't know. I don't know."

Wait a minute! Time after time (Oklahoma City bombing, TWA Flight 800, Flight 93 et al.) we are told not to depend on eyewitnesses?

When asked by a journalist: "Where is the jet fuel?" The chief responded, "We have what we believe is a puddle right there that the … what we believe is to be the nose of the aircraft."

Notwithstanding the collective myopia in not being able to see what we are being told, there are more questions.

One pilot wrote, "I flew the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, but not this 757 … from what I see (or don't see) looking at these pictures, it's hard to pick out aircraft parts:

The wingtip alone would have sheared off and bounced back into the street, the two engines would have penetrated deeper into the wall and framing structure further than any other part making a definite hole.

The belly of the aircraft contains, fuel tanks, baggage, mailbags, and cargo; none of this type debris can be seen.

Assuming 8,600 gallons of kerosene fuel at a specific gravity of approx 6.9 lbs/gal (temperature considered) weight of the fuel would be close to 60,000 lbs and would splatter everywhere.

Where are the seats, those with passengers buckled in would be ripped out of the floor, for that matter, where are the passengers?

I have never seen an aircraft accident where the aircraft evaporated upon impact, water, land or buildings.

If these pictures were taken within 3 days after 9-11, there would have been definite remains of parts. I don't see any.

Whatever inexplicable anomalies exist, the passengers on Flight 77 died that tragic day. Barbara Olson called her husband from Flight 77 and told him about the hijacking in progress. There was most certainly an American Airlines Flight 77 with real people on board, and families in grief.

What did happen to the plane? Where is it?

"Near-death" experience support group rallies against skeptical "ridicule"

"They walk among us, seemingly normal but somehow different, having been changed forever by indelible memories of what they believe have been visits to the afterlife. They are survivors of near-death experiences (NDEs), and though skeptics tell them it's all been nothing more than a hallucination, a trick of the dying brain, there's a place in Broward County where they can tell their strange stories of angelic beings, lost souls and the landscapes of heaven without being ridiculed. On the first Friday of every month, the South Florida chapter of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) meets in an annex of University Hospital in Tamarac to offer these survivors and other spiritual seekers a safe space to get support and inspiration..."

For entire article, go to:

Quantum Consciousness


Carver Mead summarizes his views on Electromagnetic Energy on pages 71-72 of his book Collective Electrodynamics (MIT 2000):

"... The behavior of colective electron systems is dominated by the interaction of each element with all of the others. The interaction energy scales with the square of the number of electrons. The degrees of freedom of the system can be expressed in terms of the phase of the wave function, of the four-potential, or of the circuit variables (voltage and current). These three sets of variables are projections of the same reality onto three different screens - each represents the same underlying degrees of freedom. To illustrate the power of maintaining these parallel views, we have treated a number of configurations using more than one approach. We have found that the concepts of kinetic and potential energy, and the conservation of total energy are useful in unifying these three representations. The energy-density scalar represents all the energy in the system; no additional "field energy" is required. ...

Archelological anomalies


Tuesday, May 27, 2003

A Review of "DARWIN'S BLACK BOX - the Biochemical Challenge to Evolution"


(The Free Press, New York, 1996). for Bios magazine; most of the text for this review was written in July, 1998.

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.shtml which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

In the News

Today's Headlines - May 27, 2003

from The New York Times

NASHVILLE, May 26 - New telescope observations suggest that planets may form around distant stars more rapidly than previously thought, and some of these planetary systems could be far more extensive than the Sun's, astronomers say.

The research, reported here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, showed that many huge disks of dust around young stars - leftovers of stellar formation out of which planets coalesce - appeared to dissipate within three million years of the star's formation.

The likely explanation, the researchers said, is that the dust has already collected into the dense building blocks of Earth-like solid planets, which would be undetectable with current telescopes.

If that is the case, the findings challenge the working hypothesis, based largely on studies of Jupiter in the solar system, that it takes at least 10 million years for planets to develop out of these protoplanetary disks of dust and gas. Such disks with enough mass to form planetary systems are relatively common with newborn stars.

from The New York Times

Though Mars has long intrigued humans, especially those who dream of extraterrestrial life, it has repeatedly humbled anyone rich and venturesome enough to send metallic proxies across millions of miles of space to try to learn its secrets.

The United States and Russia spent billions on a dozen or so robotic craft meant to land on the planet and radio back their findings. Only three succeeded - two Viking probes in 1976 and Mars Pathfinder in 1997.

Now comes a bold new contender. Its goal is not only to do basic science but, for the first time in a quarter-century, to look for concrete signs of extraterrestrial life, ancient or modern.

from The New York Times

Viruses and bacteria are often lumped together as germs. But when it comes to drugs to treat the illnesses they cause, the microbes are worlds apart. There are dozens upon dozens of drugs that kill bacteria, the first ones discovered in the 1920's. Although resistance by bacteria to these antibiotics is a problem, the drugs often work quickly to kill the bugs and cure the patient.

With viruses, the story is different. There are only about three dozen antiviral drugs, and half were developed only in the last 15 years to treat a single disease, AIDS. Antiviral drugs usually do not cure the disease, only slow the virus or reduce the symptoms. Scientists have never been able to cure the most ubiquitous viral disease, the common cold.

The dearth of antiviral drugs has been brought into focus by the inability to treat SARS, the newly emerging viral infection that kills perhaps as many as 20 percent of the people who contract it.

from The Chicago Tribune

Saying that black people are in danger of being left behind at the newest frontier of medical research, Howard University is planning to assemble the United States' largest repository of DNA from blacks. The samples would be used to find genes involved in diseases that have a particularly high incidence among blacks, such as hypertension and diabetes.

The plan, to be announced Tuesday by Howard officials in Washington, is to gather blood samples or cheek swabs from 25,000 people over five years, mainly patients at hospitals associated with the Howard medical school.

Dr. Floyd Malveaux, dean of the College of Medicine at Howard, said the information would increase the ability to find the causes of disease, predict susceptibility to an illness, and choose drugs that work best for a particular patient.

from The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON - In an office filled with books, specimen boxes and the aroma of mothballs, John M. Burns hunches over a well-worn microscope and focuses on the reproductive organ of a skipper butterfly.

To the naked eye, it is a speck of coffee dust. Under the microscope, it looks like a whiskered jawbone. "Much more complicated than what you or I have," the 70-year-old scientist muses. For most of his long career as a taxonomist - a scientist who catalogs and names living things - Burns has identified butterflies this way, by painstaking observation of their genitalia.

But one day last fall, Burns opened a mysterious shipment of skippers from Costa Rica. The butterflies were labeled as members of the same species, had identical genitalia and looked alike. But in the wild, the insects were behaving oddly.

To solve the mystery, Burns turned to a new investigative tool based on DNA - one of the most significant and controversial influences on taxonomy since the field was established more than 250 years ago.

SARS from outer space? Consider theory's source


May. 25, 2003. 01:00 AM


This past week, as Toronto rallied to deal with an unexpected cluster of new cases of SARS, professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University in Wales offered what sounded like an off-the-wall theory of the origin of SARS. But on closer examination, his thoughts were completely predictable.

Dr. Wickramasinghe, together with the late Sir Fred Hoyle, has argued for decades that diseases come from outer space. This is just one component of their further-reaching hypothesis that all life on Earth came from outer space, an idea called "panspermia" that dates back to the 19th century. As part of this theory, Wickramasinghe and Hoyle have argued that some epidemic diseases defy the usual mechanisms of disease transmission and can only be explained by the arrival of bugs from space.

The catastrophic influenza pandemic of 1918 is an example.

In the current issue of the British medical journal The Lancet, Wickramasinghe quotes disease historians who found the spread of that flu to be peculiar: It swept over the world in three distinct waves, the second of which was weird because the disease appeared on the same day in widely separated places but took weeks to spread from those focal points to areas within a few hundred kilometres.

Another oddity was the sudden appearance of the flu in the winter of 1918 in villages in Alaska that had been isolated for months. How, he asks, could person-to-person spread explain that pattern?

Wickramasinghe contends that the usual explanations for such anomalies involve the invention of factors like "superspreaders" — people who are unusually infectious — when there is really no evidence for them. Instead, he argues that we should look to outer space for the explanation.

Here's how that would work for SARS, a virus that is apparently new and appeared without warning in mainland China:

Earth moves through a cloud of SARS viruses floating in space; presumably millions of them (Wickramasinghe doesn't specify a number) enter the atmosphere and fall to Earth just east of the Himalayas (where he says the stratosphere is thinnest) and cause sporadic infections that lead to the epidemic.

Wickramasinghe also forecasts future mysterious SARS outbreaks caused by the delayed descent to Earth of more SARS viruses still swirling in the stratosphere.

Should this idea be taken seriously? First, as is well-known, it's impossible to prove a negative, so no one can categorically say it is impossible that viruses could come from space.

Is there any evidence that they do, beyond the unexplained features of certain diseases? Not much.

Wickramasinghe introduces his Lancet article by pointing out that a recent experiment collected living bacteria at an altitude of 41 kilometres in the stratosphere. Some of these were remarkably Earth-like, but he is convinced they came from space rather than being carried upward from Earth's surface.

When trying to evaluate extraordinary claims like this, it helps to check out the track record of those making them.

In this case, history shows that Wickramasinghe (and Hoyle, when he was alive) have been unusually eager to promote their case that Earth is bombarded by space materials and, more specifically, that life originated out there (and by extension that it couldn't have evolved here on Earth).

For instance, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe claimed in 1986 that one of the most important fossils of Archaeopteryx, the half-bird half-dinosaur fossil that is one of evolution's prizes, had been faked: that bird feathers had been pressed into wet limestone to create the illusion of a dinosaur with feathers.

It wasn't, and I'm sure Wickramasinghe has been happy to see his accusation forgotten, especially with the subsequent discovery of all kinds of feathered dinosaurs in China.

More recently, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe argued that the atmosphere is becoming "clogged" with cosmic dust that eventually will trigger another ice age, and that we should burn more fossil fuels, not less, to counteract that inevitability.

That theory, needless to say, was eagerly embraced by global-warming skeptics.

I've seen it before: scientists with clout who become so attached to a point of view that they see everything through that lens.

They complain about the establishment being close-minded ... but they never seem to admit they, too, might be wrong.

Jay Ingram hosts the Daily Planet program on the Discovery Channel.



Brief Abstract

Experiments conducted by Particle Physics Research Company (PPRC), a Los Angeles based company, has conclusively demonstrated low-temperature fusion is achievable, replicable, and sustainable over many hours by inducing specific non-equilibrium conditions in partially-deuterided metals using very low input energies. In addition to fast-neutron emissions, experiments continue to record energy yields comprising 3-MeV protons and 1-Mev tritons, considered prima facie evidence that low temperature fusion is taking place. These results have been recorded over a seven-year period using three types of highly-reliable sensitive detectors. Charged particle emissions have been detected exceeding over 400 times background rates. Repeatability of charged particle emissions exceeds 75% overall and is expected to reach consistently repeatable levels when metal samples supplied (e.g. titanium) have closely similar properties and great care is taken to ensure identical innovative processes are carefully implemented. Overall data strongly suggest low-level nuclear fusion in deuterided metals under innovative conditions according to the fusion reactions d + d -> n(2.45 MeV) + 3He(0.82 MeV) and d + d -> p(3.02 MeV) + t(1.01 Mev). PPRC is therefore confident it has invented the trigger for initiating nuclear fusion such that greatly increased yields suitable for many commercial applications will ensue. Although certain specifics of the experiments are yet proprietary, many details leading to the fusion interactions are included with illustrations. The technical procedures will also be included in this web site when PPRC's journal article is published, expected by mid-2003.

Though arduous developments lie ahead, the ultimate goals for fusion energy are

To meet rising energy demands. Reduce dependence on oil reserves. Diminish the need for internal-combustion engines in favor of electrical vehicles. Reduce sources of greenhouse gas effects and atmospheric pollution.

Hopefully these tasks may now get underway.

Company History

In 1985, while conducting research in an entirely independent area of theoretical physics, pair-production of sub-atomic particles, Frank Keeney became aware of what appeared to him heretofore overlooked electromagnetic field attributes of particles making up what is termed the Standard Model. It wasn't until 1988 that it became apparent the particle field attributes uncovered might result in energy innovations. Later, recognizing the possibility the findings might enhance fusion energy, he conducted experiments set up in a rudimen-tary laboratory in Los Angeles. Upon achieving modest success in neutron emissions, Keeney contracted Dr. Steven E. Jones, Professor of Physics at Brigham Young University, to assist with this work. Jones was selected on the basis of his 14 years of experience in fusion research at Brigham Young University and muon-catylized fusion at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Jones also had access to sensitive neutron and charged-particle detectors located in two underground laboratories at the university.

Jesus Christ's Tomb and Crucifixion Site Rediscovered


The garden tomb has long been suspected as the burial site for Jesus Christ for some time, but recently, from discoveries surrounding the re-discovery of the crucifixion site, the Ark of the Covenant and the tomb stone itself, we can conclusively say that the Garden Tomb WAS the burial site for Jesus. For as the Bible says, "He is not here. For He is Risen!"

The tomb stone for the Garden Tomb was found in a first century A.D. building surrounding the crucifixion site several hundred feet away. It is 13 feet, 2 inches in diameter and around 2 feet thick. Dimensionally, it fits perfectly into the trough in front of the tomb, and also fits the exact spacing between two iron pegs designed to hold the stone in place (see sketch below). The stone was held in place with a rope or iron chain being fastened to two iron pegs driven into the stone face. It is the largest known tombstone yet discovered and MUCH larger than that covering King Herod's tomb which was 5 1/2 feet in diameter. So when the Bible says a "great stone," it means exactly that.

The angel upon forcefully rolling away the stone, sheared the iron pegs holding the stone in place. The photo on the right shows the sheared off stub still left in its hole.

This show of strength was hardly the act of timid disciples in stealing a body in front of a cohort of Roman soldiers as some allege.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Argentina Skeptics

Visit the Argentina Skeptics website at

Founded on March 21, 2002, Argentina Skeptics (AS) is an educational non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote scientific skepticism and critical thinking.

Our main activities are:

To examine paranormal and pseudoscientific claims from a critical, rational and scientific perspective. Particular topics of interest include alien abductions, alternative therapies, astrology, conspiracy theories, creationism, crop circles, parapsychology, UFOs and aliens, urban legends, etc.

To hold periodic discussion meetings on issues relevant to skepticism (contact for further details).

To participate in the annual celebration of Darwin Day by organizing an event or activity in our area on or around February 12, the birth date of Charles Darwin.

To distribute literature and to provide information on the Internet.

To publish the quarterly Argentina Skeptics Newsletter, an online publication in Spanish.

AS does not reject claims on a priori grounds.

AS is totally independent and self-funded.

Juan De Gennaro, Director

Firefighters File Lawsuit Over Chaplains in Their Ranks


The New York Times
May 26, 2003

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., May 23 - While there may be no atheists in foxholes, it seems there are at least some agnostics in firefighting trenches.

Six California firefighters have gone to federal court seeking an end to the chaplain's corps of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, saying it impermissibly mingles church and state.

Seattle hotel is landing site for UFO conference


Saturday, May 24, 2003


The white tablecloths were laid across the tables. The 6-foot tall goat sucker -- a Chupacabra -- silently greeted entrants into the dining room. And the emcee for the evening, a foot surgeon from California with a side practice in removing devices tucked inside alien abductees, had recently arrived.

Everything was slowly falling into place yesterday afternoon as the third annual Northwest UFO and Paranormal Conference got under way. Experts and dilettantes versed in subjects as diverse as crop circles, run-ins with UFOs in Brazil and cryptozoology -- the study of hidden animals -- gathered in the Radisson Hotel, where they'll hold lectures and workshops through Monday.

Philip Lipson, one of the organizers with the Seattle UFO/Paranormal group said about 50 people had registered for the conference. He expected many more to drop in.

The invitees covered the paranormal gamut. But what is it that ties Bigfoot to, say, Native American medicine and extraterrestrials?

"Exactly," said one of the attendees, Patricia Johnson-Holm of Seattle. "Some of them don't on purpose. Some of the speakers are the wrong speakers on purpose."

Punctuating her sentences with raised eyebrows and knowing glances, Johnson-Holm rattled off dates and numbers. She touched on the link between a specific Bible verse and Feb. 1, 2003, the day the space shuttle Columbia exploded. Much of this, she explained, would have been understood by examining a crop circle in the United Kingdom.

"They all fit together in ways you never expect," she said.

The emcee, Roger Leir, said that he's extracted alien implants from 10 patients. He's even written a book about his experiences, "The Aliens and The Scalpel."

At first, he said, he thought alien abductions were "absolute nonsense." Then he met patients with foreign objects inside them without any scars. "The last object I removed, I touched it and it moved out of the way," he said. "That was kind of creepy even for me."

Outside, workshop presenter Red Elk and Lorene King sat in the shade smoking cigarettes.

"What's this?" King said, alarmed and holding her cell phone. "Look at this. It's the craziest thing I'd ever seen."

Red Elk looked at the phone's face, pronounced himself bewildered and passed it back. He told King she ought to have one of the experts inside take a look at it.

She thought the screen was written in some sort of code, which an observer recognized as one of the normal symbols that appear on a cell phone screen. "Don't erase it," she said.

Red Elk then explained how someone once sent him a batch of papyrus leaves covered in obscure letters.

"It was a copy of the Bible before the last Earth flipped," he said.

"The last what?" King asked.

"The last Earth flip."

P-I reporter Matthew Craft can be reached at 206-448-8003 or matthewcraft@seattlepi.com

Positive factors found in prostate cancer study


Three Positive Factors Found in Prostate Cancer Study. A recent study has come up with three lifestyle factors that may be an aid in preventing prostate cancer and in predicting whether or not prostate cancer will recur in patients who have been treated.

Based on a large study of prostate cancer patients, researchers found that maintaining a normal body mass index, frequent physical activity and screening before diagnosis appear to be important.

The researchers, from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, used standard clinical criteria for predicting the risk of treatment failure in patients treated for localized prostate cancer (cancer that is confined within the prostate) to assign the patients to different groups according to the likelihood that their cancer would progress.

These criteria included pre-treatment PSA levels and biopsy Gleason scores (a score assigned by a pathologist to determine the aggressiveness of the cancer) and clinical T stage (the size of the tumor).

A total of 1,117 patients with localized prostate cancer were recruited over a six-year period and surveyed on their lifestyle. These answers were then matched to their risk of progression.

The researchers found that patients with a high-risk of progression were significantly more likely to be obese, to exercise less than twice a week, and not to have had prior annual prostate cancer screenings.

Those with the lowest risk kept their body weight down, exercised regularly and had routine screenings.

"What we are finding has positive implications for prostate cancer prevention," says the lead author, Mfon Cyrus-David, M. D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology.

"It appears to be important that men maintain a low body mass index, exercise to the point of sweating at least two times a week, and be screened regularly for prostate cancer."

(To calculate your body mass index, click here. However, if you're under 18, a pregnant or nursing women, a frail and sedentary elderly person, or a competitive athlete or body builder, you should consult your physician about weight concerns. )

Although researchers say their conclusions are preliminary, and that their findings need further validation with a follow-up study, the study is among the first to attempt to quantify the predictive risk that lifestyle factors have on whether or not prostate cancer will recur in patients who have been treated.

April 23, 2003

Medi-bonk: the sex cheat Doc

Herald-Sun, Victoria
By KEITH MOOR, Insight editor




A DODGY Collins St herbal doctor is providing fake medical receipts so clients can claim sex on Medibank and HBA.

[Note - This end of Collins St is the tony end of town - Melbourne's Harley St (assuming Harley St still has the cachet it once had)].

The doctor runs an illegal brothel near State Parliament and just 40m from the Melbourne Club's front door.

[Melbourne Club - don't even think of applying unless you're male and old-old-money]

Chinese-born Dr Abbie Li is also supplying herbal medicines but calling it acupuncture so customers can get fraudulent insurance refunds from their health funds.

Dr Li, who has been running Forever Young at 24-28 Collins St since June 2001, gives patrons receipts containing item numbers recognised by health insurers as legitimate claimable services.

But the Herald Sun has discovered some of the services she provides are not the sorts of things health funds knowingly pay out on.

It has also seen documents that name many of Dr Li's clients. These documents list the amounts received and the item numbers provided so customers can get full or partial refunds from their health funds.

They reveal that almost every receipt provided by Dr Li is for either acupuncture or remedial massages - claimable from health funds - while very few are for the supply of the herbal medicines she claims to specialise in.

Herbal medicines are not claimable on health insurance.

A Herald Sun investigation has discovered other Chinese herbal medicine practitioners are also rorting the system, claiming to have provided claimable services while providing services health funds do not pay out on.

Dr Wendy Yuan at the Chinese Medical Centre Specialist Clinic, which has premises at 508 Kooyong Rd, South Caulfield, and at 12 Collins St in the city, last week sold the Herald Sun three bags of loose herbs to treat a neck rash.

She provided a receipt for $50, which fraudulently stated that acupuncture had been provided and enabled the consultation to be claimed on insurance.

The Herald Sun later confronted Dr Yuan, who works at the Collins St clinic, with evidence of the fraudulent receipt. "I am sorry. If you can return this receipt for me, then next time I give her acupuncture," Dr Yuan said.

The Australian Health Insurance Association fears other alternative medicine providers may also be issuing fraudulent receipts so customers can claim services not covered by health funds. It launched an immediate investigation into how widespread the scam might be.

The Herald Sun bought Chinese herbal medicines from Dr Li and was given a receipt saying the $85 handed over was for acupuncture. It also arranged for a member of the legal brothel industry to visit Dr Li's Collins St suites.

She provided him with a sexual service and gave him a receipt for an $80 remedial massage - the full cost of which is refundable by some health insurance funds, including Medibank Private.

Dr Li, 44, advertises in newspapers that Linda and Suzanne also offer Thai and Swedish massages from her Collins St premises, where she trades under the names Forever Young and Chinese Natural Therapy.

Confronted by the Herald Sun, Dr Li admitted providing sexual services and fake receipts. She promised not to do it again if the Herald Sun agreed to keep her name out of the newspaper.

Dr Li said she was willing to pay "any penalty" to prevent being exposed. "I am sorry for doing it. Give me one last chance," she said.

The Herald Sun has provided Australian Health Insurance Association chief executive Russell Schneider with copies of various documents detailing Dr Li's operation and an affidavit outlining its experiences with Dr Yuan.

"I will be forwarding the information provided by the Herald Sun to all health funds, and Victoria Police, for urgent investigation and action as necessary," Mr Schneider said.

"Writing receipts which say a claimable service has been given when no such service has been provided is a fraud. "Knowingly claiming for a false service is equally fraudulent.

"In such cases both providers and their customers can be guilty of a serious offence. Funds, their contributors and the police would be very concerned if that is what has happened in this case. The overwhelming majority of providers are decent honest people, and I do not believe there would be widespread activity of the kind alleged".

"I will be advising all funds of these alleged activities and suggesting they take appropriate action to ensure such practices - if they exist in Melbourne or anywhere in Australia - cease."

Dr Li and Dr Yuan (under the name Xiao Wen Yuan) are both registered by the Chinese Medicine Registration Board of Victoria, so their receipts are recognised and paid out on by health funds. But Dr Li doesn't have a brothel licence and nor does she have a Melbourne City Council planning permit to provide sexual services.

The Australian Adult Entertainment Industry, which represents the owners of legal brothels and escort agencies, will give Melbourne City Council a statutory declaration outlining the sexual services Dr Li provided one of its members.

An AAEI spokesman said there was no effective policing of illegal prostitution. "Police say illegal prostitution breaches planning law and they insist local councils do the prosecuting," the spokesman said.

"Councils have never prosecuted a single operator of an illegal brothel, perhaps because Victoria Police does not have one single officer dedicated to vice. We estimate there are about 400 illegal brothels in Victoria, many disguised as massage parlours."

The AAEI spokesman said the State Government should ensure illegal prostitution was properly policed.

(c) Herald and Weekly Times

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