NTS LogoSkeptical News for 5 July 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, July 05, 2003

When Worlds Collide: Mangled Worlds Quantum Mechanics


by Robin Hanson, March 21, 2003.

This variation on the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics allows us to derive the Born probability rule via finite world counting and no new physics.
One of the deepest questions in physics is this: what exactly happens during a quantum measurement? Under the traditional (or "Copenhagen") view, quantum mechanics tells you how to calculate the probabilities of different measurement outcomes. You are to create a wave that describes your initial situation, and then have your wave evolve in time according to a certain linear deterministic rule until the time of a measurement. The equation that describes this rule is very much like the equations that govern the spread of waves over water, or of sound waves in the air.

At the time of a measuremment you are to use the "Born rule" to convert your wave into probabilities of seeing different outcomes. This rule says to break your wave into compoments corresponding to each measurement outcome, and that the probability of each outcome is the measure (or size) of the corresponding component. After a measurement, you can again continue to evolve your wave via the linear deterministic rule, starting with the wave component corresponding to the outcome that was seen.

The problem is, this procedure seems to say that during quantum measurements physical systems evolve according to a fundamentally different process. If, during a quantum measurement, you applied the usual wave propogation rule, instead of the Born probability rule, you would get a different answer. Now for generations students have been told not to worry about this, that the quantum wave doesn't describe what is really out there, but only what we know about what is out there. But when students ask what is really out there, they are told either that is one of the great mysteries of physics, or that such questions just do not make sense.

The many worlds view of quantum mechanics tried to resolve this by postulating that the apparent Born rule evolution can really be understood as the usual linear rule in disguise. The main idea was that under the linear rule the wave component corresponding to a particular outcome becomes decoupled from the components corresponding to the other outcomes, making its future evolution independent of those other outcomes. We might thus postulate that all of the measurement outcomes actually happen, but each happens in a different independent branch "world," split from the original pre-measurement world.

If this view is correct, the universe is far larger than you may have thought possible, and you will have to come to terms with having no obvious answer to the question of which future world "you" would live in after some future measurement. (All of them will contain a creature very much like you now.) But these are not strong reasons to reject the many worlds view.

The big problem with the many worlds view is that no one has really shown how the usual linear rule in disguise can reproduce Born probability rule evolution. After a world splits a finite number of times into a large but finite number of branch worlds, the vast majority of those worlds will not have seen frequencies of outcomes near that given by the Born rule, but will instead have seen frequencies near an equal probability rule. If the probability of an outcome is the fraction of worlds that see an outcome, then the many worlds view seems to predict equal probabilities, not Born probabilities.

Hugh Everett, who originally introduced the many worlds view, tried to resolve this by noting that worlds that see Born rule frequencies have much larger measures that most worlds, and then declaring that worlds whose relative measure goes to zero in the limit of an infinity of measurements do not count. But we do not see an infinity of measurements. Others have tried to resolve this problem by postulating new non-linear processes, or an infinity of worlds per quantum state, that diverge for some unknown reason according to the Born rule. Others have tried to introduce new decision theory axioms that say that we do not care how many worlds see an outcome.

The mangled worlds approach to quantum mechanics is a variation on many worlds that tries to resolve the Born rule problem by resorting only to familiar decision theory, familiar physical processes, and a finite number of worlds. The basic idea is that while we have identified physical "decoherence" processes that seem to describe measurements, since they produce decoupled wave components corresponding to different measurement outcomes, these components are in fact not exactly decoupled. And while the deviations from exact decoherence might be very small, the relative size of worlds can be even smaller.

As a result, inexact decoherence can allow large worlds to drive the evolution of very small worlds, "mangling" those worlds. Observers in mangled worlds may fail to exist, or may remember events from larger worlds. In either case, the only outcome frequencies that would be observed would be those from unmangled worlds. Thus worlds below a certain size cutoff would be mangled, and not count when calculating probabilities as the fraction of worlds that see an outcome.

This mangling process allows us to ignore the smaller worlds, but this by itself is not enough to produce the Born probability rule. To get that we also need the cutoff in size between mangled and unmangled worlds to be in the right place. Specifically, we need the cutoff to be near (i.e., within a few hundred standard deviations of) the median measure world size, i.e., the world size where half of all the measure held by all worlds is in worlds larger that this size, and half is in worlds smaller than this size. (This median measure world size is far larger than the size of the median world.)

Now since it is actually the measure of some worlds that allows them to mangle other worlds, it is not crazy to expect a cutoff near this position. But we will have to see if further theoretical analysis of familiar quantum systems supports this conjecture. Fortunately, the mangled worlds view can in principle be verified or refuted entirely via theoretical analysis, by seeing if theory predicts that familiar quantum systems evolving according to the usual linear rule behave as the mangled worlds view predicts.

To square the mangled worlds view with what we see, we also need to conjecture that world mangling is largely a sudden process, and that if it is reversible it rarely leaves a trace in historical records. After all, we do not observe our world as partially mangled, or see historical records of a mangling period in our past. Finally, since the mangled worlds view predicts that worlds with a low rate of decoherence events will be selected, we must also conjecture that our world's rate of such events is nearly as low as possible.

These predictions may well turn out to be false, and we may need to resolve the Born rule puzzle via new fundamental physics, or a new decision theory. But for now, at least, the hope remains that it can be resolved using only familiar physical processes and decision theory.

Two academic papers on this topic are:

Robin Hanson, When Worlds Collide: Quantum Probability From Observer Selection?. Foundations of Physics 33(7), July 2003.

In Everett's many worlds interpretation, quantum measurements are considered to be decoherence events. If so, then inexact decoherence may allow large worlds to mangle the memory of observers in small worlds, creating a cutoff in observable world size. Smaller world are mangled and so not observed. If this cutoff is much closer to the median measure size than to the median world size, the distribution of outcomes seen in unmangled worlds follows the Born rule. Thus deviations from exact decoherence may allow the Born rule to be derived via world counting, with a finite number of worlds and no new fundamental physics.
Robin Hanson, Drift-Diffusion in Mangled Worlds Quantum Mechanics.
In Everett's many worlds interpretation, where quantum measurements are seen as decoherence events, inexact decoherence may allow large worlds to mangle the memories of observers in small worlds, creating a cutoff in observable world size. This paper solves a growth-drift-diffusion-absorption model of such a mangled worlds scenario. Closed form expressions show that this model reproduces the Born probability rule closely, though not exactly. Thus deviations from exact decoherence can allow the Born rule to be derived in a many worlds approach via world counting, using a finite number of worlds and no new fundamental physics.

Court Orders Removal of Monument to Ten Commandments

July 2, 2003

A federal appeals court ordered the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court yesterday to remove a monument engraved with the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of his courthouse.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, concluded that the monument violates the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion.

The court was also unusually blunt in responding to the assertion by Chief Justice Roy S. Moore in court papers in the case that he does not recognize the authority of the federal court in this matter.

The appeals court compared Chief Justice Moore to "those Southern governors who attempted to defy federal court orders during an earlier era," likening him to such state's rights proponents of segregation as Govs. George C. Wallace of Alabama and Ross Barnett of Mississippi.

In the 1950's and 1960's, federal courts ordered them and other Southern officials not to interfere with school desegregation and protest marches.

"Any notion of high government officials being above the law did not save those governors from having to obey federal court orders," Judge Ed Carnes wrote for the appeals court, "and it will not save this chief justice from having to comply with the court order in this case."

The appeals court did not set a timetable for the removal of the monument. Chief Justice Moore's lawyer, Herbert W. Titus, said the case was not over.

"We're not giving up," Mr. Titus said. "We are going to file a petition for review in the United States Supreme Court."

Mr. Titus declined to say whether Chief Justice Moore would comply with the order to remove the monument if the Supreme Court declines to hear the case or affirms the order.

"We're not making predictions or forecasts," Mr. Titus said, adding that the chief justice "believes that what he is doing is not only constitutional but required by his oath of office."

The appeals court's decision was unanimous, but Chief Judge J. L. Edmondson concurred only in the result, not the decision's reasoning. He did not explain why. Richard W. Story, a visiting district court judge from Atlanta, was the third member of the panel.

The 5,280-pound granite monument setting out the Ten Commandments was erected in August 2001 as the centerpiece of the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building, which houses several state courts, the state's law library and the court system's administrative office.

Three lawyers who found the monument offensive sued to have it removed. In November, Judge Myron H. Thompson of Federal District Court in Montgomery ruled in their favor.

One of the plaintiffs, Stephen R. Glassroth, a criminal defense lawyer in Montgomery, called yesterday's decision a vindication.

Chief Justice Moore has been closely associated with the Ten Commandments through his career on the Alabama bench. He hung a hand-carved plaque depicting the commandments in his courtroom when he was a circuit court judge in Gadsden, generating controversy and lawsuits. In 2000, he successfully campaigned for chief justice as the "Ten Commandments judge."

The appeals court noted that the excerpts from Exodus chiseled into the tablets are a Protestant version of the commandments.

"Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox faiths use different parts of their holy texts as the authoritative Ten Commandments," the court said. "The point is that choosing which version of the Ten Commandments to display can have religious endorsement implications."

The appeals court made clear that it will not brook disobedience from Chief Justice Moore if its order is upheld. "We do expect that if he is unable to have the district court's order overturned through the usual appellate processes," Judge Carnes wrote, "when the time comes Chief Justice Moore will obey that order. If necessary, the court order will be enforced. The rule of law will prevail."


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Herzog's epic quest for camera shy Nessie


THE legend is about to take on the monster. Eccentric German film-maker Werner Herzog will shortly arrive in Scotland to pursue one of the world's most elusive creatures.

Herzog, widely regarded as one of the greatest film-makers alive because of his painstaking attention to detail, has become fascinated by the myth of the Loch Ness monster.

He now intends to make the definitive documentary on Nessie for cinema release around the world. Friends say he has been obsessively collecting research material in advance of his trip to the Highlands next month.

The Enigma of Loch Ness seems certain to be unlike any previous documentary on the subject. Herzog has often blurred the lines between drama and documentary, most notably in his epic Fitzcarraldo, for which he employed 500 Indians to haul a steamship up a mountain from one part of a drought-stricken Amazonian river to another, and which spawned a memorable documentary about the film's creation. Many of his dramas have been true stories, while his documentaries have included dramatic re-enactments.

This one will be no exception. Herzog, 60, intends to investigate the origins of the legend and take to the water himself to see what he might find. He has also ordered the building of the back end of a sunken boat for one sequence, and may require extras for dramatic sequences.

In an exclusive interview with Scotland on Sunday, Herzog said: "It's more than just the Loch Ness Monster. I'm just fascinated about some other Scottish things. It should also include landscapes, like the island of Skye and the Old Man of Storr. It's not so much the so-called monster that's important in this, it's more the question why is it that we need a monster."

Asked what 'angle' he will take on Nessie, Herzog replied: "It's too early to say. There's something about Scottish culture and Celtic culture that plays a part in all this.

"I believe some of the megalithic monuments in Scotland are of great importance. We will be looking at prehistoric things, landscapes, real people, whom I like."

He will not, however, be doing a mock-up of the monster and says it will only appear in his film if he comes across the real thing.

"It would be wonderful if I found it and got it on film. I wouldn't have to work in my life any more. Even better than getting it on film would be capturing it and having it as an exhibit at San Diego Sea World and charge a 50 bucks entrance fee."

Herzog has visited Scotland several times before, but not for about 10 years. He has come to Scotland in the past for tranquillity and inspiration, when writing, and first came as a teenager. "I was about 17 or 18. I ran away from school, lived in Manchester, grabbed a car and drove north. I grew up in the mountains of Bavaria. Scotland is very close. I feel at home there."

He has collected various Scottish items such as music, poetry - particularly Burns - and "landscapes that I carry in my heart".

He added: "I really love certain parts of Scotland. The area between Inverness and Ullapool is incredible, and some of the Hebrides.

"I just love these places, and best of all are the people. I'm just after real stout Scotsmen. Maybe I'm going to roam about and go to some Highland Games - even though I have no idea what the connection is with the Loch Ness Monster."

Herzog's apparent vagueness on his subject matter makes it likely an air of mystery will surround the film until its premiere - probably some time next year.

To muddy waters further, there is going to be a second documentary shooting simultaneously. It is called Herzog in Wonderland and will be a film about Herzog making his film.

Trish Shorthouse of the Scottish Highlands and Islands Film Commission, said: "I get the impression that some of the crew aren't even sure what is going to happen. This is very much Herzog's baby."

Local businesses are already looking forward to the boost to business that Herzog will bring both during and after film production.

"It's probably one of the most important events that's happened in the Scottish film industry for a long time as far as world-recognised names go," said Willie Cameron of Loch Ness Marketing, a locations and film facilities company involved in the project.

"The last time must have been Mel Gibson coming to make Braveheart."

The film could also lift a tourist industry struggling in the wake of recent international events. "It would certainly drum up business," said Ray Bernardi, of the Original Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre at Drumnadrochit. "It's been very quiet this year, probably the worst I've known it."

Documentary film-makers have been in pursuit of Nessie ever since the first recorded sighting in 1932. All have failed to find proof of the monster's existence.

Nessie even failed to bow to Hollywood, declining to put in an appearance for the 1995 film Loch Ness, starring the American actor Ted Danson and Joely Richardson, which sank without trace at the box office.

Naturalist Adrian Shine says there have been dozens of documentaries since he began work at Loch Ness in the late 1970s, with satellite and cable channels leading to an increase in recent years.

Inevitably, many end up going over the same material, "But Herzog will bring a fresh perspective to the subject," Shine said. "At least that's what I'm hoping."


The legend of Nessie has obsessed amateur and professional photographers and film-makers for decades. Miles of film and thousands of pictures have been taken in countless unsuccessful attempts to catch conclusive evidence of the monster in the deep, chilly waters of Loch Ness. Now the elusive creature may have met its match, in the shape of one of the world's most celebrated film directors.

This article:


Loch Ness:



Loch Ness Exhibition Centre

Werner Herzog Filming The Enigma of Loch Ness Source: Variety Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Two documentary crews will converge in the Scottish Highlands this month when German filmmaker Werner Herzog begins shooting his next feature, The Enigma of Loch Ness.

Herzog's film will examine the mystery of Nessie, the sea monster reported to inhabit the Scottish lake.

Screenwriter Zak Penn (Behind Enemy Lines) has secured the financing and will produce "Enigma" through his company, Zak Penn's Company.


RELEASE DATE: July 2, 2002

PA NUMBER: PA-02-124

EXPIRATION DATE: July 15, 2005, unless reissued.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)


o Purpose of the PA
o Research Objectives
o Mechanism(s) of Support
o Eligible Institutions
o Individuals Eligible to Become Principal Investigators
o Where to Send Inquiries
o Submitting an Application
o Peer Review Process
o Review Criteria
o Award Criteria
o Required Federal Citations


The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) invites research grant applications to help stimulate the amount and elevate the quality of basic, mechanistic, and preclinical research in all domains of CAM in order to provide a stronger foundation for ongoing and planned clinical studies. The NCCAM desires to encourage the most rigorous CAM and conventional researchers to focus on the opportunities in CAM research, and to employ the most current and emerging technologies to strengthen the biomedical research knowledge bases needed to elevate clinical practice. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) share programmatic interests in some areas of CAM research with the NCCAM. The NCCAM, NCI, NIGMS, and NIMH areas of interest are described under INQUIRIES.


The NCCAM is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of exacting science. The NCCAM desires to encourage the most rigorous CAM and conventional researchers to focus on the opportunities in CAM research, and to employ the most current and emerging technologies. Chemists, physicists, psychologists, neuroscientists, endocrinologists, immunologists, geneticists, pharmacologists, and others in relevant fields of inquiry who are interested in applying their expertise and powerful contemporary technologies to help advance the science of CAM are encouraged to apply.

In order to strengthen the biomedical research knowledge bases needed to inform CAM clinical practice, more basic, mechanistic, and preclinical research is needed across the broad spectrum of biomedical science underlying CAM practices. These practices may be grouped in five major domains: alternative medical systems; mind-body interventions; biologically based treatments; manipulative and body-based methods; and energy therapies, with some overlap across categories (NCCAM's Five-Year Strategic Plan can be accessed at http://nccam.nih.gov/about/plans/healthdisparities/appendices.htm ;see especially Appendix I). The individual systems and treatments within each category of CAM are numerous, so the following examples are presented to demonstrate the broad range of research contemplated by this initiative, and are not meant to be exclusive:

---Immunomodulatory mechanisms underlying CAM therapeutics, such as basic and animal model studies aimed at determining whether and what changes are induced in immune response pathways by CAM therapeutics, and whether any such changes might be relevant to resolving a disorder or preventing one

---Neurophysiological, neuroendocrinological, and biochemical pathways in massage therapy, including studies utilizing animal models, and instrumentation-based approaches including imaging

---Mechanistic studies of biologically-based treatments, herbs, nutritional supplements, or natural products for enhancing cognitive function in brain disorders

---Chemical and physical reactions during the dilution process and the principles of biophysics associated with homeopathy, for example, studies using detailed and sensitive physical measurements of water to determine whether it is altered in any measurable and reproducible way by the process of ultrahigh dilution employed in the preparation of some homeopathic remedies

---Mechanisms underlying the biochemical and/or neurophysiological causes of spinal dysfunction, and investigations of the therapeutic pathways being impacted by manual therapies such as spinal manipulation and mobilization as performed in chiropractic or osteopathic practices

---Studies on the rationales for the use of complex products from a single plant species and studies to evaluate the mechanisms of action and to help establish the biomedical bases for the belief in the therapeutic efficacy of using multiple plant species simultaneously

---Basic biological mechanisms and processes underlying acupuncture, including investigations using animal models, and studies employing imaging

---Identification and properties of the energies underlying therapies such as Qi gong, Reiki, distant healing, acupuncture, and other therapeutic modalities involving bioenergies, especially new biophysical approaches involving instrumentation

---Mechanisms of action of Saw Palmetto, PC-SPES, Pygeum africanum and other complex botanicals on the male reproductive tract; and of black cohosh, red clover, and other complex botanicals on the female tract: The studies are expected to focus on the cellular, molecular, endocrinological and metabolic changes induced in vitro, in animal models, and inhuman subjects treated with these botanicals

---Interactions between CAM and conventional therapeutic modalities, including but not limited to those of complex botanicals with pharmaceutical drugs


This initiative is designed to focus the attention and efforts of CAM and conventional researchers towards more basic, mechanistic, and preclinical research on CAM.


This PA will use the NIH R01, R21 and R15 award mechanisms. As an applicant, you will be solely responsible for planning, directing, and executing the proposed project. The total project period for an application submitted in response to this PA may not exceed 5 years for R01, 2 years for R21, or 3 years for R15 grants. The guidelines for R21 applications may differ between NIH Institutes and Centers. The URLs listed below provide guidance for the participating Institutes' R21 programs.

NCCAM: http://nccam.nih.gov/research/instructions/r21/index.htm

NCI: http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/extra/pa/mechanism/r21.htm

NIGMS: http://www.nigms.nih.gov/funding/grntmech.html#explor

NIMH: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-00-073.html

Friday, July 04, 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 - July 3, 2003

from The Washington Post

Scientists in Chicago have for the first time made human embryos that are part male and part female, raising ethics questions and prompting calls for more oversight of the rapidly evolving field of human embryo manipulation.

The experiments, described at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Madrid, proposed to answer basic questions about human embryo development and to foster therapies for congenital diseases.

The hybrid embryos were destroyed after six days, when they had grown to a few hundred cells organized into a microscopic, mixed-gender ball, according to a written synopsis of the work submitted by the research leader, Norbert Gleicher of the Center for Human Reproduction.

from The New York Times

LONDON, July 2 — The European Parliament approved legislation today to require strict labels for food and feed made with genetically altered ingredients, a move that was hailed by environmentalists but pilloried by American farmers.

Intended to better inform wary European consumers, the legislation would require supermarkets to label all food containing more than 0.9 percent of a genetically modified organism. So, for example, a cookie made with genetically modified corn oil would carry a label that states: "This product contains a genetically modified organism."

The legislation also ensures that genetically modified (or G.M., as they are called here) foodstuffs like grains will be traced from the moment of their inception to their arrival in the European Union through the processing stage and into the supermarket.

from The Los Angeles Times

Two new studies published today confirm earlier findings that high-dose chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant is not an effective way to treat breast cancer.

While the Dutch and American studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a longer time until relapse associated with the controversial treatment in selected women, they did not find an overall increase in survival.

The expensive and debilitating procedure was popular among women in the 1990s, but fell into disuse following several 1999 reports showing no benefit.

"For all of the hassle associated with the treatment, we are not getting a lot of bang for the buck," said Dr. Derek Raghavan of USC.

from The Associated Press

Scientists have identified a microbe that gobbles up toxic waste deep underground, offering a potential way to clean up a particularly nasty chemical that has contaminated the water underneath hundreds of the nation's industrial and military sites.

Microbiologist Frank Loeffler said the bacterium, known as BAV1, was found in soil samples 20 feet down at a hazardous waste site in Oscoda, Mich. BAV1 flourishes in the packed earth where there is no oxygen, feeding off certain toxic compounds, he said.

Other microbes that eat toxic waste have been discovered over the years and are used in some limited fashion to clean up contaminated sites. However, this is the first one found that thrives on vinyl chloride underground.

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Pulsars are the fastest spinning stars in the universe -- rotating at hundreds of revolutions per second -- and they could go twice as fast before flying apart. A new study by NASA suggests that these exotic stars are held together by gravitational radiation that puts on the brakes.

Observations by NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer of 11 pulsars found that there seems to be a natural limit on how fast the strange stars can spin, astronomers said Wednesday at a news conference.

"The fastest-spinning pulsars could technically go twice as fast, but something stops them before they break apart," said Deepto Chakrabarty, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronomer and the lead author of a study appearing in the journal Nature.

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Trafford Centre backs down after witchdoctor threat


A Manchester shopping centre has agreed to release an African craft shop from its lease after it was threatened with a naked witch doctor.

The Trafford Centre agreed to release the Masai Mara shop 10 years before the end of its lease.

Arrangements had been made to fly a Kenyan tribesman into Manchester so he could put a spell on the shopping mall.

He had planned to undress before Trafford Centre managers to show them he had "nothing to hide" and would then have required managers to do the same.

Trafford Centre management insisted the decision to terminate the shop's lease was made after another retailer was lined up to take up the unit, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Masai Mara managing director Albert Jackson, said: "Out of the absolute blue, the Trafford Centre came back to us and said they would accept our surrender of the lease.

"Obviously, I'm absolutely delighted, although I would have liked to see what the Trafford Centre managers had to hide in front of the witch-doctor!"

Mr Jackson said business had been poor and a rent increase in August would have added to the problems.

Steve Bunce, Trafford Centre director of operations, said: "We have accepted the surrender of Mr Jackson's lease as we have been able to re-let the unit."

Setting of Ancient Gilgamesh Legend Found?


By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

May 6, 2003 — The setting of the world's first great work of literature lies buried beneath the Iraqi desert, according to German archaeologists.

The ancient city of Uruk, commemorated in the epic poem of Gilgamesh, has come to light thanks to digital mapping technology, Jörg Fassbinder, of the Bavarian department of Historical Monuments in Munich, announced.

Walking back and forth over the desert with a hand-held 17-kilo (38-pound) magnetometer, scientists detected buried structures by measuring differences of magnetization in the soil.

"It is like an X-ray in medicine. Structures of about 0.5-1 meter depth are traced very sharply, while deeper structures appear more diffuse the deeper they are," Fassbinder told Discovery News.

The magnetogram detailed buried walls, gardens, palaces, houses and a surprising network of canals that would have made Uruk a kind of "Venice in the desert."

It also pinpointed a structure in the middle of the former Euphrates river "which could be interpreted as the grave of King Gilgamesh," according to Fassbinder.

The Gilgamesh epic, a work written on clay tablets about 2000 B.C. — which makes it one of the oldest books in history — tells the tale of a early third-millennium B.C. Sumerian king in search of the secret of everlasting life.

The epic, which includes an account of a huge flood, similar to the story of Noah in the Bible, also says that the king was buried in a tomb under the Euphrates when the waters parted following his death.

"We found a structure in the canal which was the former river Euphrates. Whether we found the grave or not must remain speculative, unless the structure is excavated," Fassbinder said.

Magnetic prospection mapped about 200 hectares (ca. 600 acres) of the ancient city, whose diameter is estimated to be more than 5 kilometers (3 miles).

"I would be very happy to hear that Gilgamesh's tomb has been found. However, I believe it is highly unlikely," Giovanni Pettinato of Rome's La Sapienza University told Discovery News.

One of the world's most respected assyrologists, Pettinato discovered a new version of the Gilgamesh story two years ago, after translating hundreds of tablets that archeologists from Baghdad had found in an immense private archive.

The new tables would tell of Gilgamesh meeting death freely, and at the same time ordering the mass suicide of his entire court. Indeed, after a huge tomb with a golden roof was built, the king invited his entire court to enter it. The structure was then inundated by the water of a dam opened after Gilgamesh's last order.

"We should not forget that this is myth. The German team is making a big mistake: they are trying to turn legend into history," Pettinato said.

Lightning Strikes Preacher Who Asked For Sign

Bolt Hits Steeple, Travels Through Guest Evangelist's Microphone


POSTED: 1:35 p.m. EDT July 3, 2003

FOREST, Ohio -- Damage to a church in Forest, Ohio, is estimated at $20,000 after a preacher asked God for a sign.

A member of the First Baptist Church said a guest evangelist was preaching repentance and seeking a sign from God when lightning struck the steeple.

Ronnie Cheney called the incident "awesome, just awesome!"

Cheney said the lightning traveled through the microphone, blew out the sound system and enveloped the preacher, who wasn't hurt.

Afterward, services resumed for about 20 minutes until the congregation realized the church was on fire. The building was evacuated.

BBC Highlight Why UK's Foremost 'UFO' Case Is Debunked

From: James Easton

Subscribers might be interested in the BBC online material at:


I was consultant for this documentary, kept under wraps until day of broadcast.

As it was intended by the producer and myself to be a hard-hitting expose, concerning one of the world's most famous 'UFO' cases and by far Britain's, the broadcast was a spectacular, skeptical, coup.

Although BBC East only covers the area where our infamous 'UFO' incident occurred, resultant media coverage extended nationwide, including a full page article in Wednesday's 'Daily Mail' newspaper.

Because they were unprepared, it's only now that such as 'UFO Magazine' are, I hear, preparing a 'defence' for the media.

The words, stable door, horse and bolted, come to mind.

It was also already in preparation that, at Prof. Chris French's invitation, a forthcoming edition of 'The Skeptic' [UK], will be entirely dedicated to the full story of how this classic case was resolved.

It's a quite extraordinary tale and therein, I will reveal some further, new, devastating evidence.

For those interested in a more detailed historical background, see my related web site, at:


Latest developments in this case and others are also always topical on the 'UFO Research List' [UFORL], which I moderate, see:


Many of the 170+ subscribers are well-known 'ufologists', who simply share a view that the list doesn't tolerate any nonsense.

Prepared in response to media interest, a summary of the inherent 'Rendlesham forest UFO' research evidence is also available at:


Thursday, July 03, 2003

SWIFT Online June 27, 2003

From: James Randi

June 27, 2003

The Brights Are Coming, Carter's UFO, More Money Curse, An Insipid Response from South Africa, More Witchcraft and More Karen, The Curse of Uri Geller, Opinions on Astrology, and the UK's Channel Five Fiasco...

I want to begin this week's page with an important announcement that belongs up front here, not tagged onto the tail end of the update. It involves the advent of a new noun, "bright." Richard Dawkins, attending the annual conference of the American Atheist Alliance at Tampa in mid-April where we both spoke and celebrated this new word, recently wrote this definition: "A bright is a person whose world view is free of supernatural and mystical elements. The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic world view."

I hope that's enough to take you to

The Sci Fi TV channel here is launching a court effort to declassify documents related to a 1965 incident in Pennsylvania. This is the so-called "Kecksburg Incident" which is filled with varying stories from many different sources, many disagreeing with one another. The most persistent version involves an "acorn-shaped" object of a bronze color, large enough to hold a human being.

The network showed a documentary, "Out of the Blue," that laid out an argument that there's "something out there." I think there's hardly any doubt of that, given the size and age of the rest of the universe, but whether "they" have been here, or would even have the ability or the desire to get here, is a different matter altogether.

After hearing that former President Carter once saw a UFO, "Out of the Blue" filmmaker James Fox repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, asked Carter's representatives for an interview. Undaunted, Fox essentially ambushed Carter with a camera one day at a book-signing. Carter confirmed the incident but his brevity and forced smile indicated he wasn't happy to be answering that particular question. That's understandable. First of all, the date reported by Mr. Carter for that sighting was nine months off, which led researcher Robert Scheaffer on a chase (wild UFO chase?) for weeks until he finally got it pinned down. You can see the full account in his book, "The UFO Verdict," Prometheus Books, 1981. Needless to add, Robert's debunking of this report was not mentioned in "Out of the Blue."

Scheaffer has shown that on the evening in question, at the hour and the location in the sky indicated by Mr. Carter, the planet Venus was very prominently to be seen. Now, since the then-president-to-be was an observer for the US Navy (albeit on submarine duty) he could hardly have failed to notice a fully-bright Venus right where he saw what he thought was a UFO. And, of course, if that was Venus, it was "unidentified" by him. So, either Venus was not in the sky at that position and at that time, or Mr. Carter didn't recognize it, or the UFO stood exactly in front of the planet. Mr. Carter, in common with many, many, other persons, mis-identified Venus as a UFO.

The Sci Fi channel has good reasons for being fond of the UFO theme. Last November's documentary on the celebrated, suspected 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, N.M., was the highest-rated special in their 11-year history. It was seen by nearly 2.4 million people, or about 2½ times their usual prime-time audience. They know good business when they see it. The network sponsored an archaeological excavation at Roswell, New Mexico, and has two new UFO specials in the works. I'm personally happy to know that they're backing an effort to get U.S. Air Force records released on that incident in Kecksburg, where some witnesses believe a UFO crashed. I don't anticipate, as do the believers, that startling new developments will become evident, but I'm willing to be shown.

What worries me most is the Sci Fi dependence on what they call "the most reputable of witnesses - former astronauts, military and government officials, topped off by an ex-president." That's not my idea of necessarily proper witnesses... And Bob Scheaffer was free that evening...


Reader Carl Fink asks me, in regard to the JREF cursed million dollars:

If your money is so dangerously afflicted with negative energy, why aren't you experiencing bad luck, bad health, or bad anything much? You seem to be happy, quite successful, and enviably healthy for a man of your years. Seemingly the curse only applies to Danish psychics.

Well, Carl, it's not my money. It belongs entirely to the Foundation. And, I can tell you, we're doing just fine...! Kevin Schaffer suggests, on the same weighty problem:

I am not a physicist, but I am sure that quantum mechanics allows for no additional properties to the electron along the lines of a "cursing." Only charge, position, wave functions, probability fields, and the like are allowed. Thus, perhaps an electronic transfer of the money to Ms. Kofoed would suitably cleanse the prize of its curse?

Somehow, I don't think we'll be hearing any more from Ms. Kofoed...


Reader Jonathan Fox, in South Africa, carried on a long correspondence with SABC3, a television outlet there, concerning their use of the "Crossing Over" show with John Edward. Jonathan offered to establish that Edward is doing the "cold reading" trick. He had many exchanges with a PR person named Van Tonder, offering them to "bring any recorded episode of 'Crossing Over with John Edward' and have access to a monitor, a VCR, and a remote control" so that he could prove his point. Ms. Van Tonder squirmed and alibied, then finally stated that she could "not commit the channel to that kind of use of their staff time and resources" and advised him to contact the station general manager. He did, and finally received this:

Dear Mr. Fox,
Thank you for your e-mail.

I have just received a copy of your correspondence with the SABC and would like to advise as follows:

SABC3 does not, nor has it, proclaimed that John Edwards [sic] is a "genuine spirit medium."

Mr. Edwards [sic] provides an entertainment option which is currently well received.

We offer many forms of entertainment which are all open to subjective scrutiny.

Whilst we thank you for your interest in the show, we unfortunately will not be able to entertain an individual scrutiny of it.

Yours sincerely

Trevor Smit
General Manager SABC3

Folks, I looked up the dictionary definition of "namby-pamby" before using it here. It means, "lacking decisiveness, irresolute, insipid." Not good enough, but okay to describe SABC3's waffling about the matter. But it's typical. They don't give a damn about the damage the program's doing to listeners; it's entertainment, right? Russian roulette, anyone? Just for fun, of course. Here's another idea: do an "entertainment" show on manufacturing methamphetamines at home! Mr. Smit would like that, because it would be "well received." That's enough, it seems.


We recently told you of a case in Denmark that got into the courtroom and became a news item in that country. This matter has now taken on much more serious aspects, according to a report from Claus Larsen. The "witchdoctor" we referred to is now identified as a "Doctor Mamadu," and the publicity given his court appearance has brought forward other witnesses who were also duped by him. The mother of a 44-year old Danish woman is accusing the witch doctor of the death of her daughter who visited his Copenhagen clinic several times, convinced that she was cursed. After 10 "treatments" and over $2,000, the doctor gave her a potion of African herbs. In June 2002, she died mysteriously, shortly after her last visit to him. The cause of death was never fully solved by the police.

Now he's also charged with embezzling from other victims, among them a Pakistani woman, a Muslim, for $115,000 plus some jewelry. The police suspect that he has cheated many more people. At least the clinic is now empty, while Mamadu is in custody, awaiting trial.


It is far too time-consuming for me to wade through all the lies and hyperbole that Karen Boesen has created and published to discredit me. Notice that she has chosen to try discrediting me, rather than what I say, and she avoids addressing the main question here: is she selling the Danish public something that works, or is it all a fraud? From three "case stories" that she has offered to bomb me, and which were sent to me for consideration by a reader, I've quickly selected out just a few points that don't need long discussion...

. . . an astrologer from Houston, who was a printer and had dealt with Randi in that capacity commercially, accepted the [JREF] challenge. He was put in contact with a professor from Rice University who administered a chart-to-profession matching test - which the printer passed. This is entirely a lie. It never happened. Please note that the "astrologer" is not named, nor is the "professor." Karen is very fond of these general accusations, which cannot be checked on by others, because no details are given.

[she refers to] Randi's web site . . . which is based in Canada. I have never had any site of any sort based in Canada, and have never engaged in web activities from that country. This small lie is typical of the sort of thing that is thrown in by Karen for "flavor" but has no basis in reality.

. . . CSICOP, a militant athiest [sic] organization that was evicted from the Ethical Humanist society . . . CSICOP is not, and never has been, an atheist organization. Many, if not a majority, of the members have religious affiliations. There is an "Ethical Humanist Society" in both Long Island, New York, and in Chicago. Both are affiliated with the American Ethical Union, and all three organizations absolutely deny that CSICOP has ever been associated with them, nor have they ever had any sort of dealings with CSICOP. This is another pack of blatant lies by Karen Boesen.

Randi used this little trick to demonstrate that Astrology was "bunk" - and that people would always read their "horoscope" and see things they wanted to see as true for them. The above refers to an experiment I've done several times, in several places, and describes it exactly. But Karen goes on to say

His little demonstration really "proved" nothing about Astrology, since Astrology was never used in this trick. Also correct! And that's exactly what I told the audience! I wanted to demonstrate how they would accept anything that they wanted or needed to believe to be true, and my case was proved. It didn't involve astrology at all, just the gullible mind-set used by the believers. What's the problem here, Karen?

Ah, but she continues:

The point which he completely missed was that . . . if he had used REAL horoscope readings based on the individual birth dates, and had them created by an honest and competent astrologer, each person's reading would have been DIFFERENT. Exactly! I didn't miss this point, at all. Now, I'm sure that Karen considers herself to be "an honest and competent astrologer." Or, one of her colleagues in her office might agree to that description. I have offered to pay Karen Boesen the million-dollar prize if she - or any astrologer - would perform such a test using "real" horoscopes - and she has refused!

There it is, Karen. You're exposed once more as a bare-faced liar. PROVE ME WRONG.


A few weeks ago, the city of Turin, Italy, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of a man who styled himself, "the most famous psychic in the world," Gustav Adolfo Rol, the son of a grand banker of Turin, who died in 1994 at age 91. He had a bald head and dark, sunken, penetrating eyes, looking as if he'd stepped from an Edgar Allan Poe story, and lived in an ancient home among crystal chandeliers, neo-classical nudes, and heavy imperial-style furniture after retiring from banking at 34 to become a "psychic." He had a law degree from Turin University, one in economics from London and a third in biology from Paris, but he was no lawyer, economist or biologist. He was a seer, a wizard, a world-class paranormalist, or a world-class fraud; take your pick.

As with so many others of his kind, Cagliostro, Uri Geller, Simon Magus, and others, his feats were attested to by hundreds of devotees, who swore that among other wonders, he passed through closed doors and walls, could read any book in a library without removing it from the shelf, and read people's minds. "He is in Turin," read a newspaper headline in the 1970s, "but people take pictures of him in New York." What's interesting to me is that he never allowed a professional magician to witness his feats, and he never let them be filmed. Italian conjuror Mariano Tomatis opined, "All of his 'phenomena' can be reproduced using the techniques of the illusionists." I agree; it's all old stuff.

Rol created a whole charismatic atmosphere around himself - what a surprise! - that convinced followers he'd been hobnobbing with persons he probably never even met. He said that Benito Mussolini met him secretly during visits to Turin, that famed film director Federico Fellini called him "the most disconcerting man I ever met," and that French President Charles De Gaulle would have nothing to do with him because, he said, "That man reads minds. We cannot risk French state secrets becoming known to foreigners." Somehow I feel that at least one spirit hovers here: the spirit of hyperbole.

Doesn't Turin have more important persons to recognize...?


A reader in the UK has suggested that we discuss a discovery of his which he calls "The Curse of Uri Geller!" He points out that:

On the James Whale Radio Show in the UK, Geller predicted that David Coulthard would win the Formula 1 motor race in the UK. He exhorted the listeners to shout "Win, David, win!" or words to that effect. Coulthard had a crash in the first lap at the first corner, and as a result of the damage had to retire on lap 3.

In the UK's "Big Brother" TV show In July 2001, Geller tried to get people to stop one contestant, Paul, being evicted from the Big Brother house by placing their hands on the TV screen. Paul was evicted soon after.

During the Wimbledon Games in 2001, Geller announced he was using his "powers" to back tennis star Tim Henman. Henman lost to Ivanisevic.

In 1997 Geller predicted that a horse named "Go Ballistic" would win the Grand National. The race was abandoned.

On 14 December, 1996, Geller tried to get the viewers on the "Noel Edmond's House Party" BBC television program to psychically support the English cricket team then touring Zimbabwe. The first match started the following day. He asked viewers to place their hands on an "orange circle'" (there's one in his "Mind Power" kit) and "wish the England cricket team to win." There were five matches between England and Zimbabwe between 15th December, 1996, and 3rd January, 1997. England lost three and drew two.

In 1996, Geller asked everyone to touch an orange spot on the TV screen in order to make England win the 1996 European Football Championship. Immediately after that process started, they got knocked out of the competition by Germany.

Geller worked for the Reading Football Club, assisting them psychically, but it all boomeranged when the team was relegated.

The Orange Dot: In a letter published in the Daily Star, on 16 September 1992, a Mrs. P. Standing (is that a joke?) was quoted as saying that after touching Geller's magical orange spot things began to happen immediately. First, the cat knocked her favorite vase off the window sill; a pepper pot fell out of a cupboard and broke her ceramic hob. Then her iron broke.

England -vs- Scotland: Appearing on GMTV on Friday, 12 November, 1999, Geller said he was going to use his "powers" to help Scotland beat England, after he'd helped England win the last time they met. The result: England beat Scotland 2-0.

England -v- Argentina: Appearing on GMTV (a TV outlet in the UK, though no one knows what GMTV stands for) on Monday, 29 June, 1998, Geller predicted that England would beat Argentina 1-0 in their game to be played on Tuesday, 30 June. The result: England lost in a penalty shoot-out, the full-time score standing at 2-2 and no goals being scored in extra time. David Beckham was sent off, reducing the England side to 10 men. Of course, GMTV features all sorts of psychics and astrologers, so failure is ignored.

Exeter City Football Club: We've already mentioned this latest "curse." Geller became a co-chairman of this 3rd Division club in 2002, but at the end of the season they were relegated, and the owners were being investigated for some "irregularities."


From a 1995 issue of Ethnologia Scandinavica, dealing with testing procedures and methods resorted to by business persons in Scandinavia, we find these comments about the use of astrology:

In a women's magazine, "Alt for Damerne", a writer declares: People are becoming ever more open to astrology. Just ten years ago, for example, [the financial newspaper] Børsen would never have thought of arranging lectures on astrology for company executives. But it is still something which not everyone accepts as serious, and I can understand that people do not want to risk their good reputation by publicizing their interest. It will probably take 40-50 years before astrology is regarded as a natural and useful tool.

In Politiken: It was a great sensation when it became known that President Reagan and his wife Nancy consulted an astrologer when they were about to make a decision or embark on a trip. Their astrologer Joan Quigley said that her aim was "to raise astrology to the place where it belongs". She would like to see it incorporated in a scientific context in universities.

The Berlingske Tidende wrote: Both graphology and astrology are trying to win legitimacy. Both groups are challengers/pretenders in the scientific field. They also appear to have gained a position where they have acquired a certain degree of authority. We should not only look at their own statements here. The reactions of others - particularly the scientific world - are symptomatic. The director of the Tycho Brahe Planetarium in Copenhagen, Bjørn Franck Jørgensen, says: "Our scientific world-view, on which European culture rests, is disappearing for the majority of a generation. The best conditions exist for astrology to find a seedbed once again. From having been a harmless joke, it has become a scourge in our everyday life. We run into it everywhere. We are being suffocated by superstition. People are appointed to their positions on the basis of their time of birth. They are bulls, goats, or toads - not human beings."


UK reader John Walker gives us details about a live TV program on Channel 5 in the UK, broadcast on June 19th, titled, "Are You Telepathic?" It was advertised to be "Britain's largest telepathy test of all time." The program contained a combination of live "tests" and pre-recorded documentary-style reports of various bits of telepathic "research."

At the very beginning they took an audience phone vote to see what percentage of viewers believed in telepathy. 93% said they believed, but thankfully the program mentioned that the national average was only around 54%. The live tests were predominantly Zener Card [5-symbol] tests, involving a D-list celebrity picking one of five Zener cards, and the viewing audience phoning in to vote which card they believed it was. The first test - just done straight - resulted in a near-statistically perfect 19% of the audience voting for it, while 34% voted for a wrong card.

The second test was to see if there was a difference between men and women. The card chosen received 30% of the men's vote, and 34% of the women's, but they announced none of the percentages for the other four cards, so for both sexes, there could have been a card with a much higher vote.

The third test was supposed to see if there was a difference between the results of non-believers and believers. Two phone numbers were given out, one for each group, and the results of correct votes were: 19% non-believers, 22% believers, leaving the poor pro-telepathy people to admit that these were bang on statistical chance.

The final test was for the studio audience only, but divided into two categories - regular audience members, and people who claimed to be psychic. This was the best bit of this portion. The regular audience got about 18% correct, but the "psychics" got 8%, which was extremely funny.

Strangely enough, all the pre-recorded tests (including measuring the ability to know who was calling on the phone, and a very dubious 1-in-4 chance test with a pair of twins) had "hits," but even these tapes couldn't counter the constant failure of the live program.

And it finished with the best one of all. This was an attempt to recreate the Ganzfeld Test. Parapsychologist Robert Van de Castle went into a "dream state" in an isolation booth, while someone, whom I think might have been a celebrity, but I have never seen before, in another isolation booth "projected" an image to him.

The image was a painting, one chosen at random from four envelopes. The "celebrity" had all manner of means of sending this image to him, including thoughts about straws, water, toy animals, sticks, play-dough, pens, paper, and much else, with about twenty minutes of this charade going on in the background for the final portion of the show. The painting she had chosen was of a crowd of people being blown around in the wind, while it was literally raining cats and dogs.

There was early excitement as they'd recorded Robert saying, "It's a very busy image, she's having trouble capturing it all." Then nothing more was said until the experiment was over, and both persons were brought back to the studio, Robert having already been shown all four paintings and having made his choice. When asked to go through each of the targets, despite a terrible botch by the presenter leaving the selected painting separate from the other three, he immediately announced that it was the calm image of a windmill and a boat leaving for sea. Rating each painting for a ranking out of 100 for their likelihood at the presenter's desperate request, Robert said that the first was 2/100, a painting of some cheese and wine was 10/100, the chosen painting was 15 or 20/100, but the windmill and boat was 98/100. His conviction was remarkable. And even then, the presenter (Carol Vorderman, who for reasons unfathomable has managed to get something of a reputation for being a "scientist") was offering hints such as "You said it was a busy image," while actually tapping the chosen painting with her finger. I exaggerate not! But there was no changing his mind.

When told that it was the wrong one, he immediately began some desperate blustering about how cats and dogs had been a part of it, but was cut off due to time constraints. Fortunately, they had just enough time for the pro-telepathy scientist to comment on why it might not have worked, but sadly none for the skeptic in the studio (who remained level-headed and reasonable throughout).

The whole debacle finished with the two presenters attempting to round up the successes and failures of the evening, hopelessly latching on to the 30/34% results in the male/female test as their only live "significant" result.

It was a victory for statistics and common sense.

I've discovered that the "level-headed and reasonable" "skeptic" in the studio was Dr. Chris French of Goldsmith College, London, from whom I've requested a report on his participation and his opinions of the conduct of the program. Stay tuned.

James Randi

School Bans Potter's Magic


Wed July 2, 2003 08:13 AM ET SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian Christian school has banned the new best-selling adventure of teenage wizard Harry Potter, saying the book promotes evil witchcraft and magic. Bert Langerak, principal of the Maranatha Christian School in the southern city of Melbourne, said Wednesday none of the five books in author J. K. Rowling's blockbuster Harry Potter series was welcome on the school's library shelves.

"We would deal with, say, Macbeth and Hamlet, because evil there is being portrayed as evil and not as being good, whereas Harry Potter is on a quest to become the best possible wizard and that's being applauded by the author," Langerak told Reuters.

"And us poor muggles are being put in a bad light," he added, using the name by which the book refers to non-magical people.

The latest book in the series -- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- became an instant best seller around the world when it was launched last month.

Langerak said the school was leaving it up to parents to decide if they wanted to expose their children to Harry Potter and his unchristian magic turbo-charged brooms.

"If they want their kids to read Harry Potter, so be it. But I think that parents also have to be given the opportunity to say, 'No, I don't want my child to read Harry Potter'."

Giant sea creature baffles Chilean scientists


SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) -- Chilean scientists were baffled on Tuesday by a huge, gelatinous sea creature found washed up on the southern Pacific coast and were seeking international help identifying the mystery specimen.

The dead creature was mistaken for a beached whale when first reported about a week ago, but experts who went to see it said the 40-foot-long (12-meter) mass of decomposing lumpy grey flesh apparently was an invertebrate.

"We'd never before seen such a strange specimen, We don't know if it might be a giant squid that is missing some of its parts or maybe it's a new species," said Elsa Cabrera, a marine biologist and director of the Center for Cetacean Conservation in Santiago.

Photographs showed a round leathery substance like a mammoth jelly fish, about as long as a school bus.

Giant squid live at a depth of 9,500 feet (3,000 meters) and only rise to the surface when they die. Specimens have been known to be as long as 60 feet (18 meters).

There was speculation that the mass might be a whale skin, but Cabrera said it was too big and did not have the right texture or smell.

Cabrera said she was contacting Chilean and international organizations in the hope that they could help shed some light on the find.

The Chilean Navy first spotted the mystery specimen along with another large mass, but the other dead animal turned out to be a dead humpback whale.

Wednesday, July 02, 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.shtml which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

In the News

Today's Headlines - July 2, 2003

from The Hartford Courant

WASHINGTON -- The federal government should develop a plan to reduce the exposure of people - especially women and young girls - to toxic dioxins in the nation's food supply, a panel of private experts said Tuesday.

The plan should emphasize reducing dioxins in food consumed by women of childbearing age because fetuses and infants are especially sensitive to the effects of toxic compounds, said the panel organized by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Panel members said that because the health risks posed by dioxins in the food supply have not been definitively determined, they do not recommend mandatory limits on dioxins or dioxin-like compounds in human and animal foods.

from The Associated Press

Every day, American drivers eat up nearly 7 billion miles of pavement -- roughly the distance to Pluto and back -- getting where they want to be.

In the process, they consume enough oil to fill more than 150 supertankers. More than half of that oil comes from abroad, weakening the country's economy and complicating its foreign relations. And when burned, every drop spews pollutants that damage health and contribute to global warming.

It can't go on indefinitely. With automobile use rising worldwide, petroleum reserves gradually dwindling and concerns over U.S. dependence on foreign oil increasing, most energy experts agree that a shift away from fossil fuels is inevitable during this century.

President Bush has responded with a $1.7 billion research program to develop hydrogen as America's next energy source. In 20 years, he predicted, Americans will drive cars propelled by hydrogen-powered fuel cells that emit exhaust containing nothing more toxic than pure water.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Sen. Barbara Boxer, combining campaign politics and policy, toured a stem cell research lab in Menlo Park on Tuesday and warned she's ready to battle conservative critics of the work with human embryos.

"I'm very excited by what I have seen and by the potential of stem cell research," she told about 40 workers at Geron, a biotechnology company.

"You are doing what I feel is God's work."

In recent years, scientists have found that stem cells, taken from days-old embryos, are building blocks that could be used to repair damaged organs and cure such ailments as juvenile diabetes and Parkinson's disease. But because the embryos are destroyed in the process, the federal government has put strict limits on the research.

from The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- Using two linked telescopes that act as a single, high-powered lens, scientists have observed a young star thought to be more like our own solar system than similar celestial bodies observed in the past.

The star, known as DG Tau, is surrounded by a swirling disk of particles like those believed to be the source of planets, scientists said Tuesday.

Observations of DG Tau were made Oct. 23, 2002, and Feb. 13 this year and are scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

from The Associated Press

MADRID, Spain -- Swedish scientists have produced healthy offspring from mice with transplanted wombs -- an experiment that raises hopes of successful uterus transplants for women.

Experts say the results, presented Tuesday at a European fertility conference, are encouraging but major obstacles must be overcome before women can benefit.

Last year, Saudi scientists reported the first human womb transplant, which produced two menstrual periods before it failed and had to be removed.

Experiments led by Dr. Mats Brannstrom of Sahlgrenska University in Gothenburg, Sweden, involved genetically identical mice so there would be no problem of immune system rejection. Scientists sought to determine whether the wombs could be connected properly and function soundly.

New Bibliography Entry (Stenger: God)


Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe
Victor J. Stenger
2003, Prometheus; 373p., diagrams
creationism, psi, quackery, religion, science

In this engaging, accessible book, physicist and well-known skeptic Vic Stenger writes about current claims to find support for religious beliefs in modern science. He keeps focused on science rather than on theological and philosophical arguments, and explores some interesting physical ideas in the process. His emphasis on the role of chance in our universe is particularly important. Skeptics of paranormal claims will be especially interested in Stenger's detailed discussion of of evolution and the latest "intelligent design" creationism, and his skewering of parapsychology and its recent forays into alternative healing. A clearly written, thought-provoking book which is well-worth reading.

Please visit the rest of the bibliography at


Consider contributing an entry or two yourself...

Taner Edis, SKEPTIC Bibliographer

John Templeton Foundation


The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise. Using "the humble approach," the Foundation typically seeks to focus the methods and resources of scientific inquiry on topical areas which have spiritual and theological significance ranging across the disciplines from cosmology to healthcare.

The foregoing link is from the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture Web page at

Enough said.

Unlocking the Mystery of Life

Letter to Maryland Public Television
by Daryl Domning

Howard University

Department of Anatomy
College of Medicine
520 W Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20059 USA

Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD

11 June 2003


I watched "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" on 10 June 2003, and am sorry to say I was disappointed. Although this program was presented as a science documentary, in fact it was no more than an elaborate infomercial for "intelligent design" creationism (ID). By failing to make clear that ID is currently rejected as pseudoscience by the vast majority of evolutionary biologists, it seriously misinformed the public about the present state of thinking in this field. There is certainly nothing wrong with making minority views in science known to the public. Minority views, however, bear the burden of proof; and truth in advertising requires that they be identified as such. Instead, this program was subtly designed to mislead. Some specifics:

The first person presented onscreen was Philip Johnson, a key figure in the ID movement. The rest of the program featured ID advocates with scientific credentials, and Johnson reappeared toward the end to state his own definition of "science", as though he were himself a leading scientist. Viewers were never told that he is, in fact, a professor of law.

The animation sequence of the voyage of HMS "Beagle" gave the clear impression that the expedition touched only at the Galapagos Islands - ignoring the fact that it spent most of its time exploring the coasts of South America and other Pacific and Indian Ocean islands. This inaccuracy planted the subtle and false impression that Darwin's evolutionary views were derived from only a few observations made in only one locale, when in fact they were based on widely-gathered data of many kinds.

The lengthy discussion of molecular biology made reference to "a feature of molecular machines known as irreducible complexity" - as though this concept were a standard one accepted by all molecular biologists as a "feature" of the real world. In fact, the term "irreducible complexity" is used only by the handful of ID proponents (Michael Behe in particular), and its validity has been refuted, repeatedly and in detail. It is not used at all in the mainstream scientific literature. No contrary views were noted, however.

A major contention of the program was that without DNA there can be no self-replication of molecules, and hence no natural selection. No mention was made of the widely-discussed possibilities that self-replication of RNA or even simpler organic molecules could have preceded the synthesis of DNA.

A telling contrast between ID and real science was inadvertently revealed in the quotes from Darwin in which he emphasized testable predictions of his theory - e.g., that no complex organs would be identified that could not have been formed by successive slight modifications of simpler ones. (In fact, no such complex organs have been identified, including the much-ballyhooed bacterial flagellum, whose simpler origins have been outlined by Kenneth Miller and other molecular biologists.) ID, in contrast, has made no testable predictions, on this program or elsewhere, and for this reason it is disregarded by most scientists.

Near the end of the program, the narrator noted correctly that "intelligent design has sparked intense debate." If so, then why was this debate not reflected in the program itself? No opposing views were aired, despite the ready availability of prominent and articulate spokesmen for the Darwinian view, who have published extensive and detailed refutations of the contentions of ID proponents. An honest portrayal of this "intense debate" would have made for a more informative as well as more dramatic program - and would have revealed that the arguments for ID are simplistic and specious.

As has often been said, extraordinary claims in science demand extraordinary evidence. ID makes claims that most scientists consider unfounded and that have so far failed to survive critical scrutiny. Worse, ID offers no testable alternative to the well-tested Darwinian explanations of biological complexity and adaptation. For this reason, ID is recognized by mainstream biologists as junk science - specifically, as merely the latest incarnation of the religiously-motivated "creation science" that our courts have justly banned from public-school science classrooms.

The religious subtext of this controversy was kept almost entirely out of sight in the program itself, but the religious motivations of many of the ID proponents is clear in some of their writings and other statements. As a practicing Christian myself, I take offense at their misguided, under-the-table attempts to further Christianity by means of such flawed arguments. No cause is well served by bad science. Neither is public education, or public-interest broadcasting.


Daryl P. Domning, Ph.D.
Professor of Anatomy
Research Associate,
Dept. of Paleobiology,
Smithsonian Institution

Unlocking the Mystery of Life Critique

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Unlocking the Mystery of Life, a documentary about the "intelligent design" movement cowritten by Stephen C. Meyer, Director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, is airing on individual PBS stations across the country.

Because NCSE has received many inquiries about Unlocking, we have added a section to our web site for information and opinions about it: http://www.ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=19 Articles in this section are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of NCSE.

The first entry is a letter to Maryland Public Television, which aired Unlocking on June 10, from Daryl Domning, Professor of Anatomy at Howard University's School of Medicine. Domning writes, "Although this program was presented as a science documentary, in fact it was no more than an elaborate infomercial for 'intelligent design' creationism (ID)."

The second entry is from NCSE's Network Project Director Skip Evans, who documents the links between Unlocking's producer, Illustra Media, and Discovery Media, whose stated mission is to "utilize every form of available media to present the reality of [God's] existence through compelling scientific evidence and academic research."

And the final entry is a brief news article about Unlocking by Robert Park, professor of physics at the University of Maryland, Director of the Washington Office of the American Physical Society, and author of the American Physical Society's popular "What's New" column. Park's critique is reposted, with his permission, from "What's New" for June 13, 2003.

NCSE will announce further additions to the Unlocking section as they appear.


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

Unlocking the Mystery of Illustra Media

by Skip Evans, NCSE Network Project Director

In the "Wedge" document setting forth the twenty-year plan of Seattle's Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (now called the Center for Science and Culture), an early objective is a "PBS show such as Nova treating design theory fairly." Supporters may have achieved a simulacrum of this part of their agenda. The intelligent design video Unlocking the Mystery of Life is receiving PBS distribution: on April 27, 2003, the video was made available to public television stations via satellite feed from the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).

Although it is being aired on some PBS stations, Unlocking decidedly was not made by NOVA, or any other PBS producer. Who did make this video, then? It turns out that the company identified with Unlocking traces back to the Moody Institute of Science, a well-known producer of evangelical Christian videos. The connections require some detective work to uncover, however.

Unlocking was produced by Illustra Media. Its executive producer is James W. Adams and it was produced and directed by Lad Allen and Timothy Eaton. The script was written by Stephen C. Meyer, of the Discovery Institute, and W. Peter Allen. Unlocking is the only production listed on the web site of Illustra Media (http://www.illustramedia.com), and no video production staff - or any Illustra Media employees - are listed on the site. Most film production companies have links to an "About Us" section detailing who is on the staff; the site for Illustra Media does not.

Illustra Media is linked with another production company, Discovery Media, which in turn is the successor to the Moody Institute of Science. When one conducts a "whois" search at the Network Solutions web site (http://www.networksolutions.com) on two URLs, illustramedia.com and discoverymedia.org, the following information is provided:


Discovery Media Productions (ILLUSTRAMEDIA-DOM)
PO Box 2711
La Habra, CA 90632-2711


Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Discovery Media Productions (20335406O) j.harned@GTE.NET
PO Box 2711
La Habra, CA 90632-2711
562-943-0914 fax: 562-943-0914

Record expires on 22-Feb-2004.
Record created on 13-Oct-2002.
Database last updated on 1-Jul-2003 19:15:45 EDT.

Domain servers in listed order:



Discovery Media Productions (DISCOVERYMEDIA3-DOM)
PO Box 2711
La Habra, CA 90632-2711


Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Discovery Media Productions (20335406O) j.harned@GTE.NET
PO Box 2711
La Habra, CA 90632-2711
562-943-0914 fax: 562-943-0914

Record expires on 08-Sep-2006.
Record created on 10-May-2002.
Database last updated on 1-Jul-2003 19:17:43 EDT.

Domain servers in listed order:


There are other links between Discovery Media and Illustra Media. Discovery Media lists its current president as James W. Adams, the executive producer of Unlocking. Jerry Harned, who is credited with editing the video, is Discovery Media's Post Production Supervisor. The Discovery Media team is rounded out by Lad Allen and Timothy Eaton, credited for producing and directing Unlocking. These links strongly suggest that Illustra Media was created as a shell company by Discovery Media for the purpose of marketing Unlocking the Mystery of Life.

Why might Discovery Media want to separate out this video from its other offerings? Unlocking is being marketed to PBS and to public schools as a "straight science" program. But Discovery Media is clearly in the evangelical film business. Their mission statement reads, "We believe that God reveals Himself, today, through His creation and the Biblical record. Our mission is to utilize every form of available media to present the reality of His existence through compelling scientific evidence and academic research."

Discovery Media's current video release is The Exodus Revealed, a documentary-style hunt for evidence to demonstrate that the Israelites' journey across the Red Sea was a true historical event. The video takes the viewer along the route the Israelites may have taken to the Red Sea, and also promises to show "coral encrusted remains possibly from the chariots of Pharaoh's 18th dynasty army," and "archaeological treasures [that] have been concealed for more than 3000 years." Its other productions include The End Times, "a compelling presentation of the major events that will immediately precede and unfold during the Tribulation including The Rapture of the Church, a time when Jesus Christ will appear and take the faithful to heaven instantly," and Heaven and Hell, which is intended to "strengthen the faith of those who believe and challenge the skepticism of those who doubt the existence of either place."

The evangelical flavor of Discovery Media's productions is understandable since, according to the "Wonders of Science" web site, Discovery Media is the successor of the earlier Moody Institute of Science, a well-known producer of evangelical science videos beginning in the 1940s (http://www.wondersofscience.org/sfs/HISTORY.HTM). A further tie is that Unlocking's executive producer Adams is also listed as a former Executive Producer for Moody Institute of Science from 1972 to 1988.

In his glowing review of two "intelligent design" videotapes, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and Icons of Evolution in Christianity Today (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/003/36.79.html) Thomas E. Woodward writes "The stories they tell challenge the myth that Intelligent Design is a movement driven by religious bias." Of course, the scientific shortcomings of Unlocking and its companions are clear, and are made elsewhere (see the accompanying articles in this section). But if it is a "myth that Intelligent Design is a movement driven by religious bias," why do its proponents have to work so hard to hide their evangelical roots?

Scientologists go to court to fight for tax-exempt status in county


By Deb Peterson
updated: 06/30/2003 11:06 PM

NOT EXEMPT?: The Church of Scientology is fighting the decision by St. Louis County to deny tax-exempt status to the group's property at 6901 Delmar Boulevard (the former Anchor Masonic Temple building) in U. City. Armstrong Teasdale's Donald Beimdiek filed an appeal on behalf of the Scientologists. The county Board of Equalization denied the group's exemption, saying the property was not "regularly used exclusively for religious ... (or) charitable" purposes, as required. The Scientologists have an identical appeal pending before the St. Louis County Council. The county billed the building's former owner $10,277 in 2000, the last year taxes were assessed on the building.


China's 'Bigfoot' seen again, agency reports

Jun. 30, 2003. 01:58 PM


BEIJING (AP) — China's version of Bigfoot has been spotted again, and this time it may have left a urine sample.

Six people, one a radio reporter, say they saw the "mythical ape-like animal" in central China's Shennongjia Nature Reserve, the official Xinhua News Agency said today. Xinhua referred to it as a "Bigfoot," after the legendary North American ape-man.

More than 100 sightings of the creature have been reported in Shennongjia in the forested mountains of Hubei province about 1,200 kilometres southwest of Beijing.

The latest witnesses were in a Jeep on a mountain road yesterday when they saw the grey creature moving quickly away from the road, Xinhua reported. It said the creature was about 1.65 metres tall and had shoulder-length black hair.

The witnesses found several footprints 30 centimetres long, freshly broken branches and a "three-metre-long patch of foul-smelling urine-like liquid," Xinhua said.

The sighting was reported to authorities and "an investigation is in full swing," the report said. It said one of the witnesses was Shang Zhengmin, a reporter for a local radio station. The others were residents.

At least three scientific expeditions in Shennongjia have searched for evidence of the creature's existence. Researchers said they found hair that didn't match either humans or known animals, but no other evidence has been reported.

Sightings of a similar creature have been reported in Tibet, although its existence hasn't been proven either.

Tuesday, July 01, 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.shtml which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

In the News

Today's Headlines - July 1, 2003

from The Los Angeles Times

It's not every day that physicists discover nature singing an entirely unknown tune, but that's what physicists in the U.S. and Japan appeared to have detected in two sets of quite different experiments on opposite sides of the world.

They believe they have discovered a five-quark particle, or "pentaquark." If it holds up to further experiment scrutiny, it would be the first time that such a strange form of matter has been seen.

Because fundamental particles are essentially waves, what the physicists have discovered is actually a surprisingly long-lived resonance — a sustained hum of the kind a person might produce by blowing over the top of a Coke bottle.

In the music of the subatomic sphere, elementary particles bond together like barbershop quartets in precisely determined patterns — and the "pentaquark" simply hasn't been one of them.

from The Hartford Courant

Human embryonic stem cells helped restore function to paralyzed rats, but in ways that surprised the scientists at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, who conducted the experiments.

The cells were injected into fluid around the spinal cords of 15 paralyzed rats and within 12 weeks all the rats had recovered partial use of their hind limbs, according to research published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Scientists had expected the human embryonic stem cells, which can become any cell in the body, to form new neurons to replaced damaged nerve cells. A few of the embryonic stem cells did form new neurons, but not enough to account for the improvement in function seen in the rats.

from The Washington Post

The Environmental Protection Agency for months has withheld key findings of its analysis showing that a Senate plan to combat air pollution would be more effective in reducing harmful pollutants -- and only marginally more expensive -- than would President Bush's Clear Skies initiative for power plant emissions.

The Clear Skies proposal is designed to reduce power plant emissions over the next 20 years. A centerpiece of Bush's environmental policy, its passage could burnish his 2004 reelection credentials. But the president's plan does not address carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists consider an important greenhouse gas that may contribute to the Earth's warming.

Bush's stand has drawn sharp criticism on several fronts, and a bipartisan group of senators has proposed an alternative bill that would limit carbon dioxide emissions. Unreleased information from an EPA internal analysis concludes that the competing bill would provide health benefits substantially superior to those envisioned under Clear Skies.

from The Associated Press

ARECIBO, Puerto Rico -- The world's most sensitive listening device is about to hear more from the universe.

The radio telescope at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, powerful enough to hear planets forming several billion light years away, is receiving six more radio receivers to expand its range, scientists said Monday.

Once the upgrade, nicknamed the ALFA Project, is completed next year, the observatory's staff of 15 scientists will take on the arduous task of mapping the night sky for future generations.

The map with its collection of detailed data about location, identity and properties of what is in space will go far beyond anything currently in use, researchers say.

Click here to visit the Arecibo Observatory:

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- It's no surprise that constant stress can make people sick, and now a team of researchers has figured out how.

A study focused on 119 men and women who were taking care of spouses with dementia. The health of the caregivers was compared with that of 106 people of similar ages who were not living under the stress of constant care giving.

Blood tests showed that a chemical called Interleukin-6 sharply increased in the blood of the stressed caregivers compared with blood of the others in the test. Previous studies have associated IL-6 with several diseases, including heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, type-2 diabetes and certain cancers.

from Newsday

Even though the current monkeypox outbreak marks the first time the virus has caused infections in the West, the virus itself has been in the United States for years, under study in classified federal and military laboratories, scientists have acknowledged.

Stocks of the highly infectious virus have been maintained for at least a decade, used mostly as a stand-in for the more virulent smallpox pathogen in what is described as highly contained laboratory research. Working with the monkeypox microbe poses fewer risks to scientists than the smallpox virus, experts say.

Despite years of research, scientists admit that the monkeypox virus and the infection it causes largely remain a mystery because so little data have been collected. The current outbreak will add to the overall understanding, scientists say, but questions will persist regarding how many species carry it, how people catch it and whether it's undergoing mutations in the wild.

from The New York Times

An itch demands a scratch, but science has barely begun to scratch the surface of why an itch itches, and how to make it stop.

The itch-scratch cycle sits right at the fascinating intersection of pleasure and pain, reflex and compulsion, but it has received relatively little scientific attention. Ten years ago, one of the small band of international itch researchers called itch "sadly neglected," an "orphan symptom."

But new developments are slowly beginning to refine scientific understanding of itch. They include the identification of nerve fibers devoted to transmitting itchy sensations, of brain sectors that process itch, and of molecules that seem to provoke itch. Itch experts hope that better treatments for itchy patients will soon follow.

from The New York Times

Scientists have long known that there is more to speech perception than meets the ear. Humans, even infants who cannot yet speak, pick up visual cues from the movement of the lips and other parts of the face to help understand what it is they are hearing.

Now there is evidence that this ability may go back a long way. Researchers in Germany say they have found that rhesus monkeys can also combine visual and auditory information to perceive vocal signals, suggesting that the ability had some kind of evolutionary precursor before humans and other primates diverged millions of years ago.

The researchers, Dr. Asif A. Ghazanfar and Dr. Nikos K. Logothetis of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, tested monkeys by showing them side-by-side video images of another monkey making two sounds, while playing a soundtrack of just one of the sounds. Time after time, the test monkeys were able to match the sound with the correct video image. The research was reported in the current issue of the journal Nature.

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Japanese physicists' 'pentaquark' hints at answers to makeup of matter


By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Physicists have discovered a new class of subatomic particles, offering unexpected insights into the building blocks of matter.

The discovery involves tiny particles called "quarks," the bricks and mortar of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus.

Until now, physicists had only seen quarks packed into two- or three-quark combinations inside the larger subatomic particles.

These combinations have always been something of a mystery. In their efforts to unravel the secrets of matter, scientists have tried for three decades to come up with different combinations.

And now a Japanese team led by Takashi Nakano of Osaka University says it has created a five-quark particle — "pentaquark" — in an experiment at the SPring-8 physics lab. Testing a theory from Russian scientists, the team blasted carbon atoms with high-energy X-rays to make the pentaquarks.

Determining why the pentaquark appeared in the experiment should offer great insight into the nature and stability of the essential building blocks of all matter, says physicist Ken Hicks of Ohio University in Athens, who took part in both the experiment and a confirmatory effort at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

"It took me two months to convince myself this was real," Hicks says. "It has been a real roller coaster."

Quarks come in six types, or "colors." The type of quarks inside protons and neutrons determines the mass, energy and magnetism of those particles. The pentaquark's stability likely comes from a unique combination of quarks, says physicist Peter Barnes of Los Alamos (N.M.) National Lab.

The findings appear in next Friday's Physical Review Letters.

Deep Ohio rocks to ease global warming?

Friday, June 27, 2003 Posted: 12:18 PM EDT (1618 GMT)

OSLO, Norway (Reuters) -- Rocks deep below the North Sea or the Ohio River in the United States could be burial grounds for global warming despite opposition from environmentalists who fear a leaky, short-sighted fix.

Governments and companies around the world are studying ways to pump greenhouse gases -- from power stations, oil platforms or steel mills -- into deep, porous rocks where they might be trapped for millions of years and curb a rise in temperatures.

The United States signed a charter on June 25 with the European Union's executive Commission and 12 countries including Russia, China, Japan, Canada and Brazil to research the technology in a "Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum."

But some environmentalists say the idea is costly and like trying to sweep one of the planet's greatest problems under the carpet.

Find this article at: http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/06/27/deep.rocks.reut/index.html

Girl weds dog to break 'evil spell'


A nine-year-old tribal girl in eastern India has married a stray dog as part of a ritual to ward off an "evil spell" on her, Indian newspapers have reported.

The girl, Karnamoni Handsa, had to be married quickly because she had a tooth rooted to her upper gum, which is considered a bad omen by her Santhal tribe in the remote village of Khanyhan, about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Calcutta.

"Members of the village jury asked us to get her married to a dog or to face the bad omen," the girl's father was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

The tribe elders said the marriage would not affect the girl's life, and that she would be free to marry again later and did not need to divorce the dog.

"It will not spoil her future. We will marry her off to eligible bachelor when she grows up," the girl's mother told AFP.

Waxahachie eatery faces uncertain future after fire

Cause of blaze unclear; tales of ghosts lured many to spot
By IAN McCANN / The Dallas Morning News

WAXAHACHIE – A Sunday night fire severely damaged the Catfish Plantation restaurant, which drew ghost hunters from around the world to this small Ellis County town for more than a decade.

The fire in the 108-year-old Victorian house near downtown started outside the building about 9:45 p.m. and spread quickly to the attic. Firefighters had the blaze under control in less than an hour, but significant damage was done to the back of the building and the roof.

Waxahachie Fire Chief David Hudgins said investigators are still working to determine the cause but said it does not seem suspicious.

On Monday, as a steady stream of visitors came by, water, ash and mud soaked the carpet, and ceilings still dripped water. Soot outlined places where photos and mirrors hung, and part of the roof was missing. Owners estimated the damage at $250,000.

"It makes you sick – we're all so protective of buildings like that," said Becky Kauffman, a preservationist in Waxahachie who lives nearby. "You don't replace them."

City Manager Bob Sokoll – a fan of the restaurant's frog legs – said there's no way to put a dollar amount on the sentimental value of Catfish Plantation.

"I've had more people ask me about this restaurant than any other," said Mr. Sokoll, whose wife painted the restaurant's first outdoor sign. "It's probably one of the more famous historic buildings in town."

The restaurant opened in 1984 in the 1895 structure. One of the city's most famous residents, former Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles manager Paul Richards, was born there. Throughout the years, it has retained its ornate woodwork around the exterior eaves and other historic features. But the restaurant was made famous by its reputation for ghosts.

There's Will, the Depression-era farmer; Caroline, who died in the home in 1970 and is said to throw objects in the house; and Elizabeth, who was murdered on her wedding day and appears wearing a white lace gown.

Owners, diners, employees and others have reported so many supernatural encounters that the restaurant began recording the experiences in a notebook. Reportedly, there were radios and other appliances turning on and off by themselves, silverware and other items being moved, strange lights glowing. It's said that one time a ring fell on a diner, apparently from nowhere.

The restaurant is listed in a number of travel guides for haunted places.

Restaurant co-owner Tom Baker said a Waxahachie police officer responding to a burglar alarm was shaken up one time by an encounter he had with Will.

"He had shined his flashlight in the front room and saw an old farmer standing there. He pointed the flashlight at him, and the farmer disappeared," Mr. Baker said. "He said, 'I'm not going in there.' "

Employees Roxana Quilimaco and Bonnie Battersby said they once heard a whistling coming from the front yard, though nobody was there.

Ms. Quilimaco, 26, said she'll miss the people she works with, who are like family to her.

"I started when I was very young," she said. "This is my first and only job."

Mr. Baker and co-owner Jimmy Poarch said that they're unsure whether they'll be able to reopen Catfish Plantation, which employs 25 people, but that they'd be closer to a decision by next week.

They were able to salvage much of the antique furniture Monday.

"How much we'll be able to use again, I don't know," said Mr. Poarch, who lives two doors down from the restaurant. "This is really tough for all of us."

The owners say they miss the restaurant already.

"We're just digesting it all right now," Mr. Baker said. "We'll wait and see what we can and can't do."

E-mail imccann@dallasnews.com

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/localnews/stories/070103dnmetplantation.98e16.html

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