NTS LogoSkeptical News for 12 July 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Master Creation Bibliography


©1998-1999 Eric Blievernicht — [Last Modified: 25 August 2002]

This is a bibliography of english-language books and monographs written by creationist or anti-evolution authors, and other books of significance to creationists (e.g., works by Lerner and Numbers). Except where noted all authors are presumed to be professing Christians adherring to the Recent Creation view. This list is not an endorsement of any sort. Creation science is a rapidly developing paradigm and anything more than a few years old is more or less outdated. Some recent material is also of poor quality and inaccurate.

Children's books are not included. (If anyone would like to take that task upon themselves, e-mail me.) The origins of this list are the product of Ashby Camp, whom I would like to thank. I'd also like to thank Doug Sharp for hosting this list at the RAE website, and Casey Luskin for moral support and the idea of adding book reports.

Authors names are color-coded according to their position on origins. This information may not be 100% accurate - let me know if you see an inaccuracy. Note that some people virtually defy such simple categorizations, and there can be great differences of opinion and viewpoint within each of these basic factions.

Cold Fusion Reactor experimental tests results

created on May 8, 2003 - JLN Labs - Last update June 25, 2003

Toutes les informations et schémas sont publiés gratuitement ( freeware ) et sont destinés à un usage personnel et non commercial

All informations and diagrams are published freely (freeware) and are intended for a private use and a non commercial use.

The Cold Fusion Reactor ( CFR ) is fully based on the work of the researchers Tadahiko MIZUNO and Tadayoshi OHMORI from the Hokkaido University in Japan. On May 7th, 2003, I have replicated successfully the Mizuno-Ohmori's Cold Fusion experiment. I have used the experimental protocol fully described by Eugene F. Mallove at : http://www.amasci.com/weird/anode.txt and also in the Infinite Energy Magazine Volume 4, Issue 20, 1998

The Condo Contractor from Hell


In Falwell She Trusted

Seventy-three-year-old Genevieve Hoover was bilked of more than $14,000. She didn't fall for a Ponzi Scheme, a fly-by-night siding contractor, or another scam typical of those that target an elderly woman's life savings. She was simply making payments on the new retirement condominium she was told would be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2002.

That condo remains unfinished to this day, and despite many attempts, Hoover hasn't gotten a penny of her investment back. She hasn't received answers to the three letters she has written to the man behind the project: the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The website of Liberty Village, the Virginia retirement community being developed by the Falwell ministries in partnership with New York corporation Savoy Senior Housing, promises a "Village Green," clubhouse, restaurants, theaters, and "a community of new friends and family who share your passion and zest for life and the values that have made America strong." However, so far, that "community" includes just three occupied homes on the 140-acre mountaintop near Lynchburg. After two years of heavy construction, the rest of the job site is mostly mud, empty roads, and unfinished buildings on property adjacent to Liberty University and the future home of Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Liberty Village has been collecting deposits and payments from buyers of the $100,000 to almost-$300,000 homes, but is still in debt to the tune of millions of dollars. Subcontractors with outstanding liens have filed at least three lawsuits, and suits from buyers like Hoover are expected to follow. Campbell County was recently forced to issue a "stop work" order and use bonds posted by the developers to remediate erosion problems that were clouding a nearby lake.

Hoover refused one settlement offer, which would have refunded about $7,000 of her money. She was willing to accept the loss of the remaining half of her investment, but could not reconcile herself with the other part of the deal: a non-disclosure agreement that would have prevented her from ever talking about the swindle.

Explaining why she is reviving her lawsuit against the ministry and its partners, Hoover said, "I felt like I couldn't afford to go on."

- Mary Ellen Sikes, IHS

[What ever happened to Jim and Tammy Bakker?, Ed.]

It's a hoax!


The names of the teenagers in this story have been changed to protect their identities - Editor.

By Catherine Moy/Reporter Correspondent

Four Fairfield teenagers claim they created the mysterious crop circles that popped up in a Rockville Road wheat field in June, drawing thousands of curious onlookers and nationwide media attention.

The four agreed to tell their story on condition their identities be withheld.

The young men - three 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old - claim they spent the wee hours of June 28, pressing Larry Balestra's wheat field with boards connected to a rope. They had watched a documentary the previous Friday about crop circles and decided to do it, just to while away summer boredom while showing off their creative sides.

"We don't like when people try putting teenagers down," said John, 17.

They tried confessing several times to different visitors, but no one would believe them. To prove their role, the teens took a reporter to a set of circles that they say they created in a wheat field off Cordelia Road. No reports had been published on that second set of circles.

"This is where we practiced for the other ones," said George, 18.

Three of the boys are on probation for crimes relating to theft. All of their parents know they made the circles. One of their mothers even bought the movie "Signs" to celebrate their feat.

But their probation officers wouldn't be too happy, they said, especially because the hoax destroyed about $500 worth of the farmer's wheat fields. And, Solano County Sheriff Gary Stanton has made it clear that he views the act as vandalism and trespassing. He said, however, that he has not received a complaint and without one, will not pursue an investigation.

The teens don't feel like they've done much harm to the farmer, however.

"He's making loads of cash at his vegetable stand because of them," said Jack, 17.

The Balestra family, however, said this year's profits have been no different than last year. However, they were making plans to start selling $12 alien T-shirts today.

Balestra said Thursday he would never press charges in the matter.

Although he made skeptical statements to the press about alien involvement after the circles first cropped up, he was actually a little bit melancholy to hear the teens' claims.

"It's sad, because this made so many people happy."

He said he will harvest wheat from fields around the circles, but will leave the circles intact for people to enjoy.

The design of the new set of circles revealed by the teens includes one large and one small circle connected by a narrow path. It is in another wheat field near Anheuser Busch. The owners of the property allowed access, but didn't realize the circles existed.

"We shortened the rope on this one," explained George, as he stood in the smaller of the two circles Wednesday.

Since they left Balestra's fields with 14 connecting circles that have drawn UFO believers, extraterrestrial specialists, healers, psychics and gawkers, the young men have returned to the scene scores of times. They said they like watching the reactions of people wandering in the circles. They've even confessed more than once to so-called experts who have pooh-poohed their claims.

"We've told people that we did it, but they don't want to believe (us)," said George. A man pumping gas at the Rockville Road's Tower gas station snubbed the teens when they confessed to him.

Gerry Narito, a former juvenile hall counselor, was passing through when she met the boys.

"They were having conversations with people" at the gas station, Narito said. "They said they did it. One guy told them, 'You don't look intelligent enough to do it.' "

Narito was convinced they were responsible after listening to their story.

On Tuesday, the boys spent more than an hour explaining to a reporter how they pulled off the hoax.

Jack even went home and retrieved a wrinkled paper on which he had drawn a diagram of the crop circles. A second copy apparently went through the wash in John's pants.

The teens said they began their task by gathering the tools: A couple boards, a 30-foot ski rope, scraps of other rope and a roll of blue tape.

Larry's wife, Lisa Balestra, confirmed late Thursday that pieces of blue tape were found in the circles - a fact never publicized.

The largest circles have 60-foot diameters, twice as long as the ski rope.

"Man, we had to rest sometimes," said John, "My back got tired and I laid down in the field."

They initially walked to the wheat field on a path between the wheat and a safflower field, so they wouldn't leave footprints. They jumped into the wheat and began work on their pattern.

One teen stood in the center of the circle, holding the ski rope borrowed from one of the parents. Another would hold on to the other end of the rope to ensure they made a decent circle. Then they pressed down the wheat with the planks of wood connected to a small rope, which served as a handle.

The moon was bright that night, providing plenty of light. As for reports of mysterious lights in the field, the teens say it was their cell phones. They called numerous friends to come out and take a look, but no one came.

Since their story started making headlines, they collected every newspaper and watched every telecast on the topic, enjoying every minute of the attention.

One of their brothers even called from out of state to say he'd seen the story.

They've also enjoyed the people who have made pilgrimages to the circles, especially those who believe aliens made the formations. And they don't belittle any of the believers.

"One lady said she cured her back pain by rubbing the wheat on her back," George said. "If it does that, we'll make more circles for them."

But not all the believers who flocked to the circles have come away believing aliens left their mark. One Albany woman, who told a reporter she is a reincarnated alien, said Thursday the circles just didn't do it for her.

"I was in one group of aliens in a past life, so I think I'd know," said Pat Segrestan. "The design is beautiful, but I don't get any special feelings from it."

Paul Imlah of Fairfield and a friend said they didn't think the circles were alien creations either.

"Unless the aliens are using rope."

The teens have researched the crop circle phenomenon since June 28, and George has seen crop circles on TV that he believes no human could make. Yes, he believes in extraterrestrial life.

Crop circles were first reported in England during the 1600s. Some 250 appear annually in different sites on the globe. Self-described experts study them, believers meditate at them, and skeptics giggle at them.

In the past two weeks, four crop circle patterns have appeared in Solano County alone. The teens take no credit for a smaller circle found near Solano Community College, nor the Vacaville circle, which looks like a squashed bug replete with antennae in a corn field at Leisure Town and Fry Roads.

"That one is funny. What did that pilot say? 'It must have been a drunk alien,' " John said.

The foursome would be glad to demonstrate their skills of circle making - if the law wouldn't bust them for it.

"We just did it for fun - to see if we could do it," George said.

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.


Today's Headlines – July 11, 2003

from The New York Times

In new observations of a distant region of primitive stars, astronomers have found the oldest known planet, a huge gaseous object almost three times as old as Earth and nearly as old as the universe itself.

The discovery, based on measurements by the Hubble Space Telescope, challenged scientists to rethink theories of how, when and where planets form. It is tantalizing evidence, astronomers said, that planets began appearing billions of years earlier than previously thought and so may be more abundant.

Astronomers reported yesterday that the planet is more than twice as massive as Jupiter and is orbiting a pair of burned-out stars. It appears to have formed 12.7 billion years ago, within a billion years of the origin of the universe in the theorized Big Bang.

from Newsday

Thanks to the powers of genetic engineering, scientists said yesterday they've created a device that can quickly and accurately detect bad bugs such as anthrax in water, air and other samples.

The invention should become available in six months, the researchers said, and the new system should offer a way to detect dangerous bioterrorism agents such as anthrax and plague bacteria and the SARS-causing virus. Developed at the Lincoln Laboratory, a government-funded facility run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the system called CANARY sends an alarm if it spots a disease agent.

"The speed, sensitivity and specificity of CANARY are valuable attributes for applications including medical and agricultural diagnosis, bio-warfare defense, and food-and-water-quality monitoring," the research team wrote in Science magazine.

from The Los Angeles Times

DEVON ISLAND, Canada — NASA doesn't plan to launch humans to Mars anytime soon, so Pascal Lee decided to drive.

First came miles of seemingly endless ridges of ice and expanses of grayish- yellow rock. Then yawning canyons and, in the distance, the rim of a massive meteor crater. Through the frosted windshield, Lee scanned the terrain for the myriad dangers of this alien landscape: snowdrifts capable of swallowing his Humvee, a precariously thin skin of ice on the frozen ocean and really hungry polar bears.

It's not quite Mars, but for aficionados of the Red Planet, it's the next best thing. It's Canada.

More precisely, it's Devon Island, the world's largest uninhabited land mass and a place so desolate even the hardy Inuit forsake it. For Lee, a Mars expert at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., it was love at first sight when he first saw the island's unearthly landscape in 1997.

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Friday, July 11, 2003

Interview with U of Texas Professor on Texas Board of Education's Textbook's Content Selection Process


Aired July 9, 2003 - 19:34 ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES, live from Los Angeles. A lot more stories to report in the next hour. If you want to sell school books across the nation you don't tailor them to Rhode Island, such a small state, you tailor them to the big states California and Texas. And Texas, it so happens, chooses its textbooks with a text books, well, with a Texas size dollop of public input. As CNN's Ed Lavandera reports that means sometimes the Bible takes precedent over science and not just Texas but in school books around the country.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Inside this Austin, Texas, board room the battle to mold the minds of young students is raging and special interest groups are sharpening their swords.

What organization do you represent?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I represent Texas Eagle Forum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm with the National Center for Science Education.

LAVANDERA: These groups and others are here because the 15 members of the Texas Board of Education have enormous influence over what students nationwide read in their textbooks. Texas has a yearly textbook budget of $344 million. California and Florida are also big spenders.

JOE BILL WATKINS, ASS. OF AMERICAN PUBLISHERS: Most publishers who get on this list essentially use what's approved here as their national product.

LAVANDERA: Today, Texas educators are debating which biology books will be used in the future and that ignites the debate of evolution versus creationism, or intelligent design as some now call it.

JOHN COURAGE, HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER: If we put intelligent design into our biology textbooks based on the misrepresentation of real scientific fact, and the conjecture that its proponents rely on, then we may as well add the study of flying saucers and aliens from outer space to our biology and physics book. LAVANDERA: Evolution is the theory that all living things have a common ancestor but others say that doesn't explain the beginning of life. They support the idea of intelligent design, that an intelligent being created life on Earth. Supporters of this side want more space textbooks.

RAYMOND BOHLIN, DISCOVERY INSTITUTE: Every theory has its weaknesses, has it's problems, and evolution seems to be the one theory in the textbooks that just isn't treated that way. We're just not told where its weaknesses and problem are.

LAVANDERA: The textbook battle isn't just over biology books. Virtually every subject is controversial now. Should women be portrayed as working mothers or stay at home mothers. How and when do you teach sex education. No matter where you live the debates being heard in Texas will go a long way in determining what students will be learning in two years. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Austin, Texas.


COOPER: Well, it's a fascinating topic. Joining me for more discussion about it is University of Texas Professor of law and philosophy, Brian Leiter, the Texas Board of Education declined our invitation to appear on the program.

Brian, what is the concern here? I mean there are plenty who say look, this opens the process up, it makes it a more Democratic process to have people, the public consulted. What's wrong with it?

BRIAN LEITER, PROFESSOR, LAW, PHILOSOPHY U OF TEXAS: I think there were two questions here. One is whether we ought to have a Democratic process when what's at issue is choosing textbooks that are supposed to convey the expert state of knowledge about science, about history, about economics, to our students.

COOPER: So on the democracy topic you say democracy is all well and good, but for some specialized topics it's not needed not a good idea?

LEITER: Well think of it this way, the University of Texas is fortunate to have great law schools and great medical schools but we don't think that the curriculum of those schools should be set by popular election. Some require expert knowledge and it's experts, those who are qualified, who are to vet (ph) the textbooks and design the curriculum are to used in our schools.

COOPER: There is the other question which is, assuming you buy the democracy argument, whether really whatever you believe about it, is this process as it is now, is it really Democratic?

LEITER: Right. And that's the other question. Even if we wanted to have a Democratic process, it's very clear that what we have right now is a farce. The State Board of Education meets two or three times a year in the state of 18 million people. Most people have no idea who their representative on the State Board of Education are. The only people who turn out for these hearings are the organized special interest groups, who are bent on political censorship in getting these books to reflect their political point of view.

COOPER: OK, Brian, we got a couple examples we want to put on the screen to show the audience what we're talking about. This one is from a change made last year in a 6th grade social studies book. Now initially the text read, "Glaciers formed the Great Lakes millions of years ago". Then it was edited to read, "Glaciers formed the Great Lakes in the distant past." Why was "millions of years" switched to "distant past"?

LEITER: Well, I believe it was deleted because it conflicts with Biblical timelines. Even though the evidence that the glaciers formed millions of years ago is undisputed by scientists.

COOPER: OK, let's show another example here. This is -- the publisher agreed to delete this line, "Christians would later accept slavery in other contexts" this was from Prentice Hall Publisher. Now I guess someone argued this is a softening of the history on slavery?

LEITER: Well, I think the objection to it was actually different, which is that it reflected badly on Christianity. Though, the unfortunate fact about the history of the western world, is that many Christian nations accepted slavery for a very long time. President Bush has recently been talking about that unfortunate and shameful aspect of our past.

COOPER: There's one other we're going to show. A publisher agreed to delete the following line, "al Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden told his followers that it was Muslim's duty to kill Americans. No idea could be further from Muslim teachings the Quran, Islam's holiest book, tells soldiers to show civilians kindness and deal with them justly". Can you explain that one?

LEITER: I believe religious conservatives -- Christian conservatives-- I should say, felt that this portrayed Islam in too favorable a light. Again it's very ironic since President Bush has emphasized that our pursuit of terrorists has nothing to do with the war on Islam, but here in Texas some groups feel we shouldn't portray Islam in a favorable light at all.

COOPER: All right. Brian Leiter, appreciate you coming in and talking about this. I think a lot of people probably don't know much about this process. It's kind of an arcane one, but an important one to know about. Appreciate you talking about it.

LEITER: Thank you.


Board takes testimony on new textbooks


By Alicia Gooden
The Daily News

Published July 10, 2003

They sat against the wall in a corner, strewn about the table —12 biology textbooks in a race for adoption by the State Board of Education.

And these books would not be judged by their covers. It was the contents that caus-ed hundreds of people to attend the first adoption hearing for biology textbooks that will be used in the 2004-2005 school year.

During more than four hours of testimony from scientists, religious, political and educational organizations, the state's education board at ground zero in the political and cultural battle that is Texas' textbook adoption process.

The 15-member, Republican dominated board has raised the ire of civil liberties groups across the state for its perceived conservative-leaning ideology, which some say motivates it to "extort" publishers into massaging textbooks to fit their personal and religious agendas.

Other groups, such as the Discovery Institute, and board members say that the groups claiming to be for civil liberties are the actual censors.

Last year, the controversy surrounded history books and how the publishers presented the subjects of slavery, Islam and acid rain.

This year's controversy is evolution and how it is presented in the textbooks up for adoption.

Wednesday's hearing was a glimpse into the ongoing debate of creationism versus evolution, natural selection and the relevance of intelligent design.

"No one is trying to throw evolution out of these textbooks," said David Bradley, who represents Galveston County on the board.

Others see it differently and say the board is misusing its power and position.

"The board reviews each textbook's content, and if they don't like it, they can hold the book hostage until the publisher agrees to change the content," said Steven Shafers-man, president of Texas Citizens for Science.

"Most publishers comply with this extortion and censorship, since with an annual budget for textbooks of $570 million. ... A publisher that refuses to oblige the board will its book rejected."

Bradley said that none of the textbooks offered for adoption meet the standards for weighing the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories.

He said the books are all based on evolution and do not make mention of the fact that there is a large group of people who believe in creationism.

He said Texas Education Agency failed the board by not instructing review panels that their analysis of the textbooks must be weighed using the objective of weighing the strengths and weaknesses of theories.

"I read the Bible, and that's OK with me," he said. "But none of these textbooks say anything about creationism."

Bradley said the real censors were the people who were trying to keep creationism and mentions of intelligent design out of the content of the proposed biology textbooks.

Dozens of people spoke about keeping creationism out of science textbooks, since it could not be scientifically proven.

The board will have another hearing on the biology textbooks in September before making its final decision in November.

Evolution sparking latest textbook firestorm


By Marti Maguire
San Antonio Express-News

Web Posted : 07/10/2003 12:00 AM

AUSTIN — Controversy over textbooks erupted again Wednesday as scientists and members of the public addressed the Board of Education over the treatment of evolution in biology textbooks.

Nearly all of the three dozen speakers defended the teaching of evolution against a report that questioned the accuracy of evidence supporting the scientific theory in the 11 biology texts being considered for adoption in Texas.

After Discovery Institute — a Seattle-based public policy group — submitted the 55-page report, teachers, scientists and activists went on the offensive.

They said they feared that the elected board, dominated by conservative members, would use the report to influence publishers to include references to creationism or "intelligent design" as a scientific theory.

While intelligent design, which claims that a higher power directed human development, is more scientific, critics said it couldn't be included because it had not been peer reviewed by reputable scientists.

Raymond Bohlin, speaking on behalf of the Discovery Institute, said Darwin's Origin of the Species was not peer reviewed.

"Often new scientific ideas are not welcomed in the scientific literature," said Bohlin, who holds a doctorate in biology and is director of communications at Probe Ministries in Richardson.

Texas Freedom Network Director Samantha Smoot called Discovery's analysis "creationism dressed up in a lab coat," and stressed that good science books are needed to prepare students for both the TAKS and careers in medicine and biotechnology.

"I'm here to keep outside forces from removing science from science books," said David Hillis, a biology professor at the University of Texas. "The goal (of Discovery) is to insert a religious and political agenda into the science classroom."

The meeting was reminiscent of last year's four-month battle over the adoption of social studies textbooks.

Trustees Terri Leo, R-Houston, and Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, questioned several speakers at the public hearing, asking whether perceived weaknesses in evolutionary theory should be included in textbooks.

Leo said publishers shouldn't remove evolution or insert religion into books, but should present both the strengths and the weaknesses of Darwin's theory.

"If we censor out scientific weaknesses, we limit the best of our educators by addressing them to avoid debate of different viewpoints and to explore the range of theories in the classroom," Leo said.

The elected board does not alter textbook content, but can reject books because of mistakes or because they don't match the state curriculum.

Another public hearing will be held in September, and a vote on new books for both biology and English as a second language, which will cost an estimated $90 million, will take place in November.





July 10, 2003 -- BRYANT Gumbel wants you to open your mind to the possibility that aliens from outer-space have landed on Earth. The former morning show host will anchor at least two original two-hour primetime documentary specials this fall that will "chronicle fresh forensic testing in connection to two unsolved cases involving unknown objects from space," according to SCI FI officials.

- Don Kaplan

Herzog to do film on Loch Ness monster


LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- German filmmaker Werner Herzog is embarking on his next project, a documentary that will explore the myth of the Loch Ness monster. "The Enigma of Loch Ness," which Herzog will direct and produce, is set to begin principal photography in the Loch Ness area of Scotland in late July for about two months.

The project, described as part expedition, part social study, is also being produced by screenwriter Zak Penn ("X2: X-Men United"), who put together the financing for the film.

"Loch Ness" will examine the myth and mysteries surrounding the creature purported to exist in Scotland's most famous body of water. The expedition team, led by Herzog, will set out to discover the real story behind the monster who is said to lurk in one of the world's deepest lakes. It will attempt to answer such questions as to how the story transformed into myth and why has it attracted so much international attention.

On location, Herzog will visit the lake's surrounding communities and delve into the locals' conception of the elusive creature. Next, he will probe the body of water searching for clues as to the genesis of the mystery.

The project marks Penn's second producing credit, having previously helped bring Warner Bros.' animated "Osmosis Jones" to the big screen. He became friendly with Herzog when the two collaborated on a project that is still being developed.

"When Werner told me about this idea about the Loch Ness, I leapt at the chance because I'm such a fan of Werner's and it's a subject that's always fascinated me -- a monster living in a lake," said Penn. "I'm interested in all those types of things, which I guess is why I write a lot of science fiction. I know this is a weird twist in my career, but I'm enjoying it."

Herzog most recently directed "Wheel of Time," a documentary about Buddhist initiation ceremonies that featured interviews with the Dalai Lama. His feature credits include "Fitzcarraldo" and "Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht."

Mystery crop circles keep packing 'em in

New Age believers descend en masse on Solano wheat field
Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, July 10, 2003
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/07/10/CIRCLES.TMP&nl=top

The folks with divining rods, aluminum foil hats, crystal pendants and arthritic dogs keep coming and coming and coming.

They've been coming to a Solano County wheat field for the past 12 days. They come, and they believe, and they trample Larry Balestra's wheat stalks, and they take armfuls of it home, for souvenirs.

It's not letting up. It's bigger than ever. It's so big that crop circle T-shirts are available, for $12 each.

Folks have been coming ever since a dozen crop circles turned up in the field at the corner of Suisun Valley and Rockville roads, 4 miles west of Fairfield.

A crop circle is a large, round area of flattened plants. Dreamy-eyed believers say they are the work of space aliens, and mule-headed skeptics say they are the work of scalawags and scamps. And although crop circles are easily made by dragging boards in a circle while holding a taut rope fastened to a central point, no one has proved that the aliens did it that way.

People who believe in crop circles really believe in them, and so do their dogs. One of them is an old beagle named Barney.

"He's got arthritis," said Barney's owner, Mary Eichhorn of Sacramento. "We thought the energy here might help."

While Barney sniffed for signs of aliens, Patrick McCormick of San Rafael walked through the wheat with a pair of divining rods. He said the energy was making the divining rods wiggle. They wiggled like mad when McCormick got to the middle of one of the circles.

"It proves something is going on," McCormick said.

And that was hardly surprising, said psychic Barbara Weisbeck, because she had asked her crystal owl statue whether or not the crop circles were the real thing, and the owl had said yes.

She was holding the owl in one hand and an amethyst pendant in the other. As she strolled through the wheat, she asked the owl whether the aliens would be returning soon. The pendant began to swing in a clockwise circle, which means, Weisbeck said, that the owl is certain of it.

"There's no mistake," Weisbeck said. "The owl knows."

Norma Pezzini, who was dangling two crystal pendulums over the center of one circle, agreed. The crystals were swinging in a north-south line.

"Some entity," she said, "is sending us a cosmic message. That's what's happening."

This week, the wheat field also has been visited by lots of folks wearing hats made out of aluminum foil, who are sure that the metal will conduct needed energy to their brains. Other believers have lain down on the crushed wheat and taken high-intensity naps, or placed stalks of wheat inside their underwear for extra stamina in the sack. Still others are taking measurements and readings with all manner of gizmos.

Balestra, who has been growing wheat on the land for nearly 20 years, watches the procession of believers with untired eyes. Sooner or later, he says, what is left of the wheat will have to be harvested, but Balestra doesn't have the heart to bust up the party just yet. Besides, Balestra said, his regular harvester is reluctant to run his equipment through a field full of zealots.

"All my friends say I ought to put up a fence and charge people $2 a head, but that's not my way," Balestra said. "I'm enjoying this. People lying down in my wheat field, and wrapping their heads in foil. It's great."

Balestra, who runs a fruit stand just north of the wheat field, is selling souvenir crop circle shirts as a public service because, he said, his customers insisted.

He smiles as strangers depart the field carrying away his wheat. A stalk of wheat is not worth fussing over, especially with people clutching it so fervently.

"What can I do about it?" he said. "It used to be my wheat. Now it's their wheat."

Meanwhile, after centuries of alien-free life in Solano County, another crop circle is supposed to have turned up a couple of days ago in a nearby field. This one is so mysterious that no one has actually seen it, but that doesn't seem to matter, because everyone has talked to somebody who has seen it.

"I know there are going to be more," said one man holding a forked stick. "There has to be. This is only the beginning."

©2003 San Francisco Chronicle

Page A - 17

Thursday, July 10, 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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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.


Today's Headlines – July 10, 2003

from The Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union head office proposed guidelines Wednesday for funding research on embryonic stem cells, setting the stage for a showdown with countries that oppose such work on moral grounds.

The proposal adopted by the European Commission would allow researchers to spend EU money to harvest new stem cells from frozen human embryos -- a practice illegal in Germany, Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland and Spain and blocked elsewhere.

Under the proposal, the European Union would not fund human embryonic stem cell research in any country where it is forbidden. Still, members such as Germany don't want their tax money to pay for projects elsewhere that would be banned at home.

from The New York Times

Many of the world's largest companies are doing a poor job of preparing for the business impact of global warming, a report issued yesterday by investor, environmental and public interest groups said.

Most of the 20 corporate giants discussed, including leaders in the oil, auto and utility industries, are also failing to disclose to investors enough about the financial risks they face from climate change, according to the report, which was prepared by the Investor Responsibility Research Center in Washington.

None of the companies have produced dollar estimates of the potential costs or benefits of climate change, like more extreme weather, or of the financial impact of changing regulations on carbon emissions, the report said. And eight companies, including General Electric, General Motors and Exxon Mobil, made no mention of climate change in filings last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

from The Washington Post

A National Institutes of Health scientist who said that he had done virtually no work for the past seven years has been given new duties after going public with his complaints.

Edward McSweegan alleged that he was being paid an annual salary of $100,000 for carrying out occasional tasks that could have been performed by a "gofer" or typist.

Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson asked NIH Director Elias Zerhouni to look into the matter "immediately." But NIH officials yesterday said that their decision to give McSweegan responsibility for managing 87 grants was "absolutely not" connected to Thompson's intervention.

from The Associated Press

Scientists have developed a blood test that appears to be the first reliable way to predict whether patients with neurological problems such as tingling or blurred vision will soon develop the debilitating disease multiple sclerosis.

Austrian researchers studying patients with possible MS symptoms found that those with two kinds of antibodies in their blood early on were 76 times more likely to develop the tough-to-diagnose disorder than those with neither antibody. Their findings appear in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Some of the potential early symptoms of MS can have numerous other causes, such as a stroke or a brain tumor. Moreover, one-third of patients with these initial symptoms recover and never develop MS; others can go for years before they have a second flare-up showing they have MS.

from Newsday

Trees bathed in New York City's smoggy air grow better than trees downwind in the bucolic 'burbs, scientists said yesterday.

After comparing the growth of trees planted in the Bronx and Astoria with that of their clones grown on Long Island, a three-member research team found that city trees grew up to twice as large during the same growing seasons.

According to ecologist Jillian Gregg, the complex mix of pollutants emitted in urban areas provides an odd reprieve. City trees avoid some ozone damage because another pollutant, oxides of nitrogen, tends to neutralize ozone. A common pollutant in that family is nitric oxide.

In contrast, ozone formed by action of sunlight on polluting gases escapes being neutralized as it flows toward the suburbs. Thus more ozone is present and causes more damage in the plant tissues of rural and suburban trees than is seen in cities.


Scientists could have written an R-rated, gender-bending plot twist to Disney's "Finding Nemo": Clownfish have a natural ability to change their sex.

Clownfish, the aquarium pet of choice since the release of the animated movie, live in such a rigid social structure in the wild that if one of the dominant breeding adults is removed, the size, status and even sex of the other clownfish change rapidly to return the group to the status quo.

"If the female of the group dies, the male changes sex and becomes the breeding female," said Cornell University evolutionary biologist Peter Buston, "while the largest non-breeder becomes the breeding male."

from The New York Times

Conservationists call them "hot spots" -- habitats that cover just 1.4 percent of Earth's land surface but are so rich in biological diversity that preserving them could keep an astonishing number of plant and animal species off the endangered list.

Since 1988, when Norman Myers and his colleagues began describing these hot spots in a series of scientific papers and arguing for their protection, they have become a focus of worldwide conservation efforts. Private organizations and government agencies have made preserving 25 such ecological arks -- from the Atlantic rain forest of Brazil to the semiarid Karoo region of South Africa -- a top priority for financing and protective legislation.

But a growing chorus of scientists is warning that directing conservation funds to hot spots may be a recipe for major losses in the future. Just as an investor should maintain a balanced portfolio, the scientists argue, conservationists should avoid putting all of their eggs in one basket.

The story is based on an article in American Scientist magazine:

from Newsday

Silently, essentially unnoticed, the little bugs travel in darkness at high altitude, migrating across vast regions of the Earth. Who they are and where they're going are not well known, but the damage they do is sometimes all too obvious.

These migrants are insects - crop-eating bugs, plus some beneficial bugs - that are important to agriculture worldwide. And because their movements are largely invisible, how they get from place to place remains, to some degree, quite mysterious.

Now, radar is being used to sort out what's flying by overhead, even in the dark of night, and there are some surprises.

from The Elko (NV) Daily Free Press

ELKO, Nev. (AP) -- Gene research is helping clear up the mystery of the origins of the Basque people, a culture that apparently came out of East Africa 50,000 years ago and passed through the Middle East on the way to Western Europe, a University of Nevada researcher says.

That's one of the reasons when reviewing documents written in the ancient Sumerian language, "you would swear you are reading Basque," said Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, adjunct professor for the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

It's also why some cities in the Middle East have names that could be Basque-related, such as Ur, Uruk and Mari, he said. The name of a Basque goddess is Mari. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/07/09/state1415EDT0083.DTL

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Textbook evolution argument hasn't changed much

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Resurrecting a debate that has dogged textbook selection for two decades, supporters and critics of the theory of evolution pressed their arguments Wednesday to influence the next generation of high school biology books in Texas.

Scientists and educators from across Texas urged the State Board of Education to not tamper with 11 proposed biology books and their treatment of how life evolved.

Critics of the books, including some board members, charged that publishers have ignored state requirements by not including weaknesses in the theory of evolution in their biology texts, which would be used beginning in the fall of 2004.

Texas has long been a focal point of textbook selection in the United States because, as one of the largest buyers, its choices dramatically influence books marketed across the nation.

Board member Terri Leo of Spring, insisting that she supports the teaching of evolution in public schools, said her beef is that the biology books are supposed to contain the strengths and weaknesses of the theory, not just the strengths.

"These books do not include the scientific weaknesses of evolution," said Ms. Leo, echoing the complaints of other board members aligned with social conservative groups. "Charles Darwin himself would not have supported such censorship."

Revisions sought

She and other members said they will be expecting publishers to make revisions as the books move toward adoption by the board in November.

But several science teachers and college professors warned that it would be a mistake for the board to "water down" a fundamental scientific theory that is accepted by scientists around the world. Central to the theory is that man evolved from lower forms of life.

"It is your responsibility to judge scientific textbooks fairly and competently by relying on the advice of scientists and science educators, and not on the claims of anti-evolutionists and pseudoscientists," said Steven Schafersman, a geology professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and president of Texas Citizens for Science.

Dr. Schafersman lashed out at social conservatives and a Seattle-based think tank – the Discovery Institute – for attempting to weaken the presentation of evolution in biology books. Their goal, he argued, is to require that students also be taught "creation science" or the concept of "intelligent design" in science classes.

'Intelligent design'

Proponents of intelligent design attribute the development of life to the workings of a superior being or creator rather than the result of a "natural selection" of species that is at the heart of evolutionist theory.

Saundra Coffey, a biology teacher and chairman of the science department of Cypress Springs High School, reminded the board that state curriculum standards require that Texas students be taught evolution in school.

"Quality biology textbooks must adequately cover the topic of evolution and be based on scientific evidence," she said. "Creation science and intelligent design are not based on scientific evidence."

Raymond Bohlin of Garland, representing the Discovery Institute and the Christian think tank Probe Ministries, rejected the notion that the institute is seeking to impose its beliefs in Texas textbooks.

"We are not here to try and include anything in the textbooks. Our purpose is to talk about what the problems are regarding evolution in the texts," he said. He acknowledged that he met with Ms. Leo on Wednesday to discuss the group's concerns about the biology books.

"There is identifiable, scientific dissent to Darwinism," he said, noting that over a hundred scientists signed a letter that questioned Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and random mutation.

However, the National Center for Science Education said the number of those signing the letter represents a small fraction of the scientists in the United States and includes some who support many of the tenets of evolution.

State board members will hold another textbook hearing in September and then approve new biology books in November. Current biology books have been in classrooms for six years.

E-mail tstutz@dallasnews.com

Online at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dallas/tsw/stories/071003dntextextbooks.9be6f.html

The Super Power IssueThe Antigravity Underground


Issue 11.08 - August 2003

The fantastic floating device called a lifter has no moving parts, no onboard fuel, and no shortage of wide-eyed admirers. Even inside NASA.

By Clive Thompson

It's time for liftoff, so I pull on my thick, elbow-length rubber gloves and put the fire extinguisher within reach.

This is probably overkill, but I'm a little jumpy. I'm not accustomed to unleashing massive amounts of voltage in my cramped apartment. I do one last check of my DC transformer, which I bought online from a guy who specializes in energy systems that are illegal in several states. He put a sticker on this one: DANGER: ANTIGRAVITY IN DRIVER.

So this is it - my antigravity craft. The device itself is perched on a plastic filing cabinet in my living room. It's an equilateral triangle, 8 inches per side, composed of thin sticks of balsa wood. There's a ring of copper wire from RadioShack strung around the top and a strip of Reynolds Wrap held down with Krazy Glue around the bottom.

When I throw the switch, 20,000 volts will course through this bundle of sticks and foil - and it will levitate. It has no moving parts, no rotors, and no wings. But it will, I've been told, lift itself into the air.

The Super Power IssueBeing Invisible


Issue 11.08 - August 2003

Next-gen optical camouflage is busting out of defense labs and into the street. This is technology you have to see to believe.

By Wil McCarthy

Invisibility has been on humanity's wish list at least since Amon-Ra, a diety who could disappear and reappear at will, joined the Egyptian pantheon in 2008 BC. With recent advances in optics and computing, however, this elusive goal is no longer purely imaginary. Last spring, Susumu Tachi, an engineering professor at the University of Tokyo, demonstrated a crude invisibility cloak. Through the clever application of some dirt-cheap technology, the Japanese inventor has brought personal invisibility a step closer to reality.

Tachi's cloak - a shiny raincoat that serves as a movie screen, showing imagery from a video camera positioned behind the wearer - is more gimmick than practical prototype. Nonetheless, from the right angle and under controlled circumstances, it does make a sort of ghost of the wearer. And, unlike traditional camouflage, it's most effective when either the wearer or the background is moving (but not both). You don't need a university lab to check it out: Stick a webcam on your back and hold your laptop in front of you, screen facing out. Your friends will see right through you. It's a great party trick.

Of course, such demonstrations aren't going to fool anyone for more than a fraction of a second. Where is Harry Potter's cloak, wrapped around the student wizard as he wanders the halls of Hogwarts undetected? What about James Bond's disappearing Aston-Martin in Die Another Day? The extraterrestrial camouflage suit in the 1987 movie Predator? Wonder Woman's see-through Atlantean jet? It's not difficult to imagine a better system than Tachi's. In fact, invisibility that would satisfy any wizard - not to mention any spy, thief, or soldier - is closer than you might think.


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 645 July 9, 2003 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and
James Riordon
ULTRA-INTENSE LIGHT FILAMENTS have successfully been sent through laboratory "fog" that approximates atmospheric conditions. This is an important step which should benefit several laser applications, such as free-space laser communication, monitoring of pollution, and range finding (see figure at http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2003/194.htm ). Open-air laser light shows feature bright beams seemingly traveling interminably through the sky. But in general water droplets are an avid absorber of laser light. Now a group of physicists at the Universite Claude Bernard Lyon in France have used ultra intense (10^14 watts/cm^2), ultrashort (120 femtosecond) laser pulses to create "light filaments," streaks of light only 150 microns wide but hundreds of meters long, which can propagate through an artificial cloud of water droplets without losing much energy. The filaments form up through two competing nonlinear optical effects: the "Kerr effect" in which high intensity light modifies the index of refraction in the transmission medium (in this case air and water vapor) in such a way as to cause self-focusing; and the creation of a defocusing plasma effect. The French researchers now plan to test their scheme in the open atmosphere under controlled conditions. (Courvoisier et al., Applied Physics Letters, 14 July 2003; contact Jean-Pierre Wolf, wolf@lasim.univ-lyon1.fr, 04072-43-13-01; text at www.aip.org/physnews/select )

"MOTTNESS" MIGHT HELP TO EXPLAIN CUPRATE BEHAVIOR. One of the biggest problems in condensed matter physics is the effort to understand the behavior of copper oxide (or cuprate for short) superconductors. One of the most studied materials in all of science, cuprates are layer cakes consisting of copper-oxygen planes alternating with planes in which other elements, such as strontium or lanthanum, are stocked in varying ratios. For instance, the alternating layer might consist entirely of La, or it might contain 10% Sr. Like chefs looking for just the right recipe of spices, physicists have tried different levels of doping in an effort both to understand the underlying physics and to enhance the movement of electrons through their samples. At moderate doping levels, the cuprates are superconducting: moving electrons pair up and constitute a resistance-less current of electricity. Ironically, the cuprates are much less hospitable to electricity at ultra-low doping levels. In fact, they are insulators when they are not doped. A material's conductivity is determined by the ease with which electrons can move around. In a conductor, there is an abundance of free electrons. (Hotel analogy: there are plenty of guests and plenty of hotel rooms.) In an ordinary insulator electrons are bound two by two (the Pauli exclusion principle insures that no two electrons, except those with opposite values of spin, can occupy the same state) and there are very few if any free electrons. (In an insulating hotel all the rooms are filled with two guests, with no room for more guests.) In a Mott insulator (named for Sir Neville Mott) conditions are even more inhospitable: all electron energy states are filled with single electrons, and these interact so strongly as to preclude even the arrival of a second electron. (In a Mott hotel all the rooms are single rooms, and all are filled.). Many scientists believe that one of the keys to understanding why the cuprates are such good superconductors in the cold regime is to learn why they are Mott insulators in the warm regime and how such physics manifests itself when they are doped. One more oddity about the cuprates is the issue of "pseudogaps." In a superconductor, the energy required to break up a pair of electrons is termed the "energy gap." But in the cuprates, a partial gap still persists even when superconductivity is destroyed. Some have interpreted this as evidence that some pairs can exist even when the material is warmed above its superconducting transition temperature (see figure at http://www.aip.org/mgr/png/2003/195.htm ). However, the pseudogap is observed in Mott insulators that never became superconducting in the first place, indicating that the pseudogap is of a more general origin. Maybe there is more to superconductivity than the pairing of electrons. (See Nature, 4 January 2001 for background on this topic.)

Now, a new theory addresses the problem of cuprate superconductivity by suggesting that the existence of the curious pseudogap behavior can be explained by the same physics that makes cuprates Mott insulators. Tudor Stanescu (Rutgers Univ) and Philip Phillips (Univ Illinois) argue that "Mottness," involving the collective interaction among many electrons, is still present even when some of the hotel rooms are empty, to use the hotel analogy. They propose that the pseudogap arises simply because transport of electrons in a doped Mott insulator will still involve two electrons temporarily occupying the same site (the same room in the hotel analogy). Such events remind the doped state of its Mottness and this produces a pseudogap. They argue that such an effect disappears when roughly 25% of the hotel rooms are vacant. At such an occupancy rate, an electron can move, on average, throughout a layer without the inhospitability of Mottness. (Physical Review Letters, 4 July 2003; text at www.aip.org/physnews/select ; contact Philip Phillips, 216-751-7348, philip@wirth.physics.uiuc.edu )

SEMICONDUCTORS ARE COOL. One of the problems with electronic circuitry is what to do with heat dissipation. One attempt to deal with this would be to improve the thermoelectrical properties of the intrinsic circuitry material and use the material to make coolers for on-site chilling. The conventional typical thermoelectric materials, such as Bi2Te3, do not fit easily with the common integrated circuit semiconductors----Si, GaAs, and InP---because of a mismatch of the atomic spacing. Now, a group of scientists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with a colleague at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has tried to solve the problem by making coolers using the GaAs-based material itself. With this approach they have been able to bring about cooling of 0.8 degrees at a temperature of 25 C and 2 degrees at a temperature of 100 C. (Zhang et al., Applied Physics Letters, 14 July 2003; contact Jizhi Zhang, 413-545-0712, jizhang@ecs.umass.edu; text at www.aip.org/physnews/select )

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

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Reviewing the books http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/state/6263915.htm

Posted on Wed, Jul. 09, 2003

Validity of evolution at issue as state considers adopting new biology texts
By Matt Frazier
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

The long-running debate over the origins of mankind continues today before the State Board of Education, and the result could change the way science is taught in Texas and nationwide.

Local and out-of-state lobbying groups will try to convince the board that the next generation of biology textbooks should contain new scientific evidence that reportedly pokes holes in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

Many of those groups say their intent is not to place a divine creator back into science books, but to show that Darwin's theory is not a perfect explanation of the origins of mankind.

"It has become a battleground," said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which is dedicated to defending evolution in the classroom.

About 45 scientists, educators and special-interest groups from across Texas will testify at the state's first public hearing this year on the next generation of textbooks for the courses of biology, family and career studies, and English as a second language.

Approved textbooks will be available for classrooms in the 2004-05 school year. And because Texas is the second-largest textbook buyer in the nation, the outcome could affect education nationwide.

Differing viewpoints

The Texas Freedom Network and a handful of educators conducted a conference call last week to warn that conservative Christians and special-interest organizations will try to twist textbook content to further their own views.

"We are seeing the wave of the future of religious right's attack on basic scientific principles," said Samantha Smoot, executive director of the network, an anti-censorship group and opponent of the radical right.

Those named by the network disagree with the claim, including the Discovery Institute and its Science and Culture Center of Seattle.

"Instead of wasting time looking at motivations, we wish people would look at the facts," said John West, the center's associate director.

"Our goal nationally is to encourage schools and educators to include more about evolution, including controversies about various parts of Darwinian theory that exist between even evolutionary scientists," West said. "We are a secular think tank."

The institute is also perhaps the nation's leading proponent of intelligent design -- the idea that life is too complex to have occurred without the help of an unknown, intelligent being.

It has pushed this view through grants to teachers and scientists. The institute receives millions of dollars from philanthropists and foundations dedicated to discrediting Darwin's theory.

The center sent the State Board of Education a 55-page report grading 11 high school biology textbooks submitted for adoption. None earned a grade above a C minus. The report also includes four arguments it says show that evolutionary theory is not as solid as presented in biology textbooks today.

Discovery Institute Fellow Raymond Bohlin, who is also executive director of Probe Ministries in Richardson, will deliver that message in person today before the state board. Bohlin has a doctorate degree in molecular cell biology from the University of Texas at Dallas.

"If we can simply allow students to see that evolution is not an established fact, that leaves freedom for students to pursue other ideas," he said. "All I can do is continue to point these things out and hopefully get a group that hears and sees relevant data and insist on some changes."

Steven Schafersman, executive director of Texas Citizens for Science, calls the institute's information "pseudoscience nonsense." Schafersman is an evolutionary scientist who, for more than two decades, taught biology, geology, paleontology and environmental science at several universities, including the University of Houston and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

"It sounds plausible to people who are not scientifically informed," Schafersman said. "But they are fraudulently trying to deceive board members. They might succeed, but it will be over the public protests of scientists."

Evolution challenged

The last time the state reviewed biology textbooks, in 1997, the State Board of Education considered replacing all biology texts with new ones that did not mention evolution. The board defeated the proposal by a slim margin.

Evolution is required by the state to be included in textbooks. But arguments against evolution have been successful over the past decade in other states. Alabama, Nebraska and New Mexico made changes that, to varying degrees, challenge the pre-eminence of evolution in the scientific curriculum.

In 1999, the Kansas Board of Education voted to wash the concepts of evolution from the state's science curricula. A new state board has since overturned that action. Last year, the Cobb County school board in Georgia voted to include creationism in science classes.

Texas education requirements demand that textbooks include arguments for and against evolution, said Neal Frey, an analyst working with perhaps the most famous textbook reviewers in the state, Mel and Norma Gabler.

The Gablers, of Longview, have been reviewing Texas textbooks for almost four decades. They describe themselves as conservative Christians. Their priorities include making sure textbooks point out scientific flaws in arguments that support evolution.

"None of the texts truly conform to the state's requirements that the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories be presented to students," Frey said.

The Texas textbook proclamation of 2001, which is part of the state's curriculum standard, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, requires that biology textbooks instruct students so they may "analyze, review and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weakness using scientific evidence and information."

The state board is only empowered to reject books based on factual errors or for not meeting the state's curriculum requirements. If speakers convince the state board that their evidence is scientifically sound, members may see little choice but to demand its presence in schoolbooks.

Proposed textbooks have already been reviewed and approved by Texas Tech University. After a public hearing today and another on Sept. 10, the state board is scheduled to adopt new textbooks in November. The new books will be distributed next summer.

Satisfying the state board is only half the battle for textbook publishers. School districts choose which books to use. They are reimbursed by the state for purchases of approved texts. Districts may buy rejected texts, but the state will not reimburse them.

Districts can opt not to use textbooks with passages they find objectionable. So when speakers at public hearings criticize what they perceive as flaws in textbooks -- such as failing to portray the United States or Christianity in a positive light -- many publishers listen.

Terri Leo, a member of the state board, said that the Discovery Institute works with esteemed scientists and that their evidence should be heard.

"You cannot teach students how to think if you don't present both sides of a scientific issue," Leo said. "Wouldn't you think that the body that has the responsibility of what's in the classroom would look at all scientific arguments?"

State board member Bob Craig said he had heard of the intelligent-design theory.

"I'm going in with an open mind about everybody's presentation," Craig said. "I need to hear their presentation before I make any decisions or comments."

State board member Mary Helen Berlanga said she wanted to hear from local scientists.

"If we are going to discuss scientific information in the textbooks, the discussion will have to remain scientific," Berlanga said. "I'd like to hear from some of our scientists in the field on the subject."

How to be heard

The State Board of Education's textbook hearing begins at 1 p.m. today in Room 1-104 of the William B. Travis Building, 1701 N. Congress Ave. in Austin.

A second and final public hearing on biology textbooks will be held Sept. 10 in the Travis Building.

Those who wish to speak at that hearing may register by calling (512) 463-1594 or by accessing www.tea.state.tx.us/ sboe/input/register.html.

Those who wish to send comments to the state board on proposed textbooks may e-mail them to .us; fax them to (512) 463-8728; or mail them to:

Textbook Administration
Texas Education Agency
Attn. Dr. Robert Leos --
Room 3-110
1701 N. Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78701

Comments should include subject, title and publishers of instructional materials to be discussed.

Proposed textbooks are available for public review in Tarrant County at the Region XI Education Service Center at 3001 North Freeway in Fort Worth.

For more information on the Internet:

Texas Education Agency textbook administration, www.tea.state.tx.us/textbooks

The Discovery Institute, www.discovery.org

Mel and Norma Gabler, www.textbookreviews.org

The Texas Freedom Network, www.tfn.org

Texas Citizens for Science, www.txscience.org

The National Center for Science Education, www.ncseweb.org

Matt Frazier, (817) 390-7957 mfrazier@star-telegram.com

Science In the News

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

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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.


Today's Headlines – July 9, 2003

from The Sacramento Bee

Faced with mounting evidence of a national drinking water threat, the Pentagon has launched a top-priority search for an environmentally safer alternative to a rocket fuel ingredient deemed essential to national defense.

The move to find a substitute for perchlorate signals a growing recognition of the chemical's widespread infiltration into well water and its potential to impair hormone production and brain development, especially in infants and fetuses.

The perchlorate threat is especially acute in California because of the large number of military operations and defense contractors, such as Aerojet's rocket-manufacturing plant in Rancho Cordova where the chemical has contaminated many wells. Compounding the problem is the state's heavy reliance on groundwater for drinking water.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Oxnard, Ventura County -- Scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium have embarked on an effort to become the first in the world to capture a great white shark and keep it alive in captivity.

But they also acknowledge that doing so may prove almost as difficult as making people love the giant predator.

The respected aquarium is in the second year of what could be a four- or five-year effort to study the fearsome sharks, the world's largest known predators, around the Channel Islands. In time, they hope to capture a juvenile -- a so-called pup, from 5 to 7 feet long and less than a year old -- that can acclimate to life behind glass.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

Recent bad news about hormone replacement therapy has sent millions of women in search of safer alternatives. But at least one type of dietary supplement marketed for conditions that sometimes accompany menopause has come up short in a new study.

Researchers at UCSF tested two products containing a derivative of red clover in a group of 252 menopausal women experiencing hot flashes and found that they were no better than a dummy pill in reducing the number of hot flashes over a three-month period.

The study, published in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, was funded by Novogen, which markets both products under the names Promensil and Rimostil.

from The San Francisco Chronicle

If you pour a pitcher of orange juice in outer space, the juice will float in a bubble, which can be punctured and sucked up through a straw in one quick gulp. Peanut butter and M&Ms are the food of choice for astronauts. And they never, ever drink Tang.

Sixty girls who are spending the week at Stanford as part of the new Sally Ride Science Camps had many burning questions when they met the first American female to enter space. Though much of the discussion centered around space shuttle food, Ride said the camp's loftier purpose was to encourage girls to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology.

"More girls than boys start to drift away from science in middle school," said Ride, 52, who usually answers campers' questions via video- conferencing, but traveled to her alma mater this week to meet them in person. "Things like this are really important to get girls interested and show them that science really is cool."

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Frozen Stars


July 07, 2003

Black holes may not be bottomless pits after all
By George Musser

Demolishing stars, powering blasts of high-energy radiation, rending the fabric of spacetime: it is not hard to see the allure of black holes. They light up the same parts of the brain as monster trucks and battlebots do. They explain violent celestial phenomena that no other body can. They are so extreme, in fact, that no one really knows what they are.

Most researchers think of them as microscopic pinpricks, the remnants of stars that have collapsed under their own weight. But over the past couple of years, a number of mavericks have proposed that black holes are actually extended bodies, made up of an exotic state of matter that congeals, like a liquid turning to ice, during the collapse. The idea offers a provocative way of thinking about quantum gravity, which would unify Einstein's general theory of relativity with quantum mechanics.

The Antiquity of Man: Extracts from Chapter 1



The concept of speciation was briefly covered in the Introduction, but it is worth pausing to examine its specifics in greater detail. The concept of the biological entity of "species" is fundamental to biology. If animals are unable to interbreed or if they will not, as per the example of the Siberian warblers, they are given separate species designations. Species are further divided into Mendelian populations, which are breeding populations (gene pool) from which males and females find their mate in the particular region where they reside. Isolation amongst breeding or Mendelian populations results in adaptive radiation and the emergence over time of new species. Different species are all related to one another, with varying depths of time since separation from a common ancestor. Homeobox genes play a central role in speciation.


Hindu creationism follows the standard creationist tact, with the exception of Christian creationist Intelligent Design proponents like Michael Behe but including the Intelligent Design followers of Philip Johnson, of emphasising the perceived lack of transitional fossils. This form of creationism is well expressed by Cremo & Thompson, its most prominent proponents, who focus solely on hominin evolution in "Forbidden Archeology" and "The Hidden History of the Human Race".

By accenting the worn-out theme of "no transitional fossils" and by emphasising the concept of humans having existed on earth in anatomically modern form for hundreds of millions of years, Cremo & Thompson unwittingly introduce an indirect angle upon which to approach the question at hand. If their proposition was to hold true, then our bodies would: * Show no signs of quadruped ancestry; * Have little or no anatomical characteristics in common with chimpanzees; and * Be perfectly designed for bipedalism.

These points are not addressed in "The Hidden History of Humankind" (1999). The human body is badly designed. When dissected, it resembles a rag-tag, make-shift assemblage of components. A brief summary of the major points is presented in Table 1.


The artifacts referred to by Cremo & Thompson in the quote above are skeletal and stone tool remains. The former will be dealt with in detail in a following chapter. For now it is worthwhile outlining current theories regarding the stone tool usage amongst the early hominins. The term landscape is frequently used by archaeologists to categorise an activity, whether mental or physical, that is engaged in by hominins with their surrounding environment. Therefore landscape, as defined here, refers to the integration of natural and human settings, and the impact thereof. This definition in itself is very broad and it leaves open a large scope for varying degrees of application to and interpretation of the fossil and geological records. Hominin actions occur over both time and space, and therefore the end result examined by archaeologists (and also by other disciplines such as art historians and cultural geographers) is complex.

According to the laws of preservation, the further back in the past scientists investigate, the scantier the fossil, artifactual and habitation evidence they will have to deal with. The challenge faced is how to go about reconstructing the hominins' interrelationship with their environment. It is a debatable point whether early Homo possessed a capacity for symbolism at c. 1.5 million years ago (mya). Taken together, these factors impose strict limits on various research and interpretative tracks which can be applied to a given problem, thus leaving the door open for novel and innovative methods. Rather than searching for symbolic explanations of the placement of archaeological features in the landscape, archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists instead concentrate on functional, socio-economic probabilities through a combination of recorded studies of our nearest surviving relatives the chimpanzee, through typological analyses of the stone artifacts, through microscopic examinations of the damage exhibited on animal bone remains, and through the range, distribution and clustering density patterns of both the stone tools and animal bones.

Retroactive Prayer Study

From: gj bart

Bob Baratz wrote :

Leibovici (BMJ 2001;323:1450-1451 ( 22-29 December ) provoked a storm of outrage when his contribution to this dubious research defied linear time:


The BMJ article is truly fascinating when read along with the readers' responses, and I highly recommend it. Leibovici's study purports to be something truly absurd: a randomized, controlled trial of intercessory prayer applied retroactively which found a significant reduction in length of hospital stay for the "treatment" group vs. controls. Evidently, a lot of readers took the article seriously. BMJ published no fewer than 73 rapid responses:
http://bmj.com/cgi/eletters/323/7327/1450#33972 . Most of the people who responded were critical of the study, either because of logical or statistical flaws, or else on theological grounds, but they all assumed that it was a straightforward research study.

It turns out that Leibovici had something more subtle (and deceptive) in mind. I have pasted below his comment on the article, which he submitted to BMJ in March, 2002, after giving readers a few months to weigh in. You will find the Author's Comment among the rapid responses at the link I gave above.

"The purpose of the BMJ piece was to ask the reader the following question: Given a 'study' that looks methodologically correct, but tests something that is completely out of our frame (or model) of the physical world (e.g., retroactive intervention or badly distilled water for asthma) would you believe in it?

"There are three ways to deal with this question:

"1. To answer in the affirmative. But this leads to such paradoxes (some described by the responders to this article) that it is incompatible with our scientific work, or even with our daily life.

"2. To look for methodological or statistical faults. Here an obvious one was that the duration of fever and the duration of hospital stay are related. But what if the next 'study' will sport perfect methodology and statistics?

"3. To deny from the beginning that empirical methods can be applied to questions that are completely outside our scientific model of the physical world. Or in a more formal way, if the pre-trial probability is infinitesimally low, the results of the trial will not really change it, and the trial should not be performed. This is what, to my mind, turns the BMJ piece into a 'non-study' although the details provided in the publication (randomization done only once, statement of a wish, analysis, etc.) are correct.

"The article has nothing to do with religion. I believe that prayer is a real comfort and help to a believer. I do not believe it should be tested in controlled trials."

Readers would have been less likely to take the study at face value if they were familiar with Leibovici's previous writings, including a BMJ article from 12/99 titled "Alternative (complementary) medicine: a cuckoo in the nest of empiricist reed warblers".


Here's a quote from that article: "The deep model of alternative medicine is anthropocentric magic. The explanations of the practitioners of alternative medicine are giving our patients a set of magical rules to control the physical world, rules that have the human as the fulcrum. They are saying that herbs are beneficial and can do no harm; a substance that causes complaints similar to those observed in a patient will cure them if diluted to an infinitesimal concentration; that 'we will adjust your Qi force'; these are phenomena that work only on the living human, and not on any other components of the physical world. I would guess that none of us are firm believers in magic. Honouring our patients, are we ready to offer them these explanations?"

Stan Polanski

Secret papers tell how RAF hunted aliens


Paul Harris
Sunday July 6, 2003
The Observer

They have been the subject of derision for claiming aliens have visited Earth from outer space, but believers in the existence of UFOs were this weekend excitedly poring over newly released military documents that show how fighter aircraft were scrambled to intercept strange shapes in Britain's skies.

The secret papers obtained from the US military give an insight into an astonishing chain of events sparked by UFO sightings over East Anglia in 1956.

After receiving numerous calls reporting bright lights darting across the sky, fighters from RAF Lakenheath spent more than seven hours trying to shoot down the objects, which were picked up on army radar screens.

The classified documents were secured under the US Freedom of Information Act by Dave Clarke, an author researching the subject.

One US Air Force intelligence report described how '12 to 15' objects were picked up on radar screens on 13 August 1956. They were tracked for more than 50 miles. One object was logged travelling at 4,000mph. 'Operators making these radar sightings are of the opinion that malfunctions of equipment did not cause these radar sightings,' the document said.

The radar logs describe white lights darting across the skies. At times, the objects travelled in formation and performed sharp turns.

One document describes how an object was tracked by radar for 26 miles, before it hovered for five minutes then flew away again.

A cable was sent from US Air Force Headquarters in Washington warning of the 'considerable interest and concern' at the sightings and demanding an immediate inquiry. The cable asked if they were linked to a similar scare reported by a British radar station on the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea a week later.

Most UFO sightings are explained by phenomena such as clouds, weather balloons or unusual atmospheric events. At the time of the 'Lakenheath incident', observers did report an unusual level of meteorite activity. Meteors, and the trails they leave behind, can register on radars and critics have said this explains the Lakenheath incident.

Astronomical phenomena are also considered a possible cause. One pilot sent up to intercept the objects reported 'chasing a star.' Others described objects they were able to 'lock on' to with their radar systems but that then manoeuvred around them.

But for UFO believers the new documents confirm their Lakenheath sightings as the most dramatic of British UFO encounters and provide proof that alien craft have 'buzzed' Britain for the past 50 years. 'I am absolutely convinced they were breaches of our airspace by some extraordinary flying machines,' said Graham Birdsall, editor of UFO magazine.

Clarke admitted this weekend it was difficult to attribute all the visual sightings and radar activity both from the ground and the on-board radar systems to meteorites or weather conditions. He believes the incident was treated so seriously by the military that it sparked a Cold War security scare. By 1956, the RAF Lakenheath air base, where the fighters were scrambled from, was on the front line of the geopolitical divide. Lakenheath played host to the new super-sensitive American U-2 spy planes and also provided storage facilities for atomic bombs.

Clues to solving the mystery may still lie in secret US archives. After being told no more documentation existed, Clarke discovered a reference to a further document on the incident in the US National Archives. He has logged a request to release it. All British reports were destroyed in a fire five years after the event, according to RAF records.

Clarke believes the incident had such serious security implications that documents must still exist. 'I am a UFO sceptic but this is an incident that has me baffled. It is just possible that some form of Soviet spy craft was responsible, but difficult to match any of their planes to what was observed at the time,' he said.






"My name is GARY HESELTINE and I am a serving police officer with the BRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE.

I have thirteen years experience, the last eight of which as a DETECTIVE CONSTABLE.

I have a wide experience of Criminal Investigations including the offences of Murder, Rape, Fraud, Assaults etc;

I have followed the subject of UFOs since seeing one when I was 15 years old boy in 1975. The sighting occurred in Bottesford, Scunthorpe which is in the county of Lincolnshire.

As I walked along a footpath adjacent to my comprehensive school (Frederick Gough Comprehensive) I saw a brilliant white light pass from my right to left. As the object moved slowly across the landscape all electrical power behind its flight path cut off plunging the area into darkness. As I continued to watch it a series of further power cuts followed. My then girlfriend was with me at the time and also observed the object. Because it was heading in the direction of my home I decided to drop her off first and then race back on my cycle in an effort to get ahead of it by way of a short cut. This I did and just made it in time to observe it pass over the garden of my home. Having got home I'd rushed inside and told my parents that I believed a power cut was imminent but they looked at me bemused. No sooner had it passed over a thirty minute power cut followed. The UFO was seen against a backdrop of a clear summers night sky and appeared to have no sound.

Ever since that day I have followed the subject closely as it has developed over the years.

In 1995 I picked up a copy of the then bi-monthly publication of UFO Magazine and was immediately impressed by the quality of the reporting. The more I read the more I began to look at cases through the eyes of a police officer.

I was particular drawn to the sightings made by commercial pilots, military pilots, astronauts, cosmonauts, high ranking military officers, radar operators and finally police officer reports.

When I looked at these cases I was very impressed by the testimonies of these people and felt that they pointed heavily to the conclusion that UFOs were a real phenomena and were almost certainly of an extraterrestrial origin.

Keen to become involved in the research side I began to wonder how many police officers had seen UFOs. As a result I began to trace as many of them as I could find in books and magazines etc;

By definition police officers are trained observers and should count as an excellent category of witness.

As my research continued the more I looked the more I found. However I believe one thing is certain - the actual figure for police UFO sightings is almost certainly higher than what is recorded.

There is no doubt in my mind that many officers have never gone on to report sightings because they have feared ridicule or perceived that their careers might be harmed.

I suspect that for every officer reporting a sighting, nine do not. If that figure is anywhere near accurate it would mean that there are potentially hundreds of unreported cases waiting to see the light of day providing the mechanism is in place to make it possible.

It is that point that I began to formulate the idea for a database to record and collate police officer sightings. As a result THE PRUFOS POLICE DATABASE was founded in November 2001.

I approached GRAHAM BIRDSALL, the Editor of UFO MAGAZINE and outlined my ideas for the database to him. He was very supportive and promised to promote it where possible.

In an effort to be perfectly transparent to my own force I placed a UFO site on the British Transport Police intranet forum under the 'Clubs and Leisure' section. After much good natured banter some serious debate has taken place on the subject and several officers have approached with with UFO related material.

The official launch of THE PRUFOS POLICE DATABASE was by way of an article I had written on the subject in the January issue of UFO MAGAZINE which led to a response from several officers, all of whom were very supportive of my idea and of its need. Some were already known in UFO circles but several others were new which proves that the basic idea is a worthy one.

The article outlined my ideas and that I wanted to create a climate where officers could come forward without the fear of public exposure. I decided to offer them a 'confidential' facility where their accounts could be relayed to me yet their personal details would not be divulged. Effectively I would make them 'Confidential Sources' in order to protect their details much in the same way a journalist does likewise.

I personally want to thank those officers who have gone public with their encounters, without their courage in coming forward there would be no database. They are the foundations on which to help/encourage others to come forward.

So for those officers visiting this website and who have always wanted to come forward but have never been able to, now is your opportunity. I am appealing to any officer, whether presently serving or since retired to come forward and contact me safe in the knowledge that your details will be protected if that is what you require (see the 'Contact Page' for details).

My principal aim to get your stories out into the public domain.

In the following pages of this website you will find the most comprehensive record of police officer UFO sightings ever assembled in Britain.

In July 2002, after six months of research, I completed a Report into British Police officer sightings entitled 'POLICE OFFICERS WHO OBSERVE UFOs'. The report contains 42 incidents involving over 100 police officers covering the period 1955-2002 and outlines both 'on and off' duty sightings (for further details on how to obtain a 14 page in depth copy of the report see the 'NEWS' page of this website).

On a final note, I am indebted to RUSSEL CALLAGHAN and GRAHAM BIRDSALL at UFO Magazine for all their support in getting this website off the ground. Without their help this site would not have been possible. Thank You.

I hope you will enjoy the content of this site and any feedback would be welcome (see the 'Contact' page for details).


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