NTS LogoSkeptical News for 29 July 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Blood oozes out of apartment walls


July 27 2003

In a scene straight out of a horror film, blood has been leaking out of the walls of an apartment in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.

Forensic experts have identified the "red liquid" as human blood, shocking the apartment's 14 inhabitants, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

Hiralal Jethamal Shah, 70, first noticed it while bathing on Wednesday. He said his clothes were stained red. "I saw a red liquid oozing out of the bathroom floor in two places."

For more than 30 minutes the blood continued to leak from the kitchen and verandah.

The Shah family has lived in the apartment for 35 years, without incident.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Jeetenda Rajgor initially said: "It appears as if someone has sprayed some red liquid."

Forensic scientists tested the liquid and confirmed it was human blood, but digging up the floor did not lead to further clues, the report said.

Police were planning to bring in sniffer dogs for more leads.


Do You Take This Glacier to be Your Wife?


By M. Ismail Khan

Village elders, their heads together, intensely discuss and go on to decide arrangements for a unique marriage ceremony. The task at hand is to choose a male and a female piece of ice, setting in motion a series of rituals. Two chunks of ice, one each from a female and a male glacier, are then transported to an appropriate location. Doing so, porters carrying the pieces shall observe complete silence. Pieces of ice will then be placed side-by-side, close enough for both chunks to eventually produce 'offspring' in the shape of fresh water – a new source of irrigation and drinking water.

No, this is not an excerpt from the folklore of a primitive tribal society; this is, in fact, a water tradition being practiced even today in the 21st century, in small villages of the Karakuram in the Northern areas of Pakistan. Already there are many communities that have bred small glaciers in the Gilgit and Baltistan regions.

Breeding Glaciers in Ancient Times

As the stark reality of unpredictable water flow is dawning on the mountain communities of Pakistan, the age-old tradition of breeding glaciers is being revived with a fervor. Traditionally, village elders would gather to select a suitable site and large blocks of equal sizes of one male and one female block of ice were then taken from two different glaciers and carried on to the appointed location.

The gender of the glacier was determined by taking into consideration factors such as the characteristics of the people living in the nearby areas, where male glaciers were thought to produce a higher yield and fertility as well as a strong male population. Female glacier areas were said to have opposite characteristics, and were the home to a significant number of beautiful women.

According to the tradition, it is vital to transport both blocks in one go, and those carrying the ice were to do so in complete silence. Once moved to another location, the blocks of ice would be allowed to accumulate snow in the winter, thereby increasing in size and density. In summer, they were covered with a canopy to shield them from the heat of the sun. A few years later the blocks of ice would be transformed into new glaciers, providing a new source of irrigation and drinking water for the community. Ancient Tradition Comes to Life

Only last year, a community-based organization known as Parbat Social Welfare Organization (PSWO) in Chilas, district Diamir, transplanted glacier seeds in six different locations. Continuous drought-like situations in many villages in the district forced villagers to think of innovative ideas to harness water.

A social activist, Mr. Manawar Khan, after reading about this tradition, motivated a bunch of volunteers from PSWO to initiate the breeding of glaciers as a sustainable alternative to offset water scarcity in the villages. He constituted a committee to look for an appropriate location in the mountains; the committee members identified six such locations.

Searching a location where snow and ice could not melt for eight to ten months of the year was not an easy task. The surveyors had to sit and wait long hours at various parts of the mountains to check the intensity of sunlight and length of shadows over them.

This was followed by another technical part of the project: identification of male and female glaciers and arranging for their transportation. In this case, PSWO volunteers traveled 230 kilometers to Bagrot Valley near Gilgit, from where they transported male and female glaciers in separate vehicles all the way to Babusar in Chilas. These were then transported non-stop to Babusar, Babusar Shoti, Batogah, Plaelot, Shregalihador and Gohar Abad. The volunteers carried pieces of ice on their backs up to the locations that were more than 14 thousand feet above sea level. At the breeding locations, volunteers had already dug up sixty-feet-round and nine-feet-deep ditches. They then placed male glaciers in the hole, swiftly followed by the female ones, the union of two producing a whizzing sound, confirming to the experts that the marriage had been consummated!

The Only Option

Although the practice of breeding glaciers was dying out, rapidly vanishing glaciers and water springs provided a new impetus for drawing on the traditional wisdom of the communities. "I moved here some 20 years ago along with many other families, as at that time this was a very fertile village with abundance of water for growing wheat and fruit trees. Today the glacier that was feeding water to the village has dried up, and during the last couple of years we have not been able to grow anything. Our trees are dying and some of the families have already moved out," says 70-year-old Gul Hafiz, a resident of Dadrapuke village in Ghizer (Oral Testimony Panos SA, 2003).

The huge frozen water bodies have shaped peculiar traditions among people frozen in time for centuries. They nurtured their social norms, beliefs, customs and the means of livelihood in harmony with nature, learning from the nature and bestowing on nature their own exuberance.

Other than building channels over mountain ridges to steer water from springs and streams, the only way they could think of harnessing a sustainable source of water was to develop a glacier, since lifting water up on high and rugged terrain was a rather difficult preposition. Even with today's sparsely available power infrastructure, it is an unaffordable wish. In numerous villages throughout the region people planted glaciers, and a few hundred meters down the hill they would construct a little pound or dam from where water could be channeled to the terraced fields and gardens. Every family would then use stored water one by one, with village headmen keeping a watch on the timely and effective use of available water resources for irrigation and drinking purposes.

Gang Singhe that overlooks the town of Skardu is one such hand-bred glacier. There are many folk tales associated with this glacier, which from a distance looks like the shape of a horse. Many in the valley believe that the year the head of this horse-like glacier retreats away from the rest of the body, a member of the royal family will pass away. Strangely enough, such has actually happened during the last eighty years or so.

Global Warming Threatens Pakistan's Glaciers

Changing weather patterns are massively impacting the livelihood of these nearly one million people, whose basic mainstay is substance agriculture based on growing wheat, maize, fruits, and raising livestock. "Glaciers are melting. From what I can estimate, they have retreated a mile or so. In my village, Minapin, I recall walking over glaciers. The snowfall in December and January used to turn into glaciers and the summer heat would melt them gradually. The rain in summer, which carries moisture, falls over, hastening the melting process. Now, the most dangerous thing about glaciers is that in June and July we have stronger sunshine causing the glaciers to melt faster, and we don't have snow stored as much as it should have been, besides the gradual melting procedure is no more there, meaning faster melting. So rivers rise unexpectedly creating floods, thus many human settlements on riverbanks are no more there," says Aga Yahya, a well-known community activist from Minapin village in Nagar (Oral Testimony Panos SA, 2003).

Devastating Impact on Local Agriculture

An increasing population is exerting stress on the limited 2 percent cultivable land of Pakistan's 72,400 sq. km, of which 1 percent is currently under cultivation while the remaining 1 percent can only be utilized if the water supply potential is harnessed. Irrigated land usually consists of small terraced fields, which normally rely on glacial melt for water.

Fruit trees also constitute an important part of the local agriculture; some of the important fruits are apricots, almonds, grapes, cherries, apples, peaches, walnuts and mulberries. In recent years, fruits and nuts have become an important source of income for the villagers. The farming activities thus depend a lot on irrigation, as rainfall is low and erratic, and over the years farmers have been using increasing amounts of water to irrigate their crops, thus affecting the downstream flow of water. At the same time, sustained deforestation, degradation of pastures, declining woodland and biodiversity, soil erosion and unorganized urbanization, as well as mining practices, plus the phenomena of global warming, are all taking their toll on mountain watersheds in the upland.

Soaring populations both in the mountains and on the plains continue to press demand for fresh water, and conflicts over water rights are a real threat in the mountain as well as in the plains. Effective conservation of mountain ecology and promotion of sustainable harvesting of water is emerging as one of the major challenges facing us in the upcoming years. Our ability to feed growing numbers of people largely rests on an economy based on judicious use of water for life. The lowland regions serve as vital catchments for the Indus River, upon which much of the country's agriculture and hydroelectricity depends so heavily. Around 90 percent of the lowland flow of the Indus originates in the mountains of the Karakuram and Western Himalaya. The mountains of Northern Pakistan are thus in the true sense 'water towers' for the rest of the country.

The World's Highest Battleground

The region contains the most significant glacier systems outside the poles,including the 72-kilometre-long Siachan glacier, famous for reasons other than being a water reservoir. The armed conflict between India and Pakistan since the late 80s has placed this glacier on the world map as the world's highest battleground. One can imagine the subsequent depletion and damage to the fragile glacier caused by over a decade of bombings. Other well-known glaciers situated in the region like Biafo, Hisper, Batura, Baltoro, Gashabrum and Chogolungma are also reportedly retreating at a high rate due to multiple reasons including global warming.

Although naturally formed, large glaciers are a gift from God and there might be no way we could recreate the centuries old processes of gradual accumulation, breeding glaciers could be more than a symbolic option; it will generate interest and public awareness for the sustainable use of rapidly vanishing water dripping from the mountains.

M. Ismail Khan is from Skardu in the Karakuram/Himalaya and is presently associated with IUCN – The World Conservation Union, Pakistan. He can be reached at: ismail@k2.comsats.net.pk.

All we need is a book


Texas' Oldest Newspaper

Copyright © 2003 Galveston County Daily News

By Erin Graham The Daily News

Published July 25, 2003

State school board members have a big decision before them, and it's a decision that should not be hastily or politically made.

The board will have to decide what Texas' children will learn in the 2004-05 school year. What these children learn in that year will be the cornerstone for all their future studies — from elementary school to doctoral thesis.

If the wrong decision is made, an entire generation will suffer the consequences.

The decision is about which textbooks will be approved for the next school year. Texas has a $570 million budget for this purpose, second only to California, and the issue is biology.

The debate is not new, but it seems to habitually creep into the discussion — creationism or evolutionism. Which version should we teach, or should we teach a combination of the two? And Texas is apparently not the only state whose children will be affected — we will likely blaze the trail for other states.

David Bradley, who represents Galveston County on the state education board, may have stated it best when he said: "I open my Bible and believe what it says in Genesis, which is fine for me. But in a biology textbook, I would think that there needs to be another viewpoint presented besides what I think is correct."

By the Constitution, public schools are prevented from teaching any one religion. That does not mean religion is forbidden from school halls. What it means is that schools cannot promote by curriculum the beliefs of a particular faith.

Our state's public schools are supposed to be a sanctuary from the politics of the outside world. They are supposed to be a place where ideas are thoughtfully discussed. They are supposed to be immune from the lobbies of special interest groups.

When your child is tested, either on high school exit exams or college entrance exams, he or she is not going to be asked about creationism. When your child enrolls in a public university, he or she will be expected to know something about the theory of evolution.

We hope Bradley keeps true to his word. We hope he pursues the approval of a textbook that teaches a viewpoint that differs from his own.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Science In the News

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

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

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 28, 2003

from The Associated Press

Not long ago, the defeat of cancer seemed inevitable. Decades of research would soon pay off with a completely fresh approach, an arsenal of clever new drugs to attack the very forces that make tumors grow and spread and kill.

No more chemotherapy, the thinking went. No more horrid side effects. Just brilliantly designed drugs that stop cancer while leaving everything else untouched.

Those elegant drugs are now here. But so is cancer.

The approach, which appeared so straightforward, has proved disappointingly difficult to turn into broadly useful treatments. Some now wonder if malignancy will ever be reliably and predictably cured.

from The Baltimore Sun

In a discovery that could eventually help improve the lives of chronic pain sufferers, California researchers have found a way to reset the pain "thermostat" in rats' brains.

Using gene therapy, they boosted the amount of a key neurotransmitter in a specific brain region, significantly raising the rats' pain threshold.

To do this, the researchers injected the rats' brains with a gene that produces a key brain neurotransmitter called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). This protein acts as an inhibitor, generally dampening all kinds of neural activity. To limit the neurotransmitter's effect, the scientists injected the GABA-producing gene into one small cortical region, the rostal agranular insular cortex (RAIC). They had long suspected that the region plays a role in pain perception.

from The Washington Post

The Smallest Synthetic Motor

Scientists have created what they say is the world's smallest motor, a device tinier than the width of a human hair...

Ice Age Site's Role in Doubt

Scientists say new research shows that a famous Ice Age Siberian site believed to be an important way station in the long journey of humans from Asia to North America is too recent to have played a pivotal role in the migration...

Cross-Training of Note

Music lessons significantly improved the ability of Hong Kong boys to remember a list of spoken words, leading researchers to conclude that the music study served as a kind of cross-training for a particular section of the brain involved in language skills. In addition, the study found that the longer a student studied music, the greater his "verbal memory" improvement would be...

from The San Francisco Chronicle

On a sunny day on Twin Peaks in San Francisco, a big furry black-and- yellow bumblebee was disappearing into bright orange petals of a California poppy plant.

The bee was loading golden grains into her "pollen baskets," hair-lined depressions on each back leg. She was on a mission to find food for her colony.

But she also was performing an important environmental service: spreading pollen from poppy plant to poppy plant, thus ensuring their survival.

Like other parts of the country, San Francisco is losing its bumblebees. A century ago, San Francisco had nine species of bumblebees. Now scientists can find only four.

A Bad Trip Down Memory Lane


July 27, 2003

It is not considered good judgment to wade into the issue of recovered memories without skin as thick as permafrost and caller ID on the phone. Rare is the academic field in which colleagues on opposite sides of a debate -- people with international reputations -- dismiss the very foundations of one another's work, sometimes not so privately, with common barnyard epithets; in which two of the most prominent reference books are almost Jesuitically contradictory; in which more than a decade of fairly sound research has done little to settle a debate that has raged ever since Freud popularized the term ''repression.''

Yet this is just where Susan Clancy found herself eight years ago when she joined the psychology department at Harvard University as a graduate student. At one end of the field of ''trauma memory'' were people like her new professors and future co-authors, the clinical psychologist Richard McNally and the cognitive psychologist Daniel Schacter, chairman of the Harvard psychology department and one of the world's leading experts on memory function. At the other end were Harvard-affiliated clinicians, including Judith Herman, Bessel van der Kolk and Daniel Brown, whose scholarly writing on the psychological effects of trauma remains highly influential.

What the two sides disagree on is whether painful memories of traumatic events can actually be repressed -- completely forgotten -- and then ''recovered'' years later in therapy. Many clinicians say yes: it is how we instinctively protect ourselves from childhood recollections that would otherwise be too dire to bear. Most cognitive psychologists say no: real trauma is almost never forgotten; full-blown, traumatic memories dredged up decades later through hypnosis are almost invariably false.

Clancy, now 33, wasn't fully alive to the schismatic politics back then. She simply saw a puzzling, inviting gap in the data. ''You had two groups in opposite camps that were battling each other out'' over the validity of recovered memories, Clancy says. ''But nobody was doing research on the group that was at the center of the controversy -- the people who were reporting recovered memories. Memory function in that group had never been examined in the laboratory.''

So she decided to devote herself to that task, which would end up occupying her pretty much full time for the next seven years. Interview subjects, mostly women but some men, all with recovered memories of child sexual abuse, would come to her office in William James Hall -- a 15-floor concrete cracker stack among the brick heritage buildings of Harvard. They would settle in and, shifting their gaze from Clancy's blue eyes to the John Hancock Tower in the distance, tell her their stories as the tape in her recorder unspooled.

The stories were troubling. Often she found herself, somewhat inappropriately, tearing up. Clancy's upbringing -- feminist, lapsed Catholic -- had prepared her to believe what she was hearing. But as her interviews went on, she came to the conclusion that many of the most elaborate, most terrifying tales she was hearing had an air of confabulation about them. ''There was a moment where I said, 'Oh, my God, I'm not sure this really happened,''' she recalls.

Though the term ''false memory'' is slippery and inadequate, there is now little doubt that the phenomenon exists. A rash of satanic ritual abuse claims in the 1980's and 90's -- claims that were never substantiated but destroyed families and ruined reputations -- demonstrated fairly conclusively that both adults and children sometimes report things they think happened that didn't.

Still, genuine memories of real sexual abuse are often prosecutors' only tools to combat what remains a significant social problem. To distinguish, in some definitive way, then, true memories from false memories is a trick with enormous personal and political and public-policy implications.

Clancy guessed that there was a category of people who are prone to create false memories and who might demonstrate this tendency when given a standard memory test. Her strategy was to present a list of semantically related words, like ''candy,'' ''sour'' and ''sugar,'' to those who purported to have recovered memories. Then she would test their recall of those words. On the test, she would throw in words that weren't on the list but were like the words on the list -- ''sweet,'' for example. Her hypothesis was that these people would be especially inclined to ''remember'' seeing the word ''sweet'' -- in effect creating a recollection out of a contextual inference, a fact from a feeling. In the end, the data strongly supported her thesis. She published her findings in 2000 in the scientific journal Psychological Science.

But her work was criticized by some, in large part because it contained a hidden snare: even if Clancy's ''false memory'' recoverers were prone to fictionalizing memories of abuse, that didn't necessarily mean that their specific memories of abuse were made up; there was no way to know whether these people were actually abused. Clancy had anticipated this cavil while still in the design stage of the study, and so she rounded up a second control group -- people who had incontrovertibly been abused and had always remembered that abuse, in contrast to the ''recovered memory'' group. When people in this group took the word-recall test, they tended to ''remember'' words that weren't on the list with no greater frequency than the average person, and she was sure she had cracked the nut.

The critics, though, had another objection. What if the traumas that the recovered-memory group had experienced were horrific enough not only to repress the memory but also to cause cognitive impairment that showed up as memory distortion in the lab?

Meanwhile, hate mail started pouring in, in quantities Clancy would eventually measure ''by the ton.'' The reaction was not altogether surprising. The moral dimension of research on child sexual abuse makes it uniquely explosive in psychology, and almost from Day 1 Clancy had, beyond the safe zone of her own department, taken heavy flak for even suggesting that memories of abuse can be faulty. The simple act of conducting research into the matter struck some as an enterprise ''designed to cheer on child molesters,'' as one anonymous letter writer wrote, ''and ridicules the suffering sustained by children who are abused as well as therapists who are knowledgeable about the effects of trauma on children's minds and bodies.'' Clancy was a ''bad person,'' according to another letter writer, to question such reports. Yet another suggested that she was probably an abuser herself.

In 2000, when Clancy was invited to give a lecture at Cambridge Hospital, the chairman of the hospital at the time told her that several members of its psychiatric department had protested her appearance. Her colleagues told her that she had probably ruled herself out of future academic positions in any psychology department, Harvard pedigree or no.

Clancy says she thought she could fix the problem by fixing her word-recall test. She was close, she reckoned, but she needed to find a different, methodologically cleaner, subject group than victims of child sexual abuse -- people whose memories virtually everyone could agree were false. But whom? She considered options: people who remembered their own deaths? People who recalled past lives? No, there was just enough doubt in those instances to taint the results. She would have to go further afield.

"Have you been contacted or abducted by space aliens?'' read the ad that ran in a number of Boston-area newspapers. ''You may be eligible to participate in a Harvard memory research study.'' Clancy's new plan -- and it seemed unimpeachable -- was to round up folks who thought they had been beamed aboard spaceships, or who actually recalled the experience, and give them the same memory test she had given the others. If they, too, got high scores, it would establish that there are indeed people who are prone to false memories -- which might eventually help scientists better understand how false memories are created. Finally, she figured, she had the makings of a sound study. Out she went into the community to recruit.

For two years, Clancy advertised in bookstores, visited Internet chat rooms and haunted U.F.O. conferences, handing out fliers for her memory study. At one point, in pursuit of appropriate subjects, she spent three days at a meeting of a group of supposed alien abductees at an old seaside Victorian inn in Newport, R.I. She sat in the hot tub with them as they cheerfully told her their stories -- an astonishingly consistent set of narratives involving bright light through bedroom windows, inexplicable time blackouts, encounters with bobble-headed small gray people with large black eyes and, often, invasive sexual medical experimentation. Among themselves, the experiencers talked business. There was a consensus about how stupid and misguided scientists were not to believe their accounts. Someone related a skeptic's theory that the explosion of U.F.O. sightings in New Jersey the previous year was caused by migrating birds, and the crowd exploded into guffaws. Clancy smiled through gritted teeth.

Finally, she scraped together 11 willing subjects, ran them and a control group through a battery of tests and collated the data, which demonstrated, in her view, that ''individuals who are more prone to develop false memories in the lab are also more likely to develop false memories of experiences that were only suggested or imagined.'' She submitted her study to the notoriously stringent Journal of Abnormal Psychology. It sped through the review process and, to her great relief, was published. Her problems looked to be solved.

''I thought, Thank God, man,'' she recalls. ''With alien abductees, I'm never going to have to deal with the criticism that it might have actually happened.''

In a mustard-colored suit -- the only suit he owns -- John Mack stands on the stage of the theater inside Boston's Museum of Fine Arts with a light shining on his face, like a museum exhibit of the moon. The documentary film ''Touched,'' by Laurel Chiten, a Boston filmmaker, has just received its world premiere, and Chiten and Mack, her main subject, are up there to field questions. Through interviews, the film conveys what it's like to be coerced into sexual congress with alien beings -- and, in at least one case, to become an unwitting participant, apparently, in a kind of intergalactic hybrid breeding program.

Mack, a quiet and erudite man, is a veteran of the Harvard medical faculty whose blue-chip career took something of a William Jamesian turn toward the mystical in the 70's. In 1994, he published the book ''Abduction,'' which immediately piqued interest because Mack seemed to accept the abduction phenomenon as literal fact. The book was a huge best seller. Mack's Harvard imprimatur jacked the credibility of abduction accounts into another orbit. Chris Carter, creator of ''The X-Files,'' used Mack's work to help sell his show to Fox.

Clancy's study was, of course, a clear rebuke of the abductee experience -- and it was met with derision at Mack's nonprofit organization, the Center for Psychology and Social Change. Clancy had drawn a number of her test subjects from the institute's ranks, and they may have felt poleaxed by the disarmingly genial researcher who seemed to listen so nonjudgmentally to their tales. The campaign to discredit Clancy began in earnest.

''Obviously there's a mammoth leap of faith involved in generalizing from a mistake on a word list to the assumption that whole memories for extended, anomalous events can be created more or less arbitrarily,'' wrote a doctoral student named Catherine Reason on an Internet discussion group. Just who was Susan Clancy, asked another, to challenge the work of people whose theories of memory and trauma were cited by the United Nations when discussing whether recovered memories of torture were admissible as testimony in an international war-crimes tribunal? Some simply viewed Clancy's 11 ''abductees'' as too small a sample size.

Mack and Clancy seem to have nothing against each other personally, though the gulf in their worldviews appears unbridgeable. Clancy describes Mack as ''good-hearted,'' an ''old-school gentleman'' who was insufficiently aware of the memory-distorting effects of the hypnosis he used over the years to expand upon abduction memories in many of his more than 200 patients. Mack is sanguine about the Clancy study, but blunt. ''I smell a rat,'' he says in his light-filled Cambridge home a short walk from Harvard Yard. ''Not that Susan's the rat, but in that a small word-association test gets to be used, by whomever, to say, 'This is simply memory distortion.'''

The abductees, in some ways, posed a more bewildering challenge to Clancy than her previous memory-recoverers. ''Very few of them endorsed the repression hypothesis,'' she says. They don't believe their conscious minds repressed the memories of abduction trauma out of self-protection. Rather, she says, ''you'd get extraterrestrial interpretations.'' The reason they had no memories of those terrifying events until years or decades later, the abductees usually say, is that the aliens, for everybody's protection, erased or otherwise controlled them.

When I met with her in Cambridge, Clancy still seemed genuinely surprised, almost awed, at the breadth of controversy her work has caused. ''Every academic talk I give,'' she told me as we made our way to lunch near Harvard Square, ''someone raises their hand and says, 'Who the hell are you to say these stories aren't true?'''

Not long ago, Clancy appeared as a guest on a nationally syndicated radio show that takes a broad-minded view of the paranormal. For nearly 20 minutes, she was called on that very question. The host pressed: ''Why do you think that the only life forms are on earth?'' Clancy said she could feel her blood pressure rising.

''I don't necessarily believe that we're the only life form out there,'' she said. ''I can entertain the possibility that there are other life forms out there without accepting your story that a spaceship picked you up!''

Many scientists have offered a simple explanation for the phenomenon: abduction experiences, they maintain, are all about the mind pumping for meaning after a bout of sleep paralysis -- a scary but fairly common experience in which the part of the brain that inhibits motor messages during REM sleep fails to disengage as the sleeper wakes up. The sensation is of being pinned to the bed, often accompanied by hallucinations of some spectral entity at the bedside.

Some three million Americans believe they have had some kind of encounter with space aliens. If everyone who experienced sleep paralysis came to that conclusion, the number would be a hundred or so times as high. What you have in an abductee, Clancy suspects, is someone who is predisposed to believe. ''Here's someone who reads science fiction. They watch 'The X-Files.' Then one night they have a sleep-paralysis experience. It's weird and it's scary, and it becomes one of a multitude of events that create that wonder.''

As the subject tries to remember what happened, ''source'' errors creep in. ''You think you're recovering your own memory, when in fact it's something you pulled out of a movie,'' Clancy said. ''Memory's tendency to be reconstructive, combined with the desire to believe, combined with a culturally available script, leads to a false memory. The content of that memory is dictated by the society you live in.'' The warnings that experiencers report receiving from aliens, the Australian sociologist Robert Bartholomew has pointed out, have changed over time -- from nuclear destruction during the cold war to, more recently, ecological doom. These are simply stories, he says, that give shape to our fears.

Ten years from now, Susan Clancy may remember 2003 as a year of agreeable spadework in the trenches of academic inquiry. But if she does, it will be a false memory. The truth is that Clancy's research, which she hoped might mend fences -- at least partly vindicating both sides' positions -- has managed to tick off just about everyone: sexual-abuse survivors, therapists, experiencers, even a creationist or two.

Daniel Brown, the trauma therapist, is convinced that there's a ''political agenda'' to Clancy's abduction study. As he told one reporter, ''It's all about spin.'' Her own brother -- a corporate lawyer for a top New York firm -- has ripped into her about the abduction study for assuming outright that none of the abductions occurred.

>From his vantage point a few dozen feet away in the Harvard psych department, Richard McNally has watched Clancy, his former grad student, face trial after trial. ''She's very thick-skinned, certainly for someone at her stage of her career,'' McNally told me. But inside, it was getting to her.

When we first spoke, about six months ago, Clancy said she believed she could weather the storm. ''I don't think so anymore,'' she said recently. ''When I was on the phone with lawyers two weeks ago and had to be concerned that I was going to get brought up on ethics charges, it really caused me to rethink what I'm doing here.''

She seemed immensely relieved, therefore, to be getting out. Clancy has accepted a visiting professorship at the Harvard-affiliated Central American Business Administration Institute in Managua, Nicaragua, and will leave later this summer. There she will continue to study how trauma affects people, but the trauma will be verifiable life-threatening events: diseases, hurricanes, land mines.

Oh. And she will do a little cross-cultural research on . . . abductees. It turns out, just as John Mack has said for years, that this is a truly universal phenomenon. ''Supposedly it's extremely common through Central America,'' Clancy said.

When she returns, she will shop around her resume. She hopes people will still remember her.

BBC 'proves Nessie does not exist'

A BBC team says it has shown there is no such thing as the Loch Ness monster. Using 600 separate sonar beams and satellite navigation technology to ensure that none of the loch was missed, the team surveyed the waters said to hide Scotland's legendary tourist attraction but found no trace of the monster.

Previous reported sightings of the beast led to speculation that it might be a plesiosaur, a marine reptile which died out with the dinosaurs.

The team was convinced that such an animal could have survived in the cold waters of Loch Ness, despite the normal preference of marine reptiles for sub-tropical waters.

Looking for the lungs

The researchers looked at the habits of modern marine reptiles, such as crocodiles and leatherback turtles, to try to work out how a plesiosaur might have behaved.

They hoped the instruments aboard their search boat would pick up the air in Nessie's lungs as it reflected a distorted signal back to the sonar sensors.

The team did find a buoy moored several metres below the surface as a test for the equipment, but, in the end, no Loch Ness monster. "We went from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom on this one, we have covered everything in this loch and we saw no signs of any large living animal in the loch," said Ian Florence, one of the specialists who carried out the survey for the BBC.

His colleague Hugh MacKay added: "We got some good clear data of the loch, steep sided, flat bottomed - nothing unusual I'm afraid."

"There was an anticipation that we would come up with a large sonar anomaly that could have been a monster - but it wasn't to be."

The fence post monster

The BBC team says the only explanation for the persistence of the myth of the monster is that people see what they want to see.

To prove this, the researchers hid a fence post beneath the surface of the loch and raised it in front of a coach party of tourists. Interviewed afterwards, most said they had observed a square object but several drew monster-shaped heads when asked to sketch what they had seen.

The television programme detailing the investigation, Searching For The Loch Ness Monster, was made for BBC One.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Price of Healing

From the LA Times Magazine this week

For Critics of Extravagant Faith Healer Benny Hinn, the Good Book Isn't Enough. They Want His Ministry to Be an Open Book.

BY WILLIAM LOBDELL, Times Staff Writer

The hands of faith healer Benny Hinn tools of a televangelist recognized around the world are slim, almost feminine. The fingers are delicate, nails manicured and polished. A gold wedding band, so wide it covers the bottom of his left ring finger from knuckle to knuckle like a piece of copper pipe, bears the insignia of his church. The dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, sparkles with a cluster of diamonds.

These small, soft hands could be one of two things: anointed by God to heal the sick, or props in a televangelist money-making scheme that preys on the vulnerable. Shades of gray aren't a part of the Benny Hinn story.

Financially, at least, he's the world's most successful faith healer, having received $89 million in donations last year, according to officials with his ministry, World Healing Center Church. His followers pack stadiums here and abroad for his free events called "Miracle Crusades." He conducts about 24 of these each year, traveling in a leased Gulfstream jet. Attendance averages 50,000 to 60,000 people over two days, with a crusade in Kenya two years ago drawing 1.2 million worshippers, organizers say.

From his broadcast center in Orange County, Hinn's "This Is Your Day" show is one of the most-watched Christian TV programs in the world, with viewers in 190 countries. In the U.S., it runs on purchased air time more than 200 times each week on 80 stations, ministry officials say. The shows are translated into Spanish, Romanian, Norwegian, Italian, Hindi and Tamil.

In response, a pack of self-deputized watchdogs has made a cottage industry out of critiquing and mocking Hinn. They check the pastor's broadcasts for theological oddities such as this one: "Adam was a super-being when God created him. I don't know whether people know this, but he was the first superman that really ever lived. . . . Adam not only flew, he flew to space. With one thought he would be on the moon."

They also hold up unfulfilled prophesies as evidence that Hinn is a charlatan: "You're going to have people raised from the dead watching [the Trinity Broadcasting Network]. I see rows of caskets lining up in front of this TV set . . . and I see actual loved ones picking up the hands of the dead and letting them touch the screen and people are getting raised." And they monitor, as best they can, the results of Hinn's Miracle Crusades, events that they believe give false hope to the sick and handicapped.

"Of course it bothers me," says Hinn of the criticism that often focuses on his lifestyle. He lives with his wife and three children in a multimillion-dollar oceanfront mansion near the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Dana Point. "I know me, and those close to me know me. But sadly, the outside world thinks I'm some kind of a crook. I think it's time for me to change that."

Hinn, 50, is known to casual channel surfers as the televangelist with the thick Middle Eastern accent, the white Nehru jackets and the swirl of salt-and-pepper hair that's been described as a soufflé. He's perhaps most famous for the seeming ability to send believers fainting backward with a flick of his hand. As the climax of each crusade, Hinn touches devoteespeople who say they have just been healedand they fall over onstage, arms and legs shaking, eyes rolling up in their heads. They are said to be "slain in the Spirit"overcome by God's presence. Sometimes it only takes a mighty wave of Hinn's hand, and entire sections of an arena crowd fall back in their seats.

But now, Hinn says he wants the public to know more about him than the controversies, or his physical appearance and showmanshipdistinct enough to be mimicked by Steve Martin in the 1994 movie "Leap of Faith."

He admits that even one of his daughters, now 11, had a difficult time figuring him out: "One day she asked me a question that absolutely blew me awayfrom my own child! 'Daddy, who are you? That man up there [onstage], I don't know.' If my own child is asking that, surely the whole world is asking that."

The pastor says he's come to believe that his insular ministry needs to be open to public scrutiny for its prosperity to continue. The secrecy, Hinn says, has led to unflattering exposes in the media, including several network television investigations.

The latest was an hour long "Dateline NBC" special in December that revealed allegations of financial impropriety by one of Hinn's former associates, dubious claims of healings and details of the pastor's luxurious lifestyle. Hinn tried to limit the damage by rebutting the charges in front of faithful viewers on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, or TBN.

Looking into the camera, Hinn said the attacks were orchestrated by Satan and that he has prayed to the Lord repeatedly that before "I injure Your name, take me out. Before I harm Your kingdom, kill me." The spin didn't work. Donations dipped by 12% for the first quarter of this year, say ministry officials, a result of bad publicity and the weak economy that has hurt other nonprofits.

In an attempt to clear up his image, Hinn suggests meeting a Times reporter at the Four Seasons hotel in Newport Beach. Accompanied by bodyguards, Hinn arrives in his new Mercedes-Benz G500, an SUV that retails for about $80,000. He is dressed casually in black, from designer sunglasses to leather jacket to shoes. His trademark hair has been brushed forward, bangs hanging over his forehead like Caesar. Joining him at a table in the hotel's restaurant are a public relations consultant and two ministry associates, while his bodyguards and another public relations man wait in the lobby. Hinn fiddles with his cell phone, which sports a Mercedes logo.

Because the World Healing Center Church is recognized as a religious institution, Hinn is not obligated under federal law to release information publicly about its revenue or the identities of its board of directors. But at this meeting, he says he has nothing to hide.

"I'll tell you this," Hinn says, a likable guy who is bewildered that he could generate so much hostility. "I'm an open book. I think it's time for me to just say, 'Let me give you the blunt truth.' "

That's easier said than done. First, Hinn declines to divulge his salary. (He told CNN in 1997 that he earns between $500,000 and $1 million annually, including book royalties.) "Look, any amount I make, somebody's going to be mad," he says.

He offers to make available his ministry's general financial picture, along with access to his accountant both unprecedented. "When it comes to the income of the ministry, I have no problem talking about it or what happens to the money," Hinn says. "We believe our partners are entitled to know what happens to their money." But two weeks later, he backtracks, saying his board won't allow it.

The pastor also promises to expand the ministry's three-member boardthe guardians of the nonprofitand to reveal their names. If they don't like the exposure, Hinn says, they can resign. Several months later, a Hinn spokesman says the board was expanded to five members, but the names will remain secret "for the board members' security."

But just before this story went to press, Hinn and his board changed their minds and had their public relations consultant provide the names. The board veterans are Hinn; Bill Swad, described as an Ohio businessman who authors books such as "Don't Let Satan Steal Your Harvest"; and Steve Brock, a pastor and featured soloist for the Miracle Crusades. New members, according to the ministry, are Bob Inello, a businessman from Boston, and Doug Wead, former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush and author of "All the President's Children."

Hinn does reveal that the $89 million taken in by his church in 2002 is a record for his Grapevine, Texas-based ministry, which has experienced double-digit growth during the past three years through direct-mail requests, viewer donations and offerings taken at the Miracle Crusades. By comparison, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn. had revenues of $96.6 million in 2001, the last year available.

Many of Hinn's financial practices go against those set forth by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an organization that gained popularity after the televangelist scandals of the 1980s as Christian groups sought legitimacy in the eyes of donors. The council's standards include maintaining an independent board of directors with at least five members and allowing the public to view its finances.

Dan Busby, the council's vice president, says the lack of financial transparency in ministries doesn't necessarily deter donors: "Our experience has been that a charismatic, religious personality like Benny Hinn tends to attract very devoted followers who donate to his or her particular ministry regardless what anyone says about the leader."

Hinn's disclosure in an interview that his ministry generated $160 million in revenue the past two years is a gold nugget of data that Christian watchdogs have been trying to get at for years. The Trinity Foundation, a nonprofit Christian watchdog group in Dallas, has sent undercover spies to infiltrate Hinn's ministry, as well as to dig through trash cans to gain access to financial records at the pastor's headquarters and television studios.

"He promised me 10 years ago that his personal and ministry finances would be an open book," says Ole Anthony, president of the Trinity Foundation, dismissing Hinn's latest vow for more candor. "Hinn's incredible wealth and lifestyle does more harm to Christianity than all of his preaching."

But finances aren't the initial question in viewers' minds, Hinn says. The first question they ask him on the street is: Are you and the healings real?

For William Vandenkolk of Las Vegas, the answer is no. Sitting cross-legged in front of a big-screen TV, the 11-year-old squints through Coke-bottle glasses at a Miracle Crusade video made more than two years ago in which he starred as a boy who miraculously recovered from blindness. "I liked it at first because I thought I was being healed," says William in the living room of his aunt and uncle's home.

On the screen, Hinn bends down to William, his hands on the child's face. "Look at these tears," says Hinn, peering into the child's eyes. "William, baby, can you see me?"

Before more than 15,000 people in a Las Vegas arena, William nods. In a small voice, the boy says: "As soon as God healed me, I could see better." Hinn, an arm wrapped around William, tells the audience that God has told him to pay the child's medical expenses and education. People weep. Today William is still legally blind and says his sight never improved, and that his onstage comments were wishful thinking.

"It's pretty sad when you mess with a little boy's mind," says Randy Melthratter, William's uncle and guardian. Melthratter says it took two years, a series of phone calls and a reporter's inquiry before his family was told where a $10,000 fund had been set up in William's name. Family members say they still haven't received any paperwork on how to access the money. For their part, ministry officials say they were told that William's sight improved initially and that Melthratter was kept fully apprised of his nephew's fund.

Brian Darby, who has worked for 21 years with severely handicapped people in Northern California, says he has witnessed firsthand the disappointment left in the wake of a Hinn Miracle Crusade. Over the years, he says, many of his clients have attended the events, where they were swept up in a wave of excitement, thinking they were about to walk for the first time or have their limbs straightened. "You can't minimize the impact of not being healed on the person, the family, the extended family," Darby says. "They have a sense of euphoria at the crusade and then crash down. [Hinn is not] around to pick up the pieces."

Raymond Scott tells a different story. In 1995, the Bakersfield resident had advanced colon cancer, a disease that required chemotherapy, radiation and multiple operations. In desperation, Scott attended a Hinn crusade in Sacramento, where, he says, God cured him. His doctor, Alan D. Cartmell of Bakersfield, wrote in his medical report that Scott "experienced a miraculous healing" and can return to all normal activities "following this amazing recovery." "My medical records prove what God's done," says Scott, adding that he has remained free of cancer. "[Hinn] is a facilitator of the Holy Spirit. He never claims that he does the healing. God does."

At each crusade, hundreds of people line up to offer testimonials of the healing they have received during the service. For critics, this is the most dangerous aspect of Hinn's ministry: People who believe they are cured and abandon their medical treatments without bothering to see a doctor.

In response, Hinn started the Miracle Follow-Up Department in 1992 to encourage those who believe they are cured to get checked out by their doctors before they stop using medications. The department also recommends continued prayer and churchgoing. Still, Hinn's unrelenting messageif you believe, you can be healedis contagious enough to cause fans to take extreme chances to prove their faith.

The alleged healings on Hinn's television shows inspired 21-year-old Jordie Gibson to stop kidney dialysis as an act of faith and fly from Calgary, Canada, to the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim in late February for a Miracle Crusade. "When I told my doctors, they said they could make arrangements for me to do dialysis" in Orange County, Gibson says. "But I was going to be healed, so it didn't matter. I needed to step out in faith."

A volunteer usher at the event, Gibson pushed up the sleeve of his shirt to show the shunt in his arm for dialysis. "I feel great," he says.

Back in Canada weeks after the crusade, Gibson says blood work shows his kidneys are functioning better, though he has had to resume dialysis. "Whatever the Bible says is true," Gibson says. "And it says God can heal you. It's true. All you need to do is ask."

Hinn is the latest in a line of American faith healers, a group that has ranged from traveling preachers holding services in dusty tents to televangelists such as Oral Roberts, a frequent guest on Hinn's show. Hinn was born in Israel, one of six boys and two girls. His father's family came from Greece, his mother's from Armenia. Their children were raised in the Greek Orthodox faith.

The family moved to Toronto when Benny was 15. As a high school senior, he abandoned his Greek Orthodox roots for Pentecostalisman act of family defiance that Hinn says earned him a trip to a psychiatrist.

Two years later, in 1973, he heard the faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman preach. Afterward, Hinn says, he had an eight-hour experience with the Holy Spirit during a night that changed the direction of his life. "It seemed that my room had been lifted into the hemisphere of heaven," Hinn wrote in his book, "Good Morning, Holy Spirit."

From there, he has said his ministry work kept him too busy to attend college as he became an itinerant evangelist, preaching mostly in Canada and the U.S. Beginning in 1983, as pastor of the Orlando Christian Center in Florida, he built a rapidly growing following as a charismatic preacher who could speak in tongues and deliver God's healing touch to the sick.

It was here that his television ministry began, first on local broadcasts and then on larger networks such as TBN. In 1990, he began monthly healing crusades around the country, furthering his national profile. In 1999, Hinn resigned as pastor of the Orlando church to concentrate on his television ministry. He moved his headquarters to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and now employs 170 people. About 55 people work at Hinn's broadcasting operation in Orange County's Laguna Hills.

On the road, Hinn's healing servicessophisticated, choreographed productions that can last more than four hoursinclude a long warmup featuring robed choirs from local churches, hip videos and audience members shaking violently and speaking in tongues. All of it is captured on television equipment that Hinn brings to each crusade along with his own production crewseven cameras and a staff of as many as 100 (though 35 are unpaid volunteers).

The pastor first appears during a rendition of "How Great Thou Art," stepping triumphantly onstage. He asks anyone to come forward who wants to believe in Christ. Hundreds, many in tears, walk down the arena's aisles to the stage, hear a prayer from Hinn and are handed literature that includes a list of nearby churches.

After more music, Hinn starts reciting the healings that are taking place throughout the arena. Within a 10-minute span at the Anaheim crusade in February, the pastor proclaims that those individuals with asthma, cancerous tumors, arthritis, leukemia, emphysema and 22 other ailments are cured.

Though he seldom mentions it onstage, the next day at the Four Seasons Hinn says that he does wonder why God doesn't heal some people. It's a question that the pastor has had to wrestle with personally. He says he has a heart condition that God hasn't cured, and his parents have suffered serious medical problems. "That is a very difficult thing for me because I told my daddy to believe," Hinn says. "But he died. Now I don't know why."

The concession that some people don't get healed is relatively new to him. "There was a time in my life I would have never said those things," Hinn admits. "But you have to, I mean, goodness. My mom has diabetes, my daddy died with cancer. That's life."

He also says he realizes that not everyone who comes onstage with him is healed when he lays his hands on them. "There's the real and the genuine, and there's the phony," Hinn says. "All I know is that I pray for them. What happens between them and God is between them and God."

The highlight of the Miracle Crusades comes when people in the crowd who believe that they've felt God's healing touch make their way to the stage, get past the ministry's screeners who attempt to weed out any pretenders, and stand face to face with Hinn. Ushers take any wheelchairs that have been abandoned and place them onstage, evidence of a merciful God.

Before a capacity crowd at the Arrowhead Pond, believers tell the pastor that they've been healed of heart ailments, knee problems, osteoporosis, breast cancer, deafness and scores of other conditionsbefore Hinn applies his touch to their foreheads, leaving people scattered like bowling pins across the stage. He concedes that sometimes his showmanship detracts from God's healing work, and he says that he has cut down on some of the theatricslike waving his jacket or blowing on people to "slay them in the Spirit."

"People ask why I do certain things [with] people falling everywhere and flying all over the stage," he says. "You want to present Him properly. Because we're human beings, we're not always going to be perfect."

Justin Peters, a Southern Baptist minister from Mississippi, remembers going to a faith-healing service as a teenager, wanting God to heal his cerebral palsy. Next to him, an elderly man in a wheelchair emptied his wallet into the offering bucket, a move that caught the eye of the preacher. Peters recalls the pastor pointing to the man and saying, "Brother, before this night is over, you're going to walk out of here!"

Peters, now 29, says he remembers looking over at the elderly man, still in the wheelchair, and seeing the anguish in his eyes at the end of the service. "It was something you see and never forget." Peters decided to become a pastor and, through his ministry, expose faith healers who give false hope. He wrote his master's thesis at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, on Hinn. "He is a false prophet in every sense of the word," Peters says. "His theology is wretched, and he's also a huckster."

Still, Peters says it would make sense that some healings occur at a Miracle Crusade because it brings together tens of thousands in prayer. "As much disdain as I have for Benny Hinn, the vast majority of people who see him are real Christians," Peters says. "When 25,000 people are praying for God to heal them, it would be surprising if God did not heal some."

The Trinity Foundation's Anthony says that Hinn could blunt much of the criticism by enacting a six-month waiting period before broadcasting the healings, time enough to document their veracity. The pastor says he rejected the request for practical reasons. Besides the expense of tracking the medical histories of hundreds of people, he says, his daily viewers have an insatiable need to see footage of new healings.

"People say, 'Look, I'm not going to watch you if you don't have healings,' " Hinn says. "Our supporters support us for one reason, people pray for us for one reasonbecause of the healing ministry." The pastor says he soon plans to show follow-up segments that will feature updates on people who were healed years ago.

Sitting back in his chair, Hinn shakes his head over how tough his job has become. He says being a pastor in the healing ministry is a profession he would never choose for himself, but he is called to it by God.

"It's not been a pleasant life," Hinn says. "[People] think we're in it for the money. They think that God doesn't really heal, so these guys are just fooling the world. I'd be a fool to be in this for the money. If I did not believe God healed, I'd quit tomorrow and go get a job."


Reflections Following Conversations with My Twin Brother
by Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD


Winter, 2000.

This past summer I joined my twin brother Elliot in northern Kenya for two weeks. Elliot is a Ph.D. anthropologist, head of the department at Smith College, and one of the main experts on East African pastoral tribes. Elliot has asked me over the years to join him on one of his visits, and I finally did, taking my nine year old son Raphi with me. We had a fascinating trip, going to places few outsiders tread, about 400 miles north of Nairobi.

During this time, we had some interesting conversations around his criticisms that Oriental medicine is not "scientific". In deciding to write this article, I asked Elliot for clarification of his criticisms, and he provided the following.

"I am not an not an expert on either Chinese medicine or western medicine, I am an anthropologist who studies African pastoralists. I do not claim to speak for western medical science, but I do advocate a scientific approach to studying objective phenomena. Science is seeking truth or knowledge about phenomena based on empirical observation, testing hypotheses with physical evidence and so on. This is in opposition to belief which relies on a faith in a dogma rather than testing. I am not saying here that Chinese traditional medicine is a faith, a belief, or a religion; I am enough of an anthropologist to recognize it as an indigenous medical system. But I am critical that many of the statements of traditional practitioners are not always based on hard evidence."

He went on to say, "I believe some acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbal medicines are effective for some disorders, although not as broadly as claimed by its practitioners. What I don't like is the non-scientific explanation used by traditional practitioners when describing their efficacy, such as "qi energy", "acupuncture channels" or the relation of "yin and yang" as mechanisms of physiology. Why do you need explanations that are based on belief rather than from known or observable principles of physiology including biochemical reactions in the body? How do you observe or measure qi energy?


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 647 July 23, 2003 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and
James Riordon

THE PROTON HAS A DIFFERENT SIZE IN DIFFERENT NUCLEI. The electron, which is mostly impervious to the nuclear forces, can penetrate deep inside a nucleus. Therefore, scattering high energy electrons from a nucleus is an excellent way of exploring the electric and magnetic properties of the nucleus as a whole and of its constituent protons and neutrons, especially when the electron transfers some of its spin to a proton in a telltale way. For example, recent results from such an experiment, conducted at the Jefferson Lab, gave evidence that the proton is not necessarily spherical. Now a new experiment at Jlab, comparing electrons scattering from single protons (a hydrogen nucleus) with electron scattering from helium nuclei, suggests that each nucleus "kneads" its protons in a different way (see figure at www.aip.org/mgr/png/2003/197.htm ). The kneading allows the constituent quarks inside the proton to spread out a bit at time, perhaps into a peanut shape, even though its average shape is round. (Strauch et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article)

NMR WITHOUT THE MAGNET OR RF COILS. To image an object's interior with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) a magnetic field of several tesla (1 T =10,000 gauss) is usually required to polarize protons in the sample and then radio waves are used to tip the protons and to detect a weak signal as they upright themselves again. The strength of the signal depends on the size of the magnetic field and the degree of polarization, which is often only one part in 105, and somewhat limits the use of NMR (including its medical application, MRI) because of the need for a bulky, expensive magnet. One way of improving things is to use laser light to produce a polarization as high as 10% in a gas of xenon atoms. The Xe atoms can then be injected into an empty space, such as lungs, and used to image their interior, which couldn't be done using conventional NMR (see Update 398, http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1998/split/pnu398-1.htm ). Another NMR advance has been the use of ultrasensitive SQUID detectors for picking up the magnetic fields produced by protons, greatly reducing the need for large magnets (see Update 528, http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/2002/split/582-1.html ) but at the expense of weak signals, with a proton polarization of only one part in 108.

Now, Princeton physicist Michael Romalis and co-workers, while studying whether the Xe nucleus is slightly nonspherical (equivalent to saying that the nucleus possesses a nonzero electric dipole moment, which would imply the existence of "new physics" beyond the Standard Model), have worked out a way to combine different techniques to obtain a strong NMR signal in a very weak 1 micro-tesla magnetic field. They transfer polarization from laser-polarized Xe to protons in an organic liquid and then use SQUID detectors to measure the magnetic field produced by the polarized protons. Romalis (romalis@princeton.edu, 609-258-5586) expects that this low-field NMR technique would work for any sample---whether liquid, surface, or biological tissue---with good solubility for xenon. (Heckman et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; see also website atomic.princeton.edu/romalis )

MILLING DIAMOND FILMS can be performed with gallium beams. Diamond films, created by first installing tiny diamonds in a pitted silicon surface and then laying down subsequent atoms to form a near-planar diamond surface, have many of the electrical properties of semiconductors, but can operate at much higher temperatures, voltages, and power. Because of its resistance to hostile environments and its bio-compatibility, diamond films are also expected to be act as handy protective coatings in microfluidic research Because of its hardness, however, diamond films are difficult to sculpt through micromachining, during which stresses on the sample can crack the film. Now scientists at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have devised a versatile way of making possible micro-optical elements out of diamond films by wielding a carefully focused gallium ion beam. Optical tests of the resultant structures show that such properties as transmission and index of refraction were not distorted by the milling process. By the way, this research was undertaken as part of the Singapore-MIT Alliance, an innovative engineering education and research collaboration established in 1998 among three top engineering research universities: National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). (Fu et al., Review of Scientific Instruments, August 2003; contact Yongqi Fu, yqfu@ntu.edu.sg )

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.

Dogon & Egyptian mythology and science

Laird Scranton

Hidden Meanings: A Study of the Founding Symbols of Civilization

The book attempts to resolve the question of Marcel Griaule, Germaine Dieterlen and Dogon cosmology by approaching the subject in a new way. For the past few decades, the stars of Sirius have so thoroughly dominated discussions of the Dogon that it seems no one thought to examine Dogon mythology's many statements regarding the structure of matter.

As it turns out, Dogon descriptions and drawings run parallel to the actual scientific structure of matter, starting with the atom and continuing all the way down to the vibrating strings of string theory, and include descriptions of esoteric behavior of matter at the most fundamental levels. Key elements of this same structure are found in ancient Egypt, often times in greater detail than the Dogon. The Egyptian hieroglyphic words which describe how matter is formed are written with glyphs which precisely match scientific diagrams from string theory. The many similarities between Dogon and Egyptian cosmological references all but preclude suggestions by Belgian anthropologist Walter Van Beek that they could have been the product of Dogon priestly invention.

The book is available for order through any bookstore or at the Xlibris site below (ISBN 1-4010-8877-5 Hardcover $28 or ISBN 1-4010-8876-7 Softcover $18).

Laird Scranton
183 Homestead Avenue
Albany, NY 12206
(518) 482-4508
e-mail: scrantonlr@aol.com

Chiropractic is new twist in pet care

By Nicole Fuller, Globe Correspondent, 7/25/2003


NORTH GRAFTON -- Dr. Bud Allen reached down and massaged the left-leaning spinal column of his patient, who calmly sniffed the carpet during the chiropractic session. ''Overall, her spine has a lot of mobility,'' Allen said of Zephyr, a 10-year-old mixed breed dog who was his test patient yesterday. ''She's gone from being hyper-mobile to having tone.''

Seated at desks in the classroom at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, some two dozen veterinarians from across the country and Canada craned their necks to study each move, raising their hands to ask detailed questions about the dog's spine and back.

As Allen, a Haydenville veterinarian, worked his fingers from Zephyr's lower spine to her neck, Dr. Judith Shoemaker of West Grove, Pa., stood nearby, demonstrating the technique on a model of a canine spinal column.

Zephyr, volunteered by her owner, never yelped as Allen and Shoemaker poked and prodded the dog's spine, stretched one leg and then the other, and massaged her lower rib cage during the hourlong session.

The class was the third of four in a continuing education program Tufts is offering for the first time this year to veterinarians who want to be certified as chiropractors for animals.

While the practice of applying chiropractic methods to animals dates to the early 1900s, its popularity has risen in recent years, as people have become more familiar with alternative medicine practices, said Dr. Narda G. Robinson, head of manual therapy at Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. ''It's riding on the coattails, on the popularity, of complementary medicine'' for people, she said.

Many dogs can't climb stairs and could be helped by chiropractic, said Dr. Kerry J. Ridgway, an instructor from Sonoma, Calif., who has been trying to persuade veterinary schools to incorporate chiropractic into their curriculums for 15 years.

''People are actually coming in my office and saying, `Can you recommend a chiropractor?' '' Ridgway said.

Among those who traveled to Tufts for the training was Dr. Julia H. Sturm of Dayton, Md., who said she wanted to add canine chiropractic to her practice.

She already offers some alternative medicine for animals, performing acupuncture on dogs and cats for the past few years and prescribing Chinese herbs. ''This just goes hand in glove with what I'm already doing,'' Sturm said.

According to the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, which certifies animal chiropractors, 683 veterinarians worldwide are certified to perform chiropractic work on animals, 571 in the United States. By last September, there were about 61,000 veterinarians in this country, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association.

In 2001, Colorado State's veterinary school became the first in the country to offer training for such practice, which the university calls ''manual therapy,'' Robinson said.

Colorado State avoids using the word chiropractic, she said, because some veterinarians who use the term have been sued by chiropractors who treat humans.

''That's politics,'' Ridgway said. ''It doesn't necessarily have to do with what's best for the animal.''

Tufts offers instruction to practicing veterinarians, while Colorado State offers classes to veterinarians and final-year veterinary students who obtain permission from the dean.

Zephyr wasn't the only four-legged creature to serve as a test patient yesterday afternoon. The doctors also scrutinized the bones of Ruschen, a Hanoverian mare.

Ridgway said that horses are regularly treated by veterinarians because they are often involved in sports.

Along with seeking comfort for the animals, many owners want chiropractic treatment for their horses to improve their performances on tracks, he said. ''You know what it feels like to have a sore back and be asked to run 100 meters?''

Dr. Margo R. Roman, who also attended the class yesterday, has been practicing acupuncture and homeopathy at her holistic veterinary clinic in Hopkinton for 25 years.

''Veterinarians are training in these modalities to give themselves more tools in their toolbox to take care of animals,'' Roman said. ''It's the total picture of what it is to be in medicine.''

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 7/25/2003. © Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

It's no miracle, church decides of Milton Madonna


July 23, 2003

The Patriot Ledger

The Boston Roman Catholic Archdiocese has concluded that the Milton Madonna, an image in a Milton Hospital window, is not a miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary.

''You cannot preclude natural causes as an explanation of the image,'' the Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said yesterday.

For the image to be considered a miracle by the church, he said, earthly origins such as condensation must be ruled out.

''A miracle by its very nature means that it cannot be naturally explained,'' the Rev. Coyne said.

He said the church has completed its investigation of the image, which has brought thousands of the faithful and the curious to the hospital grounds over the past six weeks.

It can take years for the church to rule that something is a miracle. Apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three children at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 were not officially ruled to be miracles until 1930. Since 1900, fewer than 10 reported sightings of the Virgin Mary have received church validation out of tens of thousands of claims.

The window silhouette was first noticed on June 10. About two weeks ago, flecks of green, blue, yellow and red appeared throughout the image, further fueling the faith of window regulars.

The Rev. Coyne said that although the image is not a miracle by definition, the archdiocese will not adopt an official position on the exact origin of the image, ''nor do we expect to in the future.''

Church doctrine requires a miracle to be an observable event that lacks a scientific explanation, facilitates healing or good and conveys a religious message. In 1978, the church codified the proper protocol for investigating apparitions.

Traditionally, the Vatican does not get involved in proclaiming miracles, leaving investigations up to local church officials. Bishops determine if an investigation is warranted, and then form a team of experts usually consisting of doctors, the pastor of the closest church and someone with a science background.

The church has a tradition of skepticism in dealing with alleged apparitions, most of which tend to be images of the Virgin Mary, said the Rev. Johann Roten, director of the Marian Library at the University of Dayton.

A church declaration would come in a statement that the Rev. Roten called ''a theological negative,'' and it would not even use the term ''miracle.'' A validation would say, ''There's nothing that bars us from believing in the supernatural nature of the event.''

The first documented claim of a religious apparition came in A.D. 275 , the Rev. Roten said. The most recent authentication by the Roman Catholic Church came less than a year ago, in the case of a woman who claimed to receive a message of peace from the Virgin Mary in Amsterdam in 1948.

The Rev. Roten said the Boston Archdiocese did not engage in a full-scale investigation of the Milton window, but more ''looked into the matter.''

The Rev. Coyne did not comment on the church's specific fact-finding attempts. Investigations in general have proved difficult because there is no way to reach the window from inside. In the rear of the ophthalmology clinic at a medical office building, the window is covered by drywall that blocks the light and frustrates further study, but which also eliminates any possibility of a hoax.

Window-gazing crowds have subsided to local viewers and regulars, and the hospital still has no plans to change the 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. viewing hours, spokeswoman Susan Schepici said.

Yesterday at 5:30, about 50 visitors peered at the window, even amid forecasts of a downpour. Some said they disapproved of the church's position, but hoped for future investigations to reach a different conclusion.

''That's not condensation,'' said Deirdre Cimeno, 32, of Dedham. ''How could they think that's condensation? Really.''

Others said they felt the miracle is so obvious that the church's findings were irrelevant.

''They can say whatever they want, but I just think they don't want anybody making fun of the church,'' said Anna Cuilla, 74, of South Boston.

Ciulla said the definition of a church miracle should not take into account the origin of the symbol, but rather what it means for people.

''I believe there's condensation,'' she said on her fourth trip to the window last night. ''But condensation has appeared on my windows and it didn't look like the Madonna.''

A few skeptics said they agreed with the church's determination.

''I don't believe it's a miracle,'' said Ciulla's friend, Ellie Selvitelle, 71, of South Boston. ''It doesn't look like anything to me.''

Randolph resident Jim Clark said authenticating the image as a miracle would bring people much-needed hope.

''Who's to say it is and who's to say it isn't?'' he said. ''This world can use as many miracles as it can get these days.''

Jessica Van Sack may be reached at jvansack@ledger.com.

Copyright 2003 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Saturday, July 26, 2003


"WATKINS APPEALS HEARING: Therapist Wants New Trial to Establishing Efficacy of "Holding Therapy" with Testimony from Happy Parents"

COLORADO -- The criminal cases of Attachment Therapists Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder, the convicted killers of Candace Newmaker, are nearing their climaxes in the Colorado Court of Appeals. Attorneys gave final oral arguments in Watkins's appeal on Tuesday, July 22. The appeal of Julie Ponder is lagging about three months behind.

Both Watkins and Ponder are serving 16-year prison terms after their convictions in 2001 for reckless child-abuse resulting in the death of 10-year-old Candace in a "rebirthing" session. Because it was a crime of violence, neither reportedly will be eligible for parole until 2013 under current guidelines.

Watkins hired former Colorado Supreme Court justice Jean Dubofsky for her appeal, who argued this week before the three-judge panel that there were three errors which should overturn Watkins's conviction:

First, the trial judge, Jane Tidball, did not allow the testimonials of previous clients -- the parents of "attachment disordered" children -- to rebut prosecution experts who testified that Holding Therapy is without scientific basis and cannot be regarded as effective. Tidball had ruled that testimonials on effectiveness were irrelevant and would tend to confuse the jury as to the real issues in the trial; but she did allow testimony where previous clients thought Watkins's procedures were safe.

Second, there was insufficient inquiry into the effect that a newspaper story about the jury, published during the trial, may have had on jurors.

Third, trying Watkins under the reckless child-abuse statute denied her the lesser sentencing options which would have been available had she been tried under other statutory provisions; as a result, she claims to have been denied equal protection under the law.

Ponder, meanwhile, is prinicipally arguing in her appeal that she should have been tried separately from Watkins -- taking some potshots at her co-defendant along the way. She is represented in her appeal by a public defender. The briefing is not complete in that case.

As in the briefs filed by the attorneys, most of the oral arguments on Tuesday concerned the issue of 11 denied testimonials (including, remarkably, about one child who was sent to a psychiatric hospital within a year of Watkins's treatment). Watkins argues that recklessness in this case required a state of mind that had no reasonable basis for disregarding the pleas and cries of the child. But she did have a reasonable basis, her argument goes, in that children suffering from "attachment disorder," such as Candace, often make protestations to stop therapy session (e.g., "I'm going to die!" "I can't breathe!" "I'm going to throw up."); in numerous cases treated before, Watkins disregarded such statements by children and had successful outcomes as a result.

The defendant's argument brought one justice to ask what the correlation was between the *success* of Watkins's holdings with other children and the *risks* she was posing for Candace in the rebirthing session. For Watkins's case to be fully made, Dubofsky replied, the jury needed to hear that her therapy was not as "far out" as the prosecution's experts had made it seem. But by not being able to present testimony to that effect, the prosecution's experts went unanswered, and the jury was left with the unfair conclusion that Watkins had no reasonable basis to act as she did with Candace.

The State countered Watkins's argument with assertions that some testimonials did, indeed, creep into the defense's case to the jury, despite the trial judge's ruling, and those were sufficient to make Watkins's argument moot. "There was testimony in the record that this was successful," Catherine Adkisson, Assistant Attorney General, told the court.

Watkins arguments on the testimonial issue raise significant concerns about the integrity of scientific evidence introduced in US courts. An amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief, accepted by the court, focused on those concerns. Three individuals who have been following the case closely -- Prof. Jean Mercer; Linda Rosa, RN; and citizen-activist Larry Sarner -- argued in that brief that Watkins was trying to trump scientifically valid evidence with scientifically worthless anecdotes. "The direct effects of accepting [Watkins's] arguments in this case would be to artificially elevate the judicial reliability for anecdotal evidence," they wrote. "An inevitable consequence will be that the truth-seeking function of the scientific enterprise will be gravely compromised thereby, and all of society -- not just the courts -- will suffer as a result."

It was pointed out in the amicus brief that Watkins had every opportunity to present qualified scientific experts to rebut those of the prosecution. Her failure to do so was mute evidence that there was no scientific basis for such rebuttals, and it was fair to let the jury draw that conclusion. On the other hand, allowing lay witnesses to provide anecdotal evidence for the purposes of rebutting scientific evidence would indeed confuse the jury as to what was reliable evidence and what was not.

The amicus brief also made the point that in the light of what Watkins *should* have known, her actions with Candace were reckless. Watkins had held herself out to her clients as a professional psychotherapist. Based on the scientific evidence available to her and other professionals in her field, she *should* have known that the screams and cries of a child in a potentially life-threatening situation could have been genuine and acted accordingly. Moreover, as a professional, Watkins *should* have known that the situation into which she had placed Candace was potentially life-threatening, and either not placed her into that situation or done sufficient monitoring to assure the client's safety and well-being. Watkins's failure to act appropriately on what she *should* have known, means she was reckless. Her previous "successes" with other clients were irrelevant as to what she should have done.

Not brought up on appeal was the defense's claim that 10-year-old Candace actually died of a previously undiagnosed heart defect. That possibility had been raised by the defense during trial, but ultimately was rejected by the jury.

ATNEWS will report the judges' ruling when it is forthcoming.

[Report by Larry Sarner for AT NEWS]

"'Rebirthing' trial unfair, lawyer says"
By Peggy Lowe, Rocky Mountain News
July 23, 2003

Our Molecular Future: How nanotechnology, robotics, genetics, and artificial intelligence will transform our world

by Douglas Mulhall

Prometheus Books, 2002, HB, 392PP, Bib, Ind, Illus, $28.00, ISBN 1 57392 9921

Futurology can be a funny business. Like science fiction with an MBA, tomes such as *Our Molecular Future* inevitably tell you more about the concerns of the present than the path of the future. They can often be at their most fascinating 10 or 50 years down the line, when you can marvel at how much they got right or, more usually, chortle at how wrong they were in their extremes of optimism or pessimism. And in many cases, there's a certain strain of quasi-religious revelation about the whole exercise.

Douglas Mulhall, a journalist and sustainable development consultant, sets out to be speculative rather than predictive, and dedicates the book to anyone "who walks the perilous path between those who claim that technology will solve our problems, and those who say it will destroy us" -- a suitably fortean ideal. Disappointingly, his own writing sometimes fails to live up to that standard.

*Our Molecular Future* is centred on the potential of molecular nanotechnology -- the manipulation of matter at the molecular level, as popularised in the late 1970s by Eric Drexler. The first half of the book is a fairly straightforward prognostication of the potential benefits or problems of the technological vanguard. According to Mulhall, nanotech promises to revolutionise society and economy, deliver virtually free energy and the flying car, and save humankind from terrorism, earthquake, disease and asteroid impact.

Interlinked areas of robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and genetic manipulation also come into play. The book opens with the concept of 'singularity' -- the point at which humans are effectively rendered obsolete by advancing machine intelligence, unless we decide to upgrade ourselves of course. It closes 300 pages later with the assurance that nanotechnology can enable us to "transcend our dark side and enter a new era".

Although Mulhall displays some scepticism towards the more outré claims of the Extropian movement and suchlike techno-utopians, there's an inescapable note of visionary evangelism in his own writings. Interestingly, he tells of how he was struck by a sudden realisation of the fragility of Earth civilisation while observing the Shoemaker-Levy comet crash into Jupiter in 1994, a moment of illuminating epiphany.

The central section of the book details the many natural catastrophes that could cripple or destroy civilisation, and includes a detour into historical catastrophism and the fate of Atlantis, complete with an appearance by the ubiquitous Graham Hancock. New technologies, of course, can deliver us from such fates. This juxtaposition of ideas did, however, make me ponder that perhaps Atlantis developed into a truly nanotech civilisation, and the reason its ruins have gone as yet undiscovered is because they're really, really wee.

Mulhall has deliberately set out to write the 21st century equivalent of Alvin Toffler's *Future Shock.* Various sections of his wilder speculation are likely to alienate technologist and environmentalist alike, and his rather excitable rhetoric doesn't always help: molecular nanotechnology is like "a magma dome rumbling beneath the surface of society, ready to blast out from countless vents, burn away every obsolete technology, and establish a new substrate on which to build", apparently.

The other problem with books such as this is that they very rapidly become outdated. In the early chapters, Mulhall provides a rapid introduction to cutting-edge nanotech research, including the groundbreaking research at Bell Labs in the U.S. Since the book's publication, much of this research has been discredited following the discovery of fraud involving star researcher Hendrik Schön.

Nonetheless, this is an informed and provocative manifesto for a technological century. And forteans should be pleased to learn that the world could get a whole lot weirder and, Mulhall promises, more personally satisfying.

Tim Chapman

New World Ancestors Lose 12,000 Years



Scientists studying the genetic signatures of Siberians and American Indians have found evidence that the first human migrations to the New World from Siberia probably occurred no earlier than 18,000 years ago.

The new estimate undermines arguments for colonization as far back as 30,000 years ago, but reinforces archaeological findings and a linguistic theory that most American languages belong to a single family called Amerind.

The genetic evidence fits neatly, for example, with the discovery of a human campsite in Chile, which is apparently 15,000 years old, and with the well-established presence of big-game hunters in North America, starting 13,600 years ago. The few sites with possibly older human traces have yet to gain wide acceptance among scientists.

By studying the DNA of living Siberian and American Indian populations, geneticists had previously been able to see traces of at least two early migrations from Siberia. But it has been hard to put a date on when the first people set foot in the Americas, for lack of a suitable marker in the Y chromosome.

After much search, a team of geneticists has now detected a change in the DNA sequence of Siberian men's Y chromosomes that took place just before the first of the two migrations into the Americas. They estimate that the DNA change, called M242, occurred 15,000 to 18,000 years ago, meaning the Americas must first have been occupied after that date. The DNA change is not in a gene and makes no known difference to the men who carry it.

The new result, to be published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, is by Dr. Mark Seielstad of the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. R. Spencer Wells of the University of Oxford and other colleagues.

The migration was probably by land because at that time the world's sea level was much lower and a land bridge, known as Beringia, stretched across what is now the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska. Also, people bearing the same genetic marker, called M3, live on either side of the former bridge, suggesting it was the means of passage.

Beringia sank beneath the waves some 11,000 years ago as the glaciers of the last ice age melted. The second migration seen by the geneticists seems to have occurred some 8,000 years ago and was presumably by boat, as the land bridge had long since vanished.

The date based on the new marker is important because it sets an earliest limit on the colonization of America, something that archaeologists find hard to do because they cannot be sure there are not sites they may have missed.

Hitherto some archaeologists have argued that people reached the Americas as long as 30,000 years ago. This date received some genetical support last year in a study by Dr. Douglas Wallace, now of the University of California at Irvine, who matched up male migrations from Siberia with the female migrations that he and colleagues had worked out earlier. The female migrations are traced by analyzing a genetic element in every cell called mitochondrial DNA.

Based on the mitochondrial DNA of the women descended from those in the first migration, Dr. Wallace estimated it occurred 20,000 to 30,000 years ago. Dr. Spencer said in an e-mail message that mitochondrial DNA was hard to date accurately and often gave dates that were too old. The Y chromosome is a better genetic clock, if a suitable marker can be found, he said.

Dr. Wallace did not respond to e-mail requests for comments.

The new date derived by Dr. Seielstad and Dr. Spencer may strengthen the hand of linguists who argue that all American languages fall into three groups, known as Amerind, Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut, with Amerind being by far the largest. Most linguists dispute that classification, saying languages change too fast to allow any very ancient relationships to be discerned. But if the first humans arrived in the Americas only 18,000 years ago, efforts to find links between present languages may seem more plausible.

"If they entered more recently, it is not such a stretch to say you can see a linguistic relationship," Dr. Wells said.

The new archaeological results seem compatible with the younger date adduced by the geneticists. Radiocarbon dating revealed that a occupation site in Siberia was only 13,000 years old and thus too recent to be a critical link in the first migrations, as had been supposed.

The site on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia, previously dated at 16,800 years old, was thought to be a way station at the western edge of Beringia, a point of departure for migrants either across the frozen land or by sea along the coasts. The new research challenges the conventional idea that this was the specific site from which people crossed into America, but does not exclude the possibility that they did so from other sites.

Researchers, led by Dr. Ted Goebel of the University of Nevada at Reno, reported the redating of the Siberian site at Ushki Lake on the Kamchatka Peninsula in today's issue of the journal Science. The other authors were Dr. Michael R. Waters of Texas A&M University and Dr. Margarita Dikova, an archaeologist and widow of Dr. Nikolai Dikov, who discovered the site in 1964.

The initial radiocarbon analysis was apparently based on contaminated samples, the researchers said. The 13,000-year-old date, nearly 4,000 years younger than previously thought, effectively removed the site as a way station for the first migrants to America, they concluded.

For most of the last century, the peopling of America was a story of big-game hunters trekking across the Bering land bridge in the last ice age, spreading across North America and within 1,000 years or so reaching the tip of South America. Those who left the most durable traces, fluted projectile points, were the Clovis people, named for the town in New Mexico where their artifacts were first uncovered.

The journal quoted Dr. David J. Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University, as saying the new finding "removes what was, until now, the critical link in the chain connecting Clovis to Siberia."

When people first occupied the Ushki Lake site, Clovis hunters had already been killing mammoths in North America for some 600 years and groups of hunters had left their mark at Monte Verde, Chile, 3,000 years earlier. Radiocarbon dates are lower than calendar dates and they become increasingly so the farther back one goes in time.

If the Ushki site is only 13,000 years old, Dr. Goebel said, the oldest place in the Bering region with human traces now is Broken Mammoth, a 14,000-year-old site in central Alaska.

"It means we have even less evidence than we had before," Dr. Goebel said.

The Global Mind


Mark Pilkington
Thursday July 24, 2003
The Guardian

A notion that has influenced esoteric thought for centuries now forms the basis of a continuing, mind-boggling parapsychology experiment. Could our thoughts and intentions - before they become actions - alter the world?

During an EEG (electroencephalogram), electrodes detect electrical signals transmitted between brain cells and record patterns of activity. This is not a measure of the mind itself, but of the electrical processes that somehow generate consciousness.

Now, imagine the Earth as a brain; humans - perhaps all life - as brain cells; and a network of Random Event Generators (REGs, like high-speed, electronic coin tossers) as electrodes. This is the Global Consciousness Project and it appears to be measuring, well _ something. Begun in 1998, it now involves more than 75 networked computers known as Eggs ("electrogaiagrams") in about 30 countries, including the US, UK (two), Russia, Fiji, Cuba and Romania.

The project grew from experiments by Dr Roger Nelson of Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research. For over 20 years, researchers at this leading parapsychology institute have been studying the effects of human consciousness on REGs, demonstrating to their satisfaction that individual minds can subtly influence random mechanical processes and create deviations from expected chance results.

Nelson examined what happened to a REG when several people focused on a single event, at a theatre or sports stadium. The results were impressive but, perplexingly, the generator's location was irrelevant - the effects were present anywhere. REGs in America, for instance, were noticeably affected by Princess Diana's funeral in 1997.

Nelson's team claims that periods of widespread attention or concentration correspond to notable fluctuations in the Egg network's data. For example, significant results were recorded after the Turkish earthquakes of August 1999, millennium eve, the 2000 US presidential elections, and September 11 2001, when the GCP network responded in a "powerful and evocative way".

The GCP team remains cautious about interpreting its results. But the implications are startling and, as the Egg network grows, so too does the enigma surrounding its data.

Science In the News

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In the News

Today's Headlines - July 25, 2003


10-year Project Comes amid New Claims of Atmospheric Changes from The San Francisco Chronicle

A controversial 10-year plan to study global warming was issued Thursday by the Bush administration amid new claims that the human impact on Earth's atmosphere can be detected miles above the planet's surface.

The $103 million White House plan laid out five goals, the first of which is to study natural variability in climate change.

Critics charged this was designed to appease conservatives who argue that global warming is mostly a natural phenomenon, and not, as environmentalists and many scientists believe, the result of industrial activity and burning of fossil fuels.

from The New York Times

Scientists studying the genetic signatures of Siberians and American Indians have found evidence that the first human migrations to the New World from Siberia probably occurred no earlier than 18,000 years ago.

The new estimate undermines arguments for colonization as far back as 30,000 years ago, but reinforces archaeological findings and a linguistic theory that most American languages belong to a single family called Amerind.

The genetic evidence fits neatly, for example, with the discovery of a human campsite in Chile, which is apparently 15,000 years old, and with the well-established presence of big-game hunters in North America, starting 13,600 years ago. The few sites with possibly older human traces have yet to gain wide acceptance among scientists.

from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A collection of giant seafloor hot vents is thousands of years old and may be the type of place where life first developed on Earth, a new study suggests.

Located in the mid-Atlantic about 1,500 miles off the U.S. East Coast, the collection of towering vents discovered in 2000 has been nicknamed the Lost City.

Water coming out of the vents is heated by chemical reactions rather than the volcanic action seen at the better-known hot smoker vents that have been studied in the past, according to the research team led by Gretchen L. Fruh-Green of Switzerland's Institute for Mineralogy and Petrology.

Their findings are reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

from The Washington Post

Scientists may have profoundly underestimated the number of whales that once lived in the North Atlantic Ocean, a controversial finding that could have critical implications for the future of whaling and whale conservation, a new genetic study concludes.

The gulf between the new estimates and those from existing historical-statistical studies is so vast -- a difference of several hundred thousand animals -- that it has already provoked a spirited debate over scientists' techniques in gathering and analyzing the data.

"We're suggesting that the oceans can support these populations in the long term, and in fact did," said geneticist Joe Roman, a Harvard University graduate student and co-author of the new study with Stanford biologist Stephen R. Palumbi. "There are all kinds of different views on this, and we knew it was going to be controversial, but this is what the data show."

from The Associated Press

MERIDEN, Conn. -- State forensic scientists are taking the war on drugs to the molecular level.

Researchers are compiling a database of DNA from marijuana seized by authorities in an attempt to track the nation's pot distribution network from grower to smoker.

Over the past three years, scientists at the state Forensic Science Laboratory have mapped the genetic profile of about 600 marijuana samples taken from around New England.

Forensic experts believe efforts like this represent the future of forensic science, which for years has been focused on the analysis of human evidence like blood, semen and hair.

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July 26, 2003 -- DAVID Belasco loved his theater so much, some believe he never left it.

Yesterday would have been the 149th birthday of the producer they called "The Bishop of Broadway," for his white collar and dark suits, but those who've worked at his 44th Street theater - now home to "Enchanted April" - says he's still around.

They've been spooked by odd odors, strange sightings, footsteps and laughter - especially from Belasco's private apartment at the top of the theater.

The stagehand who worked the follow-spots for "Follies" won't forget the time she saw the outline of a man in a black suit - and what looked like a white collar.

"I finished my cue and ran up to the second box, but there was no one there," she tells The Post. "And there's no way out of the box except down the stairs I came in on."

The smell of cigar smoke and flowers and misplaced props bedeviled the cast and crew of "Frankie & Johnny" when it played the Belasco last year. "We'd close the kitchen door, then the curtain would rise and the door would be open," says a production stage manager named (aptly) Spook Testani.

"Joey [Pantoliano] swore he saw a big, aura-like blue light in the center of the balcony."

Testani has ghost stories to share from other productions at the Belasco: "The woman who played Gertrude in 'Hamlet' had a death scene every night when she'd die in a chair, center stage, looking up," she says.

"Every night, she'd see a woman in a blue dress in the balcony walk up the center aisle and leave."

The Belasco's balcony doesn't have a center aisle.

Stagehand Ted Abramov doesn't believe in ghosts - but back in 1981, he and the head electrician were locking up for the day when he saw a woman in blue walking across the back of the theater.

"I told the electrician and he said, 'There's no one there.' I saw her go up the stairs to the first balcony - but she vanished," he recalls. "Oh," someone told him later. "You saw the lady in blue."

"I'll remember the color of that dress to this day," he says.

Peter Guernsey won't forget it either. The stagehand was closing up one night, about eight years ago, when a sudden chill made him turn around.

"I saw a two-foot trail of blue material, like the train of a dress, going up the stairs" to Belasco's apartment - which is wired with sensors that would have gone off if anyone were there.

No alarm sounded - and Guernsey fled.

So who is the woman in blue? Mary Ellen Kelly, who's researching the history of Belasco and his theater, says many believe it's the late actress Leslie Carter.

"[Belasco] was building that theater the year he broke with her," Kelly says. "She went off and got married and he never hired her again. "Her career never recovered."

Kelly says she's more interested in Belasco the man than Belasco the ghost.

Still, she wonders about the time her friend took her shepherd pup for a walk, and the dog stopped dead in front of the theater and looked up, "as if he'd seen something up there, as if someone were hailing him.

"But there was nothing but painted-over windows," Kelly says. "So who knows?"

"Enchanted April" star Jane Adams has noticed something amiss, too - when she brings her yellow Lab to the theater, her mild-mannered dog barks excitedly in an empty room.

"Someone had told me about the ghost the last time I played this theater," Adams says. "I sort of like it."

Then the props at "Enchanted April" started disappearing - a flask, a (fake) check - only to reappear, exactly where the propmaster had placed them, after the scene was over.

"There's something about these old theaters," Adams muses. "You have all these strong personalities who've worked so hard to get there - you almost can't imagine them leaving."

Houston residents indicted in Nigerian e-mail scam


Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

A federal grand jury Thursday indicted a Nigerian national and a British citizen living here in an alleged Internet hoax that promised a share of $20 million in a box at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Nigerian Patrick Omu, 36, and Ambrose Agwuibe, 43, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 18 counts of wire fraud and are in jail here.

If convicted, they could receive five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 20 years in prison on each wire fraud charge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman said.

Numerous people in the United States and Canada were sent e-mails promising them a large share of $20 million if they would pick up a box at the airport and keep it until its owners could retrieve it. People were asked to wire money to cover shipping, handling and inspection fees.

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