NTS LogoSkeptical News for 25 April 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Thursday, April 29, 2004

New ways of thinking move from New Age to science

http://www.timesstar.com/Stories/0,1413,125~1549~2109704,00.html

Article Last Updated: Monday, April 26, 2004 - 4:26:43 PM PST

By Chad Jones - STAFF WRITER

Most of us have had the experience of knowing something we didn't know we knew.

A parent suddenly knows when a child is in trouble. Before the phone rings - and without the benefit of caller ID - we know who's going to be on the other end. You're thinking about an old friend you haven't seen for awhile and the next thing you know, there's an e-mail.

Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer wants to know why and how we know these things. What some people might call paranormal activity or extrasensory perception, Mayer calls ``anomalous phenomena,'' or that which falls outside the current realm of scientific measure. She says she doesn't see anything ``para'' or ``extra'' about things like intuition, coincidence or telekinesis.

``These events are perfectly normal,'' she says. ``I call them `extraordinary knowing.' We've all experienced such events, but we lack ways to talk about them seriously.''

Like many enterprising thinkers and scientists before her, Mayer is attempting to bridge the gap between intuitive, creative thinking and hard, rational science. Building such a bridge means changing the way the medical and scientific establishment thinks, she acknowledges, and that happens slowly. But, she insists, it does happen.

And it is happening. Ideas that were formerly part of the New Age fringe - such as the connection between body and mind, between emotions and physical well-being - have been validated by advances in neuroscience and welcomed into mainstream medicine. The government is funding research into alternative and complementary medicine, and major universities are funneling funds and resources into research on - believe it or not - anomalous phenomena.

The most recent Gallup Poll reports that more than half of Americans believe in anomalous phenomena such as ESP, unexplained coincidence or prayer healing.

A common response to discussion of anomalous phenomena, however, is for certain New Age, kook or woo-woo alarms to go off, even in spiritually friendly Northern California.

But Mayer is not from the New Age world of crystals, incense and past-life regressions.

She is, in her own joking words, ``ridiculously respectable.'' The 56-year-old Mayer is a busy professor, writer and psychoanalyst. Her academic work keeps her shuttling from her posts as an associate clinical professor in the psychology departments at the University of California, Berkeley and University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. She also spends time at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, where she is a training and supervising psychoanalyst.

When not on a college campus, she puts her bachelor's degree from Harvard and doctorate from Stanford to use with a private clinical practice in Berkeley. To feed her artistic side, she serves as artistic director of California Revels, which produces an annual December pageant ``The Christmas Revels'' in Oakland.

Opening minds

In spite of her hectic schedule, Mayer has devoted much of the last four years to writing a book called ``Extraordinary Knowing,'' which will be published next year by Bantam/Dell, a division of Random House. A series of ideas from that in-progress book linking hard science and anomalous phenomena also garnered her national attention when, last December, the New York Times Magazine named her one of the country's 67 ``Top Idea Makers for 2003.''

As Mayer has been researching, writing and listening to people's stories of inexplicable occurrences in their lives, she has also been trying out the material on increasingly receptive groups of doctors, scientists and academics.

``I have been astonished by the openness,'' she says. ``It has been my experience that about 90 percent of the people at lectures or that I chat with at parties are open to the ideas of anomalous phenomena.

``I'm not saying it's true or it's right. My point is that we should be talking about it. If you have an experience and you cannot talk it about with your peers, that inhibits the experience. There's nothing healthy in people feeling afraid to talk about something that matters to them.''

In the last few years, when Mayer has offered seminars on subjects such as spirituality and theories of knowledge for health professionals, they have filled almost instantly. For 60 available seats, more than 150 people would sign up.

Given a safe environment in which to talk, stories poured out of doctors and mental health care professionals, stories about spirituality, intuition and coincidence - things they knew without knowing how they knew them.

``It's a battle between the rational and intuitive,'' Mayer explains. ``There's such polarization between the two. But it's not about one being better than the other. Different people have different ways. It's about accepting that and allowing people the safety to be open and to help them do their best work.''

These days Mayer is inundated with stories. Everyone has a story.

``You won't believe this...'' they begin, or, ``The most amazing thing happened ...''

Sitting in the living room of her Berkeley hills home, Mayer answers a phone call from a psychoanalyst colleague and, before the conversation is over, Mayer will have heard yet another story about an extraordinary coincidence - this one about finding a name on a piece of paper in a balloon and a chance meeting decades later.

``People are reluctant to fully accept anomalous phenomena - for good reason,'' Mayer says. ``Not every coincidence has meaning. Plenty of things happen that don't mean anything, but that doesn't mean we give up on the idea that certain coincidences might have meaning.

``Once you accept that coincidence can be a sort of connection, there's a fear that every coincidence is something we have to pay attention to. That's what's disturbing about potentially anomalous experiences. People are afraid of opening that door and stepping onto a slippery slope."

But as she reiterates often, Mayer says that accepting anomalous phenomena does not mean abandoning rational thought.

``I'm not saying that if you begin to think seriously about intuition or coincidence that you give up on science or training, not at all," she says. "It's like playing the piano. You'll never give a brilliant performance without skill, practice, formal training and an enormous amount of work. But by the same token, you'll never be brilliant if that's all you're concentrating on. At some point, your skill and training takes you into a different, more intuitive state."

Connecting bodies, minds

In her own psychoanalytic practice, Mayer says her investigation into anomalous phenomena has affected the way she interacts with patients.

``I've developed a different balance in my awareness of my state of mind in which I listen to patients,'' she says. ``It is profound and kinesthetic, meaning `in the body.' It's a physical awareness of your state of mind. That's what so interested me in the work of Marion Rosen.''

Rosen is the 89-year-old Berkeley resident who developed a form of touch therapy called the Rosen Method.

After years of work as a physical therapist, Rosen began to notice that working through the tension in a person's body had an emotional as well as a physical effect. In 1983, Rosen founded the Rosen Method: The Berkeley Center and has since created similar training centers around the world in countries such as Scandinavia, Australia, Canada, Russia and her native Germany.

After decades of hands-on physical therapy and light massage work, Rosen has worn the fingerprints from her fingertips. In the 21 years since she introduced the method that bears her name, Rosen has found acceptance by the medical and psychological world slow in coming.

``I think minds are opening a bit,'' Rosen says in a quiet, German-accented voice. ``The mind and body connection has taken a long time to be accepted, but to me it's very obvious the two are intricately related. But that is not taught in medical school, so people are careful about it.''

Rosen says she understands that what may seem readily apparent to her as she works with patients requires hard scientific data and research to persuade medical professionals. She sees that data coming from Swedish studies of the relaxation hormone oxytosin, which can be released during physical contact, and from ongoing research into the relationship between emotion and the immune system.

Rosen's first student, Sarah Webb, who now serves as the Berkeley Center's executive director, says she sees that, more than medicine, the world of psychotherapy is opening up to the potential of body work in combination with the more traditional ``talking cure,'' as Freud called it.

``This kind of work was viewed with suspicion in the '80s,'' says Webb, 55, from her Lafayette home. ``People tended to look at it as flaky or alternative and lumped it in with New Age therapy.

``But over time, psychology professionals have come to recognize how important the body is when it comes to helping people change. Cognitive thinking about change can take people so far, but real change has to happen on a physical as well as emotional and mental level. More and more we see therapists collaborating with body workers.''

About a year ago, Mayer was invited to a seminar in which she was asked to comment on the mind-body connection from a psychotherapist's point of view while Rosen worked on a volunteer from the audience.

One of the things Mayer pointed out was the fact that developments in cognitive neuroscience have shifted the way we think about the body and the mind - not as separate entities but as a unified system in which one has direct impact on the other.

Coming of (New) Age

That is a prime example of New Age thinking that has come of age in a scientifically acceptable way says Gordon Wheeler, the new president of Esalen, the 40-year-old training center near Big Sur that has been the source of many a New Age joke.

``Before 1980, the medical establishment and alternative healers didn't speak to each other,'' Wheeler, 60, says. `Now it's the most common thing to have a doctor refer you to an accupuncturist or for your HMO to pay for stress-reduction classes that involve some form of meditation.

``A generation ago, Herbert Benson did pioneering work that showed mental experiences have a profound chemical effect on the body. That was very new and off the page, but rigorous science can measure the fact that mental and emotional events influence bodily states. The old Western split between emotion and cognition has broken down.''

One of the 27 institutes within the federal National Institutes of Health is the five-year-old National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The center's very existence indicates that new ways of thinking about bodies, minds and the health of both are being explored by the biggest establishment there is: the United States government.

Delving into the world of anomalous phenomena as she worked on her book, Mayer discovered a vast trove of scientific research at Princeton University, where Robert G. Jahn and Brenda J. Dunne have spent more than two decades developing the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program. Thousands of experiments have determined that the human mind, often subconsciously, can have a physical effect on matter outside the body.

``The scientific research being done at Princeton over the last 25 years on mind-matter anomalies is profoundly important,'' Mayer says.

She adds that serious scientific research on anomalous phenomena has been going on since the 1880s with William James and other Harvard scholars at the Society for Psychical Research and in the early 1900s by the experimental psychologist William McDougall, also at Harvard and later the founder of the Duke University psychology department.

The problem with the research, Mayer says, is that as in our own personal discussions of anomalous phenomena, we don't know quite what to do with it.

``There is no conceptual model to help make sense of the results and, as a result, it gets dismissed,'' Mayer says.

But, she adds, the more research there is and the more people become unafraid - or unembarrassed - to talk about their own anomalous experiences, the better the chances of mainstream acceptance.

With new ways of thinking making some inroads - ``some'' being the operative word - in the worlds of science and medicine, Mayer says she is hopeful that the study of anomalous phenomena can open minds and increase a sense of connectedness and involvement among people. ``There's a sense of crisis in the world because the world is not working the way we're living in it,'' she says. ``How could it hurt to study the underlying forms of human connection to each other and to our environment? We've got to make it a priority.''

Reconnecting mind, matter

Technological advancements in all realms of science, Mayer says, have been ``brilliant'' at separating mind and matter.

``Now we have to be brilliant about re-connecting them,'' she says. ``That will be the triumph: reconnecting mind and matter without undoing rationality. It's now in progress. The goal is to maintain the scientific world view but know how to go back and forth between that and other ways of thinking. That's the key. One simply cannot be subsumed by the other.''

Four years ago, as she was putting her usual psychological research papers into a drawer and embarking on her exploration of anomalous phenomena, Mayer remembers being undaunted by what people might think of her.

``The first time I was at a professional gathering and admitted what I was studying, the response was, `People will say you're crazy.' '' she says. ``And I said the ones who do will not remain close friends and colleagues unless they can show me I'm wrong.''

Mayer says that in her travels, she has encountered little resistance to her thoughts on anomalous phenomena. She has observed open-mindedness and even eagerness among ``top-flight scientific thinkers'' and people in positions to promote change.

Shifts in thinking happen at a glacial pace. But change is constant. Within the next generation, we may discover that we know more than we think we do, that we're connected to one another and to the world in surprising ways and that ``extraordinary knowing'' really isn't that extraordinary after all.

- For more information about the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research project, visit www.princeton.edu/~{LEFTBRAK}tilde{RITEBRAK}pear; for the Rosen Method, visit www.rosenmethod.com/berkschool.htm; for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, visit http://nccam.nih.gov

You can e-mail Chad Jones at cjones@angnewspapers.com or call (925) 416-4853.

Norwalk Hospital part of trials testing shark cartilage for cancer

http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/local/scn-sa-nor.shark1apr27,0,4887790.story?coll=stam-news-local-headlines

By Ryan Jockers
Staff Writer

April 27, 2004

NORWALK -- Norwalk Hospital is participating in a national study testing shark cartilage as a treatment for lung cancer.

A hospital review board approved the use of the clinical trial at the Whittingham Cancer Center in February; one patient is enrolled in the research study.

Shark cartilage has become an alternative medicine for cancer patients, though doctors and clinical researchers have discredited its cancer-fighting ability. Its use gained popularity after a book about its potential effects, "Sharks Don't Get Cancer: How Shark Cartilage Could Save Your Life," was published about seven years ago.

Shark cartilage contains an ingredient thought to prevent existing tumors from creating the network of blood vessels needed for them to survive and grow, a process called angiogenesis.

The cartilage is available in a powder form in capsules in stores and on the Internet, but its use has been controversial in the medical community.

In 1998, the National Cancer Institute began trial testing a pure, liquid form of the cartilage, produced by Aeterna, a Canadian pharmaceutical company, on patients with non-small cell lung cancer, a group comprising about 80 percent of all lung cancer patients.

Dr. Richard Frank, who is overseeing the study at the Whittingham Cancer Center, said the clinical trial appealed to him because of what the drug, Neovastat, is supposed to do: block angiogenesis, which could extend the lives of people with advanced lung cancer.

"I believe in what works," he said. "I don't care what you call it."

The goal of the national trial is to test about 750 patients. All patients get standard care -- chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or a combination of both -- while half of them will get the liquefied shark cartilage and half will not.

The NCI and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is sponsoring the trial being conducted by the University of Texas' M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Dr. W. Archie Bleyer, of the cancer center in Texas, said about 315 patients are enrolled nationwide, and the trial should be completed in two years.

"This is what our patients are interested in," said Linda Versea, a clinical trials nurse at the cancer center in Norwalk. "They are looking for an alternative, natural substance, and now we're able to offer it in a standardized way, overseen by doctors and approved by the medical community."

The Whittingham Cancer Center began its clinical trials program about four years ago, and presently is conducting 16 different treatments for various forms of cancer.

About 100 patients have enrolled in the cancer center's clinical tests, Versea said, and about 70 of them took experimental drugs that the Federal Drug Administration ultimately approved for treatment.

Frank, the doctor overseeing the Norwalk program, said getting patients to enroll has been difficult because the pool of candidates is limited to those with stage-three lung cancer.

He said cancer-fighting drugs are improving because they are targeting specific aspects of the disease, and Neovastat -- specifically blocking tumors of the blood supply they need -- is an example of that.

"We are really homing in on the enemy as opposed to fighting the whole country," he said.

Patients in clinical trials are closely monitored, and they can drop out at any time.

Those in the shark cartilage study drink four ounces of the liquid -- which is pinkish and resembles water in consistency -- twice a day. The lone patient presently enrolled in the Norwalk trial did not want to be interviewed.

Dr. Robert Siegel, the medical director of cancer clinical research at Hartford Hospital, also participating in the study, said the trial will determine whether there is any scientific merit to using shark cartilage to combat cancer.

"I think capsules are the wrong way to go but there could be a shred of truth about what is said to be in the capsules," Siegel said. "That is what the clinical trial will do: extract that active ingredient, and give it a dose in a biological and clinically meaningful way."

Copyright © 2004, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

Many Americans use prayer for health concerns

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-04/jaaj-mau042204.php

Public release date: 26-Apr-2004

Contact: John Lacey
617-432-0442
JAMA and Archives Journals Website

CHICAGO – An estimated one-third of adults use prayer, in addition to conventional medical care and complementary and alternative therapies, for health concerns, according to an article in the April 26 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to information in the article, many Americans believe in the healing power of prayer. While there is no proven therapeutic efficacy of prayer, associations between spirituality and better health outcomes have been described, the article states.

Anne M. McCaffrey, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues investigated the prevalence and patterns of the use of prayer for health concerns.

The researchers conducted a national survey of 2,055 people (age 18 or older) between October 1997 and February 1998 on the use of prayer. Data were also collected on sociodemographics, use of conventional medicine, and use of complementary and alternative medical therapies.

The researchers found that 35 percent of respondents used prayer for health concerns, and that 75 percent of these people prayed for wellness, and 22 percent prayed for specific medical conditions. Of those praying for specific medical conditions, 69 percent found prayer very helpful. Participants who were older than 33 years, female, attained an education beyond high school, had depression, chronic headaches, back and/or neck pain, digestive problems or allergies were all more likely to use prayer.

"In summary, we found that prayer for health concerns is a highly prevalent practice," the authors write. "Prayer is most often directed toward wellness and used in conjunction with conventional medical care. People who use prayer for health concerns report high levels of perceived helpfulness but rarely discuss their use of prayer with their physicians. Physicians should consider exploring their patients' spiritual practice to enhance their understanding of their patients' response to illness and health."

###

(Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:858-862. Available post-embargo at archinternmed.com)

Editor's Note: This project was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health; The John E. Fetzer Institute, Kalamazoo, Mich. (Dr. Eisenberg); The American Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Ill. (Dr. Eisenberg); Institutional National Research Service Award for Training in Alternative Medicine Research, National Institutes of Health (Dr. McCaffrey); and a Mid-Career Investigator Award from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health (Dr. Phillips).

For more information, contact JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312/464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail mediarelations@jama-archives.org.

To contact Anne M. McCaffrey, M.D., call John Lacey at 617/432-0442.

No evolution for Italian teens

http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040428/04

Scientists, teachers shocked by plan to cut evolutionary teaching in secondary school | By Rossella Lorenzi

Tens of thousands of Italians have expressed their disagreement with a plan by the minister of education, universities, and research, Letizia Moratti, to ban the teaching of evolutionary theory to young teenagers.

Fearing the measure will pave the way for creationist teaching, more than 40,000 citizens—and the number is still increasing—have subscribed a petition launched last week by some of the country's top scientists through the daily La Repubblica.

The document, signed by Nobel laureates Rita Levi Montalcini and Renato Dulbecco, together with scientists including Luca Cavalli Sforza, Bruno Dallapiccola, and Alberto Piazza, urges Moratti to "review the secondary schools programs and to rectify an oversight which is detrimental to the scientific culture of future generations."

"Ignoring the theory of evolution is a cultural limitation sacrificing the scientific curiosity of youth. It's unquestionably fair to point out that Darwinism and the theories that derived from it show gaps and unsolved problems, but the link between the past and the present of mankind shouldn't be completely ignored," write the scientists.

The Italian school system, which Moratti aims to reform shortly, is divided into three levels: primary school ("scuola elementare"), which lasts 5 years, from 6 to 11 years of age, secondary school ("scuola media"), which lasts 3 years, and high school ("scuola superiore"), which lasts 5 years.

Established by legislative decree on February 19, the new teaching programs for secondary schools make no mention of the history of human evolution, nor of the relationship between mankind and other species.

As a result, boys and girls aged 12 to 14 will have no idea of subjects such as "Structure, Function, and Evolution of Living Organisms" and "The Biological and Cultural Evolution of Mankind," said the scientists who launched the petition.

The National Association of Natural Science Teachers (ANISN) believes the ban will affect deeply the teaching of science. "This is the structure on which the entire teaching of natural sciences is based. We cannot talk of plants and animals without talking of evolution as well," Vincenzo Boccardi, vice president of ANISN, told The Scientist.

Italian children, argues Moratti, would not understand such a complex subject at that age. She added that evolutionary biology will be taught in high schools, according to "gradual teaching criteria."

Carlo Alberto Redi, a developmental biologist at the University of Pavia and one of the petition's subscribers, said that waiting until high school to teach the concepts of evolutionary theory could be too late.

"Darwin's conceptual paradigm is fundamental in the education of young students," Redi told The Scientist. "This is an unbelievable step backwards."

Links for this article Letizia Moratti
http://www.palazzochigi.it/Governo/Biografie/moratti_letizia.html

Appeal: New School Programme Detrimental to Scientific Culture
http://www.repubblica.it/speciale/2004/appelli/scuola2/index_eng.html

National Association of Natural Science Teachers http://www.anisn.it/

Are you successful in spite of doing things that make no sense at all?

From: Issue 81 | April 2004, Page 99 By: Marshall Goldsmith

Walking under a ladder. Breaking a mirror. A black cat darting across our path. Whoa! Most of us scorn superstitions as silly beliefs of the primitive and uneducated. Deep down inside, we assure ourselves that we're above these antiquated notions.

Not so fast. To a degree, we're all superstitious. In many cases, the higher we climb the organizational totem pole, the more superstitious we become.

Psychologically speaking, superstitious behavior comes from the belief that nonfunctional activity followed by positive reinforcement is actually the cause of that positive reinforcement. Years ago, psychologist B.F. Skinner showed how hungry pigeons may repeat nonfunctional behavior when their twitches and scratches are reinforced by small pellets of grain. From my experience, hungry corporate leaders may also repeat nonfunctional behavior when large pellets of money and recognition follow.

Superstition is merely the confusion of correlation and causality. Any human (in fact, any animal) tends to repeat behavior that is followed by positive reinforcement. The more we achieve, the more reinforcement we get. One of the greatest mistakes of successful leaders is the assumption, "I behave this way, and I achieve results. Therefore, I must achieve results because I behave this way."

Almost everyone I meet is successful because of doing a lot right, and almost everyone I meet is successful in spite of some behavior that doesn't make any sense. One of my greatest challenges is helping leaders avoid the "superstition trap." This occurs when we confuse "because of" and "in spite of" behaviors.

Consider Harry. He was a brilliant, dedicated executive who consistently made his numbers. He wasn't just smart. His creative ideas led to groundbreaking new processes and procedures. Everyone agreed that he had been instrumental in helping turn around his organization. He sincerely cared about the company, employees, customers, and shareholders. On top of all that, Harry had a great wife. His two kids were enrolled in top colleges. He lived in a beautiful home in a great neighborhood. Overall, life was very good for Harry.

Except for one thing. Harry was a remarkably poor listener. Even though his direct reports and coworkers respected him, they felt that he didn't listen to them. They were somewhat intimidated by his genius and creativity. At times, they felt that if Harry had made up his mind, it was useless to express another opinion. His wife and kids loved him, but they also felt that he didn't hear a word they said. If his dog could speak, it would have said the same thing.

I suggested to Harry that he was probably successful because of his talent, hard work, and some good luck. I also said that he was probably successful in spite of being an appallingly bad listener.

Harry acknowledged that other people thought he should become a better listener, but he wasn't sure that he should change. He had convinced himself that his poor listening actually helped him succeed. Like many high achievers, he wanted to defend his superstitious beliefs. He pointed out that some people present awful ideas and that he shouldn't just pretend to listen to those stupid suggestions to make them happy. He proudly asserted that he didn't suffer fools gladly.

When I asked whether he really believed that his coworkers and family members were fools, he grimaced and shamefacedly conceded that his comment was stupid. These were people he respected. Upon further reflection, he concluded that perhaps he sometimes acted like a fool.

Harry then went into defensive reaction number two: fear of overcorrection. He expressed concern that he might start listening too much and that the company might not benefit from his creative ideas. Perhaps he would become too unwilling to share his opinions. I pointed out that the danger that a 55-year-old man who had been seen as a bad listener for his entire life would overcorrect and become excessively interested in others' opinions was extremely remote. I assured him that he could remove this concern from his things-to-worry-about list. Ultimately, he decided it was more productive to hear people out than waste time justifying his own dysfunctional behavior.

Think about yourself. What are you doing because it helps you achieve results? What are you doing because of some irrational superstitious belief that may have been affecting your life for years?

What's on your because-of list? I have never met anyone who was so perfect that there was nothing on her in-spite-of list. What's on yours?

Marshall Goldsmith (marshall@A4SL.com ; www.marshallgoldsmith.com ) is corporate America's preeminent executive coach and founding director of the Alliance for Strategic Leadership. (www.MarshallGoldsmith.com ).

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/81/mgoldsmith.html Fossils reveal oldest wildfire http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3660759.stm

By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff

Scientists have discovered evidence for the earliest known wildfire in Earth's history, the journal Geology reports.

It comes in the form of small plant fossils preserved as charcoal, which were unearthed by researchers near the town of Ludlow on the Welsh borders.

The plant remains date to the Silurian Period, about 443 to 417 million years ago, say a Cardiff University team.

Previously, charcoal was known only from the later Devonian Period, which saw an explosion in plant diversity.

But in the Silurian, plants were generally quite small, which would have restricted the fuel source for wildfires.

"The plants were only a few centimetres in height.

"It's amazing that there should be an accumulation of vegetation, either as litter or as living vegetation drying out - to provide fuel for a fire," co-author Professor Dianne Edwards of Cardiff University told BBC News Online.

"And even more amazing that a lightning strike set it off."

Feeling the heat

The team used a technique known as reflected-light microscopy on a collection of well-preserved plants recovered from a dig at Ludford Lane.

The fossils are preserved in three-dimensions, rather than being compressed. This is unique amongst Silurian plant remains.

Charcoal has a high optical reflectance due to chemical changes that occur when organic material burns. The results confirmed that this was the case for the Silurian plants.

The researchers also found other evidence that the fossils were charred such as shrinkage of the layer of cells, or epidermis, which covers the surface of the plant.

In Geology, the University of Cardiff team proposes that the exceptional three-dimensional preservation of the plants is due to their charring in a wildfire.

However, comparisons with the reflectance values of experimentally charred plants show most of the Ludford Lane specimens were only partially turned to charcoal.

Millipede traces

This indicates that they were burnt by either a short-lived low-temperature fire or a smouldering fire that was only intense enough to partially char them.

This agrees well with proposed compositions for the Silurian atmosphere.

Oxygen levels are supposed to have been lower in Silurian times; about 18% compared with present-day levels of roughly 21%.

Lower levels of oxygen in the atmosphere, combined with a restricted fuel source, may have produced less intense wildfires and therefore less reflective charcoal.

Professor Edwards said that the fire might have been similar to a modern heathland fire.

"The climate of the time would have had some extremely dry seasons as well as wet seasons. There would have been aridity and presumably plants would have dried out," she explained.

"Or there could have been accumulations of plants that had been in floods and that could have formed a fuel."

The researchers also found a charred coprolite - fossilised faeces - amongst the Ludford Lane specimens which probably came from a millipede.

Tests Discount HIV Link To Polio Vaccine

http://www.ctnow.com/news/health/hc-front0427.artapr27,0,6061602.story

April 27, 2004
By WILLIAM HATHAWAY, Courant Staff Writer

The devastating AIDS epidemic did not come from oral polio vaccine contaminated with a chimpanzee virus, scientists report in the current issue of the journal Nature.

A theory that contaminated vaccine unleashed the epidemic in Africa has gained currency not only in the West but in countries such as Nigeria, which has banned the vaccine. Nigeria now has the highest number of polio cases in the world.

The vaccines allegedly became contaminated with chimpanzee virus in the 1950s as they were prepared near Stanleyville - now Kisangani - in what was then the Belgian Congo.

Scientists believe HIV, the human virus that causes AIDS, arose from SIV, or simian immunodeficiency virus, carried by chimpanzees. But where and how the virus jumped species has not been determined.

Scientists at the University of Arizona conducted genetic tests of chimps near Kisangani and found a variant of SIV not closely related to HIV-1, or the original AIDS virus. The genetic mismatch rules out that the HIV virus originated near Kisangani, scientists said. Other genetic tests suggest that HIV emerged in areas farther west.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Quantum physics is the science that defies common sense

http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/newssentinel/living/8523620.htm

Posted on Mon, Apr. 26, 2004

BY TOM SIEGFRIED

The Dallas Morning News

(KRT) - In the 23rd century, when historians describe the origins of quantum technology, the pioneers most often mentioned will be named Alice and Bob.

Though they dabbled in sending ordinary coded messages back in the 1970s, Alice and Bob are nowadays known as the world's chief experimenters in quantum teleportation, a method of sending information reminiscent of Star Trek's transporter beams.

Alice and Bob are themselves imaginary - mere personifications of mathematicians' usual habit of labeling people A and B. But their magical abilities to teleport information are at the heart of understanding a new quantum reality. Alice and Bob's world is really not so much like Star Trek as it is The Twilight Zone.

Tune in to a scene of dreamlike reality, where everything you see is more than a little fuzzy. The building across the street stands also on a block to your right, though there it looks even fuzzier. Phil Mickelson wins the Masters on CBS, but Tiger Woods wins it on ESPN, in the same year. Somebody drops a pebble in a pond, and the pebble itself becomes the ripples.

You've entered a realm where science-fiction writers like to roam, but it's not a TV show from the '60s. It's the very real world of atoms and molecules, electrons and quarks. It's quantum physics, the science that defies common sense.

Usually quantum fuzziness appears only in ultratiny arenas, on a scale smaller than a golf ball to the degree that the golf ball is smaller than Texas. But nowadays, in labs around the world, scientists are plotting to release quantum weirdness from its subatomic prison. Before too long, quantum news won't be just for the science section anymore - you'll be reading about it on the business pages.

In fact, today's economic news already owes a lot to quantum physics. The transistor, after all, works only because electrons obey the rules of quantum math. An economy addicted to computers and electronics can survive only in a quantum universe.

"Much of the modern world wouldn't exist without transistors," exclaims Carl Williams, a quantum physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

But transistors rely on only the simplest of quantum principles. Alice and Bob explore the realm where quantum physics gets really weird.

Transistors are possible because electrons (and other particles) cannot possess just any old amount of energy. Energy comes in lumps, called quanta by the German physicist Max Planck when he invented quantum theory in 1900. Energy is not like water, forever divisible, Planck discovered, but like ice cubes - packaged in chunks.

A quarter-century later, Planck's successors found that chunks of matter - supposedly unsplittable subatomic particles - could travel equally well through space as fuzzy waves. In other words, a quantum pebble dropped into a pond doesn't make waves, it becomes the wave. But if you reach into the water to pluck the pebble out, the waves collapse and become a particle again.

The same particle-wave dual personality applies to light and other forms of radiation, too. You can think of a quantum pebble as a photon - a unit of light energy. It's a wave when you want it to be, a particle if you need pebbles. Or your quantum pebbles can be electrons, or neutrons, or even whole atoms. All can be either particle or wave.

It's the waviness that makes quantum physics all the weirder, as the Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger pointed out in the 1930s. Quantum pebbles separated at birth retain an ethereal wavy link, such that messing with one automatically, and instantly, messes with the other. That's the essence of what quantum physicists call entanglement.

"Entanglement is probably one of the weirdest aspects of quantum mechanics," says Williams.

Indeed, entanglement is too weird to explain in any sensible way. But you can get the gist.

Imagine quantum pebbles emanating from a common interaction (say, two photons emitted at one time from the same atom). Both pebbles should spin around an axis pointed in a particular direction (say, up or down). Since they are quantum pebbles, though, their spin can point in many directions at once. Only when the spin is measured does the pebble settle on one direction.

The weird thing is that as soon as one pebble is measured, and its spin established, the spin of the other particle is instantly established as well, in the opposite direction.

It's as though you sent one of two twins on a journey to a distant planet, where an evil alien chopped off that twin's right hand. Back on Earth, the stay-at-home twin's left hand would suddenly fall off.

See? It's weird.

Weird or not, entanglement is today the main force behind the burgeoning field of novel quantum technologies. Physicists foresee uses for entanglement in ultraprecise sensors, improved atomic clocks, and "quantum computers" capable of cracking secret codes and designing new materials.

And it's entanglement that Alice and Bob exploit for quantum teleportation - the real world equivalent of a Star Trek transporter beam. But while Scotty beamed Kirk from ship to planet and back, Alice and Bob are transmitting those pesky quantum pebbles.

In this case, the pebbles are simply photons, particles of light that store information in the way they spin. A photon-quantum pebble can represent a bit of information - the 1 or 0 of an ordinary computer - by spinning in one direction or another. But since photons can spin in different directions at the same time, they actually possess a richer form of information called a quantum bit, or qubit.

Qubits are richer than ordinary bits, but also much more difficult to deal with. Any measurement destroys the multiple spins, so a qubit cannot even be copied. It's the way of the quantum world.

So just as Kirk is obliterated in the Enterprise transporter, and an exact duplicate reconstructed on the planet's surface, a quantum pebble-qubit must be destroyed to be teleported. A plan for such teleportation (featuring Alice and Bob) appeared in a 1993 paper by IBM's Charles Bennett and five collaborators, and a few years later other physicists demonstrated the process in the laboratory.

Teleportation relies on Alice and Bob's ability to create and share entangled photons. If Bob wants to teleport a pebble-qubit to Alice, he uses his entangled photon to destroy it. But he can then send a report on the destruction to Alice, who can use her entangled photon to reconstruct the original pebble - just as the Star Trek transporter reconstructs Kirk's atoms on the planet's surface after they have been zapped to smithereens on the Enterprise.

While current teleportation relies on entanglement, not all quantum physicists agree that entanglement is the ultimate root of quantum weirdness or the ultimate fount of quantum technology. Many of the strange quantum phenomena could be reproduced without entanglement, says quantum physicist Chris Fuchs of Bell Labs.

"I don't really think entanglement is ultimately at the base of what is interesting in quantum information and computing," he says. It might be useful, he acknowledged, but quantum physics' true weirdness may lie in something deeper, still unknown.

Nevertheless, entanglement is a prime mover in current research for various quantum technologies, including teleportation. For instance, entanglement teleportation might be useful in a future network for sharing quantum information among quantum computers. You might be able to send qubits over a future quantum Internet without entanglement-based teleportation, says Jeff Kimble of Caltech. But transmission without entanglement would not be very reliable, he notes. So entanglement-based teleportation might be needed to send your most important messages.

Reliability would, of course, be especially important for the ultimate science fiction dream of teleporting material objects. So far, teleportation has been limited to photons. But Kimble and colleagues have worked out plans for teleporting matter, at least in the form of individual atoms. All the information contained in a single atom's condition could be captured by Alice and then transmitted to Bob; Alice's atom would be destroyed in the process, but Bob could resurrect an identical atom using the information teleported to him.

"We certainly don't know how to do that yet for sure, but we're really serious about trying," Kimble said at a recent conference.

As for teleporting complicated material objects, the prospects are far more distant.

"This kind of thing will never happen in the lifetime of you, your children, your grandchildren," Kimble promised.

But perhaps the 23rd century might be about right.

(Tom Siegfried is science editor for The Dallas Morning News. Write to him at: The Dallas Morning News, Communications Center, Dallas, TX 75265.)

© 2004, The Dallas Morning News.

Visit The Dallas Morning News on the World Wide Web at http://www.dallasnews.com

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Mind stretchers

http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/04-24-04/closing_2.asp

Books that provide seven good innings on the treadmill

By Marvin Olasky

AS THE NEW BASEBALL SEASON BEGINS, I'VE grouped some of the books read over the past four months into-what else?-innings. The creation/evolution debate of course comes first. Species of Origins: America's Search for a Creation Story, by Karl W. Gilberson and Donald Z. Yerxa (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), provides a sensible overview of the debate. Thomas Woodward's Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design (Baker, 2003) is a cleverly written history of the ID movement's rise. William Dembski's The Design Revolution (Intervarsity, 2004) answers tough questions about the theory that is blasting a hole in Darwinism.

On to the second inning: How is that creation/evolution debate faring right now in the schools and universities? Mr. Dembski is also the editor of Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI Books, 2004), 15 essays that display the academic firepower that the ID movement is beginning to bring to bear. With the hardest fighting going on in public schools, John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer have produced a handy guidebook to the major flashpoints: Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (Michigan State University Press, 2003).

Third inning: What happens after the Creation? I've found the Bible and classic commentaries by Matthew Henry and John Calvin most useful, but sometimes dipping into a different theological tradition can help make new what has grown overly familiar. David Klinghoffer's Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism (Doubleday, 2003) provides an interesting Talmudic perspective on the Genesis account, and Leon Kass's The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis (Free Press, 2003) shows how a leading neoconservative interacts with the text. Their sometimes fanciful interpretations need to be read skeptically.

Fourth inning: Given mankind's desperate need for Christ, what's the best way to evangelize? Intervarsity Press covers the evangelism spectrum in three books: Going Public with the Gospel, by Lon Allison and Mark Anderson (2003), offers a tough approach. Finding God in the Questions, by ABC News medical editor Timothy Johnson (2004), provides an inoffensive way of starting discussions. One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus (2004), by J.I. Packer and Thomas Oden, is a compilation of the creeds arrived at by a host of conferences over the past three decades.

Fifth inning: Now we're in the middle of the game and looking for advice on how to get through it. Hugh Hewitt's In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World (Thomas Nelson, 2003) makes an excellent gift to a new college graduate. Armey's Axioms (Wiley, 2003), by former House majority leader Dick Armey, pithily presents modern proverbs and stories behind them, including "You can't stand on principle with feet of clay," "You can't get ahead while you're getting even," and "You can't get your finger on the problem if you've got it to the wind."

(OK, at the risk of not completing the game, here are some more good ones: "If you make a deal with the devil, you are the junior partner.... The wise hen doesn't cackle until the egg is laid.... You can't hunt with the big dogs dressed as a bone.... Don't go back and check on a dead skunk.... There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule.")

Sixth inning: We do get kicked by mules all the time, and it's called war. For a human-interest story within an inhumane war that led to 600,000 American deaths, check out Gordon C. Rhea's Carrying the Flag (Basic, 2004), which effectively focuses on one 40-year-old South Carolina soldier during the horrific Virginia fighting of May 1864, which reached its low point at the Bloody Angle. For a moving contemporary account of what U.S. parents go through when their children are in danger in Afghanistan or Iraq, see Frank Schaeffer's Faith of Our Sons: A Father's Wartime Diary (Carroll & Fraf, 2004).

Seventh inning: The worst fighting in our culture war now concerns homosexuality, and some liberal denominations are leading the retreat. That's too bad, because Robert A.J. Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001) shows how firmly and emphatically the Bible condemns homosexuality. So, for that matter, does considerable social-science research, as co-editors Peter Sprigg and Timothy Dailey show in Getting It Straight: What the Research Shows about Homosexuality (Family Research Council, 2004).

We'll complete this game on another day.

Evolution and creationism and the environment

http://www.mtexpress.com/2004/04-04-28/04-04-28dorworth.htm

Commentary by DICK DORWORTH

Polls are a bit like statistics in that the hard numbers of their conclusions are seldom as hard or delineated as they might seem at first, easy glance. The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this column, but they are available to anyone who chooses to investigate them. Still, polls and statistics do indicate something. That is, while they are neither definitive nor sacrosanct, they are not without value.

A series of recent polls seem to indicate that somewhere between 28 percent and 47 percent of Americans think that the theory of evolution is a better approach to an understanding of life on earth than a belief in creationism. If the polls are close to correct, this means that somewhere between more than half to more than two-thirds of Americans do not believe in evolution. To those of us who view creationism as something akin to a professed or real belief in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, virgin birth, the Easter Bunny, infallibility and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, this is astonishing.

Perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised. Other polls show that 52 percent of American teenagers believe in astrology. Among biology teachers, 34 percent think psychic powers can be used to read peoples' thoughts, 29 percent believe we can communicate with the dead, and 22 percent believe in ghosts. Biology teachers who use psychic powers to read minds, who communicate with the dead and who believe in ghosts are as astonishing as Creationists. One cannot but help but wonder what sort of evolutionary biology they teach to their young charges.

Creationism comes in more than one flavor, but the plain, biblical essence maintains that the universe, including all life and humanity, was created by God in six days sometime around 6,000 years ago. The theory of evolution maintains that the universe and everything within it, including humanity, is a bit older, mysterious and complex than that.

To say the least.

That a majority of Americans hold creationist beliefs about the universe, the earth and human life (and death) has both obvious and subtle religious, educational, cultural, social, political, military and personal consequences. It also has incalculable and mostly unacknowledged environmental costs. As Van Potter said in reference to world survival, "To future generations, ignorance, superstition and illiteracy are the greatest barriers to a hopeful future for our descendants."

If a majority of the people do not believe in and are, therefore, ignorant of evolution, then it follows they do not believe in and are ignorant of the tenets of biology. It is a biological environment in which we live. All of us live in this environment. Creationists, evolutionists, environmentalists, religious fundamentalists, Republicans, Democrats, scientists and evangelists all live (and die) in the same environment. A person who is convinced that the environment was created in a few days less than 10,000 years ago for the convenience and use of human beings is going to view things like ecology, biology and the connections between different living species differently than one for whom evolution is an on-going biological process (experiment?) in which we are all, inescapably, involved.

To say the least.

That somewhere between more than half to more than two-thirds of Americans do not believe in evolution helps explain why environmental issues are so far down the list of American voters' concerns. To those of us who view the environment of earth as the very foundation of all life, including human life, such cavalier apathy is insane, in the same realm of human consciousness as burning witches at the stake, but, excepting the burned witches themselves, having far more serious consequences.

Be that as it is, according to the polls, the environmental movement needs to shift its focus. Using science to convince voters that the environment and the evolution of all life are in danger of being irreparably damaged by man's technology, stupidity and greed is not sufficient. The environmental movement operates on the assumption that evolution is accepted by most Americans. At the risk of being branded witches, environmentalists need to meet the nonsense that is creationism head on and expose it as the irrational, brain-dead, fear-based, dogmatic religious superstition that it is.

The environment and human thought will benefit and show heritable changes over many generations by such a focus.

To say the least.

Missing woman case generates numerous leads

http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/news/stories/20040428/localnews/310643.html

Some unusual sightings among nearly 700 tips

COLBY JONES
Times regional staff

Hundreds of leads have poured into the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office since sketches of a man wanted for questioning in the April 15 disappearance of Patrice Tamber Endres began appearing in gas stations and grocery stores.

Investigators are thankful for the public's help, but say they must prioritize the nearly 700 tips, which have run the gamut from mundane to bizarre.

Capt. Ron Freeman, the agency's chief of detectives, said Endres has been reportedly seen at countless Waffle House and Huddle House restaurants and Wal-Marts.

In one of the more outlandish tips, a person said the police chief in Salem, Mass., knew a witch who could tell detectives where to find Endres. Sheriff Ted Paxton said some residents have even passed on information from psychics.

"They say, 'I see a road or a church and a steeple ... I see woods, hilly terrain,'" Paxton said. "Yeah, it's North Georgia."

The sheriff said he discounts psychic tips and wonders why the soothsayers could not have used their "abilities" to call him before the kidnapping.

"We can only deal with facts and evidence," he said.

Evidence so far leads detectives to suspect the 38-year-old Endres was kidnapped about lunchtime from her Matt Highway (Ga. 369) business, Tamber's Trim-N-Tan, Paxton said.

A woman driving by the salon at 11:54 a.m. reported seeing Endres' Chevrolet Tahoe parked in front of a white cargo van at the salon, then she saw a man walk behind the van.

It first appeared to detectives that a robbery had escalated into an abduction. Then the evidence pointed to Endres being the target of a stalker or sexual predator.

The sheriff said family members and close associates of Endres have been interviewed and ruled out as suspects.

"We've cleared them," Paxton said. "We feel confident about that."

Detectives are still awaiting two pieces of information: the FBI's analysis of a set of smudged fingerprints in Endres' Tahoe; and a behavioral profile of the suspect crafted from questionnaires filled out by family members and friends.

Investigators say that dozens of residents have spotted white vans, with some able to provide a partial tag number.

A dozen callers have reported hearing a woman's cry for help, prompting searches of woods and storage units. Others think the case is connected to recent bank robberies.

Deputies are working up to 18 hours a day from a makeshift command center in Cumming. They have conducted about 250 face-to-face interviews in the last two weeks, Freeman said.

Originally published Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Making it all right for psalm

http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1079420613019

By Jon Boone
Published: April 26 2004 18:08 | Last Updated: April 26 2004 18:08

At first sight, it could be a mainstream studio discussion. The glossy set, screen graphics and lighting of Revelation TV would not be out of place on late night BBC 2 or Channel 4. It is only when the phone-in starts that the effect is shattered.

Jill from Cheshire is worried that her children are being taught that the dinosaurs preceded man by millions of years, and asks for advice. John Mackay, a former science teacher from Brisbane, assures her that the ancient beasts were recorded by Bible writers as "dragons" and put to the sword by St George, not by a meteor.

Welcome to televangelism, British style. While it may be softly spoken, the show in question - Revelation's World in Focus - could not be less like Songs of Praise.

Run from a small studio in the heart of London's media district by a tiny staff and station owner and presenter Howard Conder, Revelation shuns the prevailing fuzzy Anglicanism of the occasional "God-slot" available to terrestrial viewers. Instead it pumps out, 24 hours a day, programmes on creationism, the End of Days and preaching from London-based evangelical churches.

Revelation is just one of seven Christian channels which have launched to Sky Digital homes in the UK and Europe. They might put their existence down to spiritual factors, but non-believers point to worldly changes in technology and regulatory practice.

In the UK, broadcasting regulations have long prevented churches from owning analogue television national licences, although Premier Radio has a London medium-wave licence. Despite lobbying by religious groups, the Communications Act did not relax this.

But the same restrictions do not apply to digital services, which satellite can carry across Europe. Some broadcasters have also taken advantage of the EU Television without Frontiers directive, which means that channels licensed in one country are judged as licensed in other EU sta tes. This means they can broadcast into the UK from continental Europe, where restrictions such as the UK's bar on television church fundraising do not exist.

Similar reforms on fundraising during the Nixon administration underpinned the spectacular growth of the "electronic church" in the US. Now American pastors oversee multimillion-dollar empires of showbiz religion, commerce and, on occasion, long-range "tele-healing". It's a long way from Father Ted.

At the centre of Europe's digital firmament is a pair of "GOD" channels that have grown since Wendy and Rory Alec launched Europe's first Christian television station on Sky in 1995. The foray by the South African husband and his British wife into satellite televangelism has burgeoned into an international media operation employing 100 people around the world and broadcasting globally on both GOD and GOD 2. In 2002, it moved its uplink station - where programming is beamed to a satellite - to Jerusalem, to be better placed both for satellite orbits and the Second Coming.

All these evangelical channels want to boost local programming in order to win new viewers: GOD has cut its US content from 95 per cent to 55 per cent; Conder also puts an emphasis on trying to engage European audiences. "People don't want to turn on the television and see an American preacher shouting at them because they will just turn off," he says.

The Christian Broadcast Network (CBN), the huge US tele-church founded by Pat Robertson, has also beefed up its presence in Britain with the launch of an indigenous version of its US staple, the 700 Club magazine programme, hosted by Paul Jones, the Radio 2 presenter.

Even if the broadcasting environment now makes life easier for Christian broadcasters, it does not necessarily follow that anyone is actually watching.

Harvey Thomas, a former PR man to Margaret Thatcher who ran Billy Graham's crusades for 15 years, is chairman of the Fellowship of European Broadcasters - Europe's answer to America's huge televangelist trade association, National Religious Broadcasters. He says: "Less than 2 per cent of people in this country consider themselves to be evangelical; by contrast 50 per cent of Americans consider themselves born again. These are people who feel left out by the mainstream church and want to have their own channel.

"If I go on Premier radio I might talk to 40,000 people, which is a miracle and far more than any preacher will get in a lifetime. But when I do Thought for the Day on Radio 4, I will reach 5m."

While all the Christian channels receive some of their income from donations and mainstream advertising, the bulk of their income comes from selling airtime to Christian ministries, many of them American. Consequently, editorial control over output is surrendered and this, according to Peter Darg, CBN's European director, means Christian television remains 30 years behind secular broadcasting.

Darg says: "There is a tension in Christian broadcasting because they all want to produce quality programmes that will reach the lost souls of Europe but the reality is that because of financial requirements, just about all the programming has to come from people who would put off secular audiences because of their production values and budgets."

Canon Peter Elvy, of Chelsea Old Church, believes Europe is witnessing an unsustainable boom in religious channels. In five years' time, he says, there will be no more than three channels serving Europe. "People like Pat Robertson and Bob Tilton are the owner, producer and on-screen personality of stations, which become the vehicle of that person. I suppose if John Wesley was around today he would be very much like that too. The problem is that it becomes very hard for other parts of the team to make any criticism and, of course, for the channel to stay on air without him."

Citing Judas's rebuke of Mary Magdalene's use of expensive perfume to wash Jesus's feet, Conder bridles at the suggestion that his station is wasting church money and says he will remain on air for as long as God wants him to.

jon.boone@ft.com

Is Cold Fusion Heating Up?

http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/wo_hecht042304.asp

Though their work is dismissed by most physicists, a determined cadre of scientists is still chasing after what could be an energy jackpot—and their experiments are producing heat and nuclear byproducts that can't be otherwise explained.

By Jeff Hecht
April 23, 2004

Fifteen years after the first controversial claims hit the headlines, cold fusion refuses to die. A small cadre of die-hard advocates argues that experiments now produce consistent results. The physics establishment continues to scoff, but some scientists who have been watching the field carefully are convinced something real is happening. And now the U.S. Department of Energy has decided that recent results justify a fresh look at cold fusion.

Fusion of the nuclei of hydrogen atoms powers the sun, and promises nearly limitless energy on Earth. But fusion is extraordinarily difficult to tame because nuclei strongly repel each other. The tremendous heat and pressure inside the sun can overwhelm this repulsion, and thermonuclear bombs can attain those conditions, fleetingly, on Earth. But building a fusion reactor that can convert that tremendous heat into useful energy has posed an immense challenge. After decades of research, the conditions needed for fusion still can be attained only briefly, and these experimental fusion reactions produce less energy than is needed to ignite them.

Physicists were stunned when two University of Utah electrochemists, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, claimed in 1989 that they had achieved nuclear fusion at room temperature. Their experiment packed deuterium—the stable heavy isotope of hydrogen—into palladium electrodes. After many hours of operation, they reported that more heat was generated than a purely chemical reaction could have produced. At first it looked like Pons and Fleischman might have come up with a revolutionarily easy way to tap fusion energy, and laboratories around the world rushed to try the experiment for themselves. The simple-looking experiment proved virtually impossible to reproduce, however, and within weeks, most physicists wrote off cold fusion as a mistake—an experimental result that contradicted the known laws of physics.

Yet the potential of limitless energy lured a band of would-be revolutionaries who kept on working the problem. Often they found nothing. Sometimes, however, their experiments appeared to produce more energy than they expected from chemical reactions; at other times they detected traces of potential fusion reaction products, suggesting that some previously unknown physical effects may be at work.

The evidence for "new physics" has been building for years, says Peter Hagelstein, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, who chaired the tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion in Cambridge last August. Experiments performed under properly controlled conditions reliably produce more heat than standard theory predicts. Nuclear products show up in about the right amounts to account for this excess heat. Patterns have emerged that explain previous anomalies. When Hagelstein saw how pieces of the puzzle were fitting together at the August meeting, he urged the Department of Energy to reconsider a field that had been cast out of orthodox science soon after its birth.

Over the past 15 years, enthusiasts have generated some 3,000 manuscripts on cold fusion, but very few were ever published in scientific journals. Many results evaporated under outside examination, and promoters pushed "free energy" schemes that sounded more like perpetual motion than physics. Most of those manuscripts "are not helpful," says Hagelstein, a theorist with wide-ranging interests in optics, energy, and nuclear physics. But some 50 do show interesting, reproducible effects. "The heat effect has been replicated many times," Hagelstein. It works only when deuterium is loaded into palladium cells, and never when normal hydrogen is used instead of the heavy isotope. Exacting measurements with heat-measurement instruments have answered criticisms of the original experiments. Excess heat has been measured beyond what Hagelstein considers any reasonable doubt.

Experiments that produce excess heat also have yielded helium-4, one potential product of the fusion of two deuterium nuclei, in amounts that correlate with the excess heat. Theory predicts that the fusion reaction should generate 24 million electron volts (MeV) of energy per helium-4 nucleus. An analysis by Michael McKubre of SRI International detected energy of 31 MeV— a match within the experimental uncertainty of plus or minus 13 MeV. Skeptics had doubted the reaction was possible, but Hagelstein says McKubre's analysis of the experiments, reported at last year's cold fusion meeting, shows that fusion of two deuterium to yield helium-4 "is not as nutty as it initially seemed."

McKubre has also found that the seeming inconsistency in experimental heat production arose from differences in the amount of deuterium packed into the palladium electrode. Whenever the number of deuterium atoms loaded into the metal matched or exceeded the number of palladium atoms, excess heat was generated. Palladium loaded with slightly less deuterium produced inconsistent results, and if the deuterium level was reduced by a great amount, then no excess heat at all was produced. Deuterium loading was hard to control and limited by the strength of the metal. Unfortunately, palladium strength is difficult to predict or control, and is not improved by purification; indeed, the purest palladium ruptured at lower loadings, and the highest strength was seen only in one impure batch.

The growing evidence has convinced fusion physicist George Miley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that "there are important physical phenomena occurring." Skeptics aren't changing their minds, but he thinks that previously neutral observers are becoming more receptive to the possibility that a real phenomenon is occurring in these experiments. Yet while cold fusion researchers have gone from thinking they smell smoke to feeling warmth, it's still not clear what's really going on. "This field is led experimentally. We've got to get the theories up to where they start helping lead the experiments," Miley says.

The challenge for theorists like Hagelstein is to fill the yawning gap between traditional nuclear theory and cold fusion experiments. He suspects the difficulty lies with "a very powerful approximation" at the root of 70 years of nuclear physics—that all nuclear interactions occur between two particles in a vacuum. He thinks that assumption breaks down in cold fusion, where the interacting particles are tightly packed in a metal lattice. His idea is that the deuterium nuclei exchange vibrational energy, or "phonons," with the surrounding palladium atoms. That exchange could enhance nuclear interactions that would otherwise be vanishingly small, so that the reactions can occur at the rates implied by cold fusion experiments. Hagelstein's theory is still in development, but is reaching a point where he can start making testable predictions—a vital step toward making cold fusion a credible science. "In time, hopefully, we'll get more of the puzzle figured out," he says.

A positive Department of Energy review would open the door to badly needed research support, but big questions remain even if the reality of the physics can be established. Is the cold fusion effect strong enough to be used for practical energy production? If it is, it's not likely to compete directly with hot fusion, says Miley, who works on both. Cold fusion works on a small scale, so it might find a home in small distributed power units. Hot fusion's natural home is inside the sun; if it can be controlled on our planet, it would be inside large reactors feeding power into the grid.

But those goals are a long ways off. For now, the little community of cold-fusion researchers hopes it is on the threshold of validation after 15 years of struggle.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

E-SKEPTIC #16 APRIL 26, 2004

Copyright 2004 Michael Shermer, Skeptics Society, Skeptic magazine, e-Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com and skepticmag@aol.com). Permission to print, distribute, and post with proper citation and acknowledgment. We encourage you to broadcast e-Skeptic to new potential subscribers. Newcomers can subscribe to e-Skeptic for free by sending an e-mail to: join-skeptics@lyris.net

www.skeptic.com where nothing is certain...but we're not sure about that...

LATEST ISSUE OF SKEPTIC Vol. 10, No. 4 of Skeptic was recently mailed to subscribers and shipped to bookstores. You can order an individual copy at www.skeptic.com or subscribe online and get this issue as the first of your subscription. Go to www.skeptic.com

Contents of Skeptic 10-4:

Cover Story: Patrick Johnson: "The Skinny on Fat: A Skeptical Evaluation of the Atkins Diet"

Research article: Jason Colavito on "H.P. Lovecraft and the Invention of Ancient Astronauts"

Experimental article: "Science Literacy and Belief in the Paranormal: An Empirical Test"

Jr. Skeptic: King Tut's Curse

Plus:
Randi on "The Amazing Speaking Machine of Sir David Brewster Brandon Muller's Demon Haunted Times on "New 'Isn't Round' theory demands equal time."

John Gribbin on why scientists do science. Phil Mole uses Zeno's Paradox to solve the problem of free will Erich Goode on CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) television

Education Myths:
Michael Dougherty on Educating Believers on skepticism and the paranormal Marlin Thomas on "Was Einstein Learning Disabled?" Eugenie Scott on "The Creation-Evolution Continuum" Jeremy Genovese on "The Ten Percent Solution"

Reviews:
Norman Levitt reviews From Complexity to Life Jeffrey Shallit reviews The Question of God

Massimo Pigliucci reviews The Emergence of Life on Earth and Why God Won't Go Away

Peter Lloyd reviews Fundamentals of Extremism

Kevin Huddleston reviews The Purpose-Driven Life

Tim Callahan reviews The Quest for the True Cross

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY AT http://www.skeptic.com

One of the hottest articles in the issue is from Jason Colavito, an expert on alternative archaeology, on the connection between H. P. Lovecraft and ancient astronauts. It's a great read, presented here in full. Enjoy.

Charioteer of the Gods
H.P. Lovecraft and the Invention of Ancient Astronauts

Jason Colavito

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Colavito is the editor and founder of Lost Civilizations Uncovered (www.thelostcivilizations.com), a web-based magazine critically examining alternative archaeology. He is currently working on projects for the New York State Museum while writing his first book, a study of H.P. Lovecraft's influence on alternative archaeology.

The idea that extraterrestrials served as humanity's earliest deities came to popular attention with Swiss author Erich von Daniken's 1968 best-seller Chariots of the Gods and the influential 1973 NBC documentary based on the book, In Search of Ancient Astronauts. But for people familiar with the science fiction magazines of the 1940s and 1950s, von Daniken's "revolutionary" assertion held more than a hint of other writings that previously claimed that the gods were of an extraterrestrial nature. In fact, much of von Daniken's case perfectly parallels the work of a certain New England writer of horror stories, though the journey from horror story to nonfiction bestseller takes us from America to France to Switzerland.

The author in question is none other than H. P. Lovecraft, from Providence, Rhode Island, justly hailed as a master of the horror story. His work claims a place beside Edgar Allan Poe and Steven King in the pantheon of the genre. Born into a wealthy family in 1890, Lovecraft's life was a series of reverses and declines as his family lost their fortune and his parents succumbed to madness. He was a precocious and self-taught scholar who read voraciously and devoured as much literature as he could read, including the novels of H.G. Wells, whose War of the Worlds told of the coming of alien creatures to earth. He also read the 18th-century Gothic masters of horror, above all Edgar Allan Poe.

When he set about writing his own works, Lovecraft began to blend the modern world of science fiction with his favorite tales of Gothic gloom. Lovecraft tried to bring the Gothic tale into the 20th century, modernizing the trappings of ancient horror for a new century of science. Lovecraft published his work in pulp fiction magazines, notably Weird Tales, though many of his works were not published until after his death in 1937. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, science fiction and horror magazines reprinted Lovecraft's tales numerous times, and he became one of the most popular pulp authors.

Lovecraft's works recast the supernatural into materialist terms. He took the idea of a pantheon of ancient gods and made them a group of aliens who descend ed to earth in the distant past. Lovecraft summed up this startlingly original idea in his 1926 short story "The Call of Cthulhu." In the story, a young man puts together the pieces of an ancient puzzle and discovers the shocking truth about a monstrous race of alien creatures who served as gods to a strange cult:

There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them--were still found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which could revive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity. They had, indeed, come themselves from the stars, and brought Their images with Them.[1]

In just these few short sentences we see the root of the entire ancient astronaut hypothesis. The ancient gods or demons were aliens who descended to earth in primal times. They raised great stone cities whose remains are the ancient ruins of today. Lastly, the ancient sculptures depicted the aliens. All of these claims are to be found in von Daniken's Chariots:

These first men had tremendous respect for the space travelers. Because they came from somewhere absolutely unknown and then returned there again, they were the "gods" to them.

In advanced cultures of the past we find buildings that we cannot copy today with the most modern technical means. These stone masses are there; they cannot be argued away.

Another quite fantastic discovery was the Great Idol [of Tiwanaku]... Again we have the contradiction between the superb quality and precision of the hundreds of symbols all over the idol and the primitive technique used for the building housing it.[2]

In fact, only one of von Daniken's major claims is missing from the Cthulhu story, that the ancient gods created mankind in their own image. Lovecraft has an answer for that, too. In his 1931 story "At the Mountains of Madness," explorers find an incomparably old city in Antarctica, and the sculptures on the walls tell a horrifying story of how the Old Ones created Earth's lifeforms: "It was under the sea, at first for food and later for other purposes, that they first created earth life--using available substances according to long-known methods. It interested us to see in some of the very last and most decadent sculptures a shambling, primitive mammal, used sometimes for food and sometimes as an amusing buffoon by the land dwellers, whose vaguely simian and human foreshadowings were unmistakable."[3]

But how did Lovecraft's ideas get into Chariots of the Gods? Von Daniken did not respond to requests for comment, and the lack of English language literature about European science fiction has kept the connection vague until now. However, this is the indisputable path from Rhode Island to Switzerland. The names of Lovecraft's alien gods, like Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, and Shub-Niggurath, began to crop up in other stories during Lovecraft's lifetime.

Lovecraft himself started this practice by inserting these names, or variants on them, into stories he ghostwrote or revised for other authors. In his revision of Zelia Bishop's "The Mound," for example, Lovecraft slipped his alien god Cthulhu into the story under the variant name Tulu, giving magazine readers what they thought were independent stories featuring references to the same ancient gods. By the 1960s, several dozen authors were using elements of what came to be called "The Cthulhu Mythos" in stories they wrote for science fiction and horror magazines.

Lovecraftian fiction became increasingly popular in Europe, where the French embraced him as a bent genius, much as they embraced Edgar Allan Poe and would soon embrace Jerry Lewis. Lovecraft became especially popular with the French magazine Planete, which throughout the 1960s reprinted Lovecraft's stories in French translation.

Planete served as an important part of the French second science fiction period, a time when American pulp fiction became extremely popular in France following World War II.[4] French magazines both imitated and reprinted in translation the classic pulp stories of the American 1930's and 40's pulp magazines.

Planete's editors held Lovecraft as their prophet, and their reprints of his stories helped to popularize him and the Cthulhu Mythos in the French imagination. Lovecraft's longer fiction was published in French in a series of books.

Lovecraft's work had also inspired the editors of Planete to write a book, Le Matin des Magiciens (The Dawn of the Magicians) a few years earlier, in 1960. The book, by Louis Pawles and Jacques Bergier, first introduced Lovecraft's concept of alien gods as a nonfiction hypothesis. The authors claimed that their study of religions around the world had led them to higher consciousnesses and to new revelations about the lost worlds of the past. Especially relevant to this is Part One: Vanished Civilizations, where they present evidence to support Lovecraft's fictional claims about alien super-civilizations of the past.

Unfortunately now long out of print, the book The Dawn of the Magicians laid the foundation for all the lost civilizations books to follow, including Chariots of the Gods. As R.T. Gault comments, "It's all here, from the Piri Reis map to pyramidology. The authors are frankly fascinated by the idea that ancient peoples may have been more advanced in some of their technologies than we generally believe."[5]

Von Daniken is known to have exploited this book as his major source. The bibliography of Chariots lists the book in its 1962 German translation: Aufbruch ins dritte Jahrtausend.[6]

So that is the intellectual journey from Providence to Paris to the Swiss hotel where von Daniken wrote his book, and we can see how Lovecraft's science fiction became Von Daniken's pseudoscientific nonfiction.

Near the end of his life Lovecraft looked back on the growing body of alien god fiction that he and his friends had created: "This pooling of resources tends to build up quite a pseudo-convincing background of dark mythology, legendry, and bibiliography--though of course, none of us has the least wish to actually mislead readers."[7] Sadly, he did his work too well, and generations have now been misled by such posers as von Daniken.

SIDEBAR: A LOVECRAFT PRIMER

By Jason Colavito

Though he wrote no novels, H.P. Lovecraft composed over sixty stories of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. All are available in several recent paperback collections. His tales of aliens and ancient civilizations are loosely linked together in the so-called "Cthulhu Mythos," a cycle of stories named for Lovecraft's most famous alien god. Here's what to read to get a handle on the legend of ancient astronauts:

The Call of Cthulhu (1926): Lovecraft's first story of an ancient astronaut tells of a cult trying to resurrect the alien god Cthulhu from his undersea grave. It contains the fullest description of the fictional back story of aliens coming to earth.

The Dunwich Horror (1928): A scaled-down Stonehenge in Massachusetts provides a gateway for the ancient aliens to return if only the rituals in an ancient book are followed exactly.

At the Mountains of Madness (1931): An expedition to Antarctica uncovers impossibly old ruins built by aliens who may have created all life on Earth. Worse, the aliens might not be dead.

The Shadow Out of Time (1934): An archaeological team finds ancient ruins in Australia that provide shocking proof about the presence of ancient aliens on Earth.

Lovecraft had many friends and admirers who carried on the Cthulhu Mythos after his death. Among the best of those stories are Robert E. Howard's The Black Stone, Karl Edward Wagner's Sticks, and T.E.D. Klein's Black Man with a Horn.

You can also find Lovecraft's aliens in the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game from Chaosium, and as a line of cuddly stuffed monsters from ToyVault.

An excellent resource for all things Lovecraft is www.hplovecraft.com.

References

1 Lovecraft, H.P. 1982. The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. Del Rey Books. New York, 88.

2 Daniken, Erich von. 1973 (1968). Chariots of the Gods. New York: Bantam, 52, 73, 19.

3 Lovecraft, H.P. 1996. The Transition of H.P. Lovecraft: The Road to Madness. Del Rey/Ballantine Books. New York, 309, 312.

4 Slusser, George. 1989. Science Fiction in France: An Introduction. Science Fiction Studies. No. 49 v. 16.

5 Gault, R.T. 2000.The Quixotic Dialectical Metaphysical Manifesto: Morning of the Magicians. http://www.cafes.net/ditch/motm1.htm.

6 Daniken, Erich von. 1973 (1968). Chariots of the Gods. New York: Bantam, 155.

7 Lovecraft, H.P. 2001. Quotes Regarding the Necronomicon from Lovecraft's Letters. www.hplovecraft.com. March 10, 2001.

DAWKINS ON NOBEL PRIZES

I wanted to share with you the latest posting from John Brockman's "Third Culture" Edge group, one of the hottest internet sites on science. http://www.edge.org

This is Edge Number 137, from Richard Dawkins, on...

"Next Step, a Nobel Prize for Literature?"

Novelists may win the plaudits, but they don't have all the good stories..... Richard Dawkins gives advice to entrants to a competition for young science writers.

RICHARD DAWKINS FRS is an evolutionary biologist and the Charles Simonyi Professor For The Understanding Of Science at Oxford University; Fellow of New College; author of THE SELFISH GENE, THE EXTENDED PHENOTYPE, THE BLIND WATCHMAKER, RIVER OUT OF EDEN (ScienceMasters Series), CLIMBING MOUNT IMPROBABLE, UNWEAVING THE RAINBOW, and THE DEVIL'S CHAPLAIN.

Richard Dawkins's Edge Bio Page
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/dawkins.html

This edition - EDGE 137 - is on the Web. Click here:
http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge137.html

The EDGE archive, an index of all editions (1997-present) is available at: http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge.index.html

NEXT STEP, A NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE?

In a 1968 book review of THE DOUBLE HELIX, anthologised in PLUTO'S REPUBLIC, the distinguished biologist Sir Peter Medawar wrote that if a young man as talented as Jim Watson had been born British, especially in the Cambridge of his and Crick's time, he would have been steered towards literary studies:

"It just so happens that during the 1950s, the first great age of molecular biology, the English Schools of Oxford and particularly of Cambridge produced more than a score of graduates of quite outstanding ability much more brilliant, inventive, articulate and dialectically skilful than most young scientists; right up in the Watson class. But Watson had one towering advantage over all of them: in addition to being extremely clever he had something important to be clever ABOUT."

Scientism of this order provokes shrieks of outrage, and I would not recommend Medawar's style of patrician insouciance - not till you reach the age of 60 and have a Nobel prize as well deserved as his. The suspicion that Medawar is righter than most of us publicly admit may be fleeting, and it may be secret, but it should at least embolden the young science writer. Choose science, and

you have something important to write about.

Not just important but fascinating. Not just fascinating but open-ended: you'll never run out of subjects, where the effort of simplification repays the writer as richly as the reader. Einstein said: "Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." Any fool can oversimplify. Far from talking down, flatter your reader. Don't apologise for elitism, encourage your reader to join the elite. Don't shrink from choosing the exact word that says it best, even if it drives your reader to the dictionary. A dictionary never harmed anyone, and a word can excite by its very unfamiliarity.

Seek to enlighten and inspire, not impress. Darwin may not have been the most graceful role model for a young writer, but he laboured mightily to be understood because he knew the importance of what he had to convey. He worked to anticipate every problem that might arise, even devoting an entire chapter to "Difficulties on Theory".

Dawkins's Law of the Conservation of Difficulty states that obscurantism in an academic subject expands to fill the vacuum of its intrinsic simplicity.

Theoretical physics is a genuinely difficult subject. Envious disciplines, which I shall not advertise, conceal their lack of content behind billowing clouds of deliberate obscurity, hilariously lampooned by Alan Sokal in his hoax article, "Towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity", published by SOCIAL TEXT to the subsequent embarrassment of that pretentious journal's "Editorial Collective". Wanton obscurantism subverts the very point of science. If science seems difficult, it should only be because the real world is difficult. Yet a sufficiently skilled writer can cut through the difficulty without losing content and without dumbing down.

Yeats proclaimed "The fascination of what's difficult", and at different times described poetry as a "craft", or "trade" which had to be learned.

A line may take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought, Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.

Stitching and unstitching, yes, that hits home. Economy of line serves scientists no less than poets and novelists. Learn parsimony by reading Shakespeare--or Evelyn Waugh--as well as J B S Haldane or D'Arcy Thompson. Learn lyricism by reading Wordsworth, as well as Carl Sagan or Peter Atkins. Learn wit from P G Wodehouse, as well as Steve Jones or Matt Ridley. You cannot write unless you love reading.

Adjectives and adverbs are special treats. Ration them. The passive voice is not to be encouraged - see what I mean? Use short sentences, but vary their length or your prose will plod. Such advice is commonplace and I go along with it. But I've never written down a formula for writing, and I shrink from anything formulaic. If your tennis serve works for you, an insensitive coach who barges in and tells you to throw the ball higher may ruin everything. If you're too aware of your own technique you may dissect it to destruction. I hate it when editors belabour me with their schoolmarm rules, so why would I impose rules on others?

Whatever I say, then, it is no more than what seems to work for me. Read your stuff aloud and tune your ear to its cadences. Read it to yourself, again and again, and each time trim more fat. Each time, apply the virtual red pencil of a different imaginary critic. If occasionally you venture into a purple passage, let it be nature's truth that leads you there, not self-regard. Fall in love with your subject, not your prose.

I love amazing numbers, and I suspect that many readers do too. How many miles of neurons are in the human brain? Others have worked that out, so calculate an equally astounding number yourself. Remember the little boy who pleaded: "Please tell me one thing I could tell Daddy that he doesn't know already." Prick your reader's imagination with a stunning fact, or a fresh metaphor, or by turning a familiar fact dizzyingly upside down, or by filtering it through the alien lens of a Martian eye. However useful science may be, and however relevant to everyday life, that is the least important thing about it. Science is, above all, wonderful. You may write to inform. You should write to inspire.

No scientist has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Why not? I suspect that it simply hasn't occurred to the judges. "Literature"automatically conjures "novelist", or "poet". Yet, could there be a better subject for great literature than the spacetime fabric of the universe? Or than the evolution of life? Or than Sherrington's enchanted loom of the brain? At very least it is not obvious why fiction should make greater literature than reality. And science is the study of the real world. Nobel Prize for Literature? Now there's a life's challenge for the aspiring science writer.

Website worries

http://www.healthandcare.net/cgi-bin/croner/jsp/Editorial.do?cache=true&contentId=105304

Published: 26 Apr 2004

Criticism of websites as a means of informing enquirers about health and social care issues have come from two sources over recent days. A report of research from the Peninsular Medical School (PMS), published in the current issue of Annals of Oncology, makes some severely negative comments about websites offering advice on complementary and alternative medicine particularly in the field of cancer care. Untested therapies and misleading advice, it claims, are not uncommon on the net, posing serious dangers and in some instances discouraging sufferers for seeking conventional treatment. While acknowledging the value of the Internet in empowering patients, the study's leader, Professor Edzard Ernst, argues that regulation of advisory websites is needed, with a system which would incorporate a seal of approval for public protection.

In a separate development, the Disability Rights Commission has published a report on access to the web which demonstrates that 81% of sites presents difficulties for people with disabilities. Standards of accessibility have been set by the World Wide Web Consortium, but these are frequently breached, particularly now that many web sites are designed by non-specialists. The reports commends the variety of software available for people with visual and other disabilities, and recommends the development of a government kitemark scheme for website commissioners and the greater involvement of people with disabilities in site design.

Jef Smith

Chiropractor Takes Holistic Approach to Health Maintenance & Treatment

http://www.dosmundos.com/editions/Vol24-04-15/news/news-Aeng.htm

By Edie R. Lambert

Born in Ukraine, Ladd immigrated to New York with her family when she was 17 and lived there until she came to Kansas City to study at Cleveland Chiropractic College.

I became a doctor of chiropractic for many reasons. I wasn't satisfied with the way conventional medicine works. Ailing people walk into a physician's office for treatment and walk out with a prescription that doesn't necessarily solve the problem."

She particularly advocates for preventive medicine using a holistic approach. "Patients don't just see me when they're sick or in pain. Many see me on a maintenance type basis to optimize overall health. The frequency of each patient's visits depends on her or his own needs. For some, it's monthly; for others it's more," Ladd says.

The idea is maintaining health and prevention. Using chiropractic, herbs, acupuncture, massage, and acupressure, Ladd partners with her patients. "I look beyond muscular-skeletal pains and aches that the individual is experiencing to see how I can help," she says.

That includes assessing lifestyle such as work schedule, sleep and exercise patterns, and sex life. What Ladd offers each patient depends on life stage. For instance, she might approach a 40s-plus woman experiencing perimenopause with suggestions on nutrition, natural hormones and herbs.

To keep up with her growing practice, Ladd has hired a new doctor of chiropractic, Janatte Ramage, who started in March. She also employs four massage therapists who work on a part-time basis.

Ladd, who speaks English and Russian, is learning Spanish from her husband, a native of Panama.

Her style and approach varies with each patient.

"I can be more or less aggressive depending on the patient and what she or he needs. I approach manipulation on a very individual basis."

She's one of 2,688 chiropractors licensed in Kansas. It's a growing number meeting a growing need.

According to a 2002 report by a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 30 percent of Americans use some form of alternative health care treatments that include acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic services, homeopathy, and naturopathy. Nutrition Business Journal estimates that in 2003, Americans spent $35 billion on alternative medicines and treatments.

Once rejected by the medical profession, alternative treatments such as chiropractic and acupuncture are being integrated with conventional treatment. A growing number of medical schools have begun teaching courses in alternative medicine.

Dr. David M. Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School reported in the November 11, 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that based on surveys and studies, "The number of visits to unconventional providers in the United States in 1990 was greater than the number of visits to all primary care physicians."

"It's been done for thousands of years with a lot fewer or no side affects," Ladd says of chiropractic care. She writes a regular column on health for Kid Sports Monthly and teaches classes on a variety of health topics.

Synergistic Medical Care, P.A., 6363 West 110th Street, Overland Park, Kan., (913) 341-4224

Expedition planned to seek Noah's Ark

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-ark27.html
http://www.space.com/astronotes/astronotes.html

April 27, 2004

BY HOPE YEN

WASHINGTON -- An expedition is being planned for this summer to Turkey's Mt. Ararat where organizers hope to prove an object in the snow and ice is Noah's Ark.

A joint U.S.-Turkish team of 10 explorers plans to trek up Turkey's tallest mountain, at 17,820 feet, on July 15, subject to the approval of the Turkish government, said Daniel P. McGivern, president of Shamrock--The Trinity Corporation of Honolulu, Hawaii.

The goal: to enter what they believe to be a mammoth structure exposed in part by last summer's heat wave in Europe. AP

Data Versus Dogma: The Continuing Battle Over Cold Fusion

Establishment science continues to turn cold shoulder despite mounting scientific evidence.

by Marc J. Plotkin
Pure Energy Systems News Service
April 26, 2004

FAIRFAX, VA USA

Physics Today reported that the U.S. Department of Energy has decided to review the research in cold fusion that has been done over the last fifteen years. Officials at the Department, many of whom are credentialed scientists, apparently concluded that enough evidence has accumulated since 1989 to justify giving the cold fusioneers a second hearing. The article noted a somewhat sarcastic opinion by skeptics that the review was being taken up as a political favor by the Secretary of Energy to some former constituents. Not long ago, Scientific American was asked to reconsider its refusal to publish articles on cold fusion. The magazine's editor responded that, while there were "a large number of publications that ostensibly offered evidence of the phenomenon, even the creationists [could] point to thousands of 'publications' and 'scientists' seemingly supporting their position."

These prestigious publications clearly and unequivocally express the still-prevailing attitude among the majority of physicists that cold fusion is pseudo-science. Although some scientists sympathize with cold fusion's supporters, most do not even entertain the notion that their claims just might have merit. Just after the Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that cold fusion was "pathological science" not for lack of evidence, but because those scientists who should be reviewing cold fusion claims would not even discuss them. The Wall Street Journal is not exactly a fringe publication.

It has been said many times that, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." Since cold fusion was first announced to the world in 1989, enough experimental evidence has accumulated to satisfy that burden of proof. Charles Beaudette, an MIT-trained engineer, wrote that, by 1996, there were multiple corroborations of excess heat being generated by means of electrochemical stimulation. Twenty researchers from seven countries had successfully replicated the original Fleischmann-Pons experiment. In their recently released report on the state of cold fusion research, New Energy Times investigators Steven Krivit and Nadine Winocur reported that, since 1989, almost 15,000 cold fusion experiments have been performed, and within the last several years, the effects claimed by Fleischmann and Pons have been reproduced at rates ranging between 83 and 100 percent. One well-known website on cold fusion, lenr-canr.org, features an on-line library of more than 280 original scientific papers that are linked to a bibliography of nearly 3,000 journal papers, news articles and books about cold fusion.

In the spring of 1991, two years after the controversial 1989 announcement, Professor Wilford Hansen of Utah State University showed that several of the cells from the original experiment really did produce excess heat. According to Professor Hansen, one cell had an excess heat output of 45 electron volts per palladium atom, another had an excess heat output of 1,700 electron volts per palladium atom, and a third had an excess heat output of 6,000 electron volts per atom of palladium. Beaudette noted that the amount of energy released from the conventional electrochemical reaction, by contrast, is merely four electron volts. Between August 1990 and February 1991, Michael McKubre of SRI International performed experiments in which they observed anomalous power in three out of four cells. At Osaka University in Japan between 1991 and 1994, Professors Yoshiaki Arata and Yue-Chang Zhang performed successive experiments until they were able to achieve an excess heat output of 250 watts for 125 watts of input, a generation rate of 100 percent. Professor Arata had received numerous awards for scientific achievement over the years, and has had the honor of having a major building on the Osaka University campus named after him.

The United States Navy, through its Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), undertook one of the more comprehensive studies of cold fusion. NRL decided to "investigate the anomalous effects associated with the prolonged charging of the palladium / deuterium system." One of the labs undertook a study of the conditions under which excess heat could be generated. In another lab, scientists demonstrated the connection between excess heat and the production of helium gas, which was an indicator of the nuclear reactions generated by the cold fusion phenomenon. Using refined techniques, the NRL team was able to demonstrate that the cold fusion effect was reproducible. They found that, as the current passed through the cell and the temperature of the electrolyte solution increased, so too did excess heat production, and the heat sources were located close to the electrode/electrolyte contact surface. Melvin H. Miles, one member of the team, described results from experiments conducted in Japan from December 5, 1997 to February 12, 1998 . Dr. Miles reported that excess power had been generated over a period of seventy days. In another experiment that ran from February 17 to February 26, 1998 , excess power was observed in three different cells, particularly during the last two days. Data from this experiment indicate that up to 400 milliwatts of anomalous heat was present in two of the cells.

Some of the world's largest energy companies had also conducted experiments based on Fleischmann's and Pons's work. Krivit and Winocur reported that scientists at Amoco Oil Corporation had found indications of excess heat being generated at rates up to 1,000 times beyond what could be accounted for by normal experimental error. Scientists working on a report for Shell Research indicated that they had confirmed the presence of up to several watts of excess heat in what they termed the "simple Fleischmann-Pons system."

Not only is there a large body of data, generated by numerous replications, there are at least two working models being put forward by which manifestations of anomalous power could be predicted. During a presentation given at the Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion, McKubre described those hypotheses. The first identified loading as the significant variable. McKubre posited that in deuterium-palladium systems, excess heat will be observed if a sufficient quantity of deuterium is loaded into the palladium lattice through the electrochemical process. This hypothesis finds substantial support in the evidence, according to McKubre, in that in 51 percent of the experiments where maximum loading was achieved, excess heat was present. That percentage drops significantly when loading is reduced, even if the reduction is slight. If between 95 and 99 percent of maximum loading is achieved, excess power was observed only 38 percent of the time. With loading less than 95 percent of maximum, excess heat is observed only 17 percent of the time. The second hypothesis has to do with the observed correlation between excess heat and the presence of nuclear residues. McKubre opined that excess heat originates in a nuclear effect exhibited by crystalline metals heavily loaded with deuterium. He pointed to repeated experiments showing a correlation between heat and the presence of helium 4, a bi-product of nuclear fusion. This hypothesis predicts that where there is a strong output of helium-4, excess heat will be present in amounts up to 24 megavolts per palladium atom. What was actually observed, according to McKubre, was the presence of excess heat in amounts ranging from 19 and 45 megavolts per atom of palladium. Cold fusion has thus the achieved a hallmark of a true science - predictability.

In most scientific investigations, only one successful independent replication is necessary to demonstrate the validity of a phenomenon and satisfy the burden of proof that the phenomenon is real. The thousands of successful replications that have occurred around the world, the mountain of technical papers that precisely document the presence of excess heat and nuclear signatures, and not one but two valid working hypotheses should be enough to constitute "extraordinary" proof of cold fusion. The so-called skeptics, however, will have none of it. According to Scientific American, there is no evidence that cold fusion had "achieved any significantly new level of credibility in the eyes of the general physics community." A Princeton University physicist was quoted in Physics Today as saying that further review of cold fusion is a "waste of time," and that the only reason for putting together a review committee is to "put the issue to bed." None of this surprises Peter Hagelstein, a physics professor at MIT and a supporter of cold fusion research. Professor Hagelstein acknowledged that, despite all of the progress that has been made, the majority of mainstream scientists refuse to go near this subject out of fear that their careers will be irreparably harmed.

Cold fusion's detractors call themselves skeptics. But there is a real difference between skepticism in the true sense and the almost religious belief in scientific orthodoxy that masquerades as impartiality. Marcello Truzzi, the founding co-chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, eloquently described this distinction. According to Truzzi, a skeptic is an agnostic, a doubter rather than a believer. Doubt is not denial, merely a recognition that a claim has not been proven. The burden of proof of anomalous observations rests with the claimant at all times. Once that burden is satisfied, as with cold fusion, the skeptics must either accept the findings or provide another explanation. If they choose the latter course of action, then by definition, they become claimants with respect to that alternative explanation. As such, they can no longer express doubts about the validity of the evidence without first examining the evidence themselves. They must master the literature and become familiar with the experimental methods and metrics common to the field. In the case of cold fusion, this means becoming fluent in calorimetry. They must then perform the experiments according to the protocols that have been established over the last fifteen years. They must identify mistakes in technique and misinterpretations of results. If those mistakes and misinterpretations are material enough, the original hypothesis may be disproved and the alternative hypothesis put forward. Only after all of these steps are taken will the skeptics be in a position to honestly express doubts about the original claims.

To date, however, no refereed technical journal has presented a paper that completely and conclusively rebuts the cold fusion hypotheses or findings. The organizers of the Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion invited the field's most prominent detractors to come to the conference and disprove cold fusion claims. None showed. Instead, the "skeptics" continue to recite the catechism that there is no evidence for cold fusion, and continue to rely on a priori denunciations, contemptuously referring to supporters of cold fusion as "true believers." A favorable review by the Department of Energy that results in real projects being funded would go a long way toward making the general public aware of the reality of cold fusion.

REFERENCES

Charles G. Beaudette, Excess Heat - Why Cold Fusion Research Prevailed (Oak Grove Press, South Bristol , Maine , 2000).

Marcello Truzzi, "On Pseudo-Skepticism," Zetetic Scholar, # 12-13, 1987.

Michael R. McKubre, Review of Experimental Measurements Involving DD Reactions, PowerPoint Slide Presentation Delivered at the Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion, Cambridge, Massachusetts (August 2003).

Sharon Begley, "Cold Fusion Isn't Dead, It's Just Withering From Scientific Neglect," Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2003 .

Steven B. Krivit and Nadine Winocur, The 2004 Cold Fusion Report, (March 2004) (www.newenergytimes.com).

Toni Feder, "DOE Warms to Cold Fusion," Physics Today (April 2004).

United States Navy, Technical Report 1862, Thermal and Nuclear Aspects of the Pd/D2O System, Volume 1 (February 2002).

Correspondence between editors at lenr-canr.org and past and present editors at Scientific American between 1991 and 2003 (Available at http://www.lenr-canr.org/AppealandSciAm.pdf).

http://www.pureenergysystems.com/news/2004/04/26/ColdFusionDogma.html


Monday, April 26, 2004

Invitation to a Paranormal Investigations Workshop featuring JoeNickell and Benjamin Radford]

http://cnyskeptics.org/workshop_reg.html and take copies to any meetings Greetings, Fellow Skeptics and people interested in investigating paranormal claims!

On Sunday, June 6, 2004, CNY Skeptics, with the support of Community Darkrooms, presents a first-ever event: Joe Nickell and Benjamin Radford in an all-day workshop on Paranormal Investigations. Very rarely do we get a chance to learn directly from such well-known and respected investigators. There will also be a report on one of Syracuse's own "hauntings."

Don't miss this event! Who knows if you'll ever have this chance again.

The workshop will start at 10:15 in the Watson Theater on the Syracuse University campus, and run until 5:00 with a break for lunch. Sessions will include an introduction to investigations, slide presentations, and in-depth case studies. We plan to build in plenty of time for Q & A and to have copies of Nickell's and Radford's books available for purchase and signing.

Register early to ensure your seat at this exciting event. Click on this link for a registration form (or mail your check for $20.00 to Central New York Skeptics, 201 Minor Ave., Syracuse, NY 13224 - please mark your check "P.I.W.").

http://cnyskeptics.org/workshop_reg.html

Click on this link for a map of Syracuse University. Watson Theater is on the corner of Waverly and Comstock. Visitor parking is across the street and several Collegetown eateries are within walking distance.

http://bfasweb.syr.edu/parking/north_map.html

Nickell is senior research fellow for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Utilizing his varied background--he's worked as a professional magician, a private investigator, and a university professor--Nickell has become widely known as an investigator of myths and mysteries, frauds, forgeries, and hoaxes. He has investigated a number of haunted house cases, including the Amityville Horror and the Mackenzie House in Toronto, Canada, as well as crop circles, spontaneous human combustion, and the giant Nazca drawings of Peru.

Nickell has appeared on numerous national TV shows, including "Larry King Live," "Oprah," "Unsolved Mysteries," "20/20," and many others.

Benjamin Radford is the managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. He has conducted field investigations in many areas of the paranormal, including crop circles, ghost hauntings, mass hysterias, and lake monsters. Last year he appeared on the Discovery Channel discussing his investigation of the Lake Champlain monster.

For further information on this event or CNY Skeptics, please visit our web site at http://cnyskeptics.org or send e-mail to info@cnyskeptics.org.

Pacemaker interference on the rise

http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_np=0&u_pg=1642&u_sid=1077054

Published Sunday
April 25, 2004

THE NEW YORK TIMES

As high-tech gadgets and devices proliferate, people who use pacemakers are finding themselves in a world that is increasingly difficult to navigate.

Once concentrated in the workplace, devices that can disrupt pacemaker function are now much harder to avoid. Metal detectors hidden in store entrances and exits, for example, can be impossible to spot.

But sometimes, doctors have found, problems can result even from something that appears relatively innocuous.

In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, three Swiss doctors reported the case of a 52-year-old man with a pacemaker who was experiencing sporadic bouts of dizziness.

The doctors were puzzled. Then a detailed history revealed that the patient had been using a little-known alternative medicine device called a Zapper, which generated electrical impulses when held in both hands. Each time the patient tried to use it, the doctors said, his pacemaker would stop working and start up again only when the man fainted and dropped the device.

"This went on for several months," said Dr. Osmund Bertel, a cardiologist at Triemli Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, and one of the authors of the letter. "The modern environment is full of these things that people don't realize can interfere with their pacemakers. But it's important to be aware of them."

Another little-known menace to people with pacemakers, some doctors say, is a popular treatment for pain relief called PENS, or percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Often used for lower back pain, the treatment, which is akin to acupuncture with electric current, has been shown to affect some pacemakers, said Dr. Sergio Pinski, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Fla.

More than 2 million Americans have permanent implanted pacemakers. Some of the traditional threats to the devices, experts say, can be safe if precautions are followed. Cell phones, for example, should not be carried in the breast pocket or held to the ear closest to the pacemaker.


Contacting the North Texas Skeptics
The North Texas Skeptics
P. O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
214-335-9248 Skeptics Hotline (current information)
E-mail

Current News  News Back Issues


What's New | Search | Newsletter | Fact Sheets
NTS Home Page
Copyright (C) 1987 - 2008 by the North Texas Skeptics.