NTS LogoSkeptical News for 18 July 2004

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Does Richard Dawkins back Astrology?


Jonathan Leake, Science Editor of Sunday Times, in a recent article on the controversial book of Percy Seymour defending Astrology, made an extra ordinary claim. He wrote that the British scientist and rationalist Richard Dawkins backed the views of Seymour defending the pseudo-science Astrology.

He wrote: "Hawking, Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, has said that astrology became impossible as soon as early scientists found that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, an idea on which astrology was founded.

"However, Seymour's theories won qualified support from an unexpected source. Richard Dawkins, professor for the public understanding of science at Oxford University, who once suggested that astrologers be prosecuted under the trades descriptions act, said that although he had not read the book Seymour's ideas sounded interesting. "

Richard Dawkins, Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the Oxford University and author of the international best sellers The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype, The Blind Watchmaker, River Out of Eden, Climbing Mount Improbable and Unweaving the Rainbow, is well knoown for his public rejection of irrationalism. He is an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist International.

Did Richard Dawkins actually support Seymour's theories? Responding to a letter from Sanal Edamaruku, the President of the Rationalist International, Richard Dawkins informs:

"No. I most emphatically did NOT give my support to Percy Seymour. I was telephoned by a journalist called Jonathan Leake from the Sunday Times who asked me for a comment on Seymour's book. I said I hadn't read it, and therefore could not comment. Leake then read me part of the jacket blurb, which said something about magnetic fields before birth having an influence. I said something sarcastic like, "Well, that's very interesting, no doubt, but what the hell has it got to do with astrology?" The next thing I knew, the newspaper quoted me as 'supporting' Seymour by saying his work was 'interesting'. I am furious about this gross misrepresentation, and you may publish my disclaimer, if you wish."

What Your Handwriting Says About Your Career

July 18, 2004

Face-to-face interviews and checks of the references of potential employees used to be enough for many employers. But as corporate governance scandals have proliferated, many companies have been searching for new ways to weed out potentially troublesome hires and to monitor the behavior of existing employees. One of the latest tactics is handwriting analysis.

Graphology, as handwriting analysis is formally known, gained prominence in the 19th century as a determinant of personality traits and inner character. Its use declined as the aptitude- and personality- testing movement gained ground in the early 20th century. But today, handwriting analysis is widely used in France, Germany and England; many companies have resident graphologists. And while there is no hard data on how many companies are using handwriting analysis in the United States, many graphologists say they are getting more corporate business.

Sheila Kurtz, the chief executive and founder of the Graphology Consulting Group in New York, said her business had tripled over the last four years. Arlyn Imberman, another handwriting analyst in New York, said her corporate business had increased about 22 percent over the last three years.

Ronald Shaw, the chief executive of Pilot Pen Inc. in Trumbull, Conn., said, "People look great in an interview and then you don't recognize them when they come on board." In June, Mr. Shaw hired Ms. Kurtz to provide a cross-check against his own impressions. Her title is chief graphology officer.

"It helps to find out if she thinks the person is trustworthy, creative, or resourceful, and able to work in our environment," he said.

In one recent case, before Ms. Kurtz was retained, Mr. Shaw said he was looking for a regional sales manager, and was interested in one in particular. But the candidate was not quite as aggressive as he needed to be. Mr. Shaw was not going to hire him, but on a lark showed the application to a graphologist. The graphologist told Mr. Shaw that he thought the candidate could take the initiative, and Mr. Shaw took a chance and hired him. He has become one of the most productive employees.

For the last year, Howard Herzog, the president of IJB Risk Services, a jewelry and fine arts consultancy in Manhattan, has relied on the services of Ms. Imberman, the co-author of "Signature for Success: How to Analyze Handwriting and Improve Your Career, Your Relationships and Your Life" (Andrews McMeel, October 2003). "The increase in employee theft made me do it," he said. "It's paid off very nicely in discovering who the potential stealers are and who's not."

Ms. Imberman said that over the years she had dissected penmanship for clients like Merrill Lynch, Prudential and Sony as well as diamond merchants. She also works with RNW Consulting, an international management consulting firm in Evanston, Ill. Before enlisting her, "we were not pleased with our ability to predict during our interviewing process whether a candidate was going to be successful with us or not," said Allan Ackerman, a managing director of RNW. "We're in the business of advising large companies on how to hire well, so not only was this causing problems for our own business but it was embarrassing."

Now, he said, "we use her analysis as a cross-check against our own impressions of the person."

Graphology dates back to 11th-century China, said Dr. Barry Beyerstein, professor of biological psychology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and co-author of "The Write Stuff: Evaluations of Graphology - The Study of Handwriting Analysis" (Prometheus Books, September 1992). An early proponent was Camillo Baldi, an Italian physician who wrote a book on the subject in 1662.

Many scientists and doctors disparage graphology. Dr. Beyerstein places graphology in the same category as phrenology (using the shape of the skull to determine character) and physiognomy (judging character through body and facial features), which were both quite popular until the early 20th century.

"Graphology is a pseudoscience that claims to be a quick and easy way of saying how someone's wired, but there's no evidence that this is encoded in handwriting," Dr. Beyerstein said.

"In these litigious times," he continued, "you can't ask people about their sexual orientation or previous run-ins with the law or their home life or marital status. But graphologists make statements that no legitimate personnel person could make with such a degree of certainty and you can find a lot of gullible people who'll sign on. You'd think hard-nosed businesspeople would be the last to be taken in, but they lap it up."

Annie Murphy Paul, author of the forthcoming "The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies and Misunderstand Ourselves" (The Free Press, September 2004), also questions the value of graphology.

"Handwriting analysis, like personality testing, is a fashionable practice with very weak scientific support," she said. "Companies are looking for a shortcut, but these techniques don't reveal much that's meaningful about the person being analyzed."

But there are medical experts who are enthusiasts. Philip Muskin, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, says he thinks that handwriting analysis can help him gain insight into his patients, and he hopes to use it with them one day. "It's shocking that writing a sentence could reveal character traits," Dr. Muskin said. "But I do think it relates to how our personalities interact with the world."

Some job seekers are starting to use handwriting analysis to help them in their searches. Michael Hernandez, 41, now the director of sales for Bagel Beer, a brewery based in Fairfax, Calif., has had his handwriting analyzed, and he submitted the results along with his résumé when looking for work. "It does make me stand out," he said. "It's helped me get jobs; if for nothing else, it's allowed me to be something other than a piece of paper."

Proponents of using handwriting analysis to evaluate job candidates meet plenty of skeptics. "At my company we don't all have the same level of confidence in it," Mr. Ackerman said. "We had a pretty heated debate about it. You're asking a partner in a firm to make a critical decision based on the analysis of someone's handwriting in a fax."

He stressed that Ms. Imberman is just one tool his company uses, along with written personality and intelligence tests and extensive interviewing. "I won't say that using her has completely erased all our problems and made our hiring trouble-free," he said. "But it has improved it."


Sloppy scientific thinking

[Kook reviews Park.]


Title: Voodo Science The road from foolishness to fraud
Author: Robert L. Park
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0-19-850745-3
Price: £18.99

Review originally published in "Network", the magazine of the Scientific and Medical Network.

Dr Robert Park is professor of physics at the University of Maryland. He also runs the Washington office of the American Physical Society and is a regular contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post. His views on science are thus of public interest.

In 'Voodo Science', Robert Park brings an indictment against what he sees as a modern tendency towards junk science and New Age crackpot thinking. He detects this tendency in the media, in advertising and commerce, in medicine and in science itself.

Park brings forward a score of examples of such beliefs and presents them in an entertaining way. His book has been a hit in some sections of the scientific community, especially with commentators like Richard Dawkins, who says, 'Professor Park does more than debunk, he crucifies. . . You'll never again waste time or your money on astrologers, 'quantum healers', homeopaths, spoonbenders, perpetual motion merchants, or alien abduction fantasists.'

In each of the book's ten chapters, Robert Park reviews in some detail a case of junk science or pseudoscience that is so preposterous that anyone can see the perpetrator is either a fool or a knave. But he then generalises his findings from this undoubted case of charlatanism to cases in the same field of research but about which much remains unknown, and asserts that these must be equally false -- without troubling to offer any scientific evidence as to why these other cases are equivalent to the case he has demolished.

Take for example, the chapter entitled 'Placebos have side effects.' Park begins with a salutary tale of a US laboratory that advertised 'Vitamin O' capsules for $20 a phial. What is 'Vitamin O'? The adverts claimed they were 'stabilised oxygen molecules in a solution of distilled water and sodium chloride' -- simple salt water. Through Park's intervention, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in, stopped the advertising campaign, and compelled the laboratory to return customers' money.

Most people would agree that this advertising was a scientific abuse and that Park's intervention was welcome. But having established his credentials as a White Knight in the murky field of alternative medicine, Park then turns his lance on homeopathy. It is worth studying his analytical methods in some detail, because they are the same methods employed throughout the book. (I should add here that I have no personal interest in or connection with homeopathy other than as a writer on science).

Park gives a brief biography of homeopathy's founder, Samuel Hahnemann, and describes the ideas of treating like with like, and of extreme dilution of homeopathic treatments. He then brings the story up to date with an account of Jacques Benveniste, who he writes off as 'a French homeopath' (Dr Benveniste is, in fact, a molecular biologist who was head of research at France's National Institute for Health & Medical Research, and an international expert on immunology, and thus might be expected to be better informed on this subject than Dr Park, a crystallographer).

Park ridicules Benveniste's research saying, 'Homeopathists, however, continue to cite Benveniste's paper as proof of the law of infinitesimals and to concoct vague theories to account for this amazing result.'

Park concludes his survey of homeopathy by remarking, 'If the infinite-dilution concept held up, it would force a reexamination of the very foundations of science. Meanwhile, there is no credible evidence that homeopathic remedies have any effect beyond that of a placebo.'

This statement is inexplicable if Dr Park's book really is a scientific survey of its subjects because it means that Dr Park did not trouble himself to make even the most superficial search of the scientific literature on homeopathy. Had he done so he would have discovered the paper published in the British Medical Journal in 1991 by Dr Paul Knipschild, professor of epidemiology at Limburg University (BMJ 302:316-323).

Limburg University is Holland's centre for control of epidemic diseases (equivalent to Atlanta or Porton Down) and Knipschild is its director.

Homeopathy is widely practised in Holland and the Dutch government came under pressure from adherents to make homeopathic remedies available under the Dutch National Health Service. Dutch skeptics vocally opposed any such use of public funds on what they regarded as quackery.

To settle the question, the Dutch government commissioned a study of clinical trials of homeopathy by medical scientists at the department of epidemiology and health care at Limburg. Their task was to analyse clinical trials that had been done on homeopathy and say whether the investment of public money was justified by the evidence.

The team analysed 105 published studies. They found that 81 trials demonstrated positive results compared to a placebo, while 24 showed no positive effects, and concluded that 'there is a legitimate case for further evaluation of homeopathy, but only by means of well-performed trials.'

Further evaluation, however, is not what Dr Park has in mind for homeopathy. It seems to me that the case of homeopathy is a particularly interesting one because it also illustrates how scientific intolerance can result simply from a failure of scientific imagination -- even when the facts are visible to all.

Dr Park, like many scientific rationalists, dismisses homeopathy because he cannot see how a liquid such as water can 'remember' having dissolved an active ingredient once it has been diluted so much that not even a single molecule of the solute remains.

He says, 'The reputed "memory" of water is only the first of a string of miracles that would be necessary for the law of infinitesimals to be valid.'

Yet Dr Brian Josephson, Nobel Laureate and professor of experimental physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, pointed out in the New Scientist that:

' . . . criticisms centred around the vanishingly small number of solute molecules present in a solution after it has been repeatedly diluted are beside the point, since advocates of homeopathic remedies attribute their effects not to molecules present in the water, but to modifications of the water's structure.'

'Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.'

More simply, anyone who has ever used a mobile phone or laptop computer with a liquid crystal display has already seen concrete evidence of the 'memory of liquids' in their everyday lives. This presumably includes Dr Park, (whose field is crystals) yet, like the rest of us, he fails to connect this everyday experience with an anomalous phenomenon until the obvious is pointed out to him by an investigator with a truly open mind.

What is true for homeopathy is true for many other fields of anomalous study. Park rounds up the usual suspects: cold fusion, over-unity devices, zero-point energy, and sets out to debunk them.

Park reserves his greatest scorn for Drs Fleischmann and Pons who he depicts as beaten and depressed at the failure of their cold fusion experiment to be replicated by any respectable institution. He also cites the usual objection of lack of fusion products (excess helium, neutron emission, tritium) as evidence of failure.

What Park failed to say was that more then 100 institutions in the United States and Japan have reported successful replication of Fleischmann and Pons's original experiment, once the correct experimental conditions were established. Dr Michael McKubre and his team at Stanford Research Institute say they have confirmed Fleischmann-Pons and indeed say they can now produce excess heat experimentally at will. Other U.S. Laboratories reporting positive results include the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, (these were the two U.S. research establishments most closely involved in developing the atomic bomb) Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Weapons Centre at China Lake, Naval Ocean Systems Centre and Texas A & M University. Dr Robert Bush and his colleagues at California Polytechnic Institute have recorded the highest levels of power density for cold fusion, with almost three kilowatts per cubic centimetre. This is 30 times greater than the power density of fuel rods in a typical nuclear fission reactor. Overseas organisations include Japan's Hokkaido National University, Osaka National University, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Nippon Telephone and Telegraph corporation.

What Park also failed to say is that all the expected fusion products have now been detected in the expected quantities.

Selection or omission of crucial evidence is not the only cause for concern. The level of debate to which Park sometimes descends would be worrying in an undergraduate. In a professor of physics it is alarming. After castigating those responsible for what he considers to be 'voodo science' for their lack of rigour, dependence on anecdotal evidence, and generalising from a single example, he tells us why belief in UFOs is pathological. Park explains how, as a young Air Force Officer, in 1954, while driving near Roswell, he saw what he took to be a flying disc. He stopped his car and found the disc was no more than a reflection of his own car headlights. The implication is clear: because he was once mistaken, it follows that all other reports of flying discs are also mistaken. No scientific investigation is needed. Park has settled the matter.

One question remains in all this, and it seems to me to be an important one for science. Dr Park is a distinguished scientist, a leading member of his profession. His integrity is unassailable and no-one doubts his motives. Yet despite this pedigree and his obvious intellectual gifts, Dr Park has permitted his views of certain phenomena to be informed not by evidence (such as Dr Knipschild's) but by something else which he values even more highly. The question is: what is this something else? Whatever it is, it takes precedence over all Dr Park's scientific training and a lifetime of experience as a physicist.

The something else, it seems to me, is a philosophical commitment to scientific rationalism as a principle in its own right: a way of looking at the world.

To understand the origin and meaning of a book like Dr Park's, one has to understand the significance of a single word. When Dr Park, and those who think like him, say '. . . there is no credible evidence that homeopathic remedies have any effect beyond that of a placebo.' the crucial word is 'credible'. When confronted by evidence and experiment, it remains possible for Dr Park to retain his scientific integrity while, at the same time, rejecting the evidence of the laboratory because it is to his mind 'not credible'. Dr Park thus joins many other 'skeptics', like Dr Jonathan Miller, who was so incautious as to say on Channel Four TV, 'Even if you showed me the evidence for homeopathy, I still wouldn't believe it'.

The importance of this book, therefore, is that it is likely in future to become a classic psychology text for students of cognitive dissonance in gifted minds.

Dr Marcello Truzzi, co-founder of CSICOP, coined the handy term pseudoskepticism to denote what is becoming an increasingly common form of scientific fundamentalism and vigilantism. 'Parkism' could well become an even more useful shorthand for this same phenomenon.

The truth about global warming - it's the Sun that's to blame

By Michael Leidig and Roya Nikkhah
(Filed: 18/07/2004)


Global warming has finally been explained: the Earth is getting hotter because the Sun is burning more brightly than at any time during the past 1,000 years, according to new research.

A study by Swiss and German scientists suggests that increasing radiation from the sun is responsible for recent global climate changes.

Dr Sami Solanki, the director of the renowned Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, who led the research, said: "The Sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures.

"The Sun is in a changed state. It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently - in the last 100 to 150 years."

Dr Solanki said that the brighter Sun and higher levels of "greenhouse gases", such as carbon dioxide, both contributed to the change in the Earth's temperature but it was impossible to say which had the greater impact.

Average global temperatures have increased by about 0.2 deg Celsius over the past 20 years and are widely believed to be responsible for new extremes in weather patterns. After pressure from environmentalists, politicians agreed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, promising to limit greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012. Britain ratified the protocol in 2002 and said it would cut emissions by 12.5 per cent from 1990 levels.

Globally, 1997, 1998 and 2002 were the hottest years since worldwide weather records were first collated in 1860.

Most scientists agree that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels have contributed to the warming of the planet in the past few decades but have questioned whether a brighter Sun is also responsible for rising temperatures.

To determine the Sun's role in global warming, Dr Solanki's research team measured magnetic zones on the Sun's surface known as sunspots, which are believed to intensify the Sun's energy output.

The team studied sunspot data going back several hundred years. They found that a dearth of sunspots signalled a cold period - which could last up to 50 years - but that over the past century their numbers had increased as the Earth's climate grew steadily warmer. The scientists also compared data from ice samples collected during an expedition to Greenland in 1991. The most recent samples contained the lowest recorded levels of beryllium 10 for more than 1,000 years. Beryllium 10 is a particle created by cosmic rays that decreases in the Earth's atmosphere as the magnetic energy from the Sun increases. Scientists can currently trace beryllium 10 levels back 1,150 years.

Dr Solanki does not know what is causing the Sun to burn brighter now or how long this cycle would last.

He says that the increased solar brightness over the past 20 years has not been enough to cause the observed climate changes but believes that the impact of more intense sunshine on the ozone layer and on cloud cover could be affecting the climate more than the sunlight itself.

Dr Bill Burrows, a climatologist and a member of the Royal Meteorological Society, welcomed Dr Solanki's research. "While the established view remains that the sun cannot be responsible for all the climate changes we have seen in the past 50 years or so, this study is certainly significant," he said.

"It shows that there is enough happening on the solar front to merit further research. Perhaps we are devoting too many resources to correcting human effects on the climate without being sure that we are the major contributor."

Dr David Viner, the senior research scientist at the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit, said the research showed that the sun did have an effect on global warming.

He added, however, that the study also showed that over the past 20 years the number of sunspots had remained roughly constant, while the Earth's temperature had continued to increase.

This suggested that over the past 20 years, human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation had begun to dominate "the natural factors involved in climate change", he said.

Dr Gareth Jones, a climate researcher at the Met Office, said that Dr Solanki's findings were inconclusive because the study had not incorporated other potential climate change factors.

"The Sun's radiance may well have an impact on climate change but it needs to be looked at in conjunction with other factors such as greenhouse gases, sulphate aerosols and volcano activity," he said. The research adds weight to the views of David Bellamy, the conservationist. "Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth," he said. "I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy-makers are not.

"Instead, they have an unshakeable faith in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement: humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide - the principal so-called greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up. They say this is global warming: I say this is poppycock."

Saturday, July 17, 2004


The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 692 July 14, 2004 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein

SINGLE-SPIN MRFM SENSITIVITY at IBM. The presence of a single electron's spin has been detected by a magnetic resonance force microscope (MRFM), a device which brings together two exquisite sensing technologies---magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The ultimate goal of MRFM is to map the interior of a material sample, such as a complicated semiconductor structure or a bio-molecule, at atomic-scale resolution. To do this the MRFM uses a very frail cantilever, 85 microns long and 150 nm thick, with a tiny magnetic tip, plus a nearby radio-frequency coil to create a bowl-shaped resonance zone. Any magnetic particle---such as a single electron or even the nucleus of a hydrogen atom (a proton)---that comes into the zone can interact magnetically with the cantilever, whose oscillation frequency is altered in a detectable way by the presence of the spin. Spin is a quantum parameter; a particle with spin will undergo interactions with other magnetic objects. Classically speaking, a particle with spin will behave like a tiny bar magnet.

An MRFM scan differs from an MRI scan in that "scanning" in MRI uses very sophisticated techniques by which a signal is obtained from all different 3D regions (voxels) simultaneously. MRFM, by contrast, is more of a point-wise scan, followed by an image reconstruction procedure. MRFM isn't just a form of microscopy (telling you where the molecules are) but in the case of nuclear spins, is also a form of spectroscopy that can, in principle, identify certain chemical elements, at least those whose nuclei are magnetic. Since MRFM made its debut more than a decade ago the sensitivity of the device has improved by a factor of ten million, but it can't yet detect single nuclei. The intrinsic magnetic strength (the "magnetic moment") of a single nucleus is just too weak, about 650 times weaker than an electron's magnetic moment. To detect individual nuclear spins and thereby achieve spatial resolution at the atomic scale, a further improvement in sensitivity by a factor of about a thousand will be necessary. Currently, conventional MRI forms images from nuclear spins, but needs a trillion or more to get a strong enough signal. Now, for the first time, an MRFM has mustered sufficient sensitivity to detect the spin of a single electron amid a sample where most of the electrons in the atoms are paired up (and thus rendered nonmagnetic). In the 15 July issue of Nature, Dan Rugar and his colleagues at IBM Almaden (San Jose) report on an MRFM device which uses a slender cantilever operating at a temperature of 1.6 K. The precision of the setup and the chilly conditions permit single electrons in a silicon dioxide sample to be located. The associated spatial resolution, at least in one of the three dimensions, is a mere 25 nm. (A few months ago an MRFM result with something like a million-electron-spin resolution was reported; see http://www.aip.org/pnu/2004/split/680-1.html.) In terms of imaging sharpness the new IBM device is about 40 times better than the best conventional MRI available. Not only is MRFM a potentially splendid imaging device, but it may also play a part in future quantum information devices owing to MRFM's ability to manipulate and read the quantum state of individual spins. (See http://www.almaden.ibm.com/st/nanoscale_science/asms/mrfm/

BRAIDING PATTERNS IN FLOWING STREAMS have been explained by a University of New Mexico team (Vakhtang Putkaradze, 505-277-2234, putkarad@math.unm.edu). Attention poets: researchers have figured out the secrets behind a beautiful fluid pattern that sharp-eyed observers can occasionally witness in thin, narrow streams of water flowing down a hill. Ordinarily, a stream of water meanders, or goes side to side, when it flows down an inclined plane that is "partially wetting," or not perfectly water-repelling. Some researchers considered such meandering to be inevitable, even for water flowing down a perfectly smooth plane. But the New Mexico team discovered, first of all, that meandering can be eliminated (the centerline of the stream can be straight) if water flows down the plane at a constant rate, a somewhat rare but possible occurrence. Moreover, such non-meandering streams often have visually striking "braids," a fixed pattern of wide and narrow water regions that goes all the way down the plane. Using a simple laboratory setup, the researchers discovered an easy way to duplicate this braiding pattern (see picture at www.aip.org/png). They sent a fluid (a mix of water, glycerol and some food coloring) down a narrow cylindrical nozzle. As it exited the nozzle the fluid struck a slanted acrylic plane, where it formed a braiding pattern as it ran downstream into a lower reservoir. Describing the lab fluid's behavior with equations, the researchers found that braiding occurs as a competition between the fluid's inertia and surface tension: As the fluid strikes the acrylic plane, it tends to keep moving, causing it to spread out. However, surface tension limits the spreading and quickly manages to pull the fluid back together to a narrow waist. Nonetheless, in the process of forming this waist, the outer edges (which carry most of the fluid) "bounce" on impact and push the fluid apart. This process repeats to create several braids. The researchers found it easy to tweak the braid's properties; for example, they could decrease the length of the braids by making the plane less steep and they could eliminate the braids altogether by increasing the viscosity of the fluid. It is possible these observations have geophysical implications, but more research is needed to say that with certainty. (K. Mertens, V. Putkaradze, and P. Vorobieff, Nature, 8 July 2004.)

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

Legends of the halls


Donald MacLeod
Friday July 16, 2004

There was this student who flipped during his finals and killed himself by shoving two sharpened pencils up his nostrils into his brain. Death was instantaneous, apparently. No really, it happened. And did you know that the tower of Durham Cathedral is closed during exams ever since a student from the university chucked herself off the top...?

Urban myths are flourishing on campus - especially at Aberystwyth, where next week folklorists from around the world will gather to swap stories and analyse their significance. Tales of plagiarism seem to be particularly prevalent at the moment - like the student who bought an essay on the internet only to find that his tutor had written it 20 years earlier. The tutor gives it top marks saying: "My professor failed it, but I always thought it deserved a better grade".

The 22nd annual conference of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) will hear Rhiannon McKechnie, from Memorial University of Newfoundland, recount the stories repeated about her own institution - the maniac who attacked the university campus, and the "fact" that the library was built backwards and is sinking because the architects did not take the weight of the books into account when they designed the building. Oh, and it's haunted too. There's a professor who decides students' marks by throwing their papers on the stairs - whoever's lands higher gets the higher mark. If your roommate commits suicide during the school year, you are assured of an automatic A-grade average.

Student stories are only a small sub-genre of the urban myths under the microscope next week - or "contemporary legends" as academics prefer, because most of the stories are not particularly urban. Papers will date back to medieval "blood libel" stories about Jews, which sparked massacres in England and elsewhere, and range geographically from North America (Aids legends in the Chicano community of southern Texas) to India (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in folktales), taking in humour as cultural critique in Maltese contemporary legends and contemporary legends from the Karst region of Slovenia.

What does it all mean? Mikel Koven, of Aberystwyth's department of theatre, film and television studies, says folklorists look at who is telling the story and try to understand what it means to them. "The tutor and the students will have different interpretations."

In some cases legends have become reality - stories about children on Halloween given an apple containing a razor blade were circulating long before an actual case occurred. And a recurrent myth, the "cooked rat" story, which plagues ethnic restaurants among the suspicious Brits, actually put a Sheffield fast food outlet out of business (at least Dr Koven assures me this is true).

Dr Koven, a Canadian who is giving a conference paper on how the X-Files uses folkloristics, says the academic study of folklore has not taken off in the UK, where it is dismissed as "dancing peasants and quaint old tales". But it is thriving elsewhere. Or, as Dr Koven puts it in his conference introduction: "Without wanting to appear overly optimistic, this 22nd annual ISCLR conference seems set to mark a new maturation of folklore studies wherein the mass mediated and traditional oral narration are seen to be less problematic disseminators of contemporary legendry than ever before".

The 22nd Annual Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Conference runs from July 21 to 24.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Ghost that rapes women


Men start night patrols here to keep 'ghost that rapes women' away Saturday July 17 2004 01:45 IST

AHMEDABAD: The Entity seems to have come to Vatva. At least that's what residents of Saiyedwadi believe. They are living in mortal fear of a ''ghost'' that has been ''sexually assaulting'' women for the past 15 days.

Women here have stopped stepping out of their homes at night, while men have started night patrols to ``keep the ghost away''.

Saiyedwadi is a small locality comprising lower-middle and middle-class families. And the rumours have spread like wildfire. Be it an old man or a three-year-old _ everyone can tell you about this ``ghost that rapes women''.

``I have not seen him but I know what he looks like. He's tall, about six-and-half feet, has shoulder-length hair, a marked face. He wears black shorts and knee-length shoes. His shoes have springs, which help him jump over terraces,'' says Jahagir Khan, a resident.

The others _ who have not seen the ``ghost'' _ agree with the description. Many add to it. Seventeen-year-old Mohammad Rayeez says: ``He carries a sharp-edged weapon, probably a dagger with him. He spends the day on a tree and comes out only at night.''

Mohammad, who works as a mechanic at Narol, says the ``ghost'' raped three women at Narol on Thursday night.

Shaheedabanu Yusufbhai agrees. ``Two days ago, he raped a women in the next lane and warned another that she would be next,'' she says.

However, which lane and which woman, no one can tell you.

``I don't know who exactly. But how can you expect a woman to come forward and say that she was molested,'' says Shaheedabanu, a housewife who no longer steps out of her house at night like most women of the area.

There are other stories, about the ``ghost'' hanging from a tree branch, slapping a child, stopping a woman on her way home and so on. But the fear is apparent. The men of the area _ armed with sticks and pipes _ can be seen guarding their localities.

Police have posted two constables in the area. ``All these are baseless rumours. No one has seen any thing for the past two days. So, we plan to withdraw the constables,'' says Vatva police inspector B.I. Patel.

`It's mass hysteria'

Psychitrists say what's ailing Vatva is mass hysteria that affects members of a closed community. Dr Darshan Shah says that since members of a closed community are brought up in a similar way, they ``all start believing something unreal and behave accordingly''. He cites the example of Jones Town, where 1,000 people committed suicide thinking that the world was coming to an end.

``This is actually a state of mind shared by various members. The members develop a thinking, or in this case, a figure, which most others relate to and follow. As a group, they start behaving in a particular fashion. Counselling is the only way out,'' he says.

Shah adds that an evil male spirit that supposedly has sex with a sleeping woman is called an incubus _ a term derived from myths.

Evolution education update: Brazil and awards for two NCSE members

Creationism in Brazil; the DPS's Carl Sagan Medal for Morrison; and the GSA's History of Science Award for Brush.


Controversy erupted in Brazil recently after the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Rosinha Mateus, authorized the teaching of creationism in public schools, declaring, in an interview in the Brazilian newspaper The Globe, "I do not believe in the evolution of species. It's just a theory." Physicist Ennio Candotti, president of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science, said that creationism "is not supported" and called creationism education "propaganda." The controversy appears to be focused on what will be taught in religion classes. In December 2000, the then-governor of Rio de Janeiro, Anthony Garotinho (husband of the current governor) signed a decree establishing confessional religious lessons in public schools. The state hired 500 religion teachers -- 342 Catholic, 132 Protestant, and 26 representing other denominations -- to provide religious instruction; today, the state employs 793 religion teachers. Opponents of the move argued that Brazilian federal law requires that religious lessons in public schools be nonconfessional. The current governor's encouragement for teaching creationism in these classes caused an uproar, covered extensively in the Brazilian media.

For further details, see the longer story and references on NCSE's web page:


The American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) has awarded its 2004 Carl Sagan Medal to NASA scientist -- and NCSE member -- David Morrison. The Sagan Medal is awarded annually by the DPS, the world's largest organization of planetary scientists, to an active member researcher for long-term excellence in communicating planetary science to the public. Throughout his distinguished science career as an expert on solar system small bodies and as an investigator for numerous spacecraft missions, including Voyager and Galileo, Morrison has enthusiastically dedicated himself to sharing the excitement of planetary exploration with the public. He will receive the award at the organization's annual meeting to be held November 8-12, 2004, in Louisville, Kentucky. Presently the senior scientist for the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Morrison recently contributed a pair of articles on astrobiology -- "The Astrobiological Perspective on Life's Origin" and "Astrobiology and the Search for Alien Life" -- to Reports of the NCSE.

For coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle, see:


Stephen G. Brush, Distinguished University Professor of the History of Science at the University of Maryland and a Supporter of NCSE, was named as the 2004 recipient of the Geological Society of America's History of Geology Award. In addition to his three-volume history of modern planetary physics, the announcement in the newsletter of GSA's History of Geology division mentioned his classic 1982 paper "Finding the Age of the Earth: By Physics or by Faith?" (Journal of Geological Education 30: 34-58), describing it as "a marvelous critique of claims by creationists that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, coupled with an exposition of the radiometric dating method." His award will be presented at the GSA's annual meeting in Denver on November 6, 2004.

For the announcement in the newsletter of GSA's History of Geology division, see:

As always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available.

Naturopathic medicine finds niche in state


Tim Koors/The Arizona Republic

Joelle Babula
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 15, 2004 12:00 AM

Come Saturday, June Stevens will combine her longtime career in Western medicine with acupuncture, nutrition and botanical healing.

Stevens, 35, of Chandler, will remain in the community and treat area patients as a naturopathic physician after she graduates Saturday from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences.

She will graduate with a class of 37 - one of the college's largest graduating classes since the school opened in 1993.

"I'm very excited. I really want to focus on women's health care and cardiovascular disease in women," Stevens said. "I've been a nurse for 15 years, and it's a blessing to now be able to combine the two types of medicine."

Naturopathic physicians use a combination of conventional diagnostic procedures and alternative therapies, including acupuncture and the use of herbs. Naturopaths receive a four-year medical degree from an accredited college and specialize in the use of nutrition therapy, stress reduction and natural remedies to prevent disease and heal.

In some states, including Arizona, naturopaths can prescribe most conventional medications.

Saturday's 37 graduates will join the nation's steadily growing population of naturopathic doctors. Currently, there are about 3,000 naturopaths nationwide and 300 practicing in Arizona, said Melissa Winquist, vice president of enrollment management at the college. Just over 200 naturopaths practice in Maricopa County.

"About 60 percent of our graduates remain in Arizona," Winquist said. "There's public demand for them. Over 70 percent of Americans have tried or are currently using an alternative therapy."

Recent graduate Dr. Teresa Rada said, "A lot of patients here are starting to seek out naturopathic doctors."

Rada, who has remained in the area and currently sees patients in Mesa, is a former emergency room nurse and graduated from the college in January.

"People are realizing there is more than just Western medicine out there and that Western medicine doesn't have all the answers to everything," she said.

Rada also said that what she learned at the Southwest College would have helped her deal with her patients as a nurse.

"If I had known what I know now about nutrition, it really would have helped," she said. "What we put into our bodies and how much of it really affects our health status."

Naturopaths from across the country also flock to Arizona because the doctors have a larger scope of practice here than they do in most states. Naturopaths in Arizona are allowed to perform acupuncture and prescribe many conventional medications, Winquist said.

Stevens said she wants to work with the college as well as enjoy a broader scope of practice in the state. She said she's looking forward to combining her experience as a registered nurse in the Navy with her new knowledge of alternative medicine.

"I've been a nurse for 15 years but really always felt there was a piece missing," she said. "I didn't see patients getting as healthy as I'd like them to be. The nutrition component, stress reduction and lifestyle modification was missing."

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Future of Truth Conference Explores Biblical Realities, Exposes Theological Heresies to Present a More Convincing Picture of Truth in Today's Society


Press Release
Source: Moody Church

Thursday July 15, 10:00 am ET

Conference Will Feature Trusted Theologians Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Phillip Johnson, Erwin Lutzer, Emir Caner and Frank Peretti at The Moody Church in Chicago

CHICAGO, July 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The Moody Church, one of the most respected non-denominational, evangelical churches in the country, today announces the Future of Truth Conference, a one-day event that will feature some of the world's most respected apologists. The conference serves to make participants aware of the major intellectual challenges to the Christian faith and to equip them with a firmer grounding, appreciation and love of the Truth found in the person of Christ. The conference will address hotly debated topics including Islam, evolutionism and creationism, Jesus among other gods and the Resurrection and present important truths about these topics as outlined in the Bible. The Future of Truth Conference will be held on October 23, at The Moody Church, 1630 N. Clark St. in Chicago.

"Our society is plagued with spiritual teachings and beliefs that are not based on substantive evidence," said Daryle Worley, associate pastor of The Moody Church. "The Future of Truth Conference serves to present an accurate picture of eternal truths by exploring reliable research and what's written in the Bible in order to expose man-made beliefs. The renowned speakers will clearly draw the line between truth and fiction," he said.

Future of Truth Conference
speakers include:

Ravi Zacharias, a noted evangelist who has spoken at Harvard, Princeton and Oxford; addressed writers of the peace accord in South Africa, President Fujimori's cabinet and parliament in Peru and military officers at the Lenin Military Academy and the Center for Geopolitical Strategy in Moscow; and served as visiting scholar at Cambridge University. He has authored "Can Man Live without God," "Jesus Among Other Gods," "The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha," "Sense and Sensuality: Jesus Talks with Oscar Wilde" and "Light in the Shadow of Jihad." His message at the Future of Truth Conference is on The Loss of Truth and a Proposal for Its Recovery.

William Lane Craig, a research professor at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Birmingham, England, before taking a doctorate in theology from the Ludwig Maximilians Universitat-Munchen, Germany, where he was for two years a Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, writing on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. He spent seven years at the Katholike Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. He has authored or edited over 30 books, including "Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus," "Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?" (with John Dominic Crossan), and "Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment?" (with Gerd Ludemann), as well as numerous articles in professional journals such as "New Testament Studies," "Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Expository Times" and "Kerygma und Dogma." At the conference, he will speak on The Historicity and Significance of the Resurrection.

Phillip Johnson, professor of law at University of California at Berkeley and popular expert on creationism. In addition to speaking at conferences all over the world, Johnson has authored many publications including "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds," "Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education," "Darwin on Trial" and many others. He will speak on The Right Questions about Creation and Evolution.

Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of The Moody Church and a sought-after speaker at leadership and church conferences. Dr. Lutzer is also an award-winning author of more than 20 books and the featured speaker on three radio programs broadcast around the world: "The Moody Church Hour," "Songs in the Night" and "Running to Win." His books include "The Da Vinci Deception," "The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage," "Christ Among Other gods," "One Minute After You Die" and "Hitler's Cross." Dr. Lutzer will present on The Right Jesus.

Emir Caner, popular author of eight books including "Christian Jihad," "Unveiling Islam," "More Than a Prophet" and "The Sacred Trust." Presently, "Unveiling Islam" has sold more than 100,000 copies. Caner received a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies from The Criswell College, a master's of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate of philosophy in history from the University of Texas at Arlington. Today, Caner is associate professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Seminary. At the conference, he will present on Islam.

Frank Peretti, author of the international bestsellers "The Oath" and "This Present Darkness," as well as numerous children's books. All together, his books have sold more than 10 million copies, and "The Oath" was awarded the 1996 ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best fiction. Though he is noted as an award-winning fiction writer, his first non-fiction work, "The Wounded Spirit," released in October 2000, and the adaptation of this best-selling title, "No More Bullies," was released in May 2003. His drama presentation for the conference is titled "The Chair - Living With or Without a Fixed Point of Reference."

The complete conference schedule and tickets are available at http://www.moodychurch.org/future or by calling 800-215-5001. Tickets are $26.

About The Moody Church

The Moody Church was founded in 1864 by Dwight Lyman Moody, a renowned evangelist and former president of the YMCA. Today, it is one of the most respected non-denominational, evangelical churches in the country, with Dr. Erwin Lutzer serving as senior pastor. The church is located in Chicago with outreach programs that span the world. For more information, please contact 312-943-0466 or visit http://www.moodychurch.org.

New Christian academy rejects creationism as 'rubbish'



A new Christian academy which unlike many church schools will operate a truly inclusive admission's policy has said that it will not be teaching creationism because such a view is 'rubbish'.

The Oasis Trust announced yesterday it was to become the latest organisation to establish one of the government's 200 new academy schools.

The Rev Steve Chalke, founding director of the Oasis Trust, told EducationGuardian.co.uk that it is planning to open the school in Enfield, north London, in September 2007. It will have a specialism in business and will be a faith-based academy, but will not teach the creationist view of the world.

He also insisted he would not be running the school independently of the local authority, as the benefactors of the academies are able to do. Without engaging the local authority and other interested agencies, he said, a new school in the area risks creating "sink" schools around it.

Last week, the government announced there would be 200 new academies developed over the next five years in areas where schools are failing. For each academy, an independent organisation donates £2m and the government puts in £200m to build it. The school is run by the donor outside of local authority control, but within national regulations.

The Oasis trust already helps to run a number of education, health and social welfare projects in England and around the world, said the vision for the academy is one that provides not only teaching for 11 to 18-year-olds in an area with a shortage of school places, but health and social care too.

The trust, which runs government-funded projects, but generally works from donations, says it can use some of its own funds to meet the £2m investment. "I'm going to run the marathon next year," said Mr Chalke. "The world record for fundraising from a marathon run is £1m for a single runner. I'm going to break the record."

Asked whether the academy would advocate the teaching of creationism, which has been taught alongside scientific explanations of how the world came into being at other academies sponsored by Christian organisations, he said: "No. We will develop an open and honest curriculum and we will not impose our views on anyone.

"My personal belief is that... those who wish to read into Genesis chapter one that God made the world in six days... are not being honest and scholarly. It won't be taught in the school because I think it's rubbish. It's a bizarre thing to claim the Bible suggests that. Genesis is saying that behind creation is a good God."

He added that the trust's charter included a phrase that prohibited them from "proselytising" or imposing their view of the world on anyone they work with.

He said that the organisation "wasn't interested" in running an independent school. "We want to operate very closely alongside the other schools and the local council and we've arranged the steering group to ensure that the leader of the council can always be there if he wants. We want the curriculum to be developed by the whole group.

"One of the problems we confront is that it's easy to start a brand new shiny school with money pumped into it which then turns other schools in the area into second or third choice... All they do is create a sink school. I fundamentally disagree with creating an oasis for some people, which create a desert for others."

Councillor Glynis Vince, cabinet member for education, at Enfield borough council, said: "I am delighted to hear that the plans for the academy are coming on well. This new school will give young people a real choice about where to study. In addition DfES funding for the feasibility studies will also enable us to involve the local community and other local schools in our plans."

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia

Canada Police Follow Up Visions in Search for Girl


Jul 12, 11:34 AM (ET)

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Police in Regina, Saskatchewan, are following up leads from visions of aboriginal elders to try to find a five-year-old girl who went missing from her home almost a week ago, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

Tips from the visions prompted police and volunteers to scour a creek and a marshy area near the airport of the Prairie city for Tamra Jewel Keepness, an native Indian girl whose family last saw her before she went to bed on July 5.

"Out of that respect for aboriginal culture, we will follow up frankly on any lead or any information, and we won't second-guess where it comes from or how it comes to people," Elizabeth Popowich of the Regina Police Service said in an interview with CBC television.

More than 8 percent of the 193,000 people in Regina are native Indians, according to Statistics Canada. It is one of the largest urban aboriginal communities in the country.

The search has focused on the inner-city neighborhood around the Keepness home.

Police have failed to turn up any evidence in the case, but continue to treat it as a missing persons investigation, Popowich said.

Bio book might be approved


The texts considered by Dover schools did not contain references to creationism.
For the Daily Record/Sunday News
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

On Aug. 2, the Dover Area School Board may vote to order a new biology book. Which book? The 2004 edition of the one they declined in June over its references to Darwinism.

The issue was discussed during Monday evening's school board meeting at North Salem Elementary School. About 20 people attended.

The book discussed last month was the 2002 edition of "Biology," published by Prentice Hall.

Assistant Supt. Michael Baksa said the new edition still meets state standards and teaches evolution. There are no references to creationism, he said.

"We looked at between six or eight books," Baksa said. "This one is still the first choice."

There were several reasons why the others were not selected, Baksa said, including readability, layout, and content as it related to curriculum.

He said neither creation nor intelligent design were a part of any books that were reviewed.

Baksa said in recent weeks, faculty members from the science department met with school board members sitting on the curriculum committee.

They talked about state standards and how those standards are met in the classroom.

Curriculum committee members are Bill Buckingham, Sheila Harkins and Carol "Casey" Brown.

After the meeting, Buckingham, who has opposed approving any book that does not teach creationism along with evolution, did not say if he would vote to approve the 2004 edition.

"You're trying to get me in trouble by asking," he said.

"If you want to know how I'll vote, come to the next meeting."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Will Compasses Point South?



Published: July 13, 2004

Michael Okoniewski for The New York Times

Dr. John A. Tarduno, a professor of geophysics at the Univeristy of Rochester, suggests that a reversal of the Earth's magnetic field may be overdue.

The collapse of the Earth's magnetic field, which both guards the planet and guides many of its creatures, appears to have started in earnest about 150 years ago. The field's strength has waned 10 to 15 percent, and the deterioration has accelerated of late, increasing debate over whether it portends a reversal of the lines of magnetic force that normally envelop the Earth.

During a reversal, the main field weakens, almost vanishes, then reappears with opposite polarity. Afterward, compass needles that normally point north would point south, and during the thousands of years of transition, much in the heavens and Earth would go askew.

A reversal could knock out power grids, hurt astronauts and satellites, widen atmospheric ozone holes, send polar auroras flashing to the equator and confuse birds, fish and migratory animals that rely on the steadiness of the magnetic field as a navigation aid. But experts said the repercussions would fall short of catastrophic, despite a few proclamations of doom and sketchy evidence of past links between field reversals and species extinctions.

Although a total flip may be hundreds or thousands of years away, the rapid decline in magnetic strength is already damaging satellites.

Last month, the European Space Agency approved the world's largest effort at tracking the field's shifts. A trio of new satellites, called Swarm, are to monitor the collapsing field with far greater precision than before and help scientists forecast its prospective state.

"We want to get some idea of how this would evolve in the near future, just like people trying to predict the weather," said Dr. Gauthier Hulot, a French geophysicist working on the satellite plan. "I'm personally quite convinced we should be able to work out the first predictions by the end of the mission."

The discipline is one of a number - like high-energy physics and aspects of space science - where Europeans have recently come from behind to seize the initiative, dismaying some American experts.

No matter what the new findings, the public has no reason to panic, scientists say. Even if a flip is imminent, it might take 2,000 years to mature. The last one took place 780,000 years ago, when Homo erectus was still learning how to make stone tools.

Some experts suggest a reversal is overdue. "The fact that it's dropping so rapidly gives you pause," said Dr. John A. Tarduno, a professor of geophysics at the University of Rochester. "It looks like things we see in computer models of a reversal."

In an interview, Dr. Tarduno put the odds of an impending flip at more likely than not, adding that some of his colleagues were placing informal bets on the possibility but realized they would probably be long gone by the time the picture clarified.

Deep inside the Earth, the magnetic field arises as the fluid core oozes with hot currents of molten iron and this mechanical energy gets converted into electromagnetism. It is known as the geodynamo. In a car's generator, the same principle turns mechanical energy into electricity.

No one knows precisely why the field periodically reverses, but scientists say the responsibility probably lies with changes in the turbulent flows of molten iron, which they envision as similar to the churning gases that make up the clouds of Jupiter.

In theory, a reversal could have major effects because over the ages many aspects of nature and society have come to rely on the field's steadiness.

When baby loggerhead turtles embark on an 8,000-mile trek around the Atlantic, they use invisible magnetic clues to check their bearings. So do salmon and whales, honeybees and homing pigeons, frogs and Zambian mole rats, scientists have found.

On a planetary scale, the magnetic field helps shield the Earth from solar winds and storms of deadly particles. Its so-called magnetosphere extends out 37,000 miles from Earth's sunlit side and much farther behind the planet, forming a cometlike tail.

Among other things, the field's collapse, scientists say, could let in bursts of radiation, causing a variety of disruptions.

God Rocks!


Posted on Thursday, July 1, 2004. The following was culled from articles in Grand Canyon: a Different View, edited by Tom Vail and published by Master Books last year. Last summer the National Park Service approved the book, which presents a creationist view of the formation of the Grand Canyon, for sale in park bookstores and gift shops. In July three bronze plaques bearing biblical verses were reinstated to public viewing areas on the Canyon's South Rim, despite advice from the Interior Department that such religious displays violate the First Amendment. Last fall the National Park Service blocked the publication of a memo for park rangers noting that creationism lacked any scientific basis. Originally from Harper's Magazine, April 2004. Sources

The Grand Canyon is an awesome display of God's creation and a place to find and explore the wonders of His creation. If we visit the Canyon, or read the prevailing interpretive literature about it, we will find that the views presented are predominantly based on evolutionary theories. These theories tend to deny God's involvement and often His very existence. When viewed from a biblical perspective, however, the Canyon has "God" written all over it. Not only is the Canyon a testimony to creation but it also presents evidence of God's judgment of a world broken by the sin of man, known as "the Fall," as told in the book of Genesis.

Based on the lineages laid out in the Bible, God created the heavens and earth and everything in them in six literal days about 6,000 years ago. Contrary to what is widely believed, radioactive dating has not proven the rocks of the Grand Canyon to be millions of years old. The vast majority of the sedimentary layers in the Grand Canyon were deposited as the result of a global flood that occurred after and as a result of the initial sin that took place in the Garden of Eden. As the great post-Flood continents and mountains began to rise from the waters of a global deluge (Genesis 8:3?5), a huge chasm was formed that is now the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Inland waters, rushing down to the newly deepened ocean basin, rapidly excavated the 5,000-foot-deep layers of mud, silt, and sand that had been deposited during the year of the Flood. And the fossils found in the rock layers are remnants of the plants and animals that perished in the Flood.

Many in the secular and Christian worlds have claimed that the Flood described in the Bible was just a local event (or even myth). However, the God of the Bible made a covenant between Himself and the earth. He promised that whenever a rainbow appeared, it would be a reminder that He would never again bring such a flood on the earth. If Noah's flood was just a local event, then it means that God breaks His promise every time a flood occurs somewhere on earth.

In the book of Joshua, from the Old Testament, the Lord commanded Joshua to build a memorial of twelve stones to remind fathers to teach their children what the Lord had done. The "stones" of the Grand Canyon are also a memorial, a memorial placed there by God to remind fathers to teach their children what He has done—that as a result of sin He judged the earth with a global Flood. The canyon is a grand cathedral, carved in the rocks by water that has eroded, fluted, and polished the walls into shapes fitting for a cathedral. Nowhere else on earth is there such compelling evidence of a young earth that was inundated by a global Flood.

Fossils tell a story, but the story we "read" depends on the "glasses" we are wearing when we do the examination. If we wear our evolutionary glasses, we will get one story. But if we have on our biblical glasses, which allow us to see biblical truth, we will get a very different story. So what kind of story do fossils tell and why is it significant? The first and most significant issue is that fossils represent death! With our biblical glasses on, death comes into the world as the result of man's sin against God. If fossils are in layers millions of years old, then how do we account for all the death, disease, and destruction found in the fossil record if those fossils were formed before the Fall? Genesis 3:18 says that thorns and thistles were a direct consequence of sin. How do we account for the fossils of thorns found deep within the geologic record if they are a result of man's sin? If God declared the world very good, which He did at the end of the creation week, could that have included such things as cancer and arthritis, which we also find in the fossil record? As Dr. Duane Gish's book title says, Evolution: The Fossils STILL Say No!

As you travel through the Canyon, you will at some point reach bedrock, that hard layer where you can go down no farther. Your travel through life is much the same—at some point the only way is to look up. Some may question using the Bible as a science and/or history book. But who better to write the instruction manual on the life and history of the universe than God? He created it all! Unlike secular geologists, creationist geologists don't need to speculate about history, because we accept the eyewitness accounts preserved in a reliable written record—the Bible. Man's theories continually change as more scientific "facts" come to light. Yet God has never had to revise His book, because in it there are no mistakes. You can trust God's Word.

This is God Rocks!, a reading, originally from April 2004, published Thursday, July 1, 2004. It is part of Education, which is part of Readings, which is part of Harpers.org.

An open letter to the Prince of Wales: with respect, your highness, you've got it wrong


BMJ 2004;329:118 (10 July), doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7457.118



Twenty years ago, on the 150th anniversary of the BMA, you were appointed its president and used your position to admonish my profession for its complacency. You also used this platform to promote "alternative" medicine. Shortly after that I had the privilege of meeting you at a series of colloquia organised to debate the role of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Of course, you won't remember me but the event is indelible in my memory. I was the only one of my colleagues unequivocally to register dissent.

A few days later you had a four page supplement in the London Evening Standard, promoting unproven cures for cancer, and the paper invited me to respond. I requested the same space but was only allowed one page, which at the last minute was cut by a quarter to make space for an advert for a new release by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Furthermore, the subeditors embarrassed me with the banner headline, "With respect your Highness, you've got it wrong" (13 August 1984). As I have nothing more to lose I'm happy for that headline to grace the BMJ today.

Over the past 20 years I have treated thousands of patients with cancer and lost some dear friends and relatives along the way to this dreaded disease. I guess that for most of my patients their first meeting with me was as momentous and memorable as mine was with you.

The power of my authority comes with a knowledge built on 40 years of study and 25 years of active involvement in cancer research. I'm sensitive to the danger of abusing this power and, as a last resort, I know that the General Medical Council (GMC) is watching over my shoulder to ensure I respect a code of conduct with a duty of care that respects patients' dignity and privacy and reminds me that my personal beliefs should not prejudice my advice.

Your power and authority rest on an accident of birth. Furthermore, your public utterances are worthy of four pages, whereas, if lucky, I might warrant one. I don't begrudge you that authority and we probably share many opinions about art and architecture, but I do beg you to exercise your power with extreme caution when advising patients with life threatening diseases to embrace unproven therapies. There is no equivalent of the GMC for the monarchy, so it is left either to sensational journalism or, more rarely, to the quiet voice of loyal subjects such as myself to warn you that you may have overstepped the mark. It is in the nature of your world to be surrounded by sycophants (including members of the medical establishment hungry for their mention in the Queen's birthday honours list) who constantly reinforce what they assume are your prejudices. Sir, they patronise you! Allow me this chastisement.

Last week I had a sense of déjà vu, when the Observer (27 June) and Daily Express (28 June) newspapers reported you promoting coffee enemas and carrot juice for cancer. However, much has changed since you shocked us out of our complacency 20 years ago. The GMC is reformed and, as part of this revolution, so has our undergraduate teaching. Students are taught the importance of the spiritual domain but also study the epistemology of medicine or, in simpler words, the nature of proof.

Many lay people have an impressionistic notion of science as a cloak for bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth. The scientific method is based on the deductive process that starts with the humble assumption that your hypothesis might be wrong and is then subjected to experiments that carry the risk of falsification. This approach works. For example in my own specialism, breast cancer, we have witnessed a 30% fall in mortality since 1984, resulting from a worldwide collaboration in clinical trials, accompanied by improvements in quality of life as measured by psychometric instruments.

You promote the Gerson diet whose only support comes from inductive logic—that is, anecdote. What is wrong with anecdote, you may ask? After all, these are real human interest stories. The problems are manifold but start with the assumption that cancer has a predictable natural history. "The patient was only given six months to live, tried the diet, and lived for years." This is an urban myth. With advanced breast cancer the median expectation of life might be 18 months, but many of my patients live for many years longer, with or without treatment.

I have always advocated the scientific evaluation of CAM using controlled trials. If "alternative" therapies pass these rigorous tests of so called "orthodox" medicine, then they will cease to be alternative and join our armamentarium. If their proponents lack the courage of their convictions to have their pet remedies subjected to the hazards of refutation then they are the bigots who will forever be condemned to practise on the fringe.

I have much time for complementary therapy that offers improvements in quality of life or spiritual solace, providing that it is truly integrated with modern medicine, but I have no time at all for "alternative" therapy that places itself above the laws of evidence and practises in a metaphysical domain that harks back to the dark days of Galen.

Many postmodern philosophers would have us believe that all knowledge is relative and that the dominance of one belief system is determined by the power of its proponents. However, perhaps we should all remain cognisant of the words of the Nobel laureate Jacques Monod: "Personal self satisfaction is the death of the scientist. Collective self satisfaction is the death of the research. It is restlessness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, agony of mind that nourish science." Please, your royal highness, help us nourish medical science by sharing our agony.

Michael Baum, professor emeritus of surgery and visiting professor of medical humanities

University College London



09:30 - 13 July 2004

Last week leading cancer expert Professor Michael Baum criticised the Prince of Wales for embracing "unproven therapies".

Yet 20 per cent of the population now use alternative therapies, spending more than £500m every year. Joanna Hill gauges reaction to the latest twist in the debate.

About 20 years ago, Ronald Gill was told the devastating news that his son Roger had cancer.

It was Hodgkin's Disease, a treatable cancer of the lymphatic system.

Roger was in his early 20s and an apprentice at Rolls-Royce.

Just before his son's diagnosis, Mr Gill (82), of Amber Road, Allestree had attended a conference on nutrition where the benefits of Vitamin C had been discussed.

He persuaded Roger to take the vitamin and he reckons the outcome was remarkable.

"It cured him within a few weeks," he said.

Mr Gill cannot remember if his son, who died 10 years later from an unrelated illness, received conventional care for cancer chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But he is adamant that this would have been the likely course of action had vitamin C not cured it.

It is the sort of belief that worries leading cancer expert Professor Michael Baum, of University College London. Last week he criticised Prince Charles for promoting alternative therapies.

Professor Baum was particularly incensed that the prince had told a conference in June that he knew a woman who had beaten cancer after going on the Gerson diet which involves eating large amounts of vegetables and fruit and having enemas on a daily basis.

In an open letter to the prince in the British Medical Journal, Professor Baum wrote: "You promote the Gerson diet whose only support comes from inductive logic - that is anecdote."

He added: "I do beg you to exercise your power with extreme caution when advising patients with life-threatening diseases to embrace unproven therapies."

However, a spokesman for the Prince of Wales denied that he had been promoting the treatment.

"He is simply reflecting the wishes of 80 per cent of cancer patients who want to use alternative treatments alongside conventional treatments," he said.

Part of the problem is that there has not been enough research done to convince doctors that alternative medicine is effective.

There have been a few trials with promising results. Many trials have shown that acupuncture can reduce nausea after operations and that homeopathy can subdue hayfever.

Dr John Grenville, secretary of the Derbyshire Local Medical Committee, has been a GP for 22 years. In that time he says more and more of his patients have wanted to try alternative medicine. He too is concerned.

He remembers one patient who was being treated for water retention by a herbalist when she actually had a huge ovarian cyst.

"If a patient wants to try the alternative health option then I will discuss it with them and try to help them understand that it is only complementary. I would never encourage them to back out of mainstream medicine," he said.

Debbie Jackson, spokeswoman for Central and Greater Derby said: "It's clear that a lot of people do find complementary medicine useful, but it shouldn't be seen as an alternative to mainstream medicine."

But the medical profession cannot overlook the growing popularity of complementary therapy. Many people believe in it, and more and more are training as therapists.

Dr Grenville is concerned that the industry is not regulated enough.

"There needs to be more regulation and more trials so we understand how it is supposed to work," he said.

"Although there have been some improvements it is still not as regulated as mainstream medicine."

It is true that virtually anyone can set themselves up, but practitioners say that in reality there is a lot of regulation within their own industry."

Treatments like chiropractics and osteopathy are regulated by acts of Parliament, while therapies like Acupuncture and Homeopathy have self-regulating councils which demand that practitioners have to train for a number of years as well as undergo assessments.

The Government has published proposals to further regulate the industry.

Under the plans, a new Complementary and Alternative Medicine Council (CAM) would be set up to regulate practitioner of acupuncture and herbal medicine.

So it is unlikely that Professor Baum's pronouncements will stop people turning to alternative health - whether it is a special diet, vitamins or needles.

Real belief in treatments

"I'm on Prince Charles' side," says alternative health practitioner Christine Fadley.

Mrs Fadley has been practising acupuncture and kinesiology at Alt Medic Therapy in Bearwood Hill Road, Burton for about a year and has been involved in alternative health for about a decade.

She believes the therapies should be complementary to mainstream medicine but is a great believer that they have preventative powers.

For example, she says kinesiology, which uses muscle testing to find out what is wrong with a person, is particularly good at addressing gut problems.

Mrs Fadley reckons that all alternative health has its place, including less conventional methods, such as crystal healing.

And she says the industry is "phenomenally regulated" through bodies such as the British Acupuncture Council.

She thinks it would be a bad move to integrate NHS and alternative care because she feels there is a lack of understanding from mainstream medics.

As far as treating patients with such serious diseases as cancer is concerned, she would go mainstream.

"I'm certainly not going to say, 'Don't carry on with your specialist NHS care'," she said. "We're complementary."

Ex-Viking Smith talks like he ran: Straight ahead


Posted on Tue, Jul. 13, 2004


Pioneer Press Columnist

Robert Smith helped out at a football camp last month. One of the other helpers was Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams, who had shorn off his locks and gone with the shaved-head look. During a Q&A session, one of the campers asked Williams, "Yo, what's up with the 'do?''

Williams shot back at the camper, "Is that the way to ask a question?''

The camper rephrased his question, asking politely about Williams' new haircut.

If only more people would rephrase, or better yet, ask questions that do not mangle the English language. The world might not be a better place, but at the very least, it would be easier to understand what's being said.

"Ricky is really down to earth. We think the same way on a lot of issues," Smith said. "If you let kids get away with that (mangled English), they'll get away with it."

You might remember Smith as a fine running back for the Vikings who retired after the 2000 season. There's so much more to this still-young man of 32 than his football background. Sometimes aloof as a player, Smith is opening up in a self-published book he has titled, "The Rest of the Iceberg: An Insider's View on the World of Sport And Celebrity."

Copies are printed on demand, and the first batch will be out next week. Smith tried getting a major publisher, but he learned that publishers are tougher to crack than most defenses.

"The answer I got was, 'Who are you?' '' Smith said. "My name wasn't big enough to print a book.''

It's too bad; Smith has plenty to say. On Monday he talked about the concerns he has with the attitude and behavior of members of the black community.

"Too much of the black community has tried to blame outside forces for what goes on in the black community,'' said Smith, who is black. "Too many young black kids think the way to make money is to sell drugs, rap or be an athlete. The media isn't doing a good enough job. The black community isn't doing a good enough job. Everyone knows the center for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kids can roll off stats for an athlete as if their life depended on it, but they don't know who the presidents were.''

Smith agrees with actor Bill Cosby, who ripped into the black community earlier this month when he told a group of activists in Chicago that some black children "think they're hip."

"They can't read, they can't write," Cosby said. "They're going nowhere.''

Said Smith: "We teach creationism and kids can't even spell. They don't realize there's a real world out there. Then they try to get a job and run into a brick wall. They turn to crime. They turn to drugs.''

Smith believes many children, and not just black children, are too heavily influenced by athletes and hip hop artists.

"I have nothing against hip hop,'' he said.

He's against the language and behavior it promotes.

"It's not the way to carry yourself in our society or in the real world,'' Smith said. "There's not a hip-hop doctor. By the time some of them outgrow it, it's already too late."

Smith believes race issues exist on both sides.

"People in the black community aren't saying anything and white people who say something are called racist," he said. "Until blacks talk honestly about blacks without being called sellouts or Uncle Toms, and whites can talk honestly, we won't get anywhere.''

Smith sure seems to be talking honestly, including when he says it is good for children to see athletes fail or get into trouble with the law.

"Society is so obsessed with athletes, celebrities, actors and rappers that it has really been detrimental,'' Smith said. "Athletes in trouble are good for children because it shows athletes aren't perfect and aren't above the law. It's far worse for a kid to see his father hit his mother than hear an athlete got a DUI.''

Smith also has something to say about people worried about what he calls "surface issues."

"There are complaints about SUVs having an impact on pollution," he said, "but there isn't talk about people having 10 kids and creating a need for the energy we use.

"People aren't seeing things from different angles.''

Smith wants to do something about the things that bother him, so he has considered running for his local school board. Asked why he wouldn't aspire to be enter national politics and widen the swath of his message, he said, "Smart-mouth atheists don't make it on the ballot too often.''

But sometimes they do make a lot of sense.

Bob Sansevere can be reached at bsansevere@pioneerpress.com.

KBOE candidates square off on evolution

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=12313749&BRD=1160&PAG=461&dept_id=190958&rfi=6 July 12, 2004 Republican candidates for the 6th District Kansas Board of Education seat squared off over the issue of teaching evolution in public schools during appearances together at the Business and Professional Women's candidate forum at the American Legion Sunday afternoon.

Kathy Martin, whose literature doesn't mention her position on the issue, said evolution should not be taught as fact but as a theory in public schools along with the theory of "intelligent design."

Her opponent, incumbent Bruce Wyatt, said evolution is the standard agreed on in the scientific community and should be the standard taught, warning that any change would compromise the academic standards of Kansas' schools.

```Intelligent design' is another theory of origin," Martin told the crowd, "and is accepted by professors around the U.S."

She said humans couldn't have come from the random mixing of chemicals and that the codes found in DNA implies design. She drew a distinction between micro evolution, changes within a species, and macro evolution which holds that all life came from the same source.

"Intelligent design is not an accepted scientific theory at this point," Wyatt told the crowd. "Maybe it will be at another time, but 27 Kansas scientists and educators who advise (the board) say evolution is the standard."

Wyatt said all theories have validity, but that evolution remains the standard. "It's not a matter of not believing in God," Wyatt said. "My son will learn about creation, but not in a science class."

He said offering multiple theories about the origin of life would confuse children and that the state's schools should "keep the science in science."

©Clay Center Dispatch 2004

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Fire-walkers treated for burns


Twenty-eight people have been treated for burns during a fire-walking event in New Zealand.

Eleven of the 28 were taken to hospital in Dunedin where they were treated for superficial burns and blistering.

They were among 341 people who thought they were creating a new world record for fire-walking.

But a spokeswoman for Guinness said the fire-walking record is judged on distance, and not on numbers taking part.

The event was run by the New Zealand International Science Festival as a fund-raiser for the Order of St John, says the Stuff website.

A spokeswoman for the Order said people had a free will and could decide whether or not to walk across the coals.

Festival director Emma Ramsay Brown said: "We certainly didn't want to cause any pain for people".

NTS Continuing Series: What Happens When Cousins Marry

Prince warns of science 'risks'

The Prince of Wales has warned of the possible risks of nanotechnology and called for the cutting edge science to be used "wisely and appropriately". In the Independent on Sunday he quotes a retired university professor saying it would be "surprising" if it did not "offer similar upsets" to thalidomide.

Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of materials one-millionth the size of a pinhead.

Prince Charles' concerns about nanotechnology sparked a row last year.

Although his comments have been broadly welcomed by scientists, many feel his reference to thalidomide was "inappropriate and irrelevant".

'Grey goo'

In the paper he writes: "My first gentle attempt to draw the subject to wider attention resulted in 'Prince fears grey goo nightmare' headlines."

He says he never used the expression "grey goo", adding: "I do not believe that self-replicating robots, smaller than viruses, will one day multiply uncontrollably and devour our planet. "Such beliefs should be left where they belong, in the realms of science fiction."

The Prince acknowledges nanotechnology is a "triumph of human ingenuity".

"Some of the work may have fundamental benefits to society, such as enabling the construction of much cheaper fuel-cells, or new ways of combating ill-health," he says.

But he adds: "How are we going to ensure that proper attention is given to the risks that may... ensue?

'Rose-tinted script'

"Discovering the secrets of the Universe is one thing; ensuring that those secrets are used wisely and appropriately is quite another.

"What exactly are the risks attached to each of the techniques under discussion, who will bear them, and who will be liable if and when real life fails to follow the rose-tinted script?"

He expressed concern that only an estimated 5% of the EU's nanotechnology research budget is being spent on "examining the environmental, social and ethical dimension".

"That certainly doesn't inspire confidence," he writes.

'No parallel'

Professor Ken Donaldson, professor of respiratory toxicology at the University of Edinburgh, welcomed the Prince's intervention.

He said: "I agree that more research needs to be done and that risk assessment must keep pace with commercial development."

The Royal Society, with which the Royal Academy of Engineering is conducting a study on nanotechnology, also welcomed the article but criticised the thalidomide reference. Executive secretary Stephen Cox said: "The Prince cites one piece of evidence that warns of the possible risks that can be associated with new technologies and the need to address public concerns and interests.

"It is difficult to make a direct comparison with thalidomide as nanotechnology is not a new drug, but rather a set of tools and methods for working with materials at the scale of millionths of a millimetre."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/07/11 15:18:51 GMT

Charles accused of 'nano scare'

By Mark Prigg, Evening Standard Science Correspondent
12 July 2004

Scientists accused Prince Charles of causing an unfounded scare today over his latest warnings about the new science of nanotechnology.

Charles raised the spectre of the thalidomide crisis - when babies were born deformed due to the drug - to warn about the potential effects of nanotechnology, which involves manipulating atoms or molecules.

Fertility expert Lord Winston said it was "very unfortunate" that Charles was feeding a growing suspicion of science in society. Philip Moriarty, a nanoscience specialist from Nottingham University, said: "Why are we listening to Prince Charles? What are his scientific qualifications?"


Prince accused on science fears

Fertility expert Lord Winston has accused Prince Charles of raising unfounded scientific "scares" following comments he made in a newspaper. The Prince used an Independent on Sunday article to warn against the possible risks posed by nanotechnology.

Lord Winston told the BBC's Today programme it was "very unfortunate" the Prince had chosen to raise the spectre of a thalidomide-style disaster.

He added that "much more informed debate and dialogue" was needed.

In his article, the Prince acknowledged the "triumph of human ingenuity" involved in manipulating materials one-millionth the size of a pinhead. Nanotechnology is concerned with engineering objects and working devices from individual atoms and molecules.

But he quoted retired Cambridge University engineering professor John Carroll, who said it "would be surprising if nanotechnology did not offer similar upsets" as thalidomide, the morning-sickness drug which led to thousands of babies suffering birth defects.

'Troublesome' comments

"What is troublesome to me is that, again and again, there is a real opportunity for His Royal Highness - who I think is an honourable and nice man - to be helpful, and what is not happening is a careful discussion of the issues in science," Lord Winston told the BBC's Today programme - although he admitted he had yet to read the article directly.

"We are living in a very science-suspicious society and to raise these kinds of spectres without really quite explaining why he is so worried, I think, is very unfortunate.

"Yet again, it is another example of where he has raised science scares and yet hasn't justified raising them.

"What is needed is not this kind of criticism, but a much more informed debate and dialogue in society and I don't think he has added to that dialogue by making unformed accusations which are not understandable."

The Prince's comments come just weeks after he was criticised for promoting the possible benefits of alternative treatments for cancer - something that Lord Winston said had "badly damaged" patients by raising unnecessary anxieties.

"With the cancer thing, the truth is that Prince Charles has never justified any serious evidence that these alternative therapies for cancer actually work," Lord Winston continued.

"In consequence, many people may be very badly damaged because they are worried as a result and I think that is very, very unfortunate."

'Informed debate'

The environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, a close adviser of the Prince, told Today: "Prince Charles is calling for exactly the kind of informed intelligent debate that Lord Winston has recommended.

"He has suggested it should involve not just the elite of today's scientific establishment, but should also involve the general public, and more effort should be made to explain a very complex and technical area of concern.

"That, it seems to me, is a wholly legitimate contribution to the kind of debate that we all feel we now need."

Prince Charles' concerns about nanotechnology sparked a row last year.

In the paper he writes: "My first gentle attempt to draw the subject to wider attention resulted in 'Prince fears grey goo nightmare' headlines."

He says he never used the expression "grey goo", adding: "I do not believe that self-replicating robots, smaller than viruses, will one day multiply uncontrollably and devour our planet.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/07/12 12:35:25 GMT

From prayer to herbs Alternative medicine goes mainstream


By Helen Fields

Alternative medicine is looking more mainstream than alternative. According to a new government survey, over a third of American adults use some form of nontraditional medicine. What the researchers wanted to know: How many Americans use complementary and alternative medicine? What therapies do they use? And why?

What they did: This is government work, so there are a lot of long titles involved. Researchers at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed part of the 2002 data from the National Health Interview Survey, for which more than 30,000 adults answered questions about their health and healthcare. The survey, which is designed to get a representative sample of Americans, has been going on for decades, collecting reams of data on the health of Americans.

What they found: Over a third of adults had used some form of nontraditional medicine in the previous 12 months. If you count people who use prayer specifically for better health, the proportion goes up to 62 percent.

Forty-three percent of adults pray specifically for their own health, and nearly 25 percent have someone else pray for them. After prayer, the most commonly used therapies were natural products (including herbs), 19 percent; deep breathing, 12 percent; taking part in a health prayer group, 10 percent; meditation, 8 percent; chiropractic, 8 percent; yoga, 5 percent; massage, 5 percent; and diet-based therapies (including Atkins and Zone diets), 4 percent. Most people who use complementary and alternative therapies say they do so because they think that combining those therapies with conventional medicine will help; half of all people try alternative medicine because they think it's interesting to try. Who cares: I do. Don't you? Doctors should care that nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults are taking "natural products"â€"and remember to ask their patients if they're taking any dietary supplements, which may interact with prescription or over-the-counter drugs. The caveats: The data come from a survey, so people could be lying about the treatments they've tried. Also, these data are only about one point in time; they don't say anything about how alternative medicine usage is changing over time.

Find out more: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (http://nccam.nih.gov) has this study and health resources on complementary and alternative medicine.

Information about the National Health Interview Survey is at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm. This study is posted there, too. Retired psychiatrist Stephen Barrett is extremely skeptical about alternative medicine and has the website to prove it: www.quackwatch.com.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Honest debate needed on creationism, evolution


Sunday, July 11, 2004

As the debate about teaching creationism in public schools continues, there are a few points that I wish were understood. Thoughtful and civil dialogue must be fair and factual; around this topic, much is said that is not true. Here are a few thoughts that might keep the discussion fruitful.

We must admit that no single view of science can be claimed to be the "true" or only one, as if Darwinist evolution is real fact and anti-Darwinists are frauds. There are extraordinary scientists who disagree about everything from fossil evidence to transitional forms; the foundational claim of Darwin — the un-provable notion that the beginning of life happened from nothing by chance — is as much of a metaphysical belief as is the biblical one.

One's views of origins are by definition pre-scientific in nature. Choose your faith — atheistic naturalism or the belief in the Hebrew creation story (or yet something else) but don't imply that those who don't agree with Darwin are necessarily bad scientists. There are many scientists (including some with deep religious faith) who try to make a good case for Darwinist evolution, and there are those who try to argue in a compelling way that the data necessarily leads to an intelligent design. Let's be honest about the debate and be clear about what the facts are and aren't. Darwinist claims are under attack from all sorts of quarters and seem to be falling out of favor among many scientists. (Which is to say, Darwinism is simply not a proven fact.)

Secondly, the matter that faces school districts is one of educational policy. Believe what you want about the credibility of macro-evolution and Darwin's naturalism; it is important that we discuss educational policy in terms of educational justice, not which ideology will rule the roost. Public schools are not allowed to establish a religion, and no one wants that, not even conservative Christians. The question should be asked and answered in terms of what is good education and just public policy.

A word to those advocating for inclusion of a creationist view in the textbooks: don't make your case in terms of "loving Jesus" or obeying the Bible, since many people in the public do not care about such things. Rather, your concern is a matter of educational fairness and scientific integrity. Make your case that your proposals are in the best interest of students, sound educational policy and truthfulness, and back off the rhetoric of wanting to please the lord. Such language in the public debate tends to worry your opponents and you would be wise to explain that you don't intend to dishonor the Constitution or impose Christian convictions on anyone.

And a recommendation for the critics of creationism: Don't confuse the issue by implying that those who want a plurality of views represented want to break down the wall of separation between church and state — nobody wants a theocracy here and the pro-creationist folks are not asking for anyone to start a church with public monies. That is a diversion from the real debate about educational fairness and scientific honesty. While it would be unjust to insist that a Judeo-Christian faith perspective be exclusively taught, it is equally unjust for a secularized, Darwinist faith perspective to be exclusively taught. Don't attack the pro-creationists for wanting their views represented since you obviously want yours represented.

Rejecting the assumption of neutrality— as if there are just raw, uncontested facts— and teaching a variety of views seems not only fair but educationally valuable. The fancy word for this is pluralism, and it is the backbone of any just policy. Since there are a variety of worldviews and contested ideas about the nature of reality, schools should give them a fair hearing. No religious proselytizing should go on in schools, of course, but that means there ought not be a hegemony of one secularized view, either. An educationally vibrant and fair-minded commitment to principled pluralism would go a long way to showing that our schools really are inclusive of the convictions of the public, that they are educationally open-minded, and that they intend to equip children to be critical thinkers, aware of the philosophic and scientific debates of our time, guiding them to be tolerant and insightful citizens.

This option of educational pluralism and honesty about the differences among us is full of potential not only for the debate about the scientific credibility of Darwinism. Think of the fun debates and deep learning that could happen if students really grapple with the most profound matters of our time: Is being anti-war unpatriotic? What makes a painting worthwhile? How does one evaluate the capitalist notion that greed is good? Ought history be taught from the point of view of the powerful or perhaps ought the poor and oppressed be heard? What sort of novels ought to be read and why? And how does one know anything, really?

If education is about learning, surely our students will have to become mature thinkers; our teachers will have to be adept at offering the biggest picture possible for the very meaning of schooling, what Neil Postman called "the end of education." If we have noble and worthwhile ends (or to use the current lingo, outcomes) for our children's schooling, our educators will have to be imaginative enough to handle the fact that there are — gasp! — different views of nearly everything out there. Such educators will surely find it helpful to be honest about the debates about Darwinism. I find it inexplicable that anyone would want it any other way.

Byron Borger resides in Dallastown.

More embrace alternative medicine


Published: July 11, 2004

By Kelly Kearsley

The Bulletin

Ardee Baxter's back rose slowly up and down Friday morning as Jim Hauser, a licensed acupuncturist, tapped several needles into the muscle in an effort to reduce the pain that's been plaguing the Bend woman for two years.

Before beginning acupuncture in March, Baxter had tried a host of other treatments including chiropractic, physical therapy and cortisone injections. Acupuncture is the only treatment that's provided extended relief from the pinching feeling in her shoulder and pain in her neck and back.

"I like that it fixed me," Baxter said. "I don't quite understand it ... but I will definitely go to it when I have (back pain)."

In Central Oregon and around the nation, the number of patients seeking out what doctors call complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been increasing.

Locally, physicians say patients routinely ask questions about CAM and the number of alternative medicine providers, specifically acupuncturists, has grown significantly in the past several years.

Around the state, some hospitals offer a handful of CAM treatment options, and Oregon Health & Science University is teaching CAM to its medical students.

So what is it?

CAM is a group of diverse health care treatments or practices that are not considered part of conventional medicine, according to The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a part of the National Institutes of Health.

It can range from treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic and massage to the use of herbs, supplements and even prayer or meditation for better health.

For many of the therapies, there is still little scientific evidence as to why they may work and whether they are safe, according to the NCCAM. Complementary medicine is used with conventional treatments, while alternative medicine is used in place of them.

CAM providers and patients say the treatments also focus more than conventional medicine on the connection between the mind and body, the importance of the physician-patient relationship and the ability of the body to heal itself.

"Wellness is a whole spectrum," said Dr. Wendy Kohatsu, an assistant professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. "The fact that your blood pressure and cholesterol may be good, doesn't always mean you are as healthy and happy as you could be."

Kohatsu is also the author of "Complementary and Alternative Medicine Secrets," a reference book on CAM.

More than one-third of adults in the United States use some form of CAM, according to a recent, government survey. People most often used the CAM to treat back, neck and joint pains, colds and anxiety or depression, the survey reported.

For Fred Saporito, a Bend resident, the CAM treatment helped him endure the side effects of the conventional treatments used to battle a malignant tumor in his brain. Saporito, 55, learned of his tumor six years ago.

He underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and used prescription drugs. But he also used acupuncture to lessen the nausea caused by the chemotherapy and meditation to relieve some of his tension and stress.

"(CAM) puts the patient back in the power of taking responsibility for their own health," Saporito said. "Most people just want a pill, but I wanted to be able to do something."

The ability to offer patients options outside of traditional medicine has also appealed to some local physicians, who now combine CAM with conventional treatments.

Dr. Chris Hatlestad, of the Mountain Laurel Center for the Healing Arts in Bend, said he grew tired of not being able to help his patients.

"I began to look to complementary medicine as another tool to add to my bag of tricks," he said.

Hatlestad employs his conventional training and laboratory tests in diagnosing and treating his patients, as well as acupuncture and nutritional and herbal remedies.

For example, Hatlestad said that if someone comes to see him with a cold or virus, he may suggest trying the herbal treatment first, and then prescribe an antibiotic if that doesn't seem to work.

At Oregon Health & Science University, Kohatsu said a grant from the National Institutes of Health is making it possible to teach medical students more about CAM.

Students go to yoga and nutrition classes, learn about supplements and listen to lectures on topics such as how medicine focused on the mind-body connection affects the immune system. The grant is part of an effort to increase the new doctors' knowledge so they can respond better to their patients' questions.

"I have a lot of patients telling me that I'm the only doctor they've seen who will listen (to their questions about CAM) and not laugh," Kohatsu said.

"Patients want their doctors to be educated ... and we can help them make good choices about stuff."

People do need to tell their physicians if they are using CAM for many reasons.

For example, Harris, the Bend internist, said some herbal therapies may be dangerous if taken with other prescription medications.

For example, Gingko extract — taken by some people to improve their memory — can cause bleeding problems and make it difficult for blood to clot if taken with a blood-thinning drug.

And regardless of their interest, people may be hindered in seeking complementary and alternative therapies if they can't afford it. Insurance coverage for CAM varies by plan.

Medicare offers some chiropractic coverage, but that's it for CAM. The Oregon Health Plan, the state's insurance plan for low-income people, may cover some therapies, depending on the condition the person is being treated for.

Angela Hult, spokeswoman for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, said the company has been offering plans that cover acupuncture and chiropractics for 20 years.

It doesn't cover homeopathic remedies, which use elements found in nature in very diluted forms, because the medications are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, she said.

At St. Charles Medical Center-Bend, Harris said, an inability to pay for services has limited the use of the hospital's acupuncturists, which have been on staff for less than a year.

The two, including Hauser, the acupuncturist who treated Baxter, offer their services to patients in the hospital's rehabilitation department. The services may be expanded to treat nausea in pregnant women and chemotherapy patients, Harris said.

"We (offer the services) on the basis of research," he said. "We are looking for how we can help patients get the best care, realizing that the evidence may not be perfect, though it's not always perfect in (Western medicine)."

Dr. Evelyn Brust, a Bend licensed naturopath, said she receives referrals from other physicians for patients interested in acupuncture or natural medicine. Naturopathic doctors are trained in natural medicine.

The ultimate goal, she said, is for patients to be able to make choices and have options for their health care.

"That is medicine at its absolute finest," she said.

Kelly Kearsley can be reached at 541-383-0348 or at kkearsley@bendbulletin.com.

East, West meet in wellness


Joelle Babula
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 10, 2004 12:00 AM

Chandler's Michelle Guarrasi uses acupuncture to relieve pain, yoga to ease stress and sometimes hypnosis to lose weight.

She now has a place where she can do all three, plus schedule her annual Pap test, have a session with a chiropractor and squeeze in a massage or belly-dancing class.

"It's just great to have everything in one place," said Guarrasi, 51, of the new Center for True Harmony Wellness & Medicine. "I was their very first patient on the very first day they opened. I'm so excited about all the different features the office has."

The center opened only two weeks ago and offers a combination of Western medicine, alternative therapies, mental health services, exercise classes and health-related workshops and seminars for men and women. Patients can choose to see a variety of health professionals, including an obstetrician and gynecologist, naturopathic doctors, a chiropractor, psychotherapist or even an aesthetician.

"I want everybody to find here those services or treatments they need to be the very best they can be," said obstetrician and gynecologist Christine Brass-Jones, who left a traditional practice to open the wellness center. "I want to help women create wellness for themselves so they can create wellness for their families."

Brass-Jones said she developed the idea for a comprehensive wellness center after she became frustrated while working in a traditional medical office.

"I felt like I was shuffling patients in and out and not really healing them or helping them get to the bottom of their problems," she said. "We can't just give people a pill for everything. We really have to dig deeper sometimes."

The center offers numerous services for women, but men can also receive medical care and alternative therapies at the facility.

Dr. Teresa Rada, a naturopathic physician at the center, specializes in family medicine, women's health and sports medicine. Rada, who is also a registered nurse, does acupuncture at the clinic as well.

"We try to take the best aspects of both conventional and alternative medicine and incorporate them into our treatment plans," Rada said. "Pretty much anything a person might need, we have somebody here that can do it."

Naturopathic physicians receive a four-year degree from an accredited medical school and use conventional testing and examination procedures. They are primarily trained in family practice and specialize in the use of natural therapies and remedies, such as acupuncture, the use of herbs and nutrition therapy. In some states, including Arizona, naturopathic doctors can prescribe conventional medications.

Guarrasi saw Rada and Brass-Jones for myriad problems related to diabetes, menopause, and joint and leg pain.

"We're all going to work together on a plan to get me better," she said. "We're going to find the root cause of the problems and really fix them. I don't just want to take a pill."

Patients at the center can also meet with a life coach, hypnotherapist, a natural fertility specialist, nutritionist and social worker. The center also offers baby-sitting for patients during their appointments, as well as a variety of exercise classes such as yoga and belly dancing.

The center is at 2152 S. Vineyard Ave. in Mesa. Medical appointments are available Monday through Friday, and other therapies, such as massage, are available on the weekends. For more information about exercise classes or seminars or to make an appointment: (480) 539-6646 or www.trueharmonywellness.com.

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