NEWS FROM THE YEAR 2000
by Dave Thomas : nmsrdaveATswcp.com (Help fight SPAM! Please replace the AT with an @ )
MSG Allergies over-rated?
Reuters Health reported on Dec. 29th that "In the largest study to-date looking at potential reactions to monosodium glutamate (MSG)--a flavor enhancer blamed for 'Chinese restaurant syndrome'--researchers could find no consistent or serious problems associated with the additive."
The Perfect Storm...on Jupiter
A Dec. 30th report from Reuters shows dramatic Cassini spacecraft pictures of storm evolution on the solar system's largest planet. "The new images of thunderstorms swirling across the solar system's largest planet suggest that the massive storms, which can run for centuries, draw their energy from absorbing smaller systems, Andrew Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology said."
Big Bend Fireball...NOT!
Spaceweather.com shows a Dec. 29th image of a lens flare in a web-cam of Big Bend State Park, suspiciously similar to previous images from the same camera claimed to be a "fireball."
Statisticians hand out year's-end awards...
The Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) on 27 Dec. announced its "Dubious Data: The Year's Worst Science Journalism" awards. The First Place Winner: The New York Times Aug. 19th report that "The North Pole is Melting," allegedly something that hasn't happened for 50 million years. It turns out that there is open water over the North Pole about 10% of the time during typical summers. Oops.
Step Away from your Cell Phone...Here come the Lawyers...
The Times (London) reported on Dec. 28th that "BRITISH mobile phone suppliers are facing a billion-dollar legal action brought by US brain tumour victims. The lawsuits, to be launched by one of Americas most successful lawyers, are the biggest legal assault on the mobile phone industry and will be the most extensive examination yet of claims that radiation from mobile phones causes cancer." The American lawyer is Peter Angelos, who recently won a $3,400,000,000 lawsuit against the tobacco industry.
Santa Fe Family Sees Jesus' Likeness On Log...
The Albuquerque Journal reported on 24 Dec. that a Santa Fe woman claimed "the image of Jesus seems to have transferred from a 'Last Supper' picture over her fireplace to a piece of firewood...." See the photo for yourself, and then decide.
Plants thrive on Martian Soil...
New Zealand scientists have successfully grown asparagus and potatoes from soil obtained by scraping dirt from Martian meteorites, as reported in the Dec. 24th Observer (UK).
No Y2K this year, but this New Year's REALLY BRINGS the New Millennium!
The party was a year ago, but the Real Event - the Dawn of the Third Millennium - begins on Jan. 1, 2001.
Top Ten Science Stories of 2000...
The editors of Science have announced their picks for the top stories of the year. These include Genome Sequencing, RNA/ribosomes, Out of Africa, Plastic Electronics, Old Cells/New Tricks, Watery Solar System, Cosmic Microwave measurements, Hormone receptors, asteroid Eros flyby, and Quantum Curiosities. The ScienceDaily Dec. 22nd report also notes that "The Meltdown of the Year goes to the federal government's pursuit of Los Alamos physicist Wen Ho Lee. The award for Disappearing Discovery of the Year goes to Archaeoraptor, thought to be a novel combination of bird and dinosaur, but exposed as the combination of two different fossils."
Partial Solar Eclipse on Christmas Day...
Read all about it at http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/DailyNews/eclipse001221.html.
Get a great picture of what the eclipse will look like from your location at Heaven's Above,
Also visit Heaven's Above for International Space Station (ISS) and Iridium satellite sighting information for your area.
Bright passages of the ISS visible from Albuquerque, NM are slated for December 27th (6:20 PM MST), 28th (6:53 PM MST) and 29th (5:50 PM MST). Watch for them!
See : http://www.heavens-above.com/PassSummary.asp?lat=35.084&lng=-106.651&alt=0&loc=Albuquerque&TZ=MST&satid=25544
Rare Species turns out to be a Fraud...
The Age (Australia) reported on Dec. 18th that "An elusive and incredibly rare species of wild steer native to the mist-shrouded highlands of Cambodia and Vietnam is likely to be taken off the list of endangered fauna - never to return. The reason: the creature never existed at all. Like the Piltdown Man and other genuses that never were, Pseudonovibos spiralis should have a classification in the encyclopaedia of scientific hoaxes, according to French research. ... On the red list of the International Conservation Union, a database of imperilled wildlife revised and published just two months ago after four years' work, P. spiralis is categorised as a species with 'a very high risk of extinction in the wild' with a population of fewer than 2500 mature adults. But the linh duong never trod this or any other planet, say naturalist Arnoult Seveau of the Zoological Society of Paris, Herbert Thomas, a palaeontologist and bovid specialist at the College de France, and biochemist Alexandre Hassanin of the Paris-VI University. ... 'Pseudonovibos spiralis is simply a forgery,' the trio conclude in an article to be published next month."
Genetically-modified foods found NOT to hurt butterflies...
The Times (UK) reported on Dec. 14 about the "Threat that never was.They say "A laboratory study which suggested that GM crops harmed butterflies provoked protests across Europe. Now environmentalists are having to backtrack. ...In separate experiments conducted in cornfields in Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and Ontario, researchers from different universities found no significant differences between butterfly survival in areas planted with GM maize, and those planted with conventional crops. 'If there are any differences out there, they arent very profound,' said Richard Hellmich, an entymologist from the US Department of Agriculture, attached to Iowa State University."
New Study finds no link between Cell Phones and Cancer...
ABC News reported on Dec. 20th that "A study of nearly 900 cell phone users, conducted by the American Health Foundation and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, both in Manhattan, found no connection between using the phones and brain cancer. 'The data showed no correlation between the use of cell phones and the development of brain cancer. In addition, there was no association between the amount of cell phone usage and brain cancer,' writes lead author Joshua Muscat, of the American Health Foundation. ... 'I think this rules out a role for cellular phones as a cause of increasing brain cancer rates in the U.S.,' says Tim Byers, an epidemiologist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver,who was not connected with the research. ... But dont sign up for the 600-free-minutes-a-month plan quite yet. 'Clearly its a piece of good news,' says Louis Slesin of Microwave News, a bi-monthly newsletter covering radiation issues. 'But its only a very early snapshot of whats going on.' "
Ocean Found on Jupiter Moon?
Yahoo Science News reported on Dec. 17th that "Ganymede, the solar system's largest moon, appears to have a liquid,saltwater ocean deep beneath its cratered and fractured surface of solid ice, researchers said Saturday. With the new findings, Ganymede joins Europa and Callisto as yet another moon of Jupiter suspected to harbor underground water - a key ingredient for life."
Galileo Web site:http://galileo.jpl.nasa.gov
"Lost City" of Spires Found in Ocean
ABC News reported on Dec. 15 that "Oceanographers patrolling the mid-Atlantic in a miniature research submarine have stumbled onto a spectacular deep-sea garden of hot springs and towering spires they nicknamed the 'Lost City.' 'If this were on land,' Duke University geologist Jeff Karson said, 'it would be a national park.' ... some of the ghostly white mineral formations soar 180 feet the tallest undersea spires ever seen. Collectively, they cover an area larger than a football field on the flanks of a 14,000-foot mountain known as the Atlantic massif at 30 degrees north latitude."
Gene named after Monty Python gag..."I'm Not Dead Yet (INDY)"
On Dec. 15th, ABC News reported that "Mutation of a gene whimsically named 'Im not dead yet' can double the life span of fruit flies, a laboratory discovery that researchers said may lead to drugs to help people live longer and, perhaps, even lose weight....Researchers at the University of Connecticut Health Center have found that the life span of fruit flies was extended from an average of 37 days to 70 days when a gene was modified on a single chromosome. Some flies in the study lived 110 days...The long-life gene was named for a comical line 'Im not dead yet' from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Helfand said. The genes name was suggested by co-author Robert A. Reenan and has been shortened to 'Indy.'" Details are at http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/fruitfly001215.html .
Harvard Conference to discuss Healing Power of Prayer
On Dec. 15th, ABC News reported that "This weekend about 700 health professionals, clergy members, social workers and insurance providers will meet in Boston to discuss the power of prayer. Part of a growing merger of spirituality and the sciences, the sixth annual Spirituality and Healing in Medicine conference, sponsored by Harvard Medical School, brings these various groups together to discuss the integration of mind/body medicine into mainstream health care." Details are at http://abcnews.go.com/sections/living/DailyNews/prayerpower001214.html.
Scientist who faked data loses funding
The Boston Globe, on Nov. 21st, reported that "Dr. Evan Dreyer, a former Boston vision researcher, has been slapped with a 10-year cutoff of federal research funds for faking data in 1996 at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary." Details are at http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/326/metro/Scientist_who_faked_data_loses_funding+.shtml.
DNA Research Reveals New Bird Species In Colorado
On Dec. 11th, Science Daily and the USGS (United States Geological Survey) reported that "Neither a tree-dweller nor a night bird, and roughly the size of a chicken, the Gunnison sage-grouse is not a particularly secretive bird yet just recently has it been identified as a new species of bird. ... The new species is recognized in the December issue of the Wilson Bulletin, which includes a discussion of the genetics research that conclusively proved the species designation.." Details are at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001211075357.htm.
The Science of Snow
Lee Dye of ABC News reported on Dec. 13th that "...Temperature Is What Makes Each Flake Different." Details are at http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DyeHard/dyehard.html. Astrophysicist Ken Libbrecht's fascinating web site on snow crystals is at http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/ .
Another Bird/Dino FLAP
On Dec. 8th, ABC News reported that "One of the earliest birds ever found used its feathers to fly, Chinese scientists reported Thursday in a paper that other experts said laid to rest any ideas that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs. But scientists will probably continue to ruffle feathers over the origin-of-birds debate, which heats up every few months as reports come out on fossils of what look like birds." Details are at athttp://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/dinosaur_bird001207.html.
"Out of Africa" theory gets Mitochondrial Boost
On Dec. 6th, ABC News reported that "The 'Out of Africa' theory that modern man evolved there and spread across the world got a boost today with new research tracing humans from diverse ethnic and geographical backgrounds back to that continent. Swedish scientists used mitochondrial DNA genetic material in a cell that is passed unchanged from mother to child from 53 people to show that the human evolutionary tree is firmly rooted in Africa." Details are at http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/human_evolution001206.html.
Oldest Ancestor Yet for Mankind?
On Dec. 4, ABC News reported that "French and Kenyan scientists have unearthed fossilized remains of mankinds earliest known ancestor that predate previous discoveries by more than 1.5 million years, the team announced today." Details are at http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/hominid_kenya001204.html.
Ancient Lakes on Mars?
NASA and Malins Space Systems have released stunning images of what appear to be sedimentary lake deposits on the Red Planet. Details can be found at http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/mars_lakes001204.html and http://www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/dec00_seds/ .
A Dozen NM School Districts Using "Alternative" Eye Therapy
by Dave Thomas
In a hearing at the October 13th/14th meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC), a presentation defending the use of "Irlen Screening" was made by Rick Harbaugh of Scotopic Sensitivity Screeners, along with a 5th grade student, a teacher, and a Professor of Education. The presenters described "Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome," also called "Irlen Syndrome," which is alleged to make some people have trouble reading (dyslexia) unless they use special colored filters. The fifth grader helped demonstrate the technique, saying "he was able to focus on the written materials presented with the aid of the colored filter, but not without."
The presenters were very concerned with criticism the therapy received in a June 9th letter from the New Mexico Department of Health, and the State Department of Education. They were also upset with the New Mexico Medical Society. Harbaugh pointed out that Arizona and Massachusetts had each appropriated $100,000 to study the therapy. There were no questions from the LESC members.
Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome is only one of many questionable eye therapies examined at Stephen Barrett's Quackwatch website,
<http://www.quackwatch.com/>. In an article entitled "Eye-Related Quackery," Russell S. Worrall, O.D., Jacob Nevyas, Ph.D., and Stephen Barrett, M.D., write:
"Another approach involving color has been popularized by Helen Irlen, a marriage, family and child counselor, who has appeared on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" and franchised more than 2,000 individuals and clinics nationwide since 1983. She claims that "scotopic sensitivity syndrome" is a leading cause of learning problems and affects 65% of those with reading problems (dyslexia), and can be remedied with colored eyeglasses. Her recommended diagnosis and treatment can cost more than $500. I do not believe that Irlen's theory or claimed success rates have been scientifically substantiated. Although more than 50 studies of her methods have been reported, many have methodologic flaws such as lack of a control group and the results do not give a clear consensus [18,19]. One study finds that "lens color was not a critical diagnostic factor" just a reduction in contrast was important . Poor test-retest reliability has been reported raising questions about diagnostic methods . Another study reports an increase in rate of reading but not comprehension , while another reports improved comprehension but not rate . Several studies suggest that inexpensive blue tinted plastic overlays work the best [22,24]. Overall, studies indicate that fewer than 5% of readers who experience discomfort benefit from a change in contrast, brightness, or color on the page beyond what would be expected from a placebo treatment alone. Remember that even if a treatment makes the print more comfortable to look at, proper reading instruction is still needed to improve reading skills."
18. Robinson GL. Coloured Lenses and Reading: A Review of Research into Reading Achievement, Reading Strategies and Causal Mechanisms. Australian Journal of Special Education 18(1):3-14, 1994.
19. Cardinal DN, Griffin JR, Christenson,GN. Do Tinted Lenses Really Help Students with Reading Disabilities? Intervention in School and Clinic 28:275-279, 1993.
20. Spafford CS and others. Contrast sensitivity differences between proficient and disabled readers using colored filters. Journal of Learning Disabilities 28:240-252, 1995.
21. Woerz M, Maples, WC. Test-retest reliability of colored filter testing. Journal of Learning Disabilities 30:214-221, 1997.
22. Robinson GL, Foreman, PJ. Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome and the use of coloured filters: A long-term placebo controlled and masked study of reading achievement and perception ability. Perceptual Motor Skills, 89:83-113, 1999.
23. Solan HA and others. Eye movement efficiency in normal and reading disabled elementary school children: effects of varying luminance and wavelength. Journal of the American Optometric Association 69:455-464, 1998.
24. Williams MC, LeCluyse K, Rock-Faucheux A. Effective intervention for reading disability. Journal of the American Optometric Association 63:411-417, 1992.
NMSR to Test Claim of Telepathy
In cooperation with the Randi Educational Foundation, NMSR is preparing to test a resident of Albuquerque who claims he can send messages with his mind alone. The Sender will choose a compatible Receiver, and also a list of 20 words or songs. Sender and Receiver will be separated geographically, and NMSR observers will videotape the test at both sites. NMSR will randomly select one of the 20 items, and the Sender will transmit this item at a specified time (such as every minute). When 20 such items have been sent, the Receiver will call in his list of 20 items. The items must be in the same order to match; so, if a given item was 3rd on the Sender's list, but 4th on the Receiver's list, it won't count. A total of five or more correct matches out of 20 will be considered indicative of possible telepathic ability, and a second test will be performed. Negotiations are complete, and testing should commence soon. Stay tuned for further details.
News from November 2000
Prince Charles Goes Alternative (Medicine, that is)
Britain's future monarch has renewed his plea for "New Age" medicine. In the Nov. 29 article from The Times, author Andrew Pierce says "The Prince of Wales has secretly challenged the Government to commit millions of pounds more to research into the effects of alternative medicine. As the House of Lords published its first critical examination into complementary medical treatments yesterday, it emerged that the Prince a longstanding advocate of alternative medicine had had a 90-minute meeting on the subject with Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary. He pressed for at least £10 million to be allocated to research the effectiveness of the treatments. The year-long investigation by the Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology concluded there was not enough evidence to prove that alternative remedies worked. But it supported the Princes call for more government funding into research."
BankRate site names "10 most creative swindles from today's clever cons"
The Nov. 21 article can be found here.
A New Mexico winner:
"I was Hopi-ng it was Zuni. Authentic Native American artwork, a booming business in New Mexico, is also a favorite of con artists. The state recently threw the book at a Santa Fe jewelry dealer for selling necklaces made by 'Allen' Quandelacy. The last name is a famous Zuni family, but nobody knew an Allen. Or perhaps he was banished for working in that exciting new medium -- plastic."
And this mention can only refer to "Free Electricity" mogul Dennis Lee:
"How does that machine work again? Oregon officials pulled the plug on a New Jersey entrepreneur who sought to sell a "free electricity" device and $275 shares in his revolutionary technology. Quoting Attorney General Hardy Myers, 'Not only did this energy-generating device sound suspiciously like a perpetual motion machine but the investment certificates were illegal securities.' OK, but did it work?"
Wells - "Can't Get No Respect"
"Intelligent Design" creationist Jonathan Wells didn't convince Canadians to vote for young-earth creationist Stockwell Day. And he hasn't gotten very far in convincing the scientific community of the need to include "Intelligent Design" as a working scientific hypothesis. But, he HAS convinced the Hare Krishna society that there are problems with evolution. Get the scoop from the Krishna folks at http://science.krishna.org/Articles/2000/10/00169.html.
Oldest LandLubbers Yet?
A Nov. 29th story at ABC News states "Life on land began more than 1.4 billion years earlier than scientists had thought, geologists said today. Scientists have known that microorganisms have lived in oceans for about 3.8 billion years, but they werent sure when early life forms made the transition to land. The oldest proof of terrestrial life had been found in 1.2 billion-year-old fossils from Arizona, but scientists in South Africa and the United States have now discovered organic matter in 2.6 billion-year-old South African rocks. ... 'This places the development of terrestrial biomass more than 1.4 billion years earlier than previously reported,' Yumiko Watanabe, of the Pennsylvania State University, said in a study in the science journal Nature."
Scientists discover possible extraterrestrial microbe?
In a Nov. 24th story by Richard Stenger of CNN, Stenger writes "An international team of scientists has recovered microorganisms in the upper reaches of the atmosphere that could have originated from outer space, a participant in the study said Friday. The living bacteria, plucked from an altitude of 10 miles (16 km) or higher by a scientific balloon, could have been deposited in terrestrial airspace by a passing comet, according to the researchers. The microorganisms are unlike any known on Earth, but the astrobiologists 'want to keep the details under wraps until they are absolutely convinced that these are extraterrestrial,' said study participant Chandra Wickramasinghe, a noted scientist at Cardiff University in Wales. NASA's Ames Research Center posted a cautious reaction to the report on its Astrobiology Web site. NASA said the finding is likely to meet considerable skepticism in the scientific community. 'Aerobiologists might argue that 10 miles is not too high for Earth life to reside, a possibility that Wickramasinghe appears to accept,' the statement said. However, NASA said, a compelling case can be made for the transport of microorganisms through space aboard comets and meteors."
An Oct. 30th article on panspermia in general appears at the Space.com website.
An interesting take on the razor-thin results by mathematician John Allen Paulos appears at http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/closevote_paulos001120.html, and another by Paulos, on Buchanan and outliers in the Palm Beach County vote, at
A Nov. 30 article at ABC News mentions a "Canadian study to be published in the journal Nature finds that 7.5 percent of people using the two- column design of the butterfly ballot make mistakes."
Final results on the Kansas Board of Education appear at http://www.kssos.org/elect.html#620. Pro-science candidate Bill Wagnon defeated Patrick Hill. Only one pro-creationist, Steve Abrams, won election. Abrams will only have two other creationist colleagues in the Kansas State Board, leaving a 7-3 pro-science majority to clean up last year's mess.
Finally, although young-earth creationist Stockwell Day won re-election to his seat in the Canadian parliament, his conservative Canadian Alliance was demolished by the Liberal Party and Jean Chretien.
"Face on Mars" Guru Richard Hoagland Analyzes the Election! (?)
From http://www.enterprisemission.com/millenn.htm : "... So why, given this well-known political history, are both current candidates apparently so desperate to achieve the Presidency of the United States in this 'Turn of the Millennium' election? Both are certainly still young enough to attempt another run for the White House in four years. Bush especially, with virtually half the Country expressing a desire to have him be the next President, is in an extraordinarily strong position to come back in 2004 and revisit the closest U.S. election in history. What could motivate them both to potentially throw it all away in a desperate power play right now -- at the probable expense of their place in history and their standing with the people who elected them (and who could elect them again!)? And what of the serious, looming national crisis of 'illegitimacy' overhanging any attempt -- by either man -- to govern after this bitterly contested election? The answer, strangely enough, lies not in present day America but in the vast ancient sands of post-diluvial Egypt and Sumer. What we are seeing here is not merely the use of 'any and all means' to obtain the powers of the day, but rather a playing out of an ancient symbolic conflict that will inevitably consume all the rest of us ... whether we know of it or not! ..."
Gary Posner investigated Hoagland's history in the Nov./Dec. 2000 Skeptical Inquirer. Hoagland has blasted this article at http://www.enterprisemission.com/skeptik.htm. You can read Posner's reply at http://members.aol.com/garypos2/Hoagland.html#rebuttal .
Candidate and Leader of Canadian Alliance Reveals Creationist Beliefs
The Globe and Mail had a Nov. 17th article on the upcoming Nov. 27th elections in Canada, with the following: "Ottawa and Edmonton Stockwell Day's creationist beliefs sparked a rare mixing of religion and Canadian politics yesterday, with some opponents saying the Canadian Alliance Leader's religious views should be an issue for voters. While Liberal Leader Jean Chrétien touched only lightly on the question, NDP Leader Alexa McDonough suggested Mr. Day's politics don't match the values he claims to hold dear. After a CBC documentary reported that Mr. Day had said he believes in creationism, that the world is 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs had once co-existed, Mr. Day issued a statement saying there is scientific evidence to support both the creation and evolution theories of the origins of man."
Stockwell Day's anti-evolution beliefs were defended in this Nov. 17th essay in the Globe and Mail by the Discovery Institute's very own Jonathan Wells. Wells writes "There has been a predictable knee-jerk public and media backlash, but instead of rushing to condemn Mr. Day, Canadians should be having an open discussion about alternatives to Darwinism."
Astronomy is used to date Pyramids - for real!!
We've all heard of various fringe archaeologists who claim that the Pyramids and the Sphinx are much older than is accepted, perhaps 12 to 14 thousand years old. Some of these claimants use elaborate astronomical alignments to make their case. But here comes an Egyptologistwith a serious analysis, appearing in the Nov. 16th Nature. In a Nov. 15th article at ABC News, Alex Dominguez writes "Just how old are the pyramids? The answer may lie in the stars. Current estimates for the construction of the pyramids, based on surviving lists of the pharaohs, are believed to be accurate to within about 100 years. But Cambridge University Egyptologist Kate Spence says that by analyzing the relative position of Earth and two stars, she has dated the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to within five years of 2478 B.C. That means the Great Pyramid is 4,478 years old or 75 years older than one commonly accepted estimate....Her estimate comes from her proposed solution to another mystery: How did the ancient Egyptians align their pyramids so that two sides ran so precisely north-south? She suggests that they used a pair of stars found in the Little and Big Dippers. But because Earth wobbles on its axis, those two stars would have given different indications for 'north' over the centuries. So by calculating when that pair of stars would have been in a northern alignment, Spence says she can figure out when the pyramids were built. In Thursdays issue of the journal Nature, Spence says the two-star method could explain the various degrees of inaccuracy in the orientation of pyramids built at different times."
More Dirt on the "Y" Guy
This Nov. 14th article from ABC News has more details on the recent announcement of an "Adam," a male ancestor of all men alive today, that has been derived from analyses of the Y chromosome. The article has a readable and informative explanation on why the Y-chromosome "Adam" is so much younger (at a mere 59,000 years old) than "Mitochondrial Eve," who dates back 143,000 years. Author Maggie Fox writes : "What could explain them? Real-life scenarios from recorded history provide plenty of explanations. 'One tribe conquers another tribe. The dominant tribe, the successful tribe, gets to mate with all the women its own women plus the women they conquered,' Underhill [Peter Underhill of Stanford University] said. Polygamy, a common practice, would also explain it. A few dominant males get to marry and have children and the rest see their genes consigned to the rubbish heap of posterity. Even nature itself can play a role. 'Im a man and if I get married and just by chance, a flip of the coin, I only have daughters, that is a random chance event. It has nothing to do with my being inferior or superior,' Underhill said. But such a man would not pass on his Y chromosome and so would chalk up a big zero in the 'Adam' and 'Eve' genetic stakes although of course his other genes would live on."
Second Mexican 'faith healer' arrested in California
KERRI GINIS of the Scripps-McClatchy Western Service writes on November 14, 2000 the following: "FRESNO, Calif. -Kings County sheriff's deputies arrested another self-proclaimed Mexican faith healer late Tuesday night on suspicion of having sex with a 17-year-old girl so he could remove evil spirits from her body. Jose Angel Carranza Ojeda, 46, of Coalinga is being held in the Kings County Jail on two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse through fear and fraudulent means and one count of conspiracy. His bail is set at $40,000. Ojeda's arrest stemmed from an investigation into Fernando Magdalano Flores, who was arrested Nov. 1 on suspicion of sexually assaulting two teen-age sisters. Flores also called himself a Mexican faith healer. Ojeda allegedy had sex with one of Flores' victims, said Patrick Hart, Kings County chief deputy district attorney. "
More on Baylor and Polanyi Center
This Web Site is apparently not "official," but perhaps it should be!! Enjoy!
Molecular Clocks are a Hot Topic
In this Nov. 13th article from The Scientist 14:17, Steve Bunk writes about a paper by S. Kumar, S. Blair Hedges, "A molecular timescale for vertebrate evolution," Nature, 392:917-20, April 30, 1998. (Cited in more than 170 papers since publication). This seminal paper looked at molecular analyses of evolutionary branchings. Bunk writes "In analyzing sequence substitutions, more genes tell better evolutionary time...Thirty-five years ago, researchers proffered the remarkable hypothesis that substitution of amino acids in proteins, and of nucleotides in genes, occurs in a more or less clocklike fashion throughout the evolution of organisms.1 But the use of these molecular evolutionary clocks often has yielded differing estimates of when any two given lineages diverged from a common ancestor. A major reason for such inconsistency is that divergence times have been based on sequence differences in a single protein or gene common to the two lineages being studied. This paper helped to break that pattern, by analyzing 658 nuclear genes representing 207 vertebrate species. It showed that the ancestors of most contemporary mammals arose more than 80-110 million years ago, well before the extinction of dinosaurs. ...Blair Hedges, an evolutionary biologist at Pennsylvania State University, has little doubt about why the paper by he and coauthor Sudhir Kumar (now at Arizona State University) has been cited in so many other papers: 'Biologists in general really seek out this type of information. They want to know why and when organisms originated, evolved, and differentiated from each other.'... 'When thousands of genes are used, the amount of data is staggering,' [Hedges] notes. 'So people should realize that molecular clocks can only get better.' "
Watson (of DNA fame) Makes Stir over Skin Color and Sex
As reported in this Nov. 13th article by the San Franscisco Chronicle, "Nobel laureate James Watson, whose co-discovery of DNA revolutionized the field of genetics, has provoked a scientific controversy by suggesting there are biochemical links between skin color and sexual activity and between thinness and ambition. Watson advanced his thesis during a guest lecture at the University of California at Berkeley last month, prompting several faculty members to brand his remarks as racist, sexist and unsupported by any scientific data. Witnesses were flabbergasted when the 72-year-old discoverer of the double helix suggested there was a biochemical link between exposure to sunlight and sexual urges. 'That's why you have Latin lovers,' Watson said. 'You've never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.' ''
Quantum States - Determined by the Media?
Check out this toon for all the details!
"10 Commandments" Judge elected to Alabama's Top Court
The "10 Commandments" judge, Roy Moore of Alabama, has won election to that state's supreme court.
The Sunday, November 5, 2000 LA Times featured a piece by Jeffrey Gettleman on Moore's unconventional and interesting background (the article WAS at http://www.latimes.com/living/20001104/t000105820.html; getting to it now will require registration and a possible fee). Gettleman wrote "This week, [Moore is] up for election to chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Despite the drubbing he has taken in the media and serious concerns many have voiced about his blend of church and state, polls put Moore, a Republican, ahead of Democratic Judge Sharon Yates by five to 15 percentage points. It seems that his moral crusade has tapped into two arteries in Alabama: religion and defiance. 'We call it the Bubba vote,' said Brad Owen, an Alabama lobbyist. (Bubba is Southern speak for 'the average Joe.') 'No matter how much Bubba likes to drink and cuss and get in trouble, he still prays before he eats and puts God first. And he likes a man who makes a stand. There's no doubt which way Bubba's going on this one.' In Alabama it's not unusual to see a pickup truck rumble past with both a gun rack and a "Real Men Love Jesus" bumper sticker. While fundamentalists in Kansas lost their battle against evolution, and school prayer supporters were defeated in Texas, evangelical Christians still set the agenda here. Alabama law calls for all public school science books to be labeled with a sticker that says evolution is only a theory."
Judge Moore's website:http://www.judgemoore.org/
Final election results:http://www.yourvotealabama.org/results_surpreme_court.htm
2,609 of 2,619 Precincts - 99% Reporting
Roy Moore (R) 878,668 votes 55%
Sharon Yates (D) 727,653 votes 45%
Lenard Loses County Commission Bid
Locally, Roger Lenard lost his bid for election to the Santa Fe County Commission district 5.
From the Secretary of State's site http://web.state.nm.us/election/conty000.htm :
SANTA FE County
Unofficial 2000 General Election Results for COUNTY COMMISSIONER - DISTRICT (OR DIVISION) 05
XUBI WILSON GREEN 2,825 23%
JACK SULLIVAN DEMOCRAT 6,032 49%
ROGER X. LENARD REPUBLICAN 3,387 28%
Read Roger Lenard's essays on creation/evolution at http://www.nmsr.org/DEBATE.HTM.
Livermore Lab takes on the "Perfect Burger"
This was reported by ABC News on November 6th: "With nuclear weapons research slowing down, scientists at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory are taking on a new challenge how to make the perfect burger. In research published this week, lab researchers say that turning hamburger patties once every minute cuts down on the formation of cancer-causing agents while ensuring the demise of harmful bacteria like E. coli. Researcher Mark Knize said well-done meat is generally linked to cancer-causing chemicals. But meat has to be cooked through to make sure that harmful bacteria are dead. ...The study was handled by a team at the lab that focuses on finding mutation-causing agents in food. They found that the ideal temperature for cooking ground beef is 320 degrees. That temperature and the constant flipping kills off harmful germs while minimizing the formation of cancer-causing chemicals."
Japanese Archaeologist Caught Cheating!
In this November 5th story from ABC News, the AP's Eric Prideaux reported that "A leading Japanese archaeologist admitted today he lied about finding stone tools at an archaeological site believed to be among the world's oldest human habitations. At an emotional news conference, Shinichi Fujimura confessed to staging the discovery. He spoke after a major newspaper ran three photographs on its front page today, showing him digging holes at the site and burying the implements, which were rocks modified by humans for cutting or scraping. 'I did something I shouldnt have done,' said Fujimura, the vice chairman of the Tohoku Paleolithic Institute. In a traditional sign of humility, he remained in a deep bow throughout the news conference."
Mystery Goo from Sky - it's BEE POOP!
Find the details in this Nov. 8th story from ABC News. "M I D D L E T O N, Idaho, Nov. 8 The mystery substance that fell from the skies over Meridian, Middleton and Caldwell during the summer has been positively identified as bee waste. The brown and odorless substance splattered homes, cars, flowers and plants for about four months, leaving a mark on everything it touched. Officials from the Department of Environmental Quality suspected that the material was coming from an insect. ..."
Old Meat-eater Discovered!
In this Nov. 10th report, ABC News writes that "Italian paleontogists said Thursday they have identified a new species of dinosaur which lived 200 million years ago one of the oldest meat-eating reptiles ever discovered. According to fossil fragments found in a quarry in northern Italy, the dinosaur was eight meters (26.4 feet) long, weighed over a ton, and had a long neck and sharp teeth 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) long, Giorgio Teruzzi, supervisor of paleontology at Milan's Museum of Natural History, told The Associated Press. ... It is the worlds oldest three-fingered dinosaur, and one of the oldest overall, one of the researchers, Cristiano Dal Sasso, said in an interview. The dinosaur, tentatively dubbed Saltriosaur after the name of the quarry where the fossils were found, is very similar to another predator, the American Allosaur, but is believed to be 20 million years older."
Looking for Global Warming? Look Right Here in New Mexico!
In a story titled "Encroaching Desert - Study: Southwestern Desert Will Creep Northward", ABC News reported on Nov. 2nd that "Vegetation from New Mexico's southern deserts will spread northward into the Albuquerque area over the next century and perhaps extend even farther, climbing local mountain slopes, a team of Nevada researchers says. The research, reported in the British journal Nature this week by a team led by Stanley Smith, suggests the creosote and mesquite bushes of the southern deserts are likely to benefit more from increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide than are Albuquerque-area native plants like sagebrush and juniper."
News from October 2000
Noted Entertainer/Skeptic Steve Allen dead at 78
Well-known entertainer/skeptic Steve Allen has died at age 78.
Details can be found in this Oct. 31 2000 article by ABC News.
On April 11th, 1997, comedian/skeptic/philosopher Steve Allen spoke for about an hour at the UNM Law Building in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His appearance, open to the public, was sponsored by the Humanist Society of New Mexico. Several NMSR members were in attendance.
I asked Mr. Allen about his work on the Council for Media Integrity, and how we could encourage networks like ABC, which has put on some really decent science shows like John Stossel's "Junk Science" and Nightline's "Machines Like Us" (about genetic algorithms). He suggested sending letters - they have more influence than one might think. Allen said the threshold of attention for the typical network can be as low as 18 to 27 letters.
Allen spoke of the importance of education, and of the need for a 4th "R" : reading, writing, 'rithmetic, and Reasoning. Of course, you wouldn't subject kindergarteners to a course in formal logic - but you can encourage them to engage in critical thinking.
He spoke of cults, and how his own son joined a cult. He noted that children who join cults are not necessarily the "dumbest" kids, but that they can get caught up in some really dumb things. Allen mentioned the surviving Heaven's Gate cult member appearance with Dianne Sawyer, and how pleased he was with his own very dumb answers. (This is probably the same cultist who recently killed himself in an attempt to join up with his group on the mother ship.)
Mr. Allen went on to discuss prisons as schools for criminals, slavery, morality and religion, racial issues, senior citizens, Hong Kong, the generation gap, population control, and some of his heroes (Robert Hutchins of the Univ. of Chicago, and Norman Cousins). Steve Allen's support of reason, wisdom, and compassion made him one of the brightest lights in the dazzling world of celebrities and stars.
NM State Board of Education vice-president and NMSR member Marshall Berman noted in March of 1998, "I've always been greatly worried that most of our best skeptics are getting very old. I'm not very optimistic about the scientific and skeptical abilities of most of the younger (under 60?) generation. Having lost Carl Sagan, I expect to grieve uncontrollably when we lose the likes of Martin Gardner or Steve Allen."
Marshall was right. Steve Allen will be missed.
The Times reports that the Bible is Wrong... WOMAN Was FIRST!
In an Oct. 31st article by Nigel Hawkes, the Times (London) reports that "WOMEN were the complete article long before men, a new study has shown. Geneticists have found that female genes acquired their modern form 143,000 years ago but the male version was not up and running for another 84,000 years. The result overturns the Biblical description of women being created from a spare rib left over from a man, and suggests that if Eve ever did meet Adam she was slumming it, genetically speaking. ... Apart from being a blow to the Genesis theory of one man, one woman, a garden, an apple and a snake, the research might also help studies into male fertility. The team has developed 'markers' on the Y chromosome that could prove valuable in tracing the genetic basis of variations in male fertility."
NY Times Reports on G.W. Bush's Opinions on Evolution (Brief)
Nicholas D. Kristof reported in the October 29th, 2000 New York Times on details behind Gov. Bush's decision to run for president.. Kristof writes of Bush that "He has an astonishing memory for faces and names, the quickest of wits, an astute talent for judging people and a tremendous recall for starting line-ups of 1950's baseball teams. If he muddles Slovenia with Slovakia and for now has trouble naming foreign leaders, it is not because he lacks the capacity but because he lacks the interest. The fairer question about Mr. Bush is not whether he has the intelligence to be president but whether he has the intellectual curiosity. He seems exceptionally unreflective, impatient with the world of ideas, uninterested in some of the nation's key political debates. Characteristically, he does not believe in evolution he says the jury is still out but he does not actively disbelieve in it either; as a friend puts it,'he doesn't really care about that kind of thing.'"
Pakistani Skeptic Faces Death Penalty
As reported in Bulletin # 52 (20 October, 2000) of the Rationalist International organization (India), Sanal Edamaruku has reported the following alarming news: "Dr. Younus Shaikh, founder-President of the Pakistan based organization "Enlightenment", is accused of blasphemy under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and faces death penalty, if found guilty. ...Dr. Shaikh was arrested on 4 October 2000.... On 19 October 2000, he was presented before the court. He has no lawyer, since most of the lawyers in Pakistan dont dare to appear in blasphemy cases for fear of becoming target of fundamentalists themselves. In the court room, an aggressive group of about 20 clerics of the Islamic fundamentalist organization Majlis-I-Khatam-I-Nabuwat were present and tried to exert pressure. Dr. Shaikh faces death penalty, if found guilty. But even without a verdict, he is in permanent danger to be killed by the fanatic mob, as it has happened to many blasphemy accused earlier. ... Dr. Shaikh is a 45 years old medical doctor and teacher in a medical college in Islamabad. Through his organization "Enlightenment" he tries to promote Human Rights. The blasphemy accusation against him is based on his statement that the Prophet Mohammed did not become a Muslim till the age of 40 (i.e. until he received the first message from God) and the Prophets parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam existed." The Rationalist International site has information on where letters can be sent in support of Dr. Shaikh.
Okie High School Expels "Witch" For Casting Spells
In an Oct. 28th story, Reuters and ABC report that "An Oklahoma high school suspended a 15-year-old student after accusing her of casting a magic spell that caused a teacher to become sick, lawyers for the student said on Friday. The American Civil Liberties Union said it had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on behalf of student Brandi Blackbear, charging that the assistant principal of Union Intermediate High School in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, suspended her for 15 days last December for supposedly casting a spell. The suit also charged the Tulsa-area Union Public Schools with repeatedly violating Blackbear's civil rights by seizing notebooks she used to write horror stories and barring her from drawing or wearing signs of the pagan religion Wicca. 'It's hard for me to believe that in the year 2000 I am walking into court to defend my daughter against charges of witchcraft brought by her own school,' said Timothy Blackbear, Brandi's father. ... Joann Bell,executive director of the ACLU's Oklahoma chapter, said the "outlandish accusations" had made Blackbear's life at school unbearable. 'I, for one, would like to see the so-called evidence this school has that a 15-year-old girl made a grown man sick by casting a magic spell,' Bell said. A lawyer for the school district declined to comment. ..."
Kennewick Man is Dead - but the Lawsuit is Revived!
Aviva Brandt of the Associated Press writes in the October 26, 2000 Seattle Post-Intelligencer that "After being on hold for four years, a lawsuit over the 9,300-year-old "Kennewick Man" skeleton has been reactivated by a federal judge who challenged a Justice Department argument that any ancient skeleton by definition is 'Native American.' During a status conference yesterday, U.S. Magistrate John Jelderks questioned the department's position that any human remains or artifacts that predate Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World in 1492 automatically is considered 'Native American.' Under that theory, for instance, any Viking remains from their five or more voyages to North America around 1000 would be considered 'Native American' and given to modern-day tribes for reburial. After government lawyers confirmed their definition, Jelderks told lawyers for five tribes who claim the ancient remains known as 'Kennewick Man' as their ancestor to consider whether they agree with the government's definition because it 'might have implications beyond this case.' ... Yesterday, Jelderks reactivated the case, which had been on hold while the Interior Department looked into the tribes' claims. Jelderks set oral arguments in the case for June 19, with a series of dates before then when parties on both sides will file their written arguments. The first deadline is Dec. 1, when the Justice Department must file its administrative record supporting the Interior Department's decisions in the case."
Tabloids say "SO LONG" to Elvis, Aliens, UFO's, Bigfoot!
This is Big. Really Big! Edward Helmore writes in the Guardian of October 9, 2000 that "It could be the most shocking tabloid story in America - and one that they can't print. Splashed across newspaper delivery lorries making their rounds in the northeastern states of America are the words, 'No Elvis. No Aliens. No UFOs.' It's not, of course, that aliens have stopped abducting, or that Elvis no longer eats at Burger King, it's just that the new management at American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer, the Globe and the Star, has decreed that readers will no longer be hearing of it. America's tabloids are undergoing a reinvention under the leadership of David Pecker, a 48-year-old alumnus of the French company that publishes glossy magazines such as Elle and George. He believes that the way to halt the precipitous drop in readership that all the supermarket tabloids have suffered over the past decade is to take them upmarket. ... The National Enquirer's circulation has dropped from 3.1m in 1994 to 2.1m last year. Over the same period, the Star's figures slid from 2.8m to 1.8m and the Globe's from 1m to just over 800,000. ... Under Pecker, American Media is attempting to re-brand, re-position or tweak its seven major titles to cover the spectrum from country music (Country Weekly) to the sensational to the super-weird: the National Examiner will focus on strange human interest stories; the Star on celebrity; the National Enquirer on credible, news-driven tales; the Globe will still dish the dirt on celebs; the Sun will focus on a more mature readership, with health-orientated and religious articles, and Weekly World News on nonsense such as the wedding of the world's fattest man. ... After banning adverts for psychic healers and miracle remedies, the titles have begun to attract new advertisers." The Guardian article can also be found at the Alien Zoo site.
Evolution - can it Sprint?
Tim Friend writes in the Oct. 23rd USA Today that "Nature wastes no time at turning one species into two when a species is exposed to a new environment, according to research that examined wild sockeye salmon stocked in a Washington lake in the 1930s. The finding, reported in the current issue of Science, adds important insights into the laws that govern nature and its species-making machinery, experts say. The most valuable contribution of the study, led by Andrew Hendry of the University of Massachusetts' Amherst campus, is the first conclusive evidence that animals of the same species:
* Can quickly develop new traits under the pressures of a new environment.
* Become less likely to interbreed in a short period of time as they fill different ecological niches.
* Rapidly begin diverging into different species as a direct result of the ecological pressures.
'This process is called ecological speciation,' Hendry says. 'People had recognized this in the longer-standing classic examples such as Darwin's finches, but no one has shown how much time is needed for this to occur.' "
Institute for Creation Research (ICR) Falls Victim to Old April Fool's Prank!!
Colleague Jim Foley writes, on Oct. 23rd, 2000:
"In April 1997, Discover magazine ran a short article about the discovery of a number of Neandertal musical instruments. These included a tuba made from a mammoth tusk, a bagpipe which the Neandertals might have played through their noses, a xylophone, a cave painting of marching musicians, and a skull.
Needless to say, it was all an April Fool's joke. At least, it should have been needless to say it, but on September 9 2000, what do we hear but the very same finds being touted by the ICR as 'overwhelming evidence' of musical talent by Neandertals! (You can find the broadcast at http://www.icr.org/radio/rad-0009.htm)
The finds were made by a Dr. Oscar Todkopf of Hindenburg University. 'Todkopf' is a concatenation of the German words for 'dead' and 'head' (maybe the Neandertals were Grateful Dead fans!), and the Hindenburg was the hydrogen-filled airship which burnt catastropically in 1937 (maybe there's a connection between flaming gasbags and the ICR ...)
For more details, and a copy of the original article from Discover, check out http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/aprilfool.html. "
Wm. Dembski Wins Intelligent Design Battle, Then Shoots Self in Foot, Loses the War
On October 17, a committee at Baylor University released its report on the controversial Michael Polanyi Center, headed by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Senior Fellow William Dembski, author of the pro-Intelligent Design book The Design Inference. The Oct. 17th news release from Baylor's Larry Brumley said "The report further stated that 'the committee wishes to make it clear that it considers research on the logical structure of mathematical arguments for intelligent design to have a legitimate claim to a place in current discussions of the relations of religion and the sciences.' ... The report also said that the linking of the name of Michael Polanyi to programs related to intelligent design is, on the whole, inappropriate, given the late scientist's views as expressed in his book Personal Knowledge. The committee recommended that the University discontinue the use of the name while continuing the Center's work within the Institute for Faith and Learning. The Polanyi Center has resided administratively within Baylor's three-year-old Institute for Faith and Learning since it was established in 1999."
Although the Polanyi Center name was to be changed, this announcement was a clear victory for Dembski, who managed to keep his post at the center, and keep the center open, in spite of strong opposition from academic departments.
William Dembski responded with this October 17th open letter to METANews:
Date: 10/17/00 5:03 PM
From: A. Dembski
The Michael Polanyi Center Peer Review Committee has now released its official report (http://pr.baylor.edu/pdf/001017polanyi.pdf) and the Baylor University administration has responded to the report (http://pr.baylor.edu/feat.fcgi?2000.10.17.polanyi). As director of the Center, I wish to offer the following comment: The report marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry. This is a great day for academic freedom. I'm deeply grateful to President Sloan and Baylor University for making this possible, as well as to the peer review committee for its unqualified affirmation of my own work on intelligent design. The scope of the Center will be expanded to embrace a broader set of conceptual issues at the intersection of science and religion, and the Center will therefore receive a new name to reflect this expanded vision. My work on intelligent design will continue unabated. Dogmatic opponents of design who demanded the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong
Sincerely, Bill Dembski
Dembski's public comments created a strong backlash at Baylor. After his "Waterloo" comments were made known to Baylor officials, the following was announced on Oct. 19th by Baylor's Larry Brumley:
DEMBSKI RELIEVED OF DUTIES AS POLANYI CENTER DIRECTOR
William Dembski was relieved of his duties as director of Baylor University's Michael Polanyi Center today. He will remain associate professor in conceptual foundations of science within the university's Institute for Faith and Learning.
The action follows by two days the release of a peer review committee's report on the Polanyi Center that affirmed the academic work of the center while calling for the appointment of a faculty advisory committee and the dropping of the Polanyi name.
"The theme of the report emphasized the need for the individuals associated with the center to work in a collegial manner with other members of the Baylor faculty," said Dr. Michael Beaty, director of the Institute for Faith and Learning, which houses the center. "Dr. Dembski's actions after the release of the report compromised his ability to serve as director."
Home page of the Discovery Institute
Discovery Institute article on Dembski's Dismissal : "...the decision to dismiss Dembski as director of the center appears to be a terrible blot on Baylor's record."
Discovery Institute page on senior fellow William Dembski
Wesley R. Elsberry's page on William A. Dembski.
Some Like It Hot
No, this isn't about Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. It's about bacteria that can thrive in extremely hot environments. The Oct. 18th story by Ned Potter of ABC News discusses the organisms, found at Yellowstone National Park, and writes " The discovery of extremophiles has turned biology upside down. ... The fact that life can thrive in a boiling pool brings up all sorts of ideas about the origins of life. It may be that the first life on Earth was in a place more like the hot pools at Yellowstone than in the places humans might consider hospitable."
Quote of the Month
Scot Norvell of Fox News reported on Oct. 2, 2000 that "After 25 years in the sociology department at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Richard Zeller has retired in protest. His beef? The department wouldn't let him teach a course on political correctness with a reading list including books like Two Steps Ahead of the Thought Police, A Nation of Victims and Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action. Columnist Larry Elder reports that Zeller's colleagues in the department said, "nyet." And so did those in other departments. Kathleen Dixon, the director of the women's studies department, told a local newspaper 'We forbid any course that says we restrict free speech.' "
250-million-year-old New Mexican Bacterium Brought Back to Life
The Albuquerque Journal's John Fleck writes on Oct. 19th that "Scientists say they have brought a 250-million-year-old bacterium back to life. Trapped in rock salt since an ancient inland sea dried up, the New Mexico bacterial spore was revived in a Pennsylvania biology lab. The scientists used salt dug from 2,000 feet for construction of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear waste repository, hunting bacteria in little bubbles of ancient water trapped in the rock." More on the story can be found at ABC News and CBS News.
Salon reviews Martin Gardner's new book
Tom DiEgidio reviews Martin Gardner's new book, "Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?", in an Oct. 17th Salon column . DiEgidio writes "A witty, world-class debunker cuts through centuries of pseudoscience crap, from earthbound asteroids to balancing eggs. ... Schools could do well to interest children in science through Gardner's entertaining volume -- if they don't ban it first. "
More Polygraphs Ordered by Congress
Walter Pincus of the Washington Post writes on October 14, 2000 that "Rejecting pleas from Energy Department officials, Congress has approved a provision that will require polygraphs for 5,000 additional employees of the department's nuclear weapons complex, raising to near 20,000 the overall number that will be tested. ... Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles the Energy Department budget and whose state contains two of the nuclear labs, criticized the new polygraph program. 'I am dismayed that the conferees took it upon themselves to adopt additional provisions on polygraphs,' Domenici said. ... In an apparent reference to the case of former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, who pleaded guilty to one felony count of mishandling classified information by downloading secret nuclear data, Congress added a new question for Energy Department personnel. By law they are to be asked whether they caused 'deliberate damage to or malicious misuse of a United States government information or defense system.' ... Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and his head of counterintelligence, former FBI official Edward Curran, tried to have last year's congressional directive eased by limiting tests to scientists and others with access to special nuclear programs. Richardson had said he hoped that only 800 lab employees would face immediate polygraphing, with 2,200 others to be done later. Congress granted Richardson the right to waive polygraphs for individuals, but only for 120 days and only after submitting his criteria to House and Senate committees."
More on Polygraphs, including a web site for scientists' protests, can be found at NMSR's "Lie Detector" page.
Doug Williams offers a manual for sale that teaches you how to beat polygraphs. Williams claims that "The polygraph test has a built-in bias against a truthful person. It is certainly not capable of determining truth or deception. It can be beaten rather easily." Click on http://www.polygraph.com/ for more details.
The Office of Technology Assessment, in report OTA-TM-H-15 (November 1983), entitled "Scientific Validity of Polygraph Testing: A Research Review and Evaluation," noted in the conclusion that "The instrument cannot itself detect deception. ... The conclusion of previous congressional inquiries has been that there is little or no scientific basis for the use of polygraph testing. Prior scientific reviews, on the other hand, have contradicted each other, some concluding that polygraph testing is almost 100 percent accurate, others that it is little better than chance. ... Also, previous scientific reviews have not been conducted systematically. ... OTA concluded, therefore, that no overall measure or single statistic of polygraph validity can be established based on available scientific evidence. ... OTA concluded that there is at present only limited scientific evidence for establishing the validity of polygraph testing. Even where the evidence seems to indicate that polygraph testing detects deceptive subjects better than chance (when using the control question technique in specific-incident criminal investigations), significant error rates are possible, and examiner and examinee differences and the use of countermeasures may further affect validity."
Shroud of Turin used for Vegetarian Appeal
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) introduced a new vegetarian ad campaign on October 2nd based on their assertion that Jesus Christ was a vegetarian. The new ad displays the Shroud of Turin and includes the words: Make a Lasting Impression Go Vegetarian. See this Oct. 2nd ABC News report for more details.
FOX News taken in by "Clone Jesus" Hoax?
First, see the Oct. 11th story at Fox News, describing a group of people looking for historic relics (like the Shroud of Turin) so that they can get Christ's actual DNA, and clone the man Christians call their Saviour. Then, check out the Clone Jesus website itself, at http://www.clonejesus.com/, and decide for yourself!
Meteorite with clues to origin of life?
In an Oct. 12th story at USA Today, it is reported that "A bus-sized meteorite that blazed to Earth in a spectacular fireball last January may have delivered to scientists the most pristine primordial matter ever recovered from space and could carry important new clues about the origin of life. The meteorite, estimated to weigh 220 tons when it smashed into the atmosphere, shattered and sprayed bits of space rock over a frozen lake in Canada's Yukon Territory. More than 70 eyewitness saw the fireball and a week later Canadian Jim Brook went out in minus-20-degree temperatures and found bits of the meteorite on the frozen surface of Tagish Lake. He collected the black, charcoal-like fragments in a plastic bag and stored them in a freezer, preserving them in a pure state... Brook's careful handling will allow scientists to study matter that is virtually unchanged since the solar system formed some 4.6 billion years ago...."
Crop Circle Creators have a Web Site...
An Oct. 12th report from USA Today describes a web site, CircleMakers.org , that has made public information on how to create alien-looking "crop circles" since 1995. The report notes that "Site creator John Lundberg of London considers crop-circle making an art form. Lundberg, who has spent the past 10 years making circles in the Wiltshire countryside, started the site in 1995 to bring crop circles, man-made and otherwise, to a wider audience. ... Over the years, UFO hunters say they've learned to differentiate between 'hoax' circles and those of truly unknown origin, says Walter Andrus Jr., international director of the Littleton, Colo.-based Mutual UFO Network. ... Lundberg has heard this before, but he's skeptical of ''expert'' opinions since his first clumsy attempts at circlemaking in 1990. 'It was an absolute mess,' he says, laughing. 'But even though what I made was unimpressive, what spurred me on was that researchers came along and proclaimed it to be genuine.' "
Did Viruses Wipe Out Mammoths?
Scientist Ross MacPhee discusses his research on woolly mammoth bone marrow in an Oct. 9th piece at ABC News. MacPhee, curator of mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, thinks the large beasts could have survived climate changes, and that these did not cause their extinction. And he dosn't think the mammoths were hunted to extinction either. But people might be the culprits, even if they didn't hunt the mammoths till they were gone. MacPhee is looking for traces of ancient viruses in the frozen mammoth DNA. Malcom Ritter writes that "MacPhee cheerfully admits he doesnt have a whit of direct evidence yet for his idea. Nor is it clear what diseases are vicious enough to have done the job."
Ramtha was Slated to Testify in Court, BUT...
The SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER reported on Oct. 4th that medium J.Z. Knight, the "purported channeler of a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit could be called to testify in a Lewis County child-abuse case that revolves around Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, a prominent singing instructor and one of his students. Authorities say voice instructor [redacted by request] and his common-law wife, [redacted by request], confessed to raping the 15-year-old girl after being questioned by Ramtha, the warrior spirit whom medium J.Z. Knight claims to channel."
But in a followup story on Oct. 10th, Knight claimed "she doesn't remember the confession of voice instructor [redacted by request] and his partner, [redacted by request]; the confession is said to have occurred about a year ago in front of about 800 stunned students at Ramtha's School of Enlightenment on Knight's Yelm estate. Knight said she was in a trance at the time --that it was Ramtha who questioned the couple and elicited the confession."
The Deputy Prosecutor doesn't think Knight will be called to testify.
Dinosaur "Heart"topic of debate...
Click here for the Oct. 3 story from USA Today. Tim Friend writes that "A study on the first discovery of a fossilized dinosaur heart, widely reported last spring in newspapers and on television, is under attack over the heart's true identity and a scientific journal's acceptance of the disputed fossil evidence. Critics are charging that the study published in Science did not meet standards normally applied to scientific manuscripts, that the heart is most likely fossilized mud and that the study was published more for its sensational appeal than its academic merit. Some of the critics also charge that the study was given a less rigorous review than normal before its publication because it supports a theory held by a majority of dinosaur paleontologists: that birds descended from dinosaurs. Science won't disclose details of the confidential review process, but journal officials vehemently deny the accusations. They insist the study was handled properly and question the critics' evidence that the fossil is not a heart."
News from September 2000
Area 51 and Gordon Cooper's 'Confiscated Camera'...
In a 29 September story by Jim Oberg, at the space.com site, Oberg writes that "Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, in his new book Leap of Faith presents a tale of government cover-ups related to spy cameras, to Area 51, and to similar top-secret subjects, based on his own personal experiences on a NASA space mission. As a certified 'American hero,' his credibility with the public is impeccable. But several space veterans who SPACE.com consulted about one of Cooper's spaceflight stories had very different versions of the original events. And some of them showed me hard evidence to back up their skepticism." The story - that Cooper accidently got a high-resolution photograph of Area 51 in Nevada, and that this film was confiscated - has problems, according to Oberg. While Oberg states Cooper's "sincerity and self-confidence remain unquestioned," and he notes that the film was indeed collected by the Pentagon, he found that it can still be examined. The high resolution claimed by Cooper was impossible at the time, and, says Oberg, discussing one of the actual images, ".... the picture, like most of the others, was another disappointment. Splotchy desert sands, covered by scattered clouds, showed only a few faint lines that might have been roads. There were no runways, no mystery buildings, no UFOs."
Prions may play crucial role in evolution...
The University of Chicago Hospitals & Health System reported on Sept. 27th that "Prions, abnormally folded proteins associated with several bizarre human diseases, may hold the key to a major mystery in evolutionhow survival skills that require multiple genetic changes arise all at once when each genetic change by itself would be unsuccessful and even harmful. In a study in the September 28, 2000, issue of Nature researchers at the Howard Hughes Institute at the University of Chicago describe a prion-dependent mechanism that seems perfectly suited to solving this dilemma, at least for yeast. It allows yeast to stockpile an arsenal of genetic variation and then release it to express a host of novel characteristics, including the ability to grow well in altered environments." The full report can be found here.
Can we make Toxic Waste Sites Self-Cleaning? Bacteria say "YES!"
The Sept. 28th story from ABC News says that "Researchers at Southern Illinois University say theyve found a way to turn nearly 40 kinds of common bacteria into toxin eaters that would make hazardous waste sites self-cleaning. The researchers say the natural bacteria can be nudged into turning a toxic chemical into harmless table salt. And the bacteria can do it all without the sun or the air to give it energy. 'This is huge,' said Laurie Achenbach, a molecular biologist at SIU. 'Think of where most of the toxic waste is in environments where there is no sunlight, like underground or underwater.' The bugs target a toxic chemical called perchlorate, a dry powder used in munitions manufacturing that has seeped into groundwater across the United States. But what is perhaps most important, scientists say, is that these bugs do something that no other organism been known to do. While transforming perchlorate to table salt, the bacteria suck out oxygen, generating that precious energy source without the help of sunlight. Since the bacteria are found everywhere, they could be put to work at sites by simply stimulating them with the 'food' they need, Achenbach said, including acetic acid another word for vinegar. Professor Brendlyn Faison of Hampton University in Virginia, a member of the American Society for Microbiology, says the practical implications are far-reaching. 'An oxygen source from a waste product in the absence of light suggests a closed system to produce oxygen for humans,' Faison said. 'Think of a mine or the space shuttle.' "
Fordham Foundation releases Major Report on Evolution Teaching.
The conservative foundation released the long-expected report, by professor Lawrence Lerner, on Sept. 27th 2000. The full text of the report is online. Here's a strong sentiment from the executive summary: "That evolution is the central organizing principle of all the historical sciences is not a controversial issue among scientists, nor among most of the world's educated persons. Consequently, the teaching of science worldwide stresses evolution as a routine matter. The United States is exceptional in this regard. In much of this country, the teaching to K-12 students of evolution as scientists see it -- particularly biological evolution -- evokes bitter controversy. Specifically, many persons object to the teaching of part or all of the facts and theory of evolution in the public schools at the primary and secondary level. This controversy is not really about science but about religion and politics."
The report included grades for how well the American states teach evolution. An "A" means the state does a good job teaching evoilution; an "F-" (the rating received by Kansas) indicates a very poor job. Here is a breakdown on how the states fared:
A: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. (10)
B: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. (13)
C: Louisiana ,Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Texas. (7)
D: Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia, and Wisconsin . (6)
F: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming. (12)
F-: Kansas (1)
Not graded : Iowa (1)
More comment on the report can be found in this Sept. 27th article from ABC News.
Greatest Blunders in Science Awards...
A list of "Twenty of the Greatest Blunders in Science in the Last Twenty Years" was announced by Discover.com in the October 2000 issue of Discover magazine. The list is also on-line. Among the blunders in Judith Newman's list are these: the Challenger explosion, Carl Sagan's over-estimates of the severity of Nuclear Winter, Piltdown Chicken (National Geographic's 1999 dinosaur-bird embarassment ), Cold Fusion, Chernobyl, the fictitious cancer threat of electric power lines , the Martian mission failures, the now-shaky evidence of "Martian bacteria" from 1996, Colorado and Kansas opposition to teaching evolution, Fen-phen, the now-bankrupt Iridium satellites, the flap about silicone breast implants, and, of course, "Y2K."
Kennewick Man is returned to Tribes...but is he "Home" ?
After years of limbo, the 9,000-year-old remains of Kennewick Man will be returned to five American Indian tribes, according to a Sept. 26th report from ABC News. The report states that "Bruce Babbitt, the secretary of the interior, said that two years of study by his department have persuaded him that the bones should be returned to the five American Indian tribes." But ABC also notes that Babbitt said "if the remains had been 3,000 years old, 'there would be little debate over whether Kennewick Man was the ancestor of the Upper Plateau Tribes.' But 'the line back to 9,000 years made the cultural affiliation determination difficult,' he said." ABC also notes that "eight prominent anthropologists, including one from the Smithsonian Institution, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Portland for the right to study the bones. Their lawsuit was temporarily put on hold while the Interior Department looked into the five tribes claims on the bones. Now that Babbitt has issued his determination, the scientists say they will ask the judge to let their lawsuit go forward."
Congress gets bipartisan team of 'Science Guys.'
Democratic congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey and Republican congressman Vernon Ehlers of Michigan are collaborating on science and education issues. Both happen to be physicists. A Sept. 25th story from ABC News says that "Holt and Ehlers have become the Science Guys of Congress, joining forces across party lines to support research and science education. Working together, they added language to an education funding flexibility act to prevent schools from spending less on math and science. They opposed legislation jeered by many scientists that would require most taxpayer-funded research to be made public upon request. They fought for an amendment giving science equal billing with reading and math in federal Title I programs for disadvantaged students...."
Fraudulent Psychics? Say it isn't so!
The Sept. 25th story from ABC News says, "The attorney generals economic crimes unit is investigating the Psychic Readers Network and its sister company, Access Resources Inc., after former employees testified that many of the telephone psychics were actually homeless people from the local Salvation Army shelter. They told investigators no employees were ever tested for psychic ability, that they were given scripts to work from and that the only skill that mattered was their ability to keep callers on the line. The network charges callers $4.99 a minute to have their fortunes told. 'They didnt care if you were talking to Jesus talk to him for 20 minutes at least,' said former employee Barbara Weil in a sworn interview with investigators. Barbara Melit, another former telephone psychic, said her colleagues 'came in off the street. They were alcoholics. They had no experience whatsoever as being a psychic. ... They had hit bottom and they basically needed a job to keep them supplied with alcohol and drugs.' " The company calls the allegations completely and utterly false.
Nature surveys evolution education in the United States...
You can find the September 20th story by Discovery.com here. They write : "Anti-evolutionists are crippling the teaching of science in more than a third of U.S. states, according to a survey of American schools published Thursday. In 19 of the 50 U.S. states, public schools fudge, ignore or underplay the mountain of scientific data about evolution, says the study, conducted by California State University academic Lawrence Lerner. This is the result of pressure by fundamentalist Christians, especially Protestant evangelicals, he says. Creationists follow a strict interpretation of the Old Testament's Book of Genesis. They hold that the universe and man were created by God a few thousand years ago, and contend that living beings are too complicated to exist without divine help. The theory of evolution holds that life on Earth evolved over billions of years. Lerner, writing in the journal Nature, says he graded 49 states on their treatment of evolution and how their students performed in science. The exception was Iowa, which does not publish statewide academic standards in any form. The 19 poorly-graded states, which Lerner will identify next week when Nature publishes his full study, either sedulously avoided use of the 'E-word,' used Creationist jargon, skimmed over or ignored evidence for evolution. Other tactics were to delete scientific data that says the universe is billions of years old and even add a sticker to textbooks that describes evolution as a 'theory' or 'controversial' in order to diminish its credibility, he says. The U.S. Supreme Court has already struck down several attempts by anti-evolutionists to get Creationism equal billing with evolution in science teaching. The court says that such teaching would be religious and thus have no place in the U.S. public-school system, which is secular. Despite these rulings, vocal Creationists at local level have succeeded in diminishing or diffusing the teaching of evolution, with a hugely destructive effect, says Lerner. This approach can 'seriously damage or even erase the possibility of teaching science to young people as more than a confusing collection of facts,' he says. Six of the poorly-graded states were deemed 'unsatisfactory' in presenting evolution; 12 were 'useless or absent,' and one was 'disgraceful.' In contrast, 10 states were found to do a 'very good to excellent job,' while 21 did 'a good or satisfactory job.' "
Kansas Standards Author Tom Willis Speaks...
New Scientist interviewed creationist Tom Willis on April 22. Click here for the complete interview. A snippet: "Q Do you think Christians who believe in evolution are evil? A I didn't say that. Q I know you didn't say that, I'm asking you do you believe that? A I believe that Christians or anybody who teaches evolution as science is likely to be causing harm. I'd have to say yes, some of them are evil. I would have no way of estimating what percentage are evil and what percentage are mistaken. I'm not God and I'm incapable of looking in the heart of man. ... Q Just for the record, do you believe the Sun goes around the Earth or the Earth goes around the Sun? A I'm sure your readers will love this, but I don't know. Every physicist who's looked at it seriously has realised that we don't know for sure."
Going Up... Way Up...22,000 miles Up?
Here is the September 14th story from ABC News: "This August, NASA scientists put the [space elevator] concept on paper for the first time in a report designed to assess if building an elevator to space is possible and what technologies would be needed to make it possible. The verdict? In a little over 50 years, with a little bit of luck and a lot of research, people could be paying the future equivalent of $5 a pound to take the longest, most exciting elevator ride of their lives. Scientists estimate the journey to literally the beyond would take just over 24 hours. 'The idea is to work on intermediate concepts and then in 50 years well hopefully start working on building this thing,' says David Smitherman, a scientist working in the Advanced Projects office of NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Smitherman admits his 50-year prediction is a little optimistic. The scope of the proposal is unprecedented and daunting. Construction would entail extending a 22,000-mile-long cable from a 20-mile-high or higher tower at the Earths equator to a level in space known as geosynchronous orbit. Objects at geosynchronous orbit travel at a speed that matches the spin rate of the Earth. That means the orbital station astronauts would construct at the far end of the space elevator would hover in a straight line over its base on Earth."
Wen Ho Lee pleads guilty to felony, is sentenced to time served, and is free ...
You have been hiding in a bomb shelter if you missed this story. Click here for details from ABC News, including President Clinton's comments: " 'I think that its very difficult to reconcile the two positions, that one day hes a terrible risk to the national security and the next day [prosecutors are] making a plea agreement for an offense far more modest than what had been alleged,' the president said. 'I dont think that you can justify, in retrospect, keeping a person in jail without bail when youre prepared to make that kind of agreement. It just cant be justified,' Clinton said, adding that hes been troubled by the case for some time."
Is the Face on Mars Artifical? FOX News is still thinking about it...
This is from the FOX News story of Sept. 8th. "The answer appeared to be a clear 'no' two years ago when NASA's Mars Global Surveyor transmitted a new close-up shot of the mysterious outcropping that looked distinctly unfacelike. But various researchers insist a closer look reveals evidence of a non-natural structure; and that some past civilization on the fourth rock from the sun must be giving us the eye....Thomas Van Flandern, an astronomer known for his alternative space science theories, recently released a modified version of NASA's picture on his Web site, MetaResearch.org. Van Flandern says the new image, which is credited to graphic artist Mark Kelly, was an effort 'to use objective computer techniques by image processing experts to restore the image to what it would have looked like if it had been viewed from overhead and with proper lighting."
Ancient Ruins at bottom of Black Sea...do they "explain" Noah's Flood, or do they "prove" it?
Here's a clip from the ABC News story which appeared on September 13th, 2000. "Noahs Flood? ...The first evidence that humans lived in an area now covered by the Black Sea perhaps inundated by the biblical flood has been discovered by a team of explorers. 'Artifacts at the site are clearly well preserved, with carved wooden beams, wooden branches and stone tools,' lead researcher Robert Ballard said. 'We realize the broad significance the discovery has and were going to do our best to learn more,' Ballard said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his ship off the northern coast of Turkey, west of the community of Sinop."
Subliminal Advertising? RATS? Yeah, right.
From the Sept. 12th story by ABC News: "At least one psychologist, Wildon Bryan Key, claims they [subliminal advertising messages] are there. But if you see them, their supposed subliminal message is not working. 'The name of the game is dont get caught,' says Key, who has authored several books about subliminal advertising including The Age of Manipulation. Subliminal messages are only subliminal if people dont realize what theyve seen. They are intended to work by tapping the unconscious mind of viewers or listeners and influencing them to think or feel a certain way. Thats why Key and other psychologists argue the G.O.P ad that clearly flashes the word RATS as a narrator criticizes democratic health care programs is either a botched attempt at subliminal messaging or a coincidence."
Bob Park suffers Freak Accident..
On Friday, 8 September 2000, the What's New newsletter of the American Physical Society's resident skeptic, Bob Park , made the following announcement. "What's New will not appear this week. Bob Park has been hospitalized after suffering serious injuries in a freak accident. He has undergone extensive surgery and is now battling infections. No doubt he'll fight them with the same intensity he fights the Philistines."
NMSR sends Bob best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Wen Ho Lee still in jail...
Wen Ho Lee's planned release on bail on Friday, Sept. 1st was cancelled that day. After some of the testimony originally responsible for the no-bail measures was recently retracted by agents, it appeared that Lee would be free (but heavily monitored), and would get to go home. But Lee's move was blocked Friday. Details can be found at ABC News . Several science groups are protesting the unusual treatment accorded to Lee. ABC reports that "In an open letter on Thursday to Attorney General Janet Reno, the leaders of three scientific organizations also protested Lee's treatment. 'Although we make no claim as to his innocence or guilt, he appears to be a victim of unjust treatment,' said the letter, signed by Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences; William A. Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering and Kenneth I. Shine, president of the Institute of Medicine. The three organizations are independent research groups chartered by Congress to provide scientific advice to government."
Magnetic Shoe Scandal!
Bob Park reports in the 1 September 2000 What's New that "FLORSHEIM PULLS ITS HEALTH CLAIMS. Faced with a consumer lawsuit in California, and ridicule from the scientific community, Florsheim has yanked the brochures that described the "science" behind its MagneForce shoes (WN 18 Aug 00). Its web page, which once claimed that its magnetic insole, "increases circulation: reduces foot, leg and back fatigue; provides natural pain relief and increased energy level," now simply says it's, "the first shoe with its own power supply."
News from August 2000
Robot evolution ?
Click here for the story straight from Brandeis University (August 30, 2000). "They look like toys from outer space - motorized, white plastic gizmos crawling blindly on a table - and are hardly what most people would imagine when they think of the future of robots. But the experimental machines now being born at the Brandeis University DEMO Laboratory may well be to robotics what Kitty Hawk was to aviation. The Wright Brothers in this case are Hod Lipson, a mechanical engineer, and Jordan B. Pollack, a computer scientist. In a paper in the Aug. 31, 2000 issue of Nature, they say their results represent the first time that robots have designed and constructed other robots - a new step towards the autonomy of artificial life. 'Most robotics research is about adding brains to animatronic puppets, which is a lost cause,' says Pollack. 'In nature the body and brain co-evolve together, like the chicken and the egg. There never is one without the other.' In essence, this new work vividly demonstrates the significance of co-evolutionary robotics, a field that stresses the coordinated adaptation of bodies (the hardware) and brains (the software). Electro-mechanical systems driven by neural networks are evolved inside simulations to yield robotic blueprints that are then automatically manufactured and work in the real world. "
EEOC Backs 'Cold Fusion' Devotee
Click here for the story by Curt Suplee of the Washington Post (August 23, 2000). Suplee says that "Belief in radically unconventional scientific notions, such as "cold fusion" or cryptic messages from extraterrestrials, may merit the same workplace protections as freedom of religion, according to a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a job-discrimination case. The July 7 EEOC decision came in response to a complaint by maverick Alexandria astronomer and erstwhile patent examiner Paul A. LaViolette, who was fired in April 1999 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. LaViolette, 52, claimed the action was taken because he believes in the validity of a highly controversial energy-generation idea called "cold fusion," along with other unorthodox matters, and protested the decision to the PTO."
APS Skeptic Bob Park profiled in the Sun
Click here for the August 22nd piece by Michael Hill of the Maryland Sun on the American Physical Society's resident skeptic, Bob Park. Hill says "The battles seem to never cease. Park says both of the hockey teams in the Stanley Cup final had coolers of what is purported to be some sort of super-oxygenated water on their benches. 'It is supposed to contain four times the oxygen of normal water,' he says. 'Let's grant them that miracle. That would mean that instead of eight milliliters of oxygen per liter of water, it would have 32 milliliters in a liter. But it turns out a trained athlete uses 130 milliliters of oxygen a second,' he says. 'So even if you drank gallons of this stuff, it would still be nothing.' Nevertheless, he understands how people can be fooled by such claims. 'Science is advancing so rapidly, no one can keep up with it. I didn't know what the solubility of oxygen in water is. I had to look it up.' "
Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis profiled in Alternet...
Click here for Christopher Kemp's August 22nd story. The piece gives some real insight into Ham's motivation. Some quotes: " 'The Bible is not an exhaustive truth on anything,' Ken says. 'It doesn't tell you how to build a motor car, it doesn't tell you how to build a computer.' But the Bible touches on biology, geology and astronomy not only on morality and salvation, he says. 'In other words, if you can't trust the Bible on biology, geology and astronomy, how can you trust it on morality and salvation? We're saying you can trust the Bible where it talks on biology, geology and astronomy so you can trust it where it talks about morality and salvation.'...The Answers in Genesis organization has no interest in politics, says Ken Ham. 'Our aim is not to change the culture; it's to change people because people change cultures anyway,' he says. 'Our main reason for doing things is because we want to see people saved. We want to see people go to Heaven.' "
Forbes: The Answer to Global Warming is not Carbon Budgeting, it's Sunlight Blocking!
Click here for the August 21st "On My Mind" column by Tim W. Ferguson, citing Russell Seitz of the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. The proposal is rather interesting! "Once you understand that the sun power entering our atmosphere is nearly 100,000 times the power of the whole human energy economy, you can comprehend how, at one and the same time, carbon taxation would be both a fiscal enormity and an environmental irrelevance. After two generations of solar-cell R&D it still costs $3 million a megawatt to convert sunlight into electrical power. But $300 worth of aluminum foil will reflect a megawatt of solar energy back into space."
New Evidence Suggests Birds DID Evolve From Some Dinosaurs...
Click here for the August 10th story from UNISCI (Daily University Science News). A quote: "The popular notion that birds evolved from dinosaurs has come under assault recently with the discovery of fossil evidence of a feathered reptile that pre-dates birds. Now a researcher at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington and a Japanese colleague have found similarities in bone structure suggesting that birds did, in fact, evolve from a group of dinosaurs. The research is published in today's issue of the journal Nature. The study shows that in a group of dinosaurs called coelurosaurs, the organization of bone canaliculi -- submicron-sized channels that connect bone cells and blood vessels within the bone -- form in a randomly branching network. The canaliculi take circuitous, meandering routes as they make connections between the bone cells and nutrient sources. That same pattern today is found only among birds. However, in a group of dinosaurs called ornithischians, which includes horned creatures such as Triceratops, the canalicular organization follows a much more regular pattern with very direct and parallel routes, a structure similar to that in modern mammals."
Kansas Board Already Evolving!
Click here for the August 8th story from The Topeka Capital-Journal. AP writer David Miles notes that "Bruce Wyatt started his new job Tuesday as a member of the Kansas State Board of Education with a promise to work to replace science testing standards that de-emphasize evolution. 'I believe that evolution should be included in the science standards because it is the consensus of the worldwide scientific community,' Wyatt said during a break in the meeting. Gov. Bill Graves on Monday appointed Wyatt, a Salina lawyer, to complete the term of conservative Scott Hill, who resigned after moving to Montana. Wyatt, a moderate, won the Republican nomination for a full four-year term in last week's primary by beating conservative Brad Angell, of Junction City. He faces Democrat Eloise Lynch, of Salina, in the Nov. 7 general election, when five board members will be elected. With the defeat of three conservative GOP candidates in the primary, the board's majority is likely to be made up of moderate Republicans or Democrats who have vowed to overturn the new standards."
What is the Biggest Living Thing on Earth? A Fungus Among Us!
Click here for the story from ABC News and the AP. Writer Jeff Barnard says in the Aug. 6th story that "Walking through the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon you would be hard pressed to notice it. But a fungus spreading through the roots of trees now covers 2,200 acres, making it the largest living organism ever found. Popularly known as the honey mushroom, the Armillaria ostoyae started from a single spore too small to see without a microscope and has been weaving its black shoestring filaments through the forest for an estimated 2,400 years, killing trees as it grows. ... The outline of the giant fungus, strikingly similar to a mushroom, stretches 3.5 miles across, and extends an average of three feet into the ground. It covers an area as big as 1,665 football fields. No one has estimated its weight."
Mainstream Christian Commentary on Kansas Board of Education Vote
Charles Henderson said this on August 3rd, 2000, on his "About Christianity" website, at http://christianity.about.com/religion/christianity/library/weekly/aa080300.htm
"Darwin Makes a Comeback in Kansas"
"Having failed to make the case against evolution with a majority of Kansas Republicans since last year's controversial decision to remove evolution from statewide science standards, several conservative Board of Education members lost their seats in this week's primary elections. The Kansas primary became a focal point for nationwide press coverage following what many voters perceived to be a takeover of the state Board by representatives of the religious right. ... Win or lose, the balance of opinion within the Board of Education is likely to change, as the Democrats hold the same view of evolution as the moderate Republicans: namely, that evolution is an important part of any child's education and is a topic that needs to be covered in the state's science curriculum. ... Gamble, 58, a Shawnee real estate agent and veteran member of the Shawnee Mission school board, said her door-to-door campaigning made the difference. 'When parents learned the issues at stake, they turned out to vote,' she said. 'This is a victory for parents and children and their education, and I could not be happier.' ... As I have argued elsewhere, whether one 'believes' in evolution is beside the point. The fact is that the theory of evolution is an important part of the history of the biological sciences, just as Marxism is an important part of the history of political science. One does not need to be a Marxist in order to understand how important Karl Marx and the movement he spawned has been in the history of the West. The same applies to Charles Darwin. His ideas and the uses and abuses made of them by others is a crucial part of any child's education. The same, I would argue, applies to the Bible, the Koran, and other sacred texts. These are topics every informed citizen ought to be familiar with in a pluralistic society such as our own. Furthermore, evolution is itself a theory that is evolving. The views of Charles Darwin have not been adopted by scientists as a 'religious dogma' that must be accepted or rejected as a matter of faith. On the contrary, evolution as understood by contemporary scientists bears little similarity to the understandings put forward in Darwin's On the Origin of the Species. And while some still believe there is a conflict between any theory of evolution and biblical faith, others see no such conflict. Indeed, many leading Christian theologians have long ago incorporated the findings of evolutionary science into their understanding of how God works within Creation. Indeed, for the majority of Christians in America, belief in evolution is no greater an obstacle to faith than belief in the law of gravity. The 'laws of nature' are themselves reflections of the Divine Creator's will and way of working in this world."
Exceeding the Speed of Light? Better Read This First!
Salon reports on the "Faster-than-Light" reports making the news lately, at http://www.salon.com/people/feature/2000/08/03/light/print.html. The August 3rd report by Chris Colin states that "It seems the papers had it wrong: Not only does the speed of light remain unsurpassed, but Wang's experiment wasn't even about that. What Wang wanted to do -- and succeeded in doing -- was much more banal. Far from challenging fundamental rules of nature, the team developed a method of manipulating the wavelengths of a beam of light, thereby altering the way it arrives at its destination. Because short wavelengths become longer and long ones become shorter, the natural fanning outward that marks a light pulse is eliminated; consequently the shape of the pulse at its destination appears the same as at its origin. This effect, called anomalous dispersion, had never been produced in a transparent medium. The novelty of the experiment was not in the manipulation of the pulse -- physicists have been doing this for years and long ago observed that a certain band of frequencies within a group of waves can arrive at its destination before the rest, even at a rate greater than the speed of light. No, the novelty lay in the 6-centimeter, cesium-filled, clear chamber that hosted this activity. Historically, anomalous dispersion had only been arranged in opaque media. This is big news for an institute funded by a major telecommunications company --improved performance in optical fibers could prove valuable -- but no news at all for the average Post reader."
Creationism and Kansas: "Litmus Test" or "Third Rail" ?
The Kansas State Board of Education primary election was held on Tuesday, August 1st. The creation/evolution issue was an important part of the campaign, in light of last year's board action which removed testing requirements for "macro-evolution",the Big Bang, and other hot topics. Amazingly, the creationism issue in Kansas evolved into a "litmus test" for deciding if a Republican was moderate (= pro-evolution) or conservative (= pro-creationism).
But, as in New Mexico in 1998, creationists were dealt a stunning defeat at the ballot box. In fact, the "litmus test" came out looking much more like the proverbial "third rail" of politics.
Five seats were up for election this year. Here are the results: in the 2nd District, former board chair Linda Holloway was soundly defeated (60 to 40 percent) by Republican Sue Gamble, who supports putting evolution back into Kansas standards. Gamble will face Democrat Ron Patton in the fall. [All the Democrats running for Kansas board positions are pro-evolution.] In the 4th District, Patrick Hill, who was unopposed in the primary, will face incumbent Democrat Bill Wagnon, in the November general election. Hill supports the new standards, while Wagnon opposes them. In the 6th District, one of the board members who voted for last year's new anti-evolution standards, Scott Hill, did not run for re-election; the conservative candidate for this seat, Brad Angell, wanted to support the new standards, but Angell was defeated by pro-evolution Republican candidate Bruce Wyatt, 56% to 44%. Wyatt faces Democrat Eloise Lynch in the fall. Incumbent Mary Douglass Brown lost the 8th District position with her defeat by pro-evolution candidate Carol Rupe (52% to 48%); Rupe will be opposed by Democrat Dick Williams in November. Finally, in the 10th District, conservative Steve Abrams defeated Roger Rankin by 63% to 37%. Abrams, one of the authors of last year's standards, will be opposed by Democrat Wayne Holt in the general election.
Of the six board members who supported last year's gutting of previous science standards, four were up for election this year. Now, three of those will be gone (Linda Holloway, Scott Hill, Mary Brown); if incumbent Abrams loses in November, and if incumbent Wagnon defeats Patrick Hill, then the composition of the board would be changed to 8-2 in favor of evolution. Even if Abrams wins and Wagnon loses, the balance will still be 6-4 in favor of evolution and related topics. According to the Wichita Eagle on Aug. 2, " 'There's no doubt in my mind... one of the first actions we'll take in January when the new board takes over would be to reverse the science standards,' said Janet Waugh, a Kansas City Democrat who voted against the changes in the science standards."
The Holloway-Gamble race drew a lot of national attention. It was the most expensive campaign in state board history, with Holloway raising about $90,000 for her 16,215 votes, and Sue Gamble raising around $36,000 for her 24,590 votes. (That works out to Holloway spending $5.55 per vote in her losing bid, and Gamble spending $1.46 per vote in her winning bid.)
Click here for more reports from the Kansas City Star and from ABC News.
News from July 2000
Tau Neutrino Yields to Discovery!
Click here for more from ABC News. "July 21 In what is being hailed as a heroic achievement in physics, scientists have found the first direct evidence of the tau neutrino, an elusive and ghostly subatomic particle that was thought to be the last missing piece in the architecture of matter. The breakthrough, announced on Thursday [July 20], was achieved by scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago."
Click here for Bob Park's What's New column lamenting the fact that this astounding discovery has been overshadowed by recent exaggerated "Speed of Light Exceeded" claims. Writes Park, "GROAN! LIGHT IS REPORTED TO TRAVEL FASTER THAN LIGHT. The real news in physics was that the tau neutrino, the last of the fermions predicted by the Standard Model, had been discovered at Fermilab. But front page headlines across the country were proclaiming, 'The Speed of Light Has Been Broken.' It's now going to be impossible to characterize any claim as physically impossible without people scoffing: 'that's what they said about the speed of light.' At WN, we're already getting triumphant phone calls and e-mails from Einstein deniers. Charles Bennett at IBM Watson points out that this is little more than a confused rehash of an old story, where the peak of the wave packet leaving the "superluminal" medium is causally related to just the leading edge of the wave packet entering the medium. 'Rolf Landauer is dead,' Bennett sighed, 'and someone needs to complain for him.' "
Scopes Trial Still Debated after 75 Years
Click here for comment on the creation/evolution "controversy" from ABC News. "July 23 Seventy-five years after the Scopes Monkey Trial dominated front page headlines nationwide, the debate over teaching evolution and creationism in public schools remains as robust as ever, say participants on both sides of the ongoing debate. Looking back on 25 years of teaching biology to public high schools students in Kansas, Brad Williamson cant recall even one year when a student failed to passionately argue against the theory of evolution a theory the scientific community now accepts as fact, he said. ... according to [Berkeley 'Intelligent Design' advocate Philip] Johnson, 'The trial itself had almost no impact at all. It was only overturned on a technicality because the judge in Dayton had fined Scopes $50 too much.' he said. 'I think evolution is as much a religion as creationism. I think we should add an ism to the end of evolution because I think they both require a certain amount of faith.' "
New Mexico Fossils lead to Great Permian Extinction Event!
Click here for the July 23rd report from the Albuquerque Journal's John Fleck. "A mystery that began with puzzling rocks in New Mexico's Zuni Mountains has led a Smithsonian paleontologist to conclude that the greatest extinction in the history of Earth happened in a geologic instant. Scientists once thought the extinctions happened slowly, spread over millions of years. But the new research narrows down the extinction to a very short period of time, suggesting some great catastrophe, perhaps a meteor or a vast volcano, triggered the calamity. It happened 250 million years ago, dwarfing the more famous extinction of the dinosaurs that occurred 185 million years later and laying the foundation for life as we know it. 'There are six or seven sort of turning points in the history of life, and this is one of them,' said Smithsonian paleontologist Doug Erwin. ... The 42-year-old Erwin first confronted the mystery when he was an L.A. teenager, spending his summers at a camp called Cottonwood Gulch in the Zuni Mountains." See the new Science for more details. The story has attracted national attention; click here for details from ABC News.
New Jovian Moon Discovered - First in 25 Years!
Click here for the July 20th press release on the collaborative effort of the Spacewatch program at the University of Arizona, and the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Massachusetts. The discovery, made in part by Gareth Williams and Tim Spahr of the Minor Planet Center (MPC), with help from Brian Marsden in Massachusetts, can be viewed online here. This brings the number of satellites of Jupiter to 17, a new Solar System Record! Read more on the story from ABC News.
New Wingtip Eliminates Dangerous Vortices!
Click here for the July 22nd story from New Scientist "Until now, the only way to avoid the problem of wake vortices has been for air-traffic controllers to keep incoming aircraft up to 11 kilometres apart. This limits the number of planes that can land each hour. Airlines complain that this leads to delays at busy times as planes queue up to land. Boeing set out to solve the problem by destroying the vortices at source. In earlier wind tunnel tests, engineers found that by wiggling the plane's control surfaces they could produce a wave-like disturbance in the airflow over the wing that broke up the vortices. In these attempts, engineers oscillated the inner and outer ailerons out of phase. But this caused too much stress on the wings for it to be used routinely. ....The breakthrough came when Crouch and Spalart found they could make the idea work if they combined small perturbations of the outer ailerons and the spoilers. This makes the inner and outer vortices on each wing interfere with each other, causing instabilities that destroy them both. They say in their patent that a sensor on-board the plane will measure the strength of the vortices it is leaving behind. A computer will then use this information to calculate the strength and frequency of the movements needed for the spoilers and ailerons of the following plane." Thanks to pilot Dee Friesen for the tip!
NSF Surveys Science Literacy Again.
Click here for the July 17th story from the Los Angeles Times. "'Most Americans,' the report says, 'know a little, but not a lot, about science and technology.' Given some of the findings, even that may be generous. While more than 70% of the people the NSF surveyed knew that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, and that humans and dinosaurs did not coexist, only 16% could define the Internet and only 13% could accurately describe a molecule. At least those numbers are going up, the report's authors noted diplomatically--five years ago, only 11% could define the Internet and only 9% could describe a molecule. 'Science literacy in the United States [and in other countries] is fairly low,' says the report with typically measured understatement.Only about a fifth of the Americans surveyed could describe what it means to study something scientifically."
What Really Fell from the Roswell Sky?
Click here for the story by NMSR president Dave Thomas, from the July 8, 2000 Albuquerque Tribune. "Something fell from the sky and landed near Roswell in the summer of 1947. But it didn't come from outer space. It came from . . . Alamogordo! In fact, the legend of Roswell can be traced directly to a series of top-secret physics experiments designed to spy on Soviet nuclear tests."
Lying With Pixels
Click here for the story from the July/August Technology Review. Ivan Amato reports "Seeing is no longer believing. The image you see on the evening news could well be a fakea fabrication of fast new video-manipulation technology. ...What sets the [skater Katarina]Witt demo apartway apartis that the technology used to virtually delete the skater can now be applied in real time, live, even as a camera records a scene and instantly broadcasts it to viewers. In the fraction of a second between video frames, any person or object moving in the foreground can be edited out, and objects that arent there can be edited in and made to look real. Pixel plasticity, Livingston calls it. The implication for those at the satellite imagery conference was sobering: Pictures from orbit may not necessarily be what the satellites electronic camera actually recorded." Thanks to Bill Fienning for the tip.
FOX News Gushes over "REAL" X-Men!
Click here for the credulous July 13, 2000 story from FOX News. A sample: "Famke Janssen plays the X-Men's telekinetic, Jean Grey, endowed with the power to manipulate physical matter solely with the power of thought. A Salt Lake City local, Dan Cracraft, claims to possess the same ability simply from reading metaphysical books for ten hours a day and practicing meditation. "All that telekinesis requires is the right psychological state," he said. "What you need is a clear, confident state of being." After achieving such a state, Cracraft claims, "I could balance a spoon on the edge of a glass, and move my hand over it while picturing an energy field over my hand. With concentration I could force the spoon to bend and fall from the glass." "I'd do it all the time in restaurants when I lived in L.A., plenty of people witnessed it," he continued. "I would get reactions from people thinking I was the devil to people who laughed and said they used to teach the same thing at UCLA.""
Big Bigfoot Flap!
Click here for the July 06, 2000 story from ABC News and the AP."P O R T A N G E L E S, Wash., July 6 Two researchers looking into reports of curious tracks on the Lower Hoh Indian Reservation have come to different conclusions about whether they might have been caused by Bigfoot. Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, assistant professor of anatomy and biology at Idaho State University, concluded there was not enough factual evidence to continue an investigation. The other, self-proclaimed Bigfoot tracker Cliff Crook, believes the evidence is so great he is headed back to gather more data. Crook, who was on the scene a day before Meldrum, said he found many clues leading him to believe the tracks were created by a Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, a large, hairy creature that has been reported around the world but is most closely identified with the Pacific Northwest. "
Was Einstein All Wrong?.
Click here for the July 06, 2000 story from Salon by John Farrell. A quote:
"If you're tired of hearing about creationists and the war against Darwinism, you might be surprised to learn that another pillar of modern science, Einstein and his theory of relativity, is under attack. An underground of "dissident" scientists and self-described experts publish their theories in newsletters and on the Web, exchanging ideas in a great battle against "the temple of relativity." According to these critics, relativity is not only wrong, it's an affront to common sense, and its creator, Albert Einstein, was a cheat. ...As it stands, relativity is essential to quantum physics, as Harvard astrophysicist David Layzer told me. And quantum electrodynamics, which accounts for electromagnetic interactions at the atomic level, is not possible without the special theory of relativity. To say nothing of the other daily confirmations of the theory's consequences provided by atomic accelerators, the GPS and, of course, the equivalence of mass and energy derived from special relativity in Einstein's most famous equation, E=mc2. But this makes no impression on crackpots. They insist it all can be explained with an ether theory or some fiddling with Newton's gravitation."
News from June 2000
John Allen Paulos discusses Miracles...
Click here for the story from ABC News. Mathematician/author Paulos says "But if a miracle is intended to indicate some sort of divine intervention, some questions come naturally to mind. Why, for example, do so many in the media and elsewhere refer to the rescuing of a few children after an earthquake as a miracle when they attribute the death of perhaps hundreds of equally innocent children in the same disaster to a geophysical fault line? It would seem either both are the result of divine intervention or both are a consequence of the earths plates shifting. The same point holds for other tragedies. If a recovery from a disease is a considered a miraculous case of divine intervention, then to what do we attribute the contracting of the disease in the first place? ... Its become somewhat fashionable to say that religion and science are growing together and are no longer incompatible in any way. This convergence is, in my opinion, illusory. In fact, I dont believe that any attempt to combine these very disparate bodies of ideas can succeed."
Evolution Suit Dismissed...
Faribault, Minnesota high school science teacher Rod LeVake sued his school district, which had stopped him from teaching biology classes because of his insistence on including "evidence against evolution" in his classes. LeVake sued the district for $50,000 and reinstatement as a biology teacher. Associated Press reported that Rice County District Court judge Bernard Borene dismissed the lawsuit on Tuesday, June 20th, saying that "LeVake neglected his teaching responsibilities by rushing through the curriculum on evolution."
Prospects for Life get Sweeter..
Click here for the story from SpaceScience.com (June 20th, 2000). "The prospects for life in the Universe just got sweeter, with the first discovery of a simple sugar molecule in space. The discovery of glycolaldehyde in a giant cloud of gas and dust near the center of our own Milky Way Galaxy was made by scientists using the National Science Foundation's 12 Meter Telescope, a radio telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona."
Another Flap over Fossilized Feathers...
Click here for the story from ABC News (June 23rd, 2000). "It was a lizard-like creature with four legs that most likely fed on bugs and leapt from tree to tree. And now scientists are claiming this animal that was fossilized long before the age of most dinosaurs, also had feathers. The conclusion published this week in the journal Science poses a bold challenge to the now widely-accepted theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs."
This is sure to be seized on by creationists as more problems with dinosaur-bird evolution. However, not all scientists agree that the creature,Longisquama, proves that birds did not evolve from theropod dinosaurs. Debates are flaring over whether the structures are indeed feathers. There is so much morphological evidence linking dinosaurs and birds that many scientists are skeptical that Longisquama is really ancestral to the avian line. But, commenting in the June 24th Science News, paleontologist Terry Jones of Oregon State University (Corvallis), one of the new report's authors, says "There's no question that birds and dinosaurs are related.... It's just a question of where you put Grandma."
Evolution Theory used to improve Engine Performance!
Click here for the story from University of Wisconsin/Madison (June 14th, 2000). "Could Charles Darwin's rules of evolution help engineers design high-performance engines of the future? Computer models developed at UW-Madison are doing just that, by using genetic algorithms to simultaneously increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution. ....The results to date have been dramatic. Using a Silicon Graphics supercomputer at the university's Engine Research Center, Senecal created a diesel engine design that reduces nitric oxide emissions by three-fold and soot emissions by 50 percent over the best available technology. At the same time, the model reduced fuel consumption by 15 percent."
Martian Oceans were SALTY!
Click here for the story from ABC News (June 23rd, 2000). "Hard on the heels of an announcement that scientists may have found evidence that water still flows to the surface of Mars, geologists said today that they have proof that Martian oceans were salty. Astronomers agree that Mars must have been warm and wet billions of years ago, but its oceans have long since dried up. A team at Arizona State University and Los Alamos National Laboratory said they have nonetheless been able to get an idea of what those oceans were like by looking at chunks of rock that fell to Earth from Mars as meteorites."
More Evidence for existence of Water on MARS...
Click here for the story from ABC News (June 22nd, 2000). "In a groundbreaking discovery, NASA astronomers announced today they have found strong evidence that water flows on the surface of Mars. The finding makes it much more likely that life may exist or could have existed on the planet."
Supreme Court rejects Creationism...AGAIN!
Click here for the story from CNN News (June 19th, 2000). "WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court refused to let a public school district require that the teaching of evolution be accompanied by a disclaimer mentioning 'the biblical version of creation' and other teachings on life's origin. The justices, by a 6-3 vote Monday, let stand rulings that struck down a Louisiana school board's disclaimer policy as a violation of the constitutionally required separation of government and religion. Monday's action was not a precedent-setting decision but only a denial of review. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas voted to hear arguments in the case. ... Writing for the court's three dissenters Monday, Scalia criticized the court for standing by while an appeals court 'bars a school district from even suggesting to students that other theories besides evolution -- including but not limited to, the biblical theory of creation -- are worthy of their consideration.' "
Scalia's dissent can be read here. His conclusion: "In Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97 (1968), we invalidated a statute that forbade the teaching of evolution in public schools; in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), we invalidated a statute that required the teaching of creationism whenever evolution was also taught; today we permit a Court of Appeals to push the much beloved secular legend of the Monkey Trial one step further. We stand by in silence while a deeply divided Fifth Circuit bars a school district from even suggesting to students that other theories besides evolutionincluding, but not limited to, the Biblical theory of creationare worthy of their consideration. I dissent."
More on the story from ABC News can be found here.
Los Alamos researcher finds that AIDS got started in the 30's...
Click here for the story from ABC News (June 9th, 2000). "AIDS evolved from a benign simian infection into a human-killer in the early 1930s, long before it was recognized as a disease, but it stayed in remote Africa until jet travel, big cities and the sexual revolution spread it worldwide, a new study suggests. Researchers measuring the rate of genetic change in HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, found the current strains originated from a common ancestor that first evolved from a simian virus in southwest Africa between 1915 and 1941, with 1931 the most likely year. 'It could have been in humans even before that,' said Tanmoy Bhattachary, a researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. The study appears today in the journal Science."
Early Solar System had WATER!
Click here for the story from ABC News (June 8th, 2000). "Ancient salt taken from a meteorite shows that planets started forming in the solar system much sooner than anyone thought, and that it was often a warm and wet place, British scientists said today. They said the salt crystals in the Zag meteorite, found in Morocco in 1998, might be the oldest materials ever found. The crystals date back to within 2 million years of the solar systems birth from swirling dust 4.6 billion years ago, James Andrew Whitby, Jamie Gilmour and colleagues at Manchester University and Londons Natural History Museum said. The key to dating the ancient bit of rock, which probably chipped off an asteroid, was tiny traces left by evaporating gases, the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Science. "
Earliest fossils of Sea Life Found
Click here for the story from Discovery.com news (June 7th, 2000). "Recently discovered fossils look like rocks containing wisps of human hair, but researchers believe they are the remains of 3.2-billion-year-old microorganisms that once dwelled near hot springs at the bottom of an ocean. The extraordinary age of the fossils extends the known range of submarine thermal life by more than 2.7 billion years. The older date supports the theory that life on Earth began near hydrothermal systems, areas where underground volcanoes release hot, nutrient-rich water."
Royals Squabble over Genetically-Modified Food
Click here for the story from ABC News (June 6th, 2000). "The husband of Queen Elizabeth II joined the debate over genetically modified food today, saying it is no different than breeding racehorses and less dangerous than allowing exotic species into Britain. Prince Philips comments, reported in The Times of London, contrast sharply with the views of his son, Prince Charles, a champion of organic farming who believes genetically modified foods are unsafe. But the 78-year-old prince agreed with his daughter, Princess Anne, who has said she believes there is a role for genetically modified foods."
Has the Speed of Light been Exceeded?
Click here for details from the Sunday Times (UK), from June 4th, 2000. They say that ".In research carried out in the United States, particle physicists have shown that light pulses can be accelerated to up to 300 times their normal velocity of 186,000 miles per second. The implications, like the speed, are mind-boggling. On one interpretation it means that light will arrive at its destination almost before it has started its journey. In effect, it is leaping forward in time. Exact details of the findings remain confidential because they have been submitted to Nature, the international scientific journal, for review prior to possible publication. The work was carried out by Dr Lijun Wang, of the NEC research institute in Princeton, who transmitted a pulse of light towards a chamber filled with specially treated caesium gas."
And click here for a trenchant comment from American Physical Society's Bob Park, author of Voodoo Science.
"4. YAWN: PAPERS REPORT THAT THE SPEED OF LIGHT HAS BEEN BROKEN.
Whoa, is this the old phase-velocity stuff that has confused generations of physics students? Recent experiments, cleverly contrived to give the appearance of superluminal transmission, have been hyped by, among others, the Sunday Times of London, which a year ago had RHIC at Brookhaven devouring the world (WN 23 Jul 99). Actually, you can see the same thing at the beach: the intersection of incoming and outgoing waves travels down the beach far faster than the wave velocity. Causality is preserved."
Want to be a Millionaire? Roswell Museum offers Big Bucks for Roswell Relics.
Click here for details from the museum. They say that "UFOMRC will pay 50 percent of all net revenues earned by the museum through exhibiting the artifact until its original owner or owners receive a total of one million dollars. The artifact will become the property of the IUFOMRC upon being accepted by the museum for scientific testing. IUFOMRC will pay all testing costs." One might hope that the museum will be wary of hoaxes and pranks, since a good deal of money is involved. But, if the museum shares in the profits, as stated, perhaps the actual veracity of candidate objects doesn't really matter. Stay tuned!
News from May 2000
Vatican OK's more testing on Shroud of Turin.
Click here for the story from ABC News.
VATICAN CITY, May 23 The Roman Catholic Church could allow new tests to be carried out on the Shroud of Turin to try to solve the riddle of one of Christianitys most enduring enigmas, the archbishop of Turin said Monday. 'We know it has to be science, and not faith, that has the last word on this mysterious image,' Archbishop Severino Poletto told a news conference at the Vatican. 'We cant exclude new tests, in particular on some strands of the cloth where the image is found.' ... Controversial carbon dating tests carried out by scientists in Oxford, England, Zurich, Switzerland, and Tucson, Ariz., concluded in 1988 that the Shroud dated from between 1260 and 1390. The results caused a sensation suggesting one of the churchs most revered relics was a clever medieval fake, rather than confirmation that it was the burial cloth that wrapped Christs body after his crucifixion."
Chuck Colson's Breakpoint Ministry criticizes young-earth creationists of Answers in Genesis.
Watergate figure Colson's report can be seen here. A sample: "...their stated goalencouraging people to accept the authority of the Bible and its implications for all of lifeis laudable. But their strategy does no service to the larger cause of Christian worldview and will, in our opinion, further damage the relationship between science and faith. A better strategy to promote the Christian worldviewand one that will further their ultimate goalsis to focus on a question about which all believers, whatever their account of creations antiquity, may be unified. This question is whether nature, in fact, points to a designer."
The Answers in Genesis reply can be seen here. Their take: "We were surprised that in their lengthy commentary, the authors used no Scripture to refute our literal approach to Genesis. After all, the "BreakPoint" slogan declares that their column is a "Christian Perspective on Today's News and Trends," but how can one truly write such a lengthy "Christian perspective" and not go to the Bible (except for citing the Romans 1:20 verse that generically says that God's handiwork is evident in nature)?"
Herbalife Founder, age 44, dies of "Natural" Causes
Click here for the story from ABC News. "May 22 Mark Reynolds Hughes, founder of the Herbalife empire of weight loss and nutritional products, has died at age 44, authorities said Sunday. Hughes was found dead in his Malibu mansion, said Los Angeles County sheriffs Sgt. Norine Plett. He died of apparent natural causes but an autopsy will determine the cause of death, she said. Los Angeles-based Herbalife, which Hughes founded in 1980, sells weight management, personal care and nutritional products in 44 countries."
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation releases "Politicizing Science Education" by Paul R. Gross.
Click here for the complete account from this very conservative foundation. Here are some choice tidbits:
"Because to revile evolutionary science, 140 years after the Darwin-Wallace insight, as 'Darwinism' is ignorance or rabble-rousing. It is as silly as would be sneering at NASA's space engineering as 'Newtonism' (which in the same trivial sense it is)."
"Creationist assertions that 'Darwinism is in trouble with the evidence' are propaganda. No evidentiary claim against 'Darwinism' has so far withstood testing. On the other hand, the evidence in favor of natural selection grows exponentially and meshes ever more tightly with the rest of science."
"Any scientist who found a basic flaw or a genuine, deep gap in evolutionary theory would be an overnight celebrity. It's the kind of thing that happens in science. It happened to Albert Einstein soon after he proposed a significant modification of Newtonian mechanics that made sense to the physics of its time and survived subsequent empirical tests. So has the synthesis of Darwinian natural selection, embryology, genetics, and biochemistry made sense - and survived all tests to date."
Lightning Rods... NM Researcher finds that "Duller is Better."
Click here for the story from ABC News. AP's Randolph Schmidt reported on May 15 that "Among Benjamin Franklins famous accomplishments was inventing the lightning rod. But a new study says his design was flawed and the rods work better if they are blunt-tipped instead of being sharp. ... Researchers in New Mexico tested both types of lightning rods ... Rods with blunt, rounded ends worked best, the scientists report in the May 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. In fact, when they left rods with various tips on the 12,000-foot summit of South Baldy Peak in the Magdalena Mountains of central New Mexico, the blunt-tipped rods were the only ones that managed to attract lightning. The research team from the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology was led by now-retired professor Charles B. Moore."
(Professor Moore is more than a well-respected atmospheric physicist. His balloon experiments in the 40's led directly to what is now called the Roswell Incident.)
Genie Scott discusses creationism, evolution in Science Magazine.
Click here for the essay; you do NOT need to have a Science Magazine account!
A quote: "Whereas 'balancing' evolution with creation science was advocated before the Supreme Court struck down laws requiring equal time for creation and evolution, the neocreationist approach is to balance evolution with 'evidence against evolution.' Scientists unfamiliar with such 'evidence' soon discover that evidence against evolution is just a euphemism for creation science. In fact, as I write this, a law is making its way through the Arizona legislature that would require that evidence against evolution be taught along with evolution. Don't be misled: Such evidence-against-evolution regulations are not proposing that teachers present controversies about how evolution occurs, but that teachers pretend there is a serious debate taking place among scientists over whether evolution occurs. ... Months before the Kansas school board acted, Nebraska watered down evolution in its science standards. A few years ago, Illinois adopted science standards that ignored the e-word, and Arizona and New Mexico include evolution in their current standards largely because scientists, teachers, and other citizens fought for revisions of these documents after initial passage of what can only be referred to as substandards omitting evolution. Many other states treat evolution in only a cursory fashion."
Ancient Hominids found in EUROPE!
Click here for the story from ABC News.
"May 12 Three skulls dug from under a medieval town in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and dating back 1.7 million years may represent the first pre-humans who migrated out of Africa and into Europe, researchers said on Thursday. The skulls look like those of early humans who lived in East Africa at the same time, and a wealth of tools found at the site look like tools made by the African pre-humans."
Intelligent Designists Brief Congress
From the May 8th story from US NewsWire.
"WASHINGTON, May 8 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Discovery Institute will bring top scientists and scholars to Washington D.C. to brief Congressional Representatives and Senators and their staffs on the scientific evidence of intelligent design and its implications for public policy and education, Wednesday, May 10, in the U.S. Capitol Building and the Rayburn Office Building. Congressional co-hosts include: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI), Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-TX)."
Updates can be found here (Baptist Press), here (What's New) and here (American Geological Institute).
Is a Planetary Alignment on May 5, 2000 going to End the World?
Yes , Dunno , No , NO! , No , No , No , No , Math .
News from April 2000
Click here for the story from ABC News and Maggie Fox of Reuters.
"W A S H I N G T O N, April 25 A couple of genes helped insects evolve from leggy millipedes and boring worms into flies, beetles and fleas and probably helped them become among the most numerous creatures on the Earth, researchers said. When they suppressed the two genes in beetle larvae, the grubs grew extra legs, although they did not work well, Randy Bennett and colleagues at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, reported Monday. 'We got legs everywhere,' Bennett said. "
Click here for the stirring story from Lee Dye of ABC News.
Did dinosaurs have a heart? Yes! 4-chambered, even!
Click here for the story from ABC News. More on the story can be found at http://www.dinoheart.org/!
Baylor University Campus in Uproar over new "Intelligent Design" Center There.
Click here for the story on the uproar. MARK ENGLAND of the Tribune-Herald writes "The Faculty Senate at Baylor University Tuesday [4-19] approved a resolution supporting chairman Bob Baird's call for the dismantling of the Michael Polanyi Center, a think tank created by the administration last year to build a bridge between religion and science. Baylor's creation of the Polanyi Center without consulting faculty in either the science or religion departments outraged many faculty members. ... Science faculty at Baylor have also criticized the staff of the Polanyi Center, director William Dembski and associate director Bruce Gordon, accusing them of promoting creationism. They deny that charge." Dembski happens to be a director of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, home of the world's leading "Intelligent Design" program.
Home page of the Polanyi Center
Home page of the Discovery Institute
Discovery Institute article on the Polanyi Center
Discovery Institute page on fellow William Dembski
NMSR president returns from speaking tour.
I gave speeches on Roswell, the Bible Code, and assorted other topics during a speaking tour at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and also at the Center of Inquiry (home of CSICOP) in Amherst, NY. I enjoyed the great hospitality and enthusiastic audiences, but am sure glad to be home. (And yes, John, I finished my taxes at the airport.) Any politicians seeking to simplify the Tax Code can contact me for support anytime.
Answers in Genesis in Kentucky to build Creation Museum
F L O R E N C E, Ky., April 11 "A fundamentalist ministry is raising money for a museum based on the premise that dinosaurs roamed the earth within the past few thousand years, that all people are descended from Adam and Eve and that the Bible is a literal account of creation. ... 'What we really are about is biblical authority, telling people that the Bible is Gods word and the Book of Genesis is the true history of the world,' Ham said. That view is becoming less entrenched in the United States, according to Gallup Poll findings. In 1962, two out of three Americans surveyed said 'the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.' By 1998, one in three took that stance. Nearly half preferred a more flexible option: 'The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally.' Click here for the full story from ABC News.
Oklahoma House passes Creationism Bill 99-0
TIM TALLEY, Associated Press Writer, reported on April 5th that "Science books used in Oklahoma public schools would be required to acknowledge "that human life was created by one God of the universe'' under legislation passed Wednesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives." Click here for a commentary by Bob Park of the American Physical Society.
Archaeoraptor falls apart...
W A S H I N G T O N, April 7, AP Six months after proclaiming a newly discovered fossil to be a possible link between dinosaurs and birds, the National Geographic Society has confirmed that the find is really a composite of at least two different animals. Click here for a report from ABC News.
Old Biology Text Disclamer Found
While at Aztec, I found an old biology text from 1975-6 that had the old 'theory' disclaimer mandated by the former Board of Education. The disclaimer is reproduced here. Things have certainly evolved since then!
Fish-to-Amphibian MISSING LINK is Announced!
Older than Icthyostega! Older than Acanthostega! It's your basic Fish with Legs!Click here for the story from ABCNews. This fossil shows just about a perfect intermediate condition between fish and amphibian, according to paleontologist Dr. Per Ahlberg.
Mt. Etna is Belching Smoke Rings!
And you thought only humans could create such structures! Click here for the story from BBCNews.
Andrea Thompson, who plays tough, blond detective Jill Kirkendall on NYPD Blue, is qutting the popular show to work at Channel 13 here in Albuquerque!! (I know, I'm skeptical too...)
Click here for the story from ABCNews.
News from March 2000
What do Young-Earth Creationists have to say about Old Earth Creationists?
Some not-so-nice things! Click here for the story from Answers in Genesis.
Check out this Sound Byte:
"... our purpose as a ministry is not just to convince people that there is a Creator, but that He is far more than that -- that the Creator is Christ, and is the only way to be saved. ... At AiG, one of our primary thrusts is to build a totally Christian way of thinking, to show believers and unbelievers alike how the world may be properly understood through the "glasses" of the Bible; to show, for instance, that the facts of the real world line up with the Bible's teaching that the obedient Last Adam shed His blood in death to overcome the curse of death and bloodshed brought in by the disobedience of the First Adam. All the "intelligent design" theorists we know of do not take a stand on the issue of millions of years, and some openly proclaim their belief in an old world. This undermines the gospel message, because it puts death and bloodshed PRIOR TO the First Adam. This Gospel message is central to the Bible, and ultimately, it is the Word of God that will not return void (Isaiah 55:11), not the words of scholars who present arguments for intelligent design, no matter how eloquent."
Well, that should settle the questions about creationism being "scientific."
President of American Physical Society slams treatment of Wen Ho Lee.
And Jim Langer also slammed the FBI for citing "conflicting polygraph test results to justify its actions." Click here for the full story.
Pollster Daniel Yankelovich of DYG, Inc. studies creation/evolution in poll for People For the American Way.
Click here for the full story.
Click here for information on pollsters DYG, Inc.
Results in a nutshell:
Teach ONLY creationism in science class
Teach creationism ALONG WITH evolution in science class
Teach evolution in science, creationism in non-science class
Teach evolution and creationism in science class, noting that evolution is science while creationism is belief
Teach ONLY evolution in science or other classes
In Other Words,
Creation is "Science" 29% _ Evolution is Scientific 66%
How are evangelical creationists at Answers in Genesis misrepresenting the poll? They looked at the results, and come away with the conclusion that "79% of Americans expressed support in some way for the teaching of creation in public schools." A pure "flip-flop" - amazing! The poll, which asked the right questions for once, clearly shows that 79% (=13+17+29+20) want evolution taught as science, while only 29% (=16+13) want creationism taught as science. Answers in Genesis twisted the results by ignoring the pro-evolution numbers, and focusing only on those who want creation in school in some form, either as science or as studies on religion. And they didn't even get the math right, either! From the data above, I get 75% (=16+13+17+29) for the "creation in schools" percentage.
Was evolution fueled by Meteor Bombardment??
Maybe so, says a team of Berkeley researchers, analyzing the history of impact cratering on the moon. They report "a surprising increase in the frequency of impacts over the past 400 million years that may have played a central role in the evolution of life on Earth." Click here for the full story.
Education Week looks at Creation/Evolution controversy nationwide
Click here for the full story. What did they say about New Mexico?
"Likewise in New Mexico, the debate is continuing into the election season,where 10 elected members of the state board are on the ballot this year. State board members voted in October to remove statements in standards documents that teachers should discuss "evidence for and against evolution." The board acted specifically to avoid comparisons with Kansas. 'A small group of people' hit board members with mail and phone calls objecting to the decision, said Flora M. Sanchez, the board's president. 'It didn't seem like [the response] was widely representative of the general public. For now, our board is pretty comfortable with the position on this.' A bill to require that creationism be taught along with evolution passed the state Senate's education committee, but it failed to pass the full Senate or garner any support in the House. 'It would allow full and open, side-by-side study' of evolution and its critics, said Sen. Rod Adair, the Republican who is sponsoring the bill. 'There are plenty of scientists in America who take the opposite view ... that 'intelligent design' appears to be more probable than chance.'
ASTRONOMERS EXPLAIN CHAUCER MYSTERY!
Click here for the full story.
Kent Hovind wins the P. T. Barnum "One Born Every Minute" Award
And, he REFUSES to debate! Click here for the full story.
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