NEWS FROM THE YEAR 2003
This page was last updated on January 2nd, 2004.
by Dave Thomas : nmsrdaveATswcp.com (Help fight SPAM! Please replace the AT with an @ )
Damadian Interviewed by New York Times...
In a Dec. 14th interview, the scientist who was not recognized in this year's Nobel Prize for magnetic resonance imaging was asked about his repeated advertisements challenging the Nobel committee's decision. A snippet:
NYT: If you know you're right about inventing the M.R.I., why care about the Nobel?
Damadian: I don't care about the Nobel.
NYT: You've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on full-page ads, lamenting not winning it.
Damadian: I don't want to mislead anybody and lead them to believe that I didn't aspire to it, because I did. But I feel different now. Having been through what I've been through, I don't want it. I am concerned about the Nobel effect of being written out of history.
Keeping Up With Science for Kids - It's Not Easy...
In an interesting piece on the difficulties of writing science books in fields with lots of new discoveries, like evolution, this Dec. 16th New York Times article says "Writing a children's book is never easy. But the challenges are multiplied for children's books about science. It is all too common for the paramount importance of accuracy to conflict with the need to make a book enticing, or at least accessible. That does not, however, seem to daunt the authors and publishers who each year produce hundreds of books on science for the classroom, library and bookstore. In fact, for many reasons, including improvements in printing and changes in the market, children's science books are thriving, experts say. ..."
Artifacts from first modern humans?
The National Geographic reports on Dec. 17th that "Humans have had a refined artistic bent for at least 33,000 years, according to the discovery of three deftly carved ivory figurines in a cave in southwestern Germany. The miniature statues include a horse, a diving waterfowl, and a half-man, half-lion. The figurines come from an ongoing excavation of Hohle Fels Cave in the Ach Valley and are dated to a time when some of the earliest known relatives of modern humans populated Europe, an era known as the Aurignacian. ..."
Beagle 2 Undocks from Mother Ship for its Christmas Day Landing on Mars...
The BBC News reported today (Friday Dec. 19) that "Beagle 2 has successfully separated from its "mothership" for the final leg of the journey to Mars. Mike McKay, flight operations director at the European Space Operations Centre (Esoc) at Darmstadt, Germany, confirmed the separation just after 1110 GMT. The tiny probe will now glide the last three million kilometres to the Red Planet alone; silent, powerless and in hibernation mode. The lander is expected to touch down on Mars on Christmas Day, to search for signs of life, past or present. ..."
Speaking of Mars... Was Life Found There in 1976?
Back in May of this year, the BBC also reported that "Claims have re-emerged that the US space agency (Nasa) found signs of life on Mars during the historic Viking landings of 1976. Dr Gil Levin, a former mission scientist, says he now has the evidence to prove it, just days before the US and Europe send new expeditions to the Red Planet. ..."
Milky Way - Another Arm Is Found...
CNN reports on Dec. 16th that "Australian astronomers have discovered an extra cosmic arm in the Milky Way that they believe wraps around the outskirts of the vast galaxy like a thick gas border. Astronomers at scientific research group, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), hope the find will help paint a better picture of the Milky Way galaxy, which is home to Earth. ..."
New Spitzer Infrared Telescope Delights, Informs ...
Paul Recer of the Associated Press reports on Dec. 18th that "NASA unveiled the first views Thursday from its space infrared telescope, a super-cooled orbiting observatory that can look through obscuring dust to capture images never before seen. The telescope, a $670 million project launched in August, can detect extremely faint waves of infrared radiation, or heat. Astronomers for the first time are able to peer into the heart of stellar fields that had been blocked from the view of conventional telescopes by dense clouds of dust and gas. 'This gives us a powerful new capability that will enable us to see things not seen before and to answer questions we couldn't even ask before. This is a very powerful new tool for astronomy,' Michael Werner, an astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said at a news conference. He is the project scientist for the Spitzer Space Telescope, named in honor of the famed astronomer Lyman Spitzer Jr. ..."
Source: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20031219/D7VH62S80.html (Some Excellent Images!)
Did Global Warming Begin with Cavemen?
The Sydney Morning Herald (Aus.) reported on December 11 that "Measurements of ancient air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice offers evidence that humans have been changing the global climate since thousands of years before the industrial revolution. From 8000 years ago, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide began to rise as humans started clearing forests, planting crops and raising livestock, a scientist said on Tuesday. Methane levels started increasing 3000 years later. The combined increases of the two greenhouse gases implicated in global warming were slow but steady and staved off what should have been a period of significant natural cooling, said Bill Ruddiman, emeritus professor at the University of Virginia. The changes also disrupted regular patterns that dominated the 400,000 years of atmospheric history that scientists have teased from samples of ancient ice. ..."
LANL Scientist: Global Warming on MARS, too...
Space.com reports on Dec. 8th that "Scientists have suspected in recent years that Mars might be undergoing some sort of global warming. New data points to the possibility it is emerging from an ice age. NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has been surveying the planet for nearly a full Martian year now, and it has spotted seasonal changes like the advance and retreat of polar ice. It's also gathering data of a possible longer trend. There appears to be too much frozen water at low-latitude regions -- away from the frigid poles -- given the current climate of Mars. The situation is not in equilibrium, said William Feldman of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Layered deposits covering older, cratered surfaces near Mars' south pole dominate this image taken last month. The margin of these layered deposits appears to be eroding poleward, exposing a series of layers in the retreating cliff. It is one piece of a puzzle scientists are putting together on an apparently changing Martian climate. 'One explanation could be that Mars is just coming out of an ice age,' Feldman said. 'In some low-latitude areas, the ice has already dissipated.' ... "
Big Solar Flares nothing new...1859 saw "The BIG One"...
Space.com reported back on Oct. 27th that "A pair of strong solar storms that hit Earth late last week were squalls compared to the torrent of electrons that rained down in the 'perfect space storm' of 1859. And sooner or later, experts warn, the Sun will again conspire again send earthlings a truly destructive bout of space weather. If it happens anytime soon, we won't know exactly what to expect until it's over, and by then some modern communication systems could be like beachfront houses after a hurricane. In early September in 1859, telegraph wires suddenly shorted out in the United States and Europe, igniting widespread fires. Colorful aurora, normally visible only in polar regions, were seen as far south as Rome and Hawaii. ..."
Speaking of Solar Flares, Aurora-viewing Astronauts are Vindicated At Last...
Space.com reports on Dec. 10th that "The first direct images ever made of a solar storm as it engulfs Earth have also vindicated astronauts who said they'd seen colorful sky lights at dubiously high altitudes. The study shows that auroras reach far higher into the atmosphere than expected, though scientists are still puzzled over how it is possible. ..."
ID Leader Phillip Johnson: what's at stake is "the whole Bible from beginning to end" ...
The Dec. 13, 2003 issue of World Magazine names Intelligent Design leader Phillip Johnson as its "Daniel of the Year." Johnson joins previous Daniels, who include John Ashcroft, Franklin Graham, and Ken Starr. In the article about Johnson, John Perry writes "...But once someone accepts the fact that random evolution couldn't produce life on Earth, it has to have developed some other way. 'I looked for the best place to start the search,' Mr. Johnson says, 'and I found it in the prologue to the Gospel of John: 'In the beginning was the Word.' And I asked this question: Does scientific evidence tend to support this conclusion, or the contrary conclusion of the materialists that 'in the beginning were the particles'? ' Mr. Johnson notes that 'if we start with the Gospel's basic explanation of the meaning of creation, we see that it is far better supported by scientific investigation than the contrary. At this point we haven't proved the Bible's claims about creation, but we've removed a powerful obstacle in the way of such belief. And all I really want to do with the scientific evidence is to clear away the obstacle that it presents to a belief that the creator is the God of the Bible. ...Resistance from some Christians to Intelligent Design has been one of Mr. Johnson's biggest surprises and greatest disappointments. He expected many scientists to attack him because their careers depend on Darwinism: 'The more frustrating thing has been the Christian leaders and pastors, especially Christian college and seminary professors. The problem is not just convincing them that the theory is wrong, but that it makes a difference. What's at stake isn't just the first chapter of Genesis, but the whole Bible from beginning to end, and whether or not nature really is all there is.' Taking Christian morality out of the culture is the logical consequence of the acceptance of Darwinism. That has led to no-fault divorce, legalized abortion, a pro-homosexuality agenda, and all the other tragedies of Darwinist moral relativism. ... He continues, 'When we speak of God, Jesus, the resurrection, are we speaking of things that really happened or the things that occur only in a mythical land called religious belief? If the God of the Bible really is our creator, cares about us and what we do, then our culture has made a terrible mistake in turning away from this God because we haven't just changed a religious belief, we have repudiated reality.' .."
Segway Scooter a Head Start for Military Robot? ...
Canadian TV and the AP reported on Nov. 28th that "It's called the Segway Human Transporter, but the Pentagon is drafting the two-wheeled scooter as part of a plan to develop battlefield robots that think on their own and communicate with troops. ..."
Bush to Push Return to Moon?
Dennis E. Powell of the National Review writes on Dec. 3rd that "When President Bush delivers a speech recognizing the centenary of heavier-than-air-powered flight December 17, it is expected that he will proffer a bold vision of renewed space flight, with at its center a return to the moon, perhaps even establishment of a permanent presence there. ..."
Earth's Magnetic Field Not a Perfect Shield...
Yahoo and Space.com writer Robert Roy Britt reported on Dec. 4th that "Earth's natural defenses are routinely compromised by huge cracks that open up for hours, allowing space storms to pour through like a hurricane through an open window, scientists announced today. ... 'We discovered that our magnetic shield is drafty, like a house with a window stuck open during a storm,' said Harald Frey of the University of California, Berkeley. 'The house deflects most of the storm, but the couch is ruined.' ..."
Various Hums (Including the Taos Hum) Still Making the Rounds...
The New York Times reported on Dec. 2nd that "No one else in Phil Ciofalo's neighborhood in northeast Albuquerque by the foothills of the Sandia Mountains is bothered by the humming sound that irritates him constantly. They can't even hear it. In other neighborhoods around the globe, however, Mr. Ciofalo has company, other people who complain of hearing a persistent humming sound, usually when they are in their homes seeking peace and quiet from a busy world. ...The people who hear a hum do not appear to be suffering from tinnitus, a persistent ringing in the ear that is not produced by an external source. Dr. James Kelly, an ear specialist and director of surgical sciences at the University of New Mexico who examined complaints of a hum in Taos, said that 'tinnitus hearers report hearing higher frequency sound' than the people he studied. 'The Taos hum is a low-frequency phenomenon,' he said. ...Not everyone is convinced that the hum is real. In most cases there is simply no evidence that the hum people are hearing is coming from an external source. ..."
New Mammal Finds, Including Ancestral Elephant, Found in Africa...
The Washington Post reported on Dec. 3rd that "Scientists in Africa have unearthed the remains of six new species of large prehistoric mammals, including an ancestor of elephants and a 5,000-pound rhinoceros-like beast that roamed Ethiopia's highlands 27 million years ago. The discoveries offer new clues to the fate of Africa's mammals during the 'dark period' in the interval between 32 million years ago and the time 8 million years later when the prehistoric continent known as Afro-Arabia began to connect with Eurasia. ..."
Oldest Male Organ Rears its Head...
Yahoo/AP reported on Dec. 4th that "A fossil of a small sea creature extracted from a 425-million-year-old British rock formation is the oldest unequivocally male fossil known, researchers say. The animal, a new member of a large species group called ostracode, was buried under volcanic ash which mineralized and retained an image of its soft body parts...."
Echinacea no Panacea for Kids' Colds ...
ABC News repotrted on Dec., 3rd that "Parents whose kids are suffering the sniffles would try just about anything to help them get better. But at least one herbal 'remedy' echinacea may simply be a waste of money. ...new research on the herbal supplement in the current Journal of the American Medical Association reports kids given echinacea for their colds did not get better because of it. ..."
Santa Goes to Florida to Prove His Reality...
ABC News reports on Dec. 3rd that "Santa Claus is coming to town visiting a South Florida Elementary School this week after a first grade teacher told her students he didn't exist. Some parents said they were outraged when their children came home to tell them their teacher at Annabel C. Perry Elementary School in Miramar, Fla., had informed them there was no Santa Claus. ... 'We made a phone call to the North Pole and as soon as Santa Claus heard what happened he decided he would drop everything and make a trip down to South Florida,' explained Joe Donzelli, a community relations specialist for the Broward Co. School Board. Now children in the class are expecting a visit from Santa this week. ..."
And we wonder why people are so ready to believe the paranormal?!?
He Talks to Dead People?
ABC News is profiling "medium" John Edward tonight (Friday Dec. 5th) on 20/20. Don't expect the show to be the usual "Ready-to-believe" soft-sell approach adopted by many television reports. For this one, skeptic Michael Shermer will weigh in on cold reading, and how it's done. In a Dec. 5th article on the ABCNews website, it is mentioned that "One hour into 20/20's session with Edward, he turned to the side, toward the 20/20 crew and producer Michael Pressman. ... For more than 35 minutes, Edward quizzed Pressman with dozens of questions and observations and names. Only a handful turned out to be vaguely relevant; only one thing he mentioned was a concrete 'hit.' He guessed Pressman's wife's name. One good hit out of 41 tries. ..."
Strange "Crunching" Sound Alarms Space Station Crew...
Mark Carreau of the Houston Chronicle reported on Nov. 26th that "The U.S. and Russian crew of the international space station reported a brief unexpected metallic crunching noise outside the outpost early today. Astronaut Mike Foale told NASA's Mission Control the noise sounded as if something had struck the aft end of the Russian module that houses the crew's sleeping quarters, kitchen and lavoratory. Both U.S. and Russian ground-based experts could find no evidence of penetration of the station's airtight hull or the cooling system for the electronic equipment that is responsible for many of the operations. ..."
IDers try Back Door in Ohio...
In a Nov. 24th column printed in The Plain Dealer (Ohio), Lawrence M. Krauss and Patricia Princehouse write "Two weeks ago, the Texas State School Board decided to leave biology texts alone. It won't require that textbooks in the state be altered to include discussions of intelligent design. ... We in Ohio are, of course, familiar with this debate. Organizations that oppose modern evolutionary biology on religious grounds attempted to alter new proposed life-science benchmarks; they wanted the intelligent design concept inserted into the state science standards. Note that the Supreme Court had already ruled that ID's ancestor, 'creation science,' is not science but religion. The 1987 ruling also included the concept of creation by an 'intelligent mind.' It was a great victory for science education in this state that instead, for the first time ever, the word evolution appeared in the standards in the context of biology. There is no requirement to teach intelligent design creationism. There was a snag, however. The following 'indicator' was inserted into the standards: 'Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.' Taken literally, this statement would require teaching of cutting-edge evolutionary biology. Yet many, including us, were concerned that those who are trying to force intelligent design creationism into the curriculum would claim this statement opened the gate. So, the board clarified: 'The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.' One might have hoped the matter would have ended there. Unfortunately, this issue has come back with a vengeance. A copy of a draft curriculum approved for field-testing and public comment in the state has been leaked. The Department of Education board approved this draft in September but withheld it from public scrutiny. We now understand why. ... the nine supposed 'challenges' to evolution come straight out of intelligent design creationism. A main source listed in the curriculum is the discredited book 'Icons of Evolution,' by the Rev. Jonathan Wells, one of the Discovery Institute authors who came to Ohio to promote teaching intelligent design. Especially ridiculous is the ninth so-called 'challenge' on the natural selection of peppered moths. This is Dr. Wells' favorite hobbyhorse in his self-declared war on Darwin. ...."
Turkey "Pardons" - A CRUEL HOAX...
ABC News's John Stossel, in his weekly e-mail to 20/20 viewers, writes this week that "Friday I've got a column on that turkey that was spared by President Bush this week. Presidents have pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys every year since Harry Truman began the tradition. The presidents tell us the turkeys are sent to a petting farm, where they live out their lives in splendor. But years ago, I went to that farm, and the turkey pen was empty. Those birds that were supposed to be living out their 'golden years' had all died. Turkeys bred to be eaten are way too fat to survive for long at the petting farm. One lasted only a day. This presidential pardon ritual is kind of a hoax. ..."
ABC News calls Oliver Stone's Bluff...
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, ABC News presented a major report on the various conspiracy theories that have developed over the decades. Kudos to ABC for having the guts to say, calmy and in public, that "Oliver Stone is wrong" (referring to Stone's pro-conspiracy movie "JFK," which passes as "history" for many people born after 1963).
Interactive Tour: http://abcnews.go.com/jfk_conspiracy/jfk_conspiracy_index.html
Analysis Summary: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/WNT/WorldNewsTonight/jfk_beyond_conspiracy.html ("Forty years later, there has not been a single piece of credible evidence to prove a conspiracy. Robert Dallek, author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, says it's inconceivable that a conspiracy could have been kept secret for four decades 'given a society like ours, which is so open in so many ways and so porous. I know that millions and millions of people in this country believe that there was a conspiracy because, I think, it's very difficult for them to accept the idea that someone as inconsequential as Oswald could have killed someone as consequential as Kennedy,' said Dallek. ...")
More from CSICOP Stalwart Gerry Posner:
Speaking of Anniversaries, Happy 50th Debunking of Piltdown ...
The BBC, in a report titled "The Unmasking of Piltdown Man," notes "Piltdown Man went from being one of the biggest discoveries of the 20th Century to being its greatest scientific embarrassment. On 21 November 1953, the fossils discovered 40 years earlier and acclaimed as the "missing link" between apes and humans were finally revealed to be forgeries. Today, the word Piltdown is a term of abuse, used to label any fraudulent or shoddy research. Click through these pages to read more about the fake hominid. ..."
Check out the cool 3-D animations of the reconstruction.
Acquaintance of Darwin still kicking (or crawling, at least) ...
The "What's On When" website reported on the Nov. 14th birthday of Harriet the Tortoise, now residing in Australia, but originally a resident of the Galapagos Islands. "Certainly the oldest inhabitant in The Crocodile Hunter's Australia Zoo on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, and surely the oldest inhabitant on the Australian continent, Harriet is a giant Galapagos land tortoise, collected by Charles Darwin on his famous Voyage of the Beagle. With her date of birth calculated to 1830, she's well into her 18th decade now, although she has some way to go to surpass Darwin's gift of a tortoise to the King of Tonga that lived to 189! Steve Irwin (TV's Crocodile Hunter) and his Zoo staff have cared for Harriet since 1987. ..."
Aussie scientists find Inorganic Chemistry can mimic Biology...
The Australian Broadcast Network reported on Nov. 14th that "Researchers have been cooking up inorganic, worm-like structures that look like some of the earliest fossils believed to exist. An international team of chemists, physicists and geologists, including Professor Stephen Hyde of the Australian National University, publish its startling evidence in today's issue of the journal Science. ... The biomorphs looked remarkably like 3.5 billion year-old fossils found in Western Australia's Pilbara Region, whose origin has been hotly debated. Some scientists believe they are the earliest signs of life; others aren't convinced. ..."
Creationist threatens Minnesota Science Standards Team with "Grim Biblical Reminder" ...
The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul) reporeted on Nov. 17th that "Some members of the committee working to develop Minnesota's science standards were unnerved recently by e-mails sent from an Albert Lea man who heads a creationist group. Bryce Gaudian referred to a grim biblical reminder of what awaits them if they don't provide students with both sides of the evolution vs. creationism argument. The 40-member committee is deciding on the new academic science standards, which will guide instruction in Minnesota public school classrooms. ..."
What were the creationist threats? The full text of the letter appears on David Harris's Science and Literature Blog. A snippet: "Apparently you are all meeting again this Saturday, November 15th. It should make it easy for you to complete your work and not have any one alienated if you drop evolution completely from K-12 in the State of Minnesota. Be the first state in our United States to do the right thing. If you are not willing to do this, then I must reiterate to you all once again Scripture's stearn warning of grave peril for your offence: 'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea .woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!' (Matthew 18:6-7) ..."
More Evidence linking Permian/Triassic Extinction to Space Impact...
USA Today reported on Nov. 20th that "Researchers studying rocks from Antarctica have found chemical evidence that a huge meteorite smashed the Earth 251 million years ago and caused the greatest extinction event in the planet's history, killing about 90% of all life. The extinction, which scientists call the Permian-Triassic event, came some 185 million years before a similar meteorite collision with the planet killed off the dinosaurs. ..."
Speaking of Meteors, WHAT WUZZAT?
A strange object entered earth's atmosphere the evening of Thursday, Nov. 20, and was observed from California to New Mexico. A Bay area TV station reported "NBC11 was flooded with calls from Bay Area drivers who a saw bright blue flash in the sky Thursday night. So far, scientists don't now for sure what happened. Astronomers do not think the flash was caused by recent sun flares, or last week's Leonid meteor shower. Whatever it was, they don't believe it caused any damage. Astronomer Brian Day said, 'Most meteors burn completely in the atmosphere. This was big enough where something might have come down, but if it did, it was out over the Pacific Ocean.' ... "
And local Albuquerque station Channel 7 reported "...A mysterious object that New Mexicans reported seeing falling from the sky Thursday evening was actually a rare astronomical event. After receiving several phone calls from concerned residents, Action 7 News contacted U.S. Strategic Command. Officials there said they did not track any manmade objects entering Earth's atmosphere over New Mexico Thursday night. Astronomer Jack Drummond said the object was an unusual type of meteor with a lingering tail, called a Glow Worm. ..."
Waxman waxes poetic against 'Hit List' of scientists...
Paul C. Campbell, Daily Lobo columnist, writes in the Nov. 11th edition "Although difficult to imagine, a true American hero emerged this week from the chaotic rubble in Washington caused by the Republican debauchery of our democracy. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is my hero of the week for his commitment to the integrity of scientific research by standing up to the religious right. In late October, Waxman sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson inquiring about a 'hit list' of top American researchers. The Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative think tank, compiled the list. ... This 'hit list' has about 150 names of scientists and their research projects along with how much they receive from the National Institute of Health in the form of federal grants. Because all the 150 targeted scientists and their projects cover many areas related to HIV/AIDS and the sexual behaviors of particular groups within the American public, the Traditional Values Coalition is aiming to remove all federal funding. ..."
Journalism, Science and Objectivity...
Cornelia Dean of the NY Times wrote in the Nov. 11th issue "Last summer, the pollster Daniel Yankelovich reported what might seem a strange finding: scientists are distressed by the media's insistence on presenting 'both sides.' ... All too often, Mr. Yankelovich wrote, scientists who talk to reporters 'find themselves pitted in the media against some contrarian, crank or shill who is on hand to provide 'proper balance.' The scientists who hold this view have put their finger on an important problem. In striving to be 'objective,' journalists try to tell all sides of the story. But it is not always easy for us to tell when a science story really has more than one side or to know who must be heeded and who can safely be ignored.' ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/11/science/11EXPL.html (registration required)
"Deep Time" Project set to nail down Earth's Chronology ...
The Sun Herald (MIssissippi) reported on Nov. 10th, in an article by Robert Boyd of Knight Ridder Newspapers, that "Scientists have launched a project to construct a highly accurate calendar of key events in what they call "deep time," the almost unimaginable span since Earth was born 4.5 billion years ago. Sponsors think a precise prehistoric time scale can help them better interpret what is happening to our planet and predict what may lie ahead as the world gets warmer. For example, they hope the project, called CHRONOS (Greek for 'time'), will help settle arguments over the causes and effects of climate change on the evolution and extinction of species. ... Researchers are counting on tools and technologies developed over the last 10 years to greatly increase the accuracy of the geologic time scale, said Samuel Bowring, a geology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Bowring told a deep-time conference in Washington in October that the goal is to achieve a resolution of 1/10th of 1 percent - far better than the existing errors of 2 percent or more - by 2015. That would cut some uncertainties from millions to thousands of years. ..."
IRB's for Homeopathic "Medicine" Company Slammed in the Trib...
Dan Mayfield of the Albuquerque Tribune wrote on Nov. 14th that "It's all about jobs - but should it be? Harry Murphy wants to know. Now that the Bernalillo County Commission has approved industrial revenue bonds for Heel Inc., an Albuquerque homeopathic medicine producer, he's asking the question. 'Homeopathy is one of the craziest alternative medicines in existence, and I was floored when the commission decided to support this,' said Murphy, a 72-year-old retired physicist. 'They could've supported a brothel and had a more honest product.' The Bernalillo County commissioners who approved the bond issue disagree, arguing Heel is a clean, long-established Albuquerque company that employs 78 people and produces several products that sell well. ..."
Read the REST of the story on the NMSR website:
("...This is an incredibly bad decision by the County Commission, roughly on a par to issuing industrial revenue bonds to a Haitian company making voodoo dolls....")
Gilman on So-called Biology Book 'Weaknesses'...
Michael King, in the Nov. 14th issue of the Austin Chronicle, discusses last week's (Nov. 6th, 7th) vote by the Texas Board of Education to endorse textbooks which had been opposed by "Intelligent Design" creationists. King writes "Dr. Alfred Gilman, a professor at UT's Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a Nobel Laureate in medicine, called the SBOE decision a very important vote in defense of scientific education. 'The people from the Discovery Institute have tried to invent a 'theory in crisis' concerning evolution,' said Gilman. 'This is propagandistic nonsense. Evolution is not a theory in crisis -- it's the foundation, the cornerstone, of biology.' He said opponents' attempts to magnify what they call 'errors' in the experimental history amount to 'making mountains out of molehills.' 'They no longer make explicitly religious arguments against evolution,' Gilman continued, 'because they know they've been beaten on that one. But we should not dignify their pseudoscience by agreeing that these so-called weaknesses are scientific 'errors.' No textbook is perfect, but they're just looking for excuses to throw the baby out with the bathwater.' ... "
Native Americans were First to make Genetically Modified Corn ...
In the Nov. 14th issue of the Albuquerque Journal, John Fleck reports that "...early Americans turned a wild Mexican grass called teosinte into the highest yielding grain crop in the world and changed human culture on this continent. Nurtured by early Native American farmers, the genes turned the bushy teosinte grass into the cornstalks we know today, and the rock-hard teosinte seeds into the tender kernels that grace modern cobs. New research being published today in the journal Science traces that evolution and, for the first time, links genes found in modern agricultural corn to cobs found at ancient archaeological sites.Using DNA extracted from corn cobs found at archaeological sites in New Mexico and elsewhere, a team lead by German anthropologist Viviane Jaenicke-Després is using the genes to begin piecing together the history of humans' domestication of the Americas' most important crop. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/scitech/109679science11-14-03.htm (Subscription required)
More Info: "The technique was not as sophisticated as the methods used for modern genetically modified crops, but experts said in a study released Thursday that the general effect was the same: genetic traits were amplified or introduced to create plants with improved traits and greater yield. 'Civilization has been built on genetically modified plants,' said Nina V. Fedoroff of Pennsylvania State University. ..." : http://www.santafenewmexican.com/main.asp?FromHome=1&TypeID=1&ArticleID=35599&SectionID=2&SubSectionID=406
Noted Evo-Biologist Lewontin Speaks at Los Alamos...
Jeff Tolleson of the Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Nov. 12th "Richard Lewontin compares a common model of biological evolution to a mountain climber who always feels compelled to go up. In the evolutionary model, up represents movement toward fitness, toward solving problems presumably posed by nature, and species are always going up. The problem with this model is that it ignores random evolutionary change, the Harvard University professor told a packed crowd at the James A. Little Theater on Tuesday night. In reality, Lewontin said, evolution might appear more like a mountain climber who has had a few stiff drinks, stumbling across a slope, going up, down and around. ..."
New Mexican Sets 'em Texans Straight...
In a Letter to the Editor published in the Star-Telegram (Dallas-Ft. Worth) on Nov. 14th, NMSR's president Dave Thomas said "I'm writing to ask that you correct an error of fact about New Mexico and the teaching of evolution that has been printed three times in the Star-Telegram -- most recently in a Nov. 6 news story by R.A. Dyer. The offending articles contained this inaccurate statement: 'Alabama, Nebraska and New Mexico made changes that, to varying degrees, challenge the pre-eminence of evolution in the scientific curriculum.' Regarding New Mexico, that might have been true seven years ago -- but not now, and not for the last four years. It's true that, in 1996, creationists on the New Mexico State Board of Education stripped evolution from science standards adopted that year. But after the Kansas creationism debacle, and with the election of new board members, evolution was firmly reinstated in New Mexico's standards in October 1999. And in August, New Mexico adopted science standards that provide truly excellent treatment of evolution, unclouded by creationist thinking. In other words, creationist efforts to weaken treatment of mainstream science were soundly defeated in New Mexico in 1999 and again this year. After seeing the inaccurate statement in the Star-Telegram Sept. 11, I wrote to the newspaper to advise that New Mexico hasn't been in the creationist camp for quite some time. I was therefore surprised to see the same inaccurate statement Nov. 6, using the same words. The bottom line: On Nov. 6, the Texas State Board of Education did not cave in to creationist demands. (See Nov. 7 news story "Biology texts get initial approval.") That puts both Texas and New Mexico solidly in the pro-science camp. - David E. Thomas, Peralta, N.M."
See for Yourself!
Reporter Matt Frazier, in the Jul. 09, 2003 Star-Telegram:
"Evolution is required by the state to be included in textbooks.
But arguments against evolution have been successful over the past
decade in other states. Alabama, Nebraska and New Mexico made changes
that, to varying degrees, challenge the pre-eminence of evolution in
the scientific curriculum."
Reporter R.A. Dyer stated in the Sept. 11th Star-Telegram that
"Evolution is required by the state to be included in textbooks.
But arguments against evolution have been successful over the past
decade in other states. Alabama, Nebraska and New Mexico made changes
that, to varying degrees, challenge the pre-eminence of evolution in
the scientific curriculum."
Finally, R. A. Dyer again stated in the Nov. 6th issue of the
Star-Telegram that "The state requires that textbooks include
evolution. Alabama, Nebraska and New Mexico made changes in recent
years that, to varying degrees, challenge the pre-eminence of
evolution in the scientific curriculum."
It is rumored that Jason Blair (recently fired by the New York Times for plagiarism and making up news) has applied for a position at the Star-Telegram, but this hasn't been confirmed.
Confessed 'Green River' killer was cleared back in 1984...with a Polygraph!
On Nov. 5th, Gary Leon Ridgway confessed that he committed 48 murders as the "Green River killer." But almost 20 years ago, he was cleared as a suspect on the basis of VooDoo science - the Polygraph. The King County Journal notes that on "May 7, 1984: Ridgway passes a polygraph examination. Coupled with a follow-up investigation, 'Ridgway was considered to be cleared as a possible Green River suspect,' according to court documents. The polygraph is later ruled invalid. March 20, 1986: Ridgway agrees to a second polygraph, but on the advice of his attorney later declines. FBI inactivates the Ridgway investigation. ..."
National Science Teachers Association Backs Evolution Again...
In a Nov. 6th Press Release, the NSTA declared that "The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest science teacher organization in the world, has published an updated position paper to reaffirm its standpoint on the teaching of evolution. The statement upholds and reinforces the position of the Association that NSTA 'strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 science education frameworks and curricula.' ... The statement reaffirms the need to better support science teachers 'against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution;' reaffirms the importance of evolution in bolstering scientific literacy; and reaffirms the recommendation that science textbook publishers 'should not be required or volunteer to include disclaimers in textbooks that distort or misrepresent the methodology of science and the current body of knowledge concerning the nature and student of evolution.' ..."
The Statement: http://www.nsta.org/159&psid=10
In response to a new Science Fiction Channel "documentary" on October 24, 2003, claiming that a "UFO crash" in Kecksburg was "a second Roswell," skeptic Robert Sheaffer has published a new web page titled "The Kecksburg, Pennsylvania 'UFO Crash' - actually the Great Lakes Fireball of December 9, 1965 ." Sheaffer writes "The reality is that a major fireball meteor was widely seen at that time, and studied extensively by scientists. Several scientific papers were published about it in astronomical journals. The supposed 'crashing UFO' reported from Kecksburg matches exactly with the great fireball in time, and in direction. ... " The article has lots of graphics and links to additional information, and even some commentary by Zippy the Pinhead!
Speaking of UFO's...Condon Report Researcher Still Kickin'...
The Durango Herald reported on Nov. 2nd that "Now, for the first time, scholars and others interested in the data that led [Roy] Craig, now a La Plata County resident, and other Condon Project scientists to conclude flying saucers probably don't exist can peruse Craig's field notes at Texas A&M University's Cushing Memorial Library. Included in nine boxes of files are Craig's investigative jottings, correspondence and photographs as well as popular and scientific articles related to alleged visits by space aliens. Also available for examination are objects aluminum shavings, globs of metal and a lawn-mower muffler found at the sites of purported UFO landings. Part of their value lies in the scientific insight they can provide students of science fiction. 'If you say the Condon report is absolute foolishness, that there's nothing behind it, well we have nine boxes behind it,' said Hal W. Hall, curator of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection at A&M. 'People can look at Roy Craig's appointment calendar, see all the notes and background articles, and judge the validity of the study's scientific methodology. You can't get that from the printed book. It says in the book that it (UFO debris) was a muffler. Well, we've got the muffler.'..."
IDers "Respond" to Zogby Poll Criticisms...
The October 29th Access Research Network article by Mark Hartwig begins with "It looks like the Darwinist camp has had a hard time responding to a series of polls commissioned by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, the leading organization of the intelligent design movement. ..." Hartwig mentions blistering critiques by Chris Mooney (see http://www.prospect.org/print/V14/1/mooney-c.html and http://www.csicop.org/doubtandabout/polling/ ), but does his best to duck the real issues Mooney brought up. Indeed, there's not even a hint of the scandal that arose here in New Mexico, which Mooney described in detail, involving the release of a "Zogby Poll" purporting to show that Sandia and Los Alamos scientists support teaching Intelligent Design by "Four-to-one." (The actual number polled was far less than the 16,000 claimed by IDnet-NM, the president of Sandia Labs called the poll "bogus," and IDnet-NM has yet to disavow the poll (see ) as they said they would do back in August - see http://www.nmsr.org/id-poll.htm ).
Hartwig's article: http://www.arn.org/docs/wedge/mh_wedge_031029.htm
Mooney's reply is here: http://www.chriscmooney.com/blog.asp#406
More: This article by Brad Edmondson describes "some of the most common reasons why polls that appear to be authoritative are, in fact, total trash." http://www.iun.edu/~mathiho/mathpol/fall00/Bogus.htm
Richard C. Lewontin appearing at Los Alamos Lecture Series ...
The Santa Fe Institute has announced noted evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin of Harvard will be speaking at LANL next week. "November 11, 12, 13, 2003, Tenth Annual Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lectures, The Coevolution of Organism and Environment, Richard C. Lewontin, Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Population Biology."
Biology Wins Big in Texas...
The NCSE reported on Nov. 7th that "On Friday, November 7, the Texas State Board of Education (SBoE) voted 11-4 to place all submitted high school and advanced placement (AP) biology books on the conforming list, making them eligible for adoption by local districts. ... Although the Discovery Institute (DI) and its Texas allies, Texans for Better Science Education, attempted to persuade board members to require publishers to incorporate wholesale changes in the coverage of evolution, the changes that publishers have filed thus far with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) have been largely cosmetic. ...During the November 7 proceedings, Mavis Knight proposed that all books be adopted, and that a hard copy of a web-based document prepared by NCSEs Alan D. Gishlick, entitled Icons of Evolution? Why Much Of What Jonathan Wells Writes About Evolution Is Wrong, be placed in the permanent record of the meeting. ..."
Don't miss Pulitzer-winner Ben Sargent's excellent 'Toon: http://www.ucomics.com/bensargent/2003/11/04/
NEW FEATURES AT NMSR.ORG...
Check out these New Features on the NMSR website:
WHAZZAT?!?!? Weird Pics! Guess what these pictures are, then tell
Rationally Speaking by Massimo Pigliucci: November 2003 : "Edward
Teller, Dr. Strangelove"
SPECIAL REPORT: BERNALILLO COUNTY COMMISSION VOTES
INDUSTRIAL REVENUE BONDS FOR HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINE COMPANY. Analysis
by Harry M. Murphy, Nov. 7th, 2003
November 12th NMSR Meeting: Christopher Whittle
(UNM) on "Paranormal Belief: Bull Hockey or Cultural
CSICOP Conference in 'Burque ...
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on Oct. 22nd that "Extrasensory perception, UFOs, ineffective alternative medicine and the unsupportable claims of astrology have all landed in CSICOP's cross-hairs over the years. This year's CSICOP conference is titled 'Hoaxes, Myths and Manias,' and will feature talks on famous UFO hoaxes, how to fake a ghost video and amazing 'psychic' demonstrations. ... One of CSICOP's more prolific debunkers, Peralta mathematician Dave Thomas, has gained minor international renown for his critique of 'the Bible code' the idea, made popular by best-selling author Michael Drosnin, that there are hidden prophecies encoded in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/scitech/100353science10-22-03.htm (subscription required)
And Frank Zoretich of the Albuquerque Tribune wrote on Oct. 23rd "'Hoaxes, Myths and Manias' is the theme of this year's gathering of skeptics hosted by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, a nonprofit national organization. Before the conference ends Sunday - with a noon bus trip to Roswell, 'the town where the American UFO mythology began,' according to a news release from the group - two dozen speakers will attempt to debunk alleged phenomena ranging from unicorns, Bigfoot and creationism to perpetual motion machines, the doomsday threat from Planet X and psychic communication with the dead. ..."
More info: http://www.csicop.org/events/conference-2003/index.html
Conference Tackles Anthropic Universe...
Dennis Overbye of the New York Times wrote on Oct. 28th "Cosmologists held an unusual debate on the question [the role and meaning of life in the cosmos] during a recent conference, 'The Future of Cosmology,' at Case Western Reserve University here. According to a controversial notion known as the anthropic principle, certain otherwise baffling features of the universe can only be understood by including ourselves in the equation. The universe must be suitable for life, otherwise we would not be here to wonder about it. ... Dr. David Gross regards it as a virus. 'Once you get the bug you can't get rid of it,' he complained at the conference. Dr. Gross, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Calif., had agreed to lead a panel discussion on the notorious principle. Often found puffing on a cigar, he is not known to be shy about expressing his opinion. 'I was chosen because I hate the anthropic principle,' he said. ... But playing a central role in defending the need for what he called 'anthropic reasoning' was Dr. Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate from the University of Texas. ... Dr. Weinberg is among the most prominent of theorists who have reluctantly accepted, at least provisionally, the anthropic principle as a kind of tragic necessity in order to explain the gnarliest knob of all. ... But when his own turn came, Dr. Gross questioned whether the rules of the anthropic game were precise enough. What were the parameters that could vary from universe to universe? How many could vary at once? What was the probability distribution of their values, and what was necessary for 'life'? Anthropic calculations are inherently vague and imprecise, he said. As a result, the principle could not be disproved. But he was only getting warmed up. His real objection, he said, was 'totally emotional.' Ascribing the parameters of physics to mere chance or vagaries of cosmic weather is defeatist, discouraging people from undertaking the difficult calculations that would actually explain why things are they way they are. Moreover, it is also dangerous, he declared to ringing applause. 'It smells of religion and intelligent design,' he said, referring to a variety of creationism that argues that the universe is too complex to have evolved by chance. ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/28/science/space/28COSM.html (free registration required)
Local Scientist Envisions "Roach Spies"...
Sue Vorenberg of the Aluquerque Tribune wrote on Oct. 28th "Meet the future of biological and chemical espionage: yeast and cockroaches. Odd as the combination sounds, it could be the building block of a new, inexpensive spy device - one that could sneak into a building undetected and sense chemicals or biological agents, said Jeff Brinker, a Sandia National Laboratories scientist and professor at the University of New Mexico. 'Cockroaches are robust - they can go into environments that humans can't withstand,' Brinker said. 'You could attach a sensing device onto the back of a cockroach and send it into a place where you suspect they're making chemical weapons. If you can go in covertly, you can collect evidence without anyone getting spooked.' ..."
Happy Halloween! Ghosts hurt home appraisals, but Benefit Bed'n'Breakfasts ...
CNN_Money's Les Christie reported on Oct. 21st that "Any number of physical factors can complicate the sale of a home: shoddy upkeep, irreparable structural decay, proximity to a toxic waste site. But one kind of property that causes real nightmares is a house that carries a supernatural stigma. 'Psychologically impacted' houses -- in which a murder, suicide, or illness took place -- are a tough sale. The reason: fear of ghosts. ... Joe Nickell, a self-described ghostbuster, says he's investigated scores of hauntings over the past 30 years without ever coming face to sheet with a ghost. Nevertheless, he agrees that supernatural notoriety nearly always lowers a home's selling price. ..."
It's different for B&B's. The same Les Christie, also on Oct. 21st, writes that "Old inns often come complete with spirits, of the non-potable variety. It's the one real estate category that the experts agree benefits from eerie reputations. As a matter of fact, if an atmospheric looking B&B doesn't sport a real scary spook it soon will acquire one, according to self-described ghostbuster Joe Nickell, of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). It's simply good for business. Nickell says, 'I had one proprietor of a struggling bed and breakfast tell me, 'People want a ghost. I have to pay my bills. I'll give them a ghost'.' Here's a sample of small lodging places where you can enjoy a ghostly getaway. ..."
Pennock: ID is "All Hat and No Cattle"...
Robert T. Pennock, Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Michigan State University, stated in recent testimony at textbook hearings before the Texas State Board of Education "The Discovery Institute is not a scientific organization and has no scientific credibility. Its governing goal from an internal mission statement is "To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God. Their main target is evolution, but their attempt to replace it with the alternative view that life was created by 'intelligent design' has been a total failure scientifically. They talk big but have produced no results. Texans know what to say about this. When it comes to science, the intelligent design movement is all hat and no cattle. ..."
Wen Ho Lee takes on Reporters in Suit...
The Washington Popst reported on Oct. 15th that "A federal judge has set the stage for an unusual clash over assertions by reporters for four news organizations that they need not disclose the names of their sources, a traditional journalistic practice that underpins much of news reporting in Washington. U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson late last week ordered journalists at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and Cable News Network to reveal who in the government may have disclosed derogatory information to them about Wen Ho Lee, a former nuclear weapons scientist who was the chief suspect in an espionage case. ..."
Mystery Flare turns out to be Jet Contrail...
Space.com reported on Oct. 13th that "A digital picture of a spectacular and apparently explosive event in the sky fooled a pair of seasoned NASA scientists, has other researchers around the globe mystified, and made a minor celebrity of a teenage photographer. Jonathan Burnett, 15, was photographing his friends skateboarding in Pencoed, Wales when one of them noticed a colorful fireball in the sky. Burnett snapped a picture, then sent it to NASA scientists and asked if they knew what it was. Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell, who run NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), posted the photograph on Oct. 1 and wrote that 'a sofa-sized rock came hurtling into the nearby atmosphere of planet Earth and disintegrated.' They called the picture 'one of the more spectacular meteor images yet recorded.' Problem is, it turns out, there was no meteor. .... Semi-scientific discussions ensued as experts and amateurs debated the image in Internet and e-mail forums. Some initially labeled it a fraud. Others said it might be manmade space junk falling back to Earth, or maybe a military jet unloading fuel and igniting it with its afterburners. During the discussion, the APOD scientists changed their caption, saying the picture likely had something to do with a jet contrail, a consensus that most other scientists had reached. ..."
Mooney Skeptical about 'Brights'...
Chris Mooney, in his Oct. 15th "Doubt and About " column for CSICOP, writes "Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett are smart guys, but their campaign to rename religious unbelievers 'brights' could use some rethinking. ... What would be a better way to polish the atheist image? I have no studies to point to, but there may be a lesson in the 'brights' episode. I suspect that what atheists really need is for people to believe that they're likeable, and not so different from everybody else. So perhaps future atheist message crusaders should describe themselves and their brethren as humble, rather than angry or sneering or super smart. In addition, perhaps atheists should associate themselves more with universal human feelings of sympathy, joy, and even vulnerability, rather than cold rationality and relentless inquisitiveness. I'm not sure, but I do know one thing -- something that we all learned in high school. The 'bright' kids aren't always the ones with the most friends, and nobody -- nobody -- likes a smart ass. ..."
Asian genetic susceptibility linked to SARS outbreak ...
Maggie Fox reported in the Age (Australia) on Oct. 3rd that "A genetic susceptibility may explain why SARS raged earlier this year in South-East Asia and nowhere else outside of Toronto, according to Taiwanese researchers. They found that a variant in an immune system gene called human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, made patients in Taiwan much more likely to develop the life-threatening symptoms of severe acute respiratory syndrome. The gene variant is common in people of southern Chinese descent, the team at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei reported. ..."
John Allen Paulos, in his monthly ABC News commentary "Who's Counting" for October, discusses the Brights (see Massimo Pigliucci's essay on the same topic at http://www.nmsr.org/r_s_0903.htm ). Paulos notes that "The widely respected philosopher Daniel Dennett and a number of others this past summer pushed for the adoption of a new term to signify someone who holds a naturalistic (as opposed to a religious) worldview. ... In any case, the problematic new term that has been proposed for non-religious people is "Bright," and the coinage is due to Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell of Sacramento, Calif. They have started an Internet group, The Brights, intended to further the influence of 'Brights.' .."
Relativity Wins AGAIN...
The Nature report of Sept. 25th, authored by Mssrs. Bertotti, Iess and Tortora, says "Here we report a measurement of the frequency shift of radio photons to and from the Cassini spacecraft as they passed near the Sun. Our result, Gamma = 1+(2.1 2.3)*10^(-5), agrees with the predictions of standard general relativity with a sensitivity that approaches the level at which, theoretically, deviations are expected in some cosmological models. ..."
Chandra 'hears' a black hole...
NASA reports on Sept. 9th that "NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory detected sound waves, for the first time, from a super-massive black hole. The "note" is the deepest ever detected from an object in the universe. The tremendous amounts of energy carried by these sound waves may solve a longstanding problem in astrophysics. ... In musical terms, the pitch of the sound generated by the black hole translates into the note of B flat. But, a human would have no chance of hearing this cosmic performance, because the note is 57 octaves lower than middle-C (by comparison a typical piano contains only about seven octaves). ..."
There are some outstanding photographs at the NASA page!
Creationist Misses Out on Nobel...
Ted Olsen, in a Christianity Today Weblog (for the week of October 6), asks "Did Nobel Committee Ignore MRI Creator Because of Creationism?" The article concerns Raymond V. Damadian, who took out full page ads in the Washington Post and the New York Times to complain about being passed over for the Nobel prize in medicine, which was awarded to Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield for their work on magnetic resonance imaging. Olsen quotes Damadian as saying "I know that had I never been born, there would be no MRI today," to the The Washington Post. Olsen also says "Many scientists agree, but some suggest that Damadian's self-promotion may have hurt him. He's 'sometimes flamboyant,' NPR science correspondent Richard Knox told All Things Considered yesterday. But Knox, along with Reason magazine's Ronald Bailey, suggested another reason Damadian may have been disregarded: He's a devout Christian (see this 1997 profile in Christianity Today sister publication Christian Reader) who believes in creationism. In fact, he's on the Technical Advisory Board for the Institute for Creation Research, and on the reference board for Answers in Genesis's upcoming Creation Museum. 'He's identified by many web sites as a prominent creation scientist,' Knox said. ..."
See Also: Bob Park's "What's New" column for Oct. 10th, at http://www.aps.org/WN/ .
And Another Creationist Possibly Perjures Himself...
The News Observer (North Carolina) reported on Oct. 3rd that "Physicist Saami Shaibani was supposed to provide the prosecution's crowning testimony in the Mike Peterson murder trial, explaining to the jury how his experiments proved that Kathleen Peterson could not have died from an accidental fall. ... Shaibani, who claims advanced degrees from Oxford University, tripped up when he testified that he has a research affiliation with Temple University in Pennsylvania. Peterson's defense team produced letters from Temple saying that he isn't affiliated with the university, that any claim to the contrary was fraudulent and that the head of the physics department had written similar letters over the years. Shaibani had a 'courtesy appointment' from 1995 to 1998 that gave him little more than parking privileges, the university says. But Shaibani has described himself for years as a Temple professor in his work as an independent consultant who speaks at seminars and testifies in criminal cases and lawsuits. Hardin told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson if the judge thought Shaibani had perjured himself he should strike his testimony, which the judge did. ... Hardin said he would consider launching a criminal investigation of Shaibani after the trial. ..."
What is the creationist connection? Shaibani is a favorite of creationist groups like Answers in Genesis. Here's what Carl Wieland and Don Batten of AiG have said about Shaibani: "When Dr Shaibani talks about God, and design, its not some throwaway line covering a belief in evolution. He believes the Bible from the very first verse. He was converted to a saving faith in Jesus Christ while at Oxford ..."
Will the creationists lose their admiration for Shaibani? Will he be prosecuted for perjury? Time will tell. As regards Mike Peterson, he was found guilty by the jury earlier today (Friday, Oct. 10th).
It's Nobel Time ... and that means Ig Nobel time too!
The Annals of Improbable Research have done it once again. They announced that "The 2003 Ig Nobel Prize winners were announced on Thursday evening, October 2, at the 13th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre. ... " One award, in Engineering, went to the "late John Paul Stapp, the late Edward A. Murphy, Jr., and George Nichols, for jointly giving birth in 1949 to Murphy's Law, the basic engineering principle that 'If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, someone will do it' (or, in other words: 'If anything can go wrong, it will'). ..."
Orangutans Could Be Extinct in 20 Years...
The AP reported on Sept. 29th that "Habitat destruction by illegal loggers could mean the extinction of orangutans within 10 to 20 years, a Harvard researcher studying the apes said Monday. Logging has been increasing in recent years, moving away from the river edges into the interior of the forests where the orangutans live, Cheryl Knott said in a telephone interview. ..."
Science Journal Expanding Ethics Policies...
The AP also reported on Sept. 29th that "A leading group of British scientific journals, responding to mounting criticism, will require researchers writing in their pages to disclose financial ties to industry. The new policy at the London-based Nature publishing group means authors of reviews and commentaries must reveal any financial connections to companies that might benefit from their articles. Previously, Nature required such disclosures only from scientists submitting primary results from experiments. ..."
Gen Clark on FTL Travel: "Mankind can do it ..."
Wired News reported on Sept. 30th that "During a whirlwind campaign swing Saturday through New Hampshire, Clark, the newest Democratic presidential candidate, gave supporters one of the first glimpses into his views on technology. ... the 58-year-old Arkansas native, who retired from the military three years ago, dropped something of a bombshell on the gathering. 'I still believe in e=mc², but I can't believe that in all of human history, we'll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go,' said Clark. 'I happen to believe that mankind can do it. I've argued with physicists about it, I've argued with best friends about it. I just have to believe it. It's my only faith-based initiative.' Clark's comment prompted laughter and applause from the gathering. ..."
Evolution talk kicks off Speaker Series at UNM...
The UNM Daily Lobo reprted on Oct. 3rd that "Research of human origins and evolution during the past decade has helped scientists better understand the forces behind evolution in early humans, a visiting lecturer said Thursday. But, the past ten years has also produced the same product paleontologists' work for the past 100 years has: more questions. Carol Ward, an associate professor of anthropology and anatomy at the University of Missouri-Columbia, was the first speaker in UNM's Sigma Xi Science and Society series meant to bring scientific researchers to campus to discuss their work. ... 'Biologically speaking, we have put hominids into a much more realistic evolutionary context,' Ward said. 'There's much more diversity in the past than we ever knew of.' ... 'I foresee that, in the next few years, we will know a heck of a lot more than we do now,' Ward said. ..."
Magnetic Therapy DOESN'T WORK...
The first headline of the Sept. 26th "What's New" column by Bob Park reads "MAGNETIC THERAPY: HAVE WE GOT NEWS FOR YOU! IT DOESN'T WORK."
There are more details at the Med-Psych Network: "JAMA. 2003;290:1474-1478. Effect of Magnetic vs Sham-Magnetic Insoles on Plantar Heel Pain; A Randomized Controlled Trial. Mark H. Winemiller, MD; Robert G. Billow, DO; Edward R. Laskowski, MD; W. Scott Harmsen, MS ...Despite anecdotal reports, rigorous scientific evidence of the effectiveness of magnetic insoles for the pain of plantar fasciitis is lacking. ..."
Mass Extinction Linked to Ancient Gamma-ray Burst...
Nature reports on Sept. 24th that "Some 440 million years ago, a nearby gamma-ray burst may have extinguished much of life on Earth, say US astronomers. Adrian Melott, of the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and colleagues reckon that the fossil record of the end of the Ordovician period fits with how such a cosmic explosion a few thousand light years away could have altered the environment. At that time, more than 100 families of marine invertebrates died out; it was the second most devastating mass extinction in our planet's history. ..."
At Last... Poodle Genome Deciphered!
ABCNews.com and Reuters reported on Sept. 25th that "The gene map of man's best friend shows dogs are closely related to people and will add insights into our own genetics, U.S. scientists said on Thursday. The method used to map out the canine genes is much quicker than that used to sequence humans, mice and fruit flies, and offers a fast way to look at other mammals, the scientists said. ... The study confirms that, while dogs and wolves diverged from the common ancestor of all mammals long before early humans and mice did, dogs are much more closely related to humans than mice are. 'The wolf line diverged a little earlier, but the mouse is evolving faster,' [Craig ] Venter [of the Center for the Advancement of Genomics in Rockville, Maryland] said. ..."
"IT" is RECALLED...
Remember all the hullaballoo about "IT"? Well, the Washington Post and AP reported on Sept. 26th that "The maker of the Segway Human Transporter has agreed to recall the motorized scooters because riders have been injured falling off when its batteries are low. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall Friday, saying that three people had been injured. One suffered a head wound and needed stitches. The recall involves about 6,000 of the single-rider, two-wheeled scooters that can travel up to 12 mph. The scooter uses gyroscopes to keep it upright, making it less likely to fall or be knocked over. ..."
Baptist Pastor takes Creationists to task...
In a Sept. 3rd column titled "Students Lose in Creationism/Scientism Debate," Pastor Brett Younger of the Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas writes "Creationists, who believe that evolution is incompatible with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis, have besieged textbook hearings since the 1980s, but the religious right has recently changed tactics. Nouveau creationist groups with innocuous names like The Discovery Institute are now armed with big bank accounts, doctoral degrees and pseudoscientific information. While thinking Christians tend to dismiss such efforts, this debate (and the boards vote in November) could change the way science is taught in Texas. Whenever fundamentalists start re-writing textbooks its bad news for students, who need to learn the best science possible. (No one debates whether evolution should be included in college textbooks.) ... There is no religious reason for supposing that God didnt plan and lead creation over the course of billions of years as modern science suggests. Why is it any less miraculous to recognize evolution as one of the many ways God works in the world? Science, at its best, describes how God did and does. We cannot comprehend the depth of what God has created, but we can give thanks that the earth belongs to God, that in the beginning God called the world into being and called it good. .."
Monkeys have sense of "Fair Play"...
National Geographic reported on Sept. 17th that "If you expect equal pay for equal work, you're not the only species to have a sense of fair play. Blame evolution. Researchers studying brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) have found that the highly social, cooperative species native to South America show a sense of fairness, the first time such behavior has been documented in a species other than humans. ..."
More Info: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994179
DI's Nancy Pearcey to appear in New Mexico...
The New Mexico Family Council (NMFC) reports that "Nancy Pearcey, collaborating writer with Chuck Colson, will be in Los Alamos Sept. 23 and Alb. on Sept 24 & 25. She wrote, 'The Soul of Science.' Will be good for pastors and Christians who do science. She will get beyond the creation/evolution debate to the real meaty stuff."
Pearcey is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, the nation's premier ID thinktank :
Pearcey will be speaking at Foothills Fellowship, 12504 Candeleria at Tramway, NE, on Wednesday, September 24, 2003 at 7:00 PM. The event includes a $7.00 buffet at 5:30 PM.
More on Texas Bio-Textbook Hearings...
Michael King of the Austin Chronicle, in a column titled "In Search of Intelligent Life at the SBOE," writes on Sept. 19th about the recent hearings before the Texas State Board of Education on how evolution is presented in biology texts. King talks about the hearings, and concludes with this statement from Nobel-winning physicist Steven Weinberg at the Sept. 10th board hearing: "To Weinberg, the real agenda of the anti-Darwinians is apparent. 'Even though their arguments did not invoke religion, I think we all know what's behind these arguments. They're trying to protect religious beliefs from contradiction by science. They used to do it by prohibiting teachers from teaching evolution at all; then they wanted to teach intelligent design as an alternative theory; now they want the supposed 'weaknesses' in evolution pointed out. But it's all the same program -- it's all an attempt to let religious ideas determine what is taught in science courses.'..."
Jumpin' Jehosophat - Buffalo-Sized Rodents!...
Yahoo and the AP's Paul Recer reported on Sept. 18th that "A rodent the size of a buffalo? Researchers say they have found fossils for a 1,545-pound giant that thrived millions of years ago in a swampy South American forest. 'Imagine a weird guinea pig, but huge, with a long tail for balancing on its hind legs and continuously growing teeth,' said Marcelo R. Sanchez-Villagra of the University of Tubingen in Germany, the first author of a study appearing this week in Science. The formal name of the rodent is Phoberomys pattersoni. The last term is in honor of Brian Patterson, a Harvard professor who led a fossil-collection expedition to Venezuela in the 1970s. Informally, the skeleton is called Goya. ..."
Stolen 'Moon Rocks' were Earthly, NASA says...
The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Sept. 17th that " Last weekend, [Susan] Torres reported that two moon rocks supposedly gathered during the Apollo 11 mission were stolen from her Seton Village house. Then came another hit: She learned the rocks likely were replicas, Earthling rocks that only looked similar to those on the moon's surface. ... But it's unlikely the rocks were the real thing, Torres learned. Such rocks are closely guarded, catalogued and inventoried by NASA, and most are kept at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA spokesman William Jeffs said. 'It often happens that what people get are replicas, and as they get passed down from generation to generation, people eventually believe they have the real thing when they do not,' he said. NASA frequently gets calls from people wanting to confirm whether they have moon rocks. The call can present a Catch-22: NASA will gladly examine them, but if they turn out to be the real thing, NASA keeps them because they're considered government property. 'So people often don't send in their stuff,' Jeffs said. ..."
Creationists and Zogby move on to Texas...
Having failed to weaken treatment of evolution in New Mexico's new Science Standards (see http://www.nmsr.org/nm-stds.htm for details), the "Intelligent Design" creationists, with the Zogby Polling firm in tow, have moved east, to our neighbor Texas. Chris Mooney wrote about ongoing Zogby polling controversies for CSICOP, in a Sept. 11th piece titled "The latest pro-Intelligent Design Zogby poll is just one in a series of questionable surveys." Mooney writes "Clearly, figuring out what Americans 'think' about evolution depends on what questions you ask. ... understanding the malleability of public opinion--and the way that malleability can be used to serve various political agendas--provides a helpful framework for considering the latest evolution polling controversy, which arose in New Mexico. It also sheds light on problems with a recently released survey of beliefs about evolution and Intelligent Design theory (ID) in Texas, which ID advocates have injected into ongoing biology textbook adoption discussions in the state. ... In July, the [New Mexico] state chapter of the Intelligent Design Network released results from a Zogby online poll that purportedly showed support for the teaching of Intelligent Design theory among scientists at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. But it quickly became clear that the Zogby poll didn't play by standard scientific rules: Numerous problems infected the poll design. For instance, of 16,000 people at Sandia, Los Alamos, and various New Mexico universities supposedly invited to respond to the survey, only 248 did so, a ridiculously small response rate. In a statement, Sandia National Laboratory president C. Paul Robinson even termed the poll a 'bogus mini-survey.' The Intelligent Design Network has now taken a curious stance: The group stands by the poll but says it won't cite it any more, according to a letter obtained by New Mexicans for Science and Reason. ... In fact, ID proponents have used Zogby to gather data favorable to their viewpoint on several other occasions, most recently in Texas. Such polls have now become a recurrent factor in state level battles over evolution and Intelligent Design, from Ohio to New Mexico to the Longhorn State. And though none of the polls have suffered from such severe problems as the latest New Mexico poll, troublesome leading questions have recurred across all of these surveys with little variation in wording. ...Not only do Americans need to understand the difference between evolution and its pseudoscientific rivals, they also need to grasp that polling is prone to its own form of pseudoscience. ..."
Texas Board of Education mulls Bio-Books...
The Star Telegram reported on Sept. 11th that "Although not exactly the Scopes 'monkey trial,' scores of sometimes-unruly critics and proponents of modern evolutionary theory squared off Wednesday before the Texas State Board of Education. ... a coalition of scientists and biology educators warned against watering down textbooks with Christian-based ideas. Others said publishers should make changes that reflect flaws in evolutionary theory. At stake is about $30 million in biology textbooks set to hit Texas classrooms in the 2004-05 school year. The 15-member State Board of Education will vote on the books Nov. 7. ... William Dembski, identified as a leading proponent of intelligent design in a New York Times report, told state board members that 'Darwinian lobbyists' were striving to maintain an illusion of scientific consensus related to evolutionary theory. ... An evangelical Christian, Dembski also conceded that his interest in alternatives in Darwinism was partly spurred by his faith. ... The list of more than 160 speakers Wednesday included scientists, educators and advocates from special interest groups from across Texas. About a half-dozen out-of-state witnesses were barred from speaking but allowed to submit written testimony. ... 'The weakness of evolution alleged here today are founded on ideology, not science,' [Samantha] Smoot [of the Texas Freedom Network, http://www.tfn.org/] said. 'There's really no debate about any of this in the scientific community.' But Mark Ramsey, who represents the rival Texans for Better Science Education [http://www.strengthsandweaknesses.org/] , insisted that Texas students should consider alternatives to evolutionary theory. ..."
"Texans for Better Science Education" OUTED by Texas Citizens for Science!
In addition to the Texas Freedom Network, a group called Texas Citizens for Science (http://www.txscience.org) has been lobbying board of education members to resist anti-evolution idealogues. TCS president Steven Schafersman has investigated the anti-evolution group "Texans for Better Science Education" (TBSE, http://www.strengthsandweaknesses.org/), which on its website presents itself as a non-religious organization, quite similar to New Mexico's IDnet chapter (http://www.nmidnet.org/). Even the logo of TBSE closely resmbles that of IDnet-NM's parent organization, the Intelligent Design network, inc. [http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/]. Unlike New Mexico's IDnet, however, the Texas group slipped up, and failed to completely obscure its direct link to religious creationism. In an article titled "TEXANS FOR BETTER SCIENCE EDUCATION: THE TRUE STORY!" Schafersman writes "...The new Texans for Better Science Education is a misnamed and thinly-veiled creationist organization that is attempting to damage science education in Texas by promoting the inclusion of invalid and unwarranted 'weaknesses' and 'criticisms' of evolution in biology textbooks. It engages in duplicity, hypocrisy, name-calling, and promotion of political interference in what should be a non-political scientific and educational process. TBSE is a front organization of the Greater Houston Creation Association, which reveals TBSE's true goals. It's true desire is to damage science education in Texas by preventing the inclusion of accurate scientific content about evolution and evolutionary theory in biology textbooks, thus allowing students to be confused and teachers to be intimidated so they will not teach the topic accurately. These aims are reprehensible by any objective moral standard, and TBSE and its supporters should be repudiated and their goals rejected by every individual who truly cares about preserving accurate and responsible science education in Texas public schools."
These are not idle charges. Schafersman thoroughly documents the connection between the so-called "Texans for Better Science Education (TBSE) " [http://www.strengthsandweaknesses.org/] and the young-earth creationist group "the Greater Houston Creation Association (GHCA)" [http://www.ghcaonline.com/]. The latter used to proudly proclaim "1. The Bible is the divinely inspired written Word of God. Because it is inspired throughout, it is completely free from error--scientifically, historically, theologically, and morally. Thus it is the absolute authority in all matters of truth, faith, and conduct. The final guide to the interpretation of the Bible is the Bible itself. 2. God's world must always agree with God's Word, because the Creator of the one is the Author of the other. Thus, where physical evidences from the creation may be used to confirm the Bible, these evidences must never be used to correct or interpret the Bible. The written Word must take priority in the event of any apparent conflict. 3. ..." The entire statement is very similar to oaths required for membership by other strict creationist groups, such as the Creation Science Fellowship of New Mexico (see http://www.swcp.com/creation/ for their "Statement of Belief").
After Schafersman documented that the websites of both TBSE and GHCA were operated by one and the same individual - Mark Ramsey - Ramsey quickly removed all content from the GHCA site. This site now shows no obvious creationist material, and instead says the following: "URGENT: Several Websites have come under hacker attack immediately following a hate posting on a site that has a history of defending Darwin. The authorities have been asked to investigate. As a result, we are temporarily taking this site down. Please check back later or go to www.strengthsandweaknesses.org to see if you can help out in this battle. ..."
The true nature of the GHCA site is confirmed at www.creationism.org, which states that "GHCA takes Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, literally. So that there is no ambiguity, this means that our Savior and Creator was responsible for creating our world in six 'literal' days, around 6000-10000 years ago. ..." Source: http://www.creationism.org/topbar/linksUS_L2Z.htm#CreationUS_TX
Congratulations to Schafersman and colleagues for showing us, once again, that the creationist emperors have no clothes. NMSR wishes them the best in the ongoing political battle.
Mystery of Paleomagnetism was Solved in the Valles Grandes...
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on Sept. 7th that "John Geissman bounded up the steep side of the volcanic knoll, leaving a trail of geologists panting behind him. A tough half-mile climb above the valley floor, in a clump of oak, Geissman found what he was looking for a piece of scientific history. On this 1,000-foot high mound of volcanic rock in the summer of 1964, geologists found the final piece of a puzzle that changed the way we view our planet. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/82551news09-07-03.htm (subscription required)
Sensations of "Ghosts" may be caused by inaudible low-frequency vibrations...
CNN and Reuters reported on Sept. 8th that "Mysteriously snuffed out candles, weird sensations and shivers down the spine may not be due to the presence of ghosts in haunted houses but to very low frequency sound that is inaudible to humans. British scientists have shown in a controlled experiment that the extreme bass sound known as infrasound produces a range of bizarre effects in people including anxiety, extreme sorrow and chills -- supporting popular suggestions of a link between infrasound and strange sensations. ..."
OBE's to be Put to the TEST...
Jonathan Amos of BBC News reports on Sept. 10th that "Scientists have devised an experiment to test whether out-of-body experiences close to death are a real phenomenon or just a trick being played by the brain. ... Dr Peter Fenwick, from the Institute of Psychiatry in London, plans to test this view at 25 hospitals across the UK. He wants to place suspended pictures from the ceilings of accident and emergency units that only someone high up in the room will be able to see. ..."
Science Standards Aftermath...
For a follow-up on last week's report about the adoption of new Science Standards for New Mexico schools, click here (http://www.nmsr.org/nm-stds.htm) for a detailed examination.
Wyoming School board gives nod to creationism, abstinence-only...
While Science Ruled and ID withered in New Mexico, Wyoming was not so fortunate. The Caspar Star Tribune reported on Sept. 3rd that "School board members want theories other than evolution -- such as creationism -- taught in Worland science classes and only sexual abstinence -- not how to use contraceptives -- taught in health classes. ... Also endorsed was a recommendation for teaching biology: 'It shall be the policy ... when teaching Darwin's theory of evolution that it is only a theory and not a fact. Teachers shall be allowed in a neutral and objective manner to introduce all scientific theories of origin and the students may be allowed to discuss all aspects of controversy surrounding the lack of scientific evidence in support of the theory of evolution.' Board member Tom Ball, who opened the discussion on the proposed changes, said he thought the evolution recommendation should use the word 'required,' rather than 'allowed.' "
DOE Cuts Lie Detector Testing...but still, 4500 to be Tested...
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on Sept. 4th that "The Department of Energy wants to 'substantially lower' the number of nuclear weapons workers required to take polygraphs in the department's ongoing hunt for spies. ... Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., the committee's chairman, praised the policy change. 'This is a smart decision by DOE,' Domenici said ... Under the new policy, the number of people subject to polygraphs would be reduced from 'well in excess of 20,000' to approximately 4,500, according to McSlarrow. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/80988news09-04-03.htm (subscription required)
Study: Just a few genes cause great variations...
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on August 24th that "From stars in the sky to cells under a microscope, the sources of scientific inspiration are many. But for a couple of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, the stimulus came from a compost heap and a bunch of fruit flies, specifically from the colorful rear ends of those annoying bugs.Writing last week in the journal Nature, the two scientists say they have figured out how different animals can end up with vastly different colors and patterns of ornamentation on various body parts. It's research that may tell us as much about how evolution works as it does about how scientists work. ... Gompel brought his quarry into the lab and, along with Carroll, began studying colors and patterns on the abdomens of the flies. They studied the color and pattern differences under the microscope and did a genetic analysis. Using other fruit flies from a center in Arizona that maintains samples of various species, they found genetic similarities across 13 of them, even though those species were separated by up to 40 million to 70 million years of evolution. They found that only a couple of genes were needed to cause a great deal of variety. One gene, for instance, can be influenced by a protein to produce a variety of colors and patterns. ..."
Evolution Science Staying in Schools...
The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Aug. 29th that "On Wednesday, the board's Instructional Services Committee wavered on the standards -- with a 4-2 vote in favor. But Thursday, the full Board of Education approved the science-content standards unanimously. Joe Renick, a mechanical engineer who heads New Mexico's branch of Intelligent Design Network Inc., posed a couple of questions to the board. Yet, he encouraged members to approve the standards, despite reservations his group raised during the review. Renick wanted to know: What will children be taught about where they come from? Will macroevolution be presented as an undisputed fact? Sharon Dogruel, the state Education Department's manager for this project, answered his questions, saying teachers should present evolution as the best scientific explanation we have at this time, not as an absolute. The aim is "not to present a particular belief system or indoctrinate students," who should be encouraged to use their critical thinking and inquiry skills, she said. ... Half the room was packed with scientists Thursday. And board member Eleanor Ortiz of Santa Fe gave them special note: 'I just want to commend the scientists in the audience. They have evolved into very nice people.' ..."
Sandia Labs did it ... now it's Los Alamos's Turn!
Los Alamos Lab director Peter Nanos said this in an August 25th, 2003 letter to IDnet-NM, and SDE/SBE leaders: "The claims made in that [IDnet-NM] news release is misleading. There is no evidence that all of our technical and scientific staff members receiveed the so-called 'poll,' nor is there assurance that those who responded were actually scientific or technical staff members. .... I would appreciate it if you would refrain from associating the name of Los Alamos National Laboratory with your effort in any and all materials. ..."
Source: http://www.nmsr.org/id-poll.htm (the entire letter is shown here.)
Creationists Tainting Real Science...
An op-ed column appeared August 28 in the Albuquerque Journal. New Mexico Academy of Science president Kim Johnson wrote "Your story, 'Anti-Evolution Poll Called Bogus,' reported that Joe Renick, director of a local creationist organization, promised to stop citing a deceptive poll. But the Web site of the New Mexico Intelligent Design Network still prominently features the poll. ... The N.M. Academy of Science is concerned with this issue on two counts. First, IDNet inappropriately purported to speak for a large number of scientists in our scientific community (they do not) and also made misleading statements. Second, the Academy and numerous national scientific organizations as well as religious organizations have repeatedly insisted that the concept of Intelligent Design is part of a hidden religious agenda and should not be taught as science in our schools. (For example, it has no testable hypotheses which is an absolute requirement to pass the test of science.) ... The version of our state science standards now up for adoption has been hailed by national experts. Larry Lerner of the Fordham Foundation, who reviews state standards, gave these an A, up from a grade of F in 1998. Religious beliefs should be taught and celebrated openly in our places of worship and homes, but not introduced surreptitiously in our public school science classrooms. ... "
Committee Backs Evolution in Schools...
David Miles of the Albuquerque David Miles Journal Capitol Bureau reported on Aug. 28th that "A state Board of Education committee on Wednesday endorsed science education standards that retain a prominent place in public school instruction for evolution. The board's Instructional Services Committee endorsed the standards on a 4-2 vote. The full board is expected to act on the standards today or Friday. The standards are guidelines for the development of science instruction in New Mexico public schools. At Wednesday's meeting, supporters of the standards outnumbered those who preferred alternative language regarding evolution by more than 30 to three. Supporters included representatives of the New Mexico Academy of Science and the New Mexico Conference of Churches. 'There should be no fear of conflict between religion and science,' said the Rev. Barbara Dua, executive director of the conference. 'God has given us the intelligent capacity for critical thinking.' Those favoring the inclusion of alternative language in the standards were proponents of 'intelligent design,' the idea that evolution cannot explain the diversity of living things and that an "intelligent designer" must be responsible. ... Marshall Berman, a former board member and a retired Sandia National Laboratories scientist, praised the standards, which he said embrace principles that are commonly accepted in the scientific community. 'This is the fairest set of science standards that I've seen anywhere in the country,' Berman said. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/78010news08-28-03.htm (subscription required)
Mars UPDATE ...
Mars is making its closest approach to Earth in 600 centuries on
August 27th! The exact time of Mars' closest approach is 3:51 a.m.
Mountain Daylight Time on Wednesday the 27th. So, if someone were to
observe it on Tuesday night at 11:51 PM MST, that would only be 4
hours short of its maximum proximity, whereas if someone watches on
Wednesday night at 11:51 PM MST, that would be 20 hours beyond its
maximum proximity. Most sites, such as Sky and Telescope, are listing
August 26th as the night to watch.
In the weeks ahead, the Albuquerque Astronomical Society, UNM, and LodeStar will be hosting several "Mars Madness Parties," with telescopes available for the public, lectures, movies, and more! Some of the the big events are:
Mars Madness at UNM - Friday, August 22, at the UNM Campus
Mars Madness at Oak Flat - Saturday, August 23, at the Oak Flat Picnic Grounds(http://www.taas.org/)
UNM, Tuesday, August 26, weather permitting (http://panda.unm.edu/observatory/campus_observatory.html)
LodeStar Astronomy Center, August 27, (http://www.lodestar.unm.edu/special_events.htm)
Astrology Fails the Test!
The Washington Times, reprinting Robert Matthews's article from the London Daily Telegraph, notes "Scientists have once and for all debunked astrology's central claim that our human characteristics are molded by the influence of the sun, moon and planets at the time of our birth in the most thorough scientific study ever conducted on the subject. ... For several decades, researchers tracked more than 2,000 people most of them born within minutes of each other. According to astrology, the subjects should have had very similar traits. The scientists failed to find any evidence of similarities between the 'time twins' ..."
Focus on the Family: Top academics are publishing articles on ID in top scientific journals, but their identities are being withheld for fear of harassment!
In an article on the Focus on the Family website titled "A New Day, Some New Science," Pete Winn writes "Move over, Darwin. Intelligent Design has arrived, and it's time to welcome the new kid to town. ... Indeed, you can tell ID has 'arrived' because, in the last couple of years, the theory has made a major splash as state and local school boards have debated whether to allow students to learn about ID and other alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution. You can also tell because some top academics are publishing articles in top scientific journals about it. But perhaps the best sign that ID has 'made the big time' pro-ID videos are being shown on television. Even public television. Since May, 'Unlocking the Mystery of Life' has aired on more than a dozen major PBS affiliates. Publicly funded TV stations in Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, have shown thousands of viewers the Focus on the Family/Illustra Media video, which makes a positive case for Intelligent Design theory. ... Hartwig and Meyer are reluctant to publicize the names of pro-ID scientists and the academic journals publishing their research, for fear that Darwinists may exert pressure to try to squelch the studies. There is absolutely no doubt, however, that ID is making inroads in local and state school districts where, Hartwig maintains, it is blowing Darwinism 'out of the water.' ..."
Part of "Integrity in Science" involves scientists publicly publishing and defending their work. I guess the ID folks haven't figured that out yet!
BlockBuster of the Week ... IDNet-NM's "Lab Poll on ID" ... Renick Reneges!
After the Sandia letter knocking IDNet-NM's "Bogus Poll" came out, Joe Renick stated that IDNet-NM would STOP using that poll. From John Fleck's article "Anti-Evolution Poll Called Bogus" (Sunday, August 17, 2003): "Renick said Friday [August 15th] his organization plans to stop using the poll, saying it "is turning into a distraction from the really important business of the science standards."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/scitech/74133news08-17-03.htm (Subscription required)
HOWEVER, as of a week later (August 22nd, 2003), the poll is still posted, as it appeared originally, and with NO disclaimers, on the IDNet-NM web site. (http://www.nmidnet.org/polling_data.htm, and http://www.nmidnet.org/Press%20Release%201.doc ).
FURTHERMORE, in a letter sent to all State Board of Education members on Tuesday, August 19th, Renick says IDNet will stop using the survey, yet still defends the results, saying "The math is the math." Excerpts from Renick's August 19th letter: are online here : http://www.nmsr.org/id-poll.htm#reneges
All Eyes on New Mexico's Board of Education Next Week...
The New Mexico State Board of Education will decide next week (August 27-29) on whether to adopt new science standards developed over the last year. Here is a list of groups supporting the new standards, and those opposing:
PROPOSED SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS
PROPOSED SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS
National Academy of Sciences
Many more, not yet listed....
Intelligent Design Network of New Mexico
Creation Science Fellowship of New Mexico
The publicly available final draft of the revised standards
IDnet proposed changes to the standards:
National Science Teachers Association Letter to NM State Board of
Letter of support from the New Mexico Council of Churches:
Evaluation of IDnet Poll :
Tired of Summer Heat? New Microbe found that can tolerate 230 deg C (446 deg F)...
The Guardian reported on August 15th that "Scientists have discovered the world's toughest life form. The single-celled microbe, called "strain 121" for the moment, can survive at a scorching 130C higher than the boiling point of water and nearly 20 degrees higher than the previous record holder. The discovery is announced today in the journal Science by Derek Lovley and Kazem Kashefi of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It raises the possibility that life began on earth earlier than currently thought. ... Prof Lovley said: 'As you go deeper in the earth it gets hotter, so as you increase the known temperature limit for life, this increases the depth at which you might find life.' It also means that life may have begun when the planet was hotter, and therefore older, than previously thought. ..."
Lateral Gene Transfer (LGT)-caused confusion in Phylogenetic Trees can be REMEDIED...
The Scientist reported on August 8th that "Evidence for lateral gene transfer (LGT) contradicted earlier theories that bacteria evolve clonally, with daughters only inheriting genetic material from mothers. LGT is extensive and has played a major role in microbial evolution, and indeed genes may be transferred from phylogenetically quite distantly related organisms, making the construction of a meaningful phylogenetic tree difficult. In the August 8 Science, Vincent Daubin and colleagues of the University of Arizona argue, however, that too much weight is given to LGT in the phylogenetic analysis of bacteria, and by using a more conservative approach than the usual "reciprocal best hit" method to detect orthologous genes, they found that those available for phylogenetic reconstruction are consistent with a single tree (Science, 301:829-832, August 8, 2003). ..."
Who's Closer Kin to Us? Rats, not Cats...
Maggie Fox of Reuters reported on August 13th that "A comparison of human DNA to 12 other animals shows we share more than our genes and helps show that people are more closely related to rats than to cats, U.S. scientists reported on Wednesday. The survey also adds to the argument that so-called 'junk' DNA is nothing of the sort, but must do something important because it stays virtually identical across many species. It also supports what is becoming increasingly clear -- that the stretches of DNA we call genes are only a small part of the genetic story. ..."
NM's Turn in Creationism vs Evolution Spotlight...
The Albuquerque Journal's John Fleck reported on August 12th that "The battle over how public schools should teach the science of evolution is returning to New Mexico. Evolution backers say the scientific principle is widely accepted in the mainstream scientific community and that is the way it should be taught. Critics say current evolution teaching promotes a "materialistic ideology" that clashes with the religious beliefs of many New Mexicans. Joe Renick, who is leading the effort for change, thinks the state's public school students should be taught about the shortcomings of evolutionary science. ... Renick and his colleagues have been careful to keep religion out of the language they want included in the standards. ... But they have not kept religion entirely out of the discussion. As taught today, evolution 'challenge(s) the fundamental beliefs held by most New Mexicans that a Creator was responsible for creating the cosmos and all of life,' Renick wrote in a recent news release. ... The focus of the current New Mexico battle is the state's Science Content Standards, Benchmarks and Performance Standards, which will come up for a vote later this month before the New Mexico State Board of Education. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/72088news08-12-03.htm (subscription required)
The Santa Fe New Mexican's Jeff Tolleson wrote on August 11th "New Mexico's scientific community is winning a behind-the-scenes battle over the treatment of biological evolution in science education, but Darwin's critics plan to take their case directly to the state Board of Education later this month. The current draft endorses biological evolution as a pillar of scientific knowledge, but board members will also have before them alternate language, written by local promoters of 'intelligent design,' that treats evolution with considerable skepticism. Intelligent design evolved out of creationism after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down repeated attempts by conservative Christian groups to undermine Darwinian evolution and leave room for some form of the biblical creation story. The new strategy is to bypass those court decisions by weakening evolution to allow for a 'theory' of supernatural design -- without specifying the 'designer' and thus without endorsing a particular religion. ... "
And the Albuquerque Tribune's editorial of Thursday, August 14th had this to say: "Board members later this month sahould send a clear message to all New Mexico public schools, teachers, students, administrators and parents: Evolution rules. Teach it, learn it. ... The board should tell Renick, whose group is among those advocating an evolved version of creationism, 'Thanks but no thanks.' ... Science is about finding natural truth. Scientists are absolutely brutal about ensuring that they and their colleagues engage in this pursuit using the most rigorous standards of reason: Test it and prove it, or sit down and shut up. Evolution has been tempered in the forge of science for a couple of hundred years. ..."
Source: Print Edition (but check the Trib's website at http://www.abqtrib.com/ to see if it's posted in a few days...)
BlockBuster of the Week ... Sandia National Labs labels IDNet-NM "Lab Poll on ID" as BOGUS!
The local "Intelligent Design" group IDNet-NM recently had a Zogby poll done to quiz parents and scientists about teaching "Intelligent Design." In a press release sent to the NM State Board of Education, IDNet-NM claimed that "In regard to the teaching of evolution in New Mexico, the overwhelming majority of respondents, both parents and laboratory scientists, favored teaching the evidence both for and against evolution by a factor of over 4-to-1. In regard to teaching intelligent design, parents and laboratory scientists favored teaching intelligent design by an overwhelming factor of 5-to-1. ..."
But, severe problems have been found with the poll. David Harris of the American Physical Society noted that "... if you are a group with a long history of fudging data to your purposes, why would we assume anything but that the results were biased toward the viewpoint that IDnet wanted to push? Although not damning, this is all very suspicious and it certainly further damages the validity of the results. ..."
And Sandia National Laboratories president Paul Robinson, in a
press release on August 13th, denounced the IDNet-NM survey, calling
it "bogus," and affirming that Sandia National
Laboratories "did not participate in the Intelligent Design
Network's survey and do not support its conclusions." Graphic
and full text versions of the Sandia statement, and links to the
David Harris articles, are provided here:
Speaking of Mars... HotSpots may be the Ticket to Life...
ABC News and Reuters reported on Aug. 4th that "Giant ice towers that formed next to steaming volcanic vents in the freezing atmosphere of Mars may be the best place to look for life on the red planet, an Australian geologist said on Monday. Nick Hoffman of the University of Melbourne said the latest images taken by the Mars Odyssey orbiter had revealed curious hotspots in the Hellas Basin that could be similar to ice towers in Antarctica, where microbial life forms live on chemical energy. These hotspots, he told Reuters, could prove a better place to find signs of life than gullies that some speculate may have been gouged by running water. ..."
How do Psychics really earn a living?
Buck Wolf of ABC News reports on Aug. 4th that "If you can read my mind right now you should be celebrating. It's National Psychic Week! Every August I call members of the clairvoyant community to wish them a happy National Psychic Week. Most of them are surprised to hear there's a holiday in their honor. How's that for intuition? But don't get down on your friendly neighborhood psychics. As they always tell me, just because they're clairvoyant, doesn't mean they don't know everything. What's more, they're often busy. As I found this week, many support their paranormal practices with workaday jobs. When they're not looking into our future, psychics are also designing Web pages, selling incense, or even performing as children's clowns. The Famed Miss Cleo, formerly the star of TV's Psychic Readers Network, has worked as an actress. She even supplied a voice for the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. ...Forgive my temptation to judge psychics by their economic stature. I'm often reminded of that sign in novelty stores, 'If you're so damn smart, why ain't you rich?' Sometimes I think, 'If you're so damn clairvoyant, why do you work at a carnival?' But psychics say it doesn't work that way. Their special gifts are often said to be limited. Their powers only work for other people. They can only see certain things. ..."
Problems with Cloning reported...
Pallab Ghosh, BBC science correspondent, reported on Aug. 7th that "As Italian scientists succeed in creating the world's first horse clone, researchers in the UK have raised further questions about the future health of such animals. Scientists in Cambridge have found new evidence that the process of creating an animal copy damages the genetic mechanisms that enable it to develop normally. The discovery explains why it takes hundreds of attempts to create a living clone. But it also has implications for the long-term health of these creatures. Many leading cloning scientists are becoming increasingly concerned that even apparently healthy animals may be flawed. One scientist told the BBC that the death of Dolly the sheep last year was probably just an indication of what was to come: that many more cow and sheep clones would die as they approached middle age. ..."
Latest e-mail craze...'mob' silliness!
Aman Batheja of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Aug. 1st that "Flash mobbing arrived in Dallas Thursday night - fittingly, outside the trendy Angelika Film Center & Caf. At 7:43 p.m. about 40 people gathered, splitting into groups under two balloons, one red, one blue. The red mob began yelling 'Marco!' and the blue mob replied 'Polo!' After about a minute of call and response, the two balloons were released, and the mobbers - OK, pranksters - broke into applause. Ten seconds later, the group, known as TheMobProjectDFW, scattered like cockroaches when the lights come on. All for the sake of silliness. ... Flash mobbing was first noticed in New York a couple of months ago, born in the minds of mischevious Internet cyber-types, and has spread quickly from Manhattan to Minneapolis to San Francisco. Via e-mail, the mobbers arrange to perform bizarre, non-violent acts at a selected spot, then quickly disperse. It gives a whole new meaning to the First Amendment right 'of the people peaceably to assemble.' ..."
Similar Male/Female Size in Early Humans Boosted Evolution...
ABC News reports on July 28th that "Men and women may be considered equal under law, but there are, of course, differences. Among them is size. Men, on average, are about 15 percent to 20 percent larger than women. Yet compared with other mammals, that margin is slim. New research suggests it was similarities among the males and females of our early ancestors not differences that helped early humans evolve to become the dominant species that we are. ..."
Genetic Studies Indicate Big Plunge in Whale Populations...
ABC News reported on July 25th that "Whales may have been much more plentiful in the North Atlantic than previously thought, researchers said in a finding that could mean it will be years before the mammal's populations recover to a level where hunting could be allowed to resume. ... Populations of some whale species have been rebuilding. Current North Atlantic estimates are 10,000 humpback, 56,000 fin and 149,000 minke whales. ... Now, Joe Roman of Harvard University and Stephen R. Palumbi of Stanford University have studied the variations in the DNA of whales to estimate the size of the population before whaling began. Their conclusion, reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science, is that before whaling began the North Atlantic was home to 240,000 humpback, 360,000 fin and 265,000 minke whales. ..."
Water Spots on Mars...
Sue Vorenberg of the Albuquerque Tribune reported on July 28th that "The more scientists learn about water on Mars, the more mysterious it becomes. A team from Los Alamos National Laboratory has released the most in-depth Mars water map yet - showing how much water is present across the entire planet's surface - but its findings have left more questions than answers, said Bill Feldman, a lab scientist. 'If you were to melt all the water we see frozen in the top layer of Mars' soil it would be enough to make a global ocean that would cover the planet completely 14 centimeters deep," Feldman said. "That's about up to a person's ankles.' ..."
Extracting DNA FIngerprints from, well... Fingerprints!
UPI reported on July 31st "Even if the only evidence forensic analysts can pull from a crime scene is a fingerprint smudged beyond recognition, a new technique developed by Canadian scientists soon could harvest enough DNA from the print to produce a genetic identity. The novel system can extract DNA in only 15 minutes, even if a print has been stored for a year. Scientists expect the invention to help crime-fighters solve mysteries, and already are in talks with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In addition, researchers predict the technology could be at least twice as cheap as existing DNA collection methods. ..."
Roswell's UFO Fest ... one of the "Lamest City Celebrations" Ever?
The Plainview Daily Herald reported on July 19th that "If I were an alien, I would not return to Roswell, N.M. ... Imagine that the Roswell landing story is true (and I´m in no position to say it is or is not). What that means is living, thinking beings from another world made contact with Earth. The implications are profound and the science astounding. So, how do those true believers in Roswell and around the country commemorate? With a UFO festival that is one of the lamest city celebrations I´ve ever suffered through. ...One has to drive through the whole town to find the festival and there are no signs pointing the way. I asked a clerk at a gas station for directions. He grimaced and told me to 'just keep driving that way,' pointing south. ... The festival itself consists of a couple of kiddie toys, some food booths and two exhibit halls. There might have been 150 people there and the booths were mediocre. A few bands played outside, which was the highlight of the event. One act, The Dibs, drove 24 hours from Long Beach, Calif., to play to what they were told would be a crowd of 15,000-20,000. There were maybe 15 people watching, each fighting for the shade. At the end of their set, the band begged people to buy their CD so they would have enough gas money to get home. ..."
Food Columnist Sues Spiritual Advice Columnist for over $1M ...
The Naples Daily News (Florida) reports on July 25th that "A Naples Daily News food columnist is suing the paper's spiritual advice columnist for more than $1 million, saying she was manipulated into writing the woman a $95,000 check as a 'gift.' Doris Reynolds, a Naples resident who writes the weekly 'Let's Talk Food' column for the paper, is suing fellow columnist Angela Passidomo Trafford, a Naples resident and spiritual teacher who writes a weekly spiritual advice column. The suit accuses Trafford of constructive fraud, unjust enrichment and civil theft. Trafford denies the allegations. ..."
Scientist says Vacations make you Dumb & Dumber...
Ananova News reported on July 25th that "A scientist claims going on holiday makes you stupid. Siegfried Lehrl, of the University of Erlangen and Nuremberg in Germany, says sunbathing and relaxation lowers your IQ. He told Berliner Kurier: 'Fourteen days of complete rest can be enough to bring your IQ down by 20 points.' ..."
Leopard Seal drowns marine scientist ...
Yahoo/Reuters reported on July 23rd that "A British marine scientist has been killed by a seal while snorkeling off the coast of Antarctica, newspapers reported Thursday. Kirsty Brown, 28, was attacked by a leopard seal Tuesday while she carried out research close to the Rothera research station, about 800 miles south of the Falkland Islands. Horrified colleagues watched as Brown, a qualified diver, was pulled underwater and drowned by the seal. Professor Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), said Brown's death had shocked her colleagues. ...'In 30 years we have never experienced anything like this,' a BAS spokesman told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. ..."
Conviction in 'Apricot Pits for Cancer' Trial ...
Newsday.com reported on July 21st that "A self-proclaimed crusader for alternative medicine was convicted Monday of violating a court order to stop peddling apricot pits as a cancer cure. A federal jury in Brooklyn deliberated two days before finding Jason Vale guilty of criminal contempt, a violation carrying no specific penalty. Sentencing was set for Oct. 24. Prosecutors alleged that, despite repeated warnings by the Food and Drug Administration, Vale disobeyed the injunction by continuing to offer the purported cure, known as laetrile, through a shady network of Internet sites, toll-free telephone numbers and shell companies. ..."
Arrest made in fake 'Ossuary' case...
CNN reported on July 24th "Police have arrested an Israeli antiquities dealer suspected of creating two forgeries that shook the religious and archaeological world, including a burial box purported to be that of Jesus's brother James. Oded Golan also is suspected in connection with a shoebox-sized tablet inscribed with forged instructions for caring for the Jewish Temple. Golan appeared in a Jerusalem court Tuesday, one day after police arrested him at his home in Tel Aviv on suspicion of forging and dealing in fake antiquities. In court, police unveiled forgery equipment they said was found in Golan's home, including stencils, stones and partially completed forgeries. The dealer was being detained by police. ..."
Planck's Blackbody Law violated???
Sue Vorenberg of the Albuquerque Tribune reported on July 21st "A group of Sandia National Laboratories scientists have accidentally tripped, and broken the laws of physics. While improving a labs-developed energy technology, scientists Shawn Lin, Jim Bur and Jim Fleming discovered that they had made the technology so efficient that it crashed through the walls of a century-old physics law called Planck's Law of Blackbody Cavity Radiation. The technology - called a tungsten photonic lattice - and its stunning new properties in the next year could lead to solar cells and batteries that are from four to 10 times more efficient than today's, Lin said. 'We were just making an energy filter, and we stumbled across the fact that the filter was much more efficient than it was supposed to be,' Fleming said. ..."
Oh, say, can you see, the Universe's Early Light...
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reports on July 24th "In the beginning, a veil of darkness draped the universe. The great cloud of matter blown into being by the Big Bang was like an impenetrable blizzard. Light had nowhere to go. Then, slowly, the first stars and galaxies began burning away the cloud. Think of it as the dawn of the universe. Beginning with a pair of New Mexico telescopes and eventually enlisting observatories around the world, astronomers have seen that dawn light. Their results are being published today in the British science journal Nature. The glow, from embers left by some of the first stars formed in the universe, is evidence that stars and galaxies got their start early. But more than that, said astronomer Chris Carilli, the observations mark a sort of 'line in the sand,' the first clear look at a horizon beyond which scientists will never be able to see. 'It's a fundamental benchmark that says, 'It all starts here,' ' Carilli said. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/scitech/65489scitech07-24-03.htm (subscription required)
UFO Updates... New Discussion on Sci-Fi and the Roswell 'Smoking Gun' ...
The UFO Updates site (http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/latest/) has recently been a hotbed of discussion about last year's Sci Fi Channel airing of "The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence." New letter's discuss an article by Dave Thomas which appeared in the March/April 2003 Skeptical Inquirer. (Online at http://www.nmsr.org/sf-gun.htm)
See: David Rudiak, "Investigator's Right & Debunking
Hypocrisy" - Letter
and Rudiak's Letter
Thomas replies... (July 18)
Mars, Up Close & Personal...
USA Today reports on July 13th that "If the Martians want to invade, now would be the time. During the next few months, the Red Planet is making its closest pass by Earth in 50,000 years. As it happens, the real invasion is from Earth. Five separate space missions are headed to Mars as the planet passes into 'opposition' this summer. ...For sky watchers, the excitement arises from the fact that on Aug. 27, the two planets pass as close as they ever get about 35 million miles apart instead of the usual distance of about 60 million miles. This will allow a particularly nice view of Mars. 'Absolutely it will be a mind-blower for amateur astronomers,' said David Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine. ..."
Why the Flag on the Moon was "Flapping"...
ABC News reported on July 16th "It was a top secret project mandated by Congress in the spring of 1969. The job: Figure out how to fly the U.S. flag on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission. ... astronaut Buzz Aldrin recalled what happened when he and Neil Armstrong tried to set the flag up. 'It took both of us to set it up and it was nearly a public relations disaster,' he wrote, 'a small telescoping arm was attached to the flagpole to keep the flag extended and perpendicular. As hard as we tried, the telescope wouldn't fully extend. Thus the flag which should have been flat had its own permanent wave.' The wrong coating had been applied to the telescoping rod, so it wouldn't fully extend, which is why the flag looks like it is waving in the wind. Ironically, that famous picture of Buzz Aldrin posing next to the flag is often cited as evidence by conspiracy theorists as proof the mission to the moon was a hoax. ... Now there are six U.S. flags on the lunar surface, left by the crews of each Apollo mission. Each flag was deliberately designed with the same flaw to prevent the horizontal telescoping rod from fully extending. ..."
Asteroid Threat Estimates Lowered ...
Space.com and Yahoo reported on July 17th "... scientists who study the potential threat of asteroids would like to know more about which types and sizes of asteroids break apart and which hold together. A new computer model helps to quantify whether an asteroid composed mostly of stone will survive to create a crater or not. ... The new computer model is detailed in the July 17 issue of the journal Nature. It was created with the help of Natalia Artemieva at the Russian Academy of Sciences. ... The results suggest rocks about 720 feet across (220 meters) are likely to actually hit the surface every 170,000 years or so. Some previous research has suggested a frequency of every 4,000 years or less. ..."
New Cars to Respond to Gestures...
ABC News reported on July 15th that "Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are developing a high-tech system to convert drivers' hand gestures into something more useful than impromptu communications with fellow highway pilots. Make a few jabbing motions in the air, for instance, and you might adjust the car's electronic control system. A "twirl" of an index finger and the radio's volume goes up or down, depending on the direction of the twirl. "Wave" and incoming cell phone calls are automatically answered by a voice-mail system. ..."
Titanic's Ballard on the Prowl for Noah's Ark...
MSNBC and Newsweek (July 21st issue) report on research regarding the possibility that the legend of the flood of Noah was inspired by a real-life flood in the Black Sea some 7,000 years ago: "Did Noahs Flood really happen this way and in this place? Some people think it did. In August, underwater explorer Robert Ballard intends to put this theory to the test. ... The Noahs Flood theory has plenty of detractors, some of whom say Ballard is less concerned with science than public relations. As an explorer in residence for the National Geographic Society, his voyage this summer is shaping up to be a media event. Hes taking along a film crew, and therell be a television series coming out next year. ... Some scientists think all this effort will come to nothing. 'The Noahs Flood idea is a very sexy one,' says marine geologist Ali Aksu of Memorial University of Newfoundland. 'But its wrong.' Earlier this year his group published findings that 7,500 years ago the Black Sea was already full, and that water sloshed back and forth through the Bosporus no big flood, only an endless trickle. ... Whatever Ballard finds, its certain not to settle the matter. If the stone structure turns out to be a pre-Flood settlement, it will be a serious find. But Ballard will still need to prove the occurrence of a catastrophic flood, and that it was indeed Noahs. He may not succeed, but in trying he might make some great television. ..."
Language & Genetics Explored ...
The New York Times reported on July 15th "The only major talent unique to humans is language, the ability to transmit encoded thoughts from the mind of one individual to another. Because of language's central role in human nature and sociality, its evolutionary origins have long been of interest to almost everyone, with the curious exception of linguists. ... many linguists have avoided the subject because of the influence of Noam Chomsky, a founder of modern linguistics and still its best-known practitioner, who has been largely silent on the question. ... But new research is eroding the idea that the origins of language are hopelessly lost in the mists of time. New clues have started to emerge from archaeology, genetics and human behavioral ecology, and even linguists have grudgingly begun to join in the discussion before other specialists eat their lunch. ... [the] FOXP2 [gene] gives geneticists what seems to be a powerful entry point into the genetic and neural basis for language. By working out what other genes it interacts with, and the neural systems that these genes control, researchers hope to map much of the circuitry involved in language systems. The crescendo of work by other specialists on language evolution has at last provoked linguists' attention, including that of Dr. Chomsky. ..."
Depression Gene Found?
The University of Wisconsin Madison reported on July 17th "To begin to understand this pervasive mental illness, researchers led by Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi investigated the interaction between genes and stressful events to determine if such an interaction could predict the future onset of depression. They zeroed in on the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTT). This gene regulates levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that sends signals between nerve cells in the brain. Variations in the 5-HTT gene, says Moffitt, have been shown to influence an animal's response to stress. The researchers found that individuals who have a particular variation in the serotonin transporter gene were more likely to develop depression after exposure to stress. ..."
"Ignorant Design" and the Texas Board of Education...
Michael May writes in a July 18th editorial titled "Ignorant Design at the SBOE," "Welcome to the Scopes Trial 2003. In the 1920s, before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of science, the debate had been framed by creationists as an epic struggle between the chosen and the godless. These days, sophisticated critics of evolution avoid any mention of a Christian god. Instead, they argue that the scientific mainstream is blind to evidence that evolution is flawed. The basic argument of "intelligent design," as the new creationist philosophy is called, goes like this: Evolutionary evidence can't explain life's most complex designs -- say, for example, the eye. Therefore, evolution must tell only part of the story. Someone or something must be behind the curtain -- a god, an alien, a mad scientist, a Matrix -- orchestrating this whole wonderful mess we call life. ... These questions have indeed been raised by 'scholars' -- mostly Christian philosophers like Beckwith. By contrast, there simply are no respected biologists ready to discard evolution as the fundamental mechanism of biological development over time. Intelligent design certainly raises potent philosophical questions -- you don't need to be a minister or an acidhead to marvel at the complexity of the eye or the origin of life. Unfortunately, science requires a whole tedious rigmarole of hypotheses and experimentation. Unlike evolution, intelligent design can't be tested or demonstrated experimentally, because it presumes what it purports to prove -- so it's really no more scientific than its threadbare cousin, creationism. ..."
(Be sure to check out the cartoon!)
Horsheshoe Crab to help find E.T. ...
ABC News reports on July 9th that "One hundred million years before dinosaurs pounded upon the Earth, the humble horseshoe crab scuttled along its shores. Soon the blood of this primitive creature could be used to detect primitive life on faraway planets. .. Since the 1950s, the unique coagulating reaction of the horseshoe crab's blood has been tapped by pharmaceutical companies to test the purity of sterilized medical equipment and products. Now scientists have packaged the blood's enzymes into a hand-held instrument that can test for signs of life. ..."
Stonehenge... Rhymes with Dolores?
In a July 9th article titled "Does Stonehenge Depict Female Genitalia??," Reuters reports "Stonehenge is a massive fertility symbol, according to Canadian researchers who believe they have finally cracked the mystery of the ancient monument in southern England. In the arrangement of the stones, the researchers say they have spotted the original design: female genitalia. The theory is laid out in a paper entitled 'Stonehenge: a view from medicine' in the July issue of Britain's Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. ..."
See for yourself: http://www.amherst.edu/~ermace/sth/photos.html, http://www.christiaan.com/stonehenge/
The Official Brit's Site: http://www.eng-h.gov.uk/stoneh/
Weird Black Ring in Sky...
The San Antonio Express News reported on July 8th "In addition to the usual fare that comes with a thunderstorm, many on the citys Northeast Side witnessed an unusual dark circle in the sky, which turned out to be a ring of smoke that a weather official said emanated from an 'explosion caused by lightning.' Several people reported seeing the ring this morning shortly after a lightning bolt struck an area near North New Braunfels Avenue and Nacogdoches Road. ..."
Harry Potter: From Book Burning to House Burning...
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on July 9th that "A woman set her Madrid [Spain] home on fire Wednesday as she cooked up a potion in an attempt to imitate the fictional wizard Harry Potter, emergency services said. The 21-year-old was rescued by firemen and treated for minor injuries, but half her home was destroyed. ... For want of more magical ingredients, the woman cooked up a potion of water, oil, alcohol and toothpaste, local media reported. It was unclear what spell she was trying to weave. ..."
Texas: The Battle of the Books is ON...
The Austin American Statesman reports on July 9th "Today brings the State Board of Education's first public hearing on the new books, continuing a decades-long battle over how Texas public school children are taught about the science of life on Earth. If past years are any indicator, evolution, sex education and the origins of life will be the hot-button topics for parents and conservative groups who will testify before the board. But this year's arguments over evolution may swerve from the beaten path. As traditional creationism has lost political ground in Texas, a national movement that embraces the concept known as 'intelligent design' has gained influence by using science rather than religion to battle evolution. Intelligent designers believe certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained as the product of intelligent action, not an undirected process such as natural selection. .. Last year, publishers made several changes in response to complaints, including a reference to the Ice Age as occurring millions of years ago to taking place 'in the distant past.' ..."
And the San Antonio Express-News reported on July 10th "Controversy over textbooks erupted again Wednesday as scientists and members of the public addressed the Board of Education over the treatment of evolution in biology textbooks. Nearly all of the three dozen speakers defended the teaching of evolution against a report that questioned the accuracy of evidence supporting the scientific theory in the 11 biology texts being considered for adoption in Texas. After Discovery Institute a Seattle-based public policy group submitted the 55-page report, teachers, scientists and activists went on the offensive. They said they feared that the elected board, dominated by conservative members, would use the report to influence publishers to include references to creationism or 'intelligent design' as a scientific theory. ..."
Roswell Erects Memorial at Crash Site...
A Roswell Daily Record report of July 7th says "UFO debris site monument unveiled." Here's the inscription: In July of the year 1947 a craft of unknown origin spread debris over this site. Witnesses would report materials of unearthly nature. In September of the year 2002 the Sci-Fi Channel brought scientists from the University of New Mexico to search this ground for evidence of that fateful night. Be it observed, that whatever the true nature of what has respectfully become known as the Roswell Incident, humankind has been forever drawn to the stars. Dedicated July 5, 2003.
Who paid for the monument? I'm betting the Sci Fi channel probably coughed up a nickel or two. Will the town of Roswell change its name to "The Sci Fi Channel Town of Roswell" ? Stay tuned.
New York Times Review: Rowland calls Science "A Human Construct" ...
The July 11th New York Times Review of Books carries a a review of Wade Rowland's new book "Galileo's Mistake" by Michael Massing. Rowland discusses the Galileo affair: "... In conventional accounts it was Galileo's insistence on the Copernican worldview that riled the church. Mr. Rowland demurs. For him it was Galileo's insistence 'that there is a single and unique explanation to natural phenomena,' based on observation and reason, that made all other explanations, including those based on biblical revelation, useless. This in Mr. Rowland's view was Galileo's mistake. Mr. Rowland puckishly argues that science is no more reliable than religion in describing the universe. Scientific observations, while commonly thought to be based on empirical reality, he writes, are actually 'filtered through layers of subjective impression'; scientific 'facts' about nature are not 'pre-existing truths' but 'human constructs.' ..."
Ouch! Anyone want to argue that the Theory of ElectroMagnetism is more Construct than Truth? Here, touch these two wires...
Did a meteor "Save" Christianity ?
The BBC asks on June 23rd "Did a meteor over central Italy in AD 312 change the course of Roman and Christian history? A team of geologists believes it has found the incoming space rock's impact crater, and dating suggests its formation coincided with the celestial vision said to have converted a future Roman emperor to Christianity. It was just before a decisive battle for control of Rome and the empire that Constantine saw a blazing light cross the sky and attributed his subsequent victory to divine help from a Christian God. ..."
Oh, and how 'bout that Ossuary Box?
The Discovery Channel reported on June 18th "In the end was the word, and the word was 'fake.' Eight months after the highly publicized discovery of a burial box believed to bear one of the first historical mentions of Christ, Israeli experts said Wednesday the so-called 'James ossuary' was a recent fabrication. The judgment on the box, thought to have contained the bones of Jesus' brother, James, was delivered by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which also debunked a stone tablet billed as dating back to the 9th century B.C. ..."
Japanese Archaeologist caught with Hand in the Specimen Jar...
The Scotsman reported on June 11th that "Japan is having to hastily rewrite its entire pre-history after an archeologist known as "The Hands of God" was revealed to have systematically faked his fantastic discoveries. For nearly 30 years, Shinichi Fujimura happened to be in exactly the right place at just the right time. He unearthed stone tools that offered a vast new treasure trove of data about Japans middle Palaeolithic age. Other finds were dated to 100,000 years ago. But a full-scale investigation by the Japanese Archeological Association has confirmed the worst - that Mr Fujimura , 53, was committing fraud on a vast scale. He entirely fabricated his astonishing finds at 159 of the 178 sites he worked on, it concluded. ..."
Huge Upper-Atmosphere Discharges caught on Tape...
National Geographic reported on June 25th "Cloud-to-Earth lightning bolts are a well-known natural electrical occurrence. Now scientists have discovered and photographed for the first time enormous, 90-kilometer-high (55-mile), luminous, electric discharges that deliver large quantities of current from thunderstorms to the edges of the Earth's atmosphere. The flashes, described in a letter published in the current issue of the journal Nature, is believed to be a type of phenomenon known by atmospheric physicists as a 'transient luminous event.' ..."
Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/06/0625_030625_atmospherethunder.html (Excellent Pictures!)
Monkey See [Facial Expression], Monkey Do [Match to Specific Sounds]...
Nature reported on June 26th that "Rhesus monkeys can match up sounds and facial expressions, research suggests. It hints that our capacity to do likewise may have evolved from our primate ancestors. 'Some people had thought that the ability was unique to humans,' says Asif Ghazanfar of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Germany, who studied the monkeys. Other animals had simply not been tested. ..."
Big Bang-style Matter "Re-created" in Lab...
The Israel National News reported on June 20th that "Researchers at Rechovot's Weizmann Institute, as part of a team of 460 physicists from 57 research institutions in 12 countries, are hot on the heels of reproducing matter as it first appeared in the universe, shortly after the "Big Bang"; this matter is called quark-gluon plasma. The international experiment, called PHENIX, brought together physicists from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Sweden and the United States and was conducted at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York. According to the physicists taking part in the experiment, their recent findings could indicate that they have succeeded in artificially creating the quark-gluon plasma. ..."
And this Clarification was reported three days later (June 23rd):
"Arutz-7 reported on Friday that Weizman Institute researchers and others had succeeded in reproducing matter as it first appeared in the universe shortly after the 'Big Bang.' Several readers commented that the Big Bang concept contradicts ... the Torah's account of Creation. In fact, however, the Big Bang can be entirely consistent with the Bible's account of G-d's creation of the world "yesh me'ayin" (ex nihilo, something out of nothing). ..."
In light of the staunch Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) opposition to the Big Bang, this is, well... Interesting! (See, for example, the Answers in Genesis page http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/410.asp; "The Big Bang is usually defined as a random, chance event. ... However, Scripture clearly rules out such an accidental origin. A modified version of the Big Bang theory says that when the explosive event happened, it was directed by God. This is the theistic-evolution approach, an attempt to compromise the Bible with evolutionary theories, and it, too, must be rejected because of its many conflicts with the order of events in Genesis. ... Scripture does not imply an explosion ..."
NMSR's July Speaker featured in slimy story at Space.com...
The June 17th article at Space.com discusses microbial life in terrestrial caves, and why caves might be a good place to look for extraterrestrial life... "Cold, slimy and pitch dark. Just add some acid and youll make Diana Northup and Penny Boston happy. Northup, Boston and their colleaguesthe self-named slime teamstudy cave-dwelling microbes. In some cases the bacterial growth is so abundant the walls drip slime. Whats making this mucuslike substance? ..."
July Meeting Info: Diana Northup on "Snottites, Phlegmballs, and Deadly Gases, Oh My! (Sulfur Caves)"
"Gravity Control" Group Rejected by X Prize Foundation ...
Space.com reported on June 15th that "The X Prize Foundation notified Gravity Control Technologies (GCT) of Budapest, Hungary that its application to become an X Prize team had not been accepted. GCT was founded in 1999 and is a privately held aerospace research firm delving into superconductivity and Zero Point Energy Field physics in the hopes of achieving one-hundred percent propellant-less propulsion technology for flight. The X Prize is a $10 million prize to jumpstart the space tourism industry through competition between entrepreneurs and rocket experts around the world. ..."
Biology in the News...
EVOLUTION: In a June 17th piece by Chet Raymo for the
Boston Globe, Raymo comments "What was the greatest scientific
idea of all time? The answer, I think, is clear: Evolution by natural
selection, conceived more or less simultaneously by Charles Darwin
and Alfred Russel Wallace in the mid-19th century. ..."
CLONING: The AP reported on June 17th that
"The American Medical Association endorsed cloning for research
purposes Tuesday, putting the nation's largest organization of
doctors officially at odds with the Bush administration. ..."
Y-CHROMOSOME: Reuters Health reported on June 18th
that "The Y chromosome -- widely thought of as the seed of
manliness and a stretch of DNA containing few functioning genes -- is
relatively full of genes, researchers reported here Wednesday. The
findings may shed light on mutations that can lead to infertility,
but won't do much to explain the mysteries of male behavior,
Formerly Secret Roswell Files DECLASSIFIED...
Popular Mechanics reports in its June 2003 issue that "For decades, UFO researchers had clamored for the National Archives to come clean about a 'flying disc' that supposedly crashed during the Fourth of July weekend in 1947. ... During the 1990s, the time limits on keeping Cold War-era records began to expire. ... Declassified records showed how the Atomic Energy Commission intentionally released radiation from its reactors in Hanford, Wash., on unsuspecting civilians in that area. Other disclosures described how doctors working for the federal government were permitted to conduct ghoulish medical experiments on women, children and prisoners. Buoyed by these earlier disclosures, UFO researchers had good reason to hope the 11 boxes of newly opened Roswell files might contain a similar smoking gun. ... POPULAR MECHANICS was interested too. ... If something extraordinary had happened at the Roswell Army Airfield in July 1947, evidence would turn up in the paperwork compiled by sergeants and officers. And it was that possibility that lured us to Maryland. If aliens had landed, the soldiers who chased them would have left a paper trail, too. As we had hoped, we found the original government records. But first we had to do some digging. ... We even found the remains of the infamous balloon reflector, which UFO buffs claim the government planted at the crash site in place of the pieces of the flying disc. These pieces, they say, were taken to an undisclosed military base. Then, amid the clutter, in Box 1, we found what we were after. It was a seemingly unimportant document titled 'Morning Reports, July 1947.' This was essentially a log of the day-to-day activity at the base. In much the same way that a police blotter would provide evidence of a bank robbery, the Morning Reports would provide unambiguous evidence of unusual military activity. As we worked through the Morning Reports line by line, we came to a simple realization: Absolutely nothing extraordinary had happened at Roswell that Fourth of July weekend. There was no indication of an emergency, no mention of a deployment of rescue and firefighting crews, as was the case with other crashes. That was one mystery solved. For years, UFO researchers had claimed that enlisted men and officers involved in the disc recovery operation were transferred to other bases to ensure their silence. Sure enough, the transfers took place. The paperwork explained why. Several months earlier, in a sweeping postwar military reorganization, Army fliers were systematically transferred to the newly created U.S. Air Force. The men had not been transferred. They had merely changed uniforms. Another mystery solved. ...
Saucer Smear honors NMSR with 'CSICOP COVEN' Designation...
It's all on-line at the Saucer Smear Site, in the April 15th, 2003 Newsletter.!
See Also: March
2003: Sci Fi Channel Roswell Dig
ABQ Teachers get Hands-On Geology Training ...
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on June 20th that "...'You can teach all you want, but until you touch it ...' said Nancy Elle, a fifth-grade teacher from Amarillo. 'It really brings it home.' Elle and Million are among 14 teachers spending the week in the Albuquerque area, working with Colorado geologist and science educator Steve Getty. Sponsored by the nonprofit Southwest Educational Development Laboratory of Austin, the workshop gives the teachers hands-on experience working with scientists, which they can take back to their classrooms in the fall. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/53641news06-20-03.htm (registration required)
New NMSR Page: "Intelligent Design" IS Religious Creationism!
Shocking new evidence has been unearthed, and it confirms that "Intelligent Design" and religious creationism are joined at the hip - that they are flip sides of the SAME COIN.
Genes help to track Human Evolution...
Carl Hall of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on June 9th that "Some of the most provocative new findings about the origins and worldwide spread of the human species are coming from studies of the history books packed inside nearly every cell of our bodies. Genes speak volumes about our beginnings in Africa an estimated 130,000 to 200,000 years ago, our divergence into distinct populations of hunter- gatherers and farmers, our migration into Europe and Asia, and finally our settling in the Americas, perhaps 30,000 years ago. Such studies even offer an evolutionary reason for why some of us can't tolerate milk. ..."
Los Alamos scientist on team announcing oldest modern human ancestor...
The Albuquerque Journal's John Fleck reported on June 12th that "A Los Alamos geologist working largely in his spare time has helped rewrite the history of human evolution. In a paper being published today, Giday WoldeGabriel and his colleagues are announcing the discovery of fossils they believe are the earliest known members of our own species, a group that wandered a lake shore in eastern Africa 160,000 years ago. The find is the latest discovery by a scientific team working in east Africa's great rift valleys. They found the fossil in 1997, but it was a long and complicated struggle to pin down its age, WoldeGabriel, a Los Alamos National Laboratory geologist, said. WoldeGabriel, 48, is co-leader of a research team that has worked over the past decade in an area that is increasingly seen as the cradle of human evolution. There, the first humans seem to have evolved from more ape-like ancestors. ..."
See Also: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993814
Humanity: We Almost Didn't Make It!...
Dr. David Whitehouse of BBC News reported on June 9th that "Humans may have come close to extinction about 70,000 years ago, according to the latest genetic research. From just a few, six billion sprang. The study suggests that at one point there may have been only 2,000 individuals alive as our species teetered on the brink. This means that, for a while, humanity was in a perilous state, vulnerable to disease, environmental disasters and conflict. If any of these factors had turned against us, we would not be here. The research also suggests that humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) made their first journey out of Africa as recently as 70,000 years ago. ..."
Devonian Fish Kill ... a Meteor Did It!
Kenneth Chang of the New York Times reported on June 13th that "Just as dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago when a meteor struck the earth, many fish and other creatures of an earlier era about 380 million years ago may have been similarly killed off. Writing in today's issue of the journal Science, geologists at Louisiana State University, the University of Texas at Arlington and the Scientific Institute in Morocco report several lines of evidence that point to a meteor impact that coincides with a mass extinction. Most life was still contained in the oceans then, in the middle of the Devonian geological period that is often called the 'age of fishes.' The extinction, while global in scale, was less severe than the half-dozen major extinctions in the earth's history. ..."
Darwin to appear at Explora, June 14; July 12; August 2 and September 6, 2003...
The Explora! Science Center (in Winrock Center in Albuquerque) is hosting THE GREAT EXPLORER SERIES, PART II, featuring Charles Darwin (1809 -1882) British Naturalist. The program will be held June 14; July 12; August 2 and September 6, 2003, at 1pm and 3pm in the Teaching Theater. Eric Meyer will be playing the role of Darwin. Here's the synopsis:
When Darwin was only 22 years old, he embarked on an around the world adventure and exploration on the H.M.S. Beagle, a research vessel. His job was to make observations about plants, animals and the geology in the places where the ship docked. Charles Darwin explored the idea that species changed or evolved over time. This idea caused a revolution in science and society and has shaped the thinking of scientists and other people ever since. Come learn about this shy English naturalist, his ideas and the time in which he lived.
We will now discuss in a little more detail the struggle for existence. On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection (1859) ch.3
Paulos estimates Bennett's Slot Pulling Time...
John Allen Paulos of ABCNEWS.com writes on June 1st "...Recent articles have reported that conservative commentator Bill Bennet lost up to $8 million over the last decade playing slot machines and video poker at casinos. These might cause us to wonder how much time he spent in casinos over this period. ... Let's assume that Bennett pulled the lever on the $500-a-pull machines he preferred a rabbit-fast five times per minute on average (factoring in breaks). That's $2,500 per minute and $150,000 per hour. If we divide $200 million by $150,000 per hour, we get more than 1,300 hours of pulling machine levers, which is almost eight months worth of full 40-hour weeks spent in casinos over the decade!..."
Social interaction shapes babbling in both Humans and Birds...
Indiana University said on June 2nd that "How infants respond to their mother's touches and smiles influences their development in a manner much like what young birds experience when learning to sing, according to a research project involving the Department of Psychology at Indiana University Bloomington and the Biological Foundations of Behavior program at Franklin and Marshall College. An article on the research, titled 'Social interaction shapes babbling: Testing parallels between birdsong and speech,' will be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ..."
Polygraphs - still stupid after all these years...
Andrea Widener of the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) reported on May 30th that "Last fall, a panel of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences found that polygraph tests are unproven, and perhaps even dangerous, as a tool to search for potential spies at the nation's nuclear weapons labs. ... Despite this overwhelming finding - and a Congressional mandate to reevaluate use of the test - the Department of Energy has stuck by the polygraph. .... Polygraph testing isn't like treating a cold with grandma's chicken soup, which may help but won't hurt, said David Faigman, a panel member who studies science and law at University of California's Hastings College of the Law. Negative polygraph tests can lead security officials to believe secrets are safe when they're not, endangering security. 'I think (DOE's choice) is a naive approach to the problem,' Faigman said. 'There are bones in this particular chicken soup.' ..."
And Sharon Begley writes this in the June 6, 2003 Wall Street Journal ("Inertia, Hope, Morality Score TKOs in Bouts with 'Solid Science'", June 6, B1): "... To be in favor of sound science rather than the junk variety is all the rage these days. Politicians earnestly invoke 'sound science' in debates ranging from Arctic drilling to genetically modified crops. But I fear they doth protest too much. More and more, the disconnect between science and policy is nothing short of astonishing, as pols ignore science that doesn't yield the answer they want. Despite a 2003 National Academy of Sciences report calling the accuracy of polygraphs 'insufficient,' for instance, the U.S. Department of Energy has actually proposed using them for security screening. ... There is no shame in considering economic, social, political or values arguments. Science can tell you that x number of people will likely be killed by y amount of arsenic in drinking water; deciding whether to set the legal limit at 2y, y or , however, requires economic, political and value judgments. That's fine. Because truth is a moving target, science can do no more than lay out the facts, with caveats and qualifications, and describe the distribution of opinion. But once it does that, for policy makers to do the exact opposite of what the best research says makes a mockery of their pious genuflections before the altar of sound science. ..."
Lotus Leaf inspires Water-Shedding Materials...
Sue Vorenberg of the Albuquerque Tribune reported on June 3rd that "The lotus holds more than the key to spiritual enlightenment. Jeff Brinker, a Sandia National Laboratories scientist and University of New Mexico professor, says it also holds technological secrets. He has used the microscopic structure of the lotus leaf surface to design a coating that makes water ball up and roll off so quickly it looks like a drop of mercury. ... 'So what we did was come up with a method to mimic the properties of that surface, actually on a scale that's about 1/10th the size of the surface features on the lotus plant,' he said. 'We made it out of silicon dioxide - what most beach sand is made out of - and put it in a solution that dries very quickly and can be sprayed anywhere, even on the inside of a pipe.' ..."
Is your PC Sick? Get Help from the Institute of Holistic Computer Wellness ...
This new Institute offers a variety of wellness modalities for sick computers, including "Computer Homeopathy. A remedy against a particular virus is obtained by taking the bit string of a virus, and diluting it with a random sequence of bits, which involves replacing half of the string by the random bits, and reshuffling by a sequence of random permutations. ... After a number of such dilutions, a single bit is removed for use as the homeopathic remedy. When this bit is placed in the root directory of your computer, it will enhance your computer's natural resistance against attacks of that particular virus. Because the homeopathic data is not executed, it exerts its influence gently and naturally, without the harmful side effects and incompatibilities sometimes encountered with harsh purgatives or other allopathic anti virus treatments. ..."
Scientists Reintroducing Darwin Fish Into Its Historic Range...
The Daily Probe reported on May 20th "Can the Darwin Fish -- strictly speaking, a developing species of scientific thought -- be successfully reintroduced into its historic range? Scientists are meeting here [Mobile, AL] to discuss the ambitious project. 'While the Darwin fish has been all but exterminated across much of the South, Southeast and Midwest U.S., we have found vigorous if isolated populations near MIT, Cal Tech and Stanford, and have reason to hope other such populations exist elsewhere throughout the country,' said Dr. Charles Dawkins, an iconobiologist. ..."
Source: http://www.dailyprobe.com/arcs/052003/fish.shtml (shows pictures of the fish being reintroduced!)
Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation science ministerial meeting in the works...
The Press (New Zealand) reports on May 30th that "A senior adviser to United States President George W. Bush has been in New Zealand this week at a planning meeting for next year's Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) science ministerial meeting. The forum and related meetings, to be held in Christchurch during March, are expected to be attended by the 21 Apec science ministers, more than 100 of their senior officials, and as many as 200 research and development leaders from Apec countries. ..."
Mice and Sprint Evolution...
Scientific American reports on May 22nd that "The white-footed mouse isn't much to look at, but a new study suggests it may be a superstar when it comes to evolution. According to a report published today in the journal Nature, a group of the animals in the Chicago area has undergone significant genetic change over the last 150 years. The findings suggest that a mammalian genome can evolve much more rapidly than previously thought. ..."
See also: http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/05/22/mouse_evoln030522
Chimps have human-like voicebox...
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports on May 27th that "A long-held assumption that the human capacity for speech evolved as a result of a unique positioning of the larynx, or voicebox, has been overturned by the unexpected discovery that chimpanzees have the same trait. ..."
Home-made Black Holes?
Michelle Thaller of the Christian Science Monitor reports on May 23rd that "If we really want to observe black holes and how they radiate, we'll have to whip them up in our own laboratories. And that's exactly what we are on the threshold of being able to do. Now, there is no kind of technology with the ability to physically crush matter to black hole densities, but there's an easy away around that. Einstein showed us that matter and energy are equivalent, so you can also make a black hole by pushing a huge amount of energy into a tiny volume. For those kinds of experiments, there's an obvious choice: particle accelerators. And the next generation is just about to be unveiled. ..."
Colliding Galaxies create Supernova display...
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reports on May 28th "When galaxies collide, the sparks that fly are actually exploding stars, according to new work by a New Mexico astronomer.Using the Very Long Baseline Array, Socorro astronomer Jim Ulvestad and his colleagues took the most detailed pictures ever made of two colliding galaxies, showing what they are calling a "supernova factory," the likes of which has never been seen before. ..."
See also: http://www.abqtrib.com/archives/news03/052803_news_nova.shtml (Sue Vorenberg)
Shuttle Research Underutilized...
CNN reported on May 27th that "Academics and scientists on both sides of the debate over scientific value of human spaceflight have disagreed for decades. Differing opinions have erupted in the aftermath of space shuttle Columbia's disintegration over Texas on February 1, leaving seven astronauts dead. An analysis done for the Houston Chronicle in Texas shows that NASA research is cited by other researchers in published papers less often than studies conducted on the ground. ..."
We've a Problem - the Standard for Mass is Losing Weight...
The New York Times reports on May 27th that "The kilogram is defined by a platinum-iridium cylinder, cast in England in 1889. No one knows why it is shedding weight, at least in comparison with other reference weights, but the change has spurred an international search for a more stable definition. ... Even the apparent change of 50 micrograms in the kilogram less than the weight of a grain of salt is enough to distort careful scientific calculations. Dr. Becker is leading a team of international researchers seeking to redefine the kilogram as a number of atoms of a selected element. Other scientists, including researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Washington, are developing a competing technology to define the kilogram using a complex mechanism known as the watt balance. ..."
Zelicoff: Polygraphs are Worse Than Worthless ...
Alan Zelicoff spoke to NMSR about polygraphs in April (see http://www.nmsr.org/polygraf.htm#zelicoff ). On May 27th, he wrote in a Wahington Post editorial "In 1999, in the midst of alleged leaks of nuclear weapons information from his department's national laboratories, the secretary of energy, Bill Richardson, set out to show that he could be 'tough' on national security matters. He sought congressional funding for a wide-ranging polygraph program to cover all employees with high-level clearances -- about 15,000 people in all. Congress agreed -- despite the absence of any evidence that polygraphs have ever detected a spy operating anywhere in the U.S. government. ..."
CSICOP to hold fall conference in Albuquerque...
CSICOP (Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal) is hosting a conference titled "Hoaxes, Myths and Manias" at the Radisson hotel on Carlisle, next October 23rd through 26th. Speakers will include Kendrick Frazier, Barry Beyerstein, Ray Hyman, Alex Boese, Jonathan Vankin, Robert Carroll, Eugenie Scott, Joe Nickell, Jim Underdown, Mark Manning, Jan Harold Brunvand, Donald Simanek, Eric Kreig, Dave Thomas, Philip Plaitt, Wallace Sampson, Alan Zelicoff, Benjamin Radford, Kenneth Feder, and James McGaha.
Planet X and Intelligent Design Buffs are Kindred Cousins ...
Timothy Quinn of SpaceDaily.com writes about "Planet X" and other goofy belief systems on May 26th, in an editorial titled "If You're Reading This, The World Didn't End Last Thursday." Quinn notes "Planet X, or Nibiru as it's exotically known to believers in a cult of ancient Sumerian astrophysicists, remains a persistent myth based on an innocuous observational error now nearly a quarter-millennium old. The error has to do with the orbits of the outer planets in our solar system, and is inarguably symptomatic of well practiced science: few discoveries circumvent the awkward evolution of initial mismeasurement into refined calculation and clarity, even if 14-point headlines and Hollywood dramatizations sometimes make it seem as if science is little more than the act of lighting a match in a dark room. The mystery of Uranus, discovered in 1781 at the seeming cusp of our solar system, was no exception. ... It became clear in 1992 that there was nothing at all wrong with the orbit of Uranus. NASA's Voyager 2 probe measured Neptune's mass on its way out of the solar system in 1989 and, once the numbers had been crunched, resolved the discrepancy once and for all ... The longevity of doomsday cults like ZetaTalk is, if nothing else, a strong indication that one of our fundamental assumptions about alternative science is wrong: as much as we might wish to believe that ignorance remains the firmament of exploitation, the twenty-first century's intellectual plague is a wealth of knowledge untempered by clear refutation. The hoaxed moon landing movement is a particularly interesting example of the sort of pseudoscientific fearmongering that should've gone out of vogue with forensic phrenology. ... As strategies go, the high road wasn't particularly effective with Roswell and doesn't seem to be working with Area 51 either. ... Perhaps the most innocuous of pseudoscientific obfuscations is the Intelligent Design movement, a post-creationist anti-Darwinian ideology with a folksy media-friendly name intended to disguise an unflinching mandate to restore religion as part of the science curriculum in public schools. ....What distinguishes the threat of Intelligent Design from prior creationist arguments is a shrewd use of popular science; like UFO fanatics or moon hoaxers, ID advocates sift through an abundance of data in fields as diverse as biochemistry, numerical analysis, behavioral psychology and cultural anthropology in search of superficial similarities to invariably vague theories of surreptitious determinism. ... To the average layperson, evidence such as this - cautiously cast in the language of twenty-first century science - can seem to possess a thin veneer of respectability when unchallenged by informed refutation. Either because of good manners or an unwillingness to compromise religious tolerance, Intelligent Design in particular has been spared the rigor of critical thinking in the popular media, with the notable exception of occasional articles in mainstream publications like the Skeptical Inquirer and Natural History magazine. ..."
As for Planet X and the Zetas, Nancy Lieder is still talking about the "pole shift" that was supposed to happen on Tuesday 27th, saying on her ZetaTalk website that "...we have no problem with being precise on the meaning of the Pole Shift date as May 27."
Erich von Daeniken still gets $$$ from "Chariots of the Gods"...
The LA Times writes on May 25th that "Ridicule from scientists notwithstanding, Erich von Daeniken sold 60 million books in 32 languages and made 'Chariots of the Gods' part of the ufologists' lexicon. Thirty-five years on, the fascination endures. There are plans for a 22-part TV series called "Chariots of the Gods The Mysteries Continue." And von Daeniken's ancient astronauts are set to make a permanent landing in a scenic Alpine valley with this weekend's opening of the world's only theme park devoted to historic wonders like the Egyptian pyramids and future unknowns like the conquest of Mars. ... Despite the huge public success, critics continue to pan his theories. 'These mythologizations are so silly; they are easily disproved and rather embarrassing,' said David Brin, an astronomer and science fiction writer who writes about the possibility of life elsewhere. 'These people hate the open scientific discourse that has developed with the vast spread of education. They want secrets, ancient or modern, that only they know,' Brin added. ..."
Neanderthals not Cro-magnons, study says...
Science News reports on May 17th that "Genetic material that Italian researchers extracted from the bones of European Stone Age Homo sapiens, sometimes called Cro-Magnons, bolsters the theory that people evolved independently of Neandertals, the team proposes. Fossils of two anatomically modern H. sapiens found in a southern Italian cave yielded mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from the mother, say Giorgio Bertorelle of the University of Ferrara in Italy and his colleagues. The DNA contains chemical sequences that resemble those of people today but differ substantially from those previously isolated from four Neandertal specimens, the scientists report. ..."
Scientific Proof! Politicians lie...
ABC News/Reuters reported on May 19th that "After intensive research, scientists have concluded that politicians lie. In a study described in Britain's Observer newspaper, Glen Newey, a political scientist at Britain's University of Strathclyde, concluded that lying is an important part of politics in the modern democracy. 'Politicians need to be more honest about lying,' he told the newspaper. ..."
According to DNA, Chimps are Humans...
New Scientist reported on May 19th that "The latest twist in the debate over how much DNA separates humans from chimpanzees suggests we are so closely related that chimps should not only be part of the same taxonomic family, but also the same genus. The new study found that 99.4 percent of the most critical DNA sites are identical in the corresponding human and chimp genes. With that close a relationship, the two living chimp species belong in the genus Homo, says Morris Goodman of Wayne State University in Detroit. ..."
In a related Discovery Channel report on May 20th, it is reported that "Roger Fouts, co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute at Central Washington University, agrees with Goodman that chimps belong in our genus. 'Richard Dawkins perhaps provided the best visual for our link to chimps,' Fouts told Discovery News. 'Imagine taking the hand of your grandmother, who was holding the hand of her grandmother and so on down the line. 155 miles out, one of the women would be holding the hand of a chimpanzee.' ..."
SARS Blame laid on cats...
YAHOO News reported on May 23rd that "The World Health Organization has traced the SARS virus to the civet cat and two other small mammals in China, and researchers are investigating a possible link to the outbreak of the virus in humans, an official said Friday. Researchers from the University of Hong Kong examined 25 animals representing eight species in a live animal market in southern China and found the SARS virus in all six masked palm civets they sampled, as well as in a badger and a raccoon dog...."
Earth as seen from Mars...
National Geographic reported on May 22nd that "A century after H.G. Wells wrote his novel about the invasion of the Earth by Martians, the first photograph of our planet as seen from Mars has been made. It is what Martians would see if they scrutinized the Earth. The camera aboard NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft currently orbiting the red planet photographed Earth, the moon and Jupiter, as seen in the evening sky of Mars, at 9 a.m. EDT, May 8, 2003. ..."
Army Ants evolved but once, study finds...
Cornell University announced on May 9th that "Army ants, nature's ultimate coalition task force, strike their prey en masse in a blind, voracious column and pay no attention to the conventional wisdom of evolutionary biologists. The common scientific belief has been that army ants originated separately on several continents over millions of years. Now it is found there was no evolution. Using fossil data and the tools of a genetics detective, a Cornell University entomologist has discovered that these ants come from the same point of origin, because since the reign of the dinosaurs, about 100 million years ago, army ants in essence have not changed a bit. ..."
Lawmakers Call Shuttle Probe Secrecy Questionable...
The Washington Post reported on May 12th that "Civilian members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board have been put on NASA's payroll so the panel can use government secrecy regulations to withhold testimony about the space shuttle disaster. Members of the House Space subcommittee, which oversees NASA, said making federal workers of the CAIB's five civilian members undermines the independence and credibility of the board. ... The action permits the board to guarantee confidentiality for witnesses, such as NASA engineers, who testify before the board in closed sessions. ..."
Cosmology "has turned a corner" ...
ABC News reported on May 14th that "For astronomers who study cosmic evolution, the past six months have brought unprecedented revelations. Data from ground- and space-based observatories have revealed what appear to be the remnants of the first stars ever to shine. They also have pinned down the age of our universe and outlined its bulk composition. Cosmology 'has turned a corner,' says Charles Bennett, at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Astronomers no longer have to speculate about some of the earliest crucial events in cosmic history. They can check their theories of what happened after the universe appeared in the so-called 'big bang' explosion of energy against what they actually see in the sky. ... those details now show that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, with an uncertainty of only 1 percent. It is composed of 4 percent ordinary matter, 23 percent of an unknown material called 'dark matter,' and 73 percent of mysterious dark energy. The details also indicate primordial stars did indeed ignite when our universe was only 200 million years old. Cosmic history still raises many questions. But when it comes to the big one is the concept of a big-bang origin valid the data now say 'yes.' ... "
To the Earth's Core! ... Plan outlined in Nature
ABC News reported on May 15th that "Stevenson, a planetary sciences professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, has proposed that scientists blast the ground using a nuclear bomb or a few megatons of TNT to create a crack that penetrates some 1,800 miles to the outer edge of Earth's core. Next, they'd pour in a flood of molten iron that would contain a grapefruit-sized probe within its sloshing path. The probe would then relay back information about inner Earth's temperature and composition using high frequency seismic waves. The probe's journey to Earth's center would take about one week. The proposal, detailed in the most recent issue of Nature, may seem like science fiction, but Stevenson says it is 'modest' compared with NASA's space program. He claims it may seem unrealistic only because little effort has been devoted to the concept. ..."
Origin of New Moons... explained by Chaos Theory?
The University of Bristol announced on 15 May that "The ability to understand how small bodies such as moons switch from orbiting the Sun to orbiting a planet has long remained one of the outstanding problems of planetary science. A paper published in Nature on 15 May shows how this problem has been resolved using chaos theory, enabling scientists to predict where astronomers might search for new moons orbiting the giant planets. ...Stephen Wiggins [of Utah State University] said: 'When we started to look at the capture of irregular moons what we found was that no-one else was trying to understand this problem in three dimensions using chaos theory. Most work was focused on understanding the behaviour of these moons after they had been captured. So in an attempt to understand how a body orbiting the Sun could be brought in to an orbit around one of the giant planets we simulated the 'switching' mechanism. We found that it was chaos that allowed the capture process to take place.' ..."
Who links to NMSR's Web Page? Scientific American, for one...
The June 2003 issue of Scientific American has an article by Michael Shermer titled "Codified Claptrap:The Bible Code is numerological nonsense masquerading as science." It mentions Bible Code skeptic pages in Australia and New Mexico.
Untangling Web Nonsense (Planet X, anyone?)...
Astrophysicist Daniel Caton wrote in the May 14th Charlotte Observer (North Carolina) "'Have you seen this nonsense?' asked the e-mail's subject line. I was being alerted to a Web site dedicated to a rogue planet that is wandering the orbits of the Internet. Known as Planet X or Niburu, it is rumored to be headed at the Earth, supposedly to shift our rotation pole and bring catastrophes as soon as this week. ... I replied that we astronomers were not conspiring to hide the presence of an incoming killer rock, in some kind of valiant effort to keep the public from panicking. As if panic would matter if doom were imminent. ... Ironically, the e-mail arrived while I was grading final exams for my celestial mechanics course. ..."
Can Monkeys Type Shakespeare?...
The old saw says that if monkeys typed for an infinite time, they might produce a work of Shakespeare by accident. Well, the experiment's now been tried, although it was aborted prematurely due to unsatisfying results. The BBC reported on May 9th that "A bizarre experiment by a group of students has found monkeys cannot write Shakespeare. Lecturers and students from the University of Plymouth wanted to test the claim that an infinite number of monkeys given typewriters would create the works of The Bard. A single computer was placed in a monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo to monitor the literary output of six primates. But after a month, the Sulawesi crested macaques had only succeeded in partially destroying the machine, using it as a lavatory, and mostly typing the letter 's'. The project, by students from the university's MediaLab Arts course, received £2,000 from the Arts Council. ..."
State of Oregon says this to Mental Patients: "bIjatlh 'e' yImev!!"
ABC News reported on May 12th that "The language created for the 'Star Trek' TV series and movies is one of about 55 needed by the office that treats mental health patients in metropolitan Multnomah County. ..."
But, CNN reported the very next day "Sorry, potential Klingon interpreters. Officials have said they won't be needing your services, after all. The office that treats mental health patients in Multnomah County had included Klingon on a list of 55 languages that could be spoken by incoming patients. But the inclusion of the Star Trek language drew a spate of tongue-in-cheek headlines. And now the county has rescinded its call, stressing that it hasn't spent a penny of public money on Klingon interpretation. ..."
Learn Klingon! http://www.kli.org/tlh/phrases.html
500 Million Years Ago, It Rained Rocks!
Rice University announced on May 8th that "Using fossil meteorites and ancient limestone unearthed throughout southern Sweden, marine geologists at Rice University have discovered that a colossal collision in the asteroid belt some 500 million years ago led to intense meteorite strikes over the Earths surface. The research, which appears in this weeks issue of Science magazine, is based upon an analysis of fossil meteorites and limestone samples from five Swedish quarries located as much as 310 miles (500 km.) apart. The limestone formed from sea bottom sediments during a 2 million-year span about 480 million years ago, sealing the intact meteorites, as well as trace minerals from disintegrated meteorites, in a lithographic time capsule. ..."
Rethinking Darwin's Theories on Sex ...
Kathleen Nelson of Women's E-news reported on May 6th "...Darwin formulated sexual-selection theory in part to explain questions raised by elaborate and bizarre sex behavior. For instance, why do peacocks brandish their plumage when such bright displays could attract predators? Darwin's answer: Evolution of showy male traits is justified when those traits increase the chances of carrying genes forward, even if the feathers eventually attract a fox rather than a pea hen. But while sexual-selection theory justifies some mating behaviors it by no means explains all of them, says Joan Roughgarden, a professor of biological science at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. The evidence for diversity of sex, gender expression and sexuality in nature are extensive, she says. Continuing to overlook the flaws in Darwin's sexual-selection theory, she continues, will eventually undercut and endanger confidence in the rest of Darwin's work, which has stood up to extensive scrutiny. By ignoring the abundant challenges to Darwin's sexual-selection theory in nature, overlooked is evidence that sexual behavior often doesn't match gender and that many species exhibit flexible sexual expression. ..."
Scientists study Evolutionary Design...
MSNBC reported on May 7th that "The evolutionary path from simple microbe to complex forms, on Earth or anywhere in the universe, is long, gradual and very Darwinian, according to a new experiment conducted with an 'alien form of life' in a virtual petri dish. Researchers prodded and annoyed lifelike digital entities over more than 15,000 generations to learn that evolution among simple creatures is in fact based on the Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest, and that the progress is plodding. 'The little things, they definitely count,' says Richard Lenski, a Michigan State University evolutionary biologist who worked with a team of scientists from diverse backgrounds in creating and fostering artificial life inside a computer. ..."
See Also: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/05/0507_030507_digitalorganisms.html
Did an Asteroid Strike Jump-Start the Cambrian Explosion?
The Australian Centre for Astrobiology announced recently that "Scientists studying rocks near an ancient asteroid impact structure in South Australian have uncovered evidence that could change current theories explaining how life on Earth rapidly diversified about 580 million years ago. Dr Kath Grey of the Western Australian Department of Industry and Resources' Geological survey and an ACA associate researcher, Prof Malcolm Walter, Director of the ACA and Dr Clive Calver of the Tasmanian Department of Mineral Resources challenge the idea that 'Snowball Earth' - an intense period of glaciation about 600 million years ago, triggered the evolution of simple life forms into more complex and familiar species. In the May edition of the international journal Geology, Dr Grey and her team put forward an alternative radical idea that 580 million years ago an asteroid impact played a pivotal role in this evolutionary jump. The impact, known as the Acraman event, smashed a hole in South Australia about four times the size of Sydney. ... "What is really interesting is that the more complex spiny fossils appear just above a layer of rock in South Australia associated with the Acraman impact," Dr Grey said. In a related study, Dr Calver found significant carbon isotope changes mirrored Dr Grey's observations. Prof Walter has also noted that patterns associated with the Acraman impact were similar to those of mass-extinction and recovery events, and that a large asteroid impact could have produced conditions ideal for evolutionary change. ..."
Viral "Smart Bomb" Nukes Brain Cancers ...
ScienceDaily.com announced on May 7th that "A research team led by The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has tested a novel 'viral smart bomb' therapy that can completely eradicate brain tumors in mice, while leaving normal brain tissue alone. ...The findings, published in the May 7 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, are considered so promising that the National Cancer Institute is providing financial support to produce, in its own labs, a drug-grade version of the therapy to test in humans, possibly by late next year. The researchers are also collaborating with the federal Food and Drug Administration on the treatment. ..."
With "Secrecy Deadline" Expired, UFO Researchers Plead for Witnesses...
KOAT-TV7 reported on May 5th "Were you looking into the New Mexico sky in 1947 or 1948? Did you see little green men or the smoldering wreckage of a strange ship? If so, two researchers trying to uncover the secrets of two purported UFO crashes want to ask you some questions. Nuclear physicist and ufologist Stanton Friedman was the first person to investigate a farmer's field in Roswell where many believe a spacecraft crashed in 1947. He's also gathering facts from a lesser-known purported UFO crash in 1948 in Hart Canyon north of Aztec. Friedman is joined in his quest by Scott Ramsey of North Carolina, who was one of the initial researchers of the Aztec crash. ... Ramsey says a former Air Force intelligence officer told him everyone who knew about the military investigation in Aztec was sworn to secrecy for 50 years. That deadline has now passed. ..."
Honda makes movie of real-life "Rube Goldberg" Gadget ...
If you have PGB (Pretty Good Bandwidth), give this a try!
Click here: http://multimedia.honda-eu.com/accord/
Then, WAIT; when you see the cog, click it; WAIT; when you see the star, click it; then pick your download choice, and watch the movie!
Dawkins goes after British creationist schools...
The BBC reported on April 28th that "The Vardy Foundation, which already runs the Emmanuel College in Gateshead, a non-denominational Christian school, has plans for six more schools in the north-east of England. The schools would teach creationism - drawn from the Bible's account of the creation of life - alongside the theory of evolution, as developed from the theories of Charles Darwin. But the plans have been condemned as "educational debauchery" by Richard Dawkins, professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University. 'To call evolution a faith position equated with creationism is educational debauchery. It is teaching something that is utter nonsense,' said Professor Dawkins. 'Evolution is supported by mountains of scientific evidence. These children are being deliberately and wantonly misled.' ..."
Justice Dept. investigates FBI handling of DNA ...
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on April 27th that "With defense lawyers stepping up challenges to genetic evidence, the Justice Department inspector general is examining the FBI lab unit that analyzes DNA in hundreds of cases a year after a technician was caught failing to follow proper procedure. The inquiry, expected to last several more months, already has led to changes inside the lab's DNA unit in response to advice from outside scientists brought in by Justice investigators, government officials told The Associated Press. ..."
Vitamins should NOT be taken in excess ...
Gina Kolata of the New York Times writes on April 29th "A growing number of medical experts are concerned that Americans are overdoing their vitamin consumption. As many as 70 percent of the population is taking supplements, mostly vitamins, convinced that the pills will make them healthier. But researchers say that vitamin supplements cannot correct for a poor diet, that multivitamins have not been shown to prevent any disease and that it is easy to reach high enough doses of certain vitamins and minerals to actually increase the risk of disease. No longer, the experts say, are they concerned about vitamin deficits. Those are almost unheard of today, even with the population eating less than ideal diets and skimping on fruits and vegetables. Instead, the concern is with the dangers of vitamin excess. ..."
Hummingbirds and Plants evolving in Lock-step...
The AP/Yahoo reported on April 24th that "Hummingbirds and the flowers they feed on and pollenate have changed together in an evolutionary dance. But the music varies a bit from place to place. The purple-throated carib hummingbird's bill has evolved different lengths and curvatures for males and females to best exploit the shape of the flowers that provide them nectar. The flowers of the Heliconia plant have evolved shapes adapted to the bills of the birds that are their means of reproduction. But the adaptations that keep the birds and flowers thriving on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia differ from those that occur among the same birds and plants about 100 miles north on Dominica, researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science. 'We can't really say which came first,' said Ethan J. Temeles of Amherst College. 'Over time, both the bills of the birds and the (structure) of the flowers adapted to each other.' ..."
Alamogordo Harry Potter Book-Burning now a Holocaust Museum Exhibit ...
The AP/CNN reported on April 29th "The Holocaust Museum is marking its 10th year with a display on book burning that includes images from a New Mexico town where Harry Potter books were torched by people who said they teach children to become witches. The museum put a copy of 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' into an exhibit, opening Wednesday, that marks the 70th anniversary of book burnings in Nazi Germany. Near it are three color photos of a bonfire set December 30, 2001, by the Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Rev. Jack Brock, pastor of the New Mexico church, called Harry Potter books 'a masterpiece of satanic deception' when he lit the fire. Across the street from the bonfire, hundreds of protesters, one dressed as Adolf Hitler, formed a line that stretched a quarter-mile. 'Stop burning books!' they chanted. ..."
The Exhibit: http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/bookburning/symbol.php
Competition Heats Up in Science Fairs ...
The New York Times reported on April 30th on the recent Science Fair in Las Cruces, NM: "When Chris carried his display into the regional fair in Fort Worth last month, he knew immediately that he was out of his league. 'Kids had boards that were monsters, nine feet tall, and the judges were real stuck-up,' he said. One judge laughed out loud at his display. 'And it was not a fun laugh. I wanted to take my board and beat him over the head.' Chris's mother added: 'We were overwhelmed. We hadn't realized that science fairs had gotten so professional.' ... 'High schoolers are doing experiments once possible only for Ph.D. candidates,' said Julianne B. Bochinski, the author of a book on science fairs. 'The fizzing volcano was a crowd pleaser in the 70's. Today students shouldn't bother to show up with a volcano.' Among the 1,200 whiz kids who have won the right to participate at the Intel International Engineering and Science Fair next month in Cleveland the World Series of high school science is Kevin Claytor, a sophomore at Los Alamos High School in northern New Mexico, who said he had prepared his physics entry in a workroom at his home by vaporizing pieces of metal with the beam of a powerful laser. ..."
Ancestral human species far older than expected ...
Purdue News reported on April 24th "In a finding that could shed light on the earliest origins of mankind, fossil remains found in South Africa of an ancestral human species have proven far older than expected when evaluated by a Purdue University research team. Purdue's Darryl Granger and Marc Caffee have determined the age of a fossilized skeleton thought to be an Australopithecus a genus of African hominids from which humanity is thought to have developed by measuring the radioactivity of the cave sediments in which the skeleton was buried millions of years ago. Their measurement technique, generally used to estimate the age of geological formations such as glaciated valleys and river terraces, has never before been used to date biological fossils. 'By dating the sediments surrounding the fossil skeleton, we have determined that this species reached southern Africa approximately 4 million years ago,' said Granger, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in Purdue's School of Science. 'If the skeleton is indeed an Australopithecus, as we believe, the findings could mean that these hominids were present in the area far earlier than is generally accepted.' The research appears in Friday's (4/25) issue of Science. ... "
Justice Dept drops Dini Evolution Probe...
The Guardian (UK) reported on April 23rd that "The Justice Department said Tuesday it had dropped its investigation of a complaint by a Texas Tech University student that a biology professor was discriminating against students who did not believe in evolution. The department said it ended its probe after Professor Michael Dini eliminated the evolution belief requirement in his recommendation policy and replaced it with a requirement that students be able to explain the theory of evolution. ... Dini's previous recommendation policy on his Web page advised students seeking a recommendation to be prepared to answer the question: 'How do you think the human species originated? If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences,' Dini previously wrote. The Web site now reads: 'How do you account for the scientific origin of the human species? If you will not give a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation.' Dini adds later that the requirement 'should not be misconstrued as discriminatory against anyone's personal beliefs.' ..."
C-E Debate to be a "Mockery of Truth"...
The Daily Wildcat (Univ. of Arizona) reports on Aptil 24th "There are essentially two types of proselytizers: those who argue with reason and those who argue with deceit. The former persuade with logic and sound premises, which they air openly and honestly. The latter persuade with trickery and misrepresentation, and attempt to undermine opposing arguments rather than seek affirmation of their own. It is this second species, the vulture of intellect, that will descend upon the McKale Center on May 10. It is no small wonder that the event taking place that night a debate on the topic of creation vs. evolution is taking place on a university campus at all. Given the overwhelming evidence in favor of the theory of evolution tens of thousands of studies from fields as diverse as physics, chemistry, botany, ecology, zoology, physiology, biochemistry, virology, paleontology and microbiology the academic community is generally wary of giving footing to the anti-reason, anti-science crusade that masquerades as 'scientific' creationism. ... Given the clear bias of the events organizers, its no wonder that no professors volunteered for several weeks. The church was eventually contacted, however, by one willing participant: James McGaha, an astronomer and adjunct faculty member of Pima Community College. At first, the church accepted his offer, but weeks later reneged, citing a problem with McGahas 'attitude.' More likely, organizers realized theyd bitten off more than they could chew or more accurately, more than their ringer, world-renowned creation 'scientist' Dwayne Gish, could chew. McGaha had made a hobby of studying the formulaic and skewed debating tactics of Gish, who is a faculty member at the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego. ... However, McGahas debate savvy is only part of the story. Overlooking a tenacious, avowed atheist with detailed knowledge of the 'evidence' to be presented by Gish, the event organizers replaced him with someone who better fit their needs: UA professor Peter Sherman. Sherman, who teaches ecology at the Arizona International College, feels that creationism and evolution are simply two 'alternative world views' and is not eager to foist his beliefs on others. ... In short, this debate has been engineered to make a mockery of evolution. It will, barring some unforeseen miracle, be a massacre not because true scientific evidence does not weigh absolutely convincingly in favor of evolution, but because the deck has been manipulatively pre-stacked so far on the side of creationism that evidence, truth and science will be irrelevant to the outcome. It is unfortunate that, through naivete and luck, such religious demagoguery found a home on campus, the last place where it should ever take place. ..."
Cosmic Dust Is Everywhere...
ABC News reported on April 21st "Most household dust is made up of cast-off skin cells mixed with tiny dirt particles; nothing very inspiring. But, as it turns out, there's a reasonable chance that maybe one or two of the tiny dust particles comes from the deepest reaches of outer space. Cosmic dust is constantly raining down on the Earth from space, and in an average year, we pick up about 40,000 tons of the stuff. ... how can you tell if a grain of dust comes from space? That's actually the easy part, as cosmic dust has a very different chemical and mineral content from anything else on Earth. ... One simple cosmic dust identifier is the presence of iron and nickel in the grains. On Earth, both iron and nickel are extremely rare in surface rocks. ... Another smoking gun of extraterrestrial dust is the ratio of iron to nickel atoms. ... But perhaps the most exciting difference between cosmic dust and your average Earthbound detritus is the weird kind of organic chemistry we find in the stuff. ... on Earth, we know of only 23 amino acids. In space, as well as in meteorites and cosmic dust, we've identified more than 70. Amino acids turn out to be handy things to build bigger molecules out of, but all life on Earth uses fewer than half of the flavors available in space. Needless to say, if a particle has one of these exotic amino acids in it, you've surely got an alien dust bunny. ..."
DNA's Watson: "We as scientists have to spend more time with the public..."
The BBC reported on April 24th "'We as scientists have to spend more time with the public,' the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA told guests at dinner in London on Wednesday held to honour his 50-year-old discovery. 'It is very important that everyone should be educated about the basic facts of genetics... We have to make a stand,' he said. ... 'Why should a woman have a sick child when she could have a healthy one?' he asked. The dinner at London's Guildhall was part of a week of celebrations to mark the publication in the scientific journal Nature of Watson and Crick's landmark paper on 25 April 1953...."
See Also: "My Aunt, the DNA Pioneer," on the oft-neglected work of Rosalind Franklin.
Harry Potter 1, Cedarville (Arkansas) School Board 0...
YAHOO News reported on April 22nd "A federal judge ordered Harry Potter books back onto an Arkansas school district's library shelves Tuesday, rejecting a school board's claim that tales of wizards and spells could harm school children. Ruling in favor of a fourth-grader's parents, U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren ordered the Cedarville School District to put the four books in J.K. Rowling (news - web sites)'s popular series back in general circulation. The district's board drew wrath from national free-speech groups for its June decision to require students to obtain parental permission to check out the books. The 3-2 decision, which overruled a unanimous decision by the district's library committee, came after a parent complained about the books. ..."
Get your Free Energy ... right here in New Mexico!
This site offers yet another "over-unity" scheme, which, if true, would not only be the biggest science story of the new millennium, but would also completely falsify the laws of thermodymanics!
DOE says Lab Polygraphs Here to Stay...
The Albuquerque Journal reported on April 15th that "The Department of Energy wants to continue polygraphs to hunt for spies, bucking a report from federal science advisers who said the technique is flawed. In a notice published Monday, the department announced it wants to keep its polygraph program, which screens nuclear weapons workers in a blanket hunt for spies. That runs counter to advice last October from the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, which concluded the polygraphs the DOE was using were unscientific, missing spies while implicating the innocent. 'I can hardly believe this decision,' said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. It ignores the scientific evidence marshaled by the National Academy, Bingaman said in a statement Monday afternoon. ...Critics, led by Sandia National Laboratories scientist Al Zelicoff, complained that the polygraphs are unscientific, ensnaring innocent workers while missing spies. ... The decision outraged Zelicoff. 'Where's their science?' the Sandia scientist asked of the DOE's conclusion. 'They have none.' ..."
And the Albuquerque Tribune has this to say in an editorial on April 17th: "It's like the sequel to a goofy movie: 'DOE - Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest.' Sometimes - even giving it the vast benefit of the doubt - the U.S. Department of Energy is infuriating and needs the equivalent of a national security slap upside its bungling, bureaucratic head. If the White House refuses to do it, Congress should deliver the blow without delay. ... Congress, led by New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the ranking minority member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, should call the secretary of energy on the congressional carpet, issue a clear legal order countermanding the decision and/or withhold budget funds from DOE until it rejects polygraphs for counter-espionage. Congress should do whatever it takes to get the agency under control and to adhere to the fundamental rule of science. A miffed Bingaman this week said, 'I can hardly believe this decision.' Believe it, and send the message to DOE. It should be short and simple: Get out of the polygraph business now - or else. ..."
Human Genome Sequence is Completed...
ABCNews and Reuters report on April 13th that "Scientists have completed the finished sequence of the human genome, or genetic blueprint of life, which holds the keys to transforming medicine and understanding disease. Less than three years after finishing the working draft of the three billion letters that make up human DNA and two years earlier than expected, an international consortium of scientists said on Monday the set of instructions on how humans develop and function is done. 'We put out the draft sequence as a way of getting it out to scientists as quickly as we could. It gives them something to work with and get going, but the aim was always to generate a reference sequence for the human genome,' Dr Jane Rogers, head of sequencing at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said. ..."
And the Government wants part of the Action...
USA Today reports on April 15th that "DNA profiles from juvenile offenders and from adults who have been arrested but not convicted would be added to the FBI's national DNA database under a Bush administration proposal. Under current law, only DNA from adults convicted of crimes can be placed in the national database, which is used to compare those samples with biological evidence from the scenes of unsolved crimes. As of January, there were about 1.3 million DNA samples in the database, U.S. officials say. ..."
SARS ID'd as Coronavirus ...
The New York Times reports on April 15th that "Monkeys experimentally infected with a new coronavirus have developed an illness similar to the mysterious human respiratory disease SARS, and it is now almost certain that the coronavirus causes the disease, a World Health Organization official said here today. Dr. David L. Heymann, executive director in charge of communicable diseases for W.H.O., said the agency 'is 99 percent sure' that SARS is caused by the new coronavirus based on the monkey experiments in the Netherlands. Experiments on animals are necessary because the lack of an effective treatment for SARS and the relatively high death rate make it unethical to conduct such experiments on humans. ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/16/science/sciencespecial/16INFE.html?ex=1051070400&en=7cc739a3aa89fe1c&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE (free registration required)
Home, Sweet Home, Alabama...
NMSR's 1998 April Fool's Prank (http://www.nmsr.org/alabama.htm) has returned home to Alabama. This is from the April 1, 2003 issue of the Tuscaloosanews.com (Alabama) News Page: "Alabamians dont like Pi - For some reason, many believed the April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter when it claimed the Alabama Legislature had changed the value of the Pi from 3.14159 (etc.) to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. With the Internets help, this hoax spread like a virus, and the state Legislature was flooded with calls. The article, intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by physicist Mark Boslough. ..."
Take the Easter Quiz...
Test your New Testament Knowledge! Take the Easter Quiz, at
After you submit your survey answers, click the button at the top of the answers page to see how you did!
Traveler makes killing on the Market... The Scotsman.com reported on April 13th that
" IN NEW YORK, federal investigators have arrested
a Wall Street whiz on insider trading allegations after he turned an
initial $350 stock market investment into a portfolio valued at more
than $800m in just two weeks. Andrew Carlssin, 44, claims in his
defence that he is a time-traveller who has come back from 2256, when
it is common knowledge that our era experienced one of the worst
stock plunges in history. He claims that, armed with the knowledge of
the handful of stocks that are destined to go through the roof,
anyone could make a fortune. ... The Security and Exchange Commission
said that his claims were being met with a degree of scepticism. ...
'The only way he could pull it off is with illegal inside
information. Hes going to sit in a jail cell on Rikers Island
until he agrees to give up his sources.'
... " Source: http://www.news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?id=429922003&tid=609
EGADS - Turns out this story was started by none other than the Weekly World News. Oops!
As Gilda Radner would have said, "Oh...... Never mind!"
Harvard Goes Medieval on Climate Change ...
Robert Matthews of the Telegraph (UK) reported on 6 April that "Claims that man-made pollution is causing 'unprecedented' global warming have been seriously undermined by new research which shows that the Earth was warmer during the Middle Ages. ... Last year, scientists working for the UK Climate Impacts Programme said that global temperatures were 'the hottest since records began' and added: 'We are pretty sure that climate change due to human activity is here and it's accelerating.' ... Such claims have now been sharply contradicted by the most comprehensive study yet of global temperature over the past 1,000 years. A review of more than 240 scientific studies has shown that today's temperatures are neither the warmest over the past millennium, nor are they producing the most extreme weather - in stark contrast to the claims of the environmentalists. The review, carried out by a team from Harvard University, examined the findings of studies of so-called 'temperature proxies' such as tree rings, ice cores and historical accounts which allow scientists to estimate temperatures prevailing at sites around the world. The findings prove that the world experienced a Medieval Warm Period between the ninth and 14th centuries with global temperatures significantly higher even than today. ..."
Albuquerque Conference to discuss Climate Change...
The Center for the Southwest hosts its second annual conference, "Heating Up: Coming to Terms with Climate Change in the Southwest," April 11-13, 2003, in Albuquerque. "Heating Up" brings together scientists, writers, historians, resource law experts, activists and political leaders to discuss the science and social implications of climate change in the Southwest. All events are free and open to the public.
Phillip Johnson on Boy Scouts and Evolution ...
In the March 2003 issue of Touchstone magazine (Vol. 16, No. 2), leading "Intelligent Design" spokesman Phillip Jonhson writes "If it is important to the Boy Scouts that their members be and remain believers in God, then they need to make some effort to protect the boys under their care from the predictable effects of the teaching of evolution, that 'universal acid,' to use Daniel Dennetts classic phrase, which has dissolved the religious faith of so many. Perhaps there should be a merit badge for understanding the evolution controversy, including knowledge of the truth about the Haeckel embryo drawings, the Cambrian explosion, and the peppered moth story .... For now, the law may allow the Boy Scouts to exclude atheists and homosexuals, but is it right for them to do so? That question will trouble the Scouts continually until the culture is persuaded again that God really is our creator rather than merely a product of the human imagination, and that he cares about what we do sufficiently to build a moral code into the bedrock of reality."
Scientists find Human Cloning to be "impossible with current technology"...
ABC News/Reuters reported on April 10th that "As debate continues over the ethics of cloning humans, new monkey findings suggest the feat is most likely impossible with current technology. Since monkeys are very similar genetically to humans, the findings raise serious doubts about the possibility of creating human clones and the dangers of attempting to do so, said study author Dr. Gerald Schatten, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania. 'This adds yet another nail in the coffin to never ever attempt reproductive cloning' of humans, he told Reuters Health. 'Human cloning is unsafe, it's unethical and it ought to be illegal,' he added. Repeated attempts at cloning monkeys using the procedure that created Dolly the sheep failed every time because the cloned embryos lacked proteins that enable cells to divide properly, Schatten and colleagues report in the April 11th issue of Science. ..."
"Smoking Gun" finally turns up ... in the Ozarks!
TV Station KOLR-10 (Springfield, MO) has reported that "With the help of some fancy photo tricks and good old-fashioned digging, a Southwest Missouri State University research team has confirmed that a giant meteor hit the Ozarks millions of years ago. 'It's a big chunk of rock,' said SMSU geologist Kevin Evans. 'It would be twice as tall as the Arch.' Evans estimates that the meteor, which probably hit Earth 340 million years ago, was at least 1,300 feet wide. Because it was racing toward the planet at up to 100,000 miles an hour, it created a depression 47 times its size when it hit. ... Scientists have long speculated that a meteor hit the area near Osceola, Mo. Evans' discovery came after he downloaded digital images of the area provided by the U.S. Geological Survey. He viewed several topographic maps of the area, looking for a circular ridge that would hint at a meteor impact. Unsuccessful, he turned to Photoshop, a computer program popular with professional photographers, and merged four of the pictures. He could then see the 'forest for the trees' - the impact ring was at the edge of the images he had been looking at, and was a lot larger than he had expected. 'My mouth dropped,' said Evans. 'The exact center of this thing is almost at the corner of four maps.' The 'smoking gun' was discovered later, Evans said, when geologists found 'shocked' quartz crystals at the site, a condition that can only be caused by an enormous collision, like a meteor. Evans and his team are exploring whether the site could help prove that a series of meteors could have hit Earth at the same time along the same latitude line. ..."
ET fails to 'phone home'...
Helen Briggs of the BBC News reported on March 28 that "A search for intelligent life in space has drawn a blank. Scientists have found no signs of alien beings after analysing radio signals collected in the world's biggest distributed computing project. More than 150 candidates selected by the Seti@home project have been examined using the giant Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Astronomers say they have discovered no evidence of a signal from an extraterrestrial civilisation during a quick,real-time analysis of the data. However, they intend to take a more thorough look at the results over the next few weeks, with the help of Seti@home volunteers. Susan Lendroth, of the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, US, which sponsors Seti@home, said they had not expected a quick result.
Albuquerque Conference to discuss Climate Change...
The Center for the Southwest hosts its second annual conference, "Heating Up: Coming to Terms with Climate Change in the Southwest," April 11-13, 2003, in Albuquerque. "Heating Up" brings together scientists, writers, historians, resource law experts, activists and political leaders to discuss the science and social implications of climate change in the Southwest. All events are free and open to the public.
Donor funds scientific research on God...
AP religion writer Richard Ostling writes on March 29th about John Marks Templeton, the wealthy backer of the Templeton Prize. "... `Why is it that there's so little progress made in any of the major religions?' he [Templeton] asked rhetorically. His answer: Scientists `look forward to try to make discoveries, but there's never been a major religion that advocated discoveries.' To him, relying on 2,000-year-old scriptures and traditions alone is like modern physicians using only Hippocrates. Such comments unnerve religious traditionalists, most visibly `creation science' advocates. They think Templeton's foundation promotes evolution and seeks some united world religion. The latter complaint is misguided, Templeton insists. As a believer in free enterprise, he thinks that in religion, too, competition is beneficial. `Unity would be a drawback to progress,' he says. "
Veterans dowse for Terrorists...
The Tri-Valley Herald (CA) reported on March 25th that "As war with Iraq heightens fears of terrorist attacks, Pleasanton veterans groups think they've found a way to address the threat: the ancient practice of dowsing. Skeptics scoff at dowsers' claims that they can locate water, tunnels, pipes -- even missing people and pets -- guided by nothing but a stick or rod and their intuition. Nonetheless, local vets have invited a Virginia man to teach an introductory course in dowsing next month at the Veterans Memorial Building in Pleasanton. "
Bad Science Page Arises...
Ben Goldacre of the Guardian (UK) is starting a column on "Bad Science." He wrotes "Science, you see, is the optimum belief system: because we have the error bar, the greatest invention of mankind, a pictorial representation of the glorious undogmatic uncertainty in our results, which science is happy to confront and work with. Show me a politician's speech, or a religious text,or a news article, with an error bar next to it? And so I give you my taxonomy of bad science, the things that make me the maddest. First, of course, we shall take on duff reporting: ill-informed, credulous journalists, taking their favourite loonies far too seriously, or misrepresenting good science, for the sake of a headline. They are the first against the wall. Next we'll move on the quacks: the creationists, the new-age healers, the fad diets. They're sad and they're lonely. I know that. But still they must learn. Advertisers, with their wily ways, and their preposterous diagrams of molecules in little white coats: I'll pull the trigger. "
Light Slowed to a Crawl...
On April 1st, Science Daily and the University of Rochester reported that "Though Einstein put his foot down and demanded that nothing can move faster than light, a new device developed at the University of Rochester may let you outpace a beam by putting your foot down on the gas pedal. At 127 miles per hour, the light in the new device travels more than 5 million times slower than normal as it passes through a ruby just a few centimeters long. "
NMSR April Fool's Prank named #3, #8...
The Prank: http://www.nmsr.org/alabama.htm
NMSR makes #8: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/top100.html
NMSR Makes #3: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/03/0331_030401_aprilfool.html
NM House honors Extraterrestrials...
Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican reported on March 22nd that " The last full day of the Legislature and the House was feeling spaced out. Thanks to House action on a nonbinding memorial Friday, New Mexicans can celebrate every second Tuesday in February and call it 'Extraterrestrial Culture Day.' ... [sponsor Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell] said the measure helps advertise New Mexico..."
To be sure, the original bill introduced by Foley, HB766, was shot down. Although the substituted memorial is non-binding, it still brought much attention to New Mexico. The trouble is, it was noted all over the world in "Oddly Enough" or "News of the Weird" sections. What is the true price of such free advertising?.
See Also: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10020-2003Mar22.html
Aztec UFO... the Movie?
Debra Mayeux of the The Daily Times (Farmington, NM) writes on March 21st "Could the 1948 UFO crash at Hart Canyon have been a real 'X-File'? This is what a film crew from Canada hopes to uncover during the sixth annual Aztec UFO Symposium today [Mar 21] through Sunday [Mar 23] at the Aztec Civic Center. With some help from Mr. X and this year's symposium speakers, Redstar Productions will produce a documentary on the Aztec crash. ... A reporter and popular actress from the mid-1950s, Dorothy Kilgallen, may have been the one who told [writer Frank] Scully about Aztec, Mr. X said. Kilgallen, who is considered a Ufologist, mysteriously died from an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol in 1955. ..."
Selling space-alien fiction as truth?
Steve Weinberg of the Sun (Maryland) wrote on March 23rd "Authors and their publishers who push books labeled 'nonfiction' about UFOs carrying aliens to earth - where the aliens then sometimes implant foreign objects under the earthlings' skin and engage in a form of sexual intercourse - ought to be publicly scolded. Instead, academics who should know better, book reviewers, retail booksellers and readers themselves allow the misleading 'nonfiction' labeling to go unpunished. As a result, those publishers who know they are selling lies for profit (or else are employing editors deluded to the point of being psychologically unbalanced) remain in business with no apparent adverse consequences. ... Probably the most visible offender among mainstream book publishers is St. Martin's Press, which profited from Whitley Strieber's Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens Among Us? (1998, 324 pages, $6.99). At the time of its publication, I started to read Strieber's book with an open mind. The term 'hard evidence' attracted me, and gave me hope that finally an author who said he had experienced an encounter with aliens would finally deliver proof that a skeptic (but not a cynic) like myself could accept. Strieber failed the hard evidence test miserably. ..."
Look - in the sky - a Bird? A Plane? A UFO? ... a Burning Cat?
An Ananova story titled "UFO could have been electrocuted cat" was published on March 25th reports that "Experts say a reported UFO sighting in Norway was probably an electrocuted cat. People in Lardal reported seeing a fire ball explode in the night sky and fall slowly down to earth. But investigators think they've solved the mystery after the charred body of a cat was found at the foot of an electrical mast. They believe the unlucky cat climbed up the mast and touched a live wire, reports Aftenposten. Lars Helge Sogn says what people saw was the cat exploding and falling off the mast. ..."
Nobel Laureate Says Current Theories Cannot Explain Expanding Universe...
The Morning News (NW Arkansas) reported on March 14th that "the universe is strange, and it's about to get even stranger, according to a leading physicist. [Leon Lederman, a nobel laureate, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., and a CSICOP fellow.] ... Lederman spoke to a capacity crowd in Giffels auditorium, delivering a lecture titled 'How Does the Universe Work?' The short answer is this: Science isn't sure. Not exactly. Not yet. ... the rate at which new information is being learned through experimental physics and astrophysics may soon lead to a huge shift in scientific thinking, Lederman said. This new theory will likely change human thinking about the world as profoundly as quantum mechanics did when it was first suggested. 'So there's a general feeling that something very exciting is about to happen. About means maybe the day after tomorrow or maybe five years from now,' he said. ..."
Aztec UFO crash a 'scam'...
Debra Mayeux of The Farmington Daily Times reports on March 19th that the Aztec UFO crash of 1948 is a "hoax, a scam developed by two con men. That is what most in the scientific community think about an alleged UFO crash in Hart Canyon north of Aztec. A discussion on this crash and others will be the topic of the annual UFO Symposium March 21-23 at the Aztec Civic Center. ... Some believe the story saying the crash was successfully covered up by the government. Others mainly scientists say the story was an elaborate tale created by two con men, Silas Newton and Edward GeBauer. The men lacked credibility and wanted to sell a doodle bug machine with extraterrestrial technology to the oil companies in the region. This is the story former CIA operative Karl Pflock tells when asked about Aztec. ..."
Additional Info: http://www.nmsr.org/aztec.htm
Scientists observe birth cry of a black hole...
Scientific American reported on March 20th that "Just like ET before it, NASA's High Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) satellite phoned home. As a result, astronomers were able to get the most detailed pictures yet of a gamma-ray burst and the evolution of its afterglow. In a report published today in the journal Nature, researchers describe a gamma-ray burst known as GRB021004 and note that it was 10 to 100 times more powerful than they expected. ... after HETE relayed news of GRB021004, a telescope in Japan was collecting information from it in less than four minutes. Over the next few days, scientists focused more than 50 telescopes around the world on GRB021004. 'If a gamma ray burst is the birth cry of a black hole, then the HETE satellite has just allowed us into the delivery room,' says Derek Fox of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and the lead author of the report. ..."
For the New Mexican Connection, check out John Fleck's Weblog,
http://www.abqjournal.com/weblogs/fleck.htm : "The gamma ray burst-hunting HETE-2 satellite is proving its worth. Built by a team that includes Ed Fenimore and Mark Galassi at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the satellite triggers when a gamma ray burst is detected, sending coordinates to astronomers on Earth to follow up...."
God speaks through Gefilte Fish? Oy!
The Observer (UK) reported on March 16th that "An obscure Jewish sect in New York has been gripped in awe by what it believes to be a mystical visitation by a 20 lb carp that was heard shouting in Hebrew, in what many Jews worldwide are hailing as a modern miracle. Many of the 7,000-member Skver sect of Hasidim in New Square, 30 miles north of Manhattan, believe God has revealed himself in fish form. According to two fish-cutters at the New Square Fish Market, the carp was about to be slaughtered and made into gefilte fish for Sabbath dinner when it suddenly began shouting apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew. ... The animated carp commanded Rosen to pray and study the Torah. Rosen tried to kill the fish but injured himself. It was finally butchered by Nivelo and sold. ... The story has since been amplified by repetition and some now believe the fish's outburst was a warning about the dangers of the impending war in Iraq. ..."
Ancient Relative of Orangutan found in Thailand?
Nature Magazine reported on March 6th that "An ancient relative of the orangutan has been discovered in Thailand. The species is the first fossil ape unearthed in the area where orangutans live today. Only teeth have been found so far. These bear an 'amazing resemblance' to orangutan teeth, says the fossil's discoverer, Jean-Jacques Jaeger of the University of Montpellier, France. 'It's more similar [to orangutans] than any other fossil ape,' he enthuses. ..."
The Cambrian Explosion ... a new explanation for one of evolution's great mysteries ...
Alexandra M. Goho reported in the March issue of Technology Review magazine that "Fossils contained in the rocks indicated that before the Cambrian period, the ocean reefs harbored early prototype animals with soft shellsCloudina, a wormlike creature, and Namacalathus, a tiny animal shaped like a wine goblet. Once the Cambrian period began, however, these organisms simply disappeared. By studying carbon isotopes in the rock, Grotzinger and Bowring determined that just before the Cambrian period began, a major environmental catastrophe occurred: the oceans suddenly stopped circulating. This event led to massive extinction of those early animalspossibly through a surge in such greenhouse gases as carbon dioxide and methane, released from the oceans at the moment the oceans started to circulate again. The demise of the early animals, Grotzinger maintains, cleared the playing field and allowed a new, more diverse, and better adapted group of animals to emerge. ..."
Prehistoric Hominid Footprints preserved in Lava ...
Amanda Onion of ABC News reported on March 13 that "Ancient Human Footprints Reveal Traces of Short People in a Hurry... One scrambled down in a zigzag path, another curved to the right after encountering steep terrain and left a handprint as he struggled to steady himself in a precarious spot. The third made a beeline down a less steep slope. ... Locally, the 56 prints became known as the supernatural steps of the Devil, or 'Devil Trails.' But a team of Italian scientists has analyzed the tracks on the Roccamonfina volcano complex, north of present-day Naples and claim they could be the oldest footprints ever found of Paleolithic humans, a group that preceded modern humans. ... Paolo Mietto, a paleontologist at the University of Padova in Italy, concluded in this week's issue of Nature that they belonged to short-statured hominids "who had fully bipedal, free-standing gaits. ..."
Dinosaur-killing "Smoking Gun" ... Captured on Film!
NASA this week revealed a stunning image of an ancient meteorite crater in the Yucatan peninsula. The press release notes "This shaded relief image of Mexicos Yucatan Peninsula show a subtle, but unmistakable, indication of the Chicxulub impact crater. Most scientists now agree that this impact was the cause of the Cretatious-Tertiary Extinction, the event 65 million years ago that marked the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs as well as the majority of life then on Earth...."
And speaking of Dinosaur-Killing Meteors ... was it a Barrage?
Kenneth Chang of the New York Times reported on March 11th that "Scientists are arguing again over the idea that the combination of cataclysms that doomed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago titanic volcanic eruptions in India and a meteor impact off the coast of Mexico may not have been a coincidence after all. For decades, some geologists have theorized that the force of an extraterrestrial rock crashing into Earth could have cracked its crust thousands of miles away and allowed molten lava to spill out from the interior. But no one has yet found any solid evidence. Now, though, researchers at University College London are suggesting that the Indian lava flows are the impact site of an earlier, larger meteor, and that evidence of the impact was submerged by upwelling lava. In this view, the mass extinction of dinosaurs and other creatures was caused not by a single meteor, but by a barrage of them. The new work is provoking another burst of theories and debate over the demise of the dinosaurs, which has never been explained to everyone's agreement. ... Dr. Jonathan T. Hagstrum, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey who was among the first to propose the idea of antipodal eruptions, said he believed that a meteor impact in the eastern Pacific Ocean caused the Deccan Traps eruptions, but that the evidence for it vanished as tectonic forces pushed that part of the sea floor back into the Earth's interior. Dr. Mark B. Boslough of Sandia National Laboratory said the idea was still worth investigating. He said his computer simulations, run in the mid-1990's, predict that even with only one ten-thousandth of the kinetic energy transferred into seismic waves, the impact would still generate about six cubic miles of melted rock in the upper mantle at the antipode, although the melt would be dispersed through a much larger volume...."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/11/science/space/11EXTI.html (free registration required)
New Mexico scientists estimate size of Crab Nebula's Pulsar ... As Small as a Beachball!
The UPI reported on March 12th that "Astronomers have tracked the long-sought source of brilliant beams that bounce across galaxies from super-dense spinning star remnants called pulsars to structures no bigger than a beachball. ... Since their discovery in 1967 -- a find deemed worthy of a Nobel prize -- pulsars have challenged scientists to solve the mystery of how they produce their powerful beams of electromagnetic radiation. The new work provides a key piece to the puzzle that has frustrated physicists for nearly four decades. ... The conclusions come from a study by scientists at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. Using specialized electronic equipment at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, they analyzed radio emissions from a pulsar at the center of the Crab Nebula, a cloud of glowing debris from a supernova blast 6,000 light-years away, on extremely small time scales. ... 'None of the other proposed mechanisms can produce such short pulses,' noted Jean Eilek, professor of physics and member of the team that investigated the pulsar that spins 33 times every second. 'The ability to examine these pulses on such short time scales has given us a new window through which to study pulsar radio emission.' ... 'The computer solutions show how waves generated in the plasma by the flow of particles develop a turbulent state,' noted James Weatherall, an adjunct professor of physics at New Mexico Tech. Weatherall, who now works for the Federal Aviation Administration, proposed the scenario. ... Although the mechanism that converts the plasma energy to radio waves in the big beams might be unique to the neutron star they observed, the researchers added, it is feasible all radio pulsars could operate the same way. ..."
Aztec UFO - the Con Game That Wouldn't Die...
A 55-year-old oil and gold scam is steadily evolving into another "prime" UFO crash. This year's Aztec UFO symposium will occur on March 21, 22 and 23, 2003 in Aztec, New Mexico. Speakers include Stanton Friedman, Karl Pflock, Dr. Bruce Maccabee, Wendy Conners, Rob Swiatek, Nick Redfern, Rich Dolan and John Greenewald.
Galen Knight Loses Appeal...
NMSR's April 2002 speaker, Galen Knight of Vitale Therapeutics (http://www.vitaletherapeutics.org/), lost his appeal (with Terence Scallen) of a court case concerning UNM's ownership of a purported cancer cure developed by Knight and Scallen while they worked at UNM. Susie Gran of the Albuquerque Tribune reported on March 3rd that "Two scientists who cured laboratory mice affected with aggressive cancer have lost another court battle with the University of New Mexico. A federal appeals court ruled that patents on the former UNM scientists' 18-year-old discovery of a cancer-fighting compound are university property. In a decision issued Friday, the Washington, D.C., appeals court for patent disputes upheld Albuquerque U.S. District Judge John Conway's decision awarding ownership of the patents to the university. ..."
See Also: http://www.nmsr.org/controvy.htm
Chimps - Close to Humans, but How Close?
Wired.com reprted on March 4th that "Chimpanzees seem almost human, and scientists have maintained for decades that chimps are, in fact, 98.5 percent genetically identical to humans. But the results of a new study call that figure into question, with a finding that there are actually large chunks of the human and chimp genomes that are vastly different. Researchers at a company called Perlegen Sciences in Mountain View, California, used a powerful biological computer chip that can scan the entire genetic makeup of an organism, that is, its whole genome. The results, published in Monday's issue of Genome Research, show that chimps and humans are much more different than scientists previously thought. ... Because of the chimp's genetic similarity to humans, the small amount of DNA that differs between the two species promises to reveal important secrets about what makes humans human. 'It's a good reminder that sometimes the differences between things that are already very similar provide the most insight,' Gibbs said. ..."
Evangelicals in the Mainstream...
Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times reported on March 4 that "Evangelicals have moved from the fringe to the mainstream, and that is particularly evident in this administration. ... President Bush has said that he doesn't believe in evolution (he thinks the jury is still out). President Ronald Reagan felt the same way, and such views are typically American. A new Gallup poll shows that 48 percent of Americans believe in creationism, and only 28 percent in evolution (most of the rest aren't sure or lean toward creationism). According to recent Gallup Tuesday briefings, Americans are more than twice as likely to believe in the devil (68 percent) as in evolution. ..."
Europe: Target MOON...
The BBC reported on March 4 that "Scientists and engineers working on the Smart 1 spacecraft are hoping to fly around the 15th of that month - but it all depends on the status of the launcher. ... Smart 1's primary objective is to test new technologies that can advance future planetary exploration. The craft is using an innovative form of propulsion - an ion thruster - that will take it on a 15-month spiral to the Moon. Once in orbit around the Earth's satellite, the craft will send back data about the lunar surface and environment - again trialling novel technologies. ..."
Bob Park on the 7 Signs... (of Bogus Science, that is...)
Bob Park of the American Physical Society presented his Seven Signs of Bogus Science in the Jan. 31st edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education's Chronicle Review. And they are... (drum roll, please):
Check out the article. It's a great read.
AP writer cites NMSR's "Snake Oil" Bible Code...
The source of the AP article picked up by many media outlets last week was one Richard N. Ostling, AP religion writer, who wrote "But skeptics say Drosninís World Trade Center code words also occur in the Hebrew translation of Tolstoy's War and Peace and that his new book has this encoded warning: 'The Bible Code is a silly, dumb, fake, false, evil, nasty, dismal fraud and snake-oil hoax.' ..."
Computer Made from DNA and Enzymes ...
Stefan Lovgren of the National Geographic News reported on February 24 that "Israeli scientists have devised a computer that can perform 330 trillion operations per second, more than 100,000 times the speed of the fastest PC. The secret: It runs on DNA. A year ago, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, unveiled a programmable molecular computing machine composed of enzymes and DNA molecules instead of silicon microchips. Now the team has gone one step further. In the new device, the single DNA molecule that provides the computer with the input data also provides all the necessary fuel. The design is considered a giant step in DNA computing. ..."
Did Isaac Newton predict End of World in 2060?
The Herald Tribune reported on Feb. 23rd that "Sir Isaac Newton predicted that the world will end in 57 years, a TV network said, based on a document from a Jerusalem archive, but a library official said Sunday he has not seen it. ..."
'Shocking' discovery lifts hopes for life on Europa ...
New Scientist reported on Feb. 21st that "Scientists simulating meteorite impacts on the frozen oceans of Europa have made an electrifying discovery, which raises the chances of finding life on Jupiter's moon. Jerome Borucki, at the NASA Ames Research Center in California, and his colleagues fired aluminium bullets into a block of ice. They found that when the bullet impacted, sensors embedded in the ice detected an electric shock. A second, and much larger, electrical discharge was observed a few moments later. ... 'Europa is a high priority target for exploration because the key ingredients for life seem to be there. But even if you have the ingredients, the question is, is there a spark that creates the first organic molecules?' says Ron Greeley, a planetary scientist at the Arizona State University. Borucki's bullet experiments suggest meteorite impacts might have provided that spark. The electric shock had gone undetected because no-one had put sensors below an impact crater before, he told New Scientist. The team think the current is caused by the movement of protons as the ice cracks. ..."
Phillip Johnson on Ohio...
Phillip Johnson, in Touchstone Magazine's "The Leading Edge" column (Jan/Feb 2003, Vol. 16, Issue 1), had an editorial titled "A Step Forward in Ohio." Here's a snippet: "I count the Ohio decision as a victory for the fact of divine creation and for intellectual integrity, but not because I expect science teaching in Ohio schools to change significantly as a direct result. ... The ultimate triumph of He Who Is the Truth is assured, not the ultimate triumph of scientific materialism. You can count on it. ..."
Wired.com: LANL Security is Pathetic...
In an article on Wired.com from Feb. 25th ("Nuke Lab Can't Keep Snoops Out" by Noah Shachtman), Shachtman wrote "There are no armed guards to knock out. No sensors to deactivate. No surveillance cameras to cripple. To sneak into Los Alamos National Laboratory, the world's most important nuclear research facility, all you do is step over a few strands of rusted, calf-high barbed wire. I should know. On Saturday morning, I slipped into and out of a top-secret area of the lab while guards sat, unaware, less than a hundred yards away. ..."
23 ways that DNA changed the world.
In acknowledgment of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA, the Independent (UK) reported on Feb. 26th "Steve Connor highlights 23 of the most significant [DNA] breakthroughs ..."
The last (and most significant?) breakthrough is Number 23, "Validating Darwin..... All animals and plants share the same DNA code. Knowing the structure of DNA and how it encodes genetic information demonstrated that life on Earth has a common origin. In effect, it proved that Charles Darwin was right when he suggested that species are descended from a common ancestor. Even if extraterrestrial life exists, it is highly unlikely to use exactly the same sort of DNA, which is, in all probability, unique to Earth. "
In Memory of Will Meikle
John Geohegan's moving tribute to Will Meikle, NMSR's Creationism/Evolution advisor, is on-line at http://www.nmsr.org/wmeikle.htm. Will died of heart complications on Friday, February 21st.
Complex bird songs hold clues to origins of human syntax...
The Independent (UK) reported on Feb. 17th that "Parrots, hummingbirds and songbirds which are able to learn complex, repetitive songs have provided scientists with a unique insight into the origins of syntax, the rules that govern human speech. A team of researchers led by Erich Jarvis of Duke University in North Carolina has found the key regions of a bird's brain which enable it to construct and remember the complicated sequences of sounds which make up birdsong...."
The Origin of Species ... Hasn't Stopped Yet!
The Times (UK) reported on Feb. 20th : "IT STARTED with a biologist sitting on a grassy river bank in York, eating a sandwich. It ended in the discovery of a "scruffy little weed with no distinguishing features" that is the first new species to have been naturally created in Britain for more than 50 years. The discovery of the York groundsel shows that species are created as well as made extinct, and that Charles Darwin was right and the Creationists are wrong. But the fragile existence of the species could soon be ended by the weedkillers of York City Council's gardeners. ...Dr Abbott published extensive research proving with DNA analysis that it is the first new species to have evolved naturally in Britain in the past 50 years. ... Dr Abbott's research, published in the journal of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, shows that the York Groundsel is a genetic mutant that can breed, but not with any other species, including its parent species. It thus fits the scientific definition of a separate species. 'It is a very rare event it is only known to have happened five times in the last hundred years' Dr Abbott said. It has happened twice before in the UK the Spartina anglica was discovered in Southampton 100 years ago, and the Welsh groundsel, discovered in 1948. .."
Bill to honor Aliens Dies in NM Legislature...
The Roswell Daily Record reports on Feb. 19th that "State Rep. Daniel Foley, R-Dist. 57, quite possibly took the New Mexico State Legislature where no legislature has gone before Tuesday when a bill to create an extraterrestrial holiday was brought to the floor of the House of Representatives. The bill would have made the second Thursday of February each year "Extraterrestrial Culture Day." In a bipartisan show of interstellar altruism, the measure was also sponsored by Rep. Pauline Ponce, D-Dist. 58 ... The bill was sent back to committee to be rewritten as a memorial on a motion by Albuquerque Democratic Rep. Danice Picreaux. ... The text of the bill states the day would be 'in recognition of the many visitations, sightings, unexplained mysteries, attributed technological advances, experimentations, expeditions, explorations, intrigues, provision of story lines for Hollywood epics and other accomplishments of alien beings from throughout the universe that have contributed to New Mexico's worldwide recognition as a unique and dynamic mosaic of cultural anomalies.' The bill continues, 'The day should be observed to celebrate and honor all past, present and future extraterrestrial visitors in ways to enhance relationships among all the citizens of the cosmos, known and unknown.' ... As for the procedural roadblock in the bill's brief discussion on the floor, Foley said, 'They don't want it to be on the books as a law, and I can understand that and respect that. So we'll go ahead and draft it as a memorial and see what we can do.'..."
New Sci-Fi Channel "Reality" Show Attracts a Lawsuit...
E Online reported on Feb. 19th that "A woman who thought she was being hunted by a space alien on her way to a glitzy Hollywood party and later discovered she was actually the victim of a prank for the Sci-Fi Channel's new reality series, Scare Tactics, is suing producers and the cable channel for severe emotional damage and injuries incurred as a result, reports Reuters. ..."
Pentagon Plans on MORE Polygraphs...
The FAS (Federation of American Scientists) Project on Government Secrecy reports on Feb. 20th that "Despite escalating criticism concerning the validity of polygraph testing, the Defense Department may seek to increase reliance on the polygraph as a security and counterintelligence tool, according to a new report to Congress. .... The new DoD report attempts to deflect an extremely critical evaluation of polygraph testing that was published by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2002. 'It is important to note that the NRC report... concluded that the polygraph technique is the best tool currently available to detect deception and assess credibility,' the Pentagon said. But this is quite disingenuous...."
NMSR's Bible Code In The News...
Stations WTOV-TV (OH) , WEWS (OH), KITV (HI), WTAE-TV (PA), WPBF (FL), WRTV (IN), KMGH (CO), WBAL-TV (MD), WGAL (PA), KCRA-TV (CA), WCVB-TV (MA), WESH-TV (FL), and WTVJ (FL), courtesy of The Associated Press, all reported on Feb. 18th that "The author of the 1997 book 'The Bible Code' is out with a sequel. ... But skeptics said Drosnin's World Trade Center code words also occur in the Hebrew translation of Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' and that his new book has this encoded warning: 'The Bible Code is a silly, dumb, fake, false, evil, nasty, dismal fraud and snake-oil hoax.' Religious objectors, meanwhile, protest that the codes treat God as a secretive magician and violate the Bible's own ban on soothsaying. ..."
Typical Source: http://www.wtov9.com/sh/news/stories/nat-news-198619320030218-110236.html
You saw it here First!
Steves and Stephanies Step Up for Evolution...
The Washington Times reported on Feb. 17th that "More than 200 scientists "named Steve" yesterday issued a statement backing evolution instruction in public schools, the latest response to state science standards that allow criticism of Darwinism. The statement, issued in Denver at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS),lists people named Steve to illustrate the large number of evolution backers and to honor Harvard evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould, who died last year of cancer. ...'Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences,' the statement says...."
NCSE, sponsor of the Steve Project, has a whole section on
the Steves and Stephanies at
The link for the List itself is at
Congratulations to NM colleague Steve Getty (currently in Colorado) on his SteveHood! And also to the six listed scientists who earned their doctorates in New Mexico, and to the four currently working in New Mexico! The List is still growing.
Meanwhile, the Discovery Institute has only managed to find 100
scientists (of ANY name!) to oppose "Darwinism."
More on Prof. Dini...
The New York Times reported on Feb. 2nd that "A biology professor who insists that his students accept the tenets of human evolution has found himself the subject of Justice Department scrutiny. Prompted by a complaint from the Liberty Legal Institute, a group of Christian lawyers, the department is investigating whether Michael L. Dini, an associate professor of biology at Texas Tech University here, discriminated against students on the basis of religion when he posted a demand on his Web site that students wanting a letter of recommendation for postgraduate studies "truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer" to the question of how the human species originated...."
Ellen Goodman comments...
Columnist Ellen Goodman writes on Feb. 7th that "This is the sort of frivolous lawsuit you thought conservatives opposed, but never mind. It's turning the argument over creation and evolution upside down and inside out. Remember when the fight against Darwin in the classroom reappeared in the 1980s? Creationists insisted they weren't trying to get their religion into the curriculum. Creationism wasn't faith, they said, it was fact. Now they're arguing that creationism is part of Spradling's religion. I guess even creationists can evolve. ... Needless - or maybe not needless - to say, Dini's refusal to recommend a creationist for a graduate degree in medicine or science is not like refusing to recommend an African-American. It's like refusing to recognize someone who doesn't believe in gravity for a PhD program in physics. But creationists who believe that the origin of species is an open-and-shut book - and the book is the Bible - now accuse evolutionists of being narrow-minded. ... There is nothing that says you can't believe in God and evolution. Scientists do it all the time. Including, I am told, professor Dini. Most Americans believe, in a phrase, that 'God created evolution.' ... If he is convicted of 'discriminating' against religion, surely every student can demand that a professor equate beliefs and facts. Next stop, astrology for astronomers? Feng Shui for physicists? Anyone want a recommendation? How about a lawyer instead? ..."
Vatican Expounds on 'New Age' Beliefs...
ABC News reported on Feb. 3rd that "The Vatican weighed in Monday on the New Age movement, saying some aspects of the search for inner peace were positive but warning that they can't replace true Christian religion. In a 90-page booklet dotted with references to the "Magical Mystery Tour," "Feng Shui" and the dawning of the "Age of Aquarius," the Vatican addressed a topic usually reserved for the self-help sections of bookstores. The Vatican said the book was the product of requests by bishops for guidance on determining whether practices embraced by New Agers, including yoga, channeling and healing by crystals, were compatible with Christianity. ..."
"Invisibility" Suit demonstrated...
Ananova.com reported on Feb. 5th that "A Japanese scientist has developed a coat which appears to make the wearer invisible.The illusion was part of a demonstration of optical camouflage technology at Tokyo University. It is the brainchild of Professor Susumu Tachi who is in the early stage of research he hopes will eventually make camouflaged objects virtually transparent. The photograph was taken through a viewfinder that uses a combination of moving images taken behind the wearer to give a transparent effect. It's hoped the technology will be useful for surgeons frustrated their own hands and surgical tools can block their view of operations and pilots who wish cockpit floors were transparent for landings...."
You simply MUST surf over to the site to see the demonstration image. It looks weird!
Pres. Bush: there may be "space aliens" to be discovered...
Ananova.com reported on Feb. 3rd that "George W Bush says there is mounting evidence to suggest there is alien life on other planets. The US President used his budget document to declare that there may be 'space aliens' to be discovered. A passage entitled, 'Where are the Real Space Aliens?', states that important scientific research over the last 10 years indicates that proof of 'habitable worlds' in outer space is becoming more of a reality...."
NCSE's Genie Scott profiled in San Francisco Chronicle...
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Feb. 7th that "...Over the years, Scott has found her fight to be much less about science and more about politics. "I learned very early on that it's necessary but not sufficient for scientists to go to school board meetings and say, 'We shouldn't be teaching creationism,' " Scott said. "Being right doesn't mean it'll pass. "Public schools are where the next generation of leaders are educated and where cultural exchange will take place," Scott said. And Scott will be there, fighting to ensure that students are taught evolution. ..."
Update on loss of Columbia...
While our hearts and best wishes go out to the families and colleagues of the Columbia crew, Bob Park wants to get us thinking harder about whether most "space science" experiments are providing real benefits. He writes on Feb. 7th "What was the science mission of Columbia? Six of the 59 separate investigations were chosen by school children, such as spiders building webs in microgravity. Another 21 involved commercial agreements. Let's take a look...."
Oklahoma considering "Evolution just a Theory" bio-book disclaimer...
The Oklahoma State Legislature is considering a bill (House Bill 1504) that would add the following disclaimer to Oklahoma's biology books used in the schools: "This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory which some scientists present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants and humans. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact. The word evolution may refer to many types of changes. Evolution describes changes that occur within a species, for example, white moths may evolve into gray moths. This process is microevolution which can be observed and described as fact. Evolution may also refer to the change of one living thing to another, such as reptiles into birds. This process, called macroevolution has never been observed and should be considered a theory. Evolution also refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things.There are many unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including: Why did the major groups of animals suddenly appear in the fossil record, known as the Cambrian Explosion? Why have no new major groups of living things appeared in the fossil record in a long time? Why do major groups of plants and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record? How did you and all living things come to possess such a complete and complex set of instructions for building a living body? Study hard and keep an open mind. Someday you may contribute to the theories of how living things appeared on earth."
Antineutrinos caught in vanishing act...
Nature reported on Jan. 23rd that "Exotic particles emitted by nuclear reactors are vanishing before they've travelled a few hundred kilometres, according to an international experiment in Japan1. This is just what the team of scientists called the KamLAND collaboration had hoped. It confirms one of last year's most exciting discoveries: the interconversion of subatomic particles called neutrinos between three different forms as they fly through space...."
Language: a Quantum Leap?
Nature reported on Jan. 22nd that " Language probably leapt, not crept, from squeaks to Shakespeare, two physicists have calculated. Human communication, they propose, underwent a 'phase transition', like solid ice melting to liquid water. The richness of human languages is a fine-tuned compromise between the needs of speakers and of listeners, explain Ramon Ferrer i Cancho and Ricard Solé of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Just a slight imbalance of these demands prevents the exchange of complex information, they argue. So languages between those of present-day humans and the limited signalling of some animals cannot really exist. There must, at some point, have been a switch from rudimentary to sophisticated language. This contrasts with some linguists' view that language evolution was a gradual affair in which new words accumulated steadily. ..."
Professor demands that students seeking referrals accept modern science...
The Canoe News reported on Jan. 30th that "A biology professor who refuses to write letters of recommendation for his students if they don't believe in evolution is being accused of religious discrimination, and federal officials are investigating, the school said. The legal complaint was filed against Texas Tech University and professor Michael Dini by a student and the Liberty Legal Institute, a religious freedom group that calls Dini's policy 'open religious bigotry.' 'Students are being denied recommendations not because of their competence in understanding evolution, but solely because of their personal religious beliefs,' said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for the institute. ...'A letter of recommendation is a personal matter between a professor and student and is not subject to the university control or regulation,' Texas Tech Chancellor David Smith wrote in October in response to an earlier letter of complaint. ... [Dini's] Web page advises students seeking a recommendation to be prepared to answer the question: 'How do you think the human species originated?' 'If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences,' Dini writes. ... Dini writes that he has the policy because he doesn't believe anyone should practice in a biology-related field without accepting 'the most important theory in biology.' 'Good scientists would never throw out data that do not conform to their expectations or beliefs,' he writes. Dini also says he refuses to write letters of recommendation for students he doesn't know fairly well and those who haven't earned an 'A' in one of his classes. ..."
Spectacular Four- Winged Dinosaur Unearthed in China...Origin of Avian Flight Explained?
ABC Action News (Australia) reported on Jan.22nd that "Paleontologists have discovered the remains of what they believe is a four-winged creature that glided from ancient trees above its dinosaur cousins long before two wings took over to power flight. The small animal called 'Microraptor gui' - in honor of Chinese paleontologist Gu Zhiwei - was about 2 feet long and had feathers covering its legs that were similar to the feathers in its wings. The fossils were dated to 128 million years ago. ... Scientists say the fossils revive a debate between two theories of how dinosaurs might have evolved into birds. One theory holds that some of these apparent bird ancestors learned to flap their wings to power flight while they were gliding. The other theory suggests they learned to fly by increasing their running speed with their wings and taking off from the ground. Details of the fossils appear in the current issue of the journal Nature. ..."
Additional info: "Four-Winged Dinosaurs and the Dawn of
Maybe it's STILL an RNA World...
Andrew Pollack of the New York Times reported on Jan. 21st that "In the family of genetic material, RNA has long been the poor cousin of DNA. DNA makes up the genes, the master instructions of life, while RNA merely conveys those instructions to other parts of the cell. But surprising new discoveries are showing that cells contain an army of RNA snippets that do much more than act as DNA's messenger. The discoveries are helping to refine the prevailing theories of genetics - or even upend them. 'It's like discovering the neutrino or something,' said Dr. Gary Ruvkun, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. ... The discoveries are having practical applications. Scientists have found that tiny snippets of RNA with two strands instead of the usual one can be used to shut off specific genes. The technique, known as RNA interference, is being widely used to discover the functions of genes by turning them off and seeing what happens to the plant or animal. ... new evidence suggests that some RNA is not merely the intermediary between DNA and protein, but the end product. Some huge stretches of DNA that do not contain protein-coding genes and have been considered 'junk' actually hold the code for some of this RNA. ... The recently deciphered mouse genome was found to have about twice as much in common with the human genome as could be accounted for by protein-coding genes. Areas of the genome that are similar are thought to have important functions, explaining why they have not mutated as species evolved. At least part of this overlap appears to be genes that produce RNA as their end product...."
Favorite Inventions Ranked...
The Biz Report reported on Jan. 24th that "More American adults (42%) and teenagers (34%) couldn't live without a toothbrush than couldn't live without a PC or cellphone. According to the Invention Index Survey from Lemelson-MIT, conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), 34% of teenagers and 42% of adults in the US believe the toothbrush is the invention they could not live without. TNS survey results indicate that teens and adults favor the toothbrush over cars, personal computers (PCs) and even cellphones as the most valuable invention. Only 10% of teens say they could not live without a cellphone and just 6% of adults say they could not live without PCs. ..."
Prehistoric Sex - Oldest Fossil Evidence Found, from 260 Million Years Ago...
Nicolle Wahl of the University of Toronto reported on Jan. 23rd that "The large tusks of an animal that roamed Earth before the dinosaurs may provide the earliest evidence yet of male-female distinctions in land animals that existed millions of years ago, say U of T scientists. Robert Reisz, a biology professor at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, and his team have found convincing evidence of sexual dimorphism - different physical traits between the sexes of the same species - in their study of fossils from between 252 to 260 million years ago. They believe that the male Diictodon, a herbivorous barrel-shaped creature,had two large tusks extending down from the upper jaw. The tusks, Reisz says, were used as weapons, possibly for ritualistic or physical combat. 'Our findings give very clear evidence of complex social behaviour,' Reisz says. 'To see this kind of behaviour [physical combat] early in the history of the group that eventually gave rise to mammals is really quite startling.'..."
Paranoia? Nope...the toy really DOES say "I Hate You"...
The Columbian reported on Jan. 11th that "Blanche Skelton was feeding her baby when she heard something besides the soothing sound of ocean waves coming from a toy attached to the crib. It was saying, 'I hate you.' After asking her husband, her parents-in-law, and everyone else in the home east of Hazel Dell, they were convinced. The toy was definitely, albeit quietly, saying 'I hate you.' ... Made in China, the toy was sold by Wal-Mart and carries the Kid Connection brand, which is a store brand. ..."
Ex-NYPD Blue Star gets "Psy-Cop" Show...
YAHOO reported on Jan. 10th that Andrea Thompson, who did a brief stint locally as a news anchor for KRQE-TV13, is getting into "Psychic Detectives." YAHOO noted that "She's played a police officer on 'NYPD Blue,' switched to journalism and anchored CNN's 'Headline News,' and now will be host of a show called 'Psychic Detectives' ....The show, with host Andrea Thompson, will revisit crimes that a psychic helped to solve from a detective's viewpoint...."
Brand New Organism Created in Lab...
The Envoronment News Service reported on Jan. 14th that "A group of scientists has created an organism that produces an amino acid that no other living thing has ever used. All living things use the same 20 amino acids to build all of the proteins that make up all living cells. Now, scientists led by Scripps Research Institute chemistry professor Dr. Peter Schultz have engineered a version of the E. coli bacteria that can produce a 21st amino acid. The project is designed to help answer some of the basic questions regarding the evolution of life, such as why organisms have not evolved more than 20 of these basic chemical building blocks. The researchers hope to learn whether access to additional amino acids could give organisms an evolutionary advantage. ..."
Additional Info: "Expanding The Genetic Code: The Worlds
First Truly Unnatural Organism," at
Insect Wings have Re-Evolved Many Times ...
The New Scientist reported on Jan. 15th that "The lowly stick insect has forced a rethink of one of the key rules of evolution - that complex anatomical features do not disappear and reappear over the course of time. Researchers have discovered that on a number of occasions in the past 300 million years, stick insects have lost their wings, then re-evolved them. Entomologists have described the revelation as 'revolutionary'. ... Whiting's analysis shows that the very first stick insect, which appeared 300 million years ago, had already lost its wings and that stick insects re-evolved the structures at least four times. ... The study covers only 14 of the 19 known sub-families of phasmids, so it is possible that wings reappeared even more often. ... Researchers assumed wings could not come back once lost as the genes needed to create them would mutate beyond repair once the wings disappeared. But Whiting says there is evidence from the fruit fly Drosophila that the same genes contain instructions for forming wings and legs. ..."
What Makes an Embryo Stick?
ABC News reported on Jan. 16th that "In research that could lead both to new ways to treat infertility and new types of contraceptives, scientists have identified molecules that help embryos stick to the wall of the uterus. Timing is everything, the study shows. By analyzing carbohydrate molecules on the surface of the uterus during different times of the female cycle and by identifying a protein, called L-selectin, on the surface of the embryo, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco,learned for the first time how the embryo sticks to the wall. Susan J. Fisher, a co-author of the study appearing Friday in the journal Science, said coatings on the uterus and on the surface of the embryo act like puzzle pieces that touch and quickly lock. ..."
New Clues to the Evolution of Flight...
The New York Times reported on Jan. 16th that "The behavior of chukhar partridge chicks, which can run straight up the side of a hay bale or a tree while flapping their wings, may offer a new window on the origin of flight in birds. Feathered dinosaurs may have done something similar, Dr. Kenneth P. Dial of the University of Montana suggests in today's issue of Science. He suggests that they too flapped their wings to help them climb, which brought them off the ground and closer to discovering the aerial possibilities of their wings. Even incompletely feathered proto-wings, Dr. Dial says, would have been useful in running up steep inclines. ...The findings have intrigued other scientists. 'First and foremost,' said Dr. Kevin Padian of the University of California at Berkeley, 'It's telling us something we never knew.' Dr. Padian, who studies the evolution of flight, said: 'Nobody knew that they ran up trees like this. Nobody knew that wings could generate this kind of force. It's a terrific study for those reasons alone.' ... Dr. Alan Gishlick, a paleontologist who also studies the evolution of flight, said, the research 'for the first time gives us a modern analog for terrestrial origin of flight.' ..."
Trulock says Wen Ho Lee was a Spy for China...
The Washington Times reported on Jan. 17th that "A former Energy Department intelligence chief charges in his new book that fired Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee provided sensitive weapons data to China during unreported meetings with nuclear-weapons scientists. The FBI, however, mishandled the counterespionage investigation of Mr. Lee because the nuclear weapons designer and his wife worked as FBI informants, according to the book by Notra Trulock, Energy intelligence director from 1994 to 1998...."
Weird Circle Formations... Not Designed, but Natural!
The BBC reported on Jan. 17th that "Researchers may have an explanation for the natural near-perfect circles of stones that cover the ground in parts of Alaska and the Norwegian islands of Spitsbergen. ... According to scientists, the circles are not the result of ancient art but due to cyclic freezing and thawing of the ground that drives a simple feedback mechanism that generates the patterns. 'The patterns form by self-organization, and the same fundamental processes are at work in the formation of all these different patterns,' says Mark Kessler of the Earth Sciences Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, US. ..."
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2665675.stm (Shows a neat image of the circles!)
COLLAPSE of the CLONES...
The Raelian/Clonaid "Clone" story was all the rage this week. There is far too much to cover, but here are some of the high points:
Washington Post, Jan. 6th: "The freelance journalist who said he would oversee DNA testing to prove whether the first human clone has been produced said Monday he was suspending his efforts for now. The testing has been blocked by the parents of the baby..."
ABC News, Jan. 5: "The former ABC News science editor who said he would verify claims that the first human clone had been born tried months ago to sell exclusive coverage of the cloning to the major broadcast networks, according to a report published Sunday. CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO and Fox Entertainment all were approached by freelance television journalist Michael Guillen, The New York Times reported. ..."
The Times (Shreveport), January 4: "What we know about the Raelians, so far: Back in 1973, a French car racing journalist was driving in a desert near Paris when he felt a premonition to go to a nearby volcanic crater. There, a UFO descended from the skies and out came a four-foot-tall space alien with a goatee, who claimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ. The space alien taught him that human life was created in a laboratory in outer space 25,000 years ago and deposited on Earth. Then the story starts to get a little weird. ... I'm proud to announce the formation of my new cult. Since we're all about the money, my new name is Retael and my group is called the Retaelians. We, too, believe space aliens created human life, by genetically combining a Bigfoot with a sewer alligator. We believe crop circles are messages from Mars - to shop at Target. We believe a UFO really did crash at Roswell, New Mexico, and the government seized the spacecraft and keeps it locked up in a hangar because the aliens failed to show proof of insurance. ..."
Arizona Republic, Jan. 7 : "OK, let's deal with the moral, ethical and religious objections. Many can probably be summed up in our understandable reluctance to "play God." That is, to create life, though we have far less aversion to snuffing it out. The death penalty lives, after all. But why would we believe that a god present during conventional conception is suddenly absent when life is delivered to an egg by syringe or created in a test tube or petri dish? One method is certainly more clinical than the other, but is life conceived this way any less miraculous? This is much like the evolution vs. creationism debate, one argument heavily invested in the notion that evolution denies the existence of God. ..."
Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 5th: "A number of fringe religious groups have long seized on Genesis 6 as proof of extraterrestrials. Their writings, known as "the ancient astronaut school," hold that the "divine beings" (B'nai Elohim in Hebrew) were super-intelligent visitors from outer space - and that the Bible provides a garbled chronicling of that primeval event. It's the sort of far-out stuff normally relegated to supermarket tabloids. But it pushed its way to the top of the news with the report that a UFO Elohim sect, the Raelians, claimed to have cloned the first human, a baby girl. ..."
ABC News, Jan. 8th: "A freelance journalist who had been appointed to oversee testing of an allegedly cloned child said there's a chance the cloning claim is true, but declined to offer any corroboration. 'I do have privileged information I can't discuss,' Michael Guillen, a former science editor at ABCNEWS, told Good Morning America, adding, "You begin to develop an intuition about what they're up to "
Bob Park, APS "What's New" for Jan. 10th: "We now learn that the scientist/journalist, who grandly announced that he was accepting the responsibility of testing the Clonaid claim 'on behalf of the scientific community,' tried to market an exclusive to the media before Eve was born, which raises serious questions about his independence. Even Fox Entertainment, which gave us such clasics as Alien Autopsy, declined on ethical grounds. Wednesday, Guillen was interviewed by Charles Gibson on ABC Good Morning America. 'You are a Professor of Physics at Harvard?' Gibson began, by way of establishing Guillen's credentials. 'Yes,' Guillen mouthed. Whoa! Guillen is not a Professor of Physics at Harvard. I went to American Men and Women of Science; the edition I had was 1995-96. His autobiographical sketch says he's a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He's not. ..."
CSICOP, Jan. 10th Press Release by Kevin Christopher: "Clonaid, Raël, and the media seem to have got things backwards,says Paul Kurtz, chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). It should have been science first, publicity second. Without a shred of corroborative evidence, the French UFO cult visionary Raël (formerly known as Claude Vorilhon) and his strange brand of extraterrestrial futurism were catapulted into the world spotlight by the suspect announcement that Clonaid, the human cloning company founded by Raël, had achieved its first success. ... Kurtz is distressed by the recent coverage. 'It exposes the decreasing standards of many in the media business," he says. "Here you have an unsubstantiated claim from dubious sources acting on a bizarre agenda, and it makes newspaper headlines and leads cable news for weeks. Coverage for Raël and Clonaid has dumbed down an import scientific issue. Meanwhile, the genuine understanding of scientific issues like therapeutic cloning among legislators and the general public is next to nil, and many in Congress and the Bush administration have been acting to undermine this very type of critical scientific research.' ..."
State Secrets in the Spotlight...
John Allen Paulos of ABC News said this in his Jan. 5th "Who's Counting?" column, regarding increased anti-terrorist surveillance on the Web and elsewhere: "Assume for the sake of the argument that eventually (maybe by 2054), some system of total information-gathering becomes so uncannily accurate that when it examines a future terrorist, 99 percent of the time it will correctly identify him as a pre-perpetrator. Furthermore, when this system examines somebody who is harmless, 99 percent of the time the system will correctly identify him as harmless. In short, it makes a mistake only once every 100 times. Now let's say that law enforcement apprehends a person by using this technology. Given these assumptions, you might guess that the person would be almost certain to commit a terrorist act. Right? Well, no. Even with the system's amazing data-mining powers, there is only a tiny probability the apprehended person will go on to become an active terrorist. ... let's postulate a population of 300 million people of whom 1,000 are future terrorists. The system will correctly identify, we're assuming, 99 percent of these 1,000 people as future terrorists. Thus, since 99 percent of 1,000 is 990, the system will apprehend 990 future terrorists. Great! They'll be locked up somewhere. But wait. There are, by assumption, 299,999,000 non-terrorists in our population and the system will be right about 99 percent of them as well. Another way of saying this is that it will be wrong about 1 percent of these people. Since 1 percent of 299,999,000 equals 2,999,990, the system will swoop down on these 2,999,990 innocent people as well as on the 990 guilty ones, incarcerating them all. .."
And this tidbit comes from Maggie Fox, writing for Reuters/ABC on Jan. 10th: "The US government may be worried that enemies are plotting a biological attack, but it should not react by muzzling researchers and classifying their findings as secret, some scientists agreed on Thursday. While certain biotechnology researchers may need to be discreet about what they publish, a wide-ranging crackdown on the publication of information would do more harm than good, said the experts, who included President Bush's science adviser...."
Einstein was Right!
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on Jan. 8th that "Technology has finally caught up with Albert Einstein. Eighty-eight years after Einstein first laid out the Theory of General Relativity, scientists have finally tested one of its central predictions about gravity. The result? The tousle-haired genius, whose ideas helped define our modern world, was spot on. Using a New Mexico-based telescope, researchers Sergei Kopeikin and Ed Fomalont found that gravity's tug travels through space at the speed of light. That is what Einstein, in a paper written in 1915, predicted...."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/scitech/821897scitech01-08-03.htm (subscription required)
See also: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993232
Vampire Bat Saliva stops clots, helps stroke victims...
Scientific American reported on Jan. 10th that "The average person wouldn't want to be bitten by a vampire bat. But the animal's saliva may one day give some stroke sufferers a better chance of survival. According to a report published online today by Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, vampire bat saliva contains a potent clot-busting substance that could help a greater number of patients than current medications do. ..."
The "Other" Wedge: ...
Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis said on Jan. 4th that "Imagine you are on a TV quiz program. What would be your answer to this question: What famous person made this statement? Now creation science is really pretty bogus. I think theres a lot of hocus pocus in that stuff. ... Some of that stuff just doesnt meet the smell test. ... Yes, you would be right if you answered Pat Robertson. ... Sadly the views of Pat Robertson are also held by many Christian leaders in America today. While these same leaders have a heart for fighting Americas culture war, Christians are losing the battle. The problem is that the culture war is being lost because Biblical authority has been lost. ..."
Attack of the Clones - EVIDENCE? We don't need no stinkin' EVIDENCE...
YAHOO News reported on Jan. 2nd, 2003 that "The parents of a newborn claimed to be the world's first cloned human are having second thoughts about whether to allow DNA testing on the child, said the head of the cloning company that claims it brought the baby to life. ... Many experts have expressed skepticism about Clonaid's claim that the baby is an exact genetic copy of her mother, saying they needed to see a DNA matching as proof. Clonaid has refused to identify the parents or offer any proof that the child nicknamed 'Eve' is a clone. But the company had promised DNA tests to confirm their claim by the end of this week.
Here are some more rave reviews of Michael Guillen, the former ABC science reporter now in "charge" of the clone evaluation...
Newhouse News Service, Dec. 30th 2002: "The appointment of a freelance journalist to head a scientific panel to determine if a human has been cloned has raised eyebrows in both the journalistic and the scientific communities. The journalist, Michael Guillen, formerly of ABC-TV News, once won an award for his 'indiscriminate promotion of pseudo-science and quackery.' ...In 1997, Guillen received a "Pigasus Award" from the James Randi Educational Foundation, a nonprofit group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that works to debunk claims of the paranormal and supernatural...."
New York Times, Dec. 30th, 2002:
" 'He's a very well-educated man, but he's not very smart,' Mr. Randi said of Dr. Guillen. ..."
Human Origins Debate Resumes...
The BBC reported on Dec. 24th that "The theory that we are all descended from early humans who left Africa about 100,000 years ago has again been called into question. US researchers sifting through data from the human genome project say they have uncovered evidence in support of a rival theory. ... The prevailing theory is that a second exodus from Africa replaced all of the local populations, such as Europe's Neanderthals. Some anthropologists, however, advocate the so-called multiregional theory, that not all the local populations were replaced. They think some of these ancient people interbred with African hominids, contributing to the gene pool of modern humans. The new evidence, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is based on an analysis of data from the human genome project - the effort to map the entire human genetic blueprint. ..."
Gene Emery recaps the Year's Failed Predictions...
CSICOP reported in late December that "The Super Bowl will be cancelled after the first half of play. People will be able to go back in time, although there won't be any way to bring them back home. Psychic forecasts for 2003? Nope. Those are events that were supposed to come true in 2002 according to the supermarket tabloids whose editors say they gathered the forecasts from some of the world's best psychics...."
Chimp creating its own language...
The Telegraph (UK) reported on Jan. 1st, 2003 that "A chimpanzee has challenged the widely held view that animals do not have language by making up its own words from scratch. Kanzi, an adult bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee kept at Georgia State University, Atlanta, has come up with four distinct sounds for the things closest to his heart - banana, juice, grapes and yes. Although the choice of words may be a little predictable, it is the first report of an ape making sounds that seem to have the same meaning across different situations...."
See also http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993218
See Also Hot News of the Week, or News Summaries for 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, or 2000.
NMSR Site Map