NEWS FROM EARLIER IN THE YEAR 2004
Posted December 22nd 2004
Jesus' Ossuary a Fake?
Bob Simon of CBS News reported on Dec. 19th on the Ossuary Box that turned up a couple of years ago, inscribed with the words "James. . . Son of Joseph. . . Brother of Jesus" in Aramaic. Simon says "The discovery of this ossuary created more excitement among Christian scholars than anything since the Shroud of Turin. And like the Shroud, no sooner was it unveiled than it came alive, with questions. ..." The report focuses on Oded Golan, "an Israeli entrepreneur, amateur pianist and one of the world's biggest collectors of biblical antiquities." Golan claims to have had the ossuary for decades, without knowing its significance. Simon reports "the Israel Antiquities Authority demanded that it be brought back to Israel so they could have a look. They appointed two committees to decide whether that inscription was cut 2,000 years ago, or much more recently. 'The letter is freshly cut from the varnish into the rock,' says Professor Yuval Goren, director of Tel Aviv University's archaeology department, and one of the committee members. ..."
APOD's "Meteor" Photograph ... Resolved?
As reported recently, a curious photograph showing what some thought to be a meteor striking a lamp has been displayed on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site, inviting readers to help find a consensus as to what the image really shows.
APOD has announced that the consensus of the discussion is that the "Australian strange streak is plausibly just a flying insect."
See: http://www.cloudbait.com/science/darwin.html for the details.
APOD mentions Contrails - Carnicom accuses NASA of "Orwellian indoctrination"...
Speaking of Astronomy Picture of the Day, The APOD site for October 13, 2004 shows a striking picture of contrails over the southeastern United States. The site is full of incredibly inflammatory statements, such as "The exhaust of an airplane engine can create a contrail by saturating the surrounding air with extra moisture." (Actually, the comments are seen as inflanmmatory only by believers in "chemtrails," supposed government spraying of biotoxins and death via seemingly innocent "contrails.")
The APOD page links to general NASA sites on contrails,
such as this one:
Our local "chemtrails" enthusiast, Cliff Carnicom of Santa Fe, has announced on his website that "NASA has recently adopted a public strategy of abusing its position of national and public service by attempting to indoctrinate the citizens, including children, that the aerosol operations are a "normal" and expected consequence of daily life and aircraft. Nothing can be further from the truth, as is also apparent from an honest and thorough examination of the issue. ..."
NMSR's Chemtrails Page: http://www.nmsr.org/chemtrls.htm
New Study claims Cell Phones Harm DNA...
Reuters reports on Dec. 20th that "Radio waves from mobile phones harm body cells and damage DNA in laboratory conditions, according to a new study majority-funded by the European Union, researchers said on Monday. The so-called Reflex study, conducted by 12 research groups in seven European countries, did not prove that mobile phones are a risk to health but concluded that more research is needed to see if effects can also be found outside a lab. ..."
Recent Vulcanism on the Red Planet?
Matt Crenson of APnews.Myway.com reported on Dec. 22nd that "Images from the European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter indicate geologically recent volcanic activity in the summit craters of five Martian volcanoes, with some areas showing activity as recently as 4 million years ago. Though long in human terms, 4 million years amounts to the most recent 1 percent of Martian history - a strong suggestion that the planet retains a capacity for volcanic activity. ..."
Posted December 17th 2004
Electrical brainstorms nixed as cause of "ghosts"...
Nature reports on Dec. 9th that "Studies showing that magnetic stimulation of the brain induces spiritual experiences are being queried by researchers who cannot reproduce key results. If the traditional theory is wrong, scientists will be left struggling to explain how such thoughts and sensations are generated. ..."
ID target of Federal Lawsuit in Dover, PA...
Nick Matzke at the Panda's Thumb notes on Dec. 15th that "Today, eleven parents from Dover, Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU of Pennsylvania), Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP filed suit in federal court to overturn the 'intelligent design' policy of the Dover Area School Board. The National Center for Science Education is consulting on the case (for free) on the science and science education aspects of the case. Read the press releases explaining the suit online at ACLU, AU, and Pepper Law. The case is entitled Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District. ..."
Matzke observes that the pro-Intelligent Design group called the Discovery Institute opposes Dover's anti-evolution stand, calling it "misguided." Matzke notes that "...considering that according to the schedule in the Wedge Strategy, we should be well into Phase III by now, which included integrating ID into public school curricula, and defending these actions in court ..." But the Institute's fellows are saying instead that "'When we first read about the Dover policy, we publicly criticized it because according to published reports the intent was to mandate the teaching of intelligent design,' explained West. 'Although we think discussion of intelligent design should not be prohibited, we don't think intelligent design should be required in public schools. What should be required is full disclosure of the scientific evidence for and against Darwin's theory,' added West, 'which is the approach supported by the overwhelming majority of the public.' ..."
Translation: "The Dover Board should have carefully censored every mention of God, Jesus, or traditional creationism regarding the new science guidelines, as the Discovery Institute has been doing for years. Because they didn't, 'Intelligent Design' may soon become legally linked to creationism. The Future of ID is now in Jeopardy. Egads!"
More Theists Weigh In For Evolution Over Creationism...
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorialized on Dec. 16th "That a federal lawsuit had to be filed in Harrisburg this week to prevent "intelligent design" from being offered as an alternative to the theory of evolution in a York County school district is a sad commentary on a certain sort of blind faith -- the fearful sort of faith that is blind to reason, blind to observable natural phenomenon, blind even to God's unfolding creation. ... Those who resist evolution do not understand that a theory in science is not just a figure of speech denoting conjecture. More importantly, they do not understand that theirs is a minority position even among other Christians who believe that science and faith can co-exist without contradiction. For example, the Roman Catholic Church, more than a billion strong, does not have much of a problem with evolution, a view that Pope John Paul II reasserted with a formal statement in 1996. Many mainline Protestants also see no contradiction. A wise man once observed: 'God moves in a mysterious way / His wonders to perform.' It's a shame that a federal case is needed to make that point anew when the subject is evolution, which can be more sensibly and more reverently viewed as the Creator's way of proceeding. ..."
And Kevin Harter, writing in the Dec. 17th Pioneer Press, declares that "Nearly 200 Wisconsin clergy want school officials in Grantsburg, Wis., to ensure evolution remains at the center of scientific teaching in the schools. The district drew criticism for approving a policy earlier this year calling for scientific theories and evidence other than evolution to be taught. It changed the policy earlier this month, explicitly ruling out teaching creationism and 'intelligent design,' a theory that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power. But the revised policy contained an expectation that students be able to explain 'the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory.' Such language is 'a standard creationist tactic,' according to a news release accompanying a letter signed by 188 pastors from Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and other churches. The pastors want evolution... "
Source: http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/10435565.htm (free registration)
Michael Crichton's 'State of Fear'...
The BBC reports that "The best-selling author Michael Crichton has explained to the BBC why he has argued global warming is a nonsense in his new book, State Of Fear. The novel - a thriller - is controversial because it challenges scientific consensus that rapid climate change is being driven by a build-up of human-produced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. ..."
The climate change science blog, RealClimate.Org, says on Dec. 13th "Like the recent movie 'The Day After Tomorrow,' the novel addresses real scientific issues and controversies, but is similarly selective (and occasionally mistaken) about the basic science. ... At the end of the book, Crichton gives us an authors message. In it, he re-iterates the main points of his thesis, that there are some who go too far to drum up support (and I have some sympathy with this), and that because we dont know everything, we actually know nothing (here, I beg to differ). He also gives us his estimate, ~0.8 C for the global warming that will occur over the next century and claims that, since models differ by 400% in their estimates, his guess is as good as theirs. This is not true. The current batch of models have a mean climate sensitivity of about 3 C to doubled CO2 (and range between 2.5 and 4.0 degrees) (Paris meeting of IPCC, July 2004) , i.e an uncertainty of about 30%. .."
Did Solar Glitch Trigger Major Climate Event 5200 Years Ago?
Speaking of global climate change, Ohio State University announced on Dec. 15th that "Glaciologist Lonnie Thompson worries that he may have found clues that show history repeating itself, and if he is right, the result could have important implications to modern society. ... A professor of geological sciences at Ohio State and a researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center, Thompson points to markers in numerous records suggesting that the climate was altered suddenly some 5,200 years ago with severe impacts. ... Thompson believes that the 5,200-year old event may have been caused by a dramatic fluctuation in solar energy reaching the earth. Scientists know that a historic global cooling called the Little Ice Age, from 1450 to 1850 A.D., coincided with two periods of decreased solar activity. ..."
Mt. St. Helens Lava Dome just keeps Growing and Growing...
LiveScience.com reports on Dec. that "An unusually smooth and swiftly growing lava dome within the crater of Washington state's Mount St. Helens volcano is an extraordinary and perplexing event with an unknown outcome, geologists said Tuesday. The dome has been building at a steady clip for about two months now as molten rock boils up from deep below. While no major eruptions are expected in the near term, the dome's construction can be likened to a runaway freight train in terms of the steady forces involved, scientists said. 'There's a truckload of hot rock coming out of the mountain every second,' said Dan Dzurisin of the U.S. Geological Survey. 'We're scratching our heads about it.' Dzurisin and others presented the latest data on the volcano here at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union this week. ..."
Was John Lennon's UFO "Egg" made by Piet Hein?
Last week, we mentioned Uri Geller's claim regarding aliens who left a " weird egg-shaped object behind" for the late Beatle John Lennon. In his Dec. 17th Commentary, James Randi notes that "Those bugs must have stopped off to visit the MIT gift shop during the time the shop was offering the 3-cm-long brass 'Supereggs' for sale. This is technically a 'superellipsoid,' and the story I did on the object back in May of 2002 can be seen at www.randi.org/jr/051002.html. Someone gave me one of these objects a regular US citizen, not a Martian some years ago, and miraculously it appears to be identical to the one that came from the UFO! Though Geller is totally mystified and confounded about the source of these 'eggs,' I think I have it solved. And I'm not even psychic! ..."
Posted December 10th 2004
BIG Week in the Creationism/Evolution Wars......
There was so much creationism news this week, that we're only noting a few highlights.
The York Dispatch , Dec. 7th: "Another Dover [PA]
school board member quits; She says she was misled on intelligent
design; now fears lawsuit."
The York Dispatch , Dec. 6th: "School boards shouldn't
compete in creationists' self-serving game," editorial by Barbara
Forrest & Paul Gross.
Duluth News Tribune, Dec. 8th, re Grantsburg,
Wisconsin: "A new policy of teaching about the evolution of
species has been changed to clarify that it won't include classroom
lessons in public schools on religious explanations, such as
creationism. As approved by the school board on a 6-1 vote Monday
evening, the policy should ease concerns that the schools would be
teaching creationism or the theory of intelligent design as
alternatives to evolution, Superintendent Joni Burgin said.
The Phi Delta Kappa International (Professional Association in
Education) has an excellent article by Mark Terry , "One
Nation, Under the Designer." The grabber says "Mr.
Terry alerts readers to a new, more insidious anti-evolutionist
strategy. And the redefinition of science is only the first step.
The Christian Science Monitor , Dec. 7th, Randy Dotinga on "A
who's who of players in the battle of biology
class." (Comments on Eugenie Scott of NCSE and Bruce
Chapman of the Discovery Institute).
R. Robin McDonald and Greg Bluestein, writing for Law.com, in the
Fulton County Daily Report for November 12, 2004: "The
Discovery Institute is one of the major proponents of intelligent
design, the idea that a divine being orchestrated the evolutionary
And, the Discovery Institute doesn't disagree...
New Creationism/Darwinism compromise proposed, "Bad Reporter", in
the December 3 SF Chronicle
Alternative disclaimer stickers in the December 5 New York
Tom Toles: The well-equipped 2004 Science Lab:
Steve Benson December 07, 2004 The Carnival's Back in Town
Tony Auth: The Democratization of Iraq Textbook Disclaimer:
Uri Geller on John Lennon's UFO "Gift" ...
The Telegraph (UK) reports on Dec. 7th that "They came in the darkness and had bug-like faces. Stranger still, they left a weird egg-shaped object behind. Uri Geller recalls his friend John Lennons encounter with the unknown ..."
No More "Hobbit" Heists...
The Australian reports on Dec. 10th that "Although their 'hobbit' fossils were snatched by a powerful critic, Indonesian and Australian scientists will continue their quest for humanity's Southeast Asian roots next year, with new safeguards to prevent further filching. According to Tony Djubiantono, director of the Indonesian Centre for Archaeology in Jakarta, from now on not a single fossil will leave the centre. ..."
Chicken Genome sheds light on Evolution..
PhysOrg.com/Nature report on Dec. 9th that "...The analysis showed that chickens and humans share about 60 percent of their genes, as opposed to the approximately 88 percent shared by humans and rodents. 'The chicken is really in an evolutionary sweet spot,' said Wilson. 'It's at just the right evolutionary distance from all the other genomes we already have to provide us with a great deal of fresh insight into the human genome.' ..."
Some Junk, Some Good: Scientists Uncover Clues To The Mystery Of 'Gene Deserts'...
Science Daily reports on Dec. 9th that "Gene deserts are long stretches of DNA between genes that were once thought to have no biological function, and were dismissed as 'junk DNA.' As scientists probe deeper into the DNA's double helix, however, they are discovering that many of these 'non-coding' segments actually play an important role in regulating gene activity. ..."
Sleuths to the Ramparts - An APOD Mystery...
We reported a few weeks back on a meteorite that had been photographed at the moment of impact. However, NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day for Dec. 7th notes "Meteor experts don't think it's a meteor. Atmospheric scientists don't think it's lightning. The photographer insists that the streak and flash on the above image has not been created digitally. So what is it? Nobody is sure. APOD's editors do not claim to know - one purpose of posting this image is to mine the eclectic brain trust of APOD's readers to help see if some unusual phenomenon was caught serendipitously. ..."
Posted December 3rd 2004
Pleins on Creationism - a Disservice to both Faith and Facts...
In the Nov. 26th San Jose Mercury News, David Pleins, professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, writes "Creation science is neither good science nor good religion. The current court battle in Georgia over conservative Christian attempts to stick warning labels on high school biology texts, proclaiming that evolution is a theory, not a fact, hardly advances the cause of religion and serves only to weaken our country's science education. Science is one-size-fits-all. There is not one science for fundamentalist Christians and another for the rest of us. No amount of special pleading for the Bible will change this reality. ... Conservative Christians need a history lesson. They have not always rejected modern science. In the 19th century, before fundamentalism was a badge of honor, many conservative Christians were on the forefront of scientific advance, unpacking geological strata to reveal long-lost fossil worlds. Many acknowledged Darwin's genius and sought to merge theism with evolution. ... Hit the books rather than put stickers on them. Use good science as the starting point for your theological reflection. Don't be satisfied with creationist counterfeits. The latest craze called 'intelligent design' trumpets ideas that were long ago discarded, and for good reason. Learn why. Let's not put faith-based straitjackets around our science teachers. Let's sort out the God question in our diverse houses of faith. Let's not turn back the clock on our understanding of nature or of nature's God. Incredibly, the Gallup News Service now reports that 45 percent of Americans think humans were created 10,000 years ago. There's work to be done. Let's take science education seriously. God does not need warning labels. ..."
Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/10275540.htm (free registration required)
Can Brain Scans Detect Lies?
Maggie Fox (Reuters) reports on Nov. 29th that "Brain scans show that the brains of people who are lying look very different from those of people who are telling the truth, U.S. researchers said on Monday. The study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, not only sheds light on what goes on when people lie but may also provide new technology for lie-detecting, the researchers said. 'There may be unique areas in the brain involved in deception that can be measured with fMRI,' said Dr. Scott Faro, director of the Functional Brain Imaging Center at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. ..."
Can a Nasal Spray Stop the Spread of Flu, TB, SARS?
Maggie Fox (Reuters) reports on Nov. 29th that "Simply inhaling a saltwater spray could help prevent the spread of diseases including flu and tuberculosis, U.S. and German researchers reported on Monday. They found a saline spray, administered using a device called a jet nebulizer, reduced the number of germ-spreading droplets by as much as 70 percent for six hours. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could provide a way to help control epidemics such as the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that spread globally and killed many health care workers trying to help patients. The findings might also help control any global influenza pandemic, which almost all health experts believe is coming and which could kill millions. ..."
Dennis Lee promises July 4, 2005 for "Free Electricity" Demo...
It's Deja Vu all over again! James Randi comments on Dec. 3rd that "DENNIS LEE'S BACK WITH A RELIGIOUS PYRAMID CLUB SCAM. Remember the nut case who has been promising a Free Electricity Generator (FEG) for several years now, who we described at several places like www.randi.org/jr/nov092001.html and www.randi.org/jr/102601.html? We long ago decided that for sheer nerve and ignorance, Lee was at the top of the "chutzpah" list, and that's a very competitive category, folks! An anonymous reader tells us: 'Here is an update on what Dennis Lee is up to. He now has a new Christian ministry that he claims you can donate money to and it will be multiplied because he will be making those FEGs and selling electricity. But he can't demonstrate it until 1,600,000 "witnesses" are ready to see 100 simultaneous demonstrations across the USA at stadiums. ... The latest date Dennis predicts the witnesses will be ready is for shows on July 4, 2005. ..."
Dennis Lee's Past New Mexico Tours: http://www.nmsr.org/denislee.htm
Is there a Martian Threat?
The Times (UK) reports on Dec. 3rd that "EARTH must take precautions to avoid contamination from lifeforms that must now be presumed to exist on Mars, leading scientists gave warning yesterday. Potentially deadly microorganisms could be returned to Earth on a probe which is being planned to collect samples from the Martian surface. The warning comes after a detailed scientific analysis of data sent back by the roving vehicle Opportunity which landed on Mars on January 25. Jeffrey Kargel of the US Geological Survey said that protection of our own planet from alien forms of life requires the assumption that Martian life exists. 'Before proceeding with sample returns or human missions to Mars, we must review measures for planetary biological protection.' His warning appears in Science magazine in an article accompanying the first formal publication of the mass of data from Opportunity, which continues to operate on the Martian surface. ..."
Move Over, Alabama - here comes Dover Pi...
The Bentinel reports that "The Dover [Pennsylvania] school board has raised eyebrows and ire across Pennsylvania and the country after requiring math teachers to offer 3 as an acceptable value of Pi. Pi is the name given to the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, commonly accepted to be 3.141592, though the actual number is believed to go on endlessly, without repeating. 'That's all well and good,' said Maureen Callister, Dover school board member, 'But what about God? Doesn't he have a say?' Callister cited the Bible, First Kings chapter 7, verse 23, where it says, 'He [King Solomon] proceeded to make the molten sea ten cubits from its brim to its other brim, [...] and it took a line of thirty cubits to circle all around it.' 'If 3 is a good enough 'pi' for the Almighty, then it ought to be good enough for us,' stated Callister. ..."
Been there, Done that: http://www.nmsr.org/alabama.htm
Posted November 24th 2004
A Swift Blastoff...
The Register (UK) reported on Nov. 22nd that "Swift, a satellite space lab that will hunt and study the most violent explosions ever seen in the universe, has finally launched from Cape Canaveral. It was originally schedule to launch on 8 November, but various set-backs meant that it wasn't until 12:16 (EST) on 20 November, that Swift finally got off the ground. ... 'It's a thrill that Swift is in orbit. We expect to detect and analyse more than 100 gamma-ray bursts a year. These are the most powerful explosions in the universe, and I can't wait to learn more about them,' said Swift principal investigator Dr. Neil Gehrels. ..."
California recognizes alternative medicine...
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on Oct. 25th that "...Here in Washington, naturopathic doctors (or N.D.s) are licensed to practice and carry out medical duties. N.D.s, on the whole, offer the unique quality of knowing more about plant medicine for patients than any set of health practitioners. Oregon has a similar N.D. law, but California has been a notable West Coast exception. Passing the bill in California, which became law this year, doubles the number of Americans with access to naturopathic physicians. Fourteen states now license N.D.s, while another 14 have some legislative activity in process. An important point here: Naturopathic physicians are distinguished from 'naturopaths' in these state laws. Naturopath is shorthand among patients for N.D.s, but naturopathic physicians themselves are quick to define the difference. ..."
CBS Poll: Red vs. Blue, Creationism vs. Evolution ...
A CBS News poll announced on Nov. 22nd concluded that "Americans do not believe that humans evolved, and the vast majority says that even if they evolved, God guided the process. Just 13 percent say that God was not involved. But most would not substitute the teaching of creationism for the teaching of evolution in public schools. Support for evolution is more heavily concentrated among those with more education and among those who attend religious services rarely or not at all. There are also differences between voters who supported Kerry and those who supported Bush: 47 percent of John Kerrys voters think God created humans as they are now, compared with 67 percent of Bush voters. ..."
Here's a Mother Lode of polls on origins over the years:
Nature Science Highlights...
John Covan has been sending along some excellent summaries from Nature. These are free to non-subscribers. Here are this week's gems:
Ancient ape gives clue to family origins : http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041115/full/041115-12.html
Simple wire picks up terahertz waves : http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041115/full/041115-11.html
Distance running 'shaped human evolution' : http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041115/full/041115-9.html
World's strongest acid created : http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041115/full/041115-5.html
Antibiotics get new lease of life : http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041115/full/041115-6.html
Sensory Substitution Gaining Ground...
Sandra Blakeslee of the NY Times reports on Nov. 23rd that "Cheryl Schiltz vividly recalls the morning she became a wobbler. Seven years ago, recovering from an infection after surgery with the aid of a common antibiotic, she climbed out of bed feeling pretty good. 'Then I literally fell to the floor,' she said recently. 'The whole world started wobbling...' The antibiotic, Ms. Schiltz learned, had damaged her vestibular system, the part of the brain that provides visual and gravitational stability. She was forced to quit her job and stay home, clinging to the walls to keep from toppling over. But three years ago, Ms. Schiltz volunteered for an experimental treatment - a fat strip of tape, placed on her tongue, with an array of 144 microelectrodes about the size of a postage stamp. The strip was wired to a kind of carpenter's level, which was mounted on a hard hat that she placed on her head. The level determined her spatial coordinates and sent the information as tiny pulses to her tongue. The apparatus, called a BrainPort, worked beautifully. By 'buzzing' her tongue once a day for 20 minutes, keeping the pulses centered, she regained normal vestibular function and was able to balance. Ms. Schiltz and other patients like her are the beneficiaries of an astonishing new technology that allows one set of sensory information to substitute for another in the brain. Using novel electronic aids, vision can be represented on the skin, tongue or through the ears. ..."
Pope gets Science Degree from Copernicus University...
ABC News reported on Nov. 23rd that "Pope John Paul II received an honorary degree Tuesday from Nicholas Copernicus University in his native Poland, calling it a 'sign of dialogue' between science and faith. The pope received the rector and faculty members from the university in Torun, Poland, the astronomer's birthplace, which John Paul visited in 1999. That visit came nearly four centuries after the Vatican condemned Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun. The pope said then that science and religion were still grappling to find common ground in the 'service of truth' and stressed again Tuesday that men of culture had 'the responsibility of truth, to strive toward it, to defend it and to live according to it.' ..."
Meteorite Caught in the (Imp)Act...
News.com (Australia) reports on Nov. 24th that "Northern Territory scientists were last night studying what could be the first photograph of a meteorite hitting Earth. The chances of an impact being captured on film are millions to one. 'If this is true, it's one of the most remarkable pictures ever taken,' astronomy tutor Geoff Carr said yesterday. The photograph was taken by keen amateur photographer Wayne Pryde as he stood near the Darwin Cenotaph on The Esplanade and looked down to Fort Hill Wharf on Monday evening. The meteorite, which could have been as small as a grain of sand, would have been travelling about 30,000km/h. Mr Pryde believes a tiny piece of space rock hit the top of a 20m lamp post on the wharf. ..."
Let Us Give Thanks ... to Plankton!
In Nov. 23rd commentary in UNM's Daily Lobo, Dane Roberts writes that "With Thanksgiving two days away, it's time to take a break from politics and write a column of gratitude. I'm grateful for family, of course, and freedom and all the other standbys, but I want to single out something I think is especially underappreciated: plankton. Yes, I'm talking about those microscopic organisms that drift by the billions through earth's ocean waters. In particular, I'm grateful for the plankton of millions of years ago. It's not that our modern plankton don't do a fine job supporting the oceanic ecosystem - they certainly do. But the older plankton deserve special recognition. ... It's unlikely they would have guessed their rotted carcasses would become the building block for the astounding achievement that is modern industrial society. It's unlikely they would have realized their remains would become what we know as petroleum and the other fossil fuels, coal and natural gas, which power almost everything modern humans do. ..."
Posted November 19th 2004
Knight & Scallen case against UNM denied by Federal Appeals Court...
The Albuquerque Tribune reported on Nov. 11th, 2004 that "The most expensive, most contentious and longest court battle involving the University of New Mexico and its scientists is over. A federal appeals court this week upheld a 2001 trial court decision giving UNM ownership of a potential cancer cure discovered two decades ago in a campus laboratory. 'We do consider this the end of the litigation,' said Charles N. 'Nick' Estes Jr., university counsel emeritus. The university spent approximately $541,000 on the case. Of that amount, $85,000 was spent on appeals. 'Undoubtedly, it was the most expensive case and the longest,' Estes said. 'It was in a class by itself.' The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday affirmed UNM's rights to the patents on the discoveries and ordered two former UNM scientists to pay $63,887.33 in court costs for the four-year legal battle. ..."
There is more information on the resolution of this case in the proceedings of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Here is a key finding of the court:
With respect to Knights royalties claim in particular, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the University dismissing the claim due to Knights lack of evidence. Regents of the Univ. of N.M. v. Knight, No. CIV 99-577 (D.N.M. Jan. 8, 2004) (Mem. Op. & Order). In granting summary judgment, the district court noted that the University argued that it did not owe Knight royalties until the patents produced a net income, which the University asserted had not yet occurred. Id. The district court held that Knight had not raised a material issue of fact challenging these assertions, stating, 'Instead, Knights Response contains multiple amorphous and illogical arguments that do not pertain to the issue of royalties.' Id., slip op. at 6. Knight has not directed this court to any evidence that a material issue of fact existed precluding summary judgment or that the district court incorrectly applied the law in reaching its decision. ... CONCLUSION For the above reasons, Scallen and Knights arguments presented on appeal are without merit. Thus, we affirm the district courts dismissal of Scallen and Knights counterclaims and award of costs.
Source: http://fedcir.gov/opinions/04-1281.pdf .
Galen Knight spoke to NMSR on April 10, 2002. Read More: http://www.nmsr.org/controvy.htm
A Quantum Leap in Bat Evolution...
New Scientist reports on Nov. 4th that "A change to a single gene allowed bats to grow wings and take to the air, a development that may explain why bats appeared so suddenly in the fossil record some 50 million years ago. ..."
Read MORE about this on the Panda's Thumb: http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000621.html
Biblical Plague of Locusts Returns...
Yahoo's photo from Nov. 17th tells the story: "Swarms of locusts obscure the Giza pyramids near Cairo, November 17, 2004. The pink locusts that swept through Cairo recalled the plague of biblical Egypt, flying high above tall towers and scaring pedestrians who stamped on them or ran for cover. Photo by Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters ..."
Were Humans in the Americas 50,000 Years Ago?
CNN reported on Nov. 18th that "Archaeologists say a site in South Carolina may rewrite the history of how the Americas were settled by pushing back the date of human settlement thousands of years. But their interpretation is already igniting controversy among scientists. An archaeologist from the University of South Carolina on Wednesday announced radiocarbon tests that dated the first human settlement in North America to 50,000 years ago -- at least 25,000 years before other known human sites on the continent. ... But not all scientists are convinced that what Goodyear found is a human settlement. 'He has a very old geologic formation, but I can't agree with his interpretation of those stones being man-made,' said Michael Collins of the Texas Archeological Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. ..."
Is Running what makes us Human?
Forbes/Healthday reports on Nov. 18th that "Millions of years before headphone-wearing joggers clotted the streets of America, the development of the ability to run played a crucial role in the evolution of early humans, according to new research. Without running, our bodies might have turned out looking like those of apes, said Harvard University anthropology professor Daniel Lieberman, co-author of a new study in the Nov. 18 issue of Nature. 'This ability of ours to run incredibly long distances rather efficiently is incredibly rare. It's unique,' he said. 'No other primates like to run, or are even good at it.' ..."
And for the Nitty-Gritty Details, see PZ Myers's article "Marathon Man" on Pharyngula: http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/marathon_man/
Is it the Common Ancestor of the Great Apes and Humans?
PZ Myers has included some great photographs of a stunning new fossil find in his Pharyngula piece from Nov. 18th, titled "Pierolapithecus catalaunicus." Myers says "Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, a Miocene hominoid from Spain described in this weeks issue of Science. Whats special about it is that it appears to be the closest thing to a last common ancestor of all of the great apes. ..."
Posted November 12th 2004
Fish-to-Amphibian Transitional Nostril Fossils!
Nature reports on Nov. 3rd that "Some experts suggested that choanae [nasal passages in land vertebrates] evolved [from fish] through the gradual repositioning of external nostrils. But sceptics countered that this would involve the nostrils migrating through the line of the teeth, a feature not seen in any fossil. Until now, that is. Kenichthys's [a newly discovered 395-million-year-old fish] cleft lip catches evolution in the act of moving the nostrils back through the teeth and palate, say Zhu and Ahlberg, effectively ending a debate that has persisted for around a century. The fossil, found in Yunnan in China, represents a crucial intermediate step between external nostrils and choanae. ..."
And Earthly Fossils of an Ancient Supernova are found...
Nature reports on Nov. 2nd that "Cosmic fallout from an exploding star dusted the Earth about 2.8 million years ago, and may have triggered a change in climate that affected the course of human evolution. The evidence comes from an unusual form of iron that was blasted through space by a supernova before eventually settling into the rocky crust beneath the Pacific Ocean. ..."
Spider webs untangle evolution...
Nature reports on Nov. 2nd that "A study of the similarities between the webs of different spider species in Hawaii provides fresh evidence that behavioural tendencies can actually evolve rather predictably, even in widely separated places. ... the scientists found that in several cases, separate species of Tetragnatha spiders on different islands constructed extremely similar orb webs, right down to the number of spokes, and the lengths and densities of the sticky spiral that captures bugs. Was this an example of similar environments producing the same complex behaviour, or did the spiders with corresponding webs share a common ancestor? ...They constructed a hypothetical tree in which each type of web evolved only once, so all the spiders weaving that web type were related. Then they compared it with the evolutionary tree suggested by the spiders' DNA. The tree that linked spiders through their web-constructing behaviour proved 'highly improbable', the researchers found. ... The researchers conclude that the web types must have evolved independently, driven by matching environmental conditions on the different islands. ..."
Wisconsin City Goes Gaga For Teaching Creationism ...
RedNova.com reported on Nov. 7th that "The city's school board has revised its science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism, prompting an outcry from more than 300 educators who urged that the decision be reversed. ... Last month, when the board examined its science curriculum, language was added calling for "various models/theories" of origin to be incorporated. The decision provoked more than 300 biology and religious studies faculty members to write a letter last week urging the Grantsburg board to reverse the policy. It follows a letter sent previously by 43 deans at Wisconsin public universities. 'Insisting that teachers teach alternative theories of origin in biology classes takes time away from real learning, confuses some students and is a misuse of limited class time and public funds,' said Don Waller, a botanist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ..."
And Cobb County Disclaimer Suit Heats Up...
Kristen Wyatt of the AP reported on Nov. 11th that "First, Georgia's education chief tried to take the word 'evolution' out of the state's science curriculum. Now a suburban Atlanta county is in federal court over textbook stickers that call evolution 'a theory, not a fact.' Some here worry that Georgia is making itself look like a bunch of rubes or, worse, discrediting its own students. 'People want to project the image that Georgia is a modern state, that we're in the 21st century. Then something like this happens,' said Emory University molecular biologist Carlos Moreno....Earlier this year, science teachers howled when state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox proposed a new science curriculum that dropped the word 'evolution' in favor of 'changes over time.' That plan was quickly dropped, but comic Jimmy Fallon still cracked wise on 'Saturday Night Live': 'As a compromise, dinosaurs are now called 'Jesus Horses.' ... "
Make no mistake about it: the neo-creationists at the Discovery Institute are fuming! On Nov. 11th, Discovery Institute staff declared "'Either this attorney threw the case on purpose,' says legal analyst Seth Cooper, an expert on the legal aspects of teaching evolution, 'or he simply doesnt know what he was doing. This was a textbook case. Literally. And he blew it.' ..."
Can technique for 'turning off' dangerous genes be used to cut cholesterol?
The Independent (UK) reports on Nov. 11th that "Scientists have found a way of treating potentially fatal diseases by switching off harmful genes. In what is described as one of the most important breakthroughs in decades, researchers have shown that RNA interference can cut cholesterol levels in laboratory mice with a method that could be applied to humans at risk of heart attacks. They say RNA interference (RNAi) could be used to treat a wide range of disorders, from HIV and Aids to genetic diseases and cancer. RNAi can switch off harmful genes that cause disease but leave other essential genes untouched. ..."
At Long Last, the Orgasmatron is Invented...
ABC News reports on Nov. 9th that "While Dr. Stuart Meloy was working on a new device to treat chronic pain, he was surprised to discover it could also bring pleasure to his female patients. While Meloy, an anesthesiologist and pain specialist in Winston-Salem, was putting an electrode into the spine of a female patient with chronic back pain, the woman reported a decrease in her pain and a delightful, but very unexpected, side effect. 'When we turned on the power in this case, she let out a moan and began hyperventilating,' Meloy said on ABC News' Good Morning America. 'Of course we cut the power and I looked around the drapes and asked her what was going on. Once she caught her breath, she said 'you're gonna have to teach my husband how to do that!' '..."
Posted November 5th 2004
On Hobbits and Creationists...
In a follow-up on the news of Homo floresiensis, the Observer (UK) notes on Oct. 31st that "An entirely new species of man, which radiocarbon and other dating methods suggest was alive just 18,000 years ago, has now been discovered. And immediately the story gave rise to two different discussions, both of which I love. The first is the debate about how things got to be the way they are: about evolution, essentially. And the second concerning human reactions to a discovery like this: reactions which indicate what we have developed into internally - in our heads, if you like. An illustration of the mixture of these thoughts came in the description by scientists and science editors of the new three-foot-tall hominids as having been 'hobbit-sized'. This is as scientific, of course, as saying that someone is elf-sized or that an animal is the same weight as, say, a small gryphon. But it tells us something about the way we use information. The hominids could equally, I suppose, have been the size of a small goblin, a dwarf or a large leprechaun. The hobbit was chosen, consciously or not, because we currently like hobbits, and the scientists who discovered floresiensis are in love with their find - though Professor Peter Brown, who led the discovery team, dislikes the H-word. ... some commentators were saying that the discovery of floresiensis would deal a huge blow to creationism. How could it stand up against evolution after this revelation that God created man and different man? Well, of course that should be true - but then everything that has happened in the past 2,000 years should have been a blow to creationism, and yet it's still there. ..."
European Molecular Biology Laboratory tackles Evolution of Eyes...
The European Molecular Biology Laboratory announced on Oct. 28th, in an article titled "Researchers provide concrete evidence about how the human eye evolved," that "Researchers in the laboratories of Detlev Arendt and Jochen Wittbrodt have discovered that the light-sensitive cells of our eyes, the rods and cones, are of unexpected evolutionary origin ¬ they come from an ancient population of light-sensitive cells that were initially located in the brain. ... The scientists discovered that two types of light-sensitive cells existed in our early animal ancestors: rhabdomeric and ciliary. In most animals, rhabdomeric cells became part of the eyes, and ciliary cells remained embedded in the brain. But the evolution of the human eye is peculiar ¬ it is the ciliary cells that were recruited for vision which eventually gave rise to the rods and cones of the retina. ..."
Hawking Protests Iraq War...
ABC News reported on Nov. 2nd that "Britain's most famous scientist, Stephen Hawking, condemned the U.S. led invasion of Iraq as a 'war crime' and said Tuesday it was based on lies. The physicist spoke at an anti-war demonstration in London's Trafalgar Square timed to coincide with the U.S. election. Protesters read out the names of thousands of Iraqis and coalition troops killed since the March 2003 invasion. 'The war was based on two lies,' said Hawking. 'The first was we were in danger of weapons of mass destruction and the second was that Iraq was somehow to blame for Sept. 11. It has been a tragedy for all the families that have lost members. As many as 100,000 people have died, half of them women and children. If that is not a war crime, what is?' ..."
Was the U.S. Election "Wm. Jennings Bryan's Revenge" ?...
Gary Wills of the New York Times wrote on Nov. 4th "This election confirms the brilliance of Karl Rove as a political strategist. He calculated that the religious conservatives, if they could be turned out, would be the deciding factor. The success of the plan was registered not only in the presidential results but also in all 11 of the state votes to ban same-sex marriage. Mr. Rove understands what surveys have shown, that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution. This might be called Bryan's revenge for the Scopes trial of 1925, in which William Jennings Bryan's fundamentalist assault on the concept of evolution was discredited. Disillusionment with that decision led many evangelicals to withdraw from direct engagement in politics. But they came roaring back into the arena out of anger at other court decisions - on prayer in school, abortion, protection of the flag and, now, gay marriage. Mr. Rove felt that the appeal to this large bloc was worth getting President Bush to endorse a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (though he had opposed it earlier). ..."
NMSR Meeting Next Week (Weds. Nov 10th) - the Tides of the
Bay of Fundy, with Walt Punke:
NMAS FREE SYMPOSIUM, "DNA at Mid-Century", Saturday Nov.
13th, 2 to 4 PM;
New Article on the Evolution of Irreducible Complexity:
"Evolution and Information: The Nylon Bug" - UPDATED!
Effects of the Great Socorro Hail Storm
NOVEMBER PUZZLE - DO THE MATH
Posted October 29th 2004
Betty Hill, one of the original UFO "abductees," has died. The AP reported on Oct. 19th that "She said she believed people who said they saw a crashed spaceship with five dead aliens aboard in Roswell, N.M., in 1947. But she said the annual UFO festival in Roswell had become too much for her. 'In the beginning, people were looking for information,' she said. 'Now, it certainly has turned commercial.' She also said media had fueled UFO fiction. ..."
And, several presidential candidates have gone on record saying they will release all UFO data if elected. Onlypunjab.com reported on Oct. 25th that "Michael Badnarik the U.S. Presidential Candidate of the Libertarian Party, Earl Dodge the U.S. Presidential Candidate of the Prohibition Party, Darren Karr the U.S. Presidential Candidate of Party-X, and Diane Templin U.S. Presidential Candidate for The American Party went on the record saying that they would release the information on UFOs and extraterrestrials to the public if elected. This historical broadcast was heralded by the UFO community as a victory for UFOlogy. ..."
Paranormal, Spooks lurk at UNM...
The University of New Mexico (UNM) paper, the Daily Lobo, reported on Oct. 26th that "Peter Jordan has proof that knives suspended in a kitchen wall, people spontaneously combusting, and stigmata are not just freak accidents. ... On Monday night, Jordan brought his evidence for paranormal existence in photos and on film to the SUB ballroom. He had the audience of more than 300 screaming, laughing and jumping out of their seats. ..."
And the Lobo reported on Oct. 28th that "Studying in Zimmerman Library might not seem scary, but the ghost that haunts the basement may make students' hair rise. ... From rumors of the ghost of a decapitated football player in Mesa Vista Hall to the ghost of a former librarian haunting the Zimmerman Library basement, Browning and Carrillo have heard it all. But what may be scarier are the things both men have experienced. Carrillo said he has seen an unexplained shadow more than five times and has seen the ghost of a former librarian. ..."
John Fleck receives Weather Honors...
The Albuquerque Journal reported on Oct. 20th that "Albuquerque Journal science writer John Fleck has won the National Weather Association's Walter J. Bennett Public Service Award, the first reporter so honored since the award was established in 1977. Fleck was nominated by chief meteorologist Charlie Liles and science and operations officer Deirdre Kann of the National Weather Service's Albuquerque office. 'Readers of the Albuquerque Journal clearly have gained a better understanding of science issues because of John Fleck's coverage of these topics,' Kann quoted from their cover letter to NWA, a professional organization for those who participate in and support weather-related activities...."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/scitech/245376metro10-20-04.htm (subscription)
In Nature This Week...
Duck-billed platypus boasts ten sex chromosomes;Odd mammal hints
at evolutionary origin of sex determination.
Laser measurements confirm Einstein's general theory of
relativity. The experiment, carried out for virtually no cost with
Earth-based laser range-finders, scoops Gravity Probe B, the US$700
million orbiting craft launched in April to test exactly the same
effect. However, the Gravity Probe B team has questioned whether the
result is really quite as accurate as it seems.
Auras may be generated in the brain; Synaesthetic woman sees
colours around faces and names.
Unseen comets may raise impact risk for Earth; Thousands of dark
objects could be hiding in our Solar System.
Hobbit-sized Hominid in the News...
The discovery of Homo floresiensis raises hopes for yeti hunters
and, says Henry Gee, poses thorny questions about the uniqueness of
Hobbits meet da Vinci...
"Hobbit" Discovered: Tiny Human Ancestor Found in Asia
"Island of the Lost Hominids," Carl Zimmer's Loom
P. Z. Myers "Homo floresiensis, Flores Man" article, lots of
info and pics!
How Balanced Coverage Lets the Scientific Fringe Hijack Reality...
Chris Mooney's article in Issue 6 (November/December) of the Columbia Journalism Review notes that "Journalists face a number of pressures that can prevent them from accurately depicting competing scientific claims in terms of their credibility within the scientific community as a whole. First, reporters must often deal with editors who reflexively cry out for 'balance.' Meanwhile, determining how much weight to give different sides in a scientific debate requires considerable expertise on the issue at hand. Few journalists have real scientific knowledge, and even beat reporters who know a great deal about certain scientific issues may know little about other ones theyre suddenly asked to cover. ..."
Just Plain Weird...
Peeping Tom filter lets phones see through bikinis; As well as
taking snaps in the dark, the Yamada Denshi infrared filter
apparently sees through people's clothes.
Biotech firm wants to breed allergy-free cats; Genetically altered
felines wouldn't produce irritating protein.
NMSR's "Alabama Pi" Prank STILL Making the Rounds; Professor
Lawrence Krauss has authored books on "The Physics of Star Trek" and
"Beyond Star Trek," and often speaks out against creation science. A
Cleveland interview notes "As an example of people taking the Bible
too literally, he told the story of an Alabama school board that
determined the number pi must equal three."
Alabama Pi: http://www.nmsr.org/alabama.htm
Posted October 25th 2004
GLOBAL WARMING MOVIE CONSUMES HOUSE...
The Detroit NBC affiliate station reported on Oct. 16th that "A Georgia man facing arson charges for burning his own home is blaming nine or 10 beers, and a disaster movie.Charles Adams told Crisp County authorities he had been drinking while watching the movie 'Day After Tomorrow.' Adams allegedly told deputies that after watching the special-effects extravaganza depicting deadly natural disasters caused by global warming, he decided to set fire to pillows on his bed. The flames destroyed his doublewide mobile home. ..."
PLANET FORMATION VIOLENT, MESSY, AND SLOW...
New Scientist reports on Oct. 19th that "The collisions that spawn planets are bigger and take place over longer periods of time than previously thought, say astronomers who studied nearly 300 stars with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The new cache of data gives astronomers fresh hope that Earth-like planets might be common in the universe...."
GIANT VIRUS IS "LIVING ORGANISM"...
Nature reports on Oct. 14th "Roll up, roll up, to meet Mimi, the biggest virus in the world. This monster has just had its genome sequenced, and scientists say that, unlike its fellow viruses, it may truly be called 'alive'. The virus's genetic sequence also holds clues that may explain the evolution of the very first cells possessing a nucleus of DNA. ..."
DINOSAUR SLEPT LIKE A BIRD......
Nature reported on Oct.13th that "The angst-ridden Prince Hamlet described death as an eternal sleep, fearfully wondering what dreams may come during the everlasting slumber. So perhaps he would have empathized with a dinosaur newly unearthed in China: it seems to have been preserved in the act of sleeping. The dinosaur, named Mei long, or 'soundly sleeping dragon', has lain undisturbed for almost 140 million years. But its sleeping posture is strikingly similar to that of modern birds, showing that this position might have evolved before they did. ..."
NIDS SHUTS DOWN...
The National Institute for Discovery Science, Robert Bigelow's pro-UFO thinktank in Nevada, announced on Oct. 15th that "We at the National Institute for Discovery Science have come to a time in which a decision must be made as to the direction of the Institute. We have labored long and hard, coming to the conclusion to place NIDS in an inactive status. The reasons for this decision are as follows: (1) We have not had the need to do any major investigative work for well over 2 ½ years. (2) In view of that fact we decided to reduce our staff. (3) Our administrator, Colm Kelleher, has taken a position outside of Nevada to do cancer research. Colm's ambition has always been to do cancer research and was employed in this field prior to his employment with NIDS. We are sorry to see him leave. It is unfortunate that there isn't more activity, as there was in the past, that warrants investigation. ..."
PENNSYLVANIA PASSES INTELLIGENT DESIGN SCHOOL REQUIREMENT...
The Daily Record reported on Oct. 19th that "The Dover Area School Board voted to add 'Intelligent Design Theory' to the district's biology curriculum Monday evening just two weeks after Supt. Richard Nilsen assured former board member Lonnie Langione that wouldn't happen. The change passed by a six-to-three margin after a heated discussion by the board and a dozen members of the community. During the Oct. 4 board meeting, Langione asked Nilsen if teachers would be required to teach 'intelligent design,' after he allowed 50 copies of the book 'Of Pandas and People,' published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, to be used in science classrooms as reference books. 'No,' replied Nilsen at the time. 'A teacher can, but is not required.' But during Monday's meeting, district biology teacher Jen Miller said the new curriculum wording implies that she will be required to teach 'intelligent design' . The new wording in the curriculum states: 'Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught.' ... "
Posted October 15th 2004
7-foot Robot finds no "Smoking Gun" re Noah's Flood ...
APNewsMyWay reported on Oct. 11th that "Four years ago, scientists thought they had found the perfect place to settle the Noah flood debate: A farmer's house on a bluff overlooking the Black Sea built about 7,500 years ago - just before tidal waves inundated the homestead, submerged miles of coastline and turned the freshwater lake into a salty sea. Some believed the rectangular site of stones and wood could help solve the age-old question of whether the Black Sea's flooding was the event recounted in the Biblical story of Noah. ... Scientists who in the summer of 2003 visited the underwater site off the northern Turkish coastal town of Sinop couldn't arrive at any conclusions. The settlement, about 330 feet underwater, was 'contaminated' by wood that had drifted in, foiling any attempt to accurately date the ruin - and thus date the flood. 'We were not able to get a smoking gun,' said Robert Ballard, the underwater explorer and discoverer of the Titanic, who led the $5 million Black Sea expedition. ... Ballard heralded the work of Hercules, an underwater excavator that was used for the first time. The 7-foot robot gingerly dug around the deep-water ruins and retrieved artifacts using pincers outfitted with sensors that regulated the pressure they exerted - much like a human hand. Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeology fellow at National Geographic, said the mechanical excavator's success ushers in a new era in ocean archaeology. ..."
Chimp IQ gets a Boost...
ABC News reported on Oct. 6th that "... new research shows African chimpanzees to be smarter than anyone thought. It has long been known that they use sticks as crude tools but now there is proof that they switch tools, something that had never been seen before. Scientists say that is a remarkably advanced concept for a primate. 'An analogy is, say, a human goes into the garage and picks, among a set of screwdrivers, a flathead instead of a Phillips head,' said Augustin Fuentes, an associate professor of anthropology at Notre Dame. 'This shows us that chimpanzees are incredibly intelligent, incredibly cognizant of their surroundings, and do very complex things.' ..."
Bush Administration accused of "Intellectual Cowardice"...
Environmental Media Services reports on the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Oct. 13th announcement that "The Bush Administration has decided that it will stand by its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noahs flood rather than by geologic forces, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Despite telling members of Congress and the public that the legality and appropriateness of the National Park Service offering a creationist book for sale at Grand Canyon museums and bookstores was 'under review at the national level by several offices,' no such review took place, according to materials obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. Instead, the real agency position was expressed by NPS spokesperson Elaine Sevy as quoted in the Baptist Press News: 'Now that the book has become quite popular, we dont want to remove it.' ...The Park Service ignored a letter of protest signed by the presidents of seven scientific societies on December 16, 2003. 'Promoting creationism in our national parks is just as wrong as promoting it in our public schools,' stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, 'If the Bush Administration is using public resources for pandering to Christian fundamentalists, it should at least have the decency to tell the truth about it.' ..."
On Carl Zimmer's The Loom blog for Oct. 15th, Zimmer notes that "Yesterday I blogged about how the National Park Service is selling a young-Earth creationist book about the Grand Canyon in its stores. Today the Washington Post wrote an article on the subject. It contains a response from the National Park Service, which I find pretty unbelievable. They claim that they are in fact reviewing the matter. The review was supposed to be done in February, but it's been delayed while lawyers at the Interior and Justice department 'tackle the issue.' No deadline is set for the decision, and the book will continue to be sold until one is made. Tackle the issue? Do these folks really need an extra eight months (and counting) to recognize that the Grand Canyon is millions of years old, and was not formed in Noah's Flood? The book has been moved from the science section to the inspirational section. But from what I know about it, it's not claiming to offer inspiration but facts. The intellectual cowardice continues. ..."
The Nov. 2004 on-line issue of Christianity Today Magazine reports that "Intelligent Design researcher William Dembski [has been appointed] as the first director of the Center for Science and Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's new Center for Science and Theology. Dembski who since 1999 has been associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University, begins his new position on June 1. ..."
Google Ranking for "Baylor University" : 337,000 hits.
Google Ranking for "Southern Baptist Theological Seminary" : 28,100 hits.
Do the Math!
People have been trying to understand the History of the Uterus for quite some time. Researcher Roseanne Barr even hypothesized that "Husbands think we should know where everything is; like the uterus is a tracking device."
But, in the Japan Times for Oct. 14th, Rowan Hooper reports that "About 180 million years ago, something happened to trigger the evolution from egg-laying to fetus-nurturing. ...As soon as that happened, the evolutionary floodgates opened. The origin of the uterus was one of the most dramatic advances in vertebrate evolution. ... It's fairly easy to come up with plausible reasons for the evolution of a particular trait, but since the relevant selection pressures that led to the uterus occurred so many millions of years ago, we will always be guessing. What we need is some sort of solid evidence, a record of what happened. And this is exactly what Lynch and colleagues have now got. How could a record survive 180 million years? Easy -- in something that has been passed from generation to generation, from ancestral mammals all the way to you and me. In other words, our genes. Remarkably, evidence of the evolution of the uterus is still visible and measurable in mammalian DNA. ... If it seems amazing that we can still read in genes the changes that occurred in our mammalian ancestors 180 million years ago, try getting your head round this: Similar bursts of evolution can be read in genes shared by plants and animals. And those two groups of organisms started evolving separately some 1.6 billion years ago. If only Darwin could have seen such evidence for natural selection, 100-odd years ago . . . and if only those who preach the nonsense of creationism and intelligent design could, today. ..."
Meyer, Shermer to Tango on PAX TV...
The Saturday, Oct. 16th episode of "Faith Under Fire" features three segments. The middle segment is "DARWIN OR DESIGN?" PAX TV notes that in this segment, "Dr. Stephen Meyer, Director of The Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute and co-author of 'Darwinism, Design, and Public Education,' will defend Intelligent Design and its theistic implications against Darwinian evolutionist Dr. Michael Shermer. Dr. Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, author of 'The Science of Good and Evil,' and a columnist for Scientific American Magazine."
The show airs at 10-PM Eastern (or 8:00 PM MDT).
Posted October 8th 2004
A Nobel For Smell (Explained)...
ABC News reported on Oct. 4th that "U.S. scientists Richard Axel and Linda Buck won the 2004 Nobel prize for medicine for gene studies that explained how the human sense of smell functions, Sweden's Karolinska university hospital said on Monday. 'The sense of smell long remained the most enigmatic of our senses. The basic principles for recognizing and remembering about 10,000 different odors were not understood,' said the institute's Nobel Assembly in its citation for the prize, given since 1901 and worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.38 million). ..."
Carl Zimmer, on his "The Loom" blog, says "Congratulations to Linda Buck and Richard Axel for winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine today. They won for their pioneering work on the 600 or so receptors that we use to smell. As is so often the case these days, the research that wins people the Nobel for Medicine also reveals a lot about our evolution. This February, for example, Buck published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which she and her colleagues charted the evolutionary history of human olfactory receptors. As Buck explains, it appears that many olfactory receptor genes mutated beyond repair in our lineage as we came to rely more on sight than smell. Only about half of the olfactory receptor genes in the human genome actually produce working proteins. (You can find working versions of these genes in other animals). Other researchers, however, have found that some human olfactory genes have undergone strong natural selection, which suggests that it's still a good idea to be able to sniff out a piece of rotten meat. (If you want more details on this line of research, you can read an essay I wrote a couple years ago for Natural History.) And yet, somehow creationists and their ilk keep a straight face as they continue to tell us that evolution is a dying myth. In this month's Wired, for example, techno-know-nothing George Gilder declares 'Darwinian materialism is an embarrassing cartoon of modern science.' When Gilder gets to run the Nobel Prize committee, I guess he can take back Buck's medal. ..."
Biggest Pinhole Camera EVER...
Universe Today reported on Oct. 1st that "A common science experiment for young kids is to build a pinhole camera. Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder think NASA should build a gigantic one in space and use it to find planets orbiting other stars. The 'New Worlds Imager' would be a football field-sized opaque light shade with a small opening right at the centre to let light through. A detector spacecraft would sit thousands of kilometres back and collect the light that comes through the opening. The shade would block the light from the star and let astronomers detect planets orbiting it. The proposal was one of 12 advanced concepts recently selected for further study by NASA. ..."
Spaceship One claims Ansari X-Prize...
Reuters reported on Oct. 4th that "The world's first privately funded manned spacecraft soared through the blue fringe of Earth's atmosphere to the blackened frontiers of space on Monday for the second time within a week to win a $10 million prize designed to spur commercial space travel. SpaceShipOne, a stubby, three-seat rocket plane about the size of a minivan, hurtled to a height of 368,000 feet traveling at more than three times the speed of sound and surpassing its target altitude without the heart-stopping barrel rolls that vexed the craft's qualifying flight on Wednesday. 'We are proud to announce that SpaceShipOne has made two flights to 100 kilometers (62 miles) and has won the Ansari X Prize,' Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize, announced to reporters at Mojave airport. ..."
Friends of the Past need YOU to Help Stop NAGPRA AMendment...
The Friends of the Past (http://www.friendsofpast.org) have issued a "NAGPRA Alert." On Oct. 8th, they said "Proposed Amendment Imperils Study of Ancient Human Remains THE PLAY. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado, has sponsored a bill in Congress that seeks to amend the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990. If enacted the proposed legislation would dramatically impact efforts to preserve and study human remains from federal lands in efforts to learn about Americas past. HIDING THE PLAY. The proposed amendment hidden in Section 14 of the bill states: Section 2(9) of Public Law 101-601 (25 U.S.C. 3001 (9) is amended by inserting or was after is. Although supporters of the bill would like us to believe that the correction made by these few words are non-controversial, they are anything but that. WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO. The purpose of Section 14 of the bill is to overturn the court decisions in the Kennewick Man lawsuit by changing NAGPRAs definition of the term Native American. By inserting the words or was to include all human remains found in the United States that pre-date European contact (1492), even if the human remains are not from Native Americans. It presumes that if 50,000 year-old remains, or remains of Adam and Eve, were found in the American, they are somehow related to modern American Indians and should be placed off limits to scientific study (and buried if tribal groups so wish). UPSETTING THE BALANCE OF POWER. NAGPRA is legislation that was supposed to balance the interest of Native Americans and the scientific community. Senate Bill 2843 would upset that balance. It would allow Native American tribes to claim all prehistoric human remains found on federal land even if those remains have no relationship to any living American Indians.... WHAT YOU CAN DO. SB 2843 has the potential to cripple the field of physical anthropology and to limit studies on the peopling of the Americas. All Americans own the past and should share equally in what we can learn about our common human heritage. Please call and write your senator and house representatives now! Passage of this bill is eminent and could occur within a matter of days. ..."
PHIL JOHNSON ON CREATIONIST TOUR OF ENGLAND...
ID leader Phillip Johnson and Andrew Snelling (of ICR, the Institute of Creation Research) are touring in England from October 26th to November 13th. The tour is sponsored by Elim Churches and several "evangelical alliances." In commentary on the Touchstone website, Johnson said
I have consistently said that I take no position on the age of the earth, and that I regard the issue as not ripe for debate yet. I have also rejected all suggestions that I should denounce the YECs and instead have said that I regard high-quality YECs [Young Earth Creationists] like Andrew Snelling as respected allies. I am not upset when YECs criticize me for not embracing their position, nor am I upset when theistic evolutionists or progressive creationists criticize me for being overly friendly with YECs. For now I am standing right where I want to stand. When developments make it appropriate for me to clarify or adjust my position, I will not hesitate to do so.
So, Johnson wants to "teach the controversy," except when it would upset creationists. This is very revealing. IDers try to pretend they're not creationists, but they just can't resist visiting their roots, can they?
Posted October 1st 2004
Quote of the Week...
"Making inferences based on a theory is a valid exercise, but it must not be confused with testing the theory against the evidence. When the truth of the theory itself is at stake -- as it is here -- the theory cannot be defended by inventing just-so stories that presuppose its truth. No scientific theory can be tested without explicit and serious consideration of the possibility that it might be false. To think otherwise is to abandon science for story-telling." - Fellows of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, September 29
Goof of the Week...
The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (Barnes & Noble Edition), by Charles Darwin, (Introduction by Brian Regal), was released in paperback in September of 2004. I've got my copy already! This edition is of interest because it sports a picture of a bearded British scientist on the cover. Just one problem: the scientist shown is NOT Charles R. Darwin.
Check out the book details here:
See a larger image of the cover here:
Then, if you haven't figured out who IS on the cover, try the
National Academy of Sciences link here:
I've informed the local Barnes & Noble branch of the error.
Catholic Church Re-affirms Evolution Science, Contingency in Nature...
The Vatican's International Theological Commission issued a statement on evolution in mid September. Catholic News Service reported on the statement on Sept. 24th, noting that "First, it accepts as likely the prevailing tenets of evolutionary science: the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in a 'big bang'; the earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago; all living organisms on earth descended from a first organism; and man emerged some 40,000 years ago with the development of the larger, human brain. Second, the document does not argue for a 'divine design' in specific processes of evolution. While acknowledging that some experts do see a providential design in biological structures, it says such development might also be 'contingent,' or dependant on chance. 'True contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence,' it said. ..."
Bird Navigation Decoded... Multiple Mechanisms Involved...
ABC News reported on Sept. 27th that "The question of how migrating birds manage to fly for hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, often at night, to end up in the same spot year after year has been nagging biologists, even physicists, for decades. Do they hone in on landmarks or familiar smells? Do they orient themselves using the sun or Earth's magnetic field? Finally, after years of research, it appears scientists have found the answer: Yes. It turns out that birds are sophisticated navigators who use a mix of methods to keep their flights on course. ..."
Harvard's "Alien Abduction" Prof Dies in Car Accident...
The Boston Globae/AP reported on Sept. 28th that "Dr. John E. Mack, the Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Lawrence of Arabia and also conducted research on people who claimed to be abducted by aliens, has died. Mack was struck and killed by an alleged drunken driver in London on Monday while attending the T.E. Lawrence Society Symposium in Oxford, England, according to a release on the John E. Mack Institute Web site. He was 74. ..."
See Also: http://johnemackinstitute.org/center/center_news.asp?id=227
"Fossil Genes" reveal details of evolution...
The University Of Wisconsin-Madison announced on Sept. 27th that "Reading the fossil record, a paleontologist can peer into evolutionary history and see the surface features that plants and animals and, occasionally, microbes have left behind. Now, scouring the genome of a Japanese yeast, scientists have found a trackway of fossil genes in the making, providing a rare look at how an organism, in response to the demands of its environment, has changed its inner chemistry and lost the ability to metabolize a key sugar. The finding is a snapshot of evolution at work showing, at the most fundamental level, how traits and features are discarded by virtually all forms of life when they are no longer needed. ..."
Laboratory evolution experiments are "Survivor" for Real...
Robert Boyd of Knight-Ridder reportes on Sept. 26th that "In a deadly serious version of the TV game show 'Survivor,' scientists are re-running the story of evolution in miniature in their laboratories. They watch as billions of tiny microbes battle starvation, environmental stress and fierce predators, much as living organisms have had to do throughout nearly 4 billion years of life on Earth. In one long-running experiment by biologist Richard Lenski at Michigan State University in East Lansing, 30,000 generations of the common intestinal bacterium, E. coli, have struggled, adapted and perished in the little world inside a test tube. ...Besides helping to illuminate the process of evolution, their work has practical goals in medicine, agriculture, manufacturing and the environment. Experimental evolution 'is being used in many contexts to create new drugs and industrial enzymes,' reported Holly Wichman, a biologist at the University of Idaho. ..."
Raelian Movement backs ID, Meyer...
The Raelian Movement announced on Sept. 20th that "The whole world would benefit from a healthy educational system where the Theory of Evolution and The Theory of Intelligent Design are both taught in schools. Students have the right to know about the two different scientific theories and to openly debate which one better explains how life originated and diversified."
The Movement had previously announced on Sept. 14th, in a release titled "Scientific creation recognized officially as a scientific theory for the origin of life," that "On August 4th, 2004 an article by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, Director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture appeared in a peer-reviewed biology journal published at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (volume 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239). ... This article represents a major breakthrough as being published in a peer reviewed journal, it can be used as a reference and free the numerous scientists who were obligated to refer to evolution in explaining their discoveries. Raelians are rejoicing over this event and will make sure that more articles are published in that domain so that biologists can look at living entities not as the result of random mutations but more as sophisticated creations in which every detail has been thought of and has a reason to exist. 'Biology will go so fast once biologists stop being blinded by the evolution theory and I am sure that in ten years from now scientists will look back and wonder why they accepted evolution for so long' said Dr. Boisselier, spokesperson of the Raelian Movement. ..."
I was a Token Darwinist...
I've blogged some comments about last week's "Darwin, Design and
Democracy V" conference, held on September 24th and 25th in
Albuquerque, New Mexico on the Panda's Thumb site, here:
I've also posted some notes from my DDDV presentation,
Posted September 24th 2004
Methane Controversy on Mars...
New Scientist reports on Sept. 4th that "Methane and water vapour are concentrated in the same regions of the Martian atmosphere, say scientists studying data from Europe's Mars Express orbiter. They say the link may point to a common source - possibly life - but others remain sceptical about the detection. In March, scientists using the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) on Mars Express announced they had found methane in the atmosphere at a level of just 10.5 parts per billion. Two other groups say they have also detected the gas with telescopes in Chile and Hawaii. Ultraviolet sunlight takes about 300 years to destroy atmospheric methane. These detections suggest the gas is being replenished on Mars in the same way it is on Earth - by processes such as geothermal heating or by life forms, such as bacteria. ..."
Brains of Men, Women are Different...
ABC News reports on Sept. 21 that "Men and women may really be from the same planet, but research is yielding mounting evidence that our brains are more different than we might think. From the way we record information to how we process language to the size of our brains and different regions of the brain, clear differences have emerged through animal studies and the use of technology such as brain scanning. Scientists are also trying to get at the roots of what may be behind these differences by looking at the effects of chromosomes and hormones at work in lab animals. And this is just the beginning. Jill Goldstein, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, argues that social climates have only recently made such research acceptable. 'When I was growing up, to say there were sex differences in the brain, you weren't even supposed to talk about it,' said Goldstein. 'I think we're living in a time now when we can look at what some of these differences are without saying they are necessarily deterministic.' ... "
Dino Day-Care ...
The Salt Lake Tribune reports on Sept. 21 that "Fossil evidence of dinosaurs caring for their young is rare, but it is hard to imagine what else could have been going on in a 125-million-year-old tableau unearthed in northeastern China. In about 5 square feet of space, paleontologists discovered the remains of an adult dinosaur and 34 youngsters. The dinosaurs, of a plant-eating variety called Psittacosaurus, were apparently buried suddenly, said David J. Varricchio of Montana State University, one of the scientists who described the find in the journal Nature. ... Little is known about the brood size of psittacosaurs, so it is impossible to say if the finding represents an adult with its own offspring or a kind of dinosaur day-care. 'We may be looking at a larger group, a mixed assemblage from multiple adults,' Varricchio said. ..."
Perhaps Monster Sea Reptiles Sucked (Prey, That Is ...)
Guy Gugliotta of the Washington Post writes on September 23 that "They were unwieldy pond-dwelling predators with long necks that didn't have enough joints and neck ribs that must have kept their heads practically immobile. They had all the grace of Godzilla -- the 1950s version. For decades scientists wondered how they caught enough prey to survive. 'They are really grotesque creatures,' said paleontologist Olivier Rieppel, of Chicago's Field Museum, who has studied these ancient reptiles for 25 years. 'This neck is not going to be very flexible.' ... But in research reported today in the journal Science, Rieppel and co-authors Chun Li, of China's Institute of Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, and Michael C. LaBarbera, of the University of Chicago, said a new fossil suggests that these animals, known collectively as protorosaurs, used their long necks not as supple spears, but like lethal suction hoses. ... The protorosaur case presents a classic example of one of evolutionary biology's eternal mysteries: does a particular characteristic develop to serve a specific function, or is it an aberration caused by growth patterns or some other factor? In the protorosaurs' case, what seemed at first like an aberration has probably turned out to be a functional trait. ..."
Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45087-2004Sep23.html (Free Registration Required)
Darwin, Design and Democracy V in Albuquerque...
The Fifth Annual "Darwin, Design and Democracy" Conference will be held Friday and Saturday at UNM's Woodward Hall and the SUB. I'll be speaking on "The Top 10 Myths of the Intelligent Design movement" Saturday morning (11:30) and afternoon (1:30). See you there!
Posted September 17th 2004
SETI Mystery Signal is No Big Whoop...
NewsFactor reported on Sept. 2nd that "A quick burst of excitement over possible reception of radio signals from extra-terrestrial intelligence by the SETI@home project has turned out to be premature. A report from the online publication New Scientist set off a wave of speculation that a mysterious signal may be coming from aliens. ... The brouhaha stems from SETI@home's re-observation last year of nearly 200 candidate signals. 'We had use of the Arecibo telescope,' said David Anderson, a space science researcher and the director of SETI@home at the University of California at Berkeley. Arecibo is located in Puerto Rico. 'We gave the signals a score, and all but one [SHGb02+14a] dropped.' But that did not mean SHGb02+14a was a good candidate. There was a major problem. The Doppler shift was too large to suggest it was generated by life forms. 'Whatever it is, it's just accelerating toward or away from us too quickly,' said Anderson. ..."
Tibetans Are Evolving ...
Nature reports on Sept. 16th that "A gene for well oxygenated blood is spreading in the Himalayas. Higher blood levels in Tibetan mothers means a better survival rate for their children. Tibetan mothers have provided anthropologists with a prime example of ongoing human evolution. Researchers have found that women who are able to store more oxygen in their blood have more offspring that live to maturity. ... Once non-genetic factors such as age, illness, or smoking were removed, a subset of the group seemed to have a blood-oxygen concentration that was 10% higher than normal. This trait was inherited in a way that suggested the difference was due to a single gene. ... The result strongly suggests that the high-oxygen gene confers a reproductive advantage, and is spreading through the population, says Beall. The work will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ..."
Radioactive Dating Used In Forensic Work...
MSNBC reports on Sept. 6th that "A new technique using radioactive dating is helping police pin down the approximate time of death of even badly decomposed bodies, researchers told a science conference Monday. Stuart Black said the British-pioneered technique had already been used to good effect in tracing not only the date of death but also the origin of a headless and limbless torso dubbed Adam, found floating down Londons River Thames in September 2001. ... Research has found that trace elements of lead isotope 210 makes its way into the food chain for humans in fairly even quantities and that people therefore have more or less constant quantities in their bodies. When a person stops eating, the isotope which has a half-life of just 22 years starts to degrade and diminish. The half-life measure is the period over which an isotope loses half its radioactivity. Monitoring the degree of degradation allows forensic pathologists to determine to within a year the time of death. Tracing the degradation of another isotope polonium-210 which has a half-life of only 138 days and is also spread throughout the environment can fine-tune the date of death to within a fortnight. ..."
Intelligent Design Disproved by Univeristy of Florida Team...
The Intelligent Design Network is having its fifth annual "Darwin, Design and Democracy" conference in Albuquerque this month. (See http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/june_symposim.htm ). Perhaps they should read a new paper in the Sept. 3 issue of the journal Science first. There's still time to cancel the whole conference! This stunning research closes the lid on ID's so-called "Irreducible Complexity" argument. The paper, by Ugalde, Chang, and Matz, is titled "Evolution of coral pigments recreated." (Science 305: 1433.). I'll be talking about this new work at the DDDV conference.
In the UF study, the authors compared genetic sequences of star corals, calculated ancient (300-million years+) sequences of some proteins of these long-extinct corals, synthesized them in the lab, and then could see for themselves what colors the ancient proteins produced. They were able to show that the ancestral coral color was green, that this green protein used two chemical reactions to produce its color, and that the more complex red colors are due to three complex reactions. But the really neat thing is that they showed a step-by-step evolution of the simpler green-producing molecules into the more complex red-producing proteins. This is the Demise of Irreducible Complexity and Intelligent Design, folks!
See Also: http://www.whitney.ufl.edu/research_programs/matz.htm#complexity
Meyer's "Peer-Reviewed" Publication Catches Some Flak ...
The NCSE reports on "A new development in the controversy about the publication of 'intelligent design' advocate Stephen C. Meyer's article 'The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories' in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. The Biological Society of Washington issued a statement on September 7, 2004 ... 'The paper by Stephen C. Meyer in the Proceedings ("The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239) represents a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124-year history. It was published without the prior knowledge of the Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, or the associate editors. We have met and determined that all of us would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings. ...' "
The NCSE notes that "According to the PBSW's instructions for contributors, 'Manuscripts are reviewed by a board of Associate Editors and appropriate referees.' It seems, therefore, that Meyer's paper was not published in accordance with the journal's established review procedure. ..."
Posted September 3rd 2004
SETI@HOME gets "mysterious" signals from 1000 light years away ...
New Scientist reported on Sept. 4th that "In February 2003, astronomers involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) pointed the massive radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, at around 200 sections of the sky. ... This radio signal, now seen on three separate occasions, is an enigma. It could be generated by a previously unknown astronomical phenomenon. Or it could be something much more mundane, maybe an artefact of the telescope itself. But it also happens to be the best candidate yet for a contact by intelligent aliens in the nearly six-year history of the SETI@home project, which uses programs running as screensavers on millions of personal computers worldwide to sift through signals picked up by the Arecibo telescope. ...The telescope has only observed the signal for about a minute in total, which is not long enough for astronomers to analyse it thoroughly. But, Korpela thinks it unlikely SHGb02+14a is the result of any obvious radio interference or noise, and it does not bear the signature of any known astronomical object. That does not mean that only aliens could have produced it. 'It may be a natural phenomenon of a previously undreamed-of kind like I stumbled over,' says Jocelyn Bell Burnell of the University of Bath, UK. It was Bell Burnell who in 1967 noticed a pulsed radio signal which the research team at the time thought was from extraterrestrials but which turned out to be the first ever sighting of a pulsar. ..."
'Black Triangle' Sightings on the Rise ...
Space.com reports on Sept. 2nd that "They have become legendary in UFO circles. Huge, silent-running 'Flying Triangles' have been seen by ground observers creeping through the sky low and slow near cities and quietly cruising over highways. The National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), has catalogued the Triangle sightings, sifting through and combining databases to take a hard look at the mystery craft. ... The study points out: 'The United States is currently experiencing a wave of Flying Triangle sightings that may have intensified in the 1990s, especially towards the latter part of the 1990s. The wave continues. The Flying Triangles are being openly deployed over and near population centers, including in the vicinity of major Interstate Highways.' ..."
Of course, the"Mysterious Triangle" ships got a big boost from the "Phoenix Lights" Incident of March 13, 1997. But Tony Ortega of the Phoenix New Times analyzed the saga, and wrote this on March 5, 1998: "The many eyewitnesses have elaborated on this basic model: Some saw that the lights were not connected, others swear they saw a giant triangular craft joining them, some felt it was at high altitude, others claim it was barely over their heads and moving very slowly. ... An alert owner of a home video camera caught the 8:30 vee pattern on tape. Terry Proctor filmed the vee for several minutes. ... But someone got an even better view than Proctor and his video camera. That night, Mitch Stanley and his mother were in the yard of their Scottsdale home, where Stanley has a large Dobsonian telescope.He and his mother noticed the vee pattern approaching from the northwest. Within seconds, Stanley was able to aim the telescope at the leading three lights of the pattern. Stanley was using a 10-inch mirror which gathers 1,500 times as much light as the human eye, and an eyepiece which magnified the sky 60 times, effectively transporting him 60 times closer to the lights than people on the ground. When Stanley's mother asked him what he saw, he responded, 'Planes.' It was plain to see, Stanley says. Under magnification, Stanley could clearly see that each light split into pairs, one each on the tips of squarish wings. ... 'They were planes. There's no way I could have mistaken that,' he says. ..."
More on Meyer's Peer-Reviewed ID Publication...
The Washington Times/UPI reported on Aug. 30th that "A paper by a creationist group, published in a little-known scientific journal, is creating concern among evolutionary biologists. The small journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, published in its June issue a paper scientists say erroneously critiques the theory of evolution. The paper was authored by Stephen Meyer, project director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a proponent of "intelligent design" based in Seattle. ..."
And Trevor Stokes of The Scientist writes on Sept. 3 that "The publication in a peer-reviewed biology journal of an article which sounds themes often heard in discussions of 'intelligent design'a theory one critic calls 'the old creationist arguments in fancy clothes'has drawn criticism from the members of the society that publishes the journal, and from others. ... Eugenie C. Scott, executive director at the National Center for Science Education, learned of the article when several members of the Biological Society of Washington called her office. 'Many members of the society were stunned about the article,' she said, describing it as 'recycled material quite common in the intelligent design community.' ... 'It's too bad the Proceedings published it,' Scott said. 'The article doesn't fit the type of content of the journal. The bottom line is that this article is substandard science.' ..."
6-Million-Year-Old Evidence of Upright Posture and Bipedal Hominids...
Barbara Hale of Penn State announced via Eurekalert on Sep. 2nd that "Recent fossil evidence suggests that a hominid, the size of a chimp, walked upright on two legs in Kenya's Tugen Hills, over 6 million years ago --- about 3 million years earlier than 'Lucy,' the most famous early biped in our lineage. Dr. Robert Eckhardt, professor of developmental genetics and evolutionary morphology, Laboratory of Comparative Morphology and Mechanics (LCMM), Department of Kinesiology at Penn State, led the U.S. research team responsible for analysis of the CT scans of the internal structure of the fossil bone. Eckhardt says, 'We have solid evidence of the earliest upright posture and bipedalism securely dated to six million years.' ..."
Christianity Today weighs in on C/E Debate...
John Wilson of Christianity Today writes on the never-ending creation/evolution debate in the September 2004 issue. Wilson notes "At the moment, at least, there are no signs that the debate is cooling downon the contrary. And there is a good deal to celebrate in that. In particular, the ID movement has performed an invaluable service in highlighting the way in which much Darwinian thinking rests on philosophical assumptions that have no scientific warrant. At the same time, the aggressive ID attacks on Christian scientists who have not rejected evolutionary theory lock, stock, and barrel'accommodationists,' as they are called in ID literature, where they are treated rather like collaborationists with the Nazis during World War IIhave pushed theistic evolutionists to formulate their own views more cogently. ... As Christians we all acknowledge that God made us. But we may differwe will differin our understanding of how that making unfolded. ... Seen in this light, one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the evolution debate is the acrimony between ID proponents and theistic evolutionists. ... It is time for the iders to stop suggesting that theistic evolutionism is functionally equivalent to Dawkins's rabid naturalism. It is time, on the other side, for the theistic evolutionists to stop treating the ID movement as either a conspiracy or a jokeor simply ignoring ID as beneath contempt. ... Neither Intelligent Design nor theistic evolutionism, alas, is the most influential position among the evangelical rank and file, where Young Earth creationism still holds sway. Hence another unsatisfactory aspect of the current debate is the strategic refusal of the ID movement to engage in constructive criticism of the Young Earth view. ... In some cases, however, the reluctance on the ID side may not be attributable solely to the Wedge strategy. There were indications in Johnson's recent book, The Right Questions, that he is sympathetic to a Young Earth reading of Genesis. For instance, he suggests that the great age of the early patriarchs maymay, he emphasizesbe accounted for 'on the assumption that the basic 'constants' of physics may have changed over time.' Johnson writes that, while he makes 'no dogmatic claims,' he does 'predict that scientists who are genuinely trying to find a set of physical constants that would permit greatly extended human lifespans will be able to do so in good faith.' ..."
Posted August 27th 2004
New Clue to Autoimmune Diseases Found ...
Amanda Gardner of HealthDay (via Forbes) reported on August 23rd that "A single biological mechanism could activate a variety of autoimmune diseases, researchers report. The discovery could pave the way for new therapies for rheumatoid arthritis and other disorders of the immune system, said the authors of a study in the Sept. 1 issue of the Journal of Immunology. 'We knew that the same folks tended to get these diseases, but we didn't know the biology underlying that,' explained senior study author Dr. Terry Smith. Other experts are not certain this represents a one-stone-kills-more-than-one-bird scientific breakthrough. 'If that were true, then you would think you would have more patients with autoimmune thyroid disease and rheumatoid arthritis,' said Dr. Clifton Bingham, director of the Seligman Center for Advanced Therapeutics at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City. ..."
New Report on Loss of Martian Beagle..
The Voice of America News reported on Aug. 24th that "A second official investigation into the failure of the European Space Agency's Beagle II probe to Mars in late 2003 says a number of potential factors could have thwarted the mission. A report Tuesday, says problems such as an unusually thin atmosphere over the landing site, electronic glitches, a gas bag puncture, or damage to a heat shield could have prevented the probe from landing safely on the Red Planet. ..."
Hollywood-Based Skeptics Expose Nationally Known Psychic Investigator ...
The Independent Investigations Group (IIG, http://www.iigwest.com/ ) announced on August 24, 2004 that "(IIG) has released a complete report on Carla Baron, who claims to have solved crimes with her psychic powers. This group of volunteer skeptics researched media reports on these crimes, contacted police investigators, and even observed Barons technique up close. The IIG has determined that 100% of these cases are either currently unsolved or were solved without Barons assistance, proving that any claim she makes of being a psychic detective is completely unsubstantiated. ..."
Meier Rep Rails at Randi and IIG...
Speaking of the IIG, it and the Randi Foundation have been having quite a letter exchange with one Michael Horn, self-appointed "Authorized American Media Representative of The Billy Meier Contacts" (http://www.theyfly.com/), who seems to think he should receive the Randi Foundation's $1,000,000 prize for proof of the paranormal without actually supplying a single shred of "proof." After some comments from me appeared in the Aug. 16th San Francisco Chronicle regarding Gov. Richardson and the Roswell Incident, Horn wrote me to say that the Billy Meier sightings were a much better UFO case than Roswell. Before I knew it, I was added to the list of recipients to Horn's letters, and found myself right in the middle of the Meier Maelstrom. The growing correspondence is online, thanks to the efforts of the IIG folks, here:
ID Paper appears in "Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington"...
Stephen C. Meyer, Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, has published a paper titled "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" in the latest issue of the journal "Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington" [117(2):213-239. 2004.] The paper concludes that "An experience-based analysis of the causal powers of various explanatory hypotheses suggests purposive or intelligent design as a causally adequate--and perhaps the most causally adequate--explanation for the origin of the complex specified information required to build the Cambrian animals and the novel forms they represent. For this reason, recent scientific interest in the design hypothesis is unlikely to abate as biologists continue to wrestle with the problem of the origination of biological form and the higher taxa."
The folks at The Panda's Thumb have already released a review of the Meyer paper. Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry write on Aug. 24, in a piece titled "Meyer's Hopeless Monster," that "It is gratifying to see the ID movement finally attempt to make their case to the only scientifically relevant group, professional biologists. This is therefore the beginning (not the end) of the review process for ID. Perhaps one day the scientific community will be convinced that ID is worthwhile. Only through this route convincing the scientific community, a route already taken by plate tectonics, endosymbiosis, and other revolutionary scientific ideas can ID earn a legitimate place in textbooks. Unfortunately, the ID movement will likely ignore the above considerations about how scientific review actually works, and instead trumpet the paper from coast to coast as proving the scientific legitimacy of ID. Therefore, we would like to do our part in the review process by providing a preliminary evaluation of the claims made in Meyers paper. ... A central claim of Meyers is that novel genes have too much 'CSI' to be produced by evolution. ... Meyer cites absolutely none of the literature documenting the origin of new genes. For example, Meyer missed the recent paper in Current Opinion in Genetics and Development with the unambiguous title, 'Evolution of novel genes.' The paper and 183 related papers can be found here. ..."
Revenge is Sweet ... and Healthy, Too?
The Star (Toronto, CA) reported on August 27th that "It's a scenario only too familiar to those of us who drive the mean streets and main thoroughfares of this city except that, in this case, it's the start of an editorial by Stanford University psychology professor Brian Knutson published today in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 'You've been waiting in line in traffic for what seems like hours, when a red sports car whips past on the shoulder. Eventually, the sports car creeps back into view the driver has run out of shoulder and signals to be let in. Instead of giving way, you stare ahead and accelerate, inching dangerously close to the bumper in front of you. After squeezing back the intruder, you can't help but notice a smile creep onto your face.' ... The study concludes, 'When people punish others who are deceitful, the reward centre of the brain is engaged even if the action yields no apparent benefit.' ..."
Allah sends giant spiders to combat U.S. Troops in Iraq...
WorldNetDaily reports on Aug. 27th that "An Iraqi sheik claims Allah sent giant spiders to the town of Fallujah to help its residents fend off attacks by U.S. military forces. Sheik Mahdi Saleh Al-Sumide'i spoke to Syrian TV on Monday, claiming several Arab television stations videotaped the helpful arachnids. ..."
MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute) has video and a transcript of an interview with the sheik, from Aug. 23rd. The sheik says on air that "The first miracle that occurred in Falluja took the form of spiders that appeared in the city each spider larger than this chair, or about the size of this chair. The American soldiers left, holding the legs of this spider, and I too, in one of the Friday sermons, held up a spider, with all its magnitude, in front of the satellite channels and in front of the world. This spider also had thin black hair. If this hair touches the human body, within a short period of time the body becomes black or blue, and then there is an explosion in the blood cells in the human body - and the person dies. ..."
The Video: http://www.memritv.org/# (Look for #219)
Posted August 20th 2004
Argentine Immigrant Ants Evolve Mega-Colonies in Australia...
AFP (Agence France-Presse) reported on August 12th that "A huge ant colony measuring 100 kilometres (62 miles) across has been found under the southern Australian city of Melbourne, scientists said. Monash University researcher Elissa Suhr said the supercolony of Argentine ants was threatening native biodiversity in Australia's second largest city. ... 'In Argentina, their native homeland, ant colonies span tens of metres, are genetically diverse and highly aggressive towards one another,' Suhr said. 'So population numbers never explode and they are no threat to other plants and animals. When they arrived in Australia, a change in their structure occurred, changing their behaviour so that they are not aggressive towards one another. This has resulted in the colonies becoming one supercolony.' ..."
Do Prions Give Turbo Boost to Evolution?
Nature reported on Aug. 16th that "Prions, the twisted proteins usually linked to disease, could help organisms adapt to tough situations by subtly altering the proteins manufactured by a cell. The discovery backs the idea that proteins as well as DNA are vital in driving evolution. Prions are proteins that twist into one of two shapes. In mammals, one type of prion seems to be harmless in one form but is infectious in the other. It is thought to underlie mad cow disease and its human equivalent, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). But scientists studying yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) have found that, in some cases, infectious prions may have an important role. ... In its non-infectious form, the protein normally helps to read and convert the DNA code into other proteins. But in its infectious form, the prion stops working. This means that many proteins are manufactured slightly sloppily. The team believes that prions may therefore offer a speedy way for yeast to evolve, because those cells with the infectious prion churn out a whole range of slightly altered proteins. Normally this is bad news for the yeast, but when the cells find themselves in a tough spot, one or two of them may grow better in the new conditions as a result, and so help the colony to survive. ... The finding runs against the general assumption in evolution that when organisms adapt to a change in their environment, they do so by acquiring random mutations in their DNA. ..."
Big Week for Richardson Re Roswell...
Keay Davidson of the San Francisco Chronicle writes on Aug. 16th that "Ten years after the U.S. Air Force closed its books on the claim that a UFO crashed in Roswell, N.M., in 1947, a top Democratic Party figure wants to reopen the investigation into the cosmic legend. ... Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who chaired the recent Democratic convention in Boston, says in his foreword to a new book that 'the mystery surrounding this crash has never been adequately explained -- not by independent investigators, and not by the U.S. government. ... There are as many theories as there are official explanations. Clearly, it would help everyone if the U.S. government disclosed everything it knows,' says Richardson, who served as Energy secretary under President Bill Clinton. 'The American people can handle the truth -- no matter how bizarre or mundane. ... With full disclosure and our best scientific investigation, we should be able to find out what happened on that fateful day in July 1947.' The passage appears in a paperback titled 'The Roswell Dig Diaries,' published in collaboration with TV's SciFi Channel ... Richardson's foreword drew scorn from veteran UFO investigators and science popularizers. ... 'We're kind of disappointed in Richardson for perpetuating the mythology of that thing,' said Dave Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, a skeptics group in Albuquerque. ..."
Sue Vorenberg of the Albuquerque Tribune picked up the story on Aug. 18th, writing "Could Roswell be the tragic site of a 1947 alien fender-bender? Maybe, says Gov. Bill Richardson. Maybe not, say New Mexico scientists. Still, most say they would relish the chance to investigate if they got it. ... 'What the governor says is that if there is any additional information, it should be declassified and released,' said Billy Sparks, a Richardson spokesman. 'If there is not any more information, then it should be stated that everything has been released.' Ken Frazier, editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, finds the governor's idea ironic and laughable. 'He was a government agent - he was the energy secretary,' Frazier said. 'If he thinks the government is covering something up, why didn't he do something about it when he was in the federal government?' Some New Mexico scientists aren't so quick to judge. Why not open an investigation? It might get more people interested in science, said Spencer Lucas, a curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. ...The book [The Roswell Dig Diaries] investigates a dig near Roswell two years ago by the University of New Mexico. For all the hype, nothing significant was found, said Richard Chapman, director of the UNM Office of Contract Archaeology, which conducted the dig. 'We didn't find any big chunks of flying saucer,' Chapman said. ..."
The Tribune weighed in in an Aug. 18th editorial also, saying "The guv has courted notoriety by calling for the feds to re-investigate the Roswell incident. He does so in the foreword to 'The Roswell Dig Diaries,' a new sci-fi book. This is a good thing, with an important caveat. ... The world-renowned tale swells New Mexico's enchantment and, along with it, the state's appeal to tourists and their bulging wallets. So Richardson, in this case, is keeping his promise to encourage economic development. He also, correctly, is calling for full disclosure of everything the government knows. The feds claim they've released all records - but secrecy is the enemy of democracy, and one can't demand such openness too often. The best outcome now may be for the feds to open their books with the utmost generosity - and the least public fanfare. We wouldn't want to cook the goose that laid the golden egg, would we? Not that we doubt the story. Klaatu barada nikto, y'all. ..."
And James Randi had a few comments re Richardson and Roswell also. The JREF site is having a little trouble today, so I can't include any quotes, but you can check it out at
http://www.randi.org/jr/082004nonsense.html when the site is back up.
Posted August 13th 2004
Is Ireland the Lost Island of Atlantis?
The BBC reported on August 6th that "Swedish geologist Ulf Erlingsson claims Ireland closely matches a description of the sunken island made by ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Both islands are 300 miles long, 200 miles wide and widest over the middle. He also claims the island that was actually sunk was Dogger Bank in the North Sea, which was hit by a flood-wave over 8,000 years ago. ..."
The Spoof (UK) also commented on this story, noting that "Geographer Ulf Ulmlot-Ughanda, whose cartoon book explains this theory, will be published by Marvel Comics next month. In the cartoon / story / theory, Ulf says the measurements, geography, and landscape of Atlantis as described by Plato match Ireland exactly. Ulf went on to state, 'You know it is real important science when they publish it in Classics Illustrated'. ... Previous theories about Atlantis have suggested it may have been only located in the alcohol-sotted decaying brain of Plato. ..."
Hubble finds Milky Way "Twin"...
The BBC reported on Aug. 9th that "A stunning image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a galaxy that looks like a twin of our own. NGC 3949 is a large spiral galaxy and, in astronomical terms at least, is relatively nearby at around 50 million light-years away from Earth. Galaxies like this help astronomers understand more about our own. This is because the Sun and the Solar System are so embedded in the Milky Way that it is difficult to see our galaxy's large-scale structure. Like the Milky Way, NGC 3949 has a blue disc of young stars peppered with bright pink star-birth regions. ..."
Gene Therapy for Laziness?
The BBC reported on Aug. 12th "Scientists in the United States have found a way of turning lazy monkeys into workaholics using gene therapy. Usually monkeys work hard only when they know a reward is coming, but the animals given this treatment did their best all the time. ... 'Normal monkeys and people procrastinate - tend not to work very well when they have a lot of time to get the job done, and work better when the reward is nearer in time,' Dr Richmond says. ... 'The monkeys under the influence of the treatment don't procrastinate.' The treatment consists of blocking an important brain chemical - dopamine. After about 10 weeks it had worn off, and the monkeys were back to their usual unmotivated selves. ..."
Santa Fe Company Aims to Commercialize Anti-Matter...
Keay Davidson of the San Francisco Chronicle writes on Aug. 8th that "Real-life professors and scientists are grappling with real antimatter -- the particle physicists' 'mirror image' of ordinary matter -- in today's laboratories. Antimatter might have practical uses, too, visionaries claim. Possibilities include antimatter-powered robotic aircraft that could remain aloft for months to provide military and weather surveillance. Antimatter beams could blast cancer tumors. Antimatter emitters could detect chemical weapons. Even more far out, antimatter-powered space cruisers could zip from Earth to Mars far quicker than conventional spacecraft -- perhaps even getting to the nearest star system in a few decades. ...Meanwhile, two startup companies are investigating the possibility of transforming antimatter research from a "pure science" into one that pays off in terms of dollars, national security and medical care. ... While acknowledging a certain 'giggle factor,' Gerald A. Smith, head of Positronics Research LLC in Santa Fe, N.M., said it might be possible to develop practical uses for antimatter. Smith's firm is concentrating on nonspace applications, such as antimatter engines for military robotic aircraft and remote sensors for detecting terrorist weapons. The former chair of physics at Penn State University, Smith started the company in 2001; it has five employees and six consultants, including Ph.D.s and technicians. The other firm is Hbar Technologies LLC of West Chicago, Ill., a two- physicist company run by Smith's former colleague, the physicist Steve Howe of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Largely funded by NASA, Hbar is devoting special attention to possible spaceflight uses of antimatter. ..."
Russians claim "Aliens" were behind Tunguska Explosion...
Robert Roy Britt of Space.com reported on August 12th that "An expedition of Russian researchers claims to have found evidence that an alien spaceship had something to do with a huge explosion over Siberia in 1908. Experts in asteroids and comets have long said the massive blast was caused by a space rock. ... 'I'm afraid this is a rather stupid hoax,' said Benny Peiser, a researcher at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. 'The Russian team stupidly stated long before they went to Siberia that the main intention of their expedition was to find the remnants of an 'alien spaceship!' And bingo! A week later, that's what they claim to have found.' ..."
The Fellowship of the (Crop) Rings...
The Telegraph (UK) reported on July 25th that "'It makes me chuckle sometimes,' says John Lundberg, gazing across a wheat field in central England. 'If somebody had said to me 10 years ago that today I'd be flying all over the world making crop circles for big companies and being paid for it, I'd have said they were mad.' ... Mr Lundberg has been making crop circles for 13 years. For most of that time he has done it without a thought for profit, but in the past few years the commercial work, mostly advertising, has taken off. The list of clients and commissions is impressive. Last year the team went to America to do a series of projects for AMD, a multibillion-pound computer-chip company. ...Yesterday Mr Bowers, now 80, expressed surprise at the commercial turn taken by circle-makers. 'We just wanted people to think that a UFO had landed in a field, when it was really just two blokes with a plank of wood. And it worked a treat. We'd make the crop circles and crowds would come to see them. We used to mingle with them and listen to what they were saying, all these so-called UFO experts spouting off about aliens. We would look at each and burst out laughing. We did it for a laugh. Money - and even art - never came into it. Who would have thought it would come to this?' ..."
Alien "Abductees" help Scientists Study False Memories...
Lee Dye of ABC News repoorted on July 21st "How do you know if someone is telling the truth when he or she recalls memories of childhood abuse, or being raped by satanic cults, or some other traumatic insult? One clue that many of us rely on is the emotional reaction of the person telling the story. If the victim breaks out in sweat and becomes extremely emotional while recalling those memories, it's more difficult to dismiss them as false. But all that really means is the person truly believes his or her memories are true, not that they really are, according to the [Harvard University ] researchers. ... Years of research have convinced him that even false memories can stimulate a lot of emotion, but how do you prove that in the lab? That's where the aliens from space come in. If someone claims to have been sexually abused years ago, it's almost impossible to prove those memories false. What the researchers needed was a group of people who sincerely believed memories of something that clearly never happened. So they put an ad in newspapers asking for people who had been abducted by aliens from space. ... The emotional reaction among the abductees soared while listening to the stories of stress and abductions. But it was much weaker while listening to happy or neutral narratives. The 12 participants who had never been abducted barely responded to any of the stories. The verdict was clear, McNally says. The emotional reaction, which can be so convincing, had nothing to do with the veracity of the memories of the folks who believed they had been abducted. ..."
Posted August 6th 2004
Mormon Belief Tested - no DNA Link between Hebrews, Native Americans...
The AP reported on July 29th that "In 'Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church,' author Simon Southerton applies his own and others' DNA research to Mormon beliefs, while also examining the writings of Brigham Young University scholars at the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, or FARMS. Southerton's work examines church teachings that American Indians and Polynesians have a historic bond with ancient Israelites. ... Southerton himself, once a bishop leading a local congregation in Brisbane, Australia, left the church because of his conclusion that no such tie exists. (The church takes issue with his findings). ... For a century or so, scientists have theorized that Asians migrated to the Americas across a land bridge at least 14,000 years ago. Over the past 20 years, researchers examining American Indian and Polynesian DNA have found no evidence of Israelite ancestry. But Mormons have been taught to believe that the Book of Mormon - the faith's keystone text - is a literal record of God's dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas called Lamanites. They are said to have descended from the Israelite patriarch Lehi, who sailed to the New World around 600 B.C. ..."
Kansas School Board Tilts Away from Science...
The AP reported on August 4th that "Conservative Republicans have regained an edge on the State Board of Education following Tuesdays primaries. The 10 member board has been split for past two years between moderates and conservatives. Two of the five members up for re-election this year had primary challenges.Conservative Steve Abrams of Arkansas City held off GOP challenger Tim Aiken of Derby. Abrams is unopposed in November's general election. But Republican moderate Bruce Wyatt lost his primary to Kathy Martin of Clay Center. Martin is a retired science teacher who favors teaching creationism along with evolution. She's unopposed in November. Republican moderates Carol Rupe and Sue Gamble retain their seats without opposition. Democratic incumbent Bill Wagnon of Topeka faces a Republican in November. ..."
Archaeopteryx now officially the world's most Primitive Bird...
Nature reported on August 4th that "It was half-bird, half-reptile and it soared above the still lagoons of Bavaria 147 million years ago. Researchers have confirmed that Archaeopteryx had a brain and body geared for flight, earning it the moniker of the world's most primitive bird. Ever since the first fossilized remains were found in 1861, Archaeopteryx has courted controversy. The enigma combines the feathered wings and wishbone of birds with the teeth and long, bony tail characteristic of reptiles, causing many to view it as an intermediate between the two groups. "It became an icon for evolution in action," says Angela Milner, from London's Natural History Museum, who studies the creature. ..."
National Psychic Week prompts Cynicism at ABC...
Buck Wolf of ABC News writes in his August column that "August ushers in National Psychic Week, and just to let you know how cynical I am, you can be sure that if I had psychic powers, I'd run to a racetrack and make it so that my children's children's children wouldn't have to work. An even easier payday would be to collect the $1 million prize from the James Randi Educational Foundation in Florida, offered to any demonstration of paranormal powers under laboratory conditions. 'Please take my money,' says Randi, renewing his challenge to the clairvoyant community. 'If you feel bad about it, donate the $1 million to any charity you want.' Thank goodness most psychics don't exploit their extrasensory perception. For just a small fee, they'll tell our fortunes, and we apparently need them more than ever. Here are some visions of the future by and for people who say they see into the future. ... By the year 2030, extraterrestrials will not only phone home, they'll be sending intergalactic greetings with the help of clairvoyant translators, says Sylvia Browne, one of TV's most famous psychics. ..."
"Champ"allegedly Surfaces in Lake Champlain...
The Boston Herald reported on August 2nd that "Five vacationers from Maryland claim they've seen Champ, the mythical Lake Champlain monster. Bob Gload and four of his grandchildren said they saw a dark, black, snakelike creature while bass fishing Wednesday afternoon. Gload said there was an ``explosion'' in the water, and then he saw three humps, two-to-three-feet tall, four-to-five feet apart. 'I was born in Champlain. I never believed in Champ or the Loch Ness monster,' Gload told the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh. 'I believe now.' Last year, the Skeptical Inquirer, a publication that routinely challenges such things as UFOs, Bigfoot and other mysterious claims, disputed the existence of Champ. The story by Joseph Nickell and Benjamin Radford was based on a visit they made to the lake as part of a Discovery Channel production. They swept the water with sonar and watched - unsuccessfully - at locations alleged to be particularly good for Champ sightings. In reviewing eyewitness accounts, the team noted 'widely inconsistent' descriptions. Lake Champlain is home to lake sturgeon that can grow to 7 feet in length and in some cases weigh up to 300 pounds. ..."
Galapagos Cruise Line Downplays Darwin...
The Macon Telegraph reported on August 1st that "When Celebrity Cruises launched its new Xpeditions line of cruise to the Galápagos earlier this month, naturalists were largely silent on an obvious topic: evolution. Charles Darwin's five-week visit to the Ecuadorean islands in 1835 was noted in nature talks. But there was little mention about the theory of evolution that his visit inspired. 'I was somewhat surprised that it was not included in the talks,' guest Rob Hunt of Dallas wrote in an e-mail, echoing several other guests. 'The importance of the Galápagos Islands in Darwin's theory was one of the main reasons that caused me to be interested in visiting,' he wrote, adding that he and his wife still had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. When guests inquired, onboard naturalists told them that Celebrity had asked them not to mention evolution unless asked. The reason: The line wanted to avoid offending creationist guests, who discount the theory of evolution and believe that God created all beings as they now exist. ..."
Gay Behavior Common in Nature...
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on July 28th "Koalas do it. Wallabies do it. Even penguins and dolphins in the sea do it. They all engage in homosexual activity. Dr Geoff MacFarlane, a lecturer in biological sciences at the University of Newcastle, said it had been argued that sexual behaviour between members of the same sex was against the laws of nature, and unusual or deviant in wild animals. But recent scientific evidence 'forcefully demolishes these assumptions.' Dr MacFarlane, who will give a public lecture on the topic tomorrow in Sydney, said more than 450 species worldwide had been identified as exhibiting some homosexual behaviour. This included 25 mammal and 45 bird species from Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. ..."
Source: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/27/1090693965406.html?oneclick=true (registration)
Posted July 30th 2004
DNA pioneer Crick dead at 88...
ABC News reported on July 29th that "Francis Crick, who helped discover the double helix shape of DNA along with James Watson, has died at the age of 88, his family said on Thursday. Crick died at Thornton Hospital in San Diego where he had been battling colon cancer. British-born Crick won the Nobel Prize for his work on DNA's structure, which he studied in 1953 along with Watson at Cambridge University. Watson issued a statement from his office in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. 'I will always remember Francis for his extraordinarily focused intelligence and for the many ways he showed me kindness and developed my self-confidence,' Watson said. ..."
Center for Inquiry gets some Good Press ...
ABC News reported on July 24th "For years the Center for Inquiry and its determined hoax-busters have taken on mysteries such as crop circles and ghost sightings. While intriguing to some, to the center they are byproducts of a public too willing to turn a blind eye to science. That's why, as the center undertakes a major expansion, there is a special focus on getting people to appreciate a scientific outlook, said chairman Paul Kurtz. The center hopes to raise $26 million in the next four years to add on to its suburban Buffalo world headquarters. 'The United States is the leading scientific and technological power on the planet, with amazing breakthroughs, yet the general public is basically illiterate about science,' said Kurtz, 78. The dangers go beyond a tendency to fall for urban legends and Internet chain letters, Kurtz said. More serious, he believes, is a willingness to embrace unproven alternative medical treatments and to reject advances like embryonic stem cell research, opposed by many on religious grounds. Kurtz, his 60 employees and fellows that have included Carl Sagan and Andrei Sakharov, follow a motto of applying reason and science to all areas of human life. ..."
Experts: Nanotech Laws Needed NOW...
In a July 29th article titled "Experts Say New Nanotechnolgy Laws Needed," the E-Commerce Times reported that "New laws are needed to ensure that nanotechnology does not pose a future threat to human health, experts said today. A Government-backed report from the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering said the new science, which involves manipulating matter on ultra small scales, could bring enormous benefits. But it recognized there could also be hazards, especially with microscopic dust particles or "nanotube" fibers that can be inhaled. The report recommended that nanoparticles and nanotubes be treated as new chemicals under UK and European legislation to allow appropriate safety tests and labeling. ..."
Posted July 24th 2004
"Brain Fingerprinting" ready for Prime Time?
The Independent Online(Zambia) reported on July 18th that "A convicted murderer facing a death sentence in America hopes that a new forensic science technique called "brain fingerprinting" which tracks human memories will rescue him from the executioner. ... Tests using it indicated that Slaughter did not commit the murders and an appeal court is expected to make a decision soon on whether to set him free. Brain fingerprinting apparently indicates whether a suspected criminal is telling the truth or lying by monitoring electrical 'flashes' in the part of the brain associated with memory. A suspect is given or shown words, objects or images, for example of the crime scene, or of a weapon that only the police or the person who committed the crime would know about. An involuntary electrical signal in the brain known as a P300 wave registers recognition. It happens so fast, within 300 milliseconds, that it is impossible for a respondent to fake a response. The technique has already been accepted as a valid method by courts in some American states and is being considered for use by the FBI and CIA, which have been impressed by tests. ..."
Likely Date of Marathon run is Revised...
USA Today reported on July 19th that "A team of astronomer gumshoes has pinned down the date of an ancient Greek battle at Marathon that led to a long-distance run and the sport that survives today in its honor. Analysis of lunar records show the 490 B.C. battle occurred not on the long accepted date of September 12, but a full month earlier, researchers said. How important is a month for a professional runner more than 2,000 years ago? Apparently it's a matter of life and death. According the Greek historian Herodotus, Plutarch and others, after the Greek army routed their Persian attackers at Marathon the long-distance runner Pheidippides sprinted the 26 miles (46 kilometers) back to Athens to announce the victory and warn of an attack from the sea. He then collapsed and died. Having the run occur in August "makes it a little more plausible that he keeled over and died," said physics lecturer Russell Doescher. ..."
Evolutionary Behavior Explains Higher Male Mortality?
ABC News reports on July 19th that "It's not easy being male. Research shows men are naturally programmed to check out early at least sooner than women. Recent analysis by researchers at the University of Michigan showed that three men die for every woman during the years between adolescence and adulthood. In the broader view, 16 men die for every 10 women before the age of 50. ... 'Basically the idea is men front end all their risk because it's important to reproduce early and often,' said Benjamin Campbell, an expert in anthropology at Boston University. ..."
Scopes Guilty, Fined $100, Scores Law;...
The New York Times reported on July 21st an article that first on on July 21, 1925. "Dayton, Tenn., July 21 -- The trial of John Thomas Scopes for teaching evolution in Tennessee, which Clarence Darrow characterized today as "the first case of its kind since we stopped trying people for witchcraft," is over. Mr. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, and his counsel will appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee for reversal of the verdict. The scene will then be shifted from Dayton to Knoxville, where the case will probably come up on the first Monday in September. ..."
"Darwin, Design and Democracy V" coming to NM in Sept 2004...
The Intelligent Design network, and its New Mexico division IDnet-NM, announced the "Darwin, Design and Democracy V: Science Converges on Design -- from Cosmology to Paleontology to Biology" conference, to be held September 24-25, 2004 at Woodward Hall on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The program says that "Key design theorists and many others will lead you from the origin of life through the remarkable 'recurrence of similar design solutions in different phylogenetic lineages, despite their absence in a common ancestor.' The key question in biology today is 'what drives this convergence?' Biochemist Michael Behe, PhD, Mathematician William Dembski, PhD and Chemist, Fazale Rana, Ph.D. and many others will discuss the data and why it seems to converge on design rather than a chance driven Darwinian process. ..."
"Missing Link" Monkey Learns to Walk After Illness...
CNN reported on July 22nd that "A young monkey at an Israeli zoo has started walking on its hind legs only -- aping humans -- after almost dying from a stomach illness, the zoo's veterinarian said Wednesday. Natasha, a 5-year-old black macaque at the Safari Park near Tel Aviv, began walking exclusively on her hind legs after a stomach ailment nearly killed her, zookeepers said. Monkeys usually alternate between upright movement and walking on all fours. A picture in the Maariv daily on Wednesday showed Natasha standing ramrod straight like a human. The picture was labeled humorously, 'The Missing Link?' ..."
Posted July 16th 2004
HPM (High-Power-Microwave) Device to End Car Chases?
The Guardian (UK) reported on July 12th that "A hi-tech device that can bring speeding cars to a halt at the flick of a switch is set to become the latest weapon in the fight against crime. Police forces in Britain and the US have ordered tests of the new system that delivers a blast of radio waves powerful enough to knock out vital engine electronics, making the targeted vehicle stall and slowly come to a stop. David Giri, who left his position as a physics professor at the University of California in Berkeley to set up a company called ProTech, is developing a radio wave vehicle-stopping system for the US marine corps and the Los Angeles police department. ..."
Cops Bust Nigerian Spammers...
The Guardian (UK) also reported on July 11th that "More than 500 suspected fraudsters have been arrested, and $500 million of assets seized, in an international crackdown on West African 'advance fee' fraud involving the City of London police. Investigators from the City fraud squad played a leading role in the swoop, which targeted the alleged kingpins behind a host of fraudulent emails sent en masse to gullible victims across the world. Most of the suspects have been arrested in Nigeria over the past month in an operation coordinated by the coun try's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, acting on intelligence from London and elsewhere. ..."
Why are Amino Acids Left-Handed? Chirality Breakthrough!
Creationists often say the presence of just left-handed amino acids in Earth's organisms is evidence against evolution, since both left and right-handed forms are equally stable chemicals. (For example, see "Origin of life: the chirality problem" by Jonathan Sarfati of Answers in Genesis, at http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/3991.asp.) But now, Science Daily reports on July 7th that "A chemical reaction that demonstrates how key molecules in the biological world might have come to be predominately left or right handed has been reported by scientists at Imperial College London. ... Now, using simple organic molecules, the Imperial researchers have demonstrated that an amino acid itself can amplify the concentration of one particular chiral form of reaction product. Importantly, the experiment works in similar conditions to those expected around pre-biotic life and displays all the signs to suggest it may be a model for how biological homochirality evolved. The research is published this week in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition. ..."
Beneficial Mutation staves off AIDS, but it's been around for MILLENNIA...
The Australian reported on July 15th that "DNA extracted from the bones of ancient Germans reveals that a genetic mutation that protects against HIV/AIDS first appeared in the Bronze Age. Just why the mutation existed 3000 years before the emergence of the modern scourge remains a riddle, says the leader of the team that discovered the unexpectedly old lineage of the mutation, known as R5. ... According to Susanne Hummel, a molecular anthropologist with the University of Gottingen in Germany, R5 probably appeared as a result of random genetic changes and selective pressure from a disease associated with rheumatoid arthritis. 'But that's just a speculation,' said Dr Hummel, who presented her team's findings yesterday at DNA7, an international conference on ancient DNA held at the University of Queensland. Previously, scientists suggested that R5 arose in the Middle Ages and protected people from either smallpox or the Black Death, bubonic plague. But Dr Hummel and her colleagues found the protective mutation in four of 17 skeletons from a burial site in Lichtenstein Cave. The skeletons were among a collection of 40 - dating to about 900BC - excavated by Stephan Flindt, a government archaeologist. Further genetic analysis showed that the mutation had to be 'much older' than 3000 years, said Dr Hummel whose group also studied genetic material from 72 skeletons exhumed from four 14th-century German burials. Those graves included a mass grave for victims of the Black Death, a famine mass grave and two 'control' burial sites not associated with disease or famine. The mutations appear to either prevent infection altogether or slow the progression of AIDS symptoms. ..."
Hawking Changes Mind, Now Thinks Black Holes CAN Leak Information...
New Scientist reports on July 14th that "After nearly 30 years of arguing that a black hole destroys everything that falls into it, Stephen Hawking is saying he was wrong. It seems that black holes may after all allow information within them to escape. Hawking will present his latest finding at a conference in Ireland next week. The about-turn might cost Hawking, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, an encyclopaedia because of a bet he made in 1997. More importantly, it might solve one of the long-standing puzzles in modern physics, known as the black hole information paradox. ..."
Tourists not flocking to see "UFO Fragment" Tested at New Mexico Tech ...
Knight Ridder Newspapers reported on June 21st that "Bob White is convinced his story deserves a grand stage, that his most-prized possession should be displayed before a national audience. It should draw tourists from all over the country, he figures, and be a major attraction for people who want to see an artifact that White swears was retrieved from a UFO in 1985. Instead, White's find is in tiny Reeds Spring in southwest Missouri, secured in a locked display case at the back of a converted video rental store. Here at the Museum of the Unexplained, a small, fledgling operation that during a recent morning went more than three hours without a customer. White can't figure it out. ... White has had the item tested several times, hoping for some answers. The Nevada-based National Institute for Discovery Science in 1996 sent a sample of the object to the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. 'The metallurgical analysis was pretty mundane,' said Colm Kelleher, a scientist who runs the day-to-day operations of the National Institute for Discovery Science. 'We didn't find any evidence that it was extraterrestrial.' ..."
N.M. Supreme Court says Polygraphs CAN be used as evidence...
KOB TV reported on July 14th that "The state Supreme Court has ruled that polygraph test results can continue to be used as evidence in New Mexico courts. New Mexico has allowed the use of lie detector results in courts for decades. However, the Supreme Court has been considering whether to change its rule. In a 30-page ruling, the court reaffirmed its rule and said polygraph test results are sufficiently reliable to be used as evidence in trials. The state attorney generals office had argued that polygraph tests were unsound science and should be excluded as evidence. The Supreme Court makes rules for other New Mexico courts to follow. The courts ruling came in five consolidated criminal cases. In a trial, polygraphs are sometimes uses to verify the truthfulness of witnesses and their testimony. ..."
Posted July 11th 2004
Early Universe shows First Galaxies had Short Adolescence...
SpaceRef.com reports on July 7th that "A rare glimpse back in time into the universe's early evolution has revealed something startling: mature, fully formed galaxies where scientists expected to discover little more than infants. 'Up until now, we assumed that galaxies were just beginning to form between 8 and 11 billion years ago, but what we found suggests that that is not the case,' said Karl Glazebrook, associate professor of physics and astronomy in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and co-principal author of a paper in the July 8 issue of Nature. 'It seems that an unexpectedly large fraction of stars in big galaxies were already in place early in the universe's formation, and that challenges what we've believed. We thought massive galaxies came much later.' ..."
Evidence of Complex Life found from Tens of Millions of Years BEFORE the Cambrian...
China Daily reports on June 14th that "A team of Chinese and USs scientists ay they have discovered 10 fossils of the world's earliest bilaterian animal that lived some 580 million years ago. The fossils, which they say provides valuable clues on the origin of early life, are only 0.2 millimetre long. ... Chen [Junyuan], a researcher with the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, said this find has advanced the recorded existence of bilaterian fossils by 40 to 55 million years. Their findings were published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Science. ... Chen's team's new discoveries from the Doushantuo Formation in the Weng'an Biota provide the first evidence confirming the hypothesis that bilaterian animals appeared well before the Cambrian. 'It is exciting because fossils of bilaterian animals have been found to be common in the strata of Cambrian Period, but little trace has been found prior to that time, although researchers worldwide tend to believe that they may lie somewhere else in the world,' Chen said. ..."
Narcanon/Scientology Drug Program investigated as 'Pseudoscience'...
The LA Independent reported on July 4th that "Los Angeles school district officials are reviewing a controversial anti-drug program created by the founder of the Church of Scientology and its teaching of what critics are calling 'pseudo science.' The Narconon Drug Prevention and Education is being scrutinized as part of a growing statewide concern with a program that reaches thousands of students in at least 20 California districts and has provided lectures in schools across the country for two decades. Narconon officials last week defended the programs effectiveness and its independence from Scientology, even as State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack OConnell asked a research group known for its rigorous reviews of health curriculum to spend three months evaluating Narconon. In Los Angeles, among the leading critics of the program is Maria Reza, the district's assistant superintendent of student health and human services, who recently issued a memo to all schools stating, 'The information that is delivered in [Narconon's] presentations is not based on science, and there have been serious questions raised about the accuracy of this information.' According to the memo, one-time lectures like the kind Narconon provides, 'are not effective.'... "
Henry Gee: There is no single "Flagellum Design"...
In a July 7th, 2004 Nature commentary titled "The Tyranny of Design," Henry Gee writes about the conclusions of reproductive biologist Jack Cohen . Gee notes "Cohen argues that the fallacy in the Intelligent-Design argument about the flagellar motor (or any other system), is that proponents present the motor we see as The Motor, the exemplar, the only one possible, and, what's more the best possible, surely optimized by a Designing Hand. But when Cohen searched the literature, he found that a wide variety of flagellar motors have been described, each arranged in its own way, each its own solution to effective rotary motion in the microworld. There is no such thing as The Motor, no Platonic perfection enforced on bacteria by Divine fiat. Instead we see ad hoc solutions that are not perfect, but idiosyncratic and eclectic just what you would expect if evolution were working on its own, without a Designer. ..."
Posted June 25th 2004
Prayer Study in Shambles ...
The Scientist reported on June 14th that "The Journal of Reproductive Medicine has withdrawn from its Web site a September 2001 study that demonstrated the benefits of prayer on fertility treatments, following recent concerns raised by the research community about the validity of the results. One of the three authors of the paper is a lawyer and psychic researcher who last month pleaded guilty in a Pennsylvania court to a number of charges, including using phony identities and defrauding the cable company Adelphia Communications of more than $1 million. ... Bruce Flamm, an obstetrician/gynecologist based at Kaiser Permanente and the University of California at Irvine, told The Scientist he had doubts about the study the moment he read it. 'Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence,' he said, but the methods used were 'bewildering,' requiring different tiers of prayer groups asking for different outcomes, rather than a simple prayer/no prayer design. ..."
Anti-Creationism Protests at Brit School...
The BBC reports on June 21st that "Parents and pupils have staged a protest over plans to have their school taken over by a foundation that promotes the teaching of creationism. Northcliffe School in Conisbrough, near Doncaster, was judged to be failing by school inspectors earlier this year. Now the Emmanuel Schools Foundation wants to turn the school into its fourth college in the north. ... The foundation is part of the Vardy Foundation, set up by entrepreneur Sir Peter Vardy, who made his fortune with a chain of car dealerships. Sir Peter, a committed Christian, has defended the way that the foundation's schools present both the Bible account of creation and the Darwinian theory of species evolving over time. ... Some parents, students, teachers, governors and other worker at the school held a public protest on Saturday, with banners saying 'save our schools'. ..."
Toddler Turns Up with "Superman" Gene...
The Daily Camera (Colorado) reported on June 23rd that "Somewhere in Germany is a baby Superman, born in Berlin with bulging arm and leg muscles. Not yet 5, he can hold seven-pound weights with arms extended, something many adults cannot do. He has muscles twice the size of other kids his age and half their body fat. DNA testing showed why: The boy has a genetic mutation that boosts muscle growth. The discovery, reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, represents the first documented human case of such a mutation. ..."
"Free Electricity" Promoter Dennis Lee to return to New Mexico...
For years, Dennis Lee has raked in money from people willing to believe he will give them electric power generators that produce more power than is needed to operate them. It's no surprise that Lee has never demonstrated this marvelous technology publicly - such a "perpetual motion" machine is impossible, according to thermodynamics. The promised mass demonstrations of this device all over the country have never materialized (July 4th, 2002, Dec. 28th, 2002), and there's not much talk any more about the demonstration slated for 4th of July 2004. Every two or three years, however, Lee tours the country giving evangelistic "Free Electricity" tent revivals, making new converts, and collecting fees for promised "dealerships." The last time he was in New Mexico, Attorney General Patricia Madrid slapped a Temporary Restraining Order on him.
Lee's supporters have announced a new national tour. Lee is expected to visit New Mexico sometime between October 9th- November 1st, 2004. Stay tuned to NMSR News for details of the tour. If you've never seen an honest-to-God snake oil salesman, you might consider attending one of Dennis Lee's tour shows.
Past Lee Tours in New Mexico (1996, 1999, 2001):
Rev. Sun Myung Moon is Crowned as "Messiah" in Senate's Dirksen Office Building...
The Hill (Wash. DC) reports on June 22nd that "Coronations are not everyday occurrences on Capitol Hill the Capitol being the peoples house, an indelible symbol of the republic, etc. So its odd that a man was crowned in the Dirksen Senate Office Building earlier this year in the presence of several lawmakers and that the event is only now drawing attention. It appears that at least some lawmakers were drawn to the event unaware of what would happen and who would be there. Others who the organizers claim were present say they were not. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, former felon and current owner of The Washington Times, was the man in the spotlight, declaring himself humanitys 'savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.' The event, which took place March 23, was sponsored by the Washington Times Foundation and the International Interreligious Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), a Moon-led group. Present at different points during the event were Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Sen. Mark Dayton (R-Minn.). ..."
No mention is made of attendance at the messiah coronation by Jonathan Wells, a Senior Fellow of the leading Intelligent Design group, the Discovery Institute (http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=41&isFellow=true). It's well known that Wells undertook his career in biology specifically to undermine "Darwinism," as he was directed decades ago by Rev. Moon: "Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle. ..."
See Also: http://www.nmsr.org/jonwells.htm
Posted June 18th 2004
Did Reagan believe in science over superstition?
Commemorating the recent death of former president Ronald Reagan, Will Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote on June 13th that "... Although his enemies delighted in caricaturing Reagan as a dimwit, he was in fact an educated and literate man. He graduated from college with a degree in economics and he loved to read. He read his favorite book on wolves so many times as a boy, Reagan recalled in his memoirs, that he could still recite it word for word. His recently published personal letters reveal an articulate, skilled and thoughtful writer. A line from the 1964 speech that launched his political career reflects how much he had benefited from the liberal education he received at Eureka College. 'We are faced,' Reagan said, speaking of the threat of international communism, 'with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars.' The dedicated opposition to totalitarianism at the heart of this remark is hardly surprising, but the implicit endorsement of evolution would surely flabbergast the 57 percent of Americans who told the Gallup Poll in 2001 they preferred the theory of "creationism" to explain human origins. Thirty-three percent preferred evolution. Reagan's assumption that human beings did not appear in one magical moment reflects his generation's belief in science over superstition. The triumph of 'junk science' and the packing of government scientific commissions with ideologues is even more disturbing. Throughout history, the consequences of replacing objective science -- that is, the best explanation of the facts, no matter how unwise the implications -- with predetermined conclusions have been disastrous...."
In later years, however, President Reagan said otherwise. In the 1980 Presidential campaign, Reagan said this about evolution: "Well, it's a theory--it is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science and is not yet believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it was once believed."
Baffling New Subatomic Particle is Detected...
Physics Web reported on June 18th that "The SELEX collaboration at Fermilab in the US has discovered a new sub-atomic particle that consists of a strange quark and a charm antiquark (arXiv.org/abs/hep-ex/0406045). In addition to being the heaviest so-called heavy-light meson ever detected, the new particle also decays in ways not predicted by theory. The results will be presented at Fermilab today. ..."
Texas State GOP Goes Gaga for Intelligent Design ...
The Republican Party of Texas ratified its party platform on June 11th. In a section on "Scientific Theories," the platform dictates that "The Party supports the objective teaching and equal treatment of scientific strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories, including Intelligent Design as Texas law now requires but has yet to enforce. The Party believes theories of life origins and environmental theories should be taught only as theories not fact; that social studies and other curriculum should not be based on any one theory. ..."
See Also: "Texas GOP says U.S. is Christian
Gene for Promiscuity Found, Altered in Small Mammals...
Nature reported on June 17th "Could gene therapy cure promiscuous behaviour? Want to tame the eye of a philandering love rat? Then help is at hand. New research shows that gene therapy can turn promiscuous male voles into faithful bedfellows. Miranda Lim from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues used a virus to introduce a gene directly into the brain of male meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus). The gene encodes a protein called the vasopressin receptor, which helps to regulate social behaviour and pair bonding. A few days later, the normally promiscuous rodents developed high levels of vasopressin receptors and lost their lust for the ladies. The results are reported in this week's Nature. ..."
"Beam Me Up, Scotty" now an atom closer to reality...
Physics Web reported on June 16th that "Physicists in Austria and the US have independently demonstrated quantum teleportation with atoms for the first time. Until now, teleportation had only ever been observed with photons. The results could represent a major step towards building a large-scale quantum computer. ..."
Posted June 11th 2004
Cassini nearing the Lord of the Rings...
CNN reports on June 4th that "Saturn and its rings are growing large in the view of the international Cassini spacecraft, which is nearing a rendezvous with the giant planet after years of travel across the solar system. Cassini, carrying the European-built Huygens probe, was about 9.9 million miles from Saturn on Thursday, and officials said all was well with the $3 billion mission. 'The objective of the Cassini-Huygens (mission) is very simple: It's to allow us to rewrite the story of the lord of the rings,' Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Charles Elachi quipped at a news conference televised from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. ..."
And, NMSR's own Idaho-based pundit Gary Bennett wrote in the June 9th Florida Today that "Cassini almost didn't happen. A small band of anti-nuclear zealots, some operating out of Florida, misrepresented the risks of launching Cassini with its nuclear power sources. I was involved in the development of the nuclear power sources currently in use on Cassini. This was necessary because Saturn is so far from the Sun that only nuclear power can drive the research mission's scientific instruments. The human race is indeed fortunate that wiser heads prevailed, choosing science over the self-aggrandizing claims of modern day Luddites. ..."
NCSE's Branch goes after Intelligent Design...
Glenn Branch of the NCSE writes in the current issue of Seed Magazine that "As a would-be intellectually respectable form of anti-evolutionism, intelligent design is not without its successes; its advocates publish a steady stream of articles and books, aimed at a popularusually religiously and politically conservativeaudience. Yet it is scientifically vacuous: Intelligent design is virtually absent from the peer-reviewed scientific research literature. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, its advocates are now increasingly disavowing any intention of adding intelligent design to science curricula. Instead, like creation scientists, they call for 'teaching the controversy.' ...
Venus Transit ...
With just under 8 years to go till the next transit of Venus, take a moment to view images of Tuesday's spectacular astronomical event.
Chimp Species nearing extinction?
ABC News and Reuters reported on June 8th that "Humanity's closest relative the chimpanzee could be extinct in around 50 years because it is hunted for meat and threatened by deforestation and disease, researchers said on Tuesday. Only 8,000 remain of the most vulnerable chimpanzee subspecies, the Pan troglodytes vellerosus, which is found predominantly in Nigeria, and it could be extinct in two decades, according to a study. ..."
Meanwhile, a New Species Takes the Stage...
The BBC reports on June 9th that "Scientists at the University of Arizona may have witnessed the birth of a new species for the first time. Biologists Laura Reed and Prof Therese Markow made the discovery by observing breeding patterns of fruit flies that live on rotting cacti in deserts. The work could help scientists identify the genetic changes that lead one species to evolve into two species. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ..."
"Dirty Bomb" would have been a "Dud," Scientists say...
The Associated Press reported on June 9th that "The 'dirty bomb' allegedly planned by terror suspect Jose Padilla would have been a dud, not the radiological threat portrayed last week by federal authorities, scientists say. At a June 1 news conference, the Justice Department said the alleged al-Qaida associate hoped to attack Americans by detonating 'uranium wrapped with explosives' in order to spread radioactivity. But uranium's extremely low radioactivity is harmless compared with high-radiation materials such as cesium and cobalt isotopes used in medicine and industry that experts see as potential dirty bomb fuels. 'I used a 20-pound brick of uranium as a doorstop in my office,' American nuclear physicist Peter D. Zimmerman, of King's College in London, said to illustrate the point. Zimmerman, co-author of an expert analysis of dirty bombs for the U.S. National Defense University, said last week's government announcement was 'extremely disturbing because you cannot make a radiological dispersal device with uranium. There is just no significant radiation hazard.' ..."
The BBC reported on June 6th that "A scientist says he may have found remains of the lost city of Atlantis. Satellite photos of southern Spain reveal features on the ground appearing to match descriptions made by Greek scholar Plato of the fabled utopia. Dr Rainer Kuehne thinks the 'island' of Atlantis simply referred to a region of the southern Spanish coast destroyed by a flood between 800 BC and 500 BC. ..."
Posted June 4th 2004
ID is Bible-Based Creationism - More Proof...
An Intelligent Design (ID) Conference set for June 24-25 in Highlands, North Carolina includes a Youth Conference as well. Here is where the real purpose of ID is revealed :
Conference Purpose: To introduce Jr. and Sr. High Youth to two worldviews. 1. The secular worldview which is humanistic in nature placing man at the center of all philosophy. 2. The Biblical worldview which looks to the Bible as the ultimate authority of all truth. What to Bring: Casual clothing, recreation equipment (hiking, softball, and swimming are options), Bible.
IDs leading biochemist, Dr. Michael Behe, is a presenter at the youth conference. (But , hes not a creationist. Yeah, right.)
Jaroff takes on Outrageous Psychic Claims...
Leon Jaroff, in commentary in the May 26th TIME Magazine, writes "Whenever I begin to feel that Ive been too hard on so-called psychics, my feelings of guilt are quickly assuaged by still another example of psychic nonsense. This time it involved American Airlines Flight 1304, scheduled to take 128 passengers from Fort Myers, Florida, to Dallas earlier this year. Shortly before passengers were to board, police with bomb-sniffing dogs arrived and began searching the plane from nose to tail. By the time their efforts were concluded, some of the crew members had exceeded their maximum time on duty. No immediate replacements were available, so the flight was cancelled, leaving passengers scrambling to find other planes. Why all the fuss? An unnamed psychic, sensing that a bomb was on the plane, had telephoned her hunch to the local office of the federal Transportation Security Administration, which foolishly ordered the search. But the Feds arent alone in their folly. The U.S. is awash in psychics these days, and the public is eating it up. ..."
New Type of Gene found lurking in 'Junk' DNA...
Yahoo/Reuters report on June 2nd that "Junk DNA may not be so useless after all. Scientists coined the term to describe the genetic wasteland within the human genome, or book of life, which consists of long uncharted stretches of DNA for which there is no known function. But researchers from Harvard Medical School (news - web sites) in the United States said on Wednesday that within junk DNA in the yeast genome they have discovered a new class of gene. Unlike other genes, the new one does not produce a protein or enzyme to carry out its function. But when it is turned on, it regulates a neighboring gene. 'This doesn't explain all junk DNA. It gives a potential use for some junk DNA,' Professor Fred Winston, who headed the research team, said in an interview. 'I cannot think of another regulatory gene such as this one,' he added. ..."
"Evidence Against Evolution"Bid Fails in Roseville, CA...
The Roseville Press Tribune reported on June 2 that "Nearly a full year after initial discussions took place, the Roseville Joint Union School District board of trustees voted Tuesday against passing a resolution that mandated that arguments against evolution be presented in the science classroom. The Quality Science Education Policy, originally proposed by Granite Bay lawyer and parent Larry Caldwell and later revised by board president Dean Forman, was supported only by Forman and board member Kelly Lafferty on Tuesday evening. Board members Jim Joiner, Jan Pinney and Gary Kidder voted against passing the resolution. ... Forman suggested several changes to his previously revised policy. He proposed the board strike the requirement that each school establish an Evolution Resource Center in its libraries and that the policy be changed to a resolution. As he did so, board member Pinney interrupted with a resounding 'No,' stating despite any changes made to the policy he and the teachers would feel the same: that it implied a distrust of their methods and capabilities of giving students in the district a quality science education. 'We need [teachers] with us, not against us,' he said during his comments to the board. 'They have spoken with one voice.' When the board cast its final vote shortly afterward, many in attendance leapt to their feet, screaming and cheering for the board's decision. New to the discussion Tuesday was a petition to the board signed by 28 of the district's 32 science teachers, expressed strong disagreement with the QSE policy. ..."
Intercessory Prayer Study Falls Apart...
Bob Park of the American Physical Society reports on June 4th that "Three years ago, Columbia U. researchers reported in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine that in-vitro fertilization is twice as likely to result in pregnancy if the women are prayed for by a group of total strangers, even though the women are unaware of being prayed for. ... No one, of course, ever replicated the study. But meanwhile, one of the coauthors has been exposed as a con-man. Daniel Wirth, J.D. (not MD), is known in alternative-medicine circles for his studies of Non-contact Therapeutic Touch on wound healing. ... On 18 May 04, Wirth reportedly pled guilty to fraud charges in Federal Court for his role in bilking troubled Adelphia Communications out of $2M. The senior author on the prayer paper, Rogerio Lobo, Chairman of the Columbia Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, now says he provided only 'editorial asistance.' Bruce Flamm, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics at UC Irvine, who relates this incredible tale of academic chicanery in Skeptik magazine, says the third author, Kwang Cha, has left Columbia and isnt talking. ..."
Posted May 28th 2004
Cold Fusion Proponent Murdered ...
In a turn of events that will probably fuel conspiracy rumors for some time to come, cold fusion proponent Eugene Mallove of New Hampshire was found murdered in Norwich, Connecticut on Friday, May 14, 2004. The Norwich (CT) Bulletin reported on May 17th that "News of the death of a prominent scientist from New Hampshire in Norwich Friday has spread across the country, prompting a flood of condolences -- along with some conspiracy theories. Few new details have been released about the circumstances of the death of Dr. Eugene F. Mallove, 56, formerly of Norwich. ... Mallove, who lived in Pembroke, N.H., was discovered Friday shortly before 11 p.m. at a family-owned home at 119 Salem Turnpike, which he was at one time renting to tenants, according to neighbors. His death was ruled a homicide by blunt force trauma to his head and neck, according to the report by the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner. Police said the assault occurred during a suspected robbery. ..."
"Infinite Energy" Mallove tribute page: http://www.infinite-energy.com/whoarewe/gene.html
Ape/Human Differences Could Be Due to Small Genetic Changes...
Maggie Fox of Reuters reported on May 26th that "Tiny genetic changes add up to huge differences when human DNA is compared to that of chimpanzees, researchers said on Wednesday in a report that explains how people and apes can be so close, yet so far apart. Genetically, chimpanzees are 98.5 percent identical to humans. But the differences between the species are clearly profound and geneticists have been laboring to find out how such subtle variations in DNA can be so important. 'Clearly, the genomic differences between humans and chimps are much more complicated than conventional wisdom has portrayed,' Asao Fujiyama of the RIKEN Genomic Sciences Center in Yokohama, Japan, and colleagues in Japan, Taiwan and China wrote in their report, published in this week's issue of the journal Nature. The comparison will help understand disease and also help in comparing one person's genetic sequence to another by helping to set a 'base' genetic sequence that can be used to determine the individual human variations in DNA. ..."
See Also: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99995044
Gaia Guru: Nuclear power the only Green solution ...
Scientist James Lovelock is the creator of the Gaia hypothesis of the Earth as a self-regulating organism. In May 24th commentary in the Independent (UK), he writes "We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger ...Sir David King, the Government's chief scientist, was far-sighted to say that global warming is a more serious threat than terrorism. He may even have underestimated, because, since he spoke, new evidence of climate change suggests it could be even more serious, and the greatest danger that civilisation has faced so far. ... What makes global warming so serious and so urgent is that the great Earth system, Gaia, is trapped in a vicious circle of positive feedback. ... Global warming, like a fire, is accelerating and almost no time is left to act. So what should we do? ... But with six billion, and growing, few options remain; we can not continue drawing energy from fossil fuels and there is no chance that the renewables, wind, tide and water power can provide enough energy and in time. ... By all means, let us use the small input from renewables sensibly, but only one immediately available source does not cause global warming and that is nuclear energy. ... The Green lobbies, which should have given priority to global warming, seem more concerned about threats to people than with threats to the Earth, not noticing that we are part of the Earth and wholly dependent upon its well being. ... Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources. We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Nearly one third of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all pervasive carcinogen, oxygen. If we fail to concentrate our minds on the real danger, which is global warming, we may die even sooner, as did more than 20,000 unfortunates from overheating in Europe last summer. ..."
Speaking of Global Warming, the Day After Tomorrow is a lot of "Hot Air"...
In May 24th commentary in USA Today, Patrick J. Michaels writes "As a scientist, I bristle when lies dressed up as 'science' are used to influence political discourse. The latest example is the global-warming disaster flick, The Day After Tomorrow. This film is propaganda designed to shift the policy of this nation on climate change. At least that's what I take from producer Mark Gordon's comment that 'part of the reason we made this movie' was to 'raise consciousness about the environment.' ... Oh, the plot. Global warming causes the Gulf Stream to shut down. This current normally brings tropical warmth northward and makes Europe much more comfortable than it should be at its northerly latitude. The heat stays stuck in the tropics, the polar regions get colder, and the atmosphere suddenly flips over in a 'superstorm.' The frigid stratosphere trades places with our habitable troposphere, and in a matter of days, an ice age ensues. Temperatures drop 100 degrees an hour in Canada. Hurricanes ravage Belfast. Folks in Japan are clobbered by bowling-ball-size hailstones. If we had only listened to concerned scientists and stopped global warming when we could. Each one of these phenomena is physically impossible. Start with the Gulf Stream. Carl Wunsch, a professor of physical oceanography at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, knows more about ocean currents than most anyone. He thinks the nonsense in The Day After Tomorrow detracts from the seriousness of the global-warming issue. So he recently wrote in the prestigious science journal Nature that the scenario depicted in the movie requires one to 'turn off the wind system, or to stop the Earth's rotation, or both.' ..."
But, the Day After Tomorrow Site kindly provides its own Rebuttal...
A link from the official movie site takes you to "DayAfterTomorrowFacts.org," which offers up some scenarios a bit less wild than the ones in the movie. Here's an example:
In the film, tornadoes whip through Los Angeles and New York is buried by a storm surge of Biblical proportions all in a matter of days. Could an eco-Armageddon really happen so quickly with these effects?
No. When scientists refer to abrupt changes in the earth's climate, they are generally referring to changes that occur over a 10- to 20-year time horizon, not a week to 10 days.
Posted May 21st 2004
Skeptic crashes UFO COnvention, Sort Of...
Mark Baker of The Register-Guard (Oregon) reported on May 15th that "It would take us 'Earth People' an incomprehensible amount of time, more lifetimes than have ever been lived, to travel to their world, a place known as Pleiades. But it only takes them seven minutes to get here. Hard to believe? Not if you're Michael Horn and have spent 25 years investigating the outrageous claims of Billy Meier, a Swiss man who says he's had contact with beings from another planet. ... Maybe Horn should have a close encounter with Robert Sheaffer, the San Diego software developer and Skeptical Inquirer writer invited to Oregon this week by Oregonians for Rationality, a nonprofit organization formed about 10 years ago to combat the wild claims of UFO fanatics and all things paranormal. Sheaffer, who has spent 25 years himself studying UFOs, as a skeptic, will give a free talk today at the Eugene Water & Electric Board. 'Some people would like to believe in something that's fun and exciting,' Sheaffer says of UFO enthusiasts, 'although it might not be true. But the more you look into (these claims) in a rigorous sense, the less scientifically believable they are.' ... Sheaffer also spoke Thursday in McMinnville, near where the 5th Annual UFO Festival, the nation's second-largest annual gathering of UFO fans began Friday and continues today and Sunday. And it is no coincidence that Sheaffer, 54 and the author of the 1998 book "UFO Sightings: The Evidence," was invited to speak in McMinnville and Eugene this weekend, says Jeanine DeNoma, an Oregon State University agricultural researcher and member of Oregonians for Rationality. Although he wanted to, Sheaffer says he was not invited to speak at the UFO Festival itself. UFO fanatics do not like skeptics knocking their claims and theories out of the sky, so to speak, he says. Sheaffer's talk in Eugene will focus on the famous Trent case, one of the first widely publicized UFO sightings that happened in McMinnville in 1950. The photographs, taken with an old folding-box camera, show a flying saucer-like object spinning over Paul Trent's farm. Robert Sheaffer's talk in Eugene will focus on a 1950 McMinnville case, some of the first publicized UFO photos. And there's no better time to talk unidentified flying objects, with sightings recently reported in Mexico and a UFO festival being held in Oregon. ..."
GIANT Skeleton "Found" in Saudi Arabia...
The New Nation (Bangladesh) had an article on April 22nd in which Saalim Alvi from Riyadh wrote "Recently gas exploration is going in the desert of south east region of Saudi Arabia. ... this body [you MUST go to the site to see the picture!] has been found by ARAMCO exploration team. This proves what Allah SWT said in QURAN about the people of AAD nation and HOOD nation. They were so tall, wide and very power full that they were able to pull out big trees just with the one hand. But what happen after when they become misguided and disobeys Allah SWT, Allah SWT destroyed the whole nation. ULEMA KIRAM of Saudi Arabia believes that this body belongs to AAD nation. Saudi military took over this whole area. And nobody is allowed to go in this region except Saudi ARAMCO personnel's. Saudi government has kept it very secret but some military helicopters took pictures from air. And one of them he runs on internet here in Saudi Arabia. ..."
(Printer-Friendly: http://nation.ittefaq.com/artman/publish/printer_8519.shtml )
Now, before giving up your career in biology or paleontology, please check out this web page, titled "Archaeological Anomalies 2", and scroll down to the fourth image:
Yes, pictures ARE worth a thousand words... ;)
New Sauropod has Funny Skull ...
The Billings Gazette (Montana) reported on May 21st that "A curious piece of bone spotted by a University of Pennsylvania professor in southern Montana led to the discovery of a new dinosaur with a long neck, a whiplike tail and a mysterious extra hole in its skull. The new find - a Suuwassea emilieae - is a sauropod, a classification of plant-eating dinosaurs with long necks and tails, small heads, and four elephant-like legs. At 50 feet long, it's a smaller cousin of better-known sauropods Diplodocus and Apatosaurus. The director of the Hi-Line's Judith River Dinosaur Institute says he plans to spend part of July unearthing a fossil similar to, and possibly more complete than the discovery unveiled Wednesday. ..."
Creationism Bill Fails in Missouri...
The Sun News of the Northland (Missouri) reported on the end of the legislative session there on May 20th, writing that "Reps. Annie Reinhart and Phillips, both Republicans, did not get approval to have 'intelligent design' taught alongside evolution in public school science classes. The two co-sponsored House bill 911 - filed Dec. 19., before the session started - to increase the chance of passage. Phillips said she did not know what happened to the bill. 'I think the sponsor (Wayne Cooper) did something else with it,' Phillips said. 'He had a revision or something.' House Deputy Minority Whip Dan Bishop, during a break in the session, left the House floor to say the bill - despite the early effort to win approval - simply died in committee. 'With this being an election year, it was perceived as too hot to handle by the Republican leadership, I'm guessing,' Bishop said. ..."
Posted May 14th 2004
New Mexico - Ultraslow Neutron Capitol of the World...
Sue Vorenberg of the Albuquerque Tribune reported on May 10 that "Scientists are hoping to speed their understanding of the universe by creating many ultraslow particles. The tiny particles - part of every atom in the universe - let physicists experiment with the fundamental properties of matter. Called ultracold neutrons, the particles have been notoriously hard to make in large quantities. But a new device invented at Los Alamos National Laboratories is changing that, said Andy Saunders, a lab scientist. Saunders and other scientists from the lab and several universities have created a machine that attaches to a superconductor and makes up to 100 times more ultracold neutrons than any other technology. ..."
Rollout of Genetically Modified Wheat "Delayed" ...
Alex Kirby of the BBC reported on May 11th that "Both sides in the bitterly contested debate over genetically modified crops are making the utmost of Monsanto's decision to stop marketing GM wheat. The biotech industry maintains this is simply a deferment, a minor hold-up in the onward march of GM technology. Its opponents say Monsanto's decision is highly significant, showing how hard it is to get shoppers to buy GM food. This time the facts tend to support the opposition: the cold logic of commerce means GM wheat's prospects look dim. ..."
New Mexico wins "X-Prize Cup" Hosting Rights...
USA Today reported on May 11th that "New Mexico has been selected as the host for the X Prize Cup, a competition to achieve the first privately funded manned spaceflight, Gov. Bill Richardson announced. The governor said the state won over Florida, California and Oklahoma in the competition to host the event, designed to showcase the capabilities of reusable launch vehicles. Richardson, who planned a formal announcement on Tuesday, said the state 'has emphatically established itself as a worldwide leader in space commercialization.' The X Prize competition will give $10 million to the first company or person to successfully launch a manned craft to 62.5 miles above the Earth, then do it again within two weeks. ..."
See Also: http://www.xprize.org/
Mexican Air Force films "UFO's"...
Station KTVU (Bay Area) reported on May 12th that "Mexican air force pilots filmed 11 bright, rapidly moving objects in the skies that an expert said proved the existence of UFOs, but defense officials said Wednesday no conclusions had been reached about the objects' origins. A videotape aired Monday on national television showed a series of brilliant objects flying at more than 11,480 feet over southern Campeche state. The tape was filmed March 5 by air force pilots using a video camera equipped with an infrared lens. The objects appear to accelerate rapidly and change course suddenly. At least one crew member testified in a videotaped interview that the objects encircled the military jet at a distance of at least two miles. The pilots spotted the objects while conducting a routine drug-surveillance mission. Only three of the objects showed up on the plane's radar. ..."
Permian-Triassic extinction... has the Smoking Crater been Found?
CNN reported on May 14th that "Scientists said Thursday they think the greatest extinction of plant and animal life may have been caused by a meteor that slammed into an area off what is now the coast of northwestern Australia 250 million years ago. The mass extinction known as the "Great Dying" -- which took place long before the dinosaurs died off 65 million years ago -- has been known to scientists for decades. But a team led by geologist Luann Becker from the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in an article published Thursday in the journal Science that the Australian crater contains evidence of the impact of a meteor 4 to 7 miles wide about the time of the Great Dying. 'We think we have at least identified what is a huge impact crater,' Becker said. The first evidence of what is now known as Bedout crater, which is 100 miles off the coast, was gathered in a core sample from the raised rim of the crater on the floor of the Indian Ocean by a small Australian company looking for oil in 1970. ..."
LodeStar one of only two National Sites for movie "The Search for Life: Are We Alone?"...
Editorial commentary in the May 11 Albuquerque Tribune noted that "...the cutting-edge LodeStar planetarium has pulled off a remarkable feat for Albuquerque and New Mexico. Beginning this Saturday in the LodeStar planetarium, you will be able to see an engaging, soul-searching, star-studded, 3-D film, 'The Search for Life: Are We Alone?' Better yet, tickets this weekend will cost half-price for seven performances on the hour, beginning at 10 a.m. If you can, see it with the family - if not this weekend, as soon as you can. ... The film is a perfect antidote as well to that recurring itch to argue for "creationism," which some school districts and state school boards state have a hard time not scratching. The film should be mandatory viewing for all public school officials and meddling legislators. 'The Search for Life' is recommended viewing for all who truly want to understand who we are, where we are, how life took hold and evolved on Earth and what the chances are that life exists out there, in what's all around us, as far as the eye can see. ..."
More Info: http://www.lodestar.unm.edu/
Posted May 7th 2004
UFO Flap in Iran...
Reuters reported on April 28th that "Is Iran about to be invaded by little green men or are the Americans racing through the night sky in spaceships to spy on the Islamic Republic? Flying saucer fever has gripped Iran after dozens of sightings in the last few days. Fanciful cartoons of alien spacecraft have adorned the front pages. State television on Wednesday showed a sparkling white disc it said was filmed over Tehran on Tuesday night. ..."
A Gluten for Punishment ...
The Washington Post reported on May 4th "Organic! All-Natural! Fat-free! Cholesterol-free! Gluten-free! Bromate-free! These days, ads are packed with scads of scientific-sounding claims. But are they true? Or are they 100 percent fact-free? William Speed Weed, a science writer with a sly wit, spent a day last fall recording every scientific claim he encountered in stores, in ads, in newspapers and on TV, radio and the Internet. Then he enlisted experts to help him evaluate their veracity. Now he has published the results in an entertaining article in the May issue of Popular Science. The cover line suggests his findings: 'Hogwashed: All the Science Baloney You Get Dished in a Day.' 'Very few of the 100 claims I encountered proved completely true,' Weed writes. 'A good number were patently false.' ..."
Darby Voters "Just Say NO!" to "Objective Origins" Policies...
The Billings Gazette (Montana) reported on May 6th that "Voters in Darby have rejected two school board candidates, including one incumbent, who had supported a controversial science policy known as 'objective origins.' ...In Darby, controversy surrounding the school board's adoption of a policy that emphasizes the teaching of 'objective origins' theories figured prominently in the school board election. The board in February approved the new policy, which critics say is nothing more than creationism. Voters on Tuesday swept board chairwoman Gina Schallenberger, a supporter of the policy, from office, replacing her with Erik Abrahamsen, who campaigned against teaching objective origins theories. Abrahamsen and Bob Wetzsteon, an incumbent board member who opposed the policy, soundly defeated Schallenberger and a fourth candidate, Robert House, who had supported objective origins. Some Darby parents opposed to the policy have threatened to sue the school district, but said Tuesday's election could make any lawsuit moot. ..."
Nudist Oglers Rock the Boat...
This is not about science, but I got a good belly laugh from the story,and am passing it on for your amusement. The AP reported on May 3rd that "Partygoers apparently hoping to catch a glimpse of nude sunbathers crowded on one side of a floating barge, prompting the ship to capsize and dump all 60 people into Lake Travis. Two people were hospitalized with minor injuries Sunday after the rented double-decker barge sank near Hippie Hollow, a lakeside park and the only public nude beach in Texas. The accident occurred during Splash Day, a semiannual event hosted at the clothing-optional area by the Austin Tavern Guild, a gay and lesbian bar association. ..."
Posted April 30th 2004
Inorganic "cells" whipped up in Lab..
Nature reports on April 28th that "It is an experiment you could do in a school chemistry lab. But it produces weird growths that, although made purely from inorganic materials, share some of the characteristics of living organisms. Most chemical mixtures quickly settle into an unchanging state. So the fact that dynamic cell-like structures can arise spontaneously from a simple mixture is a surprise, says Jerzy Maselko of the University of Alaska in Anchorage and Peter Strizhak of the Institute of Physical Chemistry in Kiev, Ukraine, who made the discovery. ..."
Super-Duper DNA stitches itself together ...
Nature reported on MArch 31st that "Researchers have managed to create bits of DNA that can stitch themselves together without a helping hand from other molecules. By contrast, natural DNA needs enzymes to stitch itself up, correct mutations, or make copies of itself. The creation of this super-capable DNA suggests that rare bits of natural DNA might have evolved the same capability in the past. That could alter our thinking about how life began. ..."
Gravity Probe B settles in...
Spaceref.com reported on April 29th that "In its first week on orbit, Gravity Probe B has achieved many successes that will ensure a smooth transition into the science phase of the mission and the best possible experimental accuracy. The spacecraft has already achieved a science mission orbit, within the plane of the Guide Star, IM Pegasi, and its inclination error is six times better than expected. ..."
New Website Lets Surfers Calculate Effects of Asteroid Impacts ...
ABC News reports on April 29th "Asteroids blasting the planet may seem unlikely, but how extreme would the devastation be if it really did happen? Now you can find out in excruciating detail, thanks to a new Web-based project (http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects) that allows anyone to calculate the grim reality of a cosmic collision like the ones that wiped out the dinosaurs. ..."
Oklahoma Textbook Bill Passes Sans Anti-evolution Disclaimer ...
The NCSE reported on April 29th that "On April 28, 2004, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 2194 -- a bill governing textbook purchase contracts -- by a vote of 960. Conspicuously absent from the bill as passed was the disclaimer provision added to the bill on February 23. The disclaimer provision would have required textbooks that discuss evolution to include a long disclaimer virtually identical to one previously proposed in Oklahoma in 2001 and 2003 and in use in Alabama from 1996 to 2001. ..."
Writer Demolishes Darwin...
In a pro-"Intelligent Design" opinion piece titled "Praying at the Altar of the Shaved Ape," writer Brian Cherry writes on April 28th that "Supporters of intelligent design simply put forth the evidence without making a presumption on what deity is responsible. That is where the problem lies for evolutionists. Any theory that not only suggests that we are the product of a creation but can also back it up in a credible manner is a threat to them. ..."
Among Cherry's "credible" comments are these:
"Dr. Leaky started much of the uproar when he found his famous missing link, Lucy. In the end his find turned out to be a mosaic of at least two different species of extinct ape. ..." [While Dr. Louis Leakey (with an "e" after the "k") and members of his family found many interesting hominid fossils, "Lucy" was discovered by Donald Johanson; see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/specimen.html for the details.]
"If we are seeking scientific truth, why would people in the scientific community be afraid of an open dialogue on a theory that can be supported with at least as much evidence as evolution? When you strip away the venire [sic] of science the answer becomes clear. ..."
All this has me wondering - does this "Washington Dispatch" have, like, editors?
Posted April 23rd 2004
Creationist Hovind in BIG Trouble with IR$ ...
The Pensacola (FL) News reported on April 17th that "Internal Revenue Service agents are investigating a Pensacola man who operates a creationist theme park and museum off Old Palafox Road and who they say is evading taxes on more than $1 million in income. This week, federal IRS agents raided the home and businesses of Kent Hovind, 51, in the first block of Cummings Road, confiscating all computer and paper records of financial activity since January 1997. The creation-science evangelist argues against evolution around the world. He also sells literature and videos supporting his views and charges admission to his Pensacola theme park and museum through a number of entities. But in a sworn statement made to obtain the search warrant served Wednesday, IRS agent Scott Schneider said none of Hovind's enterprises has a business license in Escambia County or has tax-exempt status as a nonprofit enterprise. ..."
Hovind is telling his followers that all's well, however: "April 15, 2004 [10,736 kb] [51min 21sec] You may have heard that on April 14, 2004 the IRS searched our property seeking information which they easily could have gotten by simply asking. Before the story gets blown out of proportion we thought we would tell the truth about the situation. Our ministry is not in trouble, nor am I [Kent Hovind]. We've not broken any laws that we know of. We are running along just fine, winning souls for God's kingdom. Listen to the entire story here, or better yet, come by and pay us a visit. ..."
See Also: http://www.nmsr.org/hovind.htm
Gravity Probe B on its way...
ABC News reported on April 20th that "Francis Everitt has waited a long time for this moment. After decades of delays, and a few more anxious days of waiting, he's finally seen the successful launch of a space probe whose aim is to test Einstein's theory of general relativity. The Gravity Probe B probe launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 12:57 p.m. ET today, following an initial delay of two days because of a short circuit, and then a further delay Monday when NASA could not verify whether some last-minute data had been loaded aboard the rocket. But Everitt is a patient man. He has been waiting 42 years. ..."
Was Life Kick-started in ... SIBERIA???
The University of Florida announced on April 7th that "Trilobites, the primitive shelled creatures considered by many to be among the first animals to appear in the fossil record, may have originated in a place known today largely for its barren lifelessness: Siberia. The finding is one of the conclusions of a two year study by geologists at the University of Florida and University of Kansas that is scheduled to appear next week in the online edition of the London Journal of the Geological Society. By comparing separate, seemingly unrelated findings on trilobite evolution and geological history, UF's Joe Meert and KU's Bruce Lieberman concluded that precursors to modern continents began splitting off from a giant supercontinent at the South Pole about 580 million years ago, migrating north toward the equator for about 80 million years. The scientists' analysis suggests that a prominent theory holding that the continents moved far more rapidly is wrong. It also suggests that trilobites, the long-ago forbearers of crabs and lobsters, originated in present-day Siberia when it was a separate continent from Asia and located much farther south. Trilobites probably evolved in Siberia millions of years before they appear in the fossil record, the analysis suggests. In Lieberman's words, their appearance may have supplied the "fuse" for the Cambrian radiation, the "big bang" of life that occurred about 543 million years ago. ..."
Ancestral Proteins Found...
The National Science Foundation announced on April 21st that "Red-blooded genealogists take note: The discovery in microbes of two oxygen-packing proteins, the earliest known ancestors to hemoglobin, brings scientists closer to identifying the earliest life forms to use oxygen. According to the project's lead investigator, University of Hawaii microbiologist Maqsudul Alam, the research may also aid in the search for blood substitutes as new molecular details shed light on how the structure of such proteins, called protoglobins, evolved to transport and release oxygen. ..."
Scientists make Men Obsolete (Male Rats, anyway ...)
The Australian reports on April 27th that "Proving that males are a biological frill, Japanese and Korean scientists have created a healthy mouse born with no male genetic material at all. It's a process called parthenogenesis and until now it's never happened in mammals, from mice to, well, men. In contrast, many insects and reptiles, not to mention plants, take advantage of this all-girl form of reproduction. ..."
And Too Many Males Killed Off the Dinosaurs...
Meanwhile, the BBC News reported on April 21st that "Too many males may have been the reason the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, say Leeds University scientists. They believe the dinosaurs could have been like modern-day reptiles such as crocodiles whose sex depends upon the temperature before they are born. The idea is that the asteroid which struck changed the world's climate, causing it to be cooler and leading to the birth of a preponderance of males. The male-female imbalance would have led to the dinosaurs' extinction. ..."
Posted April 16th 2004
Cats have been Pets for almost 10,000 years...
New Scientist reports on April 4th that "People tamed cats as pets at least 9500 years ago, say researchers who have unearthed the grave of a prehistoric tabby in Cyprus. The Stone Age moggy appears to have been carefully placed alongside a human corpse, along with offerings including jewellery and stone tools. Until now, historians thought the ancient Egyptians first domesticated cats about 4000 years ago. But evidence suggests cats were culturally important outside Egypt long before that. Stone and clay figurines of cats up to 10,000 years old have turned up in Syria, Turkey and Israel. ..."
Single Gene Mutation makes way for Macro-Evolution...
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on April 15th that "Stanford scientists studying the mysterious loss of spiny fins in a widespread species of small fish have discovered how a single gene played a crucial role in their rapid evolution. The work sheds new light on a puzzle that has long intrigued researchers: How did whales, snakes and some lizards and fish lose their limbs through evolution? Since the last ice age 15,000 years ago, isolated populations of a freshwater fish called threespine sticklebacks have lost their three sharp- pointed pelvic fins, probably to avoid predators that grabbed the fish by those fins. By contrast, their ocean-dwelling cousins still carry the fins. An international research group headed by David M. Kingsley, a Stanford developmental biologist, has found evidence that a specific gene, already known to regulate body development in other animals, is responsible for the change. ... "
See Also: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040415012031.htm
Girl Chimps Ape Their Moms...
Healthday reports on April 15th that "It's a familiar enough scenario, albeit one that might be termed sexist: The girls spend more time by their mother's side, learning how things are done in the kitchen while the boys roughhouse nearby, paying scant attention to the parent's lessons. This time, though, the tale describes young chimps fishing for a nutritious meal of termites. And, because they are watching their mothers so closely, it seems, young girl chimps get a head start in the termite fishing arena of life. They start earlier, spend more time at it, and are generally better at it than boy chimps. ..."
The Trib Reports on NMSR's Evo-Teaching Workshop...
Susie Gran of the Albuquerque Tribune reported on April 15th that "Evolution might be a controversial subject in some circles, but it's not that touchy to teach in high school, a science teacher assured members of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. 'I've been teaching evolution for 13 years and never had a problem, not once,' said Lisa Durkin, a Los Lunas teacher participating Wednesday in an Albuquerque workshop on New Mexico's new science standards. She estimated only 2 percent to 15 percent of her high school students over the last seven years have indicated 'they have a problem with evolution.' ... New Mexico adopted science standards last year to serve as a framework for science curriculum. In the standards, there are a number of references to the teaching of evolution, which must be taught, starting in third grade. Richard Reif, science consultant to the state Public Education Department, also a presenter at the workshop, shared a memo he wrote to science teachers statewide to clarify any misunderstanding about teaching evolution. 'New Mexico schools are not permitted to endorse a particular religion, teach religion or teach 'creation science' or any of its variations that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind,' he said. 'Creationism must not be taught in New Mexico,' he said. ..."
NMSR's February Speaker has new Web Site...
Our Feb. 14th speaker, Prof. Barbara Forrest (Southeastern Louisiana University), has developed a new website for her book, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, with Paul R. Gross. Check it out!
Wisconsin abuzz with talk of NMSR'a 1998 April Fool's Prank ...
This March 31st compendium of Wisconsin.com's favorite April Fooleries mentions NMSR's "Alabama Pi" effort as one of the top five: "The real pi: It was reported in a relatively obscure newsletter called New Mexicans for Science and Reason. The April 1998 issue carried an item noting that the Alabama Legislature had taken it upon itself to change the value of the mathematical constant known as pi. Henceforth, pi would no longer be 3.14159. It would become the 'biblical value' of 3.0. Soon word of this hit the Internet and spread. The Alabama Legislature was flooded with hundreds of calls of protest. The newsletter item, according to Boese, was penned by a physicist as a parody of legislation on the teaching of evolution. ..."
See Also: http://www.nmsr.org/alabama.htm
Posted April 9th 2004
NASA studies Robotic Repairs for Hubble...
MSNBC reports on Apriul 5 that "NASA is reviewing over two dozen proposals for extending the useful scientific life of the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as safely disposing of the Earth-orbiting observatory at the end of its life in space. There is growing support for robotic servicing of the Hubble but it's still debatable whether the telescope can be augmented with new astronomical gear utilizing robot hardware. ..."
Asteroid watch proposed...
Maggie Fox reports for Reuters on April 7th that "They are out there, ready to smack into the Earth and wipe out human civilization, but astronomers said on Wednesday they are well on their way to finding every asteroid that poses a threat. The next task will be to look for smaller objects that might just destroy, say, a city, the experts told the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. ..."
Mysterious fires like something from "X-Files"...
MSNBC reports on April 5th that "The gate at the entrance to this tiny Sicilian village has come off its hinges and swings in the wind as cats wander into homes abandoned after a series of mystery fires. Spontaneous fires started in mid-January in the town of Canneto di Caronia, in about 20 houses. After a brief respite last month, the almost daily fires have flared up again even though electricity to the village was cut off. An endless flow of scientists, engineers, police and even a few self-styled ghostbusters have descended on the town, searching for clues to the recent spontaneous combustion of everything from fuse boxes to microwave ovens to a car. The blazes, originally blamed on the devil, have not hurt anyone. ..."
Don't know much about History...
Appalling ignorance of history is not unique to the United States. But, it may be our fault (or Hollywood's, anyway). This April 5 report from the Independent (UK) notes that "The Battle of Hastings never took place and Adolf Hitler is a fictional character. Robin Hood really existed, Harold Wilson saved Britain during the Second World War and Conan the Barbarian is a bona fide figure from early Nordic history. It might sound like the latest attempt by revisionist extremists to pervert the past but the reality is perhaps more disturbing: this is how a significant chunk of the British population, muddled by Hollywood films and unmoved by academia, sees history. ..."
NCSE accused of "Promoting Religion" !?!?
The NCSE and the University of California Museum of Paleontology recently unveiled a splendid new resource for teachers, the "Understanding Evolution" website (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/). Full of useful and attractive learning tools, the new site is chock full of information. A small part of the site addresses how religious views interact with perception of the science of evolution. Creationists (of both the young earth and "Intelligent Design" varieties) have for decades promoted a falsehood to advance their cause: they claim that evolution is incompatible with religious faith, and that teaching Darwin's theories is therefore unconstitutional. There have been thousands of such claims over the years. For a local example, the IDnet-NM group, in their essay titled "Does Theistic Evolution Make Sense?" (http://www.nmidnet.org/does_theistic_evolution_make_sense.htm), has this to say: "In this strange marriage of Genesis and Darwin, the logical possibilities are quite limited. Both may be wrong but both cannot be right. The theistic evolutionist assumes that both are right. This reconciliation can only be achieved by stripping much, if not all, essential meaning from the first few chapters of Genesis and ignoring what naturalistic scientists say about evolution. ..." In other words, IDers claim that anyone who accepts both God and evolution is suffering cognitive dissonance, and being illogical. What that means, of course, is that IDers claim to know the mind of God, and know the details by which God produced species: specifically, they claim that God would never and has not used evolution. This is in stark contrast to the numerous religious groups who accept evolutionary science (see Voices for Evolution at http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/5025_statements_from_religious_orga_12_19_2002.asp for statements from these groups).
For years, anti-evolutionists have tried to force a "wedge" between students' appreciation of science and their personal religious beliefs. Nothing else so well reveals the sectarian and political nature of this manufactured "controversy." But, because the NCSE and Berkeley museum have "conspired" to mention this important observation on the "Understanding Evolution" website, they are getting dumped on big-time by the ID creationists at the Discovery Institute. John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, said this in commentary in the April 1 National Review Online: "But in an ironic twist, it now turns out that the NCSE itself is using federal tax dollars to insert religion into biology classrooms. Earlier this year, the NCSE and the University of California Museum of Paleontology unveiled a website for teachers entitled "Understanding Evolution." Funded in part by a nearly half-million-dollar federal grant, the website encourages teachers to use religion to promote evolution. Apparently the NCSE thinks mixing science and religion is okay after all as long as religion is used to support evolution. ... But the strangest part of the website, by far, is the section that encourages educators to use religion to endorse evolution. Teachers are told that nearly all religious people, theologians, and scientists who hold religious beliefs endorse modern evolutionary theory, and that indeed such a view 'actually enriches their faith.' In fact, teachers are directed to statements by a variety of religious groups giving their theological endorsement of evolution. ... It seems the Darwinists have overseen the evolution of a new species of religion-science crossbreed: one that fits their agenda. ..."
Creationists have muddied the waters between religion and science for decades. But when a science group takes a few paragraphs to address these oft-repeated misrepresentations, they are criticized for using religion to promote science!
There's quite a discussion on all this at the Panda's Thumb: http://www.pandasthumb.org/
Speaking of Christians who accept evolution...
The Books & Culture section of the March/April 2004 Christianity Today journal interviews Brown biologist Ken Miller, a noted evolutionary scientist who has written a book about his reconciliation of Christianity with evolution (Finding Darwin's God). Miller is quoted as saying "What the Intelligent Design movement has done all too often is to conflate the science and philosophy, to argue that within evolutionary biology there is a philosophy of anti-theism and a pro-materialist or an absolute materialist philosophy. That is simply not true. The fact is that the philosophy and the science are separable. Evolutionary biology is very, very good science. The philosophy that one draws from that, however, depends upon one's own philosophical point of view, and not so much on the science itself. ..." Well said, Ken!
And Dembski Affirms - ID is Content Free!
In a Beliefnet article by William Dembski , drawn from his book The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design, Dembski says this: "In contrast, intelligent design makes no claims about the origin or duration of the universe, is not committed to flood geology, can accommodate any degree of evolutionary change, does not prejudge how human beings arose and does not specify in advance how a designing intelligence brought the first organisms into being. ..."
In other words, ID is Content-Free!
Paulos and the Passion...
ABC News correspondent (and mathematician) John Allen Paulos writes in his ABC News column for April, "Who's Counting," that "Gibson's Portrayal of Crucifixion Relies on Questionable History ... Film critics and cultural commentators have weighed in on it in large numbers. Scientifically flavored responses, however, have been relatively sparse. Here's mine. ... The occasion for these observations is Gibson's gory movie and an under-reported fact about its basis: There is little, if any, external historical evidence for the details presented in the somewhat inconsistent biblical versions of the Crucifixion. ... We can gain a little perspective by comparing the Crucifixion of Jesus with the killing of another ancient teacher, Socrates the Passion of the Christ versus the Poisoning of Socrates, if you will. Again the standard story is somewhat problematic, but even if we give full credit to Plato's 2,400-year-old account of Socrates' death, what zealous coterie of classicists or philosophers would hold today's Greeks responsible? To ask the question is to dismiss it. It would be absurd, not to mention un-Socratic, for anyone to attribute guilt to contemporary Athenians. ... Many important stories of the recent and distant past contain large holes and blank spots. Acknowledging uncertainty about them requires a braver heart than denying it. ..."
Posted April 2nd 2004
Flight Cancelled due to Psychic's Tip ...
CNN reports on March 27th that "A self-described psychic's tip that a bomb might be on a plane prompted a search with bomb-sniffing dogs that turned up nothing suspicious, but forced the cancelation of the flight. American Airlines Flight 1304 at Southwest Florida International Airport was canceled Friday because some crew members had exceeded their work hours by the time the search was finished, officials said. ..."
Hot Potato? How about Hot Bananas ... Yes, Bananas are RADIOACTIVE!
Sue Vorenberg of the Albuquerque Tribune reported on March 29th that "David Mercer never knows when he'll get his next 2 a.m. phone call that someone's Geiger counter is clicking. The Los Alamos scientist spends about a week each month on call, helping U.S. customs inspectors, the FBI and the Department of Energy identify mysterious sources of radiation. The goal is to protect the country from terrorists who might bring in a nuclear weapon. Finding a weapon with a radiation detector might seem easy enough, but seemingly innocent things also set detectors off. One day it might be a shipment of medical isotopes, the next it might be a truck full of bananas or cocoa powder, Mercer said. Wait a minute: bananas and cocoa powder? 'Cocoa power, like bananas, has potassium 40 in it,' he said. 'It's not harmful to humans, but it does set the detectors off. There are lots of things around us every day that have radiation in them. ...' "
"Roswell UFO Festival" is No More... Now it's the "Roswell Festival"...
Harry Moskos of the Albuquerque Journal reports on March 28th that "It's not the Roswell UFO Festival anymore! The event has been renamed Roswell 2004. David Baumann, president of the new Roswell 2004 Association, explains that the community festival's board of directors voted to establish the association as a way to include more people in the festival. Julie Shuster, director of the International UFO Museum at Roswell, says the museum will be the parent organization of the festival. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/biz/157794business03-28-04.htm (subscription)
White House Sci Advisor Marburger at "the Center of the Storm Over Bush and Science"...
James Glanz of the New York Times reports on March 30th that "The average scientific dispute is a joust in obscurity, a clash over technical matters that few but the immediate combatants grasp or are even aware of. Dr. John H. Marburger III, President Bush's science adviser, might relish a dose of that obscurity right now. Instead, he has become the first line of defense against accusations that the Bush administration has systematically distorted scientific fact and stacked technical advisory committees to advance favored policies on the environment, on biomedical research and on other areas like the search for unconventional weapons in Iraq. Dr. Marburger says that pattern is illusory...But to a degree not seen in previous administrations, a wide range of influential scientists even many who say they like Dr. Marburger personally and respect him professionally express dismay at White House science policy. 'I think this is as bad as it's ever been,' said Wolfgang H. K. Panofsky, a retired Stanford physicist who has advised the government on science and national security since the Eisenhower administration. 'This is an extremely serious issue. I believe it is true that there is such a thing as objective scientific reality, and if you ignore that or try to misrepresent it in formulating policy, you do so at peril to the country.' Other experts have been blunter. In a recent interview on National Public Radio, Dr. Howard Gardner, a cognitive psychologist at Harvard, said, 'I actually feel very sorry for Marburger, because I think he probably is enough of a scientist to realize that he basically has become a prostitute.' Later, in an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Gardner said he had made the reference but added, 'I wish I'd used it as a verb rather than as a noun.' ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/30/science/30ADVI.html (Registration)
Fundamental Force has remained Constant for Billions of Years ...
Universe Today reports on March 31st that "In order the represent the Universe mathematically, physicists use a handful of constants, such as the speed of light, or the gravitational constant. One called the "fine structure constant", or alpha, helps describe how the forces hold atoms together and interact with light. Researchers recently revealed that alpha might have changed over the history of the Universe, but a new study from the European Southern Observatory refutes this evidence. By studying the light from a distant quasar with a high degree of precision, they found that alpha doesn't seem to have changed over time.
"Molecular midwives" may help explain the origin of life...
SpaceRef.com reports on March 31st that "Adding a small molecule, dubbed a 'molecular midwife,' [Georgia Institute of Technology] researchers increased the rate of DNA formation in a chemical reaction 1,000 fold over a similar reaction lacking a midwife. The discovery is an important step in the effort to trace the evolution of life back to the earliest self-replicating molecules. The results are reported in the April 2 edition of the German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie. ..."
Speaking of Creating Life ... is Science on the Verge?
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on March 28th that "More than 3.5 billion years after nature transformed non-living matter into living things, populating Earth with a cornucopia of animals and plants, scientists say they are finally ready to try their hand at creating life. If they succeed, humanity will enter a new age of "living technology," where harnessing the power of life to spontaneously adapt to complex situations could solve problems that now defy modern engineering. ... Though some experts see this new technology as providing unlimited benefits, others worry about the moral appropriateness of human-made life and the introduction of new species with the potential to evolve into creatures that could run amok. 'It's certainly true that we are tinkering with something very powerful here,' said artificial-life researcher Steen Rasmussen of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. 'But there's no difference between what we do here and what humans have always done when we invented fire, transistors and ways to split the atom,' he said. 'The more powerful technology you unleash, the more careful you have to be.' ..."
And if there WAS Life on Mars, Rovers Not Equipped to Test For It...
ABC News reports on March 31st that "Geological and remote readings have suggested life may exist on Mars and some think it's highly possible that NASA's Odyssey or Spirit could have stumbled across evidence. Planetary scientists also say if primitive life exists on Mars, it could very well share traits with life on Earth. 'There is transport from Mars to Earth by meteorites,' said Jason Dworkin, a biochemist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. 'So it's reasonable to suggest that perhaps we're all Martians and life started on Mars and traveled to Earth.' The problem is, neither of the rovers now rolling around the Red Planet is very well equipped to confirm the existence of life or past life. ..."
New Discovery in Evolution of Limbs from Fins ...
National Geographic reported on April 1st that "Today researchers announced their discovery of a 365-million-year-old fossil limb bone of an ancient tetrapod. Tetrapods, including humans, are four-limbed animals with backbones. The fossil was found during road construction that revealed an ancient streambed. Scientists say the find will help shed light on how early animals evolved limbs from fins. This crucial adaptation enabled Earth's animal life to crawl from water to land. ... The ancient bone shares features with primitive fish fins, but also has characteristics of a true limb bone. It bridges the gap between fish and amphibian. ..."
Google offers Moon Jobs for April Fools...
Google's main page on April 1st asked surfers "Want a job that's out of this world?" Clicking the link brings up a page on employment positions at Google's new Copernicus Center (Luna). "The Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering (G.C.H.E.E.S.E.) is a fully integrated research, development and technology facility at which Google will be conducting experiments in entropized information filtering, high-density high-delivery hosting (HiDeHiDeHo) and de-oxygenated cubicle dwelling. This center will provide a unique platform from which Google will leapfrog current terrestrial-based technologies and bring information access to new heights of utility. ..."
Posted March 26th 2004
Cold Fusion: The Crystal (15th) Anniversary...
15 years ago this week, Utah chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann stunned the world with the announcement that they had achieved nuclear fusion at room temperature with a desktop apparatus. But, the initial claims haven't been replicated, despite intense efforts to do so. While "Cold Fusion" is treated with disdain by many physicists, a dedicated but small number of researchers claim to have replicated some of the anomalous results. The Salt Lake City Tribune has several articles marking this week's Crystal Anniversary of that surprising day, March 23, 1989.
Greg Lavine reports "The University of Utah sparked imaginations 15 years ago today with a news conference heralding a breakthrough to solve the world's energy woes -- cold fusion. ... The only problem: No one could make it work. After a few months, the science community gave room-temperature fusion the cold shoulder. Though a small group continues to chase cold fusion today, the episode may be remembered most as a clash between science and capitalism, where science lost. ..."
Lavine also reports that "Most cold fusion seekers packed up their equipment years ago. But a small band of researchers, including Brigham Young University's Steven Jones, has continued pursuing what it sees as tantalizing clues that the science may work after all. 'There's really a lot going on that looks very favorable,' Jones said of the field today. 'But it's not given a fair chance in the journals.' ..."
The "Cold fusion & Utah" angle is explored as well.
In the March 15th edition of the New York Times, Kenneth Chang reports that "Cold fusion, briefly hailed as the silver-bullet solution to the world's energy problems and since discarded to the same bin of quackery as paranormal phenomena and perpetual motion machines, will soon get a new hearing from Washington. ... Last fall, cold fusion scientists asked the Energy Department to take a second look at the process, and last week, the department agreed. No public announcement was made. A British magazine, New Scientist, first reported the news this week, and Dr. James F. Decker, deputy director of the science office in the Energy Department, confirmed it in an e-mail interview. ... For advocates of cold fusion, the new review brings them to the cusp of vindication after years of dismissive ridicule. 'I am absolutely delighted that the D.O.E. is finally going to do the right thing,' Dr. Eugene F. Mallove, editor of Infinite Energy magazine, said. 'There can be no other conclusion than a major new window has opened on physics.' ... Scientists working on conventional fusion said cold fusion research had fallen off their radar screens. 'I'm surprised,' Dr. Stewart C. Prager, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, said. 'I thought most of the cold fusion effort had phased out. I'm just not aware of any physics results that motivated this.' ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/25/science/25FUSI.html (registration)
Finally, physicist David Goodstein of CalTech has an interesting summary of Cold Fusion's troubled history, as seen from the inside of the frenzy. Goodstein concludes "I suppose that, if nuclear fusion really does take place whenever x [the ratio of the number of atoms of deuterium in the metal to the number of atoms of palladium] is greater than 0.85 in palladium, the world of conventional science will eventually be forced to take notice. If not, then the whole story I have told you is nothing but a curious footnote to a bizarre and ugly episode in the history of science. Either way, I think the story illuminates the inner dynamics of the scientific enterprise in a way that few other stories have done. For that reason alone, it may be worth telling. ..."
Did Mutation in Jaw Muscle Genes Clear the Way for Human Brain Expansion?
The New York Times reported on March 25th that "At a pivotal time in human evolution, around 2.4 million years ago, a muscle gene underwent a disabling alteration, new research has found. And scientists say this may have made all the difference, leading to the enlarged brains of the lineage that evolved into modern humans. Researchers who made the discovery said this might be the first recognized functional genetic difference between humans and the apes that can be correlated with anatomical changes in the fossil record. ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/25/science/25EVOL.html (registration)
From the Nature report: "Researchers have proposed an answer to the vexing question of how the human brain grew so big. We may owe our superior intelligence to weak jaw muscles, they suggest. ..."
And science writer Carl Zimmer had these comments: "What's striking about this particular gene, known as MYH16, is how important it is in its functional form to our primate cousins. ...Apes and monkeys all have massive jaw muscles, which pass from the jaw up under their cheekbones, fanning out across the top of their skull and anchoring to a keel-shaped ridge. We have no such ridge, and we have pretty puny chewing muscles compared to apes. And much of the difference between us and other primates in this respect comes down a fatal mutation that hit a single gene: MYH16. ... (I don't want to turn every post about evolution in an attack on creationism, but here's a parting question. MYH16 is clearly essential to the well-being of other primates. We have a copy of MYH16, but it doesn't work. Where is the intelligence of this design? If we don't need the gene, why did the designer insert it into our genome?) ..."
Condon report UFO Researcher Roy Craig dies ...
The Denver Post reported on March 22nd that "From the beginning, Roy P. Craig was in a different world. ... The lover of unidentified flying objects and a leading researcher into their existence died Thursday at his La Boca Ranch, south of Ignacio, after struggling with cancer. Craig was 79. 'He had a belief that there definitely had to be other life in the universe,' said Philip Craig, his nephew. 'He believed there had to be because of the size and vastness of the universe. But he just couldn't verify the evidence that UFOs had visited here.' As a science professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Roy Craig was selected to serve as the chief field investigator of The Colorado Project, a federally funded scientific investigation into the existence of unidentified flying objects. ... its findings later became known as the Condon Report. ..."
Asteroid Warning System to be Improved ...
Space.com reported on March 22nd that "An unprecedented asteroid scare in January had astronomers worried for a few hours over a rock that had a 1-in-4 chance of hitting Earth during the next few days. At the time, some of the scientists were unsure who should be notified. The event has prompted NASA to set up a formal process for notifying top officials in the future of any impending impacts, SPACE.com has learned. ..."
Group says it's time to retire "Thinking Outside the Box" and other Cliches...
ABC News reported on March 24th that "At the end of the day, it's the most irritating cliche in the English language. So says the Plain English Campaign which said the abused and overused phrase was first in a poll of most annoying cliches. Second place went to 'at this moment in time,' and third to the constant use of 'like,' as if it were a form of punctuation. 'With all due respect' came fourth. ... Other terms that received multiple nominations included: 24/7; absolutely; address the issue; around (in place of about); awesome; ballpark figure; basically; basis ('on a weekly basis' in place of 'weekly' and so on); bear with me; between a rock and a hard place; bottom line; crack troops; glass half full (or half empty); I hear what you're saying; in terms of; it's not rocket science; literally; move the goal-posts; ongoing; prioritize; pushing the envelope; singing from the same hymn sheet; the fact of the matter is; thinking outside the box; to be honest/to be honest with you/to be perfectly honest and touch base. ..."
See Also: http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/pressrelease.html
More Myths Explored at ABC's 20/20 ...
ABC's John Stossel continues his exploration of "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity" on 20/20. On the March 22 episode, the following claims were critically examined:
'Scopes Trial" county tries to outlaw gay behavior ...
Tribune columnist and "T.V. Queen" M. J. Wilde writes on March 26th that "In the last several days, there has been a lot of voting going on in Rhea County down in Tennessee. First, the Rhea County commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee's criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals with 'crimes against nature.' Of course, that's ridiculous. Homosexuals love nature. Especially pool parties. ... Was it a surprise? Well, no. All this is coming from the same county that still has an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial that convicted John T. Scopes on charges of teaching evolution, even though the verdict was thrown out by the Tennessee Supreme Court. But this recent gay ban did not sit well, as you can imagine, with the rest of the civilized and, yes, evolved world and brought a poop storm down on Tennessee's most conservative county. So, in a lily-livered backpedal, the county's commissioners got together and reversed their 2-day-old decision. That's right. Two days, and they caved. ... Who knows? Maybe the monkeys can take over and make more enlightened decisions. They've evolved a lot since 1925, you know. The monkeys, I mean. ..."
Raelians claim to have cured DEATH...
Yahoo Press Releases reports on a March 26th press conference by "His Holiness Rael, spiritual leader of the International Raelian Movement," to "reveal how the latest research on memory transfer technology associated with human cloning is on the verge of changing our society forever by ridding humans of the ultimate disease: death. ... " The release goes on to say that "The Elohim created all life on Earth scientifically using DNA (including humans in their image) and were mistaken for God, which explains why the name Elohim is present in all original Bibles. The Bible is, in fact, an atheist book describing the scientific creation of life on Earth. The new concept of 'Intelligent Design' fits perfectly with this explanation of our origins. ..."
Posted March 20th 2004
Not quite a 10th Planet, BUT...
NASA announced on March 15th that "NASA-funded researchers have discovered the most distant object orbiting Earth's Sun. The object is a mysterious planet-like body three times farther from Earth than Pluto. ... The object, called 'Sedna' for the Inuit goddess of the ocean, is 13 billion kilometers (8 billion miles) away, in the farthest reaches of the solar system. This is likely the first detection of the long-hypothesized 'Oort cloud,' a faraway repository of small icy bodies that supplies the comets that streak by Earth. ..."
What will the folks at Answers in Genesis say about this new find? It could be worrisome, since they declared back in 2001 that "For years, evolutionary astronomers have believed that long-period comets (those with orbital periods of more than 200 years) come from the so-called Oort cloud. ... There are problems with the Oort cloud, the greatest being that there is absolutely no evidence that it even exists!..."
Has the "Magnetic Mystery" of Uranus and Neptune been Solved?
Physics Web reported on March 11th that "Geophysicists might have solved one of the biggest mysteries in the solar system - why do the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune differ from those of the other planets? Computer simulations by Sabine Stanley and Jeremy Bloxham of Harvard University suggest that the two planets have a fluid core that is surrounded by a relatively thin outer layer. The Earth and other planets such as Jupiter and Saturn have an inner rocky core that is surrounded by a thick convecting shell. The results mean it may be possible to use magnetic fields to learn more about the internal structure and composition of planets (Nature 428 151). ..."
This must be a disappointment to local creationist D. Russell Humphreys, who has for years made much of his creationism-based predictions of the magnetic fields of the outer planets. Humphreys says he "...made the predictions on the basis of my hypotheses that (A) the raw material of creation was water (based on II Peter 3:5, 'the earth was formed out of water and by water'), and (B) at the instant God created the water molecules, the spins of the hydrogen nuclei were all pointing in a particular direction. ..."
Our suggestion to Dr. Humphreys: Perhaps it's time for a Shave- with Occam's Razor!
Asteroid Flyby - Near Miss? Near Hit? You Decide!
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on March 19th "Earth had its closest known near miss with an asteroid Thursday afternoon, as a 100-foot-wide space rock flew within 26,500 miles of the planet. The asteroid, discovered Monday night by a team of New Mexico astronomers, poses no threat to our planet, scientists said. But it was a reminder that big space rocks do regularly cross Earth's path. ... The object's estimated size is smaller than one that struck Russia in 1908 at a place called Tunguska. That asteroid leveled 600 square miles of forest. If an object the size of 2004 FH were to hit Earth, it would explode in the upper atmosphere with the force of a large nuclear weapon, according to [NMSR's] Mark Boslough, a Sandia National Laboratories scientist who has studied impact effects. ..."
NASA Report: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news142.html
Cool Video of flyby: http://spaceweather.com/
"Bad Astronomy" Writer Takes on Richard Hoagland...
Space.com reported on March 15th that "Astronomer Philip Plait is tired of radio personality Richard Hoagland's claims. He's had enough of Hoagland's assertions that NASA is covering up evidence of extraterrestrial life, that the infamous Face on Mars was built by sentient aliens and, of late, that otherworldly machine parts are embedded in the red planet's dirt. ..."
Hoagland's Site: http://www.enterprisemission.com
Plait's "Bad Astronomy" Site: http://www.badastronomy.com/
Aztec UFO Conference this weekend ... Wacky and Wackier!
The Daily Times (Farmington, NM) reported on March 18th that "A man, who said there is no Jesus only alien creators will speak at the 7th annual Aztec UFO Symposium Saturday. George Green claims religion is 'the biggest problem on the planet,' blinding mankind, so people can no longer think. ...Green said he made contact with the commander from the Pleiadian Star System, who is named Quetzl. It was Quetzl, who gave Green the truth about humanity and its upcoming demise. ... He has two destruction theories. The first he claims is a lowering of the population from six billion to 500 million with only 20 million Americans left by the year 2012. The second is a theory that the ETs will cause a nuclear war which 'would make this another sun.' This is not even a possibility, said nuclear physicist Dave Thomas of Albuquerque. 'Earth is a tiny little planet. It wouldnt have enough atoms to go nuclear,' said Thomas, who is a former presenter at the symposium. If the Earth could be vaporized, it wouldnt become a star, but a brown dwarf. This is because its mass would need to be increase by 26,000 to have the bare minimum to make it a star or sun-like object. Nuclear fusion would not be present in the blast, thus a brown dwarf would be created, Thomas said. ..."
Green is a holocaust denier too! The Bakersfield Californian reported on April 11, 2002 that "Commander Gyeorgos Ceres Hatonn is a 9-foot-tall extraterrestrial with serious issues. He distrusts the CIA, the World Bank and Freemasonry, suspects a great 'Jewish-Mafia conspiracy' and believes the government is trying to control the power of the sun and the seismic movement of the earth. ... Cmdr. Hatonn is also an author, with titles such as 'The Trillion Dollar Lie -- The Holocaust' to his credit. Some are still available via amazon.com. Hatonn's anti-Semitic writings are most likely the work of one George Green, who split from the Ekker branch of the Institute in the mid-1990s ... "
Source: http://www.bakersfield.com/columnist/local/price/story/921186p-1023218c.html (registration)
See Also: Aztec UFO 2004 Site: http://www.aztecufo.com
NMSR's Aztec UFO Page: http://www.nmsr.org/aztec.htm
Speaking of Aliens ... Creationists Declare "No Way!"
Young-earth creationist Jonathan D. Sarfati, in the March 2004 issue of Science and Theology News, writes "...The Bible says nothing to indicate that God created life anywhere but Earth. But it does not explicitly deny it. Some have speculated that Gods omnipotence and glory might be expressed by many planets with life. However, Scripture strongly implies that no intelligent life exists elsewhere, and the long-running Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, projects have failed to refute this. Earth was created to be home for creatures made in God the Creators image. It was on Earth that the first human couple rebelled against its creator and brought the cosmos under His curse. Thus it would have affected Martians, Vulcans, Klingons and any other being in the universe. The second person of the holy trinity incarnated on Earth alone, took on human nature, died for the sins of those with whom He has the kinsman-redeemer relationship, then ascended to the right hand of God the Father. He did not take on Vulcan or Klingon nature, and He will have only one bride the church for all eternity. It would therefore seem hard to reconcile intelligent life on other worlds with the doctrine of the incarnation. It would also seem odd for God to create microscopic life on other planets, but we should not be dogmatic on this. ..."
NMSR's Jonathan Sarfati Page: http://www.nmsr.org/sarfati.htm
Georgia Republicans to Supt. Cox: Creationism is NOT a "Republican" Issue...
The Altlanta Journal-Constitution reported on March 5th that "Four days after the country learned Georgia didn't plan to teach evolution, state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox faced Republican leaders who wanted to understand how the state had suddenly become a laughingstock. ... Two days later, on Feb. 5, Cox announced that she would restore evolution to the curriculum and apologized. In trying to avoid controversy over the topic, she said, she had provoked a greater one. ... Bill Stephens, the Senate majority leader, said her reversal was wise. ..."
Molecular Machine Secrets Being Decoded...
"Intelligent Design" creationists often whine that molecular motors are undeniable evidence of "Design." For example, Michael Behe, in an article titled "Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference", writes that "...we now realize that the complex cilium can not be reached in a single step or a few steps. But since the complexity of the cilium is irreducible, then it can not have functional precursors. Since the irreducibly complex cilium can not have functional precursors it can not be produced by natural selection, which requires a continuum of function to work. Natural selection is powerless when there is no function to select. We can go further and say that, if the cilium can not be produced by natural selection, then the cilium was designed. ..."
Meanwhile, real scientists, unbound by ideological chains, are busily doing what scientists do - figuring out how things like molecular motors really work. The Scientist reports on this work in the Mar. 15, 2004 issue, writing "Recent discoveries begin to answer how dyneins, kinesins, and myosins actually work ... The last few years have been exciting times for molecular gearheads like Goldman, researchers who are dedicated to understanding the protein motors that transport material throughout the cell. Using single-molecule techniques that have, by all accounts, transformed biophysics, researchers now know how two motors sashay their way down their protein tracks ... Will the models established for myosin V and conventional kinesin be applicable to their larger superfamilies? Genome sequencing projects have revealed that these families are extensive; humans have 45 kinesins, for instance, and Arabidopsis has 61. 'Motors as a group of proteins are an incredible example of what evolution has done with one single idea,' says Ron Milligan, professor of cell biology at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, Calif. ..."
Source: http://www.the-scientist.com/yr2004/mar/feature_040315.html (registration)
NMSR's Michael Behe page: http://www.nmsr.org/behe.htm
John Kerry on lack of Creationism in China:...
The Windsurfers of America website, www.americanwindsurfer.com, reports on March 4th on presidential candidate John Kerry's enthusiam for wind surfing, and also about his thoughts on creationism (article available via Deepfried TV News). Said Kerry, "And so I've also always been fascinated by the Transcendentalists and the Pantheists and others who found these great connections just in nature, in trees, the ponds, the ripples of the wind on the pond, the great feast of nature itself. ... I find that even - even atheists and agnostics wind up with some kind of spirituality, maybe begrudgingly acknowledging it here and there, but it's there. I think it's really intriguing. For instance, thinking about China, the people and their policy-how do we respond to their view of us? And how do they arrive at that view of us and of the world and of life choices? I think we have to think about those things in the context of the spiritual to completely understand where they are coming from. So here are a people who, you know, by and large, have a nation that has no theory of creationism. Well, that has to effect how you approach things. And until we think through how that might effect how you approach things, it's hard to figure out where you could find a meeting of the minds when approaching certain kinds of issues. So, the exploration of all these things I find intriguing. Notwithstanding our separation between church and state, it is an essential ingredient of trying to piece together an approach to some of the great vexing questions we have internationally. ..."
New Guinea Police on the Prowl...for a Dinosaur!
The Australian reported on March 13th that "Authorities in Papua New Guinea ordered police to search part of a remote island after locals told of seeing a giant dinosaur-like creature roaming the area, local media reported Friday. ..."
Posted March 12th 2004
Female Mice do NOT have a fixed number of eggs ...
HealthDayNews reported on March 10 that "In a new study that challenges one of the most basic tenets of reproductive biology, researchers say they've found that ovaries in mice don't contain a fixed number of eggs at birth. This finding clashes with current scientific dogma that says most female mammals are born with a finite set of eggs, and once that supply is depleted menopause follows. ..."
Bird Species Declining...
The Star (South Africa) reported on March 8th that "One out of every eight of the world's 10 000 different bird species are now threatened with extinction. This is according to the latest expert report on bird conservation, State of the World's Birds 2004, which was to be launched at the BirdLife International world conservation congress in Durban today. ..."
Is the Beagle (on Mars) Found?...
ABC News/Reuters reported on March 8th that "Beagle 2, the British space probe which disappeared as it descended toward Mars, may have been detected on the surface of the Red Planet, scientists said on Monday. ... photographic images of the area where Beagle 2 was to have come down show four bright spots, dubbed a "string of pearls" by scientists, which may be the remains of the probe. ..."
Rare Visiting Robin falls victim... to a hawk!
In a scene that might have come straight from the Simpsons, the BBC reported on March 9th that "Birdwatchers from all over Britain who gathered in Grimsby to catch sight of a rare American robin were horrified to see her eaten by a passing sparrowhawk. They were still setting up their cameras when the predator swooped down from a row of drab factories and warehouses on an industrial estate. The young bird, from the southern US, 'didn't really live to enjoy her moment of fame,' a twitcher told the Guardian. ..."
Brain Wave "Recognition Pulse" touted as Scientific Lie Detector...
ABC News' Good Morning America reported on March 9th that "Now it may be impossible for even the best liars to conceal their crimes. The latest technology in forensic science uses details known only to investigators and the criminal to prove a suspect's guilt or innocence. Developed by Harvard-trained Lawrence Farwell, brain fingerprinting uses brainwaves to measure what Farwell calls the 'a-ha' of recognition. ...'There's a lot of value in looking at brain wave activity, but there's also a lot of hype,' Frank Horvath, a professor of criminology at Michigan State University told the Seattle Times. The National Academy of Sciences recently issued a brief assessment of the technology, saying it showed promise, but still needs more study. ..."
Hubble Ultra Deep Field shows Earliest Galaxies...
ABC News/AP reported on March 9th that "Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute released the deepest-ever view of the universe Tuesday, a long-duration exposure that reached out to a point just a few hundred million years from the Big Bang. Officials said the Hubble image contains an estimated 10,000 galaxies... "
See an image of Hubble Ultra Deep Field here: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap040309.html
Ohio School Board adopts "Critical analysis of evolution" Lesson Plan ...
The Bucyrus Telegraph Forum reported on March 10th that "Hours of criticism from mainstream scientists and several legal threats didn't discourage the state Board of Education on Tuesday from approving new lesson plans to teach evolution in Ohio schools. The science model curriculum, an optional set of classroom lectures and activities for science teachers, includes a chapter titled 'Critical analysis of evolution' that recommends 10th graders debate several common critiques of the theory. ... 'The reason this is being picked out for scientific questioning is not because it is more controversial than other science; it's because some people object to evolution for religious reasons,' said the Rev. George Murphy, a Lutheran pastor from Akron and a former biology teacher. 'But this (lesson) encourages students not to take evolution seriously. I'm concerned about this as a scientist and a theologian.' ..."
More Ohio Resources:
Ohio Citizens for Science, http://ecology.cwru.edu/ohioscience/
P.Z. Myers' summary: http://pharyngula.org/index/P482/ "You can download and read their lesson plan, Critical Analysis of Evolution (pdf)it's terrible. It's bad science and bad teaching, and it's horribly misleading. ..."
Meanwhile, Alabama Senate Committee votes to make schools Safe for Creationism ...
The Birmingman News (Alabama) reports on March 11th that "A legislative committee on Wednesday approved a plan that would prohibit firing or discriminating against teachers for presenting "alternative theories" to evolution. The Senate Education Committee voted 7-0 for the 'Academic Freedom Act,' which says no teacher or professor in public schools or universities could be fired, denied tenure or otherwise discriminated against for presenting such theories, which could include creationism. The proposal could be debated by the 35-member Senate as soon as next week. ..."
Source: http://www.al.com/news/birminghamnews/index.ssf?/base/news/107900026892640.xml (Zip code, age, sex requested)
But, White House Science Advisor says "Evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology" ...
The NCSE reported on March 5th that "During an on-line colloquy about science policy in the Bush administration conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education on March 5, John H. Marburger III, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, was asked about the Bush administration's scientific credibility in light of the president's reported skepticism about evolution. He replied, "Evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology," adding, "Much of the work supported by the National Institutes of Health depends heavily on the concepts of evolution. President Bush has supported the largest increases in the NIH budget in history. ..."
What is President Bush's stand? For the record, here it is, from an Oct. 31st, 2000 column in Slate by Timothy Noah: "I'd make it a goal to make sure that local folks got to make the decision as to whether or not they said creationism has been a part of our history and whether or not people ought to be exposed to different theories as to how the world was formed."
Want to make a Killing Shilling? Buy an Energy Vortex...
ABC News reported on March 11th "Maria Cooper has a deal for you. For just $2 million, she'll sell you the Oregon Vortex, a venerable roadside attraction off the beaten track where Brooms stand on end! Balls roll uphill! And walking from one spot to another makes you shrink or grow!! ... Ray Hyman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon, spent three days here and presented his findings to the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal in 1997. He concluded the shrinking and growing effect was an optical illusion known as the Ponzo Illusion, and can be duplicated on any sloping ground with trees to obscure the horizon. Described by Mario Ponzo in 1913, the effect is caused by distorting perspective with a background of converging lines. When visual references are skewed enough, people can actually feel dizzy. ..."
Posted March 7th 2004
Asteroid Cause of Dinosaur Extinction Questioned ...
Maggie Fox reports on March 1st that "Scientists probing a vast crater off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula questioned a popular theory about dinosaurs on Monday, saying the collision that formed the crater happened too far back in time to have caused their extinction by itself.... a core drilled out of the middle of the crater suggests it dates back more than 300,000 years before the K-T boundary and "thus did not cause the end-Cretaceous mass extinction as commonly believed. ..."
Harvard defies Bush, brews up private stem cell lines ...
The same Maggie Fox, a Health and Science Correspondent in Washington for Reuters, writes on March 3rd that "Scientists at Harvard University announced on Wednesday they had created 17 batches of stem cells from human embryos, in defiance of attempts by President Bush to limit such research. ..."
More on Bush Science Backlash ...
In the March 2nd edition of the Albuquerque Tribune, an editorial titled "Bush bends science into dishonest tool" states "It wasn't at all surprising to hear last week that a credible scientific organization criticized the Bush administration for playing fast and loose with science, the facts and the public policies that ought to be governed by them. What took scientists so long? ..."
"We have met the Genome, and the Genome is Us" - Pogo to be Sequenced ...
Helen Pilcher of Nature reports on Feb. 28th that "Researchers in the US have lined up the next set of creatures to have their genomes sequenced. The lucky crew makes for an odd menagerie: in the queue is an opossum, four fungi, three roundworms and a beetle. The grey short-tailed South American opossum has the added honour of being the first marsupial to have its genetic code cracked. ..."
Mysterious virus may thwart HIV ...
New Scientist reports on March 4th that "HIV patients who are also infected by a second, mysterious virus are less likely to develop AIDS and die of the disease, suggests a new study. Up to six years after their initial HIV-infection, men whose blood contained the second virus - known simply as GB virus C (GBV-C) - were nearly three times less likely to die than HIV-positive men who did not have the secondary infection. ..."
Inherit the Wind Playwright Dead at 88 ...
Kenneth Jones reports on Mar. 2nd that "Jerome Lawrence, the playwright known for Auntie Mame, Inherit the Wind, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and First Monday in October, all collaborations with fellow writer Robert E. Lee, died Feb. 29 at his home in Malibu, California ..."
Good Christians can embrace evolution ...
In Ravalli News commentary of March 2nd, 2004, Bruce Conner writes "... If we can breed a horse into the size of a collie, and a wolf into the size and shape of a lap dog in a few hundred years, is there any wonder that in such an unimaginable span of years, plants and animals having to adjust to violent environmental conditions, would produce strange and wonderful new competing forms? This procedure is called evolution. ... We can only speculate about God's design. Other theories that challenge evolution, given to us without hard fought evidence, can only offer endless scenarios. Millions of good Christians embrace evolution as God's plan. ..."
If there's an ID Lawsuit in New Mexico, keep your eyes on Paul Becht...
Sometimes you need to step above the daily torrent of news items, and see the larger patterns that are emerging. Perhaps this is one of those times. There's a terrific culture war going on, as discussed in NMSR speaker Barbara Forrest's new book, Creationism's Trojan Horse. In the eyes of the Religious Right, evolution is just one of many core issues like abortion, gay marriage, contraception, and so forth. In this regard, I'm going to highlight a few recent news stories, and encourage you to connect the dots.
There's been a big controversy about evolution in tiny Darby, Montana. Michael Moore of the Missoulian wrote on March 3rd that "...The board has been actively preparing for a lawsuit. Three of the board's five members voted last week to retain a Lincoln lawyer whose fees will be paid in the event of a suit by an Arizona legal foundation founded by prominent Christian conservatives. Lawyer Bridgett Erickson has a private practice in Lincoln, but she has trained with the Alliance Defense Fund, and her fees and costs will be paid by the organization, which describes itself as a servant organization working to spread the Christian Gospel. ..."
What's the lawsut about? Ken Toole, in Mar. 2nd editorial comment in the Montana Forum, writes "...A group in the community wanted 'Intelligent Design theory' presented in science classes along with 'evolution theory.' Of course Intelligent Design didn't just appear in Darby. It is promoted by a national group called the Discovery Institute. Despite repeated warnings about the legality the move, the Darby school board voted to adopt the Intelligent Design proposal. Maybe that is because two national religious right organizations, the Alliance Defense Fund and the Liberty Counsel, have volunteered to provide representation if needed. ..."
The next piece of the puzzle comes from the Alliance Defense Fund's own website, at http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/about/ : "Our Mission The Alliance Defense Fund is a servant organization that provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel through the legal defense and advocacy of religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values. ... "
So where does New Mexico finally comes into the picture? Well, on March 3rd, the Advocate.com reported that "A national conservative group has notified the Sandoval County, N.M., clerk of its intent to sue if she doesn't void same-sex marriage licenses issued in late February. The Alliance Defense Fund's local attorney, Paul Becht, notified county clerk Victoria Dunlap in a letter dated February 23. ..."
And UNM's Daily Lobo reported in early March that "... Becht, a candidate for governor and former state senator, sent a letter dated Feb. 27 to Dunlap threatening to file suit as a representative of the Alliance Defense Fund unless she officially declares the licenses void. ..."
The final jigsaw piece comes from the Creation Science Fellowship of New Mexico, Inc, which on Feb. 1st, 2004 showed that creationists and "Intelligent Design" (ID) proponents are joining forces to convince teachers that New Mexico's new science standards allow creationist/ID "challenges" to evolution. In a Science Teacher Workshop held on Feb 7th, the purpose was to show that "Changes in NM Science Education Standards allow more flexibility in teaching origins of life. Workshop is for science teachers only. If interested they can contact me [Joe Renick, head of IDnet-NM] at email@example.com or call at 842-8911 (office) or 565-0137 (home). Overall purpose of the workshop is to address: (1) Impact of theories of biological origins on worldview; basics of scientific investigation; the integrity of science; (2) Review of NM Revised Science Standards; (3) Logical fallacies encountered in debates over origins science; (4) Critical review of evolution; (5) Introduction to design concepts; (6) Cosmological Design; (7) Biological Design. ..." The Workshop was held at the Best Western Inn on Yale SE by the airport on Saturday, Feb 7. A hot breakfast buffet was served courtesy of the Best Western Inn.
Now, let's put the pieces together. Creationists are up to the same shenanigans here in New Mexico as they are in Darby, Montana. Meanwhile, the Alliance Defense Fund is helping creationists in Montana, and opposing gay marriage in Rio Rancho. When the name Paul Becht is mentioned in connection with a creationism/evolution lawsuit here in New Mexico, remember ... you read it here first!
Posted February 27th 2004
Another Near Miss...
The BBC reported on Feb. 24th that "Astronomers have revealed how they came within minutes of alerting the world to a potential asteroid strike last month. Some scientists believed on 13 January that a 30m object, later designated 2004 AS1, had a one-in-four chance of hitting the planet within 36 hours. It could have caused local devastation and the researchers contemplated a call to President Bush before new data finally showed there was no danger. ..."
Monkey Protein found to block AIDS...
The Genome News Network reported on Feb. 26th that "A protein in monkeys that disables the AIDS virus once the virus enters a cell is apparently the reason that monkeys do not become sick after exposure to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The research, reported today in Nature, suggests new possibilities for AIDS research that focuses on proteins that fight viruses from inside a cell. ... The monkey protein is highly similar to its human counterpart, but there are differences that probably account for the potent anti-HIV effect in monkeys. These key differences will be the focus of future research, says Joseph Sodroski of Harvard's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who led the study. ..."
Stephen Hawking in Hospital...
Yahoo/Reuters reported on Feb. 24th that "Disabled British scientist Stephen Hawking has been admitted to a specialist heart and lung center, where his condition was described Tuesday as stable. The cosmologist and best-selling author of 'A Brief History of Time' was transferred to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge after being taken to another hospital in the city last week suffering from pneumonia. ..."
Oklahoma House passes Evolution "Disclaimer" Bill...
The Claremore Progress reported on Feb. 24th that "The Oklahoma House passed a bill Monday that would require public school textbooks that discuss evolution to include a disclaimer stating that it is a controversial theory and not fact. Rep. Bill Graves successfully included the language in House Bill 2194, a measure that originally changed the format for Braille versions of instructional materials. ... The bill passed on a 96-0 vote and now heads to the Senate. ..."
But in Montana, Students PROTEST Creationist Shenanigans ...
The Ravalli Republic reported on Feb. 26th that "After the Darby School Board Tuesday made another move in the process of adopting an objective origins policy, students came out to express their opposition. About one-third of the high school's 170 students Wednesday walked out of school 15 minutes before the bell rang and assembled between U.S. 93 and school property in protest of the school board's decisions to question evolution. Carrying signs criticizing the newly adopted policy, students walked the sidewalk and drew honks and yells from passers-by hoping school officials and trustees would take heed. ... One sign read, 'Creationism in a cheap tuxedo.' And others called on people to go to church for creationism. ..."
Meanwhile, Saturday Night Live goes after Georgia's Creationists...
In the "Weekend Update" feature of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" broadcast of Feb. 21st, Jimmie Fallon said this: "This week, Georgia's board of education approved the plan that allows teachers to keep using the word 'Evolution' when teaching biology. Though, as a compromise, dinosaurs are now called 'Jesus Horses.' ..."
New This Week...
In recognition of the opening of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" film, and of Ash Wednesday, NMSR has resurrected its Easter Quiz. Go ahead - test your Biblical knowledge - take the Easter Quiz!
Posted February 20th 2004
Nobel Scientists go after White House for Distortion of Facts...
James Glanz of the New York Times wrote on Feb. 18th that "The Bush administration has deliberately and systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad, a group of about 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, said in a statement issued today. The sweeping charges were later discussed in a conference call with some of the scientists that was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent organization that focuses on technical issues and has often taken stands at odds with administration policy. The organization also issued a 37-page report today that it said detailed the accusations. Together, the two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice, and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases. 'Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front,' the statement from the scientists said. ..."
NCSE weighs in on the Evolution of Creationism ...
Genie Scott and Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education (http://www.natcenscied.org/) discussed the ongoing evolution of anti-evolutionism in the Feb. 15th edition of the San Jose Mercury News. They noted "Charles Darwin once wrote, only partly in jest, that 'it is like confessing a murder' to admit to accepting evolution. So he would probably not have been surprised that even as we celebrated the 195th anniversary of his birth Thursday, his theory of evolution remains a matter of public -- though not scientific -- controversy. ..."
Has the Beagle (the ORIGINAL one) Been Located?
While no communications have arrived from the missing-in-action European Martian rover "Beagle II," the original Beagle - the ship Darwin sailed on for his landmark travels to the Galapogos - may have been located. CNN reported on Feb. 16th that "A group of marine archaeologists may have solved one of the world's most enduring maritime mysteries -- the final resting place of HMS Beagle in which Charles Darwin developed his landmark theory of evolution. ... So far all that has been seen is a radar image of the outline of a hull under some four meters (12 feet) of mud in the marshes of Essex, east of London, with further research needed to verify that it is indeed the Beagle. ..."
Stop the Presses ... Evolution of an Irreducibly-Complex Flagellum has been OBSERVED!
NewsWire reports on Feb. 19th that "In a paper published Feb. 20 in the journal Science, a joint research team at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas describes how a resourceful bacterium was able to develop an entirely new way to make disulfide bonds. This restarted its [flagellum] motor and enabled it to move toward food before it starved to death. The laboratory of George Georgiou, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at UT Austin, used a strain of mutant bacteria developed by [James] Bardwell [of the University of Michigan] that had lost their ability to make disulfide bonds. These disulfides are critical for the ability of the bacteria's propeller-like swimming motor, the flagellum, to work. The researchers then put these non-swimming bugs to the test by placing them on a dish of food where, once they had exhausted the food they could reach, they either had to repair that broken motor or starve to death on the spot. The bacteria used in the experiment were forced to use a protein called thioredoxin---which normally destroys disulfide bonds---to make the bonds instead. ... To the researchers' surprise, a mutant carrying only two amino acid changes, amounting to less than 2 percent of the total number of amino acids in thioredoxin, restored the ability of the bacteria to move. The altered thioredoxin was able to carry out disulfide bond formation in numerous other bacterial proteins all by itself, without relying on any of the components of the natural disulfide bond pathway. The mutant bug managed to solve the problem in time and swim away from starvation and multiply. ..."
Black Hole Charged with Tearing Star Apart...
The AP reported on Feb. 18th that "Two space observatories have provided the first strong evidence of a supermassive black hole stretching, tearing apart and partially gobbling up a star flung into reach of its enormous gravity, astronomers said Wednesday. The event had long been predicted by theory but never confirmed. ..."
This Diamond Is Too Large to be a Practical Valentine's Gift...
The Sacramento Bee (and AP) reported on Feb. 13th that "If anyone's ever promised you the sun, the moon and the stars, tell 'em you'll settle for BPM 37093. The heart of that burned-out star with the no-nonsense name is a sparkling diamond that weighs a staggering 10 billion trillion trillion carats. That's one followed by 34 zeros. The hunk of celestial bling is an estimated 2,500 miles across, said Travis Metcalfe, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. ... Astronomers have suspected for decades that white dwarfs crystallized, but only recently were able to verify the hypothesis. A paper detailing the discovery has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters for publication. ..."
Abductees "Come Out" in Santa Fe...
Wren Propp of the Albuquerque Journal's Northern Bureau writes on Feb. 20th "Count alien abduction as yet another way the capital city upholds its rep as the City Different. Massachusetts filmmaker Laurel Chiten said she was 'blown away' in December when maybe as much as half of a standing-room-only Santa Fe audience who saw her film 'Touched' raised their hands to say they'd had personal interaction with aliens from other worlds. 'Touched' is a documentary about people who say they have experienced alien abduction and contact. It was screened at the Santa Fe Film Festival in December with sold-out showings. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/state/148190nm02-20-04.htm (Subscription required)
Posted February 13th 2004
Science Victory in Georgia...
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Feb. 13th that "Georgia's school superintendent issued a revised biology proposal Friday that includes a complete set of evolution standards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the national source initially recommended by science teachers. ... Superintendent Kathy Cox's revised plan for biology comes three weeks after a furor that attracted national attention. She initially had released a draft that removed the word 'evolution' and many concepts explaining the theory. ... Said Cox: 'I have reviewed the work of the teacher teams on the biology curriculum, and have accepted their recommendations, which I will present to the state Board of Education for approval on Feb. 19.' Friday's draft also reinstated an expectation that middle school students discuss the big-bang theory and how the universe was formed. The theory -- by name and description -- had been eliminated in the proposed middle school and high school science curriculum. ..."
Two days previously, Science magazine had issued a press release and editorial entitled "Don't Leave Georgia's Children Behind." An excerpt: "Erasing evolution from the science curriculum may stave off controversy with creationists, 'intelligent design' advocates and others with differing viewpoints. But, it also will mean Georgia's students don't understand the full range of core scientific concepts. ..."
But, Trouble Brewing in Ohio ...
The Dayton Daily News reported on Feb. 10th that "Scientists said they will pressure Ohio Board of Education members to change their minds about a controversial evolution lesson plan the board tentatively approved Tuesday. The 10th-grade biology lesson, Critical Analysis of Evolution, contains factual errors, misrepresentations and creationism, and is likely to face a court challenge, said Patricia Princehouse, an evolutionary biology lecturer at Case Western Reserve University. The lesson uses information from 'intelligent design' Web sites and lifts concepts and inaccuracies from material published by intelligent design promoters, Princehouse and other critics said. ..."
How Creationists got published in the Harvard Law Review...
In his Feb. 9th CSICOP column "Doubt and About," Chris Mooney explains "how an advertisement for Intelligent Design theory made its way into the Harvard Law Review." Mooney notes that "For this P.R. victory, the ID movement can thank the inner workings of student law journals. All Harvard Law Review student editors get to publish a total of three articles, and to say more or less whatever they want. ..."
Creationism is the Norm in Islam...
A Feb. 11th article from Robert Evans of Reuters discusses the growing push for establishement of Feb. 12th as international "Darwin Day," and even mentions NMSR's own Amanda Chesworth, U.S. Darwin Day coordinator (http://www.darwinday.org/). Chesworth is quoted as saying "Our nation went from the earth to the moon a few years ago and discovered these worlds date back billions of years. Now it is sticking its head in the sand, claiming the whole lot was made in a flash a few millennia ago by one entity." The article also discusses interest in creationism elsewhere, including England, India, South America, and Islamic countries. Evans writes "But in Muslim countries, proponents of Darwin Day say the idea is a non-starter, for the moment. In many, the non-religious and even scientists who take a Darwinist view can face prison, or death, for propagating agnosticism or atheism. ..."
Wall Street Journal recognizes new support for evolution re "Irreducible Complexity"...
Sharon Begley writes in the Feb. 13th Wall Street Journal "... a funny thing happened when biologists started scrutinizing structures said to be irreducibly complex. Take the flagellum. It turns out that its base -- which Darwin's foes assert has no stand-alone function -- is made of the same necklace of proteins that compose a kind of syringe used by primitive microbes. ... 'As an icon of antievolution, the flagellum has fallen,' says Prof. [Kenneth] Miller, a practicing Catholic. 'If bits and pieces of a machine are useful for different functions, it means that natural selection could indeed produce elements of a biochemical machine for different purposes.' ..."
"Positive Mental Attitude"does little for Cancers...
USA Today reported on Feb. 9th that "A positive attitude does not improve the chances of surviving cancer and doctors who encourage patients to keep up hope may be burdening them, according to the results of research released Monday. Optimism made no difference in the fate of most of the 179 cancer patients that Australian researchers followed over five years. Only eight people were still living by the time the study ended in 2001. ..."
Real Clones in the News...
Maggie Fox reported for ABC News/Reuters on Feb. 12th that "South Korean scientists have announced they cloned several human embryos and managed to extract valuable stem cells from one, but experts cautioned the hope of tailored medical treatments from such techniques is still far off. ..."
And Fake Ones Too...
Meanwhile, the hucksters of Clonaid are still claiming to have cloned human babies, while still refusing to provide any evidence. News.com of Australia reported on Feb. 11th that "The controversial international cloning group Clonaid yesterday claimed it had successfully created its sixth child, following the birth of a baby boy in Sydney last week. The child is said to have been born in a Sydney hospital on February 5, 2004, to infertile parents living in the greater Sydney area. ... Clonaid was founded by the Raelians, a religious sect that believes extraterrestrials created life on Earth through genetic engineering. ... "
NASA asks for Public Guidance on Moon/Mars Initiatives...
ABC News reported on Feb. 11th that "The man in charge of setting the president's moon-Mars vision into motion said Wednesday he's looking to the aerospace industry and ordinary Americans for advice on sustaining interest in the program. The process began with the first in a series of public hearings on the space exploration policy put forth by President Bush a month ago. ..."
Yellow Snow leads to CSI Bust...
AP News reported on Feb. 9th that "Elko [Nevada] police arrested Roger Gray, 25, on the basis of yellow snow he left after relieving himself on the rooftop of a restaurant that had been burglarized. Investigators said the evidence produced enough DNA to link Gray to the scene. ..."
Posted February 6th 2004
Georgia gets "E-Word" back, Sort Of...
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and AP reported on Feb. 5th that "Georgia's school superintendent Thursday dropped plans to remove the word ``evolution'' from the state's high school science curriculum. 'I will recommend to the teacher teams that the word 'evolution' be put back in the curriculum,' Kathy Cox said in a statement. Cox said she originally wanted to replace 'evolution' with the phrase 'biological changes over time' to avoid controversy. 'Instead, a greater controversy ensued,' she said. The proposal drew widespread criticism. Former President Carter said it exposed the state to nationwide ridicule. ..."
However, serious problems remain with the evolving Georgia standards. The Boston Globe reported on Feb. 6th that "Former President Jimmy Carter blasted the plan, and the 55,000-member National Science Teachers Association called it 'a disservice to the students of Georgia. ... Yesterday Cox reversed her recommendation -- a welcome move, but not enough, according to the association, which claims the superintendent is still promoting weakened science standards that omit 'central and related concepts needed to understand evolution.' Here's hoping Georgians -- who reacted loudly and quickly to the creationist hokum -- continue to press for clarity in the guidelines and to demand the teaching of solid, factual science that is driven by no political or religious agenda. ..."
Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education
"News Update: Superintendent Cox reinserts the word 'evolution,' but not the underlying scientific concepts...."
Endorse the Georgia Science Education Petition to Georgia
Department of Education:
Read an Analysis of proposed Georgia standards:
And read this analysis from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman, on Feb. 2nd: "Georgia has ambitions of becoming the next big high-tech state, a new center of scientific achievement in fields ranging from cancer research to nanotechnology. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been committed to that effort .... Meanwhile, Georgia is removing the word 'evolution' from its middle school and high school curriculum guide because it is deemed to be 'a buzzword that causes a lot of negative reaction,' according to the state school superintendent. And it's not just the word that disappears: The proposed changes will also gut much of the instruction that would allow an understanding of evolution's underpinnings. Other changes are being made as well, including deletion of mention that the Earth has a long history, because such a statement conflicts with literal interpretations of the Bible claiming that the Earth is young. Yeah, this move to high-tech is gonna work out just fine. ..."
What about church-run schools in Georgia? They'll continue to teach evolution! As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Feb. 6th, "Landmark Christian School's mission statement is clear: to teach students that 'God is the creator and sustainer of the universe and of man.' The Fairburn school also teaches students the theory of evolution. It's to prepare them for college, administrators say. 'When they get out they'll get eaten up if they say, 'I just believe in creationism,' ' said Rick Burslem, the school principal, who also teaches Advanced Placement biology. ... While Georgia educators, parents and politicians debate how evolution should be taught in public schools, many Christian schools are teaching the theory without controversy, saying their students' success in science depends on it. ..."
Meanwhile, political cartoonists are happy that Cox has given them something to draw besides Howard Dean screaming, or Janet Jackson's breast. Here are samples:
from Feb 1st
http://www.savannahnow.com/columnists/mstreeter/ from Feb 6th
http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/luckovich/2004/020104.html from Feb 1st
http://augustachronicle.com/images/cartoons/04/01/slideshow/slide19.shtml from Jan 31st (image 19) (reg. req'd)
Meanwhile, Ohio tries to slip Creationism into classes...
In a Feb. 6th commentary in the Columbus Dispatch, Steve Rissing writes "Creationists again are trying to push their views into Ohios public school science classrooms &emdash; this time, through the back door. A number of Ohio science teachers, myself included, were asked recently by the Ohio Department of Education to review lessons it is developing to assist teachers and their students to prepare for the Ohio Graduation Test. That test and the model lessons for review are based on the Ohio science content standards that were passed by the State Board of Education 13 months ago. Some board members advocated inclusion of intelligent-design creationism in those standards, a move eventually rejected by the board. But such creationism nonetheless is alive in the model lessons. Attempts to again slip such nonscientific ideas into the science curriculum and the graduation test itself should raise concerns about the science education of our children. ..."
And Montana too...
The Ravalli Republic reports on Feb. 6th "County Attorney George Corn this week outlined his position against the adoption of the objective origins policy passed Monday by the Darby School Board. Against the advice of the school district's attorney, the county attorney's office and school principals, the school board Monday adopted a policy that asks science teachers to question the theory of evolution. In a 3-2 vote, trustees passed the policy after more than 100 people commented on both sides of the issue for three nights. ..."
And the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary responds to Marshall Berman...
Here's an apoplectic response to NMSR member Marshall Berman's excellent editorial in a recent American Biology Teacher: "Panic is setting in among the Darwinists. Even as diverse forms of Darwinist theory have become the enforced orthodoxy of naturalistic science, the fragile house of evolution is in big trouble--and the Darwinists know it. Evidence of the Darwinists' panic is seen in an editorial published in the November-December 2003 edition of The American Biology Teacher. In this editorial, scientist Marshall Berman goes after proponents of 'Intelligent Design' [ID] ..."
Saving the Hubble...
ABC News reported on Feb. 2nd "A torrent of protest from the public and scientific community has led NASA's chief Sean O'Keefe to review his decision to effectively cut Hubble's lifespan by five to six years by canceling an upcoming service mission. ..."
Captain Picard: "To Boldly Stay Home"...
The BBC reported on Feb. 3rd that "The actor who plays the captain on TV's Star Trek has said he thinks resources spent on sending people into space should be used on 'getting this place right first'. Patrick Stewart said Earth should be our focus rather than other planets. 'I'm a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to the whole business of space travel,' he said in a BBC interview. ... Stewart said he backed unmanned missions such as Nasa's Mars rover Opportunity and the UK's Beagle 2 mission. ..."
Fractals used to measure Parkinson-caused Disabilities...
Science Daily reports on Feb. 4th that "Physicists Use Fractals To Help Parkinson's Sufferers... A new portable system for analyzing the walking patterns of people with Parkinson's disease has been developed by researchers in the US and Japan. The system, described in the Institute of Physics publication Journal of Neural Engineering, will help doctors monitor the progress of the disease in patients ..."
Does Birth Month affect Predisposition to Diseases?...
ABC News reports on Feb. 3rd that "You may dismiss astrology as a harmless pseudo-science, but your birthday could have more importance than you think. Some scientists now believe the month in which you were born may predispose you to certain illnesses. ..."
Cell Phones cause Cancer? NOT!...
New Scientist reports on Jan. 30th that "The first in a series of eagerly anticipated nationwide studies has concluded that the use of mobile phones poses no increased risk of brain cancer - at least not for the first 10 years. Despite this caveat, the Danish study is likely to carry more weight with health authorities and scientists than many previous studies because of its large sample size and careful design. ..."
Scientists Win Court Battle over Kennewick Man...
The Tri-City Herald reported on Feb. 5th that "A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling allowing scientists to study the 9,300-year-old Kennewick Man skeleton that was discovered in 1996 along the shores of Columbia Park. ... The federal government determined Kennewick Man to be 'culturally affiliated' with modern Northwest tribes in 2000 and attempted to give the bones to the tribes for reburial. But eight anthropologists hoping to conduct research on the skeleton sued, arguing Kennewick Man can't be proved to be a lineal descendant of existing tribes. ... 'No cognizable link exists between Kennewick Man and modern Columbia Plateau Indians,' [Judge Ronald] Gould wrote. ..."
Super-Heavy Atoms Produced...
The New York Times reported on Feb. 1st that "A team of Russian and American scientists are reporting today that they have created two new chemical elements, called superheavies because of their enormous atomic mass. The discoveries fill a gap at the furthest edge of the periodic table and hint strongly at a weird landscape of undiscovered elements beyond. ..."
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/01/science/01ELEM.html?ex=1390971600&en=76cb868f6c3817ae&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND (reg. req'd)
Posted January 30th 2004
Juggling makes you Smarter...
ABC News reports on Jan. 26th that "It's no longer just a party trick. Juggling might also enhance your brainpower. A new study published in the journal Nature finds that learning to juggle may cause certain areas of your brain to grow. ..."
Parrot wows scientists with big vocabulary...
The BBC reported on Jan. 26th that "The finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short. The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour. He invents his own words and phrases if he is confronted with novel ideas with which his existing repertoire cannot cope - just as a human child would do. ..."
New Form of Matter...Fermionic Condensate!
The BBC reported on Jan. 29th that "Scientists have created a new form of matter, which they say could lead to new ways of transmitting electricity. The fermionic condensate is a cloud of cold potassium atoms forced into a state where they behave strangely. The new matter is the sixth known form of matter after solids, liquids, gases, plasma and a Bose-Einstein condensate, created only in 1995. ..."
SARS Yields Secrets...
The Independent (UK) reported on Jan. 30th that "Scientists have identified thestages in the evolution of the Sars virus that turned it from a simple animal infection into a lethal human disease. A study of the genes of more than 60 Sars viruses has found that it took just three major changes to the virus's genetic material to transform it into a highly effective killer of people. ..."
Feng Shui, or Feng Hooey?
The New York Times reports on Jan. 30th that "...State Assemblyman Leland Y. Yee, Democrat of San Francisco, has introduced a resolution that urges the California Building Standards Commission to adopt standards that would aid feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of promoting health, harmony and prosperity through the environment. The resolution, which has yet to pass a committee vote before going to the full Assembly, is meant to encourage planning agencies, building departments and design review boards to provide for the use of feng shui principles ... "
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/30/national/30FENG.html?ex=1076043600&en=747f78d56e3aafd0&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE%0D (free registration required)
Intelligent Design Writer takes on Astrology ...
Mathematician David Berlinski has long been a darling of the
Intelligent Design movement, and is an esteemed Fellow of the
He's published a new book titled "The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky -
Astrology and the Art of Prediction." Read an excerpt here:
But be sure and read this Publishers Weekly review before rushing out to buy the book! An excerpt:"Spanning the development of astrology from Sumerian origins to Nazi court astrologers, Berlinski's ruminative but shallow history seeks to rescue it from what he sees as the misconceived derision of modern science. The author of A Tour of the Calculus remains coyly agnostic about astrology's validity. He calls it a "finely geared tool for the resolution of practical problems" and cites many successful predictions and a statistical study supposedly verifying the "Mars effect" on athletic talent, but when faced with the incoherent, metaphorical techniques by which astrologers interpret their charts, he can only shrug that since smart people used to listen to astrologers, there must be something to it. ... Physicists will object to Berlinski's contention that they account for "action at a distance" no better than astrologers do, while philosophers will blanch at his superficial take on the conundrums of causality and determinism. No more edifying are the self-consciously literary vignettes (the dying Copernicus "took his breath in long, slow, wet, ragged gasps, a bubble of pale phlegm forming on his lips") with which Berlinski "humanizes" this intellectual history. Readers looking for real intellectual meat behind the author's ostentatious erudition and metaphysical pseudo-profundities will go hungry. ..."
Author points out ID's Advances in Deception...
Carl Zimmer writes in his "The Loom" column of Jan. 23rd this about the Intelligent Design movement: "The Discovery Institute (a well-funded cryptocreationist outfit) is trying to mess with biology class, as it has in states across the country. DI would like to convince us that science is like politics--that there is a middle ground, surrounded on either side by the radical fringe. And DI would also like you to believe that they occupy that middle ground. ... Let's look at this bogus spectrum again. I wonder who exactly wants religion taught in biology classes. Is the Discovery Institute selling out other creationists? Of course not. ...If the Discovery Institute really is so set against the demands of this extreme, then they should work as hard against Young Earth Creationists as they do against science standards. I see no evidence of this. In fact, Young Earth creationists have been happily embraced as fellows at the Discovery Institute. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the other "extreme" that accepts evolution as a well-established but dynamic part of biology. Let's see who we've got here. Dozens of leading organizations of scientists. The authors of thousands of papers published in peer-reviewed journals. ...The Discovery Institute would like to pretend that their specious claims are actually part of a scientific controversy. If that were true, then you'd expect them publishing new findings in Cell or The Journal of Biochemistry, and being invited to give talks at major scientific venues like the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology. Instead, they whine with their bogus claims of censorship. Having been unable to make a dent in the scientific arena, they create a political controversy. ..."
And Zimmer backs up his claims! He points to Raymond G. Bohlin's
site which proclaims that "ICR scientists have come a long way in
showing that many of the Grand Canyon strata could have formed
And points out that Bohlin is also a Fellow of the Discovery
Georgia Ponders Dumping "E=Word" from Science Standards...
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Jan. 30th that "State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox said she removed references to evolution from the proposed biology curriculum because it is 'a buzzword that causes a lot of negative reaction.' Cox, fielding questions at a news conference Thursday, defended her decision to remove the word 'evolution' from the curriculum. She said it was not designed to appease Georgians who have religious conflicts with the scientific theory that all living things evolved from common ancestry. 'This wasn't so much a religion vs. science, politics kind of issue,' Cox said. 'This was an issue of how do we ensure that our kids are getting a quality science education in every classroom across the state.'..."
What's next, I wonder? Will students learn about "planet-pulling" instead of "gravity" ? About "plant-making-energy-from-sunlight" instead of "photosynthesis" ? Time will tell.
FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER WEIGHS IN -
These comments were released on Jan. 30th by the Carter Center: "As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox's attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia's students. Her recommendation that the word 'evolution' be prohibited in textbooks will adversely effect the teaching of science and leave our high school graduates with a serious handicap as they enter college or private life where freedom of speech will be permitted. Nationwide ridicule of Georgia's public school system will be inevitable if this proposal is adopted, and additional and undeserved discredit will be brought on our excellent universities as our state's reputation is damaged. All high school science teachers, being college graduates, have studied evolution as a universal element of university curricula, and would be under pressure to suppress their own educated beliefs in the classroom. The existing and long-standing use of the word 'evolution' in our state's textbooks has not adversely affected Georgians' belief in the omnipotence of God as creator of the universe. There can be no incompatibility between Christian faith and proven facts concerning geology, biology, and astronomy. There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat earth in order to defend our religious faith. Fortunately, it is the responsibility of the State Board of Education to make the final decision on the superintendent's ill-advised proposal."
And this comment comes from Reed A. Cartwright's Jan. 28th column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Georgia DOE has gutted biology education by removing the very basis of modern biology, more than likely for sectarian politics. Instead of enlightening opponents of modern science through education, DOE will perpetuate ignorance through silence. We do not compromise history education for those who deny the Holocaust; why should we compromise biology education for those who deny evolution?..."
Posted January 23rd 2004
Mars News UPDATE...
The European Mars Orbiter Confirms Evidence of Water: The AP reported on Jan. 23rd that "A European spacecraft has found the most direct evidence yet of water in the form of ice on Mars, detecting molecules vaporizing from the Red Planet's south pole, scientists said Friday...."
Also, New Scientist reports on Jan. 4th that "A landscape gashed with valleys is revealed in the first image from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. It shows an aerial view of part of the Solar System's grandest canyon, the Valles Marineris." It's a spectacular image!
Meanwhile, the rover Spirit suffered a major communications glitch on Jan. 21st, but has shown new signs of life on the 23rd: ABC News reports on Jan. 23rd that "NASA received data from the Spirit rover Friday morning for the first time in two days, ending fears that the Mars mission may have come to a calamitous halt, but an official said the rover's condition remains "critical" and restoring it to full function could take weeks. ..."
Finally, take a look at this amazing download, the most recent image downloaded from the Spirit Rover on Mars. This may just explain the recent communications glitches with the Rover!
New Group On the Scene: Unintelligent Design Network, Inc....
This new Ohio science group advocates the view that "although life was designed by an all-powerful creator, he is in reality pretty dumb and not very good at it."
White House makes statement on Roswell UFO...
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, in the press briefing in Air Force One en route to Roswell, NM on Jan. 22nd, had this to say in the Press Gaggle:
9:18 A.M. MST Jan 22 2004
MR. McCLELLAN: Now, when we land today there are certain things that we may ask you not to report, that you may see. (Laughter.)
Q I'm not playing that game. If there's a flying saucer, it's going on the wire, man. (Laughter.) ...
A Natural Explanation for the Red Sea parting?
The Washington Times reported on Jan. 21st that "Russian mathematicians have determined the legendary parting of the Red Sea that let the Jews flee Egypt was possible, the Moscow Times reported. The study, published in the Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, focused on a reef that runs from the documented spot where the Jews escaped Egypt, which in Biblical times, was much closer to the surface, according to Naum Volzinger, a senior researcher at St. Petersburg's Institute of Oceanology, and a colleague based in Hamburg, Alexei Androsov. ..."
Are Lie-Detection Glasses in your Future?...
The EE Times reported on Jan. 16th that "It may not be long before you hear airport security screeners ask, 'Do you plan on hijacking this plane?' A U.S. company using technology developed in Israel is pitching a lie detector small enough to fit in the eyeglasses of law enforcement officers, and its inventors say it can tell whether a passenger is a terrorist by analyzing his answer to that simple question in real-time. ..."
London Telepathy Debate: Science 0, Believers 1 ...
John Whitfield of the journal Nature reported on Jan. 22nd that "Scientists tend to steer clear of public debates with advocates of the paranormal. And judging from the response of a London audience to a rare example of such a head-to-head conflict last week, they are wise to do so. Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist at University College London, made the case against the existence of telepathy at a debate at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London on 15 January. Rupert Sheldrake, a former biochemist and plant physiologist at the University of Cambridge who has taken up parapsychology, argued in its favour. And most of the 200-strong audience seemed to agree with him. ..."
Meanwhile, Psychics and Astrologers Bungle the NFL Playoffs...
The Philadelphia Eagles lost last week's playoff to the Carolina Panthers, surprising astrologers and psychics. In an article in the Philadelphia Daily News from Jan. 15th, it was reported that "...the Daily News consulted an astrologist, a psychic and a feng shui master for guidance on what the weekend will bring. The results weren't all positive for the home team. A tarot card reading sounded a warning for the Birds. The Panthers, too, have some auspicious energies. But all of the consultants predicted a win for the Eagles - even it means another nail-biter. ..."
Forget the Hobbitses... Gollum helps research Cancer Treatment Methods...
Well, everyone's trying to hop onto the Lord of the Rings bandwagon. Even the normally reserved Scientific American grabbed at the One Ring, by featuring an image of Aragorn on the cover of the Feb. 2004 issue (ostensibly, to promote the story on organic films for digital displays - but we know better! - see http://www.sciam.com/issue.cfm).
Now, however, Australian technicians have really enlisted Gollum's aid to make better face masks for cancer patients. The masks, used to keep patients immobile during radiation sessions for their faces, are normally made with plaster of paris in a time-consuming and awkward technique. News.com of Australia reports on Jan. 22nd that "Mr Deans, a technician at the hospital, said he had been amazed at the primitive plaster-cast method being used to build the masks. He became determined to 'machine' it. The next step was to find the technology. Mr McKernan initially went to test a digital scanner at a film studio in Melbourne. 'But the unit they used was huge,' said Mr Deans. 'It wasn't practical.' Further internet searches led the pair to the Lord of the Rings website, which has video footage of a hand-held laser scanner being used to create Gollum, whose screen incarnation was formed from a digitised scanned face. Again Mr McKernan went to have his head scanned -- this time to test out the equipment in Christchurch. 'We had the digitised head sent across to us ... and we re-machined Brendan's head again. It was a pipe dream come true,' Mr Dean said. Using the scanner, the moulding process takes only 40 minutes. ..."
Posted January 16th 2004
Albuquerque lands the International Science Fair for 2007...
John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal reported on Jan. 14th that "Albuquerque will host the 2007 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, an event that will bring more than a thousand of the world's brightest teenagers to the city, event organizers said Tuesday. Albuquerque won out over Denver and Boston, said Russ Fisher-Ives, head of science education at Rio Rancho High School and one of the organizers of the bid for the 2007 fair. Fisher-Ives and Bill Cordova, who was a winner at the international fair as a teenager, put in their winning bid at last summer's international fair in Cleveland. They subsequently hosted a series of visits by the event's sponsors before the final decision was made. Albuquerque hosted the international fair once before, in 1983. ..."
Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/scitech/132631metro01-14-04.htm (Subscription required)
More: http://www.abqtrib.com/archives/news04/011404_news_science.shtml (Ed Asher's report in the Trib).
Genes for Humanity's Big Brains found?
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced on Jan. 13th that "Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have identified a gene that appears to have played a role in the expansion of the human brain's cerebral cortex -- a hallmark of the evolution of humans from other primates. By comparing the gene's sequence in a range of primates, including humans, as well as non-primate mammals, the scientists found evidence that the pressure of natural selection accelerated changes in the gene, particularly in the primate lineage leading to humans. ..."
Nicholas Wade of the New York Times writes on Jan. 14th that "A gene that helps determine the size of the human brain has been under intense Darwinian pressure in the last few million years, changing its structure 15 times since humans and chimps separated from their common ancestor, biologists have found. The gene came to light two years ago, when a disrupted form of it was identified as the cause of microcephaly, a disease in which people are born with an abnormally small cerebral cortex. ..."
Enzymes in Action...
Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) reports on Jan. 14th that "Israeli scientists have developed a method of producing video footage of enzyme molecules at work. The pioneering method, made public in Nature Structural Biology, was hailed as the first of its kind, and a potentially important tool for biophysicists. Until now, scientists studying the workings of ultra-microscopic forms have had to rely on the laboratory equivalents of still photos. Now, Prof. Irit Sagi and her team, of the Structural Biology Department of the Weizmann Institute, have developed a method to track and produce animated clips so fine that the scientists are able to see the movements of individual atoms within the molecule. ..."
Bacterial Adam and Eve found?
SpaceDaily.com reports on Jan. 15th that "All living plants and animals are likely derived from two primitive species of bacteria, a mathematics professor at the University of Alberta has shown. Dr. Peter Antonelli and a former post-doctoral student of his, Dr. Solange Rutz, used an original mathematical modeling system and software program to evaluate and compare the two main theories of biological evolution. One theory, put forward by Dr. Lynn Margulis of the University of Massachusetts, proposes that a 'mother' bacteria (Bdellavibrio) and a 'father' bacteria (Thermoplasma acidophilum) 'exchanged energy' in a stable, dependable, and consistent way about 3.2 billion years ago to form all subsequent multicellular organisms, Antonelli explained...."
Spirit Rover Leaves Home...
Here's the official NASA site with lots of interactives and news on the Spirit Rover's sojourn on Mars.
And this article, which I found out about in John Fleck's
Journal Science blog
(http://www.abqjournal.com/weblogs/fleck.htm), talks about why exploration of Mars is so exciting:
http://mainlymartian.blogs.com/semijournal/2004/01/why_mars.html. Among those expressing sentiment that Mars should be left to robots for now is Bob Park of APS's What's New (http://www.aps.org/WN/ ), who notes that "Long before a human could land on Mars, there won't be much left to explore. Politicians tend to underestimate the public. An AP poll found 57 percent favor having robots explore the moon and Mars; 38 percent said humans...." (Jan. 16th)
Homeopathic Company Nixes Bernalillo County IRB's...
KOB-TV4 and AP report on Jan. 13th that "An Albuquerque homeopathic remedy manufacturer has canceled an $8 million industrial revenue bond with Bernalillo County. The company, Heel Incorporated, says it will fund its expansion through its parent company. The company got the 30-year, tax-deferred revenue bond last year. But Heels chief financial officer, Dan Brown, says Heels parent company, Delton Group, has decided to finance all company expansions itself. ..."
See NMSR's Quacky Page article on Heel and the Bonds:
There's a much more detailed report by Dan Mayfield in the Jan. 13th print edition of the Albuquerque Tribune, but this was not available at the Trib's web site. Want to File a Suggestion? mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org .
Raelian Cloners and Intelligent Design: Kindred Spirits?
John Bice of Michigan State University, in a Jan. 15th opinion column for the State News titled "Raelian cult beliefs just as nutty as the Christian majority's," writes "...As an interesting side note, Raelian beliefs fit quite nicely with those of Christian creationists. Both creationists and Raelians agree, despite overwhelming evidence, that evolutionary theory is incorrect. Especially worthy of note is how well Raelian beliefs dovetail with the most recent variant of creationism called Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC). ... If I were a science teacher and found myself forced to teach IDC alongside evolution, I would strongly emphasize the "alien scientist" creator possibility. And, of course, what discussion of "alien creators" would be complete without a discreet plug for the Raelians and their nifty cult. ..."
Posted January 9th 2004
A New Year, And New Creationist Legislation...
The NCSE reported on Jan. 8th that "A bill to be introduced in the current session of the Missouri General Assembly would require 'the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.' House Bill 911 contains a long list of proposed definitions of terms and concepts such as 'analogous naturalistic process,' 'biological intelligent design,' 'destiny,' and 'extrapolated radiometric data.' It would require that 'If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught and given equal treatment.'..."
Salem: Witch Mystique Is Getting Old...
ABC News reports on Jan. 6th that "This [Salem, Mass.] is undeniably the 'Witch City,' even if not all residents are comfortable about renown rooted in the evil of the Salem witch trials of 1692. But some wonder if it's time for Salem to expand its reputation beyond witch hysteria, and the kitschy spook industry that's grown up around it. Now, tourism leaders have hired a marketing consultant, the first step in a campaign to retool the city's image by focusing on its significant, but lesser-known, cultural assets. ..."
Roswell, this could be YOU In a few years!
ABQ Homeless Shelter Manager discusses Creationist Books at the Grand Canyon ...
Jeremy Reynalds [http://www.joyjunction.org/reynalds.html], who runs the Joy Junction homeless shelter in Albuquerque, also writes numerous articles for Christian and Republican web sites. On Jan. 7th, Reynalds wrote "A new book offering an alternative view of how the Grand Canyon was formed is the object of a book-banning effort by prominent evolutionists, who have demanded that the Grand Canyon National Park Service remove the text from bookstores within the park. ..."
Galaxy Formation: Earlier Than Expected...
The AP/MyWay News reported on Jan. 6th that "An international team of scientists using a telescope on the Big Island have discovered evidence that many galaxies were formed earlier and faster than previously believed. The findings, released Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Atlanta, are similar those made by a team of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope that also are being released at the meeting. Previous theories suggested it took billions of years for smaller galaxies to merge into larger ones. But researchers using the Gemini North Telescope on the summit of the Big Island's inactive Mauna Kea volcano discovered larger, or older, galaxies also existed about 11 billion years ago - less than three billion years after the Big Bang, said Jean-Rene Roy, Gemini's associate director. ..."
NMSR President to be Guest on SETI Radio with Seth Shostak...
The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute's weekly science radio program, "Are We Alone," will feature NMSR president Dave Thomas this Sunday, January 11th, on "Skeptical Sunday: Alien Visitors?" The show is at 10PM EST, 8PM Mountain Std. Time, and 7PM Pacific Std. Time. You can listen online, either live, or after the show. Check the links for radio connections!
NMSR Annual Awards Posted...
NMSR's Annual Year-End Awards are now On Line. See who's been naughty and who's been nice! This year, there are 27 Awards in as many categories.
Posted January 2nd 2004
Earth is On Time, for a Change...
ABC News reported on Dec. 30th that "In a phenomenon that has scientists puzzled, the Earth is right on schedule for a fifth straight year. Experts agree that the rate at which the Earth travels through space has slowed ever so slightly for millennia. To make the world's official time agree with where the Earth actually is in space, scientists in 1972 started adding an extra 'leap second' on the last day of the year. For 28 years, scientists repeated the procedure. But in 1999, they discovered the Earth was no longer lagging behind. ..."
Chinese Announce Discovery of Euprimate Ancestor...
News.com.au (Australia) reported on Jan. 2nd 2004 that "Chinese archaeologists have discovered a 55 million-year-old fossil that they believe provides important information about the evolution of monkeys and humans, state media reported today. Such fossils have been found before in Europe and North America but never in China, the Xinhua news agency said. Four scientists working at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences made the discovery and will publish their findings in the magazine Nature. Professor Li Chuankui said the fossil, which was found in central Hunan province, was a breakthrough on the origin and evolution of euprimate animals, which include monkeys, apes and human beings. ..."
Catch a Comet By the Tail...
ABC News reporst on Jan. 2nd that "A NASA spacecraft flew through the bright halo of a distant comet Friday to scoop up less than a thimbleful of dust that could shed light on how our solar system was formed. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said its Stardust spacecraft passed within an estimated 143 miles of the comet Wild 2 as it plowed through the gossamer cloud that cloaks the dirty ball of ice and rock. Mission members said the unmanned probe made its closest approach at 11:44 a.m. PST, while traveling at a relative speed of 13,650 mph. 'We passed the closest approach point without any injury, apparently,' said scientist Donald Yeomans, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Stardust was designed to gather hundreds if not thousands of dust particles streaming from Wild 2 (pronounced Vilt-2) during the flyby 242 million miles from Earth. The unmanned spacecraft also was to snap 72 black-and-white close-ups of the comet's nucleus, thought to be just 3.3 miles across. ..."
But Beagle 2 still Missing...
There is still no contact with the Beagle 2, which landed on Mars last Christmas Day. The Beagle 2 Home Page reports that "As yet, contact has not been made with Beagle 2. The times of the next opportunities to communicate with the lander can be found here. ..."
"Depends" Touted as Energy Crisis Solution...
CNN reported on Dec. 23rd that "Germany has only a small amount of its own natural oil reserves, but an enterprising power plant chief believes it has found an alternative source of energy with a bright future in an aging nation -- used incontinence pads. 'It's an environmentally friendly source of energy,' said Thomas Lesche, director of a Bremen incinerator plant that has signed a pioneering deal with a local retirement home to buy up 100 tons of used pads and soiled tissues each year. 'The pollution emissions with used pads are far lower than with oil or coal,' added Lesche, who said he did not know of any other plant in Europe that turns incontinence pads into energy. 'The content of nappies provide a great source of energy. The demand for used incontinence materials will grow in the future.' ..."
Stock up Now!
Does WWW stand for the Weird and Wacky Web?...
John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine, in an ABC News article of Dec. 24th, writes "The holiday season is the time of year to celebrate the great diverse world. ... what better way to say 'happy holidays' than to celebrate the most unusual Web sites that express love and hate along with frank discussions of alien abduction. Diversity to the max. Please do not call the people I am about to discuss 'crackpots.' Do not call these people 'lunatics.' Many may be on to something, and we must show brotherly love and compassion for their ideas and individuality. Let's look at a few of my favorite sites this week, and I challenge any reader to top this list. I say that in a loving way, of course. ..."
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