Ring In 2006 One
Second Later

by Jordan Niednagel
S: (12-25-05)

It hasn't been done that often ... only a handful of times since 1972, in fact. But this year it's being done again, granting you the opportunity to celebrate New Year's Eve an entire second longer. Yes, it's the infamous leap second, and you've never heard of it before, well, you've heard of it now.

It's rather odd to think that we even need to add a second to our watches, but because the earth is slowing down, scientists consider it a necessity. Just imagine arriving to a party one second late, or mising your flight by just a single second. The consequences would be horrific.

But in all seriousness, the addition is needed. Despite the fact that experts say the earth speeds up at times, which would then require a negative leap second, so far all have been add-ons, indicating an overall slowing trend of the earth due to tidal breaking. This is significant, because if the earth is slowing down, it once was spinning faster, obviously. Try going back millions of years, and you've got yourself a problem. Or rather, maybe an answer.

This Month...

Human Footprints Reinterpreted
It would be comical if it wasn't so serious; a classic case of preconceived ideas ...

Oregon Surfer Punches Great White
He's thankful that he watched a number of television shows about sharks, although he ...
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Dinosaurs went extinct because they were violently hurled into outerspace.

While, again, many insist that the earth speeds up at times, the overall trend is an abvious slowing. In the end, observable science tells us the earth is coming to a hault. Speculative science basically says the opposite.

In any case, the extra second will occur just before 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Atomic clocks at that moment will read 23:59:60 before rolling over to all zeros. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service is responsible for deciding when to introduce the leap second, and under an international pact, the preference for leap seconds is either December 31 or June 30.

Enjoy your extra second.

Human Footprints Reinterpreted

by Jonathan Drake
S: BBC News (12-1-05)

It would be comical if it wasn't so serious; a classic case of preconceived ideas interpreting the evidence, instead of the other way around.
Earlier this year, a British-Mexican team led by Dr. Silvia Gonzalez of Liverpool John Moores University hailed the discovery of human footprints found in volcanic ash at Valsequillo Lake near Puebla in southern Mexico. If confirmed, they would be the oldest evidence of human occupation in the Americas.

Thus began the dating techniques ... from radiocarbon to electron spin resonance on nearby mammoth teeth to optically stimulated luminescence on the local lake sediments. The results then came in: 40,000 years. But that was impossible. The first Americans travelled from Siberia to Alaska across a land bridge that connected these two land masses about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago at the end of ice age.

The situation would only get worse. According to Paul Renne, a geochronologist at the University of California, Berkeley, the tuff in which the footprints were found is approximately 1.3 million years old. That would place these humans long before the first known appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa by more than a million years.

In the end, there were virtually only two options. The dating methods were wrong, or the footprints were wrong. Surprise, surprise, it was decided that the dating methods were wrong. According to Dr. Waters of Texas A&M University, the "footprints" are likely marks that were left over from quarrying: "The Xalnene tuff is a lithified volcanic ash. The locals go out there and quarry it for building material. They take picks and bars with chisel-like ends. They'll chip it out and break it into small rectangular pieces," he explained. " What you're seeing in the depressions is where the metal tools are diveting into the tuff. Every time it rains, water collects in the depressions, sediments collect in them and they weather out into oddball shapes."

The British-Mexican team aren't as convinced, and are set to publish their supporting evidence for the footprints in the academic journal Quaternary Science Reviews in January.

A question lingers ... if the footprints and their surrounding ash hadn't been dated to be so old, but fit nicely into their evolutionary timeline, would scientists have still 'reinterpeted' them to be mere quarry marks?

Oregon Surfer Punches Great White

by Josef Long
S: ABC News (12-26-05)

He's thankful that he watched a number of television shows about sharks, although he admits his reaction was based more on instinct than smarts. Whatever the case, Brian Anderson, 31, is a lucky man after having escaped the jaws of a great white shark.

An avid surfer, Anderson was paddling off the coast of northern Oregon this month when he felt something suddenly grab onto his leg. Without any thought, he punched the shark in the nose.

"That's all I could think to do, and after I did that, it let go," he said. "And I wanted to get to shore as soon as I could. The thought crossed my mind that I might not make it back in and it was just pretty hectic."

He quickly paddled to shore, and as he walked onto the beach, shocked bystanders could see blood dripping from his leg. To prevent further loss of blood, Anderson wisely tied his surfboard leash around his shin before heading to the hospital.

"I'll go back out, eventually," he said. "It probably will be awhile. I'm grateful I made it back in and there was definitely somebody watching out after me that day."


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Quote of the Month
"As I have already implied, students of fossil primates have not been distinguished for caution when working within the logical constraints of their subject. The record is so astonishing that it is legitimate to ask whether much science is yet to be found in this field at all."

Lord Solly Zuckerman, M.A., M.D., D.Sc.
In Beyond the Ivory Tower, Taplinger Pub. Co., New York, 1970, p. 64.

Emails To The Editor

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