Journal of

The Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York

Volume 0, Issue 0

Welcome to the first, ``rapid prototype,'' issue of the Journal of the Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York (ISUNY for short). In these pages we will keep you informed of club events and provide a forum for discussion, education and entertainment. As the premiere issue, the copy you now hold may or may not reflect the final form of the newsletter. Many simple decisions remains such as selecting a name, and deciding how often the newsletter should be published. Should this, for example, be a monthly newsletter briefly describing upcoming events with short items of interest? Or, should it be a bi-monthly (or quarterly) journal offering longer and more substantial articles? My own preference is for a bi-monthly publication, because of the time involved in preparing even a simple publication such as you now hold.

Regarding a title, I am actively soliciting suggestions by announcing a name the newsletter contest. We need something more clever, less pedantic, and easier to say then The Journal of .... Other skeptic groups have newsletters called: The Skeptic (both the National Committee of Australian Skeptics, Inc. and the North Texas Skeptics), Rational Enquirer (British Columbia Skeptics), BASIS (Bay Area Skeptic Information Sheet), Rocky Mountain Skeptic, and many others. Since skeptic newsletters are re-distributed as part of CSICOP's newsletter exchange, the person who contributes the choosen title will endure lasting fame amoung a small, but interesting, group of people.

It almost goes without saying, that to make a newsletter work we need volunteers. We need volunteers to help proofread and typeset the newsletter, and, most importantly, we need volunteers to write articles and edit columns. Please see any member of the steering committee with your suggestions, or sent your article to the editor via email to: mike@rpi.edi, or by US mail to: Mike Sofka, 8 Providence Street, Albany, NY 12203. I look forward to future contributions from our members.

Ask The Skeptic.

This is Ask The Skeptic, a question and answer column edited by Peter Huston. If you have a question of a skeptical (or not so skeptical) nature Peter is the person to see. I would like to initiate this column with a question of my own. Several months ago on FOX TV's -[encounters]-, a german crop ``circle'' was discussed. The scare-quotes are used because this agri-sculpture was anything but circular. It was a shape that indicates intelligent design. The big question, of course, is whose design and where did he/she/it came from.

Amoung the properties attributed to this crop circle were: radiation levels higher then background, deformities in the wheat, and unusual, ``impossible'' to fake braiding patterns. I've seen these claims made about other crop phenomena, and remain skeptical because the details about the radiation, deformities and why the braiding pattern is so imposibile to fake were not forthcoming.

What was intersting about this particular crop ``circle'' is that three disks were found buried within the design. Each was about one foot in diameter, and included an image of the complete ``circle''. One disk was brass, the other silver and the third (you guessed it) gold. Personally, I would like to know more. My own suspicion is that it is a hoax. The very poor quality of the three disks (which looked like sand castings) adds to this assesment. But, what a hoax! Peter, you got any more information?

If you have questions for ``The Skeptic'' he can be reached by calling (518) 393-3478.


This is the UFO column edited by Alan French. This column will include information on local and national UFO, and UFO observer, activities. Alan is a very experience watcher of the sky, being a long time amature astonomer and telescope builder. His interest in UFOs dates back to his childhood readings, and he was the speaker at ISUNY's second meeting with his talk: The Trouble with UFOs, Crashed Saucers, and Alien Abductions. Besides writing this column, I hope Alan will give his talk again next year.

If you have questions about UFOs, have articles of interest, or suggestions for a column topic please see Alan. He can be reached via email at:, or by calling (518) 374-8460.

Of Interest.

Book Review.

Fantastic Archaeology: The wild side of north american prehistory, Stephen Williams, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991, 407 pages.

If you like stories of Atlantis and Mu, if you thrill at tales of Nordic explorers building the Ohio mounds, if a field trip to see the Cardiff Giant (located in nearby Cooperstown, NY) is all the vacation you need, then Fantastic Archaeology is the book for you. It is a field guide to the fantastic, with references and sources for many more hours (years) of future digging.

Stephen Williams is a professor of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. His reason for writing the book is that he considers it an error to ignore or dismiss fantastic claims because the field of archaeology is filled with them. Instead, he takes the approach of teaching students about the claims, and why they are not taken seriously by scientists. On the subject of forgeries Williams is even more adamant since forgeries do occur in archaeology, and the trained archaeologist must know how to detect and avoid them.

I was surprised by the number of New York authors, and artifacts mentioned in the book. The Cardiff Giant was already mentioned. Another example is Josiah Priest (1788--1851), an native of the Albany region, whose book American Antiquities, and Discoveries in the West (1833) is cited as the best reference of the past 150 years of fantastic archeology. Perhaps a visit to the state museum is in order?

Upcoming Meetings.

Our next meeting will be held at the Guilderland Public Library on Thursday November 3rd at 7:00 pm. (Yes, that is Thursday, since the rooms were not available on Wednesday.) The speaker will be Mike Cioppa who will give us a demonstration of his psychic powers.

Our December meeting will be in the Guilderland Public Library on Wednesday December 7th. A speaker has not yet been scheduled.

ISUNY Needs You.

ISUNY needs volunteers to help with club activities and organization. We need poeple to: If you are interested in any of the above see Mike Sofka, or one of the steering committee members. This is your club, and it will only be as good as you make it.

Thank You.

Thank you to Alan French, Peter Huston, Chris Mastoc, Bob Mulford, and Dee Mulford for their help with the newsletter, and preparing for this and other meetings.

About ISUNY.

The Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York (ISUNY) is an informal gathering of people who are interested in, and skeptical about claims of the paranormal and fringe-science. We encourage the critical investigation of the paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible scientific viewpoint. To this end we intend to: If you are interested in the paranormal and fringe-science, and would like to learn more, we encourage you to join.

Other sources of skeptical information are The Skeptical Inquirer published by the Committe for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and Skeptic published by The Skeptics Society. Both journals are available on newstands. Note that while ISUNY shares some of the goals and mission of CSICOP, we are not in any way officially affiliated with them.

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