Thursday, May 12, 2016

Shadow of a Doubt - May 2016

 The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics
  • May 14 - "The Man who Stalked Einstein"  - Presented by Bruce J. Hillman, MD
  • July NCAS Lecture
  • 2016 NCAS Philip J. Klass Awardd Presentation Dinner
  • Happy Friday the 13th!
  • Torn from Today's Headlines
  • NCAS Board Elections 
  • AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
  • Shadow Light
  • Drinking Skeptically on hiatus
NCAS Public Lecture Series

The Man Who Stalked Einstein:
A Tale of Scientific Differences, Envy, and Ethnic Prejudice

Presented by Bruce J. Hillman, MD

The Man Who Stalked Einstein details the antagonistic relationship between Philipp Lenard – the 1905 Nobel Prize winner for physics – and Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the 20th Century,’ Albert Einstein. The two men were antipodes in nearly every regard. Lenard was an experimentalist, who believed the theoretical physics of Einstein was calculated charlatanry. He was a strident German nationalist, whose personal financial reversals and the death of his son led him to believe the popular Nazi shibboleth that the Jews were at fault for Germany’s problems. Lenard personalized Einstein as ‘the Jew.’ Over time, his writings and speeches attacking Einstein reversed the public’s perception of the once popular Einstein and had much to do with Einstein’s fleeing Europe in 1933. Following Hitler’s consolidation of authority, Lenard and his protégé, Johannes Stark - empowered by newly enacted anti-Semitic laws – led the dismissal of all Jewish scientists from German universities.


Bruce J. Hillman, MD, is Professor and former Chair of the Department of Radiology at the University of Virginia.  He has published more than 300 articles in the medical literature, as well as the 2010 book, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – How Medical Imaging is Changing Health Care, explaining medical imaging for a lay audience. He has edited three medical journals, including his current role as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American College of Radiology. The Man Who Stalked Einstein: How Nazi Scientist Phillip Lenard Changed the Course of History is his first work of creative non-fiction.

Saturday, May 14, 2016
1:30 pm

Twinbrook Library (Note New Location)
202 Meadow Hall Dr, Rockville, MD

July NCAS Lecture

A rare NCAS summer lecture is scheduled, featuring Glenn Branch, the Deputy Director of the National Center for Science Education, who will give a talk on doubt and denial as challenges in climate education. Thursday, July 7 at 7:30 PM at Chevy Chase Library, 8005 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD.

 2016 NCAS Philip J. Klass Award Presentation Dinner

On May 3, NCAS members and guests gathered at Positano Ristorante Italiano in Bethesda for the first Philip J. Klass Award presentation dinner.  NCAS president J. D. Mack presented the 2016 NCAS Philip J. Klass Award for outstanding contributions in promoting critical thinking and scientific understanding to Dr. John Mather, Senior Project Scientist for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.  The award presentation was followed by Dr. Mather's talk on "The History of the Universe from the Beginning to the End: Where Did We Come From, Where Can We Go?"

Special guests for the evening were John and Jane Mather, and Michael and Deanna Hauser.  Drs. Mather and Hauser were members of NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) science team. Launched in 1989, COBE obtained the first precise measurements of the cosmic microwave background glow, with results that confirmed an essential prediction of the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe, and revealed the expected slight background temperature variations indicative of early matter distribution that evolved into immense cosmic voids and galaxy filaments as the universe continued to expand.

For this work, John Mather and George Smoot equally shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. Hauser, Smoot, and sixteen other members of the COBE science team shared half of the 2006 Gruber Prize in Cosmology, with the other half going to Mather.

Though NCAS also honors Dr. Mather's scientific contributions, primarily the 2016 Philip J. Klass Award was presented to him for his dedication in describing to the public what he and his colleagues discovered, how it was done, and what will be done to continue the pace of discovery.

The presence of Dr. Hauser and his wife at the Klass Award dinner was a surprise to Dr. Mather, who considers Hauser a mentor as well as a friend and colleague, dating back to 1974 when they and other team members began developing the COBE concept.

The award presentation and Dr. Mather's talk are available on the NCAS YouTube Channel at:

NCAS created the Philip J. Klass Award in 2006. Previous recipients were Michael Shermer, James Randi, Robert L. Park, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman, Joel Achenbach, Penn & Teller, Phil Plait, and Steven Salzberg.

Deanna Hauser, Michael Hauser, Jane Mather, John Mather, and NCAS president J. D. Mack.
© Bruce F Press Photography

After accepting the Klass Award (right), John Mather describes the James Webb Space Telescope, an ambitious project to observe the first stars and galaxies forming, reveal the birth and development of other solar systems, and examine the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars, starting in 2018.
© Bruce F Press Photography

The 2016 NCAS Philip J. Klass Award

Happy Friday the 13th!

NCAS has no events planned for Friday, May 13, but encourages our members to celebrate the silliness of superstition by flouting unlikely harbingers of doom.  (Sensibly of course...wear eye protection if you smash a mirror, be careful when walking under a ladder, etc!)  Meanwhile, we're still wondering how one of the better days of the week could get such a bad rap.  Shouldn't Monday be the prime suspect for bad luck?

Torn From Today's Headlines
By Scott Snell
John Podesta Discusses UFOs/UAPs with CNN's Jake Tapper

There were a few developments shortly after the April Shadow of a Doubt news item ("Hillary Clinton Discusses UFOs/UAPs and Plans Government Disclosure").  CNN's Jake Tapper asked John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, what his candidate will do regarding "government disclosure" of UFOs (which Podesta calls UAPs, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) if she becomes President.

After telling Tapper that Hillary Clinton plans to declassify as many government records pertaining to UAPs as possible, Podesta noted that "...President [Bill] Clinton asked for some information about some of these things, and in particular some information about what was going on at Area 51, but I think the U.S. government could do a much better job in answering the quite legitimate questions that people have about what's going on with unidentified aerial phenomena."

Unfortunately Tapper did not follow up to discover why Podesta believes the U.S. government could "do a much better job" than it did in answering a President's request for information.  Tapper also did not ask Podesta what was (presumably) inadequate about the many Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for such information, submitted by and fulfilled for various UFO investigative groups and individuals over a period of decades.  If Podesta believes that the most important records are still classified and thus protected against public release through the FOIA, why would even President Bill Clinton have been unable to learn about them?

Author's note:
Podesta probably will never be able to prove to himself that the government records he seeks don't actually exist.  That mindset may lead not only to eternal futility for him, but also to a susceptibility to the works of document forgers.


 NCAS Board Elections: Electronic Voting

The 2016 NCAS election is underway.  In mid-April, your e-mail inbox should've received a single-cast secret ballot from " via <>".  (NCAS will receive information indicating who voted, but nothing to indicate who cast each ballot.)  Please vote by May 15, 2016.

Note that voters will not be at risk for spamming as a result of participating...SurveyMonkey has a zero-tolerance spam policy:

AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!

When shopping at, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the second half of 2015 came to $15.70, meaning that over $3000 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS.  (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's almost enough to cover one hour of a Montgomery County library lecture room rental: $20).

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

For more information:

Shadow Light

Some members and contacts of NCAS receive a postal notification of this and every new monthly Shadow of a Doubt.  The Shadow Light postcard announces the monthly lecture and highlights of the electronic Shadow of a Doubt, which is available online at  NCAS thereby reduces Shadow production and postage costs.  To further reduce costs, members and contacts can opt out of postal notification altogether, while continuing to receive Shadow of a Doubt via e-mail.  To opt out, send us an e-mail at

Drinking Skeptically

NCAS Drinking Skeptically is on indefinite hiatus at our Maryland and Virginia locations.