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November 2, 2003

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Religion in the News

ETS Leadership Issues Recommendations on Kicking Out Open Theists
Evangelical Theological Society's Executive Committee unanimously recommends Clark Pinnock stay; majority says John Sanders should go. By Ted Olsen.

Mike Yaconelli Dies in Truck Accident
The cofounder of Youth Specialties and The Door embodied Messy Spirituality. Interview by Rob Moll.

Books & Culture's Book of the Week: The Troubled Conscience of a Founding Father
An Imperfect God examines George Washington and slavery. Reviewed by Preston Jones.

Ancient Christian Commentary on Current Events: What Is War Good For?
What early church leaders thought of Christians and the military. By Joel Elowsky.

Discovering Magdalene the apostle, not the fallen woman
Karen L. King and several other scholars, maintain that the church made Mary Magdalene into a sinner in an attempt to denigrate women and to solidify male leadership (The New York Times).

Combing through lost articles of faith
Lost Scriptures and Lost Christianities discuss what didn't make it into the canon (The Boston Globe).

Science in the News

ASA Meeteing: You are cordially invited to join ASA members and friends for the 7th meeting of the Eastern Pennsylvania Section of the American Scientific Affiliation.  Topic: Days of Creation: Why Christians disagree over the meanings of Genesis and modern science. We will be meeting at Eastern College in Saint Davids, PA on Saturday November 8, 2003 starting at 1:30 PM until 4:45 PM. Cost:  $10.00 (students and spouses free) RSVP by November 6th Alan McCarrick Pannelists are Paul Humber, David Wilcox, Robert Newman, Stephen Meyers, and Frank Roberts. Campus directions and map:

The Elegant Universe
This is an excellent program about the universe and string theory. It airs on PBS Tuesday at 8 PM (EST) See and Watch the Program. View the first two hours online now (hour 3 available Nov. 5). Watch a Preview


Zillions of universes? Or did ours get lucky?
A controversial notion known as the anthropic principle holds forth that the universe can only be understood by including ourselves in the equation (The New York Times).

Scientists Find Evolution Of Life Helped Keep Earth Habitable.
In a paper titled "Carbonate Deposition, Climate Stability and Neoproterozoic Ice Ages" in the Oct. 31 edition of Science, UC Riverside researchers Andy Ridgwell and Martin Kennedy along with LLNL climate scientist Ken Caldeira, discovered that the increased stability in modern climate may be due in part to the evolution of marine plankton living in the open ocean with shells and skeletal material made out of calcium carbonate.


Archaeology's great hoax
In a storeroom of the Michigan Historical Museum, state archaeologist John Halsey examined the newly acquired artifacts purported to be the remnants of an ancient Middle Eastern civilization that settled in Michigan thousands of years ago (The Grand Rapids Press, Mich.).

Theme park investigates mysteries of the world.
Best-selling author Erich von Däniken has opened a theme park in Interlaken, enabling mere mortals to have close encounters with his fantastic theories.

Human Ancestors: Out of Asia? Oct. 28, 2003
An extinct, ape-like animal that researchers believe was a distant cousin of humans probably evolved in Asia, instead of Africa, according to a recent study. The finding suggests that anthropoid primates — a suborder including apes, monkeys and humans — evolved in Asia before radiating to Africa, where the earliest humans have been identified.


Gravity Probe B To Test Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Washington - Oct 23, 2003
NASA's spacecraft, Gravity Probe B is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg AFB aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket December 6, 2003. The GP-B mission is expected to be approximately 16 months long and its objective is to test Einstein's unverified theory of relativity that states space and time are very slightly distorted by the presence of massive objects.

Sunlight makes asteroids spin in strange ways. Boulder - Oct 27, 2003
A new study by researchers at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and Charles University (Prague) has found that sunlight can have surprisingly important effects on the spins of small asteroids. The study indicates that sunlight may play a more important role in determining asteroid spin rates than collisions, which were previously thought to control asteroid spin rates. Results will be published in the Sept. 11 issue of Nature.

Sun more active than for a millennium
A study of ice cores reconstructs sunspot intensity for the last 1150 years - "we are living with a very unusual Sun", say researchers.  

Biggest map of Universe clinches dark energy
The largest, most detailed map to date shows beyond doubt that most of the cosmos is composed of mysterious energy.

Universe Began Not With A Bang, But A Hum. Paris (AFP) Oct 30, 2003
The explosion that gave birth to the Universe sounded not so much like a Big Bang than a Deep Hum, it was reported.

Chandra Looks Into Black Box Of Cosmic Hell. Boston - Oct 29, 2003
A series of Chandra observations of the spiral galaxy NGC 1637 has provided a dramatic view of a violent, restless nature that belies its serene optical image. Over a span of 21 months, intense neutron star and black hole X-ray sources flashed on and off, giving the galaxy the appearance of a cosmic Christmas tree.


New Genomic Data Helps Resolve Biology's Tree Of Life. Madison - Oct 23, 2003
For more than a century, biologists have been working to assign plants, animals and microbes their respective places on the tree of life. More recently, by comparing DNA sequences from a few genes per species, scientists have been trying to construct a grand tree of life that accurately portrays the course of life on Earth, and shows how all organisms are related, one to another.

Nature Web Focus: Human Chromosomes
Papers presented here serve as the definitive historical record for the sequences and analyses of human chromosomes - the ultimate results of the Human Genome Project.

Artificial Proteins Assembled from Scratch Proteins are vital components of every cell.
They activate genes, enable motion, catalyze biochemical reactions--the list goes on. Biotechnologists are thus understandably eager to unravel their every secret: only with a thorough comprehension of natural proteins can they engineer novel ones with special properties. New findings represent intriguing progress on that front.

Surgeons Offer New Treatment For Degenerative Eye Disease (October 28, 2003)
Researchers at Duke Eye Center believe a surgical procedure they have refined for over a decade can offer hope to more people suffering from end-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is an eye disease that may lead to central vision loss and afflicts an estimated 500,000 people worldwide each year.

More Evidence Shows That Children's Brains With Dyslexia Respond Abnormally To Language Stimuli (October 27, 2003)
Researchers have additional evidence that reading problems are linked to abnormal sound processing, thanks to high-precision pictures of the brain at work. In a recent study, when children without reading problems tried to distinguish between similar spoken syllables, speech areas in the left brain worked much harder than corresponding areas in the right brain, whose function is still unknown.

Earth Science

Ninety Eight Tons Of Primordial Plant Matter Per Gallon.  Salt Lake City - Oct 27, 2003
A staggering 98 tons of prehistoric, buried plant material – that's 196,000 pounds – is required to produce each gallon of gasoline we burn in our cars, SUVs, trucks and other vehicles, according to a study conducted at the University of Utah.

Dinosaurs got cancer
Bone scans reveal tumours only in duck-billed species.

Smart-winged pterosaurs
Why did ancient flying reptiles have so much processing power in the back of their brain? To provide highly responsive flight control, is an answer to emerge from an innovative analysis of pterosaur skulls.

Ancient wings unfurled
Computer simulation reconstructs extinct butterfly patterns.

Palaeontology: Preserved Organs of Devonian Harvestmen Nature 10/30/03 p.916

Ultra-low Oxygen Could Have Triggered Die-offs, Spurred Bird Breathing System
Recent evidence suggests that oxygen levels were suppressed worldwide 175 million to 275 million years ago and fell to precipitously low levels compared with today's atmosphere, low enough to make breathing the air at sea level feel like respiration at high altitude. Now, a University of Washington paleontologist theorizes that low oxygen and repeated short but substantial temperature increases because of greenhouse warming sparked two major mass-extinction events, one of which eradicated 90 percent of all species on Earth.


The Future of String Theory
A Conversation with Brian Greene String theory used to get everyone all tied up in knots. Even its practitioners fretted about how complicated it was, while other physicists mocked its lack of experimental predictions. Scientists could scarcely communicate just why string theory was so exciting--why it could fulfill Einstein's dream of the ultimate unified theory, how it could give insight into such deep questions as why the universe exists at all. But in the mid-1990s the theory started to click together conceptually. It made some testable, if qualified, predictions. Few people can take more credit for demystifying string theory than Brian Greene, a Columbia University physics professor and a major contributor to the theory.

The Elegant Universe Of Brian Greene. Moffett Field - Oct 29, 2003
Brian Greene, Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University, is one of the world's leading string theorists. String theories are considered by many as the natural successor to Einstein's cosmological quest for a Unified Field Theory, or what has become known as the 'theory of everything', providing a united framework for combining all the known natural forces (weak and strong nuclear forces, electromagnetism and gravity).

Physicists Stop Polarized Light, Create Bit Of Quantum Memory Rubidium (October 30, 2003)
In a University of Nebraska-Lincoln laboratory earlier this year a team led by UNL physicist Herman Batelaan captured polarized light in a cell containing a vapor of atoms of the metal rubidium.


Online, out of control addiction.

Could You Suffer From Psychosis? The Nose Knows (October 29, 2003)
Your nose could provide the first reliable diagnostic tool for predicting a person's likelihood of developing psychosis, new research has found.