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November 9, 2003

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Religion in the News

Gay Bishop Consecrated Despite Objections
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, head of the Episcopal Church USA, led the service. By Douglas LeBlanc.

Bush Signs Partial-Birth Abortion Ban
The court battle has already begun.

The Dick Staub Interview: Pursuing God and Community
A self-described nerd says pursuing God and community is possible through commitment.

Exegeting The Matrix
A lot of spiritual stuff went into the Matrix films, but not as much as some authors think. Reviewed by Todd Hertz.

Breaking The Da Vinci Code
So the divine Jesus and infallible Word emerged out of a fourth-century power-play? Get real. By Collin Hansen.

Books & Culture's Books of the Week: From Dust to Dust
Soil and the future of creation. Reviewed by Ragan Sutterfield.

Science in the News


Extraterrestrial Enigma: Missing Amino Acids In Meteorites (November 4, 2003)
Amino acids have been found in interstellar clouds and in meteorites – but with some enigmatic omissions and tantalizing similarities to life on Earth.

Debate Heats Up On Role Of Climate In Human Evolution (November 3, 2003)
Scientists at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Seattle this week are taking a comprehensive new look at drivers of human evolution. It now appears that climate variability during the Plio-Pleistocene (approximately 6 million years in duration) played a hugely important role.

Much about an animal is determined by its size. In general, the larger the beast, the slower its metabolism and the longer its life, and vice versa. But the question of how nature imprints each creature with its assigned metabolic rate, and why some are destined to die sooner than others, is a long-standing mystery. But now researchers believe it could all lie in our cell membranes....and if they are right it could have some profound effects on people's thinking about rates of living and the evolution of warm-blooded animals. (must be subscriber to New Scientist).

Manyuan Long, Esther Betran, Kevin Thornton & Wen Wang. Genome data have revealed great variation in the numbers of genes in different organisms, which indicates that there is a fundamental process of genome evolution: the origin of new genes. However, there has been little opportunity to explore how genes with new functions originate and evolve. The study of ancient genes has highlighted the antiquity and general importance of some mechanisms of gene origination, and recent observations of young genes at early stages in their evolution have unveiled unexpected molecular and evolutionary processes.

Board gives final approval to biology books
AUSTIN - Biology books in Texas will continue to present the origin of life according to the theories of Charles Darwin. The State Board of Education gave final approval Friday to 11 biology books, among others, despite a major campaign to poke holes in Darwin's theory of evolution as presented in the textbooks.

Darwin, Design & Democracy IV:
Responding to the AAAS Decree Against ID. Intelligent Design Network Symposium at the University of Minnesota, Wiley Hall (Nov. 15).


Etruscan Demons, Monsters Unearthed. Nov. 5, 2003
Etruscan art, made of strange demons and monsters, is emerging in a Tuscan village, in what could be one of the most important discoveries of recent times, according to scholars who have seen the paintings. Lurking on the left wall of a 4th century B.C. tomb, the exceptionally preserved monsters have been unearthed during the ongoing excavation of the Pianacce necropolis in Sarteano, a village 50 miles from Siena, Italy.

Researchers dig up earliest 'butcher shop' TORONTO
Anthropologists working in Ethiopia say they've found the earliest direct evidence of a stone tool "kitchen," dating back 2.6 million years.

Geochemists Trace the Iceman's Travels
They say dead men tell no tales.  If that was ever true, it is certainly not so now in our scientific era.  Case in point: Ötzi, the 5,000-year-old "Iceman" mummy discovered in 1991 by two hikers high in the Alps along the Austrian-Italian border.  Affectionately nicknamed for the Ötzal region in which he was found, Ötzi has been subjected to waves of scientific tests in an attempt to reconstruct his life and death.  Now researchers have amassed evidence suggesting that Ötzi, believed to be in his mid-40s when he died, may have spent his whole life in what is now Italy, within about 60 kilometers of where his body turned up.


Flares Near Edge Of Our Galaxy's Central Black Hole Indicate Rapid Spin (November 3, 2003)
Razor-sharp optics on ground-based telescopes now allows astronomers to peer at events occurring near the very edge of our galaxy's central black hole, providing new clues about the massive but invisible object at the core of the Milky Way.

The Curious Tale of Asteroid Hermes. Pasadena - Nov 03, 2003
It's dogma now: an asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. But in 1980 when scientists Walter and Luis Alvarez first suggested the idea to a gathering at the American Association for Advancement of Sciences, their listeners were skeptical. Asteroids hitting Earth? Wiping out species? It seemed incredible.

Holes in space are not empty
Universe may be full of great dark voids where rules are different. November 3, 2003.

The Universal Ghost Of Dark Matter. Berkeley - Nov 06, 2003
The "dark matter" that comprises a still-undetected one-quarter of the universe is not a uniform cosmic fog, says a University of California, Berkeley, astrophysicist, but instead forms dense clumps that move about like dust motes dancing in a shaft of light.

Astronomers Find Nearest Galaxy To The Milky Way. Canberra - Nov 05, 2003
An international team of astronomers from France, Italy, the UK and Australia has found a previously unknown galaxy colliding with our own Milky Way.

Volcanic Lake May Hold Clues to Mars Life. Nov. 4, 2003
A team of scientists is making its way to a lake at the top of the world where, despite blasting solar radiation and little protection from atmospheric ozone, life took hold and continues to thrive today.

World's Single Largest Telescope Mirror Moves To The LBT. Tucson - Nov 04, 2003
The world's most powerful optical telescope, which will allow astronomers to see planets around nearby stars in our galaxy, took a giant step closer to completion late last week when the first of its huge 27-foot diameter mirrors inched up a tortuous mountain road to its new home at Arizona's Mount Graham International Observatory.


Exercise, Not Diet, May Be Best Defense Against Heart Disease (November 5, 2003)
Despite widespread attention to diet, calorie intake may not be a major factor in causing death by heart disease, according to a 17-year study of almost 9,800 Americans. Instead, losing excess weight -- or not becoming overweight to begin with -- and exercising may do more to ward off death from heart disease.

Radically New Anti-rejection Drug Shown To Offer Safe Control Of Immune System In Stanford Study (November 4, 2003)
A new type of drug may help transplanted organs thrive without compromising the recipient, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have shown. The drug specifically targets immune cells that lead to rejection, causing minimal side effects in animal studies.

Major New Finding On Genetics Of Parkinson's Disease Zeroes In On Activity Of Alpha Synuclein (November 4, 2003)
Scientists investigating a rare familial form of early-onset Parkinson's disease have discovered that too much of a normal form of the alpha-synuclein gene may cause Parkinson's disease. The finding, reported in the October 31, 2003, issue of Science, shows that abnormal multiplication of the alpha-synuclein gene can cause the disease.

Researchers Home In On Obesity Gene And Offer Explanation For Overeating (November 4, 2003)
An international team of researchers has identified the role of a gene which may explain why some people overeat and become obese.

Breast Cancer Can Be Reversed In Laboratory Mice, Scientists Report (November 3, 2003)
Breast cancer researchers have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to block genetic switches in mice that turn cancer on and off -- thus preventing and even reversing breast cancer in the animals. The findings, reported Sunday morning at the 24th Congress of the International Association for Breast Cancer Research, suggest potential new molecular targets for drugs to prevent and potentially eradicate breast cancer in humans.

World's Most Alkaline Life Forms Found Near Chicago. Seattle - Nov 05, 2003
Sometimes the most extreme environment for life isn't at the bottom of the ocean or inside a volcano. It's just south of Chicago.

Earth Science

Ice Cores May Yield Clues To 5,000-year-old Mystery. COLUMBUS, Ohio
The latest expeditions to ice caps in the high, tropical Peruvian Andes Mountains by Ohio State University scientists may shed light on a mysterious global climate change they believe occurred more than 5,000 years ago. They hope that ice cores retrieved from two tropical ice caps there, as well as ancient plants retrieved from beneath the retreating glaciers, may contain clues that could link ancient events that changed daily life in South America, Europe and Asia.

Thunderstorm Research Shocks Conventional Theories; Florida Tech Physicist Throws Open Debate On Lightning's Cause Melbourne, Fla.
If Joseph Dwyer, Florida Tech associate professor of physics, is right, then a lot of what we thought we knew about thunderstorms and lightning is probably wrong.

Hydrogen Sulfide, Not Carbon Dioxide, May Have Caused Largest Mass Extinction (November 5, 2003)
While most scientists agree that a meteor strike killed the dinosaurs, the cause of the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, 251 million years ago, is still unknown, according to geologists.

Explanation Offered For Antarctica's 'Blood Falls' (November 5, 2003)
Researchers have discovered that a reddish deposit seeping out from the face of a glacier in Antarcticas remote Taylor Valley is probably the last remnant of an ancient salt-water lake. The lake probably formed as much as 5 million years ago when the sea levels were higher and the ocean reached far inland.

Seafloor vents spawn spat
Ancient springs are thousands of years old, not billions, say geologists. October 30, 2003.

Sky-High Icebergs Carried Boulders From The Rockies To Coastal Washington. Seattle - Nov 04, 2003
Geologists have uncovered a scene in the Pasco Basin west of the Columbia River that shows how boulders piggybacked icebergs from what is now Montana and came to rest at elevations as high as 1,200 feet.