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January 4, 2004

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Religion in the News

Top Ten News Stories, 2003
The events, people, and ideas of the past year that CT's news editors believe have shaped, or will significantly shape, evangelical life, thought, or mission.

The year in religion: Combat & conflict
Opposition to war, and fight over Ten Commandments are among top stories (Religion News Service).

Books & Culture Corner: A Few Coming Attractions from 2004
Plus: What to buy with those gift cards, and some of the books in my to-read stacks. By John Wilson.

Putting God back in politics
As the Democratic candidates for president attend religious services for the holidays, their celebrations may be tempered by an uncomfortable fact: churchgoing Americans tend to vote Republican (Jim Wallis, The New York Times).

Vietnam's 'Appalling' Persecution
Activists want Washington to confront Communist leaders for torturing and killing Christians.
By Timothy R. Callahan in Washington.

Finding their purpose
They've come by planes, buses and caravans from every direction in the United States and abroad to find their particular place in God's mission for the world (The News-Gazette, Champaign, Ill.).

Mission work on display
In a scene resembling a college job fair, about 300 mission agencies and seminars have taken over facilities at the Intramural Physical Education Building, the Armory and Huff Hall on the University of Illinois campus (The News-Gazette, Champaign, Ill.)

The rise of the American megachurch
In an era when small and medium-sized churches of almost every faith are losing members, megachurches continue to grow - last year by 4 percent. Their success is due in part to the ushering in of a new business-savvy approach to religion. But more important, experts say, these churches are thriving because of what's being ushered out (The Christian Science Monitor).

Flocks growing at religious colleges
While many religion-oriented universities are respected, some of the more conservative schools or their founders have unorthodox, controversial reputations (Palm Beach Post).

Quest for spirituality has many looking within
In a world where pagers and cell phones keep people on call and the laptop extends the workplace even into the bedroom, the quest for inner peace has rarely been so difficult or so critical, observers say (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland).

Christian History Corner: Resolutions Worth Keeping
The origins of new years' resolutions, and one famous list.

Film Forum: Christian Critics Recommend Year's Most Overlooked Films
Christian critics highlight this year's unseen treasures.

Science in the News

The Top Science Stories of 2003
For some, this year in science may be remembered more for its disasters than its successes. On January 16 the space shuttle Columbia launched to great fanfare, only to fail tragically on reentry 16 days later. Then came news of the mysterious and lethal disease known as SARS, which sparked worldwide panic. And a midsummer blackout stretching from Ontario to New York served as a vivid reminder of how dependent we are on a fragile power grid. Amid these calamities, however, a number of noteworthy achievements unfolded. China became the third nation to send people into space; paleontologists working in Ethiopia unearthed the oldest known members of our species; researchers applied virtual reality to colonoscopies and autopsies with stunning results. In addition, the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA and the centennial of powered flight served as springboards for reflection on the bigger picture of scientific progress.

National Geographic: Our Top Ten News Stories of 2003
"Flying" sharks and Bigfoot lead our year-end roundup of the top National Geographic News stories.


Dozens of scholarly articles and at least three books have been penned on the question of Darwin's illness. The current conclusion is that Darwin suffered from several serious and incapacitating psychiatric disorders, including agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is characterized by fear of panic attacks (or actual panic attacks) when not in a psychologically safe environment, such as at home.

Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint features physicist Stephen Barr
“While the Big Bang doesn’t necessarily prove the Christian doctrine of creation, it is undoubtedly ‘a blow to the materialist view’”

The Date of Creation
Bible-Compatible Evidences for Great Age. By Daniel E. Wonderly.

The Vestigiality of the Human Vermiform Appendix: A Modern Reappraisal.
Many anti-evolutionists, and even some medical texts, claim that modern evidence has shown that the human vermiform appendix should no longer be considered a vestigial structure. This article re-examines the case of the appendix in light of recent scientific developments and explains why the appendix is still a valid example of a human vestige.

The four Rs of RNA-directed evolution.

Reductive evolution suggested from the complete genome sequence of a plant-pathogenic phytoplasma.


2,000-year-old leper found in Jerusalem 
"This is the oldest archaeological finding of leprosy in the Middle East," says archaeologist Shimon Gibson. "Leprosy is mentioned in the Bible, but until now, we could not be sure whether these biblical references are to the disease we know as leprosy, or to something else." (Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv).

Recreating the silver trumpets in the Old Testament
A SCOTTISH musicologist is bringing a little harmony to the Middle East by recreating an instrument that has not been heard since the days of the Old Testament. Among the instruments that could be recreated are the hazerot, which consists of a pair of joined silver trumpets and is mentioned in the Old Testament. Although no surviving instruments have ever been found, a representation can be found on the Arch of Titus, which portrays how they were used by defending forces when Roman Emperor Titus sacked of Jerusalem in 70AD. The instrument was used in conjunction with the shofar - which is carved from a ram’s horn - to gather people to tribal meetings, to alert camps of danger and to signal in warfare.

'Jesus ossuary' analysis flawed, says geologist.
An Israeli analysis - dismissing as a forgery an inscription naming Jesus on an ancient burial box - was flawed, American geologist James Harrell wrote in an article published Friday in the Biblical Archaeology Review.

What Jesus Learned from the Essenes
Magen Broshi - Jesus absorbed two key teachings from the ascetic Jewish sect. What are they and how did he learn them?

The Context of Scripture
Archival Documents from the Biblical World, volume 3 Edited by William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger. (I highly recommend all three volumes).

On the path of the ancient pathogen: DNA research laboratory.
Try unravelling forensic mysteries from 3,000-year-old bits of bone or an ancient tooth. How about finding the cause of death in a mummified man from the 18th century? Such challenges face the scientists at Lakehead University's Paleo-DNA Laboratory, one of Canada's most unusual contributions to international science. Nowhere in the country do history and high technology meet in more intriguing circumstances. The lab is headed by Mr. Matheson, a molecular biologist, and El Molto, the bio-anthropologist who founded the centre in 1996. Together, they have carved an important niche in the blossoming business of historical genetics, a rapidly emerging field of inquiry that is shedding light on the origins, evolution and migrations of the human race.


NASA rover lands safely on red planet.
See Spirit's first images | Panorama

An Odyssey of Mars Science: Part 2. Sacramento - Dec 30, 2003
The discovery by Mars Odyssey which has most captured the public's imagination by far is the finding by its "GRS" experiment -- which includes both gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers -- that Mars does indeed have a massive reservoir of water ice near its surface in the polar regions writes Bruce Moomaw.

Visual "Mirages" Probe Distribution Of Dark Matter. Princeton - Dec 22, 2003
Sloan Digital Sky Survey scientists have discovered a gravitationally lensed quasar with the largest separation ever recorded, and, contrary to expectations, found that four of the most distant, most luminous quasars known are not gravitationally lensed.

The Milky Way's New Nearest Neighbor
The Milky Way is colliding with and swallowing up a newly identified galaxy — which is now our galaxy's new nearest neighbor.

Ancient Astronomy
Science radio programs.


Researchers make breakthrough with adult stem cells
The battle over stem-cell research is fraught with spin and counterspin, and it's not just limited to embryonic stem cell issues. As others have noted, research into adult stem-cells has been ignored or grossly misrepresented as partisans attempt to convince the public that scientists must create and destroy human life for research purposes. Predictably, major news that researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have made a breakthrough in turning adult cells into "precursor cells" has gone almost completely unmentioned by the mainstream media (it may have as much to do with its Christmas announcement as with media bias). But the discovery may make the debate over embryonic stem cell research wholly obsolete.

Placebo Effect: Harnessing Your Mind's Power To Heal.
It’s true that some people who participate in research studies and take inactive medications called placebos do see health improvements. People taking placebos have experienced reduced pain, healed ulcers, eased nausea and even warts disappeared. Stimulus response: People may have a trained positive response to taking a pill or receiving treatment, whether it’s real or not. Beliefs or expectations, including the meaning you attach to a treatment: A person with positive expectations of the treatment may experience the placebo effect more than someone with lower expectations. Relationship with your doctor: A person whose doctor is supportive and positive may experience more benefit from a placebo -- or the standard treatment -- than someone who doesn’t have that relationship.

Earth Science

Earth's Inconstant Magnetic Field. Huntsville - Dec 30, 2003
Every few years, scientist Larry Newitt of the Geological Survey of Canada goes hunting. He grabs his gloves, parka, a fancy compass, hops on a plane and flies out over the Canadian arctic. Not much stirs among the scattered islands and sea ice, but Newitt's prey is there--always moving, shifting, elusive.

Palaeontology: Prime primate
A fossil skull from China, dating to 55 million years ago, provides much-needed substantial evidence of early primates in Asia. Interpretation of the creatures eye size and activity pattern will spark debate.

Bacteria Discovered In 4,000 Feet Of Rock Fuels Mars Comparison. Corvallis - Jan 01, 2004
A team of scientists has discovered bacteria in a hole drilled more than 4,000 feet deep in volcanic rock on the island of Hawaii near Hilo, in an environment they say could be analogous to conditions on Mars and other planets.

Working On The 'Porsche Of Its Time': New Model For Species Determination Offered.
Using the fact that the skeleton of a dinosaur generally contains approximately 338 different bones, she catalogued the number of differences as well as where the differences were found on the skeleton. Calculations indicated that, on average, two species of dinosaur that are members of the same genera varied from each other by just 2.2 percent. Translation of the percentage into an actual number results in an average of just three skeletal differences out of the total 338 bones in the body. Amazingly, 58 percent of these differences occurred in the skull alone.


Topsy Turvy: In neutrons and protons, quarks take wrong turns.
Revved-up particles, namely quarks, spinning inside neutrons in the opposite direction to that of the neutrons themselves, challenge the prevailing model of how quarks behave.

Nucleons Go Two-by-Two.
Just as people behave differently as couples than as individuals, protons and neutrons (also known as nucleons) inside the nucleus of the atom behave differently in pairs.


Decoding Schizophrenia
For decades, theories of schizophrenia have focused on a single neurotransmitter: dopamine. In the past few years, though, it has become clear that a disturbance in dopamine levels is just a part of the story and that, for many, the main abnormalities lie elsewhere. In particular, suspicion has fallen on deficiencies in the neurotransmitter glutamate. Scientists now realize that schizophrenia affects virtually all parts of the brain and that, unlike dopamine, which plays an important role only in isolated regions, glutamate is critical virtually everywhere. As a result, investigators are searching for treatments that can reverse the underlying glutamate deficit.

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions.
Making life changes that last.

How Are The Genders Different?
Georgetown Center Unearthing Core Biological Differences Between Men And Women. Georgetown University Medical Center has officially launched the Center for the Study of Gender Differences in Health, Aging, and more.

Unmaking Memories: Interview with James McGaugh
In the sci-fi thriller Paycheck, an engineer has his memory erased after completing a sensitive job. Scientific spoke with a leading neurobiologist to find out just how close scientists are to controlling recall.