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March 7, 2004

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Religion in the News

What's Up With the Ugly Baby?
Everyone's asking about the Passion scene where Satan is carrying a hideous infant. By Mark Moring.

Relationships, Not Programs
Taking a church from dry bones to spiritual vitality. Reviewed by Cindy Crosby.

A clash over values in Australia
When Prime Minister John Howard recently said that parents were moving children out of the public school system because it was "too politically correct and too values-neutral," he stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy - not unlike a similar debate that has long brewed in the United States (The Christian Science Monitor).

Cry, the Beloved Continent
Don't let AIDS steal African children's future. By Philip Yancey.

Burma's Almost Forgotten
Christians find themselves battered by the world's longest civil war and a brutally repressive regime. By Benedict Rogers.

Books & Culture's Book of the Week: Life, Work, and the Mommy Wars
A book about real choices. Reviewed by Randi Sider-Rose.

Science in the News

Should Publicly Funded Research Be Free And Available To The Public? Stanford - Mar 04, 2004
Last October, a small, San Francisco-based organization known as the Public Library of Science (PloS) shook up the scientific publishing world when it launched a free, online journal called PloS Biology.


The Seventh Sample
IAA Report Shows Evidence for Authenticity of “Jesus.” Hershel Shanks. Even according to the scientists who claim that the “James, brother of Jesus” inscription is a fraud, a key part of the inscription may well be authentic.

Don’t Rush to Judgment
David Noel Freedman. Some have claimed that the text and spelling of the controversial Jehoash tablet indicate an obvious forgery. Not so fast, counters a leading Bible scholar.

Marisa Tomb Paintings
Recently Discovered Photos Show Long-Lost Details. David Jacobson. For a century, our only record of spectacular wall paintings at an important Hellenistic-era site have been fanciful—and inaccurate—color lithographs made a century ago. Now view for the first time the lovely photographs made of these important art works immediately after they were discovered.

At a mountain monastery, old texts gain digital life 
A monk uses digital tools to preserve manuscripts in an Egyptian monastery. Here at St. Catherine's, in the world's oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastic community, a Greek Orthodox monk from Texas is working with some of the world's highest-resolution digital technology to help preserve the monastery's 3,300 priceless and impressively intact ancient manuscripts including some of the world's oldest Bibles. (The New York Times).

Tuscan 'Excalibur' Mystery to be Unearthed. March 1, 2004
Archaeological digging might soon unveil the mystery surrounding a sword buried in a Gothic abbey in Tuscany, Italian researchers announced. Known as the "sword in the stone," the Tuscan "Excalibur" is said to have been plunged into a rock in 1180 by Galgano Guidotti, a medieval knight who renounced war and worldly goods to become a hermit.

Fresh Bronze Age treasure find.
An "exceptional" hoard of buried treasure has been found in Wrexham just two years after another major find of Bronze Age treasure there. The 14 pieces of priceless gold and bronze jewellery and pottery, dating back more than 3,000 years, were found by three metal detector enthusiasts in the last few weeks.

Excavations begin to unearth Tiberias of the Talmudic era.
Excavations to uncover the ancient city of Tiberias began this week, as part of a project to reconstruct the old city and operate an archaeological park on the site.

Mystery Roman Emperor Existence Proven.
The discovery of a coin appears to confirm the brief rule of Domitianus, a mysterious Roman emperor whose very existence had been doubted, according to a museum curator.

Drawing the Lines
In a Yale University library sits a map depicting the New World that predates the landing of Columbus by 60 years--if it isn't a fake. Although the lines on the so-called Vinland map are faded, those between scientists on the controversy are sharp. New salvos regarding its authenticity now come from both sides.


Opportunity Rover Finds Strong Evidence Meridiani Planum Was Wet. Washington - Mar 02, 2004
Scientists have concluded the part of Mars that NASA's Opportunity rover is exploring was soaking wet in the past. Evidence the rover found in a rock outcrop led scientists to the conclusion. Clues from the rocks' composition, such as the presence of sulfates, and the rocks' physical appearance, such as niches where crystals grew, helped make the case for a watery history. For NASA press conference see

Astrophysicists Use Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics. Livermore - Feb 27, 2004
For the first time, scientists from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore, in conjunction with astrophysicists from the California Institute of Technology, UC Santa Cruz, the National Science Foundation's Center for Adaptive Optics and UC's Lick Observatory, have observed that distant larger stars formed in flattened accretion disks just like the sun.

Baby Star With Dust Disk Found 33 Light Years Away. Berkeley - Mar 01, 2004
Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered the nearest and youngest star with a visible disk of dust that may be a nursery for planets. See also Nearby Star Is Surrounded by Stuff of Planets.

Lunar Convoys As An Option For A Return To The Moon. Madison - Feb 24, 2004
The scientific community now believes there is water on the Moon. To some, this suggests a grand opportunity, and so it can be. However, the Moon's water, if there, is thought to be located near the poles, in deep, permanently-shadowed craters, as ice that is possibly buried, or at least mixed with lunar regolith writes William H. Knuth.

Ariane 5 Launches Rosetta On 10 Year Journey To Comet Landing. Paris (AFP) Mar 02, 2004
A European rocket lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, Friday at the start of a 10-year mission to explore a comet, one of the most ambitious and costliest projects in the history of space exploration, a live television feed from the launch base showed.

Saturn Ring Spokes Appear To Be Gone Since Voyager Flyby. Moffett Field - Mar 01, 2004
Cassini's approach to Saturn has begun. The Cassini image team has noted that new details in the atmosphere and rings are becoming visible, and scientists are already puzzling over the noticeable absence of the ghostly spoke-like dark markings in the rings first discovered during Voyager's approach to the planet 23 years ago.


Mysterious virus may thwart HIV
Having a secondary infection with a little-understood virus appears to protect HIV patients from developing AIDS and death.

Diabetes may be linked to early hearing loss
Studies point to danger of deafness and mental decline in old age. 27 February 2004.

Vitamin B2 may help treat sepsis
Vitamin's anti-bacterial effect fights blood poisoning in mice. 26 February 2004.

Faulty DNA Replication Linked To Neurological Diseases.
Lengthy sequences of DNA -- with their component triplet of nucleotides repeated hundreds, even thousands of times -- are known to be abnormal, causing rare but devastating neurological diseases. But how does the DNA get this way? How does it go haywire, multiplying out of control?


Montana Creationism Bid Evolves Into Unusual Fight. By JAMES GLANZ
Feb. 26 — In early December, a local Baptist minister, Curtis Brickley, put up handbills inviting residents of this town, population 754, to a meeting in the junior high school gym. The topic was the teaching of evolution in the Darby schools.

New Ethiopian Fossils Are From 6-million-year-old Hominid Living Just After Split From Chimpanzees
Paleoanthropologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History have found more fossils of a nearly 6-million-year-old human ancestor first reported three years ago, cementing its importance as the earliest hominid to appear after the human line diverged from the line leading to modern chimpanzees.

How to go to Heaven, or How the Heavens go, Part 1 of 2
In this essay, Dhruv Raina compares two pious scientists, the renowned English Sinologist Joseph Needham and the Pakistani physicist Abdus Salaam, in order to unravel the complex relationships between science, religion, and social context. In part one, Raina introduces his study and discusses Needham, a pious English Christian and Marxist, who devoted his life to the study of the Chinese scientific traditions.

Enzymes stitch together non-natural DNA
Guided evolution and HIV help create man-made stuff of life. 24 February 2004.

Ontologies in biology: design, applications and future challenges
Bio-ontologies are formal ways of representing biological knowledge that allow it to be integrated with information in molecular databases. Bio-ontologies have sprung up in many areas of biology, but the field faces several challenges in developing this already useful tool. Jonathan B. L. Bard & Seung Y. Rhee.

Metanexus 2004 Conference:
Science and Religion in Context, June 5-9, 2004. LOCATION: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.

Earth Science

New Evidence Suggests Early Oceans Bereft Of Oxygen For Eons; Early Life May Have Lived Very Differently Than Life Today
As two rovers scour Mars for signs of water and the precursors of life, geochemists have uncovered evidence that Earth's ancient oceans were much different from today's.

Saharan Groundwater At Least A Million Years Old. Illinois - Mar 04, 2004
New technique dates Saharan groundwater as million years old The Mediterranean Sea was a desert, millions of years ago. In contrast, the Sahara Desert was once a lush, green landscape dotted with lakes and ponds. Evidence of this past verdancy lies hidden beneath the sands of Egypt and Libya, in the form of a huge aquifer of fresh groundwater.

Warming Oceans Could Mean More Rainy Days in Paradise. Pasadena - Mar 04, 2004
Don't look for more sunny days while vacationing in paradise! A recent study of tropical oceans that used satellites including NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), found that rain in the tropics will become more frequent as ocean temperatures rise.


Physics News Update is a digest of physics news items arising from physics meetings, physics journals, newspapers and magazines, and other news sources. Subscriptions are free as a way of broadly disseminating information about physics and physicists.

The accelerating expansion of the universe, the notion that the big bang enlargement of spacetime is not slowing down but actually gathering speed, has received new experimental support in the form of supernova observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

Evidence Bubbles Over To Support Tabletop Nuclear Fusion Device. West Lafayette - Mar 04, 2004
Researchers are reporting new evidence supporting their earlier discovery of an inexpensive "tabletop" device that uses sound waves to produce nuclear fusion reactions.

Particle Physicists Look to the Future. London - Mar 04, 2004The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council has thi
s week approved a 21 million programme of Accelerator Research and Development for future facilities in particle physics, including a Linear Collider and a possible Neutrino Factory.

Information Paradox Solved? If So, Black Holes Are "Fuzzballs" Columbus - Mar 04, 2004
Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne may owe John Preskill a set of encyclopedias. In 1997, the three cosmologists made a famous bet as to whether information that enters a black hole ceases to exist -- that is, whether the interior of a black hole is changed at all by the characteristics of particles that enter it.

Researchers Create Terahertz Magnetism From Non-magnetic Materials
A team of engineers and physicists at UCLA, UC San Diego and Imperial College in London has successfully created a "metamaterial" that displays strong, tunable magnetic activity at terahertz frequencies.