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October 24, 2004

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Religion in the News

Pat Robertson takes back "word from the Lord" on election
By now, no doubt you've seen the news about Pat Robertson's Tuesday interview on CNN's Paula Zahn Now, wherein he claimed that President Bush told him there would be no casualties in the Iraq war.

Failed apocalyptic prophecy by U.S. Millerites had historic impact, book claims
In his Borderland Religion, Simon Fraser University professor Jack Little argues a failed apocalyptic prophecy by the radical and powerful U.S.-based Millerite movement was a watershed moment in Canada's rejection of the fire-and-brimstone religious culture of the U.S. identity (National Post, Canada).

Former TBN Employee Alleges Gay Tryst With Paul Crouch
TBN boss paid $425,000 to silence claims, but accuser now wants $10 million.

Report Rebukes Episcopalians for Disunity but Declines Sanctions
U.S. church in limbo as conservative dissidents mull their options. By Kevin Eckstrom and Robert Nowell in London, Religion News Service.

Is Tony Blair Converting to Catholicism?
This story sounds vaguely familiar: A leading national politician disagrees with Roman Catholic teachings, but still attends Catholic Mass. The press goes nuts wondering if he'll take Communion, or if he'll be barred the elements. Church leaders and the politician's staff seem to differ significantly on the facts.

The Emergent Mystique
The 'emerging church' movement has generated a lot of excitement but only a handful of congregations. Is it the wave of the future or a passing fancy? By Andy Crouch.

T.D. Jakes lets loose
With his film about child abuse, the preacher takes his message nationwide (The Boston Globe).

Da Vinci Dissenters
Four books try to break, crack, or decode the deception.

Hurt by Success
Christian bookstores hit hard by competition from Wal-Mart. By Rob Moll.

Hallowing Halloween
Why Christians should embrace the "devilish" holiday with gusto—and laughter.

Science in the News


More on Bible texts on silver amulets dated to First Temple period
The authenticity of some artifacts found in 1979 bearing the 'Priestly Benediction' and predating the Dead Sea Scrolls has been confirmed with new technology. See also Solving a Riddle Written in Silver and Ancient benediction gets an ĎAmení.

Qumran and Dead Sea Scrolls
Recent dig uncovers evidence supporting the connection between the Qurnan community and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Full Excavation for Irish Viking Village? By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News. Oct. 19, 2004
Preliminary work to build a bypass road in an Irish village has yielded what could be the most significant piece of Viking history in Europe: a virtually intact town that some have already called Ireland's equivalent of Pompeii.

Resurrected: Lost Raphael painting of Christ
An unknown work confidently believed to be by Raphael has been found beneath a later painting which had been put into the wall of an Umbrian church and forgotten (The Guardian, London).


Spitzer Telescope Finds Planet Forming Messy By Discovery News. Oct. 19, 2004
The business of building planets is messier and more chaotic than scientists realized, according to new observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Rocky bodies as big as mountain ranges colliding again and again build planets, a process that probably formed Earth's moon, the telescope revealed as it focused in on large dust clouds around several stars. The clouds most likely billowed out when nascent, rocky planets crashed together.

Magnetic Star Mystery Solved Garching, Germany (SPX) Oct 19, 2004
Just how does one explain the enormous magnetic field strengths of the so-called 'magnetic stars'? This question concerning magnetic fields in the cosmos, first posed half a century ago, has now been answered by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching.

Cosmic Murder Mystery Unfolds By Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News. Oct. 15, 2004
The unidentified corpse of what might have been a brown dwarf star has been found orbiting its suspected murderer: a white dwarf star. Dwarfs killing dwarfs — what's the galaxy coming to? It appears that a dim and dying white dwarf star three-fifths the mass of our sun has been sucking the life out of its unseen smaller companion for eons.

ESA's Hipparcos Finds Rebels With A Cause Paris, France (ESA) Oct 22, 2004
A team of European astronomers has discovered that many stars in the vicinity of the Sun have unusual motions caused by the spiral arms of our galaxy, the Milky Way. According to this research, based on data from ESA's Hipparcos observatory, our stellar neighbourhood is the crossroads of streams of stars coming from several directions.

Moon Shifts Shape of Saturn Rings By Irene Mona Klotz, Discovery News.Oct. 13, 2004
An image released this week shows a 2,980-mile-wide gap in Saturn's rings caused by the gravitational tug of its small moon, Mimas. Mimas is puny compared to its sister moons in orbit around Saturn. But the satellite has shown the Cassini science team an impressive demonstration of its power.

Newfound Star Cluster May Be Final Milky Way Fossil Washington DC (SPX) Oct 13, 2004
Just when astronomers thought they might have dug up the last of our galaxy's "fossils," they've discovered a new one in the galactic equivalent of our own backyard. Called globular clusters, these ancient bundles of stars date back to the birth of our Milky Way galaxy, 13 or so billion years ago.

Extrasolar Planets: A Matter of Metallicity Moffett Field (SPX) Oct 12, 2004
Astronomers have discovered more than 130 planets orbiting nearby stars in our galaxy. Although the solar systems they have found are very different from ours, by studying the planets that have been found - their masses, their orbits and their stars - they are uncovering intriguing hints that our galaxy may be brimming with solar systems like our own.

Planetesimal Belts Are Discovered Around Beta Pictoris Sagamihara City, Japan (SPX) Oct 25, 2004
Beta Pic is a young main-sequence star with an edge-on circumstellar disk supposed to embody an aspect of the early solar system. Its dust is considered not to be remains from the protoplanetary disk but must be replenished by planetesimal collisions and/or evaporation from comets, though the detailed mechanism is still controversial.

Solar Cycle Update Huntsville AL (SPX) Oct 19, 2004
Solar physicist David Hathaway has been checking the sun every day since 1998, and every day for six years there have been sunspots.

Opportunity Ready To Make "Climb" To Burns Cliff Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 22, 2004
NASA's Opportunity rover continues to operate without any major issues after spending 130 sols inside "Endurance Crater". To date, the rover has ground 21 targets with the rock abrasion tool, performing 62 integrations with the Moessbauer spectrometer and 33 with the alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, and taking 115 observations with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

New Propulsion Concept Could Make 90-Day Mars Round Trip Possible Seattle WA (SPX) Oct 15, 2004
A new means of propelling spacecraft being developed at the University of Washington could dramatically cut the time needed for astronauts to travel to and from Mars, and could make humans a permanent fixture in space.


Stem Cells Secrete Healing Chemicals 
Many stem-cell researchers hope to treat diseases by recruiting these adaptable cells to replace others that have been damaged. New work demonstrates a different approach, which rescued mice that otherwise would have died from a genetic heart defect before birth. Instead of replacing the defective cells, embryonic stem (ES) cells released chemical signals that caused the defective heart tissue to grow properly.

Harvard has human cloning plans
Institute seeks nod to create embryos using genes from patients with diabetes, Parkinson's.

Malaria vaccines get real
Trial offers evidence that an effective vaccine is feasible - but WHO expresses caution.

Wax discovery surprises
Unexpectedly, plants use a lipid transporter like those in mammalian cells to transport wax.

Amphibians Suffering Unprecedented Decline, Global Study Finds 
The first worldwide assessment of amphibians--the group that includes frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians--concludes that they are in even more trouble than mammals and birds are. The study classifies nearly a third of the 5,743 known amphibian species as threatened.

NASA Helps Find Lifelong Gene Activity In Live Organisms Moffett Field CA (SPX) Oct 25, 2004
NASA scientists and their academic colleagues are providing valuable insights into how DNA encodes instructions for control of basic biological functions. Their research may change the understanding of human diseases.


The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes
by Dean H. Hamer. A search for the genetic basis of spirituality. Reviewed by Carl Zimmer.

In a surprise move, a Pennsylvania school board recently voted to include "intelligent design" in the district's science curriculum.

Where physics meets faith
Neither Newtonian mechanics nor quantum physics is on a glide path to spiritual enlightenment (Robert C. Cowen, The Christian Science Monitor).

Review delayed on sale of creationist book at Grand Canyon
A federal review of whether the book -- which asserts that the canyon was created in a matter of days as a result of the same flood that had threatened to sink Noah and his ark -- should be sold at the park has been delayed for months as officials wrestle with the issue of separation of church and state (The Washington Post).

Junk DNA controls embryos
Very early embryonic development may be controlled by random movements of repetitive elements.

Refining the genome
Human Genome revised down to under 25,000 genes; failings of whole genome shotgun revealed. Also from Nature see Human genome: End of the beginning.

Faith + physics
John Polkinghorne, physicist and Anglican priest, explores the common ground between science and religion. (Roanoke Times, VA).

Huge genome allows mimivirus to make its own proteins. 14 October 2004.

Evolutionary trees may finally provide answers everyone can agree on. 11 October 2004.

Missing Link to Life Found? By Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News. Oct. 8, 2004
Mount St. Helens' recent eruption may be replaying a scene straight from the geochemical drama that led to life on Earth. Besides ash and lava, most volcanoes also release a toxic gas called carbonyl sulfide (COS) that has now been shown to cause amino acids in Earth's primordial soup to form chains — a very big step in the walk toward the first life.

Bacteria are genetically modified by lightning
A study using artificial lightning finds that bacteria can pick up stray DNA when zapped, perhaps giving an insight into early bacterial evolution

Earth Science

Sleeping Dino Assumed Birdlike Pose 
Scientists working in China have uncovered yet more secrets of dinosaur life, this time a fossil of a 130-million-year-old creature that was preserved in the act of catching 40 winks. The animal's pose, with its head tucked between its left elbow and its body, resembles that adopted by slumbering birds today and suggests that avian features emerged early in dinosaurian evolution.

Feathered T.Rex Relative Found AFP. Oct. 7, 2004
A team led by the world's most successful fossil hunter says it has found the remains of a feathery, dragon-like forerunner of the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex at a dinosaur graveyard in northeastern China.

Did Multiple Impacts Pummel Earth 35 Million Years Ago Moffett Field CA (SPX) Oct 21, 2004
Rather than a single meteorite impact 65 million years ago, could Earth have been hit with a scattershot of several rocks from space? It may have happened before. There is evidence that about 35 million years ago, at least five comets or asteroids collided with Earth. If the effects of a single large meteorite impact seem overwhelming, imagine how life on Earth would reel from a barrage of rocks from space.

Meteorite Crater Drilling Provides Extensive Samples - And A Mystery Vienna, Austria (SPX) Oct 21, 2004
Drillings made in the Bosumtwi crater in Ghana, one of the youngest meteorite craters in the world, led to yet another mysterious finding - the rock formation caused by the heat of the meteoric impact is only half as thick as expected.

Scientists Say Comet Smashed Into Southern Germany In 200 BC Paris (AFP) Oct 15, 2004
A comet or asteroid smashed into modern-day Germany some 2,200 years ago, unleashing energy equivalent to thousands of atomic bombs, scientists reported on Friday.

A Silurian sea spider


Physicists Succeed In Transferring Information Between Matter And Light Atlanta GA (SPX) Oct 22, 2004
A team of physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology has taken a significant step toward the development of quantum communications systems by successfully transferring quantum information from two different groups of atoms onto a single photon.

As World Turns It Drags Time And Space With It Baltimore MD (SPX) Oct 22, 2004
An international team of NASA and university researchers has found the first direct evidence the Earth is dragging space and time around itself as it rotates. The researchers believe they have measured the effect, first predicted in 1918 by using Einstein's theory of general relativity, by precisely observing shifts in the orbits of two Earth-orbiting laser-ranging satellites. See also Relativity tested on a shoestring budget.

Quantum quirk may give objects mass
Entanglement - the quantum effect that allows two particles to behave as one, even when separated - could responsible for the mass of everyday objects.

Sandia Refurbishes It's Fusion Z Machine Albuquerque NM (SPX) Oct 22, 2004
Sandia National Laboratories' Z machine, which last year emitted neutrons to enter the race to provide the world virtually unlimited electricity from, essentially, seawater, has received approval from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to proceed with a $61.7 million refurbishment.

A Liquid Universe London (SPX) Oct 14, 2004
To look deep into the fundamental structure of matter is to look billions of years back in time, to the moment when matter first blinked into being.


Mental Health Plays Part in Marital Bliss. MONDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDayNews)
Satisfaction with marriage is affected by the mental health of both spouses, says a study in the October issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. The study of 774 married couples from seven states in the United States found that each spouse's level of anxiety and depression predicted their own marital satisfaction and that of their spouse as well. The more depressed or anxious either spouse was, the more dissatisfied he or she was with the marriage.


New display 'as clear as a glossy magazine'
Hewlett-Packard says its liquid-crystal still-image display technology will lead to ultra high-resolution flat screens that are both cheap and low power.