Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mysterious High-Energy Rays Bombarding Earth

Drawing illustrating air showers from high-energy cosmic rays, which were unexpectedly discovered in 1912.

Researchers have discovered a puzzling surplus of high-energy electrons bombarding Earth from space. The source is unknown, but it must be close to the solar system and could be made of dark matter.

"This is a big discovery," says John Wefel of Louisiana State University. "It's the first time we've seen a discrete source of accelerated cosmic rays standing out from the general galactic background."

Galactic cosmic rays are subatomic particles accelerated to almost light speed by distant supernova explosions and other violent events, according to an explanation from NASA. They swarm through the Milky Way, forming a haze of high-energy particles that enter the solar system from all directions.

Wefel likens the bombardment to driving down a freeway among family sedans, mini-vans and trucks—when suddenly a bunch of Lamborghinis bursts through the normal traffic. "You don't expect to see so many race cars on the road—or so many high-energy electrons in the mix of cosmic rays," he says. Seventy electrons may not sound like a great number, but like seventy Lamborghinis on the freeway, it's a significant surplus.

Click here for the complete explanation from NASA.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ocean Acidity and Carbon Dioxide Both Increasing

Australia's Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs of its type could be damaged by the increasing ocean acidity.

A growing degree of acidity in Earth’s oceans correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, something scientists have been suspecting but now are able to prove.

Increasingly acidic water harms certain sea animals and could reduce the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, according to researchers at the University of Chicago. 

"The acidity increased more than 10 times faster than had been predicted by climate change models and other studies," says J. Timothy Wootton, a professor of ecology and evolution at the university. "This increase will have a severe impact on marine food webs and suggests that ocean acidification may be a more urgent issue than previously thought, at least in some areas of the ocean."

The ocean plays a significant role in global carbon cycles. When atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in water it forms carbonic acid, increasing the acidity of the ocean. 

"Many sea creatures have shells or skeletons made of calcium carbonate, which the acid can dissolve," said Catherine Pfister of the University of Chicago and a co-author of the study. "Therefore, the increased acidity of the ocean could interfere with many critical ocean processes such as coral reef building or shellfish harvesting."

Click here for the article.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Difficulty at the beginning works supreme success,
Further through perseverance.
Nothing should be undertaken.
It furthers one to appoint helpers.

Times of growth are beset with difficulties. They resemble a first birth. But these difficulties arise from the very profusion of all that is struggling to attain form. Everything is in motion; therefore if one perseveres, there is a prospect of great success in spite of the existing danger. When it is a man’s fate to undertake such new beginnings, everything is still unformed, dark. Hence he must hold back, because any premature move might bring disaster. Likewise, it is very important not to remain alone; in order to overcome the chaos, he needs helpers. This is not to say, however, that he himself should look on passively at what is happening. He must lend his hand and participate with inspiration and guidance.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Young "Buddha" Returns to Nepalese Jungle

The young man many believe to be Buddha-reincarnated blesses a Tibetan monk Friday shortly before returning the the jungle to continue meditating.

Ram Bahadur Bamjan, a Nepalese teenager revered by many as a reincarnation of Buddha, yesterday returned to the jungle to meditate after emerging less than two weeks ago.

Bamjan, 18, reappeared November 10 after several months of meditation. His followers say Bamjan has been meditating beneath a tree without food and water ~ sitting for months on end without moving, with his eyes closed ~ since he was first spotted in the jungles of southern Nepal in 2005.

Thousands Turn Out to be Blessed

Bamjan made an appearance yesterday when thousands of followers lined up near the jungle of Ratanpur, about 100 miles south of Katmandu, to be blessed by Bamjan. He tapped the believers on their foreheads but did not speak to them individually.

He then returned to the jungle to meditate. It was not clear when he would return again.

Several Buddhist scholars have been skeptical of the claims that Bamjan is a reincarnation of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in southwestern Nepal roughly 2,500 years ago and became revered as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. Some say that being Buddha indicates the final birth and the highest level that can be achieved and that there can be no reincarnation of Buddha.

Click here for the Associated Press article.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Copernicus's Tomb Found via DNA

Copernicus: Conversation with God, by Jan Matejko, 1872.

The missing tomb of 16th Century astronomer Nicolas Copernicus has been definitively located with DNA from two hair strands and a tooth. Tests have confirmed that remains found in Frombork Cathedral in northern Poland in 2005 are those of the man considered the father of modern astronomy.

Copernicus shocked the world by determining that Earth was not the center of the universe, but that the sun was.

Scientists compared genetic material from two strands of hair found in Calendarium Romanum Magnum, a book by Johannes Stoeffler published in 1518 and owned by Copernicus for many years, to a tooth from the skull found in Frombork.

"The two strands of hair found in the book have the same genome sequence as the tooth from the skull and a bone from Frombork," scientist Marie Allen from Uppsala University in Sweden told journalists.

Shocking Astronomical Conclusion

Copernicus' final resting place has until now remained a mystery. Polish, French and German researchers have tried for two centuries to find his tomb.

Coperincus shocked his contemporaries by asserting that the Earth rotated on its axis once a day and traveled around the sun once a year in his pioneering work De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres), published shortly before his death in 1543.

Earlier beliefs based on the Ptolemaic theory put Earth at the centre of the universe, with the sun and stars revolving around it. Pope Paul V condemned his groundbreaking work in 1616 as contrary to scripture.

Click here for the Cosmos magazine article.

Bringing the Wooly Mammoth Back to Life

The wooly mammoth became extinct about 11,000 years ago as the Ice Age ended.

Straight out of the movie Jurassic Park, scientists announced this week they have successfully sequenced the draft genome of the long-extinct wooly mammoth and are speculating that a living mammoth could be created through combining the sequence with elephant DNA.

Scientists used hair snipped from two dead mammoths preserved in Siberian permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The two mammoths from which the hair shafts were taken died around 20,000 years and 50,000 years ago respectively.

Important gaps in the picture remain, but there is enough genetic data to make a comparison between the woolly mammoth and its closest living relative, the elephant, scientists said. The two species are so similar that their DNA differs by just 0.6 per cent, or about half the amount of difference between humans and chimps.

Replication Theoretically Possible

Researchers are saying it should be theoretically possible to replicate a wooly mammoth ~ or a mammoth-like animal ~ by taking the elephant's genome, stripping out the code specific to the elephant and replacing it with code specific to the mammoth. The new code would be fused into an elephant's egg and then transplanted into a female elephant.

Rebuilding the mammoth's genetic code is prompting speculation that scientists may one day revive this species and other extinct Ice Age beasts.

Click here for the complete Cosmos magazine article.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Television Is a Lure for the Unhappy

A 30-year survey of more than 30,000 people concludes that unhappy people watch 30 percent more television than their happier counterparts.

Happy people reported watching an average of 19 hours of television per week, and unhappy people 25 hours a week. In addition, happy people were more socially active, attended more religious services, voted more and read a newspaper more often than their more morose counterparts.

Researchers, however, are not sure whether unhappiness leads to more television watching, or more viewing leads to unhappiness.

"Conflicting data suggest that TV may provide viewers with short-run pleasure, but at the expense of long-term malaise," said researcher John Robinson, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. Over time, television could push out other activities that have more positive benefits. Or perhaps television is a refuge for people who are already unhappy. 

"TV is not judgmental nor difficult, so people with few social skills or resources for other activities can engage in it," Robinson and UM colleague Steven Martin write in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research. "Furthermore, chronic unhappiness can be socially and personally debilitating and can interfere with work and most social and personal activities, but even the unhappiest people can click a remote and be passively entertained by a TV."

Click here for the LiveScience article.

Beauty with the Push of a (Digital) Button

Samples of photos manipulated with the 'Beauty Machine.' Originals are in the top row, and the more 'beautiful' results on the bottom row.

Scientists say facial beauty is not necessarily in the eye of the beholder, but is a matter of measurements and ratios. As a result, a new “beauty machine” can now turn a woman’s photo into the likeness of a cover model with the push of a button.

Its Photoshop-like abilities may well serve as a guide for plastic surgeons in modifying facial features. It could even be incorporated into digital cameras to make people’s images more instantly perfect.

"Beauty, contrary to what most people think, is not simply in the eye of the beholder," said lead researcher Daniel Cohen-Or of the Blavatnik School of Computer Sciences at Tel Aviv University.

Beauty Is In the Ratios

Attractiveness ~ for men or women ~ can be objectified by a computer and boiled down to a function of mathematical distances or ratios, he said.

"Beauty can be quantified by mathematical measurements and ratios,” Cohen-Or continued. “It can be defined as average distances between features, which a majority of people agree are the most beautiful. For us, every picture in this research project is just a collection of numbers."

Cohen-Or and colleagues asked 68 Israeli and German men and women, ages 25 to 40, to rank the beauty of 93 different men's and women's faces on a scale of 1 to 7. The scores were entered into a database and correlated to 250 different measurements and facial features, such as ratios of the nose, chin and distance from ears to eyes. From this, they created an algorithm of "desirable elements of attractiveness."

Click here for the LiveScience article.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Internal Ramp Might Explain Pyramid's Mystery

This 4-minute video explains the internal-ramp theory.

A French architect may have solved the mystery as to how ancient Egyptians were able to move two million stone blocks ~ each weighing about 2.5 tons ~ to construct the Great Pyramid.

A little-known cavity spiraling upward inside the pyramid’s structure seems to support the theory that the 4,500-year-old monument to Pharaoh Khufu was constructed inside out.

The presence of a spiraling inclined interior tunnel contradicts the prevailing wisdom that the monuments were built using an external ramp. "The paradigm was wrong," French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin said recently. "The idea that the pyramids were built from the outside was just wrong. How can you resolve a problem when the first element you introduce in your thinking is wrong?"

He says for centuries Egyptologists have ignored evidence of an internal ramp.To deliver blocks to the 481-foot peak at a reasonable grade, the ramp would extend a mile, and workers would have had to continually increase its height and length as the pyramid rose.

Click here for the National Geographic article.
This post is from my "Ancient Tides" blog.

Intuition Workout

Medical intuitives are people who can diagnose ailments in trances ~ such as the renowned psychic Edgar Cayce and his thousands of medical readings ~ or even over the telephone as is sometimes done by people such as Mona Lisa Schultz, author of Awakening Intuition: Using Your Mind-Body Network for Insight and Healing.

Aside from her psychic abilities, she’s a neuropsychiatrist with a degree from Brown University, and her M.D. and a Ph.D. from Boston University of Science and Medicine. I read Awakening Intuition earlier this year and a few days ago went back to it for her thoughts on intuition in general. (I should mention that the book title is a bit misleading ~ there's a lot about mind/body medicine, but very little on how to awaken one's intuitive abilities.) Here’s one thing she wrote:

Some people are visual intuitives, receiving mental visual images. Some people are auditory intuitives; they hear thoughts, sounds, or message that carry intuitive information. Some people are somatic intuitives, receiving somato-sensory input, or body feelings about themselves or others. When people say to me, “I’m not intuitive. I can’t see things,” I ask them, “Then what do you hear?” or “What do you feel?” It’s important to discover your own particular strength and to use the connections you do have instead of becoming blocked by the thought of the ones you don’t have.

In getting in touch with their intuition network, people have to understand how they’re already using intuition, perhaps in very subtle ways. Once you recognize what you’re already doing without being fully aware of it, you can work to build that muscle by exercising it more.

That's as good a reason as any to keep dowsing … something, anything … every few days or even daily. Got to build up that muscle!

This post is from one of my other blogs, "A Dowser's Diary: An Experiment in Intuition." I have not been good at keeping the diary current.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mormons Still "Baptizing" Jewish Holocaust Victims

"The Baptism" by Piero della Francesca, 1442.

Want proof of the emotional impact of religious ritual? This week saw the resurgence of a powerful conflict that reaches deep into the beliefs of two religions. At a press conference in New York, it was revealed that Jewish and Mormon leaders are still intensely at odds over an ongoing Mormon practice of "baptizing" Jewish victims of the Holocaust by using Mormon stand-ins to convert the deceased Jews to Christianity.
A Jewish Holocaust-survivor group wants the Mormons to stop. "We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion," Ernst Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, wrote this week to Mormon leaders. "We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone. They suffered enough."

Leaders of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) say they’ll alter their genealogical database to reduce the chances of Holocaust victims being “baptized,” but there are no guarantees.

Reuniting in Heaven

Mormons believe the only way families can be reunited in heaven is for all members to be baptized, making them Christians. So, for more than a hundred years, Mormons have used family genealogies to retroactively baptize deceased persons from all over the world, from all religions. The Mormons do this by having living Mormons stand in as a proxies for the deceased persons and immerse themselves in baptismal pools. Then the Mormons regard the dead people as Christians, regardless of what their religions may have been when they were alive.

Jewish leaders say the practice is especially upsetting when applied to Jewish Holocaust victims, who were murdered because of their non-Christian religious beliefs. They want the Mormons to stop baptizing the Jewish victims and "to implement a mechanism to undo what you have done."

Mormons Refuse to Stop

Mormon leaders say nobody ~ Jewish or otherwise ~ has the right to demand that the Mormons change their posthumous baptism practices.
"We don't think any faith group has the right to ask another to change its doctrines," Mormon Elder Lance Wickman told reporters this week in Salt Lake City. "If our work for the dead is properly understood ... it should not be a source of friction to anyone. It's merely a freewill offering."

Jewish leaders persuaded Mormon leaders in 1995 to limit the proxy baptisms for Holocaust victims. Mormons supposedly removed about 42,000 names from the database. But since 2005, independent researchers monitoring the Mormon genealogical database say a number of the names have been placed back on the database along with new entries of Jews from Holland, Greece, Poland and Italy.

Click here for the complete Associated Press article.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Don't Look Now, But Paranoia's on the Rise

Don’t look over your shoulder, but paranoia is on the rise. Depending exactly on how you define paranoia, up to one in four people now experience fears that once were thought only to be associated with schizophrenia.

"We are now starting to discover that madness is human and that we need to look at normal people to understand it," said Dr. Jim van Os, a professor of psychiatry at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Paranoia is defined as the exaggerated or unfounded fear that others are trying to hurt you. That includes thoughts that other people are trying to upset or annoy you, for example, by staring, laughing, or making unfriendly gestures.

According to a report in LiveScience:

Surveys of several thousands of people in Britain, the United States and elsewhere have found that rates of paranoia are slowly rising, although researchers' estimates of how many of us have paranoid thoughts varies widely, from 5 percent to 50 percent.

A British survey of more than 8,500 adults found that 21 percent of people thought there had been times when others were acting against them. Another survey of about 1,000 adults in New York found that nearly 11 percent thought other people were following or spying on them.

Dennis Combs, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Tyler, has been studying paranoia for about a decade. When he first started conducting paranoia studies, mostly in college students, he found that about 5 percent of them had paranoid thoughts. In recent years, that has tripled to about 15 percent, he said.
"People walk around with odd thoughts all the time," said David Penn, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. "The question is if that translates into real behavior."

Post-9/11 Fears Fueling Paranoia

The post-9/11 atmosphere and the war on terror also have increased levels of paranoia in the West, some experts said.
"We are bombarded with information about our alert status and we're told to report suspicious-looking characters," Penn said. "That primes people to be more paranoid."

Traumatic events can make people more vulnerable to having paranoid thoughts. Since the attacks, Penn said Americans have been conditioned to be more vigilant of anything out of the ordinary.
While heightened awareness may be good thing, he said it can also lead to false accusations and an atmosphere where strangers are negatively viewed.

Click here for the LiveScience article.
Drawing by John Sieger.

"Did You Hear the One About . . . "

A man buys a slave and a little while later wants to return him. The seller wants to know why and the buyer says because the slave is dead.

"By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"
You might recognize this joke from a 4th Century AD joke book as reminiscent of the popular Monty Python sketch involving a man returning a dead parrot to a pet shop. The 1,600-year-old Philogelos: The Laugh Addict is one of the world's oldest joke books. Many of its 265 gags prove that sex, dimwits, nagging wives and flatulence have been topics of jokes for centuries.

According to a Reuters report:
In many of the jokes, a slow-witted figure known as the "student dunce" is the butt of the jokes. In one, the student dunce goes to the city and a friend asks him to buy two 15-year-old slaves: "No problem," responds the dunce. "If I don't find two 15-year-olds, I'll get one 30-year-old."

In another, someone asks to borrow the student's cloak to go down to the country. "I have a cloak to go down to your ankle, but I don't have one that reaches to the country," he replies.
The manuscript is attributed to a pair of ancient comedians named Hierocles and Philagrius. Little is known about them except that they were most likely the compilers of the jokes, not the original writers, according to Reuters.

Other one-liners in Philogelos may baffle a modern audience, such as a series of jokes about a lettuce, which only make sense in light of the ancient belief it was an aphrodisiac.

Click here for the Reuters article.
This post appears on my Ancient Tides blog.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Cure for Doomsday Anxieties

Believe me, I’m not obsessed with apocalyptic, end-of-the-world, doomsday, end-time prophecies. But it was just eight years ago next month when a lot of people were trembling with fear as one millennium was about to end and another begin. And even if the world didn’t actually explode or implode as we entered 2000, we were certain to suffer mightily due to the dreaded Y2K.

It’s starting again. Here and there, more and more, we see references to 2012, the year the Mayan calendar ends, coincident with a number of other events that are certain to spell doom. Stay tuned for the Rapture. Just pray you’re not Left Behind.

All of this is why I encourage you to visit this website:

“Chicken Littles have been crying doom since ancient times,” writes the site’s author, Chris Nelson, who says he started the site “to debunk end-time prophecy by listing hundreds of failed doomsday predictions, allay the fears spread by end-time preachers, and demonstrate that doomcrying is nothing new.”

It’s a fascinating read ~ beginning with the year 2800 BC and extending to the present ~ with page after page of well-documented prophecies, many of them rather bizarre.

There’s probably no better way to fend off the anxiety that’ll be mounting until December 21, 2012, than to review the hundreds of failed predictions.

You might want to bookmark A Brief History of the Apocalypse for future reference.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Holding together brings good fortune.
Inquire of the oracle once again
Whether you possess sublimity, constancy, and perseverance;
Then there is no blame.
Those who are uncertain gradually join.
Whoever comes too late
Meets with misfortune.

What is required is that we unite with others, in order that all may complement and aid one another through holding together. But such holding together calls for a central figure around whom other persons may unite. To become a center of influence holding people together is a grave matter and fraught with great responsibility. It requires greatness of spirit, consistency, and strength. Therefore let him who wishes to gather others about him ask himself whether he is equal to the undertaking, for anyone attempting the task without a real calling for it only makes confusion worse than if no union at all had taken place.

But when there is a real rallying point, those who at first are hesitant or uncertain gradually come in of their own accord. Latecomers must suffer the consequences, for in holding together, the question of the right time is also important. Relationships are formed and firmly established according to definite inner laws. Common experiences strengthen these ties, and he who comes too late to share in these basic experiences must suffer for it if, as a straggler, he finds the door locked.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Creationism Round-up: Alive and Well in America

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve, by Domenichino, 1626

Researchers recently correlated American belief in creationism to American understanding of evolution and found that, among 34 countries, America ranks number 33. Only the people of Turkey know less about evolution than we do, as a nation.

Culprits in our ignorance about the basis of evolution are our poor understanding of biology ~ especially genetics ~ plus a widespread literal interpretation of the Bible, as well as the fact that science in our schools has become highly politicized.

“American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist, which is why Turkey and we are so close,” said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University.

Findings were based upon data collected between 1985 and 2005 in 32 European countries, the United States and Japan. According to LiveScience, adults in each country were asked whether they thought the statement “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals,” was true, false, or if they were unsure.

The study found that over the past 20 years:
  • The percentage of U.S. adults who accept evolution declined from 45 to 40 percent.
  • Yet the percentage overtly rejecting evolution also declined, from 48 to 39 percent.
  • It was the percentage of adults who were unsure that substantially increased, from 7 to 21 percent.
Of the other countries surveyed, only Turkey ranked lower, with about 25 percent of the population accepting evolution and 75 percent rejecting it. In Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and France, 80 percent or more of adults accepted evolution. In Japan, 78 percent of adults did.

Influence of Christian Fundamentalism

The analysis found that Americans with fundamentalist religious beliefs ~ defined as belief in substantial divine control over all things worldly ~ were more likely to reject evolution than Europeans with similar beliefs. The discrepancy is due to differences in how American Christian fundamentalist and other forms of Christianity interpret the Bible.

While American fundamentalists tend to interpret the Bible literally and to view Genesis as a true and accurate account of creation, mainstream Protestants in both the United States and Europe instead treat Genesis as metaphorical, the researchers say.

“Whether it’s the Bible or the Koran, there are some people who think it’s everything you need to know,” Miller said. “Other people say these are very interesting metaphorical stories in that they give us guidance, but they’re not science books.”

Click here for the complete article in LiveScience.

In other recent creationist news:
  • A recent survey found that 12 percent of U.S. high school biology teachers present creationism or intelligent design in a positive light in the classroom, despite a federal ruling against it. In a 2005 case in Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones called a school district's policy of teaching intelligent design "breathtaking inanity." Click here for the article.
  • A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2005 shows 42 percent of U.S. residents saying they hold strict "creationist'' views that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.''  Click here for the article.
  • A new survey in the UK found that 29 percent of teachers surveyed via email think creationism and intelligent design should be taught as science. Half of the surveyed teachers said they think excluding these ideas from the classroom would alienate students from science. Click here for the article.
  • The Creation Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, is packing them in, with now more than a half-million people touring its Old Testament displays since it opened in May of 2007. Click here for the article.

Believing in creationism at the expense of evolution is not simply a matter of education. Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education in California, told LiveScience it goes deeper, and is a function of our country's culture and history.

“The rejection of evolution is not something that will be solved by throwing science at it,” Scott said. "There needs to be more addressing of creationism from these more moderate theological perspectives. The professional clergy and theologians whom I know tend to be very reluctant to engage in that type of ‘my theology versus your theology’ discussion, but it matters because it’s having a negative effect on American scientific literacy."

Click here for the LiveScience "Top 10 Creation Myths," showing the beliefs of several cultures regarding how life on earth began.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hypnosis Proves Strong Mind/Body Medicine

Depiction of a 19th Century school of hypnosis.

Hypnosis ranks alongside the placebo as among the most potentially effective mind/body medicines. The hypnotic trance, however, empowers the mind to control the body and can modify the messages the body sends to the mind.

“It has been used to counter the nausea of pregnancy and chemotherapy; dental and test-taking anxiety; pain associated with surgery, root canal treatment and childbirth; fear of flying and public speaking; compulsive hair-pulling; and intractable hiccups, among many other troublesome health problems,” according to an article this week in the New York Times.

Among the doctors the Times interviewed was Roberta Temes, a clinical hypnotist in Scotch Plains, N.J., who explains that hypnosis cannot make people do anything they don’t want to do. It can succeed only in helping people make changes they desire.

She’s the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hypnosis, and points out that you may not even have to be face to face with a hypnotist to benefit medically. She said hypnosis can be helpful even if done with a cassette tape or CD, or by telephone. Some good CDs and tapes are available online at The Hypnosis Network.

While not everyone is easily hypnotized, nearly everyone can slip into a therapeutic trance, Dr. Temes told the Times. One of her patients, Dr. Susan Clarvit, a New York psychiatrist, thought she could not be hypnotized — she believed she was too scientific, too rational a person.

“But I was desperate,” Dr. Clarvit said in an interview. “I was pregnant with my second child and too nauseated to be alive. Dr. Temes asked me what I held most often, and I said a pen. She hypnotized me so that when I held a pen I had an overall feeling of wellness. I held a pen all the time, even while driving, and didn’t feel nauseated.”

Under hypnosis, Dr. Clarvit was given a posthypnotic suggestion that linked holding a pen to feeling well. Such suggestions enable people to practice a new, desired behavior after being brought out of the trance.

As with any other profession, some hypnotherapists are more talented than others. Dr. Temes said word-of-mouth may be the best way to find someone practiced in hypnosis for the kind of problem you’re trying to solve. Also helpful is the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, at, which maintains a referral list of therapists, both certified and not, by location and specialty.

Click here for the New York Times article.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Scientists Find Huge Black Hole, Even Larger Star

Astronomers have located the largest stellar black hole yet, and it is locked in orbit with an even larger star. The black hole is 16 times the mass of our Sun and its close proximity to its even bigger companion star may prompt new thinking about how the universe's stars live and die.

Super-massive black holes weigh thousands to millions of Suns and are thought to reside at the heart of all galaxies, including the Milky Way. Stellar black holes, resulting from the gravitational collapse of a single star, are more modest in weight, on the order of 10 solar masses.

Jerome Orosz, an astronomer from San Diego State University, and his team pointed their telescope in the direction of an X-ray source in the spiral galaxy Messier 33, which is 3 million light years away. There they found a stellar black hole and a companion star that passes directly in front of it on a three-and-a-half-day orbit, eclipsing the black hole's X-ray emissions. This allowed the team to calculate the pair's masses more accurately than usual.

The black hole was found to weigh 15.7 solar masses, making it the biggest stellar black hole ever found. It still pales in comparison to the size of its companion star. At 70 solar masses it is the most massive star found in a binary system with a black hole.

"This is a huge star that is partnered with a huge black hole," said co-author Jeffrey McClintock of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. The discovery is even more remarkable because current astronomical models have difficulty predicting anything greater than ten solar masses.

The research appeared today in the British journal Nature.

Click here for the article.

Human Brain Contains a Specific "Hate Circuit"

Researchers have identified what they describe as a “hate circuit” in the human brain. "Hate is often considered to be an evil passion that should, in a better world, be tamed, controlled, and eradicated,” Semir Zeki, lead author of a study detailing the research, told Cosmos magazine. “Yet to the biologist, hate is a passion that is of equal interest to love."

By showing people images of hated ex-lovers or colleagues, and simultaneously scanning their brains, researchers identified areas of activity that constitute the “hate circuit.” It is distinct from brain activity related to emotions such as fear, threat and danger, but it shares a part of the brain associated with aggression, researchers said.

"Like love, hate is often seemingly irrational and can lead individuals to heroic and evil deeds," said Zeki. "How can two opposite sentiments lead to the same behavior?"

The study reports that the "hate circuit" includes structures in both the cortex and sub-cortex of the brain and has components that are important in generating aggressive behavior. It also involves a part of the frontal cortex that has been considered critical in predicting the actions of others, probably an important feature when one is confronted by a hated person.

The subcortical activity involves two distinct structures, the putamen and the insula, the researchers said. Both structures have also been found to be activated by romantic love, said Zeki.

"The putamen could be involved in the preparation of aggressive acts in a romantic context, as in situations when a rival presents a danger," he explained. "The insula may be involved in responses to distressing stimuli, and the viewing of both a loved and a hated face may constitute such a distressing signal."

A distinction from romantic love is that hate can be directed at entire groups of people, as is the case with racial, political, or gender hatred, said the researchers.

Click here for the Cosmos article.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


The corners of the mouth.
Perseverance brings good fortune.
Pay heed to the providing of nourishment
And to what a man seeks
To fill his own mouth with.

In bestowing care and nourishment, it is important that the right people should be taken care of and that we should attend to our own nourishment in the right way. If we wish to know what anyone is like, we have only to observe on whom he bestows his care and what sides of his own nature he cultivates and nourishes. Nature nourishes all creatures. The great man fosters and takes care of superior men, in order to take care of all men through them. Mencius says about this:

If we wish to know whether anyone is superior or not, we need only observe what part of his being he regards as especially important. The body has superior and inferior, important and unimportant parts. We must not injure important parts for the sake of the unimportant, nor must we injure the superior parts for the sake of the inferior. He who cultivates the inferior parts of his nature is an inferior man. He who cultivates the superior parts of his nature is a superior man.

(Mencius lived from 389 to 305 BC.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Summary of Predictions:
Obama Winning by Slight Margin,
Palin Has Hurt McCain's Chances,
Uneasiness Heading Toward Inauguration,
Saturn/Uranus Making Predictions Very Difficult

From 1864 drawing by Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly.

For this final Election Astrology post prior to Tuesday’s election, I’m summarizing my findings from following a dozen or so astrology blogs for several months.

Culling comments from the blogs was difficult because some of the astrologers clearly used astrology as a basis for propounding their own political preferences and opinions, which can get tiresome. Also, most of the astrologers' political postings dropped off significantly during October, as financial turbulence became the subject of more astrological scrutiny. Besides, almost everything that was going to be astrologically charted regarding the presidential election had been done by the conclusion of the Republicans’ convention in September.

As you can see, much of what the astrologers have said tracks well with what mainstream political analysts and pundits are telling us daily in print and broadcast. The difference is that the astrologers have consistently been saying it earlier.

Most of them saw big trouble for McCain in September when he selected Palin, even though the media and GOP was going wild over her. Her chart has some real trouble spots in it. Most of the astrologers saw something negative due to happen in October. Some were uncertain, others suspected it might be financial, and a few such as Ray Merriman nailed it early and well.

So here are the major conclusions I found:

Barack Obama will win, probably by a small margin. 

I have not found any astrologer still seeing John McCain winning on Tuesday.

An Obama victory was seen as early as May – even when he was battling through the tough primary against Hillary Clinton – when a panel of seven prominent astrologers used various astrological methods of analysis, and then announced their predictions at the United Astrology Conference convention in Denver. Actually six saw an Obama victory and one said it was too close to call between Obama and McCain, but that Clinton was not in the picture.

McCain’s campaign has sustained two powerful blows in the past two months.

One was his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Her birth chart – at least as much as can be gleaned from a questionable time of birth – has been a major wound to McCain's chart. The second blow has been the nation’s economic troubles, which have played directly into some of his chart’s weaker areas. Here’s how Charlene Litchenstein summed it up:

Had I made my prediction in September, I would have predicted John McCain to win, despite the drag that Sarah Palin had on his astrology birth horoscope. I do think that if he had chosen someone more compatible with his birth chart he would have had a stronger candidacy overall with a victory that could not be hampered by any outside event. This is based on the assumption that the shocking event I saw a few weeks ago is the economy and stock market and we are done with any further surprises before the election. . . I predict Barack Obama to win in a very close election - closer than it should be considering the state of the economy.

Saturn-Uranus Opposition is complicating everything.

I’ve discussed this in an earlier post. Here’s how Benjamin Bernstein, writing for the Organization for Professional Astrologers, put it:

Even those who called it for Obama, however, noted an extraordinary synchronicity: Uranus and Saturn make an exact opposition on Election Day! Uranus rules shock, unpredictability and surprise, thus throwing a "wild card" energy into the mix. However, this aspect can also be interpreted as revolutionary new paradigms (Uranus) overcoming the old order (Saturn). Since the outermost planet (Uranus in this case) always has more power, I interpret this aspect as favoring the candidate who more truly represents change (Obama). . . The power of the "wild card factor", created by the Election Day Saturn-Uranus opposition, cannot be underestimated.

Concern about the period leading to Inauguration Day in January.

An ominous tone was set as early as March, when financial astrologer Ray Merriman – highly respected for his work with banks and other institutions – wrote this twist on the Saturn-Uranus opposition, since echoed by several other astrologers:

. . . But it is not so easy to choose who will win, for with Uranus, anything can happen, and surprises are more than likely the order of the day. As an extreme, under this signature, there can be no certainty that the candidates selected to represent their parties even make it to election or inauguration day. Something disruptive is always a possibility, especially with Saturn and Uranus in hard aspect, complemented by Pluto about to move back into Capricorn at that time (November 26, which is between election day and inauguration). I am not predicting assassination, for these symbols can mean many things. But the last time Saturn and Uranus were in opposition, and Pluto was involved, was in the mid-1960’s. Both political and racially-motivated assassinations stung the USA deeply during that time.

Ultimately, the strange and powerful opposition of Saturn and Uranus gives the astrologers an “out.” It is such a rare alignment of contradictory behaviors that it has hampered everyone’s ability to predict with precision.

“It's the single most screwed-up election from an astrological perspective in decades,” says Robert Hand, one of America’s leading astrologers.

After the election, I’ll select a handful of astrologers who seemed to have made the most consistently accurate calls and will follow them as we head toward Inauguration Day to see what they’re saying.