Friday, March 31, 2006

Solar Eclipse and SOHO

Credit: 2006 Team

Explanation: Neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night can keep the space-based SOlar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) from watching the Sun. In fact, from its vantage point 1.5 million kilometers sunward of planet Earth, SOHO's cameras can always monitor the Sun's outer atmosphere, or corona. But only during a total solar eclipse can earth-based observers see the lovely coronal streamers and structures - when the Moon briefly blocks the overwhelmingly bright solar surface. In this composite view, SOHO's uninterrupted view of the solar corona above the solar photosphere (center) and corona far beyond the Sun's disk, are shown in orange hues. The middle, donut-shaped region is the corona as recorded by the Williams College Eclipse Expedition to Kastelorizo Island, Greece during the March 29th total solar eclipse. Merging ground and space-based views allows astronomers to trace features in the corona that reach from just above the Sun's surface into the solar wind.

Study: Humor Makes Us Hopeful

By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Senior Writer
13 April 2005

A little humor can brighten your outlook, a new study suggests.

People who watched a 15-minute comedy video scored higher on a survey of hopefulness compared to those who didn't get the chance to guffaw.

The finding suggests humor could be a strategy to relieve stress and maintain well-being, the researchers say. The work was published recently in the International Journal of Humor

Previous studies have revealed laughter is good medicine. A report released last month from the University of Maryland Medical Center found laughter makes blood vessels function better, causing the tissue that lines the vessels to expand, increasing blood flow. A previous study at the same institution concluded that laughter and an active sense of humor may protect against heart attacks.

Other surveys have found that humor can relieve stress and contribute to a person's overall well-being.

But why would humor foster hope? Maybe just by inhibiting negative thoughts, said Texas A&M psychologist David H. Rosen, one of the new paper's authors.

Laugher can stimulate thought and cause you to toss out automatic behavioral responses in favor of more creative pursuits, Rosen said. That leads to a greater sense of self worth and a tendency to develop plans of attack for dealing with problems.

The study involved 200 people aged 18-42. It measured not only smiles and laughter, but included surveys to reveal other ways participants reacted to humor.

"Someone who may not laugh as much while viewing a comedy video may still find the video quite humorous and thus have as much beneficial effects as someone who laughed a lot during the video," explained the lead author, Alexander Vilaythong of the University of North Texas.

Any advise for the hopeless?

"I would recommend that individuals seeking sources of hopefulness view comedy videos," Vilaythong told LiveScience. "Other sources of humor may work as well, such as finding humor in daily life, but I will leave that for future studies."

Optimists Live Longer

  • No Joke: Animals Laugh, Too

  • Not Funny, But LOL Anyway

    Thursday, March 30, 2006

    Culinary Iconography - Nacho Pan Jesus

    Workers See Jesus Image In Nacho Pan

    A Florida restaurant says it had been blessed just before Christmas in December 2005. Workers claimed a holy image had appeared in one of their cooking pans. At the Stadium Club in Jacksonville, FL., workers found what they had believed to be an image of Jesus in a nacho warming tray.The pan was used to heat water which then heats the food.

    The image was created from mineral deposits in the water.One of the cooks said he went to empty the pan one night and saw Jesus looking back at him. A spokesman for the Stadium Club said the restaurant would not continue to use the pan. I should hope not! Looks nasty!

    Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    "At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols."
    Aldous Huxley

    Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    Yesterday's religion = today's mythology; today's religion = tomorrow's mythology?

    As I was driving home from work yesterday evening I was looking at the various churches I passed along the way home. I then started thinking about the many, many ancient temples of mythologies and religions in various parts of the world that have existed, and those that still exist. I imagined how life must have been in ancient Greece and how the citizens of that civilization believed in their gods and goddesses and worshipped them in the great temples as people nowdays worship whatever god or gods they choose in their modern-day temples. People have this need to believe...FOR ONE REASON. They want to live forever. They don't want to die. Things make us kind of crazy when we can't control them. Things like illness, death, natural disasters. Religions provide sort of a crutch throught it all. Atheists have managed to accept these things as facts of life that we can do nothing about and it puzzles the superstitious believers as to how we can cope while believing in only ourselves and humans helping one another.

    Monday, March 27, 2006

    Doomed Star Eta Carinae

    Credit: J. Morse (Arizona State U.), K. Davidson (U. Minnesota) et al., WFPC2, HST, NASA

    Explanation: Eta Carinae may be about to explode. But no one knows when - it may be next year, it may be one million years from now. Eta Carinae's mass - about 100 times greater than our Sun - makes it an excellent candidate for a full blown supernova. Historical records do show that about 150 years ago Eta Carinae underwent an unusual outburst that made it one of the brightest stars in the southern sky. Eta Carinae, in the Keyhole Nebula, is the only star currently thought to emit natural LASER light. This image, taken in 1996, resulted from sophisticated image-processing procedures designed to bring out new details in the unusual nebula that surrounds this rogue star. Now clearly visible are two distinct lobes, a hot central region, and strange radial streaks. The lobes are filled with lanes of gas and dust which absorb the blue and ultraviolet light emitted near the center. The streaks remain unexplained. Will these clues tell us how the nebula was formed? Will they better indicate when Eta Carinae will explode?

    Sunday, March 26, 2006

    Cargo Cults -belief in the imminence of a new age of blessing, to be initiated by the arrival of a special ''cargo'' of goods from supernatural source

    A cargo cult is any of a group of religious movements that occurred in Melanesia, in the Southwestern Pacific. The Cargo Cults believed that manufactured western goods ('cargo') were created by ancestral spirits and intended for Melanesian people. White people, however, had unfairly gained control of these objects. Cargo cults thus focused on purifying their communities of what they perceived as 'white' influences by conducting rituals similar to the white behavior they had observed, presuming that this activity would make cargo come. A characteristic feature of Cargo Cults is the belief that spiritual agents will at some future time give much valuable cargo, and desirable manufactured products to the cult members.

    Cargo cults have been recorded since the 19th century, but have been continuously growing since World War II. The cult participants generally do not fully understand the significance of manufacturing or commerce. They have limited purchasing authority. Their understanding of western society, religion, and economics may be rudimentary. These cults are a response to the resulting confusion and insecurity. They rationalize their situation by the reference to religious and magical symbols they associate with Christianity and modern western society. Across cultural differences and large geographic areas, there have been instances of the movements independently organizing.

    The most famous examples of Cargo Cult behavior are the airstrips, airports, and radios made out of coconuts and straw. The cult members built them in the belief that the structures would attract transport planes full of cargo. Believers stage "drills" and "marches" with twigs for rifles and military-style insignia and "USA" painted on their bodies to make them look like soldiers.

    Today, most historians and anthropologists argue that the term 'Cargo Cult' is a misnomer that describes a variety of phenomena. However, the idea has captured the imagination of many people in developed nations, and the term continues to be used today. For this reason, and possibly many others, the cults have been labelled millennialist, in the sense of a utopian future brought about by a messiah.

    A similar cult, the dance of the spirits, arose from contact between Native Americans and the Anglo-American civilization in late 19th century. The Paiute prophet Wovoka preached that by dancing in a certain fashion, the ancestors would come back on railways and a new earth would cover the white people.

    A religion described as a "cargo cult" developed during the Vietnam War among some of the Hmong people of Southeast Asia. The core of their beliefs was that the second coming of Jesus Christ was imminent, only this time he would arrive wearing camouflage fatigues driving a military jeep to come and take them away to the promised land. The origins are unknown, but one can surmise that it was assembled out of the images of new power apparent to them in that time period, in the form of the American military and of western Christian missionaries.

    A more recent example of a mythological worldview misinterpreting scientific practices occurred in Africa, where an aid organization, focusing on slowing and stabilizing population growth, distributed abaci with red and white beads corresponding to a woman's menstrual cycle. Women were instructed to move one bead a day, only having intercourse on days represented by a white bead. However, the experiment failed, and the population grew in the households using the abacus. The women believed the abaci were magical, and that they would be protected from pregnancy by moving a white bead into the place of the red bead before intercourse.

    Some Amazonian Indians have carved wood mockups of cassette players (gabarora from Portuguese gravadora or Spanish grabadora) that they use to communicate with spirits.

    LINK: Wikipedia: Cargo Cults

    LINK: Air Force Magazine Online: Cargo Cults


    LINK: Cargo Cults photojournal - look at the photos and read carefully. These people are inventing their own religion using their own superstitious beliefs and adding christianity to it, which is what christianity did when it was first formed. People make their own gods for whatever needs and reasons they might benefit themselves. For most people, the main desire is immortality.

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    Why are atheists the most mistrusted minority in America?

    Why are atheists the most mistrusted minority in America? Because theists have doubts…but they want their crutch. They suspect we could be right, but they love their crutch. Atheists are a threat to their beliefs and if we manage to take their crutch away, they will have to face the reality of their mortality. Most people cannot face the fact that life ends…they want to live forever. We all would like to live forever, but it isn’t going to happen and no wishful thinking will change that. Atheists have accepted this fact of life and nature and we are representatives of reason and reality and they hate us for it. Most people can’t handle the truth. Why else would such a small minority be a threat to a huge religious world majority? Deep down they must know we are right.

    From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

    University of Minnesota News

    Thursday, March 23, 2006


    I found this over at the Exploding Aardvark
    “I’ve had it for two years already,” Ibragim Ismatullayev, the owner, said. “It is extremely aggressive, ever trying to attack me or the kids, and so I decided to cook it. I got the rooster by the legs, took it out of the hen house, and put the knife to its neck. It screamed. My son who was by my side (he is 5) said, “Dad. It’s saying “Allah, Allah.!” Let him live.” I was shocked. I called my mother who listened to the rooster and said, “Let it be, son. It’s a blessing on our home.”

    “I was talking to my daughter when I heard someone say “Allah, Allah!” in a strange voice,” Ismatullayev’s mother Ajlokhon said. “That was when my son called me. He had been about to cut the rooster’s neck. I went outdoors and saw the rooster calling Allah. I’d say that this is Allah’s gift to us. Our neighbors think so too.”

    A rooster speaking (Ferghana Central Asia Information Agency, via Sploid)

    MP3 of the rooster

    Sigmund Freud

    "Religion... comprises a system of wishful illusions
    together with a disavowal of reality,
    such as we find in an isolated form nowhere else but in amentia,
    in a state of blissful hallucinatory confusion."

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Culinary Iconography - Allah on an Eggplant, Melon and a Bean

    In March last year, a woman in Mendhasalis, India, sliced into an eggplant and found seeds spelling out "Allah" in Urdu script. Now, the vegetable is part of a shrine near her home, where some treat it as a religious icon.

    Amazingly, this is not the first time an eggplant has been exalted. In 1990, Muslims in nothern England also reported finding "Allah" spelled out in the seeds of an eggplant, only this time it was written in Arabic.

    "This clearly shows people that our god exists. It is a message to the nonbelievers," Abdullah Patel told Reuters, claiming that 4,500 people had visited his home within just weeks of the incident being reported.

    In one more case of this food-of-the-gods phenomena, in 2002, the Jessani family of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, returned from the market with a potato shaped like the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. They now welcome 60 to 70 pilgrims a day, eager to see this divine vegetable, according to local press.

    What does this all say? Perhaps God is everywhere, and in some cases, he's fattening.

    Allah Melon

    Allah on a bean

    Newly Discovered Failed Star Added to Stellar Neighborhood

    An artist's depiction of the brown dwarf (right)
    orbiting its red star parent SCR 1845-6357. Credit: ESO.

    Tariq Malik
    Staff Writer

    Wed Mar 22, 2:00 PM ET

    A team of astronomers has found a cold object that is neither star nor planet circling a star relatively close to Earth.

    The object, a cool brown dwarf orbiting its red parent star, sits about 12.7 light-years from the Sun, making it the third closest such object known to date, researchers said.

    Cold and dim, brown dwarfs are objects that are typically massive than planets but fall short of igniting into full-fledged stars. Astronomers using the Very Large Telescope at European Southern Observatory in Paranal, Chile found the latest brown dwarf orbiting the red star SCR 1845-6357.

    "Besides being extremely close to Earth, this object is a T dwarf - a very cool brown dwarf - and the only such object found as a companion to a low-mass star," said Beth Biller, lead author of the study reporting brown dwarf find and a graduate student at the University of Arizona, in a statement. "It is also likely the brightest known object of its temperature because it is so close."

    The newly found brown dwarf carries a temperature of about 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit (750 degrees Centigrade) and a mass between nine and 65 times that of Jupiter, researchers said. It also orbits its red parent at a distance 4.5 times that of the average separation between Earth and the Sun, or about 418 million miles (672 million kilometers), they added.

    The research will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

    Despite their proximity, the red star and brown dwarf observed by Biller and her colleagues is not the closest to Earth. Two others have been found around the star Epsilon Indi, which sits about 11.8 light-years from Earth. Another object sits slightly further out, at a distance of about 13 light-years, followed by another brown dwarf 16 light-years from Earth.

    One light-year is the distance light travels in one year, about 5.88 trillion miles (9.7 trillion kilometers). The nearest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri 4.2-light-years away.

    Biller and her team hope their brown dwarf will help astronomers better understand the cold objects that seem to occupy a purgatory between stellar and planetary formation.

    Last year, researchers found a brown dwarf surrounded by a disk of material, hinting that the odd objects could spawn their own system of mini-worlds.

    Markus Kasper, an ESO team member who participated in the recent brown dwarf study, said the new find allows astronomers to pin down the object's brightness and - after further observations - its precise mass.

    "These properties are vital for understanding the nature of brown dwarfs," Kasper said.

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Quote by Mark Twain


    Peace of mind is a most valuable thing. The Bible has robbed the majority of the world of it during many centuries; it is but fair that in return it should give some to an individual here & there. But you must not make the mistake of supposing that absolute peace of mind is obtainable only through some form of religious belief: no, on the contrary I have found that as perfect a peace is to be found in absolute unbelief.
    - Letter to Charles W. Stoddard, 6/1/1885

    Another Absurd "Wrath of God" Claim -- This Time by the Jews

    Wrath of God Behind Israel Bird Flu?

    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An outbreak of deadly bird flu in Israel is God's punishment for calls in election ads to legalize gay marriages, according to Rabbi David Basri, a prominent sage preaching Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism.

    "The Bible says that God punishes depravity first through plagues against animals and then in people," Basri said in a religious edict quoted by his son.

    Basri said he hoped the deaths of hundreds of thousands of turkeys and chickens would help atone for what he called the sins of left-wing Israeli political parties, the son, Rabbi Yitzhak Basri, told Reuters, a week before a national election.

    The bird flu outbreak stemmed from far-left political parties "strengthening and encouraging homosexuality," Rabbi Basri's son quoted him as saying.

    One of the parties aired an election commercial depicting two brides kissing. Some campaign advertisements also called for homosexual marriages to be legalized in Israel.

    Basri is a prominent Kabbalist and author of commentaries on the Zohar, the main Kabbalah mystical text.

    Animals killed by an all powerful god for HUMAN "wickedness"???

    KFC is displaced anger and retaliation by a god for all the evil humans do in the world????? WTF???!!! LOL!

    President Dwight Eisenhower, Republican, uttered these words on November 8, 1954:

    "Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

    In addition to being a war hero, a decent fellow, a moderate Republican before they began to go extinct, President Eisenhower apparently was also quite the prophet. Little George W. Bush was about 9 years old at the time...

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    Isis, Osiris and Horus Links to Christianity

    One of these two images is a famous medieval icon of Mary and Jesus, the other is a bronze statue of Isis nursing Horus dating from the Ptolomeic era of Egypt

    Some scholars argue that aspects of Isis worship have influenced the practices of some Christians in regard to the vIrgin Mary and especially her relationship with her son, Jesus. There is a strong resemblance to the depiction of the seated Isis holding or suckling the child Horus and the seated Mary and the baby Jesus. It has been suggested by these scholars that the reason Isis worship abruptly ends, despite the vast number of its adherents, is due to her having been identified as Mary, and her temples having been merely renamed in consequence. If this is true then it could be said that, in a way, Isis is still worshipped today, and has been for at least 5000 years.

    Many Egyptologists however disagree with the claims, stating that by the time the cult of Virgin Mary arose, the worship of Isis has greatly evolved from the Egyptian myths, and her relationship with Horus was no longer a major factor. These egyptologists consider that the goddess whose worship was replaced by Christianity was a merged Isis-Aphrodite hybrid, with sexuality and magical aspects much more important to the cult. By this time she was almost never depicted as a mother with baby; she was mostly depicted alone, often lifting her dress to expose her genitals. Nethertheless, the resemblence between early christian images of Mary and those of Isis are sometimes striking, providing an explanation for the somewhat awkward position of Mary's arm - breastfeeding that was later censured by the addition of clothing.

    Isis' son, Horus is an ancient god of Egyptian mythology, whose cult survived so long that he evolved dramatically over time and gained many names. The most well known name is the Greek Horus, representing the Egyptian Heru/Har, which is the basic element in most of the other names of Horus. Horus was so important that the Eye of Horus became an important Egyptian symbol of power and even to this day is represented on the U.S. one dollar bill.

    Horus and Jesus

    A connection between Jesus and Horus-Osiris is frequently raised by critics of the historicity of Jesus. Superficially, the death and resurrection of Horus-Osiris, and Horus' nature as both the son of Osiris and Osiris himself, appear to be a template for the idea that this occurred in Jesus.

    Deeper similarities between Horus and Jesus, which are not at all obvious to those who are not completely familiar with ancient Egyptian mythology and linguistics, have been said by some to mean that certain elements of the story of Jesus were embellishments, which were copied from the Horus as syncretism. Indeed, according to a few more radical scholars, Jesus was copied from Horus wholesale, and made into a Jewish teacher. In particular, it is said that Horus is the basis for the elements assigned to the M Gospel (the bits in Matthew which are not in the Q Gospel or Mark) and the L Gospel (the bits in Luke which are not in the Q gospel or Mark), especially the infancy narratives.

    Jesus brought salvation. Osiris brought salvation 1,400 years earlier. Osiris' followers knew their fate after death depended on the morality of the life they lead before death. The ancient Book of the Dead pictures resurrected believers standing in the presence of Osiris as their judge. If they could recite a list of their good deeds in life, Osiris rewarded them with eternal life. When initiates into the mysteries of Isis and Osiris died, their souls traveled to Heaven and Osiris became their king. How do we know this? The ancients tell us so. Here's Plutarch [who lived from about 45 to 120 AD] And it wasn't just Plutarch who wrote about salvation through Isis and Osiris:

    "The keys of hell and the guarantee of salvation were in the hands of the goddess, and the initiation ceremony itself a kind of voluntary death and salvation through divine grace." Apuleius, Metamorphosis, Book 11, 21]

    And, "Be of good cheer, O initiates, for the god is saved, and we shall have salvation for our woes." [Firmicus Maternus, The Error of Pagan Religions, 22.1]

    Quoting the Goddess Isis: " I have come with solace and aid. Away then with tears. cease to moan. Send sorrow fleeing. Soon through my providence shall the sun of your salvation rise." Apuleius, Metamorphosis 11.5]

    Wikipedia Links: Isis, Osiris, Horus

    Link: Pagan Origins of Christ Myth

    LINK: SHAKEN CREEDS: The Virgin Birth Doctrine By Jocelyn Rhys - Published 1922

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    The Top 15 Least Known Chapters in "Dianetics"

    15. "Getting Chicks To Say Yes: L. Ron Answers the Booty Call"
    14. "Hey, If It's In a Bestseller, It MUST Be True!"
    13. "Travolta 3:16"
    12. "Making Your Own E-meter With Dixie Cups And Duct Tape"
    11. "Chapter 26: In Which Luke Discovers that L. Ron Vader is His Real Father"
    10. "Chapter 5: Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot"
    9. "'Old Mother' Hubbard -- L. Ron, the Transvestite Years"
    8. "Chapter 12: Geez, You're Still Buying This, Aren't You?"
    7. "The Human Mind: That Vast Realm Half an Inch Behind the Forehead (Two Inches Back for Scott Hamilton)"
    6. "When a Lawsuit Hits Your Eye, Like a Big Pizza Pie, That's Scientology"
    5. "He's NOT the Telescope Guy!"
    4. "Chapter 11 - How To File For It"
    3. "Movie Stars -- Are They Gullible, or What?"
    2. "Chapter 3: Post This on the Internet and We'll Sue Your Ass!"
      and the Number 1 Least Known Chapter in "Dianetics"...
    1. "Commandment Number One: 'Show Me the Money!'"
    [ This list copyright 1997 by John Smith and Ziff-Davis ]
    [ *To forward or repost, please include this section.* ]

    Operation Clambake
    Scientology Losing Ground to Fictionology: The Onion

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    Sombrero galaxy - Messier 104

    NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes joined forces on May 5, 2005 to create this striking composite image of one of the most popular sights in the universe. Messier 104 is commonly known as the Sombrero galaxy because in visible light, it resembles the broad-brimmed Mexican hat. However, in Spitzer's striking infrared view, the galaxy looks more like a "bull's eye." This image is featured at Spitzer Infrared Photo Gallery

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Culinary Iconography - Jesus on Tortillas! Holy Guacamole!

    Shrine of the Holy Tortilla
    Lake Arthur, New Mexico

    No one realized at the time, but the 1977 appearance of Jesus Christ on a flour tortilla set the international standard for miracle sightings. Once confined to obscure grotto appearances, the Tortilla was the crossover miracle that put God in the Extra Value Meal of the average American.

    Now, no object is too outrageous for an Almighty (or Virgin Mary) cameo. He's materialized on a Pizza Hut billboard in a plate of spaghetti; on a bowling alley chimney; reflected from a porch light onto a car bumper (until the light was turned off and the car moved); on a diner place mat; and even on a dead priest's shoe.

    But the Miracle Tortilla was the first to fully wrap around the collective pop subconscious.

    In October of 1977, Maria Rubio was rolling up a burrito for her husband Eduardo's breakfast, when she noticed a thumb-sized configuration of skillet burns on the tortilla that resembled the face of Jesus. Needless to say, Eduardo went hungry that meal as Maria told family and neighbors of the miraculous event. It happened in the small town of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, 40 minutes south of Roswell.

    Despite the braying of scientists and skeptics, the Holy Tortilla quickly developed a solid fan base. By 1979, over 35,000 people had visited, bringing flowers and photos of sick loved ones.

    Mrs. Rubio quit her job as a maid to attend full-time to the hastily constructed "Shrine of the Holy Tortilla" in her home. When away, she'd leave the door unlocked so that no one would be denied access.


    Is That Jesus on another Tortilla?

    HOUSTON – A woman who recently lost her mother is finding peace – in a tortilla.

    Maria de los Santos Rodriguez' said a few years ago, her mom saw the image of Jesus in a homemade tortilla. So she kept it with her, by her bed as she died from cancer.

    Now, Maria said she wants other people to see the tortilla as a symbol of something sacred that is always visible to those who look.

    "In everything you just have to stop your busy world and pay attention, that's all," she said.

    Maria said the tortilla began to crumble, shortly after her mother's death.



    "Happy events make us happy. Isn't this a simple idea? No, not at all.

    Happy events make for happy thoughts, and happy thoughts make us happy. We anticipate something special, something glorious, something exciting and funny, and we are happy. Conversely, we do not think thoughts that are sad, bad, scary, and we are not unhappy. Accordingly, we should not need happy events to make us happy. We should just think happy thoughts. To rely on happy events is a weakness.

    Still, to be happy without outside help is something most of us don't know how to do. Unhappy events do sadden us. We must know though, that we can change ourselves, we can work on and improve ourselves. And in working on ourselves, and in improving our ability to think happy thoughts, we will find a special key to happiness."
    Avraham Tzvi Schwartz

    My husband has this attitude. The only family he has left is myself and our children, and a half brother in another state. He lost his biological father at age six, he lost his mother at age 17 and his step-father at age 18. His mother was an alcoholic, and though she loved him dearly, he had a difficult childhood. We lost our first child via stillbirth, we lost two more via miscarriage. He has been laid off several times in our 30 years of marriage. He lost 18 inches of his colon due to a blood clot. He has been sued by scam artists after a minor traffic accident that wasn't even his fault. He loved to play basketball his whole life and can no longer play because of bum knees and ankles. He can hardly walk some days. Through all of life's difficulties he has always maintained that if he were told he had a terminal illness , he can say he has lead a happy life and has no regrets. When asked "How are you Jon?" His answer is a hearty and robust "Better and Better!" and he MEANS it. He is known for his always smiling face, joking ways and goodheartedness. He has been a strong and positive role model for our children. Though we do feel sad at times, we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and say hey..."THAT'S LIFE and what a good life it is."

    Cosmic 'DNA': Double Helix Spotted in Space

    A color-enhanced version of the infrared signal makes the Double Helix Nebula's features easier to see. The spots are mostly red giants and red supergiants.

    By Bjorn Carey,

    Magnetic forces at the center of the galaxy have twisted a nebula into the shape of DNA, a new study reveals.

    The double helix shape is commonly seen inside living organisms, but this is the first time it has been observed in the cosmos.

    "Nobody has ever seen anything like that before in the cosmic realm," said the study's lead author Mark Morris of UCLA. "Most nebulae are either spiral galaxies full of stars or formless amorphous conglomerations of dust and gas—space weather. What we see indicates a high degree of order."

    These observations, made with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, are detailed in the March 16 issue of the journal Nature

    Disk-driven shape

    The DNA nebula is about 80 light-years long. It's about 300 light-years from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The nebula is nearly perpendicular to the black hole, moving out of the galaxy at a quick clip—about 620 miles per second (1,000 kilometers per second).

    Magnetic field lines at the galactic center are about 1,000 times stronger than on Earth. They run perpendicular to the black hole, but parallel through the nebula. Scientists think that twisting of these lines is what causes the double helix shape.

    While the black hole might be the first culprit to come to mind, it's more likely that the magnetic field lines are anchored to a giant gas disk that orbits the black hole several light-years away, researchers say.

    It's like having two strands of rope connected to a fixed point, Morris said. As you spin the strands, they braid around each other in a double helix fashion. In this case the gas and dust of the nebula makes up the strands.

    "It's as if there's a bar across the middle [of the black hole], or a dumbbell shape, where the strands are anchored, and as it spins around, it twists the strands together," Morris told

    This process takes a long time, though, since the disk completes one orbit around the black hole roughly every 10,000 years. But that's an important number. "Once every 10,000 years is exactly what we need to explain the twisting of the magnetic field lines that we see in the double helix nebula," Morris said.

    The recipe

    The recipe for a DNA nebula is strict but simple. It requires a strong magnetic field, a rotating body, and a nebulous cloud of material positioned just right.

    Massive central black holes are the best sources for both the strong magnetic field and rotating body, and since most large galaxies have them, Morris expects DNA-like nebula may be common through out the universe.

    "I absolutely expect to see [this configuration] in gas-rich galaxies with all these elements in place," Morris said.

    However, these nebulas are tough to spot, and current technology limits scientists' observations to our galaxy.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Plaintiffs say Air Force recruiters told to use religion as tool

    By Patrick O'Driscoll, USA TODAY Fri Mar 10, 7:06 AM ET

    Pentagon policies on religion in the ranks filed court papers Thursday alleging that an Air Force recruiter in New Mexico was asked "to use Jesus Christ as a recruiting tool."

    Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the Air Force Academy, filed suit against the Air Force in federal court in Albuquerque last October. Weinstein and four other plaintiffs allege illegal proselytizing by evangelical Christian chaplains, officers and cadets at the Air Force Academy and throughout the service.

    The plaintiffs - including one of Weinstein's sons who is an Air Force officer - filed a motion Thursday to amend the lawsuit, challenging the Air Force's "interim guidelines" on religious expression issued last month.

    The latest filing seeks to add another plaintiff, Master Sgt. Phillip Burleigh of Alamogordo, N.M., a 24-year veteran. It alleges that Burleigh, an Air Force Reserve recruiter at Holloman Air Force Base, "has been subjected to regular and persistent proselytizing by his superior officers" against his will and "in violation of his constitutional rights."

    Burleigh could not be reached for comment. The filing says his problems began in 1997 with "aggressive proselytizing" by his supervisor and lower performance ratings than colleagues who attended prayer groups and church.

    Pentagon spokeswoman Jean Schaefer wouldn't comment on the filing, but said the Air Force is "committed to having an environment for everyone to practice or not practice their faith."

    The 12-page court filing says guest speakers at conventions of Air Force recruiters in 2003 and 2005 told Burleigh and other recruiters that "they needed to accept Jesus Christ in order to perform their job duties" and "to use faith in Jesus Christ while recruiting."

    "It's absolutely horrifying that the Air Force has been trying to force its recruiters to use the gospel of Jesus Christ as a recruiting tool," said Weinstein, who is Jewish. "There's no wall left between church and state in the Air Force."

    Weinstein took on the military last year after a Pentagon task force cleared the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs of "overt religious discrimination" but noted insensitivity toward cadets of non-Christian faiths. Weinstein has a second son who is a cadet there.

    Complaints of religious intolerance, conversion attempts and favoritism for "born again" Christian cadets had first surfaced in a 2004 campus survey and in criticism in a Yale Divinity School study of chaplain practices at the academy.

    The controversy led the Air Force to issue four-page guidelines last August for "free exercise of religion" throughout the service. It also instituted religious sensitivity training for the academy's cadets and staff.

    Members of Congress and some Christian groups objected that the guidelines were too restrictive. They said the rules violated constitutional guarantees of free exercise of religion and discriminated against evangelicals, who consider spreading their faith a requirement of Christianity.

    A national petition drive and a congressional letter to President Bush sought guarantees that chaplains could pray at military gatherings "in Jesus' name," not just with non-sectarian words.

    In February, the Pentagon shortened the guidelines to one page and eased some restrictions on chaplains. Evangelical groups praised the change as restoring freedom of religion for believers.

    Critics, including Weinstein and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the revision doesn't give non-believers freedom from religion.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Family Walks on All Fours, May Offer Evolution Insight, Experts Say. "This bizarre case is not a hoax."

    James Owen in London
    for National Geographic News
    March 8, 2006

    Five adult siblings who can walk only on all fours have been found in Turkey, researchers say. These human quadrupeds may provide clues to how humans evolved to stand on two feet.

    The three sisters and two brothers may offer insight into the way our apelike ancestors moved, according to scientists. Human ancestors are believed to have begun walking on two legs more than three million years ago.

    (See "Fossil Pushes Upright Walking Back 2 Million Years, Study Says.")

    Discovered in a remote area of southern Turkey last summer, the family of ethnic Kurds has sparked a scientific debate, which will be covered in a BBC television documentary that is set to air on March 17 in the United Kingdom. The family's exact location and last name have not been disclosed.

    Born with a genetic brain abnormality, two of the sisters and one of the brothers are thought to have only walked on all fours their entire lives. The two other siblings can walk upright for short distances.

    The siblings' parents are closely related and have had 19 children in all.

    This bizarre case is not a hoax, according to experts who have studied the family.

    The cause of the four-limbed locomotion, however, is a bone of contention among the researchers.

    Uner Tan is a neurophysiologist—a doctor specializing in the functions of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves—at Cukurova University in Adana, Turkey.

    He believes the siblings, who range in age from 18 to 34, are evolutionary throwbacks—a "missing link" to our forebears. (Related reading)

    Meanwhile German geneticists believe the siblings' genetic abnormality may have knocked out the gene responsible for bipedalism, or two-legged walking, in humans.

    The German team, led by Stefan Mundlos of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, says it has located this gene on a human chromosome. (See a quick overview of human genetics.)


    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Chicago Requires Driver's Ed for the Blind

    Growing up in Chicago, I know how idiotic things are at the Chicago Board of Education, and I knew that driver's education was a requirement, but I never knew it was required for BLIND PEOPLE. This is one for Jay Leno to get ahold of.

    CHICAGO - Most high school students eagerly await the day they pass driver's education class.
    But 16-year-old Mayra Ramirez is indifferent about it.

    Ramirez is blind, yet she and dozens of other visually impaired sophomores in Chicago schools
    are required to pass a written rules-of-the-road exam in order to graduate — a rule they say takes time away from subjects they might actually use.

    "In other classes, you don't really feel different because you can do the work other people do," Ramirez said. "But in driver's ed, it does give us the feeling we're different. In a way, it brought me down, because it reminds me of something I can't do."

    Hundreds of school districts in Illinois require students to pass driver's ed, although the state only requires that districts offer the courses. A state education official says districts that require it should exempt disabled students. "It defies logic to require blind students to take this course," Meta Minton, spokeswoman for the state Board of Education, told the Chicago Tribune in a Friday story.

    About 30 students at two Chicago high schools with programs for the visually impaired recently
    formed an advocacy group in part to change the policy. A Chicago Public Schools official said the district would be open to waiving the requirement. "I can't explain why up to this point no one has raised the issue and suggested a better way for visually impaired students to opt out of driver's ed," said Chicago schools spokesman Michael Vaughn. Vaughn said parents of disabled students can, by law, request a change in their child's individual education plan, which could include a driver's ed exemption. But teachers and students said that is a little-known option, and that they have been told driver's ed is required to graduate.