Saturday, September 13, 2003

A Potter website that invites browsing is World of Magic: Harry Potter Theme Park. I really like the letter to "skeptical parents." The Hogwarts library has lots of suggestions for other books to read.
The entire site is just lots of fun.

Elizabeth Peter's "Amelia Peabody" mysteries have their own website: Amelia Check out the Peabodyisms!

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Once more science confirms the Bible, rather than debunking it.

A tunnel that snakes under the ancient walls of Jerusalem likely was built around 700 B.C. during the reign of King Hezekiah, as described in the Bible, a new study suggests.

The tunnel's age had been debated by biblical scholars, a few of whom had suggested it was built centuries later. The only surviving clue to its age had been an inscription discovered in 1880 on a tunnel wall, which supported the link to Hezekiah but did not specifically name him.

In the new study, analysis of stalactite samples from the ceiling of the Siloam Tunnel and plant material recovered from its plaster floor both confirm the biblical record, researchers say.

"We believe this point is now clearly settled,'' said Amos Frumkin, a geologist and director of the Cave Research Center at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He and colleagues present their analysis in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Hershel Shanks, an expert on the history of Jerusalem who writes for the Biblical Archaeology Review, said "it's nice to have scientific confirmation for what the vast majority of biblical scholars and archaeologists believe.''

Shanks, who didn't participate in the new study, said confirmation of the tunnel's age was important because so little scientific testing has been done to date biblical structures.

"If you can couple various technological capabilities and science with more traditional scholarship and other historical analysis, and reach the same conclusion, that's a pretty powerful argument,'' said Bruce Zuckerman, a University of Southern California religion professor and expert in biblical archaeology.

Testing is difficult, they say, because sample material from buildings and structures mentioned in the Bible are hard to identify and may be poorly preserved, or access by scientists may be restricted for political or religious reasons.

The tunnel's plant fragments were subjected to radiocarbon dating, which measures age by the decay of a radioactive form of carbon. Core samples from the stalactites underwent chemical testing and other examination to determine age.

As far as Frumkin or other experts such as Shanks and Zuckerman could determine, the tests marked the first time that a well-identified biblical structure had been subjected to extensive radiocarbon dating.

Biblical accounts mentioned in Kings and Chronicles say the 1,750-foot-long tunnel was constructed to move water from the Gihon spring all the way across the ancient city of Jerusalem into the pool of Siloam to protect the city's water supply from an Assyrian siege. The Assyrian empire was consolidating its control of the area after a rebellion led in part by Hezekiah.

The serpentine tunnel, now a tourist attraction, still bears pick marks from workers who occasionally had to adjust their course to meet with a second team of workers coming from the opposite side of the city.

The frequent direction changes suggest it was a struggle to connect the two ends of the tunnel without following the natural fissures and openings in the rock, Shanks said.

"The tunnel is extraordinary, but these guys didn't know where they were going a lot of the time,'' Shanks said.

via The New York Times

Monday, September 08, 2003

The American Cancer Society estimates 14,300 women will die in 2003 due to ovarian cancer.Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer (other than skin cancer) in women. It ranks fifth as the cause of cancer death in women.

The sooner ovarian cancer is found and treated, the better a woman's chance for recovery. But ovarian cancer is hard to detect early, especially in the early stages.

Patients with ovarian cancer often have no specific or intense symptoms until the cancer is at an advanced stage. When symptoms do appear, they are often vague and mimic other more common ailments. The following symptoms, if on-going, could suggest ovarian cancer and should be discussed with your gynecologist immediately:
  • Abdominal swelling and/or pain

  • Bloating and/or a feeling of fullness

  • Vague, but persistent, gastrointestinal complaints such as gas, nausea and indigestion

  • Frequency and/or urgency of urination

  • Change in bowel habits

  • Unexplained weight loss or gain

Although there is no known way to prevent ovarian cancer, the following appear to reduce the risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer:
  • Oral Contraceptives: The use of oral contraceptives appears to result in a 40% to 50% decrease in the risk of developing ovarian cancer, and the risk reduction is even greater when used for longer than five years.

  • Pregnancy: Women who have had a full-term pregnancy appear to have a 30% to 60% reduction in the risk of developing ovarian cancer. The risk is further reduced with each additional full-term pregnancy.

  • Tubal Ligation: Having a tubal ligation appears to reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.

  • Prophylactic Oophorectomy: Women over the age of 35 with a strong family history of ovarian cancer may elect to have a prophylactic oophorectomy, or removal of the ovaries. However, the benefits of prophylactic ophorectomy are not fully established and this option should first be discussed in great detail with a gynecologic oncologist.

Ladies, early detection is key to surviving this deadly cancer. Some of the more common methods used to screen for ovarian cancer include the following:
  • Pelvic and rectal examination

  • Ultrasound

  • Mandatory annual vaginal exam for women age 18 and above and annual rectovaginal exam for women age 35 and above

Please take this to heart and take care of yourselves!
- Information taken from MD Anderson Cancer Center, American Cancer Society and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Recall the dire circumstances in the latest Harry Potter book, and then consider the parallels between his world and the Battle of Britain.

I've explained to my son that the magnitude of the threat to the wizarding community reminds me of the danger posed to the West during World War II by Hitler's megalomania and nihilism. In particular, it's reminiscent of the gravity of the situation -- of the genuine hanging-by-one's-fingernails-a-cataclysm-seems-just-ahead danger -- that Britons experienced in 1940-41 when they stood alone against Hitler's ruthlessness and might.

So far, there has been no "we shall fight them on the beaches" speech, but the redoubtable Professor Dumbledore has displayed a stalwartness that's been nothing less than Churchillian.

via Regions of Mind

Read Winston Churchill's famous address to the British people.