Friday, March 16, 2007
A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature on Intercessory Prayer
erhaps surprisingly, many social workers appear to use intercessory prayer in direct practice settings. To help inform practitioners' use of this intervention, this article evaluates the empirical literature on the topic using the following three methods: (a) an individual assessment of each study, (b) an evaluation of intercessory prayer as an empirically supported intervention using criteria developed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association (APA), and (c) a meta-analysis. Based on the Division 12 criteria, intercessory prayer was classified as an experimental intervention. Meta-analysis indicated small, but significant, effect sizes for the use of intercessory prayer (g =–.171, p =.015). The implications are discussed in light of the APA's Presidential Task Force on Evidence-based Practice.
Terry Colon draws those 1960s-style cartoons one sometimes sees
Giant Pool of Water Ice at Mars' South Pole
With a radar technique, astronomers have penetrated for the first time about 2.5 miles (nearly four kilometers) beneath the south pole's frozen surface. The data showed that nearly pure water ice lies beneath.
The instrument, called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding, or MARSIS, beams radio waves which penetrate the planet's surface and bounce off features having different electrical properties.
The reflected beams revealed that 90 percent or more of the frozen polar material is pure water ice, sprinkled with dust particles. The scientists calculated that the water would form a 36-foot-deep ocean of sorts if spread over the Martian globe.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
More Words - Find dictionary words for crossword puzzles, code words and word games like Scrabble, Upwords and Jamble.
La grande illusion - on social conservatism in the rural areas of Quebec
On avait choisi de faire comme si le discours social essentiellement urbain de tolérance et d'ouverture, de cosmopolitisme serein et d'accueil des différences était devenu le discours et la croyance de tous les Québécois. J'ai longtemps partagé cette grande illusion [...] Pourtant, d'autres événements auraient dû nous rappeler que le vieux Québec conservateur n'avait pas rendu l'âme.
Je me souviens de Jeff Fillion et de milliers de personnes, dont Mario Dumont, protestant pour qu'il conserve le droit à l'injure, au racisme et à la discrimination. Dans les milieux très urbains que je fréquente, on avait vu cette poussée d'urticaire social comme une sorte d'aberration regrettable mais pittoresque: les derniers Mohicans de la planète Québec. J'essayais de dire que le Québec n'avait pas évolué au même rythme que son discours officiel et on me répondait parfois que je tombais dans le colonialisme: Montréal progressiste, régions conservatrices.
Puis, le centre du Québec, le royaume de Fillion, a fait confiance à Stephen Harper. Encore une fois, on n'y a vu qu'une aberration historique passagère. Ces Québécois avaient eu une poussée de fièvre délirante car, rappelait-on, le vrai Québec, c'était celui qui s'était opposé à la guerre en Irak, qui avait légalisé l'avortement, favorisé le contrôle des armes à feu et ouvert la porte aux mariages entre conjoints de même sexe. Dans cette approche unanimiste et optimiste, on oublie un Québec qui n'est pas si ancien, celui de l'Union nationale, du Parti créditiste, on oublie des décennies de nationalisme socialement conservateur et profondément religieux, une grande partie de la population des régions qu'on pourrait appeler les «victimes» de la Révolution tranquille.
[...] Dans beaucoup de régions [...], l'homosexualité, l'avortement, le mariage gai, le hidjab, l'immigration, tous ces phénomènes qui vivent ouvertement en ville sont perçus, en partie avec raison, comme des signes de dissolution du «vrai» Québec, comme la fin d'une époque qu'on aimait.
[...] Ces nouvelles valeurs «québécoises» sont nées essentiellement des bouleversements qu'a connus Montréal. Les problèmes qu'elles tentent de résoudre sont presque exclusivement de Montréal. [...] De larges couches de la population en région [...] ont l'impression qu'on construit un nouveau pays qui n'est pas nécessairement le leur, un pays dans lequel on accueille des femmes voilées et dans lequel on bannit les crucifix [...]. Et pour défendre leur identité qu'ils sentent menacée, ces gens des régions affirment finalement haut et fort ce conservatisme qui fait partie de leur identité.
Parti démocratie chrétienne du Québec - a Quebec Catholic party (French website)
Party constitution (PDF)
Covenanted Happiness - a book available online, discussing marriage, contraception, etc.
From the introduction:
"In short, we will try to analyze the reasons why married love and family life so often do not seem to give today the happiness that people surely have the right to expect from them, and what needs to be done in order to refind - or not to lose - that happiness."
On an objection to Natural Law
An evolving nature?
Objections are raised nowadays to this idea of a natural law with universal and unchangeable precepts. Some writers reject the whole concept of a human nature that is objective and "given", and propose instead a human nature that is fluid and evolving. Man's life, they say, evolves; surely the laws of his life should evolve too? Their position can be shown to be untenable; it is largely due to a failure to make proper distinctions. One has to distinguish above all between man and his circumstances. The circumstances of man's life change, but not his nature or its laws.
If man's nature were changing, then we could not really speak of man at all; not as a continuum throughout history. "Man" of X centuries ago would be a different species of being to "man" of today or of X centuries from now.
If man is changing in his nature, then we cannot speak about what is "human" as something of universal application. What is "human" becomes no more than a relative concept; a concept therefore that is valueless as a guide or as a standard of judgment for the life of individuals or societies. If what was inhuman and wrong yesterday can be human and right today, then humanity is a meaningless term. We cannot speak about the history of mankind because there is no mankind. All there is, is an evolving species - that is not even a species because there is no essential link of nature between its apparent members. If what was inhuman and wrong yesterday can be human and right today, then why should what is inhuman and wrong in Africa not be human and right in Europe? Why should what is human to me be human to you? ... I don't have to respect your humanity or human standards, and you don't have to respect mine. Each man is a law and a world to himself.
Lists Every Catholic Should be Familiar With
The 7 Sacraments
The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy
The 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy
Sacred Heart Media : Projects - lots of useful websites, including:
CatholicBlogs.com - Search over 75,000 articles from 800+ Catholic blogs.
CatholicJobs.com - Features free job listings, job searches and career building tools for those seeking employment with Catholic organizations.
Catholic Content - Provides free Catholic content to websites and blogs.
Catholic Search - Search over 1000 Catholic websites with Google.
myCatholic.com - The Customizable Catholic Homepage
I think the following Tim Harrison is the same as the founder of the above:
tim.harrison's bookmarks on del.icio.us
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Friends of Science
To encourage and assist the Canadian Federal Government to re-evaluate the Kyoto Protocol by engaging in a national public debate on the scientific merit of Kyoto and the Global Warming issue, and to educate the public through dissemination of relevant, balanced and objective technical information on this subject.
Are observed changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere really dangerous? (PDF)
Statements made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been used to put pressure on governments to formulate policies in response to the perceived threat of the climate change resulting from a build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Kyoto Protocol proposed by the United Nations calls for industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by five percent from 1990 levels by the year 2012. The enormity of the perceived economic consequences of this has led to intense arguments between governments over the appropriateness of reduction targets. But the real reason behind the failure to agree on a global climate treaty is disagreement on tradeoffs between the economic and environmental risks involved.
Contrary to the IPCC predictions, global temperature has not risen appreciably in the last 20 years. Most surface temperature data free from the influence of surrounding buildings and roads show no warming. Data from satellites support this. Sea level has been rising since the end of the last ice age, long before industrialization, but historical records show no acceleration in sea level rise in the twentieth century. Increases in carbon dioxide appear to pose no immediate danger to the planet. The gas is not a pollutant.
An understanding of global warming hinges on the answers to certain key questions. Is global climate warming? If so, what part of that warming is due to human activities? How good is the evidence? What are the risks? The task of answering these questions is hindered by widespread confusion regarding key facets of global warming science. The confusion has given rise to several fallacies or misconceptions. These myths and misconceptions, and how they relate to the above questions, are explained. Although the future state of global climate is uncertain, there is no reason to believe that catastrophic change is underway. The atmosphere may warm due to human activity, but if it does, the expected change is unlikely to be much more than 1 degree Celsius in the next 100 years. Even the climate models promoted by the IPCC do not suggest that catastrophic change is occurring. They suggest that increases in greenhouse gases are likely to give rise to a warmer and wetter climate in most places; in particular, warmer nights and warmer winters. Generally, higher latitudes would warm more than lower latitudes. This means milder winters and, coupled with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, it means a more robust biosphere with greater availability of forest, crops and vegetative ground cover. This is hardly a major threat. A more likely threat is policies that endanger economic progress. The negative effect of such policies would be far greater than any change caused by global warming. Rather than try to reduce innocuous carbon dioxide emissions, we would do better to focus on air pollution, especially those aspects that are known to damage human health.
Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis - on the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Church's life and mission
Be More Than You Can Be - "Inside the Pentagon's human enhancement project."
[on the "Glove"]:
Grahn takes my hand and slips it into a clear, coffeepot-looking contraption he calls the Glove. Inside is a hemisphere of metal, cool to the touch. He tightens a seal around my wrist; a vacuum begins pulling blood to the surface of my hand, and the cold metal chills my blood before it travels through my veins back to my core. After five minutes, I feel rejuvenated.
Grahn and his research partner, biologist Craig Heller, started working on the Glove at Stanford in the late 1990s as part of their research on improving physical performance. Even they were astounded at how well it seemed to work. Vinh Cao, their squat, barrel-chested lab technician, used to do almost 100 pull-ups every time he worked out. Then one day he cooled himself off between sets with an early prototype. The next round of pull-ups - his 11th - was as strong as his first. Within six weeks, Cao was doing 180 pull-ups a session. Six weeks after that, he went from 180 to more than 600.
In trying to figure out why the Glove worked so well, its inventors ended up challenging conventional scientific wisdom on fatigue. Muscles don't wear out because they use up stored sugars, the researchers said. Instead, muscles tire because they get too hot, and sweating is just a backup cooling system for the lattices of blood vessels in the hands and feet. The Glove, in other words, overclocks the heat exchange system. "It's like giving a Honda the radiator of a Mack truck," Heller says. After four months of using it himself, Heller did 1,000 push-ups on his 60th birthday in April 2003.
Heat extraction through the palm of one hand improves aerobic exercise endurance in a hot environment (PDF)
Spacecraft may surf the solar system on magnetic fields
Future spacecraft may surf the magnetic fields of Earth and other planets, taking previously unfeasible routes around the solar system, according to a proposal funded by NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts. The electrically charged craft would not need rockets or propellant of any kind.
Mason Peck of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, US, has received a grant to study the idea, which is based on the fact that magnetic fields exert forces on electrically charged objects.
He says a satellite could charge itself up in one of two ways - either by firing a beam of charged particles into space, or simply by allowing a radioactive isotope to emit charged particles. The charged satellite would then be gently pushed by Earth's rotating magnetic field, enabling it to change orbit and even escape to interplanetary space.
But the amount of charge held by a sphere at a given voltage, a quantity known as its capacitance, is not very large. Long, thin filaments, on the other hand, have a lot of charge-holding surface area, so one possible design involves many filaments attached to the spacecraft. The setup would have a rather comical look - because of the static charge, the filaments would stick out in all directions, like newly brushed dry hair.
A cylindrical mesh of fibres - resembling a stocking - could also be attached to the spacecraft. To charge itself up, the stocking could be coated with a radioisotope.
Radioisotopes provide far more charging power pound-for-pound than a particle beam, which would have to be powered by bulky solar cells. But they present their own technical problems. "We'd like to be able to modulate the charge," says Peck. "But how do you turn off an isotope?" He thinks the solution will involve changing the geometry of the charge-holder to alter its capacitance.
He thinks he can get [good] performance with a stocking about 2 or 3 kilometres long, and because it could be made from lightweight carbon fibre, it would have a mass of only a few kilograms.
The force it produces would be far too low to actually launch a spacecraft through the atmosphere - that would still be the job of a conventional rocket. After reaching orbit, his present design would be off to a slow start, taking about a year to escape the Earth's gravity.
But once away from Earth, the field rider could travel to its natural home: Jupiter, which has a magnetic field vastly stronger than Earth's. Peck suggests future missions to Jupiter could use its field as a brake, reducing the mass of propellant needed and saving money.
Jupiter could also be used as a staging post for the rest of the solar system, since a spacecraft could in theory make sharper turns using the giant planet's magnetic field than it could with a simple gravitational slingshot.
Of course this is still an untested concept. "NIAC is famous for funding ideas that are high risk but high reward," Peck told New Scientist. He is hoping to get an experimental launch to see if it can work in the real space environment. If it does, then perhaps - some years from now - the first radioactive space stocking will ride up Earth's magnetic field and head for the planets.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Animated gif of clouds on Jupiter - see dates for individual frames at upper right
Monday, March 12, 2007
"Now Showing" - on the depiction of history in films (humorous)
Scientists threatened for 'climate denial'
Timothy Ball, a former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Canada, has received five deaths threats by email since raising concerns about the degree to which man was affecting climate change.
One of the emails warned that, if he continued to speak out, he would not live to see further global warming.
"Western governments have pumped billions of dollars into careers and institutes and they feel threatened," said the professor.
"I can tolerate being called a sceptic because all scientists should be sceptics, but then they started calling us deniers, with all the connotations of the Holocaust. That is an obscenity. It has got really nasty and personal."
Last week, Professor Ball appeared in The Great Global Warming Swindle, a Channel 4 documentary in which several scientists claimed the theory of man-made global warming had become a "religion", forcing alternative explanations to be ignored.
Richard Lindzen, the professor of Atmospheric Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology - who also appeared on the documentary - recently claimed: "Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves labelled as industry stooges.
"Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science."
Dr Myles Allen, from Oxford University, agreed. He said: "The Green movement has hijacked the issue of climate change. It is ludicrous to suggest the only way to deal with the problem is to start micro managing everyone, which is what environmentalists seem to want to do."
Nigel Calder, a former editor of New Scientist, said: "Governments are trying to achieve unanimity by stifling any scientist who disagrees. Einstein could not have got funding under the present system."
Arctic Behavior in Random Tilings
A random tiling of a large regular region in the plane often has non-homogeneous behavior throughout the region. Near the center, the tiling appears random, but near the boundaries, the tiling appears uniform and has zero entropy. This paper discusses several different types of tilings and what characterizes their arctic boundaries.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Subliminal advertising leaves its mark on the brain
UCL (University College London) researchers have found the first physiological evidence that invisible subliminal images do attract the brain's attention on a subconscious level. The wider implication for the study, published in Current Biology, is that techniques such as subliminal advertising certainly do leave their mark on the brain.
Using fMRI, the study looked at whether an image you aren't aware of - but one that reaches the retina - has an impact on brain activity in the primary visual cortex, part of the occipital lobe. Subjects' brains did respond to the object even when they were not conscious of having seen it.
Subjects wore red-blue filter glasses that projected faint pictures of everyday objects (such as pliers and an iron) to one eye and a strong flashing image known as 'continuous flash suppression' to the other. This recently developed technique effectively erases subjects' awareness of the faint images so that they were unable to localise the faint images on screen. At the same time, subjects performed either an easy task – picking out the letter T from a stream of letters, or a task that required more concentration in which subjects had to pick out the white N or blue Z from the same stream.
During the harder task, the subjects' brains blocked out the subliminal image and the fMRI scan did not detect any associated neural activity. This finding – that the brain does not pick up on subliminal stimuli if it is too busily occupied with other things – shows that some degree of attention is needed for even the subconscious to pick up on subliminal images.