May 31, 2008

From William Treurniet:

Re: Crystal skulls are fake: study (May 23): The only crystal skull referred to by name by Indiana Jones in the recent movie was the Mitchell-Hedges skull. It was obtained from an archeological site in the Mayan city of Lubaantun in what is now Belize. The skull is privately owned by the discoverer, Anna Mitchell-Hedges, who lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. It was examined by experts at Hewlet-Packard who apparently found it quite anomalous. Your article does not mention this particular skull, so it seems that the analyses performed by the British researchers are not as relevant to the movie as the article says.

I got my information about the the Mitchell-Hedges skull from another online newspaper here. Additional information about crystal skulls is here. I find Google very helpful.

Not surprisingly, reporting on only part of the story gives us a biased story. The jury seems to still be out on whether or not all of these objects have a recent origin. Some appear to have been made relatively recently, but others may not.

(Editors’ note: We agree: the jury is still out. The Daily Mail story is in­terest­ing, but raises many ques­tions. The authors mention a Hew­lett-Pack­ard study, but are very vague about what it found and where they got the in­for­mation. They say the skull was found at an arch­aeo­lo­gi­cal site, but who wit­nessed this? We look forward to more studies.)

From Barry Schrader:

Re: Crystal skulls are fake: study (May 23): It is always interesting to me that scientists can come to conclusions that show such ignorance. (Not stupidity, but ignorance in their own field.) Thousands of Egyptian artifacts show rotary disk-shaped tool marks and they are far and away older than the skulls are suppose to be. As for trading links, again research shows that pharaohs had used cocaine only found in the Americas. Doesn’t that indicate trade on a broader scale? As any teenager would say, “Hello!”

From Juanita J. Rinas:

Re: Almost “uncontacted” tribe revealed (May 30): It is imparative that these cultures be preserved and protected, us “civilised” people have much to learn from them regarding how to live in harmony with nature, which is certainly predicated by the response that industrialized society has had regarding their tribal environments, still pristine, preserved and filled with the abundance the rest of the “civilised” world seems to want.

Simply enough if we had sought not to take more than what we required from the earth, we would not be emperiled as we now are. What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves... how long before we are on the endangered species list?

Juanita J. Rinas, MA, LPC
doctoral student

From Clyde Dinkins:

Re: Almost “uncontacted” tribe revealed (May 30): Unfortunately, these and other such tribes are on their way to extinction. It’s a lost cause. The governments, developers, loggers et. al. want their land and by hook or crook. One disease put in their community could wipe them out.

One must wonder why they didn’t develop technology-modern-wise etc. ? To the Utopians who praise their simple life, etc. I say: But, they’re vulnerable and should modern societies decide to enslave them, exterminate them, take their land, etc. there’s nothing they could/ can do to stop it, which is exactly what’s happening to them. Humankind’s inhumanity to humankind yet exists. And ‘Aspectual Darwinism’ is a reality we all face.

Clyde Dinkins
Irvington, NJ

From Stan Thompson:

Re: Dip in brainpower may follow drop in real power (May 10): A logical corollary of the theory that subordination causes a dip in brain power is the cumulative effect on a whole society of repeated media implication (through tone and selection of content) that viewers are victims—an extreme instance of subordination.

An unintended consequence of the deeply ingrained journalistic self image as advocates of the down-trodden, may be that the wit and will to avoid being down-trodden is cumulatively eroded.

If that dynamic exists, then the competent self-confidence that underpins self-government would also erode. People would cease to vote in elections and instead waive personal dignity by cooperating with commercial pollsters. Simplistic blame would replace dialog; protest movements would supplant engagement in pursuit of solutions; and a slow but inexorable downward spiral of participatory democracy would ensue as we may be observing today.

Stan Thompson
Mooresville, NC

From Milton Runcie:

Re: Crystal skulls are fake: study (May 23): the suggestion you make to the uninitiated is just that - the crystal skulls are fake... ! However, as I understand it, there are at least a dozen crystal skulls extant, many of which do purport to come from genuine Aztec sources. Would it not be a good thing (to maintain public interest) to allude to the probable authenticity of (at least some) of the remainder? (and which would then also give Indiana Jones a fair chance... !) I am generally very interested in your articles - and indeed this one... Keep up the good work!

(Editors’ note: We understand that experts have doubts regarding all these objects, although the two discussed in our article may be the only ones yet subjected to intense scientific scrutiny. Questions about the others are based on other evidence, including that “not a single crystal skull in a museum collection comes from a documented excavation, and they have little stylistic or technical relationship with any genuine pre-Columbian depictions of skulls.” (See Legend of the Crystal Skulls, Archaeology Magazine, May/June 2008)

From Evelyn J Haskins:

Re: Gender math gap erasable, studies suggest (May 30): The write of this article is still using social stereotypes.

The idea that boys were better at maths and spatial reasoning than boys began in with the industrial revolution when maths, technology and the sciences because economically important.

Up until then, girls and women had been considered to be poor at languages and literature -- boys and men did Latin, Greek, other foreign languages and studied the classics and wrote the books -- including fiction books and poetry. Men were also the artists of the time -- ladies could do watercolours if they liked, but not the manly oil paintings!! The Classics of course being economically significant in society at the time.

Women were considered not bright enough to do such ‘masculine pursuits and so were condemned to study sciences and maths which is all their poor weak brains were good for. But their weak constitutions were not geared to study the “rude” biological science (all that sex!) -- mainly they were limited to physics (a really feminine pastime) geology, and maths. Of course the weaker-brained working class men could also do maths and technology, too.

With the increase in the importance of technology, the sciences and maths there was a (relatively) sudden turn around -- now women were relegated to the economically insignificant languages and arts !! Yet for all this, if a proper study of the history of modern science is gone into, much of the important work passed off by famous scientists was done to a larger degree by their womenfolk -- wives and daughters. Especially considering that women could not publish under their own names even if their husband or father would allow it. (Charles Darwin might have been the exception -- it does seem that his wife had no input into his work other than to tend to his health. ) The perceived weaker grasp of the sciences and maths in girls is STILL because of this social attitude -- it has little if nothing to do with the toys they play with -- and all to do with the fact that they are told since birth that not only are they NO GOOD at maths science and technology, but that it is unfeminine and that they are traitors to their sex which should be caring and nurturing rather than enquiring.

It is exacerbated by coeducational schools -- girls will intentionally do poorly at such unfeminine subjects so that the boys will be attracted to them. Just look at modern TV programmes -- girls interested in science and maths are depicted wearing specs. looking plain and being gauche socially.

(OK OK, I know that it is as bad for boys who are good at and want to do the humanities and arts -- but it doesn’t change the facts. )

Main References:

“The Scientific Lady: A social history of woman’s scientific interests 1520-1918” Patricia Phillips, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1990

“Pythagoras’ Trousers: God Physics and the Gender Wars” Margaret Wertheim, Times Books, 1995

“Hypatia’s Heritage: A history of women in science from antiquity to the Late 19th Century” 1986 The Women’s Press

“Pandora’s Breeches: Women, Science & Power in the Enlightenment” Patricia Fara, Pimlico, 2004

And my own experiences as a secondary Science Teacher and mother of both girls and boys.

Various histories of Mathematics and the development of the calculator might be even more enlightening, though these are not my particular interest. I’ve heard of these through my mother, who was a Secondary Physics and Maths teacher.

Evelyn J. Haskins
BSc (Sydney University)
DipEd (University of Queensland)
GradDipAppSc (University of Technology Sydney)

From Henry Milner:

Re: Almost “uncontacted” tribe revealed (May 30): I don’t think it is a good idea to advertise the existence of these tribes of people. The next thing that will happen is a crowd of missionaries will be there trying to save their souls. Leave them alone.

Henry Milner
Chatsworth, Georgia

From Mona Tuomi:

Re: Almost “uncontacted” tribe revealed (May 30): I found this most enlightening as I was under the impression that “Christian missionaries” had invaded all of the remaining world’s tribes. Here’s hoping that there are steps taken to insure this will not happen to them.

May 27, 2008

From Joe Lee:

Re: One universe or many? Panel debates (March 30, 2006):I have an untrained and likely unsupportable thought about the Universe.

Maybe the big bang has happened an infinite amount of times in succession. First expanding then collapsing and then exploding and starting the whole process over again.

It makes me wonder if a non-mass sentience could spring up during the trillion or so years that a universe might last. All of our thoughts, imaginations, memories. If even a small bit of information were left after the universe collapsed, those bits likely would congeal into a fairly smart massless intelligence with the propagation of each new universe.

I suppose that this intelligence, having no mass would no be constrained by any laws of physics. Pan-universal, Pan-dimensional (PUPD) if you will.

The speed of light would be just a measurement that a particular universe happened to run on. The (PUPD) could likely base their speed on what they wanted to see or even participate in, in a particular universe. I can imagine much trial and error in the first trillion or so universe.

I have likely been greatly influence in these thoughts by the author C. S Lewis, in his book, Out of the silent planet. Explaining the nature of things to the man, the Being categorized things by the speed with which they move. Moving at the speed of light or greater would make it seem that our world would move little. Moving at a negative speed would make our world and it’s time pass quickly.

It makes some sense in context of human kind constantly trying to understand Massless existence through out our history. I imagine that, having read the end of the book infinite times they (PUPD) would likely know how to communicate with our primitive brains. If so, one could imagine all sorts of outcomes, religion not the least of these.

My untrained mind is a jumble with all of the possibilities. It is a fun thought exercise none the less.

From Mercedes Rodriguez Escud:

Re: Why is yawning contagious? (March 5, 2005) I myself have also an interest in yawning and I have a different, possibly original idea which I would like to share with other researchers, in order to see if with the help of everyone we can enlighten such a mysterious biological function.

Yawning could be a way of getting rid of volatile substances, either from internal origin such as nitric oxide (?) or from outside origin. The jungle of chemicals that we breath all the time are supposed to be detoxyfied by healthy airways by means of fluids lining the mucosae, the antioxidant enzimes and other measures. However sometimes this function might be faulty and too many volatile chemicals might go deep into the airways and lungs.

A powerful blowing out during the yawning would discharge the airways of volatile chemicals and send them away, cleaning the organism from certain unnecessary, perhaps noxious chemical compounds.

Yawning would not be due to sleepiness, boredom and so on. While we yawn we lose for a moment the awareness of our environment, eyes fill with tears, etc. That is inconvenient for a predator or for a prey. What would happen is that the creature would wait until it was relaxed, (before sleeping, bored, etc) in order to exhale more a powerful yawn more at rest. It would be contagious because it would serve to remind animals that it is good to take a moment of time to clean their organism from unwanted volatile chemicals.

If I am correct it would be most interesting to analyze with precision what gases are exhaled by people and animals during spontaneous yawning (they does not have to be the same, biochemistry is different between species). It would be necessary to avoid obvious “psychological” yawning, those of people who just yawn as a tic.

If you find this an interesting idea I could comment it further. An email contact for answers: lo dmer @ xs 4all .com (remove spaces).

From Dave Kisor:

Re: Martian “Yellowstone” might have nourished life (May 22, 2008): Sand is a particle size and not a specific mineral. Most terrestrial sand is made up of broken down granite (and other larger grained mineral intrusives) and what usually arrives at the beach are quartz particles, whereas Martian sand is predominantly basaltic. On Earth, basaltic sand beaches are usually on oceanic islands and the sand is said to “bark” under your feet, but it sounded more like a squeaks and crunches to me.

Dave Kisor
Naval Veteran and Geographer

(Editors’ note: The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition characterizes sand as: “rock material occurring in the form of loose, rounded or angular grains, varying in size from .06 mm to 2 mm in diameter. ... Its most abundant mineral constituent is silica, usually in the form of quartz. ... Many other minerals, however, are often present in small quantities. ... Some sands—e.g., coral sands, shell sands, and foraminiferal sands—are organic in origin.”)

From Juan Ramón Vidal Romaní:

Re: Martian “Yellowstone” might have nourished life (May 22): I, as geologist, understand that this article refers to the discovery of opal associated to hot springs which is a normal environment in the Earth where it is frequent to find colonies of microorganisms (bacteria). However, though is it normal to see volcanoes, impact craters, dunes, channels excavated in rivers, slope slidings in the images coming from Mars, up to now no thermal fountains have been shown as the repeatedly mentioned ones of Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park also near where the Spirit found the silica deposits.

In the Earth there also exist other environments not associated to hot springs where silica deposits exist containing great number of biological remains (bacteria, fungi, spores, pollen grains, dinoflagellates, protozoans, diatoms, oligochaetes, mites, etc.) (Vidal Romaní J. R. ; J. A. Bourne, C. R. Twidale & E. M. Campbell. Siliceous cylindrical speleothems in granitoids in warm semiarid and humid climate. Zeitschrift. für Geomorfologie. N. F. 2003, 47, 4, 417-437. ; C. R. Twidale and Vidal Romaní J. R. (2005, Lanforms and Geology of Granite Terrains, Ed. Balkema, Amsterdam, 351pp.). The volcanic and hydrothermal activity in Mars was not the only possible activity which could originate the formation of amorphous silica deposits (opal) but also there had been superficial water circulation (rivers, seas, etc.).

The silica deposits to which I refer are associated with cavities such as the volcanic tubes or the fissure systems of magmatic rocks. Both types of environments are visible in Mars so, if it is considered the possibility of life forms associated to hot springs, there could also be possible to find that type of deposits associated to cavities similar to the ones found in Mars.

Juan Ramón Vidal Romaní
Instituto Universitario de Geología
Campus de Elviña s/n
University of Corunna
15071 Corunna Spain

From Roger Hill:

Re: Spray said to turn people to pushovers (May 21): what’s to say our government through a controlled mainstream media has been or will spray this on the general population at airports, or via aircraft or on subways etc. does this not alarm those of us who live in rural areas who have not been sprayed? Not conspiricist mind you but…

From Michael Ricciardi:

Re: A function for “gay genes” after all? (Feb. 8): This case study offers good validation of the kin selection hypothesis as first advocated by Edward O. Wilson (to my knowledge) in the book ‘On Human Nature’. Wilson suggests -- in the context of the evidence of female homosexuality persisting in family lineages -- that such women must therefore aid in the support and nurturing of extended family members (nieces, nephews, and even cousins) thus promoting their survival and the passing on of that familial gene pool.

As far as this study of Samoan fa’afine men, it seems we have validation of the male version of this.

The study organizers acknowledge that failure to find evidence of kin selection previously may have been due to the sample population living in a modern, “Westernized” (urbanized?) society. Presumably, this means that families are more fragmented here, and live further apart. While this may be valid when strictly considering nieces and nephews, a broader focus (in the original study) would have been more revealing.

Anyone who has worked in the medical, health care, and/or social service industry/sector would note the high percentage of homosexuals working therein. The same is true for education.

Homosexuals of both genders are well-represented in these fields (more than their estimated share of the general population). I have always felt that this was tentative evidence in support of Wilson’s idea, but spread out to a larger population--an entire society as opposed to just a single family; a form of “soft’ altruism (Which is not to say that homosexuals, residing in cities, never tend, to their own families as well).

Lastly, homosexuals are highly represented in the arts. A great many of us, when younger, were introduced to the arts, or had our appreciation for them deepened, via the mentoring or guidance of an older gay man or woman.

In terms of survival advantage, the true value of this cultural knowledge may be unknown, but not over-stated. All great societies produce great art.

This cultural enrichment makes a society better, stronger, even wiser. Clearly, these general traits have SOME contribution to ‘genetic fitness’, but not just for the single (selfish) family, but for all those comprising the society.

From Sharon Ellis:

Re: Spray said to turn people to pushovers (May 21): Although the spray seems to have a beneficial outcome medically, I feel that it could also be used to keep people under control. e.g.A government could use this technology to take over another country or individual people and they would indeed become pushovers. There are always two sides to everything and not much we could do about it, if used in this manner.

Sharon Ellis

May 14, 2008

From Marilyn Fayre Milos:

Re: Brain’s molecules may tell of child abuse (May 6): This article is certainly important, showing the fragility of the developing brain and the importance of treating our infants and children with love and respect.

Certainly, there are many forms of child abuse, but it’s those in today’s healthcare system, which have become “normative abuse,” that go ignored because healthcare workers often consider harsh treatment of babies normal. It’s not! As a midwife and labor, delivery, and postpartum nurse, the most horrifying things I witnessed in the hospital were done to babies. These things include, placing a screw into the scalp of an unborn baby during birth so a doctor can hear the baby’s heart beat, forceps or suctioned delivery, immediate cutting of the umbilical cord (the baby’s lifeline to oxygen immediately after birth), suctioning, wiping the baby roughly with towels (as if a newborn baby needed cleaning instead of recovery time immediately after birth), separation of mother and baby, and, perhaps, the most cruel intervention of all, circumcision.

Each of the things done to a baby following birth causes a rise in cortisol levels, but none so dramatically as circumcision! How does the flooding of stress hormones affect the developing brain? Perhaps your study tells us.

Certainly, not everyone born in a hospital or circumcised there will commit suicide. However, since circumcision is a non-therapeutic intervention and probably the most damaging in terms of the child’s experience, we can all rejoice in the fact that rates are dropping significantly in those English-speaking countries where circumcision has been practiced since the mid-1800s without medical or religious reason (although there have been excuses used to promote it). Circumcision is a preventable birth trauma! Karl Menninger said, “What we do to children, they will do to society.” Gandhi said, “If we are ever to have real peace, we must begin with the children.” So, our work is not to find ways to erase the problem in the body of a victim of child abuse (although, that’s a good thing to do after the fact), but rather to bring an awareness of the problems caused by abuse of our infants and children and to bring an end to that abuse. Then, we’ll have a different world.

Thank you for your important work.

Marilyn Fayre Milos, RN
Executive Director
National Organization of
Circumcision Information
Resource Centers

From Robley E. George:

Re: Dip in brainpower may follow drop in real power (May 10): The important research reported about in “Dip in brainpower may follow drop in real power,” and conducted by Pamela Smith, has profound implications far beyond the legitimate but limited applications mentioned in the article.

For example, and in particular, the beneficial ramifications of universal empowerment -- psychologically, politically and socioeconomically -- demonstrated conclusively by the research, speak directly to, and have much to offer during, the necessary redesign of the present world’s increasingly obvious dysfunctional, not to more than mention decidedly undemocratic and definitely deadly, politicosocioeconomic systems.

In brief, Smith’s work further supports the increasingly recognized need for advanced and fundamentally democratic socioeconomic platforms and the use of the increasingly popular “Socioeconomic Affirmative Action” public policy perspective.

Robley E. George
Center for the Study of Democratic Societies

From Ruth Rosin:

Re: Study: galactic goings-on were dinos’ undoing-and maybe ours (May 3): At this stage the authors’ suggestions seem to be wild conjectures, rather anything that could give a “firm basis” to their ideas about “comet-life interactions”.

From Dr. S. M. Sapatnekar:

Re: Dip in brainpower may follow drop in real power (May 10): This is no doubt a landmark paper. Yet, it has vast potential for misuse, at the least in recruitment/promotion policies and at worst in its projection in social sphere. There could be an argument that there is no point in empowering those who have lessor cognitive abilities; they are lessor mortals. On the other hand, there could be emotional outrage of those with lessor cognitive function to blame on lessor empoerment as the reason for their under performance! This is sure to reignite Nature vs Nurture debate. Further studies are warranted to examine if:

1. Cognitive function improves with empowerment? If so, is there a quantitative relationshp?

2. Is the betterment in cognitive function exclusive of ‘Hawthrone effect’? Or over and above it?

3. What is the effect of cross-over between the pair of superior and sub-ordinate? What is the effect if the pairing is with another person with role reversal.

4. What is the effect of blinding the superior and subordinate, say by electronic communications whereby face-to-face contact is aviided to eliminate ‘Personality’ bias?

Otherwise, this would be an incomplete study open for misuse.

Dr. S. M. Sapatnekar
Clinical Research & Management Academy
Mumbai – India

From Dirk Laureyssens:

Re: Designer isotopes push the frontiers (May 9): When you see the simplicity - room temperature, room pressure, no arcs, no gamma rays, no centrifuge, etc - of such processes nuclear Ir. Mehran Keshe uses, you might understand that a number of new “discoveries” in new nuclear principles will happen next years. BTW, his simple static bottle plasma reactor experiment is confirmed by a nuclear agency after they did independent replication.

approach is quiet similar to Frank Wilczek’s (here) view on a virtual sea of fundamental particles, but Keshe is able to guide and control them.

Dirk Laureyssens