From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Teleportation: What entangled webs we weave

H Atom Orbitals  (by Florian Marquardt) 
If you think that claims of teleportation are just a case of entangled communication, you may be correct.

According to, teleportation is “a means of moving an object from one place to another without it having to travel between them.”  Sounds ethereal? Well - it is said that quantum physics involves the dreams that stuff is made of.

It is quantum physics that a team of researchers from Delft University in the Netherlands are invoking as they experiment with entanglement (“the strange interconnectedness of… two particles, whatever happens to one automatically happens to the other, regardless of the distance between them”).

These researchers were able to teleport quantum bits (quibits) of information a distance of more than ten feet (three meters) with 100% reliability.  Plus, they did so without altering the spin state of these quibits.

This they accomplished by “trapping electrons in diamonds at very low temperatures,” then shooting them with lasers in order to create quibits.  Because these quibits were held in place by the diamonds, spin states were able to be read at both locations.

The entangled communication was thus conveyed via a rudimentary form of teleportation.  Researchers
hope to extend the workable distance between quibits, with the eventual goal of developing quantum computers and networks.   


Copyright May 31, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 30, 2014

High school yearbook: Photoshopped images

Photoshopped Image  (MickStephenson)
When some female students at a Salt Lake City, Utah high school opened their yearbooks, they were dismayed to find that their images had been photoshopped.

Some who had been wearing tank tops when photographed now found themselves “wearing” short-sleeved garments.  Worse yet, the images of others wearing tank tops had not been meddled with at all.

ABC News reports that District Superintendent Terry Shoemaker thus far stands by this decision to allegedly “help kids better prepare for their future by knowing how to dress appropriately for things.”  Shoemaker's only stated regret is “that the school district did not edit students’ photos on a more consistent basis.”

Comments on this article indicated that many felt quite differently.  For example, “Mary” writes:  In this day and age of privacy laws, diversity, cultural competence, respect for the individual etc., the students and their parents
should have been notified of the changes school officials wanted to make, then give them the opportunity to choose another, more suitable picture. What if this had been an issue where school officials had changed a student's garb and it was an outfit based on cultural or religious beliefs/practices? We live in a country founded on a constitution and bill of rights that gives its citizens the freedom to choose. Maybe the school officials should take a civil rights course and review those documents.

It’s the age-old ethical dilemma:  where to draw the line between individual rights and societal standards…


Copyright May 30, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Titan: Roll out those hazy crazy sunsets

Titan's Haze    (NASA Photo)
It used to be that Earthlings turned to Key West, Florida for some extraordinary sunsets.  These days, however, Saturn’s moon Titan is the place to be.

Ian O’Neill of Discovery News reports that there’s quite a bit to be learned from checking out these Titanic sunsets.  By analyzing the refracted light that results from transit events “as Titan blocks
our sun from view,” scientists can gain a better understanding of exoplanet atmospheres.

NASA’s Cassini mission is analyzing data from four such transit events, providing “results that include the complex effects due to hazes.”  The focus is on “Titan’s uppermost atmospheric haze” because its lower atmosphere “blocks the sunlight, preventing a spectra from being recorded.”

Although it had been previously assumed that “high-altitude atmospheric gases affect all wavelengths of starlight in the same way,” the Cassini mission has instead found “that the haze more strongly affects shorter (bluer) wavelengths.”

This has led researcher Mark Marley to conclude:  People had dreamed up rules for how planets would behave when seen in transit, but Titan didn’t get the memo.

Copyright May 29, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Human evolution: Brain over brawn

Young Chimps  (by Delphine Bruyere)
Ever wonder why we can't swing from trees quite as adeptly as our chimpanzee “cousins”?

Questions like these are what Einstein referred to as “holy curiosity” – a function of the highly-evolved human brain.  However, at what cost has this brainpower developed?

Partnering researchers from China and Germany are theorizing that the human brain might have evolved at the expense of human brawn.  In other words, “the observed rapid metabolic changes in brain and muscle, together with the unique human cognitive skills and low muscle performance, might reflect parallel mechanisms in human evolution.”

If you can fully understand that last sentence, then your brain is probably one of those highly-evolved ones.

Just don’t try any heavy lifting…


Copyright May 28, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Maya Angelou: Thank you, THANK YOU

Maya Angelou in 2008   (Photo by Talbot Troy) 
Although Maya Angelou had been associated with worship centers for most of her life, she was feeling depleted as she approached her 80th birthday.

She told The Associated Press in 2013, “I felt really done in by the work I was doing, people who had expected things of me.”

Around that time, as her son Guy Johnson was having his tenth spinal operation, Angelou attended a Unity church service in Miami.

The preacher, “a young black man” in a mostly white church, challenged the group by saying, “I have only one question to ask, and that is, ‘Why have you decided to limit God?’”

When Angelou heard that, she immediately thought, “That’s exactly what I have been doing.”  The preacher then asked her to say a few words to the congregation.

These words turned out to be simple, yet heartfelt.  Angelou stood up and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…  THANK YOU” - fifty times over.

The audience began saying it with her.

And meaning it, no doubt.


Copyright May 28, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sophocles: Ancient wounded warriors

Philoctetes   (J-G Drouais, 1788)
Today's wounded warriors are finding some solace in learning about those of ancient times.

Some of the most poignant depictions of ancient wounded warriors come from the pen of Sophocles, the famous Greek author of such tragedies as Ajax and Philoctetes.

Ajax, written circa 430 to 450 BC, tells the story of this mythological Trojan War hero’s bitter fate.   Having been disgraced by the Greek leaders who awarded Achilles’ armor to Odysseus rather than to him, Ajax vows to kill them.

However, he gets tricked by the goddess Athena into thinking that a herd of sheep and cattle are these leaders.  After exacting his revenge upon some of these innocent animals, Ajax comes to realize that he’s been fooled and ridiculed.  He now feels worse than ever, and ends up impaling himself on his own sword.

Sophocles’ Philoctetes is another Trojan War mythological hero.  Having been disabled by a snake bite, he was left behind on a desert island by Odysseus.  Wikipedia explains that this bite caused Philoctetes “constant agony, and emitted a horrible smell.”  

Philoctetes spends the next ten years bitterly hating Odysseus and the Greeks for leaving him there.  His life, however, takes a much happier turn then that of Ajax.

Philoctetes eventually ends up vindicated and healed.  His namesake, the Philoctetes Project, continues to inspire such populations as U.S. Marines suffering from PTSD, prison inmates, and hospital staff.

Copyright May 28, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fire: A flaming mystery

Prometheus Bound  (by N-S Adam, 1762)
Although fire has been used by humans for untold ages, it fundamentally remains a mystery.

Rich McCormick of The Verge explains that the Fire Lab in Missoula, Montana has operated for decades with the express
purpose of learning more about this elemental force.

Nevertheless, lab researcher Mark Finney admits the following:  With fire, almost everything is counter-intuitive.  

Could it be then that the ancients were correct - that fire transcends human understanding because it is essentially divine in nature?

Although Prometheus the Titan managed to steal fire from the gods and bring it to humans, he was not able to transmit all of its secrets.  (Even so, Zeus then bound him to a rock and sent an eagle to interminably nibble on his liver.  Ouch!)

Agni, the Hindu fire deity, acts as a mediator between worshippers and the other gods.  Belenos, a Celtic
god, was known as “the shining one.  Wikipedia tells us that in Slavic mythology, “Svarog meaning ‘bright and clear,’ was the spirit of fire.”


Copyright May 26, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Verbal abuse: If we could but see it

(Photos by Kuebi at
“Sticks and stones will hurt my bones, but names will never harm me…”   We’ve all heard these words before, but are they actually true?

If we could but see the ravages of verbal abuse, we would know that this sing-song mantra is false.  With his vivid portrayal of verbally-induced bruises, photographer Richard Johnson has made this graphically clear.

Tyler McCarthy of The Huffington Post reports on Johnson’s “new photo project” called “Weapon of Choice.”  He employed a makeup artist “to put bruises and scars on photo subjects,” as well as to trace nasty epithets such as “Stupid” and “Ugly” within these blemishes.  This striking imagery visually conveys the wounds of verbal abuse.

Johnson stated that the “overall goal” of this project is “to shine a light on the fact that, when we’re focusing on bullying as a society, we focus on actual physical abuse.”


Copyright May 24, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 23, 2014

Concussion 'protocol': Yeah, but is it right?

Paul George   (Photo by Chrishmt0423) 
When Paul George took a knee to the head during Game 2 of the NBA playoffs, he neglected his symptoms until the game ended.  George was afterwards diagnosed with a concussion.

Le Bron James’ take on George’s initial silence?  “I think every last player in the Final Four would have played through it,” he said.

Nope, not necessarily everyone.

Pacers “big man” Roy Hibbert had this to say:  “You have to let the team know and the doctors know, the trainers know when you have symptoms. You have to think about your longevity as a human being before just the game…”

Brett Pollakoff of NBC Pro Basketball Talk suggests that “teams and their medical personnel need to be more tuned-in to a player following an injury to prevent their competitive spirit from causing further, potentially irreparable damage.”

In other words, human concerns before hubris concerns…

It could be a whole new way of doing business in the big leagues, and is long overdue. 


Copyright May 23, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 22, 2014

'High elf' attacks BMW

(Illustration by Richard Doyle)
A woman was recently riding her red BMW through Portland, Oregon when a self-identified high elf began attacking the car with his sword.

After being detained by police, Konrad Bass told the officers that he was a “high elf engaged in battle with the evil Morgoth.”  For those who have also been living within other dimensions and thus haven’t heard of Tolkein, Morgoth is “the character from which all evil grew” in the prequel to Lord of the Rings.

The police did not buy the ‘elf’ part of Bass’ explanation (although they did verify the ‘high’ part). Bass therefore found himself being escorted to a local institution, sword and all.

Bass may have had the last laugh, however, because elves have been described for centuries. Wikipedia
explains:  “In medieval Germanic-speaking cultures, elves seem generally to have been thought of as a group of beings with magical powers and supernatural beauty, ambivalent towards everyday people and
capable of either helping them or hindering them.”


Copyright May 22, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Gnome guards treasure within

(Painting by Heinrich Schlitt)
When Heather Andrews of Pulaski, Tennessee accidentally broke open a ceramic gnome that a friend had given her, she was suddenly face-to-face with the treasure within.

No, it was not the life savings of a widow down the street, but rather a mysterious statue that looked like the head of Jesus on the body of a woman.

Charlene Sakoda of Yahoo! Odd News reports that this ceramic gnome had been made in China and purchased at Target.  When asked about the statue within, the Target spokesman had no relevant information to contribute.

Andrews then publicized the details of this situation, hoping that someone somewhere would provide some answers.  The closest
she came to receiving an explanation was this response from Geraldine Sargent, “who found a photo of a winged angel figurine
resembling Andrews’ mysterious statue.”  Sargent theorized:  Must have been made at the same factory…

Some, however, believe that gnomes actually exist.  The 16th-century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus described them as earth-dwelling spirits that are “two spans high, very reluctant to interact with humans, and able to move through solid earth as easily as humans move through air.” 


Copyright May 22, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SETI: We've only just begun

Arecibo Radio Telescope  (Public Domain)
The theory that there’s no life beyond Earth because we haven’t found any yet just doesn’t hold water (or methane, as the case may be).

Rachelle Flick of The Space Reporter explains that Search of Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) astronomers recently told members of the House Science and Technology Committee that “alien life
could be detected within 20 years.”

Senior SETI astronomer Seth Shostak said that this could occur in any of these three ways:  life could be discovered within our solar system; traces of oxygen or methane could be found within the atmosphere of an exoplanet; leaked or deliberate signals that were emitted from other planets could be picked up on.

Shostak added:  The fact that we haven’t found anything [to date] means nothing.  We’ve only just
begun to search.

Copyright May 21, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

'Superhero' pallbearers at young boy's funeral

President Obama with 'Spider-Man' (PD)
A grieving mother decided to honor her five-year-old son’s short life by requesting a superhero funeral for him.

NBC Chicago reports that the six pallbearers therefore dressed as Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk.  Staci Denton explained that her son Brayden had begun his superhero affiliation as “a huge Spider-Man fan.”  He then began to like all the others, as well.

Brayden and his uncle Cory (who was the pallbearer dressed as Thor) “watched all of the Iron Man movies together.”  When they attended a Superman film, Brayden went dressed as the star of that show.

Brayden himself had shown superhero strength during his 13-month battle with brain cancer.


Copyright May 20, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Frog in the fridge: Salad surprise

Green Frog Life Stages  (Public Domain)
Even when the patch of kale he was hiding in was yanked from the ground, “Froggy” (now aptly named “Kale”) wasn’t about to metamorphosize out of this world.

He tenaciously hung out within the deep recesses of the leaves as the kale was shipped off to market. He then tenaciously hung in when the kale was purchased by Jesse Fox of Rockford, Illinois and placed in the refrigerator.

The New York Daily News reports that when Fox finally got around to preparing the then week-old kale, out popped the frog.  Fox’s response?  “That’s why you wash your produce,” he said.

This is just one of many happy endings for frogs.  You might recall the Frog Prince who was kissed by his soon-to-be human wife.  Last we heard, they were still living happily ever after.

Then there are the Panamanian golden frogs, who turn into talismans after death. They, too, are forever

Nevertheless, environmental conditions such as chemical contamination of the waters are threatening to
radically change this good fortune.  Frogs need compassionate humans like Jesse Fox to befriend them now more than ever.


Copyright May 20, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saint Hubert's legacy

Exhumation of St. Hubert, c. 1437  (PD)
If you know anyone who has given up hunting for hunting’s sake (rather than for survival’s sake), then you might have rubbed shoulders with Saint Hubert’s legacy.

Saint Hubert (aka "Hubertus") lived in what is now France, the Netherlands and Belgium from approximately 656 to 727 A.D. Like many privileged lads of his time, Hubert was enamored
with “the chase” (hunting as a sport). 

Wikipedia explains that Hubert “gave himself up entirely to hunting” while grieving the untimely death of his wife.  Even on Good Friday, “Hubert sailed forth to the chase.”

While pursuing a "magnificent stag" that very morning, Hubert suddenly perceived a crucifix between its antlers.  We are told that Hubert then heard a voice urging him to turn immediately to the Lord.  He was specifically instructed to go see Lambert.  Saint Lambert afterwards became Hubert’s spiritual mentor.

The same “magnificent stag” had also taught Hubert these ethical principles of hunting:  “…only shoot when a humane, clean and quick kill is assured… shoot only old stags past their prime breeding years… never shoot a female with young…”


Copyright May 17, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Jail cells: Hellishly hot

(Photo by HelenOnline)
When inmates are literally dying from the unmitigated heat within their jail cells, something evil is at hand.

This is certainly not anything that remotely
resembles compassion.  Nor does it insure
freedom from cruel or unusual punishment.

Jake Pearson of The Associated Press reports that because of climate change and a more heavily-medicated aging inmate population, “heat is a deadly risk for many prisons and jails throughout the United States.”  

In February 2014, a “mentally ill homeless veteran” (56-year-old former Marine Jerome Murdough) overheated within a hellishly-hot Rikers Island cell and died.  Murdough’s crime?  Pearson explains that he had been “jailed at the Rikers Island complex on a misdemeanor trespassing charge and was unable to make bail.”

Murdough’s 75-year-old mother stated:  I know he was yelling for help and nobody ever came.  A preliminary investigation revealed that Murdough’s “internal body temperature was 103 degrees and that the cell was 101 degrees.”

The conditions within Murdough’s cell are far from an anomaly.  Pearson refers to a recent report by the University of Texas School of Law’s Human Rights Clinic, which states that “at least 14 inmates have died from exposure to extreme heat since 2007 in state correctional facilities.”  

Copyright May 17, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Barbara Walters: Heavenly views

Walters in 1973  (Public Domain)
Back in 2005, Barbara Walters hosted an ABC special about heaven, within which she interviewed leaders from many different (plus no) faiths and presented their points of view.

However, some viewers were left wondering what Walters' own thoughts on heaven might be.  A December 2005 Beliefnet interview addresses this very question.

During the interview, Walters readily admitted that “she had no religious training and doesn’t practice any religion.”  Nevertheless, she found herself more in tune with this special than with any others she had ever done.

When directly asked whether she had thought much about heaven before doing this project, Walters replied:
I think everybody wonders, is there life after death?

Yet wondering and knowing can be worlds apart…  When asked whether she expected to go to heaven someday, Walters honestly replied:  I have no idea.  Before that, she had also stated, “What I feel more and more is how important it is to live your life in a better way and not to worry about it.”

As for what heaven might actually be like, Walters summarized, “At the end of the program, I say that heaven is a place where you are happy.  All the religions have that in common.”    


Copyright May 15, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Drummer's brain: No joke

(Photo by Quadell)
Despite all the (bad) jokes about drummers, science has finally vindicated them.

Although they’re often passed over in favor of lead singers and guitarists, drummers “can actually be smarter than their less rhythmically-focused bandmates.”

Jordan Taylor Sloan of Policy Mic reports on a study that was done at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Results from this study indicate that there is a “link between intelligence, good
timing and the part of the brain used for problem-solving.”

Drummers who scored the highest on the study’s intelligence tests were those who were “also better
able to keep a steady beat.”

Not only that, but these talented drummers were able to help improve the cognitive functions of those around them.  It seems that drummers innately tap into “a fundamental undercurrent of what it means to be human…”

It therefore stands to reason that good drummers are “people around whom bands and communities


Copyright May 14, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ET baptisms? Never say never

Martian bacteria?   (NASA Photo)
Ever wonder whether extra-terrestrials (ETs) have souls?  So does the Vatican.

On Monday morning, Pope Francis happened to mention “that if Martians came to him asking to be baptized he wouldn’t turn them away.” 

According to Antonia Blumberg of The Huffington Post, this is not the first time that higher-ups within the Vatican have alluded to such a possibility.  

Blumberg explained that Vatican scientist Guy Consolmagno has already theorized that aliens have souls.  At the 2010 British Science Festival, Consolmagno announced:   Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul. 

Therefore, if little green beings were to land in Rome tomorrow and ask to be baptized, they too shall receive…  After all, as Pope Francis also pointed out:  Who are we to close doors?


Copyright May 13, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 12, 2014

Church and State: As the wall crumbles

(Public Domain)
Garrett Epps of The Atlantic clearly fears that the alleged wall of separation between church and state has become nothing more than “an ill-defined grassy verge…”

He cites the recent Supreme Court case concerning Greece, New York - a place where public prayers containing explicitly Christian “doctrine, language, and imagery” are being used to begin town-board meetings.

The Court decided by a majority of 5-4 that the town did not violate the Establishment Clause when it chose to begin its meetings with local clergy asking citizens to “bow their heads, acknowledge the ‘saving sacrifice of Jesus,’ and signify assent by saying ‘amen.’”

Epps contrasts this Court decision with another from only two decades ago which ruled that “sectarian” details like these were “out of order” at government meetings.  He emphasizes that the current town-board prayers “are rife with theological claims not only controversial to non-Christians but troubling fort many of the faithful.” 


Copyright May 12, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Michelle Obama: A mother's plea

Michelle Obama  (Public Domain)
On Mother’s Day weekend of 2014, Michelle Obama took to the airwaves – not just as First Lady, but especially as a concerned mother of two young ladies.

In speaking out against “the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night” (a crime committed by those believing that females should not be pursuing education), the First Lady was making an urgent plea for all females with lofty hopes, dreams and aspirations.

She spoke about the anguish that the parents of these girls must be experiencing.  She also described the bravery and determination of the girls themselves by stating:  “Their school
had recently been closed due to terrorist threats… but these girls still insisted on returning to take their exams.”

Obama reminded us that this incident is by no means an isolated one.  All around the globe, and throughout history, females have been kept from developing themselves to the fullest. She explained that “right now, more than 65 million girls worldwide are not in school.”

The First Lady also emphasized that when females are educated, everyone benefits.  She then reminded students in the United States today who might be thinking about dropping out of school that theirs is a precious opportunity- an opportunity that others around the world are risking their very lives for.


Copyright May 11, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rice is nice: East vs. West

Asian Rice  (Image by Franz Eugen Kohler)
Michaeleen Ducleff of NPR explains that Eastern cultures are thought to be more cooperative than Western ones
because of agricultural differences.

According to some psychologists, the seeds of these cultural distinctions were sown centuries ago when Western
farmers favored wheat and Eastern ones favored rice.

Whereas growing wheat doesn’t require all that much collaboration among farmers, growing rice does.  Rice paddies require elaborate irrigation systems that depend upon cooperative ventures.  If one farmer floods or drains the fields at a particular time, the adjacent farmers need to be in sync with this.  Rugged individualism could easily lead to crop failure.

Thomas Talhelm of the University of Virginia therefore theorizes (aka “the rice theory”) that rice-based societies
tend to be “more cooperative and interconnected” than wheat-based ones.

Talhelm surveyed farmers in the north of China who grow wheat versus farmers in the south of China
who grow rice. Survey results indicated that the Chinese wheat-growers tend to be more individualistic
and analytical than the southern rice-growers.


Copyright May 10, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 9, 2014

In the deep, pain is gain

European Squid     (Photo by Hans Hillewaert)
If you happen to be Sid the Squid, and you’re being pursued by a very hungry black sea bass, it might just help if you’ve been injured before.

Tanya Lewis of Live Science explains that the pain of a previous injury could serve as a deterrent to being injured again.  She reports on the results of a study from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston that was
recently published in the journal Current Biology.

This study “provides the first direct evidence that animals develop heightened sensitivity – which promotes pain in some animals – in response to natural selection, particularly to avoid predators…”

So if Sid had been injured before, even in a minor way, chances are that he’d now be more vigilant against attack than his so-called bolder peers. 

Who knows?  This might apply to humans, too – especially those who are currently called “chicken” (should be changed to “squid”), and those who are currently labelled with PTSD (should be changed to PTSV – “post traumatic super vigilance” – which is not necessarily a “disorder,” but rather a survival mechanism)…  


Copyright May 9, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke  All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 8, 2014

'Price tagging' continues in Israel

City of Bethlehem, West Bank  (Photo by Soman)
There is always a high price to pay for religious persecution.   In this particular case, what has been called “price tagging” in Israel continues to threaten the already-shaky peace.

Jeffrey Heller of Reuters reports that such “price tagging” involves attacks by ultra-nationalist Israelis as payback “for any curbs on Jewish settlement on Palestinian land.”

These attacks have increased greatly “over the past month since the Israeli military demolished structures in a West Bank settlement built without government authorization.”

Past price tagging has included attacks upon West Bank mosques, monasteries and homes.  It is feared that attention-grabbing attacks upon Christian sites will intensify before and during the Pope’s upcoming visit.

Pope Francis will be visiting the Holy Land from May 24 to 26.  His tour will include the West Bank, Jerusalem and Jordan.  


Copyright May 8, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Making methane: Bovine backpacks

Methane  (Public Domain)
If life hands you flatulence, make methane.  At least that’s the message that Argentina’s INTA has been conveying…

This governmental research body has been developing bovine backpacks that “trap the methane” from deep within cows’ flatulent
digestive systems.

Springwise reports that the United States might greatly benefit from emulating this practice because “methane accounts for nine percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US.”

When methane is simply released into the atmosphere (because of cows doin’ a what comes naturally), it pollutes the air.  When the methane is instead trapped within an inflatable backpack (via a tube that was inserted into the cow’s rumen), the environment is spared, and (bonus!) the methane can then be used as a fuel.

Seems like a win-win situation, except from the cow’s perspective.  Having to carry around one’s own flatus all day long certainly adds insult to the injury of having one’s insides invaded by a
cannula tube.    


Copyright May 7, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Latent savant: Would that be everyone?

Julia Set Fractal  (by Eequor)
Tanya Lewis of Live Science writes about the unusual case of a nonacademic furniture salesman who became a mathematical savant as a result of a severe brain injury.

However, what was unusual might have been the injury rather than its result.  In other words, everyone might be a latent mathematical (or artistic, musical, etc.) savant, with brains that would produce similar results if “rejiggered” in similar ways.

This particular savant, Jason Padgett, explained that before his injury he had never so much as cracked open a book.  After his injury, “he noticed that everything looked different.”  He began spontaneously seeing the world “through a lens of geometry” – drawing complex shapes as a mathematical genius would.

Lewis states that research findings “suggest such skills may lie dormant in all human brains.” Professor Berit Brogaard from the University of Miami, who scanned Padgett’s brain with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and then “zapped” his brain with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), concluded that “most likely, there is something dormant in everyone that Padgett tapped into.”

Nevertheless, there may be serious trade-offs in acquiring such talents.  After the injury, Padgett
also began experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and severe social anxiety.      


Copyright May 6, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 5, 2014

Ancestors: Pinpointing their whereabouts

Ancestor Reburial Ritual  (Saveoursmile)  
Many religions have at least a component to them that emphasizes the importance of ancestors.  

Wikipedia explains that veneration of the dead (aka “ancestor reverence”) “is based on the beliefs that the dead have a continued existence, and may possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living.”

These beliefs result in the cultivation of “kinship values,” which stress the importance of familial piety, loyalty and lineage.  

Whereas it has long been possible to investigate family roots (note the Bible’s descriptions of such), a new development in genealogical research has added an extra dimension to such knowledge.

Steve Dent reports on a Geographic Population Structure (GPS) tool that was developed at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.  This technological tool makes it often possible to determine the exact village in which your ancestors lived 1,000 years ago.

This is done through the wonders of DNA sequencing, utilizing “more than 100,000 DNA signatures called AIMS (ancestry-informative markers).”   


Copyright May 5, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Artificial Intelligence: Way too risky?

Hawking in 2006   (Public Domain)
Physicist Stephen Hawking, whose own intelligence is right up there with the best that human brains have to offer, has issued
yet another dire warning. 

Whereas his previous warning concerned the possibility of enemy aliens conquering Earth, this latest warning concerns the rapidly growing field of artificial intelligence (A I).

Artificial intelligence (aka “artificial superintelligence”) may one day mean that “machines with superhuman intelligence could repeatedly improve their design even further, triggering what Verner Vinge called a ‘singularity’…  Whereas the short-term
impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.”

Artificial superintelligence that exceeds human abilities could theoretically out-manipulate human leaders, systems,
technology and weaponry to the extent that people wouldn’t even realize what’s happening – at the time, or perhaps ever.

According to, little to nothing is currently being done to offset these dire possibilities. More needs to be done as soon as possible in order to maximize AI’s benefits and minimize its risks.


Copyright May 4, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Hillary Clinton: Faith in action

Hillary Clinton    (Public Domain)
Hillary Clinton was recently the keynote speaker at the annual United Methodist Women Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky.

She told the audience that this felt like a “homecoming” because of “how the church’s obligation to serve others has guided her personal and professional life.”

Katie Zezima of The Washingto Post reports that Clinton grew up attending a Methodist church in Park Ridge, Illinois. Her mother taught Sunday School, and her father set an
example of humbly praying before bedtime.

Young Hillary helped to clean the altar each week, which made her feel “as though she was part of the service.”  She loved how she felt about herself while at church – and how that affiliation deepened her faith while enhancing her understanding of the world.

Clinton’s spiritual mentor back then was the church’s youth group leader, Don Jones.  He taught young Hillary lasting lessons in social justice by taking her and her peers to visit Chicago’s inner-city churches.  He particularly taught the profound importance of “faith in action.”

Religion has long been a central part of Clinton’s life.  In her book It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us, she mentions “how she and Bill Clinton were struck by the profound spiritual questions their daughter Chelsea and her friends raised.”    


Copyright May 3, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 2, 2014

When your spouse is an atheist

Abigail Van Buren   (Public Domain)
If you are, say, a devout Christian - and your spouse is an atheist – how might that be resolved insofar as church affiliation is concerned?

Perhaps “Dear Abby” can be of help with this dilemma.”  In a theme-based collection of inquiries titled “Couples Find Common Ground on Different Spiritual Paths,” Abigail Van Buren shared some wisdom concerning this topic

One such piece of advice was to attend a Unitarian Universalist church together.  “Chelsea in Wichita” wrote that “UU congregations are often made up of people from different backgrounds…  The focus of the sermons is on living a good life, treating other people and our planet with respect, and following one’s own path to spiritual enlightenment.”

“Kathryn in Ottawa” added that she and her husband had both been involved with a “progressive” church.  Whereas she primarily attended the services, he simply got involved with the social events.

As for “Blessed in Oregon,” she and her atheist husband had agreed to raise their kids Catholic.  Although
he did not attend Sunday services, he did participate in “important sacraments” because of their importance to family members.


Copyright May 2, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Water, water everywhere: Waterboarding NOT baptism

Angel Falls  (Photo by poco a poco)
Our human bodies, as well as the Earth itself, are mostly composed
of water.  Does that mean that the body is synonymous with the
planet?  Certainly not.  Just because they both entail water does not make them one and the same.

Sarah Palin therefore seems about as good in science as she is in
geography.  Describing waterboarding as a way to “baptize terrorists” seems about as accurate as claiming to see Russia from a Wasilla window.

“But of course, she’s only kidding,” critics of her critics have said.
Nevertheless, this would also be a lose-lose situation.  If she’s making fun of baptism, one of the most sacred rites within Christianity, then what does that say about her respect for this religion?  If she’s making light of waterboarding, a form of torture akin to drowning, then what does that say about her respect for human life?

According to Danielle Kurtzleben of Vox, some “Christians are furious” about Palin’s pandering.  Editor Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition had this to say:  “For anyone to confess Christ as their savior and to compare
one of the means of God’s grace to a reprehensible act of torture is reprehensible.  I hope members of Gov. Palin’s local church will explain to her why her remarks denigrate the Christian faith.”


Copyright May 1, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved