Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nefertiti's 3,300-year-old royal makeover - Science- msnbc.com

Nefertiti's 3,300-year-old royal makeover - Science- msnbc.com:
"BERLIN - Researchers in Germany have used a modern medical procedure to uncover a secret within one of ancient Egypt's most treasured artworks — the bust of Nefertiti has two faces.

A team led by Dr. Alexander Huppertz, director of the Imaging Science Institute at Berlin's Charite hospital and medical school, discovered a detailed stone carving that differs from the external stucco face when they performed a computed tomography, or CT, scan on the bust. ..."

In Fall of 1968 I traveled to West Berlin with my Explorer unit (BSA) and among the places we visited was a museum in which I came face to face with the bust of Nefertiti. This was somewhat exciting to me as it was pictured in my world history textbook from Heidelberg American High School, thus providing me a real world link with ancient history. Did I see the real Nefertiti or a copy? I can't remember the building in which I saw it, but its current location is the Altes Museum.

The bust is a thin layer of stucco over a stone core, and what is intriguing archaeologists is that the stone core is a detailed bust of Nefertiti as well -- with some differences. Computer Tomography (CT scan) was used to show the detailed sculpture below. Previously, the stone core was thought to be merely a support for the stucco.

The image shown here is part of the Wikimedia Commons and contains the following permission: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bell's Appeal -- Ministry to Young Adults

The Christian Century:
"When Rob Bell walks on stage at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, the 38-year-old sports chic black glasses and black jeans with a wide, white 1970s belt. His geeky, affable presence and energized speaking style warm up the room quickly and signal a seasoned performer. After you hear Bell speak, it's not surprising to learn that his childhood hero was David Letterman or that when he was a student at Wheaton College in the 1980s, he was lead singer in a band called '__Ton Bundle' (the blank space allowed band members to change the band's name by adding various adjectives). ..."
A small intergenerational group at my congregation is watching a series of short videos produced by Rob Bell. These 10-15 minute segments provide much in the way of discussion starters. The series is published under the NOOMA name, a phonetic spelling of the Greek work pneuma (πνεύμα), which means spirit or breath.

This article goes on to describe Bell's background and theology as it relates to his ministry in Grand Rapids Michigan as well as his ministry on the road.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

To execute or not: A question of cost? - Columbia Missourian

To execute or not: A question of cost? - Columbia Missourian:
"After decades of moral arguments reaching biblical proportions, after long, twisted journeys to the nation's highest court and back, the death penalty may be abandoned by several states for a reason having nothing to do with right or wrong: Money.

Turns out, it is cheaper to imprison killers for life than to execute them, according to a series of recent surveys. Tens of millions of dollars cheaper, politicians are learning, during a tumbling recession when nearly every state faces job cuts and massive deficits. ..."
When you do the right thing for the wrong reasons, it still boils down to doing the right thing. What concerns me is what happens when the economy improves? Revenge or retribution, if you will, is not only a powerful driving force for many people, it seems to play all too well in the voting booth.

Nearly 2000 years ago a weak-willed political appointee bowed to the will of the masses and had a man crucified whom he knew was innocent of the charges laid against him. ...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Man accused of bilking union for prison workers

AP News | The Columbia Daily Tribune:
"EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) -- An official with a union representing federal prison guards is accused of defrauding the group."
Hmmm. If this suspect is found guilty and sentenced to prison, he will do his time in the federal prison system guarded by his alleged victims. I wonder if he appreciates the irony of his situation....

Monday, March 16, 2009

French physicist d'Espagnat wins prestigious Templeton Prize | Science | Reuters

French physicist d'Espagnat wins prestigious Templeton Prize | Science | Reuters:
"PARIS (Reuters) - French physicist and philosopher Bernard d'Espagnat has won the 2009 Templeton Prize, billed as the world's largest annual award to an individual, for his work affirming the spiritual dimension of life. ..."
d'Espagnat, A quantum physicist, holds that ultimate reality cannot be described using traditional Newtonian physics. He is quoted as saying "Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated, on the contrary, it is one of the constitutive elements of being."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

USB prosthetic finger gives new meaning to thumbdrives | Crave - CNET

USB prosthetic finger gives new meaning to thumbdrives | Crave - CNET:
"This is a story about Jerry Jalava, a Finnish software developer who lost part of his finger in a motorcycle accident last July. According to his friend, Henri Bergius, when the surgeon assigned to work on Jalava's prosthetic finger discovered his hacking history, he made a clever suggestion: incorporate a USB key into the new digit. ..."
This is just a little creepy. And I am a professional geek.

I can just see it:
Hey -- can I get a copy of your PowerPoint?

Sure, you got a thumbdrive?

Yep, right here....

[various and sundry expletives deleted here]

Uh -- where can I get one of those?

A Little Spelling Test

I saw this on the Kruse Kronicle and thought I would give it a try:

The 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words

My score was 21/25 (leaving off the preferred British spellings at the end of the quiz). I am considered a good speller, even to the point of obnoxiousness, but this quiz was definitely a challenge. At least I beat Mike....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

AP News | The Columbia Daily Tribune

AP News | The Columbia Daily Tribune:
"ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Megachurches with large audiences that frequently attract unstable people have long had a heightenend sense of security, experts say, but smaller churches like the one in Maryville, Ill., where a pastor was shot to death often have no security plan.

First Baptist Church, where the Rev. Fred Winters was shot and killed Sunday, initiated a security and emergency plan six months ago but would not say what it entailed. Three people, including the gunman, were stabbed before he was subdued. ..."
This is a pretty sobering thought, but one that might be good to consider. How do you reconcile the safety of the congregation with welcoming all who come to worship?

Some congregations have resorted to discreetly-armed persons with at least one instance in Colorado Springs where a greater tragedy might have been averted because an armed parishioner was able to confront a gunman.

Yet most people, me included, have a gut feeling that having armed guards in a worship service is not an atmosphere in which we want to worship.

Still, it is prudent to have some sort of a prayerfully-considered contingency plan for dealing with emergencies of any type.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Researchers find safer way to make stem cells | Science | Reuters

Researchers find safer way to make stem cells | Science | Reuters:
"LONDON (Reuters) - Researchers said on Sunday they had found a safer way to transform ordinary skin cells into powerful stem cells in a move that could eventually remove the need to use human embryos.

It is the first time that scientists have turned skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells -- which look and act like embryonic stem cells -- without having to use viruses in the process. ..."
This is a significant advance over previous news of adult stem cell research. Embryo farming just does not seem to be a good solution on more than one level. If pluripotent stem cells can be induced from an adult with health issues, then you not only avoid some of the ethical issues, but you might also avoid the issues with tissue matching that plague transplantation.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Why American churchgoers like to shop around. - By Andrew Santella - Slate Magazine

Why American churchgoers like to shop around. - By Andrew Santella - Slate Magazine:
"Since before Election Day, Washington pastors have been lining up to invite the first family into their flock, and outlets from PBS to the Wall Street Journal have taken their turn handicapping the many contending congregations. Despite all of this cajoling, the White House announced that the Obama family is still shopping for a church in Washington.

Except for the special invitations and the presidential-scale press coverage, the Obamas' church search puts them in a situation a lot of American believers are well-acquainted with. One in seven adults changes churches each year, and another one in six attends a handful of churches on a rotating basis, according to the Barna Group, a marketing research firm that serves churches. Church shopping isn't a matter of merely changing congregations: A survey by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life last year indicated that 44 percent of American adults have left their first religious affiliation for another. 'Constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace,' a survey summary said. ..."
Very interesting...

I tend to get a little nervous when I hear the language of marketing used to describe the preaching of the Gospel, but on the other hand why should people attend church where their needs aren't being met?

Andrew Santella points out that when the church was disestablished, it fell to the preachers to recruit and retain parishioners (and to get them to give generously). This may be part of the equation, but my feeling is that a healthy congregation equips all its members to perform such functions, not just the minister or elders or deacons. In fact, a congregation that is held together by the personality and preaching of one pastor is in danger of collapsing when the pastor moves on.

Much of what defines a church happens at times other than the worship hour. Sunday school, fellowship groups, Bible studies, prayer groups, potluck dinners, retreats, visiting the sick, and so on are not, nor should they be, the sole job of the minister.

A large congregation does not necessarily mean a healthy congregation, nor does a small congregation necessarily mean one that is slowly dying. The pitfall in thinking of the Church as a consumer product is that we easily forget why we are called together in the first place -- to worship, fellowship, and serve others. Or in the words of the PC(USA) Book of Order (G-1.0200): "The great ends of the church are the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of the truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world".