News Notes

Zip Dobyns

I’ve seen so many interesting articles and books, it is hard to choose what to include, but I’ll start with personal activity. We are fully established in our new retreat center, Dodona, though there will always be lots more that could be done. My son, Bill, and a friend named Eli have been enormously helpful in a lot of odd jobs. Bill extended his project that is supposed to handle the run-off from the welcome rain that is a gift from the El Niño underway this year. Satisfying success was demonstrated when yesterday’s rain failed to dig any new trenches in the lane leading down into our place. I was delighted that Bill had just planted five more trees prior to the rain; two varieties of oriental pear, an apple which will produce in a mild climate, a nectarine and an almond which was already in bloom in its pot and has already attracted some hummingbirds. The previous owners had mostly planted macadamia nut trees and avocados though there were two peaches, an apricot and a lemon tree. A fig and a plum are next on my list, and I hope we can manage an orange in a sheltered place since it is a bit cold here for citrus. Our elevation is somewhere around 1200 feet and 30 miles from the ocean so we get more heat in summer and more cold in winter than areas right on the coast.

I am just completing my longest stay yet at Dodona—three weeks, and it has been a delight. Bill completed my screened porch and I will be sleeping out there by my next visit. He also built bookshelves in the living room and I have started to bring down references from L.A., including my bird books. We have scrub jays, cardinals, a woodpecker which I haven’t seen closely enough to identify, and some also unidentified little birds which could be finches, warblers, sparrows, etc. We hear owls and coyotes at night. I’m off to L.A. tomorrow, for the ISAR board meeting and to help get Kosmos together as well as get this issue of The Mutable Dilemma to the printer. But I’ll be back here as soon as possible.

I will be attending UAC in Washington, DC and my annual conference in Kansas; both in April. Then June is saved for Montana and some camping on the way home. I am probably going to teach in Moscow in the fall but not sure yet whether I will get as far as Siberia where I also have an invitation. I’ll be in Hawaii for a week in November in a time-share belonging to Mark which is in Kauai, an island I haven’t visited. But the rest of the year is going to be here in our southern California Shangri-La. I’ve had a few astrologers come by to visit, and hope that we’ll be able to start our mini-seminars soon.

I have just read an interesting book called How the Shaman Stole the Moon by William Calvin, published in 1991 by Bantam. Calvin describes his exploration of archaeology and astronomy, including Stonehenge and Avebury in England but mostly focusing on the U.S. southwest pueblo peoples. He mostly concentrates on how ancient people might have learned to predict possible times of eclipses, probably for religious reasons, and he mentions briefly the development of calendars for agriculture. The book follows his deductions almost like a detective story and he ends with about 13 ways in which primitive people could predict eclipses using simple observation and “low tech” equipment or natural features in the landscape. He suggests that this knowledge was probably developed long before “civilization” and might have been one of the basic skills of shamans, the religious leaders of hunting and gathering people before the time of formal rituals and priests. Astrologers who are used to getting their figures from ephemerides or computers could learn more about the sky and how early humans developed astrology by reading the book. It is well written and interesting. Unfortunately, the author devotes a few pages to attacking modern astrology, either because he doesn’t know anything about it beyond sun-sign columns or because he thinks he has to defend his scientific position.

I have also acquired the new edition of The Roots of Civilization by Alexander Marshack, published in 1991 by Moyer Bell Limited. Marshack is the theorist who first suggested that scratches on horns and bones by Neolithic hunters 20,000 years ago represented phases of the moon, showing that ancient hunters and gatherers long before “civilization” were using the patterns in the sky. I haven’t had time to read the book yet, but a little “dipping” in it shows that it is another one which astrologers should find interesting.

Did you note that there were 62 candidates on the ballot in New Hampshire and 4,000 press people covering the show? I have not found my note on how much money came into the state by virtue of their having the first primary, but it was several hundred thousand dollars.

A history professor who was lecturing on our cruise described a study by a professor in a Texas university which found an almost exact linear relationship between the number of lawyers in a country and the slowness of its growth in GNP (Gross National Product). The six countries with the most lawyers as a percentage of the population had the slowest growth during the 1980s: the U.S., Bangladesh, etc. The countries with fewer lawyers had the fastest growth: Japan, Singapore, etc. Lawyers do not produce anything—they just redistribute money. The study estimated that the costs in lost economic growth were about 1 million dollars per lawyer per year. If all of our law schools closed now, it would take about 35 years for the U.S. lawyers to decline to the percent of their population that are now working in Japan.

But then, public radio has just reported that the courts in Japan are so slow—it might take decades to settle a civil case—that many individuals have been willing to pay local gangsters to expedite a quicker settlement. Gangsters also performed other “useful” services like collecting debts and arbitrating disputes. Mostly in the past, they made their livings with gambling, prostitution, and “small time” protection rackets in which shop owners paid for “protection.” But in recent years, they have gotten into high finance and threats against ordinary people, so the government has just made them illegal and they are quite upset.

Have you heard of the Son of Chiron? The February 8, 1992 issue of Science News reported that a puzzling new object has been spotted with a diameter of about 200 kilometers, a redder color than any known asteroid or comet, and an elliptical orbit that takes it between the orbits of Saturn and Neptune. The astronomers have not yet spotted a coma which would suggest that it is a comet, but they did not see one on Chiron for several years after its discovery. The official designation of the new object is 1992 AD, but it is nick-named Son of Chiron. Its nearest approach to the Sun occurred in May of 1991. It was first spotted on January 9, 1992 at the Kitt Peak observatory in Arizona and is currently in the orbital range of Saturn but outward bound. The orbital elements are published, so we will probably add it to our collection of asteroids when Mark can change his programs to fit the astronomers’ recent switch from 1950 to J2000 coordinates. Mark is working on getting calculations for Halley since I have found it so prominent in our presidential elections. The new object might actually be a “child” of Chiron if a previously published theory is right, that Chiron is the source of all or most short-period comets. Short period comets are those which circle the Sun in 200 years or less, so Halley is included.

The February 22, 1992 issue of Science News has an article on new solar-system computations which connect the planetary orbits to the new theories of chaos. These theories question the “clock” image of the solar system, suggesting that it is not as predictable as has been thought. In chaotic systems, very small initial differences in starting positions can eventually produce huge differences in motions, making very long range predictions impossible. Computer simulations by a Paris astronomer named Laskar discovered two previously unknown interactions or resonances between the motions of planets in the inner solar system. One resonance involves Mars and Earth and the other connects Mercury, Venus and Jupiter. The article concludes by saying that the solar system which has been held up as a model of prediction in a mechanical universe, as the ultimate clockwork, has been overtaken by chaos and uncertainty.

The January 25 and February 1, 1992 issues of Science News carried a two-part article on the search for a theoretical meteorite or comet which hit the earth and helped kill off the dinosaurs among other contemporaneous life forms. Luis and Walter Alvarez published the theory in the 1970s and evidence is accumulating that the long-sought bolide has finally been located under the Yucatan peninsula and the Caribbean Sea. The buried crater had been discovered by geologists working for the Mexican oil company and a man named Penfield had even suggested years ago that it might be the remains of the “killer” meteorite, but widespread interest and activity is recent and growing rapidly. Sediments from the ocean between the Yucatan and Florida show tektites (bits of rock melted by an impact and then ejected into the atmosphere), then coarse debris that could be pulled into the sea by a tidal wave, then fine sediments from the normal sifting down of particles in the sea. The particles drifting down after the impact have an abundance of the element iridium which is rare on Earth’s surface but concentrated in meteorites. This iridium layer is world-wide and marks the boundary between two geological ages, the Cretaceous and the Tertiary periods. (K-T)

This K-T boundary is dated at about 65 million years ago and it marked the disappearance of many life forms and major changes in others which survived. A meteorite site in Iowa is also under investigation since it dates from about the same time, but it is too small to account for the widespread destruction. It is possible that a comet or meteorite entering the atmosphere was broken into pieces which hit in Iowa, the Yucatan, and perhaps Haiti and other places where tektites have been found. Such major crashes could have kicked up a light-blocking cloud, generated acidic rainfall by ionizing air molecules, and especially if it hit a limestone area like the Yucatan, the consequent vaporizing would have produced carbon dioxide and global warming raising the temperature as much as 10 degrees. Europeans tend to be more skeptical of the theory of widespread destruction at the K-T boundary, partly because there is less evidence for such major effects on other continents. But this increased destruction in America may be additional evidence that the meteorite hit here.

The dinosaurs have had the most publicity, but they were already declining before the K-T shift. Plants are actually a better indication of a sudden change in life forms in the U.S. Midwest. As can be seen through pollen studies, the dominant forms of trees and shrubs simply disappeared and were replaced by ferns which make up 70 to 100% of the pollen in a very thin layer above the iridium layer. Rocks showing this dominance by ferns have been found from New Mexico to Saskatchewan. Soon afterwards, other plants again began to appear. As one scientist reports, in North Dakota, essentially every flowering plant species in the late Cretaceous was replaced by something different. In contrast, far fewer species went extinct in New Zealand.

Public TV just had a short segment on “killer asteroids” on the MacNeil-Lehrer news program. They showed astronomer Eleanor Helin looking through a telescope in a search for asteroids with orbits that cross the earth’s orbit so they could hit the earth if both bodies arrived at the same place at the same time. Helin started her quest in 1973 when less than 20 earth-crossers were known. She has personally spotted about 55 to 60 such asteroids and about 12 earth-crossing comets. There is lots of junk out there. The program mentioned one recent near-miss in which an asteroid was said to have crossed our orbit just about 6 hours before we got to that place! After that, our government got involved and a committee has been investigating to decide whether we should do something. The two proposals being considered are a world-wide watch to catalogue all such asteroids and comets with six telescopes around the world devoted to the effort. Or we could push “star wars” and try to develop a weapon which could blow up an approaching object. Teller, who developed the hydrogen bomb, is urging the latter effort and Bush will probably go for that. Unfortunately, we might end up just fragmenting the object so it can start fires and do other damage in many more places.

If any readers want more information on asteroids, the November/December 1991 issue of The Planetary Report has several good articles, including one by Donald K. Yeomans on the search for near-Earth asteroids. Yoemans writes that Earth’s closest call that we know about occurred on January 18, 1991 when an asteroid passed within the orbit of our Moon. He suspects that there have been closer encounters but says that only recently have we had the technology to detect them. Maybe I should loan Yoemans the book by Mel Waskin. Astrologers know that we had an eclipse and started bombing Iraq just two days before that near miss, and that the Sun was conjunct Saturn on the 18th, but astronomers would just snort and call that collection of actual and potential violence a coincidence.

Some time ago, I wrote about the theory that a comet caused the great Chicago fire in 1871 and the simultaneous fires which raged across Wisconsin and Michigan. My original information came from an article in Fate Magazine but the Fate author was excerpting from a book by Mel Waskin. I now have a copy of Waskin’s book, thanks to Helen Clerf, and it is excellent. The author makes a very good case for the fires being due to a comet which broke up in earth’s atmosphere and scattered its burning fragments over a wide area.

Maybe the people who are earnestly looking for catastrophes with polar flips and continents sinking into the sea should be looking up instead?

Another article in the February 1, 1992 issue of Science News was a real surprise. This is a very impeccable scientific journal which rarely has anything unconventional. When they once reported homeopathic experiments which got positive results, they received scathing letters from indignant readers that they could print such obvious nonsense. The recent article is on the mysterious “crop circles” which have been appearing in farmers’ fields for some years. The circles “appear” overnight, formed by rings of flattened grain, sometimes with very elaborate patterns. The ones in southern England, in the area of Stonehenge, have been the most publicized, but they are also reported in Canada, the U.S. and other areas. The Science News article has both photographs of some of the circles and diagrams showing and describing the geometric ratios which exist in some of the circles. Gerald Hawkins, the astronomer who is famous for his theories about Stonehenge, discovered the ratios of the diameters and other features in 18 patterns that included more than one circle or ring. “In 11 of these structures, Hawkins found ratios of small whole numbers that precisely matched the ratios defining the diatonic scale. These ratios produce the eight tones of an octave in the musical scale corresponding to the white keys on a piano.” p 76-7 Hawkins ended up deducing four geometric theorems which turned out to be special cases of a fifth, more general theorem. But even more remarkably, Hawkins could not find any of his theorems in Euclid, the ancient Greek geometer who established the basic techniques and rules of geometry. Nor could Hawkins find the crop-circle theorems in any other mathematical text, ancient or modern. If the circles were produced by “hoaxers,” (two elderly painters in England have claimed that they produced them), they had to have remarkable mathematical ability.

After our government’s careful cover-up of most of its UFO information, it would be amusing if formerly secretive Russia revealed its evidence first. The January/February and March 1992 issues of Share International, the magazine published by the followers of Benjamin Creme, have had articles on the UFO phenomena in Russia. A Russian woman test pilot who was involved in UFO investigations for many years described some of the results of Russian research at UFO landing sites. One researcher planted grain at such a site and observed that it grew 20% faster than grain planted outside the site. Other researchers placed human blood at a site for a time and then analyzed it. They found that hemoglobin decreased and magnesium increased. Increased sightings of UFOs have been observed in areas where metals and gas are mined. One dramatic UFO which looked like a jellyfish was reported to have hung above the city of Petrosbirsk in 1977. Residents heard their glass windows trembling and some were burnt through. Another occurrence near the same city involved a train increasing its speed when a large round UFO appeared nearby. The train crew was unable to control the train which continued at high speed for one and a half hours. When the overhead UFO moved to the front of the train, the crew was finally able to use the brakes to stop the locomotive. A photograph taken of the train and the UFO was published in all the newspapers. The train was found to have used 300 kilograms less gasoline than would normally be used in an hour and a half. The preceding two incidents in 1977 were the beginning of official UFO research in Russia.

I’m going to conclude with an amusing article by Carol Sarler in the February 17, 1992 issue of Newsweek. This issue of the magazine featured several articles on the concern with self-esteem which is sweeping over the U.S., especially in psychology and in the schools. Sarler comments that England, her home country, goes in for the “stiff upper lip.” She considers that trying to remake one’s childhood to restore lost self-esteem is childish and potentially dangerous in the most powerful nation in the world. Sarler ends “Frankly, we do not wish you to become infused with self-esteem; we would feel more comfortable—not to mention a mite safer—if you opted for self-doubt, instead. Less God on your side; more weight on your back. You know what I’m saying? Just grow up.” p. 52

Copyright © 1992 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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