News Notes

Zip Dobyns

The September 6, 1996 issue of The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that scientists at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, DC have recently confirmed the existence of earthquakes lasting for days but undetectable to people living directly above them. Most quakes last less than a minute or a few minutes at most. The Carnegie report described an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.8 which occurred along the San Andreas fault near San Juan Bautista in 1992 and lasted 7 to 10 days, but it was a hundred times slower than any previously detected quake—so slow that it did not even generate conventional seismic waves. Authorities are now debating whether such quakes might be precursors, increasing strains in the earth to produce large conventional quakes, or whether they might release strain and reduce the likelihood of big quakes in the area.

The October 1996 issue of Earth magazine has an extensive article about the critical danger of a massive earthquake in the Himalayan area. There have been four “great” quakes in the last century with magnitudes of 8 or higher in the region of Nepal and northern India, and another is overdue. It is likely to hit a “gap” in the plate boundary where India is being pushed against the rest of Asia and is responsible for pushing up the Himalayan mountain range during the last 28 million years. The “gap” area has not experienced a great earthquake for 741 years. The Main Detachment Fault lies at the foundations of the mountain range, runs the entire length of the Himalayas, and it is currently stuck in the Central Gap just north of the fertile plains of the Ganges River where millions of people live. Nature can be scary, but unwise human actions can compound the threat. Most human deaths in earthquakes are due to collapsing buildings which were constructed of unreinforced stone or concrete. But India is currently adding to this hazard by building a 850 foot high, 1,840 foot wide, and 3,610 foot long dam in the “gap” region, on the Bhagirathi River 200 miles northeast of New Delhi. Critics are convinced that the design of the dam could not withstand a great earthquake. An American geologist who has studied the situation over a period of years estimates that 100 million people in western Nepal and northern India would be at risk.

Maybe the psychics need to stop worrying about California and check India. The August 3, 1996 issue of Science News reported that a broad region on either side of the San Andreas fault rests on schist, as does the area west and offshore of the Newport-Inglewood fault which runs under densely populated zones. Because schist softens under less temperature and pressure than other rock, it does not rupture as far down, thus limiting a quake’s magnitude. This layer of soft schist rock helps to buffer Southern California from the most violent shaking. I keep thinking we should be able to learn to predict quakes with astrology, but so far we are not doing very well. We can pick lots of times when there “might” be a quake, but the challenge usually turns out to be something else.

The August 31, 1996 issue of Science News reports a new variety of no-calorie food which sounds more promising than Olestra, which is currently being used in a variety of snack foods. As I wrote in a previous issue of The Mutable Dilemma, many nutritionists are concerned about Olestra, which can cause gastrointestinal distress and can sweep vitamins and carotenoids out of the body; vital food elements which the body can only absorb when fat is present to digest them. Eating modest amounts of butter or cheese with vegetables and cream with fruit helps the body digest the valuable vitamins.

The new material is called Z-Trim and it is a fiber made from the hulls of corn, oats, or rice to create a fine white powder that can be added to foods and simply passes through the body. Once it is approved, it can be added to chocolate, cheese, etc. to reduce their carbohydrate and fat content

The summer 1996 issue of The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Health Journal has several articles which challenge the current AMA attack on fat and protein. Authors Sally Fallon and Mary Enig Ph.D. present evidence showing how complicated the situation really is. For example, claims have been made that high protein diets leached calcium from the bones, leading to osteoporosis. But other studies showed that this only happened when the diet was low in calcium and the proteins in the study were isolated, fractionated amino acids from milk or eggs. Such protein powders lacked the needed fat to absorb vitamins A and D, so the subjects ended up deficient in everything. When the protein is eaten in the form of meat, whole milk, and whole eggs, it protects against osteoporosis. Synthetic vitamin D which is added to milk can be harmful rather than helpful. It can cause hypercalcemia, a disturbance of calcium equilibrium leading to excessive blood calcium and calcification of soft tissues. Getting D from cod liver oil or other fish oil or flaxseeds protects and strengthens the bones. Vitamin K is also centrally involved.

Studies of Eskimos and other pre-Columbian skeletons of American Indians who lived on high-meat diets found they had strong bones and teeth. Indians on largely vegetarian diets had a high incidence of osteoporosis and other types of bone degeneration. The recent studies of Eskimos which found bone problems were done after they started a heavy use of alcohol which is destructive to bone, and also added white four and white sugar to their diet. A Purdue University study recently found that the polyunsaturated oils recommended by the current anti-fat crusade actually interfere with bone formation. But tropical oils, butter, and other animal fats are helpful. Populations in tropical areas which use coconut and palm oil have little osteoporosis. Skeletons of Huguenot women ranging from age 15 to 89 which were recently analyzed in London showed little difference in bone density between pre and post-menopausal women.. Estrogen is synthesized in fat tissue. Talk about heresy! Eating fat meat and not getting panicked if you weigh a little more after menopause might mean you don’t need expensive, artificial estrogen replacement.

There is much, much more in this issue. For any readers interested in subscribing, write to the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, P.O. Box 2614, La Mesa, CA 91943-2614. Phone (619) 574-7763. We discovered the Foundation when we moved to the San Diego region. The original two Pottengers were brothers, both MDs with a clinic in Monrovia, CA. They were first cousins of my father.

But science marches on. They have found a fifth obesity gene in mice, according to the April 27, 1996 issue of Science News.

The August 1996 issue of the Ladies Home Journal has a diet news flash on their page devoted to Medinews. A new study by scientists at the Rockefeller University in New York City and the University of California at Berkeley warns people who think they are helping themselves by eating foods advertised as “low-fat.” These foods, such as low-fat cookies, are high in simple carbohydrates which are mostly sugars which the body promptly turns into saturated fat!

Astronomers are also finding more stars which are thought to have planets circling them. The July 6, 1996 issue of Science News reported that a year ago planetary scientists didn’t know of a single sun-like star that possessed a planet, but, by last month, they had evidence of five and three more were reported in the preceding three weeks. The September 7, 1996 Science News describes a variety of radio telescopes now spread around earth which are listening to space, hoping to hear an intelligible signal. The next step up would be an instrument as large as the one in Puerto Rico placed on the far side of the Moon, sheltered from the radio noise of earth.

The October 1996 issue of Discover magazine features several articles on creativity. One on music describes research showing the benefits of early training in singing and piano. Three year old children in an inner-city daycare center were given 30 minutes daily of singing or piano lessons. After nine months, both groups showed a remarkable improvement in their ability to put together a puzzle, a standard test of their mathematical reasoning skills. In a larger follow-up study, researchers found that children who received voice and piano lessons performed 35% better than children who did not receive musical training. Investigators speculate that all the higher brain functions, music included, use a common “internal neural language” to interact with each other throughout the cortex.

A more recent study worked with first graders who tested below control groups in their schools. After they were given seven months of more intensive instruction in music and art, the subject children were even with the control children in reading and considerably ahead of them in mathematics.

Unfortunately, as budget pressures increase, music and art are the subjects most likely to be eliminated.

The August 24, 1996 issue of Science News has a very interesting article on the fallibility of memory. As readers know, there is a huge flap in psychology over the issue of trusting the accuracy of memory, including the recovery in psychotherapy of early experiences which had previously been forgotten. Many experiments have shown how easily people can be persuaded that ideas suggested by psychotherapists are “real” memories. Current experiments involving PET scans of brain activity are beginning to provide ways to distinguish “true” from “false” memories. Memories are not like books, tapes, or movies which remain the same until they wear out. Memories are “constructed” and remain fluid and changeable, a mixture of “what really happened” and later interpretations. Memories are always partial, shaped by our interpretations at the time, and subject to additions or deletions as our attitudes change over time.

The controversy has opened the door to many lawsuits by parents challenging the accusations of grown children that they were subject to early abuse, especially the stories of cult activity. Obviously, it is possible to repress and later recover the memories of early experiences, but so far as I have seen, the claims of ritual cult abuse remain unproved and highly dubious.

The controversy, along with the reports of alien abductions, illustrates the philosophical issue of the nature of ultimate reality. Is a mental/emotional experience “real” in the same way as a “physical” experience? To materialists, of course, it is “unreal.” Only the chemical and electrical activity of the body and brain are “real.” To a non-materialist (we don’t have a good, generally accepted word for them since “idealist” and “mentalist” carry other connotations), consciousness (which is mostly subconscious with a minute bit of self-consciousness) is the ultimate reality. Both the physical and the mental are changing all the time. As Heraclitus said over 2,000 years ago, you can’t step in the same river twice. People whose security depends on keeping things the same are likely to have increasing trouble in the years immediately ahead.

The September 7, 1996 issue of Science News has a short article describing cases of temporary brain damage from accidents in which the individuals lost their memories of recent experiences but retained their ability to describe their own personality. The sense of “self,” of personal identity, is thought to depend largely on continuing memories. Many people who believe in reincarnation are convinced that they retain memories of previous lives. Yet, we know that life involves constant change. To what degree are any of us the “same” person when we are an infant, a child, an adult, a “senior citizen”? I believe in the continuity of a set of habitual beliefs and attitudes as a process in which we keep changing as we expand our potentials through new experiences, in new bodies, new cultures, new worlds.

Copyright © 1996 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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