This is an ancient Tibetan sculpture. Carved from an even older meteorite. Discovered by a Nazi archaeological expedition. And no, it doesn’t play a key role in an Indiana Jones movie.
According to a new paper in Meteoritics & Planetary Science (gloriously titled “Buddha from space”), the elements that compose a 23-pound Tibetan statue (even more gloriously nicknamed “Iron Man”) match the composition of known fragments from the iron Chinga meteorite. This space object hit Earth between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, near the Chinga stream on what is today the border of Russia and Mongolia. Although meteorites have been formed into weapons, jewelry, and art before, the Iron Man statue is the only known human figure to be crafted from a meteorite, which makes it truly priceless. The researchers suggest that an 11th-century Tibetan artist chiseled the sculpture as a representation of the Buddhist god Vaiśravaṇa.
An illustration of hell from the 12th-century encyclopedia
Religion takes a two-pronged approach to encouraging good behavior: breaking the rules warrants supernatural punishment, while positive actions can earn a blissful afterlife. To most effectively promote a moral lifestyle, however, religious leaders may want to scrap the heavenly reassurance and preach more fire and brimstone: While belief in hell is strongly associated with lower crime rates, belief in heaven is actually tied to more crime.
For 67 countries and more than 143,000 participants, psychologists compared three decades of data about belief in heaven, hell, and God to information about the rates of ten different crimes, including homicide and robbery. They found that religious beliefs were better predictors for five of the ten crimes than either poverty or income inequality.
First, people chiseled the word of god on stone tablets, then the printing press came along and enabled things like religious flyers, handed out to innocent bypasser on street corners. As of today, the ten commandments are available in a handy Vatican-approved iPhone app.
This interactive app helps Catholics prepare for confession with a handy checklist that asks questions such as, “Have I harbored hatred in my heart?”, and “Have I abused alcohol or drugs?”. It’s so hard to remember things these days. Have you ever been angry or resentful? Not sure? You wish you had a checklist to consult, right?
Confession: A Roman Catholic App was developed by Little iApps (it appears to be the sole product that their website offers).
“I was a bit skeptical at first, thinking Now how in blue blazes is it even a good idea, let alone approved by a bishop, for an iPhone or iPad to hear my confession? No freakin’ way!,” explains a reverend named Jeffery Grace, from Los Angeles, on the company’s testimonials page. But he adds that once he realized that the app didn’t actually hear confessions–instead it helps the user through an examination of conscience–he warmed to it. Lisa Hendley of catholicmom.com also testifies: “I’m hooked!”
In a great convergence of old and new, Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority are teaming up to digitize the millennia-old Dead Sea Scrolls.
The scrolls are the oldest known surviving biblical texts, created between 150 BC and 79 AD. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and include nearly every book of the Old Testament (except the Book of Esther), and several other religious texts.
The scrolls have been tightly guarded because of their delicate nature. Only two scholars are allowed to study the scrolls at a time, which are held in a room where temperature, light, and humidity are all carefully controlled. Public access to the writings will change how they are studied, Rob Enderle told Computer World:
“This is information few have ever seen and a piece of our oldest written history,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “What makes this epic is that it could be important for generations of religious scholars. This is a project that could have an impact on thousands of years in the future. There are few projects that have that kind of life expectancy.”
Any culture’s religious ceremonies can seem strange to outsiders: For example, take the indigenous Zoque people of southern Mexico. To ask their gods for bountiful rains during the growing season they head to a sulfur cave where molly fish swim in the subterranean lake. They then toss in leaf bundles that contain a paste made from the mashed-up root of the Barbasco plant, which has a powerful anesthetic effect.
When the stunned fish–which the Zoque people consider a gift from underworld gods–go belly-up, people scoop them from the water and bring them home for supper. This fishy protein helps them make it through until the harvest.
This ritual came to the attention of scientists studying the molly fish, who wondered how the toxic root might be affecting fish populations in the caves. So evolutionary ecologist Michael Tobler and his colleagues did a little field research.
Though it might work for The DaVinci Code, apparently citing the bible doesn’t fly in a scientific journal. Virology Journal apologized yesterday for publishing a paper titled “Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time,” which attempts to diagnosis “a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yesterday, journal editor Robert F. Garry apologized for the paper’s publication and announced that Virology will retract the piece. The blog Retraction Watch, where we found this story, posted a response from the paper’s lead author, Ellis Hon:
“As an article for debate, there was no absolute right or wrong answer, and the article was only meant for thought provocation. Neither was it meant to be a debate on the concept of miracles. My only focus at the time of writing was ‘what had caused the fever and debilitation’ that was cured by Jesus.”
You use a Brita filter to take metal out of your water. But what if you want to stir in divine powers? In that case, one South Korean man said, you run tap water through his special ceramic and paper filters. He now faces fraud charges.
As the BBC reports, the man, identified as “Professor Kim,” claimed he could replicate the holy water from a Virgin Mary shrine in Lourdes, France, known for its supposed healing powers.
The BBC article quotes the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper detailing Kim’s “scientific” methods:
“Professor Kim says if the medical properties are changed into digital signals, and radiated onto any water, the water will adapt those properties.”
What the “professor” taught, we do not know. Digital signals? Radiation? Sure sounds like magic science…. Whatever he was selling, people sure were buying it. Apparently he made 1.7 billion South Korean won, the equivalent of $1.3 million dollars, and sold customized filter systems for different ailments to a total of 5,000 people.
Discoblog: A Bishop Calls for Holy Water Ban to Stop Swine Flu Spread
Discoblog: Copernicus Gets a New Grave, Belated Respect From the Catholic Church
Discoblog: Religion: A Tool to Keep the Parasites Away?
Discoblog: No Time to Pray? No Problem! Your Computer Can Do It For You
Image: flickr / missfitzphotos
Over four hundred years after his death, the man known for moving the sun to the center of the solar system made a move himself.
On Saturday, at a medieval cathedral at Frombork on Poland’s Baltic coast, the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus—whose ideas were once declared heresy by the Vatican—was reburied with full religious honors.
After a stint in city of Olsztyn, Copernicus’s remains returned to his original resting location (under the cathedral’s floor), but his grave got an upgrade. After his death in 1543 he lay for centuries in an unmarked grave, but his new plot has a black tombstone with six planets orbiting a golden sun. The ceremony concluded a several week tour of a wooden casket with the astronomer’s remains. Read More
To chart the rise in obesity over the last 1,000 years, look no further than artists’ depictions of the Last Supper.
Researchers from Cornell University have found that as people began consuming more food over the centuries, more items have been added to the menu at the Last Supper. While the Bible says that Jesus and his disciples ate bread and drank wine, paintings of the meal over the last 1,000 years have varied wildly and have featured fruits, fish, and even a head of lamb in one case.
And painters haven’t just added food items over the years; they’ve also increased the sizes of the plates and loaves of bread. Researchers say this points to a growing problem with portion size, which has contributed to the current obesity epidemic.
Talk about keeping up with technology. The Pope recently urged his priests to go forth and blog and to use social networking sites to keep up with their flock, but a priest in Poland has already taken it one step further. He now fingerprints his flock.
The priest, who lives in Southern Poland has taken to fingerprinting school children to check if they have been attending mass regularly. If they’ve checked in the requisite 200 times over three years, then the kids are spared exams prior to their confirmations. The kids love the idea.
Reuters interviewed one young churchgoer:
“This is comfortable. We don’t have to stand in a line to get the priest’s signature (confirming our presence at the mass) in our confirmation notebooks,” said one pupil, who gave her name as Karolina. Poland is perhaps the most devoutly Roman Catholic country in Europe today and churches are regularly packed on Sundays.
While the fingerprinting idea seems to have gone down well with the kids, it must make some adults nervous that someone out there (possibly in the Vatican?) has access to a huge database of tiny fingerprints.
Discoblog: The Pope to His Priests: Why Aren’t You Blogging?
DISCOVER: How to Teach Science to the Pope
80beats: Vatican to E.T.: Hello, Brother
80beats:During Africa Visit, Pope Knocks Condoms for HIV Prevention
Discoblog: Holy Crops! Pope Backs Genetically Modified Foods
Discoblog: Vatican Science: Pope Blames Male Infertility on…the Pill