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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

He's Kryptonite for the world's conspiracy craziness

By Paul Rogers




Scientist is Debunker of Doomsday



JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Swirling with lunacy and paranoia, the theories warn of mayhem and cataclysm. They fill books and websites, inspiring hand-wringing among gullible people. The claim: The world is ending on Friday, the final chapter in an ancient Mayan prophecy carved into stone calendars thousands of years ago.

The stories are a jumble, based on everything from New Age mysticism to biblical "end times." In some accounts, a giant secret planet is about to slam into Earth, or a solar storm will wipe out the human race. None has any basis in fact, scientists say, but a poll this summer found 12 percent of Americans are worried. Some teenagers have even talked of suicide.

As Dec. 21, 2012, draws near, however, the U.S. government has a secret weapon to hold back the tidal wave of misinformation and pseudoscientific quackery: a bespectacled 72-year-old scientist, often clad in a rumpled cardigan, sitting in a two-story office building off Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.



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David Morrison is Kryptonite for the world's conspiracy craziness. A Harvard-trained astrophysicist who studied under Carl Sagan, Morrison is the senior scientist at the Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames Research Center. He has worked on many of America's top space missions, from Mariner to Voyager to Galileo, and published more than 155 technical papers and a dozen books on astronomy.

These days he has emerged as NASA's most prominent Debunker of Doomsday, answering questions from people all over the world on his website, giving speeches and talking to the media. While some of his colleagues wonder if he's wasting his time, Morrison holds out hope that reason and facts can win out, even in an age of Internet hoaxes and hype.

"I got my first doomsday question four years ago and wondered what the heck it was," he said. "Perhaps I made the mistake of answering them, but since then I've gotten a little over 2,000 emails. I got 200 last weekend."

Five days a week, Morrison calmly and logically explains to the masses through his "Ask an Astrobiologist" website why our days are not numbered.

One of the most common rumors is of a mysterious planet named Nibiru hiding behind the sun, ready to slam into Earth.

"Impossible," Morrison said. "Earth goes around the sun. We see all sides of the sun. We'd see it."

And he adds, if a planet were about to hit Earth in a few days, we'd really see it. "It would look like the moon in the sky," he said. "You'd see it in the daytime. You wouldn't have to ask the government."

Kamikaze comets or asteroids? The more than 100,000 professional and amateur astronomers around the world would see those too, years before they got close to us, he said.

Solar flares? Sure, the sun has pulses and storms, which sometimes can disrupt electronics on Earth.

"That's one of the few things here that is real," Morrison said. "We know the sun has an activity cycle every 11 years. The peak is late next spring. There will be flares. But they don't hurt us. This cycle the flares are weaker than last time."

In recent months, Morrison has appeared in Web videos on NASA's site, which he says is getting more clicks on doomsday topics than any issue except the Mars rover mission.

Although many claims are spawned by everything from religious zealotry to hucksters selling books, he said, there is a serious side.

"I get questions from people saying, 'I'm 11 years old, and I can't sleep, I can't eat.' I have had kids saying they are considering suicide, mothers emailing me saying they are considering killing their children before the end of times."

Andrew Fraknoi, chairman of the astronomy department at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., said Morrison's work is heroic.

"He has taken on a thankless task," said Fraknoi, who also is speaking out to debunk doomsday fears. "He feels that we as scientists have an obligation to respond, to reassure the public and to give the public the fact-based view of the universe. That is so absent from so many realms of our social discourse today."

The latest angst, say archaeologists and experts on Mayan culture, is based on a big misunderstanding. The Maya, whose civilization flourished in Mexico and Guatemal, built pyramids and observatories. Their calendar was based on 394-year cycles called baktuns. The 13th of those cycles since the date of the Mayan creation story 5,126 years ago ends Friday.

But that doesn't mean they thought the world was going to end, said Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at University of California-Berkeley.

"It's not the end of the calendar," Joyce said. "It's the end of a cycle. It rolls over, like an odometer."

Joyce said the fears began generations ago, when scholars who hadn't yet learned how to read Mayan hieroglyphics mistakenly concluded that they were describing mystical prophecies. New Age activists embraced the ideas in the 1960s and 1970s, and today the misread history has blended with "end times" fantasies and spread on the Internet. The 2009 disaster movie "2012," featuring floods, massive earthquakes and other computer-generated mayhem, further put a spotlight on the issue.

Several million people of Maya heritage are still around today. They don't believe the world is ending, said Alberto Perez, program director at the Maya Association of the San Francisco Bay Area.

"I have the sense that it bothers people in our community that we are perceived in this almost-negative way, like we predicted the end of the world," he said. "We didn't. We're worried about day-to-day things: jobs, education, immigration, health care."

Many people who know NASA's Morrison are wondering what he'll do when we wake up Dec. 22 and Earth is still here. Will he pen a grand "I told you so"?

"No," he said with a chuckle. "I'm going to stop answering questions about this. I'm worn out."

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© 2012,San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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