The Water Cooler: Strange Sect Gets Stranger

What people are talking about in the world of science and beyond. [Water Cooler Archive]

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Bizarre Sect Gets More Bizarre In Mexico's strange town called New Jerusalem, there's no freedom of religion. You can't play soccer, either. But John F. Kennedy is a saint, explains reporter Chris Hawley. End times come and go. And now the apocalyptic sect is falling apart from within.



Warning Issued for Midwest Quake Potential Reuters reports FEMA has issued a warning for the potential of a catastrophic earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, centered in Missouri.

This is not news. The region, which experienced whopping temblors in the early 1800s, has several times been fingered as ripe for another big one. Indeed, it will likely happen, seismologists have long warned. Nobody has a clue when, however. The origin of the story is a press release issued by FEMA in which the agency touts what it is doing to publicize the concern and hold workshops for builders, planners and emergency officials.

Anyway, for those who didn't know, here's the latest rendition of the warning: "People who live in these areas and the people who build in these areas certainly need to take into better account that at some time there is ... expected to be a catastrophic earthquake in that area, and they'd better be prepared for it," said FEMA spokesperson Mary Margaret Walker.


A clairvoyant who claims to cure everything from witchcraft to depression and solve problems of love and business has been ordered to tone down her ads because, well, c'mon. "I am 100 per cent successful with people who come to see me," claims Sister Charlotte, a crystal ball, tarot card and palm reader in Manchester, England. But she can't prove her claims are true, said the Advertising Standards authority. In Philadelphia last year, the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) cited state law in banning fortune-telling for profit in closing storefront psychics and astrologers. A week later business was back to normal, however. Learn more about how psychics fail.



Bison: Good to Eat!

Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. residents know how many bison remain in the United States, according to a new Wildlife Conservation Society survey. But 40 percent said they have tried bison, and 83 percent thought it was as good or better-tasting than beef. That suggests a way to preserve the beasts.

Stem Cells Restore Animal Sight, Hearing Stem cells from embryos restored lost hearing and vision in animals, researchers said. The research could lead to such treatments for humans.


DON'T GO THERE: What readers are saying about this story on God & evolution co-existing: Christian, or any religion could be taught as a subject without the usual indoctrination of any value that it would espouse. ... We are almost about to define a consciousness that will fit God's intentions in a matter which would not violate science at all. ... If 'God' is incomprehensible as many percieve, maybe we never will know and shouldn't.

PIRATE UPDATE: Indian Navy Sinks Pirate Ship / Pirates 'Out of Control'


Pirates Nab Saudi Tanker ... and more... Last week we told you how, for the first time in modern memory, the Royal Navy engaged in a shootout on the high seas with pirates, killing three. Pirate activity has been increasing in recent years, especially off the coast of Somalia, but few nations had done much but watch as the thieves capture cargo ships and hold them ransom. Billions of dollars are lost to pirates every year. Now a Saudi supertanker packing a couple million barrels of oil has been seized and is anchored off the coast of Somalia. This one was different, according to the Financial Times: "The attack also took place farther out to sea than before, signaling that the pirates have become increasingly bold, organized and able to adapt their tactics, experts say." U.S. Navy officials said they do not expect to intervene. UPDATES: Danish ship seized briefly / Hong Kong ship captured, too

Transplant Breakthrough Don't buy into the "medical miracle" claims of this story. Rather, it's a hard-won victory of science. A Spanish woman has become the first patient to receive a whole organ transplant — her windpipe — grown using her own cells. Said a surgeon associated with the case: "This is just the beginning. I think it will completely transform the way we think about surgery." Miracles, on the other hand, are what Bad Science Columnist Ben Radford calls a "newsroom cliche," and they have nothing to do with science.

The conservative talk show host, after looking at a map showing county-by-county results, said: "If you just landed here from Mars, and you looked at that map, you would swear the Republicans won this thing in a landslide." Thing is, on Mars there are no cities, so how could they know the truth?

The Energy Debates: Can We Change? Starting Monday, Nov. 17, LiveScience will present "The Energy Debates," a series of articles about the pros, cons, policy debates, myths and facts related to various alternative energy ideas. We invite you to join the debate by commenting directly on each article. Today, why the debate is needed: The reduced interest and pullback in investment into alternative energy sources.


Ice Age Cometh? A new study in the journal Nature suggests that Earth is near a turning point: In the next 10,000 to 100,000 years, ice sheets could cover much of Europe, Asia and South America. Ice age cycles over the past million years are like a slow-mo version of a seismograph during an earthquake, the researchers argue. But the dramatic global warming going on right now, and all the greenhouse gases man has pumped into the air, might actually prevent the Ice-Age scenario from happening. The upshot: You should worry. Or not.


For the first time in modern memory, the Royal Navy engaged in a shootout on the high seas with pirates, killing three. Pirate activity has been increasing in recent years, especially off the coast of Somalia, but few nations had done much but watch as the thieves capture cargo ships and hold them ransom. Billions of dollars are lost to pirates every year. [Almost related: How warfare shaped human evolution]


DON'T GO THERE: What readers are saying about this idea to combine several alternative energy facilities onto one floating island: It seems quite reasonable and in fact a great idea to implement all these things on one rig. ... I'm wary of any technology that claims to solve all our energy problems. ... I'm huge on renewable energies but how do they think this thing is going to survive the ocean?

WAYBACK MACHINE: General Richard Montgomery led American troops in the capture of Montreal on this day in 1775. The American presence in Canada proved short-lived, however, and soon they all went scrambling back to New York.


IRAQ WAR ENDS. Oh, sorry, that was the fake N.Y. Times

Speed Dating: Pick! Hurry! Given too many choices, people resort to base instincts and pick potential dates based on looks and sex appeal alone, a new study finds. A few of the participants got many offers, "while the least popular ended up with fewer or no offers." While the results seem likely, the reason for the study is less clear. [Related: Why online dating doesn't work / Our Mates Look Like Mom and Dad]

T. Boone Pickens: Wind Can Wait "I'm the only person in the United States that has a plan," the Texas oil billionaire said on his TV commercials. Well, plans change. With prices for oil and natural gas down, wind can wait, Pickens said yesterday at a meeting of utility and investment officials.

Webama Al Gore might have invented the Internet, but Barack Obama owns it now. Transition officials say he'll use his network of some 3 million contributors and more than 10 million supporters in viral lobbying and communications efforts. Pundits on both sides of that proverbial aisle think that is either great or worrisome, of course.


Women, Ahem, Mellow with Age Or, as the British press put it, they "become less bitchy" because once they hit 50 they "are more likely to warm to other females because they no longer see them as rivals." The British press don't mince words. The study was rather small, however, so don't read too much into those unminced words. But do READ ON >>>

MUSIC TO OUR EARS: Music is good for your heart, a new study finds. Or, rather, "when people listened to their favorite music, their blood vessels dilated in much the same way as when laughing," Reuters reports. That adds to other evidence that music can kill pain, reduce stress and improve the mind. Oh, and about laughter as the best medicine? You don't even have to chuckle: just thinking about laughing can add endorphins to your bloodstream.


DON'T GO THERE: What readers are saying about this article on the need for a global backup plan on climate change: The best an ordinary citizen can hope to do is cut back on energy consumption and start buying food and dry goods from local markets. ... I think the space shade idea makes the most sense. Perhaps we could use existing space debris to build one? ... So (by default) "climate change" means "global warming" but what if the current global cooling trend continues and we'll not be able to remove the enthusiastically created sun shade?


The Last Living U.S. WWI Veteran Frank Woodruff Buckles lied about his age to get into World War I. Now he's the United State's last living link to the "War to end all wars." In a recent interview, Buckles said: "The world was interested in it. I was interested." In Europe: War veterans Henry Allingham, 112, Harry Patch, 110, and Bill Stone, 108, led a two-minute silence at the Cenotaph national war memorial. Between 1914 and 1918, among the major combatants, Germany lost 1.9 million troops, Russia 1.7 million, France 1.4 million, the Austro-Hungarian empire a million and Britain 760,000, according to AP. An estimated 117,465 U.S. troops and civilians died.

[Origin of Veterans Day / More Articles about War]


I Missed What?!@#%

When NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke arrived at the Marshall Space Flight Center and checked his email Sept. 9, 2008, he was very surprised to learned that he's slept through a dramatic event.


Space Exploration Plans: Still Up in the Air

Maybe, again, yes. Sure! Well ... While Bush's grand space vision is largely stalled, there's new hope Obama will lead the way back out of Earth orbit. And another grand plan is expected to be floated up from below this week. But can the economy support more money for NASA?

Obama Could Lift Stem Cell Funding Ban Barack Obama's transition chief says the president-elect is reviewing President George W. Bush's executive orders. Bush has long held that any research that destroys embryos is immoral. "There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," Podesta said. "I think that he feels like he has a real mandate for change." So what's that mean?


Make Less, Eat Worse As people around the world tighten their budgets, they'll be loosing their belts as consumers turn increasingly to fast food as a dietary mainstay. McDonald's reports global same-store sales jumped 8.2 percent during October. [Nutrition Quiz]

DON'T GO THERE: What readers are saying about this story on Earth's limited resources: Actually, the Earth will last just fine. We humans are at risk - not the Earth. ... The Earth is already depleted, pitching towards termination. ... For us to survive we need to do two things. Limit our breeding to a more logical limit and recycle everything to keep it in the system.


Row over Evolution in UK

A new survey done in the UK found that 29 percent of teachers surveyed via email think creationism and intelligent design should be taught as science. And nearly 50 percent said they think excluding these ideas from the classroom would alienate students from science. The survey has flaws, however. Yet to scientists there and in the United States, the number of smart people who think this way is alarming.


Python Tries to Swallow a Wallaby

The snake was too ambitious, the Daily Mail reports: "Despite opening its jaws to an enormous width it could not consume the rest of the animal and was forced to regurgitate it." Wallabies are relatives of the kangaroo that can weigh up to about 50 pounds. So, how do snakes swallow things larger than themselves? Check out these videos showing how a snake swallows a bigger snake. The main trick: Snake jaws are very flexible (contrary to myth, they do not dislocate, however).

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Robert Roy Britt

Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.