Saturday, July 28, 2007

RONALD MALLETT, the Professor of Physics at the University of Connecticut who is working on time travel, is publishing a popular book that is reviewed in the Daily Mail:
The real life Doctor Who who believes he can build a time machine

Suppose it were possible to go back in time and meet the dead. To say all the things you never got a chance to tell a loved one who died before there was a chance to make your peace.

Just think if you could go back and warn someone that their lifestyle, their smoking or heavy drinking was driving them into an early grave.

You would not only be able to meet the dead - but to save them as well.

A new book tells the story of an extraordinary man whose life work is inspired by a longing to do just that.

It was the devastating sudden death of Ronald Mallett's beloved father which sparked his obsession with time-travel.

In pursuit of his seemingly impossible goal, he has overcome poverty and prejudice to become one of only a handful of top-flight black physicists in the United States.

He has enjoyed a glittering career as a professor at one of the country's leading universities - an achievement in itself.

But there has been only one motivation: to build a time machine. And, after years of painstaking research, Mallett is sure he's cracked it.


Mallett's solution is much simpler. He thinks he can reverse time by using just a circulating beam of light. Light is energy, and energy can cause spacetime to warp and bend, just like gigantic spinning cylinders, he explains.

In 2000, he published a paper showing how a circulating beam of laser light could create a vortex in spacetime. It was, he says, his eureka moment.

The details are complex, to say the least. But, in essence, Mallett believes it is possible to use a series of four circulating laser light beams swirling spacetime around like "a spoon stirring milk into coffee".

If you were to walk into this 'timetunnel' - which would resemble a large vortex of light a few feet across - you could emerge at some point in the past. He thinks he can build a prototype machine in the lab, using today's technology, with funds of just $250,000 (£120,000).

However, Prof Mallett is fussy about who gives him the money. "We want non-military sources. I don't want to get to a certain point and get 'top secret' slapped over the project and have it taken away from us."

There are several important things to realise about Mallett's time machine. For a start, it would only be possible to travel back in time to a point after the machine was first switched on.

If you turned on the machine, on January 1 say, and left it running for three months, you could enter the machine in March and only travel back as far as January 1.

So no trips back to the Middle Ages or to Ancient Rome.

Oh well. I still hope his time machine will work.

For past PaleoJudaica coverage of Professor Mallett's reserch and of time travel in general, see here, here, and here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Jerusalem panel approves alternate plan for Mughrabi Bridge
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent

Jerusalem's Planning and Construction Committee approved Thursday an alternative plan to the controversial Mughrabi Bridge project.

Background here.

The Jerusalem Post has coverage as well. And, not surprisingly, not everyone is enthusiastic about the new plan.
"ONE LETTER AT A TIME" - The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is nearing completion:
As the final volume of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary goes to press, Martha Roth, its editor for the past 11 years, heads to the Humanities dean’s office.

The room looks foreign now to Martha Roth. Empty, orderly. A week ago the sprawling, odd-angled space on the Oriental Institute’s third floor was still home to the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary project. Piles of papers smothered desks, and windowsills acquiesced to coffee mugs, Post-it notes, jumbled stacks of books. But with the effort to document every word of ancient Akkadian nearing completion after 86 years, Roth, the dictionary’s current editor-in-charge, is consolidating. She’s culled countless duplicate index cards and consigned dozens of filing cabinets and yellowing binders to a janitor’s closet across the hall.


(Via Jack Sasson's Agade list.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lynn R. LiDonnici and Andrea Lieber, Heavenly Tablets: Interpretation, Identity and Tradition in Ancient Judaism (JSJSup 119; Leiden: Brill, 2007)
This is the Festschrift for Betsy Halpern-Amaru. I have a piece in it called "Is the Prayer of Manasseh a Jewish Work?"
I'M HOME! We got into St. Andrews around noon and I've been getting groceries, having a nap, picking up the cat from the cattery, making dinner, etc., and have only just made it to my office to have a quick look at what's been going on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

SAFE (Saving Antiquities for Everyone) has a website and a new Facebook group.
PUNIC ARCHAEOLOGY may benefit from the release of the six foreign medics from Libya:
Libya Frees Foreign Medical Workers

By John Bohannon
ScienceNOW Daily News
24 July 2007

Five foreign medical workers boarded a French government jet last night in Tripoli, Libya, and landed in Sofia, Bulgaria, early this morning, greeted by a cheering crowd of thousands. Their arrival is a surprise happy ending to an 8-year political saga that has involved allegations of bioterrorism, torture, millions of dollars in ransom money, and an international coalition of scientists working tirelessly to find the real reason behind the infection with HIV of more than 400 Libyan children.


The medics' release is the outcome of furious last-minute dealing between Libyan and European politicians, although the precise terms of the deal remain unclear. Libyan officials said today that their demands were met. Principal among them were payments of $1 million in "blood money" to each of the families of the infected children. European officials have denied that they paid any money to the families. According to Seif al Islam, a son of the country's longtime dictator, Libya paid the families after European countries had agreed to forgive Libya's debts to them.

Bulgarian media reported that other Libyan demands included full reinstatement of diplomatic and economic ties with Europe, lifelong treatment for the infected children, the renovation of the children's hospital in Benghazi where the outbreak occurred, aid to upgrade Libya's railway and highway infrastructure, and expert help restoring Libya's many crumbling archaeological sites. No European official could be reached to confirm whether these demands were part of the deal.

My emphasis. I can't find any more details at present.
New plan for Temple Mount bridge aims to silence critics
By Jonathan Lis (Haaretz)

Jerusalem's Planning and Construction Committee will begin discussing an alternative to the controversial Mughrabi Bridge project tomorrow.

The original plan for the bridge, which leads from the Old City's Dung Gate and the Western Wall to the Temple Mount's Mughrabi Gate, raised hackles in the Arab world when it was presented in February, due to allegations that it would damage the Temple Mount. Some archaeologists and architects also expressed concern that the bridge would damage antiquities or block the view of the Temple Mount.

The bridge will consist of a wooden walkway bordered by metal, with two-meter-high iron railings, as required by the police. The number of pylons supporting it will be reduced from seven to four. The height of the pylons will not exceed half a meter, and they will be placed on platforms in spaces excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority during its salvage dig, allowing the antiquities to be restored and protected. The planners mapped the archaeological finds along the bridge's path and found spaces in which the pylons could be placed without damaging the antiquities.

UPDATE (27 July): More here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

HOLIDAY'S END (my holiday, that is). I don't think I mentioned it, but we've been back in Evansville since a week ago Sunday. But the holiday is almost over. We leave this evening for a hotel at the Madison Airport and we have an horrendously early flight tomorrow morning. We're stuck for a long time in Atlanta tomorrow before we leave for Edinburgh, so I may be able to fit in some blogging if I can find a wireless connection. Otherwise, look for me again in St. Andrews on Thursday the 26th.

Click on the images for a larger version.

Fawn Lake, near Hayward. This was taken from the porch of our cabin.

On Lake Runamuck, near Bowler

Miniature golf in Madison
THE SAN DIEGO DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBIT is the subject of yet another article. I have commented on the nature of the biblical text as found at Qumran here.

Could it be that some people are getting just a little too excited about this exhibit?
TEMPLE MOUNT WATCH - The latest on the Mughrabi Gate excavation:
Minister Majadele cedes role in Mughrabi Gate project to cabinet
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent

The cabinet Sunday set up a ministerial committee to oversee the Temple Mount's Mughrabi Gate project, thereby effectively depriving Culture Minister Ghaleb Majadele, who previously had ministerial responsibility for the work, of this job.

The decision follows Majadele's tour of the area a few days ago during which he reportedly ordered archaeological excavations at the site to stop.

However, both Majadele and the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is carrying out the dig, deny that he gave such an order. The authority said that the work, which is a necessary step to replacing a collapsed ramp leading to the Mughrabi Gate from the Western Wall plaza, was halted due to planning problems and not the minister's orders.

ISRAEL BOYCOTT UPDATE: The British Medical Journal has put up an online poll regarding the again recently proposed academic boycott of Israel. The Jerusalem Post has an article on the poll which summarizes the two positions. At present the results are running 78.8% against a boycott.
THE NINTH OF AV (Tisha B'Av) began yesterday evening at sundown. An easy fast to all those observing it.

In connection with this holiday, the Jerusalem Post has an article on Julian the Apostate's abortive effort to build the third Temple:
Tisha Be'Av: The Third Temple that wasn't

On this day, as we mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, it seems fitting to recall a little-known story of how a Roman emperor stood ready to rebuild the third temple. He acted not out of love for the Jewish people, but because he was a pagan who - despite its ascendency - despised Christianity.


Monday, July 23, 2007

APOCRYPHA: First the restaurant, and now the band, which is playing at this year's Occultfest in Holland. They should do a gig with Metatron.
PRACTICING MAGIC appears to be against the law in Israel:
Israel prosecutes that old black magic

By Dion Nissenbaum

McClatchy Newspapers

JAFFA, Israel — For nearly a quarter-century, Sana Kuma has been staring into the bottoms of coffee cups to divine the future for top Israeli models, actresses and businessmen.

It is in the chocolate swirls of coffee grounds that the fortuneteller says she can see what lies ahead.

Her fawning customers consider her a soothsayer.

To the Israeli government, Kuma is a witch and a fraud.

This year, Kuma became one of the few people ever to be charged in Israel with practicing magic, a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.

Kuma was the target of a modern-day witch hunt.

"Life is enemies and friends," Kuma said recently after a coffee-ground reading for a former Miss Israel. "I have to accept the good and the bad."

Kuma's transgression is something known to its practitioners as tasseography. Put more simply, it is the ancient art of overturning a coffee cup and looking for answers in the patterns left behind by the grounds.

And that, under Israeli law, can be grounds to charge someone with illegally practicing magic.

I think the headline is inaccurate. Tasseography (what a great word!) is divination, but it doesn't sound like black magic, which would have some malevolent element or intent.

In any case, it seems that Ms. Kuma was doing fine and had lots of happy customers, including a former Miss Israel, until one client decided he wasn't getting his money's worth.
In 2004, the Israeli police officer [Avraham Beihou] was looking for help on the eve of his marriage.

According to the government charges, Kuma looked into the coffee grounds and saw a cursed bride.

To remove the curse, Beihou agreed to pay Kuma about $1,000 for the help of a special "Jordanian sheik" brought in to deal with the problem.

When that was done, Beihou turned to Kuma for advice about his ailing father. Kuma told the police officer and his sister that their father was likely to die in two months if they didn't act quickly.

So Beihou paid another $2,200 for a series of amulets.

But Beihou's father didn't get better. So, earlier this year, he turned to the government, which filed fraud and magic charges against Kuma.

I'm curious about how the bride turned out.

In any case, the story continues:
In the end, the Israeli government decided that proving that Kuma was faking it was too difficult. Almog cut a deal. The state agreed to drop the charges, and Kuma agreed to give Beihou a full refund.

That might have been the end of it. But Beihou said that he's not satisfied.

"I mean to sue her in civil court," he said. "She's cheated a lot of people."
Stay tuned.
THE PRIESTLY ANOINTING OIL reportedly has anti-viral properties:
Biblical recipe produces virus-fighting oil

(Israel Today)

A professor from Tel Aviv University has used a passage of the Bible to produce a modern version of an ancient priestly oil that is capable of protecting against a wide range of viruses.

Professor Michael Ovadia of the university's Department of Zoology told Israel21c that concoction is based on a recipe from a passage of the Bible describing the preparation of a special oil Israel's temple priests were to anoint themselves with prior to conducting animal sacrifices.

“I had a hunch that this oil, which was prepared with cinnamon and other spices, played a role in preventing the spread of infectious agents to people,” said Ovadia.

He prepared the oil according to the biblical recipe, and sure enough, found that it was extremely effective in preventing the transfer of viruses such as the Avian flu, herpes and even HIV.

Last week, Ovadia sold his discovery to Frutarom, a multinational nutraceutical company that plans to use the oil in a variety of applications, including preventing the spread of infections in airports and hospitals.
This sounds too good to be true - indeed, it sounds like tabloid fare - but it appears to be real. Professor Ovadia's website is here. And here's a press release announcing the deal with Frutarom:
Tel Aviv University licenses cinnamon extract as HIV, flu cure
News release from Frutarom

Frutarom Industries Ltd. and Ramot at Tel Aviv University Ltd. signed an exclusive agreement to commercialize unique knowhow (patent pending) developed by Professor Michael Ovadia of Tel Aviv University, to produce an innovative extract from cinnamon with anti viral properties.

The comprehensive research performed in Professor Ovadia’s laboratory demonstrated the extract’s ability to rapidly neutralize a broad range of viruses that cause infectious diseases in both humans and animal, such as human and avian influenza, herpes (HSV-1) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1). Another unique activity of this innovative extract is its ability to boost the immune system against viruses, demonstrated by the ability to serve as a vaccination agent in chicken embryos infected with Newcastle disease virus (NDV). Trials performed together with a veterinary company showed that chicken embryos can be vaccinated against the NDV virus while they are still in the egg and in so doing, significantly improve the efficiency of the vaccine’s administration, increase success rates and reduce mortality.

No reference, however, is made to the biblical oil of anointing. The recipe for this oil can be found in Exodus 30:23-33. But beware of verse 33!
THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES has forced the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia to take down its site containing the Revised Standard version of the Bible. Now isn't that an excellent strategey for disseminating knowledge of the Bible?

Sorry, but this means that every link I've given on PaleoJudaica to a biblical passage is now dead.

I can't imagine what the NCC thought they were accomplishing, but I don't think this decision sends a very good message.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Strangely, I came out as Older Futhark.

Your Score: Older Futhark

You scored

Language of the Norse, Older Futhark! Thirty symbols, all told. And no hardier, more warrior-like tongue has ever graced the longships of the Viki or left the Celts and Saxons in such quivering fear. There's only one drawback, that being you died 800 years ago.

Well, I'm used to that sort of thing. As dead languages go, 800 years isn't so long ago.

Jewish relief over Latin Mass

Leaders say Catholic prayer for conversion must go

(ANSA) - Rome, July 19 - Italian Jewish leaders voiced satisfaction on Thursday after the Vatican Secretary of State said that a Catholic prayer for the conversion of Jews could be eliminated from the recently re-introduced Latin Mass.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, second only to the pope in the Vatican hierarchy, referred to recent polemics over the prayer on Wednesday, saying it could be removed and that this would "solve all the problems".

This seems like a sensible solution. I hope it works.

(Via Explorator 10.13.)
MORE ON THE NEBO-SARSEKIM INSCRIPTION - Time Magazine has an article that ties it to the minimalist-maximalist debate:
A Boost for the Book of Jeremiah
Saturday, Jul. 21, 2007 By DAVID VAN BIEMA

By confirming the historical accuracy of a tiny detail, a two-inch clay tablet long in the possession of the British Museum has given ammunition to those who believe that the Bible — specifically, in this case, the book of the prophet Jeremiah — is history. That, at least, is what the believers are claiming.

This isolated instance of verification of a detail in the book of Jeremiah is very interesting, but we should be careful not to start drawing too grand of conclusions from it.

The article also has a nice enlargeable photo of the cuneiform tablet.