Weekly Meanderings, 13 September 2014

Weekly Meanderings, 13 September 2014 September 13, 2014

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Once again, as I look over our Meanderings, a big thanks to Kris who scouts out more from the internet than do I.

A bright Saturday morning image to get us going. Gotta love that memory of Olivia Newton John and John Travolta kicking it up. One of my favorite cult classics.

A splendid post by Philip Clayton about the death of Wolfhart Pannenberg, and here’s a brief clip:

Wolfhart Pannenberg has often been called the greatest theologian of the second half of the 20th century. With his death Friday, the world has lost a brilliant interpreter of Christianity, and I have lost the mentor who molded me as a scholar, theologian, and person.

In the 1950s, when Pannenberg was a doctoral student in Heidelberg, Karl Barth dominated the theological stage. In order to counteract Barth’s overemphasis on salvation history (Heilsgeschichte), Pannenberg redefined revelation as “universal history” (Universalgeschichte). A few years later he published a major Christology (Jesus—God and Man) that established him as the world’s leading defender of “theology from below.”

Over the next 30 years, Pannenberg extended this program to philosophy, the religion/science debate, the dialogue across the world religions, and to every corner of theology. He had the most encyclopedic mind I have ever encountered. You need only to read around a bit in his multi-volume Basic Questions in Theology to be stunned by the range and depth of his scholarship. John Cobb once quipped, “I saw that Pannenberg was able to encompass the entire range of knowledge within his own mind. Realizing that I could never match this achievement, I decided it would take a lifetime of working with my doctoral students to cover as many topics.”

Pop or a burger? Sonjay Gupta, what do you say?

For 20 years, people have been assuming that fat was the enemy because it produced cholesterol, which was blocking arteries. That’s not quite right.

I could talk about this all day long, because I think it highlights some very important things in terms of how we sometimes misinterpret science, or at least exaggerate it.

It was in the late ’70s – in fact, there was a Senate commission, Senator McGovern, who actually looked at this issue and found that people who had very high levels of cholesterol tended to die early of heart disease. And there was also other studies that showed if you ate a diet high in fat, it raised your cholesterol. But those were two different studies. And they got really, really linked, not only by the Senate, but also in the scientific community and then by everybody else.

And what happened over the last 30 years, it got codified. It became the way that we eat low fat in this country. And nothing changed. In fact, things got worse. Cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer of men and women. Diabetes rates are higher than ever before. Childhood obesity. So it didn’t work. And I think that’s what sort of prompted all this analysis.

I think there’s two issues here. One is that fat doesn’t get a free pass here. There’s still some problems with it. It still raises cholesterol levels. That is associated with heart disease. The problem is that what we replaced fat with was sugar. And sugar may be more problematic, in some ways, for someone who’s worried about heart disease than fat.

If I put a double cheeseburger here and a big sugary drink and I asked anybody, which of these two things is worse for your heart, even a child would probably say the cheeseburger. And almost always they would be wrong. It’s the sugary drink that gets converted into that bad cholesterol in our body.


Jonnelle Marte, debit vs. credit cards, and the wisdom of millennials:

Millennials hate carrying cash, but when it comes to using plastic, they don’t have much of a thing for credit either. Their preferred way to pay: debit. More than 60 percent  of consumers ages 18 to 29 say they do not have a credit card, according to a study released Monday by That is almost double the share of adults over the age of 30 who said they don’t have credit cards. The phone survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, polled 1,161 consumers in late July and early August. Younger consumers prefer debit cards because they have many of the same benefits over hard cash as credit — they eliminate the need for a trip to the ATM and can quickly be replaced if a wallet is stolen. But mostly, young people like debit cards because they dislike debt, says Jeanine Skowronski, a credit card analyst for Already burdened by student loans and burned during the recession, many millennials may be wary of taking on more debt, she says. “They are really worried about getting a credit card, racking up a bill they can’t pay,” Skowronski says.

Time to change teams!

Rooting for the wrong football team may make you do bad things.

A recent study by the INSEAD Business School, published in Psychological Science, found people living in cities whose NFL team loses on Sunday tend to eat more calories and fatty foods on the following Monday.

Joseph Rock, PsyD, did not take part in the study but is a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic. He says when we’re uncomfortable we turn to things that will ease that anxiety — like comfort food.

“It doesn’t work to fix anything, but at least it makes us feel better for a second,” says Dr. Rock. “When we’re feeling uncomfortable we’re not thinking about what’s going to happen in a month. We’re thinking about ‘I’m feeling crummy today and I want that to change.’”

Red or white? (Red here.)

If you prefer red wine to white, you’re not alone.

All but three states—Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa—buy more burgundy than white, according to data compiled by online wine retailer Naked Wines. North Carolina, Mississippi, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are particularly fond of red varietals—the four buy red wine nearly 60 percent of the time, and white wine only 30 percent of the time. (The remaining roughly 10 percent account for sparkling and rose purchases).

Rachel Feltman, on aging grief and sickness:

In a follow-up on previous research, University of Birmingham immunologists claim that you really can be sick with grief. This emotionally-driven sickness gets worse the older you are, the researchers reported in a recent Immunity & Aging study, and is probably caused by an increase in stress hormones.

Both young and old study subjects who’d experienced the loss of a loved one recently reported symptoms of stress and depression, showing higher marks than their non-grieving counterparts. But though the young subjects (of an average age of 32) showed no changes in their immune systems, older grievers (average age 72) had weakened immune functions.

During the weeks after an emotional loss, the researchers report, people can suffer from a reduced number of white blood cells called neutrophils, which are needed to fight infection. They now believe that this loss may be related to a fluctuation in stress hormones, which may be more pronounced in older individuals.

AFP, and this could be a colossal discovery if it is Alexander’s tomb:

Two stunning caryatid statues have been unearthed holding up the entrance to the biggest ancient tomb ever found in Greece, archaeologists said.

The two female figures in long-sleeved tunics were found standing guard at the opening to the mysterious Alexander The Great-era tomb near Amphipolis in the Macedonia region of northern Greece.

“The left arm of one and the right arm of the other are raised in a symbolic gesture to refuse entry to the tomb,” a statement from the culture ministry said Saturday.

Speculation is mounting that the tomb, which dates from Alexander’s lifetime (356 to 323 B.C.), may be untouched, with its treasures intact.

Sitting all day long — not good — but breaking it up with a 5 minute walk every hour resolves the issues:

Sitting for eight or more hours a day can be deadly.

That fact has been hammered home in study after study showing thenegative health effects — including heart disease, poor circulation and joint pain — associated with being parked on your behind for most of the day. The only sure way to prevent those problems, researchers have said, is to sit far less.

But there is growing evidence that there are ways to reverse the damage without necessarily committing to being on your feet for eight or more hours a day.

new study by researchers at Indiana University published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that the impaired blood flow in leg arteries can actually be reversed by breaking up your sitting regimen with five-minute walking breaks.

Sitting can cause blood to pool in the legs and prevent it from effectively flowing to the heart — a precursor to cardiovascular problems. After just one hour of sitting, normal blood flow became impaired by as much as 50 percent, the study found.

But the men who walked for five minutes on a treadmill for each hour they sat didn’t see that decline.

Good news for the ozone layer, by Seth Borenstein:

 — Earth’s protective ozone layer is beginning to recover, largely because of the phase-out since the 1980s of certain chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, a U.N. scientific panel reported Wednesday in a rare piece of good news about the health of the planet.

Scientists said the development demonstrates that when the world comes together, it can counteract a brewing ecological crisis.

For the first time in 35 years, scientists were able to confirm a statistically significant and sustained increase in stratospheric ozone, which shields the planet from solar radiation that causes skin cancer, crop damage and other problems.

From 2000 to 2013, ozone levels climbed 4 percent in the key mid-northern latitudes at about 30 miles up, said NASA scientist Paul A. Newman. He co-chaired the every-four-years ozone assessment by 300 scientists, released at the United Nations.

“It’s a victory for diplomacy and for science and for the fact that we were able to work together,” said chemist Mario Molina. In 1974, Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland wrote a scientific study forecasting the ozone depletion problem. They won the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work.


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