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What's the matter bucko, tired of those flying saucer people pestering you every day with their tales of woe and Armageddon? Are you scared of the government and their corporate cronies looking for new ways to spy on you and  take away your personal rights and freedoms? Are you sick to death of those pesky Men-In-Black harassing you because of those unwanted contacts with those flying saucer folks and government agents?  Well cheer up, because once again, like a bolt of awareness and enlightenment from the sky, Conspiracy Journal is here to uncover all those dirty little secrets that THEY are trying to hide! So sit back and relax and enjoy another thought-provoking issue of the number one e-mail newsletter of conspiracies, UFOs the paranormal and more.

This week, Conspiracy Journal takes a look at such eyebrow-raising stories as:

- U.S. Reveals Secrets of National Seal -
- Source at U.N. Tells of Secret UFO Meeting 2/12/08 -
- Loch Ness Monster Quest Nears End -
- The Ghost Box:  What are Ghost Boxes?  How Does the Ghost Box Work? -
AND:  Did God Have A Wife?

All these exciting stories and MORE in this week's issue of
CONSPIRACY JOURNAL!

~ And Now, On With The Show! ~


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O Think that Earth is one molten ball of fire on the inside? Where have you been my friend -- its hollow with a central sun (and even the famed explorer Richard Byrd wandered inside while exploring the poles), and the planet is also honeycombed with caverns inhabited by all sorts of creatures. Ask Richard Shaver who was down there with the Dero and the Tero. No this is not science fiction -- it's the real thing dear friend.

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In This Incredible Issue:
Sleep Paralysis, Split Personalities, and Spirit Possession

Michelle Belanger: Life as a Psychic Vampire

Science and Psychism:The Future of Artificial Intelligence

From Microbes to Monoliths:The Search for Life on Mars

PLUS: From Dwarfs to Giants: Sightings of Unusually Sized Humans

News Blackouts and the Non-Reporting of UFOs

The Mysterious Disappearance of Agatha Christie

College Campus Urban Legends:Tall Tales that Students Tell

Moonville, OH:A Haunted Railroad Town

Virginia’s Twitching Illness and Other Mass Maladies

The Children of God:Jesus Freaks and Flirty Fishing

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- SECRET SYMBOLS DEPARTMENT -

U.S. Reveals Secrets of National Seal

Conspiracy theorists take note: The myths surrounding one of America's oldest and most enduring national symbols are about to be debunked ... if you believe the government, that is.

The keepers of the Great Seal of the United States, the familiar emblem on the back of the $1 bill, want you to know what it is not. It is not a sign that Freemasons run the country, it has nothing to do with the occult, and it does not contain clues to a fabulous hidden treasure.

It is rather the nation's stamp of authority, sovereignty and power, gracing our cash and embossing the most important of documents from its home at the State Department, which has held it since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the first secretary of state.

Not that the Seal's symbols — the all-seeing eye, the unfinished pyramid, the Latin phrases, the bald eagle clutching an olive branch and arrows and the number 13 — aren't powerful.

They are, historians say. Yet their meanings have been misidentified, misunderstood and misrepresented almost since the Continental Congress first commissioned the Seal in 1776.

It would be another six years before the original design was approved and another 128 before it evolved into its current form. Along the way, a movement to decipher the Seal's meaning with ancient Egyptian, mystical and otherwise other worldly explanations has gained currency.

The Internet age has seen an explosion in such conspiracy theories, many which have now been ingrained in public consciousness through the popular "National Treasure" movie franchise that serves up a combination of Masonic lore and historical myths in blockbuster Hollywood fashion.

Among them:

_That the Seal proves the domination of the United States by a powerful, quasi-religious cult. The Ancient Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is a perennial favorite of conspiracy theorists as some Founding Fathers were Masons and the Seal uses several Masonic symbols.

_That the Seal draws on Satanism or polytheistic ritual to promote a universal new world order under which Earth would be ruled by a single omnipotent government.

_That repeated references to 13 — the number of steps in the unfinished pyramid, stars in the constellation over the eagle's head, arrows in the eagle's claw, stripes on the eagle's shield, letters in the phrase "Annuit Coeptis" — demonstrate the power of 13 American families.

_That there are two seals: one in which the eagle's head faces the arrows for times of war and another in which the eagle's head faces the olive branch for times of peace.

All rubbish, according to historians, who say the Seal's symbolism is far less ominous or revelatory than many believe.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Seal's current custodian, will inaugurate a new exhibition to commemorate its 225th birthday and trace the history and evolution of the symbolism.

The Seal will remain at the State Department but the interactive exhibit is designed to travel and curators hope it will dispel the rumors and educate Americans about the real meaning of the symbols.

Among the highlights:

_That known Masons like the first U.S. president, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin had no role in designing the final seal, which uses elements of traditional heraldry, such as the unfinished pyramid to symbolize a work in progress, arrows for war and an olive branch for peace. Masons share some of those symbols, but they have never been exclusively the domain of the order.

_That the phrase "Novus Ordo Seculorum" below the Roman numerals for 1776 at the base of the pyramid translates as "A New Order of the Ages" that began with independence and does not imply the United States will be the lynchpin of a sinister "New World Order."

_That the words "Annuit Coeptis" ("Providence favors") and the eye of providence that hovers over the pyramid refer to unexpected interventions of fate that assisted the colonists in creating a new country.

_That the references to 13 refer to the number of colonies that formed the original United States.

"People are just not aware of the complexity and intent of the symbolism and what our Founding Fathers were trying to do with it," said Priscilla Linn, senior curator at the U.S. Diplomacy Center. "The hidden treasure in the Seal is the courage and presence of mind of the people who created it and created these values for the whole country."

Source: AP
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iQ-yr_Rooq8JyWd9Q8oDFYQhvyFQD8UOST500

- GOOD STORY, BUT VERIFY, VERIFY, VERIFY DEPARTMENT -

Source at U.N. Tells of Secret UFO Meeting 2/12/08


I received the following email from two trusted colleagues (Clay and Shawn Pickering) regarding a reliable source informing them that a secret meeting occurred yesterday morning (Feb 12) at the New York office of the United Nations concerning the recent spate of UFO sightings. It appears that a number of nation states are concerned about the impact of increased UFO sightings and wish to be briefed about what is happening. Their source, who currently works in the diplomatic corps, had to travel for an early morning off the record meeting at the UN. Their source revealed that a secret UFO working group exists that is authorizing the release of such information to the public, in an effort to acclimate others to what is about to unfold. A date of 2013 was given as the time for official disclosure and/or when extraterrestrials show up in an unambiguous way. In the interim there will be acclimation related releases of information. Importantly, the source revealed that the events leading up to official disclosure will involve more ethically oriented extraterrestrials, and they will not pose a military threat to the world.

The information below may be related to the recent debate in the Japanese parliament and statements by the Defense Minister over how Japan would respond to extraterrestrials appearing over Japanese airspace that display peaceful intent. It appears nation states are moving forward in developing public policy on how to respond to extraterrestrials showing up. So if the information below is accurate, then it is likely that we will see more examples of governments making official statements concerning how they would respond to extraterrestrials that show up over their airspace. It is likely that parliamentarians around the world will start receiving briefings to help them develop public policy concerning extraterrestrial life. Such briefings will probably extend to prominent media sources who will give more coverage to UFO sightings in popular media outlets such as Larry King Live. Increased media reports will first likely lead to disclosures of secret antigravity technologies that have been withheld for over 50 years, as a prelude to official disclosure of extraterrestrial life. The source's reference to suicides is probably related to those who will learn that much of what they have learned and believed over a lifetime was a lie. The 1961 Brookings Report referred to scientists as being most vulnerable to the disclosure of extraterrestrial life since it will make redundant many of the cherished scientific theories and models held by this community.

Overall, it appears that a countdown is underway to official disclosure around 2013, and that nation states and the UN are being briefed. The acclimation process will accelerate over the next five years as UFO sightings increase around the globe forcing governments to make public policy statements on UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

----- Original Message ----
From: Clayton Pickering
To: Michael Salla
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 9:47:00 AM
Subject: Source at U.N. tells of secret UFO meeting February 12, 2008


Dear Mike,

Shawn and I met with our source who currently works ... [in the Diplomatic Corps]. We had discussed various topics when the Stephenville and O'Hare UFO's cases were brought up. Shawn, actually, brought up the cases--"what's the deal with these incidents? Why is Stephenville getting so much press? "...etc...etc. Our source did not answer the questions immediately and other topics were discussed. About 5 minutes later, our source said to us, "Notice I did not answer your UFO questions." Shawn stated to him that we felt he wasn't interested in answering. Our source stated, "not at all." He took a breath and responded, "Unfortunately I can't go into it, but getting up tomorrow (February 12) at 6 AM to attend a briefing at the UN at 8AM is highly unusual. I (Clay) asked, "Does the briefing tomorrow have anything to do with these UFO incidents?" Our source said he could neither confirm nor deny, hint, hint. He stated that an 8AM briefing simply did not happen, unless these was a pressing need. Shawn and I probed him as best we could without forcing him to compromise his security issues. Our source stated:

1) UN is an international organization. Clay stated, "Therefore the briefing has do with other
nation-states in context to sightings?" Our source affirmed.

2) Shawn stated, "Then there have been other incidents around the world, like
Stephenville case?"

At that point, our source got up and made a phone call and returned within 2 minutes. Our source stated, "Out of professional courtesy, I made a phone call to my source and stated, 'mission accomplished.' " He stated to Shawn and I:

1) There is a group he is affiliated with whose task is to release information to certain
sectors of society--i.e., your community (UFO).

2) The briefing had to do with calming the nerves of certain nation-states regarding
sightings.

3) The Russians seem really anxious.

4) The Bush boys (Neo-cons) are anxious about being left out of the loop, when Bush
steps down.

5) Although incidents are occurring around the world, these are NOT "Independence Day"
types. In fact, our source stated that the ships are not as big as the ones portrayed
in the film.

6) When contact is made (officially to the world) there will be no ambiguity.

7) You'll know things are heating up when suicides dramatically increase. A date of 2013
was given. Shawn stated, "Perhaps a meltdown factor." Source nodded yes.

8) Our source was to dress in civilian clothing to put the Russians at ease. They hate
military dress.

9) The civilian dress was to facilitate deniability so as not to implicate the military.

At this point, our source apologized for using us to get this information out. He was doing so at the behest of his superior, an admiral. The admiral stated, "What about these conspiracy guys": Using Shawn and I as a conduit. Our source feels that globalization is an effort to reduced the 200 plus nation-states down to a single entity; at which point, a one world representative body can present itself to a "galactic federation" type council.
Our source said, "get this out there and let me know what your peers feel about this.

By Clay and Shawn Pickering

Source: Opednews.com/Michael Salla, Ph.D.   
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_michael__080213_source_at_u_n__tells.htm

- IGNORING THEM WON'T HELP DEPARTMENT -

Huge Rise in British UFO Sightings

Clusters of up to 100 mysterious objects, bright white lights and strange, triangular shaped objects are just some of a huge surge in UFO sightings reported to the Ministry of Defence last year.

The ministry has opened up its own "X-Files" for 2007, revealing 135 UFO sightings from across the UK.

If aliens are choosing the UK as a holiday destination, it appears it is becoming more popular, as the number if sightings has shot up since 97 were reported in 2006.

Last year the MoD released details of UFO sightings for the first time, including an archive back to 1998. Previously, details of classified reports were kept secret for 30 years. Discs, formations, white or orange lights, triangular shaped craft and pipe-like objects were all spotted buzzing around the sky in 2007.

In Duxford, Cambridgeshire on April 12, a witness reported seeing fifty objects, each with an orange light, assembling in the sky before ascending.
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Two pilots in different planes above Alderney in the Channel Islands reported the same UFOs on April 23. They saw one bright orange craft, then a gap, followed by an identical object.

In Portsmouth, Hants, in October, a witness watched as "an oval/spherical shaped object approached an aircraft, and appeared to accelerate very fast, and then wobbled from side to side.

"Another object appeared in roughly the same vicinity and then stayed stationary."

In the West Midlands in December, one witness got a shock when a UFO shone a light into her window. The MoD logged: "A giant craft shone a light into the witness's back window. It shot off fast at first to the North East and then started to move at a slow pace."

Another report noted a "an exceedingly bright light, which was stationary, but sometimes flew off" over the Wiltshire skies.

Hilary Porter, from the British Earth and Aerial Mysteries Society (BEAMS) said sightings were becoming increasingly common. She said: "There has been a huge influx of UFOs. Absolutely enormous. There has been these huge formations than have been coming.

"We have had so many calls from people that have seen these huge formations. We have had call after call after call, from business people right down to ordinary folk in their cars. “There have been some very close encounters that have been quite unnerving for the people involved. We have had other people reporting orb sightings."

Others maintain that the vast majority of the sightings can be explained. Many are helicopters or other human designed craft like weather balloons and satellites, while others are optical illusions or unusual cloud formations. The MoD made the decision to release the files after a Freedom of Information request.

A spokeswoman said the ministry does not investigate each and every report. "We only investigate if there have been any objects in British air space that may be military," she said.

"Unless there's evidence of a potential threat we don’t investigate to try to identify it."

Source: The Telegraph (UK)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/07/nufo107.xml

- SEARCHING FOR UNDERWATER BEASTIES DEPARTMENT -

Loch Ness Monster Quest Nears End

In 1972, Robert Rines was at a tea party at a home overlooking Loch Ness in Scotland when his host, Scottish air force officer Basil Cary, saw something moving in the water below. Everyone rushed to the porch and, for a few fleeting minutes, watched what appeared to be a large hump with the texture of an elephant move back and forth across the water.

When the hump submerged, Rines's wife told him that he needed to find the animal again, no matter how long it took.

This summer, like nearly every summer since then, Rines is going back to look for the fabled Loch Ness monster. He's 85 now. The rest of the tea party is gone. And he thinks "Nessie" is gone, too.

Rines believes there were at least two Nessies alive in the murky depths of Loch Ness in the '70s, when he took a series of underwater photographs that are perhaps the best physical evidence yet to support the existence of a large unidentified animal. But Rines's sonar hasn't picked up any of the large moving objects since the mid-1980s, and eyewitness accounts have dropped off significantly.

So now, he's chasing skeletons, or at least spots on a sonar map that he hopes will turn out to be a great beast's remains.

As he unfurls a sonar map of the loch and lays it out on a conference table in the "Nessie Room" of his apartment in the Harbor Towers, Rines points to 100 suspicious spots. He checked out five last year, before he had a stroke. His recovery is going well and he's ready to go back and look at the rest. But he says it's his last chance.

He's out of ideas. "And I'm running out of age, too," he says.

Rines is probably the most accomplished person to try to prove to the scientific community that Nessie is - or was - real.

Several rooms in his apartment are stuffed with videotapes, binders, photos, and honors from his various careers as a patent attorney, physicist, inventor, MIT professor, Broadway composer, law-school founder, and World War II veteran.

Rines points out that his Nessie expeditions haven't just been about searching "for a needle in a mountain of hay stacks"; the dark waters and extreme depths of Loch Ness have provided a great testing ground for many new technologies.

"When you get a bunch of people together who are searching for an elusive goal, the minds come together and you end up discovering a whole bunch of other things," said Alex Slocum, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT who accompanied Rines on an expedition in the '90s to build camera frames that would allow them to film on the bottom.

Rines's expeditions have fostered "a whole plethora of new ideas in areas like how to deploy underwater video and how to look through the murky water," Slocum said. "In that regard, it doesn't matter if Nessie is there or not."

The Loch Ness Monster has captivated the world since the 1930s, when eyewitness reports of a large, dinosaur-like animal began spreading from a remote area in Scotland. Believers and debunkers have been making pilgrimages to the Scottish Highlands ever since, and the legend has suffered more failures than successes, including a deathbed confession in 1992 revealing that the most famous photograph, of a creature with an elephant-like neck sticking out of the water, was a hoax.

Rines himself wasn't sure there was anything to be found in the loch when an MIT colleague, Harold "Doc" Edgerton - who earned international acclaim for his advances in flash photography - asked Rines to bring his sonar expertise to the search in 1971.

Within 15 minutes of putting sonar equipment in the loch, they detected large moving targets. Rines was intrigued and returned again the next year, which is when, he says, "I had the misfortune of seeing one of these things with my own eyes."

Rines had some success with underwater photography, including a 1975 picture of what appears to be the body, flipper, neck, and head of a large animal, but Nessie's trail went cold in the 1980s and Rines believes the last of the creatures has since died.

Joe Nickell, coauthor of "Lake Monster Mysteries" and a Nessie doubter, said he's certain that Rines believes that his 1975 image shows Nessie, "but it takes a good deal of imagination to see what he wants us to see. It's like a Rorschach test. It could be anything."

Though Rines has yet to find the irrefutable evidence that skeptics demand, there have been some bright spots to support his theory that Nessie existed. Six years ago, he discovered evidence that the sea once reached to the freshwater loch, which supports theories that Nessie is the descendent of a large ocean animal. And then, last year, his underwater cameras captured an unexpected life form - a common toad, 324 feet down, surviving well outside of its known habitat. Finding that remarkably misplaced toad, he says, suggests that perhaps Nessie could have lived far from its native habitat - and gave him a new lease on his quest.

"Admiral [Robert] Peary had to make 28 trips before he got to the North Pole," Rines said, with a bit of fire in his eyes, as he looked down at a table covered with his Nessie history. "What am I to do, forget what I saw?"

Rines leaned back in his chair and surveyed the photos in front of him.

"There are a lot of eyewitness accounts. Are they all liars? All drunks? I don't believe that about human nature," he said. "What disturbs me as a lawyer is that we prove cases by eyewitness testimony. The human brain is not 100 percent accurate, but it's not zero, either."

Source: Boston Globe
http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2008/02/11/loch_ness_monster
_quest_nears_end/

- CALLING ALL ASTRAL PLANES DEPARTMENT -

The Ghost Box:  What are ghost boxes?  How does the ghost box work?

The argument has been made that Thomas Edison was working on a ghost communication device – a ghost box of sorts, to contact the dead.  However, there are many Edison experts that would argue that it was only legend, a myth that is untrue.  They will point out that he neither believed in the afterlife, nor did he believe spirits and ghosts could be contacted through an electronic device.  

Whatever the truth behind Edison, one has to believe it makes a good story and backdrop to the ghost box.  Even more intriguing, some today claim they are in contact with Thomas Edison via the ghost box, but many respected researchers of the latest ghost box technology have yet to make contact with the famous, dead inventor.

That brings us to the latest development of the ghost box.  EVP or electronic voice phenomena  was discovered in the late ‘50s, and has become well known today thanks to numerous TV shows featuring ghost investigators.  Many are not aware of the two-way communication devices called ghost boxes.  Following on the heels of the Spiricom , a ghost box of sorts that many believe to be the first two-way communication device between the earthly realm and the spiritual realm, Frank’s box truly was the first of its kind.  

Frank’s Box is a ghost box that produces random voltage to create raw audio from an AM tuner, where it is then amplified and then fed into an echo chamber and recorded.  In short, ghost boxes such as Frank’s box create audio bits and white noise that ghosts and/or spirits can then manipulate into forming words – real time two-way communication.  

Frank Sumption was the original inventor of the ghost box, as he conceived of the idea by experimenting with Stefan Bion’s EVPMaker software to record EVP, and was also inspired by an October 1995 Popular Electronics Magazine article that asked, “Are the dead trying to communicate with us through electronic means?  Try these experiments and see for yourself.”  

Today Frank is experimenting on various improvements to his ghost box design.  Most other ghost boxes are not random band sweeping, but linear sweeping of the AM or FM bands.  That is not to say other bands, such as shortwave, weather, etc are not being experimented with by Frank and other Instrumental Transcommunication experimenters.  Others since have developed their own ghost boxes, such as Paranormal System’s "MiniBox" and Joe Cioppi’s “Joe’s Box.”  Both of these devices are smaller in size and are becoming available for purchase.

Recently, in late 2007 to be exact, another discovery was made by a retired electrical engineer known as Sum Duc.  His find has been dubbed the “Radio Shack Hack.”  Here is his story: “I was in Radio Shack looking for parts for a new type of device for ITC I’m currently working on.  I saw the AM/FM 12-469 on the shelf and thought, ‘I bet I can make this work.’  I had no idea it would be so simple.”

Since that time, other researchers such as Mike Coletta have figured out how to alter the older version 12-470 AM/FM radio, too.  Mike has posted many of his videos on YouTube to help others make their own ghost boxes.  What has been great is the fact that so many have made their discoveries and research public, such as Frank Sumption, Joe Cioppi, Bruce Halliday, Steve Hultay, Sum Duc, Mike Coletta, and more.  Links to their websites are at the end of this article as a big thank you.

The ghost box can be used for EVP, as it can be recorded, then analyzed for messages from spirits and ghosts.  However, what makes the ghost box unique is that it can be heard audibly through either an external speaker or headset, where responses from the other side can be heard and responded to live – not unlike chatting with someone by walkie-talkie.  

It does require the user to train his or her ear to hear the messages that are brought forth, as the noise and audio bits can at times be somewhat distracting.  But if one experiments long enough with a ghost box, it will become apparent that the audio sound bites and white noise will begin to be manipulated to form answers to questions, phrases and more.  For this reason alone, we recommend recording all sessions and listening to them later.  Upon playback, one might be amazed at what is captured in the audio.

The function of the ghost box and how it works seems to be affected by the strength of radio signals in an area.  Poor signal quality reduces the ability for spirits and ghosts to make contact through the device.  Perhaps there is not enough audio bits to be manipulated successfully for real-time communication.  That would indicate that enhancing the antenna on these devices could improve results by the researcher, according to Bruce Halliday.

The biggest debate over the ghost box might be just who in the heck is coming through these devices?  Are they spirits?  Ghosts?  Demons (the religious ask)?  Aliens?  Our own projected thoughts?  The research continues in this area, but many believe both ghosts, spirits and beings from another realm are making contact through the ghost box.  

Experimenters have received positive, good messages, as well as negative and cursing messages.  This would indicate that perhaps the range of messengers who are able to manipulate this device into audible words is broad.  

Some believe that there are spirits from the light called “controls” or “operators” who work to establish contact and can bring other spirits and ghosts forward through the ghost box.  Some of these same operators have been recorded coming through different ghost boxes by different people in different geographical locations.  This would lead one to think that operators are involved from the other side in order to try and organize a grid of control and functionality.  

Whatever the case may hold to be true, it does appear that one’s connection with the other side seems to influence how good and what type of results will be experienced through the ghost box.  It just may be that those who are recording the best results might be psychic in nature, truly connected with the spirit realm prior to the existence of any ghost box.

Angels & Ghosts will work in 2008 to run experiments with different ghost box configurations for utilizing and recording the altered Radio Shack ghost box.  Thank you to all who have freely shared their work and ideas with the world.

Source: Angels and Ghosts
http://angelsghosts.com/ghost_box

- SMELLS LIKE GREEN CHEESE DEPARTMENT -

The Smell of Moondust


When the Apollo astronauts returned to their lunar landers, they all noticed that moondust, which had clung to their boots and suits, had some interesting properties. For starters, it smelled like spent gunpowder; as if someone had just fired a gun in the lander.

After every moonwalk (or "EVA"), the astronauts would accidently bring moondust back inside the lander. Moondust was incredibly clingy, sticking to boots, gloves and other exposed surfaces. No matter how hard they tried to brush their suits before re-entering the cabin, some dust (and sometimes a lot) made its way inside.

Once their helmets and gloves were off, the astronauts could feel, smell and even taste the moon.

The experience gave Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt history's first recorded case of extraterrestrial hay fever.

"It's come on pretty fast," he radioed Houston with a congested voice.

Years later he recalls, "When I took my helmet off after the first EVA, I had a significant reaction to the dust. My turbinates (cartilage plates in the walls of the nasal chambers) became swollen."

Hours later, the sensation faded. "It was there again after the second and third EVAs, but at much lower levels. I think I was developing some immunity to it."

Other astronauts also noticed the dust.

"It is really a strong smell," radioed Apollo 16 pilot Charlie Duke. "It has that taste -- to me, [of] gunpowder -- and the smell of gunpowder, too." On the next mission, Apollo 17, Gene Cernan remarked, "smells like someone just fired a carbine in here."

However, moondust and gunpowder are not the same thing. Modern smokeless gunpowder is a mixture of nitrocellulose (C6H8(NO2)2O5) and nitroglycerin (C3H5N3O9). These are flammable organic molecules "not found in lunar soil," says Gary Lofgren of the Lunar Sample Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Hold a match to moondust and nothing happens, at least, nothing explosive.

What is moondust made of? Almost half is silicon dioxide glass created by meteoroids hitting the moon. These impacts, which have been going on for billions of years, fuse topsoil into glass and shatter the same into tiny pieces. Moondust is also rich in iron, calcium and magnesium bound up in minerals such as olivine and pyroxene. It's nothing like gunpowder.

So why the smell? No one knows.

ISS astronaut Don Pettit, who has never been to the moon but has an interest in space smells, offers one possibility:

"Picture yourself in a desert on Earth," he says. "What do you smell? Nothing, until it rains. The air is suddenly filled with sweet, peaty odors." Water evaporating from the ground carries molecules to your nose that have been trapped in dry soil for months.

Maybe something similar happens on the moon.

"The moon is like a 4-billion-year-old desert," he says. "It's incredibly dry. When moondust comes in contact with moist air in a lunar module, you get the 'desert rain' effect, and some lovely odors."

Gary Lofgren has a related idea: "The gases 'evaporating' from the moondust might come from the solar wind." Unlike Earth, he explains, the moon is exposed to the hot wind of hydrogen, helium and other ions blowing away from the sun. These ions hit the moon's surface and get caught in the dust.

It's a fragile situation. "The ions are easily dislodged by footsteps or dustbrushes, and they would be evaporated by contact with warm air inside the lunar module. Solar wind ions mingling with the cabin's atmosphere would produce who-knows-what odors."

Schmitt offers yet another idea: The smell, and his reaction to it, could be a sign that moondust is chemically active.

"Consider how moondust is formed," he says. "Meteoroids hit the moon, reducing rocks to jagged dust. It's a process of hammering and smashing." Broken molecules in the dust have "dangling bonds"--unsatisfied electrical connections that need atomic partners.

Inhale some moondust and what happens? The dangling bonds seek partners in the membranes of your nose. You get congested. You report strange odors. Later, when the all the bonds are partnered-up, these sensations fade.

Another possibility is that moondust "burns" in the lunar lander's oxygen atmosphere. "Oxygen is very reactive," notes Lofgren, "and would readily combine with the dangling chemical bonds of the moondust." The process, called oxidation, is akin to burning. Although it happens too slowly for smoke or flames, the oxidation of moondust might produce an aroma like burnt gunpowder. (Note: Burnt and unburnt gunpowder do not smell the same. Apollo astronauts were specific. Moondust smells like burnt gunpowder.)

Curiously, back on Earth, moondust has no smell. There are hundreds of pounds of moondust at the Lunar Sample Lab in Houston. There, Lofgren has held dusty moon rocks with his own hands. He's sniffed the rocks, sniffed the air, sniffed his hands. "It does not smell like gunpowder," he says.

Lofgren and others believe that moondust on Earth has been "pacified." All of the samples brought back by Apollo astronauts have been in contact with moist, oxygen-rich air. Any smelly chemical reactions (or evaporations) ended long ago.

NASA never intended for the geological samples to come into contact with the Earth's atmosphere. Astronauts took special "thermos" containers to the moon to hold the samples in vacuum. But the jagged edges of the dust unexpectedly cut the seals of the containers, allowing oxygen and water vapor to sneak in during the 3-day trip back to Earth. No one can say how much the dust was altered by that exposure.

Schmitt believes "we need to study the dust in situ--on the moon." Only there can we fully discover its properties: Why does it smell? How does it react with landers, rovers and habitats?

NASA plans to send people back to the moon in 2018, and they will stay much longer than Apollo astronauts did. The next generation will have more time and better tools to tackle the mystery.

Source: NASA
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/30jan_smellofmoondust.htm

- HIDING THE WEDDING RING DEPARTMENT -

Did God Have A Wife?

In 1975-1976, prior to the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, Dr. Ze'ev Meshel of Tel Aviv University, an experienced archaeologist, geographer and trekker, excavated a site not far from the border known as Quntilat Ajrud. This site, small but conspicuous, was located in Darb Ghazza, an important ancient route from Eilat to Rafah and Gaza. In the 8th and 9th centuries B.C.E., a travelers inn was located here, part of which was a shrine. Meshel's excavations yielded Hebrew inscriptions, both on pottery sherds and on the wall plaster. Four of the inscriptions mention "Yahweh and his Asherah." One reads: "Blessings of Yahweh of Shomron and his Asherah." Another reads: "To Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah" (Teman was a city in Edom). This reference to the god of Teman and his Asherah is repeated in two other inscriptions. It is noteworthy that Yahweh here is a local god, the god of Shomron and Teman - not the god of the universe. In the pagan world, for example, people prayed to the Ba'al of Hermon and the Ba'al of Hatzor.

A few years before the dig in Sinai, William G. Dever, author of the book "Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel", unearthed an inscription in a cave in Khirbet al-Qom (the biblical city of Maqeda, 15 kilometers west of Hebron), which also mentions Yahweh and his Asherah. Quntilat Ajrud, as we have said, was located on the Egyptian border, which was part of ancient Israel at the time. Back then Shomron was the capital and Eilat was within its jurisdiction. So these inscriptions linking Asherah to Yahweh were found both in Israel and Judea.

Who was this Asherah? In the Canaanite pantheon, she was the wife of El and the mother of all other gods. Are these inscriptions talking about the same goddess, who is now Yahweh's consort? "Asherah" appears in the Bible 40 times, almost always in reference to wooden structures, sacred columns or trees that are uprooted, smashed or burned by those who wish to purify the community of pagan ritual. There is no question that these are symbols of the goddess. But worship of her was quite widespread in ancient Israel, at least in the days of Queen Jezebel and her husband Ahab: 400 prophets of Asherah ate at Jezebel's table and participated, with the prophets of Ba'al, in the great contest on Mt. Carmel against Elijah - a contest that ended in the slaughter of the prophets of Ba'al (and probably the prophets of Asherah, too, although the text does not say so explicitly).

The Bible, as we know it, does everything to present a pure monotheistic approach, and mentions little of the popular religion of the time, which was still suffused with many pagan elements. It seems quite plausible that there were Israelites who believed that the god of Israel, like the gods of other peoples, had a wife named Asherah.

In his introduction to the book, Dever writes: "This is a book about ordinary people in ancient Israel and their everyday religious lives, not about the extraordinary few who wrote and edited the Hebrew Bible. It is also a book for ordinary people today who know instinctively that 'religion' is about experience, not about the doctrines of scholars, theologians and clerics, who study religion dispassionately and claim authority. My concern in this book is popular religion or, better, 'folk religion,' in all its variety and vitality." Archaeologist Louis Binford astutely observed that archaeologists are poorly equipped to be paleo-psychologists.

Dever admits with praiseworthy candor that he is not objective, and feels obliged to provide us with a brief summary of his personal history and religious background. From his father, a "fire and brimstone" fundamentalist preacher, he inherited his love of the Bible, but not his fundamentalism. His education began at a church school in Tennessee, but later took a sharp turn when he went to Harvard University and chose archaeology over theology. Over the past 40 years, he has been teaching and conducting digs in Israel and Jordan. Eventually, he converted to Judaism and joined the Reform movement, although he regards himself as a secular humanist.

Unsurprisingly, the best chapter in the book is the one entitled "The archaeological evidence for folk religion in ancient Israel." Here, he describes a dozen small household shrines with similar architectural features and artifacts: altars, ledges, incense bowls, food remnants, and remnants of sacrifices and tributes. These were family shrines that had no need for priests. These pagan family rituals are described in detail by the prophet Jeremiah: "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cake for the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods" (Jeremiah 7:18). This "queen of heaven" was the goddess Astarte.

A notch above them were the outdoor bamot or open-air altars (the most beautiful discovered to date is the one at Tel Dan). The largest of these ritual buildings were the temples, such as those unearthed in Nablus and Arad. After the return to Zion, in the early Second Temple period, monotheistic religion took over completely. From this time on, all the pagan structures and paraphernalia disappeared - including household shrines, open-air sanctuaries, incense bowls and figurines.

Sex with the Shekhina

Two chapters of the book are devoted, of course, to Asherah. One explores the cult of Asherah and the archaeological and especially iconographic evidence for it (accepted by the author and some scholars, but not all). The other is about women's cults and "official Yahwism." Are these female figurines, consisting only of the upper torso and in particular, large breasts - a very common artifact, of which over a thousand have been unearthed - Asherah? The author claims they are, but this is highly unlikely. They are probably fertility charms. It is very important to remember that no iconographic evidence of Israelite gods has ever been found in First Temple sites (and later, of course). Reading what other scholars have to say about this topic, both those who agree with the author and those who don't, is thus extremely enlightening. One chapter of the book is called "What does the goddess do to help?"

For the Israeli reader, brought up on Yehezkel Kaufmann, the renowned Bible scholar, who claimed that Israelite religion in the biblical era was strictly monotheistic from the outset, with negligible traces of paganism at the fringes, this book offers a different and more up-to-date picture. A person could say, okay, almost 3,000 years ago our forefathers believed that god had a wife, but this silly idea disappeared from the world a long time ago. But this is not true. Not only has this approach not died out, but it is still warmly embraced by many pious Jews (not always consciously), through the influence of kabbala.

The concept of the Shekhina has many meanings. In kabbala, the Shekhina represents the female element of the Sefirot, or divine emanations. In kabbala, the primary objective in worshipping God is to bring about the sexual union between the male principle - the sixth Sefira, known as Tiferet or Yesod, and the female principle - the tenth Sefira, usually called Shekhina (but also known as Malkhut, Knesset Yisrael and Atara). In certain versions of the siddur (Jewish prayerbook) influenced by kabbalistic traditions, such as those used in the Hasidic community, certain prayers and mitzvot are prefaced by the following verse in Aramaic - "Leshem yihud kudsha berikh hu veshechintay." In English translation: For the sake of the union of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and his Shekhina. That union, to remove any doubts, is a sexual coupling. The purpose of this act is to restore harmony to the world, after it was knocked off kilter by the sins of the Jewish people, the evil machinations of the "Sitra Achra" (the "Other Side") and the experience of galut (exile).

Dever learned about this kabbalistic outlook from "The Hebrew Goddess" by Rafael Patai, but he did not read Yehuda Liebes' Hebrew article "Zohar and Eros" (Alpayim, 1994) and Moshe Idel's "Kabbala and Eros," which has only been published in English recently. If this sounds bizarre to the reader, I take the liberty of throwing modesty to the winds and drawing attention to another, even more bizarre phenomenon. When religious Jews sway back and forth in pious prayer, this swaying has a profound pantomimic significance. To quote from the book "Tzava'at Ha-Ribash" (about Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, also known as the Besht, the founder of Hasidism), "prayer is intercourse with the Shekhina, and just as one rocks back and forth at the start of intercourse, thus one must initially rock oneself back and forth in prayer. Then one may stand still and cleave deeply to the Shekhina. And while rocking back and forth and bringing oneself to a state of tremendous arousal, think: Why am I rocking? Because the Shekhina may be standing before me, and the very thought arouses great passion."

Source: Haaretz.com
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/952289.html

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