Elephants in Loch Ness?
Nessie’s an elephant, says a leading British palaeontologist (Dominion Post, 7 March).
Neil Clark, curator of palaeontology at Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum, spent two years investigating the Loch Ness myth and suggested the idea for Nessie was dreamt up as a “magnificent piece of marketing” by a circus impresario after he saw one of his elephants bathing in the loch.
In 1933, the same year as the first modern ‘sighting’ of Nessie, Bertram Mills offered £20,000 to anyone who could capture the monster for his circus, sparking international interest. Most sightings could be explained by floating logs or waves, but there were a number, particularly from 1933, were more difficult to account for.
He believed some were elephants belonging to circuses – which visited Inverness and stopped along the banks of the loch to allow their animals to rest. When they swam in the loch, only the trunk and two humps could be seen – the first hump being the head and the second the animal’s back.
University fears cancer from wireless internet…
Lakehead University, in Ontario, Canada, won’t allow campus-wide internet access because of health worries (Dominion Post, 1 March.)
President Fred Gilbert told a university meeting that some studies showed links to carcinogenic occurences in animals, including humans, related to energy fields associated with wireless hotspots – “whether these hotspots are transmissions lines, whether they’re outlets, plasma screens or microwave ovens that leak.” The university has only limited Wi-Fi connections, in places where there is no fibre-optic internet connection. The decision, apparently, was a personal decision by Gilbert.
The stance has caused a backlash from students and Canadian health authorities. “Considering this is a university known for its great use of technology it’s kind of bad that we can’t get Wi-Fi,” student union president Adam Krupper said.
…but cell phones are OK
Meanwhile, according to a new study, cell phones do not increase the risk of developing brain tumours, the Dominion Post reported (21 January.)
After a four-year survey, scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London and British universities in Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham found no link between regular, long-term use of cellphones and glioma brain tumours.
The results were consistent with the findings of most studies done in the US and Europe, although this survey was bigger than any previous research and involved 13 countries.
The researchers questioned 966 people with glioma and 1716 healthy volunteers about how long they had used mobile phones, the make and model, how many calls they made and how long the calls lasted. Earlier mobile phones used analogue signals, which emitted higher power signals than the later digital models. Any health danger would be more likely to result from the earlier models, but the scientists found no evidence of it.
Ghosts keep the tourists away
The existence of ghosts may be debated, but the impact of traditional Asian beliefs on Thailand’s tourism trade since the December 26, 2004, tsunami appears indisputable (National Geographic News, January 6).
Tourism from Europe, Australia, and the United States has rebounded since the disaster, but tourist arrivals from elsewhere in Asia have not. Industry observers cite Asian tourists’ fears of ghosts in tsunami-stricken areas as the main reason for the decline.
Buddhism and other Asian belief systems hold that if bodies are not properly buried, their spirits restlessly wander the Earth, and may try to drag living beings into a spiritual limbo.
“Please tell your fellow Japanese and Chinese back home to stop fearing ghosts and return to this region again,” Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra reportedly told tourists after a memorial service to commemorate the victims of the tsunami.
Since the disaster, tales of ghost sightings have become endemic. Foreign ghosts seem to be particularly common, and many of the accounts are being covered in local newspapers.
One Phuket taxi driver reportedly said he was hailed by four western tourists who asked to go to the airport. The driver chatted as he drove, but when he pulled up at the airport to let the passengers out there was no one there.
Police procedure allows for sorcery concerns
Maori should not be forced to give DNA samples because of concerns over sorcery, says a report in the Dominion Post (5 December 05). A new police manual says Maori have spiritual beliefs about samples taken from the body, and that “a person should not be forced to provide samples for testing purposes”. Police management said the direction would be amended or deleted in future editions.
‘John of God’: it’s all been seen before
Chair-entity Vicki Hyde is gnashing her teeth over the upcoming visit to New Zealand of Joao Teixeira de Faria, ‘one of the world’s most powerful spiritual healers.’
In a full-page feature on the ‘healer’ in the Dominion Post (28 January) Vicki told reporter Stefan Herrick she was convinced Teixeira de Faria, who goes by the name John of God, was a con man “who peddles miracle cures that don’t withstand even light scientific scrutiny.
“Sad to see this chap coming here as it just means more exploitation of vulnerable people.”
Hundreds of foreigners visit Abadiania, the small village in Brazil where Teixeira de Faria has established a clinic where ‘miraculous cures’ take place. He is promoted as “the greatest healer of the past 2000 years”, and claims to be guided by 35 healing spirits.
Vicki Hyde said if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, “it’s probably just another duck…”
John of God, the report said, doesn’t charge for visits to his clinic (although the Wellington sessions will cost $115) but he appeared to be well off. The ABC network reported that he owned a 400-hectare ranch down the road from his clinic.
Magnets attract support
Magnet therapy, said to be favoured by Cherie Blair, is to be made available on Britain’s National Health Service (NZ Herald, 11 March).
The 4UlcerCare – a strap containing four magnets that is wrapped around the leg – is available on prescription from GPs. Its maker, Magnopulse, claims that it speeds the healing of leg ulcers and keeps them from coming back.
The announcement has created excitement in the world of alternative medicine. Lilias Curtin, one-time therapist to Cherie Blair, sent a poster-sized announcement to newspapers declaring her “sincere belief that, in the next five to 10 years, magnets will be seen in first-aid boxes”.
Other experts are sceptical. Professor Edzard Ernst, head of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, said that he was puzzled by the NHS decision. “As far as I can see, there hasn’t yet been enough research to prove that these magnets help people with ulcers.”
More powerful electromagnets could help to heal tissue injuries, but that was different, he said. His own study of small magnets on arthritis sufferers had failed to yield compelling results.
In January, researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, in California, published a paper in the British Medical Journal that cast doubt on the therapeutic use of magnets. “Patients should be advised that magnet therapy has no proven benefits. If they insist on using a magnetic device, they could be advised to buy the cheapest – this will alleviate the pain in their wallet,” they wrote.