There seems to be a study on everything. And for every study that says X, there’s another one that says Y. A little alcohol is good for you. Red wine is even better. All alcohol is bad. A vegan diet prevents cancer. Vegan diets lack vitamins and minerals which can lead to cancer.

Who knows what to believe?

It reminds me of the part in Woody Allen’s Sleeper when,  after being awakened from 200 years of cryopreservation, he is told that everything he believed about health is wrong. He requests wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk for breakfast. They give him a cigarette. “One of the best things for you.”

I read an article this week about “the vitamin myth”. Vitamins are necessary to our health and survival. We don’t eat the foods we should eat, therefore we don’t get the vitamins we need. Correct? Well, in this study, women who took supplemental multivitamins died at rates higher than those who didn’t. Another study, published two days later, found that men who took vitamin E had an increased risk of prostate cancer.

There had been a number of earlier studies that found that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease and shortened lives. But another study in 2012 showed that half of all Americans took some form of vitamin supplements.

Why? Partially because many of us grew up being constantly told by our parents and the media that vitamins could make us stronger, healthier and lead to longer lives.

The article noted above points a big finger at Linus Pauling, a man who was “so spectacularly right that he won two Nobel Prizes and so spectacularly wrong that he was arguably the world’s greatest quack.

Pauling’s research merged quantum physics with chemistry. His 1931 paper, “The Nature of the Chemical Bond,” posited that electron sharing was somewhere between the two known types of bonds of ionic and covalent.

It was an idea so revolutionary that when Albert Einstein was asked what he thought of Pauling’s work, he shrugged his shoulders and said “It was too complicated for me.”

CIn 1970, Pauling published the books that gave him much wider fame than winning two Nobel prizes. The books said that taking 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C every day (about 50 times the recommended daily allowance) would eliminate the common cold and flu and increase lifespans. Drugstores sold a lot of vitamin C and 50 million Americans were part of “the Linus Pauling effect.”

Many studies showed that the effect was imaginary and possibly even dangerous for health. Did Pauling back down? No, in fact, he later claimed that vitamin C could also cure cancer.

Studies showed that it did work against cancer – and that it did not have any impact on cancer cells.

Another study about free radicals showed that they can damage DNA and disrupt cell membranes. Sounds dreadful. But we also need free radicals to kill bacteria and eliminate new cancer cells.

Still, the study led to people taking large doses of antioxidants (such as vitamins A, C & E)  to combat free radicals. Later studies showed that if that balance between free radical production and destruction tips too far from the antioxidant supplements it causes an unnatural state in which the immune system is less able to kill harmful invaders.

This “antioxidant paradox” means that high doses of vitamins and supplements increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. Currently, no national or international organization responsible for the public’s health recommends them.

Linus Pauling was asked in 1980 if he now believed that vitamin C had any harmful long-term side effects. “No,” he replied. Seven months later, his wife was dead of stomach cancer and in 1994, Linus Pauling died of prostate cancer.

And what does his death prove? Nothing. He and his followers would probably say he had started too late on his vitamin C regimen and that they allowed him to live to 93.

Studies are inconclusive.
Clip from Sleeper

moving moon

An ancient Assyrian/Babylonian belief was that “A woman is fertile according to the moon.” The notion was widespread in many cultures and misconceptions about fertility and birthrates cross continents and centuries.

Eugen Jonas, a Slovakian psychiatrist, created a method of birth control and for predicting fertility that was more based on astrological superstition than any science. He was following that ancient belief that there are more births during a full moon. That is despite the many studies that have failed to find any significant correlation between the full moon and number of births.

And then there are the phases of the moon, menstrual cycles, and fertility.  The average menstrual cycle is 28 days and that is close to the lunar cycle. Close enough in ancient times to create a correlation. But women’s cycles vary from woman to woman and month to month. The length of the lunar month is a consistent 29.53 days.

Since the moon really does affect the ocean’s tides, it must be powerful enough to affect the human body – which is mostly water – too. That’s another old myth. The lunar force is actually a very weak force.  Astronomer George O. Abell claims that a mosquito would exert more gravitational pull on your arm than the moon would. Nevertheless, many people believe that the moon not affects us but can cause earthquakes.

The tidal force of the moon on the earth actually depends on its distance from earth, not its phase.  I wrote this weekend about the full Moon, the “supermoon” and apogee and perigee (when the moon is closest).  We have higher tides at the new and full moons, but it is because the sun, Earth, and moon are in a line and the tidal force of the sun joins that of the moon at those times to produce higher tides.

I love the Moon and I write about it her quite a bit. I enjoy the romance and lore of the Moon. But I also like knowing the science.


corn moon

The Moon reaches its fullness today, July 12, at 01:24:54 pm, but until darkness falls we don’t give the Moon much thought.

That wasn’t always true. Going back 200 years or more to the naming of Full Moons and you can see how their appearance was strongly attached to the nature – flora and fauna – that provided sustenance and life.

On our continent. the names of the moons indicate what each native tribe thought was important in the season in their area. Names might apply to the weather, crops and food they could gather and animal activities.

July for many tribes was the time of summer crops, mainly corn, which begins to ripen for the first harvest and was the staple crop for many American Indian tribes.


The name “chokeberry” comes from the astringency of the fruits, which create a sensation making your mouth pucker.

Look at these tribal Moon names:

Abenaki –Grass Cutter Moon
Algonquin –Squash Are Ripe Moon
Cherokee –Ripe Corn Moon
Choctaw –Little Harvest Moon, Crane Moon
Comanche –Hot Moon
Cree –Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt
Dakota Sioux –Moon of the Middle Summer
Haida –Salmon Moon
Kalapuya –Camas Ripe (the bulb of the camas lily was a staple food to the Kalapuya)
Lakota –Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black
Mohawk –Time of Much Ripening
Ponca –Middle of Summer Moon
Potawatomi –Moon of the Young Corn
Shoshone –Summer Moon

Roasting ears of corn are ready and this was once the traditional time of the “Green Corn Dance” or festival for some tribes. The New World colonists called it the Corn Tassel Moon (similar to the Potawatomi  of the upper Mississippi River and Western Great Lakes region), which indicates that corn was not as far along for Northeastern settlers as it was for tribes such as the Southwestern Cherokee. Some farming colonists referred to this as the Hay Moon.

It is early for a “Harvest Moon” here in Paradelle. In Britain, it is more common to say “autumn” while Americans generally say “fall” but the older word for the season after summer is harvest and this Full Moon signals the start of harvesting. I’ll be picking my first tomatoes in another week.

Here in Paradelle, it has been more of a Thunder Moon month with the hot, humid days producing lots of thunderstorms.

Last year, I wrote about this being the Moon When Bucks Are in Velvet, which seems to me to be a quite Romantic name based on male deer beginning to show antlers which covered in their “velvet” stage.

All Full Moon names are Romantic is some way. After all, paying attention to the stars, the planets, nature and the phases of the Moon has become a rarer and somewhat Romantic (in that capital R way) in itself.

The term “supermoon” is used to describe a new or full moon that occurs at roughly the same time the moon is nearest Earth in its monthly orbit.

If you want to sound more scientific, it is the perigee when the moon is at its closest point to Earth. You can sound more erudite by adding that it comes from the late 16th century French périgée, via modern Latin from Greek perigeion ‘close around the earth,’ from peri- ‘around’ + gē ‘earth.’


“Supermoon” is not a term that astronomers use. It is from astrology and is connected to the idea that the Moon (and so especially a supermoon) has an effect on not only the tides but on people. Richard Nolle coined the term more than 30 years ago, but it really caught on in this Internet age.

We had two supermoons in January – on January 1 and 30 – but they were new-moon supermoons. The full moons on July 12, August 10 and September 9 all enjoy the supermoon designation because the centers of these full moons and the center of Earth are less than 361,863 kilometers (224,851 miles) apart. Three in a row.  The closest supermoon of the year will be in August.


Recognize this land from literature?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a fascination with maps. Having picked up a degree in literature along the way, those two mix very nicely in literary maps.

I don’t know what the first book was that I encountered that had a settings map inside of it. It might have been a Pooh book. I liked having a sense of the places in the book. It reminded me of a treasure map more than a map used to navigate.

Book maps 6

Pooh’s 100 Acre Wood

When I taught middle school and high school, I sometimes had my students create maps of the settings in novels. It is a great way to visualize the settings. It also takes quite a bit of critical thinking to determine locations based on small clues in the book. If one setting is an hour’s walk away from another, how far should it be on the map?


The Island from the Lord of the Flies


I actually prefer the student maps.


In the novel, Watership Down, there was a map in the edition I read and I added my own notes to it. I also did a bit of research and discovered that it was based on a real place.



Book maps 12

Can you identify a book from its map? I took an online quiz and was disappointed that I only scored 8 of 10 correct answers. I should have done better, considering that when I read a book with a map like the one above, I actually imagine myself rowing a boat past Skeleton Island.



I never thought while reading or watching films about vampires that immortality was something we should desire.  Watching people you care about die would be unbearable.  And I would just grow tired even if I was eternally 25 years old.

Still, mankind has sought immortality since the dawn of recorded time. 4000 years ago, the immortal man, Utnapishtim, told Gilgamesh that the secret to immortality lay in a coral found on the ocean floor.  That may have been close to the source.

In 1988, Christian Sommer, a German marine-biology student, was in Rapallo, Italy doing research on hydrozoans. These small invertebrates resemble, depending on their stage in the life cycle, resemble either a jellyfish or a soft coral.

One tiny specimen he found was Turritopsis dohrnii. Placed in petri dishes, he observed that they refused to die. In fact, they appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.

This “Benjamin Button” of a creature could theoretically go through the process indefinitely, so that the jellyfish is biologically immortal.

After a decade of research, they nicknamed the species the immortal jellyfish. The species could at any stage of its development transform itself back to a polyp, the organism’s earliest stage of life.

The jellyfish was also found in the waters off Japan. In nature, most T. dohrnii do die by predation or disease in the medusa stage that we are familiar with when we think of a jellyfish.

It is the butterfly that turns back into a caterpillar; the chicken that transforms into an egg and is reborn as a chicken.

Can studying the immortal jellyfish tell us how to reverse our own aging process? If you could be immortal, would you choose to be?




This seems to happen to me fairly regularly. A lost weekend. That can be a bad thing in the Billy Wilder movie way (alcoholic fog, but that’s not what happened. We had house guests and I didn’t get time to sit at the computer and think in words.

Sometimes being lost is rather wonderful (see this popular post on “Getting Lost” from an earlier summer). There’s a bit of terror when you’re lost that inspires attention. This works literally and figuratively.

Eventually, one wants to be found or to find their own way. “i once was lost but now I’m found,” says the song “Amazing Grace.” I wrote about the art of finding your way in the wilderness, but that article did venture into the land of “finding yourself” by deliberately getting lost.

This weekend was just too busy. That’s a problem for a lot of us these days. So many distractions. I have a personality flaw in that I find it hard to leave things undone. When I look at my email, I want to clear out the inbox. I have a pile of unread magazines and I can’t seem to recycle them without at least paging through them. And then, I tend to pull out articles “to read later” that pile up in one of those wire In baskets that never gets moved to Out.

There is a pile of books I want to read next to the bed, and some on my iPad. Technology does not help at all with this overload. I use feedly to follow other blogs and that queue always seems to have a few hundred posts to consider.

I gave up on print newspapers last year. That created the same problems as print magazines, but they came more frequently.

I didn’t take a tech holiday this weekend and I did still look at Facebook and twitter and some websites via my phone or iPad, but there just wasn’t time to sit down and be thoughtful online.

“Weekends” and even “Paradelle” have never been literal, so perhaps I’ll weekend it mid-week. Do you ever feel that weekend is a stae of mind?


Visitors to Paradelle

  • 240,402


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 945 other followers

Recent Photos

Refelections on Times Square #2

The old LHS TV Studio door.

Fairy glow

Points of light

More Photos

I Recently Tweeted…

Tweets from Poets Online


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 945 other followers

%d bloggers like this: