Stonehenge and the hail cannon.

The word ‘lunatic’ comes from a Latin association with the word ‘luna’, which means moon.  There is some evidence that the word comes from early experience with those who had mental illnesses like bipolar disorder that moved in cycles, similar to the phases of the moon.  But in common usage today, a loony could be anyone outside the ‘normal’ order of things, often including those who make decisions outside of hard science.  Here I’m talking about all the advocates of alternative medicine, alternative farming practices, and even methods of changing the weather (think orgone).

I’m not saying that any particular practice or beleif is, in fact, crazy.  Personally I think many of these alternative practices has some basis in fact, though I reserve judgement on any particular practice until I can ‘see it for myself’.  After all, belief in a cure has been proven to change the course of a person’s illness.  Instead I am drawn to the idea that the popularity of such alternatives is itself cyclical in nature.

Take, for example, a farmer’s recent use of a ‘hail cannon‘, a device which he believes to break up hail through noise within a certain area.  Similar devices using a loud noise such as a cannon or bell to ‘disrupt’ hail formation have been in use at various times, but are currently seeing a marked resurgence.  Is this merely evidence of new weather patterns and more farmers taking drastic measures to avoid damages?  Or is it one of those things that must cycle in popularity?

Another example is seen in recent research into Stonehenge which reveals at least one purpose for the ancient site as a healing center.  Evidently one of the inner rings of stones is a rock called spotted dolomite, which the new study is saying was believed to have healing properties, making the site one of pilgrimage for those who were very ill.  The condition of those buried at Stonehenge seems to support this conclusion, though it remains unclear just exactly how the stones were thought to ‘heal’ the sick.  Currently, dolomite is sometimes used as a dietary supplement to improve health due to its high concentrations of both calcium and magnesium.  Since Stonehenge has been dated to at least 2500 BC in previous studies, making this one of the oldest resurgences in popular health belief that I know of.

So, what does this all mean?  Are these alternatives something we will eventually discard, once and for all, when medicine can treat all of our ailments?  Will we rely only on 100% proven methods to protect our crops and discourage inclement weather?  Will there always be something we can’t quite control, leaving a niche for alternative solutions?  I should hope so.  A new moon and a dark sky all the time does not appeal to me.

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Dream Big.

Get Smart will premier in just a week.  Despite my childhood love of the series, I view the new movie with some trepidation.  I love the quirky voice of Maxwell Smart from the old shows, first known to me as the voice of Inspector Gadget.  I loved the way he was silly man who everyone knew was silly and yet they trusted and somehow he always came out on top.  And while I trust Steve Carell in this role, He can’t give me the first thing and I’m not sure the movie is really going to give me the second.  It seems from the previews that Agent 86 is down on his luck and must win out against the day for a Hollywood ending.  I’ve had enough of people’s inner strengths eventually being realized.  Whatever happened to the bumbly fool we knew was a fool and loved for his foolishness, not just his success?  To have others realize Max’s flaws as flaws seems to go against the grain of the original show, leaving all of us still hoping for the day we will succeed, rather than being loved for our own current foolishnesses.

Another part of the show that was always doomed to fail was the technology used in the series.  The explosive lollipop didn’t explode, the pinky-ring recorder malfunctioned, and the shoe phone was out of service.  But that didn’t stop the inventors from coming up with new foolishnesses, or the agents from trusting and trying them over and over.  The current movie should be more of the same (I hope), if a little more based in reality.  While many of the devices that will be used in the movie are exaggerated, I wonder if the ridiculousness of the gadgets and their malfunctions will still be an integral part of the plot.  I hope so.  Because if we’ve lost the ability to make fun of our obsession with newer and better stuff, we may be sucked down in the whirlpool.  I want the ability to see where we’re heading, the ability to poke a little fun at our own preoccupations with science, as well as the ability to think about the wonders the next ten years will bring.