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A daily news summary for news media, educators, researchers, writers and religious leaders worldwide, courtesy of Hinduism Today magazine's editorial staff


COIMBATORE, INDIA, October 13, 2011 ( This may be a first: a Nandi created with laser scanning and a computer-aided design (CAD) model. Nandi is Lord Siva's mount, a great bull who is installed in front of every Siva temple, gaze fixed unwaveringly on the image of God in the inner sanctum, one leg extended as if just rising to his feet to serve his Lord.

In 2008, VectraFORM Engineering and Solutions (a Coimbatore-based distributor for a laser-scanning product) was requested to help create a unique Nandi -- one that would last over 500 years, but different in design from those in existence across India. The purchasers (not identified) had given up on the use of stone, the traditional material; in three attempts to create a stone Siva murti, the sculptors had been unable to fulfill the original design intent.

The company took pictures of live bulls of various ages and studied their characteristics, combining details from various photographs to create an ideal specimen. Working from the pictures, the team created a small plaster of paris model, which they scanned to obtain a CAD model. Fine-tuning the image using CAD proved unsatisfactory, so they also made a wax replica which could be corrected by hand.

The final wax model was then scanned and the data processed with a series of software products, eventually creating many two-dimensional drawings representing 100-mm layers. From these was designed a rebar framework for the sculpture. The exterior was manufactured of mild steel. The head, cast in seven pieces and later welded together, was CNC-milled from polystyrene foam. Supporting bars were used to help compensate for the deformation or warping of the castings. This high-tech Nandi was inaugurated before 250,000 people in February 2009.

The full article, at Source, describes the creation of this Nandi in greater detail, naming the various software products used in the process.

[HPI note: Kauai Aadheenam, where Hinduism Today's offices are located, had to search long and hard for the craftsmen (silpis) who are carving the all-granite Iraivan Temple by hand and its Nandi; few workers remain who are proficient in this ancient art.]

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USA, October 31, 2011 (CNN): The global population is expected to reach 7 billion today -- just 12 years after hitting 6 billion -- and the milestone has many pondering the complex challenges associated with billions more people on Earth in the coming years. Some are also pondering something else: Just how big is 7 billion really? It's a number that's easy to underestimate.

"The number is just outside of our usual everyday scale of thinking," said Klaus Volpert, an associate professor of mathematics at Villanova University. "Once you go past a million, it becomes a blur."

Here are some different ways that might help you envision the enormousness of 7 billion:

::: Seven billion seconds ago, the year was 1789. That was the year George Washington was inaugurated as the first U.S. president and Congress met for the very first time.

::: Seven billion ants, at an average of 3 milligrams each, would weigh at least 23 tons (46,297 pounds).

The world didn't reach 1 billion inhabitants until 1800, according to the Population Reference Bureau, and it reached 2 billion in 1930. But with advances in modern medicine, in 1960 it reached 3 billion; in 1974, 4 billion; in 1987, 5 billion; and in 1999, only 12 years ago, it reached 6 billion.

The U.N. has estimated a population of 9.3 billion by 2050, and there is expected to be more than 10 billion people on Earth by 2100.
"We're getting into more and more trouble the bigger the number gets," said John Bongaarts, vice president of the Population Council, an international nonprofit group. "Every billion people we add makes life more difficult for everybody that's already here."

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USA, October 31, 2011 (NYT) Feeling claustrophobic? You're not alone. According to United Nations demographers, 6,999,999,999 other Earthlings potentially felt the same way on Monday when the world's population topped seven billion. But if you'd rather go by the United States Census Bureau's projections, you've got some breathing room. The bureau estimates that even with the world's population increasing by 215,120 a day, it won't reach seven billion for more than four months.

How do the dueling demographic experts reconcile a difference, as of Monday, of 28 million, which is more than all the people in Saudi Arabia?

They don't.

"No one can know the exact number of people on the globe," Gerhard Heilig, chief of the population estimates and projections section of the United Nations Population Division, acknowledges. Even the best individual government censuses have a margin of error of at least 1 percent, he said. Monday's seven billion estimate actually may be 56 million off.

The US Census Bureau's global population clock gives the pretense of greater precision. It projects that about 255 people are born every minute (about 367,000 a day) while about 106 die (roughly 153,000 a day). At that rate, the world's natural increase would be about 78.5 million a year, or well more than the entire population of France, Britain or Thailand.

"Realistically, the uncertainty is at least 2 percent and that's for the 75 percent of the world for which we have recent official counts or estimates," Joel E. Cohen, head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, said Monday.

Dr. Goodkind of the US Census Bureau said the bureau revises its projections on a continuing basis, while the United Nations makes revisions every two years. Even so, the Census Bureau projects that the world population will hit seven billion next March 12 -- well within the United Nations' six-month, 1 percent window of uncertainty. So who's right? "We're not exactly in synch, but we're pretty close," Dr. Goodkind said.

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MALAYSIA, October 22, 2011 (The Star): Two small bombs exploded in a Bhutanese border town just three days ahead of the royal wedding on October 13.

Responsibility for the blasts was claimed by the United Revolutionary Front of Bhutan (URFB), an insurgent group based in Nepal, which said it had timed the explosions to draw attention to the "gross national sufferings of the Bhutanese people".

This incident highlights laid back Bhutan's startlingly hardline approach to preserving its traditional culture and identity. This pillar of its Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, has not been helpful in lending happiness to some segments of its population.

Bhutan's bid to preserve its unique identity is rooted in its Buddhist beliefs, but it has to resolve the problem of thousands of Hindu Bhutanese Nepalis languishing in refugee camps and the small but growing Christian population who seek recognition of their religion and to be allowed to build churches.

The biggest blot on Bhutan's history is its attempt to deal with the Nepali people within its borders.

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UNITED STATES, October 21, 2011 (CNN): Niki Gianni was 11 or 12 when she found a video on YouTube called "Meet Your Meat." Saddened and disgusted by the footage from a slaughterhouse, the Chicago girl announced she was no longer going to eat meat. Her parents were less than thrilled.

While many parents worry whether their vegetarian or vegan children will receive adequate nutrition for their growing bodies, the American Dietetic Association says such diets, as long as they are well-planned, are appropriate for all phases of life, including childhood and adolescence. "Appropriately planned" vegetarian or vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases, the dietetic association says.

"You can really feel the difference when you are eating something from the ground and something from a factory," said Niki Gianni, an animal activist who became a vegan shortly after embracing the vegetarian lifestyle.

Now an 18-year-old college freshman, Niki Gianni said her eating habits expanded her palate and turned her away from processed foods. Her food choices also influenced her family: Her mother is now a vegan and her father and sister are vegetarians.

The number of vegetarians in the United States is expected to increase over the next decade, according to the dietetic association. A vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease, and vegetarians also appear to have lower overall cancer rates, lower blood pressure and lower rates of hypertension than non-vegetarians.

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WASHINGTON, DC, USA, October 31, 2011 (RNS): The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will not reopen a case in which a lower court ruled that highway crosses memorializing Utah state troopers are unconstitutional.

The court's decision was harshly criticized by Justice Clarence Thomas, the lone dissenter, who said it "rejects an opportunity to provide clarity" to an area of church-state law that is "in shambles."

Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, which filed the suit in 2005, said he hopes the court's announcement will bring the case to an end, and lead to an alternative way of honoring troopers who died in the line of duty.

"Erecting divisive religious icons that violate the very Constitution the fallen troopers had sworn to uphold is not the way to honor those troopers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of their state," he said.

The conservative Alliance Defense Fund, which asked the court to consider the case, was disappointed.

[HPI note: This is the second time in recent years the Supreme Court circumvents the issue of the Christian identity of the cross as opposed to, as Justice Scalia puts it, a mark "erected in honor of all of the war dead" of any faith. In 2010, a similar case, concerning a cross erected in the Mojave Desert, was decided based on a legal technicality about who owned the land -- therefore avoiding the creation of any legal precedent on the religious aspects.]

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You are a being that has unlimited power within.
-- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (1927-2001), founder of Hinduism Today

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