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March 1st to March 6th 2004
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MONDAY March 1
Junk mail email comment
When do you predict the world will be free from the plague of junk e-mail? Andrea
I would have answered your letter sooner but before I could get to it, I had to clear out my in-box. As fast as I did, it filled up with more rubbish. I know there are filters you can use to keep the stuff at bay but I find, somehow, the junk always sneaks through. Interesting planetary alignments though, towards the end of 2005, suggest that the problem will then die out, rather like the dodo and the dinosaur.
TUESDAY March 2
Different dates for star signs email query
Why do different publications give different dates for the start and end of each sign? Mary
We can only give an approximate, average date because the exact time varies a little from from year to year. This happens for the same reason that we get leap years every so often. Astrologers differ about the best way to calculate the 'average' changeover date but all agree that, If you were born close to such a date, you need to get your birth details checked carefully before you can be sure which sign you belong to.
WEDNESDAY March 3
Leap Year proposal email
On February 29, I proposed to my partner. I am delighted that he accepted. But now I hear the Greeks believe it is bad luck to marry in a leap year...
Best wishes, Julia
At the risk of causing sceptics to splutter, I must stress that I do not hold with superstition. If people are going to make such wide comments, they should give a reason. I believe we are all different... as is our luck. I know only one universal law: if you believe something is lucky, it usually will be. And vice versa.
THURSDAY March 4
Phantom Limbs by Rupert Sheldrake
Often when people have lost arms or legs, the missing limb feels as if it is still there. Bill, in Southport, had his leg amputated below the knee in 1995, yet is still aware of its presence, especially when it is painful or when his missing foot seems to itch.
When Jane, in Macclesfield, lost her left leg in because of bone cancer, it felt so real that about a year after the operation she forgot that it was not there. When she got out of bed she tried to put her weight on it and fell over. People who have had an arm amputated often try to reach out and pick up the telephone or other objects.
These non-material limbs are called phantoms. They feel real, but people can push them through solid objects like beds and tables. They are a nuisance when they are painful, as many are, but they can also be very useful. They enable people to use a false limb, or prosthesis. Doctors speak of the phantoms 'animating' the lifeless false arm or leg. As one doctor put it: "The phantom usually fits the prosthesis as a hand fits a glove."
Most people can experience a phantom without having an amputation if their arm is anaesthetised. But of course the phantom vanishes when the anaesthetic wears off.
The standard medical theory is that phantoms are all in the brain, and are somehow 'referred' to where they seem to be. But I think phantoms may be just where they seem to be, as fields of the missing limbs. Lord Nelson had a phantom after losing his limb in a sea battle in 1797. He said that he thought his phantom arm was proof of the existence of the soul. Perhaps he meant that the whole body can be like a phantom, feeling real from within, but non-material at the same time. This is indeed what happens in an out-of-the-body or near-death experience. The eminent neurologist Ronald Melzack commented that his research on phantom limbs showed that 'we don't need a body to feel a body'.
Rupert Sheldrake would like to know if readers with phantom limbs have found that other people, or pets, ever seem to 'feel' their phantom. Email Rupert Sheldrake's researcher, firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading: Rupert Sheldrake.
Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and the author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (Arrow, £7.99). His website is: www.sheldrake.org
FRIDAY March 5
Looking at Leo by Bernard Fitzwalter
This is a good time of year for looking at Leo. Any time after the sun has set and the stars have come out, look to the east and there he will be, rearing up on his hind legs. This evening both the moon and Jupiter will be together in the constellation, making it even easier to find: the nearly-full moon will appear to be inside the lion's body, or on his chest like a medallion, maybe, since Leo is actually a lion lying down with his paws forward like the sphinx, while Jupiter is beneath his hindquarters.
If you had looked at the evening sky at sunset a couple of weeks ago only the front part of Leo would have been above the horizon; today, March 5, is the first day of the year when the whole constellation is above the horizon at sunset. We have noticed before how the ancient world took note of the dates when certain stars were rising at sunset, and it seems that we might have another fragment of the old stellar calendar here with Leo. How? Because today is the feast day of Gerasimus, a fifth-century monk who is supposed to have taken a thorn from the paw of a lion, after which the lion became his companion (and, according to the story, shared his new master's vegetarian diet, which can't have been much fun for the lion). Is it just coincidence that the saint with the lion has his day on the one day in the year when Leo is first fully visible? I don't think so.
Jupiter was exactly opposite the sun and Mercury this week. According to the old astrological weather books, this raises the temperature, and provides a thaw after freezing weather. And so it did.
SATURDAY March 6
No thought for the Day