Thursday, August 28, 2014

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias – Cognitive/Tendency to Search/Interpret

Confirmation bias, also known as `myside bias’ is a kind of cognitive bias or tendency to search for, or interpret information which confirms the previous existing beliefs or hypotheses. This bias is displayed when people collect or recall information selectively or when they interpret the information in a biased manner and this effect is much stronger in emotionally charged issues as well as deeply affected beliefs.

For instance if a person is of the belief that left handed people are likely to be more creative than right handed people and when they encounter these individuals, they tend to place more importance on this piece of evidence which supports their already existing belief. Confirmation biases also have an impact on how people obtain information though they also influence how it is interpreted and remember information.

It is human tendency that when people who support or oppose a given issue will seek our information which may support their belief, while they will also tend to interpret and weave new stories which would in a way support their existing belief as well as remember other things which further reinforces these attitudes. The impact is stronger for emotionally charged matters and deeply established position.

Impacts – Process of Information

Confirmation Bias
Confirmation biases are impacts in the process of information which may differ from the behavioral confirmation effects also known as self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein behavior that tends to get influenced by expectation may result in the expectations to be true.

Confirmation bias is often used by some psychologist in referring to the tendency to refrain from rejecting beliefs while looking for evidence and interpreting or recalling them from memory while others restrict the term to certain collection of evidence.

It takes place when individual seek out potentially useful opinions and facts which do not coincide with their preconceived beliefs that tends to affect their perceptions as well as decisions in in all respects of lives causing less than an optimal choice. It would be helpful in seeking people and publication of varied opinions, than our own in overcoming confirmation bias withwell informed decisions.

Wishful Thinking – Limited Human Capacity

Series of researches conduction in the 1960s indicated that people were biased in confirming their existing beliefs and later re-interpreted that these results as tendencies to test ideas in one sided track focusing on one possibility while overlooking the alternatives and in some it can bias people’s conclusions.

 For the observed biases, the explanations would include wishful thinking accompanied with limited human capacity in processing information while another explanation indicates that people show confirmation bias since they are weighed up of being wrong instead of investigating in a scientific and neutral manner. It could also contribute to over confidence in personal beliefs which would strengthen beliefs with regards to contrary evidence.

Due to these decisions, poor decisions have been found in organizational and political sectors. Confirmation bias could also create problems for investors while researching an investment, they may tend to look for information which would support their beliefs on investment and overlook information which would present a better insight.

The outcome would be a one sided view of the situation and thus cause investors in making poor decision in their choice of investments of buying or selling options.

The Twelve Labours of Hercules

The Twelve Labours of Hercules
Labours of Hercules – Greatest Hero of Greek Mythology

Hercules was the strongest man on the earth and the greatest of all heroes in Greek mythology. He had tremendous physical strength, great self-confidence and considered himself to be equal to the gods. Called by the Greeks as Heracles, he was not blessed with much intelligence but his bravery made up for the lack of it.

He would get easily angered with sudden outburst of rage which often affected the innocent people and when his anger would die down, he would be filled with sorrow and guilt for his offences and would be ready to make up for it by accepting any form of punishment for his misdeeds. Hercules was the son of Zeus and Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon who was a distinguished Greek warrior and heir to the throne of Tiryns.

While her husband was away, one night Zeus disguised as her husband took advantage of her. When Amphitryon returned the next day and did not seem to remember anything about the previous night, Alcmena seemed concerned and consulted the blind prophet Tiresias who informed them that Alcmena would conceive a son from Zeus who would become a great hero. Alcmena later on bore twin boys, Hercules, the son of Zeus and Iphicles, the son of Amphitryon.

Grief/Guilt – Atonement for His Guilt

When the goddess Hera came to know that Zeus had fathered Hercules, she was very furious and being fiercely jealous of Zeus lovers as well as his children, she would harm them mercilessly. She tried to kill Hercules one night by placing two poisonous snakes in his crib but Hera was not successful in her plan since Hercules had grabbed the snakes and strangled them.

Hera continued to torment Hercules who faced many events leading him to great suffering and punishment. Hercules, while he was still young, fought the Minyans, a people who had been forcing Thebes to pay tribute and he conquered them. As a reward, the king of Thebes gave him his daughter, Megara in marriage and Hercules was very devoted to her and his children that she bore him. It was one of those days while he returned home from a journey, that Hera attacked him with a fit of madness in which he killed his children and his wife.

 When he realised his mistake, Hercules was filled with grief and guilt and went to the oracle at Delphi for atonement of his guilt who in turn told him to go to King Eurystheus of Tiryns and accept any punishments given to him. Moreover, the oracle also informed him that if the tasks would be completed, he would become immortal.

The Twelve Labours of Hercules 

The King gave Hercules a series of twelve difficult as well as dangerous tasks to perform which were known as the Twelve Labours of Hercules and his most famous feats.

Hercules and Nemean Lion
His first task was to kill the Nemean Lion, a monstrous beast which terrorized the countryside and which no weapon could kill it. Hercules strangled the beast with his bare hands and made its skin into a cloak.

 Hercules and Lernaean Hydra
His second task was to kill the Lernaean Hydra, a creature having nine heads which lived in a swamp and one of its head was immortal while the others grew back when cut off. Hercules with the aid of his friend Iolaus, cut off the beast’s all eight heads and burnt each would which prevented new heads growing back and since he could not cut off the ninth head, he buried the creature under a mighty rock.

Hercules and Cerynean Hind
The third task was to capture the Cerynean Hind, a golden horned deer which was sacred to the goddess Artemis. Hunting the animal for a year, Hercules managed to trap it and as he was taking it to Tiryns; Artemis prevented him, demanding that he return the deer. Hercules on promising her that the sacred deer would meet no harm was permitted to continue his journey.

Hercules and Erymanthian Boar
The fourth task was to seize the Erymanthian Boar, a monstrous animal which ravaged the land surrounding Mount Eryman-thus. Hercules after forcing the animal from its lair chased it until it became exhausted that he managed to catch it with ease.

The fifth task was to clean the Augean Stables in a day and King Augeas, the son of the sun god Helios had many herds of cattle where the stables had not been cleaned for several years. Hercules managed this task by diverting rivers through the filthy stables.

The sixth task involved driving the Stymphalian Birds, which were a flock of birds with claws, beaks and wings of iron which ate humans and were frightening the countryside. Hercules with the help of goddess Athena forced the birds from their nest and shot them with his bow and arrow.

The seventh task was to capture the Cretan Bull which was kept by King Minos of Crete that was said to be insane and would breathe fire. Hercules wrestled with the insane beast bringing it to the ground and brought it back to King Eurystheus but the king set it free and it roamed in Greece causing a lot of terror wherever it went.

capture the Mares of Diomedes
The eighth task was to capture the Mares of Diomedes, a herd of horses which belonged to King Diomedes of Thrace which ate humans. Hercules completed this task by killing Diomedes and let the mares feed on his flesh. Thereafter he tamed the horses and brought them back to Eurystheus.

 Girdle of Hippolyte
The ninth task was to obtain the Girdle of Hippolyte, the queen of the Amazons who greeted Hercules warmly and was prepared to give him the girdle. Hera here caused trouble by making the Amazons think that Hercules had plans to kidnap the queen. They attacked and Hercules killed the queen taking the girdle with him.

The tenth task was to capture the Cattle of Geryon, a monster with three bodies which lived in the far west of the island Erythia. After following a difficult journey by sea and through the desert, Hercules managed to kill Geryon, a herdsman and a big guard dog. He then took the cattle and returned with them to Tiryns.

The eleventh labour was to bring back the golden Apples of the Hesperides, a group of nymphs which lived in the far west and Hercules sought help from Hesperides’ father, the giant Atlas who held up the sky. He offered to take the place of Atlas under the sky in exchange to get the apples from his daughters and Atlas agreed and brought the apples though he refused to take back the sky. Hercules requested Atlas to hold the sky for only a moment to get a pad to ease the burden on his shoulder to which Atlas agreed. No sooner Atlas took the sky back; Hercules grabbed the apples and fled away.

The twelfth and the final task of Hercules was one of the most difficult and dangerous one. He had to go down to the kingdom of Hades and capture Cerberus, the fierce three headed dog which guarded the gates to the underworld. Hades informed Hercules that he could take Cerberus without the use of any weapons to overcome the beast and he wrestled Cerberus into submission or gave him drugged food and thus carried him to Eurystheus.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Phantom Time Hypothesis

Phantom Time Hypothesis – A Revisionist History & Conspiracy Theory

Phantom time hypothesis is a revisionist history and conspiracy theory developed in the years 1980 and 1990 by Heribert Illig, German historian and publisher which states that European history from 614 to 911 is a forgery by the Roman Catholic Church.

The theory was suggested by him in 1991 which was expanded by the other theorists. The theory proposes that the period of history that of Europe during the Early Middle Ages which is also known as the Dark Age was either dated wrongly or it did not take place at all and that there has been a systematic way to cover up the fact. Illig’s belief was that this was achieved by way of alteration, forgery and misrepresentation of documentary as well as physical evidence.

The original claim behind the theory was that when the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582, there was difference between it and the old Julian calendar had a defect wherein the Julian year was roughly 11 minutes too long and the new calendar was created to correct the discrepancy, making up for 10 days which had gradually slipped through the years between 1 – 1582 AD. According to Illig, the Julian calendar should have showed a discrepancy of 13 days rather than 10 days over the span of time and it was his conclusion that roughly, three centuries could have been added to the calendar which had never existed.

Carolingian & Luminous figure of Charlemagne

Phantom time hypothesis
He was keen to run with the notion of the slackcalendar and gather more evidence. The only period to trace through was the most obscure one, the Dark Ages. Architectural historians and byzantinists were the ones who were responsible in giving us the period from C 600 -900 from which nothing is known about urban or cultural development.

This has given rise to debates regarding this issue. The Carolingian and the luminous figure of Charlemagne herehad reigned from 768 to 814 and Illig focuses on the polymath qualities of Charlemagne which is recorded in several texts making him an architect, astronomer, philologist, educator, folklorist, lawmaker and much more.

According to Illig, the conclusion was simple and far too much to be ascribed to one person. Illig also claimed that archaeological discoveries which are reliably dated to the era of 7th-10th centuries were scarce and debated that Romanesque architecture could not have come as late as five centuries after the downfall of the Roman Empire which took place in the 5th century AD.

Byzantine Empire – Extensive Government Reform

Phantom time hypothesis
His conclusion was that the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III conspired with Pope Sylvester II to invent the entire Carolingian dynasty which included Charlemagne. His purpose was to support Otto’s royal claims while at the same time to prolong the Christian traditions and claim superiority over the emerging Islam. However no attempts were documented to synchronize this theory with alternative calendars like the Chinese calendar or the Islamic calendar.

Dr Hans-Ulrich Niemitz , fellow historian colleague of Illig and Phantom Time Hypothesis believer stated in a 1995 research document, various examples of evidence which according to him proved that 614 to 917 AD never occurred and the Chapel of Aachen probably built in 800 AD had architecture which were identical to chapels which were constructed over 200 years thereafter. The Byzantine Empire at that time went through extensive government reform though no historical evidence exists with regards to the assumed reform of this period.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black Death

Black Death – Most Devastating Epidemics in Human History

One of the most devastating epidemics in human history which resulted in the death of millionsof people was in Europe in the years 1346 -53. The Black Death is the name given to a deadly plague which is often called bubonic plague and is more likely known to be pneumonic plague. It occurred during the 14th century and was believed to arrive from Asia in late 1348 causing more than one epidemic during that time.

Its impact on the English community from1349 to 1350 was very severe. Medical treatment was not helpful in any way and when the plague struck in England, it had a major impact on England’s social structure which resulted in the Peasants Revolt of 1381.Due to the plague, fields were not ploughed since they were the victim of the disease and harvest could not be done due to lack of manpower resulting in the village facing starvation.

Feudal Law – Feudal System

Black Death
Town and cities face food shortages as the villages which surrounded them could not provide them with enough food. Grain farming became less popular. The consequence of the Black Death was inflation where the price of food increased four times. The survivals of the Black Death were of the notion that there was something special about them and took the opportunity to improve their lifestyle. According to the feudal law, it was stated that the peasants could only leave their village with the lord’s permission and since most of the lords were in desperate need of labor for their land, encouraged peasants to leave the village and work for them.

Black Death
While the peasants agreed to work for them, they were not allowed to return to their original village. The lords were at the receiving end since peasants could demand increased wages and knew that the lords were desperately in need of labor for harvest. The government thus faced the prospect of peasants leaving their villages to get better options, thus upsetting the whole idea of the Feudal System which had been introduced to bind the peasants to the land. In fact, this movement by the peasants was encouraged by the lords with the intention to benefit from the Feudal System.

Aftermath – Series of Religious/Economic/Social Chaos 

Black Death
Though there were various competing theories to the etiology of the Black Death, analysis of the DNA gathered from victims in northern as well as southern Europe which were revealed in 2010 and 2011, showed that the pathogen that was responsible was Yersinia pestis bacterium which was probably the reason of several forms of plague. The Black Death is presumed to have begun in the arid plains of central Asia which then travelled along the Silk Road heading towards Crimea by 1343.

Thereafter it is likely to have been carried by Oriental rat fleas residing on the black rats who were the regular carriers on merchant ships thus spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. The plague reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million down to 350-375 million during the 14th century. Aftermath of the plague thus created a series of religious, economic as well as social chaos leading to profound effects in European history and it took around 150 years for the recovery of Europe’s population with the plague recurring occasionally in Europe till the 19th century.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dendera Light – Technology of Electricity lighting

The term `Dendera light’, is a technology of electricity lighting used to describe an ancient Egyptian electrical lighting which is depicted on three stone reliefs, a single and a double representation in the Hathor temple, located at the Dendera Temple complex in Egypt that resembles some modern electrical lighting systems.

The temple complex of Dendera is one of the most preserved complexes in Egypt and lies around 2.5 km south east of of Dendera which is known to the ancient Egyptians as Iunet or Tantere, the sixth Nome of Upper Egypt. The entire complex is spread across an area of around 40,000 square meters which is surrounded by large mud brick enclosed wall.

The sculpture drew the attention of several historians due to the resemblance of the motifs to some modern electrical light systems though some mainstream Egyptologist considered it as a typical set of symbolic images from Egyptian mythology. The mainstream view among Egyptologist considers the reliefs as a combination of a Lotus flower, a Djed pillar which is a symbol of stability, portrayed by the outstretched arms and a snake coming from the flower through the Nut.

Around the Dendera Light, the inscription support this view, referring to the rising sun which springs out of a lotus flower in the shape of the snake god Semataui.

Small Crypts at the Temple of Hathor at Dendera

Dendera Light
The temple of Hathor at Dendera has some small crypts towards the eastern, southern and western areas where these crypts are presumed to have served as warehouses or treasuries for ritual, sacred and ceremonial equipment and used divine images in celebrating the various feasts and holidays.

Though these crypts are small, it is likely that some served as location for formal rituals while many have plain, undecorated wall. Some walls have limestone instead of the sandstone of the temple that is covered with intricately carved reliefs.

Towards the southern end of the temple are five subterranean crypts placed along a straight hallway and it was in these rooms that most of the valuable statues and objects were placed including two gilt statues of Hathor which were decorated with precious stone. The statues no doubt have been vanished but they are described in the text of Francois Daumas, as one being the height of one cubit three palms and two fingers.

Dendera Light – Major Source of Controversy

Dendera Light
The Dendera light has been a major source of controversy in Egyptian history due to many fringe historians interpreting the depiction as evidence of a modern lighting system which was similar to a Crookes tube. A Swiss archaeologist Erich von Daniken supporting this theory claims that the electrical light would give an explanation to the absence of lampblack deposits in several tombs that were discovered.

Dendera Light
Besides, the Dendera light is also used in a similar context as the `Baghdad Battery’, in assuming that the ancient cultures were more advanced than what we believe today. Scholars point out that there has been no reference in historical text on the use of light or electricity which one would expect to find, if it really was an electrical lamp nor has there been any electrical items uncovered from the various archaeological sites all over Egypt. Speculations are still on regarding the Dendera relief, drawing many across the world who are keen in getting a glimpse of the unusual carving.