Monday, July 27, 2015

Armillary Sphere


Armillary Sphere – Model of Objects in Celestial Sphere

An armillary sphere is a model of objects in the celestial sphere comprising of a spherical framework of rings that is centered on Earth representing lines of celestial longitude and latitude together with other astronomically important features like the ecliptic.

The armillary sphere has a number of graduated brass rings which represent the chief celestial circle, demonstrating the basic principles of astronomical motion as well as the horology – the science of measurement. The word armillary comes from the Greek term, `armilla’, which means bracelets or rings. Armillary sphere consists of skeletal celestial sphere – the basket, within a vertical ring – the meridian ring, wherein the basket has two colure rings which represents the celestial poles and one of each, the two tropics.

A band marked with 360 degrees intervals, circles the basket, representing the equator while the final component of the basket is the ecliptic ring that divides into the twelve signs of the zodiac, each of which is divided into thirty units or days. Towards the center of the basket is a globe that represents the Earth. Armillary sphere was the early astronomical device to represent the great circles of the heavens which was included in the most intricate instruments – the horizon, meridian, Equator tropics, polar circles and ecliptic hoop.

Skeleton Celestial Globe with Circles

The sphere is a skeleton celestial globe with circles that are divided into degrees for angular measurement. Such models in the 17th and 18th centuries were either suspended or rested on a stand or affixed to a handle, were utilized in showing the difference between the Ptolemaic theory of a central Earth and the Copernican theory of a central Sun.

Earliest known complete armillary sphere having nine circles is said to have been the meteoroskopion of the Alexandrine Greeks though earlier and simple forms of ring instruments were also used. Ptolemy in the almagest reckons to at least three. Hipparchus it is stated used a sphere of four rings while in Ptolemy’s instruments, the astrolabon, there were diametrically disposed tubes on the graduated circles and the instruments were kept vertical by a plumb line.

Similar instruments were also used by the Arabs, with diametric sight rules or alidades and probably were made and used in the 12th century by Moors in Spain that were the examples of later European armillary spheres.

Became a Complicate Instrument for Instruction/Calculation

The first armillary sphere was most likely invented in the 3rd century BC by Eratosthenes, the Greek astronomer and around 130 AD, Ptolemy built a model to support him in making observation of the path of the main astronomical bodies in the night sky.

 Towards early 1500, Copernicus had defeated the accepted geocentric premise and the spheres were built with the sun in the center. Over a period of time it became very complicated instruments for instruction as well as calculation of the movement of celestial objects and events. The armillary sphere can be utilized to –
  • Determining the time of sunrise and sunset
  • Clarify the meaning of the Spring and Vernal Equinox
  • In determining the position of a star and explain the meaning of right ascension and declination
  • In demonstrating the meaning of the Tropics – turning point, at the Summer and Winter Solstice
  • In locating the Polar Star
Armillary Sphere – An Old Tool to Represent the Heavens
An armillary sphere is an old tool which is presumed to represent the heavens and was models of what the scientists thought the heavens would look like and how they were supposed to move. It is also known as a spherical astrolabe, the armilla, or the armil and is related to the astrolabe which was used as a navigation tool in determining the position of the Sun, and stars as well as used for navigation by sailors.

The armillary sphere was invented hundreds of years ago and the identity of its invention has been debated. Some claim that its invention is a Eratosthenes while others believe that the Chinese or other Greek scholars invented it. Irrespective of its inventor, the armillary sphere seems to be the oldest astronomical instrument in the world and besides being used in the Greek world; it was also used throughout the whole of Asia as well as the Islamic Empire.

These devices were utilized as models and teaching tools and the models were used in showing the difference between the Ptolemaic as well as Copernican theories of the Solar System. While in the Copernican theory, the Sun is said to be the center of our Solar System, the Earth is the center of the Solar System in the Ptolemaic theory. The Ptolemaic theory was still accepted when armillary spheres were first invented.

 It was only after the armillary spheres were invented that Copernicus came up with his theory of the Sun being the center of the Solar System and it was not accepted till centuries later. Armillary Sphere links the concept of time, history and the changing universe in one element and this timeless symbology is still relevant today since man tends to continue searching the heavens for knowledge on how we tend to relate to the universe.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chilling Secret Of Himalayan Skeleton Lake


Himalayan Mountains – Glacial Lake with Chilling Secret

High up in the Himalayan mountains of the Uttarakhand State of India, lies a glacial lake which tends to conceal a chilling secret. The lake known as Roopkund has an altitude of about 16,499 feet and is frozen for most part of the year.

However, when the ice tends to melt occasionally, Roopkund displays its shocking secret. Having a depth of 2.0 meters, one can get clear view of the hundreds of skeletons in the lake with some emerging out of the icy waters. The bones together with pieces of flesh as well as hair seemed to be preserved by the dry frosty climate and yet they seem to be there for a long time.

After the Skeleton Lake had been discovered in 1942, for years, people speculated on the mystery regarding the hapless humans who had lost their lives in the lake. A British forest ranger, did a survey on what happened on the lake in 1942 wherein the melting summer ice had revealed the skeletons, some of which were found floating in the water while others were lying about along the shore. His instant response was to think something awful could have happened to these people.

People’s Fascination – Several Theories

With war prevailing, it was presumed that the skeletons could have been the remains of Japanese soldiers who probably were sneaking through India. Being worried of land invasion, the British government had sent a team to investigate the skeletons and decided that the bones were not fresh enough to be of Japanese soldiers and it continued to be a mystery.

The mystery of the Skeleton Lake began to draw the peoples’ fascinationwith several theories coming up though no one seemed capable of identifying who the people could be or how old exactly the bones could be. The only thing agreed was that more than 200 people had been killed either in landslide, avalanche or probably due to mass murder or suicide.

According to local legend, it was presumed that the skeletal remains could have belonged to a Kashmir warrior, Zogawar Singh who was considered as the Napoleon of India, whose army had gone missing at the time of returning to Tibet. Other theories indicate that the remains were religious zealots who had participated in a mass suicide.

National Geographic Team –Trekked to Roopkund Lake

However, the most intriguing theory was linked with an ancient as well as traditional folk song which was sung by Himalayan women where the words of the song tend to describe a goddess who is enraged by outsiders defiling her mountain sanctuary that she rained death on them by flinging hailstones, as hard as iron.

In 2004, a National Geographic team had trekked to Roopkund Lake bringing back 30 skeletons to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India. A DNA test was done and samples were also sent to the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit of Oxford University.

 It was revealed there that the skeletons dated back to 850 AD. Researchers believe that all 200 or so of the skeletons could have been people who had died at around the same time and after their death, the freezing water as well as the dry icy conditions could have kept the remains in well-preserved condition. Besides the flesh and hair which they found on the skeletons, they also came across jewellery together with other leather clothing which was amazingly intact.

Another interesting discovery from the DNA test,was revealed that two distinct groups of people were found in the lake where one group of taller groups seemed to be related while the other groups which were shorter could have been porters or guides.
All Injuries Limited to Head & Shoulders
Centred on the examination of the clothing together with other items, it was presumed that the people were on a pilgrimage of some kind. What could have killed them? The evidence found indicate that all the skulls had signs of blunt force trauma to the head and forensic studies show skull fractures which were due to heavy round object around the size of a cricket ball or nine inches in circumference.

Added forensic investigations further show that all the injuries were limited to the head and shoulders of the people and no other area of their body and seemed that the victims were attacked unaware and violently from above. It is assumed that the only option that the victims could have died at the same time as well as with similar injuries was to be caught in the open area at a time of freak and a violent hailstorm. The lake has now become a famous trekking site.

With several people visiting the late, the skeletons and personal items seem to be disappearing and will little maintenance as well as monitoring at the site, the history of this amazing location seems to be in danger of being lost forever. Probably the country could consider in putting restrictions on travel companies, travellers to the lake and if nothing seems to be done, the skeletal remains could end up being nothing more than souvenirs for tourists.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Saqqara Bird

The Saqqara Bird – An Artifact of Sycamore Wood 

The Saqqara Bird is an artifact made of sycamore wood andwas discovered at the time of the 1898 excavation of the Pa-di-Imen tomb in Saqqara, Egypt which dates back to around 200 BCE. The artefact which resembles a bird had been a topic of several debates and various explanations. Presently it is housed in the Museum of Egyptian antiquities in Cairo.

The Saqqara Bird has a wingspan of 180 mm weighing 39.12 g. Due to lack of documentation, its function is not known. Though its shape resembles a bird, on close observation it resembles a modern airplane with a head of a bird. Moreover, the symbols on the model airplane read thus `The Gift of Amon’ and three papyruses found near the artifact mention the phrase `I want to fly’.

These characteristic aroused the curiosity of Dr Khalil Messiha, the physician who had discovered the artefact and speculated that the ancient Egyptians first made it as a model of an aircraft which they either built or witnessed. He believed that the Saqqara Bird had aerodynamic qualities and the only thing which was missing from the bird was the tail wing stabilizer with which he wondered it would have been capable of flying.

Its Function is not Known

To support his claim, he built a balsa wood model with the addition of the tail and was surprised to see the model fly. Simon Sanderson, an Aviation and Aerodynamic expert also built duplicate model of the Saqqara Bird and tested its aerodynamic in a wind tunnel in 2006, but without the tail.

The outcome was that it could produce four times its weight in lift.Another attempt was made in 2002, to test the flying potentials of the Saqqara bird by Martin Gregorie, glider designer who produced various results. He developed a balsa wood model and concluded that without a tail wing stabilizer, it was not capable of flying and even with the tail; the performance was disappointing, indicating that it was probably meant to be a toy.

Mainstream archaeologist also support that the artefact is nothing though an actual bird that which coincidently resembles a glider. Though its function is not known, several of them tend to agree that it could be a part of a mast head which could have been used on sacred boats

Speculations & Explanations 

It is a known fact that the Egyptians had built an advanced civilization and were also experts in architecture, art and engineering and there could have been a possibility that this model could have been constructed in an effort of creating a flying machine.

The papyrus that was found near the object together with the special characteristic of the Saqqara Bird, could probably discard the naive opinion that it could have been designed as a toy. Taking into account what the bird portrayed is not found anywhere it nature, it is presumed that the ancient Egyptians may have seen something in the atmosphere, some kind of flying machine which they could have been unable to understand and hence transferred the bird face to the object.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How Did India Pakistan Border Come To Be....

The Radcliffe Line had been declared as the boundary between India and Pakistan on August 17th 1947 which followed the Partition of India where the line is named after Sir Cyril Radcliffe. It was he who had commissioned to divide equally 4,50,000 km sq. of territory with 88 million people. The reason in creating the Radcliffe Line was to develop a boundary which would divide India together with religious demographics under the Muslim majority provinces that would become part of the new nation of Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh majority provinces would then remain in India.

The Indian Independence Act 1947 which came into force of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, on July 15th 1947, specified that India would be free from the British rule on 15th August 1947 precisely a month thereafter. Besides this, the act also agreed on the Partition of the provinces of British India into two new nations of the Union of India as well as the Dominion of Pakistan, which would be divided further into Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Pakistan was planned to be the homeland for Indian Muslims, while India with a Hindu majority was intended to be a secular nation.

The Radcliffe Line – Border between India/Pakistan

Partition – Basis of Religious Demographics 

Forty percent of India, prior to Partition, was covered by princely states that were not of British possession and was not part of British India. As a result, the British were unable to provide them independence, or partition them and the rulers belonging to these states were totally independent and could choose which of the two nation they would want to join or even remain independent.

All the rulers, however, decided to join India or Pakistan with the exception of only a small number who did not do so. The Partition of India which was done on the basis of religious demographics, the Muslim majority regions towards the north of India were to become part of Pakistan while Baluchistan and Sindh having a clear Muslim majority, automatically became part of Pakistan.

However, the challenge lay in the two provinces of Punjab with 55.7% Muslims and Bengal with 54.4% Muslims, which did not have any overpowering majority. The Western part of Punjab ultimately became part of West Pakistan while the Eastern part became part of India – Eastern Punjab was thereafter divided into three other Indian states.

Difficult to Draw Line

Bengal state was also partitioned into East Bengal that became part of Pakistan while West Bengal remained in India. After gaining independence, the North West Frontier Province which is situated near Afghanistan voted with intentions to join Pakistan.

However since the population of Punjab seemed to be scattered, it became difficult to draw a line which would divide the Hindus, Muslims and Sikh and hence no line drawn was preferred by the Muslim League which was headed by Jinnah, or the Congress headed by Nehru and Sardar Patel.

Therefore it was decided that a well-drawn line which would reduce the separation of farmers from their field while at the same time would minimize the number of people who would have to relocate, thus reducing the feeling of separation which comes up in a new surroundings.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Norwegian Rocket Incident

Norwegian Rocket Incident – Black Brant Scare

Russian radar crew, in the early hours of the morning of January 25, 1995, spotted a quick moving object above the Barents Sea towards Russia’s northern border, a missile which could not be identified. Russians had observed that the U.S. nuclear submarines were the greatest treat and a Trident missile which could be launched from those quarters could have reached Russia’s mainland within a matter of 10 minutes. This Norwegian rocket incident also known as the Black Brant scare took place in those early hours when a team of Norwegian and American scientist launched a Black Brant XII four stage sounding rocket from the Andoya Rocket Range off the north-western coast of Norway.

It is said that the rocket carrying scientific equipment for research of aurora borealis over Svalbard had flown on a high northbound course including an air corridor which stretched from Minuteman-III nuclear missile silos in North Dakota to Russian capital city of Moscow. En route the flight, the rocket ultimately reached a height of 1,453km which resembled a U.S Navy submarine launched Trident missile. This resulted in a scare of a high altitude nuclear attack which could blind Russian radar and Russian nuclear forces were on high alert wherein the nuclear weapons command suitcase had been brought before the Russian president, Boris Yeltsin who had to decide to launch or not, on a retaliatory nuclear strike against the United States.

Created to Study Northern Lights 

The rocket was created to study the Northern Lights and when it rose above the horizon, the result was another type of experiment, a test that dominated the control of Russian and United States nuclear weapons. Not much is known about what Yeltsin had stated, but it could have been some of the most dangerous moments of the nuclear era providing a glimpse of the high alert nuclear launch mechanism of the Cold War and how it could go wrong even when the great superpower rivalry had ended.

United States and Russia continue to depend on a policy for quick fire decisions with regards to a possible nuclear attack and should the Russian president decide to react before its enemy’s missiles reach them, he had about eight minutes in making a decision on his action plan.

Generated & Aroused High Level of Alert

However in the Norway incident, the essential information for such a significant decision was not very clear and though the Norwegian rocket eventually fell in the ocean, it generated and aroused a high level of alert through Russian strategic forces as per the U.S. Congress testimony as well as other sources. This marked the first time that a Russian leader was compelled to use his nuclear briefcase in a real alert.

Russia’s system of initial warning on the possibility of an attack and the command and control of nuclear forces had been suffering from the same problem affecting the whole military. Russia had inherited a system of radars and satellite from the Soviet Union, however after the break-up of Soviet, most of them are no longer on Russian soil and the six year economic depression had resulted in hardship for several of the officers inclusive of those who worked in nuclear command installations receiving low pay as well as lacked permanent housing.

The radar and satellite system is said to be vulnerable since there are holes in the network which would tend to become more serious since another Russian radar station was closed in Latvia.

Experts Predict – Russia will have Nuclear Arsenal 

Vladimir Belous, a retired general and leading Russian strategist had written that `the prospect of a mistake had become particularly dangerous since the end of the Cold War’, adding that a fateful accident could have plunged the world into chaos of a thermonuclear catastrophe, contrary to political leaders’ wishes’. Degradation of Russia’s initial warning system emanates as its planned forces tend to be lessening wherein the forces comprising of nuclear armed submarines, long range bombers as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles which had been built by Soviet at the time of the Cold War had declined intensely both in quality as well as in numbers.

Experts predict that within a decade, Russia would be having a nuclear arsenal, one-tenth the size of the Soviet Union at the highest of the superpower rivalry since arms tend to control treaties, impending uselessness and the economic depression of Russia.

Launch-on-warning/Launch Retaliatory Strike

The radar and satellite gaps or holes have been causing some worry since Russia has continued adhering to nuclear doctrines of the Soviet era and the overall restriction concept is known as Mutual Assured Destructions, wherein each side is held in check by the threat of destruction by the other. A part of the cocked pistols approach was `launch-on-warning’ wherein both the sides threaten that in the event of an attack they will unleash massive retaliation before the enemy warhead had arrived.

This approach would discourage either of the sides from attempting to strike first. Russian had also inherited a second, related approach from the Soviet Union which was to preserve the ability to launch a retaliatory strike after even the enemy’s warhead had strike.