Thursday, July 29, 2010

Deception of the Eyes- Changing Moon

The most impressive nature’s optical illusions must be the ‘rising moon. When the earth’s satellite appears on the horizon, it sometimes appears to be enormous. This is surprising because the distance from the earth to the moon is more or less fixed. When the moon rises higher, it then appears to shrink to the size we know. How can we explain this? There are several reasons; we, our eyes orientate ourselves according to the horizon, using it as a reference point to estimate distance.  The further the distance to the horizon, the larger the moon will appear. If you hold up your hand, for example, and block off the horizon, you will see the celestial body the same size as it usually appears to be in the sky.

Many experts like to explain this strange phenomenon as follows: in our eyes, the moon is always the same size, whether it low on the horizon or high in the sky. The size of the object is determined when the signals from the sensory organs reach the brain’s visual center; a decisive factor is how we estimate the distance of the moon. When it is near the horizon, we can see trees, houses and other objects which give us an indication as to its distance. It appears to be near at any rate, the brain can estimate its distance, and however, this is nearly impossible when it comes to the vastness of the starry sky.
When the moon rises, we have the impression that it is right on the horizon, at the same distance. This gives us the impression that the earth’s satellite is relatively near and we perceive it as bring much larger.
Other factors probably also play a role in this illusion- for example, the red color of the evening moon or the haze on the horizon. We should enjoy the fact that our brains treat us to such spectacular images- even if they are only illusion. Now, Do you agree the changing moon is the deception of eye?!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What makes a genius?

‘An invention is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration’, said Thomas Alva Edison. He knew what he was talking about, for the famous American inventor was granted more than 1,000 patents during his life time. From his laboratories in New Jersey, Edison poured out a steady stream of invention that included the gramophone, the incandescent light bulb, the first electrical generating and distribution plant, the electric valve and talking motion pictures.
But even the most brilliant idea and the greatest creative act is normally preceded by an extensive process of collecting knowledge. Neither a dream nor an association alone will make a great work of art, a solid scientific theory or a labor saving technical innovation. Every writer, artist, scientist and engineer must first understand and know his or her field, which often means many years of toil, frustration and boredom.
Everyone who creates something new takes stock, both before and after the creative act, and orders their new ideas in the context of their particular line of work.
And yet, as all know, mental routine is not really enough to bring forth something brilliant. Most people find that routine stifles their creativity and blocks up the mind. If you don’t dismantle your mental blockages, remove your inner stumbling blocks and disregard the demands of routine, it is unlikely you will ever achieve anything out of the ordinary.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rites of Passage: Birth

In most societies, the individual’s experience of pregnancy and childbirth is placed in a larger context which reflects the society’s perspective on the creation of life. Rites of passage through these crucial times are subject to community celebrations ritual acknowledgment and dramatizations.  In western society, for instance, the life crisis of birth is turned over to the doctor, who can be viewed as a sort of cultural hero delivering the baby.
 Elsewhere, childbirth may be seen as polluting. Among the Kaulong of New Britain it is considered dangerous for a pregnant woman to be near adult males, gardens, dwellings and water sources, and she is physically separated from residential areas. The pregnant woman is not necessarily the only focus of attention; often the husband assumes the symptoms and behavior of his wife during the pregnancy, delivery and postpartum periods. The rites of passage pattern can be illustrated through the stages of pregnancy.
During the rites of separation the pregnant woman is subject to prenatal care and pollution taboos.  Mexican American women believe exposure to cold air, winds and draughts from air conditioners is dangerous. Hot air is considered equally dangerous; sitting near sun heated window glass can make one ill. For the Navajo, the pregnant woman’s head must not point west, which is associated with death.
Labour is the rite of transition during which the woman is often kept physically apart, in a natal ward or a menstruation hut, as she is “contaminated with holiness “, in a vulnerable but “sacred” condition. The common folk position for giving birth is kneeling or squatting, with attendants supporting from behind or pushing on top of the uterus. In western culture, medication is provided in order to encourage uterine contractions, and the passive “patient” is encouraged to sleep in between.
Melanesians have an elaborate system where the position of the mother -to -be must be arranged according to the day and hour. Mexican women are taught to close their mouths to prevent the uterus from rising up, and Navajo women are forbidden to scream, in order to preserve the secrecy of childbirth.
 The rite of aggregation brings back the woman from the “sacred” to the everyday world. The period of convalescence may take from six to 40 days. The end of this final phase is often marked by the baby’s first bath, or the woman’s first intercourse after childbirth.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rites of Passage: Death

The major changes in the life cycle of a person’s social development are marked by rites of passage-rituals of birth, puberty, marriage and death. These rituals serve to express the course of social time, indicate changes in personal status and invoke supernatural aid in bringing them about. The pattern of these rites, analyzed by authorities such as Charles Ivan Gennep, appears to be extraordinarily wide spread in societies.
 The transition such as puberty is ritual professed n three phases: first, the person is removed from the old category (preliminal separation), next he is isolated from normal social contacts and placed in an external, suspended state (liminal transition); and finally, he is ritually reincorporated into a new place in society (postliminal incorporation).
The disappearance – reappearance sequence indicates a kind of rebirth into each new state, which enables others in the social group to realize that they must establish a new set of relation with the initiate. For example, in rural Italy the pubescent boy is ceremoniously passed through a sapling that has been split in two (reborn) which is then bound up again so that it continues to grow. The boy is considered a young man, and boy and tree mature together.
 Death is the final and ultimate rite of passage, the last in a long chain or transitions. It rarely seen as the total eclipse of the person;  but more as transition to another state. The belief that death is not the “end” underlies much of ritual behavior, which attempts to link birth and death and to counter the psychological repugnance of ageing (entropy).
Funerary symbolism often focuses on phenomena in nature which repeat themselves in order to disclaim the ‘reality” of death- asserting that death follows birth as birth follows death in a cycle. Through ritualized ceremonies, presided over by a priest or shaman, both the dead and the living are moved on to new points of orientation.
 The corpse is normally the focus of the funeral ritual it is cremated, buried or in the case of some Tibetan Buddhists, eaten by vultures. The force that gave the body life is believed to be transformed but not extinguished. Throughout the world, a key principle of most of most religious dogma proposes the temporary habitation of the body by the soul, suggesting that death is a “passage’ or stage of development. The soul may move to non corporeal or spirit state, as in the Judaeo –Christian tradition, or may be reincarnated, as in the Hindu and Buddhist religions.
 At funerals in Berewan, Central Borneo, the corpse is first displayed for close relatives on a specially built seat for a couple of days before being placed on a coffin or huge urn. After four to ten days, it is removed for temporary storage in the long house, and then placed on a simple wooden platform in the grave yard for eight months to five years. The bones are then transported to their final resting place, which is typically a niche in a richly carved post or a wooden mausoleum.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Caesar and Cleopatra Part.III

Tomb of Julius Caesar
Blinded by blood, Cesar covered his head with his robe. He said nothing until he saw Marcus Brutus make a thrust; his response was not   Et tu, Brute (“you too Brutus”) what actually said was “you too, my child?” Caesar had a long affair with Brutus’s mother and suspected he might be Brutus’s father. Caesar received 23 wounds; only one of which could be called fatal. The note, which they found in his hands after his death, fully disclosed the conspiracy. Had it been read, history would have been deprived of one of its most famous episodes.
Meanwhile, Cleopatra was busy consolidation her power. Two years after Caesar’s assassination, she took mark Antony, one of the triumvirate who now ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire, as her lover. At Cleopatra’s behest, Antony murdered the last of Cleopatra’s Ptolemy rivals, and the two devoted themselves to a life of debauchery. Antony even left his Roman wife and married the Egyptian queen.
In later days Cleopatra was taken prisoner by Octavian. Cleopatra committed suicide in her chamber. Plutarch, the first century Greek historian, is responsible for the story that her death was caused by the bite of an asp, smuggled into her room in a basket of figs. However, the tale cannot be substantiated.  The asp was traditionally a symbol of Egyptian royalty and would have added a nice touch. But, then again, witnesses did notice two marks on her arm.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Caesar and Cleopatra Part.II

Many of the senators objected to a union between Rome and her traditional enemy, the Greeks. Their discontent grew strong enough to cause a cadre of senators to turn conspiratorial and for a plan to assassinate Caesar, led by his main rival Cassius, to emerge.
The Senate had scheduled a meeting for March 15, purportedly for routine business, and the conspirators chose that date, known as the Ides of March, for an attack. They were able to recruit a few of Caesar’s close friends into the scheme, including Cassius brother in law, Marcus Brutus, by suggesting that Caesar was going to declare himself  king on that day. In all, the conspiracy attracted about 60 people , with 20- all senators- to do the killing; the collective responsibility implicit in the act would allow them to transfer power to the Senate.
 The tradition of the Ides of March notwithstanding, Caesar actually heeded personal premonitions and his wife’s advice to stay home that day (each had had disturbing dreams that night before.) but Cassius recruited a friend of Caesar’s to persuade him to come to the Senate meeting. As he left his house, someone we do not know who thrust a note into his hand. It went unread.
Caesar arrived at the Senate at around 11 AM. He almost immediately received a petition and as he read it, the senators crowed around him. At the signal, one of them grasped Caesar’s robe and pulled it down at the neck, and the designated first striker (a tribune of people named Casca) made poorly executed stab that barely grazed Caesar’s chest. But as Caesar tried to defend himself, he opened himself up to attach by others.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Caesar and Cleopatra Part.I

Birth Place of  Caesar

Forum of Julius Caesar 60 BC

The untimely deaths of those two great lovers and superstars of antiquity, Caesar and Cleopatra, undoubtedly amplified their celebrity. But the facts of his assassination and her suicide, mythologized by Shakespeare and by countless novels and films, can get lost in the glare of the legend.
To start, neither Caesar nor Cleopatra, Caesar was full faced and balding, while the beauty of the great Egyptian queen, in the worlds of the ancient historian Plutarch,” was by no means flawless or even remarkable, ‘ what each had- and recognized in the other – was a vigorous charm, and a gift for amassing power.  When he met Cleopatra, Gaius Julius Caesar, was in fact, the most powerful min in the world, the ruler of the Roman Empire from 59 to 44 BC. After returning from a victorious military campaign in the East; on Feb. 14, 44 BC Caesar declared himself Dictator Perpetuus, dictator for life. But several senators grew concerned that Caesar’s power would threaten the republican nature of the Roman Government. They were also concerned his developing relationship with Cleopatra, who was then feuding with her siblings for Egypt’s throne. Though she now might be associated with Egypt, Cleopatra was actually considered Greek. Her family, the Ptolemy had ruled Egypt for three centuries and cloaked a largely Greek administrative and legal system with a veneer of Egyptian customs to satisfy the natives.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Search for the Noah’s Ark

The bible gives o specific geographic location for Ararat, the mountain where the ark rested as the waters subsided. Nevertheless, generations have searched for the mountain in an effort to find the Ark. The Greek version of the Old Testament translates Ararat as Armenia, as do ancient Assyrian versions of the flood narrative.  But the Mount Ararat in the north eastern Turkey has long been revered as the holy site.
 The mountain was first explored in the early 1800s, and over the next 5o odd years several expeditions had returned with “proof” of the Ark. This included sodden timbers of a type that does not grow anywhere on the mountain and that seems to have been cut approximately 4,000 years ago from trees in Mesopotamia (Noah’s Home land). More impressive developments have recently occurred. In 1952, Ararat was reconnoitered from a helicopter, and a photograph was taken of a structure protruding from the ice near the peak.  In 1974, a photograph taken by a satellite revealed a formation a little lower on the mountains northeast side. It was described as “clearly foreign to anything else on the mountain, about the right size and shape to be an ark”. However, to continue with the exaction would mean moving a large about of ice; and so we await conclusive proof of the ark’s whereabouts

Friday, July 9, 2010

Who built Stonehenge? Part.III

  What was Stonehenge’s purpose? Scholars have long assumed the site had religious significance, a theory supported by the absence of debris such as broken pottery. Quack theories proliferated until 1963, when the British astronomer Gerald Hawkins introduced what is now the most widely accepted explanation. Hawkins noted that when a person stands in the center of Stonehenge, certain celestial bodies appear over various stones with a regularity that defies coincidence. Hawkins recovered astronomical data from the time of Stonehenge’s construction and, with the help of a computer, confirmed a number of these astronomical alignments. Most spectacularly, during the summer solstice – an important date for an agricultural community- the sun seemed to rise directly over one of the larger stones. It seems as if Stonehenge functioned as a giant calendar and observatory, one of man’s first great efforts to keep track of time.

  In the wake of this discovery lay unanswered questions. Some archeologists suggest that Stonehenge was also used to predict solar eclipses. Its social function, as opposed to its religious or calendar purposes, has yet to be fully understood. These mysteries may very well endure as long as the ponderous stone themselves. As Henry James remarked about the mysteries of Stonehenge,” you may put a hundred questions to these rough hewn giants….. But your curiosity falls dead in the vast sunny stillness that enshrouds them’.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Who built Stonehenge? Part.II

The first builders of Stonehenge were probably members of a prosperous, warlike group of people called Beaker Folk, known for their use of pottery drinking vessels. Even so, one can sympathize with the archeologists who remained incredulous that a primitive Stone Age people, lacking initially both metal tools and system of writing, could build such a complex structure. The ultimate success of the builders depended on a combination of ingenuity and sweat. Stonehenge contains some marvelous, delicate touches; the upright stones, for example, were fashioned with a central bulge (as in the column of many classical Greek temples), so that a circular perspective was preserved when viewed from below. But much of its grandeur is due to the blue stones’ sheer size- and that, of course, translates into back breaking labor.

The bluestones used in the second ring came from the Preseli Mountains in Wales, some 240 miles away, transported by water with rafts and on land in wooden sleighs. (A team from the BBC demonstrated that this was possible; a group of able –bodied young men moved stones of similar size using a sleigh tied to log rollers.) The larger sarsen stones, weighing as much as 50 tons apiece, were found loose in a region 20 miles away.  They were dragged, one by one, by teams of up to 1,000 men. These stones, pounded into shape with smaller rocks, were placed into deep pits on the site, sloping to one side and later raised by using a primitive rope operated lever.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who built Stonehenge? Part.I

Centuries ago , a visitor might have attributed Stonehenge’s construction to magical powers; a typical 12th century British legend asserted it was built” not by force but by Merlin’s Art”, and the site has been associated with Druid assemblies. More recently, its design has so impressed archeologists that they have insisted it could only be the product of an advanced, colonizing population. Mycenae, a flourishing citadel culture on the Greek mainland, and Brittany, in north western France, were suggested as possibilities for this invading force, because each boasted similar, if less impressive, gigantic structures made of stone.

  So the archeological world was shocked when in the 1960s carbon dating revealed that the original building of Stonehenge occurred possibly as early as 3000 BC, centuries before the Mycenaean period. In fact the tests confirmed that Stonehenge was built in stages spanning a period of up to 1,500 years, as later immigrants renovated the original site. Stonehenge I, the earliest version, was little more than a raised bank with a ring of 56 shallow pits just inside. Stonehenge II, begun in about 2000BCand more sophisticated in its design, consisted of a double circle of huge blue stones; some time before 1500 BC, these were replaced in Stonehenge III by a 100 foot diameter ring of 30 larger sarsen sandstone monoliths. On top of some of these stones were set huge lintels, with peg and socket joints used to secure them in place, forming a vast horseshoe of triithons.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Mayan Calendar

The calendar Imagery among the Maya is so prominent that some experts believe that they had an obsessive fascination with time rivaling that of present –day humans. They used two calendar systems, the Long Count Calendar and The Calendar round. The Long Count was perfected in Classical times that are AD 250-900, and its dates record the number of days that have elapsed since a mythological starting point corresponding to 3114 BC in our calendar. In fact the Maya believed that the world had been created and destroyed at least three times, the last creations having begun on August 13, 3114 BC, and the next being due on December 24, 2011.

Long count dates are precise counts of elapsed time based on the 360 -day year, which they called a tun, divided into 18 months of 20-day unials. The Mayan numbering system is based on 20, not ten, so a year was counted in groups of 20 tuns, termed a katun, and 20 katuns termed a baktun.
A Long Count date is made up of five numbers. The first figure records the baktun (400- year span).  The second is the katun (20-year span), the third a tun (360-day span, the fourth a uinal (20- day span0 and the last a kin, a single day.  The oldest recorded date is July 6, AD292, from Stela 29 at Tikal in northern Guatemala.
The Calendar Round simply names the day in two different calendars. The first is the sacred round of 260 days, the Tzolkin, composed of 20 day names and 13 numbers,  It is pictured as a set of interlocking cog wheels representing circular time: one with numbers from one to 13, the other with 20 named days,
Imix -
 Day one,
Ik   – Day two,
Akbak – Day three etc.
Supplementing this is the Haab (also called the Vague Year), a year of 365 days made up of 182 day months and then a five day period at the end of the year. It takes 18950 days, or 52 365 day years, for a combination of these two methods to repeat itself.