Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End Of The World

During the Middle ages, great anxiety surrounded the approach of the year 1000. Many people feared that the new millennium would mark the end of the world – just as it had been described in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. How did the people of the time deal with this fear? And what was it about the year 1000 that made them think it would bring the end of human kind?

In 1890s, a number of historians observed that the approach of the year 1000 in Europe had been accompanied by fears about the end of the world. These fears were fed by the Church, which apparently wanted Christians to believe that they could secure their places in paradise by transferring their property to the clergy. Many Christians did so, there by securing the church’s power base for years to come. It is not difficult to imagine that this caused a sensation, and that the Church angrily denied that anything of the kind ever took place.


 We know that the level of anxiety among the medieval population rose as the year 1000 drew nearer. Naturally, they looked to their priests and to the Bible for guidance. The bible gives a detailed description of number of catastrophes and plagues that would lead to the end of the world. This would fulfill god’s will, and the New Jerusalem would descend from heaven. The problem was that the Holy Scriptures did not give an exact date, but some scholars estimated that the period around the new millennium would be the likeliest time. This leads to proclamations such as that of Parisian cleric, who announced around 975; ‘the Antichrist will come at the end of the year 1000 and the Last Judgment will follow shortly thereafter’. Many people believed such statements in part because a string of natural disasters that took place towards the end of the 10th century led them to fear for the future. In the year 987, parts of western and central Europe were stricken by torrential rains; a severe drought followed in 990; and shortly afterwards storms again devasted these regions. France in particular was badly hit by natural disasters; in 997, a terrible epidemic claimed countless lives, while in Burgundy, a severe famine even produced out breaks of cannibalism.


 Faced with the sign of imminent chaos, it was easy for people to believe in the legends that ‘the end of mankind is at hand’. The appearance of a comet in 1014, and a solar eclipse in 1033, were both interpreted as harbingers of further horrors.

 All these events were meticulously recorded by the monks, who were the chroniclers of history during the Middle Ages. The various disasters and strange celestial occurrences certainly seemed to confirm the apocalyptic predictions of the Church. Raoul Glaber, a monk from the abbey of Cluny in central France, wrote around 1050; ‘ After all the signs and wonders which occurred before or after the year 1000 of our Lord, there was no shortage of innovative people who predicted no less important events for the thousandth return of the passion of the Lord. And indeed there is no doubt that signs were manifest… they fulfilled the prophecy of John, which states that Satan shall be let loose after a thousand years’


The expectation of the thousand year reign of Christ on earth before the end of the world is known as Chilism and was a wide spread belief in the first centuries of Christianity. According to this doctrine,, the souls of the just will be resurrected and will rule with the Messiah, then, Satan will be freed for a short time, and the end of the world will follow.
 (Cont.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Birth of Physics and Newton’s Apple -1

Newton and the aloe: it’s an image as enduring as any in history. As the story goes, the 23 year old Isaac Newton was sitting in his garden in his home in woolsthorpe, England, when he noticed an apple fall to the ground. A moment’s pondering, and he was inspired to postulate the law of universal gravitation.

Newton himself never put this story in writing, though he did recount it to his friend and biographer, William Stukeley, one evening in 1726, one evening in 1726. Yet, two other biographers of Sir Isaac his physician Henry Pemberton and mathematician William Whiston- interviewed Newton extensively about the origins of his theory of gravity, and neither mentioned the apple.

The story comes to us through Voltaire, who recounted it in Elements de philosophie de Newton, claiming he had heard it from Newton’s niece, Catherine Barton Conduit, who lived with Newton and managed his house hold for 20 years. Some historians speculate that Catherine may have been telling the truth- but she mistook an example her uncle had used to explain gravity for an actual occurrence. Carl Friedrich Gauss, the great 19th century mathematician, dismissed the entire story as an absurd insult to Newton’s genius.

 Whether or not the story is true, the impression it leaves- that Newton formulated his theory in isolation- is certainly misleading. In the late 1670s, Newton was already famous for his theories about light, his experiments in optics, his formulation of calculus and his invention of the reflection telescope. He climbed the academic fame quickly but found himself enrolled in several disputes over who had thought of what scientific theory first. Newton had little patience for such squabbling and resigned from the Royal Society, calling science ”a litigious lady.”

But then, in 1679, one of Newton’s earlier rivals, Robert Hooke, became secretary of the society. Hooke was stymied by several problems in mechanics and believed Newton was the only man who could help. So in November of the year, Hooke wrote a gracious letter to Newton inviting him to correspond on subjects in physics of mutual interest. Newton accepted the invitation, but soon regretted doing so, And the reason? Hook made public some of Newton’s erroneous speculations, much to Newton’s embracement.

 It was in one of Hooke’s letters, however, that Newton first heard the idea that the motion of an object under the influence of a force could be broken up into to composite motions; one I the direction of the force and changing in accordance with Newton’s second law and the other perpendicular to the force and moving uniformly in accordance with the Newton’s first law. Unbeknownst to Hooke, this was the breakthrough idea that Newton needed.
                                      (Cont.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

History Mystery: Mayans Number System!


I think this is the right time to discuss about the Mayan calendar and hence this post for your views. Before going to discuss the Mayan mathematics and numbers it is very important to know how we came to know all about them.

Here is a small briefing: Diego de Landa a Spanish Franciscan aged 17 landed in Yucatan peninsula and helped the Mayan people to resist the invasion of Herman Cotes of Spain. Remember that the people of the Yacatan peninsula were the descendants of the ancient Mayan civilization which was declined after 900 AD. Landa tried his best to protect the people from the Spanish masters and he visited all the ruins of the great Mayan cities of ancient civilization and learnt their customs and their history. Since he is a Franciscan a stunt follower of Christianity he abhorred their religious practice and sentiments he ordered for the Mayan idols and books should be destroyed. Later he has regretted for his action and he did mention in his book “Relación de las cosas de Yucatán” In that book he describes the hieroglyphics , Mayan customs, their temples and temple practices etc. Few Mayan documents which survived after Landa’s destruction were Dresden codex, Madrid Codex and Paris Codex. In the all above the Dresden Codex is believed to be copied from the original documents of Seventh century AD and it is a treatise of Astronomy. Knowledge of Mayan civilization has been greatly increased in the recent years due to the modern technology such as aerial photography, satellite imaging and high resolution radar imaging etc. The Mayan people constructed temples, palaces, shrines, thatched houses, terraced buildings causeways and huge dams to store rain water and the rulers were the high priests and possessed high knowledge in astronomy field. The farming was carried over in the raised fields with the help of the irrigation system.

 They were the highly cultured and civilized people who used calendar for their routine and religious life. Since they are masters in astronomy and calendar it is evident that they are masters in Mathematics too. The Mayan followed a very refined number system. It is assured that their mathematical system was the very advanced one of those times. Mayan number system is based on twenty (it is worth remember we are following number system based on ten). Most of the scholars give the following reason for their d vigesimal (twenty) system. Ancient people used both of their fingers and toes for calculation hence it is. Though it is of base twenty it has only three symbols for representing a particular number amazing isn’t it? They had the number zero and it was represented by a shell. Though the number system looks like positional, it is not actually so.

 The Mayan number mentions the unit numbers from one to nineteen in the first place and in the second place twenties up to nineteen and in the third place it denotes the numbers up to 360’s instead of 400’s after that the system reverts to the multiples of twenties ( i.e. 202 , 203 204 so on…)

 Let us see one example:

Consider one Mayan numeral: [9; 8; 9; 13; 7]

It actually represents the following number : + 13 × 20 + 9 × 18 × 20 + 8 × 18 × 202 + 9 × 18 × 203 =1357107

The above example was derived using the Dresden Codex. Some of the historian argued that they have followed different systems for astronomy, calendar and merchandizing but there is no written evidence for that.

 Let us discuss about the Mayan Calendars, they followed two calendars namely ritual calendar and civil calendar. The ritual calendar was known as the Tzolkin based on 260 days and it contained thirteen months of twenty days each. Each month was named after their gods and the days were numbered from zero to nineteen. The Haab, namely civil calendar consisted of 365 days and it had eighteen months of twenty days each and the remaining last five days were mentioned as wayem. According to Landa’s “Relación de las cosas de Yucatán” this last five days were considered as unlucky period for them and during those days they won’t wash comb and not even do any hard work. A satisfactory reason for why they followed two calendars could not be found. The years coincide after every 18980 days in other ward after every 52 civil years or 73 ritual years. Mayan astronomers accurately calculated the movements of Venus. Apart from these calendars the Mayans measured the time in another way also. It was an absolute time scale based on the creation date. 12th August 331 BC is taken as creation day but some historians differ from this Long count. The long count based on 360 days in a year is nothing but the count of days in Mayan number system hence it is more accurate than the other two calendars. Most of the inscriptions available from the Mayan towns are in terms of long count only.

Let us see one example for this:

 This [8; 14; 3; 1; 12] date is mentioned in a Plate found from the town Tikal.

 Let us calculate the year of inscription. 12 + 1 × 20 + 3 × 18 × 20 + 14 × 18 × 202 + 8 × 18 × 203 = 1253912 That is it was made 1253912 days after the creation date of 12th August 3113 BC. Hence the plate was carved in the year 320 AD.


The Mayans astronomical measurements are outstanding and more accurate. They don’t have any instruments other than sticks. They made a cross like shape with the help of two sticks both tied together at 90 degrees and through this they observed celestial bodies and their movements. Many of the historians believe that The Caracol building at Chichen Itza to be a Mayan observatory. Many of the windows in Caracol follow certain rules with respect the movement of moon and Sun. With their crude instrument namely with sticks the Mayans accurately calculated the length of a year as 365.242 days. Our modern scientific world recorded the same as 365.242198 days. In the similar manner Mayan accurately calculated the lunar month as 29.5302 days and latest findings displays it as 29.53059 days.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

History Mystery: “Lothal” Proof For Dravidian maritime knowledge!


      The maritime activities of India were very much old as that of Bronze Age (i.e. of between early third and mid second millennium BC). The excavation of Lothal at Gujarat coast constructively gives evidence for the maritime activities of the Dravidians. The Gujarat coast is with several creeks and rivers that provide a natural environment for the harbor along the coast. The Gujarat coast is rich in marine wealth such as conch and shells which were exported during those days. Since from the prehistoric period the Harappan people aware of the behavior of the tidal waves and they were the first who used the ebb and neap flow of the water effectively in berthing and moving the ships from the dockyard. They constructed a harbor at the coastal city Lothal in Gujarat. The early works of Tamil and the later works in Sanskrit illustrate, the ancient’s have the thorough knowledge in the tidal waves and they were also aware how the tides changes its behavior according to the position of moon. Sadly there is no physical evidence to show that they had a thorough knowledge in astronomy.


      In the early historic period the Harappans had a clear understanding about the coastal tidal features and their special importance for maritime navigation. The Indus valley Dravidian people have a very close trade contacts with Sumeria, Srilanka and others both by the land and sea. This was supported by the finding of a seal and a pot - sherd portraying a ship. It is further substantiated by the discovery of the Lothal, a Harappa civilization site in Ahmadabad district in Gujarat. The Harappans constructed a dock for berthing and servicing the ships near the mouth of the river Sabarmati (But the river Sabarmati’s course was shifted later years).This is the earliest structure based on the knowledge relating to the ebb and the neap tides in the world. And the remains of the Lothal port prove the sound knowledge of the Dravidian in the maritime engineering and the hydro-graphic. They have the better understanding in the effects of tidal water on the brick build structure also. They have constructed the walls of the dock with the kiln burnt bricks. The ships were allowed through the flood gate into the dock through the river estuary flooded by an inlet channel at high tide from the Sea. Similarly the ships have to leave the yard during the high tide and the buttress walls were constructed either side of the inlet near the embankment to avoid the erosion and scouring of the tidal waves.

     The selection of Lothal for the construction of a dock yard is a cleverly selected one and this reflects the knowledge of the Dravidian of those days. Why because, even now the Cambay reason is the only region with highest tidal range in India. Even now the Spring tides in the Cambay Gulf rise and fall as much as 33 feet with a velocity of more than six knots and the neap tide raise more than 23 feet with more than 5 knots wind speed. In the first century AD an anonymous Egyptian navigator wrote “Periplus Maris Erithrei” in it he gives a detailed descriptions of the harbors, the kings and the people of that period anchorages and about the climate, prevailing wind and also he recorded his observations about the tides in the Arabian sea and the part of Indian ocean and he mention that In India the seas ebb and neap with tides of extra ordinary strength. Lothal site is now silt laden but excavations carried out by the archaeologists and they found 5 phases of structural activities so far. And the first four phases belongs to Harappa culture and the fifth one represents the late or degenerate phase. The dockyard is in the eastern side of the mound with trapezoidal plan. The western and eastern embankments of this dockyard had the facility for berthing and handling of cargo of length 218 meter and 38 meters with the height of more than 4 meters constructed with the kiln burnt bricks. The inlet channels are of 7 meter height and 2.5 kilometers long.

       The Ships has to enter the harbor were sluiced through the inlet channel at the high tide and when the water level is about the inlet sill. They are well aware of scouring effect of the tidal waves and so constructed two buttress walls on either side of the inlet walls. The second channels runs towards south embankment and right angle to it. In the either sides of the junction of the embankment was provided with the vertical grooves to inserting the wooden door to close the spill way for maintain the maximum water level in the water way.

    They meticulously designed the water way for desilting. The automatic desilting was achieved by allowing excess water to flow through the spillway and some more grooves were provided at regular intervals in the sidewalls as weep holes. To make the ships float in the low tide the construction of abutments to the wall at the entrance of the dock. To counteract the water thrust in the closed enclosure the walls were buttressed from the outer side with more than twelve meters wide platform with bricks.

     As a conclusion The Harappans were the early users of tidal phenomena and they utilized the tidal phenomena solely for the sluicing and berthing of ships in the dockyard at Lothal.

Friday, November 16, 2012

History Mystery: Angels Part.II


     Among the Talmudic age people, there were different opinions about the angels and their nature. Some of them thought every day new angels were created and they praise the god in the day and then at the end of the day they jump in to Nehar di Nur that is the river of fire. And some others added with that that Michael and Gabriel are the only two who serve the god permanently, hence we can come to the conclusion that the Talmudic age people discriminate the angels with respect to their duties assigned to them as eternal angels and the other angels.

       The Midarsh and the Talmud literature give a brief description about the angels and their creations. According to those literatures they angels were created by the God on the second and fifth day of their creation. They walk upright and they can fly, and they can reach the one end of the world form other end quickly and they can foretell predict the future and they can only speak Hebrew. They look like human but half fire and half water. Both demons and the angels have many things in common. The common belief is that no angel is assigned multiple tasks at a time that is each angle has to carry out a single assignment at a time and they also can make error as a human. There is much classification among angels, peace and evil angels, angels of life and death. Hence it is evident that there is segregation like lower and higher level of angels.

      Apart from already told arch angles Sandalfon Zaagzagael and Suriel are mentioned some places But the Midrash literatures gives much importance to the Metatron Angel. According to apocryphal literature every kingdom and their kings have their own guardian angels and they are chained to avoid doing harm to Israel. When the kings and their kingdoms fall the angels also fall and they also suffer punishment if the kings suffer punishments. Some of the details of guardian angels are there in Christian Neoplatonists also. Rabbis, the guardian angel otherwise mentioned as Dubiel, in Persia. The name of the guardian angel of Nebuchadnezzar was mentioned as Kal.



 The angels are fully depend o the God himself and they cannot act on their own. They have to proclaim the god’s sanctity and glory all day but they could not view the glory of the God himself and not even their dwelling place. The Aggadah the rabbinic literature differ from the above. According to it the god himself consulted the angels before creating the human and Michael and Gabriel played an important role in the marriage of Adam and Eve. Eve was made pregnant by the angel named Samael. During the Talmudic age traces of angel worship are not found. But the Christian writers have the different versions about that.