What religion really means

Today we associate the word religion with ‘belief system’ or ‘religious organizations’. In fact we unobtrusively picture Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jain etc. worldviews as soon as we hear the word. Yet its true meaning is far different and simpler than that.

So what does Religion actually mean?

The word religion comes from the latin religiō which means conscientiousness, sanctity, reverence, scrupulousness. Thus you don’t have to be following a belief system to be religious. 

There is a tendency these days to consider science and religion as if they are opposites when in fact,

Science can be your religion. Sounds contradictory, but it’s not!

Let us not corrupt the use of this word.

Bibliography
Acharya S. http://freethoughtnation.com/please-respect-my-religion/

Religion Etymology http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/religion#Etymology

Into the future with Orion

On December 05, 2014, the Orion capsule successfully completed its flight test having spent 4.5 hours on the Earth’s orbit and then splashing into the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles southwest from San Diego. It is designed to take humans into outer space and preferably Mars.

NASA’s plan is to launch the Orion on Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket ever built for the Exploration Mission.

This reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke’s work’s and what he envisaged more than 40 years might not be that far away after all. I mean it is one thing to be a reader of science fiction and space travel but to actually DO it is a different story and a truly breathtaking one.

Click here to find out more.

The Slow Journey Of Wheel

800px-A_Wheel_in_Kudumiyanmalai_Temple
A Wheel in Kudumiyanmalai Temple. Source: Wikimedia Commons

It is not the wheel itself, but the problem of rotation that’s dogged our minds for thousands of years – John Lienhard

He must have first observed it in the wild, and many times during the Paleolithic (2.6 m – 10,000 ya) the much less strenuous movement of the rolling tree log; something that must have been puzzling and tantalizing while he himself was left to haul for example the prey that was captured hundreds of meters outside his dwelling.

Astonishingly, however, it was not until about 3500 BC that he was able to leverage his knowledge of the mechanics to invent the wheel for good. If that does not sound odd then consider the fact that the first stone tools were invented around 2.6 mya, the hand axes and choppers around 700,000 ya and as we already know (from the most important discovery of man part I), the evidence of the first controlled fire dates back around 1 mya. The paintings, sculptors, carvings and other prehistoric all flourished during the Paleolithic.

And yet, it was not until 3500 BC, 6500 years after the agricultural revolution that wheels were developed by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia. This is only 900 years before the Pyramids of Egypt were built. As Natalie Wolchover of Scientific American writes, “The tricky thing about the wheel is not conceiving of a cylinder rolling on its edge. It’s figuring out how to connect a stable, stationary platform to that cylinder.”.

Since being able to use wheels for transportation is one of the greatest achievements man has made, it is interesting to think that we lacked the successful mechanics for a staggeringly long time. Had it co-evolved, for example, with stone tools and art, several hundred thousand years ago it is certain that the world would be vastly different from what it is now, and most likely thousands of years ahead of where we stand today.

Bibliography

Natalie Wolchover (2012). Why it took so long to invent the wheel. Scientific American.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-it-took-so-long-to-inv/

Wheel History.
http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/wheel.htm

The Evolution of the Wheel.
http://visual.ly/evolution-wheel-infographic

 

 

Ocean Acidification – Why It Could Be a Catastrophe

“The prospect of ocean acidification is potentially the most serious of all predicted outcomes of anthropogenic carbon dioxide increase” – Veron, J.E. (2008)

Bibliography
Veron, J. E. (2008). Mass extinctions and ocean acidification: biological constraints on geological dilemmas. Coral Reefs, 27(3), 459-472. doi: 10.1007/s00338-008-0381-8

 

The Ocean as Our Planet

One of the first things our lecturer said to the class at the start of the semester was

“If aliens are observing our planet from far far away, they wouldn’t really call it earth. If you look at the structure, our planet is one that should actually be called The Ocean “

As we go through the pell mell of our daily lives, little attention do we pay to the fact that there lies a colossal body of water, mostly unexplored and that the land on which we are sitting (of which all the continents are made of, but which apparently is still huge by our standards), covers a mere 29.2 % (i.e. less than 1/3rd) of our planet’s surface area.

But the body of water is just the tip of the iceberg; what’s more fascinating than anything else is what lies within and beneath that water. There is more ecosystem and biodiversity flourishing in those waters than you will ever be able to imagine. But let’s put aside the marine biota for the moment and explore what lies underneath the massive body of water.

Have you ever imagined what would happen if you were able dive down to the very bottom of the deepest parts of the sea? Is there even a bottom at all? The answer is a fascinating yes!. It is fascinating because the ocean floor is completely different from what you would imagine it to be. This is because the sea floor is undergoing tremendous amount of tectonic activity (movement), every moment; with the new crust being formed and the old one being subducted.

One important realization is that the continental margin doesn’t end  as you start moving offshore; not until you have reached hundreds of kilometers. The ocean basin, on the other hand is not a flat land like you would imagine. It contains several features such as:

Abyssal plains – These are very flat depositional surfaces formed by slow settling of fine particles.

Volcanic Peaks – These poke through the sediment cover of the abyssal plains and depending on their elevations can be of various types (seamounts, tablemounts/guyots, seaknolls and volcanic Islands ).

Ocean Trenches – These are linear, steep sided scars on the ocean floor and contain some of the deepest parts of the oceans. They form volcanic arcs such as the Island arc (e.g. Japan) and the continental arc (e.g. Andes mountains) due to the rise of the trench on the landward side. The Pacific Ring of Fire is formed from these trenches.

The Mariana Trench, situated at the Western Pacific is the deepest part of the ocean/world (about 11,022 km below sea level). No feature on Earth is as tall as the Mariana Trench is deep.

The Álfagjá Rift Valley in south-west Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and marks the boundary where the Eurasian plate is moving apart from the North-American plate. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Mid-Ocean Ridge – It is the longest global mountain chain entirely volcanic that marks the divergent plate boundary (i.e. where the two lithospheric plates are moving apart from each other). The molten lava from the bottom spews out through the fractures/cracks known as hydrothermal vents, cools down and forms the new sea-floor pushing the old ones toward the continental margins.

The Silva Method for Meditation and Deep Relaxation

Lately I’ve been focusing on balancing different parts of my life – study, work, sport, reading, blogging and other stuff. I found this meditation exercise a few months ago and now I use it everyday.

Note: The actual meditation starts  only at 4:28 in the video.

This particular exercise is for deep physical and mental relaxation; the peace of mind you want so badly to extricate yourself from the  internal cacophony and have ninja focus on what needs to be done.

Sameer.

The Vincan Civilization and Symbols

In the previous post, we looked at how the oldest form of writing we know (known as proto-writing) was discovered at the Jiahu site in China. The next piece of evidence comes from another end of the world – Vinča in Serbia.

A piece of the Tărtăria tablet set with incised symbols that dates back to 5300 BC to the Vinčan culture. The tablet was discovered in 1961 by Archaeologist Nicolae in Tartaria, Romania. Vlassa. Image Credit: FlorinCB (Creative Commons)

In 1908, a Serbian archaeologist Miloje Vasić discovered the largest, and oldest Neolithic settlement in Europe dating back 5500 to 4500 BCE encompassing what is today Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, eastern Hungary, Moldova, southern Ukraine and the former Yugoslavia.

Farming and agriculture got introduced to the civilization during the First Temperate Neolithic which was maintained and further ameliorated that saw the blooming of population and construction of urban settlements – long before the Sumerians of Mesopotamia. Evidences show that the Vincans were probably the first metallurgists as one of the copper mines discovered from the site has been dated to be at least 7000 years old (Rudgley, 1999). This actually predates the Copper/Chalcolithic Age.

One of the reasons the civilization flourished and advanced so well has been associated with their use of written symbols for communication. Various artifacts that have been unearthed have embedded in them symbols that were in use throughout the culture.

Vincan symbols. Source: Creative Commons

They were also ceramicists, weavers and excellent traders – one of the other reasons the culture flourished and bloomed throughout the empire. Rudgley (1999), however, states that these symbols were probably derived from religious concerns rather than for material purposes.

Although these symbols remain to be deciphered until today (or may  never be deciphered) they have been related to the early pictograms of Sumerians with the implication that latter probably borrowed some of its symbols from the Vincan culture (a matter of great controversy and debate). But most historians agree that the Vincan fingerprint is reflected in the Cretan and Sumerian scriptures and cultures.

Bibliography 

Rudgley (1999). The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age. USA: Simon and Schuster.

Beforeit’snews.(2013). Did Vicans invent writing before the Sumerians and Egyptians? Cryptographer translates Tartaria tablets. 

The Oldest Piece of Writing (Jiahu, China)

Jiahu Writing

This is supposedly the oldest piece of writing, discovered at the Jiahu site in Henan, China. The excavations carried out in 1999 uncovered these symbols embedded in tortoise shells, suggesting that writing first started soon after the Neolithic Revolution, around 7000 – 5800 BCE in the Peiligang culture, long before its presumed origin on the cuneiform tablets of Mesopotamia (around 3200BCE) (Clair & Snyder, 2012).

It should be noted that these are just symbols; a form of proto-writing so there are debates about whether this pertained to any language at all as its meaning is undeciphered to date; but the symbols are related to the modern Chinese script than any other style of writing (Malone, 2012).So it is fair to say that this nevertheless is a representative of written communication; and quite possibly the oldest one.

Bibliography

Clair,K. & Snyder, C.B. (2012). A typographic Workbook: A Primer to History, Techniques, and Artistry. USA: John Wiley & Sons

Malone, M. S. (2012). The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Huan Memory. USA: St. Martin’s Press

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