Combining sound Scientific Principles with useful Aesic (Aesic simply being the term for all of the various spiritual actions in which I engage) Methods and combining both of those with reliable Theurgical Practices has allowed me to make great advances along all three disciplines and areas of activity.
(As opposed to thinking these various disciplines and endeavours are either a substitute for each other or that they are in some way contradictory to each other. But in fact each is naturallycomplimentary to the other.)
That seems as if it would be immediately self-obvious idea to all but you would be surprised at the numbers of people to whom this idea seems entirely alien, if not outright heretical…
Each week we uncover the most interesting and informative articles from around the world, here are 10 of the coolest stories in science this week.
Daring, Dangerous Rescue
A massive operation is underway to rescue 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach who have been trapped for nearly two weeks in the Tham Luang cave system, with rain expected Sunday (July 8).
Whether the team could wait out the monsoon season, remaining holed up in the cave for months, is not clear. [Read more about the risks.]
Saving the Day
A pride of hungry lions in a South African reserve just saved the day, at least for a herd of rhinos. The poachers, who had illegally entered that reserve with a gun and axe to kill those rhinos, were not so lucky. [Read more about the event.]
A new optical-illusion study in the journal Science asks whether a series colorful dots is purple, blue or proof that humans are doomed to a lifetime of sadness and poor decisions. [Read more about the illusion.]
The first mission designed to hunt a meteorite that crashed into the ocean has now discovered what may be tiny fragments of the meteorite’s crust, researchers say.
The details the scientists had regarding the fall suggested the meteorite was unusually strong, Fries said. This knowledge, in combination with the fact the meteorite landed on a soft seafloor as opposed to dry land, suggested this ocean fall might yield large, relatively intact meteorites for scientists to study. [Read more about the meteorite.]
Links to the Past
More than 3 million years ago, our adult human ancestors were walking on two feet and didn’t have the option of a fashionable baby sling to carry their kids around in. Instead, Australopithecus afarensis toddlers had a special grasping toe that helped them hold on to their mothers and escape into the trees, reports a study published today (July 4) in Science Advances. [Read more about the digit.]
A Paradoxical Situation
A galaxy that is supposedly devoid of all dark matter might actually be full of it.
Scientists have suggested the existence of this bizarre matter to explain a just-as-bizarre phenomenon: Based on the light astronomers can see with their telescopes, the universe acts like there is much more mass, and therefore much more gravitational force, than Albert Einstein’s theories predict based on what we can see. [Read more about the galaxy.]
The laser blasters in “Star Wars” are no longer a thing of science fiction. Chinese researchers have developed an actual laser gun that can ignite a target on fire from a half mile (800 meters) away, the South China Morning Post reported.
Although the gun is classified as a nonlethal weapon, its laser shots can cause “‘instant carbonization’ of human skin and tissues,” according to the South China Morning Post, which means skin would burn and be reduced to carbon like the outside of a charred marshmallow. It can also fire through windows, burn through gas tanks and ignite anything that’s flammable. [Read more about the gun.]
Guilt-Free Cup’o Joe
Coffee lovers may not have to feel that familiar pang of guilt when pouring themselves yet another cup of joe for the day.
In the study, published July 2 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Loftfield and her team at the NCI analyzed data from nearly 500,000 people who took part in the U.K. Biobank study. That project gathered health information from more than 9 million people. [Read more about the possibilities.]
Hope on Enceladus
Large, carbon-rich organic molecules seem to be spewing from cracks on the surface of Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, according to a new study of data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The discovery means that Enceladus is the only place besides Earth known to satisfy all the requirements for life as we know it, space scientist and study co-author Christopher Glein said in a statement from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio. [Read more about life in space.]
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.
Seven Earth-sized planets have been found orbiting an ultracool dwarf star 40 light-years away
The planets are temperate, meaning they could have liquid water
The researchers believe this is the best place outside of our solar system to look for life
(CNN)Astronomers have found at least seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star 40 light-years away, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The findings were also announced at a news conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
This discovery outside of our solar system is rare because the planets have the winning combination of being similar in size to Earth and being all temperate, meaning they could have water on their surfaces and potentially support life.
“This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star,” said Michaël Gillon, lead study author and astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium.
The seven exoplanets were all found in tight formation around an ultracool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Estimates of their mass also indicate that they are rocky planets, rather than being gaseous like Jupiter. Three planets are in the habitable zone of the star, known as TRAPPIST-1e, f and g, and may even have oceans on the surface.
The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultracool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it.
The researchers believe that TRAPPIST-1f in particular is the best candidate for supporting life. It’s a bit cooler than Earth, but could be suitable with the right atmosphere and enough greenhouse gases.
If TRAPPIST-1 sounds familiar, that’s because these researchers announced the discovery of three initial planets orbiting the same star in May. The new research increased that number to seven planets total.
“I think we’ve made a crucial step towards finding if there is life out there,” said Amaury Triaud, one of the study authors and an astronomer at the University of Cambridge. “I don’t think any time before we had the right planets to discover and find out if there was (life). Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to what we have on Earth, we will know.”
Life may begin and evolve differently on other planets, so finding the gases that indicate life is key, the researchers added.
“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Answering the question ‘are we alone?’ is a top science priority, and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
And as we’ve learned from studying and discovering exoplanets before, where there is one, there are more, said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Seager and other researchers are encouraged by the discovery of this system because it improves our chances of finding another habitable planet, like Earth, in the future, by knowing where to look.
What we know
The planets are so close to each other and the star that there are seven of them within a space five times smaller than the distance from Mercury to our sun. This proximity allows the researchers to study the planets in depth as well, gaining insight about planetary systems other than our own.
The seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 compared with Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
Starting closest to the star and moving out, the planets have respective orbits from one and a half to nearly 13 Earth days. The orbit of the farthest planet is still unknown.
Standing on the surface of one of the planets, you would receive 200 times less light than you get from the sun, but you would still receive just as much energy to keep you warm since the star is so close. It would also afford some picturesque views, as the other planets would appear in the sky as big as the moon (or even twice as big).
On TRAPPIST-1f, the star would appear three times as big as the sun in our sky. And because of the red nature of the star, the light would be a salmon hue, the researchers speculate.
The researchers believe the planets formed together further from the star. Then, they moved into their current lineup. This is incredibly similar Jupiter and its Galilean moons.
Like the moon, the researchers believe the planets closest to the star are tidally locked. This means that the planets always face one way to the star. One side of the planet is perpetually night, while the other is always day.
What the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like.
Based on preliminary climate modeling, the researchers believe that the three planets closest to the star may be too warm to support liquid water, while the outermost planet, TRAPPIST-1h, is probably too distant and cold to support water on the surface. But further observation is needed to know for sure.
How the discovery was made
TRAPPIST-1 barely classifies as a star at half the temperature and a tenth the mass of the sun. It is red, dim and just a bit larger than Jupiter. But these tiny ultracool dwarf stars are common in our galaxy.
Photos:Weird and wonderful planets beyond our solar system
They were largely overlooked until Gillon decided to study the space around one of these dwarfs.
The researchers used a telescope called TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) to observe its starlight and changes in brightness. The team saw shadows, like little eclipses, periodically interrupting the steady pattern of starlight. This is called transiting. The shadows indicated planets, and further observation confirmed them.
In July, the team was able to determine that two of the closest planets to the stars had atmospheres that were more compact and comparable to those of Earth, Venus and Mars by observing starlight through the planets’ atmosphere.
By using a global network ground-based telescopes like TRAPPIST and space-based telescopes like Spitzer, the researchers continued looking toward the TRAPPIST system and were able to determine the orbital periods, distances from their star, radius and and masses of the planets.
Over the next decade, the researchers want to define the atmosphere of each planet, as well as to determine whether they truly do have liquid water on the surface and search for signs of life.
Although 40 light-years away doesn’t sound too far, it would take us millions of years to reach this star system. But from a research perspective, it’s a close opportunity and the best target to search for life beyond our solar system.
“If we learn something now, it can determine if we looked in the right place,” Gillon said.
In 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope will launch and be positioned 1 million miles from Earth with an unprecedented view of the universe. It can observe large exoplanets and detect starlight filtered through their atmosphere.
The researchers are also searching for similar star systems to conduct more atmospheric research. Four telescopes named SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) based in Chile will survey the southern sky for this purpose.
This star system will probably outlive us because this type of star evolves so slowly. When our sun dies, TRAPPIST-1 will still be a young star and will live for another trillion years, Gillon said. After we are gone, if there is another part of the universe for life to carry on, it may be in the TRAPPIST-1 system.
“This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations,” said Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. “Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”
I am seriously considering inventing an improved and a modern version of this gear system for my adaptation of the Roman Way. Also I very much like the fact that if you have to go into combat you can immediately shed the weight as compared to a ruck or backpack. I will still use the weight vest to simulate armor but adapt this system for carrying additional weight and gear.
This is not really a new suspicion or discovery, more like a confirmation of suspicions and prior tracking.
Nevertheless my wife and I were watching a NASA video today and she asked me something about how far out a probe had went and I told her, in giving my answer, that I suspected our own solar system was much larger than we thought, and that it some ways may even extend to the edge of or even encompass the closest next solar system. That therefore, despite current thinking, that in some ways our solar system may very well share elements with, let’s say, Proxima Centauri. That is to say that we may be or even share stellar matter with Proxima Centauri or even be part of a Solar Cluster including our own and the Centauri systems. Therefore the probe was not really likely to leave our real solar system any time soon.
It depends very much on what we have in common (materially, energetically, and gravitationally) with neighboring solar systems, what we share, and precisely how you define a “Solar System.” In addition to how sensitive we are in being able to detect possible connections, correlations, and shared associations.
But in any case I’ve always suspected, even as a child, and going back to my earliest studies of astrophysics that our solar system was much larger than thought and that it contained other matter and energy systems than those which we can currently detect.
That’s was before I saw this which only further confirms these suspicions that I have had for many, many years now.
Exciting news everyone, a potential new dwarf planet has just been discovered in the Kuiper Belt at the edge of the Solar System. Called 2014 UZ224, it’s located beyond the orbit of Pluto, and may be one of a hundred such objects still undiscovered.
This particular object is thought to be about 530 kilometers (330 miles) across, compared to 2,374 kilometers (1,475 miles) for Pluto, one of the other five confirmed dwarf planets at the moment. The others are Ceres, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea. Another candidate, 2015 RR245, was announced earlier this year.
It was found by a team led by David Gerdes from the University of Michigan, as part of a larger map of galaxies called the Dark Energy Survey (DES). Using specialized computer software, they found the moving object about 13.7 billion kilometers (8.5 billion miles) from the Sun, about twice as far as Pluto. It completes an orbit in about 1,100 years.
According to NPR, it has taken two years to confirm the existence of 2014 UZ224. It is thought to be the third most distant known object in the Solar System.
We don’t know much else about the dwarf planet at the moment, aside from its size and orbital characteristics. But the discovery hints at even more objects in the outer Solar System, most notably Planet Nine, a world thought to be 10 times as massive as Earth. The search for this world continues.
The existence of 2014 UZ224 has been officially verified by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), but like 2015 RR245 before it, it’s not clear if it will be given official dwarf planet status yet. That will depend on a number of factors, including whether it is spherical. If so, though, it would be the smallest dwarf planet found so far.
Dwarf planet or not, our Solar System just got a little bit busier.
In January of 250, the Roman Emperor Decius issued an edict that everyone under his reign must perform a sacrifice dedicating themselves to the empire and to the Roman gods. Understandably, this caused an uproar among young Christian communities, who, though persecuted, had previously been free to worship. Refusal to submit came at the price of death. All the same, many Christians refused to deny their faiths.
Seven young men in Ephesus refused to make the sacrifice and hid in a cave on the outskirts of the city. Tired from fleeing, they fell asleep. The Roman sentries came upon the Seven slumbering peacefully in the cave. Rather than killing them outright, they sealed them in, perhaps in a mockery of Christians’ reverence for Jesus’ entombment. That was the last their families and friends ever heard of them.
Sometime much later, the myth continues, the farmer who owned the land thought to open the cave, perhaps to use as an animal pen. He was shocked to find seven young men inside, still asleep. When the light hit their faces, they awoke. Feeling hungry, they pooled their money and sent one of them to the village to buy food. They warned him to watch out for Romans, but, believing they had slept for a full day, they thought the coast was clear. When the young man reached the market and tried to buy bread, vendors were dismayed to see that he carried Decian coins—which were at least 150 years old by then. The bishop was called in (in the century they slept Christianity had resurfaced full force) to interview the Seven Sleepers, and they all died peacefully just a few hours after.
The cave outside Ephesus was excavated in the 1920s, revealing a number of 5th and 6th century Christian graves. An ancient Church sits atop the cave as well. Religious pilgrims still pay visits to the holy Cave of the Seven Sleepers.
The details of the myth are hotly disputed among the various cultures that tell it. Christians believe that the Seven slept for between 128 and 200 years, but the Qur’an states that they slept for around 300 years. Even the location is unclear. Though this cave in Ephesus is the most commonly visited by religious pilgrims, caves in Jordan, China, Tunisia, and Algeria lay claim to the myth of the Seven Sleepers.
Whatever the truth of story is, its lore has seeped into common culture. For example, in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, a sysover (“seven-sleeper”) is someone who sleeps long and hard. Seven Sleepers Day is June 27th, and is the German equivalent of American Groundhog Day.
THE NATURAL PARANOIA OF THE POLICE – YOU’RE NOT GETTING THE TAILLIGHT OR THE WAY THE STOP WENT DOWN
I don’t suspect that either “side” (of the political argument anyway) is getting the taillight or the stop. So let me explain something that probably most of you aren’t understanding then. At least not a lot of you.
Yes, it’s possible the woman made up the story of the taillight, but equally possible, if not far more so, that is simply the reason the officer gave for the stop. That, if the kid was a suspect, you give a fake reason for stopping them in order to throw the guy off his guard and not arouse suspicion.
Rarely would you stop a guy, especially if you spot that there is a woman and a kid in the car, and say to them, “Excuse me sir, but you fit the profile and so does this vehicle involved in a recently committed crime. Mind if I talk to you for a minute so we can see if you are the actual perp?”
Game is over at that point. You can likely expect trouble. I mean who the hell does that? Yes, the black humorist in me would like to see it tried sometime but not around anyone else.
And yeah, the cop lied to you in a semi-believable way or a way he can fake later, “Yeah, well, from what I saw the light wasn’t functioning.” Big deal, he’s trying to defuse or cover or prevent a far more dangerous or even potentially deadly situation. Which I’ll get to in a minute.
What I would have said and done, had I been the officer, was this,
“Excuse me, sir or madam (whoever is driving, I’d have to rewatch the video but notice he approached the boy in either case) and I don’t know if you are aware of this or not but your license tag is missing. It’s possible it either fell off or was stolen. No, don’t get out of your car. I just want to know, do you know your license tag number or can you recite it for me?”
I’ve used that ploy myself to great effect and it confuses people and distracts them. Setting their mind to a task that occupies them. But then again I’m fifty something years old and this cop was apparently a rather young guy with 3 or 4 years on the force and his partner about the same. You can’t blame a man for being inexperienced. That alone is not a crime. Though sometimes it can be a disaster.
But in either case the cop likely used the broken taillight as a ploy for the stop. Then everything else went down.
I have no problem with the stop. Or the ploy, if that’s what the cop did and I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that’s what he did. That’s not my complaint with this entire incident.
My complaint is with everything that follows.
Some of you are gonna think I’m anti-cop and some of you are gonna think I’m racist and so the hell what?
I’m not interested in either, I’m not either, and I don’t give a fuck what you think. None of that is germane. I am interested in solutions.
Let me tell you how I would have likely handled this and how most old timers would have handled this and without a shot being fired (unless the kid pulled a gun and started shooting, which you cannot control).
I would have told them both, “Your license tag is missing.” To occupy them. Then I would have filmed them all good with my body cam (an advantage of modern technology). If the guy informed me he had a gun and a permit I would have said, “Good, just wait on that please. No hurry.”
Seeing there was a kid (in case I hadn’t before) and a woman I’d have likely said, “You have a child in the car, you don’t want anything to happen to that child or to be stopped again. Do you?”
“No, of course not. No one wants to endanger a child.”
“Do you two live together?”
Yes, or no.
“What are your addresses? Do you live nearby?” Get them without arousing suspicion and knowing they might or might not be true. But remember you still have the licenses and you still have the tags. Even if they don’t know that.
“Okay, go straight home and get this car and your child (even if it ain’t his kid you want him thinking that way about the kid) off the road. Someone else could pull you over.” (Remember you could be aware that there is a call out for the vehicle or the suspect, but they don’t necessarily know that.) “I’m gonna give you a warning ticket about the tag and if another officer pulls you over between here and home then show it to them. That will clear you, but go straight home, okay? Will you promise me that until we can recover your tag?”
Then I would have all I need for alter advantageous action and I’d send them on their way. I might even shadow them home but more than likely I’d just call it in and let everyone know what I did and for someone else to pick them up along the way or near their home(s). Once I could be sure the boy was safely separated from the child and woman then I could isolate and interrogate him and either verify or disprove he was the actual suspect.
Will they check their license tag on getting home? Maybe. If the boy does and he knows he’s a suspect then he might take off. Likely alone. Which is what you want. (Not necessarily policy wise, but practically and realistically.) If he has been properly shadowed or picked up he won’t get far and you won’t have to wait for long to pick him up at an advantage to you, and at a disadvantage to him. If he’s not the real suspect then you’ll just confuse him and the girl. No harm done. And again you can wait, observe, and possibly eliminate him as a suspect.
Either way your real effort is to get them separated. If he’s a suspect and isolated then the danger to everyone else is eliminated, if he is not a suspect then you either make up a story “It really looked like your tag was gone,” or you level with the guy. And apologize. And let him know why, “you fit a suspect description and so did your vehicle, but we’ve either been able to clear you or we caught the real suspect. I wanted you to know that because this could have gotten dangerous for you. And for us. I’m very glad it didn’t and hope this never happens again to you.” Then shake his hand.
Most of the time that satisfies most people. Even endears you to a few. Sometimes someone will file a complaint. But, and I don’t wanna sound syndical here but you know exactly what I mean, that beats the hell out of the paperwork and complaints you’ll receive for a shooting or for getting shot.
Point is, you don’t have to solve every possible criminal problem or engage every criminal suspect at first encounter unless of course you or someone else has found them in the commission of a crime. Or the suspect suddenly draws his own weapon and starts firing. Things you can’t control anyway.
Danger is not your real job as a police officer, it’s a perk (black humor again), and shooting and getting shot is not your real job as a cop, avoiding or deescalating danger and avoiding shooting and getting shot, and thereby resolving crime as peacefully as possible – that’s your real job. (Is that always possible, no, sadly, you understand real people too, but that is your aim and most of the time it can be done if you are craftier than the criminal or the public, and you should be craftier than both. Oh few people will say that out loud, because of modern political pussification, but it’s true. You want to be far smarter than either the criminals or the public to both defeat and destroy crime and to guard society, sometimes even from itself, without endangering the innocent.)
Now a lot of people will say by way of objection, “Well, our resources are already stretched too thin and we can’t afford to wait and to isolate.”
Of course you can.Don’t be absurd. Waiting and isolating is a hell of a lot cheaper and safer for everyone, including you (in the vast majority of cases) than facing lawsuits and riots and potshots at your fellow officers and mass murders attacks (I am not saying any of these things are actually justified, I am saying you likely will face them, and you know that if you are really honest with yourselves) and possibly getting civilians involved in a shooting. Shooting is the very last thing you want to do if you can possibly help it, but nowadays if an old woman with a knife is running around screaming, you just shoot her.
For God’s sake, think on that and think on how your grandfathers would have handled that.
You don’t, returning to the subject matter at hand, escalate a potentially dangerous situation around a woman and child. Even assuming you have a right to fire (and being a suspect does not make a man guilty and having a firearm – unless you are a convicted felon – is legal for everyone else or should be under our Constitution) bullets can hit bones or metal or other material and spin away and hit the woman or kid, or in a rush you can just plain miss.
And suspicion does not give you a right to fire.
And after you do fire and have severely injured a guy you immediately disarm him, clear the child and woman, and render assistance. You do not stand there with your weapon continually aimed at the guy as he bleeds out and dies.
There are lots of ways this could have been handled. Most all would have ended safely for everyone.
Now was this stop racism? Very, very unlikely that most any situation like this is racism. That’s ridiculous. It’s paranoia, is what it actually is. If it was racism or “systemic racism” then cops would be shooting sixty year old back guys and black women and little black kids, or whatever. They aren’t. They tend to shoot young black males because that is who is usually proven dangerous. After all young black males kill far more young black males than most cops ever will. (And you gotta be honest about that too.) But cops are paranoid of young black males precisely because, primarily in big city/heavily urban areas, they kill each other so often. Add that, to a cop’s already natural sense of paranoia and danger, not only abides for all, it multiplies and thrives.
And that’s fine and I get that, paranoia has on more than one occasion saved my ass. But paranoia and inexperience and the idea that you must be in a rush to resolve every dangerous or potentially dangerous situation has a bad side as well.
If you ask me, by studying this situation carefully, you can see how modern police training is going badly awry. Your training is all fucked up. Especially big city training. Well, most big city training anyway.
You gotta start being honest about that. Primarily, urban police officers, I mean.
You gotta start acting beyond your training and incorporating your own experience to your actions and reactions and listening to what your older officers and old timers do/did in tough situations, and listen to their stories.
You gotta stop being in such a rush and yeah, I know, if your superiors second guess you and think you have fucked up by letting a suspect walk (for the moment) they will give you hell and maybe even screw with your career. I know all of that shit. Your job sucks.
And yeah, I know you’re not racist, you’re paranoid. You’re stuck in a system, and an environment (just like most young decent blacks kids are) where the usual suspect and the usual perp of violent crime (and the usual victim) is a young black boy. That’s just Reality. So if you’re a cop, especially in certain areas, and you’re not paranoid, then you’re a fool.
But don’t let paranoia rule you (easier said than done, I know), don’t be in a rush, rely upon your training but don’t be hamstrung by it, add to it your experience and the experience of those around you, and remember a lot of problems, even those that seem immediately dangerous aren’t really if they are handled right. And given some time, thought, and pre-calculation.
(It sure as hell wouldn’t hurt for you to write down all of the tricks you’ve employed over time that worked out well, and all of the things you’ve done that haven’t worked and review those with yourself and your fellow officers from time to time. Screw policy when necessary, write down and think about and review what actually works. Lessons Learned. Keep your own records and notes on your own best techniques and the best techniques of those who do best.)
And remember that if you see a woman and a kid, assuming your suspect hasn’t already pulled a gun then he’s just a suspect and a lot of things can wait until the situation is to your advantage, and to the woman and kid’s advantage, not the suspect’s advantage.
And you owe people who are not criminals (especially when they are in or around potentially dangerous situations) respect even when they give you a hard time, and many will for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Most people are driven by their emotions at least some of the time. Everyone is from time to time. You know that better than most. You see it constantly.
And so for God’s sake be careful out there. I mean that in all of these potential senses, careful for yourself, careful of others, and careful for others. All are equally important but not all have to be serviced immediately and sometimes it is just plain better to wait, to observe, to qualify, and to understand before acting.
And for you civilians out there, especially you middle class blacks (and whites and others) who have lived basically sheltered lives but for whom the police may still be paranoid of you, they are paranoid by nature and as a result of the job (keeps them alive), not racist.
(At least not racist in the way you think at all. They are practical racists, if that is the real term or expresses the real idea. I know no one wants to hear that, even cops because they are not racists or bear ill-will against a race-group but they have “attached danger to the idea of young black males” primarily young black urban males because they have seen so many dangerous young black urban males. To that one group they are, rightfully or wrongly, extra-paranoid. You can call that racism if you like, I don’t, it should have its own term, and maybe I should devise one, but it’s not race-hatred, it’s an extra-heightened sense of danger and paranoia around a particular group of young black males born of experience, particularly those who live in certain areas.)
Nevertheless, and all of that being true, a police officer cannot rely upon suspicion and paranoia as a tool of interaction in working with the public. A police officer owes you respect especially if you are not engaged in crime or have no record. But cops have a heightened sense of suspicion and danger. Often to them suspect = convict or dangerous individual because they have seen it so much.
I wish there was a way I could magically wave a wand and resolve these situations for everyone involved or make everyone understand the other better.
But I can’t.
But I can say this, we can all do lot better. Cops, civilians, society, black, white, you name it. And we should all do lot better.
And criminals, for God’s sake, stop doing the shit you do.
There’s no future in it for you or anyone else. Without you being idiots and fools most of this shit would never happen. That’s the real answer to the vast majority of this mess.
Criminals, find and pursue a better way. You’re the real and by far the most prominent and dangerous problem.
Do I actually expect that?For criminals to suddenly grow a conscience and to change?
What the hell am I? Some kind of naïve modern man?
Not likely. But still, it’s what ought to be done.
Castile can be seen slumped between the front seats, his white t-shirt soaked with blood, his breathing slowing between cries of pain.
“I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off it,” the St. Anthony police officer can be heard saying to Reynolds.
Following the arrival of more officers, Reynolds’ confronting footage continues, with her being forced to drop to the ground at one point.
The shooting of Castile comes following the death of Alton Sterling, another African American man shot dead by police in Baton Rouge on Tuesday.
Diamond Reynolds speaking to press following the shooting. Source: Youtube.
“Please don’t tell me this, Lord. Please, Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone,” she said. “Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir,” Reynolds says frantically. “He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”
Later, as Reynolds and her daughter are being loaded into a police vehicle, she again cries, “Please Jesus, no. Please no. Please no, don’t let him be gone.”
From out of shot, Reynolds daughter can be heard saying, “it’s okay, I’m right here with you.”
Castile was pronounced dead at at Hennepin County Medical Center. He had no criminal record and was said to be well respected by co-workers and friends.
Yeah, I had him pegged early on as either ex-military or former SWAT. So I was right on that part too. Guy knew exactly what he was doing. The attack was too well executed and planned and staged and possibly even coordinated. His defensive positioning and site preparation must have been impressive to employ the robot with an explosive. It probably wasn’t just to kill him but to trigger potential IEDS, prepared bombs, booby traps, and excess ammo as well. Plus until the actually got into his nest they could not have known/verified he was actually alone.
Then the robot could also do a post explosion assessment/sweep for traps and additional suspects prior to human penetration.
Yeah, that makes a lot more sense now. The robot and the explosives. Bad all the way around, but I get the logic. Especially if they had prior Intel from the negotiations or profile/personnel/background research.
By Tim Madigan, William Wan and Mark Berman July 8 at 2:53 PM
Here’s what we know so far about the Dallas shooting Play Video1:57
DALLAS — Five Dallas police officers were killed and seven others wounded Thursday night when sniper fire turned a peaceful protest over recent police shootings into a scene of chaos and terror.
The gunfire was followed by a standoff that lasted for hours with a suspect who told authorities “he was upset about the recent police shootings” and “said he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. The gunman was killed when police detonated a bomb-equipped robot.
After the bloodshed — the deadliest single day for law enforcement officers since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — authorities said one attacker was dead, three potential suspects were in custody and police were still investigating who may have been involved in the attack.
Dallas shooting updates
News and analysis on the deadliest day for police since 9/11.
“We are heartbroken,” Brown said during a news conference Friday. “There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city.”
The eruption of violence at around 9 p.m. occurred during a calm protest over recent police shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana, with similar demonstrations occurring in cities across the country. As a barrage of gunfire ripped through the air, demonstrators and police officers alike scrambled. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told CBS News that in addition to the police officers, two other people were wounded by gunfire, though their conditions were not immediately known.
[What we know about the attack on police in Dallas]
‘Somebody’s armed to the teeth’: Social videos show shooting in Dallas Play Video2:37
Police have not officially released the identity of the attacker who said he was upset by police shootings, but a senior U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the probe identified him as Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, who is believed to be from the Dallas area. Johnson did not appear to have any ties to international terrorism, the official said.
Johnson deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army from November 2013 through July 2014 and was in the Army Reserve from 2009 until last year. Army records show that Johnson, whose home was listed as Mesquite, Tex., had served with an engineering brigade before he was sent to Afghanistan. He did not have a combat job and was listed as a carpentry and masonry specialist.
There are no immediate indications that the attack was related to terrorism, international or domestic, according to a second federal law enforcement official, who asked not to be identified discussing an ongoing probe.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said Friday that federal officials including the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were working with local law enforcement to help investigate the attack.
“This has been a week of profound grief and heartbreak and loss,” Lynch said. Noting that the attack in Dallas happened during a protest sparked by police shootings, she added: “After the events of this week, Americans across our country are feeling a sense of helplessness, uncertainty and fear … but the answer must not be violence.”
[Man falsely connected to the shooting by Dallas police is now getting ‘thousands’ of death threats]
The slain police included four Dallas police officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officer. While police said they were killed by “snipers” perched atop “elevated positions” and initially said there were two snipers, it was unclear Friday how many attackers were involved.
For hours after the assault, police were locked in a standoff with Johnson after he was cornered on the second floor of a building downtown. Police exchanged gunfire with him and negotiated with him, but those discussions broke down, Brown said.
In those conversations, Brown said the suspect told police that “he was upset about Black Lives Matter” and angered by the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota that dominated national news this week after officers in both places fatally shot black men. He also said he was not involved with any groups and acted alone, the police chief said.
Authorities currently believe that he was the lone shooter, although have not completely ruled out the involvement of others, said Philip Kingston, a Dallas City Councilman who represents the downtown district. “The shooter’s own statement apparently was that he had acted alone,” Kingston said around midday on Friday.
During the standoff, Johnson also told authorities that “the end is coming” and spoke about bombs being placed downtown, though no explosives had been found by Friday.
[Dallas police Chief David Brown lost his son, former partner and brother to violence]
Ultimately, Brown said police had no other option but to place an explosive device on their bomb robot and send it to the suspect, who was killed when the bomb detonated.
During remarks at a prayer vigil on Friday afternoon, Brown said that “this was a well-planned, well-thought-out evil tragedy by these suspects,” adding: “And we won’t rest until we bring everyone involved to justice.”
Names of the slain officers began to emerge Friday, beginning with Brent Thompson, a 43-year-old transit police officer and Patrick Zamarripa, a 32-year-old police officer who served three tours in Iraq with the U.S. military.
The Dallas transit agency identified three of its officers who were injured but are expected to survive.
“As you can imagine, our hearts are broken,” the agency said in a statement. “We are grateful to report the three other DART police officers shot during the protest are expected to recover from their injuries.”
These three officers were named as Omar Cannon, 44; Misty McBride, 32; and Jesus Retana, 39. Tela Strickland, McBride’s 14-year-old cousin, reacted with “shock” to news that her relative was shot in the stomach and shoulder.
“I am so tired of seeing shootings in the news,” she told The Post. “When you see your own family in the news, it’s heartbreaking.”
DART grieving the loss of Ofc Brent Thompson, 43, killed during Thurs protest. First DART officer killed in line of duty. Joined DART 2009.
3:00 AM – 8 Jul 2016
1,924 1,924 Retweets 1,296 1,296 likes
Even as people were still trying to hide or shelter in place after the gunfire, videos began to circulate on social media showing some of the bloodshed.
One video showed a person with an assault-style rifle shoot a police officer in the back at point-blank range. In the footage, a gunman is seen running up behind an officer moving behind a pillar and firing at his back. The officer is seen falling to the ground. It is unclear if the officer survived.
Eyewitness video: Dallas gunman shoots police officer Play Video1:47
Brown had said during one briefing that he was not sure if there were more suspects at large. On Friday, Brown said he would not go into any detail on other suspects until authorities get further into their investigation.
“We’re not expanding on who and how many,” he said. “We’re going to keep these suspects guessing.”
[Killings and racial tensions commingle with divided and divisive politics]
At one point, Brown had said he believed four suspects were “working together with rifles triangulated at elevated positions at different points in the downtown area” where the march was taking place.
“Suspects like this just have to be right once … to snipe at officers from elevated position and ambush them from secret positions,” Brown said Friday. He added that despite the danger, officers “with no chance to protect themselves … put themselves in harm’s way to make sure citizens can get to a safe place.”
Two possible suspects were seen climbing into a black Mercedes with a camouflage bag before speeding off, police said. They were apprehended in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. A third possible suspect, a woman, was taken into custody near a garage where the attacker who exchanged gunfire with police wound up.
Brown said it was unclear if any of the suspects were somehow connected to the protest. He added that detectives were investigating that possibility.
“All I know is this must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens,” he said.
[Police nationwide order officers to ride in pairs after Dallas police ambush]
On Friday, Rawlings, the mayor, said that he believed the country had to honestly confront racial discrimination.
“We will not shy away from the very real fact that we as city, as a state, as a nation are struggling with racial issues,” he said during a prayer vigil.
After the shooting in Dallas, police officers and agencies across the country offered their condolences and took steps to protect their officers.
Police chiefs in Washington, Los Angeles County, Boston, Nassau County and St. Louis also had instructed their patrol officers to pair up, as did officials in Las Vegas, where two officers were gunned down in an ambush while eating lunch in 2014, and New York, where two officers were killed in another ambush that same year.
Terry Cunningham, the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., said Friday, that officers nationwide “really are going to have to have vigilance. Any traffic stop, at any time, can be deadly. I don’t know what this means. I don’t know if this means more violence perpetrated toward law enforcement as a result of this.”
Officials in Tennessee said Friday that they believed a man who opened fire on a parkway there before exchanging gunshots with police may have been prompted by concerns over encounters involving police and black Americans.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that Lakeem Keon Scott, 37, the suspected shooter in that case, had killed one woman driving in her car, wounded two other people and shot a Bristol, Tenn., police officer in the leg before officers shot and wounded him.
“Preliminarily, the investigation reveals Scott may have targeted individuals and officers after being troubled by recent incidents involving African-Americans and law enforcement officers in other parts of the country,” the agency said in a statement. They added that there was no current safety threat to the area and that the investigation suggested that Scott had worked alone.
[Minn. governor says race played role in fatal police shooting during traffic stop]
The mass shooting in Dallas comes amid intense scrutiny of police officers and how they use deadly force, an issue that returned to prominence in the news this week after videos circulated of a fatal shooting in Baton Rouge, La., and the aftermath of another in Minnesota. On Tuesday morning, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge; less than 48 hours later, Philando Castile was fatally shot by an officer in Minnesota.
President Obama, who after arriving in Warsaw discussed how troubling the events in Minnesota and Louisiana were, spoke about the Dallas attack and said there was “no possible justification” for the shooting in the city.
“I believe that I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events,” Obama said.
He called on Americans to “profess our profound gratitude to the men and women in blue” and to remember the victims in particular.
“Today, our focus is on the victims and their families,” Obama said. “They are heartbroken, and the entire city of Dallas is grieving. Police across America, which is a tight-knit family, feels this loss to their core.”
Officials across the country expressed their grief for those killed in Dallas.
“I mourn for the officers shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters, for their families [and] all who serve with them,” Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, wrote in a message on Twitter. Her likely Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, called the shooting “a coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe.”
Amidst protests, police heroics
Stories of heroism emerged along with tales of horror. Several people said officers helped save them, including one man who said an officer pushed him out of the way as shooting began. Bystanders captured footage of cops dragging fallen comrades out of the line of fire. Cameras also captured police officers choking back tears for their fallen colleagues. One officer appeared to brace himself against his SUV as grief overcame him.
“So many stories of great courage,” Brown said.
Dallas Police respond after shots were fired at a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Dallas on Thursday, July 7, 2016. Dallas protestors rallied in the aftermath of the killing of Alton Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge, La. and Philando Castile, who was killed by police less than 48 hours later in Minnesota. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
Rawlings said it was “a heartbreaking morning” and called for unity.
“We as a city, we as a country, must come together and lock arms and heal the wounds we all feel,” he said.
As in other cities across the country, protesters gathered in downtown Dallas just before 7 p.m. for a march from Belo Garden Park to the Old Red Courthouse.
For nearly two hours, hundreds of demonstrators had marched through Dallas, at one point passing near a memorial plaza marking the site of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination in the city.
[Dallas witness: ‘Everybody seemed happy. And then, all of a sudden — the shots rang out.’]
Stanley Brown, 19, was near El Centro, a community college in downtown, when the shooting began.
“You could hear the bullets whizzing by our car and hitting the buildings. A bullet missed our car by six feet,” he said. “We pulled into a garage and got out of our car, and the bullets started hitting the walls of the garage.”
Brown ran around the corner of a building to take cover, only to see a gunman running up the street.
“He was ducking and dodging, and when police approached, he ducked into El Centro,” he said.
He saw a SWAT team rush the college building, enabling five people to escape.
“An officer looked back at us and yelled that it was a terrorist attack,” he said.
Lynn Mays said he was standing on Lamar Street when the shooting began.
“All of a sudden we started hearing gunshots out of nowhere,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “At first we couldn’t identify it because we weren’t expecting it, then we started hearing more, rapid fire. One police officer who was standing there pushed me out the way because it was coming our direction…. Next thing you know we heard ‘officer down.’”
Undercover and uniformed police officers started running around the corner and “froze,” Mays said. “Police officers started shooting in one direction, and whoever was shooting started shooting back.
“And that’s where the war began.”
Wan and Berman reported from Washington. Greg Jaffe in Warsaw and Michael E. Miller, Travis M. Andrews, Adam Goldman, Katie Mettler, Ben Guarino, Mary Hui, Tom Jackman, Peter Hermann and Thomas Gibbons-Neff in Washington contributed to this report.
Two years after Ferguson, fatal shootings by police are up
The Post’s database of fatal police shootings
The Dallas sniper attack was the deadliest event for police since 9/11
To obtain a hard copy of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), the most popular personality test in the world, one must first spend $1,695 on a week-long certification program run by the Myers & Briggs Foundation of Gainesville, Florida.
This year alone, there have been close to 100 certification sessions in cities ranging from New York to Pasadena, Minneapolis, Portland, Houston, and the Foundation’s hometown of Gainesville, where participants get a $200 discount for making their way south to the belly of the beast. It is not unusual for sessions to sell out months in advance. People come from all over the world to get certified.
In New York last April, there were twenty-five aspiring MBTI practitioners in attendance. There was a British oil executive who lived for the half the year under martial law in Equatorial Guinea. There was a pretty blonde astrologist from Australia, determined to invest in herself now that her US work visa was about to expire. There was a Department of Defense administrator, a gruff woman who wore flowing skirts and rainbow rimmed glasses, and a portly IBM manager turned high school basketball coach. There were three college counselors, five HR reps, and a half-dozen “executive talent managers” from Fortune 500 companies. Finally, there was me.
I was in an unusual position that week: Attending the certification program had not been my idea. Rather, I had been told that MBTI certification was a prerequisite to accessing the personal papers of Isabel Briggs Myers, a woman about whom very little is known except that she designed the type indicator in the final days of World War II. Part of our collective ignorance about Myers stems from how profoundly her personal history has been eclipsed by her creation, in much the same way that the name “Frankenstein” has come to stand in for the monster and not his creator.
Flip through the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and you will find the indicator used to debate what makes an employee a good “fit” for her job, or to determine the leadership styles of presidential candidates. Open a browser, and you will find the indicator adapted for addictive pop psychology quizzes by BuzzFeed and Thought Catalog. Enroll in college, work an office job, enlist in the military, join the clergy, fill out an online dating profile, and you will encounter the type indicator in one guise or another — to match a person to her ideal office job or to her ideal romantic partner.
Yet though her creation is everywhere, Myers and the details of her life’s work are curiously absent from the public record. Not a single independent biography is in print today. Not one article details how Myers, an award-winning mystery writer who possessed no formal training in psychology or sociology, concocted a test routinely deployed by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies, the US government, hundreds of universities, and online dating sites like Perfect Match, Project Evolove and Type Tango. And not one expert in the field of psychometric testing, a $500 million industry with over 2,500 different tests on offer in the US alone, can explain why Myers-Briggs has so thoroughly surpassed its competition, emerging as a household name on par with the Atkins Diet or The Secret.
Less obvious at first, and then wholly undeniable, is how hard the present-day guardians of the type indicator work to shield Myers’s personal and professional history from critical scrutiny. For the foundation, as well as for its for-profit-research-arm, the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), this means keeping journalists far away from Myers’s notebooks, correspondences and research materials, which are stored in the Special Collections division of the University of Florida library. Although they are technically the property of the university — thus open to the public — Myers’s papers require permission from CAPT to access; permission that has not been granted to anyone1 in the decade since the papers were donated to the university by Myers’s granddaughter, Katharine Hughes. Twice I was warned by the university librarian, a kind and rueful man, that CAPT was “very invested in protecting Isabel’s image.” Why her image should need protection, I did not yet understand.
When I wrote to CAPT in August 2014, I received an enthusiastically officious email from their Director of Research Operations, requesting additional details about my interest in type indicator and a book I was planning to write on personality testing. “Will there be descriptions and historical background about other personality tests in addition to the MBTI instrument?” she wrote. “If so, we would like to be informed.” So began nine months of correspondence with the staff of CAPT, which culminated this April in their request that I become a certified administrator of the MBTI instrument. Certification was a necessary precursor to giving me access to the papers, the director told me over the phone. CAPT would even be willing to consider “possibilities for funding the training.”
This is how I found myself in the company of the oil man, the astrologist, the Department of Defense administrator and twenty other people at the certification workshop, located on the sixth floor conference room of the United Jewish Appeal Federation building on East 59th Street. We sat at tables of five or six, our backs pressed against a smoked-glass wall decorated with etchings of Seder plates, unfurling braids of challah, and half lit menorahs. Each of us wore a name tag with our first name, last name, and our four letter type printed on it in big block letters. It was not unusual for people to lead with their type when they introduced themselves.
I said hello to the woman sitting next to me. Her name tag said “Laurie — ENFJ.”
Laurie2 checked me out and sighed, relieved. “We’re both E’s,” she said. “We’ll get along great.”
The most important part of becoming MBTI certified is learning to speak type,” declares Barbara, our instructor for the next week and a self-proclaimed “clear ENTJ.” Dressed in black, with prominent red toenails and a commanding nasal tone, Barb, as she insists we call her, will teach us how to “speak type fluently.”
“This is only the beginning!” Barb says. “Just think of this as a language immersion program.”
The comparison is an apt one. There are sixteen types, each made up of a combination of four different letters. Each letter represents one of two poles in a strict dichotomy of human behavior. From the pre-training test I took earlier in the week, I learn that, like Barb, I too am an “ENTJ.” I prefer extraversion (E) to introversion (I), intuition (N) to sensing (S), thinking (T) to feeling (F), and judging (J) to perception (P). It is strange, this tidy division of myself into these alien categories. Initially, I have trouble keeping the letters straight. Strange too is the ease with which people around me speak their types, as if declaring oneself a “clear ENTJ” or a “borderline ISFP” were the most natural thing in the world.
Of course, speaking type is anything but natural. Still Barb’s job is to convince us that this simple system of thought can account for the messiness of many of our personal and interpersonal relationships, regardless of gender, race, class, age, language, education, or any of the other intricacies of human existence. Type is intensely democratizing in its vision of the world, weird and wonderful in its commitment to flattening the material differences between people only to construct new and imaginary borders around the self. Its populism is most clearly demonstrated by MBTI’s astonishing geographic reach: Last year, two million people took the test, in seventy different countries, and in 21 languages. “As long as you have a seventh grade reading level and you’re a ‘normal’ person” — by which Barb means, you are not mentally ill or blithely psychopathic — “you can learn to speak type.”
Across all languages and continents, however, the first rule of speaking type remains the same. You do not, under any circumstances, refer to MBTI as a “test.” It is a “self-reporting instrument” or, more succinctly, an “indicator.” “People use the word ‘test’ all the time,” Barb complains. “But what you’re taking is an indicator. It’s indicating based on what you told the test.”
Although her statement sounds tautological, Barb assures us that it is not. Unlike a standardized test, like the SAT, which asks the test taker to choose between objectively right and wrong answers, the MBTI instrument has no right or wrong answers, only competing preferences. Take, for instance, two questions from the test I took last April: “In reading for pleasure, do you: (A) Enjoy odd or original ways of saying things; or; (B) Like writers to say exactly what they mean.” And: “If you were a teacher, would you rather teach: (A) Fact courses, or; (B) Courses involving theory?” And unlike the SAT, in which a higher score is always more desirable than a lower one, there are no better or worse types. All types, Barb announces rapturously, are created equal.
The indicator’s sole measure of success, then, is how well the test aligns with your perception of your self: Do you agree with your designated type? If you don’t, the problem lies not with the indicator, but with you. Maybe you were in a “work mindset when you answered the questions,” Barb suggests. Or you had become unusually adept at “veiling your preferences” to suit the wants and needs of your husband or wife, your co-workers, your children. Whatever the case may be, somehow you were inhibited from answering the questions as your “shoes off self” — Isabel Briggs Myers’s term for the authentic you.
More cynically, what this seems to mean is that the indicator can never be wrong. No matter how forcefully one may protest their type, the indicator’s only claim is that it holds a mirror up to your psyche. Behind all the pseudo-scientific talk of “instruments” and “indicators” is a simple, but subtle, truth: the test reflects whatever version of your self you want it to reflect. If what you want is to see yourself as odd or original or factual and direct, it only requires a little bit of imagination to nudge the test in the right direction, to rig the outcome ahead of time. I do not mean this in any overtly manipulative sense. Most people do not lie outright, for to do so would be to shatter the illusion of self-discovery that the test projects. I mean, quite simply, that to succeed, a personality test must introduce the test taker to the preferred version of her self — a far cry, in many cases, from the “shoes off,” authentic you.
But Barb doesn’t pause to meditate on the language lesson she has started to give us. Instead she projects onto a large screen behind her a photograph of a pale and bespectacled man in a neat cravat. Peering over us is Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist whose 654-page study Psychological Types(1923) inspired Myers’s development of the indicator. Jung was “all about Freud, the couch, neurosis!” Barb laughs. For the purposes of our training, the relationship between his theory of psychological types and Myers’s commodification of it is a matter of good branding strategy. “Jung is a very respected name, a big name,” Barb says. “Even if you don’t know who he was, know his name. His name gives the test validity.”
Validity is crucial to selling the test, even if it doesn’t mean exactly what Barb seems to think it does. After the certification session is over, the participants will return to work with a 5-by-7 diploma, a brass “MBTI” pin, and a stack of promotional materials that they are encouraged to use to persuade their clients or colleagues to take an MBTI assessment. Each test costs $49.95 per person, more if you want a full breakdown of your type, and even more if you want an MBTI-certified consultant to debrief your type with you. No one questions the sheer ingenuity of this sales scheme. We are paying $1,695 to attend a course that authorizes us to recruit others to buy a product — a product which tells us nothing more than what we already know about ourselves.
Although Barb invokes Jung’s name with pride and a touch of awe, Jung would likely be greatly displeased, if not embarrassed, by his long-standing association with the indicator. The history of his involvement with Myers begins not with Isabel, but with her mother Katharine Cook Briggs, whom Barb mentions only in passing. After the photograph of Jung, Barb projects onto the screen a photograph of Katharine, unsmiling and broad necked and severely coiffed. “I usually don’t get into this,” she says, gesturing at Katharine’s solemn face. “People have already bought into the instrument.”
Yet Katharine is an interesting woman, a woman who might have interested Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem or any second-wave feminist eager to dismantle the opposition between “the happy modern housewife” and the “unhappy careerist.” A stay-at-home mother and wife who had once studied horticulture at Michigan Agricultural College, Katharine was determined to approach motherhood like an elaborate plant growth experiment: a controlled study in which she could trace how a series of environmental conditions would affect the personality traits her children expressed. In 1897, Isabel emerged — her mother’s first subject. From the day of her birth until the child’s thirteenth birthday, Katharine kept a leather-bound diary of Isabel’s developments, which she pseudonymously titled The Life of Suzanne. In it, she painstakingly recorded the influence that different levels of feeding, cuddling, cooing, playing, reading, and spanking had on Isabel’s “life and character.”
Today we might think of Katharine as the original helicopter parent: hawkish and over-present in her maternal ministrations. But in 1909, Katharine’s objectification of her daughter answered feminist Ellen Key’s resounding call for a new and more scientific approach to “the vocation of motherhood.” More progressive still was how Katharine marshaled the data she had collected on Isabel to write a series of thirty-three articles in The Ladies Home Journal on the science of childrearing. These articles, which were intended to help other mothers systematize their childcare routines, boasted such single-minded titles as “Why I Believe the Home Is the Best School” and “Why I Find Children Slow in Their School Work.” Each appeared under the genteel nom de plume “Elizabeth Childe.”
It is not surprising that Jung’s work should pique the interest of “Elizabeth Childe,” an aspiring pedagogue who perceived the maturation of her child’s personality as nothing less than an experimental form to be cultivated, even perfected, over the years. Indeed, Katharine first encountered an English translation of Jung’s Psychological Types in 1923, when she was editing The Life of Suzanne to submit to publishers. She found Psychological Types an unwieldy text, part clinical assessment, part romantic meditation on the nature of the human soul, which emphasized the “creative fantasy” required for psychological thought. Katharine took this as an invitation to start thinking of her children’s personalities as divided into three oppositional axes: extraverted versus introverted, intuitive versus sensory, thinking versus feeling. In 1927, she wrote to Jung to express her feverish admiration for his work — her “Bible,” she called it — and her desire to bring a more practical approach to his densely theoretical observations, which her “children … had been greatly helped by.”
“How wasteful children are, even with their own precious, irreplaceable lives!” Jung once wrote to Freud, a letter that might have doubled as his irritated response to Katharine and her request to collaborate. From the outset, it seems that Jung was impressed by Katharine’s brilliance and flattered by her enthusiasm, but skeptical of her eagerness to bring his typology to the science of childrearing. When Katharine wrote to him for advice about a neighborhood child, a young girl in great emotional distress who she believed she could cure through Jungian type analysis, Jung rebuked her for overstepping her bounds as a dispassionate observer. “You overdid it,” he wrote. “You wanted to help, which is an encroachment upon the will of others. Your attitude ought to be that of one who offers an opportunity that can be taken or rejected. Otherwise you are most likely to get in trouble. It is so because man is not fundamentally good, almost half of him is a devil.”
Despite Jung’s unwillingness to help Katharine see beyond the devil in man, some of the more practical applications of his typology appeared in a 1926 article that Katharine published in The New Republic, winningly titled “Meet Yourself: How to Use the Personality Paint Box.” In it, she would present Jung’s dichotomies as an elegant paint-by-numbers exercise, in which E/I, N/S, and T/F were the “primary character colors” that each individual could “combine and blend” to form “his own personality portrait.” Even babies, those “little bundles of psychic energy,” had types, and the sooner a mother identified her child’s type, the better it was for his mental maturity. “One need not be a psychologist in order to collect and identify types any more than one needs to be a botanist to collect and identify plants,” Katharine assured her fellow mothers. There was no need to doubt one’s ability to type one’s child.
“Meet Yourself” enjoyed quiet acclaim among parents when it was first published, but ultimately, Katharine’s desire to spread Jung’s gospel to a broader audience would inspire a shift in genre. She would abandon The Life of Suzanne as a parenting guide and turn instead to fiction, which she believed would help her reach a larger and more dedicated audience. Her longest work, written toward the end of her life, was a romance novel inspired by Psychological Types called The Guesser, the story of a love affair between two incompatible Jungian types. It was summarily rejected by ten publishers and two film producers for dwelling too much on Jung, whom no one other than Katharine was interested in, and not enough on love.
Like her mother, Isabel also began her adult life as a wife and mother. She graduated from Swarthmore in June of 1918 — Phi Beta Kappa, an aspiring fiction writer, and a moderately disillusioned newlywed, who had followed her husband first to Memphis, where he was training as a bomber pilot, and then to Philadelphia, where he enrolled in law school. In each city, she made a list of her future goals in a notebook which she titled Diary of an Introvert Determined to Extrovert, Write, & Have a Lot of Children.
Keep complete job list and do one every day.
Housekeep till 10 A.M.
Two hours writing.
One hour outdoors.
One hour self-development—music, study, friends.
Wash face with soap every night.
Never wear anything soiled.
But despite her clear goals and clean clothes, Isabel struggled to find a job. After an unfulfilling stint at a temp agency, she wrote to Katharine to complain about the difficulties of finding meaning in one’s work, particularly as a married woman who was expected to do nothing more than to have children. “I think under the spur of necessity a woman can do a man’s work as well as he can, provided she is as capable for a woman as he is for a man,” she wrote. “But I’m perfectly sure that it takes more out of her. And it’s a waste of life to spend yourself on work that someone else can do at less cost. I’m sure men and women are made differently, with different gifts and different kids of strengths.” In a perfect world, she concluded, there would exist “some highly intelligent division of labor that can be worked out, so everybody works, but not at the wrong things.”
Isabel’s “instinctive answer” to the question of what to do with herself was to be “my man’s helpmeet.” And for nearly a decade she was. Until 1928, she did housework, gave birth to two children, and at night, when the house was in order and the children were asleep, she continued to wonder what was missing from her life. Although a husband and children and a “beloved little ivy-covered colonial house” in the suburbs were “everything in the world that I wanted,” Isabel wrote, “I knew I wanted something else.” That something else was the time and energy to pursue a career as a successful fiction writer, something her mother had never been able to realize. “In the evenings, between nine and three, stretched six heavenly, uninterrupted hours — if I could stay awake to use them,” she mused.
Working at night, but most often with one fitful child or another in her lap, Isabel started and finished a detective novel, which she promptly submitted to a mystery contest at New McClure’s magazine. The winner was to receive a $7,500 cash prize (over $100,000 today) and a book contract with a prominent New York publisher. Katharine, apparently jealous that her daughter was trying to succeed where she had once failed, had little encouragement for her daughter, only what Isabel lamented as some “cool criticisms” of the “novel’s style.” Much to her mother’s surprise, Isabel’s novel,Murder Yet to Come, took first place, surpassing the writing team behind the Ellery Queen novels, among the many other seasoned pulp writers who had vied for the prize.
Yet there was plenty of reason for Katharine, ever the devoted scholar of Jung, to appreciate how she had inculcated her daughter into speaking — or, in this case, writing — type. Unlike other detective stories of the time, which often pair a brilliantly imaginative sleuth with a more literal minded sidekick, Murder Yet to Come features a team of three amateur detectives: an effeminate playwright, his dutiful assistant, and a brawny Army sergeant. Unburdened by crying children or any other domestic responsibilities, they set out to solve a gruesome murder. Each member of the team possesses what Isabel, in her letter to her mother, described as “different gifts and different kinds of strengths.” The playwright has the “quickness of insight” to uncover the murderer’s identity, the sergeant takes “smashingly, effective action” to apprehend him, while the assistant makes “slow, solid decisions” that protect the family of the victim from scandal. None of the detectives “works at the wrong things.” Like today’s slick police procedurals, in which there are the people who investigate the crime and those who prosecute the offenders, every character in Murder Yet to Come is designed to maximize the efficiency of the team.
As a mystery story, Murder Yet to Come is decidedly second-rate; the villain predictable, his motive commonplace, the detectives flat and uncharismatic. But as a testing ground for the Myers-Briggs type indicator, the novel is a remarkably direct receptacle for Isabel’s ideas about work, right down to its crude division of gender roles between the feminized playwright and the hyper-masculine military man. Strengths and weaknesses are distributed in a zero-sum fashion; the character who possesses a keen eye for sensory details reverts to a slow, stuttering imbecile when asked to abstract larger patterns from his observations. Friendships and working relationships are always invigorated by personality differences, never strained by them. And for death-defying detectives, the characters are all unusually self-aware, each happy to accept his personal limitations and cede authority to others when necessary, like cogs in a well-oiled machine. Reprinted by CAPT in 1995, Murder Yet to Come showcases characters who are “beautifully consistent with type portraits,” according to the forward to the new edition. “Those readers who know type will enjoy ‘typing them’ as the mystery progresses.”
CAPT’s website, where I purchased Murder Yet to Come for $15.00, claims that the novel was Isabel’s “only sojourn into fiction” before she shifted her attention to the type indicator. This is incorrect. The company has not reprinted Isabel’s second novel, Give Me Death (1934), which revisits the same trio of detectives half a decade later. Perhaps this is due to the novel’s virulently racist plot: One by one, members of a land-owning Southern family begin committing suicide when they are led to believe that “there is in [our] veins a strain of Negro blood.” Despite their differences, the detectives agree that it is “better for [the family] to be dead” than for them to be alive, heedlessly reproducing with white people.
Give Me Death is more explicitly about the preservation of the family, but saddled with a far more sinister understanding of type: Type as racially determined. There is talk of eugenics. There is much hand wringing about the preservation of Southern family dynasties, about “honor” and “esteem.” That the novel was written in the years when laws forbidding interracial marriage were increasingly the target of ACLU and NAACP protests makes it all the more reactionary, and thus all the more unsuitable, from an image management perspective, for reissue today. One would hardly enjoy “typing” these characters.
If Isabel had started her life as her mother’s experiment, she had quickly grown into Katharine’s student, her apostle, and even her competition. Fiction had presented one way for her to unite her mother’s talk of type with the intelligent division of labor, ordering imaginary characters into a rational system with a profitable end: bringing criminals to justice. After World War II, the emergent industry of personality testing would give Isabel the opportunity to organize — and experiment on — real people.
The second rule of speaking type is: Personality is an innate characteristic, something fixed since birth and immutable, like eye color or right-handedness. “You have to buy into the idea that type never changes,” Barb says, speaking slowly and emphasizing each word so that we may remember and repeat this mantra — “Type Never Changes” — to our future clients. “We will brand this into your brain,” she vows. “The theory behind the instrument supports the fact that you are born with a four letter preference. If you hear someone say, ‘My type changed,’ they are not correct.”
Of all the questionable assumptions that prop up the Myers-Briggs indicator, this one strikes me as the shakiest: that you are “born with a four letter preference,” a reductive blueprint for how to move through life’s infinite and varied challenges. Many other personality indicators, ranging in complexity from zodiac signs to online dating questionnaires to Harry Potter’s sorting hat, share the assumption that personality is fixed in one form or another. And yet the belief of a singular and essential self has always seemed to me an irresistibly attractive fiction: One that insists on seeing each of us as a coherent human being, inclined to behave in predictable ways no matter what circumstances surround us. There is, after all, a certain narcissistic beauty to the idea that we are whole. “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald of his greatest creation, Jay Gatsby, in the same year that Katharine fell under the sway ofPsychological Types. Learning to speak type means learning to link the quotidian gestures of life into an easily digestible story, one capable of communicating to perfect strangers some sense of who you are and why you do what you do.
Yet the impulse to treat personality as innate is, in no small part, a convenient way of putting these gorgeously complete people in their rightful places. Just as each one of Isabel’s three detectives serves a unique purpose in her novels, a way of moving the plot forward that follows from his innate “gifts,” so too does the indicator imagine that each person will fall into their designated niche in a high-functioning and productive social order. This is another fiction — to my mind, a dystopian fiction — that most personality tests trade in: The fantasy of rational organization, and, in particular, the rational organization of labor. “The MBTI will put your personality to work!” promises a career assessment flier from Arizona State University, a promise that is echoed by thousands of leadership guides, self-help books, LinkedIn profiles, and job listings, the promise that underwrites such darkly futuristic films as Divergent or Blade Runner. To live under an economic system that is not organized by personality, thinks the heroine of Divergent, is “not just to live in poverty and discomfort; it is to live divorced from society, separated from the most important thing in life: community.”
Or as a trainee belts out in the middle of an exercise, “Team work makes the dream work!”
Genes, like people, have families — lineages that stretch back through time, all the way to a founding member. That ancestor multiplied and spread, morphing a bit with each new iteration.
For most of the last 40 years, scientists thought that this was the primary way new genes were born — they simply arose from copies of existing genes. The old version went on doing its job, and the new copy became free to evolve novel functions.
Certain genes, however, seem to defy that origin story. They have no known relatives, and they bear no resemblance to any other gene. They’re the molecular equivalent of a mysterious beast discovered in the depths of a remote rainforest, a biological enigma seemingly unrelated to anything else on earth.
The mystery of where these orphan genes came from has puzzled scientists for decades. But in the past few years, a once-heretical explanation has quickly gained momentum — that many of these orphans arose out of so-called junk DNA, or non-coding DNA, the mysterious stretches of DNA between genes. “Genetic function somehow springs into existence,” said David Begun, a biologist at the University of California, Davis.
This metamorphosis was once considered to be impossible, but a growing number of examples in organisms ranging from yeast and flies to mice and humans has convinced most of the field that these de novo genes exist. Some scientists say they may even be common. Just last month, research presented at the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution in Vienna identified 600 potentially new human genes. “The existence of de novo genes was supposed to be a rare thing,” said Mar Albà, an evolutionary biologist at the Hospital del Mar Research Institute in Barcelona, who presented the research. “But people have started seeing it more and more.”
Researchers are beginning to understand that de novo genes seem to make up a significant part of the genome, yet scientists have little idea of how many there are or what they do. What’s more, mutations in these genes can trigger catastrophic failures. “It seems like these novel genes are often the most important ones,” said Erich Bornberg-Bauer, a bioinformatician at the University of Münster in Germany.
The Orphan Chase
The standard gene duplication model explains many of the thousands of known gene families, but it has limitations. It implies that most gene innovation would have occurred very early in life’s history. According to this model, the earliest biological molecules 3.5 billion years ago would have created a set of genetic building blocks. Each new iteration of life would then be limited to tweaking those building blocks.
Yet if life’s toolkit is so limited, how could evolution generate the vast menagerie we see on Earth today? “If new parts only come from old parts, we would not be able to explain fundamental changes in development,” Bornberg-Bauer said.
The first evidence that a strict duplication model might not suffice came in the 1990s, when DNA sequencing technologies took hold. Researchers analyzing the yeast genome found that a third of the organism’s genes had no similarity to known genes in other organisms. At the time, many scientists assumed that these orphans belonged to families that just hadn’t been discovered yet. But that assumption hasn’t proven true. Over the last decade, scientists sequenced DNA from thousands of diverse organisms, yet many orphan genes still defy classification. Their origins remain a mystery.
In 2006, Begun found some of the first evidence that genes could indeed pop into existence from noncoding DNA. He compared gene sequences from the standard laboratory fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, with other closely related fruit fly species. The different flies share the vast majority of their genomes. But Begun and collaborators found several genes that were present in only one or two species and not others, suggesting that these genes weren’t the progeny of existing ancestors. Begun proposed instead that random sequences of junk DNA in the fruit fly genome could mutate into functioning genes.
Yet creating a gene from a random DNA sequence appears as likely as dumping a jar of Scrabble tiles onto the floor and expecting the letters to spell out a coherent sentence. The junk DNA must accumulate mutations that allow it to be read by the cell or converted into RNA, as well as regulatory components that signify when and where the gene should be active. And like a sentence, the gene must have a beginning and an end — short codes that signal its start and end.
In addition, the RNA or protein produced by the gene must be useful. Newly born genes could prove toxic, producing harmful proteins like those that clump together in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. “Proteins have a strong tendency to misfold and cause havoc,” said Joanna Masel, a biologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “It’s hard to see how to get a new protein out of random sequence when you expect random sequences to cause so much trouble.” Masel is studying ways that evolution might work around this problem.
Another challenge for Begun’s hypothesis was that it’s very difficult to distinguish a true de novo gene from one that has changed drastically from its ancestors. (The difficulty of identifying true de novo genes remains a source of contention in the field.)
Ten years ago, Diethard Tautz, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, was one of many researchers who were skeptical of Begun’s idea. Tautz had found alternative explanations for orphan genes. Some mystery genes had evolved very quickly, rendering their ancestry unrecognizable. Other genes were created by reshuffling fragments of existing genes.
Then his team came across the Pldi gene, which they named after the German soccer player Lukas Podolski. The sequence is present in mice, rats and humans. In the latter two species, it remains silent, which means it’s not converted into RNA or protein. The DNA is active or transcribed into RNA only in mice, where it appears to be important — mice without it have slower sperm and smaller testicles.
The researchers were able to trace the series of mutations that converted the silent piece of noncoding DNA into an active gene. That work showed that the new gene is truly de novo and ruled out the alternative — that it belonged to an existing gene family and simply evolved beyond recognition. “That’s when I thought, OK, it must be possible,” Tautz said.
A Wave of New Genes
Scientists have now catalogued a number of clear examples of de novo genes: A gene in yeast that determines whether it will reproduce sexually or asexually, a gene in flies and other two-winged insects that became essential for flight, and some genes found only in humans whose function remains tantalizingly unclear.
The Odds of Becoming a Gene
Scientists are testing computational approaches to determine how often random DNA sequences can be mutated into functional genes. Victor Luria, a researcher at Harvard, created a model using common estimates of the rates of mutation, recombination (another way of mixing up DNA) and natural selection. After subjecting a stretch of DNA as long as the human genome to mutation and recombination for 100 million generations, some random stretches of DNA evolved into active genes. If he were to add in natural selection, a genome of that size could generate hundreds or even thousands of new genes.
At the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution conference last month, Albà and collaborators identified hundreds of putative de novo genes in humans and chimps — ten-fold more than previous studies — using powerful new techniques for analyzing RNA. Of the 600 human-specific genes that Albà’s team found, 80 percent are entirely new, having never been identified before.
Unfortunately, deciphering the function of de novo genes is far more difficult than identifying them. But at least some of them aren’t doing the genetic equivalent of twiddling their thumbs. Evidence suggests that a portion of de novo genes quickly become essential. About 20 percent of new genes in fruit flies appear to be required for survival. And many others show signs of natural selection, evidence that they are doing something useful for the organism.
In humans, at least one de novo gene is active in the brain, leading some scientists to speculate such genes may have helped drive the brain’s evolution. Others are linked to cancer when mutated, suggesting they have an important function in the cell. “The fact that being misregulated can have such devastating consequences implies that the normal function is important or powerful,” said Aoife McLysaght, a geneticist at Trinity College in Dublin who identified the first human de novo genes.
De novo genes are also part of a larger shift, a change in our conception of what proteins look like and how they work. De novo genes are often short, and they produce small proteins. Rather than folding into a precise structure — the conventional notion of how a protein behaves — de novo proteins have a more disordered architecture. That makes them a bit floppy, allowing the protein to bind to a broader array of molecules. In biochemistry parlance, these young proteins are promiscuous.
Scientists don’t yet know a lot about how these shorter proteins behave, largely because standard screening technologies tend to ignore them. Most methods for detecting genes and their corresponding proteins pick out long sequences with some similarity to existing genes. “It’s easy to miss these,” Begun said.
That’s starting to change. As scientists recognize the importance of shorter proteins, they are implementing new gene discovery technologies. As a result, the number of de novo genes might explode. “We don’t know what things shorter genes do,” Masel said. “We have a lot to learn about their role in biology.”
Scientists also want to understand how de novo genes get incorporated into the complex network of reactions that drive the cell, a particularly puzzling problem. It’s as if a bicycle spontaneously grew a new part and rapidly incorporated it into its machinery, even though the bike was working fine without it. “The question is fascinating but completely unknown,” Begun said.
A human-specific gene called ESRG illustrates this mystery particularly well. Some of the sequence is found in monkeys and other primates. But it is only active in humans, where it is essential for maintaining the earliest embryonic stem cells. And yet monkeys and chimps are perfectly good at making embryonic stem cells without it. “It’s a human-specific gene performing a function that must predate the gene, because other organisms have these stem cells as well,” McLysaght said.
“How does novel gene become functional? How does it get incorporated into actual cellular processes?” McLysaght said. “To me, that’s the most important question at the moment.”
In 1948, a man was found on a beach in South Australia. The mysterious circumstances of his death have captivated generations of true-crime fanatics. Today, one amateur sleuth has come close to solving the case — and upended his life in the process.
By Graeme Wood
Photographs by Claire Martin
Illustrations by Evah Fan
By the time anyone noticed that he hadn’t moved in at least five hours, the man on Somerton Beach must have started giving off fumes. It was about 6:30 a.m. on December 1, 1948, at the beginning of the Australian summer, and he did not look like the kind of man to sleep in the sand.
He was in his mid-40s. He wore a nice suit, with a necktie whose stripes slanted down from right to left. The labels had been removed from his clothing. His leather shoes were molded to his irregular feet, which one man who saw the body called “wedge-shaped.”
No one who came to the morgue to view the dead man could identify him. In his pockets, the coroner found a packet of cigarettes (Kensitas brand, though the packet that contained them was Army Club), two combs, and public-transportation receipts indicating that he had come by bus from Adelaide’s railway station the day before he was found.
The man had unusually developed calf muscles, with a pronounced bulge near the knee. The coroner said these were characteristic of a dancer or someone who wears high heels. His teeth were odd: His sharp canines had grown in right next to his front teeth; his lateral incisors were missing. The medical report noted that his liver was full of blood and his spleen enlarged, but his official cause of death remained undetermined. The pathologist wrote “probably caused by poison” on the initial report, and a local expert suggested two readily available and undetectable poisons that could have killed him. The death was investigated as a possible murder.
Only weeks later did the coroner’s office search the man’s clothes more thoroughly and find, in a small inner pocket of his waistband — some characterized it as a secret pocket — a tightly rolled piece of paper printed with the words Tamám Shud. Within a few days, the police figured out that these words appear untranslated at the end of the Edward FitzGerald translation of the Rubáiyát, by the 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyám. In the poem’s original Persian, they mean It’s Finished, or The End.
In July, a local businessman told the cops that around the time of the man’s death, he found a copy of the Rubáiyát in the back seat of his car. Someone had tossed it through an open window — and, yes, the last two words had been raggedly excised. More intriguing, though, were the scribblings on the book’s back cover —
— and, with them, a phone number.
The letters resisted decoding, but the phone number led the police to the doorstep of a young nurse-in-training named Jo. They asked whether she knew a missing man, and when she said no, they asked if she had given away a Rubáiyát recently. She had, but the recipient turned out to be alive and well. They prevailed upon her to visit the morgue anyway. When she saw a plaster cast of the man’s body, which had by that point been buried, she nearly fainted. She maintained that she didn’t know him, and she refused to speak of the incident again.
Another line of evidence stemmed from a suitcase left at the luggage counter of the train station on the day of the dead man’s canceled bus ticket and never collected. Inside were neatly folded clothes, a stencil kit, and thread that matched a small repair on the man’s suit. The suitcase contained a few days’ worth of clothes — again with the labels ripped off — but no socks.
Someone looked at the stitching and determined that the machine used was not yet available in Australia: The man had probably traveled to America or at least owned clothing from someone who had. Speculation ensued. Not far away was the Woomera Range, a secret missile-testing site. The dead man could have been Soviet or American — but probably not Australian, because the case had quickly gone national, and someone would have seen his picture and recognized him. Soon he was widely suspected of being a spy.
Nearly 70 years after the body of the “Somerton Man” was interred at West Terrace Cemetery, the case has become part of the Australian national mythos. It is still a mystery, like the identity of Jack the Ripper in England or the fate of Jimmy Hoffa in the U.S. Tabloids in Australia take note whenever some amateur sleuth comes up with a new theory, no matter how crazy, and would-be detectives around the world take turns trying to solve the case. One by one, they examine the clues and, like Arthur with the sword in the stone, jiggle the puzzle’s hilt. Most give up and assume it will be stuck forever.
“BY NOW THEY might know me,” Derek Abbott said, glancing around the Somerton cemetery for the groundskeepers. On December 1, 2014, 66 years to the day after the Somerton Man’s demise, Abbott, a physicist and engineer at the University of Adelaide, was taking me to his grave. For years, someone had placed flowers on it; some said it was the nurse. The original letters on the gravestone had become loose, and a few had fallen on the ground. We picked through the pebbles in the blazing sun, finding chunks of alphabet that we plugged back into the small headstone until it read: here lies the unknown man who was found at somerton beach 1st dec. 1948.
Of all the amateur detectives who have dedicated themselves to the mystery — including a postman in New South Wales who has claimed the Somerton Man was a Russian spy, another man who thinks he is the American big-band leader Glenn Miller, and a number of internet oddballs who specialize in magnifying the letters of the code and seeing micro-writing that isn’t really there — Abbott is the most devoted. He has become a celebrity among followers of the case — his Reddit “Ask Me Anything” last year yielded nearly 500 questions and answers — and sees his role partly as keeping wilder speculation in check. “As a scientist, you’re taught to be dispassionate,” he told me. “You’re not supposed to get crazy when your pet theory turns out to be unlikely.”
But some of Abbott’s fellow investigators think his obsessions and celebrity have led him astray and turned him into a Pied Piper of true-crime nerds. “Abbott is like a dog with a bone,” says Gerry Feltus, a retired Adelaide homicide detective who is his main rival. “If he weren’t such an educated man, he’d make an excellent busker.”
Abbott, 55 years old and with thinning dark hair, is gainfully employed, although over several days in Adelaide, his free time to discuss this case appeared almost limitless. He drove me around in hissuv, which had multiple child car seats fastened in the back for his three young children. (He also has two grown daughters and a son from a prior marriage.) Obsessions tend to find Abbott. He has, by his own account, been happily consumed by them since he was a child in London. Many were scientific: At the age of 10, he says, he requested a copy of theBritish Pharmacopoeia, a technical manual of pharmacology. At 15, he began traveling all over London and researching the history of old lampposts and letter boxes. His demeanor is distinctly professorial, though not in an absent-minded way. He talks slowly, with an engineer’s precision, and favors nice suits over tattered tweed, even in the Australian summer heat.
“It’s a bit like Phoenix,” Abbott said, a little apologetically, as we drove through his city. When the beach isn’t in sight, the comparison feels about right: Adelaide and its environs are mostly flat and arid, with the suburbs giving way to desert. Even its urban grid recalls the American Sun Belt, with orderly streets characteristic of a place whose city fathers left nothing to chance. Unlike other areas of Australia, Adelaide was settled exclusively by free British colonists, not by convicts. When planning the city in 1837, its founders didn’t bother to set aside space or resources for a jail, reasoning that it wouldn’t be necessary for a population of honorable women and men.
But to understand the Somerton Man case, Abbott told me, “you do have to know that Adelaide has a reputation for these things.” Ruth Balint, an Australian cultural historian, put it more bluntly: “It’s a city of churches and of weird, sick murders.” When Salman Rushdie visited Adelaide in 1984, he called it “the ideal setting for a Stephen King novel, or horror film.”
Adelaide’s homicide rate isn’t abnormally high, but what it lacks in volume it more than compensates for in creepiness. The city has become known as Australia’s “murder capital,” the site of a string of gruesome serial killings and mysterious disappearances. In 1966, three young siblings disappeared and were presumed kidnapped after a trip to Glenelg Beach, near Somerton; they were never found. In the 1970s and 1980s, a shadowy group of upstanding, professional citizens of Adelaide, known as the Family, drugged, sexually abused, and murdered young men; those crimes were never fully solved either. Last year, police in South Australiaannounced $13 million in reward money for information about the murders or disappearances of 18 children between 1966 and 2000.
In 2003, during the investigation of another grisly set of killings known as the Snowtown or “bodies-in-barrels” murders, local detectives approached Abbott and asked him to examine the unusual characteristics of one of the 12 victims’ hair. The detectives had found tiny bubble-shaped articulations at the tips, and they wanted an electrical engineer to determine whether the deceased had been electrocuted. “I tried electrocuting samples of my own hair,” Abbott said, “and I found that the only thing that would do that is heat.” The body had been cooked, not electrocuted.
Thrilled by his small contribution to the prosecution’s case, Abbott remembered an article he’d read about the Somerton mystery in 1995, in a magazine he picked up at a laundromat. “There’s something in this that stuck in my mind — something haunting,” he said. He was, in part, troubled by the inconsistencies and contradictions. “There were so many loose ends. And there was something sad about it — something desolate about a man dying alone,” without anyone to mourn him or even to confirm that he ever lived.
In 2007, Abbott began investigating the case. He eventually turned to Facebook and like-minded obsessives around the world to track down facts that in previous eras might have taken Holmesian knowledge or resourcefulness. Take the necktie. The direction of the stripes turns out to be significant because Commonwealth tie makers and American tie makers slanted their stripes in different directions: The Somerton Man wore an American tie, a rarity in Australia at the time. Other clues have led Abbott to look up, say, the record-keeping habits of laundry services in mid-size Australian cities in 1948 or the price of various tobacco brands. Sometimes this information yields faint clues to the Somerton Man’s story. Most often it reveals how far from the truth Abbott remains and produces only more questions. Someone suggested that the Rubáiyátwas a book cipher — a spy codebook — setting in motion an eerily difficult quest to find an identical copy and test it against the code. (The cops threw away the original at some point during the 1950s.) No identical copy could be found. It appeared that the Somerton Man’sRubáiyát was unique and published by a company in the habit of issuing, for obscure reasons, one Rubáiyát at a time.
On the hunch that the Rubáiyát was being used as a book cipher, Facebook group members combed Australian newspapers for stories about other men who died unnaturally, accompanied by a Rubáiyát. Incredibly, they found one, an immigrant named George Marshall who poisoned himself with barbiturates and died with a Rubáiyát next to him in Sydney. It was not the same edition as the Somerton version. Instead, it was identified as a seventh edition published by Methuen, a London-based press. The interest would have ended there if Abbott hadn’t tried to find a Methuen seventh edition of the Rubáiyát and discovered that the company never published any edition beyond the fifth.
Abbott’s code-breaking efforts, for which he initially held high hopes, stagnated. He tried to solve the code by treating it as a substitution cipher, in which every letter stands for another. He has tested that theory with computational models and conclusively ruled it out. He tried to determine if the letters were random, and even at one point had his students drink beer and write down random letters in progressive stages of inebriation to see if the letters resembled the patterns of those in the code. They did not.
So far, he has excluded, with mathematical certainty, a whole range of standard code types — 40 types of known cipher. Recently he’s been testing another theory, first put forward by Navy cryptographers in 1949. The frequency of occurrence of letters on the Rubáiyát’s back cover fits unusually well the frequency of occurrence of the initial letters of English words. Abbott now thinks that the code is not a code at all, but a series of letters someone — perhaps the Somerton Man — wrote in order to commit something to memory. The first five letters — wrgoa — could, on this hypothesis, have just been a reminder to buy watermelon, rice, grapes, oats, and artichokes. Abbott tested the initial-letter hypothesis against samples of text from more than 30 languages, and English repeatedly surfaced as the best statistical fit. But of course, to know what the letters stood for, we’d have to ask their author.
FOR YEARS, the person roundly suspected of knowing more than she let on was Jo, the nurse. But she said nothing. The news stories around the time of her questioning did not name her, declining to sully the reputation of a respectable young woman by associating her with the corpse of a drifter. But the story of her swooning has interested everyone who has looked into the Somerton Man mystery. Gerry Feltus, the retired cop who wrote a book about the case, interviewed Jo before she died in 2007 and is sure she knew something. He says she was “evasive” under questioning and went to great efforts to avoid attention. “Every time this case had a big blast of publicity, she either disappeared on holiday or changed addresses,” Feltus says.
In 2009, Abbott began hunting down Jo’s acquaintances and surviving family members — at first just to find out whether she confessed anything, but later to see whether they could offer any clues at all. In time, he was able to construct a year-by-year — and sometimes month-by-month — chronology of her life: where she lived, whom she knew, what she talked about, and what she avoided.
Jo was born Jessica Harkness in 1921, outside Sydney. About her childhood little is known: She cut off ties with her parents and rarely spoke of them. She took up with a car salesman, Prosper Thomson, and had a child, Robin Thomson, in 1947. She and Prosper hadn’t yet married — he had recently divorced his previous wife, and Australian law didn’t permit remarriage until a cooling-off period had passed — but they wed in 1948. She raised their two children through the 1950s, then began work as a nurse.
Her association with the Somerton Man has led some to speculate that she was a Communist spymaster posing as a housewife. One friend claimed she spoke Russian. Abbott dismisses these allegations. She was “a free spirit,” he said, “a slightly airheaded, arty type.” She and her husband seemed mismatched in some ways, with Prosper obsessed with cars and his wife interested in art, and some people I spoke with, including Abbott, suspected that they were not physically intimate, though they remained married until Prosper’s death in 1995.
Abbott didn’t focus on the Jo angle until after both she and her son, Robin, had died. But he hunted Robin’s story down with almost as much fervor as Jo’s — even though Robin was only a year old when the Somerton Man died — and learned that Robin had likely lived his whole life unaware of his mother’s role in the mystery.
Abbott fixated on one detail of Robin’s life: When he was a small boy, his mother signed him up for dance lessons. Robin took to dancing naturally and flourished — first as an amateur and ultimately as a member of the Australian Ballet. Abbott reminded me: “The Somerton Man had those oddly shaped calf muscles — so bulbous and defined that the coroner marveled at them.” Abbott stressed their dancer-like definition. One effort to identify the man even focused on looking for missing Australian dancers.
Was Jo pushing her son into the Somerton Man’s line of work? To Abbott, this coincidence was irresistibly suggestive, and he now believes a theory that might propel the Somerton mystery into the realm of solvability: that the man was Jo’s secret lover, and Robin Thomson their son. Another fact that Abbott cites as support for this idea is that Robin had a rare anatomical abnormality: He never grew lateral incisors, so his canine teeth, like the Somerton Man’s, abutted his front teeth.
Abbott cautiously tested this theory by writing a letter to Roma Egan, a dancer in the Australian Ballet who was married to Robin Thomson from 1968 to 1974. Abbott enclosed a picture of the Somerton Man and asked if she knew any dancers who looked like him. Roma wrote back saying that the corpse resembled her ex-husband. She also told Abbott, darkly, that her ex-mother-in-law had been a woman with secrets, and that Jo — like the young Abbott — had an obsession with pharmacology.
Abbott convinced Roma of his theory and enlisted her support in a legal crusade for permission to dig up the Somerton Man’s body and test his dna. By adding the dna to a few databases, they might even be able to find a distant relative and, working backward, identify the Somerton Man. (Robin Thomson had one younger sister, Kate, who opposes Abbott’s exhumation campaign. She declined to be interviewed for this story.)
Abbott has twice petitioned the government of South Australia to discuss exhuming the Somerton Man and twice been denied, on the grounds that obsessive curiosity does not justify disturbing human remains. He plans to resubmit his request.
ABBOTT WARNED ME not to tell Feltus, the ex–homicide detective, that I had been meeting with him. “He hates my guts,” Abbott said, accurately. They both spend vast amounts of time tracking the same clues, collecting the same Rubáiyáts, and scrutinizing the same grainy photos. But the two do not speak. Feltus regards Abbott as a grade-A pest and a bane of serious investigators. “If this were a different era, I could see him in a chuck wagon going through Indian territory, selling moonshine, and being left alone because he’d look half-crazy,” he told me.
Feltus, who’s 72, grew up in the countryside outside Adelaide. Before retiring in 2004, he was one of the city’s top murder investigators. He has an easy, earthy Australian vibe, more open and informal than Abbott, and the mottled complexion of someone who has spent a lot of time outdoors. He had heard of the Somerton case as a young boy, and after years on the force he investigated it as a hobby, despite warnings from colleagues that it would lead only to madness.
Part of what irks Feltus about Abbott is his amateurism. Feltus spent 40 years hunting murderers and solved dozens of cases, whereas Abbott, he says, “came in in a blaze of glory, saying he was going to crack the code, solve a murder, and identify an unknown man.” One gets the sense, talking with Feltus, that acquaintance with death has made him reluctant to treat the dead as intellectual puzzles.
Consider the flowers left on the Somerton Man’s grave. Abbott had implied to me that they might have been Jo’s doing or that of some other mysterious figure who knew secrets. When I raised this theory with Feltus, he sighed. “If you spend much time in cemeteries, you get to know the graves around the graves of your loved ones, and you do your part to keep them respected,” he says. His own daughter died of an illness in her 30s, he told me. Her grave is near that of Megumi Suzuki, a Japanese exchange student who died in Adelaide. In 2001, Feltus found Suzuki’s body hydraulically compressed into a bale of trash, and he sent her murderer away for a life sentence. “If I’m going to the cemetery, I’ll sometimes place a flower on her grave, too,” he told me.
The gap between the two men’s approaches comes down to a difference in worldview. After decades of bearing witness to the evil that men do, Feltus seems to have accepted the investigative consequences of the Second Law of Thermodynamics — that the universe tends, over time, toward disorder. He knows that some cases cannot be solved. In his book about the Somerton Man, Feltus meticulously logs every interview, every piece of evidence gathered from police records and contemporary accounts. But he reaches no conclusion. Taken as a whole, the book is a striking documentation of one man’s bafflement.
To Abbott, the idea that the answer might be lost is unacceptable, and Feltus’s comfort with uncertainty unnerves him. “Every time we met, one of his favorite jokes was to say, ‘It would be a real shame if the Somerton Man is identified because it would spoil a great mystery,’” Abbott told me. “He’s more wedded to the mystery than to the solution, and I’m the other way around.”
Feltus’s perspective is aided by age. As someone who was alive during the Somerton Man’s last years and remembers the upheaval of postwar Australia, he does not see the Somerton Man’s anonymity as unusual or mysterious. “There were lots of displaced people around,” Feltus says. “People were jumping ship, changing their names, becoming a whole new person.” Wartime rationing was still going on, and black marketeers had good reason to sneak around without identification.
Balint, the cultural historian, concurs. “[The Somerton Man] cuts a lonely figure, and people want to rescue him,” she says. “But we had lots of people like him: returned soldiers with shell shock, people who came back and were strangers to their own families. Some of them would just get up, disappear, and go on walkabouts.” Feltus’s hunch is that the Somerton Man was not a spy, but one of the thousands of socially isolated immigrants who drifted like tumbleweeds around Australia during those years.
That, he says, is where the trail must end. He has known victims’ families and has an aversion to disturbing the dead — either physically, by exhuming their remains, or spiritually, by speculating about the dramas that consumed their living days.
ABBOTT SPOKE GARRULOUSLY about his investigation. But he was also guarded. I came to wonder how his obsession with the Somerton case affected his work at the university or, for that matter, his home life. The child seats sat empty in the back of his suv as he drove me from site to site, yet he never mentioned his kids or their mother, nor how they felt about his all-consuming project.
Only after I’d left Adelaide did another question present itself: If he succeeded in extracting the Somerton Man’s dna, what would he compare it to? The whole point was to prove that the man was Robin Thomson’s father, but Robin is dead. Did he have living descendants?
Robin did, it turns out, have one daughter, with Roma Egan. Rachel Rebecca Egan had appeared with Abbott on television in 2013, endorsing the exhumation effort, but he had never mentioned her to me. I looked her up.
Rachel was born in 1967 in New Zealand and put up for adoption by her parents, who were touring with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. She reconnected with them as a young woman, eventually settling in Brisbane with Roma. On Facebook, her likes included various ballet-related pages, the work of a Brisbane painter, and a store for baby clothes. There were also some photos, which have since been removed, including a series of Rachel, with the same round, blond-ringed face as her mother, holding a baby. Standing next to her in one of the photos was a bemused-looking man wearing a proud paternal expression: Derek Abbott.
I blinked. Abbott had been generous with his time and, it seemed, information. But this detail — his having possibly tangled his own dnawith the Somerton Man’s — was a noteworthy omission. I reran all our conversations in my head, preparing to press him if he tried to evade the topic.
But when I called Abbott, he immediately and sheepishly confessed. In June 2010, he said, he’d mailed Roma, then living in Brisbane, his letter asking about dancers she might have known who resembled the Somerton Man. When he went to interview her, he met Rachel, who was living with Roma and working as a schoolteacher. Rachel was completely unaware of her father’s Somerton connection, Abbott said, and was at first skeptical of Abbott’s theory. To Abbott himself, however, she was immediately attracted. “We just hit it off, I guess, and it all happened from there,” he said. They married about four months later and, in the four and a half years since, have had three children. Rachel and Roma moved to Adelaide, and now Abbott’s crusade to dig up Rachel’s presumed grandfather has become a family affair.
Rachel, 47, says she still finds all this “surreal” and is not sure how an idea she first wrote off as one of her mother’s conspiracy theories has led, in less than five years, to her being a married mother of three — with the Somerton Man “playing cupid from beyond the grave.”
Abbott also seems flummoxed by the development, his normally analytical mind stuck in neutral when pressed to explain. “It was a whirlwind marriage, and we’re still trying to process all this and figure out the consequences,” he told me. “I haven’t psychoanalyzed myself.” When I asked why he hadn’t told me about his personal connection to the case, he said that he and Rachel both worried about the Australian tabloids fixating on their young family.
As he spoke, uncomfortable as the investigated rather than the investigator, questions clamored in my mind. Did he marry the woman or the mystery? Was there not at least a touch of the uncanny — a secret love in Adelaide, six and a half decades after the Somerton Man’s own possible covert romance, with the woman Abbott believed to be the Somerton Man’s granddaughter? Had his obsession burrowed so deeply into his brain that he had subconsciously written himself into the mystery?
But Abbott was uncharacteristically blank, for once unwilling to speculate. “I didn’t want it to look like I married some chick just so I could exhume a body,” he said. “I really do love her.”
Feltus, of course, delights in this. “Abbott is a strange bird, with a sick sense of humor,” he told me. “He would think that would be a great joke, wouldn’t he?”
This case’s final irony is not lost on either Abbott or Feltus. We may never know what happened to the Somerton Man, not because witnesses have died and evidence has disintegrated, but because knowing would require an understanding of his inner life, something that cannot be deduced.
“When I look at the case,” Abbott told me, “I think, ‘If only [Jo] behaved normally and told the police everything, we wouldn’t have this mystery.’ But then I wouldn’t be married. Maybe that’s just the way it’s all meant to happen.”
Abbott still wants to dig up the Somerton Man’s body, extract his dna, and prove his theory once and for all. “But in a sense it doesn’t matter,” he admitted. “The Somerton Man has given birth to three children for me, and he will always be their great-grandfather in some way. That, I suppose, gives a sense of closure.”
THE LITTLE DEATH OF THE VIKING CAT AND HOW I CAME TO BETTER UNDERSTAND MAGIC AND MIRACLE
The Following is an essay I wrote a few weeks back but never had the chance to post for various reasons. I plan to rework it and include it (or at least the ideas expressed on Theurgy and Thaumaturgy) as part of my new book The Christian Wizard.
We had a rough day today. In one sense at least. Pretty astounding day in others. As it also led me to understand some things I’ve been struggling with for months now.
It began in this fashion. The girls took Alex in to the vet to get neutered and discovered he had both cat leukemia and cat AIDS. Didn’t even know there was a cat AIDS. So we had to put him down.
I know he’s only a cat, but I have over time grown quite attached to him. Matter of fact I love him. Vets said he must have been in tremendous pain and should have been tired all of the time, but he wasn’t. Like me he seems to have had an incredible tolerance for pain. As far as energy, the cat was a dynamo.
I detest death however. Especially death of the young. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Death, who I consider to be an Old Friend, and quite kind. It’s the being separated from those you love, even if it’s just a pet that I detest. That part of death. What I call the little death. The loss of the companionship in this world.
On the other hand he (Alex) lived exactly as he wished. The vet said that given the progression of the AIDS it looked like he had sex with a lot of female cats, and he fought and got tore up a lot too. He lived completely free and as he wished. 3 years of wildcatting. He truly was a Viking cat.
Also he was an extremely intelligent and affectionate cat (though I did have to nearly shoot him once to get him straightened out – after that though he was a doll), he just also happened to be huge, adventurous, and reckless as hell. And absolutely fearless.
So although I am sad, my whole family is sad, I am not grieving at all. We had a big celebratory dinner for him tonight and a drinking salute. He’s also going straight into my children’s book The Viking Cats. Actually he was already there, but now I know the heroic death he will have.
Strangely enough his death gave me great reason for optimism and led me to finally and fully grasp an idea of Wizardry, Magic, and God I have been struggling to fully formulate but now I can. At least for the most part.
As some of you know I’ve been studying Advanced Wizardryby ben Abechai. And the Original New Testament, and making my own line by line and word by word translations of both the Old and New Testaments. And so now I’m going to say something that might seem strange, but I’m becoming more and more convinced of it, from both the Old and New Testaments. Reincarnation is real.
Oh, I don’t at all draw the same conclusions as the Indians do, nor do I think it operates in the Hinduistic, and certainly not the Buddhist sense. And it seems extremely rare, I can only find about four instances of it ever being directly and openly mentioned in the Bible, though there are other allusions, but it is there. And it does not seem to work as a universal constant nor does there seem to be anything like a “karmic” inclination to the process. And I’m not sure how it works. It’s too vaguely described. In Hinduism it is thought the soul reincarnates, in Buddhism merely the “impression” or personality (Buddha was both an atheist and a non-spiritualist). In the Bible I don’t see that, but rather what the Hebrews might call the “spirit.” In that very limited sense I think Alex may very well return to us.
(Other things I have become convinced of in my studies are these: Heaven is at least as big as the physical universe itself, and probably much larger, though concepts like time and space as we know them are utterly meaningless there. That Heaven is filled with Beings and creatures we can’t even imagine or yet begin to imagine, and that nothing ever really dies. Spirits and souls cannot be fully destroyed – though they can be amplified or corrupted and diminished – anymore than matter or energy can be created or destroyed. There is a conservation principle of spiritual and psychological existence similar to, or far more stable than, the conservation principles in our universe of matter and energy. If nothing else everything is retained within the intelligence and memory of God – though neither term is really accurate because the intelligence and memory of God goes well beyond anything we can conceive of with such terminology, and therefor it is simply not possible to erase any viable living, biological, spiritual, or psychological pattern of existence once it is established. And such patterns may lie buried in the “Mind of God” as nothing more than mere potential for what would seem to us an eternity – if it is even possible for the mind of God to be mere potential – I doubt it – but it is never actually erased or destroyed. In other words God never forgets. So nothing ever really dies, it simply changes form in regards to our universe and the kinetic pattern prevalent at the moment it physically exists. So Alex is no more “dead” than I am, though his body has suffered the little death – in relation to me and this world at least. In reality he is no more dead than I am and never will be and as far as I know he may one day be alive again in relation to this world and to me. Though wherever Alex is, and whatever world he inhabits, he lives.)
But now on to what Alex’s death made me realize about Magic. Now when modern people say magic their mind instantly springs to Harry Potter and making things happen by some unknown agency or invisible force (I think the invisible force part is partially accurate) but that is not how the Magi would have viewed magic at all (they wouldn’t have viewed what they did as magic in our sense, period) but rather Magic, or Magiaesm (the etymology of the real word) involved simply understanding the way the forces of existence actually operate, how, and for what reasons. (And optimally knowing why, though that’s as far beyond Real Magic as it is beyond Real Science, because ultimately, only God actually knows the why). The Magi of course would have called this Magic (though they used a different term), but it wouldn’t have meant some unknown agency. They knew very well the Agency. Just as I do. But because the word Magic now has thousands of years of misapplication and skewed definitions attached to it I’ll use the Greek word I prefer: Theurgy.
Theurgy simply means “a working of God,” or before Judeo/Christian influence upon the Hellenes, “a working of the gods.” But Theurgy really flowered among the early Christians and later the Neo-Platonists and meant a “Working of God.” And although they could be amazing, they were essentially a “little working of God.”
The Greeks had a much, much larger word for what we would call a Miracle, and they would have called a “Wonder-Work of God,” namely, the word Thaumaturgy. These were huge works of God. Now I had already come to this conclusion and used these definitions on my own. But Alex’s death, along with these studies, has helped me make the final step to what all of this really means. Let me illustrate. Theurgy is a small or little work of God. What do I mean by little work of God? I mean a work of God that is small in scale, not small in meaning, purpose, or targeted effect.
For instance if Jesus healed a blind man that would be Theurgical, and many at that time would consider it “magical.” Look at all of Jesus’ healing miracles and you will see a technique, even if it is only a declarative stamen “Go your way, your daughter is healed.” Here is another prime example. To pay a tax Jesus tells someone to go catch a fish and they will find a coin in its mouth. Even many people today would call that bordering more on magic than miracle. It’s Theurgical. It’s a small work of seeming unknown agency. Of course we know the actual agency but it seems magical. It seems like it shouldn’t be there and that the coin was “conjured” from nothing. Nothing could be less true, but that’s how it looks. Now to anyone witnessing these things, they are “magical” and they are also small in nature. They are not Earth shattering, they are amazing, but not wholly miraculous. As in utterly Miraculous. It’s Theurgy. A Work of God but on a small scale. It’s not a small scale to the man being cured of blindness, to him it is miraculous and earth-shattering, but to those who are not blind it is astounding and amazing but not “Earth-Shattering.” Another thing about Theurgy is that it is replicable. It can be done over and over again and not just by Jesus, but in some cases the Prophets, like Elijah, or the Magi, can do it. Or even pagan Egyptian priests. Jesus could heal, and cast out demons, and do things of that nature over and over and over again, within reason – he also had to rest. Then again so could many of the the Prophets. Impressive Works of God, true, but relatively small scale and of a subjective and personal nature. I term Works like this Theurgy, or Magiaesm. If you think on a scale then they are smaller Works of God, at the very genesis (excuse the pun) of the Works Scale. They are the province not only of Prophets and of Jesus but also of Magi and Wizards. And much of their power, faculties, and force lies in understanding the way God has set up things to Work and how existence actually operates. In some ways they are proto-science, in some ways science, in some ways psychological, and in some ways metaphysical. They are small Magic, they are Wizardry.
What about things like feeding 5000 with very little food and still having leftovers. Things like that lie right on the line between Theurgy and Thaumaturgy. So now I guess I should better define Thaumaturgy.
Thaumaturgy is a Great Work of God in the sense that it involves a large number of people, is seemingly impossible (nevertheless it happens) and is totally unique and not replicable. This is real Thaumaturgy – Moses parts the Red Sea (it’s only happened once and has never been replicated), Jesus walks on water, Christ is resurrected (not a general resurrection, which will also be a single once ever event, but he is resurrected as a single individual foreshadowing the general resurrection), and so forth and so on. If a Work of God is large scale, has a profound effect upon a large number of people or witnesses, is seemingly impossible, is not replicable, and is a totally unique event, then it is True Thaumaturgy. A Wonder Working. A one of a kind, non-replicable event. Unique in world history. Thaumaturgy is also always absolutely intentional. What we in English would call a Miracle, capital M. Thaumaturgy is a large-scale Work of God that only agents like Christ, the Prophets, the Apostles, and The Saints are able to trigger.
(I know that in English, being a very spiritually impoverished language, we call all unusual works of God Miracles, but Resurrection, that is a True Miracle, is a non-replicable Wonder, whereas predicting that a fish will have a coin in its mouth, although amazing to a degree, that is Theurgy, or what our ancestors would have called Magic, or Magiaesm. Even a stage magician would do it if properly prepared.)
Theurgy on the other hand is a smaller scale Work of God that is replicable, is subjective, targeted to a rather small or tactical problem or issue, has a profound effect upon individual recipients but merely fascinates most witnesses, seems amazing but not impossible, and can be astounding, but is not unique. Theurgy can be worked by many agents of God, intentionally or unintentionally, such as by Wizards and Wise Men and Women of all kinds, Magi, Scientists, or sometimes simply by what we might call Experts or really experienced men, or even by nearly anyone given the proper set of conditions or circumstances or the necessary emergency or contingency.
(Sorcery on the other hand is not a Work of God at all, but is a cheap imitation of either Theurgy or Thaumaturgy designed to harm or to do evil. It is the very opposite of Theurgy and Thaumaturgy and is evil’s attempt at imitating a Work of God, for purely selfish and self-aggrandizing motives, be that work small scale or large scale. The ultimate end of sorcery is not to understand, nor to assist, nor to do good, but to control, to tyrannize, and to harm.)
Well, I could go on for a very long time in this vein but I’m sure by now you more than get the point. Anyway, today Alex’s little death, my recent studies, and all of the things surrounding these events have led me to fully understand these things. And now I can fully define the differences and similarities between Theurgy and Thaumaturgy and now I am that much closer to understanding Magic. By that I mean Real Magic (which is just a short hand Oriental way of saying both Theurgy and Thaumaturgy, or what we in English would altogether call Miracles, though that’s not really an accurate term).
Or perhaps I would do better to say, “Wonder-Working.” Or unusual and wondrous Works of God that man directly participates in. Well, I should go to bed now. I tire and I am written out. But I go to bed convinced that I shall again see Alex, and perhaps soon, either in this world or in Heaven or in some other world. And not just him but everyone I have ever buried and wish to see again, person or animal. But in any case I intend to pray that Alex is returned to us, reincarnated if you will, though I think that probably a very primitive and inaccurate term for what I actually mean and how it actually works, which I make no claims to explaining. Because I no more know the real mechanism(s) than I know the mechanism(s) by which God transforms inanimate matter to animate matter. But he’s done it and obviously knows his stuff. Somethings it is okay just to know that it does Work, you don’t have to know how it actually Works. And something’s no man will ever know how it truly Works.
However I will not pray or request of God that any person ever be returned to me, as in returned to me in this world, even if such a thing were possible. That would just not be Wise. People are free to make their own decisions about what world God allows them to inhabit (unless they have chosen hell, and I am firmly convinced some do and that God lets them) and I have neither the right nor the power to even request they give up whatever world they are enjoying merely to be in my company again. Besides I don’t think it works like that with people anymore than it works like that for angels, and besides there will be plenty of time for me to enjoy their company in a better world. I have no right to attempt to bind people to me in this world or in any other merely for my own benefit.
But maybe that would work for animals. Maybe that is how God made animals. Or at least some animals. As companions for people and the world they inhabit is really unimportant. I truly don’t know. But I’m gonna make the attempt (if it’s impossible it won’t happen anyway, will it?), pray that if it is possible, and if Alex so desires (for all I know God gives them a choice as well) and so chooses he will “reincarnate” (whatever that really means and however it really works) and return to us.
Still adventurous and affectionate and intelligent and exploratory in nature, just not nearly so reckless. And I’ll whack his balls off pretty quick too, if he does return. For his own good and to preserve him from disease and early death. I hate that, but if he is to long survive this world it may be necessary.
Anyway I go to bed very happy, still sad we parted in this way, but happy, and with what I suspect is a much better understanding of my old friend Death, and I suspect even with a better understanding of God and how the universe actually works. So see ya and hope all goes well for you.
This morning, SpaceX did a test run of its Crew Dragon capsule’s abort system. It’s a significant protocol the company would use if the module were ever in trouble on the launch pad.
In 2017, the Crew Dragon will be tasked with ferrying NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and it’s important these men and women are as safe as possible during their missions. That means SpaceX and NASA will need to be prepared for all sorts of catastrophes that could befall the crew, even if these events are incredibly rare.
One such event could include a botched launch, in which the area around the launch pad becomes dangerous during liftoff (perhaps due to an unintended explosion or errant rocket booster). In this scenario, the Dragon and its astronauts will need to get out of there. Fast. So SpaceX has embedded the walls of its crew module with eight SuperDraco engines, which can rapidly carry the vehicle up and away from the launch pad to safety.
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who conducted a media teleconference after the test, the capsule went from 0 to 100 miles per hour in 1.2 seconds, reaching a top speed of 345 mph. He noted that if any astronauts had been on board, they would have fared just fine. Now, the next few tests for the Crew Dragon include an in-flight abort test and an unmanned launch to the ISS, with the module ready for its intended astronaut riders in two years.
Check out the company’s first critical test of this exit strategy below, with a dummy astronaut along for the ride.
Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard
By RON COWENMAY 4, 2015
Though Robin and Joan Rolfs owned two rare talking dolls manufactured by Thomas Edison’s phonograph company in 1890, they did not dare play the wax cylinder records tucked inside each one.
The Rolfses, longtime collectors of Edison phonographs, knew that if they turned the cranks on the dolls’ backs, the steel phonograph needle might damage or destroy the grooves of the hollow, ring-shaped cylinder. And so for years, the dolls sat side by side inside a display cabinet, bearers of a message from the dawn of sound recording that nobody could hear.
In 1890, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The recordings inside, which featured snippets of nursery rhymes, wore out quickly.
Yet sound historians say the cylinders were the first entertainment records ever made, and the young girls hired to recite the rhymes were the world’s first recording artists.
Year after year, the Rolfses asked experts if there might be a safe way to play the recordings. Then a government laboratory developed a method to play fragile records without touching them.
The technique relies on a microscope to create images of the grooves in exquisite detail. A computer approximates — with great accuracy — the sounds that would have been created by a needle moving through those grooves.
In 2014, the technology was made available for the first time outside the laboratory.
“The fear all along is that we don’t want to damage these records. We don’t want to put a stylus on them,” said Jerry Fabris, the curator of the Thomas Edison Historical Park in West Orange, N.J. “Now we have the technology to play them safely.”
Last month, the Historical Park posted online three never-before-heard Edison doll recordings, including the two from the Rolfses’ collection. “There are probably more out there, and we’re hoping people will now get them digitized,” Mr. Fabris said.
The technology, which is known as Irene (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.), was developed by the particle physicist Carl Haber and the engineer Earl Cornell at Lawrence Berkeley. Irene extracts sound from cylinder and disk records. It can also reconstruct audio from recordings so badly damaged they were deemed unplayable.
“We are now hearing sounds from history that I did not expect to hear in my lifetime,” Mr. Fabris said.
The Rolfses said they were not sure what to expect in August when they carefully packed their two Edison doll cylinders, still attached to their motors, and drove from their home in Hortonville, Wis., to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. The center had recently acquired Irene technology.
Cylinders carry sound in a spiral groove cut by a phonograph recording needle that vibrates up and down, creating a surface made of tiny hills and valleys. In the Irene set-up, a microscope perched above the shaft takes thousands of high-resolution images of small sections of the grooves.
Stitched together, the images provide a topographic map of the cylinder’s surface, charting changes in depth as small as one five-hundredth the thickness of a human hair. Pitch, volume and timbre are all encoded in the hills and valleys and the speed at which the record is played.
At the conservation center, the preservation specialist Mason Vander Lugt attached one of the cylinders to the end of a rotating shaft. Huddled around a computer screen, the Rolfses first saw the wiggly waveform generated by Irene. Then came the digital audio. The words were at first indistinct, but as Mr. Lugt filtered out more of the noise, the rhyme became clearer.
Recently, the conservation center turned up another surprise.
In 2010, the Woody Guthrie Foundation received 18 oversize phonograph disks from an anonymous donor. No one knew if any of the dirt-stained recordings featured Guthrie, but Tiffany Colannino, then the foundation’s archivist, had stored them unplayed until she heard about Irene.
Last fall, the center extracted audio from one of the records, labeled “Jam Session 9” and emailed the digital file to Ms. Colannino.
“I was just sitting in my dining room, and the next thing I know, I’m hearing Woody,” she said. In between solo performances of “Ladies Auxiliary,” “Jesus Christ,” and “Dead or Alive,” Guthrie tells jokes, offers some back story, and makes the audience laugh. “It is quintessential Guthrie,” Ms. Colannino said.
The Rolfses’ dolls are back in the display cabinet in Wisconsin. But with audio stored on several computers, they now have a permanent voice.
Correction: May 5, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated part of the name of a center in Andover, Mass. that recently acquired the Irene technology. It is the Northeast Document Conservation Center (not National center).
Updated 2:15 PM ET, Fri April 17, 2015
USS Independence was sunk in 1951 after weapons tests
Carrier was close-in guinea pig to two atomic bomb tests
Agency: Ship looks remarkably intact 2,600 feet below surface of the Pacific Ocean
(CNN)A former U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that survived a Japanese torpedo strike and was a massive guinea pig for two atomic bomb blasts looks remarkably intact at the bottom of the Pacific, according to federal researchers who surveyed the wreck last month with an underwater drone.
The USS Independence was scuttled in January 1951 during weapons testing near California’s Farallon Islands. Although its location was confirmed by a survey in 2009, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration went looking for it again in March as part of a project to map about 300 wrecks that lie in and around the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
“After 64 years on the seafloor, Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its planes,” mission leader James Delgado, the maritime heritage director for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said in a statement.
Indeed, sonar images show what looks to be an airplane on one of the elevators that took planes from the Independence’s hangar deck to its flight deck. The ship sits upright with a slight list to starboard, according to NOAA.
NOAA’s survey of the 623-foot-long, 11,000-ton carrier was conducted by the Echo Ranger, an 18.5-foot-long autonomous underwater vehicle provided by the Boeing Co. The Echo Ranger traveled 30 miles from its base in Half Moon Bay, California, and hovered 150 above the carrier, which lies 2,600 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. The drone used a three-dimensional sonar system provided by Coda Octopus to get images that showed how well the warship has weathered 64 years in the deep.
“This ship fought a long, hard war in the Pacific and after the war was subjected to two atomic blasts that ripped through the ship. It is a reminder of the industrial might and skill of the ‘greatest generation’ that sent not only this ship, but their loved ones to war,” Delgado said in the statement.
In its 20 years in the Navy, the ship played a role in some of the most important events of World War II, earning eight battle stars in the process, and the dawn of the nuclear age.
Independence was seriously damaged by Japanese torpedo planes during the Battle of Tarawa in late 1943. The ship returned to California for repairs and made it back across the Pacific by July 1944 to participate in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea and the sinking of one of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s biggest warships, the battleship Musashi. Later, in the Battle of Cape Engano, planes from the Independence were involved in the sinking of four Japanese aircraft carriers.
After the war, Independence became part of a fleet used to measure the effects of atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific on July 1, 1946. It sat just 560 yards from ground zero in the first test, a 23-kiloton air blast of a fission bomb similar to the one used over Nagasaki, Japan, a year earlier, according to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. Twenty-four days later, Independence was 1,390 yards from the center of a second atomic blast — also a 23-kiloton device but an underwater detonation.
The ship was later brought back to California for nuclear decontamination before being sunk during the weapons training in 1951.
NOAA said no signs of radioactive contamination were noted during the survey of the sunken carrier last month.
The agency has no plans for further missions to the ship, according to the NOAA statement.
If possible always invent in imitation of Nature. God knows his designs.
By the way I have long considered and have experimented with the idea of a reactive liquid armor that both redirects projectile trajectories and disperses force in spread waves rather than attempts to meet it with direct resistance.
So I found this step forward to be doubly interesting. In construction method, in design, and as a pointer towards improved future capabilities.
Illustration of deformation mechanisms in laminates
Rudykh et al
Body armor suffers from a core tension: it must be light enough so the soldier wearing it can still fight effectively, but strong enough to actually stop bullets and shrapnel. Durable, shock-absorbing Kevlar is the current standard, but it can definitely be improved upon. What if, instead of making the armor itself a liquid, researchers borrow an armor design from creatures that move through it? A team at MIT, led by mechanical engineer Stephan Rudykh, designed a flexible armor inspired by fish scales.
Scale armor is almost as old as armor itself, with numerous examples found in ancient art from Rome to China. To improve on an ancient concept, the MIT team came up with a single metric for the armor’s value: protecto-flexibility (Ψ). This is “a new metric which captures the contrasting combination of protection and flexibility, taken as the ratio between the normalized indentation and normalized bending stiffness.” Working from a single metric, the researchers were able to greatly increase the strength of the armor while only modestly reducing its flexibility.
The practical implications of the study are hinted at by who funded it: the research “was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office through the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.” In the future, soldiers could have fish-scale suits of armor that are more flexible around joints and sturdier across the rest of the body, adding greater protection where none was before without diminishing any of the value of previous armor.
This armor is still in the early testing stages. “Flexibility and protection by design: imbricated hybrid microstructures of bio-inspired armor” only covers indentation tests, designed to see just how far the scales would bend when forced to. Next stages include trying the armor against bullets and shrapnel. If successful, the future of armor could look a heck of a lot like the past.
What to do when you just can’t quit–no matter how many times you’ve tried.
By Nir Eyal
I had just finished giving a speech on building habits when a woman in the audience exclaimed, “You teach how to create habits, but that’s not my problem. I’m fat!” The frustration in her voice echoed throughout the room. “My problem is stopping bad habits. That’s why I’m fat. Where does that leave me?”
I deeply sympathized with the woman. “I was once clinically obese,” I told her. She stared at my lanky frame and waited for me to explain. How did I hack my habits?
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
The first step is to realize that starting a new routine is very different from breaking an existing habit. As I describe in this video, there are different techniques to use depending on the behavior you intend to modify.
For example, creating a habit requires encoding a new set of automatic behaviors, while breaking a habit requires a different set of processes. The brain learns causal relationships between triggers that prompt an action and the associated outcome. If you’d like to get in the habit of taking a vitamin every day, for example, the key is to place the pills somewhere in the path of your normal routine–say, next to your toothbrush, so you remember to take it each morning before you brush. Doing so daily acts as a reminder until, over time, the behavior becomes something done with little or no conscious thought.
However, breaking an existing habit is an entirely different story, and the distinction is something many people mischaracterize. For example, Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, describes a bad cookie-eating habit that added eight pounds to his waistline.
Every day, Duhigg says, he found himself going to the 14th floor of his office building to buy a cookie. When he began to analyze this habit, Duhigg discovered that the real reward for his behavior was not the cookie itself but the socializing he enjoyed while nom nom nom-ing with co-workers. Once Duhigg figured out that the reward was connecting with friends, he could get rid of the cookie-eating habit by substituting one routine for another. Voilà!
Duhigg echos the popular belief that the key to breaking a bad habit is replacing it with another habit. I’m not so sure.
Maybe replacing cookies with co-workers did it for Duhigg, but what if you’re the kind of person (like me) that loves the hell out of cookies? I was obese precisely because, among many other delicious things, I love cookies and for no other reason than the fact that they taste amazing! For me, ooey gooey chocolate chewy beats chatting it up with Mel from accounting every time.
“Where does that leave me?” the woman in the audience wanted to know. Having struggled with my own weight for years, there was no way I was going to look her in the face and tell her she should chat it up with her co-workers the next time she has a sugar craving. Not going to happen.
When it comes to gaining control over bad habits, like eating food we know isn’t good for us, I shared with her the only thing that has worked for me. I call it “progressive extremism,” and it works particularly well in situations in which substituting one habit for another just won’t do. Before diving into the method I use to transform my habits, follow me back about 20 years.
I was once a vegetarian. As anyone who has made a dramatic shift in diet knows, friends always ask, “Don’t you miss meat? I mean, it tastes so good!” Of course I missed meat!
However, when I began calling myself a vegetarian, somehow what was once appetizing suddenly became something else. The things I once loved to eat were now inedible because I had changed how I defined myself. I was a vegetarian, and vegetarians don’t eat meat.
Saying no to eating animals was no longer difficult. It was no longer a struggle. It was something I just did not do, much in the same way I’d imagine a Hasidic Jew does not eat pork or an observant Muslim does not drink alcohol–they just don’t.
Identity helps us make otherwise difficult choices by offloading willpower. Our choices become what we do because of who we are.
Don’t Versus Can’t
Recent research reveals why looking at our behaviors this way can have a profound impact. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research tested the words people use when confronting temptation. During the experiment, one group was instructed to use the words “I can’t” while the other used “I don’t” when considering unhealthy food choices. Then the real experiment began.
When people finished the study, they were offered either a chocolate bar or granola bar to thank them for their time. Unbeknownst to participants, the researchers were measuring whether they would take the relatively healthy or unhealthy choice. While 39 percent of people who used the words “I can’t” chose the granola, 64 percent of those in the “I don’t” group picked it over chocolate. The study authors believe saying “I don’t” rather than “I can’t” provides greater “psychological empowerment.”
I was meat-free for about five years, and during that time resisting certain foods was not that difficult because it was consistent with how I saw myself. “I don’t eat meat,” was tied to my identity as a vegetarian.
If not eating meat was easy when it was something I just didn’t do, why couldn’t the same technique be used to stop other unhealthy habits? It turns out it most certainly can.
Here’s How it Works
First, a disclaimer. This technique only works for triggers that can be removed from your environment–for instance, this doesn’t work for quitting a nail-biting habit unless you’re looking to dispose of some digits.
Start by identifying the behavior you want to stop. For example, say you’d like to stop eating processed sugar. Taken all at once, cutting out the sweet stuff is too big of a goal for most people to quit cold turkey.
Instead, think of just one specific food you’d like to cut from your diet. However–here’s the important part–it needs to be something you wouldn’t really miss and it needs to be forever.
Overwhelming research reveals diets don’t work because they are temporary fixes. If you imagine you’ll get to eat Goobers some day when you’re thinner, this technique won’t work. Temporary diets do nothing but train the brain to binge eat.
To become part of your identity, the commitment needs to be forever, just as vegetarians believe they’ll eat the same way for the rest of their life–it’s who they are.
The mistake most people make is they bite off more than they can chew (excuse the pun). The key is to only remove the things from your diet you won’t really miss. For example, do you like candy corn? I sure don’t. As a kid, the stuff was always the dregs of my Halloween haul. For me, removing candy corn for life was no big deal, so it was first on my list. I don’t eat candy corn and I never will. Done!
Next, write down what you no longer eat and the date you gave it up for good. Writing this down marks the shift from a temporary “can’t” to a permanent “don’t.” Remember, the things you give up have to be easy enough to give up for the rest of your life.
The next step is to wait. This method takes time. When you’re ready, reevaluate what else you can do. Find another trigger to remove that meets the criteria of something you can give up for life that you wouldn’t really miss. For me, I decided to never have sugary carbonated drinks at home. I could still have them elsewhere, just not inside the house. Easy peasy.
If the commitment feels like too much, you’re doing too much. Each step needs to feel almost effortless, no big deal, but involve something you can be proud to give up forever.
For example, when I wanted to stop a bad habit of mindlessly surfing the internet and reduce the online distractions in my life, I didn’t quit the Web entirely. I quit one simple thing I wouldn’t miss and intend not to do it for life. I don’t read articles in my Web browser during working hours–ever! Instead, every time I see something that looks interesting, I use an app called Pocket to save it for later (see more about how Pocket works here).
The process of unwinding bad habits takes years, but progressive extremism is an effective way I’ve found to stop behaviors that weren’t serving me. Occasionally, I look at all the unhealthy things that no longer control me the way they once did, and if I feel up to it, I find new bad habits to slay.
By slowly ratcheting up what you don’t do, you invest in a new identity through your record of successfully dropping bad habits from your life. It may start small, but over time, it adds up to a whole new you.
The process for stopping bad habits is fundamentally different from forming new ones.
Existing behaviors etch a neural circuitry that makes unlearning an association between an action and a reward extremely difficult.
Whereas learning new habits follows a slow progression, stopping old behavioral tendencies requires a different approach.
A process I call “progressive extremism” utilizes what we know about the psychology of identity to help stop behaviors we don’t want.
By classifying specific behaviors as things you will never do again, you put certain actions into the realm of “I don’t” versus “I can’t.”
Our Ancient and Medieval ancestors were much, much more ingenious that most modern people give them credit for. Someone should create/produce an app/algorithm to scour ancient and medieval medicinal texts (and other kinds of texts) to see what other advantages could be gleaned.
Rather than doing this kind of work (and this is hardly the first example I’ve seen of such historical re-creation) by piecemeal examination and experimentation.
By the way I not long ago finished another set of brilliant lectures by Mike Drought of Wheaton College.
Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together… take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek… let it stand nine days in the brass vessel…
So goes a thousand-year-old Anglo Saxon recipe to vanquish a stye, an infected eyelash follicle.
The medieval medics might have been on to something. A modern-day recreation of this remedy seems to alleviate infections caused by the bacteria that are usually responsible for styes. The work might ultimately help create drugs for hard-to-treat skin infections.
The project was born when a microbiologist at the University of Nottingham, UK, got talking to an Anglo Saxon scholar. They decided to test a recipe from an Old English medical compendium called Bald’s Leechbook, housed in the British Library.
Some of the ingredients, such as copper from the brass vessel, kill bacteria grown in a dish – but it was unknown if they would work on a real infection or how they would combine.
Sourcing authentic ingredients was a major challenge, says Freya Harrison, the microbiologist. They had to hope for the best with the leeks and garlic because modern crop varieties are likely to be quite different to ancient ones – even those branded as heritage. For the wine they used an organic vintage from a historic English vineyard.
As “brass vessels” would be hard to sterilise – and expensive – they used glass bottles with squares of brass sheet immersed in the mixture. Bullocks gall was easy, though, as cow’s bile salts are sold as a supplement for people who have had their gall bladders removed.
After nine days of stewing, the potion had killed all the soil bacteria introduced by the leek and garlic. “It was self-sterilising,” says Harrison. “That was the first inkling that this crazy idea just might have some use.”
A side effect was that it made the lab smell of garlic. “It was not unpleasant,” says Harrison. “It’s all edible stuff. Everyone thought we were making lunch.”
The potion was tested on scraps of skin taken from mice infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is an antibiotic-resistant version of the bacteria that causes styes, more commonly known as the hospital superbug MRSA. The potion killed 90 per cent of the bacteria. Vancomycin, the antibiotic generally used for MRSA, killed about the same proportion when it was added to the skin scraps.
A loathsome slime
Unexpectedly, the ingredients had little effect unless they were all brought together. “The big challenge is trying to find out why that combination works,” says Steve Diggle, another of the researchers. Do the components work in synergy or do they trigger the formation of new potent compounds?
Using exactly the right method also seems to be crucial, says Harrison, as another group tried to recreate the remedy in 2005 and found that their potion failed to kill bacteria grown in a dish. “With the nine-day waiting period, the preparation turned into a kind of loathsome, odorous slime,” says Michael Drout of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
If the 9th Century recipe does lead to new drugs, they might be useful against MRSA skin infections such as those that cause foot ulcers in people with diabetes. “These are usually antibiotic-resistant,” says Diggle. However, he doesn’t recommend people try this at home.
Jerusalem has been revered as a holy city for millennia—with pilgrims a staple feature in its bustling streets. Egeria’s Travels and the journals of the Bordeaux Pilgrim and the Piacenza Pilgrim demonstrate that this was as true in the Byzantine period as it is today.In the September/October 2014 issue of BAR, “After Hadrian’s Banishment: Jews in Christian Jerusalem” examines the diverse population of Byzantine Jerusalem. Despite being banned from living in Jerusalem after the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132–135 A.D.), Jews were once again living in the city by the Byzantine period.
The Roman emperor Hadrian, who was responsible for expelling the Jews from Jerusalem, renamed the city Aelia Capitolina in the second century and left it to an overwhelmingly pagan population—Roman soldiers and citizens and the Hellenized residents of Palestine. When Constantine made Christianity a lawful religion in 325 A.D., Jerusalem became a Christian city. However, far from being transformed overnight, the population of Byzantine Jerusalem remained diverse with minorities, such as Jews, living in the city.
An interesting facet of this population was pilgrims—both Christian and Jewish. Traveling from distant lands, pilgrims came to worship in the Holy Land. Their accounts—from Egeria’s Travels and the journals of the Bordeaux Pilgrim and the Piacenza Pilgrim to the better-known writings about Helena, mother of Constantine, and Eudocia, wife of Theodosius II—offer valuable insight into life in Byzantine Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Egeria’s Travels even included a map.
While some pilgrims are known to us by name, such as Egeria the nun (author of Egeria’s Travels), others remain anonymous, like the Bordeaux Pilgrim and the Piacenza Pilgrim.
The Bordeaux Pilgrim is the earliest known Christian pilgrim who left an account of his journey to the Holy Land. Chronicling his travels in 333–334, the pilgrim began in Burdigala—modern-day Bordeaux in France, hence the name the Bordeaux Pilgrim—and passed through northern Italy, the Danube Valley, Constantinople, Asia Minor and Syria on his way to Byzantine Jerusalem. The journal kept by the Bordeaux Pilgrim is known as the Itinerarium Burdigalense. While the original copy of his journal is lost, the Itinerarium Burdigalense was transmitted over several centuries and survived in four early manuscripts written between the eighth and tenth centuries.
In his journal, the Bordeaux Pilgrim describes how Jews visited the Temple Mount and mourned upon “a pierced stone” (lapis pertusus).Egeria was a pious woman from Galicia, Spain, who traveled around the Holy Land in the years 381 to 384 A.D. Writing in Latin, she chronicled her travels in a devout letter—the Itinerarium Egeriae or Egeria’s Travels. Many believe that she was a nun because she addressed her letter to her “beloved sisters.”
Only fragments of Egeria’s Travels have survived, the original letter long since lost. The middle section of Egeria’s Travels, documenting about four months of her pilgrimage, was preserved in the 11th-century manuscript Codex Aretinus. This medieval manuscript also went missing for several centuries, but it was rediscovered in 1884 at the monastic library in S. Maria in Arezzo, Italy, by Italian scholar Gian Francesco Gamurrini.Egeria described holy sites in Byzantine Jerusalem, detailing religious processions and rituals among Christians. Her account provides useful information about liturgical worship in the fourth century, when the church calendar was still developing. For instance, Egeria visited Byzantine Jerusalem before December 25 was fixed and recognized as Jesus’ birthday. However, at this time she documented that there was already a procession from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to Mount Zion that took place on the Sunday of Pentecost.
The anonymous Piacenza Pilgrim journeyed to the Holy Land in the 570s from the city of Piacenza in northern Italy. Itinerarium Antonini Placentini, his journal, overflows with wondrous tales from his travels. It recounts traditions about holy sites and relics and includes interesting anecdotes—some which seem nothing short of miraculous. When witnessing a baptism in the Jordan River on the Feast of Epiphany, the pilgrim describes how the waters stood still: “At dawn … the priest goes down to the river. The moment he starts blessing the water the Jordan turns back on itself with a roar, and the water stays still till the baptism is finished.”1 By the time the Piacenza Pilgrim visited Byzantine Jerusalem, Christmas was celebrated on December 25.
Perhaps the most famous Byzantine pilgrim was Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who came to Jerusalem in 326–327 when she was 80 years old. Eusebius of Caesarea notes that she contributed to the construction of both the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives.
Helena is best-known for discovering Jesus’ tomb and the True Cross. Appended to his translation of Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History, Tyrannius Rufinus relates the legend of how the empress found the True Cross: Three crosses were uncovered at a site that Helena had begun excavating, and a test was performed to determine which cross had been used to crucify Jesus. A very sick woman was brought to the crosses. Nothing happened when she touched the first two. Upon touching the third cross, however, she was miraculously healed. This proved to everyone present that Helena had found the True Cross, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built over the site of discovery.More than a hundred years after Helena, another empress took a pilgrimage to Byzantine Jerusalem. Eudocia, wife of Theodosius II, journeyed to the holy city in 439. Later, after separating from her husband the emperor, Eudocia made Jerusalem her home. The empress funded numerous construction projects, including the building of St. Stephen’s Church and monastery and the rebuilding of the wall around Mount Zion and the Siloam Pool. A skilled poet, she also wrote literature, including the epic poem Martyrdom of St. Cyprian.
Pilgrims visiting Byzantine Jerusalem—both royal and common—often purchased eulogia, implements thought to ward off evil. One type of eulogia manufactured in Byzantine Jerusalem were ampullae, hexagonal glass bottles likely used to hold holy water or oil. Ampullae with both Christian and Jewish symbols have been unearthed. These artifacts demonstrate that there were enough Christian and Jewish pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem to warrant the making of eulogia for them.
Regardless of whether it harbors life on Titan or not such a compound could provide great benefits and numerous applications for our future use, regardless of whether those applications are biological, chemical, or physical.
Also this would make for a great sci-fi story, mundane or hard sci-fi.
Astrobiologists and planetary scientists have a fairly good idea of which chemicals might indicate the presence of oxygen-breathing, water-based life—that is if it is like us. When it comes to worlds such as Saturn’s moon Titan, however, where temperatures are too cold for aqueous biochemistry, it’s much harder to know which chemicals could signal the existence of hydrocarbon-based life.
A Cornell University team may have found a plausible candidate chemical that future missions to Titan could search for. The computer-simulation study, which appeared in the February 27 Science Advances [http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/1/e1400067], found that acrylonitrile, a hydrocarbon known to form in Titan’s atmosphere, can organize itself into a structure having the same toughness and flexibility characteristic of the membranes that envelop cells on Earth and form the boundaries of organelles like mitochondria and the nucleus.
This computational finding could have lasting implications for scientists who study Titan’s geochemistry. For many planetary scientists, it’s their favorite moon. Like Earth, Titan has a dense atmosphere complete with clouds, mountains, riverbeds and liquid seas on its surface. In fact, Titan would probably be the most promising place, rather than Europa, to look for extraterrestrial life in the solar system if not for its frigidity.
Titan is way too cold for life as we know it. At Titanian surface temperatures (–179 Celsius) phospholipids—the chemical compounds that comprise cell membranes—and the water-based solutions that fill cells would be frozen solid. Any life that evolved on Titan’s surface would have to be made of a very different set of chemicals.
In the team’s computer model acrylonitriles formed hollow balls (called azotosomes) that behave, even in the cold, in much the way hollow balls made of Earthly phospholipids (called liposomes) that form membranes in our cells and organelles. Like liposomes, azotosomes can bend into many different shapes and could act as a barrier between the inside and the outside of the bubbles they form, keeping the ethane–methane mix of Titan’s seas from penetrating the encapsulation. (Because this study is the first of its kind, we don’t know much about which hydrocarbons would be inside the azotosome.)
The degree of similarity between the hypothetical azotosomes and Earth-based liposomes was a surprise to the researchers. “I’m not a biochemist, so I didn’t really know what I was looking for [at first],” says James Stevenson, the chemical engineering grad student who ran the computer simulations. “And when I did the calculations—lo and behold!” The simulated azotosomes at Titanian temperature were just as stretchable as liposomes at Earth temperatures. Because flexibility and the ability to withstand poking and twisting are crucial for evolving complex cellular behavior, azotosomes could potentially be a very useful structure for hypothetical alien life in ethane–methane seas and lakes such as those on Titan.
This study demonstrates that “at least in a computer simulation, one can build structures of a size and geometry [roughly] equivalent to the containers that were on the Earth when life began,” says planetary physicist and study co-author Jonathan Lunine. “You can do it with materials that we know are present on Titan…So we’ve presented potentially one step toward the evolution of life under Titan conditions.”
Chemical engineer and co-author Paulette Clancy compares figuring out how life might form on Titan in the absence of liquid water to “trying to make an omelet without any eggs. It sort of redefines how you think about an omelet,” she says.
Scientists will not know whether the acrylonitrile on Titan’s surface actually forms the azotosome structures, let alone whether those structures are components of life, unless a new we send another probe and investigate the hydrocarbon seas’ chemistry in more detail. “Titan is literally awash with organics—but it’s impossible to disentangle them remotely,” Ralph Lorenz, a NASA scientist who designs and builds planetary exploration probes and who was not involved in this study, wrote in an e-mail. “You need to land, sample the material and use sophisticated chemistry instruments (like those on the Mars rover Curiosity) to see how complex the compounds have become and whether they can execute any of the functions of life.”
Lorenz and others have proposed a few designs for automated submarines or torpedo-shaped probes that could remotely explore Titan’s seas, but those missions are several decades away. Furthermore, even if the space agencies began building a craft for a mission to Titan right away, it would be impossible to get it there before Saturn’s seasonal revolution renders the moon’s northern hemisphere inaccessible for direct-to-Earth communications. The hydrocarbons seas are clustered on Titan’s northern hemisphere, and because that hemisphere will be facing away from the Earth, any missions to Titan during the 2020s will require an orbiter companion that can relay signals back to Earth. Orbiters are expensive, so we probably won’t be able to probe Titan’s hydrocarbon seas until the 2030s.
So for the time being Titanian azotosomes will remain a hypothetical. But on the bright side, when the next mission does reach Titan, it will have a much more precise idea of which chemicals it should try to find.
(Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the United States on Monday that the nuclear deal it is negotiating with Iran could threaten Israel’s survival and insisted he had a “moral obligation” to speak up about deep differences with President Barack Obama on the issue.
In a preview of a planned address to Congress on Tuesday that has already imperiled U.S.-Israeli ties, Netanyahu voiced fears that talks between Iran and world powers would allow Tehran to become a nuclear-armed state and said this must not happen.
“As prime minister of Israel, I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there’s still time to avert them,” Netanyahu told a cheering audience at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest U.S. pro-Israel lobby.
At the same time, Netanyahu sought to ease U.S.-Israeli tensions, saying the relationship between his country and the United States was “stronger than ever” and would continue to improve. He said the widespread characterizations of fraying relations were “not only premature, they’re just wrong.”
The long-strained personal relationship between Obama and Netanyahu has sunk to a new low over the Israeli leader’s planned speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, just weeks before an end-of-March deadline for a framework accord between Iran and world powers.
Netanyahu is expected to press U.S. lawmakers to block a deal with Iran that he contends would endanger Israel’s existence but which Obama’s aides believe could be a signature foreign policy achievement for the president.
The invitation to Netanyahu was orchestrated by Republican congressional leaders with the Israeli ambassador without advance word to the White House, a breach of protocol that infuriated the Obama administration.
Obama has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during this visit, on the grounds that doing so just two weeks before Israeli elections could be seen as interfering.
The partisan nature of this dispute has turned this into the worst rift in decades between the United States and Israel, which normally navigates carefully between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.
The prime minister’s address, delivered early morning Israel time on Tuesday
March 6, 2012, 6:22 am
AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee
Thank you for the warm reception. It could be heard as far away as Jerusalem – the eternal and united capital of Israel. More than two thirds of the Congress is in attendance here tonight. I deeply appreciate your being here.
Last May when I addressed the Congress, you stood up to applaud the state of Israel. Now I ask the 13,000 friends of Israel here to stand up and applaud you, the representatives of the American people. Democrats and Republicans alike, we applaud your unwavering commitment to Israel.
I want to recognize Yossi Peled who is here tonight. Yossi was born in Belgium. His parents hid him with a Christian family during World War II. His father, and many other members of his family, were murdered at Auschwitz. His mother survived the Holocaust, returned to reclaim Yossi, and brought him to Israel. He became one of Israel’s bravest and greatest generals.
And today, Yossi Peled serves as a minister in my government. Yossi’s life is the story of the Jewish people – the story of a powerless and stateless people who became a strong and proud nation able to defend itself. And ladies and gentlemen, Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.
I’d like to talk to you about a subject no one has been talking about recently….Iran. Every day, I open the papers and read about these red lines and these time lines. I read about what Israel has decided to do or what Israel might do. Well, I’m not going to talk to you about what Israel will do or will not do. I, never talk about that. But I do want to talk to you about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. I want to explain why Iran must never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
President Obama has reiterated his commitment to prevent this from happening. He stated clearly that all options remain on the table, and that American policy is not containment. Well, Israel has the same policy. We are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We leave all options on the table. And containment is definitely not an option.
The Jewish state will not allow those seeking our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear armed Iran must be stopped. Amazingly, some people refuse to acknowledge that Iran’s goal is to develop nuclear weapons. You see, Iran claims that it’s enriching uranium to develop medical research. Yeah, right. A country that builds underground nuclear facilities, develops intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactures thousands of centrifuges, and absorbs crippling sanctions – is doing all that in order to advance…medical research. So you see, when that Iranian ICBM is flying through the air to a location near you, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s only carrying medical isotopes.
Ladies and Gentlemen, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That’s right, it’s a duck – but this duck is a nuclear duck. And it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck.
Fortunately, President Obama and most world leaders understand that the idea that Iran’s goal is not to develop nuclear weapons is ridiculous. Yet incredibly, some are prepared to accept an idea only slightly less preposterous: That we should accept a world in which the Ayatollahs have atomic bombs.
Sure, they say, Iran is cruel, but it’s not crazy. It’s detestable but it’s deterrable. Responsible leaders should not bet the security of their countries on the belief that the world’s most dangerous regime won’t use the world’s most dangerous weapons. And I promise you that as Prime Minister, I will never gamble with the security of Israel.
From the beginning, the Ayatollah regime has broken every international rule and flouted every norm. It has seized embassies, targeted diplomats and sent its own children through mine fields. It hangs gays and stones women. It supports Assad’s brutal slaughter of the Syrian people. Iran is the world’s foremost sponsor of terror. It sponsors Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and terrorists throughout the Middle East, Africa, and South America. Iran’s proxies have dispatched hundreds of suicide bombers, planted thousands of roadside bombs, and fired over twenty thousand missiles at civilians. Through terror from the skies and terror on the ground, Iran is responsible for the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans. In 1983, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah blew up the Marine barracks in Lebanon, killing 240 American servicemen.
In the last decade, its been responsible for murdering and maiming American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just a few months ago, it tried to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in a restaurant just a few blocks from here. The assassins didn’t care that several Senators and members of Congress would have been murdered in the process. Iran accuses the American government of orchestrating 9/11, and it denies the Holocaust. Iran brazenly calls for Israel’s destruction, and they work for its destruction – each day, every day.
This is how Iran behaves today, without nuclear weapons. Think of how they will behave tomorrow, with nuclear weapons. Iran will be even more reckless and far more dangerous.
There’s been plenty of talk recently about the costs of stopping Iran. I think it’s time to talk about the costs of not stopping Iran.
A nuclear-armed Iran would dramatically increase terrorism by giving terrorists a nuclear umbrella. That means that Iran’s terror proxies like Hezbollah, Hamas will be emboldened to attack America, Israel, and others because they will be backed by a power with atomic weapons.
A nuclear-armed Iran could choke off the world’s oil supply and make real its threat to close the Straits of Hormuz. If you’re worried about the price of oil today, imagine how high oil prices will be when a nuclear-armed Iran starts blackmailing the world. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, this would set off a mad dash by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and others to acquire nuclear weapons of their own.
The world’s most volatile region would become a nuclear tinderbox waiting to go off. And the worst nightmare of all, Iran could threaten all of us with nuclear terrorism. It could put a nuclear device in a ship heading to any port or in a truck parked in any city. Think about what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in the hands of radicals who lead millions in chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
For the sake of our prosperity, for the sake of our security, for the sake of our children, Iran must not be allowed to get nuclear weapons!
The best outcome would be if Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program peacefully. No one would be happier than me and the people of Israel if Iran actually dismantled its program.
But so far, that hasn’t happened.
For fifteen years, I’ve been warning that a nuclear-armed Iran is a grave danger to my country and to the peace and security of the world. For the last decade, the international community has tried diplomacy. It hasn’t worked.
For six years, the international community has applied sanctions. That hasn’t worked either. I appreciate President Obama’s recent efforts to impose even tougher sanctions against Iran. Those sanctions are hurting Iran’s economy. But unfortunately, Iran’s nuclear march goes on. Israel has waited patiently for the international community to resolve this issue.
We’ve waited for diplomacy to work. We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer.
As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never let my people live under the shadow of annihilation.
Some commentators would have you believe that stopping Iran from getting the bomb is more dangerous than letting Iran have the bomb.
They say that a military confrontation with Iran would undermine the efforts already underway, that it would be ineffective, and that it would provoke even more vindictive action by Iran. I’ve heard these arguments before. In fact, I’ve read them before. In my desk, I have copies of an exchange of letters between the World Jewish Congress and the US War Department. The year was 1944. The World Jewish Congress implored the American government to bomb Auschwitz. The reply came five days later. I want to read it to you. Such an operation could be executed only by diverting considerable air support essential to the success of our forces elsewhere…..and in any case would be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources….And here’s the most remarkable sentence of all. And I quote: Such an effort might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans. Think about that – “even more vindictive action” — than the Holocaust.
My Friends, 2012 is not 1944. The American government today is different. You heard it in President Obama’s speech yesterday. But here’s my point.
The Jewish people are also different. Today we have a state of our own. The purpose of the Jewish state is to secure the Jewish future. That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.
We deeply appreciate the great alliance between our two countries. But when it comes to Israel’s survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate. Israel’s fate is to continue to be the forward position of freedom in the Middle East. The only place where minorities enjoy full civil rights; The only place where Arabs enjoy full civil rights. The only place where Christians are free to practice their faith; The only place where real judges protect the rule of law; And as Prime Minister of Israel, I will never allow anything to threaten Israel’s democratic way of life. And most especially, I will never tolerate any discrimination against women.
This week, we will read how one woman changed Jewish history. In Synagogues throughout the world, the Jewish people will celebrate the festival of Purim. We will read how some 2,500 years ago, a Persian anti-Semite tried to annihilate the Jewish people. We will read how his plot was foiled by one courageous woman – Esther. In every generation, there are those who wish to destroy the Jewish people.
We are blessed to live in an age when there is a Jewish state capable of defending the Jewish people. And we are doubly blessed to have so many friends like you, Jews and non-Jews alike, who love the State of Israel and support its right to defend itself. Thank you for your friendship, Thank you for your courage, Thank you for standing up for the one and only Jewish state.
Studying Titan is thought to be looking back in time at an embryonic Earth, only a lot colder. Titan is the only moon in the solar system to have a significant atmosphere and this atmosphere is known to possess its own methane cycle, like Earth’s water cycle. Methane exists in a liquid state, raining down on a landscape laced with hydrocarbons, forming rivers, valleys and seas.
Several seas have been extensively studied by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during multiple flybys, some of which average a few meters deep, whereas others have depths of over 200 meters (660 feet) — the maximum depth at which Cassini’s radar instrument can penetrate.
So, if scientists are to properly explore Titan, they must find a way to dive into these seas to reveal their secrets.
Envisaged as a possible mission to Titan’s largest sea, Kracken Mare, the autonomous submersible would be designed to make a 90 day, 2,000 kilometer (1,250 mile) voyage exploring the depths of this vast and very alien marine environment. As it would spend long periods under the methane sea’s surface, it would have to be powered by a radioisotope generator; a source that converts the heat produced by radioactive pellets into electricity, much like missions that are currently exploring space, like Cassini and Mars rover Curiosity.
Communicating with Earth would not be possible when the vehicle is submerged, so it would need to make regular ascents to the surface to transmit science data.
But Kracken Mare is not a tranquil lake fit for gentle sailing — it is known to have choppy waves and there is evidence of tides, all contributing to the challenge. Many of the engineering challenges have already been encountered when designing terrestrial submarines — robotic and crewed — but as these seas will be extremely cold (estimated to be close to the freezing point of methane, 90 Kelvin or -298 degrees Fahrenheit), a special piston-driven propulsion system will need to be developed and a nitrogen will be needed as ballast, for example.
This study is just that, a study, but the possibility of sending a submersible robot to another world would be as unprecedented as it is awesome.
Although it’s not clear at this early stage what the mission science would focus on, it would be interesting to sample the chemicals at different depths of Kracken Mare.
“Measurement of the trace organic components of the sea, which perhaps may exhibit prebiotic chemical evolution, will be an important objective, and a benthic sampler (a robotic grabber to sample sediment) would acquire and analyze sediment from the seabed,” the authors write (PDF). “These measurements, and seafloor morphology via sidescan sonar, may shed light on the historical cycles of filling and drying of Titan’s seas. Models suggest Titan’s active hydrological cycle may cause the north part of Kraken to be ‘fresher’ (more methane-rich) than the south, and the submarine’s long traverse will explore these composition variations.”
A decade after the European Huygens probe landed on the surface of Titan imaging the moon’s eerily foggy atmosphere, there have been few plans to go back to this tantalizing world. It would be incredible if, in the next few decades, we could send a mission back to Titan to directly sample what is at the bottom of its seas, exploring a region where the molecules for life’s chemistry may be found in abundance.
As part of my scripture readings for this week I read this from the Book of Deuteronomy then made a word by word translation into ancient Hebrew of some parts of this chapter.
After reading this (indeed I recommend reading the entire chapter and the entire section of the book for even meaning) in context it adds a huge new dimension to me of exactly what Jesus said several times in the New Testament on these very subjects, but also especially what he said to Satan. This is rich, very rich indeed in metaphor and meaning.
Also a lotta people think that Jesus basically introduced the idea of God as Father, God as Abba, that he introduced a new idea into Judaism and that what happened in the Old Testament is not only a precursor but a different set of principles to what he did. An old, antique, but now superseded Covenant.
I see no evidence of that at all (either in what Jesus said or did, indeed he said the very opposite on numerous occasions) , it is the very bad theology of modern and in some cases Medieval Man. Actually Christ saw himself as the fulfillment of the groundwork of the Old Testament, not an Old Covenant replacement or substitute, but a real fulfillment of the Old Testament, and he took the idea of God as Father, God as Abba, and God as Parent directly from the Old Testament, where it was often espoused in both the Torah and by the Prophets.
I understand far more fully now exactly why Jesus chose to echo these very passages when he stood alone.
Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you…
In keeping with the theme of the post immediately before this one something else that occurred to me this morning. My wife was talking about how bitterly cold it has been around here lately (in the past week and how cold it will be in the upcoming week, especially for South Carolina) when I blurted out, “yeah, it’s colder than a Siberian witches’ tit.”
Then I thought about why he used to say that. My father used to say this all of the time when it was really, really cold, it was his go-to phrase to express “absolute coldness.”
Now I have studied folklore since I was a teenager, and one bit of folklore that has fascinated me since I was a kid were the tales of Baba Yaga.
Baba Yaga is not Russian, she’s actually Slavic (probably) in origin (at least as Baba Yaga), and her tales are spread throughout the Slavic lands but over time they became increasingly associated with Russia (as either her true origin point), the place where she fed upon (she was a cannibal, especially of children) many of her victims (as in some incarnations she was the Forest Crone and Witch), or as being associated with her more evil deeds.
But I think that behind her may lay far older tales out of the East, and specifically the Frozen North and East, that is to say the huge and yet alien landscape of complete and unbroken frozenness and fear, in other words, Siberia.
My father was not a student of folklore but at that time, in the South, it was very common to be brought up with at least a passing knowledge of folklore, much of which got mixed around together with the various people groups inhabiting/settling the South (Irish, Scots-Irish, German, Black, Indian, etc, etc.).
I was, as a young child, cared for by an old Appalachian mountain woman who taught me folk-medicine and had an especially rich store of folk tales she would tell me as a kid. Later on, as I got older and started studying folklore I realized just how broad her range of folktales were, moving way beyond what you would normally associate with as being Appalachian in origin or from the people groups that tended to make up the Appalachian peoples. She had apparently absorbed a lotta tales from a lot of different sources and changed them around in retelling.
My suspicion is that as these various groups intermingled one tale or story influenced another and Siberia became not only the vaguely distant/rumored origin of alien frozen wastes and the metaphor for the land of extreme cold and desolation, but also the homeland associated with the most fearsome and cold of all witches, namely, Baba Yaga.
Over time though, in the retellings, her name was lost, or became unimportant and all that was left was the prototypical “frozen, cold, deathly and deadly super-witch, the Siberian Witch” – whose teats froze little children – so that she could abduct them and cook them later for eating – rather than sustained them with life.
Hence to eat from the Siberian Witches tit was a trap, just as Baba Yaga was a baiting pedophile witch (in the sense that she stole children and ate them), and if you did so it really meant Death.
So, colder than a Siberian Witches tit didn’t just mean the bitterly cold and alien and bleak landscape of Siberia, it meant the cold and bleak Siberian landscape was the home of the Siberian Witch, the Baba Yaga (or whoever Baba Yaga was first derived from), and that this witch, this Baba Yaga was really the absolute coldness of Death.
So although her name disappeared from the saying, her origins never disappeared, and so the saying didn’t just imply, “Boy it’s really cold” it actually and really is a metaphor meaning exactly this; “It’s colder than a Siberian witches’ tit,” or put another way, “It’s as cold as, or maybe even colder than, Death.”
And you know, now that I’ve thought on these things awhile this morning I believe I’ll incorporate some of these elements of Baba Yaga into the song I’m writing about her for my new album Locus Eater.
You know though, from a fictional and gaming point of view, and not just an historical one, finding more than one person in a great tomb is a Godsend of a story idea.
Everything from mistaken identity, to multiple burials over time, to different kinds of burials and relics and remains, to different types of animals and creatures (maybe extinct ones), to even ancient enemies being buried in the same tomb.
Media reports and the blogosphere are fueling speculation that the remains of a woman found in a massive tomb in northern Greece may belong to Alexander the Great’s mother, Olympias, who was executed when she was about 60 years old.
The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports reported last week that the remains of five individuals have been found in the burial chamber of the elaborate tomb beneath what is known as Kasta Hill in the ancient city of Amphipolis. Archaeologists excavating the site have dated the tomb to the final quarter of the fourth century B.C., around the time of Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C. (See “Behind Tomb Connected to Alexander the Great, Intrigue Worthy of ‘Game of Thrones.’”)
“We have so far an elaborate monument that’s partially damaged and vandalized,” points out Frank L. Holt, a University of Houston professor who has written several books on Alexander the Great. “It contained bones and cremains of persons unknown who may have nothing to do with the original structure or with each other.
“The chronology remains uncertain,” he says. “The royal status of the bodies, and of the building, cannot yet be verified. Why the headlong rush to judgment?’
Women and Men, Old and Young, Buried and Burned
From the 550 pieces of human bone recovered from the burial chamber, researchers have so far identified a woman over 60 years old, two men between the ages of 35 and 45, a newborn infant of unknown gender, and a very small set of cremated remains that most likely belonged to an adult of unknown age and gender.
About a quarter (157) of the remains are intact enough to allow researchers to eventually identify the gender, age, and height of the individuals, while the rest are fragments of vertebrae and other skeletal remains. An unknown number of animal remains, including bones of horses or donkeys, were also found in the chamber.
Complicating interpretation of the remains is the fact that none of the bodies were found in their original burial places, and no significant burial objects have been reported found.
Biology relies upon the precise activation of specific genes to work properly. If that sequence gets out of whack, or one gene turns on only partially, the outcome can often lead to a disease.
Now, bioengineers at Stanford and other universities have developed a sort of programmable genetic code that allows them to preferentially activate or deactivate genes in living cells. The work is published in the current issue of Cell, and could help usher in a new generation of gene therapies.
The technique is an adaptation of CRISPR, itself a relatively new genetic tool that makes use of a natural defense mechanism that bacteria evolved over millions of years to slice up infectious virus DNA.
Standard CRISPR consists of two components: a short RNA that matches a particular spot in the genome, and a protein called Cas9 that snips the DNA in that location. For the purposes of gene editing, scientists can control where the protein snips the genome, insert a new gene into the cut and patch it back together.
Inserting new genetic code, however, is just one way to influence how the genome is expressed. Another involves telling the cell how much or how little to activate a particular gene, thus controlling how much protein a cell produces from that gene and altering its behavior.
It’s this action that Lei Stanley Qi, an assistant professor of bioengineering and of chemical and systems biology at Stanford, and his colleagues aim to manipulate.
Influencing the genome
In the new work, the researchers describe how they have designed the CRISPR molecule to include a second piece of information on the RNA, instructing the molecule to either increase (upregulate) or decrease (downregulate) a target gene’s activity, or turn it on/off entirely.
Additionally, they designed it so that it could affect two different genes at once. In a cell, the order or degree in which multiple genes are activated can produce different metabolic products.
“It’s like driving a car. You control the wheel to control direction, and the engine to control the speed, and how you balance the two determines how the car moves,” Qi said. “We can do the same thing in the cell by up- or downregulating genes, and produce different outcomes.”
As a proof of principle, the scientists used the technique to take control of a yeast metabolic pathway, turning genes on and off in various orders to produce four different end products. They then tested it on two mammalian genes that are important in cell mobility, and were able to control the cell’s direction and how fast it moved.
The ability to control genes is an attractive approach in designing genetic therapies for complex diseases that involve multiple genes, Qi said, and the new system may overcome several of the challenges of existing experimental therapies.
“Our technique allows us to directly control multiple specific genes and pathways in the genome without expressing new transgenes or uncontrolled behaviors, such as producing too much of a protein, or doing so in the wrong cells,” Qi said. “We could eventually synthesize tens of thousands of RNA molecules to control the genome over a whole organism.”
Next, Qi plans to test the technique in mice and refine the delivery method. Currently the scientists use a virus to insert the molecule into a cell, but he would eventually like to simply inject the molecules into an organism’s blood.
“That is what is so exciting about working at Stanford, because the School of Medicine’s immunology group is just around the corner, and working with them will help us address how to do this without triggering an immune response,” said Qi, who is a member of the interdisciplinary Stanford ChEM-H institute. “I’m optimistic because everything about this system comes naturally from cells, and should be compatible with any organism.”
Over the past four to five days I have discovered (both through experimentation and by healing animal patients) some very important medical principles which make the successful treatment of certain kinds of injuries and diseases much easier and much more effective. Also these principles make it far less likely that any form of treatment will in any way promote infection, interfere with the healing process, produce malignant counter or side effects, cause relapse, slow recovery, or prevent full recovery. Methods of the application of these principles vary according to the specific conditions surrounding the patient (age, general state of health, weight, etc.) and the individual nature of the case itself but the principles are valid in and of themselves.
I say discover, actually I have rediscovered (for I knew most of these principles already but either did not practice them fully or in the necessary manner or did not until recently realize their true import) or refined the principles I’m going to name, and I’m also sure the ancients and many medieval doctors knew them as well.
Additionally I should add the caveat that some of these principals are really for medical applications devoid of access to modern medical facilities and sometimes due to the fact of the lack of proper medicines – either because the patient and doctor/medic are isolated and cannot reach such facilities, because such facilities are not available in a given area, or because the patient lies on the borderline between being able to treat themselves or at home and needing to be hospitalized, but the injury or illness has not quite yet progressed to the point of an emergency hospitalization.
All of these Principles are going into my Book of Medicine as currently defined below, however as I improve upon my techniques and make further discoveries I will refine these definitions as necessary. Also I have a couple of ideas regarding inventions to best apply some of these principles but I’ll discuss those inventions at a later date after I’ve had a chance to work upon them. 1 THE PRINCIPLE OF HIBERNATION– The patient should be encouraged to or force himself to go into a state of self-induced hibernation or a coma-like state (even if this state must persist for many hours or even days or weeks) until the patent has reached the state that a sufficient point of verifiable recovery has been achieved or there are definite signs of self-sustaining improvement. The only treatment that should be administered or self-administered during this hibernation state should be small amounts of water with nutrients and electrolytes (liquid metaergogenics).
2 THE PRINCIPLE OF REVERSE APPLICATION – If the patient is unable or unwilling to eat then all necessary and beneficial nutrients and electrolytes should be introduced through liquids and via liquid consumption. If the patient is unwilling to drink then all necessary and beneficial nutrients and electrolytes should be introduced through whatever food is consumed and the food should be soaked in beneficial liquids and water and moisturized or reduced to a semi-liquid paste. These two principles are especially good and useful in cases where it is not possible to administer an IV .
3 THE PRINCIPLE OF APPLIED STASIS OR NON-INTERFERENCE – There are times when a patient has received a severe, traumatic, or at least serious injury or illness, and aside from keeping the patient warm and clean no attempt should be made to treat the patient at all other than the periodic administering of small amounts of food and/or drink (see principle of Reverse Application and the principle of Fasting) and instead they should encouraged to rest and to sleep (see principle of Hibernation). Only after a patient shows signs of the recovery of strength and of a tendency to recover should the patient be treated in a more normal manner to speed recovery.
4 THE PRINCIPLE OF FASTING– In certain situations the patient should not be fed at all but should undergo a period of fasting to best facilitate healing. Break the fast when signs of recovery become obvious or if the patient shows signs of weakness or harmful weight loss. Liquid intake should be maintained as normal or increased as necessary.
5. THE PRINCIPLE OF WOUND HOMEOSTASIS– Sometimes a wound (or even a state of illness) is too moist and must be drained, dried, and caused to remain dry (in a general sense, all biological health depends to some degree upon moisture) so as the suppress or prevent serious forms of infection (gangrene, etc.). Sometimes a wound (or even a state of illness) is too dry and requires the introduction of sterile yet beneficial forms of moisture and nutrients introduced through the medium of that moisture. Each particular case will vary according to the circumstances but if there are indications that the injury, wound, or disease state is too moist, then drying methods must be employed, and if there are indications that the injury, wound, or disease state is too dry then moisture must be applied. Then intent is to reach a state of patient homeostasis in which the patient can achieve and remain in an ongoing condition of optimal healing and recovery.
6. THE PRINCIPLE OF SHADOW (OR UNFELT OR UNKNOWN) TREATMENT APPLICATION – I will discuss this principle later after I have had more time to experiment. Initial indications show it to be very effective but the initial methods of application could be much improved I think. This is a new principle to me.
Is Heaven static (is everything to be done or enjoyed predetermined or fixed by God), or is it progressive (is it open to being added to and improved upon, etc.)?
(I am not speaking of progressive in the political sense of course, but in the sense of actual and real progress.)
For instance as more and more human souls are added to Heaven (and God only knows what other kinds of creatures and beings) does Heaven expand, and does God allow or even encourage those dwelling there to explore, to discover, to conduct scientific experiments, to create, to do art, to invent and design things, and so forth given the parameters under which Heaven operates? (Which I assume will involve different technologies and physics and biological and operating principles, if those are even the proper terms, than in our world.)
I cannot say for certain but it seems to me, and this is something I have long pondered, that if this world, as imperfect as it is, is open to invention and creation (or at least sub-creation) and experimentation and discovery and exploration and expansion and progress then I can only imagine how open to good and noble progress Heaven will and ought to be.
Brown University evolutionary biologist Sohini Ramachandran has joined with colleagues in publishing a sweeping analysis of genetic and linguistic patterns across the world’s populations. Among the findings is that geographic distance predicts differentiation in both language and genes.
Producing new insights into the evolution and development of human populations around the globe is no easy task, but scientists can draw on multiple sources of data to do it. In a new study, Sohini Ramachandran and colleagues at Stanford University and University of Manitoba analyzed troves of data on genetics and distinct sounds in language—phonemes—to discern important patterns.
Among the findings published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is that genes and languages both vary more as geographic distance increases. The analysis showed there are distinct geographic patterns, or axes, of the greatest differences. The data also reflect how languages and genes evolve differently, for instance among isolated populations.
Ramachandran, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, discussed these and other insights with writer David Orenstein.
Why are language and genes sometimes combined in studies of populations?
Fields that study the human past, especially ancient human history, have to draw on multiple disciplines and lines of evidence in order to confirm and calibrate observed signatures in data, since we can’t truly know all events in human history. Because language is inherited ‘vertically’ [from parents to children] like genes, and also changes ‘horizontally’ based on contact among populations, many researchers in genetics interpret analyses of DNA from different populations in the context of the languages the study populations speak.
This kind of interdisciplinary work is what initially drew me to studying human evolution.
In this study what did you find was similar between languages and genes and what was different?
We saw that axes of differentiation in both our linguistic and genetic dataset corresponded, meaning that differences in both datasets of very different types of markers were geographically distributed quite similarly.
One very interesting contrast we saw between languages and genes had to do with isolated populations: an isolated population loses genetic diversity rapidly, as individuals marry within the population; in contrast, we saw a range of variation in linguistic markers for languages that are geographically isolated (have few neighboring languages). Some languages that are isolated lose complexity and others gain complexity and innovate new sounds. This makes me wonder whether contact among populations homogenizes their languages in some way so people can understand each other.
We found that linguistic markers do not hold signatures of the human expansion out of Africa, which is not surprising due to the rate at which languages changes and can be influenced by neighboring languages.
Tell us more about that difference between what genes and languages showed regarding human origins in Africa?
To be precise, genes tell us that the people living today with the most genetic diversity currently live in Southern Africa (like the San bushmen) and that modern humans emerged in Africa, but we don’t know where the geographic origin of our species was precisely based on genetic data. The language analysis did not reveal this African origin because language changes in a complex way, much differently from genes where we have a good sense of the mutation process. In my conversations with different linguists, including those at Brown who generously listened to me present our ideas multiple times, the rate at which language mutates, and which linguistic markers are more likely to change than others, seems to be an open question.
You found geographic axes, or directions, of difference in language and genetics. What might they tell us about human evolution and history?
These axes, which look for directions along which a dataset is most differentiated, tell us about axes along which humans likely did not migrate a great deal. For example, migration north/south in Africa would mean moving across climate regimes; we also know populations are quite different across latitudes in Europe and we see that for both our language datasets and genetic datasets.
What do your findings tell us about how we can use genes and language, either together or separately, for population studies?
We learn more from using both data types together and analyzing them using similar methods than we would have learned from either type alone. One signal we saw loud and clear in this study is how much geographic distance affected our ancestors’ genes and languages; geographic distance predicts differentiation in both data types, underscoring that there are still deep signatures of ancient migrations in our genomes and cultures today.
Physicists at the University of Sussex have tamed one of the most counterintuitive phenomena of modern science in their quest to develop a new generation of machines capable of revolutionizing the way we can solve many problems in modern science.
The strange and mysterious nature of quantum mechanics is often illustrated by a thought experiment, known as Schrӧdinger’s Cat, in which a cat is theoretically both dead and alive simultaneously.
According to a new study published this week in Physical Review A, Sussex physicists have now managed to create a special type of “Schrӧdinger’s” cat using new technology based on trapped ions (charged atoms) and microwave radiation.
Like the cat, the researchers made these ions exist in two states simultaneously by creating ‘entanglement’, an effect that challenges the very fabric of reality itself.
Trapped ions are leading the race towards constructing a new type of computer able to solve certain problems with unprecedented speeds by taking its power from a theory called ‘quantum physics‘.
Traditionally, lasers have been used to drive such quantum processes. But millions of stable beams would have to be carefully aligned in order to be able to work with the very large number of ions required to encode a useful amount of data.
It would be much easier to build a quantum computer that uses microwave radiation instead of lasers for all quantum operations because, just like in a standard kitchen microwave, the radiation is easily broadcast over a large area using well-developed and inherently stable technology.
The Sussex researchers’ ability to create and fully control a Schrӧdinger’s cat ion using microwave radiation instead of lasers constitutes a significant step towards the realisation of a large scale microwave quantum computer.
Dr Winfried Hensinger, who leads the Sussex team, says: “While constructing a large scale quantum computer is still a significant challenge, this achievement demonstrates that we are moving beyond basic science towards realizing new step-changing technologies that have the potential to change our lives.”
Dr Hensinger’s team, consisting of postdoctoral fellows Dr Seb Weidt and Dr Simon Webster, along with PhD students Kim Lake, Joe Randall and Eamon Standing, worked for over two years to develop this microwave based technology that is capable of significantly simplifying the engineering required to build an actual quantum computer.
Dr Seb Weidt says: “This achievement opens up a whole range of opportunities to realize new quantum technologies.”
More information: ‘Generation of spin-motion entanglement in a trapped ion using long-wavelength radiation ‘, by K. Lake, S. Weidt, J. Randall, E. D. Standing, S. C. Webster, and W. K. Hensinger, is published in Physical Review A [Phys. Rev. A 91, 012319 (2015)]. journals.aps.org/pra/abstract/… 3/PhysRevA.91.01
Being an inventor myself I completely agree with the concept of “stripping away complexity” in order to produce light, flexible designs for most commercial and market applications.
Of course once the hoverbike becomes numerous in models and well-received or popular in usage additional complexities will be added back in, covering everything from entertainment, to pilot protections and security, to sensoring capabilities, to GPS navigation systems, to flight control automation and computerization, to running and warning lights, to communications . Just has occurred with cars and motorcycles. But for now, in the developmental and popularization phase, simplicity is the key to superior development.
By the way, back when I was in CAP this was already a Squadron and even a Wing project and I’ve seen several Air Force designs for basically the same kind of craft.
“Planet X” might actually exist — and so might “Planet Y.”
At least two planets larger than Earth likely lurk in the dark depths of space far beyond Pluto, just waiting to be discovered, a new analysis of the orbits of “extreme trans-Neptunian objects” (ETNOs) suggests.
Theory predicts a certain set of details for ETNO orbits, study team members said. For example, they should have a semi-major axis, or average distance from the sun, of about 150 astronomical units (AU). (1 AU is the distance from Earth to the sun — roughly 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.) These orbits should also have an inclination, relative to the plane of the solar system, of almost 0 degrees, among other characteristics.
But the actual orbits of the 13 ETNOs are quite different, with semi-major axes ranging from 150 to 525 AU and average inclinations of about 20 degrees.Nightly News
“This excess of objects with unexpected orbital parameters makes us believe that some invisible forces are altering the distribution of the orbital elements of the ETNOs, and we consider that the most probable explanation is that other unknown planets exist beyond Neptune and Pluto,” lead author Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, of the Complutense University of Madrid, said in a statement.
“The exact number is uncertain, given that the data that we have is limited, but our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system,” he added.
The potential undiscovered worlds would be more massive than Earth, researchers said, and would lie about 200 AU or more from the sun — so far away that they’d be very difficult, if not impossible, to spot with current instruments.
Published: 19:34 EST, 14 January 2015 | Updated: 13:11 EST, 15 January 2015
The destruction wreaked by Islamist militants in Nigeria when they slaughtered an estimated 2,500 people including a woman while she was in labour has been revealed in shocking new satellite images.
Terror group Boko Haram outraged the world last week when they indiscriminately murdered innocent men, women and children as they attacked the towns of Baga and Doron Baga.
Now, new images obtained by Amnesty International show how the towns were devastated by the assault – with more than 3,700 structures including houses and schools completely destroyed.
Scroll down for video
Before: Infra-red images show the densely populated village of Doron Baga on January 2 – before the attack
After: This image taken on January 7, following Boko Haram’s assault, shows the village transformed by death and destruction
Destruction: It’s estimated that 2,500 people were killed and more than 3,000 buildings were razed to the ground
In the pictures taken beforehand, the areas in red show buildings and trees in the densely packed towns in the north of the country.
But in the pictures taken after the massacre, they have been decimated and the infra-red satellite images instead reveal grey areas where the militants savagely razed the towns.
The destruction shown in these images matches the horrific stories from eyewitnesses revealing how Boko Haram militants shot hundreds of civilians in cold blood.
One witness described how the ruthless terror group were shooting indiscriminately, killing even small children and a woman who was in labour.
He added: ‘Half of the baby boy is out and she died like this.’
Ibrahim Gambo, a 25-year-old truck driver, survived the relentless attack in Baga but he still doesn’t know if his wife and daughter are safe.
He said: ‘As we were running for our lives, we came across many corpses, both men and women, and even children.
‘Some had gunshot wounds in the head and some had their legs bound and hands tied behind their backs.’
Yahaya Takakumi, a 55-year-old farmer, revealed to Nigeria’s Premium Times how he managed to flee Baga with one of his wives – but does not know if his four children, his second wife or his elder brother managed to escape.
Share this article
He said: ‘We saw dead bodies especially, on the islands of Lake Chad where fishermen had settled. Several persons were killed there like insects.’
Mr Takakumi said the Islamic extremists opened fire on vessels carrying fleeing residents across the lake.
Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, said this was the ‘largest and most destructive’ Boko Haram assault his organisation has ever analysed.
He added: ‘These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days.
‘It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins.
GRAPHIC WARNING: Horrific video shows Boko Haram massacre
Turmoil: map showing Nigeria and the location of Baga which was devastated by brutal Boko Haram fanatics
Wave of terror: The yellow dots in this satellite image, taken after Boko Haram’s onslaught on Baga, show around 620 structures damaged in the attack
Razed: A similar image shows the compete destruction of the neighbouring village of Doron Baga – also known as Doro Gowon
Eyewitness to Boko Haram attack in Nigeria recounts his escape
‘Up until now, the isolation of the Baga, combined with the fact that Boko Haram remains in control of the area, has meant that it has been very difficult to verify what happened there.
‘Residents have not been able to return to bury the dead, let alone count their number. But through these satellite images combined with graphic testimonies a picture of what is likely to be Boko Haram’s deadliest attack ever is becoming clearer.’
BOKO HAREM’S TRAIL OF MURDER AND MAYHEM ACROSS NIGERIA
February 2014: The Jihadist group raided the Nigerian village of Izghe in the north of the country and murdered dozens – before going door-to-door and killing anyone they came across.
April 2014: Nearly 300 schoolgirls are abducted from the town of Chibok, which Boko Haram burned to the ground.
August 2014: The terror group kidnapped at least 97 people during raids on villages in Borno State. They killed 28 boys and men.
November 2014: 120 people killed in a bomb attack on a central Mosque in Kano – the principal city of northern Nigeria.
January 4, 2015: Boko Haram kidnaps 40 boys and young men, believed to be aged ten to 23, from a village in the Nigerian state of Borno.
Experts have estimated the brutal assault killed more than 2,000 people with reports of locals running over dead bodies to escape the carnage.
Another survivor – a man in his fifties – told Amnesty: ‘They killed so many people. I saw maybe around 100 killed at that time in Baga. I ran to the bush. As we were running, they were shooting and killing.’
He hid in the bush and was later discovered by Boko Haram fighters, who detained him in Doron Baga for four days.
Those who fled describe seeing many more corpses in the surrounding bush area, and one woman said: ‘I don’t know how many, but there were bodies everywhere we looked.’
In Baga, a densely populated town less than two square kilometres in size, approximately 620 structures were damaged or completely destroyed by fire.
And in Doron Baga, more than 3,100 structures were damaged or destroyed by fire that ravaged most of the four square kilometre town.
Mr Eyre added: ‘This week, Nigeria’s Director of Defence Information stated that the number of people killed in Baga, including Boko Haram fighters, ‘has so far not exceeded about 150’.
‘These images, together with the stories of those who survived the attack, suggest that the final death toll could be much higher than this figure.’
Boko Haram fighters have repeatedly targeted communities for their perceived collaboration with the security forces.
Thousands of people have fled the violence across the border to Chad and to other parts of Nigeria.
Many of the wooden fishing boats along the shoreline, visible in the images taken on January 2, are no longer present in January 7 images – tallying with eye witnesses’ testimony that desperate residents fled by boat across Lake Chad.
Amnesty are calling on Boko Haram to stop killing civilians. They insist the deliberate slaughter of of civilians and destruction of their property by Boko Haram are war crimes and crimes against humanity and must be duly investigated.
They are calling for the Nigerian government should take all possible legal steps to restore security in the north-east and ensure protections of civilians.
Boko Haram drew international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school in north-east Chibok last year. Dozens escaped, but 219 remain missing.
THE ‘MAD’ BOKO HAREM JIHADI LEADER WHO’S OVERSEEN THE SLAUGHTER OF 16,000
The man orchestrating the deadly Boko Haram massacres in Nigeria is a boastful lunatic who revels in slaughter and chaos and is a ‘master of disguise’.
Bloodthirsty Abubakar Shekau is one of the world’s most wanted men, with American authorities putting a $7million bounty on his head.
Master of disguise: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau points at the camera as he delivers one of his regular fanatical rants to the world
Shekau – said to be to fluent in four languages – also operates under a variety of different names which has only increased the mystery surrounding his true identity.
The elusive Islamist fanatic has led his brutal Boko Haram militants since 2009 into war in Africa, killing more than an estimated 16,225 people in that time.
The latest outrage he has led was the massacre of an estimated 2,500 people in northern Nigeria when his thugs razed two towns.
Last week, the terror group shocked the world when they are believed to have used girls as young as 10 as suicide bombers in two deadly attacks in northern Nigeria that killed at least 19 people.
Experts claim psychotic Shekau rarely communicates directly with members of the terror group and instead deals only with a handful of confidantes – much like former Al Qaeda terror chief Osama bin Laden.
Files on the US State Department of Justice claim he variously operates under identities that include Darul Tawheed, Abu Bakr Skikwa, Imam Abu Bakr Shiku, Abu Muhammad Abu Bakr Bin Muhammad Al Shakwi Al Muslimi Bishku and Abubakar Shakkau.
The four languages he speaks are listed as Arabic, Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri. Even his age remains unknown, with predictions between 38 and 49 believed to be most accurate.
Shekau is believed to have a wife and three children, although their whereabouts also remain unknown.
The Nigerian military has claimed several times to have killed the fanatic – only for him to appear in new videos proving he is still alive.
After one recent claim, he appeared in video to taunt the military’s claims and laughed: ‘Here I am, alive. I will only die the day Allah takes my breath.’
Boko Haram – which means ‘Western education is forbidden’ in Arabic – have shocked the world with their merciless slaughter of innocent men, woman and children across the north of Nigeria.
Shekau claimed leadership of the terror group in 2010, and was seen last week in a video praising the jihadists who murdered 17 people in the Paris attacks.
He has been variously described as ‘fearless’, a ‘gangster’ and a ‘loner’, which security sources believe give him an air of invincibility which makes him extremely dangerous.
The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium has described Shekau as a ‘religious intellectual, yet also a gangster and vigilante as well as a mad leader’.
Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has continually targeted young children. In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped close to 300 girls from their school in northern Nigeria.
Innocent victims: Kidnapped schoolgirls are seen at an unknown location in this image taken from a video released by Boko Haram. The girls went missing in April 2014.
Support: Michelle Obama supported the #bringbackourgirls campaign after the kidnap
In a video message released three weeks later, Shekau claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, calling the girls slaves and threatening to sell them.
Their disappearance prompted a social media campaign with #bringbackourgirls, which was supported by Michelle Obama, First Lady of the USA.
Rumours also abound that Shekau escaped from the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri during the 1990s.
The fanatic regularly appears in videos to taunt the Nigerian military over their failings to prevent his group’s killings.
In one of Shekau’s first videos, believed to have appeared online in 2012, the insurgent leader boasted of his bloodlust and said: ‘I enjoy killing…the way I enjoy slaughtering chickens and rams.’
It is believed the terrorist was born in Shekau village that borders Niger to poor farmer parents. They are then thought to have migrated south into northeast Nigeria.
A religious young man, he studied basic Islamic theology, before focusing on more hardline Sunni ideology and becoming a preacher.
In a 2012 interview, Grema Kawudima said Shekau was remembered as ‘an easy-going fellow who would exchange banter with people in the neighbourhood. He was popular…a local theology student’.
After his religious studies, he is then understood to have attended Borno State College of Legal and Islamic Studies for higher studies on Islam.
He became increasingly radicalised and seized control of Boko Harem after founder Mohammed Yusuf was killed in a security crackdown on the terror group in 2009.
Since then, Shekau has pursued a relentless campaign of terror as the group has strengthened its deadly grip in Nigeria.
History of violence: In December 2014, two female suicide bombers – allegedly under the instruction of Boko Haram – killed at least four people in a busy market in Nigeria’s busiest city, Kano (pictured)
In a laboratory first, Duke researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals.
The lab-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body.
The study was led by Nenad Bursac, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, and Lauran Madden, a postdoctoral researcher in Bursac’s laboratory. It appears January 13 in the open-access journal eLife
“The beauty of this work is that it can serve as a test bed for clinical trials in a dish,” said Bursac. “We are working to test drugs’ efficacy and safety without jeopardizing a patient’s health and also to reproduce the functional and biochemical signals of diseases—especially rare ones and those that make taking muscle biopsies difficult.”
Bursac and Madden started with a small sample of human cells that had already progressed beyond stem cells but hadn’t yet become muscle tissue. They expanded these “myogenic precursors” by more than a 1000-fold, and then put them into a supportive, 3D scaffolding filled with a nourishing gel that allowed them to form aligned and functioning muscle fibers.
“We have a lot of experience making bioartifical muscles from animal cells in the laboratory, and it still took us a year of adjusting variables like cell and gel density and optimizing the culture matrix and media to make this work with human muscle cells,” said Madden.
Madden subjected the new muscle to a barrage of tests to determine how closely it resembled native tissue inside a human body. She found that the muscles robustly contracted in response to electrical stimuli—a first for human muscle grown in a laboratory. She also showed that the signaling pathways allowing nerves to activate the muscle were intact and functional.
To see if the muscle could be used as a proxy for medical tests, Bursac and Madden studied its response to a variety of drugs, including statins used to lower cholesterol and clenbuterol, a drug known to be used off-label as a performance enhancer for athletes.
The effects of the drugs matched those seen in human patients. The statins had a dose-dependent response, causing abnormal fat accumulation at high concentrations. Clenbuterol showed a narrow beneficial window for increased contraction. Both of these effects have been documented in humans. Clenbuterol does not harm muscle tissue in rodents at those doses, showing the lab-grown muscle was giving a truly human response.
“One of our goals is to use this method to provide personalized medicine to patients,” said Bursac. “We can take a biopsy from each patient, grow many new muscles to use as test samples and experiment to see which drugs would work best for each person.”
This goal may not be far away; Bursac is already working on a study with clinicians at Duke Medicine—including Dwight Koeberl, associate professor of pediatrics—to try to correlate efficacy of drugs in patients with the effects on lab-grown muscles. Bursac’s group is also trying to grow contracting human muscles using induced pluripotent stem cells instead of biopsied cells.
“There are a some diseases, like Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy for example, that make taking muscle biopsies difficult,” said Bursac. “If we could grow working, testable muscles from induced pluripotent stem cells, we could take one skin or blood sample and never have to bother the patient again.”
Other investigators involved in this study include George Truskey, the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering and senior associate dean for research for the Pratt School of Engineering, and William Krauss, professor of biomedical engineering, medicine and nursing at Duke University.
The research was supported by NIH Grants R01AR055226 and R01AR065873 from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease and UH2TR000505 from the NIH Common Fund for the Microphysiological Systems Initiative.
More information: “Bioengineered human myobundles mimic clinical responses of skeletal muscle to drugs,” Lauran Madden, Mark Juhas, William E Kraus, George A Truskey, Nenad Bursac. eLife, Jan. 13, 2015. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.04885
There is a show I very much enjoy watching when I can. It’s called Faith in History. Yes, the guy who conducts the show has a very pronounced sort of stumbling delivery when he speaks, but despite that, which often makes it difficult to follow him, I very much like the guy and the show is superb.
Today at lunch my youngest daughter and I sat down to watch the latest recorded episode because it was about George Washington Carver (and lately she had requested that she be allowed to study African history, which I’ll get back to in a moment) and although Carver is as American as peanut butter he was black and he was in my opinion the second greatest native inventor this nation ever produced (shy of Edison), and the very greatest bio-chemist (bar none) and one of the very greatest scientists this nation ever produced.
(Being particularly partial and interested in the biological, chemical, and genetic sciences myself I really like Carver and his work. He was brilliant, and well ahead of his time.)
Plus, I very much agree with his approach to invention, which I’ll recount later, as it is the closest parallel to my own method of invention that I have ever encountered in history.
Anyway it was an extremely good episode on Carver, dwelling upon both his scientific achievements and his personal life and faith.
My daughter seemed to enjoy the episode quite a bit, and as we watched it we would stop the show at various points and discuss science, God, technology, history, invention, writing, politics, and so forth. As is our wont when watching or discussing anything educational.
As for Carver’s methods of discovery, experimentation, inspiration, and invention they closely parallel my own, as he described in numerous letters, and in this speech:
“God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me. I never have to grope for methods. The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless.
Locking the door to his laboratory, Dr. Carver confided:
Only alone can I draw close enough to God to discover His secrets.”
The closest other two parallels I can name are found in the methods of Newton and Archimedes, both of whom I also seek to emulate when it comes to scientific discovery and invention. Archimedes in particular, and perhaps one day soon I will discuss the Agapoloid techniques I employ, which are derived to a large extent from Archimedes’ internal and mental mathematical and geometric laboratory.
After that and as we were cleaning up from lunch my daughter asked me if she could begin two independent courses of study.
My oldest child began her independent courses of study (that is to say she would choose two out of six curriculum areas to study in a self-directed fashion) at the age of 17 but my youngest wants to start now, at age 15.
Knowing now what I do about how advanced my children are and having loosened up a good deal over time with my second child I agreed and asked her to make me a list of what she most wanted to study.
Independent Areas of study are, of course, courses of study she chooses for herself, based upon her own interests, and in which she will do detailed research and work at the college level. Of course she’s been at college level in all her subject areas for a while now, but I mean detailed enough to write a collegiate term paper.
Her list was as follows:
1. Germany (pre-Nazi war era – my oldest daughter is a WWII history nut, as I was at her age, but my younger daughter seems to prefer much earlier time periods. Ancient, Classical, and Medieval.)
2. Africa (I am going to suggest to her that she begins her in-depth studies of Africa with either Egypt, or with Cush or Nubia or Ethiopia, as I have already done my own in detailed archaeological and historical studies of these ancient areas and kingdoms/realms as research for my novels. So I am already familiar with some excellent research materials. Plus those kingdoms were either advanced or relatively advanced. I’m also going to suggest she make an entirely separate study of ancient Alexandria. But in the end it will be up to her, those are just my suggestions.)
3. African Wildlife, Biology, and Geography
4. English Grammar (yes, being a writer this pleases me, but the girl actually loves grammar, English and Latin – I love language and primarily vocabulary and philology, but she loves grammar)
5. Italy (I’ve yet to ask her if she means ancient Italy, such as Etruscan/Roman eras, of if she means Medieval or Modern Italy, prior to World War II. If it’s ancient Rome that’s good though she just finished the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and if Medieval Italy I’ll suggest studying Florence and Naples and Venice as city-states, and as commerce hubs. As a matter of fact just last year I finished a superb set of lectures on Florence, her naval power, and her trade that she should really enjoy.)
Lastly now that my older daughter is working and preparing for college my youngest daughter and I spend much more time together. The other night we were watching Agent Carter together and I was commenting on how much more clever the general level of conversation, formal or colloquial, was back then (in the Forties to early Fifties – language started declining in the mid-Fifties). That the language was snappier and more ironic than it is today, the level of conversation was far more clever, plus it was filled with universal cultural references and idioms.
“But,” I said, “I don’t care much for the décor or architecture of that time period. And I could have never walked around all day in a monkey suit.”
“Dad,” she said, “you must be crazy! I love the décor, the architecture, the clothes, and especially the cars and airplanes from that time period. I love almost everything about the Forties and I’d love to go back and live in that time period, minus, you know, the whole segregation and suppression of women things.”
“Yeah, I guess there is always that,” I said.
“But otherwise the Forties are for me!”
She’s a throwback to my Old Man. He grew up in that time period and always loved it too.