THE PHILOSOPHICAL SPHERE AND THE COHERENCE OF THE UNIVERSE
I have been rather intensely studying the book Advanced Wizardry by Loricus ben Abechai since I first got it about a year or so ago. The book deals with actual “magic” and “wizardry” though, like me, he has a radically different idea of what both are compared to popular notions of the same. (He is, for instance, I strongly suspect, a Christian Khabbalist as he speaks often and loftily of “The Logos” and many other such mystical Christian terms, and Jewish terms, and relates them all to magic.)
Anyway in the sections I am now reading he has been speaking about the creation of the Wizard’s personal “Philosophical Sphere.” A notion I have never before encountered in any book of magic (certainly not as he means it) even a Medieval or ancient or neo-Platonic one. Though the idea is certainly based upon Jacob Bohme’s idea of the Philosophical Sphere. Now a blog is hardly the place to discuss such ideas or terms because they are quite complex and well beyond what is usually discussed here. And I had to read and re-read what he was saying over and again before it really sank in, the full implications, that is to say. For the man’s original language seems to be Spanish and even though the book is in English the translations are sometimes spotty at best.
But essentially I’ll summarize the idea as best I can:
The Philosophical Sphere is what results when the Wizard transforms or transmutes the Tree of Life into a Sphere whose circumference of immediate effect and power (dunamis) obviously extends about ten feet in diameter in all directions from the Wizard but whose real diameter is infinite and which encompasses everything and so it’s circumference is also eternal. In other words, and this is not exaggeration, the Wizard attempts to create a pocket universe in the form of a Sphere over which he exercises control similar to the way God exercises control over all of existence. This Sphere is not, however, anti-scientific at all, as ben Abechai stresses, because the Sphere cannot create matter or energy out of nothing. Rather it accelerates and interconnects the rate at which things move from Ideal Form or Thought-Form to actual matter and physical substance. What is Real and what Occurs is not altered in the sense of “creation” (only God can truly create) but rather the rate at which things “materialize” into useful (read Practical) and acceptable (read Good, or Beneficial, as opposed to bad or malignant) forms is altered and greatly sped up (or malignant processes can be slowed or possibly even stopped).
In others words things do not moves from Idea or Concept or Conception through the normal and complicated process of materialization to finally appear as either perceptible energy or useful matter, but rather move straight from Concept or Idea or “Logos” to “thing” (object, material). It is the process and speed that is altered by the Philosophical Sphere.
This is indeed a highly brilliant magical concept as it mimics, on the part of the Wizard, the method by which God creates, except of course that God can create literally from nothing whereas the Wizard cannot, but what the Wizard can do is alter the rate from Spiritual Concept to Physical Reality. As the very term implies there is a corresponding necessary set of actions and training required to study and employ the ways in which God behaves (to the Christian this would be “Imitating Christ”) for Philosophy itself means “Love of Wisdom.”
At first though I did not fully grasp what he was saying until he used the term “coherent” for how the Sphere works in conjunction with God, the Wizard, and the surrounding or “outer universe.” Then I realized that he literally meant “Co-Herent,” not as the term is typically used to mean integrity and orderly (though those meanings are also necessarily implied) but both “Inherent and Exherent – or explicit” and that the Sphere exists both within the Universe and within God and the Wizard simultaneously causing all three (points or positions) to fuse together as an inseparable element or Loci. (It just occured to me that the sphere is also a Loci for the Logos!)
Therefore the Sphere is “Coherent” just as it is “Coeval” in the way it can manipulate matter and energy and ben Abechai goes on even further to say that the sphere is in fact, in this sense, the only True or Real Universe (to the Wizard) even though it is a “pocket universe.”
(I am using a sci-fi term because modern men can easily get this idea whereas a “Coherent World or Universe separate from but essential to and within the outer world and in which God and the Wizard operate in tandem” is a term that would be more Medieval and Ancient in concept, and more accurate, as much as words can actually describe such concepts, but would not be easily understand by many modern men. Though I do not think ben Abechai means pocket universe as modern men understand the term, but as a truly independent universe or world within the mind and soul of the Wizard that is capable or transmuting and transforming, or rewriting the world in which all other things exist. The best parallel I can think of is The Kingdom of God idea expressed by Christ and I suspect ben Abechai may mean this precisely. Or something very closely parallel. An invisible but nonetheless very real “pocket universe” seeking to impinge it’s self upon the world around us. Though in actuality, as ben Abechai says, this would in fact be the “True Universe” seeking to supplant or replace the unreal or untrue one.)
The real trick is, of course, the Creation of a properly functioning and constructed Philosophical Sphere, no mean trick as it is literally a curved in upon itself or Spherically transformed Tree of Life.
But if it could be done then it could be an incredible, and incredibly useful feat. Ben Abechai calls this (the Sphere) the “Chief or Primary Tool or Instrument of the Wizard” upon which all the failure or success of his other operations and works as a Wizard entirely depend. So, once all of the necessary preparations and studies are made on my part I shall attempt the creation of my own Philosophical Sphere. (Though i very much suspect that I have been doing this for most of my life now, just maybe mostly sub-consciously in many ways, rather than fully consciously.)
As an example of what I mean another odd or coincidental thing (if you believe in coincidence) in my studies of this book is the fact that my personal motto is “Deus Ordere, et facere ego verite.”Meaning, God Orders and I make Real. (Well, that is the easiest and most common translation I use anyway).
I have had this motto for most of my life, though i only put it in this final form about two decades ago.
In any case I was looking through the suggested method ben Abechai recommends for the creation of my own Philosophical Sphere and ran across this declaration/statement, “In Nomine Tuo Ordo Deum Factum Lumine Est.”
Well, I have other Work to do. I highly recommend ben Abechai’s book, Advanced Wizardry. It was expensive, and it had to be individually printed, but it is without doubt the very best single book on “magic” I have read to date.
If you’re a man on the precipice of marriage or have marriage as a life goal, one worry you likely have is “Will my marriage last?”
While divorce rates have been decreasing since they reached their peak in the late 1970s and early ’80s, there’s still a perception out there that marriage is just a crapshoot — a game of Russian roulette — and that the odds favor you ending up in a family court, or at best in a sad and loveless relationship.
My guest today argues that doesn’t have to be your fate as long as you take a proactive approach to marriage. With some thought and intentionality, you can help ensure that you have a happy, loving, fulfilling relationship that lasts until death do you part. His name is Les Parrott and he’s a clinical psychologist specializing in marriage and family. He, along with his wife Leslie, who’s also a marriage therapist, have written a book to help couples prepare themselves for matrimonial commitment. It’s called Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before — And After — You Marry.
Today on the show, Les and I discuss how a man can know if he’s personally ready for marriage, the myths people have about marriage that set them up for disappointment, and the conversations you should be having with your future spouse to help ensure you have a happy life together. While the conversation is geared towards soon-to-be-marrieds and newlyweds, even if you’ve been married for a couple decades, you’re going to find some useful advice and insights in this show.
How to know if you’re ready for marriage
Why self-awareness is paramount for a successful relationship
The five attitudes towards marriage Millennials have
The effectiveness of pre-marital counseling in helping stave off divorce
What happy marriages look like
The expectations people have coming into marriage that can set them up for failure
The unspoken rules and unconscious roles in a marriage
The three factors that contribute to lasting love
How love changes as a relationship progresses and how to nurture it through the years
Why marriages are their strongest after 25+ years
How to cultivate passion in a long-term relationship
The saboteurs of marriage
The different needs of men and women in a relationship
Why conflict is good for a relationship and how to have a “good fight”
What couples who have been married for awhile, but are experiencing marital problems, can do to solve them
Saving Your Marriage Before It Startsis filled with research-backed insights and actionable steps that about-to-be married or newlywed couples can use to make sure their marriage starts off on the right foot. Even if you’ve been married for a few years, you’re going to find the book useful. Also, consider taking the Parrotts’ SYMBIS Assessment with your spouse for further insights about your marriage.
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Today my youngest daughter starts her senior year homeschooling. (Although each child actually gets 13 years or grades of schooling before college – 12 normal grades and one year of advanced studies and special projects).
My oldest daughter is studying Marine Biology and she is minoring in Psychology but my youngest daughter wants to study Art and Media. Below are her homeschooling curriculum texts for the first semester of this year.
Science:The Biology Book plus the writings of Hippocrates
Religion:Dark Night of the Soul (Saint John of the Cross)
Philosophy: an excellent lecture series on Thomas Aquinas by Peter Kreeft (I took this lecture series myself.)
Literature: the short stories of Tolstoy and Chekhov
Business/Economics/Finance:The Road to Serfdom by Hayek
Mathematics: workbook plus the writings of Euclid
Art: she will be taking the FA Art and Painting Composition study course and reading from the book Stagecraft
She will also have her labs which will cover art, biology, chess, piano, and she has currently chosen to study Italian and Japanese. (She really likes Italian, and finds it easy, but Japanese she finds much harder than Korean. She says that so far Japanese is the hardest language she has studied or tried to master.)
She will also read one magazine per week and will watch a classic film about once every two weeks.
She will have her special projects for the year which we have yet to decide but will probably center around drama and theater.
Finally she is studying to take the SAT since the new state test hasn’t even returned her results yet and she took that test back in April I believe.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Recently I have been involved in a number of different projects that have left me little time for blogging. I have been writing the lyrics for my second album, Locus Eater, I have been writing and plotting my novel The Basilegate, I have been putting together a crowdfunding project for one of my inventions and one of my games, I have been helping with and compiling material for my wife’s new career as a public speaker, and helping my oldest daughter prepare to enter college. In addition I have been speaking with and seeking a new agent. I have even been preparing a new paper on some of the work of Archimedes and what I have gleaned from it. Finally I have been preparing my Spring Offensive, which is now completed.
All of which have kept me extremely busy.
However I have not been entirely ignoring my blogging either. In background I have been preparing a much improved Publication Schedule for all five of my blogs, my business blog Launch Port, my design and gaming blog Tome and Tomb, my literary blog Wyrdwend, my amalgamated blog Omneus, and this blog, The Missal.
Now that most of these other pressing matters are well underway and on an even keel this allows me more time to return to blogging.
So below you will find my new Publication Schedule which I’ll also keep posted as one of the header pages on my blogs.
So, starting on Monday, March the 15th, 2015, and unless something unforeseen interferes this will be the Publication Schedule for this blog every week, including the Topic Titles and the general list of Subject Matters for that given day. That way my readers can know what to expect of any given day and what I intend to publish for that day. I will also occasionally make off-topic post as interesting material presents itself.
Missal – 7:00 AM/Noon
Monday: Acculturation – Athletics, Culture, Politics, Religion, Tuesday: Intelligent Aims – Military, Intelligence, Terrorism, War Wednesday: Body of Evidence – Detective, Law Enforcement, Thursday: Order of Service – Religion, Philosophy, Spirituality, Tools Friday: Scientific Acumen – Science, Technology, etc. Saturday: The Review – Reblog best Personal Post, Review Sunday – Sabbath and Scripture
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.
“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began…”
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your own well-being?
Indeed heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it. The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.
Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing…”
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.
My New Testament scripture readings this past week have been from the Book of Acts (of the Apostles).
“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
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.
Google-owned Boston Dynamics has been making incredible robots long before it was purchased by Google.
Today it showed off its latest amazing robot, Spot – a smaller, more agile version of its WildCat robot.
Then, a BD team member decided to kick it, therefore dooming us all when robots become sentient.
Seriously, doesn’t this guy know that robots will be able to search YouTube in the future? Maybe the robots will just go after this guy and leave the rest of us robot-loving humans alone.
While I’m concerned about a robot uprising, Spot is incredibly impressive and maybe a little bit terrifying. The 160-pound, electrically-powered and hydraulically-actuated robot can walk and trot, so don’t bother try running away. It can also climb up stairs and walk up and down hills.
A sensor on the robot’s head helps it navigate over rough terrain.
While the thought of an army of these approaching you on the street might keep you awake at night, robots like Spot could be used to enter areas too dangerous for humans to occupy, or bring important supplies to destinations too treacherous for regular robots and too wooded for drones.
Plus, robots are cool. Just don’t go around kicking them.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”[
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
And then shall the whole earth be tilled in righteousness, and shall all be planted with trees and be full of blessing. And all desirable trees shall be planted on it, and they shall plant vines on it: and the vine which they plant thereon shall yield wine in abundance, and as for all the seed which is sown thereon each measure (of it) shall bear a thousand, and each measure of olives shall yield ten presses of oil.
And cleanse thou the earth from all oppression, and from all unrighteousness, and from all sin, and from all godlessness: and all the uncleanness that is wrought upon the earth destroy from off the earth. And all the children of men shall become righteous and all nations shall offer adoration and shall praise Me, and all shall worship Me. And the earth shall be cleansed from all defilement, and from all sin, and from all punishment, and from all torment, and I will never again send (them) upon it from generation to generation and for ever.
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.
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
So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol′gotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.
The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”
Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the scripture,
“They parted my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.
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.
Posted: 01/05/2015 2:53 pm EST Updated: 4 hours ago
JERUSALEM (RNS) The site where Jesus may have been tried, prior to his crucifixion, is now open to the public for the very first time.
Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the spot is within easy walking distance of the Christian Quarter and Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where tradition holds Jesus was buried.
Entrance to Kishle excavation following renovations.
Discovered under an abandoned prison building that is part of the Tower of David Museum grounds, the trial site is one piece of a vast excavation undertaken by archaeologists from 1999 to 2000 but sealed off for the past 14 years largely due to lack of funding.
The excavations include what may be the foundations of the palace of King Herod. It was here, many scholars and archaeologists believe, that the Roman governor Pontius Pilate put Jesus on trial.
View of the middle of three walls that are part of the foundations of King Herod’s Palace.
Archaeologist Amit Re’em of the Israel Antiquities Authority said the palace was built at the end of the first century B.C., according to Josephus, the Jewish historian and Roman citizen of the era.
“It was enormous, with a lot of gold and silver and running water and guest quarters,” he said.
The ruins uncovered by the Antiquities Authority were discovered in the area described by Josephus and included a complex sewage system.
While there is as yet no concrete evidence that the trial took place in the palace, Re’em noted that “from early Christianity until Crusader times the Via Dolorosa” — the route Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion — “passed by Herod’s palace. Only since medieval times did the route change.”
(Phys.org)—Despite the celebrations leading up to the New Year last week, progress in science marched on—a paper by molecular geneticist Edward Kipreos, with the University of Georgia, for example, describing a study that found a possible alternative explanation for dark energy made news. He suggested that changing the way people think about time dilation might offer an alternative explanation of the mysterious force that drives the expansion of the universe. Also, a team of physicists at City College of New York published a paper describing their work which involved unveiling new half-light, half-matter quantum particles in very thin semiconductors—which could help pave the way to computing technology based on quantum properties of light. And in an interview with Phys.org, Professor David Pines of the University of California and the Santa Fe Institute described a paper he had published with Dr. Yi-feng Yang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, regarding how a novel experiment-based expression can explain the behavior of unconventional superconductors.
Very, very interesting. Adaptive assembly without prior instructional encoding. Is it then possible that many amino acids may have a molecularly adaptive equivalency function similar to undifferentiated stem cells (at a higher level) which allows disparate proteins to guide assembly in emergency situations in an almost ad hoc fashion – yet still produce biologically viable proteins?
If so that would mean far more than mere instructional assembly in biological construction and replication, it would mean adaptive biological construction at near the very base level of Life (animate matter).
That could not possibly be accidental for it would mean that base construction rates did not lose adaptive function as they advanced and differentiated but retained such functions (at least as a potential that can be later restimulated) throughout all stages of development.
It would also mean a near plethora of medicinal applications.
This definitely goes into my research files.
Defying Textbook Science, Study Finds New Role for Proteins
Published: January 1, 2015.
Released by University of Utah Health Sciences
Open any introductory biology textbook and one of the first things you’ll learn is that our DNA spells out the instructions for making proteins, tiny machines that do much of the work in our body’s cells. Results from a study published on Jan. 2 in Science defy textbook science, showing for the first time that the building blocks of a protein, called amino acids, can be assembled without blueprints – DNA and an intermediate template called messenger RNA (mRNA). A team of researchers has observed a case in which another protein specifies which amino acids are added.
“This surprising discovery reflects how incomplete our understanding of biology is,” says first author Peter Shen, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry at the University of Utah. “Nature is capable of more than we realize.”
To put the new finding into perspective, it might help to think of the cell as a well-run factory. Ribosomes are machines on a protein assembly line, linking together amino acids in an order specified by the genetic code. When something goes wrong, the ribosome can stall, and a quality control crew is summoned to the site. To clean up the mess, the ribosome is disassembled, the blueprint is discarded, and the partly made protein is recycled.
Yet this study reveals a surprising role for one member of the quality control team, a protein conserved from yeast to man named Rqc2. Before the incomplete protein is recycled, Rqc2 prompts the ribosomes to add just two amino acids (of a total of 20) – alanine and threonine – over and over, and in any order. Think of an auto assembly line that keeps going despite having lost its instructions. It picks up what it can and slaps it on: horn-wheel-wheel-horn-wheel-wheel-wheel-wheel-horn.
“In this case, we have a protein playing a role normally filled by mRNA,” says Adam Frost, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and adjunct professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah. He shares senior authorship with Jonathan Weissman, Ph.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UCSF, and Onn Brandman, Ph.D., at Stanford University. “I love this story because it blurs the lines of what we thought proteins could do.”
Like a half-made car with extra horns and wheels tacked to one end, a truncated protein with an apparently random sequence of alanines and threonines looks strange, and probably doesn’t work normally. But the nonsensical sequence likely serves specific purposes. The code could signal that the partial protein must be destroyed, or it could be part of a test to see whether the ribosome is working properly. Evidence suggests that either or both of these processes could be faulty in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Huntington’s.
“There are many interesting implications of this work and none of them would have been possible if we didn’t follow our curiosity,” says Brandman. “The primary driver of discovery has been exploring what you see, and that’s what we did. There will never be a substitute for that.”
The scientists first considered the unusual phenomenon when they saw evidence of it with their own eyes. They fine-tuned a technique called cryo-electron microscopy to flash freeze, and then visualize, the quality control machinery in action. “We caught Rqc2 in the act,” says Frost. “But the idea was so far-fetched. The onus was on us to prove it.”
It took extensive biochemical analysis to validate their hypothesis. New RNA sequencing techniques showed that the Rqc2/ribosome complex had the potential to add amino acids to stalled proteins because it also bound tRNAs, structures that bring amino acids to the protein assembly line. The specific tRNAs they saw only carry the amino acids alanine and threonine. The clincher came when they determined that the stalled proteins had extensive chains of alanines and threonines added to them.
“Our job now is to determine when and where this process happens, and what happens when it fails,” says Frost.
For some time now I have been making a comparative study of both the Old and New Testaments, sometimes making my own line by line, or even word by word, translations of the Hebrew and Greek.
I have done this progressively, reading one chapter of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New Testament each night before bed (or occasionally during the day if I find passages interesting enough I wish to translate them for myself).
Every Sunday morning I used to post particularly interesting sections of scriptures I had read during the week onto my Facebook Page.
But now that the Missal is up and running, and since it is linked to my Facebook page, I’ll do it here:
When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them,
“Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’
“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’
“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’
“But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’
“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’
“But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’
“Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’
“The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.
“For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”