Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

TED Tuesday: What is consciousness? October 20, 2009

Filed under: biology,mystery,spiritual,TED,unconventional — Radiance @ 9:00 AM
Philosopher Dan Dennett makes a compelling argument that not only don’t we understand our own consciousness, but that half the time our brains are actively fooling us.


Decoding antiquity August 20, 2009

Filed under: ancient knowledge,archaeology,history,linguistics,mystery — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Development of language and writing as means of communication has been one of the most important features of humans that has separated us from all the other creatures on this planet. All earthlings have some form or other of communication, ranging from chemical to acoustic, depending on their position along the evolutionary ladder. the humans are considered the most evolved in this regard with ability of articulating our speech greatly with help of highly developed vocal organs. The highly developed brain and the ability of gripping and manoeuvring objects uniquely with the opposing thumb also lead to us developing writing system, a feature unequivocally unique to our species.
There still some dispute over the very first culture that seems to have used writing as a form of communication. New discoveries made by archaeologists keep pushing the dates of first use of writing more and more backward. Also, out of all the scripts that have been discovered, not all have been deciphered. Recent history has shown us that any time a new script has been deciphered, be it the Egyptian hieroglyphs or Mayan scriptures, it has had a significant impact on our understanding of that culture. More often than not it has awed us by the sophistication in and knowledge of various fields, from sciences to architecture to politics.
In his article in May 2009, Andrew Robinson of New Scientist tells us about 8 scripts that we still haven’t been able to read. The article details the origins of the scripts, their antiquity and why we haven’t been able to read them yet. There are various extents of their mystery to us. In some of the cases, the languages are known in their spoken form but only the script hasn’t been deciphered, like the Zapotec script from the New world cultures. Other instances are the opposite, like the Proto-Elamite script believed to be the earliest script discovered. And then there are the ultimate puzzlers like

The notoriously solitary Phaistos disc from Crete appears to be the world’s oldest “printed” document. The disc, about 15 centimetres in diameter, occupies pride of place at the Heraklion Museum in Crete. Some say it should not be regarded as an undeciphered script because it is in fact a hoax – the Piltdown Man of ancient writing.

Well, after reading the article, being the optimist I am, I chose to focus on the fact that humanity still has 8 more chances of being amazed and humbled by the antiquity. And I hope at least one of that comes true in my lifetime.

TED Tuesday: Uncharted oceans August 18, 2009

Filed under: biology,geology,mystery,oceanography,TED — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Ocean explorer Robert Ballard takes us on a mindbending trip to hidden worlds underwater, where he and other researchers are finding unexpected life, resources, even new mountains. He makes a case for serious exploration and mapping. Google Ocean, anyone?



TED Tuesday: Shedding light on Dark matter July 28, 2009

Filed under: astronomy,future,mathematics,mystery,TED — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Physicist Patricia Burchat sheds light on two basic ingredients of our universe: dark matter and dark energy. Comprising 96% of the universe between them, they can’t be directly measured, but their influence is immense.


Sunday Spotlight: Mystery of the Sphinx June 21, 2009

Filed under: archaeology,egyptology,geology,mystery,sunday spotlight — Radiance @ 12:00 AM
The documentary on YouTube:

Author and lecturer, John Anthony West delivered a seismic shock to archaeology in the early 1990’s when he and Boston University geologist Robert Schoch revealed that the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt, showed evidence of rainfall erosion. Such erosion could only mean that the Sphinx was carved during or before the rains that marked the transition of northern Africa from the last Ice Age to the present interglacial epoch, a transition that occurred in the millennia from 10,000 to 5000 BC. The Emmy award-winning documentary produced on this research, Mystery of the Sphinx, was released in 1993 and was a runaway success. I came across the same recently on YouTube and this blog entry is about some completely-radical-for-the-time facts that this documentary put forth and the active research that is still carried out regarding this theory today.
Few of the discoveries and contentions in the said documentary that I found particularly interesting and were very shocking to the archaeological community at the time are,
  • The Sphinx was built before Egypt became a desert, which would be 9,000 to 10,000 years ago.
  • All the monuments in Egypt show wind erosion except the Sphinx, the Sphinx enclosure and the temple, all of which show water erosion.
  • The water erosion is not caused by the floods of the Nile but by constant and intense rainfall.
  • The weathering is found beneath the granite repairs carried out, in the limestone from which the Sphinx is made. Thus it is not an erosion that has occurred in modern times.
  • Based on this observation, the 9,000 to 10,000 years old age of Sphinx is confirmed by Palaeoarchaeology.
  • The whole Sphinx was not carved out at the same time out of the limestone bedrock. The front of the Sphinx’s body is older than the back.
  • Zahi Hawwas and Mark Lehner, both prominent Egyptologists, confidently state that the face of the Sphinx matches well with that of the pharaoh Khafre (the alleged commissioner of the Sphinx). James Romano, Curator of the Egyptian collection, Brooklyn Museum, mentions that statues made by Egyptians showed the features of the person very accurately, including facial defects. However, Detective Frank Domingo of NYPD found that Sphinx did not portray pharaoh Khafre at all. It has, in fact, features of an African person, possibly female.
  • Objects can be levitated using interfacing sound waves. In the region of interface, there are produced “sound wells” in which objects can be confined. The experiments at the time could only levitate small pebbles. (My note: For levitating huge stone blocks, the wavelength of the sound waves would have to be large and hence, frequency very low, i.e., infrasonic sound. Wikipedia gives some interesting facts about its effect of human behaviour, “Infrasound has been known to cause feelings of awe or fear in humans. Since it is not consciously perceived, it can make people feel vaguely that supernatural events are taking place.”)
  • The face of the Sphinx is not proportional to the rest of the body but much smaller. Since the rest of the body was covered with sand for most of its lifetime, the face could have been carved and re-carved (my note: without any sense of proportion of the rest) over the millennia.
  • Pharaoh Khafre repaired the Sphinx, which was already ancient and degraded by his time, and did not commission its building.
  • This theory could also point at existence of Atlantis civilisation, civilisation on Mars and its connection with Earth.

What I also found interesting in this documentary is that there are a few instances where the prominent personalities being interviewed exemplify the typical thinking of archaeologists. And that precisely shows why theories as revolutionary as that of John Anthony West and Dr. Schoch get the kind of unwelcoming response that they get. James Romano, Curator of the Egyptian collection, Brooklyn Museum, says at one point, “…..if we take the alternative view, see what we are stuck with…..”. So because we would have to make the effort of rebuilding the whole castle, lets just deny that we stumbled upon its foundations! He goes on to make a statement which epitomises the fundamental on which we base all branches of research today, “Culture evolves in a linear fashion.” This is something I personally do not agree with and I’m excited to find that John Anthony West also believes in the “cyclic form” of life.


Cicadas’ lifecycle: Mystery solved? June 18, 2009

Filed under: animals,ecology,mystery,nature — Radiance @ 12:00 AM
[Image source: Wired Science]
Here is one more of the nature’s fascinating acts of precision … the lifecycle of the cicada! The periodical cicada is one of the world’s longest-living insects, but nobody knows why it times its death with bizarre precision: It either lives for 13 years or 17 years, on the dot.

Now, as Wired Science reports, Japanese researchers have developed a model that may explain the animals’ mysteriously accurate biological clocks. Cicadas spend 99% of their lives underground, as juveniles. Once every 13 or 17 years, they emerge from the ground en-mass, feed on tree leaves, mate and leave behind the eggs that later fertilise and the parent cicadas die. However, this unique synchronisation of thousands of cicadas over long, prime number of years must have some strong reason behind it. A leading theory is that long, prime-numbered life cycles minimize the likelihood that the 13-year broods and 17-year broods will ever mate. Though this theory is mathematically sound, no one could say why the animals would need to minimize hybridization.
Jin Yoshimura at Shizuoka University has developed a mathematical model to explore the rationale. If 13-year and 17-year broods interbred, they might produce offspring with intermediate lifecycles. This could result in their emergence few years before or after the vast majority of their fellow cicadas. This is a problem because periodical cicadas find strength in numbers. They’re easy to catch and don’t bite or sting, so they easily become snacks for hungry predators. But by buzzing around with hundreds of thousands of other cicadas, the probability of any one being eaten is close to zero.
To read more about this exciting new theory that increases the awe about nature’s precision design, click on the link above in the post.
Citation: “Allee effect in the selection for prime-numbered cycles in periodical cicadas” by Yumi Tanaka, Jin Yoshimura, Chris Simon, John R. Cooley, and Kei-ichi Tainaka. PNAS, May 18 2009.

Sunday Spotlight: Ye olde technology May 17, 2009

Recently I came across some interesting videos and articles made/written by Jerry Glover. They’re interesting to me because they concern a topic that fascinates me; ancient knowledge and “apparent” mysteries posed to us by it. In his article ‘In search of Ye Olde new technology‘ written for the Beyond magazine in March 2008, Jerry illustrates a few well known examples of OOParts (Out of place artifacts). These include probably the best known OOPart, the Antikythera mechanism along with other well known examples like the Baghdad batteries and the Piri Re’is map. I liked the title of the article so much that I decided to use it as a title of this blog post. This informative and well-researched article also mentions some interesting aspects such as the use of OOParts by the Creationist school of thought as a proof of Creation, the supposed OOParts that turned out to be hoaxes and the numerous Hollywood movies that have been based on the idea of OOParts or “unexpected technology”. At the end of the article, there is a plot that shows the accepted/expected period in the past to which these items/mechanisms belong. This plot goes back upto 1 million years which is when OOParts like the wooden spears in Europe and the Baigong iron pipes of China are believed to have been made/used!
In connection to this article I found another article and a few videos on YT by Jerry which enlist mysterious places on the planet. In ‘The world’s top 50 mysterious places‘ he digs out a treasure trove of some famous and quite a few not-so-well-known places/structures in the world that are (known or supposed to be) man-made and are mysterious in some way. All the places have been pinpointed with their latitude-longitude “address”. Some of them are mysterious because only 10% of them have been studied or excavated and others are well-researched but still evade any explanations of their purpose. I learnt about a lot more “mysterious” places after reading this article. The series of videos with similar name on his YT channel takes you on a trip to these various places around the world using the GoogleEarth software.

I’d recommend these (and his other) articles and videos it to anyone who is interested in such topics as archaeology, ancient knowledge etc. And more importantly, is ready to think logically without any preconceptions about history and evolution of mankind.