Archive | Nature RSS feed for this section

The sun, our star – Part 1

27 Jan

“When pain brings you down, don’t be silly, don’t close your eyes and cry, you just might be in the best position to see the sun shine.”  – Alanis Morisetti

“If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god.”  
―   Napoleon Bonaparte

Without our star, the Sun, we were not here on this planet, or any form of life we know, it is common knowledge. Its importance is clear in the myths of the sun and of the cycles of nature. Osiris, Adonis, Dionysus, Mithras, Buda, Bachus, Jesus Christ, they all were born on the 25th December, since it is …and they all die around Easter, when nature reborn from the cold winter (in north hemisphere).

Below it is shown the decorative theme in the tomb of Ramesses IX showing the king’s adoration of the sun disk, accompanied by Isis and Nephthys on the lintel over the entrance.

PLASMA: THE FOURTH STATE OF MATTER

To understand our sun we need to recall what is a plasma. The plasma is considered to be the fourth state of matter, after the gas, liquid and solid states. At ambient pressure and temperature, a gas is a good electrical insulator. For example, if we connect two electrodes separated by a few millimeters to an electric generator (let us say, feeding the circuit with 220 Volts), apparently there is no net current crossing the space between them. However, if you do the same experiment, with the electrodes immersed in a gas at a lower pressure, you will notice na electric current across the gas, and at the same time, the gas start to glow with a color that depends on the spectral composition of the gas and the current value and gas pressure (VIDEO 1). The current is mainly transported by free electrons that succeed to cross the gas from one electrode (cathode) to the other (anode) by taking energy from the electric field acting between the two electrodes. We say that the gas become a plasma, a phenomena that currently can be seen almost everywhere (VIDEO 2).

Another type of plasma discharge occurs around high-tension distribution lines that fed sub-stations and cities with electric energy. The electric field near electrodes (the role of electrodes being in this case played by two cables, or by a cable and electrical connection to earth). Electrons are created by several processes and are strongly transported by the field, producing streamers of electrons that originate from the ionization process of molecules and atoms. This type of discharge is called corona discharges, and are accompanied by a characteristic noise, and it is shown in Fig.2. Artificial sunlight can be obtained using small bulbs (for example, with a small drop of Mercury inside a quartz tube filled with a rare gas at a low pressure, typically a few millimeters of Mercury or one hundred pascal, see pressure units here). Seasonal affective disorder can be treated with sun lamp light therapy {1}.

enseignes lumineuses

Fig.1 – Tokyo is full of illuminated advertisements. Image credit: http://whisky.centerblog

When the voltage applied to the electrodes inside the bulb increases, a small current cross the gas, ionizing molecules and atoms (neutral particles) and a feeble luminosity appears – that’s what is called a glow discharge (see VIDEO). The word plasma was coined by Irving Langmuir (1881-1957), a term that ensued from his observations of the separation of the plasma into cell-like regions with boundaries formed by charged particles sheathes, whenever regions with different densities, temperatures, or electromagnetic fields inhomogeneity are present. [1]. In general terms, plasma is a state of matter composed by ions (positive and negative) and free electrons subject to collective Coulonbian forces in a médium composed by neutral particles (atomes and/or molecules).

If the electrons and ions densities are much lower than the desnity of neutral particles, the plasma is said to be weakly ionized (glow discharges, lightning); if, by the contrary, the density of neutral particles is much lower than thecharged particles density, the plasma is said to be strongly ionized (stars, thermonuclear reactors). If ñe    represents the average number density of electrons (average number of electrons per unit of volume) and ñZ is the average number density of ions with ionic positive charge , then the global condition is satisfied:

Globally, the plasma state is characterized by equal number of positive and negative charges.

Eq1

The electromagnetic field is well described by the set of Maxwell’s equations:

Eq2Eq3Eq4Eq5

This set of equations are defined when the Lorentz force is given by:

Eq6

and the constitutive equations are defined by D=εE  and B=μH, relating the electric field vector E and the displacement vector D, and as well the magnetic flux density vector B and magnetic field vector H, while ε and μ are the permittivity and permeability of the medium, and ρ and J are the electric charge and current densities, respectively. m and q are the mass and charge of the particle.

The sun magnetic field gives rise to sunspots, coronal loops, faculae, solar flares, solar wind and prominences, solar cycle, irradiance variability. Usually the magnetic field near the solar surface is measured using the Zeeman effect. Until now, the vast majority of all recordings of the magnetic field still refer to measurements of the Zeeman effect of the photosphere.

Image credit: http://www.daviddarling.info/

Coronal loops. Image credit: http://www.daviddarling.info/

The sun’s magnetic field is responsible for generating self-excited dynamos [2], magnetoconvection phenomena, interaction of radiation with magnetized gas, magnetic reconnection.

The sun rotates around its axis in 26 days (28 days when viewed from the Earth) in the equatorial region, while in the polar regions it takes 37 days (40,5 days when seen from Earth). The spacecraft Mariner II in 1962 detected the solar wind. the speed distribution, direction, temperature, composition, and spatial structure of the solar wind were mapped from a number of spacecraft, mostly sampling at low solar latitudes (few degrees from the plane of the ecliptic). It is the solar wind that stretches the interplanetary magnetic field. The source of the interplanetary sector structure is invariant with time. This means that the same boundary might be observed anew after 27 days. This is just na average value, since the solar wind velocity can modify the time of arrival of a sector boundary in 1 or 2 days.

Faculae, the birghtest region around a sunspot. Image credit: earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Faculae, the brightest region around a sunspot. Image credit: earthobservatory.nasa.gov

What is amazing is the Archimedes spiral that the magnetic field lines of force of the solar wind depict in space, and shown in the document shown below [4].

What scientists found is na Archimedean spiral like figure of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field that reminds the swastika (卐) (Sanskrit: स्वस्तिक), i.e., an equilateral cross with four arms bent at 90 degrees, sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, which literally means “to be good”, or “being with higher self”.Sun001

fig3-pdf

The Interplanetary magnetic field lines of force separated in sectors, as seen by Mariner II.

lord-ganesha-on-swastika-HG75_l

Swastika, means “to be good”

The resemblance between the IMF and the swastika suggest the following question: Did the ancients had knowledge that have been lost to time?…

Below it is shown the solar structure.

structure

The structure of the sun, our star. Image credit: astro-observer.com

SUN OBSERVATORY

You can check out in real-time the current status of our Sun here:
http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/

To be continued…
REFERENCES:

[1] Mario J. Pinheiro, Plasma: the origin of the word, in Philica.com article 363

[2] Dynamo effect, page of the university of Oregon

[3] Geodynamo theory and simulations, Paul H. roberts and Gary A. Glatzmaier, Rev. Mod. Phys. vol. 72, Nº4, October 2000

[4] Large scale properties of the Interplanetary magnetic field, Kennett H. Schatten, NASA Report

SITES:

{1} Sun lamps.

The Origin of Death

11 Nov

Each continent, each culture, gave its own interpretation of this common fate of human existence. Numerous myths are heard all over the globe, but the main question remains within us: why and how Nature “invented” death, instead of other forms of existence? Because apparently, other possible paths were open.

«Qu’est ce que la vie?», that’s what Claude Bernard asked himself. Well, “La vie c’ est la mort”, it was the answer. In the crude view of biologists, life is combustion, and combustion is death. According to Buffon, «la vie est un minotaure, elle dévore l’organisme»…

One man who studied these matters was the American scientist George Wald, who won the Nobel Prize of Physiology and Medicine in 1967, a reward for his studies about the pigments in the retina, see his Nobel Lecture entitled “The Molecular Basis of Visual Excitation“.

Wald become a prominent social and political activist, and in a talk given at the MIT, he deplores: “Our government has become preoccupied with death, with the business of killing and being killed”. In a world unfortunately at the hands of the Military-Industrial Complex, seeking obsessively to generate wars around the globe in order to maintain its huge profits, Wald gave in 1970 a famous speech “The Origin of Death”, to which we refer in this text, since at the very end this talk is a lesson about life… Numerous other important individualities around the planet also did so, denouncing the situation, among them the ex-President Dwight Eisenhower (listen here), but the hardest denunciation was the one made by «the Major General [Smedley Butler] in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history» {FN1}. Quoting again Wikipedia «In his 1935 book War is a Racket, he described the workings of the military-industrial complex and, after retiring from service, became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s. In 1934, he became involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot, when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists was planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt. The purported plotters wanted Butler to lead a mass of armed veterans in a march on Washington and then become a dictator. Butler never met with any of the principals, and the individuals supposedly involved all denied the existence of a plot. The media ridiculed the allegations. Biographer Hans Schmidt portrays him as the victim of a small-time trickster». And it is a kind of a surprise to find in Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in US history, the one who just asked: In the war, who pays the bills? who makes the profits?…

Hence, I try to follow here the reasoning of George Wald [1].

When death appeared in the evolution timeline, it seemed indeed a rather late evolution mechanism in the evolution.

George Wald. Image credit: elijahwald.com

But what is a cell, what are the main parts? Let us watch the next video (made in 1981 and interestingly we feel the passion that scientific knowledge woke in our societies at that time…)

Ricin is a naturally occurring protein that is among the most potent toxin from the vegetal world. Botulinum and tetanus toxins are more deadly and there is no known antidote. One milligram can kill an adult…For example, during the Cold War, Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian writer that fled from Bulgaria and was working at the BBC as a journalist, was hit by an umbrella with a modified tip, prepared to inject a small amount of ricin into Markov’s leg; Markov died three days later. Ricin is extracted from the castor-oil plant (Ricinus communis), a tropical plant, and its lethal effect are known since 1888 (most countries banned its use under the Geneva Protocol).

The reason for this resides into one’s of ricin’s two polypeptide chains, in fact, one enzyme that inactivates ribosomes. Ribosomes assemble amino acids into proteins, and when cells are unable to reproduce them, they die very quickly. A cell is the smallest unity of life that can survive and reproduce by itself, possessing its information encoded in DNA, and provided it can access sources of energy and raw materials. What it is called the emergent property of life as a result of a collective of molecules organized in the form of a cell. All the molecules of life (as we know it now) are formed with carbon atoms; the function of organic molecules in biological systems (complex carbohydrates and lipids, proteins, and nucleic acid) start with their structure. The importance of carbon is based on the kind of bond (i.e. versatile bond): each carbon atom can bind to other 4 atoms through covalent bonds (i.e., in a covalent bond, two atoms share a pair of electrons).

In order to better grasp the scientific basis of life, I collect some resumed notes with important concepts down here (a task to be continued…):

George Wald was among the first scientist to ask himself: why cells start to die? Because in Nature cells have four ways to reproduce, without dying. The first is fission. One cell divides in two, and at the end we have two organisms when at the very beginning we just have one. That’s why Wald argue bacteria do not age, are immortal.

But occasionally, a single-celled organism can do conjugation: this means the temporary union of two single cells with at least one of them receiving genetic material from the other, transferred the DNA from one cell to the other through a thin tube, called the pilus. This is the bacterial equivalent of sexual reproduction.

Endomixis is another possible process that cells have in order to reborn. “In endomixis, the macronucleus in a Paramecium disintegrates, the micronucleus  divides, one of those new micronuclei grows up to a new macronucleus and you  have a brand new Paramecium.” (see next video).

Next, see an amoeba eating (this animal eats everything) two paramecia. Amazing! the paramecia seem possess by fear, just like us when cornered by a predator, like us supposed to be at another level of development…

Some elementary form of life that exists since the beginning of life on earth is the dinoflagellates, a kind of algae invisible to the bare eye, but that is present in all kind of ponds.

They seem to have a kind of primitive eye, and with their flagellum, they are fast swimmers. Even some of them even possess a delicate cellulosic armature. In the next video, you can see a dinoflagellate “stunned” by a passing paramecium…It is an amazing reaction at a such micro-level…We find everywhere primitive forms of life, strange forms of life, that persisted in our planet for millions of years, but it is unlikely that we may find among these forms of life, the primitive being, the original one. dinoflagellates, despite the magnesium that takes part in their composition, we cannot easily say if they are plants or animals. In their classification, they are in fact a kind of algae, but they are fast swimmers, showing a great number of different forms, some of them with a cellulosic armature.

In nature, life takes advantage of any phenomena, and the next video illustrates this statement, showing the amazing bioluminescence produced by dinoflagellates.

The fourth process that nature invented for reproduction is syngamy. In this process, two cells fuse to make one. Or, in more technical language, it is the fusion of two haploid gametic nuclei to form the diploid nucleus of the zygote.

Hydra reproduces by budding, that is, a bud grows and separates from the main body, starting a new hydra. This small animal living in fresh water was recently discovered that it might be an antibacterial agent since we can extract from it a substance called hydramacine-1, strong enough to kill the klebsiella oxytoca, responsible for nasomiacales infections {FN2}.

Some animals have a fate that is shocking to us: they die immediately after reproduction! That is the case of the salmon…

Lamprey is another specie with daunting habits…

The lamprey begins its life as a wormlike larva, with no eyes, buried in the mud or sand of a swift-flowing stream. It stays that way for perhaps two or three years. Then it goes through a first metamorphosis, in the course of which, among other things, it acquires eyes. With that it gets itself out from the mud and sand and starts migrating downstream, usually to the sea, where it grows up. At sexual maturity it goes through a second metamorphosis. There are a lot of changes, but one of the most striking is a complete disintegration of the digestive system. That animal will never eat again; it loses its entire apparatus for consumming food. Then it starts its journey upstream [1].

It is difficult not to be touched by emotion when seeing a mature cell ending with programmed cell death…We may recall here Shakespeare, in Measure for measure (1603)

If I must die
I will encounter darkness as a bride,
And hug it in mine arms.

Well, everything around us seems to point to the inevitability of death, but George Wald finally argues that, at the very end, the germplasm is the entity that permanently survives, in the dynamic process of life…and death. The germ-plasm theory was advanced by the 19th-century biologist August Weismann and defends that the germplasm, i.e. the hereditary material, it is what is passed from generation to generation. And this idea, which is the basis of the modern understanding of the process of physical inheritance, is what Wald, at the end of his survey, concludes to be the essence of our eternity.

If the germ plasm wants to swim in the ocean, it makes itself a fish; if the
germ plasm wants to fly in the air, it makes itself a bird. If it wants to go to
Harvard, it makes itself a man. The strangest thing of all is that the germ
plasm that we carry around within us has done all those things.[1]

Well, what we are doing here in this planet we don’t have a clue (although we can justify our existence on faith), but this can be a question of time, needing progress on our level of consciousness, both as individuals connected in a weird net with other beings and the cosmos…[see also Ref. [4]].

To finalize this post, let us do our homage to life with music, listening to the oldest song ever written in our world. I agree with the great German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, when he says: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”  ―    Friedrich Nietzsche,    Twilight of the Idols

REFERENCES:

[1] George Wald, The Origin of Death

[2] Microscopic Worlds

[3] Biology: concepts and applications, by Cecie Starr, Christine A. Evers, Lisa Starr (Cengage Learning, Belmont CA, 2011) [This is a very good book explaining the fundamental concepts of biology]

[4] The Uniqueness of the individual, by Peter Medawar

[5] Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (or listen here)

FOOTNOTES:

{FN1} Quote here Wikipedia.

{FN2} See “New class of antibiotics”

SITES:

{1} Class notes Ciliata

{2} The Virtual Museum of Bacteria

The amazing similarity between blood and chlorophyll

3 Sep

Education has no meaning unless it helps us to understand the vast expanse of life with all its subtitlities. – Krishnamurti.

What is tru for the [the bacterium] E. Coli is true for the elephant. – François Jacob, 1965 Nobel Prize in Medicine

Part of our knowledge we obtain direct; and part by argument. – John Maynard Kaynes

After all, the ancient worshipers of the Sun have their reasons, they had a theory of life that sees life as a result of the sun light, and for them plant life and human life are closely related to each other. Nowadays, science gives some reason to their not completely satisfying concept of the natural world. Scientist already discovered that life comes from the sun. Chlorophyll contains oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and magnesium, whilst haemoglobin from the blood contains iron at the place of magnesium, see figure above. Both iron and magnesium are metallic atoms.

Organisms spend a lot of time acquiring energy (capacity to do work) and nutrients (substance that an organism needs for growth and survival, but cannot make of itself). Despite the close similarity between blood and chlorophyl, plants are producers (they make their own food using energy and materials from their environment) and animals are consumers (cannot make their own food). As stressed by Jeremy Rifkin {*2} “the first economy of the world is photosynthesis”.

Hemacyanin is another molecule which is responsible to convey oxygen in haemalymph, the blood of arthropods. An arthropod are members of the phylum Arthropoda (invertebrate animal with an exoskeleton, segmented body, and jointed appendages). Insects, arachnids, crustaceans are among this group. Hemacyanin has copper at his center. It is the metallic element at the center of these molecules that give their characteristic color.

arthropods. Image credit: Wikipedia

Chlorophyll, hemoglobin and hemacyanin are three fundamental molecules of life as we know in our planet. Their chemical formulas are:  C55H72O5N4Mg, for chlorophyll, and for hemoglobin is  C2952H4664N812O832S8Fe4. It is therefore clear our parentage…

These molecules are needed since diffusion or plasma solubility in delivering oxygen is very ineffective, and higher organisms needed to evolve in building specific proteins to transport dioxygen in the blood. These substances are able to transport oxygen in the blood through acceptance of dioxygen from a surface in contact with air (lung) or water (gill), circulate to the tissues, delivering their needed oxygen. Of course, the carrier molecule must not be irreversibly oxidized by dioxygen, and transition metals, characterized by lower oxidation states were chosen by nature to accomplish this task. Otherwise, they would be lost for further purpose. However, these metallic elements are carried, involved in a structural protein casing that protect them against irreversible oxidation (in a way not entirely known) [3].

Oxygen may be seen as the elixir of life…and death. The name “oxygen” was bequeathed by Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794), the revolutionary scientist and political conservative beheaded in May 1794 during the French Revolution. The great mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736-1813) regreted the decision of the Revolutionary Tribunal and said: “it took but a moment to cut off that head, though a hundred years perhaps will be required to produce another like it”.

Life on Earth start with anaerobic metabolism that still nowadays persist in the form of bacteria living in oxygen-poor environments. In the early earth, nearly all oxygen was bound in compounds, like water and silicate rocks. But nearly 3 billions years ago the “invention” in nature of plant photosynthesis turned anaerobic world into our present type of environment with aerobic life. It is clear that the introduction of oxygen into the anaerobic world obliged the organisms existing at that time to adapt, since a lot of the by-products from oxygen metabolism are toxic compounds. Oxygen was essential to retain on Earth much of the hydrogen, since our planet has a relatively small mass, and can easily lose free hydrogen to the cosmic space. Without binding to oxygen, nearly all hydrogen would be lost forever.

The atomic structure dictates what an element can do, what compounds it can form, and what properties it possess. The nucleus of the comoomn isotope of oxygen contains eight protons and eight neutrons, and is designated by 16O. Quamtum mechanics tells us that electrons are not located around the nucleus as “orbitals”, but as a “cloud”, a region of space where electrons are most likely to be.

The following video shows how oxygen is transported through our bodies.

Image credits:7salemanimalkingdom.wikispaces.com

According to the bible and the Quran, Israelites were nourished about 40 years (while wondering in the Sinai desert) from the heavens with manna, apparently a member of lichen family [4].

Algae can be a source of food and energy {3*} in a world where a multitude of people don’t take due attention to the quality of their eating habits, see site below (and I am thankful to Molly Brooks, who called my attention to her infographic)
Guide to Cleansing
Created by: www.MedicalAssistantCertification.com

REFERENCES:

[1] Nobel Prize presentation, Chemistry, 1915

[2] Chlorophyll and hæmoglobin regeneration after hæmorrhage, by J. Howell Hughes and  A. L. Latner

[3] Oxygen and the Evolution of Life, by Heinz Decker,Kensal E. Van Holde

[4] Charles Berlitz’s World of the Odd and Awesome, by Charles Berlitz

SITES:

{*1} Alternative treatment for cancer

{*2} Jeremy Rifkin, Lecture at Ross’ Institute in 2010, entitled “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis”.

{3*} Shearable:Science and Tech

About Nature…

14 Jun

An educated person is supposed to “love Nature”, to enjoy the fields of flowers during Spring, to watch birds, insects, animals, but behind this feelings, and so to be wise thoughts, there is all the wild activity, ruthless, without pity, struggle for life, continuous destruction and rebirth. So, what is going on, why this feeling of “love of Nature”? We are well told about the struggle for life that takes place within the natural world, but Man feels other kind of Love too, “love for the struggle for the life of others”. According to Henry Drummond, a scientist and evangelist that exercised a strong influence in his generation, particularly young people, in “From Self-ism to Other-ism is the supreme transition of history” [1]:

We have arrived at a point from which the Ascent of Man takes a fresh departure, a point from which the course of Evolution begins to wear an entirely altered aspect.  No consummation ever before occurred in the progress of the world as the rise to potency in human life of the Struggle for the Life of Others. The Struggle for the Life of Others is the physiological name for the greatest word of ethics-Other-ism, altruism, Love. From Self-ism to Other-sim is the supreme transition of history. It is therefore impossible to lodge in the mind with too much solidity the simple biological fact on which the Altruistic Struggle rests. Where this a late phase of Evolution, or a factor applicable to single genera, it would still be of supreme importance; but it is radical, universal, involved in the very nature of life itself.

As this world is full of Mephystos, here I propose listening Liszt…How the human consciousness can take wings much further away than the actual vision of the natural world…

Why we feel a need to understand the “secrets of nature” was a leitmotiv of Sigmund Freud researches on the nature of dreams. Freud had Leonardo da Vinci  as a pioneer, the “first natural scientist” [1a] and with his peculiar way, Freud wrote:

The core of his nature, and the secret of it, would appear to be that after his curiosity had been activated in infancy in the service of sexual interests he succeeded in sublimating the greater part of his libido into an urge for research. [1a]

The writing of Sigmund Freud, certainly contributed for the actual view of human nature (mainly unveiling with Jung the significance of the unconscious), not withstand the controversial interpretations offered by his theories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRjsEtyjaWg


Watch the above video (in French), entitled “La Matière et la Vie”, about Sigmund Freud (with an interview to her daughter, in English), and the period of history where he lived.

The old meaning of the word nature is the essential character or quality of a thing. Another meaning is: Nature is the force behind the cosmos. More recently, we use this term to refer to all what is opposed to human society and their cultures. This opposition implies that or Nature is superior, or it is inferior to human society. The implications were seen by the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) who, profoundly shocked with English Civil War, gave a dramatic account of that period of history in his opera magna Leviathan [2]:

[…] state of nature is brutal and violent, and so the task of political philosophy is to describe the forms of government that will most effectively prevent the disintegration of society into nature”.

Thomas Hobbes and his masterpiece, Leviathan. Image cedit: nandhi.com

But, with the Enlightenment, it occurs a shift in this view of nature, considering her superior to the human society since it displays order and harmony, and reason, a frame of mind that helps to development of Newtonian Physics at the hands of Sir Isaac Newton, still nowadays the major source of intellectual construction used by engineering. Incidentally, we may refer that the so-called inertial law, or Newton’s first law was most probably inspired by Newton’s reading of Leviathan. The order and harmony apparently displayed by Nature at that time, was a source of teaching to the human society, at the seventeenth century in Europe disgraced by absolutist governments and a society structured in a feudal order. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the Romanticism, a new shift occurred, and Nature continues to be worth of studying, but Nature was much more than Order and Reason, was a source of diversity and fecundity.

Nowadays, it is clear that the meaning of ‘Nature ‘ is a concept central to ideology (i.e., a set of ideas and concepts that shape our understanding of the world). Anything that is perceived as ‘natural’ is not challenged or questioned. Marxists aim to construct a human society on the grounds of scientific principles, such as we learn from Nature. This is very clear in Friedrich Engels writings. Georg Lukács (1885-1971), Hungarian philosopher and founder of the so-called Western Marxism, created a new term that frame the experience of society, that takes into account the products of human society, culture and invention: he used the term ‘second nature’. It is not enough referred but in Franz Kafka writings the natural world is foundational to his stories. He used the natural world to «destabilize the idea of humanity»[2a0]. In one of his strange stories, “A Report to an Academy”, he tells the story of an ape that discovered the only way out of the cage was to imitate the humans…One day the ape, after “becoming human” observes human acrobats in a variety show: «What a mockery of Holy Mother Nature! Were the apes to see such a spectacle, no theater walls could stand the shock of their laughter» [2a1].

Shiva: everything in the natural world emanates from Shiva, according to Hinduism. Image credit: redgreenandblue.org

The idea of nature, with its important notions about the human nature and in what consists the underlying substratum of reality, is presently lacking in our educational system [2a2]. It is lacking an education from Nature, and so enlarging our field of consciousness, our role as bio-transformers, and the delicate balance we must achieve.  In a “global world” humanity must achieve a new synthesis between Westerner and Easterner visions of the ‘natural world’, enriching human nature, since in the West our vision is based on the concept of cause, and in the East they use the concept of synchronicity. Carl Jung was deeply influenced by his reading of the I Ching (Book of Changes), an ancient text in China, dating back to the Shang Dynasty (Bronze Age 1700BC-1050BC), where chance plays a fundamental role on the natural world, and events don’t necessarily obey to a timely order.

Mandala. Image credit: adamapollo.info

In this era of political and economic turmoil, more than ever scientists must take their share of responsibility in fighting for a promising the future. Science and the view of nature that may result from this endeavour, brings to the stage the politicization of various issues, like in climate research areas. This is clear in a recent Editorial from the prestigious magazine Nature [2a].

Science and its outcome, the technological progress, decisively contributed to the “globalization process”, the intermingling of different cultures and economies, dramatically changing our view of the universe and, consequently, of “Nature”. Until the middle of the 20th century, science was still concerned with the philosophical interpretation of nature, giving to us new thoughts about “how nature works”. This concern is very clear in a famous book red by generations of scientists and written by Werner Heisenberg, a book entitled “Physics and Philosophy: the Revolution in Modern Science” [3]. It is not by hasard that science in Germany went so far when compared to other countries, just before the Nazi collapse [4]. What we understand by our own experience and accounts like those shown in Ref. [4] is that the progress in Science and Technology, the breakthroughs, are done by people working and thinking individually, not in teams. Without any doubt, freedom in science and in our societies are the best path to follow in order to attain social, cultural and economic progress [4a].

Werner Heisenberg. Image credit: brasilescola.com

It is clear to us that Science gave to us a new interpretation of nature, and Science still is a framework with which mankind can evolve to upper stages of development, since the secure process of reasoning provided by the scientific method, opens to the human mind new fields of conscience, offering to our brains (in fact, at the beginning just an assembled machine needed for survival) new virtual “organs” that help the brain to work and evolve: books, pencils, computers, internet, ships, airplanes, rockets, spacecrafts, drugs,…It is clear that these outcomes of the technological progress, give to each of us new powers and ability to think, to invent, to create and produce new ideas, in a synergetic process that step by step become to be studied. All that outcome of the technological progress, heir of the scientific thinking, enlarge the human mind, offering to our specie a potential of evolution that unfortunately our (shortsighted) politicians (as recently pointed out by the Dalai Lama in an interview to the BBC) are far way to grasp the potential. According to Carl Jung (1875-1961), the goal of personal development must be the expansion of consciousness in order to keep pace with our vast unconscious. Undoubtedly, internet raises our levels of consciousness [5].

Alternatively, and in my viewpoint, the ideology that dominates the world seeks intentionally to maintain this potential well below the point of evolution that our minds and our souls deserve, forcing humanity to an underdevelopment that concurs to slavery, and this is probably the source of the lack of interest we see worldwide for the scientific endeavour, with the notable exceptions of China, India and South Korea, countries that have well understood that fundamental science and technological progress go hand-by-hand, and when well clarified, may render social and economic progress possible.

The new (unscientific) vision of the ‘natural word’ in the minds of most of our “leaders”…and the status of the human species they envisage in their shortsightedness.

REFERENCES:

[1] The Ascent of Man, by Henry Drummond 

[1a] SIGMUND FREUD: THE SECRETS OF NATURE AND THE NATURE OF SECRETS, by JAMES W. BARRON, RALPH BEAUMONT, GARY N. GOLDSMITH, MICHAEL I. GOOD, ROBERT L. PYLES, ANA~MARIA RIZZUTO AND HENRY F. SMITH, MASS, in Int. Rev. Psycho-Anal. (1991) 18, 143

[2] Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes

[2a0] Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism, by Karla Armbruster,Kathleen R. Wallace

[2a1] A Report to an Academy, by Franz Kafka

[2a2] Lost in Space? Education and the concept of nature, by Michael Bonnett, Studies in Philosophy and EducationVolume 23, Numbers 2-3 (2004), 117-130,

[2a] Political science, Editorial appeared in Nature, Volume: 483, Pages: 123–124 , Date published: (08 March 2012)

[3] Physics and Philosophy: the Revolution in Modern Science, by Werner Heisenberg

[4]  The History of Science and Technology: A Browser’s Guide to the Great …, by Bryan H. Bunch and Alexander Hellemans

[4a] Liberal positivism. A pamphlet for rationality and freedom in science and society, and other divertimenti on philosophy of science, economics and intelligent design. [Kindle Edition], by Jesus Zamora Bonilla

[5] The Spirit of the Internet: Speculations on the Evolution of Global Consciousnee, by Lawrence Hagerty

The Wizard’s Apprentice

1 Nov

Tarkovsky:  “ there is nothing more beautiful and
mysterious than simplicity.”
– Andrei Tarkovsky

Goethe wanted to give us a lesson with his poetic masterpiece «the aprentice of the wizard» written in 1797 (“Der Zauberlehrling” in German). In Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s poem, the wizard’s assistant try to work out some of the magic acts performed by the wizard, but without to properly control them. Walt Disney parodiate this situation in the 1940 animated movie Fantasia (watch the trailer here) with music by the French composer Paul Abraham Dukas (1865-1935). In his other masterpiece, Faust, he took pratically thirty years of his life writing (uncontinuosly), but every new experience of his life was deeply meditated, wandering into every field of knowledge and, at the end, coming back with sorrow and unsatisfaction, showing to him the eternal problem of the thinker and the various nuances of the social existence of all of us.

The word Magic comes from the Persian language, Magu-sh, name given by the Persian and Medes (people that lived in the area called Media in the actual Iran) to the priests of the religion of Zaratustra (their disciples were called Meghestom), and it was used by Jeremias (Book of) to designate a Babylonian priest. The primitive meaning seems to be “worship of the light” [2]. For the Parsees, the Medes, and Egyptians the term Magic meant a higher knowledge of nature, where religion and astronomy made an integral part of it. The Magi were driven by justice, truth, aiming to preserve their secret wisdom.

Dr. Faustus, Don Giovanni, Frankenstein, like the wizard’s apprentice, they all represent in many ways an archetypal hero who challenge authority and the society (and thus God), in a transgression that represent the eternal tragedy of humanity, seeking dominate nature and the others fellow beings via their seductive and destructive power.

But the judgement of the apprentice (aren’t we all?) is not so simple, because he faces an epistemological crisis about the limits of the human knowledge,  the undecibility (does we have a soul? can we built a robot at our own image? what can we discover investigating the “big questions” beyond the reasonable?…), attaining the «[…] porous boundaries between human and nonhuman, organic and inorganic» [1].

Mozart’s Don Giovanni inspired many artists, composers poets, writers (Byron, Baudelaire, Mérimée, Pushkin, Tolstoi), philosophers,…One of the most famous arias of Don Giovanni is “Il mio tesoro” (“My Treasure”), and I propose you to listen here sang by the famous Irish tenor John McCormack.

Humanity’s greatest strength is his ability for thinking, for sure, and our abstract thought separate us from the animal kingdom in a great measure, althoug in the actuality we are ruled by shameless people…Political scientists (it is not clear to me why they call themselves “scientists”) opened the Pandora’s box, they are in fact apprentices’s of the wizard. They use science to control society for the interest of some groups. Like Pinocchio, we are bound to something, to our creature, and like Pinocchio we have to cut the “strings” that bound us to our Geppettos.

One of the earliest paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, the Adoration of the Magi, is a testimony of the crisis a creative man may came across in his search of the absolute. Leonardo’s tragic destiny  starts to unfold malefic forces around him, with numerous material complications, or possibly he  restrains himself to acomplish the masterpiece, knowing that he already mastered all the techniques. Lorenzo il Magnifico, ruler of the Florentine Republic shows indiference towards Leonardo [Antonina Vallentin, in Leonardo da Vinci] and this hurts him a lot. As the time is running (like the Roman poet Virgilus wrote in his Georgics: Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus, singula dum capti circumvectamur amore) he fears for not having time to acquire the knowledge he deeply seeks. His pratical side drove him to invent a lot of apparatus intending to give to man the power over nature. Tempus fugit and a sensitive man feels the need to understand fully the how and why we are here…Andrei Tarkovsky, the russian movie director, incorporated motifs of The Adoration of the Magi in the narrative of his movie The Sacrifice (with music of Sebastian Bach Mattheus Passion, listen here), which represents his interpretation of the painting, but in a time reversal way, predicting instead of the bright beginning of humanity, the dark future of Western culture. Science and technology, only by themselves, do not fulfil the humankind needs.

Michelangelo captured the sublime moment of creation in his famous painting of the Sistine Chapel; Adam, with his arm stretched waiting for the finger of God touching, and apparently between man and God there is just an interposed- gap, that’s Michelangelo’s representation of life itself (p. 142, Ref.[1]).

This dramatic situation is well described by Erwin Schrodinger in one of the conferences organized by the Association Eranos, held in Asconna, Switzerland. He criticized the materialistic egotism of natural sciences and that ethics and moral cannot both be dissociated from the scientific research [3]. For the alchemist some knowledge must be kept in secret in order to not fall in the wrong hands, unpreprared politicians and rulers, because then they may serve the evil.The scientific method is certainly powerful, searching the causes of phenomena, analytic and methodic, aiming to formulate the laws that govern phenomena. But it potentiates the materialistic egotism typical of our actual societies, the consumist societies living with the only purpose to consume…

For some this may represent “The End of History” [4]. Science has the only purpose to answer to our “how ?”, not our “why ?”, which is the purpose of philosophy. Philosophy is predominantly synthetic, going from the particular to the general, critic and systematic, searching the «Why?» of these phenomena, their raison d’ être and their value. That ‘s why a world without science AND philosophy is open to tragedy.

REF.

[1] Scott Bukatman, in Beyond the finite: the Sublime in Art and Science, Ed. by Roald Hoffmann, Ian Boyd White p. 129 (OUP, New York, 2011)[2] The History of Magic, by Joseph Ennemoser, Translated from the German by William Howitt Vol I (Henry G. Bohn, London, 1854)[3] Friedrich W. Doucet, in O Livro de Ouro das Ciências Ocultas (Translation to Portuguese)[4] Jean Braudillard, The Illusion of the End (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1994)

%d bloggers like this: