Ponder Ancient Muslim Tolerance


I doubt many could fathom a world of religious tolerance under Islam. Ancient history lends itself to images of holy war, crusades and religious oppression.

Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453 – a crushing blow in favour of the Ottoman Empire – orchestrated by a 21 year old visionary. According to Sharia law, non-Muslims were guaranteed freedom and protection from persecution. Once Ottoman rule was established, it made little sense to squabble over religious differences.

The Arabic word for “nation” is millet. The Ottoman Empire allowed each “millet” or religious group to elect leaders and practice freely as a “nation” under Ottoman protection. Each “millet” was free to enforce their own rules – Islamic law did not apply to non-Muslim “nations”.Criminal acts within a “millet” were dealt with under religious laws of that nation. The only time Islamic law applied was when crimes involved people of two separate nations or was perpetrated by a Muslim. Millets could speak their own languages, build churches, schools and practice faith autonomously under the Ottoman umbrella.

The system created religious harmony until European meddling abolished it in the 1800’s. Creation of European secularist style rule, eroded religious freedom and created fewer rights along with increased hostilities. Armenian genocide during the first world war a perfect example.

All too aware this is an extraordinarily compressed historical account – my point is “freedom of religion” worked for a few hundred years. At the very least, we should ponder Sultan Mehmed’s approach. Knock yourselves out – practice freely anything that floats your boat but keep it to yourselves and don’t shove it down the throat of your neighbor.

http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/people/muhammad-ii-ottoman-sultan.html

“Ancient Aliens” Wants Us To Know….


Ancient Aliens is one of my guilty pleasures. I read Erik Von Danekin’s Chariots of the Gods while an impressionable teen – the Nazca lines still  ignite ponders as to why an ancient culture would cover a remote plateau with images only identifiable from above. As much as I believe we are not alone in the universe, I lean towards “civilizations lost” long before contemplating alien intervention. History channel’s Ancient Aliens is more of a window into ancient astronaut  conspiracy mindsets.  “Millions of people around the world believe we have been visited by extra-terrestrials, what if it were true, as ancient astronaut theorists believe”.

In no particular order, some of the things ancient astronaut theorists believe….

Ankor Wat in Cambodia is said to have a depiction of a stegosaurus – how could they have knowledge of extinct creatures? Could it be ancient aliens eradicated the dinosaurs to make room for mankind?

Bigfoot is evidence of an ancient alien experiment.

Ancient Samaria holds clues to the Annunaki, a race of aliens who visited earth in search of gold. They altered Hominid DNA to create man as workers. When the Annunaki grew tired of mankind’s lust and greed they brought down the great flood – the flood mythology borrowed by the bible.

Adolf Hitler escaped with key scientists in a “time bell” at the end of the war.

The founding fathers incorporated alien symbolism into structures and design of Washington D.C.

I could go on for hours reporting Ancient Alien “fact”, or should I say “questions”. I wish there was a middle ground – a safe place for wonder –  residing between stuffy, dust covered mainstream history and acknowledgement that lack of plausible explanation doesn’t mean alien intervention. Just because we didn’t learn about the unexplained in school – no reason to make conspiracy fodder for the masses.

Ancient Aliens goes full circle from “that’s something interesting” to “oh, come on now”. The problem is, all of it gets lumped together in “conspiracy” camp – why can’t we simply agree – a whole lot happened outside history’s mainstream timeline. It may suffer explanation, yet happened just the same. I grow weary of ancient alien jokes and dismissively closed minds.

This post from last year sums up my point of view….

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/why-puma-punku-makes-me-smile/

 

Redefining Mental Image


Would you call me crazy if I told you science could reproduce an image of a face you saw using only brain waves? Alan S. Cowen, a Yale undergraduate student pondered that very question with gob smacking results.

Six subjects were shown images of 300 “training faces” while having an MRI, creating a data base of brain wave responses to different faces. New faces were shown, fed into the data base – crude, yet remarkably accurate images appeared. Cowen anticipates this is only the beginning.

Graphic via Alan Cowen and Yale University.

Graphic via Alan Cowen and Yale University.

The implications make my head spin. As Marvin Chun – professor of psychology, cognitive science,  neurobiology and catalyst for his student Alan Cowen writes in Neuroimage – “It is a form of mind reading”

http://earthsky.org/science-wire/researchers-can-now-reconstruct-your-memory-of-someones-face?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=a113365bc0-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-a113365bc0-393970565

 

Fair Elections Act


Proposed changes to Canada’s election act have me pondering. Pierre Poilievre, at 34, Canada’s youngest cabinet minister and Minister of State for Democratic Reform is driving “Fair Election” reform through the House of Commons. His motto “sharper teeth, longer reach and a freer hand” is supposed to put Canadians at ease over his plan to squash the authority of Elections Canada and reduce voter fraud.

Call me cynical but I find his timing curious. As support grows for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau – especially among students, minorities, and the poor – what better way to limit their votes while bolstering advantages for the wealthy, than to disallow “vouching” and muzzle Elections Canada.

Vouching  – much as it sounds is a system enabling those without proper ID, or proof of residence to vote.As it stands now, roughly 1% of voters had someone “vouch” for them in the last federal election. For the most part students and people who recently moved – those able to verify identity but not address. If Bill C-23 (Fair Election Act) passes – vouching is history.

I have less problem with vouching than this bat shit piece of logic – Poilievre openly criticizes Elections Canada for failing to boost voter turnout. If passed, C-23 puts an end to those voter registration cards we get in the mail – the ones with our address telling us where our polling station is. It would restrict Elections Canada from any “get out and vote” ads, they could only advertise when the election is taking place – our government believes it is up to political parties to drive voters to the polls.

It gets better – the Conservative government’s “tackle fraud” mandate is hilarious. Returning officers and poll clerks would be elected by political parties – the party with highest number of votes in the previous election, given the right to “recommend” central poll supervisors. Election Canada’s repeated attempts for jurisdiction to obtain court orders when investigating questionable election funding or practices – not happening with C-23.

A few more nuggets – post election, political parties would be handed lists gathered at each polling station – that same list of registered voters polling clerks have you sign before casting a ballot – political parties pouring over names and addresses of who did or didn’t vote. “Robo-calling” companies and those who hire them would have to keep recordings of calls and when they were made for one year – when the Chief Electoral Officer insisted records of numbers called be included in the legislation – Poilievre scoffed “that would be an invasion of privacy”. Holy crap.

Third party advertising restrictions, convoluted wording in favor of “loopholes” allowing fundraising calls to any who donated $20 or more in the past five years be exempt from “campaign finance” stipulations, and changes to how the Commissioner of Canada Elections conducts investigations, round out the “Fair Election Act”.

Wake up Canada! Bill C-23 begs a resounding “oh hell no”. “Sharper teeth, longer reach, and freer hand” – if this isn’t an alarming turn, I don’t know what is.

radiofreethink

 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/what-is-the-fair-elections-act/article17648947/

Polaris Dippers


Asking people to “look at the damn sky” isn’t much good if they don’t know what they’re looking at. It’s easy to assume everyone can find the big dipper or locate the North Star. In the spirit of “baby steps” – everything you ever needed to know about finding the “dippers” and locating Polaris, the North Star.

The Big Dipper is always found in the north sky – in spring and summer, high in the sky – fall and winter, close to the horizon. Made up of seven stars forming a bowl and handle, the two outside stars of the bowl are Dubhe and Marek –   the “pointer stars” leading to Polaris and the Little Dipper.  Follow them in a straight line and Polaris is always there – a cosmic anchor for “dippers”  making a complete circle of the north star every 23 hours and 56 minutes.

No matter what time of year you look, the two outer stars in the Big Dipper’s bowl always point to Polaris.

http://earthsky.org/favorite-star-patterns/big-and-little-dippers-highlight-northern-sky?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=0a997ec4e9-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-0a997ec4e9-393970565

Polaris may not be the brightest star in the sky – ranking 50th is inconsequential to a stellar constant above the “celestial north pole”. A star of many names; pole, north, steadfast, lodestar, guiding; a fixed point in the sky responsible for navigation of the ancient world. A gift of cosmic confidence powerful enough to sail into the unknown, the only GPS northern hemisphere travellers needed to find their way home. A beacon of hope for American slaves heading north to freedom – and once you know how to find it, a way back to the car when you’re lost in the woods.

Towel and Apple Clarify Big Bang


By now many people have caught wind of this weeks announcement, scientific confirmation of the inflationary universe theory. Images of “primordial gravitational waves” captured by the BICEP2 project – an experiment headed by Professor Andrei Dmitriyevich Linde,  give unprecedented proof our universe is expanding.

Talk of expanding universe theory sends most people running from the room – I get it, it’s hard to understand. Never fear, I’m about to make it clear. Spend two minutes watching this video – without question the best two minute lesson around.

Bonus points awarded for anyone who links below to another video of Professor Linde being surprised by a colleague with the news.

http://earthsky.org/space/video-physicist-celebrates-gravitational-waves-discovery?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=258ef4a19e-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-258ef4a19e-393970565

The history and future of the Universe in four minutes: Brian Greene at TED2014


Simply knowing the “wonder torch” burns brightly makes this ponderer smile.

TED Blog

Physicist Brian Green promises he will tell the audience at TED 2014 the whole history of the universe in four minutes. “Forgive me,” he says, “if I leave out a detail here or there.”

He does it with two metaphors. One from the beginning till now, and another from now till the end.

TED2014_DD_DSC_2082 Brian Greene. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

The universe today is 13.8 billion years old, and it can be very hard to get our minds around that number. So Greene uses a metaphor pioneered by Carl Sagan. Imagine that we’re part of a single calendar year. All of cosmic history compressed into a single calendar year. On this calendar:

  • May 12, the Milky Way is formed.
  • Sept 2nd, the Earth is formed.
  • 11:40pm New Year’s Eve, Humans evolve.
  • 11:44pm, we domesticate fire.
  • 11:58pm the first cave paintings are made.
  • 11:59:49pm writing is developed, so all of recorded history takes place…

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Super Massive Black Hole Encounter


Super massive black holes are the cement holding galaxies together. Massive is a word fitting extremely large objects – preface it with “super” and you have unimaginable size. Asking anyone to visualize something hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions or billions times larger than our sun is pointless. If a super massive pimple came up in conversation – few in the room would struggle over mental images.  Super massive black holes defy common understanding, they elude definable points of reference. Ridiculous vastness aside, black holes are considered fictional science fiction devices rather than concrete science fact.

Princeton physicist John Wheeler came up with “black hole” in 1967. Albert Einstein surmised their existence as part of his theory of relativity – simply put, when a star “dies” it collapses in on itself, resulting in a core of dense mass. Picture New York city instantly compressed onto a pin head and you have “baby steps” towards visualizing just how dense is dense. If the “remnant core” exceeds three times the star’s mass, gravity screams “oh hell no” – a black hole is born.

Galaxies cluster around the extreme gravitational pull of black holes. The Milky Way galaxy boasts a respectable super massive behemoth over four million times the mass of our sun. Indiscriminate cosmic glue, responsible for galactic rotation, orbits, and sealed fates for anything passing the “event horizon” – a  gravitational point of no return, the threshold of absorption by forces so powerful, not even light can escape.

Astronomers are buzzing over an opportunity to witness a black hole in action. In 2011 German astronomers noticed a gas cloud  oblivious to its ill fated path, speeding up as it neared the event horizon. Recent data indicates part of the cloud has begun “spagettification”, a certified sign of black hole might –  gravity elongates as it pulls towards oblivion. The main body of this cloud is expected to succumb by April.

To actually observe an object, to see how it behaves as it vanishes into mystery – how cool is that?  Ponder a moment capable of catapulting science fiction into fact.

http://earthsky.org/space/almost-snack-time-for-our-galaxys-supermassive-black-hole?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=2a1b8f0bbc-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-2a1b8f0bbc-393970565

Image via ESO/MPE/M. Schartmann/L. Calçada

Image via ESO/MPE/M.Schartmann/L.Calcada

Organic Milk Discovery


Following a chance encounter with organic milk at his friend’s house, our son urged us to never purchase anything else. Skepticism over discernible difference to justify additional cost  met parental indulgence –  we agreed to try a litre.

One sip was all it took – we will never buy conventional milk again. This was the milk of my youth – exquisite dairy nectar, complex as fine wine, a treat to delight the senses. I had found the exclamation mark, the poster child to define “organic”.

Wading through the organic maze is tricky – as with any trend, marketing gurus skirt, twist and dodge regulations to hitch a ride on organic’s market share. Purchasing organic for ethical reasons isn’t practical – unless you shop exclusively at local farmers markets – this is big business. Organic and natural, red hot buzz words  jostling for shelf space beside “free run” and “free range”. That said – with increased imports of questionable food products from countries like China ( I hadn’t planned to go here but couldn’t live with myself without cautioning – avoid Chinese mushrooms, spinach, garlic, tilapia, apple juice, honey, and vitamins – see link at the end of this post) examining food source and practices isn’t a terrible idea.

To be honest – avoiding Chinese imports crosses my mind long before “organic” becomes a factor.  Organic milk shattered my tidy little world so completely, I’m looking at food with fresh eyes. Goodbye cynicism, so long skeptical mistrust, see ya later “farm to table” eye rolls, have a nice trip “ancient grain” quinoa snickers – organic, you have my undivided attention.

Free range chicken or eggs don’t flutter off pages of idyllic storybook farms. Organic milk doesn’t flow from quaint sunny meadows. Pesticide free fruit and vegetables rarely spring from the fictional valley of the “jolly green giant”. Organic is big business – business on a massive scale.

For milk to be certified organic, cows must eat certified organic feed – sneaking in animal by-products strictly forbidden – antibiotics and milk producing hormones common in conventional milk production, are out of the question. In North America dairy cows must be “treated humanely”, one definition being they have access to open grazing pastures. ( Keep in mind, “free run” chickens need only be given the opportunity to leave industrial barns for a prescribed amount of time each day – a six inch square opening at one end of the facility satisfies the requirement ) Don’t get misty eyed over bovine bliss amid the daisies – organic milk, every bit as industrial as conventional milk production, deal with it and focus on taste.

Concentrate on end results – cows fed unadulterated food, not pumped up on hormones or kept “factory ready” with antibiotics, produce milk exquisite enough to knock me on my ass. Twenty year old Scotch to Moonshine, five year aged cheddar to squeeze cheese – and if that’s not enough – pasteurized at much higher temperatures, it keeps well over a month in your fridge.

As my son said – just try it. If “holy cow” sentiments don’t slap you on the side of the head, I need my taste buds examined.

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/organic-milk-vs-regular-milk.html

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/231731-top-5-imported-foods-from-china-you-should-avoid/?photo=2

Regulus Occultation


Regulus is considered the 20th or so brightest star visible from Earth. A measly 77 light years away and part of the constellation Leo – Regulas couldn’t be easier to find. With apologies for the late notice – residents of New York State, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia ( assuming clear skies prevail ) bundle up around 2 AM for the Regulus occultation.

Shortly before 2 Am head out and find the moon – extend your arms and voila! – Regulus is the brightest object above your right hand, roughly the same height as the moon and certainly the brightest object in that corner of the sky.

Looking southwest, 2 a.m.

Looking southwest (90° to the right of the Moon) around 2 a.m. EDT on the morning of March 20th. Regulus will appear roughly as high as the Moon. It’s the brightest star in the area; you don’t need to know, or see, the constellations! Click image for larger view.
IOTA / Stellarium / Sky & Telescope
At 2:06 AM EDT asteroid 163 Erigone will pass Regulus – completely blacking it out for 14 seconds. An unprecedented asteroid occultation, never witnessed let alone observed by the naked eye in North America.
If nothing else, remember to look up the next clear night to familiarize yourself with a shining star. Dazzle your friends when pointing out constellation Leo, astound them when identifying Regulus , and tuck that nugget of star power under your belt.