Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Isaac Newton Was Secret Alchemist

It turns out Sir Isaac Newton ~ one of the most influential scientists in history ~ was a closet alchemist. In fact, he was a passionate practitioner of alchemy for over three decades, according to Indiana University professor William Newman.

According to Discovery News:
Newton invented calculus, described the law of universal gravitation and built the first reflecting telescope. Just a few resume highlights for someone considered to be the most influential scientist in history.
That's why alchemy is a strange hobby for someone who clearly mastered the scientific method. Alchemy involves transmuting one element into another. Only not so much focusing on chemical reactions, as invoking spiritual and philosophical approaches.
Alchemy is now considered a pseudo-science. But even during its height, critics such as Chaucer characterized alchemists as charlatans, and it was banned by Pope John XXII and King Henry IV.
But before you think less of Newton, consider that most experimental scientists of the 17th century believed in it too. Professor Newman also counters that alchemists of the time were more similar to chemists than wannabe magicians. They helped create new drugs, brighter pigments and improved booze distillation.
Newton's involvement in alchemy was never fully secret, more like neglected, Newman believes. Only recently have science historians fully analyzed Newton's extensive writings on the subject.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Data Contradicts Mayan Calendar End Date

The Mayan Long Count calendar likely doesn’t end on December 21, 2012  ~ the date hyped by many apocalyptic thinkers ~ according to new research into the technique for translating the ancient calendar into Gregorian calendar years.

The research also contends that the actual end date of the Mayan calendar is essentially unknown within at least a 100-year span. In fact, the Mayan calendar may have already ended.

According to LiveScience:
A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events. (The doomsday worries are based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, much as our year ends on Dec. 31.) 
The Mayan calendar was converted to today's Gregorian calendar using a calculation called the GMT constant, named for the last initials of three early Mayanist researchers. Much of the work emphasized dates recovered from colonial documents that were written in the Mayan language in the Latin alphabet, according to the chapter's author, Gerardo Aldana, professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California.
Later, the GMT constant was bolstered by American linguist and anthropologist Floyd Lounsbury, who used data in the Dresden Codex Venus Table, a Mayan calendar and almanac that charts dates relative to the movements of Venus.
"He took the position that his work removed the last obstacle to fully accepting the GMT constant," Aldana said in a statement. "Others took his work even further, suggesting that he had proven the GMT constant to be correct." But according to Aldana, Lounsbury's evidence is far from irrefutable.

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Astronomers Find 800 Trillion More Suns

Galaxy cluster, with older galaxies circled in yellow and younger in blue.

Astronomers have discovered the most massive galaxy cluster ever found, containing several hundred galaxies and a mind-boggling 800 trillion suns. Scientists at the South Pole can view the cluster as it appeared 7 billion years ago, when the universe was half its current age and before our solar system existed.

Despite its enormous size, the galaxy cluster ~ named SPT-CL J0546-5345 ~ was unseen until astronomers looked for distortions in the cosmic microwave background.

Click here for the complete article.

Friday, October 8, 2010

An Adventure in Magnitudes ~ The Power of Ten

I’d been thinking lately about the enormity of our universe, especially the concept that our universe is only one of many. Today I learned about this 10-minute film called “The Power of Ten.” Called an adventure in magnitudes, it begins on a picnic blanket near Chicago’s shore of Lake Michigan, then takes us to the farthest realm of our universe, moving 10 times farther out every 10 seconds. Then, in an interesting turnabout, it moves inward, back to the picnic blanket and into the atomic structure of a cell in the man’s hand.

As the Hermetic adage goes … “As above, so below.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Far From Brutes, Neanderthals Had Compassion

Neanderthal reconstruction in Prehistoric Museum of Halle, Germany.

New research indicates Neanderthals displayed “a deep seated sense of compassion” and were not the dumb brutes often depicted in archaeological lore.

“Compassion is perhaps the most fundamental human emotion,” researcher Penny Spikins of the University of York tells Discovery News. “It binds us together and can inspire us but it is also fragile and elusive. This apparent fragility makes addressing the evidence for the development of compassion in our most ancient ancestors a unique challenge, yet the archaeological record has an important story to tell about the prehistory of compassion."

Based on fossils, artifacts and other evidence, the scientists propose a four-stage model for the development of human compassion:
The first stage began six million years ago, according to the scientists, when the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees experienced the initial awakenings of an empathy for others and motivation to help them, perhaps with a gesture of comfort, or moving a branch to allow them to pass.
The second stage from 1.8 million years ago sees compassion in Homo erectus beginning to be regulated as an emotion integrated with rational thought. Care of sick individuals represented an extensive compassionate investment while the emergence of special treatment of the dead suggested grief at the loss of a loved one and a desire to soothe others feelings, the researchers conclude.
The third stage, based on findings from Europe between around 500,000 and 40,000 years ago, sees humans such as Homo heidelbergensis and Neanderthals developing deep-seated commitments to the welfare of others illustrated by a long adolescence and a dependence on hunting together. There is also archaeological evidence of the routine care of the injured or infirm over extended periods. These include the remains of a child with a congenital brain abnormality who was not abandoned, but lived until five or six years old. The researchers also note that there was a Neanderthal with a withered arm, deformed feet and blindness in one eye who must have been cared for, perhaps for as long as twenty years.
In the fourth stage, the scientists say modern humans starting 120,000 years ago extended compassion to strangers, animals, objects and abstract concepts. 
“We have traditionally paid a lot of attention to how early humans thought about each other,” Spikins adds, “but it may well be time to pay rather more attention to whether or not they ‘cared.’”

Click here for the complete Discovery News article.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Research Discovers Pathways for Neurotransmitters

Depiction of a neurotransmitter.

New research showing that the neurotransmitter serotonin uses a special pathway to regulate biological functions could greatly affect future therapies for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

The Scripps Research Institute study published in the October 6, 2010 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience contends serotonin has significant influence over control of perception, cognition, sleep, appetite, pain, and mood.

"Our study shows that while both serotonin and hallucinogens act at the serotonin 2A receptor, serotonin utilizes a very specific pathway and its actions are independent of those produced by hallucinogens," says Laura Bohn, an associate professor on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute. "Future drug discovery efforts to identify lead compounds for treatment of depression may consider focusing upon those that only engage that pathway. This work may also lend insight into the mechanisms that underlie the hallucinations that occur in schizophrenia."

This may be particularly important for the treatment of depression because traditional therapies ~ focusing on elevating serotonin levels ~ can sometimes produce serious side effects such as hallucinations, and is especially serious when antidepressants are mixed with monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

Click here for the complete article.

Sea Census Finds Many Species Thought Extinct

The newly discovered Ceratonotus Steiningeri copepod.

The first global picture of life in the oceans was released this week. Some 2,700 scientists spent 9,000 days at sea to compile the Census of Marine Life, and they admit they have only scratched the surface of oceanic diversity.

In all, some 250,000 marine plant and animal species have now been formally described, out of the 1 million thought to exist.

"There are three to four unknown species for every known," says Paul Snelgrove of Memorial University of Newfoundland in St John's, Canada.

The Census has so far added 1,200 new species to the tally, though that is likely to rise as over 5,000 more organisms that were collected have yet to be studied or named. The new species include several that were thought to have disappeared, such as the "Jurassic shrimp” thought to have died out 50 million years ago.

Click here for the complete article.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

2012 ~ Epicenter of a Cultural Earthquake

Anyone following my Quantum Spirit blog for any length of time probably knows I have great respect for author and physicist Peter Russell. Here is his take on 2012, entitled "2012: Temporal Epicenter of a Cultural Earthquake."

I encourage you to view it for its profound insights into taking advantage of the changes that may already be entering our lives.

The script for his video appears on his blog "Spirit of Now." Here are the concluding paragraphs.
People sometimes talk about the winds of change. I think we’re heading into a storm of change. The question is how can we prepare ourselves for this, how can we cope with an increasingly unpredictable world?
We can get some clues by looking at what helps a tree survive a storm. 
First, it needs strong roots, so it does not blow over. Similarly, we need to be able to remain stable so that we are not shaken by every unexpected change. If we loose our inner balance, if we react emotionally to everything that happens, we end up getting more stressed and more likely to burn out.
Second, like a tree we also need to be flexible. We need to be able to move with the flow of change. This means letting go of past assumptions. We need to learn to think more clearly, allow new ideas in, let deeper intuitions and feelings come to the surface.
And third, just as a tree is much better off if it is protected by other trees in the forest, so too we will be much better able to withstand change if we have a strong sense of community. We need to care for each, support each other in times of need. We need to develop greater care and compassion, to open our hearts to kindness, and have our vision guide us in these turbulent times.
A longtime advocate of meditation and consciousness studies, Russell is author of several books including From Science to God, Waking Up in Time, The Consciousness Revolution, and The Brain Book, among others.