Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When you split the brain, do you split the person?

Charles Bell <em>The Anatomy of the Brain</em>. Courtesy Wellcome Images


This addresses the problem of brain separation on the unitary consciousness.  Considering that  we argue that the spirit body is completely independent of the body anyway and operates the whole, this may well be a moot point.  certainly experience has been way too positive.
Add in the fact that the extended nervous system also has cognitive powers, even splitting the brain is not the end of it.
In the end it acts to confirm the role of spirit with the subconsious.. .
When you split the brain, do you split the person?

Yaïr Pinto is a cognitive psychologist and physicist who works as an assistant professor at the psychology department of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Edited by Pam Weintraub

Charles Bell The Anatomy of the Brain. Courtesy Wellcome Images

The brain is perhaps the most complex machine in the Universe. It consists of two cerebral hemispheres, each with many different modules. Fortunately, all these separate parts are not autonomous agents. They are highly interconnected, all working in harmony to create one unique being: you.

But what would happen if we destroyed this harmony? What if some modules start operating independently from the rest? Interestingly, this is not just a thought experiment; for some people, it is reality.

In so-called ‘split-brain’ patients, the corpus callosum – the highway for communication between the left and the right cerebral hemispheres – is surgically severed to halt otherwise intractable epilepsy.

The operation is effective in stopping epilepsy; if a neural firestorm starts in one hemisphere, the isolation ensures that it does not spread to the other half. But without the corpus callosum the hemispheres have virtually no means of exchanging information.

What, then, happens to the person? If the parts are no longer synchronised, does the brain still produce one person? The neuroscientists Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga set out to investigate this issue in the 1960s and ’70s, and found astonishing data suggesting that when you split the brain, you split the person as well. Sperry won the Nobel prize in medicine for his split-brain work in 1981.

How did the researchers prove that splitting the brain produces two persons, one per hemisphere? Through a clever set-up controlling the flow of visual information to the brain.

They already knew that both eyes sent information to both brain hemispheres – and that the relationship was complex. If you fixated on one point, then everything to the left of that point (the left visual field) was processed by the right hemisphere, and everything to the right of your fixation point (the right visual field) was processed by the left hemisphere. Moreover, the left hemisphere controlled the right side of the body and language output, while the right hemisphere controlled the left side of the body.

When Sperry and Gazzaniga presented stimuli to the right visual field (processed by the speaking left hemisphere), the patient responded normally. However, when stimuli were presented to the left visual field (processed by the mute right hemisphere), the patient said he saw nothing. Yet his left hand would draw the image shown. When asked why his left hand did that, the patient looked baffled, and responded that he had no idea.

What was going on here? The left hemisphere could not see the left visual field, so when a stimulus appeared there, it rightfully responded that it saw nothing. Yet, the right hemisphere did see the stimulus, and indicated this the only way it could, by directing the left hand. The conclusion, drawn by Sperry and Gazzaniga, was clear: a single split-brain patient should actually be thought of as two half-brain patients – a Siamese twin of sorts. Sperry argued that this went beyond mere curiosity – it literally proved the concept of materialism in the area of consciousness. If you split the person when you split the brain, that leaves little room for an immaterial soul.

Case closed? Not to me. We’ve got to admit that split-brain patients feel and behave normally. If a split-brain patient walks into the room, you would not notice anything unusual. And they themselves claim to be completely unchanged, other than being rid of terrible epileptic seizures. If the person was really split, this wouldn’t be true.

To try to get to the bottom of things, my team at the University of Amsterdam re-visited this fundamental issue by testing two split-brain patients, evaluating whether they could respond accurately to objects in the left visual field (perceived by the right brain) while also responding verbally or with the right hand (controlled by the left brain). Astonishingly, in these two patients, we found something completely different than Sperry and Gazzaniga before us. Both patients showed full awareness of presence and location of stimuli throughout the entire visual field – right and left, both. When stimuli appeared in the left visual field, they virtually never said (or indicated with the right hand) that they saw nothing. Rather, they would accurately indicate that something had appeared, and where.

But the split-brain patients we studied were still not completely normal. Stimuli could not be compared across the midline of the visual field. Moreover, when a stimulus appeared in the left visual field, the patient was better at indicating its visual properties (even when he responded with the right hand or verbally!), and when a stimulus appeared in the right visual field, he was better at verbally labelling it (even when he responded with the left hand).

Based on these findings, we have proposed a new model of the split-brain syndrome. When you split the brain, you still end up with only one person. However, this person experiences two streams of visual information, one for each visual field. And that person is unable to integrate the two streams. It is as if he watches an out-of-sync movie, but not with the audio and video out of sync. Rather, the two unsynced streams are both video.

And there’s more. While the previous model provided strong evidence for materialism (split the brain, split the person), the current understanding seems to only deepen the mystery of consciousness. You split the brain into two halves, and yet you still have only one person. How does a brain, consisting of many modules, create just one person? And, how do split-brainers operate as one when these parts are not even talking to each other?

The Food Lab: The Reverse Sear Is the Best Way to Cook a Steak, Period


 A worthy piece that can be applied in your home.  We obviously get it all backwards.  What i do know is that preparing a proper steak has attracted comment and debate as long as i can remember.  And as many opinions as there are cooks.

This at least provides a clear way to handle a good thick steak, ending with a fast high temperature sear to nicely release maximum flavor.

All good.  .No if you are impatient of course.

The Food Lab: The Reverse Sear Is the Best Way to Cook a Steak, Period

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.
The full history of the reverse sear is a little hazy (though has a pretty good timeline). It's one of those techniques that seem to have been developed independently by multiple people right around the same time. With all the interest in food science and precision cooking techniques like sous vide that cropped up in the early 2000s, I imagine the time was simply ripe for it to come around.
My own experience with it started in 2006, when I was just beginning my very first recipe-writing job. I'd recently been hired as a test cook at Cook's Illustratedmagazine, and my first project was to come up with a foolproof technique for cooking thick-cut steaks. After testing dozens and dozens of variables, I realized that I already knew the answer: Cook it sous vide. Traditional cooking techniques inevitably form a gray band of overcooked meat around the outer edges of a steak. Sous vide, thanks to the gentle heat it uses, eliminates that gray band, producing a steak that's cooked just right from edge to edge.
Unfortunately, at that time, sous vide devices were much too expensive for home cooks. Instead, I tried to devise a method that would deliver similar results with no special equipment. The reverse sear is what I came up with, and the recipe was published in the May/June 2007 issue of the magazine (though it didn't get the name "reverse sear" until some time later).
The Basics: How to Reverse-Sear a Steak
The process of reverse-searing is really simple: Season a roast or a thick-cut steak (the method works best with steaks at least one and a half to two inches thick), arrange the meat on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, and place it in a low oven—between 200 and 275°F (93 and 135°C). You can also do this outdoors by placing the meat directly on the cooler side of a closed grill with half the burners on. Cook it until it's about 10 to 15°F below your desired serving temperature (see the chart at the end of this section), then take it out and sear it in a ripping-hot skillet, or on a grill that's as hot as you can get it.
Then dig into the best-cooked steak you've ever had in your life.
You want it broken down step by step? Okay, here goes:
Step 1: Season the Steak


Season your thick-cut steaks—I like ribeyes, but this will work with any thick steak—generously with salt and pepper on all sides, then place them on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. If you're cooking the steaks on a grill, skip the rack and pan.
For even better results, refrigerate the steaks uncovered overnight to dry out their exteriors.
Step 2: Preheat the Oven
Preheat the oven to anywhere between 200 and 275°F (93 and 135°C). The lower you go, the more evenly the meat will cook, though it'll also take longer. If you have a very good oven, you can probably set it even lower than this range, but many ovens can't hold temperatures below 200°F very accurately.
If you're doing this outdoors, create a two-zone fire by banking a chimney of coals under one side of the grill, or turning on only half the burners of a gas grill. Cover the grill and let it preheat.
Step 3: Slow-Cook the Steak
Place the steaks—baking sheet, rack, and all—in the oven, and roast until they hit a temperature about 10 to 15°F below the final temperature at which you'd like to serve the meat. A good thermometer is absolutely essential for this process. I recommend either the Thermapen or one of these inexpensive options.
If using the grill, just place the steaks directly on the cooler side of the grill, allowing them to gently cook via indirect heat. Timing may vary depending on the exact temperature that your grill is maintaining, so use a thermometer, and check frequently!
Step 4: Sear the Steak

Just before the steaks come out of the oven, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil or other high-temp-friendly oil to a heavy skillet, then set it to preheat over your strongest burner. Cast iron works great, as does triple-clad stainless steel.
As soon as that oil starts smoking, add the steaks along with a tablespoon of butter, and let them cook, swirling and lifting occasionally, until they're nicely browned on the first side. This should take about 45 seconds. Flip the steaks and get the second side, then hold the steaks sideways to sear their edges.
To finish on the grill, remove the steaks and tent them with foil while you build the biggest fire you can, either with all your gas burners at full blast and the lid down to preheat, or with extra coals. When the fire is rip-roaring hot, cook the steaks over the hot side, flipping every few seconds, until they're crisp and charred all over, about a minute and a half total.
Step 5: Serve

Serve the steaks immediately, or, if you'd like, let them rest for at most a minute or two. With reverse-seared steaks, there's no need to rest your meat, as you would with a more traditional cooking method.

Reverse-Seared Steak Temperature and Timing for 1 1/2–Inch Steaks in a 250°F (120°C) Oven

DonenessTarget  Temperature in the Oven  Final Target Temperature  Approximate Time in Oven

Rare 105°F (40°C) 120°F (49°C) 20 to 25 minutes
Medium-Rare 115°F (46°C) 130°F (54°C) 25 to 30 minutes
Medium 125°F (52°C) 140°F (60°C) 30 to 35 minutes
Medium-Well 135°F (57°C) 150°F (66°C) 35 to 40 minutes

NB: All time ranges are approximate. Use a thermometer!
Why Is It Called the Reverse Sear?

It's called the reverse sear because it flips tradition on its head. Historically, almost every cookbook and chef have taught that when you're cooking a piece of meat, the first step should be searing. Most often, the explanation is that searing "locks in juices." These days, we know that this statement is definitively false. Searing does not actually lock in juices at all; it merely adds flavor. Flipping the formula so that the searing comes at the end produces better results. But what exactly are those better results?
Advantage #1: More Even Cooking

The temperature gradient that builds up inside a piece of meat—that is, the difference in temperature as you work your way from the edges toward the center—is directly related to the rate at which energy is transferred to that piece of meat. The higher the temperature you use to cook, the faster energy is transferred, and the less evenly your meat cooks. Conversely, the more gently a steak is cooked, the more evenly it cooks.
Meat cooked at very high temperatures develops a thick, gray band that indicates overcooking.
By starting steaks in a low-temperature oven, you wind up with almost no overcooked meat whatsoever. Juicier results are your reward.
Advantage #2: Better Browning

When searing a piece of meat, our goal is to create a crisp, darkly browned crust to contrast with the tender, pink meat underneath. To do this, we need to trigger the Maillard reaction, the cascade of chemical reactions that occur when proteins and sugars are exposed to high heat. It helps if you think of your screaming-hot cast iron skillet as a big bucket, and the heat energy it contains as water filling that bucket. When you place a steak in that pan, you are essentially pouring that energy out of the skillet and into the steak.
In turn, that steak has three smaller buckets that can be filled with energy.
  • The first is the temperature change bucket: It takes energy to raise the temperature of the surface of that steak.
  • Next is the evaporation bucket: It takes energy to evaporate the surface moisture from the steaks.
  • Third is the Maillard browning bucket: It takes energy to trigger those browning reactions.
The thing is, all of those buckets need to be filled in order. Water won't really start evaporating until it has been heated to 212°F (100°C). The Maillard reaction doesn't really take place in earnest until you hit temperatures of around 300°F (150°C) or higher, and that won't happen until most of the steak's surface moisture has evaporated.
Your goal when searing a steak is to make sure that the temperature and evaporation buckets are as small as possible, so that you can rapidly fill them up and move on to the important process of browning.
Pop quiz: Let's say you pull a steak straight out of the fridge. Which of those three buckets is the biggest one? You might think, Well, it's gotta be the temperature bucket—we're starting with a steak that's almost freezing-cold and bringing it up to boiling temperatures.

In fact, it's the evaporation bucket that is by far the biggest. It takes approximately five times more energy to evaporate a gram of water than it does to raise the temperature of that same gram of water from freezing to boiling. That's a big bucket! Moral of the story: Moisture is the biggest enemy of a good sear, so any process that can reduce the amount of surface moisture on a steak is going to improve how well it browns and crisps—and, by extension, minimize the amount of time it spends in the pan, thus minimizing the amount of overcooked meat underneath. It's a strange irony that to get the moistest possible results, you should start with the driest possible steak.
The reverse sear is aces at removing surface moisture. As the steak slowly comes up to temperature in the oven, its surface dries out, forming a thin, dry pellicle that browns extremely rapidly. Want to get your steak to brown even better? Set it on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, and leave it in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. The cool circulating air of the refrigerator will get it nice and dry. The next day, when you're ready to cook, just pop that whole rack and baking sheet in the oven.
Advantage #3: More Tender Meat

This one is not quite as obvious, but it can still make a detectable difference: enzymatic tenderization. Meat naturally contains enzymes called cathepsins, which will break down tough muscle protein. Their activity is responsible for the tenderness of dry-aged meat (see our complete guide to dry-aging here). At fridge temperatures, they operate very, very slowly—dry-aged meat is typically aged for at least four weeks—but, as the meat heats up, their activity increases more and more rapidly, until it drops off sharply at around 122°F (50°C). By slowly heating your steak, you are, in effect, rapidly "aging" it, so that it comes out more tender. Steaks cooked via traditional means pass quickly through that window, reaching the 122°F cutoff point too rapidly for this activity to have any real effect.
Advantage #4: It's More Forgiving, Too

When you're cooking steak at a high temperature, you have a very narrow window of time in which the center of that steak is a perfect medium-rare. A minute too short, and your steak is raw; a minute too long, and it's overcooked. With slow cooking, that window of time is greatly expanded, making it much easier to nail the right temperature time after time. Meathead Goldwyn, author of Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue, likens it to shooting an arrow at a tortoise versus shooting at a rabbit: The slower it moves, the easier it is to hit.
Disadvantages of Reverse-Searing

I'll admit it: Reverse-searing is not all rosy-pink centers. There are three key disadvantages to the process.
The first is time. It's much faster to simply season a steak and throw it in a hot pan, flipping it every so often until it's cooked. The second disadvantage is that steaks cooked via the reverse sear produce almost no fond, the browned bits that get stuck to the pan and form the base for pan sauces. So, if you want a sauce with your reverse-seared steak, you'll have to construct it separately.
This second disadvantage is, of course, not really much of a disadvantage. The fact that there's no fond in the pan means that all that stuff is stuck firmly in your meat already. You'll probably find that a reverse-seared steak needs no sauce at all.
Finally, the method doesn't work very well for steaks thinner than an inch and a half or so, since they end up cooking through too quickly. If a two-inch-thick steak sounds too big for you, I'd suggest serving a single large steak for every two eaters.
What About Sous Vide?
It's true that the reverse sear was initially intended to mimic the effects of sous vide cooking, but as it turns out, the method is actually superior in one important way: searing. Sous vide steaks come out of their bags wet, which makes it very difficult to get a good sear on them, even if you carefully pat them dry. A steak cooked via the reverse sear will come out with a better crust, and thus a deeper, roastier flavor. That said, sous vide is even more foolproof than reverse-searing. It's virtually impossible to overcook a steak when cooking it sous vide, so if consistency is your goal, sous vide should be your cooking method of choice. (You can check out my complete guide to sous vide steaks here.)
Once you let go of reverse-seared notions about cooking steak, I guarantee that you won't want to use anything but the traditional method to cook your meat in the future.
Wait—strike that. Reverse it.

Black Professor Says It’s Welfare, Not Slavery, That Decimated US Black Families

We have been engaged in a huge social experiment in which a huge number of children grow up without the nuclear family supporting them.  This would not be a problem if they were also part of a natural community of 150 able to share in child care and in providing healthy role models.

Instead our children are literally bringing themselves up with all the potential for immature choices.  Back in the day this problem was typically part of a very large family in a few cases.  Now it is a common problem in which adolescents run free and naturally infect friends as well.

The result is unprepared adults unable to truly progress. 

Again the solution is using the natural community to end poverty.  It takes both physical engineering and social engineering along with the rule of twelve and an internal economy to have this thrive.

Black Professor Says It’s Welfare, Not Slavery, That Decimated US Black Families


S. Noble

September 26, 2017

“The undeniable truth is that neither slavery nor Jim Crow nor the harshest racism has decimated the black family the way the welfare state has,” said George Mason professor Walter Williams in his column for The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

There is little evidence to support the idea that slavery, racial discrimination and poverty caused the problems of today’s black Americans, the economics professor wrote.

The number one problem is the weak family structure:

In 1960, just 22 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families.

Fifty years later, more than 70 percent of black children were raised in single-parent families.

According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children were born to unwed mothers. Today about 75 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. That can’t be a legacy of slavery, it can’t be some delayed reaction.

As Professor Williams said, the bottom line is that the black family was stronger the first 100 years after slavery than during what will be the second 100 years.

All blacks were poor originally but now 30 percent are poor. Two-parent black families are rarely poor.

Only 8 percent of black married-couple families live in poverty. Among black families in which both the husband and wife work full time, the poverty rate is under 5 percent. Poverty in black families headed by single women is 37 percent.

It’s the welfare state that decimated the black family, he concludes.

What if base-10 arithmetic had been discovered earlier?

 We take our arithmetic for granted, but it was never trivial.  It obviously circulated among scholars only from India through to Europe when i presume it got picked up by Italian bankers in the Renaissance in the fourteenth century.

Without the arithmetic, the zero is not too obvious an improvement and was easily dispensed with.  If not easily, it was still possible to get by.  Worse, calculation is something that once learned becomes conservative.  For example, no one studies Mayan calculation and it is much easier.

The usefulness of our arithmetic in preparing the mathematical mind itself is also not easily understood. It is just there allowing easy leaps forward.

In practical terms, arithmetic using the zero was a European cultural discovery and made the nascent art of science work to say nothing of double entry book keeping which delights in the application of zero..

What if base-10 arithmetic had been discovered earlier?
[Note: A condensed and revised version of this article was published here in The Conversation, an online forum of academic research headquartered in Melbourne, Australia.]


Monumental inventions of history can be grouped into three categories: (a) those whose origin is well known and well appreciated; (b) those whose origin is completely lost to history; and (c) those who origin may be known, at least in general terms, but which are not very well appreciated in modern society. Among those in the first category are efficient steam engines (by James Watt in 1765), movable-type printing (by the Chinese inventor Bi Sheng in 1040 CE, although often credited to Gutenberg), and of course Newton’s apple — even if it is in part apocryphal. Among those in the second category are the invention of writing and the wheel, both of which predate recorded history. Among those in the third category is the invention of paper by the Chinese court official Cai Lun in 105 CE. While this invention has had enormous impact through history, up to and certainly including our information age, it has been granted only scant attention in western histories. One exception is [Hart1978], where Cai Lun is ranked as the seventh most influential person in history.

Here we wish to consider another item in the under-appreciated third category: the discovery of our modern system of positional decimal arithmetic with zero (including calculation schemes similar to those that we learned in grade school), which was developed in India at least by 500 CE and probably earlier.

Let us recall exactly what we mean. The counting numbers 1,2,3, … were found by all civilizations, but zero (nothing) seems to have originated independently in India and central America (by the Mayans). Positional arithmetic can be in decimal (for us) or binary (for computers). The main idea is that you do not need new symbols for tens, hundreds, thousands etc such as X, C, M in Roman notation. The Mayans got close but not close enough to allow for modern arithmetic.

Perhaps because we all learn decimal arithmetic at an early age, and thus presume it to be “trivial,” this discovery is given disappointingly brief mention in most western histories of mathematics. Yet is indisputably one of the most important discoveries of all time. As 19th century mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace explained it all started in India:
It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by means of ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit. But its very simplicity and the great ease which it has lent to all computations put our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions; and we shall appreciate the grandeur of this achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity. [Durant1954, pg. 527]
French Historian Georges Ifrah  compares its significance to writing or the wheel:
Now that we can stand back from the story, the birth of our modern number-system seems a colossal event in the history of humanity, as momentous as the mastery of fire, the development of agriculture, or the invention of writing, of the wheel, or of the steam engine. [Ifrah2000, pg. 346-347]
As Laplace noted, decimal arithmetic is anything but “trivial,” since it eluded the best minds of the ancient world, even superhuman geniuses such as Archimedes. Archimedes saw far beyond the mathematics of his time, even anticipating numerous key ideas of modern calculus. Nonetheless he used a cumbersome Greek numeral system for calculations. Archimedes’ computation of pi to two decimal place accuracy, a tour de force of ancient mathematics, was performed without either positional notation or trigonometry [Netz2007].

Perhaps one reason this discovery gets so little attention today is that it is very hard for us to appreciate the enormous difficulty of using Greco-Roman numerals, counting tables and abacuses. Along this line, in the 16th century, a wealthy German merchant, consulting a scholar regarding which European university offered the best education for his son, was told the following:
If you only want him to be able to cope with addition and subtraction, then any French or German university will do. But if you are intent on your son going on to multiplication and division — assuming that he has sufficient gifts — then you will have to send him to Italy. [Ifrah2000, pg. 577]
Discovery and proliferation of decimal arithmetic

So who exactly discovered decimal arithmetic? One person who deserves at least some credit is the Indian mathematician Aryabhata, who in 499 CE presented schemes not only for various arithmetic operations, but also for square roots and cube roots. Additionally, he gave a decimal value of pi = 3.1416, correct to four digits. A statue of Aryabhata, on display at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune, India, is shown in Figure 1.

An earlier document that exhibits familiarity with full decimal arithmetic, including zero and positional notation, is the Lokavibhaga (“Parts of the Universe”), which provides detailed astronomical data that enable modern scholars to confirm that it was written on 25 August 458 CE (Julian calendar). Another ancient source is the Bakhshali manuscript. Although there is some disagreement among scholars, it appears to be a 7-8th century copy and commentary of a slightly older mathematical treatise.

Statue of the Indian mathematician Aryabhata
Decimal arithmetic likely originated even earlier in ancient India. Even by 300 BCE, Indian scholars exhibited remarkable facility with computation, based on extant writings. For instance, a documented dated roughly 300 BCE, after erroneously assuming that pi is the square root of ten, gives a value of the square root of ten that is accurate to 12 digit precision [Bailey2011]. In any event, it is clear that India was the home to this pivotal event of mathematical history (although it may have based on some earlier developments in China).

The Indian system of decimal arithmetic was first introduced in Europe by Gerbert of Aurillac in the tenth century. He traveled to Spain to learn about the system first-hand from Arab scholars, then was the first Christian to teach decimal arithmetic, all prior to his brief reign as Pope Sylvester II (999-1002 CE) [Brown2010, pg. 5]. Little progress was made at the time, though, in part because of clerics who, in the wake of the crusades, later rumored that Sylvester II had been a sorcerer and had sold his soul to Lucifer during his travels to Islamic Spain. These accusations persisted until 1648, when papal authorities who reopened his tomb reported that Sylvester’s body had not, as suggested in historical accounts, been dismembered in penance for Satanic practices [Brown2010, pg. 236].

In 1202 CE, Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci, reintroduced the Indian system into Europe with his book Liber Abaci [Devlin2011]. However, usage of the system remained limited for many years, in part because the scheme was considered “diabolical,” due in part to the mistaken impression that it originated in the Arab world. Decimal arithmetic began to be widely used by scientists beginning in the 1400s, and was employed, for instance, by Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton, but it was not universally used in European commerce until 1800, at least 1300 years after its discovery.

What if…?

Many readers may be familiar with the growing genre of “alternate history.” These semi-historical, semi-fictional works explore various possibilities that events took different branches at certain critical junctures. What would have happened if Islamic forces, instead of the Franks, had prevailed in the pivotal Battle of Tours in 732 CE? Or if Harold II, instead of William of Normandy, had prevailed in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 CE? Or if Adolf Hitler had not diverted his forces to Russia in 1940, but had instead pursued the Battle of Britain until he prevailed? Much of this literature is highly speculative, but there is a valid premise here: human affairs and human history are highly contingent, and a slight turn of events at one epoch can have enormous impact in the years and centuries to come.

So it is with the history of science and technology. Historians now widely recognize that the emergence of European nations as leaders of science and technology during the past 400 years was hardly inevitable. Indeed, the underlying factors remain matters of controversy. After all, China was the most advanced nation, politically and technologically, from about 500 CE until 1400 CE, when they (for reasons still not fully understood) turned inwards and began to discourage exploration and scientific advancement. Similarly, the Islamic nations of the Middle East were the principal centers of scientific and mathematical progress during the period 900-1200 CE. They deserve special credit for preserving and transmitting the Greek classics to the West, particularly since we now know that the Graeco-Roman world was capable of great technological sophistication.

So let us indulge in some alternate history with regards to the history of mathematics in general and decimal arithmetic in particular:

1. What if a cultural connection had been made between pre-Christian-era Indian mathematicians and, say, Archimedes and his colleagues? Very likely Archimedes would have adopted with glee the slick computational schemes then being developed by the Indian scholars, and very likely the Indian scholars would have studied with great interest the impressive logical edifice of Greek geometry. Such an exchange would doubtless have enhanced both worlds, resulting in a synthesis that combined the deductive foundation of Greek mathematics with the unlimited exploratory power of Indian computation. The contemporary scholar George Joseph makes this very clear.
The concept of [ancient] mathematics found outside the Graeco-European praxis was very different. The aim was not to build an imposing edifice on a few self-evident axioms but to validate a result by any suitable method. Some of the most impressive work in Indian and Chinese mathematics, … such as the summations of mathematical series, or the use of Pascal’s triangle in solving higher-order numerical equations or the derivations of infinite series, or “proofs” of the so-called Pythagorean theorem, involve computations and visual demonstrations that were not formulated with reference to any formal deductive system. [Joseph2010, pg. xiii]
2. Failing contingency #1, what if the writings of Indian mathematicians Aryabhata and/or his brilliant successor Bhaskara I had reached Europe in 500 CE or 600 CE, instead of much later? If this had happened, and if scholars had used this as a springboard not only for developing science but also further cultural exchanges between East and West, it is likely that much of the turmoil of the “dark ages” in Europe would have been avoided. Indeed, potentially the development of the modern era could have been moved forward by nearly a full millennium.

3. Failing #1 and #2, what if Pope Sylvester II had lived another 10 or 20 years, instead of dying in 1002 after a brief and turbulent three-year reign (some say he was poisoned [Durant1954, pg. 538-541])? As contemporary historian Nancy Brown has noted, Sylvester II was, quite literally, the Pope who brought the light of science to the dark ages [Brown2010]. After all, for at least 200 years prior to his reign, and for at least 200 years afterwards, European history in general and the Papacy in particular were marked by continual warfare and intrigue, with little opportunity for scholarship and science to flourish.

As we mentioned above, Sylvester II studied decimal arithmetic first-hand from Islamic scholars in Spain, and was the first scholar to teach decimal arithmetic in Europe. If this remarkable mathematician-Pope had lived longer, he may well have been an agent of major historical change, incorporating not only Indian arithmetic but also many aspects of Greek and Islamic culture into European society, thus accelerating the Renaissance and the development of modern science and technology by several centuries. At the least, such a cultural exchange may well have forestalled the crusades and the resulting animosity between Christian and Islamic peoples that remains to the present day.

One conclusion that is clear from history is that mathematics matters. Without advanced mathematics (and arithmetic), progress in science and technology is not possible. Yet it is also clear that mathematics is not sufficient. The prodigious computational abilities of ancient Indian mathematicians were not translated into technology. Why? No one knows for sure. Similarly, while nearly as advanced mathematics was developed in China at the time, and China certainly did advance during medieval times, nonetheless at some point the Chinese nation decided not to further pursue science or technology, and as a result fell into a doldrums of sorts from which it did not fully extricate itself until the 20th century.

The lesson for our time is clear — we ignore or downplay mathematics and science at our peril. Let us hope that in the current worldwide economic downturn, that governmental bodies will not forsake research funding for mathematics and science, nor turn their backs on technology, but instead will recognize that mathematics, science and technology are the pathways to the future.


[Bailey2011] David H. Bailey and Jonathan M. Borwein, “Ancient Indian square roots: An exercise in forensic paleo-mathematics,” July 2011, available at Online article.
[Brown2010] Nancy M. Brown, The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages, Basic Books, New York, 2010.
[Dantzig2007] Tobias Dantzig and Joseph Mazur, Number: The Language of Science, Plume, New York, 2007. This is a reprint, with Preface by Mazur, of Dantzig’s book as originally published by MacMillan in 1930.
[Devlin2011] Keith Devlin, The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution, Walker and Company, New York, 2011.
[Durant1935] Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, vol. 1 of The Story of Civilization, 11 vols., Simon and Schuster, New York, 1935.
[Durant1950] Will Durant, The Age of Faith, vol. 4 of The Story of Civilization, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1950.
[Hart1978] Michael H. Hart, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Hart Publishing Company, 1978.
[Ifrah2000] Georges Ifrah, The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer, translated by David Vellos, E. F. Harding, Sophie Wood and Ian Monk, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 2000.
[Joseph2010] George G. Joseph, The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots
of Mathematics, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2010.
[Netz2007] Reviel Netz and William Noel, The Archimedes Codex, Da Capo Press, 2007.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Arctic sea ice mass has grown almost 40% since 2012

Image: Don’t look now, but Arctic sea ice mass has grown almost 40% since 2012

We had a decade of heating brought on by an el nino event in 1998. the heat release from that culminated in the ice collapse of 2012.  That has been followed by Ice rebuilding now sufficient to return the Arctic to its original regime.

So far we have not seen a real return to medieval conditions.  That must be seen as disappointing.

The real problem is that we are now expecting a chilled decade or three.  That will be negative in terms of agriculture as weather risks increase..

Don’t look now, but Arctic sea ice mass has grown almost 40% since 2012

(Natural News) One of the most popular pieces of “evidence” that climate alarmists just love to bring up to prove the global warming narrative is the “all the ice is melting in the Arctic and the polar bears are dying” line. We’ve all seen the documentaries where a polar bear is desperately clinging to a tiny piece of ice and you just know he’s going to die soon. But is any of it really true? What does the latest science really say about the ice in the Arctic circle?

Earlier this month, Climate Depot reported that the latest figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, located at the University of Colorado, show that sea ice extent has increased by 40 percent since 2012.

The Danish Polar Portal, which monitors ice and climate in the Arctic, reported on the 12th of September this year:

There has been quite some discussion about Greenland in the climate blogosphere this year. Heavy snow and rain in winter with a relatively short and intermittent summer melt season have left the Greenland ice sheet with more ice than has been usual over the last twenty years – in fact we have to go back to the 1980s and 90s to see a year similar to this one in terms of snow fall and ice melt, though perhaps not for iceberg calving. …

If we rank the annual surface mass balance since 1981 from low to high, the lowest on record was 2011-2012 (38 Gt) and this year is the 5th highest out of the 37 year record. The highest on record 1995-1996 had an end of year SMB of 619 Gt in our records. [Emphasis added]

In fact, Greenland experienced a 10 times higher level of surface ice than it did five years ago. And confirming that this is not a fluke occurrence taking place in only one year, Greenland’s most well-known glacier – the Petermann Glacier – has been growing slowly and steadily for the past five years.

As you can see from the chart below, the sea ice growth for 2016 – 2017 is much higher than the mean from 1981 – 2010:

This has been the pattern in the Arctic over the last few years. Back in 2015, BBC News reported that Arctic ice had grown by a staggering 30 percent after what they called an “unusually cool summer” – unusual indeed, if the global warming narrative is to be believed. That trajectory continued into 2014, and the increases in ice for those two years exceeded all recorded losses in the preceding three years. 

That 30 percent constituted a massive amount of physical land area – the Daily Mail reported at the time that a cooler Arctic summer had left over 530,000 additional square miles of ice than the previous year.

Astoundingly, the mainstream media, in spite of having this information at their fingertips, continues to spout the same old global warming nonsense.

In the very same BBC article cited earlier, for example, the writer immediately insisted that “2013 was a one-off” and went on to stress that the Arctic region had warmed more than most other places on Earth over the past three decades. (Related: Discover the truth at

It’s understandable that a trend of continuous heating for 30 years would raise concerns, but by the same token, a continuous cooling trend over the last five years must also be taken into consideration. Scientists are supposed to go where the evidence takes them, not try to keep editing the evidence to fit a predetermined outcome.

It’s like scientists, governments and the mainstream media have all decided that the Earth is warming, and now there’s no turning back. No matter what the physical evidence shows, they’re all just going to save face by insisting that they were right all along.

Sources include:

Traditional Marriage Would Truly Shock Our Ancestors, But Not For The Reason You Think





For the record, modernity is very much a work in progress and far from being over. Thus marriage as an institution is been changed and altered as needful and can be ultimately expected to sort itself out.  There have also been plenty of experiments as well with spotty outcomes.

The ideal marriage sees two lovers commit to each other and then work assiduously to perfect their relationship through the birth and care of children and the hormonal cycle as well.  If this sounds difficult, it is.

Add in economic issues imported from the two families and you apply another layer of stress.

The historical situation was radically different.  To start with, all were subject to master slave arrangements however argued.  Thus real choice was scant.  At best you had the choice to beat your wife or to verbally abuse your husband with no escape for either.  Thus injecting modern mores is simply wrong.

Yet i do think that the ideal was largely understood and more often lived up to than understood at all times in settled history.  Barbarous bands are quite a different story and generally small enough for the women to essentially share the men as their sudden death was to be expected...  

Traditional Marriage Would Truly Shock Our Ancestors, But Not For The Reason You Think
Marriage in the old days wasn't what you thought!

by Lisa M. Douglas 

Ahh, marriage. It evokes visions of a sweet young couple, standing side by side, loving each other while dreaming of being surrounded by many children until their last, dying days. Your family probably hopes and prays that you will be blessed with such a beautiful union...yet history shows they should be careful what they wish for! 

Biblically, a traditional marriage has been defined by “a state instituted and ordained by God for the lifelong relationship between one man as husband and one woman as wife.” However, your ancestors hoped for in a “traditional marriage” isn’t quite the roses and white picket fence that they believe it to be. Even though the definition of marriage as “an agreement between two people” has never changed, if you take a look into history it seems as though the idea of traditional marriage has. 


Manuscript Chroniques de France ou de St. Denis, British Library Here are 15 surprising facts about marriage in the old days that may leave traditionalists shaken to their core. 

People didn’t marry for love. In “traditional marriage," love was considered a childish notion that had no place in a marriage. A conservative once predicted that marrying for love would destroy the institution. 

AFP / LEON NEAL In ancient Rome it was believed to be inappropriate for husbands and wives to be in love; Seneca, the philosopher, said that there was nothing more impure than a man loving his wife like a mistress. The advice in the 1700s was to get married to someone you could tolerate—progress! But it wasn’t until the 1920s that people started marrying for love en masse, coining the term “love marriage." 

People weren’t happy to get married. Loving, blissful commitment wasn’t exactly synonymous with the true traditional marriage our ancient ancestors experienced. Why? Marriage was an arrangement that many were forced into. 

Four thousand years ago in Mesopotamia, marriage was equivalent to slavery; in the year 400 A.D. many church officials actually opposed marriage describing it as “bondage.” 

People didn’t get married to have babies. People got married for so many reasons! Because they were lonely, because their family needed a goat, because their parents couldn’t afford to feed them any longer, because they needed to strengthen their political position, or because a brother’s wife died and he needed a new one. 


The National Gallery Procreation was often a consequence of being married but it’s been proven that it often wasn’t the main goal, especially for families that weren't of the noble classes, who had large inheritances to think about.

The women didn’t have a say. A blissful, traditional marriage is depicted as the husband and wife discussing issues and forming to decisions together for the good of their family. In a "traditional marriage,” this was not so. 


British Library During American colonial times, William Blackstone stated that the “very existence of a woman is suspended during a marriage” and that she ceased to exist as a person without thought or voice. Basically, once she married, the woman’s job was to obey, cater to, and heed the word of her husband. Let's hope nobody's aiming for that in marriage these days, religious or not. 

The woman didn’t have any rights. In a “traditional marriage”, not only did a woman not have a say in family decisions, she didn’t have any rights either. 

Grand Ladies 

 After centuries of prejudice, finally in 1971, Ruth Bader Ginsberg fought for a woman’s rights within a marriage; this led to the abolishment of the existing law that during a dispute, males must be preferred to females. Furthermore, it was only in 1979 when head and master laws were abolished in most states, which stated that a husband could do whatever he wanted with his house, his family, and his wife and her possessions. 

People didn’t have sex (and babies) with only their spouses. In Biblical times, not only was polygamy not illegal, it was considered a man’s right to have multiple wives and mistresses. 

Jewish Museum / Getty Images 

For example, Abraham had two wives and a concubine, Khaleb had five, Moses a mere two, but King Solomon had over 1,000 (though 300 were considered to be concubines)! Monogamy is actually a relatively new, Western invention. 

It was hardly a bed of roses. The loving visions of a man serving and caring for his wife just weren’t reality centuries ago. Women were seen as property and meant for specific purposes. 

  Throughout time though, some mercy was shown to wives, as shown by Bernard of Siena in the 15th century, who instructed men to be kind and have as much compassion for their wives as they would a chicken or a pig. Talk about a low bar. Since a wife was considered her husband’s possession, he could do what he saw fit with her. This often involved “keeping her in line” through physical means. In his Corpus Jurius, Emperor Justinian suggested that it may not be right to beat your wife, but if you happened to see a reason to do it, you would just have to pay her afterwards. No biggie, right? 


 Thankfully, by the late 1800s, this practice became more outdated; South Carolina was the first state to disallow the beating of wives. In 1920, it was outlawed nationwide. Now if only those crimes would be properly prosecuted and women were rightfully protected from their abusers. 

It wasn’t always an agreement between two people in love. It was only in the 13th century that Pope Alexander IV changed the laws and made marriage a sacrament between two people by taking it out of the hands of parents and putting it into the hands of the two participating (and—mostly—willing) parties. 


Sofi / Flickr Before this, families viewed marriage as a bargaining tool to get what they needed, disregarding the feelings or desires of the individuals who were going to be married. In 500 A.D., Emperor Justinian passed a law allowing fathers to give away their daughters as young as 7 years old, thereby ensuring the family that their needs would be met early on. 


Wikimedia Arranged marriages weren’t the only third-party agreements that were made, sadly. Many women found themselves in unique instances in which it would be required for them to be married. If a woman was raped, she would often have to marry her rapist; if her sister’s husband was left a widow, she would have to marry her late sister’s husband. The illusion of choice is hardly new for women. 

Women didn’t necessarily choose to be intimate with their husbands. In a traditional marriage, it could rightly be assumed that a wife would have the choice to be intimate with her husband. Not so! 


In 1736, Jurist Sir Mathew Hale declared that a wife couldn’t be raped, because in marriage, a woman gave up all rights to her body. Her husband could do whatever he wanted with it. Shockingly, as recent as 1993, the last states finally passed laws disallowing a man to force himself on his wife. Of course, it still happens all the time, and it's quite hard to prosecute. 

You weren’t allowed to hold hands and show you loved each other. In your mom’s view of traditional marriage, hugging and holding hands would be acceptable public displays of affection. However, in true traditional times, these were considered vile and severely frowned upon. 

AFP / ROBYN BECK In fact, Plutar called it disgraceful when a Roman senator was caught kissing his wife in public—it was such a scandal that the senator was forced to back down from his position.
People didn’t stay together forever. Although the church tried really hard to keep people together by making it truly hard to divorce, people have been getting out of their unhappy arrangements for hundreds of years. 

Granger In early Mesopotamia, Hammurabi's code gave husbands alternate options by stating instances in which they could get a refund on their spouse if they were unhappy. Both the Greeks and the Romans allowed divorce as well. Thanks to Henry VIII breaking from the Catholic church and founding his own church, just to marry Anne Boleyn, the people of Britain were forced to be okay with it. That rule often only applied to him and his (six!) marriages, though—convenient, huh? 

  By the 1800s, divorce was so common in the U.S. that the government opened an investigation into the matter and by the early 1900s, society was sure that marriage would soon be obsolete. Though the divorce rate increased throughout the 20th century, it's started to decline, with 2016 having the lowest American divorces on record since 1980. Maybe these millennials and their wacky ideas of marriage are actually doing something right...


This content is not yet available over encrypted connections.