Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Quantum Field Theory - Richard Feynman (1918-1988)

A “field" in physics is a region of space in which there is some physical influence on objects. Examples include gravitational and magnetic fields. A field theory therefore describes how these fields behave, and how objects interact with the fields they are in.  One of the founders of quantum mechanics, Paul Dirac, published several papers in the late 1920s showing how quantum theory could be combined with James Clerk Maxwell's field theory of electromagnetism, as well as with Einstein's special theory of relativity. What he produced was the first "quantized" field theory, which described how electrons and photons, the particles of light, interact with each other.
After a promising start, quantum field theory had a rough time during the 1930s and 1940s when it was plagued by mathematical difficulties.  These were finally sorted out when, in 1949, several physicists, including the great Richard Feynman, produced quantum electrodynamics, or QED, for short. Later, this theory was used to combine the electromagnetic force with another of the four forces of nature-the weak nuclear force. This development became known as the electroweak theory. A separate quantum field theory, known as quantum chromodynamics, has also been developed to describe the strong nuclear force. Only the fourth and final force of nature-gravity-has, thus far, resisted attempts to be quantized.

by Jim Al-Khalili, 30 Second Theory

Schrodinger’s Cat - Edwin Schrodinger (1887-1961)

In the mid-1930s the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger proposed a thought experiment to highlight how crazy quantum mechanics was. He suggested taking a box in which we place a cat, some lethal poison, and a radioactive source. According to quantum mechanics we cannot say, unless we are checking, whether a radioactive atom has broken apart, or decayed, within a given time, so we must describe it as having both decayed and not decayed at the same time. Only when we check do we force it to be one or the other.
Inside Schrodinger's box, the experiment is designed so that any decayed atom will have spat out a particle that triggers the release of the poison, killing the cat. Since the cat, said Schrodinger, is also made up of atoms (albeit trillions of them) then it too is presumably subject to the laws of quantum mechanics. So, until we open the box to look, we must describe the cat as being both dead and alive at the same time. Only when we open the box do we force everything inside into one or other state.

by Jim Al-Khalili, 30 Second Theory

Athena / Minerva

Athena was born as a by-product of Zeus' attempt to retain his throne after hearing that the son born to his first wife, Metis, would unseat him. His response was to swallow Metis, who was pregnant with Athena at the time. The child remained stuck inside Zeus until an ax-wielding Hephaestus or, in some versions, Prometheus struck open his head and the fully-grown Athena leapt out, wearing flashing armor, to the astonishment of the assembled gods. Cosmic chaos ensued until, by removing her weapons, Athena restored normality. Athena took possession of her favorite city, Athens, when her gift of the first olive tree was preferred to the salt spring created by her rival, Poseidon. Her tie to Athens was strengthened through her involvement in the birth of Erichthonius, one of its ancestral heroes. When she went to Hephaestus to ask him to make weapons, he attempted to rape her. During their struggle Hephaestus' semen fell to the ground and a child, Erichthonius ("very-earthy"), emerged from the fertilized earth. Gaia, the earth goddess, handed the child to Athena, who then reared him. Athena was credited with numerous inventions, including the flute, the ship, the horse-bit, the plow, and the chariot.
by Susan Deacy, 30 Second Mythology  

Aphrodite / Venus

Aphrodite means "born of foam" (from the Greek aphros). She was created when the Titan Cronus threw the mutilated genitals of his father, Uranus, into the sea, where they foamed and boiled, and out of which, on the shores of Cyprus, appeared Aphrodite-a beautiful, young woman, carried on a scallop shell. An alternative version maintains that she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione, an avatar of the earth goddess.
Aphrodite can be taken as either the source or the manifestation of the overwhelming and often destructive power of love. Realizing that her beauty would bring trouble, Zeus married her to the ugly and crippled Hephaestus, who, rather counterproductively, created for her a magical, jeweled girdle that made her even more irresistible. Aphrodite had affairs with gods and mortals indiscriminately. She enjoyed liaisons with the mortal Trojan prince Anchises, resulting in the birth of Aeneas, and with the god Hermes, resulting in the birth of Hermaphroditus. She also had a long dalliance with Adonis. Her longest affair was with Ares (Mars), out of which she gave birth to Eros, the armed god of sexual desire whose indiscriminate arrows explain or express the capriciousness and painfulness of love.

by Viv Croot, 30 Second Mythology

Thursday, August 22, 2013

the Uncertainity Principle - Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976)

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a statement about the way quantum objects, such as atoms and the smaller particles inside atoms, behave. It was developed in i927 by Werner Heisenberg, and so bears his name. The principle states that we can never know exactly where an electron, say, is located, while at the same time knowing exactly how fast it is moving. Either property-its speed or position -can be measured to infinite accuracy in principle, provided we sacrifice any knowledge of the other. This is not a shortcoming of our understanding of the workings of nature, nor is it due to the sheer minuteness of an electron, but is simply the way electrons are. In fact, it has nothing really to do with us at all. The electron itself does not have a well-determined position and speed. The best we can do is to identify a region in which the electron is likely to be moving.
Another way of stating the uncertainty principle is in terms of energy and time. We can measure the exact energy of a particle, provided we do not care about when it has this energy. Conversely, if we fix the time of measurement exactly, then we give up any hope of finding out how much energy it has.

by Jim Al-Khalili, 30 Second Theory

Demeter / Ceres

The daughter of Cronus and Rhea, Demeter (meaning "earth mother") was one of the earliest Olympians. She oversaw the growth of crops and all aspects of fertility, including childbirth. Her daughter, Persephone (Roman Proserpina), was abducted by Hades and became queen of the underworld. Griefstricken, Demeter stopped all growth across the earth. As she searched for her daughter, she disguised herself as an old woman. She spent some time in Eleusis, where, in gratitude, she tried to bestow immortality on the king's infant son, Dernophon-an effort that backfired.
She continued her search until she discovered Persephone's whereabouts and demanded her release. As a compromise, Zeus allowed Persephone to spend part of the year with Demeter and part with Hades, providing a mythological reason for the changing seasons.

In a more sublime sense, Demeter and Persephone were worshipped in the Eleusinian Mysteries (secret initiation ceremonies) as goddesses who eased the transition between life and death. Although she was generally seen as a benevolent figure, she could be dangerous if insulted. When Erysichthon cut down trees in her sacred grove, Demeter punished him with an insatiable craving for food. He ate and ate but remained insatiable.
by Emma Griffiths, 30 Second Mythology

Artemis / Diana

Artemis, identified by the Romans with Diana, was the very dangerous goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, and later the moon. She was responsible for the mysterious deaths of women. Her parents were Zeus and the nymph Leto, and she is often shown with her bow and arrows and her twin brother Apollo, who was her constant companion. Hera, furious at Zeus' infidelity with Leto, commanded that she could give birth on no place "that saw the light of day." Delos, at the center of the Cyclades, was a floating island, bobbing beneath the surface. There the suffering Leto gave birth to Artemis, who then immediately helped to deliver her brother.
She was thus recognized as protecting women in childbirth. When Artemis was bathing, the hunter Actaeon saw her naked. Offended and ashamed, she transformed him into a stag.

Actaeon's own dogs, not recognizing their master, tore him to pieces. Niobe thought she was better than Leto because she had seven boys and seven girls, whereas Leto gave birth only to Artemis and Apollo. In response, Apollo killed her sons with his arrows, and Artemis shot her daughters. Devastated, Niobe turned into a stone that even now is said to weep in the mountains of western Turkey.
by Barry Powell, 30 Second Mythology

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Homer - Greek poet

Although he is among the best-known ancient Greek poets and the author of two of the most influential epic poems in Western literature - the Iliad and the Odyssey - little is known about Homer. He might have been born on the island of Chios, or at Smyrna on the coast of Turkey. There was an ancient tradition that he was blind (in some dialects the word omeros is associated with blindness).
Herodotus was insistent that Homer predated him by some 400 years, which puts Homer at around 850 BCE. Others maintain that Homer was an eyewitness (blind or sighted) to the Trojan War and therefore must have lived in the 12th century BCE. A third possibility is that there was more than one Homer, just as there might have been more than one Hesiod. The ancients almost uniformly assumed a single Homer, and the suggestion of multiple authors became popular only as part of the rise of modern critical approaches to ancient texts of all kinds. The problems of the authorship of more than one work are common, such as with the many letters attributed to St. Paul. One of Homer's famous translators, Samuel Butler, argued that Homer might have been a woman.

While scholars in the 20th century came mostly to return to the ancient view of a single Homer, everyone grants that the two works present differing views of the relations among the gods and of the relations between gods and humans. Still, both works assume a common view of the place of the gods and of Fate in human affairs. Both works emphasize the unhappy nature of life after death in Hades. At the same time both works stress the need for the burial of the dead. Above all, both works, though especially the Iliad, are about aristocrats and not about ordinary Greeks or Trojans,
Both epics, like other ancient works, were originally oral and were written down only later. Some scholars maintain that the works were standardized in the eighth century BCE, others that they became standardized in the seventh century BCE and were written down in the sixth century. The Greek alphabet was established in the eighth century BCE, so, that the poems could not have been written down any earlier. Doubtless the Iliad, which is about the origin and the last year of the Trojan War, was composed earlier than the Odyssey, which is about Odysseus' return home following the end of the war. But who Homer was and, even now, how many Homers there were are still debated by classicists.

by Barry Powell, 30 Second Mythology

Thursday, August 08, 2013


The ever youthful Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, and was the twin brother of Artemis. Before being integrated into the Olympian family, Apollo was feared by the regions of the earth and by the gods Only Delos-a floating island that could claim not to be, strictly, a "land" -was willing to host his birth. Seeming to bear out a prophecy that he would "greatly lord it among gods and mortal men" (Homeric Hymn to Apollo), Apollo, upon arriving at the house of Zeus, stretched his bow. In fear, the other gods left their thrones till Leto disarmed him. Apollo's achievements included his victory over the serpent Python, the previous ruler of Delphi.  The site thereafter became his foremost place of worship. In response to slights upon his mother's honor, Apollo took joint vengeance with his twin and fellow archer, Artemis. When Niobe boasted that she was more fertile than Leto, the pair shot and killed her children.
Among his other deeds were ones for which he incurred punishment. For slaying the Cyclopes, for instance, Zeus made him spend a year tending the livestock of the mortal Admetus.

by Susan Deacy, 30 Second Mythology

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Constitution and its Worshippers

by Jill Lepore
It is written in an elegant, clerical hand, on four sheets of parchment, each two feet wide and a bit more than two feet high, about the size of an eighteenth-century newspaper but finer, and made not from the pulp of plants but from the hide of an animal. Some of the ideas it contains reach across ages and oceans, to antiquity; more were, at the time, newfangled. ‘We the People,” the first three words of the preamble, are giant and Gothic: they slant left, and, because most of the rest of the words slant right, the writing zigzags. It took four months to debate and to draft, including two weeks to polish the prose, neat work done by a committee of style. By Monday, September 17,1787, it was ready. That afternoon, the Constitution of the United States of America was read out loud in a chamber on the first floor of Pennsylvania’s State House, where the delegates to the Federal Convention had assembled to subscribe their names to a new system of government, “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Then Benjamin Franklin rose from his chair, wishing to be heard. At eighty-one, he was too tired to make another speech, but he had written down what he wanted to say, and James Wilson, decades Franklin’s junior, read his remarks, which were addressed to George Washington, presiding. “Mr. President,” he began, “I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them.” Franklin liked to swaddle argument with affability, as if an argument were a colicky baby, the more forceful his argument, the more tightly he swaddled it. What he offered was a well-bundled statement about changeability. I find that there are errors here, he explained, but, who knows, someday I might change my mind; I often do. “For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better Information, or fuller Consideration, to change Opinions even on important Subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.” That people so often believe themselves to be right is no proof that they are; the only difference between the Church of Rome and the Church of England is that the former is infallible while the latter is never wrong. He hoped “that every member of the Convention who may still have Objections to it, would with me, ©n this occasion doubt a little of his own Infallibility, and to make manifest our Unanimity, put his name to this Instrument.” Although the document had its faults, he doubted that any other assembly would, at just that moment, have been able to draft a better one. “Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best.”

Three delegates refused to sign, but at the bottom of the fourth page appear the signatures of the rest. What was written on parchment was then made public, printed in newspapers and broadsheets, often with “We the People” set off in extra-large type. Meanwhile, the secretary of the convention carried the original to New York to present it to Congress, which met, at the time, at City Hall. Without either endorsing or opposing it, Congress agreed to forward the Constitution to the states, for ratification. The original Constitution was simply filed away and, later, shuffled from one place to another. When City Hall underwent renovations, the Constitution was transferred to the Department of State. The following year, it moved with Congress to Philadelphia and, in 1800, to Washington, where it was stored at the Treasury Department until it was shifted to the War Office. In 1814, three clerks stuffed it into a linen sack and carried it to a gristmill in Virginia, which was fortunate, because the British burned Washington down. In the eighteen-twenties, when someone asked James Madison where it was, he had no idea.
In 1875, the Constitution found a home in a tin box in the bottom of a closet in a new building that housed the Departments of State, War, and Navy. In 1894, it was sealed between glass plates and locked in a safe in the basement. In 1921, Herbert Putnam, a librarian, drove it across town in his Model T. In 1924, it was put on display in the Library of Congress, for the first time ever. Before then, no one had thought of that. It spent the Second World War at Fort Knox. In 1952, it was driven in an armored tank under military guard to the National Archives, where it remains, in a shrine in the rotunda, alongside the Declaration of lndependence and the Bill of Rights.

Ours is one of the oldest written constitutions in the world and the first, anywhere, to be submitted to the people for their approval. As Madison explained, the Constitution is “of no more consequence than the paper on which it is written, unless it be stamped with the approbation of those to whom it is addressed . . . THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES.” Lately, some say, it’s been thrown in the trash. “Stop Shredding Our Constitution!” Tea Party signs read. “FOUND in a DUMPSTER behind the Capitol,” read another, on which was pasted the kind of faux-parchment Constitution you can buy in the souvenir shop at any history-for-profit heritage site. I bought mine at Bunker Hill years back. It is printed on a single sheet of foolscap, and the writing is so small that it’s illegible; then again, the knickknack Constitution isn’t meant to be read. The National Archives sells a poster-size scroll, twenty- two inches by twenty-nine inches, that is a readable facsimile of the first page, for twelve dollars and ninety-five cents. This item is currently out of stock.
Parchment is beautiful. As an object, the Constitution has more in common with the Dead Sea Scrolls than with what we now think of as writing: pixels floating on a screen, words suspended in a digital cloud, bubbles of text. R we the ppl? Our words are vaporous. Not so the Constitution. “I have this crazy idea that the Constitution actually means something” one bumper sticker reads. Ye olde parchment serves as shorthand for everything old, real, durable, American, and true—a talisman held up against the uncertainties and abstractions of a meaningless, changeable, paperless age.

You can keep a constitution in your pocket, as Thomas Paine once pointed out. Pocket constitutions have been around since the seventeen-nineties. The Cato Institute prints 'a handsome Constitution, the size and appearance of a passport, available for four dollars and ninety-five cents. The National Center for Constitutional Studies, founded by W. Cleon Skousen, a rogue Mormon, John Bircher, and all-purpose conspiracy theorist, prints a stapled paper version, the dimensions of a datebook, thirty cents if you order a gross. I got mine, free, at a Tea Party meeting in Boston. Andrew Johnson, our first impeached President, was said to have waved around his pocket constitution so often that he resembled a newsboy hawking the daily paper. Crying constitution is a minor American art form. “This is my copy of the Constitution,” John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, said at a Tea Party rally in Ohio last year, holding up a pocket-size pamphlet. “And I’m going to stand here with the Founding Fathers, who wrote in the preamble, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ ” Not to nitpick, but this is not the preamble to the Constitution. It is the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence.
At some forty-four hundred words, not counting amendments, our Constitution is one of the shortest in the world, but few Americans have read it. A national survey taken this summer reported that seventy-two per cent of about a thousand people polled had never once read all forty-four hundred words. This proves no obstacle to cherishing it; eighty-six per cent of respondents said that the Constitution has “an impact on their daily lives.” The point of such surveys is that if more of us read the Constitution all of us would 'be better off; because we would demand that our elected officials abide by it, and we’d be able to tell when they weren’t doing so and punish them accordingly. “This is what happens when our Constitution starts shaking her fist,” Sarah Palin tweeted in October, about calls for an end to federal funding for National Public Radio, which she charged with violating the First Amendment by firing the commentator Juan Williams. “The American people’s voice was heard at the ballot box,” Boehner said on Election Night, and what the American people want is “a government that honors the Constitution.” Rand Paul thanked his parents, in his victory speech, “for teaching me to respect our Constitution.” Michelle Bachmann told ABC News that she plans to offer Constitution classes in the House. Glenn Beck asked his listeners to urge their representatives to join Bachmann’s constitutional caucus. Sharron Angle said that she took comfort in the knowledge that Harry Reid carries a copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket: ‘We want our senator to remember our Constitution, to read our Constitution, and to consider every bill that he votes for in light of that Constitution.” The Tea Party’s triumph, she said, amounts to this: ‘We’ve inspired a nation to take a look at that document and begin to read it.” Last week, when new lawmakers were sworn in, the Constitution was read out loud in the House of Representatives. It is the first time this has ever happened.

If you haven’t read the Constitution lately, do. Chances are you’ll find that it doesn’t exactly explain itself. Consider Article III, Section 3: “The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.” This is simply put—hats off to the committee of style— but what does it mean? A legal education helps. Lawyers won’t stumble over “attainder,” even if the rest of us will. Part of the problem might appear to be the distance between our locution and theirs. “Corruption of Blood”? The document’s learnedness and the changing meaning of words isn’t the whole problem, though, because the charge that the Constitution is too difficult for ordinary people to understand—not because of its vocabulary but because of the complexity of its ideas—was brought nearly the minute it was made public. Anti-Federalists charged that the Constitution was so difficult to read that it amounted to a conspiracy against the understanding of a plain man, that it was willfully incomprehensible. “The constitution of a wise and free people, ought to be as evident to simple reason, as the letters of our alphabet,” an Anti-Federalist wrote. “A constitution ought to be, like a beacon, held up to the public eye, so as to be understood by every man,” Patrick Henry argued. He believed that what was drafted in Philadelphia was “of such an intricate and complicated nature, that no man on this earth can know its real operation.” Anti-Federalists had more complaints, too, which is why ratification—a process wonderfully recounted by Pauline Maier in “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788”—was touch and go. Rhode Island, the only state to hold a popular referendum on the Constitution, rejected it. Elsewhere, in state ratifying conventions, the Constitution passed bv the narrowest of margins: eighty-nine to seventy-nine in Virginia, thirty to twenty-seven in New York, a hundred and eighty-seven to a hundred and sixty-eight in Massachusetts.
Nor were complaints that the Constitution is obscure silenced by ratification. In a 1798 essay called “The Key of Liberty,” William Manning, the plainest of men—a New England farmer, a Revolutionary veteran, and the father of thirteen children—expressed a view widely held by Jeffersonian Republicans: “The Federal Constitution by a fair construction is a good one principally, but I have no doubt but that the Convention who made it intended to destroy our free governments by it, or they never would have spent four months in making such an inexplicit thing.” Franklin called the Constitution an “instrument”; he meant that it was a legal instrument, like a will. Manning thought that it was another kind of instrument: “It was made like a Fiddle, with but few Strings, but so that the ruling Majority could play any tune upon it they please.”

For all the charges that the Constitution was difficult to understand, between 1789 and 1860 only one state, California, required that it be taught in school. The first textbooks examining the Constitution weren’t printed until the eighteen-twenties, and they were for law students. Three volumes of “Commentaries on the Constitution,” written by Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, appeared in 1833. The next year, Story published an abridgment for schools, explaining that the Constitution “is the language of the People, to be judged of according to the common sense, and not by mere theoretical reasoning.” That may be, but Story’s schoolbook is a hundred and sixty-six pages of close legal argument.
You can’t explain a thing without interpreting it. Story, a Northerner and a nationalist, emphasized the Supreme Court’s role in arbitrating disputes between the federal government and the states. In those years, the disputes mainly had to do with slavery, Southerners who glossed the Constitution stressed state sovereignty. In 1846, William Hickey published a constitutional concordance. He got the idea from Polk’s Vice-President, George Dallas, who believed the Constitution prohibited Congress from interfering with the extension of slavery into Western territories. The U.S. Senate, over which Dallas presided, ordered twelve thousand copies of Hickey’s pro-slavery vade mecum. It does not appear to have elevated congressional conversation. In 1847, the governor of New York, Silas Wright, observed, “No one familiar with the affairs of our government, can have failed to notice how large a proportion of our statesmen appear never to have read the Constitution of the United States with a careful reference to its precise language and exact provisions, but rather, as occasion presents, seem to exercise their ingenuity ... to stretch both to the line of what they, at the moment, consider expedient.”

By the middle of the nineteenth century, nearly all white men could vote. Not all of them could read, and not all of them owned a copy of the Constitution, but Daniel Webster insisted, “Almost every man in the country is capable of reading it.” Whether they did or not is hard to say. Some did more than read it. William Lloyd Garrison burned the Constitution at an abolitionist rally in Massachusetts, calling it a “covenant with death, an agreement with hell.” John Brown wrote his own constitution, replacing “We the people” with “We, citizens of the United States, and the oppressed people ... who have no rights.” It was found on Brown’s body when he was captured at Harpers Ferry. William Grimes, a fugitive slave, had a different idea about what to do with the Constitution: “If it were not for the stripes on my back which were made while I was a slave, I would in my will leave my skin as a legacy to the government, desiring that it might be taken off and made into parchment and then bind the Constitution of glorious, happy and free America.” And then the American people went to war, over their different ways of reading letters inked on parchment and wounds cut into the skin of a black man’s back.
"Find It in the Constitution,” the Tea Party rally signs read. Forty-four hundred words and “God” is not one of them, as Benjamin Rush complained to John Adams, hoping for an emendation: “Perhaps an acknowledgement might be made of his goodness or of his providence in the proposed amendments.” It was not. ‘White” isn’t in the Constitution, but Senator Stephen Douglas, of Illinois, was still sure that the federal government was “made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever.” What about black men? ‘They are not included, and were not intended to be included,” the Supreme Court ruled, in 1857. Railroads, slavery, banks, women, free markets, privacy, health care, wiretapping: not there. “There is nothing in the United States Constitution that gives the Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court the right to declare that white and colored children must attend the same public schools,” Senator James Eastland, of Mississippi, said, after Brown v. Board of Education. “Have You Ever Seen the Words Forced Busing in the Constitution?” read a sign carried in Boston in 1975. ‘Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” Christine O’Donnell asked Chris Coons during a debate in October. When Coons quoted the First Amendment, O’Donnell was flabbergasted: ‘That’s in the First Amendment?” Left-wing bloggers slapped their thighs; Coons won the election in a landslide. But the phrase “separation of church and state” really isn’t in the Constitution or in any of the amendments.

A great deal of what many Americans hold dear is nowhere written on those four pages of parchment, or in any of the amendments. What has made the Constitution durable is the same as what makes it demanding: the fact that so much was left out. Felix Frankfurter once wrote that the Constitution “is most significantly not a document but a stream of history” The difference between forty-four hundred words and a stream of history goes a long way toward accounting for the panics, every few decades or so, that the Constitution is in crisis, and that America must return to constitutional principles through constitutional education. The two sides in this debate are always charging each other with not knowing the Constitution, but they are talking about different kinds of knowledge.
“Well keep clinging to our Constitution, our guns, and our religion,” Palin said last spring, “and you can keep the change.” Behind the word “change” is the word “evolution ” In 1913, Woodrow Wilson insisted, “All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when ‘development/ ‘evolution,’ is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is a recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing.” Conservatives called for a rejection of this nonsense about the “living Constitution.” In 1916, the Sons of the American Revolution campaigned for Constitution Day. In 1919, the National Association for Constitutional Government published some fifty thousand copies of a pocket edition of the Constitution. (The associations other publications included an investigation into the influence of socialists in American colleges.) In 1921, Warren Harding called the Constitution divinely inspired; it was Harding who ordered the Librarian of Congress to take the parchment out of storage and put it into a shrine. Soon, the National Security League was distributing free copies of reactionary books written by “Mr. Constitution,” James Montgomery Beck, who was Harding’s solicitor general. “The Constitution is in graver danger today than at any other time in the history of America,” Beck warned.

By 1923, twenty-three states required constitutional instruction and, by 1931, forty-three. Studying Middletown’s high school in 1929, the sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd found these classes worrying: “70 percent of the boys and 75 percent of the girls answered ‘false’ to the statement ‘A citizen of the United States should be allowed to say anything he pleases, even to advocate violent revolution, if he does no violent act himself.’ ” Still, such instruction was by no means uniformly conservative. The author of an elementary-school textbook published in 1930 wrote, “This Constitution is yours, boys and girls of America, to cherish and to obey, to preserve and, if need be, to better.”
The New Deal intensified debate over the nature of the Constitution, a debate whose cramped terms we’ve inherited. “Hopefully people today wave the flag,” Thurman Arnold, later F.D.R.’s assistant attorney general, wrote in 1935. “Timid people wave the Constitution . . . the only bulwark against change.” Obama supporters wore “HOPE” and “CHANGE” T-shirts; Tea Partiers carry the Constitution. Liberals argue for progress; conservatives argue for a return to the nation’s founding principles. Change is a founding principle, too, but people divided by schism are blind to what they share: one half, infallible; the other, never wrong.

Pop quiz, from a test administered by the Hearst Corporation in 1987.
True or False: The following phrases are found in the U.S. Constitution:
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

“The consent of the governed.”
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” “All men are created equal.”

“Of the people, by the people, for the people.”

This is what’s known as a trick question. None of these phrases are in the Constitution. Eight in ten Americans believed, like Boehner, that “all men are created equal” was in the Constitution. Even more thought that “of the people, by the people, for the people” was in the Constitution. (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, 1863.) Nearly five in ten thought “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” was written in Philadelphia in 1787. (Karl Marx, 1875.)
About a quarter of American voters are what political scientists call, impoliticly, “know nothings,” meaning that they possess almost no general knowledge of the workings of their government, at least according to studies conducted by the

American National Election Survey since 1948, during which time the know-nothing rate has barely budged. Critics, including James L. Gibson and Gregory A. Caldeira, have charged that these studies systemically overestimate political ignorance. A 2000 survey asked interviewees to identify William Rehnquist’s job. The only correct answer was “the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.” Answers like “Chief Justice,” “Justice,” “Chief Justice of the Court,” and anything breezier (“a Supreme Court judge who is the head honcho”) were marked incorrect. Why the ability to name Rehnquist’s job is necessary to good citizenship is never made dear. Those surveys seem to have had a point to prove—they have been used to argue, for instance, that the public ought not to play a role in electing or selecting judges—as did surveys conducted during the Cold War which appear to have been designed to elicit the headline-generating new that Americans are so ignorant of the Constitution that they can be gulled into confusing it with Marxism. “Americans have known the Constitution best when they have revered it least,” Michael Kammen wrote, in an extraordinarily rich and rewarding history of the Constitution, published in 1986. The Hearst report reached quite a different conclusion: “Those Americans who are most knowledgeable about the Constitution are the /my/likely to support changes.” In 1985 and 1986, Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese, made a series of speeches advocating originalism. Reagan nominated Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court in June of 1986. The Hearst survey was conducted that fall and released in February of 1987. That May, Thurgood Marshall said, in a bicentennial address, “I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention.” That July, Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Court, and, despite the failure of Bork’s nomination, originalism never looked back.
Last February, Meese and a coalition of prominent conservatives, including leaders of the Heritage Foundation, The National Review, and the Federalist Society, met in Virginia to sign “The Mount Vernon Statement” It calls for a coalition of social, economic, and national-security conservatives to return the nation to the principles stated in its founding documents, now “under sustained attack” in “our culture, our universities and our politics”: “The self-evident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.” The Mount Vernon Statement was modelled on the Sharon Statement, signed in 1960. The threat to the Constitution, in the Sharon Statement, was a “menace,” and it came from “the forces of international Communism.” In the Mount Vernon version, the threat is “change”: change is “an empty promise” and “a dangerous deception,” and it comes from the American people—that is, from those of us who are to be found in the nation’s universities and the federal government. The Sharon Statement was signed in William F. Buckley, Jr.,’s home, in Sharon, Connecticut. The organizers of the Mount Vernon Statement wanted to meet at Mount Vernon, but the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association turned them down. Still, the statement was printed on fake parchment, and a guy dressed up as George Washington handed out Sharpies.

Originalists argue that originalism is the only faithfully democratic mode of constitutional interpretation. Laws are passed by the elected representatives of the people; the courts protect the will of the people by making sure those laws adhere to the Constitution, as originally drafted and popularly ratified. Any other mode of jurisprudence is overstepping, and amounts to an abuse of judicial power because it favors the rulings of unelected judges—the caprice of contemporary courts—against the will of the people, as embodied by the Constitution.
Liberal legal scholars have tried different approaches in countering this argument. One has been to point out that the American people whose will originalism protects are dead, and that, even if they weren’t, they aren’t us. “If democratic legitimacy is the measure of a sound constitutional interpretive practice,” the Columbia law professor Jamal Greene has written, “then Justice Scalia needs to give an account of why and how rote obedience to the commitments of voters two centuries distant and wildly different in racial, ethnic, sexual, and cultural composition can be justified on democratic grounds.”

Another approach has been to argue that originalism, so far from being original, in the sense of being the same age as those four sheets of parchment in the National Archives, is quite modern. Consider the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Historical evidence can be marshalled to support different interpretations of these words, and it certainly has been. But the Yale law professor Reva Siegel has argued that, for much of the twentieth century, legal scholars, judges, and politicians, both conservative and liberal, commonly understood the Second Amendment as protecting the right of citizens to form militias—as narrow a right as the protection provided by the Third Amendment against the government’s forcing you to quarter troops in your house. Beginning in the early nineteen- seventies, lawyers for the National Rifle Association, concerned about gun-control laws passed in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, argued that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms—and that this represented not a changing interpretation but a restoration of its original meaning. The N.R.A., which had never before backed a Presidential candidate, backed Ronald Reagan in 1980. As late as 1989, even Bork could argue that the Second Amendment works “to guarantee the right of states to form militias, not for individuals to bear arms.” In an interview in 1991, the former Chief Justice Warren Burger said that the N.R.A.S interpretation of the Second Amendment was “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The individual-rights argument warrants serious debate. But, instead, on the political stage, people who disagreed with it were accused of failing to respect the Constitution, or of being too stupid to understand it. In 1995, Newt Gingrich wrote, “Liberals neither understand nor believe in the Constitutional right to bear arms.” Who are the know-nothings now? Liberal scholars and jurists. In 2005, Mark Levin, a talk-radio host who worked under Meese in the Reagan Justice Department, wrote that Thurgood Marshall, who had challenged originalism, “couldn’t have had a weaker grasp of the Constitution.”  In 2008, theN.R.A.S argument about the Second Amendment was made law in the District of Columbia v. Heller, which ruled as unconstitutional a gun-control law passed in D.C. in 1968. This decision, Siegel argues, has more to do with Charlton Heston than with James Madison.

In 2004, Larry D. Kramer, the dean of Stanford Law School, argued not against originalism but against judicial review (a power wielded, in recent years, by an originalist Court). Kramer offered another jurisprudence, based on different historical claims: popular constitutionalism. “The Supreme Court is not the highest authority in the land on constitutional law,” Kramer wrote. ‘We are.” Critics charge that it’s unclear how popular constitutionalism works, but the opposition of white activists to school desegregation, the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, and Iowans voting out of office judges who supported same-sex marriage would all seem to fit into this category; and if recent legislation is overturned by an incoming Congress elected by people who believe that legislation to be unconstitutional, that will be popular constitutionalism, too.
Originalism is popular. Four in ten Americans favor it. Not all Tea Partiers are originalists, but the movement is fairly described as a populist movement inclined toward originalism. The populist appeal of originalism overlaps with that of heritage tourism: both collapse the distance between past and present and locate virtue in an imaginary eighteenth century where “the people” and “the elite” are perfectly aligned in unity of purpose. Originalism, which has no purchase anywhere but here, has a natural affinity with some varieties of Protestantism, and the United States differs from all other Western democracies in the far greater proportion of its citizens who believe in the literal truth of the Bible. Although originalism is a serious and influential mode of constitutional interpretation, Greene has argued that it is also a political product manufactured by the New Right and marketed to the public by talk radio, cable television, and the Internet, where it enjoys a competitive advantage over other varieties of constitutional interpretation, partly because it’s the easiest.

An unexamined question at the heart of this debate, then, is how people actually read the Constitution. Many people are now reading it, with earnestness and dedication, often in reading groups modelled on Bible study groups. The Tea Party Express endorses “The Constitution Made Easy,” a translation into colloquial English made by Michael Holler, and available on Holler’s Web site for eight dollars and ninety-five cents. Holler studied at Biola University, a Christian college offering a Biblically centered education. Much of his translation, which appears side by side with the original, is forthright. His Article III, Section 3, reads, “Congress will have Power to declare the punishment for treason, but the penalty may not include confiscating a persons property after that person is executed,” and, in an end note, he supplies the helpful information that “Corruption of Blood” refers to the common-law confiscation of the property of executed traitors, which “had the effect of punishing the traito/s heirs, or bloodline.” Holler’s Second Amendment is less straightforward; he inverts the language of the original, so that it reads, “The people have the right to own and carry firearms, and it may not be violated because a well- equipped Militia is necessary for a State to remain secure and free.” Holler is an N.R.A.-certified handgun instructor who, in addition to offering courses on the Constitution, sells classes in how to obtain a concealed-handgun permit.
U.S. Constitution for Dummies,” published in 2009, was written by Michael Amheim, an English barrister. The book includes a foreword by Ted Cruz, a nationally prominent defender of the death penalty and a former solicitor general of Texas who successfully defended a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol. More recently, Cruz authored an amicus brief, on behalf of thirty-one states, supporting the anti-gun-control argument in the District of Columbia v. Heller. Arnheim’s “plain-English guide” translates portions of the Constitution (e.g., “Due process is really just an old-fashioned way of saying proper procedure’ ”), with an emphasis on contemporary controversies, which he frames as battles between “judge-made law” and the proper workings of democracy, the right to privacy, for instance, is an example of judge-made law. Amheim is not stinting with his views. “In my opinion,” he writes, “same- sex marriage in Massachusetts is unconstitutional, and the other states therefore don’t have to recognize such unions. I am available if anyone wants to take this issue„to the U.S. Supreme Court!”

Two more new guides include both scholarly annotations and historical essays. Jack Rakove, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian from Stanford, has prepared “The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.” Rakove wrote an amicus brief in Heller, opposing the position argued by Cruz, but here he goes no farther than to call the evidence for Cruz’s position “tenuous.”
Richard Beeman, who teaches history at the University of Pennsylvania, is the editor of a small-trim, twelve-dollar paperback, “The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution.” In his commentary on Heller, the laudably equable Beeman summarizes the arguments; shrugs (“The meaning of the Second Amendment is subject to varying interpretations”); and moves on. Both of these excellent guides are valuable and judicious. Neither defines “Corruption of Blood.”

I never knew what the Constitution really is until I read Mr. Beck’s book,” a sly critic of James Montgomery Beck once wrote. “You can read it without thinking.” Critics of originalism are in a bind. When ideas are reduced to icons, which, unfortunately, is the ordinary state of affairs, constitutionalism and originalism look exactly the same: the faux parchment stands for both. But originalism and constitutionalism are not the same, and the opposite of original is not unconstitutional. Originalism is one method of constitutional interpretation. Popular originalism is originalism scrawled with Magic Markers, on poster board. The N.RA. opposed gun-control laws. It argued, at length, and over years, that those laws violated the Second Amendment. Eventually, the Supreme Court agreed. So far, the Tea Party’s passions ignite faster and are stated more simply. A sign at a Tea Party rally in Temecula, California: ‘Impeach Obama: He’s Unconstitutional.”
The Constitution is ink on parchment. It is forty-four hundred words. And it is, too, the accreted set of meanings that have been made of those words, the amendments, the failed amendments, the struggles, the debates—the course of events— over more than two centuries. It is not easy, but it is everyone’s. It is the rule of law, the opinions of the Court, the stripes on William Grimes’s back, a shrine in the National Archives, a sign carried on the Washington Mall, and the noise all of us make when we disagree. If the Constitution is a fiddle, it is also all the music that has ever been played on it. Some of that music is beautiful; much of it is humdrum; some of it sounds like hell.

by Jill Lepore, New Yorker, 17 January 2011

Crush It Where You're At

            One of the most common questions I get asked, whether it's about a job or relationship or some other life decision, is "Rory, when do I know if I should leave to try something new?"
            My response is almost always the same, and it's very simple: "Have you maximized your potential in the current situation?" If the answer is yes, and you are at the top of that profession, for example, and you feel like leaving, then go ahead. If the answer is no, then go to work until you do-and then evaluate the decision.
            If you're not maximizing your potential where you are, then you can never know if you should leave because you haven't experienced all that it has to offer. Another way of thinking about it is that your decision will look much different after you've committed and played wholeheartedly, with full effort, than it does right now. Without ever doing that, it's not fair to yourself or the other people involved to leave your current situation.
            It's interesting to note that successful people tend to be successful everywhere they go, in whatever they do. For example, with enough time and training, a top realtor could probably become a top financial advisor, even if it isn't her most natural vocation. Michael Jordan is a great example of this. Basketball was his God-given gift and he might not have been able to master something else the way he mastered basketball, but the discipline and commitment he had makes him a pretty darn good baseball player-and golfer, too.
            This explains why Vince Lombardi said, "Winning is a habit; unfortunately so is losing." Some people have the habit of victory and success, and although we'd like to believe that these people have a glamorizing mystical power, the truth is much more basic than that: They commit to whatever it is they want to do. If you ask me, that is the more impressive part - that they can commit and exercise self-discipline in just about anything they do.
            So, you must crush it where you're at. You must dominate whatever it is that you are doing. You must do everything in your power to reach the top of whatever game it is you are playing. Because if you don't, then you are not a successful person looking for a new challenge to take on; you're a person with conditional commitment looking for a new set of circumstances, and most likely starting the same self-defeating pattern all over again.
            Success isn't a matter of circumstance; it's a matter of choice. Finding new circumstances won't make you successful, but making new choices will.

Except from Take The Stairs, 7 Steps to Achieving True Success by Rory Vaden, Perigee, 2012, p.68.

Take the Stairs

            One brilliant aspect of the human mind is that once we start asking the question "how," our creativity engages. As the second-century BC philosopher Patanjali said, "Your mind transcends limitations; your consciousness expands in every direction ... Dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be."
            In other words, when we intentionally ask "how" instead of settling for the default question of "should," our subconscious mind goes into overdrive, and we find ourselves answering those "how" questions-and achieving more than we ever thought possible.
            The world of "how" opens up when you commit past that  critical pivot point. It's why you hear so many speakers and teachers talk about how success is just beyond the point you feel like quitting. It's why Southwestern taught us that "the answer is always behind the next door." It's why almost everyone hits these decisional pivot points in their life that completely influence the trajectory of the rest of their life. Flipping the switch in that crucial moment is within your power - and can make all the difference, because if we aren't consciously choosing a good attitude, then we are unconsciously choosing a poor one. That is a choice in and of itself.

Except from Take The Stairs, 7 Steps toAchieving True Success by Rory Vaden, Perigee, 2012, p.58.



Quantum Mechanics - Max Planck (1858-1947)

This is the weird yet incredibly powerful theory of the subatomic world in which everyday concepts to do with forces and motion no longer apply in the same way.  Instead, we need a new kind of mechanics based on what are called "quantum" rules.
This idea was first developed in the early 20th century by German physicist Max Planck, who proposed that energy comes in tiny lumps called "quanta." The theory was extended by Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac, and Werner Heisenberg, among several others, in the 1920s.

However, despite its tremendous success, quantum mechanics remains shrouded in mystery because, uniquely among scientific theories, no one really knows how or why it works. It makes certain predictions about the microscopic world that go completely against our common sense. For instance, it explains how an atom can exist in more than one place at the same time until we check to see what it is up to. It also says that an electron can spin both clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time until we measure it. These, and many more strange properties, are not created by problems with the theory but are simply-or not so simply, depending on your point of view -how nature behaves down at this scale.
by Jim Al-Khalili, 30 Second Theories   

Atomic Theory - Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)

The original atomic theory was proposed in the 5th century BCE by the Greek philosopher Democritus, who speculated that everything in the world is ultimately composed of combinations of small, hard, and indivisible particles. He called the particles atoms, and suggested that they came in various shapes and sizes but were all made of the same basic material.
The modern scientific theory of matter states that the great variety of substances we see in the Universe are made from combinations of different chemical elements. These elements do indeed consist of trillions of identical sub-units, or atoms. The internal structure of an atom is specific to each element and gives that element its particular properties and characteristics.  Thus, a hydrogen atom is constructed differently from an atom of gold.

Modern atomic theory kicked off at the beginning of the 19th century with the work of the English chemist John Dalton. However, it was not until 1905 that Einstein proved the existence of atoms mathematically in his famous paper on Brownian motion. A few years later Ernest Rutherford was the first to look inside atoms in an experiment in which he bombarded a thin sheet of gold with alpha particles. He discovered that every atom consists of a tiny, positively charged nucleus surrounded by empty space in which even tinier, negative electrons orbit around the nucleus.
by Jim Al-Khalili, 30 Second Theories

Ares / Mars

The name for the Roman god Mars may derive from the same root as Ares, the Greek god of war, but Mars represented heroic valor while Ares represented the violence and bloodlust of war. Ares was thus very different from Athena, who espoused military intelligence and strategic thinking. Outright opposite to Ares was Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Yet the two became lovers, even though she was married to the crippled god Hephaestus, whom she despised. The sun god Helios, who sees all, informed Hephaestus of the affair, and so the craftsman god contrived a trap of a fine golden mesh suspended over the wedding bed.

He told his wife that he was going to Lemnos, but he soon returned to catch Ares in bed with Aphrodite. He sprang the trap, and the net imprisoned the naked gods. All the other Olympians came to look and sneer, but the goddesses held back for modesty. At last the lovers were freed. Ares went to Thrace, his homeland, and Aphrodite went to Paphos in Cyprus, the site of her birth. Deimos ("terror") and Phobos ("fear") were the offspring of Ares and Aphrodite, and today give their names to two moons of the planet Mars.

by Barry Powell, 30 Second Mythology

Hephaestus / Vulcan

Hephaestus was depicted as either the son of Zeus and Hera, or of Hera alone. In this version, his mother conceived him spontaneously to take revenge on her husband when he gave birth to Athena. That it is Hephaestus who in some versions facilitates the birth of Athena provides a further instance of mythological flexibility, as does the question of how Hephaestus became lame. Either Hera's horror at producing a disabled child led her to hurl him off Olympus, or it was the fall that caused the disability. Hephaestus' lameness marginalized him on Olympus, however much his fellow deities needed the gifts that he was uniquely qualified to provide. As well as equipping the gods with their various weapons and other attributes, he helped particular Olympians to get out of certain tricky situations.
When, for example, Athena was stuck, fully developed, inside the head of Zeus, it was the ax blow of Hephaestus that released her. His skill at craft also enabled him to turn particular situations to his favor, as when his unfaithful wife, Aphrodite, found herself caught with her lover Ares in a net so fine that it looked invisible.

by Susan Deacy, 30 Second Mythology

Friday, August 02, 2013

Theory of Relativity - Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Einstein's theory of relativity is our most accurate way of describing how matter, energy, space, and time interact. It is actually two theories: special and general relativity. Special relativity came first. This said nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. It also showed that the passage of time is different for people traveling at different speeds. According to the theory, if twins are separated by one taking a journey through space at close to the speed of light, they will have significantly different ages when reunited later. Special relativity also spawned the famous equation E=mc2, which describes how matter can be converted into energy, and vice versa.
This equation laid the foundations for the atomic bomb and nuclear power.

The later theory, general relativity, overthrew Isaac Newton's concept of gravity. It portrays time as a dimension, just like the three dimensions of space, and combines them all into something called space-time. Anything with energy or mass warps space-time, creating a gravitational field. Such a field has an effect on any matter traveling through it. It even bends passing light rays in a process called gravitational lensing. The first proof of relativity came with the observation of this phenomenon during a solar eclipse in 1919.
by Michael Brooks, 30 Second Theory

Electromagnetism - James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)


Electromagnetism is a stunningly powerful idea. In fact. our lives would be unrecognizable without it. It is all about what happens when you combine electric charges, movement, and magnetic fields. Move a metal wire within a magnetic field, and you will cause an electric current to flow in the wire. This is how we generate electricity. Conversely, send an electric current through a wire, and the movement of electric charges will create a magnetic field. This is how we make the electromagnets that power most doorbells and particle accelerators. The third option is to run an electric current through a wire sitting in a magnetic field. The wire will move. This is the idea behind the electric motor in your kitchen whisk and power drill.
The main credit for the theory rests with a Scotsman, James Clerk Maxwell, who first wrote down the equations that describe the complex interplay of electric and magnetic fields. The equations, it turned out. required an unexpected factor: the speed of light. This revelation led to the understanding that light and radiant heat can be thought of as moving variations in electromagnetic fields. These moving fields came to be known collectively as radiation.

Investigations of radiation led Max Planck to invent quantum theory and Albert Einstein to come up with his concept of relativity.
by Michael Brooks, 30 Second Theory

Poseidon / Neptune

Together with his brothers, Zeus and Hades, Poseidon cast lots for sovereignty over the world. Zeus took the sky, Hades the underworld, and Poseidon the sea. Poseidon's emblem was the trident, a three-pronged spear with which he could strike the ground, causing springs to emerge. His most significant consort, of whom there were many, was the sea nymph Amphitrite, and together they had a merman son, Triton. When Poseidon and Athena competed for sponsorship of the city of Athens, Poseidon struck the Acropolis with his trident, and a salt spring burst forth.
Athena, however, planted an olive tree and was chosen by the Athenians as their civic deity. In revenge, Poseidon flooded the plain of Attica, on which Athens stands. Poseidon was the father of Theseus and of many other heroes, but some of his children were more than human. In one myth Poseidon courted the goddess Demeter, but his love was not reciprocated. To avoid him she turned herself into a mare. Poseidon, however, became a stallion and covered her; their offspring was the magical horse Arion. Unlike other primordial water gods, Poseidon is a fully-fledged personality, and one separate from the natural phenomenon he controls.

by Barry Powell, 30 Second Mythology

Hera / Juno

As one of the children of Cronus, the former ruler of the universe, Hera was never likely to be satisfied with second place, yet she played second-fiddle as the wife of her brother Zeus. She was, however, hardly a subservient wife, except on those occasions when Zeus was able to coerce her into submission with threats of domestic violence. And well she might have been frightened: her husband had once hung her from the summit of Olympus by her wrists with her feet weighted down by anvils. Most often, however, her anger was directed at the various lovers and illegitimate children of Zeus rather than at the god himself.
Heracles, the greatest of Zeus' mortal offspring, was the most persistently persecuted until he died. After he was made immortal, Hera gave him her daughter Hebe as wife. Unlike her husband, she took no lovers. At the same time she was capable of having children without him.

Her response to his production of Athena out of his own head, though only after intercourse with the goddess Metis, was to give birth to Hephaestus by parthenogenesis ("maidenbirth"), that is, entirely by herself. In a Roman take on this story, after Minerva appeared out of Jupiter's head, Flora gave Juno a magical herb to impregnate her with Mars.
By Susan Deacy, 30 Second Mythology


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Thermodynamics - Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

If you want to know how heat moves around, you need to understand thermodynamics. The theory is governed by three laws. The first one states that whatever is going on, the total energy in the Universe stays the same. In other words, you cannot create or destroy energy; you can only change one form of energy into another. The second law says that an isolated system's entropy always increases. Entropy is a measure of the part of its energy that cannot be put to work in some way.
For example, as a watch spring unwinds, it has less and less power to keep the watch running. Its entropy rises because the spring's potential energy is slowly transferred to the hands as kinetic energy, with some energy also lost as heat because of friction in the mechanism.

The third law says that, as a system's temperature drops toward absolute zero (the lowest possible temperature: -459.67°F; -273.15°C), all natural processes cease to occur, and the entropy reaches a minimum. The upshot of this is that it is impossible to reach absolute zero because no processes can get you there.
Thermodynamics is not as abstract and esoteric as it sounds. It was developed in the 19th century by William Thomson, (knighted) Lord Kelvin, and forms the basis for your house's refrigerator and central heating, the engines that move your car, and the biological processes that keep you alive.

by Michael Brooks, 30 Second Theory

Wave Theory - Thomas Young (1773-1829)

You only have to go to the beach and be hit by a wave to appreciate that waves carry energy. But they do so in surprisingly diverse ways. Some waves, such as sea waves and sound waves, physically move the particles of water, or air, or whatever medium they are traveling through. These waves come in two types. A sound wave is "longitudinal" -it creates vibrations that move air parallel to the direction in which the wave is moving. "Transverse" waves, such as electromagnetic waves, oscillate in a direction perpendicular to their direction of travel. Polaroid sunglasses work because they block out transverse oscillations moving in a certain orientation-for example, up and down.
Any light waves oscillating in another direction from side to side, for example-pass through unaffected. If light was a longitudinal wave, polaroid lenses would have no effect at all.

Most of wave theory was worked out in the 19th century when pioneers such as Thomas Young showed how waves can be manipulated.  Waves are reflected by certain materials, refracted as they cross the boundary between two media, or diffracted, which means they spread out as they pass through a narrow opening. They can also interfere with each other, canceling each other out completely in some regions of the medium while combining into larger, more powerful waves in other areas.
by Michael Brooks, 30 Second Theory

Zeus / Jupiter

 Zeus was the youngest child of Cronus and Rhea. As well as the god of the sky, Zeus was also the god of social customs-the protector of kings and of strangers. The Roman Jupiter was, even more, the embodiment of the state and its irresistible military power.
He was married to Hera, though he is famous for his amorous adventures that resulted in many offspring. Cronus sired children by his wife Rhea, but, like his father before him, he was a tyrant, swallowing the children as soon as they were born. When Zeus, Rhea's last child, was born, she instead gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he unwittingly swallowed. Rhea secretly took the infant Zeus to Crete, where he was raised in a cave. Followers called Curetes beat their shields outside the cave to hide the infant's crying.

When Zeus grew up, he overthrew Cronus and forced him to vomit up the children he had swallowed. There followed the Titanomachy, or battle against the Titans, in which, thanks to the thunderbolt manufactured by the Cyclopes, Zeus and the Olympians were victorious. Despite his supremacy Zeus was not omnipotent. He was challenged by other gods and was subject to Fate.
by Barry Powell, 30 Second Mythology