Thursday, May 31, 2007

181)Updated index of my blogsite to the end of May 2007.

Posts relating to religious doctrine: 1, 2, 3 ,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 18, 20, 22, 27, 33, 34, 35, 46, 48, 49, 50, 59, 60, 63, 64, 65, 70, 71, 72, 74, 82, 86, 95, 98, 100, 103, 106, 112, 114, 129, 133, 135, 136, 145, 163, 180.

Posts relating to objects and events in nature(science): 13, 15, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 28, 32, 36, 40, 42, 47, 53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 66, 67, 68, 75, 79, 80, 83, 84, 87, 88, 90, 92, 94, 97, 99, 102, 107, 109, 110, 111, 115, 116, 117, 119, 120, 121, 123, 128, 130, 132, 137, 139, 140, 141, 142, 146, 147, 149, 159, 160, 164, 166, 169, 173, 175.

Posts relating to both: 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 29, 30, 31, 37, 38, 39, 41, 43, 44, 45, 51, 52, 55, 61, 62, 69, 73, 76, 77, 81, 85, 89, 91, 93, 96, 104, 105, 108, 113, 118, 122, 124, 126, 127, 131, 134, 144, 148, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 161, 162, 167, 168, 170, 176, 177, 178, 179, 181.

Posts relating to neither: 78, 101, 125, 138, 174.

Special collections of posts:

A)Ayats(Signs) in the Universe Series: 19, 29, 31, 38, 39, 41, 127.

B)Posts relating specifically to the subject of Astronomy: 23, 24, 25, 28, 32, 36, 42, 47, 56, 57, 58, 66, 67, 75, 83, 84, 85, 90, 92, 94, 99, 102, 107, 109, 110, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 123, 128, 130, 132, 134, 137, 139, 140, 141, 142, 151, 159, 161, 164, 165, 166, 169.

C)Posts relating to individual scientists, philosophers, cosmologists and poets, both inside and outside the Islamic tradition: 1, 11, 16, 20, 26, 27, 43, 44, 48, 55, 56, 57, 104, 108, 128, 130, 135, 150, 157, 158, 162, 178.

D)Posts relating to my China Series: 171, 172, 174.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)

180)My brief tete-a-tete with hasand on the F.I.E.L.D. Heritage Ismaili Net website.

An interesting and informative exchange took place between blogger hasand, , and myself, on my sister blog at the vast F.I.E.L.D. website:


The infinite complexity of life, and the extreme rarity of the convergence of scientific material characteristics that describe Earth are no justification of the existence of the Divine. This argument of simple association is a gross representation of the true and real force of the Divine and it's forms of incarnation or manifestation in human experience.

In fact, this approach, it could be argued, imprisons the realization of, and relationship to, the divine onto a material and scientific domain.

One can extrapolate a whole range of bizarre explanations and justifications for why things are and why things happen from such an absurd (God at the control panel) premise.

There is no "Control Panel".

I believe that at the very core, the Fundamental Truth is this. There is only God. The universe, this world, the laws of quantum, particle physics, the laws of nature simply and spontaneously arise, like thoughts.

Just as our own thoughts, desires, wishes, fears, dreams arise in our conscious minds. The classification of belief systems and ideologies(social, philosophical, political, religious scientific, cultural, sexual politics etc) forms of Literature, music, art - are all attempts to define human experience. But the core of all faiths is devotion, full and constant commitment to the divine and the Teaching. Coupled with renunciate practice and discipline, such devotion is the one and only way to "Understand". Science can only explain the measurable, quantifiable, even if only in theory. It must presume objectivity. The Divine requires a relationship, a total surrender of the notion of "separation" and "individuation". That's the difference and that's why any model that proposes the linking of science and religion is vacuous. A man, or woman, who believes can practice a science with a full and intelligent awareness that they are simply applying a methodology - one which neither confirms or denies the existence of the Divine.

And it is through the relationship to the Divine, that one begins to understand the true nature of the Universe, human experience and all that arises. Anything else is just the mind playing games. That's Ok, it's fun it's creative and helps explain stuff, takes care of things like manufacturing, health, getting to the moon, but it's not Truth.


Dear Hasand,
Thanks for your thoughts on the matter. I almost fell off my chair when the F.I.E.L.D. Ismaili Heritage site sent me an e-mail that someone had replied to a posting of mine. Nice to get some feedback once in a while.

My view of the matter is that I support the argument as put forward by the Shia Ismaili Muslim Imams, in particular the 48th and 49th Imams(present Imam and his predecessor). The 48th Imam, Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III, wrote extensively about this subject in his 1954 book, 'Memoirs of Aga Khan". I quote a few passages in response to your posts on this thread:

"Once man has thus comprehended the essence of existence, there remains for him the duty, since he knows the absolute value of his own soul, of making for himself a direct path which will constantly lead his individual soul to and bind it with the universal Soul of which the Universe, as much of it as we perceive with our limited visions, is one of the infinite manifestations. Thus Islam's basic principle can only be defined as mono-realism and not as monotheism. Consider, for example, the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer: "Allah-o-Akbar". What does that mean? There can be no doubt that the second word of the declaration likens the character of Allah to a matrix which contains all and gives existence to the infinite, to space, to time, to the Universe, to all active and passive forces imaginable, to life and to the soul. Imam Hassan has explained the Islamic doctrine of God and the Universe by analogy with the sun and its reflection in the pool of a fountain; there is certainly a reflection or image of the sun, but with what poverty and with what little reality; how small and pale is the likeness between this impalpable image and the immense, blazing, white-hot glory of the celestial sphere itself. Allah is the sun; and the Universe, as we know it in all its magnitude, and time, with its power, are nothing more than the reflection of the Absolute in the mirror of the fountain."

"There is a fundamental difference between the Jewish idea of creation and that of Islam. The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine will."

"Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God."

In a 1952 letter written to a friend, he also said the following:

"Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God’s signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order. Even in the Ayeh of Noor, divine is referred to as the natural phenomenon of light and even references are made to the fruit of the earth. During the great period of Islam, Muslims did not forget these principles of their religion. Alas, Islam which is a natural religion in which God’s miracles are the very law and order of nature drifted away and still drifting away, even in Pakistan, from science which is the study of those very laws and orders of nature."

"……Islam is a natural religion of which the Ayats(Signs) are the universe in which we live and move and have our being……"

"…..The God of the Quran is the one whose Ayats are the universe……"

I notice that you have started a blog of your own. I'll bookmark it and follow it.



I humbly agree with all your arguments as referred to in the writing of Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III. In fact the quotes were a breath of fresh air in a climate where as you say Islam is drifting away from science. If I am not mistaken, he is saying the same thing. There is only God, and 'nothing is separate from anything else in this universe and all others. But do you not think that the tacit recognition of the divine in everything sometimes slips into romanticism thus giving science a 'fuzzy' edge and so devaluing both faith and science? The cold and clinical nature of scientific thinking is to be respected for what it is with (from a spiritual point of view) all it's limitations. Scientific methodology is a tool, an instrument - that nowadays is used mostly for commercial gain - or a weapon against more restrictive religious doctrines.


I agree with you that science as perfected and practised in the west(the scientific or experimental method) is nothing more than a tool to investigate the universe(what is it made of?, how does it operate?). What people do with this information is another story altogether. Some behave nefariously with it, others see this knowledge as one component of total knowledge and perhaps a way to help create a pathway, one among many pathways, to ultimate knowledge or gnosis, which is the ultimate goal of religion. The Ismaili Muslim synthesis does not see a dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual, as this piece indicates:

"In sum the process of creation can be said to take place at several levels. Ibda represents the initial level - one transcends history, the other creates it. The spiritual and material realms are not dichotomous, since in the Ismaili formulation, matter and spirit are united under a higher genus and each realm possesses its own hierarchy. Though they require linguistic and rational categories for definition, they represent elements of a whole, and a true understanding of God must also take account of His creation. Such a synthesis is crucial to how the human intellect eventually relates to creation and how it ultimately becomes the instrument for penetrating through history the mystery of the unknowable God implied in the formulation of tawhid.":

Other relevant quotes from our present Imam extol the virtue and value of disciplined and objective enquiry:

Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation. [Speech 16 March 1983]

The truth, as the famous Islamic scholars repeatedly told their students, is that the spirit of disciplined, objective enquiry is the property of no single culture, but of all humanity. To quote the great physician and philosopher, Ibn Sina: "My profession is to forever journeying, to travel about the universe so that I may know all its conditions." [Speech 16 March 1983]:



Another quote that is relevant to the blending and melting of matter into spirit is this one from our 48th Imam:

About Hafiz, the renowned Iranian poet:
“Then came Hafiz - by far the greatest singer of the soul of man. In him we can find all the strivings, all the sorrow, all the victories and joys, all the hopes and disappointments of each and every one of us. In him we find contact, direct and immediate, with the outer universe interpreted as an infinite reality of matter, as a mirror of an eternal spirit, or indeed (as Spinoza later said) an absolute existence of which matter and spirit alike are but two of infinite modes and facets.”

-Inaugural Lecture Before the Iran Society by Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, November 9, 1936 London, United Kingdom.

Other quotes, relevant but not part of my exchange with hasand, include:

Of the Abrahamic faiths, Islam is probably the one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge. The purpose is to understand God's creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason.(Aga Khan IV).

In fact this world is a book in which you see inscribed the writings of God the Almighty"(Nasir Khusraw).

'Tarkib' is composition as in the compounding of elements in the process of making more complex things, that is, of adding together two things to form a synthesis, a compound. Soul composes in the sense of 'tarkib'; it is the animating force that combines the physical elements of the natural universe into beings that move and act. Incorporating is an especially apt word in this instance. It means to turn something into a body, as in 'composing'. But it is actually the conversion of an intellectual object, a thought, into a physical thing. Soul acts by incorporating reason into physical objects, the natural matter of the universe and all the things composed of it(Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani, 10th century Ismaili cosmologist, from the book by Paul Walker).


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)

Monday, May 28, 2007

179)Creation Museum pooh-poohs five hundred years of empirical scientific research in favour of unabashed literalism; where have I heard this before?

Unrelenting literalism in Christianity and Islam: the former led to the Spanish Inquisition and untold suffering and misery for humanity 500 to 700 years ago; the latter threatens to do the same today unless it is vigorously contained and marginalised. The article below reflects literalism taken to its absurd limit in Christianity. One of the concepts it embodies is the creation of the universe in 6 days('Genesis'). I blogged about another interpretation of the significance of God creating the universe in 6 days here:

The difference between this view as expounded by Shafique Virani and the one the new Creation Museum in Kentucky represents is like that between the devil and the deep blue sea, between the concrete and the symbolic, between the outer and inner aspects of religion, between the zahir and the batin to use terms germane to the Ismaili Muslim tariqah:

Adam and Eve in the Land of the Dinosaurs

by Edward Rothstein.
Published: May 24, 2007

PETERSBURG, Ky. — The entrance gates here are topped with metallic Stegosauruses. The grounds include a giant tyrannosaur standing amid the trees, and a stone-lined lobby sports varied sauropods. It could be like any other natural history museum, luring families with the promise of immense fossils and dinosaur adventures.

But step a little farther into the entrance hall, and you come upon a pastoral scene undreamt of by any natural history museum. Two prehistoric children play near a burbling waterfall, thoroughly at home in the natural world. Dinosaurs cavort nearby, their animatronic mechanisms turning them into alluring companions, their gaping mouths seeming not threatening, but almost welcoming, as an Apatosaurus munches on leaves a few yards away.

What is this, then? A reproduction of a childhood fantasy in which dinosaurs are friends of inquisitive youngsters? The kind of fantasy that doesn’t care that human beings and these prefossilized thunder-lizards are usually thought to have been separated by millions of years? No, this really is meant to be more like one of those literal dioramas of the traditional natural history museum, an imagining of a real habitat, with plant life and landscape reproduced in meticulous detail.

For here at the $27 million Creation Museum, which opens on May 28 (just a short drive from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport), this pastoral scene is a glimpse of the world just after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, in which dinosaurs are still apparently as herbivorous as humans, and all are enjoying a little calm in the days after the fall.

It also serves as a vivid introduction to the sheer weirdness and daring of this museum created by the Answers in Genesis ministry that combines displays of extraordinary nautilus shell fossils and biblical tableaus, celebrations of natural wonders and allusions to human sin. Evolution gets its continual comeuppance, while biblical revelations are treated as gospel.

Outside the museum scientists may assert that the universe is billions of years old, that fossils are the remains of animals living hundreds of millions of years ago, and that life’s diversity is the result of evolution by natural selection. But inside the museum the Earth is barely 6,000 years old, dinosaurs were created on the sixth day, and Jesus is the savior who will one day repair the trauma of man’s fall.

It is a measure of the museum’s daring that dinosaurs and fossils — once considered major challenges to belief in the Bible’s creation story — are here so central, appearing not as tests of faith, as one religious authority once surmised, but as creatures no different from the giraffes and cats that still walk the earth. Fossils, the museum teaches, are no older than Noah’s flood; in fact dinosaurs were on the ark.

So dinosaur skeletons and brightly colored mineral crystals and images of the Grand Canyon are here, as are life-size dioramas showing paleontologists digging in mock earth, Moses and Paul teaching their doctrines, Martin Luther chastising the church to return to Scripture, Adam and Eve guiltily standing near skinned animals, covering their nakedness, and a supposedly full-size reproduction of a section of Noah’s ark.

There are 52 videos in the museum, one showing how the transformations wrought by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 reveal how plausible it is that the waters of Noah’s flood could have carved out the Grand Canyon within days. There is a special-effects theater complete with vibrating seats meant to evoke the flood, and a planetarium paying tribute to God’s glory while exploring the nature of galaxies.

Whether you are willing to grant the premises of this museum almost becomes irrelevant as you are drawn into its mixture of spectacle and narrative. Its 60,000 square feet of exhibits are often stunningly designed by Patrick Marsh, who, like the entire museum staff, declares adherence to the ministry’s views; he evidently also knows the lure of secular sensations, since he designed the “Jaws” and “King Kong” attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.

For the skeptic the wonder is at a strange universe shaped by elaborate arguments, strong convictions and intermittent invocations of scientific principle. For the believer, it seems, this museum provides a kind of relief: Finally the world is being shown as it really is, without the distortions of secularism and natural selection.

The Creation Museum actually stands the natural history museum on its head. Natural history museums developed out of the Enlightenment: encyclopedic collections of natural objects were made subject to ever more searching forms of inquiry and organization. The natural history museum gave order to the natural world, taming its seeming chaos with the principles of human reason. And Darwin’s theory — which gave life a compelling order in time as well as space — became central to its purpose. Put on display was the prehistory of civilization, seeming to allude not just to the evolution of species but also cultures (which is why “primitive” cultures were long part of its domain). The natural history museum is a hall of human origins.

The Creation Museum has a similar interest in dramatizing origins, but sees natural history as divine history. And now that many museums have also become temples to various American ethnic and sociological groups, why not a museum for the millions who believe that the Earth is less than 6,000 years old and was created in six days?

Mark Looy, a founder of Answers in Genesis with its president, Ken Ham, said the ministry expected perhaps 250,000 visitors during the museum’s first year. In preparation Mr. Ham for 13 years has been overseeing 350 seminars annually about the truths of Genesis, which have been drawing thousands of acolytes. The organization’s magazine has 50,000 subscribers. The museum also says that it has 9,000 charter members and international contributors who have left the institution free of debt.

But for a visitor steeped in the scientific world view, the impact of the museum is a disorienting mix of faith and reason, the exotic and the familiar. Nature here is not “red in tooth and claw,” as Tennyson asserted. In fact at first it seems almost as genteel as Eden’s dinosaurs. We learn that chameleons, for example, change colors not because that serves as a survival mechanism, but “to ‘talk’ to other chameleons, to show off their mood, and to adjust to heat and light.”

Meanwhile a remarkable fossil of a perch devouring a herring found in Wyoming offers “silent testimony to God’s worldwide judgment,” not because it shows a predator and prey, but because the two perished — somehow getting preserved in stone — during Noah’s flood. Nearly all fossils, the museum asserts, are relics of that divine retribution.

The heart of the museum is a series of catastrophes. The main one is the fall, with Adam and Eve eating of the tree of knowledge; after that tableau the viewer descends from the brightness of Eden into genuinely creepy cement hallways of urban slums. Photographs show the pain of war, childbirth, death — the wages of primal sin. Then come the biblical accounts of the fallen world, leading up to Noah’s ark and the flood, the source of all significant geological phenomena.

The other catastrophe, in the museum’s view, is of more recent vintage: the abandonment of the Bible by church figures who began to treat the story of creation as if it were merely metaphorical, and by Enlightenment philosophers, who chipped away at biblical authority. The ministry believes this is a slippery slope.

Start accepting evolution or an ancient Earth, and the result is like the giant wrecking ball, labeled “Millions of Years,” that is shown smashing the ground at the foundation of a church, the cracks reaching across the gallery to a model of a home in which videos demonstrate the imminence of moral dissolution. A teenager is shown sitting at a computer; he is, we are told, looking at pornography.

But given the museum’s unwavering insistence on belief in the literal truth of biblical accounts, it is strange that so much energy is put into demonstrating their scientific coherence with discussions of erosion or interstellar space. Are such justifications required to convince the skeptical or reassure the believer?

In the museum’s portrayal, creationists and secularists view the same facts, but come up with differing interpretations, perhaps the way Ptolemaic astronomers in the 16th century saw the Earth at the center of the universe, where Copernicans began to place the sun. But one problem is that scientific activity presumes that the material world is organized according to unchanging laws, while biblical fundamentalism presumes that those laws are themselves subject to disruption and miracle. Is not that a slippery slope as well, even affecting these analyses?
But for debates, a visitor goes elsewhere. The Creation Museum offers an alternate world that has its fascinations, even for a skeptic wary of the effect of so many unanswered assertions. He leaves feeling a bit like Adam emerging from Eden, all the world before him, freshly amazed at its strangeness and extravagant peculiarities.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

178)Einstein=Genius squared: the man who taught us key insights about the Universal "Soul that sustains, embraces and is the Universe".

"And from the 20th century, just one figure spawns such a steady flow of scholarship, the genius who, while working as a patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland, toppled Newton's framework of space and time and would, over the next decade, develop an entirely new picture of the universe."

Other posts by me where Albert Einstein is either mentioned or discussed:


Einstein = Genius2

May 26, 2007

His Life and Universe
By Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster,
Print Edition - Section Front
551 pages, $38.99

There are a handful of personalities from history who loom so large that new biographies appear every few years, whether modern research has unearthed anything new about their lives or not. In the world of science, however, that "A-list" is extremely short: Newton and Darwin, of course; perhaps Galileo. And from the 20th century, just one figure spawns such a steady flow of scholarship, the genius who, while working as a patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland, toppled Newton's framework of space and time and would, over the next decade, develop an entirely new picture of the universe.

Just two years ago, the world marked the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's annus mirabilis, in which he not only developed the first part of his relativity theory but also laid down the foundations of quantum theory and wrote two other groundbreaking papers on the structure and motion of atoms and molecules. With all the media attention triggered by the anniversary - entire issues of Scientific American and Discover dedicated to Einstein, and a flurry of books, articles and documentaries - one wonders how much is left to be said.

Or at least one would wonder, if the central figure were any other frizzy-haired physicist. But the case of Einstein seems to be unique. His intellect and personality, for reasons not completely understood, have captured the public imagination like no other figure past or present, and our appetite for insights into the workings of his mind seems boundless.

As vast as the Einstein literature is, this latest biography, from journalist and author Walter Isaacson, is a welcome addition and will likely find a wide audience. Isaacson, a former managing editor of Time and author of a recent popular biography of Benjamin Franklin, has written a straightforward yet rich and engaging account of Einstein's life, a well-crafted mix of biography and science.

For anyone who has already dipped into the Einstein literature, much of the story is familiar: the unorthodox approach to physics that would make finding a first job difficult, but which would pay off in sheer discovery; the tumultuous personal life that would encompass two marriages and numerous affairs, but few deep personal bonds; the struggle to defend pacifism in a world twice plunged into seemingly inescapable wars; the search for unifying order in a universe that does not easily give up its secrets.

Isaacson has gleaned the latest revelations from the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, an ongoing project that has so far published all of Einstein's known correspondence and writings up to 1920. (As well, his list of acknowledgments reads like a who's who of Einstein scholarship.) The most noteworthy of those findings are no longer very new: We've known about Einstein's extramarital affairs for some time, as well as the less-than-commendable way that he sometimes treated his first wife, Mileva Maric. Even the file the FBI kept on Einstein, once secret, is now freely available on the agency's website.

Even so, Isaacson does find some nuggets that appear to have passed largely unnoticed by previous biographers. One is the tragic story of Einstein's cousin. Roberto Einstein and his family lived in Italy during the German occupation; as Nazi troops were retreating, soldiers murdered his wife and two daughters and burned his house. Roberto, who had been in hiding, survived, but committed suicide the following year.

Isaacson also weighs in with sober assessments of the various claims and allegations that have attached themselves to Einstein over the years: that he fared poorly in math class (not true); that he was autistic (no hard evidence); that Mileva played a crucial role in the development of relativity (again, no hard evidence); that his work at the patent office inspired that same breakthrough (it may have played a small role, Isaacson acknowledges); that mathematician David Hilbert was on the verge of discovering general relativity just as Einstein developed his equations (it's unlikely that Hilbert would have made such a breakthrough had he not been following Einstein's own progress).

Of course, Isaacson covers the science, too, and does it well. His explanations of special and general relativity, quantum theory and cosmology are clear and thorough, without being needlessly technical. Even so, a reader interested primarily in Einstein's science may prefer Michio Kaku's Einstein's Universe, or the more comprehensive (but older) Subtle is the Lord, by Abraham Pais. And this book could have used a diagram or two.

One small quirk bothered me. On at least two occasions, Isaacson seems to downplay the significance of the brain - a strange bias, considering the subject matter. He wonders why Einstein, like so many physicists and mathematicians, had his greatest insights before the age of 40. He acknowledges that it is an "occupational hazard" for those in such professions to shine while young, but doesn't mention the most obvious reason: the physiological deterioration of the brain with age.

Later, in the epilogue, Isaacson summarizes the findings (incomplete as they are) of researchers who have studied parts of Einstein's brain. He then adds that "any true understanding of Einstein's imagination and intuition will not come from poking around at his patterns of glia and grooves. The relevant question was how his mind worked, not his brain" (Isaacson's emphasis). Maybe so, but the suggestion that minds are independent of brains seems a little quaint in light of 21st-century neuroscience.

Dan Falk is a science journalist and the author of Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything. He is writing a book about time.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

177)"Allah is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth...": Magnetism+Electricity=Light.

It is well known that the very center of the earth-its core-is made up of iron and nickel and that these elements are responsible for generating a strong magnetic field around the earth extending quite a ways out into space. As the following article shows, among its many features, this magnetic field, or magnetosphere as it is also called, serves to shield earth from dangerous particles streaming in from the sun and elsewhere. It is also now well known that light is a form of radiation that is created by alternating electrical and magnetic fields(an electrical field generates a magnetic field which then generates another electric field which then generates another magnetic field, and so on and so forth, and that is how a beam of light is created and propagated). In 1860, Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell came up with his famous 4 equations of electromagnetism that showed how light, electricity and magnetism were all different manifestations of one fundamental force in nature, the electromagnetic force(the other three fundamental forces in nature being gravity, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force). Subsequent research in the 20th century showed that both the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces were themselves different manifestations of the same even more fundamental force in nature and they are now called the electroweak force. I blogged earlier about Pakistani scientist Abdus Salaam, who was one of the scientists involved in this research:

In the article below we learn some fascinating things about earth's magnetic field including how it is currently in the process of reversing or switching poles, something it has done many times before in earth's 4 billion year history. Magnetism, Electricity and Light are all part of the same fundamental force in nature and, in keeping with the title of this blogsite, I felt it would be appropriate to name this post with the first line of a well-known verse from the Quran, Sura Noor.

Space weather

Look down, look up, look out!

May 10th 2007

From The Economist print edition

The weather in space is controlled by events at the centre of the Earth. A pity, then, that the magnetic field generated there may be about to go into reverse

GREENLAND was discovered without the use of magnetic compasses. The Viking longboats that arrived here in 982 relied on the stars and the sun to maintain their orientation. But it was the compass (a Chinese invention) that enabled later European navigators to bestride the world. It was the compass, too, which revealed that the Earth itself has a magnetic field and thus led to the first serious question about the planet's internal structure: what is down there that generates this field? See picture:

Such a question is not merely academic. Besides directing compasses, the Earth's magnetic field reaches out into space to direct the flow of the solar wind around the planet—forming a structure called the magnetosphere. When the wind hits this field it creates a shock wave known as the bow shock. Most of the protons and electrons of the wind go round this shock wave, and lots of dangerous radiation from the sun is thus diverted away from the Earth.

There is, however, a growing body of evidence that the Earth's magnetic field is about to disappear, at least for a while. The geological record shows that it flips from time to time, with the south pole becoming the north, and vice versa. On average, such reversals take place every 500,000 years, but there is no discernible pattern. Flips have happened as close together as 50,000 years, though the last one was 780,000 years ago. But, as discussed at the Greenland Space Science Symposium, held in Kangerlussuaq this week, the signs are that another flip is coming soon.

One of those signs is that the strength of the field has been falling by 5% a century recently. A similar (though more rapid) diminution accompanies the reversing of the sun's magnetic field, which happens every 11 years or so. Other evidence comes from old navigation records. Researchers such as Nils Olsen, of the Danish National Space Centre, have used such records to chart the growth of patches of abnormal magnetism. They are able to do so because these records use both compass bearings and astronomical observations to locate a vessel. The changing relationship between the two shows that patches of abnormal magnetism have been growing off south-east Africa and in the South Atlantic.

Just when the magnetic field will flip is impossible to predict from what is known at the moment; the best guess is that there are still several centuries to go. Nor is it clear how long its protective shield will be down. (The record in the rocks is little help, since a geological eyeblink represents many human lifetimes.) But understanding how the magnetosphere works now should help to deal with the consequences if and when it vanishes.

Bright lights

One of the pioneers of the field was Dr Olsen's colleague Eigil Friis-Christensen. Thirty-five years ago he took a boat north along the west coast of Greenland. As he travelled, he set up instruments called magnetometers to measure electric currents in the upper atmosphere. These magnetometers and their successors have played the role that barometers did for early weather forecasters. Then, the pattern of pressure changes the instruments recorded tracked the passage of storms in the atmosphere. Now, it is storms in the magnetosphere that are recorded.

Dr Friis-Christensen's own work has focused on a structure known as the “cusp”. This separates the magnetosphere's two main compartments: the crown, a round projection that stretches sunwards by about five times the diameter of the Earth, and the tail, which is shaped as its name suggests and runs far into space on the Earth's night time side.

The cusp is responsible for the famous auroras that grace high latitudes. This is because it is at the cusp that magnetic field-lines stream down towards the ground, acting as paths for electrons and protons that have slipped past the bow shock. When these particles hit the upper atmosphere they generate light in the same way that electrons from the cathode of an old-fashioned television set do when they hit the phosphorescent dots of the screen.

The famous night-time auroras (borealis in the north, australis in the south) are the result of particles streaming in from the tail. But particles come in from the crown, as well, forming invisible daytime auroras that Dr Friis-Christensen was among the first to study.

Another Greenland-based instrument, a few miles from Kangerlussuaq, has pinned down more details about the cusp. The Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility has a 32-metre-wide radar dish. It measures conductivity from an altitude of 60km to 600km and has helped define the cusp's circuitry. That is important because, although it is not technically part of the atmosphere, the plasma of charged particles in the magnetosphere experiences what might be (and indeed often is) referred to as weather.

Like the weather on Earth, this space weather has consequences. If it gets nasty, communications satellites may be knocked out and radio communications within the atmosphere disrupted. In extreme circumstances, power grids may go down, too. Foul weather in space is also bad news for astronauts. A bad storm could kill an unshielded individual. But although the source of such foul space weather is known—it happens when giant flares on the surface of the sun pour out more protons and electrons than normal—the details depend on structures within the magnetosphere that are only now coming under scrutiny. Sometimes storms drift past the Earth with little impact. On other occasions they pummel the magnetosphere's crown to about half its normal distance from the Earth's surface. Furthermore, the magnetosphere's structure is layered, like an onion. The same type of particle can take on entirely different characteristics, depending on which layer it is in. The art of forecasting space weather is in its infancy.

How much longer it will remain within Dr Friis-Christensen's purview, though, is moot. Barometers are now curiosities, as satellite-based forecasting has taken over. The same thing is about to happen to space meteorology. Five satellites, collectively called THEMIS, that were launched in mid February, may make his magnetometers as old-fashioned as the mahogany instrument hanging in a hotel lobby.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

176)Just because we cannot see it does not mean it is not there: true for both the worlds of matter and spirit.

The conventional saying for many is that if something cannot be seen or experienced with the senses, it must not be there or cannot exist. Others inclined towards more esoteric possibilities or manifestations in the realm of spirit will tell you otherwise.

From the world of science, however, comes the news that its not just the world of spirit that is the harbinger of things unseen but also the world of matter. I blogged about it before here:

From the following utterance we learn that all manifestations in the Universe exist at the behest of the Divine Command or Divine Will:

"Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine Will". So said the 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, Aga Khan III.

Further advances in investigative science continue to shed more light on this mysterious, unseen material substance that pervades the universe and literally shapes everything we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses:

The prints of darkness

May 17th 2007
From The Economist print edition

A ghostly ripple of dark matter is “seen”.

EITHER Newton and Einstein were wrong, or there is something missing from the universe. The reason for this is that galaxies do not behave as the laws of gravity predict they should. Most galaxies rotate at a speed that should cause them to fly apart if all that holds their visible matter together is gravity, as physicists understand it. So either that understanding is flawed, or there is more to the average galaxy than meets the eye.

Most physicists tend to the latter opinion. They think the universe is stuffed with invisible matter composed of particles different from the ones that make up visible matter and the gravity of this “dark” matter holds galaxies together. Their equations all make sense if that is true. The problem is that invisible, dark matter is, well, invisible. But data from the Hubble space telescope, about to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, may have overcome its obscurity.

A couple of years ago James Jee of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and his colleagues trained Hubble on a cluster of galaxies 5 billion light years from Earth and used a technique called gravitational lensing to work out how mass is distributed within this cluster. A gravitational lens is formed when light is bent by a massive object. Einstein predicted the distortion of light in this way in 1915, as part of his general theory of relativity. Three years later a British physicist, Arthur Eddington, decided to test this idea by watching what happened to light from stars that were close in the sky to the sun during a solar eclipse. Sure enough, their light was bent by the mass of the sun, confirming Einstein's theory.

By looking at how a cluster distorts the faint light coming from galaxies behind it, Dr Jee and his team created a map of the distribution of its mass. They then compared that with what they could actually see. Instead of finding that the mass coincided with the location of the ordinary, visible matter of stars, as had been seen in observations of other clusters, they found a distortion.

After trying and failing for months to explain this distortion away, Dr Jee accepted it was real and sought to account for it. The most plausible explanation is that the cluster contains a distinct ring of dark matter without any accompanying ordinary matter.

To try to find out where this ring had come from, the team trawled through previous literature on the cluster. They found an earlier suggestion of a truly enormous collision between the cluster and one of its neighbours between 1 billion and 2 billion years ago. This work, published in 2002 by Oliver Czoske of Bonn University in Germany, was based on an analysis of the distribution of visible matter in the neighbourhood.

Dr Jee and his colleagues think the ring is evidence of this collision. When the impact happened, the dark matter in the clusters also collided. It then rebounded, rather as a ripple spreads after a stone has been thrown into a pond. And that rippling ring may be proof that Newton and Einstein were right after all.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan IV(2006)
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan III(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan IV(2005)

Monday, May 21, 2007

175)Massive supernova explosion: the source of chemical elements that make up everything else in the universe, including living systems.

Astronomers Astonished by 'Monstrous' Star Explosion
By Ker Than
Staff Writer
posted: 07 May 2007 02:04 pm

Scientists have detected a stellar explosion that is the brightest and most energetic ever recorded, and which could be the first evidence of a new type of supernova fueled by an antimatter engine.

The "SN 2006gy" explosion occurred in a galaxy 240 million light-years away, called NGC 1260, and was 100 times more energetic than typical supernovas. It was detected in September 2006 using ground-based telescopes and NASA's Chandra X-ray space observatory. It brightened slowly for 70 days, and at its peak emitted more than 50 billion Suns worth of light-shining 10 times brighter than its host galaxy-before dimming slowly. Most supernovas reach peak brightness in days to a few weeks.

"Of all exploding stars ever observed, this was the king," said Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley, who led ground-based observations of the supernova at Lick Observatory in California and Keck Observatory in Hawaii. "We were astonished to see how bright it got and how long it lasted.

"NASA has released an image and animation of what the explosion might have looked like.

The finding, presented today at a NASA press conference and detailed in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal, provides evidence for a fundamentally different type of supernova explosion that only occurs with the universe's most massive stars.

The monster supernova suggests the first stars that illuminated the universe died in explosive lightshows. "We may have witnessed a modern-day version of how the first generation of the most massive stars ended their lives," Filippenko said.

Astrophysicists also think the supernova could be a preview of what they will see when a massive star in our own galaxy explodes.

Going out with a bang

Supernovas are stellar swan songs. They occur when ancient, massive stars do as poet Dylan Thomas advised, that is, to "burn and rage at the close of day," and "rage, rage against the dying of the light.

"Most supernovas are the result of stars with 8 to 20 times the mass of our Sun collapsing under their own gravity. Astronomers think something different happened with SN 2006gy, whose star was much bigger--about 150 solar masses.

Stars this massive are extremely rare: Scientists estimate there are only a dozen or so such stars in the Milky Way's stellar population of 400 billion.

Supermassive stars are thought to produce so much gamma-ray light at the end of their lives that some of the radiation is converted into matter and antimatter, mostly electrons and positrons. Antimatter particles have the same mass as ordinary matter but opposite atomic properties such as spin and charge. Gamma radiation is the energy that prevents the outer layers of a star from collapsing; once it starts disappearing, the star's outer layer falls inward, triggering a thermonuclear explosion that destroys the star.

The new findings suggest some of the first stars in the early universe, which were also very massive, went out in spectacular explosions like SN 2006gy, instead of bypassing the supernova stage and collapsing directly into black holes.

"In terms of the effect on the early universe, there's a huge difference between these two possibilities," said study leader Nathan Smith, also of UC Berkeley. "One pollutes the galaxy with large quantities of newly made elements, and the other locks them up forever in a black hole."

Eta Carinae

Scientists think SN 2006gy could be a sign of things to come in our own galaxy. Eta Carinae, the most luminous star in our Milky Way, is located some 7,000 light-years away and seems poised to undergo its own explosion at any moment.

"This could happen tomorrow or it could happen 1,000 years from now," said Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who was not involved in the research.

Eta Carinae is an unstable star currently radiating about 5 million times more energy than our Sun and is undergoing eruptions on its surface that are similar to what scientists think happened on the star that produced SN 2006gy just before it blew.

Despite its relatively close proximity to us, Eta Carinae's death is not likely to pose any significant threat to life on Earth, scientists say.

"I think we can sleep quietly tonight for Eta Car not extinguishing life on Earth," Livio said, "but [SN 2006gy] and all the questions it brings about will keep us awake for quite a while."


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4.
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3

Sunday, May 20, 2007

174)China Series No. 3:Coming face to face with Whiplash Wang and Cynical Ali in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, China.

Whats the point having a personal blog if you can't spice it up once in a while. I am one of 100 million personal bloggers out there worldwide and my blog is a spontaneous mixture of both sublime and mundane thoughts but I also use it as an emotive tool to vent feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, resentment, disappointment, euphoria, happiness and outright joy. It can, and has been, a vehicle of catharsis for me. Such an occasion presented itself squarely in my face when I recently visited Kashgar in the Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang Province in Western China(the part of China that Islam has had the most influence on in its expansion phase many centuries ago).

Kashgar is surrounded on the north and west sides by the breathtakingly high snow-capped mountains of the Tien Shan and Pamir ranges, is on the Chinese side of these mountain ranges and in line latitudinally on the other side of these mountains with the Central Asian country of Tajikistan. Surrounding Kashgar on the third(southeast) side is the formidable Tacklameckem desert, second in size in the world only to the Sahara desert in North Africa and whose name in the Uighur language, a Turkic language, means "Go inside, never come out"! In addition, about 200 kilometers southwest of Kashgar is the Tashkorgan region, not far from Yarkand, where many muslims of the Tajik minority group have lived for a thousand years or so. They are mostly muslims of the Shia persuasion. This region is less than 100 kilometers from the Chinese-Tajikistan border crossing. In fact, if you spit hard enough and high enough upward and your spittoon made it over the lofty mountains, it would land on the Tajikistan side in the backyard of where the revered Shia Ismaili poet, author, cosmologist, philosopher and theologian Nasir Khusraw used to live a thousand years ago.

There are 2 characters central to this blog posting: One was the driver of our tour car, the other our tour guide for the city of Kashgar itself. I call the driver, a member of the majority Han Chinese ethnic group, Whiplash Wang because he reminded me of the famous character in the M*A*S*H*(Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) TV series of the 1970s, starring Alan Alda, in North America. This character would lurk in the shadows on the outskirts of the field hospital and fake being hit by any jeep as it sped into the camp with wounded soldiers. As he lay writhing in neck pain being treated in the hospital at the camp, his pain would suddenly disappear once he was awarded some financial compensation by the camp head. This earned him the nickname "Whiplash Wang". This character is peripheral to my story.

The other, more central character, our tour guide, I chose to name Cynical Ali, a Uighur Sunni muslim and native Kashgarian through and through. He was a real busybody with his cell phone constantly ringing as he endeavoured to show us the highlights of his city. He appeared to be well-connected judging by the number of cell phone calls he was receiving. He reminded me of the Iraqi propaganda minister at the start of the Iraq War in 2003, a far less sinister and more avancular Joe Goebbels-like personality, who earned the nickname Comical Ali when he claimed vehemently on Iraqi TV that the Americans had been driven from Baghdad by the superior forces of Saddam Hussein. All this while American TV showed American tanks already parked in the parking lot of the TV station Comical Ali was broadcasting from.

All in all, Whiplash Wang and Cynical Ali turned out to be an excellent driver and tour guide respectively and were well evaluated(a prerequisite for them keeping their jobs) and gratuitised by us at the end of the tour.

One place on our tour agenda included the famous Kashgar Sunday market, the largest in Central Asia they claim, one part involving the marketing, sale and purchasing of massive numbers of livestock like lambs, sheep, donkeys, cows and horses, with a cacophony of sounds to match; the other part being a huge market bazaar where all other items like clothes, foodstuffs and many other things were sold. Other places we visited included the famous IddKah Mosque, the tomb of Sunni Sufi leader Aba Khoja and his family and a museum depicting paraphenalia of the different minority muslim groups(eg Kazakh, Uighur, Tajik, Hui, etc) in Xinjiang Province, China's westernmost province. One of the things the museum guide, a pleasant and polite young Uighur lady, showed us was a replica of a typical Tajik household with its most particular feature being the five pillars that held up the main part of the household. Claiming that the five pillars represented symbolically the five most important personalities in the Shia tradition, she apologised for not being able to name them. She was eternally grateful when I, as a Shia muslim of the Ismaili persuasion, named these revered individuals-The Holy Prophet Mohammed, Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Bibi Fatima, Hazrat Hassan and Imam Hussein-and she wrote this information down so she could memorize it to tell future tour groups.

Uighurs are Sunni Muslims and when Cynical Ali, our tour guide, heard that we were Shia muslims a palpable air of superiority and arrogance came over him and he launched into a haughty exposition of Sunni dogma and I began to wonder if he had ever been paid a visit by that well-known wahhabi ideologue Osama Bin Laden. He pointed out what he thought were the supreme faults of Shia doctrine. No slouch myself in these matters, I reminded him about his name, Ali, and that Hazrat Ali was not only the revered first Imam of the Shia Muslims but also the revered fourth Caliph of the Sunni Muslims. He countered that Ali was not his real name but a nickname he used because it was easy to pronounce and remember. His real name was 'Khuda Bardi', which in Uighur language means 'God-given' but he was reluctant to use it because people kept shortening it to 'Khuda', meaning 'God' and he was loathe for anyone to call him 'God'. Fair enough I said. I then asked him what he made of the fact that our tour itinerary included both a Sunni mosque for formal prayers pertaining to the Shariah as well as a Sunni Sufi tomb of a Sufi saint whose great achievement was to take his flock of followers beyond the practice of the Shariah, onto an inward path(Tariqah), trying to reach an understanding of an inner truth(Haqiqah), in an attempt to reach the deepest inner spiritual knowledge or gnosis(Marifah). Cynical Ali had no answer for me.

I reminded him that it is Sunnism's greatest achievement that it has been able to creatively find a way to integrate the outer and inner expressions of faith through the practise of both the Shariah and through Sunni-based Sufism. I reminded him that Shia Islam did not need to have these two seperate institutions to integrate the totality of knowlegde because all the outer(Shariah) and inner aspects(Tariqah, Haqiqah, Marifah) of religion were automatically built into Shiism and its doctrines; that for Shia Islam Sufi and Gnostic orders invoke spiritual chains and links('Silisileh') that go back historically to land squarely in the lap of the first Shia Imam Ali. In fact, many such Sunni Sufi invocation chains also go back to the Imam Ali. This is what lends credence to the well-authenticated Prophetic saying: "I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate; those who wish to enter the city should enter through the gate".

This instinctive animosity that springs up between Sunni and Shia muslims, this lack of respect for and acceptance of pluralism of interpretations is, in my opinion, Islam's greatest weakness. We often hear that after 9/11, the total number of muslims killed so far in Iraq is over 650,000 and, when you add in casualties from the Afghanistan war, the total could range closer to the 1 million mark, all in response to the attacks of 9/11. For all the vilification being heaped on President George W. Bush(Texas), Donald Rumsfeld(Kansas) and Vice-President Dick Cheney(Wyoming), one has to admit that they have successfully exploited Islam's greatest weakness with machiavellian precision. By starting a war far away from American soil, the presence of American troops in Iraq guaranteed that Al-Qaeda would be attracted into the fray the way flies are attracted to feces. By ensuring that the undercurrent of ancient Sunni-Shia hatreds would quicky re-surface and by tying up Al-Qaeda in that toxic mix, this troika have so far ensured that no new attacks have occured on American soil. My bet is that, privately, they and the military-industrial complex that supports them are mightily pleased with themselves. I would bet that over thet next few years on the diagonal barbecue circuit that stretches from Texas to Kansas to Wyoming, there will be considerable back-slapping and high-fives all around for a job well done. After all, they swore an oath to their Constitution that they would do whatever it took to protect their country and so far they have largely fulfilled their duties and got the job done. In addition, the far more sinister message they have sent to muslims everywhere is the following: Pull a 9/11 type stunt on us again and we can concoct any number of reasons to incite and facilitate the slaughter of muslims anywhere on the planet, one million people at a time.

I mention this because in Kashgar, Western China, I came face to face with this most fundamental weakness in the fabric of Islam. In my case it was the putting down of my beliefs by someone who felt superior in his literalist and petrified version of Islam and his rigid anti-western views. He had no trouble fiddling around with and using a cell phone, the product of painstaking basic scientific research in the West, going back to Michael Faraday of England, Alessandro Volta of Italy, James Clerk Maxwell of Scotland, Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Wehrner Heisenberg of Germany, among others, all of whose momentous discoveries in basic science have led to this veritable piece of turd, Cynical Ali, being able to hold and use a cell phone in his hand. He was such a busybody with his cell phone that if anyone were looking for a logistician to put together a suicide bombing, without hesitation Cynical Ali would be the person they would choose to put together such a nefarious and godless act.

This brings to and end my story about Whiplash Wang and Cynical Ali. I was so annoyed by this experience that I vowed to blog about it. I did and now I feel much better. Its like I just had an explosively liberating bowel movement after one week of hard and binding constipation. In Central Ontario cottage country parlance we would call this a cottage-sized kaka!


If there are 23,000 jihadist websites and blogsites out there in cyberspace, there is no reason why we should not create 100,000 non-jihadist websites and blogsites: easynash(2007).

Saturday, May 19, 2007

173)How the scattering of light by other particles can change the colour of moonlight.

Month of May Departs with a blue Moon

The term Blue Moon has had a few different meanings throughout history. A Blue Moon can actually mean a bluish appearance of the moon, which can happen when certain dust or smoke particles are present in the air. However, most commonly nowadays, a Blue Moon is the second full moon in one month.

On May 31st, you should look up, because there is going to be a Blue Moon for the eastern coast of North America. The last Blue Moon appeared on July 31, 2004 and the next one will occur in December of 2009.

According to modern folklore, a Blue Moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. Usually months have only one full moon, but occasionally a second one sneaks in. Full moons are separated by 29 days, while most months are 30 or 31 days long. So it is possible to fit two full moons in a single month.

May has already had one full moon on May 2nd. The next, on May 31st, is by definition a Blue Moon.

But will it really be blue? Probably not. The date of a full moon, all by itself, doesn't affect the moon's color. The moon on May 31st will be pearly-gray, as usual. Unless....

There was a time, not long ago, when people saw blue moons almost every night. Full moons, half moons, crescent moons--they were all blue, except some nights when they were green.

The time was 1883, the year an Indonesian volcano named Krakatoa exploded. Scientists liken the blast to a 100-megaton nuclear bomb. Fully 600 km away, people heard the noise as loud as a cannon shot. Plumes of ash rose to the very top of Earth's atmosphere. And the moon turned blue.

Krakatoa's ash is the reason. Some of the ash-clouds were filled with particles about 1 micron (one millionth of a meter) wide--the right size to strongly scatter red light, while allowing other colors to pass. White moonbeams shining through the clouds emerged blue, and sometimes green.

Blue moons persisted for years after the eruption. People also saw lavender suns and, for the first time, noctilucent clouds. The ash caused "such vivid red sunsets that fire engines were called out in New York, Poughkeepsie, and New Haven to quench the apparent conflagration," according to volcanologist Scott Rowland at the University of Hawaii.

Other less potent volcanos have turned the moon blue, too. People saw blue moons in 1983, for instance, after the eruption of the El Chichon volcano in Mexico. And there are reports of blue moons caused by Mt. St. Helens in 1980 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

The key to a blue moon is having in the air lots of particles slightly wider than the wavelength of red light (0.7 micron)--and no other sizes present. This is rare, but volcanoes sometimes spit out such clouds, as do forest fires:

"On September 23, 1950, several muskeg fires that had been quietly smoldering for several years in Alberta suddenly blew up into major -- and very smoky -- fires," writes physics professor Sue Ann Bowling of the University of Alaska. "Winds carried the smoke eastward and southward with unusual speed, and the conditions of the fire produced large quantities of oily droplets of just the right size (about 1 micron in diameter) to scatter red and yellow light. Wherever the smoke cleared enough so that the sun was visible, it was lavender or blue. Ontario and much of the east coast of the U.S. were affected by the following day, but the smoke kept going. Two days later, observers in England reported an indigo sun in smoke-dimmed skies, followed by an equally blue moon that evening".

Absurd? Yes, but that's what a Blue Moon is all about.

If you are on the eastern coast of North America, step outside at sunset on May 31st, look east, and see one for yourself.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4.
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3

172)China Series No. 2: My comments on Ismaili Mail postings.

Whenever I offer a comment to any article posted on the Ismaili Mail website I like to record it on my blogsite. These are 2 comments I made recently relating to my recent trip to China:

1)easynash - May 16, 2007
I was on vacation in China when your site reached the 200,000 mark. Belated heartiest congratulations! Its interesting but I did have access to a computer in Beijing, Shanghai as well as the Silk Road cities of Urumqi, Kashgar, Turpan, Dunhuang and Xian but was not allowed access to the Ismaili Mail website. I did see all your new postings because they are mailed to my gmail account but could not get access to the actual website. Perhaps(and this is just a guess) the pointy-headed Attila the Han bureaucrats at Communist Party Central in Beijing have cut off access to your site because it is so popular and might give some undesirable ideas to Muslims in China. Nevertheless it was a fabulous visit and I will be blogging extensively about our trip on my blogsite(my wife kept a very detailed daily diary). Cheers.

Ismaili Mail replied:

ismailimail - May 16, 2007
Hi nash, glad to see you around, looking forward to your travelogue from China. Yes, the domain has recently been blocked in China. Google’s blogspot has been banned in Pakistan for sometime as well. Seems these governments are quick in blocking the undesirable contents and there seems to be nothing much people can do about it. But people always find the ways to get around and getting blog contents via email is one easy way.

2)In response to the following post by Ismaili Mail,

I gave the following comment:

easynash - May 18, 2007
Its interesting that you have made 2 recent posts on the subject of mountains and mountain societies: this one dated May 1st 2007 and the one below, dated May 9th 2007. As you know I just returned from a trip to the Chinese(eastern) side of these mountain ranges, the western sides of which exist the following countries, stated in sequential order from north to south and making up the western border of the vast country of China: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India:

All of these mountain ranges radiate outwards from the Pamir Knot along the border of Tajikistan and China. In the eyes of God they are just one vast mountain range but in the eyes of man they have different names: Tien Shan in China, Altai along Mongolia and bits of Russia, Tien Shan in Kazakhstan and Kyrgistan; Pamirs, Hindu Kush, Karakorum along the borders of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Kunlun along the northern border with Nepal, the southern border with India of which is made up by the Himalaya mountain range.

Seeing these tall, craggy. snow-capped mountains from the western Xinjiang Province on the Chinese side forces one to catch ones breath as I am sure they also do when they are seen from the Central Asian side(I am reminded of a series of pictures from the post ‘The Road To Hunza’ by Ali Khurshid on this website, some of which depict these breathtaking mountains).

This series of mountain ranges, the tallest in the world at the moment and growing taller still, began to sprout upwards from the ground within the past 200 million years when the subcontinent of India, which was initially perched along the African border near Madagascar, South and East Africa, moved up the Indian Ocean and slammed(in slow motion) into the vast underbelly of Asia, where it exists today. This impact caused, and is still causing today, these vast mountain ranges to be created and pushed upwards, some almost 6 miles tall. At the same time this process began, on the other side of the world, there was no Atlantic Ocean and the continents of Europe and Africa were grinding up against the continents of North and South America and had already created and pushed upwards the Apalachian chain of mountains on the eastern seaboard of North America, mostly in eastern Pennsylvania. This impact of whole continents against one another was so strong that the Appalachian mountain chain was once even taller than the Himalayas, Pamirs, Karakorums, Hindu Kush and Tien Shans are today.

I am currently mulling over a series of posts for my blogsite called the China Series and will talk in more detail about this and other topics, including the Rock Cycle in Nature, evidence of a most dynamic “universe in which we live, move and have our being”(Aga Khan III).


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4.
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3

Thursday, May 3, 2007

171)China Series No. 1:"Seek Knowledge, even in China"; My visit to the ancient and fabled Silk Route.

The Holy Prophet Mohammed once said: "Seek knowledge, even in China". Metaphorically that means seek knowledge from all four corners of the earth or wherever one can find it. China was already an advanced knowledge society when Islam was founded 1400 years ago. Indeed, seeking knowledge was not restricted to one particular period in life; "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave", the Prophet also opined.

In more modern times Mowlana Hazar Imam has said:
"The truth, as the famous Islamic scholars repeatedly told their students, is that the spirit of disciplined, objective enquiry is the property of no single culture, but of all humanity. To quote the great physician and philosopher, Ibn Sina: "My profession is to forever journeying, to travel about the universe so that I may know all its conditions." [Speech 16 March 1983]

This past week my wife and I realised a life-long dream and started a tour of China with special emphasis on the Chinese part of the ancient Silk Route.

Today and the past few days we finished a tour of the capital city, Beijing, visiting, of course, the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, The Summer Palace, the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square. It was fabulous!

Tomorrow, we begin the Silk Road part of the tour and will visit Urumqi(pronounced Urumchi), Kashgar, Turpan, Dunhuang and Xian, in no particular order.. The trip will end in Shanghai.

I will blog more about my trip at a later date.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4.
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3