Dec 5, 2015

World War I: The War to End All Wars

Europe's imperial powers had been engaged in economic and military rivalries for decades, but these became increasingly virulent during the first part of the 20th century. Great Britain's dominance of the seas came under aggressive challenge from Germany. Brooding over a defeat at the hands of Prussia in 1871, France aligned itself with Great Britain, its traditional enemy, against Germany. Britain, France, and Russia formed an alliance that pressured Germany on both its east and west borders. Germany, in tum, aligned with the ancient kingdom of Austria-Hungary and with the Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire to its south. The world's great nations were in position for a fight, a single incident away from catastrophe. 

On June 28, 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was murdered - along with his wife - while touring the city of Sarajevo in the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The assassin, Gavrilo Princip, acted on behalf of Serbian nationalists who sought to expel the Austrians from the Balkans and to create a larger Serbian state.

The assassination did not immediately lead to hostilities, but because Serbia was aligned with Russia, larger alliances were called into play and tensions were immediately heightened. When Serbia refused to investigate links between the assassins and members of the Serbian government, Austria-Hungary declared war on the Serbs in late July. Russia began to mobilize its enormous army to defend its ally, Serbia; Germany felt threatened and declared war on Russia soon after and then, on August 3, it went to war with France as well. The German army crossed into neutral Belgium on its way to France, prompting Britain to enter the war on France's side.

Nov 22, 2015

Birthstones

They are gemstone associated with the date of one's birth, the wearing of which is commonly thought to bring good luck or health. Supernatural powers have long been attributed by astrologers to certain gemstones.

The stones now associated with each month have only slight relationship to the ancient beliefs, for the list is tempered by availability and cost. Before mineralogy had progressed to the point of chemical analysis, colour was of greater importance than some of the other physical characteristics, and little distinction was made between emerald and chrysoprase, for example, or between ruby and garnet, or between citrine and topaz. When it came to the ability to heal or bring good luck, the actual stone and the look-alikes were regarded as equally effective. Even the names used in ancient times do not necessarily refer to the stones that go by those names in the 20th century; the sapphire of the Bible is much more likely to have been lapis lazuli than what is now known as sapphire, and adamas (diamond) was probably white sapphire or white topaz. (Britannica Encyclopedia)

January: garnet
February: amethyst
March: bloodstone aqumarine
April: diamond
May: emerald
June: pearl
July: ruby
August: sardonyx
September: sapphire
October: opal
November: topaz
December: turquoise

Nov 15, 2015

The Ice Age

Much of human history unfolded during the dramatic climatic shifts of the most recent ice age which began about 2.5 million years ago. Our ability to adapt to changes in climate has been crucial to the development of civilization but our own activity may now be causing dangerous global warming.

An ice age is a period during which the Earth is cold enough to develop extensive ice sheets. These sheets build up over years when snowfall fails to melt in summer and become blankets of ice thousands of feet thick. Such sheets today cover Antarctica, Greenland, and some high mountains, but during glacial periods (the coldest parts of an ice age), global temperatures drop a few degrees, leading to much larger ice sheets.

At the height of the last glacial period, 20,000 years ago, ice sheets formed over Scandinavia and covered most of Canada and parts of the United States as far south as modern Seattle and the Great Lakes. Great glaciers formed on the Alps and there were ice sheets on the Pyrenees, on the Andes, and on Central Asian mountains and high altitude plateau. Nothing lives on the ice – all life retreats south to places that support some plant growth in summer. We are now enjoying a relatively warm period known as an interglacial. Any ice age fluctuates between these interglacials, which are brief intervals of warmer conditions, and glacial periods - longer stretches of intense cold. When we talk about the Ice Age, we are referring either to the entire cold period (the Pleistocene) or to the last glacial period, which ended between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago.

Nov 8, 2015

Sites of Early Human Fossils and Artifacts

Scientists have discovered the bones and artifacts of early humans in many parts of Africa and Eurasia. The earliest humans, known as australopithecines, lived only in Africa. The modern human genus, Homo, also evolved in Africa, but several middle and late Homo species migrated to Europe and Asia. Early forms of Homo sapiens, or modern humans, lived in Africa and Asia. Only fully modern humans populated the rest of the globe. 
(Encarta Encyclopedia)

Nov 1, 2015

Happiness – according to Aristotle: "is activity of the rational soul in accordance with virtue"

Aristotle's approach to ethics is teleological. If life is to be worth living, he argues, it must surely be for the sake of something that is an end in itself—i.e., desirable for its own sake. If there is any single thing that is the highest human good, therefore, it must be desirable for its own sake, and all other goods must be desirable for the sake of it. One popular conception of the highest human good is pleasure—the pleasures of food, drink, and sex, combined with aesthetic and intellectual pleasures. Other people prefer a life of virtuous action in the political sphere. A third possible candidate for the highest human good is scientific or philosophical contemplation. Aristotle thus reduces the answers to the question “What is a good life?” to a short list of three: the philosophical life, the political life, and the voluptuary life. This triad provides the key to his ethical inquiry.

Oct 25, 2015

Edwin Drake (1819-1880) – “Father" of the petroleum industry

He was an American petroleum engineer, credited with drilling the first productive oil well in the United States. Born in Greenville, New York, Drake held many different jobs as a young man, including railway conductor, steamboat employee, and hotel clerk. He became interested in oil after investing $200 in the stock of the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, which was formed in 1854 to exploit oil resources in northwestern Pennsylvania.

At the time, oil was often used for its presumed medicinal properties. Techniques for tapping underground oil were so undeveloped that it was primarily gathered as ground seepage, a method used by Pennsylvania Rock Oil. Drake was convinced, however, that he could collect oil in far larger quantities by drilling for it as others drilled for brine, a natural combination of water with a high salt content. He studied brine drilling and set off to Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Drake leased the land at Titusville that he thought most likely to produce oil. He worked for months to bring together the equipment and operators he needed, in the meantime enduring ridicule from local people who scorned his enterprise as “Drake’s Folly.” The actual drilling began in June 1859. One of Drake’s innovations in the procedure was a device used to sink a pipe casing down to bedrock in order to protect the drill from sand and clay and the well from water seepage. After weeks of drilling, Drake and his team reached a depth of 21 m (69 ft), where they struck oil. The initial yield was 40 barrels a day.

An ineffective businessman, Drake did not patent his methods for petroleum drilling, and he lost his operating capital by making bad investments in later oil operations. He survived during the last years of his life on a pension granted by the Pennsylvania legislature.
(Adapted from Encarta Encyclopedia)

Oct 18, 2015

First oil well drilled in USA

The Drake well at Titusville, Pennsylvania, was completed on August 28, 1859 (some sources list the date as August 27). The driller, William "Uncle Billy" Smith, went down 69.5 feet (21.18 meters) to find oil for Edwin L. Drake (1819-1880), the well's operator. Within 15 years, Pennsylvania oil field production reached over 10 million 360-pound (163.3-kilogram) barrels a year. 
(Adapted from ‘The Handy Science Answer Book, compiled by the Science and Technology department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)

Oct 11, 2015

The Mind's Eye

The phrase "mind's eye" refers to the human ability to visualize, i.e., to experience visual mental imagery; in other words, one's ability to "see" things with the mind.

The brain converts the outside world into the minimum it requires: a sense of three physical dimensions plus time. It can convey several more dimensions, as Escher does in his visually paradoxical paintings, and it can think abstractly about still more dimensions, as physicists sometimes do, using mathematical symbols as mental handrails. Just as a two-dimensional painting or photograph conjures up a four-dimensional world, the brain envisions itself in space and time. But only as much space and time as it needs to survive, given its senses and limits. I often wonder about the senses of life-forms in other solar systems, how many dimensions their universe might seem to hold, depending on their biology and culture. If they have a culture, and an awareness of the outside world, and if they value truth.

We cannot know. Faith eases that strain. Faith in most anything, but especially in religion, science, and love, because they're so good at providing useful and pleasing patterns and rewards. Certainty feels sweet. Especially the certainty of knowing who and what goes where in a chaotic world. In the mind's eye, that ancient seat of imagining, neurons appear to branch like trees, and angels have taffeta bird wings.

Oct 4, 2015

Supercell thunderstorm

Storm chasers photograph a spring supercell thunderstorm near Texline, Texas. Supercells are severe, potentially dangerous storms that have a vortex of rotating air known as a mesocyclone. They produce hail, strong rain, and occasionally tornadoes. (National Geographic)

Sep 27, 2015

Ant's eyes and antennas

Most ants have two compound eyes, which are made up of light-sensitive compartments called ommatidia. These compartments work together to generate an image in the ant’s brain. Some types of ants have three simple eyes, called ocelli, at the top of their heads. Ocelli can detect light, but they do not form images. Different species of ants vary in their ability to see: Some have well-developed sight, but others are entirely blind. Sight is of little importance to those ants that spend all or much of their lives underground.

Attached to the front of the head is a pair of flexible, segmented appendages called antennae, which contain organs of taste, smell, and touch. Each antenna is shaped like a human arm that is bent at the elbow. This antennae shape is an identifying feature of ants. Antennae are an ant’s main source of information about the world. When an ant is active, its antennae are in nearly constant motion—tapping the ground or vegetation, other ants, and food sources, or sampling odors from. 
(Encarta Encyclopedia) 

Sep 20, 2015

American Wars – battle deaths and cost

The cost (in 2008 dollars) and the numbers of American casualties in various wars:

American Revolution (1775-1783): $1.825 billion; between 4,400 and 6,800 battle deaths
War of 1812 (1812-1815): $1.177 billion; 2,260 battle deaths
Mexican War (1846-1849): $1.801 billion; 1,733 battle deaths
Civil War - Union (1861-1865): $45.199 billion; 140,414 battle deaths
Civil War - Confederacy (1861-1865): $15.244 billion; 94,000 battle deaths
Spanish-American War (1898-1899): $6.848 billion; 385 battle deaths
World War I (1917-1918): $253 billion; 53,513 battle deaths
World War II (1941-1945): $4.114 trillion; 292,131 battle deaths
Korean War (1950-1953): $320 billion; 33,629 battle deaths
Vietnam War (1965-1975): $686 billion; 47,393 battle deaths
Persian Gulf War (1990-1991): $96 billion; 146 battle deaths
Afghanistan War (2001- ): $321.3 billion; 906 battle deaths
Iraq War (2003- ): $739.8 billion; 3,489 battle deaths

The costs do not include veterans' benefits, war debts, or assistance to our allies; casualties do not include civilians, noncombat deaths, those wounded or missing in action. (Information for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is correct as of August 5, 2010.) 
- Kee Malesky  (‘All Facts Considered’)

Sep 13, 2015

Out of Africa

The first African to come to the New World may have been Pedro Alonzo Nino (1468-1505?), who was not a slave but a pilot and a navigator for Christopher Columbus on his first voyage. It's possible that there were earlier trading contacts between Africa and the Americas, but historians are still debating the evidence. Africans were certainly involved in other European explorations: thirty black men were with Vasco Nunez de Balboa when he reached the Pacific Ocean in 1513; Africans accompanied Hernando Cortes to Mexico and Francisco Pizarro to Peru; and they ventured into Canada and the Mississippi Valley with the French. And, around 1780 or 1790, it was a black man from Haiti, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who constructed the first non-Native dwelling at a trading post that would later be named Chicago.  
Kee Malesky (‘All Facts Considered’)

Sep 6, 2015

Semblance of two worlds

As a big wave breaks off the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, two worlds appear. On the right, a surfer enters the barrel. On the left, submerged photographers track his progress. Heavily touristed, the North Shore is also a proving ground for local surfers. (National Geographic 2015)

Aug 30, 2015

2015: Still leaning…

Looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa will keep on leaning, stably, awhile longer. More than a dozen years after major foundation work, the imperfect edifice hasn't increased its lean. In fact, civil engineer John Burland of Imperial College London says his international team has succeeded in straightening the marble bell tower by 19 inches, reducing its angle of incline by about 10 percent, and slowing its once steady creep to nearly nothing. It wasn't easy. Built from 1173 to 1370 on silt and clay, the eight-story, 182- foot-tall tower resisted many efforts to stabilize it. What finally worked was a soil removal process called under-excavation and the addition of wells to regulate groundwater. The chief fear now? A big earthquake. "Absent that," says Burland," I'd be very surprised indeed if we see it lean significantly again." 
- Jeremy Berlin  (National Geographic magazine)

Aug 23, 2015

Modern Medicine

In the 19th century, sound scientific thinking and new medical technologies led to advances in every area of medicine, particularly the eradication of many of the world's worst diseases. Of fundamental importance was the discovery of a connection between filth and disease, and public acceptance of the theory led to improved sanitation and other public health measures. Independently established by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch in the 1870s, the germ theory of disease, which holds that bacteria and other microbes cause and spread infectious diseases, enabled scientists to isolate the causative agents of diphtheria, tuberculosis, and other scourges, leading to the development of vaccines. In 1879, Pasteur accidentally discovered that bacteria could be weakened, which prevents them from causing disease but still enables them to trigger immunity in infected individuals. Using weakened anthrax bacteria taken from the blood of diseased animals, Pasteur developed the first artificially produced vaccine in 1881. Vaccines for rabies (1885), cholera (1893), plague (1897), and typhoid (1897) soon followed.

Many new drugs were developed at this time, including acetylsalicylate, a derivative of the active ingredient in willow bark, a remedy used for combating fever for more than 2,000 years. Now known as "aspirin," it went on the market in 1899 after development by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. Other drugs to appear in the physician's medicine cabinet included digitalis for heart ailments, amyl nitrate for angina, quinine for malaria, and sedatives such as chloral hydrate and paraldehyde.

Aug 9, 2015

Oldest man - 2015

Japanese Yasutaro Koide , 112, receives the Guinness World Records certificate as he is formally recognized as the world's oldest man, at a nursing home in Nagoya, central Japan. (Reuters)
(http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science)

Aug 2, 2015

The largest oil field in the world

The Ghawar field, discovered in 1948 in Saudi Arabia, is the largest oil field in the world; it measures 174 by 19 miles and is located in the eastern area of Saudi Arabia near the Persian Gulf. It accounts for more than half of the cumulative oil production of Saudi Arabia. Ghawar is entirely owned and operated by Saudi Aramco, the state run Saudi oil company. Saudi Aramco's value has been estimated at anywhere between US$1.25 trillion and US$7 trillion, making it the world's most valuable company. Saudi Aramco has the world's largest proven crude oil reserves, at more than 260 billion barrels. Its 2013 crude oil production totaled 3.4 billion barrels from 100 oil fields. 
(Adapted from ‘The Handy Science Answer Book, compiled by the Science and Technology department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; and from Wikipedia encyclopedia)

Jul 26, 2015

Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic system in which most of the industries and businesses in a country are owned privately, rather than by the government. Capitalists are people who use their own wealth (or other people's money) to make more wealth. The extra money they make is their profit. Some capitalists manufacture things to sell at a profit. Some are store owners who sell goods at a profit. Others are financiers or investors who lend their money in the hope of getting more back.

No matter what their business, the aim of capitalists is to make a profit. But this does not mean that they can charge very high prices or sell bad goods. If they do, they will probably lose business to others who sell better goods or have lower prices. Competition forces capitalists to sell the best possible goods at the lowest possible price. Competition is an important feature of capitalism. The profits made by individual capitalists in free competition benefit the economy of a whole country. As capitalists make profits they can expand their businesses and put more people to work.

Early Capitalism
In the Middle Ages, Europe had a feudal agricultural system. Land belonged to the church and to the nobles and was worked mainly by serfs. Few people were free to own and control their own businesses except in the cities.

Jul 19, 2015

Why We Ask "Why?"

Sometimes as the fog of sleep lifts, the mind becomes aware of its traffic. Like commuters on an expressway, messages speed across the corpus callosum, a thick bridge of 200-250 million nerve fibers spanning the brain's two hemispheres. More will follow in a continuous stream of hubbub going in both directions. The brain is a duet of specialists which produces a single experience that's part enterprise, part communion, but all process, all motion.

The right brain is the strong silent one. It can see and act, but not report. Only the left brain talks, and it jabbers all day long, in a self-styled monologue and running commentary on the world, punctuated by conversations with other folk blessed (or cursed) with equally gabby left brains. What's more, the two sides specialize in different facets of mind, with the left excelling at speech and language and the right better at visual-motor skills. Heavy lifting is fine, but don't ask the right brain to solve knotty verbal problems. Which is not to say that the right side doesn't process language - it does, but weakly compared with the eloquent feats of the left. Damage the left hemisphere and language becomes a night- mare, especially for men (women generally recover better from left hemisphere injuries). But people vary greatly and the brain is resilient, so, fortunately, some victims with injured left brains do manage to regain speech. Mind you, that doesn't necessarily mean they can write. As it happens, writing isn't much related to speaking. A relatively recent invention, it's not part of our evolutionary heritage, but more like a sophisticated team sport with changing equipment and rules.

Jul 12, 2015

The Corinth Canal in Greece

The Corinth Canal in Greece is a deep-ditch ship canal, connecting the Ionian and Aegean seas. Built between 1882 and 1893, the canal is only 4 miles (6.3 kilometers) long. But for most ships, it saves a 202-mile (325-kilometer) voyage around southern Greece. The canal has no locks because its entire length is at sea level. 
(The Book of Knowledge encyclopedia)

Jul 5, 2015

1867: The formation of the Dominion of Canada

In 1864, the "Fathers of the Confederation" met in Quebec to discuss the union of Britain's North American colonies. Three years later the Dominion of Canada was founded. The Provinces that were part of Canada in 1867 were: Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. 
(Adapted from ‘The Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia and http://www.worldatlas.com)

Jun 28, 2015

The Peopling of the World

Scientists today estimate that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, but that number has shifted more than a few times over the last century. The earliest signs of human activity did not appear until 2.7 million years ago, in the early Stone Age (or Lower Paleolithic era), which lasted until 200,000 years ago, although the species called Australopithecus dates back more than 4 million years ago. Africa is often referred to as "the cradle of humanity," and all the fossil discoveries were made there.

The earliest human ancestors--called hominids--walked upright on two legs and were scavengers. Homo erectus, another early hominid dating from 1.5 million years ago, evolved in Africa but migrated to Eurasia, the first human species to do so. These very early humans used fire (but probably could not make it), created stone weapons and tools, and were successful in occupying a wide range of habitats. Nevertheless, all non-African populations of Homo erectus eventually died out without leaving descendants.

Our own species, Homo sapiens, evolved from Homo erectus through various transitional stages in the savannah lands of eastern Africa about 150,000 years ago. Homo sapiens is a highly social and adaptable species, fully capable of using complex language. Modern humans moved out from the original species' homeland on the eastern plains of Africa to occupy much of eastern, northern, and southern parts of the continent. The special challenges of the rain forest environment slowed the movement of humans into the western regions of Africa.

Around 105,000 years ago, modern humans migrated northward through Egypt and out of Africa via the Sinai Peninsula to the Middle East. There they apparently met and coexisted with humans of a different and older species - Neanderthals (Homo neandertalensis)-- that had a simpler, less flexible culture and technology.

Jun 14, 2015

The art and beauty of the brain

Imagine the brain, that shiny mound of being, that mouse-gray parliament of cells, that dream factory, that petit tyrant inside a ball of bone, that huddle of neurons calling all the plays, that little everywhere, that fickle pleasuredrome, that wrinkled wardrobe of selves stuffed into the skull like too many clothes into a gym bag. The neocortex has ridges, valleys, and folds because the brain kept remodeling itself though space was tight. We take for granted the ridiculous-sounding yet undeniable fact that each person carries around atop the body a complete universe in which trillions of sensations, thoughts, and desires stream. They mix privately, silently, while agitating on many levels, some of which we're not aware of, thank heavens. If we needed to remember how to work the bellows of the lungs or the writhing python of digestion, we'd be swamped by formed and forming memories, and there'd be no time left for buying cute socks. My brain likes cute socks. But it also likes kisses. And asparagus. And watching boat-tailed grackles. And biking. And drinking Japanese green tea in a rose garden. There's the nub of it-the brain is personality's whereabouts. It's also a stern warden, and, at times, a self-tormentor. It's where catchy tunes snag, and cravings keep tugging. Shaped a little like a loaf of French country bread, our brain is a crowded chemistry lab, bustling with nonstop neural conversations. It's also an impersonal landscape where minute bolts of lightning prowl and strike. A hall of mirrors, it can contemplate existentialism, the delicate hooves of a goat, and its own birth and death in a matter of seconds. It's blunt as a skunk, and a real gossip hound, but also voluptuous, clever, playful, and forgiving. 

May 23, 2015

The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) - a measure of how many nutrients common foods deliver to your body for each calorie consumed

ANDI is an easy visualization of which foods are the most beneficial to eat and how foods compare to one another in nutrient density. The higher the scores (1,000 is the highest) and the greater percentage of those foods in your diet, the better your health will be.

ANDI 500 to 1000: Kale: 1,000; Collard greens: 1,000; Mustard greens: 1,000; Watercress: 1,000; Swiss chard: 895; Bok choy: 865; Spinach: 707; Arugula: 604; Romaine: 510

ANDI 100 to 500: Brussels sprouts: 490; Carrots: 458; Cabbage: 434; Broccoli: 340; Cauliflower: 315; Bell peppers: 265; Mushrooms: 238; Asparagus: 205; Tomato: 186; Strawberries: 182; Sweet potato: 181; Zucchini: 164; Artichoke: 145; Blueberries: 132; Iceberg lettuce: 127; Grapes: 119; Pomegranates: 119; Cantaloupe: 118; Onions: 109; Flax seeds: 103

ANDI 50 to 100: Orange: 98; Edamame: 98; Cucumber: 87; Tofu: 82; Sesame seeds: 74; Lentils: 72; Peaches: 65; Sunflower seeds: 64; Kidney beans: 64; Green peas: 64; Cherries: 55; Pineapple: 54; Apple: 53; Mango: 53; Peanut butter: 51

ANDI 25 to 50: Corn: 45; Pistachio nuts: 37; Shrimp: 36; Salmon: 34; Eggs: 34; Milk, 1%: 31; Walnuts: 30; Bananas: 30; Whole-wheat bread: 30; Almonds: 28; Avocado: 28; Brown rice: 28; White potato: 28; Low-fat plain yogurt: 28; Cashews: 27; Oatmeal: 26

ANDI 1 to 25: Chicken breast: 24; Ground beef, 85% lean: 21; Feta cheese: 20; White bread: 17; White bread (estimated without fortification): 9; White pasta: 16; White pasta (estimated without fortification): 11; French fries: 12; Cheddar cheese: 11; Apple juice: 11; Olive oil: 10; Vanilla ice cream: 9; Corn chips: 7; Cola: 1 
(Adapted from ‘Eat to Live Cookbook’, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.)

May 16, 2015

Year: 1848 – Some happenings in Europe and America

The year 1848 was a year of revolution in Europe. Uprisings occurred in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Great Britain. Ordinary people everywhere were demanding change. Farmers, merchants, and craftsmen were no longer content to see their rulers live in splendid comfort while their own families lived difficult, impoverished lives. They wanted affordable food, the ability under the law to own land, and they wanted a society that treated them justly. In certain places people who spoke the same language wanted their own independent nation. Many people demanded a voice in electing the leaders who governed them. Some read a new pamphlet by Karl Marx titled The Communist Manifesto. Marx did not put his trust in religion to change society, but in revolution. If people wanted justice, he wrote, the proletariat -- the working class -- must revolt against the rulers and the wealthy.

Those in power, long accustomed to doing what they pleased, were slow to respond. When the French National Assembly wrangled in disagreement over reforms, angry citizens broke into its chambers and overran the Assembly. King Louis-Philippe was forced to flee the country. In the ongoing struggle for reform, the French fought bloody street battles. They were not alone.

May 9, 2015

Library of Congress

It is the largest and most comprehensive library in the world, located in Washington, D.C. The Library of Congress functions as the national library of the United States, although it has never been officially recognized as such through legislation. The library’s primary purpose is to serve the Congress of the United States, but its collections, services, and reading rooms are freely available for use by all persons over high school age. The Library of Congress also serves as the official copyright agency of the United States.

Established by an act of Congress in 1800, the library was first located in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Today the Library of Congress occupies three large buildings in the Capitol Hill area of the city, near the Capitol building and the United States Supreme Court building. Approximately 1 million people visit the library each year.

The Library of Congress also works closely with specialized libraries in the executive branch of government that have been designated by Congress as national libraries. These include the National Library of Medicine, the National Agricultural Library, and the National Library of Education.

May 2, 2015

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

In recent years a number of theorists have proposed the existence of emotional intelligence that is complementary to the type of intelligence measured by IQ tests.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize one's own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

American psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer, introduced the concept in 1990. Emotionally intelligent people can use their emotions to guide thoughts and behavior and can accurately read others’ emotions. Daniel Goleman, an American author and journalist, popularized the concept in his book Emotional Intelligence (1995). He expanded the concept to include general social competence.

There are three models of EI. The ability model focuses on the individual's ability to process emotional information and use it to navigate the social environment. The trait model encompasses behavioral dispositions and self perceived abilities and is measured through self report. The final model, the mixed model is a combination of both ability and trait EI. It defines EI as an array of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance.

Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, exemplary job performance, and more potent leadership skills. Markers of EI and methods of developing it have become more widely coveted in the past few decades. In addition, studies have begun to provide evidence to help characterize the neural mechanisms of emotional intelligence.

Criticisms have centered on whether EI is a real intelligence and whether it has incremental validity over IQ and the Big Five personality traits. 
(Adapted from Encarta and Wikipedia Encyclopedias)

Apr 25, 2015

Both are related to wolves

Chihuahua and Great Dane: both are wolves under the skin, but who would guess it from their appearance, after a few centuries of artificial selection? 
(‘The Greatest Show on Earth’, by Richard Dawkins)

Apr 18, 2015

The Soy Debate

Asian populations have a lower incidence of hormone-related diseases, such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, and prostate cancer, than Westerners do. It has been suggested that soy consumption is one reason for this difference in disease incidence. Women who were born in Asia but migrated to the United States likewise have a lower risk of breast cancer, possibly due to their early exposure to soy. But obviously soy is only one of many factors that influence cancer risk, and now we know that it is many contributing factors that make a diet cancer-protective.

It is now clear that soy intake during adolescence, a time when breast tissue is most sensitive to environmental stimuli and carcinogenesis, may reduce the risk of breast cancer later in life. Recent articles in Cancer Epidemiology and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that soy consumption during childhood and teenage years reduced the risk of breast cancer in adulthood by 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Soybeans are rich in isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are plant substances that are chemically similar to estrogen and since higher estrogen levels promote breast cancer, some people predicted that soy would too. Now we know that the phytoestrogens in soy actually block the effects of the body's estrogen. Despite myths propagated on the Internet, the most recent and reliable clinical studies support a strong protective effect of minimally processed soy foods against breast cancer.