"...look into all things with a searching eye” - Baha'u'llah (Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith)


Feb 15, 2019

Diversity of language in Africa

There is more diversity in Africa than on all the other continents combined. That’s because modem humans originated in Africa and have lived there the longest. They’ve had ime to evolve enormous genetic diversity—which extends to skin color. Researchers who study it sometimes use Africa’s linguistic diversity—it has more than 2,000 languages —as a guide. “There is no homogeneous African race,’’ says geneticist Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania. “It doesn’t exist.’’ The prehistoric humans who left Africa some 60,000 years ago—giving rise over time to the other peoples of the world—reflected only a fraction of Africa’s diversity. 

Language diversity of continental Africa. Each dot represent a distinct language
(National Geographic, April 2019)

Dec 12, 2018

1946 Palestine: Singing, Shouting Fugitives from Concentration Camps March Through Barbed Wire with Delight

These men smuggled themselves into the hands of Palestine authorities. At 'Atlit tamp, near Haifa, they had to remain until the quota system -- 1500 immigrants, a month -- certified them. They carry the Star of David, their national flag. A few bundles represent their only possessions. Senior prisoners and Palestine police (caps) watch the parade. Men’s quarters (right) and women’s are separated; the sexes are allowed to mix during the day. 
(National Geographic, October 1946)

Nov 10, 2018

Father of scientific racism

(Skulls from the collection of Samuel Morton, the father of scientific racism, illustrate his classification of people into five races—which arose, he claimed, from separate acts of creation. From left to right: a black woman and a white man, both American; an indigenous man from Mexico; a Chinese woman; and a Malaysian man.)

In the first half of the 19th century, one of America’s most prominent scientists was a doctor named Samuel Morton. Morton lived in Philadelphia, and he collected skulls. He wasn’t choosy about his suppliers, He accepted skulls scavenged from battlefields and snatched from catacombs. One of his most famous craniums belonged to an Irishman who’d been sent as a convict to Tasmania (and ultimately hanged for killing and eating other convicts). With each skull Morton performed the same procedure: I le stuffed it with pepper seeds—later he switched to lead shot—which he then decanted to ascertain the volume of the braincase.

Morton believed that people could be divided into five races and that these represented separate acts of creation. The races had distinct characters, which corresponded to their place in a divinely determined hierarchy. Morton’s “craniometry" showed, he claimed, that whites, or "Caucasians." were the most intelligent of the races, East Asians—Morton used the term “Mongolian"— though "ingenious” and "susceptible of cultivation," were one step down. Next came Southeast Asians, followed by Native Americans. Blacks, or "Ethiopians," were at the bottom. In the decades before the Civil War. Morton’s ideas were quickly taken up by the defenders of slavery.

Oct 19, 2018

circa 1920s: Tehran, Persia - a description by a foreign diplomat

Tehran 1930s
Tehran is the town best known by Europeans, for it is the-capital of the country, a position it attained when the present royal family came to the throne, the first Shah of the line transferring the seat of the government there from Isfahan. It lies on the southern slope of the Elburz Mountains, and from the town the great white cone of Damavand can be clearly seen towering high above the rest of the range. There is little of real interest in the town. One of the Shahs surrounded it with a dry moat and a wide earthen rampart twelve miles in circumference. This is pierced by nine gateways — flimsy buildings of brick veneered with glazed tiles and ornamented by little turrets. From the outside the town shows a crowded mass of mud-walls and tree-tops with an occasional red-painted iron roof. The older part of the city is like other Oriental towns — a maze of narrow lanes hemmed in by high mud-walls. Every now and then the road is arched over, for a short distance to form a bazaar. The shops are merely recesses, in the side-walls, and the goods are stored on shelves and in pigeon-holes or heaped on the ground.

Jul 18, 2018

The "astronomical" theory: Next Ice Age?

Yes, the Big Chill is coming, but you won't need your industrial-strength thermal underwear for another 3,000 to 20,000 years. Over the past billion years, the earth has experienced three long periods during which ice built up at its poles, each period made up of several 100,000-year "ice ages," when glaciers advanced to cover much of the world. These ice ages were punctuated by 10,000-year "interglacials," warm spells marked by the melting of the vast ice sheets. We live at the end of such a temperate time-out; the last great ice age wound down about 7,000 years ago. At its peak, 20,000 years ago, glaciers encased much of North America, Europe, and Asia. Days were about eleven degrees colder than they are now, forcing humans and animals southward.

It's not hard to see how an ice age is caused by a temperature drop, creating summers cool enough that the previous winter's snow never melts. Several seasons' snows accumulate and compact to form glaciers. But what turns down the thermostat? The cold facts have been hotly debated, but the theory most widely accepted - the "astronomical" theory - states that three periodic changes in the earth's position relative to the sun seem to have launched ice ages by influencing the amount of solar radiation the earth receives.

Because of the gravitational pull of the sun and moon on the equator, the earth wobbles on its axis like a toy top slowing down. Every 22,000 years or so, it describes a circle in space. The axis also tilts, causing the seasons. When the North Pole tips away from the sun, it's winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Today, the angle of tilt is 23 ½ degrees but every 41,000 years it moves from 22 to 24 degrees and back again. Perhaps the most important cycle is a change in the shape of the earth's orbit - from nearly circular to highly elliptical and back to circular - every 100,000 years due to the gravitational tug of fellow planets. The combined effect of these three cycles is to place the earth farther away from the sun at certain times, cooling the planet into an ice age.

Jun 9, 2018

A Helping Hand

Staphylococus epidermidis is a common form of bacteria found on human skin. Invisible to the eye, bacteria are revealed when a handprint made in agar gel (above) is cultured in a laboratory. 

The surface of human skin is crowded with bacteria that would, if your immune system allowed it, cause serious infection. But researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have discovered that one bacterium in that mix, Staphylococcus epidermidis (a close cousin of methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA) may actually help fine-tune the immune system. To do its good work, S. epidermidis deploys a molecule that blocks aggressive inflammatory agents. If unchecked, those agents would ignite a rashy reaction around even a minor scrape. Good staph stays good only if locked outside by the skin's multiple defenses, though. Give that germ a way into a weakened body - like a ride on a surgical implant - and it can ignite a potentially fatal infection. 
(National Geographic, June 2011)

May 16, 2018

The Andes: Earth's longest mountain range - 5500 miles

The 5500-mile-long Andes of South America would stretch from San Francisco to London. Only the Himalaya reach higher than these snowy peaks. 
(National Geographic, Feb. 2001)

Mar 16, 2018

2007: Space Trash and Treasure

Even a tiny paint flake left floating in orbit can pit the window of a space shuttle traveling 17,500 miles an hour. To avoid catastrophic collisions, the Department of Defense tracks pieces of orbiting space junk larger than two inches. Debris orbiting relatively close to Earth, such as a glove that drifted away in 1965 from Edward White or an eyebolt shaken loose from a solar panel on a Russian spacecraft in 2004, quickly burn up in the atmosphere. Items in higher orbit remain aloft for generations: The Vanguard 1 satellite will fly for centuries. Space agencies are pondering ways to sweep such junk out of the path of collision. Meanwhile, Australian archaeologist Alice Gorman is lobbying for the creation of an international treaty that would designate certain satellites, such as the Vanguard 1, as treasures of cultural heritage. One day, she says, they may even beckon space tourists. 
(National Geographic, Jan. 2007)

Feb 10, 2018

A Tale of Three Humans

A third kind of human, called Denisovans, seems to have coexisted in Asia with Neanderthals and early modern humans. The latter two are known from abundant fossils and artifacts. Denisovans are defined so far only by the DNA from one bone chip and two teeth – but it reveals a new twist to the human story. 
(National Geographic, July 2013)

Jan 17, 2018

Zoroastrian Tower of Silence

Iran – Visitors inspect a ruined dakhma, or tower of silence, near Yazd. In the Zoroastrian tradition, dead bodies – believed to be in danger of contamination – were left on those raised, circular structures, to be purified by vultures and the elements. 
(National Geographic, July 2013)

Oct 23, 2017

Bats - the only mammals that fly

They eat insect pests. They pollinate useful plants, as bees do. Their droppings, called guano, are used as fertilizer.

Bats are mammals. They are the only mammals that fly. There are nearly 1,000 species of bats. They are found in all kinds of habitats. Bats live in tropical rain forests. They live in climates so cold that trees won’t grow there. Unlike other mammals, when bats rest they lower their body temperature to save energy. In very cold weather, they hibernate.

A bat’s wings are made of two layers of skin. The wings are supported by bones like those in a human hand. The thumbs have claws and lie outside the wings. The bat uses them to cling to the places where it roosts. These may be trees, caves, or even buildings. Muscles attached to the wings power the bat’s flight.

Bats come in many sizes. The largest is the Malayan flying fox. It is 16 inches (41 centimeters) long. Its wings span 5.6 feet (1.7 meters). The Kitti’s hog-nosed bat is the smallest of all mammals. It’s about an inch (3 centimeters) long—the size of a bumblebee—and is also known as the bumblebee bat.

Oct 10, 2017


An imagining of Idris visiting Heaven 
and Hell
ʾIdrís is an ancient prophet and patriarch mentioned in the Qur'an, whom Muslims believe was the third prophet after Adam (as) and his son Sheath (as). Islamic tradition has unanimously identified Idris with the biblical Enoch, although many Muslim scholars of the classical and medieval periods also held that Idris and Hermes Trismegistus were the same person.

He is described in the Qur'an as "trustworthy" and "patient" and the Qur'an also says that he was "exalted to a high station", Because of this and other parallels, traditionally Idris has been identified with the Biblical Enoch, and Islamic tradition usually places Idris in the early Generations of Adam, and considers him one of the oldest prophets mentioned in the Qur'an, placing him sometime between Adam and Noah. Idris' unique status inspired many future traditions and stories surrounding him in Islamic lore.

According to a hadith [tradition], … it is said that on Muhammad's Night Journey, he encountered Idris in the fourth heaven. The traditions that have developed around the figure of Idris have given him the scope of a prophet as well as a philosopher and mystic, and many later Muslim mystic or Sufis… also mentioned having encountered Idris in their spiritual visions. 
(Adapted from Wikipedia Encyclopedia)

Sep 26, 2017

1975: Live from New York – It’s Saturday Night

Staying home to watch TV on Saturday night was no longer a shameful admission, thanks to Saturday Night Live. Within months of the show's October debut, it was far worse to admit missing the zany comedy. Everybody assembled at the watercooler or outside the classroom Monday morning was exchanging lines from the hilarious skits. The roster of players read like a comedic Who 's Who: (left to right, below) Laraine Newman, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Dan Ackroyd, and Chevy Chase. The characters they created -- the Coneheads, the Bees, the Blues Brothers -- were just as well loved. Within three years, Saturday Night Live had eclipsed The Tonight Show as the most-watched show of late-night television. 
(National Geographic Eye Witness to the 20th Century)

Sep 9, 2017

1960: Jane Goodall’s World

Jane Goodall - a willowy blonde who left the civilized world of England to live in the wilds of Africa to study chimpanzees. Her observations and concern for her subjects charmed everyone.

"I cannot remember a time when I did not want to go to Africa to study animals," she said in her first National Geographic article, published in August 1963. "Therefore, after leaving school, I saved up the fare and went to Nairobi, Kenya."

Dr. Louis Leakey asked her if she would consider doing a field study of chimpanzees. She leaped at the challenge and spent the next 19 months hunting down grants. When the Kenyan authorities expressed reservations about sending a single white woman into the bush alone, Goodall's mother joined her. The women set off for Lake Tanganyika in pursuit of their furry subjects. They found many. Goodall spent hours sitting quietly, trying to gain the animals' trust.

"To be accepted ... by a group of wild chimpanzees is the result of months of patience ... ," she wrote. "At last I sat among them, enjoying a degree of acceptance that I had hardly dreamed possible .... Most astonishing of all, I saw chimpanzees fashion and use crude implements - the beginnings of tool use. This discovery could prove helpful to those studying man's rise to dominance over other primates." 
(Adapted from National Geographic: ‘The 20th Century’)

Jul 17, 2017

Incorporation of America – the Great Merger Movement

Having survived the many hardships of the 19th century - including a wrenching Civil War at mid-century and, in the last decade, economic depression and labor unrest in both city and countryside - Americans breathed a sigh of relief in the new century. For the most part, the first 10 years of the 20th century were a time of prosperity. The Cake Walk was the fashionable dance, prepared foods such as dressed beef and tinned ham were making their appearance in markets, and, three years into the new century, Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company. As the decade progressed, the automobile began to reach a mass audience, as did electricity, radio, and the telephone - all of them inventions and discoveries that would simultaneously shrink distance and transform society. Yet even as the American people gazed in wonder at the various technological achievements they associated with the rise of Big Business, they found themselves uneasy at what scholar Alan Trachtenberg has characterized as the rapid "Incorporation of America." Indeed, the ascendancy of large corporations to economic, political, and even cultural dominance would be one of the defining themes of the century itself. Corporations were vigorously swallowing up not only their smaller competitors but each other as well. Between 1897 and 1904, the so-called Great Merger Movement created companies of almost undreamed of size and scale. In the early 1890s, for example, it was rare for a corporation to be worth more than ten million dollars. A decade later, almost 200 corporations were capitalized at that value. The top one percent of companies employed more than a quarter of all workers in the country. If Americans hadn't known it before, they knew it now: This was the age of Big Business.

May 16, 2017

Participants in World War I

Map of the world with the participants in World War I in 1917. Allies are in green, the Central Powers in orange and neutral countries in grey. 

Apr 5, 2017

Where did the term marathon come from?

The 1896 Olympic Games featured the first Olympic marathon, which followed the 25-mile route run by the Greek soldier who brought news of a victory over the Persians from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. Fittingly, Greece's Spyridon Louis won the first gold medal in the event. In 1924, the distance would be standardized to 26 miles and 385 yards. 

Mar 18, 2017

Seneca Falls Convention 1848 – first US women’s rights convention

At the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, N.Y., a women’s rights convention was the first ever held in the United States. Almost over 200 women attended this convention. The convention was organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Mott and Stanton were two abolitionists who met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London over a cup of tea. As women, Mott and Stanton were not allowed on the convention floor. The anger and disappointment these women felt was the driving force that helped them start the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. At the convention, Stanton read a treatise she had wrote called the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances, which was heavily based on the Declaration of Independence. It called women to recognize their rights as US citizens. Its purpose was "to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.” Organized by women for women, many consider the Seneca Falls Convention to be the event that triggered and solidified the women's rights movement in America. Historians and other scholars agree that the leaders of the Seneca Falls Convention played a significant role in shaping the first wave of feminism in the United States and starting the fight for women’s suffrage.  (https://votesforwomennhd.weebly.com, and https://www.biography.com/)

Mar 6, 2017

Saturn – one of its moons is bigger than Mercury

Like fellow gas giant Jupiter, Saturn is a massive ball of mostly hydrogen and helium. Surrounding by 53 confirmed and nine provisional moons, Saturn is home to some of the most fascinating landscapes in our solar system. Like Jupiter, Saturn is mostly made of hydrogen and helium, the same two main components that make up the sun. Saturn rotates in the same direction as the Earth, which is west to east, but it does this far faster than Earth, spinning around once in just 10.7 hours. While the days on Saturn are short, the years are long. The sixth planet from the sun takes 29 Earth years, or 10,756 Earth days, to complete one revolution around the sun. As a gas giant, Saturn doesn't have a true surface. The planet is mostly swirling gases and liquids. While a spacecraft would have nowhere to land on Saturn, it wouldn't be able to fly through unscathed either. The extreme pressures and temperatures deep inside the planet would crush, melt and vaporize a metal spacecraft trying to fly through the planet. Like Jupiter, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. At Saturn's center is a dense core of rock, ice, water, and other compounds made solid by the intense pressure and heat. It is enveloped by liquid metallic hydrogen, inside a layer of liquid hydrogen -- similar to Jupiter's core but considerably smaller. It's hard to imagine, but Saturn is the only planet in our solar system that is less dense than water. The giant gas planet could float in a bathtub -- if such a colossal thing existed. Saturn's largest satellite, Titan, is a bit bigger than the planet Mercury. Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system; only Jupiter's moon Ganymede is bigger. 
(Adapted from Encarta Encyclopedia and NASA site https://solarsystem.nasa.gov)

Feb 14, 2017

Condition of women in the 19th century Islamic world

Among the Muslim communities of the Middle East, women lived entirely under the domination of men and were not allowed to take part in public affairs. Girls grew up in the home of their parents, lived most of their time indoors and had no contact with the public. When they were given in marriage to their husbands (an event over which they had no control), they moved into a different house and spent most of their time in complete seclusion until they died. No man, except a very close relative, was ever allowed to see the face of a woman. She had to wear a chadur [1] and veil her face. It was considered a sin for a woman to show her face to any man. When a male guest arrived at a home, all the women had to retire into the inner apartment, their sanctuary where no strange man would ever be admitted.  

Another restriction was that women, especially unmarried girls, were not to talk to men. Neither would they be permitted to go out for shopping or other services; these were the exclusive preserve of men. Such acts would have necessitated women taking part in public affairs and coming into contact with men. So strong was this restriction that if ever a woman was seen talking to a strange man she would receive very severe punishment from her parents or husband. The stigma attached to this behaviour was so repugnant that sometimes the poor victim would commit suicide. Some Muslim clergy in Persia are known to have inflicted torturous chastisements upon a man who was accused of talking to a woman. Usually a much more severe punishment awaited a non-Muslim man if he was found speaking to a Muslim woman.         

Jan 11, 2017

World conditions worsened during 1968 and 1969

The years 1968 and 1969 were racked with war, violence, terrorism, and civil unrest around the world. Wars raged in Vietnam and Nigeria; Soviet and Chinese troops skirmished in a continuing border dispute; Soviet troops entered Czechoslovakia to quell a movement toward liberalization; and El Salvador invaded Honduras. Coups d'etat toppled governments in 'Iraq, Syria, Sierre Leone, Dahomey, the Congo, Mali, the Sudan, Libya, the Netherlands Antilles, Peru, Panama, and Bolivia; states of emergency were declared in Spain, Malaysia, and Chile; violent unrest occurred in West Germany, Spain, Bombay, Pakistan, Argentina, Kenya, and the United States; and student protests erupted in Paris, Mexico City, Czechoslovakia, Argentina, and the United States. United States and Israeli airliners were hijacked, and two Israeli airliners were attacked by terrorists.  Moreover, a number of leaders were assassinated, including Somalian president Abdirascid Ali Scermarche; US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.; US presidential candidate Robert E. Kennedy; US ambassador to Guatemala John Gordon Mein; and Mozambique Liberation Front leader Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane. 
(Geoffry Marks)

Dec 15, 2016

Hong Kong’s Kowloon Park

The area which was formerly the site of the Whitfield Barracks of the British Army was developed into a park in 1970. More than 70 buildings were demolished to make way for the park. The first stage of the park was officially opened on 24 June 1970 by the then Governor of Hong Kong, Sir David Trench. The first phase comprised 18 acres out of a planned 26 acres. It featured a floral clock as well as a Chinese garden set within an English landscape, which a government spokesman called "a reminder of Hong kong's cosmopolitan cultural heritage." The remaining three stages of the park development were completed by 1989.

The park houses an indoor sports centre and a large aquatics centre. The pool complex is the most heavily used in Hong Kong, serving over 2000 swimmers daily. It includes four indoor heated pools, including an Olympic sized 50-metre main pool. The swimming complex opened on 12 September 1989 and can accommodate a maximum of 1530 swimmers, and has an annual attendance of more than 1 million visitors.

One preserved historic barrack is used as a warehouse of Hong Kong Museum of History. Three other preserved buildings of the former barracks are used as museums. 
(Adapted from Wikipedia)

Nov 24, 2016

1889 Persia: Qajar Kings maintained the threefold functions of government, legislative, executive, and judicial

Fath-Ali Shah and his sons
In theory the king may do what he pleases; his word is law. The saying that ‘The law of the Medes and Persians altereth not’ was merely an ancient periphrasis for the absolutism of the sovereign. He appoints and he may dismiss all ministers, officers, officials, and judges. Over his own family and household, and over the civil or military functionaries in his employ, he has power of life and death without reference to any tribunal. The property of any such individual, if disgraced or executed, reverts to him. The right to take life in any case is vested in him alone, but can be delegated to governors or deputies. All property, not previously granted by the crown or purchased—all property, in fact, to which a legal title cannot be established—belongs to him, and can be disposed of at his pleasure. All rights or privileges, such as the making of public works, the working of mines, the institution of telegraphs, roads, railroads, tramways, etc., the exploitation, in fact, of any of the resources of the country, are vested in him, and must be purchased from him before they can be assumed by others. In his person are fused the threefold functions of government, legislative, executive, and judicial. No obligation is imposed upon him beyond the outward observance of the forms of the national religion. He is the pivot upon which turns the entire machinery of public life.

Nov 9, 2016

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) - designed to guarantee equal rights for women: Initiated in 1916 was finally approved by US Congress in 1972

Alice Paul
A proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States to provide for the equality of sexes under the law. The central language of the amendment states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The ERA would have made unconstitutional any laws that grant one sex different rights than the other.

In 1916 Alice Paul, a leader in the suffragist movement, founded the National Woman's Party (NWP), a political party dedicated to establishing equal rights for women. Paul viewed equality under the law as the foundation essential to full equality for women. Along with her colleagues, Paul began to work on constitutional amendments recognizing equal rights for women at both state and federal levels. In 1921 various groups, which two years before had been close allies of the NWP, fiercely opposed the NWP's proposed language banning “political, civil or legal disabilities or inequalities on account of sex, or on account of marriage unless applying alike to both sexes.” Labor organizers and others fighting for women's economic welfare believed this push for legal equality threatened legislation that had been passed to protect exploited women working in factories. While Paul was not opposed to improving oppressive conditions in industry, she and other like-minded women argued that the laws designed to protect women could be used to restrict their employment opportunities.

Oct 31, 2016

Madeleine Albright: The first woman to become US Secretary of State

On January 23, 1997, Madeleine Albright, who had earlier served as U.S. ambassador to the UN, assumed under President Bill Clinton the office of secretary of state, becoming the first woman to hold that cabinet post. She was the 64th United States Secretary of State. 
(Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia)

Oct 24, 2016

Kava – The root of Relaxation

Native to the South Pacific islands, kava root was traditionally brewed into a drink for royalty. Over time it was taken medicinally to relieve anxiety, combat fatigue, alleviate weakness, and treat chills and colds. In the 1770s, it was introduced to explorer Captain James Cook, who in turn introduced it to Europe. Predominately used to relieve tension and anxiety, kava has been subjected to rigorous clinical trials and shown to be as powerful as prescription antianxiety drugs. Kava is consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia for its sedating effects.

Oct 15, 2016

Mysterious Winds of the Mediterranean

Winds have carried mariners across the seas since before recorded time. They so affected early seafaring that ancient sailors personalized them with names and built legends around them. And still today, of course, because winds influence weather on both a local and global scale, they affect our everyday existence.

Wind Belts
Great belts of wind encircle the Earth. These bands of global winds and lulls are created by the uneven way in which the Sun heats the Earth, and by the mixing of air between the equator and the poles. Winds follow several general patterns within certain zones, or belts. The northeast trades and the southeast trades blow between 15 and 30 degrees latitude, the  westerlies between 45 and 60 degrees latitude, and the polar northeasterlies and polar southeasterlies between 60 and 90 degrees latitude.

Between the wind belts lie zones of still air - the horse latitudes between 30 and 45 degrees latitude, and the equatorial doldrums, which cover the area extending 15 degrees north and south of the equator. In the equatorial latitudes, the Sun's rays are nearly perpendicular to the Earth's surface, while in higher latitudes, the Sun's rays strike the Earth at an angle. The result is a greater concentration of solar energy per unit area in the tropics than in the polar regions, and therefore greater warming in the tropics.

Oct 1, 2016

What are mosquitoes good for?

There are approximately 3,500 species of mosquito just a few rank among the deadliest creatures on Earth. They include Anopheles gambiae, which transmits the malaria parasite that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. Historians believe the mosquito arrived in the New World on slave ships from Africa in the 17th century, bringing with it yellow fever, which has killed millions of people. Today the mosquito also carries dengue fever, which infects as many as 400 million people a year, as well as such increasingly threatening pathogens as chikungunya, West Nile virus, and Zika.

Mosquitos, like all other life forms, are part of a complex food web. Many fish feed on mosquito larvae, which are aquatic, and plenty of birds and spiders and other insects feed on the adults. Dragonflies and damselflies love mosquitoes. Frogs eat adult mosquitoes, tadpoles eat the larvae.

There isn't much love lost between people and mosquitoes. At the very least, these bloodthirsty insects are major annoyances, biting us with a persistence that can be maddening. If insects can be credited with evil intent, mosquitoes seem determined to wipe the human race out. As carriers of deadly diseases, mosquitoes are the deadliest insect on Earth. Each year, millions of people die from malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever after being bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito. Mosquitoes also carry diseases that pose serious threats to livestock and pets.

Sep 20, 2016

Ancient bathing – up to about 10th Century

Archaeological evidence suggests 5,000-yearold bathing facilities in Gaza. Soaplike material found in clay jars of Babylonian origin has been dated to about 2800 B.C. From before the time of Abraham in Middle Eastern desert climes, custom dictated that hosts offer washing water to dusty-footed guests. But one of the first known and indisputable bathtubs comes from Minoan Crete. Supposedly built for the legendary King Minos around 1700 B.C. and found in the great palace at Knossos, it's of a shape similar to modern tubs. Even more impressive is the palace plumbing system that served the royal tub. Interlocking pieces of terra-cotta pipes-each tapered at one end to give water a shooting action to prevent the buildup of clogging sediment -- were jointed and cemented together. Their technology put Minoans in the hydrological vanguard.

Although the ancient Egyptians didn't develop such plumbing, they had a penchant for hygiene, evident in their use of fresh linens and body ointments, skin conditioners and deodorants of the day. As described in the 1500 B.C. Ebers Papyrus, these ancients washed, and treated skin diseases with a soapy material made of animal and vegetable oils and alkaline salts. From bas-reliefs and tomb excavations, there's evidence that Egyptians sat in a shallow kind of shower bath while attendants poured water over the bather.

Sep 6, 2016

Who Discovered the Panda?

Until 1869, few had heard of the giant black-and-white creatures hiding in China’s forests. Decades later, pandamania gripped the world.

Though today giant pandas are known and loved worldwide, it wasn’t always so.

Ancient Chinese texts rarely mention the native animals. Westerners first learned of them in 1869 when French missionary Armand David, while in China, laid eyes on a distinctive black-and-white pelt and then bought a complete, dead specimen from local hunters. A zoologist in Paris wrote up the official description of Ailuropoda melanoleuca (literally, “cat foot, black and white”).

In 1929 Chicago’s Field Museum put two mounted pandas on display courtesy of the Roosevelt brothers, Theodore Jr. and Kermit. The two were sons of the 26th U.S. president, whose love of sport hunting ultimately propelled major conservation reforms. With the help of Sichuan Province locals, they brought home the first panda shot by white men for the museum’s new Asian Hall. Their feat prompted copycat expeditions funded by other museums.

Aug 3, 2016

Families work and live at site – a factory in Myanmar

At a brick factory on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, a swaddled baby sways in a makeshift hammock. The child’s mother works at the kiln, where she’s paid for each brick she manufactures. Many families work—and live—at the site. (National Geographic magazine)

Jul 18, 2016

Nasir'd-Din Shah - King of Persia 1831-1896

Nasir'd-Din Shah in London at the Garden-Party given at Hatfield House in 1889
(The Illustrated London News May 16, 1896)

Jul 2, 2016

Fath- ‘Ali Shah - King of Persia 1797-1834

Fath-‘Ali Shah (1771-1834) whose reign coincided with rivalry among France, Great Britain, and Russia over eastern affairs, ruled Iran from 1797 to 1834. Under him, Iran became involved in a war with Russia in 1804 concerning the sovereignty of Georgia, whose ruler had transferred his allegiance from Persia to Russia. Fath- ‘Ali Shah purchased peace by abandoning his claim in 1813, after several years of war. He also lost Dagestan and Baku to Russia. In 1826 he took advantage of the recent death of Tsar Alexander I to renew the war but was compelled by the peace of 1828 to make an additional cession of territory acknowledging Russian sovereignty over the entire area north of the Aras River, present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan. 
(Adapted from Encyclopedias Britannica and Encarta)

Jun 27, 2016

How Hurricanes Form

Tropical cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons) form and grow over warm ocean water, drawing their energy from latent heat. Latent heat is the energy released when water vapor in rising hot, humid air condenses into clouds and rain. As warmed air rises, more air flows into the area where the air is rising, creating wind. The Earth’s rotation causes the wind to follow a curved path over the ocean (the Coriolis effect), which helps give tropical cyclones their circular appearance.

Hurricanes and tropical cyclones form, maintain their strength, and grow only when they are over ocean water that is approximately 27°C (80°F). Such warmth causes large amounts of water to evaporate, making the air very humid. This warm water requirement accounts for the existence of tropical cyclone seasons, which occur generally during a hemisphere’s summer and autumn. Because water is slow to warm up and cool down, oceans do not become warm enough for tropical cyclones to occur in the spring.

Oceans can become warm enough in the summer for hurricanes to develop, and the oceans also retain summer heat through the fall. As a result, the hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin, which comprises the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, runs from June 1 through November 30. At least 25 out-of-season storms, however, have occurred from 1887 through 2003, and 9 of these strengthened into hurricanes for at least a few hours.

Jun 15, 2016

Sperm whales exhibit cultural component to their lives

New ways to grab dinner, the trick to using a tool, and learning the local dialect. These are behaviors that animals pick up from each other. Killer whales, chimpanzees, and birds seem to have a cultural component to their lives. Now a new study suggests that sperm whales should be added to that list.

The ocean around the Galápagos Islands hosts thousands of female sperm whales and their calves that have organized into clans with their own dialects. (Mature males congregate in colder waters near the poles.) How these clans form has been something of a mystery until now.

A study published recently in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ suggests that culture—behaviors shared by group members—keeps these sperm whale clans together. Specifically, these deep-diving whales have a distinct series of clicks called codas they use to communicate during social interactions.

Sperm whales with similar behaviors spend time together, and they pick up vocalizations from each other. Scientists call this social learning. Whales that "speak the same language" stick together, giving rise to the clans that researchers have observed for more than 30 years.

Jun 10, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt - 26th President of the United States (1901-1909)

(October 27, 1958 – January 6, 1919)
A writer, naturalist, and soldier. He expanded the powers of the presidency and of the federal government in support of the public interest in conflicts between big business and labour and steered the nation toward an active role in world politics, particularly in Europe and Asia. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1906 for mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War, and he secured the route and began construction of the Panama Canal (1904–14).

Roosevelt was the second of four children born into a long-established, socially prominent family of Dutch and English ancestry; his mother, Martha Bulloch of Georgia, came from a wealthy, slave-owning plantation family. In frail health as a boy, Roosevelt was educated by private tutors. From boyhood, he displayed intense, wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. He graduated from Harvard College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, in 1880. He then studied briefly at Columbia Law School but soon turned to writing and politics as a career. In 1880 he married Alice Hathaway Lee, by whom he had one daughter, Alice. After his first wife's death, in 1886 he married Edith Kermit Carow (Edith Roosevelt), with whom he lived for the rest of his life at Sagamore Hill, an estate near Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. They had five children: Theodore, Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin.