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


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)