Category Archives: Language & Linguistics

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Close mind

Some people are so—

And I don’t know what the right answer is for each person: fearful, angry, arrogant, prideful, selfish, wrathful, whatever—

that as long as there is some infinitesimal escape, some nano-fractional percentage that allows them escape the material certainty of a higher power…

They will grab it and cower behind it.

These people commit to a profoundly irrational conspiracy-within-themselves to avoid, at all costs, the Father.

They have that right.

And their choice, strangled as it is, will be honored.

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13 Exciting Facts About Petra, Jordan

Petra

Petra, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World is a representation of Jordan and therefore, Jordan’s most visited tourist attraction. Known as the Rose City due to the colour of the stone or the Lost City as the site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, Petra is a place you need to see, to believe, that it is in fact real-life. UNESCO even described the historical and archaeological city as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. What to know more? Here are 13 exciting facts about Petra.

When was Petra Established?

Petra is believed have been established in 312 BC, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. It was the capital city of Nabateans, who were ancient southern Arab people that arrived in Jordan around the 6th century BC. They were essentially the makers of one of the most extraordinary prehistoric civilisations.

New Seven Wonders

Along with the Great Wall of China, Peru’s Machu Picchu, India’s Taj Mahal, the Roman Colosseum in Italy, Mexico’s Chichen Itza and Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer, Petra was named one the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

Exploration of Petra

Approximately only 15% of Petra has been explored by archaeologists, which therefore means that there is still plenty to be revealed.

Petra’s Name

The name Petra is derived from the Greek word ‘petros’, which means rocks.

How to Get to Petra

To enter Petra, you need to go through a narrow gorge called the Siq, which is around 1km long. It is bound by cliffs each side which are around 8 meters high.

The Royal Tombs

Petra is home to roughly 800 tombs, therefore known as the “Royal Tombs”, with the most renowned being The Treasury. The Treasury was originally built as a mausoleum and crypt, and is estimated to be over 2,000 years old.

Who Discovered Petra?

A Swiss explorer called Johann Ludwig Burckhardt discovered Petra in 1812. Because it was an unknown metropolitan for around 5 centuries, it is also called the ‘Lost City’.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Petra Archaeological Park became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 due to its historical important and delicate structure. Furthermore, Petra is half-built, half-carved into rock.

Main Connection

Situated between the Red and Dead Sea, Petra was a significant junction between Egypt, Arabia and Syria-Phoenicia during Hellenistic and Roman times. It was also a key hub for the silks of China, spices of India and the incense of Arabia.

Water System

It wouldn’t have been possible for Petra to exist if it had not been for the water channel system that was constructed to offer storage and supply for its people. As a result, there was apparently enough water to support the 30,000 citizens that are believed to have occupied Petra.

Films

The Mummy Returns, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are the most noteworthy movies that were filmed at Petra. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade amplified awareness of Petra and therefore an increase of tourism to the site occurred.

Earthquakes

Between 1BC and 8AD Petra experienced harsh earthquakes. An earthquake which occurred in 363AD ruined numerous of the structures in Petra and furthermore, majorly damaged the water system.

Who Inhabited Petra?

The area of Petra was inhabited in 3 different periods; the Edomites from 18th – 2nd century BC, the Nabateans from 2nd century – 106 BC and the Romans from 106 – 395 BC. The remains left is mainly from the Nabateans period. The Nabateans were extremely skilled water engineers, traders, builders and carvers.

Original article: Petra

When Did Modern Human Brains—and the Image of God—Appear?

When I was a kid, I enjoyed reading Ripley’s Believe It or Not! I couldn’t get enough of the bizarre facts described in the pages of this comic.

I was especially drawn to the panels depicting people who had oddly shaped heads. I found it fascinating to learn about people whose skulls were purposely forced into unnatural shapes by a practice known as intentional cranial deformation.

For the most part, this practice is a thing of the past. It is rarely performed today (though there are still a few people groups who carry out this procedure). But for much of human history, cultures all over the world have artificially deformed people’s crania (often for reasons yet to be fully understood). They accomplished this feat by binding the heads of infants, which distorts the normal growth of the skull. Through this practice, the shape of the human head can be readily altered to be abnormally flat, elongated, rounded, or conical.

For physical anthropologists, the normal shape of the modern human skull is just as bizarre as the conical-shaped skulls found among the remains of the Nazca culture of Peru. Compared to other hominins (such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus), modern humans have oddly shaped skulls. The skull shape of the hominins was elongated along the anterior-posterior axis. But the skull shape of modern humans is globular, with bulging and enlarged parietal and cerebral areas. The modern human skull also has another distinctive feature: the face is retracted and relatively small.

Anthropologists believe that the difference in skull shape (and hence, brain shape) has profound significance and helps explain the advanced cognitive abilities of modern humans. The parietal lobe of the brain is responsible for:

  • Perception of stimuli
  • Sensorimotor transformation (which plays a role in planning)
  • Visuospatial integration (which provides hand-eye coordination needed for throwing spears and making art)
  • Imagery
  • Self-awareness
  • Working and long-term memory

Human beings seem to uniquely possess these capabilities. They make us exceptional compared to other hominins. Thus, for paleoanthropologists, two key questions are: when and how did the globular human skull appear?

Recently, a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, addressed these questions. And their answers add evidence for human exceptionalism while unwittingly providing support for the RTB human origins model.1

The Appearance of the Modern Human Brain

To characterize the mode and tempo for the origin of the unusual morphology (shape) of the modern human skull, the German researchers generated and analyzed the CT scans of 20 fossil specimens representing three windows of time: (1) 300,000 to 200,000 years ago; (2) 130,000 to 100,000 years ago; and (3) 35,000 to 10,000 years ago. They also included 89 cranially diverse skulls from present-day modern humans, 8 Neanderthal skulls, and 8 from Homo erectus in their analysis.

The first group consisted of three specimens: (1) Jebel Irhoud 1 (dating to 315,000 years in age); (2) Jebel Irhoud 2 (also dating to 315,000 years in age); and (3) Omo Kibish (dating to 195,000 years in age). The specimens that comprise this group are variously referred to as near anatomically modern humans or archaic Homo sapiens.

The second group consisted of four specimens: (1) LH 18 (dating to 120,000 years in age); (2) Skhul (dating to 115,000 years in age); (3) Qafzeh 6; and (4) Qafzeh 9 (both dating to about 115,000 years in age. This group consists of specimens typically considered to be anatomically modern humans. The third group consisted of thirteen specimens that are all considered to be anatomically and behaviorally modern humans.

Researchers discovered that the group one specimens had facial features like that of modern humans. They also had brain sizes that were similar to Neanderthals and modern humans. But their endocranial shape was unlike that of modern humans and appeared to be intermediate between H. erectus and Neanderthals.

On the other hand, the specimens from group two displayed endocranial shapes that clustered with the group three specimens and the present-day samples. In short, modern human skull morphology (and brain shape) appeared between 130,000 to 100,000 years ago.

Confluence of Evidence Locates Humanity’s Origin

This result aligns with several recent archaeological finds that place the origin of symbolism in the same window of time represented by the group two specimens. (See the Resources section for articles detailing some of these finds.) Symbolism—the capacity to represent the world and abstract ideas with symbols—appears to be an ability that is unique to modern humans and is most likely a manifestation of the modern human brain shape, specifically an enlarged parietal lobe.

Likewise, this result coheres with the most recent dates for mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam around 120,000 to 150,000 years ago. (Again, see the Resources section for articles detailing some of these finds.) In other words, the confluence of evidence (anatomical, behavioral, and genetic) pinpoints the origin of modern humans (us) between 150,000 to 100,000 years ago, with the appearance of modern human anatomy coinciding with the appearance of modern human behavior.

What Does This Finding Mean for the RTB Human Origins Model?

To be clear, the researchers carrying out this work interpret their results within the confines of the evolutionary framework. Therefore, they conclude that the globular skulls—characteristic of modern humans—evolved recently, only after the modern human facial structure had already appeared in archaic Homo sapiens around 300,000 years ago. They also conclude that the globular skull of modern humans had fully emerged by the time humans began to migrate around the world (around 40,000 to 50,000 years ago).

Yet, the fossil evidence doesn’t show the gradual emergence of skull globularity. Instead, modern human specimens form a distinct cluster isolated from the distinct clusters formed by H. erectus, Neanderthals, and archaic H. sapiens. There are no intermediate globular specimens between archaic and modern humans, as would be expected if this trait evolved. Alternatively, the distinct clusters are exactly as expected if modern humans were created.

It appears that the globularity of our skull distinguishes modern humans from H. erectus, Neanderthals, and archaic Homo sapiens (near anatomically modern humans). This globularity of the modern human skull has implications for when modern human behavior and advanced cognitive abilities emerged.

For this reason, I see this work as offering support for the RTB human origins creation model (and, consequently, the biblical account of human origins and the biblical conception of human nature). RTB’s model (1) views human beings as cognitively superior and distinct from other hominins, and (2) posits that human beings uniquely possess a quality called the image of God that I believe manifests as human exceptionalism.

This work supports both predictions by highlighting the uniqueness and exceptional qualities of modern humans compared to H. erectus, Neanderthals, and archaic H. sapiens, calling specific attention to our unusual skull and brain morphology. As noted, anthropologists believe that this unusual brain morphology supports our advanced cognitive capabilities—abilities that I believe reflect the image of God. Because archaic H. sapiens, Neanderthals, and H. erectus did not possess this brain morphology, it makes it unlikely that these creatures had the sophisticated cognitive capacity displayed by modern humans.

In light of RTB’s model, it is gratifying to learn that the origin of anatomically modern humans coincides with the origin of modern human behavior.

Believe it or not, our oddly shaped head is part of the scientific case that can be made for the image of God.

Original article: When Did Modern Human Brains—and the Image of God—Appear?

Discovery of Missing Atomic Matter Boosts Cosmic Creation Model

During my graduate school days at the University of Toronto I had the privilege of taking a short course from Princeton University astronomer and cosmologist Jeremiah Ostriker. In that course Ostriker spoke about the missing mass of the universe. The mass he was referring to was not the dark matter (aka cold dark matter; exotic dark matter) that is comprised of particles that do not interact or that interact very weakly with photons. Rather, he was concerned about atomic matter, matter comprised of protons, neutrons, and electrons that has the property of interacting strongly with photons. Detection of such matter carries significant implications for the reliability of big bang models for the beginning of the universe.

Electrons contribute a trivial amount to the total mass of the universe’s atomic matter. Hence, astronomers refer to the missing atomic matter problem as the “missing baryons” problem, where baryons refer to both protons and neutrons (essentially, all matter that we experience in everyday life).

Back in the 1970s the missing baryons was a big problem because the big bang creation model predicted that there should be many more baryons in the universe—nearly ten times as many—as what astronomers at that time had inventoried. This dilemma led to lingering doubts about the validity of the biblically predicted big bang model1 for the universe.

In the 1970s Ostriker stated that many of these missing baryons likely lurked in the hot diffuse gas in the otherwise empty voids between galaxies. He also pointed out that these baryons would be extremely difficult to detect.

Absorption Spectra Detection of the Missing Baryons

In 1999 Ostriker and his Princeton colleague Renyue Cen published computer simulations they had run on gas movements in and between galaxies.2 They concluded that hot gas accumulates along filaments between galaxies. These filaments, they calculated, likely contained the missing baryons of the universe. They determined that this hot gas would be detectable in the absorption spectra (see figure 1) of quasars at X-ray wavelengths by the new generation of X-ray telescopes that were planned or scheduled for launch into Earth orbit.

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Figure 1: Absorption Spectrum for Hydrogen. Hydrogen gas between the light source and the observer absorbs light at the spectral lines of hydrogen. The absorption lines from right to left are Hα, Hβ, Hγ, and HδImage credit: Hugh Ross

The gas between us and a bright quasar or galaxy will absorb some of the light of the quasar or galaxy if that gas is not too hot. Typically, astronomers determine the mass of the gas by measuring the absorption spectra of the two most abundant elements comprising intergalactic gas, namely, hydrogen and helium. (Hydrogen and helium make up 98–99 percent of the baryons in intergalactic gas.) This option, however, is out. The intergalactic gas is so extremely hot that it completely strips away all the electrons normally attached to hydrogen and helium nuclei. The resulting plasma of free electrons and hydrogen and helium nuclei do not absorb any light.

After hydrogen and helium, oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe (see figure 2).3 Oxygen atoms have eight electrons compared to two for helium and one for hydrogen. It takes a lot more heat to strip away all electrons of oxygen than it does for helium or hydrogen. Ostriker and Cen calculated that the heat of intergalactic gas would be able to strip away only five, six, or seven of oxygen’s eight electrons. Therefore, the remaining electrons would produce an absorption spectrum that would permit a determination of the mass of the intergalactic mass.

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Figure 2: Relative Mass Fractions of the Elements in the Universe. Hydrogen and helium comprise more than 98 percent of the universe’s element abundance. Image credit: Hugh Ross

Not until this year did astronomers gain the necessary instrumentation and observing time to detect (more than marginally) the oxygen absorption spectra of hot intergalactic gas. A team of 21 astronomers led by Fabrizio Nicastro performed a very long duration observation on the brightest known X-ray blazer, IES 1553+1334, with the X-ray multi-mirror Newton telescope(see figure 3).5 They detected the absorption spectrum of OVII, oxygen atoms with six of their eight electrons stripped away by the hot intergalactic gas. Thanks to their long observing time, Nicastro’s team achieved a high enough signal-to-noise ratio in their absorption spectra measurements to conclude that they had found all of the missing baryons.

The conclusion by Nicastro’s team, however, was based on a single object. The possibility remained that the density of the hot intergalactic medium might vary slightly from location to location. To be certain that they had found all the missing baryons, astronomers needed confirmation based on at least one other bright extragalactic source and preferably accomplished with a different X-ray telescope.

In a recent submission to the Astrophysical Journal, a team of six astronomers led by Sanskriti Das reported that they had achieved OVII absorption line measurements on the spiral galaxy NGC 3221 (see figure 4) using the Suzaku X-ray telescope (see figure 5).6 Though the signal-to-noise ratio of their measurements was not as good as that realized by Nicastro’s team, the Das team’s measurements were consistent with the conclusion that they found all the missing baryons.

Sunyaev-Zel’dovitch Effect on Detection of the Missing Baryons

At the same time that Nicastro’s and Das’s teams of astronomers were finding the universe’s missing baryons through the X-ray absorption spectra method, two other teams of astronomers found the missing baryons using a completely different method. They looked for subtle distortions in the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation, the radiation left over from the cosmic creation event.

As the radiation from the very early history of the universe streams across the cosmos, it can be slightly distorted by the regions of gas that it passes through. The electrons in the hot intergalactic gas will interact with photons from the cosmic microwave background radiation in a manner that imparts a little extra energy to those photons. Thus, astronomers should be able to see subtle distortions in their maps of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

The Planck spacecraft yielded the most detailed map of the cosmic microwave background radiation (see figure 6). However, for even this most detailed map, the distortions from the electrons in the hot intergalactic gas were too subtle to see.

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Figure 6: Planck Spacecraft Map of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. The colors indicate tiny temperature fluctuations, with red regions warmer and blue regions colder by about 0.0002 degrees. Image credit: ESA/Planck Collaboration

While the Planck spacecraft was not able to detect the effect of intergalactic hot gas existing between any single pair of galaxies, astronomers found a way to enhance the signal by stacking images of different galaxy pairs on top of one another. First, they searched published galaxy catalogs and selected pairs of galaxies that were massive enough and the appropriate distance apart from one another that the astronomers expected there would be a dense web of hot intergalactic gas between them. Second, they went to the Planck map of the cosmic microwave background radiation and precisely identified the location for each galaxy pair. Third, they used digital scissors to clip the region for each galaxy pair from the Planck map. Fourth, they stacked all the clipped regions on top of one another so that all the pairs of galaxies were aligned in the same exact position. Fifth, they subtracted out the light from all the gas associated with the galaxy pairs from the stacked images, leaving just the signal from the intervening intergalactic gas. What had not been possible to detect based on a single pair of galaxies became visible when integrated over many, many pairs of galaxies.

In another research effort, a team of four astronomers led by University of Edinburgh’s Anna de Graaff stacked Planck map image pieces of a million pairs of galaxies on top of one another.7 The remaining signal after the subtraction of the signal from all the gas associated with the one million galaxy pairs was strong enough to enable de Graaff’s team to determine the mass of the hot intergalactic gas. That mass added up to the missing baryons.

Finally, an independent team of nine astronomers led by University of British Columbia’s Hideki Tanimura used 260,000 pairs of luminous red galaxies taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 12 and stacked their Planck map image pieces on top of one another.8Their measured mass of the hot intergalactic gas also added up to the missing baryons.

All together, astronomers have four independently achieved measurements of the mass of the hot intergalactic medium based on two completely distinct methods and using different telescopes and different databases of galaxies and quasars. That all four measurements add up to the missing baryons gives astronomers confidence that they really have found the missing baryons of the universe. The missing baryons problem of big bang cosmology has now been solved. Hence, the scientific case for the validity of the biblically predicted big bang creation model is more firmly established than ever before.9 Thus, we can all be assured that the God of the Bible personally created and designed the universe for the express benefit of human beings.

Original article: Discovery of Missing Atomic Matter Boosts Cosmic Creation Model

The Pit Dwellers

There are people — and you know who they are: totalitarians, theocrats, socialists, statists, corporatists, communists, Marxists… the usual Babylonian rot — who believe not only in the superiority of the state…

and not only the sovereignty of the state…

but the supremacy of the state.

I ask you: how long does it take a statist to realize that the very supremacy of the state he or she craves, can no longer risk having its officials elected by the “ignorant little people” it wishes to lord over?

Thus, all statists eventually remove the right to vote from the “common herd” they dominate. And so are the People enslaved — again.

And whatever so-called “free elections” are held are mere shams, mockeries. You know: political puppet shows.

Free and fair markets, separations of powers, Constitutional fealty, term limits, inalienable rights, open and uninhibited elections are the only mechanisms Man has any knowledge of, other that open war, to prevent the ascendancy of those mad souls who better deserve to be thrown into a pit.

The Quadrant

The season for the Line at length drew near; and every day when Ahab, coming from his cabin, cast his eyes aloft, the vigilant helmsman would ostentatiously handle his spokes, and the eager mariners quickly run to the braces, and would stand there with all their eyes centrally fixed on the nailed doubloon; impatient for the order to point the ship’s prow for the equator. In good time the order came. It was hard upon high noon; and Ahab, seated in the bows of his high-hoisted boat, was about taking his wonted daily observation of the sun to determine his latitude.

Now, in that Japanese sea, the days in summer are as freshets of effulgences. That unblinkingly vivid Japanese sun seems the blazing focus of the glassy ocean’s immeasurable burning-glass. The sky looks lacquered; clouds there are none; the horizon floats; and this nakedness of unrelieved radiance is as the insufferable splendors of God’s throne. Well that Ahab’s quadrant was furnished with coloured glasses, through which to take sight of that solar fire. So, swinging his seated form to the roll of the ship, and with his astrological-looking instrument placed to his eye, he remained in that posture for some moments to catch the precise instant when the sun should gain its precise meridian. Meantime while his whole attention was absorbed, the Parsee was kneeling beneath him on the ship’s deck, and with face thrown up like Ahab’s, was eyeing the same sun with him; only the lids of his eyes half hooded their orbs, and his wild face was subdued to an earthly passionlessness. At length the desired observation was taken; and with his pencil upon his ivory leg, Ahab soon calculated what his latitude must be at that precise instant. Then falling into a moment’s revery, he again looked up towards the sun and murmured to himself: “Thou sea-mark! thou high and mighty Pilot! thou tellest me truly where I am—but canst thou cast the least hint where I shall be? Or canst thou tell where some other thing besides me is this moment living? Where is Moby Dick? This instant thou must be eyeing him. These eyes of mine look into the very eye that is even now beholding him; aye, and into the eye that is even now equally beholding the objects on the unknown, thither side of thee, thou sun!”

Then gazing at his quadrant, and handling, one after the other, its numerous cabalistical contrivances, he pondered again, and muttered: “Foolish toy! babies’ plaything of haughty Admirals, and Commodores, and Captains; the world brags of thee, of thy cunning and might; but what after all canst thou do, but tell the poor, pitiful point, where thou thyself happenest to be on this wide planet, and the hand that holds thee: no! not one jot more! Thou canst not tell where one drop of water or one grain of sand will be to-morrow noon; and yet with thy impotence thou insultest the sun! Science! Curse thee, thou vain toy; and cursed be all the things that cast man’s eyes aloft to that heaven, whose live vividness but scorches him, as these old eyes are even now scorched with thy light, O sun! Level by nature to this earth’s horizon are the glances of man’s eyes; not shot from the crown of his head, as if God had meant him to gaze on his firmament. Curse thee, thou quadrant!” dashing it to the deck, “no longer will I guide my earthly way by thee; the level ship’s compass, and the level dead-reckoning, by log and by line; these shall conduct me, and show me my place on the sea. Aye,” lighting from the boat to the deck, “thus I trample on thee, thou paltry thing that feebly pointest on high; thus I split and destroy thee!”

As the frantic old man thus spoke and thus trampled with his live and dead feet, a sneering triumph that seemed meant for Ahab, and a fatalistic despair that seemed meant for himself—these passed over the mute, motionless Parsee’s face. Unobserved he rose and glided away; while, awestruck by the aspect of their commander, the seamen clustered together on the forecastle, till Ahab, troubledly pacing the deck, shouted out—“To the braces! Up helm!—square in!”

In an instant the yards swung round; and as the ship half-wheeled upon her heel, her three firm-seated graceful masts erectly poised upon her long, ribbed hull, seemed as the three Horatii pirouetting on one sufficient steed.

Standing between the knight-heads, Starbuck watched the Pequod’s tumultuous way, and Ahab’s also, as he went lurching along the deck.

“I have sat before the dense coal fire and watched it all aglow, full of its tormented flaming life; and I have seen it wane at last, down, down, to dumbest dust. Old man of oceans! of all this fiery life of thine, what will at length remain but one little heap of ashes!”

“Aye,” cried Stubb, “but sea-coal ashes—mind ye that, Mr. Starbuck—sea-coal, not your common charcoal. Well, well; I heard Ahab mutter, ‘Here some one thrusts these cards into these old hands of mine; swears that I must play them, and no others.’ And damn me, Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die in it!”

Herman Mellvile, Moby Dick – Chapter 118