A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Enjoy our special posts in the fields of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS Blog) and Social Sciences & Arts (SSA Blog)

A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Great Art Explained: Sandro Botticelli

Credit: Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (c. 1484–1486). tempera on canvas; via Wikipedia

Botticelli's Birth of Venus

One of the most popular and revolutionary paintings in the Western world. It aroused many debates and commentaries on what exactly is the meaning of it. Of course, on the surface, it is easy to discern the personages from the Greek Mythology – Zephyr, Aphrodite (Venus), Chloe (Flora), and the Horae of spring (or summer). Yet, what are their function here; what is the meaning of their gathering on the canvas of Botticelli; is there something more? The picture is not exactly a representation of an exact moment drawn from the imagination of ancient Greek mythology. It is rather second-level mythology (in Roland Bart's sense), created by Botticelli himself. Botticelli was deeply influenced by both Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, the Florentine champions of the Humanism, Gnostic and Neo-platonic philosophies, which thrived in the Medici's court. In that regard, his pieces were an Early form of Renaissance art and many symbols and philosophical concepts were embedded in them.


Below you can enjoy a video with one of the possible explanations of that mesmerizing and mystic painting.

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What does Enantiodromia mean?

Credit: Gettyimages

Easy words,... difficult words...

Often, we hear words that seem to be incomprehensible or terms used by philosophers or scientists that are condemned as abstract or unearthly. There is a tendency, which praises the simplicity of popular language. Of course, if something cannot be described in a common and natural way, it raises suspicion. However, specialized scientific terms have their irreplaceable role in expressing exact notions and processes. Thereby, when mentioning words like apperception, transcendental, ontology, quantum continuum, etc., scientists (but not only,) are addressing certain phenomena that are hard to be described in simple words, or appear as vague as the terms themselves, if we use metaphors or some other literary device.

Here we've got one useful instrument for interpretation called hermeneutics – another foggy notion. In fact, it is not so difficult to understand that one. In our case, it is just to search for the definition or etymology of a given term and then put it into its specific context.

Today, we're going to take a look at the word enantiodromia. Have you heard that one, well, you could already say yes!

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Ancient DNA reveals surprises about how early humans lived, traveled and interacted

Credit: Hora Rockshelter in Malawi, where excavations uncovered individuals analyzed in an ancient DNA study; Jacob Davis

New research provides evidence of demographic shifts in sub-Saharan Africa

A new analysis of human remains buried in African archaeological sites has produced the earliest DNA from the continent, telling a fascinating tale of how early humans lived, traveled and even found their significant others.

An interdisciplinary team of 44 researchers outlined its findings in a paper published in Nature. The scientists report findings from ancient DNA from six individuals buried in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia who lived between 18,000 and 5,000 years ago.

"This more than doubles the antiquity of reported ancient DNA data from sub-Saharan Africa," said David Reich of Harvard University, whose lab generated the data in the paper. "The study is particularly exciting as a collaboration of archaeologists and geneticists."

The study also reanalyzed published data from 28 individuals buried at sites across the continent, generating new data for 15 of them. The result was an unprecedented dataset of DNA from ancient African foragers -- people who hunted, gathered or fished. Their genetic legacy is difficult to reconstruct from present-day people because of the many population movements and mixtures that have occurred.

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Thoughts to reflect on: Tolstoy

Credit: Tolstoy on 23 May 1908 at Yasnaya Polyana, Lithograph print by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky; via Wikipedia

Leo Tolstoy

"Yes, love, ...but not the love that loves for something, to gain something, or because of something, but that love that I felt for the first time, when dying, I saw my enemy and yet loved him. I knew that feeling of love which is the essence of the soul, for which no object is needed. And I know that blissful feeling now too. To love one's neighbours; to love one's enemies. To love everything - to Love God in all His manifestations. Some one dear to one can be loved with human love; but an enemy can only be loved with divine love. And that was why I felt such joy when I felt that I loved that man. What happened to him? Is he alive? ...Loving with human love, one may pass from love to hatred; but divine love cannot change. Nothing, not even death, can shatter it. It is the very nature of the soul. And how many people I have hated in my life. And of all people none I have loved and hated more than her.... If it were only possible for me to see her once more... once, looking into those eyes to say..."
―  War and Peace


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100 years ago, Jack Kerouac was born

Credit: Jack Kerouac in front of his typewriting machine; Gettyimages

The Father of the Beat Generation

One century ago, Jack Kerouac was born to live, travel, love, suffer, write and elucidate our minds with his intense rhythmical prose. To put each word in its special place like bricks on the bridge between the East and West, between people and people. The incurable wanderer, the believer, the one who will burn, who will flare up to illuminate happiness, sorrow, life, death, everything. He who transformed himself into books and words, which are now, many years later, still circulating the minds of the readers around the world. Thank you, Jack!

Enjoy several excerpts from his books.

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Oolite Arts’ Home + Away Residency at Anderson Ranch Arts Center

Credit:  Cortada creates wax sculptures in preparation for bronze casting at his Anderson Ranch studio. (Photo by Trae Broomfield, Anderson Ranch)

Xavier Cortada's residency works

During his Oolite Arts' Home + Away residency at Anderson Ranch Art Center in Aspen Snowmass, Colorado, artist Xavier Cortada is creating a series of new works to advance his social practice in Miami. Using state of the art facilities at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Cortada is creating both 3-D printed pieces and hand-carved wax sculptures that will be cast in bronze.

Cortada's sculptures will be displayed at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center (AHCAC) in Liberty City at the end of April for his ArtCARE exhibition. Addressing juvenile justice in the context of broader structural issues impacting Miami communities (systemic racism, social inequity, climate gentrification), the exhibition will serve to launch a community-building participatory art project and reforestation effort he is developing through AHCAC as part of the Socially Engaged Art in Law course he is co-teaching at the University of Miami.

Cortada was selected to attend the residency at Anderson Ranch Art Center by jurors Amy Galpin, chief curator of the Frost Art Museum, Leilani Lynch, Curator at The Bass and Lorie Mertes, Executive Director, Locust Projects. The residency extends from February 6 to March 9, 2022.

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Global Europe in Research and Innovation

Credit: Gettyimages


Marseille Declaration

The biggest challenges confronting humanity necessitate countries work together. At the Marseille Conference on 8 March, Europe explored the path forward for international collaboration in research and innovation.

Now more than ever we bear witness to the achievements made possible in research, when countries collaborate closely and gain access to the right tools and expertise to get the job done. Years of international research collaborations in academia and industry underpinned the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the development of vaccines.

At the same time, geopolitical developments in the past decade have shown that collaboration sometimes needs to be modulated. The illegal Russian military aggression against Ukraine is a clear example of such developments. The EU has strongly condemned the invasion and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that sanctions would include limiting Russia's access to crucial technology, such as semiconductors or cutting-edge software. The Commission has suspended cooperation with Russia on research and innovation and Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel, issued a statement.

However, with those countries that respect fundamental values, the EU is committed to keep an open approach. This is not just beneficial, it is necessary.

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The Grandmother of performance art

Credit: Marina Abramović and Uwe Laysiepen 1978, via Wikipedia; under CC BY 3.0

Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović (Марина Абрамовић) is a Serbian performance and conceptual artist born on November 30, 1946. She is also known as a lecturer, philanthropist, writer, and filmmaker. Her work explores body art, art vital, endurance art, and feminist art. Her performances had the intention to test the limits and the possibilities of the human body and mind. Abramović was a pioneer in interactive performance, where she was experimenting with the artistic aspects of observers' participation and perception when confronting extreme mental and body conditions, and taboos. 

A good example of this is her first performance named Rhythm 10, 1973, performed in Edinburgh. The artist explored the elements of ritual and gesture by playing a Russian game, in which rhythmic knife jabs are aimed between the splayed fingers of one's hand. She used twenty knives and two tape recorders and recorded the whole process. Whenever she cut herself, she picked up a new knife from the row of the twenty she had set up. After Abramović cut herself twenty times, she replayed the tape, trying to repeat the same movements and attempting to replicate the mistakes. She aimed to explore and study the physical and mental limitations of the body – the pain and the sounds of the stabbing; the double sounds from the history and the replication. With this piece, Abramović started to reflect on the state of consciousness of the performer. "Once you enter into the performance state you can push your body to do things you absolutely could never normally do."

Below you can pond over one of Marina Abramović's most extreme performances and also a short interview of her with pieces of advice to young artists.

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Interesting?

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek 2015 at the Bookfair of Leipzig presenting his new book "Some Blasphemic Reflexions", photo by Amrei-Marie, under CC BY-SA 4.0

Slavoj Žižek

If you haven't heard about Slavoj Žižek so far, then it is time to get acquainted with his alternative philosophical thought. He established himself as one of the most provocative and prominent thinkers since the end of the 20th century. Dubbed the "Elvis of cultural theory", Žižek became a philosopher super-star. Similar to his Canadian counterpart Jordan Peterson, Žižek has successfully exploited the possibilities of modern social platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc., to address vast international audiences and analytically respond to geopolitical and cultural events. He is famous for his expressive psychoanalytical style, spicy language, and quite often, counter-intuitive ideas.

In this short video below, he manages to turn upside down and shed fresh light on one of the most clichéd philosophical ideas – Happiness. Most probably, you are also involved in the endless search for happiness and well-being. Then you should hear what Slavoj Žižek has to say. Enjoy!

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As tectonic plates pull apart, what drives the formation of rifts?

A view of the graben that emerged near the Holuhraun lava field in Iceland; Credit: Stephan Kolzenburg

Research on a young rift in Iceland sheds new light on the process

At the boundaries between tectonic plates, narrow rifts can form as Earth's crust slowly pulls apart. But how, exactly, does this rifting happen?

Does pressure from magma rising from belowground force the land apart? Or is a rift just a rip, created mainly by the pulling motion of tectonic plates that are drifting away from each other?

A study published in the journal Geology explores these questions and sheds new light on how this process works.

Past research has pointed to magma as a key driver in rifting events. But the new findings highlight that "rift processes do not have to operate identically across the entire globe," says lead scientist Stephan Kolzenburg at the University at Buffalo.

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14 science facts that will challenge your understanding of reality

Credit: Gettyimages

Did you know that?

1. In an entire lifetime, the average person walks the equivalent of five times around the world
It is calculated that the average moderately active person takes around 7,500 steps per day. If one keeps that daily average and lives until 80 years of age, he'll have walked about 216,262,500 steps in his lifetime, which is approximately 177,027 kilometers. Now, you can do the rest of the math.

2. An individual blood cell takes about 60 seconds to make a complete circuit of the body
Most people have 5 liters of blood in their body. With each beat, the heart pumps around 70 mL of blood and it beats an averagely 70 times per minute, which makes circulation of 4,9 liters per minute.
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Great Art Explained

Credit: Portrait of Dalí by Allan Warren, 1972; via Wikipedia

Salvador Dali's 'The Persistence of Memory'

It is certainly not necessary to be an art historian to know the name of Salvador Dali. Arguably, the most popular painter of 20th-century side by side with Picasso, though it was to a large extent because of his constant self-promoting. However, by no doubt, Dali was a meticulous master of the brush and an artist with unique and alluring imagination. The topics of his pictures were always as provocative – death, sex, decay, excrement, dreams, irrationality – as was his personality. He was often and is still criticized for his self-centered, ego-maniacal obsessions, and parading. Dali was all the time surrounded by deliberate scandals, he loved giving shocking interviews, quibbling, and arguing about what was considered piquant topics at the moment. For example, he would say that is fascinated by the personality of Adolf Hitler or that he (Dali) is a monarchist. He was often speaking about himself in the third person, a habit usually associated with Roman emperors, or maybe he was pretending to be so special that he is a stranger even to himself. Maybe, in a way, he was. We cannot be sure what was true and what was just part of his farce.

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10 Thought that will challenge your convictions: Theodor W. Adorno

Credit: picture-alliance/akg-images


Theodor W. Adorno

1. Not only is the self entwined in society; it owes society its existence in the most literal sense.

2. Love is the power to see similarity in the dissimilar.

3. Work while you work, play while you play - this is a basic rule of repressive self-discipline.

4. Today self-consciousness no longer means anything but reflection on the ego as embarrassment, as realization of impotence: knowing that one is nothing.

5. He who stands aloof runs the risk of believing himself better than others and misusing his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest.

6. Happiness is obsolete: uneconomic.

7. Estrangement shows itself precisely in the elimination of distance between people.

8. Thinking no longer means anymore than checking at each moment whether one can indeed think.

9. Quality is decided by the depth at which the work incorporates the alternatives within itself, and so masters them.

10. Insane sects grow with the same rhythm as big organizations. It is the rhythm of total destruction.


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Gender equality in research and innovation

Credit: Gettyimages


Women still face inequality in the research arena despite decades spent in efforts to improve their circumstances.

Several decades ago, women scientists and engineers were a novelty – an exception. In 2022 the science and tech industries are still asking the same question: where are the women? There are many challenges to advancing a career in science or driving technological breakthroughs – for both men and women. But for many women, it is a real obstacle course.

This month, we hear from gender and science policymakers and researchers in Europe about the important achievements leading towards progress on gender equality. From leaky pipelines and sticky floors to broken ladders and glass ceilings – these are just some of the hurdles women scientists face when it comes to their career progression. Entrenched gender stereotypes and gender bias are a big part of the problem, according to experts on EU policies on gender in research.

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The Secret Troves of Etymology: Symbol

Credit: Gettyimages

What does symbol mean?

We use a lot of words daily, we know what they mean in a particular case, however, once we go deeper into their meaning, we begin to lose ground under our feet. Here comes the help from Etymology. Some of the most abstract words we use today derive from natural or everyday life objects. For example, the word matter comes from the Latinmateria, which among other things, means "hard inner wood of a tree." Another one is the word electricitythat comes from the Greek ēlektron, which means "amber", or the word energy, which originates from the ancient Greek enérgon -"being active, into activity, working". The world of words is full of surprises, and the best aspect of that is that each one reveals an entirely new perspective towards what is known. Today, we will search for the elucidating history behind another one of these words –symbol.

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How to conduct a great workshop?

Credit: Gettyimages

It's time to give a workshop

You've probably been a participant in a number of workshops. You may have been at a folk festival where a famous performer held a guitar workshop and demonstrated some of his techniques. You may have been at a conference where there were workshops on surfing the internet, or on selling to reluctant customers. There are workshops on subjects ranging from cake decorating to treating schizophrenia, all of which are limited in time, meant to teach practical skills or techniques or ideas, and conducted by people like you.

Now it's your turn to conduct a workshop. You may be training staff or volunteers for a new organization, presenting at a conference, or trying to show the world this terrific new method your organization has developed. Whatever the case, you're going to have to entertain, educate, and edify a group of people you've probably never met before. That may sound frightening, but running a workshop is really very much like anything else: if you prepare well, stay relaxed, and respect the participants, it'll go fine.

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Researchers create grippers capable of grabbing and lifting delicate objects

Credit: Jie Yin/ North Carolina State University

Kirigami-inspired technique results in a gentle, precise grip

U.S. National Science Foundation engineers based at North Carolina State University have developed flexible robotic grippers that can lift delicate items without damage and have the precision to grab a single strand of hair. The breakthrough has a host of applications for soft robotics, biomedical technologies and wound care, the researchers said. The team published its results in Nature Communications.

Using kirigami, an art that involves folding and cutting two-dimensional sheets of material to form three-dimensional shapes, the researchers developed a technique that involves cutting parallel slits across the material to create a three-dimensional structure.

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Insights: Alfred Adler

Credit: Gettyimages


From Adler's book What Life Could Mean To You

1. "A fight with a child is always a losing fight: he can never be beaten or won to cooperation by fighting. In these struggles the weakest always carries the day. Something is demanded of him which he refuses to give; something which can never be gained by such means. An incalculable amount of tension and useless effort would be spared in this world if we realized that cooperation and love can never be won by force."

2. "These three ties, therefore, set three problems: how to find an. occupation which will enable us to survive under the limitations set by the nature of the earth; how to find a position among our fellows, so that we may cooperate and share the benefits of cooperation; how to accommodate ourselves to the fact that we live in two sexes and that the continuance and furtherance of mankind depends upon our love-life. Individual"

3. "It was only because men learned to cooperate that we could make the great discovery of the division of labor; a discovery which is the chief security for the welfare of mankind. To preserve human life would not be possible if each individual attempted to wrest a living from the earth by himself with no cooperation and no results of cooperation in the past. Through the division of labor we can use the results of many different kinds of training and organize many different abilities so that all of them contribute to the common welfare and guarantee relief from insecurity and increased opportunity for all the members of society."


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Thoughts to reflect on: Yuval Noah Harari

Credit: Gettyimages

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

1. "You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven."

2. "How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined."

3. "Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural. A truly unnatural behaviour, one that goes against the laws of nature, simply cannot exist, so it would need no prohibition."

4. "We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us."

5. "The romantic contrast between modern industry that "destroys nature" and our ancestors who "lived in harmony with nature" is groundless. Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo sapiens held the record among all organisms for driving the most plant and animal species to their extinctions. We have the dubious distinction of being the deadliest species in the annals of life."

6. "This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions."

7. "How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away."


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Quest to uncover the origins of horse taming is rewriting our picture of the past

Credit: Gettyimages

Zooarcheology

Horses have been intrinsically entwined with human history for the past five millennia, acting as an early means of rapid transport and playing a key part in agriculture, warfare and sport.

Despite this, major decades-long mysteries have surrounded where and how modern horses were first domesticated. Yet a large international team of zooarchaeologists, historians and geneticists, all experts in horse evolutionary history, has recently started coming up with some answers. The results are showing just how much this can reveal about both the horse itself and about human history and culture – and how much we still have to find out.

'Horses are perhaps the animals that have had the most influence on human history,' said palaeogeneticist Ludovic Orlando, director of the Centre for Anthropobiology and Genomics of Toulouse, and a research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research. 'They gave us speed and the way to transport things at a pace that we couldn't reach with our own legs.'

He talks of just how much they have been involved in human culture, helping, for instance, to drive the initial development of cities by aiding transport – something that can be forgotten in today's mechanised world.

And horses have left their mark on our everyday transport and industry of today, he added. 'If you think about what we call horsepower for cars, it doesn't come out of the blue; it's because it was a metric for measuring how fast a vehicle would be with respect to the horse,' he said.

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SSA Recent Posts

22 June 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: Jean Louis Théodore Géricault – The Raft of the Medusa (Museo Del Louvre, 1818-19); via Wikipedia The unrecognized genius Do you know which is the second most popular painting in the Louvre museum, second only to Mona Lina? If not, maybe you ...
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20 June 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: Gettyimages Making connections requires brain circuits to be active and interact during sleep Relational memory is the ability to remember arbitrary or indirect associations between objects, places, people or events -- such as names and faces...
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17 June 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: Cortada.com Xavier Cortada's Public Art Over the past three decades, Cortada has created art across six continents including more than one hundred and fifty (150) public artworks and dozens of collaborative murals and socially engaged project...
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