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!

Editor’s Pick: Mircea Eliade

Credit: Portrait of the Romanian philosopher, writer and historian of religion and mythology around 1977; Getty images

Excerpts from The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (1957)

1. "A religious symbol conveys its message even if it is no longer consciously understood in every part. For a symbol speaks to the whole human being and not only to the intelligence."

2. "Do what he will, he [the profane man] is an inheritor. He cannot utterly abolish his past, since he himself is a product of his past. He forms himself by a series of denials and refusals, but he continues to be haunted by the realities that he has refused and denied. To acquire a world of his own, he has desacralized the world in which his ancestors lived; but to do so he has been obliged to adopt an earlier type of behavior, and that behavior is still emotionally present in him, in one form or another, ready to be reactualized in his deepest being. "

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What is New Criticism?

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The New Criticism movement

New Criticism is a post-World War I Anglo-American literary critical theory and movement. The main assumption of it is the intrinsic value and meaning of the work of art itself. Instead of surveying the historical context, the social implications, the other works of the author, or his personality, the New Criticism stressed the independent and internal qualities of a given text. The leading figures of the movement were I.A. Richards (Practical Criticism, 1929), William Empson (Seven Types of Ambiguity, 1930), and also the English poet T.S. Eliot who made contributions, with his critical essays "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1917) and "Hamlet and His Problems" (1919).

The movement did not have a name, however, until the appearance of John Crowe Ransom's The New Criticism (1941), in which he criticized the critics.

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The rise and fall of the medieval Islamic Empire

Credit: Koran verses on wall; Getty images

The story of the Islamic Empire

One of the greatest empires of the ancient world was formed by the ingenious religious and political leader Muhammad ibn Abdullah. He united the Arabic people, created a new religion, and formed the foundations of the Islamic empire in the 7th century CE. The new religion spread around with tremendous speed and the empire grew bigger and bigger. But the wealth, success, and inner conflicts for power made the following leaders arrogant and negligent. 

Below you can see a short video explaining the rise and the fall of one of the most powerful empires of the past.

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9 quotes by the German historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler that will provoke your beliefs

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The sharp tongue of Oswald Spengler

1. This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us; to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves; to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.

2. The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.

3. There is no proletarian, not even a Communist movement, that has not operated in the interests of money, and for the time being permitted by money - and that without the idealists among its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.

4. If few can stand a long war without deterioration of soul, none can stand a long peace.

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Editor’s pick: Bill Bryson

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A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003)

"If you imagine the 4,500-billion-odd years of Earth's history compressed into a normal earthly day, then life begins very early, about 4 A.M., with the rise of the first simple, single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours. Not until almost 8:30 in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna first seen by Reginald Sprigg in Australia. At 9:04 P.M. trilobites swim onto the scene, followed more or less immediately by the shapely creatures of the Burgess Shale. Just before 10 P.M., plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after, with less than two hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow...

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On this date, 1685 years ago

Credit: The head of Emperor Constantine I statue in Rome; Gettyimages

The Roman Emperor Constantine I was baptized

On this date in 337, on his deathbed, Emperor Constantine the Great became the first Roman emperor to be officially baptized in the Christian church. He practiced Christianity his whole life, supported church activities, and helped Christianity to become a worldwide spread religion. 

Some scholars argue that his conversion was should be regarded as a politically motivated act. Constantine likely foresaw the power that Christianity will bring to the Empire and decided to legalize it throughout the Empire by being baptized. He also made one of his largest contributions to the faith by summoning the Councils of Arles (314) and Nicaea (325), which guided church doctrine for centuries afterward.

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Rewriting the history books: Why the Vikings left Greenland

Credit: Lake 578 in southern Greenland, where the research was conducted; photo by Raymond Bradley
Increasing aridity contributed to the Norse abandonment of settlements in the 15th century

One of the great mysteries of late medieval history is why the Norse, who established successful settlements in southern Greenland in 985, abandoned them in the early 15th century.

The consensus view has long been that the colder temperatures of the Little Ice Age helped make the colonies unsustainable. However, new research, led by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and published in Science Advances, upends that theory. It wasn't dropping temperatures that helped drive the Norse from Greenland, but drought. The research was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

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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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The Secret Troves of Etymology: Symbol

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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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Thoughts to reflect on: Yuval Noah Harari

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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


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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The Secret Troves of Etymology

Credit: Gettyimages
The Evolution of Words and Meanings

Words have their own history, which is as revealing and profound for the meaning they bring as, for example, the discovery of electricity for the rapid advancement of modern technology. Each step that language has made through the years left its footprint. A word is a bouquet of various senses and a multitude of connections with other words that eventually produces not only a notion of something but a feeling, imagery. Have you ever thought how is it possible that a given word describes its object so good, how irreplaceable it sounds? Well, it is not only that we have made a convention out of it. It is also the gradual sculpturing of meaning over and over through the centuries. Even though we are not always aware of all these transformations, we have adopted them when we learned to use language. It is a network that is erected upon a huge underground structure of nuances, contexts, and connotations, which are present although implicitly. When we use a word we give rise to a tremendous chain of meanings, that makes us perceive things in one way or another. Today, we will follow the long and captivating adventure of the word cosmos, which has always sounded so beautiful to me, and it turned out it has something to do with beauty.

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On this date, 87 years ago...

20220111-095030968px-Amelia_Earhart_standing_under_nose_of_her_Lockheed_Model_10-E_Electra_small Credit: Amelia Earhart standing under nose of her Lockheed Model 10-E Electra. Gelatin silver print, 1937. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart ; via Wikipedia

Credit: Amelia Earhart standing under nose of her Lockheed Model 10-E Electra. Gelatin silver print, 1937. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart ; via Wikipedia

The first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California

On this day, in 1935, one of the world's most celebrated aviators - Amelia Earhart - made the first successful solo flight from Hawaii to California. The distance is approximately 2,408 miles (3,875 km) long, which is longer than that from the United States to Europe.

Amelia Mary Earhart was an American aviator, arguably the world's most celebrated. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California and from Los Angeles to Mexico City. She and her navigator disappeared during their fly around the world in 1937. That caused a great deal of speculation and mystery and captivated the imagination of people all around the globe.

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12 Fun Facts About New Year’s Eve

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Happy New 2022

Another year has rolled away and we are about to welcome 2022! Here, we list for you some interesting facts about the celebration of New Year's Eve. Often we take traditions as given without thinking over them. Now, we hope to inspire you to think twice before you adopt the next one.

On behalf of the SWS Scholarly Society, we wish you a great New Year's Eve and a great new 2022 full of Science, Literature, and Art!

Below you will find the list:

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On this date, 253 years ago

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The first edition of Encyclopædia Britannica was published

On 10 December 1768, the first edition of Encyclopædia Britannica, the oldest continuously published and revised work in the English language, was published. It was issued in Edinburgh, Scotland by "a society of gentlemen in Scotland" for the engraver Andrew Bell and the printer Colin Macfarquhar. Since then, it became the major English-language work of references and one of the biggest encyclopedias in the world.

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The Secret Troves of Etymology

Image credit: unsplash.com by Hal Gatewood.com

The word Energy

Energy is one of those words that most of us use on a daily basis. It has both everyday and scholarly meanings. We all know what does it mean and yet that could really mislead us whenever we are trying to examine the full range of its connotations and its origins. Let's set out on a trip towards the roots of one of the most common words today.

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Do you know what a Red Poppy symbolizes?

Photo credit: gettyimages.com

Red Poppies

After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe. The unusual growth was attributed by the scientists to the soils in France and Belgium, which became enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the debris, dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy. It came to symbolize the bloodshed during battle following the publication of the wartime poem "In Flanders Fields." It was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D. while serving on the front lines and witnessing the horrors of the war.

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On this date, more than six centuries ago...

Image credit: gettyimages.com

What Happened on April 17, 1387 and 1397

Geoffrey Chaucer is considered the greatest English poet before Shakespeare. He is also famous as one of the first scholars along with Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, and Desiderius Erasmus, to use vernacular language for writing his most renowned work – The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was an important civil servant, diplomat, and courtier who was trusted by three successive kings – Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV. However, history remembers him mostly with his poetic works, which embody a great variety of subject matter, genres, styles, and approaches towards the complex themes of the human condition, religion, and existence.

Canterbury Tales was written between 1387 and 1400. According to the scholars, the date when Chaucer's characters started their fictional pilgrimage was the 17th of April 1387. It was today, 634 years ago when one of the greatest journeys in the world of Literature began and it is still inspiring poets and artists from all around the globe. It could be a coincidence but ten years later, the same date (17.04.1397) was the first time that Geoffrey Chaucer publicly tells the Canterbury Tales at the court of King Richard II.

Sometimes fictional events could have even a greater impact upon human culture than historical ones. In that regard, factual and fictional worlds intertwine and together they influence human reality and the way our civilization progresses. Today, we celebrate one of these cases when a body of Literature changed our perception and had a great effect on our future activities.

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356 Years Old - The Pioneers of Scientific Publication

Image credit: pixabay.com

From 1665 to 2021

Today we can not imagine the world of science without scientific journals. Starting with two - Journal des Sçavans and Philosophical Transactions in 1665, today we have tens of thousands of scientific journals with more than 2 million publications annually. Let's take a look at those two pioneers and their history.

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On this day, 125 years ago…

portrait: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadar

On this day, 125 years ago, the world-famous microbiologist Louis Pasteur died, but his accomplishments in the sphere of science never will.
Pasteur is renowned for his work on vaccination, microbial fermentation, and pasteurization.

His findings still help the prevention of many diseases. The first vaccines for rabies and anthrax were created by him, thus saving countless lives ever since.

Louis Pasteur is considered among the pioneers in the sphere of bacteriology and is called "the father of microbiology". He is also one of the fathers of germ theory, according to which no microorganisms would develop without prior contamination.

"The greatness of human actions is measured by the inspiration that it brings.

Louis Pasteur

Today it is inevitable to ask ourselves: what would this great scientist tell us in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic if he was still alive? Please, share your thoughts on this in the comments below…

Meanwhile, let us share with you some inspiring quotes by Louis Pasteur that will make you rethink your concepts of science and humanity…

Louis Pasteur on Science, Faith, and More

1. Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. (as quoted in "Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science" (1960) by René Jules Dubos)

2.…whatever your career may be, do not let yourselves become tainted by a deprecating and barren skepticism. ("The Life of Pasteur" (1911), Volume II)

3. There does not exist a category of science to which one can give the name applied science. There are sciences and the applications of science, bound together as the fruit of the tree which bears it. ("Revue Scientifique" (1871))

4. I am utterly convinced that Science and Peace will triumph over Ignorance and War, that nations will eventually unite not to destroy but to edify, and that the future will belong to those who have done the most for the sake of suffering humanity. (as quoted in "Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science" (1960) by René Jules Dubos)

5. Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity. (as quoted in "There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem" (2001) by Wayne W. Dyer)

6. The human spirit, driven by an invincible force, will never cease to ask: What is beyond? ("Discours de réception de Louis Pasteur" (1882))

7. Where are the real sources of human dignity, freedom, and modern democracy, if not in the concept of infinity to which all men are equal? ("Discours de réception de Louis Pasteur" (1882))

8. The greatness of human actions is measured by the inspiration that it brings. Blessed is he who carries within himself a God, an ideal of beauty and obeys it: an ideal of art, an ideal of science, an ideal of country, an ideal virtues of the Gospel! These are the wellsprings of great thoughts and great actions. All reflections illuminate infinity. ("Discours de réception de Louis Pasteur" (1882))

Ask questions, find answers, and share your thoughts on science, art, and the challenges the world meets today by taking part in the one of a kind international scientific conference on arts and humanities "The Magic of the Renaissance" in Florence, Italy, on 26-28 October, 2020. For more information: www.sgemflorence.org

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