Sunday, September 30, 2012

Greek's Mythical Ages

Creation of the World


 In the beginning there was only chaos. Then out of the void appeared Erebus, the unknowable place where death dwells, and Night. All else was empty, silent, endless, darkness. Then somehow Love was born bringing a start of order. From Love came Light and Day. Once there was Light and Day, Gaea, the earth appeared.

Then Erebus slept with Night, who gave birth to Ether, the heavenly light, and to Day the earthly light. Then Night alone produced Doom, Fate, Death, Sleep, Dreams, Nemesis, and others that come to man out of darkness.

Meanwhile Gaea alone gave birth to Uranus, the heavens. Uranus became Gaea's mate covering her on all sides. Together they produced the three Cyclopes, the three Hecatoncheires, and twelve Titans.

However, Uranus was a bad father and husband. He hated the Hecatoncheires. He imprisoned them by pushing them into the hidden places of the earth, Gaea's womb. This angered Gaea and she plotted against Uranus. She made a flint sickle and tried to get her children to attack Uranus. All were too afraid except, the youngest Titan, Cronus.

Gaea and Cronus set up an ambush of Uranus as he lay with Gaea at night. Cronus grabbed his father and castrated him with the stone sickle, throwing the severed genitales into the ocean. The fate of Uranus is not clear. He either died, withdrew from the earth, or exiled himself to Italy. As he departed he promised that Cronus and the Titans would be punished. From his spilt blood came the Giants, the Ash Tree Nymphs, and the Erinnyes. From the sea foam where his genitales fell came Aphrodite.

Cronus became the next ruler. He imprisoned the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires in Tartarus. He married his sister Rhea, under his rule the Titans had many offspring. He ruled for many ages. However, Gaea and Uranus both had prophesied that he would be overthrown by a son. To avoid this Cronus swallowed each of his children as they were born. Rhea was angry at the treatment of the children and plotted against Cronus. When it came time to give birth to her sixth child, Rhea hid herself, then she left the child to be raised by nymphs. To conceal her act she wrapped a stone in swaddling cloths and passed it off as the baby to Cronus, who swallowed it.

This child was Zeus. He grew into a handsome youth on Crete. He consulted Metis on how to defeat Cronus. She prepared a drink for Cronus designed to make him vomit up the other children. Rhea convinced Cronus to accept his son and Zeus was allowed to return to Mount Olympus as Cronus's cup bearer. This gave Zeus the opportunity to slip Cronus the specially prepared drink. This worked as planned and the other five children were vomited up. Being gods they were unharmed. They were thankful to Zeus and made him their leader.

Cronus was yet to be defeated. He and the Titans, except Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Oceanus, fought to retain their power. Atlas became their leader in battle and it looked for some time as though they would win and put the young gods down. However, Zeus was cunning. He went down to Tartarus and freed the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires. Prometheus joined Zeus as well. He returned to battle with his new allies. The Cyclopes provided Zeus with lightning bolts for weapons. The Hecatoncheires he set in ambush armed with boulders. With the time right, Zeus retreated drawing the Titans into the Hecatoncheires's ambush. The Hecatoncheires rained down hundreds of boulders with such a fury the Titans thought the mountains were falling on them. They broke and ran giving Zeus victory.

Zeus exiled the Titans who had fought against him into Tartarus. Except for Atlas, who was singled out for the special punishment of holding the world on his shoulders.

However, even after this victory Zeus was not safe. Gaea angry that her children had been imprisoned gave birth to a last offspring, Typhoeus. Typhoeus was so fearsome that most of the gods fled. However, Zeus faced the monster and flinging his lightning bolts was able to kill it. Typhoeus was burried under Mount Etna in Sicily.

Much later a final challenge to Zeus rule was made by the Giants. They went so far as to attempt to invade Mount Olympus, piling mountain upon mountain in an effort to reach the top. But, the gods had grown strong and with the help of Heracles the Giants were subdued or killed.

The Golden Age of Man

The Golden Age was a mythical first period of man when everything was happy and easy, and mortals lived like gods, although they died, but only as if falling asleep. No one worked or grew unhappy. Spring never ended. It is even described as a period in which people aged backwards. When they died, they became daimones (from which Philip Pullman gets his "daemon" and others get the word demon) and roamed the earth. The people of the Golden Age were formed by or for the Titan Cronus, whom the Romans called Saturn. When Zeus overcame the Titans, the Golden Age ended.

The Silver Age of Man


During the Silver Age the Olympian god Zeus was in charge. Zeus caused this generation of man to be created inferior in appearance and wisdom to the last. He divided the year into 4 seasons. Man had to plant grain and seek shelter, but still, a child could play for 100 years before growing up. The people wouldn't honor the gods, so Zeus caused them to be destroyed. When they died, they became "blessed spirits of the underworld."

The Bronze Age of Man


The Third Age was of bronze. Zeus created men from ash trees -- a hard wood used in spears. The Bronze Age men were strong and warlike. Among other traits, they did not eat bread. Their armor and homes were of bronze. It was this generation of men that was destroyed by the flood in the days of Prometheus' son Deucalion and Pyrrha. When the bronze men died they went to the Underworld.

Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees, and it was in no way equal to the silver age, but was terrible and strong. They loved the lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence; they ate no bread, but were hard of heart like adamant, fearful men. Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. Their armour was of bronze, and their houses of bronze, and of bronze were their implements: there was no black iron. These were destroyed by their own hands and passed to the dank house of chill Hades, and left no name: terrible though they were, black Death seized them, and they left the bright light of the sun.

The Heroic Age


The Heroic Age was the time just before our own. This race of men was called Henitheoi and was, like the Bronze race, made by Zeus. The men of this age were more heroic than their predecessors and successors. They were the demigods, but many were destroyed by the great wars of Greek legend. After death, some went to the Underworld; others to the Islands of the Blessed ones.

But w
hen earth had covered this generation also, Zeus the son of Cronos made yet another, the fourth, upon the fruitful earth, which was nobler and more righteous, a god-like race of hero-men who are called demi-gods, the race before our own, throughout the boundless earth. Grim war and dread battle destroyed a part of them, some in the land of Cadmus at seven-gated Thebe when they fought for the flocks of Oedipus, and some, when it had brought them in ships over the great sea gulf to Troy for rich-haired Helen's sake: there death's end enshrouded a part of them. But to the others father Zeus the son of Cronos gave a living and an abode apart from men, and made them dwell at the ends of earth. And they live untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed along the shore of deep swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year, far from the deathless gods, and Cronos rules over them, for the father of men and gods released him from his bonds. And these last equally have honour and glory.

The Iron Age

Zeus placed a 5th race of men on earth during the present, Iron Age. All manner of evils came into being during this age. Piety and other virtues disappeared and most of the gods who were left on Earth, abandoned it. Zeus will destroy this race some day.
And again far-seeing Zeus made yet another generation, the fifth, of men who are upon the bounteous earth.
Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labour and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth. The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as a foretime. Men will dishonour their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another's city. There will be no favour for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing. Strength will be right and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all. And then Aidos and Nemesis, with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Water - A Element Present Even Before The Existence of Galaxies

Scientists have found the biggest and oldest reservoir of water ever, so large and so old, it’s almost impossible to describe which is 12 billion light years away. But it was only 40 years ago, in 1969,that scientists first confirmed that water existed anywhere besides Earth. Researchers found a lake of water so large that it could provide each person on Earth an entire planet’s worth of water.

he water is in a cloud around a huge black hole that is in the process of sucking in matter and spraying out energy (such an active black hole is called a quasar), and the waves of energy the black hole releases make water by literally knocking hydrogen and oxygen atoms together.

Equally stunning is the age of the water factory, its 12 billion years old, but the universe itself was just 1.6 billion years old. This suggests that water is being formed at the very start of the known universe, which is to say, water was one of the first substances formed, created in galactic volumes from the earliest time. Given water’s creative power to shape geology, climate and biology, that’s dramatic. It's another demonstration that water is perversive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.

The NASA announcement is also a reminder how quickly our understanding of the universe is evolving and how much capacity for surprise nature still has for us. There’s water on Mars, there’s water jetting hundreds of miles into space from Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, there are icebergs of water hidden in the polar craters of our own Moon. And now it turns out that a single quasar has the ability to manufacture galaxies full of water.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Morpheus; the Greek God of dreams.

Morpheus was the God responsible for the dreams of people. When in the arms of Morpheus people would enjoy a sound sleep, but would also see dream about their future or even coming events. Morpheus was the dream messenger of Gods, communicating the divine messages through images and stories, created as dreams.

Being the master of dreams, Morpheus had the ability to send images to the visions of people, to shape these images and give a form to the creatures that lived in dreams. Morpheus himself had a talent in mimicking any human in the dreams, and was able to take any form he wanted.

When in his real form Morpheus had wings on his back. It was believed that he and his brothers were given wings by their uncle Thanatos, the deity of death, although some interpretations said that they were wing-born.The legend says that Morpheus used his wings not only to reach those who needed help in their dreams but also to carry his father, the wingless Hypnos, to the dream world in the caves, when in several occasions needed to be saved from Zeus' menace.This version also suggests that Hypnos was a pretty lazy deity, spending most of his time sleeping.

The Dream World of Morpheus was the place where his family lived. While shaping dreams of mortals as he wished, and visited countless bedrooms, Morpheus slept in a cave full of poppy seeds. That mythical fact is maybe why morphine (known as morphium as well) – opium based medication for severe pain - borrowed its name from Morpheus.

The River of Forgetfulness and the River of Oblivion were found in that world, highly protected by the gates under the supervision of two monsters that would easily materialize the fears of any uninvited visitors. The legend says that only the gods from Olympus were allowed in this family nest.

Morpheus didn't have a wife, or at least so it was known in the Greek mythology. But some interpretations were ready to see him with Iris, the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods.

The Mystery Of The 'Tickles'

The feeling we get when someone tickles us is a panic response, it's the fear and unease of someone possibly hurting you that causes you to laugh. At some particular occasion you burst into uncontrollable laughter,it's the moment that you least expect to be tickled and that causes you to feel extremely uneasy. However, when you touch your own ticklish spots, the brain is prepared for it and doesn't respond with panic.

We aren't aware of a lot of the sensations generated by our movements. For example, you probably don't pay much attention to your vocal cords when you speak. For the same reason, we can't tickle ourselves. If we grab our sides in an attempt to tickle ourselves, our brain anticipates this contact from the hands and prepares itself for it.

The cerebellum is the region located at the base of the brain that monitors our movements. It can distinguish expected sensations from unexpected sensations. An expected sensation would be the amount of pressure your fingers apply to your keyboard while typing. An unexpected sensation would be someone sneaking up behind you and tapping you on the shoulder. While the brain discards the sensation of typing, it pays a lot of attention to someone tapping on your shoulder. The difference in reactions from expected to unexpected is a built-in response that probably developed in early human history to detect predators.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The drug that can keep you awake

It's called Modafinil and it's in a class of drugs called eugeroics and it's FDA-approved to treat narcolepsy. But the drug has gained a dedicated off-label following as a "lifestyle drug". It's a stimulant as caffeine and adenosine, but the difference in how it works in the brain is that it doesn't have the same side-effects that the others do.

The way caffeine
and Adenosine work is that they block certain receptors in the brain that react to dopamine, which makes it slow down. This means, for example, that coffee does not give you energy, but rather, doesn’t let the brain realize it needs more energy. This is why people crash after caffeine. The effect goes away and all the tiredness catches up to you. Modafinil doesn't have that problem.

Its action is not really known yet, but it looks like instead of blocking the brain's dopamine processing, it just slows production of dopamine. On top of that, it also prevents the re-uptake of another neurotransmitter called noradrenaline, which triggers sleep. And one of the most mysterious result is that modafinil doesn't trigger sleep debt. People who stay awake for a day or two on modafinil don't report a need to catch up on sleep after the effect wears off. They can sleep the normal amount.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cluster headache or Suicide Headache

Cluster headache , also called “ suicide headache ” is a neurological disease that involves, as its most prominent feature, an immense degree of pain in the head. Cluster headaches occur periodically: spontaneous remissions interrupt active periods of pain. The cause of the disease is currently unknown. It affects approximately 0.1% of the population, and men are more commonly affected than women.

Cluster headaches are excruciating unilateral headaches of extreme intensity. The duration of the common attack ranges from as short as 15 minutes to three hours or more. The onset of an attack is rapid, and most often without the preliminary signs that are characteristic of a migraine. However, some sufferers report preliminary sensations of pain in the general area of attack, often referred to as “shadows”, that may warn them an attack is lurking or imminent.
The pain may be very sharp and may cause pain around the eye area and may also be a pain within the back of the eye. The pain of cluster headaches is markedly greater than in other headache conditions, including severe migraines; experts have suggested that it may be the most painful condition known to medical science. Female patients have reported it as being more severe than childbirth. In some cases even morphine is not enough.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pandora; an example for the saying 'Curiosity Killed the Cat'

 All started from a gathering of the gods, where the Titans were also invited. The gathering had been organized to decide who would be favored with the better portion of a sacrifice. Prometheus, the Titan who later stole the fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity, had deviously presented the sacrifice in such a manner that Zeus chose the portion that looked more appealing when in fact it was just bones presented in a tempting manner. Outraged at this mockery, Zeus decided to take revenge and get even with Prometheus. Zeus charged Hephaestus, the god of smiths and master of crafts, with creating a dazzlingly beautiful woman, one that would appear irresistible to either god or man.

To accomplish this feat Aphrodite, the goddess of love, posed as a model for the creation of the statue. The woman was molded of earth and water and once the body was ready, the Four Winds breathed life into it. She was then given gifts from all the Olympian gods. Aphrodite gave to her unparalleled beauty, grace and desire. Hermes, the messenger god, gave her a cunning, deceitful mind and a crafty tongue. Athena clothed her and taught her to be deft with her hands. Poseidon bestowed on her a pearl necklace that would prevent her from drowning. Apollo taught her to play the lyre and to sing. Zeus gave her a foolish, mischievous and idle nature and last but not least, Hera gave her the wiliest gift, curiosity. Thus, the first mortal woman was born and she descended down to earth. Her name was Pandora, meaning all-gifted, implying all the gifts she had received from gods. Along with her, Hermes gave a gilded and intricately carved box, a gift from Zeus with an explicit warning that she must never open it, come what may. Draped in raiment fit for the gods, she was presented to Epimetheus, Prometheus' half-brother. Epimetheus had been told by his brother never to accept any gift from Zeus. Prometheus was well aware that Zeus was still angry with him for his effrontery at the gathering and would try to get his revenge. However, one look at Pandora was all it took for Epimetheus to fall in crazy love with her and marry her without thought or consideration. He was truly enchanted with her. To congratulate them, Hermes came to the wedding ceremony and told Epimetheus that Pandora was a gift from Zeus, a peace-offer signifying that there were no more ill feelings between the chief of the gods and Prometheus.

The days were passing quickly and the two were leading a happy, married life but one thought was still at the back of Pandora’s mind: what was in the box that Zeus had given her? She kept thinking that maybe the box had money in it, nice clothes or even jewelry. Without thought or reason, she would find herself walking past the box and involuntarily reaching out to open it. Every time, she was reminding herself that she had vowed never to open the box. Hera’s gift of curiosity had worked and one day, unable to take it any more, she decided to have just a brief look inside. When nobody was around, she fitted a golden key hanging around her neck to the lock on the box. Turning the key slowly, she unlocked the box and lifted the lid only for a while. Before she knew it, there was a hissing sound and a horrible odor permeated the air around her. Terrified, she slammed the lid down but it was too late. Pandora had released all the wickedness and malevolence that Zeus had locked into the box. That time, she understood that she was a mere pawn in a great game played by the gods.  In that gilded box, Zeus had hidden all everything that would plague man forever: sickness, death, turmoil, strife, jealousy, hatred, famine, passion… everywhere the evil spread. Pandora felt the weight of the world on her shoulders and looked at the gilded box that had turned rusty and hideous.

Unknown to her, along with the evil feelings, she had also revealed hope, the only good thing that Zeus had trapped inside the box. The modern phrase “Pandora’s box” derives from this myth. It is used to say that a certain action provoked many evils, just like Pandora’s action to open the box released all the evils of humanity. However, despite these evils, we humans still have hope to encourage us.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Asclepius, a mortal who became god of medicine.

Asclepius was said to be the son of god Apollo and a mortal woman from Trikala, Thessaly, named Coronis. While Coronis was pregnant, she fell in love with Ischys, another mortal man. When Apollo learned their secret affair, he sent his sister Artemis to kill Coronis. Indeed, Artemis burned Coronis on a funeral pyre. Meanwhile, Apollo, who was watching this scene and felt guilty of killing his unborn child, rescued the baby by cutting open the womb of the burning Coronis. This is thought to have been the first "Cesarean section" in human history. Apollo entrusted the baby to centaur Chiron,a strange yet wise creature, half-human half-horse, who was famous for his skills in medicine. Chiron then brought Asclepius up and became his mentor.
While Asclepius was growing up, he was becoming even more famous as a highly-regarded healer with exceptional skills. Aside from the art of surgery, Chiron had also taught him the effective use of drugs, incantations and aphrodisiacs as aids to healing. Asclepius was also said to have been given from goddess Athena a small bottle of Gorgon blood with magical properties. The Gorgons were mythical female monsters that had snakes for hair, wings, bronze claws and eyes that could turn a human into stone.
Therefore, a bottle of such blood was a powerful remedy in the hands of Asclepius, who used to go from town to town and heal people from pain and diseases.
Only a few things are known about the private life of Asclepius. We only know that he was married to Epione and had nine children, three sons and six daughters, who also had leaned some healing practices. According to some accounts, Asclepius fought during the Trojan War, on the Greek side, and there he healed Phyloctetes,a famous hero, from snake bite.
Asclepius was reputed to have preformed many miraculous cures, including the bringing back to life of many dead people. Reviving the dead people and making them immortal was a practice that outraged Hades, the god of the Underworld, who thought that the dead souls rightfully belonged to him. This practice also worried Zeus because Asclepius, in his way, was disturbing the normality of things and Nature. It is not normal for people not to die and live forever.
That is why Zeus, at the instigation of Hades, decided to punish Aslcepius for the abnormalities he caused. One day, he struck Asclepius down with a thunderbolt and gave him a tragic end. This punishment meant that a mortal man can reach only one certain limit in the natural order of things and it is forbidden to him to exceed this limit.
However, Zeus was fair enough to recognize the great service that Asclepius had offered to humanity and decided to turn him into a constellation to live forever in the sky.
Asclepius, in the ancient times, was almost always depicted as a middle-aged man holding a rod with a snake rapped around it. The snake symbolizes the snake bite, which was the worst kind of disease someone could have in the antiquity and very difficult to cure. However, Asclepius had the power to heal even the snake bite. This rod with the snake is known as the “Rod of Asclepius” and is today its the symbol of the physicians throughout the world.

Akinetopsia or Motion Blindness

Akinetopsia is a neurological disorder also known as Motion Blindness. A change in the brain’s structure, often caused by lesions, agitates the psychological process of understanding sensory information.
This is possible, because the visual motion processing area of the brain is anatomically separated from other functions. People with Akinetopsia can still see color, spatial acuity, and fl
icker detection. The disorder affects the ability to reaching out to objects and catching objects. The brain actually sees things in snapshots, instead of in fluid motion. Something as simple as pouring a cup of coffee is difficult, because the sufferer cannot see when to stop pouring. The coffee appears to be frozen, like a glacier. Conversations are difficult, too. The sufferer cannot see facial expressions changing during the conversation or lips moving. The disorder is extremely rare and there is currently no effective treatment or cure for the disorder. This disorder cannot be detected by the sufferer himself because the mentioned complains about his interrupted perception can be adapted over practice of training himself by accessing the event of past over again to perform like all others by experience.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Spacing Effect

In the field of psychology, the spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby mammals more easily remember or learn, even bulk quantities of aspects, in a given amount of time intervals, rather than repeatedly presented in a short period. Practically, this effect suggests that "cramming" (intense, last-minute studying) the night before an exam is not likely to be as effective as studying at intervals over a much longer span of time.

Why does the spacing effect work? There must be some underlying mechanism involving the basic operations of nerve cells, because the spacing effect works with all species, not just humans rehearsing verbal material. But for students who are studying, there is another common-sense reason why spaced repetitions may be beneficial. They focus attention on weakly learned material. A second study session allows special emphasis to be put on information that was not well learned in the first study session. In a single session one never finds out which material is easily forgotten.