Archive for the ‘History’ Category
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Without any kind of secret messages, the works of Michaelangelo are masterful. But some researchers have indicated that Michaelangelo may have “built into” his Sistine Chapel paintings some signs that point to a level of cleverness that took hundreds of years to unveil.
Consider this article and his work called “Separation of Light from Darkness” (at right):
At the age of 17 he began dissecting corpses from the church graveyard. Between the years 1508 and 1512 he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo Buonarroti—known by his first name the world over as the singular artistic genius, sculptor and architect—was also an anatomist, a secret he concealed by destroying almost all of his anatomical sketches and notes. Now, 500 years after he drew them, his hidden anatomical illustrations have been found—painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, cleverly concealed from the eyes of Pope Julius II and countless religious worshipers, historians, and art lovers for centuries—inside the body of God.
This is the conclusion of Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo, in their paper in the May 2010 issue of the scientific journalNeurosurgery. Suk and Tamargo are experts in neuroanatomy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1990, physician Frank Meshberger published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association deciphering Michelangelo’s imagery with the stunning recognition that the depiction in God Creating Adamin the central panel on the ceiling was a perfect anatomical illustration of the human brain in cross section. Meshberger speculates that Michelangelo surrounded God with a shroud representing the human brain to suggest that God was endowing Adam not only with life, but also with supreme human intelligence. Now in another panel The Separation of Light from Darkness (shown at left), Suk and Tamargo have found more. Leading up the center of God’s chest and forming his throat, the researchers have found a precise depiction of the human spinal cord and brain stem.
Is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel a 500 year-old puzzle that is only now beginning to be solved? What was Michelangelo saying by construction the voice box of God out of the brain stem of man? Is it a sacrilege or homage?
And then there’s the “The Creation of Adam,” which, if it were interpreted another way, it should have been titled, “The Creation of God:”
We know that Michaelangelo worked with cadavers during one period of his life, so he would have known how the human brain was shaped. The Pope and his religious cohorts most likely would have not, and thus would not have been able to see through the subtle clues in Michaelangel’s work. Here, we see God and the angels almost entirely encapsulated inside a mysterious red shroud or cloak. Given the symbolism of Christianity (the blood of Christ, the moon turning red, etc.), the Pope would have probably agreed with the inclusion of so much red in the right half of the painting. But to modern eyes, it looks like a clean cross-section of a human brain in perfect shape along the exterior. If Michaelangelo wanted to capture God inside an object, why not a blue cloud or some kind of yellow shape to represent the sun (son)? The strength of the piece comes not from the depiction of Adam or God and the angels, but what takes place in the middle: God and man’s fingers nearly touching and the no-man’s land in between that keeps the divine and mortal man worlds apart, so the red blob to the right could simply be extraneous. Presumably God and the angels would certainly be capable of just floating on air without needing to be enshrouded in anything. Michaelangelo, the master that he was, probably would have realized this.
Of course, we don’t know Michaelangelo’s real intentions, but the fact that God and the angels are depicted inside this red portion of the painting, a likeness of the human brain, seems like more than just a coincidence, given what we know about Michaelangelo’s interest in science and his documented disagreements with the Vatican. In this view, the painting takes on this meaning: God and the angels are a whole cloth creation stemming from and encapsulated in the mind of man. If this, indeed, is what Michaelangelo hoped to convey inside the Sistine Chapel — he would have probably been killed for it in his day — we can record him not only as a masterful painter but as a philosopher far ahead of his time.
OK, so the office read-off of 2012 is complete, and Blake is the clear winner this year in terms of the number of books and page count. Here is his book tower with 30 titles (I think three are missing):
A side-by-side tower (a la this post) was not possible this year because I took a job in a different state, and we borrowed a few books here and there, so this list will have to suffice:
- “Grant” by Jean Edward Smith – 628, finished late January (-200 pages in 2011) = 428
- “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara, finished Feb. 12 – 374
- “General Lee’s Army: From Victory To Collapse” by Joseph Glatthaar – 475
- “This Mighty Scourge” by James McPherson – 272
- “State of Denial” by Bob Woodward – 491 (finished April 2)
- “The Greatest Show On Earth” by Richard Dawkins (started late March, finished May 13) – 437
- “Madison and Jefferson” by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg (started May 16) – 644. Finished July 21.
- “From the Temple to the Castle” by Lee Morrissey (started May 13) – 144 (finished July 22)
- “Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism” by Bruce Scheulman (started mid-July, finished Aug. 19) – 245 = 3510
- “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe (started Aug. 19, finished Oct. 10) – 743 = 4253
- “Grant and Sherman” by Charles Flood (started Oct. 10, finished Nov. 7) – 402 = 4655
- “The American Civil War” by John Keegan (started Aug. 19, finished Dec. 31) – 5020.
Thus, my final count was about 5,000 pages, and he came in at more than 9,000 pages.
I think we may have come to an agreement that the five best history books we have read in the last three years are as follows:
- “Grant” by Jean Edward Smith
- “Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society“ by John A., III Andrew
- “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788″ by Pauline Meier by Pauline Maier
- “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson
- “Grant and Sherman” by Charles Bracelen Flood
Explore any of these, and you can’t go wrong.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union has determined in a recent report that nonbelievers can be killed for their nonbelief in seven states. If you think religion is bollocks, you may want to avoid these: Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Of course, as this article from Slate points out, the hostility toward nonbelievers does not just persist in radical Muslim theocracies. Right here at home, seven states — what is it with religious people and their fascination with the number seven? Yahweh‘s favorite number, no doubt! — ban atheists from holding public office. These bastions of reason and logic include Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Many of these, as you will notice, were, unsurprisingly, in the old Confederacy, including my home state, which can pride itself on being the first to leave the Union and the last to rejoin.
Just out of curiosity, I did a little fact checking on Tennessee, and as plain as day, here is the statute right there in the current state Constitution (ARTICLE IX. DISQUALIFICATIONS):
§ 2. Atheists holding office
No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.
I think it’s also curious that not only does a person have to be a believer to hold public office, belief in a future state is also required. Why would the latter part be included? Perhaps so that if and when this public servant inevitably fails his constituents in some way or another, he and they can take comfort in the thought that they will one day walk on sunshine with Jesus, free from the trappings of this world and its tough decision-making. No, the state wouldn’t want any nonbelievers in office approaching life on the notion that they had better get it right the first time and that there are no cop out solutions like prayer if, by chance, they happened to make life for millions of blacks a living hell for generations after they were supposedly emancipated, or if they allowed hordes of KKK members and other racists to run rampant in the South, scarring innocent women and children for decades. No, they might say: “It’s all permissible as long as we teach those people about the good news of the gospel; my mistakes as a racist, oppressive public servant in the South and their misery and the misery of their children can all be scrapped because one day we will be reconciled under the warm glow of heaven.”
After the U.S. Census Bureau reported earlier this year that white newborn babies were now in the minority camp, the agency is now indicating that whites as a whole in America will be a minority by 2043, a reality that, while it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, will no doubt raise anxieties among some white folks, especially in the South.
Witness some of these odious responses on the News-Sentinel website:
TOLDYOUSO: Oh goodie, then we can race bait like jesse and al.
GOJO: Then whites will get preferential treatment as a minority.
transplantedhillbilly: There goes the neighborhood! Now they will be burning crosses on OUR lawns!
activehollow: white history month…finally!
ragebucket: When whites are no longer the majority, can we have white pride month?
As Matthew Yglesias pointed out in May after the report on newborns, the actual figures related to demographics in America aren’t as black and white as we might believe. People technically of Hispanic origin but have lived in the United States since infanthood may be just as well feel comfortable checking the “white” box if other branches of their family tree find their roots in say, Eastern Europe, like Yglesias. What about people with Hispanic origins whose families have lived in the United States for multiple generations, and they have no immediate connection to Mexico, Cuba or elsewhere.
Here is Yglesias:
As books like How The Irish Became White and How Jews Became White Folks: And What That Says About Race in America make clear, whiteness in America has always been a somewhat elastic concept.
It’s conceivable that 40 years from now nobody will care about race at all. But if they do still care, it will still be the case that—by definition—whiteness is the racial definition of the sociocultural majority. If the only way for that to happen is to recruit large swathes of the Hispanic and fractionally Asian population into whiteness, then surely it will happen.
… The future of American whiteness will likely evolve to include a larger share of ancestry from Asia and Latin America, just as in the past it’s expanded to include people from eastern and southern Europe. The idea that every single person with a single non-white ancestor counts as non-white will look as ridiculous as Elizabeth Warren’s past claim of Cherokee identity.
As it turns out, the Jewish political right in Israel is just as corrosive and dangerous as the American right. Here are some young Jews who think likewise:
I’m particularly interested in the one on Cleopatra. It is shameful that here in the United States, we have struggled collectively through the 20th century with the issue of women’s rights when in the example of Cleopatra, we have a woman of immense power and charm more than 2,000 years ago.
Now if only I could clean up the rambling. I think I botched “recite” and invented a word called “roboticism.” Ahh, the price of a writer by trade going unscripted on camera …
The man-made, extensively debated, committee assembled, legislatively enacted Bill of Rights contains more useful morality in its first adopted amendment than we find in all 10 commandments combined. — Steve Shives
Fossil by fossil, scientists over the last 40 years have suspected that their models for the more immediate human family tree — the single trunk, straight as a Ponderosa pine, up from Homo habilis to Homo erectus to Homo sapiens — were oversimplified. The day for that serious revision may be at hand.
The discovery of three new fossil specimens, announced Wednesday, is the most compelling evidence yet for multiple lines of evolution in our own genus, Homo, scientists said. The fossils showed that there were at least two contemporary Homo species, in addition to Homo erectus, living in East Africa as early as two million years ago.
Uncovered from sandstone at Koobi Fora, badlands near Lake Turkana in Kenya, the specimens included a well-preserved skull of a late juvenile with a relatively large braincase and a long, flat face, which has been designated KNM-ER 62000 (62000 for short). It bears a striking resemblance to the enigmatic cranium known as 1470, the center of debate over multiple lineages since its discovery in the same area in 1972.
If the 62000 skull showed that 1470 was not a single odd individual, the other two specimens seemed to provide a vital piece of evidence that had been missing. The specimen 1470 had no mandible, or lower jaw. The new finds included an almost complete lower jaw (60000) — considered to be the most complete mandible of an early Homo yet found — and a part of another lower jaw (62000).
The fossils were collected between 2007 and 2009 by a team led by Meave and Louise Leakey, the mother-and-daughter paleoanthropologists of the Koobi Fora Research Project and members of the famous African fossil-hunting family. Dr. Meave Leakey is the wife of Richard Leakey, a son of Louis and Mary Leakey, who produced the early evidence supporting Africa’s central place in early human origins. Mr. Leakey divides his time between Stony Brook University on Long Island, where he is a professor of anthropology, and the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya.
After looking “long and hard” for fossils to confirm the intriguing features of 1470’s face and show what its teeth and lower jaw were like, Dr. Meave Leakey said this week, “At last we have some answers.”