Friday, August 12, 2016

Correspondence: From scientific research

Edited by Moristotle

Interesting combination of technology and art : “Finding Degas’s Lost Portrait with a Particle Accelerator” [Steph Yin, NY Times, August 4]. Excerpt:
For decades, a mysterious black stain has been spreading across the face of an anonymous woman in Australia. She is the subject of a painting by Edgar Degas, the French Impressionist painter, and since the 1920s, the oil paints in her portrait have gradually faded, revealing the hints of another, hidden portrait underneath.
    Until recently, attempts to capture the image underlying “Portrait of a Woman” with conventional X-ray and infrared techniques have only yielded the shadowy outline of another woman. In a study published on Thursday, however, a team of researchers reports that they have revealed the hidden layer underneath the painting, which hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, at a very high resolution. It seems to be a portrait of Emma Dobigny, a model who was a favored subject of Degas.
    “The fact that you get to see the lower image in such incredible detail is really exciting,” said Joris Dik, a professor of materials in art and archaeology at Delft University of Technology, who was not involved in the research.
    To get their high-resolution image, the research team used a type of particle accelerator called a synchrotron. Synchrotrons are sources of extremely high-energy light. They work by directing that light, which is a million times brighter than the sun, into an X-ray beam that’s one tenth the diameter of a human hair. [read more]
Sediment layers suggest that 7,500 years ago Mediterranean water roared into the Black Sea: “Evidence for a Flood” [James Trefil, April 1, 2000]. Excerpt:
“...The fountains of the great deep [were] broken up, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”
    This quote from the Book of Genesis is part of a familiar tale — the story of Noah's flood. Scholars have known for a long time that the Bible isn't the only place this story is found — in fact, the biblical story is similar to a much older Mesopotamian flood story in the epic of Gilgamesh. Scholars usually attribute things like the worldwide occurrence of flood stories to common human experiences and our love of repeating good stories, but recently scientists have started to uncover evidence that Noah's flood may have a basis in some rather astonishing events that took place around the Black Sea some 7,500 years ago.
    The scientific version of Noah's flood actually starts long before that, back during the last great glaciation some 20,000 years ago.
    This was a time when the earth looked very different from what we are used to today. Thick ice sheets extended down from the North Pole as far as Chicago and New York City. All that water had to come from somewhere, so ocean levels were about 400 feet lower than they are today. In essence, water that evaporated from the oceans fell as snow (which was compacted into glacial ice) rather than rain (which would flow back and replenish the oceans as it does now). The East Coast of the United States was 75 to 150 miles farther out than it is today, and places like Manhattan and Baltimore would have been inland cities. During this period, meltwater from the European glaciers flowed down to the Black Sea basin, then out through a river channel into the Mediterranean. Because the Mediterranean is connected to the world ocean at Gibraltar, it was also 400 feet lower than it is today, so this flow of fresh water through the Black Sea was downhill. [read more]
The Chinese also had a flood, 4,000 years ago: “Scientific Evidence of Flood May Give Credence to Legend of China’s First Dynasty” [Nicholas Wade, NY Times, August 4]. Excerpt:
Scientists have found evidence of a catastrophic flood that overwhelmed the upper Yellow River valley in China some 4,000 years ago, an event that they say may confirm the historical basis of China’s semi-legendary first dynasty.
    Ancient Chinese texts record a mix of historical events and legends. Some records, such as those relating to China’s second and third dynasties, were confirmed in surprising detail when archaeologists turned up inscriptions on oracle bones and ancient bronzes.
    But records of the first dynasty, that of the Xia, contain stories of a Great Flood with a Noah-like savior, the Emperor Yu, who gained the mandate of heaven after dredging canals to dispel the floodwaters and make the land safe. Historians have long wondered whether this flood account was a creation-style myth, the folk memory of a real event, or some mixture of the two. Some have dismissed the story of Emperor Yu as a fiction intended to justify centralized rule and, in the absence of any evidence of a massive flood at the time, many have regarded the stories of the Xia dynasty as more myth than history.
    A team of archaeologists and geologists led by Qinglong Wu of Peking University in Beijing has now discovered evidence of a massive flood that they say could be the Great Flood mentioned in the Chinese annals. [read more]
Interesting article about female orgasm: “Scientists Ponder an Evolutionary Mystery: The Female Orgasm” [Carl Zimmer, NY Times, August 1].
    However, the “hows” and “whys” really don’t mean a lot. Your expertise is all that matters! Yes, there are physical properties, but for women it’s primarily emotional, mental that starts the stimulation. Without those, it takes more physical work to achieve an organism. With an emotional connection, it takes seconds to an organism – without it, maybe 10 minutes. I’m loving every minute! Excerpt:

An eye is for seeing, a nose is for smelling. Many aspects of the human body have obvious purposes.
    But some defy easy explanation. For biologists, few phenomena are as mysterious as the female orgasm.
    While orgasms have an important role in a woman’s intimate relationships, the evolutionary roots of the experience — a combination of muscle contractions, hormone release, and intense pleasure — have been difficult to uncover.
    For decades, researchers have put forward theories, but none are widely accepted. Now two evolutionary biologists have joined the fray, offering a new way of thinking about the female orgasm based on a reconstruction of its ancient history.
    On Monday, in The Journal of Experimental Zoology, the authors conclude that the response originated in mammals more than 150 million years ago as a way to release eggs to be fertilized after sex.
    Until now, few scientists have investigated the biology of distantly related animals for clues to the mystery.
    “For orgasms, we kept it reserved for humans and primates,” said Mihaela Pavlicev, an evolutionary biologist at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and an author of the new paper. “We didn’t look to other species to dig deeper and look for the origin.”
    The male orgasm has never caused much of a stir among evolutionary biologists. The pleasure is precisely linked to ejaculation, the most important step in passing on a male’s genes to the next generation. That pleasure encourages men to deliver more sperm, which is evolutionarily advantageous.
    For women, the evolutionary path is harder to figure out. The muscle contractions that occur during an orgasm are not essential for a woman to become pregnant. And while most men can experience an orgasm during sex, it’s less reliable for women. [read more]
The first public showing of the bikini, Paris (1946)

Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle

4 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed the flood stories. An one more attempt by men to understand women---life is easier once you except that there are some mysteries left better off unsolved.

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    1. Ed, some of the researchers were women; it wasn't a sexist research project. Orgasm is a sort of flood too, by the way.

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  2. With the right mental and emotions an Organism can be continuous for more than 10 wonderful minutes and then can be stimulated again and again.

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    1. Sharon, did you write that while enjoying a long, languorous ORGANISM? <smile>

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