Sunday, December 16, 2007

Evidence leads to human ancestor for the apes

Do we really need to consider turning everything upside down by considering the existence of a human ancestor for the apes? This suggestion definitely has the quality of blasphemy against religious doctrine. It just feels wrong and goes against our deeply held beliefs and understanding of the world. However, this is exactly where the evidence leads.
Overall, I don’t expect that the entire anthropology community will suddenly abandon everything that has been taught for decades. However, my point is the following...
What defines a “human?” I have taken the position that it is a body plan (bauplan). Most of us have accepted that early Australopithecines whose brains and skulls were chimp-like, should be considered human and not ape. When you find a fossil such as Sahelanthropus that has a “chimp-like” skull from the point of view of its face and brain, but has the skull base of a human (and presumably upright bipedal post-cranial anatomy) - how can you tell from the fossil if it’s an ape or a human?
The Hennigian cladistic approach lets us say that the isolation point between the chimp and human lineages - where hybridization became impossible - is the origin point of humans. However this means that the definition is arbitrary since ape and human would pretty much look identical at that time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Interventions at every age from infancy to college can reduce racial gaps in both I.Q. and academic achievement

All Brains Are the Same Color Richard E. Nisbett NYT: December 9, 2007
Important recent psychological research helps to pinpoint just what factors shape differences in I.Q. scores. Joseph Fagan of Case Western Reserve University and Cynthia Holland of Cuyahoga Community College tested blacks and whites on their knowledge of, and their ability to learn and reason with, words and concepts. The whites had substantially more knowledge of the various words and concepts, but when participants were tested on their ability to learn new words, either from dictionary definitions or by learning their meaning in context, the blacks did just as well as the whites.
Whites showed better comprehension of sayings, better ability to recognize similarities and better facility with analogies — when solutions required knowledge of words and concepts that were more likely to be known to whites than to blacks. But when these kinds of reasoning were tested with words and concepts known equally well to blacks and whites, there were no differences. Within each race, prior knowledge predicted learning and reasoning, but between the races it was prior knowledge only that differed.
What do we know about the effects of environment?
That environment can markedly influence I.Q. is demonstrated by the so-called Flynn Effect. James Flynn, a philosopher and I.Q. researcher in New Zealand, has established that in the Western world as a whole, I.Q. increased markedly from 1947 to 2002. In the United States alone, it went up by 18 points. Our genes could not have changed enough over such a brief period to account for the shift; it must have been the result of powerful social factors. And if such factors could produce changes over time for the population as a whole, they could also produce big differences between subpopulations at any given time.
In fact, we know that the I.Q. difference between black and white 12-year-olds has dropped to 9.5 points from 15 points in the last 30 years — a period that was more favorable for blacks in many ways than the preceding era. Black progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows equivalent gains. Reading and math improvement has been modest for whites but substantial for blacks.
Most important, we know that interventions at every age from infancy to college can reduce racial gaps in both I.Q. and academic achievement, sometimes by substantial amounts in surprisingly little time. This mutability is further evidence that the I.Q. difference has environmental, not genetic, causes. And it should encourage us, as a society, to see that all children receive ample opportunity to develop their minds. Richard E. Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, is the author of “The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently and Why.”

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Spain and Portugal divided the globe between them in 1494

Map that named America is a puzzle for researchers
By David Alexander Home > News > U.S.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The only surviving copy of the 500-year-old map that first used the name America goes on permanent display this month at the Library of Congress, but even as it prepares for its debut, the 1507 Waldseemuller map remains a puzzle for researchers.
  • Why did the mapmaker name the territory America and then change his mind later?
  • How was he able to draw South America so accurately?
  • Why did he put a huge ocean west of America years before European explorers discovered the Pacific?

"That's the kind of conundrum, the question, that is still out there," said John Hebert, chief of the geography and map division of the Library of Congress.
The 12 sheets that make up the map, purchased from German Prince Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg for $10 million in 2003, were mounted on Monday in a huge 6-foot by 9.5-foot (1.85 meter by 2.95 meter) display case machined from a single block of aluminum...

The map was created by the German monk Martin Waldseemuller. Thirteen years after Christopher Columbus first landed in the Western Hemisphere, the Duke of Lorraine brought Waldseemuller and a group of scholars together at a monastery in Saint-Die in France to create a new map of the world. The result, published two years later, is stunningly accurate and surprisingly modern. Continued...
The mapmakers say they based it on the 1,300-year-old works of the Egyptian geographer Ptolemy as well as letters Florentine navigator Amerigo Vespucci wrote describing his voyages to the new world. But Hebert said there must have been something more.
"From the writings of Vespucci you couldn't have prepared the map," Hebert said. "There had to be something cartographic with it."
Waldseemuller made it clear he was naming the new land after Vespucci, describing how he came up with the name America based on the navigator's first name.
But he soon had misgivings about what he had done. An atlas Waldseemuller produced six years later shows only part of the east coast of the Americas, and refers to it as Terra Incognita -- unknown land.
"America has gone out of his lexicon," Hebert said. "(No) place in the atlas -- in the text or in the maps -- does the name America appear."...
He speculated that power politics played a role. Spain and Portugal divided the globe between them in 1494, two years after Columbus, with territory to the east going to Portugal and land to the west to Spain...
"It is possible one could say the 1507 map is influenced strongly by Portuguese sources and conceivably the 1516 map may be influenced more by Spanish sources," he said.
Although the map conceals many mysteries, one thing is clear: it represents a revolutionary shift in the way Europe viewed the world.
"This is ... essentially the beginning or first map of the modern age, and it's one that everything builds on from that point forward," Hebert said. "It becomes a keystone map." (Editing by Eddie Evans) © Reuters2007 All rights reserved

Could bacteria also influence our emotional state?

The authors show that infection with certain bacteria can cause more anxious or cautious like behavior in mice, perhaps causing the infected agent to avoid predators.

The presence of certain bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract influences behavior and brain function. For example, challenge with live Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni), a common food-born pathogen, reduces exploration of open arms of the plus maze, consistent with anxiety-like behavior, and activates brain regions associated with autonomic function, likely via a vagal pathway.

Could bacteria also influence our emotional state? If verified in humans this could offer insights into conditions like Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and perhaps into fears such as agoraphobia. Long time readers will know that this study is not alone in suggesting that parasites can influence our emotions. Ever wonder why you like cats? Hat tip to Monique van Hoek and Faculty of 1000.

The question of the origin of water on Earth has not been clarified

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Main article: Origin of water on Earth
Much of the universe's water may be produced as a byproduct of star formation. When stars are born, their birth is accompanied by a strong outward wind of gas and dust. When this outflow of material eventually impacts the surrounding gas, the shock waves that are created compress and heat the gas. The water observed is quickly produced in this warm dense gas.[6]

Solar distance and Earth gravity
The existence of liquid water, and to a lesser extent its gaseous and solid forms, on Earth is vital to the existence of life on Earth as we know it. The Earth is located in the habitable zone of the solar system; if it were slightly closer to or further from the Sun (about 5%, or 8 million kilometers or so), the conditions which allow the three forms to be present simultaneously would be far less likely to exist.[7]
Earth's mass allows gravity to hold an atmosphere. Water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere provide a greenhouse effect which helps maintain a relatively steady surface temperature. If Earth were smaller, a thinner atmosphere would cause temperature extremes preventing the accumulation of water except in polar ice caps (as on Mars).
It has been proposed that life itself may maintain the conditions that have allowed its continued existence. The surface temperature of Earth has been relatively constant through geologic time despite varying levels of incoming solar radiation (insolation), indicating that a dynamic process governs Earth's temperature via a combination of greenhouse gases and surface or atmospheric albedo. This proposal is known as the Gaia hypothesis.
The state of water also depends on a planet's gravity. If a planet is sufficiently massive, the water on it may be solid even at high temperatures, because of the high pressure caused by gravity.[1]

Monday, November 19, 2007

We are still missing something big, and natural selection does not explain the full complexity of evolution

Darwinian evolution is a slow, gradual process. But much of the fossil record hints at puzzling long periods of stasis, with scarcely any change. In 1972, evolutionary biologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen J Gould argued instead that species, perhaps even communities, form suddenly in fits and starts of change. They called the theory punctuated equilibrium.
Like individuals in a population, species also struggle amongst themselves to survive, and most become extinct over time. Species can also die out in mass extinctions, such as the one that caused the demise of the dinosaurs. Today we may be in the throes of another mass extinction, caused by human overexploitation of habitats...
Secret code
Darwin was able to establish natural selection, without any understanding of the genetic mechanisms of inheritance, or the source of novel variation in a population. His own theory on the transmission of traits, called pangenesis, was completely wrong.
It was not until Gregor Mendel and the start of the 20th century that the genetic mechanism of inheritance began to be revealed. We now know that most traits, such as skin colour, eye colour and blood group are determined by our DNA and genes. During the 20th century, evolutionary biologists such as Ernst Mayr, J.B.S. Haldane, Julian Huxley, and Theodosius Dobzhansky combined Darwinian evolution with our emerging knowledge of genetics to produce the "modern synthesis" that we call evolutionary biology today.
Most genes come in a variety of forms, one inherited from each parent. The varieties are known as alleles, and encode slightly different traits. The incidence of different traits, or alleles, in a population is driven by natural selection and genetic drift, which can randomly reduce genetic variation. Today, evolution is defined as the change in the frequency of alleles in populations over time.
New traits are introduced into populations by gene flow from other populations or by mutation. Mutation is a change in the structure of a gene and can be caused by errors in copying DNA, carcinogenic chemicals, viruses, UV-light and radiation. Most mutations are neutral, having no effect on gene function; others are harmful, such as the ones that cause inherited diseases like cystic fibrosis. Rarely mutations can lead to beneficial new traits, such as increased resistance to malaria.
Today evolutionary biologists are largely divided into two camps. The pro-selectionists such as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Pinker, Edward O Wilson, Matt Ridley, Mark Ridley and Jared Diamond believe in the primacy of natural selection as the principle guiding evolution. Others such as Niles Eldredge, Stephen J. Gould, Brian Goodwin, Stuart Kauffman and Steven Rose argue that we are still missing something big, and that natural selection does not explain the full complexity of evolution. Instant Expert: Evolution 11:41 04 September 2006 news service John Pickrell

East Asians get longer lives and bigger brains

human nature: Science, technology, and life.
Created Equal from: William Saletan Liberal creationism Posted Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007, at 7:57 AM ET
In fact, there's a mountain of evidence that differential evolution has left each population with a balance of traits that could be advantageous or disadvantageous, depending on circumstances. The list of differences is long and intricate. On average, compared to whites, blacks mature more quickly in the womb, are born earlier, and develop teeth, strength, and dexterity earlier. They sit, crawl, walk, and dress themselves earlier. They reach sexual maturity faster, and they have better eyesight. On each of these measures, East Asians lag whites and blacks. In exchange, East Asians get longer lives and bigger brains.
How this happened isn't clear. Everyone agrees that the three populations separated 40,000 to 100,000 years ago. Even critics of racial IQ genetics accept the idea that through natural selection, environmental differences may have caused abilities such as distance running to become more common in some populations than in others. Possibly, genes for cognitive complexity became so crucial in some places that nature favored them over genes for developmental speed and vision. If so, fitness for today's world is mostly dumb luck. If we lived in a savannah, kids programmed to mature slowly and grow big brains would be toast. Instead, we live in a world of zoos, supermarkets, pediatricians, pharmaceuticals, and information technology. Genetic advantages, in other words, are culturally created.
Not that that's much consolation if you're stuck in the 21st century with a low IQ. Tomorrow we'll look at some of the arguments against the genetic theory. back to top from: William Saletan Liberal creationism Posted Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007, at 7:57 AM ET

Positive suggestions, detachment from the illness, a state of cheerfulness and trust and even guided imageries are helpful

Editorial: The many faces of illness Dr. Alok Pandey
An illness manifests on different levels where it can be detected and rectified. On the grossest level, the most outward, the physical field that our senses recognise and acknowledge, an illness takes the form of a disturbed functioning organ or disrupted cellular balance. On a slightly subtler level, it takes the form of disordered praanic currents or nervous energy flowing through a congestion or depletion in the life-force of an organ. Through different channels in our subtle body, at the mental level, an illness takes the form of an adverse suggestion, a wrong movement of thought or negative attitude. Or else it may engage our subconscious mind as a fear and anxiety or simply a secure pattern of habit that throws its shoots up to the surface from time to time. On an occult level, subliminal to us, illness may find its entry through the intrusion of an adverse or hostile force taking the form of ill will or a virulent stream of darkened and chaotic energies, forces of disintegration and disorder entering through some weak spot in our psychological and psychic armour. At the deepest and subtlest, the spiritual level, an illness may be the offshoot of a past energy or karma whose time for ripening has arrived, whose results and consequences the soul must go through to learn and grow and whose cosmic necessity is justified by the soul’s choice to go through certain experiences needed for its fullest self-development and progress.
These different levels are not necessarily mutually exclusive and can coexist. They may be present as a strong hereditary or constitutional predisposition. When the illness affects only one or two levels, it is relatively easy to cure. But when it has cast its roots deep into the subconscious or is supported by some spiritual necessity, then it is difficult to get rid of it completely, especially when the soul or central being has decided to go through the experience so as to lighten the chain of kaarmic energies that have been woven around it and grow stronger. Then no healing works but the central faith and will of the human being. If it wants recovery and persists, then whatever the time or difficulties one may have to endure, one eventually emerges. This central faith and will are however very deep and are not the wishful thinking or desire of our surface being to be free of the illness, through these too count in the balance of forces. For when the central will does not support the illness, it is a question of the play of forces vis-à-vis the cosmic will operating in the universe.
In this interaction of forces and their complex play, the physician, the system, the method and the medicine are forces that may work at one level or another, in favour of health or of illness. The treatment works best when it corresponds to the level of consciousness at which the illness is most operative and the patient’s faith in that modality of treatment is there along with an openness and receptivity to the healing energies and forces. The treatment may act on the most material level as with the case of certain drugs. On the physical level it may work by either directly attacking the disorder or making the material energies more receptive to the action of healing forces, augmenting the general physical resistance to the illness. Or else it may act upon the vital body and nervous-vital currents correcting the praanic imbalance. This occurs with the various forms of praanaayaama, reiki and possibly also homoeopathy.
Alternatively the treatment may take the form of physical exercises directed towards making the body less taamasic and more receptive to deeper healing forces. The therapy may also be directed towards the mind, creating a little room there for the light to act or a passage for the higher force to reach out to the body and heal. Here we must understand that the mind is but a grey intermediary zone between the darkness of terrestrial life and the light of a greater truth above. It is a mediating link between spirit and matter. If our mind is clouded and full of negativity, dullness and resistance, lacking in faith and will, full of doubts, anxieties and fears then the channel is blocked. This must be cleared for a more complete healing to take place. Positive suggestions, detachment from the illness, a state of cheerfulness and trust and even guided imageries are helpful on this level and are either therapeutic in themselves or else assist the healing process in other cases. Then there are the subconscious roots that can be tackled by autosuggestion and hypnosis or, more radically, by bringing down a higher consciousness into these nether parts. Occultists act on the hidden cosmic forces that bring about the illness. Finally, the kaarmic knots loosened by meditation, prayer and invocation can be completely eradicated by the action of the Divine Grace.
Can a combination of therapies work better in that case since they act on diff-erent levels? Yes, but they should be combined judiciously and with a clear understanding of their action. Thus, for example, a pressure upon the subcon-scient roots either by spiritual or other means may initially lead to an increase in resistance and worsening of symptoms. Again, the higher healing force may find the work more difficult when the patient has put his trust in the wrong kind of physician who is himself full of fears and doubts or when the medicine given is not the right one. Of course, certain things such as medicines, exercises including praanaayaama, positive thoughts, suggestions, imagery, prayer and meditation can usually be well combined.
Some people wrongly assume that if we pray or rely on the Divine then we must not go to any doctor or use any medication. This is an erroneous belief, though it does contain its own partial truth. One might also conclude in that case that it is not necessary to eat food or use any external means for transportation since one depends only upon the Divine. Obviously such an extreme step would defy common sense and even though justifiable for a very rare individual, cannot be made the general rule of life. The truth behind this is that one should not have a divided shraddhaa, a wavering faith that might be the case with those who want to try everything since they have faith in none and are full of doubts about everything. In these cases, a combination of different modes of therapy, especially material ones, only confuses the body. For those who believe in the Grace, it is simple and easy enough to see that the Divine Grace does not act in a vacuum or hang in thin air. The Divine Force can and often does use instruments for its work. And these instruments in men and matter, the spiritual, mental and vital energies of human beings and the physical and vital energies of herbs and minerals, can either facilitate or hinder or resist this working. The play of this world is immensely complex and real and not a shadow play with some arbitrary God playing with puppets and marionettes but a growing into its likeness. And indeed this must be so, for how else could evolution take place? Puppets remain puppets forever.
This growth is through three phases. The first is challenge. Challenge makes us test our knowledge and strength against that which opposes it. Then comes the stage of crisis. Here we are face to face with the limits of our being and the limits of ‘our ’ knowledge. Disease is only one such challenge; the stress of civilisation is another. The last stage is change. The change that gets us past the crisis is not achieved through a multiplication of machinery and equipment, not even an external manipulation, but is essentially an inner change, an exceeding of our inner limits of self and knowledge and power. But till that happens, humanity has to survive. Therefore Nature has devised temporary means: material, physical, chemical, biological and psychological, to keep us in the race. The means are very limited and act within the boundaries of our knowledge and power. Yet they are instruments used by a higher force as makeshift measures till man outgrows their necessity.
Indeed, one sign of inner growth is an increasing freedom from external means. If the aspect of knowledge grows, then something in us remains essentially and fundamentally free of all afflictions. Even if the outer being is challenged or goes to pieces, the inner being is delightfully free and in peace. When the aspect of power grows, then we can return upon our outer being and external nature and this corporeal body made up of dust and clay and free it from the clutch of disease, disorder and perhaps even death. But this is a gradual growth and needs much patient work and hard inner labour. It cannot come except through a long and arduous journey. To expect otherwise would be to indulge in fanciful imaginations and wishful thinking.
These flights of fantasy are also justified as one means to open the inner doors to a greater power than man has ever known. Yet the wise must know the difference between fantasy and reality, between a trick of magic and an authentic miracle. The test is simple enough. A trick dupes the senses or outwardly changes something, but an authentic change always proceeds from within outwards, however small it may seem. That is the law. And the test of authentic healing is this: it touches a deeper chord in our soul, awakens a will and faith to recover, brings hope and a calm luminous trust in our mind, balances our life-force by balancing our inner being and its movements and finally spreads to our outer members and heals. This is the radical cure, an integral and holistic healing.— Dr. Alok Pandey Back

An illness is like a mis-spelt word of an unknown script

Health is not only about keeping diseases at bay or staying fit by some measure or another. It is, above all, an attitude towards life. We may wish to be free of all struggles and all pains but do we understand why the law of struggle and pain came into existence in the first place? What is this law that turns our plans topsy turvy, upsets our dreams, and challenges us to dare failure and sport with defeat? Why do we fear this so much? If instead of all this fear we could look straight into its eyes, into the eyes of disease and death and fall and failure ,if we could see behind the mask, the smile of Love leading us through a narrow and stifling gate towards some greater heights of Glory and Truth, then we would stop being afraid and simply laugh at our pain and smile at the struggle. This is an attempt to look at this aspect of life differently.
The Language of Life Dr. Alok Pandey
An illness is like a mis-spelt word of an unknown script. The modern physician is like someone trying to correct the word by restructuring the letter without knowing the script or the meaning. He feels his way through some deformed letters and tries to correct it as children do in Kindergarten. But even after the deformity is set right, the erroneous word remains because one knows nothing about the meaning. The meaning of life must be known to understand the true error and set it right. For the mis-spelt word of illness is not just a structural issue but also a cognitive one. The average physician sees the structural defect that medical science has come to decipher by studying thousands of hieroglyphs. But a rare physician tries to go beyond the structure and see where the letters have changed positions lending thereby to a wrong sense to the very meaning of life.
The meaning of life is not merely in the structure of the letters and the rules of grammar of the language of life. The genetic code is simply the external script. The processes are simply the rules of its grammar, the punctuation, comma, exclamation, and the full-stop. But the one who holds the meaning and writes the poetry of life is hidden behind in the depths. He uses matter for page , will as pen, faith as the invisible ink. The contents of his life, his thoughts, feelings, desires, impulses, hopes, fears, expectations and aspirations constitute the various characters of his drama and what he speaks and does through them is the sense and substance of his complex play.
When the writer is fully conscious, when he inscribes some deep truth and has a sense of beauty and harmony in his calligraphy, when he is deliberate in his writing and knows the rules of the game of life, then he remains free of afflictions. But if he is casual, full of error and jumble, confused within and ignorant outside, then his language of life shares this defect and reveals this imperfection. Even if we correct a letter or a word here and there, he continues to mis-spell and his sentences become a jumble. There are two ways to avoid these errors which translate as an illness.
  • One is not to write much and to keep it all simple, perhaps very simple. Those who have a rudimentarily developed consciousness, whose life is full of a natural ease and a spontaneous simplicity with few wants and needs, avoid the errors of life that come by sheer excesses. They have few characters in their play, some small hopes and very few anxieties and fear.
  • The second way is to go to the other pole of a complex and developed consciousness with many characters in the play and a rather complicated script. For these, the only way is to discover the harmony of a higher divine Perfection. For while a short and simple script can be managed by a novice, a large and complex script needs a Master Artist.

This Master Artist is within us as the Lord of Life. Either we must live with the sense of a carefree albeit unconscious surrender to His delegate Nature, or else, do consciously and in detail what the simple creatures of Nature do spontaneously and unconsciously through her. That is to say, place our entire being consciously and willfully in the Hands of the Divine Master of Life through a detailed and integral yoga so that He takes up our pen and ink and erasing our errors rewrites the script and the drama of our life afresh.
This is the secret art we are here to learn. Till we learn that, till we hang between the animal simplicity and the divine spontaneity, we shall only exchange one error for another, correct the deformed letter but leave the word mis-spelt and lose thereby the meaning of life and our manifold existence because we knew only the form of letters but not the language, the structural aspects of the hieroglyph but not its meaning and sense.

(Dr. Alok Pandey has been working in the field of psychiatry with a spiritual approach for more than 15 years. He has developed a working concept of integral health and integral psychology which he is using in his life and practice. He is one of the founders of SAIIIHR).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

During the Raja festival all agricultural operations remain suspended

JSTOR: Rice Rituals of Orissa During this month of Jyestha, three days (one day prior to and one day after the Raja Samkranti) are observed as the menstrual period of Mother Earth. ... JSTOR: Earth Mother EARTH MOTHER their deity, Aditi. The Raja-siuya, evidently a pre-Aryan ritual ..... In Orissa, among the Bhuiyas, during the spring festival called Magh ...
Raja Sankranti: Raja Sankranti (Swing festival) or Mithuna Sankranti is the first day of the month of Asara (June-July) from which the season of rains starts. It inaugurates and welcomes the agricultural year all over Orissa which marks, through biological symbolism, the moistening of the summer parched soil with the first showers of the monsoon, thus making it ready for productivity. To celebrate the advent of monsoon, the joyous festival is arranged for three days by the villagers. Though celebrated all over the state it is more enthusiastically observed in the districts of Cuttack, Puri and Balasore. The first day is called Pahili Raja (Prior Raja), second is Raja (Proper Raja) and third is Basi Raja (Past Raja).
According to popular belief as women menstruate, which is a sing of fertility, so also Mother Earth menstruates. So all three days of the festival are considered to be the menstruating period of Mother Earth. During the festival all agricultural operations remain suspended. As in Hindu homes menstruating women remain secluded because of impurity and do not even touch anything and are given full rest, so also the Mother Earth is given full rest for three days for which all agricultural operations are stopped. Significantly, it is a festival of the unmarried girls, the potential mothers. They all observe the restrictions prescribed for a menstruating woman. The very first day, they rise before dawn, do their coiffeur, annoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil and then take the purificatory bath in a river or tank. Peculiarly, bathing for the rest two days is prohibited. They don't walk bare-foot do not scratch the earth, do not grind, do not tear anything apart, do not cut and do not cook. During all the three consecutive days they are seen in the best of dresses and decorations, eating cakes and rich food at the houses of friends and relatives, spending long cheery hours, moving up and down on improvised swings, rending the village sky with their merry impromptu songs. The swings are of different varieties, such as Ram Doli, Charki Doli, Pata Doli, Dandi Doli etc. Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection, respect, social behaviour and everything of social order that comes to the minds of the singers. Through anonymous and composed extempore, much of these songs, through shere beauty of diction and sentiment, have earned permanence and have gone to make the very substratum of Orissa's folk-poetry.
While girls thus scatter beauty, grace and music all around, moving up and down on the swings during the festival, young men give themselves to strenuous games and good food, on the eve of the onset of the monsoons which will not give them even a minute's respite for practically four months making them one with mud, slush and relentless showers, their spirits keep high with only the hopes of a good harvest. As all agricultural activities remain suspended and a joyous atmosphere pervades, the young men of the village keep themselves busy in various types of country games, the most favourite being kabadi. Competitions are also held between different groups of villages. All nights 'Yatra' performances or 'Gotipua' dances are arranged in prosperous villages where they can afford the professional groups. Plays and other kinds of entertainment are also arranged by enthusiastic amateurs.
The special variety of cake prepared out of recipes like rice-powder, molasses, coconut, camphor, ghee etc. goes in the name of Poda Pitha (burnt cake). The size of the cake varies according to the number of family members. Cakes are also exchanged among relatives and friends. Young girls do not take rice during the three-day festival and sustain only with this type of cake, fried-rice(mudi) and vegetable curry. HOME :: SEARCH :: CONTACT US COMING TO ORISSA :: HOTELS

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Aryan invasion theory questioned

Dr. Metzenberg read he read to the committee, from a 1999 paper by Kivisild, et al. (Current Biology, vol 9 pp.1331-1334):
"A commonly held hypothesis, albeit not the only one, suggests a massive Indo-Aryan invasion to India some 4,000 years ago [1]. Recent limited analysis of maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of Indian populations has been interpreted as supporting this concept [2 and 3]. Here, this interpretation is questioned. We found an extensive deep late Pleistocene genetic link between contemporary Europeans and Indians, provided by the mtDNA haplogroup U, which encompasses roughly a fifth of mtDNA lineages of both populations.Our estimate for this split is close to the suggested time for the peopling of Asia and the first expansion of anatomically modern humans in Eurasia [4, 5, 6, 7 and 8] and likely pre-dates their spread to Europe. Only a small fraction of the �Caucasoid-specific� mtDNA lineages found in Indian populations can be ascribed to a relatively recent admixture...
Thus, we have shown that the overwhelming majority of the so-called western-Eurasian-specific mtDNA lineages in Indian populations, estimated here to be carried by more than a hundred million contemporary Indians, belong in fact to an Indian-specific variety of haplogroup U of a late Pleistocene origin. The latter exhibits a direct common phylogenetic origin with its sister groups found in western Eurasia (Figure 1), but it should not be interpreted in terms of a recent admixture of western Caucasoids with Indians caused by a putative Indo-Aryan invasion 3,000 �4,000 years BP. From the deep time depth of the split between the predominant Indian and European haplogroup U varieties, it could be speculated that haplogroup U arose in neither of the two regions. This split could have already happened in Africa, for example, in Ethiopia, where haplogroup U was recently described [21]."
The author is Director, Sarasvati Research Centre. Email: Dr. S. Kalyanaraman

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wheat, rice and corn are high in simple carbohydrates which promote weight gain

Evolution makes us fat William Leith reviews Waistland: the (R)evolutionary Science behind our Weight and Fitness Crises by Deirdre Barrett
As animals, we are genetically almost identical to our Stone Age ancestors. We live in advanced societies, with supermarkets and cars and lifts, but we are built to be hunter-gatherers. We are programmed to seek out fat, sugar, starch and salt, because, in the Stone Age, these things were hard to come by. When they turn up in abundance, our bodies, for the most part, can't say no.
She tells us lots of interesting things about our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who immediately preceded the first farmers. The point about farming, she says, is that, although it makes populations bigger and tribes more powerful, it's not necessarily healthier for the individual. On the contrary, hunter-gatherer skeletons tend to be bigger and healthier than those of people from early farming societies.
This might be because the crops that people raise tend to be the most convenient ones, rather than the most nutritious. Wheat, rice and corn – the foods that "provide the bulk of the calories consumed today" – are "high in simple carbohydrates which promote weight gain", but each lacks essential nutrients.
So you can see what's happening – to put it simply, human beings are evolving much more slowly than the food we eat. And the food is tricking us. We think it's what we need, but it's just what we want. What can we do? Eat sensibly and exercise, of course. One thing we have to do, though, is "not to listen to your body" – because it craves food that, in abundance, is bad for it.
Barrett is big on exercise. We evolved to enjoy sitting around because, in hunter-gatherer times, we had to walk and jog and climb so much that sitting around was the right thing to do. Now we have to earn it. The good news, she says, is that, if you make exercise a habit, it stays with you.
This is a clear, well-written and thoughtful guide to the fat crisis. The advice is simple. Eat healthy food. Then do a lot of exercise. Then you'll be fine. 27/09/2007

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The more you eat the sooner you will leave this planet

Eat (Less) to Live (Longer)
New study reveals why restricting calories may lead to longevity By Nikhil Swaminathan Scientific American, September 20, 2007
SIRT3 and SIRT4 are part of a family called sirtuins. (SIRT1, which helps extend cell life by modulating the number of repair proteins fixing DNA damage both inside and outside the cell's nucleus is also a member.) SIRT is short for sir-2 homologue—a well-studied protein that is known to extend yeast cell longevity. According to Sinclair, all of the mammalian SIRT genes (and their proteins) are possible drug targets for therapies aimed at extending life, as well as staving off age-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancers and metabolic disorders, like diabetes... BROWSE BY SUBJECT: SPACE AND PHYSICS
Last year, researchers showed that stimulating SIRT1 can help yeast cells live longer. Sinclair, working with colleagues at his company, at Cornell University in New York and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, identified the actions of two more sirtuin genes called SIRT3 and SIRT4. They found the enzymes controlled by these genes help preserve the mitochondria -- little organs inside of cells that provide their energy.
Your Life Is in Your Hands: the Path to Lasting Health & Happiness by Krishan Chopra (Author), Deepak Chopra (Author) Editorial Reviews
"I believe that what you eat matters, but what is eating you up matters much more," writes Krishan Chopra, M.D., in Your Life Is in Your Hands. Chopra, father of Deepak Chopra, combines knowledge from Western medicine and Eastern wisdom to help you engage in those habits that lead to health and well-being, and discard those that produce stress and illness. Western medicine is effective, but it needs to be combined with a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and exercise plus heart-and-mind habits such as positive thoughts, optimism, zest for life, right action, meditation, and spirituality.
Chopra describes how, for example, your chances of getting a major illness are doubled if you are depressed, anxious, chronically pessimistic, angry, or irritable, and he explains how to alter those emotions. He discusses the concepts of dharma and karma, illustrating them with family stories. Much of the book is philosophical, spiced with case histories and traditional tales, with advice about how to work these themes into your life. --Joan Price --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Deification of victimhood; the supremacy of feelings over reason, and the glorification of self-esteem over self-control

Dr. Sanity Shining a psychological spotlight on a few of the insanities of life
What all the modern psychobabble about self esteem, feelings, stress and victimhood lead to is a culture of pervasive and malignant narcissism. Instead of healthy ambition, goals and ideals, the malignant narcissist pursues either the sociopathic selfish type of gratification; or the sociopathic selfless variey.
This is a complicated topic, but I discuss it at length in this series of posts . Suffice it to say that our current culture either emphasizes and encourages a bloated sociopathic grandiosity or it encourages the exact opposite- a selfless sociopathy. Both are extremely dysfunctional and malignant for the individual as well as the society at large; and psychological health requires a synthesis of these two extremes of narcissism. The celebrity culture and the quest for superstardom, constant ego-gratification and promotion of self-esteem (at the expense of self-control) has encouraged an unhealthy grandiosity; while at the same time overcompensating with an unhealthy pseudo-selflessness that manifests itself in politics and religion.
The holy trinity of therapeutic psychobabble, the glue that holds this passive, helpless, and ultimately nihilistic world view together is: the deification of victimhood; the supremacy of feelings over reason, and the glorification of self-esteem over self-control.
Those therapists who subscribe to the psychobabble religion and indoctrinate their patients into it, tend to be predisposed to think of themselves as heroically pursuing "social justice" for the poor, unhappy and oppressed masses. But, when you peel away the layers of pseudo-Freudian babble, you discover that the basic premises, the foundation--or "default mode" if you will of the babbler therapist, is the tacit acceptance of Marxist political theory, which neatly sets up the conditions for individual, cultural and societal suicide.
The Marxist dialectic insists that you can either be an "oppressor" or one of the poor "oppressed". From the Marxist moral perspective it is clearly much better to be a victim of oppression. Thus this world view neatly reinforces the passivity and helplessness of victimhood by proclaiming it to be a higher moral value; and, when the only way to get out of this oppressed victim state is to enter the morally inferior ranks of the "oppresors" most people will prefer to reap the rewards of their victimhood--which in our Marxist-drenched culture have proliferated beyond imagining.
Just ask those who finally escape from the oppressed victim mindset only to discover to their astonishment that they are now perceived as "the enemy" and a "traitor" to their gender, race, class, politics etc. etc.--I'm sure you've heard the rhetoric.
At best, a culture or society can either encourage the development of healthy, mature psychological defenses with which to cope with reality and channel human nature; or they can encourage the development and expression of the worse aspects of basic human nature--i.e., those which result in violence, racism, criminality and all the other pathologies. Either way, social, political and economic systems can only encourage certain human traits that result in civilized behavior; or, encourage those that are barbaric and antisocial. Human nature is the same, though, no matter what type of society or political system it finds itself in.
The therapeutic psychobabble that has become the default mode of our culture leads inevitably to the kind of societally dysfuntional and suicidal behavior we witnessed in the recent British confrontation with Iran; and which we witness almost daily now in our dealings with Islamofascism. Our default mode is suicidal. The enemy's is homicidal. It is a perfect postmodern fit. - Diagnosed by Dr. Sanity @ 6:58 AM Comment (0) Trackback (0) <<> Wednesday, September 19, 2007