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Human blood types
Genetics of human blood types
article to be written
The inheritance of ABO blood types does not always follow such straightforward rules of inheritance. This can be seen when we examine the Bombay Phenotype. It is hard to predict the ABO blood type of children based on the phenotypes of their parents. This is due to the fact that a third antigen (H) on the surface of red cells can prevent the expected ABO blood type from occurring.
Protecting cities from rising sea levels
from “Can New York Be Saved in the Era of Global Warming?” by Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone, July 2016.
Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York in October 2012, flooding more than 88,000 buildings in the city and killing 44 people, was a transformative event. It did not just reveal how vulnerable New York is to a powerful storm, but it also gave a preview of what the city faces over the next century, when sea levels are projected to rise five, six, seven feet or more, causing Sandy-like flooding (or much worse) to occur with increasing frequency.
Zarrilli turns away from the river, and we walk toward the park that separates it from the Lower East Side. “One of our goals is not just to protect the city, but to improve it,” Zarrilli explains. Next year, if all goes well, the city will break ground on what’s called the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, an undulating 10-foot-high steel-and-concrete-reinforced berm that will run about two miles along the riverfront. It’s the first part of a bigger barrier system, known informally as “the Big U,” that someday may loop around the entire bottom of Manhattan… there are plans in the works to build other walls and barriers in the Rockaways and on Staten Island, as well as in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River. …
…wall-building is politically fraught: You can’t wall off the city’s entire 520-mile coastline, so how do you decide who gets to live behind the wall and who doesn’t? “You have to start somewhere,” Zarrilli says, “so you begin in the places where you get the maximum benefit for the most people.”
In Zarrilli’s view, there is no time to waste. By 2030 or so, the water in New York Harbor could be a foot higher than it is today. That may not sound like much, but New York does not have to become Atlantis to be incapacitated. Even with a foot or two of sea-level rise, streets will become impassable at high tide, snarling traffic. …
Then the big storm will come… if you add a foot or two of sea-level rise to a 14-foot storm tide, you have serious trouble. …Water will flow over the aging sea walls at Battery Park and onto the West Side, pouring into the streets, into basements, into cars, into electrical circuits, finding its way into the subway tunnels. New Yorkers will learn that even after the region spent $60 billion on rebuilding efforts after Sandy, the city’s infrastructure is still hugely vulnerable.
… New York’s Achilles’ heel is the subways, which are vulnerable to saltwater, which is highly corrosive to electrical circuits, as well as to the concrete in the tunnels. In theory, the subway system can be restructured to keep seawater out, but at some point, the cost gets prohibitive. … the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the New York subways, had to spend $530 million upgrading the South Ferry station in Lower Manhattan after it was heavily damaged on 9/11. After Sandy turned the station into a fish tank, the MTA had to close it for months and spend another $600 million to fix it. The MTA has now installed retractable barriers to stop seawater from flooding the station in the next big storm, but the subway system remains vulnerable to rising seas. “We’re not thinking systemically about climate change,” says Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. “We’re focused on Sandy, and Sandy isn’t the worst thing that could happen.”
In the end, there is only one real solution for sea-level rise: moving to higher ground.
In the near future, one of the main drivers of what policy wonks call “managed retreat” is likely to be the rising costs of flood insurance, which is provided to most property owners through National Flood Insurance Protection, an outdated, mismanaged federal program that subsidizes insurance rates for homeowners and businesses in high-risk areas (commercial insurers bailed out of the flood-insurance market decades ago).
Under NFIP, few people who live in flood-prone areas pay the actual cost of the risk. In addition, grandfather clauses in the program often allow homeowners to rebuild in areas that are doomed to flood again very soon. Attempts by Congress to reform the program have failed miserably, and it’s now $23 billion in debt. Eventually, increasing property losses will force reform and insurance rates will go up and up. “When people have to pay more and own more of the risk themselves, their decisions about where they live will change,” says Alex Kaplan, a senior vice president at Swiss Re, a global reinsurance company.
New York state is already experimenting with voluntary buyouts in high-risk areas. The logic is simple: In the long run, it’s cheaper simply to buy people out of their homes than to keep paying for them to be rebuilt after storms (it also moves people out of harm’s way).
Of course, it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to buy out residents and businesses in Lower Manhattan. Instead, some urban planners have discussed offering tax breaks and other financial goodies to encourage residents and businesses to relocate to higher ground. Could parts of Lower Manhattan ever be de-populated and returned to nature? “Buildings were built,” says Kate Orff, director of the urban-planning program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “They can also be unbuilt.” More likely, the walls will go up, getting higher and higher as the seas rise.
The above info is from https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/can-new-york-be-saved-in-the-era-of-global-warming-20160705#ixzz4Da26LKLM
article to be written
HS-ESS2-6. Use a model to describe cycling of carbon through the ocean, atmosphere, soil, and biosphere and how increases in carbon dioxide concentrations due to human activity have resulted in atmospheric and climate changes.
HS-ESS3-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of key natural resources and changes due to variations in climate have influenced human activity.
HS-LS2-7. Analyze direct and indirect effects of human activities on biodiversity and ecosystem health, specifically habitat fragmentation, introduction of non-native or invasive species, overharvesting, pollution, and climate change. Evaluate and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on biodiversity and ecosystem health.*
High School Technology/Engineering
HS-ETS1-1. Analyze a major global challenge to specify a design problem that can be improved. Determine necessary qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for
solutions, including any requirements set by society.*
HS-ETS1-2. Break a complex real-world problem into smaller, more manageable problems that each can be solved using scientific and engineering principles.*
HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, aesthetics, and maintenance, as well as social, cultural, and environmental impacts.*
How elections are impacted by a 100 million year old coastline
Earth Science and Geology impact American social and political life in unexpected ways
Hale County in west central Alabama and Bamberg County in southern South Carolina are 450 miles apart. Both counties have a population of 16,000 of which around 60% are African American. The median households and per capita incomes are well below their respective state’s median, in Hale nearly $10,000 less. Both were named after confederate officers–Stephen Fowler Hale and Francis Marion Bamberg. And although Hale’s county seat is the self-proclaimed Catfish Capitol, pulling catfish out of the Edisto River in Bamberg County is a favorite past time.
These two counties share another unique feature. Amidst a blanket of Republican red both Hale and Bamberg voted primarily Democratic in the 2000, 2004, and again in the 2008 presidential elections. Indeed, Hale and Bamberg belong to a belt of counties cutting through the deep south–Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina–that have voted over 50% Democratic in recent presidential elections.
Why? A 100 million year old coastline.
During the Cretaceous, 139-65 million years ago, shallow seas covered much of the southern United States. These tropical waters were productive–giving rise to tiny marine plankton with carbonate skeletons which overtime accumulated into massive chalk formations. The chalk, both alkaline and porous, lead to fertile and well-drained soils in a band, mirroring that ancient coastline and stretching across the now much drier South. This arc of rich and dark soils in Alabama has long been known as the Black Belt.
But many, including Booker T. Washington, coopted the term to refer to the entire Southern band. Washington wrote in his 1901 autobiography, Up from Slavery, “The term was first used to designate a part of the country which was distinguished by the color of the soil. The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturally rich soil…”
Over time this rich soil produced an amazingly productive agricultural region, especially for cotton. In 1859 alone a harvest of over 4,000 cotton bales was not uncommon within the belt. And yet, just tens of miles north or south this harvest was rare. Of course this level of cotton production required extensive labor.
As Washington notes further in his autobiography, “The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers. Later and especially since the war, the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense—that is, to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white.”
The legacy of ancient coastlines, chalk, soil, cotton, and slavery can still be seen today. African Americans make up over 50%, in some cases over 85%, of the population in Black Belt counties. As expected this has and continues to deeply influence the culture of the Black Belt. J. Sullivan Gibson writing in 1941 on the geology of the Black Belt noted, “The long-conceded regional identity of the Black Belts roots no more deeply its physical fundament of rolling prairie soil than in its cultural, social, and economic individuality.” And so this plays out in politics.
This Black Belt with its predominantly African American population consistently votes overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in presidential elections. The pattern is especially pronounced on maps when a Republican candidate has secured the presidency as Bush did in 2000 and 2004. In Southern states where a Republican secures the nomination, almost the entirety of Black Belt counties still lean Democratic. This leads to a Blue Belt of Democratic counties across the South. Even when Clinton, a Democrat, overwhelmingly took most Southern states, the percentages of those voting Democrat was still highest in the Black Belt counties.
But the Black Belt has not always been visible on maps during elections. The Voting Rights Act, outlawing discriminatory voting practices, was passed in 1965. As result, a year earlier in the 1964 elections larger numbers of African Americans were excluded from the polls in Southern states. And, in turn, the blue band we see today was not visible.
Long heralded as the Black Belt for rich dark soils and later for the rich African American culture and population, it may equally be referred to as the Blue Belt to reflect both its oceanic geology and the political leanings that resulted from it.
About the author: Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Now we move to further data, from the original article, Geology and Election 2000: Overview, by Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences,University of Wisconsin – Green Bay
On the map of electoral returns for the presidential election of 2000 is a feature instantly recognizable to a geologist: in the otherwise pro-Bush South, an arcuate band of pro-Gore counties sweeps from eastern Mississippi, across Alabama and Georgia and into the Carolinas.
My geologist’s eye was immediately drawn to this arc because it coincides almost exactly with a series of rock units on the Geologic Map of the United States. Why would election returns follow rock outcrops?
In the map below, Cretaceous rock units (139-65 million years old) are shown in shades of green. Older rock units are in gray, younger ones in yellow. The complex NE-trending patterns in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are deformed rocks of the Appalachians. In NW Alabama, the older rocks are flat-lying layers of the continental interior.
Comparison with the geologic maps shows that the arc actually consists of three segments.
- In Mississippi and Alabama the pro-Gore band of counties corresponds very closely with the units labeled uK – upper Cretaceous. We might suspect that the most likely explanation for this part of the arc has to do with economic patterns dictated by the soils. Most of the electoral and demographic patterns associated with the band end abruptly in NE Mississippi.
- In Georgia, the Cretaceous outcrop band is very narrow. It is surprising how clear the pro-Gore band is in Georgia considering how narrow and discontinuous the outcrop band of Cretaceous rocks is. This part of the arc may have less to do with the rocks themselves than the boundary between the Appalachians and the Coastal Plain.
- In South Carolina, however, the band of Democratic counties is well defined but is consistently seaward of the Cretaceous rock units. In fact, on some maps there seems to be a weak anti-correlation between the Cretaceous rocks in South Carolina and the political and demographic trends noted for the other three states. However, the South Carolina portion of the arc turns out to be consistent in election returns and a variety of other demographic factors.
This band shows up with varying degrees of prominence for previous elections as well. It shows the same correlation with rock units in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia and the same lack of correlation in South Carolina. It further shows strong correlation with demographic trends.
The Coastal plain rocks slope gently seaward toward the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, a structure called a homocline. I therefore propose to call the arc of pro-Democratic counties, which is reflected in a variety of demographic trends, the Cretaceous Homoclinal Arc of Demography, which can be abbreviated by an acronym that more than anything else symbolizes the election of 2000: CHAD.
(more to come)
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“At an archaeological dig, a piece of wooden tool is unearthed – and the archaeologist finds it to be 5,000 years old. A child mummy is found high in the Andes – and the archaeologist says the child lived more than 2,000 years ago. How do scientists know how old an object or human remains are? What methods do they use and how do these methods work?
Carbon-14 dating is a way of determining the age of archaeological artifacts of a biological origin up to about 50,000 years old. It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities.”
- How Stuff Works, How Carbon-14 Dating Works, Marshall Brain
“The method was developed by Willard Libby in the late 1940s and soon became a standard tool for archaeologists. Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in 1960. ” – Wikipedia
How does it work?
Radiocarbon is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen.
The resulting radiocarbon combines with atmospheric oxygen to form radioactive carbon dioxide.
That is incorporated into plants by photosynthesis.
Animals then acquire 14 C by eating the plants.
When the animal or plant dies, it stops exchanging carbon with its environment, and from that point onwards the amount of 14 C it contains begins to decrease, as the 14
C undergoes radioactive decay.
Measuring the amount of 14 C in a sample from a dead plant or animal such as a piece of wood or a fragment of bone provides information that can be used to calculate when the animal or plant died.
The older a sample is, the less 14 C there is to be detected, and because the half-life of 14 C (the period of time after which half of a given sample will have decayed) is about 5,730 years.
The oldest dates that can be reliably measured by this process date to around 50,000 years ago, although special preparation methods occasionally permit accurate analysis of older samples.
– Carbon Dating, Wikipedia
As years go by, how much C14 is left?
C12 does not decay and remains constant in a sample, whereas C14 decays at an even, constant rate.
By measuring the ratio of C12 to C14, we can understand how long a sample has been around for.
The half life of C 14 is around 5,730 years. As seen by the second graph, this means that if a sample has half of the C14 it should usually have, it has been around for 5,730 years. A quarter of the amount, double that time, one eight of the original amount, more still.
Carbon dating is only as accurate as the consistency of it’s decay rate, which is unchanging and extremely uniform.
It is almost exclusively used for organic material as all life on earth is carbon based.
There is a misconception that carbon dating is used to date the age of the earth. For longer time scales, other elements are used, based on the same principles.
Graphs from a video by Scientific American that explains carbon dating. Watch the full video here How Does Radiocarbon Dating Work? – Instant Egghead #28: Scientific American
- text from http://blunt-science.tumblr.com/post/109954909373/a-representation-of-the-age-span-carbon-dating-is
Is radiocarbon dating reliable?
Excerpted from National Center for Science Education, by Christopher Gregory Weber:
Radiocarbon dating can easily establish that humans have been on the earth for over twenty thousand years …. it is one of the most reliable of all the radiometric dating methods.
Question: How does carbon-14 dating work?
Cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere are constantly converting the isotope nitrogen-14 (N-14) into carbon-14 (C-14 or radiocarbon).
Living organisms are constantly incorporating this C-14 into their bodies along with other carbon isotopes.
When the organisms die, they stop incorporating new C-14
The old C-14 starts to decay back into N-14 by emitting beta particles.
The older an organism’s remains are, the less beta radiation it emits because its C-14 is steadily dwindling at a predictable rate.
So, if we measure the rate of beta decay in an organic sample, we can calculate how old the sample is. C-14 decays with a half-life of 5,730 years.
Question: Kieth and Anderson radiocarbon-dated the shell of a living freshwater mussel and obtained an age of over two thousand years. ICR creationists claim that this discredits C-14 dating. How do you reply?
Answer: It does discredit the C-14 dating of freshwater mussels, but that’s about all. Kieth and Anderson show considerable evidence that the mussels acquired much of their carbon from the limestone of the waters they lived in and from some very old humus as well.
Carbon from these sources is very low in C-14 because these sources are so old and have not been mixed with fresh carbon from the air. Thus, a freshly killed mussel has far less C-14 than a freshly killed something else, which is why the C-14 dating method makes freshwater mussels seem older than they really are.
When dating wood there is no such problem because wood gets its carbon straight from the air, complete with a full dose of C-14.
Question: A sample that is more than fifty thousand years old shouldn’t have any measurable C-14. Coal, oil, and natural gas are supposed to be millions of years old; yet creationists say that some of them contain measurable amounts of C-14, enough to give them C-14 ages in the tens of thousands of years. How do you explain this?
Answer: Very simply. Radiocarbon dating doesn’t work well on objects much older than twenty thousand years, because such objects have so little C-14 left that their beta radiation is swamped out by the background radiation of cosmic rays and potassium-40 (K-40) decay.
Younger objects can easily be dated, because they still emit plenty of beta radiation, enough to be measured after the background radiation has been subtracted out of the total beta radiation. However, in either case, the background beta radiation has to be compensated for, and, in the older objects, the amount of C-14 they have left is less than the margin of error in measuring background radiation. As Hurley points out:
Without rather special developmental work, it is not generally practicable to measure ages in excess of about twenty thousand years, because the radioactivity of the carbon becomes so slight that it is difficult to get an accurate measurement above background radiation. (p. 108)
Cosmic rays form beta radiation all the time; this is the radiation that turns N-14 to C-14 in the first place. K-40 decay also forms plenty of beta radiation. Stearns, Carroll, and Clark point out that “. . . this isotope [K-40] accounts for a large part of the normal background radiation that can be detected on the earth’s surface” (p. 84).
This radiation cannot be totally eliminated from the laboratory, so one could probably get a “radiocarbon” date of fifty thousand years from a pure carbon-free piece of tin. However, you now know why this fact doesn’t at all invalidate radiocarbon dates of objects younger than twenty thousand years and is certainly no evidence for the notion that coals and oils might be no older than fifty thousand years.
Question: Creationists such as Cook (1966) claim that cosmic radiation is now forming C-14 in the atmosphere about one and one-third times faster than it is decaying. If we extrapolate backwards in time with the proper equations, we find that the earlier the historical period, the less C-14 the atmosphere had.
If we extrapolate as far back as ten thousand years ago, we find the atmosphere would not have had any C-14 in it at all. If they are right, this means all C-14 ages greater than two or three thousand years need to be lowered drastically and that the earth can be no older than ten thousand years. How do you reply?
Answer: Yes, Cook is right that C-14 is forming today faster than it’s decaying. However, the amount of C-14 has not been rising steadily as Cook maintains; instead, it has fluctuated up and down over the past ten thousand years. How do we know this? From radiocarbon dates taken from bristlecone pines. There are two ways of dating wood from bristlecone pines: one can count rings or one can radiocarbon-date the wood.
Since the tree ring counts have reliably dated some specimens of wood all the way back to 6200 BC, one can check out the C-14 dates against the tree-ring-count dates. Admittedly, this old wood comes from trees that have been dead for hundreds of years, but you don’t have to have an 8,200-year-old bristlecone pine tree alive today to validly determine that sort of date. It is easy to correlate the inner rings of a younger living tree with the outer rings of an older dead tree. The correlation is possible because, in the Southwest region of the United States, the widths of tree rings vary from year to year with the rainfall, and trees all over the Southwest have the same pattern of variations.
When experts compare the tree-ring dates with the C-14 dates, they find that radiocarbon ages before 1000 BC are really too young—not too old as Cook maintains. For example, pieces of wood that date at about 6200 BC by tree-ring counts date at only 5400 BC by regular C-14 dating and 3900 BC by Cook’s creationist revision of C-14 dating (as we see in the article, “Dating, Relative and Absolute,” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica). So, despite claims, C-14 before three thousand years ago was decaying faster than it was being formed and C-14 dating errs on the side of making objects from before 1000 BC look too young, not too old.
Question: But don’t trees sometimes produce more than one growth ring per year? Wouldn’t that spoil the tree-ring count?
Answer: If anything, the tree-ring sequence suffers far more from missing rings than from double rings. This means that the tree-ring dates would be slightly too young, not too old.
Of course, some species of tree tend to produce two or more growth rings per year. But other species produce scarcely any extra rings. Most of the tree-ring sequence is based on the bristlecone pine. This tree rarely produces even a trace of an extra ring; on the contrary, a typical bristlecone pine has up to 5 percent of its rings missing. Concerning the sequence of rings derived from the bristlecone pine, Ferguson says:
In certain species of conifers, especially those at lower elevations or in southern latitudes, one season’s growth increment may be composed of two or more flushes of growth, each of which may strongly resemble an annual ring.
Such multiple growth rings are extremely rare in bristlecone pines, however, and they are especially infrequent at the elevation and latitude (37� 20′ N) of the sites being studied. In the growth-ring analyses of approximately one thousand trees in the White Mountains, we have, in fact, found no more than three or four occurrences of even incipient multiple growth layers. (p. 840)
In years of severe drought, a bristlecone pine may fail to grow a complete ring all the way around its perimeter; we may find the ring if we bore into the tree from one angle, but not from another. Hence at least some of the missing rings can be found. Even so, the missing rings are a far more serious problem than any double rings.
Other species of trees corroborate the work that Ferguson did with bristlecone pines. Before his work, the tree-ring sequence of the sequoias had been worked out back to 1250 BC. The archaeological ring sequence had been worked out back to 59 BC. The limber pine sequence had been worked out back to 25 BC.
The radiocarbon dates and tree-ring dates of these other trees agree with those Ferguson got from the bristlecone pine. But even if he had had no other trees with which to work except the bristlecone pines, that evidence alone would have allowed him to determine the tree-ring chronology back to 6200 BC. …
Question: Does outside archaeological evidence confirm the C-14 dating method?
Answer: Yes. When we know the age of a sample through archaeology or historical sources, the C-14 method (as corrected by bristlecone pines) agrees with the age within the known margin of error.
For instance, Egyptian artifacts can be dated both historically and by radiocarbon, and the results agree. At first, archaeologists used to complain that the C-14 method must be wrong, because it conflicted with well-established archaeological dates; but, as Renfrew has detailed, the archaeological dates were often based on false assumptions.
One such assumption was that the megalith builders of western Europe learned the idea of megaliths from the Near-Eastern civilizations. As a result, archaeologists believed that the Western megalith-building cultures had to be younger than the Near Eastern civilizations.
Many archaeologists were skeptical when Ferguson’s calibration with bristlecone pines was first published, because, according to his method, radiocarbon dates of the Western megaliths showed them to be much older than their Near-Eastern counterparts.
However, as Renfrew demonstrated, the similarities between these Eastern and Western cultures are so superficial that the megalith builders of western Europe invented the idea of megaliths independently of the Near East. So, in the end, external evidence reconciles with and often confirms even controversial C-14 dates.
One of the most striking examples of different dating methods confirming each other is Stonehenge. C-14 dates show that Stonehenge was gradually built over the period from 1900 BC to 1500 BC, long before the Druids, who claimed Stonehenge as their creation, came to England.
Astronomer Gerald S. Hawkins calculated with a computer what the heavens were like back in the second millennium BC, accounting for the precession of the equinoxes, and found that Stonehenge had many significant alignments with various extreme positions of the sun and moon (for example, the hellstone marked the point where the sun rose on the first day of summer). Stonehenge fits the heavens as they were almost four thousand years ago, not as they are today, thereby cross-verifying the C-14 dates.
Relative Ages of Rocks: WIkiBooks
(WikiBooks: A project hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation for the creation of free content textbooks)
A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012), from the National Research Council of the National Academies.
By the end of grade 12. Radioactive decay lifetimes and isotopic content in rocks provide a way of dating rock formations and thereby fixing the scale of geological time.
ES.3 Earth’s History: Relative and Absolute dating. Students understand that various dating methods — relative and absolute — have been used to determine the age of Earth.
Suggested Connections. Between Earth Science and Other Disciplines: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Divergence (LS.1.1); Living Systems and the Physical Environment (LS.3.1); Nuclear Chemistry (C.1.6); Nuclear Interactions and the Conservation of Mass–Energy (P.2.3)
Knowledge of radioactivity helps them understand how rocks can be dated, which helps them appreciate the scale of geologic time… Scientific evidence indicates that some rock layers are several billion years old. 4C/H6** (BSL)
Michelangelo’s Secret Message in the Sistine Chapel: A Juxtaposition of God and the Human Brain
Scientific American, R. Douglas Fields on May 27, 2010
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 journal Neurosurgery. 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 Adam in 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, 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?
It took Michelangelo four years to complete the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He proceeded from east to west, starting from the entrance of the Chapel to finish above the altar. The last panel he painted depicts God separating light from darkness. This is where the researchers report that Michelangelo hid the human brain stem, eyes and optic nerve of man inside the figure of God directly above the altar.
Art critics and historians have long puzzled over the odd anatomical irregularities in Michelangelo’s depiction of God’s neck in this panel, and by the discordant lighting in the region. The figures in the fresco are illuminated diagonally from the lower left, but God’s neck, highlighted as if in a spotlight, is illuminated straight-on and slightly from the right.
How does one reconcile such clumsiness by the world’s master of human anatomy and skilled portrayer of light with bungling the image of God above the altar? Suk and Tamargo propose that the hideous goiter-disfigured neck of God is not a mistake, but rather a hidden message. They argue that nowhere else in any of the other figures did Michelangelo foul up his anatomically correct rendering of the human neck.
They show that if one superimposes a detail of God’s odd lumpy neck in the Separation of Light and Darkness on a photograph of the human brain as seen from below, the lines of God’s neck trace precisely the features of the human brain [see images at right].
There is something else odd about this picture. A role of fabric extends up the center of God’s robe in a peculiar manner. The clothing is bunched up here as is seen nowhere else, and the fold clashes with what would be the natural drape of fabric over God’s torso. In fact, they observe, it is the human spinal cord, ascending to the brain stem in God’s neck. At God’s waist, the robe twists again in a peculiar crumpled manner, revealing the optic nerves from two eyes, precisely as Leonardo Da Vinci had shown them in his illustration of 1487. Da Vinci and Michelangelo were contemporaries and acquainted with each other’s work.
The mystery is whether these neuroanatomical features are hidden messages or whether the Sistine Chapel a Rorshach tests upon which anyone can extract an image that is meaningful to themselves. The authors of the paper are, after all, neuroanatomists. The neuroanatomy they see on the ceiling may be nothing more than the man on the moon.
But Michelangelo also depicted other anatomical features elsewhere in the ceiling, according to other scholars; notably the kidney, which was familiar to Michelangelo and was of special interest to him as he suffered from kidney stones.
If the hidden figures are intentional, what do they mean? The authors resist speculation, but a great artist does not merely reproduce an object in a work of art, he or she evokes meaning through symbolism. Is Separation of Light from Darkness an artistic comment on the enduring clash between science and religion?
Recall that this was the age when the monk Copernicus was denounced by the Church for theorizing that the Earth revolved around the sun. It was a period of struggle between scientific observation and the authority of the Church, and a time of intense conflict between Protestants and Catholics.
It is no secret that Michelangelo’s relationship with the Catholic Church became strained. The artist was a simple man, but he grew to detest the opulence and corruption of the Church. In two places in the masterpiece, Michelangelo left self portraits—both of them depicting himself in torture. He gave his own face to Saint Bartholomew’s body martyred by being skinned alive, and to the severed head of Holofernes, who was seduced and beheaded by Judith.
Michelangelo was a devout person, but later in life he developed a belief in Spiritualism, for which he was condemned by Pope Paul IV. The fundamental tenet of Spiritualism is that the path to God can be found not exclusively through the Church, but through direct communication with God. Pope Paul IV interpreted Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, painted on the wall of the Sistine Chapel 20 years after completing the ceiling, as defaming the church by suggesting that Jesus and those around him communicated with God directly without need of Church. He suspended Michelangelo’s pension and had fig leaves painted over the nudes in the fresco. According to the artist’s wishes, Michelangelo’s body is not buried on the grounds of the Vatican, but is instead interred in a tomb in Florence.
Perhaps the meaning in the Sistine Chapel is not of God giving intelligence to Adam, but rather that intelligence and observation and the bodily organ that makes them possible lead without the necessity of Church directly to God. The material is rich for speculation and the new findings will doubtlessly spark endless interpretation. We may never know the truth, but in Separation of Light from Darkness, Michelangelo’s masterpiece combines the worlds of art, religion, science, and faith in a provocative and awe inspiring work of art, which may also be a mirror.
Images from “Concealed Neuroanatomy in Michelangelo’s Separation of Light From Darkness in the Sistine Chapel,” by Ian Suk and Rafael J. Tamargo in Neurosurgery, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 851-861.
About the author: R. Douglas Fields, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is author of Why We Snap, about the neuroscience of sudden aggression, and The Other Brain, about glia. Fields serves on Scientific American Mind’s board of advisers.
By Natalie Wolchover, Senior Writer, Quanta Magazine
October 23, 2017
In 1985, when Carl Sagan was writing the novel Contact, he needed to quickly transport his protagonist Dr. Ellie Arroway from Earth to the star Vega. He had her enter a black hole and exit light-years away, but he didn’t know if this made any sense. The Cornell University astrophysicist and television star consulted his friend Kip Thorne, a black hole expert at the California Institute of Technology (who won a Nobel Prize earlier this month). Thorne knew that Arroway couldn’t get to Vega via a black hole, which is thought to trap and destroy anything that falls in. But it occurred to him that she might make use of another kind of hole consistent with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity: a tunnel or “wormhole” connecting distant locations in space-time.
While the simplest theoretical wormholes immediately collapse and disappear before anything can get through, Thorne wondered whether it might be possible for an “infinitely advanced” sci-fi civilization to stabilize a wormhole long enough for something or someone to traverse it.
He figured out that such a civilization could in fact line the throat of a wormhole with “exotic material” that counteracts its tendency to collapse. The material would possess negative energy, which would deflect radiation and repulse space-time apart from itself. Sagan used the trick in Contact, attributing the invention of the exotic material to an earlier, lost civilization to avoid getting into particulars. Meanwhile, those particulars enthralled Thorne, his students and many other physicists, who spent years exploring traversable wormholes and their theoretical implications. They discovered that these wormholes can serve as time machines, invoking time-travel paradoxes — evidence that exotic material is forbidden in nature.
Now, decades later, a new species of traversable wormhole has emerged, free of exotic material and full of potential for helping physicists resolve a baffling paradox about black holes. This paradox is the very problem that plagued the early draft of Contact and led Thorne to contemplate traversable wormholes in the first place; namely, that things that fall into black holes seem to vanish without a trace. This total erasure of information breaks the rules of quantum mechanics, and it so puzzles experts that in recent years, some have argued that black hole interiors don’t really exist — that space and time strangely end at their horizons.
The flurry of findings started last year with a paper that reported the first traversable wormhole that doesn’t require the insertion of exotic material to stay open. Instead, according to Ping Gao and Daniel Jafferis of Harvard University and Aron Wall of Stanford University, the repulsive negative energy in the wormhole’s throat can be generated from the outside by a special quantum connection between the pair of black holes that form the wormhole’s two mouths. When the black holes are connected in the right way, something tossed into one will shimmy along the wormhole and, following certain events in the outside universe, exit the second.
Remarkably, Gao, Jafferis and Wall noticed that their scenario is mathematically equivalent to a process called quantum teleportation, which is key to quantum cryptography and can be demonstrated in laboratory experiments.
John Preskill, a black hole and quantum gravity expert at Caltech, says the new traversable wormhole comes as a surprise, with implications for the black hole information paradox and black hole interiors. “What I really like,” he said, “is that an observer can enter the black hole and then escape to tell about what she saw.” This suggests that black hole interiors really exist, he explained, and that what goes in must come out.
The new wormhole work began in 2013, when Jafferis attended an intriguing talk at the Strings conference in South Korea. The speaker, Juan Maldacena, a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, had recently concluded, based on various hints and arguments, that “ER = EPR.” That is, wormholes between distant points in space-time, the simplest of which are called Einstein-Rosen or “ER” bridges, are equivalent (albeit in some ill-defined way) to entangled quantum particles, also known as Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen or “EPR” pairs. The ER = EPR conjecture, posed by Maldacena and Leonard Susskind of Stanford, was an attempt to solve the modern incarnation of the infamous black hole information paradox by tying space-time geometry, governed by general relativity, to the instantaneous quantum connections between far-apart particles that Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.”
The paradox has loomed since 1974, when the British physicist Stephen Hawking determined that black holes evaporate — slowly giving off heat in the form of particles now known as “Hawking radiation.” Hawking calculated that this heat is completely random; it contains no information about the black hole’s contents. As the black hole blinks out of existence, so does the universe’s record of everything that went inside. This violates a principle called “unitarity,” the backbone of quantum theory, which holds that as particles interact, information about them is never lost, only scrambled, so that if you reversed the arrow of time in the universe’s quantum evolution, you’d see things unscramble into an exact re-creation of the past.
Almost everyone believes in unitarity, which means information must escape black holes — but how? In the last five years, some theorists, most notably Joseph Polchinski of the University of California, Santa Barbara, have argued that black holes are empty shells with no interiors at all — that Ellie Arroway, upon hitting a black hole’s event horizon, would fizzle on a “firewall” and radiate out again.
Many theorists believe in black hole interiors (and gentler transitions across their horizons), but in order to understand them, they must discover the fate of information that falls inside. This is critical to building a working quantum theory of gravity, the long-sought union of the quantum and space-time descriptions of nature that comes into sharpest relief in black hole interiors, where extreme gravity acts on a quantum scale.
The quantum gravity connection is what drew Maldacena, and later Jafferis, to the ER = EPR idea, and to wormholes. The implied relationship between tunnels in space-time and quantum entanglement posed by ER = EPR resonated with a popular recent belief that space is essentially stitched into existence by quantum entanglement. It seemed that wormholes had a role to play in stitching together space-time and in letting black hole information worm its way out of black holes — but how might this work? When Jafferis heard Maldacena talk about his cryptic equation and the evidence for it, he was aware that a standard ER wormhole is unstable and non-traversable. But he wondered what Maldacena’s duality would mean for a traversable wormhole like the ones Thorne and others played around with decades ago. Three years after the South Korea talk, Jafferis and his collaborators Gao and Wall presented their answer. The work extends the ER = EPR idea by equating, not a standard wormhole and a pair of entangled particles, but a traversable wormhole and quantum teleportation: a protocol discovered in 1993 that allows a quantum system to disappear and reappear unscathed somewhere else.
When Maldacena read Gao, Jafferis and Wall’s paper, “I viewed it as a really nice idea, one of these ideas that after someone tells you, it’s obvious,” he said. Maldacena and two collaborators, Douglas Stanford and Zhenbin Yang, immediately began exploring the new wormhole’s ramifications for the black hole information paradox; their paper appeared in April. Susskind and Ying Zhao of Stanford followed this with a paper about wormhole teleportation in July. The wormhole “gives an interesting geometric picture for how teleportation happens,” Maldacena said. “The message actually goes through the wormhole.”
In their paper, “Diving Into Traversable Wormholes,” published in Fortschritte der Physik, Maldacena, Stanford and Yang consider a wormhole of the new kind that connects two black holes: a parent black hole and a daughter one formed from half of the Hawking radiation given off by the parent as it evaporates. The two systems are as entangled as they can be. Here, the fate of the older black hole’s information is clear: It worms its way out of the daughter black hole.
During an interview this month in his tranquil office at the IAS, Maldacena, a reserved Argentinian-American with a track record of influential insights, described his radical musings. On the right side of a chalk-dusty blackboard, Maldacena drew a faint picture of two black holes connected by the new traversable wormhole.
On the left, he sketched a quantum teleportation experiment, performed by the famous fictional experimenters Alice and Bob, who are in possession of entangled quantum particles a and b, respectively.
Say Alice wants to teleport a qubit q to Bob. She prepares a combined state of q and a, measures that combined state (reducing it to a pair of classical bits, 1 or 0), and sends the result of this measurement to Bob. He can then use this as a key for operating on b in a way that re-creates the state q. Voila, a unit of quantum information has teleported from one place to the other.
Maldacena turned to the right side of the blackboard. “You can do operations with a pair of black holes that are morally equivalent to what I discussed [about quantum teleportation]. And in that picture, this message really goes through the wormhole.”
Say Alice throws qubit q into black hole A. She then measures a particle of its Hawking radiation, a, and transmits the result of the measurement through the external universe to Bob, who can use this knowledge to operate on b, a Hawking particle coming out of black hole B. Bob’s operation reconstructs q, which appears to pop out of B, a perfect match for the particle that fell into A. This is why some physicists are excited: Gao, Jafferis and Wall’s wormhole allows information to be recovered from black holes. In their paper, they set up their wormhole in a negatively curved space-time geometry that often serves as a useful, if unrealistic, playground for quantum gravity theorists. However, their wormhole idea seems to extend to the real world as long as two black holes are coupled in the right way: “They have to be causally connected and then the nature of the interaction that we took is the simplest thing you can imagine,” Jafferis explained. If you allow the Hawking radiation from one of the black holes to fall into the other, the two black holes become entangled, and the quantum information that falls into one can exit the other.
The quantum-teleportation format precludes using these traversable wormholes as time machines. Anything that goes through the wormhole has to wait for Alice’s message to travel to Bob in the outside universe before it can exit Bob’s black hole, so the wormhole doesn’t offer any superluminal boost that could be exploited for time travel. It seems traversable wormholes might be permitted in nature as long as they offer no speed advantage. “Traversable wormholes are like getting a bank loan,” Gao, Jafferis and Wall wrote in their paper: “You can only get one if you are rich enough not to need it.”
A Naive Octopus
While traversable wormholes won’t revolutionize space travel, according to Preskill the new wormhole discovery provides “a promising resolution” to the black hole firewall question by suggesting that there is no firewall at black hole horizons. Preskill said the discovery rescues “what we call ‘black hole complementarity,’ which means that the interior and exterior of the black hole are not really two different systems but rather two very different, complementary ways of looking at the same system.” If complementarity holds, as is widely assumed, then in passing across a black hole horizon from one realm to the other, Contact’s Ellie Arroway wouldn’t notice anything strange. This seems more likely if, under certain conditions, she could even slide all the way through a Gao-Jafferis-Wall wormhole.
The wormhole also safeguards unitarity — the principle that information is never lost — at least for the entangled black holes being studied. Whatever falls into one black hole eventually exits the other as Hawking radiation, Preskill said, which “can be thought of as in some sense a very scrambled copy of the black hole interior.”
Taking the findings to their logical conclusion, Preskill thinks it ought to be possible (at least for an infinitely advanced civilization) to influence the interior of one of these black holes by manipulating its radiation. This “sounds crazy,” he wrote in an email, but it “might make sense if we can think of the radiation, which is entangled with the black hole — EPR — as being connected to the black hole interior by wormholes — ER. Then tickling the radiation can send a message which can be read from inside the black hole!” He added, “We still have a ways to go, though, before we can flesh out this picture in more detail.”
Indeed, obstacles remain in the quest to generalize the new wormhole findings to a statement about the fate of all quantum information, or the meaning of ER = EPR.
In Maldacena and Susskind’s paper proposing ER = EPR, they included a sketch that’s become known as the “octopus”: a black hole with tentacle-like wormholes leading to distant Hawking particles that have evaporated out of it.
The authors explained that the sketch illustrates “the entanglement pattern between the black hole and the Hawking radiation. We expect that this entanglement leads to the interior geometry of the black hole.”
But according to Matt Visser, a mathematician and general-relativity expert at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand who has studied wormholes since the 1990s, the most literal reading of the octopus picture doesn’t work. The throats of wormholes formed from single Hawking particles would be so thin that qubits could never fit through. “A traversable wormhole throat is ‘transparent’ only to wave packets with size smaller than the throat radius,” Visser explained. “Big wave packets will simply bounce off any small wormhole throat without crossing to the other side.”
Stanford, who co-wrote the recent paper with Maldacena and Yang, acknowledged that this is a problem with the simplest interpretation of the ER = EPR idea, in which each particle of Hawking radiation has its own tentacle-like wormhole.
However, a more speculative interpretation of ER = EPR that he and others have in mind does not suffer from this failing. “The idea is that in order to recover the information from the Hawking radiation using this traversable wormhole,” Stanford said, one has to “gather the Hawking radiation together and act on it in a complicated way.”
This complicated collective measurement reveals information about the particles that fell in; it has the effect, he said, of “creating a large, traversable wormhole out of the small and unhelpful octopus tentacles. The information would then propagate through this large wormhole.” Maldacena added that, simply put, the theory of quantum gravity might have a new, generalized notion of geometry for which ER equals EPR. “We think quantum gravity should obey this principle,” he said. “We view it more as a guide to the theory.”
In his 1994 popular science book, Black Holes and Time Warps, Kip Thorne celebrated the style of reasoning involved in wormhole research. “No type of thought experiment pushes the laws of physics harder than the type triggered by Carl Sagan’s phone call to me,” he wrote; “thought experiments that ask, ‘What things do the laws of physics permit an infinitely advanced civilization to do, and what things do the laws forbid?’”
So, we’re supposed to teach our students about evolution – but where to start? What topics to cover? And in what order should we cover them? And for each topic, what are the relevant learning standards? This sequence works for me: