Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leap Year

The year 2012 is a "Leap Year," containing 366 days instead of the usual 365 of a common year, achieved by the insertion of an additional day in the month of February (February 29), a convention which has given rise to all kinds of quirky traditions since it was instituted, such as the idea (not as common any more) that the roles of the sexes in proposing marriage should be reversed on this odd day, and the fact that babies born on this day have a sort of dual-status for their birthday and age.

The insertion of a Leap Year day is necessitated by the fact that earth's daily rotation (which creates the measure of time known as a day) does not match up exactly with earth's annual orbit (which creates the measure of time known as a year). In other words, earth's spinning on its axis as it goes around the sun happens more than exactly 365 times before returning to the exact same spot on its orbital path.

If the earth rotated exactly 365 times and came back to an identical spot, then a calendar of 365 days would mean that any successive January 1 would bring it back to an identical point on its orbit, as would any successive March 21, June 21, September 22, or December 21 (the days on the calendar that generally fall near the time earth passes through its solstice points and equinox points). Because earth rotates faster than 365 times per year, if the calendar of days were left at a simple 365 per year, the equinoxes would begin to gradually drift through the year, until spring equinox was taking place on a calendar day associated with winter (for example).

If earth's rotation were exactly 365 and a quarter turns per orbit, then the insertion of an extra day in the calendar every four years would "pull" the calendar back into alignment with the orbit quite nicely. However, earth's spinning is not quite 365 and a quarter days (or 365.25 days) in one orbit -- the actual number is just below 365.25 at about 365.24237 days per year. Therefore, the convention is that leap year days are not inserted every hundred years, on years ending in two zeros. However, years ending in two zeros which are able to be evenly divided by 400 (such as the year 2000 and the year 2400, but not the year 1900 or the year 2100) do get a leap year.

There is some analysis which suggests that in ancient times the earth rotated an even 360 times per year. Dr. Walt Brown, the creator of the hydroplate theory, points out that Immanuel Velikovsky demonstrated references to a 360-day year among the writings of the ancient "Persians, Egyptians, Chinese, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Incas, Hebrews, Greeks, Hindus, Romans, Aztecs, Mayas, and Peruvians" (see footnote 32 on this page of the online version of Dr. Brown's book).

He also notes that in the Hebrew Scriptures describing the flood of Genesis, the duration of the flood appears to be referred to as an even "five months" which is also described as "150 days" (see Genesis 7:11, 7:24, and 8:3-8:4). Dr. Brown believes that the events surrounding the cataclysmic flood could have increased the spin rate of the earth (just as major earthquakes continue to do to this day -- see this previous post and the figure-skater analogy).

In the description of the Isis and Osiris series, the historian and initiate into certain ancient mystery schools Plutarch (46 AD - 120 AD) relates the Egyptian myth that the god Thoth (Plutarch calls him Hermes) won an additional five days to add to the 360-day year by playing draughts against the moon deity. He writes:
They say that the Sun, when he became aware of Rhea's intercourse with Cronus, invoked a curse upon her that she should not give birth to a child in any month or year; but Hermes, being enamoured of the goddess, consorted with her. Later, playing at draughts with the moon, he won from her the seventieth part of each of her periods of illumination, and from all the winnings he composed five days, and intercalated them as an addition to the three hundred and sixty days. The Egyptians even now call these five days intercalated and celebrate them as the birthdays of the gods. They relate that on the first of these days Osiris was born, and at the hour of his birth a voice issued forth saying, "The Lord of All advances to the light." But some relate that a certain Pamyles, while he was drawing water in Thebes, heard a voice issuing from the shrine of Zeus, which bade him proclaim with a loud voice that a mighty and beneficent king, Osiris, had been born; and for this Cronus entrusted to him the child Osiris, which he brought up. It is in his honour that the festival of Pamylia is celebrated, a festival which resembles the phallic processions. On the second of these days Arueris was born whom they call Apollo, and some call him also the elder Horus. On the third day Typhon was born, but not in due season or manner, but with a blow he broke through his mother's side and leapt forth. On the fourth day Isis was born in the regions that are ever moist; and on the fifth Nephthys, to whom they give the name of Finality and the name of Aphroditê, and some also the name of Victory. There is also a tradition that Osiris and Arueris were sprung from the Sun, Isis from Hermes, and Typhon and Nephthys from Cronus. For this reason the kings considered the third of the intercalated days as inauspicious, and transacted no business on that day, nor did they give any attention to their bodies until nightfall. They relate, moreover, that Nephthys became the wife of Typhon; but Isis and Osiris were enamoured of each other and consorted together in the darkness of the womb before their birth. Some say that Arueris came from this union and was called the elder Horus by the Egyptians, but Apollo by the Greeks.
Here is another website which presents some different analysis arguing that earth's year was once 360 days.

The hydroplate theory certainly does not stand or fall on the possibility of the earth once moving around the sun concurrent with exactly 360 revolutions rather than today's 365.24237. However, it is an interesting concept to consider, especially during a Leap Year.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Many readers have no doubt already seen the video above of the presentation by Paul Stamets filmed in March 2008 discussing "Six Ways Mushrooms can Save the World" (many thanks to my good friend Mr. DY for alerting me to this video some years ago).

Now, there is a new video just recently uploaded to the web, also featuring Paul Stamets in a TEDMed talk from October of 2011, which goes into more detail on some of the amazing subjects discussed in the video above, as well as discussing some recent advances he and his colleagues have made since then. It includes a very moving story at the end that you won't want to miss.

As Mr. Stamets himself mentions in both talks and discusses at greater length in his writings both on the internet and in his published books (such as Mycelium Running, Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, The Mushroom Cultivator, and Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World), there is extensive evidence that ancient civilizations were keenly aware of the incredible powers of mushrooms -- perhaps more aware than we are today.

In this selection from Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, Mr. Stamets provides some descriptions of the evidence of ancient mushroom use, including cave art in the Tassili region of Algeria in which "mushrooms with electrified auras are depicted outlining a dancing shaman." The "electrified auras" -- as well as the descriptions and images Mr. Stamets gives in his talks of mycelium as "the Earth's natural internet" -- brings to mind the topics touched on in previous posts such as this one and this one. Mr. Stamets also notes that the man known as "The Ice Man" (whose mummified remains were found in the Ötzal Alps) apparently had three different species of mushroom among his possessions.

There is strong evidence that the ancient Egyptians, Hindus, and Maya all revered mushrooms. This website outlines some of the arguments that have been made concerning the possibility that the manna described in the sacred Hebrew Scriptures was actually a form of mushroom (it was small and round, it was gathered in the morning "in the morning dew," and it would breed larva and melt to mush if kept and not dried).

Books by Dr. Dan Merkur (Mystery of Manna: the Psychadelic Sacrament of the Bible) and Dr. Carl A. P. Ruck (Sacred Mushrooms: Secrets of Eleusis and Mushrooms, Myth, and Mithras: The Drug Cult that Civilized Europe) provide extensive evidence that the ancients incorporated psychoactive mushrooms in some of their most important attempts to interact with the divine and the supernatural. The writings of the first Europeans to encounter the civilizations of Central America indicate the same thing, as do the hundreds of "mushroom stones" which have been found in the Americas.

Mr. Stamets has another article available on the internet which explores some fascinating history of mushrooms in Asia, demonstrating connections to the warrior "Flowering Knights" of Korea and to shamanic practice, as well as pointing out that "Prominent within many Buddhist temples are representations of medicinal mushrooms, particularly Ganoderma lucidum, also known as Ling Chi, the Mushroom of Immortality, and the Tree of Life Mushroom."

Whatever your assessment of these various arguments, it is apparent from the work of Mr. Stamets that modern science is only just beginning to take note of the amazing secrets surrounding mushrooms. It is also quite clear that ancient advanced civilizations perceived the importance of these amazing organisms.

While more examination on the topic is warranted, the prominent place of mushrooms in ancient times in Asia, Central America, and the Mediterranean, as well as the fact that they were apparently referred to as "The Bread of God" by civilizations in both the Old World and the New World, seems to point to the possibility of contact beyond what is countenanced in conventional history.

Much more can be said on this subject, beyond the scope of this short post, but in conclusion it is also important to point out a subject brought up in both of Mr. Stamets' videos above. That is the fact that there are very rare and very beneficial fungi species which can only be found in old growth forests. These species (such as the Agarikon fungi, or fomitopsis officinalis) were apparently known to the ancients, but have disappeared from Europe with the disappearance of the old growth forests, and now can be only rarely encountered in the few remaining patches of old growth forest in the Pacific northwest.

It seems that in the process of stamping out ancient knowledge in much of the world, the agents of anti-knowledge also nearly stamped out a species that the ancients recognized as incredibly beneficial to mankind. No doubt there are many other species that were in fact lost forever, whose potency mankind will now never have the opportunity to rediscover.

Note: the fact that mushroom expert Paul Stamets feels the need to place the warning in bold type and red ink on his website which reads, "WARNING: Never eat a mushroom unless it has been positively identified" should be taken with the utmost of seriousness. There are mushrooms which can destroy the human liver before any ill effects are noticed -- by the time the symptoms show up, it is usually too late. Fungi on one continent that look just like the fungi of another can be edible in one continent but can be a deadly look-alike species on another. Every year there are tragic stories of families from Asia living in California who pick wild fungi for a New Year's dish and all are poisoned by the same meal. Please use extreme caution and respect the power of mushrooms -- they are an organism which is not to be taken lightly.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


From Esoterism and Symbol, by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, translated by André and Goldian VandenBroeck, 1977 (translation of Propos sur Esotérisme et Symbole, 1960):
The heart beats its rhythm, not because it is driven by a motor, but because it is itself the motor of blood circulation. Each cell of the heart beats this rhythm, and Dr. Carrel's experiment demonstrated what was well known to ancient wisdom concerning innate intelligence and consciousness. Each organic being (and even each cell of the organs of an organized being) has its part in the general life which is its personal specification. Man's heart is not alone in beating rhythmically like a motor: there are aquatic beings that are entirely a heart of this kind and represent the awakening of the consciousness which will become "heart." Another consciousness will become liver, another will become lung, and thus each function has its organ. Compared with an apparently inert mineral, for example, such an organ is the incarnation of a consciousness, of a cosmic function which has received corporeal life. A museum accordingly classifying "The Evolution of Consciousness" or "The Becoming of Life" as natural history would be much more authentic than our displays of dead specimens. 13
See the previous discussion in this post which says:
"Certain cultures preserve the knowledge of the fact that different organs of our human bodies have different times during the day at which they are at higher and lower energy levels (traditional Chinese medicine, for example, places great importance on these cycles)."

This topic is also related to the subjects discussed previously in this post.

At the end of this particular discussion, Schwaller de Lubicz says in a footnote: "The 'microcosm' is an image that makes it possible to perceive the idea being developed here. In reality, man is the universe, and not a miniature universe in the image of a large one" (14).

Note: the inclusion of the above quotation from 1960, which contains a reference to Alexis Carrel, does not constitute an endorsement by the author of this blog of either Dr. Carrel's actual experiment or his other views -- the quotation from Schwaller de Lubicz does not stand or fall upon his reference to the celebrated experiment of Dr. Carrel.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Daniel Reid's Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs

In his excellent introduction to traditional Chinese herbal lore, A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs, Daniel P. Reid writes:
Modern Western medicine subscribes to the "single agent" theory of disease, whereby every disease is blamed on a specific external pathogen that invades the body from outside. Disease is thus attacked with knives, radiation, and powerful chemical agents designed to "kill" the alleged invader, and in the process these weapons often lay waste to the internal organs, impair immune response, and deplete vital energies, thereby sowing the seeds of even more severe ailments later.

Traditional Chinese medicine takes a different approach. It traces the root cause of all disease to critical imbalances and deficiencies among the various internal energies that govern and regulate the whole body. Whenever such states of imbalance or deficiencies are left unchecked for too long, they eventually give rise to serious malfunctions in the body's biochemistry and internal organ systems, and that in turn impairs immunity, lowers resistance, and creates the conditions of vulnerability which permit germs, toxins, parasites, and other pathogens to gain a foothold in the body. [. . .]

Rather than treating the disease, as modern medicine does, the traditional Chinese physician treats the patient by correcting the critical imbalances in his or her energy system that opened the door to disease in the first place. 4-5.
This passage provides an excellent description of two very different paradigms or frameworks for viewing the human body and its ailments. The rest of the book delves into a selection of plants and remedies that herbalists in China have used for thousands of years to preserve or restore the balance of energy that is conducive to health.

Interestingly, as author Daniel Reid points out, tradition credits the legendary benefactor Shen Nung with discovering herbal medicine over 5,000 years ago (3). Also known as Shennong ("The Divine Farmer") and the "Emperor of the Five Grains," Shen Nung is described as having tasted 365 different plants and describing their properties -- a number which already indicates some connection to matters celestial as well (not surprising, since Chinese medicine asserts as a fundamental tenet that the harmonies which govern the universe are the same as those which govern the human body).

He is also credited with being the first to teach mankind the use of the plow and the basics of agriculture, an Osirian function which he shares with other Osirian figures around the world, including Viracocha / Quetzlcoatl in Central and South America, and the Oannes / Nommo figures in Sumer, Babylon, and the traditions of the Dogon of Africa (sometimes the Osirian figure is described as teaching the arts of agriculture to mankind, and sometimes as teaching people not to eat one another). The fact that Shen Nung apparently met an untimely death (in some accounts, by eating poisonous herbs) and that he is somehow associated with the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi or Huang-ti) are also Osirian or Saturnian connections (see brief discussion in this previous post, which points to the extensive evidence examined by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill).

Another fascinating aspect of Mr. Reid's book on Chinese herbal medicine is his decision to limit the discussion to 108 herbs. He writes:
There are over 2,000 items listed in Chinese herbal pharmacopeias, but only about 300 are used in general practice, of which less than one hundred are regarded as indispensable in formulating the most popular prescriptions. In order to provide more detailed information on the most important and therapeutically useful herbs, we have limited our selection for this book to 108 plants. The number 108 is highly auspicious in Taoism as well as Buddhism, and the mala (rosary) used in mantra and meditation practice in both traditions consists of 108 beads. So we present the 108 herbs described in this book as a sort of "rosary of remedies" for the reader's own health practices. 9 - 10.
As many readers will immediately recognize, the number 108 is a critical precessional number, found in the most ancient myths and monuments around the world, as well as in other Chinese arts including many martial arts.

The resonances between the legends of Osiris and the Yellow Emperor and Shen Nung, as well as the prominent use of precessional numbers such as 72 and 108 in both ancient Egypt and ancient China suggests either very ancient contact between the two cultures, or contact with some common civilizational ancestor (see here and here for more detail on the connections between Osiris and precession). These connections are fascinating and bear further investigation, although this direction of investigation runs counter to conventional orthodox history as taught in most centers of academia today.

For a previous post discussing the important work of author Daniel Reid, as well as an amazing and touching account of his friendship with the great John Blofeld, see this previous post on "A heartfelt portrait of John Blofeld from Daniel P. Reid."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The very thin crescent moon

Conditions turned out to be just right for viewing the very young crescent moon in my neighborhood of the globe last evening.

As the sun sank below the horizon, the brilliant planets Venus and Jupiter looked like jewels in the deepening blue high above, forming a line which pointed down towards the red glow where the sun had disappeared over the rim of the earth's horizon.

At first, the very fine sliver of the moon's arc was impossible to spot, but suddenly it was unmistakeable. The photograph above does not do it justice at all. Through binoculars it was breathtaking -- a thin silvery line, so thin that it was not even completely continuous. There is a gorgeous photograph on the web taken by photographer Stephano de Rosa which shows the same crescent over the Alps: this is very much what it looked like here, except that the color of the sky was different over the Pacific Ocean. Clicking on that photograph enlarges it for even better detail.

Just below and to the left, Mercury could be easily spotted through binoculars, a very small jewel sitting in a golden sea of the sun's glow (at first). As the rim of the earth continued to "rise up" (or the sun continued to retreat further below the horizon), this glow diminished and the moon and the planet Mercury became very distinct in the darker blue background. Mercury took on a very slight orange hue (almost yellow-orange).

This previous post outlined some of the mythological connections associated with the category of planetary events we are enjoying this month. The excellent video from Sky & Telescope's Tony Flanders shows where the crescent moon will be located tonight. As the sun continues to outpace the moon like a runner in a race that has passed another runner and continues to widen the gap, the moon trails the sun by a greater distance each day, and thus sits higher in the sky after sunset each evening. The crescent also thickens as the moon gets further from the sun (on its way to becoming full when the moon has gotten so far from the sun that it is now opposite to the sun from the observer on earth -- see previous discussions here and here).

Mr. Flanders also has an accompanying article which explains that last night's very thin crescent moon was about twenty-eight hours old when the sun was going down on the west coast of North America on the evening of February 22 (about twenty-four hours old for viewers along the east coast of the same continent). A link in that article takes you to another excellent Sky & Telescope discussion of very new crescent moons.

It explains that the window of sixteen to twenty-four hours after the precise moment of new moon is about the soonest one can observe the very thin crescent with the naked eye. The record for naked-eye observation of a new crescent is currently a moon that was only fifteen hours and thirty-two minutes old. A crescent only eleven hours and forty-two minutes old was observed with optical aid in 2002.

The second page of that article on observing very new crescents explains that astronomers have determined that the moon must be at least seven and a half degrees behind the sun for a crescent to begin to appear at all. Some of the work in this area was done by professor of astronomy Dr. Bradley Schaefer, who is mentioned in that article and also in this previous post discussing his important new analysis of the star catalogs of Ptolemy and Hipparchus (and his analysis of the Farnese Globe).

All five visible planets are now observable in the same evening. The planet Saturn rises later in the constellation Virgo, which follows Leo and retrograde Mars in the east.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Leo, the Lion King, Hamlet, and Osiris

Spoiler alert: if you are the one person who never saw the 1994 Disney movie The Lion King, you may not want to read on, in order to avoid compromising the storyline -- except for the fact that, because the storyline is so ancient, all humans probably know it even without seeing the Disney adaptation.
Currently, the majestic constellation of Leo the Lion dominates the eastern sky after sunset, rising vertically out of the eastern horizon just as the sun is going down, and reaching culmination almost precisely at midnight in the mid-thirty degree latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

Right now, as the night sky is clear of interference from the moon (which is currently being overtaken by the sun to form a new moon, and will closely trail the sun for a few days), there is a dazzling panoply of stars and constellations filling the night sky.

Orion continues to rise earlier and earlier (for a discussion of this principle, see this previous post). Whereas he was only just breaking above the horizon at 10 pm back in late October and early November, he now rises shortly after 1 p.m. (during daylight hours) and is well advanced in his arc across the sky by the time the sun goes down, reaching his culmination or highest point at around 7:30 in the evening (depending on your location on the globe) and sinking below the western horizon around 2 a.m.

During much of the same time, the constellations of Taurus (with the beautiful Pleiades), Perseus, Auriga, and Gemini are also clearly visible in the turning sky, all of whom we have examined previously.

If you can get to a dark enough point for observation, you should be able to see not only the "sickle" shape formed by the brightest stars in Leo the Lion as he rises, but also the much smaller and dimmer stars that make up his actual face. When you do make these out (see this diagram for help, and then go out and see the actual constellation in the sky, which is much more impressive than any illustration can convey), you may well be reminded of the lantern-jawed lions of Disney's Lion King, and this is actually an interesting connection, because the plot of that movie comes directly from some very ancient sources.

Many have already pointed out the direct parallels between the plot of The Lion King and Shakespeare's Hamlet. These include the murder of the rightful king (Mustafa in The Lion King and old King Hamlet in Shakespeare's play) by a usurping brother (Scar in The Lion King and Claudius in Hamlet), as well as a confused son (Simba in The Lion King and young Prince Hamlet in Shakespeare's play) who must rise to the task of righting the wrong, deposing the usurper, and restoring the kingdom.

Some have also pointed out that this plot in The Lion King also directly parallels the ancient Egyptian mythology surrounding Osiris, who is killed by his brother Set (or Seth) and must be avenged by his son Horus. Set temporarily reigns in his brother's stead in a position of primacy, but the Nine Gods of the Egyptian Ennead declare that this situation is not right. Set and Horus contend for the kingdom and Set is eventually deposed and Horus ascends to supreme authority.

In fact, this connection between the plot of Hamlet and the events depicted in the Osiris-Set-Horus series is found in multitudinous other myths from around the world and throughout human history, as described by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in their essential 1969 text, Hamlet's Mill (which takes its title from this crucial observation).

Those authors (as well as others who have followed them) provide convincing evidence that this myth is bound up with the celestial phenomenon of precession, which eventually "deposed" the constellation Orion (identified with Osiris) from his accustomed date of heliacal rising -- encoded in myth as the slaying of Osiris by Set.

The full details of this astronomical origin of the Osiris-Set mythology (which persists to this day in various manifestations, including the plot of The Lion King) are more fully explained in the Mathisen Corollary book (available in paperback form on Amazon here, although shipping with a slight delay, or for immediate shipping directly from the publisher here, and also available for immediate reading in Kindle format here).

So, although Leo is not really directly related to the Osiris story in the same way that Orion is, the fact that the familiar plot-line of The Lion King directly relates to this ancient and precessional myth gives it a sort of modern connection to the vitally-important Osiris series, a myth-pattern which simply must be clearly understood in order to understand many of the symbols hidden in ancient monuments and legends from around the globe. The movie also incorporates the stars of the night sky as an important motif, tying its plot even more directly to this ancient theme.

For this reason, enjoying the timeless plot of The Lion King can open a window onto mankind's ancient past.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dangerous liaisons: Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury

Above is this week's edition of an excellent feature from Sky & Telescope and PBS called SkyWeek, featuring Sky & Telescope Associate Editor Tony Flanders and excellent graphics and diagrams pointing the way to notable celestial events currently occurring in the sky.

This week's video focuses on the dramatic line of planets clearly visible in the evening sky just after sunset. The brightest of these is Venus, and not far behind Venus as it descends towards the west is Jupiter, also extremely bright but not so bright nor so large as Venus.

Jupiter and Venus are currently closing in on a spectacular conjunction, which will take place halfway through March of this year. This article from EarthSky explains why this particular conjunction of Jupiter and Venus will be particularly viewer-friendly: both planets remain visible after sunset much longer than they will during upcoming conjunctions in future years, when they will be close again but will be very low to the horizon in the west and set soon after the sun does.

The conditions which make the current dance of Venus and Jupiter so special are caused by the fact that Venus is approaching greatest evening elongation (or apparent distance from the sun as the evening star -- see this previous post for a diagram which explains the behavior of Venus as evening and morning star). Also, the ecliptic angle is currently very steep, as explained in the video above as well as in the EarthSky article.

The video also shows that Mercury will be visible just above the western horizon along the ecliptic path as the pencil-thin sliver of the new waxing crescent becomes visible after sunset on Wednesday. New moon occurs on Tuesday, February 21 as the sun "catches" the moon and then "passes" it up -- the young waxing crescent will then trail the sun by a greater and greater distance each day. It is most visible just after the sun goes down in the west, trailing by a short distance when it is barely a sliver, and by a larger and larger gap as its crescent grows. To see a discussion of the cause of the new moon and the waxing crescents visit this previous post.

Far behind the trio of Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury, you can find Mars rising in the east in the majestic constellation of Leo the Lion. Mars is currently in retrograde -- you can read some discussion of this phenomenon here and here, and see some diagrams that should help you locate it if you are unfamiliar with the location of this constellation here.

Numerous previous posts have discussed the very important work of Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill, particularly their argument that the ancient myths (in addition to powerfully illuminating the human condition in their portrayal of the various personalities, weaknesses, and intrigues of the gods) also function as vessels for the preservation and transmission of detailed astronomical knowledge. See for example previous posts such as "Aristotle's 'ancient treasure'" as well as "Don't miss Saturn this month" (from May of 2011).

Based on this theory, we might expect conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus as well as approaches of Venus and Mercury to be enshrined in myth in some way (probably as a story about a sexual liaison), and that is indeed exactly what we do find (to see a previous post explaining how the famous myths regarding Ares and Aphrodite are almost certainly transmitters of astronomical events concerning Mars and Venus, see "Mars, Venus and the Pleiades").

Zeus is said to have pursued Aphrodite, who resisted his advances (Jupiter can be said to be pursuing Venus right now). He apparently is recorded as giving up the chase and not actually consummating the union, but spilling his seed in a furrow in lust over the voluptuous goddess. One look at the excellent EarthSky image of the upcoming March 2012 conjunction of Jupiter and Venus can give a hint as to what this myth is trying to convey:

Similarly, there are stories in which Hermes seduces Aphrodite. Note that he does not pursue her the way Zeus is described as doing: this is descriptive of the motion of the planets as well. Mercury is closer to the sun in our solar system, and hence is more closely tethered to the sun in our sky, remaining closer to the horizon after sunset than Venus can. Thus, Venus will actually be more accurately described as moving closer to Mercury (in other words, being "seduced by Hermes") than as being chased by him (the way Venus is currently being chased by Jupiter, which is outside of earth's orbit and thus can arc across the entire sky rather than staying near the rising or the setting sun the way that the interior planets Venus and Mercury must do).

The product of the union of Hermes and Aphrodite was a son named Hermaphroditos, according to some legends. His name is a combination of the names of his parents. As is evident by the continuing use of his name to this day to describe a person of dual sexual characteristics, ancient myths describe Hermaphroditos as possessing the characteristics of both male and female, either from birth or -- more commonly -- as the result of union with a nymph at a pool. After that incident, any man who bathed in the pool would also emerge half-woman.

The fact that we find stories about liaisons between Jupiter and Venus and between Mercury and Venus in the ancient myths, described in a manner which appears to be consistent with the actual behavior of the planets, lends powerful support to the argument that the myths were more than amazing literary achievements -- they preserved sophisticated scientific achievements as well.

For more on this subject (particularly if you still don't accept this theory), visit "If the ancients really knew so much, why didn't they just come right out and say it?"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Birthday of J.C. Willis (1868 - 1958)

Earlier this month, in a post entitled "Across the (Electric) Universe," we encountered the work of one of the modern era's foremost botanists, John Christopher Willis, who was born this day (February 20) in 1868.

The Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society for Dr. Willis tell us that:
John Christopher Willis was born at Birkenhead on 20 February 1868. He studied at University College, Liverpool, and at Cambridge and for a time was an assistant in the Botany Department at Glasgow. In 1896, he was appointed director of the Royal Botanic Garden, Peradeniya, Ceylon, and held the post for 15 years. From 1912 to 1915 he was director of the Botanic Garden at Rio de Janeiro and after his retirement he worked at Cambridge and later went to live at Les Terrages, Avenue des Alpes, Montreux, Switzerland, where he died on 21 March 1958. He married Minnie, daughter of T. Baldwin, in 1897, and she died in 1931. There were three daughters of the marriage. He was an M.A. and Sc. D. (Cantab.), and was given an honorary S.D. by Harvard. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1897 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1919. The Annals of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradiya, was a periodical founded by him, volume 1 part 1 appearing on 27 June 1901.
Based on his extensive study of plant speciation and distribution (beginning with a deep study of the varieties of of the Podostemaceae family), J.C. Willis reached the firm conclusion that the accepted mechanism of Darwinian natural selection could not possibly account for the evidence found throughout the plant world. He allowed that natural selection could and did play a subsidiary role at times, but that it could not explain the origin of species.

Dr. Willis argued that the Darwinian explanation of a series of small and gradual changes was fatally flawed, and proposed in its place a process of major mutations bringing forth entirely different (widely divergent) genera that then branched out into different species.

The addition of evidence from botany highlights the weaknesses in the Darwinian theory. Even today, most defenses of Darwinian evolution tend to focus on arguments supported by the natural selection of animals rather than plants. Plants pose some difficult problems for the natural selection theory, and Dr. Willis argues that one of these was considered the strongest argument against his theory by Darwin himself:
On the face of it, this suggested mechanism for the carrying on of evolution, to which Darwin gave the name of Natural Selection ("or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life") seemed eminently reasonable, and one that could do the work required. But the struggle was necessarily of each individual of a species for itself alone, and if one individual showed a favourable variation while its neighbours did not, the variation would soon tend to be lost by crossing. This was shown by Fleeming Jenkin in a criticism which Darwin considered as the best that was ever made of his work. [. . .] When Darwin gave way, as he was forced to do, to this criticism from Fleeming Jenkin, the freedom of the natural selection theory was really lost. Course of Evolution, page 5 -- all pagination references are to the original pagination in the 1940 text, seen in the online version by the page-numbers at the top of each page.
In that text, Dr. Willis systematically illustrates examples from the world of botany that cast serious doubt upon the proposed Darwinian mechanism for the origin of the species.

For example, he points out that plants and trees typically display leaf patterns which are either alternate or opposite, and that they are always either perfectly opposite or perfectly alternate, with no intermediaries. (Below see detail from a diagram in Wikimedia commons which illustrates the distinction between leaves that are alternate and leaves that are opposite -- opposite leaves are here described as "pinnate," from a Latin word meaning "feathers").

Dr. Willis writes:
Gradual change, picking out advantageous variation, would be very unlikely indeed always to produce the same structural character, such, for example, as is shown by a berry or a drupe, or by opposite leaves. Why should berries be most often found in the near (systematic) neighbourhood of capsules, drupes in that of achenes or nuts? Why should selection pick out leaves that were exactly opposite, ovules with the raphe exactly dorsal or ventral, or why such clearly marked and exactly formed fruits as capsules, berries, etc.? Selection would obviously act with decreasing force as the leaves came nearer and nearer to being opposite (or alternate for then they show a definite phyllotaxy or arrangement), or the raphe to being dorsal or ventral, etc. In actual fact, between many of these characters, intermediary stages are not possible. One could only take the one or the other side of a very divergent variation, such as alternate or opposite leaves, dorsal or ventral raphe, etc. 45.
This is a devastating critique, and one that is uniquely evident in botany (not as easily made using the arguments from the animal kingdom that are popularly put forward to support the Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory based on gradual mutation plus natural selection).

Related to this argument is the lack of "intermediates" found either in existing species today or in the fossil record. In describing his rejection of the theory of "progress by small, gradual and progressive adaptation," Dr. Willis points out: "But fossil evidence gives but little support to this conception. Real intermediates are rare; [. . .]" (43). Later in the same work, he reiterates: "Lastly, there should be mentioned the all but complete absence of transition stages in the fossils, a fact which violently disagrees with the supposition that evolution was gradual and continuous" (73). He goes into even more detail on this point on page 12:
One does not find to any serious extent in the fossil record, species which represent real intermediates between existing or fossil species. One finds rather examples of species that have some of the characters of the one, some of another. But one does not find species (as from the constant occurrence of the few characters side by side in existing species one might expect to do) that show intermediate characters between alternate and opposite leaves, between palmate and pinnate leaves, between erect and climbing stems, between racemose and cymose infloresences, between flowers with and without a cyclic perianth, between isomerous and heteromerous flowers, between imbricate, valvalte, and convolute aestivation, between flowers with the odd sepal posterior and with it anterior, between stamens in one and in more whorls, between anthers opened by splitting or by teeth, valves, or pores, between 3-locular and 4-locular ovary, between ventral and dorsal raphe, between loculicidal and septicidal fruits, and so on through all the important structural characters. 12.
Later, on pages 79 through 80, he gives another long list of variations within different plant families (such as "seed without wings; seed with wings" or "leaves usually 5-nerved; leaves usually 3-nerved") and then concludes:
Both in the monotype and the ditype families it will be seen at once that the characters that distinguish the species in the one and the genera in the other, are of the "family" type rather than of the specific or generic type found in large families. And most often they allow of no intermediaries. 80.
Along this same line of argument, Dr. Willis notes that, while the natural selection theory generally maintains that mutations that provide some kind of survival advantage tend to survive, the numerous attempts to explain how plant differences (such as three petals on a flower versus four petals on a flower) could provide a survival advantage often fall flat or are completely strained. He says, "Morphologists have long maintained that structural characters have nothing to do, directly, with the life or functions of the plant, and it would appear that they are right in this contention, which violently contradicts the supposition of selection as a chief cause in evolution. The evolution that has produced more than 12,000 genera and 180,000 species has not been, primarily, an adaptational evolution, as the writer tried to show twenty-five years ago in the case of the Podostemaceae" (54).

In addition to these major difficulties, Dr. Willis offers other examples from the plant world which are very difficult to explain using the mechanism of natural selection. One of these is the fact that, while climate may change gradually, there will usually be periods of unusual weather within those longer gradual changes, and these would often kill off any gradual changes that had begun to take place within plant species:
For example, the climate (not the weather) must change gradually in the direction of warmer or cooler, wetter or drier. But these changes are well known to be so slow that they can only be detected in averages of a century or more -- a period longer than the life of most plants, except many trees -- whilst weather is continually changeable. Suppose a plant to have begun to vary in the direction of suitability to increased drought, and then there comes, as so commonly happens, a cycle of wetter years; what is going to happen then? 55.
Similarly, he argues that major new "adaptations" such as climbing plant species can hardly be explained by a series of gradual mutations:
A very great difficulty in the path of acceptance of natural selection as a cause for gradual adaptation is the fact that so many of what look like real morphological adaptations require so much correlation. Climbing plants come into this group, though they are obviously well suited to climbing. The habit cannot be difficult to acquire, for there are so many cases of the closest relatives, one climbing, one erect. A climber also needs a support, which is usually an erect plant, so that erect plants must have been the earlier. But one cannot imagine natural selection picking out the beginnings of weak and flexible stems, whether by gradual change or by small mutations. And when at last they were formed, as obviously there would be no value in developing tendrils or other means of climbing until the stems were weak, they would collapse into the darker lower levels of vegetation and would have to undergo physiological adaptation to living in greater darkness. Then they would have to learn to form climbing organs, and finally, learning to climb, they would once more have to adapt themselves to life in greater light. And what use would the beginnings of tendrils or other climbing organs be? And why, after having learnt to live in greater darkness, should the plant want to grow up into the light once more? Yet it would be dragged up by the tendrils, and would probably suffer from the excess of light. 56.
It must be pointed out, as noted in the previous post that mentioned Dr. Willis, that the author of these powerful criticisms of Darwinism was not himself a creationist, and that Dr. Willis did in fact accept the theory of evolution. He simply did not believe that the evolutionary mechanism offered by Darwin was correct. In its place, he offered a much different and more radical mechanism, and one that has never gained widespread acceptance.

Dr. Willis was a proponent of a theory called "Differentiation," in which some unknown force caused major mutations that diverged tremendously from previous forms, rather than the endless gradual changes which characterize the Darwinian theory. He explains this theory in pages 65 to 73 of the text linked above (it is almost worthwhile to read this chapter first when tackling that 1940 text, and then going back to the beginning to follow the rest of his arguments). One can also find a summary (with some points of disagreement) of the theory of Differentiation as proposed by Dr. Willis in this review of one of his later books, found in Volume 50, issue 1, pages 135-139 of New Phytologist, May 1951.

In general, this theory proposes that very large mutations found new families, which then branch off into different genera and species and sub-species, without the extinction of the parent family. This progress is very different from the general thrust of Darwinism, which argues that species arise through gradual changes, and that only the fittest are selected over time to propagate, such that existing species (including man) must be the product of other species that are no longer on earth.

In describing this theory, Dr. Willis explains:
There is nothing inherently absurd in the idea that a family might be founded by a single mutation. About 1902 the writer became a convert to theory of mutation, but it seemed to him completely illogical to insist that mutation could only be very small, when before us, in every family, there lay so much evidence that species, genera, tribes, sub-families and families were so continually separated by such well-marked divergent characters as leaves opposite or alternate, anthers opening by slits or by pores, [. . .]. They could only, it would appear, be the result of definite single mutations, and therefore mutations must at times be large. And if large in regard to these characters, which are very often of "family" rank, why not in all cases? 67-68.
Dr. Willis saw this theory as occupying a middle ground between two extremes that he rejected: special creation of the species, and natural selection as proposed by Darwin (which he described as a religion of its own on page 6, saying "the name Darwinism became attached rather to the theory of natural selection, which became a cult, and which now exercises enormous influence in the world at large, even national policies being in some instances largely tinged with it").

Between these two extremes, he says, lies his proposal, saying: "Special creation went too far in one direction, natural selection in the other, and differentiation may be called a kind of compromise" (7).

Even while he rejected a divine origin for the families and species that he describes in his book, he admits that at present we do not know the cause for the large and seemingly purposeful leaps that plant and animal families appear to have taken in their evolutionary path. As mentioned in the previous post on the theories of Dr. Willis, he believes that there may be some force in the universe which propels evolution forward, and that this force might be somehow electrical.

In addition to the quotation cited there, from page 188, he also proposes some electric force on page 46, in the text and in a footnote there, saying:
There might for example be (probably is) some physical or chemical law that at present we do not know, compelling genes or chromosomes to behave in a certain way. [Here there is a footnote, which reads: "My friend Dr C. Balfour Stewart suggests that it is probably electrical, as is probably the splitting of the chromosomes in reproduction."]
As noted previously, recent science has suggested that electricity may play a much greater role in the universe than was ever previously admitted, and so Doctors Willis and Stewart may have been onto something bigger than anyone at the time realized.

The important thing to note about the work of Dr. Willis, and the reason I have dwelt at length on the details of his work, is his willingness to challenge conventional entrenched theories, theories that even in his day could accurately be described as forming a sort of Darwinian "cult."

He was willing to examine huge amounts of evidence that seemed to point to a conclusion other than the accepted explanation, and to go on record as saying that this evidence cast grave doubt upon the conventional academic orthodoxy. He was also willing to propose an alternate theory, no matter how strongly such a theory was opposed, based upon the evidence that he found -- even if he had to admit that all the details of how this theory could work were not yet known.

In doing so, Dr. Willis exhibited what I believe to be tremendous integrity. Even those who believe that the evidence supports a conclusion in the other camps that he identifies (the camp of special creation and the camp of natural selection) should agree that all possible explanations should be identified, and the evidence that supports or does not support each theory should be honestly and thoroughly examined.

Unfortunately, this attitude is rare today.

Previous posts which deal with this important subject include:
and, on a slightly different tack,
For all these reasons, J. C. Willis and his work should be more well-known today. And the theory of Darwin should be more carefully considered, rather than accepted as an article of blind faith.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hogbacks of the California coast

I recently wrote a blog post examining "The unbelievable bathymetry of Mavericks."

In that post, I noted the amazing underwater features (which others have also discussed, and which in this particular stretch of the Pacific Ocean help to focus the wave energy that makes Mavericks one of the biggest and most powerful waves in the world) and suggested that conventional explanations for these features have some problems.

In particular, I noted that conventional explanations such as the suggestion that ancient uplift may have curved layers of strata, which were then tilted and sheared off (the "plunging folds" explanation), did not seem to fit the evidence (for one thing, I pointed out that "the curves are clearly further apart at the point of greatest 'hairpin turns' rather than closer together as we might expect if they were actually caused by tectonic uplifting"). I then suggested that the graceful curving patterns found not just at Mavericks (off of Pillar Point at the north end of Half Moon Bay) but also for hundreds of miles along the Northern California coast could more likely be the product of volcanic lava flow, or even of glacial carving.

In fact, although I did not make this point in the previous post, the fact that these graceful parallel patterns appear intermittently along a stretch of coast for hundreds of miles is yet another argument against the "plunging folds" explanation.

However, towards the end of the post I did admit that I was not certain of "the exact mechanism that carved the graceful channels in the original deeply-scored washboard," although I did believe that either lava or glacial ice were the two most-likely candidates. I noted that these two mechanisms could easily fit within the framework of the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown, while the conventional explanations seemed to be somewhat vague and inadequate in light of the evidence on the ground.

Since then, however, I have been in contact with Dr. Brown and he suggested that based on several pieces of evidence, he does not believe that either lava or glacial flows are a likely explanation for the curving ribs that are so evident in the seafloor near Mavericks and along the coast to the north and south. In fact, he wrote that "for a variety of reasons I don't believe those features were produced by glaciers, icebergs, reefs, faults, or volcanic eruptions" (the reason he mentions reefs, icebergs, and faults in that list is that other conventional explanations try to explain these distinctive features by referring to the proximity of the San Andreas Fault, although how the fault could produce such swirling parallel curves is not explained; the other candidates in the list have also been mentioned, including the possibility that the bottoms of passing icebergs floating above might have carved out these patterns, which is so unlikely I did not even take the time to refute it as a possibility in my previous post).

Dr. Brown offered a very different explanation -- he believes that these features found at Mavericks and up and down the California coast look like classic "hog backs." He cautions that "several tests would need to be done before definitely saying those features at Half Moon Bay are hog backs." One such test would be to find similar hogbacks east of the beach (we will return to that line of testing in a moment).

Hogbacks are geological features formed by steeply tilted strata which become exposed, revealing long parallel ridges that resemble the sharp spine of a wild boar (in the US, wild pigs are often called "razorbacks"). The mechanics behind the hogback feature are somewhat different from those being argued for the tilted uplift process that supposedly produces "plunging folds" and which some believe may be responsible for the curves beneath the waves at Mavericks. A hogback is created when forces lift and then shear an entire stack of sediments, generally for many miles: see the diagram below.

I adapted the above diagram (my own rough sketch) from a diagram found in this excellent photo-essay examining a famous hogback feature, the San Rafael Swell (in Utah). The San Rafael Swell in one of many dramatic hogback features in that part of the country which are associated with the uplift of the Colorado Plateau (which Walt Brown explains in his book in the extended discussion of the formation of the Grand Canyon).

The drawing above shows that hogback geology is associated with a formation called a "monocline," which is a place in which the strata have been bent by the uplift of a portion of the earth below them, such that they resemble (in Walt Brown's analogy, see note 47 on this page of his book) a handkerchief draped over a large book sitting on a table (the handkerchief represents the strata, and the large book represents the uplifted geology).

The fact that there are many places in the world today in which the strata gracefully bend up over an uplift in this manner is a piece of supporting evidence for the hydroplate theory, which holds that the strata were all laid down rapidly during the flood event (in which they were sorted into their characteristic layers by liquefaction on a massive scale). If the strata were laid down over millions of years successively, with each becoming dry and brittle in the ages before another layer was laid down, then we would expect the strata to all bend and break at every monocline.

However, in some places, where intense shearing took place or where the uplift may have taken place after the strata had some centuries to harden following the flood, the monocline will produce a sheared-off layer of upward-tilted strata, such as can be seen at the left side of the drawing above. These layers will be exposed in great parallel lines running for many miles -- in some cases for hundreds of miles.

Note that this mechanism takes care of one of my objections to the "plunging fold" explanation -- I noted that at the hairpin curves, the parallel ribs at the bottom of the sea near Pillar Point and the Mavericks break are often further apart, rather than closer together (we would expect them to be closer together if they were caused by tectonic uplift at one point, tilted over and then sheared off). Because hogbacks are caused by an entire "layer cake" of strata being stretched upwards by an uplifting monocline and then shearing, rather than by tectonic folding which would compress the layers together at the point of greatest bending, the layers may well be further apart at the curving places, unlike what we would expect with the "plunging fold" explanation.

Hogbacks can also be found in conjunction with rings around domes that resemble a volcanic crater, such as in Sonoma, California and in Sundance, Wyoming and in the Dakota Sandstone Hogback.

In the drawing above, I have modified the diagram found at the website discussing the San Rafael Swell, because at the San Rafael Swell the Colorado Plateau which caused the uplift is to the west (left side of the diagram). In the above diagram, which is also looking to the north, the Pacific Ocean is meant to be to the left, and the shoreline and geology of the Peninsula and points further east are to the right.

Note that (as the caption below the drawing explains), some of the layers will be lost along the uplifted terrain, although small sections of them might remain. This fact may well explain the geology of Pillar Point that is shown on Slide 7 in this excellent Surfline special feature depicting the bathymetry which create the waves at Mavericks, which was written in November of 2011 by Surfline founder Sean Collins, shortly before his death in December of 2011. The text in Slide 7 states that Pillar Point looks the way it does because it is a "pull-apart basin" created by the San Gregorio Fault (a small fault intersecting with the larger and more notorious San Andreas Fault), but it may well be that Pillar Point is a remnant of what I label as "layer C" in my diagram of a hogback formation in the drawing above.

The diagram above horribly oversimplifies the terrain between the Pacific Coast and California's Great Central Valley (depicting all of it as a single massif, while in reality it consists of a series of complicated ranges and valleys and higher ranges and wider valleys before you reach the highest range that separates you from the Central Valley). However, the main point of this oversimplification is to show that, if the swirling patterns off the coast at Mavericks (which seem to be part of a much more extensive complex of such parallel ridges stretching for hundreds of miles up and down the NorCal coast from Half Moon Bay, emerging only intermittently from the silt that blankets them and hides them) are actually a system of hogbacks, then there should be a corresponding and corroborating series of hogbacks on the other side of the uplifted area (just as there is on the right side of the drawing above).

As Walt Brown told me, if we find such hogbacks to the east, then we can be fairly certain that these mysterious features off the California coast are also hogbacks (although diving down and inspecting them would still be the ultimate test).

When we take a look along the western rim of the Great Central Valley, what do we find? Not only do we find hogbacks, but we find an enormous length of hogback formations, stretching just about as far as the deeply-scored and swirled terrain features that we located off the coast along the same latitudes. (There are also hogbacks along some of the highest mountains in the Bay Area east of Half Moon Bay, such as on Mission Peak and Monument Peak, as shown in photographs on this web page from a Bay Area resident).

Below is a diagram showing one small segment of the hogback series along the western edge of the Central Valley -- this is from an area just east and north of Clear Lake, one segment of which is called Devil's Elbow.

Note that this series of hogbacks is roughly parallel to the similar ridges at Point Arena pictured in the image at the top of this post. Point Arena is about as far north as I have been able to see these underwater hogbacks (if they are in fact hogbacks, which is looking more and more likely), and it is notable that the hogback lines also come to an end at roughly the same latitude in the northern area of the Central Valley (and that they do so with some swirling flourishes on the Valley side, reminiscent of some of the curves found in their undersea counterparts off the coast).

The reader is invited to spend some time looking at Google Maps to check out the distinctive terrain along the western edge of the Great Central Valley of California for himself or herself. The best way to see these hogbacks is to click on the "maps" square in the upper-right corner of the Google Map, and then select "Terrain." The best way to see the hogbacks under the water off the coast, however, is to select "Satellite" and then zoom down to the water's edge (the parallel ridge spines seem to emerge near promontories such as Pillar Point, Point Reyes, Point Arena, Morro Rock, Bolinas, and other similar points).

The hogback features can be traced all the way from the dramatic hogbacks at Devil's Elbow near Clear Lake down to the town of Coalinga and even a bit further south of that, roughly parallel to Morro Rock. The fact that the terrain features off the coast extend about the same distance north and south as the hogback lines along the western side of the Central Valley is another clue that Dr. Brown is correct in suggesting that the curved reefs that produce the surf at Mavericks are really submerged hogbacks.

As mentioned in passing above, the hydroplate theory has a much better explanation for hogbacks (and especially for the dramatically curved hogbacks in the seafloor near Mavericks) than the conventional theories of geology. The hydroplate theory maintains that the strata were all laid down rapidly as a result of a global flood, and that they were soft and pliant for some time after the floodwaters drained into the ocean basins.

They hydroplate theory also maintains that the ocean levels were much lower for centuries after the flood. This would allow the layers to harden, including those that are now submerged in twenty to a couple hundred feet just off the California coast. The sinking of the continents and the rising of the ocean floors took place over the next few centuries, due to the increased weight of the continents that thickened during the flood event (as a result of the buckling that pushed up mountain ranges such as those along the California coast and further east such as the Sierras and the Rockies -- these mountain ranges also sank down and pushed up plateaus such as the Colorado Plateau in the process of sinking down into the mantle). It is quite possible that the severe forces surrounding this "settling in" process in the centuries after the flood were the forces responsible for shearing the layers that now form the hogbacks under the ocean. It is also possible that these hogbacks (and the corresponding hogbacks on the Central Valley side) were bent and sheared during the compression event itself.

Note that there are also dramatic hogback lines on the eastern edge of the Central Valley, where it meets the uplifted hills that eventually lead up to the Sierra Nevada.

It is also possible that the rapid draining of the Central Valley some centuries after the flood created conditions that led to further uplift and the shearing that created some or all of the hogbacks of California. In his discussion of the evidence surrounding the formation of the Grand Canyon, Dr. Brown explains how the escaping water from trapped inland lakes on the Colorado Plateau stripped off layers of limestone, allowing upwarping of the basement rock which sprang upwards when the extra weight above it was removed.

Take a good look at diagram 113 on this web page of Walt Brown's book (about 7/8ths of the way down the page) -- it shows a cross-sectional drawing of the Kaibab Plateau (which he explains should really be called the Kaibab Upwarp or the Kaibab Uplift, as it is not technically a plateau). Note the layers on the right side of the diagram -- the East Kaibab Monocline. This terrain feature and the mechanism which produced it are both very similar to hogbacks and the forces that produced them.

As we noted in the previous blog post about the bathymetry of Mavericks, there are "grand canyons" stretching down into the Pacific just west of Mavericks and Half Moon Bay, and there are others up and down the coast. These canyons were clearly not carved after the oceans rose to their current levels, but before. It is possible that the forces which created the hogbacks of the Northern California coast were unleashed in conjunction with the draining of the Central Valley basin some centuries after the flood.

Thus, upon careful further consideration, it appears quite likely that the dramatic ridges below the surface at Mavericks (and further north and south along the California coast), which have only become clearly visible recently thanks to new underwater imagery released in 2007, are submerged hogbacks. This explanation is certainly consistent with the details of the hydroplate theory.

It is a possibility that deserves much more study from geologists.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Have you been watching retrograde Mars?

If you've been observing the brilliant Red Planet each night, you will have noticed that its location has moved distinguishably higher relative to the stars of the rising constellation Leo in the evening sky prior to midnight (all descriptions and illustrations northern-hemisphere-centric).

As discussed in a blog post near the end of January, Mars began its period of retrograde motion about three weeks ago, and will continue in a retrograde direction until April 15, when it will stop and resume its usual direction through the zodiac constellations.

In the diagram illustrating the position of Mars near the beginning of the retrograde motion (shown at left above), Mars was clearly below the bright tail-star of Leo, Denebola. The situation is quite different now, and noticeable if you have been taking a look at Leo periodically between then and now. Now, Mars is clearly above Denebola and heading higher in Leo (right diagram above).

This motion will continue as Mars moves "headward" through the constellation of Leo the Lion, prior to turning around and proceeding down the constellation towards Virgo (the constellation which follows the Lion, as discussed in this previous post about ancient goddesses who rode in chariots pulled by a lion).

Astrologers from very ancient times up to the present have believed that the planet Mars is associated with aggressive and assertive energy, most notably with martial prowess and with athletic prowess. Hence, periods in which Mars is retrograde are often described as being an inversion of this type of energy, and inauspicious for the start of any sort of combative or aggressive activity (including war but also lawsuits, arguments, or even new love affairs -- see for instance the discussions on these contemporary astrological websites here and here).

Before completely dismissing such assertions as "ancient superstition," consider the fact that the post previous to this one referenced an article from the fairly staid and respectable Wall Street Journal which analyzed the way in which certain musical patterns (which could be analyzed, isolated, and predicted by researchers) could create reactions in listeners which cause reactions in which "our sympathetic nervous system goes on high alert; our hearts race and we start to sweat."

One of the patterns mentioned by researchers as common in songs that cause these reactions are jumps of a full octave: musicians and mathematicians can confirm that a jump of a full octave is equivalent to a halving of the wavelength or a doubling of the frequency of a vibration. It is also possible to confirm that changes in wavelengths that produce a fifth of an octave are usually perceived as being quite pleasant and positive, while other fractional changes are generally perceived as quite disharmonious and jarring. Thus, music contains proportional relationships that actually relate to distances, and these have real and measurable effects on our emotions and even our physical nervous system (including reactions such as starting to sweat and increasing the heart rate).

The proportions in a building or a garden can have similar effects on us -- it can be demonstrated, for instance, that some of the most revered and historic Zen gardens incorporate very harmonious distances and proportions. In a sense, we might say that the measurements of a building or a garden can act on us in much the same way that music can act on us: architecture is "physical music."

Is it not possible, then, that our "surroundings" in the space far beyond the garden or building where we are standing -- our surroundings out to the proportional arrangements in the solar system, which change as the planets move about in relation to the earth and the sun -- could act as a much larger piece of architecture, or a much larger Zen garden?

Such a suggestion may seem to be a stretch, perhaps a stretch too far, but as John Anthony West (also mentioned in the previous blog post, along with a link to his excellent study Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt) points out, "There is some direct, and much more indirect, evidence accumulating showing the existence of these correspondences, often corroborating old 'superstitions'" (114).

Among the studies that he mentions as evidence suggesting possible correspondence between planetary positions and measurable effects on our personality is the (admittedly controversial) work of Michel Gauquelin, who conducted statistical analyses which seemed to indicate some connection between athletic achievement and the position of Mars at time of birth -- the so-called "Mars effect."

Mr. West cautions that even if such "correspondences" can be demonstrated, "extrapolating from what is soundly established is fraught with dangers" (115). Nevertheless, it is interesting to note how widespread the belief appears to have been among the ancient civilizations, that the positions of the planets have a real effect on human affairs.

As Mars continues to retrograde towards the level of the stars of the Lion's hips (now approaching the level of Theta Leonis, also known as Coxa, Latin for "hip"), you may want to familiarize yourself with the stars of Leo using this chart from an 1889 study. It records ancient beliefs about influences caused by heavenly bodies (mainly the moon) when arranged relative to earth such that they are passing near these particular stars in Leo (sometimes good for voyages or redeeming captives, but other times only good for planting or marrying, but not for navigating!)

These subjects are interesting to consider. Whatever your opinion of them, it is a great opportunity to set a time each night (or every few nights) to go out and observe Mars and Leo during this period of retrograde motion by the Red Planet.