Thursday, October 30, 2014

Black Hole Sun

Castor and Pollux

In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux were twin brothers known as the Dioskouri. Their mother was Leda, but Castor was the mortal son of Tyndareus, the king of Sparta, while Pollux was the divine son of Zeus, who seduced Leda in the guise of a swan. Though accounts of their birth are varied, they are sometimes said to have been born from an egg, along with their twin sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra.

In Latin, the twins are also known as the Gemini or Castores. When Castor was killed, Pollux asked Zeus to let him share his own immortality with his twin to keep them together. Zeus granted the wish and both were transformed into the constellation Gemini. The pair were regarded as the patrons of sailors, to whom they appeared as St. Elmo's fire, and were also associated with horsemanship.

They are sometimes called the Tyndaridae or Tyndarids, which is seen as a reference to their father and stepfather Tyndareus.

Both Dioscuri were excellent horsemen and hunters who participated in the hunting of the Calydonian Boar and they later joined the crew of Jason's ship, the Argo.

A replica of the Argo.
During the Argonauts adventures, Pollux took part in a boxing contest and defeated King Amycus of the Bebryces, a savage mythical people in Bithynia. After returning from the voyage, the Dioskouroi helped Jason and Peleus destroy the city of Iolcus in revenge for the treachery of its king Pelias.

When their sister Helen was abducted by the legendary Greek king Theseus, the brothers invaded his kingdom of Attica to rescue her. In revenge, they abducted Theseus' mother Aethra and took her to Sparta while setting his rival, Menestheus, on the throne of Athens. Aethra was then forced to become Helen's slave. She was ultimately returned to her home by her grandsons Demophon and Acamas after the fall of Troy.

Castor and Pollux aspired to marry the Leucippides ("daughters of the white horse"), Phoebe and Hilaeira, whose father was a brother of Leucippus ("white horse"). Both women were already betrothed to cousins of the Dioscuri, the twin brothers Lynceus and Idas of Thebes, who were sons of Tyndareus's brother Aphareus -- which made them cousins. Castor and Pollux carried the women off to Sparta wherein each had a son; Phoebe bore Mnesileos to Pollux and Hilaeira bore Anogon to Castor. This began a family feud among the four sons of the brothers Tyndareus and Aphareus.

The cousins carried out a cattle-raid in Arcadia together but fell out over the division of the meat. After stealing the herd, but before dividing it, the cousins butchered, quartered, and roasted a calf. As they prepared to eat, the gigantic Idas suggested that the herd be divided into two parts instead of four, based on which pair of cousins finished their meal first. Castor and Pollux agreed. Idas quickly ate both his portion and Lynceus' portion. Castor and Pollux allowed their cousins to take the entire herd, but vowed to someday take revenge.

Some time later, Idas and Lynceus visited their uncle's home in Sparta. The uncle was on his way to Crete, so he left Helen in charge of entertaining the guests, which included both sets of cousins, as well as Paris, prince of Troy. Castor and Pollux recognized the opportunity to exact revenge, made an excuse that justified leaving the feast, and set out to steal their cousins' herd. Idas and Lynceus eventually set out for home, leaving Helen alone with Paris, who then kidnapped her. Thus, the four cousins helped set into motion the events that gave rise to the Trojan War.

Meanwhile, Castor and Pollux had reached their destination. Castor climbed a tree to keep watch as Pollux began to free the cattle. As Idas and Lynceus approached. Lynceus, named for the lynx because he could see in the dark, spied Castor hiding in the tree. Idas and Lynceus immediately understood what was happening. Idas, furious, ambushed Castor, fatally wounding him with a blow from his spear—but not before Castor called out to warn Pollux. In the ensuing brawl, Pollux killed Lynceus. As Idas was about to kill Pollux, Zeus, who had been watching from Mt. Olympus, hurled a thunderbolt, killing Idas and saving his son.

Returning to the dying Castor, Pollux was given the choice by Zeus of spending all his time on Mount Olympus or giving half his immortality to his mortal brother. He opted for the latter, enabling the twins to alternate between Olympus and Hades. The brothers became the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini ("the twins"): Castor (Alpha Geminorum) and Pollux (Beta Geminorum). As emblems of immortality and death, the Dioskouri, like Heracles, were said to have been initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries.

Even after the rise of Christianity, the Dioskouroi continued to be venerated. The fifth-century pope Gelasius I attested to the presence of a "cult of Castores" that the people did not want to abandon. In some instances, the twins appear to have simply been absorbed into a Christian framework; thus fourth-century AD pottery and carvings from North Africa depict the Dioskouroi alongside the Twelve Apostles, the Raising of Lazarus or with Saint Peter. The church took an ambivalent attitude, rejecting the immortality of the Dioskouroi but seeking to replace them with equivalent Christian pairs. Saints Peter and Paul were thus adopted in place of the Dioskouroi as patrons of travelers, and Saints Cosmas and Damian took over their function as healers. Some have also associated Saints Speusippus, Eleusippus, and Melapsippus with the Dioskouroi.

The twins are mentioned in the Bible as being the logo for a shipping company that carried Paul to Rome (67 AD): Acts 28:11 (KJV)—"And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux."

While this article may be way more than you ever wanted to know about Castor and Pollux, just remember (if anyone asks) that these days the two are most often associated with astronomy and are known as "the Gemini Twins."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chaos Theory

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” -- Albert Einstein

Chaos is generally regarded as the opposite of order. Like everything else in the universe, there is a balance between the forces of order and the forces of chaos -- at least, most philosophical views take this stance, although there are those who believe that in the larger view, even chaotic systems are part of a greater order that we cannot always see. That, however, is a topic for another day.

Chaos Theory is the study of what was heretofore termed as nonlinear and unpredictable system behavior. Traditional systems studies deal with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions. Chaos Theory looks at things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.

Unpredictable order of fractals.
These phenomena are often described by fractal mathematics, which captures the infinite complexity of nature. Many natural objects exhibit fractal properties, including landscapes, clouds, trees, organs, rivers etc, and many of the systems in which we live exhibit complex, chaotic behavior. Recognizing the chaotic, fractal nature of our world can give us new insight, power, and wisdom. For example, by understanding the complex, chaotic dynamics of the atmosphere, a balloon pilot can “steer” a balloon to a desired location. By understanding that our ecosystems, our social systems, and our economic systems are interconnected, we can hope to avoid actions which may end up being detrimental to our long-term well-being.

With that said, understand that chaotic systems are necessarily described as extremely complex and any detailed studies must include computer modeling simply because the equations are far too complicated and contain too many variables. These computer models often fail due to the degree of complexity.

How often are weathermen correct?
The truth is, mankind can only rely on certain general principles when it comes to Chaos Theory. What follows is some of those general principles.

The Butterfly Effect: This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. A more rigorous way to express this is that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results. Our lives are an ongoing demonstration of this principle. Who knows what the long-term effects of teaching millions of kids about chaos and fractals will be?

Unpredictability: Because we can never know all the initial conditions of a complex system in sufficient (i.e. perfect) detail, we cannot hope to predict the ultimate fate of a complex system. Even slight errors in measuring the state of a system will be amplified dramatically, rendering any prediction useless. Since it is impossible to measure the effects of all the butterflies (etc) in the World, accurate long-range weather prediction will always remain impossible.

Order/Disorder Chaos is not simply disorder. Chaos explores the transitions between order and disorder, which often occur in surprising ways.

Mixing: Turbulence ensures that two adjacent points in a complex system will eventually end up in very different positions after some time has elapsed. Examples: Two neighboring water molecules may end up in different parts of the ocean or even in different oceans. A group of helium balloons that launch together will eventually land in drastically different places. Mixing is thorough because turbulence occurs at all scales. It is also nonlinear: fluids cannot be unmixed.

Feedback: Systems often become chaotic when there is feedback present. A good example is the behavior of the stock market. As the value of a stock rises or falls, people are inclined to buy or sell that stock. This in turn further affects the price of the stock, causing it to rise or fall chaotically.

Fractals: A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos. Geometrically, they exist in between our familiar dimensions. Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals. For instance: trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, etc.

If one looks carefully, chaotic systems seem to be everywhere. They make up a great part of our daily lives and we plan for chance encounters with the weather or opportunities at work or a chance encounter that may lead to a romantic interlude. Life is full of chaos and, to a certain degree, we count on it and even attempt to predict the outcomes of chaotic systems. Upon recognizing a chaotic system (we seem to automatically recognize chaos, do we not?), sometimes we can step back and see that within the larger picture, there is an order to the chaos. That is when the ambitious may decide to duplicate, or at least attempt to understand how the system works. To a certain degree, we are able to make predictions about the weather, but, as you know, the prediction business can be risky. Ask any Vegas gambler.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What To Do With Pesky Truth

We like to believe that credible allegations of high-level criminal activity can bring down someone in a powerful position. After all, we've actually seen it in action per the recent example of the owner of a professional basketball team. Wait a minute, that wasn't exactly criminal activity, was it? That occurence was due to the NBA owner's personal biases, wasn't it? Well, he was pilloried like he was a criminal. But I digress. Once in a while, you might hear of someone in a local government somewhere who got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Sometimes these people lose their jobs and their reputations and sometimes they don't. However, I am of the opinion that there are those who, through their connections and extent of accumulated power, are essentially bullet-proof. The Clintons, for instance. The Obamas. The Pelosis. Come to think of it, any past US president seems to get a pass. These days, we have an entire government from top to bottom that is rife with corruption from local reps all the way to the top executive position. The justice we common people long for seems totally out of reach and our masters are free to run roughshod over us, corralling us like animals with their authority, their bureaucracy, and the onerous weight of freedom-killing laws. It is a government fashioned against the people by egomaniacs, lawyers, and authority addicts who willfully ignore and "get around" the law of the land.

The media no longer serves the American people (or the people of the world for that matter) and yet, elements of the truth emerge to drift through the population as rumors and conspiracy theory. Truth is a persistent motivator. The powers that hold the reins of government control the media and use it to distribute their propaganda, to create illlusion as often as necessary and pay for it all through the use of America's oppressive tax system.

Allow me to break it down for you. If an inconvenient truth breaks out, government mouthpieces adopt the following techniques. Most will sound familiar to you.

1. First, dummy up. If it's not reported, if it's not news, it didn't happen.

2. Wax indignant. This is also known as the "how dare you?" gambit.

3. Characterize the charges as "rumors" or, better yet, "wild rumors." If, in spite of the news blackout, the public is still able to learn about the suspicious facts, it can only be through "rumors." (If they tend to believe the "rumors" it must be because they are simply "paranoid" or "hysterical.")

4. Knock down straw men. Deal only with the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Even better, create your own straw men. Make up wild rumors and give them lead play when you appear to debunk all the charges, real and fanciful alike.

5. Call the skeptics names like "conspiracy theorist," "nut," "ranter," "kook," "crackpot," and of course, "rumor monger." Be sure, too, to use heavily loaded verbs and adjectives when characterizing their charges and defending the "more reasonable" government and its defenders. You must then carefully avoid fair and open debate with any of the people you have thus maligned. For insurance, set up your own "skeptics" to shoot down.

6. Impugn motives. Attempt to marginalize the critics by suggesting strongly that they are not really interested in the truth but are simply pursuing a partisan political agenda or are out to make money (compared to over-compensated adherents to the government line who, presumably, are not).

7. Invoke authority. Here the controlled press and the sham opposition can be very useful.

8. Dismiss the charges as "old news."

9. Come half-clean. This is also known as "confession and avoidance" or "taking the limited hangout route." This way, you create the impression of candor and honesty while you admit only to relatively harmless, less-than-criminal "mistakes." This stratagem often requires the embrace of a fall-back position quite different from the one originally taken. With effective damage control, the fall-back position need only be peddled by stooge skeptics to carefully limited markets.

10. Characterize the crimes as impossibly complex and the truth as ultimately unknowable.

11. Reason backward, using the deductive method with a vengeance. With thoroughly rigorous deduction, troublesome evidence is irrelevant. For example: We have a completely free press. If they know of evidence that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) had prior knowledge of the Oklahoma City bombing they would have reported it. They haven't reported it, so there was no prior knowledge by the BATF. Another variation on this theme involves the likelihood of a conspiracy leaker and a press that would report the leak.

12. Require the skeptics to solve the crime completely. For example: If Vince Foster was murdered, who did it and why?

13. Change the subject. This technique includes creating and/or publicizing distractions.

14. Scantly report incriminating facts, and then make nothing of them. This is sometimes referred to as "bump and run" reporting.

15. Baldly and brazenly lie. A favorite way of doing this is to attribute the "facts" furnished the public to a plausible-sounding, but anonymous, source.

16. Expanding further on numbers 4 and 5, have your own stooges "expose" scandals and champion popular causes. Their job is to preempt real opponents and to play 99-yard football. A variation is to pay rich people for the job who will pretend to spend their own money.

17. Flood the Internet with agents. This is the answer to the question, "What could possibly motivate a person to spend hour upon hour on Internet news groups defending the government and/or the press and harassing genuine critics?" Don't the authorities have defenders enough in all the newspapers, magazines, radio, and television? One would think refusing to print critical letters and screening out serious callers or dumping them from radio talk shows would be control enough, but, obviously, it is not.

Even with all their resources, somehow thinking people are able to put the pieces together. The real story comes to light and spreads. History may be written by those in power, and places like Wikipedia are controlled by leftist scribes -- yet, somehow millions of people arrive at different conclusions. I think maybe it is because the truth takes on a life of its own and lies can only be propped up for so long. Those who willfully choose to believe a lie do so at their own risk. While it may fill their pockets and give them some material status for a time, eventually it will wreck their lives. You can't build a house on shifting sand.

Partially taken from David Martin's 17 Techniques for Truth Suppression.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Death Of Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis
Meriwether Lewis (August 18, 1774 – October 11, 1809) was an American explorer, soldier, and public administrator, best known for his role as the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery, with William Clark. Their mission was to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase, establish trade and sovereignty over the natives near the Missouri River, and claim the Pacific Northwest and Oregon Country for the United States before European nations. They also collected scientific data, and information on indigenous nations. President Thomas Jefferson appointed him Governor of Upper Louisiana in 1806. He died of gunshot wounds in what was either a murder or suicide, in 1809.

On September 3, 1809, Lewis set out for Washington, D.C., where he hoped to resolve issues regarding the denied payment of drafts he had drawn against the War Department while serving as governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. Lewis also carried his journals with him for delivery to his publisher. Lewis intended to travel to Washington by ship from New Orleans, but changed his plans while en route down the Mississippi from St. Louis. He decided to make an overland journey via the Natchez Trace and then east to Washington. The Natchez Trace was the old pioneer road between Natchez, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee. Robbers preyed on travelers on the road, and sometimes the land pirates killed their victims.

According to an October 18, 1809 letter written to Thomas Jefferson, on October 10, 1809, Lewis stopped at an inn on the Natchez Trace called Grinder's Stand, about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Nashville. After leaving dinner, he went to his bedroom. In the predawn hours of October 11, the innkeeper heard gunshots. Servants found Lewis badly injured from multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head. He died shortly after sunrise. The same account was published in the Nashville Democratic Clarion and repeated with some embellishment by newspapers across the country. The Nashville newspaper also reported that Lewis's throat was cut. Money Lewis had borrowed from Major Gilbert Russell at Fort Pickering to complete the journey was not recovered.

While modern historians generally accept his death as a suicide, there is some debate. No one admitted to seeing Lewis shoot himself. Three inconsistent accounts are attributed to the tavern-keeper's wife Priscilla Grinder, though Mrs. Grinder did not leave a written account. In one account, the writer said that Mrs. Grinder claimed Lewis acted strangely the night before his death. She said that during dinner, Lewis stood and paced about the room talking to himself in the way one would speak to a lawyer. She observed his face to flush as if it had come on him in a fit. After he retired for the evening, she continued to hear him talking to himself. At some point in the night, she heard multiple gunshots, and what she believed was someone calling for help. She claimed to be able to see Lewis through the slit in the door crawling back to his room. She never explained why, at the time, she did not investigate further concerning Lewis' condition or the source of the gunshots. The next morning, she sent her children to look for Lewis' servants. In one account, the servants found Lewis in the cabin, wounded and bloody, with part of his skull gone, but he lived for several hours. In another account, Lewis's body was found outside. In the last account attributed to Mrs. Grinder, she said that three men followed Lewis up the Natchez Trace and that he pulled his pistols and challenged them to a duel. In that account, Mrs. Grinder said that she heard voices and gunfire in Lewis's cabin about 1 a.m. She found the cabin empty and a large amount of gunpowder on the floor.

Priscilla Grinder's testimony is held as a point of contention from both sides of the murder–suicide debate. The murder advocates point to five conflicting testimonies as evidence that hers is fabricated, and the suicide advocates point to her testimony as proof of suicide. In the book The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, first printed in 1893, the editor Elliott Coues expresses doubt about Thomas Jefferson's conclusion that Lewis committed suicide as presented in the former President's Memoir of Meriwether Lewis, which is included in the book. In a lengthy review of information available to him in the 1890s, Elliott Coues states:

Route of Lewis & Clark expedition.
"Undoubtedly Jefferson wrote in the light of all the evidence that had reached him in 1813, but it appears that his view of the case was far from being that of persons who lived in the vicinity of the scene at the time. That Governor Lewis did not die by his own hand, but was murdered and robbed, was common report at the time, as vouched by some persons still living...."

The only doctor to examine Lewis' body did not do so until 40 years later, in 1848. The Tennessee State Commission, including Dr. Samuel B. Moore, charged with locating Lewis's grave and erecting a monument over it, opened Lewis's grave. The commission wrote in its official report that though the impression had long prevailed that Lewis died by his own hand, "it seems to be more probable that he died by the hands of an assassin." His mother and relatives contended it was murder. A coroner's jury held an inquest immediately after Lewis's death as provided by local law; however, they did not charge anyone with murdering Lewis. The jury foreman kept a pocket diary of the proceedings. The pocket diary disappeared in the early 1900s.

From 1993–2010, about 200 of Lewis' kin (through his sister Jane, as he had no children) sought to have the body exhumed for forensic analysis, to try to determine whether the death was a suicide. A Tennessee coroner's jury in 1996 recommended exhumation. Since Lewis is buried in a national park, the National Park Service must approve; they refused the request in 1998, citing possible disturbance to the bodies of more than 100 pioneers buried nearby. In 2008 the Department of the Interior approved the exhumation, but that decision was rescinded in 2010 upon policy review, and the Department stated that its last decision is final. It is making improvements to the grave site and visitor facility.

When Clark and Jefferson were informed of Lewis' death, both accepted the conclusion of suicide. Historian Stephen Ambrose dismisses the murder theory as "not convincing", stating:

"What is convincing is the initial reaction of the two men who knew Lewis best and loved him most. William Clark and Thomas Jefferson immediately concluded that the story of Lewis's suicide was entirely believable, Clark on the basis of his intimate knowledge of Lewis's mental state and more explicitly on the never found Lewis letter of mid-September [1809]. Neither Jefferson or Clark ever doubted that Lewis killed himself."

Historian Paul Russell Cutright wrote a detailed refutation of the murder/robbery theory, concluding that it "lacks legs to stand on":

" a result of the continued, intrusive problems haunting Lewis during the final months of his life, he became increasingly unstable. This to such an extent that in time there was, for him, only one escape, a fatal rendezvous."

These problems included Lewis' debts, heavy drinking and possible morphine/opium use, his failure to prepare the expedition's journals for publication, his repeated failure to find a wife, and his role in the deterioration in his friendship with Thomas Jefferson. Lewis died while travelling to Washington to petition the government after it had refused to honor drafts paid by Lewis as Governor of Louisiana Territory, leaving him in potentially ruinous debt. He had written his will and attempted suicide already on this journey, having to be restrained.