Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Frankenstein"...1910


The earliest cinematic presentation of Frankenstein...1910

Directed by J. Searle Dawley

Edison

From IMDb...

Frankenstein, a young student, is seen bidding his sweetheart and father goodbye, as he is leaving home to enter a college in order to study the sciences. Shortly after his arrival at college he becomes absorbed in the mysteries of life and death to the extent of forgetting practically everything else. His great ambition is to create a human being, and finally one night his dream is realized. He is convinced that he has found a way to create a most perfect human being that the world has ever seen. We see his experiment commence and the development of it. The formation of the hideous monster from the blazing chemicals of a huge cauldron in Frankenstein's laboratory is probably the most weird, mystifying and fascinating scene ever shown on a film. To Frankenstein's horror, instead of creating a marvel of physical beauty and grace, there is unfolded before his eyes and before the audience an awful, ghastly, abhorrent monster. As he realizes what he has done Frankenstein rushes from the room, only to have the misshapen monster peer at him through the curtains of his bed. He falls fainting to the floor, where he is found by his servant, who revives him. After a few weeks' illness, he returns home, a broken, weary man, but under the loving care of father and sweetheart he regains his health and strength and begins to take a less morbid view of life. In other words, the story of the film brings out the fact that the creation of the monster was only possible because Frankenstein had allowed his normal mind to be overcome by evil and unnatural thoughts. His marriage is soon to take place. But one evening, while sitting in his library, he chances to glance in the mirror before him and sees the reflection of the monster which has just opened the door of his room. All the terror of the past comes over him and, fearing lest his sweetheart should learn the truth, he bids the monster conceal himself behind the curtain while he hurriedly induces his sweetheart, who then comes in, to stay only a moment. Then follows a strong, dramatic scene. The monster, who is following his creator with the devotion of a dog, is insanely jealous of anyone else. He snatches from Frankenstein's coat the rose which his sweetheart has given him, and in the struggle throws Frankenstein to the floor, here the monster looks up and for the first time confronts his own reflection in the mirror. Appalled and horrified at his own image he flees in terror from the room. Not being able, howevers to live apart from his creator, he again comes to the house on the wedding night and, searching for the cause of his jealousy, goes into the bride's room. Frankenstein coming into the main room hears a shriek of terror, which is followed a moment after by his bride rushing in and falling in a faint at his feet. The monster then enters and after overpowering Frankenstein's feeble efforts by a slight exercise of his gigantic strength leaves the house. Here comes the point which we have endeavored to bring out, namely: That when Frankenstein's love for his bride shall have attained full strength and freedom from impurity it will have such an effect upon his mind that the monster cannot exist. This theory is clearly demonstrated in the next and closing scene, which has probably never been surpassed in anything shown on the moving picture screen. The monster, broken down by his unsuccessful attempts to be with his creator, enters the room, stands before a large mirror and holds out his arms entreatingly. Gradually, the real monster fades away, leaving only the image in the mirror. A moment later Frankenstein himself enters. As he stands directly before the mirror we are amazed to see the image of the monster reflected instead of Frankenstein's own. Gradually, however, under the effect of love and his better nature, the monster's image fades and Frankenstein sees himself in his young manhood in the mirror. His bride joins him, and the film ends with their embrace, Frankenstein's mind now being relieved of the awful horror and weight it has been laboring under for so long.


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Deceased--Leigh Van Valen

Leigh Van Valen
August 12th, 1935 to October 16th, 2010

"Leigh Van Valen, Evolution Revolutionary, Dies at 76"

by

Douglas Martin

October 30th, 2010

The New York Times

His beard, it was said, was longer than God’s but not as long as Charles Darwin’s. Thousands of books teetered perilously in his office, and a motion-sensitive door startled visitors with cricket chirps. He took notes on his own thoughts while conversing with others.

The evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen’s eccentricities were legend far beyond the University of Chicago, where brilliant and idiosyncratic professors rule. He named 20 fossil mammals he had discovered after characters in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fiction, and his most famous hypothesis — among the most cited in the literature of evolution — was named for the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.”

That hypothesis helped explain why organisms, competing for survival, developed two sexes. It did not explain why Professor Van Valen gave better grades to students who disagreed with him — provoking an instant evolutionary adaptation in the tone of student essays — much less why he wrote songs about the sex lives of dinosaurs and paramecia.

Dr. Van Valen, who died in Chicago on Oct. 16 at the age of 76, changed the conversation about how life works in 1973 when he put forward “a new evolutionary law.” Others call it Van Valen’s law.

Based on the study of fossils, it states that the length of a species’ existence says nothing about its chances of dying off. For Dr. Van Valen, evolution was an “arms race.” The best a species can do to survive, he said, is to respond to an adversary’s adaptations, quickly and ceaselessly. A modern lion, for example, might easily outwit an ancient antelope, but it might be no better at outwitting modern antelopes than ancient lions were at outwitting ancient antelopes, and vice versa. (The antelopes might run faster.)

Dr. Van Valen’s metaphor to describe this idea came from the Red Queen in Carroll’s “Looking Glass.” In the book, Alice complains that she is exhausted from running, only to find she is still under the tree where she started.

The Red Queen answers: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

Another renowned, white-bearded evolutionary biologist, Michael L. Rosenzweig, came up with pretty much the same idea the same year. He called the evolutionary running-in-place the “Rat Race.” In 1985, the journal Science said Dr. Van Valen’s more charming metaphor had prevailed among biologists.

Allan Larson, a biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, called “A New Evolutionary Law,” Dr. Van Valen’s paper on the subject, “one of the most influential and controversial works published in evolutionary biology.”

The range of Dr. Van Valen’s work was staggering, said David Jablonski, a professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago. Among his discoveries was that primates had co-existed with dinosaurs, which he later helped prove had survived a million years longer than thought.

Dr. Van Valen never wrote a book but churned out more than 300 papers, many of which provoked new directions of inquiry. After each, he tended to move on, often never publishing in the same field again.

“People have devoted their entire lives to working out the ramifications of some of his papers,” said Benedikt Hallgrimsson, a professor of cell biology and anatomy at the University of Calgary in Alberta.

Dr. Van Valen found that human intelligence correlated with brain size. His research on the human body’s asymmetry sparked papers on topics from social dominance to aging. He was one of the first to propose the idea of “fuzzy sets,” a mathematical means of addressing classes of phenomena that are different but closely related.

He explored the origin of whales, rabbits and bats, and refined the understanding of energy as evolution’s driving force.

“You couldn’t catch him on many things because he knew so damn much,” said William B. Provine, a historian of science at Cornell. “He could be a fly in the ointment in the sense that his ideas often upset people, and it took time for them to be accepted.”

While it might seem more efficient for an organism to reproduce without the need for a second sex, his Red Queen hypothesis maintained that sexual reproduction beats the asexual kind because the former multiplies the possible genetic combinations, bolstering a species’ ability to respond to an enemy’s adaptations.

Various experiments have upheld this hypothesis of adaptation, including one at the University of Liverpool this year. In hundreds of generations, it showed that bacteria adapt to fast-evolving viruses. When the ability to adapt to the virus was removed from bacteria, the evolution of bacteria slowed drastically.

Leigh Van Valen was born on Aug. 12, 1935, in Albany and was chosen “most academic” in the first grade. He earned a zoology degree at age 20 from Miami University of Ohio. As a graduate student at Columbia, he studied under George Gaylord Simpson and Theodosius Dobzhansky, both giants in honing the synthetic theory of evolution, which melded Darwin’s ideas about evolution with Mendel’s on genetics.

After earning his Ph.D. from Columbia, Dr. Van Valen did postdoctoral work at Columbia, University College London and the American Museum of Natural History. He joined the University of Chicago in 1967.

Dr. Van Valen died of complications of pneumonia, said his wife, Virginia Maiorana. He and his first wife, Phebe May Hoff, divorced in 1984, and he was separated from Ms. Maiorana. In addition to her, he is survived by his companion, Towako Katsuno, and a daughter, Katrina Van Valen. Another daughter, Diane, died in 1995.

After his Red Queen paper was initially, and repeatedly, rejected, Dr. Van Valen started his own journal, Evolutionary Theory, to publish it. As its longtime editor, he treated all submissions seriously. “It can be hard to tell a crank from an unfamiliar gear,” he wrote.

He also started the more lighthearted Journal of Insignificant Research. It ridiculed academic pomposity, exuberantly quoting learned articles that stated the obvious in a hopelessly tangled manner.

His whimsical approach further showed in his suggestion that a line of cancer cells used in countless experiments around the world had evolved into an independent species. But the human from whom the single-cell cancer cells were taken had, of course, evolved from a single cell 3.5 billion years ago.

So could the same group evolve twice? It is a tenet of evolutionary theory that evolution does not repeat itself. Dr. Van Valen, as a consequence, held back from suggesting a name for the seemingly new species — not even one from his beloved Tolkien.

But nothing could stop him from breaking out in song at scholarly meetings with one of his musical inspirations, like “Sex Among the Dinosaurs.” One line: “Stomp your feet, crack your tail, 6.6 on the Richter scale!”

Leigh Van Valen [Wikipedia]

Dead Sea Scrolls--all online soon


"Dead Sea Scrolls Going Digital"

The project aims to use space-age technology to create the clearest images possible of the ancient documents.

October 19th, 2010

DiscoveryNews

The Dead Sea scrolls, containing some of the oldest-known surviving biblical texts, are to go online as part of a collaboration between Israeli antiquities authorities and Google, developers said on Tuesday.

The $3.5-million project by the Israeli Antiquities Authority and the internet giant's local R&D division aims to use space-age technology to produce the clearest renderings yet of the ancient scrolls and make them available free of charge to the public.

"This is the most important discovery of the 20th century, and we will be sharing it with the most advanced technology of the next century," IAA project director Pnina Shor told reporters in Jerusalem.

The IAA will begin by using multi-spectral imaging technology developed by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration to produce high-resolution images of the sometimes-faded texts that may reveal new letters and words.

They will then partner with Google to place the images online in a searchable database complemented by translation and other scholarly tools.

"Imagine a world where everybody with an internet connection is able to access the most important works of human history," Google's Israel R&D director Yossi Mattias said at the same press conference.

He said the project would build on similar efforts by Google to put the public domain material of several European libraries online.

Shor said the first images should be posted online in the next few months, with the project completed within five years.

"From the minute all of this will go online there will be no need to expose the scrolls anymore, and anyone in his office or (on) his couch will be able to see it," she said.

The 900 biblical and other manuscripts, comprising some 30,000 fragments, were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea and photographed in their entirety with infra-red technology in the 1950s.

The parchment and papyrus scrolls contain Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic writing, and include several of the earliest-known texts from the Bible, including the oldest surviving copy of the Ten Commandments.

The oldest of the documents dates to the third century B.C. and the most recent to about 70 A.D., when Roman troops destroyed the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

The artifacts are housed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where the larger pieces are shown at the dimly lit Shrine of the Book on a rotational basis in order to minimize damage from exposure.

When not on show, they are kept in a dark, climate-controlled storeroom in conditions similar to those in the Qumran caves, where the humidity, temperature and darkness preserved the scrolls for two millennia.

Deceased--Ehud Netzer

Ehud Netzer
1934 to October 28th, 2010

"Ehud Netzer, Archeologist Who Unearthed Herod’s Tomb, Dies at 76"

by

Ethan Bronner

October 29th, 2010

The New York Times

Ehud Netzer, one of Israel’s best-known archeologists who unearthed King Herod’s tomb near Bethlehem three years ago, died on Thursday after being injured in a fall at the site. He was 76.

Mr. Netzer was leaning on a wooden safety rail on Monday when it gave way, sending him tumbling 15 feet. He was taken to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem with critical injuries and died there.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the death “a loss for his family, for scholars of Israel’s history and for archeology.”

Mr. Netzer, who was professor emeritus of archeology at Hebrew University, had led high-profile digs across the country and helped educate several generations of Israeli archeologists.

After three decades of research, he was the pre-eminent expert on Herodium, a fortified palace complex that Herod built atop a small mountain near Bethlehem when he ruled in the decades just before the birth of Jesus. Herod, the Rome-appointed king of Judea from 37 to 4 B. C., was famed for his monumental structures, including the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the desert fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea and Herodium.

Mr. Netzer announced in 2007 that he had found the remnants of Herod’s burial site, including pieces of a large sarcophagus made of pinkish Jerusalem limestone and decorated with carved floral motifs. He had been excavating the site since 1972.

The sarcophagus had been deliberately smashed to pieces during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans in A. D. 66 to 72, according to the historian Flavius Josephus, the main source from the time. The rebels despised Herod, whom they saw as a Roman puppet.

Mr. Netzer began his archeological career in the 1960s as part of the dig of Masada led by Yigael Yadin, the country’s best-known archeologist, who later went into politics. Masada is the site of a showdown between Roman legionnaires and Jewish rebels after the destruction of Herod’s temple in A. D. 70. That siege ended when the Jews committed suicide en masse and has become a potent symbol in contemporary Israel.

Mr. Netzer also dug up the oldest known synagogue near Jericho as well as a Hasmonean winter palace with gardens and pools, and led excavations in Zippori in northern Israel, where a well-known mosaic synagogue floor was found.

Mr. Netzer was also exceptional in that he published news of his excavations and findings promptly and in rich detail, according to Yosef Garfinkel, a colleague at Hebrew University.

Mr. Netzer is survived by his wife, Devora, three children and 10 grandchildren.

Ehud Netzer [Wikipedia]

"Searching for Herod’s Tomb"

Somewhere in the desert palace-fortress at Herodium, Palestine‘s master builder was buried

by

Ehud Netzer

Biblical Archaeology Review

I had no idea of searching for Herod‘s tomb when I began my archaeological work at Herodium. But I confess it has now become something of a minor obsession with me. Whether I will eventually achieve my goal is still an open question, but the search itself is instructive and enjoyable. Although I cannot, in all honesty, conceal my desire to find the tomb of the Holy Land‘s greatest builder, I shall nevertheless consider myself richly rewarded even if I continue to fail.

We know that Herod was buried at Herodium because Josephus tells us so. On a matter such as this, there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of this well-known, first-century Jewish historian, who was born in Palestine about 40 years after Herod‘s death in 4 B.C.

Herodium is a magnificent palace complex in the barren Judean hills eight miles south of Jerusalem and three and a half miles east of Bethlehem. Herod‘s decision to build a palace at this spot was not an accident. In 40 B.C., Herod had fought a crucial battle here against Mattathias Antigonus, the last Hasmonean (Maccabean) king. Antigonus had rebelled against his Roman overlords in collaboration with Rome‘s traditional enemy, the Parthians from Iran. Herod, the consummate politician, refused to join Antigonus‘s revolt. Instead, Herod fled south from Jerusalem with his close family and bodyguards, heading for the safety of his fortress at Masada. Antigonus and his troops pursued and at the site of what would someday be Herodium, Herod turned and fought, winning a decisive battle that allowed him to continue his escape. Passing with difficulty through Arabia and Egypt, Herod finally reached Rome, where Mark Anthony nominated him king of Judea. With Mark Anthony‘s nomination, Herod was quickly elected by the Roman Senate, but it took three years of constant war with Antigonus before Herod was able to assume his new position.

Only hours before the crucial battle with Antigonus at the future site of Herodium, Herod lived through another terrifying experience. Josephus tells us that as Herod and his family were fleeing Jerusalem, the chariot carrying Herod‘s mother overturned, seriously injuring her. Herod was so shocked and anguished that he nearly committed suicide. Indeed, he had drawn his sword and was about to stab himself when his friends restrained him. Herod then ministered to his injured mother, who eventually recovered.

This traumatic personal experience and the crucial battle with Antigonus that followed no doubt left a deep impression on Herod. Twenty years passed before he returned to the battlefield, this time as an established and active king, as well as an experienced builder. His feelings toward the place were so strong that he decided not only to commemorate his victory there but also to name the site after himself—the only site to which he gave his name.b More than that, he decided to be buried there.

Although Herodium consists of both a mountain palace-fortress and a lower complex of buildings, when people think of Herodium, they immediately focus on the spectacular, cone-shaped, artificial mountain. Through the ages many scholars have believed and even now believe that Herod‘s tomb lies somewhere undiscovered within this unique mountain palace-fortress.

Herod built this mountain palace-fortress on top of a natural hill. The main feature of the structure is a cylinder-like wall. The cylinder, approximately 200 feet in diameter, consists of two concentric circular walls with a corridor 39 feet wide between the two walls. When this cylinder was constructed, it rose about 90 feet above bedrock. Between the two concentric walls there were seven stories—two sub-structural cellars with barrel-vaulted ceilings and five stories of corridors that also served as storage areas. Today the two or three uppermost stories are no longer extant.

When the cylinder wall was completed, a massive fill of earth and gravel was added on the outside. The fill reached to about the fifth floor (counting the lowest of the two subcellars as the first floor), or to approximately two-thirds of the height of the cylinder. Thus, only about one-third of the cylinder wall was exposed after the fill was heaped up outside. Inside, Herod built a spacious, private palace on a level platform he created on top of the natural hill. The outside fill reached three stories above this platform!

This fill imparts to the huge structure a cone-like shape, with the palace inside far below the top of the wall, giving the mountain the appearance of a volcano with building remains inside its crater.

The fill-created conic shape transformed the structure into a distinctive monument. The steep slope formed by the fill, together with the upper free-standing part of the cylinder walls and the towers built into them, made it extraordinarily difficult to penetrate the fortress. No doubt the fill was not added later, but was planned from the beginning as an integral part of the structure.

Within the cylinder walls, Herod built a private, intimate, exotic and protected palace, divided into two equal parts. In the eastern half was an oblong courtyard surrounded by a peristyle. At either end was a semicircular niche, or exedra, for a statue. Originally, the courtyard was full of planted bushes and colorful flowers, with pathways between them.

The western half of the palace contained the living quarters. Sleeping rooms and living rooms surrounded a cross-shaped room that probably included a square, open courtyard in the center. South of the sleeping and living rooms was the triclinium—the official reception and dining room (45 feet long by 30 feet wide). At a later stage (during the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans), this room was transformed into a synagogue by the addition of benches around the walls and four columns to support a new roof.

On the northern side of the sleeping and living quarters was a complete Roman bathhouse. Here Herod, accompanied by his intimate friends, enjoyed the comforts of the bath. A fairly large, barrel-vaulted room served as the hot room (caldarium). From there one passes through a round warm room (tepidarium), which is still covered by a beautiful stone cupola, to the small cold room (frigidarium) containing a stepped water basin.

The palace on top of the hill was about 100 feet above the base of the cone. It could be entered in only one way: by a steep stairway nearly 500 feet long that went directly up the mountain, first outside for about 300 feet, then through a tunnel in the mountain for the remaining 200 feet. Josephus counted 200 steps, but I assume there were many more. I doubt if the stairs were made of white marble, as he described them. They were probably of hewn stone.

Four prominent towers on the outside of the cylinder wall overlook the palace and command a wide view of the surrounding countryside. They precisely mark the points of the compass. Three of these towers are substantially the same. They are semicircular and are built against and bonded to the outer cylinder wall. Originally, each contained about 20 rooms distributed over five or six stories (60 rooms altogether in the three semicircular towers). Only in the upper stories did these rooms have windows; no windows were present in the lower floors of the towers, because these floors were covered with fill piled outside the walls. The illuminated rooms above the fill were probably used for palace staff or guards, perhaps even for guests of the king. The unlit rooms in the lower stories served either for storage or as dormitories for servants or soldiers.

The eastern tower is unique. It is round, not semicircular. It extends through both the inner and outer cylinder walls and into the oblong courtyard. An examination of its construction reveals that it was the first structure built at Herodium—even the cylinder walls were built later. The walls of the cylinder are not bonded to this tower. Its diameter, 55 feet, makes it larger than the other three towers. Moreover, to its extant height it is solid, except for a water cistern and two small cellars. Originally the cellars, which served now-missing upper stories, were entered from their roof.

Several levels of apartments must have topped the eastern tower at Herodium—making up a secondary dwelling unit, just as Josephus suggests existed on top of the towers Herod built in Jerusalem. At Herodium this secondary dwelling unit must have been especially important because the palace dwellers inside the mountain suffered from two major disadvantages the lack of wind (especially on a hot day) and the lack of visual contact with the outside world. The apartments on top of the eastern tower made up for these disadvantages. Here Herod could repair and enjoy a gentle breeze even on the hottest day and gaze at the beauty of the landscape. The view of the Judean desert, the Dead Sea and the distant mountains of Moab is truly breathtaking.

Many scholars believe that Herod‘s tomb lies at the base of this tower or somewhere within it. I am sure, however, that the tomb is not here.

The ancient Jews did not bury their dead inside buildings, especially buildings that had been used as dwellings. They did not even use places attached to dwellings for burials. Tombs and cemeteries had to be isolated.

No evidence of a tomb has so far been found anywhere inside the hilltop palace. Although Herod could have been buried inside the base of the eastern tower, Jewish religious laws, as I indicated above, preclude this; the solid base of the eastern tower was not built to hide a tomb but as a result of architectural and structural considerations.

Herod built a number of monumental towers with solid bases, several of which are described by Josephus in great detail. In Jerusalem, Herod built three famous towers at the northern end of his palace, one named for his brother Phasael, one for his friend Hippicus and a third for Mariamne, his wife. Hippicus, Josephus says, was “solid throughout” and rose to a height of 80 cubits.c Phasael had a “solid base” and was 90 cubits high. Mariamne was “solid to a height of only 70 cubits.” The solid foundations were probably necessary because of the towers‘ great heights, particularly because of the danger of earthquakes. Josephus tells us that sometimes, as with Hippicus, a water cistern was built on top of the solid foundation. (At Herodium, a water cistern survives on top of the eastern tower.)

Thus, it was common for Herod to build impressively high towers, all probably with solid bases, and to name them in honor of his friends and relatives. These towers served as military observation posts, but more important, as striking monuments. A similar impulse in other historical periods has led to the construction of church towers and minarets. In the Middle Ages, city palaces in Italy had towers. Among the most famous still standing are those of Bologna and San Gimignano.

If Herod‘s towers were indeed built primarily as monuments and military structures, then the dramatic structure with its towers on the mountaintop was built not as a mausoleum, but as an integral part of the mountain palace, a fortress and a monument both to Herod‘s great name and to his military victory at this site. It was not his burial place.

If Herod was not buried on the mountaintop, then where at Herodium was he buried? Possibly, Herod‘s tomb is inside the hill, far below the level of the palace-fortress. However, the inside of the hill is not totally terra incognita. Over the years, we have studied a complex system of tunnels cut into the hill during the second Jewish Revolt against the Romans (132 A.D.–135 A.D.). Herodium had already been occupied by the Zealots during the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans (66 A.D.–70 A.D.). After that, Herodium was neglected, but during the second Jewish Revolt the mountain was again used as a fortress. This time the Jewish warriors decided to improve the defensive possibilities by digging a system of tunnels along the northeastern slope of the mountain, on both sides of the stairway. Three large Herodian water cisterns that had been carved into this side of the mountain were integrated into the tunnel system as junction points. The cisterns were also used to store the debris from the construction of the tunnels. The tunnels were connected at one end with the building on top of the hill; at the other end, they were connected with the outside by a few hidden outlets situated on the steep slopes. This gave the fortress‘s defenders a hidden underground tunnel system, unknown to the Romans. From here, the Jewish ‘defenders could surprise the Romans or hide from them if they reached the mountain top. During our investigation of these tunnels—more than 750 feet of them—we found no sign of a tomb. My belief is that Herod‘s tomb is somewhere near the base of the mountain.

Although I have studied the mountain palace-fortress, measured it and performed some small sondages there, and have even studied the tunnels inside the mountain, the great bulk of my Herodium excavations have been undertaken at what is called Lower Herodium, the complex of buildings at the foot of the mountain. As my studies have shown, these buildings were an integral part of the larger complex that archaeologists call Greater Herodium.

Earlier archaeological excavations focused on the mountaintop. In a way, it was through those earlier excavations that I was first drawn to Herodium.

Father Virgilio Corbo directed the first archaeological excavation at Herodium from 1963 to 1967—a Franciscan mission excavating on behalf of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. As an Israeli, I could not visit Herodium during those years. The only spot from which I could view Herodium was the observatory at Ramat Rahel, just south of Jerusalem, atop an Iron Age palace-fortress excavated by the late Yohanan Aharoni. Even from that distance, Herodium was breathtaking.

In 1963, Father Corbo visited Masada, where I was working as an architect in the excavation and reconstruction of that magnificent site. None of the members of the Masada expedition could speak Italian. Neither could I, but since I had picked up a few words of Italian on visits to Italy, I volunteered to escort Father Corbo around Masada. As we walked together, Father Corbo told me of his excavations, at Herodium. I listened with excitement.

About four years later, a few days after the Six Day War, I visited Herodium for the first time. It was an unforgettable experience. Now I have been to Herodium hundreds of times, but even after all these years and after four seasons of excavations, I am still awestruck each time by the grandeur of this man-made mountain monument.

In 1972, I was ready to begin working on my Ph.D. thesis at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the direction of Yigael Yadin. It was he who suggested that I take the Herodian remains at Jericho and Herodium as my topic. Though I could have undertaken the project just by sitting in the library studying and analyzing the reports of earlier excavations, I decided in addition to go to the field and to study the site with a pickax and spade, that is, by excavation.

What attracted me most were the widespread remains at Lower Herodium. An aerial photograph of the entire site was of enormous help while I was deciding where to dig; it revealed just how extensive the remains of Lower Herodium were. Indeed, this aerial photograph was to become my guide and my compass.

The most prominent feature of Lower Herodium is a great pool, now of course dry. Even in its present condition, it is impressive. It is over nine feet deep and measures 135 feet wide by 210 feet long. In one corner of the pool, stairs nearly eight feet wide are preserved.

The walls of the pool, which are five feet thick, are constructed of large, rough, partly drafted stones. A gray hydraulic mortar mixture consisting of lime and ashes was applied to the walls to prevent seepage. The pool itself was partly cut into the bedrock and partly built on top of a fill. Originally the pool was fed by an aqueduct from springs three and a half miles away at Urtas.

Although we found no evidence of colonnades, footpaths or gardens, they must have been part of this large and important pool complex. East of the pool was a large, artificially leveled area whose upper layer was thick, pure, brown-black earth that was probably brought here for the gardens surrounding the pool. At Jericho we found some vivid remains of the garden surrounding the pool. We did not find similar remains at Herodium, probably because the ground here is cultivated yearly and farmers long ago destroyed any evidence of the gardens and colonnades surrounding the pool.

In the center of the pool—on what was a little island—are the remains of a large circular building about 40 feet in diameter. We exposed only part of the remains, but enough to enable us to get a clear picture of the original building—probably a colonnaded pavilion.

One early explorer in Palestine, the Frenchman, Felicien De Saulcy, conjectured that Herod was buried in this island pavilion, but De Saulcy conducted a small dig and found no evidence to support his hypothesis. Our own excavations and analysis of the surrounding area refute any suggestion that this was Herod‘s tomb.

The pool served as a water reservoir, a swimming pool, a lake for small sailing boats and, most important, as an architectural focus for Lower Herodium. Here were the pleasure grounds of Lower Herodium that vied with the artificial mountain palace-fortress itself in beauty and grandeur. In an area where water was scarce, here was water aplenty.

The island pavilion served as a small exotic reception hall that could be reached only by boat. We have discovered no evidence of a bridge to the island. The elegant pavilion set off the beauty of the pool and its surrounding gardens. From ancient drawings, we know that at each of several other sites a round pavilion or tower was located at the center of a rectangular pool. A similar pavilion was probably part of the middle terrace of the northern palace at Masada.

Between the pool and the mountain, just at the foot of the mountain, are the remains of a huge building. At the end of the last century, Claude R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener of the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund carefully surveyed this 400-foot-long building. We too studied the remains which, unfortunately, are poorly preserved. We concluded from its size and location that this building must have been the central palace at Herodium. It is more than twice as large in area as the entire mountain palace-fortress. Built on an elevated platform (a few of the large, vaulted, substructural halls remain), this lower palace was clearly the most prominent building in Lower Herodium. Herod‘s retinue stayed in this lower palace, as no doubt did Herod himself when he did not want to go up to the mountain palace-fortress.

From the early stages of our work at the site, we were especially interested in and curious about an artificial terrace in front of the lower palace. We call this artificial terrace simply “the Course.” It is instructive to look at the Course in the aerial photograph. To the observant eye it is different from the largely natural agricultural terraces that continue above it on the left. The Course is large. It is almost 1,100 feet long and 80 feet wide, nearly three times longer than the huge palace above it. The eastern end of the Course is clearly defined; beyond it the hillside is covered with natural rocks. On the lower (north) side of the Course parts of the original retaining wall may be seen. At the western end of the Course is perhaps the most significant building we have yet found at Herodium. We call it the Monumental Building.

At first I assumed that the Course was a hippodrome for horse races and chariot races. With this in mind, we paid special attention to the building that we at first thought was a U-shaped structure at the Course‘s western end. We assumed at this stage that this building was a small theater-like building from which Herod and his friends watched the races. But what we thought was a U-shaped building turned out to be a square building. It was not a theater, but a Monumental Building containing an elaborate hall. Moreover, colleagues more familiar with hippodromes convinced me I was wrong to identify the Course as a hippodrome because the Course was too narrow to be a hippodrome. (A few years later I located and exposed the hippodrome Herod built at Jericho, which was three times as wide as the Course at Herodium.) However, I have no doubt that the Course was connected harmoniously with the Monumental Building.

The Monumental Building measures roughly 45 feet by 45 feet. Its northern and southern walls are over 10 feet thick. Inside, is a single hall with a series of niches between pilasters extending from the walls. In a few places, plaster fragments are preserved, indicating that the inside walls were covered with frescoes. The building was built on bedrock and was even partially cut into bedrock.

After our excavation season ended, we analyzed all our finds, and suddenly the idea occurred to me that this Monumental Building may have been Herod‘s mausoleum. From then on, the idea shaped our thinking and planning.

In the following season, we excavated the northern half of this structure. Since it is symmetrical, we thought that excavating the northern half would make excavation of the southern half unnecessary. We also thought that excavating the northern half might lead us to Herod‘s burial cave, which we speculated might be behind the building. Unfortunately, the cave was not there.

In several ensuing seasons, we were unable to explain the function of the Monumental Building—or of the artificial terrace onto which the Monumental Building opens. The Monumental Building is too massively built to be a reception hall or a pavilion or even a library. Its side walls are ten feet thick. The unusual thickness of these walls indicates they supported a barrel-vaulted ceiling, an upper story or perhaps a monumental roof. Not only the size of the Monumental Building but also its dimensions and relatively isolated location puzzled us. There is nothing like it at other Herodian palaces. The possibility that it might be connected with Herod‘s tomb continued to intrigue us. Connecting the Monumental Building with Herod‘s burial also suggested a function for the Course. Perhaps the terrace had been built as a parade ground for Herod‘s elaborate military funeral, described in detail by Josephus.

We next speculated that the entrance to Herod‘s burial cave might be hidden in the southern wall of the Monumental Building, which abutted the natural slope of the hill. So in 1978, we returned to the site and exposed the remaining half of the Monumental Building. Our excavations revealed that the ruined eastern facade, opposite the course, once contained three entrances. But for all our efforts and hopes, we found no tomb.

Over the years, we excavated a number of other areas at Lower Herodium and established that Lower Herodium was an integral part of the mountain palace-fortress, built contemporaneously with it. The whole complex of Greater Herodium covered an extensive area of approximately 45 acres, requiring a huge architectural and engineering effort. Indeed, of all the known Roman palaces, only two are larger than Herodium—the Villa Adriana near Tivoli and Nero‘s Golden House at Rome. Both are considerably later than Herodium. Herodium was no doubt Herod‘s main summer palace, secondary only to his large central palace at Jerusalem. Herodium was a harmonious integration of a countryside palace, rich in gardens and orchards, with a monument, a fortress, the burial place of Herod and a district capital.

The riddle of the Monumental Building continued to bother me, however, and in 1980 we returned to Lower Herodium for our fourth season. Our main target was the Monumental Building and its adjacent rooms. We still wanted to locate Herod‘s burial cave—if it was there. And we wanted to leave no possibility open that we had missed the spot, if the cave was not there.

We examined the area north of the Monumental Building and exposed a staircase that connected the Monumental Building to the pool complex, which was about 12 feet higher than the Monumental Building. On the southern side of the Monumental Building we found an adjacent room, part of the Monumental Building, that appeared to be promising. It was full of fallen ashlar stones, and clearing it was slow and difficult. Most of the room had been cut into natural bedrock, a perfect location for a burial tomb. But we were disappointed again. I was close to abandoning hope.

Since we had only a few days remaining before the end of the season, we decided to concentrate our effort in one corner of the Monumental Building in an effort to understand the architectural relationship between the Monumental Building and the southern end of the Course.

Here we were surprised to find a large number of ashlar stones quite different from anything we had seen in all previous seasons. These distinctively Herodian stones were of exceptional quality, with well-carved margins and elevated bosses. Such elegant ashlars had appeared nowhere else at Herodium, not even on the mountaintop. They were lying in the debris as if they had fallen from an adjacent building. We were thrilled! We were on the verge of discovering another monument—perhaps the burial monument—when the season ended.

We returned to the area two months later, in October 1980, only to find that the beautiful ashlars were reused; in about the fifth century A.D., they formed the wall of a Byzantine church. This was the third Byzantine church we had exposed in Lower Herodium. (During the fifth and sixth centuries, Lower Herodium was occupied by a Byzantine settlement.)

We had not expected to find a large church on the slope of the mountain. Indeed, we were expecting to find a Herodian monument. But the church had in fact been built there with reused, beautifully carved Herodian stones. The stones had fallen from the church, and not from the Herodian monument in which they must originally have been used.

These beautiful ashlar stones are tantalizing, for they are unique at Herodium. Although most of the other buildings at the site, including the mountain palace-fortress and the Monumental Building, were built of carefully carved ashlars, they were originally faced with lime plaster. Not only from our work at Herodium but also from our work at Jericho and even at Masada, we knew of Herod‘s fondness for smooth white plaster as a high quality interior and exterior finish for buildings. The ashlar stones that were found reused in the newly discovered church, however, originally had not been covered with coats of plaster. And they were made of a much harder stone, with smoothly cut margins and projecting bosses. They must have been used in a building with a monumental facing surpassing anything found so far at Herodium.

Moreover, some of these stones show evidence of being part of a Doric frieze. Such friezes have been found in Jerusalem tombs of the period, including Absalom‘s tomb in the Kidron Valley and the so-called “Tomb of the Kings” near St. George‘s School. I believe that these stones at Herodium were part of a monument related to Herod‘s burial.

Whether we are close to solving the secret of Herod‘s tomb, I cannot say. If a burial cave exists, even if we find it, it was probably looted in antiquity. But it would not surprise us to find a cave that used these beautifully carved stones, stones befitting the burial of the greatest builder in the history of the ancient land of Israel.

Harry Houdini




Harry Houdini
March 24th 1874 to October 31st, 1926

Master of illusion and dispiser of spiritualism.

Harry Houdini [Wikipedia]

Coulrophobia



Time to add a new word to one's vocabulary--coulrophobia...and how appropriate today. I am talking about the fear of CLOWNS. Revered as funny and capricious they also have a dark side of menace and horror and one should fear clowns. The only clowns I can tolerate are the ones in Federico Fellini's I, Clowns.



Coulrophobia [Wikipedia]...

Coulrophobia is an abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns. The term is common, but is not commonly used in psychology. The prefix "coulro-" comes from the Ancient Greek κωλοβαθριστής (kōlobathristēs), “one who goes on stilts”. Coulrophobia can also be said to extend to a fear of covering up one's face with paint—the idea of hiding recognisable features under a layer of face paint can also unsettle coulrophobia sufferers.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

700 new species...from Indian amber


"Ancient Amber Reveals 700 New Insect Species"

October 26th, 2010

Science News

Researchers have discovered more than 700 new species of prehistoric insects in a 50-million-year-old amber deposit in India.

The 330 lb. deposit, dubbed Cambay amber, was unearthed in lignite mines in the Cambay Shale on the coast of India's Gujarat province. It is the oldest evidence of a tropical broadleaf rainforest in Asia, said the international team of researchers from Germany, India and the United States.

The bees, termites, spiders, and flies entombed in the newly excavated deposit challenge conventional wisdom that India was an isolated island-continent during the Early Eocene, 50-52 million years ago.

In fact, many of the new species are related to those from far-away corners of the world, indicating that despite its isolation in the ocean the region was much more biologically diverse than previously believed, the scientists said.

"We know India was isolated, but when and for precisely how long is unclear," said David Grimaldi, curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History.

"The biological evidence in the amber deposit shows that there was some biotic connection."

Dr. Jes Rust, professor of Invertebrate Paleontology at the University of Bonn in Germany, said the discovery reveals clues about India’s ancient history.

"The insects trapped in the fossil resin cast a new light on the history of the sub-continent,” he said.

"The amber shows, similar to an old photo, what life looked like in India just before the collision with the Asian continent," said Rust, who led the team of researchers.

The deposits contain numerous insect bodies, some of which are extremely well preserved, despite their age.

"The amber has not been completely polymerized, allowing it to be dissolved easily.”

So far, the scientists have discovered more than 700 arthropods from 55 different genera – mostly insects, but also spiders, mites, and plant parts.

CLUES TO THE PAST

According to the predominant theory of the formation of the continents, there were originally just two “supercontinents” on Earth -- Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south.

When Gondwana split up into many smaller pieces some 160 million years ago, most of its parts stayed within the southern hemisphere. However, one large piece is believed to have "broken off", drifting on the ocean in isolation at a speed of roughly 20 centimeters per year towards the north. Eventually, 100-million-years later, this land mass collided with Asia, forming the modern day Indian subcontinent and creating the mighty Himalayan mountains.

Scientists have long believed that drifting along in such isolation would have contributed to a potentially unique plant and animal life unique to the region, something biologists call “endemism”. However, India’s primarily tropical climate has been unfavorable to the preservation of fossils, making it hard to confirm this hypothesis.

So far, the present discovery reveals little endemism. In fact, most of the newly discovered insects show links to modern bugs, as well as those that lived millions of years ago in different parts of the world.

Dr. Rust said this might be explained by land-bridge connections between India and other landmasses during the time the continent drifted across the ocean.

"It is possible for plants to drift hundreds of kilometers on open ocean currents, and in the case of insects, some can fly," Rust told BBC News.

"There are those that are only able to fly during mating, but they can fly at least a few kilometers.”

"Not many are able to cross open seaways, but [they can] drift with plant material. Then there are also very tiny insects and they sometimes simply get blown away, up to the jet stream."

ANCIENT RAINFORESTS

The scientists said the resin that later became Cambay amber originated from an ancient tropical rainforest.

"The Indian amber is from the Lower Eocene and was likely produced by flowering hardwood trees called Dipterocarpaceae, [trees] that predominate in the forests of Southeast Asia today," said Paul Nascimbene of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The researchers used chemical fingerprinting to determine the origin of the amber, and analyzed the wood anatomy of fossilized branches and trunks at the site.

"Fossil wood samples were also recovered in association with the amber, [and they] showed that these samples preserved details of the wood's microstructure, pointing to dipterocarps as the probable source," Nascimbene told BBC News.

The researchers were also able to determine the age of the modern rainforest.

Until now, experts believed this type of tropical rainforest, found today all over the South-East Asia, first originated 20 to 25 million years ago. However, the recent discovery disputes that belief, and indicates the rainforest is at least 60 million years old.

"What we have here from India is the earliest fossil evidence of a modern type of tropical rainforest [of the Dipterocarpaceae family] in Asia," said David Grimaldi from the American Museum of Natural History.

"Before, we just had no idea to how ancient the dipterocarp forests that occur in South-East Asia today really are; there really was no indication,” he told BBC News.

Grimaldi said one challenge in determining the modern rainforest's age was the lack of fossil deposits, which are highly uncommon in tropical regions.

"Most of the fossil outcrops are in drier, very eroded areas of the northern hemisphere or southern parts of southern hemisphere, but not so much in the equatorial belt,” he said.

"Most of the fossil evidence from tropical South America indicated that rainforests were no later than Miocene, no more than 25 million years old.”

"And secondly, people for a century or more had always thought of the tropics as a place where species are evolving very rapidly.”

"And perhaps as a result they thought it was a very recent type of ecosystem,” he told BBC News.

"But in reality, they're like an ancient cauldron - they're very ancient ecosystems, at least ancient on land, at least twice [the age we previously thought]."

In addition to the rainforest's age and India's biogeography, the most surprising part of the amber discovery was the enormous number of perfectly preserved insect specimens, most of which have never been seen before.

The unique softness of the Indian amber allowed researchers to totally dissolve the amber using the solvents toluene and chloroform, and then extract the insects, plants and fungi.

"We have complete, three-dimensionally preserved specimens that are 52 million years old and you can handle them almost like living ones," said Rust.

"Of course they are very fragile, but it is still astonishing.”

"We have several examples where it is possible to get a complete specimen out. And of course this opens a new dimension in investigations of this material,” said Rust, adding that this amber deposit was the first important one ever discovered in India.

Although amber is widespread throughout the world, the best-known deposits are in the Baltic region, which contains 80% of the world's known amber, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

"There are tons of amber [in this Indian deposit], and what is interesting about it is that it was produced in the tropics, the most highly diverse areas in respect to species diversity," said Rust.

"And the fossil record of the terrestrial tropics is not so good, because usually all the organic material gets rotten very quickly."

With tons of amber at their disposal, Rust said the researchers looked forward to uncovering many more mysteries of our ancient world.


Amber's encapsulated gems

Disgruntled philosophy scholars and World Philosophy Day



"Scholars protest against holding World Philosophy Day in Iran"

October 26th, 2010

Payvand Iran News

As Iran prepares to host the 2010 World Philosophy Day in Tehran, academics from around the world are organizing protests against Unesco's choice of host for this event.

The World Philosophy Day began in 2002 at Unesco's headquarters in Paris. Since then it has been held in several other countries including Chile, Turkey and Russia.

ILNA reports that former head of parliament, Gholamali Hadad Adel who is also in charge of World Philosophy Day preparations in Tehran along with his committee described the aims of the event as: "Gathering of philosophers and thinkers in order to discuss and exchange philosophical ideas, supporting enrichment of philosophy as one of the main pillars of moving toward excellence, greater understanding of Iranian- Islamic principles of philosophy and familiarity of Iranian students and researchers with the latest scientific- philosophical findings and accomplishments in the world."

He added that the city of Qom, the headquarters of Iranian clergy, is directly involved in the organization of this event and only writers from Qom are commissioned to write articles for presentation at the philosophy congress.

After emphasizing the importance of Islamic philosophy in the gathering, they also announced that the committee has organized a number of recreational activities for the participants, including visits to Tehran's cultural and historical centres as well as a trip to Esfahan.

Over 400 philosophers have been invited to the World Philosophy Day in Tehran but in an unprecedented move, the organizers have announced that the list of guests will not be publicized.

The organizers have explained their decision to keep the guest list secret saying that they want to avoid protesters contacting the guests to dissuade them from participating in the event in Tehran.

The event has been overshadowed by serious protests outside Iran. An announcement prepared by Iranian scholar, Ramin Jahanbegloo and two Italian philosophers called on scholars from around the world to boycott the event.

Mohammadreza Nikfar Iranian philosopher who has also signed the protest announcement, told Radio Zamaneh: "Philosophy needs an open space for exchange of ideas in order to grow and develop. Those who condemned Socrates to death could only be too shameless if they established an academy of philosophy. It is shameless that Iran's prominent philosophers are in exile or completely isolated in the country, while the regime invites foreign guests and pretends that it is possible to philosophize in Iran. They have suspended the teaching of humanities including philosophy in order to make it compatible with their own ideology."

A group of Iranian intellectuals and philosophy scholars have written in their protest announcement that last summer following the post election protest, the humanities was in effect condemned as a discipline in the Iranian court. They add that the Islamic Republic has since attacked the universities with greater "censorship and oppression."

The signatories of the announcement urge all writers who have been commissioned to write articles for this congress to refrain from submitting their work.

Last Tuesday another announcement was issued against holding World Philosophy Day in Tehran which was signed by prominent Iranian writers and scholars in exile such as Daryoosh Ashouri, Ramin Jahanbegloo and Mohammadreza Nikfar. Radio Zamaneh was told that signatures are being consistently added to this announcement and some Iranian scholars and academics inside Iran have also signed the petition to stop the event in Iran.

Sue Williams, a spokeswoman for Unesco defended the organization's decision to hold the event in Tehran saying: "Since 2002, Iran has always participated in World Philosophy Day event; so when Tehran offered to host an event this year, Unesco accepted."

Jahanbegloo challenges the appropriateness of holding the World Philosophy Day in Iran saying: "This is a government which has jailed scores of scholars and writers in the past five years, and where you have a total ban on independent thought and critical thinking."

Iranian protesters maintain that the event is being used as a propaganda exercise for a brutal regime.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fiction...an Internet 1,000X faster?



We were also told of the reality of the above...so, do you believe this...

"Tomorrow's Internet: 1,000 times faster"

by

Scott Jaschik

October 21st, 2010

physorg.com

Imagine if all the data traversing the world right now -- on long distance networks and between and within computers and other hardware -- could be sent through a single fiber the width of a human hair.

A new research center has been launched at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to make that a reality. Researchers with the Terabit Optical Ethernet Center (TOEC) will develop the technology necessary for a new generation of Ethernet a thousand times faster, and much more energy efficient, than today's most advanced networks. They are aiming for 1 Terabit Ethernet over optical fiber -- 1 trillion bits per second—by 2015, with the ultimate goal of enabling 100 Terabit Ethernet by 2020.

Partnering with TOEC as founding industry affiliates are Google Inc., Verizon, Intel, Agilent Technologies and Rockwell Collins Inc.

Internet traffic is booming, as businesses and institutions handle massive quantities of data and consumers stream video, share high-resolution photos and battle it out in online games. Millions of people will soon be consuming billions of bits per second in their living rooms, all at the same time.

"We're going to need much faster networking to handle the explosion in Internet traffic and support new large-scale applications like cloud computing," says Daniel Blumenthal, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCSB and Director of TOEC, which is part of UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE).

"The work that will be conducted at TOEC will enable the future of the Internet," says Stuart Elby, Vice President of Network Architecture for Verizon.

Ethernet, the way computers talk to each other over a network, has become the de facto standard for data transmission both on a small scale and across global networks. "It's an accepted, flexible interface," says Internet pioneer David Farber, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and former Chief Technologist for the Federal Communications Commission.

Ethernet is constantly evolving, but soon—in as little as five years, according to some estimates—it won't be able to keep up with the speed and bandwidth required for applications like video and cloud computing, and distributed data storage.

"Based on current traffic growth, it's clear that 1 Terabit per second trunks will be needed in the near future," Elby says.

Not only will Terabit Ethernet soon be needed to satisfy the demands created by the way we use networks now, but Farber says high-performance, high-speed Ethernet will open up opportunities we couldn't dream of today: "You build it, they will come."

"We are excited to be part of this new center and look forward to working with the other members to enable this future capability," says Mario Paniccia, Director of Intel's Photonics Technology Lab.

Current Ethernet technologies can't be pushed much past 100 Gigabits per second—the speed that's beginning to be implemented now—mainly because of the amount of power needed to run and cool the required systems, Blumenthal says. Large data centers can consume as much power as a small city. New generations of Ethernet need to be much more energy-efficient and cost-effective, or the power problem will limit Ethernet development, crippling the growth of key U.S. industries and technologies.

"Our goal," Blumenthal says, "is to make energy-saving technologies that will allow applications and the underlying networks to continue to scale as needed. You could think of it as greening future networks, and the systems that rely on those networks."

To achieve that, and drive Ethernet toward 100 Terabits per second, fundamental improvements in the underlying technologies will be required, he adds. "We're going to need dramatic breakthroughs across multiple disciplines, not only in the core Ethernet technologies but in Ethernet-based networking and in the engineering and measurement systems used to develop and test these new technologies," Blumenthal says.

Research at TOEC will build on UCSB's world-leading expertise in materials, advanced electronics, photonic integrated circuit technology, silicon photonics and high-speed integrated optical and electronic circuits, and in bridging these new technologies with real networking systems. Blumenthal says new low-cost, energy-efficient optical technologies that leverage the techniques now used in semiconductor manufacturing will be the foundation for the Ethernet of the future.

"Our strategy of using silicon photonics to create low-cost, integrated, Terabit-per-second devices," says Paniccia of Intel, "fits perfectly with TOEC's charter for energy-efficient high-speed Ethernet."

Doug Baney, Senior Research Manager at testing and measurement company Agilent Technologies, says "the characterization of the high-speed and complex nature of future Terabit Ethernet communications opens up whole new challenges in measurement instrumentation. That's a critical area that needs to be solved in tandem with component and system development to help pave the way to Terabit Ethernet deployment."

Strange bedfellows: University research and commercial businesses


"Commodification of Academic Research"

by

Scott Jaschik

October 25th, 2010

Inside Higher Ed

With universities facing pressure to show the value of their research, to promote economic development and to find new sources of revenue, links between academic researchers and business are being encouraged and scrutinized intensely. The essays in a new book -- The Commodification of Academic Research: Science and the Modern University (University of Pittsburgh Press) -- explore these issues. The authors of the essays and their content explore these issues in the United States and other countries as well. The editor of the volume is Hans Radder, a professor of the philosophy of science and technology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who responded to e-mailed questions about the themes of the volume.

Q: Academic research has always cost money to produce, and led to products that made money for others. How is the "commodification" of research different today than in past periods?

A: Commodification means that all kinds of activities and their results are predominantly interpreted and assessed on the basis of economic criteria. In this sense, recent academic research is far more commodified than it was in the past. In general terms, one can say that the relation between "money" and specific academic activity has become much more direct. Consider the following examples: first, the amount of external funding acquired is often used as a measure of individual academic quality; second, specific assessments by individual scientists have a direct impact on departmental budgets; for instance, if I now pass this doctoral dissertation, my department receives a substantial sum of money; if not, it ends up with a budget deficit; third, the growing practice of patenting the results of academic research is explicitly aimed at acquiring commercial monopolies. Related to these financial issues are important and substantial changes of academic culture. Universities are increasingly being run as big corporations. They have a top-down command structure and an academic culture in which individual university scientists are forced to behave like mini-capitalists in order to survive, guided by an entrepreneurial ethos aimed at maximizing the capitalization of their knowledge.

Q: What do you see as the main dangers of this commodification?

A: First, the prevalence of economic criteria may lead to bad science. The most well-known example of this is the manipulation of medical research by pharmaceutical companies. However, a significant feature of our book is that it presents many more examples of commodification of research within a variety of academic disciplines. A further problem of academic commodification is that societal benefits or cultural significance are reduced to economic utility. Research that is deemed to be economically useless or is unable to attract wealthy sponsors will have a hard time finding appropriate funding. This does not just apply to the study of ancient languages but also to research into the social (rather than the physical) causes of illness. Finally, commodified research tends to focus on short-term economic gain, while a significant social function of academic research has always been to provide a more general "knowledge infrastructure" that can be drawn upon when confronted with novel future challenges.

Q: Many academic leaders say they have no choice but to pursue closer industry ties if they are to finance needed research -- do you agree that they lack other sound options?

A: In some cases it will be true, in others not. There is no general answer to this question, so university administrators should not use it to shore up an unqualified endorsement of academic commodification. Furthermore, not all contract research necessarily entails the same degree of commodification. A high degree of commodification is likely when there is a significant commercial impact on research methods and outcomes, as is often the case in current medical research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. But less commodification would occur, for instance, if pharmaceutical companies contributed to a general fund for research on, say, drugs for diabetes, and not just fund academic research involving their own drugs for this disease. Last but not least, the question entails that the issue of commodified science needs to be addressed not only at the level of university administration but also, and primarily, at the level of the more general politics and policies of science. Ultimately, solving this problem requires both a different academic culture and a changed conception of the socio-cultural significance of science.

Q: How do you see these issues playing out in different ways in the United States and elsewhere?

A: I hope it has become clear so far that commodification is not an all-or-nothing matter. In different countries we may find different forms and degrees of commodification. For instance, large-scale academic patenting started in the U.S. in the 1980s but did not reach Europe until the 1990s, and for developing countries this situation will be different again. Or, to mention another example, privately funded universities (where a substantial degree of commodification can be expected) are quite common in the U.S. but not in various other countries. The book includes a lot of material that contributes to describing and explaining these different forms and degrees of academic commodification.

Q: What kinds of safeguards are needed today to protect the values of academic science?

A: The academic research world needs to re-uphold the values and basic standards of good research rather than just economic goals. This reorientation can only succeed, however, if it is supported by concomitant changes in the still dominant neo-liberal world-view and politics. Perhaps recent growing criticism of neo-liberalism is a sign of forthcoming change. A big step in the right direction could be made if universities would consistently adhere to the ethical codes of good scientific conduct they have developed over the years, not merely in assessing the behavior of individual scientists but also, or even primarily, in the structural measures and policies taken by academic institutions and governmental bodies.