Tags: Culture, Society
by: Lola Akinmade-Åkerström
As diverse as Sweden is, there are a few societal norms that are distinctly Swedish. Understanding a handful of them will hopefully prepare you culturally before you relocate. When you’re invited home to a Swede, you’d better be on time and take your shoes off, writes expat Lola Akinmade-Åkerström.
For decades, Swedish culture has been boiled down to four stereotypes we know so well — ABBA, blondes, Volvo and IKEA.
Though the above are evident in Sweden’s society, the country is rapidly becoming richly diversified. Aspects of various foreign cultures are woven into everyday life — from music to food and fashion. With a relatively high quality of life, solid infrastructure, and basic access to healthcare and education, a steady number of people continue migrating to Sweden. As of 2008, there were roughly 200 nationalities represented in Sweden, making up 14 percent of the population.
That said, there are a few societal norms that are distinctly Swedish, and understanding some 20 of them will hopefully prepare you culturally before you move:
1. Start building your coffee tolerance
According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), Sweden ranks second in the world after Finland in terms of coffee consumption per person. Coffee drinking is fostered through a tradition called fika — in which friends, family and/or colleagues meet for coffee or tea.
Fika is often enjoyed with freshly baked pastries such as cinnamon buns (kanelbullar), collectively called fikabröd. What makes the concept of fika intriguing to foreigners is the sheer frequency at which it is observed each day. It’s not uncommon to grab a cup of coffee after breakfast, after lunch, before dinner and after dinner. This tradition is an opportunity for Swedes to set aside a few moments each day for quality bonding over coffee.
Tags: archaeology, Culture, Science, Society, technology
By Leonardo Vintini
Many people think modern technology is very advanced, but according to Dr. Peter J. Lu, post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard University, Chinese people in 4,500 B.C. did a better job making flat and smooth surfaces than we can nowadays with our best polishing technologies.
Dr. Lu, who worked with his team in the study of four ancient Chinese axes discovered in the 1990s, knows well what he’s talking about when he mentions polishing. The researcher submitted the Neolithic artifacts to a number of scientific tests, determined to come to the conclusion that the axes only could have been made using advanced techniques involving diamond.
Belonging to the Sanxingcun and Liangzhu cultures, the four ceremonial axes were dated between 2,500 and 4,500 B.C. Although in the beginning it was believed that the material used for the polishing was quartz, Lu’s team demonstrated that this is an erroneous idea.
The axes were submitted to electronic ultrasound examination, radio-graphical diffraction, and examination by electron microscope. It was determined that 40 percent of the axes was composed of corundum, a rock also known as ruby when it is red. Corundum is well known for being the second hardest material on the planet. The fine polishing work exhibited on these artifacts could have only been achieved by employing the one material harder than corundum—diamond—which had previously been believed to be first used in 500 B.C. in India.
To confirm the hypothesis, Lu took samples of the oldest axe and used a modern machine with diamond, albumin, and silica to polish them.
To the amazement of the scientists, the electron microscope confirmed that the polishing that resembled the ancient axes most closely was the one done with diamond. In fact, the craft that was carried out on the axes centuries before our era was more exquisite than the work done with modern precision instruments.
Through the study of these ceremonial Chinese axes, scientists now possess a more solid knowledge about the polishing techniques of antiquity, enabling them to explain the abundance of finely carved objects like jade. Nevertheless, many questions still exist in regard to how Chinese “cavemen” could have made the finest and smoothest axes history has ever known.
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Tags: art, Culture, funny things, picture of the day
People are asking, prompted by a new special on Mermaids, whether mermaids exist or not.
A look over the years shows that many people around the world have sighted or even directly experienced mermaids. Here’s a timeline of some of the major sightings and experiences, including Christopher Columbus, John Smith, and William Shakespeare.
First Century AD: Pliny the Elder writes about Nereids, or women with rough, scaly bodies like fish. They are “sitting upon dolphins, or ketoi, or hippocamps,” in some cases, he writes in Natural History.
Pliny describes how the legatus of Gaul wrote to the late Emperor Augustus about “a considerable number of nereids” being “found dead upon the seashore.” Further, “I have, too, some distinguished informants of equestrian rank, who state that they themselves once saw in the ocean of Gades a sea-man,” Pliny writes, according to a translation by the University of Chicago.
Fifth Century AD: In the book Physiologus, which is said to have been written or compiled in Greek by an unknown author, there is a portion dedicated to “The Nature of the Mermaid” that is translated by graduate student Mary Allyson Armistead as follows:
“In the sea there are many marvels.
The mermaid is like a maiden:
In breast and body she is thus joined:
From the navel downward she is not like a maid
But a fish very certainly with sprouted fins.
This marvel dwells in an unstable place where the water subsides.
She sinks ships and causes suffering,
She sings sweetly —this siren—and has many voices,
Many and resonant, but they are very dangerous.
Sailors forget their steering because of her singing;
They slumber and sleep and wake too late,
And the ships sink in a whirlpool and cannot surface anymore.
But wise and wary men and are able to return;
Often they escape with all the strength they have.
They have said of this siren, that she is so grotesque,
Half maid and half fish: something is meant by this.”
Sometime between 1040 and 1105: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, or Rashi, describes mermaids in the Talmud.
“There are fish in the sea with which half is in the form of man and half in the form of a fish, called sereine in Old French,” he wrote.
Also, not too long after, the Moshav Zekeinim, a commentary on the “Torah” by the medieval Tosafists, explains mermaids while calling them sirens, according to the book Sacred Monsters.
“This refers to the creature in the sea which is similar in part to a person, from the navel upwards, and it is similar to a woman in all aspects, in that it has breasts and long hair like that of a woman, and from the navel downwards it is a fish,” it is written in the commentary. “And it sings beautifully, with a pleasant voice.”
13th Century: Bartholomew Angelicus, in De Propietatibus Rerum, describes a mermaid, and tells of her stealing sailors from their ships.
Middle of 13th Century: Speculum Regale, or The King’s Mirror, is written in Old Norse, a translated version appearing several centuries later.
In the book there is a description of a creature found off the shores of Greenland.
“Like a woman as far down as her waist, long hands, and soft hair, the neck and head in all respects like those of a human being. The hands seem to be long, and the fingers not to be pointed, but united into a web like that on the feet of water birds. From the waist downwards this monster resembles a fish, with scales, tail, and fins. This shows itself, especially before heavy storms. The habit of this creature is to dive frequently and rise again to the surface with fishes in its hands. When sailors see it playing with the fish, or throwing them towards the ship, they fear that they are doomed to lose several of the crew ; but when it casts the fish from the vessel, then the sailors take it as a good omen that they will not suffer loss in the im-pending storm. This monster has a very horrible face, with broad brow and piercing eyes, a wide mouth and double chin.”
1389: The book Eastern Travels of John of Hesse is published, in which many perils during a voyage are relived. At one point the author writes: “We came to a stony mountain, where we heard syrens singing, mermaids who draw ships into danger by their songs. We saw there many horrible monsters and were in great fear.”
1403: A mermaid drifts inland through a broken dyke on the Dutch coast during the heavy storm. She was spied by some local women and their servants, “who at the first were afraid of her, but seeing her often, they resolved to take her, which they did, and bringing her home, she suffered herself to be clothed and fed with bread and milk and other meats, and would often strive to steal again into the sea, but being carefully watched, she could not.”
The mermaid later learned how to sew but never spoke. She died 15 years after she was discovered. John Swan, an English minister, describes the story in the 1635 book Speculum Mundi.
The book also includes the following describing mermaids:
“Transform’d to fish, for their bold surquedry :
But th’ upper half their hew retayned still,
And their sweet skill in wonted melody
Which ever after they abused to ill,*
T’ allure weake travellers whom gotten they did kill.”
1493: Christopher Columbus spots three mermaids rise high from the sea. Columbus wrote in his ship’s journal: “They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to some extent they have a human appearance in the face.” He also noted that he had seen similar creatures off the coast of West Africa.
1560: According to Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould: “Near the island of Mandar, on the west of Ceylon, some fishermen entrapped in their net seven mermen and mermaids, of which several Jesuits, and Father Henriques, and Bosquez, physician to the Viceroy of Goa, were witnesses. The physician examined them with a great deal of care, and dissected them. He asserts that the internal and external structure resembled that of human beings.”
1590: William Shakespeare is believed to have written Midsummer Night’s Dream between 1590 and 1594. In it, he writes:
“I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back,
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,
That the rude sea grew civil at her song;
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid’s music.”
Soon after, he continues. “Come over here, Puck. You remember that time I was sitting on a rocky coast when I head a mermaid? She was riding on a dolphin’s back. Her singing was so sweet and pure that the rough sea grew calm and stars sot madly about the sky on hearing the sea-girls song.”
1608: Explorer Henry Hudson recounts an experience in the ship’s journal that happened on June 15, while sailing through the Bering Sea off the top of Norway.
“This morning one of our company, looking overboard, saw a mermaid, and calling up some of the company to see her, one more came up, and by that time she was come close to the ship’s side, looking earnestly on the men. A little while after a sea came and over- turned her. From the navel upward her back and breast were like a woman’s, as they say that saw her ; her body as big as one of ours ; her skin very white, and long hair hanging down behind, of colour black. In her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel. Their names that saw her were Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayney.”
Later, in the mid 1800′s, in an analysis of the incident in The Romance of Natural History, naturalist Philip Henry Gosse says that the usual claim of sailors mistaking manatees for mermaids won’t work here.
“Whatever explanation may be attempted of this apparition, the ordi-nary resource of seal and walrus will not avail here. Seals and walruses must have been as familiar to these polar mariners as cows to a milkmaid. Unless the whole story was a con-cocted lie between the two men, reasonless and objectless, and the worthy old navigator doubtless knew the character of his men, they must have seen some form of being as yet unrecognized.”
1614: Captain John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, sees a mermaid off the coast of Massachusetts.
He writes that “the upper part of her body perfectly resembled that of a woman, and she was swimming about with all possible grace near the shore.” It had “large eyes, rather too round, a finely shaped nose (a little too short), well-formed ears, rather too long, and her long green hair imparted to her an original character by no means unattractive.”
1619: Two senators in Norway capture a merman, according to Adventures in Unhistory. The senators, Ulf Rosensparre and Christian Hollh, decided to release the merman back into the sea.
1739: The Gentleman’s Magazine describes in an issue an experience with a creature.
“Some fisherman near the City of Exeter drawing their nets ashore, a Creature leap’d out, and run away very swiftly, not being able to overtake it, they knock’d it down by throwing sticks after it,” the description reads, according to Adventures in Unhistory.
“At their coming up to it, it was dying, having groan’d like a human creature: Its feet were webb’d like a duck’s, it had eyes, nose, and mouth resembling those of a man, only the nose somewhat depress’d; a tail not unlike a salmon’s, turning up towards its back, and is four feet high.” It was publicly shown in the city.
1797: William Munro, a schoolteacher in Scotland, writes a letter to a Dr. Torrance in Glasgow, which is published in The Times of London on Sept. 8, 1809.
“About twelve years ago when I was Parochial Schoolmaster at Reay, in the course of my walking on the shore of Sandside Bay, being a fine warm day in summer, I was induced to extend my walk towards Sandside Head, when my attention was arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an unclothed human female, sitting upon a rock extending into the sea, and apparently in the action of combing its hair, which flowed around its shoulders, and of a light brown colour. The resemblance which the figure bore to its prototype in all its visible parts was so striking, that had not the rock on which it was sitting been dangerous for bathing, I would have been constrained to have regarded it as really an human form, and to an eye unaccustomed to the situation, it must have undoubtedly appeared as such. The head was covered with hair of the colour above mentioned and shaded on the crown, the forehead round, the face plump. The cheeks ruddy, the eyes blue, the mouth and lips of a natural form, resembling those of a man; the teeth I could not discover, as the mouth was shut; the breasts and abdomen, the arms and fingers of the size in which the hands were employed, did not appear to be webbed, but as to this I am not positive. It remained on the rock three or four minutes after I observed it, and was exercised during that period in combing its hair, which was long and thick, and of which it appeared proud, and then dropped into the sea, which was level with the abdomen, from whence it did not reappear to me, I had a distinct view of its features, being at no great distance on an eminence above the rock on which it was sitting, and the sun brightly shining.”
“Immediately before its getting into its natural element it seemed to have observed me, as the eyes were directed towards the eminence on which I stood. It may be necessary to remark, that previous to the period I beheld the object, I had heard it frequently reported by several persons, and some of them person whose veracity I never heard disputed, that they had seen such a phenomenon as I have described, though then, like many others, I was not disposed to credit their testimony on this subject. I can say of a truth, that it was only by seeing the phenomenon, I was perfectly convinced of its existence.
If the above narrative can in any degree be subservient towards establishing the existence of a phenomenon hitherto almost incredible to naturalists, or to remove the scepticism of others, who are ready to dispute everything which they cannot fully comprehend, you are welcome to it from,
Your most obliged, and most humble servant,
1801: Dr. Chisolm recounts a visit four years prior to the island of Berbice in the Carribbean. The residents call mermaids mene mamma, or mother of waters. Governor Van Battenburgh gives the following description to Chisolm:
“The upper portion resembles the human figure, the head smaller in proportion, sometimes bare, but oftener covered with a copious quantity of long black hair. The shoulders are broad, and the breasts large and well formed. The lower portion resembles the tail-portion of a fish, is of immense dimension, the tail forked, and not unlike that of the dolphin, as it is usually represented. The colour of the skin is either black or tawny. The animal is held in veneration and dread by the Indians, who imagine that the killing it would be attended with the most calamitous consequences. It is from this circumstance that none of these animals have been shot, and, consequently, not examined but at, a distance. They have been generally observed in a sitting posture in the water, none of the lower extremity being discovered until they are disturbed; when, by plunging, the tail appears, and agitates the water to a considerable distance round. They have been always seen employed in smoothing their hair, or stroking their faces and breasts with their hands, or something resembling hands. In this posture, and thus employed, they have been frequently taken for Indian women bathing.”
1822: A young man, John McIsaac of Scotland, testifies under oath that he saw an animal that had a white upper half with the shape of the human body, while the other half was covered with scales and had a tail, according to a story in the London Mirror. The sighting took place in 1811. McIsaac describes the creature as having long, light brown hair, being between four and five feet long, and having fingers close together.
“It continued above water for a few minutes, and then disappeared,” according to the article. “The Minister of Campbeltown, and the Chamberlain of Mull, attest his examination, and declare that they know no reason why his veracity should be questioned.”
1830: Villagers at Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland saw a small woman on shore. They tried capturing it, but failed, so they pelted it with rocks. A few days later,its corpse washed ashore, according to Hidden Animals. They then examined it. “The upper part of the body was about the size of a well-developed child of three or four years of age, with an abnormally developed breast. The hair was long, dark, and glossy, while the skin was white, soft, and tender. The lower part of the body was like a salmon, but without scales.” The creature was buried in a coffin later on.
1842: Phineas Barnum, of Barnum and Brothers fame, got connected with what was said to be a mermaid who had been caught near the Feejee Islands in the South Pacific. There is much debate whether the mermaid was a mermaid or something else.
On the supporting side, the New York Sun had a review which in part said: “We’ve seen it! What? Why that Mermaid! The mischief you have! Where? What is it? It’s twin sister to the deucedest looking thing imaginable—half fish, half flesh; and ‘taken by and large,’ the most odd of all oddities earth or sea has ever produced.”
In a portion of an autobiography written by Barnum, published by the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University, Barnum says that he obtained the specimen from the estate of a dead sailor, who had purchased it from Japanese sailors.
Barnum recounts going to his naturalist to ascertain the “genuineness of the animal.” His naturalist tells him that he cannot conceive of how it was manufactured, “for he never knew a monkey with such peculiar teeth, arms, hands, etc., nor had he knowledge of a fish with such peculiar fins.”
Writes Barnum: “Then why do you suppose it is manufactured?” I inquired. “Because I don’t believe in mermaids,” replied the naturalist. “That is no reason at all,” said I, “and therefore I’ll believe in the mermaid, and hire it.” Barnum showed the animal in his museum in New York and got out of it quite a bit of money.
Others say that the whole thing was a hoax, and that it was created by Japanese artisans.
1857: The Shipping Gazette reported that Scottish seaman had spotted a creature off the coast of Britain.
“We distinctly saw an object about six yards distant from us in the shape of a woman, with full breast, dark complexion, comely face, and fine hair hanging in ringlets over the neck and shoulders. It was about the surface of the water to about the middle, gazing at us and shaking its head. The weather being fine, we had a full view of it and that for three or four minutes,” said John Williamson and John Cameron.
1947: A old fisherman in Scotland reported that he had seen a mermaid in the sea about twenty yards from the shore, sitting combing her hair on a floating herringbox used to preserve live lobsters, according to Sir Arthur Waugh in The Folklore of the Merfolk. “Unfortunately, as soon as she looked round, she realized that she had been seen, and plunged into the sea,” he writes. “But no questioning, says Mr Maclean, could shake the old fisher- man’s conviction: he was adamant that he had seen a mermaid. So one never knows!”
2008: A sighting of a mermaid happened in Suurbraak, a village in the Western Cape of South Africa, reported Aldo Pekeur, a correspondent for the New Zealand Herald. A resident of the village, Daniel Cupido, said he and his friends were next to the river around 11:30 p.m. when they heard something like someone “bashing on a wall.” Cupido went toward the sound, and found a figure “like that of a white woman with long black hair thrashing about in the water”.
Cupido said he tried to help the woman but the woman made “the strangest sound,” which Dina, Cupido’s mother, said was so sorrowful “my heart could take it no more.” The creatures are described as Kaaiman, or half human and half fish creatures living in deep pools. Suurbraak tourism officer Maggy Jantjies said she knew the people who saw the Kaaiman well, and that they did not misuse alcohol.
2009: The reports from dozens of people of seeing mermaids spurred the town council in Kiryat Yam, near Haifa, to offer $1 million to anyone who can prove by photo or capture that mermaids do exist.
“Many people are telling us they are sure they’ve seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other,” council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News. “People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin. It does all kinds of tricks then disappears.”
2012: An official in Zimbabwe said that mermaids were hounding government workers off dam sites in several different areas. Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo told a senate committee in March that traditional chiefs were going to perform rituals to get rid off the mermaids believed to live in reservoirs in Gokwe and Mutare, where workers are afraid to go, according to Voice of America. Some workers reportedly went missing while others have refused to go back to install water pumps.
Traditional leader chief Edison Chihota of Mashonaland East told the media outlet that mermaids exist. “As a custodian of the traditional I have no doubt,” chief Chihota said. “For anyone to dispute this is also disputing him or herself.”
Daniel He contributed research to this article
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Tags: Body & Mind, books, CCP, censorship, China, Culture, human rights, Society
A former senior editor for the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda mouthpiece collected the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek Prize Wednesday night.
The book award is given by the libertarian-leaning think tank to acknowledge recent works that “best reflect Hayek’s vision of economic and individual liberty.” It comes with a $50,000 cash prize.
Chinese journalist and historian Yang Jisheng’s book, “Tombstone,” was published in English last year; it is a comprehensive account of the Great Chinese Famine from 1958 to 1962, during which his father starved to death among over 36 million other peasants.
At the time, Chairman Mao attributed the tragedy to “the three years of natural calamities,” but Yang, through his own experiences and 15 years of research while working for Xinhua, learned the truth: to exponentially increase grain and steel production during the so-called Great Leap Forward, Mao expended the lives of countless rural workers.
As grain was sent to the cities and abroad, Chinese in the countryside were prevented from leaving to find food. Desperate, they tried to subsist on things like clay, elm bark, and bird droppings; some parents even ended up eating their own children.
“Mao’s powers expanded from the people’s minds to their stomachs,” Yang recently told the Wall Street Journal. “Whatever the Chinese people’s brains were thinking and what their stomachs were receiving were all under the control of Mao. . . . His powers extended to every inch of the field, and every factory, every workroom of a factory, every family in China.”
In his 1944 book “The Road to Serfdom,” Austrian economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek had called this approach the “fatal conceit” of socialism, contrasting it with a free market, which allows producers to match prices to consumers’ preferences without coercion or waste of human and natural resources.
Hayek’s book was translated into Chinese in 1962, but could only be read by Party leaders wanting to study a critique of socialism. Years later, a censored version became available to the Chinese public, which greatly influenced Yang’s thinking on events that had unfolded since the Mao era.
Manhattan Institute founder Sir Anthony Fisher spoke with Hayek on how to reverse the erosion of freedom, who advised beginning “on the battlefield of ideas.”
In “Tombstone,” Yang said that the totalitarian regime was the root cause of the famine. In a more open system, people would have realized immediately, and leaders would have modified mistaken policies, he said.
During the event in New York, Yang explained the significance of the name he chose for the book. “There are four levels of meaning to the book title–first it’s the tombstone of my father, who died of starvation during that time; second it’s the tombstone of the 36 million Chinese, who died during those three years of starvation; third I hoped it would be a tombstone for the system that allowed so many people to die of starvation; and fourth, due to the danger I was in while writing, I thought it might be my own tombstone.”
Although he supports democracy and freedom of information, Yang questions how soon these can come to China while the Communist Party still holds power.
“If a people cannot face their history, these people won’t have a future,” he told the Journal. “That was one of the purposes for me to write this book. I wrote a lot of hard facts, tragedies. I wanted people to learn a lesson, so we can be far away from the darkness, far away from tragedies, and won’t repeat them.”
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Tags: archaeology, Culture, Science
Researchers said last week they have unearthed art in an ancient cave in the mountains of Mexico’s Tamaulipas state.
The art, which was painted on rocks, is said to predate Spanish rule, reported LiveScience.com.
Around 5,000 pieces of the rock art was found across 11 different sites in the area, said the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, which carried out the research. The art was created via white, black, red, and yellow pigments.
Archaeologist Gustavo Ramirez said that the findings show that in the area, “it was inhabited by one or more cultures” before Spanish rule, according to the website.
Researchers said they have not been able to precisely put a date on when the paintings were created.
“We have not found any ancient objects linked to the context, and because the paintings are on ravine walls and in the rainy season the sediments are washed away, all we have is gravel,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez said the paintings are anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, astronomical, and “abstract,” according to the institute’s website.
He said there is the possibility researchers might take samples of the pigments, “which would allow us to approximate datings through chemical analysis or radiocarbon.”
Tags: archaeology, Culture
African coins found in Australia? Researchers found five African coins dating back around 1,000 years in Australia’s Northern Territory, which could potentially force historians to come up with a new narrative as to who first discovered Australia.
The coins were found in 1944, but new research found they were that old, reported the Australian Associated Press. They were discovered by an Australian soldier stationed on the Wessel Islands during World War II.
Ian McIntosh, professor of anthropology at Indiana University, said in a statement: “Multiple theses have been put forward by noted scholars, and the major goal is to piece together more of the puzzle. Is a shipwreck involved? Are there more coins?”
Researchers said the coins dated back to 900 and the 1300s, and were from Kilwa Sultanate, located in Tanzania.
“All options are on the table,” he continued, “but only the proposed expedition can help us answer some of these perplexing questions.”
Indiana University researchers suggest the coins could be remnants of an early shipping network that linked East Africa, India, and the Spice Islands.
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Tags: archaeology, Body & Mind, CCP, China, Culture, environmental issues, film, funny things, health, human rights, IT and Media, labor camps, Nature, persecution of dissidents, Science, Society, sustainable development
And some more…
By Michelle Yu
“When I die, bury me on the sunny side of the hill, because I’m afraid of the cold,” a child, now nameless and faceless, said to his fellow teenage prisoners over half a century ago. For the 4,000-5,000 juvenile prisoners at the Dabao labor camp, such requests were common, as the children were surrounded by death every day.
By Gu Qinger
Chinese torture victims have confronted Xinhua, the official propaganda organ of the Chinese regime, over its publication of a report by Liaoning officials which denies that inmates are being tortured at a labor camp in the northeast of the country called Masanjia.
By Matthew Robertson
It would have been impossible even very recently in China to produce a documentary about torture and slavery in an officially-run labor camp, and not be thrown in jail for it. Chinese independent filmmaker Du Bin, however, has done just that, and he’s now in Hong Kong speaking at film screenings and blithely taking interviews from overseas media.
By Shar Adams
WASHINGTON—After five days and 40 testimonies from international witnesses from the military, scientific and academic fields, a committee of six former Congress members agreed to seek international support to break a “truth embargo” on encounters with extraterrestrial life.
By Jack Phillips
Some are questioning the origin so-called “ring around the sun” that appeared on Monday.Reports said that the ring is a 22-degree halo, also known as a sun halo, according to ABC News. The halo is formed by small ice crystals that are contained in cirrostratus clouds. The sunlight then refracts through the ice at the 22-degree angle, creating the optical phenomenon.
By Matthew Robertson and Carol Wickenkamp
A group of nearly a dozen Chinese human rights lawyers who attempted to investigate an extralegal “brainwashing center” in the southeast of the country were violently set upon by guards on May 13, before being handed over to police, who beat them further and held them overnight before releasing them.
By Cassie Ryan
While the latest official news from China says that the H7N9 bird flu outbreak is now under control, a new international study urges continued caution.
By Gao Zitan
Chinese media recently exposed quality issues in the bottled water industry, saying its regulation levels are from the Soviet era.
Beijing News reported May 2 that over 10 Chinese experts had found that the standards for bottled water are very low, with only 20 test indices versus 106 for tap water quality.
By Will Hickey
One reason behind greater pollution leading to global warming has been artificially lowered gas prices brought by subsidies. Governments have carried on this shortsighted policy to foster growth and satisfy consumers. But as world fuel prices begin rising again, the costs of subsidy—both budgetary and environmental—will come to the fore.
By Matthew Robertson
University professors and administrators in China have been given clear instructions recently about precisely what topics of discussion are off-limits in the classroom.
By Sally Appert
Communist officials in Shaanxi Province have resorted to hiring fake monks to collect donations in an attempt to recover the debt they incurred from a large development project near the ancient Famen Temple.
Accused of violating one-child policy, Zhang Yimou’s real crime was backing Jiang Zemin
By Xia Xiaoqiang
A successful Chinese film director becomes entangled with the propaganda schemes of a brutal dictator. The director enjoys a rich and privileged life, but then loses everything when the dictator’s political opponents charge him with violating the nation’s family-planning laws.
By Zachary Stieber
Byzantine mosaic floor: The “extraordinary” floor was in a public building during the Byzantine Period in what is today Isreal, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, Culture, documentary, environmental issues, film, human rights, IT and Media, labor camps, Nature, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Science, Society, sustainable development, technology
Since I have not posted any articles in a long time I will post some so you can select those that are of interest to you.
By Sarah Laskow
We have seen a lot of solar chargers in our day. And among all of them, this is the first one we’ve seen that we will definitely run out and buy as soon as it’s made available in the U.S. It’s a portable socket that gets its power from the sun rather than the grid. You plug into a window instead of into the wall. It’s easy.
By Joshua Philipp
Epoch Times Staff
Watching the soft glow of fireflies could become a more common activity if researchers at Syracuse University have anything to do with it. They’re developing a method to artificially create luciferase, the chemical behind the soft glow of fireflies, and are working to create commercial lights that mimic the insects’ bioluminescence.
These migrants know why they keep moving
By Francisco Gavilán
When I was going to travel through Central Asia for the umpteenth time, I was looking for new and enriching experiences, including living for a while with the nomads of Song Kul, in Kyrgyzstan.
By Tara MacIsaac
Earth permanently deformed: Geologists have discovered that the Earth’s crust may not be as elastic as previously thought. Quakes in Northern Chile have permanently deformed the Earth.
Celebrating compassion and higher living across the globe
By Arshdeep Sarao
In India the full moon day of May 25, 2013, is being celebrated as Buddha Purnima or the birth anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni. This year the Buddha becomes 2,556 years old.
By Matthew Robertson
‘I didn’t take blood money from a government that is murdering its people,’ says Jeffrey Van Middlebrook, Silicon Valley inventor.
By Leonardo Vintini
Everybody longs for happiness, but it seems like a hidden treasure. One way or another—consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly—everything we do, our every hope, is related to a deep desire for happiness.
Tags: Body & Mind, Culture, Food, health, Nature
Thyme is without a doubt one of the most useful herbs we have at our disposal, being a powerful germicide with carminative and anti-inflammatory properties. It is described by one of the preeminent herbalists of our time Dorothy Hall as being “powerfully protective and therapeutic”, and one of the “big three of herbal medicine”.
During the Middle Ages, thyme was grown in the monastic gardens of Italy, France and Spain and used to treat those suffering from poor digestion, intestinal parasites and a sore throat. Herbalists used thyme as a powerful germicide to treat patients infected with the plague that swept through Europe between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries.
In 1725 a German apothecary ‘discovered’ thymol, the powerful disinfectant present in the essential oil of thyme, which is effective against bacteria and fungi. Thymol has been found to be very similar to carbolic acid in its action, though more powerful against infection and less irritating to the skin.
In fact cultures as far back as the ancient Sumerians employed thyme as an antiseptic. The ancient Egyptians also used thyme as an antiseptic and preservative in the process of embalming their dead. No doubt the learned physicians of these cultures also knew of and used thyme in all its therapeutic capacity.
Thyme was even used extensively in hospitals during World War I and well into the twentieth century to purify the air and dress the wounds of soldiers.
For medicinal purposes, classical herbalists today use both Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) sometimes called Garden thyme.
Thyme is very effective when used to treat respiratory conditions. A cup of thyme tea brewed up can bring relief to those suffering from a sore throat, or better still make a cup at the first signs of a throat infection.
The tea is also very useful as a throat gargle for those people, like singers or football coaches, who use their voices a lot. Thyme tea can be quite strong for some people, so dilute with extra water to taste. Brew a cup of thyme tea only when required, as it is not suited for regular use.
A professional herbalist can prescribe thyme in extract or tincture form if this herb is indicated for you therapeutically.
Luke Hughes is a classical Western herbalist.
Title quote by Rudyard Kippling.
Related Articles: Thyme ‘That smells of dawn in Paradise’ (Part 1)
Tags: Body & Mind, books, Culture, Science
Part two in a series. Read part one here.
Premonition, Precognition, and Presentiment
By Louis Makiello
Epoch Times Staff
Sheldrake has collected a database of 842 cases of human premonitions, precognitions or presentiments, including people who see the future in dreams. He has also looked at the same phenomenon in animals.
He cites the case of British biologist Rachel Grant, who was carrying out a study on the mating of toads in Italy, only to observe a mass exodus of toads ahead of the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck Italy in April 2009. Grant told the press that her findings “suggest that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system.”
But Sheldrake writes: “If it turns out that they are indeed reacting to subtle physical changes, then seismologists should be able to use instruments to make better predictions themselves. If it turns out that presentiment plays a part, we will learn something important about the nature of time and causation. By ignoring animal premonitions, or by explaining them away, we will learn nothing.”
Dean Radin, a U.S. academic, devised an experiment in the 1990s to test for presentiment. He monitored human subjects’ emotional arousal using electrodes attached to the fingers (as in lie detector tests). The activity of sweat glands, which varies following people’s emotional states, results in changes in skin resistance.
The subjects were shown various photos. Most photos showed calm things like landscapes but some were shocking, such as corpses cut open. A computer selected the them at random. When the calm pictures were displayed, the subjects remained calm; when the shocking ones were displayed, the increase in electrodermal activity could be measured via the electrodes.
Researchers were surprised to find that the increase in electrodermal activity occurred up to four seconds before the photo was shown to the subject, despite being selected only milliseconds earlier by a computer. Sheldrake writes: “People seem to be influenced by themselves in the future, rather than by objective events.”
He relates this to his own theory of morphogenetic fields. “This is in agreement with the way that attractors pull organisms towards their inherited or learned goals, with flows of influence from virtual futures through the present towards the past.”
Universal Constants May Not Be Constant
In addition to biology and philosophy of science, Sheldrake comes up with amusing and intriguing ideas in other fields of science.
Speaking of the speed of light, he writes, “By 1927, the measured values had converged to 299,796 kilometers per second. At the time, the leading authority on the subject concluded, ‘The present value of c [the speed of light] is entirely satisfactory and can be considered more or less permanently established.’
“However, all around the world from about 1928 to 1945, the speed of light dropped by about 20 kilometers per second. (…) In the late 1940s the speed of light went up again by about 20 kilometers per second and a new consensus developed around the higher value.”
Sheldrake says that in the future, scientific periodicals may carry regular news reports on the latest value of c, much like weather reports or stock-market indices.
Questioning the Conservation of Energy
The book discusses a range of experiments aimed at testing the conservation of energy in living organisms. This involves keeping humans or animals in airtight chambers and measuring energy input through food, heat and work produced, oxygen consumed, and carbon dioxide produced.
In some experiments, more than a quarter of energy is unaccounted for. In other experiments, Sheldrake holds that scientists averaged data from different experiments, and discarded some data to arrive at a result that followed the conservation of energy law.
“Although most people do not realize it, there is a shocking possibility that living organisms draw upon forms of energy over and above those recognized by standard physics and chemistry,” he writes.
Sheldrake goes on to tackle the phenomenon of “inedia,” wherein people do not eat for months or years without any adverse effects. He discusses the many holy people in India and the West, from past to present, who are said to survive without food, and in some cases water too.
Sometimes, the fasting seems to happen due to illness, rather than spiritual devotion. Sheldrake cites the 2010 study of Indian yogi Prahlad Jani [/n2/science/study-on-yogi-prahlad-janis-fasting-miracles-concludes-35126.html] who was monitored for two weeks by the Indian Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Science.
Sheldrake calls for further study of the phenomenon: “Are there new forms of energy that are not at present recognized by science? Or can the energy in the zero-point field, which is recognized by science, be tapped by living organisms?”
Sheldrake relates the failure to experimentally verify the conservation of energy in living creatures to physics’ theory of dark matter.
When physicists observed the motion of galaxies and clusters of galaxies, they were surprised that the galaxies were not following the laws of the motion of matter. There seemed to be much greater gravitational attraction than should be possible. They thus concluded that a large amount of invisible matter must be present. They called it “dark matter” and it remains hypothetical and unobservable.
Cosmologists now believe that only a small fraction of the universe is made up of observable matter and energy such as atoms, stars, galaxies, gas, planets, and electromagnetic radiation. Most of the universe is made up of dark matter, they say.
Most theories of dark matter state that the density of dark matter is constant. Therefore, since the universe is expanding, dark matter is constantly coming into being. This refutes both the second law of thermodynamics, and the conservation of matter—two cornerstones of physics.
Sheldrake writes: “The universe is now like a perpetual-motion machine, expanding because of dark energy, and creating more dark energy by expanding.” He goes on to call out scientists on their prejudices against perpetual-motion machines: “Skeptics claim that all these devices are impossible and/or fraudulent, and some promoters of ‘free energy’ devices may indeed be fraudulent; but can we be sure that they all are?”
He says that misguided scientific advisers may be to blame for discouraging investment in research into “over unity” devices (which supposedly produce more than one unit of energy for every unit of energy put in). “But perhaps some of these devices really do work, and really can tap into new sources of energy.” He goes on to suggest a prize to be put up for the creation of such a device.
Alternative Medicine Should Become Mainstream
In addition to modern materialistic medicine, rival medical systems, such as homeopathy, chiropractic, and traditional Chinese medicine, are also widely used. However, government research, most national health services, and private medical insurance schemes ignore such rival systems, and stick to Western medicine.
Sheldrake begins by acknowledging the extraordinary achievements of modern Western medical science. The huge leaps forward in public health through immunization and improved hygiene were not thanks to any particular dogma, he says. Neither materialism nor the mechanistic theory of life should claim credit. Antibiotics also were discovered by chance. Most modern drugs are either chemical compounds isolated from herbal remedies or discovered by trial and error.
After a brief history of Western medicine, Sheldrake criticizes corrupt practices within the pharmaceutical industry. “Some companies go to great lengths to make their drugs look safer and more effective than they really are, creating an illusion of scientific respectability for their claims. [...] They offer large fees to scientists to put their names to articles that have been ghostwritten by authors paid by the drug company.”
Sheldrake goes on to tackle the placebo response. He relates this to the power of hypnosis on the body. He cites hypnotists’ abilities to induce blisters on the skin by convincing people they are being burned. He also cites the treatment of warts by “magical” methods as often being more effective than conventional ones.
When modern medicine tests a treatment’s effectiveness, it seeks to ignore the placebo response. Sheldrake asks the question: do some treatment methods give a better placebo response than others?
He then talks about the effect of spiritual practices on health. “The effects of prayer or meditation on health and survival have been investigated through prospective studies in which people who prayed or meditated and otherwise similar people who did not pray or meditate were identified at the start of the study and watched over a period of years to see if their health or mortality turned out differently. It did. On average, those who prayed or meditated remained healthier and survived longer than those who did not.”
He cites a U.S. study in which 1,793 over 65s were tracked for six years. After correcting for factors such as lifestyle, those who prayed had a 55 percent better survival rate. “If a new drug or surgical procedure had such dramatic effects on health and survival as spiritual practices, it would be hailed as a medical breakthrough,” he writes.
Sheldrake then urges the development of a new way to test treatment methods other than the randomized double-blind placebo controlled study. Mainstream and alternative treatments should all be compared so as to determine which one works best, which has the greatest variability of results between practitioners, and which is the most cost-effective.
On the sensitive question of end-of-life care, Sheldrake says patients who receive palliative care rather than aggressive treatments to prolong life lead better quality lives. Palliative care costs less, and in one study, lung cancer patients who received palliative care actually survived longer than those receiving aggressive anti-cancer therapy.
The Illusion of Objectivity
Throughout his book, Sheldrake challenges different assumptions and beliefs held by the scientific community. Scientists themselves are often unaware of their own prejudices, he says. Those who idealize science believe that scientists are “the epitome of objectivity, rising above the sectarian divisions and illusions that afflict the rest of humanity.”
He cites comedian Ricky Gervais as a prime example of a layperson having blind faith in the infallibility of science.
Scientists themselves perpetuate the ideal of the scientist as an objective, godlike, disembodied mind “freed from the normal limitations of bodies, emotions, and social obligations.” Stephen Hawkins has captured public imagination precisely because he is “as close to the disembodied mind as a human can be.”
Quantum theory has found that the very act of observing an experiment affects the outcome, but scientists still mostly write reports in the passive voice, as do schoolchildren in science class.
Sheldrake urges drastic reforms for scientific education, funding for science, and health care. At stake, he says, is the advancement of science, public health, mental well-being, and even the safety of our species, which is endangered by modern science’s effect on ecology.
Related Articles: Does Telepathy Conflict With Science?
Tags: Culture, Society, Spirituality
The Indian national flower, Lotus Nelumbo nucifera, profoundly inspires the country’s ancient and modern culture, art, and literary richness.
or those who have traveled through the heart of rural southern-India, the sights of Lotus ponds surely act as an unforgettable and beautiful reminiscent of the journey. The flower’s association with Indian culture dates back to thousands of years—thereby inspiring, shaping and, bringing out the true spirit of India as an ancient civilization.
The richness of ancient Indian literature is synonymous with its ancient language, Sanskrit. In Sanskrit, every word embodies a world of experiences.
According to K. K. Yatheendran, a Kerala based Sanskrit scholar, Lotus has many inspiring names in Sanskrit, each evocative of a different experience: Pankeyrooham (born from the mud), Sahasrapatram (thousand petaled), Kamalam (which decorates water), Shatapatram (hundered petaled), and Amboroham (that which sprouts from water) to name a few.
Yatheendran says that Lotus at many places in Sanskrit literature is used as a metaphor like the word “Vadana Amboojam,” which means a lotus like face or a lustrous face.
Lotus gets its best mention in modern Indian literature in a famous Sonnet “Lotus” by Toru Dutt, “Love came to Flora asking for a flower, That would of flowers be undisputed queen,…..”
The flower also finds itself etched on Indian art in various contexts. A very commonly seen symbol in Indian temples even now, Lotus has become synonyms with purity and goodness in art.
“It’s to be noted that generally only full blossomed flowers are offered before God in India, except for Lotus, whose buds are offered,” Yatheendran told the Epoch Times.
Lotus has been found in pre-historic murals and cave paintings in the country. The most noted is the painting, Padmapani of Cave 1 of Ajanta in Maharashtra state. In Sanskrit, Padmapani literally means the bearer of lotus.
The flower is also a popular motif in Kolams (Rangoli)—a from of decorative patterns drawn on the floor with powdered rice, chalk or synthetic powdered colors. The drawings are believed to bring prosperity to the home.
Even during the Mughal period, lotus motif was represented in architecture. In Shah-jahana-bad city, established by the king Shah Jahan (A.D. 1627–58), now known as the Red Fort, the lotus was used as a symbol of ever-renewing youth.
The exclusive female apartments (the Rang Mahal) is designed in the form of a large lotus, with delicately patterned petals laid out within a square bordered frame. In the center of the basin there is a slender stem with a silver lotus at the top from which water rushes out.
Tags: Culture, funny things
Epoch Times Staff
Grand Central Terminal, in the heart of New York City, opened 100 years ago and it holds secrets that millions of travelers and visitors have never known. Here are 10 of the most intriguing secrets of the largest train terminal in the world.
1. The 22,000 Square Foot Mistake
An everyday commuter figured out this monumental error when passing through the terminal. The world famous October Zodiac mural on the ceiling is a mirror image and completely wrong. With 2,500 stars, 60 of which are illuminated, that’s no small error. The muralists that painted the ceiling looked down on the sketch instead of holding it up, accounting for the mirror image. When the commuter sent a letter to the Vanderbilts to tell them of the error, they replied that it was meant to be that way.
Tags: archaeology, Culture
Viking sunstone found? Researchers said they found what could be a sunstone, an object referenced in Viking legends to locate the sun.
Scientists have said that a crystal found in a 16th-century shipwreck in England could be the fabled Viking “sunstone” that was used by them to navigate 1,000 years ago.
The stone is made of a type of calcite called Iceland spar and is transparent, and polarizes light, researchers told AFP. The object was found in a shipwreck that was sent from England to France in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth but crashed off the island of Alderney in the English Channel.
The sunstone is said to possess powers that can find the sun despite cloud cover, darkness, and snow, according to Viking legend. Vikings are believed to have discovered North America hundreds of years before the arrival of Christopher Colombus in 1492. And these sunstones, or “sólarsteinn,” could have enabled Viking mariners to navigate during their civilization’s height between 900 and 1200 AD.
Recently, a diver spotted a precise cut stone that lied near the ship’s navigation equipment and brought it back to land where European suspected that the crystal might be made of calcite, according to Lizzie Wade of the Huffington Post.
Scientists said that the stone might have been a back up to magnetic compasses on board the 16th century ship, meaning that English sailors might have used them as well.
“Although easy to use, the magnetic compass was not always reliable in the 16th century, as most of the magnetic phenomena were not understood,” said the study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, according to AFP. “As the magnetic compass on a ship can be perturbed for various reasons, the optical compass giving an absolute reference may be used when the Sun is hidden.”
According to History.com, the sustones are referenced in the Viking saga about the Norse hero Sigurd. In the legend, a king “grabbed a sunstone, looked at the sky and saw from where the light came, from which he guessed the position of the invisible sun,” according to the website.
Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou in 1967 posited that the sunstones might have been cordierite or Iceland spar, which were then pointed at the sky until light passing through it reached its brightest point. As a result, the Vikings could have located the Sun.
Tags: China, CCP, film, human rights, documentary, Culture, persecution of dissidents, labor camps, Society
The documentary “Free China: The Courage to Believe,” co-produced by NTD, screened at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on Tuesday. The film is about a man and a woman who practice Falun Gong. They are imprisoned and tortured for standing up for their beliefs in China.
The film exposes some of the abuses behind China’s economic success—like slave labour—showing the cruel conditions in China’s forced labour camps.
The woman in the film, Jennifer Zeng was thrown into a Chinese labour camp because she practices Falun Gong. It’s a meditation practice the Chinese regime has been persecuting since 1999. In the labour camp she was forced to make handmade toy bunnies, shoes, Christmas lights and other products that are sold in the West.
[Jennifer Zeng, Main Character in Free China]:
“I hope that international companies must become aware. What kind of business partner and the whole environment inside there is? This is a state sanction system to use innocent people as free slavery that makes profit for the [Chinese Communist] Party. And the international companies and consumers overseas I think unknowingly become part of this. I don’t think they want to become part of this.”
China has the world’s second largest economy and is becoming increasingly more important in the world.
The producer of the film, Kean Wong and Jennifer pointed out that a better economy in China does not automatically grant freedom of speech for the Chinese people.
[Kean Wong, Producer]
“You are dealing with a mafia that is willing to kill their own people. They don’t really care about your company. They want to do business with you, make as much money as they can and eventually steal your market share.”
Kean Wong says that companies today that are doing business with China can no longer put all the responsibility on politicians to work for human rights in China.
[Kean Wong, Producer]
“If you don’t create an environment that is open, that is human, that allows freedom of speech as we are given here in Sweden and around the world, you can not have a proper trading partner.”
Several members of the Swedish Parliament, across party lines, support the film.
[Boriana Åberg, Member of Swedish Parliament]:
“While there is one single person who is denied human rights, the rest of us have to fight and stand up for those values of freedom, to say what you think, express yourselves, write without fear of being thrown into prison or in labour camps like Jennifer here.”
The award-winning documentary “Free China: The Courage to Believe” is directed by Michael Pearlman. Free China has also been screened at the European Parliament and the at the United States’ Congress.
The film team is planning to release “Free China” for threatrical release this summer.
NTD News Stockholm, Sweden
Tags: Body & Mind, Culture
One of the best pieces of sports journalism I ever read was by Gene Tunney, world heavyweight champion of the 1920s, writing about how reading books helped him stay calm and focused in the lead-up to his most famous fight against former champion Jack Dempsey. While members of Dempsey’s camp ridiculed Tunney for his bookishness, Tunney kept calm, and went on to win.
One of the best pieces of sports journalism I ever read was by Gene Tunney, world heavyweight champion of the 1920s, writing about how reading books helped him stay calm and focused in the lead-up to his most famous fight against former champion Jack Dempsey. While members of Dempsey’s camp ridiculed Tunney for his bookishness, Tunney kept calm, and went on to win.
Most of us would feel stressed at the prospect of stepping into the boxing ring, but stress-related illnesses, especially depression and forms of anxiety and attention disorder, are becoming increasingly prevalent, especially in wealthy societies. According to a major 2006 projection of global mortality by Mathers and Loncar, by 2030, unipolar depression will be almost 40% more likely to cause death or disability than heart disease in wealthy societies.
Stress can of course have many causes, but in the most general sense, it spreads from factors that impact negatively on focus and concentration. We fear interruption or a surplus of tasks, responsibilities or options to choose, leading to heightened stress levels.
The digital age is an age of distraction.
The digital age is an age of distraction; and distraction causes stress and weakens concentration. Concentration, as the philosopher William James argued in his classic 1890 work Principles of Psychology, is the most fundamental element of intellectual development. He wrote:
“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again, is the very root of judgement, character, and will … An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence.”
Concentration is equally important emotionally, as is being increasingly revealed by new research into “mindfulness” and meditation. The inability to focus is associated with depression and anxiety and, amongst other things, an underdeveloped sociability and human empathy. Tests have revealed that people report greater happiness from being effectively focused on what they are doing than from daydreaming on even pleasant topics.
How many memoirs include stories of the author surreptitiously reading books by torchlight underneath the blankets, with parents fearful of the child reading too much? (In my case I was reading The Hardy Boys so my mother’s objections were probably justified.)
As James Carroll has argued, at its core, reading is “the occasion of the encounter with the self”. In other words, the ultimate object of reading is not to take on information but to absorb and reflect upon it and, in the process, hopefully, form a more developed version of one’s own identity or being.
It seems likely that the concentration required and encouraged by books is extremely valuable. Reading books is good for you. And this seems especially so in the case of print books, where a reader is most completely free from distraction.
The print book may not actually have been superseded or, indeed, be supersede-able.
Ebooks, and more pertinently perhaps, the digital reading environment, are unquestionably transformative in the opportunities and experiences they offer to readers. Great oceans of knowledge otherwise only obtainable through tracking down print books or physical archives and records, have become available and, much more easily searchable. Hyperlinks mean readers no longer have to read in a straight line, as it were, but can follow innumerable paths of interest.
Web2 technologies enable “talking back” to publishers and media, the formation of groups of readers with common interests, easy (sometimes too easy) sharing of files and other information. Stories can be enriched by animated graphics and interactivity. And so on.
No one in their right mind would imagine that the e-reading environment can or should somehow be wound back.
Nonetheless, by their nature e-reading devices facilitate and encourage the constant, inevitably distracting consideration of other reading options, more or less instantly attainable. This is probably their main selling point.
Maryanne Wolf has even asked: “If the assumption that ‘more’ and ‘faster’ are necessarily better (will) have consequences that radically affect the quality of attention that can transform a word into a thought and a thought into a world of unimagined possibility?”
It is interesting to consider, in light of this possibility that the greatest benefit of reading may come from its capacity to assist in the development of focus and concentration, that the print book may not actually have been superseded or, indeed, be supersede-able.
This, I think, is what the novelist, critic, philosopher and communications historian Umberto Eco means when he argues: “The book is like the spoon, scissors, the hammer, the wheel. Once invented, it cannot be improved.”
This article was originally published at The Conversation.
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