Byzantines

This was a race of people who lived in Byzantium. This is the city that the Romans founded called Constantinople and later become Istanbul . This was the subject of a BBC 4 program last winter called A city of 3 names – Constantinople, Byzantium and Istanbul.

The Byzantines were famous for their religious beliefs. They created a style of art that is unique and there many museums dedicated to it. There is an exhibition on Byzantine art in Lefkás town on top of the library that I have written about previously and I have seen an exhibit in London at a Hellenic centre too. There is also one in Berlin on Museum Island.

There is however only so much information that you can take in over the course of a holiday. This is why I haven’t been in that one yet but I hope to return to Berlin to check it out. I also want to go to Istanbul to see Hagia Sophia and all of the other treasures that are inside the city as I have previously mentioned when talking about the Ottoman Empire.

Best wishes

Angela

The Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox

This is a 4 part series on BBC 4 where he uses information gained from previous series of his like The Planets, The Wonders of Life or Forces of Nature, to explore in ever increasing detail how and when our world came to be formed.

The first part Destiny talks about how entropy was discovered by accident using the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This is a given for those that like trains, maths or physics which is usually the same people but it explains how time travels in one direction only and therefore we can see the difference between the past and the future. Cause and effect means you can define your place in time by looking at the state of decay of your surroundings. The Arrow of Time indicates the passage of time which we are all subject to even the stars although their timescale is much, much greater than our own.

Part 2 is about Stardust. Here he analyses the fact that everything in the universe is made of the same 92 elements. We can discover that we are in fact the same as stars by looking at the reactions of those chemical compounds. It turns out that to create all of the elements necessary for life stars have to die. The bigger the star, the more elements are created due to the energy given off from the heat that is created from its destruction.

The 3rd part deals with gravity and is entitled Falling (No Alicia Keys here;)) Falling as it turns out is an essential way to explain how gravity works using Einstein’s theory of relativity as our guide. Newton’s laws of physics can only take us so far and in fact they are not sufficient to explain things like the odd elliptical orbit of Mercury. When talking about gravity you have to mention black holes from which nothing not even light can escape.

Part 4 is on Messengers. This is about the different forms light can take from straight forward white sunlight to a rainbow to infra red and even radio waves. Heat itself is just another form of light only on a different wavelength. Here he talks about the age of the universe and how while it was relatively easy to break the sound barrier it was much more difficult to break the speed of light. For much of history even didn’t even know that light had a speed until it was discovered that the speed of the orbit of Io one of Jupiter’s moon seemed to differ depending on what time of year it was. The orbit in fact never changed just our position in relation to it. As we got further away light took longer to reach us therefore we thought it was changing rather than ourselves. The speed of light is now what is termed a light year and this is used to measure how far away distant stellar objects are.

To compare methods I also watched a program on the Discovery Science channel done by Stephen Hawking about whether “God did create the universe or not.”

It is his belief that a divine creator could not possibly have had time to create anything because of the quantum laws of physics. This is how the universe could be created out of nothing utilising Einstein’s theory of relativity – E = MC2. As time didn’t exist before matter/energy and space was created by the Big Bang; nobody else did either.

Best wishes

Angela

Thomas Heatherwick British architect

He Thomas Heatherwick, creates architectural works of art. His buildings that are more like installation art than anything else. He likes using the symmetry of nature along with art, structure, line , form, colour, and material as you would expect from an architect. The Art of Architecture on Sky Arts ran a program on him creating the Vessel which is how I came across his work. They are unique in there design and he has made buildings all over the world.

Since I like to celebrate the unusual I thought I would showcase some of the things that inspire me. I spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts but it is nice to connect with others. I’m not good at communicating my thoughts to others in a way that they can understand so I’m trying to improve that. One way is by sharing what I have been interested in lately so that others can possibly find common interests and start up a dialogue about these things.

Best wishes

Angela

The Code on Netflix

Here in a 3 part series, mathematics is examined to find out the underlying rules of the universe. Famed mathematician Marcus du Sautoy looks into the Golden ratio, Pi and other notable numbers to find out how they define and rule our lives without us even realising. This is pure mathematics for those geeks out there that have a need to understand the workings of the universe. There is no theory here.

Episode 1 is all about those iconic numbers that we learn about at school to help us work out angles, and all those other things required in mathematics.

Episode 2 looks at how nature utilises this knowledge to build honeycomb structures like the Giants Causeway in Ireland or a bee’s nest.

Episode 3 looks at how chaos theory turns things that look completely random like the life cycle of a lemming into something that can be understood in a logical way. It also covers probability theory by trying to predict who is going to win in a rock, paper, scissors contest.

Although this may sound dull especially in comparison to someone like Brian Cox we need different kinds of people for different jobs.

Best wishes

Angela

The Matrix

To start to live life you need to find out how to unplug yourself. This will be lonely and you will have to learn a whole new way of being but it will be worth it. The world outside the Matrix is a fabulous place. It is inhabited by children, autistics and other neuro diverse individuals, eccentrics, the enlightened who have emancipated themselves, self employed and digital nomads. These are spread throughout the world so although it seems like many, there are likely to be only a few near you. They are increasing though with the current attitudes towards climate change, vegetarianism, sexual and gender identity as well as dress and nationality.

If you need help and encouragement to understand this watch the first 3 parts of the Matrix and look forward to the next instalment coming next year. It will be interesting to see how the fact the Wachowskis are both now women alters the storyline. Along with the progress that has happened in technology in the past 20 years. I’m extremely excited to see what they come up with as it’s my favourite movie that I gain something new from each time I watch it.

Best wishes

Angela

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire ruled Greece from when the Byzantines finished in the 14th century until the end of the First World War. This was a considerable amount of time. There was a program on BBC 4 about this last year by Rageh Omar. It was titled The Ottoman Empire – Europe’s Muslim rulers. There is now also a Netflix program about the rise of the Ottoman Empire which I’m going to write about as well.

I found it a fascinating insight into a period of history that isn’t covered much in the UK. It’s a crucially important part of Europe’s history but since we seem to be so anti European it gets missed out of the history books. I think this is a grave error and I’m almost working on filling in the gaps of my knowledge.

I want to visit Agia Sofia in Istanbul to see the magnificent shrine that was built by Sulliman the second. I want to see the Blue Palace and the Topkapi Palace as well as all the other delights that a city on the Bosphorus can offer. The Grand Bazaar is one of a kind.

Best wishes

Angela

Forces of Nature with Brian Cox

This is a four part show on BBC 4 showcasing what he has learnt about the natural world through his studies in physics. The fourth part which I was watching today was about colours role in terms of sunlight interacting with water to create moon bows and the famous Northern Lights. He also explains those childhood favourites of why the sky is blue, plants are green and things underwater appear different colours.

I was also thinking about how the forces of nature have ruled my life so far in terms of hormones. It’s astonishing how much they control your life and you don’t really get much of a say in it. The sex drive is one of our most basic urges and it’s so strong it’s phenomenal. What’s equally impressive is when it’s not there because it hasn’t been awakened or it’s been dulled by medication. I’ve experienced both for myself and in my husband due to his leukaemia. It’s been a wild ride so far but it’s going to continue as hormones are essential to life. I hope I’m better prepared now that I know I have little to no control over things like that happening yet you can control your desire. You can turn it on and off but it doesn’t work like a tap, more like a central heating system I find as it’s gradual.

Cathedral of the Sea on Netflix

This is a show that came out in 2018 based on the 2006 novel of the same name by the Spanish author and lawyer Ildelfonso Falcones.

He wrote about the building of a very famous cathedral Santa Maria del Mar that was built by the guild of stonemasons in Barcelona. They built it for the Virgin Mary hence the name Saint Mary of the Sea. This took place in the Middle Ages (14th century precisely) so it was a feudal society with no mechanisation. Most of the population were slaves and they lived in dire poverty as they had no property or money of there own. They were simply uneducated and illiterate labourers with no prospects of advancement. This also meant that women had no rights as they were property of first their father and then there husband. They were educated in the art of bringing up children and running a household as that’s all they were expected to do.

It’s originally in European Spanish but you can watch it with subtitles or dubbed into English. I prefer to watch shows in the original language with subtitles as I believe I get a more authentic experience then. I previously mentioned this as part of a much earlier post talking about using bilingual programs on Netflix to help further my progress in learning languages Netflix.

I love history, travel, culture as well as being overly enthusiastic about words. I also like architecture which is as much mathematics and design as well as art and I love reading!

The article on Wikipedia provides a little more insight if you wish to get to know the author, his work or the era better –The Cathedral of the Sea.

Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark

I bought this book in October 2018 and I have picked it up several times reading bits and pieces digesting the content. This is not a book you undertake lightly for though it is written well; it’s content is revolutionary as it’s pushing at the boundaries of what we currently understand about quantum physics. I still haven’t got more than a third of the way through it as it takes complete concentration and focus which I rarely have available to me. It’s only due to storm Ciara that today I have started it once more.

I have found though that I keep coming back to this topic. When I’m bored and don’t know what to draw; I draw a rainbow, the universe, a sunset or the night sky. I have taken more photos of sunsets around the world than I can count! I’m fascinated with astronomy as I’m always watching Brian Cox. There has to be something in this for though I have explored many, many avenues; This one remains relatively untouched because of the brain power it takes to comprehend it.

I also find that only when I have covered all of the bases and I’m in a really deep meditative like state do I start to appreciate the complexities that are inherent in physics. It usually starts with boredom as I’m unsure what to do next and ends up with some amazing revelations about my self, my place and the world around me. Tapping into the strength of our minds is where our creativity comes from and our best ideas whatever they may be. Walking is good here as espoused by many a scientist who had there breakthroughs then, having a bath like Archimedes with his famous Eureka statement or the more unusual like Einstein working as a patent clerk.

Whatever it is that you do, find some time for yourself as you will be much happier once you have discovered that latent content locked within the fortress that is your brain. You have everything that you need to progress in life already. You just have to find out how to use it to benefit humankind.

Michael Pollen – Cooked

He is a famous author and chef who has written several books on the history of food that are on Blinkist and I’m working my way through them. He also has a four part series on NetflixCooked after the title of his book that it follows. The episodes deal with the effects of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. It comes as no surprise that he has worked closely with Samin Nosrat on her Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat cookbook. He taught her how to write while she taught him how to cook.

In Fire he ventures around America looking for the secrets to bbq and grilled meats. He compares traditional methods to the ones used to industry. He goes in for the science and analyses the proteins present in meat with the transformation they undergo when being cooked – denaturalisation. He also indulges in some male bonding too while learning the secrets of southern cooking in addition to the history which is rooted in slave culture.

In Water he looks into the changes that have taken place in the American food industry since the 1950’s. He also tackles the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. I’m shocked to find that there is no longer an adult onset diabetes as type 2 used to be called. It’s now often found in children. This is directly linked to the fact we spend less time the kitchen and more time working. Even in India, one of the poorest countries in the world, you can’t live off one income and processed food is becoming the norm.

In Air he looks at the importance of bread to the daily diet in Morocco. He gets political about what happens when the price of bread rises too much; and how these conflicts cause shortages all over the world. Due mostly to over reliance on imports from bad harvests because of changing climatic conditions. He also gets scientific examining the role that gluten performs and why it’s so difficult to get a good gluten free loaf.

In Earth he examines the process of fermentation. Here he discovers that cacao beans are first fermented for a week before they are dried and then turned into chocolate etc. I didn’t know it was necessary to do this because the raw beans are so bitter as to be unpalatable. If you’ve ever eaten cooking chocolate you might know this taste. In contrast to chocolate, cheese is a another food that undergoes fermentation that we all know about. Here still there are more secrets to be discovered by looking into the science of the rind on cheeses. He also experiments by making his own beer to continue on from when he learnt to make bread.

I have found this series fascinating to watch to realise that there is a lot to learn from traditional methods of cooking that we can’t replicate in our modern high tech kitchens. The culture of disgust in relation to the French appreciation of stinky cheese is an amazing topic to have a discussion on. Our overuse of antibacterial sprays to clean with and antibiotics to cure to disease is causing a backlash in the health of our gut biome which is only just starting to be looked into seriously. I liked the anthropological look into ancient cultures and how they would pickle vegetables to get through the winter which is why vegans need to eat kimchi etc to remain healthy. Its a source of b vitamins and even vitamin c.

Best wishes

Angela