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Archive for September, 2018

Napoleon Bonaparte who assumed the title of the emperor of France, showed by a series of victories he was worthy to be included among the immortals such as Alexander and Julius Caesar. His brilliant victories created such a condition he could not have sat idle with such a powerful army battle hardened and disciplined under his command. Thus he was caught in the crest of a wave that took him to his Russian campaign. Disaster was the result. What went wrong? Winter had only one strategy to which his brilliance in warfare did not work. Add to it what happened at Waterloo. His prominence owed to his artillery, a taste of it was shown at the Siege of Toulon(1793)*. It was a military operation by Republican forces against a Royalist rebellion in the southern French city of Toulon. In every battle his strategy relied on his mastery of this science. On the crucial day where battle was to be joined he had to delay because of unseasonal rains that made artillery ineffective. This delay was to cost him precious hour and it allowed the Allied Armies to regroup while his own divisions were in disarray. So several reasons combined together, to say the least.
We see again the weather playing a crucial role in a crucial battle. I shall quote from Live Science:

Napoleon’s historic defeat at Waterloo may have been spurred by a volcano that erupted two months earlier, and nearly 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) away.

During the decisive battle on June 18, 1815, in what is now Belgium, mucky, wet conditions mired Napoleon’s armies and lent a strategic advantage to his foes. But the heavy rainfall that flooded Europe during May and June that year may have resulted from a significant atmospheric disturbance in April, when an Indonesian volcano named Mount Tambora erupted, according to a new study.

Erupting volcanoes can spew towering ash plumes into the stratosphere, the second layer of the atmosphere, which extends to 32 miles (50 km) above the surface of Earth. Over time, gases from the eruption can create aerosols — air particles — that diffuse solar radiation, which can temporarily affect global climate. But exceptionally powerful eruptions can also generate electrical forces that propel ash particles even higher — into the cloud-forming ionosphere, from 50 to 600 miles (80 to 1,000 km) above the Earth’s surface, Matthew Genge, a senior lecturer in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at the Imperial College London in the U.K., reported in the study, which was published online Aug. 21 in the journal Geology.
Electrically charged, levitating ash following Tambora’s 1815 eruption thus might have affected weather in Europe within weeks, long before ash particles in the stratosphere darkened European skies during the summer of 1816, according to the study.
Man and nations do not settle the matters to their satisfaction because of their wealth, brains or by numbers. There is One who shall step in where the pride of men needs cut to size. It happened to Napoleon and shall happen again. Man may imagine God is a Bogey, so for skeptics weather is something they can understand and it shall certainly play its part.
*Note:
It was the dictum of Napoleon,’Inspiration in war is appropriate only to the commander-in-chief, and his lieutenants must confine themselves to executing orders.’ On the fateful day before battle at Waterloo was to be joined Napoleon’s inspiration was obviously at low since there were thunderstorms and shower the night before and the great artillery expert, Comte Antoine Drouot advised him to let the ground dry out till mid-day when twelve-pounder batteries could get into position. ‘Had the action begun two hours earlier, it would have been finished by four o’clock’ in favor of Napoleon. Naturally Napoleon who built his fame on the artillery found it prudent to delay and it cost him dearly. Was hubris laughing in her sleeve for all the circumstances given to this Corsican? (selected from my essay:child of circumstances/history- Sept.13, 2010)
Benny

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There are many ways to turn one hour
In millions of vexations,
Paring nano-seconds in their nexus
And never knowing the loss:
My oneness is all set and complete
Past telling points of man-made laws:
Go west, for what I ask myself
And it avails neither
With east, south or north.
There are many ways to turn one life
In millions of pretenses,
Each one more bizarre to fit the hour
And never knowing the loss:
My oneness is all set and complete
And sound hollow to fit customs of men:
Go west, for what I ask myself
And it avails neither
With east, south or north:
My soul is drawn from One True Silence
And everything else is jingle
The motley crew of fools may worship
As many gods, but I remain aloof.
Benny

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Science is for man and not the other way around.

The earth slowly gave rise to life and the fact that it is a habitable planet means its a living planet. Life forms that cannot make a living from their context need to know why. There are two options before man. Either he has to make the environment change or he has to change. Science is essential for man to formulate an action plan so he knows what is to be done. A farmer living from labour in his fields acquires certain knowledge so he knows when to make the soil ready for sowing planting and harvest. The earth presents a kind of manual for all those who are keen to benefit from. Science in short is knowledge borne out of experience.

But ask if Science is doing its job correctly and allow people in different walks of life to share their knowledge so life on the earth is more pleasant than before. More than millennia of living has only made living fraught with grave danger we are either applying our knowledge wrongly or Science on which we have laid so much trust is not serving us well. Instead we allow technology to force our hand in directions that bodes us no good in the long run. Technology is Big business and if profit motives guide governmental plans to scorch the earth or pollute waters and yet hope Science can find a solutions to the changed circumstances are we to praise Science as handmaiden to success? Let me quote from Life Science: “Scientists have long known that the distribution of mass around the Earth determines its spin, much like how the shape and weight distribution of a spinning top determines how it moves. Also, Earth’s spin isn’t perfectly even, as scientists know thanks to slight wiggles in the movements of the stars across the night sky that have been recorded for thousands of years.” Fine that the scientists have sedulously recorded all the facts but despite of their efforts polar caps melt and the earth wobbles much more at alarming rate one will have to conclude they are only plugging the crumbling dike with their finger while the level of the water dammed rises ever so high. “Since 1899, the Earth’s axis of spin has shifted about 34 feet (10.5 meters). A new research quantifies the reasons why and finds that a third is due to melting ice and rising sea levels, particularly in Greenland — placing the blame on the doorstep of anthropogenic climate change”. Science certainly must be considered as the right of every man who considers himself as one who knows his place in the society of men and is determined to make it count. But Science alone cannot help for reasons beyond any human being.
“”We have provided evidence for more than one single process that is the key driver” for altering the Earth’s axis, said Surendra Adhikari, an Earth system scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and a lead researcher on the new study.
This brings back to the moral question of knowledge that is applied. If man wants to use it for his own enjoyment in his time does he have to leave the earth fit for nothing else regardless of his offspring and generations to come? Is it not what we see about us. All the affluents and carcinogenic waste from industrial complexes are let into rivers with impunity. Of course governmental agencies set up to protect the environment are told to look other way so that big corporations can make more profits, and it fits with the objectives of the party in power. While they are in power they may dispense their favors to whomsoever they please. It is thus individuals and political parties flex their muscles to show their freedom and libertarian principles count. Morality of an individual must be allowed to its full expression which is to work with forces that have looked neither to hours and days but hold a variable speed than that of man. We are here for a certain period of time and let not our freedom be a millstone around the necks of generations to come. If the temper of short term success (that can be counted in dollar and cents guide the acquisition of knowledge we may be sure Science we pursue cannot be of much worth. No wonder we have read of news in the media of Academic malfeasances where doctoral theses are dodgy and deceptive. ‘Fame and fortune in the life time’ is what afflicts Science and not truth. It reflects the prevailing attitudes where morality, like truth is reduced to transactional. Science could do better.
Benny

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We are familiar with the adage ‘Best laid plans of man and mice often go awry’ and science can tell how to sequence genome of man and mouse but cannot answer a simple thing as why their best laid plans go awry. Here we see knowledge laid up on two legs one of which unfortunately is so short so much so all their theories,- despite being formulated with greatest care come crashing down. I shall cite an example to the danger of leaving science to decide any outcome in the world.
When we consider the discipline of Science no name greater than Einstein can be found. He wrote a letter to the President of the USA that led to the Manhattan Project. (The Einstein–Szilárd letter was a letter written by Leó Szilárd and signed by Albert Einstein that was sent to the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 2, 1939. Written by Szilárd in consultation with fellow Hungarian physicists Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner, the letter warned that Germany might develop atomic bombs and suggested that the United States should start its own nuclear program. It prompted action by Roosevelt, which eventually resulted in the Manhattan Project developing the first atomic bombs-Ack:wikipedia)
Need we consider a more unwise step than this? Granted that at the time the idea was logically sound (in order to bring the war to a speedier conclusion) but none had an inkling that would lead to. But consider the world in future being held to ransom by a mad man with his finger on the button? Think of the spent fuel rods and nuclear waste leaching into the soil and into food chain: higher incidence of cancer across the globe owe partly to it. Man’s haste for solving a problem on hand is like putting out a lit matchstick but if it should in the process, throw the entire woods in flames what shall we say? Man’s foresight does not match with what is observable by hindsight. We are still living in the plethora of problems still needing a solution. While plastic littered everywhere on land the marine life is showing strain of chocking on plastic debris finding their way into ocean gyre. By reasons allied to man’s indiscriminate land use climate is showing weird patterns and as a result the coral life is bleached or dying.
Logic and rational approach to any problem is sound but fraught with danger where the problem is merely a tip of the iceberg of imponderables. Scientists speak of a cosmological inflation (It is a theory of exponential expansion of space in the early universe. The inflationary epoch lasted from 10−36 seconds after the conjectured Big Bang singularity to sometime between 10−33 and 10−32 seconds after the singularity) So between Cause and effect when repeated along the line causes a no man’s land to form, where what you do to right a wrong loses its meaning. Think of Israeli-Palestine problem. Israel shoots to stop an intifada but stone throwing resistance escalates into molotov cocktails and rockets from across the border. There are no winners or losers but the whole region being sucked into an all drawn out war of annihilation. Science has no clue despite their claim of proven data and sequence of tests and revising experiments all over again and into whose hands they are playing?
Theoretical Physics by itself is as harmless as a drudge who passes his time digging up names in order to set up a family tree. Pure Science must serve man. But their pursuits are funded by those who can make fat profits. So Technology comes in to their help.
Technology is all about dollars and cents It shall be thus Science has blundered into fields no one has ever gone before. But for every kill the pride of lions casts shadow, and hyenas will know they can have their fill when the lions turn their attention to other things. Between Science and Technology it is no different than this symbiotic relationship. Science makes a breakthrough and it causes some other concern which needs to be reworked. Of the Hubble Constant I had discussed elsewhere the bug that stymies effort is in the human mind itself. Plastic was a wonder material touted once as man’s ingenuity and harbinger of progress.

Moral aspect of man is not some formula and its source is not proved in an aseptic lab but in intra-personal relationships: happiness of living in harmony is natural and morality is sum total arrived for which no mathematical equation exists. When man has done wrong (for war is a wrong perpetuated by might over right) any solution that sound logical and timely must negotiate with changed circumstances following the war. The problem with Manhattan project did not take into account North Korea to cite an example. Science knows nothing of moral clause in the Why of living. Science is an exact discipline, so says the man who may be a moral being who never tell a lie knowingly.
(To be concluded)

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The Château de Rambouillet, a former medieval fortress, was acquired by Louis XVI of France in 1783 as a private residence because of its ideal situation in the game-rich forest of Rambouillet. It became a bien national during the French Revolution of 1789, and one of the imperial residences of Napoléon I during the First French Empire. At the time of the Bourbon Restoration, the castle became royal residence, and it is there that Charles X signed his abdication on 2 August 1830. Sometimes neglected at times of political unrest, the château de Rambouillet became the official summer residence of the French President of the Republic after President Félix Faure chose it as summer residence for himself and his family in 1896; Rambouillet thus became the official summer residence of the Presidents of the Third Republic and has retained its position ever since. FrancisI is supposed to have died in the turret.
President Macron lately reported to have assured one who could not find job that he could find one just by crossing the road. I saw the extensive grounds and thought of my 75+ years. My foot is loose having worn out my knee so I stayed put. So much for my 9 day vacation. I sketched now and then and acted as a navigator (badly) all the way to Le Haute Garonne (Puy Maurin) and back. But thank God my wife and I are none the worse for it.
Last but not the least, I love French cuisine, the countryside and the language.
From where I stayed in an old farm house with modern amenities, I could visualize provincial life as though Balzac would have seen and understood. Never a day was dull.
Benny

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