#94 July Aug 2013
On Life, Knowledge, and Belief
the enıgma of tıme ı am an ımmıgrant
TurnIng on the LabyrInth of Chartres
In remembrance, thought, gratitude
The world is expecting a blessed birth. It takes neither a doctor or a midwife’s aid. We hope you will always be protected from frost, May the House of God be your eternal host.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS /////
ARTS & CULTURE
A Moment for Reflection
I Am an Immigrant Joanna Bodnar
On Language and Man Seyfi Agirel
Turning on the Labyrinth of Chartres
Passive Aggression: A Bleeding Wound in Our Spiritual Life History
The Convivencia in Islamic Spain: A Mere Construct of Retrospective Utopianism
Ascension to His Mercy
july • august 2013
10 17 23 40 48
The Enigma of Time
M. Fethullah Gülen
“The Runners” and Motor Vehicles Sefik Hikmet Toprak
34 62 64
Emerald Hills of the Heart
Ma'rifa (Spiritual Knowledge of God) Q&A
The Worst of All Tribulations
1. Getting Help from Cows to Treat Human Diseases 2. Cellular Renewal and Omega Fatty Acids 3. Why Women Remember Faces Better
6 13 20 32 36 44
New Nuclear Methods for Medical Diagnosis and Treatment Emrah Tiras
Water: A Fine Balance of Life Hamza Aydin
Cadherin and Catenin: The Nut and Bolt System of Cellsh Kadir Can
Can a Filling Imitate a Tooth? Mehmet Yildiz
Optimization in Nature: Intelligent Solutions from Unintelligent Species Ahmet Bahadir
Exploding Stars: Supernovas Nuri Balta
EDITORIAL ///// IMMIGRATION IN THE WORLD AND IN THE SOUL
re you an immigrant? You may ask: who is not an immigrant? Recent statistics show that there are currently over 200 million immigrants in the world. However, this figure only reflects people who have moved to a new country. What about the children of those immigrants? There are millions of such children who are given citizenship in their new country; nevertheless, they suffer equally, if not more, than their parents from the challenges of adapting to a completely new culture. In many ways, it’s no different when a person or family moves to a new state or city within the same country; with the exception of visa procedures, there are similar challenges regarding cultural, economic, social, and ecological conditions. Joanna Bodnar writes about her own experiences as an immigrant. When her family moved from eastern Europe to the United States, they went from “a country where family was the most important purpose of life” to a place where “family is satirized as dysfunctional joke.” For Joanna, the USA turned out to be not a “land of opportunity,” but a “harsh, unforgiving, and lonely place.” Leaving behind “a simple but fulfilling” life in exchange for a hopeful but separated life, Joanna’s experience reflects the kind of tribulations millions of immigrants around the world suffer to various degrees. All of us live in an increasingly diverse society, and Joanna’s piece forces us to re-evaluate how we relate to our neighbors – especially those from an unfamiliar background – and to ask whether we are sufficiently friendly in welcoming them to their new home. Sarah-Mae Thomas’ piece on The Convivencia touches on the kind of coexistence we’ve failed to achieve in these modern times. Her piece is a critical approach to this “too-good-to-be-true” period of history when Muslims, Christians, and Jews were able to establish a relatively successful civilization of peaceful coexistence in Andalusia. It was a period when none were forced to emigrate from Spain, and Muslim immigrants from North Africa fused harmoniously with the local Christian and Jewish populations. In fact, from a cosmological perspective, since Adam and Eve had to leave our eternal home, we are all immigrants. Gülen once wrote “Towards the Lost Paradise,” dreaming of generations to come who would be adorned with the values and virtues that would entitle them to once again regain entry to that garden. The secret to this entitlement, he says in the lead article, is mastering time, and utilizing it as our most precious value. Katharine Branning felt the deep and eternal yearning of an immigrant when she visited the eight-century old Cathedral of Chartres in France. On her pilgrimage, she walked this monumental place of worship’s famous labyrinth. Katharine’s engagement with the labyrinth reads like an antidote to an immigrant in a foreign land. She overcame her apprehension by taking “slow and deliberate steps.” “This was no race,” she told herself, “there would be no tricks, no teasing decisions to be made, and no one would judge [her] performance.” Her inner voice said that she “just needed to surrender [herself] to the path, and accept the insights it would give [her].” As she navigates the labyrinth, Katharine’s wide and deep inner reflections encompass our diverse journeys of faith and self-discovery, as we immigrate between the centers and peripheries of our human condition.
The Enigma of Time
U LEAD ARTICLE M. Fethullah G端len
nder no circumstances can it be said that any nation possesses a greater authority than others with respect to physical power or spiritual values. However, when it comes to managing time and utilizing every second as if they were precious stones, some nations are considerably more advanced than others. Time is not a void traversed from above. It is a precious jewel to be acquired and put to use. It is the most valuable commodity we have, and an important capital bestowed upon humanity in this marketplace we call the world. Throughout history, those who have been able to fathom the mystery of time, have uncovered the secret of how to exist with it. Those who considered time a vacuum were devoured within its gnashing teeth. If any nation desires to attain honor, splendor, and glory, with the hopes of being a balancing factor in international relations, then they must first learn to command time. Not even a millisecond of it should be wasted, and the methods used to fully utilize time should be taught to succeeding generations. There is one significant rule for those on this path: they have to claim full possession of their past
as a foundation on which they can develop plans and projects for the future; while doing so, they should still focus on current issues, and be conscious of the present dynamics. What use is it today that we were happy and fortunate yesterday? What will remain tomorrow, even if the present circumstances shower us with comfort and felicity? If the future is a glasshouse built upon dreams, what will it offer to today’s unfortunate? The past, indeed, ought to be seen as a crown upon our heads and a source of pride - but we should be prepared for the future with such diligence and spirit that those prosperous years do not merely remain as epic tales and legends in the moth-eaten pages of books. Creation—each particle of which is a world of hidden truth and wisdom, each instant of which contains a lesson to be learned— is an exhibition for those vigilant souls who gaze carefully upon it; it is a book with each page on display, providing inspiration for hearts; and it is a musical where every note that is heard instills the knowledge of God in the listener’s conscience and heart. We witness the wonders of creation in a multitude of ways. We gaze upon the luminous sun, the azure sky, and the endless seas bubbling with our aspirations for eternity. We look out from between peaks and plains, with the consciousness of the vicegerents of the earth. We come face to face with distant stars by observing the depths of space through telescopes, and become acquainted with tiny insects by descending to their microscopic world. We attempt to perceive and understand the events of nature within the passing of seasons, recognizing the springs, summers, autumns, and winters that come one after another, year after year. We ceaselessly contemplate the resplendent world of the eyes and ears, listening for the wild chatter in the for-
est depths alongside the sweet susurrus of the wind rustling in the leaves. We listen to the sorrowful poets of day and the eloquent orators of night reclined upon their thrones in the tree branches. We strive to see the brilliant countenances in places of worship and in other works of art. We experience, one after another, heat and cold, bitter and sweet, beautiful and ugly, and discover the unifying spirit behind opposites. We greet the future with new syntheses, new evaluations, and new discoveries, both in our conscience and the external world, as we prize each moment of life with an appreciative contemplation. Indeed, we find the essence of existence through all of these; we accelerate the flow of existence with these. And then, when the time comes, we tear away from it entirely. Thus is the luminous path to union with time. Those who complain of not having enough time to work and think, and who perpetually curse and bemoan time, can falter through heedlessness and deviancy; whereas those great souls who etch their spirits’ inspirations on every fragment of time have found it to be even more expansive than they initially thought. By using time wisely, they have explored
all facets of creation, down to the minutest detail. With this care and vigilance, and through perceiving the reality beyond creation, great thinkers like Ghazali attained a second existence; those like Rumi were entranced by the uplifting breaths of time, and embraced every corner of the world with its clamor; scientists like Newton, interpreting even the smallest event, such as an apple falling to the ground, discovered the laws like gravity, and proved that time could suffice for everything. These personalities of great stature, at one with time, utilized the inheritance of the past in the best possible way, and investigated, in every detail, the time in which they lived. From the moment at which they were recognized, they were respectfully greeted and welcomed the world over and, like the seeds sprouting on the hardest rock, they took root in the consciences of even the most primitive societies. The fortunate generations of the future are going to make the best possible use of time, are not going to fail at working while thinking, at reading while working, and while reading, they will not neglect serving others for the sake of exalted ideals. They will know how to remain forever lively, forever colorful.
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New Nuclear Methods for Medical Diagnosis and Treatment Nuclear medicine is unique in providing information about both the function and structure of virtually every major organ within the body. An estimated 16 million nuclear medicine imaging and therapeutic procedures are performed each year in the United States. Of these, 40-50% are cardiac tests and 35-40% are cancer related.
Medicıne Emrah Tiras PhD candidate in High Energy and Nuclear Physics at the University of Iowa.
s we pass through life, we encounter several mental and physical illnesses. Given our physical make-up, we are vulnerable to various diseases and microbes. When our immune system goes down, we easily get the flu, cold and other virus inflicted diseases. Physical injuries take its toll on us when we fall off our bikes, incur sports injuries, and lacerations. More severely, we may have a car accident, receive cuts and bruises, sprains and strains, infections and broken bones, etc. Most severe of all, some of us may be faced with fatal internal illnesses like heart disease, cancer, hepatitis, and various other malignant diseases. Having said that, both mental and physical illnesses have their own cure, their own medication; mental
points in bones. By using a technological device, the elementary particle photon is detected by sensitive detectors and then the data is converted into image. Gamma cameras capture the isotopes in the body to give a 2D image. The emitting of gamma rays is captured by sensitive detectors. This is generally how an imaging method works in nuclear medicine. What follows now is an overview of several imaging techniques and their advantages.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is one of the most common imaging techniques used to visualize the internal structure of the body by providing high quality images. This technique is based on the principles of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), which is a physical phenomenon in which absorption and emission of electromagnetic radiation by a nuclei in the magnetic field can be visualized. So, MRI provides an opportunity to observe the magnetic properties of the atomic nuclei of the human body. It has more advantages over other imaging techniques (such as Computed Tomography CT and Xrays) while observing the soft tissues of the body as brain, muscles and heart.
As many people may know, MRI consists of a large magnet which aligns the magnetization of the atomic nuclei and a radio frequency field which alters the direction of the magnetization routinely. Then, the 2D image of the body or a certain part of the body is recorded by a scanner.
Positron Emission Technique (PET) One of the most accurate methods for diagnosing, staging and restaging various kinds of methods is Positron Emission Tomography (PET). PET works as follows: a specified amount of radioactive substance is injected to the designated subject or a region of the body. When radioactive atoms decay, they release positrons. Positrons, antiparticles of electrons (+e), immediately collide with electrons (-e) and the annihilation process (+e + -e = photons) is formed and Gamma rays is produced. The emitted Gamma rays are detected by sensitive detectors and the image is constructed. PET is useful in receiving data about each organ of a body and their functions, and it is this data that is used to diagnose the disease. PET is very useful for studying the brain and its functioning and also provides a unique image of where the cancer
PHOTON beam 6MV 50
Dose (%) 0
(psychological) medication and physical medication. Although prolongation of life and avoidance from death can be accounted for the primary goal of physical medication, the main purpose of mental medication is to nourish and preserve the soul. There are two fundamental steps taken for treatment in medicine: the first step is medical diagnosis which is a process attempting to identify a possible disease or anomaly. After, medical professionals get a diagnosis on what the disease is, they apply the proper treatment methods and suggest medication to the patient, which is the second step of the treatment. Basically, medical professionals are trying to address the causes of the illness to heal it in the best possible way. The examining of a disease was a hard process before the development of the imaging method. Medical professionals trusted the senses in their fingertips to examine if someone had a broken arm or leg. In time, scientists in different disciplines invented and improved technology to examine diseases by processing and verifying more precise data. Medical imaging is now one of the most improved techniques used for diagnosis of diseases, a technique used to create images of diseased parts of the body. After the discovery of the Xray by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, the method of image creation started to take part in medical diagnosis methods in the first decade of the twentieth century. Recently, many different imaging techniques have been implemented for discrete diseases. Nuclear medicine is a specialty area in medicine in which the energetic particles emitted from radioactive materials are used to diagnose and treat diseases. Shortlived isotopes are embedded into the human body and biologically active tissues absorb the embedded isotopes. This method is used to identify tumors and fracture
modified PROTON beam 250MeV native PROTON beam 250MeV
Depth in Tissue (cm)
Fig. 1: Brag Curve. Reproduced from en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bragg_peak
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cells are located in the body. Briefly, sugar molecules attached with radioactive isotopes are injected to the human body. Once doctors are sure that the sugar molecules are distributed to all parts of the body completely, the image is taken. Unhealthy cells eat up sugar molecules a lot faster than healthy cells. Then, only radioactive particles are left behind in the cancer cells which are exposed to the process explained above (+e + -e = photons). The formed gamma rays are detected and an image is formed. However, it is really hard to localize the cancer cells when these cells are hand in glove with the soft tissues or hiding behind the skeleton. In that case, scientists compare the images by both PET and MRI to locate the cancer cells as precisely as possible. To treat a cancer cell precisely, this problem needs to be overcome first. Recently, particle physicists at the University of Oslo working at CERN [www.mergeous. com/articlecon.asp?aid=45] (the
worldâ€™s largest particle accelerator) added a new dimension to this problem by inventing a new design of imaging technology. They combined PET and MRI in the same machine. They constructed a small PET machine which was able to be placed in an MRI machine. By doing this, they aimed to take two images at the same time, lowering the radiation exposure on people, and to decrease the statistical errors possibly made by the medical personnel when comparing the two images. Fortunately, they achieved their goals and invented a high sensitive and a low radiation machine. They improved upon new types of detector technologies by using photomultiplier tubes and light guide fibers. With these new detectors they were able to detect gammas more precisely and also to lower the image taking time. Erlend Bolle, a researcher in the field of high energy physics at the University of Oslo, said that [www.sciencedaily. com/releases/2012/08/] they got
The examining of a disease was a hard process before the development of the imaging method. Medical professionals trusted the senses in their fingertips to examine if someone had a broken arm or leg. In time, scientists in different disciplines invented and improved technology to examine diseases by processing and verifying more precise data. Medical imaging is now one of the most improved techniques used for diagnosis of diseases, a technique used to create images of diseased parts of the body.
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After the discovery of the X-ray by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, the method of image creation started to take part in medical diagnosis methods in the first decade of the twentieth century. Recently, many different imaging techniques have been implemented for discrete diseases. this new detector idea from CERN which consists of several high techdetectors. Another practical application [www.mergeous.com/articlecon. asp?aid=45] of the particle accelerators is as follows: recently, a collaboration of researchers from Northern Illinois University (NIU) and particle physicists at Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory have been trying to improve new detector technologies to have better 3D images of the human body to help cancer patients. Their aim [www.symmetrymagazine.org/ article/april-2012] with this new particle detector was to attain better results by using protons for
computed tomography (CT) instead of X-rays. A couple of years ago, the same group of researchers from NIU collaborated with a group of scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Loma Linda University Medical Center to build a prototype proton system. They proved the advantages over the proton computed tomography to the X-rays CT. X-rays and protons show different characteristic properties when they get into the matter: X-rays start to give up their energy once they get into the matter. They affect healthy body parts like organs, tissues, cells, as well as tumors as they travel into the body. However, a proton behaves
very differently to X-rays and it releases most of its energy at the end of its path. Because they do not deposit their energy along their path, they do not affect healthy tissues. By adjusting the speed of a group of protons, scientists can determine how long it goes on its path and where it deposits most of its energy to kill the tumor. This type of treatment can be a better option for soft tissues of the body such as the brain and pediatric tumors. Sir William Henry Bragg, a British physicist and chemist, discovered the Bragg peak in 1903 which shows the energy loss of ionizing radiation during the particleâ€™s travel into the matter. In Fig. 1 below, the vertical axis shows the dose produced by the proton beam when passing through the matter and the horizontal axis shows how far the proton beam goes before losing all of its energy. The figure illustrates two different kinds of protons produced by a particle accelerator of 250 MeV. As can be seen clearly in the figure, for protons, the Bragg peak occurs immediately before the protons come to rest. This means that they deposit most of their energy to their surroundings immediately before they come to rest. Therefore, this curve perfectly confirms that proton beams minimize the effect on surrounding healthy tissues. The purple line represents the photon beam, and it is clear that it deposits its energy gradually along its path. There are many scientists from various disciplines working together to take science and technology one step further. As can be seen clearly in the work of cancer therapy with proton accelerators, if scientists from different unrelated disciplines come together and strive to advance technology to solve todayâ€™s problems, they could most probably overcome those problems and bring forward a new and problem-free world. July / August 2013
Ever wondered why some people we work with go above and beyond workplace expectations while others hardly meet the minimum requirements? Or why some people work at one organization for a lifetime while others tend to change jobs as frequently as they change their socks? Is it just the pay that makes certain people so committed to their jobs, or are there other factors we are not aware of?
socÄąety Alptekin Kavi An electrical engineer from Superior, Colorado.
n order to survive, organizations need to gain the commitment of their members regardless of whether they are non-profit organizations or large business-oriented enterprises. Organizational commitment has important implications for both individual and organizational outcomes and is a central issue for an organization. Organizational commitment can be defined as the relative strength of an individualâ€™s identification with, and involvement in, a particular organization and it can be characterized by three factors: a strong belief in and acceptance of the organizationâ€™s goals and values, a willingness to exert considerable effort on
behalf of the organization, and a strong desire to maintain membership in the organization (Mowday et al 1979). Organizational commitment can be categorized in three dimensions. First is the affective dimension and refers to the person’s emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organization. The second is the continuance dimension and refers to commitment based on the costs the person associates with leaving the organization. The last is the normative dimension and it refers to the person’s feelings of obligation to remain with the organization (Meyer and Allen 1984, 1990). Positive organizational commitment is associated with improved organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Organizations need to support their human capital in every possible way in order to earn their psychological or emotional attachment rather than having a group of people who just comply solely for material gains. Many critical behaviors in organizations rely on acts of cooperation, altruism, and spontaneous unrewarded help (Smith et a. 1983). Also, innovative behaviors that go beyond role prescriptions are essential for functioning organizations (Katz 1964). Considering these factors, what are the factors that today’s leaders need to pay attention to in order to not only retain, but also commit people to their organizations while heading their groups? Is there a magic formula? Procedural justice, good communication, increased participation, more supportive management and reasonable rewards are some of the means to achieve this goal (Nehmeh, 2009). Perceived job characteristics (such as task autonomy, skill variety, supervisory feedback), organizational dependability, perceived participation opportunities, career satisfaction are also found to be related to organizational commitment (Dunham et al 1994).
We always compare and contrast the fairness of the behaviors of others that is particularly directed at us. We always question whether we are being treated fairly as compared to them. This thought is always present, unconsciously running at the back of our minds while we deal with others in our daily life. We get dissatisfied as soon as we perceive injustice being committed towards ourselves. Similarly, it is important to provide procedural justice in an organization. One example of fairness is the distribution of rewards or promotions. As members of the group weigh the treatment they receive, if they perceive fairness and equality in treatment, their organizational commitment level is likely to increase. One problem we often encounter in our daily interactions, which is the cause of other problems, is miscommunication. When we misunderstand each others’ attitudes or behaviors, we tend to become easily discontent and lose touch with the reality of the situation. This applies to organizational settings as well. If the communication channels are open and clear, and if there are multiple ways of communication in order to clarify our intentions, we minimize the probability that other group members misunderstand us. This way, we can minimize the risk of alienat-
ing our peers. For example, giving timely supervisory feedback could positively contribute in an organizational setting in this respect. Another way of achieving more organizational commitment is encouraging participation either through consultation or direct engagement. The more individuals take part in projects, the more they will identify themselves with the goals of the larger group. It always feels good to be asked one’s opinion, because it shows that their opinion is valued. Socialization opportunities also contribute to an individual’s integration into the organizational culture. Leaders that seek ways to organize retreats, trainings, and team building exercises can help build an atmosphere of citizenship in an organization. As individuals integrate to the community and get reminded of the common goals in such settings, they tend to feel more valued, see the bigger picture, and understand how their work contributes to the final outcome. Such events also open more channels of communication between peers. Further, the more supportive the leaders are, the more likely they are to gain their group’s attachment. It is important to envision coworkers as living and breathing people who have individual needs and responsibilities (such as fam-
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ily, voluntary work, religious, and academic responsibilities) outside the organizational setting rather than machines or tools to achieve project goals. The more support people get in these areas, the more committed they are likely to become to their organization. For example, many organizations encourage their members to pursue higher degrees and support their professional activities outside the organizational setting. Research suggests that professionally committed individuals also tend to be organizationally committed. Such individuals like scientists who are committed to their specialized areas thrive for opportunities to associate with their peers and stay in touch with the latest advances in their fields. It is also important to match the skill levels of individuals with meaningful tasks. It would be a definite mismatch if an individual with a doctorate degree is given simple repetitive tasks that has very little to do with their expertise. Other organizations provide silent rooms for individuals to meditate or pray during work hours. Respecting people’s daily habits and providing such conveniences at work can make a difference in employee performance and satisfaction. Flexible hours or work-from-home arrangements are also common among organiza12
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tions with professionals who have to joggle work and family responsibilities. Some of us get tired of doing the same tasks over and over again. We tend to get dissatisfied after a while and start looking for new challenges. In such situations, a change of setting or scope of the tasks we perform can make us more productive. Similarly, switching of roles in a group at an organizational setting can help to overcome the dissatisfaction such people could develop over time. Perception of various opportunities that one can pursue is also likely to increase individuals’ tendency to stay in the same organization. While performing our share of work in a group, we generally want a certain level of autonomy. We may need some direction at the beginning, but no one likes to be micro-managed. Good leaders should be able to find a balance in the degree of their involvement while dealing with their coworkers. Otherwise they may find themselves micro-managing others and being overloaded with extra work. This also can alienate the people who prefer to perform autonomously. In summation, organizations need committed individuals to reach their goals. When we associate with the values of an or-
ganization, we tend to contribute more positively, even in an altruistic manner. Good leaders should see their team as individuals who have their own needs and responsibilities. It is important not only to retain people but also to win over their hearts in order to attain the highest quality of outcomes.
References Dunham B., Grube J. A., Castaneda M. B. “Organizational commitment: the utility of an integrative definition.” Journal of Applied Psychology. 1994, Vol. 79, No. 3, 370-380 Katz D. “The motivational basis of organizational behavior.” Behavioral Science. 1964, 9, 131-133. Meyer J.P, Allen N. J. “Affective and continuance commitment to the organization: evaluation of measures and analysis of concurrent and timetagged relations.” Journal of Applied Psychology. 1990, 75, No. 3710-733. Meyer J.P, Allen N. J. “Testing the sidebet theory of organizational commitment. Journal of Applied Psychology. 1984, Vol. 69, No. 3, 372-378. Mowday R. T, Steers R. M, Porter L. W. “The measurement of organizational commitment.” Journal of Vocational Behavior. 1979, 14, 224-247. Nehmeh R. http://www.swissmc.ch/ Media/Ranya_Nehmeh_working_paper_05-2009.pdf “What is organizational commitment, why should managers want it in their workforce and is there any cost effective way to secure it?” SMC Working Paper, Issue 05, 2009. Smith C. A, Organ D., Near J. “Organizational citizenship behavior: its nature and antecedents.” Journal of Applied Psychology. 1983, 68, 653-663.
“Water is everywhere around us and in us, tangible as sweat, visible as the high seas, invisible as the envelope of earth’s life-protecting atmosphere, and essential as blood. Water provides the matrix of our conception and our embryonic pre-natal environment. Breaking waters bring us to birth and water is the final elemental comfort we may ask for in dying. In the environment water has become a non-renewable resource because of its present rate of consumption, pollution and exploitation. Should it surprise us then that water has a central place in the story of God’s purposes for creation?” Allen Goddard
A Fine Balance of Life
lanet earth has been created in the most flexible and durable fashion that even in extreme conditions (in terms of temperature, pressure, pollution, pH, salinity, radiation) it allows for the existence of life. Therefore, the earth has been planned to serve as a cradle for life since the beginning of universe. The limiting factor, according to our present knowledge, is the presence of water in liquid form. We have been given important clues that show us matter before life was subjected to a fine balance. Thus, chemical processes were optimized and the material
bıochemıstry Hamza Aydin Professor of Biology and a freelance writer from Turkey
world (this great system), in order to become an incubator for life, had been brought to a semi-stabilized state. Chemical substances (organic molecules) that would later be used as building blocks for life on earth were first made in stars and later prepared for use. Ice crystals that were present in dense gas as well as particle clouds of galaxies played important roles in pre-life chemical processes. It is estimated that our earth was bombarded with life destructing cosmic radiation 700 million years after its creation. We do not know exactly how carbon-centered life came into existence and we can only make assumptions based on clues. As the verse goes, we did not witness the first creation of life (Qur’an 18:51, 43:19). However we can develop various scenarios through traces left by the earlier events. We know that the first traces of life on earth date back to around 4 billion years ago. The molecular basis of material life relies on the facts of quantum world because chemical affinities of biochemical molecules, conservation of catalytic domains/surfaces and formation of three dimensional structures all depend on principles of quantum mechanics. Microscopic pores of clay crystals or oceanic basalt (a type of volcanic rock) are suitable for synthesis of complex organic molecules. If planet earth did not have plate tectonics, problems would occur with the logistic flow of materials needed to be used for the formation of life. For instance, if carbon stored in carbonated sediments meets water, it dissolves as CO2, and then released into the atmosphere. These tectonic movements constantly generate new materials ready to be oxidized, thus preventing oxygen ratio to reach dangerous levels. The reason Mars has been a dead planet is because all its tectonic movements almost have come to a halt. Plates gain high level of flexibility with the water content 14
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of the earth crust. This way, both the gliding of tectonic plates over one another and the continuous flow of inner planetary material towards the surface is enabled. One of the scenarios regarding where life on earth had started relies on the hot springs at the bottom of the oceans as being the earliest and most suitable places for life. These environments located near the inner crust of the earth are host to micro-organisms since those times. Therefore, the first organisms on earth are most likely to be organisms (hyperthermophiles) living in high temperature waters. Furthermore, because ribosomes are the protein makers of the cell, when ribosomal RNA’s sequence analyses were compared, it was understood that hyperthermophilic organisms were among the first life forms. Stability of DNA and proteins are at risk when they are over 100 °C, so that is the reason today’s hyperthermophilic organisms are equipped with enzymes that recognize and repair high temperature damage and respond to specific thermal shocks.
This finding constitutes evidence that the earliest signs of life appeared on the critical boundaries of high temperature conditions and thermal degradation. Thus, there is a great possibility for chemotropic microorganisms (methane bacteria) to be considered among the earliest creatures as they utilize inorganic substances in order to generate energy to maintain their lives. Methane bacteria have been supplied with conditions for their survival which is characterized with their ability to produce methane from dissolved hydrogen and CO2 in the water. The fine balance here can be observed in the critical properties of water. If water a) was not separated into hydrogen and oxygen while it passed through hot rock layers, and b) was not returned back to the surface after the tectonic circulation via leakage through micro holes of rocks, and c) did not have the capacity to dissolve both hydrogen and CO2 in sufficient levels, chemotrophic organisms would not be able to have a sustainable life. This is because the supply of required
raw materials for energy production is linked to physicochemical properties of water as part of the causation chain. Another important property of water is that it can be transported in carbon nanotubes as this property has critical importance, especially in relation to plant osmosis and cell membrane transport of protons. In the formation of these properties of water (such as the dedication of electron and proton mass value and charges), the phenomena of fine balance during the earlier moments of the universe has a significant role.
How dependant is life on water? There is no evidence up until today that shows the presence of an organism which can live and reproduce completely without water. The most dangerous factor for a life on land is the dryness of air in lethal levels (Zero humidity ratios). When the air is at 20 Â°C and with 50% humidity, cells carry 0.1 gr. of water per dry biomass. Cellular metabolic functions come to a halt when water concentrations drop to this level. This is deadly for many plants and animals. Ho-
wever, an unknown percentage of microorganisms and few plant and animal species are equipped with such mechanisms to be able to withstand drought in an ametabolic state for hours or years. Returning back to their ordinary living functions and activities depends on their coming in contact with a humid environment or water. Drought tolerance is very limited, so is the number of tolerant species and their quantities. Scientists have been conducting extensive research on these organisms and have found that these organisms are equipped with protective proteins, with sugars that do not lose function in dry environment, and with genes uniquely assigned to regulate the syntheses of these proteins and sugars, and that they are so finely incorporated in these organismâ€™s genetic and metabolic programming â€“ these facts are truly amazing and indicative of an all-comprehensive knowledge and willpower constantly operative in the universe. For instance, Trihalose sugars are utilized during drought tolerance
response in animals. This type of sugar indeed increases drought toleration in human thrombocytes to some level. It has been proven that the longevity of dried plants depend on the fat content of their cell membrane and particularly the number of double bonds in acyl chains. Without losing vitality, time for seed drying gets shorter as the number of double bonds increase. Also, if cells cannot renew the reduced form of Glutathione as it functions in the removal of oxidation causing agents during both the drought and drying process, programmed cell death is initiated. Aphelenchus avenae, one of the nematodes (round worms), can regulate expression of genes encoding proteins pertaining to drought resistance according to the presence of water. Nemotadoes living in Antarctica become active with a slight increase in soil humidity. Extreme humid conditions however cause a shorter life span in these animals. Studies exhibit that drought is not a favorable living condition and that life forms increase productivity as they distance themselves from drought. The factors that contribute to famine outside of anthropologic elements can be listed as dry climates and drought intolerance of the human body. Studies regarding drought resistance gene transfer have been going on via plants and animals which can bear such toleration. The genes that hold the information in their structures in order to provide drought resistance have gained importance in such environmental conditions and can be noticed more frequently. All of these illustrate that major roles have been assigned to water in terms of formation and maintenance of a carbon-centered life on earth. The difference between organisms which have resistance to drought and those who have resistance to dehydration are hidden in the details at the molecular level. July / August 2013
Fine balance in early life forms We are witnessing a great deal of diversity on earth because every single event that has happened since the beginning of the universe was made suitable for life. Microorganisms living in deep ocean hot springs, in freezing cold regions of Antarctica, in extremely acidic or saline waters are very good examples for this. If human skin was to touch these kinds of acidic waters, it would cause severe burns. Pyrolobus fumarii, a hyperthermophile organism, lives in volcanic pits as hot as 90 to 121 °C and proliferates at 121 °C. In recent years, archaebacteria species which can live in 130 °C heat have been isolated. Saline water has the property to stay in a liquid state even in -20 °C. Properties of water like heat conduction, heat preservation, so-
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lubility, viscosity, surface tension, and cell membrane interactivity should be reinvestigated for temperatures between -15 °C and 130 °C in which life can be observed. One important feature of water is that it retains its fluidity over dirty surfaces and over thin films that form on ice crystals, even in temperatures below freezing point. Physical and chemical properties of water in ultra-cold micrometer thin films are different when compared to normal conditions. There are many microbial organisms living in life-permitting conditions generated on these thin films. Specific organisms have been created for every climate type and location on planet earth. Microorganisms and plants (psychrophilic) living in extreme cold conditions (between -10 °C and -20 °C) are great examples of this phenomenon. It may be considered as a law operative in nature that organisms living in the same environment from different categories of life are created equipped with common features adapted to that habitat. Such features, motifs and adaptive processes that are repeated and conserved among living things in fact indicate the One and His creative power in unity. The overlap and correspondence of biological features of livings things with their living conditions is an important evidence for the fine balance phenomenon of organisms. The commonality between the polar cod (Boreogadus saida), which is a significant source of trade in the North Sea, and distant fish species such as Dissotichus mawsoni, which live in the cold waters of Antarctica, lies in the fact that they both have the genetic information for the antifreeze feature. This genetic information involves synthesis of an antifreeze protein with a repeating Threonin, Alanine and Proline amino acid motif when expressed as an antifreeze feature. This specific protein present in the blood of both fish is in charge
of inhibiting proliferation of ice crystals which therefore prevents fish from freezing.
Molecules that function with water If one observes the events that are taking place in our nature and universe with an objective lens, the presence of purpose and target centered processes and behaviors (teleological) in each stage are witnessed. Properties of water, particularly the presence of suitable chemical (hydrogen) bonding strength in transcription, proliferation and expression of genetic programs, show the fine balance phenomenon. If the hydrogen bond strength between DNA, RNA strands and of matching nucleotide bases were different, both translation and amplification of these messages coded via DNA and RNA would be impossible. Another striking aspect of the fine balance phenomenon is seen with Serine proteases in charge of protein degradation. The reason that these enzymes are known as subtilisin in bacteria and trypsin in vertebrates is because of the presence of different amino acid sequences and three dimensional structures in each of these proteins. However, there are three common amino acids that are conserved in the active site of both of these proteins, as if generated by a single hand. These amino acids have vital importance to the function of trypsin and subtilisin, and they only differ in their positions throughout the protein. In Trypsin Histidine, Aspartic acid and Serine is respectively located as the 57th, 32nd and 195th amino acid, but in subtilisin the same aminoacids are respectively located in the 64th, 32nd and 221st positions. Can the functional choice in the location of these amino acids be considered as coincidental or self-occurring? It is very difficult to convince one’s mind and heart to answer this question in the affirmative.
I Am an Immigrant When we know death is near, we want to survive, jump at opportunities, and explore. It is in the idea of impending death that one decides to live. And that, truly, is the great irony of life.
A moment for reflect覺on Joanna Bodnar A student at the school of pharmacy at Midwestern University, Illinois
have come to the conclusion that life is a great irony. More specifically, human life is a great irony. Other organisms do not give themselves options. They fight for survival, they jump at every opportunity, and they explore. All other species do this, without hesitation, because it is crucial to their survival as an individual and as a species. Humans, however, can choose not to follow the basic rules of life. Humans can be everything, and nothing, they need to be. Humans can be stagnant. Our great, evolutionary, and intellectual dominance over the entire Earthly populous has actually led us into our one main flaw: the ability to live without living. We humans act in ways that are not conducive to our environment, our population, and ourselves. We are given the gift of awareness of life and death, and we choose to ignore it. We act as if our life is timeless, forgiving, and inconsequential. And, it is when we realize that this is not the case, we panic. When we know death is near, we want to survive, jump at opportunities, and explore. It is in the idea of impending death that one decides to live. And that, truly, is the great irony of life.
It is in this great irony that we ask ourselves what if. What if I had taken that job? What if I had called him? What if I only had 72 hours to live? What would I do? It is a difficult question, because many of us do not know how to live yet. At twenty years old, I am not living yet. I have been preparing myself for life since I was born, starting with learning to walk and talk, followed by a long, successful scholarly career. Now I am in college and working, still preparing for a life. I must 18
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finish graduate school before I get a career. Once I’m established in a career, I can think about marriage, family, and a home. I will work until I am comfortable. Then, I can truly live. Then, I can see the world around me. Until then, I have no time to live. I am not alive, because I am not able to enjoy what I have. I am not spending the time I want with family and friends. I am not developing as a soul. Life is put on the wayside, because I have to be practical.
But what if there was no future to prepare for and the door of opportunity was closed? Many would pick an excess of life, sampling every morsel of emotion and sensation possible, until their untimely death. They would pick to savor everything they had sacrificed for a comfortable future. They would sky dive, stuff their faces with their favorite foods, and travel the world. They would act in ways that could undo all of the preparation they have made for their future, but at least they would enjoy themselves. And, honestly, that does sound extremely appealing to me at first glance. But, in the end, none of it would quiet my heart or put it at peace. Material happiness would satisfy the surface, but in the end, it would leave anyone caught in its whirl wind over-stimulated, numb, empty, and lost. It would be a premature death, really. The goal before death is to be whole again. Through most of our lives, whether we are truly living or not, we are searching. We are not sure what we are looking for, but we, innately, search. We prepare for and dream of a future where we fulfill whatever that innate feeling is. If I had 72 hours left in my life, that is the hole I would try to fill. It would have nothing to do with my senses (though I would enjoy all of the chocolate cake I could eat!) and would, instead, deal with the hopes that have been eluding me for most of my non-life. I would realize the dreams that would make me whole again. I am an immigrant. My family of eight moved to America when I was four years old. It was a huge change. We came from a country where family was the most important purpose of life. We had all lived by each other. All of my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas—we saw each other every day. We held bonfires in the summer, played music together, and walked to church together. It was a simple but fulfilling time. We were a true
family. But, my parents left it all behind. I don’t blame them; America is the land of opportunity. They wanted a better life for their six children, and we have all grown to be successful people in American society. However, we are all separated. We live in different suburbs and we work too much to see each other. I email my family more than I speak to them. Starting a new life in America required us to overwork ourselves and sacrifice our time. We have lost our family in the process. America turned out to be a harsh, unforgiving, and lonely place. My parents have sat over the phone in tears, hearing about a family death, unable to take the time off or collect the money to take us all to the funeral. We have missed weddings, graduations, birthdays, births—all of the important moments of life of the most important people of our lives. And, we could not share our moments with them, either. It breaks all of our hearts. Family is satirized as a dysfunctional joke in American culture; it is taken for granted. It is seen as dysfunctional to continue living with, or near, family, extended or not. However, family togetherness is something that is unimaginably rewarding to us. America, in my opinion, is flawed for being so independent—but I digress. With three days left in my life, I would leave America. I would take what I have saved up, ask my immediate family to do the same, and prepare a big family reunion—no, a celebration—in my native country of Poland. I cannot express the amount of freedom and joy it would bring me to have that time with my entire extended family. They are an eclectic array of wonderful people—the kind you can write an entire book on. We have not been together in one place since we have left Poland in 1994. It would be a life changing event for us all, a moment we would
hold dear for the rest of our lives, and we desperately need it. We are all drained, over-worked, and drifting apart. My immediate family has changed. We, the kids, are all grown up—some are married, and some are with kids. I have a boyfriend of two years. None of these new additions to the family have met the extended family. This family reunion would be the opportunity for those that we have fallen in love with, and the little ones that have been born, to see our history. They would meet our side of the family, the ones that left an entire side of a church or reception hall disproportionately empty, because they were on the other side of the ocean. I have met the love of my life’s side of the family, and now he would finally meet mine. I could finally share something so close to my heart—my true home and family. In that perfect setting, I would finally marry that love of my life. We had planned it for a long time, but because of modern-day worries of school, work, and money, we have not gone through with it. With three days to live, it would be something we would no longer hold back. His family, most of which is in America or China, have the resources to reach Poland. We would finally have a true wedding, with both families in attendance,
in a beautiful setting. It would be an interesting mixture of cultures: American, Polish, and Chinese. I would be surrounded with family, his and mine. My life would finally be whole. Of course, I would still savor my senses. I would enjoy my grandma’s food and ride my uncle’s motorcycle through the countryside. I would taste all I could of life, and it would be meaningful, because it would be with the people that matter. For those short three days, I would escape my non-life and make my life whole. It is not practical, it will not set me up for a successful future, but it will set me up for a life worth living. Yes, it is ironic that I would learn to love life when it was about to end, but the best part of it all—in reality—is that it would only be just beginning. Family and togetherness, something we all lack in our modern world, is the ultimate solution to that irony.
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Cadherin and Catenin
The Nut and Bolt System of Cells b覺ology Kadir Can Professor of Medicine at Fatih University Hospital, Ankara
he human body is a great system made up of complex materials and tools. The molecular systems keep cells, tissues, organs, thus the entire system glued together. Just as we would not have been able to develop complex machines and build our civilization today without screws and screwdrivers, bolts and nuts, in the absence of molecular systems and their components, cells would not be able to stay together and tissues and organs would not develop. Cells sometimes form a loose linkage to some tissues, other times form a tight or very tight connections in other places.
Just as we would not have been able to build our civilization without screws and screwdrivers, bolts and nuts, in the absence of molecular systems and their components, cells would not be able to stay together and tissues and organs would not develop. The Cadherin and Catenin linkage system holds two cells together just like a secured nut and bolt. For instance, connections in the blood-brain barrier and bladder line should be very secure, preventing leaks, whereas the connections need to be loosely structured in secretive tissues to permit transport of ions and molecules in between cells.
Cellular joints are called “intercellular junctions.” There are thousands of molecules (proteins) in charge of these regions. As members of such molecules, the Cadherin and Catenin linkage system holds two cells together just like a
secured nut and bolt. Thus unity of tissues and organs is ensured. Masayuki Ozawa, a Japanese scientist, was the first to call these proteins “catenin” in 1989, derived form the word “catena” in Latin which means “chain.” Catenin July / August 2013
Together with Cadherin, Catenin fulfills very important tasks in many places from the embryologic development in the mothers’ womb to the salivary glands through the skin. A body without Catenin would look like a building without nails, cement, hinges, and screws. Catenin operates like the anchor of a ship, thus it is also named as “anchoring junction molecule.” While Cadherin molecule links two cells to each other, Catenin secures the Cadherin ends, and then connects Cadherin to the Actin as the main molecule of cellular framework.
links cells to each other like a chain. As you construct your buildings, you place cement or similar adhesive materials in between bricks and stones. In a similar fashion, when your body is developing, cellular cement is put in between cells, linking them via bolts of cadherin and nuts of catenin. The catenin family has three members: alpha catenin, beta catenin and gamma catenin, classified according to our weight and length. Cadherin is a Calcium (Ca) dependent adhesion molecule (to bond and stick) that was discovered in 1961. Cadherin refers to a calcium dependent adhesion molecule. As Cadherin enables linkage between the two cells, catenin in the meantime sticks to the ends just like a nut on a bolt. This way a connection is properly secured. Structural cadherin deformities have been found in some stomach cancers. Cells without a properly secured anchor leave the flock like lost sheep. It relocates to other places and new proteins are synthesized there. Researchers have stumbled upon catenin while investigating the Cadherin molecule. Catenin carries a special motif called “Armadillo” named as such because of its resemblance to this insectivorous mammalian which means “armor” in Spanish. Together with Cadherin, Catenin fulfills very important tasks in many places from the embryologic development in the mothers’ womb to the salivary glands through the skin. A body without Catenin 22
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would look like a building without nails, cement, hinges, and screws. Catenin operates like the anchor of a ship, thus it is also named as “anchoring junction molecule.” While Cadherin molecule links two cells to each other, Catenin secures the Cadherin ends, and then connects Cadherin to the Actin as the main molecule of cellular framework. Catenin does other jobs in addition to the role of fastening. This multitasking is observed in many structures and molecules in the body. With the principle of maximum saving, these molecules are created to take care of many jobs in a limited space. For instance, Catenin works in a communication system called “WNT.” The WNT system relays signals that arrive at the cell to Catenin so that it can transfer the signal to the cell nucleus. In recent years errors in this system have been reported in breast and intestinal cancers. Furthermore, Catenin helps Cadherin as it functions like an orchestral conductor in the organization of intestinal cells. Catenin undertakes active tasks for the maintenance of intestinal cellular homeostasis, and it becomes hyperactive in Hirschsprung disease. This disease is a state of neural network absence that is in charge of intestinal (bowel) movements and supposed to be present through the intestines. In such parts of the intestines, bowel movements cannot be monitored and excretion cannot take place properly.
The diseases associated with cadherin have been reported in many cancer cases. Both cadherin and catenin are made to function flawlessly as best as possible. But just in every other blessing, we tend to appreciate their presence in times of sickness and disease – we seem to realize in such times the fact that nothing is insignificant in nature. When cadherin and catenin fail to work properly, embryonic lethality happens, and the baby may die even before he or she is born. Cells cannot completely come together to arrange tissues and systems without these molecules. If these molecules in the salivary glands suffer from a problem, abnormal cellular structures may form, and cellular specialization is put at risk, and again death may happen in the womb. Unwanted situations arise from brain and face cartilage if these molecules do not function well during prenatal development. Miscarriages might happen because of flaws regarding establishment of fertilized egg in the womb. Zygote may have trouble transforming into an eightcelled blastocyst. Mechanisms and systems that are built in our body are mindblowing and put to service for many purposes only some of which we have been able to uncover. These molecules fulfill quite a number of those purposes assigned to them by the Creator, the One who acts with absolute subtlety, wisdom, and generosity.
ON LANGUAGE AND MAN Communication is vital to the existence of any species in the world. It is species-specific and unique to its own kind. A bee’s dance could best be interpreted by another bee. A leopard will not answer a lion’s mating roar because a lion’s roar is only meaningful to a lioness. Of all the known communication systems in the world, the human language has no match. No plant or animal can possess a human-like language.
language Seyfi Agirel A PhD candidate in Linguistics at Hacettepe University. He is also a lecturer at Turgut Ozal University
“What a curious thing speech is! The tongue is so serviceable a member (taking all sorts of shapes just as it is wanted) – the teeth, the lips, the roof of the mouth, all ready to help; and so heap up the sound of the voice into the solid bits which we call consonants, and make room for the curiously shaped breathings which we call vowels!” Oliver Wendell Holmes
he human language is different from the other species. While other animal communication systems is designed to meet their basic needs— which are necessary to develop survival strategies so that they can play their role in the ecosys-
tem—the human language has many additional facets which are absent in animals. We tell stories, share ideas, exchange information, explain how to repair a flat tire, give advice, ask the meaning of life, teach physics, tell a lie and so on. There are good reasons for believing that a special relationship exists between human language and what makes the human brain different from other mammals. (1)
How do people acquire language? What was the first language spoken on earth? These and many other questions have occupied the minds of people for centuries. Hence, language-related experiments date back to ancient times. The earliest experiments were a type of language deprivation experiments in which infants were isolated from their society to prevent any possible language contact. The experiment usually lasted two years when the babbling stage was over. The first known experiment, which is also cited as the first instance of using the experimental method in the study of social phenomena, took place in Egypt. Pharaoh Psammetichus believed that Egyptians were the most ancient race. In order to prove his hypothesis, he ordered two infants to be brought up by a mute shepherd. He was curious to know which word the children would articulate first. After two years, the children spoke the word becos which meant â€œbreadâ€? in Phrygian. He admitted that Phrygians preceded them in antiquity. (2) A more recent experiment took place in India in the sixteenth century. Sultan Akbar believed that people learnt to speak by listening to one another. He ordered two infants and a mute nurse to be placed in one house. At the end of the experiment, the babies failed to develop any language. This proved the validity of his hypothesis. He was not the first to establish a link between language and society. Ibn Sina (Avicenna) proposed that language was innate, that infants were born with the ability to speak, and that language learning can take place in a society. (3) Rumi mentions a story about an infant in his Mathnawi. A female tiger takes care of the infant. When the child reaches age two, a fairy comes and teaches language and manners. The tale in Mathnawi indicates that the sociocognitive aspect of language was well-known by the people who 24
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lived centuries ago, and not a new phenomenon established by contemporary linguists. The above historical examples are related to the cognitive and social aspect of the language. When we say that language is unique to humans, the first thing that comes to mind is the cognitive aspect of language. However, the uniqueness of language is not merely confined to cognition. There are other features of language which can be considered unique to humans. Anatomical, neurological and physiological aspects make human language unique. This paper will focus on the anatomy of speech organs and more importantly on the vocal tract. Lungs, larynx, tongue, teeth, and lips make up the major speech organs of the body. Location of the spinal cord also has a contribution
to speech. The enlarged region of the spinal cord is responsible for the voluntary control of breathing required by speech production. (4) There is a delicate design in the order of the speech organs in the human anatomy. They operate in such a harmonious way that any mismatch or anatomical deformation of these organs will have a serious effect on speech production. Therefore, the anatomical order of speech organs has a great role in their functionality. If the larynx were located above its present location in the throat, it would restrict vocalization and would not be useful for speech. Although humans share speech organs with primates, just like it shares many other organs, no primate can come up with language. Primates do not possess enough cognitive abilities
Illustration of Mesopotamian King Nimrod standing near slaves constructing the Tower of Babel. (Dorling Kindersley RF Collection) Based on a Biblical story, this tower symbolizes human scattering on the face of the earth speaking different languages.
to speak like a human being. In fact, cognition is one aspect of the issue as mentioned above. However, there is another thing that needs to be taken into consideration and that is the anatomy of the vocal tract which is different in both humans and primates. In order to produce human-like speech, a human-like vocal tract is needed. The human vocal tract is unique to humans. The vocal tract can be viewed as an acoustic tube extending from the larynx to the lips. It is the main source of the resonances responsible for shaping the spectral envelope of the speech signal. The shape of the vocal tract (or more accurately its area of function) at any point in time is the most important determinant of the
speech frequencies of the (oral) cavity. (5) The vocal tract can be divided into two parts: Supralaryngeal Vocal Tract in the vertical dimension and Supralaryngeal Vocal Tract in the horizontal dimension. SVTh includes the oral cavity while SVTv includes the throat, pharynx, behind the tongue and above the larynx. Interestingly, these two vertical and horizontal vocal tracts form a right angle. They are approximately equal in length giving them a 1:1 proportion. The length and the shape of the vocal tract is highly important in the formation of speech. (6) Vowels like [i], [u] and [a] can only be produced with the current anatomy of the human vocal tract. These letters exist in almost all languages. Cognitive scientist Philip Lieberman stated that the primate vocal tract is different from the adult human’s. Humans have a 1:1 ratio of vocal tract in the horizontal and vertical dimension. However, primates have longer proportion in the horizontal dimension. They have a relatively smaller tongue and oral cavity. The anatomical restrictions do not allow them to produce [i], [u] and [a] vowels. However, in the first half of the twentieth century, linguists spent great efforts to train apes to speak like a human being. After hours of laboratory training, some apes managed to learn a few words. They uttered these words with a raspy pronunciation. Basically, the human language experience of apes did not last long. The vocal tract of chimps may not provide the articulators with enough degrees of freedom to articulate human speech sounds. (8) The position of the larynx is highly critical. The change in the position of the larynx allows us to independently vary the area of the oral and pharyngeal tubes and to create a broad variety of vocal tract shapes and formant
patterns, thus expanding our phonetic repertoire. (5) Human larynx is simpler in structure than that of other primates. This is another advantage on the human side since air can move freely through the nose and the mouth without being stopped by other appendages. The other major anatomical difference between man and primate is the fact that human beings have descended larynxes whereas the primates have their larynx situated above the throat. Human infants also share a similar vocal tract distribution with primates. This position of the larynx serves a vital function for the infant. The larynx works like a seal blocking the nasal cavity. The infant can breathe while he or she is enjoying the mother’s milk. The milk goes directly to the esophagus through the mouth. The air goes to the trachea through the nasal cavity and the larynx. This anatomical structure allows the infant to suckle and breathe at the same time. Speech organs inside the oral cavity such as tongue and teeth have great contribution in the formation of the speech. In her book, The Articulate Mammal, Jean Aitchison explains how human teeth are unusual compared to those of animals: “They are even in height, and form an unbroken barrier. They are upright, not slanting outwards, and the top and bottom set meet. Such regularity is surprising – it is certainly not needed for eating. Yet evenly spaced, equal-sized teeth which touch one another are valuable for the articulation of a number of sounds, S, F, and V, for example, as well as SH (as in shut), TH (as in thin) and several others. Human lips have muscles which are considerably more developed and show more intricate interlacing than those July / August 2013
in the lips of other primates. The mouth is relatively small, and can be opened and shut rapidly. This makes it simple to pronounce sounds such as P and B, which require a total stoppage of the airstream with the lips, followed by a sudden release of pressure as the mouth is opened. The human tongue is thick, muscular and mobile, as opposed to the long, thin tongues of monkeys. The advantage of a thick tongue is that the size of the mouth cavity can be varied allowing a range of vowels to be pronounced. It seems, then, that humans are naturally geared to produce a number of different sounds rapidly and in a controlled manner.” (10) In the light of comparative anatomy, it has become clear that every possible configuration is made at an anatomical level to make humans speak. The design of the vocal tract and the position of the speech organs tell us that the Creator wished for humans to speak:“(Having brought him into 26
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existence, God) taught Adam the names, all of them. Then (in order to clarify the supremacy of humankind and the wisdom in their being created and made vicegerent on the earth), He presented them (the things and beings, whose names had been taught to Adam, with their names) to the angels, and said, “Now tell Me the names of these” (Al-Baqarah, 2:31). In a nutshell, human beings without language would serve no purpose in the universe. In order to read and understand what the Creator wants from them, language serves as a means of communication between human beings and their Creator.
References 1. Ingram, C.L., John, 2007. Neurolinguistics: An Introduction to Spoken Language Processing and Its Disorders, Cambridge University Press. 2. Sulek, Antoni. 1989. “The Experiment of Psammetichus: Fact, Fiction, and Model to Follow,” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec.), pp. 645-651. 3. Demir, Ramazan. 2008. The Issue of the Source of Languages according to the Arab Linguists. Unpublished PhD
thesis, Istanbul: Marmara University. 4. Pinker, Steven, Jackendoff, Ray. 2005. “The Faculty of Language: What’s Special about it?” Cognition, 95, pp. 201-236. 5. Hauser, D. Marc, Fitch, W. Tecumseh. 2003. “What Are the Uniquely Human Components of the Language Faculty?” In Language Evolution, by Christiansen, Morten H. and Kirby, Simon, first ed., New York: Oxford University Press. 6. Liebermann, Philip, McCharty, Robert. 2007. “Tracking the Evolution of Language and Speech,” Expedition, Vol. 49. No. 2, pp. 15-20. 7. Pollick, S. Amy, De Waal, B.M. Frans. 2007. “Ape Gestures and Language Evolution,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Vol. 104. No. 19, May 8, pp. 81848189. 8. Weiss, J. Daniel, Newport, Elisa. 2006. “Mechanisms Underlying Language Acquisition: Benefits From a Comparative Approach,” Infancy, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 241-257. 9. Aitchison, Jean. 2008. The Articulate Mammal, Fifth ed. New York: Routledge.
Turning on the Labyrinth of
For Ali Çavuşoğlu, master turner of words memoırs Katharine Brannning Author of Yes, I Would Love another Glass of Tea. Vice-President, Library, FIAF, New York
Last year in March, I was able to accomplish a wish that I had been holding for a long time: I walked the labyrinth of the Cathedral of Chartres in France.
t was not my first walk on a labyrinth. That one had been on one of its many children, for Chartres is the mother labyrinth that has inspired many replications, simple and elaborate, throughout the world. I first discovered one of those junior labyrinths in Seattle, Washington, installed in the pocket garden outside a church. I chanced upon it one afternoon. Intrigued, I walked it in the drizzling Seattle rain, rushing through it without much thought. I was more focused on understanding the process more than trying to feel it, for I had confused it with a maze. I was convinced I was being
set up for an exercise of memory and cleverness and was afraid I would fail if I did not pay attention to each turn. Yet I was wrong, for this was a labyrinth, not a maze. There is one way in and one way out. There are no hidden corners, trick turns or dead ends. The path is achievable by all. No one gets lost. The next day, for some inexplicable reason, I felt a strong pull to go back to the labyrinth and walk it again, more purposefully this time, to try to understand what the experience entailed and why this church had put it there as a spiritual tool. I returned to the labyrinth and began my walk, slowly this
time, released from the fear that I would get lost. When I was halfway through it, I was suddenly surprised by a spontaneous outflow of tears. Where had that come from, I wondered, now realizing that the labyrinth had spiritual powers that I had only intuitively sensed before. And so I vowed then to go to Chartres and walk the original labyrinth, the most famous in the world, which had inspired this one. I wanted to walk in the same steps as had thousands of other pilgrims since it was built around the year 1200. Although I had lived in France for many years, I had never walked the labyrinth. My visits to
Chartres, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were carried out to study the components of this outstanding example of French High Gothic architecture, such as its odd pair of differently-sized steeples and the elaborate triple portals. I would stand in awe under the fluttering angel wings of the exterior flying buttresses. But above all, I would go to marvel in the magic of its stained-glass windows, the most celebrated in the world, for their technique, encyclopedic imagery of Biblical stories and breathtaking beauty. To stand under the magnificent rose window of the west wall, with its shimmering tones of deep blue, is worth a pilgrimage all on its own. I had never even noticed the labyrinth on my previous visits there, because it is generally obscured from view. Chartres is a working church and a famous pilgrimage site (it houses the cloak supposedly worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus), and due to the needs of worshippers of this busy place of reverence, the labyrinth, located in the main nave of the cathedral, is usually covered with chairs, and is only open for walking on Fridays during Lent.
But this time, I came as a pilgrim on that cold March day, taking the train from the Paris-Montparnasse station, a mode of transport far removed from the footsteps of the thousands of pilgrims of the Middle Ages, who came to Chartres as a substitute for an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the Holy Land. Since such a pilgrimage to the â€œKingdom of Heavenâ€?, as was considered Jerusalem at that time, was not possible for most, a visit to the nearest cathedral stood in for it. Pilgrims for over eight hundred years have travelled here to become closer to God. The mother labyrinth of Chartres is all the more intriguing in that it is one of the few Gothic labyrinths to remain to this day. No one knows exactly when the labyrinth was constructed, but it must have been after the construction work of the cathedral was completed and the scaffolding removed, sometime between 1200 and 1240. At this time, a large labyrinth 40 feet across was set in tan and grey stones in the central nave. Labyrinths were placed in other French Gothic cathedrals as well, such as at Amiens, Sens, Arras
and Auxerre, but they have all been suppressed, except the one at Chartres. It too, has suffered over the ages; for all that remains of the central brass plaque are the worn stubs of the rivets that held it in place. I entered the cathedral and saw it in front of me, uncovered and inviting. Due to its setting in the shadow of the light cast by those rainbow great windows, no labyrinth in the world can inspire like the one at Chartres. The labyrinth is composed of a series of 11 concentric rings that fold over each other and lead to the six-petalled center node, or as it is poetically called in French, the rosette; they then wend their way back to the original starting point. This single path meanders in 28 loops, moving from side to side as you head towards the rosette and back out again. A short straight path leads to the rosette itself. The length of the path is only about 860 feet, a mere one third of a mile, and can take from about 20 minutes to two hours to complete. The labyrinth is framed by a glowing halo of ornamentation around the outer circle, comprised of pointed cusps enclosed in foliate borders.
How one walks the labyrinth and what one receives differs with each person, and for each person, with each walk. It is a highly personal experience. Children can walk it and find it playful; adults can find it straightforward or a life-changing spiritual tool. All it takes is an open mind and an open heart, and a slow pace to allow the emotion of the experience to build in you as you walk the path with your whole being. As you are in a space of devotion, silence is respected. No one talks while walking the labyrinth, to better hear your own voice. You receive from it what is there for you to receive. The path goes two ways, and you cross those going in as you go out. I stared at the labyrinth for a long time before I entered it. I looked at the cross on the main altar and thought how the four quadrants of the labyrinth recalled the four arms of the cross. I thought of the rosette. Mary, Mother Rose of our existence, Woman among all Women. I will be clothed in your blue robes, Mary, as I turn on the labyrinth; your shining face will illuminate my path. Before entering the labyrinth I was a bit apprehensive about what would happen to me when I wound my way through the serpentine path on this meditative prayer done with my feet. I told myself to take slow and deliberate steps, and just put one foot in front of the other. All I needed to do was to go into the center and then back out again. This was no race. There would be no tricks, no teasing decisions to be made, and no one would judge my performance. I just needed to surrender myself to the path, and accept the insights it would give me. But just what insights would be given to me? Would I be overcome by angst like I was in Seattle or would a difficult question come to my mind? What grief would I let go? What help, if any, would I receive for my troubles I cannot re-
solve on my own? Would I find release from the problems of my life and turn its stress into the peaceful silence within myself I seek so deeply? Would I be able to carry out the work my soul is searching for? I stayed there for a long while, and prayed for the strength to get me through this mini-marathon of spiritual discovery. I took my first step, the first of many as I wandered through each of the four quadrants several times before reaching the rosette. I entered, my head and ears full of the noise of the daily details of life. With each step I began to quiet down and release some of that clutter. I stopped thinking about the rambunctious teenagers on the train ride out, how I would ever find the time to finish that job for work I needed to complete by next week, and the worries about my sick friend. I started to empty my mind and let go of burdens and stress. The shimmering blue windows smiled down at me; the warm cloak of Mary’s blue began to envelop me. I paused to balance my weight as I made a turn. Sometimes I stopped completely in my tracks for a while. I continued on my way, putting one foot in front of the other, turning 180 degrees each time I entered a new circuit, like a switchback on a mountain. With each switchback flip, I wondered if my brain energy was changing from the left intuitive and creative side to the more rational right side. I reflected on how the labyrinth itself even looks like an anatomical depiction of the brain with its many folds. A great expectancy was created as to when I would ever reach the center and what would happen once I reached it. Would the center leave a divine imprint onto my soul? I continued towards the rosette, wondering if I would ever reach it. This path seemed so long! A myriad of questions, thoughts and concerns began to flood those
two quadrants of my brain. Sometimes I passed others going the other way. Sometimes I came up to someone stuck dead in his tracks, unable to move. What is he feeling at this moment, I asked myself, which has stopped him so? Was it the same emotion that made those tears flow in Seattle? Sometimes someone passed me, like a car on the highway, but I did not consider it rude. His experience is pushing him to go faster. Sometimes I walked slowly; sometimes I sped through a turn. Yet throughout, I was aware of my breathing and the increasing silence in my ears. Somewhere along the path, I began to hear whisperings. I walked with my head bowed; was it to better concentrate on the position of my feet or because I felt I was praying with them? And so it was for all of us in the labyrinth that chilly March day, as it has been every day for over 800 years. I did not feel alone but a part of a long heritage of pilgrims, all of us feeling the same emotions as we continued to turn to reach the center. You feel the beating heart of the pavement of this cathedral, the beating heart of Christ’s love, and the beating heart of your own existence. You hear your breath become an illuminated prayer to life. When you at last reach the rosette, a sense of accomplishment fills you, and you want to stay there and absorb it and think about what led you there. You pause there to reflect even more, and listen to the whisper of a deeper revelation you had never felt before. But why doesn’t the labyrinth end here, you ask yourself? Why do you have to walk again through those turns? Of course you do, for your life is never complete, just as the turns continue. As you walk out, you have time to reflect on how you will take that beating heart of love back out and keep it beating in the face of your daily life. You want to share that peace of the rosette with the daily world around once you return to July / August 2013
it. When you finish your final steps, you realize there are questions you will never be able to answer, no matter how many times you walk the labyrinth. The power of the labyrinth has taught you to walk humbly with your Lord, as it says in the Old Testament book of Micah. I left the rosette, and walked back out. I was done. I took a deep breath. As I stepped out of the labyrinth, I lifted my eyes to the kaleidoscopic windows above the west transept door. I turned my head to the left to gaze at the stunning rose window over the south doors. The light streaming through them seemed brighter, or was it because my heart was not as dark as when I entered the labyrinth? I had been warmed by the light of the blue window. I had worn the blue cloak of Mary. You stop again and say a prayer of thanksgiving this time, for the love you felt when you were on the path, for the love waiting for you when you return home, and the love you will be able to give to your life from the strength you received on the walk. You feel balanced and a little more in contact with your own divinity. The Kingdom of God is within you. After I walked the labyrinth, I thought of the other prayer journeys done on labyrinths by various seekers of truth and the appealing unity of this spiritual interface across all
history and many faiths. I recalled that the very first labyrinth had been designed by the architect Daedalus over 4000 years ago in ancient Crete. Images of the sand paintings of the Navahos, the “Mother Earth” labyrinth of the Hopi Indians, Buddhist mandalas, and the Nazca lines in Peru flashed before my eyes. I thought of the Shakers of my native midwest America, named for their ritual dance and desire to lead a pure life: ‘Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be To turn, turn, will be our delight ‘Til by turning, turning, we come ‘round right… I pondered the spiritual journey of the three Abrahamic faiths, and of Islam especially, and how they have developed over the years from Abraham to Moses to Jesus to Paul to the Prophet Muhammad. It is a journey of faith on a long path, much like the winding path of the labyrinth is a metaphor for the spiritual journey all of us experience in one way or another, even the most dedicated of atheists.
I noted that my own body is a labyrinth, with blood flowing into the rosette of my heart and flowing out again purified with oxygen. I recalled the miracle of our natural world, where everything in the universe is revolving; electrons and neutrons and protons all forming the tiniest ant to the largest galaxy. Everything is in motion in the natural world; everything walks its own labyrinth. Yet of all these traditions and thoughts, the one that came most strongly to me after my walk on the Chartres labyrinth is the Sufi path. I thought of the Sufis and their sema dance, and it made me realize that you don’t really walk a labyrinth, you turn on it. Sufi whirling is a form of active meditation practiced by the dervishes of the Mevlevi Order of Konya, Turkey. This dance is performed in a ceremony with the aim to reach perfection by abandoning one’s egos and personal desires, focusing on God and spinning in repetitive circles to the
music of the ney flute. Jalâluddîn Rumi, the great poet that inspired the movement, often used music and dance in his spiritual practices, and it was his son who established the Mevlevi Order. Rumi mentioned Jesus in many of his verses, which makes him more accessible to me and makes me think that he would have understood what it was like to turn on the labyrinth of Chartres and hear those whispers: The Jesus of your spirit is inside you now. Ask that one for help, but don’t ask for body-things... Don’t ask Moses for provisions that you can get from Pharaoh. Don’t worry so much about livelihood. Your livelihood will turn out as it should. Be constantly occupied instead with listening to God. Rumi, Mathnawi II:450-454 The Sufis believe that there is a path, or a way to experience faith, which is called the “tarikat.” Tarikat is the conscious choice a person makes to come to seek knowledge of God. Someone who walks the path of tarikat is a Sufi. The Mevlevi order of Sufism delineates a precise symbol of this path, which takes the form of the ritual turning dance
of the sema. Rumi’s message is always about the love of God and the surrender to God. It is the same idea that happens with the labyrinth – you begin your walk and surrender yourself to the emotion that will come to you along the walk. When you walk the path, you turn like a Sufi. You are taken to your center, often to a hidden and mysterious portion of your personality that you did not suspect. You can intensely concentrate or just let the steps take you to their own gift of intuition from the mundane to the divine. You feel connected to a long tradition and to the vast mystery of creation and a renewed connection to yourself, God and the world around you. You feel a greater sense of Oneness, and that you are not alone, either with your God or those people you crossed while turning on the labyrinth. I can now better sense the sema and the tarikat of the Sufis after having turned on the Chartres labyrinth. Sema is beyond reason; it is the symbol of a spiritual journey to our innermost center where we are closest to God. It is the flame of divine love. It is a turn back, a turn forward, all for a return to love. Into the labyrinth, into the rosette and out again, all for a return to love. One hand open to heaven, one hand open to earth, the dervish spins to the left, in the direction of the heart. The first turn on the Chartres labyrinth is to the left, and the leading foot is always the left one. Many Sufi mystics perceive that everything and everyone of us are profoundly connected to the Divine as one people, one ecology, one intelligence, one blood, one universe, one being, one humanism, one truth, one love. There is one path;
perhaps with 180 degree switchback turns, but we all joined on this path. I think of the thousands of people who have come to Chartres and walked this labyrinth, and what pushed them to make this pilgrimage. I see that they are seeking the same path as a Sufi; to be joined together on those turns, in our lives, and with the Divine. We seek to break the tyranny of the ego, the tyranny of our neurosis and materialistic world. We seek to find a way to live a life of selflessness and filled with love. One of the most well-known of the Rumi poems states: Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, There is a field, I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, The words “you” and “I” do not exist. I entered that field of grass when I reached the rosette of the labyrinth of Chartres. Since that first labyrinth walk in Seattle and my encounter with the labyrinth of Chartres, I continue to turn the labyrinth in my mind whenever I can. It is an ongoing spiritual practice, just like prayer. I have a mouse pad at my computer at work with a photo of the Chartres cathedral labyrinth. I trace the pattern with my finger when I am in need to quiet my mind or find comfort. I close my eyes and imagine I feel the cold stones of the cathedral floor under my feet and the warm cloak of Mary around my shoulders. I hear the ney and see the whirling white robes of the Semazen. I feel connected to others and inspired to Oneness with them. Come, walk with me and turn on the path of the labyrinth of our lives. Let us meet all together in that rosette field of peace. July / August 2013
anatomy Mehmet Yildiz Professor of operative dentistry at Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey.
Can a Filling Imitate a Tooth?
eeth may lose their hard structure because of decay or various other reasons. The loss of the dental tissues raises many problems such as bad appearance in the mouth and weakening in the capability to chew. A dentist is expected to restore the excellent structure of teeth using artificial fillings. In order to understand the great difference between real teeth and artificial teeth, let us have a look at the structure of teeth. The excellent nature of teeth comes from the microstructure of the material they are made of. They are not homogenous like cement used in construction work. It is composed of various different lay32
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ers such as enamel, dentine, and cementum which are formed by enamel prisms and dentine tubules. This structure of the teeth is the source of inspiration for the produced restorations. Since an exact imitation is aimed, in addition to other properties, the microstructure of the teeth also needs to be imitated. When the general structure of the teeth is investigated, it is observed that there are two major components: organic and inorganic structures. The filling material, referred to as composite, must be in the color of the tooth and must contain the same type of structure. The filling material in the composite increases the resistance of the restoration and has the same function of the mineral hydroxyapatite in the enamel. In the composite,
resin matrix takes the place of the organic matrix in the enamel. Up to this point, everything seems fine but the images of scanning electron microscope (SEM) showing the cross sections portray the trivial difference between the composite and the natural tooth. The homogenous, ordinary appearance of the filling and the astonishingly embellished tooth are very easy to differentiate. There are prerequisites that make tooth restoration successful. We can summarize these as esthetics, functionality, and phonation. These properties are affected with the loss of the tooth or the structure of the tooth. What follows is an analysis as to how and to what extent these properties can be replaced.
Esthetics in the dentistry means exact imitation of the tooth color. To be able to give a natural color to the filling or to the crown could be considered a miracle. It might sound like a very simple issue. However, this is probably the most challenging thing for dentists. If the color does not match, your restoration will look different and will easily be noticeable. Maybe it is my professional curiosity because while watching television I have a tendency to look at people’s teeth before I look anywhere else. From the most popular singers and actors to mighty and scholarly politicians, I can always recognize their prosthesis. Ironically, these people were spending their wealth on professional dentists who could not give their original teeth back to them. The color is not something that could be mixed up together by fulfilling only one of its features. The color comes into existence as a result of common features of many factors. A dentist’s only hope is one day using homogeneous clay typed structures squeezed from a tube. The structure of the enamel and the dentine are deeply related with opacity and translucency, two important subjects of optics. That is why some parts of the tooth are translucent while the other parts are opaque. It is possible to restore it with a few optical tricks. The tooth is neither completely opaque nor translucent. For example, while the cutting edges of the tooth are translucent (especially the cutting edges of newly erupted milk teeth, they are almost glassy), the cervix of tooth, adjacent to gingiva, is opaque and dusky. Thus, in big restorations, we implant materials that reflect the light differently for every surface of the tooth. We try to compare and contrast to the original teeth by using optical tricks. However, a more important thing is the sustainability of this quality. Especially, for restorations made to anterior teeth, you can observe that the colors have become darker
and have separated from adjacent tooth with a dusky-colored borderline. Indeed, it is evident that color harmony is not preserved properly. We cannot expect to reach a result that is equivalent to the look and feel of natural teeth through esthetic restoration only. The mechanical properties of restoration must be similar to that of the natural teeth. The reaction of the teeth to a certain force is very important. Teeth are subjected to forces of different types and magnitudes throughout the day, and they are created so as to endure those forces. Any restoration must be as strong and durable as the natural teeth. A piece of filling that is placed into a tooth becomes a working part of the entire system. If it is not as resolute as the rest of the system, then it cannot integrate and may fall out. In this regard, the mechanical properties of the material for restoration are crucial. There are dozens of other aspects in which one can compare those properties with a natural tooth. Considering just a couple of the important properties such as hardness and flexibility is enough to show significant differences between natural teeth and restorative materials. Both hardness and flexibility of a material are determined by certain characteristics and are all formulated in scientific terms. We can see the difference of natural teeth very easily by comparing the hardness and flexibility of the most commonly used composites in the fore teeth and that of hard tissues like enamel and dentine. There is yet another point not to be missed: What makes our teeth perfect is that they are both hard and flexible at the same time. We can see the big gap between real and artificial teeth when we compare the quantitative values of these mechanical properties. Teeth, in addition to their superior mechanical features, impress us with their exceptional capac-
ity to transmit the force they face. Teeth come in contact with their hard counterpart everyday while eating or otherwise. A casual observer might think that a tooth is directly attached to the chin bone. Let alone being attached, the tooth does not even touch the chin bone. It is tied to the chin bone with flexible strings. A fusion of the bone and teeth is out of the question. It’s as if a bucket is lowered in a well. Whenever we chew, the pressure endured by the teeth is transferred to the bone through these strings in the best manner. These periodontal ligaments serve as shock absorbers. It would be incomplete to explain force transfer in teeth with these strings. It is imperative to remember the structure called lines of forces located on the chin bone that are shaped in such a manner as to guide the force. It is a noteworthy challenge to make restorations and to replace a tooth in every aspect. Man-made products or works of art cannot be completely imitated; experts at least could tell the differences right away. Could it then ever be possible to imitate an artwork of the Divine to the same degree of perfection in its authentic form? July / August 2013
Ma'rifa (Spiritual Knowledge of God)
EMERALD HILLS OF THE HEART With the spirit always flying upward toward eternity, and the heart enraptured with the pleasure of finding peace or being at rest, but always self-possessed and cautious, a life lived in ma‘rifa is as calm and peaceful as that lived in the gardens of Paradise. 34
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a‘rifa literally denotes skill or talent, a special ability that belongs to certain people, and knowing by certain means. According to travelers on the path of God, it is the station where knowing is united with the one who knows, where knowing becomes second nature, and where each state reveals what or who is known. Some have defined ma‘rifa as the appearance and development of the knowledge of God in one’s conscience, or knowing God by one’s conscience. In other words, one has attained self-realization and has realized his or her humanity with all of its intrinsic values and dimensions. This may be what is meant by: The one who knows himself knows his Lord.1 The first rank of ma‘rifa is discerning the manifestations of the Divine Names surrounding us, and spectating the amazing climate of the Attributes behind the door of mystery, half-opened by these manifestations. During this journey, lights flow continuously from the traveler’s eyes and ears to his or her tongue, and one’s heart begins to direct those acts, which serve as a tongue confirming and proclaiming the Ultimate Truth. This tongue becomes, so to speak, a diskette of “good words,” and various lights from the light-giving truth of: To Him pure words ascend, and the righteous deed causes them to rise (35:10) begin to be reflected on the screen of his or her conscience. One who has acquired such ma‘rifa is immune to all evil and is enveloped by breezes blowing from the realms beyond. As Ibrahim Haqqi of Erzurum states, “God said: ‘I can be contained by neither the heavens nor the earth.’ He is known by the heart as a Hidden Treasure in the heart,” translating the allegorical hadith qudsi: “Neither the heavens nor the earth can contain Me, but the heart of a believer contains Me,”2 corridors of light are opened from his or her spirit toward the One known by the heart. The traveler is so enraptured with observing such scenes that he or she does not think of returning to a normal life.
A traveler who is completely closed to all else save God, who has resisted all corporeal desires and impulses in order to be carried by the tides of Divine company, has reached the stage of ma‘rifa. One who travels around this point is called a traveler to ma‘rifa; one who has reached it is called an ‘arif (one who has spiritual knowledge of God). The differences found in commentaries on ma‘rifa are based on the temperaments and schools of thought or levels of ma‘rifa itself. Some have sought ma‘rifa in those who have it, and they have seen the feeling of awe observed in them as the manifestation of ma‘rifa. Some others have seen it as connected with serenity, and judge the ma‘rifa’s depth according to the vastness of serenity; still others have seen it as the heart’s complete closure to everything but God; while there are still others who have understood it as the heart’s wonder and admiration amidst the tides of Divine manifestations. Such hearts always beat with wonder and amazement, for the eyes of their owners open and close with amazement, and their tongues pronounce with wonder and admiration: I acknowledge that I am unable to praise You as You praise Yourself.3 With the spirit always flying upward toward eternity, and the heart enraptured with the pleasure of finding peace or being at rest, but always self-possessed and cautious, a life lived in ma‘rifa is as calm and peaceful as that lived in the gardens of Paradise. Side-by-side with the angels, those who have acquired ma‘rifa are included in the meaning of: They do not disobey God in whatever He commands them, and carry out what they are commanded (66:6). With feelings that are like buds waiting for daylight to blossom, such souls open fully with ma‘rifa in “daylight” and experience the pleasure of intimacy with Him at every moment with a new dimension of ma‘rifa. So long as they keep their eyes fixed on the door of the Ultimate Truth, they are intoxicated by meeting with Him several times a day or even every hour, and are enraptured with a new manifestation at every moment. While those supposing themselves to be scholars continue to “crawl,” and philosophers continue to philosophize and struggle to build on the information they have, an ‘arif (one who has attained knowledge of God) always tastes peace and talks about peace in an effusion of “light.” Even when ‘arifs quake
with fear and awe of the Almighty, they feel infinite pleasure and, while their eyes weep, their hearts always smile. There are differences of manners and tendencies among ‘arifs based on temperaments and schools of spiritual training. While some are deep and silent, like whirlpools, others “gurgle” like waterfalls. Some always weep for fear of committing sins, and never tire of praising their Lord; others continuously travel in awe, modesty, and familiarity and never think of leaving this “ocean.” Still others are like the earth which everybody else “treads,” as no one shows them respect or thinks that they are ‘arifs; or they are like clouds sending “water” to everyone under them, or like breezes, for they touch our feelings and blow us good and favor. An ‘arif can be recognized in several ways: such a person expects favor from and becomes intimate only with the Known One; he or she lifts his or her eyelids and opens the doors of his or her heart only to Him; he or she turns only to Him in love; and experiences the greatest suffering when anyone other than Him is desired. One who has not acquired true knowledge of God Almighty cannot distinguish between the Beloved and others, and one who is not intimate with the Beloved cannot know separation’s torment and pain. Muhammed Lutfi says: “There is the light of knowledge of God in the eyes of the soul of an ‘arif. One with an ‘arif receives God’s help and knows what knowledge of God is.” Our Lord! Be in our favor, and do not be against us; help us and do not help others against us. And bestow blessings and peace on our master Muhammad, chosen among and sent to us, and on his Family and Companions, noble and godly.
Notes 1 al-‘Ajluni, Kashfu’l-Khafa’, 2:343. 2 Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, az-Zuhd, 81; ad-Daylami, al-Musnad, 3:174. 3 Muslim, “Salah,” 222; Abu Dawud, “Salah,” 148.
nature Ahmet Bahadir Asst. professor of engineering based in Istanbul
Optimization in Nature Intelligent Solutions from Unintelligent Species
In recent years, nature-inspired algorithmsÂ have beenÂ gaining much popularity due to the increase in magnitude, complexity, and dynamism of many real-world optimization problems. Today, the size and complexity of the problems require the development of methods and solutions whose efficiency is measured by their ability to find acceptable results within a reasonable amount of time, rather than an ability to guarantee the optimal solution.Â
e are faced with many challenges in life, and we are able to find solutions to most of these challenges with our minds. We drive home from work and we try to find the best route considering the traffic, the cost and time required to make it to our destination. We consider cost, fuel consumption, maintenance, and after-sale service and then select the best alternative when buying a car. An airline company assigns pilots to the flights considering work hour constraints and aircraft maintenance schedule. A company has limited budget and many project alternatives. Each project has a cost and revenue and the company tries to find the best projects that will maximize the revenue. In each case, the optimum solution is desired. The problems can be modeled as a mathematical problem in which an objective function, decision variable and constraints exist. The objective is the maximum revenue, the decision variables are the projects and the constraint is the limited budget for the company. However, most of these theoretical problems are more complex in practice and need special solution search methods. Once a problem is formulated, the next step is to use a solution method to find an optimum solution. Finding an optimum solution is similar to finding a treasure on a mountain or in the ground with limited time. If there is no sign of the best location or no guidance to the right direction, this search is pointless and a waste of time. In other words what this means is that we merely hope to find the best solution and continue on digging. This is obviously not an efficient method. Sometimes helpful information is provided for the location of the treasure and we directly climb the mountain to reach it. Most cases are between these two strategies. One can look at some places randomly and look for some clues of treasure, then move to another location and continue until he gives up or finds the treasure. Another
useful approach might be looking for the treasure with a group of people. Each group member chooses a random path and shares information about their experiences until they reach the treasure . These methods are trial-and-error based search methods. People use their intelligence and instincts when they try to find a solution for a problem. We tend to choose the directions that will take us minimum time when driving home. Kids learn using trial and error methods and we tend to solve problems in daily life using trial-and-error approaches. The solutions that are based on trialand-error are called heuristics. Heuristics methods can find a good solution to a complex problem in a reasonable amount of time but there is no guarantee that the solution is best. These methods are preferred when the best solution is not required and a good solution is desired in a short time. Computer programs and simulations are developed to solve large-scale complex problems using heuristics. The best designs, solutions, inspirations, and engineering mechanisms that are beyond the reach of current technology are abundantly found in nature. Scientists visualize and simulate the behavior of animals in nature and apply their strategies to problem solving. These strategies provide successful heuristics methods.
Ants teach us how to find the right path The behaviors of ants provide a good solution method to solve complex problems on graphs. An ant leaves its nest and randomly chooses a path to look for food. If it finds the location of food, it returns to the colony and leaves traces of a chemical on the return path called â€œpheromone.â€? When another ant finds this chemical, the ant follows the same path to reach the food. More ants that follow this path leave the same chemical
markings, making the path more attractive to follow. If the path is long and unattractive, the chemical evaporates and loses its attractiveness as it is not used frequently. If a path is used more frequently, it will be more attractive for an ant as each ant leaves traces of chemical one on top of the other . The most attractive path is the path that is shortest or optimal since it is preferred by many ants that make the chemicals denser and keep it fresh all the time.
Figure 1: Ants leave traces of chemicals on the path that leads to the food, and other ants follow the same path to reach the food. It is required to find the shortest path to an optimal solution of a complex problem. A graph is used to analyze all the possible paths and hence find out the shortest path. The traveling salesman problem is a famous example of such problem. There are many possible combinations of the optimal solution. The required computational time becomes exponential as the size of the problem gets bigger. On the other hand, ant colony optimization can provide good solutions in a very short time. The search algorithm works in such a way that each ant randomly selects a path in the search space and the length of the paths (value of the objective function) are recorded. The solution developer arbitrarily assigns ants to the search space and allows them to select a path. This search process is replicated many times and as one path is selected more frequently, then it means this path is shorter and better than other paths and hence can be preferred as a good solution. This solution is recorded as the best solution to a large scale problem.
Social behaviors of bird and fish swarms Modeling the social behaviors of animals in their natural habitats provides us a way to reach a good solution. Bees, termites, ants, birds, fish July / August 2013
and wasps are good examples of animals that have a social and collaborative life style. These animals work together in a social environment and interact with each other to continue their life and supply their basic need of food. Food is distributed often times far away from where these animals are located and they have to find a trail to reach their food without knowing the exact location. The physical paths and mental strategies used by each animal to find a solution to their problems—which is in a way like developing a natural algorithm to find the right way to the food—is noteworthy enough to do extra research. Algorithm designers have modeled the strategies of these species and found out that it can be used to find an optimal solution to a problem . If a group of birds is considered, the information that each bird in the flock is equal to the solution has been obtained so far. The best known food location signals the best solution. This information is distributed in the flock and other birds move to this location to focus on the area. The move from one place to another by each bird represents the development of a solution in the optimization problem. The most important issue is the collaboration of each individual in the flock, whether it is a bird or a fish. In a flock, each bird acts as an agent to achieve a global objective while co-operating with other members without any conflict. Each member in the flock is governed by local rules and interactions among which agents lead the flock to its global objective. As mentioned, this objective might be to find food, foraging or constructing shelter. The behaviors of these agents illustrates that a self-organized social community exists without any education and experience as there is no central control in this system. A member of the flock does move according 38
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to directives from an authority or according to a plan. Each member coordinates its movement according to movements of its neighbors. Each bird stays close enough to the flock so it does not lose it. It also avoids collisions if the members of the flock move very close to each other. This is called “separation.” Each agent follows the average heading of its group which is called “alignment.” Since there is no leader or bird which makes the commands, the movement of the entire flock is the result of collaboration. Each member is free to fly in any location point of the flock. As there are more eyes that are collaboratively looking for food, one bird uses the eyes of all other birds. It is interesting to note that a school of fish show a similar organized behavior. An observer might conclude that the motion of these groups is pre-planned, but in reality they are not. The motion of a school of fishes and flocks of birds are animated in computers, and their movements are modeled using mathematical formulations. The flock starts its motion from a current location X0. Let’s say that f(x) is the problem that needs to be maximized, i.e., we would like to find a solution X that will maximize f(x). The function corresponds to the best location that the food is abundant for the bird flock. The flock moves from X0 to X1 then X2 and ends with Xn which is the last point during the search. Each point represents a possible location for the food, the best is represented as:
X * = max f ( x) : x* ∈ X : f ( x * ) ≥ f ( x) ∀x ∈ X x∈X
This is the point where the food is abundant and the swarm concentrates to this area. When the swarm moves from Xn-1 to Xn based on the velocity vector given,
V t +1 = V t + ϕ1U 1t ( pb t − x t ) + ϕ 2U 2t ( gb t − x t ) inertia
personel exp erience
social inf luence
note that the new location is determined based on the inertia, personal experience and social influence. Then when they find food, every member benefits from the result.
Figure 2: The flock shares information and works together to reach to food.
Artificial bee colony is another method that is used in optimization problems. Each honey bee goes to look for food and returns to the hive with some nectar . The bee then dances in the hive signaling the amount of nectar it found at the source. Other bees choose one source depend on the dances of returning bees and they also return to the hive with some nectar. The amount of nectars is evaluated and the abandoned food sources are replaced with sources that have less food. The amount of food corresponds to the objective of the optimization problem that will be maximized. The number of returning bees with nectar corresponds to the number of solutions to the problem. Since bees share information through dancing, the location that has the highest amount of food is determined as the optimum solution to the problem. Bat algorithm, firefly algorithm, krill herd algorithm, and intelligent water drops are some other important methods that are inspired from nature. It is also worth mentioning that new methods are being tested and we can expect that they will be in use in
the near future. These methods basically mimic the behaviors and strategies used in nature and apply these strategies in solving real life mathematical problems.
Nature as a source for humankind Nature is the service of mankind as a source of food, a shelter, and a source of life with its oxygen and water. Humankind now realizes that nature contains solutions to their problems more than ever. Biomimetics, a science that has been developed recently, is the science that analyzes the systems, processes, models and materials of the creatures in nature and develops methods that help to solve real world problems. Bath University in the UK developed a database that contains the engineering systems of natural creatures and when a new machine, material or solution is developed, scientists benefit from this database. They estimate that only 10% of the potential in the nature is currently being used. The heuristic methods that have been analyzed in this article are only some of the available algorithms.
How can animals display such a level of knowledge to find methods and solutions? Do they develop them all by themselves? Are they able to share knowledge among themselves in a conscious way so as to reach optimum results, or are they born with these capabilities? Nature offers a banquet of amazing phenomena for us to ponder over with all sorts of models and systems to provide solutions for many human problems. In other words, intelligent human beings benefit from the strategies of the species that are not intelligent. It means that there is another global intelligence behind what is beyond the reach of human capability.
References Yang, Xin-She. 2010. Nature-inspired Metaheuristics Algorithms, Luniver Press, 2nd Edition, UK. Dorigo, Marco, Thomas Stutzle. 2004. Ant Colony Optimization, MIT Press. Reynolds, Craig. 1987. “Flocks, Herds, and Schools: A Distributed Behavioral Model”, Computer Graphics, Vol. 21(4), July. Karaboga, D., B. Basturk. 2007. “A Powerful and Efficient Algorithm for Numerical Function Optimization: Artificial Bee Colony (ABC) Algorithm,” Journal of Global Optimization, Vol. 39 (3), pp. 459-171, November. July / August 2013
Passive Aggression A Bleeding Wound in Our Spiritual Life
psychology Hasan Aydinli Professor of psychology based in Istanbul.
“What did she mean with that look? Was she upset with the mess I left behind home? Is she angry with me?” Passive-aggression is frustrating to most people because it is not as easily identifiable or unacceptable as punching someone in the face would be. It has its own ways of manifestation.
ccording to psychoanalytic theories, aggression within the human body is reflected outside via various forms. From this standpoint, we can become harmful to the people around us and may have a negative impact on our environment without even knowing. We happen to witness either direct or indirect aggressive behaviors in our daily lives. One of the hardest sides of human nature to manage is aggressive attitudes and behaviors that stem from a well-laid foundation of anger. Thee feeling of anger, sometimes mixed with hatred and revenge, is found to lie at the source of aggression. Anger is in fact ingrained in our nature to motivate people to protect themselves from harmful and dangerous situations. In other words, anger should be employed for self-defense, when our property, life, and the values we uphold
are under attack. Left untrained, it causes a portrayal of aggressive attitudes and behaviors which in turn negatively affects the entire life of a human being. The external display of this feeling via brute force and verbal abuse can be referred to as an active form of aggression. Inclination towards psychopathic and sociopathic states occurs in the next stages. Psychopathic inclination is used in psychiatry to describe personality disorders characterized with a lack of empathy and consciousness. This kind of aggression results in criminal behaviors such as murder, injury, and physical abuse, which are punished by law. Another type of aggression that is more common yet hard to notice is in the form of hidden behaviors which are displayed passively, thus “passive aggression.” Gossip, envy, jealousy, hatred, animosity, foul language, lack of trust, being unable to appreciate favors, rejection, mockery, and destructive criticism fall under this type of behavior. Beneath these types of behaviors lie
the untrained aggressive feelings innate within every human being. Rehabilitation of aggressive behavior, in other words, controlling the feelings of hatred, revenge and anger, contributes positively to a person’s social life. Otherwise, if emotions of anger and hate trigger an uncontrolled outburst of aggression for no valid reason, it becomes an antisocial behavior. People who display their instinctive aggression through speech and action will fall into the swirl of gossip, envy, jealousy and destructive criticism without even realizing what they have done, and these behaviors in time will result in disruptions within the spiritual life of the person. Gossip may oftentimes start off with the intention of bringing to light certain issues and can later transform into the gossip of an individual and can hurt their feelings or cause damage. Twelfth century jurist and theologian Al-Ghazali listed the psychological reasons lying behind the act of gossip as; to satisfy the desire for revenge, to fit into a specific environment
People who display their instinctive aggression through speech and action will fall into the swirl of gossip, envy, jealousy and destructive criticism without even realizing what they have done, and these behaviors in time will result in disruptions within the spiritual life of the person. July / August 2013
or peer group, bigotry, jealousy, to look down on others, to have fun, displaying others’ shortcomings to make people laugh, and to mock people. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi explains in his Twenty-second Letter, how gossip is a vile weapon used by envious people and how people with self-esteem will never stoop so low to employ such an unclean weapon: “Backbiting consists of saying that which would be a cause of dislike and vexation to the person in question if he or she were to be present and hear it. Even if what is said is true, it is still backbiting. If it is a lie, then it is both backbiting and slander, and a doubly loathsome sin.”
people, who pray and carry out the basic principles of faith gossip as well. This is a major contradiction. There is no justification for gossiping after we acknowledge the fact that the Creator knows everything we do or keep inside. If behaviors like gossiping, envy, jealousy, and destructive criticism have become a regular habit, it should be alarming for that person. For it is these habits that will eventually make the person more aggressive and this passive aggression will generate more harmful results. These behaviors that have turned into habits will hold the person under its control and influence. Individuals who are suffering from these disorders won’t be able to notice that they have changed in time and have lost some of their qualities. Positive manners and attributes like mercy, forgiveness, loyalty, tolerance, empathy, and sensitivity of the conscience will start to disappear slowly.
To be aware of one’s own faults and contradictions
Are we aware that we are harming ourselves?
We do not show the instinctive aggression within us only via brute force or violence. We also reflect the unwanted emotions within us through gossip and secretive talks. Obviously these are not pleasant manners. In order to distance ourselves from ill habits like envy, revenge, and gossip, there is great need for self-rehabilitation and prayers to help improve our spiritual life. We may observe from time-to-time that even religious
People who act with emotions of passive aggression should not forget that they are first and foremost harming themselves. These harmful emotions in time lead them to loneliness for these emotions have an impact on the person’s behavior and overtime, their relationship with others is disrupted. If one person starts to harm others through aggressive behaviors, he or she will face negative criticisms. A person trying to harm somebody
“Backbiting consists of saying that which would be a cause of dislike and vexation to the person in question if he or she were to be present and hear it. Even if what is said is true, it is still backbiting. If it is a lie, then it is both backbiting and slander, and a doubly loathsome sin.” that he or she dislikes will notice what a harmful behavior this is when they themselves are one day rejected socially and kept distant by loved ones. Because aggressive emotions put a person in great stress, overtime biological imbalances appear. The urge to harm someone will cause tension, unhappiness and psychological chaos, eventually ruining one’s daily life. As a result of these, many psychosomatic symptoms from headache to hyper tension, digestive system anomalies to fatigue may emerge. These habits result in serious damages to social life, as they prevent proper communication and dialogue, cause conflicts in between individuals and generate hostility. Individuals with the aim of harming others via these behaviors lead to degradation of social order, love, and friendship. So it is wise for us to think again before displaying these behaviors that harm marital affairs, disrupt workplace order, distance people from one another, and cause lack of happiness and greater conflicts.
Immediate recovery from aggression In cases where the conscience loses against the ego, more aggressive behaviors of individuals are observed. It is best to consider such behaviors as spiritual illnesses and take necessary action for rehabilitation. Aggressive disorders perish the heart, and cause injuries in one’s spiritual world. If these behaviors continue, love, tolerance, friendship and
peace disappear. For personal and social peace, it is imperative to restrain passive aggressive behaviors. On the one hand due attention should be given not to make such acts legitimized in the public view, while on the other hand those who suffer from such failures should be treated without too much of exposure so that they are not offended. In one of his wisdom-filled words, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, states: "God will cover up on the Day of Resurrection the shortcomings and faults of the one who covers up the faults of the others in this world." In a nutshell, the main cause of passive aggression can be said to be a lack of profound awareness in one’s conscience. Aside from this, feelings of insufficiency, desire to be in a respected position, desire to attain greater benefits, wanting to rise to a higher status than
the one already present, receiving gratification from the misery of others, lacking in empathy, and being selfish are among the many symptoms behind this disorder. The cure for the mentioned state of mind may be possible if and when one becomes more careful about spurring their spiritual nature. Praying for the people that are subject to jealousy, avoiding vain talk, staying away from gossip, keeping oneself busy with healthier habits, forgiving, being humble by seeing the shortcomings of ourselves first, noticing the positive sides of others, and being constructive and kind when we have to be critical are among the many precautions that can be taken. It is clear that curing the illness of aggression, whether it has been displayed voluntarily or involuntarily, lies on all of our shoulders. July / August 2013
On July 4, 1054, Chinese astronomers noted a bright star appearing in the sky. For three weeks, it was bright enough to be seen even in the daytime. It gradually dimmed, until it was no longer visible on April 17, 1056.Â This new star is now called supernova Crab Nebula, an exploding star which is brighter than all the rest of the stars in the galaxy put together.
astronomy Nuri Balta Head of Physics dept. at Samanyolu Schools in Turkey. Also a PhD candidate in Physics at Middle Eastern Technical University, Ankara
hat is a supernova?
The life of a star is affected by two main factors: while gravitational forces pull the gas contained in the star towards the center, pressure that is generated by the nuclear fusion which takes place in the center pushes the gas outwards. When a star runs out of fuel, gravitational forces take over and it results in the sudden collapse of the star. As a result of this sudden collapse, oversized stars get dispersed into space through a massive explosion. These explosions are called supernovas. It may be a hard task to predict beforehand whether a particular star will be dispersed in the shape of a supernova. When explosion takes
place, dispersal of the supernova happens so fast (within 2-3 minutes) that it is almost impossible for astronomers to capture the exact moment of the explosion. After the initial explosion, there is extreme brightness and this lasts for a couple of weeks. This event when observed from a distance is taken as if the birth of a new star. Later on, the brightness gets dimmer and eventually disappears. Astronomers only have to investigate the remnants of the supernova from this point on. In some supernovas, stars get completely destroyed by dispersal into space (Type 1), but in some, a neutron star is left behind (Type 2).
Type 1 supernovas Even though supernovas are known to be explosions of oversized stars, smaller ones can also explode and still be considered as a supernova. Interestingly, supernovas of smaller stars are even brighter. Stars with a mass less than the total mass of eight suns turn into a red giant at the end of their lives. After the red giant stage, exterior layers of the star get blown into space and it turns into a white dwarf with a mass
equal to 0.6 times the mass of the sun. If a hydrogen rich material from a large star nearby flows over this white dwarf, it turns the white dwarf into an explosive composition. The white dwarf reaches the brightness of a million stars by exploding. These types of explosions are called novas. Even though we see stars in the sky as individual bodies, 60% of them are found in pairs. An amazing star bomb is generated when the two white dwarfs in a star duo join
one another. These massive explosions of White Dwarfs as a result of their complete dispersal into space by thermonuclear chain reactions can even be observed from distant galaxies. They always explode at the same mass threshold and since the amount of released energy is the same, they are used as standard light sources by astronomers. When the resulting star (formed after the two dwarfs unite) exceeds the critical size of 1.4 times the mass of the sun, it starts to collapse on its own with gravitational forces. Central pressure increases during this collapse and with the start of thermonuclear reactions, it eventually builds up internal pressure. Since the outer layer of the star is hardened, it completely disperses into space with an enormous explosion. Remnants left behind by the explosion begin to expand very rapidly (at a speed of 30,000 km/s). Brightness more powerful than a billion stars is generated during the energy release of Type 1 supernova. In other words, the energy supernova released for a couple weeks is much greater than the total lifetime energy released by the sun. The initial strength of the supernova diminishes after a few weeks. As the supernova expands, its brightness decreases proportionately.
the heavy metals including iron are thought to have joined the solar system through a supernova explosion. “We have sent down iron” in Chapter 57 of the Holy Qur’an may refer to the dispersal of iron and other elements into the space through supernova explosions.1
Sun rising from the West
Ultimately it becomes a gas and a dust cloud known as a nebula. Supernovas may be observed in different levels of brightness depending on the distance of the star to the earth. Closer supernovas can be seen as big and bright as the moon however distant ones can be observed like a bright, dimmed star, or may not be visible at all.
with its electrons forming neutrons. This event takes place very fast and also particles called neutrinos are emitted. These particles apply an outward pressure on the exterior layer of this star which has already turned into a super red giant, causing burst of external layers into space. This event is described as being a Type 2 supernova.
Type 2 supernovas
Remnants of supernovas
Stars with a mass between 8 and 50 times the mass of the Sun go through a series of changes a lot faster than smaller stars, eventually turning into a neutron star. During these kinds of changes, all stages of nuclear fusion takes place, as first hydrogen, then in order, helium, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, and iron are synthesized in the stars. Iron is found in the center and other elements surround it in layers. When such a star runs out of fuel, nuclear fusion ends. The finale of nuclear fusion reactions at this stage is characterized especially with iron representing a stable nuclear structure. When the reactions are over in the center, the iron core collapses on its own with gravitational forces. Because of the intense pressure on iron, protons of this atom unite
Supernova remnants are radioactive. In fact, a major portion of the light emitted by a supernova is derived from radioactivity. Furthermore, supernova remnants are very powerful sources of cosmic radiation. These remnants can be observed in two forms: the first form is directly observable gamma rays when high energy particles including protons and electrons interact with interstellar gasses; and the second form is indirectly observable radio waves when high speed electrons emitted via explosion get accelerated at the interstellar magnetic fields. Gases rich in heavy elements that constantly expand are left behind after supernovas. Because of abundant neutrons in the environment, elements heavier than iron are also synthesized. This richness is entirely thrown into the interstellar place. All of
What happens when a star nearby our system explodes as a supernova? A second sun appears in the sky. Does such a supernova explosion disrupt the conditions on the earth via causing a similar or bigger impact than the sun on the planet in terms of light and heat? If such an exploding star happens to be in the west, can we consider it as the sun rising from the west? Considering that supernovas are strong light sources, a second sun appearing in the near sky for a couple of weeks will have significant impacts on planet earth. At first, day and night would disappear. Planetary temperatures would rise to lethal degrees. Evaporation of seas and oceans may cause worldwide flooding. Local temperature rise caused by the two suns may generate severe storms. Remnants of the star as it loses brightness after a couple of weeks can color the sky blood red as described in the verse: “And finally when the heaven is rent asunder, and it becomes rosy like red hide!” (Rahman 55:37). Events pointing to doomsday as described in apocalyptic verses can take place. Surely God knows the best of everything.
Notes 1 For a similar discussion on a possible connection of this phenomenon with this Qur’anic verse, you may refer to a previously published article titled “Supernova Explosion and a Miracle of the Qur’an” by Nuh Gedik (The Fountain #54, 2006).
References Silk, Joseph. 1997. A Short History of the Universe, W. H. Freeman. Zeilik, Michael. 1994. Astronomy: The Evolving Universe, New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
While those supposing themselves to be scholars continue to “crawl,” and philosophers continue to philosophize and struggle to build on the information they have, an ‘arif (one who has attained knowledge of God) always tastes peace and talks about peace in an effusion of “light.” Even when ‘arifs quake with fear and awe of the Almighty, they feel infinite pleasure and, while their eyes weep, their hearts always smile. ***
h覺story Sarah-Mae Thomas Graduate student at faculty of law, Monash University, Melbou覺rne, Australia
The Convivencia in Islamic Spain A Mere Construct of Retrospective Utopianism?
or a period of almost four centuries, when Medieval Spain was ruled by the Moors, the believers in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam lived together in peace and harmony. La Convivencia refers to this coexistence. For over 400 years, knowledge and mysticism thrived in the Spanish towns of Toledo, Cordoba, and Granada as students and teachers in all three disciplines helped one another to learn, translate, and understand ancient teachings. The year 1492 marked the destruction of an unprecedented form of coexistence between the Jews, Muslims, and Christians
in Al-Andalus, a state that had thrived since the eleventh century. Was the purported reality of La Convivencia a mere construct of mythology, recreated by the Spanish historian Ramon Pidal and his student America Castro, or one exacerbated by populism? This in microcosm forms the basis of the article which is divided in three parts. Firstly, the historical context will be sketched in order to determine how the spirit of Convivencia crystallised. Secondly, the essay will draw upon political, religious, and socio-economic determinants to best understand the reality of La Convivencia. Thirdly, by way of historiography, the essay will attempt to reconcile the notion that La Convivencia was a
retrospective utopian fallacy with the equally persuasive assertion that there really existed such an unprecedented social fabric in medieval Spain. Drawing upon proximate and remote factors, it will be argued that to blindly subscribe to utopian historical interpretation only exacerbates this theoretical misguidance and continues flawed historical documentation. This essay also seeks to provide an alternative. Perhaps by looking at the very tenets of Islam itself, one can channel the confused conclusions of the Convivencia into a cohesive understanding, for within the Qurâ€™an lie the very seeds of democratic pluralism. As an overarching analysis, the essay will draw upon aspects of La Convivencia
that should inform the peace process in the Middle East. For when Muhammad XII Abu 'Abd Allah left the gates of Granada in 1492 marking the “last sigh of the moor,” the death knell of the ever celebrated Convivencia reverberated throughout the medieval world.
Historical landscape If indeed, the postulations of Convivencia by historian Ramon were based on a genuine reality, how the spirit actually precipitated would form a useful basis. According to some historical accounts, Arab armies first arrived in the peninsula in AD 711. Although records of the conquest are tenuous, it is known that the Arabs had gained control over North Africa from Egypt to the Atlantic (Chejne 1974). Having observed the socio-economic degradation of the Visogoth rule and the proximity of a fertile country, the Arabs made their advance from the Southern tip and met Roderick the ruler of Spain at the Barbate River (Chejne 1974). Having defeated his armies, the Arabs advanced North and Muslim rule was accepted voluntarily by many Spaniards (Esperanza 2008, 25). Al-Andalus was ruled by the Umayyad caliphs in Damascus until 750 when the Abbasid dynasty came to power in the East. Abd al-Rahman ibn Mu'awiyah, an Umayyad prince escaped, and fled to Spain where he established an independent Umayyad state in 756 (Gampel 1992). Andalusian rulers who were sovereign politically continued to regard the Abbasid caliphs as the ultimate religious authority for almost 200 years until the eighth ruler of the dynasty, Abd al-Rahman III al-Nasir, claimed the caliphate title for himself and his progeny in 929.1 It is at this point that historian Ramon Menendez Ridal and his student America Castro form the historical rhetoric resembling something of a pax Islamica, the golden age of Islamic civilisation which embodied the 50
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spirit of Convivencia. Rosa Menocal describes how this planted the seeds for an unprecedented level of scientific, philosophical, and metaphysical discovery, rendering medieval Spain the ornament of the world (Hillenbrand 1992, 10). It will be stated here that prima facie the spirit of Convivencia was no mere myth. What led to the success of the coexistence was a convenient political cocktail mixed with proximate social factors and the religious dynamics of Islamic presence.
Political determinants Arguably, political factors were most influential in facilitating the Convivencia process. There were two key political figures present in the upper echelons of Islamic rule in Al-Andalus in the tenth century
which directly impacted upon the birth of the amicable coexistence. The rule of Abd al-Rahman III from 912 to 961 came the closest to achieving the full realisation of this coexistence and in 929, he officially declared himself Caliph and “Prince of All Believers”(Allen 2008). He conducted his policy of reconciliation of the Berbers, Arabs, Jews and Christians of the Iberio-Hispanic population. He also worked directly with the Mozarabs, a controversial term generally used to refer to Christians who lived under the Muslim rule, and placed them in positions of power. Furthermore, the Jews and Christians could practice religion without harassment or persecution. The maliki fiqh or law was an effective legal instrument which regulated the practice of all three
religions (Lewis 1984). Abd al-Rahman III also rotated posts within the bureaucracy and placed even former Jewish and Christian slaves in positions of power. The Muslim rulers in Spain relied on the Jews for diplomacy and public administration who were inaugurated into posts of commerce and played important roles in cities such as Toledo and Cordoba. As a direct result of this, a thriving mercantile class grew during the Islamic rule in Al-Andalus. Intrinsic to the success of Convivencia during his reign was the political figure Hasdai Ibn Shapmut, the Jewish Vizier of the Abd al-Rahman III. Their collaboration led to a convenient political marriage of ideas (Lewis 1984). Both he and Abd al-Rahman III had a common goal of removing their Jewish and Muslim communities respectively from their Eastern centre and advancing intellectual and religious independence. Consequently, this led them to create an educational structure that encouraged the importance of Greek Philosophy, particularly the works of Aristotle which was translated into many languages. This political manoeuvring had social manifestations—the Jews shared the same Romance and Arab vernacular as the Christians and Muslims. This further inaugurated the social unification among the three faithcommunities of the peninsula” (Hillenbrand 1992, 11).
Aristotelian philosophy The nuances of Aristotelian philosophy should perhaps be examined closely. Aristotelian thought directly challenged the sole use of religion to justify the denouement of certain political theory. Although both political figures were not secular, both Abd al-Rahman III and Hasdai promoted the prominence of such philosophy insofar as it pertained to political policy. Whilst the political collaboration of Abd al-Rahman and his vizier in the tenth century facilitated Con-
vivencia, the philosophy of twelfth century was arguably the crux of the flourishing of the Convivencia. The presence of Islamic interpretations of Aristotle by Averroes and Maimonides achieved the archetypal Aristotelian scholarship (Constable 1997, 99). They urged the need to develop a state based upon the interpretation of Plato’s Republic (Constable 1997, 99). Such strong cohesion in philosophical debate led the Jews, Christians and Muslims to believe that there was a place for the three Abrahamic (Ahl Al-Kitab) faiths to coexist. It would be intellectually barren however, to state that the flourishing of Convivencia can be solely attributed to internal factors. The presence of more remote factors played into the hands of those in power. Just before the Ummayad Caliphate was established in Al-Andalus, the Visogothic rulers had conducted extensive antiSemitic policies. These policies were particularly rampant within the state and church in the first two decades of Visogothic rule. Highly possible within the formulation of what constituted the spirit of Convivencia could be the fact that the Jews saw the Muslims as their liberators from Visogothic rule. David Lewis certainly holds this view (Allen 2008). This begs the question, was Convivencia a mere construct of retrospective utopianism or a reality exaggerated by populism and recreated through historical account?
The need to recreate history The raison d’etre behind the recreation of history vis-a-vis the moors was a direct result of the lack of scholarship in this particular period in Spanish historical account. Thomas F. Glick in his book Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages argues that until the 1970s, historians were grappling with how to express an account of the rise of nationalism of a nation-state without alluding to
socio-psychological dimensions (Glick 1992, 123). For long after the Muslim political reign came to an end, he claims that “the image of the moor remained as the quintessential stranger, an object to be feared” (Glick 1992, 123). He claims that the forgotten chapter in Spanish history was incinerated in the flames of the Spanish inquisition. Thus, transposed into the historiographical field are subconscious fears which have transferred into a bias that underlies historical interpretation. Unless a historian is purged of this bias, the historian cannot play a valid role as an interpreter of Spain’s history (Glick 1992, 123).
Convivencia: a fallacy? The primary part of this essay has dealt with the underpinnings of Islamic reign and the machinery upon which La Convivencia functioned. So far the proposition has been that Convivencia was in fact a reality. However it will be argued here that perhaps to some extent it has been exaggerated. Much retrospective idealism was created through the historical accounts, the populism created by the Museum of Three Cultures in Cordoba and the mythos created by Washington Irving in the Tales of the Alhambra. Many contemporary historians purport that this retrospective utopianism of the Convivencia precariously masks the very presence of institutional fundamentalism in medieval Spain—both in its Jewish and Muslim manifestations in the nature of forced conversions, exile, lower standards of citizenship, higher taxation, and violence (Hillenbrand 1992, 7; Rothstein 2003, 9). Thus, three prongs of analysis come to the fore. Firstly, whilst there might have been a great deal of tolerance, it is important to examine the social fabric and the differentiation of toleration within the classes (Hughes 2005). For the spread of Convivencia’s spirit July / August 2013
was not a monolithic one working at equilibrium amongst classes. Cruz claims that whilst the aristocracy benefitted from policies of Convivencia, many of the lower echelons of Jewish and Christian society remained segregated or in conflict with their Abrahamic counterparts. Amongst the Christians, it was the nobility, scholars and upper ranks of clergy who enjoyed the fruits of Convivencia (Hughes 2005). Amongst the Jews, it was the rich merchant class who had little interaction with the lower echelons of society (Hughes 2005). Furthermore, cultural coexistence was more tangible amongst the Jews and Muslims than with Mozarabs. The case in point here is that aspects of divergence in culture were masked by simultaneous developments in philosophy and metaphysics. Such development in thought veiled the unearthed intricacies of conflict and carefully transposed the spirit of Convivencia onto the forefront of historical scholarship. Secondly, by way of resolving whether the theory of Convivencia translated into praxis, it is useful to analyse the intricacies of Abd al-Rahman III’s policies more microscopically. If indeed he 52
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did intend on conducting the policy of Convivencia, he did so with a very different goal in mind. His policies were mainly aimed at the homogenisation of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims into one culture. Furthermore as one analyzes the work of Pidal and Castro, it becomes obvious that they propose a similar thesis—the Spanish racial fabric would not have been what it is today without La Convivencia. This therefore seems more like one of convergence rather than coexistence.
Fallacy continued: the exoticism of architecture A third and a more remote layer, compounding this mythos of Convivencia is the presence of everundulating, overwhelming architecture in Andalusia. Rothstein states that this idealism led to a form of architectural mysticism through the creation of monumental buildings such as the Alhambra and the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Rothstein claims that such overwhelming architecture declares mystery which allowed this historical idealism to achieve its physical manifestation. He claims that the “position or status of the
individual is the focus, [not the individual itself]” (Rothstein 2003, 9). This is quite different from the humane ideal so often attached to Convivencia. The outcome is not a version of tolerance as she claims that the viewer is absorbed into a world that overwhelms, inspiring awe with intricacies in architecture of monumental proportions that seem beyond comprehension. This perpetuates the retrospective utopianism in its more tangible manifestation. The thesis here however, is that whilst these interpretations temper the level of utopianism attached to the Convivencia, it was undeniable that this level of coexistence was unprecedented and arguably has not been replicated yet. What then was the lynchpin of Convivencia’s success?
Principles, civilisation, and influence of Islam: future directions For indeed Al-Andalus was the enlightened society that combined the triune people of the holy book (Ahl Al-Kitab), their beliefs, humanism, and artistry, it would serve as an extraordinary model for any Muslim country, especially for the peace process in
the Middle east. Whilst the underpinnings of truth and mythos of Convivencia have led to mixed conclusions, the assertion here is that the spirit of Convivencia has been undermined by Eurocentric historiography. The fallacy in studying the Convivencia from this perspective is that it disregards Islamic determinants from the formulation. Often the impact of the Islamic civilization and its influence are measured against the yardstick of European historiography. Perhaps imbued within this bias of reviving the rhetoric is the Huntington thesis philosophy. This thesis seeks to offer an alternative by looking at the very principles of Islam. For if most historians attribute the success of Convivencia to the Aristolean division of religion and state, why did Abd al-Rahman III go about Al-Andalus making Islamic proclamations and orations? It is unlikely that the Islamic leaders in medieval Spain really conducted a policy of disestablishment and privatization of Islam (Sachedina 2001, 24). Sachedina’s study of the Islamic roots of democratic pluralism provides a useful stepping stone. One reason why the three faiths could have coexisted so amicably could be attributed to the Qur’an’s very definition of belief itself. The Qur’an states that “Those who believe (i. e. professing to be Muslims), or those who declare Judaism, or the Christians or the Sabaeans (or those of some other faith) whoever truly believes in God and the Last Day and does good, righteous deeds, surely their reward is with their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:62).” The apex of the Qur’an’s inclusive spirit can be extrapolated beyond the realm of the three religions of Abraham. It is particularly informative in terms of the universal application of the religious pluralism and community identity in Islam. An oft-quoted passage
reads: "Humankind were (in the beginning) one community (following one way of life without disputing over provision and other similar things. Later on, differences arose and) God sent Prophets as bearers of glad tidings (of prosperity in return for faith and righteousness) and warners (against the consequences of straying and transgression), and He sent down with them the Book with the truth (containing nothing false in it) so that it might judge between the people concerning that on which they were differing” (2:213). The presence of post-911 terrorism had tainted the essence of Islam, often making it synonymous with fundamentalism. This is largely due to the obscurantist and exclusivist schools of thought which have monopolized juridical interpretations. The peace process of the Middle East must learn the inclusive spirit of the Qur’an. Overarchingly, La Convivencia was indeed a reality however much obscured by both utopian and realist schools of thoughts it may be. As a final analysis, perhaps the reason why Convivencia blossomed at the Golden age of Islam lies in the very crux of the faith’s capacity to engage in a pluralistic world of communities (ummah) with secular concerns such as the universal good and forgiveness (Sachedina 2001, 24). Far from being antithetical to modern Western values of liberal democracy, Islam can assist this very liberal project of public international order. Blindly prescriptions to mere Eurocentric rhetoric would only exacerbate this theoretical misguidance and continue flawed historical documentation.
Allen, Marilyn Penn. 2008. Cultural Flourishing in Tenth Century Muslim Spain among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Unpublished master's thesis submitted to Georgetown University, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Bresheeth H. and N. Yuval-Davis (eds). 1991. The Gulf War and the New World Order, UK: Zed Books Ltd. Chejne, Anwar G. 1974. Muslim Spain: Its History and Culture, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Constable, Olivia. 1997. Medival Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim and Jewish Sources, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. Cruz, Miguel. 1991. “The Roots of Coexistence” The Unesco Courier, 12, December. Esperanza, Alfonso. 2008. Islamic Culture through Jewish Eyes: Al-Andalus from the Tenth to Twelfth Century, New York: Routledge. Gampel, Benjamin R. 1992. “Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Medieval Iberia: Convivencia Through the Eyes of Sephardic Jews” in Vivian B. Mann, Thomas F. Glick, and Jerrilynn D. Dodds (editors) Convivencia: Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Medieval Spain, New York: George Braziller Incorporated. Glick, Thomas F. 2005. Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages, Boston: BRILL Publications. Hillenbrand, Robert. 1992. “The Ornament of the World, Medieval Cordoba as a Culture Centre” in Salma Jayyusi, The Legacy of Muslim Spain, Leiden: E. J. Brill Publications. Lewis, Bernard. 1984. The Jews of Islam, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Rothstein, Edward. 2003. Was the Islam of Old Spain Truly Tolerant? New York Times, New York, NY, September 27. Sachedina, Abdulaziz, 2001. Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism, New York: Oxford University Press.
Online Video Resources
Note 1. As a historian many conflicting of the conquest. reconcile several
I note that there are and unclear records I have attempted to academic views and
Hughes, Bettany. 2005. When the Moors Ruled in Spain. Wildfire Television. Gardner, Robert H. 2007. Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain. 2007. PBS. July / August 2013
If any nation desires to attain honor, splendor, and glory, with the hopes of being a balancing factor in international relations, then they must first learn to command time. ***
POEM Musa Ilhan
Ascencion to His Mercy As the water of ablution trickles down my face Anticipation overwhelms me in the presence of His Grace Cleansed is my body, before the purification of my soul Ascension to His Mercy is my objective and my goal Two feet on the mat, the mat of salvation under my feet My very existence being beckoned for my Lord to meet Humbly I gaze, visualizing with clarity His holy House For this fire within me, only His Compassion can douse With a wave of my hands, everything carnal is set behind Proclaiming His Greatness, to all that is worldly I’ve become blind His Words of Compassion and Mercy come forth from my very lips All that is chaotic or meaningless has been totally eclipsed Submissive to His Will, from His own Book, are the words I speak “Only Thee do we worship, and Thine aid do we seek” (Qur'an 1:5) I announce His Majestic Governance and Rule of all the realms Being in submission to His Omnipresence, truly overwhelms The burden of my deficiencies weighs heavily on my shoulders Compelling my back to bend, I denounce all attributed partners He has no partners and no err can blemish His Glory or Throne For He Sees and Hears all, and for Him everything is Known I throw myself onto my mat, face down, my forehead kissing the floor O Merciful One, Your Might and Greatness, to the universe I roar Prostrated with humility, I acknowledge all that You take or provide It is only to Your Will that all of creation and existence will subside Having a value of zero in my Owners presence Soliciting forgiveness, salvation, atonement, and penance A moment of eternity, free from time and space Yet, everything encapsulated within His universal Grace
“The Runners” and Motor Vehicles Revealed over 14 centuries ago, the holy Qur’an refers to certain facts of creation only recently established by modern scientific methods. How is it then possible for the Qur’an to be literally true on matters which people did not have a clue at the time when it was revealed?
perspectıves Sefik Hikmet Toprak Freelance writer based in Houston, TX.
he Qur’an points out scientific facts and wonders of technology in a variety of ways. Sometimes it states directly in plain terms that require little or no interpretation, sometimes it uses figures of speech and metaphors, and sometimes it is in the form of narrating the miracles of the prophets, peace and blessings be upon them all. However, the Qur’an does not talk about science and technology as a science textbook would. The main purpose of the Qur’an is to furnish further evidence of its divine origin for people of understanding, and draw their attention to its
divine guidance. The Qur’an sets the balance and speaks of the wonders of technology in proportion to their significance compared to the wonders of creation that subsist life (Gülen). Furthermore, the Qur’an presents its descriptions in ways that do not appear misleading to earlier generations, and does not force the people of modern ages to affirming faith without exercising their free will. This article aims to present a possibly new interpretation of the first five verses of the 100th chapter of the Qur’an: Al-‘Adiyat, The Runners. I believe the first passage of this chapter which consists of eleven verses gives an amazing description of combustion engines commonly used in motor vehicles today.
Reason for revelation There are reports from Ibn Abbas that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, sent out scouts to patrol around Medina. No news was received regarding the horsemen after a month had passed by. This chapter was then revealed to give the glad tidings that the horsemen were safe. Similar reports support the view that the chapter was revealed in Medina. However, there are scholars who believed the chapter was revealed in Mecca instead. Indeed, the subject matter and the style of the chapter support this latter view, and indicate that it was perhaps one of the earliest chapters revealed in Mecca (Yazir).
Style This chapter is presented to readers in rapid and powerful strokes. The text moves swiftly from one scene to another. As we come to the last verse, everything from the verbal expressions, connotations, subject matter and rhythm settle down in a manner similar to that of an athlete reaching the finish line. The rhythm of the chapter is robust and thunderous, and thus fits well with the dusty and clamorous atmosphere generated by the “upturned graves” and “the secrets pulled out of people’s chest” as illustrated at the end of the chapter. The pace of the rhythm is also appropriate in painting the picture of ingratitude, thanklessness, and extreme miserliness. The framework for this picture is provided by a dusty and tumultuous stampede of horses racing and thundering. Thus the frame and the picture are in perfect harmony with each other (Qutb). The chapter has three passages where the rhyming words at the end of each passage changes
with the content of the passage, adding to the matchless beauty of the chapter. The short verses in the first passage help the reader to picture the quick moves of the runners. The intonation of each word fits perfectly with its meaning in each verse. One can almost hear the sounds of panting in the word dabhan and the sound of the stroke in the word qadhan.
Meaning 1. By the chargers that run panting, 2. Striking sparks of fire, 3. Rushing to make sudden raids at morn, 4. Raising thereby clouds of dust, 5. Storming thereby into a host, cleaving it. The verses of the Qur’an have multiple layers of meanings, all of which may be accurate as long as they are derived following the methods and principles of Qur’anic sciences. Below, are a few interpretations among many that are found in existing commentaries to present an overview of the chapter, and a new interpretation at the end.
Major themes There are four recurring themes that prevail in the Qur’an, namely the unity of God, prophethood, life after death, and worship, and this last one is considered with the theme justice. This chapter, among many others, explains in a few words the last two of these four main themes. That is probably why the Prophet said in a hadith narrated from Ibn Abbas that “The surah Al-‘Adiyat is equivalent to half of the Qur’an” (Shawqani). July / August 2013
Traditional views 1. One interpretation of this passage is that these verses are concerned with Muslim vanguards. This is the opinion of the scholars who thought the chapter was revealed in Medina, as explained above. The fact that God swears by the horses provides a suggestion that this passage praises those vanguards of Islam who put their lives at risk for the protection of Medina. The passage therefore deals with the zeal and enthusiasm of the Companions of the Prophet and with the great sacrifices they made against heavy odds in the way of God. 2. Imam Ali and Abdullah ibn Mas’ud interpreted chapter Al‘Adiyat as the camels of the pilgrims. The pilgrims rush from Arafat to Muzdalifah, and then dash from Muzdalifah to Mina on camels as a part of hajj (pilgrimage) rituals. They would start campfires when they arrived at Mudalifah, and join the host of pilgrims there (Tabari). 3. The root “a-d-w” of the word Al‘Adiyat in Arabic means to trespass boundaries. Some have interpreted this passage from a psychological standpoint, and presented the
view that the description may be a reference to those who trespass limits in their hatred and enmity for others, in this context, towards the Companions and early Muslims. They grunt as their hearts are hot with enmity and hatred, the spark fires with their bitter words, gallop to the raid in the morning, kicking dust as they penetrate into the midst of a host. They are ungrateful of what they have, and are extremely selfish. The Qur’an draws attention to their negative attitudes that exist to some extend in all human beings, and warns that God is fully aware of whatever people do. In hearing such a rebuke, Muslims are instructed to avoid these character traits.
Modern views 4. According to Ikrimah, a classical commentator who lived in the first century in the Islamic calendar, the second verse refers to arms of war. Following this suggestion, modern commentators, such as Hamdi Yazır, maintain that these verses also imply firearms that use gunpowder, especially modern tanks, and other armored weaponry (Yazir). 5. Inspired by this view, I would like to advance a fresh interpreta-
tion of these verses. I believe this passage may be interpreted as a millennium aged description of combustion engines commonly used in motor vehicles. The Qur’an speaks occasionally of the wonders of technology that are developed in the modern ages, albeit not in detail. A quick review of how combustion engines work would be useful. The four-stroke internal combustion engine, for example, is the type most commonly used for automotive and industrial purposes today. On the first stroke of the power cycle, called the intake, a descending piston draws in a fuel-air mixture into the cylinder through an inlet valve. In the following stroke, called the compression, the piston rises while both the inlet and exhaust valves are closed, compressing the fuel-air mixture to an explosive level. The power stroke begins just before the piston reaches the top when the spark plug ignites the mixture. The resulting explosive force pushes the piston down and turns the crankshaft. In the final stroke, the exhaust valve opens, the piston rises pushing up and evacuating the burned gasses from the cham-
ber until at the top of the stroke exhaust the valve closes. The intake valve then opens and the fourstroke power cycle begins again. As a side note, I would like to point out that the first known crankshaft was constructed by AlJazari in 1206. A crankshaft transforms continuous rotary motion into a linear reciprocating motion or vice versa, and is central to all modern machinery such as the steam engine, internal combustion engine and automatic controls, etc. (Hassani).
A new interpretation In light of this information, let’s read the verses again. In the first verse “By those that run with panting,” the runners may be interpreted as the pistons and the panting may be viewed as a description of the intake of air-fuel mixture and the exhaust of combustion gases at a high speed. The numerical system called the abjad assigns a whole number to every letter in the Arabic alphabet. It has been in use long before Islam, and there are reports that God’s Messenger did not object its use in connection with Qur’anic verses (Yakit). It may be pointed out that the total abjad value of this first verse, calculated by adding up all letters except the letter of oath (“w”) in the beginning, is 1291, which corresponds to 1875 ac-
cording to the solar calendar. This coincides almost to the point with the year 1876 when a four stroke combustion engine was invented by Nikolaus Otto for the first time. The phrase “sparks of fire” in the second verse is an exact translation of the word ignition, and the strikers may therefore be interpreted as the spark plugs and the ignition system in the combustion engine. In the third verse, “the name chargers” is derived from a verb that also means to move swiftly, and to enter into a wide terrain (Yazir). The verse therefore may be interpreted as a reference to the morning rush as motor vehicles propelled by their combustion engines enter the main roads and highways moving swiftly to reach their final destination. The word that is translated as a “clouds of dust” in the fourth verse also means a groundwater deposit, and the water that accumulates in the well that opens to the deposit. (Qurtubi) In this context, I think this word can be interpreted as the fuel that the combustion engine needs to run. In addition, the
translation of this word as dust would also apply to the context. The verb “to raise” in this verse also means to blow, to stir up, to scatter and to waste. (Yazir) Therefore, the verse may be interpreted as a reference to the blowing of fuel into the chambers of the engine which in return raises smokes of exhaust gases as a result of combustion. Finally, the fifth verse may refer to the arrival of the motor vehicle into a host at the final destination, whether that may be the parking lot in front of the company building where one works, or a shopping center. The meaning of the verse is clearly consistent with our interpretation here. As pointed out in the beginning, the Qur’an does not present the wonders of technology just for the sake of it. The Qur’an always pursues the main themes explained above. Then what is the guidance delivered in this chapter that will lead us to the straight path and help us prosper in both worlds? The two main lessons made explicit in the following passages are the virtue of gratefulness and the affirmation of the truth that man will be called to account for all his actions and intentions. The reader is thus urged to get ready for the afterlife. Human beings should be grateful for their creation in the best
stature, both physically and spiritually. They have been made capable of devising such tools and equipment like motor vehicles, airplanes, etc. that make life much easier on them. Moreover, fossil fuels are certainly a major favor of God for people of the modern ages, without which combustion engines would not have been developed. The formation of fossil fuels takes millions of years. It is by the infinite mercy of God that such fuels are made ready for the service of human beings. However the question remains, do people in return acknowledge and appreciate these great favors and blessings? Let’s read: 6. Surely human is ungrateful to his Lord; 7. and to this he himself bears witness, 8. and truly, he is passionate in his love of wealth. The word “kanud” in verse 6 is usually explained to imply the one who is never content with what he or she has been given by God, and instead always feels miserable and needy of what he or she does not have. It describes the selfish, egocentric and materialistic worldview of the ungrateful. How fitting is this description to the man of the modern ages of advanced technology! However, the uncorrupted conscience of human beings bears witness to their purposeful ingratitude and rebellion against God. Moreover, the life, attitudes, and acts of an ungrateful person attest to his or her demonstration of ingratitude to God. Finally, humans themselves, as well as their limbs and body parts, will bear witness against their ingratitude on the Day of Resurrection. As an alternative translation, some say the third person pronoun in verse 7 refers to God. That is, God is a witness to their ingratitude. So what is the recipe, the cure for this ingratitude and selfishness, and the hatred and enmity 60
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for truth and exalted virtues? The latter verses tell us: 9. Does he think he will not come to know when all that is in the graves is raised and brought out; 10. And all that is in the breasts is laid open and made out? 11. Surely their Lord on that Day will be fully aware of them. Human beings are a passionate self-lover. But their love is only according to what they imagine to be good for himself, like wealth, power and the other pleasures of this world. This is our nature, unless we have faith we will not be able to change such concepts, values, and concerns. Faith changes a person’s ingratitude to humble thankfulness. It changes greed and miserliness to benevolence and compassion. It makes a person aware of the proper values which are worthy of being the object of ambition and struggle. Indeed these are much more exalted than money, power and mundane pleasures (Qutb). Hence, the final touch in the chapter provides the cure for ingratitude, greed and miserliness: a firm faith in the afterlife. It portrays the scene of resurrection in a way that makes a person shudder, and puts their love for wealth and indulgence in worldly riches out of their mind, unshackling their soul and setting it free from earthly attachments. It is a frightening scene in which we witness the scattering about of the contents of the graves and the bringing out of closelyguarded secrets. Does he not know what happens when this will take place? Mere awareness of all this is enough to inspire man to seek an answer and explore every avenue in search of it. On that day God knows them and all their affairs and secrets. God certainly knows everything at all times and in all conditions, but knowledge of “that day” has the effect of drawing their attention. He will be know-
ing full and well who is who, and what punishment or reward he or she deserves. He knows all of that they used to do, and He will compensate them for it with the most deserving reward. The use of the word “the breasts” indicates that the judgment will not be passed only on the apparent events as for what a person actually did, but the secret motives and intentions hidden in his or her heart will also be brought out to make a thorough evaluation of his or her actions. It is clear that such full and absolute justice cannot be served in any court except in the court of God. May God help us to live a life pleasing to Him, having a strong faith in Him that will illuminate our whole beings; and a firm faith in the resurrection and afterlife that will help us lead a righteous life in this world, by adopting the highest virtues including gratefulness for His unlimited favors. May He pardon and cover our mistakes on the day when the innermost secrets of the heart will be laid open, and may He place us, out of His infinite mercy, in the company of His beloved servants in the gardens of Paradise.
References Nursi, Bediuzzaman Said. 2001. Isarat-ul I’caz, Introduction, page 12, Istanbul, Yeni Asya. Gülen, M. Fethullah. 2000. The Essentials of the Islamic Faith, Science and Religion. Hassani, Salim T. S., Al-Jazari. 2001. The Mechanical Genius, FSTC Limited. Qurtubi, Translation of al-Jamiu li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, Chapter 100, Buruç Yayınları. Qutb, Translation of Fi Zilal al-Qur’an, Chapter 100. Shawqani, Translation of Fath al-Qadir, Chapter 100. Tabari, Translation of Tafsir-i Tabari, Hisar Yayınevi, Chapter 100. Unal, Ali. 2006. The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English, Chapter 100. Yakit, I. 2003. Abjad Calculation and Date Deduction in Turkish-Islamic Culture. Yazir, H. 1938. Hak Dini Kuran Dili, Chapter 100. Istanbul.
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Question: It is reported that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, “Those afflicted with the severest trials and tribulations are the Prophets, followed by those (friends of God and righteous ones) in order of their ranking (in the sight of God). If they have a strong faith, the difficulty of the tribulation intensifies. If they are loose in the practice of their faith, then the trials they face will be in congruence to their level. Troubles befall people one after another until they are cleaned from all their sins.” What is the wisdom behind this saying?
here are different reports of this saying. Despite variations in its wording, all of these reports essentially point to the same meaning. Those scholars who embody knowledge in the true sense of the word, and the righteous ones, are friends of God; they are the heirs of the prophets. Since in Islamic thought the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is the seal of prophets, it can be said that the greatest trials will be inflicted upon the friends of God most, just as it has
July / August 2013
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
THE WORST OF ALL TRIBULATIONS been until today, and will continue to be so until the end of the world. Then, why is this so? Why do those nearest to God have to suffer the most? One of the main reasons why it is not easy for us to rationalize this matter is because we can only perceive the outward face of misfortunes which look crushing. All the hardships and ordeals we experience in our lives are in fact instrumental in our spiritual cultivation and growth. Difficulties and calamities are like storms that occur in spring: they enable a person to discover a number of qualities in themselves. A person who has not survived through such trials is likely to have gaps of immaturity in their character, as a result of which they cannot develop a strong bond with the Divine. As a matter of fact, God may rain down calamities on some people who are expected to shoulder a great cause to prepare them for even greater challenges in the face of which they will retreat at a critical moment. It is as if God is trying these leading people with the toughest of hardships and sufferings in order to prevent other weak and frail people from taking on an important service they will not be able to bear. God puts them through a sieve fifty times a day and shakes them to their senses so that those who are not strong enough, and are likely to turn back on their mission when faced with a very serious struggle – say, when their family is in danger – are separated from those who are strong. In this way, God sieves those who will never give up on the cause from those who are not at that caliber. This has been the case since time immemorial. When a Prophet was raised in a community to convey God’s message to them, God sent great calamities there so that His message was raised on the strong foundations of qualified persons, not weak ones. During the Age of Happiness, i.e. the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, trial and suffering were experienced greatly in Mecca, and were the reason why Muslims emigrated to Medina. However, even in a safe haven like Medina, an epidemic caught hold of the people and took its toll. Just as leading believers like Abu Bakr and Bilal were affected by it, so, too, was the blessed Messenger. However, they did not lay the blame on Medina and turn back on this tribulation; they did not leave the city, and chose to remain with the Prophet and his cause. This was a serious test, after which those who were ready to endure this difficult cause with the Prophet became evident. The wisdom behind calamities is explained in many places in the Qur’an. One verse related to this subject is as follows: “Did you suppose that you should enter Paradise without God marking out those among you who really strive hard (in His cause), and marking out the patient and steadfast?” (Al ‘Imran, 3:142).
In another place, this situation is expressed as follows: “(Given the history of humankind in this world,) do you think that you will enter Paradise while there has not yet come upon you the like of what came upon those who passed away before you? They were visited by such adversities and hardships, and were so shaken as by earthquakes that the Messenger and those who believed in his company nearly cried out: ‘When comes God’s help?’ Beware! The help of God is surely near!” (AlBaqarah, 2:214). In another place it is stated, “We will certainly test you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits (earnings); but give glad tidings to the persevering and patient” (Al-Baqarah, 2:155). Although the report is not highly reliable, the adversity confronted by Prophet Job is similar to the situation related in this last verse. His property had been ruined, his children had died, and everything he had in his possession was destroyed. At that time, the devil, taking advantage of the situation, approached him and whispered into his ear in an effort to deceive him into rebellion. However, that hero of patience said, “Thanks be to God who gave everything to me initially and now has taken it back,” and pointed out the important place of adversity in a believer’s life. His attitude was the same in regards to other adversities. Another positive aspect to the matter are the gains that this kind of calamity and adversity brings to a person. Perhaps these great people suffered some calamities, but at the same time, their spiritual levels were constantly increasing, and they were getting nearer and nearer to God. For this reason, enduring calamity and adversity are considered to be a type of worship.1 So much so that they provide greater and more unique gains for a person than regular worship.
The positive types of worship, which are physically performed, are visible to other people, and others can praise a person for his or her prayers. When praised by others, it becomes difficult to keep one’s sincerity of intention regarding their prayers. Consequently, we might foul our prayers as we submit to a sense of ostentation in our intentions. However, there is no ostentation or hypocrisy in the “negative worship” one observes when one suffers from physical and economic hardships; few people, if any, know when a person undergoes such trials. Such hardships are very significant, in the sense that, for instance, there are some sins which can only be redeemed by the difficulties a person encounters while procuring sustenance for their family. Thus, “negative worship” is when a person resists a hardship with patience, which is rewarding even if a person is in a rather passive mood. If even a single thorn pricking a person’s foot is a vehicle for shedding sins—and this
is clearly stated by the Prophet— then being subject to serious trials and tribulations would completely cleanse and purify a person, and there would be no traces of hypocrisy in them. It can be understood from all of the points discussed that being subject to adversity is like a path leading to a person’s celestial make-up, where pleasure and taste are perfected, and, naturally, it is the prophets, saints, and others who walk this path who are able to attain God’s blessings.
Notes 1 “Worship consists of two kinds: positive and negative (in the sense of absence). What is meant by positive is the worship we perform regularly. As for negative worship, this is when one who is afflicted with misfortune or disease perceives their own weakness and helplessness, turning to and seeking refuge in their Compassionate Lord, concentrating upon Him, and entreating Him, and thus offers a pure form of worship.” (from Bediuzzaman Said Nursi’s The Gleams [Second Gleam, Second Point]) July / August 2013
O’Rourke EJ et al. Polyunsaturated fatty acids extend life span through the activation of autophagy. Genes & Development, 2013;
A cell can be very economical under stressful conditions. One of the major stress factors for a cell is the lack of nutrients. During starvation, a cell relies on its internal reserves of energy; in other words, the cell recycles. One main mechanism of how a cell adapts and survives in the absence of an external energy source is autophagy, which is a destruction of the cells own components for cell survival. Enhanced autophagy may lead to improved clearance of old or damaged cellular components. It has also been suggested that autophagy can extend a cell’s lifespan by maintaining cellular function. In addition, defects in autophagy function are implicated in a variety of human diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and metabolic syndromes. However, the activator metabolites of the autophagy process are still largely unknown. A recent study from Massachusetts General Hospital sheds light onto the metabolites that regulate the adaptation of the cell during starvation. Using the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, researchers demonstrated that the polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) found in fish oils, omega 3/6, are increased during starving conditions. The increased levels of the omega-6 PUFAs allowed the worm to resist starvation via inducing autophagy. Researchers later tested these metabolites on human cells and observed almost identical results. Autophagy allows not only for excess cell components to be used as internal energy sources, but also for the protection of the organelles from destruction due to starvation, therefore leading to the survival of the cells. Hence, this study shows a potential link between PUFAs that are enriched in fish oils, and increased survival and longevity of cells. The Fountain
July / August 2013
Cellular Renewal and Omega Fatty Acıds
Humans have been raising cows for their meat and milk for thousands of years. A new study suggests that our humble friends have even more to offer than basic sustenance. Researchers claim that cow antibodies may help us to treat deadly infections. Antibodies are large proteins produced by our immune systems to identify and neutralize foreign substances such as a bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Antibodies are “Y” shaped molecules, built of a tail and two identical arms. The arms are used to grab specific targets called antigens. At the very end of these arms, there is a small set of protein loops called complementaritydetermining regions or CDRs. By a rearrangement of the genes that code CDRs, a vast and diverse population of antibodies are generated in organisms to bind to any foreign invaders. An antibody’s specific target is determined in CDR H3, which is a sub region of CDR. Studies previously suggested that antibodies with longer CDR H3 regions might work in viral infections much more effectively. Long CDR H3s are unfortunately rare in humans. Interestingly, cows make antibodies with very long CDR H3 regions. Genetic and X-ray crystallographic analyses showed that cow antibodies consist of a long stalk topped with an antigen-binding knob, which contains an unusually high level of the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine. These cysteine-residues are thought to make a variety of mini loop structures by binding themselves to different protein stretches of the CDR regions. Therefore, cow antibodies act like probes on a thin extended scaffold, which can fit into narrow crevices to reach and bind to unique antigenic pathogens that normal antibodies simply cannot reach. Of course, now everyone asks, “Why does the cow immune system needs to make such antibodies?” One explanation is that a cow’s unusual, giant, grass-fermenting stomach contains an extensive collection of bacteria and viruses, and this could be the only efficient way to create a defense from such pathogens. The power of long CDR H3 antibodies has a wide variety of human and veterinary applications. Researchers plan to take the first step by immunizing cows with HIV antigens to see if recovered antibodies with elongated CDR H3 are able to neutralize the AIDS-causing viruses. After a potentially successful series of experiments, this new antibody system is expected to be applied towards other infectious diseases.
Wang F et al. Reshaping Antibody Diversity. Cell, 2013; 153 (6)
Gettıng Help from Cows to Treat Human Dıseases
S c I e n c e S q u a r e //
Heisz JJ et al. Females Scan More Than Males: A Potential Mechanism for Sex Differences in Recognition Memory. Psychol Sci. 2013 May 21
Why Women Remember Faces Better
Why can some people remember faces much more easily while others quickly forget someone they’ve just met? A new study might answer this long-standing question. In this study, researchers showed study participants randomly selected faces on a computer screen. By using eye tracking technology, they monitored where, and for how long, participants looked at the faces. Each face was assigned a name that participants were asked to remember over a period of one day and four days. As many people predicted from their social experiences, women were found to remember the faces much better than men. When eye tracking records were analyzed, women were found to fixate on the facial features far more than men. This was completely outside of women’s awareness, as individuals usually don’t notice where their eyes fixate. This study shows a new gender-specific mechanism for episodic memory formation and consolidation. In real life, women might unconsciously look more at the new faces then men, thereby creating richer, superior memories. These results also open up a new possibility for the treatment of people with memory impairments by simply enhancing the eye movement patterns and scanning times.
July / August 2013
On Life, Knowledge, and Belief
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2013 Essay Contest
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The world can flourish with love, if it will. In this way, lamentations subside, if they will. This should always be the devoted soulsâ€™ ideal. Without a break, in all seasons, for good and for allâ€Ś