Thursday, June 30, 2011

Travelling to the centre of the earth

Jules Verne's story will soon be realised by a team of British and French scientists, who will try to travel as close to the earth's core as possible. Their goal is to conduct drilling for the first time towards the earth's core, specifically reaching the mantle layer. The scientists come from Southampton and Montpelier. 
The excavation of rocks from this region will greatly help the scientists understand the way with which our planet was created. The project is programmed to commence in 2018, at some point in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, where the external layer is thinner, making the process easier to achieve. The specimens found at the mantle layer will most probably contain most if not all of the rocks found on our planet. The results found from this research will help understand the Earth's past and seismic activities. 

Geologists in past eras tried to achieve this goal, of reaching the mantle, but with no luck. The main reason being that the technology used was not strong enough to withstand the enormous pressure and temperature, which was about 300 C. However any myth or false fact which has existed for decades will cease to exist, after and if this project is successful.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alexander the Great's final wishes

A story, which many believe is a mythical one but still obtains its importance, refers to Alexander the Great's last moments. Just before he died, the Macedonian King called all his generals and he informed them of his final 3 wishes. 
1. His coffin is to be held by the best doctors of his time. 
2. The treasures he had won (including silver, gold, valuable stones) should be scattered on the way to his tomb. 
3. His hands should be left to wiggle in the air, outside the coffin, for everyone to see. 

One of the generals surprised by the king's obscure requests asked the reason why he asked for these 3 final wishes. 
Alexander then replied:
1. I want the best doctors to carry me, in order to emphasise how they do not even have the power to cure, when it comes down to death. 
2. I want the treasures to be scattered on the way so everyone can see that the treasures won here remain here. 
3. I wish my hands to wiggle in the air, so people can see that we come and go from this life with our hands empty, when the most valuable thing we have ends, i.e. time. 

This is a very important teaching given to us by Alexander. Time is one of the most important gifts we could have, since it is limited. We can gain money, power but not more time. That is why it is important to have, as my father tells me all the time, TIME MANAGEMENT. When we give someone our time, we inevitably give them part of our life. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Did you know the BOOK?

I can't imagine a world where a book and the idea of a book does not exist. Mankind has used it for millennia in order to achieve the highest possible level of knowledge. Without it history, tradition, religion, philosophy, politics and in essence our whole history would have been very different to what it is. However, even its non existence in the future will result in a more and more electrical based knowledge, where everything is on-line, altering the way with which knowledge is passed down to the pupils and students at both school and university. Although this is currently evident through the existence and prevalence of the i-books (kindle), the smart phones etc. Lets hope that the platonic idea of a book, which exists in the world of ideas will also exist in our world for centuries to come. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The most popular names in Europe

Its funny how many people have the same name within certain regions and countries. According to Facebook the most popular names within Europe, both for men and women are:



However this is a general research result. For example in Greece the two names given are Giorgos and Maria, but in many regions and islands you would find other names, such as Manolis in Crete, Gerasimos in Kefalonia, Dimitris in Thessaloniki. In the UK other names are found in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Island. This of course is evident in all countries around the world.   

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adverts on Benches

Now anyone can see advertisements everywhere. One example is advertising on benches, which evidently are unique. Where else will they find to advertise in the future? Enjoy the nice and weird adverts.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Syntagma Square Metro

It is evident that Greece will be the centre of attention for the next months if not years, due to the economic crisis that has hit the Mediterranean country since the global economic crisis in 2008. Because of this I though I'd write about the capital's central Metro Station, in Syntagma Square, where all the riots take place. This is an important place, seen as one of the reasons for Greece's economic downfall, i,e, the establishment of the Metro system in the Greek capital due to the Olympic Games of 2004. 

Needless to say that once you start digging in the centre of Athens you will most probably hit on something of historical value. As a result, in an unprecedented move, teams of archaeologists worked alongside the metro engineers for years in what became not only Athens' first subway, but also the largest archaeological excavation in the city's history. Tens of thousands of artefacts were discovered and the end result is both a greater knowledge of Athens' buried history and metro stations which double as museums. 

Syntagma Square is the stop for the Greek Parliament and the city's centre. In ancient times this area lay outside the city's walls; it was a natural location for cemeteries. The station, which is also a museum, exhibits several finds, including grave goods and ancient Greek plumbing. Visitors can clearly see the myriad layers of human history at this site, including Byzantine, Roman, ancient Greek and finally prehistoric periods. Also the open grave of the ancient necropolis which existed here originally is evident. However it does not only have ancient monuments, it is a place where many exhibitions take place, making it a cultural centre, combining the ancient and the modern!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Tournai Marble Font, Winchester Cathedral

The Tournai Marble Font, situated within Winchester Cathedral, is one of its great treasures. It is believed to date back from the second half of the 12th century. Henry III (Henry of Winchester), the son of King John, was baptised in this font in 1207. It remains the only font in the cathedral, used till this day. 
The stone used is often described as Tournai Marble; however it is not a marble in the modern sense, but the term was used in medieval times for a stone that took a polish. The Winchester font is one of seven of its type, with its square upper section, to be found in England. 

The visual imagery in the stone, glass and wood of medieval churches were major media for communicating with the largely illiterate population. The carvings on the font are part of this tradition, which in Eastern Christianity is evident through the icons, considered to be the books of the illiterate. On two panels of the font are depicted legends associated with St. Nicholas, who is venerated in both East and West.
The picture here illustrates probably the earliest story associated with the Saint. An impoverished nobleman had three daughters for whom he was unable to provide dowries, and whom he was about to abandon to a life of prostitution. They were saved from this fate by the Saint's secretive gifts of three bags of gold, which he said to have thrown through the window of the nobleman's house at night. Due to this story Saint Nicholas is identified as Santa Clause in Western Christianity. 

In the other two panels symbolism is evident through the depiction of animals, such as the dove and the salamander symbolising the Holy Spirit, as was promised in the Gospels, "He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire", (St. Luke 3, 16). 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ancient Egyptians discovered prosthetic medicine

The first prosthetic evidence (two technical foot toes) were constructed in ancient Egypt, according to the magazine "The Lancet".  The evidence found of the two toes, dated before the 7th century B.C. show how they were used not only to complete the physical integrity of the mummy but actually for the better walking process of the patient. 

Experiments took place in order to identify the usefulness of the prosthetic parts, which gave positive results. Evidently this part of medicine (i.e. prosthetic toes) finds its origins in Egypt before the 7th century B.C., whilst a prosthetic leg dated back to the 4th century B.C., found in a Roman tomb in Santa Maria di Capua, was until now considered the most ancient prosthetic limb. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Waiter Robots

On this blog I wrote here about the robot teachers in South Korea. Now a new invention has produced the waiter robots in a local restaurant in Eastern China, where they are responsible for waiting and entertaining the customers. They always serve with a smiley face, they never loose their temper (especially with demanding customers) and of course they never expect a tip. Whilst the customers eat their food they also enjoy the robot's dance, which dances to the rhythmical eastern background music.

The question is what do people prefer? A human who has his ups and downs or a neutral robot that merely repeats what it has been programmed to do. What happens when a special circumstance occurs? Then do they call for the human to resolve it? Modern Technology has achieved many things, however some technological inventions are unnecessary. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The healthiest fruit

Its very important we consume a substantial amount of fruit on a daily basis. They have many vitamins that we need and which contribute to our healthy diet.

The ten healthiest fruit are:
10. Kiwi
9. Watermelon
8. Strawberry 
7. Papaya
6. Orange
5. Apple
4. Banana
3. Avocado
2. Guava
1. Pineapple 

So lets not forget to eat fruit daily!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Statues in La Rambla Street, Barcelona

Visiting Barcelona last year, I was astonished at the site of numerous live statues at the main landmark street La Rambla. It is aproximately 1.3 km long, in the middles is a pedestrian zone, which ends at the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Vell, Barcelona's port.

Walking down this main street anyone can see various performers posing as human statues. These street statues can get pretty imaginative, ranging from celebrities, mythical, historical characters and also imaginary figures. They stand on small boxes or platforms, wave or wink at the pedestrians (mainly tourists) and put up a small show for a tip. So if anyone visits La Rambla have a lot of change in order to give them something for their effort!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Despite Constant Murders, Christians are increasing in Iraq

Despite constant murders taking place this year in Iraq, around 200, Christianity is spreading and Christian believers are increasing.  Iraqi Anglican Canon, Andrew White, explains how his Baghdad Church is 4000 people strong. He states "So many Christians have been killed, yet the church in Iraq is so happy - miraculously happy. The fact that the church is like this is incredible. And they've got a huge amount to teach us". 

Andrew White serves at St George's Church, located in Baghdad's Red Zone, which has grown to become the country's largest church. White believes that about 550 Muslims attend St. George's, however the number could be larger given that Muslims in Iraq face the threat of death upon confessing publicly Jesus as Lord. In 2010 White baptised 13 Muslims. Unfortunately within a week 11 of them were murdered. 
It feels like they are the modern martyrs. When explained that a baptism is dangerous and could result in them getting dead most reply, "We just love and want to follow Jesus". Its important to see if we, who belong to an established Church within the Western world, would react in the same way. 
The Vicar of Baghdad, as Andrew White is also known, does a serious and magnificent job, in a difficult and dangerous region, where not many priests or lay people would visit or establish a mission. Lets only hope that this war and the religious war within Iraq will soon end.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Plans to assassinate Konstantinos Karamanlis

A top secret document from EYP, Ethinki Ipiresia Pliroforion, i.e. the Greek National Intelligence Service, with the code name "Eidiko Deltio Enimerosis" (No 219/5 February 2009) has been published in the magazine Epikaira in Greece, informing Karamanli's Government that there was a plan (Pythia 1) to assassinate the Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, leader of the New Democracy party. EYP was informed from FSB, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, who found details of a plan to stop the new energy policy of Greece, which was oriented towards Moscow.
They refer to the singing of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipe line and the South Stream and the singing of the transnational convention on the TOMA BM-3HEL, which was decided on 6 months earlier. 
According to this article a small Russian team went to Greece in order to monitor the situation. Between the 20 and 25 April 2008 the Russians were embroiled with some unknown people who were tailing the former PM. The people got way, however the vehicle that they abandoned had maps with the routes Karamanlis took, information concerning his security men, weapons, night vision binoculars and explosives, including C4. 
The plan to destabilise the country, as claimed by the FSB, involved four points:

1. Political instability, which allegedly was achieved through the Vatopaidi (monastery of Mount Athos) scandal.
2. Economic and commercial instability which was achieved through the current economic crisis.
3. Social destabilisation via the social unrest and terrorism.
4. Problems concerning foreign policy. 

However EYP cannot control the validity of this information. Nevertheless if this is true then we have to try and find who these people were, or who they were working for. It is ironic to see that, although the assassination did not take place, Greece has been destabilised in all 4 points stated above. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Earth seen from an Astronaut

This video shows how our Earth is seen from space. Dr. Justin Wilkinson explains the magnificent view found beneath him.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Abortion, animal rights and alcoholism in the Ancient World

Hippocratis, in his vow, he binds the doctors to not practice abortion (even in Ancient Greece), and on the other side the stoic philosophers believed that the unborn child was merely a plant. Abortion was a serious matter in Ancient Greece and Rome as it is today. In Ancient Athens they considered it a crime against the dead husband to abort the baby which was conceived with him. Inscriptions in temples in Greece show how a woman would be unclean for 40 days after she had an abortion. The first law against abortion was institutionalized in Rome, 211 A.D. and the punishment was a temporary exile. However the expansion of Christianity hardened the attitude against abortion, believing that it is murder.  

In Ancient Greece philosophers analysed and examined animal rights. Pythagoras criticised the maltreatment of animals by man, whilst philosopher Porfirios was a great supporter of vegetarianism by even writing an essay entitled " For the absence from meat". This was also evident in Rome; a vivid example is when Pompey (soldier and politician) was in charge of an elephant slaughter, people in Rome were outraged by this, more than when fellow humans were slaughtered in war. 
 According to the "Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization" although Ancient Greeks loved wine and drank it on a regular basis, they were aware of alcoholism and its problems. Pythagoras stated that drinking alcohol in order to get drunk is a step before madness. Ploutarchos condemned the habit of getting drunk early in the morning, in order to get over a headache due to a previous hangover. In Ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder found it ironic how people spent money, which they acquired with great effort, in order to destroy their mind and cause madness. 
These are merely three common and serious issues which are also current and have still not been dealt with. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Africa: the birthplace of all languages!

A new research has abolished the belief that all languages in the world were introduced separately in different regions and epochs. Africa is now considered to be the birthplace of all languages, which are dated 150.000 years back. These are findings after a thorough research, which examined 504 languages, took place in Oxford and Oakland Universities. Language, speech, gave the opportunity to groups of people to migrate to other parts of the world, and eventually leave Africa. 

It is believed that the linguistic development is hidden within the timeless evolution of the sounds within the languages. It is also evident that the age of one language can be identified by the variety of sounds and various special phonemes within the language. That is why African languages have 100 phonemes (which is the smallest segmental unit of  sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances), whilst English, French and German have 45 phonemes each and the language in Hawaii only 13. 
However this new research will create various reactions within the linguistic community, since many support the fact that it is impossible to examine any linguistic form prior to 10.000 years back.    

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Rotonta in Thessaloniki

The Rotonta in the second largest Greek city, Thessaloniki,  is a Roman building built in 300 A.D. by Caesar Galerius. He chose this city as his base, that is why he tried to decorate it with various magnificent buildings, such as palaces, hippodrome, temples.
Archaeologists cannot identify why Galerius built the Rotonta. Some believe that he wished it to be his Mausoleum; despite not being buried near Thessaloniki. Another hypothesis is that it was meant to be a Temple dedicated to Zeus, the Caesar's and the Roman Empire's patron God. 

With the eventual prevalence of Christianity during the Byzantine era the Rotonta was transformed into a church dedicated to the Archangels, maybe during the period Theodosios I was emperor in Constantinople (4th century A.D.). That is the period the mosaics were introduced in the interior of the church, which still exist to this day. 
The Rotonta was not one of the city's major churches, as were St. Dimitrios and St. Sophia. This was evident when Thessaloniki was conquered by non-Christians they would close down the most important churches and worship sites, however the Rotonta was not on this list. Nevertheless it became the metropolitan's main church during the Frankish period and the first period of the Ottoman Rule over the Balkan region. This of course happened in 1523, after the Metropolitan Church (St. Sophia) became a mosque. In 1591 the Rotonta also became a mosque.

After the Greek Revolution and the Balkan wars, where Macedonia became part of the Independent Greek State Dragoumis, General Commander of Macedonia, declared the Rotonta as a national monument and came under the jurisdiction of the Hellenic State. It was also given to the Orthodox Church and was officially re-opened in 1914 by Metropolitan of Salonika Gennadios. The Church was now dedicated to St. George, despite being rarely used as a church and mainly as a museum. Archaeologists have since began excavations within and around the building finding many archaeological artefacts. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Birds nests

Its incredible to think that we humans dream and try to acquire a big, luxurious house in a posh area, where our neighbours will be friendly and ideal. However the birds depicted here show how anywhere could become a home. Its good to see though that some people take care and respect the nests, found in various places. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Marble caves

These magnificent caves are found in Spain. The astonishing fact is that they were formed naturally, by the waves. Many artists and architects would feel jealous of this outstanding result. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 10 most spoken languages

Many believe that English is the most spoken language in the world, however we should distinguish that there is a difference between most spoken and most widely spread language. These facts of course change rapidly, according to the languages spoken in the developing countries.

10. German (118.000.000). Spoken in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein as official language and across the world through minorities. 

9. Japanese (123.000.000). Spoke in Japan and Palau as an official language. It is spoken mainly in minorities in South Korea, USA and Australia.

8. Portuguese (200.000.000). Spoke in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Timor Leste and other countries within Central Africa.  

7. Bengali (250.000.000). Spoke in Bangladesh and India.

6. Russian (250.000.000). Spoken in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and within the countries which were part of the USSR.

5. Arabic (440.000.000) Spoke in the Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It is the official language in 26 countries, including Israel. 

4. English (450.000.000) Spoken in the Anglo-Saxon world and is also the most wide spread language.

3. Hindi-Urdu (490.000.000) Spoken in India and Pakistan.

2. Spanish (500.000.000) Spoken within the Hispanic world, i.e. Spain, Latin America and is the second official language in the USA.

1. Mandarin ( Since China has the largest population in the world it also obtains the top place in this list. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Greek Souvlaki in Vietnam

It is a fact that you can find a Greek in every corner of the world. What is not known is that you can even find Greek souvlaki in Vietnam. George Tsakoyias from Thessaloniki moved to the South-Eastern corner of Asia due to economic problems.

He resides in the coastal city of Nha Trang, and specifically on the Nguyen Thien Thu Street. It is the first souvlaki restaurant to open in Vietnam, which opened a couple of weeks ago. 
George wants to teach the Vietnamese to eat not only rise but also souvlaki and tzatziki. Due to the fact that the ingredients needed cannot be found anywhere in the country he makes everything from scratch, the traditional way. However the souvlaki is too expensive for the locals, so his customers are mainly tourists and middle class locals.
If anyone is in Vietnam and feels he wants some Greek traditional food just visit George!

The Byzantine Icons of Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral has nine icons on the western screen of the retro-choir, which were painted by Sergei Fyodorof, a distinguished Russian Orthodox iconographer, between the years 1992-96. 

The nine icons comprise a deesis or place of supplication, following Orthodox liturgical custom, that happily reflects important subjects in the original statuary, and includes the patron Saints of the Cathedral. Christ is at the centre, Virgin Mary is on his right, St. John the Baptist is on his left. Then we find the two Archangels Michael and Gabriel, St Peter and Paul and the local Saints, Birinus and Swithun.

Saint Birinus was the first Bishop of Dorchester and the Apostle of the West Saxons. He carries the Gospels and a bishop's staff. He died in 650 AD.

Saint Swithun was Bishop of Winchester and trusted adviser of King Egbert. His shrine was the focal point of the retro-choir until its demolition during the Reformation. St. Swithun holds the Gospels and his right hand extends in fealty towards Christ. He died in 862.

However these are not the only icons in Winchester Cathedral, as shown in a previous post on this blog found here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Winchester Cathedral

The Winchester Cathedral is the longest medieval cathedral in Europe. However it is not the first Church to be built on this site. A brick plan of the Old Minster is still identifiable today, the earlier Saxon Cathedral, which was built about 648 AD. 

Old Minster was originally a simple cross-shaped building dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul and was built by King Cenwalh of Wessex.

It became an important Cathedral since the seat of the Bishop moved to Winchester from Dorchester on Thames and also played a more central role when in 828 Winchester became the capital of England. 

By the year 1000 the Church was 'hung about on both walls from end to end with the crutches and stools of the crippled who had been healed' by St. Swithun, who was Bishop of Winchester in the 9th century.

Old Minster was the most important royal Church of Anglo-Saxon England. The palace of the kings lay immediately behind the Cathedral.  Among the kings buried in the Church were Egbert in 839 and Alfred the Great in 899 - later moved to the adjacent New Minster. 

Edward the Confessor was crowned here in 1043. William the Conqueror, and after him William Rufus, 'wore his crown' in Old Minster at Easter every year they were in England until the monks moved to the new Cathedral in 1093.

King Alfred the Great is one of the nation's great men, religious, scholarly and a wise ruler. Wessex was, under his leadership, the only one of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms to survive the Danish attacks of the 9th century. England was unified in the next century by the efforts of his son and grandsons. 

During and after Alfred's death two new religious foundations were established within the city walls. Ealhswith, Alfred's queen, founded Nunnaminster, a nunnery, on the site of the present Abbey Gardens. King Edward the Elder, Alfred's son, founded New Minster in 901 close along the north side of Old Minster. 
In 964 Bishop Aethelworld, one of the three leaders of English Monastic reform, reorganised all three Winchester minsters, introducing monks and nuns living under a strict Benedictine Rule. By the year 1000 the entire south-east corner of Winchester was a royal and monastic quarter dominated by three minsters and the palaces of bishop and king. 

The Old Minster was then demolished in 1093 and was replaced by the Norman Cathedral, which was completed about 1127. The first church's stone work is incorporated in the new building. The remains of St. Swithun, royal burials and the relics of Saxon Saints from the Old Minster are given an honourable place in the current Cathedral.

The new Norman Cathedral still stands to this day, serving still the same purpose, of glorifying God and welcoming pilgrims. It has been a historical Cathedral. Here came Henry IV to be married to Joan of Navarre. Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon married Philip of Spain in Winchester Cathedral in July 1554. Prince Arthur, first son of Henry VII and of the new Tudor dynasty, was brought here to be baptised. 
The Cathedral obtains numerous chapels, each being different to the next. An important chapel, from an Orthodox perspective is the Holy Sepulchre Chapel, which is decorated with the finest 12th century wall paintings in England.

The east wall is painted with scenes of the deposition and entombment of Christ and dates from 1170-1180. In the 13th century the figure of Christ and other scenes were painted on the newly constructed vault. 
Also a crypt is located in the north transept. It dates from the earliest building phase of 1079-93. The crypt is often flooded. It was through here that pilgrims made their way up the Pilgrims' Steps. Today a contemporary sculpture has been installed in the Crypt, called Sound II by Antony Gormley. 

Here also one can find the Winchester Bible which dates from the late 12th century and is located in the Cathedral's library. It was written on calf-skin vellum by one monk and illustrated over a period of 20 years by a team of international artists. It is a very beautiful and historical building, which every visitor should see.