Sunday, October 28, 2007

New 7 Wonders of the World

Bernard Weber is founder and president of the New7Wonders Campaign.
After 7 years of campaigning and 100 million votes received, the results of the world’s first-ever global vote were announced on July 7, 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal.
A little more then 2,200 years after the Ancient 7 Wonders (which represented buildings built over a period of 2,000 years) were declared in 200 B.C. by a single man, Philon of Byzantium in Athens, more than 100 million votes from people from every corner and country in the world, elected the New 7 Wonders of the World.
This truly new set of 7 Wonders covers, once again, the time span of 2,000 years—from the Arab city of Petra and the Roman Colosseum, both of which date from the 1st Century A.D., to the wide-armed statue of Christ Redeemer on Rio de Janeiro’s Corcovado mountain, built in 1931.
The most weighty role in choosing the New7Wonders played the children and young people of our world. Children up to a certain age do not have a strong national sense of pride, so they were our most objective voters, they voted for what they genuinely liked best.
People from all over the world voted for what they thought deserved to be new wonder, no metter which country they come from.
More people from Korea and Japan voted for the Eiffel Tower than did people from France. Many children worldwide loved Neuschwanstein Castle, but the Germans didn’t. The United States, whose inhabitants voted very passionately and in truly huge numbers, did not vote for their Statue of Liberty.
Reflecting the diversity of our world, there are three of the New 7 Wonders in Latin America, two in Asia, one in the Middle-East and one in Europe. They represent some of the most important civilizations of the past two millennia — Arab, Chinese, Inca, Indian, Mayan and Roman.
There was 21 New 7 Wonders Finalist Candidates. Although only 7 wonders were selected , all of the finalists and a lot of candidates represent the best that people and civilizations have left behind. So, they all will find their place on this blog...

Taj Mahal -Symbol of Eternal Love.

Taj Mahal stands on the bank of River Yamuna, in Agra, once the capital of the Mughal Empire during the 16th and early 18th centuries.
The Taj Mahal is regarded as the most perfect jewel of Muslim art in India. This huge mausoleum mosque was built by Shah Jahan, the fifth Muslim Mogul emperor, in memory of his beloved wife, a Persian princess born as Arjuman Bano Begum but known as Mumtaz Mahal. She was a significant influence in his life and in his policies, but died at age thirty-nine while giving birth to their fourteenth child in 1631.
The ruler went into deep mourning. Her last wish to her husband was "to build a tomb in her memory such as the world had never seen before." So Shah Jahan set about building this fairytale-like marvel of white marble, surrounded by formally laid-out walled gardens.

The Taj rises on a high red sandstone base topped by a huge white marble terrace on which rests the famous dome flanked by four tapering minarets. Within the dome lies the jewel-inlaid cenotaph of the queen. So exquisite is the workmanship that the Taj has been described as "having been designed by giants and finished by jewellers".

The dome is made of white marble, but the tomb is set against the plain across the river and it is this background that works its magic of colours that, through their reflection, change the view of the Taj. The colours change at different hours of the day and during different seasons. Like a jewel, the Taj sparkles in moonlight when the semi-precious stones inlaid into the white marble on the main mausoleum catch the glow of the moon. The Taj is pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden when the moon shines. These changes, they say, depict the different moods of woman.

Its stunning architectural beauty is beyond adequate description, particularly at dawn and sunset. The Taj seems to glow in the light of the full moon. On a foggy morning, the visitors experience the Taj as if suspended when viewed from across the Jamuna river.

As a tribute to a beautiful woman and as a monument for enduring love, the Taj reveals its subtleties when one visits it without being in a hurry. The rectangular base of Taj is in itself symbolic of the different sides from which to view a beautiful woman. The main gate is like a veil to a woman’s face which should be lifted delicately, gently and without haste on the wedding night. In indian tradition the veil is lifted gently to reveal the beauty of the bride. As one stands inside the main gate of Taj, his eyes are directed to an arch which frames the Taj.

Unlike other Mughal tombs, the Taj Mahal gardens are all in front of the tomb and do not play any part in the background. Instead, the background is the sky. Since the tomb is set against a plain across a river,this background of eternal sky works its magic of colors that, through their reflection, subtly reflect on the white marble surface of the Taj Mahal, always changing its color and complexion. The composition of the forms and lines of the Taj Mahal is perfectly symmetrical. The colossal height of the tomb, along with its pyramidal appearance, fill it with grace and make it seem to float or soar.
The only asymmetrical object in the Taj is the casket of the emperor which was built beside the queen’s as an afterthought.

The entire mausoleum (inside as well as outside) is decorated with inlaid design of flowers and calligraphy using precious gems such as agate and jasper. The main archways, chiseled with passages from the Holy Qur’an and the bold scroll work of flowery pattern, give a captivating charm to its beauty. The central domed chamber and four adjoining chambers include many walls and panels of Islamic decoration.

The emperor, later buried in the Taj, was overthrown by his son and imprisoned in the nearby Great Red Fort for eight years, from which, it is said, he could see the Taj Mahal out of his small cell window.

Taj Mahal indeed is, like Rabindranath Tagore called it: "a teardrop on the cheek of time"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Big Bang - The Beginning?

The big bang theory of cosmology says that the universe came into existence in a single event some ten or twenty billion years ago from a single, infinitely dense and hot pointlike ball of light, smaller than the smallest atom. In a fraction of a second, it expanded trillions of times creating all of the space, matter and energy that now makes up the galaxies and stars. The universe has been expanding and cooling since that initial event.

The Big Bang is often thought as the start of everything, including time, making any questions about what happened during it or beforehand nonsensical. Recently scientists have instead suggested the Big Bang might have just been the explosive beginning of the current era of the universe, hinting at a mysterious past.

One of the biggest mysteries in cosmology could be explained by a controversial theory in which the universe explodes into existence not just once, but repeatedly in endless cycles of death and rebirth.

Called the cyclic universe theory, it could potentially explain why a mysterious repulsive form of energy known as the "cosmological constant" and which is accelerating the expansion of the universe is several orders of magnitude smaller than predicted by the standard Big Bang model.
The constant was once much larger, but that its value decayed with each incarnation of the universe.
Because there can be endless cycles, the universe would be far older than the 14.7 billion years that scientists currently estimate.

A new theory for the origin of the Universe is intriguing astronomers with the idea that a "Big Splat" preceded the Big Bang.
It proposes that there may be an unseen parallel universe to ours.
The idea, which is still at the development stage, may provide hints about what happened before our Universe exploded into existence some 15 billion years ago.
M-theory looks at events before the Big Bang, proposing that the Universe has 11 dimensions, six of them rolled up into microscopic filaments that can, for all intents, be ignored.
M-theory brings the idea of more than one universe embedded in higher-dimensional space.
The action of the Universe takes place in five-dimensional space. Before the Big Bang occurred the Universe consisted of two perfectly flat four-dimensional surfaces.

One of these sheets is our Universe; the other, a "hidden" parallel universe.

The question is : Will we ever find out the truth?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Jesus Christ Lizard - Run on Water

The Green Basilisk lizard is also called a plumed or double-crested basilisk; but its amazing ability to run on water gives this species its most recognizable moniker: the Jesus Christ lizard.

It has a seemingly miraculous ability to scurry across liquid, apparently at odds with the usual laws of physics.

How they do it?

To accomplish this, they have long toes on their rear feet with fringes of skin that unfurl in the water, increasing surface area. As they rapidly churn their legs, they slap their splayed feet hard against the water, creating a tiny air pocket that keeps them from sinking, provided they maintain their speed. They can move along the surface like this for 15 feet (4.5 meters) or more. When gravity eventually does take over, the basilisk resorts to its excellent swimming skills to continue its flight.

Basilisk lizards are excellent swimmers and are capable of remaining underwater for up to 30 minutes.

Part of the iguana family, green basilisks grow to about 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length, including their long, whip-like tail. Males have distinctive, high crests on their heads and backs, which they use to impress females.

Don't believe it? See for yourself...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Terracotta Army - The Infinite Power of Emperor

The Terracotta Warriors and Horses are the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Located approximately 30 km outside of the present-day capital, X'ian (called Chang'an in ancient times), of the Shensi province of modern China, the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi remains a symbol of the infinite power and ego of China's first Emperor.

The Terracotta Army was buried with the Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huangdi) in 210-209 BC (his reign over Qin was from 247 BC to 221 BC and unified China from 221 BC to the end of his life in 210 BC). Their purpose was to help rule another empire with Shi Huangdi in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "Qin's Armies".

Qin Shi Huangdi (259 BC - 210 BC), the first emperor of China, ascended the throne at the age of 13, and immediately began construction of his extraordinary mausoleum. On completion of his many conquests, he ordered 720,000 laborers to hurry up on building his royal tomb. It was finished just-in-time in 210 BC for his use, 36 years after the work commenced. His son, second Qin Emperor, saw to his entombment.

The Terracotta Army was discovered in March 1974 by local farmers drilling a water well to the east of Mount Lishan. Mount Lishan is also where the material to make the terracotta warriors originated. In addition to the warriors, an entire man-made necropolis for the emperor has been excavated.

Archaeologists were uncertain when the excavations began of the great magnitude of this site. The although the tomb itself is, according to legend, very elaborate and beautiful, the center piece of Shi Huangdi's mausoleum is the terra-cotta army of approximately 8,000 life-sized men and horses.

Individually sculpted of 3 inch thick terracotta clay, each soldier and horse is unique, each with its own style of dress (the mineral paints used to cover the figures in bright, gay colors have since dissolved), weaponry, and facial expressions. Grouped into a specific military formation with crouching crossbowmen and bowmen at the point, archers at the flanks, large groups of infantry, chariots and cavalry, and a final guard of heavily armored infantry pulling up the rear, all are arranged according to the proper military procedures of the day.

All 8,000 troops are housed in three separate chambers for each section of the army: active duty troops in the largest chamber, reserves in another smaller chamber, and a small group of 68 commanders and elite officers in the third.
The three chambers are themselves part of a much larger burial complex.

According to the Grand Historian Sima Qian (145 BC-90 BC), the First Emperor was buried alongside great amounts of treasure and objects of craftsmanship, as well as a scale replica of the universe complete with gemmed ceilings representing the cosmos, and flowing mercury representing the great earthly bodies of water. Pearls were also placed on the ceilings in the tomb to represent the stars, planets, etc. Recent scientific work at the site has shown high levels of mercury in the soil of Mount Lishan, tentatively indicating an accurate description of the site’s contents by historian Sima Qian.The tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi is near an earthen pyramid 76 meters tall and nearly 350 square meters. The tomb presently remains unopened.

Qin Shi Huangdi’s necropolis complex was constructed to serve as an imperial compound or palace. It comprises several offices, halls and other structures and is surrounded by a wall with gateway entrances. The remains of the craftsmen working in the tomb may also be found within its confines, as it is believed they were sealed inside alive to keep them from divulging any secrets about its riches or entrance. It was only fitting, therefore, to have this compound protected by the massive terracotta army interred nearby. In July 2007 it was determined, using remote sensing technology, that the mausoleum contains a 90-foot tall building built above the tomb, with four stepped walls, each having nine steps. Researchers theorized it was built "for the soul of the emperor to depart."