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  • feedwordpress 09:01:47 on 2019/02/27 Permalink
    Tags: Aelia Eudocia, Arnold Toynbee, , , , Theodosius II, , university, University of Constantinople   

    “Every form of government tends to perish by excess of its basic principle”*… 


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    Urban-planning-of-the-Harappan

    The town planning of the Harappan civilization has amazed archaeologists

     

    Great civilisations are not murdered. Instead, they take their own lives.

    So concluded the historian Arnold Toynbee in his 12-volume magnum opus A Study of History. It was an exploration of the rise and fall of 28 different civilisations.

    He was right in some respects: civilisations are often responsible for their own decline. However, their self-destruction is usually assisted.

    The Roman Empire, for example, was the victim of many ills including overexpansion, climatic change, environmental degradation and poor leadership. But it was also brought to its knees when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and the Vandals in 455.

    Collapse is often quick and greatness provides no immunity. The Roman Empire covered 4.4 million sq km (1.9 million sq miles) in 390. Five years later, it had plummeted to 2 million sq km (770,000 sq miles). By 476, the empire’s reach was zero.

    Our deep past is marked by recurring failure. As part of my research at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, I am attempting to find out why collapse occurs through a historical autopsy. What can the rise and fall of historic civilisations tell us about our own? What are the forces that precipitate or delay a collapse? And do we see similar patterns today?…

    civilization larger version available here

    Studying the demise of historic civilizations can tell us how much risk we face today.  Worryingly, Luke Kemp, of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, suggests that the signs are worsening: “Are We On the Road to Civilisation Collapse?

    * Will Durant

    ###

    As we reread “Ozymandias,” we might recall that it was on this date in 425 that the University of Constantinople was founded by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II at the urging of his wife Aelia Eudocia.  It opened with 31 chair (in  law, philosophy, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, rhetoric and other subjects– 15 taught in Latin, 16 in Greek, and survived until the 15th century.

    university constantinople source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:42 on 2018/10/15 Permalink
    Tags: , death of the universe, , Jesse L. Greenstein, quasar, , , , university, vacuum, vacuum decay   

    “And so the Universe ended”*… 


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    implosion

    Conceptual illustration of the Higgs Field that physicists believe permeates the Universe, and that could theoretically bring about its end.

     

    Every once in a while, physicists come up with a new way to destroy the Universe. There’s the Big Rip (a rending of spacetime), the Heat Death (expansion to a cold and empty Universe), and the Big Crunch (the reversal of cosmic expansion). My favourite, though, has always been vacuum decay. It’s a quick, clean and efficient way of wiping out the Universe…

    Learn more about a possibility that really sucks: “Vacuum decay: the ultimate catastrophe.”

    * Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

    ###

    As we we abhor a vacuum even more than nature does, we might send closely-observed birthday greetings to Jesse Leonard Greenstein; he was born on this date in 1909.  An astronomer who ran Cal Tech’s storied program for decades, he co-discovered (with Maarten Schmidt) the quasar.  While other astronomers had previously observed the bright bodies, Greenstein and Schmidt were the first to to interpret the red shift of quasars and correctly identify them as compact, very distant– and thus very old– objects.  Later, working with Louis Henyey, Greenstein designed and built a new spectrograph and wide-view camera to improve astronomical observations,

    greenstein source

     

     
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