Random Thoughts

Evolution Of Wings, Calendars, Counting,

War, Politics & Society

In the animal kingdom, flying and wings evolved four times (in insects, pterodactyl dinosaurs, birds and lastly bats, who are mammals). Serpents did not evolve wings and pigs don’t fly even if you put lipstick on them., though markets do fly if Bernanke puts lipstick on them. It is out of forelimbs that wings evolved, first from the biramous (leg+gill) or branched limbs of water dwelling arthropods (in insects), the entire arm or upper limb enveloping membrane in birds and as an extension of a wrist membrane in bats and an extension of a finger membrane in pterodactyls. Snakes have lost their front limbs and pigs’ body size eliminates the physics and aerodynamics of flying.  

Have you ever wondered why the keyboard of a typewriter or computer has the order QWERTYUIOP etc.? It is because the keys and typing were initial purely mechanical and thus in the positioning of letter keys, the inventor somewhat unjustifiably felt that separating the keys for letters which occur adjacent to each other in English like T& H, I & E would prevent rapid typing from causing jamming of the adjacent keys. It was sheer originator’s advantage and tradition that perpetuated it. As they say the early bird gets the worm and according to a late riser like me, deserves it too!

War has always been the means for power, wealth, glory and fame by obsessed megalomaniacs. A passage from Professor Samuel Noah Kramer’s book on “The Sumerians -Their History, Culture & Character (see Char, Chaar, Achaar, Achaarya, Charitra, Character - please l)

“It is thus fairly obvious that the drive for superiority and prestige deeply colored the Sumerian outlook on life and played an important role in their education, politics and economics. This suggests the tentative hypothesis that not unlike the strong emphasis on competition and success in modern American culture, the the aggressive penchant for controversy and the ambitious drive for pre-eminence provided no little of the psychological motivation which sparked and sustained the material and cultural advances for which the Sumerians are not unjustly noted: irrigation expansion, technological invention, monumental building, the development of a system of writing and education. Sad to say, the passion for competition and superiority carried within it the seed of self-destruction and helped to trigger the bloody and disastrous wars between the city-states and to impede the unification of the country as a whole, thus exposing Sumer to the external attacks which finally overwhelmed it. All of which provides us with but another example of the poignant story inherent in man and his fate.

Sumer left us the story of the flood and a counting system based on sixty. That is why to this day we have 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 360 degrees in a circle.

Interestingly another civilization that of ancient Egypt first formulated a solar calendar year of 365 days in 4241 BCE (6252 years ago). Their New Year on the day when the star Sirius rose at sunrise, which in our present calendar is July 19th. The Egyptians divided the 365 day year into twelve months of 30 days each and a sacred period of five feast days at the end of the year. This was short by a quarter day each year and thus fell behind a whole year every 1460 years. The Egyptians abandoned the lunar month altogether and were the fist and only ones on realizing that the lunar and solar calendars were incommensurable.

India is still stuck with the lunar calendar because of our religious hangups and we follow a mishmash of “Tithi-Kshaya and Adhik Maas” to synchronize the lunar and solar calendar without the understanding of the ancient Egyptians that a calendar must be an artificial device, entirely divorced from nature except in the acceptance of the day and the year. The Romans under Julius Caesar borrowed the Egyptian calendar but had only 10 months in the year initially.

That is why the last month is December or the tenth from deca and deci for ten (as in decimal, deciliter, decathlon, dodecahedron). By the way the base of ten and the current numerals came from India though they are called Arabic numerals as the Arabs carried them to Europe from India. That is why we can easily multiply 1953 by 349. Try multiplying MCMLIII by CCCXLVIIII (same Roman numerals).

The Greeks whose gods were the products of incest and for whom Sodom could have been the equivalent of the Vatican gave us all those quaint spellings like psychology, pneumonia, phthisis, gnosis, but also gave us logic, philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, geometry of Euclid, irrational numbers which destroyed the cult of Pythagoras by proving that the square root of 2 cannot be expressed as the ratio of two real numbers. They gave us insights into human nature and government, but also the first documented no holds barred war in which the military used destruction of crops and atrocities on civilian non-combatants as a means of breaking the will of the enemy to fight (Sparta vs. Athens in the Peloponesian War of 431 BCE. This was refined by the west in the European Wars and brought to perfect abhorrent epitome in the London blitz and by the joint decision of Churchill and FDR after their Morocco meeting to start the carpet bombing of Dresden and Tokyo. America then made it standard policy in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan together with assassination and torture squads in Latin America, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan (see books by Alfred McCoy). Nowadays destruction of civilian infrastructure like houses, water, sewage, electric and pharmaceutical plants is practiced by the US in  Iraq (shock &awe), Israel in Gaza and Lebanon, Russia in Grozny, Chechnya.

War after the development of air-forces has become about achieving air supremacy, air superiority or air denial (no fly zone). In the old days there may have been jousting by knights (one on one combat). That stopped with the development of the Gatling gun(machine guns). In the battle of Omdurman and the massacre of Jalianwala Bagh, British casualties were negligible to zero while the Sudanese and Indians died in thousands or hundreds. In Jalianwala Bagh the opponents were unarmed peaceful protesters. The same is happening in Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya. When planes bombs and missiles are available to one side, massing of troops, tanks, artillery and armor only leads to slaughter of the air-force deprived like the Iraqis retreating from Kuwait and the foolish fanatic Taliban on the Shomali plain in Afghanistan in 2001-2. This is why the weaker forces have resorted to terrorism and Improvised Explosive Devices. This is in no way a defense of or argument in favor of terrorism which I unequivocally condemn, but it is a rebuke of our perpetual and persistent meddling in the affairs of other nations under often false pretexts, like in Libya, while condoning or conniving at the identical situations of Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan etc.   


Images (c) Gettyimages.com


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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