Sunday, April 26, 2009



Known pre-historically. Mentioned by Homer about 750 B.C., by biblical Amos about 750 B.C., and by Hesiod about 700 B.C.

The Pleiades, also known as Messier 45 (M45), are among those objects which are known since the earliest times.
At least 6 member stars are visible to the naked eye, while under moderate conditions this number increases to 9, and under clear dark skies jumps up to more than a dozen (Vehrenberg, in his Atlas of Deep Sky Splendors, mentions that in 1579, well before the invention of the telescope, astronomer Moestlin has correctly drawn 11 Pleiades stars, while Kepler quotes observations of up to 14).

Modern observing methods have revealed that at least about 500 mostly faint stars belong to the Pleiades star cluster, spread over a 2 degree (four times the diameter of the Moon) field.
Their density is pretty low, compared to other open clusters. This is one reason why the life expectation of the Pleiades cluster is also pretty low (see below).

According to Kenneth Glyn Jones, the earliest known references to this cluster are mentionings by Homer in his Ilias (about 750 B.C.) and his Odyssey (about 720 B.C.), and by Hesiod, about 700 B.C.. According to Burnham, they were seen in connection to the agricultural seasons of that time. Also, and the Bible has three references to the Pleiades (the Hebrew "Kiymah"): Job 9:7-9, Job 38:31-33, and Amos 5:8; the prophet Amos is believed to have given his message in 750 B.C. or 749 B.C., while there is no consent on the dating of the book of Job: Some believe it was written about 1,000 B.C. (the regency of Kings David and Solomon in old Israel) or earlier (Moses, about 13th to 16th century B.C.), others give reasons that it may have been created as late as the 3rd to 5th century B.C.. The present author [hf] does not know if the cluster is mentioned in one of the earlier Assyrian or Sumerian sources.

The Pleiades also carry the name "Seven Sisters"; according to Greek mythology, seven daughters and their parents.
Their Japanese name is "Subaru", which was taken to christen the car of same name. The Persian name is "Soraya", after which the former Iranian empress was named.
Old European (e.g., English and German) names indicate they were once compared to a "Hen with Chicks".
Other cultures tell more and other lore of this naked-eye star cluster.
Ancient Greek astronomers Eudoxus of Knidos (c. 403-350 BC) and Aratos of Phainomena (c. 270 BC) listed them as an own constellation: The Clusterers.
This is also referred to by Admiral Smyth in his Bedford Catalog.

Burnham points out that the name "Pleiades" may be derived from either the Greek word for "to sail", or the word "pleios" meaning "full" or "many".
The present author prefers the view that the name may be derived from the mythological mother, Pleione, which is also the name of one of the brighter stars.

According to Greek mythology, the main, visible stars are named for the seven daughters of "father" Atlas and "mother" Pleione: Alcyone, Asterope (a double star, also sometimes called Sterope), Electra, Maia, Merope, Taygeta and Celaeno.
Bill Arnett has created a map of the Pleiades with the main star names.
These stars are also labeled in a labeled copy of the UKS image which appears in this page.


Also note the Pleiades map.
Today, April 26, 2009 at sunset, they can be seen with the naked eye, to the West, midway between the Moon and Mercury.

In 1767, Reverend John Michell used the Pleiades to calculate the probability to find such a group of stars in any place in the sky by chance alignment, and found the chance to be about 1/496,000.
Therefore, and because there are more similar clusters, he concluded correctly that clusters should be physical groups (Michell 1767).

On March 4, 1769, Charles Messier included the Pleiades as No. 45 in his first list of nebulae and star clusters, published 1771.

About 1846, German astronomer Mädler (1794-1874), working at Dorpat, noticed that the stars of the Pleiades had no measurable proper motion relative to each other; from this he boldly concluded that they form a motionless center of a larger stellar system, with star Alcyone in the center.
This conclusion was to be, and was, rejected by other astronomers, in particular Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve (1793-1864). Nevertheless, the common proper motion of the Pleiades was a proof that they move as a group in space, and a further hint that they form a physical cluster.

Longer exposure photographs (and also short focal ratio, i.e. short focal length compared to their aperture, "rich field" telescopes of considerably good quality, especially good binoculars) have revealed that the Pleiades are apparently imbedded in nebulous material, obvious in one of the images, which was taken by David Malin with the UK Schmidt Telescope, and is copyrighted by the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and the Anglo-Australian Observatory.

The Pleiades nebulae are blue-colored, which indicates that they are reflection nebulae, reflecting the light of the bright stars situated near (or within) them.

The brightest of these nebulae, that around Merope, was discovered on October 19, 1859 by Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht (Wilhelm) Tempel at Venice (Italy) with a 4-inch refractor; it is included in the NGC as NGC 1435.
Leos Ondra has made the biography of Wilhelm Tempel available online together with a drawing of the Merope Nebula, and has agreed to include it in this database.

The extension to Maia was discovered by the brothers Paul and Prosper Henry in Paris on a photographic plate taken on November 16, 1885; this is NGC 1432 or the Maia Nebula.

The nebulae around Alcyone, Electra, Celaeno and Taygeta were found on photographs in the later 1880s.

The full complexity of the Pleiades nebulae was revealed by the first astro cameras, e.g. by that of the brothers Henry in Paris and Isaac Roberts in England, between 1885 and 1888.

In 1890, E.E. Barnard discovered a starlike concentration of nebulous matter very close to Merope, which found its way into the IC as IC 349.

The analysis of the spectra of the Pleiades nebulae by Vesto M. Slipher in 1912 reveiled their nature as reflection nebulae, as their spectra are exact copies of the spectra of the stars illuminating them.

Physically, the reflection nebula is probably part of the dust in a molecular cloud, unrelated to the Pleiades cluster, which happens to cross the cluster's way.
It is not a remainder of the nebula from which the cluster once formed, as can be seen from the fact that the nebula and cluster have different radial velocities, crossing each other with a relative velocity of 6.8 mps, or 11 km/sec.

According to new calculations published by a team from Geneva (Meynet 1993), the age of the Pleiades star cluster amounts 100 million years.
This is considerably more than the previously published "canonical" age of 60--80 million years (e.g., the Sky Catalog 2000's 78 million).

It has been calculated that the Pleiades have an expected future lifetime as a cluster of only about another 250 million years (Kenneth Glyn Jones); after that time, they will have been spread as individual (or multiple) stars along their orbital path.

The distance of the Pleiades cluster has been newly determined by direct parallax measures by ESA's astrometric satellite Hipparcos; according to these measurement, the Pleiades are at a distance of 380 light years (previously, a value of 408 light years had been assumed).
This value would have required an explanation for the comparatively faint apparent magnitudes of the Pleiades stars.

However, subsequent investigations with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mount Palomar and Mount Wilson Observatories have finally shown that the Hipparcos distance is probably too small: By acurate parallaxes of Pleiades stars, this cluster is at a distance of 440 +/-6 light-years.

The Trumpler classification is given for the Pleiades as II,3,r (Trumpler, according to Kenneth Glyn Jones) or I,3,r,n (Götz and Sky Catalog 2000), meaning that this cluster appears detached and strong or moderately concentrated toward its center, its stars are spread in a large range of brightness, and it is rich (has more than 100 members).

Some of the Pleiades stars are rapidly rotating, at velocities of 150 to 300 km/sec at their surfaces, which is common among main sequence stars of a certain spectral type (A-B).
Due to this rotation, they must be (oblate) spheroids rather than spherical bodies. The rotation can be detected because it leads to broadened and diffuse spectral absorption lines, as parts of the stellar surface approach us on the one side, while those on the opposite side recede from us, relative to the star's mean radial velocity.

The most prominent example for a rapidly rotating star in this cluster is Pleione, which is also variable in brightness between mag 4.77 and 5.50 (Kenneth Glyn Jones).

It was spectroscopically observed that between the years 1938 and 1952, Pleione has ejected a gas shell because of this rotation, as had been predicted by O. Struve.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin mentions that the Pleiades contain some white dwarf (WD) stars.

These dwarf stars give rise to a specific problem of stellar evolution:
How can white dwarfs exist in such a young star cluster ?

As it is not only one, it is most certain that these stars are original cluster members and not all field stars which have been captured (a procedure which does not work effectively in the rather loose open clusters anyway).

From the theory of stellar evolution, it follows that white dwarfs cannot have masses above a limit of about 1.4 solar masses (the Chandrasekhar limit), as they would collapse due to their own gravitation if they were more massive. But stars with such a low mass evolve so slow that it takes them billions of years to evolve into that final state, not only the 100 million year age of the Pleiades cluster.

The only possible explanation seems to be that these WD stars were once massive so that they evolved fast, but due to some reason (such as strong stellar winds, mass loss to close neighbors, or fast rotation) have lost the greastest part of their mass.
Possibly they have, in consequence, lost another considerable percentage of their mass in a planetary nebula.
Anyway, the final remaining stars (which was previously the star's core) must have come below the Chandrasekhar limit, so that they could go into the stable white dwarf end state, in which they are now observed.

New observations of the Pleiades since 1995 have revealed several candidates of an exotic type of stars, or starlike bodies, the so-called Brown Dwarfs.

These hitherto hypothetical objects are thought to have a mass intermediate between that of giant planets (like Jupiter) and small stars (the theory of stellar structure indicates that the smallest stars, i.e. bodies that produce energy by fusion somewhen in their lifetime, must have at least about 6..7 percent of one solar mass, i.e. 60 to 70 Jupiter masses).

So brown dwarfs should have 10 to about 60 times the mass of Jupiter.
They are assumed to be visible in the infrared light, have a diameter of about or less that of Jupiter (143,000 km), and a density 10 to 100 times that of Jupiter, as their much stronger gravity presses them tougher together.

Even with the naked eye and under modest conditions, the Pleiades are rather easily found, roughly 10 degrees north-west of the bright red-giant star Aldebaran (87 Alpha Tauri, mag 0.9, spectral type K5 III).

Apparently surrounding Aldebaran is another, equally famous open cluster, the Hyades; Aldebaran is known to be a non-member foreground star (at 68 light years distance, compared to 150 ly for the Hyades).

The cluster is a great object in binoculars and rich-field telescopes, showing more than 100 stars in a field about 1 1/5 degrees in diameter.
In telescopes, it is frequently even too large to be seen in one lowest magnification field of view.
A number of double and multiple stars are contained in the cluster.

The Merope Nebula NGC 1435 requires a dark sky and is best visible in a rich-field telescope (Tempel had discovered it with a 4-inch telescope).

As the Pleiades are situated close to the ecliptic (4 degrees off), occultations of the cluster by the Moon occur quite frequently:
This is a very appealing spectacle, especially for amateurs with less expensive equipment (actually, you can observe it with the naked eye, but even the smallest binoculars or telescopes will increase observing pleasure -- the March 1972 Pleiad occultation was one of the first amateur astronomical experiences of the present author).

Such events demonstrate the relations of the apparent sizes of the Moon and the cluster: Burnham points out that the Moon may be "inserted into the quadrangle formed by" Alcyone, Electra, Merope and Taygeta (Maia, and possibly Asterope, is occulted in this situation).

Also, planets come close to the Pleiades cluster (Venus, Mars, and Mercury even occasionally pass through) to give a conspicuous spectacle.

As mentioned in the description for the Orion Nebula M42, it is a bit unusual that Messier added the Pleiades (together with the Orion Nebula M42/M43 and the Praesepe cluster M44) to his catalog, and will perhaps stay subject to speculation.



Sunday, April 19, 2009





HUNAYN IBN ISHAQ is most famous as a translator.

He was not a mathematician but trained in medicine and made his original contributions to the subject.

However, as the leading translator in the HOUSE OF WISDOM at one of the most remarkable periods of mathematical revival, his influence on the mathematicians of the time is of sufficient importance to merit his inclusion in this archive.

His son Ishaq ibn Hunayn, strongly influenced by his father, is famed for his Arabic translation of Euclid's Elements.

Hunayn's father was Ishaq, a pharmacist from Hira.
The family were from a group who had belonged to the Syrian Nestorian Christian Church before the rise of Islam, and Hunayn was brought up as a Christian.

Hunayn became skilled in languages as a young man, in particular learning Arabic at Basra and also learning Syriac.

To continue his education Hunayn went to Baghdad to study medicine under the leading teacher of the time.

However, after falling out with this teacher, Hunayn left Baghdad and, probably during a period in Alexandria, became an expert in the Greek language.

Hunayn returned to Baghdad and established contact with the teacher with whom he had fallen out. The two became firm friends and were close collaborators on medical topics for many years.

Let us go back to a time before Hunayn was born and describe the events which would lead to a remarkeble period of scholarship.

Harun al-Rashid became the fifth Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty on 14 September 786.

He brought culture to his court and tried to establish the intellectual disciplines which at that time were not flourishing in the Arabic world.
It was during al-Rashid's reign that the first Arabic translation of Euclid's Elements was made by al-Hajjaj. The first steps began to be taken which would allow Greek knowledge to spread through the Islamic empire, a process in which Hunayn was to play a major role.

Al-Rashid had two sons, the eldest was al-Amin while the younger was al-Ma'mun. Harun al-Rashid died in 809, the year after Hunayn's birth, and there was an armed conflict between his two sons.
Al-Ma'mun won the armed struggle, became Caliph and ruled the empire from Baghdad. He continued the patronage of learning started by his father and founded an academy called the House of Wisdom where Greek philosophical and scientific works were translated.

It should not be thought that the Arabs who were translating these Greek texts simply sat down with a pile of Greek manuscripts and translated them.
Most of the difficulty occurred in searching for the manuscripts which were to be translated.
In order to find manuscripts of the works of Aristotle and others, al-Ma'mun sent a team of his most learned men to Byzantium.
It is thought that Hunayn, being more skilled in the Greek language than any of the other scholars in Baghdad, was on this expedition.

As an example of the lengths that Hunayn went in order to find a particular manuscript we quote his description of a search for a medical manuscript (see for example):

"I sought for [the manuscript] earnestly and travelled in search of it in the lands of Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, until I reached Alexandria, but I was not able to find anything, except about half of it at Damascus."

Al-Ma'mun recruited the most talented men for the House of Wisdom such as al-Khwarizmi, al-Kindi and al-Hajjaj the first translator of Euclid's Elements into Arabic refered to above.
There they worked with Hunayn and later also with Thabit ibn Qurra.

Hunayn became a close friend of Muhammad Banu Musa although relations between some of the scholars was not good due to rivalry.

In 833 al-Ma'mun died and was succeeded by his brother al-Mu'tasim.
The house of Wisdom continued to flourish under successive caliphs.
Al-Mu'tasim died in 842 and was succeeded by al-Wathiq.

Hunayn soon became famous and participated in the scholarly meetings at which physicians and philosophers discussed dificult problems in the presence of Caliph al-Wathiq.

Caliph al-Wathiq was succeeded as Caliph in 847 by al-Mutawakkil who appointed Hunayn to the post of chief physician at his court, a position he held for the rest of his life.

Under both these Caliphs internal arguments and rivalry arose between the scholars in the House of Wisdom and Hunayn was most certainly involved in this rivalry. The rivalry could certainly become serious and at one point Hunayn had his library confiscated and he was imprisoned.

Hunayn is important for the many excellent translations of Greek texts which he made into Arabic.

In particular he translated Plato and Aristotle.
These translations were spread widely through Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson



Thursday, April 16, 2009


FOTO 1 : Observatorio Helio Solar "SOHO"

FOTO 2 : Concepto artístico del Observatorio de Dinámica Solar de la NASA (SDO). Repleto de detectores de avanzada tecnología, el "SDO" está programado para ser lanzado más tarde este año (el momento perfecto para estudiar el mínimo solar en curso).


¿Cuán profundo puede llegar a ser?
El Sol está sumergiéndose en el más profundo mínimo solar registrado en aproximadamente un siglo.

Abril 1, 2009:

El ciclo de manchas solares se está comportando como la bolsa de valores.
Justo cuando uno piensa que ha tocado fondo, el pozo se hace más hondo.

El año 2008 experimentó una baja. No se observaron manchas solares en 266 de los 366 días del año (73%).
Para hallar un año con más soles "en blanco", debemos remontarnos a 1913, cuando se registraron 311 días de soles sin manchas.
Incitados por estos números, algunos observadores han sugerido que el ciclo solar tocó fondo en 2008.

Pero tal vez no sea así.

La cantidad de manchas solares para 2009 ha disminuído todavía más.
Hasta el 31 de marzo, no se habían observado manchas solares en 78 de los 90 días que iban del año (87%).

Todo parece apoyar una ineludible conclusión: "Estamos experimentando un mínimo solar muy profundo", dice el físico solar Dean Pesnell, del Centro Goddard para Vuelos Espaciales.

"Éste es el Sol más quieto que hemos presenciado en casi un siglo", concuerda el experto en manchas solares David Hathaway, del Centro Marshall para Vuelos Espaciales.

El ciclo solar desde 1995 hasta el presente.

Los soles más quietos se observan aproximadamente cada 11 años. Eso es una parte natural del ciclo de manchas solares, descubierto por el astrónomo alemán Heinrich Schwabe, a mediados de 1.800.

Las manchas solares son islas magnéticas del tamaño de un planeta, ubicadas sobre la superficie del Sol; son una fuente de llamaradas solares, eyecciones de masa coronal e intensa radiación ultravioleta.

Construyendo gráficos sobre la cantidad de manchas solares, Schwabe notó que los picos de intensidad en la actividad solar eran seguidos siempre por valles de calma relativa (un patrón de tipo reloj que se ha mantenido por más de 200 años).

El mínimo solar actual es parte de ese patrón. De hecho, ha llegado justo a tiempo. "Ya nos tocaba un poco de calma; y aquí está", dice Pesnell.

Pero, ¿se supone que deba ser así de calmo?

En 2008, el Sol anotó las siguientes marcas:

Presión de viento solar más baja en 50 años.
Las medidas tomadas por la nave espacial Ulysses revelaron una caída del 20% en la presión del viento solar, desde mediados de la década de 1990 (el punto más bajo registrado desde que se comenzó a tomar medidas, en la década de 1960).

El viento solar ayuda a mantener los rayos cósmicos galácticos fuera del sistema solar interno. No obstante, con la agitación del viento solar, más rayos cósmicos pueden ingresar, lo cual incrementa los peligros para la salud de los astronautas.

Un viento solar más débil también representa una menor cantidad de tormentas geomagnéticas y auroras sobre la Tierra.

Mínimo de 12 años de duración de la "irradiancia" solar:

Medidas tomadas cuidadosamente utilizando varias naves espaciales de la NASA demuestran que el brillo solar se ha reducido un 0,02% en longitudes de onda visibles y un 6% en longitudes de onda del ultravioleta extremo desde que ocurrió el mínimo solar de 1996.

Al menos hasta el momento, estos cambios no son suficientes como para revertir el curso del calentamiento global, pero sí existen algunos efectos secundarios importantes: la atmósfera superior de la Tierra recibe menos calor del Sol y está, por lo tanto, menos "hinchada".

Los satélites en órbitas terrestres bajas experimentan una menor resistencia atmosférica, lo cual contribuye a extender su vida útil. Lamentablemente, también la basura espacial orbita la Tierra por más tiempo, aumentando de este modo el peligro al que están expuestas las naves espaciales y los satélites.

Dean Pesnell durante la reunión de la AGU, llevada a cabo durante el otoño de 2008 pregunta: "¿Que es el mínimo solar y por qué debe importarnos?"

Mínimo de 55 años en las emisiones radiales del Sol:

Después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, los astrónomos comenzaron a documentar la luminosidad del Sol a diferentes longitudes de onda. Flujos de 10,7 cm de magnitud fueron registrados ya a comienzos de la década de 1950.
En la actualidad, utilizando radiotelescopios se está registrando el "radio del Sol" más tenue desde 1955.

Algunos investigadores creen que la disminución en las emisiones de radio indican debilidad en el campo magnético global del Sol.
Nadie está seguro, sin embargo, porque todavía no se conoce bien la fuente de las emisiones de radio, a pesar de que han sido monitorizadas ya durante un largo tiempo.

Todas estas bajas han iniciado un debate sobre la posibilidad de que el mínimo en curso sea algo "extraño", "extremo" o sólo una "corrección del mercado" posterior a una cadena de máximos solares inusualmente intensos.

"Desde el comienzo de la Era Espacial, en la década de 1950, la actividad solar, por lo general, se ha mantenido alta", relata Hathaway. "Cinco de los diez ciclos solares de mayor intensidad registrados han ocurrido durante los últimos 50 años. No estamos acostumbrados a este tipo de quietud".

Esta profunda calma era común hace cien años. Los mínimos solares de 1901 y de 1913, por ejemplo, fueron mucho más largos que los que estamos experimentando hoy en día. Para igualar estos mínimos en términos de profundidad y de longevidad, el mínimo actual tendría que durar al menos otro año.

En cierto modo, esta calma es emocionante, dice Pesnell. "Por primera vez en la historia, estamos observando lo que es realmente un mínimo solar".

Una flota de naves espaciales, que incluye al Observatorio Solar y Heliosférico (SOHO), las sondas gemelas STEREO, las cinco sondas THEMIS, Hinode, ACE, Wind, TRACE, AIM, TIMED, Geotail y otras, se encuentran estudiando el Sol y sus efectos sobre la Tierra las 24 horas del día, los 7 días de la semana, utilizando tecnología que no existía hace 100 años.

Sus mediciones del viento solar, de los rayos cósmicos, de la irradiancia y de los campos magnéticos muestran que el mínimo solar es mucho más interesante y profundo de lo que se esperaba.

No obstante, la tecnología moderna no es capaz de predecir lo que ocurrirá después.

Los modelos que han sido propuestos por decenas de destacados físicos solares están en desacuerdo, a veces en marcado contraste, respecto de cuándo terminará este mínimo solar y de cuán grande será el próximo máximo solar.

La mayor incertidumbre surge de un hecho muy simple: nadie conoce por completo la física que subyace detrás del ciclo de una mancha solar.

Pesnell está convencido de que la cantidad de manchas solares aumentará pronto, "posiblemente para finales del año", y será seguida por un máximo solar cuya intensidad estará por debajo del promedio en 2012 ó 2013.

Pero, al igual que otros pronosticadores, Pesnell sabe que él también podría estar equivocado. ¿En alza o en baja?


Créditos y Contactos

Autor: Dr. Tony Phillips
Funcionario Responsable de NASA: John M. Horack

Wednesday, April 15, 2009





Catalan: Catalunya Spanish: Cataluña

Autonomous region (pop.9.165,638), NE Spain,
stretching from the Pyrenees at the French border southward along the Mediterranean Sea.


Catalonia comprises four provinces, named after their capitals: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona.

Barcelona, the historic capital, contains more than a third of the region's residents.
Catalan and Spanish have been the official languages of Catalonia since 1978, which has led to a considerable revival of Catalan.

Mostly hilly, with pine-covered mountains, it also has some highly fertile plains. Cereals, olives, and grapes are grown, and one third of the wines of Spain are produced there.

The beautiful 240-mi (386-km) seacoast has fine harbors, excellent fisheries, and an active tourist trade.

The Ebro (Ebre, in Catalan), Segre, and Cinca rivers furnish hydroelectric power for the industries in Barcelona and Girona provs.; chief products are textiles, chemicals, automobiles, airplanes, locomotives, and foundry and other metal items. The service sector has grown rapidly.


Trade has been active along the coast since Greek and Roman times.
The history of medieval Catalonia is that of the Counts of Barcelona.
They emerged in the nineteenh century (9th cent) as the chief lords in the Hispanic Mark founded by Charlemagne.

In 1137,through marriage(see Raymond Berengar IV), Catalonia united with Aragon in a Catalan-Aragonese Confederation. Ramon Berenguer IV married Petronela of Aragon and became King of Aragon.
Nevertheless Catalonia preserved its own Laws, Courts and language. And so did Aragon.


Catalan art and Catalan literature flourished in the Middle Ages.

In the cities, notably Barcelona, the burgher and merchant classes grew very powerful.

Catalan traders rivaled those of Genoa and Venice, and their maritime code was widely used in the 14th cent.

They, and adventurers like Roger de Flor, were largely responsible for the expansion in the Mediterranean of the house of Aragón (see Aragón, house of).

Catalonia failed in its rebellion (1461–72) against John II, and after the union with Castile, and the first bubonic plague, Catalonia declined.

The centralizing policy of the Spanish kings, the shifting of trade routes with the consequent loss of commercial income, pirate attacks, and recurring plagues and famines were all major factors.

Agitation for autonomy was always strong.

In the Thirty Years War (1618–48), Catalonia rose against Philip IV and in the War of the Spanish Succession it sided with Archduke Charles of Austria against Philip V of France.
Who in reprisal deprived Catalonia of its own Governmental Organs.

In the late 19th and early 20th cent. it was a center of socialist and anarchist strength.
In 1931 the Catalans established a separate government, first under Francesc Macià, then under Lluis Companys, which in 1932 won autonomy from the Spanish Cortes.

A revolution (1934) for complete independence failed, but in 1936 autonomy was restored.
In the civil war of 1936–39, Loyalist Catalonia sided with the Republic and suffered heavily for its opposition to Franco.
Barcelona was the Loyalist capital from Oct., 1936 to Jan., 1939.
Catalonia fell to Franco in Jan 26 1939.

Under the Franco dictatorship, the use of Catalan was banned in public life.

After Franco´s death democracy was restored and then could
Catalonia elect its first Parliament as an Atonomous region in 1980.
And by the mid-1990s Catalan nationalists had become a force in both Catalonian and Spanish politics.

Increased autonomy for Catalonia and recognition of the region as a "nation" within Spain was approved in 2006.


Copyright© 2007 Columbia University Press.
Used with the permission of Columbia University Press.
All rights reserved.

Sixth Edition. Publisher: Columbia University Press. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 2007.


Sunday, April 12, 2009



A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning.
He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.
During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule..

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy.
His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time.
This action was repeated by several other children.
All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.
He collected $32.
When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it.
No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world.
He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story.
Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.

The outlines were:

In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour:
Do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it?
Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?



Wednesday, April 08, 2009


El dramaturgo, novelista y poeta lírico alemán Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin nació el 20 de marzo de 1770 en Lauffen-am-Neckar, en el seno de una familia burguesa.

La infancia de este joven que cursó sus estudios primarios en Denkendorf y, a pesar de no seguir la carrera eclesiástica para poder dedicarse a la literatura y filosofía clásica, asistió a la Universidad de Tübingen para aprender teología, no fue fácil: con sólo dos años de edad perdió a su padre, de sus seis hermanos sólo dos lograrían sobrevivir más allá de los primeros años de vida y su padrastro, Johann Christoph Gock, falleció cuando él había cumplido sus primeros nueve años de edad.

A lo largo de su vida, este autor que se alejó de la fe protestante influído por Platón y por la mitología y cultura helénica, trabajó como preceptor, intentó lanzar una revista de perfil intelectural y literario que no tuvo éxito, obtuvo un cargo en la residencia del cónsul de Hamburgo en Burdeos y fue bibliotecario de la corte.

Sin embargo, la verdadera afición de Hölderlin estaba vinculada al mundo de las letras, un ámbito en el que se animó a traducir algunas tragedias griegas al alemán y a crear obras en las cuales predominaba el género poético y que llegaron a ejercer una poderosa influencia en la llamada Generación del ‘27. “Hiperión o el eremita en Grecia”, “La esperanza”, “El aeda ciego” y “La muerte de Empédocles” son algunos de los títulos que forman parte de la obra literaria de este escritor que falleció el 7 de junio de 1843, tras varios años de sufrir las consecuencias de una enfermedad mental que lo llevó a vivir en la casa de Zimmer, un carpintero de la ciudad de Tubinga que no dudó en protegerlo y atenderlo hasta el momento de su muerte.

Este de Verónica Gudiña, es el extracto biográfico de Hölderlin más acertado que he leido últimamente.

Pero querría añadir, o ampliar, algo más sobre Hölderlin y su desgraciada lucha en la vida.

En el Seminario-Universitario de Tübingen aprendió todo lo que tenía que aprender. Al salir domina completamente las lenguas muertas: el latín, el griego y el hebreo; ha estudiado Filosofía, teniendo a Hegel y a Schelling por compañeros de clase; y documentos con sus buenos sellos atestiguan que no ha estado ocioso en el estudio de la Teología. Ya sabe pues hacer un buen sermón protestante y puede dar como seguro un vicariato, con su correspondiente alzacuello y birrete. El deseo de su madre se ha cumplido. Tiene ya el camino abierto para llegar a un buen puesto civil o eclesiástico, para alcanzar el púlpito o la cátedra.

Pero, desde el principio, el corazón de Hölderlin no desea una colocación temporal o eclesiástica, y se niega a la indignidad que significaría construir un puente por estrecho que fuera, que uniera lo prosaico de una ocupacion burguesa con lo sublime de su vocación de literato y poeta, y prefiere girar el timón de su vida hacia lo sublime. Hölderlin no admite compromiso alguno profesional, ni quiere contacto alguno con ninguna actividad práctica.

Lo primero que hace Hölderlin cuando se decide a vivir en libertad es pensar que lo heroico en la vida es el impulso hacia lo grande. Sin embargo, antes de querer descubrir ese pensamiento heroico dentro de su propio pecho quiere ver a los "espíritus grandes" a los poetas; quiere ver las cumbres sagradas.

Y aquí, creo importante trasladar lo que Stefan Sweig pensaba y escribió al respecto.
Dice Stefan Sweig :

" No es pues la casualidad lo que le lleva a Weimar, no. Allí están Goethe y Schiller, allí está Fichte, y alrededor de esos, como satélites brillantes, están Wieland, Herder, Juan Pablo, los Schlegel, es decir, todo el firmamento espiritual de Alemania. El espíritu poético de Hölderlin que odia lo que no es poesía, anhela vivir en ese círculo elevado y respirar esa atmósfera espiritual, a fin de ensayar sus fuerzas en esa Ágora, en ese coliseo de lucha poética.
Pero antes, el joven poeta Hölderlin quiere prepararse pues no se siente digno, intelectualmente hablando, por su pensamiento y su cultura, de sentarse junto a Goethe, cuyo espíritu abraza el universo, o junto a Schiller, espíritu de coloso que se agita en formidables abstracciones.
Por este motivo, incurre en el eterno error de los alemanes, que es quererse formar de un modo sistemático; quiere cultivarse y emprender estudios filosóficos. Lo mismo que Kleist, fuerza su naturaleza, que es todo espontaneidad trata de hacer la anatomía de ese cielo que le llena de felicidad y quiere someter sus proyectos poéticos a las doctrinas filosóficas.
Nunca, en mi opinión, se ha dicho con toda crudeza cuán perjudicial fue, no ya para Hölderlin, sino para todos los poetas alemanes, el encontrarse con Kant y con su Metafísica.
La historia de la literatura podrá encontrar digno de alabanza que los poetas de entonces llevasen a su círculo poético la ideología de Kant, pero todo espíritu libre debe confesarse los daños incalculables de esa invasión de ideas dogmáticas en el reino de la poesía.
Soy de la firme opinión de que la influencia de Kant limitó en extremo la producción poética de la época clásica, producción que se dejó influir mucho por la maestría constructiva de sus pensamientos.
Kant perjudicó en extremo la expresión sensual, la euforia de la poesía, el libre curso de la imaginación, al quererlas llevar hacia un criticismo estético.
Esterilizó las facultades puramente poéticas de todo aquel que abrazó sus teorías.
¿Y cómo podría ser de otro modo? : un ser todo cerebro, todo fría razón, ¿cómo podría ese hombre que no conoció mujer ni salió de su provincia, ese hombre que era como un delicado mecanismo de relojería inflexible en su regularidad, ese hombre que se atornilló así a su vida cuarenta, cincuenta y hasta sesenta años; ese hombre desprovisto de espontaneïdad, sujeto a un sistema rígido, pues su genio era sólo constructivismo fanático, como podr´ñia ese hombre, repito, ser jamás útil a un poeta, a un poeta que vive solamente por sus sentidos, que se eleva por su inspiración y a quien la pasión arrastra siempre a la inconsciencia?
Ha de pasar bastante tiempo antes que Hölderlin vea el peligro a que se expone en el laberinto de la lógica. Pero una disminución en sus producciones, le advierte un día que él, todo alas, ha caído en una atmósfera que le asfixia. Y entonces, sí. Dándose cuenta de ello, repele de sí toda la filosofía sistemática. Ahora ya ve que se alejaba de sí mismo y de su propia naturaleza.
El entusiasmo, el elemento ardiente que cual salamandra en el fuego vive en el espíritu de Hölderlin, ha podido ser salvado del abrsazo glacial de los clásicos, y, ebro en su propio destino, aquél que no podía vivir más que combatiendo, se arroja de nuevo en medio de la lucha, en medio de la vida y..... lo que pudo romperle sirvió para templar mejor su alma de poeta. "



Monday, April 06, 2009




QUOTES April 3, 2009:

"It's very fine but angular – the sharp edges make it feel gritty and abrasive."

"It can cause short circuits and failure of electronic components ... and physical damage to equipment."

"It's much more abrasive than sand....scratches anything that comes in contact...."

"...a real nuisance....stuck to everything – equipment, instruments,...likely to penetrate seals,....plugs bolt holes, fouls tools, ....."

These QUOTES seem to all refer to the same annoying substances, but they don't.
In fact, the substances they refer to aren't even from the same planet.

The first two quotes are from Alaska, where people are dealing with volcanic ash from the ongoing eruption of Mount Redoubt.

The next two come from the Moon, where Apollo astronauts once dealt with a similar problem: moondust.

FOTO : Mt. Redoubt has erupted at least 19 times since March 22, 2009.
Alaska photographer Thomas Kerns took this picture of the volcano in action on March 31st.

"Volcanic ash and moondust have a lot in common," says Carole McLemore of the Marshall Space Flight Center. "Both coat things and stick to them, are grimy, abrasive, damaging to equipment and vehicles, susceptible to electric charging, and risky to inhale.

"Mount Redoubt is giving Alaskans a taste of life on the Moon!"

The stories Alaskans and astronauts tell reveal some of the parallels:

Charles Sloan, a retired hydrogeologist living in Anchorage, has experienced ash first hand. He was around for one of Mount Redoubt's previous eruptions in 1989 and remembers a particularly harrowing incident.

An international carrier flight -- a large jet -- flew into the hot ash plume from the volcano. The ash was sucked into the engines, causing them to shut down, and the plane plummeted!
" All 245 terrified passengers on board KLM flight 867 held their breaths.
The plane dropped more than 2 miles before the crew could get the engines restarted! It limped in to an emergency landing in Anchorage."

"That was the third such incident over a five year period," adds Tom Miller, former director and now scientist emeritus of the Alaska Volcano Observatory** in Anchorage.

Way back in 1972, astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt experienced their own transportation problems when their moonbuggy lost a fender.
That doesn't sound like a disaster on the scale of a plummeting airplane,... but when moondust is involved, even a lost fender can have serious consequences.

FOTO: Dust flies from the tires of a moonbuggy driven by Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan. When a fender fell off, plumes of high-flying dust caused serious problems, which the astronauts solved using duct tape: full story.

A rolling moonbuggy without a fender kicks up a "rooster tail" of moondust, spraying the rover and its occupants with dark, abrasive grit.
White spacesuits blackened by dust turn into absorbers of the fierce lunar sun with astronauts overheating dangerously inside.
Sharp-edged dust wiped off visors scratch the glass, making helmets difficult to see out of.
Watch out for that crater! And moondust has an uncanny way of working itself into hinges, latches and joints, rendering them useless.

The resourceful astronauts repaired the fender with duct tape, but even with all four fenders, Cernan had to dust off the rover at each stop. Getting rid of moondust remained a top priority.

Back in Alaska, Miller relates what happened when Mt. Redoubt erupted just last week:
"We lost three seismic stations. The one nearest the volcano was fried – probably due to lightning.
When you have a tremendous and powerful explosion of ash, the violent movement of all the ash particles generates static electricity and therefore lightning."

FOTO: Lightning flashes in a roiling cloud of ash over Mt. Redoubt on March 27th. Particles of ash rubbing together in the cloud (like socks rubbing against carpet) are partly responsible for the buildup of electrostatic charge. Photo credit and copyright: Bretwood Higman, Ground Truth Trekking.

Dust particles on the Moon are also electrified, at least in part, by the buffeting of the solar wind.

Earth is protected from the solar wind by our planet's magnetic field, but the Moon has no global magnetic field to ward off charged particles from the sun.
Free electrons in the solar wind interact with grains of moondust and, in effect, "charge them up."
The electrostatic charges cause moondust to cling tenaciously to everything.

Including your lungs…

Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan suffered from the first recorded case of extraterrestrial hay fever.
He was taking off his spacesuit after a moonwalk and the air was filling up with dust knocked off the surface of the suit.
"It came on pretty fast," he radioed Houston with a stuffy-nose twang.
"I had a significant reaction to the dust," he later recalled.
"My turbinates (cartilage plates in the walls of the nasal chambers) became swollen."

Some researchers believe sustained breathing of moondust could be dangerous. The sharp-edged grains are able to make tiny cuts in flesh, and they could easily become stuck in lung tissue. Ash presents a similar hazard.

"With volcanic ash, people are advised to wear particle masks or stay indoors," notes Miller."
"It's not poisonous, but people with asthma or emphysema can have problems if they inhale it."
"And people who wear contacts have to take their contacts out."

FOTO: An Alaskan moonscape.
"Highlights of gray volcanic ash around the snow remind me of craters on the Moon," says photographer Michelle Cosper of Girdwood, Alaska.

Alaska resident Michelle Cosper is one of the people suffering:
"My throat is sore and stingy, and it smells vaguely like sulfur outside," she reports from the town of Girdwood, which has received a coating of ash from Redoubt's recent eruptions.
"We aren't supposed to walk our dogs or go outside for any other reason unnecessarily. Even local newscasters are wearing face masks."

Moondust and volcanic ash cause many of the same troubles. But that does not mean they are the same thing.
Volcanic ash comes from active volcanoes, something the Moon does not have.
Liquid rock decompresses and explodes from the volcano's mouth, producing a mixture of 'foamed' glass and micro- and mini-crystals.

Moondust, on the other hand, is created by meteoroids. Space rocks hit the Moon's surface at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour, fusing topsoil into glass and shattering the same into tiny sharp-edged pieces.

NASA is returning to the Moon in ~2020.

Thanks to Mt. Redoubt, Alaskans are already getting a taste of the new frontier.