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Archive for June, 2007

Vietnam

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ost visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country’s natural setting: the Red River Delta in the north, the Mekong Delta in the south and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats. There are some divine beaches along the coast, while inland there are soaring mountains, some of which are cloaked by dense, misty forests. Vietnam also offers an opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and rare beauty rapidly opening up to the outside world.

There are no good or bad seasons to visit Vietnam. When one region is wet, cold or steamy hot, there is always somewhere else that is sunny and pleasant. Basically, the south has two seasons: the wet (May to November, wettest from June to August) and the dry (December to April). The hottest and most humid time is from the end of February to May. The central coast is dry from May to October and wet from December to February. The highland areas are significantly cooler than the lowlands, and temperatures can get down to freezing in winter. The north has two seasons: cool, damp winters (November to April) and hot summers (May to October). There is the possibility of typhoons between July and November, affecting the north and central areas.

Travellers should take the Tet Festival (late January or early February) into account when planning a trip. Travel (including international travel) becomes very difficult, hotels are full and many services close down for at least a week and possibly a lot longer.

Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It’s a bustling, dynamic and industrious centre, the largest city in the country, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.

This is a city that churns, ferments, bubbles and fumes. The streets, where much of the city’s life takes place, are a jumble of street markets, shops, pavement cafes, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks. It’s impossible not to be infected by its exhilarating vibe.

Atlantis Reborn again

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orizon puts Graham Hancock’s controversial theories about the past to the test, dissecting his evidence for a lost civilisation. Although scientists believe they have categorically disproved the myth of Atlantis, the idea is more popular now than ever before. The latest exponent of the theory of a single lost source for all civilisation, is Graham Hancock. Although he doesn’t call it Atlantis, his compelling ideas about a sophisticated society destroyed in a flood 12,000 years ago seem to be based on a reworking of the original Atlantis myth, whose survivors brought culture, religion, monument-building and civilisation to the rest of the world.

Orion’s BeltGraham Hancock offers various pieces of evidence to support his theory. He claims that the mysterious lost civilisation left its mark in ancient monuments, which he calculates were built to mirror certain constellations of stars. His hugely popular ideas have attracted such a wide audience that they stand to replace the conventional view of the past, which is based on scientific evidence that the civilisations of the ancient world were developed independently, by different peoples, on different continents.

Horizon journeys across the world to examine Hancock’s evidence for a lost civilisation and puts his theory to the test. Robert Bauval at Giza – requires RealPlayer 5.0 or later. Using modern astronomy, Hancock and his followers claim they can find messages from a lost society in the patterns of some of the greatest ancient monuments of the world. One colleague in particular, the author Robert Bauval, believes that the Giza pyramids in Egypt were built to mirror the stars of Orion’s belt.

Map of the temples at Angkor WatHancock also believes that the great temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia mirror the constellation Draco as it would have appeared 12,000 years ago – at a time when the world was in the Stone Age. They see this as evidence that a great civilisation existed at this time, and later conveyed its wisdom to the peoples of the ancient world, before disappearing without trace from the archaeological record. Dr. Ed Krupp, Griffith Observatory – requires RealPlayer 5.0 or later.Astronomers, archaeologists and geologists study this evidence. Dr. Ed Krupp of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, is troubled by Bauval’s claims.

Horizon further examines Hancock’s claims that the Sphinx and the mysterious ancient city of Tihuanacu in Bolivia were built 12,000 years ago by survivors of the lost civilisation itself. Divers at the Yonaguni formation It considers the idea that either Antarctica or an extraordinary underwater site at Yonaguni in Japan were the original home of these vanished people. In a film full of contentious debate and powerful arguments, Graham Hancock’s claims are pitted against cutting edge scientific analysis to discover whether his popular theory could be true.

(Source BBC Horizon)

Obsessed & Scientific

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s time travel possible? In this fascinating short documentary, director Jay Cheel explores the real-life theories behind the science of time travel and the strange subculture of enthusiasts who are obessed with it. Meet Michio Kaku, world-renowned theoretical physicist and author of the book Hyperspace. Meet Rob Niosi, a hobbyist building his own full-scale home replica of H.G. Wells’ time machine. Meet Larry Haber, the entertainment lawyer representing the family of John Titor, an alleged time traveller from the year 2036. Do these people know something about the world that the rest of us don’t? Obessed & Scientific is a quirky look at the intersection of science-fact and science-fiction.

(From: Website Prof. Dr. Michio Kaku et al.)

Undercover in North Korea

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(On the picture: Flowers brighten a memorial to Former President Kim Il Sung, who ruled communist North Korea for nearly 50 years before his death in 1994. His son, Kim Jong Il, now rules the nation.)

((Video hosted on Google.)

ysterious and sometimes terrifying, North Korea is perhaps the most secretive country on earth. Kim Jong Il rules as a dictator. He controls the world’s fifth largest army and plutonium for nuclear weapons. From the most militarised border on the planet to the actions of the man known as “Dear Leader”, it’s a world built on absolute conformity, full of government minders and unimaginable horrors that drive people to risk their lives in daring escapes. Now, for the first time, National Geographic Channel penetrates North Korea with a medical team on a mission to help the blind see, and captures the real story of life inside the reclusive country.

So join National Geographic’s Lisa Ling as she captures a rare look inside North Korea – something few Americans have ever been able to do. Posing as an undercover medical coordinator and closely guarded throughout her trip, Lisa moves inside the most isolated nation in the world, encountering a society completely dominated by government and dictatorship. Glimpse life inside North Korea as you’ve never seen before with personal accounts and powerful footage. Witness first-hand efforts by humanitarians and the challenges they face from the rogue regime.

(From: NGC)

Why are we here?

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iologist Richard Dawkins makes a case for “thinking the improbable” by looking at how our human frame of reference — the things we can perceive with our five senses, and understand with our eight-pound brain — limits our understanding of the universe. Think of it: We can’t see atoms, we can’t see infrared light, we can’t hear ultrasonic frequencies, but we know without a doubt that they exist. What else is out there that we can’t yet perceive — what dimensions of space, what aspects of time, what forms of life? Dawkins calls the human-size frame of reference “Middle World”: between the microcosmos of atoms and the macrocosmos of the universe. Middle World thinking limits our ability to see the universe in terms of the improbable, whereas “in the vastness of astronomical space and geological time, that which seems impossible in Middle World might turn out to be inevitable.”

Oxford professor Richard Dawkins has helped steer evolutionary science into the 21st century, and his concept of the “meme” contextualized the spread of ideas in the information age. In recent years, his devastating critique of religion has made him a leading figure in the New Atheism.

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University, is the author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, The Extended Phenotype, River Out of Eden, and Climbing Mount Improbable and The root of all evil. As an evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins has broadened our understanding of the genetic origin of our species; as a popular author, he has helped lay readers understand complex scientific concepts. He’s best-known for the ideas laid out in his landmark book The Selfish Gene and fleshed out in The Extended Phenotype: the rather radical notion that Darwinian selection happens not at the level of the individual, but at the level of our DNA. The implication: We evolved for only one purpose — to serve our genes.

Of perhaps equal importance is Dawkins’ concept of the meme, which he defines as a self-replicating unit of culture — an idea, a chain letter, a catchy tune, an urban legend — which is passed person-to-person, its longevity based on its ability to lodge in the brain and inspire transmission to others. Introduced in The Selfish Gene in 1976, the concept of memes has itself proven highly contagious, inspiring countless accounts and explanations of idea propagation in the information age.

In recent years, Dawkins has become outspoken in his atheism, coining the word “bright” (as an alternate to atheist), and encouraging fellow non-believers to stand up and be identified. His controversial, confrontational 2002 TED talk was a seminal moment for the New Atheism, as was the publication of his 2006 book, The God Delusion, a bestselling critique of religion that championed atheism and promoted scientific principles over creationism and intelligent design.

“Dawkins … is a master of scientific exposition and synthesis. When it comes to his own specialty, evolutionary biology, there is none better.”
Jim Holt, The New York Times

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