Professors share ‘little known’ facts – News

Is there life on other planets? What does the term “viking” really mean? Is Earth due to another magnetic field reversal? Expert professors from several departments, including history, East Asian languages, art history, geosciences, government, and physics, share a little-known fact about their discipline.

John Eldevik, Professor of History – Hardly anyone in the ancient or medieval world believed the Earth was flat.

The myth that Columbus was some sort of cartographic rebel out to prove the Earth was round to a group of blinded Spanish courtiers has long been debunked, but many people still feel that medieval Europeans believed the Earth was flat, just as they insisted that the Earth was the center of the universe.

It is simply not true.

Every reasonably educated person, even your average sailor, has figured out that the Earth, sun, moon, and other celestial objects must be spheres. What Christopher Columbus and his contemporaries disagreed on was the size of the Earth.

The remarkably accurate result for the circumference of the Earth achieved by the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes in the third century BC was known in the Middle Ages, but scholars struggled to accurately translate the units of length that he and other ancient scientists have used. Columbus insisted on relying on authorities who tended to downplay Eratosthenes’ figures, while the scientists advising Ferdinand and Isabella recognized that Columbus seriously underestimated the circumference of the world and, therefore, the distance to the Asia, and advised against supporting such a reckless mission.

They were right. If Columbus hadn’t accidentally struck an intermediate continent, he and his crew would surely have met their demise somewhere in the ocean less than a third of the way to Asia. The high level of scientific learning in the Middle Ages, acquired largely through translations of Arabic treatises and commentaries inspired by Greek knowledge, remains one of the most underrated aspects of this period.

Zhuoyi Wang, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages ​​- How did European classical music migrate to China?

There is a Jewish Refugee Museum in Shanghai, China. With documents, photographs, films and personal items, the museum reflects a lesser-known story of World War II: more than 20,000 Jews fled Nazi Germany and found refuge in Shanghai.

In the late 1930s, many countries refused to accept Jewish immigrants. Shanghai became one of the only options for them because its international settlement, a foreign concession in China, did not require a visa or passport to enter. China was also one of the few countries still issuing visas to Jewish refugees, thanks to the insistence of Ho Feng-Shan, the Chinese consul general in Vienna. Before going anywhere, many refugees would not have been allowed to leave their European country without such a foreign visa at hand.

Of the Jewish refugees from Shanghai, about 450 were musicians. As a means of survival, they taught classical music to the local Chinese. Today, countless classical musicians of Chinese descent have become the driving force of the field worldwide. China has millions of music students who are directly or indirectly related to this part of history. The Juilliard School opened its only overseas campus in China in 2019, while the Philadelphia Orchestra now tours China nearly every year and was the first western orchestra to visit China in 1973.

Russell Marcus, Associate Professor of Philosophy – From Ghana to New Zealand, not all famous philosophers have been Europeans.

Philosophy, asking fundamental questions about the nature of the world and our place in it, is a natural human activity, occurring everywhere. In the United States, philosophers have tended to focus on what we call Western philosophy, and since the Renaissance Western philosophy has been widely seen as a product of France, Germany, England and of this country. But many eminent philosophers come from elsewhere. Here are ten esteemed philosophers from none of these four countries. See if you can guess where they come from!

1. Annette Bayer
2. Linda Martin Alcoff
3. Iris Murdoch
4. Quassim Cassam
5. David Chalmers
6. Kwasi Wiredu
7. Maria Lugones
8. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
9. Ibn Rushd (Averroes)
10. Alfred Tarsky

Solutions are at the bottom of this story

1. Annette Baier, New Zealand
2. Linda Martin Alcoff, Panama
3. Iris Murdoch, Ireland
4. Quassim Cassam, Kenya
5. David Chalmers, Australia
6. Kwasi Wiredu, Ghana
7. Maria Lugones, Argentina
8. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Switzerland
9. Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Spain
10. Alfred Tarski, Warsaw, Poland

Laura Tillery – Assistant Professor of Art History – Were the Vikings multicultural?

The term “Viking” does not actually indicate an ethnicity or race. In fact, “Viking” more clearly denotes a “job description” in modern parlance, similar to someone saying they are an electrician.

The diversion of the Vikings, often militarized by white supremacists, aligns more closely with the invented image of the Vikings in the 19th century than with the actual material culture of Scandinavia before the year 1000. Pre-modern Scandinavia was inherently multicultural and the mobility was multidirectional. We can find evidence of the Viking diaspora through surviving art and artifacts in countries now known as England, Ireland, Canada, Russia, Spain, and Turkey, among others.

Cat Beck, Associate Professor of Geosciences – Could the magnetic field flip?

The Earth is surrounded by a magnetic field that is generated by the movement of hot, molten materials deep within our planet in the liquid outer core. We see evidence of this magnetic field when we observe the Aurora Borealis which are produced by electrons colliding with nitrogen and oxygen molecules as the sun’s geomagnetic storms distort the earth’s magnetic field. You can think of the magnetic field much like a bar magnet you might have on your refrigerator: one end is the North Pole and one end is the South Pole, which is why a compass always points to magnetic north.

However, when we use the geological record to look back in time, we find that throughout Earth’s history there have been thousands of “magnetic reversals” or times when the polarity of the field magnetic has been reversed from what we observe today. On average, there have been four to five magnetic field reversals every million years. There have been many timeframes with much less frequent reversals as well. The reversals create “bands” of alternating magnetic fields that look a lot like a barcode. Geoscientists can use these patterns of magnetic inversions to date things like hominid fossils and archaeological sites or the age of the ocean floor.

The last reversal occurred 800,000 years ago, which begs the question, are we due for another reversal? The answer is not clear! While the magnetic field has gradually weakened since measurements of its strength were first taken in the 1800s, the field is still relatively strong. But the magnetic north pole drifted rapidly, which could suggest instability.

What are the complications of a flip in the magnetic field? We’re not exactly sure, but judging from the geological and paleontological records, there doesn’t appear to have been any significant extinctions during past reversals!

Kira Jumet, Assistant Professor of Government – How did North Africa end up with “Judaized Berbers”?

Although explanations vary, a prevailing narrative is that Jews, individually or in small groups, migrated to the region and converted some Berber (Amazigh; pl. Imazighen) tribes. A modern narrative within the Moroccan Amazigh cultural movement is that some Imazighen were Jews and Christians before the Arabs introduced Islam to the region and this is Dihya (aka. Kahina), a so-called Jewish queen- Amazigh, who first resisted the Arab conquerors. .

Although explanations vary, a prevailing narrative is that Jews, individually or in small groups, migrated to the region and converted some Berber (Amazigh; pl. Imazighen) tribes. A modern narrative within the Moroccan Amazigh cultural movement is that some Imazighen were Jews and Christians before the Arabs introduced Islam to the region and this is Dihya (aka. Kahina), a so-called Jewish queen- Amazigh, who first resisted the Arab conquerors. .

The important Jewish-Amazigh bond was documented in Morocco’s 1936 census which, according to an Israeli expert on Moroccan Imazighen, revealed that three-quarters of the country’s 161,000 Jews were bilingual in Tamazight (the Amazigh Berber language) and Arab. This statistic speaks both of the history of Amazigh Jewish tribes and of the coexistence of Muslims and Jews in the Amazigh regions of Morocco, particularly in the southern region of Souss.

Few Jews remain in Morocco today, due to emigration following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. However, in 2017 plans were announced to establish two Amazigh-Jewish friendship associations in Souss , home to the largest population of Imazighen in the country. In the city of al-Hoceima, in the north of the country, with an Amazigh majority, another association of friendship between Jews and Amazighs, “Collective Memory”, was created to fight against anti-Semitism and promote tolerance. The Times of Israel reported in 2014 that Amazigh rights activist Omar Louzi launched the Moroccan Observatory for the Fight Against Antisemitism not only to fight antisemitism but also to strengthen ties with Israel.

Adam Lark, Teaching Assistant Professor of Physics – What is the probability of life on other planets?

Each star in the sky is the sun of a different solar system. These distant suns usually have a multitude of planets orbiting them. Astronomers have discovered thousands of these planets (called exoplanets) using a variety of techniques, but there are still billions yet to be discovered. In fact, we expect there to be more planets in our galaxy than there are stars in our galaxy. With so many planets to cover, there is a high probability of life on other planets!

About Wesley V. Finley

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