The treasures of the Gulf and the Sierra Madre

An AP report by Jeff Donn and Mitch Weiss (which can be read in today’s Chicago Tribune) reveals the surprising fact that 27,000 oil and gas wells in the floor of the Gulf of Mexico are abandoned and, perhaps less surprisingly given how government and BP have performed this year, “[n]o one — not industry, not government — is checking to see if they are leaking …” Some of these wells were abandoned over 60 years ago, and the authors raise the concern whether the sealing off of those wells are now deteriorating or failing. There is particular concern over 3,500 “temporarily abandoned” well, which are simply neglected wells. Since the regulations for sealing “temporarily abandoned” wells are less stringent than for permanent ones, the industry — and government — has allowed wells to remain in this category even though they were abandoned in the 1950s and 60s.

The authors explain the geological reasons how wells can be “repressured” with oil and detail the numerous ways that the seals can be damaged or eroded over time. In fact, they note, “the well beneath BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig was being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment when it blew April 20 …”

Neither government nor industry inspect any of the seals once the wells are abandoned. Industry spokesmen assure the authors, however, that there is nothing to worry about because “a correctly plugged offshore well will last virtually forever.”

As has become a common way of doing business in the Bush-Obama administration, officials in the Interior Department failed to respond to “repeated questions regarding why there are no inspections of abandoned wells.” Perhaps these people, who appeared so confident in the safety of off-shore drilling the week before April 20 (so much so that they urged the abandonment of the prohibition put in place by George H.W. Bush), simply see no reason to comment since the oil industry has already spoken on their safety and they don’t view their job as in any way to contradict the oil industry.

The point of view of the oil oligarchs was long ago captured by the mysterious anarchist writer B. Traven in his best-selling analysis of greed, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1927 (in German); NY: Knopf: 1935 (in English)). In the first part of their trip (before they land on the idea of prospecting), Dobbs and Moulton arrive at a Mexican town dominated by American oil interests; they are looking for a temporary job there. (For those whose frame of reference is John Huston’s 1948 movie, Dobbs is the character played by Humphrey Bogart; Moulton is not in the movie — the story Dobbs and Moulton looking for jobs in the oil camps takes place before Dobbs meets Curtin, in the movie played by Tim Holt.) The dozen different oil companies at work in the squalid town are pumping, refining and shipping out oil. The town is redolent of greed, the kind that doesn’t care about what it destroys, whether environment or human: “The air bit into your lungs because it was filled with poisonous gas escaping from the refineries. That sting in the air which made breathing so hard and unpleasant and choked your throat constantly meant that people were making money–much money.” (p.28; I’m quoting here from the Time Reading Program edition c1963.)

The section that is called to mind, however, is when they set off for Villa Cuauhtemoc:

“They went up the river on the right shore. The whole road, an ugly dirt road at that, was covered with crude oil. It seemed to break through cracks and holes in the ground. There were even pools and ponds of oil. It came mostly through leaks in the pipes and from overflowing tanks which were lined up on the hills along the shore. Brooks of crude oil ran down like water into the river. Nobody seemed to care about the loss of these thousands and thousands of barrels of oil, which soaked the soil and polluted the river. So rich in oil was this part of the world then that the company managers and directors seemed not to mind when a well which brought in twenty thousand barrels a day caught fire and burned down to its last drop. Who would care about three or four hundred thousand barrels of oil running away every week and being lost owing to busted pipe lines, to filling tanks carelessly, or to not notifying the pumpman that while he has been pumping for days, sections of the pipe lines have been taken out, to be replaced by new ones. The more oil is lost, the higher the price. Three cheers, then, for broken pipes and drunken pumpmen and tank-attendants!” (pp30-31.)

But of course it would be conspiracy-minded to suggest greed and corruption were at the bottom of the industry’s neglect and Interior Department’s refusal to answer. That’s the stuff of loony novelists.

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Phytoplankton: 3 papers and a photo

Oceanic phytoplankton are microscopic plant-like single cell organisms (either bacteria or algae) which photosynthesize and thus form the basis of the marine food chain. (The plankton that are not autotrophic, which instead consume the phytoplankton (i.e., they are heterotrophic) are called zooplankton — single-celled or metazoic animals.) Phytoplankton are responsible for anywhere from 20% to 50% of all photosynthetic activity on earth, and therefore are the major organic factor in the earth’s carbon cycle and the principle source of organically produced oxygen. The viability of these organisms is critically important for animal (including human) life on earth and plays an essential role in the earth’s climate (because they represent a major carbon sink). The life cycle of these organisms are characterized by great pulses. The explosive population growth that makes visible vats of green on the ocean in spring-time are known as blooms. Blooms are reduced by zooplankton and other grazers (including such large animals as the baleen whale). Why these blooms appear and then disappear is the question.

In 1953 Norwegian oceanographer Harald Ulrik Sverdrup published a paper entitled “On Conditions for the Vernal Blooming of Phytoplankton” (subscription required) in ICES Journal of Marine Science, in which he developed the so-called “critical depth hypothesis.” The question addressed was: What initiates an algal bloom? The paper developed a model which explains that blooms begin when the depth of the surface mixed layer becomes sufficiently shallow in spring for phytoplankton to receive adequate light for net positive growth. Ten years of satellite data from the Sea-viewing Wide Field of view Sensor, however, shows that the blooms begin in mid-winter (actually, the fractional net rate of change in phytoplankton biomass becomes positive in winter) rather than the spring, as Sverdrup’s model predicts. In place of Sverdrup’s hypothesis and based on the satellite data, Michael Behrenfeld, professor of botany at Oregon Statue University, proposes what he calls a “Dilution Recoupling Hypothesis.” The study is published as “Abandoning Sverdrup’s Critical Depth Hypothesis on phytoplankton blooms” in 91 Ecology 977-89 (April 2010). The hypothesis “decouples” the rate of growth /destruction in Sverdrup’s hypothesis and posits that: destruction of phytoplankton by grazers is not constant; the ocean is mixed by winter storms bringing nutrients and dormant algae to the surface where population growth is then subjected to maximal conditions; grazing only catches up by the end of the bloom with the delayed population increase of zooplankton.

The question of how mid-oceanic algae are able to survive in areas with little nitrate is addressed in another paper, K.S. Johnson, S.C. Riser, D.M. Karl, “Nitrate supply from deep to near-surface waters of the North Pacific subtropical gyre,” 465 Nature (June 24, 2010). Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) chemical oceanographer Ken Johnson and coauthors Stephen Riser of the University of Washington and David Karl of the University of Hawaii show that mid-ocean algae obtain nitrate from deep water, up to 250 meters below the surface. According to a press release by the MBARI:

“Johnson … used a robotic drifter called an Apex float, which automatically moves from the sea surface down to 1,000 meters and then back again, collecting data as it goes. Researchers at the University of Washington outfitted this drifter with an oxygen sensor and a custom version of Johnson’s In Situ Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer, which measures nitrate concentrations in seawater.

“From January through October of each year [2007-09], the instruments on the drifter showed a gradual increase in oxygen concentrations in the upper 100 meters of the ocean. At the same time, the float detected a gradual decrease in concentrations of nitrate in deeper waters, from 100 to 250 meters below the surface.”

The oxygen production in the upper ocean layer correlated with the nitrate depletion in the lower layers (in the proportion expected by photosynthesis). They also found that the amount of algal growth predicted by this amount of photosynthetic activity confirmed by the actual algal growth rates measured during the University of Hawaii’s oceanographic cruises in that part of the Pacific.

Johnson, et al., speculate that ocean eddies (or short-term transport events) are responsible for bringing the nitrate from the depths (at which photosynthesis is impossible) to the upper waters.

Finally, while nitrate may be the limiting macronutrient for algae, in the Southern Ocean iron is the limiting micronutrient. In Stephen Nichol, et al., “Southern Ocean iron fertilization by baleen whales and Antarctic krill,” 11 Fish and Fisheries 203-09 (March 30, 2010), Stephen Nicol of the Australian Antarctic Division, based in Kingston, Tasmania has found large amounts of iron in the feces of baleen whale.  He posits that the iron is recycled from phytoplankton eaten by zooplankton which are in turn eaten by the whales. He believes that before commercial whaling, baleen whale faeces may have accounted for some 12% of the iron in the upper layers of the Southern Ocean. Compare also the paper entitled, Trish J. Lavery, et al., “Iron defecation by sperm whales stimulates carbon export in the Southern Ocean,” published on-line in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (June 16, 2010), which shows that Southern sperm whale are responsible for fertilizing the ocean with 50 tons of iron. That results (by its contribution to phytoplankton growth) in the net removal of 200,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

All of this discussion about phytoplankton, however, was simply an introduction to the beautiful image of a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Iceland, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 24, 2010. A collection of other NASA images of phytoplankton bloom (with commentary by NASA) is hosted by Geology.com.

Two Anniversaries of “Our Holy Cause”: Melville’s “Gettysburg”

Gettysburg:—July, 1863

from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (July 1866)

by Herman Melville

O PRIDE of the days in prime of the months
Now trebled in great renown,
When before the ark of our holy cause
Fell Dagon down
Dagon foredoomed, who, armed and targed,
Never his impious heart enlarged
Beyond that hour; God walled his power,
And there the last invader charged.

He charged, and in that charge condensed
His all of hate and all of fire;
He sought to blast us in his scorn,
And wither us in his ire.
Before him went the shriek of shells
Aerial screamings, taunts, and yells;
Then the three waves in flashed advance
Surged, but were met, and back they set:
Pride was repelled by sterner pride,
And Right is a strong-hold yet.

Before our lines it seemed a beach
Which wild September gales have strown
With havoc on wreck, and dashed therewith
Pale crews unknown
Men, arms, and steeds.  The evening sun
Died on the face of each lifeless one,
And died along the winding marge of fight
And searching-parties lone.

Sloped on the hill the mounds were green,
Our centre held that place of graves,
And some still hold it in their swoon,
And over these a glory waves.
The warrior-monument, crashed in fight,
Shall soar transfigured in loftier light,
A meaning ampler bear;
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer
Have laid the stone, and every bone
Shall rest in honor there.

Today, the 234th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence is also the 147th anniversary of the full Confederate retreat from Gettysburg.  The day before (July 3, 1863), the Confederate’s “high watermark” was reached when the desperation charge against a well entrenched federal line broke and ran. The charge was not the last time that Lee would roll the dice (the invasion was itself a grand gamble), but it was the most devastating – and it lacked all the hallmarks of the shrewd general; it was neither covert, nor unforeseeable, nor supported, nor well calculated to succeed.  It was the end of any realistic hope the Confederacy had. The invasion did not succeed in relieving pressure there, and in fact ended with the devastation of the Army of Northern Virginia. Now all that was left was for Lee to fight a brutal, bloody and senseless defense of Richmond. While Lee’s army was retreating from Pennsylvania (leaving (having lost well over one-third of its force in casualties) another signal victory was achieved by the natiuon’s forces against the massive rebellion in support of slavery—Vicksburg surrendered to Grant on July 4, which effectively secured the Mississippi River transportation for commerce and transport. This makes a third anniversary to be celebrated today.

The sense of relief to the Union was palpable. Finally after two years of the grimmest of bad news, the end was in sight. At the end of the three days the national forces had suffered about 23,000 in casualties and the Army of Northern Virginia over 28,000, but the effect was more lopsided since Confederates could ill afford that loss. Although news that the Union forces had failed to chase the retreating Confederate Army (again) deflated the initial euphoria, the country again readied itself for more slaughter, but this time a turning point could be felt. After two years of defeat and disorganization, a nation which was now fighting for freedom for all had hope because “Our centre held that place of graves,” as Melville put it.

The grim resolve of the Union forces at Gettysburg would be celebrated on that battlefield four months later when Abraham Lincoln would deliver an address that is rivaled only by the Declaration of Independence as a statement of what we aspire to, but rarely achieve. Today we celebrate two times that our predecessors (our “forefathers”) did achieve them. Once by intellectual courage and foresight. The other time by that kind of terrifying and ultimate resolve that few have been asked to demonstrate.

Happy Fourth!

National Land Cover Map

Pursuant to an announcement from its press office on June 11, the US Geological Survey released the first detailed national map of land cover vegetation. The map (which can be viewed with an online viewer and downloaded) is designed to help make decisions concerning wildlife support. It was produced by the USGS Gap Analysis Program (GAP).

“These data are critical for determining the status of biodiversity, as baseline data for assessing climate change impacts, and for predicting the availability of habitat for wildlife,” said John Mosesso, Gap Analysis Program Manager. “Large datasets of this type are extremely important to land and wildlife managers because they allow for analysis and planning across extensive geographic areas.”

The map displays 551 Ecological Systems and modified Ecological Systems. The online viewer is designed to permit the viewer to inspect the map in different scales:

“The online map viewing interface has been designed to allow users to explore land cover data at three levels of complexity.  Level 1 contains eight classes: grassland, shrubland, forest, aquatic, sparse and barren, recently disturbed, riparian, and human land use. Level 2 contains 43 classes, and incorporates information on elevation and climate. Level 3 contains the full 583 classes. This online tool facilitates exploration of ecological system distribution patterns at multiple scales and allows users to calculate statistics on the types of vegetation occurring within a mapping zone, a state, or a county.”

As I’ve indicated before, I am somewhat partial to the visual display of information by means of maps, but that bias notwithstanding, this map is well worth the time you spend on it.

I should note, however, that although denominated a “national” map, it does not include Alaska or Hawaii. This note is particularly ironic today (July 4, 2010), which is the 50th anniversary of the first time that the American flag containing 50 stars was flown — at Fort McHenry National Mounument in Baltimore and at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The 50 year period during which this flag has flown has been the longest period of use of any one flag by the United States.

Random, half-baked generalities about Bach

Yesterday I did something that is always fraught with danger. I had a lengthy discussion with a musician about Bach. There are two dangers in such an enterprise. First, everyone involved finds themselves inevitably using one of these concepts: architecture, God, cosmos, DNA, mathematics, genius. I think all of those terms were used yesterday. But in our defense, even Beethoven was reduced to calling Bach the “immortal god of harmony.”

Second, if you participate in any such discussion, and it lasts any length of time, you are compelled to disclose a half-baked theory that you’ve been harboring about the “essence” of Bach. And our talk yesterday went past the tipping point. She explained that based on her study of the unaccompanied violin works, the essence was how seemlessly he moved from one tonal center to another, without the listener knowing it until the transition had already happened. (She likened his overall tonal scheme to moving from one galaxy to another.) To her this was important because she said that the same part of the ear that detects or resolves tonality is the part that governs the body’s balance. (Is this why music and dance are always associated? Even German music that isn’t “dancable” hews closely to the French dance forms, like Bach’s cello suites or Haydn’s “Seven Last Words of Christ.”) So the ear should be able to detect a change in key, as for example, it can readily do in the 12 Telemann violin fantasies. But Bach uses some as-yet-undiscovered-by-her device to “mask” the change, and she is planning on finding it out. (One way I’ve noticed this is accomplished is by the use of a rapid line (say eighth note or sixteenth notes) with large intervals between notes so that he can artfully use accidentals to “step” away from one key to another. If the notes were closer together the modulation would be easier to detect.)

My own half-baked theory was that being steeped in the fugue (and fugue-like forms) early and through-out his life strongly influenced (in a way I have yet to fully explain) his “melody” or thematic construction in all his works. My thinking goes as followings: Whenever one makes a piece with more than one voice and expects the second voice to come in using the same statement (or one manipulated in the way that the rules of the fugue allow) and overlap part of the statement of the first voice, the “architecture” of the statement has to be such that it accommodates the harmonies that will result from the overlap. In medieval music the vocal lines were not designed to produce the same kind of euharmonious effect (if you will permit a neologism just for this purpose) that Bach intended. Therefore medieval music will contain all sorts of startling (but accidental) dissonances. (It is Bach’s reduction of these unplanned dissonances that forms Adrian Leverkühn’s complaint that Bach destroyed polyphony in Mann’s Doktor Faustus.) So two characteristics of Bach’s “melody” lines (for example, even in arias in the cantatas, which are not designed to produce the counterpoint of the fugues or fugue-like pieces) are that they are long and their parts are self-referential (in a way I have not worked out). Now the counter-evidence for this “theory” is the Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079. Bach took a melody written by Frederick the Great — a melody that was probably not designed for counterpoint because Frederick thought the old Bach was somewhat old-fashioned in his devotion to these old forms — and Bach was able to create a “fugue” with up to 6 voices. The human mind is nothing if not able to protect its own creations, so I attribute that to Bach’s unearthly ability to make fugues by that point in his career and still maintain that if Bach wrote the “melodic” statement himself, it would have been better. Besides, he manipulates the statement in such a way (I convince myself) that he is able to use it just like he would have used his own statement.

The conversation never came to any conclusion, so it was in fact much like Die Kunst der Fuge, BWV 1080, where Bach allows the performer to provide his own ending. But, since, unlike Bach, there was no correct ending to the conversation, I will include here a description of one of the canons of Musikalisches Opfer by meta-metatician Douglas Hofstadter from his Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (NY: 1979), p10. He uses it to introduce his concept of “strange loops,” but for now, I’ll use it to merge the two concepts discussed yesterday, the modulation of keys and the construction of fugues, in this case the more simplified “canons” (all in the context of the Musikaisches Opfer):

“There is one canon in the Musical Offering which is particularly unusual. Labeled simply “Canon per Tonos,” it has three voices. The uppermost voice sings a variant of the Royal Theme, while underneath it, two voices provide a canonic harmonization based on a second theme. The lower of this pair sings its theme in C  minor (which is the key of the canon as a whole), and the upper of the pair sings the same theme displaced upwards in pitch by an interval of a fifth. What makes this canon different from any other, however, is that when it concludes — or, rather, seems to conclude — it is no longer in the key of C minor, but now is in D minor. Somehow Bach has contrived to modulate (change keys) right under the listener’s nose. And it is so constructed that this ‘ending’ ties smoothly onto the beginning again: thus one can repeat the process and return in the key of E, only to join again to the beginning. These successive modulations lead the ear in increasingly remote provinces of tonality, so that after several of them, one would expect to be hopelessly far away from the starting key. And yet magically, after exactly six such modulations, the original key of C minor has been restored! All the voices are exactly one octave higher than they were at the beginning, and here the piece may be broken off in a musically agreeable way. Such, one imagines, was Bach’s intention but Bach indubitably also relished the implication that this process could go on ad infinitum, which is perhaps why he wrote in the margin ‘As the modulation rises, so may the King’s Glory.'”

Bach is probably more deviously intricate than we will every know. That’s why we always revert to generalizations. Note that Hofstadter doesn’t  explain the mechanism of the modulation and only calls it “magic.” All these generalizations mean only one thing: We are slack-jawed in awe and admiration of what Bach’s mind was capable of.

Melting permafrost reveals relic

In marked contrast to the University of Manchester press release published in, but evidently not vetted by ScienceDaily that we looked at in the last post, the New York Times published this pared down version of an AP story yesterday (which I quote in its entirety):

“Researchers at the University of Colorado announced Tuesday that they have found a 10,000-year-old hunting weapon in melting ice near Yellowstone National Park. Craig Lee, a research associate, said the spearlike birch dart had been frozen in an ice sheet for 10,000 years and became bowed as the ice melted. It looks like a bent branch.”

The full AP story was not much more detailed but at least had the following interesting piece of information:

“Lee says increased global temperatures are causing glaciers and ice fields to melt, releasing artifacts as well as plant material and animal carcasses.”

In retrospect this seems somewhat self-evident. As the last glacial maximum of the Wisconsin stage (26,000-13,000 years ago) retreats under global warming, things that had been frozen would now be uncovered and begin to rot. What is surprising, however, is that a group of scientists had organized themselves for this contingency. (The increased competition for grants must truly concentrate the mind.)

According to the press release of the University of Colorado at Boulder, which is, just as in the last post, published by ScienceDaily “with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff,” the name of this field is called “Ice Patch Archaeology”:

“‘We didn’t realize until the early 2000s that there was a potential to find archaeological materials in association with melting permanent snow and ice in many areas of the globe,’ Lee said. ‘We’re not talking about massive glaciers, we’re talking about the smaller, more kinetically stable snowbanks that you might see if you go to Rocky Mountain National Park.'”

Lee has been doing this for a decade:

“Over the past decade, Lee has worked with other researchers to develop a geographic information system, or GIS, model to identify glaciers and ice fields in Alaska and elsewhere that are likely to hold artifacts. They pulled together biological and physical data to find ice fields that may have been used by prehistoric hunters to kill animals seeking refuge from heat and insect swarms in the summer months.”

So there is at least one group of people happy we are evidently heading for a Jurassic-type climate.  And, incidently, ScienceDaily edited the piece better than AP. (Of course the press release was nowhere nearly as in need of editing as yesterday’s.) They describe why this “bent branch” is thought to be a weapon:

“The dart Lee found was from a birch sapling and still has personal markings on it from the ancient hunter, according to Lee. When it was shot, the 3-foot-long dart had a projectile point on one end, and a cup or dimple on the other end that would have attached to a hook on the atlatl. The hunter used the atlatl, a throwing tool about two feet long, for leverage to achieve greater velocity.”

Try as I might, I could not find a report of this finding that explained what long-held scientific theory this find disproves.

Update July 20, 2010:  Guido Grosse of the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks and four others involved in academic earth or ocean studies wrote an article in the vol 91 of Eos, Trasnsactions of the American Geophysical Union, pp9ff (2010) entitled: “Why Permafrost Is Thawing, Not Melting.” The abstract notes that it is essential for the media and general public to be taught to use the correct terms in discussing scientific research. Otherwise, they say, the public is likely to misunderstand the issues involved. They go on to note that a web-based search reveals that such media as Discovery News, the National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Magazine use the term “melting permafrost,” even though the correct term is “thawing permafrost.” I am not sure if they mentioned this site in particular, but we nevertheless also feel sufficiently chastised. Whether there is more to this story which they say is essential for the public to know (and there must be since five scientists collaborated to have the article published in a peer-reviewed journal), the public will probably never know, since they put the article behind a pay wall. I suppose I could email Mr. Grosse for a pdf file, but I am afraid if I communicate with him I will be in such fear of using an inappropriate phrase that I might be the subject of yet another of Mr. Grosse’s scholarly productions. I just hope that some source like Smithsonian or the National Science Foundation will let the rest of us know what is said behind that wall — but wait, weren’t they the ones that Mr. Grosse expressly named as the ones who screwed the pooch to begin with?

The most important discovery in the history of thought

Science journalists, reliant as they are on the people who they cover and generally don’t understand, are prone to overstatement, because otherwise no one would read their work. Every fossil find will revolutionize our understand of the evolution of something or disrupt settled theory or otherwise cause all sorts of startling consequences. Every new cosmological theory alters our place in the universe. Every new biochemistry paper has the potential to end something that kills or otherwise bothers us.

ScienceDaily, in an unsigned article entitled “Science Historian Cracks the ‘Plato Code'” has possibly set a new standard for breathless reporting. Granted, the glory really belongs to the (also unnamed) author of the University of Manchester press release which apparently went unedited except for “editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff,” but it was still published in Science Daily and that is how credit is assigned.

In the first sentence, the article announces “Plato was the Einstein of Greece’s Golden Age and his work founded Western culture and science.” Socrates and his predecessors can of course go screw off. And all that stuff about how medieval Platonists retarded the growth of science is all just sour grapes from the pathetic followers of Aristole, the Arabs, Galileo, and that lot.

The second sentence: “Dr Jay Kennedy’s findings are set to revolutionise the history of the origins of Western thought.” You got that right. One guy is about to explode the myth that a variety of people all over the planet contributed to philosophy, art, technology, engineering, science. It’s all in how Plato coded his texts! That’s the basis of Western thought! And it’s miraculous how it formed the basis, since nobody knew about it until Dr Kennedy found out.

Third sentence:  “Dr Kennedy, whose findings are published in the leading US journal Apeiron, reveals that Plato used a regular pattern of symbols, inherited from the ancient followers of Pythagoras, to give his books a musical structure.” Wait a minute. Apeiron is a leading American journal? Leading in what? Those other journals like Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and the New England Journal of Medicine, must be really envious. I suppose journals like the American Journal of Philology, Classical Antiquity, Helios, Lyceum, and The Modern Schoolman didn’t have a prayer of landing this paper once Apeiron started throwing its weight around. And what’s this about Pythagoras, I thought Plato himself founded Western thought? Maybe Pythagoras wasn’t part of Western thought?

The article must be read. While there is a mildly interesting observation about some mystical encoding done by Plato, it is presented like the discovery of God’s first draft of the book of Genesis. (The sequence of sea creatures, land creatures and flowering plants went through much revision before the final version appeared in the King James Version.)

The article ends with this statement:

Dr Kennedy’s findings are not only surprising and important; they overthrow conventional wisdom on Plato. Modern historians have always denied that there were codes; now Dr Kennedy has proved otherwise.

He adds: “This is the beginning of something big. It will take a generation to work out the implications. All 2,000 pages contain undetected symbols.”

Current classic professors and Ph.D. candidates are bursting with joy at the thought of years and years of government grants pouring forth like blood on the Plains of Marathon to people who improvidently (according to their parents) took Attic Greek instead of business administration. ζωή είναι καλή!

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