Monthly Archives: December 2017
The Origins of Santa
“You know mistletoe is important to Druids but do you know why people kiss under the mistletoe? It’s a Norse myth. Baldur the son of Odin was the most beloved by the other gods. So much that they wanted to protect him from all the dangers in the world. His mother, Frigg, took an oath from fire and water, metal, stone and every living thing, that they would never hurt Baldur. At a gathering, they tested him. Stones, arrows and flame were all hurled at him. Nothing worked. But there was one god that wasn’t so enamored of Baldur, the god of mischief, Loki. Loki discovered that Frigg had forgotten to ask mistletoe, a tiny, seemingly harmless plant and completely overlooked. Loki fashioned a dart out of mistletoe and it killed Baldur. Frigg was heartbroken. She decreed that mistletoe would never again be used as a weapon and that she would place a kiss on anyone who passed under it. So now we hang mistletoe underneath our door during the holidays so that we will never overlook it again.”
Jennifer – The Overlooked, episode 10 of Teen Wolf Season 3.
“Santa? Is Odin. With a bit of the Turkish Saint Nicholas plastered over top to make him more acceptable to Christianity.
Let’s wind this back a bit.
So. In Norse tradition, Odin rose with the wild hunt on Midwinter. Children would leave out offerings of hay or root vegetables in their shoes for Slepnir, Odin’s horse. In norse tradition, all gifts create an obligation that must be returned in kind, so if Odin found the offerings pleasing he would leave treats and sweets in return.
So. We have a magical bearded man riding through the sky on a winter feast day and leaving treats for children in footwear if they pleased him. Sound familiar? Yeah.
As for Slepnir, Odin’s mount? He has eight legs. So. Bearded man with powerful magic flying through the air on an eight-legged steed on a winter feast day and leaving treats for children in their footwear if they pleased him.
Enter Christianity. Now, the midwinter season is important to all cultures that live in cold climates. The passing of the worst of the hard times and the beginning of the longer days and the promise of the return of life and light and fertility is a powerful thing. There were Christian festival days around the same time as Midwinter was celebrated in many polytheistic faiths. Christians found that they couldn’t get people to stop celebrating the feast days they’d been celebrating for several thousand years, so opted instead to just absorb those traditions into their OWN midwinter festivals. It was a far easier and more effective way of convincing people to convert.
So. The tradition of Odin leaving gifts hung on, in a far different form. This was helped by the legend of Saint Nicholas, a Turkish man who inherited a large amount of wealth and who was known and beloved for his habit of slipping money to poor people via leaving it in their stockings as they were hung out to dry after wash day, or by dropping it down their chimneys. This was similar enough to the old Odin myth of leaving gifts in footwear to paste right over top of the older stories with relative ease. So, the man delivering gifts became not Odin, but St. Nick, who delivered gifts via stocking and chimney.
However, the idea of him flying through the sky, being associated with elves, possessing powerful magic, and the eight-legged steed stuck. (reindeer, incidentally, are an animal with a lot of symbol and power in Norse tales. Ullr, the god of the hunt, had ties to reindeer, and at some point the eight legged horse became eight reindeer.)
Incidentally the image of Santa as a chubby little jolly man didn’t come around until modern advertising began depicting him that way. Before that? A tall, strong man, usually with a staff (echoing Odin’s staff or spear).
So. There you have it. Santa, the jolly bearded old man of beloved childhood Christmas memories? If you ever wondered where he came from in a ‘Christian’ holiday, there’s your answer. He didn’t. He’s the amalgamation of an ancient Norse god and a Middle Eastern saint, filtered through the lens of pop culture.
Jim Butcher actually did this very well in the Dresden Files, where Odin makes several appearances, one wearing the mantle of Father Christmas.
Christianity never really managed to make the old gods vanish.
Rudolph and the story about him was written in 1939 by Robert L. May as a promotional character for Montgomery Ward. They gave away children’s coloring books every year, and had been buying them from other manufacturers. It was decided that if they could print their own with their own character that it would be cheaper. The poem/song was written at this time.
The character proved extremely popular, and has become a part of pop culture and an icon of the Christmas season. ”
Teza 12 mate-info I 2017-2018
Roads of the future could be lit by glowing trees instead of streetlamps, thanks to a breakthrough in creating bioluminescent plants. Experts injected specialised nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant, which caused it to give off a dim light for nearly four hours. The chemical involved, which produced enough light to read a book by, is the same as is used by fireflies to create their characteristic shine.
To create their glowing plants, engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) turned to an enzyme called luciferase. Luciferase acts on a molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light. Another molecule called Co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity. The MIT team packaged each of these components into a different type of nanoparticle carrier. The nanoparticles help them to get to the right part of the plant and also prevent them from building to concentrations that could be toxic to the plants. The result was a watercress plant that functioned like a desk lamp.
Read more here (Tim Collins, “Streetlights could be replaced by glow-in-the-dark trees after scientists create plants that shine like fireflies”, MailOnline, 14.12.2017)
Teza 11 mate-info I 2017-2018
New algorithm repairs corrupted digital images in one step
Computer scientists have designed a new algorithm that incorporates artificial neural networks to simultaneously apply a wide range of fixes to corrupted digital images. The researchers tested their algorithm by taking high-quality, uncorrupted images, purposely introducing severe degradations, then using the algorithm to repair the damage. In many cases, the algorithm outperformed competitors’ techniques, very nearly returning the images to their original state.
From phone camera snapshots to lifesaving medical scans, digital images play an important role in the way humans communicate information. But digital images are subject to a range of imperfections such as blurriness, grainy noise, missing pixels and color corruption. The research team, which included members from the University of Bern in Switzerland, tested their algorithm by taking high-quality, uncorrupted images, purposely introducing severe degradations, then using the algorithm to repair the damage. In many cases, the algorithm outperformed competitors’ techniques, very nearly returning the images to their original state.
Zwicker and his colleagues can “train” their algorithm by exposing it to a large database of high-quality, uncorrupted images widely used for research with artificial neural networks. Because the algorithm can take in a large amount of data and extrapolate the complex parameters that define images — including variations in texture, color, light, shadows and edges — it is able to predict what an ideal, uncorrupted image should look like. Then, it can recognize and fix deviations from these ideal parameters in a new image.
Source (University of Maryland. “New algorithm repairs corrupted digital images in one step: Technique uses the power of artificial neural networks to address several types of flaws and degradations in a single image at once.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2017.)
Original paper: He, L., Li, G. and Liu, J., 2015. Joint motion deblurring and superresolution from single blurry image. Mathematical Problems in Engineering, 2015.
Teza 9 stiintele-naturii I 2017-2018
Polaris – load webpages with 34% faster in any browser
Computer scientists at the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a system that can reliably make websites load 34% faster. As internet speeds have increased, websites have got more complex, leaving some pages sluggish and unresponsive. This is a problem for companies like Amazon, who say that for every one-second delay in loading time, their profits are cut by one per cent.
A team of researchers, working at the university’s Computer Science and Artifical Intelligence Laboratory, may have found the solution. Named Polaris, the system cuts load-times by determining the best way to ‘overlap’ the downloading of different parts of a webpage. When you visit a new page, your browser reaches across the internet to fetch ‘objects’ like pictures, videos, and HTML files. The browser then evaluates the objects and puts them on the page. However, some objects are dependent on others, and browsers can’t see all of these dependencies until they come across them.
Polaris works by tracking all of these relationships and dependencies between objects on the page and turning the information into a ‘dependency graph’ that can be interpreted by your browser. Polaris essentially gives the browser a roadmap of the page, with all the details of the best and quickest way to load it.
Source (Doug Bolton, “New MIT-Developed System Can Make Webpages Load 34 Per Cent Faster In Any Browser”, Independent, 09.03.2016)