Tag Archives: United States

Hugh Herr: The Bionic Man


Myself 

 

 

BT.V. Antony Raj

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Dr. Hugh Herr Phot by Claudia Dreifus( Source: nytimes.com) (Custom)
Dr. Hugh Herr Phot by Claudia Dreifus( Source: nytimes.com) (Custom)

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Hugh Herr, an American, born October 25, 1964, a double amputee is building the next generation of bionic limbs, robotic prosthetics inspired by nature’s own designs. Herr is a rock climber, engineer, and biophysicist.

Herr grew up in rural Pennsylvania, and his only dream was becoming a mountaineer. By the time he was 8, being a prodigy rock climber, he scaled the face of the 11,627-foot (3,544 m) Mount Temple in the Canadian Rockies.

In January 1982, the 17-year-old Hugh Herr, acknowledged as one of the best climbers in the United States, and a fellow climber 20-year-old Jeff Batzer ascended a difficult technical ice route in Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. They were caught in a blizzard. Disoriented, they wandered through the frozen wilderness. Eventually, they descended into the Great Gulf and spent three nights in −20 °F (−29 °C) degree temperatures. When rescued, both the climbers had suffered severe frostbite and hypothermia. During the rescue attempt, an avalanche killed a volunteer named Albert Dow.

Months of surgeries followed. Unfortunately, both legs of Hugh Herr were amputated below the knee. His companion, Jeff Batzer lost his lower left leg, all the toes on his right foot, and the fingers of his right hand. He did not climb again. He joined the clergy and is now the director of pastoral care at the Lancaster Evangelical Free Church.

After the amputation and rehabilitation, Hugh Herr focused on academics. He earned an undergraduate degree in physics at the Millersville University, and then a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at MIT, followed by a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University.

Soon, an undaunted Hugh Herr using specialized prostheses that he himself designed, was climbing once again, a feat his doctors told him was unthinkable.

Hugh Herr climbing High Exposure in Mohonk Preserve an hour south of Albany on the cliffs called The Gunks. (Source: jothyrosenberg.com)
Hugh Herr climbing High Exposure in Mohonk Preserve an hour south of Albany on the cliffs called The Gunks. (Source: jothyrosenberg.com)

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Hugh Herr designed and created prosthetic feet with high toe stiffness that made it possible for him to stand on small rock edges the width of a coin. He designed titanium-spiked feet to assist him in ascending steep ice walls. He used the prostheses to alter his height that could range from five to eight feet, to avoid awkward body positions and to grab hand and footholds that were previously out of reach. He created robotic powered ankles because that was the only way for smooth walking.

Using the prostheses, Herr climbed rock cliffs at a more advanced level than he had before the amputation. He became the first person with a major amputation to perform in a sport on par with able-bodied sportsmen.

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At present, Hugh Herr is an associate professor in MIT’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences and at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. As the head of the MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics group, Herr focuses on the designing of the next generation of bionic limbs and robotic prosthetics inspired by nature’s own designs. He is developing wearable robotic systems that serve to augment the human physical capability. He is rewriting the laws of physiology by redefining what it means to be human.

TED is a nonprofit group devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today it covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.

In the following video, Dr. Hugh Herr shows his incredible technology in a talk that is both technically and deeply personal. He demonstrates the Biometric technology developed by the MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics group with the help of the ballroom dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who lost her left leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and performs again for the first time on the TED stage.

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Here is the transcript of the above video:

0:12
Looking deeply inside nature through the magnifying glass of science, designers extract principles, processes and materials that are forming the very basis of design methodology, from synthetic constructs that resemble biological materials to computational methods that emulate neural processes, nature is driving design. Design is also driving nature. In realms of genetics, regenerative medicine and synthetic biology, designers are growing novel  technologies not foreseen or anticipated by nature.

0:51
Bionics explores the interplay between biology and design. As you can see, my legs are bionic. Today I will tell human stories of bionic integration, how electromechanics attached to the body and implanted inside the body are beginning to bridge the gap between disability and ability, between human limitation and human potential.

1:23
Bionics has defined my physicality. In 1982, both of my legs were amputated due to tissue damage from frostbite incurred during a mountain climbing accident. At that time, I didn’t view my body as broken. I reasoned that a human being can never be broken. Technology is broken. Technology is inadequate. This simple but powerful idea was a call to arms to advance technology for the elimination of my own disability and ultimately the disability of others. I began by developing specialized limbs that allowed me to return to the vertical world of rock and ice climbing. I quickly realized that the artificial part of my body is malleable, able to take on any form, any function, a blank slate through which to create perhaps structures that could extend beyond biological capability. I made my height adjustable. I could be as short as five feet or as tall as I’d like. (Laughter) So when I was feeling badly about myself, insecure, I would jack my height up, but when I was feeling confident and suave, I would knock my height down a notch just to give the competition a chance. (Laughter) (Applause) Narrow, wedged feet allowed me to climb steep rock fissures where the human foot cannot penetrate, and spiked feet enabled me to climb vertical ice walls without ever experiencing muscle leg fatigue. Through technological innovation, I returned to my sport stronger and better. Technology had eliminated my disability and allowed me a new climbing prowess. As a young man, I imagined a future world where technology so advanced could rid the world of disability, a world in which neural implants would allow the visually impaired to see, a world in which the paralyzed could walk via body exoskeletons.

3:31
Sadly, because of deficiencies in technology, disability is rampant in the world. This gentleman is missing three limbs. As a testimony to current technology, he is out of the wheelchair, but we need to do a better job in bionics to allow one day full rehabilitation for a person with this level of injury. At the MIT Media Lab, we’ve established the Center for Extreme Bionics. The mission of the center is to put forth fundamental science and technological capability that will allow the biomechatronic and regenerative repair of humans across a broad range of brain and body disabilities.

4:12
Today, I’m going to tell you how my legs function, how they work, as a case in point for this center. Now, I made sure to shave my legs last night, because I knew I’d be showing them off.

4:25
Bionics entails the engineering of extreme interfaces. There’s three extreme interfaces in my bionic limbs: mechanical, how my limbs are attached to my biological body; dynamic, how they move like flesh and bone; and electrical, how they communicate with my nervous system.

4:41
I’ll begin with mechanical interface. In the area of design, we still do not understand how to attach devices to the body mechanically. It’s
extraordinary to me that in this day and age, one of the most mature, oldest technologies in the human timeline, the shoe, still gives us blisters. How can this be? We have no idea how to attach things to our bodies. This is the beautifully lyrical design work of Professor Neri Oxman at the MIT Media Lab, showing spatially varying exoskeletal impedances, shown here by color variation in this 3D-printed model. Imagine a future where clothing is stiff and soft where you need it, when you need it, for optimal support and flexibility, without ever causing discomfort.

5:30
My bionic limbs are attached to my biological body via synthetic skins with stiffness variations that mirror my underlying tissue biomechanics. To achieve that mirroring, we first developed a mathematical model of my biological limb. To that end, we used imaging tools such as MRI to look inside my body to figure out the geometries and locations of various tissues. We also took robotic tools. Here’s a 14-actuator circle that goes around the biological limb. The actuators come in, find the surface of the limb, measure its unloaded shape, and then they push on the tissues to measure tissue
compliances at each anatomical point. We combine these imaging and robotic data to build a mathematical description of my biological limb, shown on the left. You see a bunch of points, or nodes. At each node, there’s a color that represents tissue compliance. We then do a mathematical transformation to the design of the synthetic skin shown on the right, and we’ve discovered optimality is where the body is stiff, the synthetic skin should be soft, where the body is soft, the synthetic skin is stiff, and this mirroring occurs across all tissue compliances. With this framework, we produced bionic limbs that are the most comfortable limbs I’ve ever worn. Clearly in the future, our clothing, our shoes, our braces, our prostheses, will no longer be designed and manufactured using artisan strategies, but rather data-driven quantitative frameworks. In that future, our shoes will no longer give us blisters.

7:07
We’re also embedding sensing and smart materials into the synthetic skins. This is a material developed by SRI International, California. Under electrostatic effect, it changes stiffness. So under zero voltage, the material is compliant. It’s floppy like paper. Then the button’s pushed, a voltage is applied, and it becomes stiff as a board. We embed this material into the synthetic skin that attaches my bionic limb to my biological body. When I walk here, it’s no voltage. My interface is soft and compliant. The button’s pushed, voltage is applied, and it stiffens, offering me a greater maneuverability of the bionic limb.

7:49
We’re also building exoskeletons. This exoskeleton becomes stiff and soft in just the right areas of the running cycle to protect the biological joints from high impacts and degradation. In the future, we’ll all be wearing exoskeletons in common activities such as running.

8:07
Next, dynamic interface. How do my bionic limbs move like flesh and bone? At my MIT lab, we study how humans with normal physiologies stand, walk and run. What are the muscles doing, and how are they controlled by the spinal cord? This basic science motivates what we build. We’re building bionic ankles, knees and hips. We’re building body parts from the ground up. The bionic limbs that I’m wearing are called BiOMs. They’ve been fitted to nearly 1,000 patients, 400 of which have been U.S. wounded soldiers.

8:40
How does it work? At heel strike, under computer control, the system controls stiffness to attenuate the shock of the limb hitting the ground. Then at mid-stance, the bionic limb outputs high torques and powers to lift the person into the walking stride, comparable to how muscles work in the calf region. This bionic propulsion is very important clinically to patients. So, on the left you see the bionic device worn by a lady — on the right a passive device worn by the same lady that fails to emulate normal muscle function — enabling her to do something everyone should be able to do, go up and down their steps at home. Bionics also allows for extraordinary athletic feats. Here’s a gentleman running up a rocky pathway. This is Steve Martin, not the comedian, who lost his legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan.

9:33
We’re also building exoskeletal structures using these same principles that wrap around a biological limb. This gentleman does not have any leg condition, any disability. He has a normal physiology, so these exoskeletons are applying muscle-like torques and powers so that his own muscles need not apply those torques and powers. This is the first exoskeleton in history that actually augments human walking. It significantly reduces metabolic cost. It’s so profound in its augmentation that when a normal, healthy person wears the device for 40 minutes and then takes it off, their own biological legs feel ridiculously heavy and awkward. We’re beginning the age in which machines attached to our bodies will make us stronger and faster and more efficient.

10:26
Moving on to electrical interface, how do my bionic limbs communicate with my nervous system? Across my residual limb are electrodes that measure the electrical pulse of my muscles. That’s communicated to the bionic limb, so when I think about moving my phantom limb, the robot tracks those movement desires. This diagram shows fundamentally how the bionic limb is controlled, so we model the missing biological limb, and we’ve discovered what reflexes occurred, how the reflexes of the spinal cord are controlling the muscles, and that capability is embedded in the chips of the bionic limb. What we’ve done, then, is we modulate the sensitivity of the reflex, the modeled spinal reflex, with the neural signal, so when I relax my muscles in my residual limb, I get very little torque and power, but the more I fire my muscles, the more torque I get, and I can even run. And that was the first demonstration of a running gait under neural command. Feels great. (Applause)

11:34
We want to go a step further. We want to actually close the loop between the human and the bionic external limb. We’re doing experiments where we’re growing nerves, transected nerves, through channels or microchannel arrays. On the other side of the channel, the nerve then attaches to cells, skin cells and muscle cells. In the motor channels, we can sense how the person wishes to move. That can be sent out wirelessly to the bionic limb, then sensors on the bionic limb can be converted to stimulations in adjacent channels, sensory channels. So, when this is fully developed and for human use, persons like myself will not only have synthetic limbs that move like flesh and bone, but actually feel like flesh and bone.

12:24
This video shows Lisa Mallette shortly after being fitted with two bionic limbs. Indeed, bionics is making a profound difference in people’s lives.

12:34
(Video) Lisa Mallette: Oh my God. Oh my God, I can’t believe it. It’s just like I’ve got a real leg. Now, don’t start running.

12:49
Man: Now turn around, and do the same thing walking up. Walk up, get on your heel to toe, like you would normally just walk on level ground. Try to walk right up the hill. LM: Oh my God. Man: Is it pushing you up? LM: Yes! I’m not even — I can’t even describe it. Man: It’s pushing you right up.

13:11
Hugh Herr: Next week, I’m visiting the center’s —

13:14
(Applause) Thank you, thank you.

13:18
Thank you. Next week I’m visiting the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and I’m going to try to convince CMS to grant appropriate code language and pricing so this technology can be made available to the patients that need it.

13:33
Thank you. (Applause)

13:38
It’s not well appreciated, but over half of the world’s population suffers from some form of cognitive, emotional, sensory or motor condition, and because of poor technology, too often, conditions result in disability and a poorer quality of life. Basic levels of physiological function should be a part of our human rights. Every person should have the right to live life without disability if they so choose — the right to live life without severe depression; the right to see a loved one in the case of seeing impaired; or the right to walk or to dance, in the case of limb paralysis or limb amputation. As a society, we can achieve these human rights if we accept the proposition that humans are not disabled. A person can never be broken. Our built environment, our technologies, are broken and disabled. We the people need not accept our limitations, but can transcend disability through technological innovation. Indeed, through fundamental advances in bionics in this century, we will set the technological foundation for an enhanced human experience, and we will end disability.

14:52
I’d like to finish up with one more story, a beautiful story, the story of Adrianne Haslet-Davis. Adrianne lost her left leg in the Boston terrorist attack. I met Adrianne when this photo was taken at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Adrianne is a dancer, a ballroom dancer.

15:10
Adrianne breathes and lives dance. It is her expression. It is her art form. Naturally, when she lost her limb in the Boston terrorist attack, she wanted to return to the dance floor.

15:22
After meeting her and driving home in my car, I thought, I’m an MIT professor. I have resources. Let’s build her a bionic limb to enable her to go back to her life of dance. I brought in MIT scientists with expertise in prosthetics, robotics, machine learning and biomechanics, and over a 200-day research period, we studied dance. We brought in dancers with biological limbs, and we studied how do they move, what forces do they apply on the dance floor, and we took those data and we put forth fundamental principles of dance, reflexive dance capability, and we embedded that intelligence into the bionic limb. Bionics is not only about making people stronger and faster. Our expression, our humanity can be embedded into electromechanics.

16:13
It was 3.5 seconds between the bomb blasts in the Boston terrorist attack. In 3.5 seconds, the criminals and cowards took Adrianne off the dance floor. In 200 days, we put her back. We will not be intimidated, brought down, diminished, conquered or stopped by acts of violence. (Applause)

16:43
Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce Adrianne Haslet-Davis, her first performance since the attack. She’s dancing with Christian Lightner. (Applause)

17:04
(Music: “Ring My Bell” performed by Enrique Iglesias)
(Applause)

18:21
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the research team, Elliott Rouse and Nathan Villagaray-Carski. Elliott and Nathan.
(Applause)

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Are You Addicted to Unwanted Calories?


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Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj
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Photo: ALAMY
Photo: ALAMY

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There are people who eat plenty of sugar and sugar products. Worldwide people are consuming sugar equal to about 500 extra calories per day. That is just about what you would need to consume if you wanted to gain a pound a week. No wonder we have many obese men, women and children around us.

Perhaps they think that the lack of sodium or fat in sugar makes it less harmful. They harbour a false notion that the risk of excess sugar consumption is less than that of having too much saturated and trans fat, sodium or calories in their diet. Some even espouse the adage “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.”

Many people know that excessive sugar in the diet is not good for healthy living and consume it in recommended amounts and place it at the top of their list of “foods to avoid”.

Sugar specifically promotes obesity. In the past 30 years, the rate of childhood obesity has doubled and the rate of adolescent obesity has tripled. The main factor is fat accumulation in the trunk of the body. One cause may be the wide consumption of fructose-laden beverages. In 2010, a study in children found that excess fructose intake (but not glucose intake) caused visceral fat cells to mature that set the stage for obesity at a young age leading to heart disease and diabetes.

Dietitians and nutritionists have established that four grams of white granulated sugar is equal to one teaspoon of sugar. The recommended daily allowance from The American Heart Association is no more than six teaspoons a day for the average woman and no more than nine teaspoons for the average man. And, an average American consumes about 27 teaspoons of sugar per day.

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Amount of sugar in Coca-cola (Source: tribesports.com)
Amount of sugar in Coca-cola (Source: tribesports.com)

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A typical sugar packet in the United States contains two grams of sugar. Coca-Cola contains 10.6g or five sachets of sugar per 100ml – so that’s 31.8g or 16 sachets in a 330ml can, and 26.5g or 13 sachets in a 250ml can with absolutely no nutritional advantage?

To curb rising obesity, some sectors want drinks having high sugar content taxed in the same way as cigarettes.

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Jeremy Paxman speaks with James Quincey, president of Coca Cola Europe on  BBC Newsnight.
Jeremy Paxman speaks with James Quincey, president of Coca Cola Europe on BBC Newsnight.

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In the following video, Jeremy Paxman with his forthright and abrasive interviewing style speaks to James Quincey, president of Coca-Cola Europe about the sugar content in their regular Coke on BBC Two’s Newsnight.

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Segregation in the United States Still Lingers on…


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A sign in Jackson, Mississippi which reads 'Waiting Room For Colored Only by order Police Dept.', 25th May 1961. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A sign in Jackson, Mississippi which reads ‘Waiting Room For Colored Only by order Police Dept.’, 25th May 1961. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Some say that the United States is a country that tolerates other nationalities. Does it really?

Some states of the United States still incarcerate a high proportion of blacks than apartheid South Africa did. Today the black-white wealth gap in the United States is greater than what it was at the peak of apartheid in South Africa in 1970.

On rare occasions, individual citizens challenged public segregation in the United States, but their effirts had minimal impact on civil rights issues. In some locales, in addition to segregated seating in buses, it could be forbidden for stores or restaurants to serve different races and nationalities under the same roof.

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Rosa Parks, an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.
Rosa Parks, an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

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In December 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus for a white passenger. Parks’ civil disobedience sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This act of defiance by Rosa Parks became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement, and Parks became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

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Sureshbhai Patel (Source: huffingtopost.in)
Sureshbhai Patel (Source: huffingtopost.in)

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In Alabama, where the vestiges of segregation still linger on, Indian citizens have to be careful while walking on the streets. The case of the 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel clearly illustrates the attitude of the white segregationists. And, sadly, it is the guardians of peace, who resort to brutality.

The following video includes a footage captured on the morning of February 6, 2015 by the dash cam of a car, shows an inglorious scene of two Alabama police officers using  disproportionate force and slamming a frail Sureshbhai Patel to the ground. Sureshbhai Patel was out strolling near his son’s house in Madison, Alabama. He had arrived only the previous day from India to see his 17-month-old grandson. Sureshbhai Patel is now partially paralyzed and hospitalized in a city hospital.

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 Madison City Policeman Eric Parker, who assaulted the 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel (Source: dlatimes.com)
Madison City Policeman Eric Parker, who assaulted the 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel (Source: dlatimes.com)

The police officer Eric Parker, who assaulted Patel has been arrested for third-degree assault. Madison City Police chief Larry Muncey has offered apologies to Patel and his family and has said the Federal Bureau of Investigation will look into the incident.

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Ra Paulette, the Cave-digging Artist


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Myself  

By T.V. Antony Raj

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It has a lot to do with the juxtaposition of opposites: the sense of being underground with the light streaming in; the intimacy of being in a cave, yet the columns end up very large, sometimes thirty to forty feet high.  - Ra Paulette in an interview, 2014

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Ra Paulette, the American cave sculptor
Ra Paulette, the American cave sculptor

For the past 25 years, 67-year-old Ra Paulette, an American cave sculptor based in New Mexico has been carving out caves from the sandstone hills of New Mexico. He digs, shovels, scrapes, and bores into hillsides. He then sculpts elaborate artistic spaces inside these caves. He turns the underground sculpted spaces into works of art. And, his caves attract visitors worldwide.

Ra Paulette grew up in  La Porte, LaPorte County, Indiana, United States, along the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1985, he moved to the small town of Dixon in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, near the Rio Grande about 35 miles north of Santa Fe.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Ra Paulette began creating underground art. When he roamed the rugged terrain of the remote backcountry and found a promising spot on the side of a sandstone cliff he would start digging with his pickaxe. He works with rudimentary hand tools such as shovels, pick axes, and scrapers. Paulette never studied architecture, sculpting or structural engineering in a formal school. He is self-taught.

In 1987 Paulette finished his first cave using a shovel and buckets and a wheelbarrow. He called the “Heart Chamber.” Later on, he described it to a historian as “a secret place for me, a private place, a hermitage.” The Heart Chamber had many visitors and it almost developed into a public shrine. The cave was on public land and he had dug it without permission from the authorities. Fearing it might collapse on a visitor, he buried the chamber and sealed it off.

The Jemez Mountains are a volcanic group of mountains in New Mexico, United States. Located in the rural Ojo Caliente River Valley, approximately halfway between is the Rancho de San Juan, the 225-acre Relais & Chateaux Country Inn and Restaurant. David Heath and John H. Johnson II, the owners of the ranch had moved to the area from California to open the elegant Resort.

In June 1994, Ra Paulette approached the owners of Rancho de San Juan. He showed them pictures of the Heart Chamber and asked them if they would like to commission him to dig a shrine on their property. At first the owners were reluctant. After several months 0f persistence by Paulette, they relented. They wanted their guests to have a view of the surrounding impressive landscape from their ranch. They commissioned Ra Paulette to open the interior of the natural butte. Heath and Johnson paid him between $10 and $16 per hour for his work.

"Windows in the Earth" shrine  was carved over 2 1/2 years.
“Windows in the Earth” shrine was carved over 2 1/2 years.

It took two and a half years for Ra Paulette to create the “Windows in the Earth Shrine.” It is a chamber with lofty arched ceilings and imposing columns. Long windows fill the chambers with light. The windows provide a spectacular panorama of the magnificent Jemez Mountains. Inside the sandstone cave, one can enjoy the art created by Ra Paulette. He has carved all sorts of shapes on the interior sandstone walls: scallops, molded curves, smooth ledges, inlaid stones, narrow pods and crusty ledges. There is space to meditate and write. Even high desert weddings take place there.

Later on, Ra Paulette created more than a dozen caves. He spent months and in some cases he toiled for years on each of them.

Ra Paulette's cave
Ra Paulette’s cave
Ra Paulette's cave
Ra Paulette’s cave
Ra Paulette's cave
Ra Paulette’s cave
Ra Paulette's cave
Ra Paulette’s cave

Needless to say, the work of Ra Paulette was backbreaking. He carved out rooms, connected tunnels, created alcoves and arches, benches, steps, pillars, etc. He decorated the surfaces with sculpted shapes and chiseled ornamental patterns. He broke through walls and ceilings to create windows and skylights to bring in sunlight to the dark underground spaces.

Martha Mendoza, a reviewer in the Los Angeles Times described the caves of Ra Paulette as hallowed places and as a sanctuary for prayer and meditation. Many connoisseurs of art describe the caves of Ra Paulette as works of art.

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We Wish You All A Happy New Year 2015!


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Myself  

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Happy New Year 2015

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May Love, Joy, Happiness be bestowed on all our relatives and friends Around the World!

My wife and I Wish You All
A Happy New Year 2015!

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A Nimble Fingered Artist


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Myself  

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Panoramic view of Málaga from Gibralfaro (Photo: Kiban)
Panoramic view of Málaga from Gibralfaro (Photo: Kiban)

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The City of Málaga is the capital of the Province of Málaga, in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, Spain. The cynosure of the city is the Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación, the Cathedral of Málaga. It is  a Renaissance Catholic church.

Nimble fingered artist

Outside the Cathedral, one can find a nimble-fingered street artist.  He paints three pictures in three minutes. He sells his masterpieces for mere 10 Euros.

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Harvesting and Packing Bananas


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Bananas (Source: southernstudies.org)
Bananas (Source: southernstudies.org)

The banana is a perennial plant. People around the world consume 15 million tons of dessert bananas per year.

The banana plants grow well in tropical countries that lie within 30 degrees on either side of the equator. In these regions, the average temperature is 80°F (27°C) and the yearly rainfall is between 78 and 98 inches. The banana plant requires moist soil that drains well.

United States and Britain import bananas from Latin America. In Britain, bananas are also imported from West Africa.

Bananas do not grow from a seed, but from a bulb or rhizome. It replaces itself. The flower appears in the sixth or seventh month.

Banana plants
Banana plants

It takes from 9 to 12 months to harvest a banana bunch after the planting. There is no growing season for bananas and so they are available throughout the year.

Harvesting bananas
Harvesting bananas

After growing for three months, the bananas are harvested while still green and  sent to he packing centers for export. Since the buyers in the United States and the UK prefer unbruised bananas, the packaging centers set high standards for inspection and sorting. The bananas that do not meet the standards are sold cheaply to the locals.

After packing the selected bananas in specially designed cartons, they are taken to ports and loaded onto refrigerated ships called reefers. In the ships, the bananas are handled with care to prevent damage. To maintain quality during the voyage humidity, ventilation and temperature conditions are carefully monitored. The fruits are held at 13.3°C to increase their shelf life during transport.

Founded in Hawaii in 1851, Dole Food Company, Inc., is the world’s largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables.

Here is an interesting video clip from DOLE on “Harvesting and Packing Bananas.”

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Tea Act of 1773 and the Boston Tea Party


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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For thousands of years, indigenous peoples lived in the vast expanse of land that is now known as the United States of America. They developed their own complex cultures before the arrival of the European colonists. The Spanish had early settlements in Florida and the Southwest. The French settled along the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast.

After 1600, most of the colonists in these new-found lands were from England. By the 1770s, there were 13 British colonies along the Atlantic coast east of the Appalachian Mountains. About two and a half million people populated these colonies.

In early 1770s, the British East India Company was in financial difficulties. It held a massive surplus of tea in its London warehouses. The English Parliament presented the Tea Act of 1773 to help the struggling company survive. This Act was also promulgated to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain’s North American colonies.

The Tea Act of 1773 granted the British East India Company the right to ship its tea directly to North America. The Company also received the right to duty-free export of tea from Britain. Yet, the tax imposed by the Townshend Acts and collected in the colonies remained in force. The Tea Act received the royal assent on May 10, 1773. (See my article: The Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773).

The colonies did not send representatives to the British Parliament. Hence, they had no influence over the taxes raised, levied, or how they were spent. So, they objected to the Tea Act. They believed the Act violated their rights as Englishmen in America to be taxed without their consent. They raised the slogan: “NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.”

In September and October 1773, seven ships carrying East India Company’s tea set sail to the American colonies. The ships carried more than 2,000 chests containing about 600,000 pounds of tea. Four ships were bound for Boston and one each for New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.

The Americans learned the details of the Tea Act only after the ships were en route. Whigs was a nickname for the Patriots, who sometimes called themselves the “Sons of Liberty”. They mobilized a coalition of merchants and artisans to oppose the delivery and distribution of the inbound tea.

The Whigs began a campaign to raise awareness about the implications of the provisions in the Tea Acts. They opposed the Acts which implicitly agreed to accept the right of taxation by the English Parliament.

Benjamin Franklin - one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Benjamin Franklin – one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Benjamin Franklin said the British were trying to use cheap tea to “overcome all the patriotism of an American”.

Benjamin Rush, a Founding Father of the United States from the state of Pennsylvania, urged his fellow Americans to oppose the landing of the tea. He said the cargo contained “the seeds of slavery”.

On October 16, 1773, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Colonel William Bradford, Thomas Mifflin, Dr. Thomas Cadwalader, and other local leaders and members of the Philadelphia Sons of Liberty organized a meeting at the Pennsylvania State House. They adopted eight resolutions. One resolution stated:

That the duty imposed by Parliament upon tea landed in America is a tax on the Americans, or levying contributions on them without their consent.

The most important one read:

That the resolution lately entered into by the East India Company, to send out their tea to America subject to the payment of duties on its being landed here, is an open attempt to enforce the ministerial plan, and a violent attack upon the liberties of America.

These declarations, printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette,  comprised the first public protest against the importation of taxed tea from England.

Samuel Adams -  one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Samuel Adams – one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

In Boston, Whig leader Samuel Adams called for a mass meeting at Faneuil Hall. Three weeks later, on November 5, 1773, at a town meeting at Faneuil Hall the Bostonians adopted the same resolutions that Philadelphians had promulgated earlier. In their resolution the Bostonians declared:

That the Sense of the Town cannot be better expressed on this Occasion, than in the words of certain Judicious Resolves lately entered into by our worthy Brethren the Citizens of Philadelphia.

Colonial merchants, some of them smugglers of Dutch tea, joined the Whigs. They played a significant role in the protests because the Tea Act made legally imported tea cheaper. Also, the Tea Act was a threat to put an end to their smuggling business. Other legitimate importers of tea, not chosen as consignees by the British East India Company, also faced financial ruin because of the Tea Act. Most American merchants feared that this type of government-created monopoly might extend to include other goods in the future.

The Whigs convinced, and sometimes harassed the Company’s authorized consignees to resign. They successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in three colonies and forced the ships to turn back to England. They could not do so in Massachusetts.

The tea ship Dartmouth arrived in the Boston Harbor in late November, 1773. On November 29, a handbill posted all over Boston, contained the following words:

Friends! Brethren! Countrymen! – That worst of plagues, the detested tea, shipped for this port by the East India Company, is now arrived in the harbor.

That day Whig leader, Samuel Adams called for a mass meeting, at Faneuil Hall. As thousands of people arrived, the meeting shifted to a larger venue – the Old South Meeting House. The assembled passed a resolution, introduced by Adams, urging the captain of the Dartmouth to turn back to England without paying the import duty. Meanwhile, the meeting assigned twenty-five men to watch the ship and prevent unloading of the tea from the ship.

British law required the Dartmouth to unload its cargo of tea and pay the customs duties within twenty days . If the customs duties were not paid within that time, the customs officials could confiscate the cargo.

Thomas Hutchinson, the last civilian Royal Governor of the Massachusetts Colony..
Thomas Hutchinson, the last civilian Royal Governor of the Massachusetts Colony..

Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to grant permission for the Dartmouth to leave Boston without paying the duty. He convinced the tea consignees, two of whom were his sons, not to back down.

Two more tea ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor. Another ship, the William headed for Boston encountered a storm and sank before it could reach Boston.

On December 16th, the last day of the Dartmouth’s deadline to pay the customs duties, about 7,000 people gathered around the Old South Meeting House.

After receiving the report that Governor Hutchinson had refused to let the ships leave, Samuel Adams announced: “This meeting can do nothing further to save the country”.

Immediately, people poured out of the Old South Meeting House. Samuel Adams tried to reassert control of the meeting, but the throng headed out to prepare to take action.

Some donned elaborately prepared Mohawk costumes, disguising their faces, because of the illegality of their protest. Dressing as a Mohawk warrior was a specific and symbolic choice. In the evening of December 16, 1773, they boarded the three vessels – Dartmouth, Eleanor and the Beaver. Over the course of three hours, they dumped 342 chests of tea into the water.

Eventually, the Boston Tea Party proved to be one of the many courses that culminated in the American Revolutionary War.

 

Click on the image below to see video

Boston Tea Party - 02.
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Audi’s Amazing Self-parking Car


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Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

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Audi's self parking A7 being tested in Las Vegas (Source: dailymail.co.uk)
Audi’s self parking A7 being tested in Las Vegas (Source: dailymail.co.uk)

In most countries, the test for parking is one of the hardest task before getting a license to drive a car. For most of us parking a car might not be the easiest of all manoeuvres. Now, electronic gadgets take over much of the guess work.

At the beginning of last year, Audi, the German car maker whose slogan ‘Leap ahead through technology’ (German: ‘Vorsprung duech Technik‘) demonstrated a car that can park itself without the need for a driver. Audi calls it “Piloted Parking.”

This reminds us of cars from Mr. Q’s lab in James Bond films and Knight Rider’s KITT.

Audi demonstrated its self-parking car in Las Vegas. After getting out of the vehicle, at the click of a button on a smartphone, the car drives off by itself to a nearby parking garage. The car was summoned by pressing another button on the smartphone.

Here is a video clip of the Las Vegas test. The car controlled via a special app moves only in special ‘pedestrian free zones’. But Audi is developing anti-collision technology to be used in a normal car park.

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Amazing, isn’t it?

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Are Planetary Explorations Necessary?


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Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

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Planetary explorations

I don’t understand why nations spend so much on space explorations. Why don’t they explore our own planet, their own country, their own cities, their own slums, their own poor and the destitute.

Why don’t the so-called great minds like Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and their ilk tell the rulers of our nations on the futility of spending their wealth on space explorations? What can we gain from a dead planet like Mars or from a satellite like our moon?

Why don’t the nations spend all those billions to eradicate poverty and upgrade the living conditions of their fellow countrymen?

Shouldn’t charity begin at home and not on other planets!