Wednesday, December 31, 2008

433)Between a Rock and a Hard Place; Rock Crystal on Roofs beckoning Scintillating Sunlight; for Ismailis December '08 was all about Rocks and Symbols

"When I invited Professor Maki, a master of form and light, to design this building, I made a suggestion to him - one that I hoped would help connect this place symbolically to the Faith of Islam. The suggestion I made focused on creating a certain mystique, centred around the beautiful mysteries of rock crystal.Why rock crystal? Because of its translucency, its multiple planes, and the fascination of its colours - all of which present themselves differently as light moves around them. The hues of rock crystal are subtle, striking and widely varied - for they can be clear or milky, white, or rose coloured, or smoky, or golden, or black.It is because of these qualities that rock crystal seems to be such an appropriate symbol of the profound beauty and the ever-unfolding mystery of Creation itself – and the Creator. As the Holy Quran so powerfully affirms, “Allah is the Creator and the Master of the heavens and the earth.” And then it continues: “Everything in the heavens and on earth, and everything between them, and everything beneath the soil, belongs to Him.”But in Islamic thought, as in this building, beauty and mystery are not separated from intellect - in fact, the reverse is true."(Aga Khan IV, Inaugural of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa, Canada, December 6th 2008)

"As we use our intellect to gain new knowledge about Creation, we come to see even more profoundly the depth and breadth of its mysteries. We explore unknown regions beneath the seas - and in outer space. We reach back over hundreds of millions of years in time. Extra-ordinary fossilised geological specimens seize our imagination - palm leaves, amethyst flowers, hedgehog quartz, sea lilies, chrysanthemum and a rich panoply of shells. Indeed, these wonders are found beneath the very soil on which we tread - in every corner of the world - and they connect us with far distant epochs and environments. And the more we discover, the more we know, the more we penetrate just below the surface of our normal lives - the more our imagination staggers. Just think for example what might lie below the surfaces of celestial bodies all across the far flung reaches of our universe. What we feel, even as we learn, is an ever-renewed sense of wonder, indeed, a powerful sense of awe – and of Divine inspiration."(Aga Khan IV, Ottawa, Canada, December 6th 2008)

"The Holy Qur’an sees the discovery of knowledge as a spiritual responsibility, enabling us to better understand and more ably serve God’s creation. Our traditional teachings remind us of our individual obligation to seek knowledge unto the ends of the earth - and of our social obligation to honor and nurture the full potential of every human life."(Aga Khan IV, May 2oth 2008, Dhaka, Bangladesh)

"......The Quran tells us that signs of Allah’s Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation - in the heavens and the earth, the night and the day, the clouds and the seas, the winds and the waters...."(Aga Khan IV, Kampala, Uganda, August 22 2007)

"The Quran very often refers to nature as a reflection of Allah's power of creation and says: Look at the mountains, look at the rivers, look at the trees, look at the flowers all as evidence of Allah's love for the people whom He has created. Today I look at this environment and I say that I beleive that Allah is smiling upon you, may His smile always be upon you"(Aga Khan IV, Khorog, Tajikistan, May 27th 1995)

“Muslims believe in an all-encompassing unit of man and nature. To them there is no fundamental division between the spiritual and the material while the whole world, whether it be the earth, sea or air, or the living creatures that inhabit them, is an expression of God’s creation.”(Aga Khan IV, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, 13 April 1984)

"Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God's signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order."(Aga Khan III, Karachi, Pakistan, April 4th 1952)

"The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being"(Aga Khan III, Karachi, Pakistan, April 4th 1952)

"Tarkib' is composition as in the compounding of elements in the process of making more complex things, that is, of adding together two things to form a synthesis, a compound. Soul composes in the sense of 'tarkib'; it is the animating force that combines the physical elements of the natural universe into beings that move and act. Incorporating is an especially apt word in this instance. It means to turn something into a body, as in 'composing'. But it is actually the conversion of an intellectual object, a thought, into a physical thing. Soul acts by incorporating reason into physical objects, the natural matter of the universe and all the things composed of it"(Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani,10th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist, d971CE, from the book, 'Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary', by Paul Walker)

Sura 36, Ayat 33: 'And a sign for them is the way in which we have given life to the earth that is dead: We quickened it and brought forth from it grain, of which they eat'(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)


How rocks evolve

Nov 13th 2008
From The Economist print edition

It is not just living organisms that evolve. Minerals do too, and much of their diversity has arisen in tandem with the evolution of life

EVOLUTION has come a long way since Charles Darwin’s time. Today it is not only animals and plants that are seen as having evolved over time, but also things that involve the hand of humans, like architecture, music, car design and even governments. Now rocks, too, seem to be showing evolutionary characteristics.

Rocks are made from minerals, which like all matter are composed of individual chemical elements. What makes minerals special is the way that the atoms of those elements are arranged in lattices which create unique crystalline structures and shapes. Today more than 4,000 different minerals can be found on Earth. When the planet began to be formed, however, few existed.

Curious as to how this great variety came about, Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, DC, and a team of colleagues set out on their own voyage of discovery. Their study, just published in American Mineralogist, explores the history of minerals by identifying how much of the diversity was created by the rocks alone and how much of it was created by the evolution of life.

Before the formation of the sun and planets, all the chemical elements found on the periodic table were floating around in the primordial dust of the Solar System. Some elements were more common than others, but everything from argon to zinc was there. Minerals, however, were almost entirely absent. Only a handful, like diamonds and olivine, could be found, having been formed far away in exploding stars.

Out of the void

Minerals form from chemical elements in only a few ways. They can crystallise when molten lava becomes a solid; they can be left behind as residues when water carrying dissolved elements evaporates, or they can be deposited in water when concentrations of dissolved elements get too high. In one way or another, atoms of different elements are brought close together to form their crystalline lattices. And once some minerals are formed, more can be created chemically. Usually this happens by exposing minerals to agents that rip away electrons, just as oxygen does during oxidation.

As the planets congealed, gravitational forces and particle collisions created the high temperatures necessary to melt metals floating around in space, and minerals began their diversification. Once the sun and planets took shape, heat became readily available in the form of solar radiation, asteroid impacts, and gravitational pressure. Magma appeared in abundance and in some locations formed vast molten oceans. Dr Hazen and his team speculate from meteorite and early rock studies that several hundred mineral species, including zircon, quartz, clay and halite salt crystals, formed during this early period of mineral evolution.

Although Mercury and the Moon never progressed beyond the planetary-congealing stage, volcanic activity on Mars, Venus and Earth created powerful forces that caused further mineral diversification. Much of it resulted from volcanoes blasting out gases like carbon dioxide and water vapour, which allowed ice (also a mineral) to form near the poles of Earth, and possibly on Mars too.

Plate tectonics, the formation of faults and the moving of the continental crust over a molten interior, is a characteristic unique to Earth and it meant that minerals evolved far beyond those on any other planet in the Solar System. These epic processes melted and reprocessed vast amounts of rock and concentrated chemical elements in new ways. Massive ore deposits of copper, lead, zinc, silver, gold and other metals formed in this way.

Over 1,500 minerals are thought to have formed on Earth before the beginnings of life some four billion years ago. Obviously, minerals do not have genes and thus cannot mutate as living things do. Nevertheless, when life appeared, the evolution of minerals and the diversity of life became entwined.

Microscopic algae, the earliest living organisms, drew carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and expelled oxygen. Over millions of years this created an oxygen-rich atmosphere that rapidly removed electrons from minerals near the surface, creating rust out of iron and forming thousands of new minerals from other metals like nickel, copper and uranium.

Living stones

In the oceans, as animals with hard parts evolved, their bodies mineralised shells and skeletons for protection and support. Corals too started combining the calcium and carbonate that was floating freely in the water to construct reefs. All of the materials that animals made started to litter the sea floor and this vast accumulation of bone, shell and coral got pressed together into a mineral known as calcite.

On the land, plants produced acids around their roots that converted minerals of volcanic origin, like mica, feldspar and pyroxene, into clay minerals that ultimately formed intensely rich soils. This explains why volcanic islands like Hawaii are so lush.

New minerals created by living things continue to turn up. One of the most recent discoveries was by Hexiong Yang, who named it Hazenite as a tribute to Dr Hazen, his former teacher. Hazenite is a mineral formed by microbes in the highly alkaline Mono Lake in California.
Understanding just how dramatically life shapes minerals will play an important role in the exploration of the universe, says Dr Hazen. Knowing which minerals form at different stages of a planet’s evolution, and which depend upon life to be present, are crucial to understanding the mineralogy of other planets and moons.

With NASA’s Messenger probe now going into orbit around Mercury, Dr Hazen predicts that it will find only 300 or so minerals on the planet. If there are 500-1,000 detected, then it will suggest that there is a lot more to Mercury than anyone originally thought. And if minerals that depend upon life for their formation show up, then researchers will be flummoxed. The same is true for Mars and other planets—including the exoplanets that have been known about but which have just been seen for the first time orbiting stars outside the Solar System (see article). Dr Hazen argues that considering minerals in evolutionary terms is a powerful way to help identify how far a planet has developed geologically. Moreover it can tell you whether life was present at some point—and even whether it is present now.

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)