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Ancient Greek Philosophers

The Philosophers' School

Western philosophy is based on the early Greek philosophers, especially Socrates as told by Plato. Socrates was so influential that all Greek philosophy prior to him is called Pre-Socratic. The single most important concept of the pre-Socratic philosophers was the emphasis on reason as opposed to myth. Thales of Miletus was called the first philosopher by Aristotle.  Scientific study  and the study of knowledge were components of philosophy.

Classical Greek Philosophy originated in the 5th century BC centered in Athens which was a center of learning for math, science, and philosophy.  The statesman Pericles supported the philosophers.  The conservatives in Athens, however, did not.  Several were forced to flee after being accused and having their work destroyed.  Socrates was tried and executed by those conservatives. 


Socrates introduced philosophy to the public at large.   He introduced the Socratic method which used a question and answer method of discourse to examine various issues. Socrates taught that no one desires what is bad, and so if anyone does something that truly is bad it must be unwillingly or out of ignorance; consequently, all virtue is knowledge. Subsequent philosophical movements were inspired by Socrates or his young associates.


Plato was an Athenian who was a student of Socrates. Plato, the primary source about Socrates, wrote a series of “dialogues” and letters about Plato. Plato, as the author of The Republic, suggested that there will not be justice in cities unless they are ruled by philosopher kings; those responsible for enforcing the laws are compelled to hold their women, children, and property in common; and the individual is taught to pursue the common good through myths that he called noble laws. 


Aristotle was the last of the classical Greek trio of philosophers. He enrolled in Plato’s Academy.  He left Athensand became the Alexander the Great’s tutor. He later returned to Athensand founded his own school, the Lyceum.  Aristotle disagreed with Plato extensively in general focusing on the importance of empirical and practical concerns. The Romans embraced Greek philosophy around the 2nd century BC and later developed their own schools of philosophy. More about them another day.

Tomorrow, Neolithic Britain: The Henges         Rita Bay

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Mythic Heroes: The Trojan War

The god Ares Fighting

In the story of the Trojan War, Prince Paris of Troy abducted Helen, the wife of the Greek King Menelaus, and returned with her to Troy.  The Greeks attacked Troy which fell after 10 years.  The ancient Greeks believed that the Trojan War was an historical event that had taken place in the 13th or 12th century BC but by modern times Troy was considered a myth.  In the 19th century, however, after extensive research German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated several layers of the ancient city ofTroy. 

Achilles & His Weapons

In Greek stories relating the conquest of Troy, the Greeks took almost ten years to conquer Troy with great loss of life on both sides.  Even the Greek gods took sides during the fighting. The Trojan Hector killed the hero Patroclus who was wearing Achilles armor.  Maddened over his friend’s death, the hero Achilles who thanks to his mother was invulnerable killed the Trojan Hector and drug him around the walls of Troy. Achilles also killed the Trojan Memnon but was  killed himself by Paris who shot an arrow into his heel.

The Trojan Horse

The Trojan Laocoön warned the Trojans about bringing the Trojan horse intoTroy, recommending that they burn it instead.  His advice was the source of the well-known saying, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”  He was ignored and the Trojan Horse was brought into Troy.  Later, the Greeks concealed within the Trojan Horse exited by a trapdoor, opened the gates to the Greek army, defeated the Trojans and destroyed the city.  Lacooan and his sons were killed by a serpent for warning of the danger.

Laocoan & His Sons

Tomorrow, Prophecy & Healing  Rita Bay

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The Hubble Telescope

The Hubble Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a telescope that was carried into orbit in 1990 and placed in low Earth orbit. Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely sharp images with almost no background light.  It is a permanent resident of space, set up and maintained by astronauts.

The HST was initially funded in the 1970s, built by NASA and operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute. It has an 8 ft. aperture which can observe from the near ultraviolet, visible, to near infrared. The Hubble has helped to resolve some long-standing problems in astronomy, as well as turning up results that have required new theories to explain them. Hubble can perform high-resolution observations of any part of the night sky, and on objects that are extremely faint. It is scheduled to be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2018.

Tomorrow, The Last Flight: the US Space Shuttle Fleet Retired    Rita Bay

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High Tech Space Tech

High Tech Swim Suit

Although the US Space program accounts for less than 1% of the US budget, it provides many benefits related to the exploration of a new frontier and technologies that improve our lives. For every dollar the U.S. spends on Research and Development in the US Space Program, it gets back $7 back in corporate and personal income taxes from increased jobs and economic growth. Even more jobs are created by other companies applying NASA technology in non-space related areas.

Cell Phone Camera

    Consumer benefits of NASA work include cordless power tools and appliances, home smoke detectors, advances in home insulation, radiation barriers, ion filtering clean water systems.  Other spin-offs include: scratch resistant lenses, high-density batteries, trash compactors, shock-absorbing helmets, home security systems, composite golf clubs, smoke detectors, flat panel televisions, freeze-dried technology, sports bras, hang gliders, quartz crystal timing equipment, and more.    

High Tech Walker

    Medical benefits from NASA technology include improved digital mammograms from Hubble technology;  advanced eye screening, ultrasound scanners, MRIs, cataract surgery tools, arteriosclerosis detection, automatic insulin pump, and a portable x-ray.

     Computer technology advances from NASA include virtual reality systems, microcomputers, advanced keyboards, laser surveying, compact discs, database management systems, specialized aircraft controls, and much more.

     Environmental benefits from NASA technology include advances in the utilization of solar energy; efficient forest management through a satellite scanning system that monitors and maps forestation; improved monitoring of oil spills, water pollution, and air pollution; monitoring, mapping the growth of cities, flood control and more. Other spin-offs include environmental control sensors, energy-saving air conditioning systems, air purification systems, sewage treatment systems, pollution control and measuring devices, a whale identification method, and an earthquake prediction system.

Tomorrow,  The Hubble Telescope     Rita Bay

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Reagan Consoles a Nation

Reagan Giving Challenger Address

The night of the Challenger disaster (January 28, 1986) President Ronald Reagan rescheduled his State of the Union address and gave a national address (written by Peggy Noonan) on the Challenger disaster  from the Oval Office of the White House.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven: we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Thank you.

Tomorrow,  High Tech Tech    Rita Bay

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The Challenger Disaster

The Challenger Crew

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger launched with astronauts Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. The press coverage for the flight and launch was extensive because teacher Christa McAuliffe was the first teacher of the Teacher in Space Project to travel into space.


The Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight at 11:38 EST at 48,000 feet.  The Shuttle disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in the deaths of its seven crew members.  The right solid rocket booster (SRB) O-ring seal (which was not certified to function at the frigid 18 degrees of the launch day) failed at liftoff, allowing pressurized hot gas from within the solid rocket motor to escape outside and come into contact with and caused the failure of the adjacent SRB attachment hardware and the external fuel tank.  Aerodynamic forces of 20 Gs promptly broke up the orbiter.

Challenger Breaks Apart

The shuttle had no escape system and the astronauts did not survive the 200 mph impact of the crew compartment with the ocean surface. The crew compartment and many other vehicle fragments were recovered from the ocean floor.  The final report concluded that the cause of death of the astronauts could not be determined.  Their deaths plunged the nation into mourning.  President Reagan consoled the nation when he spoke soon after the incident.

Tomorrow, President Reagan Consoles a Nation   Rita Bay

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Living on the International Space Station

Sleeping on the ISS

Although the International Space Station (ISS) is an exotic environment, it is the astronauts’ home for months at a time.  They must still eat, sleep, work, and exercise just as they would on Earth. The ISS was designed to make life as comfortable as possible for the astronauts within the space constraints of about two football fields.  The atmosphere is bright and spacious.  The temperature is maintained at a cool 70 degrees. 

Eating on the ISS

Each crew member has a private area where they sleep about 8.5 hours daily anchored down in their bed so they won’t float away. The weightless environment makes personal hygiene difficult.  Astronauts use a freshwater hose to take showers, shampoo, and rinse off—then a second vacuum hose to suction off the dirty water. A modified toilet uses flowing air instead of water to dispose of waste.  Astronauts wear regular clothing on the ISS.   The space station is equipped with microwave ovens and refrigerators that allow astronauts to eat regular foods.

Tomorrow,   Space Does a Body Good?     Rita Bay

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