Be Informed: Who are Sikhs and what do they believe?

Sikhism, the world’s fifth most popular religion, emerged more than 500 years ago in Punjab, in what is now India. It was founded by Guru Nanak, a non-practicing Hindu who was against rituals and praying to idols.

It is a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others.

Doing good deeds is important for you to be with God after death, says Raghunandan Johar. Sikhs believe that if you don’t live a life full of good deeds you will be reborn and repeat the circle of life and death.

At a typical gurdwara (temple), the doors open up at 6 a.m. for prayers. A formal service includes the singing of hymns and a team of leaders who have studied the faith reciting from the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy scriptures. That book, more than 1,400 pages long, includes writings from Sikhism’s 10 gurus as well as writers from other religions.

Most Sikh men don’t cut their hair and wear turbans and beards. Many American Sikh women dress like other Westerners or wear the salwar kameez, a traditional north Indian garment of a long shirt and loose-fitting pants.

 

Learn more: CNN – Explainer: Who are Sikhs and what do they believe?

 

 

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What is the Higgs boson and why does it matter? (in simple terms)

What is the Higgs boson and why does it matter? (in simple terms)

If you remember basic chemistry, the atom is made up a proton, neutron, and electron. Those were the basic building blocks of life when I was a kid. I remember illustrations showing the neutron and proton in the center with the electron orbiting around it.

In the 1960’s several physicists starting thinking about things smaller than atoms, called sub-atomic. They developed several theories about these sub-atoms until the 1970s, when one model stood out. This is called the Standard Model of physics.

In that model, there are 12 particles and 4 forces. The particles are called quarks and leptons, and the forces are called – strong, weak, gravity, and electromagnetic.

The forces are the most important because they describe some pretty amazing things. For example, the electromagnetic force is carried by a particle of light, called a photon. The photon has infinite range and great strength, giving the light of stars the ability to travel thousands of light years to be seen on Earth.

The force of gravity is carried by a particle called a graviton. It also has an infinite range but a very weak strength. For example, the Sun exerts a powerful pull on the Earth because it is very close, but when you get farther away that strength becomes minimal. It does not have the range that the photon does.

Both of these particles, and all of the particles that involve energy, are called bosons. These bosons are sub-atomic particles that transfer energy to each other.

Now, the interesting thing is figuring out why these photons can travel for infinite ranges, when other particles can barely keep moving.

The leading theory, calls for a Higgs field that covers the entire universe. It is an energy field made up of a particle called the Higgs boson. When a particle travels through the universe it either attracts the Higgs boson or pushes it away. If it attracts the Higgs boson then they combine to form matter and gain all the properties of mass (weight, gravity, etc.). If it repels the Higgs boson then it continues to travel as a form of energy over an infinite range (light).

The combination of the Higgs boson with other particles creates life as we know it, the matter that makes up humans, plants, rocks, etc. This is most likely the reason why it has come to be called the “God particle.”

The forces that ignore the Higgs boson do so at varying degrees. Photons of light ignore it completely. Other particles attract some Higgs bosons and slow down, eventually limiting their range and strength.

Of course, none of this was certain because scientists were unable to see the Higgs boson. Being a sub-atomic particle it is invisible to the naked eye and undetectable in a lab. It puts us in a weird predicament, how do you find something that you are not even sure exists?

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider solves that problem for us. This gigantic particle accelerator allows us to speed up particles and smash them together. Specifically, it smashes together hadrons which are multiple particles combined together.

When these particles are smashed together the scientists observe what happens. If everything acts like the Higgs theory says it does (i.e. there is a Higgs field with Higgs bosons that slow some particles but not photons), then they have proof.

With that proof the scientists of the world can move on to other more complex problems. Areas where this model falls short like with dark energy or the full theory of gravitation.

Another step in our greater understanding of the world. Each one allowing us to do more with energy, matter, and life.

 

Sources: CERN – the Standard Model, Guardian – What is the Higgs boson?, CERN – the Higgs boson, Wikipedia – Higgs boson

 

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Art exhibit – the native americans who survived the Spanish Colonial period

Here is a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:

Children of the Plumed Serpent: the Legacy of Quetzalcoatl

You may remember the name Quetzalcoatl as the so-called white-bearded God in Atzec lore. Which Hernán Cortés was supposed to represent and then use to his advantage when he conquered the greatest empire of the Americas.

That understanding is in some dispute but what is not are the enemies of the Aztecs. The Nahua, Mixtec, and Zapotec kingdoms were resisting the Aztecs when the Spaniards arrived. They quickly allied with Spain and established a thriving culture, language, and trade that survives to this day.

These cultures have a strong history and a powerful modern presence in Mexico and the United States. This exhibit presents artifacts from their ancient and colonial history. A fascinating look at Native Americans who somewhat escaped the ravages of colonialism.

The exhibition examines the art and material objects of late pre-Columbian and early colonial societies across Mexico to explore Quetzalcoatl’s role as founder and benefactor of the Nahua-, Mixtec-, and Zapotec-dominated kingdoms of southern Mexico. These socially and culturally complex communities successfully resisted both Aztec and Spanish subjugation, flourishing during an era of unprecedented international entrepreneurship and cultural innovation. On view are painted manuscripts (codices), polychrome ceramics, textiles, and exquisite works of gold, turquoise, and shell that reflect the achievements of the Children of the Plumed Serpent.

 

Learn more about the exhibit – LACMA: Children of the Plumed Serpent

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The first big controversy in Christianity? Whether Jesus was God or not

I recently listened to a podcast that brought up several interesting ideas about Christianity. The most important of which was a huge debate between Arius and Athanasius in 325 A.D., concerning the “Divinity of Jesus.”

Arius was against saying Jesus was God, while Athanasius believed Jesus definitely was. This debate had been raging for hundreds of years before these men, indeed all the way back to when Jesus was alive.

The reason why these two men come up? Politics. The Emperor of Rome, Constantine, called together all the Christian leaders of the day and asked them to pick one or the other. He hoped to stem the flood of fights and deaths that were occurring over the topic.

They agreed to banish Arius, condemning him as a heretic for his thinking (Jesus was not a God).

Of course, it didn’t work. The next Emperor brought back his ideas, now called Arianism, and condemned and exiled Athanasius.

Which was then followed by several hundred years of constant civil war over the topic.

Eventually the Arians were all killed or exiled and the dominant position became anti-Arian. Fast forward 1,500 years and today we have largely forgotten this debate. We take it for granted that Jesus was God.

But, a few churches persevere, like the Unitarians who “maintain that Jesus was a great man and a prophet of God, perhaps even a supernatural being, but not God himself.”

And, the debate rages on…