Archive for October, 2009

Soap in Our Life

Soap has a very long history dating back to the Babylonian Empire. The chief ingredients of soap are: coconut oil, palm oil and tallow, a by-product of the frozen and canned meat trade. Sometimes oil from cotton seeds and soya beans is used. Resin from certain sorts of pine-trees goes into household soaps.

The oils are mixed together in the right proportion according to the type of soap to be made. Caustic acids are added to separate the fat from the glycerin in the oil. (Sodium hydroxide is used for household soaps. Potassium hydroxide is added for soft toilet soaps.)

The mixture is pumped into a large tank, through which pass steam pipes with holes in them. The steam pours out of the holes into the soap mixture. At the end of the pro­cess all the caustic substances get mixed with the fatty acids to make the soap, and the glycerin floats off free. Salt is added to the mixture to remove the glycerin.

Then the pumping of steam stops and the whole mix­ture is left to cool and settle, while the glycerin in the salty water is drawn through the tap at the bottom of the tank. After this it is washed and purified and used as med­ical glycerin. As the glycerin does not come off from the soap mixture at once, the soap mixture is washed several times in strong and weak salty water, with the pure soap coming to the top, and salt, and dirt running off from the bottom.

After standing for two or three days the soap, still warm, goes to another machine. There perfume is added while the soap cools. The soap goes into a large frame where it gets solid. Next it is cut into blocks, stamped and placed to get hard before it goes to the shop.

Toilet soaps take purer oils. They get more perfume and coloring. Their technology is more complicated.

Cheating on Time

Each of us has an urge to cheat on time. The same deep need which moved primitive man to consult witch doctors claiming to read the future in the patterns of blood flowing from the wound of a gored suckling pig, or which caused ancient Greeks to make the arduous journey to Parnassus to seek advice from the Oracle at Delphi, today moves people to read weather reports, tidal charts, or pre-election opinion polls.

With the wisdom of hindsight, we can see that ancient man may have been superstitious; but his arcane methods weren’t always wholly wide of the mark. Much of the vision once attributed to the magical powers of ‘prophets’ and ‘seers’ was often due to primitive, but none the less skilful, capacities to analyze past events and project their patterns on to the future. Today we call our prophets and seers scientists or psychologists, and their methods of prediction are often very sophisticated, but they fulfill the same necessary function in our lives. In some sense, they all help us to look into the future.

Only the most dogged empiricist would deny the value and validity of predictions based on sound inference from past events or from carefully assembled data, but equally it would take a solid pragmatist not on occasion to want more. Most people at some point in their lives wish that they could simply crash through the time barrier and catch a wider glimpse of what the future holds in store. Throughout history, some people have been credited with doing so.

Foreknowledge, prevision, or ‘precognition’, as the ability to see into the future is usually called today, is a difficult subject, no less so for the practiced psychic researcher than for the layman. As Gardner Murphy wrote in The Challenge of Psychical Research, ‘To make contact with that which does not yet exist is, for many, a contradiction in terms, a philosophical paradox, an outrage; or it even may be held to come under the category of “impossibility”.’ So that same mysterious ability, which tantalizes us with its promise of granting a head start on destiny at the same time offends us with its outrageous and ‘impossible’ claims – far more so than any other psychic ability.

While telepathy and psychokinesis remain problematic in the absence of any hard and fast scientific proof that they exist, were such proof forthcoming it would issue no devastating challenge to our accepted way of looking at the world. The transfer of thought from one mind to another or the physical influence of mind upon matter require at most the discovery of some new physical force or some previously undetected capacity of the human brain. Either might peacefully coexist alongside the forces and capacities that we already know. But this is not true of precognition. Solid proof that some people do indeed have foreknowledge of events in the future would challenge the most fundamental tenets of both common sense and classical physics.

Snake in the Grass

Snakes belong to the class of reptiles. They are cold-­blooded, air-breathing scaled vertebrates. There are about 2,000 kinds of snakes in the world.

There are three kinds of snakes living in England — the grass-snake, the smooth-snake and the adder, the lat­ter carrying poison (sometimes called viper, which means one that carries poison).

The grass-snake is not dangerous and will always move away when it sees a human being. The length of the grass-nake is something about three feet. Its jaws can easily take-in a whole frog. It changes its skin at certain periods. It can swim, in fact, it gets its food such as small fish, from the water. After a good meal it sleeps for a few days. In  winter the grass-snake looks for a warm place and after feeding goes to sleep for long periods. In July the female lays about ten eggs and the young ones1 hatch out. The grass-snake sometimes lives for about ten years.

The adder, a poisonous snake, has a series of dark V’s down its back, as in the picture. It is shorter and thicker in the body than the grass-snake and can be easily noticed.

In olden times snakes were believed to have some mysterious influence 2 and were worshipped. Today they are hunted and killed simply because people do not know the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes.