The Lovely Stones
Among the first to visit Greece’s new Acropolis Museum, devoted to the Parthenon and other temples, the author reviews the origins of a gloriously “right” structure (part of a fifth-century-b.c. stimulus plan) and the continuing outrage that half its fa?ade is still in London.
BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
The great classicist A. W. Lawrence (illegitimate younger brother of the even more famously illegitimate T.E. “of Arabia”) once remarked of the Parthenon that it is “the one building in the world which may be assessed as absolutely right.” I was considering this thought the other day as I stood on top of the temple with Maria Ioannidou, the dedicated director of the Acropolis Restoration Service, and watched the workshop that lay below and around me. Everywhere there were craftsmen and -women, toiling to get the Parthenon and its sister temples ready for viewing by the public this summer. There was the occasional whine of a drill and groan of a crane, but otherwise this was the quietest construction site I have ever seen—or, rather, heard. Putting the rightest, or most right, building to rights means that the workers must use marble from a quarry in the same mountain as the original one, that they must employ old-fashioned chisels to carve, along with traditional brushes and twigs, and that they must study and replicate the ancient Lego-like marble joints with which the master builders of antiquity made it all fit miraculously together.
Don’t let me blast on too long about how absolutely heart-stopping the brilliance of these people was. But did you know, for example, that the Parthenon forms, if viewed from the sky, a perfect equilateral triangle with the Temple of Aphaea, on the island of Aegina, and the Temple of Poseidon, at Cape Sounion? Did you appreciate that each column of the Parthenon makes a very slight inward incline, so that if projected upward into space they would eventually steeple themselves together at a symmetrical point in the empyrean? The “rightness” is located somewhere between the beauty of science and the science of beauty.
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With me on my tour was Nick Papandreou, son and grandson of prime ministers and younger brother of the Socialist opposition leader, who reminded me that the famously fluted columns are made not of single marble shafts but of individually carved and shaped “drums,” many of them still lying around looking to be re-assembled. On his last visit, he found a graffito on the open face of one such. A certain Xanthias, probably from Thrace, had put his name there, not thinking it would ever be seen again once the next drum was joined on. Then it surfaced after nearly 2,500 years, to be briefly glimpsed (by men and women who still speak and write a version of Xanthias’s tongue) before being lost to view once more, this time for good. On the site, a nod of respect went down the years, from one proud Greek worker to another.
The original construction of the Parthenon involved what I call Periclean Keynesianism: the city needed to recover from a long and ill-fought war against Persia and needed also to give full employment (and a morale boost) to the talents of its citizens. Over tremendous conservative opposition, Pericles in or about the year 450 b.c. pushed through the Athenian Assembly a sort of stimulus package which proposed a labor-intensive reconstruction of what had been lost or damaged in the Second Persian War. As Plutarch phrases it in his Pericles:
The house-and-home contingent, no whit less than the sailors and sentinels and soldiers, might have a pretext for getting a beneficial share of the public wealth. The materials to be used were stone, bronze, ivory, gold, ebony and cypress-wood; the arts which should elaborate and work up these materials were those of carpenter, molder, bronze-smith, stone-cutter, dyer, veneerer in gold and ivory, painter, embroiderer, embosser, to say nothing of the forwarders and furnishers of the material It came to pass that for every age almost, and every capacity, the city’s great abundance was distributed and shared by such demands.
When we think of Athens in the fifth century b.c., we think chiefly of the theater of Euripides and Sophocles and of philosophy and politics—specifically democratic politics, of the sort that saw Pericles repeatedly re-elected in spite of complaints that he was overspending. And it’s true that Antigone was first performed as the Parthenon was rising, and Medea not all that long after the temple was finished. From drama to philosophy: Socrates himself was also a stonemason and sculptor, and it seems quite possible that he too took part in raising the edifice. So Greece might have something to teach us about the arts of recovery as well. As the author of The Stones of Athens, R. E. Wycherley, puts it:
In some sense, the Parthenon must have been the work of a committee It was the work of the whole Athenian people, not merely because hundreds of them had a hand in building it, but because the assembly was ultimately responsible, confirmed appointments, and sanctioned and scrutinized the expenditure of every drachma.
I have visited many of the other great monuments of antiquity, from Luxor and Karnak and the pyramids to Babylon and Great Zimbabwe, and their magnificence is always compromised by the realization that slaves did the heavy lifting and they were erected to show who was boss. The Parthenon is unique because, though ancient Greece did have slavery to some extent, its masterpiece also represents the willing collective work of free people. And it is open to the light and to the air: “accessible,” if you like, rather than dominating. So that to its rightness you could tentatively add the concept of “rights,” as Periclean Greeks began dimly to formulate them for the first time.
Not that the beauty and symmetry of the Parthenon have not been abused and perverted and mutilated. Five centuries after the birth of Christianity the Parthenon was closed and desolated. It was then “converted” into a Christian church, before being transformed a thousand years later into a mosque—complete with minaret at the southwest corner—after the Turkish conquest of the Byzantine Empire. Turkish forces also used it for centuries as a garrison and an arsenal, with the tragic result that in 1687, when Christian Venice attacked the Ottoman Turks, a powder magazine was detonated and huge damage inflicted on the structure. Most horrible of all, perhaps, the Acropolis was made to fly a Nazi flag during the German occupation of Athens. I once had the privilege of shaking the hand of Manolis Glezos, the man who climbed up and tore the swastika down, thus giving the signal for a Greek revolt against Hitler.
Italian president Giorgio Napolitano repatriates a fragment of a frieze depicting Artemis. By Konstantina Labropoulou/Athens News Agency.
The damage done by the ages to the building, and by past empires and occupations, cannot all be put right. But there is one desecration and dilapidation that can at least be partially undone. Early in the 19th century, Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, sent a wrecking crew to the Turkish-occupied territory of Greece, where it sawed off approximately half of the adornment of the Parthenon and carried it away. As with all things Greek, there were three elements to this, the most lavish and beautiful sculptural treasury in human history. Under the direction of the artistic genius Phidias, the temple had two massive pediments decorated with the figures of Pallas Athena, Poseidon, and the gods of the sun and the moon. It then had a series of 92 high-relief panels, or metopes, depicting a succession of mythical and historical battles. The most intricate element was the frieze, carved in bas-relief, which showed the gods, humans, and animals that made up the annual Pan-Athens procession: there were 192 equestrian warriors and auxiliaries featured, which happens to be the exact number of the city’s heroes who fell at the Battle of Marathon. Experts differ on precisely what story is being told here, but the frieze was quite clearly carved as a continuous narrative. Except that half the cast of the tale is still in Bloomsbury, in London, having been sold well below cost by Elgin to the British government in 1816 for $2.2 million in today’s currency to pay off his many debts. (His original scheme had been to use the sculptures to decorate Broomhall, his rain-sodden ancestral home in Scotland, in which case they might never have been seen again.)
Casts of the Parthenon’s west frieze, depicting preparations for the Pan-Athens procession, displayed in the Acropolis Museum. By Vasilis Vrettos/OANMA.
Ever since Lord Byron wrote his excoriating attacks on Elgin’s colonial looting, first in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812) and then in The Curse of Minerva (1815), there has been a bitter argument about the legitimacy of the British Museum’s deal. I’ve written a whole book about this controversy and won’t oppress you with all the details, but would just make this one point. If the Mona Lisa had been sawed in two during the Napoleonic Wars and the separated halves had been acquired by different museums in, say, St. Petersburg and Lisbon, would there not be a general wish to see what they might look like if re-united? If you think my analogy is overdrawn, consider this: the body of the goddess Iris is at present in London, while her head is in Athens. The front part of the torso of Poseidon is in London, and the rear part is in Athens. And so on. This is grotesque.
To that essentially aesthetic objection the British establishment has made three replies. The first is, or was, that return of the marbles might set a “precedent” that would empty the world’s museum collections. The second is that more people can see the marbles in London. The third is that the Greeks have nowhere to put or display them. The first is easily disposed of: The Greeks don’t want anything else returned to them and indeed hope to have more, rather than less, Greek sculpture displayed in other countries. And there is in existence no court or authority to which appeals on precedent can be made. (Anyway, who exactly would be making such an appeal? The Aztecs? The Babylonians? The Hittites? Greece’s case is a one-off—quite individual and unique.) As to the second: Melina Mercouri’s husband, the late movie director and screenwriter Jules Dassin, told a British parliamentary committee in 2000 that by the standard of mass viewership the sculptures should all be removed from Athens and London and exhibited in Beijing. After these frivolous and boring objections have been dealt with, we are left with the third and serious one, which is what has brought me back to Athens. Where should the treasures be safeguarded and shown?
It is unfortunately true that the city allowed itself to become very dirty and polluted in the 20th century, and as a result the remaining sculptures and statues on the Parthenon were nastily eroded by “acid rain.” And it’s also true that the museum built on the Acropolis in the 19th century, a trifling place of a mere 1,450 square meters, was pathetically unsuited to the task of housing or displaying the work of Phidias. But gradually and now impressively, the Greeks have been living up to their responsibilities. Beginning in 1992, the endangered marbles were removed from the temple, given careful cleaning with ultraviolet and infra-red lasers, and placed in a climate-controlled interior. Alas, they can never all be repositioned on the Parthenon itself, because, though the atmospheric pollution is now better controlled, Lord Elgin’s goons succeeded in smashing many of the entablatures that held the sculptures in place. That leaves us with the next-best thing, which turns out to be rather better than one had hoped.
About a thousand feet southeast of the temple, the astonishing new Acropolis Museum will open on June 20. With 10 times the space of the old repository, it will be able to display all the marvels that go with the temples on top of the hill. Most important, it will be able to show, for the first time in centuries, how the Parthenon sculptures looked to the citizens of old.
An aerial view of Athens today, with the Acropolis Museum at the bottom. By Nikos Daniilidis/OANMA.
Arriving excitedly for my preview of the galleries, I was at once able to see what had taken the Greeks so long. As with everywhere else in Athens, if you turn over a spade or unleash a drill you uncover at least one layer of a previous civilization. (Building a metro for the Olympics in 2004 was a protracted if fascinating nightmare for this very reason.) The new museum, built to the design of the French-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, has had to be mounted aboveground on 100 huge reinforced-concrete pillars, which allow you to survey the remnants of villas, drains, bathhouses, and mosaics of the recently unearthed neighborhood below. Much of the ground floor is made of glass so that natural light filters down to these excavations and gives the effect of transparency throughout. But don’t look down for too long. Raise your eyes and you will be given an arresting view of the Parthenon, from a building that has been carefully aligned to share its scale and perspective with the mother ship.
I was impatient to be the first author to see the remounted figures and panels and friezes. Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis, the head of the museum, took me to the top-floor gallery and showed me the concentric arrangement whereby the sculpture of the pediment is nearest the windows, the high-relief metopes are arranged above head height (they are supposed to be seen from below), and finally the frieze is running at eye level along the innermost wall. At any time, you can turn your head to look up and across at the architectural context for which the originals were so passionately carved. At last it will be possible to see the building and its main artifacts in one place and on one day.
The British may continue in their constipated fashion to cling to what they have so crudely amputated, but the other museums and galleries of Europe have seen the artistic point of re-unification and restored to Athens what was looted in the years when Greece was defenseless. Professor Pandermalis proudly showed me an exquisite marble head, of a youth shouldering a tray, that fits beautifully into panel No. 5 of the north frieze. It comes courtesy of the collection of the Vatican. Then there is the sculpted foot of the goddess Artemis, from the frieze that depicts the assembly of Olympian gods, by courtesy of the Salinas Museum, in Palermo. From Heidelberg comes another foot, this time of a young man playing a lyre, and it fits in nicely with the missing part on panel No. 8. Perhaps these acts of cultural generosity, and tributes to artistic wholeness, could “set a precedent,” too?
The Acropolis Museum has hit on the happy idea of exhibiting, for as long as following that precedent is too much to hope for, its own original sculptures with the London-held pieces represented by beautifully copied casts. This has two effects: It allows the visitor to follow the frieze round the four walls of a core “cella” and see the sculpted tale unfold (there, you suddenly notice, is the “lowing heifer” from Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn). And it creates a natural thirst to see the actual re-assembly completed. So, far from emptying or weakening a museum, this controversy has instead created another one, which is destined to be among Europe’s finest galleries. And one day, surely, there will be an agreement to do the right thing by the world’s most “right” structure.
Test 65 MINUTES, 52 QUESTIONS
Directions: Each passage or pair of passages below is followed by a number of questions. After reading each passage or pair, choose the best answer to each question based on what is stated or implied in the passage or passages and in any accompanying graphics (such as a table or graph)
He flourished on a signature ability: a technique for cheating the electric company by slowing down the revolutions of its meters, so cunningly performed that his customers could specify to the hundred-rupee note the desired monthly savings. In this Pakistani desert, behind Multan, where the tube wells pumped from the aquifer day and night, Nawab’s discovery eclipsed the philosopher’s stone. Some thought he used magnets, others said heavy oil or porcelain chips or a substance he found in beehives. Skeptics reported that he had a deal with the meter men. In any case, this trick guaranteed Nawab’s employment, both off and on the farm of his patron, K. K. Harouni. The farm lay strung along a narrow and pitted farm-to-market road, built in the nineteen-seventies, when Harouni still had influence in the Islamabad bureaucracy. Buff or saline-white desert dragged out between fields of sugarcane and cotton, mango orchards and clover and wheat, soaked daily by the tube wells that Nawabdin Electrician tended. Beginning the rounds of Nurpur Harouni on his itinerant mornings, summoned to a broken pump, Nawab and his bicycle bumped along, decorative plastic flowers swaying on wires sprouting from the frame. His tools, notably a three-pound ball-peen hammer, clanked in a greasy leather bag suspended from the handlebars. The farmhands and the manager waited in the cool of the banyans, planted years earlier to shade each of the tube wells. “No tea, no tea,” Nawab insisted, waving away the steaming cup.
Hammer dangling from his hand like a savage’s axe, Nawab entered the oily room housing the pump and its electric motor. Silence. The men crowded the doorway till he shouted that he must have light. He approached the offending object warily but with his temper rising, circled it, pushed it about a bit, began to take liberties with it, settled in with it, called for a cup of tea next to it, and finally began disassembling it. With his long, blunt screwdriver he cracked the shields hiding the machine’s penetralia, a screw popping loose and flying into the shadows. He took the ball-peen and delivered crafty blow. The intervention failed. Pondering the situation, he ordered one of the farmworkers to find a really thick piece of leather and to collect sticky mango sap from a nearby tree. So it went, all morning and into the afternoon, Nawab trying one thing and then another, heating the pipes, cooling them, joining wires together, circumventing switches and fuses. And yet some how, in fulfillment of the local genius for crude improvisation, the pumps continued to run. Unfortunately or fortunately, Nawab had married early in life a sweet woman of unsurpassed fertility, whom he adored, and she proceeded to bear him children spaced, if not less than nine months apart, then not that much more. And all daughters, one after another after another, until finally the looked-for son arrived, leaving Nawab with a complete set of twelve girls, ranging from toddler to age eleven, and one odd piece. If he had been governor of the Punjab, their dowries would have beggared him. For an electrician and mechanic, no matter how light-fingered, there seemed no question of marrying them all off. No moneylender in his right mind would, at any rate of interest, advance a sufficient sum to buy the necessary items for each daughter: beds, a dresser, trunks, electric fans, dishes, six suits of clothes for the groom, six for the bride, perhaps a television, and on and on and on. Another man might have thrown up his hands—but not Nawabdin. The daughters acted as a spur to his genius, and he looked with satisfaction in the mirror each morning at the face of a warrior going out to do battle. Nawab of course knew that he must proliferate his sources of revenue—the salary he received from K. K. Harouni for tending the tube wells would not even begin to suffice. He set up a one-room flour mill, run off a condemned electric motor—condemned by him. He tried his hand at fish-farming in a pond at the edge of one of his master’s fields. He bought broken radios, fixed them, and resold them. He did not demur even when asked to fix watches, although that enterprise did spectacularly badly, and earned him more kicks than kudos, for no watch he took apart ever kept time again. K. K. Harouni lived mostly in Lahore and rarely visited his farms. Whenever the old man did visit, Nawab would place himself night and day at the door leading from the servants’ sitting area into the walled grove of ancient banyan trees where the old farmhouse stood. Grizzled, his peculiar aviator glasses bent and smudged, Nawab tended the household machinery, the air-conditioners, water heaters, refrigerators, and pumps, like an engineer tending the boilers on a foundering steamer in an Atlantic gale. By his super human efforts, he almost managed to maintain K. K. Harouni in the
same mechanical cocoon, cooled and bathed and lighted and fed, that the land owner enjoyed in Lahore. Harouni, of course, became familiar with this ubiquitous man, who not only accompanied him on his tours of inspection but could be found morning and night standing on the master bed rewiring the light fixture or poking at the water heater in the bathroom. Finally, one evening at teatime, gauging the psychological moment, Nawab asked if he might say a word. The landowner, who was cheerfully filing his nails in front of a crackling rosewood fire, told him to go ahead. “Sir, as you know, your lands stretch from here to the Indus, and on these lands are fully seventeen tube wells, and to tend these seventeen tube wells there is but one man, me, your servant. In your service I have earned these gray hairs”—here he bowed his head to show the gray—“and now I cannot fulfill my duties as I should. Enough, sir, enough. I beg you, forgive me my weakness. Better a darkened house and proud hunger within than disgrace in the light of day. Release me, I ask you, I beg you.” The old man, well accustomed to these sorts of speeches, though not usually this florid, filed away at his nails and waited for the breeze to stop. “What’s the matter, Nawabdin?” “Matter, sir? Oh, what could be the matter in your service? I’ve eaten your salt for all my years. But, sir, on the bicycle now, with my old legs, and with the many injuries I’ve received when heavy machinery fell on me—I cannot any longer bicycle about like a bridegroom from farm to farm, as I could when I first had the good fortune to enter your service. I beg you, sir, let me go.” “And what is the solution?” Harouni asked, seeing that they had come to the crux. He didn’t particularly care one way or the other, except that it touched on his comfort—a matter of great interest to him. “Well, sir, if I had a motorcycle, then I could somehow limp along, at least until I train up some younger man.” The crops that year had been good, Harouni felt expansive in front of the fire, and so, much to the disgust of the farm managers, Nawab received a brand-new motorcycle, a Honda 70. He even managed to extract an allowance for gasoline. The motorcycle increased his status, gave him weight, so that people began calling him Uncle and asking his opinion on world affairs, about which he knew absolutely nothing. He could now range farther, doing much wider business. Best of all, now he could spend every night with his wife, who early in the marriage had begged to live not in Nawab’s quarters in the village but with her family in Firoza, near the only girls’ school in the area. A long straight road ran from the canal head works near Firoza all the way to the Indus, through the heart of the K. K. Harouni lands. The road ran on
the bed of an old highway built when these lands lay within a princely state. Some hundred and fifty years ago, one of the princes had ridden that way, going to a wedding or a funeral in this remote district, felt hot, and ordered that rosewood trees be planted to shade the passersby. Within a few hours, he forgot that he had given the order, and in a few dozen years he in turn was forgotten, but these trees still stood, enormous now, some of them dead and looming without bark, white and leafless. Nawab would fly down this road on his new machine, with bags and streamers hanging from every knob and brace, so that the bike, when he hit a bump, seemed to be flapping numerous small vestigial wings; and with his grinning face, as he rolled up to whichever tube well needed servicing, with his ears almost blown off, he shone with the speed of his arrival.
We depend on trust as never before. You need only glance in the direction of the current global financial tumult to appreciate this. It is not possible to know every person our lives touch. It is not possible to understand all the processes on which our lives directly or indirectly depend. For obvious reasons, academic studies that examine trust in the media have not been in short supply. How the news is produced, circulated and consumed weighs heavily on the form and force of citizenship. And yet much of the existing literature tends to reduce the tricky issue of trust to the appreciably more straightforward issue of accuracy. At some level we all understand that trust in the media is about more than veracity. By telling stories the media frames and shapes a shared sense of the world, both distant and local. This recognition led us to take a different tack. We wanted to ask the public what they expected from the news. We wanted to know what journalists expected of the public. Their varied responses revealed that trustworthiness was even more complex than we had anticipated. We realized that trust in the media was better conceptualized as something like a swirling current of shared confidences than a simple matter of belief. News connects our perception of the past, present and future. The appeal and quality of the news depends on how well journalists serve the public. During the month of March 2008, when our focus groups were taking place, the US primary elections were the biggest international news story in the British media. Every television news bulletin referred to them, every newspaper included campaign reports. Despite the
blanket coverage no one in our focus groups had even a basic understanding of what was happening; in fact, not one person realized that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton belonged to the same party. Incredibly, these findings neither dismayed nor surprised the majority of journalists we spoke to. Here was one example of journalists either complacently trusting that it is enough for the general public to simply be exposed to a story, or not trusting the public with the wit to comprehend it. Our focus groups generally distrusted coverage of issues like binge drinking. Against fashionable opinion, it quickly became apparent that members of the public in our focus groups did not generally think that journalists are dishonest. (Indeed, journalists were more likely to speak about stories being made up than focus group participants.) Instead, distrust in the media took more oblique forms. When we encountered distrust in the news—which we frequently did—it was because people felt that their expectations were not shared by news producers; that they were being told stories that were not properly explained; that their lives were being reported in ways that were not adequately researched; or that they could find more useful, reliable or amusing information elsewhere. Public trust in the media was lost when they were imagined and approached in ways that ignored or devalued their everyday experiences. This is just a basic outline of the shape of our argument. Public Trust in the News is organized systematically. First the report addresses fundamental questions about the nature of public knowledge, and the scope and role of the news media’s place within it. This is followed by three sections where we discuss concrete findings from our focus groups and the responses they prompted from news journalists, editors and bloggers. A final section summarizes our conclusions and offers some proposals for improving the relationship between the news media and the public. By linking trust to public expectations, we have tried to move away from panicky arguments about journalistic credibility. We have found public trust collapses when journalists are perceived to be reporting on social groups, areas and practices that they do not understand. Distrust happens when the news fails to address the world as the public recognize it, leaving them feeling like outsiders looking on at a drama that even the leading performers do not care if they really comprehend.
Texas gourd vines unfurl their large, flared blossoms in the dim hours before sunrise. Until they close at noon, their yellow petals and mild, squashy aroma attract bees that gather nectar and shuttle pollen from flower to flower. But “when you advertise [to pollinators], you advertise in an open communication network,” says chemical ecologist Ian Baldwin of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany. “You attract not just the good guys, but you also attract the bad guys.” For a Texas gourd plant (Cucurbita pepo variety texana), striped cucumber beetles (Acalymmavittatum) are among the very bad guys. They chew up pollen and petals, defecate in the flowers and transmit the dreaded bacterial wilt disease, an infection that can reduce an entire plant to a heap of collapsed tissue in mere days.
The gourd vine’s problem—how to attract enough pollinators but not too many beetles—is a specific case of a floral dilemma that biologists first noticed many decades ago. In 1879, Austrian botanist Anton Kerner von Marilaun published a treatise titled The Protective Means of Flowers against Unbidden Guests, in which he described glands and sticky hairs that seemed to help keep harmful insects at bay. But a century later, scientists had still barely begun to consider the contribution of a flower’s scent to those interactions; to do so would require a convergence of fieldwork, chemistry and molecular biology. “We’re just beginning to train the type of biologists who can use those tools,” Baldwin says. The resulting experiments have begun to reveal the many ways that floral fragrances may manipulate animal behavior. In one recent study, published in the February issue of Ecology, Nina Theis and Lynn Adler took on the specific problem of the Texas gourd. Its main pollinators are honey bees (Apismellifera) and specialized squash bees (Peponapispruinosa), which respond to its floral scent. The aroma includes 10 compounds, but the most abundant—and the only one that lures squash bees into traps—is 1,4-dimethoxybenzene. Intuition suggests that more of that aroma should be even more appealing to bees. “We have this assumption that a really fragrant flower is going to attract a lot of pollinators,” says Theis, a chemical ecologist at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. But, she adds, that idea hasn’t really been tested—and extra scent could well call in more beetles, too. To find out, she and Adler planted 168 Texas gourd vines in an Iowa field and, throughout the August flowering season, made half the plants more fragrant by tucking dimethoxybenzene-treated swabs deep inside their flowers. Each treated flower emitted about 45 times more fragrance than a normal one; the other half of the plants got swabs without fragrance. The researchers also wanted to know whether extra beetles would impose a double cost by both damaging flowers and deterring bees, which might not bother to visit (and pollinate) a flower laden with other insects and their feces. So every half hour throughout the experiments, the team plucked all the beetles off of half the fragrance-enhanced flowers and half the control flowers, allowing bees to respond to the blossoms with and without interference by beetles.
Finally, they pollinated by hand half of the female flowers in each of the four combinations of fragrance and beetles. Hand-pollinated flowers should develop into fruits with the maximum number of seeds, providing a benchmark to see whether the fragrance-related activities of bees and beetles resulted in reduced pollination. “It was very labor intensive,” says Theis. “We would be out there at four in the morning, three in the morning, to try and set up before these flowers open.” As soon as they did, the team spent the next several hours walking from flower to flower, observing each for two-minute intervals “and writing down everything we saw.” What they saw was double the normal number of beetles on fragrance-enhanced blossoms. Pollinators, to their surprise, did not prefer the highly scented flowers. Squash bees were indifferent, and honey bees visited enhanced flowers less often than normal ones. Theis thinks the bees were repelled not by the fragrance itself, but by the abundance of beetles: The data showed that the more beetles on a flower, the less likely a honey bee was to visit it. That added up to less reproduction for fragrance-enhanced flowers. Gourds that developed from those blossoms weighed 9 percent less and had, on average, 20 fewer seeds than those from normal flowers. Hand pollination didn’t rescue the seed set, indicating that beetles damaged flowers directly—regardless of whether they also repelled pollinators. (Hand pollination did rescue fruit weight, a hard-to-interpret result that suggests that lost bee visits did somehow harm fruit development.) The new results provide a reason that Texas gourd plants never evolved to produce a stronger scent: “If you really ramp up the odor, you don’t get more pollinators, but you can really get ripped apart by your enemies,” says Rob Raguso, a chemical ecologist at Cornell University who was not involved in the Texas gourd study. “It’s kind of like asking ‘What if antlers were longer or larger or heavier? Is there some threshold above which they’re actually a burden?’” For Texas gourd, there is—and Raguso, with ecologist Candace Galen and their coauthors, reached a similar conclusion in February 2011, in an American Naturalist paper on alpine skypilot(Polemoniumviscosum). Too much fragrance could harm those flowers, too, but for a completely different reason.
Skypilot grows in the alpine meadows of western North America, where its purple flowers release a “complicated” odor “like grape juice floating on beer,” Raguso says. The main component of their chemical bouquet is 2-phenylethanol, and it alone is absorbed into the skypilots’ nectar. The flowers vary widely in the amount of 2-phenylethanol they produce, and, like Theis and Adler, the researchers expected that pollinators might prefer the highest levels, perhaps as an indicator of abundant nectar.
Instead, they found that blossoms with the most 2-phenylethanol didn’t necessarily have the most nectar. And when they supplemented some flowers with sugar solution plus 2-phenylethanol, boosting them to the highest naturally occurring levels of the fragrance, bumble bees were unimpressed. Freely foraging bees (Bombusbalteatus) chose control flowers over highly scented ones in 18 out of 21 trials. “We were absolutely shocked,” Galen says. “We really did that expecting to see that the bumble bees would visit the 2-phenylethanol-enriched flowers.” Part of the explanation emerged when the team investigated the effects of the odor on ants (Formica neorufibarbis)—the skypilots’ unbidden guests. The insects gather skypilot nectar, but not only do they not pollinate the flowers, they often sterilize them by biting off the style, the stalk that supports the pollen-receiving organ. The style seems to get in the ants’ way, says Galen, an ecologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia. So they “do some housekeeping and shove it right out of the flower.” In contrast to the case of the Texas gourd, however, ants avoided 2-phenylethanol just as much as bees did. Indeed, exposure to the highest natural concentrations of the compound could be lethal to ants in as little as one hour. It seemed that the plants had entered a trade-off in which—for some flowers—it was worth sacrificing pollinator visits to keep ants out. But not all flowers have quite that much 2-phenylethanol. So in a final round of experiments, the team tested blossoms treated with an intermediate concentration. Bees weren’t as put off by those blossoms, but they still spent less time on them and guzzled less nectar. In that way, 2-phenylethanol might encourage bees to keep moving and transferring pollen between flowers—while saving the plant its investment in nectar. That makes for “an interesting comparison” to the Texas gourd story, Galen says. Whereas the gourd flower scent advertises, the skypilot scent is all about defense: It repels destructive ants and, although pollinators tolerate it to some extent, it keeps them from lingering. Both studies are examples of the kinds of “manipulative approaches” that are finally uncovering the functions of floral scents and the evolutionary pressures that shaped them, Baldwin says. But, he adds, there’s much more to do. By focusing on a single scent compound in each species, as these studies did, “you’re probably missing out on a lot of detail,” he says. In work that’s completed but not yet published, his team used genetic modifications to knock out individual components of floral aroma in petunia “to take apart a very complicated floral bouquet.” The results, he says, show that within the scent of a single flower, some individual compounds attract pollinators while others serve as defense. As such results accumulate, they will not only solve an evolutionary puzzle; they will lead to “an enormous number of possible applications,” Baldwin says. Understanding
a flower’s message to both pollinators and enemies “is absolutely essential,” he says, “so you can design and engineer crops that aren’t going to cause problems for themselves.”
As a subject for the remarks of the evening, the perpetuation of our political institutions, is selected.
In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American People, find our account running, under date of the nineteenth century of the Christian era.--We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them--they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Their's was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only, to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader; the latter, undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation, to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.
How then shall we perform it?--At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?-- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!--All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot,
we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny. Accounts of outrages committed by mobs, form the every-day news of the times. They have pervaded the country, from New England to Louisiana;--they are neither peculiar to the eternal snows of the former, nor the burning suns of the latter;--they are not the creature of climate-- neither are they confined to the slave-holding, or the non-slave- holding States. Alike, they spring up among the pleasure hunting masters of Southern slaves, and the order loving citizens of the land of steady habits.--Whatever, then, their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.
It would be tedious, as well as useless, to recount the horrors of all of them. Those happening in the State of Mississippi, and at St. Louis, are, perhaps, the most dangerous in example and revolting to humanity. In the Mississippi case, they first commenced by hanging the regular gamblers; a set of men, certainly not following for a livelihood, a very useful, or very honest occupation; but one which, so far from being forbidden by the laws, was actually licensed by an act of the Legislature, passed but a single year before. Next, negroes, suspected of conspiring to raise an insurrection, were caught up and hanged in all parts of the State: then, white men, supposed to be leagued with the negroes; and finally, strangers, from neighboring States, going thither on business, were, in many instances subjected to the same fate. Thus went on this process of hanging, from gamblers to negroes, from negroes to white citizens, and from these to strangers; till, dead men were seen literally dangling from the boughs of trees upon every road side; and in numbers almost sufficient, to rival the native Spanish moss of the country, as a drapery of the forest.
Turn, then, to that horror-striking scene at St. Louis. A single victim was only sacrificed there. His story is very short; and is, perhaps, the most highly tragic, if anything of its length, that has ever been witnessed in real life. A mulatto man, by the name of McIntosh, was seized in the street, dragged to the suburbs of the city, chained to a tree, and actually burned to death; and all within a single hour from the time he had been a freeman, attending to his own business, and at peace with the world.
Such are the effects of mob law; and such as the scenes, becoming more and more frequent in this land so lately famed for love of law and order; and the stories of which, have even now grown too familiar, to attract any thing more, than an idle remark.
I heartily accept the motto," That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe" That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will , is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure. This American government what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed upon, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of india-rubber , would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads. But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.
After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But government in which the majority rule in all cases can not be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which the majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys , and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts-a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniment, though it may be,-- ""Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note, As his corse to the rampart we hurried; Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot O'er the grave where our hero was buried." The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others-as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders-serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few-as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men-serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they
are commonly treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be "clay," and "stop a hole to keep the wind away," but leave that office to his dust at least: "I am too high-born to be propertied, To be a second at control, Or useful serving-man and instrument To any sovereign state throughout the world." He who gives himself entirely to his fellow men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist. How does it become a man to behave toward the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also. All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of 75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counter-balance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is that fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.
Paley, a common authority with many on moral questions, in his chapter on the "Duty of Submission to Civil Government," resolves all civil obligation into expediency; and he proceeds to say that "so long as the interest of the whole society requires it, that is, so long as the established government cannot be resisted or changed without public inconveniency, it is the will of God that the established government be obeyed, and no longer" — "This principle being admitted, the justice of every particular case of resistance is reduced to a computation of the quantity of the danger and grievance on the one side, and of the probability and expense of redressing it on the other." Of this, he says, every man shall judge for himself. But Paley appears never to have contemplated those cases to which the rule of expediency does not apply, in which a people, as well as an individual, must do justice, cost what it may. If I have unjustly
wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself. This, according to Paley, would be inconvenient. But he that would save his life, in such a case, shall lose it. This people must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people.
Solar panel installations continue to grow quickly, but the solar panel manufacturing industry is in the doldrums because supply far exceeds demand (see “Why We Need More Solar Companies to Fail”). The poor market may be slowing innovation, but advances continue; judging by the mood this week at the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Tampa, Florida, people in the industry remain optimistic about its long-term prospects. The technology that’s surprised almost everyone is conventional crystalline silicon. A few years ago, silicon solar panels cost $4 per watt, and Martin Green, professor at the University of New South Wales and one of the leading silicon solar panel researchers, declared that they’d never go below $1 a watt. “Now it’s down to something like 50 cents of watt, and there’s talk of hitting 36 cents per watt,” he says. The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal of reaching less than $1 a watt—not just for the solar panels, but for complete, installed systems—by 2020 (see “Why Solar Installations Cost More in the U.S. than in Germany”). Green thinks the solar industry will hit that target even sooner than that. If so, that would bring the direct cost of solar power to six cents per kilowatt-hour, which is cheaper than the average cost expected for power from new natural gas power plants. (The total cost of solar power, which includes the cost to utilities to compensate for its intermittency, would be higher, though precisely how much higher will depend on how much solar power is on the grid, and other factors.) All parts of the silicon solar panel industry have been looking for ways to cut costs and improve the power output of solar panels, and that’s led to steady cost reductions. Green points to something as mundane as the pastes used to screen-print some of the features on solar panels. Green’s lab built a solar cell in the 1990s that set a record efficiency for silicon solar cells—a record that stands to this day. To achieve that record, he had to use expensive lithography techniques to make fine wires for collecting current from the solar cell. But gradual improvements have made it possible to use screen printing to produce ever-finer lines. Recent research suggests that screen-printing techniques can produce lines as thin as 30 micrometers—about the width of the lines Green used for his record solar cells, but at costs far lower than his lithography techniques.
Green says this and other techniques will make it cheap and practical to replicate the designs of his record solar cell on production lines. Some companies have developed manufacturing techniques for the front metal contacts. Implementing the design of the back electrical contacts is harder, but he expects companies to roll that out next. Meanwhile, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have made flexible solar cells on a new type of glass from Corning called Willow Glass, which is thin and can be rolled up. The type of solar cell they made is the only current challenger to silicon in terms of large-scale production—thin-film cadmium telluride (see “First Solar Shines as the Solar Industry Falters”). Flexible solar cells could lower the cost of installing solar cells, making solar power cheaper. One of Green’s former students and colleagues, Jianhua Zhao, cofounder of solar panel manufacturer China Sunergy, announced this week that he is building a pilot manufacturing line for a two-sided solar cell that can absorb light from both the front and back. The basic idea, which isn’t new, is that during some parts of the day, sunlight falls on the land between rows of solar panels in a solar power plant. That light reflects onto the back of the panels and could be harvested to increase the power output. This works particularly well when the solar panels are built on sand, which is highly reflective. Where a one-sided solar panel might generate 340 watts, a two-sided one might generate up to 400 watts. He expects the panels to generate 10 to 20 percent more electricity over the course of a year. Such solar panels could be mounted vertically, like a fence, so that one side collects sunlight in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. That would make it possible to install the solar panels on very little land—they could serve as noise barriers along highways, for example. Such an arrangement could also be valuable in dusty areas. Many parts of the Middle East might seem to be good places for solar panels, since they get a lot of sunlight, but frequent dust storms decrease the power output. Vertical panels wouldn’t accumulate as much dust, which could help make such systems economical. Even longer-term, Green is betting on silicon, aiming to take advantage of the huge reductions in cost already seen with the technology. He hopes to greatly increase the efficiency of silicon solar panels by combining silicon with one or two other semiconductors, each selected to efficiently convert a part of the solar spectrum that silicon doesn’t convert efficiently. Adding one semiconductor could boost efficiencies from the 20 to 25 percent range to around 40 percent. Adding another could make efficiencies as high as 50 percent feasible, which would cut in half the number of solar panels needed for a given installation. The challenge is to produce good connections between these semiconductors, something made challenging by the arrangement of silicon atoms in crystalline silicon.
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