The drowned Archimedes: A small alternative dictionary
The book written by associated Professor Vojtěch Mornstein, The drowned Archimedes: A small alternative dictionary, is the fifth volume of the “Universitas Masarykiana Foundation - Heureka Series”. This series is a project of Universitas Masarykiana Foundation (found in Masaryk University, Brno) which is realised in co-operation with some other institutions. It brings educational books of modern conception, which being on high professional level, and using live and cultivated language inform the high school and university students and also general publicity about current science, arts and newest discoveries. It informs not only about the knowledge assemblies but also about the creative process, which has resulted into the new knowledge. Each volume is of the analogous scheme. The basic text should satisfy a wide readership. The further levels (i.e. the references, personal and subject indices) serve for detailed study.
The Heureka Series has been founded and is directed by Professor Jaroslav Malina.
The drowned Archimedes is a satiric and critical work, which aspires to render very wide problems of so-called “mysteriology”, alternative medicine and pseudoscience in general. According to its character, it is a text, which is possibly few commercially interesting, because too much readers can lose their illusions or it can appear as impertinently critical to them, but it forms a counterbalance to the mentioned problems, which excessively deluge the book market and mass media. However, there is a group of readers, for which this text is necessary and interesting, namely as a relaxation or an inspiration and guideline for further detailed study, as well. The drowned Archimedes fills up the gap between the already mentioned pseudoscience production, on the one hand, and the non-numerous serious critiques of some individual forms of pseudoscience, for example, the alternative medicine and so-called ufology (including the visits of ancient astronauts), on the other hand. Therefore, the book does not avoid even the exaggeration, sarcasm and irony, and continues to expound sceptic ideas in such a direction, which was impossible for various reasons for authors like Malina, Kukal, Heřt or Škrabánek and McCormick, for example.
The text is divided into several relatively independent parts, which mutually differ in the style of writing and the purpose.
Introductory part is, in principle, a serious essay which explains author’s motivation, defines the object of his interest, characterises information sources exploited by the author, and tries to analyse some historical, philosophical and social aspects of above kinds of irrational assessment of ambient phenomena, i.e. the pseudoscience.
The next part is a proper core of the book, it means the dictionary (“Malý alternativní slovník” - A small alternative dictionary), which consists of one hundred fifty alphabetically ordered and mostly unconventionally explained entries. Short citations or references to the pseudoscience, as well as, the critical sources often illustrate the explanation of these entries.
We can find there partly the entries of general character dealing with construction of ideas aspiring to the formation of new “scientific theories” of global radius, which often are based in very old traditions, medieval or older, European and Oriental, eventually. There are also placed selected pseudoreligious, mystic and miscellaneous entries. It is possible to introduce the Alchemy, Astrology, Atlantis, Hermetics and Esotericism, Clairvoyance, Catastrophism, Magic or Sorcery, New Age, Numerology, Prophecies, PSI, Reincarnation, Spiritism, Shamanism, Theosophy and Anthroposophy, for example. There are also some entries of quite different character, i.e. the Official science, Sheldrake’s morphic resonance and Postmodernism.
The entries usually denoted as “Mysteriology”, Ufology etc., are of relatively different character. The modern origin and increased effort to communicate with really existing sciences, namely archaeology, astronomy, biology and physics, are the common signs of them. It is possible to introduce the Ancient astronauts, Cattle mutilations, The Philadelphia experiment, Firewalking, Crop circles, Cryptozoology, Tunguska meteor, Extraterrestrial, Mutations and Mutants, Yeti, Shroud of Turin, Pyramidology, Telekinesis, Telepathy, Bermuda triangle, UFO or Spontaneous human combustion, for example.
Finally, there are numerous entries belonging into so-called alternative medicine and healing, including the entries about irrational nutrition. Following examples can be introduced: Aromatherapy, Biorhythms, Remote diagnostics, Slimming diets and pills, Electroacupuncture According dr. Voll, Homeopathy, Iridology, Healing by colours, Psychic surgery, Macrobiotics, Cluster medicine (Cellhelp), Magnetic healing, “Mumio”, Naturopathy, Osteopathy and Chiropractic, Panacea, Urine therapy and The Earth’s pathogenic zones and their suppressers.
The content and conception of the entries can be shown on the following three examples:
Verbatim, it is the science about stars, in contrary to the astronomy, which is only the nomenclature of stars. In the middle age, it was only a source of a base livelihood of astronomers. At present time, it is an independent business area which tries to convert into money the statement, that the relations between Jupiter and Saturn could more influence our workaday life than a near pub or an insufferable mother-in-love. Of course, it is possible to imagine that the changes of gravitational field caused by movements of planets evoke some delicate changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. However, they will specifically assure the development of an individual with a predetermined character starting from the sperm and egg only with difficulty. The astrologers have their own ethical code according to them they cannot give data about the near customer’s end, and the things and events which could be verified or would be able to cause some explicit detriment to the customer. Qualification courses of astrology are organised in Delphic Oracle, and it seems that also in a certain institution in Prague accredited by Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. The astrology is intellectually and psychopathologically related to other techniques of future prediction, for example, to the TELLING FORTUNES (see) and various ....MANCIES (see).
It is the therapeutic uptake of the own or foreign urine. It is one of the most elegant and ecological up-to-date healing methods, because the respective remedy is self-produced by the human organism in excess amount. Jiří Cingroš (1996) and Vilma Partyková (1997) are the most important Czech specialists in urine therapy. Regarding the fact that the urine contains certain small amounts of substances arising due to different diseases, it is possible (according to Cingroš) to hold the urine for a homeopathic remedy. It is also referred to the high nutrient value of the urine because it reduces the consumption of meat. However, only in individuals that have respective bacteria in their paunch, which are able to transform the waste products of nitrogen metabolism, i.e. the uric acid and urea, in substances beneficial for our bodies. The urine uptake is a universal securance of the permanent, radiant and only a little malodorous health. The urine is applied locally as well as orally, fresh or ripe, evaporated or in original concentration. Namely the nose rinsing by urine can be a convenient variegation of the alternative medical methods for many a person. It is quite surprising that our body gets clear of such a valuable thing, on the whole.
It is a general name for the sciences and their representatives, which are critical to the actual sciences, i.e. occult, PSI, alternative, and which throw muck at them sometimes. It is also denoted as orthodox, scholastic or academic. It is noted for its pedantry and arrogant cleaving to so-called Principles of Nature, and for the nonsensical requirement of experimental verification of the phenomena which cannot be evoked due to a simple reproduction of conditions necessary for their origin. The official science assumes also erroneously that the understanding of a problem is possible only knowing something about them. Explicitly said, the unfamiliarity with physiology of respective body organ cannot exclude the possibility to cure them reliably, the unfamiliarity with physics cannot exclude own attempts to explain cosmic phenomena, the unfamiliarity with archaeology and history cannot exclude creation of new models of mankind history, after all. Further, the official science is noted for certain morbid solidarity, so that even it happens sometimes that an official physicist supports and official physician and vice versa. The official science cleaves scrupulously to such conceits that it is not necessary to revise whole sciences if, say, Mr. Noodlehead, a well erudite livestock specialist, came to a conclusion after several years of meditation, that the sciences need such a revision.
The chapter “Criticism of ufology and alternative medicine” refers to some important above entries. It consists of two seriously meant and generalising articles, originally published in the review “Universitas”, which is issued by Masaryk University. It is “The phenomenon called UFO”, which was even performed on the radio Vltava in autumn 1997, and the “Potë mkin medicine or business in lie”. The second of the articles deals with homeopathy and touches also some other fields of so-called alternative medicine.
The ten book-reviews contained in the chapter “..... For their is the Kingdom of Heaven” are of documentary and illustrative character. They were published in the “Univerzitní noviny - University Newspapers” since the beginning of 1996, and they represent themselves some overview on the whole topic. Following books has been reviewed:
Geoff Boltwood: The Messenger, Stanislav Brázda: School of PSI, Jiří Cingroš: The Urine Therapy, Harvey and Marilyn Diamond: Fit for Life, Oldřich Grü nner: The Myth of Happiness and the Human Soul, Max Heindel and Augusta Foss-Heindel: The Message of Stars, Papus: Fundamentals of Practical Magic, Miloš Rýc and Franç ois Cousset: The Homeopathy and its Types, Norman W. Walker: Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Juices, Ivo Wiesner: A Light from Olden Days.
Further, informative personal and subject indices and, finally, the references, which are divided into encyclopaedic, informative and pseudoscientific, are the parts of the book.
Miroslav Holub, M.D., DSc., immunologist, writer, poet and, among others, translator of Škrabánek and McCormick’s Follies and Fallacies in Medicine, wrote the foreword of The drowned Archimedes. The book was reviewed by specialists in sciences, medicine and psychology, which implies that an extraordinary attention was paid not only to its literary aspect. Another dimension of the book originated due to illustrations by Alois Mikulka, Brno artist, which are full of fantasy, poetry, playfulness, charm, and also the philosophical depth.
Vojtěch Mornstein, the author of The drowned Archimedes, was born June 15, 1955, in Svitavy. His father was a dentist, a men of quite wide scope of knowledge in sciences and humanities. His mother was a teacher. In Svitavy, a quiet town on the Czech-Moravian border, he attended the public school and later also the high school. He was interested in sciences, in botany at first, later in biochemistry and physiology, already many years before the leaving examination. At the same time, he starts with first literary attempts - stories and student poetry. In 1974, he was enrolled in Faculty of Sciences of J. E. Purkyně University (today Masaryk University) in Brno, and started to study biophysics. It was a game of destiny because this study specialisation was open only for one year and only for a few students. At the beginning of his studies, he continued in literary attempts for certain time - without apparent success. A few years later, in 1979, he starts to work as the assistant professor in Medical Faculty in Brno. It is beginning of his scientific and pedagogical career under leadership of Professor Ivo Hrazdira. For present time, his career was crowned by habilitation in the end of 1994. Since September 1996, he is the head of Department of Biophysics, Medical Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno.
During the first fifteen years of his activity in Medical Faculty of Masaryk University, his literary aspirations went aside; the interest in science and teaching gained the upper hand. The study of ultrasound bioeffects is the traditional research program of Department of Biophysics. Therefore, Professor Mornstein published the scientific works dealing with so-called cavitation ultrasound, above all. It represents a risk factor in ultrasound diagnostics and physiotherapy. He took an important part in several practically and theoretically oriented textbooks.
Vojtěch Mornstein renewed his literary attempts at about the same time in which he habilitated, with larger life experience, at the time. He published mainly an array of popularising articles in Brno daily newspaper Rovnost, he started to contribute regularly to Univerzitní noviny, and in smaller extent to review Universitas. The most articles in Univerzitní noviny, Universitas, and also some contributions to Rovnost and other journals, e.g. Remedia populi, dealt with criticism of pseudoscience, namely with special emphasis on so-called alternative medicine and various mysteries which are often explained due to action of unknown forces and energies. The interdisciplinary character of biophysics, which was inviting itself to a critical assessment of the naturally oriented pseudoscience, was undoubtedly the impulse to this activity. The wide family background (mainly the uncles, Professor Vladimír Tichý, plant physiologist, and Professor Ivan Málek, microbiologist) also influenced indirectly the author’s sense of value. Since the beginning of 1998, the Mornstein’s science-fiction novel Radol is issued in parts in Univerzitní noviny. The novel thematically exploits the author’s erudition in sciences and his knowledge of interpersonal relations in academic milieu. The most of V. Mornstein’s texts are accessible via Internet.