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Terve riitti, terve kaunis! Saturday 26.9 lecturers and abstracts

Lataa/upload riittipäivät ohjelma/program 2015 pdf

Guðbjörg R Jóhannesdóttir

PhD in philosophy, adjunct lecturer at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. Area of expertise: Environmental aesthetics, environmental ethics and phenomenology.

Guðbjörg R Jóhannesdóttir

Beauty, art and landscape – phenomenological perspective on the concept of beauty

The sense of beauty evoked by natural landscapes has in a profound way something to do with general features of our understanding of our relation to nature. The phenomenological concept of beauty elaborated in this presentation discloses a sense of relation felt by an environmental self, as it provides a possibility of experiencing a basic feature of our condition as embodied beings. The sensory immersion that is involved in the experience of beauty is a source of “sensory knowledge”. This is an experience that stirs our emotions and allows us to perceive the world in a manner that reveals to us our relations with the environment that are in a certain ontological way deeply ingrained and at the same time conditioned by actual circumstances. The phenomenological concept of the aesthetically perceiving subject is a concept of the self as a relational entity that cannot be abstracted from its surroundings.

Jani Närhi

PhD in Comparative Religion. Department of Comparative Cultures, University of Helsinki. Areas of expertise and interest:  cognitive science of religion, which tries to explain the pan-cultural phenomenon called religion from the standpoint of the functioning of human mind. Portofolio.

Beauty, landscape and paradise – an evolutionary perspective

Paradise beliefs across the world are strikingly similar to the extent that there are cross-cultural patterns of general traits shared by virtually all paradise landscapes. I will cover the evolutionary aspects that explain the reasons for the uniformity, and assess the importance of evolution for the cross-cultural aesthetical experience of the paradise landscapes.

Sabrina Maniscalco

Professor at the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics, University of Turku

Beauty in Quantum Physics

Quantum Physics describes the fascinating world of microscopic objects composing the Universe where we live, and in this sense it is the most fundamental of all Physics theories. Indeed it is used in almost its sub-branch, from Cosmology to Superconductivity to Medical and Bio-Physics.

It is commonly believed that Quantum Physics, as all Physics, is terribly difficult and it involves such complicated mathematical formalism to make it unaccessible to the non-experts. In fact, it is true that the “language” spoken by physicists to describe the microscopic world is mathematics and it is a specialists-only-language. However, one should remember that mathematics is the language of all Physical Sciences, but nonetheless we have no problems in “describing by words” to non-experts a planet orbiting around the sun or a car driving at a certain speed on the highway, all phenomena described in Physics via mathematical equations.

What is more challenging and fascinating in Quantum Physics is that, not only a simple picture of physical phenomena of microscopic objects has not yet been found, but it is believed that it does not exist. This is an amazing statement of huge and vast consequences. What we are saying is that, if Quantum Theory is correct, and up to now no experiment has contradicted the theory in more than a hundred years, the nature of the most fundamental physical phenomena cannot be fully pictured or grasped in the human mind, by definition.

The human species has wondered and speculated about phylosophical questions such as the very origin of the Universe and its laws since the beginning of history. We have an innate desire of knowing why we exist and what is the Universe where we live. All western civilization stems from the Aristotelic and Greek Philosophy that has given us the framework of thought and of logical reasoning so deeply radicated in our mind and society. Under this light, the discovery of some sort of impossibility of understanding the fundamental laws of the Universe, using the simple mental concepts that we commonly use to describe cars driving and airplanes flying or everything else we experience in our daily life, is one of the most profound discoveries of the human mind.

It is natural therefore to ask ourselves whether we can use forms of communication other than language or mathematics to picture what is by definition unrepresentable in our mind. We certainly need a huge dose of imagination, as quantum physicists, to try to understand the puzzling features of microscopic objects. But can we use the power of communication and the freedom of expression of Arts to try to convey a message on the key concepts of Quantum Physics to the general public? Can we try to establish a dialogue, between quantum physicists and artists, from where a new attempt to describe our incredible laws of Nature originates?

Jorma Paranko

PhD, Docent in Cell and developmental biology at University of  Turku

Jorma Paranko

Jorma Paranko

Cells in our beautiful and changing body

Evolution is relative conservative and mainly utilizes the existing biomolecules and cell organelles – at the cellular level, evolution has not, for a long time, brought anything radically new or surprising. Basic structures and functions of human cells are pretty similar to those in single cell protozoan, for instance. Humans are multicellular organisms where the cells are organized into separate tissues and organs (like brain, liver, kidney, pancreas, etc.). The estimated number of protein coding genes in protozoans is at a range of 5 000–10 000, but already in the sea stars the gene number is about the same as in humans (20 000–30 000). The body of sea star is characterized by five extensions (arms) – the same mysterious structural organization can also be found in the human body.

In the animal species reproducing sexually, there are six stages or “physiological rites” which are repeated in every generation: fertilization, embryonic and fetal growth period, childhood/youth, puberty, adulthood proceeding towards senescence, and death. During the embryonic phase, internal genitalia in humans are programmed to differentiate from a bisexual (dual) composition either into male or female phenotype. During this process our physical sex will be determined. The process will later be reflected in sex-dependent ratings of beauty values.

When and at what age an individual is most beautiful – the answer must lie somewhere between the fertilization and death. All our individual properties and qualifications are embedded and carried along in our cells. Immortal we can´t be, because our cells are programmed to die. Experimentally, human cells can be induced to divide (proliferate) 60 times. This would correspond to the theoretical maximal age of 120 years.

In humans, the age and stage of life become easily visible in the skin, the largest organ of our body. Skin forms protection against the environment and mediates environmental signals to the nervous system. Skin does not only renew in a nonstop fashion but is continuously a target of harmful external effects, like UV-radiation. As a consequence, inevitable changes become visible when the skin tissue fibers loose elasticity and the cells start to slow down their proliferation rate. Therefore, it is the skin that categorizes us into a specific age group – independent of our will.  In general, the body structures under the skin also change during aging but these changes are not the principal object for the evaluation of human beauty. In general terms, under the skin we all are similar, almost the same and composed of: lipids (fat), bone, cartilage, connective tissue, blood and nervous tissue. Nerve cells (neurons) do not renew by proliferation which makes them exceptional. As permanent cells, neurons can store the things we have learned and experienced. Maybe this is why we meet a paradigm when looking ourselves in a mirror – the mirror reflection from the body seldom, if ever, agrees with or corresponds to our mental self-image.

Solut kauniissa, muuttuvassa kehossamme

Evoluutio on konservatiivinen ja hyödyntää pääosin olemassa olevia biomolekyylejä ja muita rakenteita

–  solutasolle evoluutio ei ole pitkään aikaan tuonut mitään radikaalisti uutta tai yllättävää. Ihmissolujen perusrakenteet ja -toiminnot ovat pitkälti samat kuin yksisoluisilla alkueläimillä.  Ihminen on monisoluinen ja hänen solunsa ovat järjestäytyneet kudoksiksi ja elimiksi (kuten aivot, maksa, munuaiset, haima, gonadit, jne.). Alkueläimillä proteiineja koodaavia geenejä on arviolta 5000–10 000, mutta jo esimerkiksi meritähdellä geenejä on suunnilleen sama määrä kuin ihmisellä (20 000–30 000). Meritähden kehossa on viisi sakaraa – sama mystinen peruskaavio löytyy myös ihmiskehosta.

Suvullisesti lisääntyvillä eläinlajeilla elinkaareen mahtuu kuusi, sukupolvesta toiseen toistuvaa vaihetta, fysiologista riittiä: hedelmöitys, alkio- ja sikiövaiheen kasvu, lapsuus/nuoruus, murrosikä, aikuisuus ja sen aikana alkava vanheneminen, joka päättyy kuolemaan. Alkiovaiheessa tapahtuu erkaantuminen kaksineuvoisista sukupuolirakenteista. Tässä vaiheessa määräytyy fyysinen sukupuolemme, mikä heijastuu sukupuoliriippuvaisten kauneusmieltymysten muovautumiseen.

Milloin yksilö on kauneimmillaan – vastaus löytyy hedelmöityksen ja kuoleman välimaastosta. Kaikki ominaisuutemme ovat soluissamme. Emme elä ikuisesti, koska solumme on ohjelmoitu kuolemaan. Ihmisen solut saadaan jakaantumaan enintään 60 kertaa, mikä laskennallisesti vastaa 120 vuoden maksimaalista elinikää.

Ihmisellä ikävaiheet heijastuvat voimakkaimmin ihossa, kehomme pinta-alaltaan suurimmassa elimessä. Iho suojaa ja välittää hermostollemme signaaleja ulkomaailmasta, se uudistuu taukoamatta ja on jatkuvien ulkoisten ärsykkeiden (kuten UV-säteily) kohteena. Iho muuttuu vääjäämättä, kun siinä olevien säiemolekyylien kimmoisuus ja solujen jakaantumisaktiivisuus vähenevät. Iho asettaa meidät aina kulloiseen ikäkategoriaan – halusimme tai emme. Myös ihon alla olevissa rakenteissa tapahtuu ikääntymisen myötä kudosmuutoksia, mutta ne eivät arkielämässä ole kauneuden ensisijaisia arviointikohteita. Tältä osin yksilöt ovat keskenään samanlaisia: rasvaa, luuta, rustoa, side- veri- ja hermokudosta. Hermosolut (neuronit) eivät pääsääntöisesti uusiudu. Siksi ne voivat ainutlaatuisella tavalla tallentaa opittua ja koettua, ja siksi – peilistä heijastuva senhetkinen kehon kuva harvoin menee yksiin henkisen omakuvan kanssa.

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