THE Christianization of Armenia began with the work of Syrian apostles from the 1st century CE and was boosted in the early 4th century CE by such figures as Saint Gregory the Illuminator, who converted the Armenian king and spread the gospel message. A more complex process than legendary accounts portray, Armenia’s adoption of Christianity was, nevertheless, a momentous chapter in the country’s history, as the historian R. G. Hovannisian here explains:

“The conversion of Armenia to Christianity was probably the most crucial step in its history. It turned Armenia sharply away from its Iranian past and stamped it for centuries with an intrinsic character as clear to the native population as to those outside its borders, who identified Armenia almost at once as the first state to adopt Christianity.” (81)

The credit for establishing Christianity as the official religion of ancient Armenia is traditionally given to Saint Gregory the Illuminator or Enlightener (previously known as Grigor Lusavorich, c. 239 – c. 330 CE). Gregory is credited with converting king Tiridates the Great (r. c. 298 to c. 330 CE) to the new religion, formally establishing the Armenian Church, and spreading Christianity throughout his country. For these achievements, Saint Gregory has become the patron saint of Armenia.

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Researchers discover how colliding oxygen molecules absorb…

Researchers discover how colliding oxygen molecules absorb light

Scientists at Radboud University have managed to do what had never been tried before: accurately describe how colliding oxygen molecules absorb light. Our atmosphere consists of approximately 20 percent oxygen molecules, which constantly collide with each other and with the 80 percent of nitrogen molecules, and in doing so absorb light. The new theory describes the mechanism by which this takes place. This discovery will enable climate researchers to far more accurately determine the concentrations of the molecules that pollute the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect.

With the aid of satellites in space, we are able to accurately measure the main pollutants and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In order to do so, the satellites observe the spectrum of sunlight that shines through the atmosphere. Molecules of various atmospheric gases absorb sunlight, and this absorption occurs at different wavelengths for each gas. Since the ‘fingerprint’ (the spectrum) of each of the different gases is known, scientists now know more about the presence and concentration of each of these gases.

To correct these measurements for the effects of clouds and changes in air pressure, the absorption by oxygen is measured as a reference, because we know exactly how much oxygen is present in the atmosphere. Scientists at Radboud University now show that the ‘fingerprint’ of oxygen is different from what it was believed to be, because it is strongly influenced by collisions with nitrogen and collisions with other oxygen molecules.

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New Zealand bans all new offshore oil and gas exploration


Taranaki, New Zealand

New Zealand’s government announced today it has banned all new offshore oil and gas exploration in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

By ending new oil and gas exploration, the recently elected coalition government has effectively put the fourth-largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on the planet — covering more than 4 million square kilometres — off limits for any new fossil fuel exploitation.

‘The announcement comes as a significant blow to global oil companies that have pinned their hopes on finding oil here in future. There will be public discourse in New Zealand over whether to allow companies with existing licenses — including Statoil and OMV — to carry out extraction if oil or gas were discovered,’ said Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman.

The New Zealand government will continue offering the onshore region of Taranaki for exploration, and will also not revoke any existing exploration contracts.

Although welcomed by the previous government, foreign oil companies have met strong resistance from the New Zealand public, Indigenous communities, and environmental NGOs. Over the past seven years, hundreds of thousands of people have marched, petitioned, and blockaded in opposition to oil exploration.

Over the past decade, some of the world’s largest oil companies have sought to search for and exploit fossil fuel reserves off the country’s isolated shores. Shell, Anadarko, Petrobras, Statoil, Chevron and OMV are among a list of foreign companies to undertake seismic surveying and exploratory drilling in the country’s deep seas, which threatens marine mammals.

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