Science and Religion: Escape From The Center of (Robert) Sungenis

geocentrism_350pxw

Geocentrism: adding epicycles.

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers, including Mr. Robert Sungenis and anyone who missed the memo about the sun being the reason they call this the “solar” system.

     I’d like to tell you a story, my fine, young readers. It’s a story that’s over two thousand years in the making, and one that needs to be told. You see, we as a race are nearing a fork in the road of our development, between enlightenment and ignorance. This fork in the road means that those of us who honestly care where we are going, need to be diligent enough to tell these stories repeatedly, so that others don’t forget all that we’ve learned. I tell you this story, because I love each and every one of you. But, I digress…

Claudius Ptolemy: 90 - 168 AD.

Claudius Ptolemy: 90 – 168 AD.

     In the last years of the third century BC, Greek mathematician Appolonius of Perga posited a geometric model that would explain the movements of the planets as they tracked across the sky. Observed from the Earth, planets such as Mars seemed to move in one direction for a while, then stop, move backwards a bit, then return to their original direction of motion. What Appolonius proposed, was that these objects moved in what came to be known as “epicycles” as they tracked across the night sky. Appolonius’s epicycles were subsequently expanded upon and adopted by Claudius Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD, and became part of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy. (Ptolemy’s model was even turned into an ancient analog computer of sorts, in what is now known as the “Antikythera Mechanism.”) The Ptolemaic system would hold sway as scientific dogma for the next fifteen hundred years.

Nicholaus Copernicus: 1473 - 1543

Nicolaus Copernicus: 1473 – 1543

     Flash forward, to the year 1542. A man lies dying from apoplexy and paralysis. His name, is Nicolaus Copernicus. For the past few decades, Copernicus had been working on the problem of the Ptolemaic model, trying to answer various questions about its inability to make more accurate predictions of the motions of the planets. At the same time, the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation were spreading throughout Europe, challenging the long-held authority of the Roman Catholic church over what exactly the “truths of existence” were.

     Copernicus wasn’t an idiot. He knew that his observations and conclusions about how the heavenly bodies moved across the sky, would contradict church dogma. So, he waited until just before his death in 1543 to publish his observations in a book, “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.” (“On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”) In this daring treatise, Copernicus posited that the sun, not the Earth, was at the center of the planetary system, and that the planets orbited the sun in circular paths.

Tycho Brahe: 1546 - 1601

Tycho Brahe: 1546 – 1601

     Three years later, another pioneer in the field of astronomy was born. Tycho Brahe was a headstrong young man, who even lost part of the bridge of his nose in a sword duel (in the dark!) with a fellow Danish nobleman, over a mathematical formula. Tycho was serious. Even more so, he was all about accuracy. Because of this, Tycho began to make meticulous measurements of the planets’ motions, using a device called a “quadrant.”

Johannes Kepler: 1571 - 1630

Johannes Kepler: 1571 – 1630

     By 1600, Brahe had compiled a massive amount of data. It was at this time, that 29-year-old Johannes Kepler met Brahe near Prague, at Benatky nad Jizerou, and became his assistant. Brahe didn’t entirely trust Kepler with his data. For that matter, he didn’t trust anyone with it, and guarded his data closely. He did, however, set his young protege a task; reckon out the motion of the planet Mars. (“Here, kid. Take these measurements and figure it out.”) Kepler already had his own view of the world around him, and since he wasn’t a Catholic, wasn’t as worried about crossing the “powers-that-be” as Copernicus had been.

     Tycho Brahe died in 1601. Immediately following Brahe’s demise, Kepler purloined his vast collection of observational data, and eventually published his conclusions in the “Astronomia nova” (“New Astronomy”) in 1609. “Astronomia nova” made compelling arguments for heliocentrism, and built on the Copernican model of planetary orbits, positing that instead of circular paths, the planets followed elliptical orbits around the sun.

Galileo Galilei: 1564 - 1642

Galileo Galilei: 1564 – 1642

     In the same year that Kepler published “Astronomia nova”, a 45-year-old Italian mathematician and astronomer, by the name of Galileo Galilei, built a device modeled after the “Dutch spyglass.” This device, which could magnify distant objects to about 3x, was the first practical telescope. Galileo turned his telescope skyward…and Galileo saw. Galileo sketched. Galileo discovered.

     He discovered that Saturn had rings. He discovered that Jupiter had moons of its own. He noted that Venus went through phases, much like the moon. Galileo published his findings in “Sidereus Nuncius” (“Starry Messenger”) in 1610, and in “Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo” (“Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”) in 1632. It was the latter book, which directly challenged established church dogmas, that would result in Galileo being tried for heresy by the Inquisition, and placed under house arrest until his death in 1642. The damage, however, had been done. The great man, Galileo Galilei, had dealt the death blow to the Ptolemaic system of geocentrism…or so it seemed.

Sir Issac Newton: 1642 - 1727

Sir Issac Newton: 1642 – 1727

     In the centuries after Galileo turned his telescope to the sky, science has made advances that Galileo would have found astounding. Issac Newton refined Galileo’s work, developing a new system of mathematics (Calculus) to explain the motions of the planets, as well as the reasons why they move the way that they do. His “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”) was a virtual watershed in the fields of mathematics, physics and astronomy.

     During the 1800’s, the sky was indeed the “greatest show on Earth.” Before the age of motion pictures, radio and television, people found entertainment and wonder in simply gazing up at the sky, identifying the stars and constellations, and acknowledging their place within the wider realm of existence…but then, that all changed.

     It is the year 2014. A recent poll by the National Science Foundation finds that 1 in 4 people in America don’t know that the sun is at the center of the solar system. America ranks 25th in science and math scoring of high-school students worldwide. (China, Finland and South Korea rank in the top three.) This spring, mail-order Ph.D. documentary producer and Holocaust denier, Robert Sungenis, is releasing a film based upon his book, “Galileo Was Wrong The Church Was Right”, titled “The Principle.” Sungenis is an adherent of the Ptolemaic model of geocentrism; the same model that was proven to be wrong almost 500 years ago.

     I can only hope that someone reads this story, and understands. I ache with the desire for someone to digest these words, and to be imbued with a child-like curiosity about science and the sky. Oh, God. If I had the money, I would gladly buy each and every one of you, my fine young readers, a brand new Celestron telescope, so that we could gaze together on the wonders of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, the rings around Saturn and other “awesomesauce” out there in the night sky, if for no other reason than to honor Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and others for their hard work and sacrifices. Sacrifice, they did, all in the name of making our world a better and smarter place to be.

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Life and Living: All That Glitters…Is Perhaps NOT All That Exists!

brane_world     Ghosts, the soul, paranormal phenomena, such as precognition and auras. Photons, electrons and neutrinos. How could they be related?

     In the course of discussing things like religion and faith versus proof and evidence, I started thinking about existence. What is it? How do we observe and measure it? What are some of the weird, unexplainable phenomena that have been borne out of those observations and measurements? Then, my fine young readers, I started connecting the dots between these questions, and the fledgeling field of “String / M Theory.” It was when I did this, that I came to the realisation that we may exist and interact as part of a universe that is far more amazing, filled with much more “awesome-sauce” than we ever imagined!

     For ages now, we as a species have been attempting to explain our world, and the things that we can observe. We’ve looked into the night sky with ever more accurate devices, in an attempt to decipher the secrets of the very large. Conversely, we’ve dug deeper and deeper into the very small, with ever more powerful devices, in our attempts to unlock the mysteries of what we’re made of…and our efforts have yielded some very strange, counter-intuitive results!

     Take for instance, the “Double Slit Experiment.” In this apparatus, a beam of photons (light) is generated from a coherent light source, passed through two narrow slits, then projected onto a screen. Now, based on what we see in the everyday world, we would assume that what we would see on the screen would be two vertical shafts of light…and we’d be wrong. What we in fact have observed, time and time again, is what is known as an “interference pattern.” or multiple shafts of light! This would seem to indicate not only that these photons are behaving like waves instead of particles, but also that each photon is capable of going through both slits at the same time! (My fine young readers, you can call bullshit on this if you wish, but it’s true! This experiment has been performed several times, in several ways…each time with the same results!) The same experiment can be done with a single slit apparatus, capable of being narrowed manually. As the slit is narrowed, the light beam, instead of narrowing and being eventually cut off, actually spreads out horizontally! Ah, but this is not the only instance of “quantum weirdness” that has been seen.

     In other experiments, we’ve observed such things as neutrinos passing through solid matter, and electrons (and other point particles) that seem to pop in and out of existence. BUT! Are they actually doing so, or are they in fact just passing in and out of our three observable dimensions, from and to other “planes of existence”? This idea might sound pretty “Ghost Hunter-ish” at first blush, but there are in fact, mathematical equations and scientific theorems that back this up. String Theory, and its offspring “M” Theory, postulate the existence of no less than seven other spatial dimensions in addition to our own. If the equations of string theory are an accurate description of our universe, then the behavior of things like electrons and neutrinos becomes like text on a page, coming into focus once we put a pair of glasses on. (See where I’m going with that? Foster Grants…for quantum mechanics!)

     That’s not all, though! Once we begin to consider that the world we live in is far bigger, and contains far more dimensions than what we experience with our five senses, then things like paranormal phenomena might also be explainable, scientifically! Everything from auras, spirits and other things that we have wondered over, scientifically measurable and known.

STTNG_Q_100pxw

“Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. *That* is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities…of existence.”
(“Q”, Star Trek TNG, episode “All Good Things.”)

Space and Science: Alone, Are We

In the absence of new material, I thought I’d try reblogging a few articles…

The Cybersattva

     TLDR ADVISORY:This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers.

     Ah, the title. The title, the title the title. See, whenever I compose one of these pieces, I endeavor to come up with a catchy title, in the hopes of snaring those few extra readers by virtue of the title’s interesting nature. In this case, I drew upon the downwards, backside-up-speak of the venerable Yoda. Depending upon both the order of these three small words and the placement of punctuation marks, the title can become a question…or a statement. As to how these three words should read, that all depends on who you ask.

     There seem to be not one, not two, but three major schools of thought on the subject of whether we are alone in the universe. The fundamental, religious types will tell you that, since God created the heavens and…

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Space and Science: Alone, Are We

"BILLIONS, upon BILLIONS..."(Carl Sagan)

“BILLIONS, upon BILLIONS…”
(Carl Sagan)

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers.

     Ah, the title. The title, the title the title. See, whenever I compose one of these pieces, I endeavor to come up with a catchy title, in the hopes of snaring those few extra readers by virtue of the title’s interesting nature. In this case, I drew upon the downwards, backside-up-speak of the venerable Yoda. Depending upon both the order of these three small words and the placement of punctuation marks, the title can become a question…or a statement. As to how these three words should read, that all depends on who you ask.

     There seem to be not one, not two, but three major schools of thought on the subject of whether we are alone in the universe. The fundamental, religious types will tell you that, since God created the heavens and the Earth, and created us in His image to be upon the Earth, then surely we are at the center of his creation and must be alone in the universe. (I shudder whenever I get this response, because one would think that this school of thought would, and should have died out at the same time that Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the solar system was proven as being correct. In point of fact, we’re not even at the center of anything universe-wise! In our own Milky Way galaxy, we actually reside about halfway out, on one of it’s spiral arms. If we were in the galactic center, we’d be devoured by the super-massive black hole that’s there. (1))

     The hopeful romantics out there, a group which includes various conspiracy theorists, MUFON, some that are involved with SETI and others who “believe”, will reply that it is a foregone conclusion; we are not alone, and the truth is out there! The third school of thought, held by those with a pragmatic bent on scientific observation, will tell you that the possibility, while being rather remote, cannot be entirely dismissed due to the myriad of unknown variables in the universe. It is along these lines that I want to proceed and discuss with you, my fine young readers, a few of the variables that the scientific community considers when contemplating this ages-old question.

     First of all, let’s look at what we know about our own home, this “third rock” from the sun (maybe I should have also titled this article “Things You Might Not Have Known”);

  •      We’re in what’s referred to as the “habitable”, or “Goldilocks” zone, a comfortable distance from our star where things like liquid water can form, given the right atmospheric pressure and conditions. (2)
  •      Speaking of atmospheric pressure, we have an atmosphere comprised of mostly Nitrogen, Oxygen and Argon, with other trace gasses thrown in for good measure. Because of the mass of our home planet, a comfortable 5.97219 × 1024 kilograms, there’s an equally comfortable 101.325 kPa (kiloPascals) of air pressure exerted. If our planet had considerably less mass, things would be a lot different!
  •      Our planet has a hot, two-stage core comprised of iron and nickel, which rotates. This “geodynamo” provides our planet with its geomagnetic field, which protects us from otherwise harmful solar radiation. This geomagnetic field also prevents our atmosphere from being stripped away by solar winds, which is a good thing for us. (We like to breathe, don’t we? Most of us are pretty good at it!) It is thought that this is what happened to the Martian atmosphere long ago, as geological processes like plate tectonics and core spin ground to a halt. (3)
  •      Our planet is part of a system of planets which orbit a single star, a relatively small G-type main-sequence star known as a “yellow dwarf”. While most other stars in the observable galaxy are part of binary and ternary star systems, our yellow dwarf seems to be in the small minority of systems with only a single star. (4)
  •      Our blue marble spins on an axis, at about a 23° tilt, which gives us our seasons. We spin around once every 24 hours, which gives us our days and ensures that most of the planet is equally bathed in life-giving sunlight. (The polar regions get far more or far less sunlight at certain times of the year, also due to the axial tilt, and the manner in which we orbit the sun.)

     In other words, the conditions here are like Baby Bear’s porridge; just right. Any closer to the sun, and we would bake. Any farther, and we would freeze. If our core stopped spinning, then our magnetosphere would collapse, and that nice, breathable atmosphere would be whisked away by the solar winds. If our planet did not spin, then half of the planet would always be hot, the other half, always cold. This would change only gradually, over the 365-day period of orbit around the sun.  There are several conditions that have to be just right, for life to not only develop, but to thrive.

     Here’s another thing to consider; when we talk about “life on other planets”, people’s minds always jump to the idea of “little green men”, “the greys” and other concepts of sentient, developed lifeforms. What about the smallest forms of life, microbial life? What about plant life? There could very well be life on other planets, just not the kind of life that people are expecting!

     Now ask yourself; what is the likelihood of there being an extra-solar system somewhere out there, with a single sun, with a planet in its habitable zone possessing a two-stage metallic core, which spins on an axis and has the right mass, and an atmosphere at just the right pressure, that liquid water can exist with some modicum of stability? Out of all of the exoplanets discovered so far by the Kepler mission, how many of them meet these criteria?

     It’s easy to dismiss or to take for granted, the several things that make our home a home. At the end of the day however, they all still figure in to the equation. Given all of this, coupled with the vast distances between the stars, is the idea of “contact” a likelihood? Are we alone / alone are we / alone we are  / we are alone…?

Faith and Religion: Faith Beyond Reason?

TLDR ADVISORY: The following article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers.

Bridging the gap...?

Bridging the gap…?

     Ah, another relaxing dies Solis. A cup of coffee, browser tabs open to the major news purveyors of the day, and what do we find? Blog fodder! (Huzzah, happy face!) Fox News aired a segment this past Friday, in which one of their hosts presented a ten-minute piece on whether a belief in God was “reasonable”. Appearing in the three-person interview were atheist Nick Fish and believer Dr. Alex McFarland, discussing concepts such as morality, along with the presence of theological and logical “holes” in each side’s argument for and against the existence of a God. (1)

     A little less than a hundred words in…can you already see my issue with this Fox segment? If you can’t, don’t stress. I’m about to expound on this in my usual candid and pragmatic fashion. The problem as I see it, my fine young readers, is this; discussions and debates such as this cannot be had in a mere ten minutes, especially when at least two to three of those precious minutes are taken up by the hostess, who really needed to just shut up and let these two chat! No, the debate between Atheism and Theism needs a far better venue than Faux News, and immensely more time than ten minutes.

     In 2007, ABC-Nightline’s Martin Bashir hosted a similar debate in which actor Kirk Cameron and his partner, author and evangelist Ray Comfort, debated the existence of God with Brian Sapient and Kelly O’Connor, two guests from the atheist “Rational Response Squad” organisation. (2) This debate lasted about an hour and a half, and in the end did little to answer the question in a definitive manner. Given this, one might ask the question, “Well, how long does it take to reckon out through discussion, the existence of a divine power, and whether belief in that divine power is a reasonable reaction to what we are able to discern with our five senses?” Honestly, this debate has been going on since science began disproving long-held church dogmas regarding the nature and workings of the universe, so the answer to this decidedly complex question might not be such a simple one.

     What I will do within the limited space of this article is present my own thoughts regarding faith, whether that faith is reasonable, and whether God’s existence can be proven, not necessarily in this order. Let’s start with what I believe, and why I’m persuaded to believe it…

     I believe in the existence of God. I believe that “he” created everything in this universe, both observable and unobservable. Why do I believe this? I believe this because I also believe what I’m seeing when I look up into the night sky, and see what astronomer Edwin Hubble saw; that there are billions upon billions of stars up there, along with a plethora of other galaxies that are moving away from us. I believe that our observations indicate that we live in an expanding universe and, if we press “stop” and “reverse” on the universal remote, that contraction leads right back to one single point; one “primordial atom” as described by Father Georges Lemaître back in the 1920’s – 1930’s. Science refers to this point as a “singularity”, and by my reckoning, that singularity had to come from somewhere. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about the Big Bang. Scientific observation and theory strongly suggest that the universe started from a singularity; immensely dense, immensely hot, within which was contained the four basic forces that we now observe in nature;

  • Gravity
  • Electro-magnetism
  • Strong Nuclear
  • Weak Nuclear

     There’s another reason that I’m led to believe in the existence of a divine intervening force in the universe; the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law of physics states that in an isolated system, entropy must increase. Plainly put, order cannot come from chaos, only chaos from order. In order to get order out of chaos, there has to be an intervening factor, and I believe that this factor…is God. How else does one explain the level of order that we observe in our universe, especially when the universe is supposed to have started from an ordered singularity? By all rights, if the Second Law were to hold true, we shouldn’t even be here.

     Granted, this is all based upon my limited understanding of these scientific concepts, and my beliefs are based upon indirect inference. Then again, a lot of science is also based upon indirect observation and subsequent inference, isn’t it? We didn’t witness the Big Bang directly, did we? No, but we can directly observe certain aspects of its aftermath with tools such as the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, thereby inferring that this is most likely what occurred.

     Which brings us to the next question; is my belief in God a reasonable one? I believe that it is, due to the fact that I’m basing my belief on not only the religious, biblical information that I was raised on, but also on observable, scientific principles. I also believe that, for my belief to be reasonable, it must be subject to the acceptance of new information as it’s presented. In other words, I’m “keeping an open mind”. The more I learn, the more info I have to go on. If new information contradicts what I believe, especially if that information is directly observable, I have to admiss it if I’m being truly reasonable. I believe that where faith becomes unreasonable, is when the believer refuses to admiss things like gravity, the speed of light through a vacuum, things that we can directly observe and prove. (See my previous article on “Young-Earth Creationism”.) In my not-so-humble opinion, willful ignorance is never a reasonable basis for faith.

     Can I prove that God exists, scientifically? No, no more or less than the atheist can prove that God doesn’t exist, and that’s where I think Cameron / Comfort got it wrong. By its very design, faith in God, Christ and salvation must come down to exactly that; a matter of faith. Faith is a leap, one that transcends the known and knowable. Much of science also requires this leap, due to the fact that things like evolution and the Big Bang cannot be proven, only inferred by indirect observation. So readers, I leave the final question to you; is faith beyond reason?

Faith and Religion: Dragging The Line

Pulling the unpullable...

Pulling the unpullable…

“I feel fine, I’m talkin’ bout
peace of mind, I’m gonna
take my time, I’m gettin’ the good sign…
Draggin’ the line.”
(Tommy James, “Draggin’ The Line”, c1971 Roulette Records)

     This song first appeared on Tommy James’s sophomore album, entitled “Christian of The World”. The irony of this is that I’ve employed it within the context of an article that, with some characteristic pragmatism and nimble wording, will attempt to shed light on the chasm that lies between science and religion. Yes, my fine young readers, I’m “going there” yet again…

     One aspect of religion that continues to puzzle me, is the dogged adherence of some of the more literalistic, conservative denominations to the concept of “Young-Earth Creationism”, especially in the face of proven science. For the uninitiated among you, please allow me to explain; young-Earth creationism dictates that everything in existence…us, the earth, the sun and moon, indeed the entire universe, is only about 6k to 7k years old. Several theologians in Judeo-Christianity have performed calculations on the ages of the patriarchs, the earliest of which included Jose ben Halafta in 160 A.D., within the “Seder Olam Rabbah”. Several centuries later, Church of Ireland Archbishop James Ussher published a timeline, dating the moment of creation to the night preceding Sunday, October 23rd, 4004 BC. Even such well-known early astronomers and scientific observers, such as Johannes Kepler and the venerable Sir Issac Newton, the father of gravity himself…were young-Earth creationists!

     Young-Earth creationism should have met its demise in 1922-1923, when Edwin Hubble, looking through the newly-installed 2.5 meter Hooker Telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory in southern California, observed that there were in fact a plethora of other galaxies out in space, and that they were moving away from us. Hubble knew this, because of something called “Redshift”, which is a visual expression of what’s called the Doppler Effect.

     For those who are unfamiliar with this term, I can provide a simple example which is very easy to reproduce on your own. Have you ever stood on a street corner, and listened as a police car or ambulance passed by with its siren running? Did you notice how the pitch of the sound seemed to rise as the vehicle got closer, then fall as it sped away from your location? That’s the Doppler effect. As distance increases between yourself and the sound source, the length of the sound wave increases and the pitch decreases. The same goes for observable light. As the distance between our point of observation and the light source increases, so does the length of the light wave, which causes it to shift into the red end of the spectrum.

     We have also known for quite some time, that the speed of light through a vacuum is roughly 186,000 miles per second. (Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the speed is 299,792,458 meters per second.) We know this because we’ve quantified it scientifically, we’ve measured it time and again in the laboratory. Couple this with being able to observe distant stars and galaxies, and one should, if they’re paying attention and believing what they’re seeing, reach the conclusion that this little (ah, but ever expanding!) universe we live in must be far older than a mere six thousand years!

     So, we have to ask ourselves this question; why do some Christians doggedly adhere to the concept of young-Earth creationism, aside from the fact that their Bibles tell them that that’s the way it is? Why do they maintain their stranglehold on such a literal interpretation of scripture? Is it because they fear what they don’t or can’t understand? Try explaining things like the Doppler effect or the speed of light in a vacuum to a young-Earth creationist within the context of this argument, and the reaction one gets is akin to the “three monkeys” scenario. They’d rather remain willfully ignorant of scientific fact, than to endanger their long-held (albeit misguided) belief in a six thousand-year-old universe.

     I think I should clarify something at this point, before we go any farther. I’m not trying to attack religion or faith overall. What I am trying to do is to illuminate whoever might be reading this piece, with regards to just one of several areas where science and faith diverge, and to do my humble part to kill off an outdated dogma. That being said…

“The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”
(Galileo Galilei, quoting Cardinal Cesare Baronio, circa 1598.)

     The Bible also says to “fear” God, which is fine and dandy. I would suggest however, that for people of faith to live in unnecessary fear of something that can be known and understood, and otherwise only adds to the grandeur and intrigue of existence, is folly. It’s giving one’s self over to that most basal of human instincts; to fear what we do not or cannot know or understand. If one follows this line of logic, then one arrives at a conflict where the young-Earth creationist is intimating that it’s fine to give one’s self over to that basal instinct, but then turn around and preach against giving over to other basal desires and instincts, such as the desire for physical pleasure. In short, it’s hypocrisy…not only is it hypocrisy, but also intellectual laziness. (If I’m not mistaken, laziness, also known as “sloth”, (“Acedia” in the Latin) is one of the “Seven Deadly Sins”!)

     In closing, I would strongly suggest that the person of faith who honestly wants to grow in both a spiritual and intellectual way, avoid looking at matters of science through the prism of religious stained glass. Instead, try verifying and accepting these facts, and then take them back to the scriptures, and seeing those scriptures in a new way. In the meantime, the stars in the sky will continue to race away at breakneck speeds, and there’s nothing that the young-Earth creationist can do to reign them back in…that line can no longer be dragged, especially when illuminated by the light of knowledge.

World Rhetoric: Scientists Beware of The GOP

Scientists = valid war targets?

     In the final hours of 2011, Iran prepared an announcement that would create a bit of a firestorm around the globe. It seems that scientists at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran have successfully produced and tested their first nuclear fuel rod. (Fuel rods contain pellets of enriched uranium, and are used in reactor chambers.) In addition, Iran also announced earlier today that they had successfully test-fired a new medium-range, surface-to-air missile during their ongoing Persian Gulf training exercises.(1)

     In response to this, a number of the GOP candidates currently campaigning in Iowa have ramped up their rhetoric. The most worrisome of these are Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Late last year during a GOP debate, Gingrich stated that as part of his strategy on Iran, he would “go after” Iranian scientists. Now Santorum has echoed these sentiments, asserting that Iranian nuclear scientists should be treated like an “enemy combatant, similar to an Al Qaeda member.”(2)

     Before I step up on the blogger’s soapbox and opine, please keep in mind the following facts: first, that Rick Santorum has repeatedly touted his “Born-again Christian” faith out on the campaign trail. Second, that many research programs, especially covert research programs tend to be highly compartmentalised, in that scientists and researchers working in one area may or may not know the entire scope of what they are working on, beyond their own restricted area(s) of research. Third, most scientists are civilians; they’ve never fired a weapon, never been to a qualification or zeroing range and their expertise lies, in the words of King Julian from “Madagascar,” in “…many brain things.”

     Again these are simply my opinions, but for us to go after civilian scientists, to seek to assassinate them would be like Nazi Germany going after J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi or Albert Einstein. Even more than that, it would be tantamount to declaring that any civilian involved in anything related to the ability to prosecute a war, is a valid target. Think about it, my fine young readers. That means that Joe Q. Public, who works as a machinist at the Fabrique Nationale (maker of the M-16) manufacturing plant in Columbia, South Carolina is now a valid target. That means that Jane A. Citizen, who works at Motorola (a communications equipment manufacturer) is now a valid target. If anything, Joe and Jane would be more valid targets than the Iranian scientists, simply because Joe and Jane know what they’re building and supporting, where it is going and what it will be used for. If Muhammad the Iranian scientist knows what he’s working on, then he’s just as valid of a target in this way of thinking, as Joe and Jane, and vice versa.

     Targeting innocent civilians does not seem to me, to be a very “Christian” thing to do, or even talk about doing. Breaking this down to “Barney-level,” it is hypocrisy of the worst sort. Not only that, it obfuscates the line between combatant and non-combatant, in much the same way as…radical Islam did on 9-11! So what are Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich trying to say; that for Al Qaeda and Usama bin Laden to target civilians is wrong, but for us to use the same approach against Iran is somehow justified? Puh-leeze! Again, hypocrisy.

     In the interests of starting out the new year right, we’re going to try something new: I’m going to ask you what you think! You know what my opinions are on the issues, now I want to know what you, my fine young readers have to say!

The Chaser: Hammy The Squirrel Goes FTL

Hammy strolls while lasers creep...

     Several of my fine, young readers might be wondering just why I would want to discuss something as seemingly trivial as Hammy The Squirrel. That’s because a lot of people don’t stop to ponder the laws of physics, such as why it is not currently possible to achieve FTL (faster than light) speeds. It’s a very interesting discussion, so please follow along… 

     It seems like a completely contrived idea that feeding a squirrel with ADHD an energy drink could impart the ability to move through timespace at FTL speeds. Well, that may be so. What would it take to actually be able to do this? If you wanted to go FTL, according to the laws of physics it would take an infinite amount of energy, unless you could achieve zero mass. All matter however, possesses mass. (Save for Neutrinos, billions of which have just passed through both of us!)

     In real world physics, experiments such as the LHC at CERN in Switzerland are seeking to find and confirm the existence of the “Higgs boson,” an elementary scalar particle that is thought to impart mass to all other matter. If this particle is found, not only could we explain mass, but we might also be able to find a way to mitigate the effects of the Higgs boson! What that basically means is that the Higgs boson is our key to travelling at FTL speeds! Now trip on this! We know that matter has an opposite; antimatter. We’ve seen it, created it in colliders and witnessed its interaction(s) with normal matter. So, doesn’t it stand to reason that if the Higgs boson exists, that it might have an opposing particle? This “anti-Higgs boson” would have the opposite effect on matter, actually robbing it of mass!

     So now back to Hammy. Supposedly in the world of cartoon physics, feeding a squirrel with severe ADHD an energy drink provides Hammy with the opposite of the Higgs boson particle, thereby giving his body zero or even negative mass, allowing him to move through spacetime at FTL speeds! (Still want to drink that caffeinated Monster or Rock Star in the can on your desk?) 😉

Filippenko's universe

     Dr. Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley said something on “The Universe: Biggest Blasts”  that has stuck in my head, and the implications of it are mind-blowing! It has to do with what happened in the fraction of a second after the big bang; “hyper-inflation.” Dr. Filippenko states, “No particle can move through spacetime faster than the speed of light, but spacetime itself can move faster than the speed of light. That doesn’t defy any of the laws of physics.”

Cup of everything, anyone?

     Say spacetime is a cup of coffee. Nothing, not one atom or quark, not even light (photons) can move through that cup of coffee any faster than the universal speed limit. BUT! The whole cup of coffee can itself move, flex, expand, even contract at unimaginable speeds that exceed that of light, and in similarly unimaginable ways! Warp your head around that, why don’t ya!

Life and Existence: Elementary, My Dear Watson?

Aristotle influenced map of the classical elements and their properties

    Facebook sometimes brings me some really interesting blog fodder. In the past few days, I’ve managed to re-connect with some good friends, one of them being a former classmate of mine from high school. It seems that these days, she listens to a lot of New Age, “Earth Mother” oriented material, including a particular piece that through mantra, makes reference to the classic four elements of existence; Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

     Now, I know that I usually tend to stick to current events and other “day-to-day” topics here in my blog, and I also tend towards the more pragmatic in my observations. At this point, you might be asking, “Okay, so why all the talk about mystical elements?” Well, I’ll tell you…

     In ancient times, the four “elements” named above were thought to be the basis of all things that exist, with a fifth element added, “Aether” attributed to things beyond the physical, explainable world. This system of elements originates from Babylonian mythos, and can be found in most ancient cultures, including (but not limited to) Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Indian and Tibetan.

     Now, let’s bring this into the more modern and scientific. We know that there are four basic states of matter; solid, liquid, gas and plasma. When matter is converted from one state to another, there is also a conversion of energy from one type to another. For instance, when wood is burned. Wood exists in a solid state, with a certain amount of stored potential energy. When ignited, that potential energy is converted to thermal energy (heat), light and a lessened amount of potential energy left in the ashes. (That’s the best way I can explain it, and one of you fine young readers with a background in science and physics can feel free to check my science on this.) If we try drawing a parallel between the four classical elements and the four basic states of matter, we might arrive at something like this:

  • Earth = Solid
  • Water = Liquid
  • Air = Gas
  • Fire = Plasma

     What I’m saying if I’m saying anything, and I may be all wet here (even though I don’t think so), is that ever since ancient Babylonian times, civilizations have had some basic understanding of the make-up of the physical world that we live in. The unfortunate thing that has happened (and keeps happening even today) is that, in the process of trying to understand how these different basic aspects interact with each other (the exchange of energies!), cultures have built belief systems and religions around what they could NOT grasp or explain, thereby elevating these otherwise “elemental” aspects to a more mystical, venerated level. Now, I know that there are many more flavors, nuances and topics, such as Alchemy, that I could go into as a follow-on to this, but I’ll leave those for another time.

     I tend to believe that a little bit of basic truth can be found in all things, when one clears away the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates over time, and that this is definitely one of those cases. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s an inkling of a deeper truth…

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.” (Yoda, “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”)