Sunday, September 25, 2011

Star Wars - paganism?

Republic starfighter, Eta-2 Actis-class light interceptor,
sometimes referred to as the Jedi interceptor (ref)

"Star Wars is an American epic space opera film series created by George Lucas. The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year intervals. Sixteen years after the release of the trilogy's final film, the first in a new prequel trilogy of films was released. The three films were also released at three-year intervals, with the final film released on May 19, 2005.

As of 2008, the overall box office revenue generated by the six Star Wars films has totalled approximately $4.41 billion, making it the third-highest-grossing film series, behind only the Harry Potter and James Bond films."  (Quote from Wikipedia)

Star Wars is a projection of our world into an imaginary galaxy out there with strong emphasis on the Good and Evil empires and people like beings torn between the Galactic Republic and the tyrannical Galactic Empire.

Tatooine is an imaginary planet orbiting a binary star system 
The real thing is called planet Kepler 16b

May the Force be with you!
The main religious element in George Lucas' epic story is in the impersonal Force that can enhance either the good or evil in the person: the Jedi knights use it for good and the Sith for evil.

"One of the prominent elements of Star Wars is the "Force", an omnipresent energy that can be harnessed by those with that ability. It is described in the first produced film as "an energy field created by all living things [that] surrounds us, penetrates us, [and] binds the galaxy together."

"The Force allows users to perform various supernatural feats (such as telekinesis, clairvoyance, precognition, and mind control) and can amplify certain physical traits, such as speed and reflexes; these abilities vary between characters and can be improved through training. While the Force can be used for good, it has a dark side that, when pursued, imbues users with hatred, aggression, and malevolence."
(Quotes from Wikipedia

Two dogs
The fundamental religious element in Star Wars and especially the inner development of the key character Anakin Skywalker can perhaps be compared to the (legendary) story of a Native American man.

He told: "I feel as if there were two dogs fighting in my heart, one white and one black."

When asked, which one wins? he answers "the dog whose side I choose".

Free Willy!
With world wide revenue of $4.41 billion Star Wars clearly is an established part of modern popular culture and mental property of the younger generations. It is as popular as Star Trek which tells about human adventures in outer space.

George Lucas (1944) hit a jackpot with his Star Wars epic

The human species apparently looks for escape from the cage of its material and physical existence. The myths, legends and fairy tails of the past have been replaced by the myths, legends and fairy tails of today embedded with technological hype, spectacular special effects now in very real 3D and amazing flights of imagination.

And yet, a structuralist philosopher would easily find the same fundamental wiring underlying classical Greek, Native American or Star Wars flights of imagination, projecting and reflecting our everyday life in a larger than life setting and with superhuman powers.

Humanity is shouting "free Willy!" and George Lucas offers an escape for us.

True God and idols
Unfortunately, the fundamental power promoted in the Star Wars, the impersonal Force, is a real idol that represents true paganism. It pushes the only true God, God of Israel, totally out of the picture and is, in my opinion, theologically harmful to humans unable to make the distinction.

Then God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
Exodus 20:1-6 NASB

Friday, September 23, 2011

God and Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin (1934 – March 27, 1968)

During the Cold War Soviets shocked Americans when on April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin completed an orbit of the Earth in his Vostok spacecraft spending 1 hour, 48 minutes on the trip. All Soviet people were filled with pride about Yuri Gagarin. He became the subject of massive state propaganda how the conquest of space demonstrated the scientific and technological superiority of the Soviet superpower.

Atheism class in Soviet Union
I do not know if the following story is true but it surely makes the point: 

Somewhere in the huge USSR a regular atheism class was on way. Scientific materialistic atheism was an obligatory subject in the Soviet school system as it was (and is) also in other Communist countries.

The teacher was telling the children about the hero Yuri Gagarin and said  "Now we know it for sure that there is no such thing as a god up there". For it was officially told by the state propaganda machinery that Gagarin told that he was looking and looking but could not see any God up there in the space.

At that point a little girl lifted her hand and asked a question: "Did Yuri Gagarin have a pure heart?"

The teacher was taken back: "What do you mean?"

The girl continued: "Bible says that those with pure heart will see God."

And the Bible indeed says so:  

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Jesus, Sermon on the Mountain
Matthew 5:8


"I looked and looked but I didn't see God."
As quoted in To Rise from Earth (1996) by Wayne Lee;

some websites quote him as saying "I looked and looked and looked but I didn't see God." on 14 April 1961, a couple days after his historic flight, but the authenticity of such statements have been disputed;

Colonel Valentin Petrov stated in 2006 that the cosmonaut never said such words, and that the quote originated from Nikita Khrushchev's speech at the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU about the state's anti-religion campaign, saying "Gagarin flew into space, but didn't see any god there."

Gagarin himself was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Variant: "No I didn't see God. I looked and looked but I didn't see God."
As quoted in What's Missing Inside You? (2006) by Paul Schlieker, p. 17.

Not disputed!

Moscow from International Space Station April 12, 2012

Облетев Землю в корабле-спутнике, я увидел, как прекрасна наша планета. Люди, будем хранить и приумножать эту красоту, а не разрушать её!

Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it! 
Yuri Gagarin

Russian phrase, handwritten and signed after his historic spaceflight, photo of facsimile published in Syny goluboi planety 3rd.edition (1981) by L. Lebedev, A. Romanov, and B/ Luk'ianov; the first edition was translated into English as Sons of the Blue Planet (1973) by L. A. Lebedev

Death of Yuri Gagarin

The legendary Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 UTI

"On 27 March 1968, while on a routine training flight from Chkalovsky Air Base, he and flight instructor Vladimir Seryogin died in a MiG-15UTI crash near the town of Kirzhach.

The bodies of Gagarin and Seryogin were cremated and the ashes were buried in the walls of the Kremlin on Red Square.

Gagarin was survived by his wife Valentina, and daughters Elena and Galina. Elena Gagarina, Yuri's oldest daughter, is an art historian who works as a director-general of the Moscow Kremlin Museums since 2001. His youngest daughter, Galina, is a department chair at Plekhanov Russian Economic University in Moscow."
Quoted from Wikipedia

Pillars of Creation and religious experience

Pillars of Creation
Hubble image NASA

This famous photo taken of a region in the Eagle Nebula where stars are born has awed humanity ever since it was taken by the Hubble telescope on April 1, 1995.

The human species is religious whether we want it or not. Religious behaviour is not a late social addition to our psychology and society within the evolving hierarchical power systems as Marxist philosophers have claimed. For archaeology clearly demonstrates that early man was a tool maker, homo habilis. Archaeology also shows that discoveries of early homo sapiens sapiens, possibly also homo sapiens neandethalensis,  demonstrate religious characteristics not even our closest relatives show.  Humanity is homo religiousis as clearly demonstrated by the Palaeolithic caves in Lascaux, France, or by the ceremonial burials with red ochre (blood) found in the Near East.

Atheists define themselves as non-religious people and deny the claim presented above that religion is were integral part of humanity. Rather, fighting atheists think that religion is a negative learned attribute in the society occupied with paranormal phenomena and false views of the physical reality and something that should be washed away from our civilization.

As a human being an atheist also realizes the enormity of the Pillars of Creation and may be bothered by it. The image - and the reality it depicts - touches the religious wires in our being whether we want it or not.

So in order to reject this annoying feeling approaching religious some atheists spend quite a lot of energy to mock feelings created by such images and to emphasize their scientific explanations and facts on ground that belong to the scientific world view they so value above all.

Sunset at sea

In a discussion with some atheists I made the statement that the space is full of majestic music that tells about the greatness of the God of Israel (for He is the only true God).

Someone commented that he can not hear any majestic music from the space, only empty tinkering and ticking sounds and meaningless humming of radio waves.

Well, I think this person does not feel the awe of Creation when looking at the open ocean when sun sets in the horizon and the waves roll.

So it is not so much the reality out there, the Pillars of Creation or the turquoise sea, but what is in the eyes and heart of the observer.

For believers in the three great monotheistic religions deeply rooted to the Torah - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - the Pillars of Creation proclaim the glory of God.

 The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.  
Psalm 19:2-6 NSAB

CE3K - Space and religious experience

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) is a Science-Fiction masterpiece written and directed by Steven Spielberg. The title denotes "human observations of actual aliens or animate beings" and is taken from the work of the United States astronomer, professor, and ufologist, Dr. Josef Allen Hynek (1910–1986).

Because CE3K with its enchanting musical theme of five notes (John Williams) is today such an integral part of modern Western culture it is difficult to imagine the impact it had on viewers back in 1977. The special effects are still amazing after all these years and the limitless possibilities of computer manipulated tricks not available at that time. The magnificent scenes and effects are not the real power of this movie which takes a very touching and realistic view of us humans encountering for the first time true aliens. Not as hostile monsters like Orson Welles and others had depicted them but as benevolent beings that show some gentle curiosity about us.

One of the unforgettable moments in Close Encounters

The events do not happen in deep space but rather in suburban America enhancing the realistic feeling similarly to that other blockbuster space movie by Steven Spielberger, ET the Extra-Terrestial (1983). The gentle touch of humour in both films actually adds to the realism.  The focus is on the reactions of those invited: lineman Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) and his unbelieving family, the superbly charming little Barry (Garry Guffin) and his single mother Jillian Guiller (Melinda Dillon); and on those in the know, the French scientist Claude Lacombe (François Truffaut) and his assistant David Laughlin (Bob Balaban). The excellent cast of actors considerably raises the quality of this classic piece of cinematic art.

CE3K is a thoroughly religious movie. Not in the sense of any particular religion (the chosen are blessed to their trip with Christian prayers) but as an expression of the religious impact space and its mysteries have on humanity.

Hara Krishna

This is nicely emphasized by the Dharmsala-India sequence filmed at the village of Hal near Khalapur 35 miles from Mumbai. The religious behaviour is inspired by the sounds they have heard and the experience merges with their traditional way of expressing respect to the Holy by repeating a mantra.

The volcanic Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming 

The choice of Devil's Tower, Wyoming as the place of close encounter was a strike of imaginative genius by Spielberg. The mysterious peak is not only a striking major landmark but this amazing pillar of phonolite porphyry is actually sacred to several Native American Plains tribes, including the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Kiowa. Ancients have tried to explain how such a thing came into being and the mountain creates religious awe. Its religious impact on the locals can be compared with that of the Uluru-Ayers Rock in Australia.

The film describes religious calling, something out of ordinary and bigger than everyday experience and humanity, that turns into obsession.

Steven Spielberg was undoubtedly influenced by the Exodus narrative and the classic Cecil B. deMille's Ten Commandments (1956) while writing about the Close Encounter. The mountain causes holy terror - in this case purposely created by the army.  The Place of Encounter is "made sacred" by killing the sheep and other animals as happened in  Mt. Sinai during the time of Moses:

The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it;whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” 
Exodus 19:10-15

Such holiness also includes restricted entry where only to the chosen and authorized are allowed to the Altar. The white garments of the awed scientists and observers standing up as the almost divine spaceship approaches in stages enhances the religious feeling.

It is significant that the in the centre of the description of the spaceship are not the usual imaginary technological details of more advanced civilizations but rather LIGHT. This fundamental approach alone is enough to make CE3K such an exceptionally fine Sci-Fi movie.

And let us not forget the music for what would religion be without music?

The idea that music, lights, colours and positions are used for communications with aliens, together with hand movements (used in our music schools) and facial expressions is ingenious!

I would not call CE3K pseudo-religion.

It is a genuine religion in the sense that it truly expresses human religiosity: the search for something bigger, something that lasts longer than our short lives, something that gives purpose and meaning to our mundane everyday life and existence. Space certainly is bigger than life and various space oriented religions and cults are surely going to grow in popularity as better understanding of the Universe becomes more common among the public.

Steven Spielberg talks naturally the language of religion perhaps because he is a Jew.

In comparison to the religious tones in CE3K, the space film Avatar (2009) represents the secular humanistic values of its writer and director James Cameron.

(I write more about the secular humanism in Camron's movie Titanic  in my blog Phos to alethinon).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bible and Origins of life

 Cassini-Huygen's probe on Titan 2005

What has the ancient Bible to do with questions of modern astrobiological search for the origins of life in the Universe?

Well, first of all let us beware of the mistakes from the past where people of Church have ridiculed and even persecuted scientists looking for truth about Nature. Galileo and Darwin spoke the truth as they understood it and the zealous defenders of Bible were wrong.

Bible was written by people sharing an early form of geocentric worldview prevalent in Ancient Near East.

Yet, as Word of God the two creation stories at the beginning of the Bible are not exactly products of their time and have an alluring eternal wisdom embedded into them.

Genesis is a slaughterhouse of gods and divinities.

Ancient Egyptians worshiped Sun, Sumerians worshiped Moon, Babylonians worshiped Venus, Ishtar, the Evening Star, and the famed Romans worshiped Sun invictus still in the Byzantine era. Inka's and Maya's give divine respect to the bright Sun and so on....

In total opposition to the learned people in the highest ancient civilizations Bible says that these are not divine beings to be worshiped but practical lamps for day and night, calendars and watches created by the One benevolent God for the good of humanity.

Creation of life

Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.  God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.  Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so.

The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day."
Genesis 1:9-13

The earth brought forth vegetation
First Creation story in the beginning of the Bible tells how waters and land were separated and then first living things are produced by earth.

Paleo-sciences teach us today that life flourished first in the oceans and only much later climbed up to the exposed land.

The ancient writer of the Creation story may have looked on the green nature around him, fields and gardens near Iron Age Jerusalem and he tells us what he sees - how earth brings fourth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees.

Bible is not an accurate description of this and places green plants on earth before the creation of the Sun and in our study of biological history of life flowering plants are latecomers on our planet.

Common housefly and "locked evolution of species"

Origins of species
Bible has an intriguing expression, not so different from the challenging "leminehu", created "after its kind" ... what we would call "according to its species".  God created the living things, plants and animals, according to their species (heb. leminehu).

We understand the mechanism of natural selection and put it in good use. We know a bit more about hereditary patterns, we can use it to our good and get our cows to produce more milk, genetically enhance our wheat and make maize bigger.

Nevertheless, one hundred and sixty years after Charles Darwin's revolutionary scientific theory of evolution (Origin of Species 1853) humanity has taken enormous steps in studying life but has very limited understanding about the origins of species.

Nobel price is still waiting the biologists who can explain the locking system of species on the functioning of reproductive cells. Practically the same house fly was bothering Tyrannosaurus Rex as is bothering our summer picnic meal and the species has remained locked as a species for the past 200 million years. Of course, there are many kinds of flies as there are many kinds of monkeys, us included, but nobody really knows the mechanism that keeps the babies of a horse and a donkey barren (mule's do not get kids). There is still work to be done on leminehu.

Planting of the Garden of Eden and man
The second Creation story tells in mythological tones how God made man from earth.  Hebrew word adamah means the reddish fertile soil made from the Eocene limestone. Adam, the first man, carries the name reminding him of his origins in the clay.

"Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
Genesis 2:7-9

Again this ... out of soil, dust, adamah.

Titan, Canyon country

Gaia, mother Earth!
We all instinctively realize that early Universe was hostile to life and that somehow nevertheless appears in the cosmos at some point.

For example, our own Solar system was created about one third of the total estimated age of the Universe 4.5 billion years ago. Signs of life are said to be found in the rocks on the crust of the planet some 3 billion years ago. Life really exploded some 600 million years ago in the Cambrian era.

Astrobiologists look also at extreme areas on Earth, its molecules, environments, test the impact of electric shocks from flashing, try to recreate a place where they could ignite life out of inorganic elements like we humans know to ignite fire from not burning elements.

One of the more interesting searches for the origin of life in resent years is the Cassini-Huygens exploration of the atmosphere of Titan in 2005, the rocky moon of Saturn. The idea is that the archaic freezing conditions prevailing at Titan might resemble early solar system and Earth and possibly provide clues for the origins of life.

Genesis is written in monotheistic faith and leaves no room for a divine thinking and creating Earth, Gaia.

But the idea that Earth produces life is definitely to be found in the Bible.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Origins of Life

Spitzer's Orion Nebula 
NASA APOD September 17 2011

The famous Cosmic Nursery in a spectacular false-color photo taken with NASA Spitzer Space Telescope.  Jet Propulsion California Institute of Technology. "The brightest portion of the nebula is likewise centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But the infrared image also detects the nebula's many protostars, still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues."

"The Spitzer Space Telescope is the final mission in NASA's Great Observatories Program - a family of four space-based observatories, each observing the Universe in a different kind of light. The other missions in the program include the visible-light Hubble Space Telescope (HST), Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (CGRO), and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (CXO)."

"Spitzer is designed to detect infrared radiation, which is primarily heat radiation. It is comprised of two major components:
The Cryogenic Telescope Assembly, which contains the a 85 centimeter telescope and Spitzer's three scientific instruments
The Spacecraft, which controls the telescope, provides power to the instruments, handles the scientific data and communicates with Earth"
(Spitzer home)

The Stellar Nursery of Orion Nebula is not a nice place where baby stars are quietly born. Instead, the vivid image gives us humans some feeling of the astrophysical energy, cosmic explosive chemistry, enormous gravitational forces and winds that make our worst hurricanes look minor indeed.

The image gives some indication about the Big Bang of our favorite modern theory about how everything began. Enormous forces and star formation in the midst of deadly radiation.

There really is no place for biological life in the cosmic nurseries of stars and even less in the incomprehensible Big Bang, the first Atom.


So modern scientific world view does have a description - not an explanation but a description - of how our Universe possibly began. (Of course, there is some dark stuff for the scientists yet to be clarified but work on this is progressing rapidly!)

Bessemer converter (ref)

But how on earth does life begin in this violent turbulent and inhospitable Cosmos? It is like going to a steel factory and looking for signs of life in a huge Bessemer converter in action.

That is the Big Question for humanity - what is life and how it began? For as we know it only life begets life.


Green Earth (ref)

Geologists have discovered signs of life in the very inhospitable environment that prevailed on planet Earth some 3 billion years ago, only 1.5 billion years after the planet was formed and the crust had cooled down.

They tell us that life explodes during the Cambrian era some 600 million years ago first in the seas, then emerging, evolving, flourishing, withering and dying within the great order of the Geological Eras of Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic.

We could call them modified Days of Creation.

In His majestic way God of Israel says through prophet Isaiah that He made this place habitable
(and we can comment today that "not inhabitable like Mars")

For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), 
“I am the LORD, and there is none else."
 I have not spoken in secret, In some dark land; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in a waste place’; 
I, the LORD, speak righteousness, Declaring things that are upright."
Isaiah 45:18-20 NASB


God does not tell us in His Word declaring the upright how He made this planet habitable for life and not a "waste place" כוננה לא תהו
(konena lo tohu. The word tohu is close to chaos and appears in Gen 1:1 tohu vebohu)

The great Book of Nature is open for us to study and to try to understand His marvelous works.

Excellent introductions to this not-so-simple matter of Astrobiology are the two bestsellers by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee:

Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe (2000)

The Life and Death of Planet Earth (2002)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cosmic Speed Limit

Cosmic speed limit

Space Time continuum is something that we instinctively understand but only in a simple way. It is not incomprehensible that the familiar matter-energy world of our Universe is travelling on a linear time line. The concept of passing of time is familiar because we set things in history and measure time from sports cars performance to how many times our heart beats in a minute.But the mathematics behind the Spacetime continuum theory is another story, not so easy to grasp.

Humans and earthly time
The old geocentric world view of the writer of the first Creation story in Genesis is strongly present in the following majestic verses from the Bible:

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also."
Gen 1:14-17 NASV

And so it is. We humans, thanks to God's great planning, measure everyday time in terms of our local solar system, our concept of day and night follows the rotation of Earth on its axis, our months are moon months (more or less), our seasons we experience thanks to the little tilt of axis of our planet and our year is one round trip around the sun.

All this we know in modern days and yet we continue to use the ancient complicated 60 system for calculating seconds and minutes.

That patent office worker
Well, things were pretty clear and easy to understand in our earthly concept of time and somehow we all grasp from our everyday experience what is time-space continuum.

But then came that patent office worker Bern, at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property (ref).

Only using his brain he mentally located himself as an outsider looking at our familiar time-space continuum and other aspects of existence from a different point of view then ever before considered in such a way by humanity.  After figuring things out in his mind mathematically - for experiments his theories was not yet technically possible - he ended up with a "beautiful theory" known as the General and Special Theory of Relativity.


It all looked so simple to us common people before this theory became public knowledge. Today probably every human being going to a higher school upon this planet knows how Mr Einstein looks like when he does not comb his hair and many know about the Theory of Relativity.  Relatively few people have the mathematical ability and training needed in order to understand the Theory of Relativity in depth.

I am not ashamed to confess that I do not understand it. Some say that Einstein's brain was special and had more left-right bridges than ordinary homo sapiens sapiens. (Comparing to him, my left brain has nothing right in it and my right brain has nothing left in it.) Still, without knowing the physics and math I also live in relative time.

Cosmic speed limit

186,282.397 miles per second

Perhaps we can accept in our small brains the idea that time itself could be relative - whatever that means - and take it as a fact that time is somehow tied to our everyday knowledge of the matter-energy reality. But why Einstein wrote about a cosmic speed limit, the speed of light, and claimed that time itself slows down when the moving object approaches that speed?

Well, whatever the mathematical and physical explanation, cosmic speed limit makes space travel even less practical. We wish that tomorrow's technology would allow us to build spacecraft that travel at the speed of light. With such a vessel - and without the speed limit - our nearest star Alpha Centauri could be reached in about 4.5 years and the round trip would take only nine years. This is a small jump for mankind in comparison to a round-trip to Andromeda that would take five millions of years at light speed..

But alas, the cosmic policeman says that as the spacecraft approaches the speed of light limit then time itself slows down. The astronauts in the spacecraft would not feel a difference and their clocks would still follow our 24 hour rhythm (so I have understood). But the time frame would be much longer when seen from planet Earth.

After the happy crew safely returns from the nine year trip to Alpha Centauri and lands at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, they would return after many centuries have passed on the calendars of planet Earth.


SLAC Visitor Centre provides an excellent and compact explanation to general public of Special Theory of Relativity (ref)

"SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is home to a two-mile linear accelerator—the longest in the world. Originally a particle physics research center, SLAC is now a multipurpose laboratory for astrophysics, photon science, accelerator and particle physics research. Six scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize for work carried out at SLAC and the future of the laboratory promises to be just as extraordinary."

The freshly published astounding results from CERN labs saying that neurons would beat the cosmic speed limit has been widely questioned. BBC news article by Science and Technology reporter James Palmer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

HD 85512 b - extraterrestrial life?

La Silla Observatory, Chile 

"HD 85512 b is an extrasolar planet orbiting the star HD 85512 approximately 36 light-years away in the constellation of Vela.

The planet was discovered by the scientists at University of Geneva, Switzerland, led by the Swiss astronomer Stéphane Udry of the GTO program of High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), a high-precision echelle spectrograph installed on ESO's 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile.

HD 85512 b is one of the smallest exo-planets discovered to be in the habitable zone.

HD 85512 b is considered to be the best candidate for habitability as of August 25, 2011."
(Quoted from wikipedia)

According to scientists HD 85512 b is the most likely place to look for life among the 376 candidates known to us today. This small planet orbits its sun at approximately the same distance from it as we are from our own Sun making life possible.

The exiting discovery brings search for extraterrestrial life close to home in the cosmic scales of space: for example, a message we send today 13.9. 2011 to that planet at the speed of light could be captured there by intelligent beings in September 2047. If they know where and how to send their response we would hear from them in September 2083.

Or rather our grand-grand children would hear with 80 years delay in pinging...