Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Planet-hunting method explained - BBC

Gliese 667C Artist view
Another Space Theology bookmark Searching for planets

The findings of the University of Hertfordshire team are published on line.
The team started with data from three planet-hunting missions: HarpsAAPS, and HiRes, all of which had data on Tau Ceti.

Now, Hugh Jones of the University of Hertfordshire and colleagues have refined their "noise modelling" in order to subtract it, and thereby see the smallest signals hiding in the data - starting with Tau Ceti.

The trick to honing the technique was to put in "fake planets" - to add signals into the messy data that planets should add - and find ways to reduce the noise until the fake planets became more and more visible in the data.

"Putting all that together, we optimised a noise-modelling strategy which allows us to recover our fake signals - but in the process of doing that, we actually saw that we were finding signals as well," Prof Jones said - actual planets.
BBC News Science and Environment 18.12.2012

Rorschach blot from deep space (NGC 5189)

NGC 5189
Hubble Heritage APOD

Another spectacular Hubble image of what is possibly the explosion of one of the stars in a binary system.

"The Rorschach test (also known as the Rorschach inkblot test, the Rorschach technique, or simply the inkblot test) is a psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both.

Some psychologists use this test to examine a person's personality characteristics and emotional functioning. It has been employed to detect underlying thought disorder, especially in cases where patients are reluctant to describe their thinking processes openly. The test is named after its creator, Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922)."

So if you see in the Hubble image a Caribbean pirate or anything resembling a human skull do not worry - such a visual perception is probably not a sign of any deep hidden urge to become a buccaneer.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hubble image z=11.9

Image ESO

Another Space theology bookmark BBC news
Hubble astronomers have observed deeper into space than ever before.

In doing so, they have identified six new galaxies of stars that formed just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang itself.

The study also updates a distance estimate for a seventh galaxy, placing it further back in time than any object previously identified.

Called UDFj-39546284, this is seen when the cosmos was less than 3% of its current age.

The new Hubble telescope investigation was led by Richard Ellis from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and colleagues at Edinburgh University, including Jim Dunlop and Ross McLure.

Jonathan Amos BBC Science & Environment news 13.12. 2012 on current research Hubble deep space image

Sunday, December 9, 2012

God of Israel's outrageous claims

The Great Isaiah Scroll
Digital Dead Sea Scrolls
Israel Musuem, Jerusalem

There is no other foundation for the religious faith that God has created everything - including the cosmos and us in it - than the ancient Scriptures of the people of Israel. The foundation is not a logical, rational, scientific observation or deduction but religious faith based on God of Israel's outrageous claim.

The Jewish faith in ONE God the Creator is not based on rational deductions made by them while observing nature. The faith is not result of ancient Jewish philosophical and religious pondering of how things may have come into being and what is going on now.

The Jewish faith in creation is based solely on the outrageous claim of the God of Israel that He has made through humans writing and speaking in His name. Significantly, most of those who thus spoke in God's name received extremely hostile reception from the Jewish people. Tradition has it that Isaiah was martyred by sawing into two the hollow tree inside which he was tied and some have heard about the Man of Galilee.

Jewish ancient Scriptures do not only say that their God has created everything and is in control of everything both in nature and in human history, including who is the King of Persia. They make the outrageous claim that He holds His people ultimately and utterly responsible for words and actions in this life He has given in this Land - ties religious faith and individual and national ethics and moral.

Other religions, mainly Christianity and Islam, worship the God of Israel as the only real God there is. We are talking here about the majority of humanity currently living on planet Earth. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday humans all over the world here the proclaimed words of God the Creator claiming what is due to Him, so this is not a secretive God with obscure claims.

Let us listen to some of those boastful outrageous statements as they appear in Deutero-Isaiah dating to the times of Cyrus the Great of Persia who lived  600/576 – 530 BC. (Cyrus Cylinder so intimately connected with Deutero-Isaiah is coming to visit five cities in the USA in 2013.)  Oldest manuscripts of Isaiah known today can be studies online in Israel Museum Digital Dead Sea Scrolls.
Cyrus Cylinder British Museum, London wikimedia
Who speaks?
God of Israel.

“But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
    Israel, whom I have chosen.
 This is what the Lord says—
    he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
    and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
    Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.
 They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
    like poplar trees by flowing streams.
 Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;
    others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
    and will take the name Israel.
Isaiah 44:1-5

What does He say?

“This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
I am the Lord,
    the Maker of all things,
    who stretches out the heavens,
    who spreads out the earth by myself,
 who foils the signs of false prophets
    and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
    and turns it into nonsense,
 who carries out the words of his servants
    and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,

who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’
    of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’
    and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’
 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry,
    and I will dry up your streams,’
 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd
    and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
    and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’
Isaiah 44:24-28

"the Maker of all things"

"who overthrows the learning of the wise
    and turns it into nonsense"

he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
    and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’

... and more

How utterly outrageous claims!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wow, what a Herculean puff!

Plasma Jets from Radio Galaxy Hercules A

Take a Hubble image of Hercules A galaxy and superimpose on it a Very Large Array radio image taken in NRAO New Mexico, USA, and what do you get?

A spectacular astronomic photo that simply defies words!

(The matter of fact explanation helps to understand what is going on but perhaps only a poet using mythological themes could express the immense proportions and beauty in this phenomenal image.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tertullian De Anima (On Soul)

Early 3rd century Carthage was a hub of Mediterranean civilization. Roman's had rebuilt the city so utterly destroyed in the Punic Wars. In Late Antiquity it had grown into a major urban centre with a population estimated at about half a million. In addition to commerce - North Africa was the main source of wheat to Rome and produced more olive oil than Italy - Carthage was a renown centre of learning attracting students from near and far.

Tertullian (165 - 220 AD) had solid education and was well versed in classical Greek and Roman culture. After converting to Christianity he became an ardent defender of the new religion so fiercely persecuted by the Roman authorities. His Apologicum gives a vivid picture of the battle of spirits that was going on at his times. Unlike his compatriot St. Cyprianus, Bishop of Carthage, Tertullian was never called a saint nor given the honorary title of Church Father because of the many views he held that were rejected as unorthodox by the Church.

Ptolemy of Alexandria and Tertullian of Carthage
In his treatise on soul and other writings Tertullian gives us a splendid snapshot of what was moving in the minds of people in Late Antiquity and their views about the cosmos, visible and invisible. What is different is the use of Biblical argumentation as guide and the rejection of pure Philosophical thinking as source of knowledge about the world.

Tertullian's Latin texts on religion were written not long after Claudius Ptolemy (90-168 AD) had written in Greek on Astronomy in nearby Alexandria. Much in the same way as Almagest was destined to be definitive source on planetary movements for over thousand years, third century writings in Latin and Greek influenced Theology - and still do so today, consider, for example the teaching on Trinity discussed by Tertullian in his writings.

We can see in both from Tertullian and Ptolemy how anthropocentric the world view was. The cosmos had physical place for human souls after death and the future of the world is heaven and hell in Christian writings. The movements of Sun, moon and planets are intimately related with human existence, birth, death, health and sickness, war and peace, rulers and common people alike as expressed in Astrology, the science of those days.

All this prevailed and was accepted as logical and natural until Copernicus, Kepler, Galilei and their colleagues began to tell about their observations on what is up there. Astronomy changed first and Theology is changing.

De anima
Tertullian wrote a treatise on Soul - de anima - which is his authentic text. The discussion contains many interesting points not discussed here. Chapter LV gives us a glimpse how an educated Christian living in early 3rd century Carthage used Bible to understand the world in which he was living. For Tertullian knowledge was not to be obtained by Philosophy but rather he underlined the importance of the Scriptures and uses them to argue his case.

The treatise describes four compartments in the world we humans live.
1. Earth of the living
2. Hades secret recess deep underground (physically so), prison were souls are waiting for resurrection
3. Paradise - a VIP lounge for waiting the Heavens to open; only for martyrs.
4. Heaven that will open with the coming of Christ

The word infernum, hell, appears in connection with the descend of Christ (also in Nicene creed) but seems not to connect with Hades.

It is interesting that according to Tertullian the Stoic philosopher Endymions wrote that souls of the dead are around the Moon.

Tertullian's text
Chapter LV.-The Christian Idea of the Position of Hades; The Blessedness of Paradise Immediately After Death. The Privilege of the Martyrs.

By ourselves the lower regions (of Hades) are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels;

inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth, that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down. 

Now although Christ is God, yet, being also man, "He died according to the Scriptures," and "according to the same Scriptures was buried" [as a real human being. The formula appears 100 years later in Nicene creed.]

With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself.

(This being the case), you must suppose Hades to be a subterranean region, and keep at arm's length those who are too proud to believe that the souls of the faithful deserve a place in the lower regions.

These persons, who are "servants above their Lord, and disciples above their Master," would no doubt spurn to receive the comfort of the resurrection, if they must expect it in Abraham's bosom. But it was for this purpose, say they, that Christ descended into hell [infernum], that we might not ourselves have to descend thither.

Well, then, what difference is there between heathens and Christians, if the same prison awaits them all when dead?

How, indeed, shall the soul mount up to heaven, where Christ is already sitting at the Father's right hand, when as yet the archangel's trumpet has not been heard by the command of God, -when as yet those whom the coming of the Lord is to find on the earth, have not been caught up into the air to meet Him at His coming, in company with the dead in Christ, who shall be the first to arise?

To no one is heaven opened; the earth is still safe for him, I would not say it is shut against him. When the world, indeed, shall pass away, then the kingdom of heaven shall be opened.

Shall we then have to sleep high up in ether, with the boy-loving worthies of Plato; or in the air with Arius; or around the moon with the Endymions of the Stoics?

No, but in Paradise, you tell me, whither already the patriarchs and prophets have removed from Hades in the retinue of the Lord's resurrection.

How is it, then, that the region of Paradise, which as revealed to John in the Spirit lay under the altar, displays no other souls as in it besides the souls of the martyrs?

How is it that the most heroic martyr Perpetua on the day of her passion saw only her fellow-martyrs there, in the revelation which she received of Paradise, if it were not that the sword which guarded the entrance permitted none to go in thereat, except those who had died in Christ and not in Adam? A new death for God, even the extraordinary one for Christ, is admitted into the reception-room of mortality, specially altered and adapted to receive the new-comer.

Observe, then, the difference between a heathen and a Christian in their death: if you have to lay down your life for God, as the Comforter counsels, it is not in gentle fevers and on soft beds, but in the sharp pains of martyrdom: you must take up the cross and bear it after your Master, as He has Himself instructed you.

The sole key to unlock Paradise is your own life's blood. You have a treatise by us, [de Paradiso is one of Tertullian's lost works], in which we have established the position that every soul is detained in safe keeping in Hades until the day of the Lord.
Anti-Nicean fathers Vol III Translation Holmes 1870

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Water on Mercury, Moon, Earth

North pole of Mercury with icy areas marked in yellow Image NASA APOD
Water is a very fundamental thing in Nature. The Bible does not say that God created water. Rather, it is there right in the emptiness of the beginning and the Spirit of God hovers bird-like over the waters of deep before there was light.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Genesis 1:1-2
Giving scientific explanation to the presence of water on planet Earth is a real challenge.

It has been suggested that meteorites hitting the surface of Earth are an important and perhaps the main source of water found on our planet. The discovery of icy planets orbiting the outer giant gas planets in our Solar system gives credence to such a view - we know that "there is waterout there".

The recent discovery of water in planet Mercury by MESSANGER cameras is illustrated in the APOD image above. The region of north pole where "radar bright" reflections suggest the presence of ice is always in the shade and colder than -280o F, -173C. Yellow color is used in the photo to mark crater walls that may contain frozen water.

This discovery of water in Mercury adds credibility to the theory that water may be transported around in the Solar system by meteorites and that a large heavenly water-carrier may have brought the water that covers most of Earth's surface.

Many questions remain, however. I think that particularly important is the fact that the geology of the tectonic plates under Earths' oceans is different from the geology under continents.