Sunday, July 20, 2014

Astrology: The Age of Aquarius

Age Of Aquarius Lyrics

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Let the sun shine, Let the sun shine in
The sun shine in ...

Lyrics from

The line "When the Moon is n the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars" is poetic liberty and not real Astrology. Moon is in the 7th House every night. The perfect alignment of all the planets as seen from Earth took place lin 2000 AD but obviously it did not bring with it the end of the world as we know it.

The Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius is an astrological term denoting either the current or forthcoming astrological age, depending on the method of calculation. Astrologers maintain that an astrological age is a product of the earth's slow precessional rotation and lasts for 2,160 years, on average (1 degree every 72 years. 360 / 12 zodiac signs = 30. 30 * 72 = 2,160). In popular culture in the United States, the Age of Aquarius refers to the advent of the New Age movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

There are various methods of calculating the length of an astrological age.
In sun-sign astrology, the first sign is Aries, followed by Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces, whereupon the cycle returns to Aries and through the zodiacal signs again.

Astrological ages, however, proceed in the opposite direction (retrograde in astronomy). Therefore, the Age of Aquarius follows the Age of Pisces.

Axial precession

Precessional movement of the Earth – the Earth rotates
(white arrows) once a day about its axis of rotation (red);
this axis itself rotates slowly (white circle),
completing a rotation in approximately 26,000 years
In astronomy, axial precession is a gravity-induced, slow, and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body's rotational axis. In particular, it refers to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth's axis of rotation, which, similar to a wobbling top, traces out a pair of cones joined at their apices in a cycle of approximately 26,000 years. The term "precession" typically refers only to this largest part of the motion; other changes in the alignment of Earth's axis – nutationand polar motion – are much smaller in magnitude.

Historical background
Modern astrologists discuss the exact time when the Age of Aquarius begins and what kind of positive impact the positions of Earth, Sun, Moon and planets in the Zodiac will have on humanity. These discussions are definitely modern as they assume rotating planet Earth, two thousand year rhythm of alignment and even axial precession.

Ancient astronomers in all the cultures around the globe understood Earth as the solid immovable center of the Universe over which the heavenly objects made their nightly travels.

The great demarcation point in the history of the astrological ages is around 127 BC when the Greek astronomer-astrologer Hipparchus from observation discovered that the great immovable sphere of fixed stars was not fixed but slowly moving eastwards due to what is now known as precession of the equinoxes. It is possible that some other astronomers before Hipparchus had also noticed the phenomenon but it is Hipparchus who has taken the fame.

This discovery by Hipparchus is not entirely unexpected as Hipparchus is considered to have been the greatest observational astronomer in his time and up until Tycho Brahe in the 16th century AD. What is highly contentious in modern times is the claim by many that observation of the effects of precession of the equinoxes was known well before the time of Hipparchus and his contemporaries in Greece or even Mesopotamia. The academic answer is no – precession of the equinoxes was unknown in earlier times.

Anno Domini
The current Anno Mundi calendar theoretically commenced with the creation of the world based on information in the Old Testament. It was believed that based on the Anno Mundi calendar Jesus was born in the year 5500 (or 5500 years after the world was created) with the year 6000 of the Anno Mundi calendar marking the end of the world. Anno Mundi 6000 (approximately AD 500) was thus equated with the resurrection of Christ and the end of the world.

Since this date had already passed in the time of Dionysius Exiguus, he therefore searched for a new end of the world at a later date. He was heavily influenced by ancient cosmology, in particular the doctrine of the Great Year that places a strong emphasis on planetary conjunctions. This doctrine says that when all the planets were in conjunction that this cosmic event would mark the end of the world. Dionysius accurately calculated that this conjunction would occur in May AD 2000

Dionysius then applied another astronomical timing mechanism based on precession of the equinoxes. Though incorrect, some oriental astronomers at the time believed that the precessional cycle was 24,000 years which included twelve astrological ages of 2,000 years each. Dionysius believed that if the planetary alignment marked the end of an age (i.e. the Pisces age), then the birth of Jesus Christ marked the beginning of the Age of Pisces 2,000 years earlier. He therefore deducted 2,000 years from the May 2000 conjunction to produce AD 1 for the incarnation of Christ.

For us Christians the views of that 6th century Byzantine monk who was short in stature but mentally tall are of particular interest - birth of Christ, beginning of the Age of Pisces.

So now it is time to move on to the New Age when the vernal equinox point will no longer be facing Pisces, but moves into the constellation of Aquarius

As the few selected quotes above demonstrate the matter of the Age of Aquarius is a big subject indeed and lies in the heart of ancient and modern Astrology. Fundamental to these beliefs is the view that the fate of humanity is not random but follows patterns similar to the clockworks of heavenly bodies in some sort of universal unity of the Cosmos.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hawking and Mlodinow as Theologians

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

"We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful."

Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design. Bantam Books, 2010.

The two experts on Cosmology make profound theological statements apparently on the basis of their scientific study of God's creation. However, neither the view that Universe was born spontaneously nor the view that God is not needed for creation and that He probably does not even exist are not at all based on their deep scientific understanding of how the Universe works.

Leonard Mlodinow has affected Hawking's theological views towards atheism. I wonder to what extent the tragic murder of so many of Leonard Mlodinow's family in Auschwitz affects his lack of faith in God of Israel.  

Neither Hawking nor Mlodinow is qualified to answer the question they seek to understand as they have little or no understanding with the rest of the humanity what is human spirit.

God of Israel is spirit and beyond the intellectual reach of even the smartest among us. We only learn to know Him the way He has established for us to learn to know Him.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

SN 1006 Supernova Remnant

Remnant of the supernova seen in 1006 AD.

Another Astrotheology link to the overwhelmingly rich APOD site.

A spectacular photo combining X ray (blue), light (light blue) and radio wave image (red) of the remains of the famous supernova that was seen on planet Earth in 1006 AD.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rabbi Maimonides and the stars

As the fame of Rabbi Moshe Maimonides (1135-1204) spread among Sephardi Jews from Egypt all teh way to Spain in the west and to Yemen in the east he began to receive questions on Astrology. Rambam, as he is also known, rejected such questions and considered ridiculous the idea that planets and constellations could affect human destiny.

Maimonides was a highly intelligent man, somewhere there among other Jewish geniuses like Marx, Einstein and Freud, and as such a genuine rationalist and moralist. This fundamental approach to reality is seen in the way he handles the relationship between Torah and science of his time in The Guide to the Perplexed:: scientific proof, logic and evidence are decisive in correct Philosophy. He does not deny the significance of Divine Revelation so essential to Judaism but sees it as additional information that completes the picture.

Aristotelian geocentric universe
The second book of the Guide begins with the exposition of the physical structure of the universe, as seen by Maimonides. The world-view asserted in the work is essentially Aristotelian, with a spherical earth in the centre, surrounded by concentric Heavenly Spheres.

While Aristotle's view with respect to the eternity of the universe is rejected, Maimonides extensively borrows his proofs of the existence of God and his concepts such as the Prime Mover

Y. Tzvi Langerman writes about his views on astronomy among other things
Islamic milieu
Maimonides remained attached to the intellectual outlook of the western part of the Islamic world throughout his life, and this is especially true of his work in astronomy. In his youthful search for guidance, especially in matters of cosmography (which were later to be a major concern), he sought out the son of Jābir ibn Aflaḥ as well as some pupils of Ibn Bājja. Indeed, his career affords us one of the clearest examples of the distinctive features of the western Islamic astronomical tradition.
Maimonides contributed to the Arabic astronomical literature by editing (i. e., preparing corrected versions of texts that had become problematic) books written by two of his Andalusian predecessors, the above‐mentioned Jābir and Ibn Hūd, ruler of Seville.

Physical universe
Astronomical issues are stressed at several places in Maimonides' great work of religious thought, the Guide of the Perplexed. The most detailed discussion is found in Part Two, Chapter 24, which is devoted entirely to a review of the state of what may be anachronistically called cosmology or celestial physics.

Aristotelian physics had established by means of what were then taken to be irrefutable proofs that the motions of the heavenly bodies must be circular, with the Earth at the center. Ptolemy's models clearly violate these principles.

All of the solutions that had been offered to date were critically scrutinized and rejected; these included the proposals of Thābit ibn Qurra and Ibn Bājja, for which Maimonides remains our only source.

Visibility of lunar crescent and calendar
Maimonides' sole contribution to mathematical astronomy is his procedure for determining the visibility of the lunar crescent, which takes up several chapters of his great law code, the Mishneh Torah.

Before the calendar was fixed, Jewish law required that the beginning of each month be certified by the court at Jerusalem. No month can exceed 30 days. Hence, if the crescent is not seen on the eve of the 29th, the declaration of the new month is automatic.

Maimonides' procedure is necessary only for those instances where witnesses do report a sighting on the eve of the 29th. Specifically, the members of the court need to know whether a sighting is possible, so that they may convene in the expectation of witnesses; and they need a few details about the appearance of the crescent for purposes of cross‐examination. Conversely, the court needs to know when a sighting will be impossible, so as to be able to reject any purported sightings.

With these facts in mind, it will be readily understood why Maimonides presents his method in “cookbook” fashion. Solar and lunar parameters, listed by Maimonides, can be plugged in, and the computation is then carried out step‐by‐step. Eventually the result is a simple yes or no answer; if the answer is yes, some additional information about the appearance of the crescent can be obtained.

Theoretical explanations or justifications are kept to a bare minimum. Certain parameters, for example the geographical latitude, are built in, since the computation is meant to be true only for Jerusalem and its environs. Maimonides states that he has allowed himself some approximations, but, he assures us, the round‐off errors cancel each other out, so that there is no net effect on the computation.

Religion and science
Maimonides issued some critically important and repercussive statements on the relationship between Judaism and the sciences, astronomy in particular. He asserted that ancient Rabbinic views on the structure of the heavens have no privileged position. The tenets of astronomy can be proven or rejected by universal and invariant rules of logic; hence their source, or, as we might say, the cultural context out of which they emerge, is irrelevant.

On the other hand, astronomy is by no means a “secular” science. Knowledge of God, the attainment of which is a primary religious obligation, can be approximated – Maimonides denies that it can be fully achieved – only by inference from creation. The stars are the most noble bodies in creation, and the study of their motions is one of the most religiously fulfilling activities at our disposal.

Let me repeat something critically important in the paragraphs above describing the views of rabbi Moshe ben Maimon

Knowledge of God, the attainment of which is a primary religious obligation, can be approximated – Maimonides denies that it can be fully achieved – only by inference from creation. 

Similar understanding of learning to know God from two books, the Book of Nature and the Book of Grace, is deeply embedded in the theology of Thomas of Aquino who widely quotes Maimonides in his angelic writings.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Brian Cox - Wonders of the Universe

Professor Brian Cox
image wikimedia
Wonders of the Universe is a 2011 television series produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel, and Science Channel, hosted by physicist Professor Brian Cox. Wonders of the Universe was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two from 6 March 2011. The series comprises four episodes, each of which focuses on an aspect of the universe and features a 'wonder' relevant to the theme. It follows on from Cox's 2010 series for the BBC, Wonders of the Solar System.

In one of the episodes of this wonderful documentary professor Cox tells how as a young man he was inspired by Carl Sagan's masterpiece Cosmos - Personal Voyage (1980) and how it affected his choice of profession. And indeed, Wonders of the Universe and the earlier Wonders of the Solar System are in a way scientific updates of Sagan's work introducing materials discovered since 1980. The globe jumping voyage from Arizona crater to Burkes shales and elsewhere is made possible by the legendary camera and editing skills of BBC, Discovery Channel and Science Channel combined and the result is truly spectacular!

The documentary is a summary aimed at general public of what is known in cosmic scale about the Universe and touches critical stages in the evolution of life on Earth. Constantly pleasantly smiling Cox obviously enjoys talking about these things and his clarity of thinking is admirable.

The narrative is strictly scientific and includes actually very little of Sagan's personal voyage style views on Philosophy and Theology. It is descriptive rather than interpretative and the amount of information provided in such an elegant manner is staggering.

Wonders of the Universe raises an important point concerning modern world view, Weltanschauung.
A comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point of view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.

The term is a calque of the German word Weltanschauung, composed of Welt ('world') and Anschauung ('view' or 'outlook') It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.

It has been said that for many Science has replaced Religion and that people like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox are the priests of modern age explaining to us the nature and meaning of reality on the basis of proven facts rather than metaphysical concepts and belief systems. In short, they represent scientific worldview that can be discussed factually as well by an Atheist as a person adhering to any religion.

But here is the catch: the spectacular documentary shows God's wonderful works of creation without mentioning Him. This leaves the story incomplete and one gets the feeling of professor Cox glossing over the crucial questions of understanding what he is talking about.

Take, for example, the wonderful Cambrian fossil fields in Burkes Shale on the mountains near Vancouver Canada. Evolutionary Big Bang, as Cox explains, perhaps caused by evolving life starting to see light. The complex eye of trilobites is something that biologists and paleontologists can study with all their tools and yet nobody really has the answer as to why anything evolves.

Scientific worldview alone is not satisfactory to the deepest yearnings of humans to understand the world they live in. This marvelous document is an outstanding proof of that and shows that man is more than some people like to think.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book - Request for intercession

Wolf-Rayet Star 124
image NASA APOD Judy Schmidt
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:3
Following the example of many others I also am now writing a book that is based on several years of work with the magnificent tool called Blogger.

The subject is enormous, truly overwhelming and requires clear focus in order to help those perplexed by the rapid changes in our world view. The theme is full of traps both in avoiding factual errors and in providing interpretations as the writer is in many ways limited student of Astronomy and Cosmology with no training in higher mathematics, a humanist. The intended readership has, of course, deep concerns about dealing with science and religion in the same context and especially about bringing the Bible into discussions about most modern of sciences. These genuinely legitimate worries with many horrific examples of incorrect mixing of Grace and Nature must be wisely addressed before theological and philosophical discussions are even possible.

For this and many other reasons I deeply appreciate if you remember in your prayers also the book project Astrotheology so that the end result would be to the glory of the God of Israel, the Creator of earth and heavens, our very personal Heavenly Father, and not the opposite!

In the name of Christ we pray; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Mikko Louhivuori

Update 7.7. 2014

Thank you for your prayers! They are already bringing guidance and blessing to the project.
The planned book will be called God is One. Essays on Astrotheology.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Higgs boson and the stability of the Universe - ICHEP 2014

Graph BBC News - Science and Environment
BBC science editor Paul Rincon writes about the preparations currently going on in order to restart the Large Hadron Collider in Cern next year. He outlines one of the numerous questions that the about 10 billion euro instrument might provide answers to: how stable is the Universe? Will it exist to infinity or will it be destroyed some day?

The answer is depends on the measured mass of Higgs boson - the cause of gravity according to the Standard Model. The matter is discussed in the 37th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) held on July 2-9 2014 in Valencia, Spain.
At ICHEP, other scientists are expected to outline details of a refined mass for the fundamental particle, which has been measured at approximately 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV). For those outside the particle physics community, this might seem like a minor detail. But the mass of the Higgs is more than a mere number.

There's something very curious about its value that could have profound implications for the Universe. Mathematical models allow for the possibility that our cosmos is long-lived yet not entirely stable, and may - at some indeterminate point - be destroyed.

"The overall stability of the Universe depends on the Higgs mass - which is a bit funny," said Prof Jordan Nash, a particle physicist from Imperial College London, who works on the CMS experiment at Cern.

"There's a long theoretical argument which I won't go into, but that value is intriguing in that it sits on the edge between what we think is the long-term stability of the Universe and a Universe that has a finite lifetime."

To use an analogy, imagine the Higgs boson is an object resting at the bottom of a curved slope. If that resting place really is the lowest point on the slope, then the vacuum of space is completely stable - in other words, the Higgs is in the lowest energy state and can go no further.

However, if at some point further along this slope, there's another dip, the potential exists for the Universe to "topple" into this lower energy state, or minimum. If that happens, the vacuum of space collapses, dooming the cosmos.
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN BBC News - Science and Environment July 1, 2014