Seeing into the Past: Science and Sci-fi

So, if there were a nuclear blast or something similar on a desert of sand, it would make a sea of glass. When this cooled it would make a mirror. If there were one such mirror in the solar system of a star say four light years away, and we could get it to reflect our light back to us, we could literally see eight years into the past. So, you know how in the bathroom, two mirrors reflect one another in a series? Find two such mirror-planets in different parts of the solar system, and each reflection would be a successive page into the past. So it would be theoretically possible to literally see into our past. We are already seeing into the past, whenever we look at star light.

A riddle: What is not, yet is unchangeable? The past is what it is, or was, living on only in the present.  But the light that bounced off our planet years ago is still travelling about somewhere, and the past is what it is. Not so with the future.

When we shine two flashlights in opposite directions, how fast are the ends of each beam moving away from one another? Or when driving 60 mph, do the headlight’s lights travel at 60 + the speed of light?

One of my favorite thoughts is that the rumble of thunder is caused by the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound. When a bolt goes across the sky, the sound from parts farther away reaches us later, while the light part is mostly instantaneous. There is a ratio of sound to light that is important.

We do not consider, in Astronomy, that we are not seeing what is out there right now at all, but rather what was out there, and at various times according to the various distances. What is out there now may be basically similar, but would have to be deduced from what we are seeing. There is a market for a real time map deduced by computer. I wonder if any living person has even seen an attempt to depict what is now there. And how are our pictures of swirling galaxies skewed by time?



Enough sci fi yet? What if each planet gradually moves out through the sweet spot where it is not too hot or too cold, and the challenge of each civilization, and life on each planet, is to planet hop, as from the old watery Mars to the young earth, then to Venus? We may have to tread water for a while here though, as the weather on Venus is some 800 degrees. I always wanted to write a sci-fi novel about this world where the purpose is planet hopping, but will probably never have time.

P. S. I still don’t believe Einstein if he says space is curved and the same thing as time. Curved relative to what?

And are you guys really sure that gravity is caused by mass and not somehow the opposite of centrifugal force, like the arms of a skater? I’d prob”ly give you’all this one, but I can’t see it.

P. S. S. Nor do I believe the Big Bang thing straight up. What if, as a Russian physicist too famously noted, there were 16 Big Bangs ? How would we know? Or 16 times, everything could have expanded and contracted. Time itself may not be something that can come to be, or it might come to be many times (?). The theory only says this universe began the 13+ billion years ago. The singularity, too, is a nice thought, but it is relative, depending on things said to come out of it in order to conceive it. Really small, was it?

From Genesis, it is sometimes said that the Big Bang confirms the account that the universe had a beginning, as in the creation story. But here’s a question: On which day did water come to be? And on which day did moving, as “over the face of the deep, ” come to be, according to the text of Genesis? But Maimonides, my best teacher on Genesis, disagrees with me. He has me astonished today at many things about this, but especially, that  heaven is set aside in I:1, and is described only by default and analogy, until the first three lines of the gospel of John.

Copernican Reflections

It is very hard to see in terms of the Copernican universe when we look out at our sky, as at sunset, or rather “earthrise.”

Do you know that at sunset, if you hold really very still, you can see the earth gracefully move? The same is true of the Moon, if one sits as in October, with the harvest moon behind the branches of an old apple tree. With the branches as a reference, one can see the moon rise, again, if you hold very still and look with patience.

As far as we are from the sun right now, as we look for example at sunset, so far will we be around the other side in just six months. The radius indicates a circumference that makes our heads spin.

It is very hard, from the ground, to see the cause of the seasonal changes in the position of the sun, and the reason for sol-stice, when the sun holds still and then begins to set further South, indicating the coming of summer. And why is the coldest part of winter after Solstice, when the days are getting longer? It is that the earth takes a while to cool off and heat up. So we now suffer the cooling that was occurring in November and December.

It is almost impossible for us to see believing that when we look East to the sunrise, we are looking in the same direction as when we look West at the sunset.

Would it have been possible to figure out the Copernican universe from what is visible? After sunset, when the moon is in the West, it is clear that the phase of the moon is a reflection of the direction of the sun below the Horizon. One can tell how far away the sun is, and see by implication where it is on the other side of the earth at any time of the night. It just occurred to me yesterday how the place of the sun at night is implied by the angle during the day, according to seasons. The curved shadow of the earth on the moon during eclipse is the best clue to the round earth, which many thinkers figured out for themselves in different ways.

We do not know which way is up. First its perpendicular to the ground, then the direction of the North Pole, then 23 degrees off, perpendicular to the disk of the solar system, then to the disk of the galaxy. And what if the Milky Way is sideways?

But for our purposes, the moss growing on the North side of a tree indicates direction. I thought I saw, just the other day, that if one looks closely at both the forest and the trees, one can tell the direction of South by the slight leaning of the trees growing toward the sun. I have to verify this, but we could gain the habit of always being able to see direction if this were so, and a trained soldier or tracker would simply always know or be able to tell direction by looking.

Tribute to the R. E. M. Song Stand!  And to the Essay by Jacob Klein called On the Copernican Revolution.

Fukushima and Modern Technology

When the disaster at Fukushima occurred, I called in a comment to the National Public Radio, that mankind is like the guy in the Farside cartoon, walking into the Midvale School for the Gifted, pushing on a door that has a sign that says “Pull.” The physicists and their bosses who thought it would be OK / profitable to build a nuclear power plant near a fault line apparently also thought they could keep the electricity on for 10,000 years- as is apparently necessary to prevent a meltdown. “Never fear if the power goes out and there is damage from an earthquake, for we have backup generators.” These, of course, were disabled by the flood that follows upon some earthquakes. Mankind may simply be too stupid to wield the powers given us by technology.

We too, in the U. S., have done things that are that stupid, and have nuclear power plants on and near the San Andreas Fault, in California. One wonders if we have sense and moderation enough to avoid fracturing the earth in search of oil, at least in these areas, and that of the Yellowstone supervolcanoe.

One wonders how much of our banking system depends upon keeping the electricity on. I believe that some e-property would disappear if there were sunspots or other electrical problems.

Manual backup is the key. I wish I had a hand water pump on the old wishing well by my shed, and may hook one up if this is possible.

That we cannot grow gardens from seeds anymore, due to hybrid plants, is disturbing. It is also disturbing that all the city compost is tainted from weedkillers on our lawns. The obvious problem with the GMO/Roundup system is less a genetic or chemistry problem than an ecosystem problem. But we wish the colleges and hospitals that ban smoking cigarettes on their campuses would consider involuntarily exposing their guests to these hormonal poisons and carcinogens. That the bees and monarch butterflies have disappeared is a sorrow beyond our ability to feel sorrow. But that hardly anyone notices, reports on or reacts to the disappearance of the bees and Monarch butterflies is unconscionable, and an ill omen. Already worse creatures, such as the bald face hornet, have taken the place of the harmless honeybee in our subdivisions. The subdivisions are all named after the nature that was destroyed to build them- thing like “Deer Creek” and “Pheasant Run.”

The Christmas Story

Here are the long and short versions for reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve:


Short Version

The Annunciation                                   Luke 1:26-1:50

From the Birth of Jesus to Nazareth     Matthew 1:18-2:23

The Birth of Jesus                                    Luke 2:1-20


Long Version

Luke 1:5-1:80      Elizabeth and Zechariah; The Annunciation; John the Baptist

Matt. 1:18-1:25    The Angel to Joseph

Luke 2:1-2:21        Joseph to Bethlehem; The Shepherds See the Angel

Matt.2:1-2:23        Herod and the Wise Men; Jesus to Egypt, Then Nazareth

Luke 2:22-35; 41-52   Simeon to Nazareth; Age 12, Preaching in the Temple

Read these in order for the scripture reading of the Christmas story.