Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Died: Alfred Anderson, 109, last surviving participant in the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, during which British and German soldiers emerged from opposing trenches along the Western Front near Ypres, Belgium, to exchange gifts, sing carols, and smoke; in Newtyle, Scotland. The unofficial World War I truce spread to much of the Western Front, lasting for days in some areas. Last year he said of the reprieve, "I remember the eerie sound of silence."

Rest Ye Merry.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

R.I.P. Sam

The World's Ugliest Dog died last week, just short of his 15th birthday.

Goodbye, Sam. It's been fun living on the same earth as you. Go Well!

Light Echo


Sometime back in January of 2002 this star's outer surface suddenly exploded with the result that it became the brightest star in the Milky Way galaxy. A stellar flash like this has never been seen before. What looks like matter being expelled is actually a light echo, a reflection of the flash upon stellar dust around the star.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Rest and be thankful

Rest and be thankful.

Inscription on the stone seat in the
Scottish Highlands, and title of one
of Wordsworth's poems


R.I.P Nadia Anjuman

A 25-year-old Afghhan poet, a woman named Nadia Anjuman was murdered last week by her husband. When she should have been celebrating the success of her first book Gule Dudi (Dark Flower), he apparently beat her to death for "bringing shame" to the family by writing poetry about love and beauty.

"I am caged in this corner, full of melancholy and sorrow," she wrote in one ghazal, or lyrical poem. "My wings are closed and I cannot fly."

Nadia was one of a group of courageous women, known as "The Sewing Circles of Herat," who risked their lives to keep the city's literary scene active (sewing was one of the few things women under the Taliban were allowed to do). Had the authorities investigated, they'd have found the sewing students at the Golden Needle Sewing School had never really sewed--they wrote, they studied Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky , and other banned writers from a brave professor from the University of Herat. Under a regime where even teaching a girl to read was a crime, he might have been hanged if he'd been caught.

After the Taliban fell, Nadia went to study literature at the University of Herat--but the old mindset remains, presumably because the continuing powers of the American-backed warlords have repressive views similar to those of the old Taliban.

But the ladies of the Golden Needle Sewing School (and many others) are outraged. Me, too.

R.I.P. Nadia. May "flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Strangeness of Light and Matter

The reality of our universe is that truth has two opposite forms. Light and subatomic parts are both wave and particle. Matter is also energy, so matter is just light in another form...both forms of reality (are) scientifically provable. Truth is two things and not one...There is even more strangeness to the story of light and matter, a strangeness still not understood by scientists...From a scientific point, matter seems to have life, not only because there is a wave/particle duality to nature, but also because subatomic particles have an amazing ability to be interconnected, to communicate with each other, and to act as a unified whole. Because of the way electrons are interconnected they appear to be communicating faster than the speed of light, as if there were no time or space separating them. It is possible for one electron to communicate with a second electron instantly even when they are miles apart. Under certain conditions, a high density of electrons act like one whole, similar to a flock of birds changing directions in flight all at the same time.

One physicist, David Bohm, was so impressed with how electrons act that he remarked that they actually seemed to be alive. Bohm said that "dividing the universe up into living and nonliving things...has no meaning. Animate and inanimate matter are inseparably woven, and life, too, spread throughout the totality of the universe. Even a rock is in some way alive...

The modern physics of light and matter reveal that we are connected in someway with the entire universe. In summarizing the new physics, Gary Zukav wrote, "The philosophical implication of quantum mechanics is that all of the things in our universe (including us) that appear to exist independently are actually parts of one all-encompassing organic pattern, and that no parts of the pattern are ever really separate from it or from each other."

--Grant Bishop

I say, "Waaa-Hoooo! Remember this next time you feel far from home!"

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005


I couldn't resist posting these. This fantastic skyscape from the Spitzer Telescope is called The Mountains of Creation. They are about 10 times the size of the analogous Pillars of Creation made famous by the Hubble in 1995. Together they are part of a complex region of space dubbed The Heart and Soul Nebulae.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Lee Smolin, "something of an upstart" who nevertheless received a doctorate in Physics from Harvard, published a book entitled The Life of the Cosmos, proposes a theory of what he calls cosmological natural selection. He asks, "What if all the things we think of as absolute--the speed of light, the tug of gravity, the motions of elementary particles--have also been shaped through the years by the subtle forces of evolution? ...Why shouldn't such phenomena be subject to change, just as forms of life are?...What I am suggesting is that a similar shift must take place in our understanding of physics and cosmology." Smolin notes that the random chances of a universe springing into existence with the grace and intricacy of ours are absurdly small--one in 10 to the 29th power, or 10 followed by 29 zeroes. This leads him to suspect that conditions oin the infant universe were not left to chance, but were finely tuned by the trial and error of evolution, in a process that reaches further back in time than can be measured by cosmic clocks. But how could the universe have evolved from anything else, unless it was not the first? Unless it was at the end of an evolutionary chain that spans many thousands of cosmic generations? Smolin's theory is highly speculative. Still, it's intriguing, and proposes that beyond the horizon of every black hole is the beginning of another universe, and time itself then stops being a linear flow, but "branches like a tree, so that each black hole is a bud that leads to a new universe of moments." In her new book Year of the Comets, Jan Deblieu tells of speaking with a stargazing friend who tells her, "When you look at stars through a telescope, you can taste space." Toward the end of her book, she writes: "Will we ever manage to find the truth about our Universe? Will we recognize it if we happen to glimpse it?

We are like snails in a salt marsh, crawling up and down stems of grass with only the merest inkling of the size of the world in which we live. We are a small cosmos, born of a black hole in a previous universe ... We are a leaf in a current, or a bubble boiling in a huge pot, bouncing around with others that we can neither hear nor see but whose presence we hold in our minds.

"Oh!" I echo her silently. I imagine the whole of our tiny, perfect world--people, animals, plants--watching the sky together, saying as one, "Oh!"