Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Comet Garradd in Sagitta and the Coathanger

A comet designated C/2009 P1 Garradd (aka "Comet Garradd") has been making its way through the solar system and is now crossing through some fairly easily-identifiable territory in the band of the Milky Way galaxy.

As this description of Comet Garradd explains, the comet's path makes a fairly wide pass around the sun, and will not get closer than about 1.55 AU (astronomical units, a measurement equal to the mean distance of the earth from the sun). This means that it will remain pretty far away from earth and be difficult to see with the naked eye even at its brightest (which will be in March 2012). The orbit of Mars averages 1.52 AU, which means that Garradd's path swings it around the sun such that even in its closest approach it is only about the distance of Mars to the sun and no closer.

Currently, Garradd cannot be seen with the naked eye, but it is passing near some constellations and asterisms this week that allow observers to track it down using a telescope or binoculars.

To find Garradd at all, you will need a dark night, away from light pollution. The waxing crescent moon is still very young and following close behind the sun, which just "passed it up" over the weekend, creating a new moon (to see how the waning crescent moon is just ahead of the sun before it is overtaken and swallowed up in the sun's glare to form a new moon, and then emerges on the other side as a waxing crescent trailing the sun, see this previous post).

Because it is so close behind the sun right now, it is far in the west at sunset and exits the scene as night falls, leaving a nice dark sky for stargazing and comet-tracking. However, as it trails further and further behind the sun, it will be higher and higher in the sky later and later into the night after sunset, and as it does so it will also get thicker and thicker, on its way to a full moon on 12 September. Therefore, the next few nights might be good opportunities to look for Comet Garradd.

To get yourself oriented to the right portion of the sky, you will first want to find the constellation Aquila, or the Eagle. If you are using binoculars (which have some definite advantages for stargazing, as explained in this previous post), you will probably do best to actually lie down on the ground looking up, so that you can relax your neck and hold the binos steady. You will also want to remove your glasses if you wear glasses, and use the focus dial to bring the stars into focus with the binoculars instead of with your glasses. Doing so will allow you to get the eyepieces right up to your eyes the way they were intended to work, rather than keeping them a distance away because of your glasses.

To find Aquila if you are not familiar with this constellation, the best place to go is to the marvellous and practical book by H.A. Rey which we have discussed in several previous posts. However, if you want to track it down without his help, you should first find the southernmost beginning of the track of the Milky Way, which rises like the smoke from a campfire between the tail of the Scorpion and the jewel-like stars of the Archer, Sagittarius and then arcs right across the vault of the heavens.

In the Milky Way, two beautiful bird constellations are flying towards one another -- Aquila the Eagle (which you will encounter first on your way up the Milky Way from the Scorpion) and Cygnus the Swan (which is flying towards Aquila from north to south and is quite distinctive with its cross-shaped pattern and very symmetrical triangle wings).

Aquila is pretty easy to identify by its three stars in a row with bright Altair in the center (see the diagram above). Altair in the Eagle and Deneb in the Swan form two corners of the bright Summer Triangle, along with Vega (which, at a declination of +38°, is nearly straight up for observers in much of the US in latitudes close to N 38°). If you remove your binoculars while lying on the ground and look straight up and begin to squint (so that the fainter stars are all squeezed from view) you should be left with the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle being visible through your squinting eyes: Vega, Deneb, and Altair.

The three stars in a row that are the most distinctive feature of Altair reminded the ancient and medieval Arab astronomers of a balance on a scale, and they gave all three the Persian name Tarazed, or "the beam of the scale," as explained in this informative website written by Professor Jim Kaler, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy of the University of Illinois. Over time, this name became affixed to the second-brightest of the three (the upper one for viewers in the northern hemisphere), and the lowest of the three became known as Alshain. The center of the three and by far the brightest of them is, of course, Altair itself.

Using your binoculars or telescope, find the (now enormous) landmark of the three stars of the "beam of the scale" in Aquila, and continue up (north) to locate the constellation of Sagitta, or the Arrow (see diagram above). It consists of stars in a narrow "Y-shape" and a line from the three prominent stars in Aquila will take you right to its "fletching" in the tail of the arrow (the forked part of the "Y"). For a really excellent zoomed-in photograph of Sagitta, along with the three most distinctive stars of Aquila, and two tiny circles marking the comet as it passed by the M71 star cluster in Sagitta, check out this link, and then you can click on the photo one more time to zoom in even further.

Comet Garradd recently crossed through this constellation and is now heading across the rest of the narrow band of airspace belonging to Sagitta (see the dotted yellow boundary around the Arrow itself in the diagram above), enroute to an asterism known as "the Coathanger." An asterism is a group of stars that is not an official constellation but is located within the "airspace" of another constellation, or is part of another constellation (the Big Dipper is an asterism, and is actually a part of Ursa Major, the Great Bear).

To find the Coathanger, use your binos to draw a mental line between the two stars in Sagitta's Y-shaped tail and follow this line upwards (perpendicular to the line that forms the body of the Arrow itself) until you hit a single star, and take a right (for viewers in the northern hemisphere). You will come across the Coathanger -- it's really quite distinctive and unmistakable with binoculars. The comet is now heading for the Coathanger and will pass through it over the next few days (and nights).

To see what the Coathanger looks like, and the star where you "hang a right" to get to the Coathanger from a line going upwards from the tail of the arrow, look at this fantastic map of the area, which also depicts Garradd's progress through the sky in the coming weeks and months. Note that in that map (or, more properly, that chart), the positions of Comet Garradd are given for UTC hour 0 -- midnight in Greenwich, England. Therefore, the chart explains that observers far to the west of Greenwich (such as those in the US or in the Pacific even further west) should subtract a day from those numbers.

Note that this comet will continue to track across our night sky for the next several months, becoming brighter as March 5, 2012 approaches, when earth will come closest to Comet Garradd and observers should be able to make it out with the naked eye (although binos will probably still be preferable). At that time it will have made its way all the way north to the vicinity of the Little Dipper. According to the authors of the previously-linked article from Sky & Telescope, "Not since Hale-Bopp has any comet remained so bright for so long."

Comet Garradd was only discovered two years ago, in August of 2009, by astronomer Gordon J. Garradd, working from Australia's Siding Spring Observatory, in Coonabarabran, New South Wales (west and north of Sydney).

For a discussion of the properties of comets which appear to support the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown (and which conventional theories have a very difficult time explaining), see this previous post and especially this previous post.

Best wishes in finding Comet Garradd between Sagitta and the Coathanger!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More books that influenced me growing up: Survival -- Training Edition

Yesterday's post discussing Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap and some of the issues surrounding Dr. Bronner and his soap also mentioned the wonderful Redwood Trading Post, which always had racks of fascinating books on all sorts of outdoor-related subjects. I always looked forward to browsing through those books whenever we visited the Trading Post.

One of these books which we actually purchased was the old Air Force survival manual, "Survival -- Training Edition," AF Manual 64-3. I pored over it for hours on end growing up, and it could rightly be included in the list of influential books which was started back in this previous post.

That edition was dated 15 August 1969, and superseded a previous edition of 64-3 dated 16 July 1962. The edition I have contains an update dated August 1978, as well as a US Government Printing Office date stamp from 1983, so I guess we didn't purchase it before then! Apparently, the old 64-3 has now been superseded by a newer Air Force survival manual 64-4 dated July 1985, all of which you can read online here. The newer edition contains much of the material from the edition I grew up with, as well as new illustrations and material, but it also omits some very useful information as well.

One bit that is present in both the newer version and the older version is a helpful discussion of the constellations that point to the south celestial pole. While the north celestial pole is easily identified by the North Star, Polaris (which is within one degree of the actual point of the celestial north pole), the region of the south celestial pole is so devoid of stars compared to the sky around it at night that it is known as the "coal sack."

The diagram below is found on page 2-102 in the older 64-3, and can also be seen in the online version of 64-4 linked above on page 349 out of 580.

The directions instruct the observer to follow a line from the long axis of the Southern Cross (a line marked "A" in the above diagram) towards the celestial south pole. To know where along this line the actual celestial south pole is located, use another imaginary line extending perpendicular to the midpoint of the "Pointers" indicated in the diagram, which are two bright stars to the east of the Southern Cross (a line marked "C" in the diagram above). This intersection will not be exactly at the celestial south pole, but "within a few degrees" of it.

As discussed in the previous post on the amazing celestial navigation of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, the stars in their courses create circles in the sky as the earth turns on its axis. The largest of these apparent circles is the celestial equator, and they grow progressively smaller towards the celestial north pole and towards the celestial south pole.

In the diagram included on that page, it will be clear that these circles will be "tilted" for an observer who is located between the terrestrial poles and the terrestrial equator, and they will be vertical for an observer on the terrestrial equator itself. It should be fairly clear that an observer at the terrestrial north pole would be able to observe stars located between the celestial equator and the celestial north pole (stars with declinations between 0° and +90°, which designate the celestial equator and the celestial north pole by convention as described in that previous post as well). For that observer, the celestial equator would correspond to his own horizon, and he would be unable to view stars below that line (stars with negative declinations).

As an observer proceeded south from the terrestrial north pole, the celestial north pole (with Polaris) would begin to sink in the sky, and the celestial equator rise up from the horizon, such that by the time he had proceeded 10° south of the terrestrial north pole (to L. N 80° or 80° north latitude) he would be able to observe stars moving on the circles with declinations up to 10° south of the celestial equator (although a star moving on the circle at exactly -10° would only just touch the horizon at its highest point on the circle, and thus would not really be visible, and stars close to that southerly declination would be similarly difficult to make out due to the thickness of the atmosphere at that angle, the glare on the horizon, and any buildings or terrain features that might rise above the theoretically flat horizon).

Thus, by a process of working through this same sort of mental exercise, we can determine how far south a traveler would have to proceed before he could even see the stars of the Southern Cross, let alone the region of the sky containing the south celestial pole. The first of the stars of the Crux that could be seen is Gamma Crucis (or Gacrux), with a declination of -57°. It would briefly crest above the southern horizon for observers in the northern hemisphere at latitudes of N 33° or lower, although to be really visible an observer would want to proceed a few degrees further south than that.

The brightest star of the Southern Cross, Alpha Crucis (or Acrux), at the other end of the long axis from Gacrux, has a declination of -63° and so cannot be seen by observers until they pass south of latitude N 27°. Observers in Hawaii, centered on latitude N 19° can see the Southern Cross, as can observers at Machu Picchu at latitude S 13°, where there is a rock in the shape of the constellation which points to the Southern Cross once a year in May (see image here -- scroll almost all the way to the bottom of the page).

The old 64-3 edition of the Air Force Survival manual contained numerous other useful diagrams related to finding your location using the stars in a survival situation. It is quite a helpful reference and one well worth acquiring.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

When I was about 10 years old or not much older, my father started taking me on amazing backpacking trips to Yosemite, Mokelumne Wilderness, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Conness and the Conness Glacier, and many other awe-inspiring destinations in the Sierras.

We would pack very light on these trips, and usually stop by the iconic Redwood Trading Post to stock up on essential supplies that were difficult to find anywhere else. Those visits to the Redwood Trading Post are themselves worthy of several paragraphs of description, with their amazing rack of backpacking and survival books by the door and their rows and rows of military knives and unit patches behind the counter.

One essential item we would always take on a backpacking trip was a tiny bottle of Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 soap, in a bottle that looked exactly like the 32 ounce (one-quart) bottle pictured above, but about ten times smaller (about the size of your thumb or a little larger and containing perhaps four to six fluid ounces).

Peppermint was perhaps the only option back then (in fact, on those old labels, it apparently used to declare that: "Peppermint is nature's own unsurpassed fragrant Deodorant!"). In any event, it was the flavor we always took, and it came with the same fascinating and famous labels that are still on the bottles today, complete with instructions for the proper dilution to use for washing your camp dishes, washing your hair, washing your clothes, brushing your teeth, or even cleaning the fruit spray off of your fruits and vegetables!

I was of course fascinated by the densely-packed Moral ABC's printed on every bottle, and my Dad and I would laugh together at the quirky syntax that Dr. Bronner made famous on his tiny blue labels.

But there is no doubt Dr. Bronner believed very strongly what he was conveying in the labels on his versatile soaps. Here's one example: "Free Speech is man's only weapon against half-truth, that denies free speech to smear - slay - slander - tax - enslave. Full-truth, our only God, unites all mankind brave, if 10 men guard free-speech, brave!"

The timeline of Dr. Bronner's story posted on the Dr. Bronner's website today notes that Dr. Bronner began printing the messages and attaching them to the soap bottles early in the 1950s when he was urgently lecturing in Pershing Square in Los Angeles, convinced that the world needed to unite before it destroyed itself, but frustrated that people were buying the soap that he sold at the lectures and leaving without hearing his talk.

Dr. Bronner's message was -- and is -- that humanity needed to recognize how vanishingly trivial are their differences in the face of the stunning celestial majesty of Creation, according to the website (and any reading of his messages on the labels of his soaps).

For Emil Bronner, who emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1929, these were no mere intellectual conceits -- they were urgent and personal. His parents were both murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps during the Holocaust. In the 1940s, before he even began his soap business in 1948, he was lecturing on the need for unity "across ethnic and faith traditions, and about the dangers of Communism alongside Fascism," according to the Dr. Bronner's website.

For his efforts, Emil Bronner was actually arrested in 1947 for speaking without a permit at the University of Chicago, and committed to an insane asylum at Elgin, Illinois. He was involuntarily exposed to shock treatments and forced labor but escaped (on his third attempt) without a lobotomy. For a moving description of that part of his life given by his son Ralph Bronner, see the video below.

Dr. Bronner made his way to Los Angeles to avoid being recaptured in Illinois, and started his soap business after an initial foray into the nascent world of health-food (he made Dr. Bronner's Mineral Salt and Dr. Bronner's Mineral Bouillon before salt). He started his soap business in 1948, only a few years before the Redwood Trading Post (another family business) started much farther to the north in 1952.

Dr. Bronner's soap became a huge counterculture success among people who were suspicious of the chemicals in other products during the 1960s and 1970s. These concerns are still valid today -- we all know that our skin is the largest organ in the body, and that we shouldn't put on our skin anything we wouldn't be willing to ingest through our mouth. In fact, chemicals rubbed on the skin may be more dangerous than those swallowed through our mouths because the skin enables direct absorption into the bloodstream, while our digestive tract has systems for filtering out poisons and toxins and other harmful substances.

Many skincare, shaving products, lotions and hair products sold to unsuspecting consumers today contain chemicals and substances such as methylisothiozolinone (MIT) and numerous forms of parabens (such as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben), as well as petroleum bases. All of these substances have been alleged to be harmful in various ways to human health, and some studies appear to back up these fears (MIT, for instance, appears to be lethal to human neurons, according to more than one study).

With all the attention that we pay to what we put in our diet, we might want to consider looking into what we rub on our skin every day as well.

While the following is a bit of a tangent, it is worth pointing out that Dr. Bronner's soap is not only useful for washing your mess kit when you go backpacking, but it is also a fantastic soap for use back home in the confines of civilization. Not only that, but chips of bar soap from your Dr. Bronner's bar version soap make great shave soaps to toss into your shave mug when they start to become too thin to use with a washcloth.

When I was in the 82nd Airborne, there was a wily old Sergeant First Class named SFC Williams, who used to take a shave mug in his rucksack even out to the field. It was actually an unbreakable plastic coffee mug, with the "Strike Hold!" crest of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment on it, and he would use a moistened shave brush to create a lather and shave with it out in the field, while everyone else was trying to splash water on their faces with their hands out of a canteen cup and then apply some kind of foamy shaving cream out of a spray can.

Intrigued, I asked him the story behind this novel and old-fashioned method of shaving, and was told that once when he and his wife were going through very tough financial times (the pay we give the NCOs who devote their lives to protecting our freedoms is and was quite shameful, in my personal opinion) he examined every aspect of his budget to see where he could possibly save money. He determined that shaving with soap from a mug was far more economical than spending money on cans of shaving cream every couple of weeks, and so he switched to using a shave mug. He said he also considered switching to a straight razor, which would have been cheaper than using disposable razors, but decided that the risk involved was not worth the potential savings.

Soon enough, I had my own shaving mug (including a plastic coffee mug for taking to the field with a disc of shave soap) and was discovering all the benefits of this forgotten method of applying shaving cream. In addition to saving money (which it certainly did -- a disc of shave soap back then could cost under a dollar, when even the cheapest brands of cans of shaving cream were a couple bucks), it enabled you to heat the shaving water much hotter than you could heat it if you had to apply the water to your face using your fingers. The brush didn't mind if you heated the water to a boil in your canteen cup (or at home with your microwave oven), and by the time you had swirled it around in the shave mug it was cool enough to apply to your own mug but still hot enough to be quite nice. Additionally, the action of the brush helped invigorate your face, make the stubble stand up better, and even gave you a bit of a facewash (which was nice when you were out in the woods for weeks on end, and smearing green grease all over every inch of exposed skin every few hours).

Later, when I was no longer in the Army, I returned to using Dr. Bronner's soaps and stopped buying special discs of shave soap, since Dr. Bronner's works wonderfully for shaving (this is in fact the very first of the uses listed in line 1. of Dr. Bronner's original usage instructions!) Dr. Bronner's soap is well-known for its amazing lathering quality.

Later still, I discovered that SFC Williams could have saved money on razors without risking his jugular by using a straight-razor. As you can see in the video below, it is actually possible to "strop" a safety razor using an old pair of bluejeans.

The method shown in the video above actually works quite well, in spite of the naysayers in the "comments" below the video. Before I discovered this method, I changed out my disposable razor blade every week religiously. With this method, you can easily use the same blade for a year or more (you should splash it with rubbing alcohol after stropping it, which you only have to do every few days).

Critics may point out that I am not the most reliable source for shaving advice, since I now have a beard, but the answer to this is that I was in the US Army Infantry for 11 years of active duty, plus four more years at West Point, so I know a thing or two about having to ensure a good shave every single day.

Others may ask why anyone would go to such trouble. Certainly, if you feel like donating your money to disposable razor manufacturers, go right ahead. But keep in mind that their business model is actually such a well-known way of separating you from your money that it has spawned imitations across a broad swath of other industries, where it is known as the "razor-and-blade model" and is used to describe any business that sells you the supposed main product for next to nothing, in order to get you to buy the consumable accessories on a regular, ongoing basis for the rest of your life (computer printers might be another good example from a different industry).

This description of the wonderful shaving benefits of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps may be a bit of a tangent from the original direction of the post (which is about my warm memories of Dr. Bronner's from my childhood, and its ongoing place in my everyday life, as well as why everyone should carefully consider the ingredients in the products they rub on their skin), but it isn't really too much of a tangent.

The fact is that Dr. Bronner was urgently and personally aware of the danger of descent into barbarism in even the most apparently civilized cultures, and the need to prevent that horrible and very real possibility. He also put his finger on what he felt to be the catalyst for such barbarity: losing sight of the fact that we are all one family -- as he put it, "Whatever unites mankind is better than whatever divides us!"

This is a crucial insight, and one that we have examined together on this blog before, such as here and here, where we saw the horrible results of believing that differences in faith, skin color, or even length of earlobe can (and has) led some to decide that others deserve to lose their property, their freedom, and even their lives. Dr. Bronner experienced the loss of freedom himself over differences in belief (he later blamed the involuntary electrotherapy that he received for his failing eyesight, so he had not only his freedom violated but his body and his possibly his eyesight as well).

He spent his life trying to counteract that hideous tendency which is always lurking beneath the veneer of civilization, ready to bring it down. He understood that the security we enjoy is more fragile than we have been led to believe. He believed this message so urgently that it is still carved into every bar of soap produced by the company he founded: "ALL ONE!"

If only washing away this lingering dark side of the human condition were as easy as working up a good lather with Dr. Bronner's wonderfully therapeutic soap!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Great Square of Pegasus (and more evidence for ancient contact across the oceans)

The earth continues its progress through its orbit around the sun, and as it does so, it brings forward each star's rising time by about four minutes per night. This has the effect of bringing up all the constellations four minutes earlier each night, of course, and if you have been watching the sky each night at about the same time each evening, you will now notice a distinct change from the beginning of the summer.

The beautiful constellation of the Scorpion is now much further along each evening, and begins to bend down towards the western horizon much earlier each evening at the same time of night that it used to dominate the center of the southern sky (in the northern hemisphere). Similarly, the constellation of Orion is rising earlier each morning: it used to be rising just before sunrise, but now the first stars of Orion begin to break above the eastern horizon as early as 2 am at a latitude of about 35o north. By the end of September, the first stars of Orion will begin to rise at midnight at the same latitude.

As the sky in the early evening rotates westward, new constellations are now higher in the sky for an observer at 10 pm. One of these is the important landmark of the Great Square of Pegasus, shown above. The Great Square is fairly easy to locate if you can find the constellation of the Swan or Cygnus flying high in the night sky in the band of the Milky Way, and then looking down towards the horizon from Cygnus. To find the Milky Way, one of the easiest ways to begin is to go to the Scorpion again and follow the band of the Milky Way from its origin at the long curving stinger of the Scorpion (it rises between the Scorpion and Sagittarius and arcs across the summer sky, very distinctive and beautiful).

Another way to locate the Great Square of Pegasus is to find the North Star using the pointers on the Big Dipper. Circling the North Star on the other side of the Big Dipper is the "W" shape of the constellation Casseiopeia -- it is quite easy to locate. Using the star at one end of the "W" (the more upright end of the "W" of Casseiopeia, as opposed to the "lazier" side of the "W" which lies down more, as can be seen in the star chart below) you can draw an imaginary line from the North Star through the end of Casseiopeia's "W" and it will lead you right to the Great Square of Pegasus (see the diagram below).

The Great Square is in a part of the night sky that has fainter constellations, so it stands out quite plainly this time of year.

The square is flanked on either side by the constellation Pisces, which resembles two fish tied together by two long cords that are knotted and form a "V" shape -- see the diagram at the top of this post.

The stars of Pisces are very faint and much more difficult to make out than the stars of the Great Square of Pegasus. However, they are very important to ancient mythology found around the world, as discussed by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill (all of which can now be read online for free at various places on the web, such as here or here, and their diagram of the same Great Square flanked by Pisces can be seen online here).

De Santillana and von Dechend tell us that in ancient Sumeria this astral square was referred to as "l-Iku" and figured prominently in mythology from some of the earliest texts we have from any culture. The authors of Hamlet's Mill explain its significance:
"l-Iku," the Pegasus-square (= alpha beta gamma Pegasi, alpha Andromedae) is, indeed, of the utmost importance, l-Iku representing the fundamental field measure, and Ungnad (Das wiedergefundene Paradies [1923], p. 11) understood the constellation, enclosed by Pisces, for the "Paradise," the primordial field, so to speak. More important, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh (GE 11.57) about his ark, which was, like the apsu, an exact cube: "One iku was its floor space." (Before, 11.31, Ea had ordered Utnapishtim: "Like the apsu thou shalt ceil her.") Remembering what we heard above: "Since the ark disappeared there was a stone in its place . . . which was called foundation stone," e.e., Eben Shetiyyah, that covered the abyss, this cubic ark, the floor space of which was one iku, cannot be without interest for us, the less so, when the gods "raised high the head of Esagila (= l-Iku) equaling Apsu." 435 (Appendix 39).Link
Thus, the Great Square enclosed by Pisces appears to represent both the Paradise field and also the ark (Utnapishtim is the Sumerian / Babylonian Noah).

Together with the Great Square, the two fish form an important motif in art from around the world. The square is often depicted as a gameboard, with two fish on either side. It is interesting that in Norse mythology the Aesir gods are often described playing chess in the paradisical field, using golden chessmen -- this probably refers to the same important square.

Note how often the artistic pattern of a square -- either depicted as a gameboard or as a square or parallelogram with cross-hatching reminiscent of a chess- or checkerboard -- appears in art from around the world, accompanied by two fish, or one creature with two fish-tails, or even two turtles arranged in similar angles to the fish of Pisces, their intersecting bodies cross-hatched like a chessboard. You can see them for yourself in the following images shown in Hamlet's Mill: (set one, set two, set three).

Note that the images above are all very similar -- two water creatures and a square "gameboard" pattern being common to each -- and yet some are from ancient Egypt, some are from Africa, one is from Sumatra in Indonesia, and one is from the New World. This recurrence is remarkable, and cannot be simply wished away by isolationists (who do not believe in ancient contact across the oceans between cultures) or put down to some kind of "collective unconscious."

Isolationists must fall back on the explanation that somehow the stars of the Great Square and the surrounding stars of Pisces are interpreted the same way by cultures that never came into contact with one another at all.

This explanation is ridiculous to anyone who goes out and looks at the stars for himself -- while the square would probably suggest itself to anyone from nearly any culture, there is nothing about it that inherently suggests a chessboard or a gameboard. Still less is it obvious that the very faint and hard to find (even if you are looking for them) stars around the Great Square should be interpreted as two fish. That they should be interpreted independently as two fish and a gameboard by cultures from ancient Egypt to the Americas stretches credulity beyond its breaking point.

Such theories would not even be proposed except for the flat refusal of the guardians of conventional theory to admit the possibility of very advanced ancient human achievement (even in the face of quite extensive evidence).

The case of the Great Square of Pegasus is just one more clear piece of evidence in a pile that includes many other powerful clues (see here and here, for example) that there was ancient contact across the seas long before conventional history admits was possible.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricanes and Hamlet's Mill

Hurricane Irene 2011 is beginning to slam into the east coast of the United States, and we wish all those in the path of the storm safety during this uncertain time.

The authors of Hamlet's Mill discuss the origin of the term "hurricane" and some very interesting connections this word reveals with mythologies from around the world. It turns out that the trail back from the word is very important indeed.

In discussing the importance of the shaman's drum, they point to evidence recorded by earlier scholars that the cover of the drum in some traditions had to come from the hide of a black bull, and represented Taurus in heaven (124). They then note the connection to important drums in Chinese mythology, related to an important ox-like creature with one leg (this is a prelude to the discussion of the origin of the word "hurricane"). They write:
There is no need for a detailed inspection of Chinese mythical drums, merely a few lines from an "Ocean of Stories":
In the Eastern Sea, there is to be found an animal which looks like an ox. Its appearance is green, and it has no horns. It has one foot only. When it moves into the water or out of it, it causes wind or rain. Its shining is similar to that of the sun and the moon. The noise it makes is like the thunder. Its name is K'uei. The great Huang-ti, having captured it, made a drum out of its skin.
This looks prima facie like the description of an ancient case of delirium tremens, but the context makes it sober enough. This is a kind of Unnatural Natural History which has small regard for living species, but deals with events from another realm. The One-Legged Being, in particular, can be followed through many appearances beginning with the Hunrakán of the Mayas, whose very name means "one-leg." From it comes our "hurricane," so there is no wonder that he disposes of wind, rain, thunder and lightning in lavish amounts. But he is not for all that a mere weather god, since he is once aspect of Tezcatlipoca himself, and the true original One-Leg that looks down from the starry sky -- but his name is not appropriate yet. 125-126.
The authors of Hamlet's Mill are particularly good at giving hints like this and making you figure out for yourself exactly what they mean. In this case, the bread-crumb trail of clues leads through many important lines of discussion, beginning with their assertion that the Maya Hunrakán (whose name, remember, means "one-leg") is associated with the Aztec Tezcatlipoca, who is usually depicted with one foot missing (or, more precisely, one foot skeletal and the other foot normal).

Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend explain that the connection with the leg of a bull (or a one-legged ox-like creature, in the case of the Chinese myth cited above) is quite clear in mythology going back to ancient Egypt, in which the Big Dipper going around the pole star was associated with the leg of a bull (it not only looks like a large spoon but also like a bull's leg and haunch), and because the Big Dipper is associated with the pole or central axis of heaven, we should suspect that these myths with one-legged bulls (or one-legged gods) have something to do with the unhinging of the axis of heaven and the casting down of the previous age (the Age of Taurus, replaced by the Age of Aries).

Through a long series of discussions, de Santillana and von Dechend demonstrate that the mythologies around the world discussing the end of the reign of Saturn are also mythological code for this same celestial circumstance (the changing of the world ages due to the unhinging of the axis), and also in a mysterious and confusing way, so are some mythological aspects of Mars. They bring up examples from many mythologies to confirm this mysterious Mars / Saturn connection, and note that the god Tezcatlipoca actually has two aspects, Red Tezcatlipoca and Black Tezcatlipoca.

The authors of Hamlet's Mill present compelling evidence that these two aspects of Tezcatlipoca represent the curious combination of the aspects of Mars (Red Tezcatlipoca) and Saturn (Black Tezcatlipoca). They explain:
One of the motifs, destruction, is often associated with the Amlethus figure. The other belongs more specifically to Mars. There is a peculiar blind aspect to Mars, insisted on in both Harranian and Mexican myths. It is even echoed in Virgil: "Caeco Marte." But it does not stand only for blind fury. It must be sought in the Nether World, which will come soon. Meanwhile, here is the first double figure of Mars and Kronos. In Mexico, it stands out dreadfully in the grotesque forms of the Black and the Red Tezcatlipoca. There is a certain phase in the Great Tale, obviously, in which the wrecking powers of Mars unleashed make up a fatal compound with the avenging implacable design of Saturn. Shakespeare has, with his preternatural insight, alluded to both when he made Hamlet warn the raging Laertes before their final encounter:
Though I am not by nature rash and splenetic
Yet there is in me something dangerous
Which let thy wisdom fear . . .

Hamlet's Mill, 176.
Below is an image of Red Tezcatlipoca and an image of Black Tezcatlipoca from the pre-Columbian Codex Borgia. Note the one skeletal foot on each:

For some understanding of the connection of Hamlet (who appears in earlier mythology as Amlethus, as well as several other names) with Orion and thus with Osiris and ultimately with Saturn (the god-king who ruled over a previous Golden Age but was cast down and now sleeps in the underworld or some other distant realm or island, as both Saturn and Osiris do in ancient myth), see this previous post.

Thus, the origin of the term "hurricane" is important indeed, involving as it does a god in myth who combines the implacable characteristics of Saturn and the raging characteristics of Mars, and who is associated with the axis of heaven (where his missing leg is circling the pole) and with the unhinging of that axis, which initiated the inexorable grinding of the ages and the end of the lost Golden Age.

The fact that these characteristics are embedded in myths spanning from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece to ancient China and even to Central America is powerful evidence for the existence of a single civilization which bequeathed a legacy of astronomical knowledge to all of these cultures, or to ancient contact across the oceans, or some combination of both possibilities.

These deep concepts are important to understand. They are explored further, along with a much more detailed discussion of the concept of precession which is central to this subject, in the Mathisen Corollary book.

Orion, Sirius, Jupiter and friends in the pre-dawn sky

August is one of my favorite times of year, because if you rise early in the morning before dawn, you will be treated to the spectacular vision of Orion in the east, trailed by Sirius closer to the horizon (in the northern hemisphere). As the earth turns towards the east, the eastern sky begins to grow lighter and become blue, but the bright outline of Orion and the brilliant star Sirius are still clearly visible even after all the other stars fade away in the light of the approaching sun.

Right now, that sight is clearly visible if you get up before the sun. Here is a chart from EarthSky explaining how to find Orion and Sirius for observers in the northern hemisphere at this time of the year. Here is a previous post discussing these particular stars in conjunction with the term heliacal rising and their importance in the mythology of the ancients.

Currently, that awesome annual phenomenon is made even more spectacular with the addition of planets in the morning sky, especially Jupiter. This morning, the beautiful waning crescent moon accompanied them as well, and tomorrow morning it will do so again, but it will be extremely thin on its way to becoming a new moon this Saturday/Sunday. Above Orion, the unmistakably bright Jupiter stayed visible even after the brightening sun had caused Orion and Sirius to fade from view.

The chart above shows the locations of Orion, Sirius and Jupiter in the morning in the east for tomorrow morning (27 August) in the northern hemisphere. It is a portion of the sky chart generated by the very helpful free Interactive Sky Chart tool from Sky & Telescope.

You can see Orion's belt is almost vertical as he rises in the east, as is Canis Major and Sirius rising behind him. Jupiter is located further up and to the right in the diagram, and will be much higher overhead. Jupiter currently rises about 10:33 pm on the night of the 26th and makes its way across the sky, reaching transit at about 5:18 am on the morning of the 27th, at latitude 35o north. It rises and transits three to four minutes earlier per day.

You can also see in the above chart that Mars is located in the vicinity of Castor and Pollux in the constellation of the Twins (Gemini) at the same time. Here is a graphic from EarthSky describing how to find Mars on the morning of the 27th. It also explains how to find Mercury, low in the sky at dawn, tomorrow morning and over the next several days.

Be sure to rise early if possible and enjoy this glorious spectacle in the eastern sky.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More thoughts on mummies

Here is a link to a recent story describing the use of CT scans to examine ancient Egyptian mummies non-invasively, with remarkable images of a newly-scanned mummy from the 20th to 26th dynasty period (anywhere between about 1187 BC to 525 BC).

Note the crossed hands of the mummy, clearly visible in the video above, which is very representative of ancient Egyptian funerary practices and which John Anthony West discusses in some detail in his groundbreaking 1979 work, Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt.

Because he argues that the ancient Egyptians were consciously manipulating harmonic forces which are beyond much of the knowledge of science today (see the previous posts here, here, and here), he believes that number and symbol were of paramount importance to everything the Egyptians did. He argues that the crossed arms of the mummy point to the number four, the Pythagorean number of physical substance, as well as to the number five, which transcends matter -- a very powerful concept and quite appropriate for funerary symbolism.

Note the crossed arms and the crossed crook and flail in the images on the funerary equipment of Tutankhamun in the photograph below:

Speaking of the number four and the symbol of the cross, John Anthony West writes in Serpent in the Sky:
Fire, air, earth, water. The ancients chose with care. To say the same thing in modern terms requires more words, and none stick in the memory. Active principle, receptive principle, mediating principle, material principle -- why bother with such abstractions when fire, earth, air and water say the same and say it better.

In Egypt, the intimate connection between Four and the material or substantial world was applied in symbolism. We find the four orientations, the four regions of the sky, the four pillars of the sky (material support for the realm of the spirit), the four sons of Horus, the four organs, the four canopic jars into which the four organs were placed after death, the four children of Geb, the earth.
[. . .]
This is the cross of matter, upon which all of us are pinned. Upon the cross, the Christ, the cosmic man, is crucified. By reconciling its polarities through his own consciousness, he attains unity.

It is this same principle of double inversion and reconciliation that lies behind all religious Egyptian art and architecture. The crossed arms of the mummified pharaoh -- who (whatever his personal traits may have been) represents successive stages of cosmic man -- holds the crossed scepter and flail of his authority. Schematically, the point where the two arms of the Christian cross intersect represents the act of reconciliation, the mystical point of creation, the 'seed.' Upon a similar scheme, the exalted, mummified pharaoh represents the same abstract point.

The cross and the mummified pharaoh thus symbolize both Four and Five. 50-51.
Mr. West follows up this remarkable insight with another which is pertinent to this discussion. First, however, note that the article linked above, with the story about the recently-scanned mummy at the Smithsonian, refers to a newly-expanded exhibit at the Smithsonian which will "explore ancient Egyptian life, religious beliefs and how burial practices serve as windows into ancient cultures, revealing how archaeologists and physical anthropologists gain these insights through their research." It can only be hoped that those insights are being informed by those already recorded by John Anthony West, but it is doubtful.

In any event, Mr. West later writes this observation, which should be clearly kept at the forefront of the consciousness when observing anything related to Egyptian burial practices, including the images of the mummy in the video above: "Now when death is regarded not (as with us) as an ultimate dissolution, but rather as a transitional (and crucial) stage of a journey, then the apparent Egyptian preoccupation with death becomes exactly the opposite of what it seems to be. It is, in fact, a preoccupation with life in the deepest possible sense" (95).

These are important matters which bear further examination and contemplation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Duke Kahanamoku

August 24 is the birthdate of Duke Kahanamoku, born in 1890. Above is a photograph of the Duke, aged 21, about 100 years ago. An Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Duke's greatest legacy was his towering role as the first real international ambassador of surfing. He is almost singlehandedly responsible for launching the ancient Polynesian "Sport of Kings" in California and Australia and for generously sharing the stoke where ever he went.

Here is a link to a website describing the first recorded western account of surfing by a lieutenant of Captain Cook on a voyage to Hawaii -- subsequent pages describe the role of Jack London, George Freeth, Alexander Hume Ford, and especially Duke Kahanamoku in reviving the sport of surfing and then spreading it worldwide.

Below is a video showing early footage of Duke surfing at Honolulu with Diamond Head in the background.

The video below describes Kahanamoku's 1915 visit to Australia, where his surfing demonstrations fell on extremely fertile soil and can be directly credited with launching that country's well-known fervor for surfing.

Like other legendary Hawaiian watermen, Duke Kahanamoku was also an actual lifesaver, and once dove into the waves repeatedly to save several fishermen in distress when their boat capsized in heavy surf off of Newport Beach in June of 1925.

Surfers everywhere should be grateful to Duke Kahanamoku for his efforts to spread the ancient Polynesian art of surfing beyond the shores of Hawaii in the best tradition of Aloha.


Today's magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia

Today at 1:51 pm eastern time, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook Virginia, with the USGS reporting the epicenter as a point 38 miles west of Richmond at a depth of 3.8 miles. The earthquake was the largest recorded in Virginia since 1897.

While the location of the earthquake is within a region known to produce occasional small and moderate earthquakes, known as the Central Virginia Seismic Zone according to this USGS description, the mechanism which causes such earthquakes is not well understood or clearly explained by followers of the conventional tectonic theory.

Note that Virginia and the east coast of the United States are far from any "plate boundaries" (see the USGS map in this previous post) where tectonic theory explains earthquakes as resulting from the buildup of pressure between drifting plates. Note that the post referenced discusses the phenomenon of earthquakes far from plate boundaries.

In his book In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, Dr. Walt Brown provides an extensive discussion of the mechanisms which cause earthquakes and notes the numerous aspects of earthquakes which the conventional tectonic theories have difficulty in explaining (the book can be read online, and the detailed discussion of earthquake mechanisms begins here).

In discussing earthquakes far from plate boundaries, Dr. Brown writes:
The compression event and earth’s vertical adjustments during and after the flood produced many faults throughout the mantle and crust. Only the weakest faults slip frequently and are considered “plate boundaries.” The entire mantle and crust are being compressed and, as shown in Figure 89, laterally displaced generally toward the Pacific. [See “Magma Production and Movement” on page 149.] Therefore, earthquakes sometimes occur far from plate boundaries.
The widespread presence of faults in Virginia is noted here and shown in graphic imagery here. Dr. Brown explains why such faults formed on this page of his online book, and then describes their connection with earthquake activity -- even if far from a "plate boundary":
Today, very slight amounts of slippage frequently occur along faults in the crust and mantle, especially where faults extend from a trench down to the unsteady liquid foundation of the outer core. If, instead of a solid foundation, your home rested on a dense liquid foundation, you can imagine how cracked the walls of your house would be if ripples sometimes pulsed through the liquid or if that foundation rose by the steady addition of dense liquid. Slippage would frequently occur along existing cracks in the walls. Within the mantle, slippage along faults produces more magma, most of which drains into the outer core, adding to its volume and causing more uplift, slippage, and ripples. The mantle is unstable.

Frictional heat generated along faults throughout the mantle conducts slowly into the walls of the fault. Above depths of 410 miles (700 kilometers), local instabilities sometimes arise as heat weakens the solid silicate scaffolding and forms more droplets. Once leaks form, the liquid droplets can escape; their buoyancy forces them upward if they are above the crossover depth or downward if they are below the crossover depth. The scaffolding then will quickly collapse and thereby generate much more heat and melting. Earthquakes—runaway shocks—result.

This explanation is much more scientific than the mechanism offered by the tectonic theory, which postulates a liquid mantle circulating below the crust and occasionally causing earthquakes when slippage occurs between plates, or when pressures build up between plates and they temporarily "unlock." We noted in this previous post that such an explanation is not even truly satisfactory for the activity of the famous San Andreas Fault in California.

Today's unusual Virginia earthquake should provide a good opportunity for greater interest in the cause of earthquakes in general, and of earthquakes far from plate boundaries in particular. Those who examine all the evidence may conclude that the hydroplate theory provides a much better explanation than does the theory of plate tectonics.

The subglacial fjords in Antarctica

Earlier this year, new data from ice-penetrating radar revealed a complex landscape of mountains and fjords deep beneath the Antarctic ice in the vicinity of Wilkes Land (east Antarctica).

A team of researchers from the University of Texas, the University of Edinburgh, the Australian Antarctic Division, and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre published a letter in the scientific journal Nature entitled "A dynamic East Antarctic ice sheet suggested by ice-covered fjord landscapes." In the abstract to that article, they wrote that "The identification of this fjord landscape, based on new data from ice-penetrating radar, provides an improved understanding of the topography of the Aurora Subglacial Basin and its surroundings, and reveals a complex surface sculpted by a succession of ice-sheet configurations substantially different from today’s."

This article from the BBC News provides some close-up of the topographic map of the fjord channels, buried under 3,000-plus feet of ice and below today's sea levels. That article quotes one of the team members, Professor Martin Siegert of the University of Edinburgh, saying:
The modern ice sheet couldn't possibly have done this; it has to have been the consequence of an ice sheet that was much smaller than today's. Comparing our data with geomorphological evidence from other regions of the world, we can be pretty confident that these fjords were formed by fast-flowing ice at the edge of the ice sheet. It's the first evidence we have of how the ice was in phases of growth and retreat as it marched across this subglacial basin to form the ice sheet we recognise today.
In their abstract to the article published in Nature, the scientists surmise that the ice sheet probably began forming about 34 million years ago, and then went through numerous cycles of advance and retreat (up to thirty such cycles) for the next 20 million years.

Of course, these conjectures are based upon the assumptions of conventional geology, which argue that Antarctica has been covered by its present sheet of solid ice for millions of years -- long before the arrival of modern man. We have already discussed how the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown -- which explains numerous aspects of the earth more satisfactorily than do conventional theories, and which is particularly helpful in explaining some of the mysterious evidence surrounding Antarctica -- proposes a different mechanism for the origin of a past ice age and the ice now covering Antarctica.

In this previous post, we noted that Dr. Brown argues that in order to achieve an ice age, heavy precipitation over cold continents would be necessary. Warm oceans could provide such heavy precipitation, but the conditions that would yield warm oceans and cold continents are difficult to envision under the conventional uniformitarian theories prevalent today. However, Dr. Brown's hydroplate theory envisions warm oceans immediately after the draining of the floodwaters, as well as higher and colder continents than we have today. The continents would have been higher because after their initial slide and thickening, they would not yet have sunk down into the mantle under their increased weight, and thus the sea levels were also lower than today (note that the recent subglacial radar findings also indicate that the oceans were much lower when these fjords were carved, since they are below today's sea level; previous posts have discussed other evidence for lowered oceans and the way this evidence supports the hydroplate theory more than it does conventional theories: see here and here). The oceans would have been warmer as well, due primarily to the energy released during the sliding of the hydroplates. Thus, for some centuries after the flood, the conditions would have been conducive to heavy cloud cover, precipitation as moist air rose over cold continents, and precipitation in the form of snowfall, which would have led to the formation of ice and advancing glaciers.

Amazingly, there are several medieval maps which appear to depict Antarctica with deep fjords and mountains. This fact is amazing on several levels, not least of which being the fact that Antarctica was not known to modern navigators in the west until the nineteenth century. Even more startling is the fact that many of the coastlines and other details on these maps of Antarctica appear to depict a continent not covered by ice -- or, to be more accurate, to depict it when ice probably covered much of the interior but did not cover the coastline the way it does today.

Among these maps are the Piri Re'is map of 1513 (shown above -- the coastline reputed to be that of Antarctica is along the bottom of the image, below and to the right of the east coast of South America), the Oronteus Finaeus World Map of 1532, and the Hadji Ahmed World Map of 1559. A projection of the Oronteus Finaeus map (see here) compared to the outline on today's maps clearly shows the deep fjords of the medieval map versus the relatively smooth coastline depicted on modern maps based on the ice cap which reaches to the ocean and covers up all the folds of the actual coastline.

In the online version of his book on the hydroplate theory, Dr. Brown discusses these medieval maps and their implications for the timeline of the Antarctic ice cap:
These medieval maps, copied 2–3 centuries before 1819 (when textbooks say Antarctica was discovered) were probably based on much earlier source maps. These and other medieval maps also suggest much lower sea levels before the Ice Age. (The hydroplate theory explains why lowered sea levels were followed by the Ice Age.) The maps provide additional information on Antarctica’s mountain ranges, plateaus, bays, coastal islands, and former rivers—under about a mile of ice today. Obviously, the Antarctic ice cap grew rapidly and recently as humans were exploring the earth. The ice cap did not grow, as taught for the last century, over millions of years or before man allegedly evolved.
The ongoing discoveries in the Antarctic, including the new details revealed by ice-penetrating radar in the Aurora Subglacial Basin and published earlier this year in Nature, appear to provide additional supporting evidence for the accuracy of Dr. Brown's theory and its predictions.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Walking with Monsters

Here's an Emmy-award winning series called Walking with Monsters, which dramatizes the theory of evolution as if it were fact. Nothing is presented as a theory -- everything is stated authoritatively by the erudite-sounding narrator (Kenneth Branagh), and accompanied by computer-generated animation of lifelike prehistoric creatures.

This portion of the series covers the supposed Silurian period, generally thought to cover the portion of earth's past from 443 million to 416 million years ago. For a discussion of these geological ages, and the reason they may not represent successive time periods but instead may have been mistakenly deduced from sediments that were laid down all at once, see this previous post.

In the above segment, we are introduced to the first vertebrates -- fish -- whom we are told are the ancestors of all later vertebrates, including mankind. "It's thanks to these primitive fish that we can think and solve problems today," the narrator declares at about 4:30 into the above clip. These fish, pictured below, were jawless bottom-feeders possessing a bony head-shield, giving rise to their name, Cephalaspis. The narrator frequently refers to them as "our ancestors" in their struggles to survive and evade the ever-present predators lurking about, noting that we would not be here today in our present form if the arthropods had succeeded in wiping them out.

As you consider this image of your alleged distant ancestor, the dependence of evolutionary theory upon vast, almost unimaginable ages of time to accomplish such transformations becomes clearly evident. There is simply no way to argue that a limbless, ocean-dwelling scavenger becomes an air-breathing, rational, upright-walking human being overnight. Time is a critical ingredient of the Darwinian formula (which consists of beneficial mutations plus natural selection, plus a whole lot of time).

This requirement for time illuminates the co-dependency of uniformitarian geological theories and Darwinian evolutionary biological theories. Uniformitarian geology proposes that the same uniform processes we see taking place on earth today would be sufficient -- given enough time -- to create all the geological features we see in the world around us.

The gradual erosion processes inherent in ordinary streams, for example, would be sufficient -- given enough time -- to carve the Grand Canyon. No extraordinary or catastrophic event would be necessary (for a discussion of the weaknesses in this explanation for the origin of the Grand Canyon, see this previous post). Similarly, the highest mountain ranges and the deepest ocean trenches can be explained by the supposed ongoing action of tectonic plates drifting about an inch a year on their beds of magma, which over enough time would be sufficient to raise the Himalayas or create the Mariana Trench. Uniformitarian geological theories provide Darwinism with the time that it needs.

The vast periods of time are like the air that Darwinian evolutionary theory breathes. Theories which challenge the gradualist assumptions of modern geology, theories which suggest that the geological features of the world were formed not by the uniform action of ongoing processes but by an extraordinary catastrophic event or events, suck the air out of Darwinian theory. They are therefore opposed vehemently by those committed to Darwinism.

We have already seen extensive evidence of geological features from around the globe which cannot be satisfactorily explained by gentle, gradual, or even tectonic processes. Several of these are listed and linked in this previous post, and since that post was published we have examined numerous other additional examples, including Lake Vostok and the deep liquid lakes on Antarctica, the enormous shield of sediments stretching from Pakistan all the way to Bhutan, and even aspects of asteroids and the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and the origins of comets.

All of this evidence points to a catastrophic event in earth's past, an event involving a catastrophic flood accompanied by violent side-effects which gave rise to most of the features we find on earth's surface today (including the portion of earth's surface that is covered by oceans). There is so much evidence, in fact, that it is quite likely that the only reason this explanation is ignored stems from an almost religious devotion to Darwinism among many in academia.

In fact, suggestions of a catastrophic flood will often result not in interested discussion about the relative merits of the evidence supporting such a theory versus the relative merits of the evidence supporting other, more widely-accepted theories, but rather a highly emotional reaction which will probably include ridicule, scorn, personal criticism, and vitriol. This sort of reaction is very revealing (as Shakespeare famously has Queen Gertrude say in Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks").

Anti-uniformitarian theories such as the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown are so threatening to Darwinists because, while a uniformitarian explanation necessarily requires vast eons of time to allow tiny changes to build up into Grand Canyons, a catastrophic mechanism such as a violent global flood could create geological features very rapidly -- and that means that it could have done so much more recently than Darwinists want to allow. If such a flood took place only 20,000 years ago, or even more recently than that, then that doesn't give Darwinism much time to operate. Such a short period simply isn't enough time for the Cephalaspis shown above to evolve into an air-breathing, walking, warm-blooded, thinking hominid with opposable thumbs.

There is, in fact, evidence that the catastrophic events described by Dr. Brown may have taken place fairly recently. For example, we have previously discussed the fossil trees found near the Arctic Circle in Canada's Arctic Archipelago, as well as the frozen wood of trees found within the Antarctic Circle, where large trees could not grow today. We noted scientific articles stating that some of this wood is not fossilized at all, but will actually float in water and burn when it is thawed out. This argues that whatever moved Antarctica to its current location did so fairly recently, not over a period of vast ages of time by a process of inch-by-inch tectonic drifts.

Similarly, we have discussed the infamous soft-tissues that have been found in various fossils, including dinosaur fossils that are supposed to be over 68 million years old. The idea that red blood cells and other soft tissues could remain intact over such a period of time would never have been entertained by scientists before these fossils were discovered, but now that they have been discovered, academicians are trying to come up with some explanation, rather than admitting the obvious conclusion that the event that buried such fossils may have taken place only a few thousands of years ago rather than tens of millions.

A recent flood does not, of course, automatically prove Darwinian evolution to be wrong. It is quite possible to argue that Darwinian evolution took place in the ages before such a flood, and that it will take place afterwards as well, given enough time. However, such a flood poses king-sized problems, some of which are probably insurmountable. For one thing, if the Cephalaspis pictured above had somehow evolved into an air-breathing land-dweller before the flood, a global catastrophe of the magnitude described by Dr. Brown and supported by the worldwide evidence would set the evolutionary clock back quite a ways, requiring yet another slow climb out of the sea over yet another period of tens or hundreds of millions of years.

Thus, the catastrophic theories which the evidence supports will probably always be violently opposed by devotees of Darwinian evolution.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to Shaun Tomson

August 21 is the birthday of Shaun Tomson, a groundbreaking surfer with an unmistakeable style.

He has been featured in posts on this blog previously here, here and here.

Above is a link to the iconic 1978 surf movie Free Ride, which features Shaun Tomson and Rabbit Bartholomew along with Mark Richards, Larry Bertleman, and other innovative surfers of the era. Even thirty-three years later, some of the surfing scenes in this movie rival anything that has been captured on film.

The movie's long surf sequences and many slow-motion sequences allow viewers to really study the surf style of the different surfers, which completely changed surfing and which is even more impressive considering the boards they were using at the time.

In the movie, Shaun explains: "I've got this sort of standard in my head of what I think good surfing is, and I always try to exceed that standard."

Happy birthday to a true living legend of surfing -- may he long continue trying to exceed his own standard!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The high science of ancient Egypt

In the previous post, we continued the examination of the fact that the planets have been associated since mankind's earliest recorded literature with measurement and time, a subject which we have touched upon in previous posts such as this one. This concept should be fairly intuitive to us, as even those who have not spent much time observing the planets and the stars and their motions are aware that our modern measurement of time is still connected to the rotation of our own planet and its annual journey around the sun, as well as the monthly pattern of the moon (the moon's rhythms are discussed briefly here).

One of the interesting aspects of the ancient myths that is pointed out by the authors of Hamlet's Mill and which is mentioned in yesterday's post is the fact that each of the planets were conceived of as measuring time differently -- Jupiter by "throwing," Saturn by "falling," and Mercury by means of a stylus.

They recount the story told by Jacob Grimm (1785 - 1863), one of the "Brothers Grimm" of Grimm's Fairy Tale fame and a highly accomplished linguist, philologist, and scholar of mythology. The authors of Hamlet's Mill quote one of the medieval Dutch legends recorded by Grimm, and then go on to explain its connection to Mercury:
And there is an even less suitable measure to be had, a veritable stylus. Jacob Grimm gives the story: "The medieval Dutch poem of Brandaen . . . contains a very remarkable feature: Brandaen met on the sea a man of thumb size, floating upon a leaf, holding in his right hand a small bowl, in the left hand a stylus; the stylus he kept dipping into the sea and letting water drip from it into the bowl; when the bowl was full, he emptied it out and began filling it again. It was imposed on him, he said, to measure the sea until Judgment-day." This particular "instrument" seems to reveal the surveyor in charge in this special case. Mercury was the celestial scribe and guardian of the files and records, "and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters," as Plato has it (Phaedrus 274). Hamlet's Mill 271.
Interestingly enough, the Greek god Hermes (who in Latin and Rome would be called Mercury) corresponds to the Egyptian god Thoth, as can be seen in many ancient writings such as the works of Plutarch. Egyptian Thoth was also associated with science, wisdom, draughts, and of course writing, and was often depicted with a stylus and writing tablet, as in the illustration above from the Papyrus of Ani.

The work of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz (1887 - 1961) formed the jumping-off point for John Anthony West in Serpent in the Sky, which has been mentioned in posts several times previously (see here and here for example). In his book Sacred Science: The King of Pharaonic Theocracy, Schwaller de Lubicz explains the connection between the sciences presided over by Thoth -- the wisdom of ancient Egypt, or the "sacred science" as de Lubicz calls it -- and the origin of the terms for Hermetic knowledge and alchemy:
Yet it was quite natural for any scribe to call himself a "servant of Thoth" -- the "patron of writing." The Greeks, therefore, in their contact with a declining Egypt, were prompted to speak of science in general as belonging to Thoth, or Hermes. The meaning of "sacred science" was thus vulgarized under the term "Hermetism."

In truth, the purpose of this modest offering is to convey a succinct understanding of the important reality of sacred science -- which is not to be confused with the vernacular meaning conveyed by "Hermetism." This undertaking demands a look at the history of thought in the West and at the history of man in the light of that thought.

What is the general attitude in our day toward this Hermetic science usually referred to as alchemy? The word is of Islamic origin and signifies "the science of al-Kemit" encountered by the Arab invaders of Egypt, that ancient Kemit which gave so much light to an Islam setting out to conquer the world. For nearly everyone, alchemy is the science of "making gold" and nothing more. For some, it is a fantasy; for others, a mysterious science of fascinating discovery. There are also the "spiritually minded" who consider alchemy to be a psychospiritual science of transforming consciousness, and the acquisition of psychic if not spiritual powers. 7-8.
The origin of these words for mysterious knowledge in the science of ancient Egypt is significant, as Schwaller de Lubicz clearly explains. But where did the Egyptians acquire this knowledge? Is there evidence that they developed it by slow process of trial and error over the long span of forty centuries of Egyptian civilization? There is not. On the contrary, as John Anthony West points out in his book, the most amazing aspects of Egyptian civilization -- not least including their sophisticated and beautiful system of hieroglyphic writing -- appear from their inception to have been fully developed. He puts forth extensive evidence to support the conclusion that "Egypt did not 'develop' her civilisation, but inherited it" (197):
Egyptologists postulate an indeterminate (and indeterminable) period of 'development' prior to the First Dynasty. This assumption is supported by no evidence; indeed the evidence, such as it is, appears to contradict the assumption. Egyptian civilisation, taken field by field and discipline by discipline (even according to an orthodox understanding of its achievement), renders unsatisfactory the assumption of a brief development period. The much vaunted flowering of Greece two thousand years later pales into insignificance in the face of a civilisation which, supposedly starting from a crude neolithic base, produced in a few centuries a complete system of hieroglyphs, the most sophisticated calendrical system ever developed, an effective mathematics, a refined medicine, a total mastery of the gamut of arts and crafts and the capacity to construct the largest and most accomplished stone buildings ever built by man. The cautiously expressed astonishment of modern Egyptologists hardly matches the real magnitude of the mystery. 196.
Clearly, the confidently repeated timelines of mankind's ancient past which we have all been taught are seriously flawed and need to be critically reexamined.

We have seen that the tectonic theory of geology is also seriously flawed and requires a complete reexamination as well. It is the assertion of the Mathisen Corollary that the replacement of the tectonic theory with a more accurate understanding of the forces that shaped the earth in the distant past will shed new light and allow an important new perspective on the mystery of mankind's ancient timeline as well.