Thursday, May 31, 2012

Get ready for Venus transit 2012!

Coming up on June 5-6 of this year 2012 is a very special astronomical event, the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.

Here is a previous post discussing the orbits of Venus and our earth and the "synodic cycle" of the planet Venus.  That post explains that Venus reached its point of "maximum eastern elongation" (point 2 on the diagram included in that post) on March 27 of this year.  As the earth and Venus have proceeded along their respective orbits, Venus is now nearing point 3 on that diagram, when it begins to pass between the earth and the sun.

Just as the moon passes between earth and our sun each month (at new moon) but does not create a solar eclipse because its orbital plane is tilted by just over five degrees from earth's orbital plane (it only creates a solar eclipse when it passes through new moon at the same time that it is intersecting the earth's orbital plane around the sun at one of the "lunar nodes"), so also Venus often passes between the earth and the sun without transiting the solar disc from our perspective, because the orbital plane of Venus is inclined by about 3.4° from the plane of earth's orbit around the sun. 

The pattern of the orbits of our earth and Venus bring about a visible transit of Venus across the sun's disc in a 243-year cycle, consisting of two transits separated by eight years.  A transit occurred in June of 2004 and another will occur this June 5-6, but the next one after that will not take place until the year 2117.

Here is a useful and fascinating website that discusses the upcoming transit of Venus and how to safely and successfully observe this rare and important celestial event,  It contains a global map showing the visibility zones for the transit, and (even more helpful) a link to the Transit of Venus Project which will calculate your approximate location through your IP address and give you times for the transit of Venus for your point on the globe (along with a little diagram of the sun and the track of the planet Venus across its solar disc).

The website also contains some excellent historical resources discussing the importance of the Venus transit to modern science (from the seventeenth century onwards).  Future blog posts on this site will discuss the importance to ancient civilizations and the possible links between the important phenomenon of the Venus transit and ancient knowledge.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Carlsbad Caverns, Lechuguilla Cave, and the origin of earth's limestone

One of the most spectacular places I visited while growing up was Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.  The accessible portions of the caverns open to the public reach depths of around 800 feet below the surface, and the magnificent "Big Room" is a chamber nearly 4,000 feet long and 255 feet high.

Nearby, in the same National Park grounds, Lechuguilla Cave reaches depths of over 1,600 feet.  The staggering extent of its incredible winding passages is perhaps best appreciated by viewing a 3-D computer map of that cavern system (not open to the public).  One such computer map can be seen in the video embedded below:

These caverns, like many other "solution caves" found on our amazing planet, exist inside of massive limestone formations.  Where did so much limestone come from?

The conventional explanation for the origin of limestone involves warm, shallow inland seas, because conventional geologists argue that almost all limestone deposits resulted from the deposition of the remains of shallow-water marine animals (such as corals, as well as some crustaceans and algaes) that incorporate limestone into their body structures.  

In order to account for limestone deposits that are thousands of feet thick, they must come up with speculative scenarios in which these seas stayed shallow while the geology below them slowly subsided, enabling the successive creation of thicker and thicker deposits over millions of years.  These proposed scenarios are recounted with absolute authority (as if we are certain that this is what happened) and peppered with impressive-sounding terminology.  An example of one such "history" can be found here (describing the supposed processes that created the "reef limestones" that now house the vast caverns of Carlsbad and Lechuguilla).  The National Park Service webpage describing the geology of Carlsbad Caverns similarly refers to a "the uplifted portion of an ancient reef that thrived along the edge of an inland sea more than 250 million years ago during Permian time."

As we have seen in previous blog posts (see for instance "Just So Stories: The White Cliffs of Albion"), hydroplate theory founder Walt Brown provides powerful arguments that the conventional theory about earth's limestone is mistaken, and that the limestone on our planet is compelling evidence of a catastrophic global flood in earth's past.  In an entire chapter dedicated to discussing the origin of limestone in his book on the hydroplate theory (which is available for all readers to access on the web here), Dr. Brown points out that the conventional theory for limestone runs into numerous problems.

One big problem that he cites is the fact that the formation of solid calcium carbonate (CaCO3, various crystal forms of which make up the limestones of the earth) releases a carbon atom, and the amount of limestone on earth today makes the "shallow sea" hypothesis difficult to maintain (see formula below).  
 H2O (l) + CO2 (aq) +CaCO3 (s) <==> Ca (aq, 2+) + 2HCO3 (aq, 1-)
After pointing out the basic two-way chemical formula by which water dissolves limestone (left side of the formula moving to the right side of the formula) or by which limestone precipitates out of water (right side of the formula moving to the left side of the formula), Dr. Brown writes:
Here is the problem. The above chemical equation shows that for every carbon atom precipitated in limestone, a carbon atom is released in CO2. At the earth’s surface, this gas enters the atmosphere. Had all limestone slowly precipitated in surface waters, as much carbon would have been released into the atmosphere (as CO2) as was precipitated in limestone (as CaCO3). The earth’s limestone contains more than 60,000,000  × 1015 grams of carbon. That amount of carbon in the atmosphere and seas would have made them toxic hundreds of times over. Today, the atmosphere and seas contain only (720 + 37,400)  × 1015 grams of carbon. [from this page in Dr. Brown's online book].
In other words, there simply is not enough carbon in the seas and air today to believe that limestone precipitated primarily in warm shallow seas the way the conventional theorists argue.  Based on the amount of limestone found on earth, the carbon released would have made our planet a very different place if that conventional theory were correct.

Another problem Dr. Brown notes is that limestone-forming marine life today thrives primarily in the shallow portions of the warm oceans within 30 degrees of the equator.  However, limestone is found all over the globe today.  Further, he points out that the typical limestone particle is very small, and that natural forces could not be expected to reduce organic limestone from coral or other marine animal shells to such small sizes (as the particles become smaller and smaller, they become increasingly difficult to break down further).  He also notes that very high magnification available in more recent years shows that the structure of most of the limestone on earth is quite different than organic limestone found in sea organisms (see this page in his online book).

Instead, Dr. Brown argues that most of the limestone found around the globe is of inorganic origin, precipitated in the water that was trapped deep under the earth before it violently escaped to initiate the catastrophic flood.  His theory, which explains the evidence we find around the globe better than the conventional explanation, proposes the following series of events:
Supercritical water (SCW) readily dissolves certain minerals and other solids. [See pages 120122.] As temperatures rise or as pressures drop in the SCW, these dissolved substances precipitate as “snow.” In the years before the flood, tiny limestone particles precipitated to the subterranean chamber floor as the temperature in the SCW steadily rose. During the flood, the pressure in the escaping water rapidly dropped, so more limestone precipitated and CO2 gas escaped. Simultaneously, limestone sediments on the chamber floor were swept up to the earth’s surface, where liquefaction sorted the limestone particles into more uniform layers. [See pages 186197.] 
Sediments, eroded during the initial stages of the flood, settled through the flood waters all over the earth. After most of these waters drained into the newly formed ocean basins, limy (CO2-rich) water filled and slowly migrated through pore spaces between sedimentary particles. 

Plentiful amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere after the flood provided the necessary “food” to help reestablish earth’s vegetation, including forests. As plants grew and removed CO2 from the atmosphere, surface waters released additional CO2, thereby precipitating more limestone. Limestone that precipitated between loose sedimentary grains cemented them together into rocks. Earth’s surface waters are still huge reservoirs of CO2. Oceans, lakes, rivers, and groundwater hold 50 times more CO2 than our atmosphere. 

Tiny particles of precipitated limestone are excellent cementing agents when near-saturation conditions exist. Smaller and more irregular particles of limestone readily dissolve; larger particles grow, sealing cracks and gaps. Precipitation within a closely packed bed of sediments (cementation) occurs more readily than precipitation outside the bed. [from this page in Dr. Brown's online book].
This scenario explains the great thickness of many of the limestone formations around the world, including the one that is home to the Carlsbad Cavern and Lechuguilla Cave.  His theory also explains how the earth's limestone caverns (some of them, like Carlsbad, with enormous chambers) and majestic stalagmites and stalactites could have formed in thousands of years following such a catastrophic event, rather than the millions of years usually proposed by conventional theorists:
Acidic groundwater, plentiful during the centuries after the flood, frequently seeped into cracks in limestone rocks, dissolved limestone, and formed underground caverns. As ventilation in caverns improved and plant growth removed CO2 from the atmosphere, CO2 escaped from this groundwater. Large quantities of limestone precipitated, rapidly forming stalactites and stalagmites worldwide. [From this page in Dr. Brown's book].
Dr. Brown points out that even today, when stalactites and stalagmites typically grow much more slowly than they would have immediately following the flood (when large amounts of water were draining through freshly deposited limestone), certain conditions can cause rapid formation of limestone features.  He cites Jerry Trout, the National Cave Manager for the  US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, as filming stalactites that grew several inches in a matter of days.

The origin of the earth's abundant limestone is a matter of great interest and one that can draw helpful lines of distinction between competing theories about how our geology came to look the way it does today.  Here again, the evidence appears to be difficult to reconcile with conventional theories, but to be quite consistent with the forces expected to have been present before, during, and after the flood according to the hydroplate theory explanation.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review of Chris Carter's book, Science and Psychic Phenomena

The following is a review which I wrote of Chris Carter's Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics (2012), on the Amazon website:

Chris Carter provides extensive evidence for the existence of awareness and sensitivity beyond what can be explained by conventional models of consciousness and physics.

His discussion and analysis of this evidence (and of those who have created experiments to attempt to demonstrate the existence of psychic phenomena) is fascinating in and of itself. Equally important, however, is his careful analysis of those who have attempted to deny the possibility of the existence of such phenomena. He provides substantial evidence which illustrates that these skeptics often employ double standards and in many cases appear to be motivated by their desire to assert their skeptical dogmas rather than to provide an honest assessment of the data.

He also provides evidence showing that many of the most ferocious critics do not conduct actual experiments themselves but confine themselves to attacking the experiments of others. In the cases in which skeptics have conducted experiments, Chris Carter shows that their results appear to confirm the existence of psychic phenomena. Even these results, however, do not change their minds but are publicly proclaimed to have reinforced the evidence against such phenomena!

Thus Chris Carter's book is important for (at least) two reasons: it provides extensive calm and deliberate analysis of the evidence supporting the existence of powers that go beyond the conventional "scientific" paradigm, and it also provides a fascinating look at the extent to which some skeptics will go to deny such a possibility, even to the point of what can only be seen as either self-delusion or deliberate dishonesty. 

Chris Carter's book provides the results of experiment after experiment which provide evidence that the hasty dismissal of the possibility of any form of psychic awareness in humans or animals is premature and ill-advised.  

Some of the results appear to be strong enough to qualify as actual "proof" that some such abilities exist, but one need not go that far -- it is sufficient to simply say that more research is warranted and that (in light of all these results) keeping an open mind on this subject is absolutely justified.

Also documented in Chris Carter's book is the extent to which skeptics and "debunkers" will go to deny the possibility of any abilities that do not fit within their worldview.  Of course, the existence of such abilities, which are difficult if not impossible to reconcile with the very foundations of the modern materialistic paradigm, would require a complete retooling of those foundations.  

If such powers are proven to exist, it would in fact suggest that some of the core tenets of that materialistic paradigm would have to be jettisoned altogether (such as the assertion that consciousness is a completely physical phenomenon, merely a byproduct of chemical and electrical interactions within the physical organ of the brain -- an assertion that Chris Carter challenges quite thoroughly in this essay, which I have also referenced in previous blog posts).  

This possibility is quite threatening to the "skeptic debunker" worldview, as it opens up the possibility of consciousness that is separate from the physical world -- with implications for the possibility of life after death, etc. -- and ultimately upends the entire materialistic "faith."  The threatening nature of these implications to this worldview probably explains the vehemence of the reaction by the defenders of that worldview against evidence showing the possibility that psychic phenomena (or "psi" for short) could exist.

Chris provides evidence of this angry and often irrational backlash by those who don't want to admit that further research is warranted, and of the regular double-standard that is employed to discredit any results that might show psi activity (no matter how well-constructed the experiment) and to inflate the importance of any results that appear to deny the possibility (no matter how small the sample or how problematic the methodology).

One of the most powerful quotations that Chris cites in the book is from a retired US Army colonel who was involved in a US Army Research Institute-sponsored investigation of psi phenomena (called the "EHP study" for "Enhanced Human Performance") and who was disgusted by the double-standard that he saw employed.  The colonel's lengthy critique of the biased study ends with these words:
What, then, are we to conclude about the EHP report? ... First, it is significant that a determined group of psi debunkers could find no "smoking gun" and no "plausible alternative" to the psi hypothesis. . . . Second, we should worry about the fact that the highest scientific court in the land [the National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences], operated in such a biased and heavy-handed manner, and that there seems to be no channel for appeal or review of their work.  What, we may ask, are they afraid of?  Is protecting scientific orthodoxy so vital that they must deny evidence and suppress contrary opinion?  94 [ellipses in original].
This is a question one could ask about many subjects (such as the evidence that the timeline of ancient human civilization is quite different from the conventional paradigm taught in history classes from kindergarten to the university, or that contact across the Atlantic and Pacific with the Americas started thousands of years before Columbus). It is certainly appropriate to ask it in regards to psychic phenomena, as the Army colonel quoted above did.  

It is also interesting to consider the possibility that the answer to the colonel's question ("What, we may ask, are they afraid of?") might be the same in all of these apparently different fields (the field of psychic phenomena and the field of ancient human history).  In other words, is it possible that the answer will show that human beings are "something more" than some people want us to know?  That we have capabilities that some people would prefer we never knew we had?  Is it possible that feeding people the materialist fiction seems to some to be preferable, even if it is not the truth?  Why would some people want so badly to tell the general public, "don't get any ideas about humanity being anything but what we tell you it is"?

Aside from these extremely important and interesting questions, the research presented in Chris Carter's book resonates strongly with some other news items explored in previous blog posts here, such as the recent report of two herds of elephants traveling a great distance to mourn the death of their friend and benefactor Lawrence Anthony.  How did they know he had died?  

The evidence that animals may have awareness that is difficult to explain from a strictly physical or materialistic framework also resonates with the work of Rupert Sheldrake, who wrote the foreword to Chris Carter's book, and whose experiments (and the reaction of the skeptics) are discussed in the book (the graph above is based upon the results of one widely-reported series of experiments involving a dog in Manchester, England named "Jaytee," who appeared to demonstrate sensitivity to the return of his owner, even when she was driven to random places miles away and given signals to return at random times, being driven home in a variety of unfamiliar modes of transportation).

In sum, Chris Carter's book is an extremely interesting and well-presented analysis of a topic of great importance.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Could Methuselah have lived so long because radioactivity originated with the flood?

In the previous post, we looked at just a few of the many pieces of evidence which seem to be best explained by the theory that most of the radioactive isotopes found on earth (especially in the crust) were created by the powerful forces released in the events surrounding a cataclysmic worldwide flood.  These forces may well have included powerful plasma discharges created by the generation of enormous voltages through the piezoelectric effect.

The possibility that the majority of earth's radioactivity originated in a catastrophic event, and that this radioactivity was not present at the formation of the earth runs counter to most conventional theories about earth's ancient history.  This possibility also has startling ramifications for human history, especially if (as most traditions around the world maintain) mankind was alive before this catastrophic radiation-producing event and if some members of the human race somehow lived through it.  As we noted in that previous blog post, one of the most significant possible ramifications is the conclusion that: "those who lived prior to the creation of so much radioactive material may have lived longer than we do today."

The hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown appears to explain many pieces of evidence involving earth's radioactive isotopes which pose serious problems for conventional explanations.  The hydroplate theory also explains many other pieces of geological evidence on our planet which give conventional theories a hard time (for a list of a few of them, see this previous post and this previous post).  In discussing the possibility that radioactivity originated during the events surrounding a global flood, Dr. Brown notes that the absorption of newly-created radioactive material into human bodies following the flood could have (and almost certainly would have) had a negative impact on human lifespans:
The new isotopes (heavy or light) produced during the flood are mixed with all that we eat, drink, and breathe. On rare occasions, these “strange isotopes” interfere with our very complex cellular machinery. [. . .] At the atomic level, this damage accumulates in a somewhat random manner, even among identical twins, because the “strange isotopes” that we take into our bodies become “bullets” in tiny but rapid versions of “Russian roulette.” The potential damage during each roulette game is extremely small; however, we each play thousands of games a second. [from this page in the online version of Dr. Brown's book, In the Beginning]. 
To support this possibility, he notes that the Hebrew scripture recording lifespans before and after the Genesis flood degrades sharply immediately after the flood (beginning with Noah's son Shem) and continuing in a negative exponential decay curve (see graph above).  

The fact that the lifespans listed in Genesis follow such a curve is quite significant.  Dr. Brown argues:
If the life spans of the postflood patriarchs had been mistranslated, randomly selected, or made up by someone with no knowledge of higher mathematics, a linear fit would be much more likely than an exponential decay.
However, the thousands of isotopes produced in the fluttering crust during the flood would exit the crust and enter the biosphere—and living organisms—at a rate proportional to their concentration in the crust. So, the concentration of these “strange isotopes” in the biosphere and within organisms would rapidly increase initially, but would level off after some period of time. In other words, life spans would experience an exponential decay.
If there really were such lengthy lifespans prior to the advent of radioactive isotopes on earth, think of what kind of knowledge could have accumulated.  With extended lifespans like those recorded in Hebrew scriptures, you could -- as a grown adult -- have known not only your father and grandfather but also your grandfather, great-grandfather, and even great-great grandfather!  Imagine what subjects you could have discussed with your great-great grandfather if you could both talked and worked with him for years or even decades while both of you were in your prime of life.  Imagine what things you yourself could learn given active health for many more decades longer than what is normal today.

Such a theory could go a long way towards explaining how mankind was able to demonstrate knowledge of subtle phenomena such as the precession of the equinoxes at an extremely ancient date.  As has  been pointed out in previous posts, "to perceive precession requires the ability to measure the location of stars, a method of recording those locations, and written records to pass those observations down to subsequent generations of observers, because one human lifetime is not enough to see a change" (as precession only moves the sky by one degree in 71.6 years).  

If lifespans were significantly longer prior to the flood, it would go a long way towards explaining the sophisticated astronomical knowledge demonstrated in extreme antiquity (in fact, in the earliest texts to survive from thousands of years BC).

Of course, it is not necessary to believe that humans had incredibly long lifespans in the remote past in order to accept other aspects of the hydroplate theory.  The hydroplate theory does not stand or fall on the possibility of long lifespans, or even on the possibility that radioactivity originated in the flood.  There is enough other evidence that is better explained by the hydroplate theory than by conventional theories to warrant careful consideration of the merits of the hydroplate theory regardless of one's position on long lifespans or radioactivity.  

However, the possibility that a cataclysm in earth's ancient history created radioactivity, and that this new radioactivity shortened human lifespans is worth careful investigation. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

What can Maat Mons on Venus tell us about the origins of radioactivity on earth?

The presence of radioactivity on earth, and its unique characteristics, cause a multitude of problems for conventional theories of earth's origins and geological history.  Some of these difficulties have been mentioned in previous blog posts, such as "The important questions surrounding earth's radioactive isotopes."  

Many more are discussed in much greater detail in the section of Dr. Walt Brown's book about the hydroplate theory, in which he examines numerous pieces of evidence related to radioactivity and compares the conventional explanation for this evidence to the hydroplate theory's explanation.  This page in particular in the online version of his book (all of which is available online for examination by anyone for free) goes through numerous pieces of evidence point-by-point.

On that page, Dr. Brown explains the evidence which supports his assertion that: "The inner earth is hot, because the flood produced large-scale movements, frictional heating, electrical activity, and radioactivity within the earth. Similar events never happened on Mars or Venus. Therefore, the interiors of Mars and Venus should be colder."

This assertion is quite startling, and if correct quite significant.  It flies in the face of the assertions of conventional theorists that almost all of the radioactive material in the universe (including that found on earth) was produced inside stars and supernovas in particular, then expelled (some of it finding its way into forming planets).  Whereas the conventional theory argues that radioactive material was present in the original formation of the planets of our solar system (including our earth), the hydroplate theory says that unique and powerful forces on earth (accompanying cataclysmic geological events surrounding a global flood) created most of the radioactive elements on earth.  

Dr. Brown does not argue that no other forces can produce radioactive isotopes -- for example, it is obvious that the sun's radiation does create isotopes in the atmosphere.  However, while the sun's radiation does produce some radioactive isotopes as well, it is not responsible for all or even most of the radioactive elements on earth (it is not responsible for uranium, for instance).

The hydroplate theory argues that powerful forces surrounding the flood created intense electrical discharges.  The massive electrical forces created plasma discharges and bremsstrahlung radiation which created the radioactive isotopes in earth's crust.  They were not uniformly concentrated throughout the earth but only in the crust, and where this activity took place, the crust is still warmer than average to this day.

These forces, as well as other massive movements of rock (for more on those see here) caused by forces surrounding the global flood heated up the core of the earth to levels not found on our neighboring rocky planets Mars and Venus, according to the hydroplate theory.

Is there evidence that Mars and Venus are cooler on the inside than we would expect from the conventional theory (which argues that all three originated as molten balls and which denies that earth experienced a catastrophic flood, and would certainly deny that our planet's internal heat -- and radioactivity -- is a result of that catstrophic event)?  There appears to be!

Dr. Brown points out that recent measurements taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows that the crust of Mars deforms less than scientists expect during seasonal shifts of its ice caps, and that in fact the weight of the cap does not deform the crust as much as it should if the interior were as warm as scientists expected.  This evidence is discussed in a 2008 article by Dr. Matthias Grott entitled "Is Mars Geodynamically Dead?"

Dr. Brown also points out that evidence from the surface of Venus imply that its interior is nowhere near as hot as we would expect based upon conventional theories.  For example, the enormous terrain feature shown above, Maat Mons, on the surface of Venus rises five miles in height (26,400 feet).  By comparison, Mt. Everest rises only about 12,000 feet to 15,000 feet from its base (depending on estimates).  If the crust interior of Venus were as hot as it should be based upon most conventional theories, it would not support such a massive mountain.  

Dr. Brown points out that the atmosphere of Venus is about "860°F—so hot its surface rocks must be weak or 'tarlike.' (Lead melts at 622°F and zinc at 787°F)."  If the planet really evolved the way conventional theories say that it did, then much of this heat should have seeped into the crust over the billions of years that it has been orbiting the sun, and Maat Mons would not be expected to hold its steep-sided shape, and the crust would not be expected to support this five-mile-high massif.  

Not only does Maat Mons pose problems for those who argue for a billions-of-years-old Venus, but it also appears to be additional evidence from our other planetary neighbor which supports the idea that earth's interior heat -- and radioactivity -- originated in a catastrophic flood event which did not take place on either of our two neighbors in space.

There are other startling ramifications of the idea that earth's radioactivity may have originated in a cataclysmic event.  For one thing, if humans existed prior to this event, then those who lived prior to the creation of so much radioactive material may have lived longer than we do today.  For another thing, the plasma events that surrounded the cataclysm (perhaps continuing for some centuries afterwards) might have been memorialized in the rock art around the world that many authorities in the emerging science of plasma physics have noticed bear a striking resemblance to plasma phenomena.

In fact, the tremendous impact of this event on human consciousness would be so important that we probably could not understand the evidence of ancient history without taking it into account.  The Mathisen Corollary book attempts to begin the exploration of the important new perspectives that Dr. Brown's theory offers on the mysteries of mankind's ancient past.  Many other examinations of this kind are needed.  The compelling evidence that supports the hydroplate theory is extensive, both on this planet and throughout the solar system.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A few modest photos from today's solar eclipse, 20 May 2012

A few modest photographs of the progress of the disc of the moon moving across the disc of the sun, seen as a projection (not as dramatic as photographs taken through filters looking directly at the sun itself).

As the eclipse reached its maximum, the sky noticeably darkened -- not the way it does at night but the way it looks when there is a large forest fire and the smoke and haze create a strange filter to the normal sunlight.  

All the shadows of the trees took on the shape of a thousand fragmented crescents, similar to the shadows seen in this image.

There are many other (more spectacular) images of the eclipse from around the world available for viewing at various sites, such as here and here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Birthday of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

May 20 is the birthday of beloved Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, born this day in 1959.  

He is most well-known for his incredible rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" (above).  Here is a link to an NPR segment describing the amazing story behind the recording of that song in 1988, when Brother Iz talked music producer Milan Bertosa into staying at his studio for fifteen more minutes (it was already three in the morning), and then walked in and recorded in one take, accompanied only by his own ukelele.

Here is a link to a previous blog post entitled "What kind of music gives you chills?" which explores the power of music and the impact it can have.  It cites an article that examined songs that have an impact on our "sympathetic nervous system" which concludes, "Music is most likely to tingle the spine, in short, when it includes surprises in volume, timbre and harmonic pattern."  The music of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole is certainly capable of "tingling the spine" and contains all of those elements.

The NPR story cited above also hints at another reason that his music is so powerful and strikes such a chord with listeners.  It quotes Israel's childhood friend and fellow musician Del Beazley:
In Hawaii, we talk about this thing we call mana.  Mana is like an energy that you get. We believe we get ours from the elements first, the Earth, your sky, your ocean, your God, and all that is inside of us. And when we open our mouth to speak, to sing or to play, that's what we let out. But it's that that makes him [Israel] special, because his mana always came out.
Israel often expressed his certainty that the soul continues after the death of the body, and in fact expressed that belief in some of the interview quotations included in that same NPR story.  His music also lives on and continues to convey his positive energy to new generations of listeners.

Rest in peace.  Respect.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The constellation Corvus

This is an excellent time of year to view the constellation Corvus, the Raven (or the Crow).  Currently, he is high in the southern sky, transiting (reaching his highest point on his nightly arc, arcing upwards from the east prior to transit and then downwards towards the west after transit) at about 10:30 pm at latitude 35 North.  

Corvus is easy to locate if you can find Virgo the Virgin, and Virgo is also easy to locate after sunset in the hours before midnight this time of year.  She follows Leo the Lion quite closely (giving rise to the many ancient goddesses who either ride a lion or ride chariots pulled by a lion).

Currently, the planet Saturn is located in Virgo, very close to her brightest star, Spica (see the diagram in the post linked with the first link in the previous paragraph, which has a helpful red arrow pointing to Spica).  Saturn is yellowish in color and glows with a steady bright glow, unlike the twinkling stars (planets do not twinkle, just as the moon does not -- they are bodies in our solar system and reflect the sun's light as does the moon, but since they are farther away they appear to be similar in size to the stars).

Once you have found Virgo, you may well look around and wonder what that bright grouping of stars might be, close in the sky below her -- a fairly bright quadrilateral of stars glowing brightly in a relatively dark patch of sky beneath Spica (and Saturn) and off to the right (or west -- all descriptions here are northern-hemisphere-centric).  This is Corvus, and as you become familiar with his constellation, he will really begin to resemble a crow or a raven, sitting there with his bill pointed towards Virgo and his tail-feathers pointing downwards.

The diagram above shows the constellation Corvus, and the original image has the grey lines as his outline is typically drawn in many star-charts, but they are not very helpful.  Much better (as usual) is the outline (added in green lines above) suggested by H.A. Rey, the beloved author of children's books including the Curious George series, whose book The Stars: A New Way to See Them is a wonderful companion for anyone interested in becoming familiar with the constellations of our night sky.

On page 50, describing this constellation, he says of Corvus:
Small but quite bright, below the Virgin's head.  The star and the tip of the bill, and the one where the leg joins the bird's body, are rather faint, so the complete shape of the sitting crow can only be seen under best conditions, but the four brightest stars of the constellation, forming a quadrangle, are easily found.  The Crow's bill is pointed toward the Virgin's jewel, Spica, as though he were waiting for a chance to grab it.
This is a wonderful description, and quite apt for the bird, as you will see for yourself when you locate him.

Here is a link to the delightful "Constellation of Words" website discussion of Corvus and the ancient legends surrounding this constellation (which was known in the ancient world and described by Ptolemy in his Almagest).  Note the legends in which the Raven was charged with watching Coronis, a beautiful young princess and the daughter of King Phlegyas, while she was pregnant with his son, Asclepius.  

This is another example of evidence supporting the argument that the myths encode information about the heavenly bodies, rather than (as most people think) the other way around (the "other way around" would be the idea that the planets were named after the gods, when in fact the gods were named after the planets, or in some cases the constellations).  The myth of a raven watching a princess is almost certainly inspired by the constellation Corvus watching the Virgin.

Another important aspect of the constellation Corvus  is the appearance of a raven among the other animals depicted in the tauroctony scenes present in the mithraea of the ancient Roman mystery religion of Mithraism (also known to the ancients as the Persian Mysteries).  

Professor David Ulansey's Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World presented the case for interpreting the imagery of the tauroctony scene based upon constellations and other aspects of celestial mechanics.  This interpretation stands in marked contrast to the conventional view held by most academic scholars of Mithraism, who for nearly a hundred years had interpreted the various figures depicted in the tauroctony scene as representing the various types of creatures that sprang from a slain bull as part of a Zoroastrian creation legend.

Instead, Professor Ulansey argues that figures present in the tauroctony represent the constellations along the celestial equator as it was when the equinoxes were in Taurus and Scorpius, namely: "Taurus the bull, Canis Minor the dog, Hydra the snake, Crater the cup, Corvus the raven, Scorpius the scorpion" (51).  

He also gives some evidence which argues that the cup (when it appears in the tauroctony) may represent Aquarius rather than Crater, because the cup does not always appear in the tauroctony but when it does it usually does so with a lion, and thus the bull, scorpion, cup and lion could represent the four constellations that guarded the equinoxes and solstices during the epoch depicted (52).  However, this debate does not concern Corvus, as the image of a raven is a fixture in most of the tauroctonies, whether they also have an image of a lion and a cup or not.

An astute observer of the heavens as they are today, or of the star map above showing Corvus and identifying the celestial coordinates along the edge of the map, will notice that Corvus does not lie along the celestial equator, which would seem to argue against Professor Ulansey's theory.  However, the observer must also remember that due to the phenomenon of precession, the celestial equator (as well as the celestial north and south poles) moves against the background of stars.  

Just as the central point around which the sky appears to turn moves over the millenia until it is beneath different stars (currently almost precisely beneath Polaris, but thousands of years ago beneath Thuban in Draco instead), so the celestial equator shifts along with it, such that the line of the celestial equator passed through those constellations in a previous age but it no longer does so today.  Thousands of years ago, the celestial equator passed right through Corvus.

For all these reasons, becoming familiar with the small but important constellation Corvus is worth making the effort to do this time of year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moving report of elephants mourning the passing of "Elephant Whisperer" Lawrence Anthony

Here is a beautiful and moving story about a procession of wild elephants who arrived from miles away to pay their respects upon the death of their friend and benefactor, Lawrence Anthony, remaining for two days in an elephant vigil.  Mr. Anthony's family said that these elephants had not been seen in the area of his house for about fifteen months prior to his sudden passing from a heart attack.

Mr. Anthony, the author along with Graham Spence of the Elephant Whisperer, as well as of  Babylon's Ark and the Last Rhinos, lived with his family in a remote rural compound in the Thula Thula game preserve in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.  He died of a heart attack on March 2 of this year; he was 61.

His family reported that after his passing, two herds arrived after a trek of about twelve hours and remained in the vicinity of the compound for two more days.  Here is a touching article about the incident from the Delight Makers website.  Here is a link to a photograph that the family posted.

Besides being incredibly moving and heart-rending, this story is extremely important.  First, this type of grieving behavior is by no means unknown among elephants -- many other examples exist (see stories here and here, for instance, as well as the well-publicized and moving story of Shirley and Jenny -- see video one and video two).  This in itself is important.  That wild elephants would display such grieving for a human who befriended them is also important.  There are also other stories of domestic animals displaying powerful grief and mourning after the loss of a human friend and companion, such as those discussed here.

Second and even more amazing is the implications of the report that two herds of elephants many miles away somehow perceiving the death of a human -- and traveling for twelve hours to his location.  There is no easy explanation for such perception that I know of being offered by the promoters of an absolutely materialistic worldview.  If these reports about the elephants perceiving the passing of their friend are true, they deal a powerful blow to the strictly materialistic views of consciousness and existence which are so virulently promoted by many defenders of "Science" (in denial of much evidence, it must be added).

The only real rebuttal that a strict materialist could offer for this moving story would be to deny it altogether, it would seem.  To do that, they would have to assert that in their time of mourning the family dreamed up this very improbable story -- an incredibly callous and cynical suggestion and one that would really be quite inhuman to suggest.  I do not know of anyone who is suggesting such a thing, but only point out that it is quite unlikely and would be really quite wrong to suggest it.  

It would also be ridiculous to suggest that the mysterious arrival after Mr. Anthony's death of the two elephant herds of Thula Thula after fifteen months in other parts of the park was mere coincidence, especially since they loitered in the area grieving, and especially in light of the many recorded instances of similar acts of grieving by other elephants stretching back for decades.

Here are two more articles (here and here) which describe the arrival of the elephants at the Anthony family compound.  

This moving episode suggests that the nature of consciousness is far different than we have been led to believe by the proponents of the absolute materialist worldview that has held sway in most of academia for a century.  It clearly has resonances with the work of Rupert Sheldrake, author of (among many other works) the book Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, and other unexplained powers of animals.  It also brings up the extremely important subject discussed by Chris Carter in his excellent essay "Does consciousness depend on the brain?" which was linked in this previous post.

Rest in peace Lawrence Anthony, and we send our sincere wishes for comfort to his grieving family, of all species.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Scorpio rising into prominence in the late evening sky

The beautiful and distinctive constellation of the Scorpion is one of the landmarks of the summer sky.  In the northern hemisphere, the Scorpion makes his way across the southern portion of the sky, with most of the constellation below the plane of the ecliptic, which itself is below the celestial equator at night (and above it during the day for observers in the northern hemisphere between the March and September equinoxes -- see diagrams and discussion here).  This southerly position means that for observers in the mid- to upper latitudes of the northern hemisphere, the Scorpion stays low in the south and never gets very high above the southern horizon, even at his highest point during the night.

The constellation Scorpio (or Scorpius) is not difficult to find, following in a line behind Virgo (there is another zodiac constellation between Virgo and Scorpio, the faint but interesting constellation Libra, which we can ignore for this discussion, because you have to really be looking in order to find it).  To find Virgo, see this previous post.  Virgo follows directly behind the unmistakable and majestic constellation of Leo, which is currently high overhead after sunset and still graced by the presence of the red planet Mars (no longer in retrograde and now heading back towards Virgo), easily visible with the naked eye.  For a post discussing the important connection between the Lion and the constellation Virgo, see here.

The constellation Scorpio is described in this previous post, which contains an embedded video with gorgeous high-definition time-lapse photography of the night sky as it circles through the night (due to the rotation of the earth), much of it featuring the brilliant and sinuous form of the Scorpion.  It is easy to spot, currently rising up vertically from the eastern horizon beginning about an hour or two after sunset.  

About a third of the way down the Scorpion's long body (before the amazing hook of the tail) is the bright red star Antares (the "anti-Ares" or rival to Mars, presumably because of its dazzling red color), shown on the diagram above as the largest circle connected by the lines that form the constellation.  Antares currently rises above the horizon shortly after 9 p.m. for observers in the northern hemisphere at latitudes around 35 degrees north.  By the time Antares is above the horizon, the forward part of the constellation (including the formidable claws, which really look something like an arcing bow, as you can see from the diagram above)  should be clearly recognizable if you know what you are looking for and where to look.

As that previous post with the time-lapse video explains, scholars Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend -- the authors of the influential and controversial Hamlet's Mill (1969) -- found connections in the Scorpio legends stretching from ancient Sumer and Egypt all the way across the oceans to the Native Americans of both North and South America, and then across the Pacific into Polynesian legend as well.

They note that ancient sources including Orphic and Pythagorean tradition and the writings of Macrobius all attest to a belief that the souls of the dead travel across the sky in the Milky Way before being reincarnated (at times it is also explained that they are given a drink of forgetfulness either as the enter the Milky Way or before they leave it to return to a new incarnation).  Because the Scorpion is located at one of the "gates" of the Milky Way (the southern gate, the northern being located near the Twins and the "Gate of Cancer" -- see discussions here and here), various mythologies and traditions from around the globe seem to have a scorpion goddess who greets the souls of the departed as they enter the next world.  

De Santillana and von Dechend identify the goddess Ishara (found in the Gilgamesh series of ancient Sumer and Babylon) with this tradition -- she was a love goddess as well as a goddess of the underworld, and she was associated with the constellation of the Scorpion.  The Egyptian goddess Selket or Selqet (also Serket or Serqet) was also clearly associated with this tradition according to evidence cited in Hamlet's Mill.

Interestingly, de Santillana and von Dechend also cite Maori tradition of the souls of the dead entering the Milky Way on one end and emerging on the other, as well as Native American traditions from widely separated geographical locations.  The direction of travel sometimes varies (either south to north or north to south), but the role of a scorpion goddess who receives the souls of the dead or nurses them before they are reincarnated is a motif that resonates across many cultures around the world.  They explain:  
Among the Sumo in Honduras and Nicaragua their "Mother Scorpion . . . is regarded as dwelling at the end of the Milky Way, where she receives the souls of the dead, and from her, represented as a mother with many breasts, at which children take suck, come the souls of the newborn." [H. B. Alexander, Latin American Mythology (1916), p. 185.].  Whereas the Pawnee and Cherokee say [S. Hagar, "Cherokee Star-Lore," in Festschrift Boas (1906), p. 363; H. B. Alexander, North American Mythology, p. 117]: "the souls of the dead are received by a star at the northern end of the Milky Way, where it bifurcates, and he directs the warriors upon the dim and difficult arm, women and those who die of old age upon the brighter and easier path.  The souls then journey southwards.  At the end of the celestial pathway they are received by the Spirit Star, and there they make their home."  One can quietly add "for a while," or change it to "there they make their camping place."  Hagar takes the "Spirit Star" to be Antares (alpha Scorpii).  243.
On the next page, the authors also make note of the tradition of the "Old goddess with the scorpion tail" among the Maya, and her similarity in role to Selket-Serqet of ancient Egypt (244).

All these traditions regarding the constellation Scorpio and the Milky Way as the pathway of the dead may have arisen in complete isolation among the ancient Orphic and Pythagorean traditions (which many astute analysts have shown to have strong hints of Egyptian ancestry) and the pre-Columbian cultures of the "New World," as conventional historians are bound to insist, but the harmonies between them are extremely strong.  

Nor are these parallels the only data points which hint at an ancient connection between cultures separated by the world's mighty oceans (or perhaps between some unknown forerunners of those cultures).  For other startling connections between the traditions of the Maya and the events of the Gilgamesh epic, see this previous post, and for a list of numerous other pieces of evidence suggesting ancient contact not acknowledged by the conventional narrative of human history, see this previous post.

In light of the above discussion of the widespread tradition of the scorpion goddess as the one who receives and nurtures the souls at the gate of the Milky Way, the image below of the gold-covered statue of Selket guarding the burial shrine that contained the nested mummy cases that held the body of Tutankhamun is significant.  Note the scorpion on her head.  This intimate location nearest to the body of the departed king surely is important confirmation of the themes discussed in Hamlet's Mill about the importance of the constellation of the Scorpion.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Make your plans for the upcoming solar eclipse!

Every month, the motions of the moon in relation to the earth and the sun produce the phases of the moon, described here and here with diagrams.  

When the moon is positioned on the far side of the earth with respect to the sun (so that the side receiving the full force of the sun's rays is towards observers on earth) we see a full moon, and when the moon is positioned between the earth and the sun (so that the side receiving the sun's rays is towards the sun and invisible to observers on earth) we have a new moon (this post from a new moon earlier this year also contains a video of the mechanics involved).

If the moon's orbit were on the identical plane that the earth follows around the sun (the plane of the ecliptic), then every time it passed through the exact point of new moon and full moon, observers on earth would see an eclipse.  There would be a lunar eclipse on every full moon as the shadow of the earth crossed over the face of the moon, because a full moon takes place when the earth is between the moon and the sun.  There would be a solar eclipse on every new moon as the interfering body of the moon inserted itself between the earth and the sun, because a new moon takes place when the moon passes between the earth and the sun.  

However, because the moon's orbital plane is inclined to the plane of the ecliptic, the moon's orbit only passes through the ecliptic plane twice -- once "on the way up" and once "on the way down."  These are known as the lunar nodes, one known as the "ascending node" and the other as the "descending node."  These nodes and their motion are described in much greater detail in this previous post, which also discusses the likely reason for "seven-world cosmologies" and "nine-world cosmologies" and how the nodes fit in (the seven worlds represent the five visible planets plus the sun and the moon for a total of seven, while the nine worlds include the two lunar nodes as well for a total of nine).  For further discussion, see also this post, which contains a link to excellent animation on the subject.

When the moon passes through the point of new moon or the point of full moon at the same time that it is passing through one of the two lunar nodes, observers on earth can see a solar eclipse or a lunar eclipse, respectively.

This month, new moon will take place on May 20 (it will already be early on May 21 in Greenwich time and the "leading" time zones of the globe), and this new moon will be special because it will create a solar eclipse.  Observers in the portions of the earth that can observe the sun will be able to observe the eclipse.  Because their location on the earth will determine the angle between themselves and the two heavenly bodies of moon and sun, the eclipse will be partial in most latitudes (the moon taking a bite out of the sun of varying sizes depending on the observer's latitude), but within a certain band of latitudes (which will move like a rifle barrel along the turning earth during the day) the moon and sun will align to create an annular solar eclipse.

The distinction between an annular solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse results from the apparent size of the moon, which changes throughout its elliptical orbit (recall that we were recently treated to a full moon of unusual apparent size).  The diagram below shows the variations between the maximum apparent size of the moon and the minimum apparent size of the moon (black lines -- the maximum is the outermost line and is solid and the minimum is the innermost line and is dotted) as well as the sun (red lines -- the max is the outermost again, and you can see that the moon's apparent max and min vary much more widely).

If the apparent size of the moon happens to be equal or larger than that of the sun during a solar eclipse along the "rifle barrel" of perfect alignment to an observer on earth, then observers in that band of latitudes will be treated to a total eclipse of the sun, perhaps the most awesome natural celestial phenomenon there is for earthly observers (one will occur in November of this year for observers in Australia and the South Pacific).  

However, if the moon is too far away to completely cover the sun, observers along the narrow band of perfect alignment are treated to an "annular eclipse," named for the Latin word anulus or "ring."  This month's solar eclipse will be an annular eclipse.

This webpage from NASA contains an embedded Google map which depicts the track of the upcoming May 20/21 annular solar eclipse.  You can move the green cursor along the track to see the exact times that the eclipse will begin, reach maximum, and end at any point along the path.  You can also zoom in and zoom out.

Note that looking directly at the sun is extremely dangerous and can cause permanent damage to your retina and even permanent blindness, and even more so if its beams are enhanced by additional optical lenses, and that extra caution must be exercised during the observation of an eclipse for safety (during a total eclipse the effects can be safely observed with the naked eye during totality, but this does not hold true for an annular solar eclipse or for a partial solar eclipse).  This webpage from Sky & Telescope gives advice on safely observing a solar eclipse.  This article also describes the upcoming annular eclipse and gives some additional safety tips.

In her excellent book The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, Jane B. Sellers argues that solar eclipses (and total eclipses in particular) are directly related to the ancient myths of the "contendings of Seth and Horus" and the death and resurrection of the gods.

Her explanation is quite thorough and extensive, and should be read in its entirety in her book, but a few quotations she cites from the ancient Egyptian texts should suffice to give an idea of her argument.  For instance, on page 43 of her book, she cites this passage from the Egyptian Book of the Dead:
On the crest of that mountain is a snake, He Whose Consuming Fire is Within Him is his name.  Then after mid-day he will turn his eyes against Re, then a stoppage will take place in the bark and great amazement among the sailors . . . Then Suty will hurl a spear of metal against him and cause him to disgorge all that he has swallowed.
Elsewhere, on page 32, she cites a different passage from the Book of the Dead:

I filled for thee the Eye after it had failed that day of the battle of the Two Fighters.

What then is it?

The day it is of the fighting of Horus with Seth, throwing excrement in the face of Horus . . .
Several previous posts have discussed other aspects of the important theories of Jane Sellers, most notably this one

If you are in a location where it is possible to do so, make your plans to (safely) observe the upcoming annular solar eclipse!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fascinating new research about Algol and ancient Egypt

Special thanks to String for alerting me to this amazing recent discovery:

About a week ago, a team of astrophysicists from the University of Helsinki led by Dr. Lauri Jetsu submitted research suggesting that the ancient Egyptians understood the periodicity of the star Algol, and that they incorporated its cycle into their charts for the relative auspiciousness and unluckiness of days throughout the year (in fact, not just of days, but of sections of days -- their calendars were three times more precise than simply lucky and unlucky days, breaking each day into three parts and discussing the merits of each).

Algol is the second-brightest star (designated as β-Persei) in the constellation Perseus (almost as bright as the brightest star in Perseus, Mirfak, also known as α-Persei)The constellation Perseus is shown below, with a red arrow pointing to Algol.  His position in the sky relative to nearby celestial landmarks is discussed in this previous post and this previous post, although those tend to depict Perseus as seen rising in the east, and during this time of the year he is descending in the west in the hours after sunset and before midnight.

Why would the ancient Egyptians (circa 1200 BC according to the texts examined by Dr. Jetsu and colleagues) tie their predictions as to the relative propitiousness of days (and portions of days) to Algol, and how did these modern researchers discover that they were looking at Algol based on texts discussing the merits of those days and times throughout the year?

As the article above explains, the researchers analyzed the pattern of predictions preserved in the ancient Egyptian Cairo Calendar and discovered two cycles throughout the year, one corresponding quite accurately to the cycle of the moon, and one corresponding to a period of 2.85 days.  The scholars present evidence that the Cairo Calendar's 2.85-day cycle is linked to the cycle of Algol, which dims appreciably every 2.867 days.  

This phenomenon is visible to the naked eye, and is caused by the fact that Algol is actually a system of three stars, two of which orbit one another rather closely (one of which being the star we see and the other a much larger but less massive and dimmer giant star which causes the dimming phenomenon as it eclipses the smaller brighter star) plus a third star orbiting this pair at a greater distance.  The system and the dimming phenomenon (also known as the "minima of Algol") are described here in the very informative website of Professor Jim Kaler.  The entire eclipse lasts about ten hours from start to finish, but the appreciable dimmed period is shorter than that, perhaps four to five hours. 

Some astronomers have long suspected that the ancients may have known about the antics of Algol.  For one thing, there is the Arabic name of the star, Al Ghul or "the demon" ("the ghoul"), which gives us the star's modern name.  The great H.A. Rey describes this Arabic name as meaning "the prankster" (The Stars: A New Way to See Them, 42).

There is also the fact that Ptolemy (c. AD 90 - c. AD 168) in his Almagest (which was preserved by and heavily influenced the Arabic astronomers) designates this star as representing the head of the Gorgon Medusa being carried by Perseus (who slew her with the help of Athena, Hermes, and Pegasus).

There have also been those who have denied the ancients the sophistication to have identified the periodicity of Algol, although it seems quite presumptuous to do so, particularly in light of other evidence demonstrating that their knowledge clearly surpassed anything for thousands of years afterwards (such as this evidence that they understood the atmospheric effects which cause a phenomenon called "extinction," to say nothing of the even more ancient evidence that they understood the subtle phenomenon of precession, a fact that most conventional historians continue to dispute).

Now, this intrepid team from Finland has added further evidence for the high level of precision attained at very remote dates in mankind's ancient history.  They even provide an argument that the periodicity captured in the Cairo Calendar (which is slightly shorter than the periodicity recorded in modern times, since Algol's behavior was "rediscovered" in the 1600s) was not in error, but that the observations provided by the ancient texts can help astronomers today to determine the change in the motions of the Algol system over the 3000-plus intervening years!  We should all be grateful to Drs. Jetsu, Porceddu, Lyytinen, Kajatkari, Lehtinen, Markkanen, and Toivari-Viitala for their diligent work in uncovering this amazing new window into human history and knowledge.

Left unexamined in many articles discussing this incredible new find is one other big elephant in the room.  Remember, this entire discovery by the Finnish team came about because the ancient Egyptians recorded very detailed beliefs about the relative auspiciousness of the segments of each day throughout the year.  Nobody seems to ask whether -- if they knew so much about astronomy, as well as about many other subjects (and see here as well) -- they could have actually known something we don't know about the impact of the different "arrangements of the heavens" on affairs here on our little planet.  

This previous post discusses some of the logic behind the idea that the "harmonies" created by the arrangements of heavenly bodies might have some impact on the way that we feel, just as the relative "harmonies" or "dis-harmonies" of a building's architecture (or even the arrangement of furniture inside) can have an impact on us but from a smaller scale of distance.  This post explores the idea as well.

Here is one other reference discussing the minima of Algol, and the traditions that these eclipses of the star can lead to unfortunate "losing one's head" with unpleasant results (see Medusa, above).  Note that this site contains a list of times and dates for these cycles of Algol, running all the way up to the end of 2012.  As this is published, Algol has just emerged a few hours ago from one minima, and another eclipse will take place early in the small hours of the morning just after midnight on May 11 (Greenwich Mean Time, which will still be May 10 in North America and points west, out to the International Date Line).