Of things astronomic and thanks to readers on the Autumnal Equinox

Firstly, as I reported before there is a huge piece of flaming hurtling death-inflicting space junk falling to earth even as I write.  I calmly explained the facts here in my post entitled “RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! FALLING BURNING SPACE BUS! AAAAH!“.  Go to confession, do your penance, make some Mystic Monk Coffee just wait for it to happen.

Second, I understand from a friend in Rome who sent a story from ANSA that the flaming hurtling space junk may hit Northern Italy.  If that is the case, to all my Italian friends in the north I issue a blanket question: When the time comes, can I have all your stuff?  Thanks in advance!

Also, I received from one of you readers today, without a packing slip so I don’t know who you are, J.L.  Heilbron’s book on churches and cathedrals as solar observatories called The Sun In The Church.   This book is so cool that I almost hyperventilated during my first cursory glance through.  Some of the math is now beyond me, but this book is… way cool.  Way cooler is the fact that it came on the Autumnal Equinox!  I will jot down within the book’s cover as I make the book my own.  Thank a million to the kind reader who sent it.  UK link HERE.  As I flipped through, I saw this:

“Leibnitz, who noticed everything, kept track of the development of the astronomical apologetics of the Jesuits.”

Heilbron puts the whole thing in the context of what was going on theologically in the Church.

“Also, thanks to the reader who sent the groovy Yorkshire Pudding pans.  UK link here.

In other news, I read at The Daily Telegraph, the speed of light isn’t as fast as we thought.

Speed of light ‘broken’ at CERN, scientists claim
It was Albert Einstein, no less, who proposed more than 100 years ago that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light.

By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent

But last night it emerged that the man who laid the foundations for the laws of nature may have been wrong.

The science world was left in shock when workers at the world’s largest physics lab announced they had recorded subatomic particles travelling faster than the speed of light.

If the findings are proven to be accurate, they would overturn one of the pillars of the Standard Model of physics, which explains the way the universe and everything within it works.

Einstein’s theory of special relativity, proposed in 1905, states that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. But researchers at the CERN lab near Geneva claim they have recorded neutrinos, a type of tiny particle, travelling faster than the barrier of 186,282 miles (299,792 kilometers) per second.

The results have so astounded researchers that American and Japanese scientists have been asked to verify the results before they are confirmed as a discovery.

Pretty cool.  Not much application to daily life yet, but pretty cool.

Wasn’t there an episode of Star Trek Voyager in which a guy goes faster than Warp 10 and then mutates into a nasty critter?   We had better be careful with this stuff.

I also received an iTunes card.  Thanks!  I will use it to get some good music.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gail F says:

    The application to daily life stuff is this: Scientists claim that their work is “always open to revision,” but they don’t actually believe it. They really think that they have everything figured out and that some last, yet to be discovered thing will give them a “grand unified theory” (or whatever they call it these days). But they have never yet had everything all figured out, and if experience is any indication, they never will. Science is never done.

  2. Jack Hughes says:

    Just a question Father & Incidently any physists amongst the readership

    If I’m correctly informed are not some theories of quantam mechanics which states that something can come from nothing and if so does this not affect St Thomas’s 1st (Unmoved mover) and 2nd (First Cause) proofs for the existence of God?

    Any reassurance that this is not the case would be greatly appreciated

  3. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    Fr Z,

    Only the barest edge of Northern Italy is in the latest flight path. On the other hand, North America, including the Great Lakes region is back on the flight plan:


    [Okay… my day lacked only that.]

    Gail F,

    Gee, your comment seems almost insulting to us scientists. I really do believe that my work is open to revision, since I see it revised constantly, and I’ve done my share of revising myself.

    So I guess you can say that I don’t “believe” it, since I “know” it. ;)

  4. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    Jack Hughes,

    It’s a bit of stretch to say a virtual particle (which is what you are talking about) is caused by “nothing”. It is a necessary result of the laws of quantum mechanics and the particle fields they describe.

  5. disputationist says:

    @ Jack Hughes,
    Yes, in quantum field theory you can have a particle anti-particle pair emerge from the vacuum (although usually these pairs just collide and annihilate into nothing). This does not contradict “Unmoved mover”, because this is not really creation ex nihilo, because for this to happen the vacuum still needs to have certain properties and follow certain laws (specified by quantum field theory), and we still need an unmoved mover who gives rise to these laws and properties.

    Regarding the neutrinos-faster-than-light result, I’ll take bets that it’s a mistake. There’s too many experiments and measurements that contradict it.

  6. WaywardSailor says:

    “But last night it emerged that the man who laid the foundations for the laws of nature may have been wrong.”

    I can see maybe “the man who laid the foundations for our current understanding of the laws of nature”, but even Einstein wasn’t smart enough to lay the foundations for the laws of nature (and the One who did lay those foundations certainly wasn’t wrong)!

  7. APX says:

    @Robertus Pittsburghensis and Fr.Z

    North America, including the Great Lakes region is back on the flight plan:
    [Okay… my day lacked only that.]

    Yeah, but apparently by the time the debris reaches the ground, it’ll only be traveling at about 50 km/h, so when, sorry, if any of it hits you, rather than killing you instantly, it will likely only just cause permanent brain damage or some other sort of permanent physical injury.

    I’m sure all the pollution from Toronto and Hamilton will cause an instantaneous disintegration of any of the remaining debris.

  8. Jack Hughes says:


    So your saying that the vacuam is some sort of sea of quantum energy (so its not really a vacuam as how Parminades would understand as being non-being ) that occasionally produces these anti-particles almost like the oecans on earth sometimes produce really big waves ?

  9. jilly4ski says:

    Yes Father, there is a Star trek Voyager episode (in season 2) where Tom Paris the pilot rigs a shuttle to break the warp 10 barrier (and theoretically occupy all points of space at the same time). However, the side effects was that the evolutionary process sped up, and he turned into a slug like creature. Now I am not sure how it serves evolutionary purposes for us to turn into slugs, but I will give them some creative licenses. =)

  10. JP Borberg says:

    @Gail F:
    I’d be careful with what you say about ‘scientists’ and what ‘they’ think. It’s comments like that that make my job so much harder. I’m a third year physics undergrad, and in my experience you are dead wrong. There is no such thing as ‘scientists’ that you can lump in a group which you can refer to as ‘them’ and say what ‘they’ think. We are people with interests and knowledge in specific fields, beyond that ‘scientists’ range from being as narrow minded as some Christians to being as broad minded as some other Christians, much like anyone else.

    @Jack Hughes:
    In my understanding it’s something like that. Waves in the sea seem a decent analogy. The important point is that space should not be thought of as ‘nothing’, but as some ‘thing’ that is part of the universe and has certain properties. One of those properties is that it tends to get lumpy some places then smooth itself out there and be lumpy elsewhere. The big difference between space and the sea is that in the sea the energy at one point is transferred mainly to adjacent points, so waves tend to spread out continuously, however, which points in space get lumpy tend to be rather random, hence the impression of getting something from nothing.

    I’d be interested in the implications of identifying ‘space’ in this sense with Aristotle’s prime matter. I’d love to have this idea critiqued by those familiar with both modern physics and scholastic philosophy. Unfortunately those two branches of academia usually don’t get along, but I’m more likely to find that mix here than I am in most other places.

  11. Jack Hughes says:

    @JP Borberg

    BOY would it be an interesting research project to try and combine Modern Physics and Scholastic Philosophy !!!, sadly my degree is in neither of these areas (BA in Marketing – I wasn’t a Catholic then) and although I have pretty basic understanding of Scholastacism my understanding of physics is very sketchy.

  12. Mamma B says:

    Yorkshire pudding?

  13. pseudomodo says:

    Faster than light Neutrinos confirmed!

    Likely explanation is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_(Star_Trek)

    (apparently he also caused the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to turn into a Cheshire Cat which then disappeared into a quantum singularity after coughing up a hairball the size of a Kia)

    The American and Japanese scientists are taking the cash though…

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