From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

UCDs: Crowded galaxies

M60-UCD1    (Photo from Hubble Telescope)
If you’ve ever been to Times Square on New Year’s Eve, then you surely know what human crowds are like.

Intensify that to the nth degree, and you might have some idea of what star crowds are like.

George Dvorsky of io9 reports that astronomers have now discovered a “new class of freakishly dense,compact galaxies.”

The stellar density within these “Ultracompact Dwarfs” (UCDs) is up to “a million times greater” than it is within our own night sky.

In the brightest-known UCD, named M85-HCC1, the typical distance between stars is 100 times less than the distance between stars in Earth’s galactic neighborhood.

One explanation for such extreme density is that UCDs  were once part of larger galaxies.  Scientists theorize that their “fluffy outer parts” were somehow stripped away (perhaps by even bigger nearby galaxies), leaving only the denser parts behind. 


Copyright July 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Kobe and Phil: Working it through

Kobe Bryant  (Photo by Steve Lipofsky)
In the spirit of Lennon and McCartney’s “We Can Work It Out” (McCartney’s flexibility plus Lennon’s toughness), Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant slowly learned to get along.

Jackson recalls that in the beginning of their relationship, he could often feel Bryant’s hatred for him.  USA Today Sports reports that Kobe was especially angry when Phil called him “uncoachable.”

In a classic power struggle, young Bryant resented Jackson’s authority.  Jackson explained to ESPN:  He [Kobe] wanted more freedom and I wanted him to be more disciplined.

Eventually, the two worked through many of their differences.  Jackson gave Bryant “more of a license to do his thing,” as long as it stayed within agreed-upon limits.

The result?  The team then won “two more championships.”  Just goes to show how powerful mutual understanding can be.


Copyright July 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hawking: 'There is no bigger question'

Yuri Milner (Photo by Debray Riveros)
For some, life is all about the BIG questions.  The “must know” inquiry for famed physicist Stephen Hawking is whether or not life exists in other pockets of the Universe.

Spurred on by recent knowledge about potentially life-supporting worlds, Hawking now finds it “quite likely” that “humans are not alone.”

Gregory Katz of the Associated Press reports that Hawking is teaming up with fellow physicist “Russian-born billionaire Yuri Milner” in order to diligently search for alien life.

Their $100-million project will “combine vast computing capacity with the world’s most powerful telescopes.”  Although these scientists will be intently listening for detectable radio signals,
they themselves will not be broadcasting any messages.

This one-way communication flow is largely due to Hawking’s precautions against alerting possibly-hostile races to our existence.  If such beings are advanced enough to receive our messages. they may also be advanced enough to plunder our fertile planet.

Nevertheless, the need to know apparently outweighs the fear of finding out.  Hawking has emphatically stated:  We are alive.  We are intelligent.  We must know.       


Copyright July 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 27, 2015

Trump a Presbyterian who 'loves God'

Trump in February 2015   (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
At a recent Iowa Family Leadership Summit,
presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked about his religious beliefs.

With characteristic outspokenness, “The Donald” blurted his way through some answers.  Emphatic about being Presbyterian and loving God, Trump was less firm on the subject of divine forgiveness.

When specifically asked whether he had asked God for forgiveness, Trump replied, “I am not sure I have.  I just go on and try to do a better job from there.  I don’t think so.”

Although falling short of Calvinistic ideals, Trump’s answer was certainly not the worst of all possible responses.  Besides, it was soon to be revised.

Charisma Reports states that Trump followed through with this explanation:  …when I drink my little wine… and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness.  I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.  OK?

To which we say: "Just OK?  Why not A-OK?"


Copyright July 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kateri 17: Radical truth

Saint Kateri, circa 1690  (PD)
Diogenes can finally lay down that lantern.  Sincerity is sure to abound at the upcoming 17th Annual Kateri Peace Conference.

The 2015 theme for this always-engaging conference is “Truth Tellers: Radical Honesty in the Age of Deception.”

Living in denial has not only messed up our modern times, but also most of human history.  Repeating the same old war-mongering lies does not make them truer, just deadlier.

By either believing these lies, or refusing to believe alternative truths, society is condemning itself to a world of constant violence.  It’s well past time to break that cycle.

The keynoters at this conference know firsthand whereof they speak.  They have literally given body, mind and heart to the belief that non-violence is not just the goal, but also the means.

These conference leaders include Sister Megan Rice, Reverend Felicia Parazaider, Kay Olan, John Amidon, Michael Walli, Maureen Aumand, Matthew Hoh, Robert Shetterly, Nick Mottern and Medea Benjamin.

Kateri 17 will be held at The National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in Fonda, New York.  This sacred spot is where Saint Kateri Tekakwitha spent some of her blessed youth.


Copyright July 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Internet addiction: Signs and solace

Caught in the Web...     (Photo by Chen-Pan Liao)
According to a PBS documentary titled “Web Junkie,” it is estimated that “roughly one in 10” South Korean children are hooked on the Internet.  There are “similar patterns” in China.

CNN reports that there is a growing concern within the United States that this phenomenon is “something more complicated than simply a social problem.”  While the DSM-5 diagnostic debate rages on, more and more Americans seem to be engaging in “compulsive” Internet behavior.

Especially in childhood, the brain is vulnerable to “habits of excessive use.”  Parents report that their kids become “restless, angry or depressed” when unable to pursue “online or gaming” activities.

Children report that parents are so immersed in their own phones and screens that family disconnect is rampant.  One youth noted:  My dad tells me not to drive and text, but he does it.

Science has confirmed that “early or excessive use of screens and digital devices affects us neurologically.”  Some users are now seeking solace in “cognitive behavior therapy, wilderness programs, insight-oriented therapy or treatment centers.” 


Copyright July 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 24, 2015

Kepler 452b: Future shock?

Kepler 452b    (NASA artist's conception)
Investigating Kepler 452b could be a bit like scanning the final chapters of our human saga.

According to the AFP, recently-discovered Kepler 452b circles “its star at the same distance as the Earth orbits the Sun.” However, its closest star happens to be 1.5 billion years older than ours.

If we wish to know what could happen to Earth in the distant future, we might as well closely study Kepler 452b.  As stars enter their latter phases of existence, they throw off more and more of their heat. 

Planetary recipients of this extreme heat can therefore stand to lose all of their surface water through evaporation.  Good-bye water, good-bye water vapor, good-bye us.  It could end up to be that directly proportional.

But not to worry...  We still have a billion years or so to beat these odds.

Copyright July 24, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved