Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Father of the Big Bang

The BBC has a story on Fr. Georges Lemaitre and his theory of the Big Bang.
Few theories could claim to have a more fundamental status than Big Bang Theory. This is now humanity's best attempt at explaining how we got here: A Theory of Everything. This much is widely known and Big Bang Theory is now one of the most recognisable scientific brands in the world. What's less well known is that the man who first proposed the theory was not only an accomplished physicist, he was also a Catholic priest. Father Georges Lemaitre wore his clerical collar while teaching physics, and not at Oxford, Cambridge or MIT but at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. It was this unassuming Catholic priest in an academic backwater who has changed the way we look at the origins of the universe. His story also challenges the assumption that science and religion are always in conflict. William Crawley introduces us to the "Father" of the Big Bang.
Listen to the actual story at BBC.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Highlight Reel

From the Deeps of Time blog:
SpaceX has released a “highlight reel” of its recent mission to the International Space Station. On May 25th, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule became the first private spacecraft to enter orbit and dock to the International Space Station, transferring cargo and proving the concept of commercial space operation in conjunction with the ISS platform in orbit. Now, the company has produced and released a video showing the key events of that mission.

Key events in the video include:

May 22: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
May 23: Dragon orbited Earth as it traveled toward the International Space Station.
May 24: Dragon’s sensors and flight systems were subjected to a series of tests to determine if the vehicle was ready to attach to the space station.
May 25: NASA gave Dragon the GO to attempt berthing with the station. Dragon approached. It was successfully captured by the station’s robotic arm.
May 26: US astronaut Don Pettit opened Dragon’s hatch and the astronauts entered.
May 31: After six days at the International Space Station, Dragon departed for its return to Earth, carrying a load of cargo for NASA. SpaceX completed its historic mission when Dragon splashed down safely in the Pacific.

Monday, July 30, 2012

NFP Week at St. Mark's

Last week, the pastor of my former university parish of St. Mark's (Santa Barbara, CA) posted a blog post encouraging parishioners to read and study Humanae Vitae:
This week, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates NFP week, or Natural Family Panning Week. Lately, we have heard much about artificial contraception due to the federal government’s HHS new “contraceptive mandate.” This new mandate requires all employers to pay for contraceptive coverage, even abortifacient chemical contraceptives. Not all Catholic realize what is at stake regarding the HHS mandate and their religious freedom. Yes, religious liberty is indeed at stake. But, what is more alarming to me is that many within our Church do not even stop to consider why the Catholic Church has steadfastly maintained its position on human life and the immorality of artificial means of contraception. As we celebrate Natural Family Planning Awareness week, let’s take some time to explore and perhaps invite others to consider the why factor and the great YES of Church teaching on the protection of all human life and of the Sacrament of Marriage.

This Wednesday, we celebrate the 44th anniversary of the promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s seminal encyclical letter Humanae Vitae or “On Human Life.” I invite our parishioners to read or re-read this document as a starting point to reconsider the Church’s teaching on the beauty and sanctity of human life.
Hooray for St. Mark's! Today, St. Mark's offers regular confession, eucharistic adoration (which I tried and failed to establish when I was there), and they even have a Latin Schola Cantorum.

The Higgs Boson and Harmony in Nature

In an interview on Vatican Radio, Fr. Gabriele Gionti, a Jesuit theoretical physicist with the Vatican Observatory, comments on the discovery of the Higgs boson:
“The fact that we see this harmony in nature, like the harmony that is in the Higgs particle, the fact that we now have a mechanism and a particle that is able to explain how to give mass to other particles, is not against the fact hat there is a benevolent God who created the Universe”, says Theoretical Physicist and Italian Jesuit Fr. Gabriele Gionti of the Vatican Observatory.

Two CERN laboratories, working independently of each other to avoid bias, found the new particle in the mass region of around 125-126 Gigaelectronvolts (GeV). According to Fr. Gionti: “this discovery could mean the Standard Model is correct”. This is a theory that identifies the building blocks for matter and the particles that convey fundamental forces. The Higgs boson is believed to exist in an invisible, ubiquitous field created by the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. When some particles encounter the Higgs, they slow down and acquire mass, according to the theory. Others, such as particles of light, encounter no obstacle.
Read/Listen to the interview.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Distributism in 10 minutes

In his college level speech class, Colin Kovarik gave a rather brilliant introduction to Distributist economics:

Naturally, Kovarik only scratches the surface, there is so much that can be gleaned from this. What I like about it is that this is a perfectly grass roots way to share and discuss Distributist ideas in an environment in which there can be and ought to be a free exchange of ideas.

Faith and Reason, Revisited

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 159:
Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.
All venerable disciplines of science are simply a recognition that the universe and the natural world are intelligible and rational.

A Lutheran Pastor Looks at Humanae Vitae

Rev. Russell E. Saltzman writes in First Things magazine a reflection on Pope Paul VI's extraordinary encyclical, Humanae Vitae:
Lutherans—before the dichotomous split between classicists and progressives—once had a rich pastoral and theological perspective on marriage. From a certain reading of the Lutheran confessions, marriage may be regarded as a sacrament, though not cited among the chief sacraments. It was viewed as a Christian vocation initiated in baptism, as calling and gift and obligation. The married couple sought to do in their home what the Church seeks to do in the world: Make the reality of redemption evident in the lives they touch and nurture. As I read Humanae Vitae, that’s not far from Paul VI.
Read the whole thing.


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