Thursday, August 10, 2017

NEUTRINOS--THE SECRET OF THE SUN


Light, Jamestown, NC

I recently ran across one of those “What did he just say?” comments in The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far, by Lawrence Krauss. It seems that every second of every day, more than 400,000 billion neutrinos are passing through our bodies and the Earth undetected. Wikipedia confirms that “the majority of neutrinos in the vicinity of the Earth are from nuclear reactions in the Sun. In the vicinity of the Earth, about 65 billion solar neutrinos per second pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the Sun. And neutrinos can be created artificially with nuclear reactors and particle accelerators.” Just to be clear, that’s 24,000,000 billion neutrinos passing through us every minute of every day of our lives!

Who knew? I’ve been walking all over this planet for over seventy years and was never once aware of all these billions of extremely tiny particles slipping through my body 24/7 without even the slightest tingling of my skin! Krauss continues, “the whole chain begins with a reaction in which two protons collide, and via the weak interaction one of them converts into a neutron, allowing the two to fuse into the nucleus of heavy hydrogen, called deuterium, and release a neutrino and a positron. The positron later interacts in the Sun, but neutrinos, which interact only via the weak interaction, travel right out of the Sun, to Earth and beyond…This fusion releases about a million times more energy per atom than is released when coal burns…This allows the Sun to last about 10 billion years.” Hans Bethe received the Nobel Prize in 1967 by predicting this scenario and the experimental observation of neutrinos almost 40 years later confirmed his predictions. Krauss concludes “The secret of the Sun—the ultimate birth of light in our solar system—had been unveiled.”

I suppose we all might be better off if I had never pointed this out. I’ve been blithely wandering around being bombarded with these tiny neutrinos my entire life and was quite content in not knowing this, but science marches on with or without us. The good news is that this assault on our being is nothing like being microwaved, or we’d all be crispy critters by now! It seems that the more we learn about this mysterious universe we inhabit, the more it leaves us in awe.

Note: See August 10, 2017 USATODAY article on the new Sanford Deep Underground Neutrino Research Lab.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

ISLAND DELIGHTS HAIKU



Chasing the Sun, Wrightsville Beach, NC
Ocean Breezes, Wrightsville Beach, NC


The island delights,
to feel your bare feet on sand,
as you walk the beach.

The island delights,
to feel your legs in cool tides,
as you walk the beach.

The island delights,
when the sun darkens your skin,
as you walk the beach.

The island delights,
when the breeze tosses your hair,
as you walk the beach.

The island delights,
to join its spirit with yours,
as you walk the beach.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

OUR COSMIC LIFE




Blue Orb, Internet Domain
Cosmos, Internet Domain
Space, Internet Domain


Buddhist philosophy teaches that we and our planet Earth are linked into one living, breathing cell, eternally linked in symbiosis. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist that extends that thought into the entire cosmos. When we have the luxury of time not spent on basic survival we can begin to contemplate our place in the cosmos as well. The few astronauts that have had the perspective of viewing our blue orb from outer space always seem to be able to succinctly verbalize this concept. Frank Borman, NASA Apollo 8 Commander, famously said “When you’re finally up on the moon looking back at the earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people?”

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Zen master, notes that “we contain earth, water, air, sunlight, and warmth. We contain space and consciousness. We contain the continuing DNA string of our ancestors…Looking into the child, we can be in touch with her parents and ancestors, but equally, looking into the parent, we can see the child…Everything relies on everything else in the cosmos in order to manifest—whether a star, a cloud, a flower, a tree, or you and me.” Neil Tyson notes that “I learned in biology class that more bacteria live and work in one centimeter of my colon than the number of people who have ever existed in the world…From that day on, I began to think of people not as masters of space and time but as participants in a great cosmic chain of being, with a direct genetic link across species both living and extinct, extending back nearly four billion years to the earliest single-celled organisms on Earth.” He concludes, “We do not simply live in this universe. The universe lives within us.”

We can get pretty wrapped up in ourselves and our daily struggles at times. As folks grow older, it’s understandable that their world slowly collapses into a very small corner of the world. We older adults can also get too focused on all the boundaries and differences that separate us on this blue planet in the darkness of space. But for our younger generation, it’s important to experience a general change of vision and ponder the reality that we are living on one planet in a galaxy of over a hundred billion stars, and the known universe contains over a hundred billion galaxies! There are currently forty billion Earth-like planets now cataloged in the Milky way alone that exhibit properties similar to Earth. The possibility of multiverses is even more mind-blowing. Things that separate us in this world are far less important than everything that we share.

Edgar Mitchell, NASA Apollo 14 astronaut, observed that “There seems to be more to the universe than random, chaotic, purposeless movement of a collection of molecular particles. On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.” Homo sapiens need to look outward to the stars more often rather than focusing inward to a self-centered Earth-bound life and reach up to a more God-centered cosmic life.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

FROZEN IN TIME


Glacial Mummies, Switzerland

The digital issue of USA TODAY this morning had a fascinating article about a Swiss couple that had disappeared without a trace almost exactly 75 years ago on August 15, 1942. A ski lift operator found their mummified bodies at the edge of a melting glacier at 8,600 feet. Items including ID papers found in a backpack led to the identification of Marcelin (40) and Francine (37) Dumoulin, the parents of seven children. Their youngest daughter Marceline who is now 79 said that the family had spent their entire lives looking for their parents and praying for their return on the glacier every August 15. The two surviving siblings can now give them a proper funeral with a deep sense of calm.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if modern science had progressed to the point today that would enable scientists to restore life to Marcelin and Francine? The thought occurred to me as I read this compelling article because I was born exactly two months after they apparently disappeared into a crevice in the glacier. My entire lifetime of watching world events unfold would enable me to be an ideal person to fill in the blanks of the past 75 years.

I would begin by telling them that the horrific world war that had begun just before they were frozen in time was eventually won on the European front primarily by overwhelming logistics and the Pacific front was ended when the world was introduced to the nuclear age with two devastating atomic bombs beyond comprehension. And now today, rogue nations have this capacity to destroy our planet. We have made great strides in technology and have even put a man on the moon. But now we have the capacity to trigger another ice age. We have eradicated many diseases, but are now vulnerable to mutations that could one day resist all our vaccines. We are depleting our natural non-renewable resources at an alarming rate and the world population is soaring. Our youth has never been exposed to a world-wide conflagration and many find no place in their life for a divine Creator. The human race does not seem to be keeping pace with the technology that hardly anyone can understand. We have mapped the basic human building blocks of DNA, but some are already crossing the ethical line of playing a dangerous game of creation. The line between good and evil still crosses the heart of every man.

But the world is still producing good people that care about this planet and future generations. We are far from self-destruction, but we need a new revival. Native Kansa Indians of my homeland prayed to the Great Spirit of the South for winds to melt the ice that gathers around our hearts with the warm breath of compassion. These natives lived a harsh but harmonious life out in God’s creation every day of their lives. They were convinced of the existence of a Great Spirit and the sacredness of the earth. They understood that we do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children and grandchildren. Perhaps we’ve reached a milestone in human evolution where we pause the music and relearn the lessons of being in touch with creation and our Creator.

Perhaps we can make a compelling case for restoring new life into the planet and assure a now 115-year-old Marcelin and his 112-year-old wife Francine that there is still hope.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TIME IS LIFE


Sands of Time, Jamestown, NC

I entered the full time working world as a graduate Industrial Engineer. One of the primary objectives of this career is to optimize the cost of a product or process. That usually involves optimizing the time that it takes to produce a given deliverable. This is a discipline whose mantra states that “time is money”. Living a working life around this mantra was in opposite conflict with the need to balance my time with other priorities. In fact, I worked for a Vice President at one point that called all of us young managers into his office and noted that we all seemed to be spending too much time on the golf course. He put us on notice that if he ever heard any of us had a single digit handicap, we’d be fired. He said that somewhat jokingly, but we got the message that he expected us to be spending an inordinate amount of our waking time on the job.

The opposite point of view is adhering to a mantra that “time is life”. And "time is love". To live a balanced life, we need to be conscious of the time we clock on our job life, our family life, and our spiritual life to have a full and satisfying life. It’s important to take inventory of where we spend our time—for where we spend our time is where our heart resides.

Spiritual time includes time to be still. Time to listen to the sounds of life all around us; the sound of wind gently moving through the trees, the sound of waves rhythmically breaking onto a sandy beach, the sound of a baby’s cooing in his mother’s arms, the sound of a wren singing in the first light of day, the sound of melted snow in a mountain stream rushing over smooth stones in the spring, the summer sound of a loon’s melancholy song across a northern lake at dusk, the sound of rain drops slowly falling on a metal roof in the fall, and the lonesome sound of a train whistle on a winter’s night.

We need to pause life occasionally and shake ourselves awake to the reality of time and its precious availability to us all so that we can live it to the fullest. Each of us is born with a variable number of grains of sand in our hourglass. And the hourglass is always in motion until the last grain is spent.

Monday, July 10, 2017

STARDUST




Starry, Starry, Night, Internet Domain
Condensed Stardust, Jamestown, NC


The general theory that matter can neither be created nor destroyed seems to apply if you include energy and its photons into the equation. Matter emerged from an extraordinarily condensed mass at the instant of the Big Bang! That mass was one-trillionth the size of the period at the end of this sentence. And one thing is certain from that time on—matter is in a constant phase of transformation. The stardust was attracted by gravitational pulls that condensed into planets and stars. Matter became the basic building block for all the other diverse forms of the universe. Matter is everything around us. Atoms and molecules are all composed of matter. Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space.

I’ve read that even when we drink a glass of water, we are taking in the stardust of long forgotten ancestors along with matter that could have been manifested into any number of earthly creations. The Biblical book of Genesis relates the story of Adam and Eve, an archetypal couple of imperfect human beings representing all of us that were formed from the stardust of the earth. When our Creator confronted them for disobeying the one rule they had been asked to follow, they were destined to share a common legacy of their mortal bodies returning to that stardust at the end of their lives. The stardust is never destroyed, but transformed into something new in a creation that is never ending with each new sunrise.

Everything in this existence is subject to birth and death, being and nonbeing. Nothing of matter lasts forever in this world, except the stardust of creation. Fortunately for human beings, we were created in the image of our Creator. We are conscious mortal beings with a spirit while our Creator is already a conscious spiritual being that has created us with a soul that transcends our time on earth. When our earthly body returns to stardust, our spiritual being returns to the one consciousness of the universe. This knowing frees us of any fear of dying as we gaze in wonder at the night sky filled with a bright moon and stars beyond counting in the darkness of space.

We walk around and say we have a soul, but we do not have a soul.
We ARE a soul with a stardust body.

Heaven's Gate, NASA

MEDITATION HAIKU


Serene Sunrise, Blue Ridge Mountains, NC

Breathing in, I see,
creation’s stardust in me.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
the light of the world in me.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
all my ancestors in me.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
I am always transforming.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
there is no death and no fear.
Breathing out, I smile.

Breathing in, I see,
all the wonders of this life.
Breathing out, I smile.