Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Health Craze Sweeps India

Scientific research has shown that antioxidants are extremely beneficial to health, possibly even helping prevent some forms of cancer. Wine has been found to be a significant source of antioxidants, as is unleavened bread. So many secondary schools and private Hindu colleges in India now offer a service to ensure that their students are able to take advantage of these health benefits in what is called "communion time". Some Hindu fundamentalists have objected saying that this is no more than western religion encroaching on their schools. But cooler heads have prevailed, with more moderate Hindus suggesting that students recite "do this in remembrance of Krishna" to ensure that this regimen is not at all related to Christianity.

We asked the Director of Nutrition at a leading private Hindu college whether he had concerns about this practice. From the email response: "I see no danger of our Hindu students becoming Christians. Besides I have been taking grape juice for years for the antioxidant benefits and I have no desire to become a Christian". It was unclear from the response why grape juice and bread was not just added to the lunch menu rather than being dispensed in communion time.

Reaction from a leading Christian college has been mixed. Some professors have seen this as an opportunity that will facilitate the evangelization of India. Others insist that "communion time" is a powerful spiritual discipline that, even though historically it has been associated with Christianity, can also be used by Hindu devotees to help in their spiritual formation. Still others insist there is no spiritual connection to the ritual itself, so it can be secularized and used by Hindus solely for the health benefits.

Respected Christian leader Dr. Tony Campolo was asked whether this might be common ground for the evangelization of Hindus. He said No it is not. "[But] ...if we are looking for common ground, can we find it in mystical spirituality, even if we cannot theologically agree?". We also asked evangelist Rev. Billy Graham what impact this could have on the future of the evangelism in India. Rev. Graham said "[Some good Hindus] ...may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their heart that they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light that they have and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in Heaven".

We asked a spokesman from a leading Christian graduate school whether the Bible would commend the use of communion by other religions. The spokesman said "from my contemplative meditation and Lectio Divina, I feel that God is saying to me, even though this may look like a western religious practice, when Hindus do communion time it is purely a Hindu practice having nothing at all to do with Christianity. Besides, many conservative Christian leaders have been blessed by using eastern spiritual techniques for years. It is about time that we return the favor".

Friday, January 2, 2009

Your Family Tree is Actually a Family Diamond

Many times people trace their family tree back to royalty or famous people and are somewhat proud to find who they are descended from. But the broader truth of the matter is more amazing than most people imagine. Ask yourself this question: How many people (i.e. positions in your family tree) do you think you have in 1100 A.D. (about 900 years ago)?

Your Ancestors
You can calculate the answer. If you assume 30 years to be an average generation, then every 300 years
(10 generations) you have 1024 ancestors (2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 g-grandparents, and so on up to 10 generations) and every additional 300 years multiplies the effect. So, 600 years ago you had about one million places in your family tree chart and 900 years ago, 1100 AD, you had approximately one billion ancestors in your family tree! And if any one of those ancestors had died before having children, you would not be here today.

Now you may say, wait a minute that is too many ancestors, there must be a miscalculation. In 1000 A.D. there was only an estimated 310 million people alive and it is estimated that there wasn't a billion people in the world until 1804. The difference is that you have people who are related to you in more than one way. It is true that if you draw out your family tree, you will have around one billion slots
to fill 900 years ago, but some individuals will fill many of the different slots.

What can we understand from this? Basically, it appears that when you go back 900 years or more, it is probably more accurate to say you are related to whole people-groups, i.e., most everyone in any group that intermarried. For example, if you have English royalty in your ancestors, it is probably more accurate to say that you are related to most of England at the time. You only have the records of the royalty in your ancestry because royalty were the only ones we have kept records that far back for.

Your Descendants
Now the same math works for the future as well as the past. If your descendants average two descendants every generation of 30 years, in 900 years you will have approximately one billion descendants, but of course you will be only one of their one billion ancestors and you will likely be in their family tree in more than one slot. And the interesting thing is, now that births are fully recorded in most countries, 900 years from now your descendants will probably have all those slots filled in their one billion entry family tree. They may even have pictures and biographies of many of their one billion ancestors.

Think of the shape of your full family tree. We call it a "tree" because that is the only part of the diagram that we know. Our actual family "tree" is in the shape of a diamond with an upside down tree on the bottom of the diamond, i.e., the shape you see at the start of this post (time goes from the top to the bottom, the number of your relatives is the width between the two lines). The first humans (either Adam and Eve, or the first "human" mutations, depending on your beliefs) are at the top where the two lines meet, you are where the bottom lines cross and your descendants are the area between the two end points of the lines at the bottom of the drawing. We think of our ancestors as a tree shape because that is the portion of people we know back "up" the diamond a little way. We don't have records back to the time when the tree shape starts converging back into a diamond shape.

At this point you may be thinking: that is quite interesting but what is the practical application of this knowledge. Here are some ways this can change your ways of looking at the world:

1. When you study early history, if you understand that you are related to whole nations and people groups, that makes the history much more interesting.
2. In trying to influence your descendants, to leave a lasting legacy you must leave them something that will influence your descendants over time more than all their other ancestors,
otherwise you and your memory will be lost in a mass of ancestors in just a few generations.
3. Try to influence society at large rather than just your kids, since in 900 years your descendants will most likely be most of society itself. And if you don't have kids you can have the same affect by working to influence society and other people.

So, you are truly part of the human race. In history and in the future ( if you have kids) you are related not just to individuals, but to people-groups.

Could Speed of Light in Intergalactic Space be different?

Here is a thought. Is the speed of light the same in intergalactic space? The measurements of the speed of light seem to always be near stars, either on our end or near the star on the far end. The speed of light is a function of the permittivity and permeability of free space, both of which are derived experimentally and are not calculated from first principles. Could their values turn out to make the speed of light higher in parts of the universe that are not near any matter?

Could the constant speed of light have to do with how it is constant in matter? So the constant speed of light near earth would work for just the same reason speed of light is constant, but at a different speed, in glass and water. Gravity or some other force of nearby matter would be working on a large scale just like it works near atoms on a small scale.

Has anyone actually suggested that as a possibility? If not, why wouldn't that work?

Even in classical physics it was realized [13][14] that the vacuum must have a field-dependent permittivity in the strong fields found near point charges.

Vacuum permittivity (also called permittivity of free space or the electric constant) is the ratio D/E in free space.

8.8541878176… × 10−12 F/m (or C2N-1m-2),
c (or c0) is the speed of light in free space.[1]

Permeability varies with magnetic field. Values shown above are approximate and valid only at the magnetic fields shown. Moreover, they are given for a zero frequency; in practice, the permeability is generally a function of the frequency. When frequency is considered the permeability can be complex, corresponding to the in phase and out of phase response.

The density of the Universe, however, is clearly not uniform; it ranges from relatively high density in galaxies (including very high density in structures within galaxies, such as planets, stars, and black holes) to conditions in vast voids that have much lower density than the Universe's average. The temperature is only 2.73 Kelvin[14]. NASA's COBE mission(Cosmic Background Explorer) measured the temperature as 2.725 +/- 0.002 K.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Logical Positivism and Cosmology

When I went through a course on Relativity, the professor said that relativity was at its foundation based on the philosophy of logical positivism (i.e., the only meaningful discussion is of observations, no discussion of a larger reality is meaningful), which seems to preclude larger discussions of cosmology. I also understand that Logical Positivism was the leading philosophy of science until the 1980s, but after that Realism became the more accepted philosophy of science.It seems like some of the contradictions of relativity and quantum mechanics could be explained if we took a realist interpretation of the formula (that they correctly predict measurements, but are from only a limited perspective of a external reality). Of course we would be reopening the questions of why the measured constant speed of light is always measured the same and Bell's experiments. But would that be less acceptable than to accept the contradictions implicit in the logical positivist interpretations of Relativity (like the twin paradox) and Quantum Mechanics (like Schroedinger's Cat)?So, in discussions of cosmology, shouldn't we be working to remove any logical positivist assumptions from our discussions? Specifically, isn't the changing of time and space a logical positivist concept (those concepts would be valid when predicting measurements, but not when discussing overall cosmology). And isn't the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics (that the world is probabilistic in reality) a logical positivist concept as well?Time and space seem like abstract human concepts which use clocks (uniformly repeating phenomena) and rulers (uniformly spaced phenomenon) to compare with other phenomena. I can see how rulers and clocks can be affected by the world, but it seems like the concepts of time and space should not be entangled with specific clocks and rulers in discussions of cosmology.And even if our measurements of small phenomena give us a probabilistic answer, isn't that a limitation of our measures rather than an actual view of the world itself? Or alternatively, are we measuring the probability of a particular event occurring rather than proving that reality is, in and of itself, probabilistic?Maybe I am missing something here, but I can't think of what it is. Maybe the constant speed of light and Bell's experiments are so compelling that we just have to accept the contradictions, but I am not convinced. Am I off track and missing something here? Is there other evidence that I am not considering?