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Saturday, 22 December 2007


"X" is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. "X" is an abbreviation that has been in use for over 1000 years. "X-mas" is not as secular as most people think.

(Cue theme music to Twilight Zone.)

Uh, and a Merry Christmas to you too. I think.

Sorry If this disappoints you, but the early Christians used the letter X as a symbol of Christ. Especially when it was a death sentence to mention his name. X fits everyone. It's inclusive! Even if some people take Xmas as an insult.

Christmas was not a secular holiday (variants of Sun worship, not Christianity though). But any holiday takes on the values given to it by its celebrants. You're Christian, and Christmas is a Christian holiday. You're some form of Pagan, and it's marking the rebirth of the Sun. You're atheist, and it has no religious meaning, but a feast with your family and friends to dispel the midwinter gloom.

And if you're Japanese, it's the time to buy a lot of stuff in preparation of the New Year, and have a romantic dinner and make out with your girl/boyfriend. Yep, the commerce is the most important part here as well. And it's not a family holiday, but celebrated largely as a singles' evening, with "Christmas Dinner" at a romantic restaurant.

Any holiday is no less than what you want to make of it. And no matter how you celebrate it, have a good Christmas everyone!

The shortest day of the year makes a lot of sense for a celebration. Days start to become longer from now on, a new cycle starts, the sunny 16 rule will be good for another year after all. Obviously, most cultures will base their celebrations around this time.

Me, I consider the name "Christmas" as related to Christianity as the name "Thursday" is related to Thor. So even though I'm far from being a Christian, I have no problem saying merry Christmas to people.

So, merry Christmas, or Xmas, or Sol Invictus everybody!

Hey, Juan Buhler. This is a note to say that I enjoyed looking at your work. You seem to be an invisible man, only the dogs can see you..your humans don't seem to be able to do that. Lots of great images there.

The universe is a very beautiful machine. If its basic properties were only slightly different, we wouldn't be here to appreciate it. Of course, that doesn't prove that the universe was "designed", but its an interesting puzzle.

That looks like Halley's Comet crossing the Milky Way.

What comet is that?

Merry Xmas!

You would understand the new Electro Magnetic Vehicle designed by ISITEL.

For years I've wanted to produce a bumper sticker with the message, "Let's Put The X Back In Christmas."

Dear AXJ,

Heh heh! Thanks for the holiday chuckle.

ISITEL is a fraud. It has no more basis in real science than the pill you drop in a gas tank to turn water into gasoline or the car that runs on water gas. (Such cars supposedly operate by using electricity to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen - called 'water gas'- which is then burnt in the cylinders of the car, supposedly producing fabulous fuel efficiencies. I trust I need not explain the flaw in that reasoning?)

First big reason ISITEL is a fraud. It won't run on solar power (well, not any that YOU collect). Insolation at earth's surface is 1 KW per square meter, max. That's 1.3 HP/square meter. Best you'll do off of solar cells is 20% conversion efficiency-- one-quarter HP/ sq.meter.

That's for the sun directly overhead, clear skies, etc. Real world? A non-tracking collector does well to collect the equivalent of five hours of such sunlight a day, best case. There are maybe 3 square meters of surface available on the car.

Do the multiplication and you get a total energy of about 4 HP-hours collected by your solar cells, each day, if you're really lucky.

The electric motor in the car is rated for 40 HP peak, 10 HP continuous. 10 HP is not going to give you very good performance (hysterical understatement!) and you'll still run out of juice in 25 minutes.

Then there's the maglev part. Conventional maglev won't work on pavement-- it needs a conductor to 'push' against. Diamagnetic levitation will work with nonconductors; you can even levitate small animals like frogs. It's thousands of times more difficult and consumes tons of power.

But check out the links at the bottom of their web page-- they're going to use the gravimagnetic moment to levitate the vehicle. That'll work fine! IF they do all of the following ...

* they can make the effect 10,000 times more powerful

* they can make it a million times larger in scale

* they can make the apparatus a hundred times smaller

* they can make it a thousand times more energy efficient ...

AND ...

* if the effect really exists! It ain't even proven to be real.

These guys are crooks.

pax / Ctein

Dear Kevin and Bob,

Yup, Comet Hally, 1986, photographed from the summit of Haleakala. Camera, Pentax 67. Lens, 105mm f/2.4. Exposure time, 5 minutes, with camera on a telescope mount and a clock drive plus hand controller. Film, Kodacolor 400.

Alternate universes are an interesting topic in cosmology. Until recently, all of the alternative possibilities looked very boring (universes that collapse back onto themselves in seconds, universes that rapidly expand into a thin gas, uniform seas of unconnected particles). But several have recently been discovered that do have interesting existences with alternate physics.

So, I strongly suspect there are 'billyuns and billyuns' of interesting universes with alternate physics (out of the 10^500 possible ones).

This makes the anthropic principle of much less pressing philosophical importance.

And, as you note, it has no bearing on the existence of a Creator. Brother Guy spends some good time dissecting that fallacy in GOD'S MECHANICS. God(s) cannot be logically deduced from (nor disproven by) an orderly universe; that's an axiom, not a conclusion.

pax / Ctein

It never ceases to amaze me how far people go to discount Christmas and its Christian origin. But that's OK, we should be tolerant. I bet though that there's no discounting of certain other religions holidays... no that would not be PC.

Halley's Comet from the top of Haleakalā ?
Now **that** is truly glorious !!

So many heathen here.
Glad to see it!
My thinking on it is about the same as Juan's.

I was raised as a christian, but am certainly not one now. To me it is all about the celebration, and christmas has become kind of a generic word for get-together or celebration. I like it that way, and feel just fine about wishing a merry christmas to anyone, even you heathen!
So, merry xmas/christmas/solstice or what have you!!!
Imagine that, christianity was NOT the originator!?! Oh my...

Ctein, A wonderful article and a wonderful photograph. But I have to disagree with your last comment. Check out Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, by Stephen M. Barr. Professor of physics at the Bartol Research Institute, University of Delaware. It may not change your mind but it is a good read. E

Dear Ernest,

I wish I could agree with you, but I think Barr is anything but a good read. There are multiple serious flaws in his argument that are so fundamental that it really devolves back to the point I made-- people arguing for or against Creation basing their arguments in Science are not actually building an argument but merely reiterating their thesis.

I will not attempt to deconstruct Barr's well-written book in a few paragraphs-- it would do him disservice. I will note that his understanding of the philosophy of statistics and probability is simply wrong (which is partly why his arguments are easily undercut).

There's a more serious theological problem with this whole approach. Brother Guy explains better than I, but I can summarize:

1) Every scientific description of 'reality' up to the current one has falsified its predecessor.

2) There is no particular reason to think that we have arrived at the ultimate description, from any strictly physical point of view.

3) So, if you build your faith on its congruence with current science, what happens to that faith when the current science is disproven?! As it very likely will be, if history is any teacher.

Logic dictates that either your faith is put at risk or you must construct a new, different argument that connects the new, different science with your old religion. The former is unacceptable; the latter makes all such arguments dubious and assailable.

There are myriad historical examples of good science leading to bad theology and bad theology leading to good science. Historical attempts to validate one via the other have always failed.

Keppler arrived at his planetary laws of motion because he was a mystic who believed the Sun was actually the physical manifestation of the Godhead. The traditional circular orbits were 'pure' in form, but a heliocentric system with circular orbits requires the sun to also orbit about the center of the universe, like the planets. Why should the site of the Godhead be at anything but the center?! Axiomatically, it must be!

Keppler came up with the correct elliptical orbits, because they correctly predicted the motions of the planets AND correctly placed the sun at the center of the known universe, as his faith told him it should be.

The result of this reasoning was the fundamental breakthrough into modern astronomy. Keppler's laws and models are extremely useful to this day.

Hardly any of us today, though, think God spends much time hanging around in the sun.

Should the day come when my faith seems in any way to be derived from the physics I know, I'll consider that a serious crisis of faith.

And vice-versa.

pax / Ctein

whoa! that was probably the deepest post I've read on here all year. Cheers Ctein.

Happy Christmas to you and Mike and other contributors and thanks for the many interesting posts over the last 12 months.

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