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The nine-dot puzzle and connecting "outlying dots"

The nine-dot puzzle and connecting "outlying dots"

image: Wikimedia commons, with dots added (link to original).

The "nine-dots puzzle" is often presented as an exercise in "thinking outside the box," and it most certainly is that.

But it is also an excellent metaphor for the process we undergo as we deal with the data life presents to us and as we attempt to find paradigms which help us to understand that data. 

The puzzle is a thought-exercise in which nine dots are arranged in three rows of three (or three columns of three, whichever way you choose to look at it), similar to the arrangement of a "tic-tac-toe" pattern. The illustration above shows the arrangement for the puzzle.

The goal of the game is to try to connect all nine of the dots, using only four straight lines, without picking your pencil (or pen) up off of the paper (or writing surface):

If you have never had the opportunity to wrestle with this particular puzzle, and would like to try it for yourself without reading any discussion that might give away the solution and thus spoil the fun of the game, please stop reading now and come back later!

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Readers who are familiar with the possible solutions will know that in order to connect all nine of the dots with only four straight and connected lines, you have to be able to "think outside the box" and draw the lines beyond the boundary of the implied square that the dots make by their arrangement. 

Obviously, there is nothing in the rules of the puzzle as stated which forces you to draw the lines within the borders of the square created by the outer dots. That invisible boundary is only "self-imposed" -- and yet it will prevent you from finding the solution until you can see that you don't need to stay within the "mental cage" that we unthinkingly impose on ourselves when presented with this puzzle for the first time.

So, the nine-dots puzzle is an excellent illustration of that tendency, and of the need for examining our own "self-imposed barriers" in other situations in our lives -- situations that may involve more data-points than just nine dots arranged on a page.

But I believe the nine-dots puzzle can also provide an additional, related illustration of the way we tend to impose "paradigms" or "frameworks" or "filters" through which we view the myriad data-points or "dots" which we find in the world around us during our journey through this incarnate life. In many ways, we do this out of necessity, in order to be able to make sense of things, beginning when we are very small and progressively altering our paradigm or framework as we grow up and encounter new data-points or see new ways of connecting ideas or explaining events.

The question that this puzzle illustrates very well, in my opinion, is the question of "What do you do, when you find that the paradigm you are using leaves out important dots?"

This is the question that is worked out in most of the mystery stories and "CSI television shows" that we enjoy, going back to the formula used by Arthur Conan Doyle in the Sherlock Holmes stories (or in the Scooby Doo television series from the late 1960s and early 1970s, or in the pioneering mystery stories written by Edgar Allan Poe in the first half of the nineteenth century).

In those stories, "the authorities" usually have a theory or thesis that they are using to explain the evidence or clues that they have found -- a paradigm or framework with which they are "connecting all the dots," so to speak. Then, the outsider in the story (such as Sherlock Holmes, or Scooby and the gang) comes into the picture and discovers a few more "dots" which the solution offered by the authorities leaves out. 

Above: Four lines which attempt to connect all the dots -- but Sherlock Holmes (or Shaggy and Scooby) might ask, "What about these two dots over here?"

Through the course of the investigation, a new outline or framework to connect all the dots emerges, leading to a new way of understanding the situation (and often revealing that the culprit was someone quite different from the person implicated in the original storyline accepted or promoted by the authorities). 

I think this is a very helpful metaphor which is applicable in many different situations -- from the way we choose to understand important events in history, to the way we interpret the "big questions" regarding the meaning of life and our purpose here in this material world.

By virtue of the fact that this material-spiritual universe in which we find ourselves contains far more than "nine dots" for us to try to understand, there are an almost-infinite variety of paradigms or frameworks or "shapes of the lines" which people adopt in order to try to make sense of the world around them.

When we find one that seems to work as an explanation, we can be very resistant to letting go of it, even if we start noticing some suspicious dots that our framework doesn't seem to include or connect very well. 

There is actually good reason for being somewhat resistant to casting aside a paradigm which we have adopted over the course of time and which seems to do a reasonably good job of explaining and connecting the dots we have encountered over the course of our life. Data-points which originally looked like "outliers" may turn out to have been illusory, or deceptive, or irrelevant for some other reason. New paradigms which someone offers and which seem to connect these new dots may in fact ignore other dots which our old framework did explain, but which the new framework asks us to forget about.

We don't want to be too careless about jettisoning one paradigm which seemed to explain the universe (or some historical event) and adopting one that radically re-draws the lines in a shape that was totally different from what we were using before. Because of this, people are usually very resistant to doing so, and with good reason.

But, as the stories of Sherlock Holmes or Scooby Doo or Edgar Allan Poe (and countless others, including many from real life) all illustrate, there are in fact times when the outlying dots are important enough to cause us to re-evaluate even our most cherished and tightly-held explanation or belief system. 

There are times when our paradigm-driven interpretation or understanding of the events that are going on in the world around us is actually deeply mistaken, and when continuing to use a mistaken paradigm or framework will actually lead to very serious negative consequences.

Although it takes a lot to let go of a framework or paradigm that we have held for a long time and which seemed to "connect all the dots" for us for many years, sometimes it is necessary. Most of us have probably had the experience of doing so at least once or twice already.

I have already explained in the past (in many interviews and in the introduction to my most-recent book) that the world-view or paradigm provided by a literal interpretation of the scriptures collected into what we today call the Bible seemed to "connect all the dots" very well for me for many years of my adult life.

However, the more evidence that I found which indicated that the stories in the Bible -- virtually from first to last -- can be shown to allegorize the features and motions of very specific constellations, the more I had to question whether the shape of the line I was using as a framework or paradigm was accurate. Eventually, I saw "enough outlying dots" that I was forced to alter my understanding of the way they all fit together.

The same sort of process can also be applied to the framework of history, or to specific historical events which have had a great impact on the direction of geopolitical events. I believe that the analogy of the "nine-dots puzzle" is very helpful in this regard, and that it can remind us to always be sensitive to the possibility that the way we are interpreting events or the relationship between data-points might be completely mistaken and in need of serious revision.

Of course, I also think that spending as much time as possible looking at the stars and identifying constellations will help anyone to become better and better at "connecting the dots"!

The Michigan relics (aka the Michigan tablets)

The Michigan relics (aka the Michigan tablets)

image: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (link). Djed-column "cast down"?

Beginning in the 1850s, and continuing for over fifty years, a series of artifacts including inscribed tablets of clay, slate, copper, and stone, was allegedly discovered in Michigan -- numbering into the thousands (some estimates as high as ten thousand).  These are the so-called "Michigan relics," and they have been roundly denounced as obvious frauds beginning in the late 1800s, and it is of course possible that some or all of them are fraudulent -- but there are many reasons to be careful before rushing to that conclusion.

The tablets depict a variety of scenes, many of them recognizably Biblical -- but with important and quite prominent departures from recognized "orthodox" Christian doctrine which may be a significant clue to the mystery. They also contain what one scornful professor writing in the 1890s described as "largely a horrible mixture of Phoenician, Egyptian and ancient Greek characters taken at random from a comparative table of alphabets such as is found at the back of Webster's Dictionary" -- although this is not entirely accurate as some of the tablets actually contain evidence of not one but two writing systems not know to be found anywhere else, one of which has been argued by some analysts to be based upon ancient Hebrew but altered as if to create a code, and the other of which is sometimes described as "toothbrush" writing and has yet to be deciphered (see below for an example of "toothbrush" script):

image: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (link).

The artwork on many of them can be described as fairly crude, although the quality of the art varies greatly, and at least one piece clearly uses techniques of perspective which were not thought to have been "discovered" or "invented" until the 1400s. Other criticisms include arguments that they contain copper that has been smelted using methods that the ancients allegedly did not possess, and that the daughter of one of the main "discoverers" of numerous relics later attested that her father forged them (a confession she notably did not make until after both her mother and her father had died).

All of these objections should of course be considered, and it is certainly possible that these relics are all forgeries. Yet several reasons to consider the possibility that at least some of them might be authentic remain.

First, there is the sheer number of the supposed forgeries. One collection alone catalogued 2,700 artifacts. Another collector catalogued between 9,000 and 10,000. The production of such quantities would seem to require a large number of co-conspirators, but most of those who denounce the relics as a hoax pin the scheme on a single individual, working perhaps with one other helper. 

Further, as Henriette Mertz (1898 - 1985) explains in her examination of the relics and the controversy entitled The Mystic Symbol and published posthumously in 1986, the scripts on the different artifacts reveal evidence that they were almost all done by different persons. Henriette Mertz was a code-breaker during World War II, and later was trained in detection of forgery, which is why she was asked to look at the tablets in the 1950s. She explains in her book some of the tell-tale signs of forgery, and why she does not believe that the script in the tablets betrays the work of a forger whatsoever: to the contrary, she cites evidence in the markings that they were done by different individuals, using a wide variety of different instruments and methods, and betray different "schools" and styles of writing even while depicting the same pictogram or letter.

One of the most important aspects of these tablets which must be considered in the question of whether or not they are fraudulent is the fact that they display a "theology" which is notably at odds with -- and even strongly repugnant to -- that which is considered "orthodox" by almost all the traditional literalist Christian teachers of western civilization for the past seventeen centuries. Researcher David Allen Deal, in a series of essays and analyses which are included at the end of

The Mystic Symbol and which can be read in part here on "Google books," demonstrates quite convincingly that many of the Biblical scenes portray two figures described as the "son of the right hand" and the "son of the left hand," and that the "son of the right hand" is the "younger brother" who becomes the Savior after the previous reign of the "son of the left hand," who is the elder brother of the two and who reigns for a thousand years prior to the advent of the "son of the right hand."

The assertion that Jesus had an older brother, of course, would be considered heretical among literalist interpreters, primarily because he is the son of a virgin mother (which would imply that he could not have any older siblings, although younger siblings might be possible -- a question, it should be noted, that itself has been hotly debated over the centuries even though it would seem to be much less contentious than the assertion that he could have had an older sibling). 

The further implication depicted in the labeled illustrations on some of the relics that this older brother is the Adversary, the Accuser, or the Enemy (that is to say, the Devil) is even more heretical and would be strongly rejected by most literalists (especially, it should be added, in nineteenth-century America). There are ancient sects which held that Jesus and the Devil are brothers, but the very idea is objectionable to most literalist Christian confessions in the west since late antiquity. 

What hoaxer in the 1850s, trying to create a series of fake tablets to imply a Christian presence (or a "lost tribes" presence) in the Americas would decide to impart such incendiary doctrines into the forged artwork?

Additionally, as both Henriette Mertz and David Allen Deal discuss in their analysis, some tablets appear to show priests giving reverence to Isis and other "pagan" deities right along with Biblical scenes. This is yet another piece of evidence which is difficult to explain under the conventional theory that all these relics are the product of a simple, uneducated hoaxer in the religiously conservative midwestern United States of the nineteenth century who took his cues from Webster's dictionary (and, as Henriette Mertz and David Allen Deal also point out, even if one finds alphabets in the back of a dictionary, that does not explain how that hoaxer then forms those letters into words and sentences -- some of which are written right-to-left and others left-to-right, and still others "as the ox plows" or "boustrephedon," one going right-to-left and the next left-to-right, which was anciently done but would be very difficult to forge, as Henriette Mertz points out [she suggests an experiment in which the reader try "forging" some lines while writing from right-to-left, to see how "natural" that might look or feel]).

There are still further reasons to entertain the possibility that these relics are not forgeries, such as the evidence David Allen Deal presents that they contain calendar wheels which indicate a Saturday sabbath (as was observed prior to the official change to the Sunday sabbath instituted by the emperor Constantine in AD 313), as well as astronomical details in one calendar-tablet indicating a solar eclipse which can be demonstrated to have been visible in AD 342 from the location where the tablet was found -- both astonishing pieces of evidence which might give "debunkers" some pause (would they care to explain how the nineteenth-century hoaxers managed to get those details right in their forgeries?) (seeThe Mystic Symbol, pages 191-192 for the sabbath analysis and 193-205 for the solar eclipse analysis).

Just as suspicious, in light of all of the above counter-evidence, is the haste and the vehemence with which the professors in the late 1800s dismissed the Michigan relics as obvious forgeries. One professor wrote, "Photographs of the objects have been sent to me and a glance is sufficient to reveal the true character of the find" (108). So, "a glance" is all that is required and they can be pronounced to be fraudulent. This haste in itself is suspicious -- in light of the evidence discussed above, it is even more so. 

Henriette Mertz notes that, although all these items were proclaimed fraudulent, and pinned upon the actions of one individual, that man was never actually charged with fraud:

Did one man alone forge each and every artifact comprising this vast collection of some 3,000 pieces? During the long heated controversy, the academic world would have us so believe and isolated one man charging him with the perpetration of forgery and manufacture and sale of fraudulent material. No proofs were ever offered nor was the man brought to trial. Most of this inscribed matter has now been destroyed as a result. 122.

Many artifacts do remain, both in private collections, and in some museum archives, but many have been lost -- as a direct result of the withering scorn and ridicule to which they were subjected almost immediately by the representatives of the academic community. One extensive collection also was lost when the building which housed it burnt to the ground (9).

These tablets are dealt with in some detail in The Undying Stars, because they might constitute unique evidence that some early Christians who held to doctrines which could be characterized as Gnostic and/or Coptic -- and hence heretical to the literalist hierarchical church that slowly came to power during the period between AD 70 and AD 390 (discussed briefly here and here, and at greater length in the book) -- may have fled for their lives to the Americas during the centuries in question.

If so, this might explain the haste with which evidence of ancient contact across the oceans is immediately denied today, and the vehemence with which the very possibility is ridiculed (see for example the tone of the Wikipedia entry on the Michigan Relics linked above, as well as the many quotations from professors beginning in the late 1800s all the way up to the present cited in The Mystic Symbol).

We know for a fact that Gnostic doctrines were persecuted by the rising literalist church in the period in question -- and other archaeological discoveries from the other side of the Atlantic have provided powerful supporting evidence to that effect, most notably the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts in the 1940s.

We have also shown that there is plenty of evidence in addition to and quite separate from these Michigan relics which argues strongly for ancient contact across the oceans during or even prior to the rise of literalist Christianity. Among the information most pertinent to the discussion of the Michigan relics is the fact that the very state of Iowa (and the Native American people for whom that US state was named) bears a name which is linguistically related to the divine name found in the Hebrew scriptures.

Further evidence is found in the extensive evidence of ancient copper extraction from the Michigan peninsula, discussed here (and also ridiculed by Wikipedia and largely ignored by conventional scholars). There is also the evidence of ancient Hebrew writing found in New Mexico, which David Allen Deal has also examined and discussed, and which is featured in this previous blog post.

It is important to note that the thesis of The Undying Stars by no means depends upon the authenticity of the Michigan relics. The "Michigan relic evidence" or the idea that some persecuted Gnostic or other Christians fled to the Americas is not essential to the "Roman Empire takeover theory" originated by Flavio Barbiero -- and in fact he does not even mention this idea in his book about that theory (The Secret Society of Moses). 

Nor is this evidence essential to the argument that the scriptures of Christianity -- along with the rest of the world's sacred myths -- are constructed upon a unified system of celestial allegory (for discussions of the evidence for this argument found in over sixty different myths from around the world, including some in the Old and New Testaments, see the index found in this previous post, and there are many others discussed in my book The Undying Stars).

However, there is extensive evidence -- piles and piles of it, in all different forms -- to support the conclusion of ancient contact across the oceans, in addition to the Michigan relics (if they are indeed authentic, which I believe they may be). Many of these different forms of evidence are discussed in previous posts, some of which are linked in this post, and they include artifacts that are almost impossible to dismiss as forgeries, including the hundreds of amphorae found lying at the bottom of Guanabara Bay outside of modern-day Rio de Janeiro, the staggering array of botanical and bacterial evidence arguing for ancient trans-oceanic contact compiled by two Brigham Young researchers, and the hundreds of red-haired mummies found in Peru and other South American locations discussed in this previous post (would any professors or Wikipedia authors like to explain how a hoaxer could have "forged" all those mummies?).

The fact that the Michigan relics are collectively just "one data point" among numerous other forms of evidence arguing for ancient contact across the oceans makes their hasty and vehement dismissal even more inappropriate. For those who would like to explore them further, here are links to a couple other web sites with discussions and images (for obvious reasons, some proponents of the authenticity of the relics may be coming from a literalist Christian perspective -- although I would argue that they may be strong evidence of the literalist takeover and the driving "underground" of the original and non-literalist communities).

The Michigan relics are an important piece of evidence that may (or may not) shed more light on important aspects of human history -- and point to events whose implications have had a huge impact on nearly every family or nation on our globe: events whose implications continue to this day.

The incredible fossils of the Daohugou Biota

On March 04, 2014, a fascinating paper appeared in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, entitled "The Vertebrates of the Late Jurassic Daohugou Biota of northeastern China," by Corwin Sullivan, Yuan Wang, David W. E. Hone, Yuanqing Wang, Xing Xu, and Fucheng Zhang.

The paper discusses the amazing fossils from a region in Inner Monglolia, known as Daohugou, in which the fine-grained sand beds allowed for the preservation of fossilized soft-tissue features, including feather-like quills, the outlines of soft body-parts, and even the external gills of salamanders such as the Chunerpeton tianyiensis, shown above.

The paper discusses the distinctive features of the Daohugou beds and the fossilized fauna preserved there which both link them to other famous fossil beds in the northeastern region of China (including the Yixian, Dabeigou, and Jiufotang Formations), and distinguish Daohugou as having some unique aspects.  The region has produced exquisitely-preserved fossils which the paper describes as including "plants, anostracans, conchostracans, arachnids, and insects, as well as vertebrates." 

The paper discusses various dating estimates for the beds, generally in the neighborhood of 152 million years ago to 166 million years ago, based on radiometric dating techniques (although the paper notes some difficulties with those methods for this region) and on conventional models of the way the various geological layers were deposited (this blog has discussed numerous reasons why both of these methodologies may be completely incorrect, if in fact there was ever a cataclysmic world-wide flood event as described by Dr. Walt Brown's hydroplate theory: see this post and this post for some discussion of the problems with conventional radioactivity assumptions, and this post and this post for some discussion of the problems with conventional stratigraphy assumptions, among many others). 

The presence of such delicately-preserved fossils, over such a wide geographic range, and in such depth (encompassing numerous different layers, with the Daohugou sometimes described as being part of the lower layers of the Yixian Formation), causes tremendous difficulties for conventional theories of fossilization and geographic stratification.  Many of these problems were discussed in a previous post which examined the widespread findings of delicately-preserved jellyfish fossils in areas of the United States, entitled "Jellyfish fossils and the hydroplate theory."  

One of the most obvious problems is the fact that delicate tissue, such as jellyfish bells and jellyfish tentacles, or the external gills on the fossil salamander shown above (and discussed in this section of the paper by Sullivan et al.), or the incredible gossamer insect-wings found in many fossils in the Yixian formation (see image here and at the bottom of this post) does not normally hang around long enough to be fossilized by the mechanisms envisioned under conventional, non-catastrophic theories of fossil formation.  A dead insect lying on the forest floor, or the desert floor, will usually be eaten before it becomes a fossil.  If it is not eaten by something larger, it will under normal conditions decompose and be devoured by microbes long before it becomes a fossil.  Even simple things such as wind and rain will probably rip its wings off and destroy them long before they can be fossilized.  The same goes for jellyfish washed up on a beach, or soft tissues such as the salamander gills shown above.

Even if extremely unusual conditions somehow preserved one insect with gossamer wings, or one salamander with external gills, or one jellyfish by some miraculous set of "just-right" circumstances, how can we possibly explain the abundance of jellyfish described in the earlier-linked post on jellyfish fossils, or the superabundance of insect-wings, salamanders with soft-tissue fossils, plants, and other incredibly well-preserved specimens from the now-famous regions of northeastern China?  How do we explain not only the incredible number and variety of well-preserved specimens, but also the vast region in which they are found?  Did "perfect conditions" just happen to occur -- not just along one isolated stream somewhere, but over a vast swath of Inner Mongolia?  

And the conventional problem goes even deeper than that, because these exquisitely-preserved fossils in the Yinxian and Jiufotang and other formations are found not just along one layer of supposed geographic age, but among many layers -- implying that these "just right" conditions miraculously kept cropping up over and over throughout the course of tens of millions of years (but all in this one region of modern China)!  This kind of explanation beggars belief.  By the way, the jellyfish fossils of the regions of the modern-day US also appear in several different layers, thought by conventional scientists to represent many different ages of ancient history.

As usual, the king-sized problems that the conventional theory cannot adequately explain are handled extremely satisfactorily by Dr. Brown's hydroplate theory.  On this page of Dr. Brown's book (which he graciously makes available to read in its entirety for free online, but which can also be purchased in hardcopy here), Dr. Brown compares the conventional explanation for the formation of the fossil evidence we find around the world with the hydroplate explanation, and allows readers to decide for themselves which explanation better fits the evidence we find.  Dr. Brown's explanation involves the widespread liquefaction which would have taken place during a catastrophic flood event, and which would explain the thinly-pressed and delicately preserved fossils of the northeastern China region as well as the jellyfish fossils of North America.  For a complete discussion of liquefaction, the interested reader is encouraged to read the entire chapter on liquefaction in Dr. Brown's book.

Many of the items from Dr. Brown's list (written long before this latest article appeared describing the fossilized specimens of the northeastern China region) fit very well with the description of the Daohugou and other localities in the recent article.  Some of those include the presence of very fine basaltic sediments to great depths, the breadth of the region, and the sorting of fossils into various "biota" which distinguish one group from another (and which form the primary subject of this latest paper in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology).

The possibility that there has been a catastrophic event in this planet's past which is responsible for the fossils we find should not be so difficult to accept -- in fact, as this blog has discussed many times and as Dr. Brown's book discusses in far greater depth, the evidence overwhelmingly leads to that conclusion.  However, such a possibility is so distasteful to the defenders of the conventional academic paradigms that it is almost never even considered, let alone accepted.  This unfortunate bias leads to the acceptance of explanations which should be infinitely more difficult for someone to believe, explanations which posit the perfect conditions that could preserve salamander gills, jellyfish bells, or insect wings not just one time but many times, over wide regions stretching for miles in all directions, and in multiple layers which were formed many millions of years apart!

Perhaps someday some of those scientists who currently talk themselves into believing such fantasies will stop and take a look at the much more scientific explanations offered in the hydroplate theory.

Giordano Bruno, 1548 - 1600

On this day in history, February 17 in the year 1600, the philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake.  

In the introduction to their 1977 translation of Bruno's 1584 text The Ash Wednesday Supper, Edward A. Gosselin and Lawrence S. Lerner write that "Giordano Bruno is one of those semi-legendary figures of whom nearly every educated person has heard the name and very little more" (11).  

They go on to say that the commonly-understood "myth" of Bruno's life and importance, while based in the true details of his life, leaves out the full complexity both of the man and the significance of his philosophy.  They summarize "the Bruno myth" as follows:
An itinerant renegade friar, Bruno defied contemporary ecclesiastical authorities and doctrines.  In addition, he vehemently rejected the commonly held Ptolemaic belief that the earth lay at the center of the universe, and engaged in mystical speculation which centered about his pioneering support of the Copernican view.  In connection with his Copernican beliefs, he held also that the universe contains an infinite number of worlds populated with intelligent beings.  On account of these teachings, Bruno was tried for heresy by the Inquisition and burned at the stake in 1600.  He thus became the first martyr of modern science at the hands of the Church, and thereby a precursor of Galileo.  The moral of this nineteenth-century story is that Science, the bearer of knowledge, struggles to an inevitable victory over the Church, the champion of ignorance and superstition.  11-12.
Gosselin and Lerner write that while the "facts in this myth are true" they are "sketchy to the point of poverty and generally misleading in their emphasis" (12).  Rather, they note that while Bruno was among the first to support the Copernican revolution, his emphasis was on its philosophical implications, which run far beyond the merely scientific details of which heavenly object orbits which.  It was Bruno's brilliant insight to perceive that the motion of the bodies in the universe, including the earth, had implications which impacted every aspect of human existence.  Gosselin and Lerner write: "For these movements called upon the whole encyclopedia of human knowledge in their efforts to restore the lost harmonia mundi"(13).  

In his introduction to the collection Giordano Bruno: Cause, Principal and Unity, and Essays on Magic, Alfonso Ingegno writes that Bruno's Ash Wednesday Supper discussion of the work and significance of Copernicus can help us perceive the scope of Bruno's philosophy. Ingegno writes:
Copernicus was primarily a mathematician -- his interest was directed towards astronomy rather than towards natural philosophy, and in this sense his work needed to be further developed.  Certainly he started from a correct and significant physical presupposition, the earth's motion, but he sought only a mathematical description of the movements of the heavens.
In contrast, Bruno presents himself as a natural philosopher, as the one who is destined to become the authentic interpreter of Copernicus' discovery and is called to draw out the conclusions from it, beginning with the physical ones.  [. . .]  Thus in The Ash Wednesday Supper Copernicus becomes the inspired one to whom the gods have entrusted a message, the importance and significance of which he has not realized; he is like a blind fortune teller for whom Bruno acts as the authentic interpreter.  ix.
Ingegno goes on to give a taste of the profundity of Bruno's vision:
The philosopher, therefore, is summoned on a metaphorical journey across the heavens to discover that the traditional crystalline spheres are only a vain fiction, that there is no upper limit to the physical world and thus no end to his journey, and that what opens out in front of him is an infinite space.  The philosopher shows us that the divinity is present in us and in our planet no less than in every other heavenly body, that it is not situated beyond the imaginary limit of a closed and finite universe, in a place which makes it accessible to man.
In other words, Bruno perceived that the work of Copernicus changed everything, because it meant that divinity is not "situated beyond the imaginary limit of a closed and finite universe" (that is to say, that the Eternal did not dwell in a remote location, above the outermost of the "crystalline spheres" of heaven), but that "divinity is present in us" and can be found in a place that is accessible to every man and woman.

Bruno saw this vision as enabling the reconciliation of mankind, and as offering the possibility for overcoming the violent religious wars and controversies which were wracking Europe (and which would ultimately lead to his own violent murder at the hands of religious authorities).  Bruno perceived that Copernicus had broken through the mental fiction upon which was based a system of violence and suppression that had kept human beings in ignorance and poverty, and that the downfall of this fiction opened up the gate to the reconciliation of all human knowledge, and a return to an ancient harmony that had been lost.  

In her groundbreaking 1964 work, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Frances A. Yates argues that Bruno thus revived the ancient vision of the Hermetic Neoplatonists of the second and third centuries AD, a vision that was eventually crushed by the rise of ecclesiastical and literal Christianity.  It was this vision, rather than his support for the Copernican system, which led to his execution, according to Yates.  She writes that Bruno was perceived as "particularly dangerous because he had had a religious mission"(445).  "Bruno's universal reform," she says, "aimed at returning to a supposedly pre-Christian Hermetic Egyptianism.  Bruno himself, however, would not have regarded this as necessarily anti-Christian since, as we have seen, he entertained the strange hope that the reform would come within an existing framework"(445).

As Alfonso Ingegno tells us, "More than any previous thinker, then, Bruno is aware of the fact that the fall of Aristotelian cosmology implies the end of traditional metaphysics."  But, he thought that others would embrace the metaphysical implications of the death-blow that Copernican science was dealing to the Aristotelian cosmology (of a fixed earth), and in this he was fatally mistaken.

Bruno's philosophy was far-ranging and all-encompassing.  His insight that the universe was infinite, and that it was composed of minute "seeds" which bonded together temporarily and then dissolved to form again, he perceived to have ramifications that ranged from the fate of the soul after the death of the body (he wrote: "Death is nothing more than [. . .] a disintegration.  No spirit and no body ever perishes; rather there is only a continual change of combinations and actualizations," Cause, Principle and Unity) to the concept of "social binding," which is very much analogous to what we might today call "mind control" (he wrote: "even if there were no hell, the thought and imagination of hell without a basis in truth would still really produce a true hell, for fantasy has its own kind of truth," and ""No bonds are eternal.  Rather, things alternate between bondage and freedom, between being bonded and escaping from a bond, or they transfer from one type of bond to another," Cause, Principle and Unity). 

He wrote an entire treatise discussing the ways that the masses can be manipulated by psychological and magical bonds, and on recognizing and escaping from such bonds (entitled De vinculus in genere, or Of bonds in general, it can be found along with other works by Bruno -- albeit in Latin -- here; The Ash Wednesday Supper can be found in English online here).  The quotations in the previous paragraph can be found in this excellent online review by Sonya Bahar of Ingrid Rowland's 2009 biography of Giordano Bruno. 

Ultimately, a philosopher as vast as Giordano Bruno cannot be encompassed, any more than can the infinite cosmos he proclaimed -- the infinite cosmos which the ancient Hermetic wisdom he espoused declares to be present inside every human being.



Galileo Galilei

February 15 is the birthday of Galileo Galilei -- born this day in Pisa, Italy in 1564, four hundred fifty orbits of the earth around the sun ago.  Special thanks to my very good friend J. Y., originally of N. Z., for reminding me of this very important anniversary of Galileo's birth, and sending along this link to the Galileo birthday writeup in the Sydney Morning Herald by past President of the Astronomical Society of Victoria, Perry Vlahos.

Galileo, of course, was possessed of a tremendously curious and incisive mind, and a crucially important figure in the history of physics, astronomy, and science in general.  Perhaps one of the most important paradigm shifts he introduced, and the one which had the most profound impact upon the world, was his almost single-handed invention of the scientific method: the concept of using experiments and allowing the evidence to suggest the hypotheses and theories that explains the evidence, in marked contrast to the methods in use for centuries previous.

As Professors Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner explain in their outstanding investigation of quantum physics entitled Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness, Galileo pioneered a new approach that propelled human investigation forward in a way that had not been possible previously, when theories were deemed acceptable or not based on religious dogma:

The Church had to stop Galileo's call for independent thought. [ . . .] Found guilty of heresy by the Holy Inquisition, and given a tour of the torture chambers, Galileo recanted his claim of a sun-orbiting Earth.  For his last years, Galileo lived under house arrest -- a lesser penalty than that of another Copernican, Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake.
[. . .]
Galileo's ideas were obvious -- to him.   How could he convince others?  Rejecting Aristotle's teaching on the motion of matter was not a minor issue.  Aristotle's philosophy was an all-encompassing, Church-enshrined worldview.  Reject a part, and you appear to reject it all.
To compel agreement with his ideas, Galileo needed examples that conflicted with Aristotle's mechanics, but examples that conformed to his own ideas.  Looking around, he could see few such cases.  His solution: create them!
Galileo would contrive special clear-cut situations: "experiments."  An experiment tests a theoretical prediction.  This may seem an obvious approach, but in that day it was an original and profound idea.
[. . .]
Some faulted Galileo's experimental method.  Though the displayed facts could not be denied, Galileo's demonstrations were "merely contrived situations."  They could be ignored because they conflicted with the intuitively obvious nature of matter.  Moreover, Galileo's ideas had to be wrong because they conflicted with Aristotelian philosophy. 
Galileo had a far-reaching answer: Science should deal only with those matters that can be demonstrated.  Intuition and authority have no standing in science.  The only criterion for judgment in science is experimental demonstration.
Within a few decades, Galileo's approach was accepted with a vengeance.  Science progressed with a vigor never before seen.  25-26.
The authors go on to demonstrate that the results of the foundational experiments of quantum physics, while clearly going against "the intuitively obvious nature of matter" as well as the received wisdom and apparent "authority" of the classical physics that preceded them, create a paradigm shift as fundamental as that which Galileo and his successors accomplished in their day.

While quantum physics is now generally accepted, there are many other areas in which received wisdom and the reigning "authority" continues to try to trump the evidence, or even to suppress the evidence, in order to try to prevent the acceptance of paradigm-shifting new perspectives.  Because of this, the spirit of Galileo will always be necessary to enable mankind to honestly search for the truth, and to face the implications of the results of the evidence, no matter what that evidence appears to tell us.


Previous posts mentioning Galileo:

It might also be pointed out that without Galileo, there would probably have been no Sherlock Holmes and his version of the "scientific method," and without Sherlock Holmes, there would probably have been no Scooby Doo.

As the above-linked previous blog posts point out, there are many in the "establishment" today who like to invoke Galileo as a way of stifling the very kind of evidence-based dissent that Galileo stood for.    On the four hundred fiftieth anniversary of his birth, it is a good time to consider the spirit of following the evidence, rather than the dictums of the "authority" figures who want to quell dissent by their insistence that the matter is already "settled."

What do you know? Astronomers discover an asteroid that acts like a comet, active asteroid P/2013 P5 (it's a UFLO)

In August of this year, astronomers monitoring the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii discovered a space object in the asteroid belt which was described as "unusually fuzzing-looking" -- a rather strange description and one that perhaps coins a new word ("fuzzing").**

The use of this strange new word, used in a way that seems to defy normal grammatical and syntactical conventions, may have been appropriate in this case, because the strange new object seems to defy normal assumptions about our solar system.  Less than a month later astronomers using imagery from the Hubble Telescope were astonished to observe the object, which was orbiting with asteroids along the inner edge of the asteroid belt, ejecting as many as six comet-like tails!  The object, which was designated "active asteroid P/2013 P5" or simply "P5" for short (a rather ungainly moniker, which might have been better left as the "UFLO," or "unusually fuzzing-looking object") seemed to combine characteristics of an asteroid and a comet, completely defying conventional models of either comets or asteroids, and causing lead investigator Professor David Jewitt to say that he and his team were "literally dumbfounded." 

The reason this asteroid-shaped object, located in the main asteroid belt but spewing tails that resemble comet tails, causes difficulty for many adherents of conventional models is that those models propose very different mechanisms for the origin of comets and the origin of asteroids.  An object located among the main asteroid belt exhibiting some comet-like properties exposes problems with the conventional model for the origin of both comets and asteroids.

The paper published today (November 07) in Astrophysical Journal Letters by Dr. Jewitt, along with Jessica Agarwal, Harold Weaver, Max Mutchler, and Stephen Larson entitled "The Extraordinary Multi-Tailed Main-Belt Comet P/2013 P5" does a good job of explaining the problems that this UFLO poses for the conventional models.  

The paper explains that P5 has an "asteroid-like orbit and comet-like appearance" (page 2).  The ejection of streams of vaporous matter can be explained for comets, which contain ice as well as mineral particles and which are thought to come from the "Oort cloud," a hypothetical shell of orbiting comets situated extremely far from the sun, but scientists are at a loss to explain how a comet from the Oort cloud could have possibly ended up in an asteroid-like orbit among the other asteroids in the main asteroid belt. 

Similarly, the Kuiper Belt (which is much closer to our sun than the hypothetical Oort cloud) contains ice and other gasses, as well as rocky objects, but again it is difficult to explain how anything from the Kuiper Belt could have joined the asteroid belt in an asteroid-style orbit like the orbit of P5.  In fact, the physics appear to rule out the possibility of either an Oort Cloud object or a Kuiper Belt object ending up following the path around the sun that P5 is following.  In their paper, Professor Jewitt et al. explain the problem:
No known dynamical path connects the main-belt to the Kuiper Belt or Oort cloud comet reservoirs [page 2 of the paper by Jewitt et al.]. [. . .] Neither is it likely that P5 could be a comet captured from the Kuiper Belt or Oort cloud comet reservoirs; numerical simulations show that such capture is effectively impossible in the modern solar system (Fernandez et al. 2002 [page 5 of the paper by Jewitt et al.].
This is a king-sized problem.  If this object, which appears to be behaving like a comet by spewing out long tails of matter, did not and could not have come from the outer fringes of the solar system (or far beyond the outer fringes, in the case of the proposed Oort cloud) where scientists believe that comets originate, then where did it come from?  Are we to suppose that comets can come from the inner solar system?  "Preposterous!" say the supporters of the conventional models.

But if P5 is not a comet (since comets can only come from the Kuiper Belt or even further away), then its comet-like tails must be explained as material that an asteroid or other solar system object might throw off, and the difficulty is in explaining how an asteroid could throw off the comet-like tails that P5 exhibits. 

Comet tails are composed of icy particles that can stretch for tens of millions of miles through space (or even longer).  The problem that P5 poses is that conventional models for the formation of asteroids in the main belt do not admit to the presence of enough water or ice to create comet-like tails.  The paper by Dr. Jewitt et al. explains that:
The orbit of P5 lies near the inner edge of the asteroid belt, in the vicinity of the Flora family of S-type asteroids.  These objects have been associated with the LL chondrites, which themselves reflect metamorphism to temperatures ~860o C to 960o(Keil 2000).  As such, P5 is an unlikely carrier of water ice, and sublimation is unlikely to account for the observed activity.  5.
With water or ice removed as an option for explaining the tails of fuzzing-object P5, the scientists have to come up with another hypothesis.  They suggest that impacts could raise dust clouds, but the problem is that P5 has been observed for some time now and the ejections are continuing.  See the two images from the Hubble Telescope above, which are available here, along with press releases and other discussion from NASA.   

After rejecting these explanations, the paper's authors conclude: "The surviving hypothesis is that P5 is a body showing rotational mass-shedding, presumably from torques imposed by solar radiation" (6). I other words, the sun is causing the asteroid to spin and the spin is causing it to disintegrate, and as it disintegrates the disintegrating particles are streaming out and looking like six comet tails.


How exactly that is taking place, and why it would look the way it does in the images, is not explained, and the paper's authors note that such a "rotational mass-shedding" has not yet been quantitatively modeled, and has some problems associated with it as an explanation (such as, how fast would the particles really be coming out of an asteroid that is spinning in the way that this hypothesis proposes?)

Not surprisingly, if the scientists were to consider the work of Dr. Walt Brown, whose hydroplate theory posits a very different mechanism for the origin of comets, they would find solutions for all of the above problems.  Dr. Brown's theory contains detailed chapters on the "The Origin of Comets" and "The Origins of Asteroids and Meteoroids," and it argues that both originate from the same source and are in fact related!  In other words, the discovery of a bizarre hybrid like P/2013 P5 is not astonishing at all -- on the contrary, it is exactly the sort of thing that the hydroplate theory would have predicted!   

First of all, the hydroplate theory argues that comets do not come from a hypothetical and currently-unobservable "Oort cloud."  The huge problems with the Oort cloud theory are discussed in this previous post entitled "Comet origins and the mysteries of mankind's ancient past," where former Chief of Celestial Mechanics at the US Naval Observatory Dr. Tom Van Flandern is quoted explaining some of the extremely improbable aspects of the Oort cloud theory.

Instead, the hydroplate theory argues that comets -- and asteroids and meteoroids -- are all products of a violent catastrophic event that rocked one of the planets of the inner solar-system, spewing both rock and water (which froze into ice) deep into space.  That planet of the inner solar-system is the one you are sitting on right now as you read this (unless you have an extremely unusual internet connection using a technology the rest of us do not know about yet). 

In the chapter on comets linked above, Dr. Brown explains why this hypothesis for the origins of comets fits the observed evidence, evidence which causes nearly insurmountable problems for all the other current theories, including the conventionally-accepted theories held by most academics today.

Furthermore, in the chapter on asteroids and meteoroids linked above, Dr. Brown explains that the asteroids in our solar system, including those in the main belt where P5 is orbiting, came from the same catastrophic inner solar system event.  He also explains that many large asteroids are not really solid space rocks, but are instead composed of many smaller particles which have clumped together and which are held together by a relatively weak glue of water ice, and which also contain a lot of empty space.  All of this discussion is supported by physics, which Dr. Brown cites.

This explanation by Dr. Brown explains a plethora of evidence surrounding both comets and asteroids, evidence which causes major headaches for proponents of the conventional theories.  Interestingly enough, Dr. Brown's explanation also explains the "problems" posed by P5 cited in the paper published today.

For starters, if comets do not originate in some very faraway Oort cloud, or even from the Kuiper Belt (both points of origin which cannot get a comet into the orbit P5 follows), then one of the biggest problems that P5 poses goes away immediately.  If comets originated from earth (and the evidence suggests that they did, as Dr. Brown's chapter on comets and as numerous previous posts on this subject -- see this post, this post and this post, for instance -- have illustrated), then the idea that a comet-like object could have ended up in the asteroid belt becomes quite possible.

Further, the fact that comets and asteroids are really all related clears up some of the other difficulties cited in the P5 paper published today as well.  As noted above, Dr. Brown believes that many asteroids contain water-ice, especially the larger asteroids which rotate more slowly (smaller asteroids which rotate very rapidly are probably solid chunks of rock, but large and slow-rotating asteroids are probably big aggregates or conglomerates of smaller chunks, held together by a glue of water ice).  

But what about the difficulty cited in the paper of having water ice on an asteroid, which contains chondrites indicating the rock experienced extremely high temperatures in the past?  Does Dr. Brown's theory deny the presence of these chondrites, or that they indicate extremely high heating and even metamorphism in the past?  

Not at all!  

Dr. Brown's theory explains in great detail that, prior to the catastrophic earth event which launched the rocks and water into space, rock within earth's crust was under tremendous pressure.  Some of the astonishing by-products of the forces at work are examined in the chapter entitled "The Origin of Earth's Radioactivity." It is perfectly consistent with the laws of physics to believe that the pressure and heating that created the signatures cited in today's paper took place while those rocks that are now in asteroids were still part of earth's crust.  

When they were violently launched into space, out of the orbit of the earth (but still in orbits around the sun, with many widely varying paths), along with tons of supercritical water from the earth, the water and debris ended up as today's comets and asteroids and meteoroids.  That water is now frozen, but the presence of frozen water alongside rocks that were once heated up to the point of producing chondrites does not cause any problems for advocates of the hydroplate theory.  It only causes problems for the conventional theories, but the conventional theories have all kinds of other problems that Dr. Brown outlines in his book, problems that involve evidence available for examination long before the discovery of P/2013 P5.

The discovery of P5 only serves as yet another dramatic piece of evidence which suggests the fundamental flaws of the conventionally-accepted theories.  

It also serves as yet another dramatic piece of evidence which suggests that Dr. Brown's theory, explaining the observed evidence on our planet and in our solar system through the mechanism of a catastrophic event in earth's past, has tremendous predictive and explanatory power.  The ability to make correct predictions, and to be able to explain new discoveries that were not even known when the theory was first put forward, may well be the most critical acid test for a scientific theory.

Why hasn't Dr. Brown's theory received the recognition it deserves?  Why haven't scientists flocked to examine it more closely?  Why is it not at least given a place as one of the "surviving hypotheses" when scientists come across new evidence which their favored theories have no way of explaining?

The obvious answer is that Dr. Brown's theory involves a global flood, in line with the flood described in the Old Testament.  This alone places his theory "beyond the pale" and ensures that conventional scientists will not touch it.  However, that is ridiculous behavior.  Accepting the possibility of a catastrophic event in our planet's past does not automatically require those who accept that possibility to suddenly adopt a literal understanding of the entire Old Testament (let alone the New Testament), any more than it requires them to suddenly adopt a literal understanding of the sacred traditions of ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, or of the Ackawois people (of the part of South America that is today called Guyana), or the Hopi people, or any number of other people around the globe who have also believed in a flood.

The fact that Dr. Brown's theory sheds tremendous light on the newly-discovered "active asteroid P/2013 P5" should cause astronomers and scientists around the world to take note and look into his arguments more carefully.  

Refusing to even consider it as a possibility is just an example of "fuzzing-thinking." 

** At least, that's the way it was quoted in this article, which contained links to sources, none of which actually contained the phrase "fuzzing-looking."   It may be that this was just a typo, or it may be that someone coined a new (awkward) descriptor to go along with a new (awkward, at least for conventional solar system models) space object.   See screenshot below:

The case of the fossilized copulating turtles

Here's a piece of evidence worthy of a Sherlock Holmes (or Scooby Doo) mystery: fossilized turtles found in Germany, at the Messel Pit Fossil Site between Darmstadt and Frankfurt.

The turtles are a form of pitted-shell (or carettochelyid) turtle, Allaeochelys crassesculpta, and what is unique about these particular fossils is the fact that they are preserved as mating pairs -- fossilized during the act of copulation.  As this scientific paper published last month in the biology journal of the Royal Society explains, this is the first such example of fossilized vertebrates preserved in the act of having sex.  As this BBC article explains, about nine such pairs have been discovered in that area over the years.

Obviously, this presents something of a head-scratcher: how did these turtles happen to end up as fossils in such a position?  Presumably, both members of the mating pair must have died at the same time, indicating the likelihood of some sort of catastrophe that befell them rapidly.

Actually, the presence of any fossils generally presents a problem for uniformitarian geology (geology that attempts to explain most phenomena using long periods of non-catastrophic causes that have not changed much over millions of years), as this previous blog post explains. Animals that die (even if not in the middle of copulation) do not simply settle to the forest floor or the ocean floor and become fossilized -- they usually decompose long before that.  The presence of massive numbers of fossilized animals and plants on our planet may be evidence of a catastrophic event or events that created conditions in a rapid manner to preserve them before they decomposed.

With the case of the fossilized copulating turtles, the authorities in the mystery story have to come up with a thesis that fits the evidence, just as in a Sherlock Holmes or Scooby Doo mystery (this previous post discussed the usefulness of this analogy).  In this case, the authorities have their theory:
it is unlikely that the turtles would mate in poisonous surface waters. Instead, the turtles initiated copulation in habitable surface waters, but perished when their skin absorbed poisons while sinking into toxic layers. The mating pairs from Messel are therefore more consistent with a stratified, volcanic maar lake with inhabitable surface waters and a deadly abyss. 
This explanation is plausible, especially as the phenomenon appears to be localized, and as the lead author of the paper says that there is evidence of such rapid death happening to some mating turtles in volcanic lakes of East Africa.  However, we again point out that those turtles dying in volcanic lakes today are probably not going to end up as fossils millions of years from now, so this conventional storyline still has some holes in it.

An alternative explanation, and one that would explain how these turtles ended up this way, is that a catastrophic flood event rapidly buried these mating turtles in tons of wet sediments, killing them instantly and leading to their preservation as fossils, as described by Dr. Walt Brown in his hydroplate theory and supported by extensive other corroborating pieces of evidence.

Note that if the proponents of the "toxic volcanic lake theory" can point to supporting evidence from contemporary African lakes, it would appear that supporters of the hydroplate explanation can point to even more extensive supporting evidence in the form of literally thousands of instances of one fish fossilized in the act of devouring another fish (see image below, from Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming).

The case of fish fossilized while eating other fish is a very strong parallel to these turtle fossils from Germany.  The fossils clearly seem to point to a sudden catastrophic mechanism.  Just to point out the obvious, if the larger fish died in the act of swallowing another fish alive, that second fish would probably extract itself and swim away.  Similarly, in the case of the turtles, if one turtle died during intercourse, the other would not be expected to wait around to become a fossil as well.  In the case of the fish, it is difficult to propose the theory that they somehow started their meal in shallow non-toxic waters and then died when they sank to more toxic depths, the way that conventional scientists are arguing in the case of the fossilized copulating turtles.

You decide: which explanation makes more sense?

Special thanks to my good friend Dan the Organic Farmer for alerting me to this turtle tale.