Our last service of 2017 featured a Moment of Science on the first interstellar asteroid discovered. This happened quite by chance on October 19th when a telescope at the University of Hawaii detected what was at first assumed to be a new comet. Further study showed that it had no "tail" and had entered the Solar System at a steep angle and at high velocity - 26 km/sec. It was then reclassified as an interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 and given the Hawaiian name Oumuamua, which means “first scout.” We viewed this video on the discovery:
It is interesting that Oumuamua was not discovered until it had already rounded the Sun and begun heading out of the Solar System. "Project Lyra" - named for the constellation from which Oumuamua had come - is now underway to consider how such objects might be studied with space probes in the future. The main challenge is catching up to them, as the fastest spacecraft to date is generally said to be Voyager 1 at about 17 km/sec.
One curious thing about Oumuamua is its long cigar-like shape:
This certainly does fuel the imagination:
It is worth considering that Oumuamua is like many people in our lives with whom we may have brief encounters and many more with whom we could have had encounters had we noticed them.
Our primary service topic in December was "Christmas: Something is Mything!" We discussed the "reason for the season" – the reason for all the seasons – is that the Earth's rotational axis is inclined 23.5 degrees to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. This simple fact has an outsized effect on human cultures worldwide and has had a profound effect on life on our planet. We discussed that at this far remove from ancient times - 2000 and more years - it is difficult if not impossible to grasp what our ancestors mindsets and attitudes were about many things. It is often assumed, for example, that they were credulous, willing to believe in all manner of fanciful nonsense. Many were, no doubt, but surely many others recognized absurdity when they saw/heard it. On the other hand, the distinction just may not have mattered to them all that much in most situations.
We considered that the Bible is filled with contradictions and errors. Many are explained away by believers, but one cannot do this with the same events described in very different ways. This source was given:
https://infidels.org/library/modern/don ... tions.html
We also considered the "mythicist" view of Jesus and the New Testament. This is the idea that Christianity grew out of theological/mystical ideas the some Jews saw hinted at in the Old Testament. On this view, Jesus began as an angelic or celestial being whom God incarnated as a man who lived a life of obscurity and humility before being executed by crucifixion and taken back into heaven to be made coequal with God. Later, this being was historicized in the largely fictional Gospels. Or, if there ever was an historical Jesus, that he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity. This is supported by the fact that not only is the miraculous career of Jesus nowhere to be found outside of the Gospels but that the Gospels themselves - and much of the rest of the Bible - were composed with the literary structures common to the mythic genre of the time including "chiastic" organization.
The work of the Scottish anthropologist of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, James Frazer, was brought up, as well as that of Sigmund Freud and of the 20th Century scholar and write Joseph Campbell.
We conluded with the observation that there's nothing wrong with myth, so long as it is realized that it is myth and not fact, and so long as it is realized that myth serves a very different purpose than fact.
Postings about each monthly service includes topics discussed and an open forum to further discuss those topics.
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