Archives For science

Benedict of Nursia (480 – c. 547), author of a “Rule” (referred to as The Holy Rule of Saint Benedict) containing precepts for his monks.

If time permits, I offer to you The Holy Rule of Saint Benedict for your consideration on this day of rest and through the coming week. Note: As the Christian Devotional Classics series builds chronologically, be sure you have at least given the first part of Thomas Merton & the Desert Fathers a look before reading further. Also, you may have interest in exploring the larger question of What is a Christian Devotional Classic? Finally, as I have already mentioned, please share your insights so that we can improve the material. Yes, please consider this a “work in progress” which can be enjoyed along the way :) To God be the glory!

Benedict of Nursia

On the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) we read an excellent brief biography of Benedict of Nursia:

Benedict of Nursia (born in Nursia, Italy c. 480 – died c. 547) was a founder of Christian monastic communities and a rule giver for monks living in community. His purpose may be gleaned from his Rule, namely that “Christ . . . may bring us all together to life eternal” The Roman Catholic Church canonized him in 1220.

Benedict founded twelve communities for monks, the best known of which is his first monastery at Monte Cassino the mountains of southern Italy. There is no evidence that he intended to found also a religious order. The Order of St Benedict is of modern origin and, moreover, not an “order” as commonly understood but merely a confederation of congregations into which the traditionally independent Benedictine abbeys have affiliated themselves for the purpose of representing their mutual interests, without however ceasing any of their autonomy.

Benedict’s main achievement is a “Rule” containing precepts for his monks, referred to as the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict. It is heavily influenced by the writings of St John Cassian (ca. 360 – 433, one of the Desert Fathers) and shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master. But it also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation, reasonableness (epieikeia), and this persuaded most communities founded throughout the Middle Ages, including communities of nuns, to adopt it. As a result the Holy Rule of St Benedict became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason Benedict is often called “the founder of western Christian monasticism” (Accessed 8/9/2013).

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Jennifer Wiseman, Ph.D., an astronomer who studies star forming regions of our galaxy using optical, radio, and infrared telescopes.

Jennifer Wiseman is an astronomer who studies star forming regions of our galaxy using optical, radio, and infrared telescopes. Her career has involved oversight of national astronomical facilities as well as public science policy and discourse. In 1987 she co-discovered the periodic comet 114P/Wiseman-Skiff as an undergraduate researcher at MIT. She has a bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University. In Part 1 of this interview with ESN, she shares some of the latest astronomical findings. In Part 2 she will share how science shapes her personal life of faith.

ESN: What are the most exciting frontiers of discovery right now in your field?
JW: Well, the two hottest topics right now in astronomy are 1) the detection of planets outside our solar system (we call them exoplanets), and 2) Dark energy—which is this mysterious force that seems to be accelerating the expansion of the universe.

ESN: What’s currently happening with the discovery of Exoplanets?
JW: In the exoplanet field the technology has improved so much in the last few years, that we’ve gone from not even knowing whether there are planets outside our solar system to now having confirmed nearly 1,000 of these exoplanet systems and almost 3,000 potential candidate systems that need more study. Most of these planets have been detected through indirect means because it’s hard to take an image of a tiny planet next to a very bright star; it gets lost in the glare. Instead, astronomers have developed techniques to detect planets around stars by looking at the effects the planets have on the star. So if a planet is orbiting in front of its parent star along our line of sight, we may not be able to see the planet itself, but we can see the total amount of starlight dipping periodically with every orbit as the planet blocks our view of part of the star. That tells us a lot about the size of that planet and about its distance from the star, and it tells us about the planet’s temperature and even its density. Through this method the Kepler space telescope has detected almost 3,000 systems that are potentially planetary systems. Another way planets are found is by noticing the mutual gravitational pull between the planet and its parent star that causes the star to appear to wobble with every orbit. So measuring the wobble of stars is another way of detecting planets. Continue Reading…

JESUS MAFA. The parable of the sower, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48309 [retrieved February 26, 2013].

JESUS MAFA. The parable of the sower, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48309 [retrieved February 26, 2013].

One of my favorite Scripture passages is the parable of the sower. It’s botany! It’s metaphor! And it’s a rare parable to include an explanation… sort of. Sure, Jesus decodes the allegory for his disciples, but what is the application? Is it a call to sow our seeds lavishly because we are not responsible for the condition of the soil, or is it a lesson on how to use our time and energy efficiently? Are we being encouraged to prepare the soil before we go about sowing? Are we being asked to reflect on the condition of the soil in our own mind?

Consider this month’s link, a conversation on Slashdot about science and religion. My initial reaction is to consider it an example of what I think the Internet does best: connect people who would never meet in physical space. Maybe that’s just me. I’ve always had my share of esoteric interests. I read comic books; I listen to modern symphonic music; I watch martial arts films. For some perspective — my favorite comic book sells roughly 25,000 copies. There are 300,000,000 people in the United States. That’s a 1 in 12,000 chance of meeting someone else who’s read the latest issue. I’m an introvert — the thought of having to meet 12,000 people is unsettling. (Knowing that I actually only have to meet 8,318 people to have a better than even chance of finding a fellow fan doesn’t make it better.)

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