Science Corner: Pluto’s Even Goofier than We Thought

pluto photo

New Horizons is teaching us new things about Pluto Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

OK, enough science fiction for a while, let’s get back to some science fact. Believe it or not, we are still learning things about our own solar system. The New Horizons mission is sending back data on Pluto, which has revealed a surprising result. The sunrise on Pluto’s moons is chaotic, making it very difficult to predict where or when it will happen tomorrow. That’s completely different from sunrise on Earth, Earth’s moon, or any of the other planets or moons in our solar system. It’s a consequence of the fact that Pluto forms a binary system with its largest moon, Charon, meaning that Pluto’s other moons orbit the composite of both Pluto and Charon.

One of the implications of this finding is that planets which orbit binary stars, of which there are many, may likewise have unpredictable sunrises. That leads me to wonder — what sort of theology would they have on such a planet? We infer a lot about God’s nature from the regularity of the sun. For a while, much progress was made in science by assuming that sort of regularity was everywhere in nature. Yet it’s starting to seem as if that kind of behavior is, if not rare, then at least not the only significant paradigm. Which brings the question back home — given all the unpredictable behavior in nature right here, what sort of theology should we have here on Earth?

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Andy Walsh

Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two elementary school students, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. His book Faith across the Multiverse is available from Hendrickson.

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