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Space NASA Science

Pillars of Creation Destroyed 364

Posted by kdawson
from the eat-your-heart-out-Hercules dept.
anthemaniac writes with news about the Pillars of Creation, an iconic structure in the Eagle Nebula some 7,000 light-years distant. The Hubble Space Telescope's image of this structure is one of the most widely recognized astronomy images ever captured. Now a new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggests that the pillars probably toppled 6,000 years ago. From the article: "Astronomers think [a] supernova's shock wave knocked the pillars down about 6,000 years ago. But because light from that region of the sky takes 7,000 years to reach us, the majestic pillars will appear intact to observers on Earth for another 1,000 years or so.'"
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Pillars of Creation Destroyed

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  • by EzraSj (993720) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @10:15PM (#17533716)
    I wonder if any of us (that is, humans) will be around to see the destruction, or if anyone alive then will ever know what they looked like today?
  • Pretty much anything.

    The farther away anything is, the more it is going to differ from what we're seeing now.

    6000 light years doesn't even make it halfway to the galaxy core ... much less to nearby galaxies (2million light years only gets us to Andromeda -- the nearest major galaxy). For all we know, it was imploded by some master race 1 million years ago, and the creatures who get to watch that explosion will be digging up our fossils and wondering what we had to do with the mass extinction we're in the middle of.

    It takes us up to 20 minutes to figure out if a mars probe went 'poof' during it's last maneuver.
    Voyager is about 10 light-hours out.
    The North Star (one of the brightest stars in the sky until a few years ago), is over 400 light years out.

    Basically, just about nothing is close to us in human terms (under relativistic rules). In fact, The Pillars of Creation are about as close as things can get.

    -- But also remember that as things get closer, we can see more detail so Jupiter at 4 light hours has way more detail than any thing extrasolar. The stuff in andromeda can only be resolved to a resolution of a few light years.

  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ingolfke (515826) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:18AM (#17534744) Journal
    Name exactly ONE article of faith of atheism.

    Here's a few straight from atheists.org

    Atheism is a doctrine that states
    1) that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter),
    2) that thought is a property or function of matter,
    3) and that death irreversibly and totally terminates individual organic units.

    These are philosophical statements not scientific ones. They are not proven philosophically or scientifically.
  • Andromeda Paradox (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @02:23AM (#17535632)
    Here is a really good example where the observers don't even need to be going very fast at all, as the great distances involved make the lines of simultaneity vastly different: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rietdijk-Putnam_Argum ent [wikipedia.org]. In the Rucker book I mention below there's a thought experiment similiar to this one about a trial to determine if a ship's captain turned on his engines before or after an attack occurred.
  • by Pfhorrest (545131) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @04:10AM (#17536224) Homepage Journal
    A philosophical position is not the same thing as an article of faith. While you could argue that a given philosophical position is not "proven", inasmuch as you (or perhaps someone besides yourself) may not be convinced by the arguments in it's favor, others may find the argument absolutely convincing such that any disagreement with it seems necessarily irrational.

    I wouldn't call myself an atheist exactly (I'm a sort of pantheist), but I'm certainly a naturalist, so lets look at that first "article of faith" you listed:

    1) that nothing exists but natural phenomena (matter)

    I assume by "natural" or "material" phenomena, you (or they) mean observable phenomena, as in 'observable in principle'; you could by some means, perhaps not *yet* technologically possible, empirically tell whether or not that phenomena in fact occurred. That is, there is some observation you could make, some experiment you could do, that perhaps we are presently unable to do due to practical limits, which would tell you whether the sentence describing that phenomenon was true.

    Given that that is what is meant by that, it seems patently absurd to conclude that anything non-natural exists (which is the same thing as to say that there are unknowable truths), on the basis that:

    (A) Conceivability is possibility (and vice versa). Something is logically possible if and only if it could be conceived of; if you couldn't even conceive of what it would be for something to be the case, then you clearly have no idea what it even is that is in question, and so that non-idea cannot possibly be true.

    (B) One can only conceive what one could, hypothetically, perceive. Consider someone asks you to conceive of "a foo upon a fweep". You have some rough notion of something placed on something else, but in order to conceive of these things, you have to ask "what is a foo?" and "what is a fweep?", and the descriptions which follow in response must ultimately cache out in some sort of perceptual terms (it looks like this, it sounds like this, it feels like this, etc). So to conceive of something, you must understand what it woud be to perceive it; thus, you could only conceive what you could (if such a thing existed) perceive. (As an aside, this does not mean that you must undertake the act of consciously imagining something every time you are asked to conceive of it; it is merely enough to note that "yes, that is a sort of perception I could have; now what about it?")

    From A and B, it deductively follows that the only things logically possible are things which are perceivable (a.k.a. observable); so if "natural" or "material" phenomena are understood to be just such observable phenomena, as it seems they are, then it deductively follows that only natural/material phenomena are logically possible. From there, the atheist can perhaps derive his other two items of doctrine, but my point here is not to defend atheism; it is to defend philosophy from the accusation that it is mere baseless comparison of different articles of faith.

    Now... maybe you can find some flaw in my argument there. Maybe my premises A and B are false somehow, and I've overlooked something. Maybe my understanding of "natural" or "material" phenomena is not correct, and those terms rightly denote something other than what I take them to. Maybe you can't find any flaws but you just don't buy it anyway. The point is, there is good, some (like I) would say irrefutable evidence to support such a position. I certainly consider such a thing quite easily proven; I have just done so. So to accept naturalism is hardly an article of faith; and it seems that something like atheism - or at least, something quite unlike the supernaturalist theism common to most modern major religions - logically follows from such a position. So the atheist (of a certain variety at least) has good grounds by which to claim that his position is not one of faith.

    Now, there are some logical arguments for the existence of God as well, which I'm sure you're aware of; the ontol
  • by hummassa (157160) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @09:41AM (#17538308) Homepage Journal
    Atheism is a religion in exactly the same way that refusing to ever collecting a stamp is a hobby. :-)
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TemporalBeing (803363) <bm_witnessNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @10:08AM (#17538618) Homepage Journal
    Astronomers think [a] supernova's shock wave knocked the pillars down about 6,000 years ago.
    Just as the the Earth was being created!
    Actually, even as a Christian I must say not necessarily. Even taking the Bible literally and using a 24x7 day week in Genesis 1 & Genesis 2 there is nothing saying that it the Earth is 6,000 years old. This is because there is a time gap in the Bible - and one that is rather significant in this area - between Genesis 2 and Genesis 3. Many people read over these chapters and just assume that they are in close temporal proximity; when in fact there is no evidence suggesting that.

    A lot of Christians will say the Earth is 6,000 years old based on the ages and the assumption that Adam's age was from his creation in Genesis 1 & 2 and not from the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. Since there is a time gap of unknown length between Genesis 2 & Genesis 3, this assumption can be either correct or incorrect.

    What can be considered Biblically correct is that there have been roughly 6,000 years since the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. Of course, you also have to consider that the years recorded Biblically are 360 day years, not 365 day years. From my own calculations, it falls around 5600 to 5700 years at present (it's been a while since I did the calculations).

    However, that the above does not negate Creationism. It does, however, admit that the Earth itself is of unknown age. For all we know Adam & Eve (and any kids they may have had prior to the Fall of Man, which is possible Biblically) could have lived in the Garden of Eden for millennia or just a few days. Fact of the matter is, we don't know the true age, but we do know that it has been roughly 6,000 years since Adam & Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

    Assuming Astronomers are correct about this, then there could be one of two significant things going on: (1) Assuming the original posters timeline, it could correlate to the Fall of Man; or (2) Assuming another poster's statement of "it was 1000 to 2000 years ago" it could be the turn from BC to AD & possibly correlate to the events in Matthew through John, more specifically the death of Christ on the cross. Now this is just speculation and could be way off.
  • Re:Ah ha! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ukyoCE (106879) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @10:53AM (#17539236) Journal
    Children have fear of god and punishment ground into them early, overcoming that fear to maintain disbelief requires dogma and faith

    Not all, or even the majority of children, are taught to fear a god. Also, I don't think the majority of children consider god and punishment to by synonyms. That's old testament, not new testament.

    Your argument is that ignorance of god is "more active" than your own ignorance of green nazi unicorns. Regardless, the two are still strictly parallel. You are still making a choice not to believe in green nazi unicorns, now that you know about the concept. The majority of religious mechanisms, like Pascal's Wager, apply equally to the unicorns as it does to any other unsubstantiated belief, no matter how widespread or obscure.

    A more accurate wording regarding atheism is that it is typically a set of "religious beliefs", or "beliefs regarding religion". The latter being the most accurate, as there is no requirement that atheists hold their beliefs religiously. :)

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