That Pale Blue Dot


This is an updated version of the Pale Blue Dot image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft 30 years ago today. It was created using modern image-processing software and techniques while trying to remain faithful to the original. Like the original, this new color view shows the Earth as a single blue pixel in the vastness of space. Rays of sunlight scattered within the camera optics stretch across the scene, one of which intersects with Earth. Look closely at the stripe just right of center. That speck a bit past half way up isn’t dust on your screen. It’s the Earth.

The image was taken just before Voyager 1’s cameras were turned off to conserve power because the probe would not make another planetary flyby. Shutting down instruments and other systems on the two Voyager spacecraft has been a gradual and ongoing process that has helped keep them running as they have left the Solar System.

Image Credit: NASA

Lonely Dwarfs


Luhman 16AB is a double star system composed of two brown dwarfs. It’s only about six light-years away, and is the third closest stellar system to Earth—after the triple star system Alpha Centauri and Barnard’s Star. Because the brown dwarfs are so dim, Luhman 16AB was only discovered in 2013.

This series of dots with varying spacings between them in the image above shows the slow waltz of the two brown dwarfs. It’s a composite of 12 images made over the course of three years by the Hubble Space Telescope. Using high-precision astrometry, a team of astronomers tracked the two components of the system as they moved both across the sky and around each other.

The brown dwarfs, Luhman 16A and Luhman 16B, orbit each other at a distance of only about 500,000,000 km, roughly three times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Observations of the system require high resolution. The astronomers using Hubble to study Luhman 16AB were not only interested in the waltz of the two stars as they orbited each other but also were also searching for a third, invisible partner. Earlier ground-based observation suggested the presence of an exoplanet in the system, but the Hubble data showed that the two dwarfs are indeed dancing alone, unperturbed by a massive planetary companion.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Quantum Mechanics and Free Will


There are two forms of causality. One is called final causality. It describes why something occurs because of a subsequent event. I put on my shoes to go outside to check the mail. The reason (checking the mail) for one event (putting on my shoes) follows after the event itself. Cause follows effect. Human beings operate in the realm of final causality. The other is called efficient causality. This is the kind of causality I learned about in physics class. In physics, all causes must precede the resultant effects. Or at least they did when I was taking physics over 50 years ago. Now, it turns out that on a quantum mechanical level not only can two physically separated particles influence each other, they can influence each other through time. Experiments indicate that such particles can engage in final causality.

There’s an interesting post over at Mind Matters about the scientific and philosophical implication of quantum mechanical violations of efficient causality. (H/T, Mark Trapscott)

These two views of causality appear to be irreconcilable and they lead to deep mysteries. If everything is physical, then why is causality at the higher, human, level the complete opposite of causality at the lower, physical, level? Because final causality cannot come from its opposite, efficient causality, then something must intervene between the levels. That, in turn, implies that the human level cannot be reduced to the physical level.

Also—

Instead of eliminating the mystery of final causality, the experiments deepen the mystery. There must be an observer in order for the entangled causality to occur and physical processes cannot observe anything. So the very occurrence of reverse causality at the physical level means there is top down influence from the human level to the physical level. Not only is quantum physics unable to explain human final causality, it cannot explain its own final causality by itself. Its final causality is a trickle down effect from the human level.

And herein lies the rub. If human observers are necessary for physical final causality to occur, how do humans come to have the capability in the first place? This question points to a yet even higher source of final causality that extends beyond the human realm, and is responsible for the final causality that humans exhibit.

Thus, these quantum physicists are showing that—far from final causality being a minor physical phenomena that can be explained away with an experiment—our entire universe is imbued with final causality within its very fabric and this final causality must come from some source beyond the universe.

Read the whole thing and Genesis 1:1.