Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The Culture of Astronomy reviewed by fran lewis
Astronomy is more than just the study of outer space, the positions dimensions, motion and evolution of celestial bodies and phenomena. It has been defined as the scientific study of the universe and the objects in it. The stars, planets, nebulae and the galaxies comprise part of the universe but not all. Astronomy also focuses on the position, size, motion and composition of these celestial objects. Astronomers analyze not only the visible light but also radio waves, x-rays and other ranges of radiation that come from many different sources outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. But The Culture of Astronomy written by Thomas Karl Dietrich presents a whole new picture to readers that many have never explored before. This book is more than just a discussion of astronomy and astronomical phenomena. It presents information that can be used in discussion groups, science classes in college, study groups and even dinner parties to stimulate some very interesting discussions. The book includes the origin of number, geometry, science law and religion. It includes research done by many historians based on the subject matter included in each of the chapters. So, what did this non -science oriented reviewer learn from reading this book. Quite a bit I might add and that is what I want to share with you. This review will present all of the areas that I found fascinating, interesting and which kept my interest peaked until the very last page. This is one book that you will definitely want to read to learn the mysteries of the universe, more about the culture of astronomy and why what happens down here on earth is caused by what happens up there in space.
Starting with a comprehensive introduction of the areas covered in the book followed by a chapter describing and explaining The Hereford Map which locates Jerusalem in the center of its hemisphere and places it between Europe, Asia and Africa. The author goes on to state many facts that he finds both true and false related to this map but one that caught my interest was the picture of the map itself on page one and its description. The details, description and history of the map are all discussed in Chapter One for the reader. The chapter that captured my interest dealt with the shape of the earth’s orbit around the sun and how it changes over great periods of time from circular to elliptical, which is something that I did not know. Understanding that the earth’s orbit at present is elliptical, and the time it takes to rotate around the sun is fascinating. Understanding his explanation of the differences between the current 6.8 percent solar radiation and the future 2.3 percent solar radiation helped me understand why the result would cause different climate here upon the earth and what I did not know and now understand this is caused by the gravitational pull of Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury. Explaining vernal equinoxes next and how they change the direction of the Earth’s axis and rotation relative to the sun at the time of perihelion and aphelion helped me understand why it is hot at times and cold at other times of the year. Paragraph three on page 13 explains this in detail. How I wish that the perihelion would move even faster to get rid of the cold in the winter. Ocean levels are discussed and what causes the changes in our climate. Added to this chapter the author includes modern scientists who connect climate with astronomy.
Imagine an earthquake of the magnitude to kill over 60 thousand people. Imagine Lisbon in 1775 when an earthquake, tsunami and fire broke out destroying so much land, killing so many people and bringing taking the civilization living there back to primitive times and having to rebuild and start over again. Imagine this being caused by some astrological phenomena that is beyond your control. Fires, earthquakes, ancient civilizations, and miracles noted on All Souls’ Day and healings too during and after this horrific quake. This quake was in three parts with shocks one minute apart. A quake that lasted ten minutes that must have seemed like hours to the people in Lisbon. As you read what happened you can see the images and picture the quake as it happens. The author refers to many historical references related to ancient Egypt and the origins of many other natural disasters.
Every single culture the author relates tells about their own natural disasters due to earthquakes, fire, water and other forms of devastation. Hurricanes destroy the beauty of the Caribbean. Tsunamis destroy the shores of many lands. Survivors learn how to rebuild and start over again. Natural disasters might be able to be predicted at this point but cannot be stopped or avoided. Each of these disasters is followed by a story of how few intelligent people managed to start over and rebuild.
His next discussion will teach the reader much about the Giza Pyramids, their construction and its history. Some facts that I found really interesting included the tools that were described in Chapter 1.5 to create them, the fact that the pyramids have much to do with the orbit of the sun, mood, earth and planets. There is a wealth of information on pages 39-41. The author even includes information that these pyramids are a model of the Earth. Really interesting information and fascinating information for the historian and scientist alike. He continues with chapters on the cosmic order and the Milky Way, which includes the secret writings of sir Isaac Newton, secret societies like the Freemason and those that belonged to it and other information related to his personality and more. Newton might have been a member of secret societies but that is immaterial to what the author has presented. The information that needs to be focused on by the reader should be related to the cosmological scope of his life, research and passions. Newton is considered a true cosmologer who studies myth and ancient history as Kepler did and numerous other astronomers before him.
As a reading and writing staff developer and educator I always love reading about the cosmic symbols and how they relate to myths and fables. The author stated that several cultures represent the moon as a speedy rabbit. Aesop whose fables are quite noteworthy and well known wrote a fable about the tortoise and the hare with so many lessons to be learned from it. The answer to the question so many might ponder as to why the tortoise of turtle wins the race can be found in Chapter 3.3. The author stating that the Earth emulates the sea turtle because the Earth turtle swims through the cosmic ocean of the entire universe. There are many other animals that are honored or elevated to sacred status such as the crocodile and alligator. The author even relates that the slow moving turtle is sometimes compared or associated with the slower moving planet Saturn the master of time. There is so much that you can learn from reading this chapter. The last part of this section deals with calendars and sacred sites, which includes why there are seven days in a week, the cosmic physics of the calendar and finally sacred sites, the cosmic connection between Heaven and Earth.
The final section that I would like to discuss is the one that focuses on the legend of the Five Suns. This legend is common to both Central and South America. This legend tells of a sequence of four or five creation. It also speaks of destruction epochs. Comparing it to the Bible it tells about the age of the great flood and how it destroyed mankind. It compares to the Greek generations of the gods. Both accounts speak of epochal ages of the death of the old gods and the birth of new ones. The author continues by telling the reader how every culture begins its story with a cosmology about the creation and destruction. But, the part of this section or chapter that really captured my attention was the Legend itself on pages 281-285. Telling the reader that god made people out of mud, but they were soft and weak and destroyed. The second generation made men out of wood and women out of rush. Think about the fact that they could speak and multiply but did not understand. Sending down a great flood was next and a rain of pitch to destroy them. More than just the rains attacked the wood and rush people. According to this legend those that survived became the monkeys we see today. The legend continues to tell us that god made humans from nine drinks made out of corn. The rest I am afraid you will have to learn for yourself when you read page 282 as I did. Added to this chapter is how all this relates to the zodiac signs Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pieces and Aries. Next he discusses Orion and the Cosmic Turtle finishing this section with the Blood Sacrifice and the Physics of Creation, Destruction and Restoration of the Worlds. The seventh section is titled Mexica-Maya-Andean Culture and Astronomy followed by the Antiquity of the Americas, Archaeoastronomy in Asia, Africa and Europe and it closes with At Home in the Universe. But, the appendix is what really caught my eye because it tells about the various signs of the horoscope and now I know what a true Virgo is and the history behind it. That section is title Correspondence of History, Astronomy and Geography. Aries is at the head of the cosmic body the lunar house of Mars. He includes the geography, traditions, Aries as well as the other signs as Epoch of and much more. So, I am a Virgo what did I learn? My ancient zodiac sign is the Lion. Fits my personality to a T. Virgo covers the region of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii and Alaska. The rest all about Virgo and the traditions I will not reveal. Read this appendix and find out about your sign and more.
Read this outstanding resource for not only college bound students, astronomers, cosmologists, those interested in the culture of astronomy and historians to find out the secrets that lie not just in the sky what was create by the observation of astronomy and open yourself up to a whole new world.
Fran Lewis: reviewer