It sits on a shelf, in a little pill box. I rarely look at it, yet somehow I am always aware of its presence. Not in a good or a bad way, but as though gravity is slightly heavier near to it. Tonight I took it out of its box, and viewed it again. Compared to a modern coin, it’s tiny, light and not well finished.
Yet what holds me is that 2,000 years ago, someone minted this coin, someone carried this coin with them, perhaps it changed hands many times, and I guess someone lost this coin, who knows, and somehow, it found its way to my shelf. In geographical terms, a short journey from Norfolk to Yorkshire, in terms of time, a journey that few artefacts survive.
Certainly the kingdom of the Catuvellauni, whose coinage it was, has long disappeared in the sea of history, and of those who live in its lands today there will be few who will have heard of this long lost kingdom. Yet a coin survives to tell a tale and to speak of people who lived, loved, fought wars, and vanished, although no doubt the children of their children’s children still live, love and walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.
And the coin? Does history, or time, imbue it with a power, a presence, or is it my imagination?
I rather like it when scientists come up against something they can’t understand. Tabby’s star is one such conundrum. It’s behaviour is – pun intended – out of this world.
One of the ways in which astronomers search for exoplanets is to see if the brightness of a star dips as a planet moves in front of it. Such dips are quite small and quite regular, matching the orbit and size of the exoplanet. Except for Tabby’s star. Hundreds of exoplanets have been discovered by this method, and they all display the nice regularity I’ve described. Except for Tabby’s star.
It’s light dips massively above the 1% a Jupiter sized planet moving in front of it would cause; as much as 15% and 22% have been recorded. The equivalent of something massive enough to obscure half of the surface area of the star. And when it does brightens again, that too is not as expected. Instead of the dip and the rise being the same shape, as current theory says it should, they do not match. Furthermore even the occurrence of these dips is irregular, and difficult to explain. Finally, to add to the mystery, apparently Tabby’s star has been getting progressively dimmer over the last 100 years or so, (the star was first observed in 1890).
The name “Tabby’s Star” or “Boyajian’s Star” refer to the initial study’s lead author, Tabetha S. Boyajian. The star’s proper nomenclature is KIC 8462852. It didn’t show up in a computer led search for exoplanets, and was found by good old fashioned humans. These same humans have come up with many explanations for the behaviour of the star, including of course, aliens at work. But currently there are no explanations that fit the observations. Although there are a lot of astronomers working on the puzzle and trying to come up with said explanations. Just google “Tabby’s star” and see.
Which I rather like! One little pointer to the fact that we still have a lot to learn about this Universe that we live in!!
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment that one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.
Attributed to Goethe.
If anyone wants proof that we have a long way to go in understanding the way the Universe works, look no further than entanglement. Einstein hated it. He called it “spooky action at a distance”, trying to prove with others that it was a flaw in the theory of quantum physics.
But it does work. And it has been proved to work time after time. And not only that, it works instantly, over vast distances. Entangle or “link’ two particles, change an aspect of one, and the other changes – instantly. Even though as Einstein showed, you cannot travel faster than the speed of light, disruption of entanglement is an instant process.
And physicists can’t explain it. Well, that’s not strictly true. There is one explanation, but it’s such a mind boggling explanation, that most people shy away from it.
The explanation – that everything is already connected! You, me, the stars, every atom in the whole Universe.
I rather like it!
It didn’t even warrant the title “stream”, trickle was a more apt description for the small outflow of water running over a few rocks and surrounded by a mantle of mud. I trod warily, trying to avoid the soft, sticky mire, distracted also by the number of items hanging from the trees surrounding the water. I found myself constantly looking up into their branches, which were hung with a panoply of teddy bears, ribbons of all descriptions, and a host of small trinkets and mirrors that glittered as they spun in the breeze and caught the sunlight.
So it was an unexpected discovery. There at the source of the spring, was a face. It stopped me in my tracks, and for a moment I wondered if I was really alone, the face seemed to have been so recently created. As I looked harder, I saw the two green leaves that represented tears, and felt the pain that seemed to emanate from it. I wondered who had created it, and what it meant to them, and I hoped that it represented a turning point, a transition that led to light and love. I stood there for a long time, feeling the mystery of the face, wondering about it’s creator, caught also by the ancient spirit of my surroundings, a place that felt outside of time. Of my time anyway.
I returned to that place a few times during the week that I spent holidaying nearby. I learnt that it was a place of healing, with a history that went back thousands of years, before Roman feet walked the land, and that somehow, the knowledge of its power had not been lost, and some still visited it.
On my visits, I never did see anyone else at this sacred site, although there was always a feeling, a feeling of awareness of a – I have no word for it – a presence.
I frequently walk some extensive wetlands that are home to hundreds of birds, many migratory. And already one can sense the gathering energy as the migratory birds begin to prepare for their flight south. Large groups of geese move slowly back and fore across the lakes, Lapwings flock and fly at apparently the slightest reason. The nights are beginning to draw in, the night temperature falling, and Autumn is drawing nigh.
But so soon!
It’s remarkable that it is only just over a century before the first flight of an aeroplane, and yet, passing brightly and rapidly overhead was a spaceship carrying six other human beings.
Now there is talk of a Mars colony, a return to the Moon, and even light sails that can cut the journey to another Star to years rather than decades.
But I wondered what human-kind would take into deep space along with them. Greed, hate, intolerance, probably.
But I hoped not.
And then I thought again of the International Space Station that I had seen earlier. It was built by former enemies, now working in cooperation, it carried men and women of different nationalities, people with courage and resolve, prepared to journey through Earth’s atmosphere to get to it and back, let alone to orbit for months in that tiny, fragile tin can. And then to live and work together.
And my heart grew lighter.