Diary: Where does the money go? (Part I)
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In a recent post, I put out a short beg for folks to actually subscribe at $10 a month (more if you want!) and keep this blog, and the Foundation, going. This has brought up, quite rightly, a question about where exactly this money goes. The first item, of course, is to pay for the cost of this blog itself. At the moment, that’s covered. But the bigger goal is to have surplus from this funding go to support the Vatican Observatory Foundation and its works. What is it that the Foundation does? If you want to know what the Vatican Observatory Foundation has been up to lately, click here for a pdf of our most recent newsletter. What about the details of our funding? Where does it come from, where does it go? That’s covered in our annual report, (click here). The numbers in the annual report are the accountant’s numbers, which is different from actual cash flow. For one … Continue reading

Apply Now for the January 2017 Faith & Astronomy Workshop!
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The annual Faith and Astronomy Workshop will be held next January 16 – 20, 2017, and applications are now open. What’s the FAW? Well… read on… What can modern astronomy tell us about creation – and its Creator? This four-day workshop, sponsored by the Vatican Observatory Foundation, is designed to bring those working in Catholic parishes an up-to-date overview of the universe: from the Big Bang, to the search for life in the universe, to our exploration of the planets… as seen through the eyes of the Jesuit priests and brothers who work at the Vatican’s own astronomical observatory. Our next workshop will be held the week of January 16-20, 2017, at the Redemptorist Renewal Center outside of Tucson, Arizona. Participants should plan to arrive on the afternoon of Monday, January 11; the work of the workshop begins that evening. Days and evenings are scheduled through Thursday. The workshop will end with Mass and breakfast on Friday morning, January 15. The workshop is designed for … Continue reading

Across the Universe: Being Asked the Right Questions
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(This column first ran in The Tablet in November, 2007) I have a new [in 2007] book just published, and so I have been on “book tour” for the past month. The audiences have ranged from a friendly group at the Thomas More Center of Yale University, to a lively group who’d come for an argument at the New York City Public Library of Science, Industry, and Business. The highlight so far has been a three-hour interview on a popular American radio program, “Coast to Coast.” It broadcasts live from 2 am to 5 am (east coast time), which meant I had to stay up with a telephone at my ear during the wee hours of the morning. That was in fact no problem, since I did the interview while observing trans-Neptunian objects with the Vatican’s telescope in Arizona. While my colleagues kept track of our targets, I spoke to America’s insomniacs. The show is infamous for treating in utter … Continue reading

Faith & Astronomy Workshop: Applications Open!
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  The annual Faith and Astronomy Workshop will be held next January 11 – 15, 2016, and applications are now open. What’s the FAW? Well… read on… What can modern astronomy tell us about creation – and its Creator? This four-day workshop, sponsored by the Vatican Observatory Foundation, is designed to bring those working in Catholic parishes an up-to-date overview of the universe: from the Big Bang, to the search for life in the universe, to our exploration of the planets… as seen through the eyes of the Jesuit priests and brothers who work at the Vatican’s own astronomical observatory. Our next workshop will be held the week of January 11-15, 2016, at the Redemptorist Renewal Center outside of Tucson, Arizona. Participants should plan to arrive on the afternoon of Monday, January 11; the work of the workshop begins that evening. Days and evenings are scheduled through Thursday. The workshop will end with Mass and breakfast on Friday morning, January 15. … Continue reading

Across the Universe: All of the Above
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This column first appeared in The Tablet in August, 2005 [During a weekend in August, 2005] while over a million young people were gathered in Germany to celebrate World Youth Day with the Pope, a hundred and thirty kids from Detroit were taking part in a parallel camp-out organized by the Archdiocese on the grounds of a small farm in the Thumb of Michigan. (The lower peninsula of my home state, Michigan, is shaped like a mitten, and I grew up on the peninsula jutting into Lake Huron that makes up the mitten’s thumb. Readers of a certain age may remember a British pop band who found a town at the Thumb’s base by sticking a pin into a map and thereby called themselves the Bay City Rollers.) “Turn left onto a dirt road, and look for a pond and a red barn,” read my directions. Every barn in Michigan is red, and nearly every farm has a pond. But I … Continue reading

Across the Universe: Tradition… and Pluto
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The imminent flyby of Pluto by New Horizons has brought that Dwarf Planet back into everyone’s mind. The following column was written in 2006, just after the IAU had voted to name Pluto a Dwarf. It ran in The Tablet in August, 2006. Never mind the 2,500 astronomers attending dozens of seminars and joint discussions about stars and galaxies in Prague; the news this week [2006] at the triennial General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the changing status of Pluto. General Assemblies are different from typical scientific congresses. Rather than being focused exclusively on presenting scientific results, the main point here is to decide on all the arbitrary but necessary definitions that let us talk to each other and understand each others’ data. For example, we’re worrying about tweaking definition of latitude and longitude on the Moon to match the the expected precision of the coming generation of lunar spacecraft from India, China, Japan, and the US. Likewise, defining “what … Continue reading

Another meta-posting…
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I’ve just come back from a wonderful week at Notre Dame University’s Institute for Church Life, joining an all-star cast to talk about how science and religion can be taught in Catholic high schools. Naturally I spent no small amount of time bragging about this blog to the assembled high school teachers; I think what we have to offer here may well be the kind of content they’d enjoy seeing and sharing. And I’ve seen a nice upturn in our “hits” this week as a result; welcome! At the moment, we typically get 100 – 250 views a day, and I am delighted that these viewers – you – find our blog worth reading. But I would love to raise that number, by a lot. Surely a thousand or more visits a day ought to be possible? Surely on the internet there must be a thousand people who share our enthusiasm for space and our desire to blend together the science … Continue reading

Across the Universe: Truth, Beauty, and a Good Lawyer
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This column first appeared in The Tablet in May, 2007 In 2006-2007, I took a year-long chair at Fordham University, where I was required to present a public lecture each semester. In the fall term, I simply gave a reading from my latest book-in-progress. But the spring was trickier. Mostly I wanted an excuse to show pretty pictures; why else did they hire an astronomer to speak? Looking for an academic hook to hang my talk on, I decided to use these images to explore the nature of beauty. What makes pictures of stars and planets beautiful? Is a human connection – the astronaut in the frame, the dot in the background that’s actually planet Earth – necessary for us to awed by nature? Does knowing the science behind the image add to its beauty? These questions had been inspired by my ongoing conversations with a Fordham philosophy professor, Sister Joan Roccasalvo CSJ. Her take centers on the inherent philosophical nature of beauty. She … Continue reading

Across the Universe: DIY Religion
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This column first appeared in The Tablet in May, 2005 Astronomy pulls you out of your day to day world and makes you realize that the universe has bigger questions than “what’s for dinner?” and “why is my boss such a pain?” But what does an astronomer do to pull himself out of a day-to-day already filled with galaxies and black holes? In January, 2005, I began a Jesuit program called Tertianship, a period of study and prayer leading up to final vows where I’ve been challenged to move outside my own familiar modes of spirituality, to work outside my comfort zone. For me, that has meant working with people. For six weeks in May, 2005, I lived at Santa Clara University, talking religion to engineers and scientists in Silicon Valley. The pattern of religious life for these “techies” is familiar: Students are consumed by questions about ultimate truth and the meaning of their own lives. Many 20-year-olds reject organized religion. By the time … Continue reading

Talking Faith and Science, Part II (FAW): What works?
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As you recall, in January we held the first of what we hope to be an annual series of Faith and Astronomy Workshops. The 25 participants, educators, priests, and deacons from parishes from across the US and Mexico, gathered to learn a little astronomy from the inside while chatting about how we can combine astronomy into our ministries. In the first of these posts, I summarized how the participants described their experiences dealing with science and religion in their home parishes. In this post, I want to talk about their reflections on strategies that work… and don’t work. By the way, the participants all get a one-year membership to The Catholic Astronomer. I encourage them – and everyone else – to comment on this posting. Let’s keep the conversation going!   The second day, we addressed the question: What are basic strategies that have worked (or not worked)? The assumption is this: you are a scientifically literate member of a parish. How do you help others in your parish appreciate … Continue reading

Br Guy Diary: February 7
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It’s been a busy three weeks since my last diary… Since my last diary entry, we had the Faith and Astronomy workshop; I’ve posted about that and I plan to have another post on the topic Real Soon Now. The week of the FAW, I came down with that cold that’s been going around, so that by Friday I was threatened with laryngitis and saw a doctor… because I had a big talk to give on the following Monday. As a result, I really was giving a talk on steroids! It was the opening lecture of the University of Arizona’s College of Science annual series, this year on Life in the Universe. A link to my talk can be found here… I am told that eventually it will be uploaded to YouTube, with links to the podcasts on our lecture series website, Facebook, etc. Apparently they had a crowd of 800… in the overflow room! And another 2300 folks at Centennial … Continue reading