In the fall of 2011, I was invited to give The Vivian J. Lamb Lecture on Science and Religion at Villanova University. The text of my hour-long talk ran to more than 6,000 words, and as far as I know it was never published anywhere. I’ve been publishing it here in three parts; what follows is Part 2. A friend of mine, an editor at Tor Science Fiction, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, once posted on her blog what she calls a “four-item formula” for writing fiction: 1. Move and keep moving. 2. Make it consequential. 3. Recycle your characters. 4. See if you already have one. Move and keep moving. Tell the story you want to tell without shilly-shallying around. You may know that something really wonderful is coming up in chapter three, but your reader doesn’t unless you give them a taste of the cool stuff with a promise of more coming soon. Of course you do then have an … Continue reading →
About Br. Guy Consolmagno
Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is Director of the the Vatican Observatory and President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he earned undergraduate and masters' degrees from MIT, and a Ph. D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona; he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and MIT, served in the US Peace Corps (Kenya), and taught university physics at Lafayette College before entering the Jesuits in 1989.
At the Vatican Observatory since 1993, his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies, observing Kuiper Belt comets with the Vatican's 1.8 meter telescope in Arizona, and applying his measure of meteorite physical properties to understanding asteroid origins and structure. Along with more than 200 scientific publications, he is the author of a number of popular books including Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), and most recently Would You Baptize an Extraterrestial? (with Father Paul Mueller, SJ). He also has hosted science programs for BBC Radio 4, been interviewed in numerous documentary films, appeared on The Colbert Report, and for more than ten years he has written a monthly science column for the British Catholic magazine, The Tablet.
Dr. Consolmagno's work has taken him to every continent on Earth; for example, in 1996 he spent six weeks collecting meteorites with a NASA team on the blue ice regions of East Antarctica. He has served on the governing boards of the Meteoritical Society; the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (of which he was chair in 2006-2007); and IAU Commission 16 (Planets and Satellites). In 2000, the small bodies nomenclature committee of the IAU named an asteroid, 4597 Consolmagno, in recognition of his work. In 2014 he received the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences for excellence in public communication in planetary sciences.
Featuring Dr. Larry Lebofsky, and the latest news of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope! Just for our paying members: on the next Full Moon, October 1, a week from when we are posting this, we’ll be holding our regular on-line meetup where we get to know and chat with each other, and with astronomers from the Vatican Observatory. This month will feature Dr. Larry Lebofsky, who is a member of the Vatican Observatory Foundation Board and a regular user of the VATT. He is also very active in astronomy public engagement, as past attendees of our Workshops can attest. I first met Larry when we were both students (me an undergrad, he a grad student) at MIT nearly 50 years ago. We share many things in common, as it happens, including both of us having papers written in the 1970s that eventually led to a certain NASA probe being sent into the asteroid belt to check out what we’d found. … Continue reading →
First a bit of the regular news… [Calendars] Our newsletter went out on the first of the month that has lots of news, in fact. [Calendars] The VATT is back in operation after the summer scheduled shut-down; a bunch of scientific papers have been accepted from our gang; and we’re planning on our Astronomy for Catholics in Ministry and Education Workshop (ACME… formerly known as FAW) to occur in January 2022, a year later than originally scheduled due to… you know the rest. [Oh, and did I mention, the Calendars are available?] We have also had a couple of new remembrances added to the Coyne Memorial. Go take a look! Our Moon-thly Meet Ups are not affected by any virus, thank heavens. These are where our Sacred Space subscribers can chat with Vatican astronomers. As you know, we hold them every Full Moon (as visible from Tucson). Our next will be Thursday, October 1, at 10am Tucson Time/1pm EDT. It’ll feature … Continue reading →
In the fall of 2011, I was invited to give The Vivian J. Lamb Lecture on Science and Religion at Villanova University. The text of my hour-long talk ran to more than 6,000 words, and as far as I know it was never published anywhere. I’ll be publishing it here in three parts, over the next three weeks. This past summer  I did a bit of traveling… First, there was the “Living Theology” workshop at the Jesuit parish in Liverpool. I gave a bunch of talks, heard a bunch of talks. Got lost one day driving through Liverpool, and found myself crossing Penny Lane. Following that, I went to Greenwich for the annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society. I heard a bunch of scientific presentations about meteorites, those bits of rock from the asteroid belt that occasionally fall to earth. It’s really cool to be able to hold and touch a piece of outer space. Of course, when you … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… it’s September and so the 2021 Calendars are available! Here are two more reflections from calendars of years past… And since these are meant to support our Calendar guild (click here to get a calendar!) I am not putting them behind the usual firewall… 2021 Calendar The COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world in 2020 brought many changes to all of our lives, including the tragic deaths of people we knew and loved. Meanwhile, even for those of us who were not directly affected by the disease, the uncertainty that it brought to our lives was a constant worry. Fear arises from uncertainty. Science tries to put constraints on that fear by at least letting us know what is likely, or not likely, to occur. This was the motivation behind the desire of every civilization to outline the shape of the coming year with calendars. Astronomy was developed and supported by our ancient cultures precisely to give us … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… it’s September and so the 2021 Calendars are available! Here are two more reflections from calendars of years past… And since these are meant to support our Calendar guild (click here to get a calendar!) I am not putting them behind the usual firewall… 2019 Calendar There are many coincidences in astronomy. The Moon’s size and location allows it to exactly eclipse the disk of the Sun. The visual juxtaposition of the stars Alcor and Mizar in the Big Dipper’s handle drew the attention of early telescopes to discover that Mizar was actually a double star (whose separation is just right for those early telescopes). The shapes of nebulae remind us of horses’s heads or dumbbells. And of course it’s mere chance that the nebulae themselves happen to be not only scientifically interesting, but also remarkably beautiful. There’s no cosmic significance to it, really. Just coincidence. And yet… In December 1988 I spent a week at the Jesuit retreat … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… in September our 2021 Calendars become available! What I suspect most people don’t notice is that on the back of every calendar is a little reflection that I write, based on a suggestion — often just a word — from Dr. Brendan Thomson, the volunteer who does all the legwork of putting these incredible calendars together. Over the next three weeks I though I would run the texts of these reflections from the calendars going back to 2016. If I can find earlier calendars I may add to this list! And since these are meant to encourage people to join our guild and get a calendar, I am not putting them behind the usual firewall… 2017 Calendar Why does the Vatican support an astronomical observatory? It’s a common question we get asked, and there are many simple answers. The Observatory is a way of showing the Church’s support for science. It’s a way of demonstrating that, … Continue reading →
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And then I wrote… In place of the weekly columns originally published in The Tablet I am running odd articles that I have written and published over the years. This one came from a blog I used to write, and it covers a topic of occasional interest even today. I first posted it in 2009. I suspect I am letting myself in for it by posting this, but someone has to say it… Before the IAU meeting this past month in Rio [this was written in 2009; it was the previous IAU General Assembly in 2006 that had redefined the status of Pluto], I received several emails from impassioned folks offering petitions to try to get Pluto “reinstated” as a planet. Needless to say, that was the farthest from anyone’s mind at the IAU. As these petitions reveal a deep misunderstanding of what science is in general, I thought I would pass on a few comments here. I have written at … Continue reading →
It seems odd to write an online diary about how much time I have been spending online, but I am sure that my experience is hardly any different from yours. Except… for the past twenty-plus years my life had been constant travel, reaching the top rank of my airline’s frequent flier status regularly, as I would go not only to Rome and back several times a year but also around North America and Europe giving talks and attending conferences. But now I haven’t left home since George Coyne’s funeral last February. (Speaking of which, be sure to check out the George Coyne memorial page, as several new memories have been posted in the past month or so.) It’s the longest I have been in one place since at least 2003, which is how far back I kept track of my calendar on my computer. I suspect it’s the longest I’ve been in one place since I joined the Vatican Observatory … Continue reading →
And then I wrote: As I have mentioned, in 2009 the Redemptorist Press invited me to write a series of reflections on issues of religion and science for the Sunday bulletins that are distributed in churches throughout the United Kingdom. The Feast of the Assumption is August 15, but in the UK it is celebrated on the following Sunday, 16 August. This is the final reflection that I wrote for that series. One of the great successes of modern science is the Big Bang theory. This idea that the universe is expanding from a single point was originally invented to explain what stops the stars and galaxies from all collapsing together due to the warping of space-time proposed by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. But the thought that the universe began from a single point at a certain fixed time (currently estimated at 13.7 billion years ago) was strongly resisted by many astronomers at first. They felt more comfortable with a universe that was … Continue reading →
And then I wrote: As I have mentioned, in 2009 the Redemptorist Press invited me to write a series of reflections on issues of religion and science for the Sunday bulletins that are distributed in churches throughout the United Kingdom. As it happens, the days of the week in 2009 match those of 2020 (after this year’s leap day) and the liturgical calendar also matches; thus, both in 2009 and 2020, the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time falls on 9 August. Here’s what I wrote for that reflection: As a religious scientist, I am often asked about miracles: does God suspend the laws of nature if we ask? This is related to a larger issue theologians have pondered for centuries: how does God act in the Universe? If the world obeys the laws of science (presumably, set in place by the Creator), and God obeys his own laws, then how can God change the inevitable? For that matter, if all … Continue reading →