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And the Beat Goes On: A Hobby Astronomer’s Take On The Observation Of Gravitational Waves. — 5 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this, Father James. I especially appreciated your posing the question – “why is this ( discovery) significant?” As a non scientist who writes about space exploration, I was as captivated by the announcement as everyone else but had to grapple with the additional challenge of trying to understand it–at least at a basic level. I think a friend of mine said it best when she posted- ” I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about something I don’t understand!” The Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario – my native province- do an outstanding job of outreach and their newsletter contained a wonderfully synthesized explanation that even my mathematically challenged brain could comprehend–well –sort of 🙂 My interest in this topic relates more to its larger implications to humanity and our place in the Universe. Even non scientists can appreciate that this discovery is big–really big! I watched the press conference live and couldn’t help but be moved by the almost giddy joy of the scientists. And to hear them talk about this discovery opening a whole new eye ( or is it ear? ) on the Universe and comparing it to when Galileo first used a telescope to look at the heavens, really drove the point home.

    But, beyond the profundity of the scientific discovery, I find myself asking–but what does it mean? Like most sci fi fans, it is very tempting when one hears the term “space time ripple” to jump to visions of time travel and wormholes—stock images in science fiction but it seems like science fiction is starting look more like a possible reality..As you pointed out, the Universe is now vaster and more mysterious ( if that is possible because it is already unimaginably vast and mysterious and wonderful! ) than we had imagined–unless you are a science fiction writer, that is:)

    So–I am just wondering where this will take us and as someone of faith, I personally find that such discoveries enhance my belief in and marvel of God’s creation. But I wonder if that will be the same for others of faith who might not find it consistent with their views? Just some thoughts on a cold February morning in Northern Canada..

    • Maureen, Thank you for your comments! First of all, it is nice to hear from another “non-scientist, science lover.” I, too, had to go through a phase of educating myself on this matter. That is why I am so happy the scientific community has done such a wonderful job explaining this discovery!

      In regard to what this will do to faith, I am reminded of the words of Fr. Edward T. Oakes. He was a Jesuit and author whom I had the privilege of having as a teacher in seminary. One of his central ideas that he would constantly remind us of as seminarians is that if you plumb the depths of our understanding of creation deep enough, sooner or later, supernatural grace will begin to stream out like a geyser. It was this and other ideas that gave me the confidence to trust honest scientific exploration as a means of coming to truth. Unfortunately, cancer claimed the life of this brilliant (and eccentric) Jesuit. However, I learned enough from him to have confidence to say that the more we know about creation, the more we will come to know about ourselves and God, ultimately doing good for our faith.

  2. Father James: I grew up (40’s – 60’s) in your area (Galena, Dubuque, Scales Mound, Hazel Green, Cuba City). Following up on the gravitational wave detection, it enhances the perception of the universe in terms of the Keplerian musical spheres. Quoting Sir Arthur Eddington, “After Kepler came Newton, and gradually mechanism came into predominance again. It is only in the latest years that we have gone back to something like Kepler’s outlook, so that music of the spheres is no longer drowned by the roar of machinery”

  3. Father James: Well done – I like your take on what the gravitational wave detections mean. My feeling of giddiness over the discovery is almost visceral, and I do understand that this is not necessarily the case for all non-scientists as well. A new way of looking at the universe is unfolding for us. We had to work hard at it, and we did it. This is the beginning of a long future. All best, -Brenda

    • Thank you for your thoughts Dr. Frye! I can’t imagine the joy that the scientific community is experiencing right now, especially for someone like you who works in this field. I greatly look forward to seeing what comes of this discovery and your reflections on gravitational waves through your blog posts!

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