Science of Religion at The Royal Institution 1870

Blavatsky mentions that Max Mueller, a key figure in bringing Eastern thought to the West, lectured at The Royal Institution and at Westminster Abbey!!! He did so not long after Faraday {below}. I walked past his statue to get my morning coffee on a daily basis.

Why was I unaware of this, I have a lot of Max Mueller translations?

Has it been “redacted” or simply not emphasised? It is something to brag about, excuse the pun. Mueller is a legend.

These lectures were perhaps in the days of John Tyndall….

Ray V. Concrete Knowledge or Science

These excerpted from Esoteric Psychology 1 and 2 by Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul


{ My note: take a look at the following how many of them fit you ?}

The Fifth Ray of Lower Mind

  • Special Virtues:
    Strictly accurate statements, justice (without mercy), perseverance, common sense, uprightness, independence, keen intellect.
  • Vices of Ray:
    Harsh criticism, narrowness, arrogance, unforgiving temper, lack of sympathy and reverence, prejudice.
  • Virtues to be acquired:
    Reverence, devotion, sympathy, love, wide-mindedness.

This is the ray of science and of research. The man on this ray will possess keen intellect, great accuracy in detail, and will make unwearied efforts to trace the smallest fact to its source, and to verify every theory. He will generally be extremely truthful, full of lucid explanation of facts, though sometimes pedantic and wearisome from his insistence on trivial and unnecessary verbal minutiae. He will be orderly, punctual, businesslike, disliking to receive favors or flattery.

It is the ray of the great chemist, the practical electrician, the first-rate engineer, the great operating surgeon. As a statesman, the fifth ray man would be narrow in his views, but he would be an excellent head of some special technical department, though a disagreeable person under whom to work. As a soldier, he would turn most readily to artillery and engineering. The artist on this ray is very rare, unless the fourth or seventh be the influencing secondary ray; even then his coloring will be dull, his sculptures lifeless, and his music (if he composes) will be uninteresting, though technically correct in form. His style in writing or speaking will be clearness itself, but it will lack fire and point, and he will often be long-winded, from his desire to say all that can possibly be said on his subject.

In healing, he is the perfect surgeon, and his best cures will be through surgery and electricity.

For the fifth ray, the method of approaching the Path is by scientific research, pushed to ultimate conclusions, and by the acceptance of the inferences which follow these.

{My note: remember that a being is monad, soul and personality. The personality vehicle comprises the physical, vital/etheric, astral/emotional and mental vehicles. The vast majority of people are not fully soul infused and are “centred” in their personality vehicle. So, a fifth ray personality should recognise some of the above. My mental vehicle is fifth ray, my personality as a whole is seventh ray, and my causal vehicle or soul is 2nd ray.}


The Fifth Purpose of Deity
Ray V. Concrete Knowledge or Science

The thunders crash around the mountain top; dark clouds conceal the form. The mists, arising from the watery sphere, serve to distort the wondrous… found within the secret place. The form is there. Its note is sounding forth.

A beam of light illuminates the form; the hidden now appears. Knowledge of God and how He veils Himself finds consummation in the thoughts of man. The energies and forces receive their secret names, reveal their inner purpose, and all is seen as rhythm, a returning on itself. The great scroll can now be read. God’s purpose and His plans are fixed, and man can read the form.

The plan takes form. The plan is form. Its purpose is the revelation of the mind of God. The past reveals the form, but the present indicates the flowing in of energy.

That which is on its way comes as a cloud which veils the sun. But hid behind this cloud of immanence is love, and on the earth is love and in the heaven is love, and this, – the love which maketh all things new – must stand revealed. This is the purpose back of all the acts of this great Lord of Knowledge.

Before enumerating the names of this great Life, I should like to point out that the fifth ray is one of unique and peculiar potency in relation to the human kingdom. The reason is that the fifth plane of mind is the sphere of His major activity and it is on this plane that we find the triple aspects of mind:

  1. Abstract or higher mind, the embodiment of a higher triad.
  2. The concrete or lower mind, the highest aspect of the lower self.
  3. The ego or solar Angel, the pure Son of Mind, Who expresses intelligence, both abstractly and concretely, and is the point of unification.

This Life has also much power today in connection with the fifth root-race and with the transference of the consciousness of humanity into the fifth or spiritual kingdom. Students would learn much if they contrasted the building power of the higher mind with the destroying power of the lower. Just as the personality has no other function in the divine plan than to be a channel for, and the medium of expression of, the soul, so the lower mind is intended to be the channel for the pure inflow of higher mind energy.

This fifth ray is a Being of the intensest spiritual light and in His manifestation on this fifth plane, which is peculiarly His, He symbolizes the three aspects in a way achieved by no other ray. Through His quality of higher mind, this ray is a pure channel for the divine will. Through the septenary grouping of the solar lives on the mental levels whereon they appear, He brought into functioning activity seven corresponding reflections of the seven centers of Deity, as far as our planet is concerned, a thing which none of His six brother rays have done. This statement means little to you, but the tremendous sacrifice and effort thus involved are paralleled only by the life of the Buddha, and this is one of the reasons why,  in this fifth race, love and mind must eventually and mutually reveal each other.

Some of the names given to the Lord of this ray are as follows:

  • The Revealer of Truth
  • The great Connector
  • The Divine Intermediary
  • The Crystallizer of Forms
  • The Threefold Thinker
  • The Cloud upon the Mountain-top
  • The Precipitator of the Cross
  • The Dividing Sword
  • The Winnower of the Chaff
  • The Fifth great Judge
  • The Rose of God
  • The Heavenly One
  • The Door into the Mind of God
  • The Initiating Energy
  • The Ruler of the Third Heaven
  • The Guardian of the Door
  • The Dispenser of Knowledge
  • The Angel with the Flaming Sword
  • The Keeper of the Secret
  • The Beloved of the Logos
  • The Brother from Sirius
  • The Master of the Hierophants

This fifth ray has so many names, owing to His close connection with man (since man was originally created), that it has not been easy to choose those which are of the most use in enabling the student to form an idea of the fifth ray characteristics and mission; but the study of the six aphorisms, and the qualities which they indicate, will show how potent and important is this ray Lord. These six aphorisms were chanted by His six Brothers at that momentous crisis wherein the human family came into existence and the solar Angels sacrificed themselves. Esoterically speaking, they “went down into hell, and found their place in prison.” On that day souls were born. A new kingdom of expression came into being, and the three highest planes and the three lower were brought into a scintillating interchange.

  1. God and His Angels now arise and see. Let the mountain-tops emerge from out the dense wet mist. Let the sun touch their summits and let them stand in light. Shine forth.
    Quality – emergence into form and out of form.
  2. God and His Angels now arise and hear. Let a deep murmur rise and let the cry of seeking man enter into their ears. Let man listen. Let man call. Speak loud.
    Quality – power to make the Voice of the Silence heard.
  3. God and His Angels now arise and touch. Bring forth the rod of power. Extend it outward toward the sons of men; touch them with fire, then bring them near. Bring forth.
    Quality – initiating activity.
  4. God and His Angels now arise and taste. Let all experience come. Let all the ways appear. Discern and choose; dissect and analyze. All ways are one.
    Quality – revelation of the way.
  5. God and His Angels now arise and sense the odor rising from the burning-ground of man. Let the fire do its work. Draw man within the furnace and let him drop within the rose-red center the nature that retards. Let the fire burn.
    Quality – purification with fire.
  6. God and His Angels now arise and fuse the many in the One. Let the blending work proceed. Let that which causes all to be produce the cause of their cessation. Let one temple now emerge. Produce the crowning glory. So let it be.
    Quality – the manifestation of the great white light. (The Shekinah. A.A.B.)

There is much of practical usefulness to the reader in a study of these qualities. When he believes himself to be upon a particular ray, they will indicate to him some of the characteristics for which he may look, and perhaps demonstrate  to him what he has to do, what he has to express, and what he has to overcome. These qualities should be studied from two angles: their divine aspect and their reverse aspect or the form side. This ray, for instance, is shown to be the revealer of the way, and it should be remembered therefore that this fifth ray reveals the way down into death or into incarnation (which is the death-like prison of the soul), or it reveals the way up and out of darkness into the pure light of God’s day. I mention this as I am exceedingly anxious that all who read this treatise should make application of this teaching to their daily lives. I am not interested in imparting weird or unusual items of information anent these matters for the delectation of an unhealthy mental appetite. The stocking of the memory with occult detail which serves no useful purpose only strains the brain cells and feeds the pride.

Ray V

The servers on this ray are coming rapidly into prominence. They are those who investigate the form in order to find its hidden idea, its motivating power, and to this end they work with ideas, proving them either true or false. They gather into their ranks those whose personalities are on this ray and train them in the art of scientific investigation. From the sensed spiritual ideas, lying behind the form side of manifestation, from the many discoveries in the ways of God with man and nature, from the inventions (which are but materialized ideas) and from the witness to the Plan which law portrays, they are preparing that new world in which men will work and live a more deeply conscious, spiritual life. Disciples working along these lines in every country today are more active than at any other time in human history. They are, knowingly and unknowingly, leading men into the world of meaning, and their discoveries will eventually end the present era of unemployment, and their inventions and improvements, added to the steadily growing idea of group interdependence (which is the major message of the New Group of World Servers) will eventually ameliorate human conditions so that an era of peace and leisure can supervene. You will note that I do not say “will supervene”, for not even the Christ Himself can predict exactly the time limit within which changes can eventuate, nor the reaction of humanity to any given point of revelation.

The Direction of Ray V

    “Deep in a pyramid, on all sides built around by stone, in the deep dark of that stupendous place, a mind and brain (embodied in a man) were working. Outside the pyramid, the world of God established itself. The sky was blue; the winds blew free; the trees and flowers opened themselves unto the sun. But in the pyramid, down in its dim laboratory, a Worker stood, toiling at work. His test tubes and his frail appliances he used with skill. In rows and rows, the retorts for fusing, and for blending, for crystallizing and for that which sought division, stood with their flaming fires. The heat was great. The toil severe…

    Dim passages, in steady progress, led upward to the summit. There a wide window stood, open unto the blue of heaven, and carrying one clear ray down to the worker in the depths… He worked and toiled. He struggled onwards toward his dream, the vision of an ultimate discovery. He sometimes found the thing he sought, and sometimes failed; but never found that which could give to him the key to all the rest… In deep despair, he cried aloud unto the God he had forgot: ‘Give me the key. I alone can do no more good. Give me the key.’ Then silence reigned…

    Through the opening on the summit of the pyramid, dropped from the blue of heaven, a key came down. It landed at the feet of the discouraged worker. The key was of pure gold; the shaft of light; upon the key a label, and writ in blue, these words: ‘Destroy that which thou has built and build anew. But only build when thou has climbed the upward way, traversed the gallery of tribulation and entered into light within the chamber of the king. Build from the heights, and thus shew forth the value of the depths.’

    The Worker then destroyed the objects of his previous toil, sparing three treasures which he knew were good, and upon which the light could shine. He struggled towards the chamber of the king. And still he struggles.”

{ My note: this below is the soul saying it wants to take over the steering wheel of the personality vehicle}



Ray Five

” ‘Towards me I draw the garment of my God. I see and know His form. I take that garment, piece by piece. I know its shape and color, its form and type, its parts component and its purposes and use. I stand amazed, I see naught else. I penetrate the mysteries of form, but not the Mystery. I see the garment of my God. I see naught else.’

Love of the form is good but only as the form is known for what it is – the veiling vase of life. Love of the form must never hide the Life which has its place behind, the One who brought the form into the light of day, and preserves it for His use, – The One Who lives, and loves and serves the form, the One Who Is.

The Word goes forth from soul to form: ‘Behind that form, I am. Know Me. Cherish and know and understand the nature of the veils of life, but know as well the One Who lives. Know Me. Let not the forms of nature, their processes and powers prevent thy searching for the Mystery which brought the mysteries to thee. Know well the form, but leave it joyously and search for Me.

‘Detach thy thought from form and find Me waiting underneath the veils, the many-sided shapes, the glamors and the thought-forms which hide my real Self. Be not deceived. Find Me. Know Me. Then use the forms which then will neither veil nor hide the Self, but will permit the nature of that Self to penetrate the veils of life, revealing all the radiance of God, His power and magnetism; revealing all there is of form, of life, of beauty and usefulness. The mind reveals the One. The mind can blend and fuse the form and life. Thou art the One. Thou art the form. Thou art the mind. Know this.’ “

This fifth ray formula is of exceeding potency at this time and should be used often, but with care, by those upon this line of divine energy. It has most powerful integrating properties, but the person who employs it must be mindful to visualize and hold in his mind’s eye the even, balanced, equilibrized distribution of the divine energy set in motion by the use of this fifth ray formula so that the three aspects of the spiritual entity concerned – the mind, the One Who uses it (the Self) and the form nature – may be equally stimulated. This statement means, for instance, that if all the emphasis of the soul energy available is poured into the lower nature, the natural man, it might result in the shattering of the form and the consequent uselessness of the man in service. If all of it, on the other hand, is poured into the receiving chalice of the astral nature, it might only serve to intensify the glamor and to produce fanaticism.

  1. The lower psychic man – physical and astral – must receive a balanced quota of force.
  2. The mind must receive its share of illuminating energy.
  3. A third part of that energy must be retained within the periphery of the soul nature to balance thus the other two.

This is a replica of the experience of the Monad when coming into manifestation, for the monad retains a measure of energy within itself, it sends energy forth which is anchored in that center of energy which we call a soul. Still more energy pours forth also, via the soul, for the production of a human being – an expression of the soul upon the physical plane, just as the soul is an expression of the monad upon the mental plane, and both are expressions also of that one monad.

The use of this formula, which produces eventually a definite relation between the soul and the various aspects of the form, brings about a needed alignment, and again (as in the other cases considered previously) produces also, and evokes, a crisis. This crisis must be regarded as producing two lesser crises in the consciousness of the personality:

  1. That in which there comes the achieving of equilibrium and what might be called a “balanced point of view.” This balanced vision causes much difficulty and leads to what might be called the “ending of the joy-life and of desire.” This is not a pleasant experience to the disciple; it leads to much aridness in the life-experience and to a sense of loss; it often takes much wise handling, and frequently time elapses before the disciple emerges on the other side of the experience.
  2. This balanced condition in which the not-Self and the Self, the life-aspect and the form-aspect, are seen as they essentially are (through the aid and the use of the discriminating faculty of the mind), leads eventually to a crisis of choice, and to the major task of the disciple’s life. This is the detaching of himself from the grip of form experience, and consciously, rapidly, definitely and with intention preparing himself for the great expansions of initiation.

When this dual crisis is over and that which it has evoked has been rightly handled, then the light streams forth, leading to the revelation of the relationships of form to soul. These two are then seen as one in a sense never before realized and are then regarded as possessing a relation quite different to the theoretical relationships posited in ordinary occult and religious work. It will be apparent, therefore, how a new relationship and a new type of integration then becomes possible and how the mind quality of the fifth ray (critical, analytical, separative and over-discriminating) can become, what in the middle ages it used to be called,’ the “common sense.”

When this takes place, form and life are indeed one unity and the disciple uses the form at will as the instrument of the soul for the working out of the plans of God. These plans are at-one with the intention of the Hierarchy. We now have five words for disciples upon the five rays to study:

  • Ray One – Inclusion.
  • Ray Two – Centralization.
  • Ray Three – Stillness.
  • Ray Four – Steadfastness.
  • Ray Five – Detachment.

Nasty Pedantic Killjoy Scientist or Whacko Fruitcake TreeHugger?

This quantum superposition state of quasi-orthogonal wave functions sums up in many ways the story of my last twenty years or so. I have, on occasion, been treated with suspicion by each “species”.

If someone says, “can you feel the vibration” what does that mean to you?

If you shorten it and say good vibes instead of good vibrations, is that better? Yes, because it won’t cause a spectroscopist to inquire as to the frequency range specified.

Vibes is a good term for the experiences of mood and feeling. Moreover, each person experiences vibes differently bro’.

I have had to point out that higher-frequency light can be carcinogenic and is not a desirable thing for soft wet matter in general. Obvs. I am being mean and pedantic, or am I?

Personally, I think it unwise to try to use well defined scientific jargon to attempt to legitimise “spirituality”. To the scientifically uninitiated it might sound groovy and legitimate, but to others it just sounds silly.

Hey man we are living in a new quantum hyperdimensional paradigm at the other end of a blackhole from an alternate reality in a toroidally curved and quantised helix of evolving space time plasma.

Pray, tell me how one might survive passing through a blackhole?

Scientific fame and kudos are man-made thought forms that only have an existence in the thought stream of the beings having them. They are not real and tangible, you cannot measure them with a high resolution laser and a photomultiplier tube. At best they are artificially constructed and on a cosmic scale fleetingly short-lived.

When did you get elected FRS?

I suspect that a lot of the difficulty arises through sloppy use of language and this especially between disciplines or species.

To my view the modern physically measurable sciences, including medicine and excluding psychology and related, largely measure the interaction of matter and energy, in the context of space and time, in other words scale. That is what they have been developed to do. To try to apply quantum mechanics to the macroscopic is to not understand its basis. Yes, it will help sell dishwasher tablets. To look for an electrical signal of soul, with current instrumentation, only inside the brain, is to use the wrong tool for the job. You can measure the degree of cessation of the stimulus of the grey matter. But you won’t measure “mind”. At best you will only get a measurement of a secondary effect of mind. Mind might be the cause of a measurement, but you will not measure it directly.

I have had a look at some nice web sites today intended to foster collaboration across disciplines and they are so glossy that I am immediately put off. Nice web development query depth of substance. I have a suggestion from someone else which I may follow up on. In the past I have tried a couple of science / spirituality organisations, but they had a lot of internal positional power politics.

Humans have a big problem getting past status and hierarchical and organisational position. It is a truly massive hurdle. It is one to which I have no answer.

High “status” people get uppity if you challenge this God of theirs, status. It gets you nailed to a bit of wood or burned or shunned.

As an aside they are now hunting for someone to punish for leaking the health secretary in his ultra-vanilla sex tape. Someone will be made to pay for the temerity.

Cauliflower cheese for dinner…

Time to prep.

The Science and Buddhism Thread

For some reason I have been getting images of Richard Gere again today… I did a quick search and his birthday 31/8 is very close to mine 30/8. I was born at two minutes to midnight. So, if the clock was wrong…

I have been trying to figure out some way in which I can be useful.

There have been several high-profile discussions between leading Buddhists and scientists.

I dipped back into by Malvern-Dilgo Rinpoche dream.

I did a search for scientists who are Buddhists. I did not find many Physical Chemists. I did find a lot of psychologists, neuroscientists, medics, philosophers, and other people associated with caring for soft wet matter.

I guess many “hardcore” natural scientists are busy doing their research and have not meditated as much as me. It might be a tad controversial even to chat with some Buddhist about the philosophy of consciousness.

If I had my entrepreneur head on, I would say that there is a gap in the market, a niche.

I reckon I might be able to communicate cross species so to speak…

Hmnn, food for thought…

Who are you calling a pseudoscientist?

This is from Times Higher Education

{Better get my tinfoil hat !}

Academics need to think far more carefully about how they define and police the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate knowledge, argues Michael D. Gordin

If you try to picture a “pseudoscientist”, you might imagine an astrologer or a creationist. But that is not what practising scientists tend to mean by the term.

When I used to ask them at social events to describe a pseudoscientist, they would often say: “You see, there is this person in my field who has published this crazy result. I’ve pointed it out, in print and in person, several times, and he [it was always ‘he’] refuses to correct it.” I must have received some variant of this response at least a dozen times. It was easily the most common answer and it has something important to teach us about the way science operates within universities and more generally.

We can start with two significant points. The first is that the fringe beliefs most frequently associated with the term “pseudoscience” in public discussions – alchemy, extra-sensory perception (ESP), Bigfoot or Flat Earth – do not preoccupy practising scientists at the lab bench. Those particular denizens of the fringe had already been demarcated out of bounds and tacitly dismissed by my interlocutors as beneath notice.

Even more important, however, is the fact that when prodded to explore the boundary between science and pseudoscience, the scientists invoked not epistemological first principles but the rough-and-tumble context of scientific disputation and publishing. That is, they referred to research in their own fields as normally practised, but confidently demarcated legitimate from illegitimate approaches.

That is, when scientists think about “pseudoscience”, they no doubt include the exotic phrenologists and Lysenkoists, but at the forefront of their minds are the more humdrum colleagues arguing in bad faith. To be clear, I am not claiming that there is a continuity between the content of mainstream science and the demonised fringe – rather the opposite. If you imagine a spectrum running from excellent science through good science, mediocre science (most of it, by definition) and poor science to execrable science, then “pseudoscience” isn’t even on it. It is not “bad science” by another name; instead, it is an impostor, masquerading as legitimate knowledge.

What is often presented as a purely intellectual exercise of demarcation – sifting the scholars from the cranks – is actually a way of policing a contentious border area. As with all policing actions, the fundamental criteria regarding what is acceptable deviance (or innovation) and what is beyond the pale are political.

I claim that the very process of today’s mainstream science necessarily produces a host of discarded doctrines which can take forms that, under certain conditions, could be recategorised as “pseudo”. Since demarcation is inevitable and the edges of the scientific frontier are highly dynamic, universities and others who allocate resources to research should reflect explicitly on how these transformations can happen.

The process is an unintended consequence of the adversarial organisation of scientific research, dominant for at least the past two centuries. The way a scientist makes her reputation is by building on past findings, of course, but if all she does is confirm what everyone knew before, then her career stagnates. The pressures in scientific publication are to do something new, and that usually means refuting a claim associated with the consensus. Typically, this isn’t a challenge to a core tenet – electrons don’t exist! – but rather to a small or medium-scale position.

Credit in science is allocated for priority (being first) and for being more correct than your competitors investigating the same questions. There will always be winners and losers. Eventually, many of today’s winners will become losers, as their accepted positions are in turn displaced by new scientific research. This is the ordinary yet incredible dynamism of science that has elicited so many accolades.

Yet it also produces an instability about the nature of scientific claims. Pluto was a planet, until it wasn’t (and so on). At any one point in time, there is a mainstream scientific consensus, but there are also doctrines that are being displaced from it, shunted to the fringe, often by radical theories that came from the fringe themselves, such as that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.

Some of these superannuated ideas become what we might call “vestigial” pseudosciences: doctrines that were once considered mainstream, or at least candidates for mainstream validity, but which over time are relegated to the dust heap by the consensus.

A good example is astrology. In 16th-century Europe, astrology was so far from being a pseudoscience that it was arguably the leading science. Based on an ever-expanding collection of empirical data organised through quite sophisticated mathematics, it made detailed predictions and enjoyed munificent support from wealthy patrons. Its status was always contested, but it took centuries before it faded away as a legitimate domain of elite natural philosophy. 

The pseudoscientific status ascribed to astrology, in other words, is not hardwired into its tenets, but a product of their interaction with the context of contemporary scientific knowledge (which always changes). A great many of the theories most frequently called pseudosciences – creationism, phrenology, eugenics – were at one point either mainstream or reasonable candidates for mainstream status. They were displaced by the confrontational attacks that are the mainstay of scientific debate.

Over centuries, this process is easy to observe, but it is harder to evaluate in the here and now, especially when the science is innovative and controversial. Nobody self-consciously decides to be a pseudoscientist. Those saddled with this label by orthodox scientists often see themselves as simply doing science, just on the more innovative fringe neglected by their stodgier, consensus-driven colleagues. Even in cases where the knowledge claims involved are arguably hoaxes or based on clear mistakes, there is still the potential for one of the discarded doctrines – should it garner enough adherents – to establish an existence on the fringe. 

Consider a classic example: cold fusion. Unlike astrology, the trajectory to the fringe took less than two months. On 23 March 1989, Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, two electrochemists at the University of Utah, held a press conference to announce a revolutionary discovery. Using a very simple set-up of electrodes immersed in solution, they claimed that the palladium electrode – which highly concentrates hydrogen ions – had generated a huge heat spike. Their interpretation for these anomalous results was that they had succeeded in fusing hydrogen nuclei into helium. Since they produced much more energy than they had put in, the name given to this phenomenon was “cold fusion”.

If these results had been confirmed, it would have been the most important scientific result of the century, even the millennium. Cold fusion could easily satisfy all of humanity’s energy needs without carbon-dioxide emissions, without radioactive waste, thereby transforming the economy and the planet.

The University of Utah’s technology transfer office organised the press conference – something still unusual in 1989 while the peer-review process was ongoing – and then flew Pons and Fleischmann to Washington, DC to lobby Congress for funding to scale up cold fusion. It is worth underscoring that this was almost a textbook example of what contemporary universities are supposed to do: encouraging innovative science that pushes the boundaries of knowledge, especially cutting-edge work that can yield economic benefits.

And then the bottom fell out. At first, numerous labs leapt at the opportunity to replicate these amazing findings, but most efforts stalled, in part because the Utahns did not share information readily, pleading the sanctity of the refereeing process. The few confirmations that were announced were quickly retracted: a faulty neutron-detector here, a miscalibrated thermometer there.

It got worse. On 1 May, at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society, a group of physicists and chemists eviscerated the central claims of the Pons-Fleischmann experiment. For example, to generate the amount of heat they claimed, Pons and Fleischmann would have been killed by the neutron flux. The two electrochemists moved to France, and the tempest quieted down. It’s a fascinating story, and I encourage you to read the accounts in books such as Bart Simon’s Undead Science: Science Studies and the Afterlife of Cold Fusion and Frank Close’s Too Hot to Handle: The Race for Cold Fusion.

What happened next might surprise you. A small group of researchers continues to this day to explore the Pons-Fleischmann approach to energy generation. Specialised journals emerged in the mid-1990s, and there have been dedicated conferences ever since. While mainstream nuclear researchers declare the phenomenon of palladium-induced fusion to be pseudoscientific, it has not simply vanished. It was a controversial idea that tried to move from the fringe to the mainstream and failed – but then retreated to a different part of the fringe, where it lives on. Sometimes, fields like this gain a foothold at universities and survive for longer than you might expect, like the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lab at my own institution, which investigated the psychic manipulation of electronics from 1979 until 2007, when it moved off campus.

So my nosy questions at academic cocktail parties raise an important concern for everyone involved in science, especially in the resource-scarce conditions of today’s universities. We are faced with a gigantic number of claims to knowledge, and nobody has the time, energy or resources to investigate them all. We all necessarily engage in acts of demarcation, deciding which are worth exploring and which should be discarded as likely nonsense. We often use the consensus as a benchmark for reasonable investigation, but this is not foolproof. The consensus is not always correct, and what was tossed aside as mistaken or even “pseudoscientific” can turn out to be important.

It would be nice if we had a bright-line demarcation standard, such as Karl Popper’s falsifiability criterion, but we don’t (creationists make many falsifiable claims, for instance). The demarcation criteria we use in practice are more ad hoc, calibrated to fluctuating standards of how much of the fringe to tolerate. These can differ strongly by discipline, by institution and even by researcher.

I call this problem the “central dilemma”. We can set our standards for what seems a plausible knowledge claim extremely high, so that we only entertain small deviations from orthodoxy, but if we do so, we will strangle exciting breakthroughs in the cradle. (Neither relativity nor quantum theory would have earned a hearing.) So most of us allow some of the fringe into our inboxes and journals, hoping that new ideas will propel the adversarial mechanisms of science to a deeper understanding of nature. The problem is that there is no way to know in advance whether a radical claim is brilliant or nonsense – you have to take each on a case-by-case basis.

Every grants review panel, every tenure committee, every dissertation adviser is confronted daily with the central dilemma. If you want to brand your institution a maverick university that attracts outside-the-box talent, you’ll have to engage in more debunking and filtering. Without a bright-line solution, you have to work by rules of thumb.

One possible first step would be to divide the domains of research according to how potentially harmful fringe theories could be, or to work out how costly it would be (in terms of money or time) to debunk a proliferation of unconventional claims. Fringe theories in the areas of environmental pollution and public health, for instance, can have severe effects on people’s welfare. But we probably need more outside-the-box thinking in the former area than in the latter (where the orthodox principles generally work pretty well). So perhaps the bar should be set differently in those two cases.

As for the costs involved in filtering out the potentially credible from the false, scientists already make calculations based on the potential fruitfulness of new ideas and their own capacities. More explicit discussion of how those implicit criteria function would help decision-makers at all levels – including students – navigate the hazards of the everyday deluge of information. Demarcation is inevitable, and there is no shortcut.

This is why my interlocutors always found their pseudoscientists within their own disciplines, and not ranting in a tinfoil hat in the village square. It’s the right place to look.

Sirius – Astronomy

Excerpted from Wikipedia:

Sirius (/ˈsɪriəs/) is the brightest star in the night sky. Its name is derived from the Greek word Σείριος (Seirios, lit. ‘glowing’ or ‘scorching’). The star is designated α Canis Majoris, Latinized to Alpha Canis Majoris, and abbreviated Alpha CMa or α CMa. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, Sirius is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. Sirius is a binary star consisting of a main-sequence star of spectral type A0 or A1, termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA2, termed Sirius B. The distance between the two varies between 8.2 and 31.5 astronomical units as they orbit every 50 years.

Sirius appears bright because of its intrinsic luminosity and its proximity to the Solar System. At a distance of 2.64 parsecs (8.6 ly), the Sirius system is one of Earth’s nearest neighbours. Sirius is gradually moving closer to the Solar System, so it is expected to slightly increase in brightness over the next 60,000 years. After that time, its distance will begin to increase, and it will become fainter, but it will continue to be the brightest star in the Earth’s night sky for approximately the next 210,000 years. Sirius A is about twice as massive as the Sun (M☉) and has an absolute visual magnitude of +1.42. It is 25 times as luminous as the Sun, but has a significantly lower luminosity than other bright stars such as Canopus or Rigel. The system is between 200 and 300 million years old. It was originally composed of two bright bluish stars. The more massive of these, Sirius B, consumed its resources and became a red giant before shedding its outer layers and collapsing into its current state as a white dwarf around 120 million years ago.

Sirius is known colloquially as the “Dog Star”, reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major (the Greater Dog).The heliacal rising of Sirius marked the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt and the “dog days” of summer for the ancient Greeks, while to the Polynesians, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, the star marked winter and was an important reference for their navigation around the Pacific Ocean.


Observational history

The brightest star in the night sky, Sirius is recorded in some of the earliest astronomical records. Its displacement from the ecliptic causes its heliacal rising to be remarkably regular compared to other stars, with a period of almost exactly 365.25 days holding it constant relative to the solar year. This rising occurs at Cairo on 19 July (Julian), placing it just before the onset of the annual flooding of the Nile during antiquity.Owing to the flood’s own irregularity, the extreme precision of the star’s return made it important to the ancient Egyptians, who worshipped it as the goddess Sopdet (Ancient Egyptian: Spdt, “Triangle”;[a] Greek: Σῶθις, Sō̂this), guarantor of the fertility of their land.[b]

The ancient Greeks observed that the appearance of Sirius as the morning star heralded the hot and dry summer and feared that the star caused plants to wilt, men to weaken, and women to become aroused. Due to its brightness, Sirius would have been seen to twinkle more in the unsettled weather conditions of early summer. To Greek observers, this signified emanations that caused its malignant influence. Anyone suffering its effects was said to be “star-struck” (ἀστροβόλητος, astrobólētos). It was described as “burning” or “flaming” in literature. The season following the star’s reappearance came to be known as the “dog days”. The inhabitants of the island of Ceos in the Aegean Sea would offer sacrifices to Sirius and Zeus to bring cooling breezes and would await the reappearance of the star in summer. If it rose clear, it would portend good fortune; if it was misty or faint then it foretold (or emanated) pestilence. Coins retrieved from the island from the 3rd century BCE feature dogs or stars with emanating rays, highlighting Sirius’s importance. The Romans celebrated the heliacal setting of Sirius around 25 April, sacrificing a dog, along with incense, wine, and a sheep, to the goddess Robigo so that the star’s emanations would not cause wheat rust on wheat crops that year.

Bright stars were important to the ancient Polynesians for navigation of the Pacific Ocean. They also served as latitude markers; the declination of Sirius matches the latitude of the archipelago of Fiji at 17°S and thus passes directly over the islands each sidereal day. Sirius served as the body of a “Great Bird” constellation called Manu, with Canopus as the southern wingtip and Procyon the northern wingtip, which divided the Polynesian night sky into two hemispheres. Just as the appearance of Sirius in the morning sky marked summer in Greece, it marked the onset of winter for the Māori, whose name Takurua described both the star and the season. Its culmination at the winter solstice was marked by celebration in Hawaii, where it was known as Ka’ulua, “Queen of Heaven”. Many other Polynesian names have been recorded, including Tau-ua in the Marquesas Islands, Rehua in New Zealand, and Ta’urua-fau-papa “Festivity of original high chiefs” and Ta’urua-e-hiti-i-te-tara-te-feiai “Festivity who rises with prayers and religious ceremonies” in Tahiti.

Discovery of Sirius B

Hubble Space Telescope image of Sirius A and Sirius B. The white dwarf can be seen to the lower left. The diffraction spikes and concentric rings are instrumental effects.

In 1844, the German astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel deduced from changes in the proper motion of Sirius that it had an unseen companion. On 31 January 1862, American telescope-maker and astronomer Alvan Graham Clark first observed the faint companion, which is now called Sirius B, or affectionately “the Pup”. This happened during testing of an 18.5-inch (470 mm) aperture great refractor telescope for Dearborn Observatory, which was one of the largest refracting telescope lenses in existence at the time, and the largest telescope in the United States. Sirius B’s sighting was confirmed on 8 March with smaller telescopes.

The visible star is now sometimes known as Sirius A. Since 1894, some apparent orbital irregularities in the Sirius system have been observed, suggesting a third very small companion star, but this has never been confirmed. The best fit to the data indicates a six-year orbit around Sirius A and a mass of 0.06 M☉. This star would be five to ten magnitudes fainter than the white dwarf Sirius B, which would make it difficult to observe. Observations published in 2008 were unable to detect either a third star or a planet. An apparent “third star” observed in the 1920s is now believed to be a background object.

In 1915, Walter Sydney Adams, using a 60-inch (1.5 m) reflector at Mount Wilson Observatory, observed the spectrum of Sirius B and determined that it was a faint whitish star. This led astronomers to conclude that it was a white dwarf—the second to be discovered. The diameter of Sirius A was first measured by Robert Hanbury Brown and Richard Q. Twiss in 1959 at Jodrell Bank using their stellar intensity interferometer. In 2005, using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers determined that Sirius B has nearly the diameter of the Earth, 12,000 kilometres (7,500 mi), with a mass 102% of the Sun’s.

{X-ray image from Chandra shows Sirius B is hotter than Sirius A. It is estimated that Sirius B became a white dwarf around 124 million years ago. It went main sequence, red giant, white dwarf. This pair are a lot younger than our sun something like 250 million years young.}

The Chandra X-ray image of Sirius A & B, a double star system located 8.6 light years from Earth, shows a bright source and a dim source. The central bright source is Sirius B, a dense white dwarf star with a surface temperature of about 25,000 degrees Celsius. The dim source (slightly above and to the right of Sirius B) is Sirius A, a normal star more than twice as massive as the Sun. The spoke-like pattern of light is an instrument artifact due to the transmission grating. The white dwarf, Sirius B, has a mass equal to the mass of the Sun packed into a diameter that is 90% that of the Earth. The gravity on the surface of Sirius B is 400,000 times that of Earth!



Sirius (bottom) and the constellation Orion (right). The three brightest stars in this image – Sirius, Betelgeuse (top right), and Procyon (top left) – form the Winter Triangle. The bright star at top center is Alhena, which forms a cross-shaped asterism with the Winter Triangle.

With an apparent magnitude of −1.46, Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, almost twice as bright as the second-brightest star, Canopus. From Earth, Sirius always appears dimmer than Jupiter and Venus, as well as Mercury and Mars at certain times. Sirius is visible from almost everywhere on Earth, except latitudes north of 73° N, and it does not rise very high when viewed from some northern cities (reaching only 13° above the horizon from Saint Petersburg). Due to its declination of roughly −17°, Sirius is a circumpolar star from latitudes south of 73° S. From the Southern Hemisphere in early July, Sirius can be seen in both the evening where it sets after the Sun and in the morning where it rises before the Sun.  Along with Procyon and Betelgeuse, Sirius forms one of the three vertices of the Winter Triangle to observers in the Northern Hemisphere.

Sirius can be observed in daylight with the naked eye under the right conditions. Ideally, the sky should be very clear, with the observer at a high altitude, the star passing overhead, and the Sun low on the horizon. These observing conditions are more easily met in the Southern Hemisphere, due to the southerly declination of Sirius.

The orbital motion of the Sirius binary system brings the two stars to a minimum angular separation of 3 arcseconds and a maximum of 11 arcseconds. At the closest approach, it is an observational challenge to distinguish the white dwarf from its more luminous companion, requiring a telescope with at least 300 mm (12 in) aperture and excellent seeing conditions. After a periastron occurred in 1994,[c] the pair moved apart, making them easier to separate with a telescope. Apoastron occurred in 2019,[d] but from the Earth’s vantage point, the greatest observational separation will occur in 2023, with an angular separation of 11.333″.

At a distance of 2.6 parsecs (8.6 ly), the Sirius system contains two of the eight nearest stars to the Sun, and it is the fifth closest stellar system to the Sun. This proximity is the main reason for its brightness, as with other near stars such as Alpha Centauri and in contrast to distant, highly luminous supergiants such as Canopus, Rigel or Betelgeuse. It is still around 25 times more luminous than the Sun.  The closest large neighbouring star to Sirius is Procyon, 1.61 parsecs (5.24 ly) away. The Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in 1977 to study the four giant planets in the Solar System, is expected to pass within 4.3 light-years (1.3 pc) of Sirius in approximately 296,000 years.


Etymology and cultural significance

The proper name “Sirius” comes from the Latin Sīrius, from the Ancient Greek Σείριος (Seirios, “glowing” or “scorcher”). The Greek word itself may have been imported from elsewhere before the Archaic period, one authority suggesting a link with the Egyptian god Osiris. The name’s earliest recorded use dates from the 7th century BCE in Hesiod’s poetic work Works and Days. In 2016, the International Astronomical Union organized a Working Group on Star Names (WGSN) to catalog and standardize proper names for stars. The WGSN’s first bulletin of July 2016 included a table of the first two batches of names approved by the WGSN; which included Sirius for the star α Canis Majoris A. It is now so entered in the IAU Catalog of Star Names.

Sirius has over 50 other designations and names attached to it. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s essay Treatise on the Astrolabe, it bears the name Alhabor and is depicted by a hound’s head. This name is widely used on medieval astrolabes from Western Europe. In Sanskrit it is known as Mrgavyadha “deer hunter”, or Lubdhaka “hunter”. As Mrgavyadha, the star represents Rudra (Shiva). The star is referred as Makarajyoti in Malayalam and has religious significance to the pilgrim center Sabarimala.  In Scandinavia, the star has been known as Lokabrenna (“burning done by Loki”, or “Loki’s torch”). In the astrology of the Middle Ages, Sirius was a Behenian fixed star, associated with beryl and juniper. Its astrological symbol Sirius was listed by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa.

Many cultures have historically attached special significance to Sirius, particularly in relation to dogs. It is often colloquially called the “Dog Star” as the brightest star of Canis Major, the “Great Dog” constellation. Canis Major was classically depicted as Orion’s dog. The Ancient Greeks thought that Sirius’s emanations could affect dogs adversely, making them behave abnormally during the “dog days”, the hottest days of the summer. The Romans knew these days as dies caniculares, and the star Sirius was called Canicula, “little dog”. The excessive panting of dogs in hot weather was thought to place them at risk of desiccation and disease. In extreme cases, a foaming dog might have rabies, which could infect and kill humans they had bitten. Homer, in the Iliad, describes the approach of Achilles toward Troy in these words:

Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky

On summer nights, star of stars,

Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest

Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat

And fevers to suffering humanity.

In Iranian mythology, especially in Persian mythology and in Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia, Sirius appears as Tishtrya and is revered as the rain-maker divinity (Tishtar of New Persian poetry). Beside passages in the sacred texts of the Avesta, the Avestan language Tishtrya followed by the version Tir in Middle and New Persian is also depicted in the Persian epic Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. Due to the concept of the yazatas, powers which are “worthy of worship”, Tishtrya is a divinity of rain and fertility and an antagonist of apaosha, the demon of drought. In this struggle, Tishtrya is depicted as a white horse.

In Chinese astronomy Sirius is known as the star of the “celestial wolf” (Chinese and Japanese: 天狼 Chinese romanization: Tiānláng; Japanese romanization: Tenrō; Korean and romanization: 천랑 /Tsŏnrang) in the Mansion of Jǐng (井宿). Many nations among the indigenous peoples of North America also associated Sirius with canines; the Seri and Tohono O’odham of the southwest note the star as a dog that follows mountain sheep, while the Blackfoot called it “Dog-face”. The Cherokee paired Sirius with Antares as a dog-star guardian of either end of the “Path of Souls”. The Pawnee of Nebraska had several associations; the Wolf (Skidi) tribe knew it as the “Wolf Star”, while other branches knew it as the “Coyote Star”. Further north, the Alaskan Inuit of the Bering Strait called it “Moon Dog”.

Several cultures also associated the star with a bow and arrows. The ancient Chinese visualized a large bow and arrow across the southern sky, formed by the constellations of Puppis and Canis Major. In this, the arrow tip is pointed at the wolf Sirius. A similar association is depicted at the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, where the goddess Satet has drawn her arrow at Hathor (Sirius). Known as “Tir”, the star was portrayed as the arrow itself in later Persian culture.

Sirius is mentioned in Surah, An-Najm (“The Star”), of the Qur’an, where it is given the name الشِّعْرَى (transliteration: aš-ši‘rā or ash-shira; the leader). The verse is: “وأنَّهُ هُوَ رَبُّ الشِّعْرَى”, “That He is the Lord of Sirius (the Mighty Star).” (An-Najm:49) Ibn Kathir said in his commentary “that it is the bright star, named Mirzam Al-Jawza’ (Sirius), which a group of Arabs used to worship”.  The alternate name Aschere, used by Johann Bayer, is derived from this.

In theosophy, it is believed the Seven Stars of the Pleiades transmit the spiritual energy of the Seven Rays from the Galactic Logos to the Seven Stars of the Great Bear, then to Sirius. From there is it sent via the Sun to the god of Earth (Sanat Kumara), and finally through the seven Masters of the Seven Rays to the human race.


The Dogon people are an ethnic group in Mali, West Africa, reported by some researchers to have traditional astronomical knowledge about Sirius that would normally be considered impossible without the use of telescopes. According to Marcel Griaule, they knew about the fifty-year orbital period of Sirius and its companion prior to western astronomers. In his pseudoarcheology book The Sirius Mystery, Robert Temple claimed that the Dogon people have a tradition of contact with intelligent extraterrestrial beings from Sirius.

Doubts have been raised about the validity of Griaule and Dieterlein’s work. In 1991, anthropologist Walter van Beek concluded about the Dogon, “Though they do speak about sigu tolo [which is what Griaule claimed the Dogon called Sirius] they disagree completely with each other as to which star is meant; for some it is an invisible star that should rise to announce the sigu [festival], for another it is Venus that, through a different position, appears as sigu tolo. All agree, however, that they learned about the star from Griaule.”

Noah Brosch claims that the cultural transfer of relatively modern astronomical information could have taken place in 1893, when a French expedition arrived in Central West Africa to observe the total eclipse on 16 April.

Buddhism – Science – Museum Dream 02-06-2012

I am in a white building with a high ceiling. It is a place of learning perhaps a museum. Over to one side I see a young dark-haired man. He is wearing a pink polo shirt as am I. I start to speak to him of Buddhism in the West. This piques his interest. I say that more Tulkus are incarnating here. This piques his interest even more. He says that a part of his research is regarding Buddhism. His job at the museum is to do with this. It is also to do with the relationship between science and religion. He takes me back behind the scenes in the museum. As we walk, I tell him that I am an ex-science academic from Imperial College. This piques his interest even more. I comment that is it not a coincidence that we are similarly dressed in pink polo shirts? His eyes start to show some blue in them, a subtle glow.

We walk into his offices just as his female supervisor is leaving. I am not sure if I should shake hands with her or not. She walks past in any case.

Next, I am wandering around the museum, in the areas where people, the public, do not go. I come across a young woman who has her face painted in vibrant colours. The painting is of things like feathers arranged in a circle around her left eye. It is stunning. We walk off together.

Soon I am standing on a lawn. It is in a dip with a ridge around it about 5-10 metres away.  There are some colonnades. On the ridge are some people including the young man and the painted woman.

I am talking to them about the spread of Buddhism to the West. I am walking as I talk. The people are all staff at the museum. A dark-haired Russian girl who is of some considerable intellectual prowess tells the others to listen to what I am saying, it is right.

Behind me two men, one with white hair, are walking along the path. They hear what I am saying but because they know me from a science context they cannot “accept” it. It is a non sequitur to them.

Dream ends.

Science Does Not Know What 95% Of the Universe Is

From the Dark Energy Survey:

“Ordinary matter makes up only about 5% of the universe. Dark energy, which cosmologists hypothesize drives the accelerating expansion of the universe by counteracting the force of gravity, accounts for about 70%. The last 25% is dark matter, whose gravitational influence binds galaxies together. Both dark matter and dark energy remain invisible and mysterious, but DES seeks to illuminate their natures by studying how the competition between them shapes the large-scale structure of the universe over cosmic time.”

This morning I have been delving into a few of the papers on Arχiv released by the Dark Energy Survey. It is a truly staggering amount of work of a highly complex nature. They are using the phenomenon of gravitational lensing to estimate the amount and clustering of dark matter. Here is a Hubble image of dark matter distribution. It is a simulation based on a model.

Dark energy causes the universe to continue to expand and helps prevent the big crunch. We are in a day of Brahma where the universe is manifesting and not in a night when it has fallen back into pralaya. Unless I am mistaken science does not know what dark energy or dark matter are. It can infer that they are there according to our current models of the universe.

Modern science has an internally consistent view of how the universe came into being but not why, for what purpose.

Toltec “cosmology” suggests that the universe is one big experiment in which the spirit, Nagal {analogous to Brahma?} wanted to learn about itself. It was sitting there in the void, started to stir, perhaps a little bored and then decided using the “force” of intent to separate the known from the unknown and thereby matter from out of the primeval void.

{Quantum physics allows particles to be created and annihilated via ladder operators.}

The flow of creation is time, space, energy, matter, in this “cosmology”. Where matter is clustered energy. E = mc squared and all that. The direction of time is macroscopically one way thanks to entropy.

Toltecs maintain that the entire universe is pervaded by this “thing” called intent and it is this which drives. There is universal intent and more personal intent, and this lies aback all action.

If I have understood it correctly the “evidence” for dark energy and dark matter mounts. Which means I guess that science is getting more certain of their existence but still is largely clueless as to their nature. “It”, “they” exist but we don’t know what “it”, “they” are.

Is this suggesting at some time in the future a paradigmatic overhaul? Or with some elastic and a few extra “factors” can the current models be extended.

If dark energy “clusters” into dark matter, we shall then get the big crunch.

Brahma can put on his pyjamas and have a snooze.

Are dark matter and dark energy debris from a previous manifestation of a universe, one in which the laws of “physics” were different?