Sunday, March 16, 2008

ASTRONOMY NEWS AND EVENTS

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson Coming to Tampa Bay March 26

(We have been asked by public television station WEDU to provide you with the following announcement.)

Event: Cosmic Quandaries with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Date: March 26, 2008
Time: 7:00 pm
Place: Palladium Theatre, St. Petersburg
Tickets: $15

Join Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson - world renowned astrophysicist, bestselling author, and host of the groundbreaking PBS series NOVA scienceNOW for a journey across the universe as he reveals its cosmic wonders, curiosities and uncertainties in front of a live audience at The Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Public television station WEDU welcomes Dr. deGrasse Tyson, Nova scienceNOW senior executive producer, Paula S. Apsell, and local experts as they field questions from the audience and explore the mystery of black holes and other galactic conundrums.

Tickets are $15 per person and, unlike the universe, are limited for this exclusive WEDU event. You are encouraged to reserve your tickets by telephoning 727.822.3590 or www.mypalladium.org. Dr. Tyson’s most recent book, 'Death by Black Hole and other Cosmic Quandaries' will be available for purchase at the event.

For more than three decades, NOVA has been unrivaled in bringing authoritative, innovative, and entertaining science documentaries to TV. Now the same award-winning producers have teamed up with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the series, to cover the timeliest developments and intriguing personalities in science and technology today. Presenting multiple stories in a magazine format reported by a diverse team of correspondents in the field, NOVA scienceNOW airs five times a year in the NOVA time slot, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on WEDU.

Respected scientist, author, and director of the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the world’s most popular lecturers on astronomy. Tyson was appointed the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in 1995. Tyson has also received recognition as one of the Most Influential People on TIME magazine’s TOP 100 list; and the Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by PEOPLE magazine. Tyson’s most recent book, 'Death by Black Hole and other Cosmic Quandaries,' complements his quest for all things cosmic and follows his others including 'Just Visiting the Planet, a Q&A on the universe for all ages,' and his memoir, 'The Sky Is Not The Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist.' Tyson studied physics at Harvard University before receiving his doctorate in astrophysics from Columbia University.

For more information please call (727) 822-3590. The event is underwritten in part by South Florida Museum and Celestron. To read more, visit the following link: http://www.wedu.org/Content/Events/Default.aspx


Montana Student Wins Planets Mnemonic

A fourth-grader at Riverview Elementary School in Riverview, Montana has won the National Geographic planetary mnemonic contest, developing a handy way to remember the newly assigned 11 planets, including three dwarfs.

National Geographic Children's Books created the contest in response to the recent announcement by the scientific community that there are now 11 recognized planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Eris. Ceres, Pluto and Eris are considered dwarf planets.

Ten-year-old Maryn Smith's winning mnemonic is My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants. Smith's mnemonic will be published in astronomer David Aguilar's next National Geographic book, "11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System." It also will be recorded into a song by Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Lisa Loeb. Both are scheduled to be released in March.

Roaming Note: While it is great that we have a new mnemonic to help students learn the sequence of the major and dwarf planets, and my complements to young Miss Smith for her really neat achievement, I wonder how long it will be valid. Even during the fateful IAU meeting that established working definitions for planets, and for a dwarf planets, it was noted by more than a few that the known number of bodies similar to Pluto would only increase. This suggests that any mnemonic referencing both planet classes has a limited life span at best. Of course, it would be wonderful if any new dwarf planet could be easily wedged into Miss Smith's mnemonic, but only time will tell.


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POETRY CORNER

Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was one of the most influential Catholic authors of the twentieth century. A Catholic spiritual writer, poet, author and social activist, Merton wrote over 60 books and many essays and reviews. In addition, Merton was a proponent of inter-religious dialogue, engaging in dialogues with Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama, Vietnamese-born Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and Japanese scholar of Buddhism, Zen and Shin, D. T. Suzuki.

Merton's superiors allowed him extend periods of seclusion and meditation during 1953 and 1954. One result was a collection of meditations that was first published in 1956 under the title 'Thoughts in Solitude.' The following passage from that work was written as the humble confession of one man, but it resonated in the souls of many. It has since been recited and reproduced many times over. The text has become so well known that it is often described simply as "the Merton Prayer."


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

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To learn more about the life and works of Thomas Merton, visit the home page of The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living: https://www.mertoninstitute.org/


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IN THE ATTIC

I'm about to lay myself open to you, and I'm really scared. I'm going to let you a little farther into my world. Into my attic, as it were. Come this way up the ladder. Careful. Low beam, there. Watch your head...

A while back, I worked my way through a decision made by my church body. The details aren't important. What matters is that I had great concerns about the process and the decision. I asked questions and I raised objections. However, though I still had concerns, I eventually became supportive of that decision.

Mind you, I am a Baptist. And that Christian denomination, among other things, emphasizes the importance of the individual. We believe in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not one by proxy, a biblical truth sometimes described as the priesthood of the believer. We believe in the autonomy of the local church, and that we are not controlled by an outer denominational hierarchy, but rather by the local body of believers who voluntarily come together to carry out the mission of the church. Also, we Baptists are strong supporters of religious liberty and freedom for all. We respect, defend and revel in our God given right to speak our mind. Any Baptist business meeting will prove that to you. And I have seen a few in my time. Believe me when I say they can be quite an adventure. Be sure to bring your own popcorn.

Humor aside, I do value our Baptist individuality. But I also acknowledge that the whole process is built on trust, beginning with my trust that God is directing my life for good, whether I understand His plan or not. My church body models that trust when they select members to work through a task or a decision process. I can't personally make every decision in my church. Nothing would get done. I have to trust God and my fellow believers. I may not always agree with another member's decision, and I don't. For that matter, my fellow believers do not always agree with me. We are Baptists, after all. The bottom line for me is that if God is ultimately in charge, then those members are chosen by God for their various duties, so I needed get over myself, listen to what they have to say and trust their instincts.

It can be scary at times. So scary. I've known churches in my community that completely fell apart when the members found their trust had been greatly misplaced. For that matter, it seems we are all disillusioned daily by political leaders and other personalities in the spotlight. Trust is fragile. Once broken, it mends slowly. And even after it heals, there are scars. The words of the "Merton prayer" come to my mind quite frequently these days. And with each review I once again come to acknowledge, like Merton, that whatever I may do, wherever I may go, that God "will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

OK. I'm done. And I really hope you're still with me. Now, be careful as we work around these boxes. And hold on tight as we make our way back down this rickety ladder. And remember to watch your... Oh, sorry. Head...


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MUSICAL DIVERSION

As part of the Protestant Reformation in central Europe, the church leaders sought ways to increase the participation of the common people in the church services. One of the things that many churches did was to update their church psalter. A Psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms and other devotional material. It is comparable in many ways to the Protestant hymnals of today. The first psalter was the original, the Book of Pslams in the Old Testament. The Catholic Church later translated the psalms into Latin, but the leaders of the Protestant Reformation updated their psalters into the languages of the various peoples and set them to singable tunes.

One of the greatest psalters of the sixteen century was the 'Pseaumes Octante Trois de David,' also known as the 'Genevan Psalter,' completed in 1551 and used in the Reformed churches of Geneva, Switzerland. The 'Genevan Psalter' was the product of a collaborative effort among several people, most notably Loys Bourgeois, Claude Goudimel, Théodore de Bèze and the French court poet Clément Marot.

Théodore de Bèze, or Theodore of Beza (1519-1605) was a Protestant writer, minister and theologian. Beza wrote many religious works, but he also wrote for the theater, making Beza a member of the tradition of Protestant writers whose artistic intuitions led them to integrate both the profane and the sacred in order to produce their desired effect. One of Beza's contributions to the 'Genevan Psalter' was his setting of Psalm 134.

Loys Bourgeois, or Louis Bourgeois (c. 1510–1559 or later) was a French composer and music theorist of the Renaissance. It is thought that Bourgeois was responsible for thirty-four of the original melodies presented in the 'Genevan Psalter,' including the melody he composed for Beza's Psalm 134, which is by far Bourgeois's most famous hymn melody.


Psalm 134
(Théodore de Bèze, The Genevan Psalter, English translation)

You faithful servants of the Lord,
sing out his praise with one accord,
while serving him with all your might
and keeping vigil through the night.

Unto his house lift up your hand
and to the Lord your praises send.
May God who made the earth and sky
bestow his blessings from on high.

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In keeping with the dictates of John Calvin, all of the 'Genevan Psalter' tunes were monophonic, without multiple parts or counterpoint. Bourgeois did write four-part harmonizations, but they were reserved for singing and playing at home. Many of these settings are syllabic and chordal, a hymn style which continues in many Protestant church services today.

Like other Reformation psalters, the 'Genevan Psalter' included some psalm arrangements that had been published previously and were already known to the congregations. With this in mind, it is interesting to note that on December 3, 1551, shortly after the publication of the 'Genevan Psalter,' Bourgeois was imprisoned for changing the melodies of some of the well-known psalms "without a license." Following the personal intervention of John Calvin, Bourgeois was released. However, the controversy continued because those who already knew the old tunes had no desire to learn new versions. The town council ordered the burning of Bourgeois's instructions to the singers, claiming they were confusing. Soon afterward, his employment terminated, Bourgeois left Geneva and settled in Lyon, where his wife (eventually) followed him.

Bourgeois' melody for Psalm 134 was later paired with an English adaptation of Psalm 100 by Scottish clergyman William Kethe (? - 1594). The new setting was first published in 1561 as part of Sternhold and Hopkins' Psalter. In time, Kethe's adaptation of Psalm 100 became known as the "Old 100th" or "Old Hundredth." A now-famous arrangement of the "Old 100th" was written by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.


All People that on Earth do Dwell

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heav’n and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.

Amen.

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About 1674, Anglican priest Thomas Ken (1637-1711) wrote a collection of hymns that were publish in the ‘Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College.’ Two of Ken's hymns were entitled "Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun," and "All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night." While these hymns address different ends of the day (awaking to the day and preparing for sleep), they both closed with the same stanza of praise to God. Below is the text from the first of the two hymns.


Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all Heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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The last stanza of this hymn has gained widespread use as a doxology--a formulaic ascription of praise to God. The word doxology comes from the Greek words ‘doxa,’ meaning "glory," and ‘logos,’ meaning "word" or "speaking." In Christian worship services, a doxology is often a short hymn of praise to God. A doxology is often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. The tradition derives from a similar practice in Jewish worship. Typically, a Christian doxology is a sung expression of praise to the Holy Trinity--the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While there are many doxologies, the last stanza of Ken's hymn has come to be known in many Christian denominations as "The Doxology" or “The Common Doxology.”


Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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Some Protestant denominations have recently altered the Doxology text so that references to the Godhead are gender-neutral. Such changes have received combinations of both criticism and support. Here is one such alteration example from the ‘Disciples of Christ Chalice Hymnal.’

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise God, all creatures here below;
Praise God above, ye heavenly host:
Creator, Christ, and Holy Ghost.

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Bibliography

All People That On Earth Do Dwell. (2007, December 16). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/l/allpeopl.htm

Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun. (2008, February 23). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved March 9, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/w/awakemys.htm

Doxology. (2008, March 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:28, March 10, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Doxology&oldid=196302269

doxology. (2007). The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-doxology.html

Louis Bourgeois. (2008, January 7). The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/b/o/u/bourgeois_l.htm

Loys Bourgeois (2007, October 30). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loys_Bourgeois

Old 100th. (2008, February 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:03, March 10, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Old_100th&oldid=192717672

Theodore de Beze's version of Psalm 134. (2007, December 31). The Genevan Psalter. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://genevanpsalter.redeemer.ca/

Theodore of Beza. Project Poissy. Retrieved January 21, 2008 from http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~lavoicy/poissy/Beze.htm