Divine Insight: NASA and the Guru Granth Sahib

TL;DR Version: NASA scientists do not get answers about the cosmos from the SGGS.

One of the my most frequently visited posts is this one, on the Sikh’s Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and the myth that their sacred text is used by NASA scientists to answer questions about the cosmos; unfortunately, the original article was also THE most misinterpreted article, mostly by visitors who didn’t actually read it or were simply being religious zealots.

Because of this, the article has been rewritten from the ground up; The comments have been removed, and further comments disabled as I’m not especially keen on using my time to personally address comments from those too caught up in their faith that they choose to ignore evidence to the contrary.

The image below adequately sums up the last three months, and the bulk of the almost 450 comments about the article:

20120102-035626.jpg

The First I Heard Of It

The concept of NASA using the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) was proposed to me by a Sikh I work with; actually, he said it was “true”, and not just heresy. The claim was that NASA “consults” the SGGS for answers to their questions about the cosmos, and that the SGGS had divine knowledge not known to man at the time, referencing the heliocentric model as a specific example, stating it was a Sikh Guru who first suggested the Earth was not the center of the solar system.

Being the first I heard of it, I naturally asked for evidence. It was of no surprise he could not cite any, so I asked where he had heard the story. Despite asking for a link to it on numerous occasions, all I got was that his source was a “news” website.

Tracking down the source

The original story seems to have appeared and spread since June 2007 as referenced here; thankfully, tracking the originating source was made easier with the waybackmachine.

Kalpana Chawla

The myth’s author, Manpreet Singh noted in this comment that since he first made claims about NASA consulting the SGGS, people had been asking him for evidence, acknowledging that when he made the claims, he did so WITHOUT evidence.

The story Manpreet refers to is audio on DiscoverSikhi.com where according to the website, the host, Bhai Bhagwan Singh, is said to be recounting a meeting with Banarsi Lal Chawla. Bhai Bhagwan Singh recounts Banarsi Lal telling him that his daughter performed daily prayers in the morning, was a vegetarian, recited Japji Sahib whilst she worked, and recited Japji Sahib while in space – So who was she?

Banarsi Lal’s daughter was Kalpana Chawla, a space shuttle mission specialist and was the first Panjabi to travel into space. She died on the 1st of February 2003 with the six other crew members in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

It appears Manpreet believed that the article supported his initial claims as it went on to state that in September 2004, Banarsi Lal had an opportunity to visit the NASA centre at San Jose and that it was during his visit there it said he was shown a volume of an English translation of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, kept at the NASA library. It was while there, it was alleged Banarsi was told “when scientists get tired of searching and searching the universe, when they seek inspiration and need to uplift their souls they turn to read the translations of Guru Nanak’s poetry and divine-songs which describe the awe and wonder of the Universe.”

Despite the claims made by Bhai Bhagwan Singh about Banarsi Lal and Kalpana, during my search I came across a post by JeanPierre Harrison, Kalpana’s husband, where he stated the following (located here):

I got in contact via E-mail with Jean Pierre just to verify that it was him that made the statement. He confirmed that it was, explicitly expressing his anger that people would use Kalpana’s name to peddle their “superstitious bullshit” – and understandably so.

Ultimately, the fact is NASA has a massive collection of books in their numerous libraries; while I was not able to verify that ANY religious book formed part of these libraries, it certainly would not surprise me; but what is clear , is that Manpreet Singh, in an attempt to validate his faith in the SGGS with reality, went beyond the evidence available to him to state that NASA “consults” the SGGS when they want to know the answer to their scientific questions, when they do not.

When NASA scientists want to know something about the cosmos, they look up – they don’t read religious books.

Websites to make Kids Wonder

My cousin is currently (2011) nine years old, and I have only just started looking at what he’s interested at, and trying to nurture those interests, in addition to instilling some critical thinking skills, and a good working knowledge of the world he lives in.

I’m not exactly in close proximity to him – In fact, I’m about an hours’ drive; and my work ours are a bit weird, so getting to him can be difficult. However, thanks to technology, this isn’t such a problem. He recently got an iPod Touch, which I have set up with an E-Mail address so that he can asking me questions, and I can e-mail him answers; either from me, or from websites, videos, pictures, or whatever it is.

To collate information, I add the RSS feeds of websites to http://reader.google.com/ and use MobileRSS on my iPhone to e-mail the links to my cousin. This means that even if something isn’t relevant now, I can still save a draft of the for letter till later.

This will be a growing list of websites that I’ll be using to present stuff that he likes to him. If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

So far he has told me that he likes:

  • Dinosaurs,
  • Space, and
  • Mysteries

I can identify with that – I liked the same things too when I was his age!

So, here are websites that I pull information from:

Dinosaurs

Still waiting on a good one! Suggest one to me at bayanimills [at] gmail [dot] com!

Space

Blog: Science News for Kids

http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/

The blog provides short bursts of info with an image; the posts are broken down in to various categories, so you can select the feed you want from the relevant pages.

Feed: NASA Space Image of the Day

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/index.html

Various space images – often breathtaking.

Mysteries

Blog: Skeptoid

http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/

The blog provides short bursts of info with an image; the posts are broken down in to various categories, so you can select the feed you want from the relevant pages.

Science

Blog: Science News for Kids

http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/feed

This general feed provides short bursts of info with an image. Visiting the websites, you can select particular feeds if you wish from the categories available.

Blog: Charlie’s Playhouse

http://charliesplayhouse.blogspot.com/

Provides information on some contests they run, videos where children talk about evolution, and some of the posters and other merchandise they have available.

NASA: DNA Building Blocks from Space?

Earlier this month NASA-funded researchers at NASA’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at the Goddard Space Flight Center added to the growing body of evidence that the basics of DNA could have formed in space. Since the 1960’s people have been discovering the building blocks of DNA in meteorites around the world.

The team, lead by Dr. Michael Callahan ground up samples of carbon-rich meteorites mostly retrieved from Antarctica and found components of DNA called nucleobases. Here, he discusses the research:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1g7AKVZ3HC4

These components, called nucleobase analogs have the same core molecules as nucleobases but with a structure added or removed. Researchers wanted to confirm a plausible mechanism, and as such experiments were conducted to attempt to generate the same set of nucleobases and nucleobase analogs without using a biological chemical reaction, using hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and water. The experiments were successful.

Meteorites contain a large variety of nucleobases, an essential building block of DNA. Credit:NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

It’s unlikely that these analogs were the result of Earth-based life given that none except one of the nucleobase analogs found are not used in biology; Further evidence through the analysis of an ice sample from Antarctica, where most of the meteorites were recovered measured the quantity of the two nucleobases, plus hypoxanthine and xanthine in parts per trillion; compared to the meteorites where they were generally present at several parts per billion. More significantly, none of the nucleobase analog molecules present in the meteorite were found in the ice sample – This was the same for a soil sample taken near where a meteorite was found in Australia.

The latest paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; The team includes Callahan and Drs. Jennifer C. Stern, Daniel P. Glavin, and Jason P. Dworkin of NASA Goddard’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory; Ms. Karen E. Smith and Dr. Christopher H. House of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.; Dr. H. James Cleaves II of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC; and Dr. Josef Ruzicka of Thermo Fisher Scientific, Somerset, N.J. The research was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, the NASA Astrobiology: Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology Program, and the NASA Postdoctoral Program.

Original Article: NASA Researchers: DNA Building Blocks Can Be Made in Space

Yahoo! News blowing Hot Air

From Yahoo! News: New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism

NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

Study co-author Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA’s Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models.

You can read the paper here.

You know, there are reasons why it’s important to read the actual research papers rather than Yahoo! News, or any news outlet for that matter.

  • This isn’t about “new NASA data”, what is being reported is the **interpretation** by the author.
  • The research paper isn’t anywhere NEAR as sensationalist as the News Article is; not even the press release was.

It doesn’t blow a hole in anything:

“It is concluded that atmospheric feedback diagnosis of the climate system remains an unsolved problem, due primarily to the inability to distinguish between radiative forcing and radiative feedback in satellite radiative budget observations.”

Spencer was questioning the “Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance”. And that’s fine, but the basis of the paper was that clouds are a FORCING mechanism, not a FEEDBACK mechanism. – which from what is observed, is incorrect.

We know clouds are not a forcing mechanism because if it were, clouds would also be a major cause of El Nino cycles, which we already know NOT to be the case.

This was a paper with a premise that was unsupported, using modeling with parameters entered to match NASA data and was reported in a sensationalistic matter by Yahoo! to have “blown a gaping hole” in the case for Anthropogenic Global Warming.

This is Yahoo!’s fault, not Spencers.

From Space: Aurora Australis

Image Credit: NASA

This image is of Atlantis and its Orbital Boom Sensor System robot arm extension backdropped against Earth’s horizon and a greenish phenomenon associated with Aurora Australis. One of the station’s solar array panels appears at upper left. Because of the exposure time needed for this type of photography, some of the stars in the background are blurred.

Taken recently by the crew of the NASA STS-135 Atlantis, the aurora is one of the things I really want to see in person – hopefully in Alaska – as I don’t particularly think there is much else to do in Antarctica.

The phenomena is awesome. The Earths magnetosphere protects us from the solar wind (ionized gas) generated by our closest star, the Sun. These winds usually reaches Earth with a velocity around 400 km/s, but as a result of sunspots, this is sometimes several times faster.

11th September 2005 (movie: here)

The ionized gas from solar wind captured and accelerated along the magnetic field lines of the Earth towards either the North or the South Magnetic Poles, as they are accelerated, they interact with the Earths’ Atmosphere, causing oxygen and nitrogen particles to be “excited”. This electron excitement causes light-waves to be emitted, and depending on if they are gaining or losing electrons, emit yellow, red, blue, pink or green light.

Interestingly enough, on 2 September 1859 a strong geomagnetic storm was able to provide free electricity… for some telephone operators. It is also notable for the fact that it is the first time where the phenomena of auroral activity and electricity were unambiguously linked.

While a significant portion of the 201,000 km of telegraph lines then in service was significantly disrupted throughout the storm, some telegraph lines however seem to have been of the appropriate length and orientation to produce a sufficient geomagnetically induced current from the Electromagnetic field to allow for continued communication with the telegraph operators’ power supplies switched off.

The aurora was thought to have been produced by one of the most intense coronal mass ejections in history, very near the maximum intensity that the Sun is thought to be capable of producing.

An artists' rendition of solar wind affecting the magnetosphere

Gravity Probe B scores an end-of-year ‘F’, but scores an ‘A’ in the exam!

Back in May 2008 a New Scientist article outlined a NASA Review that almost meant the end for Gravity Probe B, a project conceived in the 1960s to measure how the Earth warps the fabric of nearby space-time, and if it did indeed do so.

Imagine space-time as a large piece of fabric. If you imagine a ball placed on that fabric, this can be thought of as the geodetic effect – the fabric bending around the ball.

Now, consider the ball as being slightly-sticky. If you spin that ball, the fabric will be “dragged” along with the ball, this twisting of the space-time can be considered “Frame-Dragging“.

Einstein theorized that because our Sun warps the space-time surrounding it, the objects around it travel in a curved line (a circle). It is this theory that explains why Earth orbits the Sun. This distortion was first measured in 1919 by Sir Arthur Eddington (and his collaborators) during a total solar eclipse as they noted the position of stars passing near the Sun, but no one has ever measured this effect for the Earth.

Enter Gravity Probe B.

GP-B had two goals:

  1. Demonstrate that Earth has the hypothesized geodetic effect: The warping of Space & Time around a gravitational body; and
  2. Demonstrate the amount of Frame-Dragging caused by the Earth: The amount a spinning object pulls space and time with it as it rotates

Gravity probe B’s total cost was around US$750 million and was another project that almost never was because of dwindling funding for scientific investigation. Back in 2008, 15 experts commissioned by NASA doubted further analysis of the GP-B results would produce any significant new information, and as such they recommended that Gravity Probe B receive no additional funding after September 2008.

Despite this, GP-B secured alternative funding from King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology. Thanks to that funding, the Stanford-based analysis group and NASA announced on May 4, 2011 that the data from GP-B confirmed the two predictions of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

NASA’s Gravity Probe B (GP-B) mission has confirmed two key predictions derived from Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which the spacecraft was designed to test. The experiment, launched in 2004, used four ultra-precise gyroscopes to measure the hypothesized geodetic effect, the warping of space and time around a gravitational body, and frame-dragging, the amount a spinning object pulls space and time with it as it rotates. GP-B determined both effects with unprecedented precision by pointing at a single star, IM Pegasi, while in a polar orbit around Earth.
NASA’s GP-B Mission Page

It may not seem like much up front, but this concludes one of the longest-running projects operated by NASA, and as a result of decades of research has led to many technological marvels.

GP-B awesome array of groundbreaking technologies were applied to NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer mission, which accurately determined the universe’s background radiation – The measurement that is the underpinning of the big-bang theory, and led to the Nobel Prize for NASA physicist John Mather.

Additionally, Gravity Probe B has led to advancements in Control Technologies:

  • Aerodynamic Drag
  • Magnetic Fields
  • Thermal Variations
  • and GPS Technologies allowing planes to land unaided.