Scales of History

20 December 2016

13 and 20 and 20 and 20.

Ah, theAbysmal Days, when apparently we Leap over theAbyss and my mind overflows with thoughts on the higher functions of how the way in which we view or perceive time affects the way we think. It changes our mind. Between what I’ve researched astronomy, chronobiology, body function by time of day, time of month, time of year, time of life, embodied cognition, neurobiology, story, symbol, imagination, creativity, history, and reaching back to anthropology as well as calendar systems themselves in order to come up with this. It isn’t idle chatter. It’s the result of my subconscious knitting it all together in the background, and as  has become habit, at the New Year, it presents itself for consideration.

Supercoiled DNA molecular model

In this case, it’s the shape of history, or at the very least longer measures of time. 260 seems to be at the heart of it. 13 is one sacred number to the Maya, the other is 20, which is multiplied much like we do with 10 in observing decades, centuries, millennia. I also noted that the 13 is often associated with the major articulations of the body (ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck), 20 is associated with the fingers and toes. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Full of Stars

13 October 2016

The more we know, the more we know we don’t know, y’know?

Apparently, a census of the visible universe has been collated, tabulated, and our earlier estimates of the number of galaxies was off. A bit.

via Gizmodo:

The observable universe—that is, the part of the universe that’s visible to us on Earth—contains 10 to 20 times as many galaxies than previous estimates. That raises the total to somewhere between one and two trillion galaxies, which is up from the previous best estimate of 100 billion galaxies. Consequently, this means we also have to update the number of stars in the observable universe, which now numbers around 700 sextillion (that’s a 7 with 23 zeros behind it, or 700 thousand billion billion).

Here’s a now under-dense image of the galaxies (Southern skies btw) mapped out prior to this new estimate:

Leaving the Sun at the Speed of Light

19 May 2016

Albert Einstein imagining himself riding lightning.

And here we have a clever representation by  Alphonse Swinehart


15-Year Old Discovers Mayan City (updated update)

8 May 2016

 Using astronomy. So, what’s your excuse?

Updated Update: This story isn’t all it has been cracked up to be. Not to knock William Gadoury, as he was testing a theory, more with the “experts” who confirmed his findings, as they may not be “lost” or “a city”.  We can’t confirm mayan constellations, since we don’t have a definitive list of them, and the mayan region was likely heavily developed and populated.

the Long-Lost Mayan City Teen Found Isn’t Lost…Or a City

william gadoury

Un ado découvre une cité maya (So, yes, it’s in French (le journal de Montreal, after all).

Un Québécois de 15 ans a découvert une nouvelle cité maya jusque-là méconnue grâce à sa théorie selon laquelle cette civilisation choisissait l’emplacement de ses villes selon la forme des constellations d’étoiles.

William Gadoury, un adolescent de Saint-Jean-de-Matha dans Lanaudière, est devenu une petite vedette à la NASA, à l’Agence spatiale canadienne et à l’Agence spatiale japonaise, alors que sa découverte est sur le point d’être diffusée dans une revue scientifique.

Essentially, a 15-year-old Quebecois lad discovered a heretofore (they have that word in French, y’know) unknown Maya city thanks to his theory that the Mayan civilization chose the locations for its settlements according to the constellations.

Pretty clever stuff. Good on him, and for showing that this type of creative thinking is really valuable.

map K’ÀAK’ CHI’

UPDATE: as one intrepid commenter on the original site noted: the coordinates provided in the article put the city in Guatemala, whereas the map above shows the city in Belize. I have more faith in William Gadoury than I do the fact-checkers at le Journal de Montreal. Also, Montreal is spelled Hochelaga.

Earth’s Orbit and Time

9 July 2015

There are changes and then there are changes.

by the way, the only fact I would consider incorrect  is that the day and night are equal at the equinox. This date varies depending on the line of latitude at which you live. True story.

Communicating into the Distance

27 May 2012

Listening to the distant past as we whisper into the far future.

I recently read (well skimmed) Deep Time by Gregory Benford. I was hopeful for the subject, but alas, Benford’s focus was on space probes, and his experience with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The plant is a waste disposal for nuclear waste from energy, weapons, and medical sources. One of the challenges they face is determining a way of identifying the location for the next 10,000 years so that future generations would know to stay away. The solution would have to address erotion, changes in politics to the surrounding region, cultural shifts in language and symbology and so forth. He also discusses trying to communicate across space.

I think that this is an intriguing subject, and an important one, which hasn’t received much attention as our collective attention spans have diminished at an astounding rate. The Clock of the Long Now is a project which seeks to address this, by creating a means of timekeeping that reminds us of our cultural longevity. (book notes here: the Clock of the Long Now).

Rediscovering Our History

In the post, Wonder of World Wonders, I looked at the great circle of monuments, the focus of which is the pyramid complex at Giza. I often wonder if the Egyptians even built these great edifices, or whether, like us, they discovered them, and put them to use (or even took credit for them). It’s not outside the realm of possibility (the realm of the probable is another matter altogether).

The monuments, such as the constructions of ancient Egyptians, and the Inca, are of huge stone blocks that fit together in irregular patterns, fit together so precisely that a knife blade couldn’t slip between them. These blocks withstand earthquakes, and other cataclysms (although not vandalism, as the limestone cover was taken from the pyramids).

If these structures are the result of an ancient culture that predates the Sumerian, maybe even predates prehistory, then how have they chosen to communicate with us, given that they could not predict the Internet and English (I presume), short-term mindsets, and a mixed relationship with symbols?

The pyramid complex at Giza is a mathematical wonder, combining proportions of ∏ and Φ (pi and phi). Regardless of the numbers themselves, it is the ratios they represent which are important. Ratios can be determined by comparing any two dimentions (provided the measurer recognizes lengths, widths, heights, circumferences, and radii).

As was mentioned in the Lost Millennium, there are many ways to correlate past events, however, one of the most reliable is celestial mechanics. If a historical document refers to a solar eclipse at a particular location, it can be used to pinpoint the event in time. The pyramid complex at Giza may, in fact, be indicating a point in time relative to the stars. This depends on our inheriting the Zodiac system from the distant past, which lasts even to this day.

Our Inheritance from Babylon

the zodiac as we know it (Aries the ram, Taurus the bull, all the way to Pisces the Fish) has been around since the Babylonians, and very early on it made its way to the Indian sub-continent, throughout the middle east, north Africa and Europe, and now, the world. It has deep roots, and is at least passingly familiar to a great cross-section of the globe (even as the Chinese zodiac is becoming more and more familiar in the west).

The modern version fixes the signs to a particular part of the sky, such that the sun, moon and planets are said to be in a particular house, or sign. At the time of this writing the sun has just passed into Gemini. However, if you were able to look past the Sun to the starfield behind it, you would see the constellation of Taurus.

The real solar zodiac (i.e. the position of the sun and planets relative to the constellations in the night sky) is observable by any astronomer, and this is the system that we have inherited. The difficulty with it is that due to a wobble in the Earth’s axis, the position of the constellations change by about 1 day every 72 years or so. Thus, if the Sun passes into Taurus on May 14th this year, in 72 years, it will pass into it on May 13th. It will take just under 26,000 years for the Sun to pass into Taurus on May 14th again.

The sphinx combines features of the lion and man, which relates to the two constellations opposite each other – Leo and Aquarius.


When I conceived of theAbysmal Calendar, I imagined these Babylonian astrologers creating a timepiece aligned with the stars, such that as the Constellations made their rounds of the sky over 26,000 years, we could keep track as they had. It surprised me that I had not read anything piecing together the constellations, the precession of the equinoxes and calendar systems. No doubt it was common knowledge in some circles, but it certainly wasn’t common knowledge among the broader population. Astrology gets panned an awful lot as being nonsense and meaningless, however, it depends what meaning you’re looking for in the stars.

They are the context in which we exist, although as they are increasingly hidden behind air and light pollution, they fall further and further out of our awareness, and this is truly a great loss. It is what connects us, more than any pyramid, to the people in the past, and those in the future. The Sun, Moon and Stars are the touchstone we all have in common, regardless of the environment or culture in which we live our day to day lives. Any process of long-term communication through deep time will necessarily have to use these touchstones. The language of symbol with which to communicate is a whole other problem.

208 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Stargazer’s Delight

11 April 2012

Geostationary satellite in the Swiss Alps.

thank you NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.