Friday, July 19, 2013

When the Volcano Stops Screaming - - -

A sound that's too low for humans to hear may let us predict when a volcano is about to erupt:
  1. A Screaming Volcano
  2. 'Volcano Forecasts:' Eventually
My native culture has some odd ideas about science and religion, like 'faith means not thinking.'

Depending on your frame of reference, that assumption is rather new, or mildly antique. Either way, it's not true.

"The Sin of Thinking?"

Non Sequitur's Church of Danae and her "faith based physics" is fiction. Folks trying to warp reality around their preferences isn't.

I doubt that many churches actually say 'thinking is a sin.' On the other hand, I've heard folks insist that what we're learning about the universe can't be true because 'it's not in the Bible.' I understand how someone might assume that religion and reason don't mix.

I'm Catholic, so I'm expected to think. Using reason is part of being human. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1730-1731)

The light of reason lets us see beyond appearances to the deep truth of things. We can intuitively grasp the first principles of reality, and uncover new truths through reasoned analysis.

Being made in the image of God gives us enormous power and responsibility: and I've been over that before. (March 17, 2013)

Science and Religion

I see no problem with a lively interest in God's creation. It's filled with wonders and beauty, and is basically good: not perfect, but good. (Genesis 1:3-31; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 390-409, 282-284)

I like this creation, but some folks seem uncomfortable with it. Somewhere along the line, Plato's ideal universals, immaterial forms that are superior to their material 'shadows,' got hitched to a distaste for the material world.

The sort of dualism that sees physical existence as beastly or worse is a recurring blooper in Christian circles.

Faith and Reason

My faith isn't disturbed because one and one always equal two. I expect an orderly God to create an orderly universe, and I've been over that before, too. (April 25, 2011)

When folks discover a rational explanation for some natural phenomenon, that doesn't make me doubt that there's a rational God.

Faith and reason get along just fine:
  • Faith isn't against reason
    (Catechism, 35, 154-155)
  • We can know God by studying the created world
    (Catechism, 36)
    • But it isn't easy
      (Catechism, 37)
  • God's revelation
    • Confirms what reason shows
    • Reveals what reason can't show
    (Catechism, 38)

Belief and Seeking Truth

A fellow named Nietzsche had a talent for writing memorable one-liners. He also saw religion as unreasonable, emotional, and blind to truth. That was in 1865.

I see why folks who don't like religion, or feel that God shouldn't exist, say religion is unreasonable. Frothing radio preachers of my youth made religion look like a psychiatric disorder.

Then there's how some folks react to Darwin's ideas about evolution. Getting upset about how the world changes seems silly, at best. (May 15, 2012; January 18, 2012)

Some tried defending faith by agreeing that it doesn't make sense. They want to see faith:
"...either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, driven by blind emotion, or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation, but not something which could be proposed to others as an objective and shared light which points the way...."
("Lumen Fidei," Pope Francis) [emphasis mine]
This 'faith is a feeling' approach doesn't make sense: not to me.

I have nothing against emotions. They're part of being human. (Catechism, 1763-1770)

But we're supposed to make decisions by using reason: not necessarily 'because we feel that way.' (Catechism, 1767, 1951, 1954-1956)

1. A Screaming Volcano


(USGS/AVO, via BBC News, used w/o permission)
"The researchers studied the eruption of Redoubt in 2009"
"Volcanic 'scream' precedes explosive eruptions"
Simon Redfern, BBC News (July 15, 2013)

"A change in the frequency of earthquakes may foretell explosive volcanic eruptions, according to a new study.

"The seismic activity changes from steady drum beats to increasingly rapid successions of tremors.

"These blend into continuous noise which silences just before explosion...."
BBC News linked to 10 minutes of seismic sound and harmonic tremor from Redoubt Volcano in 2009, sped up to run in 10 seconds: "RedoubtScream," on soundcloud.com. It reminds me of an old fashioned tea kettle, when the 'I'm done' whistle starts up.

Volcanic Glissando

"...Those quakes continuously rose in pitch like a volcanic glissando - a musical glide from one pitch to another.

"Subterranean magma plumbing systems sit beneath volcanoes and feed pressurised molten rock toward the surface before eruptions.

"As the magma flows through deep conduits and cracks, it generates small seismic tremors and earthquakes.

"Scientists have noted earthquakes preceding volcanic eruptions before, for example drumbeat earthquakes were the first sign of renewed magmatic activity in Mount St Helens in April 2005.

"But the new analysis of Alaska's Redoubt volcano shows that the tremor glided to higher frequencies and then stopped abruptly less than a minute before eruption...."
(Simon Redfern, BBC News)
Authors of the Redoubt study say that maybe brittle fractures cause the 'scream.' Then again, they're not sure about exactly what's going on inside the volcano.

Similar tremors happened before the 1997 and 2003 eruptions on Montserrat, so listening for this sort of drumbeat-and-scream pattern may help predict eruptions. University of Cambridge's Dr. Marie Edmonds pointed out that we still don't know whether the pattern happens without a volcano going off.

Music and the Universe

I don't take 'music of the spheres' seriously as a way to explain planetary orbits and music.

Even so, I keep running into reports of sounds and sound-like natural phenomena that are a bit musical. Maybe there's a 'musical' angle to the universe that we haven't found yet.


(Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA, used w/o permission)
"...The oscillations we see on the surface are due to sound waves generated and trapped inside the sun. Sound waves are produced by pressure fluctuations in the turbulent convective motions of the sun's interior...."
("Solar Physics,' Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA)

2. 'Volcano Forecasts:' Eventually

"Volcanic ash closes regional airport in central Mexican city of Puebla"
Associated Press, via FoxNews.com (July 12, 2013)

"An airport serving Mexico's fourth-largest city has suspended operations due to volcanic ash from the Popocatepetl volcano.

"The international airport in Puebla was temporarily closed as a precautionary measure...."
Closing a city's airport is serious, but it could be worse. Back in 2000, Mexico evacuated about 50,000 folks in three states around Popocatepetl.

These days we know enough about volcanoes to have a general idea of when it's time to move away. I think it will be years, at least, before 'volcano forecasts' are as comparatively reliable as weather forecasts are today: but we're learning.

Related posts:
More:
Excerpts:
"Lumen Fidei"
Pope Francis (June 29, 2013)

"...2. Yet in speaking of the light of faith, we can almost hear the objections of many of our contemporaries. In modernity, that light might have been considered sufficient for societies of old, but was felt to be of no use for new times, for a humanity come of age, proud of its rationality and anxious to explore the future in novel ways. Faith thus appeared to some as an illusory light, preventing mankind from boldly setting out in quest of knowledge. The young Nietzsche encouraged his sister Elisabeth to take risks, to tread 'new paths… with all the uncertainty of one who must find his own way', adding that 'this is where humanity's paths part: if you want peace of soul and happiness, then believe, but if you want to be a follower of truth, then seek'.[3] Belief would be incompatible with seeking. From this starting point Nietzsche was to develop his critique of Christianity for diminishing the full meaning of human existence and stripping life of novelty and adventure. Faith would thus be the illusion of light, an illusion which blocks the path of a liberated humanity to its future.

"3. In the process, faith came to be associated with darkness. There were those who tried to save faith by making room for it alongside the light of reason. Such room would open up wherever the light of reason could not penetrate, wherever certainty was no longer possible. Faith was thus understood either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, driven by blind emotion, or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation, but not something which could be proposed to others as an objective and shared light which points the way. Slowly but surely, however, it would become evident that the light of autonomous reason is not enough to illumine the future; ultimately the future remains shadowy and fraught with fear of the unknown. As a result, humanity renounced the search for a great light, Truth itself, in order to be content with smaller lights which illumine the fleeting moment yet prove incapable of showing the way. Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere...."
[emphasis mine]

"Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria (2011)," Chapter 3
International Theological Commission (2011)

"...62. The truth of God, accepted in faith, encounters human reason. Created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27), the human person is capable, by the light of reason, of penetrating beyond appearances to the deep-down truth of things, and opens up thereby to universal reality. The common reference to truth, which is objective and universal, makes authentic dialogue possible between human persons. The human spirit is both intuitive and rational. It is intuitive in that it spontaneously grasps the first principles of reality and of thought. It is rational in that, beginning from those first principles, it progressively discovers truths previously unknown using rigorous procedures of analysis and investigation, and it organises them in a coherent fashion. 'Science' is the highest form that rational consciousness takes. It designates a form of knowledge capable of explaining how and why things are as they are. Human reason, itself part of created reality, does not simply project on to reality in its richness and complexity a framework of intelligibility; it adapts itself to the intrinsic intelligibility of reality. In accordance with its object, that is with the particular aspect of reality that it is studying, reason applies different methods adapted to the object itself. Rationality, therefore, is one but takes a plurality of forms, all of which are rigorous means of grasping the intelligibility of reality. Science likewise is pluriform, each science having its own specific object and method. There is a modern tendency to reserve the term 'science' to 'hard' sciences (mathematics, experimental sciences, etc.) and to dismiss as irrational and mere opinion knowledge which does not correspond to the criteria of those sciences. This univocal view of science and of rationality is reductive and inadequate...."

"Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God"
International Theological Commission (2004)

"...70 With respect to the immediate creation of the human soul, Catholic theology affirms that particular actions of God bring about effects that transcend the capacity of created causes acting according to their natures. The appeal to divine causality to account for genuinely causal as distinct from merely explanatory gaps does not insert divine agency to fill in the 'gaps' in human scientific understanding (thus giving rise to the so-called 'God of the gaps'). The structures of the world can be seen as open to non-disruptive divine action in directly causing events in the world. Catholic theology affirms that that the emergence of the first members of the human species (whether as individuals or in populations) represents an event that is not susceptible of a purely natural explanation and which can appropriately be attributed to divine intervention. Acting indirectly through causal chains operating from the beginning of cosmic history, God prepared the way for what Pope John Paul II has called 'an ontological leap...the moment of transition to the spiritual.' While science can study these causal chains, it falls to theology to locate this account of the special creation of the human soul within the overarching plan of the triune God to share the communion of trinitarian life with human persons who are created out of nothing in the image and likeness of God, and who, in his name and according to his plan, exercise a creative stewardship and sovereignty over the physical universe...."

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