Thursday 30 December 1999

Millenium candle

Pic of the day: This millenium candle is 7 years too late, but it could possibly come in handy anyway.

Stars then and now

I woke up to music. The clock radio was playing "waiting for the morning" as sung by Elisabeth Andreassen and a Norwegian artist whose name escapes me. It's a quite energetic melody, and I lay there listening and enjoying it. The moon, surprisingly strong to be just a fat sickle, poured its pale white light in through the window. The moonlight fell on my white boxer shorts and made them float detached in the dark void while the sleep oh so slowly drained from my body. The first paleness of dawn crept up around the eastern horizon, barely visible through my window. Waiting for the morning.


A bit later I had cleaned up, shaved, checked the e-mail, and read Nova Notes before catching the bus. Breakfast had to wait till I got to the office. I placed my yoghurt next to my calendar and turned on my computer.

Somehow 30 seems a lot more like the end of the month than 29. I guess it is the rare digit 3 that makes the difference. I got a small jolt from realizing that it is suddenly the next to last day. Not just of the month. Not just of the year. We are changing decade. Exit the nineties, enter the naughties. I can relate to that. But it's more. It is the end of all the paper forms with pre-printed "19__". I can sort of comprehend that, too. But saying goodbye to the whole "1"? That's just too big for me. Perhaps I'll understand it later.

Yes, the millenium is changing. No matter how much I know - as all true geeks know - that the real millenium night is between 2000 and 2001. It doesn't matter, you know. I've known since I was little more than a kid that our chronology was way off anyway. We're supposedly counting from the birth of Jesus who we call the Christ. But he was born several years before the fictive year 0. Herod the Great, who plays an important role in the christmas story, died in year 4 BC. And studies of Mesopotamian astrology indicate that the "Bethlehem star" was a conjunction of planets in the year 7 BC. This particular astronomic event could be interpreted as the birth of a supreme ruler in Israel. (There were certainly other interpretations too, or there would have been more than 3 wise men afoot. Astrology was still big business at the time.)

The rather terse story of the gospel is rational as far as the astrologers arrive in Jerusalem, ask around for the new king, scare up the current royalty and are sent packing to Bethlehem by the scribes. But then something disturbing happens: The star travels. This can hardly be the planetary conjuction. Planets don't travel at the pace of camels and then stop over a particular house. What was it, then? A timeship from the far future, making a documentary about the event? An alien spaceship carrying visitors from a more spiritually evolved race? A piece of another story that accidentally became spliced into the text? (Heroes from the stars are not too uncommon. The famous resistance hero of the last Jewish revolution against Rome was known by a name meaning Star-son.)

Somewhere, 2007 light years away, the light from the Bethlehem star is still racing through the dark emptyness of space. If we could take a shortcut - a wormhole perhaps - and set up a really big telescope, we might see it. But we would not be able to see the emotion and the expectation in the hearts of the three astrologers winding their way to a small city they had probably never even heard about when they left home. Almost certainly the truth about the Bethlehem star is lost to science forever, though it may still be seen by small children.


Sticking with astrology, the previous 2000 years or so have been the age of the Pisces - fishes. Earth's axis is not constant, it moves very slowly, performing a circle in space every 26000 years or so. For instance the north star of today is not the same as the north star of the pyramid-building Egyptians. This precession of equinoxes, as it is called, makes it possible to name the various ages after a sign in the zodiak. Of course these signs are also somewhat randomly assigned names, varying from culture to culture. We have inherited ours from the Babylonians, largely, though the current names are of Greek origin. There is of course no scientific basis for any of this stuff. Even so, it is a funny coincidence that the age of the Fishes started around the same time as the new religion of christianity started to use a fish as their symbol.

Technically, the age of Pisces is already ended and the age of Aquarius has begun. Christianity is still going strong, though. It may be changing, but then again it always did. And while most of the previous 2000 years have been influenced by chistianity here in Europe, this is not true for most of the world.

No, the stars do not influence us that way, not any more than we foolishly let ourselves be influenced. Not all who follow a star are therefore wise men. But the stargazer who brought a gift of gold had his things right. All gold in the world comes from supernovae.

Actually, to the best of our knowledge, all things on earth heavier than hydrogen come from the stars that preceded ours. Generations of stars have shone and died before our own sun lit up in the cold dark cloud of swirling dust that became the solar system. Most stars stop at iron. Iron is the most stable of the elements, speaking in terms of energy. You can squeeze out more energy by fusing lighter elements or by cleaving heavier ones. But there's nothing to gain by changing iron. I'm not sure if this is why iron is regarded as poison for some magickal creatures, but I am pretty sure this is the reason why we have so much of it here and on all terrestrial (earth-like) planets. And thanks to all this iron, we also have a magnetic field that keeps away the solar wind and lots of charged cosmic rays that would otherwise kill off the fragile multicellular life, at least anything that puts its head above the water.

But gold and the other trans-iron elements are created by the incredible energy of the supernovae - stars that explode much faster than the speed of sound. The shockwave fuses atoms with no regard to energy lost or won, and spreads those all over the space between stars. Eventually the gold dust settles down on planets like ours, and influence our life and our love as the stars themselves never could.


In extremely local news, I bought home a few liters of yoghurt. In the current weather, it should stay edible for a while even without the fridge. Not that I actually think the power will even blink on new year's eve. I noticed that there was very little cookies left on the shelves, too.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago

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