Malaysian scientists and religious scholars are trying to determine how Muslims should behave in space, as the predominantly Islamic country prepares to dispatch its first astronaut next year.
More than 150 delegates attended a seminar to consider how to pray in space given the difficulties of locating Mecca and holding the prayer position in zero gravity; as well as other questions such as halal food and washing.
"It's as important as sending the astronaut," said Mustafa Din bin Subari, deputy director of Angkasa, Malaysia's space agency. "We want to stress that being a Muslim does not restrict you from doing anything."
The application of a religion founded in the 7th century Arabian desert to space travel in the 21st century is complex. The International Space Station (ISS) moves at almost 17,000 mph, so the relative position of Mecca is constantly shifting. With 16 orbits a day, and the timing of five daily prayers determined in relation to sunrise and sunset, devout Muslim astronauts could find themselves intoning their chants 80 times in 24 hours.
"This is not possible," said Mohamad Sa'ari Mohamad Isa, of the National Technical University College of Malaysia at the meeting in Bangi, near Kuala Lumpur. The electronics lecturer has helped to develop a computer programme called Muslims in Space (* see my note below) to determine when prayers should be made......
......Delegates to the conference, which ended on Tuesday, were also reminded that scientific progress used to be most advanced in the Islamic world, which gave the West algebra, the zero and Arabic numerals. It was a failure of individuals and leaders, rather than the religion, according to Syed Kamarulzaman Syed Kabeer, vice-president of the Islamic Astronomers' Association of Malaysia, that led to Islamic peoples giving up their lead.
We will leave aside that old chestnut about Islamic innovations, as we all know well that the Zero and the numerals were appropriated from Hindu scholars, and that the other innovations were developed by dhimmi Jewish and Christian scholars.
The bit, to me, which shows how incompatible with the rest of the world this ideology is, is the purely mechanical attitude to communication with the Almighty. Prayer is communication with the Lord, a constant awareness of his presence, thankfulness for His grace, and listening for His word. There are times when formal liturgy is a good discipline and focus for prayer, especially within community worship, there are other times when spontaneity and joy are a gift. What better place to be aware of such than space, within the vastness of His creation, looking down on the full beauty of His gift to us, our world? How tragic that such an opportunity should be spent fretting on the correct timing and position of prayer instead of giving thanks to our maker for this, His creation?
There is a Muslim rumour, widely believed that Neil Armstrong heard the Islamic call to prayer after touchdown. What actually happened can be read of here, how Buzz Aldrin partook of Holy Communion on the surface of the moon.
* And my footnote? The spoof trailer for Mel Brookes History of the World: Part II which appeared at the end of the 1981 film History of the World: Part I of course. You can google for that yourself, and then rent it on video, I'm not spoiling the joke here!
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31
The much over-hyped "Da Vinci Code" turns out to have been inspired in a rather unusual way. From The Telegraph:
The hyper-successful novelist plotted his bestseller The Da Vinci Code while dangling upside down wearing gravity boots attached to an inversion bar, it was revealed this week....
Well, I have always fancied myself as a best-selling novelist. And I have fond childhood memories of dangling off climbing frames...
So how does "inversion therapy", as it is known, work?
First, the gravity boots - basically big plastic bands with plastic hooks rather than boots - are strapped to the ankles. The horizontal inversion bar itself is most usually fitted across a door frame, just above head height.
Once you have clamped your ankles into the boots, you clasp the bar and, with gymnastic fluidity, pull your legs right up (let's be utterly honest here - you might have to enlist a spouse or friend to help at this point).
Then, with feet finally at bar height, I hook the boots on to the bar, and slowly lower myself, holding the door frame for support, until I am completely upside down. There follows a noise like musical hailstones as loose change cascades from my trouser pockets and scatters all over the floor.
Then a melodic crunch - the front door keys.
Every muscle initially twitches in protest. This feels so very wrong. But there you are, staring at the world upside down through eyes that are already starting to feel a little puffy. Let the contemplation begin.
It is said that Hippocrates himself, the father of medicine, witnessed a similar activity in the Greece of 400 BC. The patient was tied to a ladder fitted with various weights and pulleys, and then turned wrong way up, for the purposes of therapeutic stretching, to general acclaim.
But it was Dr Robert Martin, a Californian osteopath, who became the great proponent of inversion therapy and came up with the "gravity guidance system" in the 1960s.
In essence, this meant hanging around like a gibbon. Indeed, inversion therapy is possibly a reminder of when we all had branch-friendly prehensile toes.
Gravity boots became ultra-fashionable in 1980, inspired by Richard Gere dangling wrong way up in American Gigolo with Blondie singing Call Me in the background.
Inspiration strikes different authors in different ways.
Newman wrote The Dream of Gerontius standing - but the right way up. For Coleridge, De Quincey and Wilkie Collins it was opium. William S Burroughs, for similar reasons, said he had no memory of writing his Naked Lunch at all. For Evelyn Waugh it was chloral; for Andrew Motion, Lemsip. Drink, danger and sex have their devotees but seldom ensure a regular output. Money is a sharper stimulus, as Dr Johnson averred and the conscientious bankrupt Scott demonstrated.
A strange vogue emerged in the 18th century of using strychnine as a stimulant. As the poet E C Bentley, a former leaderwriter of this paper, wrote of Jonathan Swift: "He took two minims/ While writing of the Houyhnhnms." Swift may be the better writer, but for aspirant authors gravity boots are safer.
In case readers are wondering where I got the inspiration for the title of this blog entry, it was sitting at a desk drinking coffee. And it shows.
In commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, the Mashtots Chair in Armenian Studies of Harvard University, Dr. James Russell announces a lecture by Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, " Jihad in Europe: Past as Prologue? " based upon his recently published book, The Legacy of Jihad (www.andrewbostom.org)
The Spanish Socialist Party will introduce a bill in the Congress of Deputies calling for "the immediate inclusion of (simians) in the category of persons, and that they be given the moral and legal protection that currently are only enjoyed by human beings." The PSOE's justification is that humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans.
The party will announce its Great Ape Project at a press conference tomorrow. An organization with the same name is seeking a UN declaration on simian rights which would defend ape interests "the same as those of minors and the mentally handicapped of our species."
Project consultant Dr. Peter Singer reads Das Kapital to Senor J. Fred Muggs
According to the Project, "Today only members of the species Homo sapiens are considered part of the community of equals. The chimpanzee, the gorilla, and the orangutan are our species's closest relatives. They possess sufficient mental faculties and emotional life to justify their inclusion in the community of equals."
Here is what I wish someone who knows the immigration issue better than I do would explain.
I worked in government for many years. As even those who have not worked in government know, the general order of things is inertia, and that the urgent overwhelms the important.
Immigration “reform,” however, seems to violate this dynamic. I don’t mean border security – that’s obviously urgent and important, and should overcome inertia because there’s a growing crisis down at the southern border. I’m talking here about the status of illegals.
Why is there such angst to deal with this? Illegal aliens come into our country knowing they are illegal. Why should I care about regularizing their status? I can see the (substantial) downside of it, in terms of encouraging more illegal immigration and all the social problems that attend that. But what is the upside that I should care about that supposedly outweighs the downside? To be blunt, I don’t care about the struggles they face. I didn’t ask them to come, I haven’t asked them to stay, and they came knowing what the deal was, so I have a hard time listening to the drivel about how they’re getting screwed.
When I was a kid, I used to buy the $1 upper deck seats at Shea and then try to sneak down and grab an unoccupied $4 field-level box seat. When the usher inevitably came to shoo me away, I didn’t protest. I was doing something I shouldn’t have, and I ran the risk knowing that I might get sent back to the cheap seats or even kicked out of the ballpark – the latter being almost unheard of. (In fact, the reason so many urchins did what I was doing was because the ONLY sanction was to be sent back to the seat you would have had anyway.)
If we secured the border, ended visa fraud, and prosecuted employers who hire illegals, that would make coming and staying here much less inviting. Many illegals would leave, so the problem would be more manageable. Why do we need to do anything more than that at this point? Why can’t we just do those things and take another look at this in five years? The usual Washington solution – see, e.g., Iran, tax reform, social security reform, entitlement reform, election fraud, border security, etc., etc., etc. – is to kick the can down the road. Why not with this where it actually makes sense to do that?
I just don’t get why the status of illegals is a priority for our government to deal with given (a) the zillion more important things there are to deal with, and (b) our toleration for manageable crime problems in other (to me, at least, more serious) contexts.
Rudyard Kipling's great hymn to common sense, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings", gets pretty regular mentions on NRO. Well, last night I had the privilege of being present when one of those gods appeared in the flesh. This was a private party for Charles Murray on the occasion of his new book's being published.
I don't know anyone who has thought so hard, with so much originality and insight, about how we should organize our national affairs so that everybody has a fair shot at a useful and satisfying life -- not just cognitive elites, but **everybody**, including those at the left-hand side of the bell curve. In a sane society, this man would be loaded with honors & would have some high advisory position in government. Instead he is a marginal figure, regarded with ignorant distaste by large swathes of the intelligentsia. That's our loss.
Last night Charles "limped up to explain it once more." If you tax a thing, you'll get less of it. If you subsidize a thing, you'll get more of it. If you do things for people, they will lose the inclination -- and soon the ability -- to do things for themselves. Kids need parents. Adults need colleagues, friends, and relatives. The people who administer government programs don't have much interest in their efficiency or success. If the control levers of society are in the hands of a meritocratic caste, smug in their superiority and increasingly cut off from their fellow citizens, then the less bright and less able will be elbowed off the sidewalk, into jails, welfare slums, and dead rustbelt zones.
Buy the book. Do what you can to get these ideas into circulation, and keep them there, before: "The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!"
CAN WE AFFECT TWO DEBATES WITH ONE SIMPLE QUESTION?
Given the news that Iran is talking about sharing its nascent nuke know-how with Sudan (where bin Laden just told all the jihadists they should head in last week's tape), I have a simple question I'd love to hear Congress answer:
Can the United States afford to take any action against Iran if our southern border is not secure?
Iran is not playing. If we do something -- and it looks ever more obvious that we are going to have to do something, whether it's military or a precursor to military action -- Iran is going to retaliate.
The retaliation we most have to worry about is a nuclear attack against our homeland.
The easiest way to get a nuke into the United States may well be the southern border. (The ports may be equally easy or a close second, I acknowledge.)
I don't mean to be alarmist, but with what Iran is up to -- the development, the proliferation, the likelihood of arming terrorists -- forget about the 12 million illegals. How can we in good conscience not deal with our borders?