The Astrolabe: Ancient Analog Computer with 1K Apps

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Figure 1. Planispherical astrolabe. Marocco, 16th century. Engraved brass. On display at Paris naval Museum.

Whether you’re an astronomer, astrologer or steampunk fan, you’re bound to fall in love with this ancient analog computer.  Even better, you can make one for yourself by downloading the directions from the Resources section below.

The astrolabe is an ingenius device used for nearly two thousands years, from the time of Hipparchus (c. 190 – 120 BCE) until the turn of the 17th century.  It’s typically a disc constructed from wood or brass, about 10 – 20 centimeters in diameter, and a few millimeters thick.  In 1391, medieval writer and poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, wrote a treatise on the subject for his son, describing how to build one as well as its use.  Astrolabes had over a thousand uses, including timekeeping, navigation, surveying, solving equations, and so forth.  Mastering them all required an entire university level course.

While at first appearance an astrolabe is intimidating, breaking it down into its components, combined with the information contained on each one, brings a strong sense of familiarity if you’re an astronomer.  Appreciation for the knowledge ancient civilizations acquired of the stars and their relationship to the Earth quickly follows at the thought of designing, much less crafting, such a clever precision instrument.

The main components of a planetspheric astrolabe are the mater, climate plate or tympan, and rete, which all function together, demonstrating how Earth’s place in the cosmos provides the ultimate reference frame.

Astrolabe (Front)

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Figure 2. Astrolabe Front: The Mater

The front of the astrolabe, called the mater, (which means mother and is sometimes referred to as such) looks mind-boggling, until you break it down into its components.

Starting from the outside, you see most of the letters of the alphabet around the circumference.  These represent the twenty-four hours of the day, more specifically, the equal hours system, which is what we use now, i.e. each hour is 60 minutes long.  However, at one time, there were twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness.  Needless to say, unless you live on the equator, the days and nights are NOT of equal length except at the equinoxes.  Thus, the unequal hours system meant that the duration of hours were adjusted, according to the time of year.  The astrolabe thus accounted for them as well, as shown by the designated lines in Figure 1.

The numbers just inside the letters represent degrees from the horizon, where’s it’s zero, to a maximum of 90 degrees at the zenith (Noon) or nadir (Midnight).

The horizon is represented by an oblique line. Unlike most of the maps we see these days, East is on the left, West on the right, North at the top, South at the bottom. ( If you’re familiar with astrology, you should not be surprised that these are the same as a horoscope with the ascendant on the left, Midheaven (Noon) on the top, descendant on the right and Imum Coeli (Midnight) on the bottom.) Just below the horizon is a dotted one, which is somewhat difficult to see at this scale, but represents the period known as Civil Twilight, or the time in the morning or evening when the Sun isn’t above the horzon, yet there’s a certain level of light.

So, to recap, so far we have 24 hours around the outer edge, perpendicular lines representing the cardinal directions, and an arc indicating the horizon.

Due North, represented so conveniently by Polaris, a.k.a. the North Star, is located dead-center.  Its position in the sky varies with latitude, indicated numerically on the vertical line extending upward from the climate’s center.

The climate, sometimes referred to as the tympan, comprises the section that looks like a spider web with a center just North of Polaris, which represents the zenith, or portion of sky directly overhead. The curved lines mark azimuth readings, while the concentric rings are lines of constant altitude or almucantars. These vary with latitude, like the view of the night sky, so astrolabes used in multiple locations required suitable climate plates, which fit into this area. Note the degree markings along the edge of the azimuth lines, which you’ll use later.

A rotating ruler with degree markings which represent declination, the altitude above the celestial equator, is attached to the center of the mater. It’s also used as a convenient pointer in the process of telling time, as explained further below. [NOTE:–The concentric rings, which are unlabeled in Figure 1, are duplicated on the rete and therefore explained in that section as well as defined in Figure 3.]

Astrolabe (Back)

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Figure 3. Astrolabe Back: Calendars and Shadow Scale.

The back of the astrolabe is equally daunting at first sight, until you break it down. However, it’s this complexity that allowed this ancient instrument to provide so many functions. For example, the box labeled “Shadow Scale for surveyors” gives a hint of one of its many uses.

The top, called the throne, was used to hang the instrument or hold it in the proper position.

The outer ring has degrees from the horizon, like the front, with zero on the horizontal axis and 90 degrees on the vertical. Just inside the degrees are another ring of numbers, this time corresponding to the degrees of the tropical zodiac signs named in the next ring.

There are two calendars represented, one from Geoffrey Chaucer’s time (1394), which is included since Chaucer wrote a popular treatise on the astrolabe for his son, a copy of which you can find online. The modern calendar, closer in toward the center, is based on 1974, but this is close enough since it takes centuries for precession to change enough to worry about.

Near the center, several Saints’ Days are noted.

Thus, there’s a lot of information, but most of it’s familiar. Another pointing device called the alidade is placed on the back, which is similar to the ruler on the front except it has either pinholes or notches used to sight in the altitude of the chosen star or landmark, if being used for surveying.

The Rete

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Figure 4. The Rete

The rete comprises the main component of a planisphere, i.e., a stereographic projection of the celestial sphere on a flat surface. Polaris is at the center with several constellations included with the brighter stars emphasized.

The outer ring represents the Tropic of Capricorn, the one in the center, the Equator, and the innermost ring, the Tropic of Cancer. The hours of Right Ascension are shown along the circumference as well.

A diagram of the annual path of the Sun, a.k.a. ecliptic, is offset from the center and includes markings for the signs and degrees of the tropical zodiac.

For a homemade astrolabe, the rete is printed on a sheet of clear transparency which allows the stars to be superimposed on the mater. Obviously, in ancient times, that wasn’t available, their solution not only innovative but artistic as well. The rete, like most of the other components, would be constructed of brass, but numerous areas cut away so you could see the mater underneath.

Most astrolabes were carefully crafted precision instruments which were much larger than the homemade version, allowing for a more accurate position determination, but nonetheless, a relatively accurate reading is possible with a homemade version, a source of which is included in the resource listing.  The ancient Turkish astrolabe in Figure 5 shows the mater and rete on the front and calendar and alidade on the back.  Note the incredible artistry and workmanship of this 17th Century device.

Planetary Position

To determine the position of a planet, use its relationship to the Fixed Stars on the rete.  By rotating the rete so that the position of the planet is on the horizontal axis, i.e., zero degrees, then following that line to the tropical zodiac on the ecliptic circle, to determine its position. The ruler provides its declination.

Telling Time

This process is relatively simple and shows the genius of using Earth’s position combined with celestial alignments to determine the time of day.

  1. First, using the back of the astrolabe, find the current date and note the corresponding zodiacal degree of the Sun.
  2. Next, select a specific star visible in the night sky that’s represented on the rete.
  3. Using the back of the astrolabe, align the device’s horizon line with the visible horizon and use the alidade to measure its altitude. (Warning: This could be the most
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    Figure 6. Sighting in the altitude with the alidade.

    difficult part of the process. Furthermore, in many cases the visible horizon is not the actual horizon due to elevation, buildings, trees, mountains, and so forth. If nothing else, consider that the Moon appears to be, on average, a half-degree across, or approximately the width of your thumb, which you can use to approximate the altitude.)

  4. Identify the star on the front of the astrolabe (rete).
  5. Move the rete so the altitude you measured of the star matches the azimuth scale behind it.
  6. Align the rule on the rete with the zodiacal position for the Sun for that day.
  7. The rule will point to the time represented on the outer rim of the mater, indicated by a letter. (Don’t forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time.)

If you know any two of the variables (date, time, rete star position), you can always solve for the third.

Conclusion

The innovative talents of the ancients who invented this device provide a new appreciation for their knowledge of the heavens, Earth, and their celestial relationships.

Even more astounding, and perhaps even a progenitor or technological cousin of the astrolabe, is the antikythera mechanism, an invention attributed by researchers to Aristotle.  It included the positions of the Moon and planets using a complex system of gears and pins that compensated for their elliptical orbits, plus had the ability to predict when eclipses would occur.  Researchers believe it was lost when General Marcellus sacked Syracuse, then surfaced later via the Byzantine Empire (500 A.D.) where it was most likely the inspiration for Persian astrologers to reinvent the astrolabe, then bring it to Spain in the 13th century via the Moors.

During the 14th century Renaissance, sophisticated gear trains came back to drive astronomical clocks found in various European cities such as Strasbourg, France and Prague, Czech Republic.  The sophistication of these devices demonstrates the knowledge of celestial mechanics and engineering possessed by past civilizations, tangible testimonials to man’s ingenuity, long before such calculations became the domain of application programmers creating smartphone apps.

Resources

Directions for Making an Astrolabe

https://in-the-sky.org/astrolabe/index.php

Some Places to Buy Astrolabes

http://leelehman.com/wp/index.php/2015/11/02/brass-astronomical-and-astrological-instruments/

http://www.chronos-manufaktur.de/

Video on How to Use an Astrolabe

http://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_demos_the_13th_century_astrolabe

Additional Information

http://www.chronos-manufaktur.de/en/astrolabes_principle.htm (Includes the TED video plus additional resource information)

References

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrolabe

“Building a Model Astrolabe” by Dominic Ford, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 122, 1, 2012, https://in-the-sky.org/astrolabe/index.php

“Western Astrolabes” by Roderick and Marjorie Webster, Copyright 1998, Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, 1300 South lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605

Picture Credits

Figure 1: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License, By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7294462

Figures 2 – 4:  (c) Dominic Ford, 2013, https://in-the-sky.org/astrolabe/index.php

Figures 5a & b: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License, By Pom² – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4039477. Description: Astrolabe planisférique Mère et tympan : Turquie ottomane, 1098 H / 1686-1687 Araignée: maghreb, vers 1850 Laiton à décor gravé et incisé D. 10,2cm Paris, musée de l’Institut du monde arabe, AI 86-45 Legs Destombes

Figure 6: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Astrolabe

Copyright (c) 2016 by Marcha Fox, All Rights Reserved

 

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Review of “The Book of Neptune” by Steven Forrest

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[NOTE:–To get the most out of this book requires at least a rudimentary knowledge of astrology.  This need not be extensive, but should include knowing Neptune’s sign and house position in your natal chart, any aspects between Neptune and the other planets as well as where he currently resides in sign and house placement by transit.  A transit, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, refers to the current zodiacal location of a planet or other cosmic entity, including any aspects it forms to a planet in your natal or some other astrological chart, of which there are too many to get into here.  You can obtain this information for free from astro.com.  Once you have that, you’re all set to apply the information Forrest has provided in this outstanding book.  If you’d like to learn astrology’s basics, I recommend my own book, “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology”, which contains what I would have liked to have found when I was first learning about this ancient discipline.]

Even though I’m a professional astrologer myself, I’d been struggling with a Neptune transit for three years as this bad boy aspected first my ascendant, then Mars, then my Moon.  Neptune’s influences are often elusive while contributing to a foggy, lazy, dreamy, ungrounded feeling.  This was entirely foreign to me, though I must say it has certainly lent me a tremendous dose of understanding for those who are programmed that way.

As someone with a Capricorn Sun, Virgo ascendant, and Gemini Moon, everything about it was contrary to my basic cosmic imprint.  For those of you out there who are fellow astrologers, I’ll point out that my progressed Sun has been in Pisces for over a decade, which has been uncomfortable as well, but these Neptune transits have been like weathering a tsunami in a leaky boat whereas before it was simply a matter of being afloat in a swimming pool on an air mattress.

Needless to say, I was very uncomfortable with it, and some of my fellow astrologer friends, who are more familiar with these energies, tried to help, but the main thing they accomplished was only to convince me I wasn’t losing my mind.  Which reminds me, delusions and numerous forms of insanity are in Neptune’s domain along with drugs, alcohol and all forms of escapism.  Fortunately, one of those peers, who is also a close friend, was aware of this book, told me about it and I immediately bought a copy.  It’s a considerable understatement to say that I’m glad that I did.

Prior to Neptune swamping me with other-worldly, space cadet ditziness, I’d been an organized, disciplined, responsible, hardworking person.  Now I couldn’t stay focused to the point that if I hadn’t realized it was Neptune, I would have been deeply concerned that I was developing Alzheimer’s.  I kid you not.  As the cosmic surfactant, Neptune tends to dissolve what he touches, and I believe that includes your brain.  Not surprisingly, the god of the deep is associated with loss, disappearances, deception, psychic phenomena and abilities, spiritual experiences such as enlightenment and so forth.

To sum it up, Neptune left me in a state best described by WTF?  I advise my clients that there’s always a positive side to any transit, no matter how grueling, but I was having serious difficulty finding anything about this one that was useful.  The usual approach with a transit is to identify it, then direct that energy to something productive, yet I had never been less productive, more confused and generally feeling as if I were adrift in the ocean with no land in sight.  I had never felt so lost.

Then I was fortunate enough to get a copy of Forrest’s book and I must say that he nailed it.  He starts out by explaining Neptune’s realm, on the edge of the solar system, beyond which lie Pluto, Eris and possibly other planets or minor planets, the domain of comets and then interstellar space.  It’s an area filled with mystery and the unknown, so it’s no wonder it’s unfamiliar to someone who’s practical, logical and responsible by nature.

In describing Neptune’s effect when connected with the other planets, Forrest provides both the “Light Side” and the “Dark Side.”  This is tremendously helpful because sometimes with Neptune it’s not easy to tell which is which.  For the twelve houses, he provides snapshots which include an overview, significant quote and a sentence or two regarding “Leaking Energy” as a preface to several pages of in-depth explanation.  This is particularly helpful if you’re desperate, as I was, so you can grab the highlights before diving into the book as a whole.  He discusses loss, often experienced during a Neptune transit, as well as navigating those murky waters in a positive way.  He talks about synchronicity, which is typically ramped up during this time, both of a favorable and less favorable nature.  His section on how the zodiac sign Neptune resided in influenced the music for different eras is fascinating, as is his journey through history, recounting key events that occurred when Neptune was previously in his home sign of Pisces, as he is now.

As an astrologer, Forrest’s books have provided me with a much deeper understanding of Neptune’s influence than I had before.  It helped me understand numerous things which have occurred during this period and provided excellent ideas for dealing with them and channeling that energy that will contribute to my personal evolution in a positive way.  I feel as if he has thrown me a life-jacket when I needed it most, the fact this book came into my hands at this time an example of the synchronicity he describes.  It also makes sense that in the past few months I’ve become involved with a local astronomy group that conducts star parties every month where I’ve had the opportunity to look into Neptune’s realm, now understanding why this experience has felt so profound.  Somehow gazing out into space helped me feel more grounded.  Now I understand why.

If you feel as if you’ve lost your footing, are sinking in quicksand or adrift on a large body of water with no land in sight, there’s a good chance that Neptune is involved.  If that’s the case, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  The price is a far cry less than a psychologist, especially one who doesn’t augment his or her practice with astrology.  It has not only provided me with the answers I was looking for, but made me a better astrologer who can be more helpful to any of my clients going through Neptune’s often dark and mysterious waters.

You can pick up a copy of Steven Forrest’s “The Book of Neptune” on Amazon here.

Teleportation: Science Fiction or Science Fact (Take Two)

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My first blog on this subject focused primarily on the similarities between Lawrence Krauss’ description of teleportation found in his book, The Physics of Star Trek, to that contained in the Teleportation Physics Study done for the Air Force Research Laboratory by Eric W. Davis at Warp Drive Metrics.  I found that particularly amusing since the steps involved in the latter were nearly verbatim to Krauss’ speculations.  The show stoppers to this method, however, were, if nothing else, the computing requirements to track every subatomic particle, convert it to energy, transport it at the speed of light and then get everything put back together again.  Formidable, indeed.

A Form of Psychokinesis

This time I’m going to look at one of the other possible means that has enjoyed positive experimental results, i.e. P-Teleportation, which is a form of psychokinesis (or PK) similar to telekinesis.  Telekinesis is the moving or bending of stationary objects without using any known physical force other than mental energy.  Often considered no more than a cheap parlor or magician’s trick, this phenomena has been investigated scientifically for years with numerous demonstrations provided for high ranking military officials and trained observers.  I swear I’m not making this up.

This teleportation method is particularly fascinating to me as an science fiction author since two of the novels in my Star Trails Tetralogy employ mentally induced teleportation augmented/ amplified by a mysterious (fictitious) crystal I named cristobalite.  Needless to say, real-life experimentation in this regard blurs the lines between science fiction and science fact.

Robert Jahn (Dean Emeritus of the School of Engineering at Princeton) conducted scientifically controlled PK experiments at the Princeton University Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory and reported consistent results in mentally affecting material substances.  In the 1980s, Jahn noted at a meeting on the topic at the Naval Research Laboratory that such methods could be used by foreign adversaries to compromise aircraft.  It’s certainly no surprise that the military has a keen interest in such a phenomena, regardless of what “conventional wisdom” has to say about it.  If it works, it works, regardless of whether we understand why.

To quote a conversation from my sci-fi novel, Refractions of Frozen Time:

“My first thought is that they’re either more pure or maybe a different isotope than Tank crystals,” Creena stated.  “I’ll have Aggie run some tests and see if we can figure out what makes them work.”

“Who cares how they work?” Deven commented.  “Why does it matter? Can’t you just see what they can do instead?”

Creena paused, mouth agape, dumbfounded by his simple, yet profound logic.  He’s right, she thought.  It doesn’t matter.  Just because they didn’t know how the Think Tank connected thoughts with a specific location, much less got them there, didn’t make it any less effective.”

Documented Experimental Evidence

So, meanwhile, back to the teleportation report, psychic Uri Geller “was able to cause a part of a vanadium carbide crystal to vanish.  The crystal was encapsulated so it could not be touched, and it was placed in such a way that it could not be switched with another crystal by sleight of hand.”

Similar experiments were conducted in the Peoples Republic of China, the results of which were published clear back in 1981.  Gifted children were able to cause the apparent teleportation of small objects to another location meters away.  More research was conducted by the Aerospace Medicine Engineering Institute in Beijing which was reported in the Chinese Journal of Somatic Science in 1990 and translated into English by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  All objects teleported were “completely unaltered or unchanged from their initial state, even the insects were unaffected by being teleported.”

The collective results from several Chinese experiments corroborated similar conclusions.  Different research groups, experimental protocols and psychics were used as well as a variety of test specimens ranging from insects to radio micro-transmitters sealed within sealed containers comprised of a variety of different materials.  Time required for teleportation varied, ranging from a fraction of a second to several minutes, which didn’t depend upon the item, containment barrier, protocol or psychic involved.

Recording methods included high-speed photography and videotaping, which showed that, in some cases, the specimens would physically “meld” or blend with the walls of the sealed container, while others simply disappeared and reappeared elsewhere.  There was no indication that the object disintegrated/reintegrated.  The report noted that “The average person’s sensory organs were unable to perceive the specimen’s (ambiguous) existence during the teleportation process.”

I find the implications of the insects particularly interesting since they represent a living entity.  The micro-transmitter was also notable in that it showed “large fluctuations in the intensity (in both amplitude and frequency) of the monitored signal to the effect that it would either completely disappear or become extremely weak”, indicating the object was “nonexistent” or in an altered physical state during teleportation.

There was no change to either the specimen or the container’s wall/barrier with both complete, solid objects.  Best of all, these results were repeatable, and thus not a fluke, plus any possibility for fraud or sleight of hand were eliminated by the experiment protocols with several highly credible witnesses present.

During the Cold War era, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pack allies conducted numerous experiments on parapsychology and paraphysics, a field they referred to as psychotronics research.  The U.S. Army conducted similar experiments, now unclassified, that related primarily to remote viewing.

78px-Single_and_double_slit_4Some researchers indicated a new physics, which combined human consciousness with quantum and spacetime physics, was required to fully explain PK phenomena, a concept with which I heartily agree.  After all, early quantum physics experiments such as the double slit experiment indicated the affect of an observer from the git-go, but of course “rational” scientists have made every possible effort to explain this away.

Discouraging the belief in such things continues in varying degrees, from Dr. Venkman’s bogus telepathy experiments in the movie Ghostbusters to stories found in tabloids like The National Enquirer.  Is it possible that discouraging the belief in such things via mockery is an effort to prevent individuals from uncovering abilities that could endanger the powers that be?

Evidence of a 4th Dimension?

The author of this paper suggested a hypothesis based on mathematical geometry, i.e., the existence of a 4th dimension which introduces an extra degree of freedom.  He states, “It has been proposed that our space actually possesses a slight four-dimensional hyperthickness, so that the ultimate components of our nervous system are actually higher dimensional, thus enabling the human mind/brain to imagine four-dimensional space.”

This implies we can see into a 4th dimension and have four-dimensional thoughts.  This reminds me of the “thoughts become things” belief prominent among various motivational proponents such as Mike Dooley and others plus explained in the movie “The Secret”.  My thoughts also turn to all those items that I’ve carefully deposited in the proverbial “safe place” only never to find again.  Did I perhaps inadvertently send them to a 4th dimension where they are forever safe, albeit lost?

Physical or Metaphysical Phenomena?

I’m a physicist who spent over two decades working in the very corporeal aerospace industry.  In spite of my training as a physicist, however, I turned to the “dark side” to embrace astrology, so much so that upon my retirement in 2009 I came “out of the closet” as the professional astrologer who’s behind the website, ValkyrieAstrology.com.  In case you haven’t figured it out, I walk that nebulous line between physics and metaphysics with ease.  Astrology, as you probably know, is enthusiastically debunked by scientists in spite of the fact that it’s been around for millennia and works quite nicely in spite of their disbelief.

bookofneptunecoverLooking at things from the astrological side, weird, woo-woo phenomena like P-Teleportation resides largely within the domain of the planet, Neptune.  Steven Forrest is renowned worldwide as astrologer who has recently released a book entitled, “The Book of Neptune.”  Forrest explains that currently Neptune is in the sign of its astrological dignity, i.e. Pisces, in which Neptune’s energy is not only particularly strong but has historically delivered a huge shift in spiritual paradigms.  Forrest explains:

“Aquarius is a Fixed sign of the Air family.  Fixity, expressed negatively, is simply rigid–think of rigor mortis.  And Air is mental energy; it is about ideas.  Add Neptune to the mix, and you see spiritual ideas that have lost their elasticity and their ability to excite and enliven anyone.  The scholars and the bureaucrats have eclipsed the mystics.  This morbid condition is eternally the natural prelude to Neptune’s entry into Pisces and the spiritual awakening it implies.  Before the spiritual renaissance can happen, there is a period of spiritual deadness, in which dull, unchanging ideas and interpretations of the divine have replaced genuine magic.” (The Book of Neptune, p. 297)

“I would add yet another piece to the puzzle: the convergence of physics and mysticism.  Religion and science have often had an uneasy relationship. They still do, in many ways. And of course science itself is a religion to many people…And yet, I believe that the division between science and spirituality is healing–that science, at its best, is simply human reason struggling toward the truth of things…” (Ibid, pp. 304-305)

Forrest further suggests that the time between now and 2026 will see quantum leaps in this area.  I, for one, can hardly wait.

heisenbergquoteThis brings to mind forward thinkers like Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics, published initially clear back in 1976.  This book definitely served as a prelude to a melding of science and mysticism.  He begins this fascinating work with one of my all-time favorite quotes from Werner Heisenberg, which states, “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.  These lines may have their roots in quite different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow.”

deanw-bookPerhaps Neptune’s subtle influences will facilitate the removal of the stigma associated with metaphysical phenomena sufficiently to allow such collaboration.  I suspect researchers such as Dean Radin, whose specialty is psi phenomena, and popular physicist Michio Kaku, a proponent of a multi-dimensional universe, could come up with some incredibly interesting insights.

The coming decade indeed promises to be an interesting one.  My fondest hope is that I’ll figure out how to recover all those items I secured in that safe place, somewhere in the 4th dimension.

 

It’s that Time Again: The Cosmic Season for Editing and Revising

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If you’re a writer it would be to your advantage to know a little astrology. Not only can it help you develop your characters as noted in a previous blog but there are actually three times a year when the cosmic climate is particularly conducive to editing and revising. If you don’t believe in astrology, that’s fine, I didn’t used to either. But you might want to give it a try because most writers, myself included, can use all the help we can get. So what exactly is this spell and why is it helpful? Stay tuned, I’m about to tell you.

It starts with the planet Mercury. In mythology Mercury a.k.a. Hermes was the messenger and the only one who could come and go to the Underworld. In astrology he rules communications or all varieties including your thoughts, ideas, writing and paperwork in general. In this day and age he also rules electronic communication devices such as cells phones, computers, television and the internet to name a few, plus anything mechanical, i.e. with moving parts, such as your lawnmower, small appliances, automobile and so forth.

If you’re already familiar with some astrology you’ve probably heard of Mercury Retrograde. While it’s intuitively obvious (or should be) that the planet Mercury does not reverse the direction of its orbit, as a rule three times a years he appears to move backwards in the sky compared to his usual direction. The reason for this is easily explained as similar to when you pass a car on the highway. You’re going faster so it appears the other is moving backwards, even though it’s not. Thus, when the Earth passes Mercury in its orbit you get the same effect.

So what? Hang on, I’m getting to that.

As I write, Mercury is currently in this state which started on 5 January 2016 and will last until 25 January. Astrologically when a planet is retrograde (yes, they all do the backstroke from time to time) it internalizes its energy. During this spell you may notice more computer problems than usual, things may break down more often, traffic is often worse and so forth. Anything ruled by Mercury bogs down during this time. If you buy something ruled by Mercury during a retrograde period it’s likely to be a lemon. Furthermore, anything initiated during Mercury retrograde seldom comes to pass. For example if you interview for a job you’re less likely to get it with one possible caveat, that being if it’s a second interview with the same person. It’s also not a favorable time to sign a contract or lease.

Why? Because during Mercury retrograde it’s a time to rethink, redo, reconsider, revise, refine, repair and so forth. This is a time to slow down, stop, and look over past work, thoughts and decisions. For a writer this is an awesome time for editing and revising. This is when you go back and see your work through different eyes, giving you the ability to make positive changes. It’s not uncommon for writers to dislike this phase because you may feel stuck, your brain may not work as efficiently and your computer may be on strike. Any new endeavors started at this time are likely to bomb out and relate to yet another “re” word, i.e. regret. This is because you’re resisting the cosmic flow. Reviewing, revising and editing your work from time to time is essential if you want to produce professional quality work.

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If you’re suffering from writer’s block, this is the ideal time to look over what you have and see if it’s on the right track. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll be able to improve it, perhaps even make some critical changes you didn’t think of before. Don’t expect to make much progress with new endeavors which are likely to be an exercise in futility. Submitting work at this time is not likely to bring results or, if it does, they’ll be delayed. Rather, use this time to rework and refine.

Will you be out of the woods for new projects come 25 January? Possibly not. Until Mercury gets back to the zodiacal position where he stationed retrograde he’s in his “shadow period” when things are still stalled. This lasts until February 15, at which time once again it will be “all systems go.”

Even if you think that astrology is a bunch of myth and superstition, give this some thought. Observing the world around you and how people behave is part of your job as a writer. See how many events and situations you can find which reflect this internalized energy, the cosmic climate designed to rethink, reconsider and revise. Few of us get it exactly right the first time and the Universe is well aware of our human frailties. Use these spells as they’re intended by the Universe and you’ll find they can become some of your favorite times when you can polish your work to perfection. Use this one to your advantage.

As previously noted, Mercury does this approximately three times each year. Here are the other times he’ll be doing the backstroke. Mark your calendar now!

28 April – 22 May 2016 (Shadow until 8 June 2016)

30 August – 22 September 2016 (Shadow until 8 October 2016)

19 December 2016 – 8 January 2017 (Shadow until 28 January 2017)

If you’d like to learn more about such things you’d probably enjoy my astrology website www.valkyrieastrology.com.  Which reminds me I have some updating to do on the retrograde planets page, perfect for Mercury RX.  Timing is everything.

Astrological Archetypes & The History Channel

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Astrology is so much more than a person’s sun sign. Yet that’s usually about all the average person knows about it. Some may have a vague idea of the basic personality traits of those born under theirs and perhaps other signs. As a professional astrologer, I see the influence of this ancient art all around me. The ancients declared “As above, so below” with good reason. Astrology is much more than the placement of the Sun; it includes the sign each planet occupies as well, and when you really get into it, the stars, constellations and asteroids as well. It’s mind-boggling to say the least, yet fascinating, as you see influences that fit like the proverbial glove.

One that has recently stood out for me is the influence of the planet, Pluto, while he transits through the sign of Capricorn. This began January 27, 2008, though there were a few times after that when Pluto returned to Sagittarius due to retrograde motion. This occurred between June 15 and November 27 of that same year. Since then he’s been there to stay, at least until March 24, 2023 when he’ll first set foot in Aquarius.

At this point you’re probably wondering “So what?” Patience, dear reader, I’m getting to that. In order to notice, much less appreciate, these effects, you first need to understand the underlying meaning of both Pluto and his current sign of residence, Capricorn. As you probably know, Pluto is the Roman god of the Underworld, known by numerous other names, depending on which culture’s mythology you favor. Most mythological characters represent an archetype, defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as “an original model or type after which other similar things are patterned.”

To get a general idea of what this means, read the myth about Pluto (Greek Hades); Proserpina (Greek Persephone); and Ceres (Greek Demeter) where, through intrigue, Pluto kidnapped Cere’s daughter, Proserpina, and took her into the Underworld to be his queen. Using this myth as a model, some of the things Pluto represents astrologically are derived, e.g., power, control, corruption, the Underworld, anything buried beneath the surface, intrigue, and abductions. His domain also includes atrocities, death, catacombs, dictators, pirates, vampires, devastation, holocausts, and oddly enough, transformations such as rebirth (e.g., resurrection or the Phoenix arising from the ashes). Forensics and anything that exposes and eliminates corruption such as that required for purification and healing are included as well. These are but a few examples of the type of energy that Pluto emanates.

The zodiac sign in which a planet resides provides it with a specific environment where this energy is expressed and thus directed toward certain areas influenced by that sign. For example, Capricorn is considered the ruler of governments and their officials, politicians, building foundations, cemeteries, bones, excavations, administrators, anything old, order, time (think of the decrepit old man who represents the outgoing year at New Year’s Eve which just happens to be when the Sun is in Capricorn), and responsibility, to name a few. Also note that “history” is ruled by Saturn, Capricorn’s ruler, and is obviously something old. Neptune rules secrets and mysteries, and he’s involved, too, as he hangs out in Pisces, the sign he rules, so solving old mysteries that touch upon history through excavations is another thing to look for.

So what do you think Pluto will be up to during his trek through Capricorn? One way to see it manifested would be power grabs and control efforts by governments and administrators. All you have to do is pay attention to the news to see evidence of that. Exposure of corruption and those things that lie beneath the surface, literally and figuratively, is another expression of this energy. Think there’s any of that going on? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular televisions shows for clues.

The following examples just happen to be on The History Channel or its high definition version known simply as H2. Most are viewable online. I realize this blog is turning into a plug for The History Channel, which wasn’t my initial intent.  Nonetheless, it’s one of my favorite channels due to its content and I’m familiar with most of these shows, which fit the Pluto in Capricorn archetype so nicely. Indeed, they were so obvious that they inspired this blog in the first place.

The Curse of Oak Island – Two brothers investing a significant amount of resources in trying to find the various treasures supposedly hidden by everyone from pirates to the Knights Templar on this island off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Hunting Hitler – Investigates claims made by formerly classified FBI files which indicate Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide in his bunker at the conclusion of World War II but followed a carefully constructed plan supported by an alliance with Spain to escape to South America.

Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar – Explores possible connections between what you would expect would be very diverse groups.

America Unearthed – A forensic geologist investigates various North American sites that provide evidence of pre-Columbian presence from the Great Lakes to Arizona and various other locations inbetween.

Brad Meltzer’s Decoded – Author, Brad Meltzer, assembled a team comprising an historian, attorney and engineer to investigate any number of mysteries ranging from Secret Societies to UFOs at Area 51.

Engineering Disasters – Investigates the cause of various disasters that involved engineering. Some may have had unknown causes or been suppressed from public knowledge.

Cities of the Underworld – Little known, less-than-charming facts about underground features of various cities around the world.

A broad scope of documentaries that prompt and/or investigate archaeological digs worldwide are out there as well on PBS channels and various others. See how many you can find that fit the mold. Give some thought, also, to the renewed fascination with vampires, which just doesn’t seem to go away, as well as the zombie frenzy.

In case you’re wondering what happened the last time Pluto was in Capricorn, that was over two hundred years ago. With an orbital period of 246 years he’s a bit of a slow mover. The last time the God of the Underworld entered Capricorn was on January 8, 1762, to be exact. The American Revolution occurred during that passage. No telling what this one will bring.

For more about Pluto’s astrological influences through the signs, visit my astrological website http://www.valkyrieastrology.com/Makeover/Planets/Pluto.htm.

P.S. I confess that the illustration above is not astrologically correct. The first person to tell me why can have a free download of “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology.”

Stock images copyright 123RF.com

“The History of Things to Come”: A Thriller Packed with Suspense and Intrigue

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This contemporary thriller follows in the footsteps of “The DaVinci Code” but in this case the mystery and intrigue surround the works of Isaac Newton, particularly those that go beyond the scientific prowess with which most of us are most familiar. His interests also included alchemy, religion, and various sacred relics, which allegedly possessed mystical powers.

As a physicist myself, Newton is one of my favorite people, further enhanced by the fact we were both born on Christmas Day, albeit 305 years apart. Well, okay, that’s not entirely accurate since the calendars changed during that time, placing his birthday on January 4. That’s relevant to me, too, since I’m not only a physicist but also a professional astrologer, which Newton was as well, though of course the history books tend to leave out that little detail. Perhaps the author will include that particular angle in a future volume, which could introduce some interesting prophetic angles. There’s plenty of fodder to explore between science, religion and astrology, which I plan to pursue at some point myself. Thus, I was excited to find this book that promised to delve into areas in which I have a strong personal interest; I was not disappointed.

Of course anything that might wield considerable power is going to attract bad guys who want it for all the wrong reasons; think Indiana Jones and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. In this case, however, rather than Hitler and the Nazis, it’s a single, powerful entity known only as the Drakon, who sends a variety of henchmen to obtain any and all of Newton’s writings and artifacts, which places anyone in possession of such items in mortal danger.

The main character, Vincent Blake, is an experienced detective whose specialty is tracking down stolen art and other antiquities, so he’s quickly pulled into the case as those who get close to anything Newtonian are dropping like flies. Many of Newton’s books and notebooks have already been acquired by The Vatican, which have been studied in detail by Brother Nathan Vittori, Chief Librarian at the Vatican Observatory, as well as his friend, Dr. Carla Sabatini, a former research student. Brother Nathan discovers a fascinating notebook of Newton’s in the archives that contains a considerable amount of new information and the plot thickens.

This story is richly detailed which brings it to life through various historical tidbits, well-developed characters and an intriguing plot that includes a plethora of interesting individuals including a mysterious homeless woman named Mary. In some respects it moves too fast since it’s so detailed that some can easily be missed as you plunge forward reading to find out who’ll survive and how it will end. Thus, it’s one that I would probably read again at some point to savor those elements I blew past initially. The ending was reasonably satisfying, yet left enough unanswered questions to carry over into future volumes.

The writing style is strong and engaging, my only criticism related to awkward viewpoint transitions. Nicely edited otherwise, I’m surprised that no one suggested section breaks to cue the reader when the point of view shifted, often abruptly and in the middle of a scene which was enough of a distraction to pull you out of the story action until you got oriented again. Nonetheless, it was a great read that I enjoyed tremendously and I definitely look forward to any sequels.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.

Another One Bites the Dust

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Year, that is.

I suppose that title gives some clue to my age, at least to those who remember its context. They go by faster and faster. I’ve always liked the analogy comparing life to a roll of toilet paper, i.e. it goes faster toward the end. Scary but true.

Every December I always look back at the list of goals I made the previous year to see how I did. I usually achieve most of them, which is a testimony for writing them down so you don’t forget what they are. Of course that works both ways. If you don’t record it then you may forget to pursue it in the first place but on the other hand, if you finished something without listing it then it could slip into the past unnoticed, meaning you don’t take credit for it. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need all the credit I can get.

Fortunately, I have tangible proof of at least some of the things I accomplished. Some have been hanging over my head for years. For example, finishing up my science fiction series, the Star Trails Tetralogy. I think I originally said the final volume would be coming out back in 2013. Hahahaha! That sure didn’t happen. But this year it finally did. Refractions of Frozen Time came out in March, about the same time my contractor, Tracy, finished up remodeling my sunroom into a guest room. I could have quit right there and taken pride in my achievements, with due credit to Tracy, of course. Both those goals had been on my list for years so those were biggies.

But once all four books were complete, then I set to work putting together the box set I’d envisioned ever since I realized my story would require more than one book to complete. I had some extra incentive to get that one accomplished when I agreed to share a book fair booth with three other authors. It took a lot more work than expected, but somehow I finished that one, too. Yay!

Then I had a couple nonfiction ebooks I wanted to get in print. Particularly Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology and The Family History Fun Factor. Done! I still have one more to go but plan to get that out by the first of 2016.

So I’m celebrating and invite you to join me.

GIVEAWAYS!

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I’m giving away 3 copies of the Star Trails Tetralogy Deluxe Box Set here.  All books are autographed by yours truly and it includes a fun swag pack of goodies, too.

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If you’re interested in astrology, sign up to win one of three autographed copies of Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology here.

Both giveaways end December 13 which will hopefully allow enough time for the winners to receive them by Christmas. (Sorry, USA only)

 

 

Here are some other deals you might like. If you have any sci-fi fans on your holiday gift list, remember you can always “gift” them a copy.

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THE SAPPHIRAN AGENDA

The Sapphiran Agenda, backstory of Thyron, the telepathic walking plant everyone loves in Star Trails, is now FREE on Smashwords here.

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BEYOND THE HIDDEN SKY

Star Trails Volume 1, Beyond the Hidden Sky, is free if you join my Preferred Readers here.

STTtiredofwait150ppi copy

STAR TRAILS TETRALOGY EBOOK BOX SET

Get the entire Star Trails Tetralogy box set electronically for half-price on Smashwords here.

Promotional price: $2.99
Use Coupon Code: VP22Z
Expires: January 5, 2016

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WHOBEDA’S GUIDE TO BASIC ASTROLOGY

Get Whobeda’s Guide ebook for 75% off here.

Promotional price: $0.99
Use Coupon Code: QD49E
Expires: January 5, 2016

If you’d like a paperback copy you can get one for 20% off at Create Space here.   Use Discount Code 4KCHSKEW

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may you have a prosperous New Year!  Meanwhile, I’m going to go back and work on that list for 2016.  After I take a nap.  I’m pretty tired after realizing how much I actually got done this year…

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Some things are too weird to explain. Now before I step into territory that’s way, way out there, let me preface it with the fact it takes a lot for something to be so off-the-scale that I can’t even explain it in a fictitious manner. After all, among other things I AM a science fiction writer who has come up with all sorts of things. But this is real. At least if you believe in stuff like astrology.

You may or may not know that I’m a professional astrologer, another hat that I wear when I’m not writing science fiction. Yes, I have a physics degree, and yes, I worked at NASA for over twenty years and yes, there actually is a thread albeit a tenuous one, holding those three things together in that they all involve space in one form or another.

8489944_sIn college I was “taught” that astrology was nothing more than myth and superstition and I believed them. I believed them so much that when I was writing a novel several years ago that had a physicist protagonist I decided to make his ex-wife into astrology to make her as annoying as humanly possible. Wanting my book to have the details correct meant I had to learn a little bit about astrology, so I found a used paperback copy of “Sun Signs” by Linda Goodman as a start. And much to my shock, I discovered that it worked!

It was several years before I got into astrology more seriously but a year or so before I retired I started studying with the International Academy of Astrology, eventually graduated from their professional training program and started practicing via my website, ValkyrieAstrology.com. This course of study took years and felt equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. I was astounded (and still am) about how much there was to learn and how much I didn’t know (and still don’t).

As a writer, I immediately recognized that knowing the characteristics of the different sun signs can come in very handy for developing characters. I even have a blog about it called “Creating Star Characters.” Then I did a character interview for Susanne Leist’s “The Dead Game” character, Shana Logan. I created the astrological chart from scratch based on how Shana acted in the book. It was apparent she was an Aries due to her impulsive sense of adventure and her bright, flashy manner of dressing threw some Leo in there, too. She was creative and multi-faceted in a way that hinted at a Sagittarius Moon. I plugged the data into my report software and a complete description came out that was very much as expected and surprised Susanne.

shanaloganNCSince the chart was fabricated entirely by me including selecting a birth date and tweaking the timing to fit, this wasn’t that much of a surprise.

Sometime later, however, in working with fellow author, Elle, Klass, it inadvertently went to the next level. Elle had given her characters an actual birth date and place as part of her character development process. First, I must explain that Elle is not an astrologer. She didn’t specifically decide that Eilida would have the traits of an Aries when she chose April 5 as her character’s date of birth. Having read the book (“Eilida’s Tragedy: Eye of the Storm Book 1”), however, I had already pegged her as one so had to smile when Elle told me the date. The character’s penchant for detail implied Virgo so I arranged her time of birth to provide a Virgo ascendant. I ran another natal report. Not only was the character’s backstory implied but it also included allusions to events to come in the next book in the series. We were both astounded

Having had that work so well, we decided to run a report for her antagonist, Evan O’Connor, as well. I gotta say he’s one of the nastiest villains ever to grace a fictitious page and I’m glad he’s not real. And lo and behold, the results fit him just as well, right down to his attachment to his mother.

CBS teaser 2Like I said earlier, Elle loves details, which is one thing that makes her such a superb writer, so she had dates of key events in her book as well so I ran what is called a transit chart and compared it to the character’s natal charts. (For those of you unfamiliar with astrology, a transit chart is the position of the planets at a given time and place. These interact with the horoscope of the person and create certain energies which fit the archetypes of events and situations around them.) Again, the fit was so accurate that it was downright creepy.

How could it be?

These were fictitious characters involved with fictitious events fabricated by a very human author yet they fit as well as if they were real.  Huh???

That certainly introduces some extremely interesting philosophical and metaphysical speculations. As an author myself, I know how characters take on a life of their own. After you’ve been writing for a while you learn to let them be born as opposed to created and watch them spring to life endowed with a personality that often brings surprises as you turn them loose within the framework of your plot. But how could these characters have a natal chart that then proceeds to fit the transits of subsequent events in a novel?

Frankly, I have no idea. I do maintain that whether real or not each moment contains a certain unique energy. As a physicist I believe that astrology’s mechanism resides in the mysterious world of quantum mechanics and the concept of quantum entanglement. When a baby takes its first breath, leaving his or her previous home in another dimension to be joined with a physical body, s/he takes the cosmic energy of that moment with him or her. Then, as the planets move through their cycles those changes are felt by the original imprint. I know that is probably a stretch but hopefully someday we’ll know for sure. Until someone comes up with something better it seems to fit.

To make a long story short, my astrologer persona, Whobeda, eventually became a character in Elle’s upcoming book, “Calm Before the Storm: Evan’s Sins,” to be released next week along with some of the astrology we pursued along the course of the story. You can find her interview with Whobeda on here blog here. The beauty of it is if any of her readers are into astrology they’ll recognize it as accurate, even if they go so far as to check the charts.

CBS award ebookWhile I may not be able to explain why it works, nonetheless it does. As a fiction writer myself I definitely plan to use this to my advantage in upcoming works. You can find “The Calm Before the Storm” via links below.

VIDEO TRAILER:

https://youtu.be/fVZG22ydbM0

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1FECDEx

Amazon.co.uk – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Calm-Before-Storm-Ruthless-Trilogy-ebook-x/dp/B015VD6856/

Amazon.ca – http://www.amazon.ca/Calm-Before-Storm-Ruthless-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B015VD6856/

Amazon.com.au – http://www.amazon.com.au/Calm-Before-Storm-Ruthless-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B015VD6856/

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/571520

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Elle_Klass_The_Calm_Before_the_Storm?id=JlufCgAAQBAJ

Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-calm-before-the-storm-evan-s-sins

Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-calm-before-the-storm-evans-sins-elle-klass/1122731283

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/calm-before-storm-evans-sins/id1045083502