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Why is the Night Sky Dark? Olbers' Paradox

Just as Occam's Razor was not the original idea of William of Ockham, Heinrich Olbers is not the first to ask the question: If the Universe is unchanging, eternal and there are an infinite number of stars then why isn't the night sky filled with light? After all, the light from every star in every part of the sky must reach the Earth so the sky should be as bright as day when the Sun sets, yet it is not. Perhaps the light has been obscured by dust, but that can't be the reason. Over infinite time, the dust would absorb energy from the photons, heat up and glow. Perhaps there are NOT an infinite number of stars, but certainly there are a lot of them... enough to light up the sky more than it is. Or perhaps the distribution of the stars is uneven, with one star lining up behind another, but for that to work, the Earth must be in a unique position in the Universe so that the viewer can look down many dark corridors of the sky. One can imagine a hole in one part of the sky but not holes in every direction. In the 19th century version of the Universe, Olbers Paradox has introduced a disturbing idea. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
What astronomers of the 19th century did not realize was that the Universe is expanding. Even Albert Einstein could not accept the idea of an expanding Universe in his early theories. He introduced a cosmological constant to his equations to force a static Universe. He called it the biggest mistake he ever made. (Actually, his cosmological constant was useful later on.) The reason the night sky is dark is because the Universe is getting bigger as time moves forward. Light from distant stars has not had time to reach Earth and at a certain distance, it never will. That distance defines our observable Universe. Anything beyond its limit might as well not exist. The other issue is called the "red-shifting" of light. Stars in the expanding Universe are generally moving away from each other. Like points on a balloon, as the balloon expands, the points move away from each other. The further points seem to move away faster than closer points. If a star is moving VERY fast, the light shifts to the red and eventually becomes invisible to the eye. Thus we can only see the light of stars that are reasonably close to us, such as stars within our galaxy... and that is why the sky is dark at night. [6] [7]

Death is Now Optional: Prison Reform in England

Back in 1688, the Bloody Code was passed into English Law requiring that the death penalty be applied for hundreds of violations including: damaging Westminster bridge, living with gypsies for more than a month, stealing a rabbit, or stealing anything worth more than 5 shillings. (In the modern day, that is about 20 pounds sterling or $26 dollars in value.) This year the Bloody Code is repealed. The Death Penalty is now optional depending on the judgement of the court. It is only required in cases of murder or treason. Chaplains are made available to prisoners, and regular inspections of prisons are required. Also jailers will be paid out of the state's purse. (The inmates used to pay them out of their fines.) And women jailers are now required for women prisoners. Prison reform is here. What next? Cable TV? [8] [9] [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I am a volunteer chaplain at the county jail. I meet with inmates who ask for me. We talk about religion, but mostly I provide positive human contact for the inmates. A jail can be a negative experience in more ways than one. Anger, mental illness, and depression are pervasive, and an inmate is trapped with his cellmates. To help the situation, educational, psychological, and religious services are available. There is a beekeeping certification program for inmates. Anger management, alcoholism and drug abuse treatment are available, and of course, chaplains. One day I was walking to the maximum security building. Ahead of me was a tall inmate. Across the back of his bald head was inscribed a strange tattoo which marked him as a dangerous man. Suddenly he stopped, turned to me and asked, "Hey! Are you running a Bible class?" He smiled at me. That dangerous man was trying to improve himself, and because of that, his cellmates were safer and so were the guards.

The Monroe Doctrine and Honduras

President James Monroe is being encouraged by English interests to ban new European interference in the New World. Argentina, Chile and Mexico have been kicking Spain and Portugal out of the New World. Oddly, France has been negotiating with Spain to bring an army to the New World to reconquer those lost lands... for a price. Russia has claimed large parts of the Pacific Northwest, so during his State of the Union address, Monroe declares that new European colonization in the Western hemisphere will be considered an unfriendly act. While existing European powers will not be challenged, new expansion will be seen as an attack on United States interests. The phrase "Monroe Doctrine" will not be used until 1850. [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The United Kingdom supported the Monroe Doctrine, mostly because they already had a presence in Canada. They could use the British navy to enforce the Monroe Doctrine and keep all those "foreigners" out of South American markets. The United States did not have the power to enforce the Doctrine, but when France invaded Mexico, the US threatened to kick them out and used the Monroe Doctrine as justification. (France left.) Over the years, the Doctrine was reinterpreted in a number of ways to allow the United States to interfere with Latin American countries. As one Chilean businessman wrote, "...we have to be very careful: for the Americans of the north, the only Americans are themselves". Finally, in 2013, the Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, declared the "era of the Monroe Doctrine is over." Honduras breathed a sigh of relief. The United States didn't seem to mind that Honduras underwent a coup in 2009. President Obama made some very general statements about democracy and Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State at the time, refused to call it a coup. Latin American countries suspect US intervention at times like that. [13] [14] [15]

In Other News

  • The raincoat is invented. It is also called a Mackintosh or mac. Charles Macintosh mixes naphtha with rubber and sandwiches it between two pieces of cloth. Raincoats are available for sale next year. [16] [17] [18]
  • By tradition, the game of Rugby is invented this year. Mr. Ellis, in the midst of a game of soccer, without regard for the rules, picks up the ball and runs down field. He is a student of Rugby School and thus invents the game of Rugby. A metal plaque commemorates the event, so you know it is true. Right? [19] [18]
  • "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!" The familiar song, "Home Sweet Home" ([Click Here]) is performed as part of an opera and later published separately. It sells like hotcakes. [20] [21] [18]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1823, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 April 2016. “Olbers' paradox, described by him in 1823 (and then reformulated in 1826), states that the darkness of the night sky conflicts with the supposition of an infinite and eternal static universe.”
  2. Static universe - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 April 2016. “A static universe, also referred to as a 'stationary' or 'infinite' or 'static infinite' universe, is a cosmological model in which the universe is both spatially infinite and temporally infinite, and space is neither expanding nor contracting. Such a universe does not have spatial curvature; that is to say that it is 'flat'.”
  3. Olbers' paradox - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 April 2016. “In astrophysics and physical cosmology, Olbers' paradox, named after the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers (1758–1840) and also called the 'dark night sky paradox', is the argument that the darkness of the night sky conflicts with the assumption of an infinite and eternal static universe. The darkness of the night sky is one of the pieces of evidence for a dynamic universe such as the Big Bang model. If the universe is static, homogeneous at a large scale, and populated by an infinite number of stars, any sight line from Earth must end at the (very bright) surface of a star, so the night sky should be completely bright. This contradicts the observed darkness of the night.”
  4. Thomas Digges - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 April 2016. “Thomas Digges (c. 1546 – 24 August 1595) was an English mathematician and astronomer. He was the first to expound the Copernican system in English but discarded the notion of a fixed shell of immoveable stars to postulate infinitely many stars at varying distances. He was also first to postulate the 'dark night sky paradox'.”
  5. - Olbers Paradox: Why is the Sky Dark at Night?. Deep Astronomy (January 31, 2011). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “From what was known up to about the nineteenth century, it seemed seemed very reasonable that the universe was infinitely old and unchanging, and in such a universe, Olber's paradox is a real problem.”
  6. If there's all those stars, why is it dark at night? - physics.org. physics.org (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “In addition, the universe is expanding and all the galaxies, and their stars, are moving away from us. Thanks to this, the light from a moving star changes colour in a similar way that sound from a moving ambulance siren changes pitch. The light that we observe from distant receding stars is more red than it would be if they were stationary – the light is 'red shifted’. In many cases the red shift is large enough to move the light out of the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum.”
  7. Olbers' Paradox. math.ucr.edu (2004). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “There are numerical arguments that suggest that the effect of the finite age of the Universe is the larger effect. We live inside a spherical shell of 'Observable Universe' which has radius equal to the lifetime of the Universe. Objects more than about 13.7 thousand million years old (the latest figure) are too far away for their light ever to reach us.”
  8. Judgement of Death Act 1823 - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “The Judgement of Death Act 1823 (c.48; repealed) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (although it did not apply to Scotland). Passed at a time when there were over 200 offences in English law which carried a mandatory sentence of death, it gave judges the discretion to pass a lesser sentence for the first time. It did not apply to treason or murder. The Act actually required judges to enter a sentence of death on the court record, but then allowed them to commute the sentence to imprisonment. The Parliament also allows chaplains in prison and regular inspections for .”
  9. Measuring Worth - Purchase Power of the Pound. measuringworth.com (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016.
  10. "Rough justice - Victorian style", BBC News, 3 August 2009. Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “Being in the company of gypsies for a month, damaging Westminster Bridge, cutting down trees, stealing livestock - or anything worth more than five shillings (£30 today) for that matter - would do it.” 
  11. Bloody Code - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “In 1688 there were 50 offences on the statute book punishable by death, but that number had almost quadrupled by 1776,[1] and it reached 220 by the end of the century.[2] Most of the new laws introduced during that period were concerned with the defence of property, which some commentators have interpreted as a form of class suppression of the poor by the rich.”
  12. Monroe Doctrine - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “After 1898, Latin American lawyers and intellectuals reinterpreted the Monroe doctrine in terms of multilateralism and non-intervention. In 1933, under President Franklin Roosevelt, the United States went along with the new reinterpretation, especially in terms of the Organization of American States.”
  13. Lawmakers ask Library of Congress to retract Honduras report. McClatchy DC (October 28, 2009). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “he chairmen of the House and Senate foreign relations committees are asking the Law Library of Congress to retract a report on the military-backed coup in Honduras that they charge is flawed and 'has contributed to the political crisis that still wracks the country. The request, by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. and Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., has sparked cries of censorship from Republicans who say the Democrats don't like what the August report said: that the government of Honduras had the authority to remove President Manuel Zelaya from office.”
  14. 2009 Honduran coup d'état - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “In July 2011, Honduras's Truth Commission concluded that Zelaya had broken the law when he disregarded the Supreme Court ordering him to cancel the referendum, but that his removal from office was illegal and a coup.”
  15. Clinton & the Coup: Amid Protests in Honduras, Ex-President on Hillary's Role in His 2009 Ouster. Democracy Now! (July 28, 2015). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “In an exclusive interview, Zelaya talks about the new protest movement, the fallout from the 2009 coup, and Hillary Clinton’s role in his ouster. 'On the one hand, [the Obama administration] condemned the coup, but on the other hand, they were negotiating with the leaders of the coup,' Zelaya said. 'And Secretary Clinton lent herself to that, maintaining that ambiguity of U.S. policy to Honduras, which has resulted in a process of distrust and instability of Latin American governments in relation to U.S. foreign policies.'”
  16. Mackintosh - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “The Mackintosh or raincoat (abbreviated as mac or mack) is a form of waterproof raincoat, first sold in 1824, made out of rubberised fabric. The Mackintosh is named after its Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh, though many writers add a letter k (this variant spelling 'Mackintosh' is now standard).”
  17. Charles Macintosh - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “His experiments with one of the by-products of tar, naphtha, led to his invention of waterproof fabrics, the essence of his patent being the cementing of two thicknesses of cloth together with natural (India) rubber, the rubber being made soluble by the action of the naphtha. For his various chemical discoveries he was, in 1823, elected a fellow of the Royal Society.”
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 388-389. 
  19. William Webb Ellis - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “The claim that Webb Ellis invented the game did not surface until four years after his death, and doubts have been raised about the story since 1895, when the Old Rugbeian Society first investigated it. The sub-committee conducting the investigation was 'unable to procure any first hand evidence of the occurrence'.”
  20. Home! Sweet Home! - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “Adapted from American actor and dramatist John Howard Payne's 1823 opera Clari, or the Maid of Milan, the song's melody was composed by Englishman Sir Henry Bishop with lyrics by Payne. Bishop had earlier published a more elaborate version of this melody, naming it 'A Sicilian Air', but he later confessed to having written himself.”
  21. Deanna Durbin singing 'Home, Sweet Home'. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 8 July 2016. “Deanna Durbin singing "Home, Sweet Home" from her 1939 movie, First Love.”

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