Wednesday, July 22, 2009

493)Professor Arif Babul In Conversation With Blogger Simerg:The Bootes Void And The Difference Between Astronomy and Astrophysics;Quotes of Aga Khans

Earlier you explained the differences between the theoretical and practical areas of the study of the universe that astrophysicists and astronomers are respectively engaged in. Can you explain a little bit more about this distinction, perhaps by way of an example where you and your colleagues were assumed to be ‘astronomers’?

Dr. Babul:
Sure, perhaps this anecdote will help make the distinction a bit more clear, though it is a bit embarrassing.

But first some background: Imagine you’re sitting in a bubble bath full of big bubbles, and you have a whole bunch of bubbles stacked up against each other. If you took some glitter and sprinkled it over these bubbles, the sparkly little bits of paper would stick to the bubbles’ surface. Inside the bubbles there would be no flakes, but the surfaces of the bubbles would be coated with them. That’s a good description of the way galaxies are distributed throughout our universe - think of the flack of glitter as galaxies. When this was first discovered about twenty years ago, I was just starting out in my career. At the time, theorists were all excited about one particular large bubble that had just been discovered called the Bootes Void because it is in the direction of the constellation of Bootes - astronomers, when they discover new structures, often name these features based on the constellation in the direction of those features. The Bootes Void had truly captured the theorists’ imagination. It is nearly 300 million light-years from side to side - this means that it takes light 300 million years to cross the void - and structures this large were unheard of at the time and so there was a great deal of creative energy being expended in trying to understand how such structures would have come to be.

So there we were, at a conference in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming and we had just stepped out after dinner one fine clear evening. A group of tourists discovered that we were “astronomers” and started asking questions. They pointed to certain stars in the sky and asked, “what constellation is that?” I certainly had no clue and neither did most of my theorist colleagues. We didn’t really give much thought to stars and constellations. We thought about the universe in a very different way, on a very different scale. Our universe was characterized by geometric structures on our computer screens and mathematical equations on sheets of paper. But these tourists wanted to know what these patterns of stars were in the sky, and we had no clue! Fortunately, one of us was a genuine astronomer. He was familiar with the sky and he chirped, “Oh that’s the constellation of Bootes.” And there was this audible “Oh!” but not from the tourists, but the theorists. This Void had suddenly become a concrete structure. Okay, it was still ridiculously far away - 700 million light-years away - but now we knew it was in that direction, out there in space!

So that sort of explains the distinction between astronomers and astrophysicists.

Continue at the source:

Quotes of Aga Khans:

"In Islamic belief, knowledge is two-fold. There is that revealed through the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) and that which man discovers by virtue of his own intellect. Nor do these two involve any contradiction, provided man remembers that his own mind is itself the creation of God. Without this humility, no balance is possible. With it, there are no barriers. Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation"(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

"The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine Will"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"Thus Islam's basic principle can only be defined as mono-realism and not as monotheism. Consider, for example, the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer: "Allah-o-Akbar". What does that mean? There can be no doubt that the second word of the declaration likens the character of Allah to a matrix which contains all and gives existence to the infinite, to space, to time, to the Universe, to all active and passive forces imaginable, to life and to the soul"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

The above are 3 quotes and excerpts taken from Blogpost Four Hundred, a collection of around 100 quotes on the subjects of Knowledge, Intellect, Creation, Science and Religion:

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)