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FQXi BLOGS
May 21, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: The Great Dome of the Sky [refresh]
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Blogger William Orem wrote on Sep. 7, 2009 @ 14:57 GMT


I am posting this month from the Holy Land, in an area known locally as the “Galile” but more famous to westerners as the region surrounding the Sea of Galilee. The “sea” is, in fact, a large freshwater lake, the lowest of its kind on earth. Its various names--Galile, Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, Sea of Tiberias—testify both to its significance in antiquity and to the multiple historical streams that feed the region. To the scientific eye, the lake is a particularly beautiful manifestation of the Jordan Great Rift Valley, a structure brought about by the split between the Arabian and African tectonic plates. Looking across its azure surface from the west I can see the rocky steeps of the Golan Heights; beyond them, just perceptible after sunset, appear the lights of Syria, and the greater middle east.

Moving around Israel this week I have been struck again and again by the significance of domes to human cultural expression. In the “Old City” section of Jerusalem, still kept behind massive stone walls, the skyline is wholly dominated by the Dome of the Rock, refurbished in glaring gold recently by King Hussein of Jordan. In the Christian Quarter of the divided city believers gather at the double-domed Church of the Holy Sepulcher (itself divided among Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic and other Christian denominations, an arrangement not without its own tensions). With a little hunting—the door is tiny and all but concealed by Arab market stalls--I was able to discover the silver-domed Church of St. John the Baptist, built in the 5th century, rebuilt in the 11th by Crusaders in one of the many periods during which Jerusalem was being overthrown. In a fanciful way one might see the unending struggle for possession of this city as a debate over domes.

Traveling north from the place once called the Center of the World one finds Jerusalem’s architectural predilection is not singular: domes appear in every Arab village, most often accompanied by minarets, gesturing skyward as if in longing. (Depending on their size, some villages have two, or three, or – once -- as many as six visible mosques.) More recent religions have also found Israel: in Haifa, adherents of the Baha’i faith have erected their own dome at the “Shrine of the Bab.”



In Tzfat, a Kaballistic Jewish community just north of the Sea of Galilee, I peered into the domed interior of an ancient synagogue and reflected that regardless of origin these structures are almost always painted with stars. At one time the pinnacle of architectural ability—one thinks of the great Duomo in Florence---domes replicate the apparent arch of the sky, what for all but the most recent human history was thought to be something like an enormous inverted bowl, or possibly a transparent sphere studded with lights.

And again I am struck by that seemingly universal inclination skyward we, as a species, inherit. Up there, the Pythagoreans dreamed in nearby Greece, moved the timeless perfections of mathematics. Up there, various sages of the Middle East cried, dwelt the divine. In Jewish tradition, Elijah rode to the heavens in a flaming chariot; for Muslims, Mohammad took a night journey to al-Aqsa — now a steely gray dome -- before rising to the sky on a winged horse. The theme seems to be that we build domes to commemorate some moment of cosmic identification, a transcendent connection between humanity and the broader universe.

I am moved by these structures, by the aspiration they imply -- and am led to reflect that our generation has a new type of cosmic dome as well: that of the observatory. Though we have too often allowed scientific inquiry to become passionless in the public mind, these modern domes are, to the ones built atop ancient mountains, more than a little bit akin. They are part of the overall human quest for “gnosis,” or understanding; they bring us together as a species intent on discovering our place in the cosmic. They inspire -- or should inspire -- a grand sense of purpose and discovery. I would submit that we fail as moderns if we think of our holy places, from whatever tradition we hail (if any), as expressing a connection to profundity -- while regarding our observatories as “mere machines,” the province of a fusty few.

To my eye, the domes of the Keck, ESO and elsewhere are as much a cause for deep reflection as the various monuments to world faiths that fill this region. And, like them, their interiors are filled with stars.



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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Sep. 8, 2009 @ 18:01 GMT
IN the ancient or medieval world the domes created a space inside which set to focus of ritual activity. The telescope dome houses instruments which focus us on great distances.

LC

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Georgina Parry wrote on Sep. 8, 2009 @ 22:56 GMT
Contemplation and observation. Private contemplation in a beautiful and peaceful space can be a deep exploration of the personal experience of subjective reality. Whether that is within the natural environment, church, mosque or temple. A place set apart from the noise and haste of the world and worldly affairs. Ritual does not allow deep contemplation but serves other social functions. The construction of many places of worship go beyond that required for ritual. Seeking to inspire and demonstrate the magnificence of the particular deity (and sometimes also the wealth of the patron).

The housing of the telescope is a result of its function. The telescope seeks to give us comprehension of external reality that exists separately from the experience of the observer. It could also serve as a space for peaceful, private contemplation should the astronomer wish. Both contemplation and observation are valuable attempts to reach for deeper comprehension. One looking out, the other searching within, freed from the distractions of everyday life.

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Helen Horton wrote on Feb. 12, 2010 @ 11:38 GMT
As far as I know there is no specific religious or spiritual reason for the domes. It's purely architectural, and was implemented by the Turks (what I discovered by downloading some articles from rapidhsare SE and which was actually a surprise to me). I must say that many mosques, catholic and orthodox churches carrying this design are quite beautiful. sure thing, I can't agree more saying that I'm also moved by these structures, by the aspiration they imply. as for the modern dome -observatory or planetarium- it is one of the best places to blend the rational scientific with the mystic sense of enchantment, as everyone who has experienced the strong “wow effect” under a dark starry sky knows. Things that seem contradictory (science, technology, enchantment) may coexist in harmony there, stimulating questions and thoughts.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Feb. 12, 2010 @ 13:21 GMT
The dome was first introduced by the Byzantine Greeks. St Sophia was Greek Orthodox Church, but converted to a grand Mosque after the Turks took Constantinople in 1453. Islam early took on the dome as the format for a Mosque, which was borrowed from the Byzantine Greeks. The Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the one which Mohammed is thought to have ascended to heaven from, and which the al-Haram ash-Sharif (Most Noble Holy Ground --- Dome on the Rock) is based upon, is a remodelled version of a Church established by the Byxantine emperor Justinian a century before Muslims took Jerusalem. Within Islamic architecture the dome was perfected into works of art.

Cheers LC

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Feb. 12, 2010 @ 23:37 GMT
Hagia Sophia means holy wisdom in Greek. This building has a big half-spherical roof surrounded by smaller ones in order to be stable.

Domus means house. Our Dom is the house of our dominus (Lord) that dominates all other churches.

Several thousand years ago, priests used "open air domes", i.e. round areas surrounded by a ring of stones or of wood precisely arranged as to measure shadows that indicate particular positions of the sun.

Presumably, first mathematics arose from religious observations of space/heaven.

Perhaps tho oldest picture of the space/heaven, the so called Himmelsscheibe was found near to such an old place at Nebra in Saxony-Anhalt. The place was most likely used for both observation of sun and moon for belonging religious activities. The metallic green Himmelsscheibe (disk) shows golden applications: the sun, the moon, and also a few stars.

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Georgina Parry wrote on Dec. 8, 2010 @ 01:33 GMT
Its quiet here and the science and philosophy blog is now too long to load easily

From Wikipedia: "McTaggart argued that our perception of time is an illusion, and that time itself is merely ideal. He introduced the notions of the "A series" and "B series" interpretations of time, representing two different ways that events in time can be arranged. The A series corresponds to our everyday...

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John Merryman replied on Dec. 8, 2010 @ 03:32 GMT
Georgina,

This format does have problems for those of us not on the digital mainline. It would be nice if it could be programed to just add new postings and not have to reload the entire thread. I seem to be having serious computer problems anyway. The safari program on my three year old mac has broken down and I hauled out the ten year old one and it's loading faster than the newer one. Going to have the shop reload it, but thinking of asking for contributions to the new computer fund as my Christmas gift list.

I don't think we have chipped away at spacetime geometry very much. It's like sticking a program in a computer not configured for it. "Does not compute." It just goes too far into the architecture. What does 28 dimensions mean, if time isn't a dimension? What is a particle, if there can be no dimensionless point in time? It's all fuzzy, but fuzzy is energy and it's all energy.

The funny thing is that once you really get into the idea of time as an effect of motion and your motion is just part of that larger whole, then you really start to blend in to the larger whole, but the whole of humanity is still locked in the race of atomized individuals into the future, with everyone afraid to really look around, or they might lose their place in the race and often for good reason. Then you start to ask how can you get off. I guess I've just tried not to bang my head on the wall too hard, but still do it some.

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Georgina Parry replied on Dec. 8, 2010 @ 06:17 GMT
John,

It is a little inconvenient but it would be a shame for all the previous posts to disappear. Perhaps they could be put into an accessible archive.

I agree the complexity becomes too great to handle. A more holistic approach would be helpful.I also think it is very important to consider what is currently being modeled by scientists. Is it human perception? Which it might be if it is based on science derived from the theory of space-time and relativity, which only relates to perception and not concrete reality. Or is it a model of the unobservable object reality but assuming that that which is not observed is not existent?( But Abra Cadara take away the space-time hanky and there it is). Or is it mathematics gone feral?I don't have an answer to that yet, it may be some of each. A holographic universe for example sounds like perception not concrete reality.

The Object universe doesn't have a time dimension but it does have change. Objects can move from A to B as steps in a sequence of spatial change, if artificially broken up that way, but do not exist in the past and the present. When it is at B it is only at B, when at A only at A. So if the space is static, lets go with Newton on that, the change has to be a spatial change within that static structure. I thought of the 3 static vector dimensions to represent the unchnaging space and a spatial dimension to represent continuous change.

Continuous change in that "orientation",in, with disturbance of unseen environment, that can effect photons in the region, can then explain gravity and gravitational time dilation outside of the space-time field model.The dimension of change will be the "direction" of gravity and will relate to passage of time in space-time but not be that time dimension..

Lawrence says I can't have spatial change as a dimension. Maybe it shouldn't be called a dimension but it still is something imo. You don't like the model and have explained why. I am at an impasse.

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Georgina Parry replied on Dec. 8, 2010 @ 11:07 GMT
Clarification: The time dimension has past present and future all existent along it. That dimension is the A series of time. That is not required in a model where only (unitemporal) Now exists. There can still be change at Now but it does not involve movement along a time dimension, as it is always Now. It is that, then that, then that and so on in a sequence. This is B series of time. There is earlier and later, before and after in the sequence but not past, present, and future.

Other thoughts on a model: Then there has to be a way to describe the where of things. As there is always continuous change it might be better to describe an object as a transition between two spaces. Thats one of the appealing things about quaternion mathematics. It seems to be built with in the notation.I do not know if others would consider quaternion mathematics helpful or a hindrance. I suppose mathematicians will want to describe things in their own way, how it suits them.From one quaternion to the next there is a rotation and if change is also a movement along that not time but spatial change "dimension", "in" (like gravity), then this begins to look like the a model of absolute movement as seen in celestial bodies.

Between any time interval an apparently stationary object (to an observer) will have moved along the "in dimension " between two imaginary frames of relative space and undergone some rotation while the observer sees no change in spatial position of the object but gravity will have been present.If growth is added into this, the rotation and "in change" and growth gives a spiral form. Seen in galaxies. The object may also not be stationary to the observer but moving in 3d relative space, which will add a third kind of change.So we have rotation, gravity and other motion in 3D space.

Something to consider.

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Peter Jackson wrote on Dec. 8, 2010 @ 18:51 GMT
Lawrence, et al.

A little more on Domes as I once researched them. They go back well beyond the Byzantine Greeks, but you're right in that they pushed the technology on to new limits, and gained far better longevity (which is why few remain from previously). Actually they pushed well BEYOND technology, as did the Romans, as the history of domes is fraught with failures due to poor and over simplistic understanding of the structural dynamics.

Christopher Wren still struggled horribly with St Paul's, and the present dome we see will not stand up. It's a purely decorative 'dressing' over the real structure hidden beneath.

There have now been a few films showing the iconic Dome of the Capital in Washington DC either blowing up or in ruins. What do you think it's made of? I once won a £100 bet with an engineering professor who thought he knew better and should have done. All the films show it as masonry. It would not stand up as a masonry dome. It's one of very few made of cast iron.

Architect Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome, properly understanding and using the one extra single dimension, rendered almost all other dome theory obsolete and brought a new simpler understanding of forces.

I believe to perceive the sky as a dome could be too conceptually misleading, but there are other parallels with current physics, where we don't seem to have quite yet found the equivalent of the complex but really simple geodesic solution.

Peter

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Algernon kk wrote on Feb. 11, 2017 @ 11:22 GMT
I love people who travel and than write about it it is like they are storing what they have felt on a piece of paper forever that is why it is very nice to write. I used to write on superior papers promo code and still go and look back on my meories.

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