Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, December 31, 2016

MVNews this week:  Page A:9



Mountain Views-News Saturday, December 31, 2016 


Renowned astrophysicist and National Medal 
of Science awardee Vera Rubin passed away in 
Princeton, N.J., the evening of December 25, 2016, 
at the age of 88. Rubin confirmed the existence of 
dark matter—the invisible material that makes 
up more than 90% of the mass in the universe. 
She was a retired staff astronomer at the Carnegie 
Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism 
in Washington, D.C.

 “Vera Rubin was a national treasure as an 
accomplished astronomer and a wonderful role 
model for young scientists,” remarked Carnegie 
president Matthew Scott. “We are very saddened 
by this loss.”

 In the 1960s, Rubin’s interest in how stars orbit 
their galactic centers led her and colleague Kent 
Ford to study the Andromeda galaxy, M31, a nearby 
spiral. The two scientists wanted to determine 
the distribution of mass in M31 by looking at the 
orbital speeds of stars and gas at varying distances 
from the galactic center. They expected the speeds 
to conform to Newtonian gravitational theory, 
whereby an object farther from its central mass 
orbits slower than those closer in. To their surprise, 
the scientists found that stars far from the center 
traveled as fast as those near the center.

 After observing dozens more galaxies by the 
1970s, Rubin and colleagues found that something 
other than the visible mass was responsible for the 
stars’ motions. Each spiral galaxy is embedded in 
a “halo” of dark matter—material that does not 
emit light and extends beyond the optical galaxy. 
They found it contains 5 to 10 times as much mass 
as the luminous galaxy. As a result of Rubin’s 
groundbreaking work, it has become apparent that 
more than 90% of the universe is composed of this 
invisible material. The first inkling that dark matter 
existed came in 1933 when Swiss astrophysicist 
Fritz Zwicky of Caltech proposed it. But it was not 
until Rubin’s work that dark matter was confirmed.

 Besides her remarkable scientific contributions, 
as noted by colleague Neta Bahcall of Princeton 
University, “Vera was an amazing scientist and an 
amazing human being—a pioneering astronomer, 
the ‘mother’ of flat rotation curves and dark-matter, 
a champion of women in science, and a mentor and 
role model to generations of astronomers.”

 She was an ardent feminist, advocating for 
women observers at the Palomar Observatory, 
women at the Cosmos Club, Princeton, and she 
even advised the Pope to have more women on his 

 Rubin was born July 23, 1928. She arrived at 
Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism 
in Washington, D.C., in 1965. A Washington 
native, she graduated from Calvin Coolidge High 
School and went on to receive her B.A. from Vassar 
College. She obtained her M.A. from Cornell 
University and her Ph.D. from Georgetown 
University, where she then taught for 10 years. 
Rubin was the first woman allowed to observe at 
the Palomar Observatory.

 In 1993 Vera Rubin received the National 
Medal of Science—the nation’s highest scientific 
award. She was elected to the National Academy 
of Sciences in 1981, and in 1996 became the first 
woman to receive the Royal Astronomical Society’s 
Gold Medal since Caroline Hershel, who was 
awarded the prize in 1828.

 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@



A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder


Death, Life, and a New Year


Many things in life have me in a tangle of confusion. I try to put on a good face so that 
nobody knows how confused I am at the time. I think I get away with it, at least most of 
the time.

The only person I cannot fool is the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage. According to her evaluation, I am 
confused all the time. I would like to set her straight sometime, but I am really confused as to when would be 
the right time.

If I do not pick the right time, my confusion will be accelerated to the point of no return.

There is one thing, despite my professional confusion, I have not been able to understand. And it just bugs me 
to no end. Why are some things more confusing than others?

There is a positive side to confusion.

For example, someone is trying to explain to me something that is rather boring I can say, “That’s too confusing 
for me.”

What that does is help the other person think that he’s a lot better than I am which is not a bad thing to get out 
of some boring situation at the time. Believe it or not, this is not too confusing for me.

Another side of this would be, somebody wants me to explain something and I am not really in the mood to do 
a lot of explaining, I say many confusing things and the person comes to the point where he says, “That’s too 
confusing for me.”

Winning is so wonderful.

Not long ago, I overheard somebody say, “Is that cup half full or half empty?”

For some reason I just cannot get that out of my head and it has confused me like nothing else in my life.

If, for example, a cup is half-full is it not also half-empty? And, if it is half-empty is it also half-full?

I do not know if this is intentional confusion or if it is not supposed to make any sense at all.

I think “the half empty/half full” scenario is just for plain ordinary fools. In my experience, I have never met a 
half fool. Either they are all fool or they are not a fool at all. Just when you think you met a half-fool, they spiral 
into a complete fool. There is a question whether any fool can be complete or not, but that is too confusing for 

Several times my wife will look at me and say, “Are you acting a fool?”

I would like to set her straight sometime, but I am a little confused as to be the right time. But I am not acting 
a fool. I have absolutely no skill in the thespian art of acting. Of course, when she addresses me with that 
question, I act like I am not a fool which I am not sure qualifies in the thespian arts category.

The confusion here is, if I am not acting a fool, how can I act like I am not a fool? What is the real difference 
here? Is there any difference at all? Oh, how confusing it all is.

I am afraid that confusion runs very deep in my life.

If I wanted to get out of the confusion syndrome, all I have to do is approach my wife and say, “I don’t understand 
this, could you explain it to me?” After that, I am too confused to really understand that I am confused about it 
at all. Thanks, of course, to my wife who is confused about nothing that I know.

With her great skill in this area, she has helped me out of many a confusing situations.

Perhaps that is the primary difference between a husband and wife. The husband is afflicted with the confusion 
syndrome and the wife knows how to unconfuse her husband. She has a remedy, according to her, that will cure 
him immediately.

This is the great joy of my life to be able to ignore my confusion and trust my wife’s judgment in this area. I 
can balance the checkbook, but I have a hard time balancing these confusion elements in my life. Thanks to my 
wife, I do not have to worry about it.

At my present junction in life, I do not know if I am really confused or not. It is rather a confusing aspect to 
think about right now. Am I confused or am I not confused. If I am confused, what are the symptoms? If I am 
not confused, how will I know?

Perhaps the most comforting aspect of life, at least for someone my age, is knowing you are confused, accept 
it and get on with life. Nothing is more satisfying in life than knowing what you are and being able to accept 
yourself as you are and then enjoy the rest of your life.

With so much to do in the world today, it is always comforting to know that there is something you do not have 
to do. I like what the apostle Paul said. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord 
Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).

In the midst of all your supposed confusion, sit back, take a deep breath and give thanks to God for his grace 
in accepting you as you are.

Dr. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, Ocala, FL 34483, where he lives with the 
Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage. Telephone 1-866-552-2543, e-mail Website is

[Nyerges is the author of 
several books, including 
“Extreme Simplicity,” 
“Self-Sufficient Home,” 
“How to Survive 
Anywhere,” and others. He has led field trips 
and taught classes in self-reliance since 1974. 
More information on his books and classes is 
available at, or 
Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]

 I had just been told that a friend had died. It 
was sad to realize I’d never see him again. The 
musical chairs of life goes on, but I always have 
to stop when I hear of death, at least a death 
of one who is close. For me, life is about the 
people around me. When they die, a piece of 
me dies.

 Gato Barbieri’s “Europa” is playing on the 
radio. That’s Ramah’s song. Ramah was my 
purebred pitbull who came on my field trips. 
When she died many years ago, I was holding 
her in my arms as she gave out her last goodbye 
cry, as the eerie nostalgic sound of Europa was 
playing on the radio. Since then, Europa has been 
“Ramah’s song,” her goodbye rite-of-passage 
song. I think of Ramah when I hear Europa, and 
I think of death and the seeming impermanence 
of life.

 It is time for work so I drive away with the 
radio off. I want to hear the silence. I arouse a 
cooper’s hawk as I go down the long driveway 
and he swoops away under the oaks with a pocket 
gopher in his claws. More death. 

 I think about the pocket gopher which devours 
my root crops, and I feel no sadness. Still, I only 
shudder to think that he’ll be ripped apart and 
eaten while still alive. Is that good? Is it bad?

A local Sierra Club hiker wrote about his 
chancing upon a mountain lion killing a deer. 
He said he could have interrupted it, but he 
didn’t. He watched it. He said it was beautiful. 
He said it was part of the beauty of nature.

 Beauty? Certainly the kill is part of 
nature, part of The Way. Eat or be eaten. But 
“beautiful”? The deer would have had its throat 
slit from behind, and while it struggled, the lion 
would have ripped open his underside and begun 
eating the deer while it was still alive. Nope, not 
beautiful. Brutal, vicious, sobering. 

 Part of The Way, yes. Beautiful, no. 

 Death is not beautiful. To the dead, I presume 
it is peaceful. To the living, painful, especially 
when a close one goes and you experience their 
absence, and the pain of separation. You’re 
forced to acknowledge the temporary nature of 
life. You’re forced to make each moment count, 
to make each moment matter.

 Off to my work of the day, I think about 
the immediate now, the temporary world of 
timeclocks and responsibility and bills and rents 
and taxes. I am only mildly cheered up by telling 
myself this is only temporary.

 I sip my coffee at a downtown coffeehouse in 
the dense fog of the early morning before my 
work begins. The fog drifts and flows, like the 
drifting landscape of my thoughts of life and 
death and work and bills.

 I think of the new year beginning. I pause as 
I sip my coffee, and acknowledge the endless 
cycle of year after year, life and death and life 
and death, and each new year provides new 
opportunities to improve and to do what has not 
been done yet.

 Still, death is everywhere. It is inescapable. 
And yet it is perhaps our blessing. It is the 
sobering element that forces us to reconsider 
everything, and to strive to do the right thing in 
each moment. Death forces us to think larger 
than just our own interests, and forces us to 
think about what is best for the most people, and 
what is best for the next generation. It forces us 
to treat everyone around us even better, and we 
never need to wait for a “new year” in order to do 

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