Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, January 14, 2017

MVNews this week:  Page A:11



Mountain Views-News Saturday, January 14, 2017 


The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has 
signed an agreement with the Breakthrough 
Initiatives to adapt the Very Large Telescope 
instrumentation in Chile to conduct a search for 
planets in the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. 
Such planets could be the targets for an eventual 
launch of miniature space probes to Alpha Centauri 
by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative.

 The discovery in 2016 of a planet, Proxima b, 
around Proxima Centauri, the third and faintest 
star of the Alpha Centauri system, adds even 
further impetus to this search.

 Knowing where the nearest exoplanets are is of 
paramount interest for Breakthrough Starshot, 
a research and engineering program launched in 
April 2016, which aims to demonstrate proof of 
concept for ultra-fast light-driven “nanocraft,” 
laying the foundation for the first launch to Alpha 
Centauri within a generation.

 Detecting a habitable planet is an enormous 
challenge due to the brightness of the planetary 
system’s host star, which tends to overwhelm the 
relatively dim planets. One way to make this easier 
is to observe in the mid-infrared wavelength range, 
where the thermal glow from an orbiting planet 
greatly reduces the brightness gap between it and 
its host star. But even in the mid-infrared, the 
star remains millions of times brighter than the 
planets to be detected, which calls for a dedicated 
technique to reduce the blinding stellar light.

 Detecting and studying potentially habitable 
planets orbiting other stars will be one of the 
main scientific goals of the upcoming European 
Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT, http://www. Although the increased size of the 
E-ELT will be essential to obtaining an image of 
a planet at larger distances in the Milky Way, the 
light collecting power of the VLT is just sufficient 
to image a planet around the nearest star, Alpha 

million research and engineering program 
aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for a new 
technology, enabling ultra-light unmanned space 
flight at 20% of the speed of light, and to lay the 
foundations for a flyby mission to Alpha Centauri 
within a generation.

The Starshot concept envisions launching a 
“mothership” carrying about a thousand tiny 
spacecraft (on the scale of centimeters) to a high-
altitude orbit and then deploying them. Ground-
based lasers would then focus a light beam on the 
crafts’ solar sails to accelerate them one by one to 
the target speed within 10 minutes.

 If an Earth-size planet is orbiting within the Alpha 
Centauri system’s habitable zones, Breakthrough 
Starshot will try to aim its spacecraft within 1 
astronomical unit (the Earth-Sun distance, or 93 
million miles) of it. From this distance, a craft’s 
cameras could potentially capture an image of high 
enough quality to resolve surface features. 

The fleet would have about 1000 spacecraft, and 
each one (dubbed a StarChip) would be a very small 
centimeter-sized vehicle weighing a few grams. 
The spacecraft would be propelled by a square-
kilometre array of 10-kilowatt ground-based lasers 
with a combined output of up to 100 gigawatts.

 Each spacecraft would transmit data back 
to Earth using a compact on-board laser 
communications system using its solar sail as an 
antenna and the propulsion array as the receiver. A 
swarm of about 1000 units would compensate for 
losses caused by interstellar dust collisions en route 
to the target.[


 You can contact Bob Eklund at: b.eklund@


A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder





[Nyerges has led 
wilderness and wild food 
field trips for over 40 
years. He is the author 
of numerous books, 
including “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Extreme 
Simplicity,” “Guide to Wild Foods,” and others. 
Questions about his classes and books can be 
directed to or 
Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]

 A plane crashes on some remote island, and 
only the British school children survive. A 
classic story of survival begins. The boys –after 
having attended not a single “survival school” 
-- learn to hunt, make shelters, make fire (using 
Piggy’s spectacles, or eye glasses), and to enjoy 
themselves. After all, with all the adults gone, 
there’s no one to enforce rules, so we do what we 
want, right? Then the battle for power begins. 
One side is for some sort of orderly life, and the 
other side wants to live by rule of might.

 “Lord of the Flies” has been widely viewed and 
widely discussed. What does it mean? What 
does it tell us about our basic human nature? Is 
our desire to do good and cooperate with others 
a skill that must be learned and maintained? 
Are we essentially animals who need to learn to 
control our animal natures?

 The movie (and book) begins with the boys 
experiencing a sort of innocent paradise, as they 
swim and cavort and learn about foods in their 
adult-free world. The obvious need for leadership 
results in a vote between Ralph, who represents 
order and the rule of law, and Jack, who represents 
immediate fulfillment of desires, power, and even 
savagery. Ralph wins the election. 

 In the beginning, Ralph and Jack are not 
depicted as being all that different. Indeed, they 
are friends. Ralph is set on doing the best for all, 
helping the weak, making sure that everyone is 
fed. Jack seems more intent on his own power 

 A conch shell is chosen as a sign of leadership, 
and an indication of who has the “floor” during 
meetings. But Jack forms his own band and moves 
away from Ralph. Jack chooses to disregard 
the blowing of the conch. That choice leads to 
further division and animosity. Eventually, the 
conch is destroyed when a boulder rolls onto it, 
symbolizing the loss of one of the symbols of their 
chosen civility, somewhat akin to someone in a 
board meeting tossing the gavel out the window.

 Jack’s group steals Piggy’s specs to make fire, 
another strike at cooperation and civility. Jack’s 
group also lets the signal fire go out, showing 
that Jack has lost his focus of trying to get off the 

 In analyzing The Lord of the Flies, countless 
analogies have been used to describe the social 
dichotomy that it depicts, such as users vs. takers, 
or producers vs. consumers, or urban vs. rural, 
or primitive vs. civilized, etc. Perhaps it is the 
same old story of Cain vs. Abel, or the farmers 
vs. the ranchers. The story has even been used 
to illustrate political parties in various countries. 
But is it that simplistic? 

 Jack and his group finally devolved to the 
point where murder was justified. Jack and 
his group started to hunt Ralph. Jack’s desire 
for total power would be solidified with the 
elimination of Ralph (the last opposing force). 
As Jack’s group chases Ralph along the beach, 
they all confront a force they all have to reckon 
with – the rescuing sailors. The sailors are tall, 
dressed in white, somber. It’s as if the children 
butted up against the gods of the universe, and 
now the day of reckoning comes.

 A group of men landed on the island and watch 
in amazement at the behavior of the “children”. 
The look on the children’s faces express their 
thoughts. Jack realizes his reign as a petty tyrant 
in his island empire is over; Ralph is relieved his 
life is saved, and now he’ll be going back to his 
real home.

 We see something in the childrens’ faces: now 
they have to account for their actions to a higher 
power. The choices that each of us make in life 
have ramification that ripple through our lives. 
“Ralph” and “Jack” represent the choices we 
make. What legacy will we leave? What actions 
will we ultimately be accountable for when the 
sailors get to shore? 

 The amateur film-makers who created the 
original “Lord of the Flies” did so during the 
boys’ summer vacation. They tracked the lives of 
the boys who acted in this movie, and the boy-
actors were all high achievers in their personal 
lives. The boys later related that making the 
movie deeply affected them. Even though it was 
described as “just a movie,” many of the boys 
realized in their personal adult lives that it was 
far better to work hard to choose the upward, 
inclusive way of Ralph, rather than to ever find 
oneself descending into Jack-ness.

A friend of mine has a saying, “I’m going to get as 
old as I possibly can get.” From what I can tell, he 
has. I must agree with his sentiment. Of course, 
the alternative is… well you know. Another 
friend of mine likes to tell me, “Brother, you’re 
only as old as you feel.” I am not sure how old 
feels or if wrinkles are involved. But, I am feeling 
quite fine, thank you.

 Just the other day the Gracious Mistress of 
the Parsonage came in from her workshop, sat 
down on the couch and said, “Whew, I feel like a 

 At the time, I did not know if she was talking 
about dollars, pounds or years. Being the old 
fogey that I am, I know there are times when 
silence is golden and this was one of those golden 
moments. But, what does a hundred feel like? 
Is there some special sensation that pulsates 
through the body when a person reaches that age 
level? Or, is it the absence of anything pulsating 
through your body?

 Just this morning I got up with a sore knee and 
could hardly walk to the bathroom. I complained 
about it to my wife, who has no compunction 
about expressing her opinions, said, “Well, you 
are older than when you went to bed last night.”

 I did not know I was aging so rapidly. If this 
keeps up, I will change from an old fogey into 
an old geezer before I know it. The difference 
between an old fogey and an old geezer is, an old 
fogey walks around in a fog while the old geezer 
cannot get up from his chair and wheezes a lot.

 I was musing on the idea that getting old was 
a lot of trouble with a lot of pain involved. Then 
I remembered what a lot of trouble and pain it 
was to be young. As a youngster, I thought many 
times, “Oh, I can’t wait to get old.” I thought 
getting older was the panacea for all of my 

 I remember thinking that when I got older 
nobody would boss me around. I would do 
whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to 
do it. I could not wait for that time to come. I 
dreamed of that mystical land. No parents to 
boss me around; no teachers to tell me what to do 
and when to do it; no siblings interfering with my 
plans for the day. What a life I would lead when 
I got older. I lived each day hoping to get older 
which, in my thinking, was the door into that 

 Just as I was entering that mysterious realm of 
being my own boss, I got married. Not only that, 
but several years into that marital bliss came the 
pitter-patter of little feet in the hallway. I did not 
figure that getting older would involve so many 
people in my life. Just going to the bathroom, for 
example, was a three-day wait. And, guess who is 
at the bottom of the list? 

 I guess you know you have gotten old when you 
give up the idyllic idea of being your own boss, 
doing whatever you want to do, whenever you 
want to do it.

 Now that I think of it, it was a lot more painful 
and a lot more troublesome to be young than it 
is to be old. In fact, there are some marvelous 
advantages of getting older.

 For example, when my wife sends me to the 
grocery store to get a few things I usually forget 
something. Now, that I am getting older, I can tell 
her that I do not remember things as I used to, 
after all, I’m getting older.

 Also, when someone invites me to go out and 
play what they call senior softball, I can always 
say, “I would love to, but my knees are acting up 
now that I’m getting older.”

 This process of getting older has drastically 
improved my social life. Every joke I hear is as if I 
am hearing it for the very first time. It is amazing.

My wife and I were at a social function not too 
long ago, and I was having a marvelous time. 
When we got home, my wife said to me, “You put 
on a good act tonight.”

 “What you mean I put on a good act?”

 “You laughed at every joke tonight as if it was 
the first time you ever heard it.”

 I did not have the heart to tell her that it was 
the first time I heard those jokes. That is what is so 
marvelous about getting old. You do not have to 
burden your brain, and all the little gray cells in it, 
with remembering things. My brain is now free to 
enjoy the moment. It is wonderful getting older.

 When I was younger, it would embarrass me if 
I forgot something. Of course, I blame that on my 
parents and teachers who tried to pound into my 
little head that I needed to remember everything. 
Now that I am older, I do not have that burden.

 It is good to remember some things. I 
remembered one of my favorite Bible passages. 
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean 
not unto thine own understanding. In all thy 
ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy 
paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV).

 I will never get too old to trust the Lord with all 
my heart.

 The Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of 
God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. 
He lives with his wife in Silver Springs Shores. Call 
him at 352-687-4240 or e-mail jamessnyder2@att.
net. The church web site is www.whatafellowship.

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