Sunday, 25 September 2011


Error bars notwithstanding, some of those neutrinos arrived at Gran Sasso before they should have done because the went via Rome; simples really.

Takling of bars; here is a bad neutrino joke doing the rounds.

Bartender, "We don't serve your type in here". A muon neutrino walks into a bar.

A momentum-space diagram AKA Feynmann diagram depicting an anti-muon neutrino (bottom right).

Friday, 23 September 2011

I've no interest in neutrinos, unless they start to reveal huge flaws in the current best theories of Physics, and personally I think we are a long way from that...*

So by way of a Friday meditation, here is a quote from Mgr Ronald Knox on a completely unrelated topic:

The virtue of Patience. Almighty God means us to suffer; it is good for us; and he means us to suffer not only from natural causes over which man has no control, but from our fellow-men; from mistakes, the misjudgements, the misgovernment of our fellow-men. Most of us have some unlovable qualities which we can't help; most of us do and say the wrong things, without meaning to; and besides that, there are our faults. Part of the reason why God put you into the world was to exercise the patience of others by your defects; think of that sometimes when you are going to bed. It is a salutary thought... Your bad temper, your excesive cheerfulness, your tiresomeness in conversation; He chose the right person, didn't He? Well, if other people are being so admirably exercised by patience in you, it seems a pity you shouldn't be exercised by them now and again in your turn; that's only fair. The offering of patience which you can make to God; the little things you have to put up with- and that offering is to be made in slience.

Mgr Ronlad Knox: - from a talk on murmuring: The Priestly Life ( a retreat)

* Neutrino detectors are cool, however. The picture below is of the construction of the Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector in Japan.

Isn't human ingenuity amazing!

Monday, 19 September 2011

When hadrons collide

Our favourite Archdruid, has brought to our attention some comments of Jeremy Hardy regarding the religious belief of scientists. You can read the post here

Indeed, in the spirit of re-enactment for which her community are so fond, I raise my indestructible mug of strong Brownian Motion (a nice beaker of tea) in her general direction, on my own and without the support of a community or even a tea light, because as everyone knows physicists never get invited to the right sort of parties.

Her comments did get me thinking about my fellow Physicists. I'd have to agree, a sizable number are religious. However I am still puzzling as to why this is. It would be bad sicence indeed to probe the questions of ultimate smallness and beginnings of beginnings and to say, simply because our brains were fried, we can't understand this so it must be God wot done it. That would be bad science and bad theology.

My own view is that the aquisition of scientific knowledge involves rigourous discipline and hard study. One has to be a mental athlete and have a heightened awareness of the world around one, in order to really succeed. Therefore what the Physicist achieves is a merited reward, based on their study and their sensitivity towards the natural world. Knowledge of God involves grace, which is always an unmerited gift and involves the receiver at the very least acknowledging that he wishes to seek God. Hence the religious Physicist has not got his understanding and knowledge of the Divine from his study of Science. I'd suggest that it is his openness to religion that is a product of the rationality that his discipline has given him and the metaphysical questions he inevitably asks, BUT that his faith does not come from that source, it comes from the same source as everyone elses whether they be a scientist or not.

To paraphrase Fr Georges Lemaitre, religious physicists don't walk or play sport differently from anyone else, why should they do science differently from the non-believing scientist.

One final point and I'd be interested if any other Physicists can back me up on this. In my years of being in the company of male Physicists, I'm very struck by the fact they don't seem to age like other men, check out the age of Prof Brian Cox, if you don't believe me. Is Physics the elixr of youth, for the male of the species at any rate (the sample size for females being too small, and my lack of objectivity meaning I can't make any claims about them)? The boyish yet senior Physicist is not something I find all that charming, but I have to admit I do think it is an observable phenomenon worthy of further study.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Lost in Translation...(2)

There are things from the Vulgate that to me seem so much more inspired than later translations that have worked from more sources. I would be grateful if anyone can point me to passages where the opposite is true and later translations have specific poigniancy for the reader and where the Vulgate translation seems bland. Below is one small example of significance to me as this psalm is my main scriptural prop these days.

Consider Psalm 84 (83) Quam dilecta

try the second stanza:
For the sparrow has found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young.

Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young.

RSV: sparrows and swallows are good; a home bird and a migratory bird both finding a home in the dwelling places (tabernacles) of the Lord.

D-R: sparrow is there too, and maybe I'm reading to much into this but the turtle rather than the swallow takes this to another level. (Yup, I know I should check the Latin/Greek for the correct fauna, but the whole point of this post is that you shouldn't have to, it isn't an option for most people.) The turtle is an animal that makes a nest for her young and leaves them there in trust never to return. Somehow, I relate to this. So often I find I offer up what I have and what I am before the Lord before returning to the wasteland, trusting it entirely to His safekeeping.

Consider the later stanza:
Blessed are men whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

Blessed is the man whose help is from thee; in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps, in the vale of tears, in the place which he hath set.

Undoubtedly the RSV is more poetic and obviuously draws from more material, however again it is the D-R that is more inspiring. Both versions show ascent to the Lord, highways to Zion or ascend by steps. But it is so much more personal inthe D-R; the man with the singular determination to ascend from the vale of tears, from where he is right this moment, with gritted teeth and determination from whatever abject state he may now be in. Again, this is so much easier for me to relate to.

Why am I mentioning all this? Just this notion that translation ought to be inspiring as well as accurate. Yup, I know that is a subjective thing and it is a good thing that we have so many translations available, and I not knocking using other sources apart from the Vulgate, it is just for me, time and time again, it is the Vulgate that inspires and gets to the heart of the matter.

Just don't get me going on the Grail psalms in the Office.......

A turtle (the author of this blog)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Lost in Translation....(1)

The New Jerusalem Bible, what is the deal with this? After all, it is the translation used for scripture readings at Mass in the UK, but why is it so, well so....I can't explain, but here is an example from yesterday's Mass:

Matthew 18:21 New Jerusalem
Then Peter went up to him and said ,"Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?"

Mathew 18: 21 Douay-Rheims
Then Peter came unto him and said: Lord how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? Seven times?

Matthew 18:21 RSV
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"

Matthew 18:21 Good News Bible
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, if my brother keeps on sinnning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?"

When the Good News Bible is saying the same thing as the Douai-Rheims , but the New Jerusalem is on a different tack (no mention of the offender sining many times, just multiple forgiveness)...hmm, is the New Jerusalem just trying to be clever? I'm not sure it is being helpful.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

What I learned today

Maybe I'm a bit slow, but I today I've discovered someting which I consider quite profound regarding the differences between Anglicans and Catholics. It is that the ordinary Anglicans, within their own communion service acknowldge they are not receiving the whole truth. Let me explain:

Before going to receive communion they state as we do that they are not worthy, but rather than align themselves as we do with the centruion (Matt 8:5-13), they align themselves with the Caananite woman whose child needed healing (Matt 15:21-28). Part of what the Anglican's say is:

We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under your table.

You can read the full text here, in the holy communion pdf, p181.

The Caananite woman, like the centurion is a foreigner, and Our Lord praises and rewards the faith of both of them. The Caananite woman is of no significance in the social sphere, the centurion is a person of importance who has duties and responsibilities. Similar, stories but profoundly different in one clear respect. The centurion feels unworthy to let Christ under his roof: that is not worthy to receive the whole person of Christ into his sphere of influence. It is about being unworthy of an intimacy with Christ.

The Caanantite woman (on the other hand) doesn't even stand before Christ as herself, she denegrates herself to being as a puppy in his presence. There is no intimacy in receiving the scraps from the table, just faith alone and an acknowldgement of an incompleteness about the whole thing.

So, there it is, Anglicans are doing something completely different to us, there is no common ground in our concepts of Holy Communion and liturgy. It is their own order of service that makes this abundantly clear. I do admire the honesty of the peole who constructed the Anglican holy communon service, they reallly knew what they were doing wasn't a demonstrably equal alternative to the Holy Mass.

So next time you meet a lapsed Catholic who attends Church of England services and says something like "Oh we believe in the same things and the words are nearly the same". You turn round and say "Oh no they're not".

A typical English village church, currently occupied ( I presume) by some rather lovable puppies.


Not that Catholics are to feel smug or anything. If we are identified as the centurion, then the reception of Christ (for which we are entirely unworthy) comes explicitly with duties towards our fellow man that spread way beyond the immediate family. If we don't acknowledge those duties, are we perhaps worthy of condemnation through our reception of the Eucharist? Hmm, scary stuff.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

SSPX and all that

I seem to be getting slightly more traffic than usual thanks to Ttony, if you want the "dementors" post scroll down one.

Faced with a choice today between an EF Mass (many many miles from home) and an OF Mass celebrated with all due reverence (slightly nearer home) I chose the EF Mass. Priests round here have embraced the new translation of the Mass for weekday Masses, and I'm sorry to say that I've already become a little tired of having to watch what I'm saying.

I have carefully avoided using the word "think" about what I'm saying, becuase that isn't the point. This interim period, where we get used to the new translation is now full of moments when you are making sure you don't slip up and insert a casual "And also with you". It is about learning lines, not about praying the Mass. I'm not sure you can do both simultaneously. I'm finding it a little frustrating and I'm noticing frustration creep in with the priests due to the unhelpful nature of the interim Missal. They're book juggling, whilst we are learning our lines...not prayerful stuff. This is all part of the process, it has to happen and I can't see how any souls can be lost through it, we are never attentive enough during Mass: non sum dignus.

So EF it was today (the Mass for Pope St Pius X), no need to watch my words, just be immersed in the Mass, I'm glad I went.

It got me musing about the SSPX on my way home. I used to think they were just a bunch of reactionary loosers, now I don't know what to think. All I know is that the meeting scheduled between Bp Fellay and the Vatican is truly significant and packs a greater punch than it simply being about the SSPX. I am way out of my depth here, but knowing this is much more about Theology than about Liturgy, is it just possible that the SSPX are right in many ways theologically speaking. There is so much grey and murky water within the theology of Rahner, von Balthazar and de Lubac, it is impossible to say whether it is right or wrong becuase it is never clear enough about what it is actually on about. The Truth ought to be clear becuase it is illuminated by Christ, the new theology is just simply too complex and too fuzzy. For those of us who hold the old theology as divinely inspired or atleast self-consistent and clear, surely it is still so? The SSPX will not embrace the new theology. We have to ask now, does it form part of the Magesterium? Do they need to embrace it? Successive pontiffs have embraced the "new" theology, but that doesn't mean they are in error and not valid sucessors to the see of Peter. Nor does it mean that those who don't embrace the new theology are in error either. The vast majority of the world's Catholics simply wouldn't find it necessary for growing in grace and the understanding of, and obedience to Our Lord.

Could it just be that we are wandering into an era where we get a more focussed, more united Church with a much better understanding of the role of the Pope. The reading at Mass today (John 21:15-17) is Peter's threefold protestation of love for Our Lord and His three fold commandment to "Feed my sheep". Isn't that really what the papacy is all about? The successor of Peter is the one who must most amply display love of Our Lord and proclaim most visibly who He is (and correct where errors have come in regarding Jesus Christ since the preaching of the first apostles) and then, as a consequence of this, feed the sheep with the "Bread" that lasts. No Pope has ever been in error over these matters. Even young Patricius would struggle to argue with that. Popes may not always express their Theology with crystal clarity, but provided they know who Christ is, God doesn't expect them to be the cleverest of men. Popes may not always do the wisest of things (God doen't expect them to be the wisest of men). Changes to the liturgy are always done for pastoral reasons, but again they may not always be done with wisdom. Saints and Blesseds do not need to be wise or clever men but they must love Our Lord madly, foolishly and visibly.

Could it be that, the SSPX will actually do the whole Chruch a favour by staking the claim for a more robust, clear, intelligible Theology? The result of this may well be a clearer understanding of the nature of the priesthood and the papacy. This must be a good thing. They may find they have new friends in very diverse corners of the Church.

St Pius X ora pro nobis.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Dementors in "Per Una"

I'm being a bit uncharitable here and in fact most of them don't wear "Per Una" (an upmarket range of clothing from Marks & Spencer for ladies), but the fact remains, some people just seem to drain the "gubbins" out of me (like the Dementors in Harry Potter).

It is all about givers and takers and that highly overrated quality "niceness". There are so many so very nice people who think they are givers. They go out of their way to ask how I am with that ghastly phrase "how are you feeling?". This is truly the "dementors kiss", they think they are giving of their love and affection but they seem to want to feed on my emotions, it doesn't matter how I answer that question, I am left drained by the fact it was asked. Through engaging with them, and being in their company I really feel it is me who is doing the giving. Yes, they may hurt for what has happend to me, but they seem to want to increase that feeling inside of them by feeding off me. I love them, I can't change them, but oh boy, they are exhausting.

So for now, though it be a significant number of miles from anything Roman (my diesel bill is huge), I feel the need to stay among these people of Wessex where I have made my home: high Tory, low Church. There is a different sort of giving here and it is so very English. My neighbours give out of a sense of duty and care, a sense that it is the right thing to do. They keep an eye out for me, leave me with little presents of surplus produce from their gardens, a cheery wave, a firm handshake, invite me in for a cup of coffee, with a total lack of interest in what I'm up to but so keen I'm showing an interest in what is happening in the village. They care, but they stay out of my emotions, they give at little cost to themselves and it is so hugely appreciated by me. They take nothing off me (except the rent) and I feel ever so privileged to be among them.

Englishness is a good thing (for the English), but it seems to be dying out, it is a bit like living in a "designated rare-breed area", are honour, duty, respect and civility really such difficult qualities to pass on these days? They are certainly very precious.