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Mythbusters

Dean and I were watching Mythbusters on Monday night. He had just come home from a business trip, so we talked, ate, and chilled on the couch and had the TV on while we were doing so. It was an entire episode dedicated to seeing if there was any merit to the theory that the landing on the moon had been faked. Pictures and videos of the landing were analysed and the common so-called discrepancies were tested.

Two of the tests they featured caught my attention. One was the claim that the American flag that was planted on the moon is seen to be waving in the breeze in a video and the reasoning is that in the vacuum of the moon, this should not be possible. The other one was that in a picture taken of an astronaut climbing down from the lunar module, he is in the shadow of the space vehicle and yet he is quite brightly lit, leading some to claim that this was a staged photo with a second light source.

They tested the first theory by swiveling a flag (as if planting it in the ground) in an earthly environment, and then doing the same test in a vacuum simulating the moon's atmosphere. In our atmosphere, the flag waved as the stick was being moved, then quickly became still once the motion stopped. So far, so good. One could understand why the waving flag looked odd in the moon landing video. Then the flag and stick were placed in a vacuum and the same motion was made. The flag continued to wave long after the movement of the stick had stopped. Why? The resistance of the air in the Earth's atmosphere caused the movement to subside quickly, whereas in a vacuum where there is no air resistance, the flag continued its fluttering motion even after the stick had stopped moving. What seemed to be a breeze on earth was in fact the natural law of a vacuum.

The second discrepancy concerned a photo of an astronaut in the shadow of the lunar module. He is not cast in a dark shadow as one would expect. Once again, the people of Mythbusters tried to simulate the scenario. This meant building a mini version of the moon landing scene and obtaining something that resembled moon dust. The surface of the moon is known to have a much higher retro-reflectivity than earth, so they sprinkled a substance with the same albedo (reflectance of planetary surface) under the model of the scene. A picture was taken and voila! The reflective quality of the surface did in fact light up the white-clad astronaut much more than a picture taken on earth would have. The term sometimes used to describe this glow is Heiligenschein (German for "holy light"). [1]

A reading I was doing yesterday from C. S. Lewis talks about how we make the error of taking ourselves as the starting point and how this skews so much of our thinking. [2] Certain earth-bound people who looked at these photos and pictures of another world made the mistake of assuming that things would happen in the same way there as they do here, in the world they were familiar with. There was no recognition of greater freedom of movement because they were used to the restriction of their own atmosphere. There was no allowance for a greater light, a "glory" to be seen, because they were used to shadow and dark places. These things just could not be real because they did not match up with what they had observed around them thus far.

I have the feeling that my starting points are being challenged. I assume certain things about who I am, and how I relate to others, and how things will go in my life, and what church is all about, and what happens when I talk to God, and how he deals with humankind, and who God is. The problem is that all too often, I start with me and what I have perceived thus far. I leave little room for unfettered freedom and glows of glory because I am not used to experiencing them. I explain them away. I ignore them. I keep living like the atmosphere around God is the same as the atmosphere that I know, and like God planting a big sloppy wet kiss on earth does not change any of this earthly substance. [3]

But it did and it does. If I am ever to tread in new and uncharted places, I must give up my small and inadequate starting points. Let it begin with the biggest starting place I know, and that is God.

1. see Retro-reflection phenomena on http://www.wikipedia.com/
2. from Mere Christianity
3. a line from the song, "How He Loves," by John Mark McMillan

This is the Ferris wheel at Niagara Falls on a cloudy, not too reflective, day.

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