(Every so often I read the writing of someone whose skills bring an idea or set of facts into focus with the kind of clarity that’s both rare and awe-inspiring. Today’s entry describes a recent example.)
I have to tell you about a fascinating article I read in the February 2024 edition of Scientific American. It’s about the shifting character of the Milky Way. (See the link below.) The piece, authored by science writer Ann Finkbeiner, is well-written in so many ways. What intrigued me the most was her sharing of the metaphors that astronomers use as they map the cosmos.
I can get trapped in scientific writing—concepts and verbiage that overwhelm. But not this time. Finkbeiner’s use of starwatchers’ word-choices helped me see how today’s star-mapping projects are making sense of our turbulent universe.
Here are some of the metaphors and similes that astronomers use:
Spiral arms with bones; streams; halo; bulge; heavier-metal and metal-poor stars; bean-shaped sausage; blob; Splash; simmering/boiling stars; the poor, old heart of the Milky Way; the galaxy as alive-and-breathing; local stellar nurseries; the Local Bobble and the Scorpius-Centaurus Association.
Yes, each of these can be described with astronomically exact verbiage, but astronomers know the power of metaphors—how they tickle our imaginations and draw us into further thoughts and curiosities. When it comes to understanding really big concepts and really big phenomena, metaphors may do a better job than other word forms. In this case, superbly so!
Back to you and me… As God’s people, we live with and share our own awe-inspiring metaphors. Not only the time-honored ones—Good News; covenant; communions of saints—but also the fascinating and fresh word-images that are as close as this Sunday’s sermon, Scripture readings, hymns or prayers—God in flesh made manifest; the sin-sick soul; Jesus’ authority experienced as healing and liberation.
Let’s keep sharing those metaphors, so that God’s magnificent existence will continue to fascinate all who want or need to know what’s truly awesome!
For the complete article, see https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-new-story-of-the-milky-ways-surprisingly-turbulent-past/
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