Would you like to see something totally outrageous? The disc of the Moon, as seen from the Earth, is exactly the same size as the disc of the Sun as seen from the Earth. We don’t know why this is so.
First the facts (from The Planetary Society):
“(A solar) eclipse reveals one of the more astonishing coincidences in the natural world: seen from Earth, the Moon’s disk almost perfectly matches the size of the Sun’s disk. During a total solar eclipse, the Moon just blots out the sphere of the Sun, allowing us to view the Sun’s corona. Looking at that coincidence in detail:
* The Sun is about 1,400,000 kilometers (900,000 miles) in diameter, and it lies, on average, about 150,000,000 kilometers (93,000,000 miles) away from Earth
* The Moon is about 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) in diameter; on average, it lies 380,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) away from Earth.
* The ratio of the Sun’s distance to its size is about 110 to 1 — and so is the ratio of the Moon’s distance to its size.
* Thus, the Sun and Moon happen to appear to be the same size in our sky.”
Said the late Isaac Asimov: “There is no astronomical reason why the moon and the sun should fit so well. It is the sheerest of coincidences, and only the Earth among all the planets is blessed in this fashion.”
What is the reason for this outrageously unlikely synchronicity?
Here are three possible explanations:
1. Chance. It just happens to be this way.
2. “God” made it this way.
3. Explanation X.
I’m sympathetic to #3.
Perhaps the Earth, Sun, and Moon system “just happened” to settle down into this “astonishing” relationship by chance, but it’s a long shot, and the fact that it might have “just happened” this way does not eliminate other possibilities. Shouldn’t we at least stop to think of other possibilities?
Likewise, an orderly God might indeed have chosen to create matching discs for aesthetic reasons. I have no authoritative personal revelation from God concerning this matter to report. Have you?
So, is there some other possible “Explanation X” that Science and Religion have been reluctant to either acknowledge or tackle?
Let us Listen to the Moon.
Can we first acknowledge the obvious? This universe is amazing. Just astounding. We wouldn’t believe it if it didn’t pop up again each morning. Everything we see is highly unlikely. I am unlikely. You are unlikely. Yet here we are.
In fairness, Science has indeed generated a concept, the Anthropic Principle, which explains the conveniently life-friendly physical constants and attributes of our universe by noting that only universes that have laws that facilitate the generation of observers will ever be observed. But I don’t think even the Anthropic Principle can have anything to say about why the discs of the Sun and Moon appear to be the same size as seen from Earth.
I say this because this synchronicity of observed disc size plays out in a realm of aesthetic rather than physical necessity. There is no physical necessity for the discs to be the same size. For instance, the moon could be farther away and a bit denser and achieve the same gravitational and tidal effects on Earth with a smaller apparent disc size.
There are, however, aesthetic reasons for the discs to be the same size. As currently constituted, solar eclipses look strikingly cool. Furthermore, the current arrangement of Earth, Sun, and Moon is also balanced and symmetrical. We have two lights of the same apparent size, one for the day and one for the night…
So what’s the point of all this?
Here goes. It is arguable that humanity is in a tight pinch just now. We are faced with potential catastrophe pretty much whichever way we turn. We’re going to need all of our resources and ingenuity to successfully continue on this planet. If some physical observation is really strange or unlikely, and we don’t know for sure why, then we should try to find out why. Maybe the moon “just happens to be” as it is. Maybe. Maybe God did it. Maybe.
And maybe there is some other answer. If there is another answer, then we need to know that answer, because we may need to pull a Rabbit out of our collective hats any day now, and if that day comes and we don’t believe in Hats or Rabbits, then we’re going to be in big trouble.
We need to challenge all of our assumptions, and generate some alternative ways to account for ALL phenomena. We need to examine our use of language, and be SURE the structure of language itself is not constraining our understanding. Then we need to be ingenious enough to figure out how to experimentally test our ideas.
Science does not work through dogma. We use scientific methods to make the best models we possibly can, and then we keep on trying to build better ones. We test with experiment and express our results with mathematical rigor so that others may repeat our tests and compare their results to ours. We build a consensus understanding of physical reality through this process, and our understanding is always open to the possibility of improvement.
In fighting a rearguard battle against dogmatic Religionists we risk dogmatizing an outmoded Scientific world view, in part because to be heard speculating about Hats and Rabbits would force us to admit to doubts about the completeness or correctness of our current Scientific world view.
Of course our Scientific world view is incomplete. That’s how science works.
I am not satisfied with many of Science’s current models. My gut tells me (and by now we should all know that we have more nerve endings in our gut than our brains) that physics is barking up the wrong tree as it tries to understand and explain the very large and the very small, in regions unreachable by experimental tests.
I believe the interesting stuff is happening right here, right now, in this place where multiple consciousnesses collectively create their common reality.
Why do I think the discs of the Sun and the Moon appear to be the same size as seen from Earth?
I think we create them that way. It is always now. Consciousness is the Prime Dimension. Consciousness orients itself up and down. “Down” needs a planet. We create the earth and the sky.
We need energy and illumination. We create the sun.
We need a water cycle. We create lots of water and a Moon to balance the Sun’s tidal pull and stabilize the oceans.
We need an inverse square rule to govern gravitational relationships. Got it. Simplicity itself.
How big will the Moon appear when we look at it? Physically, it doesn’t matter, so long as it functions tidally.
Occam’s razor. We keep it as simple as possible. Collectively dreaming, we accidentally create the Sun and the Moon in such a way that their discs appear from Earth to be the same size.