Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 2014

Dead Sea Scrolls and More

DEAD SEA SCROLLS GO DIGITAL! Scholars at the Bible Project may be helped along in their Sisyphean task. In a stunning demonstration of the power of new technologies to illuminate the past, the Israel Antiquities Authority has partnered with none other than Google to scan, catalog, display, and make available to the public thousands of scans of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These scans are so crisp and clear that their image quality is comparable to the fragments themselves. In other words, almost no detail is lost in the transfer from physical to digital space.

While only five conservators in the entire world are allowed to physically examine the parchment fragments comprising the Dead Sea Scrolls, the public now possesses similar access through the online database. The searchable database is available for browsing at

THE OLD OLD TESTAMENT. Scholars cloistered in an obscure wing of Hebrew University in Jerusalem have been quietly poring over ancient texts in a quest to publish the most accurate ever edition of the Hebrew Bible, known to many as the Old Testament. The Bible Project, started over fifty years ago, has been meticulously studying and tracking every iteration of the Hebrew Bible, as compiled through texts in a myriad of languages, including Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Sumerian, and Latin.

The stated goal of the project is to publish the most comprehensive and accurate edition of the Hebrew Bible, as well as to document every change that ever took place in the text. The accuracy of the Old Testament is of immense theological significance to both Jews and Christians. The Bible is, after all, widely considered to be the word of God. If the word of God can be transmuted through human error, does it remain the true word of God? Considering that the relevant texts span centuries, multiple languages, and are of variable quality, the Bible Project is understandably a laborious and time consuming endeavor. At the current rate of progress, the project may take three centuries to complete! In fact, none of the project’s founding members are alive today. Those currently working on it will probably not live to see its conclusion.

NEWS FROM THE LAST FRONTIER. After forty years away from their rightful home, the Apollo 11 moon rocks given to Alaska in 1969 by President Richard Nixon have finally made their way back to the State Museum in Juneau. The moon rocks went missing after a fire destroyed most of the Transportation Museum in Anchorage. Although the rocks were known to have survived the fire, their whereabouts were a mystery.

As it turns out, one of the cleanup crew, who was, at that time, a teenager, picked the display case containing the rocks out of the debris and brought it home as a souvenir. Decades later, the man resurfaced offering to return the rocks – for a price. After some legal wrangling, as well as some help from the FBI in authenticating the Apollo 11 display, the moon rocks were finally restored to their rightful owners, the people of Alaska, without any further recompense.

Following restoration, the rocks will be displayed in the State Museum. Eleven other lunar rocks, given to states following the Apollo missions, remain missing, as are close to two hundred moon rocks given to foreign nations worldwide. While the sale of lunar rocks is illegal in the United States, people still try to capitalize on these national treasures: a woman was arrested as recently as 2011 for attempting to sell a lunar rock to an undercover agent working for NASA.

NEWS FROM THE FINAL FRONTIER. Since the Apollo missions, NASA has made innumerable discoveries regarding the nature of outer space. Now, the Hubble telescope has captured images of the beginning of time. Yes, scientists have determined that galaxies photographed by Hubble are 13.3 billion light years away, meaning they represent a glimpse of the universe, as it was at its infancy. These galaxies formed a mere 380 million years after the Big Bang. This is the closest scientists have come to seeing the universe at its start, proving Hubble worth the investment even after more than twenty years on the job – a mere blip by cosmic standards!