Wednesday, April 26

praying in space and other religious oddities

I'm always curious to see the ways that religious people reconcile their desire to follow the rules of their faith when confronted with unusual circumstances the modern world throws at them.

So what are Muslims, who are to pray facing Mecca, supposed to do when orbiting Earth in a space ship?

Muslim Malaysian astronauts-to-be are now trying to figure this out, along with the timing of their prayers while zooming around the planet every 90 minutes. (Read more in this New Scientist article.)

But since Earth is round, when you're on the opposite side of the planet from Mecca, should you face directly down, to pray straight through Earth? Or can you face any direction you want, since every direction is (more or less) the distance around Earth to Mecca?

Observant Jews are grappling with similar issues, deciding when they can use electric appliances during the Sabbath. They've come up with creative solutions, like taping down the trigger for the frig light, which enables them to open the fridge and get out food without violating the letter of the law. (Read more in this Wired article.)


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