On an Awesome Journey

Breaking News

I interrupt previously announced posting because of important news. Iceland posts will be delayed. The post about Reykjavik will publish Sunday evening (Eastern US), then the post about travel tips for Iceland will be Tuesday evening (Eastern US).

Long-time visitors know my fascination with images of deep space – such as those from the Hubble Telescope. After all, I use them as headers here. (Click here for past headers or click the Past Headers tab for my page dedicated to past headers.)

The magical and mystical nature of deep space image give me a special sense of the grand nature of creation – the universe we live in.

The Friday morning news featured a clip of a video from the Hubble Telescope team. I immediately knew I had to use it here. It is an animated fly-through of the Orion Nebula – a place featured in multiple headers. The video is a worthy 3 minutes and I recommend viewing it on full screen. Enjoy.

Addition (10:15 AM): For some, the video promotes reflection. If so, please share in your comment.

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On a Book Review in a Hurry

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Neil deGrasse Tyson is a rock star to many people – definitely an odd descriptor for an astrophysicist who is Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Many consider him to be today’s Carl Sagan – and I find it interesting that (at least to me) he talks and sounds like Dr. Sagan.

No matter in his role as director, author, speaker, interviewee, or television show host, Dr. deGrasse Tyson exudes enthusiasm and commitment to his craft and passion – science – just as Carl Sagan did.

Images of deep space capture a sense of awesome for me – which is one of the reasons I use them as headers on this blog. (Click here to see past headers.) As a geek interested in the intersection of science and religion, those images give me a greater sense of creation. These points, along with interviews I saw with Dr. deGrasse Tyson, his 2017 book became a must-read for me.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is a short read (about 200 pages) that made it to the top of the New York Times Best-Seller list. This book is about time, space, particles, forces, and how they fit together in the universe according to the laws of the universe. Yes, he takes readers into complex topics as the Big Bang, dark matter, and dark energy – but he does it with relative simplicity with wit, real-world application, and enthusiasm. Even with his wit and understandable writing style, the topic isn’t naturally easy for all – so I had head scratching.

Logically-sequenced chapters are short with each focusing on a single topic. His easy-to-read text aims at an audience that doesn’t know much astrophysics. The text doesn’t contain new, groundbreaking information, so I consider this book as a primer that can lead to deeper learning if one chooses. (Like a 101 college course that serves as an introduction and springboard.)

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an excellent communicator and I can hear his voice in his words. This booked helped me understand my awe with deep space and creation. He promotes the cosmic perspective from the frontiers; which he describes as humbling, spiritual, redemptive, mind opening, eye opening, transcending, wise, insightful, finding beauty, enabling one to see beyond in order to embrace chemical and genetic kinship, and more. Now that is for me!

I encourage readers to take the time to embrace Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Besides, it could be a stocking stuffer as a holiday gift. Here’s the link for the book on Amazon.

I end this review with a fantastic video on a similar topic from Symphony of Science featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson.

On Aspects of Science

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Science – the search for the explanation of what we observe in nature.

Science – a body of organized knowledge that describes the properties and interactions of the material components of the universe.

Science – a human endeavor limited to the human perspective seeking to understand and explain phenomena occurring in the natural world and the laboratory.

Science – a dynamic (not static) intellectual human endeavor leading us to a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Science – an impersonal process requiring a trained mind with passion, imagination, and patience for details to find patterns, structure, connections, and history within nature.

Science – a data-gathering process so we can better understand ourselves, the natural world around us, and our place in this world.

Science – a process with accepted methodologies trained mind works uses while fighting misconceptions, mistaken observations, and inadequate conclusions.

Science – an intellectual activity using the senses and technology to extend the senses for gathering data to develop an explanation based on evidence and what is already known.

Science – a process and activity requiring a conscious mind that observes, inquires, organizes, interprets, understands, and a willingness to follow acceptable scientific methodologies while staying within nature’s boundaries – yet that does not mean that nothing exists outside of nature’s boundaries.

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Science – the study of the material, processes, and forces of the natural world.

Science – not a belief system, but a learning system involving the exploration of natural causes to explain natural phenomena through systemic processes and procedures.

Science – an empirical human endeavor by establishing questions of truth through experimenting and testing without absolutes while remaining open to retesting and reconsideration.

Science – a gift as it brings us new knowledge, yet knowledge that is only for a given point in time because it can change based on newer knowledge. Because of potential development of new knowledge, science must be willing to have what is currently known to be proven wrong.

Science – a system giving us gives theories: a structure of ideas based on large amounts of evidence that explain and interpret numerous facts about a concept – therefore, well beyond a personal opinion or a detective’s hunch.

Science – a habit of mind of careful sifting of data and withholding of final judgment.

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Science – a methodology that does not make moral, ethical, and value judgments for society because those judgments are made by society.

Science – a way of knowing, but not the only way because science does not corner the way to truth about everything. Philosophical, theological, psychological/emotional, ethical, political, and historical views provide additional perspectives, yet each discipline is selective and limited.

Science – an activity bringing forth new issues causing humanity to face moral and ethical questions – whose answers science does not provide because it is neither equipped nor competent to answer ethical and moral questions, let alone the metaphysical, philosophical, or theological questions as “what is the meaning of life”, “why am I here”, and “is there a god?”

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Science – a process with recognized limitations. Science does not state how to use its knowledge. Science does not make value judgments. Science is limited to studying in nature. Science is limited to our ability to observe, including technology’s limitations. Science does not operate outside of its defined methodologies.

Science – a study that is limited to itself. Science cannot prove or disprove God’s existence because that question/topic lies outside science’s self-imposed boundaries of the observable events in the natural world around us.

Science – a study that should be embraced by all.

On Density

Density is one of those topics that science classes frequently include – especially in the physical sciences. Yes, it’s the ratio of mass to volume – or as I like to think – how much stuff is contained in a given space.

Like any formula as D=M/V, given any two variables, it’s possible to calculate the unknown. Density is more than just working formulas – after all – it is an important concept to understand – but most teachers focus on density as it’s covered in a textbook or as their designated drills to pass a state-mandated test.

To me, it’s the application of density into our everyday world that gives the topic relevance. For instance, wood is more than just wood. Product information for a new fireplace or wood-burning stove may include information about softwood and hardwood.

Given 2 logs of the same size, the hardwood log (oak) will have more mass (think of it as heavier when you pick it up) than the softwood log (pine). There’s more wood substance packed into the given space as the same-sized log of softwood. Bottom line being that the hardwood log will burn longer and release more heat.

When density is applied to populations in biology, Hong Kong is very dense – just like hardwoods – well, more like ebony, one of the most dense hardwoods.

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Which is heavier, five pounds (kilos) or one pound (kilo) of water? That’s a no brainer – the oil is heavier, so will five pounds (kilos) float on one pound (kilo) of water? Sure it will because oil is less dense than water (Note: we could include a discussion about solubility, but will stick to density). Yep – that’s why we shake that bottle of Italian dressing before we use it.

Hot air doesn’t rise – (it never has and it never will) – but it is displaced upward by the colder air that is also more dense. (Here’s a past post that addresses that misconception). The same idea can be applied to any fluid (liquid and gases), so now density helps explain currents in the atmosphere and in bodies of water. https://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/on-hot-air/

You may remember the story of Archimedes (Greek mathematician, physicist, and inventor) whom the king called upon to determine if the crown was real gold or not. Legend has it that the explanation came to Archimedes while in a bathtub – “Eureka!” Of course, his points about density and displacement eventually led to how boats and ships float.

While at a party, you want a soda – which is found in a large metal tub. All the ice has melted, but the cold water is still keeping the cans cold. You notice some of the cans are floating and others lie on the bottom. The sign says Diet Soda and Regular Soda. You want a Diet soda, and density is telling you which one to pick.

Readers are wondering why I wrote this post – or at least what sparked the idea. After all, long-time readers here know I have reasons for what I do. I like Chex cereals – and earlier this year I bought a box of each of my favorites in the Chex family. (The written number represent ounces and grams.) Personally, I like the more dense one better – and it’s more filling – which should not be a surprise.

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On Phi

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. (Albert Einstein)

Nature hides her secrets because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse. (Albert Einstein)

All life is biology – All biology is physiology – All physiology is chemistry – All chemistry is physics – All physics is math. (Dr. Stephen Marquardt)

Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so. (Galileo Galilei)

Geometry has two great treasures: one is the Theorem of Pythagoras; the other, the division of a line into extreme and mean ratio. The first we may compare to a measure of gold; the second we may name a precious jewel. (Johannes Kepler)

This post is about Phi (Φ) – 21st letter of the Greek alphabet

Phi – but not fi fo and fum

Phi, in traditional Greek numerals a value of 500 (φʹ) or 500 000 (φ)

Phi – the ratio of each successive pair of numbers in the Fibonacci Sequence

Phi – the symbol for the golden ratio and on other occasions in math and science

Phi – applicable in mathematics, art, architecture, biology, astronomy, music, physics, navigation, geology, engineering, economics, philosophy, and more

Phi – squared is a number exactly 1 greater than itself: 2.618

Phi – the ratio in the length of a DNA molecule

Phi – the ratio of the diameter of Saturn to the diameter of its rings

Phi – the sound of this song if the numbers were assigned to piano keys. Enjoy.

Additional Information about Phi at this site dedicated to phi

On Science & Technology: The Forum

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The odds of actually seeing this take are someplace between slim and none – so, why not here? After all, these two topics are more important than ever, and are the center of numerous important issues that the candidates frequently ignore, skirt, or poorly answer.

We should note that neither political party would agree to these rules and the debate topic because they prefer rules that favor them – not the voters. Therefore, our aim is getting the answers that Americans need to hear or identifying the fraudulent candidates.

Introduction
Welcome to the aFrankAngle Theater for the Performing Arts as it hosts the Presidential Forum on Science and Technology. This first-ever event is co-sponsored by the aFrankAngle Center of Blogging Decency and the aFrankAngle Foundation for Candidate Accountability and No-Campaign-Bullshit. We’ve invited all the candidates from both major parties

First, the rules.
Rule 1) The moderator makes the rules, asks the questions, and runs the debate. Anyone disagreeing with any of the moderator’s questions, rules, or actions during the debate should always refer to Rule 1.

Rule 2) When answering the question, talk back to the audience through the moderator. For instance, start your answer by paraphrasing the question as your introductory phrase. For instance: (Q) What is your favorite color? (Ex) My favorite color is blue. Bad examples of starting an answer include (which some, maybe all, on this stage have used):

  • I think a better question is ….
  • Let me tell you what I think.
  • I’m not going to talk about that, but I will say …
  • That’s a good question, and I’m happy to be here.
  • I believe the American people are looking for someone to speak the truth.
  • First of all, …

Rule 3) After your answer, provide several supporting statements for your answer. (Ex) My favorite color is blue because it was the most prominent color at my grandparent’s house. I would spend time with them each summer amidst all that blue. I would go outside to work and play with all that blue sky – endless on the open plains – simply beautiful. I also resemble my grandmother, and wouldn’t you know it, I inherited her blue eyes. Those are the main reasons why blue is my favorite color.

Rule 4) Focus on answering the question and staying on topic. If you babble, go off topic, criticize the current administration or any fellow candidate, the moderator will turn off your microphone and enclose you in the Cone of Silence. On the third offense, you will be removed from the stage in an unexpected manner as a trap door, hooked cane, or a vaporizer.

Rule 5) If you answer the question to the moderator’s satisfaction, there will be no follow-up questions.

Also note that we prepared as many questions as possible without an introductory premise because we want to avoid leading questions and bias. The audience should know that the candidates did not receive the questions in advance, however, received a list of topics as science/science processes, evolution, genetics, health, technology, energy, and the environment.

Topic 1:Science
Q1) What is science?

Q2) Give examples of good science and bad science – but each example of one requires an example of the other.

Q3) Does science have limits on its area of study?

Q4) How do you define a scientific theory?

Q5) Is it acceptable for elected officials to hold back or alter scientific reports if they conflict with their own views, and how will you balance scientific information with politics and personal beliefs in your decision-making?

Q6) Do science and religion compete against each other?

Q7) Explain why Intelligent Design and 7-day Creationism should or should not get time in the science classroom.

Topic 2: Genetics
Q8) The field of genetics has exploded possibilities. What is the right policy balance between genetic advances and potential risks?

Q9) What is your position on government regulation and funding of stem cell research?

Q10) Assuming health insurance companies cannot deny health insurance, is the information from genetic testing/screening the same as a pre-existing condition?

Q11) How should we use and not use genetically modified plants?

Q12) Scientist created seedless watermelons by chemically changing the chromosome number in watermelons. Should seedless watermelons be banned?

Topic 3: Health
Q13) How do you see science, research, and technology contributing to improved health and quality of life?

Q14) How do you protect citizens from pandemics?

Q15) What role do vaccines have in our society today?

Q16) Should a public school and a private school have the authority to deny admission of a student whose parents decided not to vaccinate their children?

Q17) In a time of fiscal restraint, how do you secure more funding toward combating mental illness?

Q18) Should the Federal government financially fund research in science topics as health and energy?

Topic 4: Technology
Q19) Should the internet be considered a public utility?

Q20) How can science and technology spur innovation?

Q21) In an era of budget cutting, how can promote research while reducing spending on research?

Q22) What role does science and technology play in national security?

Topic 5: Energy and the Environment
Q23) Water is necessary. Should the Federal government provide financial assistance to arid states and/or states with considerable droughts?

Q24) What role do alternative energy resources have in our society?

Q25) What role does the United States have in the global community regarding climate change?

Q26) Explain 3 concerns you have about the climate change issue.

Q27) In the recent nuclear negotiations with Iran, why or why not should physicists be on the negotiating team?

Q28) Would you abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? If not, why not? If so, how would environmental regulations be protected and enforced.

Topic: Questions From the Audience
Because all the candidates have been removed from the stage for repeated rule violations, let’s bring back all of them because it’s time for questions by the audience.

What questions do you have for the candidates? (Caution to questioners: Respectfully ask your question in nonpartisan manner; plus the question is to all candidates, not a specific candidate.)

A reminder to the candidates. Let’s see if you’ve learned anything about answering questions in a debate. The rules still apply, and to see if you’ve learned anything, no leniency.

Mr. Producer, is the buzzer ready?

On a Science Project

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The science process starts with a question. I had a question, but it didn’t involve an experiment. It’s a good question and one that could be answered by direct observation. After all, direct observation is very much part of the science process … and its data is important and reliable.

It’s interesting how some conveniently dismiss direct observation. As a matter of fact, many who dismiss evolution love to imply the lack of experimentation involved in evolution while also dismissing all the data Darwin compiled from direct observation. For those who didn’t know, Darwin’s recorded notes were very detailed.

My question: At our hummingbird feeder, what is the ratio of hummingbirds that perch while they drink/feed to those hovering while the drink/feed?

My controls were simple: We have only one feeder, it didn’t move, and we used the same food source. On the other hand, we admittedly recorded our observations randomly – that is, when looking out the window.

Findings: After observing recording 100 feedings, 75 perched and 25 hovered.

Conclusion: Hummingbirds at our feeder who perched outnumbered those who hovered by a 3:1 ratio. This ratio was established early, thus maintained through the remaining observations.

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Q&A Discussion
Is this is true at all feeders?

Absolutely not because I confidently say that if my feeder didn’t have perches, no hummingbird would perk on it when feeding – thus all would hover.

Do multiple hummingbirds feed at once?

As a general rule, the ruby-throated hummingbird is very territorial as we frequently observed birds keeping others away. Three key points: 1) we didn’t keep any data about this, and 2) this may not be true for other hummingbird species. (See this picture)  3) this behavior does not seem to be very energy-efficient.

How many different hummingbirds were involved in the study?

I didn’t gather this data because I did not identify individuals by traits or tags. Typically, the most hummingbirds saw at one time on and/or around the feeder was 3. However, my wife observed 5 once. I also observed a day of swarming – thus seeing up to 7 hummingbirds at once on and around the feeder. I would predict other nearby feeders were empty on that day.

Does gender and age influence their choice?

Unclear. As an Equal Opportunity Feeder, we did not require hummingbirds to provide birth certificates or proof of residency. Although distinguishing males and females is easy, we didn’t record data based on sex or age. I can say that I don’t recall seeing a male hover to feed. However, I observed females in both feeding positions. Plus, it is possible that only 3 different hummingbirds regularly visited our feeder, thus the youngest was the one hovering because it didn’t know better.

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The Next Question
Often, the science process leads to more questions. For me it’s this: Do hummingbirds poop?

Researching What Is Known
Because they have a liquid diet, it would seem their kidneys are very active. Let alone accounting for their high metabolism. Hummingbirds lack a urinary bladder because carrying extra weight from stored urine decreases flight efficiency. Therefore, the ureter provides a passageway for the urine from each kidney to deposit directly into the lower large intestine.

Given that the solution in the feeder is sugar and water, hummingbirds (like the rest of life) also need proteins, fats, and salts – especially the proteins, whose root origins means of first importance. Because the food in our feeder won’t provide those nutrients and we didn’t add protein supplements, hummingbirds must balance their diet by eating small insects, insect eggs, and insect larva – and all those require digestion that will produce wastes to be eliminated.

Conclusion 

When hummingbirds perform their version of defecation, they simultaneously release solid and liquid wastes – which means they poop and pee at the same time through the same opening.