On Verification

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With people resisting vaccines returning to the news, I had to bump this post forward on my posting timetable.

Many definitions of science exists. Most, if not all, are variations on a theme. Mine is simple: The search for the explanation of what we observe in nature. Search, explanation, observe, and nature serve as the four key words defining science. I think of them as the what, why, how, and where of science.

To me, words as hypothesis, scientific method, controls, and others are important, but they also cloud a person’s impression with terms they lead them to misconceptions by over-generalizing.. But search, explanation, observe, and nature tells important aspect of what, why, who, and where of science.

That being said, the how of science is also important. From accurately recording data from direct observations to the following proper procedures in an experiment, the scientific process is a playbook with rules – and yes, there are officials that will examine what is done in order to verify the results and to make sure scientific standards are met.

The purpose of this post isn’t about hypotheses, data collection, and conclusions – well, not directly. This post examines an important aspect that many (if not most) people do not realize – verification.

Science is an appeal to the collective wisdom in order to build consensus. When a scientist or team of scientists announce a new discovery, a jury of their peers judge the claim. Not a collection of journalists, politicians, clergy, or random people off the street – a group of their peers. Geologists don’t judge information about a new vaccine. Neither do botanists, chemists, psychiatrists, physicists, or even the majority of biologists. Immunologists study the claim to either verify or discredit the new finding. Not just one group, but as many groups as possible. Not a group from the same lab, university, or institute, but by peers from all over the world.

In science, the burden of proof is on those making the claim – so it is the wisdom of the collective of specialists with PhDs that decide the validity. Verification is done at the geek level. Discrediting with evidence is part of the scientific process, therefore not a reason to find fault with science.

Verification is actually a continual process because something in the future may come forth to discredit what had been previously accepted. Verification is an important part of the scientific process – not a reason to find fault with science.

Continual verification is why science is based on evidence – and not on political, religious, cultural, or personal beliefs. The public should have faith in science because of faith in the process. If someone does not have faith in the process, they do not understand science. They are ignoring science in favor of a belief system outside of the scientific community. They are ignoring science as the poetry of reality.

On Containers


Why is the astronaut in a space suit?

I always enjoyed asking that question to biology students. Knowing the knew the answer is one thing, but the question and the crafted discussion was a setup of what was to come. After all, I wanted to expand their view of the situation and use the discussion throughout the entire unit (3 chapters).

The space suit serves as a barrier between two environments – one suitable for the human body, and the other quite harsh – therefore, the space suit is a container similar to a can of vegetables on the grocery self.

The body within the space suit is also a container with a barrier separating different environments on each side of the barrier. Within the human body are several cavities – open spaces that are sealed spaces for organs. For instance, the chest cavity is sealed with a protective barrier to play an important role in inhaling and exhaling. Yes, another container within a container that is inside the protective space suit.

Tissues and organs (composed of tissues) are not only within the cavities, but throughout the body. Tissues are composed of two or more different types of cells working together in a common function. Surprise, surprise, surprise – cells are also containers because each cell has a protective barrier (cell membrane) separating two environments. It is through these membranes that essential materials pass through to reach their site of need for processing. Through these same membranes, the waste removal process occurs.

Cells contain individual parts with specialized functions. Are you surprised to know that many of these parts are covered with protective barriers separating two distinct environments?

Substances continually pass in and out of the cell through the membrane. Some of these movements occur naturally without the cell expending energy. On the other hand, some movements require energy to occur.

Cells are the reason we take in oxygen from the atmosphere and return carbon dioxide. Cells are the reason we eat. Cells are the reason the heart pumps blood throughout the body to transport nutrients and carry away wastes. Cells are the reason we go to the bathroom. Cells are the reason all vital activities exist.

Cells have to survive in order to reproduce. Cells require food and eliminate wastes. Cells must interact with their surrounding environment. Cells require amino acids to produce proteins. Cells contain DNA to serve as the code of life not only for itself, but for the organism as a whole. As Bruce Lipton (scientist) states, “In reality, a cell is a biological mini-me compared to the human body. A cell has every biological system that you have.” …. now, that is quite the container.

On Carbon

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Carbon – from Latin: carbo “coal”

Carbon – symbol C, atomic number 6 on the Periodic Table (group 14) because each carbon atom contains 6 protons

Carbon – each atom with 6 protons, but varying number of neutrons to form different isotopes, such as carbon-12 being almost 99% of the Earth’s carbon, and carbon-14, another naturally occurring form whose presence is used to determine ages (carbon dating)

Carbon – the 4th most abundant element in the universe by mass (after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen), but only the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust

Carbon – whose density is slightly twice more than water, so it sinks

Carbon – which is 40 times more abundant in Earth’s water that in its atmosphere

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Carbon – whose different physical forms are best known as charcoal, graphite, and diamond … each with different properties (from transparent to opaque, from hard to soft, from conductor to a resistor), thus different uses

Carbon as graphite, used in pencils (when combined with clay), in nuclear reactors to moderate the reaction in the reactor … plus is used in electric motors, dry batteries, electroplating, and manufacturing glass

Carbon as diamonds – a girl’s best friend – thus a story in itself

Carbon as the black pigment in printing ink, artist’s oil paint and watercolors, carbon paper, automotive finishes, India ink and laser printer toner – thus was also one of the first pigments for tattoos

Carbon, in the form of activated charcoal, – used as an absorbent and absorbent in filter material in gas masks, water purification, kitchen hoods, and in medicine to absorb odors, impurities, toxins, poisons, or gases

Carbon – with 4 available outer electrons to make covalent (sharing) chemical bonds with other atoms

Carbon – whose atom’s electron-sharing capability allows it for form around ten million different chemical compounds

Carbon – as a member of the vital carbon cycle moves from organism to organism and from life to nonlife

Carbon – whose cycle involves all life forms, thus is important in processes as cell respiration, photosynthesis, biosynthesis (life processes making new molecules), decay (decomposition), and combustion – plus is passed from one organism to another by eating

Carbon – which combines with oxygen and hydrogen to make carbohydrates (including sugars), proteins, fats, and alcohol – then add nitrogen (and sometimes sulfur) to make DNA, RNA, antibiotics, amino acids, and more

Carbon – the foundation of cellulose, an important carbohydrate for plants – thus an important component in cotton, hemp, and numerous fabrics (natural and synthetic) .. plus animal products as wool,, cashmere, silk, and leather

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Carbon – the foundation for organic chemistry, thus the chemical basis of all known life

Carbon – the substance forming the primary ingredient in coal

Carbon – as danger when inhaling coal dust or soot in large quantities (as in Black Lung Disease)

Carbon – which unites with hydrogens to make hydrocarbons as plastics, refrigerants, solvents lubricants, paraffin, and fossil fuels such as petroleum, methane, butane, propane, octane, kerosene, natural gas (a mixture), and others.

Carbon – whose combination with silicon, tungsten, boron, or titanium, form carbides – which are among the hardest known materials, and are used as abrasives in cutting and grinding tools.

Carbon – used as a filler in rubber products such as tires and in plastics

Carbon – with one of the highest melting points plays a role in the high temperatures of manufacturing steel

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Carbon – Its abundance in the Sun, stars, comets, asteroids, and other atmospheres stimulates our wonder if life exists elsewhere

Carbon – formed within the core of stars by fusing atoms of helium and hydrogen

Carbon – scattered in the universe as space dust from supernova explosions


Note: The reader may not remember this, but 3-5 years ago Jim Wheeler suggested I do a post about carbon. I immediately knew Jim’s idea was a great one, and started drafting. For a variety of reasons, the draft sat for a long time, but it remained in my eyesight. Not long ago I decided to make the post a reality. Jim, thanks for the suggestion – and this post is for you.

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.

On a Book Review in a Hurry

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.