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 a Book Review about Yes

Because the interchange between science and religion is a hobby of mine, I’ve read my share of books and articles on the topic – so I recognize many of the leading names in the field. Dr. Denis Lamoureux is one of those authors, but I haven’t lamoureuxbookcoverread any of his work. That’s why I placed Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! on my reading list while snowbirding in warmer weather this past January.

Dr. Lamoureux is a Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. Interesting that some colleges have at least a designation of science and religion as a study.

In this book, Dr. Lamoureux incorporates the concept of the existence of two books: The Book of Word (Scripture) and the Book of Works (Nature). This thought has been around for many years as people as Galileo and Francis Bacon used it – but it remains timely today. Lamoureux encourage readers to listen to both books. I was already aware of this concept, so for me, this book reinforces the point.

Dr. Lamoureux also weaves his personal story into the text – his moments of wrestling with science and faith. His journey from Christianity to Atheism to 7-day Creationist to theistic evolutionist is interesting in itself. Because of his experiences, he knows the trials and tribulations people face while understanding the source of their angst. Yet, in this text, I felt him encouraging others.

Because of his involvement with the opposing ends of this topic’s spectrum, Lamoureux knows that the opposing ends force people to make a choice. Therefore, he includes the important concept of dichotomous decisions throughout the text; as well as the effects of forced choices as causing some to lose their faith or not follow a personal dream of a science career – especially in biology.

Along his personal journey, Dr. Lamoureux incorporates words from Richard Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist and staunch atheist), Michael Behe (a biochemist and important Intelligent Design Theory advocate), Charles Darwin, and Scripture. It’s through those interactions that Lamoureux helps readers understand the issues and rationale behind different viewpoints.

Dr. Lamoureux’s passions are apparent in the text. His passion about the interchange. His passion about science. His passion as a Christian – and through these passions he shines a light on the path for those who want to know how to harmonize religion and science without compromising personal faith.

As a university professor, Dr. Lamoureux’s students are at many positions on the continuum of religion and science – especially regarding evolution. Not only does he weave some his encounters along the way, he dedicates an entire chapter (the last one) to various discussions with students. This was priceless for me.

Readers should be aware that Dr. Lamoureux’s view of intelligent design is different than Behe’s Intelligent Design Theory. Although I understand and agree with his point, the natural similarity of the wordings bothered me for some reason. On the other hand, I am over that minor discomfort.

Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! is an excellent book for those who struggle with a literal Genesis and evolution. It’s also an excellent read for those who do not struggle because it provides reasons they may not know. Lamoureux’s words are rooted in an unwavering belief in the two books that successfully intertwine science and religion.

Two sidebars
Somewhere in the book I noticed that Dr. Lamoureux did a TEDx Talk, so I watched. I recommend this 14-minute lecture because it is a mini-version of this book. Besides, Dr. Lamoureux is also a good speaker. His lecture is below.

After reading the book and watching the lecture, I emailed Dr. Lamoureux. Not only did I appreciate that he took the time to respond, but we also engaged in dialogue, He also gave me additional resources. All of which I am grateful.

On 64

cooltext64In Mathematics
64 – the square of 8, the cube of 4, and the sixth power of 2

64 – the first whole number that is both a perfect square and a perfect cube

64 – the smallest number with exactly seven divisors (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64)

64 – a cardinal number, ordinal number, dodecagonal number, centered triangular number, Erdős–Woods number, superperfect number, and the index of Graham’s number

In Science
64 – The atomic number of the element gadolinium, whose neutrally charged atom contains 64 protons and 64 electrons

64 – the number of codons in the RNA codon table under genetic code

Messier object M64 – a galaxy known as the Black Eye Galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices

The New General Catalogue object NGC 64 – a spiral galaxy in the constellation Cetus

In Entertainment
The number of squares on a game board for checkers, chess, and Bejeweled

64 – the name of a Russian chess magazine

64 – a dog character in the Donald Duck comics

Catullus 64 – a poem written by Catullus

Sonnet 64 – one of 154 sonnets written by William Shakespeare

64 – Channel number of television stations in Barstow (CA), Brownsville TX, Cincinnati OH, Fulton (AR), Kalamazoo MI, Kannapolis (NC), Kittanning PA, Providence RI, Ridgecrest (CA), San Bernardino CA, Scranton PA, Seaford DE, Stockton (CA),

64 – the number of crayons in the popular Crayola pack

64th Golden Globes – Held in 2007 with Dreamgirls winning the most awards (3)

64th Academy Awards – Held in 1992 with The Silence of the Lambs winning 5 Oscars

64 Zoo Lane – a British-French children’s cartoon

Sixty-four – a web comic

In Music
64 – The subject of the Beatles song When I’m Sixty-Four

“64” – the title of a song by the hip-hop group Mellowhype

Symphony No. 64 – composed by Joseph Haydn in A major

Opus 64, No. 1 – The Minute Waltz in D-flat major by Chopin

Trio 64 – an album by American jazz musician Bill Evans

Sixty-Four – a 2004 album by Donovan of his 1964 demo recordings

My 64 – a song by Mike Jones

64 Spoons – British rock/pop band in the 1970s-80s that was also known as The Legendary 64 Spoons or just The Spoons)

Commodore 64 – one of the pioneer bands for hip hop while being named after the 1980s computer

Fabric 64 – an album by Guy Gerber

Code 64 – an electronic music band from Sweden and Norway

In Computers
64-bit processors

Base64 – a group of similar binary-to-text encoding schemes

Decimal64 – a decimal floating-point computer numbering format that occupies 8 bytes (64 bits) in computer memory

Commodore 64 – an early 8-bit home computers

Nintendo 64 video game console, plus all its games that includes 64 in their title

64 – the maximum stack size in the video game Minecraft

Madden Football 64 – the first game in the Madden NFL series

In Business
Avenue Sixty-Four – a boutique wedding venue in Brisbane, Australia

In Culture and Language
Sessanta quattro, 60 Vier, 60 fyra, Sześćdziesiąt cztery, Шестдесет и четири, -Sáu mươi bốn, Fire og seksti, and LXIV

64 – The maximum number of strokes in any Chinese character

64 – The number of classical arts listed in many Indian scriptures

In Geography
64 – the international calling code for direct dial calls to New Zealand

64 – a US interstate highway from Missouri to Virginia

U.S. Route 64 – a highway from Arizona to North Carolina

Sixty-Four Villages East of the RIver – a group of Russian villages along the Amur River across from China

M64 – a planned but never built motorway in England

64th Parallel North crosses Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, United States, Canada, Greenland, and Iceland

64th Parallel South crosses Antarctica – including land claimed by Argentina, Chile, and United Kingdom

64th Meridian East crosses Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and Antarctica

64th Meridian West crosses Canada, Greenland, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and Antarctica

In History

Year 64 AD
Buddhist calendar 608, Korean calendar 2397, Discordian calendar 1230

Nero is the Emperor of Rome

July 19 – Great Fire of Rome destroying nearly half of the city occurred during the rule of Nero
Persecution of Christians in Rome begins
New urban planning program with wide streets, open spaces, and ornate buildings

Phoenicia becomes part of Syria.

The Kushan sack the town of Taxila (in present-day Pakistan).

The year the First Epistle of Peter is traditionally believed to be written.

Seneca proclaims the equality of all men, including slaves.

Deaths include Peter the Apostle, Paul the Apostle, and Empress Yin Lihua.

Year 64 BC
Berber calendar 887, Assyrian calendar 4687, Byzantine calendar 5445-5446

Servilius Rullus, Roman Republic tribune, proposes an agrarian reform law.

Pompey destroys the kingdom of Pontus, annexes Syria, captures Jerusalem and annexes Judea.

The end of the Seleucid dynasty.

US History
Federalist No. 64The Power of the Senate by John Jay published on March 5, 1788

The Sixty-fourth United States Congress – met during the third and fourth years (1915-1917) of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency

Miscellaneous
64 – the number of Braille characters in the old 6-dot system

64 – number of sexual positions in the Kama Sutra

64 – number of demons in the Dictionnaire Infernal

64 – refers to Tiananmen Square protests of 1989

1:64 – the traditional scale for models and miniatures

Unfortunately, 1,900 is not divisible by 64. Too bad because that would have been a great coincidence of celebrating the 1,900th post milestone on my 64th birthday. Seems like good rational to bypass the latest edition of Opinion in the Shorts.

Celebrate the events with one of my favorites. Which one to you chose?

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On Darwin’s Faith

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Depending on one’s perspective, Charles Darwin is a lightning rod and a foundation. Opposing sides in the theology-evolution issue use him in different ways. Whereas conservative Christians describe him as an immoral, hateful atheist who is a messenger from the devil, evolution supporters refer to him as a scholar, a brilliant thinker, and even an inspiration.

Interesting how the two views of one life differ based a perspective of a forced choice that some present. In terms of his religion, Darwin faith life was filled with struggle. Below are chronological moments in Charles Darwin’s religious life. Besides, February 12th is his 208th birthday.

1809: Charles Darwin is born into a family of a father who was a religious skeptic, a Unitarian mother, and 4 siblings (3 sisters and a brother) who attended church with their mother. His paternal grandfather was a deist, as was Darwin’s brother.

1817: Darwin’s mother died. Thereafter, his older sisters took him to an Anglican church where he remained and was educated. At the time, the Anglican church had a 6-day, young-earth creationist view of the world.

1828: After several years in medical school at the University of Edinburgh, Darwin enters Cambridge University to study theology. Studies introduce him to Paley’s Natural Theology, which influenced his beliefs in a God intervening in creation.

1831: Darwin graduates from Cambridge with a theology degree, but decided not to pursue being an ordained pastor. A geology field trip initiated the thought that the earth is very old, therefore developing a view of today’s old-earth creationists with an intervening God as the designer. Later that year he begins his 5-year journey on the HMS Beagle.

1831-1836: Through his many observations across the globe, Darwin is convinced God is present in nature and that God was the intervening designer.

1836-1839: After his journey, Darwin thought deeply about biology, geology, and theology, so he spend much time writing. He rejected origins based on Genesis 1 and eventually Christianity – but not God.

1839: Marries Emma (a Unitarian) in an Anglican ceremony. They would eventually have 10 children, two of which died in infancy.

1851: Annie, his second oldest child and the “apple of her proud father’s eye” dies after an illness of several years. This devastated Darwin, and some say this greatly impacted his view of suffering.

1856: Starts writing On the Origin of the Species.

1859: On the Origin of the Species is published. In it Darwin mentions god as the Creator on multiple occasions – signally his shift from a traditional theist to a non-traditional theist with God as the creator of the evolutionary process.

1860-1861: Reflecting on reactions people had about the book, Darwin writes to a Harvard botanist, “I had no intention to write atheistically … my views are not at all necessarily atheistical.” He also admits being troubled by the suffering that occurs in nature and in the world, but reinforces a belief in design by a Creator.

1871: The Descent of Man published. While acknowledging the “highly irreligious” will denounce his work, he supports his belief in a Creator at work in designing life. “The birth both of the species and of the individual are equally parts of that grand sequence of events, which our minds refuse to accept as the result of blind chance.”

1876: Because of his struggles with suffering, he continues to question God’s existence. In his biography Darwin explains his belief in God as an intelligent designed and states, “I deserve to be called a theist.” His writings point to one who believes in a god that is not assigned to one particular religion. Later he concludes, “The mystery of the beginning of all things is not solvable by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

1879: Although agnostic, Darwin writes this powerful sentence about evolution and theology in a letter: “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man be an ardent theist and an evolutionists. …. In my extreme fluctuations, I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God …. I think that as I grow older, but not always, that an Agnostic would be a more correct description of my state of mind.”

1882: After a difficult 3 months with health issues, Charles Darwin dies – and never an atheist. Reports of him recanting his view of evolution and proclaiming Jesus Christ as savior lack evidence, therefore untrue. He is buried in London’s Westminster Abbey (Anglican).

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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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