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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

About five years ago one of my classes built two bluebird boxes to put just out the window of two classrooms at the school. One lasted one year and then got taken by vandals. The other one outside my window could be destroyed but not so easily taken because of the wiring that runs out the bottom of pipe pole, through concrete, underground, through the wall into my classroom and to my computer. I realize that wireless cameras exist, but this is what my students could afford. It is color, works at night by shining infrared lights, and has sound. At one time you could record segments of video, but the school techs lost the software that has to be reinstalled every year due to computer re-imaging.

There are two problems with the present set-up. Even with retreating the wood, five years is considerable weathering, so the roof piece is bowed and lichen encrusted, though still functional. The other problem is a matter of rushed planning on my part when it was built. The students were excited about the camera arriving; the box was already built; we quickly installed it and began observing nesting soon afterwards. The camera, however, was mounted too close to the subjects so that it has always been blurry. The new box has a ceiling below the roof where the camera will be installed and not susceptible to moving when the side panel is opened to clean out last year’s nest. The distance is increased sufficiently to enable in focus viewing.

Since there are three eggs in the present box now, the installation of this new box will wait until Fall or later. I had the time to build it now and the availability of the school shop, so I did. I may put a roof shingle on the top when I install it so that it will last more than 5 years.

Students totally love to see the progress of the birds building a nest, laying eggs, hatching, feeding, growing, and leaving the nest. They are amazed when they here the chirping, chagrinned when there is a runt that is underfed because the others poke their heads up faster and more consistently, and curious about gestation and developmental timings. We have 2 to 3 nesting each Spring. One year the bluebirds and tree swallows fought violently over which pair could nest first. At one point two males (one bluebird and one tree swallow) were rolling around on the ground, clawing and pecking. The students flew to the window to see what was happening. We have never been able to observe the hatching of the birds. It seems to always happen on the weekend or in the early morning. I have left at 5 PM and arrived at 7 AM the next morning to find several birds hatched.

I sincerely wish that I could do more of this kind of teaching, what I call “affective science”. Students need an emotional connection to what they are learning to prick and increase curiosity. I could give many reasons why this is not happening, but I’m not in the mood to wax political or negative, so I will leave that to your imagination. I recorded some aspects of the box build, but many details are also left out. I hope that you enjoy the pictures, but even more, I hope you will observe the world around you and give thanks to our Creator for its utter beauty and utility.

If you hover over the pictures, you can see the captions.

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I have long been curious and fascinated by Biblical chronology. It is right that I should be so, since I believe that the Bible is true and all other truth claims are to be interpreted in light of its meaning. It is not, however, a straight forward pursuit since various factors have obscured the truth that is contained therein. Various people deal with this problem in various ways, but it seems to me that the main procedure that they use, on some level, is to discount  the validity of the Scriptures. So, while I believe and can confidently say based on Scripture and corroborating scientific evidence that the Earth was created recently, perhaps six to eight thousand years ago, I can equally confidently say that no one knows the exact number of years ago that “God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) Others refuse to explore these issues and say, ‘What difference does it matter?’ I believe that it matters for at least the following reasons:

•An old Earth laced with death means death is not a result of Adam’s sin.

•If Adam’s sin did not bring death, then there is no need for a Savior.

•If we cannot place the Flood in the correct time where it fits with what else we know of history, we cannot apply logic to see how the modern Earth has resulted.

It is this latter idea that I want to explore on an admittedly shallow level and give my opinion. My musings here will not resolve the problem, but they will help me to clarify what I have come to suspect and perhaps stir some readers to consider different legitimate perspectives.

As a kind of introduction to the problem, has it ever bothered you about how rapidly post-Flood changes took place? Nations of peoples in a very few generations, Tower of Babel, Ur, and most of the planet settled in 300 years? And all of these people came from three women who came off of the ark. (It does not say that Noah had other sons and daughters, but it does say “These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.” (Genesis 9:19)) Abraham could have known Shem who “ was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad” (Genesis 11:10-11). 500 years after the flood would be long enough for him to be alive when Isaac was born. Noah and Abraham could have even known each other because “Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood.” (Genesis 9:28)

What I have not told you is that this chronology and the resulting seemingly odd consequences come from the Masoretic Text (MT) of Scripture. The Septuagint (LXX for 70 scholars who translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek.) extends the date of the Flood earlier by about 900 years (exact numbers are not really possible for many reasons). This extra time easily and neatly fits many historical and scientific claims.

I come across examples of how the LXX chronology fits with what we know about the world every now and then. Following are a few examples that I can remember. The first Egyptian Dynasty is said to have begun around 3150 B.C. (1) Now if it were said that Egypt was around in 4500 B.C. or some such date, I would not accept that because it clearly contradicts Scripture by any reasonable, straight-forward reading of the text. Even the dates they do give could be skewed, but they seem reasonable.

Bristlecone Pine ring cores have dated Methuselah at 4845 years old and Prometheus, which was cut down, at just over 4900 years old. And more recently one unknown, purposefully hidden specimen was dated at 5062 years old. (2) Even with a number of double rings (two sets of rings grown in one year), these trees would have sprouted before the ~2400 B.C. of the Masoretic Flood date.

I was listening to a video with students about a month ago on the subject of the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964. The USGS geologists studying this 9.2 megathrust earthquake took soil cores from the zone near the inter-tidal zone where barnacles were suddenly thrust up out of the sea about 8 feet in 4 minutes. When they drilled down deep, they found the sudden occurence of land based plants at nine places in the core, going back about 5500 years, based on the C-14 dating. The researcher said that this suggested that the average time between large quakes was about 630 years.  (3)

These examples may seem random and anecdotal with respect to biblical chronology, but they have one thing in common. All three examples originated in the range of 3500 to 3000 B.C., meaning that the events would have happened after the Flood as recorded in the LXX text of Scripture. I don’t think that experience and “scientific” and “historical” evidence mediates Scriptural discussion. In fact that is what has gotten us into the unbelieving mess we are in now. But when multiple lines of evidence line up with what the Scriptures say, it lends some credence to the argument.

Tell me what you think. Have you read or heard evidence from secular or Christian sources that suggest that the Flood happened before 3000 B.C.? Or do you have a well thought our reason to remain with the 2400 B.C. date? If you begin to explore these ideas, be aware that there is a boat load of information. It is not worth getting swallowed up by, but it does merit some curiosity, particularly if it pushes you to examine Scripture for more truth. Let me know what you think.

(1) https://www.ancient.eu/First_Dynasty_of_Egypt/

(2) https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-one-man-accidentally-killed-the-oldest-tree-ever-125764872/

(3) http://www.earthquakenewz.com/1964-quake-the-great-alaska-earthquake-5/

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Science is a great tool for exploring the world. It saddens me that it has so much been commandeered for purposes contrary to the truth of God’s Word. Many of the processes discovered and described by scientists accurately align with observable reality, but particularly on the subject of time scales, their tomes do not ring true to what is verifiably true from Scripture or nature. I choose to believe what the Bible says over the faith system based on time, chance, matter, and energy. I think that it takes greater faith to worship these inanimate gods. So, I like to discuss weathering, for instance, but I reject uniformitarian time scales based on my faith and the field ‘evidence’ tendered (see 4th paragraph of “Four Singularities”; 3rd paragraph of “Amazing, Credible, Scientific Point of View”; “Many Grand Canyons”).

While teaching Earth Science, we discuss weathering at length. As with any study, teachers and students categorize subject matter. This frequently separates ideas that would naturally be together if organized in another way. For instance, is weathering a subject to be initiated and discussed in geology, hydrology, meteorology, or oceanography? It should be discussed in all of these areas of study, including astronomy (evidence of erosion on Mars, for example) and ecology (interaction biotic and abiotic factors in soil formation and fertility, for example). Where it is initiated is a bit harder. Do you begin during discussion of the rock cycle, or when you explain formation of soils, or when the main agent, water, is acting upon rock? I have chosen to mention it during oceanography, hydrology, and minerals and rocks units, but devote a separate unit to weathering and erosion by fleshing out the details of “WETS”: weathering, erosion, transportation, and sedimentation, and also soil formation. I repeat these concepts many times during the day and from semester to semester. Along with the hazards of plate movements, I guess the ocean part of change got to me, resulting in the following poetic outworking:

Wave upon wave upon the coast breaks
Battering and bludgeoning the shore
Each grain of sand that it takes
Builds a beach or a bar or seafloor

Longshore currents carry sediments
Outsourced from the rivers and headlands
Man-made wall impediments
To the flow of the nourishing sands

In deltas and mangrove swamps land grows
Protected from tidal surge and wind
Barrier isles resist flows
From storm surges and tsunamis that rend

Estuaries were once rivers
Where now the brackish waters are mixed
Fjords formed where one shivers
By ice scouring hard rock once fixed

Island arcs form in convergent zones
Some are explosive in the extreme
Subducting ocean plate groans
Hydrothermal vents with strange life team

From hot spots and boundaries they grow
Deep under water, volcanic mounts
Up from the mantle below
Convective cells produce magma founts

Some seamounts are flat on top
Belying once shallower sea wave
Blue hole a flooded cave drop
Once air filled, now a watery grave

Mid-ocean ridges build ocean crust
Plates transform by seismic shear stress
Others earthquake megathrust
Oh, so much crustal strain and duress

So much building up and tearing down
Reveal beautiful changing landforms
Hard to see, so much is drown
But wear, change, and movement are the norms

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Wet?

I most dislike annoying little problems when I have previously tried to solve them to no avail. Or even worse when my ‘solution’ works for a while and then doesn’t. I bought a non-stick, copper infused, ceramic skillet (“Red Copper’ brand) about 6 months ago so that my wife and I could cook our breakfast without it sticking. For about 4 months it worked wonderfully. Undercook, overcook, oil, no oil, it didn’t seem to matter, it didn’t stick.

My wife makes homemade sausage and almond meal pancakes. So my daily procedure is to put a little oil in the pan, add crumbled sausage, break two eggs over it, scramble the yokes, and move away to put a pancake in the toaster and pack my lunch. Just before the egg is totally solid I turn the eye off and flip the egg-sausage fritter over, reaching over to push down the toaster button.

Why did it begin sticking when I try to flip it over? It didn’t for several months and now it has for several months. I set out to try to figure out this mystery. I must be doing something differently. That the change resided in me and not in the pan was clear to me from two additional pieces of information. My wife cooks her breakfast after I have left for work. She commented one day, “Why are you having trouble with the food sticking in the pan? Aren’t you using oil? Mine doesn’t stick.”

Secondly, I re-oiled the pan like I had when I first got it. You fill the bottom with oil, place it in the oven for 15 minutes at low heat, and pull it out to cool. I could see why this works, because it reminds me of oilite bushings. Wikipedia says, “Oilite is a porous bronze or iron alloy commonly impregnated with an oil lubricant and used in bearings.” When the bearing warms up during use, it will release a little oil that lubricates the bearing surface preventing overheating. It works wonderfully well and the bearing can be re-oiled by submerging it in hot oil. But that didn’t prevent the egg from sticking.

I tried more oil. The liquid egg only pushed it aside and stuck to the bottom.

I tried different kinds of oil: butter, olive oil, coconut oil. The smells were great but the sticking persisted.

I tried different temperatures which either left me twiddling my thumbs or the egg slightly burnt on one side.

Finally, I pretty much gave up, but the egg pushing the oil aside confused me a bit. Why didn’t the egg just roll over the top of the oil as it cooked? I realized that the real question that I was asking was, “Why does the oil not wet the surface of the pan but the egg does?”

For many of you the word “wet” seems totally out of place in this scenario. Afterall, waters wets, right? But what does it mean to wet a surface? I will give a formal definition in a moment, but the best one is illustrative. Water wets an unwaxed car but beads up on a well waxed car. Water is sticky. It adheres to things different than itself, that is wets surfaces, and it coheres to other water molecules, that is beads up. So how does it decide which one to do? If the adhering forces are stronger, then it wets the surface; if the cohering forces are stronger, then it beads up. Once again Wikipedia (Hey, I’m not into this, you can’t trust Wikipedia thing. Be a bit skeptical of it on religion or politics and realize it will probably be incomplete on many subjects, but as an overview it is a good, quick reference.): “Wetting is the ability of a liquid to maintain contact with a solid surface, resulting from intermolecular interactions when the two are brought together. The degree of wetting (wettability) is determined by a force balance between adhesive and cohesive forces.” All liquids can wet surfaces: water, oil, egg, lava, alcohol, gasoline, and so forth.

The various oils (butter, olive and coconut oils) were beading up on the pan. So, this very morning I tried a new strategy. I let the coconut oil heat until it began to bubble, then I threw in the sausage and egg. It didn’t stick, what a pleasant, small blessing! Perhaps I had become too efficient at making my breakfast in the morning, being so fast at putting in the oil, sausage, and egg, until I had reached the ‘sticking’ point of the procedure. One little, almost imperceptible change I made was putting in those three things instead of punctuating the oil heating with putting in the pancake and opening the almond butter jar.

It will be interesting to see if I have found the real solution. As researchers like to say, “further research is needed.” But I think that upon reflection this must be the solution. My wife always puts in some combination of peppers, onions, and mushrooms to momentarily saute before adding her beaten egg, and her breakfast never sticks. 

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I have the privilege (really!) to patrol Monday morning parking lot duty from 7:15 until 7:50. On most Monday mornings there are no more than 2 or 3 cars in the parking lot when I arrive. That makes for some quiet moments to consider the day, pray about concerns, and look around. Quiet allows you to observe better. One morning I saw various seeds under the trees: Bald Cypress cones, acorns, and Sweet Gum balls. Another morning I saw oak leaves of various sizes and broadness on the ground. Looking up into the tree I could see that smaller ones generally came from the top of the tree and larger ones from the bottom. These larger ones are called shade leaves. They are competing for the sparse sunlight in the shade cast by the rest of the tree. Yet a third morning I spied leaves popping up a few at a time in the direction from one bush to another. I kept watching and every 5 to 10 seconds the leaves would pop up an inch or so. After every few minutes the movement of the leaves would retrace the path back toward the first bush. I concluded that I was seeing a mouse or other vermin forging a tunnel just under the leaves and mulch on this frosty morning.

Speaking of frost, the very next week the morning was even colder, around 27 degrees (-2.8 degrees Celsius). As I approached my usual vantage point for watching cars, students, and nature, I saw that the golden brown Bald Cypress needles had fallen to the ground in the last week and this morning were fringed in frost. I went to investigate and caught a hold of an early arriving former student, requesting that he snap a picture and e-mail it to me (gonna have to get one of them new fangled smart phones one of these days).

Bald Cypress needles

The most Exquisite Lace

I retreated back to my self-appointed post. Still there were but few cars in the lot and none nor no one stirring. I glanced over toward the frosted needles once or twice. Then between two bushes I spied a curious sight about which I was at first incredulous. In fact, a few minutes later a student came to pass my way and I requested the use of her young eyes to see if she would see what I think I was yet seeing. She confirmed that there were indeed the appearance of heat waves between the bushes. Imagine, heat waves on a frosty morning! She went on and I was left standing to contemplate how this could be. Moments later a small breeze kicked up and the waves were gone. That only served to confirm my belief that they had been heat waves.

Heat waves are caused by varying densities of fluid (air in this case) refracting light passing through them. Usually the warmer fluid is rising, forming a convective cell. As it randomly snakes upward the background images are gently contorted by the light passing through the foreground fluid.

But what was forming the heat waves? As my eyes scanned the parking lot and Cypress needles, it seemed to me that the frost was heavier during the short period I had been standing there. That may have only been to my sight because of the increasing light as the sun rose, but it brought a possibility to mind. When frost forms, water vapor in the air turns directly into solid ice crystals on the grass or windshield. This process is called deposition, which is the opposite of sublimation, and skips the liquid state going either way. The heat given off by changing from gas to liquid and liquid to solid is about 8 times more than the heat given off by the same amount of liquid water cooling from 100 to 0 degrees Celsius. Needless to say, a significant amount of energy is given off by the deposition of frost. Frosty heat waves, that is shimmering amazing.*

*If my conclusion is correct

 

 

 

 

 

 

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   A worldview must be able to withstand the rigors of reality. It must match up with truth. If there is no absolute truth, then there is no basis for purpose, moral code, love, or rational thought.

         I believe literally what the Bible says about our origin- created in six literal days approximately 6000 years ago, as separate and fully formed kinds of plants, animals, and humans. This view, which simply takes God at His word, leaves no room for evolution between kinds of organisms, so called macro-evolution. How should a Bible believing individual respond to the claims of evolution? Does evidence overturn the plain reading of Scripture?

         In an online video, “The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation”, the presenters describe what they believe to be an airtight example of modern evolution: “Thanks to Nachman [the researcher],” says the narrator, “Science has an example of evolution clear in every detail.” Michael Nachman has studied pocket mice on the lava beds of Southeast New Mexico. Based on his population field studies and laboratory DNA studies, Nachman believes that a combination of mutation and natural selection has resulted in the pocket mouse being “evolved to be dark like the rock.” He says, “When a black mouse appears in a white population of mice, that is usually going to be due to a new mutation, and those are random and rare events.” He concludes that studies of the mice at other lavabeds show that “the genetic changes that made the mice black were different in each case. What’s amazing to me is how similar the black mice are…completely different genes. The narrator concludes, “The rock pocket mice show us that evolution can and does repeat itself and why evolutionary change is never ending.”

         But not so fast! First of all, before and after this event they are still pocket mice. Secondly, Nachman assumes that the genes for black fur arose by random mutation. But as Carl Wieland points out in an article about the peppered moths of England:

“Actually, even as it stands, the textbook story demonstrates nothing more than gene frequencies shifting back and forth, by natural selection, within one created kind. It offers nothing which, even given millions of years, could add the sort of complex design information needed for ameba-to-man evolution. Even L. Harrison Matthews, a biologist so distinguished he was asked to write the foreword for the 1971 edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, said therein that the peppered moth example showed natural selection, but not ‘evolution in action.’”

         Thirdly, a very simplistic understanding of genetics results in only one possible conclusion for how multiple gene variations result in black fur. Given the relatively recent understanding of epigenetics, the better explanation lies in shifts within the expression of genes already resident within the mice. As Marc Ambler says about a different mice study,

“Scientists conducting experiments on agouti mice found that by manipulating nutrition they could switch off a certain gene. When the gene is active (‘on’) the mice are normally obese and a yellowish colour; by switching the gene off the mice are of a normal, slim appearance, and brown. By feeding a combination of nutrients including vitamin B12 to the mother before mating, the gene was able to be turned off in the babies.”

         Bible believer, do not give in to the wiles of evolutionary thought. We know God from His Word and our personal experience of His saving grace, and science supports rather than contradicts that knowledge. Only conclusions based on a naturalist worldview that excludes the need or possibility of God deny His plain communication about who He is and how He created all that we see. Those of you holding to a naturalist view, I challenge you to consider the possibility that God is real and evidence of nature rightly understood points toward Him.

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Having taught for 25 years, I have indeed seen many changes in public school. Some represent major cultural shifts while others reflect minor cycles of fad and fashion. One very curious change I have witnessed is a loss of faith in Science. Students used to almost universally confess that science and technology would eventually solve all of man’s problems. Disease will be defeated, genetic difficulties overcome, hunger eradicated, environmental problems will be historical artifacts of developing technologies, mysteries solved, a perpetual motion machine created that would solve all energy problemss, the galaxy traversed. Older minds may have written this off as so much blissful, youthful optimism and ignorance. Instead, I think that it was a product of a worldview that viewed science as the source and conduit of all truth. There were, of course, the rare skeptic that did not trust science or its message.

I see the opposite trend to be generally true today. It is the rare student that has an unflinching faith in Science, or anything for that matter, other than himself. Science and Technology have not solved all of our problems. Epidemics continue, hunger persists, climate change threatens, nuclear proliferation has rebooted, natural disasters terrorize, and people still don’t get along with each other. Unfulfilled expectations and personal discontent are on the rise. Science and technology are frequently viewed as the cause of environmental problems and stressed out living styles.

There could well be many sociological, cultural, and economic reasons for this shift, but I think that in a narrower sense of views about science as a human endeavor, both the blind faith in science and the skepticism of its merits arise from a basic misunderstanding of what the limits of science are. Science is neither the source and conduit of all truth nor the cause of the world’s most pressing problems. Science is a tool. As such it has limits. When I use my large ratchet as a hammer, I damage the tool and very poorly drive the pin I am trying to remove. In a similar way Science used in the wrong way brings harm to its prestige and to the understanding and application it is meant to drive. Science has at least 4 related limits.

Science may only be applied to things which are observable. This observation includes our 5 senses and any other remote sensing we may devise: camera, thermometer, radiation detector, ultrasound, etc. If only time, space, material, and energy exist as many insist, then this observability is not a limit. There is, however, evidence of more than the physical world (the source of beauty, information, purpose, emotions and will) and observability does not automatically exclude the spiritual realm. Scientists use inference (drawing conclusions) as a powerful tool, but it must be based on observation (quantitative data or measurement enable the observation to be unambiguous).

Science is also limited by the requirement of being testable. Scientists test hypotheses with controlled experiments to acquire a deeper understanding of the physical world. There are things that an experiment cannot test which nonetheless exist and effect our lives.

Scientific experiments must be repeatable. Other scientists must be able to use clearly set forth procedures and obtain the same results. If the results are different, some variable has not been controlled for or the experimenters were not careful enough in their observations. Therefore, scientists ask for procedures, data, and analyses from colleagues in order to determine if the conclusions are valid. The best way to do this is to repeat the experiment.

Finally, conclusions resulting from observations must be falsifiable. This does not mean that all evidence or conclusions will be falsified, but rather there must be the possibility of demonstrating that a conclusion is wrong. The essential function of Science is not to reveal truth but to eliminate falsehood. Based upon observation alone, one may never know for sure if something is true. But the ability to falsify wrong ideas narrows down what science accepts as true sufficiently to act upon it. This does not mean that there is no truth. It means that science does not have the ability to state truth in any absolute way. That must be done from other pursuits.

Many ideas are parading around, claiming to be scientific theories when they do not rise to the level of even a hypothesis, let alone a well substantiated hypothesis, that is, a theory. As an example, consider the issue of origins. How did we get here and how did it all begin? Can anyone who is living or has lived observe the beginning of the world? Since they cannot, can they possibly do an experiment on beginning a world? Is that experiment repeatable? If no experiment or observation by scientists may be done directly on the beginning of the world, then it is not a falsifiable idea. Therefore, though evidence may be given from subsequent events as to which version of origins is most likely, presuppositions are inevitably required in any discussion of origins. Another name for presuppositions, those assumptions made in order to begin a discussion or make inquiry, is beliefs. Any discussion of origins by definition is based on a worldview or belief system. It may be labeled religion or science, it does not matter, but it is essentially based on belief.

What this means for any discussion of origins is matching present evidence to the best presuppositional explanation. Does your belief about origins fit the evidence?

What this means about faith in or loss of faith in Science is a need to reconsider its value. Science is a valuable tool wielded by mechanics of varying training and skill, operating from differing worldviews. Retain a healthy skepticism that desires to understand what has been discovered and understood. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathe water. That is, don’t throw out the valuable tool of Science or the useful evidence it provides when you have to wade through false claims, poorly substantiated ‘theories’, intentionally falsified conclusions, or presuppositions that don’t match up with what you know to be true. Science is a useful tool.

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