Posts Tagged ‘Why?!’


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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As I said in a recent post, I have taught whole science lessons by using the illustration of the woodstove. See if you can name the concept being taught by the following story before I name it at the end.

Heating with wood can be interesting and exciting (chimney fire!) but also mundane. When something interesting happens it gets your attention. One bright morning in early Spring in the Horseshoe I got up and ate breakfast. I had not started a fire the night before because it wasn’t that cool and we like to sleep cool. My wife said, “Don’t you think it’s cool enough for a fire?” Of course, there is only one right answer, so I gathered wood and kindling and sat down to build a small fire to “knock the chill off.” I had only just lit the paper and cardboard when the smoke started billowing out of the top of the open door into the living room. My immediate response was to slam the stove door followed by jumping up to check to see if the stove pipe damper was open. The smoke started oozing out around the door dampers, so I hastened to screw those shut, only to continue more slowly coming out around several small gaps around the doors. All there was left to do was to open the front door and start fanning. After a few minutes the smoke was cleared and the living room really needed a fire in the stove. I got my flashlight, cautiously opened the stove door and peered into the exiting stove pipe at the back of the stove. There seemed to be no obstruction. I even used a mirror but couldn’t see around the curve for the smoke. There must surely be an obstruction in the chimney, be it birds or squirrels or bats or nest thereof. I was determined to get to the bottom of the problem. I put on a coat and hat and went outside to get the ladder and lean it up against the house. As soon as I got out from under the back door porch, I realized that the morning was warming up quickly in the bright sunshine. It was warmer outside than inside. Maybe I should just open the doors and wait. But instead I continued on the mission of solving the mystery stoppage in my chimney. I climbed up onto the red metal porch roof with the flashlight and then scampered up the steeper main roof and grabbed ahold of the chimney. Straddled across the peak of the roof, I removed the chimney cap and pulled the flashlight out of my back pocket. When I shown it down into the opening, I had to wait for my eyes to adjust and move my face closer. I could see clearly down most of the length of the chimney. There was very little creosote build-up. But toward what I judged to be the bottom where I should have seen the pipe coming into the chimney from the stove, the view went fuzzy. I could not tell what I was looking at. I tried to adjust the flashlight and my head to see better, but to no avail. Frustrated, I thought, “I’ll fix that,” shut off the light, slid down the roof to the porch, bounded down the ladder, and stepped over to the old smokehouse, now a storage shed. I strung up my 100′ extension cord with a plug-in socket and light bulb on the end and retraced my course back up to chimney side. Next, I lowered the lit bulb down into the chimney, which was very well lit now. When I lowered the bulb down to the vague area, I could see that there was smoke hovering low in the chimney. I lowered the light into the smoke and it totally disappeared after several inches more of lowering. It would appear and disappear as I raised and lowered it out of this dense smoke layer. I turned my head aside for a moment to consider, since fresh creosote is not the most pleasant smell. Just as I turned back to look again I got a face full of smoke that just kept coming. I choked on the lung full I received and must have called out in alarm because my wife yelled up to ask if I was OK. I hastily pulled the light out and made my way down to the porch with the smoke settling down the roof behind me. What in the world was happening? The smoke cleared quickly, because there really wasn’t all that much. I climbed back up on the peak of the roof and again lowered the light. The chimney was clear.

It took me awhile to figure out what had happened. Have you figured it out, yet? There are several hints in the story having to do with temperature. Before you read below you may want to go back and reread with the hint.

The temperature was warmer outside than inside. Cold air is denser than warm air. Since there was not a fire the night before, the air in the chimney was cooler than the quickly warming exterior air. When I started the fire, smoke was not able to move through the pipe because the air there was heavier than that higher in the chimney where the sun beamed down. There was a thermal inversion in the chimney restricting the air from rising. When I left the light bulb in the smoke layer for a few moments of slow reflection, it warmed the smokey layer so that it was lighter than the air above it and began to rise. I got a face full of lesson about thermal inversion. This situation happened again years later in the home we presently live in. I didn’t even hesitate. I climbed up on the roof and lowered a light bulb down into the chimney. The smoke rose. I climbed down and started a fire and had a warm feeling inside knowing that knowledge and experience go a long way toward clearing away smoke that obscures your path.

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Early in 2001 my father passed on to the next life after a slow decline resulting from many and various ailments. I believe that it was a grace that he passed without knowing of 9/11. He fought in WWII receiving a bullet and multiple pieces of shrapnel near the German border. Every 4th of July he would hang a copy of the Declaration of Independence and an American flag on the living room mantle. As the years went on he added more evidence of his love of America and its freedoms, things like a small Statue of Liberty. I used to think how much the world changed during his lifetime. Afterall, TV had not been invented when he was born in 1922. Polio was a major killer; the War to End All Wars was a fresh scar; the roaring twenties had not succumbed to the Great Depression. During my formative years airplanes, bridges, skyscrappers, atomic energy, and space travel were among the top of the list of items and ideas that he talked about and learned about and visited. How the space race had resulted in a handheld calculator was amazing to him. The world had changed so much in one lifetime.

Now we hear that the world was forever changed by 9/11. In one sense, of course it was! We collectively look over our shoulder as a nation, wondering when or if it will happen again. But did it really change the world? Hasn’t every generation had at least one event that so penetrated the minds and hearts of the populace such that each person knows where they were when it happened? If you are old enough, do you remember where you were when JFK was assassinated? For my father’s generation the event that riveted their attention was Pearl Harbor. News traveled much slower the further back you go but there were terrors and plagues and perplexities for centuries. In 79 A.D. when Pliny the Younger described the flaming bombs of Vesuvius sinking ships in the harbor off Herculaneum while Pompeii was covered in noxious gases and pyroclastic flows, the world must have seemed to be at an end.

Do I attempt to diminish the severity and pain of 9/11? Do I not see the ways in which it changed how we do freedom in our land? By no means. But the cause of terror and pain has not changed. Because of sin there is stark evil and natural disaster in the world as there has been since the Fall of Adam. These adversities should call us as a nation back to God. We deteriorate; our nation’s demise is at hand, yet we see 9/11 and Antietam and Hurricane Katrina and Pearl Harbor as totally disconnected from our spiritual condition and God’s call to repent. Evil exists in the world because there have been and are evil people in the world. We must confront the evil in ourselves so that our enemies have no excuse for their evil acts against us and we have no compunction about attacking it when it comes.

I remember where I was on 9/11, watching the screen in my classroom as the first building hit earlier was burning and as the subsequent one was hit and the towers collapsed and students came into my room who wanted someone to make sense out of the chaos. In those first moments during my planning period before that screen I prayed that God would have mercy upon us as a nation. In many respects He has and He is but we must cry for it and act in ways commensurate with receiving mercy now more than ever because we drone on in our mundane, garden variety evils as if 9/11 never happened. God have mercy on us!

The world has changed but not so much.

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In one sense we are a society full of skeptics and well we might be since we have many and conflicting sound bites and philosophies foisted upon us with very little solid truth. Some think that the solution to this dilemma is to operate fully on the relational side and not hassle with truth claims and others think the solution is to come up with your own truth. Neither of these approaches leads to truth, however, because one avoids it and the other is self-contradictory. So where is a person to go to ask hard questions? Civil public discussion is one good source. Not intended to be truth by majority rule but rather a gentle airing of views and questions, it is a good way to open up conversation about truth. Recently at our nearby community college such an open discussion was begun. Prem Isaac of Southern Evangelical Seminary presented a clear, engaging rendition of the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments for the existence of God. Several audience members challenged details of the arguments presented to Mr. Isaac and three of his colleagues on a Q&A panel. One person asked, “Why does the Law of Causality not apply to God?” The answer was given that “Who made God?” is a category mistake, that is to say, saying God is created means He is not God. If we retreat to infinite regression, namely that god was created and then who created god and who created that god and so on, then we have not really answered the question. But the cosmological argument logically presents an answer in that everything that has a beginning has a cause. Science and religion both posit that the Universe had a beginning, therefore, it has a first cause, and since that cause is not part of the effect, namely the Universe, that first cause must be wholly different from the effect. That First Cause is God. What if the Universe had no beginning? The question was couched in more complicated terms, “How about the quantum correction and the suggestion that the universe had no beginning?” The answer was proposed that many math problems produce imaginary numbers. Mere pure math solutions to problems have no real world antecedent. I think that it is reasonable to add that General Relativity and Quantum Theory have existed in tandem for 90+ years now. Both have significant experimental evidence for their validity and yet both contradict each other. Mostly this contradiction seems to be because they evaluate similar situations in different ways, but when they evaluate the same thing in the same way they still contradict each other. Obviously, one or both theories need to be revised to come into line with reality. So how do you use mutually contradictory theories to judge God’s existence, theories that are by their empirical nature limited in what they can evaluate? And this brings me to the last question asked at that meeting, “How scientifically do we account for six days?” My answer is we do not account for six literal days scientifically just as the Big Bang theorists do not actually account for the singularity scientifically. God has revealed that He created all that physically is in six days; we accept that. Then we show by scientific evidence that there is nothing in the world that contradicts that idea. The Big Bang theorist posits a singularity, described as a point, wherein space and time do not exist and all the laws of Physics cannot apply. Then he inserts an “inflationary period” after the Big Bang to get the universe up to speed, so to speak, which cannot be evaluated with physical rules because it obeys none we know, all so the universe can look something like what we now observe. The background radiation was supposed to have been the confirmation of the inflationary period, and even though the observers recently denied the validity of the results, it could never prove that period apart from the presuppositions of the theory. The theorist further injects continuous acceleration of the expansion of the universe without cause, that is, net force to accelerate it. In other words, Big Bang theorists rely on “blind faith” of which they accuse the Creationists. Creationists, however, rely on the Word of an All Powerful, Intelligent Designer, who has given much evidence of being reliable. Civil, public conversation must be polite but it can pull no punches if it is to be constructive and pursue what is true. If you see the truth of this statement, I invite you to enter into just such conversation with a Creationist.

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For those of you who understand, this is the season for poems, when the moments of musing through many days ooze out during hours of forced repose. Here is the most recent that hearkens back to Spring’s delights:

Life begin
  and again
When Spring sprung
  and birds sung
Blooms no lack
  eggs will crack
Life renewed
  beauty viewed
Why this show?
  ebb and flow?
Could it be
  God’s plan see?
Life from death
  Christ’s last breath
Rose again
  life begin

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The New Year started with quite a jolt
Not yet awakened to the day were we
When lesser mind from greater did molt
And confusion reigned as up went our plea
Fears and regrets won much of the day
Consequences realized and unforeseen
Extend forward in what we must pay
In tears and stress and oft puzzling scene
Week by week understanding more words
Paying bills on a month to month basis
Each day try words that curdle like curds
Prayer moments that connection retraces
God ordained all from start to finish
For His glory and our good He has planned
His provision and presence relish
From hard changes peaceful righteousness gained

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The first poem I wrote this past week is the last one I am posting because I had to reflect on its content abit. It could so easily be seen as insensitive, or premature, but I consider it neither. I think it is just honest in a constructive kind of way. We have questions; we should voice them and find answers rather than silently or violently remaining agnostic about what is real and true. I offer this poem as a balm to many hurting loved ones who are truly asking. The eleven year old girl who died of leukemia and provoked my mind to write it has God’s best as I understand because she accepted God’s solution:

A purpose in life to glorify God
To enjoy His gifts, obey His commands
Accept hardships and the correcting rod
Challenge potential and all life’s demands

What’s the way forward when we’ve lost such life?
Then come tears and doubts and questions abound
Mind and heart struggle with internal strife
About ultimate issues, life profound

How is God good when there is so much bad?
God’s not the author of evil and wrong
Man disobeys, consequences are sad
Overtaking the ‘innocent’ and strong

God provides a way to overcome death
To have peace with Him and eternal rest
Bought by His Son, finished at His last breath
Now and forever have life and God’s best

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