An Ill-Engineered Alarm Clock Feature

My alarm clock, just several years old, has a seemingly nifty feature that actually backfires.

This feature is essentially a projector of the time against a ceiling, to be used typically at night.  Imagine, time on your ceiling!

But, not so fast.  The projected time, by our perception it becomes blurred when viewed in the very milieu that it was made for:  a nighttime room!

So, what’s the secret?  Central vision works best in sufficiently bright light, due to its domination of cones.  On the other hand, vision in the dark is run by rod cells, which dwell outside that central region of the retina. So the point of the projected image your eyes are focused on is actually fuzzy.  Moreover, since only cones can process light info that contains color, they are disadvantaged in a dark room as such.  Of course, the alarm clock proper does not bear this difference, for this display, by its nature is its own light source.  And now that I have advised you of this sly feature, I hope you can get a better understanding of this.  (They probably should have consulted a neuroscientist, neurologist or ophthalmologist for better insight.  LOL)

And for the stargazers among you, this is true for dim stars, which can only be seen at a  directly adjacent point.

Alarm Projector
While there is apparently no difference in visibility in a camera, when your eyes actually this very image, you may have to “zig-zag” your gaze to get the time, or just use the commonsense method, look at the clock itself!

As a man blessed as a articulate writer and knowledge liaison, again and again you can count on me for making the arcane, technical world of science (and other topics) yours, especially after further schooling (and perhaps personal study of these secular topics).  And this may be a good time to focus my blog as I follow my Lord and Savior Jesus.

I must mention a key Scripture passage: the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, that whatever you’ve been given, you should appreciate, and indeed build upon that.  The word “talent” in that time, which was a very large monetary unit, has been adopted into English as what it means now:  a natural skill, honed by practice!  So don’t take your talents lightly.  The parable, as usual, is what Jesus spoke to the disciples.

So be a wise consumer.  Pray for what you need.  And remember, even the finest things earth has to offer is not even near perfect.

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Why Faith Goes Beyond Mere Reason

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  – Matt. 6:34 ESV

I spent some of last night’s wee hours struggling with such cares concerning what are the best subjects (if any) to learn.  Since my chief interests are in the sciences, but include many other areas as well, I thought, concerning the ideas of practicality and usefulness of such knowledge, could be totally beyond use.

But as I have observed many times in the past, much of my knowledge will pay good dividends.  For example, why does bird excrement contain white and dark portions?  (Urinary products, primarily uric acid, are excreted in a combination with the actual feces.) Or, speaking of white and dark, the “white” breasts and the other, “dark” poultry portions (i.e., drum, thigh, and wing) represent differing rates of metabolism in the muscles (which, basically, is the meat before slaughter).

Physics is the reason why a Volvo commercial is false if it was to stop suddenly in the face of an obstacle.  Good for the rescued kid crossing the streets, bad for the driver with her inertia paced on her by a sudden stop.  And another ill-advised product I actually own:  an alarm clock that projects on the ceiling in the dark.  But here’s the catch:  in dark enough conditions, the center of the retina dominated by cones, will not respond in darkness.  The certain portions of the alarm clock numbers cannot be seen directly, so unless you skim around, you may get the wrong picture.  Likewise, you can’t see a dim star looking directly at it,  but you can when you look next to it.

I could go on and on about these things, but knowledge of any kind is a good investment no matter what it is used for.  After all, may come in handy in various situations.  For example, two botanical words:  “pinnate” and “palmate” refer to leaves concerning the veins of the leaf, compounding (when leaflets, while isolated, are really one subdivided leaf), and even the pattern of lobes on certain leaf margins.  (Thank you, Britannica.  But sorry, I can’t infringe your copyright, so no picture here!) Together with many other traits that are useful for identification, it may led a nice hobby to observe properties of plants.

And reason is a gift from God, despite many secular claims otherwise.  But all these unbelievers:  atheists, agnostics, deists, secular humanists, freethinkers, whatever, consider reason superior to religious doctrine (which is obvious by their disbelief of God).  Reason is good, but if it gets to an excess, it could take it into a powerhouse of planning and worrying about what could happen, rather than trusting a loving God and His providence.

And that was my very antidote, around 2:30 this morning, I put such matters in the hands of God, and immediately saw a better insight of the information.  Now I am much happier, and was asleep just after about 3 AM (and slept till 8 or even 8:30)

So, if you get anxious or frustrated from excessive reasoning, especially when it deals with personal problems (as opposed to appropriate uses of reason, such as asking questions and observing what happens as say, in scientific research or financial planning), turn it to prayer!

Bottom line:  Focus on learning for now, then you’ll have a arsenal of knowledge to use for different needs.  As always, one day at a time!

Cyber-Coveting of Knowledge

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you; and covetousness, which is idolatry.  (Col 3:5 ESV, my emphasis)

Well, even if I really enjoyed something, I still often want more.

The principal example involves encyclopedias, preferably the now-out-of-print Encyclopedia Britannica.  Also with their CD/DVD options gone, all they have is the internet.  But since I have all three of them (and the DVD and internet very similar, I have some quality info on our side.

Now here’s the catch:  In an internet dominated world, encyclopedias have been all but pulled off from reference shelves.  But I’ve been a little nosey here.  I seem to seek a equivalent pathway, tracking what elese may match a source’s content, just to see what others may see on the same topic.

Well, everyone has different research needs for the same thing.  Look at the folllowing passage from 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and[c] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

While money and material goods are not evil in themselves, such issues shows that Jesus, in his Parable of the Sower, “riches can be deceitful.”  This is true especially when you sell things, but that’s a different story.

Back to my situation:  Not only that everyone’s search needs are different, one’s “Googling” is none of another “Googler’s” business.  So rather than get into competititon between what sources I have and what’s available to others, it’s best just to “count your blessings” and when exploring for more, be content on that you can find, and treasure that.  Metaphorically, that is a new car among many used ones.

Also, the idolatry here is that of knowledge.  As individuals, no person is a clone concerning interest.  It won’t work, so let it be.

This does not rule out sharing knowledge with others. I can by all means benefit ohers with such a tactic.  But I can hereby say that it’s not my job to be speculate on others’ research inquiries to get the “same results.”  It’s not logical, it’s not ethical, it’s not practical, it’s not, well you get the idea, to do such “speculative searching” online

The Worth of One’s Knowledge Base

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.  (Prov 1:7, ESV)

Unbelievers, while being just as able as believers to obtain knowledge, do not thoroughly understand what something means in the long run.  Based on this, Christians have a higher purpose for this, as cited in Phil 2:4 (ESV):

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Fundamentally, we can all use our knowledge bases for the common good, and to advance the kingdom of God.  Whatever your area of expertise is, there is somewhere you can fulfill the needs and demands of whom you serve.

On a personal level, knowledge compounds and inter-plays with previously learned knowledge prior to the newer information.  Whether its a mere pronunciation difference or a topic that builds on something you learned 20 years ago (making for a great review LOL), knowledge is always useful to some extent.

But first of all, let’s discuss what this thing called “wisdom.”  Basically, it is living within God’s parameters of earthly existence to survive and thrive.  This is not the same as actual “earthly” wisdom.  James describes the difference like this:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)

“Heavenly” wisdom comes only through the Holy Spirit, through prayer, Scripture reading, preaching, and other means of grace.  Thus Christians have a fuller awareness of doing what is best as their clock on earth ticks.

And as in all things, moderation.  Ecclesiastes (a Biblical wisdom book, which, like Proverbs, is attributed to Solomon) illustrates when you should draw the line on certain things, such as pleasure, work, and learning.  Yes, we share this terrestrial ball.  But not forever.  So while you should enjoy things on this earth, don’t get too absorbed in them.  For example, Eccl. 12:12 puts secular study like this:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Learning is good, and is something we do whether we like it or not.  But if you study with selfish ambition, that is basically folly.  Yet when done in moderation (as with all your tasks), understanding our natural world (or any other area(s) of knowledge) can bear great benefit.  By the way, since Solomon’s time, “books” have met their rival distant cousin: the Internet.  Gutenberg sure helped, though.

Wow, now we have made a bridge between a number of areas of thought!  Would you like to buy it?  (It’s far cheaper than Brooklyn’s for sure!)

Putting God In Charge of All Intellectual Pursuits

Our individual lives are a tiny fragment of all time.  Yet God gave us a mind to learn, reason, analyze, and create.  We must therefore come to terms with certain areas of our transient lifetime, and let our intellect follow suit.

1.  Unlike God, knowledge always changes.

Consider great minds like Newton, Descartes, Franklin, Jefferson, Pasteur, Einstein, and sundry others.  Some were Christians, some were not, the important thing to remember is that we have moved far beyond the potential of their time.  Yet they never got to see this later activity and development.  Not to get too morbid, but all people should consider what they have achieved and leave the achievement of future generations to God.  In the case of Christians, we could care less what happens on earth once we enter and eternally enjoy the overwhelming and magnificent heavenly fellowship with God and his people.  That’s at least how I see it.

For practical consideration on this earth today, we must accept the fact that we will never know everything.  As a budding scientist (and most likely a biologist of some sort), I understand that people in my bunch may make discoveries (or at least participate in such activity), but those discoveries always change.  A college textbook used when one is say, age 20, will be a dinosaur (no pun intended) when one is 50.  Yet people aren’t chasing after newer editions.  Instead, they keep up to date with scholarly periodicals focused on their field.  While some people love holding onto their textbooks, others would rather limit it to those books that are relevant as a reference, especially in the courses most pertinent to your current job.  The rest might as well be rubbish.

2.  Only God is omniscient and only He knows the “exact truth”

Earthly information is not only subject to change, it is also really only a shadow of the exact truth.  Whether antiquated or cutting-edge, all human knowledge is fallible.  Even the Bible, God’s Word, is subject to interpretation.  (This causes splits in churches, but that’s for another post.)  In any case, what is quite commonsense today was highly arcane at one time.  Newton was quite intrigued by the falling apple, which we now know as the law of gravity, which is now a mere staple (unless you wanted to study it in detail).  Same thing with living cells (the name came from the resemblance to a prison “cell”).  And let’s not forget Franklin’s kite, which could have put his life in jeopardy.  Copernicus and Galileo were the first heliocentric proponents, yet they got some pretty nasty treatment from the Inquisition, etc.

Whatever it is, science is an interpretation.  Hypotheses and theories change over time, and they are the backbone of science.  Another type of scientific statement, the law, is a more stable, observational principle, e.g., Newton’s three laws.  Even they could occasionally be modified.

Conclusion

All human endeavors (including science and many others) are imperfect.  Thanks to Jesus, we now enjoy the freedom of exploring our world, sometimes to a scientific extent.  And that includes people like me.  As Thomas Aquinas put it, if faith or reason need to be chosen, pick faith.  There is nothing wrong with reason, but it is always secondary to faith.  God created our minds, not vice versa.

Because knowledge is a creation of the Creator, it should never be worshiped.  It may very well be fruitful to detach from books that it would be time to move on from, as you have learned many of the main principles, though perhaps not all the details, and certainly not verbatim (hardly anyone can do that!)  I think God is in action when “pruning” the knowledge that is not needed.

Examples of Focusing on the Main Points

While all facts are true (or at least should be), not all are relevant to all people.  Everyone has different emphases on what’s important to them.  Here are several examples:

  •  A very common example is emphasis of different details in a news story.  For instance, one may discuss a story with a friend about a crime near where they live.  One person may remember the exact location (for it is nearby a store he patronizes), the other may focus on the time (since it may have woken him up, given it was overnight.)  Both perspectives emphasize different elements, but the same core story.
  • Non-fiction books I read, including certain scientific (and other) books, e.g., the Scientific American Library series, have details that stand out from the rest of the content.  What these actually are depends on the individual.  These things are more worth keeping in mind, and therefore more likely to stick.  Depending on individual interest, understanding, etc., this can vary from person to person.
  • A little adaptation of this principle concerns fiction works, wherein all details can be eventually be rolled up into a main plot.

Also, one thing I resolve to do now is not to try to pick up all details when reading non-fiction.  After all, since when do people really want to “cram” things (except maybe before a test)?  Again, a book may very well serve its purpose in what it communicates, to any level of detail, as well as to many different audiences.

For example, recently, I bought a geomorphology text through Amazon.  While an interesting subject, certain topics, especially math-intensive ones, seemed quite specialized and not relevant (at least right now).  Textbooks of any kind work best under a professor’s instruction anyway.  The book was geared toward juniors and seniors in college, as well as graduate students, so it would have little relevance to me anyway right now.  (I did sell it, by the way, at a local used bookstore, probably with the best revenue ever).  Also, if possible, I might add a double major at the university (one year into enrollment) of geology to the primary biology major, but we’ll take it a step at a time.  Let’s just concentrate on finishing CCP first.  I have our finals for both courses this Monday.

You’re not a camera, so don’t strive for a photographic memory!

Judging the Relevance of Previously Learned Knowledge

Sometimes I get so preoccupied with what I know or wish to learn about, sometimes to the point of arrogance.  The truth is, while knowledge previously learned has found application long after it was learned, sometimes it’s best just to research it at the moment when it’s relevant.

Some things are just common sense situations, as much of say, psychology or history, is.  Coursework just adds jargon and other added insight to it.  But in the natural sciences (the area where I have overall leaned toward), little day-to-day relevance tends to be seen.  In some disciplines, like chemistry, if you were a cook wondering about why certain things behave the way they do (e.g., why oil and water don’t mix), it may make more sense to understand that area of chemistry.  Countless other examples abound in many branches of science.  But scientific knowledge is often seldom relevant (and thus forgettable) until something warrants learning about it.

Keep in mind, our days are becoming more and more “numbered” (cf. Ps. 90), and we shouldn’t pile ourselves with unnecessary baggage, in this case, knowledge that you’ll never use.  This is similar to senior citizens ridding themselves of their material things, even though that is deliberate.  In the case of knowledge, even though unintended, people retaining less of it as they age shows an internal, yet analogous process of removing “clutter.”

Any collection, aside from those created by hobbyists, has an intended purpose.  Here’s an analogy.  Food and clothing aren’t worth anything unless you eat and wear it.  Concerning weapons, an arsenal is useless unless the weapons are to be used.  Considering collections of records, CDs, or cassettes, they aren’t worth anything unless you play them.  Considering calories in your diet, if you don’t burn them, you’ll get fat.  And so on and so forth.  Accruing anything is not worth anything unless you use it.  The same is true with knowledge.  Fortunately, if knowledge isn’t used, chances are you’ll lose it!  At least here there are checks and balances!  I personally think the Lord is directing a person in a certain way when some knowledge bonds more than others.  It works just like a colander, strainer, sieve, etc.; keep what you need, dump what you don’t.

This is a natural process, and indeed apparently supernaturally directed.  You don’t truly know anything for its genuine purpose unless you have faith in God (Prov. 1:7)  Moreover, unlike wisdom from God, worldly wisdom will not solve any problems in everyday life.  (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-31).

Solomon was also right about the ever complicating process of the acquisition of knowledge.  “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Eccl. 12:12).  There is no need to hold allegiance to all the facts in a book, course, or other source of knowledge.  Once you finish, you can move on.  After all, your knowledge base is meant to be retrieved from when necessary, not dwelt on.  In fact, excessively trying to salvage knowledge can be a form of idolatry, as it may not only take priority over its normal use, but also displace devotion to God.  As for the first clause of the Eccl. 12:12 passage, look no further than Google to prove that.

As a college student, both general education and major courses are designed as a foundation that directs the path for working adult life.  They are not meant for their own sake, as much of what I’ve learned so far up to now (from both college courses and elsewhere) can be a blur sometimes.  Often, only one or a few courses in the degree provide substantial impact on one’s career, the rest can be laid aside.

So, since life here on earth is short, and we shouldn’t waste our time dabbling into pursuits that are typically intended to lead to others.  Our learning should be modest, and we should come to terms with what is and isn’t important.  Quite often the most exhilarating learning just comes spontaneously.  And as far as jobs, sometimes the training received therein is more important than the source background.

Finally, “fuzzy” knowledge from years past, when applied to a current situation, may themselves lead to a learning experience itself.

Well, keep your eye out for the garbage truck headed for the “Learning Landfill!”