An Amazing (Yet Simple) Substance

You think you know this planet has an amazing substance that we can’t live without.  But you might think you can’t imagine what it is.  Well, I’ll give you 10 clues.

10)  It needs a lot of incoming heat to substantially change its temperature.  (Especially in the oceans)

9) It easily holds its own surface, can hold to molecules of the same substance, and can even hold to certain walls.

8) It is neither an acid nor a base

7)  Your kidneys control the balance of this in your blood in relation to the cells of throughout the body.

6)  It falls, rises, makes clouds, and does this in a constant cycle.

5)  It is quick to dissolve substances, making it a (somewhat) universal solvent

4)  It can be a solid, liquid, or gas.

3)  In ice (solid) form, we put it in our drinks and store it in cubes or in a crushed form.

2)  When it is frozen and transitions from a liquid to solid, it will expand (not contract), protecting life under a thin layer of such.

1) We are supposed to drink 8 glasses of it per day.

So, what is it? You guessed it:  it’s water!  Good old H2O!  Sure was a no brainer!

 

The Scientific American Library

As one who loves creation (and of course, its Creator) I love to learn science topics, whether in school (as we approach such, for summer is wrapping up and we soon enter the fall semester),  or just by reading and personal self-study.

The Scientific American Library, while now out of print, is still an awesome way to learn a number of topics on science.  You can find them in the Amazon Marketplace (Amazon’s department for sellers not part of Amazon) and cost a minimum of $4 per book (actually, a cent plus $3.99 for shipping)

There are many neat topics in this series.  They usually don’t demand too much scientific background, but if they do, it may be enough to Google certain points that you find murky.  Moreover, they are often interdisciplinary, so you see connections among topics.

Best of all, they include some historical and cultural background and practical applications; to support the info (instead of the in-your-face science of typical textbooks made for scholastic use).  While a layman series, it can be semi-technical at times, so again, have Google ready in case you’re stumped.

And since no book, let alone no series of books, has all knowledge on its topic, there’s always more to learn, through the internet, etc.

While I have abandoned some titles because I was “finished” with them, I may get them back (with the hope I can get the whole series and perhaps devour them).  Also, they may make good reference, even though I may have additional college textbook material.  But I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

 

Slouch, Yawn

Whenever I sit upright, say, when reading, I can usually stay alert.  But when I slouch on a bed or couch, I start yawning when I read or do something similar.

Of course, it makes sense, but is there something scientific behind it, at least in general?

In fact, there is.  I learned it in Psychology last fall.  In the 1890s, Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, discovered the concept of classical conditioning.  He used a dog as his subject.  Dog naturally salivate at food, for it is internally wired into their brain.  They don’t need extrinsic commands. Then, Pavlov rang a bell to draw the dog to the food.  After then, the food was no longer necessary.

So, how do we explain this?  The bell, when combined with the food, takes precedence.  Thus, what was once irrelevant to the dog (the bell) has been incorporated into the dog’s repertoire of behavioral stimuli.  This incorporation is known as classical conditioning.

Now for my situation.  Keep in mind I’m no doctor or psychologist (and probably not planning to be either one), so I’m not trying to develop a direct theory of why slouching on a couch causes yawning or drowsiness when reading.  Just the correlations are enough.  Yet again, correlation does not mean causality.  But hey, at least it’s something quite practical from the course, that can be easily applied to us humans.  I guess I could do without the causality.  At least for now.

Source:  McLeod, S. A. (2013). Pavlov’s Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html

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.

Seeing God’s Wonders in Scientific Details

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

Right now I am reading an article (obtained from the online Britannica subscription service accessed through Community College of Philadelphia, where I currently attend) about the invertebrate phylum known as annelids, or segmented worms.  I have learned tons of neat facts about these critters, but for the sake of space (and relevance to the real point of this post), I will only mention a few very striking ones.

-Leeches, a class of annelids, known for their “medicinal” species used in centuries past by sucking blood, actually can be a source of a “real” (i.e., chemical) medicine!  Known as hirudin, it is an anticoagulant (blood thinner) that might be a better natural alternative to popular prescription blood thinners like Xarelto and Pradaxa (claimed to cause serious risk, including that of death).  Maybe this natural remedy could be better, but since I’m not a medical doctor, who am I to compare?  But hey, it sure is practical and thought-provoking!

-Some “sedentary” members of a class of annelids known as polychaetes actually make tubes into the ocean floor.  Their skin secretes a substance, which may include components such as mucus and calcium carbonate (known in various common forms such as limestone, marble, and chalk), which binds to marine sediment.  Wow, this is a marriage of the inanimate with the animate!  (I now pronounce it tube and worm.)

-Wait!  You may think a “defecation dilemma” may result from this since the anus is trapped in the tube.  Guess what, no problem, a side groove is the way for the feces to be expelled into the waters.

-Finally, earthworms have minute, perhaps microscopic, eyes all over their body.  Yikes!

So much for the annelids.  Now, reflecting on the Scriptural heading, you really don’t know anything unless you know God.  If you fear God (i.e., worship and have awe for him, out of love, not terror), you will gradually increase in your intimacy with Him.  After all, God created nature, and science is simply its interpretation.  Science is to nature as theology is to Scripture.

Many readers think many substantial detail in scientific discussions can be overwhelming, trivial, technical, unnecessary, whatever.  Or as the old cliché goes, they could be “gory.”  (Quite a strong word, isn’t it?)  While I am by no means pushing memorization of the entire material (very few people have truly photographic memories, and I doubt, IMHO, I would even qualify).  But they shape a piece of writing (fact or fiction), and give substance to it.  And when detailed to a substantial (though often not excessive) degree, instead of dismissing the ins-and-outs, an interested reader should appreciate God’s creative power therein, to the best of his ability.  One’s awe and recognition for God will increase, regardless of the information’s practicality, or lack thereof.

Yes, atheist Stephen Hawking can go on and on about his knowledge and insights on astrophysics, but he (most likely) may just be hoarding knowledge to impress.  Or some other motive.  But as a fellow human, it’s not my prerogative to judge him.  Only God knows his motives.  Ditto for secular scientists dead and alive, like Darwin, Haeckel, Svante Arrhenius, Linus Pauling, Ernst Mayr, Richard Dawkins, the list goes on and on.

Incidentally, as for the second part of my verse, atheists, according to the Bible, are cited as “fools” (Ps 14:1).  Fools would rather act as “know-it-alls.”  Whether instructed directly by another person, or indirectly from written material (which can often be posthumous!), a believer will appreciate it more than an unbeliever.

So, no matter what your brain capacity or “tolerance” for details in a written work, make the most out of those that you can.  Always jump “in and out” of whatever you read!

Site Review: Cronodon.com

Cronodon, a fictitious planet, is the home of a “curator”of a “museum of the future.”  And let me tell you, even though still a diamond in the rough, his brainchild is fantastic.

The curator, who anonymously calls himself “Bot,” to the best of my knowledge, for I am a human and hence an earthling, probably has many experts on a team.  The details are a little murky though.

Its primary areas of treatment are biology, quantum physics, and astronomy.  I have also found some topics treated as diverse as chemistry, meteorology and even some urban planning stuff.

The biological coverage is excellent, especially in the areas of botany, invertebrate zoology, and microbiology.  Alas, the only vertebrates covered are cetaceans, a group of marine mammals that includes, you guessed it, dolphins, porpoises, and whales.  But the cover almost every single kind of invertebrate.  It contains extremely rich detail yet makes it very readable, a rare marriage.  And some pages are still readable even when it could get technical (in other words, you can skip those portions of the page and still get the general message).

A central feature woven throughout the site is its robust programming base.  You may even learn to program yourself through certain pages.  In fact, many of the images are made through these methods.  Cronodon also welcomes constructive criticism (be it positive or negative), and in fact often offers a link to do so on a particular article.

Some of the downsides:

-It adds much pseudoscience to the mix, such as alchemy and certain “dark side” philosophies.  As a creationist Christian myself, the old-earth/evolution base in the biology pages could count, but since one side of the never-ending creation/evolution debate will consider the other as pseudoscientific, this leads to a draw.  Besides, personally, I typically substitute my beliefs for what is presented when I read an evolutionary material.

-Printing directly from the site is an ordeal because many of the images overlap with the text.  The extent of this depends on the browser used, e.g., Chrome and Opera have a less severe overlap of images than Firefox, etc.  I recommend that you copy it to a word processor (e.g., MS Word, Google Docs), though things can be disorganized at times upon copying.  Alternatively, you can just read it directly from the website (sometimes enlarging the text can allow for better concentration and comprehension)

-Finally, it has a British tone to the writing, so you should be aware of certain vocabulary differences.  But if you’re already British, this makes no difference!

Aside from those issues, Cronodon is a great place to learn about “science for science’s sake.”  For a Christian like me, this means getting to know this awesome world and universe God has placed us in.  I highly recommend it for any sufficiently educated adult who wishes to learn more about our beautiful cosmos.  The website is simply cronodon.com.

Enjoy your explorations all around!

Science Writing: Perhaps a Neat Career Niche!

So I realized while I love biology and I enjoy learning about God’s creation, I thought there was a better way than scientific research.  Science writing, essentially a form of journalism, has many attributes that make it a suitable career idea for me.

  1.  Not only is my writing ìmpressive, but I have a keen ability to communicate heavy scientific information into plain English.
  2. I am a lifelong learner, which is a trait valuable in science writing because every article may warrant new concepts and vocabulary to be learned.
  3. Since I’m already a blogger, and journalism seems destined for cyberspace, I’m well prepared technologically.  Books are another avenue for communication, which are a great method after years of investigation.

When I harmonize these three talents, science writing seems quite nifty.  And scientists (to whom I would leave the research to) are supplying new information to write on, so this is quite an exciting plan!  One exciting element of science writing is that the news is always new; stories are hardly ever reported twice.

Hopefully, if I feel disposed toward such, maybe this very blog will gradually lean in a scientific direction!  In any case, let my written word flourish in explaining our beautiful world’s legion phenomena!

For more on science writing as a career, check out the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing website.

Science writers, the link between PhD’s and the people!