Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weird News

Colleges @ Work

While March Madness dominates intercollegiate athletics, another group of collegians works out amidst coaches' whistles, endures bloody, 12-hour practices, and cheers on teammates preparing for the national championship in meat-judging, in which about 40 colleges compete, according to a March Wall Street Journal report. Coaches at powerhouses like Colorado State and South Dakota State say skills such as evaluating T-bone cutting and spotting whether a pig has too much back fat come with determination and concentration (and, of course, practice, as one coach said it all comes down to time spent in the meat locker, at 38 degrees (Fahrenheit)). (And pro scouts are watching from the stands, representatives of U.S. meat companies, seeking talent.) [Wall Street Journal, 3-12-08]

After taking nearly 5 years to write it, the University of Texas @ San Antonio has finally come up with its revised honor code and placed it on their website. The honor code deals with matters such as general conduct, lying, cheating and plagiarism. Unfortunately, the school had to remove it and will now be re-writing it. It seems the code itself was plagiarized by being taken from another school's website. [San Antonio Express-News, 3-30-08]

Fine Points of the Law

Italy's highest appeals court ruled in March that it is not illegal for a woman to lie in a police investigation if the reason is to cover up her adulterous affair. Court of Cassation judges said that her honor is more important than providing intimate information about her lover. [BBC News, 3-7-08]

The North Carolina Court of Appeals voted 2-1 in February to approve a worker compensation claim for only one of a woman's breast-implant replacements, ruling that the other implant ruptured (in a job-related accident) only because it had been improperly installed. (The dissenting judge said, even so, the compensation fund should pay for the second replacement, too, because to achieve their purpose, both breasts must be aligned properly on the chest.) [WTKR-TV (Norfolk)-AP, 2-5-08]

The Entrepreneurial Spirit!

When Johnny Diablo's year-old vegan restaurant failed to catch on in Portland, Ore., last year, he converted the space into Casa Diablo's Gentlemen's Club, which is what he believes is the world's only vegan strip club. He has no rule against meat-eating dancers, he told Willamette Week newspaper in February, but won't permit leather, fur, silk or wool outfits on stage (no "murder victims" in the club, he said). [Willamette Week, 2-6-08]

Cosmetics from the American company Blue Q, under the "Lookin' Good for Jesus" brand urging users to "Get Tight with Christ," were pulled from stores in Singapore in February due to complaints, but Blue Q said it's not abandoning that line of hand and body creams, lip balm, breath spray and bubble bath. (Of course, Blue Q also markets similar cosmetics under such brands as "Dirty Girl," "Cute as Hell," "Total Bitch" as well as a car air-freshener under its brand name "Cat Butt.") [Reuters, 2-12-08;]

Science on the Cutting Edge

A team of researchers from the University of Calgary and the Tokyo Institute of Technology proudly announced in February that they had successfully stored "nothing" inside a puff of gas and then had managed to retrieve that same "nothing." That "nothing" is called a "squeezed vacuum," and the physicists tell us that a light wave can be manipulated so that its phases are of uncertain amplitude, then the light itself removed so that only the "uncertainty" property of the wave remains. [ScienceNOW Daily News, 2-29-08]

In February, the South Korean cell phone company KTF announced a new voice-analysis program for its customers to enable them to evaluate their sincerity when calling a lover. The caller can point the phone's camera at himself and see a meter on the screen measuring his own passion, then receive a text message afterward noting voice expressions by the person receiving the call (surprise, honesty, etc.). [Reuters, 2-14-08]

Leading Economic Indicators

To feed the fast-growing women's hair-extension business, brokers in India scour the countryside for Hindu temples that encourage female worshipers to shear themselves as good-luck offerings to the temples' gods, according to a February dispatch in Germany's Der Spiegel. Historically, the hair was used to make mattresses, but because the celebrity-driven extension business is so large, salons around the world pay from $125 to $250 per pound for strands of never-chemically-treated hair of desirable hues. Shaving is a Hindu tradition, and one donor told Spiegel she had long prayed for her husband to stop drinking and that when that "miracle" happened, she felt compelled to offer her hair. [Der Spiegel, 2-19-08]

In the worst slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti (where 80 percent of the people live on less than $2 a day), rice now sells for 30 cents a cup (double the price of a year ago), according to a January Associated Press dispatch, leaving the poorest of the poor to subsist mainly on "cookies" made with dirt. Choice clay from the central plateau is at least a source of calcium and can be baked with salt and vegetable shortening. However, recently in the La Saline slum, the reporter noted, the price of dirt, too, has risen about 40 percent. [MSNBC-AP, 1-29-08]

The Continuing Crisis

At a February casting call in Pittsburgh for the movie "Shelter" (to star Julianne Moore), producers announced they were seeking extras to play West Virginia mountain people from the hollers (Pittsburgh is about 40 miles from the state line), specifically an albino woman, extraordinarily tall or short people, those with unusual body shapes and faces (especially eyes), and "a 9- to-12-year-old Caucasian girl with an other-worldly look. 'Regular-looking' children should not attend." [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2-26-08]

Tireless Obsessives

Takahiro Fujinuma, 37, was arrested and charged with making at least 2,600 calls (perhaps more than 10,000) to directory assistance ("I would go into ecstasy when a lady (operator) scolded me," he told a reporter) (Tokyo; January). [Courier Mail (Brisbane), 1-30-08]

Ms. Lee Amor, 23, pleaded guilty to calling or texting her jilting ex-boyfriend more than 10,000 times over a 65-day period (South Devon, England; February). [Daily Mail (London), 2-12-08]

John Triplette was arrested, suspected as the one who made more than 27,000 calls to "911" since May 2007 (consisting mostly of mumbling and making bodily noises) (Hayward, Calif.; February). [KTVU (Oakland, Calif.)-AP, 2-15-08]

Paul Kavanagh, 40, was sentenced to 30 months in jail for making about 15,000 calls in 12 years to women asking them about their underwear (West London, England; November). [CNN-AP, 11-9-07]

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: Robber Adam Grennan, 39, did not make it out of the Mt. Washington Bank in Dorchester, Mass., in December. So intent was he in not appearing nervous that he waited patiently in line, eyes straight ahead, until the time came to hand the teller his holdup note. He did not notice that a uniformed Boston police officer, working security, had slipped quietly behind him in line, and he arrested Grennan immediately as Grennan was quietly demanding large bills and "no funny money." [Boston Globe, 1-1-08]


Padre Pio, who died in 1968 and was sponsored for sainthood by Pope John Paul II, has been a controversial figure, as News of the Weird reported in 1999. He was wildly loved by his parishioners, yet viewed skeptically by some Vatican officials who found his claim of hands bleeding from crucifixion holes (similar to those of Jesus), and of having been eye-gouged in a wrestling match with the devil, to be difficult to authenticate. On orders from Pope Benedict XVI, Padre Pio's body was exhumed in March, to be placed on public display for several months at the Vatican, even though problematic for two reasons. The top part of his skull is exposed, presenting an unsettling image, but more important, there obviously are no crucifixion holes or scars on his hands or feet. [The Independent (London), 3-9-08]

Undignified Deaths

Latest Electro-Sensual Accidents: Toby Taylor, 37, of York County, Pa., was charged with involuntary manslaughter in January after his wife died of a heart attack in an accident during sex, and police found the woman's body (according to the York Daily Record) with "alligator clips on the end of a stripped electric cord ... attached to her breasts," with an on-off switch. [York Daily Record, 1-24-08]

About two weeks earlier, 100 miles away in New Berlinville, Pa., a 23-year-old construction worker was electrocuted when he placed electric clips to his chest piercings (despite colleagues' warnings). [Boyertown Area Times (Boyertown, Pa.), 1-9-08]

CLARIFICATION: Three weeks ago, it was reported that David Henton, 72, was on trial in Swansea, Wales, accused of murdering his longtime girlfriend, based on secret recordings police had made in Henton's home, in which he seemingly "confessed" the murder to his only companions, his cats, to whom he spoke frequently. On March 14, a jury found Henton not guilty, probably because the tapes were not as intelligible to the jury as the police claimed they were. [The Independent (London), 3-14-08]

Sunday Ponderings

It can’t be the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther Kings’ assassination coming up, because that would make me..... Oh, my gosh!

I forgot what I said on the phone yesterday. Can I get a transcript from Homeland Security?

If Delta is going to announce an inaugural direct flight to a communist country, I would rather go to Havana than Shanghai.

Note to self: wait until after getting my food to argue with cook or server.

All the electricity I didn’t use during Earth Hour was negated by TV coverage of Earth Hour.

Just because there were a few snow flakes coming down does not mean we had a snow storm. Some of you news media personnel need a real swift kick in the butt!

Dear Neighbors: now that Easter has come and gone could you please take down your Christmas decorations?

When Margaret Mitchell wrote “Gone With The Wind” I wonder if she knew a tornado was coming to downtown Atlanta one day?

The morality of buying beer vs. buying lottery tickets is a matter of harming yourself by wasting your money or harming others by driving drunk.

When are area car dealers going to start selling pollen colored cars?

Only in Henry County, GA could you find a school billboard that has April spelled Apiril.


Suffering & Service

To understand God is to understand suffering. An indispensable key to understanding the Scriptures is suffering in the path of righteousness. In addition, suffering, be it our own personal tribulations or the trials of the world, is Satan's unwitting contribution to our becoming more faithful, and even better Christians as a whole and theologians in particular. Here we must cry out to God alone when our sense of abandonment in the world or our individual torment seemingly exceeds the powers of our faith.

Suffering is a normal, useful and even essential element in Christian life. It weans us off the world and teaches us to live on God as Paul exemplified in 2 Corinthians 1.9, "indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead"; Colossians 1.24, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the Church)....", and in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." The greatest example of suffering that we persevere to emulate is found in Jesus Christ. His suffering on the cross is the greatest example of ultimate love. Those who loved Christ in the early Church also suffered and were martyred with the first being Stephen, followed by the imprisonment and later death sentences of Paul and Peter, the assassination of the first James and thirty years later, of the second. However, like two warriors committed to victory, Paul and Peter glared with defiance into the terrible eyes of the Roman wolf. Christ did not fail his martyrs.

This is also evident in the life of John Bunyan (1628-1688), a Christian writer and preacher, born at Harrowden (one mile south-east of Bedford), in the Parish of Elstow, England. He wrote The Pilgrim's Progress, arguably the most famous published Christian allegory. In 1658 Bunyan was indicted for preaching without a license. He continued, however, and did not suffer imprisonment till November 1660, when he was taken to the county jail in Silver Street, Bedford. There he was confined at first for three months, but on his refusing to conform or to desist from preaching, his confinement was extended for a period of nearly 12 years (with the exception of a few weeks in 1666) until January 1672, when Charles II issued the Declaration of Religious Indulgence.

Bunyan knew suffering well. In his book, "Grace Abounding", he talked about Suffering Rightly: "to pass a sentence of death upon everything that can be properly called a thing in this life even to reckon myself, family, friends, health, enjoyment, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them.” I can identify with Bunyan when he talked about "to live upon God that is invisible" (the Word, prayer, meditation), and what Paul said: "the way not to faint, is to look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." Jesus Himself stated this very same teaching throughout the Gospels: in Matthew 10:37, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me", Matthew 19:29, ".....everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall recieve many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life", and lest we forget the impulsive and reluctant folowers in Luke 9:62, " one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

The aim of suffering is to awaken you, rouse you off the bed of ease, security & pleasure and fetch you down on your knees before Him, to beg Him to be concerned about the salvation of your soul.

To suffer well is not only to die in sin but also to the claims of precious and innocent things, including family and freedom, not only because God is superior to sinful pleasures, but also because He is superior to sacred ones as well. Bunyan: "Everything else in the world must be counted as dead to us and we in it." Bunyan learned this from imprisonment and from Paul in Galatians 6.14, "....the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

Many years ago it finally became apparent to me the meaning behind Bunyan's suffering and not just how he learned, but what he learned "to live upon God that is invisible." Nothing glorifies God more than maintaining our stability and joy when we lose everything but God. In Ps 119, the Psalmist not only prayed and meditated over the word of God but suffered it in order to understand: Psalm 119.67, 71. Temptation, affliction, and trials are touchstones. {Incidentally, German monk, priest, professor, theologian, and church reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) expounded on this Psalm with prayer, meditation and tribulation (suffering). He made it into a rule that suffering is essential to know the Word of God as we ought: "These rules teach you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God's word is: it is Supreme Wisdom." Ps 119.18, 27, 34-37}.

Suffering also opens understanding to the truth that the Christian life is hard (Mark 8.36-37). The aim of suffering is to awaken you, rouse you off the bed of ease, security and pleasure an fetch you down on your knees before him, to beg him to be concerned about the salvation of your soul. Suffering and understanding to the truth go hand in hand, not meaning at the point of conversion, but during the process of perseverance and transformation: "The one who endures to the end will be saved" (Mark 13:13). Jesus warned that life with Him is hard: "The wind sits always at my face and the foaming rage of the sea of this world, and the proud lofty waves thereof do continually beat upon the sides of the ship that myself, my cause, and my followers are in; he therefore that will not run hazards, and that is afraid to venture a drowning, let him not set foot into this vessel." This also falls inline with John 15.2, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear fruit." Fruit-bearing is the normal product of regeneration. To be fruitless is abnormal and suggests the possibility of an insincere conversion experience. Christ's statement that fruitless branches shall be removed is in line with James's statement that faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:26). At the same time Christ also makes it clear that fruit is not the final purpose of the believer's life, but rather a joyous and loving fellowship with God Himself. Nevertheless God purges the fruit-bearing Christian (painful though it may be) so that he or she becomes more fruitful.

Conversion or even following Christ is not the smooth, easy going process some seem to think. It is wounding work, this breaking of hearts, but without wounding or suffering, there is no saving. Also suffering develops passion about wounding and builds patience and teaches the words of Jesus firsthand: "The way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:17. Clearly suffering and salvation are synonymous with the narrow way (Phil 2.12-12; Eph 2.5; Luke 13.24). I admit my passion for suffering, and I sacrifice nothing while sacrificing everything - my possessions, relationships even my life; I receive peace and joy in the here and now and my rewards await me in heaven.

As Christians, sufferings strengthen assurances that God is sovereign over all afflictions. Many of those who stand by the doctrine of God's sovereignty over suffering have been those who suffered most and who found in the doctrine the most comfort and help. 1 Peter 4.19 "Let them who suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator." According to the will of God, it is not what enemies will, nor what they are resolved upon, but what God wills, and what God appoints, that shall be done - be it manmade trials, natural disasters, etc. No enemy can bring suffering upon a man or woman when the will of God is otherwise - so no man can save himself out of their hands when God will deliver him up for His glory. (Just as Jesus showed Peter "By what death he would glorify God," John 21:19). We shall or shall not suffer, even as it pleases Him, and thereby ordered by the will of God.

God appoints who will suffer. Suffering comes not by chance, or by the will of man, but by the will of God (1 Thess 3.3). We must not think that suffering is a strange thing for those who fear God (1Peter 4.12). Be reminded and appeal to Rev 6:11 where the martyrs under the alter in heaven are told "that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also." An appointed number of martyrs! Suffering for righteousness and righteousness sake is by the will of God.

God has appointed when they will suffer for His truth in the world. Sufferings are timed as to when a believer will be tried for his faith. When Paul was arrested in Corinth, the Lord strengthened him in a dream (Acts 18.9-10). His time of suffering was not yet come; the same with Jesus in John 7.30. The times, the seasons even for the sufferings of the people of God, are not in the hands of their enemies, but in the hand of God, as David said, "My times are in thy hand" (Ps 31.15).

God has appointed where this, that or the other believer shall suffer such as was discussed by Jesus, Moses and Elijah in Luke 9.30-31. Jesus also said, it could not be that a prophet should "perish out of Jerusalem" (Luke 13.33).

God has allowed what kind of sufferings to His people: Paul in Acts 9.16, Jesus signifying to Peter beforehand in John 21.19, they are all in God's book in Jeremiah 15.2-3, and the will of the Lord be done in Acts 21.14.

Suffering does have a purpose! To glorify Him! How can that be, you say? For those who suffer and rest their faith in Christ, an even stronger faith emerges. For those who suffer, whether they know Christ or not, it calls to action the faithful - God's children, into action, to love, rescue and help those who are dying, to pray for the dead, and alleviate the suffering of those left behind. It even opens up the opportunity to evangelize.

The problem of suffering in the Old Testament is dealt with most fully in the book of Job. In the new Testament, Christ promised His people tribulation (from the Greek word, thlipsis, meaning "pressure" or "affliction"). Believers must be careful to distinguish the different forms of pressure and realize the sources from which they come. In general, there are three orders of affliction: (1) that which comes simply because we are alive and share in the fallen nature of the human race (experiences like natural catastrophe, sickness, bereavement, and death); (2) afflictions that (by God's permission) come to us from the malice of Satan because we have been delivered from his power and he strives to bring us back under bondage (1 Peter 5:8); and (3) afflictions that come directly from the hand of God Himself and are designed to purify or refine us (Job 23:10). These often overlap. Thus God can and does use the afflictions in the first two categories to accomplish His work in us. Yet Christians should be careful to avoid attributing to God, or even to Satan, that which they bring on themselves. Afflictions resulting from our own folly we must face up to as our personal responsibility. What is important to point out is the mercy that we suffer rather than torture with no feelings of revenge. In other words pity and bewail the condition of the enemy - Proverbs 24.19 and Isaiah 54.7-8. God is sovereign over the temptations of the soul as well as the sufferings of the body, be it to destroy or humble.

The key to suffering rightly is to see in all things the hand of a merciful, good and sovereign God and "to live upon a God that is invisible." There is more of God to be had in times of suffering than at any other time. To echo Bunyan's words: "There is that of God to be seen in such a day as cannot be seen in another. His power in holding up some, His wrath in leaving of others; His making of shrubs to stand, and His suffering of cedars to fall; His infatuating of the counseling of men, and His making of the devil to outwit himself; His giving of His presence to His people, and His leaving of His foes in the dark; His discovering (disclosing) the uprightness of the hearts of His sanctified ones, and laying open the hypocrisy of others, is a working of spiritual wonders in the day of His wrath, and of the whirlwind and storm. We are apt to overshoot, in the days that calm, and think ourselves far higher, and stronger than we find we really are, when the trying day is upon us. We should not live without such turnings of the hand of God upon us. We should be overgrown with our flesh, if we had not our seasonable winters (from Seasonable Counsel). It is said that in some countries, trees will grow, but will not bear fruit because there is no winter there. Bunyan's point is clear - humble ourselves under the almighty hand of God and to trust that all will be for our good in His glory. God does nothing without a cause, but His main reason is His glory. We take what comes to us from God with joy, peace and thanksgiving.

Fruit-bearing is the normal product of regeneration. To be fruitless is abnormal and suggests the possibility of an insincere conversion experience. Christ's statement that fruitless branches shall be removed is in line with James' statement that faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:26). At the same time Christ also makes it clear that fruit is not the final purpose of the believer's life, but rather a joyous and loving fellowship with God Himself. Nevertheless God purges the fruit bearing Christian (painful though it may be) so that he or she becomes more fruitful.

If we may ever avail ourselves the opportunity to escape suffering, then if it is in our heart to fly, then fly; if it is in our heart to stand, then stand. Do what is in your heart, but not in a denial of the truth. God may call you to do both: Moses fled, Exodus 2.15; Moses stood, Hebrews 11.37; David fled, 1 Samuel 19.12; David stood, 1 Samuel 24.8; Jeremiah fled, Jeremiah 37.11-12; Jeremiah stood, 38.17; Christ withdrew Himself, Luke 19.10 & Matthew 12.15; Christ stood, John 18.1-8; Paul fled, 2 Cor 11.33; Paul stood, Acts 23.40. The believer is best able to judge upon his heart, as ordained by God to stand or fly.

Suffering deepens a confidence in the Bible as the Word of God and a passion for sharing the Word as a key to perseverance. Lay hold on Christ through the Word of God, the Bible, but not at the exclusion of prayer and meditation. "To live upon God that is invisible" during our times of disappointment, agony, suffering, trials, tribulation, deep emotional turmoil and the questions they bring. To serve and suffer rooted in God is to serve and suffer saturated with the Word of God. Reverence through the Word of God and tremble at the prospect of dishonoring it (Judges 16.30). This is how we shall live, this is how we shall suffer, and by our suffering and total surrender and reliance upon Him, we flourish and survive.


Friday, March 28, 2008

The Legend of Coral Castle

Latvia 1912: Ed Leedskalnin, 26 was jilted on the eve of his wedding by his 16- year-old fiancee, Agnes Scuffs. Broken-hearted, Ed wandered, visiting Canada and Europe before settling in Florida City, near Miami.

During his wandering in Europe, Ed noticed one outstanding feature-the land was covered with castles. This gave him a romantic notion to build a castle for Agnes and to send her pictures of it in hopes that she might come to Florida and marry him. Working only from midnight to sunrise so that no one could see how he moved the great coral stones weighing more than those of the Great Pyramid, Ed built Coral Castle for Agnes. When he finished it, he gave tours, telling his visitors that he was "Waiting For Agnes."

Now after thousands of years of wondering how the Great Pyramid was built, here is a man who understood the Pyramid's secret, and he dies, forgotten, in Florida. How can this be? This frustration is what drove Researcher and investigator Joe Bullard to research and write, for 16 years, the story of Ed's life in my novel "Waiting For Agnes."

The story shows how Ed's genius has been regarded by the world's elite. With only a fourth grade education, Ed designed a 9-ton swinging gate in Coral Castle's east wall. The huge block of coral is extremely uneven in its proportions. Ed faced the problem of finding the stone's exact center and running a rod down through the center in order to connect the gate to the wheel bearings of a 1920 Ford truck so the gate would spin. The hole had to be perfectly drilled-if it was off even a frog's hair, the rod would not go t
hrough. The weight of the stone finally wore down the bearings and the gate stopped opening in 1986.

Located in Homestead, Florida, the castle and its gardens feature thousands of tons of coral rock that Leedskalnin, a frail man who weighed just 100 pounds, carved into artistic yet functional objects. It's possible that Leedskalnin secretly harbored the ability to levitate the large stones. Bullard said he'd spoken to a woman whose father had been one of the teens who'd claimed to have seen Leedskalnin float the stones.

Coral Castle is the finest example of massive stone construction in the United States. A study of the immense sizes and weights of the coral rock excavated, moved, and used in its construction establishes it as an authentic wonder of the world. That it was built entirely by one man makes it unequaled in all history.

There are approximately 1,000 tons of coral rock used in the construction of the walls and tower alone. In addition, over 100 tons of coral rock were used in the carvings of the artistic objects found throughout the entire park.

Ed's tower, where he lived, contains 243 tons of coral rock made up of huge blocks of stone weighing up to 9 tons each. The average weight of the stones used in the construction of Coral Castle is greater than those used in the Great Pyramid of Giza. Additionally, several of the stones used are taller than those found in Stonehenge in England. In weight, they exceed greatly the stones used in many other famous stone works around the world.

Ed built a perfectly shaped heart-table weighing 5,000 pounds that, according to Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not, is the largest Valentine table in the world. Ed said that if he forgot to get Agnes a Valentine's card, now she could look at the table and have her card. He also planted an Ixora bush in the table's center so Agnes could have fresh flowers everyday; the plant is still alive.

Valentines table: Ed said he sculpted this 5,000 lb. table so that if he forgot to get Agnes a Valentines day card, she would have this table to remind her of his love.

This 9 ton gate baffles engineers today; 9 tons of coral rock is mounted on the wheel bearings of a 1920 Ford Model A truck. It is so perfectly balanced, a child can push it open with one finger.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happy Couples

We all know a couple like this: After years together they will still be holding hands, making each other laugh and blush, getting along famously, and will be enjoying a dynamite groove the other people think corny. But what really goes on behind the scenes? Have these two soulmates actually found their perfect match in this big wide world, or are there secrets and strategies to making sure that romantic spirit continues to flourish over time?

In order to maintain the magic and sustain the spark, happy couples know they must:

Start solid. Remember that best friend you had when you were a kid? Whether blissfully playing side-by-side in the sandbox or building an awesome fort together, you two just grooved on being in each other's presence. Happy couples share that same serendipitous groove, if in the all-grown-up world. Romantic chemistry aside, they genuinely like each other as people and truly enjoy walking down the path of life hand-in-hand.

Keep it fresh. Routines and traditions can give a couple a comforting sense of predictability that's both grounding and reassuring. But surprises and adventures are also essential to really keeping that spark alive. Happy couples make a habit of shaking things up a bit by planning weekend getaways to undiscovered destinations, saving their pennies for a dream vacation, or launching fun and ambitious projects together. Having exciting things on the calendar to look forward to and sharing new adventures together reaffirms their connectedness and refuels the romance.

Clear the air. It's perfectly natural for any couple to encounter frustrations, disappointments, and miscommunications from time to time. But if grievances go unaired, they can pile up to a mountain of resentment and put the relationship at risk. Happy couples make sure they keep the communication open, and navigate those inevitable rough spots with honesty and mutual respect. If any issues should arise that seem too big or too complex to resolve between the two of them, they'll schedule some sessions with a couples therapist to help them safely weather the storm.

Have a life. A healthy relationship consists of two individuals who each maintain a strong sense of themselves and take a genuine interest in the other. One may decide to go back to school to pursue a higher degree, while the other may get involved in a volunteer project or a photography workshop. Maintaining individual identities and pursuing individual interests ensures that there'll always be new things to share and to learn about each other.

Tune it up. Whether it be once a month or once a year, a regularly scheduled sit-down can allow for some essential upkeep and maintenance of a healthy relationship. Happy couples may agree to a periodic summit meeting to check in with one another about the overall well-being of their partnership. They may discuss what they've been appreciating about one another, what dynamics could use some tweaking, and what is on the horizon for their future as a couple. A little preventative TLC from time to time helps keep those relationship engines running smoothly.

Best Wishes to Tina & Mark!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Problem Solving Made Easy


The problems and examinations in physics courses exercise not only your knowledge of physics but also your skill in solving problems. Professional physicists earn their salaries not particularly for their knowledge of physics but for their ability to solve workplace problems. This post presents tips for honing your problem solving skills and will prove useful to you in physics courses, in your other college courses, in your career, and in your everyday life.

To set the stage, I want to discuss an example of problem solving from everyday life, namely building a jigsaw puzzle. There are a number of different approaches to building a jigsaw puzzle: My approach is to first turn all the pieces face up, then put together the edge pieces to make a frame, then sort the remaining pieces into piles corresponding to small "sub-puzzles" (blue pieces over here, red pieces over there). I build the sub-puzzles, then piece the sub-puzzles together to build the whole thing. Other people have different approaches to building jigsaw puzzles, but nobody, nobody, builds a puzzle by picking up the first piece and putting it in exactly the correct position, then picking up the second piece and putting it in exactly the correct position, and so forth. Solving a jigsaw puzzle involves an approach--a strategy--and a lot of "creative fumbling" as well.

Physics textbooks contains many solved "sample problems". The solutions presented there are analogous to the completed jigsaw puzzle, with every piece in its proper position. No one solves a physics problem by simply writing down the correct equations and the correct reasoning with the correct connections the first time through, just as no one builds a jigsaw puzzle by putting every piece in its correct position the first time through. The "solved problems" in your book are extraordinarily valuable and they deserve your careful study, but they represent the end product of a problem solving session and they rarely show the process involved in reaching that end product. This document aims to expose you to the process.

Solving a physics problem usually breaks down into three stages:

  1. Design a strategy.
  2. Execute that strategy.
  3. Check the resulting answer.

Strategy Design

Look before you leap. Whenever you face a problem, there is an immediate temptation to rush in, roll up your sleeves, and begin tinkering with it. Resist that temptation. If you start your detailed work--the execution stage--immediately, you will likely write down a lot of correct statements that do not lead to an answer. Instead, think about the problem on an overview level. What sort of conceptual tools will you need to solve the problem? What path will you take to the solution, and in what direction should you start off? Concretely, it often helps to classify your problem by its method of solution.

If you are looking for a child lost in the woods, your first step is to sit down, think about what the child probably did and where he probably is, and devise a strategy that will allow you to effectively rescue him. If, instead, you just rush about the woods in random directions, you're likely to become lost yourself.

Where are you now, and where do you want to go? Before you can design a path that takes you from the statement of the problem to its answer, you must be clear about what the situation is and what the goals are. It often helps to check off each given datum of the problem, and to underline the objective. But for getting an overall sense of the problem, nothing beats summarizing the whole situation with a diagram. The diagram will organize your work and suggest ways to proceed. One of my course graders told me that "When students draw a diagram and label it carefully, they are forced to think about what's going on, and they usually do well. If they just try a globule of math, they mess up."

Keep the goal in sight. Don't get caught in blind alleys that lead nowhere, or even in broad boulevards that lead somewhere but not to where you want to go. It sometimes helps to map a strategy backwards, by saying: "I want to find the answer Z. If I knew Y I could find Z. If I knew X I could find Y . . . " and so forth until you get back to something you are given in the problem statement.

Some students find it useful to make a list of the information given and the goal to be uncovered (e.g. "given the constant acceleration, the initial velocity, and the time, find the displacement"). Others find it sufficient to write down only the goal (e.g. "to find: displacement").

Ineffective strategy. Do not page through your book looking for a magic formula that will give you the answer. Physics teachers do not assign problems in order to torture innocent young minds . . . they assign problems in order to force you into active, intimate involvement with the concepts and tools of physics. Rarely is such involvement provided by plugging numbers into a single equation, hence rarely will you be assigned a problem that yields to this attack. In those rare instances when you do face a problem that can be solved by plugging numbers into a formula, the most effective way to find that formula is by thinking about the physical principles involved, not by flipping through the pages in your book.

Make the problem more specific. You're asked to find the number of ways that M balls can be placed into N buckets. Suppose you can't even begin to map out a strategy. Then try the problem of 3 balls in 5 buckets. Solving the more specific problem will give you clues on how to solve the more general problem. And once you use those clues to solve the more general problem, you can check your solution by trying it out for the already-solved special case M=3 and N=5.

Large problems. At times you will be faced with big problems for which no method of solution is immediately apparent. In this case, break your problem into several smaller subproblems, each of which is simple enough that you know how to solve it. At this strategy-design stage it is not important that you actually solve the subproblems, but rather that you know you can solve them. You might begin by mapping out a strategy that leads nowhere, but then you haven't wasted time by implementing this strategy. Once you have mapped out a strategy that leads from the given information to the answer, you can then go back and execute the calculations. This strategy has been known from the time of the ancients under the name of "divide and conquer".

Execution (Tactics)

Eventually, of course, you do have to roll up your sleeves and tinker with the problem. As you do so, keep your strategy in mind, and keep the following tips in mind as well:

Work with symbols. Depending on the problem statement, the final answer might be a formula or a number. In either case, however, it's usually easier to work the problem with symbols and plug in numbers, if requested, only at the very end. There are three reasons for this: First, it's easier to perform algebraic manipulations on a symbol like "m" than on a value like "2.59 kg". Second, it often happens that intermediate quantities cancel out in the final result. Most important, expressing the result as an equation enables you to examine and understand it in a way that a number alone does not permit.

(Working with symbols instead of numbers can lead to confusion as to which symbols represent given information and which represent unknown desired answers. You can resolve this difficulty by remembering--as recommended above--to "keep the goal in sight".)

Define symbols with mnemonic names. If a problem involves a helium atom colliding with a gold atom, then define mh as the mass of the helium atom and mg as the mass of the gold atom. If you instead pick the symbols m1 and m2, you stand a good chance of mixing up the symbols and their meanings as you solve the problem. And if you don't define the symbols at all, but just begin throwing around m's and M's, you'll confuse both yourself and whoever is grading your answer.

Keep packets of related variables together. In acceleration problems, the quantity (1/2)at2 comes up over and over again. This collection of variables has a simple physical interpretation, transparent dimensions, and a convenient memorable form. In short, it is easy to work with as a packet. Take advantage of this ease. Don't artificially divide this packet into pieces, or write it in an unfamiliar form like t2a/2. Packets like this come up in all aspects of physics--some are even given names (e.g. "the Bohr radius" in atomic physics). Look for these packets, think about what they are telling you, and respect their integrity.

Neatness and organization. I am not your mother, and I will not tell you how to organize either your room or your problem solutions. But I can tell you that it is easier to work from neat, well-organized pages than from scribbles. I can also warn you about certain handwriting pitfalls: Distinguish carefully between t and +, between l and 1, and between Z and 2. (I write a t with a hook at the bottom, an l in script lettering, and a Z with a cross bar. You can form your own conventions.) These suggestions on neatness, organization, and handwriting do not arise from prudishness--they are practical suggestions that help avoid algebraic errors, and they are for your benefit, not mine. (On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to be neat and organized for the benefit of your grader. One course grader of mine once pointed out: "If I can't read it, I can't give you credit.")

Avoid needless conversions. If the problem gives you one length in meters and another in inches, then it's probably best to convert all lengths to meters. But if all the lengths are in inches, then there's no need to convert everything to meters--your answer should be in inches. In fact, you might not actually need to convert. For example, perhaps two lengths are given in inches and the final answer turns out to depend only on the ratio of those two lengths. In that case, the ratio is the same whether the lengths going into the ratio are inches or meters. It's easy to make arithmetic errors while doing conversions. If you don't convert, then you don't make those errors!

Keep it simple. I will not assign baroque problems that require tortuous explanations and pages of algebra. If you find yourself working in such a way, then you're on the wrong path. The cure is to stop, go back to the beginning, and start over with a new strategy. (Generations of students have kept track of this rule by remembering to KISS: Keep It Simple and Straightforward.)

Answer Checking

Checking your answer does not mean comparing it to the answer in the back of the book. It means finding the characteristics of your answer and comparing them to the characteristics that you expect. Some of your problems--particularly the ones assigned early in the course--will actually lead you through the checking stage in order to familiarize you with the process. Other problems will leave it to you to perform this check. In either case, checking your answer is not just good problem solving practice that helps you gain points on problem assignments and on exams. The checking stage builds familiarity with the content of physics and the character of problem solutions, and hence develops your intuition to make solving other problems--and learning more physics--easier. (See Daniel F. Styer, "Guest comment: Getting there is half the fun", American Journal of Physics 64 (1998) 105-106.)

Dimensional analysis. Suppose you find a formula for distance (in, say, meters) in terms of some information about velocity (meters/second), acceleration (meters/second2), and time (seconds). If your formula is correct then all of the dimensions on the right hand side must cancel so as to end up with "meters".

Numerical reasonableness. If your problem asks you to find the mass of a squirrel, do you find a mass of 1,970 kilograms? Even worse, do you find a mass of -1,970 kilograms?

[Reasonable speeds. "My calculations give me a speed of 23 m/s. Is this reasonable?" It's hard for most people to get a feel for the reasonableness of speeds expressed in meters per second. Until this qualitative feel develops, Americans should check for reasonableness by converting speeds in meters per second to speeds in miles per hour: simply double the number (20 m/s is about 40 mi/hr). Non-Americans should convert to kilometers per hour: simply quadruple the number (20 m/s is about 80 km/hr).]

Algebraically possible. Would evaluating your formula ever lead you to divide by zero or take the square root of negative number?

Functionally reasonable. Does your answer depend on the given quantities in a reasonable way? For example, you might be asked how far a projectile travels after it is launched at a given speed with a given angle. Common sense says that if the initial speed is increased (keeping the angle constant) then the distance traveled will increase. Does your formula agree with common sense?

Limiting values and special cases. In the projectile travel distance problem mentioned above, the range is obviously zero for a vertical launch. Does your formula give this result? If you solve a problem regarding two objects, does it give the proper result when the two objects have equal masses? When one of them has zero mass (i.e. does not exist)?

Symmetry. Problems often have geometrical symmetry from which you can determine the direction of a vector but not its magnitude. More often they have a "permutation" symmetry: If your problem has two objects, you can call the cube "object number 1" and the sphere "object number 2" but your final answer had better not depend upon how you numbered your objects. (That is, it should give the same answer if every "1" is changed to a "2" and vice versa.)

Specify units. "The distance is 5.72" is not an answer. Is that 5.72 miles, 5.72 meters, or 5.72 inches? Similarly, if the answer is a vector, both magnitude and direction must be specified. (The direction may be drawn into a diagram rather than stated explicitly.)

Significant figures. Any number that comes from an experiment comes with some uncertainty. Most of the numbers in this course come with three significant figures. If a ball rolls 3.24 meters in 2.41 seconds, then report its speed as 1.34 m/s, not 1.34439834 m/s. Most introductory physics courses do not require a formal or technical error analysis, but you should avoid inaccurate statements like the second quotient above.

Large problems. If you break up your large problem into several subproblems, as recommended above, then check your results at the end of each subproblem. If your answer to the second subproblem passes its checks, but your answer to the third subproblem fails its checks, then your execution error almost certainly falls within the third subproblem. Knowing its general location, you can quickly go back and correct the error, so its effects will not propagate on to the remaining subproblems. This can be a real time-saver.


The problems in your physics course can be fun and exciting. Approach them in the spirit of exploration and they will not disappoint you!

  1. Strategy design
    1. Classify the problem by its method of solution.
    2. Summarize the situation with a diagram.
    3. Keep the goal in sight (perhaps by writing it down).
  2. Execution tactics
    1. Work with symbols.
    2. Keep packets of related variables together.
    3. Be neat and organized.
    4. Keep it simple.
  3. Answer checking
    1. Dimensionally consistent?
    2. Numerically reasonable (including sign)?
    3. Algebraically possible? (Example: no imaginary or infinite answers.)
    4. Functionally reasonable? (Example: greater range with greater initial speed.)
    5. Check special cases and symmetry.
    6. Report numbers with units specified and with reasonable significant figures.

Further Reading

The classic exploration of mathematical problem solving technique is
  • George Polya, How To Solve It (Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1957).
More mundane and somewhat pedantic, but nevertheless valuable, is
  • Donald Scarl, How To Solve Problems: For Success in Freshman Physics, Engineering, and Beyond, third edition (Dosoris Press, Glen Cove, New York, 1993).
Study of the following books will help develop your general (as opposed to strictly mathematical) problem-solving skills:
  • James L. Adams, Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas (Norton, New York, 1980),
  • Berton Roueche, The Medical Detectives (Times Books, New York, 1980) and The Medical Detectives, volume II (Dutton, New York, 1984),
  • Martin Gardner, Aha! Insight (Freeman, New York, 1978),
  • Donald J. Sobol, Two-Minute Mysteries,
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes stories,
  • Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot stories, particularly Murder on the Orient Express.

Democrats Will Unify the Country?

They can't even unify their own party. The following is an excerpt of "The Rush Limbaugh Show" from MON, 24 MAR, 08......

RUSH: On Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bill Clinton at a campaign event for his wife spoke, and here's a portion of what he said.

CLINTON: I think it would be a great thing if we had an election where you had two people who love this country and were devoted to the interests of the country and people could actually ask themselves who's right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.

RUSH: This has caused a firestorm and is helping to fuel Operation Chaos. "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election where you had two people love this country and were devoted to the interests of this country." He's saying, "We need my wife and McCain, because they're two people that love this country." Now, there's a real reason that the Clintons are out there showering McCain with all kinds of great platitudes. It's because they know (they think, anyway) it would be a piece of cake to take on McCain because McCain is out there saying he's going to be honorable; there won't be any attacks on the Democrat presidential nominee, whoever it is -- and that's music to the Clintons' ears. You know, that's just a sign of weakness that the Clintons will just pounce on. But this has been interpreted by people as saying that Obama doesn't love his country, and may not be a patriot out there. So the day after comparing Clinton to Joseph McCarthy, Obama supporter Merrill McPeak, that's how he responded originally to Clinton's statement about Obama. He said this is McCarthyesque. "Tony" McPeak stands next to Obama at a rally in Medford, Oregon, and explains why he said it and doesn't back down.

MCPEAK: President Clinton was speaking to a group of veterans yesterday in North Carolina, and he said something that frankly astonished me. Let me say first, we will have such an election this year (cheers), because both Barack Obama and John McCain are great patriots who love this country and are devoted to it. So is Hillary Clinton. Any suggestion to the contrary, is flat wrong. I am saddened to see a president employ these kinds of tactics. He of all people should know better, because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactic when he first ran 16 years ago.

RUSH: So the Obama campaign is not backing down. McPeak not backing down. Clinton once again... People are going to ask the question, "Does he really want his wife to win this, or does he want her to lose?" Nothing that happens with the Clintons is a coincidence. Never forget that. Sunday on Meet the Press, Tim Russert spoke with Jon Meacham of Newsweek about the Democrat primary race. Russert said, "Where we are, where are we headed? Is there a way for this Democrat Party to unify after this kind of primary? Are we in a situation where, in order for Hillary Clinton to be successful and appeal to the superdelegates, she has to win a nomination even though she won fewer elected delegates?"

MEACHAM: Depending on where you end up with the, as you were saying, the popular vote or the pledged delegates, you do have the capacity for a kind of "corrupt bargain" charge, uh, echoes of 1824, which I think we should always be talking about every Easter. (giggles) Apology for that --

RUSSERT: Jon, 1824. Tell us who it was, quickly.

MEACHAM: Very quickly, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, uh, Henry Clay threw his support to John Quincy Adams. Adams becomes president. Four years later, running on a charge -- running on a campaign saying that was a corrupt bargain, Jackson takes over, founds the modern Democratic Party, and here we sit.

RUSH: So (laughing) the Democrat Party is basically founded on corruption and remains corrupt to this day. But this is Operation Chaos. These people are worried. Are the Democrats heading for Armageddon? Can they unify after all of this? And here's the problem that they're going to have. The problem they're going to have unifying is Obama has become the candidate of race. There are so many people who are for Obama, who if he doesn't get it they're going to be fit to be tied and either won't vote or will vote for McCain. There are a number who want Clinton to get this, and if she doesn't get it, they're going to be fit to be tied and either sit out or vote for McCain. All this talk of unity, here we have again... Let's bring this down to real-life terms. We have the leading Democrat presidential primary contender Barack Obama campaigning on what? Hope, change, unity! We can all get along. We can all come together, and we can do what's best for all of us to reach the mountaintop, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

They can't even unify their own party! How in the name of Sam Hill (and there was a Sam Hill) are they going to unify the country? The whole thing is an illusion. I did a great, great monologue last week on the whole concept of unity anyway. I mean, for crying out loud, folks, I'm sounding like a broken record here. Obama can't even unify his own inner circle! He's got people in his inner circle that are fit to be tied themselves. His pastor is perennially angry. His wife's never happy. Well, she recently was happy because of his presidential campaign. But they can't even unify their own party. They're worried about Armageddon. They're worried about the party self-destructing. In the meantime, they're running a campaign on unity for the country? It's a pipe dream.

The Rush Limbaugh Show® Premiere Radio Networks © All Rights Reserved, 2008.

Cities of the Underworld

Peel back layers of history with Cities of the Underworld on The History Channel.

Skyscrapers loom overhead, taxis honk their horns and street vendors shout as they peddle their wares. But the buzz of the city above is nothing compared to the powerful pull of the past and the amazing secrets simmering just beneath one's feet! We travelled hundreds of feet beneath the pavement to reveal hidden worlds that literally make up the foundations of today's greatest cities.

Engineers, architects, and archaeologists leave the metropolitan chaos behind to travel deep beneath the city streets into the meandering tunnels, abandoned subway lines, hidden water supplies, dank dungeons, eerie tombs, clandestine hideouts, and forgotten cities that have been lost to the hands of time (or purposely hidden for more sinister reasons...).

Combining the stunning visuals of high definition video and state of the art computer graphics CITIES OF THE UNDERWORLD turns history upside-down. The construction and engineering of subterranean structures are brought to life and detail how a modern city miraculously doesn't collapse onto the one below. Whether it is Rome, London, Paris or New York these vibrant cities teeming with life, not roped off excavation sites deep in the desert.

Cities Of The Underworld : Prophecies from Below - aired on Monday, March 24 9:00 PM

The ancient world was shaped by people who believed they foresaw the will of God. Jerusalem is at the heart of all their fiery prophecies. From the outcome of bloody wars to the birth of saviors, Jerusalem has been at the center of prophetic revelations. Join host Don Wildman as he peels back the layers of this sacred subterranean landscape to uncover an ancient escape route, a secret bullet factory, and the birthplace of Jesus. He sets out to find the truth behind Jerusalem's most mysterious and enduring prophecies, the people who foretold them and what was left behind... underground.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oil: Uncovering the Rip-off

Oil shale

The United States has the largest known deposits of oil shale in the world, according to the Bureau of Land Management and holds an estimated 2,500 gigabarrels of potentially recoverable oil, enough to meet U.S. demand for oil at current rates for 110 years. However, oil shale does not actually contain oil, but a waxy oil precursor known as kerogen. For this reason and because there is not yet any significant commercial production of oil from oil shale in the United States as of 2008, its oil shale reserves do not meet the petroleum industry definition of proven oil reserves.

Massive Oil Deposit Could Increase US reserves by 10x

America is sitting on top of a super massive 200 billion barrel Oil Field that could potentially make America Energy Independent and until now has largely gone unnoticed. Thanks to new technology the Bakken Formation in North Dakota could boost America’s Oil reserves by an incredible 10 times, giving western economies the trump card against OPEC’s short squeeze on oil supply and making Iranian and Venezuelan threats of disrupted supply irrelevant.

In the next 30 days the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) will release a new report giving an accurate resource assessment of the Bakken Oil Formation that covers North Dakota and portions of South Dakota and Montana. With new horizontal drilling technology it is believed that from 175 to 500 billion barrels of recoverable oil are held in this 200,000 square mile reserve that was initially discovered in 1951. The USGS did an initial study back in 1999 that estimated 400 billion recoverable barrels were present but with prices bottoming out at $10 a barrel back then the report was dismissed because of the higher cost of horizontal drilling techniques that would be needed, estimated at $20-$40 a barrel.

It was not until 2007, when EOG Resources of Texas started a frenzy when they drilled a single well in Parshal N.D. that is expected to yield 700,000 barrels of oil that real excitement and money started to flow in North Dakota. Marathon Oil is investing $1.5 billion and drilling 300 new wells in what is expected to be one of the greatest booms in Oil discovery since Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938.

The US imported about 14 million barrels of Oil per day in 2007, which means US consumers sent about $340 Billion Dollars over seas building palaces in Dubai and propping up unfriendly regimes around the World, if 200 billion barrels of oil at $90 a barrel are recovered in the high plains the added wealth to the US economy would be $18 Trillion Dollars which would go a long way in stabilizing the US trade deficit and could cut the cost of oil in half in the long run.

The Bond Code

Author Philip Gardiner recently has been discussing the life of James Bond author Ian Fleming and his associations with the world of the occult which led him to create a series of clues, ciphers and codes within his novels.

Early in his life, Fleming became fascinated by the just-emerging study of psychology, which relied heavily on the occult, according to Gardiner. This interest, coupled with Fleming's time as a spy during World War II, became the basis for the James Bond universe.

Gardiner cited a number of esoteric references in the James Bond stories, notably the "007" name being taken from the 16th century English spy John Dee, who used it as a signature in his letters to Queen Elizabeth. She, in turn, signed her responses with the letter "M," which Fleming used as the name of the fictional head of the MI6 spy agency.

The infamous Bond villains were rich with occult symbolism, said Gardiner. An example of this is the character "Auric Goldfinger," whose name is a combination of alchemical terms. Gardiner also noted that many Bond villains were modeled after Aleister Crowley, right down to descriptions matching Crowley's physical appearance.

The Bond Code: The Dark World of Ian Fleming and James Bond


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Faith & Salvation

Faith and Salvation

This post will discuss faith with three main points and will consider these points individually.

1. Faith has a personal, rather than purely historical reference.

2. Faith concerns trust in the promises of Gospels

3. Faith unites the believer to and with Christ.

1. Faith is not simply historical knowledge. A faith which is content to believe in the historical reliability of the Gospels is not a saving faith. Sinners are perfectly capable of trusting in the historical details of the Gospels; but these facts of themselves are not adequate for true Christian faith. Saving faith concerns believing and trusting that Christ was born for us personally, and has accomplished for us the work of salvation.

2. Faith includes an element of trust. The notion of trust is prominent in the reformation conception of faith, as a nautical analogy used by Martin Luther indicates: "Everything depends upon faith. The person who does not have faith is like someone who has to cross the sea, but is so frightened that he does not trust the ship. And so he stays where he is, and is never saved because he will not get on board and cross over." Faith is not merely believing that something is true; rather, it is being prepared to act upon that belief and relying upon it.

Christian faith is about being prepared to put one's trust in the promises of God who made those promises. Faith is only as strong as the one in whom we believe and trust. The efficacy of faith does not rest upon the intensity with which we believe, but in the reliability of the One in whom we believe. The content of faith matters at least as much as, and probably far more than, its intensity. It is pointless to trust passionately in someone who is not worthy of trust; even a modicum of faith in someone who is totally reliable is vastly to be preferred. Trust is not, however and occasional attitude: for me, it is an undeviating trusting outlook on life, a constant stance of conviction of the trustworthiness of the promises of God.

3. Faith unites the believer to Christ. Luther states this principal clearly in his 1520 work, The Liberty of a Christian: "Faith does not merely mean that the soul realizes that the divine work is full of all grace, free and holy; it also unites the soul with Christ, as a bride is united with her bridegroom. From such a marriage, as the Apostle Paul says (Ephesians 5:31-32), it follows that Christ and the soul become one body, so that they hold all things in common, whether for better or for worse."

Faith, then, is not a part of an abstract set of doctrines in a catechism. Rather, it is a "wedding ring" pointing to a mutual commitment and union between Christ and the believer. Faith makes both Christ and His benefits - such as love, forgiveness, justification and hope - available to the believer.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Ponderances

To say doing jail time for driving without a license unfairly targets illegal immigrants, is like saying doing jail time for robbing a bank unfairly targets criminals.

Atlanta was a disaster area long before the tornado, thanks to self-serving politicians.

Birds chirping, flowers blooming; can the sound of flip-flops be far behind?

Why even bother having these “adopt a road” programs? Most of you drive like you own them already.

Parents…instead of wondering why your child is shot for attempted robbery, find out beforehand WHY they are carrying a gun and robbing people.

No matter what Dunkin Donuts store I go to, when I order a medium black coffee, the clerk always asks, “Do you want cream and sugar in that”?

People should be able to buy whatever they want, but they shouldn’t expect responsible taxpayers to bail them out when they’re houses are about to be foreclosed.

People with their pants hanging to their ankles are much dumber than people with their hats turned backwards.

There’s a difference between a recession and people buying beyond their means.

If the HGTV Dreamhome winner lacked enthusiasm, its probably because his prize came with a bill for $600,000 in taxes.

Hey WMAC, forget trying to promote your program director on-air. Try getting a real news director.

Hey STAR 94, can you get some morning DJ’s that actually talk about Atlanta instead of some Yankee City. Who cares about Detroit or Buffalo!

I am not an advocate of suicide, but if you feel the need please don’t include anyone else in the act.

Anyone else in favor of an amendment to include “none of the above” on the November ballots?


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Famous People in Radioactivity

Many people have contributed to today's understanding of radioactivity. This post is intended to tell you a little about some of the most famous scientists in this field. More details can befound in many CD-ROM encyclopedias.


To put their work in context, it is worth summarising how our present-day model of the atom came about:

  • The concept of Atoms dates back to the ancient Greeks. They thought that matter could be made up of tiny building blocks. They imagined that everything was made of combinations of four elements : earth,air, fire, and water.

  • Isaac Newton, in 1687, said that the relationships we see between pressure, volume and temperature in gases could be explained if we assume that the gas is made of tiny particles.
  • JJ Thomson and Niels Bohr During the 19th Century, the modern idea of elements grew.
    In 1808, John Dalton suggested that each element was made of identical atoms.

    In 1811 Amedeo Avogadro proposed that these atoms could stick together to form molecules.
    By 1895 the sheer weight of evidence was that, although they were too small to see, atoms and molecules were real.

  • JJ Thomson proposed the "Plum-pudding" model of the atom. (He also discovered the existence of electrons, in 1897). This model was an attempt to explain the discovery of both positive and negative charges within the atom. He said that the negative charges were scattered throughout a positively charged atom, like currants in a bun.

  • In 1911, Ernest Rutherford put forward his model of the atom. This proposed that all the positive charges were concentrated in a tiny nucleus, and the electrons orbited around the outside of the atom.

  • In 1932, James Chadwick discovered the neutron. The discovery of this uncharged particle explained the large masses of the elements compared to their number of charges.

  • There was a problem with the Rutherford model, in that classical electromagnetic theory said that the orbiting electrons ought to radiate energy, their orbits should decay rapidly and they should fall in to the nucleus.
    In 1913, Niels Bohr proposed an updated model, which included some modern quantum theory. This allowed for electrons to move in orbits, as in the Rutherford model. Bohr's ideas included electrons only being allowed to follow certain fixed orbits, leading to the concept of electron shells that we use in chemistry.

Our modern understanding of the atom is based on these early models. We now know that protons and neutrons are themselves made of smaller particles called "quarks", and that at the subatomic level, the laws of probability appear to govern the processes.

Henri Becquerel (1852 - 1908) Henri Becquerel

In 1896, the French scientist Henri Becquerel discovered that crystals of a Uranium compound would darken photographic plates (like our modern photographic film), even through black paper that kept out all light.

He thought that the compound must have been giving off some other form of radiation, which could pass through the paper. Marie Curie later named this "radioactivity".

He shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with Marie and her husband, Pierre, in 1903.

Becquerel was born in Paris, and studied at the Ecole Polytechnique. In 1892, he became professor of physics at the Museum of Natural History, and in 1895 also at the Ecole Polytechnique. He was elected president of the French Academy of Sciences in 1908.

Marie and Pierre Curie

Marie and Pierre Curie
In 1898, following Becquerel's discovery, the French physicists Marie and Pierre Curie found other substances that emitted radioactivity.

Their work focussed the attention of scientists on this strange new phenomenon and led to a wide range of experiments.

A unit of radioactivity is named after Marie:
one Curie is the activity of a substance which undergoes 3.7 x 10 disintegrations per second.
The radioactive sources you'll see in schools probably have activities around 5 micro-curies.

Marie Curie (1867- 1934)

Born in Poland as Marie Sklodowska in 1867, from childhood Marie had a remarkable memory. At the age of 16 she started work as a teacher, then as a governess, using her earnings to pay for her sister Bronia's medical studies.

In 1891 she went to Paris, where she studied Physics. In the spring of 1894 she met her husband-to-be, Pierre Curie. Marie began looking for substances that emitted radioactivity. She studied a substance called pitchblende extensively, an ore with a surprisingly high activity.

Pierre joined her in this work, and together they discovered two new radioactive elements, naming them Polonium and Radium. Pierre studied the radiations, whilst Marie worked to obtain a sample of pure Radium. She received her doctorate of science in 1903, and Becquerel & the Curies shared the Nobel Prize for Physics that same year.

Marie had two daughters, Irène and Eve. She was appointed lecturer in Physics at the École Normale Superieure in Sèvres in 1900, and introduced teaching methods based on experimental demonstrations. The sudden death of her husband in a road accident in 1906 was a huge blow to Marie. From then on, she devoted her energy to completing the scientific work they had done together.

In 1911 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry, having finally isolated pure Radium. Throughout the First World War, Marie and her daughter, Irène, worked on X-radiography. After the war she devoted her researches to discovering medical uses for radioactivity.

In 1934, Marie died of leukaemia caused by her extensive work with radiation. Her contribution to modern Physics was immense. In 1995 her ashes were placed in the Panthéon in Paris, the first woman to receive this honor for her own achievements. Madam Curie and her daughter were considered hot! In fact, they were so hot, their remains are housed in containers lined with 6 inches of lead.

Pierre Curie (1859 - 1906)

Pierre was educated by his father, who was a doctor. By the age of 14, he had developed a passion for mathematics, and showed a particular talent for spatial geometry, which was to be useful in his later work on the structure of crystals.

In 1878 Pierre was taken on as a laboratory assistant at the Sorbonne, where he carried out work on the wavelength of Infra-red waves and studied the symmetries of crystals. With his brother, Jacques, he discovered piezoelectricity, in which stresses on a crystal can generate electricity. This is used in modern gas lighters, and small speakers and microphones.

After being appointed as supervisor at the School of Physics and Industrial Chemistry in Paris, he worked on magnetism, leading to the formulation of Curie's Law, which relates a type of magnetic attraction and temperature.

Pierre Curie married Marie Sklodowska in 1895, and they worked together on radioactivity (see above). Pierre concentrated on the radiations themselves, and used magnetic effects to prove that radioactive substances gave off positive, negative and neutral rays. Ernest Rutherford was later to name these alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays.

Pierre also observed the effects of radiation on the body, laying the foundations for radiotherapy, used in modern cancer treatments. He refused a post at the University of Geneva in order to continue his work with Marie. In 1904 he was appointed professor at the Sorbonne, and was elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1905, having jointly received the Nobel Prize for Physics with Marie Curie and Henri Becquerel in 1903.

He was killed instantly when he was run over by a cart in the Rue Dauphine in Paris in 1906. Pierre Curie was one of the founders of modern Physics.

Lord Ernest Rutherford (1871 - 1937)

Born in Spring Grove, New Zealand, Ernest was the fourth of twelve children. His parents, who had emigrated from Britain, lived simply in order to be able to afford to educate their children.

In 1887 Ernest won a scholarship to Nelson College, where he went on to win prizes in history, languages, and mathematics. With the aid of another scholarship he gained a place at Canterbury College, Christchurch, and graduated in 1892 with first-class honours in mathematics and physics. Staying on, he taught part-time to fund his research into magnetic fields. He discovered that he could detect the then newly-discovered radio waves even after they had passed through brick walls.

Before leaving New Zealand for England, he became unofficially engaged to Mary Newton, a daughter of his landlady in Christchurch. He wrote her many letters from England, which have been preserved and today tell us much about this fascinating personality.

Arriving in Cambridge in 1895, Rutherford began work under JJ Thomson at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he made a great impression on colleagues. The story goes that he had such a loud voice that he disturbed experiments in the Cavendish and they had to hang up "Quiet Please" signs.

Following work on X-rays, Rutherford studied the rays emitted from Uranium compounds discovered by Henri Becquerel. He showed that they were different to X-rays, that they ionised air and were made of charged particles. We now know them as alpha and beta particles.

In 1898 Rutherford was appointed to the chair of physics at McGill University in Montreal, and in the summer of 1900 he travelled to New Zealand to marry Mary Newton. When their first daughter was born, he wrote to his mother that" ... it is suggested that I call her ' Ione' , after my respect for ions in gases".

"Rutherford's Experiment" provided the most important evidence for the internal structure of the atom.
Geiger and Marsden, working for Rutherford, performed an experiment in which alpha particles were fired at a very thin gold foil. They found that the vast majority of the particles passed straight through, and that only a few were deflected off-course. Even fewer were deflected back the way that they came.
This led him to the conclusion that the atom had a tiny, dense, positively-charged nucleus. Anything lighter would not be able to repel heavy alpha particles back the way they came. Thus the negatively-charged electrons must be somewhere around the outside of the atom.
He also discovered that radioactive decay is not affected by external conditions.

Rutherford was elected president of the Royal Society in 1925, and made many other significant contributions in the field of physics. In 1931 he was made a peer. He died in Cambridge in 1937, following a short illness, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Hans Geiger (1882 - 1945)

Johannes Wilhelm Geiger was a German physicist who introduced the first reliable detector for alpha particles and other ionising radiation. We still use his basic design today, although more advanced detectors are also in use.

Geiger gained his PhD at the University of Erlangen in 1906, then joined the University of Manchester, becoming one of Ernest Rutherford's most valued colleagues. Here he built his first particle counter and used it in experiments that identified alpha particles as being the same as the nucleus of a Helium atom.

In 1912 he moved to the German National Institute for Science and Technology, where he continued to study atomic structure. Geiger served as an artillery officer during the First World War.

He accepted his first teaching position in 1925 at the University of Kiel, where he worked with Walther Müller to improve the sensitivity and performance of his particle counter. The modern Geiger-Müller tube detects both alpha and beta radiation, along with other photons.

In 1929 Geiger moved to the University of Tübingen, where he investigated cosmic rays, moving on to the Technische Hochschule in Berlin in 1936 to work with nuclear fission and artificial radioactivity, until his death in 1945.