Posts Tagged ‘science’

This is a well-done article that examines an intersection of church history and the history of science, in the last part of the 16th century, heading into the 17th. The emphasis is on correcting some over-the-top misrepresentations presented in a television show, but it’s well worth a read just in general.

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7 Quick Takes Friday

1. Are you a woman about to get married? Are you considering going to a hyphenated last name? Read this first. Actually, you might want to read it even if you don’t fit the description I just gave, because it’s funny, and has good advice.

2. The plot to save America. Actually, it’s a look at currently popular ideas kicking around to revive the Constitution, and to kickstart the proper power of the states again, but we need to start somewhere.

3. How about a fun, totally clean, biology lesson? Check out the gears on the back legs of this little creature. Yes, gears. The planthopper is set up so both hind legs move together.

4. Put your thinking cap on. Deep Roots at Home has compiled a list of a hundred-plus “whole-hearted” books for children. What would you add to the list?

Shortly before coming across that list this week, I started reading Robinson Crusoe on my Kindle. That puts me at fifth grade on the list… Hey, what can I say? I’m a boomer. We were pretty much deprived of classics in school, right up through college, and I’m still catching up to my ancestors, who were better read, over all.

5. Speaking of that, I finished Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens this week. As usual, Dickens has some wonderful observations and great characters, and it was well worth the read. But he lost me on a few corners on this one. I had to go back and reread parts of it along the way, and after I’d finished I went online to check a couple of things, to make sure I understood him correctly. If it had just been something that would have been current in his day, but unfamiliar in mine, I probably wouldn’t mention it – but it wasn’t that. I had to conclude that, at least in literature and history, I wasn’t up to the standards of the general public of Dickens’ day. It’s not like he was writing for elites, after all.

It also struck me while reading this book that if I didn’t know the Bible, I would have missed a lot. And I mean a lot. That’s true of most Western literature up until recently, I’ve found.

6. Speaking of literature, words, and standards, Anthony Esolen’s Word of the Day column is usually entertaining as well as learned. Sometimes it’s useful, too, although I might as well admit that sometimes it sails right over my head. Still, it’s a good resource, and it’s free. And did I mention that it’s often fun?

7. Speaking of Anthony Esolen, have you seen his five-minute Prager University video addressing Were the Middle Ages Dark? Good stuff.

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday posts, please visit Conversion Diary.

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Israeli brain scientists are working on turning sound into ‘sight,’ and other innovations that activate the visual cortex.

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I’ve been maintaining for years that many ‘studies’ and some ‘social scientists’ are not employing anything like reasonable, much less respectable, methods, and should not be given any standing. Now, thanks to a fellow who has been the darling of the liberal press despite having made up much of his data, we’re getting articles like this: The Chump Effect: Reporters are credulous, studies show, by Andrew Ferguson (Weekly Standard, December 5, 2011.)

I take a swing at sloppy, slanted, ‘social science’ in more than one of my books. Here are a couple of excerpts from Not Exactly Allies, starting with the beginning of the book:



“Durand? Is that you?”

“Who wants to know?”

“Sorry. Hugh here. Did you know men and women see things differently?”


“Well, yes,” Leandre Durand said at last, slowly, obviously not quite sure where his British friend was leading with this phone call.

“Sorry, I didn’t put that very well.”

“Perhaps not.”

“What I mean to say is that women not only put their own spin on things, they actually see differently. I’ve been studying it. You should see some of these studies. They put a group of girls in a room and drop hundreds of dollar bills all at once, and the girls see everything at once and rarely grab a bill. They just jump and giggle and grab thin air, mostly. You put boys in the same room, drop an equivalent flurry of bills, and they can isolate them and wind up with booty.”

“My Perrine says such experiments only show that men like to prove their prowess and women are happy just to play.”

“That’s a new twist. I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Or perhaps the people performing the experiment have, one hopes inadvertently, prepared the girls differently leading into the experiment. It is hard to say. Certainly boys and girls are different, but children like to please grownups who pay them the least little attention, and psychologists, alas, are prone to pet theories.”

“I’d have to say I’d noticed that. Odd theories, too, some of them.”

“But of course. You cannot make your name with a discovery of something that makes sense. Not in some circles, at least. Excuse me a little minute, if you please.”

Richard Hugh was astonished to hear gunshots and glass shattering. Being experienced, he held his tongue. Durand would get back to him when he could. If he could.


[Richard had] never liked the man, and the more contact he’d had with the fellow over the years, the more animosity there’d been. But it had always been a personal dislike. It bothered Richard that he hadn’t figured out the man was susceptible to outside influences. He told his wife so.

“Bah,” said Emma. “Orchard had a reputation for being easy to manipulate.”

“No, he didn’t.”

“I’ll amend that. Orchard had a reputation amongst women for being easy to manipulate.”

“Maybe by women,” Richard groused. “I don’t know a man who didn’t find the fellow impossible to deal with.”

Emma grinned, and swept her husband into a hug. “But, darling. He fancied himself to be totally rational. Nobody but nobody is more susceptible to outside input than a man who thinks he’s rational and is proud of that fact. Especially one whose idea of ‘reason’ is based almost entirely on formal studies of college students who volunteer to be guinea pigs.”

“Which of course tells you something about college students who volunteer to be guinea pigs, but nothing much whatsoever about adults, children, or college students who have better things to do,” Richard said.

“Absolutely. Change the subject, luv.”


“Because I’m in your arms and don’t want to think about men who treat everyone’s emotions but their own as symptoms of something.”

Richard leaned down and kissed her. He made it a long and tender kiss. When he came up for air he said, “There. I couldn’t think of an intellectual subject I wanted to discuss, so I opted for pure emotion. I hope that meets your criteria for changing the subject?”

She pulled him back into a kiss, which he correctly took as a yes.

Not Exactly Allies is also available in Kindle, Nook, and Large Print.

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All right, class. What happens when a jet going 500 mph hits a wall built to absorb shocks? After you’ve made your educated or uneducated guess, watch this crash test.

How did your guess line up with the actual results?

(I was way, way off.)

hat tip: Dennis Prager (Twitter page)

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Two posts over at Mere Comments are on unrelated subjects, but somehow struck me as two parts of a larger picture.

First (simply because I read it first): Scots Warned Against Looking at Big Picture with Intelligence in Mind. This looks at reaction to the opening of Glasgow’s Centre for Intelligent Design, and its supposed dangers to Scottish children. Must not let the bairns be exposed to the idea that the world might not be entirely purposeless, you know… It might confuse them?

Please note, if you will, that the president and vice-president of the new center come from the realms of genetics and medicine. If you have not had a chance to look into what’s been discovered in microbiology lately, please dig up a good DVD or online source or something. When you see that a single cell is about as complex as a megacity, it tends to make you wonder if that widely-booted-about theory about mud glopping together in just the right way under just the right circumstances and presto-being-a-functioning-live-thing just might, possibly, be a bit behindtimes – good enough for the less-knowing of the nineteenth century, perhaps, but no longer necessarily the best explanation given the evidence, now that we can see into cells, and better understand blood clotting (what a procedure that is!), now that more fossils have been collected, etc., etc.

And then, from Anthony Esolen: I Confess, I Paid Attention to the Election. Esolen talks about the collapse of our political thinking, and how although gains were made, all too often political battles still seem to be between radical worship of materialism and softer worship of materialism, and… oh, go read it. I’m making it sound dull, and it isn’t.

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… is the headline over at the BBC.

No, really. Paul Hudson, a “Climate correspondent” at BBC News, has noticed that the predictions of climate alarmists aren’t panning out, nor is the most touted theory on what causes global warming and cooling holding up all that well, and concludes, “It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over. Indeed some would say it is hotting up.”

May the best scientists win, that’s what I say.

hat tip: Steven Hayward

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It occurs to me that my previous post might leave you with a not quite accurate picture of this part of town, because, as it happens, dredge piles don’t stay dredge piles, at least they don’t around here.

I’m not sure how long ago this part of the valley was churned up in a quest for gold, but it had to be between the late 1800s and the 1940s. At any rate, decades, not centuries.

But when I moved here, I was amazed at how much soil there was. It also flummoxed me that the gravel was so neatly dispersed in it. There is no question but that it is rocky soil, but where in the world did the soil amongst the rocks come from? What I’d learned in school about soil didn’t fit with what I was seeing. I wasn’t seeing layers of soil, built up as vegetation on the surface decayed. I wasn’t really seeing layers of soil, period. But there was a lot of soil, reaching down.

I finally figured it out (I think), thanks to stumbling across info on people who called themselves soil farmers, who built up their soil by (amongst other things) having cattle graze there. The cattle cropped the grass, the cropped grass couldn’t support quite as big a big root system, some of the root system died to put things into balance, the dead roots added to the soil and in their wake left little channels for water and air. Or something like that.

I watched out back, where I leave the yard semi-wild, and noticed that, left to itself, the back yard has one wave of short lived annual after another. In short, plants grow and die, and their roots decay in place, putting organic matter down as far as they reached. Such a deal.

In previous years, I helped things out by watering out there, and by adding a few annuals of my own. (Semi-wild I can handle, weed-infested I’d like to avoid.) This made for some relatively lush growth, and allowed plants to grow throughout the summer. When things got out of hand, I’d pull out the mower, and get satisfaction from thinking that not only was I making the yard look better, but I was cropping the plants, which would crop the roots, which meant I was soil farming.

OK, I am easily amused, and easily find satisfaction in my work. What can I say? I find joy in small things. I liked the idea of soil farming. I still do. And I like that I don’t have to buy amendments or put down layers of compost to do it. Not that amendments and compost can’t be good for soil, but this seemed to be helping without all that.

This year, the landlord asked us to cut the water bill, if we could. So the back yard lay somewhat fallow for much of the summer. But the native plants still popped up in spring, and whenever there was rain. And then most of them died. And therefore, there is just that much more organic matter, that much more soil in progress.

There are other factors, of course. There is active insect life, and worms, and they burrow, and leave manure behind them (as do the deer, birds, cats, etc.) I suspect that some of the gravel is decomposing, too.

But what fascinates me are the roots. I don’t remember learning about roots as soil builders when I was in school. And yet, in this semi-arid climate, which produces relatively little organic matter above ground (and much of that gets whipped away by wind), roots are getting the job done.

There were gravel piles. Now there is land.

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… is gaining support, according to this article at The Scotsman, which reports “SCOTLAND will miss out on a global “nuclear renaissance” which will create tens of thousands of jobs worldwide, if the SNP government continues its anti-nuclear stance, French energy experts have warned…”

William Tucker prefers to call it Terrestial Energy, but he’s also an advocate.

Hmmmm. Is this a good excuse for linking to a 2004 article at Wired called Let A Thousand Reactors Bloom, which says nice things about my grandfather, Farrington Daniels, while explaining how reactors have been made safer? The article is largely about a nuclear reactor building spree in China.

To be clear, I don’t know enough about this sort of thing to be an advocate or opponent of nuclear power. For the most part, it’s way over my head. So I’m pretty much watching from the sidelines on this, at least for now. But, of course, if a safe and successful nuclear power industry gets built on a foundation laid in part by my beloved Grandpa, I am prepared to be proud…  And, OK, so maybe what he came up with was “a crude version of the later high-temperature gas-cooled reactor developed further at ORNL” [Oak Ridge National Laboratory]. You have to start somewhere on stuff like this.

For those of you thinking the name Farrington Daniels sounds familiar, but in a different context, Grandpa was best known for pioneering work in the use of solar energy. There is also an award named after him.  His son of the same name was a professor at Cornell.

(And, by the way, for those of you who love to split science and religion into warring camps, Grandpa was a professing Christian as well as a world class scientist.)

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