Science Videos #2

NOVA — Watch Online — A few episodes are available online, some in part, some entirely. Segments range from 2 minutes (Lab meat — growing edible meat in a lab culture) to 146 minutes (The Elegant Universe — all about string theory).

MIT OpenCourseWare — Videos of complete lecture courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A science nerd’s paradise, but perhaps not for everyone. Where do I begin?

Bambi Meets Godzilla — A classic short film about the dangers of exotic species — like rabbits in Australia, only worse.

Grace and Peace

Science Videos #1

Thermite reaction – a chemical reaction that generates enough heat to melt iron.

Alkali metal reactions – I’ve put sodium in water for a science demonstration, but that seems rather tame compared to rubidium or cesium in water!

Tacoma Narrows Bridge – the ultimate engineering mishap. Concrete and steel are flexible!

Liquid metal – watch the ball bounce, and bounce, and bounce…

Grace and Peace

Sponge Moon

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is of Hyperion, one of Saturn’s 34+ moons.

Here is the APOD discription of this image:

Explanation: What lies at the bottom of Hyperion’s strange craters? Nobody knows. To help find out, the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn swooped past the sponge-textured moon in late 2005 and took an image of unprecedented detail. That image, shown above in false color, shows a remarkable world strewn with strange craters and a generally odd surface. The slight differences in color likely show differences in surface composition. At the bottom of most craters lies some type of unknown dark material. Inspection of the image shows bright features indicating that the dark material might be only tens of meters thick in some places. Hyperion is about 250 kilometers across, rotates chaotically, and has a density so low that it might house a vast system of caverns inside.

The past 30 years of solar system exploration have revealed an astounding variety and complexity of the planets, moons, and other objects in our solar system. Whether one is studying astronomy, chemistry, or cell biology, I’ve learned that we should expect:

  • Order
  • Complexity
  • Surprises

Our discoveries in the natural world reflect a Creator who is a lawmaker (the universe is orderly and there are fundamental laws which underlie its workings), complex (how can we ever understand the relationships within the Trinity), and full of surprises.

May you find joy in all the things God has created, and most supremely, in his son, Jesus Christ.

Grace and Peace

A wild world of a different sort

Back in October, I wrote a post about the idea of introducing large mammals (elephants, camels, lions, and so on) into the high plains of the United States (see Pleistocene mega-fauna — coming to a drive-thru safari park near you). The idea is to somewhat restore the pre-human ecosystem by bringing in mammals that went extinct at about the same time that humans arrived in North America. Elephants would fit into the niche that mammoths occupied, camels were native to North America, and lions would fill the role of large carnivorous cat.

The April 2007 issue of Scientific American will have an article on this concept. Here is most of an entry from Scientific American Blog (Jan 23, 2007):

Continue reading “A wild world of a different sort”

Wild World

At the middle school and high school level, biology textbooks usually have a section on biomes, which are large regions of the Earth that have distinctive communities of plants and animals. Examples of biomes include desert, tropical rainforest, temperate grasslands, and tundra. These biomes can be subdivided into smaller ecoregions, which have more specific assemblages of plant and animal types.

The World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic have teamed up to create Wild World, an online mapping program that has the world divided up into 867 ecoregions. Examples of ecoregions include:

In Romania–

  • Central European mixed forest
  • Carpathian montane coniferous forest
  • East European forest steppe
  • Pannonian mixed forest
  • Pontic steppe

Each of these has a unique combination of plants and animals.

The native ecoregions in my home state of Montana (God’s country) include:

  • Northern Short grasslands
  • Montana valley and foothills grasslands
  • South central Rockies forest
  • North central Rockies forest

Each of these ecoregions, of course, could be further subdivided into more specific regions.

I like the site because it has good maps. General enough for an overview, but more detailed than a world biome map.

Grace and Peace

The Doomsday Clock

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its famous “Doomsday Clock” to 5 minutes before midnight. This clock has moved forward and backwards depending on this (“liberal”) group’s perception of how close the world is to nuclear holocaust (timeline). It has been as close to midnight as 2 minutes during the 1950s, when the US and USSR were spiraling deeper and deeper into an arms race of bigger and better means of mass destruction. It inched away from the midnight mark as test-ban and arms-reduction treaties were signed. The end of the cold war in the late 1980s and early 1990s brought the clock all the way back to 17 minutes before midnight, but terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation brought it back to 11:53 in 2002.

Here is the rational the Bulletin used for moving the clock closer to doom:

The world stands at the brink of a second nuclear age. The United States and Russia remain ready to stage a nuclear attack within minutes, North Korea conducts a nuclear test, and many in the international community worry that Iran plans to acquire the Bomb. Climate change also presents a dire challenge to humanity. Damage to ecosystems is already taking place; flooding, destructive storms, increased drought, and polar ice melt are causing loss of life and property.

A few thoughts, and a question:

  • This is the first time that the Doomsday clock has included criteria other than the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. “Climate change also presents a dire challenge to humanity.”
  • Nuclear war or terrorism continue to be a real threat, and will for a very long time.
  • The US did win the cold war, but this hasn’t secured a safer world.
  • Some people in the world are running scared. They see threats out there that could destroy civilization. The rest of the world has its head buried in the sand.
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Mt 5:9 ESV). Whatever this means, it has to mean something that involves Christians activily working for peace. The #1 peace that the world needs is peace with God through Jesus Christ. Other types of peace (between nations, with creation) will flow out of this.
  • The US and USSR never used their nuclear weapons. I don’t expect extremists (Islamic or secular) to show that same restraint in the future. I expect that in my lifetime, someone will use a nuclear weapon.
  • The US and USSR didn’t use nuclear weapons because of a concept called “Mutually Assured Destruction,” or MAD. Here was the incentive: if we nuke them, they’ll nuke us. It kept the peace, and for that I’m thankful. But is that kind of thinking ethical, when one has thousands of warheads available?

Grace and Peace