Seas on Titan

The Cassini probe, which is orbiting Saturn, has mapped part of the surface of the planet’s largest moon. Like Venus, Titan is covered by a hazy atmosphere, which makes viewing the surface using visible light impossible. The Cassini probe includes a radar mapping tool, which has made it possible to construct a map of part of Titan’s surface. Last week, NASA announced the existence of a sea on the surface of Titan that is larger than the Earth’s Lake Superior. Being that the surface of Titan has a temperature of about −179 °C (or −290 °F), the seas on Titan are likely composed of either liquid methane and/or liquid ethane; all water on Titan is frozen and part of the planet’s crust.

Titan’s surface is obscured by its hazy atmosphere.

The newly-discovered sea on Titan is larger than Lake Superior. Image from NASA.

Grace and Peace

The Bad News of the Gospel

This item was originally posted in March, 2006. It is now part of my blog recycling program. Because I have more people reading The Earth is Not Flat! now than I did a year ago, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my best blog entries. As a teacher, I’ve seen a few kids who regularly get D’s and F’s on their tests. I know how they feel, because I get a zero on this test every time I take it!

I got an “F” on a test today.

I have become increasingly aware that, for whatever reason, some of my children do not have a good grasp of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of this, I am directing more conversations in our family to this critical topic. Before one can comprehend the good news of the Gospel, they need to really understand the bad news about sin.

One purpose of the “Law” portions of Scripture is to point us to the fact that we are sinners. This morning, my family read the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and then took a quiz out of the book Tell the Truth, by Will Metzger. Here’s the quiz:



  1. (Yes or No) I have never put anything else before God in my life. I have always given God first place in my thinking, affections and actions.
  2. (Yes or No) I have never had any wrong conceptions about God nor worshipped Him in a way not recommended by Him. I have always rejected any wrong imaginations or images of God that I’ve seen or thought and refused to remake God according to my liking.
  3. (Yes or No) I have never slighted or abused the character of the true God by using His holy name as a swear word or using it in a thoughtless manner, such as by calling myself a follower of God yet not obeying. I have always held the name of God, which signifies His character, in highest respect, invoking it with thoughtfulness and reverence.
  4. (Yes or No) I have never done less than a full week’s work, and never done any of my normal work on the day set aside to worship God. I have always worked hard and willingly at whatever task is set before me, seeing it as a God-given service each day, and consistently remembered to set apart one day weekly to worship God with others.
  5. (Yes or No) I have never disobeyed nor dishonored my parents or any others in authority over me. I have always respected and been thankful for my parents and given them honor and willing obedience, as well as other authorities over me.
  6. (Yes or No) I have never murdered anyone nor had hateful thoughts or taken the slightest pleasure in seeing harm done to another human. I have always thought more of others than I have of myself and practiced the highest regard for human life and justice.
  7. (Yes or No) I have never practiced any sexual impurity, either physically engaging in sex before marriage or mentally having impure thoughts about someone. I have always treated others’ sexuality with respect and dignity in both my physical actions and mental attitudes.
  8. (Yes or No) I have never taken anything that doesn’t belong to me nor been deceitful in any attitudes or unwilling to work for my needs. I have always respected the belongings, rights and creations of others and been completely truthful and fair.
  9. (Yes or No) I have never lied nor slandered another person or group of people. I have always told the truth in every situation regarding every person I have known.
  10. (Yes or No) I have never been greedy for something that wasn’t mine, nor jealous even of the abilities, looks, or status of others. I have always shared and given of my possessions and myself to others and I have been thankful in my heart for what they have and content with my possessions and situation.

(from Metzger, Will, 2002, Tell the Truth, A Training Manual on the Message & Methods of God-Centered Witnessing, 3rd ed., InterVarsity Press)

I scored 0/10 on this one.

Praise God that I have one who speaks to the Father in my defense: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2 ESV).

Grace and Peace

Blogosphere theme verse

People blog because they have opinions that they like to share. Here’s a thought to keep me humble:

I was reading in Proverbs the other day and I think I found the blogosphere theme verse! Proverbs 18:2: “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”

That was from a reader on Gene Edward Veith’s Cranach blog. May God give me insight as I meditate on his word and study his world, so that I can write with wisdom and understanding rather than airing my own foolish opinions.

Grace and Peace

One year of “The Earth is Not Flat!”

Happy Birthday to “The Earth is Not Flat!”

“The Earth is Not Flat!” had its humble beginning on March 16, 2006. This is the 209th post, and I have had 6170 page views (whatever that means — is that visits by people, or are many of those visits by automated systems?)

I named this blog “The Earth is Not Flat!” because one of my primary purposes is to dispel the myth that Biblical Christianity stands opposed to a valid scientific understanding of the universe. For example, the Church–including the medieval Catholic Church–never taught that the Earth is flat. Despite this, there are many–both inside and outside of Christianity–who have the suspicion that either the church once taught this, or that it is hidden away in some obscure Old Testament passage.

Much of the apparent conflict between Christians and science is due to misunderstandings by one side or the other. A common theme in my writing and teaching is that all truth is God’s truth. God has revealed himself in Scripture and in his son, Jesus Christ. God has revealed himself in nature as well. There are many things that we could never know about God if we only studied nature. We might infer the existence of a deity, and speculate about his attributes, but there is much that we could never discern. Similarly, there are things about the universe that we will not learn from the study of the Bible. Here is my firm conviction: When there appears to be a contradiction or conflict between what we learn from science, and what we learn from the Bible, then either we don’t correctly understand nature, or we don’t correctly understand the Bible. If God is the source of both, then in the end, there will be no contradiction between the two.

I also hold that the conflict between science and Christianity is actually quite small; small enough that I really don’t worry too much about it.

I appreciate every one of you who reads this blog, and appreciate your prayers as we minister in Romania, and as I write this blog. I’ve had fun, and I hope I have stimulated both thought and faith in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for improvement are welcome. You can post a suggestion here, or email me at kevin(at)nelstead(dot)org. Not everything I write is profound–and some of it is not meant to be profound–but I hope there is enough depth and insight here to strengthen and encourage you.

As can be seen on the “Page Views Report,” I have a considerably larger number of viewers than I did in March 2006. This means that I can start recycling old blog entries without boring everyone!

Grace and Peace

Note: The myth that Christianity once taught that the Earth is flat didn’t originate until the 19th century. The true story is best explained in, of all places, Stephen Jay Gould’s essay “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” which is included in his book Dinosaur in a Haystack.

Pi day (3.14)

March 14th — a day to celebrate the number pi. I can only recite it to 15 decimal places, which is good enough for most purposes.

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin pi

Q: What do you get when you take a cow and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Cow pi.

Q: What do you get when you take a native Alaskan and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Eskimo pi.

Q: What do you get when you take the sun and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Pi in the sky.

Grace and Peace

Science textbooks stink (for the most part)

The middle school science textbooks we have been using for many years at BCA are old and worn, so it is time for a textbook search. Being that I cannot go to the National Science Teachers Association convention, I’m looking online for replacement textbooks. One of the first things I found was an article from the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Heavy Books Light on Learning: Not One Middle Grades Science Text Rated Satisfactory By AAAS’s Project 2061.

Here’s the first few paragraphs:

Washington, DC—Not one of the widely used science textbooks for middle school was rated satisfactory by Project 2061, the long-term science, mathematics, and technology education reform initiative of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). And the new crop of texts that have just entered the market fared no better in the evaluation.

The in-depth study found that most textbooks cover too many topics and don’t develop any of them well. All texts include many classroom activities that either are irrelevant to learning key science ideas or don’t help students relate what they are doing to the underlying ideas.

“Our students are lugging home heavy texts full of disconnected facts that neither educate nor motivate them,” said Dr. George Nelson, Director of Project 2061. “It’s a credit to science teachers that their students are learning anything at all. No matter how `scientifically accurate’ a text may be,” Nelson continued, “if it doesn’t provide teachers and students with the right kinds of help in understanding and applying important concepts, then it’s not doing its job.”

I know that the textbook is not the curriculum, but I do want a textbook that does a good job of supplementing and implementing our curriculum. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Grace and Peace

Additional thoughts 3/9/07. I actually have two textbooks that I am fairly happy with:

  • Conceptual Physics by Paul Hewitt, Addison-Wesley. It is weak on math, but I can give supplementary work for that. The descriptions are clear and accurate, and it is a good book for a general physics course that all students can take.
  • Biology, by Miller and Levine, Pearson Prentice Hall. This book is well written, and contains very few errors. Overall, I’m happy with the book, but like all high school biology textbooks, it is way too long. It has enough material for perhaps a 1½ year course, or maybe even more.