The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

NOVA and Frontline programs online

PBS has made some of its NOVA and Frontline programs available online:

NOVA Online

Frontline Online

I watched “Life’s Greatest Miracle” last night, which is about human sexual reproduction (It is a remake of the older “Miracle of Life” video). It was excellent; though I wouldn’t want to show the extended bikini-babes-on-the-beach scene in class.

Grace and Peace

May 7, 2007 Posted by | General, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

Earth as art

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” — Genesis 1:31

I’ll let these images from NASA’s Earth As Art site speak of the beauty and goodness of God’s Earth:

Grace and Peace

April 3, 2007 Posted by | Geography, Geology, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

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

January 23, 2007 Posted by | Biology, Environment, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment


For several years, I have been using Starry Night software in the classroom when teaching about the stars. The students love it, but at $49.95, they were unlikely to be able to do anything with it at home or in our computer lab. I found an excellent substitute for free on the internet: Stellarium.

There are still a number of things I can’t do with Stellarium that Starry Night can do, such as looking at the stars and planets for any time between 4700 BC and AD 9999. But it is still a great tool for learning the constellations, looking for planets, and seeing how these change according to location or time. You can set the viewing location any place on Earth, and change the time as well. Give it a try.

Grace and Peace

January 5, 2007 Posted by | Astronomy, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

Alaska Volcano Observatory

The US Geological Survey operates five volcano observatories, which keep watch on regions of volcanic activity in the United States. The five observatories are for the Cascades, Hawaii, Yellowstone, Long Valley (in California) and Alaska. My web site of the week is for the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Here’s a description of the Alaska volcanoes from the AVO site:

Alaska contains over 100 volcanoes and volcanic fields which have been active within the last two million years. Over 40 of these have been active in historic time. These volcanoes make up about 80% of all active volcanoes in the United States and 8% of all active above-water volcanoes on earth.

Most of these volcanoes are located along the 2,500 km-long (1,550 mile-long) Aleutian Arc, which extends westward to Kamchatka and forms the northern portion of the Pacific “ring of fire”. Other volcanoes which have been active within the last few thousand years exist in southeastern Alaska and in the Wrangell Mountains. Smaller volcanoes, some active within the last 10,000 years, exist in interior Alaska and in western Alaska as far north as the Seward Peninsula.

Hardly a year goes by without a major eruption from a volcano in the Aleutian Arc. Eruptions in the largely unpopulated western arc often go unremarked by all but volcanologists. The remote volcanoes are potentially hazardous, as jet airplanes which enter eruption clouds often are severely damaged, and sometimes lose all engines temporarily. There are more than 70,000 large aircraft per year, and 20,000 people per day, in the skies over Aleutian volcanoes, mostly on the heavily travelled great-circle routes between Europe, North America and Asia. Volcanoes in the eastern arc, especially those from Cook Inlet volcanoes, can have severe impacts. The series of 1989-1990 eruptions from Mt. Redoubt was the second-most costly in the history of the United States, and had significant impact on the aviation and oil industries, as well as the people of the Kenai Peninsula. The three eruptions of Mt. Spurr’s Crater Peak in 1992 deposited ash on Anchorage and surrounding communities, closing airports and making even ground transportation difficult, and disrupted air traffic as far east as Cleveland, Ohio. The 1912 Katmai eruption, which formed the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes on the Alaska Peninsula was the largest 20th century eruption on earth.

I chose this site because it has a wealth of great pictures and high-resolution topographic maps:

Fourpeaked Mountain, currently at YELLOW status (USGS AVO)

Kaguyak Volcano (C. Nye, USGS AVO)

Augustine Volcano (C. Read, USGS AVO)

Ukinrek Maars (J. Kienle)

Augustine Volcano (M. Coombs, USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Kaguyak Volcano (USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Mt. Edgecumbe (USGS AVO)

Topgraphic map of Nuschkolik Mtn. (USGS AVO)

Grace and Peace

September 30, 2006 Posted by | Geology, Web Site of the Week | 2 Comments

The Inner Life of the Cell

Web site of the week: “The Inner Life of the Cell.”

This site has a computer animation of the inner workings of a white blood cell. Absolutely amazingboth in terms of the animation, and the processes it portrays. It is a testimony to the wisdom and power of the Creator.
I got this link from my biochemist friend Glenn at Be Bold, Be Gentle.

Image from the movie “The Inner Life of the Cell.”

The movie is also on YouTube.

Grace and Peace

September 5, 2006 Posted by | Biology, Chemistry, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

eNature — Online Field Guide

A good online field guide—with images and information about 5500 different species—is at, which is produced by the National Wildlife Federation. With sections on birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, spiders, seashells, wildflowers, and more; eNature is a good site for those of us who don’t have a complete shelf of field guides (I have almost worn out some of my Roger Tory Peterson guides).

One shortcoming: There are no range maps, showing the distributions of the species. Despite this, eNature is a fun and useful resource for identification of North American organisms.

Grace and Peace

August 22, 2006 Posted by | Biology, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

Google Earth

It’s time to get back to my “Web Site of the Week.” I’ll start with one of my favorites, Google Earth. Google Earth is software that you can download for free, which can be used for viewing imagery of virtually all of the Earth’s land areas. Resolution tends to be better over the United States and cities, and weaker over rural areas. They have just updated the imagery over our adopted home of Bucharest, Romania. Here are some samples, starting with a whole-Earth view:

On the highest-resolution imagery of Bucharest, one can clearly see automobiles, and even the shadows of individual people on the sidewalk. This means the resolution (the size of the smallest discernable feature) is somewhat better than one meter. For other places on Earth, resolution ranges from 15 meters all the way down to six inches.

In addition, Google Earth has topographic data built in to it, so that the view angle can be adjusted to view mountain ranges and other features from the side.

Have fun. Find your house. Take a vacation without leaving your home.

Grace and Peace

August 14, 2006 Posted by | Geography, Geology, Maps, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

White Horse Inn

In Bucharest, we attend a Romanian-language church, and often don’t get all that much out of the sermons. When we need a dose of solid English-language teaching, we download a John Piper sermon from Desiring God.

My favorite radio program is The White Horse Inn, produced by the same people who put together Modern Reformation magazine. The White Horse Inn is a roundtable discussion about theology and apologetics. These guys are not afraid to tackle deep subjects, as well as exposing goofiness in Evangelicalism.

This year, WHI is going through Romans, and last week the topic was “imputation.” Imputation is the theological term describing the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to us. This is good stuff: When God looks at the Christian, he sees them as being righteous, not because they are righteous on their own, but because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us.

In the program, they played portions of interviews with pastors at an evangelical pastors’ conference, where they asked, “How important is the concept of imputation in your ministry?” If the pastor didn’t know what “imputation” was, they explained it for them. Most of the pastors said that their people wouldn’t understand a concept like that, and that they would rather preach on topics about “Christian living.” In other words, they don’t want to talk about the wonderful things that Christ has done for us, because that isn’t practical.

Past programs I have enjoyed have been on finding Christ in all of Scriptures, the emergent church, the Purpose-Driven life, intelligent design, justification by grace through faith, apologetics, and parenting.

Grace and Peace

May 17, 2006 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

The Periodic Table of Comic Books

Welcome to The GeoChristian. Out of over 600 posts on my blog, this one on the Periodic Table of Comic Books is in the top five in terms of how many people view it. The purpose of The GeoChristian is twofold: 1. To enhance science literacy within the Evangelical Christian community. 2. To present a Biblical Christianity that is hostile to neither science nor the environment. I invite you to browse around and read some other posts.

Who says scientists are boring? For a fun periodic table of the elements, check out the Periodic Table of Comic Books. Click on an element and see pages from comic books that refer to that element. The following are selections from oxygen, gold, and bromine.




Grace and Peace

May 9, 2006 Posted by | Chemistry, Fun, Web Site of the Week | | Leave a comment

The Evangelical Ecologist

For my web site of the week: The Evangelical Ecologist, subtitled “A Christian Ecoblog- ‘Cause the world isn’t ours to mess up. Psalm 24:1.” This week there have been excellent posts about the high price of gasoline, and the economics of sustainable development.

Grace and Peace

May 2, 2006 Posted by | Environment, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

Urban Legends

Hopefully there is no need to tell you, but wild stories circulate on the internet—on web pages and via email. My web site of the week is, which is devoted to uncovering the truthfulness or falsehood of these “urban legends”. What would make one suspect that a story received in one of those emails from a well-meaning friend might be, well, not quite true? These stories often have vague details (A missionary in Africa, a little girl in Alabama, an executive with a major oil company, etc.) and no references to credible sites. It is always best to do some investigation before accepting or forwarding stories that are questionable; this is especially important for us as Christians.

One of my favorite stories that turns out to be true is the one about the balloon man, who tied weather balloons to his lawn chair and quickly rose to 16,000 feet!

A story that is false that is widely circulated in the Christian world is “NASA Confirms That Sun Stood Still.” I’ve received this story by email a number of times, such as from a student who wrote, “Mr. Nelstead, look at this wonderful confirmation of the Bible!” I believe the Bible, but stories like this one do more damage than good.

Grace and Peace

April 8, 2006 Posted by | Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

Beauty in Stone

For the web site of the week, I have chosen Igneous rocks in thin section. In order to identify minerals and interpret the history of a rock, geologists will often make a thin section. A thin section is made by slicing and polishing a rock until it is only about 30 micrometers thick (human hair is typically 40-120 micrometers thick). This rock slice is mounted on a glass microscope slide, and viewed using a petrographic microscope, which is a light microscope with a rotating stage. The geologist can then view the slice of rock with either ordinary light or polarized light.

The image here is of a rock called diorite using polarized light. Diorite is similar to granite, but it has less quartz. The prominent mineral grain in the center is plagioclase, which appears whitish in ordinary light, but displays this distinct black and white banding when viewed with polarized light. As the geologist rotates the stage of the microscope, the bands change back and forth between black and white. The angles at which they do so can be used to estimate the sodium and calcium content of the mineral, which varies depending on the chemical composition of the source magma and the history of the rock.

As an undergraduate and graduate student in geology, these thin sections kept me mesmerized for hours. More of the beauty of God’s creation, to be enjoyed like a landscape or sunset.

Grace and Peace

April 5, 2006 Posted by | Geology, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

Simple Cells?

Prominently displayed in the back of my science classroom at Bucharest Christian Academy is an oversized poster showing biochemical pathwaysthe enzyme-mediated processes that occur in all cells, in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. The poster presents an incredible amount of information, outlining processes such as electron transport in the mitochondria (in eukaryotes), and the synthesis and degradation of amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleotides. The poster is a little overwhelming to my middle school and high school students, but that is part of my purpose for having it. Even the most simple living cells are incredible machines, and I want them to have a glimpse of what that means.
For the web site of the week, I have chosen a similar metabolic pathways poster from the ExPASy Proteomics Server. By clicking on individual tiles on the poster, you can zoom in to see details of various processes, with the names of the enzymes that control molecular transformations in blue.

From discussions with biochemists, my understanding is that the simplest cell that could perform the basic functions of life (such as respiration, digestion, reproductionprocesses that define life) could do without some of the processes diagrammed on this poster. However, this primitive cell would still have to include about 60% of the processes depicted on these types of posters. This defines the magnitude of what needs to be explained in any naturalistic explanation for the origin of life.

Grace and Peace

I did find one article (I’m sure there are many) on the internet that puts a lower limit on the number of proteins in the most primitive cell at 300. Note that on the metabolic processes poster I have here, only the blue names, the enzymes, are proteins. The other substances are all substances that are produced or modified by those enzymes.

March 29, 2006 Posted by | Biology, Chemistry, Origin of Life, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment

Botany Photo of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day has been a favorite of mine for some time. There have been several other attempts at “Science Picture of the Day” sites, but they have all fallen short, at least in my mind. Botany Photo of the Day, however is an excellent site, with a beautiful image from the world of plants every day. Just as “the heavens declare the glory of God,” (Ps 19:1 ESV), so also do the plants declare his glory. The only shortcoming of the site is that it is not aimed as much at a general audience as is the Astronomy Picture of the Day, and this somewhat reduces its educational value.

Grace and Peace

March 16, 2006 Posted by | Biology, Web Site of the Week | Leave a comment