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

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

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.

periodicbatman

periodicflash

periodicmetamorpho

Grace and Peace

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 Snopes.com, 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

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

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.