Science and Technology Blog
This blog contains articles about science, technology and a life of faith.  Written by the rector of Grace, these articles first appeared as the trailer articles in the Weekly Grace email newsletter.

Solving Interesting Problems

There is a new kind of computer being developed these days that is unlike any computer ever built. All modern computers are just bigger, faster and, smaller variations of the Von Neuman vacuum tube behemoths of the late 1940s. But the new kid on the block is a “Quantum Computer” that runs near absolute zero (-459 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature and whose small number of bits can each represent many possible states at the same time. A random number problem solved by IBM’s largest conventional supercomputer in sixty hours was solved by Google’s twelve-bit quantum computer in three minutes!


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Plastics II

I have said this before, but it bears repeating, humans do not “consume” anything. We are not “consumers.” We only transform things. In biological systems, one organism’s waste is another organism’s energy source (food). In our natural world, the end metabolic process of plants is carbohydrates and oxygen which are the input energy sources for animal metabolism. In turn, animals pump out carbon dioxide and protein or various nitrogenous outputs which then become inputs for plants.  Natural systems are said to be “closed loop” because everything is recycled. There is no “waste.” Natural systems are beautiful.


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Extinction Level Events

The 1998 movie, “Deep Impact” had one scientist confused that another colleague was obsessed with an extramarital affair involving a person named “Ele.” Surprise, Ele, turned out to be an acronym for “Extinction Level Event” and the stage was set for drama.


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Apologetics

Wikipedia defines this term as: “Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, “speaking in defense”) is the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse”. In the 20th century, C. S. Lewis was one of the best-known Christian apologists. An Oxford professor of classics, Lewis knew a thing or two. His Narnia chronicles portray the Christian gospel through the lives of sentient animals in a make-believe land of Narnia. While critics may deride Christianity itself as make-believe, Lewis’ Narnia helps people understand the fundamental Christian teachings in a familiar way through storytelling.
 

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So what if you killed the planet?

The rainforests of Brazil are up for grabs, literally. Ranchers, gold miners and anyone who wants to make a quick buck head for the hills. No one will stop you. The president pledged a loosening of environmental restrictions. In reality, he eliminated them. The plumes of smoke from people burning the rainforest are visible from the space station with the naked eye.

Why is this bad? Don’t people need to earn a living? Brazilian scientists monitoring the devastation measure about 2,400 square miles of illegal burning last year and 3,600 square miles this year. All together, that’s a square of about 80 miles on each side. The devastation continues.

The planet, and all human life depends upon the rainforests for several things, 1 as a carbon sink where CO2 from the atmosphere is rapidly taken up into plants to become “biomass.” 2 as an oxygen source. In a big sense, the rainforests are the lungs of our planet. And 3 as a source of atmospheric moisture. Moisture from Brazil become rain in North America. But political expediency has now given our planet emphysema. Instead of breathing, the rainforest is belching out more CO2 as trees and plants are burned to clear land.

It is a global outrage. The only purpose of this destruction is to keep one autocratic politician in power. When a sovereign nation holds a major portion of vital resources for life on the planet, we may need to reconsider our notions of sovereignty.



Our Worldview is Conditioned by the Human Condition

Some species of birds have four color receptors in their retinas instead of three like most mammals and humans. These receptors process light in the ultraviolet spectrum that is invisible to humans. Since fructose and sucrose sugars have big peaks in their UV spectra, this gives me a clue why birds can watch our grape crop and know exactly the morning of peak ripeness (sugar concentration) of the grapes. The birds have additional information that humans don’t (at least visually), and they use it to their advantage.


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It’s Like This

For the umpteenth time, someone asked me if I really thought climate change was caused by humans burning fossil fuels. In shear frustration, I said, “It’s like this. If you heard a gunshot and then you opened the door in front of you to discover: 1) One person pointing a pistol at another. 2) The pistol is still smoking. 3) The other person is falling to the ground with a gunshot wound. What would you conclude?” That’s the level of confidence in the case supporting anthropogenic warming, i.e. man-made climate change.

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Get Real

In other spheres of worldly endeavors, I have been quoted as saying that “any moron can make decent wine from California fruit.” To which I sometimes add, “If a California winemaker wants a real challenge, come out to Oklahoma and try it with our fruit.” California has many advantages over much of the rest of the world. Good for them. Because of the unique situation in many parts of California, lessons learned there may not apply elsewhere. Recently a radio program had a high school English teacher as the featured speaker. She had won many awards and had recently written a book titled “How to Raise Successful People.” I was intrigued. Then when the moderator told us where the teacher worked, I turned off the radio in disgust. She teaches at Palo Alto High School – a public school but you would never guess it driving by the place.

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Nero’s Fiddling

It appears that over the past ten years, many people have come to accept the fact that the climate is changing and for the most part, not in a better way. While some people dispute the claim that the extra CO2 in the atmosphere comes from burning fossil fuels and is responsible for the warming, we should bear in mind that no reputable, peer-reviewed scientific paper has come forward to counter the claim of human-caused warming and climate change. The natural variations theory does not hold up to the facts.


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Cowabunga and the Star of Bethlehem

After centuries of study and careful observation, we still don’t have a good understanding of what the Star of Bethlehem was.  Most astronomers would bet on a supernova which is the final explosion of a dying star, because such events are extremely bright and last from a few weeks to a month or more.  

Way back, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, between the Jurassic and Triassic eras, 200 million years ago, an unremarkable star on the outskirts of a small galaxy, collapsed.  These are the death throes of every star.  They literally run out of fuel to support continuous nuclear fusion, so the fusion reactions slow down and stop.  Then there is no outward pressure of the constant fusion explosions.  Then all that hot matter begins to collapse under its own gravitational attraction. 

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