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.

What a Wonderful World

In the wake of this week’s reprehensible political violence, I needed a side trip off the planet. No, I haven’t gone to the pearly gates, but I recently became aware of Mexican theoretical physicist, Miguel Alcubierre Moya[1], who has solved a specific case for Einstein’s field equations in general relativity to develop a serious proposal for matter traveling Faster Than Light (FTL).


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“What hath God wrought?”

This quotation from the book of Numbers was suggested by the daughter of the Patent Office Commissioner in 1844 as the first message sent by Morse code from a demonstration before the US Congress to a railroad station in Baltimore. The quote is my question in revisiting the tired old debate about climate change. Is the observable warming of the planet “anthropogenic” (human-caused) or “natural”?


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Make straight in the desert a highway …

We hear these words of Isaiah in the Messiah and other church hymns this time of year. We are to clear a path in our souls for God’s return to us in judgement. But did you know we are discovering highways in space?


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RIP Arecibo

The National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC) is an observatory located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico and funded by the US National Science Foundation and NASA. Built in 1963, the 1,000 foot diameter radio telescope was the largest single-aperture telescope ever built until China built a 50% larger scope in 2016. Recently steel support cables holding the telescope 500 feet above a natural sinkhole began to snap. This week, the entire structure collapsed. Thankfully, no one was injured.
 

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Hopeful and Funny

These items were gleaned from a recent Sierra Club magazine. I offer them to you to help brighten your day and to show how real changes in policies, practices and priorities are often driven by business decisions more than politics.

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The Last Ice Age

There are a variety of truly natural oscillations in our planet’s orbital journey that lead to periodic variations in global weather or climate Change. We can observe these true “natural variations” in different geological records. In fact, this year and for the near future, we should be experiencing a downward cooling trend in temperatures instead of the relentless upward trends caused by anthropogenic warming. Let’s take a look at global conditions during the last “Glacial Maximum” period which lasted from 23,000 years ago to 19,000 years ago. Yes, these natural variations last a long time compared to the span of a human lifetime, but from a geological perspective, such cycles and eras are the blink of an eye.


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God as a Programmer

There is a Greek philosophical argument (for which I cannot find a reference) that one cannot prove that reality for human observers was created in this current instant. In that scenario, all our memories and all of history is nothing but information that a clever creator planted in our brains. Nothing existed prior to THIS instant, click. Of course, René Descartes in 1637 posited, “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) and one would think this ended all forms of ontological speculation. It didn’t.


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Eight Inches

Imagine for a moment that the earth was reduced to the size of a basketball. Now imagine that part of the planet on/in which we “live and move and have our being.” Although the atmosphere gets very thin the higher you go, let’s consider the heights of aircraft at around 10 miles in altitude or 50,000 feet as the top. Then consider the bottom of ocean trenches at around 5-7 miles deep. From the height of aircraft to the bottom of the ocean is a layer of about 15-17 miles on a planet with a radius almost 4,000 miles.


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My Back Pages

In the late 60s, the Byrds recorded a Bob Dylan song whose refrain reminds of a recent gedanken (thought) experiment proposed by physicists at Dartmouth and Santa Clara University. The line from the song is “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” I commend the rest of the song and the lyrics to you as it is as timely today as in 1968. But I digress.


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Disinformation

All kinds of processes have some form of bias either inherent to the thing observed or introduced externally.  One job of a scientist is to analyze the bias and try to remove it from the experiment or theory in progress.  Clergy and theologians (and politicians) should be charged with this task as well, but, like Baruch Spinoza, I see way too many examples where clergy create or exploit bias for their own benefit.


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