Peacock Grouper

Posted February 25, 2015 by gensci
Categories: Uncategorized

peacockgrouper

Peacock grouper (Cephalopholis argus)

Peacock grouper, by Ellie Shormann

These beautiful fish (called Roi in Hawaiian) are commonly found around Indo-Pacific reefs. They are sometimes perched on top of a coral head or hiding in a cave. On the menu for grouper are small fish, crabs and shrimp. They can sometimes be seen following eels or octopus in hopes of catching a prey item that evades them! They have beautiful colors, too! They are normally brown with turquoise spots, with light brown or light yellow bars running vertically down their sides. They can even change color! They can change from darker colors to almost white. Isn’t that cool?

Click here for a printable coloring page.

More Thoughts on Furthering the Dialogue on Creation

Posted February 14, 2015 by gensci
Categories: Creation/Evolution

Tags: , , , , ,
Appearances can be deceiving. How old do you think this canyon is? How long did it take to form the layers that were carved out? If I told you the majority of what you see took less than 5 years to form, would you call me a liar?

Appearances can be deceiving. How old do you think this canyon is? How long did it take to form the layers that were carved out? If I told you the majority of what you see took less than 5 years to form, would you brush that off as a pleasant fiction?

It’s been my pleasure to read some recent posts by Doug Wilson and Gavin Ortlund regarding Creation and Earth history. Doug started with this post, to which Gavin responded here with 4 points. Wilson then responded here, to all but Gavin’s 4th point. Wilson wisely left point 4 unanswered, suggesting that someone should respond who has more of a science background. And, while I’m more at home swimming with whales in the open ocean than writing blog posts, I felt compelled to respond. So, here goes this scientist’s attempt to further the dialogue on Creation.

Before I start, I want to say that I really appreciate Gavin’s effort to make a “friendly appeal” towards dialogue on Creation. Well done, and I hope to follow his lead with some friendly iron sharpening of my own.

Discern Between Scientific and Historic Research

Gavin’s point 4, the one Wilson left unanswered, was a call for young earth creationists to get “specific with the scientific evidence.” But this has been done, and is being done, in a thousand different ways (see below).

More importantly, the “scientific evidence” is not the problem at all. The problem is the interpretation of the evidence, which leads to another big issue. If anyone, young-earth, old-earth, or other, is truly interested in furthering the dialogue on Creation, they will put a greater effort into discerning between scientific research and natural history research. Scientific research is testable, repeatable, and verifiable. Natural history research involves drawing unverifiable conclusions from data. Natural history research is about interpreting unobserved past events.

In my opinion, a more scholarly approach to the Creation dialogue involves making a clear distinction between a scientific thing and a historic thing.  It’s been over a decade now since the call was made to move beyond scientific creationism, so young-earthers and old-earthers alike should be putting more effort into properly discerning between the two.

You don’t have to be a scientist to discern between the two types of research. You just need to know how to read a recipe. If you cannot, or just refuse to, acknowledge the difference between scientific research and natural history research, then you are not furthering the dialogue on Creation.

Energy or time?

Gavin wrote that “one step that will greatly help the dialogue about creation in the church is for young-earth creationists to pay more attention to the specifics and particulars of the evidence for an older earth and universe.”

If any Christian writes, speaks, or preaches like they have no clue of the vast amount of material published by young earth creationists regarding “specifics and particulars of the evidence,” then they are not furthering the dialogue on Creation. I am trying to say this in as friendly a way as possible, but a statement like that shows a lack of effort to research a matter before writing about it. It is the glory of kings to search a matter out (Proverbs 25:2), so act like a king.

Remember also, we are talking mainly about history here, and conclusions about the unobserved past depend on interpretation. For Christians, the biggest differences between old and young earth views stem from our presuppositions. Were high-energy, short term events the dominant shapers of earth’s surface? Or was it low-energy, slow, and gradual? The interpretive differences result mainly from how much emphasis the researcher places on catastrophism (high energy, short duration) versus gradualism (low energy, long duration).

Do you want to learn about what creation researchers are saying about the Grand Canyon? Starlight and time? Ice layering, etc? Then click here, or here, or here, or here, or many other places. If you would like, you can also read about some of my natural history research. I conducted an age-calibration experiment of the Ar-Ar radiometric dating method, and found that method overestimated the age of my sample by a factor of 55,000.

Read, and you will find that there are many reasons, good reasons, to be skeptical of the methods and models used to speculate about billions of years of earth age.

Here’s some advice for old-earthers who are serious about furthering the dialogue on Creation. It’s the same advice my advisor gave me when I turned in the first draft of my PhD research proposal. Across the top of the proposal in big red letters was the word READ. Read young earth creation research. Search the matter out.

And to that I would add, PRAY. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment to further this dialogue in the best possible way, which is the one that will bring Him the most glory.

Unsettle the (Secular) History, Burn the “Fictitious History” Strawman

As Doug mentioned, “the science is always settled until somebody unsettles it,” and this is true. But, keeping on track with discerning the scientific from the historic, it might be better to say, regarding earth age, that “the history is always settled until somebody revises it.”

In Gavin’s post, he quotes Robert Newman, who said “In harmonizing the revelation God has provided us in his Word, the Bible, and in his world, the universe, it seems to me that it is much preferable to spend our efforts on models that do not require us to believe that God has given us fictitious history.”

Newman’s argument is a logical fallacy. He sets up a straw man by portraying young earth creationists as a group that sees a lack of harmony between His word and His works, and seeks to harmonize the two with fictitious models. If Christians are truly interested in furthering the dialogue on Creation, then they need to rain burning sulfur down on the “fictitious history” strawman.

Personally, I think most young and old earth Christians are honestly searching for truth. In that search, we all need to be curious and open minded, not “settled,” having a healthy skepticism of any manmade models that speculate about earth’s past. Are you putting too much faith in the models of men? If so, consider that you may be closing the door on adventure and exploration, and stifling the curiosity of the next generation. I don’t want to be the one responsible for closing that door, do you?

I am not exactly sure what it is in our human nature, maybe pride, but it seems like there is a desire among some that, before they die, they are required to come up with their own personal “theory of the universe”. For the vast majority of old earth creationists, I think one reason they are unaware of young earth arguments is because they believe the history about the unobserved past is settled history. The big bang is their cosmology, and they have probably never thought to search out alternative models. They are probably unaware of the assumptions behind the big bang model, like the universe is homogenous, and no one place is more special than another.

But what if that’s not true? Are we really so arrogant to believe that here, in the 21st Century, we have all of history figured out? A 6,000+ year old universe sounds like a really, really old universe to me, but if you think it’s billions, not thousands, then it seems you should be more, not less skeptical that your model is valid. You have a lot more history to explain than I do!

Are you familiar with the big bang model? Could you list 4 other models of cosmology? Have you heard of Einstein’s metrics? If your answer to the last two questions was “no”, then it would be a wise move on your part to do a lot of research before you write any more about why we need to doubt the creation days were 24 hour periods, like Justin Taylor did recently.

Don’t hamstring the dialogue on Creation like a wolf on an elk calf, leaving it hobbled and helpless. Find ways to nurture it instead. Understand at least something about the young earth position. One presupposition of a young earth creationist is that, regarding history, God’s word is authoritative. It is an axiom to build our understanding of all history on, including natural history.

Like Justin Taylor’s article, it seems the most common theme among old earthers is they place too much emphasis on doubting biblical history. Not enough emphasis is placed on doubting manmade models like the big bang, plate tectonics, gradualism, etc. I find that old earth Christians are often enthusiastic about doubting evolutionism, which is wonderful. But the same people who rightfully acknowledge problems with evolutionism, like the lack of transitional fossils, at the same time fail to acknowledge the fact that the majority of those fossils are buried in water-deposited sedimentary rock found almost everywhere on earth’s surface, and averaging one mile thick. But where is the doubt about the old earth assumptions of all that rock being formed slowly and gradually over millions of years? Why not show a little skepticism about that, too? After all, rapidly-buried creatures preserved in thick, water-deposited rock layers all over the earth sounds very much like something we would expect from a worldwide cataclysm like the Genesis Flood.

In the 1900’s, J. Harlan Bretz was skeptical that the Channeled Scablands were formed slowly and gradually. He was able to show how they formed rapidly from floodwaters released as late-Ice Age dams burst. Or take the photo above, which shows where the River Lethe carves through layered deposits from the 1912 Novarupta volcano. By the time Robert Griggs explored the area in 1917, the canyon was already carved through all that material!

Sometimes, what may sound like just a pleasant fiction, turns out to be reality after all. Acknowledging that our eyes and our minds often deceive us will do much to further the dialogue on Creation.

Avoiding Endless Genealogies

In I Timothy 1:4, Paul warned Timothy to avoid “endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” Think about the book of Genesis. Think about the genealogies in other places in the Old Testament, or in Matthew and Luke. Think also about the unfolding story of God’s relationship with man in Scripture. And think about your own family’s genealogy. When pondering your own family tree, you would think it strange to insert a million+ year gap in the middle of it. The main message from any genealogy is a message of continuity.

Continuity is also at the heart of the idea of covenant. A covenant is about an agreement, a relationship. A wise pastor I know described covenant in Scripture like this:

The gospel set forth in the context of God’s eternal plan of communication with His people as it unfolds in the historical outworking of the redemptive plan of God. Covenant theology is central to the message of the Scriptures, which testify to God’s redemption of His people in and through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Christian, what do you believe? Is God’s plan of redemption, as revealed in Scripture, continuous and covenantal, or broken and discontinuous?  If it is broken and filled with gaps, what will you put in those gaps? How long were they? Do your beliefs about history promote speculation of God’s word more than they do speculation of man’s word?

In my opinion, furthering the dialogue on Creation means that some pastors and theologians need to take more care to avoid endless genealogies and the speculations they promote. I’m praying more teachers of the Word will focus on encouraging Christians to be scientists and engineers and doctors, developing new technologies and other things by using what God made to serve Him and serve others. Furthering the dialogue on Creation will mean spending a little more time focusing on what God called us to do in Genesis 1:26-28, and a little less time on what God meant by “day”, filling in the supposed gaps with an endless supply of speculative claims.

How to Be a Mature Math Student

Posted January 29, 2015 by gensci
Categories: Teaching Mathematics

Tags: , , , , ,

At the beginning of W.M. Priestley’s book, Calculus: A Liberal Art, is a page titled For Anyone Afraid of Mathematics. Here’s the first paragraph:

Maturity, it has been said, involves knowing when and how to delay succumbing to an urge, in order by doing so to attain a deeper satisfaction. To be immature is to demand, like a baby, the immediate gratification of every impulse. 

DSC_9087

Gabriel Medina, 2014 winner of the Van’s Triple Crown of Surfing, maturely surfs a wave at the Banzai Pipeline. Maturity, whether in surfing, learning math, etc., involves knowing when and how to delay succumbing to an urge.

I am learning to surf, and every session reminds me how immature I am at this sport! I need instruction, and lots of it. I make bad choices on which waves I should try to catch and which ones I should let pass. More often than not, I do not know when and how to delay succumbing to that urge to ride a wave. But with repeated practice and instruction, I hope to gain a better sense of making mature wave selections.

In a similar way, an immature math student has many urges to overcome. One of the biggest is fear of failure, and when students feel that urge, they often respond immaturely by cheating, asking for help too soon, or just giving up. Do you want to be a mature math student? Here are some suggestions to help you achieve that goal.

  1. Failure is an option. In a math course, there is a reason that you are the student, and not the teacher! Students are the ones who need instruction. So when you are learning, humble yourself and be ready to make lots of mistakes.
  2. Learn from your mistakes. Homework is your time to practice new concepts and to expect some mistakes. When you grade your homework though, and you miss a problem, don’t just mark it wrong. Correct it. Review your lesson and your notes. Look for similar examples in the book. How were those examples solved? If your course has a solutions manual, study the solution carefully and work the problem again.
  3. Set a time limit. Some students give up too easily. Others don’t know when to give up. Both responses are immature. There is a difference between taking 10 minutes to solve a complex problem that you know how to do, and spending 10 minutes searching aimlessly for clues on how to solve a problem. If you can’t figure a problem out after 10 minutes or so, move on. Try it again later. Sometimes, after you’ve rested, you will find that you can figure a problem out.
  4.   Pray for maturity. Ask God to make you a humble, dedicated learner. Math is a tool for studying His creation, and He definitely wants you to use it to know Him better, so talk to Him, and ask Him to lead you. Some students will spend all their years of schooling blaming others for their poor math performance. They will blame the teacher, the textbook, their parents, everything but themselves. If that is you, well, most likely, the main problem is you. Ask God to show you how to have a grateful attitude for the gift of education. Ask Him to help you know when and how to maturely succumb to that urge to know the answer to a problem, and do your work in a way that gives Him glory!

Do you have any other suggestions on how to be a mature student? Feel free to leave a comment.

It Only Takes an Instant

Posted December 1, 2014 by gensci
Categories: Teaching Mathematics

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Two images of a wave in Waimea Bay, Hawaii, taken 0.1 s apart, reveal how quickly things can change from beauty to chaos (or vice versa).

Two images of a wave in Waimea Bay, Hawaii, taken 0.1 s apart, reveal how quickly things can change from beauty to chaos (or vice versa). © 2014 David E. Shormann

I never cease to be amazed by the technology of today’s digital cameras. By pushing a few buttons, anyone crazy enough to bob around in a 6-8′ high shore break can capture some amazing beauty in God’s creation! But as the photos above reveal, the beauty only lasts for an instant.

It seems impossible that things can change from beauty to chaos, or vice-versa, in so short a time. But big changes can and do occur in even less time than the tenth of a second that elapsed between these two photos.

Strangely enough, instantaneous change, something us humans really can’t fully comprehend, is behind almost every major technological achievement of the past 300+ years!  How can that be? How can something we will never fully understand help us make all sorts of useful devices? Well, some things we just have to take on faith. Faith is at the heart of the branch of mathematics known as calculus. And calculus is all about the study of instantaneous change.

Subjects like calculus are easier to grasp when we consider the Author of every instant of time, and Creator of the biggest  and best instantaneous changes of all. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:52 how we will be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

Leonhard Euler (1707-1783), a devout Christian man considered the best mathematician ever, wrote that “it is God, therefore, who places men, every instant, in circumstances the most favourable, and from which, they may derive motives the most powerful, to produce their conversion; so that men are always indebted to God, for the means which promote their salvation.”

Euler understood God’s relationship with man and creation very well. He also understood mathematics really well, too! Much of the way we teach mathematics today comes from Euler’s textbooks on the subject.

In our new Shormann Mathematics curriculum, we believe that all 10 major topics covered, including and especially calculus, are best understood by connecting the study of mathematics to Jesus Christ, the founder of all knowledge, and the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Using Math to Unlock Mysteries, Reveal God’s Beauty, and Interact With Others

Posted September 8, 2014 by gensci
Categories: Teaching Mathematics

Tags: , , , ,

The following is the sixth in a series of posts covering Shormann Mathematics, Algebra 1, the newest product from DIVE Math and Science! Click here to read the complete document that covers Shormann Math core ideas, course description, and Algebra 1 table of contents.

Mathematics has so many uses, including modeling the beautiful arcing leap of a bottlenosed dolphin! Image ©2009 by David E. Shormann.

Mathematics has so many uses, including modeling the beautiful arcing leap of a bottlenosed dolphin! Image ©2009 by David E. Shormann.

Shormann Math teaches students that mathematics is the language of science, and therefore an important tool for unlocking mysteries and revealing the amazing beauty found in God’s creation. It is also an important tool for interacting with others, such as when buying and selling things. Shormann Math will train students to become skillful at using mathematics in a way that will help them become productive members of God’s world, using their talents to serve Him and serve others.

Shormann Math teaches students what mathematics is, and how to solve problems using mathematical concepts. Problem solving is simply the application of mathematical concepts in new situations. It is about building on foundations that have already been laid, using mathematical tools developed over the centuries and applying those in new situations to solve problems. This is the essence of deductive reasoning, which is simply about applying rules. Mathematics is primarily deductive in nature, while scientific investigations are inductive (about finding rules).

What follows is a partial list of areas that mathematics is used, and that you may see covered in a Shormann Math Practice Set. At least one problem in each Practice Set will be about one of these areas. If you don’t see an area you think we should cover, let us know. One thing is for certain, Shormann Math students will not be asking the “what am I ever gonna use this for” question regarding math!

Science: astronomy, chemistry, biology, physics, biochemistry, computer science, oceanography, meteorology, medicine

Farming: animals, plants, aquaculture

Natural history: geology, volcanism, genealogy

Business: marketing, accounting, finance, business startup, productivity, employment

Engineering: mechanical, electrical, petroleum, aerospace, civil, industrial, robotics

Architecture

Art

Sports: baseball, football, basketball, soccer, fishing, tennis, NASCAR, track & field, volleyball

Music

Use of Geothermal Energy Expected to Increase Worldwide

Posted September 2, 2014 by gensci
Categories: Teaching Science

Tags: , , , ,

 

The number of geothermal powerplants worldwide is expected to increase by 73% between 2010 and 2015. Image source: geothermal-energy.org.

Electricity generated by geothermal powerplants is expected to increase by 73% between 2010 and 2015. Image source: geothermal-energy.org.

Most of the world’s electricity is generated using steam. Water is heated, generating high-pressure steam, which blasts out and spins a turbine. The turbine system creates motion of a magnet relative to wires, which in turn generates an electrical current, a phenomena Michael Faraday discovered in the 1830’s.

Powerplants mainly differ in the heat sources they use to generate steam. The most common heat sources are currently coal, natural gas, nuclear, and oil. A schematic of a steam turbine powerplant is shown below, courtesy of the South Texas Nuclear Project.

Schematic of a nuclear power plant. Notice how a closed loop of water is heated, passed over a turbine, cooled, and reheated. Image source: South Texas Nuclear Project.

Schematic of a nuclear power plant. Notice how a closed loop of water is heated, passed over a turbine, cooled, and reheated. Image source: South Texas Nuclear Project.

In the 21st Century, a growing trend is developing towards using geothermal heat sources. The amount of electricity generated by geothermal powerplants is expected to increase by 73% between 2010 and 2015. While geothermal powerplants are less efficient, they do have several advantages. The #1 advantage is they use the Earth’s heat. And beneath our feet lies an almost infinite supply of heat. 

Current geothermal powerplants are located where magma sources rise close to the surface. However, with improvements in technology, we should be able to access deeper and deeper heat sources. And, we can also vastly improve geothermal powerplant efficiency by using supercritical water(high pressure/high temperature) instead of steam. This was the goal of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project. In this first-of-its-kind system, they actually drilled into the magma, creating what is known as a magma-enhanced generating system. While the system is not currently operating, the project showed it is possible to use water near the supercritical phase, resulting in a much more efficient powerplant. 

The search for alternative energy sources continues as people become increasingly aware of the negative environmental impact of covering vast expanses of Earth’s surface with wind turbines and solar reflectors. God commanded us to be good stewards of His creation, and covering the land with windmills and solar reflectors is not a good management solution. Hopefully, cities and states will continue looking more and more at geothermal systems, with their small environmental footprint and low emissions. 

 

 

The 10 Major Concepts of Shormann Mathematics

Posted August 26, 2014 by gensci
Categories: Teaching Mathematics

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The following is the fifth in a series of posts covering Shormann Mathematics, Algebra 1, the newest product from DIVE Math and Science! Click here to read the complete document that covers Shormann Math core ideas, course description, and Algebra 1 table of contents.Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 7.57.55 AM

After years of teaching mathematics, researching math curricula and math history, and applying mathematics as a scientist and engineer, I concluded mathematics can be taught by covering 10 major concepts. The 10 major concepts are: number, ratio, algebra, geometry, analytical geometry, measurement, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, and computer math. While all 10 concepts can be taught in any K-12 course, specific concepts will be emphasized more or less at appropriate times. For example, number and ratio will be emphasized in younger grades, algebra in Algebra 1 and 2, etc.

I know what you are thinking right now, and that is “But CALCULUS is one of the 10 major concepts! How can you possibly teach calculus to an Algebra 1 student?!” Well, if you have even an 8th grade level of math proficiency, you know that if it took you exactly one hour to drive 60 miles, your average speed would be 60 mph. If you understand that, you already understand something about calculus, because calculus is really nothing more than studying rates of change. And yes, it gets more complicated than that example, but it also gets less complicated, too, so much so that there are things about calculus you could teach a kindergartner!

Most state mathematics standards do not include calculus, and none that I know of require calculus in high school. And the federal Common Core math standards include no calculus, and almost no precalculus either! However, the discovery of calculus is one of the greatest mathematical achievements ever! All the great technological achievements of the last 300+ years are in some way or another related to calculus! And proficiency in calculus opens the door for a student to choose any college major, while an inability to pass calculus limits a student to about 20% of college majors.

For high school mathematics, most home schools and private schools simply parrot whatever their state standards are, which means they complete Algebra 1, 2, and Geometry, and check off math on their transcript, not really knowing why they did math this way. With Shormann Math though, we want you to know why you are doing math differently. We are going to paint a broader brush than most math curricula, teaching math like a language, while at the same time helping you become proficient in standard Algebra 1, 2 and Geometry concepts. Along the way, rather than avoiding calculus because you heard it was scary, you are gently introduced to it. And, before you know it, you will be understanding more calculus than all your peers, and probably even your parents, ever did! Rather than an afterthought or a scary thought, Shormann Math makes calculus a normal, natural part of the curriculum, and culminates with a formal (and yes, it’s optional!) calculus course that will prepare students to receive college credit via CLEP or AP Calculus.

Done in a thoughtful and age-appropriate way, all 10 major concepts listed above can most definitely be represented in one way or another in a K-12 mathematics curriculum.


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