28 March 2007

Golf the Moons of Saturn!

With this fun simulation, you can learn basic physics and procrastinate at the same time! I am "L. A. C." on the Leader Board.

27 March 2007

Standardized Test Surprise

According to research at the University of Minnesota, where I earned my B.S. in Physics, standardized tests, such as the GRE, do a surprisingly good job of predicting the success of students in graduate school and beyond. I am very surprised by this, but if these findings are true, I must accept them.

26 March 2007

Ruminations on Nudity in Art

Let me begin by summarizing the questions regarding modesty and artistic nudity with which I am grappling.

  1. In U.S. culture we generally associate certain kinds of nudity with sexuality; hence these kinds can be a temptation (Matthew 5:28). Are these things as they should be; is our culture correct?
  2. Is this connection of sexuality to nudity natural, right, or merely a product of culture?
  3. Why would some artistic depictions of nudity be tempting while others would not be?
  4. Why does U.S. culture find nudity acceptable in certain mixed gender situations (e.g. a female doctor examining a male patient) but not in others; should it be accepted in these situations?
  5. What do we do when, as is happening now, a culture's definition of decency and modesty are rapidly changing?
  6. How do we respond when several different cultural definitions coexist in the same nation, state, or campus?
  7. Does the burden to be modest fall disproportionately on young women, or should men make at least an equal effort to see them as people regardless of their clothing or lack thereof?
  8. In Genesis, nudity was state of humanity in Eden before sin entered the world; should we attempt to approach that state again?
  9. Other cultures, (e.g. Switzerland) seem to have fewer cultural constraints on nudity in public mixed gender settings, but why is this; should the US change to be the same way?
A friend of mine sent me the articles below.
June 28, 2006
Protocol 06-9

The Pious Pastors of
the Holy Metropolis of Denver
Wow! I did not realize Denver was so holy!
Contemporary mores seems to reflect both a neglect for propriety of dress as well as a disregard for modesty, both of which were common expectations not so many years ago.
The usage of the phrase "not so many years ago" indicate a level of nostalgia that the author never justifies. "Do not say, 'Why were the old days better than these?'" (Ecclesiastes 7:10, NIV).
Nowhere, however, does neglect and disregard for modesty seem to be so rampant as in the styles worn by contemporary young men and young women. I encourage you to help the youth of the Church placed in your pastoral care to become more aware of what their appearance and style communicate about themselves and what these reveal about their person and their perspective in the eyes of others.
The author here mentions modesty in young men, but the article below does not. He also does not elaborate on how a young man like me should be modest; see Question 7. Modesty seems to be required when immodesty would present a visual temptation to sexual lust. I seriously doubt that any exposed parts of my body would be such a temptation. Do you think we young men should be modest? If so, what does that mean for my wardrobe?

Persons or Parts:
Some Modest Thoughts on Girls' Clothing
By Celeste Thomas

A truly beautiful woman is lovely both inside and out - and its the outer part that should cause parents some concern regarding the wonderful young women in our culture.
What exactly does "beautiful" mean? Is it in any part superficial? To put it more bluntly, if a woman were to suffer severe burns to her face or gain 300 pounds, would she still be beautiful?
The popular fashions many young women wear suggest that they're being guided by a lie, which says: "Girls should be able to show whatever body parts they want to show, and no male person should admit being affected by this display."
In a nudist resort or in cultures where clothing is not normally worn, girls show all parts of their bodies and the men are not affected. This is easy to tell when they are not wearing clothes. So, why is this statement a lie?
If one spends just a short while observing girls wherever they may be - at the mall, in school hallways or at sporting events - it's obvious that many of them are wearing fashions that send out a provocative "use me" message.
Today, many young women struggle with their parents for their "right" to dress in troubling styles, some of which, not that long ago, would have been seen only on women in prostitution. Sometimes these styles seem to be the only ones available - even for 4-year-olds! Sadly, many of these fashions degrade God's crowning creation - women - and the real Madonna - the Virgin Mary - and put our beautiful young girls in harm's way spiritually, morally and physically.
First, I assign a penalty for excessive use of hyphens! Second, I refer back to my remarks about nostalgia above. Regarding Question 1, why should we consider our past culture more or less correct than or present one?
Evil is real, and the devil enjoys nothing better than disfiguring the human person as an image of God any way he can - and what better way than to attack chastity through a lack of modesty? Even girls who have no intention of having pre-marital sex, but who dress as though their bodies were somehow disconnected from their good moral convictions, are sending a confused message: "Don't get excited by the body parts I'm showing because they are only for my future husband." But why, then, display them? A boy has no right to use a girl's body for sexual gratification, and a girl has no right to use a boy's fantasies and natural circuitry as a means to get male approval.
The claim that these body parts are "only for my future husband" leads to an interesting aside. I presume that medical personnel are exempt from this, since they must often examine nude patients of both genders. I have had more than one experience with a young female doctor in this situation. Believe me when I say that no evil or sexual excitement was involved.

Referring to Question 7, is my natural circuitry so weakly wired that young women must sweat miserably though the summer to keep me from becoming sexually excited? At this point in my life, I am still far too easily tempted. However, God has made great improvements in this area of my life, and I look forward to his continued transformational work. If young women expect male doctors to examine them (or a classical sculptor to study a nude model) without temptation, why does Ms. Thomas have such low expectations of all other young men?

Throughout these two messages, one common theme has been a insulting lack of exhortation to young men to follow Matthew 5:28 and treat their Christian sisters with respect and compassion regardless of their clothing. In other words, Ms. Thomas is correct to say that "a boy has no right to use a girl's body for sexual gratification," but she recommends no effort to teach this to boys and men. I find this personally insulting because it portrays my gender as impotent and incapable of improvement; it also allows us to be lazy and blame all of our lust on women. More importantly, it insults God by implying that he is incapable of improving us.
In effect, many girls harass their male peers by wearing fashions that invite the wrong kind of attention. Such girls are saying, "Look, but don't touch!" Which leaves boys to wonder: "Why do you want me to look then? Cover yourself up and help me to think about you as a person, rather than as an object." To misuse one's body and then act surprised at the response such behavior generates is dishonest.
If a girl's or woman's intent is to harass or tempt their male peers, then they are clearly wrong. It is also wrong for me to force them to wear something uncomfortable or that impairs their athletic ability simply because I do not make the effort to let God sanctify my sexuality.

To put this simply, I believe that if someone is trying to tempt me, she should change her wardrobe. If she is not, the burden of change lies upon me. If men and boys are not actively accessing God's transformational power, they will lust after women even in a burqa.
Too many girls have learned too well the message of false feminism: "It's my body and I can do what I want with it." But Jesus said, "This is my body and I give it up for you." He came to show us the right order of things, which is self-donation. In self-donation I sacrifice what I want - a boy's approving looks and comments - for his greater good: the invitation to communicate with me as a whole (from "holy," meaning "deserving reverence") person, not just a part (or parts) of me.
Ms. Thomas seems to take for grated that boys and men will give their "approving looks and comments" to girls and women who dress in an immodest way. I believe the boys need to change their behavior so that they will not give approval to tempting behavior. Perhaps that is how we can reciprocate the self-donation that Ms. Thomas encourages.
Young women need to hear about the impact fashions have and the language fashions speak. They need to be encouraged to think about the role that fashion plays in expressing who they are and what they stand for. They need help to weed out the "use me" fashions from their wardrobes. And they need to be affirmed in the truth - that they are daughters of the King, and as such are whole persons meant for holiness and respect, not parts to be misused for pleasure and ridicule.
I agree that women and girls need to behave in accordance with the truth "that they are daughters of the King." Men and boys need to behave in accordance that they are sons of the King and brothers to those women and girls.

Practical Benefits of Particle Physics #3

Cosmic Rays

Cosmic Rays consist of a variety of particles, mostly protons, travelling through space at extremely high speeds. When they collide with nuclei in Earth's atmosphere, they produce showers of other subatomic particles, which are called "secondary cosmic rays." Though the atmosphere absorbs most of these secondary rays, the remainder arrive at Earth's surface so frequently that roughly "an area of the size of a hand is still hit by about one particle per second."

Cosmic Rays were discovered in 1912 by Victor Hess, who won the Noble Prize in Physics in 1936. Many sources, including our sun, other objects in the Milky Way, and extragalactic objects, produce Cosmic Rays. Some sources remain unknown. These particles are affect our lives in several ways.

18 March 2007

Moving from CA to OH

Part 1: Packing My Apartment

I left California on Dec. 20 and arrived back in Ohio on Jan. 1 in accordance with plans delineated in an earlier entry. I documented my packing prior to the move and would like to share a few images with you.

Before Packing

While Packing

After Packing

15 March 2007

Intelligent Design, Fine Tuning, and String Theory

  • In an lecture presented at the American Scientific Affiliation, Francis Collins, evangelical Christian and director of National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said that he opposes Intelligent Design and considers "the evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming."
  • Reasons to Believe and the book The Privileged Planet, among others, cite "fine-tuning" of physical laws and constants, also known as the anthropic principle, as evidence of deficiencies in the currently accepted theories of the origin and development of the Universe. They claim that only an astronomically improbable set of constants and laws could have allowed life to exist in this Universe. New research by three theoretical physicists challenges that claim.
  • In a review of the book The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next by Lee Smolin, Physics World reviewer Michael Riordan claims that "string theory and intelligent design belong in the same speculative, unprovable category."
  • For more winsome and respectful scientific disagreement with Intelligent Design, see the National Center for Science Education, especially Project Steve.

Do Not Buy Chiquita Bananas

Chiquita pled guilty to paying terrorist groups in Columbia, as reported by Fox News and CNN.

13 March 2007



The trip was only for one and a half days at the end of September, so we set out early on the first day to maximize the time we could spend in the park. We watched the dawn as we drove from the Bay Area towards Yosemite. The trip was organized, in part, by Jonathan, the man in the orange shirt.

His digital took many of the photographs in this entry; my film camera took the rest. You can tell the difference by clicking on the photographs to access higher resolution versions. Mine show film grains when examined closely; his are more obviously pixelated.

Upon arriving at the park, we realized how popular it was when we discovered a parking lot and camera post...
...for the welcome sign!

Yosemite is home to many trees.
These trees were killed in a forest fire; they will decompose and become fertilizer for the next generation. Inside Yosemite, forest fires are allowed to burn. If they were aggressively extinguished, dense underbrush would continue to accumulate, and the resulting fires would be progressively more infernal and damaging.

Among other things, Yosemite is famous for its Giant Sequoias. Four of us are inside the stump of one in this photograph. The arch was cut through it after it died.

According to plaques placed in a grove that housed several of these amazing giants, Sequoias usually die because they uproot themselves. They grow too large and heavy for their root systems to remain stable. Below, you can see an example of such an overwhelmed root system with several humans for scale. I am the one in the yellow shirt.

Here is the trunk that belongs to that root system. According to the plaque, it will decompose for more than a century. I was strangely humbled to learn that human life is so brief that my body will probably finish decomposing before this tree trunk!

I also reflect on the somber realization that, as John Polkinghorn says in Belief in God in an Age of Science, "mortality characterises the whole universe itself." If we wait far beyond the lifetimes of humans and trees, even the stars will die. However, I take great comfort in my faith that mortality is not the end of the story.


From a vantage point 7214 feet (2200 m) above sea level, we surveyed the valley after which the park is named.

For some sense of scale, look for the parked cars in the lower right portion of the photograph.
Above is a wider view of the valley from a different vantage point.

At the bottom of the valley, this is either a campaign to restore or renovate some part of the park, or it is a really ambition cosmetic surgery company!

Sweeping views of majestic granite formations stretching to the horizon were common in the park. When I can afford I wider angle lens than I currently have, I will probably buy one for vistas like this.


We camped overnight at Yosemite. The weather was excellent, but the night was mostly overcast, so we could not see many stars. Still, I was very glad to be camping again; I don't get many opportunities to do it any more.

This is called a "bear box;" you can see the grey image of a bear on the white sign. Campers are required to store all food or other odoriferous items (e.g. toothpaste) in this boxes because they are inaccessible to bears. This prevents the bears from loosing their natural predatory skills. Storing food in cars is prohibited because bears will smash widows and tear off doors to get to the food. We did as we were told and never saw or heard a bear during our stay.

We cooked our dinner over the campfire. Our meal included hot dogs, bratwurst, and baked beans. I cooked the bratwurst, and it was very good. The beans were also delicious, but problems arose when we realized the no one had brought spoons.

We improvised by slicing a plastic water bottle in to pieces.

The solution was crude but effective.

Sentinel Dome

Sentinel Dome is one of many domes that tourists can climb at Yosemite.

This is one view from the top of the dome which is 8,122 ft (2,476 m) above sea level. It was the highest altitude we reached at Yosemite. Notice small yellow-brown object on the rock near the bottom of the photograph.

Closer inspection reveals that it is a small rodent something like a chipmunk. We saw several of these scurrying around the park.

Jonathan and Kristyn are sitting on the remains of a tree that gave Sentinel Dome some of its fame.

We posed for a somewhat unusual group photograph on top of the dome.Click on the image above to see a panorama of the view from atop Sentinel Dome

Half Dome

Half Dome is probably the most famous attraction in Yosemite. It appears on the California state quarter. We did not have time (and I, at least, did not have them ambition) to climb it.

El Capitan

El Capitan is another famous Yosemite rock formation that I will always associate with a falling Capt. Kirk.

Yosemite is also famous for its waterfalls, although we arrived at the wrong time of year to see them at full flow. Two of them appear as white threads against the rock in the photograph above. At left is a photograph of Bridal Veil Fall. Apparently, at maximum flow, it is wide enough to spray all of the black rock that you can see behind the fall. I am not sure how, bu the water is responsible for darkening the rock.

One advantage of arriving when the fall was flowing lightly was that we could scramble over boulders all the way to the base. Using a convenient boulder as a mount for my camera, I captured the group photograph below. This was among the last sights we saw during our trip, which is why some of us look rather tired and disheveled, especially my hair.

Dinner On The Way Home

Beams of sunlight seemed to point to Stanford as we drove back from Yosemite.

11 March 2007

Setting a Record on Someone Else's Blog

I do not know how significant this is, but I have managed to set a record for the longest comment on another person's blog. I was responding to a piece she had posted under the title "God's Math is Different Than Ours."

10 March 2007

Donating Blood

I donated blood yesterday. It is not pleasant, but I know it is worthwhile.

I gave a "double red cell" donation using this machine. It removes two unites of blood, keeps the red cells, and returns the remaining components. This takes longer and doubles the period for which I am ineligible to donate blood. The donation staff have always been glad when I choose this procedure, and I am happy to wait twice as long before getting stuck with the needle again. It's a win-win scenario!

The blood is red when leaving my body, as usual.

However, since the red cells have been removed, the remaining components are a faint yellow when they are returned to me.

After I finished donating, I had to hurry back to the physics building in time for my research group's weekly pizza lunch.

04 March 2007

Winter Highlights

The first snow of the year.

This dog belongs to my housemate Chris. Her name is Jenny, and she is a Dalmatian. She is also from Florida, which is why she was shivering indoors without this sweater.

03 March 2007

Dusk At SLAC

I am not sure of the exact date on this photograph. I took it sometime in November (before Thanksgiving) of 2006. Particle collisions are not the only beauties of nature to be seen at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Yosemite! Principle Instigators