26 May 2007

On the Forthcoming Presidential Primary Elections

In case any of my readers wish to know, I am deliberately not paying much attention to the US Presidential primary campaign for the following reasons.

  • A local election will occur in November of this year (2007) that will include the Columbus Mayoral Race. Since this election occurs before the Presidential primary, I want to be informed about it first.
  • The Ohio primary is scheduled for March 4, 2008. Several state primary elections will occur before then, including the large cluster on February 5. Some of the current candidates will probably drop out of the race as a result of these primaries, thus reducing the number of candidates I shall need to investigate.

2007 CGSA Winter Retreat

My earlier entry on what being a Christian Physicist means to me was in response to an e-mail request in preparation for the 2007 CGSA Winter Retreat, which was focused on the theme "Vocation and the Kingdom of God." More photographs are available by following the hyperlink.

In addition to discussing the significance of our faith to our vocation and the meaning of excellence, we had a good amount of time to play. The two were not mutually exclusive. A few of our members performed a skit about two students travelling through time to meet great figures in their fields. Their goal was to find the correct Christian definition of excellence. They did not conclusively find one, but they realized that God's definition was quite different from those they encountered in their schools and history books. The skit was entitled "Will and Ned's Excellent Adventure;" they used a mobile phone rather than a phone booth.
While the retreat center's pool table had some improvisational repairs, the sleeping area, showers, food, and chairs were all of very good quality. From personal experience, I can say that the Foosball table was nice, but the air hockey table was not.

The ping-pong table allowed us to experience a game that was new for most of us: Round-Robin Ping-Pong.

The soda/pop/coke was rather expensive, though.Here is the obligatory group photo. I particularly like the white shirt with black writing, especially because it is being worn by an graduate student in English.

On the far left is Cate, who was our primary speaker for the retreat. She is a veteran member of our group and recently received her Ph.D. in Education, specializing in English as a Second Language. She asked several questions regarding the fundamental relationship between God, ourselves, and our studies; she gave several answers from Biblical and other Christian sources. We in the audience provided answers from our own perspective and experience. The following are taken from her notes for the retreat, which she graciously sent to all of us via e-mail.

Q: Who do we truly believe God is? Do we believe Him to be a personal God who takes interest in all we do? Whatever our answer to this question will influence how we see His involvement in and blessing on our work.

A: God is personally interested in all we do. Psalm 139; Jeremiah 29:11-14; Philippians 4:13; Exodus 4:10-12.

Q: What is God’s purpose for you in regards to your vocation?

A: “Our whole destiny seems to lie in the opposite direction, in being as little as possible ourselves, in acquiring a fragrance that is not our own but borrowed, in becoming clean mirrors filled with the image of a face that is not ours” (Lewis, 1995, p. 7). “…an author should never conceive him [her]self as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his [her] own art some reflection of eternal Beauty and Wisdom” (Lewis, 1995, p. 7). “And always, of every idea and of every method he [she] will ask not ‘Is it mine?’, but ‘Is it good?’” (Lewis, 1995, p. 9).

Q: Have you observed God’s interest in your work? If so, what did you observe?

Q: Is God concerned with the work or the people or both? Is it possible to have true ownership? Is everything from God? Can we feel pride in our work?

A: Psalm 111:2; Proverbs 25:2.

Q: If you haven’t observed God’s interest in your work, what can you do to facilitate this?

A: Keeping God in mind; discernment; being open to other sources; having Biblical examples.

Q: What do you think is God’s purpose for you in regards to your vocation?

A: Worship – Col. 3:17

Q: How can we bring worship into our work?

A: Creatively defining worship. See our role in life which may be outside academia, e.g. husband/wife.


Lewis, C.S. (1995). Christian reflections. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans

Yancey, P. (2006). Prayer: Does it make any difference? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan

24 May 2007

Washington DC, 2007

As you can read in an Update on my website from this time in 2006, I participated in a lobbying trip to Washington, DC on behalf of basic research in the physical sciences. On that trip, I was one of about 25 scientists representing two laboratories. On the 2007 trip (Mar. 20-23), I was one of 40 scientists representing three laboratories (SLAC, Fermilab, and the US LHC users); most of us are shown in the photograph above. Via these numbers, the strong efforts of the participants, and the cumulative effects of our past trips, this trip broke every record kept, including organizer exhaustion.

As with the trip last year, we had prepared for months before the trip with reading, lectures and role-playing that prepared us for most situations we encountered during the real trip. Since I had moved back to Ohio, I could only virtually attend these meetings by phone; this obviously reduced the amount of role-playing in which I could participate.

Our time in DC was quite busy, so I did not have time to take many photographs, but I have included a few of those that I was able to take at the end of this entry. I arrived early on Tuesday afternoon. Since our lobbying trip agenda did not begin until dinner that evening this arrival time, so I had some time to relax and explore the neighborhood around the hotel before dinner. I ate lunch from one of the ubiquitous hot dog stands near the hotel.

Those of us who arrived early were asked to go to the headquarters of the University Research Associates (URA), which is a consortium of Universities that manages Fermilab, where we would help assemble the packets of material for distribution to the Congressional office. After several wrong turns and multiple consultations with the map, I managed to find the place. Once there, I became part of an assembly line that assembled approximately 270 packets in a few hours. We still did not have enough for all of the offices we visited.

Unlike last year, dinner on the first night was well planned. Early in the evening, after we had all gathered in the lobby, we set out for the restaurant. We had a little trouble finding it since it was inside a hotel, but we did not realize that until we had passed it. The meal was excellent, and it was a good opportunity to become acquainted with new team members and reunite with people I had not seen since the previous trip.

The next morning (Wed.) was our briefing at URA headquarters. There, we were introduced to the URA leadership and given a final preparatory talk and equipped with the packets to give to those with whom we would be meeting that afternoon, the next day, and on Friday morning.

Most of our meetings were in the House and Senate office buildings around the capitol, such as the Cannon House Office Building shown above. Few of us met with members of Congress in person; I did not meet with any. Usually, we met with Legislative Assistants, who form a specialized staff for each member that collects and distills information on various issues. We were assigned meetings in pairs; usually the members of the pairs were from two different laboratories. Each pair consisted of a "primary," who had made the appointment with the member's office, and a "secondary."

I was the primary for 11 appointments and the secondary for 3. I had been assigned 13 offices to contact and ask for an appointment. So, I had a reasonable success rate. I met with legislators from Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. My feet were sore after walking among so many offices!

Though I was nervous before and during my appointments, especially where I was the primary. I made a few minor blunders, but most of the meetings went well, and I do not think any of my mistakes cost anyone their funding. The majority of the meetings were short but productive. The most enjoyable meetings were those in which the staff member seemed genuinely curious about and interested in our field. In those meetings, we had the opportunity to share our excitement for this research and some of the big questions we hope to answer in the next generation. The overall impression we obtained from the trip was that of strong support for basic research in the physical sciences. In my more optimistic moments, I think that Congressional support is the strongest it has been since the end of the Cold War.

The situation is not perfect for us, and continued support is not guaranteed. For example, the next major project that the particle physics community has planned is the International Linear Collider (ILC). By "major" I mean that the first phase is 20 miles long. It could answer many of the currently most pressing questions about the fundamental constituents and laws of physical reality. However, we do not know if it will ever be built; only continued interaction between physicists and lawmakers, combined with support from the voters of the US, will turn the ILC from a grand plan into a grand reality.

In addition to visiting offices of Congress, I was able to have meals with two friends who life their. Jenny was a member of my InterVarsity small group at Stanford. We had dinner together on Thursday night. Markus, who I had seen only a few weeks before in Columbus, had lunch with me on Friday before I returned to the airport for the flight back to Columbus.

The only sight-seeing I had time to do was at the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. I was able to spend a few minutes at one of the exhibits, which included the only surviving copy of the first map published with the name "America" printed on it. The gallery had a novel audio tour feature. Instead of renting headsets, visitors could dial a special number on their cell phones to get recorded information about certain exhibits and artwork.

This is the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

This is Neptune's Fountain at the front of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.
Here I am posing before Neptune's Fountain at the front of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Thank you Sasha for taking this photograph.

The Return of Markus & Stephanie (Updated)

I can be surprisingly forgetful at times. For instance, I left a roll of film (yes, it still exists) at CVS on Wednesday (Apr. 25) and returned to collect my developed pictures on Thursday. I discovered that I had two rolls of developed film waiting for me. Apparently, I gave them the other one on March 15. I must have forgotten about it in the preparations for my trip to Washington, DC (see forthcoming entry). On that older roll were several pictures from Markus & Stephanie's visit to Columbus, so I have included them in this entry and re-posted it.

On March 10, two longtime friends of mine named Markus and Stephanie payed a visit to Columbus. They have lived in Washington, DC for almost two years, and this was the first time I had seen them since my trip to Washington, DC in March of 2006.
Our hosts were a married couple named Mark and Erin; they have been members of CGSA and friends of Markus, Stephanie, and I for many years. Above and at left you can see Erin demonstrating some of the skills that earned her a black belt in Taekwondo. In the photograph above she is in the middle of one of several demonstration kicks she performed that evening. The true extent of her skill and flexibility is more dramatically demonstrated in the photograph at left. Where is her left foot?

The answer is that is it inside the blue-green sock you can see protruding from the far side of her head!

Mark is in the background, standing in front of their fireplace demonstrating his own brand of dancing skills.

In the photograph below, you can see Markus standing to play Guitar Hero, which is a video game similar to Dance Dance Revolution, but it is played with the hands rather than feet. Arwen, who is very talented at playing real musical instruments, is sitting on the couch.

Next on Guitar Hero, we have Paul and Jona. They are engaged to be married in the Philippines next year.
This is Mark and Erin's cute (and rather odd) cat Rikki. Erin named him after the titular mongoose in "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by Rudyard Kipling.
This is one of their cute (and rather odd) examples of refrigerator magnet poetry.

On the left is Erin; on the right is Arwen. In the middle is a Karaoke machine. While I did play Guitar Hero, my signing voice is not fit even for Karaoke.

The dish on which everyone is focused is known as a "Cookie Monster," which was the culinary highlight of the evening. To make this treat, one fills the bottom of a pie plate with a cookie. Ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, etc. are piled on top of the giant cookie.

Two minutes later, after everyone has attacked the monster with spoons, it is gone. Well...it wasn't really gone, it had been relocated into the stomachs of those in the photograph. Unfortunately, I had given up chocolate for Lent and thus could not partake. Even so, I was very glad to talk and eat with Markus and Stephanie, who are on the right-hand side of this photograph, again.

23 May 2007

Judge at Ohio State Science Day

What can get met out of bed at 6 AM on a Saturday? A great number of things could, but in this case it was Ohio's Annual State Science Day. The event was covered by a story in The Columbus Dispatch. I was one of 28 volunteers who responded to Prof. Gordon Aubrecht's request for judges for the Outstanding Physics Project Award, which is sponsored by the Ohio Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

We judged only those projects whose performers asked for their projects to be judged for this award, which numbered 156. Of the hundreds of projects displayed on posters in the arena, we saw a range of physics from sound to light to thermodynamics. We also saw a range of quality from the mediocre to those that were very impressive for grade school and high school students.

Prof. Aubrecht divided the judges into two groups. One group judged the tenth through twelfth graders; the other group, of which I was a member, judge the seventh through ninth graders. This was my second year judging at State Science Day, and it was just as difficult this year as the previous time. I could easily eliminate about half of the projects I saw from contention, but selecting the best from the remaining half required careful examination and ranking of excellent projects.

After three rounds of judging and discussion that led to a surprisingly easy consensus, we selected the winners.

Tenth to twelfth grade
  1. Mr. Keith R. Miller, grade 12, "A more efficient electrostatic precipitator, part two," Carroll High School, Dayton, Ohio.
  2. Ms. Angela L. Ou, grade 11, "The effect of metal on the force exerted by an ionic polymer metal composite," Sylvania Southview High School, Sylvania, Ohio.
  3. Mr. Leonid A. Shapiro, grade 11, "A modular self-scaling self-supporting electronics cooling system," Upper Arlington High School, Upper Arlington, Ohio.
Seventh to ninth grade
  1. Mr. Ryan J. Patton, grade 8, "Electromagnetic propulsion: the exponential increase of distance vs. voltage," Immaculate Conception School, Columbus, Ohio. (He meant the quadratic increase, but we think his math teacher would have approved the wording.)
  2. Mr. Sujit Ganguly, grade 8, "What is the relationship between volume and pressure of air?," Fairfield Middle School, Fairfield, Ohio.
  3. Mr. Benjamin M. Pifher, grade 7, "Which type of airfoil flies the best under certain conditions?," Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Grove City, Ohio.

18 May 2007

If you ride a bicycle, wear your helmet!

The Columbus Dispatch: "Wisconsin cyclist OK after truck runs over head"

Response to Stina's comment on Iraq

In response to an earlier entry, Stina commented that the invasion of Iraq seemed to be beneficial to some churches in Baghdad; however, as Fox News reports in the story "Christians Fleeing Violence in Iraq," the war's affect on the Christian population has not been as positive.

15 May 2007

Invitation to Luke's Next Concert

You are invited to a concert featuring:

  • The University Band (with Luke on Tuba 3)
  • The Collegiate Winds

Tuesday, May 22, 8:00 PM Weigel Auditorium

The U Band half of the concert will include

  • Selections from West Side Story
  • A musical rendition of Psalm 46.

Ticket Prices:

  • $5 general public, senior citizens, OSU faculty, staff, students;
  • Free for OSU School of Music faculty, staff, students with ID.

I hope to see you here.

13 May 2007

Breakfast for Dinner!

A few days before I departed from California, a friend of mine (Sandy) hosted a Christmas party. The theme was "Breakfast for Dinner." We ate breakfast food in the evening; it was an unusual and delicious idea.

Here, Ivan and Kyle are frying sausages and eggs.

We also made cookie-cutter pancakes and fruit toppings. Sandy had some dishes ready to cook, and most of the guests brought something of their own. As I recall, I brought Pop-Tarts.

What is a Christmas party without a little electrical engineering? One of Sandy's friends had come with a soldering iron so that he could fix the malfunctioning model train, below. A wire was loose and only intermittently made a connection to drive the train's wheels. I lent some assistance as he repaired the wire and sent the train back on its rounds about the base of her Christmas tree.

Of course, the most important part of any party is the people there. Below, you can see a sample of the attendees, some of whom I had not met before this party. The man in the Google shirt (Clint) actually did work for Google.
On the right side of the couch is Todd, and Kevin is sitting on the floor in the photograph below. These were two of my best friends in California.

11 May 2007

What is Wrong with Christians Believeing Young-Earth Creationism? Answer #2

Answer 2: Love your neighbor as yourself.

When someone claims that the Universe is only a few thousand years old, that person effectively leave only three possibilities to explain my claims that the Universe is billions of years old.
  1. My colleagues and I are incompetent at interpreting the evidence.
  2. Scientists are deliberately deceiving the public.
  3. God has created a Universe that appears older than it actually is.
The third possibility is a strictly theological one that I will not address here. However, many Christians who accept a Young-Earth Creationist interpretation of Genesis believe that the Universe does not appear to be billions of years old. For instance, Dr. John Morris, President of the Institute for Creation Research, claims that "when we look at the evidence in light of what [God] has told us, the universe doesn't even look old. The real evidence is fully compatible with an origin only thousands of years ago." That leaves only the first two possibilities.

Therefore, when a Christian staunchly holds a YEC view, that Christian is implicitly or explicitly calling nearly all members of the scientific community either fools (possibility 1) or liars (possibility 2). These are both very insulting accusations, and perceived insults from Christians toward scientists makes my witness more difficult, as I alluded to in Answer 1.

These insults and accusations are not always implicit. Explicit examples include accusations of "brainwashing" I mentioned in Answer 1. Matt Kaufman, a columnist for Focus on the Family, has accused scientists who believe in an old Earth or biological macro-evolution of being "narrow-minded" and soaking "up the conceit that they're the smartest people around." In Kenya, according to The Economist, "Creationism is deemed a fact—so much so that the National Museum of Kenya has had to hide away its precious trove of ancient human remains to protect them from Christians who want them destroyed."

Such language and threats of vandalism, as might be expected, results in verbal retaliation from some scientists. Prof. Bob Park has called a book claiming that the Grand Canyon was formed by Noah's flood a "silly religious tract." In The God Delusion (p. 94), Prof. Richard Dawkins claims that "Sophisticated Christians do not need George Gershwin to convince them that 'The things that your li'ble / To read in the Bible / It ain't necessarily so'. But there are many unsophisticated Christians out there who think it absolutely is necessarily so." I am sure those reading this entry could easily supply a much longer list, but I want to finish this and post it.

This feedback loop of smugness and arrogance helps no one and makes seriously degrades or eliminates the credibility of Jesus in the eyes of scientists and vice versa.

Knife Balancing

This is an interesting party trick that was issued as a challenge from one of my friends (Eric) to another (Walter). How do you balance three knives on three glasses when each knife has only one point of contact with its glass? The knives are allowed to touch each other.

05 May 2007

2006 Stanford InterVarsity Graduate Student Fellowship Fall Retreat

The retreat was at a center north of San Francisco, which meant that we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to get there.
I know there is some dirt on the windshield, but it was not my windshield.

The center was in a secluded grove high (literally) in a region known for its vineyards. This location was very conducive to the relaxed atmosphere that the InterVarsity leaders intended for the retreat. Zach and Paul can be seen relaxing on a rock in the photograph at left.

We had a talk by one of our InterVarsity staff members (Pete) and his wife Maria on Acts 3, specifically the passage that recounts Peter healing a crippled beggar by God's power. They spoke about how God's power had been present in their lives and how they have learned to trust him even when they feel powerless.

Also, Pete implicitly reminded us not to be prideful about our educational achievements because the apostles were mostly uneducated men. However, he said that God also values education, otherwise he would not have bothered with the Apostle Paul.

One of the highlights of the retreat was a nature walk. It reminded me that the main purposes of this trip were fellowship with each other, rest, and the enjoyment of this small piece of creation.
Even in California, the autumn leaves lose their chlorophyll and reveal beautiful colors beneath.
Our guide showed us a rather impressive collection of spiders that were resting under a small concrete slab.

Large trees were a prominent part of every IV retreat in which I participated. Here you can see the stump of a former tree, with a seated graduate student for scale.
I know this photograph is not well focused, but it still has a remarkable story to tell. The two men you see are looking in at two other students and me. The remarkable part is that they are looking into the base of the trunk of a live tree. From the charring we observed, this hollow in the trunk was apparently caused by a fire, but the tree was still alive and large enough to hold us.
This is a former vineyard on land now owned by the camp. According to our guide, it was once farmed by patients at a mental asylum!
Jonathan and Kristyn, awww....
This is Amy, and this is where she obtained the leaf used in her Canadian Princess costume.
This is sandy, and this is where she obtained her feather for her Halloween costume.

This is the final IV-Stanford group photo in which I appear. I am considering having it enlarged and framed.

Halloween 2006 at Stanford

These were our hosts, the recently married Todd and Alissa. Despite their costumes, neither melted in my hand during the party.

Next, we have a set of four guests in distinctive costumes. On the left we have Canadian princess Amy; notice the hockey stick scepter and maple leaf crown. Next is Jonathan in his scuba gear. Next is Kevin; according to him, his costume was intended to be "garbage," but many at the party thought "white trash" was a more appropriate (and funnier) name. Finally, at left we have Sandy with a feather in her hair. She is from Texas but of Indian descent but not the Native American/First Nations kind of Indian, which makes the feather more confusing. To the right of Sandy, you can see a cross that Todd and Alyssa have placed on their wall.

No, Kevin is not eating anything attached to his costume!

When Jonathan arrived, we all wondered how he had walked up the stairs while wearing those flippers. He said that he had to walk backwards.

Ladies and gentlemen, Nate as The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I was in California for Governor Schwarzenegger's re-election. I seem to be at the beginning of a trend of moving to states with unusual governors. I attended the University of Minnesota during the majority of Jesse Ventura's term. If this trend is to continue, someone like Jerry Springer would have to become governor of Ohio! Since I plan to graduate before the next gubernatorial election, I think the trend will end here.

"There's no place like home!" Nola is looking very cute, though uncharacteristically annoyed, as Dorothy.

The couple in tin foil are another pair of newlyweds, Pete and Charissa. They were apparently dressed as "Party in a Can."
No one was sure how to react to this costume. It seemed like a hybrid between a fairy and Bigfoot. Behind her, you can see the chocolate fountain that Todd and Alyssa received as a wedding present. You can also see the right alien eye of one of their jack-o-lanterns.

At the end of the party, we all settled down to watch an episode of Pinky and the Brain.

You are probably wondering what my costume was. Unfortunately, neither I nor the other party guests have any photographs of me in my costume. Let me explain that most of the people at the party were Stanford students, and I had often been mistaken for a Stanford student. Therefore, I decided to borrow a Stanford sweater from one of my friends and wear it to the party as my costume; in other words, I went to the party as a Stanford student!